Ginny was very disappointed when she received Harry’s owl five minutes before the match was to start. She wanted to rage and storm about how unfair it was. She had big plans for their weekend, but of course his work came first. They’d just have to talk about everything later. She put everything out of her mind and concentrated on the game.
The match was short-lived. Keddle was on spectacular form. Twenty-five minutes into the game she caught the snitch, saving them. The Tornado’s Seeker wasn’t daft, but their Chasers were top notch. They were ahead by seventy points when Keddle caught the snitch.
Ginny was prepared to endure the post-match press, but Jordana rushed into the changing room with a worried expression on her face.
“What’s wrong, Jor?” Abdullah asked. “We still won by eighty points.”
Jordana said nothing as she set up a little wooden wireless and quickly tuned into a broadcast in progress. Kingsley was speaking.
“ . . . We take every precaution to ensure that our premises are safe.”
Ginny sank down onto the bench, clasping her blouse to her chest. She had to struggle to keep breathing. A sense of lightheadedness had overcome her and she couldn’t take in the reporter’s next question.
“Yes. I will confirm that the Dark Mark was cast on the memorial. No I do not think that it’s a sign that Voldemort has returned. He is dead. You all know that.”
“What of these reports of a missing Ministry employee, Minister?”
“I’m sorry to say those are true as well.”
Something in Kingsley’s tone reenergized Ginny. She jumped to her feet, pulled her blouse on haphazardly, and pulled her jacket overtop it, all the while telling Jordana she had to leave.
Ginny stopped just a few feet outside the changing rooms, took several steadying breaths and concentrated on their usual alley for Apparition. She didn’t stop running until she was outside the door to Harry’s flat, and then it was only long enough to do a quick sweep around to make sure no one was watching as she used magic to unlock it.
“Harry?” she called before the door had closed behind her.
She ran from room to room.
Heart thumping painfully in her chest, Ginny returned to the sitting room to try and think what to do next. She hadn’t even waited to hear where this was occurring but it sounded like it was somewhere at the Ministry. She jumped out of her seat, ready to go and find out what was going on.
The fire turned green as Ginny took a few hurried steps toward it. She jumped back, ready to rush into Harry’s arms, but it was her mother.
“Oh Ginny. Thank heavens you’re all right.” She pulled her daughter into a tight embrace. “The others are coming.”
And so they did. In very short order not only was Molly there, but also Lupin, Tonks, Ron, Hermione and Dawlish. It was to the Auror Ginny spoke first.
“Have you heard anything other than what’s been in the news?” It was only thanks to her mother’s arm around her shoulder that Ginny didn’t lunge at Dawlish.
“The last I heard was their plan to guard the palace. I know nothing of these events.”
No one said anything for what felt like an eternity.
“I . . . I’m sure Harry’s fine. His instinct is too good to get into trouble,” Hermione stated. She sounded like she was trying to convince herself as much as Ginny.
“And a generous measure of good luck,” Tonks added, sitting down on the sofa. Lupin sat down beside her, giving Ginny a reassuring smile. Like Hermione though it looked like he was relying a little too much on optimism.
There wasn’t much that could be said. Ron eventually turned on the wireless. Ginny listened to it for a while but it was a recap of all she’d heard and there was no mention of Harry, good or bad.
After a time Ginny couldn’t stand to sit any longer. She made her way into the kitchen and started putting things away. Harry couldn’t have been here or he would have cleaned up Dudley’s mess. She could have easily used magic to wash up the few dishes in the sink but it felt good to occupy her hands.
“You must not be OK,” Ron said. “Washing dishes without magic I ask you?”
“I can’t just sit there and wait.”
“D’you want a hand?”
“No, thanks. Go back to Hermione. I’ll be fine.”
“Yeah,” she said finally, not looking at Ron anymore.
Ron hesitated for a minute before pulling her into a quick one-armed hug.
“I’ll be OK. You’ll see,” he said before walking away. Ginny had to grip the counter for a minute after he left. Where Ron got his certainly from she didn’t know but she wished she could share it. She didn’t want to think about the possibility that all of their hopes could turn out to be dashed. She’d rather just stay busy and not think about either situation until it was absolutely unavoidable.
When she could no longer pretend distraction by household chores Ginny reluctantly returned to the living room, perching on the arm of the sofa beside her mother with a good view of the fireplace and the door. The others were conversing a little too casually. Ginny noticed they were all frequently turning to watch the fire or door like she was though.
“What about queasiness?” Molly was asking Tonks.
“Be thankful for that. I had the most awful case of it with the twins. All I could keep down for months was Honeydukes chocolate.”
“Maybe that’s where they got the idea for the Skiving Snackboxes,” Ginny said tonelessly. She was watching the door but she felt her mother take her hand and pat it.
“I’m glad, too. I’ve been able to keep down all my food. Everything’s been really good actually, except for the most horrible nightmares. I don’t think I’ve had a decent night’s sleep in a month.” Tonks grimaced.
“Don’t you have any dreamless sleep potion??” Hermione asked.
“Can’t take it. The only bloody potion out there that I need and it’s the only one pregnant women can’t take,” Tonks replied showing exactly how annoyed she was.
“Take heart. Only four more months.” Lupin massaged the tiny bulge in her stomach and gave her a small smile. Tonks returned it, glowing again, apparently forgetting her annoyance as quickly as it had come.
They talked more about the new baby as Ginny stood up and began pacing. The wireless was now running a talk show, discussing the appearance of the Dark Mark.
“I don’t know why they’re being so secretive about it. Who was this Ministry worker that was taken? What is Shacklebolt hiding from us?” asked the first of the two hosts.
“I’ll tell you, Ed,” the other said, darkly. “Because You-Know-Who’s probably back and they’re hiding it from us again. I bet you that Ministry worker is Harry Potter and that’s why we’ve been denied news of him too. I’d wager my wand that Potter’s dead. They wouldn’t want to release that information in a hurry with You-Know-Who back.”
After regaining her breath yet again Ginny was on the verge of lunging across the room to throw the wireless against a wall when Lupin spoke.
“If that had happened Kingsley would have told us straight away.”
This was quite true, but every minute that went by in which they didn’t hear from, or about, Harry was decreasing Ginny’s certainty.
Her mother was just trying to convince Ginny to have a cup of tea when she heard the click of the lock. She pushed her mother away and ran to see if it was Harry.
Ginny was about to fling herself into his arms when she noticed how pale he was. It really looked as though he might pass out.
“What’s wrong?” she asked immediately, looking him over for any signs of harm. Before she could complete a full examination Harry pulled her into a tight embrace.
“Everything’s fine. Now,” he said into her hair.
They stood there like that: oblivious to the other six people in the flat until Molly spoke.
“Are you sure you’re OK Harry? Your scar —“
“What about it?” Ginny asked, pulling away and looking up at the scar that had made Harry so famous and had caused him so many headaches in years past.
“Nothing,” Harry replied, flattening his fringe and looking shifty. He looked at her pleadingly to drop it, but she was not going to so he sighed and slowly brushed back his hair.
Ginny heard her mother and Hermione gasp, Ron’s shout of “bloody hell,” and the sharp intake of breath that surely came from Lupin, but she didn’t look away from Harry.
The scar on his forehead that had faded so much after the downfall of Voldemort was once more a vivid scarlet. When Harry took his hand away Ginny could see it was spotted with blood. As far as she knew his scar hadn’t bled since the night Voldemort had fallen. Why now?
Something of her question must have shown in Ginny’s eyes for Harry, who hadn’t looked at anyone else either, shrugged. He clearly had no more of an explanation than anyone else.
Molly scurried into the bathroom coming back a moment later with a small bottle of green liquid that Ginny recognized at once as their Essence of Dittany.
“Clear off you lot,” Molly said, shooing Ron, Hermione and Lupin off the sofa. When it was empty she told Harry to come over.
“Honestly, Molly, I’m fine,” he said, not looking at her.
“No, you’re not,” Ginny said. “People whose old wounds start bleeding again are definitely not fine.” She pulled him over to the sofa and made him lie down, ignoring Harry’s exasperation and embarrassment.
“The more you protest the longer this is going to take,” Ginny told him. He sighed and leaned back, saying no more.
Ginny took the bottle of Dittany from her motherm who was making motions that indicated she wanted to take over, but Ginny wasn’t going to stand for that. It was only with the greatest reluctance that Molly handed the bottle over.
“We’ll just give that a few minutes to take effect,” Ginny said, watching the potion seep into the red scar tissue. She knew almost immediately that the Dittany wasn’t working. The bleeding should have stopped at once which it did not. She waited a minute before looking at her mother.
“What?” Harry asked, looking between the two women.
“Its not working. You’re still bleeding,” Hermione answered, looking down from her position behind the sofa. Harry sighed again in an exhausted sort of way and closed his eyes. “What happened to make your scar start bleeding again? What did you do?”
“Nothing,” Harry said defensively. “I don’t know what happened. One minute I was looking at that Dark Mark and the next I had a splitting headache and Briony —“ he shot a nervous glance at Ginny here, “ — was the one that noticed. After that they sent me home.”
“Don’t sound so resentful. You can’t work in this condition,” Ginny told him. “Its just a good thing you weren’t doing anything dangerous like flying when this came on.”
Harry still didn’t look convinced. He was looking at Dawlish who seemed anxious to get an update on the events at the Ministry. After he shot her a meaningful look, Ginny rounded up the others and moved them into the small kitchen.
It was both a good and a bad thing that the flat was so small. On the downside six of them had to crowd into the tiny kitchen. In the shuffle Ginny was easily able to situate herself close enough to hear what Harry was telling Dawlish.
“ . . . Reporters there when I arrived. Kingsley was furious. I heard them talking about photos.”
“The Prophet?” Dawlish asked and received a nod from Harry. Ginny saw them exchange weary looks. It wasn’t hard to figure out what they were thinking. This latest development meant two things. The Aurors were going to have a lot of new work finding out who had cast the Dark Mark, meaning more long hours. She was also sure that the Daily Prophet was going to be full of photos of the Dark Mark. Old fears would be reignited. It was enough that people were scared because of the increase in dark activity, but this was quite enough to send everyone into a full-blown panic.
Harry and Dawlish had already moved onto other matters, specifically how the mark had got onto the memorial in the first place.
“No one saw anything at all?” Dawlish asked disbelievingly.
“Nearly everyone had left. The people who were there when I got back were supposed to be the last to leave for the night. They were the ones who discovered the mark.”
A certain cadence to Harry’s voice made Ginny think he was not being as forthcoming as he should have been.
“So no reason why the memorial then? No one was harmed?” Dawlish questioned.
“I was there such a short time that I can’t answer that. We had just started questioning people when they sent me home.”
“Should I go — do they need assistance?”
“I daresay they do, but I was told if I saw you that you’re to stay with Hermione until further instructed,” Harry replied.
Ginny could hear the frustration in their sighs. She certainly didn’t agree with them. The last place she wanted Harry to be was where danger was. Anyplace that had a Dark Mark was unsafe. She wanted at least one night where she didn’t have to worry.
“ . . . Connection to our case at all.”
Dawlish said nothing for a few minutes, considering Harry’s words. He paced back and forth for some time as Harry slowly got to his feet. Ginny only stopped herself from interjecting because she wanted to know what was going on.
“I think,” Dawlish began, “you’re right. We cannot put it past those two to throw it in our face that they are still out there.”
“Thank you. But Tougas thinks different. He thinks — no, insists, that this has to do with me somehow. Because the appearance of the Dark Mark automatically means I’m involved,” Harry stated sarcastically.
“Fool,” Ginny said loudly before she could stop herself. Everyone fell silent and turned to look at her. Ginny shook her head at their inquiring gazes. She saw a look of amusement in Harry’s eyes. He wasn’t angry that she had been listening to his conversation.
“Did you see Justin there?” Hermione asked in an offhand way. “He was complaining all day about having to leave early. I think he might have been planning to stay there tonight.”
“He what?” Harry yelled. His hand immediately went to his head. Ginny feared he’d started bleeding again but it looked like that had finally stopped. No, now he only looked like he was still suffering that headache.
“Maybe you should lie down again,” Molly suggested. Harry ignored her and strode over to the fireplace. He threw some Floo powder in. A minute later he was deep in conversation with someone. From his body language whatever he was being told was not to his liking at all. When he finally withdrew Ginny knew something was terribly wrong.
“You were right, Hermione. Justin apparently found a way to duck his guard and stay. He was there this evening when everything went down.”
“Is he all right?” Hermione asked sounding relieved.
“What d’you mean ‘was’? Is he not still there?” Lupin asked. He looked like he already knew the answer. Ginny was pretty sure she did, too. The grave expression Harry was wearing spoke volumes.
“They found Rossi a few minutes ago, stunned it looks like. He’s still a little out of it but he said he didn’t see anything.”
“And Justin?” Hermione asked tentatively, her hand hovering near her mouth.
“He wasn’t there. All the evidence is pointing towards kidnap.”
Total silence followed Harry’s words. Looks were exchanged but soon they were all looking at Hermione who now had her hand over her mouth and seemed as though she would remain frozen in that position for some time.
“Schultz and Brazill are investigating. Moody said you’re not to leave Hermione’s side,” Harry told Dawlish, repeating his earlier comments. “He wants us there tomorrow at seven-thirty. He said he’d Floo if anything new comes up. Hermione, you’re to come tomorrow as well. We’re meeting with all the Muggle-borns around lunchtime.”
Hermione did not argue at all. She merely nodded her head before turning to Ron. “I think I want to go home now,” she said quietly. Her voice was thick with unshed tears.
Ron, Hermione and Dawlish were the first to leave, followed shortly by the others. When at last they were alone Ginny watched as Harry crossed the small distance that separated them. Without saying a word, he kissed her deeply.
When he pulled away Ginny reached up and brushed the hair away from his scar. It had definitely stopped bleeding but was still a vivid red.
“I’m sorry about all this,” he said. “Having to work again. It’s probably going to take up the entire weekend.”
“It’s a lead. Maybe you’ll be able to catch whoever did this,” she said truthfully. It was amazing what a difference a few hours made. Who cared that this had ruined her plans for the weekend. There would be other weekends. Just knowing that Harry was fine was enough for her today. “Come on, you’ve got an early day tomorrow. Let’s go to bed.”
Harry showed no signs of wanting to talk anymore about the incident at the Ministry. Ginny couldn’t blame him for it. She didn’t have much inclination to push him into talking because she knew he would have no further answers for her than he’d been able to give Dawlish. The curse that had linked him to Voldemort for so long was unique without a proven explanation so it was unlikely that Harry would know the cause of this bleeding.
Bringing back the image of those tiny droplets of blood oozing from his scar, Ginny thought she understood why Harry had been sent home. While the general public didn’t know all the gory details of his shared connection with Voldemort there had been some leaks about what his scar really was. If people who were already frightened by the appearance of the Dark Mark saw his scar bleeding again there would be mass hysteria.
Harry fell asleep almost at once much to Ginny’s surprise. Unable to drift off she found herself watching him. As always Harry looked almost peaceful when he was lost in his slumbers. Tonight he especially needed some undisturbed rest.
Still deeply troubled over the evening’s events, Ginny reached over and again brushed a wisp of hair from across Harry’s forehead so she could look at the scar. It was a lot harder to see it in the dark but a streetlamp outside provided a little light. She could see that it had not faded at all since Harry had walked in the door. In fact it looked like it had before Voldemort’s death. There had to be an explanation why this was happening. Ginny knew she would not get it this night but her mind couldn’t stop racing over possibilities. The first stop for her tomorrow was definitely going to be Ron and Hermione’s.
She’d been staring at Harry’s scar for so long without really seeing it that it took Ginny some time to return to reality and realize that Harry wasn’t as peaceful as he seemed. His head was swinging from side to side as though he was trying to clear it or shake off a large bug. She could just barely make out the tense expression that had taken over his face. He’d tensed his entire body. This nighttime behaviour was, unfortunately, very familiar. The evening’s events had brought back Harry’s old nightmares again.
“Harry,” Ginny called quietly, leaning over and giving him a gentle shake. He stilled for a moment before his eyes slowly opened. Without his glasses Ginny knew that he’d have a much harder time seeing her than she did him. “You were dreaming again.”
He hadn’t been asleep that long but apparently long enough to be disoriented now. It took several long seconds before Harry relaxed and spoke.
“You’re all right?” he asked taking Ginny’s hand in his. She nodded, squeezing his fingers. Harry pulled her down to him and wrapped his arm around her. Within seconds he was asleep again. Ginny couldn’t sleep as easily. It was almost two a.m. when she finally drifted off knowing she’d spend the next day looking for answers.
Ginny’s sleep remained light all night with the result that she was up before Harry. She put on a brave face, hoping he would not recall waking in the night. He had remembered though. He was keeping close to her but speaking very little. Though she was feeling equal measures of worry and annoyance, Ginny said nothing. Harry really hadn’t changed much at all. He joked about being scared of her temper but she knew he didn’t trust that she could defend herself. In months past they’d fought over this issue. After the absolute fear she’d felt the night before Ginny wasn’t going to question him on it.
In the light of day it was easy to see Harry’s scar was still a little red but it looked more like it had before the appearance of the Dark Mark. The same questions she’d been suppressing since the evening before came back to her: why had his scar bled and what had caused it?
“Gin?” Harry asked snapping her back to attention. When Ginny looked at him she saw he was watching her with as much concern as she was feeling. “What’s up?”
He wasn’t convinced of her lie but he didn’t press the matter either. Before Ginny knew it he was out the door, leaving her alone in the flat. The minute all was silent she sat at the kitchen table and sunk into more thoughts. As she had been thinking the evening before she knew that there would be no easy answer. When it came to finding impossible explanations the best person to speak with was Hermione. It was time to go to Hogsmeade.
It was only as she made he way up their garden path that she wondered whether she should have Flooed first. Her question was answered when Ron flung the door open as she was taking the last steps. He was smiling.
“Didn’t expect to see you today,” he said, ushering her in. “We thought that after last night you and Harry’d —“
“He’s at work,” Ginny interrupted. “I’m here about that though. Is Hermione here?”
Ron’s face fell and he trudged away calling for Hermione, who appeared a minute later clutching a large book under her arm.
“I suppose you want to talk about last night,” she said. As she got closer Ginny saw dark circles under her eyes. It looked like she hadn’t slept at all. Perhaps she’d had more trouble sleeping because of Justin Finch-Fletchley’s disappearance. “I’ve been doing some research since we got home. I haven’t found anything.”
“Yeah, she never even came to bed,” Ron said somberly. Waving away his concern Hermione focused on Ginny again.
“Did Harry say anything to you after we left?” Her hopeful expression vanished when Ginny shook her head.
“What have you been reading?” Ginny asked, looking at the book now sitting on the table.
“I’ve been reading up on the Dark Mark. I’m sure Voldemort just used a Protean Charm but as it was obviously dark magic you never know what side effects it could have had. I want to know if there was anything in that charm or the spell used to cast it that could cause Harry’s scar to bleed. This is the only time I wish I had more information on dark magic here.” Hermione ran her hand over the embossed cover of her book. “I don’t know if we’ll find an easy answer to this though. I mean its not as if Harry’s situation is common, is it?”
There was no arguing with that point.
“If you don’t have any new information why are you here?” Ron questioned a minute later.
“I hoped you’d have found something. Not only is his scar bleeding again, it was red also. I don’t know if you saw that last night.”
Hermione and Ron both nodded, their expressions becoming more troubled.
Ron collected himself first and set to making tea. Ginny sat at the table with Hermione and began thumbing through some floral samples that had been left on the table, not taking in any details. Soon a cup of tea was set in front of her and Ron’s strangely hopeful voice cut through the fog that had crowded her mind.
“There’s an obvious explanation for what happened that we haven’t considered.”
“What’s that?” Ginny asked, feeling just slightly hopeful that her brother might have stumbled onto a simple answer. It was uncommon, but had been known to happen.
“He Apparated home, right? Could he not have just Splinched himself?”
“On his scar only?” Hermione asked skeptically. “Just a little odd and too coincidental, don’t you think?”
“Hey, I once left half an eyebrow, remember? If I’d just seen the Dark Mark and I was Harry . . . “
Ginny hated to erase the hopeful expressions off Ron and Hermione’s faces but it had been Hermione who pointed out the very thing that disproved Ron’s theory.
“First of all, he’s never Splinched himself before. I doubt he would have last night. Second, if that had been the case the Dittany would have worked.”
Ron rebounded almost at once. “But maybe because of the curse that made the scar —“
“Dittany worked on it before,” Ginny replied quietly. “When he was in St. Mungo’s after . . . everything in Godric’s Hollow.” Suddenly she couldn’t say Voldemort’s name aloud. It was the most ridiculous idea but it seemed like history was repeating itself. Once before the world had thought Voldemort was dead. Mere months after the Dark Mark appeared the Dark Lord did as well.
But I saw Harry kill him, she thought to herself. The first time had been different: Voldemort had still had his Horcruxes. When Harry cast the Avada Kedavra it had hit him and there were no Horcruxes anymore. Ginny refused to believe that Dumbledore and Harry were wrong about the number of times Voldemort had split his soul. If there were any possibility of his return why would Harry have lost those powers?
“I need to know why this happened. We all do,” Hermione said. “There are no answers to be found here. I’m going to need to go into work early. Maybe I can find out what they know about Justin. Ron, please tell your mum I’m sorry. Can you tell her we’ll get together to discuss the wedding another day?”
“I’m coming with you,” Ginny said before Ron could answer. She jumped to her feet and waited for Hermione to do the same. She’d been thinking about going to the Ministry all morning but after what had taken place last night she didn’t want to chance getting turned away before she had the opportunity to talk with Briony. Hermione could go and do her research and have her meeting with the Aurors and Ginny would pursue her own line of inquiry.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like there today. They might not even let me in after last night, Ginny. Besides Harry’s probably immersed in meetings. He might not have time —“
“Its not Harry I want to see,” Ginny replied with such a finality to her tone that the others said nothing else. She waited while Hermione got read then they, accompanied by Dawlish, walked outside and Apparated to the Ministry.
She hadn’t given any thought to what it would be like when they arrived in the atrium. Finding it nearly empty though was a shock. There were four people standing guard around the memorial (one at each corner). Upon seeing the new arrivals they each turned to face the place where Dawlish, Hermione and Ginny were standing. As one they raised their wands.
“The Ministry is closed to visitors,” the guard nearest them said.
“Only one of us is a visitor,” Dawlish said gesturing to Ginny. “And I’m sure both the Minister and Mad-Eye won’t take issue with her being here. Call them down if you wish.”
With a small pop the Auror Ginny recognized as Alastrina Goodwin disappeared. She was gone for a grand total of a minute. When she returned it was with a tall dark figure: Kingsley. He also had his wand out. Ginny dearly wished she had her own wand in hand, but dared not reach for it.
“Minister,” Dawlish said. “We are here at Miss. Granger’s request.”
He would have gone on but Kingsley held up his hand.
“They came to get me as a precaution but we have activated the concealment detectors. If you three were disguised at all we’d already know.” Kingsley seemed to be speaking particularly to the four Aurors. It was only now Ginny realized they were all members of Harry’s training group: Goodwin, Ghandi, O’Hara and Rossi. The latter winked at her when she looked at him. Ginny glared at him until he looked away. Apparently botching up his job and allowing Justin to be captured did nothing to increase his modesty.
“It is not only the goblins who make use of the Thief’s Downfall. Most wizarding establishments of any importance have implemented extra security since the second war with Voldemort. So why are you two here?” Kingsley asked. “After last evening the only people who want to set foot here are reporters.”
After a minute Ginny was the one to explain the reason for her visit. Kingsley’s only reaction was to nod. From his expression Ginny was sure he had been expecting just this sort of thing.
“While Hermione’s busy with research I was hoping to speak with Briony.”
“Briony?” Kingsley and Hermione asked at the same time.
“Yes,” Ginny replied. As far as she knew Briony was the only other person who knew about Harry’s reaction the previous evening. Perhaps there was something that she had noticed about Harry that could help explain what had caused his scar to bleed, something Harry hadn’t already told her.
“All right,” Kingsley said, leading her to the lifts. “They’re upstairs. No unauthorized personnel are allowed so I’ll have to accompany you.”
He must have sensed that Ginny wasn’t in the mood to talk because Kingsley said nothing at all until they stepped out of the lift. He led her into a small room that was obviously used for interrogations.
“Would you like me to tell Harry you’re here?”
“No,” Ginny replied quickly. Harry wouldn’t like the fact she was pursuing this issue. “I’d prefer he didn’t know that I was here.”
Kingsley nodded and closed the door. Ginny took the time to think about the impending exchange with Briony as she waited.
She’d only met Briony once at the Leaky Cauldron. Though she seemed honest enough and Harry had been overly forthcoming about Briony since the night they’d fought about her, the idea of meeting with her again and alone wasn’t all that alluring.
Ginny had her back to the door when she heard it open. Turning slowly she saw Briony edging in, looking positively fearful. Ginny couldn’t really blame her. Harry was always sporting that phrase that she scared him. Did Briony believe that? Had Harry told her about Ginny’s reaction when she first found out that he hadn’t mentioned her? Did Briony think she was about to be attacked? Ginny didn’t doubt she’d soon have answers to these questions.
“Hello, Briony,” she said unintentionally drawing herself up to full height.
“Hello.” The trepidation in Briony’s voice was more than enough to show her feelings. Ginny didn’t need to see the wand she was twisting in her hands to know that the girl was a unicorn’s hair away from fainting.
“Do you know why I wanted to talk to you?”
Briony shook her head looking genuinely unaware. Feeling a little pleased at this, Ginny spoke again. “You saw Harry last night, correct?”
“Yes. When he first came back.”
“And you saw him again before you left.”
Briony’s shock was ill disguised. Her mouth hung open just a little and she stopped twirling her wand, instead clinging to it as if it was her lifeline. Ginny fixed her with an intense stare until Briony nodded.
“Did you notice anything odd about him or his behaviour before he left?” She waited with baited breath for Briony’s answer. It was disappointing when it came.
“No. Well, his scar was bleeding of course.” She seemed even shiftier than before. Ginny was immediately on alert.
“You didn’t see anything else odd? Perhaps someone you didn’t recognize? Did he maybe take a drink of something? Get hit by a stray spell? I know the Ministry was full of people last night. D’you think he might have been hit with a spell?”
“By the time Harry arrived here,” Briony said coldly, “we had already secured the area. Anyone who should not have been there, or who was attempting to perform dark magic would have been detected at once.”
Ginny had been afraid of that ever since Kingsley had mentioned that they had activated concealment detection charms.
“What about a Ministry employee? D’you think that maybe one of them . . . and they knew how to get around the detection spells?”
“There is no way to get around the spells. I don’t like your insinuations and neither, I am sure, will the Minister. If your sole purpose for coming here was to make unfounded accusations we have nothing more to say to each other. Good day, Miss Weasley.”
Ginny stared in shock at Briony as she made her way to the door. She obviously had strong feelings about this issue. With everything Harry had told her about Briony, Ginny hadn’t thought the girl capable of such a strong stance. She’d have thought that Harry was exaggerating about Briony’s shyness but for two things: her father had agreed with Harry, and the last time she’d met the girl her behaviour had been much closer to the other reports Ginny had heard. This reaction raised more questions than it answered.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you Briony. I am merely trying to find out what caused Harry’s scar to bleed. Anything you could do to help would be appreciated. Any information you can give us might help. Can you think of anything suspicious?” Ginny started speaking normally but sped up as Briony neared the door. She needn’t have done so for the other girl did not leave. She stopped but didn’t turn back to face Ginny. It looked like she was battling with herself over something, whether it was the desire to leave or to recall something that could help was unclear. Ginny had to restrain herself from bouncing on the balls of her feet.
“I know nothing that can help you. I’m sorry,” was Briony’s reply. She swept from the room so fast she could have Disapparated. Ginny’s expectant feeling took some time to abate, leaving her suspicions. It seemed that Briony knew a hell of a lot more than she was willing to let on. The question was now how to get that information from her. Today was obviously a wash. Perhaps speaking with Hermione could help. With this thought in mind Ginny set off to find her friend.
When they met again an hour later Hermione was none the wiser. She was constantly rubbing her eyes, both from tiredness and frustration it seemed. Ginny wasted no time telling her about the encounter with Briony. Hermione conceded that her behaviour was a little odd, but she had an entirely different view of matters.
“Ron told me what your dad said to Harry. Do you not think it more likely she was just nervous that you were there? If its true that she does have those sorts of feelings for him, as shy as she is . . . and with the fame that both you and Harry have . . . If I didn’t know the two of you I’d probably behave oddly too,” Hermione paused and took a sip of her tea. “Not everything that happens to Harry is the result of some grand scheme.”
“Yes, you’re right. But you weren’t there, Hermione. I’ve been around those types of girls a lot. This was different. She knows something about last night. I know it.”
Hermione remained unconvinced. Ginny was frustrated with her reaction. She had a sudden and unpleasant understanding of what Harry had gone trough all those times people (including herself) hadn’t listened to him. After spending a few more hours with Ron and Hermione she returned to Harry’s flat, hoping he’d be back.
No one was there. Ginny didn’t know what to do while she waited. She tried to read, to watch television, to tidy up, but the only thing her mind would focus on was the scene from the night before and the possible causes for it. The frustrating thing about this fixation was that it was not getting her anywhere at all. It was a relief when Harry returned just after eight. He looked exhausted but otherwise completely back to his normal self.
“So you haven’t found out anything about what happened to Justin?” she asked as they were eating some of Molly’s latest package of food: roast chicken, potatoes, and steamed broccoli.
“No. If it hadn’t been for Rossi being stunned we would probably think he just Disapparated. I guess we can’t rule it out entirely but I can’t see him wanting to be rid of his guard so much that he’d be able to stun Rossi.”
“And what could they possibly want with Justin? Yes he’s Muggle-born, but . . . “ Ginny trailed off. Maybe this was what Briony knew. But then why would she not tell someone? If they could catch the person who was responsible maybe they could save Justin. Without delay she confessed everything to Harry about her visit and her suspicions about Briony. As her story came to a close he was wearing an amused grin.
“What?” Ginny asked impatiently.
“My little investigator,” Harry said, continuing to wear that same ridiculous smile. His reaction angered her, most especially because he obviously wasn’t taking her seriously. She glared at him until the smile slipped from his face. He took a deep breath before starting to talk.
“I appreciate what you were trying to do, Gin, but my scar — its nothing to worry about, really. As for Briony,” he continued when Ginny tried to object. “She doesn’t know anything more than the rest of us. She’s been working just as hard as any of us on this case. Why would she hide anything? Besides she’s a friend. If she noticed anything odd that would have caused my scar to start bleeding again she’d have told me.”
“Unless she’s involved in it,” Ginny said under her breath. “You’ve known her for four months, Harry. What makes you so sure she’s not as devious as her aunt? Maybe she’s — what?”
Harry was fighting a smile again, making her temper flare.
“Maybe Hermione was onto something. You’re jealous of her.”
“No I’m not.”
Harry wasn’t convinced by her denial. He was chuckling under his breath. Some placating statement was coming Ginny was sure. He was going to tell her she had no reason to be jealous. That was good because jealously was one of the emotions she was not feeling just now.
“I don’t have anything to be concerned with, do I?” she asked.
“Of course not.” It was Harry’s turn to sound a little miffed.
“Good. Let’s get back to the matter at hand. Why are you refusing to take me seriously?”
“Because you’re way off the mark here, Ginny. Briony has nothing to do with what happened last night.” He was playing with the last morsel of food on his plate rather than looking at her. Harry clearly did not want to discuss the matter any more. Ginny wasn’t going to press the issue too much further but she wondered if Harry hadn’t been quite so forthcoming as she’d thought. Maybe Briony had already done something to arouse his suspicion.
“You’re saying she’d never done anything to make you doubt her?” she asked with a quizzically raised eyebrow. Harry didn’t answer, but Ginny hadn’t expected him to. Standing up she waved her wand and their supper dishes flew into the sink and started cleaning themselves. “All I’m saying is to watch out for her.”
They spent the rest of their evening in an uncomfortable silence, retiring a few hours after Harry got home.
When Ginny opened her eyes the following morning she thought it was still the middle of the night for the darkness. She fumbled for the alarm and saw that it was just after eight a.m. She heard a steady tap on the window and saw that it was raining rather heavily.
“Morning,” Harry said in a less than pleased voice. He was lying beside her, arms folded over his chest. Only his head had turned to bid her good morning.
“Morning. How long have you been awake?” Ginny asked, tentatively.
“Long enough to find out they’re leaving me out of investigations again.” Ginny realized the tone she’d been unable to recognize earlier had been bitterness.
“Why?” She sat up and reached for her wand to turn on a light. “Is it because of what happened the other night?”
“No idea,” Harry replied flatly. “All I know is that Moody Flooed and said I wasn’t needed today and that I should get some rest.”
Ginny bit back a few words of comfort that she was going to offer because a thought was beginning to form in her mind. Could her inquiry the previous day have anything to do with this? If she was right and Briony was up to something, or knew something, maybe she had done this. Though she wasn’t an Auror herself she was a friend of Tougas who was still Harry’s supervisor. If Harry had been getting close to something that needed to be kept hidden would it be beyond Briony to do something to Harry to keep him away?
The answer was no. Hadn’t it been Briony’s aunt who had very nearly used the Cruciatus curse on Harry to try and get him to divulge the identity of the person he’d contacted in her fire? Maybe she wasn’t as different from her Aunt Dolores as she claimed.
They sat in silence for a time. Ginny could tell that Harry was in such a mood that if she said the wrong thing they’d end up in an argument, the very last thing she wanted.
“I guess we’ll have some time together this weekend after all,” Harry said finally. He chanced a glance out the window. “But it looks like we’re staying in today.”
“Yeah,” she replied, still gauging Harry’s mood. When he stopped studying the sky and turned back to her he was smiling. It was a little too hearty to be completely genuine, but at least he was trying.
They toyed with the idea of paying a visit to the Burrow, but both decided against it. Neither felt like spending time assuring Molly that all was well. The same held true for a visit to Ron and Hermione’s. So it was that they spent a good part of that blustery Sunday watching old Muggle movies. Ginny found she’d grown to like them from her days in Muggle studies. They were deeply engrossed in an old horror film when the door to the flat opened and Dudley entered, soaking wet.
“Oh, hi,” he said, seeing Harry and Ginny sitting on the sofa. His teeth were chattering and Ginny could see was shaking. Given how wet he was it was hardly surprising. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Funny, seeing as how this is my flat,” Harry replied. He was frowning. At first Ginny thought it was because of the pool of water that was gathering below Dudley, but she found she wasn’t correct when Harry asked his next question of his cousin. “I haven’t seen you since Thursday night. Where’ve you been, Dudley?”
Ginny turned to see Dudley’s reaction. She hadn’t even realized that he wasn’t in the flat. It was hardly surprising though. After everything that had happened with Harry, the last person she was going to worry about was his cousin. Harry had asked an interesting question though. If Dudley really hadn’t been there for at least two days where had he been? People who beg accommodations from their relatives because they have nowhere else to go usually don’t disappear for two days.
Dudley, rather than simply answering the question, put on an affronted air. Ginny could easily see he wasn’t as indignant as he was trying to be though. She thought she saw a flicker of fear in his expression. When she looked again he was just looking annoyed.
“Not that it’s really any of your business, but I was with Keelie and Brenna.” He was looking particularly at Harry as he said this. “They said to say hi.”
Ginny saw Harry grimace. The names were obviously familiar to him, but distasteful. She was on the verge of asking who those girls were when something in his expression reminded her of that week old Daily Prophet story. Unless she was much mistaken one of those two girls was in that photo.
After the events on Friday night that Prophet story had been driven from Ginny’s mind completely. She couldn’t say she was sad about that either. Colin had convinced her not to jump to conclusions, but it wasn’t exactly a dream conversation to discuss your boyfriend’s night out with two other girls.
“He’s lying,” Harry said as Dudley strode past them and into his room, slamming the door behind him.
“How do you know that?” Ginny asked.
“I can’t see him spending a whole weekend with those two —“ Harry stopped and looked at her worriedly. Ginny said nothing, waiting for him to continue. “About that, Gin. I swear that nothing happened. We’d just come back from Ron and Hermione’s. Dudley asked me to go with him. I had no idea that any of that would happen. You believe me, right?”
In another circumstance his last question would have had the exact opposite effect of its intention, but the fervent way he related the details of the encounter seemed sincere. He hadn’t looked pleased in that photo. Besides, Harry wasn’t exactly known for his ability to disguise his emotions. Slowly she nodded, remembering she wanted to ask him about his expression in that photo.
“What about that night makes you so sure he’s lying now?” she asked again.
“It wouldn’t be the first time. When we were there last weekend Brenna asked him where he’d been the previous night and he lied to her about it. I have no idea why. Now he’s lying to us. Even though its Dudley, I don’t think he’s doing it for no reason. He’s hiding something and I’m going to find out what it is.”
Ginny said nothing. Dudley’s absence was highly suspicious and Harry was right to wonder at it. If only he’d be as proactive when it came to Briony though.