CT: Chapter Twelve: The Hand She Was Forced To Play

“Weasley!”

Ginny was startled back to present by the volume and sharpness of Jordana’s tone.

“Yeah?” she asked tentatively, knowing that Jordana was beyond losing patience with her; she was livid. Her anger was completely understandable. Ever since the night at Ron and Hermione’s Ginny had presided over most everything, including Quidditch, with a distinct lack of interest. It wasn’t that she had actually lost her enthusiasm for the other things in her life, it was just that the only thing she could focus on was the conversation she’d had with Harry.

“If Weasley is ready to join the rest of her team, we’ll start drills.”

Everyone looked at Ginny with an equal mixture of annoyance and pity. She wasn’t sure which she loathed more.

Ginny promised herself that she would focus on training for the rest of the day but that lasted all of ten minutes. Abdullah received the Quaffle from Keddle and passed it to Ginny, who had been sitting idle for a little too long and had already lost her concentration. It was Jordana’s shout of “Oi, Weasley” that brought Ginny’s attention to the fact the Quaffle was speeding towards her, but it was already too late to catch it. She dove down to retrieve the ball before it hit the ground and when she returned to her former position, she was greeted with another round annoyed looks from all of her teammates.

They shortly moved away from drills and got into position for some actual practice. Jordana and Gwenog flew off to talk with Keddle. When they returned, Gwenog had the Quaffle under her arm.

“Are we all ready to go?” she asked, looking particularly at Ginny, who nodded along with the others keeping her eye on the Quaffle. She caught it perfectly when it was thrown and sped off towards the goal. Intent upon putting that ball through the hoop and doing at least one thing right this practice she spared no attention for anything else, with the result that she smashed hard into someone. The force of her crash threw her off course a little and it took her a moment to regain control of her broom. A whistle blew from somewhere behind her.

“Weasley, what the hell was that?” Jordana shouted. Ginny barely had time to turn her broom around when the rest of the team converged on her. At least she thought it was her they were approaching until she turned and saw Howard, one of the Beaters, clutching her arm against her body. “Damn it, Weasley. She’s not really an opponent.”

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Ginny replied, coming over. Everyone backed away a few feet. “I didn’t see you there, Howard.”

The rest of the team looked as if they didn’t trust what she was saying. They continued to give her a wide berth while Gwenog and Jordana, after a quick examination of the injury, accompanied Howard to one of the team’s two mediwizards. When they didn’t return right away Ginny and the others landed and walked over to the benches closest to the changing rooms.

“You going to use that move when you play the Tornadoes on Friday?” Colin asked, sitting down beside Ginny without invitation. “Their Beaters could use a good bone-crushing.”

“Shut up,” she said, leaning back against the wall and closing her eyes. This was the ultimate blunder in a month full of them. She’d dropped the Quaffle more times than she could count, impeded the others from executing some of their best moves, and nearly fallen of her broom, but breaking Howard’s wrist was by far the worst thing she’d done. This could very well damage their chances for the finals, exacerbating her teammates frustration with her, she was sure.

“You’ve been off your game for weeks now. What’s going on?”

She made no effort to address Colin’s statement or his question. The only answer that she could give was the last one she wanted to. Her life was falling apart, that was the crux of the problem. Not only did that sound overly dramatic even in her head but also it would elicit scorn or sympathy, neither of which she wanted to deal with. It was best to say nothing and handle her problems quietly.

“Ginny?” Colin snapped his fingers.

“Yeah.” She shook her head and continued with the closest truth she could think of without telling him everything. “Nothing’s wrong. I’ve just been having trouble sleeping.”

That was an understatement. Not sleeping would have been the more appropriate statement. Ever since her conversation with Harry several weeks before, the only thing her brain wanted to do was dwell on her promise. She was definitely living up to her agreement to think things over; that was for sure.

“I don’t buy it. You’ve gone without sleep before and you’ve been nowhere near this bad. What is it? Are you and Harry having another row?”

“Not exactly,” she mumbled. They hadn’t been arguing, but they hadn’t exactly been civil to each other either. At least Harry hadn’t been. He’d been too busy with work lately.

“But it does have to do with him then, doesn’t it? I thought as much. What did he do now?”

“Nothing. Everything’s perfect,” she replied dispiritedly.

That was precisely the problem. For months things had been going so well and then all of a sudden they completely blew up. Harry had gone from saying that he was fine with their relationship to needing her to map out their future. It was such an about face that she shouldn’t be faulted for her shock, should she?

The answer to that question was yes. Over the last few weeks Ginny had come to realize that she had everything she wanted: the career she’d wanted, great family and friends, and Harry, the only man she’d ever thought of having a future with. Her reluctance to move in would be more understandable if she hadn’t been staying there all the time anyway. Why she was so terrified to move in and be done with it was still something she couldn’t explain.

“It really sounds fine when you say it like that.” Colin’s voice was dripping with sarcasm.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Ginny stated, examining her broom handle. Over the last weeks she’d kept her conversation with Harry quiet. This was one thing that she did not want to have repetitious and circular conversations over; having it once with Harry had been bad enough.

“Ginny?” Colin’s sarcasm was instantly replaced with concern. “Is something going on with you and Harry? Something serious, I mean.”

Ginny felt a lump form painfully in her throat at the question. Keeping her eyes closed, she shook her head. No, nothing was going on and that, according to Harry, was precisely the issue. He hadn’t mentioned anything else to her since their conversation several weeks ago. This, sick as it might sound, also troubled her. Harry wasn’t generally known for mentioning something and then dropping the matter without another word.

“He’s not taken up with that Briony girl you were telling me about, has he?” His expression was angry, somewhat like the one Ron wore when Ginny pushed her relationship with Harry too far in his presence. The familiar feeling it gave her almost caused a smile to form, something that hadn’t happened in weeks.

“No, no, its nothing like that.” While she still had her doubts about Briony, Ginny didn’t think that fidelity was an issue. Harry might have forgiven the unfortunate relations, but it was unlikely he had completely forgotten who her aunt was. Although it would be an easier solution if Colin’s suspicions were true (she wasn’t above murder), it was highly improbable that Harry would be pressuring her to make a decision about moving in if he were carrying on with someone else.

“He’d better not be, because if he tries any rubbish like that, I’ll hex him into the next millennium. Your brothers won’t get the chance to do anything.”

Ginny managed a weak smile and leaned over to give Colin a quick peck on the cheek. His ferocious tone had prompted her action. She knew that he could never follow through with his threat due to his lack of skill at dueling (she could disarm him without breaking a sweat). Nevertheless, the thought he would try was endearing, especially given how he used to idolize Harry. Thankfully he’d calmed down in the years since they’d left Hogwarts.

Over the next few minutes Colin continued to ply Ginny with questions about what was ailing her all of which she deflected. It was becoming harder and harder to avoid the subject though and as such she was grateful when Jordana and Gwenog made their reappearance.

“How’s Howard?” Keddle asked, turning her back to Ginny. “She’s going to be all right for Friday’s game, right?”

“Miediwizard Ikey says she’ll be fit for practice tomorrow, but she wants her to go home and rest tonight. I think it’s a good idea for all of us to do the same, therefore practice is over,” Jordana said. Everyone got up slowly and began to leave. Ginny had just stood when Jordana called, “Weasley, come to my office.”

Swallowing painfully, Ginny said goodbye to Colin, advised him against waiting and trudged to the office to receive her sentence.

“Sit down, Weasley.” Jordana perched on the edge of her desk.

Ginny sat. The disparity in her position as compared with Jordana and Gwenog’s did nothing to ease her apprehension.

“So . . . mind telling us what you were thinking out there? You’ve never even crashed into an opponent that hard,” Gwenog observed from her place at the door.

“I didn’t see her,” Ginny explained again. “I was just focusing on scoring. She’s really going to be OK, right?” Face to face with the angry looks on both her captain and manager’s faces made Ginny fight against the urge to cower. They already had cause to be upset with her over how she had been performing during practice, and the last game they’d played. She’d only scored one goal, and that had been an accident. She twice prevented Gwenog and King from scoring. Thankfully they’d still won by thirty points, but that was only because they had been playing the Cannons. If it had been the Tornadoes or Puddlemere they would have been lucky to have only lost by that many points.

“I already said she’ll be fine by tomorrow. Can I say the same about you?” Jordana inquired curtly. “Or am I to expect a repeat performance?”

“No. I’ll be more careful in the future. I just — I haven’t been sleeping well. I’ll work on getting more.” Ginny knew this excuse would go over worse with Jordana than it had with Colin, but as she had thought before, she wasn’t going to tell them anything about her relationship with Harry. Too much of it had already been in the papers. If the likes of Rita Skeeter got the tiniest scent of what was going on . . . Telling Jordana would cause more problems than it could possibly solve.

“You’d better. I don’t want any more of these bullshit excuses. If you’re having trouble sleeping I’d suggest a dreamless sleep potion. Or have you already been taking one?”

“No.”

It had been years since Harry had kept that particular potion near at hand. She could certainly ask her mother or buy her own, but the high probability that she’d be interrogated had prevented her from asking her mother, and Ginny didn’t want to deal with any far-fetched news stories about why she needed the potion in the first place. Jordana eyed her shrewdly for a minute.

“You’re not pregnant, are you?”

“No.”

Why did everyone always make that the first assumption?

She could have been wrong, but Ginny thought Jordana looked disappointed by her answer. It would certainly simplify the troubles she was having with her Quidditch performance in the short term, but long term she wasn’t sure the Harpies would be happy with her taking time off, especially if she could return to her former good performance. She wasn’t even going to contemplate the complications it would bring to other areas of her life.

“You’re sure?” Gwenog asked, also eyeing her appraisingly. “If you are, we need to start putting in your backup now. With us so close to —“

“I’m not pregnant!” Nor could she possibly be if things didn’t change with Harry. Not that she was going to tell Jordana and Gwenog that.

“Be sure to keep it that way, at least until after the finals. We have a good chance of making it this year.” At this thought Jordana’s whole aspect changed. She smirked. “If you want I could put a jinx on Potter’s —“

“That won’t be necessary,” Ginny interrupted, putting up her hand. “I don’t think that sort of thing will be a problem.”

She’d said too much. Jordana and Gwenog exchanged looks. It was a brief glance, but Ginny had a feeling that they were going to be discussing her after she left. They might have extrapolated the fact that she and Harry were having problems from her comment.

“I’ll see you back here tomorrow, well rested. Go to Ikey and get a dreamless sleep potion before you leave.”

Ginny did as she was told. Tovah Ikey, one of the Harpies two Mediwizards (or was she a mediwitch?) greeted her as she walked in. She jumped to her feet, standing about a head shorter than Ginny, but her tightly curled hair stood an inch over Ginny’s head. This mass of dark black hair was the butt of several jokes, including the idea that Ikey’s lifelong ambition was to do a personal imitation of the Muggle device called a kite. When Ginny explained what she was there for, Ikey looked her over.

“You’re not pregnant, are you?”

“No,” Ginny stated impatiently. If one more person asked her that question . . . This was almost as bad as if she had asked her mother after all.

Instead of being dissuaded by Ginny’s tone, Ikey, who had reached into a cupboard to pull out the purple potion, smiled sympathetically.

“Sometimes the most useful cure for insomnia isn’t a potion at all. Many times we can’t sleep because there is something that is troubling us and better results are obtained by talking. Would you like to talk about what’s been keeping you up at night, Ginevra?”

“Its Ginny, and no. I’m just stressed about the playoffs. It will all be fine once they’re over,” she lied smoothly, barely disguising the disgust she felt at being called Ginevra. Only her mother and father could call her that without Ginny feeling the urge to vomit. She reached out to take the bottle. “It was Jordana’s request that I use the potion.”

Ikey, looking as though it went against all of her better judgments, handed the bottle over. She hung on for a moment longer though, intent on getting in one last word.

“You know where to find me if you change your mind. I also would like you to stop using this potion and come to see me immediately if you do believe that you are pregnant.”

“Thank you.” Ginny took the bottle and with a quick spin of her heel she Disapparated.

Not surprisingly the flat was quiet when she stepped in. Harry was still at work and Dudley’s door was closed. She assumed he was still sleeping. It was only two in the afternoon after all. That was practically daybreak to Dudley.

Throwing the potion on the table and her cloak over the back of the closest kitchen chair, Ginny looked around. She hadn’t expected to be back this early and now didn’t know what to do. She had no appetite. She’d been up early enough to clean so she couldn’t pass the time that way. It was no use trying to sleep because she’d just toss and turn.

Eventually, after catching sight of a splash of mud on her robes (and cursing the fact she’d forgot to change) she decided to take a shower. Maybe the warm water would help her relax. She retrieved a change of clothes from Harry’s room and set herself up in the bathroom. She pointed her wand and muttered “colloportus” under her breath as she also undid the clasp on her robes. Dudley might be a changed man, but with the way he had been acting over the last few weeks she wasn’t taking any chances.

As she turned to step into the shower Ginny noticed a dark spot on her arm. Upon closer inspection she saw a huge purple bruise near her left shoulder. This was where she had made impact with Howard. It was a nasty shade of purple, but surprisingly it didn’t hurt. She reached out and pressed a finger to the darkest part, immediately sucking in air through her teeth.

So much for it not hurting.

It was a good thing she hadn’t noticed this before. Ikey would have kept her there all afternoon, applying various healing methods. Ginny grabbed her wand and pointed it at the injury, muttering the few healing spells she knew. The bruise didn’t disappear entirely, but it faded to a sickly yellow colour.

“That’ll have to do,” she said to herself, dropping her wand back onto the sink before stepping into the stream of hot water.

How long she stood there, Ginny wasn’t wholly sure. It could have been minutes, or nearly an hour. Only when the water started to turn cold did she step out, wrapping herself in one of the few clean towels. She listened for a minute to see if there was movement in the rest of the flat yet, but everything was still silent.

Since it seemed there was no rush, she began combing her hair and, as had been the case with the past few weeks, she found herself thinking about Harry and what sort of mood he’d be in when he returned. She had noticed that his mood was getting worse everyday. He blamed it solely on the fact that, though the task force was now working shifts, following up on “dead end leads” as he called them, they were still no further on to finding Justin Finch-Fletchley, who conjured that Dark Mark, or a location of Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy. While his aggravation was well justified over his work, Ginny couldn’t help but wonder how much was actually work related, and how much was personal.

Things had been different between them since that talk, which had been almost five weeks earlier. Harry barely talked to her. When she tried to talk to him he would tell her he just had to “finish reading this report”, or they’d talk in the morning. She had gone to bed more than once without talking, or woke-up to find Harry had already left. The task force had been burning the candle until all hours since the events at the Ministry, and it was easy to see that Harry was exhausted, so Ginny was trying to be a little more understanding than she might otherwise have been but her own sense of frustration was starting to peak. Harry had been gone since early this morning though, so maybe tonight he’d have a reprieve and they could talk. What she was going to say was another matter entirely.

Her hair once again knot free, Ginny tied it back in a ponytail and turned to reach for the clothes she’d brought with her when all of a sudden the doorknob turned and the door swung open.

That was odd. Hadn’t she locked it?

The question was driven from her mind when she saw it was not Harry standing on the other side of the door, as she had hoped, but Dudley, who was removing his hand from his pocket.

Her hand went automatically to the towel that was her only source of coverage at the moment. She was painfully aware of how short the towel was as she grasped for her wand, trying to ignore the fact that his eyes were traveling up her body.

“Get out,” she hissed.

He didn’t move, instead looking at her, almost smiling, a chillingly familiar look of pleasure in his eyes.

“Get out,” she repeated, more forcefully, pointing her wand at him. For a full two seconds she thought he wasn’t going to move. Raising her wand in preparation to stun him, Ginny clung to the towel so tightly her knuckles ached.

“Sorry, I didn’t realize you were in here,” Dudley replied unconvincingly before backing away. Ginny didn’t wait for him to disappear before she slammed the door.

“Colloportus,” she said loudly, her voice echoing over the ceramic tiles. The lock gave a satisfyingly loud click, but she tried it away.

Definitely locked.

Leaning against the door she berated herself for forgetting to lock it in the first place. She’d been too worried about her bruise to check the door.

The image of Dudley standing on the other side of the door was seared into her brain now, all details included. It had only taken Ginny a split second to realize her intruder hadn’t been Harry. He, at least, would have knocked before trying the door. He wouldn’t have barged in even if the door were unlocked in the first place. Dudley, however, was another matter, which was . . . why she had locked up. When the door first swung open Dudley had been tucking something into his pocket. Ginny was ready to bet that it was his wand. He’d let himself in, probably hoping to see more than he had. That triumphant expression he had worn confirmed it.

Feeling like she might be sick, Ginny sunk to the floor, still leaning against the door. Pulling her knees up to her chest she grabbed her bunched up Quidditch robes and threw them over herself like a blanket. She tried to focus on returning her breathing to normal, but it was hard when her heart was racing.

She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to rid herself of that hungry expression in Dudley Dursley’s eyes, but the harder she tried the more pronounced it became. The harder she shook her head, or rubbed her eyes the more vivid the image was until she was seeing, not a blond-haired, blue-eyed git, but a bald, skeletally white face, with scarlet eyes and no lips. That same satisfied, sinister smile filled her entire visual field.

“Thank you, Ginevra. Your information will be quite useful indeed. You see, I have big plans for Harry Potter, and you have just given me the key.”

She could not squirm out of the reach of the long spider-like finger as he ran it down the side of her face. When she shivered he laughed, an entirely chilling sound.

“You may rest now, Ginevra. We don’t want Harry to think you’re being mistreated now do we?”

With a wave of his wand, the enchantments holding her in place were released and Ginny crumpled onto the cold dungeon floor. Voldemort turned and vanished up the winding staircase. She curled up in a ball and silently let the tears fall.

Expecting the feel the cold and dark of Snape’s dungeon, Ginny was momentarily blinded by all the white porcelain around her.

“He’s dead,” she said, standing up, using the door for support. She quickly dressed, threw her Quidditch robes and the towel into the laundry, grabbed her wand and marched out of the loo.

After the Voldemort thing she had promised herself that she would not let a situation arise where she felt powerless again. Drudging up the past because of someone like Dudley Dursley was unacceptable. She would handle this once and for all.

Dudley was sprawled on the sofa, watching a television programme Ginny didn’t recognize. Ignoring that, she walked over to the sofa, stepped between it and the television, and pointed her wand in Dudley’s face. It took a moment for him to meet her eyes.

“Oh, good, you’re out. I was just going to come and ask — sorry about walking in on you earlier. I just thought . . . since it wasn’t locked —“

“It was locked,” Ginny interrupted, inching her wand a little closer to his face. “I specifically locked it to prevent you doing exactly what you did. Don’t bother denying it. I saw you tucking your wand back into your pocket.”

Dudley’s hand convulsed and reached for the pocket, she was sure his wand was in.

“I just thought that it was locked in error. I —“

Ginny touched her wand to his nose and leaned in a little closer.

“I don’t want to hear any of your damned excuses. I know you did it on purpose. If you try anything like it again I’ll make you wish you’d been Bat Bogeyed again. Remember, Dudley, I have six brothers. I know spells that have particularly unpleasant effects on blokes.”

She left Dudley contemplating those nasty things and escaped into Harry’s room, where she made extra sure she had locked the door, set up a shield charm, just to be safe, and then tried to get some rest. She regretted leaving the bottle of Dreamless Sleep potion on the kitchen table, but was where it was going to stay.

Ginny didn’t fall asleep but she did slip into a daze after a while. Within a half an hour of barricading herself in Harry’s room she heard the familiar sounds of Dudley preparing to go out. It seemed rather early for that, but she wasn’t going to question it. The farther away he was, the safer he would be.

Her watch, sitting on the table beside the alarm clock, ticked away the seconds. Ginny tried to count them but soon she was fighting with her subconscious, which wanted to relive the past.

Whenever she thought she had a handle on the situation and tried to relax, some other unwanted memory would assault her. She thought that getting out of bed and doing something would help, but the few times she tried to stand up she felt weak-kneed and queasy and had to lie down again, her head a confusion of personal recollections and those that she had been forced to recall to suit the game Voldemort had been playing with Harry.

“Gin?”

Harry’s voice.

A memory of Harry, standing in the room she had shared with Hermione at Grimmauld Place, looking at her nervously and asking, “are you sure?”

“Damn it, Ginny!”

Also Harry, but impatient; much more like his current self. She opened her eyes and saw an exhausted, unshaven, and generally disheveled Harry. He was staring in at her through a door that would only open a quarter of the way thanks to her charm.

“Sorry.” With a wave of her wand she removed the shield.

“What the hell is that all about?”

“Long story.”

She turned a light on as Harry sat down on the edge of the bed and kicked off his trainers.

“I’ve got time,” he said, not looking at her as he began shedding the rest of his sweat-drenched garments. It was the first time he’d said anything like it in over a month. Half of her wanted to come right out with it, but she remembered how he had responded the last time she had told Harry about Dudley. She wasn’t sure she could deal with his blasé attitude tonight.

“How about dinner first?” she asked, hoping he’d agree, that way she’d have something to do.

“I already ate,” he replied. This was the same response she’d received over the last month. “Are you going to tell me why you shielded yourself in? Given things, I’d have thought it would be the other way around.”

He’d been making snide comments for weeks as well. She’d largely ignored them, or threw one of her own back. After how she had spent her day, though, she was in no mood. Swallowing another lump in her throat, Ginny told Harry about her day, emphasizing the part Dudley had played, and leaving out the references to Voldemort. She’d never told anyone, especially Harry, exactly what had happened in that dungeon, and she wanted to keep it that way.

“Did you actually see his wand?” Harry asked calmly when she had finished talking.

“No, but he admitted to using it.”

Harry frowned and looked like he was thinking. Ginny hoped he wasn’t trying to find a way to exonerate Dudley.

“I know he would have done something like that before, Gin, but he’s changed. I think this is just a case of him not thinking. You’re probably just overreacting after everything else that happened today. I’ll talk to him if it makes you —“

“I am not overreacting,” Ginny half-shouted, surprised at the shrillness of her own voice. Taking yet another deep breath, she continued in a shaky voice that was much closer to her own. “I know you want to believe he’s changed, and maybe he has. But I know what I saw. After Voldemort I’d recognize that look anywhere.”

She’d said too much again, but as she recalled the expression on Dudley’s face, those horrible red eyes had appeared and she shuddered.

Harry, who had been busy cleaning his glasses, at last gave her his full attention.

“What does Dudley have to do with Voldemort?”

Ginny shook her head and looked away, swallowing again. The lump in her throat seemed to be growing exponentially and she was starting to have trouble breathing. They weren’t going to have this conversation.

“Gin?” Harry’s voice was unrecognizable from what it had been even a moment before. Disinterest and weariness were gone, replaced by an alert concern. This was exactly what she had wanted to avoid.

“You know what?” she said angrily, swinging her leap over the edge of the bed and standing. “I think you’re right about Dudley. I’ve been tired lately. I probably just imagined it. Maybe I’ll sleep better at the Burrow.”

She didn’t even make it to the door before Harry grabbed her arm.

“Forget Dudley. What about Voldemort? I thought we agreed that if either of us had a bad dream or anything —“

“It wasn’t a dream. Like I said . . . “

Harry fixed her with a disbelieving look. “Don’t do this, Ginny. Just tell me. Why did Dudley and what he did make you start having visions of Voldemort?”

“No,” she said, working to pry his fingers off her arm. She wasn’t having much luck.

“No? Gin, we swore there’d be no secrets.”

“We also said to let the past live in the past. Can’t you just leave it? It’s not going to change what happened.”

This was the wrong thing to say again. She still had her own hand on Harry’s, but she’d stopped trying to pry his fingers off, instead watching as he tried to find the link. She guessed he was contemplating some horrible things because his grip on her arm was becoming more painful by the minute. He was oblivious to her squirming.

When she was at a point of hexing him to force Harry to let go, he did so of his own accord and instead took her face in his hands, a pained expression in his eyes.

“I know you told me no before, but please tell me the truth this time. Did he —“

Ginny shook her head. That, thank god, was the absolute truth.

“What about . . . other things?” The cringe was as clear, it not clearer, in Harry’s voice as it was in his expression. She couldn’t stand having to put Harry through asking all these questions. So Ginny decided to tell him a little, knowing full well that it would probably lead to more questions, eventually breaking the protective barrier she’d placed around those thoughts, the one that had cracked this afternoon because of Dudley.

“He didn’t make me do anything to or with him. He just wanted me so he could get to you. That’s nothing new.”

A mixed expression of relief and confusion formed on Harry’s face.

“The Cruciatus curse was the only spell he used? I don’t get it, Gin. What does that have to do with Dudley?”

“No. Not just the Cruciatus. Legillimency,” she replied quietly. This news took a moment to penetrate Harry’s consciousness after which an apprehensive expression overtook the others.

“What was he looking for?”

“Something to use as a bargaining chip.” Ginny closed her eyes so she didn’t have to look at Harry. It was the only way she could remain calm. “D’you remember what he said the last time he contacted you in that mirror?”

This time recognition and understanding was almost instant. Ginny wasn’t surprised. She had been privy to that particular conversation and the insinuations that Voldemort had made. They had been responsible for finally driving Harry over the edge and coming to find her.

Harry swallowed.

“He — he forced that out of you, did he?” She reluctantly nodded. “I’m sorry you had to go through that, Gin.”

He had his arms around her before she realized what was happening. She didn’t object. It hadn’t taken much for her resolve to break, which was generally the case with Harry. This had been the one thing that she had kept from him, knowing that he wouldn’t take it well. Now he knew though, she worried that Harry would start to relapse and decide once more that it wasn’t safe for them to be together. For the first time all day the lump in her throat sunk down into her stomach, and she once again felt her legs ready to give out. After all they had been through she would not, could not, let him go again.

With a tremendous effort she pushed aside every other thought, Ginny kissed Harry passionately, pulling him close to her so that she could whisper in his ear, “I’ve decided. Yes, I’ll move in with you.”

He froze, before slowly pulling away from her, looking concerned again.

“You’ve just decided this now?”

“Yes. I’ve realized that you were right. I’m already living here in all but — what?”

Harry sat down on the bed and patted the spot beside him. Ginny sat, wondering what could possibly be the problem now.

“The timing’s a little strange, Gin, I can’t deny that.” He looked down at his knees for a minute, taking her hand in his. Ginny felt a stab of impatience, wanting to know why he was now recanting his request. “I don’t think we should rush into this. You were right about that. There are so many things we still need to work out.”

“Like what?”

“Well . . . like where Dudley’s going to go, for example. I’ve still got some work to do with Kreacher. If Dudley’s going to stay there perhaps we shouldn’t have to worry about Kreacher doing him in.”

Ginny hadn’t even given any thought to what would happen with Dudley. The idea of having him in another house increased her desire to move in. The sooner, the better.

“We can work that out later, can’t we?”

Harry smiled and kissed her on the cheek.

“Who would have thought a month ago that I’d be convincing you not to move in.”

“I don’t understand. You were upset earlier when you thought I wasn’t ready to move in. Now I am, you think it’s a bad idea?” Ginny was starting to let her frustration show.

“You seemed to think it was a bad idea until five minutes ago, Gin. If you’re moving in because you’re scared or something . . . That’s the wrong reason, isn’t it. At least sleep on it and we’ll discuss it tomorrow.”

Feeling close to anger and tears, Ginny stood up and left the room. She was halfway to the fireplace when Harry asked her where she was going.

“Home,” she said duly, feeling like she had run the emotional gamut, and knowing she couldn’t spare any more emotion tonight.

“Gin, don’t leave like this,” he said, not coming closer, but giving her a pleading look.

“Why?” she stilled, with her hand outstretched for the Floo powder.

“After what you just told me . . . I want to make sure you’re safe, and that you’re OK.” He came a few steps closer.

“I don’t need your protection, Harry.” She stood still as a statue.

“Maybe I need yours then,” he replied, stopping just in front of her and running his fingers through her hair. Without meaning to, Ginny closed her eyes. Her mind was telling her to go back to the Borrow, but her hands betrayed her, fisting in his hair and kissing him back passionately, stopping only once to will herself not to allow any less than pleasant memories to intrude. Her whole focus was the blissful present. Right now she had no past, a wonderful thought.

“What time is it?” Harry asked, some time later, reaching for his glasses. Removing her bra from on top of the alarm clock, Ginny relayed the time as twelve-thirty.

“How early do you have to be at work?” he asked, strolling out of the room to pick up their trail of discarded clothing.

“Not too early, Ginny replied, resetting the alarm. She knew exactly what that tone meant. Smiling, she grabbed her wand from the table where she had set it after removing the shield charm hours earlier. With a few well-practiced waves she renewed a different kind of protective spell.

When Harry returned he wore a serious expression.

“What?” she asked, wondering what could have possibly happened in the ten seconds he was gone to give him that look again.

Harry crawled back into bed, kissed her, and said “I’ve just realized that even though you had to go through that horrible ordeal with Voldemort, he’s dead now, so it’s only us who knows.”

Ginny smiled, hoping that she could repeat that feeling of obliviousness for the second time in the night. Harry’s thought was one worth holding onto, even though it wasn’t true.

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