CT: Chapter One: Past & Present

The alarm had been going off for the last half an hour, but what finally woke Ginny Weasley was shouting just outside the window. She sat up, her heart racing; half expecting she would have to defend herself from some rogue Death Eater. It took only a minute for her to realize that the only danger around here was to the stupid gits outside the window who decided shouting at six-thirty in the morning was a brilliant idea. If she could see those blokes without having to get out of bed they might already have some superbly conjured Bat Bogeys fluttering on their face.

Now remembering why she sometimes hated London, Ginny leaned over and shut off the alarm. Then she flopped back into the bed, adjusting the covers so she was shielded from the December cold. Turning to her left, she intended to steal some more warmth, but the bed was empty. Harry had already got out. Groaning, she decided to do the same.

She didn’t live here, but Ginny spent more time in Harry’s flat than she did at home with her own parents, and it had been that way since Harry had moved in shortly before she returned to Hogwarts to finish her education three years previous. At first her mother protested this (“what will people think?”) but she relaxed a little when Ron moved in a month later. Perhaps she hoped his presence there would prevent the types of activities most likely to make people talk. Boy, was she wrong.

Most of her family had assumed Ginny would move in with Harry the minute she had finished school, but they were wrong. She liked staying at his flat very much, but sometimes she needed to have her own space. Having to share a small flat in London with her boyfriend and her brother wasn’t exactly conducive to solitude. Periodically she still spent time at the Burrow with her parents. When she finished school a year and a half ago this was rare, more recently though she found her childhood home more appealing.

Coming into the kitchen Ginny saw Harry standing at the cooker, turning over bacon. He was perfectly at ease. Having been through so many horrible things in his life it was rare he was ever truly relaxed. It was most pleasing to see him like this, so Ginny watched silently for a minute before making her presence known. She wasn’t content standing there too long though. Covering the small space between them she wrapped her arms around his waist, grateful for his warmth.

“What are you doing up so early?” she asked. He didn’t seem to be startled by her appearance or touch. He just switched the spatula to his other hand, and pulled her closer to him.

“Couldn’t sleep,” he said, stroking her hair.

“Ah, nervous?”

“A little,” Harry admitted, turning his attention to a second pan containing eggs.

“Do you want me to do that?” Ginny offered her help.

“No thanks.” Harry leaned down to kiss her.

“OK.” Ginny retreated to a chair, leaving him to cook. “You have nothing to be nervous for. You’ll do brilliantly.”

She watched him work for a few minutes, feeling bemused. He’d been able to legally use magic for more than four years, yet there still things he did without using it. Cooking was one of them. She couldn’t imagine trying to prepare food in the Muggle way, but he had a good handle on it. The one time she had asked why he didn’t use magic Harry told her he’d had loads of practice at cooking thanks to his aunt and uncle (old habits die hard, he said). He’d had to cook ever since he was tall enough to reach the stove. The nonchalant way he said this made her angry. If his aunt and uncle hadn’t been fortunate to already be dead she might have killed them herself. What had they been thinking (or not thinking as the case may have been) to let a young child near a hot stove?

Curling up in her chair, Ginny opened a copy of the morning paper and was greeted by an almost full-page picture of Kingsley Shacklebolt’s face, with an inset picture of a large blanketed structure sitting in the atrium at the Ministry of Magic. Ginny read the headline:

WAR MEMORIAL TO BE UNVEILED TODAY

Four years after the death of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named a memorial honoring those who lost their lives is finally to be unveiled today. The structure, containing the names of more than two hundred victims, has long been anticipated and, some say, overdue. The delay in erecting this structure was largely political with former Minister Rufus Scrimgeour opposing the idea until his last day in office three years ago.

The memorial was then put on the back burner when current Minister Shacklebolt devoted the attentions of his cabinet to rounding up Death Eaters who had eluded capture. It has only been in the last year that work began in earnest on creating the symbol that will help us to remember those valiant witches and wizards who gave their lives in pursuit of peace.

The creation of such a memorial is not without critics. While there are many arguments against the monument, the most vocal of opponents have been those protesting the inclusion of certain victims . . .

Ginny turned the page. She was far too familiar with this argument to read on. She and Harry would probably be considered members of the opposition group. Neither of them opposed the memorial itself; honoring the dead was a brilliant idea; including people like Peter Pettigrew was what they took issue with. Even Draco Malfoy, whose end came as the result of his own cowardice, was questionable.

Three pages in, Ginny came across an article that was rather longer than she thought it should have been, and completely displaced. A picture of her in Quidditch robes, flying around a pitch took up the smallest right hand column. It was a picture from the end of her first season as a Chaser on the Holyhead Harpies.

WEASLEY GETS THE GOLD
By Rita Skeeter

Ginny momentarily wondered why this story was not on the sports page. But, of course, Rita Skeeter was not a sports writer. Sure that this article was not going to stick to the news of her new salary, Ginny read on.

Record-breaking has become a pastime of Holyhead Harpies Chaser Ginevra Weasley. Signing with the team last season she received a record salary for a new player. In her first year she continued this trend, reportedly breaking scoring records over a century old. This streak continues with the announcement of yet another unheard of deal. Jordana Makarios, manager for the all-female Quidditch team, announced last evening that Miss Weasley will be back in the upcoming season, signing on for another two years for a fee of 50,000 galleons, a salary unheard of for such a new player.

Of course, some of these records may have less to do with her talent, and more to do with her connections. Quidditch is not the only thing that Miss Weasley is famous for. The youngest child, and only daughter, of Molly and Arthur Weasley she is the first female in the family for several generations. But that’s not the extent of what makes her special. Ginevra Weasley has a connection to one of the Darkest Wizards of our times, a connection shared by only one other person, none other than The Boy Who Lived, Harry Potter himself.

There it was, the answer to the question about this article’s placement. It wasn’t about her salary at all, but rather her relationship with Harry. This happened all the time. Nary a day went by when there wasn’t someone who was reporting something about him. It had become habit for reporters (whether sports or otherwise) to include some mention of Harry in any story they wrote about her. Ginny rolled her eyes and continued to read:

It is this connection that makes the otherwise nearly unremarkable Miss Weasley most extraordinary. Much of her relationship with the conqueror of the Dark Lord is shrouded in mystery, hidden by former Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore, but it is well known that she’s been smitten with the famous wizard since before her own days at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Reports obtained from the Ministry of Magic refer loosely to a situation in her first year when she was saved by Mr. Potter (then age twelve) from dark magic perpetrated by You-Know-Who, the sort of rescue most girls her age can only fantasize about.

From that moment on, the two were inseparable . . .

Hardly, Ginny thought to herself. It had been a mere four years later when they started dating. Dreading what else was written she continued to read.

She is rumored to have been involved in several other adventures with Mr. Potter, including the events, which took place in the fabled Hall of Prophecies a little under a year before the downfall of You-Know-Who. What her relationship was with the Chosen One (as he was correctly called) is not known, but it was mere months later when reports began to surface about a romantic relationship between the red head and Harry Potter, one that was confirmed only days after his seventeenth birthday when she accompanied him on a visit to his parents graves in Godric’s Hollow.

That was not the end of reports about the young couple during the final days of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s reign of terror. Several months later Miss Weasley was captured by the Dark Lord and was being held prisoner in an attempt to get to Harry Potter. As we are all aware Mr. Potter triumphed that night not only saving Miss. Weasley, but ending the war with You-Know-Who.

A year later Miss Weasley was back in the news when she, in an outraged tone, shouted at then Minister for Magic Rufus Scrimgeour over his use of our boy hero for political gain. It was this speech which prompted investigation into these claims, and shortly thereafter Scrimgeour was forced to resign. Trying to manipulate Harry Potter was against the public mood.

Shortly after Minister Shacklebolt was appointed to his current position, Mr. Potter was asked to join the Auror Department where his expertise was much needed, and he accepted. He joined training while Miss Weasley returned to Hogwarts to complete her education. Harry Potter began the rigorous training that would qualify him to track down Dark Wizards.

Little is known of the following two years, but it seems the young couple continued their relationship, a difficult feat given they saw each other only on Hogsmeade weekends, which occur less than a half dozen times a year. Yet, somehow they made it through, for one of the first interviews ever given by Ginevra when she joined the Holyhead Harpies spoke of her relationship with our savior. Things were fine she told us.

But were they?

A year on, Miss Weasley and Mr. Potter are still ‘involved’ but she has refused to speak of the relationship in recent interviews, leading some to believe that there may be trouble in paradise, while others think maybe all is not as it seems.

Mr. Potter has a close relationship with the Weasley family that began on his first train-ride to Hogwarts School. It has been reported many times of the closeness between Harry Potter and the Weasley clan. This led to the belief that the relationship between Harry and Ginevra is more like brother and sister.

They wouldn’t think that if they’d been here last night! Ginny smiled to herself as she turned to watch Harry, who was still cooking. No, their relationship had long ago changed from being like siblings (if it ever was, which she could not recall) to something much greater.

Some have gone so far as to theorize their relationship is a cover used to shield us from the truth about their romantic lives.

It has been alleged that Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley lead lives much different than their public personas would suggest. More than a few reports have linked Miss Weasley with many other famous (and some not so famous) wizards. Mr. Potter has been subject of fewer such reports, making people question why he, a man who could have any witch, has attached himself to the girl he’d been living with as a sister. As one wizard said, “maybe he prefers his fellows.”

“What utter rubbish!” Ginny put down the paper.

“What’s rubbish?” Ron asked, coming into the kitchen, followed closely by Hermione.

“I think she’s talking about something in the paper,” Hermione said, sitting down at the small table. She snatched up the discarded paper and began to read rapidly. Ginny turned her attention to Harry who was transferring the cooked bacon and eggs out of the pan.

“Oh, how ridiculous,” Hermione said angrily a moment later. When both Ron and Harry asked her what she was talking about Hermione read the last paragraph aloud. Harry rolled his eyes, while Ron guffawed. “One guess as to who wrote this.” When Harry and Ron looked at her she shoved the paper into the middle of the table. “Rita Skeeter.”

“Doesn’t surprise me in the least,” Harry said, sitting down and starting to eat. “I ran into her at the Ministry yesterday and she seemed really pissed that I wouldn’t talk to her about Ginny’s deal. Sorry, Gin.” He looked at her apologetically.

“It’s fine.” Ginny smiled, leaning over to give him a kiss. What Rita Skeeter had to say about her was of little importance.

“Oi! At the breakfast table?” Ron said grumpily. Even after three years he was still somewhat touchy about seeing Harry and Ginny doing anything physical. “Can you two not give it a rest?”

“No, Ron, we can’t,” Ginny replied before whispering a tiny suggestion in Harry’s ear. He seemed to like that idea because he gave her a slight nod, and returned to his food, eating a little quicker than before. Ginny didn’t wait patiently at all. Ron watched the two of them for a minute before following Hermione and getting his own breakfast. When Harry finally cleaned his plate, Ginny was already on her feet. She waited even more impatiently as Harry cleared away his dishes.

“Where are you two going?” Ron asked suspiciously. He was only halfway through his own plate of food, but his head snapped up to watch his sister and best mate make their way out of the kitchen.

“Brother, you don’t want to know,” Ginny told him, ruffling his hair as she passed.

“You’re not — it’s seven in the morning,” Ron called after them, but they didn’t turn around. Ginny could feel his eyes on her back and, sure enough, as she closed the bedroom door he was watching her with a frown on his face. Honestly, Ron needed to get over this protective older brother bit. They were all adults now and had been for several years. It wasn’t like he and Hermione weren’t doing the exact same thing. Harry thought of Hermione as a sister yet he didn’t get weird about her and Ron being together.

Ginny turned to face Harry who had a large smile plastered across his face and she returned the expression feeling her breathing growing shallow. They’d been in this position an uncountable number of times yet she still couldn’t stop her heart from racing as she waited for his first touch.

Ginny certainly didn’t need to say here all the time, but who could resist all of the amenities?

* * *

The atrium was full to bursting when Harry and Ginny ran in mere moments before the ceremony was to start. They had lost track of time (an unfortunate habit of theirs). They had no time to find a safe Apparition point, instead using the Floo network. As a result they were both covered in soot. The minute they straightened up one of Kingsley’s aids tapped him on the arm and asked Harry to follow.

“Er . . . OK,” Harry said. He gave her a peck on the cheek and was gone.

Ginny made her way to the second row where her family and Hermione were sitting. Normally she hated having such a bright hair colour, but it certainly did make it easier to spot her family members in the crowd. She wove her way through the milling people quickly hoping not to attract too much attention and get waylaid by someone who wanted to have a play-by-play conversation about her last Quidditch match.

“You sure took your time,” Ron said moodily as he stood up to let her pass.

“Yeah, lost track of time. It happens,” Ginny said, sitting down between her brother and mother. She was not too concerned about it.

“Ginny, for Merlin’s sake, why were you and Harry so late?” her mother chided, seeming not to have heard her comment to Ron.

“Sorry,” Ginny stated, punching Ron in the leg when he chuckled quietly. “It just took us a little longer to get ready than we thought.”

“And look at the state of you, you’re all covered in soot,” Molly continued, using her wand to clear away the ashes. “I thought you two were going to Apparate? I hope Harry isn’t in the same state as you.”

“No, mum, he was worse,” Ginny said pushing her mother’s wand away. Even though her children were all grown up and perfectly capable of taking care of themselves Molly considered it her duty to treat them like they were still five years old. Sometimes it was nice but most times it was aggravating.

Putting her wand back in her handbag Molly continue talking.

“What was it that took you two so long to get here? Ron said you were certainly up early enough.”

“Yeah, Gin, what took you?” Ron asked from her left in a tone of mock concern.

Ginny avoided looking at Ron, but several spells with unpleasant effects came to mind. He was always doing stuff like this, trying to get her into trouble, or at least an uncomfortable situation, with their mother. She was sure he thought if he could get their mother upset enough Ginny would stop staying over. The flaw in his plan was that Ginny wasn’t scared of her mother like the men in her family (including Harry) were.

“We were otherwise engaged, if you must know,” Ginny told them both. She smiled at Ron, letting him know this was not over, before turning to her mother, whose face was a little red. Molly said nothing for a minute, which was long enough for Ginny to hope the subject was closed.

“I really don’t like the idea of you staying there all the time, Ginevra.” Ginny sighed. Whenever her mother used her full name it was a sign she was displeased. “People will talk. You don’t want to be known as a —“

“Mum, did you see that article in the paper this morning?” Ginny cut her off. “Hasn’t seemed to make a difference, has it? According to that article Harry’d much prefer Ron here.” Ginny tapped her brother on the back, knowing exactly how he’d react. His splutter of shock did not disappoint.

Having got one over on her brother, Ginny turned back to face the front the proceedings about to commence, but Molly was able to get in one last word before they all had to quiet down.

“Ginny, you know that wasn’t the only thing the article said. It made accusations about you too. Your reputation is on the line here.”

“From a Rita Skeeter article? Please!” Ginny rolled her eyes.

“The author of that story is hardly what matters. It’s inappropriate for you to be staying there so much.”

“Mum, I’ve told you. It’s easier for me to get to practice from Harry’s,” Ginny said wearily. She’d lost count of how many times they’d had this conversation. Though she always told her mother this, it was the least relevant of reasons for her staying there. She was a witch after all and could easily Floo or Apparate to practice from the Burrow. But, if she were to do that she wouldn’t have added benefits, like this morning.

Ginny was thankful Kingsley’s tall dark form appeared in front of all the spectators just then. It caused a silence to fall across the large group of people in the hall, and Molly was prevented from commenting on her daughter’s statement.

Three years into the bureaucratic hell of political life Kingsley was little changed. His mannerisms were much more like an Auror than a politician, which meant he had little patience for political red tape. His goal was to streamline the running of all departments to better allocate resources. One of the first things he had done when taking over the office was to disband all the special new departments that had been set up to deal with the Voldemort crisis (including the department Arthur Weasley had headed), and set as many of those people to rounding up Death Eaters who had scattered after their master’s demise.

Today was just another example of how Kingsley budgeted his time to get the most out of every minute. This was no mere dedication ceremony for a new memorial, but also means for introducing the world to half a dozen new Aurors, one who just happened to be Harry James Potter.

The timing of this dedication was not coincidental. While Kingsley was the antithesis of Fudge, he was not one to miss an opportunity either. And here was a ready made way to finally put on display this long awaited monument, show the wizarding world that the Ministry was still serious about tracking down Dark Wizards, and garner a lot of attention in the mix.

Unlike his predecessors, Kingsley refused to manipulate Harry into anything. They talked beforehand to make sure Harry was OK with Kingsley mentioning his name in connection with the operation against the Death Eaters. Harry’s mere presence, and the knowledge he was continuing to fight the Dark Arts would give people back the hope they were starting to lose with the recent upsurge in Dark activity.

Kingsley stood in front of the large pyramid shaped monument. The shiny grey granite was covered on four sides by the names of more than two hundred people: the victims of two wars with Voldemort. It was an impressive structure but Ginny couldn’t help thinking it looked like a metronome.

What a difference a few years made, Ginny thought as she watched Kingsley moving in front of the massive structure. Five and a half years ago the Ministry had been under the control of Cornelius Fudge and where this new structure stood was the magnificent Fountain of Magical Brethren. That had, of course, been destroyed the night of the last great Dumbledore and Voldemort duel, the same night Sirius died.

Four years ago Ginny had not been here, but heard from Ron what Rufus Scrimgeour attempted to do. On Harry’s seventeenth birthday when he and Ron had come to take their Apparition tests, Scrimgeour attempted to force Harry’s hand, by publicly declaring that the destroyed Fountain of Magical Brethren would be rededicated and rebuilt in the name of Sirius Black. Harry had been furious, and gave one of only two public declarations of his displeasure with the Ministry of Magic’s tactics in dealing with the Voldemort war.

Three years ago, the last time Ginny sat in this hall, it had been Rufus Scrimgeour up there trying to turn a one year celebration of Voldemort’s downfall, into an event for his own gain by once more using Harry. Harry had chosen not to come that night, predicting Scrimgeour’s intentions. Ginny had been sitting in the same purple chairs she was now sitting in, and stood up for Harry against Scrimgeour’s rubbish. She told him, in front of about two hundred people, exactly what she thought of him and his tactics. People must have agreed with her because it was shortly thereafter he was forced to resign, and Kingsley was appointed the new Minister for Magic.

Like Scrimgeour, Kingsley had been an Auror, but that was the extent of their similarities. These differences included such things like Kingsley’s hatred for giving speeches, his refusal to use a podium, and keeping any speeches as brief as possible.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. As you all know our reason for being here this morning is two-fold. To begin, we will have our first public viewing of the long-awaited monument honoring those who died in the war with the Dark Wizard Voldemort.” Even four years after his death the frisson of fear that went around the room at the mention of his name was no less diminished. “As of this morning it is open for viewing.”

Kingsley stepped aside so the crowd of people could get a better view of the new structure. It was half the size of the fountain of magical Brethren, but loomed over the m like it held the ghosts of everyone whose name was engraved on it. As people were eyeing it, and cameras snapping photos, four men and two women came to stand behind Kingsley: the new Aurors. Ginny found Harry standing almost directly behind the Minister and winked at him. He (also devoid of soot now) winked back at her and gave her a small playful smile. He was thinking about this morning. Ginny returned the smile, before moving her attention back to Kingsley, who resumed talking.

“Now, for more pressing matters. Rumors have been rampant about a reported increase in Dark Magic in recent months. I am sorry to say these are true.” He allowed a small outburst, and then held up his wand for silence. “Therefore we recommend practicing due diligence when dealing with matters of personal safety. Do not travel alone at night, report suspicious activity to the Ministry and arm yourselves with protective spels. Anyone requiring assistance in such matters can contact our Department of Magical Law Enforcement to set up appropriate training. In the meantime, we are not taking this news lying down. Aurors are working round the clock, tracking down those we believe responsible for these activities. And today we are adding an additional six recruits to the department.”

Kingsley motioned for the six brand new (and slightly green) Aurors to come up front. They did so, trying to affect an air of confidence, at which they were failing spectacularly. Harry held up rather well, Ginny thought, but his poor comrade on the right trod on the hem of his robes and almost fell. Harry had to grab his arm to steady him. Ron chuckled softly on Ginny’s left before leaning over to whisper in her ear.

“Not looking like he’s going to get rid of those rumors anytime soon, eh?”

Ginny elbowed him in his side.

“Quiet Ron, or I might just have to tell you exactly how wrong that article is.” Ron grimaced and became silent. It was so easy to get him to stop talking sometimes.

“Here, ladies and gentlemen are the six new Aurors who are going to aid us in keeping you all safe: Lada Tarasov, Mannix O’Hara, Mosi Gandhi, Romeo de Rossi, Alastrina Goodwin, and Harry Potter.” Kingsley pointed at each as he called their names.

The first five received big rounds of applause, but predictably none was as loud as for Harry. He stood there with his hands in the pockets of his robes, watching the ground. Kingsley let the applause go on for a minute. Then he once again held up his wand for silence.

“These new members of our Auror division will be working hard to keep you safe. They, and we at the Ministry, cannot hope to triumph over wrong doers without your help. If you see any suspicious activity I urge you to notify Magical Law Enforcement or the Auror office immediately. Good day.”

The silence so recently restored started to disappear once again as people began to talk and get out of their seats.

“Not much of a convocation was it? Really straight to the point,” Ron said.

“Yes, well, that’s Kingsley for you, isn’t it?” Hermione asked rhetorically as they all stood up and shuffled out into the aisle. “I don’t think any of the six minded though. Did you see Harry up there?”

It was difficult for Ginny to see Harry through the crowds of people now milling about, trying to make it to the front for a closer look at the newly revealed monument. Thankfully both Ron and Bill were tall and managed to spot Harry’s messy mop of black hair. He was currently in conversation with Kingsley. They made their way straight to him and all she had to do was follow her brothers.

“Ginny, how are you?” Kingsley asked when the large group finally managed to break through the crowd. They shook hands, and then he bent down to kiss her on the cheek. It was familiar; he was a family friend, from way back in the days of the now disbanded Order of the Phoenix.

“Fine Kingsley, thanks. Nice speech up there. A little prolix if you ask me.” Ginny replied, with a serious look on her face.

“Very funny,” he responded not smiling, but obviously amused by her jest.

“I try.” Ginny shrugged and moved over to Harry while the rest of her family greeted their old friend. “Nice save with Mannix up there,” she told him. “I thought for sure he was going to fall on his face.”

“Yeah, he probably would have done. Sometimes he reminds me of Tonks,” Harry said, looking around. “Speaking of . . . did you see her or Remus?”

“Nope, but then I didn’t exactly have a lot of time to look for them, did I?”

“No I guess you didn’t,” Harry replied sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. It was an old habit he’d had since before Voldemort’s death, and was still a dead giveaway that something about sex was being discussed.

“You know if you keep doing that people are going to know exactly what we’re talking about,” Ginny said, moving closer to him, so they were standing a little too close than was appropriate for a public setting.

“Gin, I’d be careful. I saw Rita Skeeter lurking around here,” Harry said, not making any move to increase the space between them but glancing around quickly.

“Oh, really?” Ginny asked innocently. She looked around too and spotted a woman in elaborate blonde curls watching her and Harry. “I think that’s her there, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, wh —“

Harry didn’t finish his question, because Ginny grabbed him and kissed him passionately. He was taken aback but he was responding to her kiss. They stayed that way for about ten seconds (just long enough to attract some attention) after which Ginny pulled away.

“What was that about?” Harry asked, a little breathlessly.

“Just because . . . “ Ginny said. Harry turned back towards her family. Before she did the same, Ginny glanced back at Rita Skeeter. The elder woman was smirking at her. Ginny put on her best innocent smile, waved at the reporter and then turned away. Two can play at your game, she thought.

Over the last year, since she had finished school, Ginny and Harry had made a decision to try and keep their private lives out of the papers. This meant that they were not typically overly affectionate in public, which is what laid the groundwork for this latest article. As a general rule Ginny still wanted to keep as much of her life private as she could, there were times that called for drastic measures, even those that resulted in her mother looking at her like she was worried about her daughter’s sanity (or maybe it was her virtue).

“Ginevra Molly Weasley was that really necessary?” Molly snapped. Her full name? She was really in trouble now.

“I — I’m sorry —“ Harry started, getting that distinctly uncomfortable look about him again. Ginny stopped him.

“Yes, mum, it was. It’s normal for people in relationships -”

“Shoving your tongue down his throat in public isn’t!”

“ — Surely you and dad would know that, having had seven children.”

Molly blushed furiously, but she moved closer to Ginny and spoke in a volume quiet enough not to be overheard.

“There’s a time and a place for things. Here is not the time for that!”

“What? I’m not able to congratulate my boyfriend on his new job?”

“Gin, she’s right. We shouldn’t have —“

“Do you want these nasty rumors floating around Ginny? Do you want people to think you’re doing other things?”

“We are doing other things!” Ginny stated well aware that the atrium at the Ministry of Magic was not the best place to be having this conversation but they were too far into it to back down now. She felt bad for her comment when she saw the expression on her mother’s face. She couldn’t take it back now. Trying to soften the blow, Ginny added, “it’s not like you and dad haven’t.”

“We never did that until we were married. And that’s hardly the point, Ginny.”

The expression she was wearing left little doubt in Ginny’s mind what her mother was going to say next. Her anger disappeared almost instantaneously and she looked at Harry and Ginny sappily. It was a reaction she’d worn several times since Ginny finished school and started staying at Harry’s. Molly thought now her daughter was of age and out of school she should be thinking about settling down and getting married. Ginny disagreed. Someday, yes, but she was only twenty years old. That was far too young to make that commitment. Hell, she and Harry weren’t even officially living together.

“You know the pair of you have been together for a while now. Have you given any thought —“

“Mum, please don’t start with that again.” Ginny could not restrain herself from rolling her eyes.

“What? Is there something so terrible with wanting you to be happy?” Molly asked a little excitedly.

They made it to a fireplace that didn’t have too long a line and all waited to pile in. They were going to have a small party at the Burrow before Ginny and Harry went to a start of season party that the Harpies were putting on later that evening. Or at least that had been the plan before her mother once again started trying to marry her off.

“I am happy,” Ginny told her mother. “I like things the way they are. Harry likes things the way they are. Why can’t you just accept that?”

“Because you’re my little girl, and I can’t bear to think people believe you are . . . are doing those things in that article.”

“Mum, I’ve told you, it’s rubbish, just ignore it. It’ll go away in time. Having a ring isn’t going to change anything.” Ginny was really starting to lose patience now. They were trying to remain quiet to keep their conversation private, but Ginny was about a nanosecond away from screaming at her mother out of frustration.

“Harry,“ Molly said, turning to him. “Surely you —“

“Leave Harry out of this, mum,” Ginny said loudly. People near them turned at her outburst. When they saw who it was (or more likely who she was with) they started nudging their neighbors. Soon there was a rather large crowd watching them. Couldn’t they just mind their own business? This was the last straw for Ginny.

“You know what? Forget it. I don’t feel like coming to this stupid thing anyway.” Ginny yanked her hand out of Harry’s, and strode away through the crowd. She could feel her face burning from her fury. Her mother always did this. At least twice a week she would slip in some comment about how she wasn’t getting any younger and would like to see all of her children happily settled down before she was gone.

Ginny stormed through the atrium and finally found a corner at the far end, near the visitor’s entrance that was not crammed with people. She leaned against the wall and watched people bustling about, leaving through the phone booth which served as the visitor’s entrance, talking with colleagues or friends, or heading to their various offices within the Ministry. She knew she had blown everything out of proportion. It was an occupational hazard of being a Weasley. But everyone had their breaking point and she had been telling her mother for very near a year already that after everything they’d been through she and Harry just wanted some time to be together without having to make some grand commitment.

“Excuse me?”

A boy and a girl who looked to be just a few years younger than her were standing just in front of Ginny.

“Yes?”

“Are you Ginny Weasley, the Harpies Chaser?”

“I am.”

“I told you so,” the girl said excitedly, punching the boy in the arm. Ginny smiled at their reactions. They had to be siblings, because their interactions reminded her of the way she and Ron were. The boy looked like he wanted to say something to his sister, but instead blushed a little as they turned back to Ginny. “We were just wondering, Miss. Weasley -”

“Ginny, please.”

“Oh, OK, Ginny,” the girl said a little nervously. “We were just wondering if we could have your autograph?”

“Oh . . . “ Though it was still a relatively odd concept to be asked to sign things for complete strangers it was not what made her stop talking. Ginny looked past the two fans. Someone very familiar was approaching her. Harry had volunteered to come and get her, and he would be there in just a few seconds. Suddenly she wanted to get out of the Ministry. “Sure. D’you have a quill?”

“Yes, it’s here somewhere,” the girl said, fumbling in her pockets. Ginny started to fidget as she saw Harry getting closer, keeping his eyes on her. What did he think he was doing? Was he scared she was going to run away?

“Ah, there it is.” The girl pulled a scrunched up quill, bottle of ink, and sheet of parchment from her bag. Ginny signed her name quickly and shoved the parchment back at the girl with a smile.

“There you go,” she said. “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go now.”

Ginny knew she had upset the two kids with her abrupt behaviour, but she wanted to meet Harry. She couldn’t understand why she was standing here in the first place. The argument with her mother seemed so pointless. It wasn’t the first time she’d overreacted as of late either.

When Ginny skirted around the two fans to meet Harry, they turned around to watch her leave, effectively staring right at Harry, who was now five feet away.

“Oh, wow. Harry Potter!” The girl couldn’t seem to find any other words to say.

Oh, honestly, Ginny thought, the way people reacted to Harry you’d think that he was some sort of alien life-form. Feeling her annoyance flare again she placed herself between Harry and the two young kids who were staring up at him avidly, and told him pointedly she was ready to go.

“OK, let’s go then,” he replied, and they set off back to the fireplaces to meet up with her family.

* * *

Ginny’s feeling of annoyance stayed with her throughout the rest of the day, and was still dangerously close to the surface when she and Harry arrived at the party for her Quidditch team. They weren’t planning on staying long because the following morning Harry was starting at the Ministry, and Ginny started training for the new season.

“Weasley, come here,” called Jordana Makarios, manager for the team the minute they stepped in the room. Ginny dragged Harry over with her.

“Nice display this morning,” Jordana said, “at the Ministry.”

“Thanks,” Ginny said, feeling a little of her annoyance dissipate, replaced by a faint blush. Harry looked at his feet. “How’ve you been Jordana?”

“Busy during the off-season, but I didn’t call you over to bore you with that. There’s someone here who says he knows you both. Oliver?”

A tall and stocky auburn haired man standing over in the corner turned at the sound of his name.

“Wh — Harry,” he yelled, bounding over.

“Oliver, how are you?” Harry asked as the pair grasped hands, and then patted each other on the shoulder.

“Couldn’t be better, couldn’t be better,” Oliver said. Ginny didn’t doubt this was true. Like her he had just signed a very lucrative three-year deal with Puddlemere. She’d probably be playing him some time during the season. “But what about you? An Auror? I’d have thought with your seeking skills you’d have gone pro for sure.”

“Yeah, well . . . “

“Damn waste of a good player,” Jordana piped up. “Wouldn’t you agree, Ginny?”

“Hmmm,” Ginny said, nodding her agreement as she sipped the Firewhiskey she’d picked up from a passing tray.

“Oh yeah, the famous Weasley,” Oliver turned his attention to her. “I wish you’d been on the team at Hogwarts when I was there. Who would have known you Weasleys are all born to play Quidditch?”

“You’d better believe it. And you’ll see just how good when we play you and kick your ass.” She smiled sweetly at Oliver, causing him, Harry and Jordana to laugh.

“You going to let her talk to me like that?” Oliver chided Harry, winking at Ginny.

“Oh yeah. I don’t want her mad at me,” Harry said, smiling at her too. “She scares me just a little.”

“Really?” Oliver looked at her with more interest. “Who knew the famous Harry Potter scared so easily.”

“I don’t know if I’d say easy. You’ve never been on the receiving end of one of her hexes, have you?” Harry asked.

“Well, well, this changes things then, doesn’t it?” Oliver said. “I’ll have to keep my eye on you, Weasley.”

“Yes, you certainly will. You know perfectly well she’s our best scorer,” Jordana spoke up. “Ginny, there are a few other people I’d like you to meet. If you’ll excuse us gentlemen.”

For the next few hours Ginny was dragged around to meet everyone in the room. She had a heated debate with Gwenog Jones, who was still the captain of the team, about Chasing forms. They frequently got into it, but it was always good-natured. Gwenog always joked about fearing for her captaincy now Ginny joined the team, today was no different.

Harry and Ginny spent the few hours they were at the party on opposite sides of the room. Whenever they tried to get back to each other someone would grab them and drag them to meet someone else. It got old very quickly. It wasn’t that they needed to be within close proximity to each other every second, but during social engagements it was nice to spend some time together.

Ginny was particularly annoyed at the fact everyone there knew she and Harry were dating, yet almost every girl had to flirt with him, even some of her own team mates. By the time they finally got back to each other she was in quite the foul mood, and was half ready to jinx someone. Where exactly did they get off thinking that just because Harry was famous he was public property? Fortunately for him, Harry had got very good at extracting himself from those sort of situations.

As they finally made it back to each other, both ready to leave, Ginny and Harry were joined by Oliver, Jordana and Gwenog, and seemed to be continuing the conversation from earlier that evening.

“ . . . Yes, I’ve often said she’s the best new Chaser we’ve seen in a long time,” Gwenog was saying in her pretentious voice as she eyed Oliver appreciatively. At least she wasn’t eyeing Harry.

“She’s not a bad seeker either,” Harry took the new glass of Firewhiskey she’d just grabbed from a passing tray. “Gin, don’t you think you’ve had enough?” he asked her quietly.

“No, I don’t,” she replied, grabbing the glass and downing it.

The others stopped their conversation and watched the exchange between Harry and Ginny. After the Firewhiskey had disappeared down her throat, they returned to their conversation as though nothing had happened. Harry was watching her worriedly

“Yeah, that’s what I hear. Of course she couldn’t hold a candle to Potter here,” Oliver said proudly. “Did I tell you about the first game he ever played in?”

This was her team’s party, and they had to hear about Harry again? She couldn’t restrain herself from rolling her eyes. He must have seen her do so because Harry said it was time for them to go. After five glasses of Firewhiskey Ginny didn’t have much ability to resist, but it was not for lack of trying. She told him she wasn’t ready to leave.

“No, I think we need to go,” Harry repeated.

So go they did.

Within minutes Harry was depositing Ginny on his bed. When he started to stand up, she grabbed the clasp on his cloak and pulled him down to her, kissing him. He pulled away.

“Get some sleep. You’re going to feel it in the morning.”

“But I’m not tired,” she said seductively, but could hear her own slurred speech. Yeah, that sounded sexy.

“Gin, you’re sloshed. Just go to sleep.” With those words he walked out of the room.

Ginny intended to follow him, but her limbs weren’t cooperating with her. They weren’t the only things. It was like life wasn’t cooperating with her lately.

During the months between Dumbledore and Voldemort’s deaths their lives were on hold. So when Harry finally killed him a whole new world of possibilities seemed to lie before them. They could have a life unencumbered by Dark Magic. Lately though all of those pools of possibility seemed to have dried up. Within the last year Ginny had been noticing this more than ever.

Suddenly she felt exhausted and stopped trying to get her limbs to work properly. She closed her eyes and was almost instantly asleep shutting out those echoes of what life could have been.

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