A strong wind blew the stench of rotting cabbages and spoiled meat up their nostrils as Ginny and her captor reappeared, stumbling into something hard. The wind blew her hair into her face, obscuring her vision. Ginny tried to brush the hair away as she attempted to pull her hand out of the painfully strong grip that was holding it. She had little success, hampered by the wand in her left hand and the splint on her right.
The pressure let up instantly, she was spun around and hands were placed on either side of her face, holding back her hair so that she could see Harry standing before her. He held this position for several seconds, until she was fully convinced that her eyes weren’t deceiving her and stopped struggling entirely. He turned his wand towards a door, affording Ginny the opportunity to look around. She realized almost at once where they were: Grimmauld Place.
“What are we doing here?” she asked as Harry grabbed her hand again and pulled her into the dark entranceway. “What about the others?”
“I saw the rest of the task force arriving just before you created that sandstorm. Nicely done by the way,” he said, though he sounded neither amused nor pleased. He used his wand to reengage the locks on the front door. “They’ll be all right. Come on.”
Ginny could not immediately follow, her legs felt too wobbly to walk. She leaned against the wall and tried to convince herself that everything would be OK, that while Lestrange might not have been bluffing about Ikey, she had been about Molly. She hadn’t cast the Killing Curse . . . and she hadn’t said that Molly was dead. Maybe, just maybe, in all the confusion caused by Ginny’s disastrous spell, her mother had been spared.
“I’m sure she’s fine,” Harry said, seeming to read Ginny’s mind. His reassurance would have been more effective if it didn’t sound like he was trying to convince himself just as much. “Let’s go somewhere where you can sit down.”
Sitting down was the last thing Ginny wanted to do. She wanted to go back to the Burrow and see for herself that her mother was fine. She wanted to go back there and deal with Bellatrix Lestrange once and for all. She wanted to go home and crawl into bed, preferably after using a time turner to redo this entire day. Instead of saying any of this she nodded and consented to his suggestion of visiting the basement kitchen. Harry half-carried Ginny, as her legs no longer seemed capable of supporting her own weight.
“Are you going back straightaway?” she asked as they descended the last of the stairs.
“I’m not leaving you here alone,” he said with measured tones, though the arm he had around her waist tensed. His jaw was clenched as though he was gritting his teeth. Obviously it was taking a lot of will power for him to stay, but it didn’t make sense why he would want to now of all times.
“I think there’s still some painkilling potion here,” Harry said as he pushed the door open. “You should take that until we can get you to a healer.”
“I dunno. I have to be careful what I take because –“ A loud bang startled her into silence. They were not alone as Ginny thought. Remus Lupin had been waiting in the kitchen and had jumped up, knocking over his chair in the process. He came around the table and stood before them wearing a worried expression.
“Is Tonks with you?” he asked, bobbing up and down on the balls of his feet to see if anyone was behind them.
“No. She was at the Burrow last I saw her,” Harry said, directing Ginny past Lupin and into a chair at the table. She sank into it and let her head fall onto her chest. “The Death Eaters were there and got through the wards.”
Ginny fell into a slight stupor as she listened to Harry recount everything that had happened. The Aurors had decided to set a trap for Lestrange; yes, she’d guessed that much when she came across Harry at the flat. As they were leaving the Death Eaters accosted them in the alley, strange that he didn’t explain what happened just before that. And then he started talking about things Ginny couldn’t recall; she must have been unconscious longer than she thought.
“They must have been there for a while, hidden under a Disillusionment Charm,” Harry said. “It would have been ridiculously easy for them to do whatever they wanted. I don’t think they even used a simple stunner, let alone an Unforgivable.”
“Neither of you were unscathed though,” Lupin observed, righting his toppled chair. He looked from Ginny’s splinted hand to her face, frowned deeply, and then shifted his gaze to Harry who was busy rummaging in one of the cupboards.
Their appearances would certainly lead to questions, Ginny thought, looking from the dirt and grime that covered her clothes, and was caked all over her fingers and under her splint, to Harry. His hair was grey not the usual black, a result of its own thick coating of dust. When he stood up, it was easy to see the bruise that she’d cased. Had she really hit him that hard?
“This?” Harry touched the bruise and winced, glancing at her quickly, but answering a question Lupin had asked. “This wasn’t caused by a Death Eater, no. Nor was that.” He put a glass of neon blue liquid in front of Ginny, using his other hand to point at her injured wrist, sounding angry. “I was trying to get her out of the way and flung her into a wall. I’m sorry, Gin.”
Ginny looked at her wrist. It did hurt, but no worse than various Quidditch injuries she’d had before. During the first Quidditch match of the season she’d had the same wrist broken by a Bludger and Ikey had healed it in a trice. Any healer worth their potion could. An inconsequential thing like a broken bone could wait until everyone got there safely.
If they got there safely.
Ginny tried to push that thought from her mind, but she couldn’t suppress the mental image of Ikey, the human shish kabob. Lestrange certainly hadn’t been going easy then, had she? And her past behaviour didn’t indicate leniency either. The only logical explanation Ginny could find for not using an Unforgivable Curse was fear of hitting Harry, whom she needed for whatever mental spell she thought would bring back Voldemort. If she didn’t have to worry about hitting him she would be able to unleash her murderous streak on the others.
“She didn’t do anything because she didn’t want to risk you getting cursed.” Ginny’s intention in saying this was not to make Harry feel guilty or leaving, or to make Lupin worry more for Tonks, but to impress upon them both that they couldn’t sit here and do nothing.
“Can you stay?” Harry asked, getting to his feet.
“Yes,” Lupin replied
Before Ginny could argue that there was no need for Lupin to stay either, Harry had thanked him and put his hand on her shoulder.
“Drink that. It will make you feel better,” he said, motioning to the untouched potion. He hesitated a moment, indecisive, and then leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll be back soon.”
Harry’s departure left them in total silence. Though she dared not drink the potion for fear of the effects it might have, Ginny used it as a focal point so that she didn’t have to look at Lupin. The glass was cool to the touch and condensation had turned into water droplets that had formed streaks, revealing the potion’s neon blue effervescence.
“You would do better to drink it, Ginny,” Lupin said gently. His hands were folded on the table, and though he wasn’t staring at her, what she saw of his look was . . . Concern, certainly, but she also thought she saw pity. It was the latter that made her shift awkwardly in her chair, desperate to be anywhere but here: he knew!
Of course Ginny knew she shouldn’t be shocked that Lupin knew. He had been the one Harry went to see after he left her at the Ministry; she very much doubted that they spent their time talking about the latest articles in Transfiguration Today. She also knew, thanks to Lupin’s timely appearance at the Ministry, that Narcissa Malfoy had blurted the truth for a whole pub of Muggles to hear. All those people knowing . . .
“He might not have handled things in the best manner, but he means well. Harry,” Lupin clarified when Ginny cast him a sideways glance. He touched the underside of his jaw in precisely the same spot that she had hit Harry as he said, “I assume you caused it?”
Ginny nodded mutely. She withdrew her hands from the table, folded them in her lap and started at her fingers.
“I can’t fault you for it. He told me what he said to you at the Ministry.” Lupin paused and Ginny guessed that he was fixing her with another sympathetic look. “We do tend to say the most hurtful things to those we’re closest to, especially when we’re in shock.”
Harry was especially bad for that sometimes, Ginny thought, hearing again his words from earlier: Is it mine?
“He doesn’t need you to make his excuses, Remus.”
“Is that what you think I’m doing?”
Ginny tucked one curtain of hair behind her ear, tilted her head to the side and looked at Lupin. “What are you doing then?”
“Offering an explanation. I assume you weren’t pleased that Dudley was brought here after everything that happened.”
“Is he still here?” she asked, grabbing her wand at once and getting to her feet. She had completely forgotten that Lupin had brought him back here after the fiasco at Malfoy Manor. To be here after him, to possibly be sitting where he sat . . .
“No. He left yesterday morning. The Aurors have been looking for him since then, but so far no luck.”
“Why isn’t he in Azkaban? Why did you let him go?” Her words came out slightly muffled because she was clenching her teeth.
“Because if I didn’t, I think Harry would have killed him.” Lupin hadn’t raised his voice at all but it was like he had shouted. “The only time I’ve seen him angrier, Ginny, was during those days when you were held captive by Voldemort.”
Ginny felt her stomach heave. If she was going to be sick it certainly wasn’t going to be here in the kitchen with an audience.
“I have to use the loo.” She tightened the grip on her wand from the table before she bolted from the room.
Safely sequestered in the bathroom the nausea started to fade, but her unease did not. In the minutes since their arrival she had been reminded of Harry’s horrible words, everything that happened with Dudley, and the fact that other people knew. Those things were bad enough, but Lupin’s reminder of the ordeal in Snape’s dungeon had put her over the edge: her stomach was tingling in a completely new way that made her uneasy. She leaned against the bathroom door and placed a hand on her stomach, something she’d been doing a lot lately. Maybe they should have ignored Tonks and gone straight to St. Mungo’s. If they’d done that instead of going back to the Burrow, maybe the Death Eaters would have just turned around and left. She thought of her mother, lying face down on the ground, unmoving. A sob caught in her throat.
I mustn’t think the worst, Ginny thought, and she straightened up. The Avada Kedavra Curse produced a blinding light, but the flash that preceded her mother falling to the ground had most definitely been white. She was probably just feigning injury, trying to catch Lestrange off her guard. Wouldn’t it be great if mum took Lestrange down?
Holding onto this thought, Ginny went to the basin in the corner of the room and turned on the water. She used her uninjured hand to check the temperature and the water instantly turned a murky grey. Only when it ran clear did she reached for a towel that hung just over the sink, catching her reflection in the gilded mirror.
Ginny had already known that she must look bad, but she could now understand Fred and George’s reactions. Her hair was caked with dust and hung in large clumps around her head. Dust from the bricks of the alley and the dirt at the Burrow mixed with spots of congealed blood, not quite hiding a dark bruise on her right cheekbone.
“Lovely,” she muttered to herself, wetting the towel. The cuts and scrapes stung as she cleaned them, a process that took much longer than Ginny would have liked because her broken wrist hampered her. The fingers on her right hand were starting to swell and the pain was increasing. It couldn’t be that hard just to heal it, could it?
Ginny had got as far as pointing her wand at the splint when she thought better of it. She wasn’t great at healing spells, even at the best of times. If she tried to heal herself there was no telling what might happen; the last thing she wanted to do was to imitate Professor Lockhart and vaporize all the bones in her arm.
“Ginny, is everything all right in there?” Lupin asked, rapping lightly on the door.
“Just fine. I’ll be out in a moment.” She heard Lupin’s acknowledgment and then the creak of the door as he reentered the kitchen. She wiped the last of the dirt from her face with the dirty towel. It wasn’t as bad as she’d thought; her face was pretty scratched up, with just the one bruise, all quite manageable. She hung the towel back on its holder. ‘Tergeo.”
She’d said the spell without thinking, only realizing it when she was about to step into the hall again. Expecting to that she ‘d disintegrated it, Ginny turned back and found a perfectly clean and undamaged towel hanging on its hook. She stared at it in shock for a moment before the corners of her mouth turned up in a small smile. It was good to know that she still had some control of her magic.
Feeling slightly more optimistic, Ginny left the bathroom. The others had been in tricky situations before and had got out of them; it wasn’t impossible for them to escape from this one, too. Their chances would be improved, too, if Harry had been right about seeing the other Aurors arriving. Bellatrix Lestrange might be crazy but until she got what she wanted she was going to avoid capture. She had her Death Eaters would have scarpered the minute the other Aurors arrived. With them gone there would be no reason to linger at the Burrow. Harry and Tonks would be back very soon. She was so sure of this that she decided to share her thought with Lupin.
Ginny had just placed her hand on the smooth lacquered finish of the kitchen door when the sound of rattling chains and the loud creak of hinges made her freeze. If she wasn’t mistaken, someone had just come into the house and they were moving slowly, cautiously.
“I think they’re back,” she said, hastily pushing the kitchen door open before she let go and hurried up the stairs. It sounded to her like there were at least two sets of feet. Could it be Fred and George back with their mother? Or Harry and Tonks back to prove they were fine?
“Ginny, just wait.” Lupin pushed past her halfway up the stairs and then he quickly barred her way. “Let me just make sure it’s not someone unfriendly.”
She opened her mouth to argue but that was rendered unnecessary. Lupin had barely turned to continue his ascent when he let out a small sound of surprise and bounded up the last half dozen stairs. Ginny was fast on his heels.
“What happened?” Lupin asked as Ginny rounded the corner and saw him disappear into a room just left of the front door. She was sure she saw at least one redhead ahead of him.
“ . . . Think she was about to use an Unforgivable on her when all of a sudden she just crumpled to the ground,” Fred was saying when Ginny entered the room. He and George were just stretching Molly’s limp form out on the threadbare sofa.
“We tried to bring her round before we came here,” George said, looking at their mother sadly, “but nothing we tried worked.”
Unnoticed by either twin or Lupin, Ginny crept forward into the room to get a look at her mother. As she approached she saw first the familiar head of red hair, her mother’s newest blouse – a present Ginny had bought her for her last birthday, currently smeared with dirt and dust. As she took the last few steps toward the couch, Ginny let out a gasp. Her mother didn’t just look like she was sleeping, her face looked pale as death.
“Mum,” she cried, hurrying over to the sofa and grabbing her hand. It was still warm.
“She’s just unconscious,” George said, putting his hand on Ginny’s shoulder. “Lestrange didn’t get her, Gin.”
Ginny sat down on the edge of the sofa, still holding her mother’s hand in hers. Sounds of shuffling feet told her that everyone had moved closer, but for a full thirty seconds no one said anything. She turned to look at her brothers, hoping that they would explain more about what happened. If they didn’t say anything then she at least wanted to be able to read the truth in their expressions. They looked worried. Fred, noticing her watching them, finally did speak.
“We don’t know more, Gin. We think that maybe Harry did it when Lestrange was about to use an Unforgivable.“
This statement raised more questions than it answered but the slamming of the front door ended the conversation. The portrait of Mrs. Black filled the house with her usual foul-mouthed wailings. Everyone tensed and drew their wands. Fred, George and Lupin moved towards the door simultaneously but Lupin held up his hand, signaling the others to wait where they were before he headed into the corridor.
Fred and George waited until Lupin had disappeared through the door and with one last worried glance at Molly they hurried over and flanked the door, their wands at the ready. Ginny patted her mother’s slack hand, placed it by her side and then hurried over to stand by George to the right of the door. She held her wand as steady as she could in her left hand, waiting for something, or someone that would explain what was going on. Surely Lestrange hadn’t got in here as well?
From her vantage point, Ginny could see three people standing by the door: Lupin, Ron and Hermione. Why were they here? She started to move forward, hoping to get some answers, but George held out his arm to stop her. It was just as well because the others were already moving away from the door.
“What are you doing here?” Ron asked as the twins and Ginny backed away from the door to let them enter. He had his arm around a nettled looking Hermione. They were both looking around the room and at nearly the same moment they saw Molly on the couch. “Mum?”
Ron and Hermione rushed over to the sofa and kneeled down in front of Molly, their faces both an identical sickly green.
“What’s going on?” Hermione asked, the tremor in her voice increasing when she looked from Molly to Ginny. “Harry shows up out of the blue and drags us here, and now . . . What happened to you, Ginny? And what’s wrong with Molly?“
“She’s just unconscious,” George replied fiercely. He didn’t leave any room for debate.
The inevitable question of how it happened was next asked, prompting Fred and George to recount what happened at the Burrow. Having no interest in reliving the experience, and wanting to avoid questions, Ginny resumed her place by her mother’s side. She tried as best as she could to believe Fred – that her mother’s present condition was the result of an attempt to help, rather than something done by a Death Eater.
The creaking of a floorboard broke Ginny’s concentration and only then did she realize that Lupin had returned, but the room had fallen silent. Heads were again turned towards the door as a group of people piled in: a frightened looking Fleur, with Riley and Simon, two members of the Auror task force: Pamela Brazill and Bredan Tougas, and a dark haired woman that Ginny didn’t know. Like the two Aurors, this woman seemed to know exactly why she was here as she made the first move, coming over to the sofa.
“Let me have a look at her,” she said gently to Ginny. She pulled back her cloak to the familiar crossed wand and bone. “Its all right, I’m a healer.”
Though still a little doubtful, Ginny stood and backed away, letting the healer in. She watched on pins and needles as a wand was drawn and then the healer started making rapid motions with her wand. Ginny recognized some of them from Ikey’s own work after particularly vicious Quidditch matches.
“She looks a little young to be a healer,” Ron muttered.
“Ssshh.” Hermione shot him a warning look, but his comment had already made the others family members study the woman more carefully. She was very pretty with an oval shaped face, dark eyes, a straight nose and a clear complexion, and dark brown hair that hung straight down her back. Most importantly, though, Ginny saw that Ron was quite right. This girl couldn’t have been more than a half-dozen years out of Hogwarts, let alone her healer training. She could hardly be qualified to treat in this case. Rounding on Tougas, who seemed to have been the one who brought this mediocre healer, Ginny was ready to give him a piece of her mind. He preempted her.
“Adrasteia is one of the best. You’re lucky I caught her.” He made this announcement to the room at large, and made an exaggerated show of looking from Ginny and her various injuries, to her mother.
“I thank you for the compliment, Bredan,” the healer said from right behind Ginny, who turned at once to look at her. She seemed completely unimpressed by either Ron’s statement or what Tougas had said in her defense. Close to, she looked tired, but smiled warmly at Ginny all the same, and something in her air that seemed designed to bring comfort. “I’m certain that your mother will be fine. She’s just been stunned and needs to sleep it off.”
“Bollocks,” Fred said angrily, directing everyone’s attention to him. “Stunners are red, this one wasn’t. It was some sort of silvery white. How do you explain that?”
“I cannot,” Adrasteia said after a moment in which she chewed her lip. Ginny had remained standing where she was, between Tougas and Adrasteia, in a perfect position to see the latter look pleadingly at the former.
“With what I’ve seen and heard,” Brazill spoke up, “my guess is that she did it to herself.” All eyes swung in her direction, and several angry hisses broke the silence. “It is what I would have done in her situation. It served as enough of a distraction to get you and Harry out, didn’t it?”
The very idea was ludicrous! Ginny didn’t answer the question, but turned her attention back to her mother. How could a woman who spent the majority of her days chasing stray chickens, and charming food into delicious concoctions know how to outsmart a psychotic Death Eater like Lestrange? She had several rebukes on the tip of her tongue when she remembered the Order of the Phoenix. Nearly the entire family had been members. Dumbledore might have done some crazy things in his time, but he wouldn’t have let anyone in who didn’t have the necessary skills to fight Death Eaters. Maybe Brazill wasn’t so far-fetched after all.
“I’ve seen the same effect before,” Tougas said, nodding. “It’s a defensive maneuver of old. We don’t really use it against the Death Eaters because they’re so prone to Unforgivables, but since Lestrange is averse to using them until she gets Potter . . .”
Tougas slipped into silence not because his words had any shock value but because a motion from the sofa caught their attention. Molly was stirring. Everyone held their breath as her eyes fluttered open and she looked around before sitting up.
“You made it safely, then?” she asked after looking around the room and finally spotting Ginny. “Good.”
She seemed a bit disoriented, but Ginny realized that Adrasteia was quite right; it looked like her mother had just been stunned. Already Molly was swinging her legs off the sofa like she was preparing to stand up.
“I would advise against doing that just now, Mrs. Weasley,” Adrasteia said, coming forward and placing her hand on Molly’s shoulder. “You’ve just been through an ordeal.”
Molly treated Adrasteia with the same skepticism that Ginny had when she had first arrived, making the healer point to the emblem on her chest. Molly glanced at it for a few seconds and then looked to Ginny again.
“Have you looked at her yet, Miss –“
“Gerard. Adrasteia Gerard, Mrs. Weasley. And no, I have not.”
“Do, please.” Completely ignoring Adrasteia’s advice, Molly got to her feet, moving a little slower than she usually would have done, but otherwise very much like her usual self. “She‘s the worst off, as anyone here can tell.”
“I’m fine. I think you should listen to her, mum,” Ginny said, trying to push her mother back onto the sofa. She’d already waited this long, another half an hour wouldn’t make any difference. Molly wouldn’t hear of it though. She turned the tables on Ginny, forcing her onto the sofa with a stern look.
“It is high time you get yourself looked at, Ginevra,” she said before ushering a completely silent crowd of people out of the room and closing the door. Thinking it best to avoid a row, Ginny did not do as she wished and follow her mother out of the room. Staying had its advantages anyway: it would be nice to finally be rid of the stupid splint. With this in mind, Ginny heeded the healer’s advice and lay back on the sofa. She didn’t dare close her eyes, but stared blankly at the coffered ceiling as Adrasteia’s wand moved over her, performing basic diagnostic spells. Only when she made a noise of displeasure did Ginny look at her.
“You’re a very lucky woman, Ginny,” she said, taking a seat in the chair opposite the sofa. “Bredan told me what happened in that alley. It is a lucky enough thing that your injuries were relatively minor, but you must have a guardian angel to have escaped without any danger to your child.”
“How d’you know?” Ginny sat up quickly. She realized too late how stupid her question was. Who would know better than a healer, especially one who had just run a battery of tests? She wasn’t sure Adrasteia knowing was a comfort or not.
“To be honest, I’ve suspected since your last Quidditch match. A good many healers at St. Mungo’s have wagered a galleon or two on whether or not you were with child. Some have even been censured for breeching patient confidentiality in trying to find out which healer you are seeing, among other things.” She sounded disgusted.
“Wonderful.’ Ginny felt her nausea start to return. This was precisely one of the reasons she had been loath to consult a healer in the first place.
“I tell you this not to alarm you.” Adrasteia sat forward in her chair. “But only to urge caution. Privacy is always a concern, and becomes more so when the person, or people, involved have any degree of fame. Keeping your records under wraps could be troublesome.”
Troublesome was putting it mildly. Much as Ginny didn’t like to acknowledge it, there were more than a few unscrupulous reporters who made it their life’s business to stick their noses into the private lives of anyone with a bit of fame. In the immediate aftermath of Voldemort’s death and again when she had first signed with the Harpies it wasn’t wholly uncommon to find reporters or photographers trying to get past the protective wards at the Burrow. Only once they’d realized how unexciting Harry and Ginny really were did they give up. This latest development, though, wouldn’t seem uninteresting to the reporters at all, and it would become especially newsworthy if the papers happened to learn of what Harry said to her at the Ministry – words that could essentially confirm Rita Skeeter’s insinuations. And if they learned what he said, they could also learn about what Dudley had done.
Ginny had to clench her teeth shut to keep them from chattering and she wrapped her arms around herself to protect against the sudden chill.
“What’s the matter?” Adrasteia was on her feet in the blink of an eye. She conjured a thick blanket and wrapped it around Ginny’s shoulders, muttering something that sounded like ‘in shock.’
“Its not that,” Ginny said, shivering uncontrollably, even with the blanket around her. “Its . . . its . . .” Too many people already knew about that horrible night, and Adrasteia, nice as she seemed, was practically a stranger who had just told her that she should be concerned about her privacy.
“I can’t tell anyone what you tell me, Healer’s honor.” Adrasteia smiled warmly as she showed a set of crossed fingers. Ginny started to shake her head, telling the healer that there was really nothing to tell, but her mouth betrayed her and soon she was telling everything. Adrasteia listened patiently without the slightest interruption, much as Molly had done two days earlier when she heard the same story.
“That potion,” Ginny said in a tremulous voice several minutes after she’d confessed everything. “Could it have been harmful to the baby?” She was thinking particularly of the Dreamless Sleep potion that she knew pregnant women couldn’t take, and wondering if there were others. What if that potion she’d taken the other day was the cause of the intermittent tingling sensation she was feeling now?
“Potions are always a tricky business,” Adrasteia admitted, “and the tests I ran were only the most basic, but I don’t think you have anything to be worried about. Have your regular healer do a more thorough examination to be sure. You do have one, don’t you?”
Ginny slowly shook her head mentally cringing because she knew that stern note too well from her mother’s many lectures. To forestall angry words, and because she wasn’t as convinced everything was fine, she mentioned the tingling sensation. Adrasteia smiled again.
“That’s nothing to be alarmed at, Ginny, though it is a little early . . . What you’re feeling is your baby starting to move. It will become more pronounced the bigger he – or she – grows.” She stood up. “I’m sorry to do this, but Bredan pulled me away in the middle of a shift and I’ve got to get back. Unless you have any other questions.”
Too stunned to speak, Ginny shook her head.
Before leaving, Adrasteia fished in her pocket and pulled out two things: a tin of ointment and a business card. Pointing to the tin first she said, “Use that to get rid of your bruises. And I expect to see you in my office very soon, Ginny.” She pressed both items into Ginny’s hand, flashed another comforting smile and then turned on her heel and left the room, leaving Ginny alone.
Noise of others in the house drifted through the open door but they seemed as distant to Ginny as if they were on another planet. She shoved the ointment and the card into the pocket of her jeans and pressed the palm of her hands to her abdomen again, willing the tingling sensation to return. Could Adrasteia be right? Was what she was feeling not only normal, but to be expected?
A delighted giggle from Riley or Simon snapped Ginny out of the daze she’d fallen into. She saw a much happier Fleur run after him and scooped him up in her arms, with an amused reprimand. As she walked past the door again she saw Ginny watching.
“Zey are all ‘ere safely, Ginny. Come see,” she said, tweaking the nose of her son before she continued back the way she had come.
The door opened into the corridor no more than a dozen feet from the front entrance. Even in the dim light, Ginny could see three people standing there: Kingsley Shacklebolt, her brother Percy, and Harry. None of them looked overly enthusiastic; their heads were bent and they seemed to be engaged in a rather serious conversation. She took a step back, intending to return to the room for a moment so as not to disturb them, but the floorboard creaked, and all three men looked up. The minute his eyes landed on her, Harry broke away from the others, waving away their impatient expressions.
“Is everything OK?” he asked, looking her over before taking her head in his hands. “Tougas said that a healer was here.”
“She was. Everything’s fine.” She could feel the smile on he face and debated about saying more, but was acutely aware that Kingsley and Percy were both watching them, looking annoyed at the interruption.
“Potter?” Kingsley called as though to punctuate his impatience. Harry held up his hand, indicating he’d be there in a minute before he turned back to Ginny.
“You’re sure everything’s fine?”
“Yes. Go. We can talk later.”
Barely had Kingsley disappeared down the stairs after Harry then there was the sound of many feet ascending the and an entire group of people started filling the entranceway: Ron and Hermione, Bill, Fleur and their twins, Fred and George and then Molly and Arthur. Seeing her mother looking so well made Ginny feel even better.
Bill broke away from the group to give Ginny a hug. Like Harry had just done, he gave her a quick once over before putting his arm around her shoulders and directing her back into the room she had just left. The others followed and took seats on the sofa and chairs. Fleur put Riley and Simon down and they immediately rushed at Ginny with excited cries of ‘tante.’ Bill caught them up in his arms.
“Best to leave tante alone right now,” he said, handing them off to Fred and George instead.
“What are you all doing here?” Ginny asked.
“What do you mean ‘what are we doing here’?” Bill asked looking at her as though she was completely daft. His question sounded much louder than Ginny’s own because the room had fallen completely silent. “You were at the Burrow, were you not?”
“She was gone by then – sorry, Gin, I forgot,” George said. “After you and Harry disappeared Lestrange was furious, especially when she saw the Aurors there and she shouted at the other Death Eaters to find the two of you. The task force believes that they’re going to stake out every one of our places and they thought it best we all come here. They had already reached that conclusion when Harry got back to the Burrow, and he immediately took off to get Ron and Hermione.”
“And you all got out safely? No more big battles with Death Eaters?”
“No. But we . . . er . . . think they might have split up,” Fred said. He was standing by the window and pulled back the curtain and called Ginny over to show her something. She looked down into the square and saw two men in dark black cloaks standing sentinel at the stoop of number 11. “They’re scouting.”
Ginny continued to watch the Death Eaters as the others returned to their conversation. She thought she could understand Harry’s earlier reaction, at least in part. He hadn’t wanted to leave her alone here because the place wasn’t as secure as it used to be. Once Dumbledore had died they had all become secret keepers and could be forced to reveal the location. It was good then that everyone who knew the secret had been safely brought into the house. Everyone that is, Ginny thought, watching one of the Death Eaters flap his cloak to cool himself, except the missing Dudley Dursley.