WOGW: Chapter Ten: The Auror’s Stratagem

The first thing Ginny saw when she once again stepped into the atrium was the same security guard who had tried to give her a hard time two weeks earlier. She sighed disgustedly. She would rather be home catching up on the sleep James had been denying her than dealing with someone who followed a rapidly deteriorating leader. The guard didn’t feign unfamiliarity this time, he just stood, tipped his hat to her and waved her through without even asking to see her wand. She wondered if Tougas had told him to expect her, or if her subtle threat was still working on him. She suspected the former.

The clanging of the lifts seemed to die away much sooner than usual when Ginny stepped out on the second floor. The Auror offices were almost completely deserted, only a few heads could be seen over the walls of their cubicles. It was hardly surprising to see that very few people chose to work on a Saturday night, but the sight of such little activity made her uneasy.

“Weasley, at last!”

Ginny jumped at the sound of her name spoken loudly by Tougas. Trying to act as though she had done no such thing, she turned to see him exiting the very room in which she had finally told Harry that she was pregnant.

“Sorry, late running practice. And then it was impossible to get away from Dee. She’s up in arms about Fohn’s support of Lestrange. Can you believe -”

A second door opened and Dawlish stepped out, closely followed by Declan Fohn. He was barely recognizable without his smug smile and with a five o’clock shadow darkening his usually clean shaven chin.

“Miss. Weasley?” He seemed as startled to see Ginny as she was to see him. “You aren’t here to start another war of words are you, because I’d much prefer -”

“I had no idea you were here,” Ginny said impatiently. “I don’t have anything more to say to you anyway, Mr. Fohn. Dee – Diandra and I just hope to bring some sense to your followers before it’s too late for them. If you’ll excuse me, I need to talk privately with Tougas.”

Fohn nodded and headed for the lifts. It took a great deal of restraint for GInny not to watch him walk away. She guessed that he was having a more difficult time of it now that S.P.E.L.L. was gaining their own supporters, and she was glad of it. If they were able to keep up the momentum W.A.N.D. might soon be extinct and then less deluded people would be able to sleep better.

“He was here for questioning about Lestrange,” Tougas said once Fohn was out of earshot and before she could ask. “Such an about face in so short a time frame usually indicates Lestrange has got to someone. I don’t think he said anything useful though, judging from the frown on Dawlish’s face.”

He ushered Ginny into the room Dawlish had just exited and gestured for her to sit down. She did, placing her bag on the table. Tougas didn’t sit, instead he leant against the table and folded his arms.

“What about the blackmailer?” Ginny asked, rubbing her tired eyes. “Did you find him?”

“No, but I’ve done some digging and don’t think you have anything to worry about. He’s not another Chase in the making. I reckon he just wanted to get close to you and blackmail was the first thing he could think of. Since you haven’t seen hide nor hair of him for the last fortnight I think it’s safe to say you’ve scared him off.”

“Who was he, though? Where did he come from?” Ginny demanded.

“Still working on that,” Tougas replied. When he saw the annoyed expression on Ginny’s face he added, “You’re lucky I’ve been able to find out that much with all the waste of time leads I’ve been following up on. These break-ins are her style, but I’ll be damned if I can find any evidence that Lestrange is involved at all.”

“Oh?” Ginny sat up straighter in her chair. She knew as much about the recent break-ins as most people who read through to to the end of the the Daily Prophet. She was starting to feel uneasy though because they had picked up in frequency in the last fortnight and were all in London, the most recent had been in St. John’s Wood and Holland Park and were getting a little too close for comfort. It had been her hope that the Aurors were getting closer to catching Lestrange, but if the very theory they’d been working on was wrong it didn’t seem likely that these break-ins would stop any time soon. “Who do you think it is, then? Some rogue Death Eaters?”

“Doubtful there are any rogue Death Eaters. Not unless they have a death wish. No, I think that if it’s not Lestrange herself, it’s someone that works closely with her. They’re probably acting on her orders.”

“Looking for what?” Ginny asked.

“Not what, who.”

Ginny nodded. She didn’t need Tougas to elaborate because it was quite obvious he was referring to the theory he and Kingsley shared, that Lestrange was looking for her, to use as a pawn in her game to get Harry to come out of hiding. If Harry was actually in hiding, of course.

Standing up she slung her bag over her shoulder. Before she left she had one more question to ask Tougas though.

“Can you clear something up for me before I go?” She waited for him to nod before continuing. “The day after you last dueled with Lestrange, Tonks said you had some unexpected help. She made it sound like that was Harry.”

“And?” Tougas asked impatiently.

“Was she right? Was he there with the task force that night?”

“You just love your grand conspiracy theories, don’t you, Weasley?” he asked angrily. “Tonks would be the last person we would tell. She’d be sure to blab to you. No, Potter wasn’t there. She was talking about Harrison. He’s a new recruit that shouldn’t have been with us and he got rather badly injured. We had to take him to Adrasteia. She was able to heal him quietly and he’s back on his feet now. He went home today. She had her hands full for the last fortnight, but at least now she’ll have a hope of seeing your brother and sister-in-law this decade.”

Ginny watched him closely, trying to detect any trace of a lie, but she could find nothing except for his usual obstinate expression and eventually she had to concede that his story at least made sense. The Auror office certainly wouldn’t want a story to spread about the injury of an unqualified Auror. It also explained why Adrasteia had only recently responded to the letter Ginny had sent on James’s birthday.

“OK,” she said, sighing. “Keep me posted on the blackmailer. Oh, but I’ll be away for the next few days, so don’t send me any post unless absolutely necessary. And you don’t need to hurry with the wards around the flat. No one’s going to be there for a few days.”

“Already taken care of,” Tougas replied as he followed her to the door. “You off to some special Quidditch camp to prepare for the match against the Wasps next week?”

“No need for that. I’ve never lost against them,” Ginny replied. “Nope, I’m getting away from town for a while. James, Hugh and I are going camping this weekend.”

She left Tougas looking stunned.

Hugh has suggested the trip three days earlier, the very evening that Ginny had told him she had the time off. Jordana and Gwenog had been working the team harder than ever for the last fortnight, and finally decided that they needed a few days off to recuperate before the match on Friday. She’d been reluctant to go in the beginning, worrying about his expectations. In the end, once the tent situation was sorted out, she found that she was looking forward to it. Getting away from London and Quidditch was very appealing to her at the moment.

Only two problems marred her eager anticipation: how she was going to manage without magic for two days and not look like a complete prat, and what would happen if James did something with his magic. She was considering how to handle such a situation as she approached the lifts and was so inattentive that she walked right into Declan Fohn.

“Sorry,” she said before realizing who it was. She punched the down button. “What are you still doing here? Don’t you have more children to corrupt? More hateful messages to spread?”

Fohn shrugged, standing with his hands in his pockets. He was uncharacteristically speechless and Ginny decided she preferred him this way. The lifts arrived and they stepped in without speaking. Could they make it all the way back to the atrium without exchanging another word? That was a happy thought indeed.

“How is your son?” Fohn asked when the lift started moving.

“That’s none of your damn business,” she said, immediately pointing her wand at him. “You just stay the hell away from him. If you get any ideas about trying anything, I’ll -”

The lift doors opened, revealing a man of medium height standing just outside. He didn’t move forward like he was going to get into the lift, or step back to let Ginny and Fohn pass. He looked between them with raised eyebrows.

“I would lower my wand if I were you, Miss. Weasley,” he said with a level of contempt that made it clear that he worked for Fohn.

“I’ll be happy to, once this vermin is out of my sight.”

Fohn glanced quickly between Ginny and his supporter, almost as though he was sizing them up. Before she could be sure that’s what happened, he sighed and stepped out of the lift. Ginny put her hand on the gate to hold it open while she waited for the two men to leave. She didn’t want to ride up with them in the cramped telephone booth.

“I’ve always respected you, Ginny,” Fohn said, startling her by using her given name as he turned round once more. “Just . . . Be careful.”

The assistant seized Fohn by the arm and steered him rapidly towards the fireplaces, hurrying as though he was a bomb that might explode at any minute. Ginny thought briefly of aiming a hex at their retreating backs. Why did Fohn always have to have some hidden agenda? In one breath he says something nice, and then utters a threat? He’d deserve her hex.

Much as she wanted to sleep, Ginny had one additional stop to make. She entered the local grocer’s to get provisions for the following day when they would be leaving at cock crow. She was feeling slightly resentful of the strangely large number of Muggles in the shop because it prevented her from tucking the two large and heavy sacks into her magical bag where the enchantment would have absorbed the weight.

The distance between the shop and her flat seemed to lengthen as Ginny walked, but at last she saw the tops of the tall cedars that formed the inner border of the courtyard, followed by the walls, and then the topmost floor of the building: Hugh’s flat. A light was on in his window, but he came round the wall when she was still have a block away. 

“You should have called,” he reprimanded, taking the bags from her.

“It’s no big deal.” She shrugged, adjusting the magical bag containing her broom and Quidditch robes.

“No big deal? You look dead on your feet.”

They entered the courtyard and Ginny automatically looked at the windows on the first and second floors. Her own flat was dark. Had Ron and Hermione fallen asleep on the job again? A light was on in Mr. Thomas’s flat, however. She breathed a sigh of relief to know that he was back safely from his business trip. He’d been away for a fortnight.

“I was going to suggest a cup of tea,” Hugh said, entering the building ahead of Ginny because she was holding the door open for him, “But you don’t look up for it. I’ll just come in and drop these off.”

Hugh twisted out of her reach as Ginny tried to grab the bags.

“Git,” she said, carefully reaching into her bag to extract the keys she rarely used. “If you’re coming in you might as well stay for a cup of tea. Just remember to be quiet, I think James is sleeping.”

It was completely silent and dark when they entered. Ginny said yes to Hugh’s offer to make tea, led him into the kitchen and then she backtracked several steps to peer into James’s room to check that he was asleep. She saw a foot dangling over the edge of the sofa and smiled. Ron and Hermione had definitely fallen asleep on the job again.

She knew a moment of heart stopping panic when she saw that James’s crib was empty, but realized that he was probably sleeping with his aunt and uncle in the sitting room.

“Ron? Hermione?” Ginny called softly, creeping towards the sofa. When they didn’t answer she knew she was right about everyone being asleep and a devilish thought came to her. She continued her approach, moving quieter than she had done before, intent on tickling Ron’s socked foot. He always woke with a start, thinking that it was a spider crawling on him. He’d realize what happened quickly enough and would probably curse her, but it was his just punishment for falling asleep.

Ginny stretched out her hand, noting that she had to be careful because she could just make out James’s form, asleep on Ron’s chest. She breathed a sigh of relief to know he was safe. It didn’t change her mind about scaring her brother, though and she stretched out her hand, looking up to make sure she didn’t miss a moment of his reaction. She wasn’t quite able to see his ginger hair so moved a foot closer. It was a a much darker head of untidy hair that she saw.

Every muscle in her body seized up, and Ginny stood for several minutes, hand still outstretched. It couldn’t be!

She moved even closer and stared down at a scene she had so often thought about but had never actually imagined seeing: James asleep on his father’s chest. There was no mistaking that they were related. They had similar untidy hair, the same thin nose, crooked smile (though neither was smiling now). They were both sleeping with their mouths slightly open. James had a fistful of Harry’s shirt, and Harry had his arm wrapped protectively around his son.

“Who’s that?” Hugh asked, several minutes later. He had walked up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders without Ginny noticing. He craned his neck to get a better look. “That’s Harry, isn’t it?”

It wasn’t the edge in Hugh’s voice that finally thawed Ginny’s frozen limbs, She took a great gulp of air as her mind whirred into action, and a million thoughts started buzzing. One stood out among the rest though: It couldn’t be a coincidence that not an hour earlier Fohn had warned her to be careful, and now Harry was back after nearly a year and a half? And where were Ron and Hermione? Even if Tougas hadn’t seen fit to tell her Harry was going to suddenly reappear, Ron and Hermione wouldn’t just vanish into thin air. No, this was some sort of Dark Magic . . . And James was in it’s clutches. Her knees buckled and Ginny had to grab the wall to stop herself falling.

“It is him, isn’t it?” Hugh asked again.

“No. I mean, yeah, but . . . I don’t know. I . . . I’ll . . . .” She grabbed Hugh’s hand and dragged him to the door, constantly looking back to make sure that nothing was happening to James. She needed to get Hugh out of here, out of the sight and danger of magic. “I’ve got to sort this out. I’ll see you in the morning. Please, just go.”

“But -”

Ginny closed the door in his face and was hurrying back down the hall almost before the latch engaged. Her heart was thumping against her ribs and didn’t let up even when she saw that nothing had changed in the seconds that she was gone. She approached the head of the sofa cautiously, drawing her wand and gripping it firmly as she tried to pick up James. The impostor tightened his grip and his eyes snapped open.

“Let go of my son,” she said, touching the tip of her wand to the impostor’s nose.

“Gin?” he asked, sounding groggy, his eyes unfocused. He didn’t relinquish his grip on James though.

“Let go of my son or I will kill you.” Her fingers were shaking as they held her wand, but she didn’t let go. “I’m not going to tell you again.”

He let go. Ginny immediately scooped James up and started backing away, keeping her wand raised. The impostor Harry sat up and reached into his pocket.

“Don’t move!”

He didn’t move from the sofa, but pulled a pair of glasses out of the pocket and put them on. Then he continued to watch Ginny back away not making any move to grab a wand or other magical device that could subdue or imprison. This lack of movement unsettled Ginny enough that she paused in the doorway of James’s bedroom to consider her options. She could run, possibly into some sort of trap. She could try to hide at Hugh or Mr. Thomas’s, but that would endanger them, too. She could stay and fight, risking potentially fatal injury to James.

“Gin, it’s me,” he said. It certainly sounded like Harry, but that would be the case if someone had used polyjuice potion. She couldn’t trust her eyes or ears.

He came round the corner so that Ginny could see him again, and it looked like he was reaching for a wand this time. She drew back into the darkness of James’s room as he started to fidget in her arms.

“Stay asleep,” she whispered in a silent prayer.

“I know you didn’t expect to see me here -”

“Stay the hell away from us.” Ginny seized the second he recoiled to dart out of the room and head for the door.

“Gin, wait – Expecto Patronum.”

She had her hand on the knob when the darkness was shattered by a blinding silver light. It was a giant stag that filled the hall from wall to wall. It cantered over to where Ginny and James were standing. James held out his hand to touch it, but the stag disappeared, and after a few seconds Harry’s silhouette was visible again.

“Dada?” James looked at GInny sleepily for confirmation.

“Yeah,” she agreed. Her voice cracked and she felt for the second time as though all the wind had been forced out of her lungs and she leant against the door to catch her breath. She didn’t protest when Harry waved his hand and turned on some lights, and said nothing when he stowed his wand back in his pocket, nodded in understanding that they meant no harm to each other, and headed back into the sitting room.

Eventually Ginny let go of the doorknob and slowly made her way back down the hall on wobbly legs. The room felt like it was spinning when she at last reached the entrance to the sitting room, and she leaned against the wall to watch Harry, who was sitting on the sofa with his head in his hands and didn’t immediately look up. It was safe to watch him when he sat like that, but when he finally lifted his head and their eyes met it felt like her head started spinning again and she retreated. She fell back on the one thing that had saved her for the past year when she couldn’t deal with reality: taking care of her son. She retreated to James’s room again, laying him down in the crib and watched him sleep.

“He really does have your eyes,” Harry said quietly. She heard his slow approach but didn’t turn round and soon he was standing right beside her.

“Where’s Ron and Hermione?” It was the only thing Ginny could think to ask.

“Meeting with Adrasteia. Her schedule is wide open again.” Harry turned so that he was facing her. He opened his mouth to speak again, to start offering explanations. She touched her finger to his lips, took him by the hand and led him from the room.

He tried to speak again once they were back in the sitting room, but Ginny once again silenced him. She let go of his hand and at last allowed herself to look at him properly. He was pale and gaunt as though he was recovering from some sort of illness, but otherwise unmistakable, but not possibly real. She brought her hand up to touch his hair, traced the faded outline of his scar, and down the side of his face to touch a small scar on his neck that he’d got when shaving and healed poorly. He swallowed, but said nothing. He was watching her almost unblinkingly.

“Harry?” she said, finally satisfying herself that he was really standing here before her.

“Yeah, it’s me,” he said, swallowing again.

“Where have you been?” Ginny asked, having to swallow down a painful lump in her throat. She didn’t give him a chance to answer though, as she threw her arms around his neck and pulled his head down so she could kiss him. At first it was a very one sided kiss as Harry stood perfectly still, but then he slid one hand round her back and the other into her hair. They overbalanced and Ginny fell back on the sofa, dragging Harry with her. Her head hit something hard. She reached behind her and felt a jacket which she started to push out of her way, but Harry stopped kissing her to see what she was doing and when he did a frightened, disgusted sort of look came over his face and he sat up, putting his head in his hands again.

“It belongs to my downstairs neighbour,” she explained. “He’s a lonely old man who’s taken to James, and likes to come up and have tea with mum when she’s here.”

“Yes, I know.” Harry took the jacket from her, reached into the inside pocket and pulled out a bottle very much like the one the squirrelly faced reporter had guarded so assiduously that day at the Leaky Cauldron: Ogden’s Old Firewhisky. Before she could tell him that she didn’t fancy a drink, he opened the bottle and poured a small amount into his palm. It was thick and dark, like mud: polyjuice potion. “Ron and Hermione saw me coming in, disguised as the old man. They were in a rush and asked if I could mind him until you got back. If I hadn’t fallen asleep -”

“I don’t understand,” Ginny said, shaking her head. Harry couldn’t possibly be saying what it sounded like he was saying.

“The Peter Thomas that you know, doesn’t exist. It’s just a made up name, and I’ve been using the hairs of one of Tougas’s neighbours. Tougas thought, and it turns out he was right, that it might be too dangerous for me to come back as myself yet. You’ve seen what’s happened since that duel two weeks ago. Lestrange has started honing in on you. The attacks in St. John’s -”

“You were there!” Ginny jumped to her feet. “Tougas said it was some new trainee called Harrison, but Tonks slipped up and . . . She knew and she never told me?”

The thought settled in her stomach like a lead weight: Tonks had known all along that Harry was out there and she’d never once said a word about it. She had acted devastated like the rest, but it had been that, an act. Tougas obviously knew as well, but he kept coming round, keeping up the ruse that he was actually looking for someone who didn’t need to be found. The rest of the task force must know. And if they knew, who else? Did Ron and Hermione know, too? Was she the only one who didn’t know that Harry was alive and well?

“Tonks only found out that night, and then Kingsley and Tougas made her and the rest of the task force keep it quiet,” Harry explained. “They were the only two who knew the whole truth.”

“And what is that exactly?” Ginny asked, feeling slightly nauseous. “You couldn’t deal with the reality of a family and -”

“No.” Harry spoke so loudly that his voice echoed in the room for just a moment. He also stood up. “It was never my intention to leave you, Gin, but things happened that were out of my control, at least in the beginning.”

“Like what?” she asked angrily, folding her arms.

“I’ll tell you everything, just please, sit.”

After a second in which she debated saying no, Ginny sat and waited to hear what Harry would say to possibly justify disappearing for sixteen months, and then impersonating a Muggle. She had never imagined that seeing him again would make her feel so angry.

“I honestly don’t remember the first fortnight after it happened, so I’m telling you what Tougas and Kingsley told me. We had a lead on Lestrange and we followed it. We got separated and I was badly injured. Muggles found me and treated me for a few days until Tougas found me. I don’t know why he brought me to Adrasteia rather than to St. Mungo’s directly, but that’s what he did.”

So Adrasteia knew, too? This was getting better and better!

“They tell me that I was in pretty bad shape and they didn’t think it was safe for you to be around, which is why they didn’t tell you.”

“You don’t believe them?”

“I dunno. All I know is that they had decided to revert back to our original plan: to try and lure Lestrange into a trap, and they needed my help for that. It would work best if we did it soon, and then you wouldn’t be in any danger because you didn’t know anything.”

“And you agreed to this?”

“At first,” Harry said, nodding. “Because they told me it would only be a few days and then we’d have Lestrange and everything would be over. I know now that i never should have agreed in the first place, but I did. When that first campaign didn’t work, we decided to try again. It was always just a few more days, a few more days.

“It didn’t take long for Lestrange to grow wise to what we were doing. She stopped showing up herself, because she realized that eventually we would catch her. She didn’t stop sending people, though. We arrested some of her best Death Eaters, which is why we think she’s turned to Fohn. Looking to fill her dwindling ranks.”

“If you knew it wasn’t working, why’d you keep going along with it?” Ginny couldn’t even look at him as she asked the question.

“I tried to get out of it. I really, really tried, especially around the time that James was born. I almost got here, too, but the protective enchantments were set up very well, and before I could do anything about them, Kingsley showed up. I don’t know how now, but I let them convince me that it was too dangerous to do anything, because Lestrange would expect it, but in due course they would tell you what was happening.”

“They never said a word,” Ginny said. She could feel a headache coming on. “And if you were so set on coming back, why didn’t you go to the Burrow or something?”

“I would have done if Kingsley hadn’t shown up.”

“And in all the months since then?” She rubbed at her temples. “It doesn’t seem like you tried very hard, Harry.”

“You’re right, I could have – No, should have done more.” He paused for a moment to rub at his eyes and pull a piece of parchment out of his pocket. He turned it over in his hands a few times before continuing. “But bursting in would have put you and James in more danger, and that’s the last thing any of us wanted.”

“So instead you decided to – what? Leave me to wonder if you were dead, or alive and being tortured by Lestrange? To abandon your son? To hide out like a coward?” Her head was throbbing, and her voice was starting to rise.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Harry replied flatly. “There was a period where I gave up even trying to get Kingsley and Tougas to stop this pointless game we were playing with Lestrange. I just spent hours looking at this.”

He handed Ginny the item he’d been holding in his hand. It wasn’t a piece of parchment, but a photo. She knew the photo well: a picture of her and James just minutes after he was born. He was barely visible through the wad of blankets he was wrapped in, but she could just make out the tiny tuft of black hair. Her photographic self was staring down at him, a tear track still visible on her cheek.

“Where did you get this?” Ginny asked quietly.

“Tougas.”

“What?”

Harry nodded grimly.

“He hasn’t been visiting you every day just for the hell of it, you know. The wards don’t really need to be checked every day, either, but I told them that the only way I’d keep up with this ruse is if one of them made sure you and James were safe.”

“So you’ve had him spying on me?” Ginny nearly shouted and she started to jump to her feet again but Harry grabbed her hand.

“Not spying, just . . . I wanted to make sure that you were OK.”

“I think you need to leave,” she said, wrenching her hand out of Harry’s. “I can’t stand to look at you right now.”

“I will go if you want me to, but I think you need to hear the rest of it first.”

“There’s more?” Ginny felt her stomach turn over. “Do I even want to hear this?”

“No, I reckon you don’t, but if you’re going to hate me . . . “ Harry swallowed, and then continued. “I knew that you were relatively safe when you weren’t playing with the Harpies, and maybe that was why I didn’t push harder to come back, but I tried again when your return to work approached. Kingsley and Tougas gave in, but said we’d have to do it slowly. I was done with that, especially after learning about Chase. The night of your first day back I wanted to make sure you got out safely. It’s a good thing I did, otherwise I don’t know what Chase might have done to you . . .”

“You weren’t there.” She definitely would have remembered seeing Harry that night. “The only person there was some Mugg -” Her eyes fell on the bottle of polyjuice potion sitting on the coffee table.

“Yeah, it was me. The only thing I regret about that night was that I decided to use the potion in the first place. When Chase vanished like that, I thought it would have been the perfect time to tell you, but you Disapparated too quickly.

“I was worried that Chase wouldn’t leave you alone, so I watched over the next few weeks, just to make sure.”

“You followed me?” Ginny asked weakly. “You followed me?”

“Just to make sure you got to work and back safely,” he replied defensively. “Except for your first match. I wanted to see you play so I used polyjuice again – another Muggle. I think James recognized me though. He’s a really perceptive kid, Gin.”

“That was you, too? You were that squirrelly faced reporter who I thought was trying to blackmail me?”

“It was never supposed to go that far. I just wanted to see your match. But then you assumed that’s what I was when you saw me arguing with Tougas a few days later. We let you think that because the alternative . . . “

“Yeah, why would the truth be better than a lie?” Ginny asked, furiously. “I can tell you have more to say. What else have you done?”

This time it was Harry who stood up and started pacing the room. He didn’t speak for a full minute, and he kept rubbing his jaw. He seemed very reluctant to tell her this last bit of repugnant behaviour.

“I . . . er . . . Tougas told me about Rossi. And -”

“You were there, too.” Ginny interrupted. She spoke flatly, feeling exhausted. But then she remembered that night, and how she had been so convinced she had seen Harry. “You were there!”

Harry nodded, looking thoroughly disgusted.

“I left with you, as Thomas, of course. I just wanted to make sure that he didn’t try anything, Rossi, I mean. I never meant for you to see me, Gin, I really didn’t. I’m sorry I upset you. And that’s why I followed you into the loo. I just wanted to make sure you were OK. But when you were leaving you realized I was there and when you pulled the cloak off I couldn’t . . . You looked so beautiful that I . . .”

“Wait.” Ginny stood up, swaying a little because her head was spinning again. “Wait. You threw the cloak over both of us and we kissed?”

Harry nodded again.

“But that was a dream I had, it didn’t actually happen,” she said, speaking more to herself. “How did you know about that?”

“It wasn’t a dream,” he said, turning a violent shade of green. “It really happened, but I wasn’t supposed to be there at all and so I had to . . . . to modify . . . your memory. I’m sorry, so sorry. I didn’t think you would remember at all, but I heard you crying that night I knew I didn’t do it properly. I . . . It was selfish of me to come near you in the first place, but -”

“I just want to make sure I’m following what you’re telling me.” Ginny held up her hand to make him stop talking, covering the distance that separated them. “You had me spied on, spied on me yourself, stalked me, made me think I was going mad, groped me in a bathroom and then when you realized that you fucked up you erased my memory. Does that about cover it?”

“It wasn’t like that. I -”

“DOES IT?”

“I – I suppose, but -”

Ginny didn’t bother reaching for her wand, she drew back her arm and punched him as hard as she could. An awful crunching noise indicated that she broke his nose, and blood spurted everywhere when he recoiled. He brought his hand up to stem the flow of blood, staring at Ginny in shock. She turned her back on him and stared out the window for a minute, trying to calm down. If she got any angrier she just might explode.

“I’m sorry,” Harry said, his words a little garbled because of his broken nose. In the reflection from the window she saw him use his wand to stem the flow of blood.

“Save it, Harry. I don’t want to hear your apologies.”

“I’m sorry,” he said automatically. “I understand.”

“Do you? Do you really?” she asked, speaking louder than was necessary. “Do you really understand what it’s been like? Getting up every day to take care of a child who looks exactly like you, while worrying that you might be dead, or somewhere being tortured, and having to deal with this for months. MONTHS, Harry. And then to find out that you were not only safe, but that I was being lied to by people I counted as friends. Can you possibly understand what it was like to worry that I might one day have to tell our son that his father vanished and we had no idea what happened to him?”

“I -”

Whatever Harry was going to say was drowned out by James’s cry. Ginny had shouted so loud that she had woke him up. Both Harry and Ginny looked towards his bedroom and then Harry took a step in that direction.

“NO.” Ginny hurried ahead of him and blocked the door. “No, Harry. You have no right -”

“He’s my son, Gin.”

“You’ve made your choice. I don’t want you anywhere near us. Now get out.”

Harry braced himself by grabbing the bathroom door frame. “Don’t do this, please.”

“You did it to yourself. LEAVE!” She pointed at the door.

For the briefest moment, Ginny thought that Harry was either going to fall at her feet and beg her to reconsider, or that he was going to barge past her. He did neither. He let his head thud heavily against the doorframe once before he nodded sadly and trudged to the door. Ginny hurried to lock it, but she couldn’t stop herself looking through the peephole, watching him make his way down the stairs before dealing with her screaming son.

Reviews 51
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