The light was blinding after near total darkness and it took Ginny several seconds before she could make out any of the distinguishing features of the room, and it took several more for her mind to accept what she was seeing. Yes, this room and everything in it was familiar to her, but she wished it wasn’t. She closed her eyes, hoping that when she opened them again she would be somewhere else. A hand came out of nowhere and touched her on the shoulder, making Ginny jump. She reluctantly turned to face the owner of that hand: Dudley Dursley. As she recalled what happened she was barely able to suppress her strong urge to vomit. Less quickly than she would have liked, Ginny fell out of the bed and began the painfully slow process of getting out of the room. Two thoughts kept her going: this could only be a dream, there was no way that she was back there again, and once she could take those last few steps she would be out of this hell . . . The breeze felt warm against her damp cheek. She was outside? Spinning on the spot, Ginny saw the crooked house that she’d called home for the first twenty years of her life. Before she could take more than a few wobbly steps towards the house a thick cloud of dust obscured her vision and obstructed her lungs. Through that cloud someone found and caught her hand. Unable to see whom it was, she struggled to get away but their hold was too strong. In a flash the last bit of air was forced out of her lungs . . . She was staring down at what she first thought was one of her mother’s recipe books, but she quickly realized was a potion of some sort. The creaking of a floorboard took her attention away from the book; raising her gaze she found herself staring at the tapestry of the Black Family Tree. Another floorboard creaked near the door, drawing her attention away from the tapestry and Ginny turned hear head to see Dudley entering the room. The book went flying as she lunged at him. A sharp pain in the back of her hand preceded a second crushing in her lungs and then she felt cold pressed against her back and sharp branches scratching her arms. A painful knot in her stomach, combined with the sound of shouts on the other side of a tall hedge were sufficient to convince her that she needed to move but she felt like her feet were stuck to the ground with a Permanent Sticking Charm. She could feel herself struggling to wake, but to no avail. A hand squeezed hers and she turned to her right to see Harry give her an encouraging smile. Her face felt like stone and she couldn’t return it no matter how hard she tried. A cry from her left grabbed her attention and she turned to see what it was just as a pair of lights, red and green, blew apart the hedge . . .
With trails of red and green still blurring her vision, and the muscles in her face straining from her silent scream, Ginny’s eyes snapped open; she was sitting up, staring at a door. As the blinding trails of light faded, she could see familiar objects around her and recognized her room at the Burrow. It took her several seconds to remember why she was here and not at the flat in London.
Suppressing the urge to be sick, trying to ignore the painful knot in her stomach, and in an attempt to distract herself from thinking about the events of the previous days, she tried to recall the content of her dream, which was quite unlike any she’d experienced before. It hadn’t felt like she was dreaming, but like she was living through everything. The harder she tried to hold onto the details, the quicker they slipped form her memory until the only thing left was a sensation of being trapped. This was a feeling that she was far too familiar with and recalling it made her head swim with all the thoughts she was trying to avoid, including everything that had happened over the last seventy-two hours. To avoid such thoughts she got up and started pacing around the room, changing out of her pajamas, and picking up Gryffin, her stuffed Gryffindor lion in the process. He had always been a comfort to her, and she desperately needed some now.
A loud crack in the back garden broke the silence, causing Ginny to jump, but it distracted her from her ruminations. Dropping Gryffin, she snatched her wand from the bedside cabinet and practically flew to her window to see who had arrived. Unlikely as she knew it was, she allowed herself a momentary hope that it was Harry returning to admit the huge mistake he’d made. She didn’t realize how high she’d let her hopes soar until she saw Fred, George and Lee Jordan standing almost directly below her window. The three of them dropped by the Burrow so often that they spent more time here than they did at their own flats and so their appearance was hardly earth shattering. Disappointed, she started to turn away from the window when one of the twins – it appeared to be Fred – looked up. Rather than smiling or wearing some other jocular expression, he frowned and then he, George and Lee walked toward the back door, disappearing from her view.
Puzzled by his uncharacteristically serious expression, Ginny decided to confront Fred. If nothing else it would get her out of this room and serve as a distraction from the memories she’d been struggling to avoid. At the top of the first staircase she paused. She could hear Fred talking and though she couldn’t make out exactly what he was saying, it was easy enough to tell from the tone of his voice that he wasn’t making a joke. The twins usually took everything in their stride. Something serious must have happened! With her mind racing at a mile a minute, Ginny hurried downstairs.
Fred, George and Lee were taking seats at the table when Ginny entered the kitchen. Though their conversation had lulled the tension in the air was palpable. A copy of The Daily Prophet was spread out in front of her father; a picture of a city skyline was eminent.
“What’s going on?” she asked, her mind still reeling with possibilities, each worse than the last.
“Breakfast is going on, that’s all,” Molly said in an overly cheerful voice, wearing a large and obviously fake smile. She put her arm around Ginny and started to walk with her towards the stairs. “It is still going to be a few minutes. Why don’t you go have a nice hot shower and when you’re done –“
“Dad?” Struggling out of her mother’s pincer-like grip, Ginny hurried over to the table and got a closer look at the picture taking up most of the Prophet’s front page. “Trouble in Paris? What –“
“Arthur, I told you to put that away,” Molly said, snatching the paper away. She plastered the same phony smile on as she addressed Ginny with a significant look. “Up to their old tricks again, the French, that’s all. I suggest you put it from your mind.”
The twins and Lee were averting their eyes, but Arthur was watching the interaction with a frown on his face. Ginny was sure that he had started to say something before her mother nosed in with her fake nonchalance. Such reactions from both her parents, particularly when combined with Fred’s behaviour, caused the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
“I will not. Dad?” Before Molly could grab her again, Ginny slid into the seat diagonal to her father and looked at him expectantly. He continued to frown as he looked from her to Molly.
“She doesn’t need to hear this, Arthur. Not now.”
“I’m not made of porcelain, mother,” Ginny replied. “If there’s something going on, I have a right to know. Dad? Fred? George?”
“She’s right, Molly,” Arthur said. “May I have that Prophet back, please?”
During the seconds it took for the paper to be handed over and then spread on the table again, Ginny’s apprehension started to rise. What could have possibly happened in Paris to cause such a stir at the Burrow? Thoughts of Fleur and her family sprang immediately to mind, but whatever tragedy might have befallen the Delacours, it wasn’t likely to be frontpage news on The Daily Prophet. She stared at the photograph blankly for a few seconds, not seeing anything out of the ordinary. It was a picture of the Paris skyline, nothing unusual about that. There were only so many times in a person’s life that they could look at the Eiffel Tower with –
“What happened to the tower?” she asked, trying to scan the article for news, but her mind wasn’t processing any part of the story.
“I think the better question is ‘who happened to it’?” Fred said. He and the others at the table shared a significant look.
“Who?” Ginny looked around at each person and then back at the picture, the full gravity of the situation sinking in. Not only had one of the world’s best known landmarks been destroyed, the fact it was in the Prophet meant it was probably destroyed magically, an unimaginable breech of the Statute of Secrecy. Anyone could have done it, but there was only one who person who she thought would risk it. Ginny answered her own question. “Sounds like something Bellatrix Lestrange would do.”
“Right in one,” George replied.
Ginny jumped when she felt a hand on her arm. She snatched her wand up as she turned to face Lee, ready to jinx if it became necessary, but her mere reaction was enough to stun Lee, who quickly withdrew his hand with an apologetic albeit confused smile. He shifted his eyes back to the photograph of the much-altered Paris, and after a moment Ginny did as well, though she kept glancing back at him and didn’t let go of her wand.
“This happened just a few hours ago,” Arthur said, pointing at the photo. “And as I’m sure you can imagine, it’s caused chaos. The French Ministry is in an uproar and they’re asking our Ministry for help in sorting this mess out.”
“And you four are going to help?” Ginny asked, keeping her eyes focused on the paper. “You’re all just meeting here?”
“Not exactly,” Fred said. He sounded somber and somewhat reluctant to talk. He looked towards Molly before he continued, but she had her back to them and was staring out the window.
“Well, what then?”
“We may go to help,” George said, after sharing a significant look with Fred. “But we’re here because Kingsley thought it was a good idea that we add some additional security to the Burrow before we do anything else.”
“That’s a good question,” Fred said, fixing her with the same significant look he’d shared with George mere seconds ago. “The last time we had to increase the wards around the house was when Voldemort was still slithering around.”
“And?” Ginny asked, trying to hide her shiver. She thought that she knew where this was going.
“And then we couldn’t help noticing that you’ve been here for the past few days, and Harry hasn’t,” George supplied, also looking serious.
The knot Ginny had woken up with tightened painfully in her stomach. No one knew the full reason that she had returned to the Burrow, and was still there almost forty-eight hours later. She had told her mother the first part of the story – the things that had to do with Dudley, and about the pregnancy, but she hadn’t had the strength to talk about what had happened with Harry the previous morning. At times she had to wonder if her mother did know more than she was letting on, but Molly said nothing. Ginny knew it was only a matter of time before she had to tell her family everything, but this was not the way that she wanted to do it, especially not with Lee listening on.
“That’s true,” she said, looking at the table rather than any one person.
“Is that what they’re doing then, the Aurors? Going after Bellatrix?” Lee asked, sounding excited and relieved.
“I guess. I . . . really wouldn’t know.”
‘You don’t know? How can you not?” George challenged, banging his fork on the table. “I thought that Harry told you stuff like this?”
“He sometimes did,” she said, shrugging. Fred, wearing a confused and somewhat annoyed expression, opened his mouth.
“It hardly matters what she does or does not know, Fred Weasley, and interrogating your sister is not going to change what you have to do.” Molly was standing between Arthur and Ginny and as she spoke she rested her hand on Ginny’s shoulder. The firmness of such a statement nixed any further questions, something Ginny was extremely grateful for. She patted her mother’s hand in thanks. Fred and George watched this exchange quizzically, appearing to be as out of the loop as Ginny was. “Why don’t you four go and put those spells in place
Ginny and I finish up in here?”
“I would prefer to help them,” Ginny said, hoping for a chance to talk to her father alone. He was always more willing to give answers.
Molly had other plans.
“The four of them can handle this task. I, on the other hand, could use some help to get this meal on the table before its cold.” She employed the same firm voice she’d used with the twins. Much as she wanted to, Ginny couldn’t refuse after the protection her mother had just offered. As the men left the house, she plodded over to the stove and raised her wand to tend to the bacon, not looking up until the last person disappeared and the slamming of the door had stopped ringing in her ears.
“How are you feeling this morning, Ginny?” Molly asked, standing close as she supervised the rest of the preparations. “You look a little peaky.”
“Fine.” It came out sounding much bitterer than Ginny had intended. “Sorry. I just – No offense, mum, but I really don’t feel up to playing housemaid today. I should be out there.”
Things happened quickly. One moment Ginny was talking to her mother while she cooked bacon. When she spoke she pointed the hand holding her wand at the door for emphasis. An angry sizzling, a searing heat across her cheek, and then Ginny felt herself pushed backwards several paces.
“You’ve got to be careful, Ginny,” Molly said as the slab of bacon flew past Ginny again and settled back into the pan with another few seconds of angry sizzling.
“What the he –“
“Watch it, Ginny!”
“– just happened?” Ginny took several precautionary steps toward the pan, intending to inspect it for a Wizard Wheezes product. Bacon didn’t just mysteriously fly out of pans, and she was certainly not upset enough to have done something unintentionally. No, this reeked of Fred and George’s involvement.
“That, my dear, has been known to occur when a woman is in your condition. Something wonky can happen to your magic. And as you saw just now, things could get dangerously out of hand, which is why it is important to work extra hard at controlling your magic, and your emotions.
“Great.” Ginny gave her wand a dirty look. It was because of a failed spell from this stupid thing that she was in her ‘condition’ in the first place, and now her mother was telling her that it was going to be an even bigger enemy? How fantastic was that?
“It isn’t as bad as it sounds,“ Molly said, directing her to a seat at the table again. “It might happen every now and again, but as long as you can stay calm, and stress-free, odds are you won’t notice anything.”
“You’re joking, right, mum? In case you don’t recall what’s happened over the last few days –“
“I am very well aware, Ginny.” Molly spoke calmly and put her hand over Ginny’s, eventually coaxing the wand out of it. “And that is one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you. Alone.”
“Why, mum?” Ginny asked as she fidgeted in her chair and started flicking the corner of the still open Daily Prophet.
“You’re a smart girl, Ginevra; you probably know what I’m going to say.” She paused. Ginny could feel the intensity of her mother’s gaze boring into her, but she kept her head turned; only giving a noncommittal shrug, which caused Molly to sigh.
“Keeping secrets is one of the most stressful things, you know. Sooner or later you are not going to be able to hide your condition from everyone.”
“I know that!” Ginny said, slapping her hand on the table.
“You can’t keep hiding here then, can you? Have you even told Harry yet?”
The knot in the pit of Ginny’s stomach tightened again at the mention of his name. After everything that had happened with Dudley, and how horribly Harry had misconstrued that situation, followed so closely by his nearly fatal encounter with Bellatrix Lestrange, she hadn’t been able to add yet another problem to the fold. Ginny tried to say all of this to her mother, but the idea of having to discuss everything again settled on her like a lead weight, and she held her tongue.
“I’m obviously dangerous in here. I think I’ll go out and get some air.” Before Molly could respond, Ginny had reclaimed her wand and hurried out of the door. The idea of tracking down her father was still appealing and she set off in search of him, trudging through the hot and humid August air.
Off in the distance she could see a haze; was it from the heat, or did the protective boundaries extend that far? And did they really need the spells? How likely was it that Lestrange would come to the Burrow? Yes, she viewed the entire Weasley family as blood traitors, and surely every last one of them were on her ‘to off’ list, but after such a narrow escape from the Aurors just a few days ago, she must have more important things to do.
“Unless there’s something here she wants.”
“Something who wants?”
Ginny froze in place, raised her wand and waited for the speaker to reveal himself. Lee’s dreadlocks appeared around the corner an instant later. He was alone.
“Who were you talking to?” he asked. He imitated her by looking around and, seeing they were alone, smiled. Ginny felt a shiver run down her spine.
“Where are Fred and George?” she asked, not taking her eyes off Lee. It seemed highly convenient that not two minutes after she had left the house he just happened to come upon her when no one else was around.
“I dunno for sure. We split up soon as we got out here, but they said they would be round your dad’s shed. Who were you talking about? Was it Lestrange?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Ginny answered at once, sounding paranoid, even to her own ears. She couldn’t be too careful though. Not more than two days ago she thought she knew who she was with and that had turned into quite the nightmare, hadn’t it? No way was she going to let something like that happen again. “Why are you even here, anyway?”
“Here?” Lee looked confused at the question.
“At the Burrow.”
“I came with –“
“I know who you came with, that wasn’t my question. I asked why you’re here,” Ginny said, surprised at the demand in her own voice. Lee continued to look startled at her questions but he answered her immediately.
“I like your mum’s cooking. And Fred and George asked me along when they got your dad’s owl. But between you and me –“ He stepped al little closer. Ginny wanted to back away and run but she held her ground. “-I think they thought they would need all hands on deck.”
Ginny pondered this for a few moments, wondering if it could possibly be true. Her wand sank lower and lower until her arm was hanging by her side. What he said made sense, and anyway this was Lee Jordan, someone she had known since she was eleven. He couldn’t really be thinking of doing anything to her, could he? He’d never shown the slightest interest, and even now he looked alarmed, not lascivious.
“You know what I think,” Lee said, failing at trying to sound casual. “I think that its not something here that Lestrange wants, but someone.”
“Harry!” Ginny half-shouted, realizing at once that Lee was probably right. It would make perfect sense, really. If Lestrange was looking for him she would almost certainly try his flat in London first, and if she didn’t find him there, the next logical place would be Burrow.
“Ouch.” Lee was holding his arm at eye level, inspecting a rather nasty looking welt. “What’d you do that for?”
“Yeah, Ginny, what the bloody hell was that?” Fred shouted. He and George were sprinting across the yard, their eyes fixed on Lee and Ginny.
“I’m sorry, really sorry.” Ginny gave Lee an apologetic look and then prepared to Disapparate. She hadn’t bothered to ask if the new protective spells prevented Apparition, but decided to give it a go anyway. If she waited around, Ginny had the feeling she wouldn’t have a chance to leave at all. With great effort she focused on her new location.
Having been Apparating to this precise location for so long, Ginny knew at once that she was standing in the alley beside Harry’s flat: the smell of fried fish and stale ale from the pub next door was unmistakable. The alley was empty; usually a sign of good fortune, but Ginny couldn’t help wondering if there was a nefarious reason for the lack of people today. She might already be too late. If Lestrange had decided to go after Harry, she would be able to find him in a trice.
Bearing all this in mind Ginny slowly crept down the alley holding her wand tightly, ready to strike if necessary. When she reached the end of the alley though, she’d encountered nothing more dangerous than a few rats. She peered around the edge of the building to look for anyone who appeared out of place, preferably wearing a Death Eater’s robes and mask, but everything seemed quite normal. Straightening up, she walked the few paces to the building and ducked in, finding no one lurking in the corridor either.
It was only as Ginny reached the door to the flat that she was given reason to pause. Should she knock, or just enter? If Harry was to be taken at his word, they were not together anymore and therefore she did not live here, making it inappropriate for her to barge in. Aside from that, now that she was here she wasn’t even sure she wanted to go in. For all she knew Dudley could be in there right now, but even if she was fortunate and he wasn’t, having been over that night a million times already, Ginny wasn’t sure she was up for it again. She stood outside the door so long that the elderly lady who lived opposite Harry (who had obviously been watching through her peephole again) opened her door. Ginny quickly shoved her wand father into her left pocket.
“Did you forget your key, too?” she asked in her irritated, croaky voice.
“My key? Oh, no, I didn’t.” Shoving her hand into her right pocket, Ginny pretended to search for a key that she didn’t have. The elderly woman eyed her suspiciously for some time, making her feel she had no choice but to go in now. She’d never carried an actual key, just used her wand. It would be difficult to pull that off with Mrs. Peephole watching. Putting on her best chagrin, Ginny continued her pretend search. “Got it here somewhere.”
With a dubious look, the elderly woman withdrew into her flat. Knowing she had only a handful of seconds, Ginny whipped he wand out and unlocked the door, she slipped in and closed the door.
One of the biggest complaints justly leveled against the flat was its inconsistent temperature control. It was an icebox in winter and a sauna in summer, so Ginny expected it to be warm, but today it felt like she had stepped into an oven. The windows were shut tight and the curtains were open, keeping all the sun-heated air inside.
She had barely taken a step away from the door when a doleful hoot called her attention to the corner where Harry’s snow-white owl Hedwig was sitting on her perch, bristling.
“Hello, Hedwig.” Ginny walked over and stroked her feathers. “If you’re here, Harry must be, too. Am I right?”
Hedwig hooted again, flew over to the window and tapped on it with her beak.
“Are you sure you want to go out there? It’s bright and sunny. And hot! Mind you, it’s not as hot out there as it is in here. OK, but its your beak.” With a shrug, Ginny opened the window and Hedwig flew out at once.
A faint breeze blrew through the window, making Ginny reluctant to turn away, but she reminded herself why she was here in the first place. Looking around she saw that everything was much the same as it had the last time she’d been here, except for the addition of a rather large box sitting in the middle of the kitchen table. If the Death Eaters had been there she would see some sign of struggle or other disorder.
Her fears temporarily assuaged, Ginny approached and peered into the box, finding it half-full with a stack of neatly folded clothes. She picked up the top-most item, one of her old Harpies t-shirts, below that, one of her blouses. The box, she quickly realized, was filled with her clothes. Suddenly the hot air was stifling.
Harry’s words have been ringing in her head for more than twenty-four hours. She had heard, understood, and believed what he said. She had not clung to the idea that he was going to come running back saying he’d made a huge mistake (even though that’s exactly what he had done), and logically Ginny knew that if they weren’t together anymore, she couldn’t continue living at the flat, yet nothing had made this situation more real to her than that box. The same leaden feeling that had prevented her talking to her mother earlier overtook her and she sank into the nearest chair, still holding her Harpies shirt.
Ginny sat there for some minutes, wallowing, before she gave herself a good shake. She’d been here for at least ten minutes, yet despite the smallness of the flat she still didn’t know if Harry was here. Death Eaters could be standing just outside the door and she was hung up on some clothes in a box? Tossing the t-shirt onto her other clothes, Ginny stood up and walked the dozen or so feet that would take her to the bedroom, careful to look straight ahead thereby minimizing her chance of seeing anything in Dudley’s room.
Having spent several minutes in the flat already with no one coming to greet her, or tell her off for being there made Ginny wonder if she was alone. It came as a slight surprise to see Harry asleep diagonally on the bed, his head on what used to be her pillow, and she was seized with yet another bout of doubt regarding her presence. After coming this far though, Ginny knew she couldn’t back out now, and after a second’s hesitation, she took a step into the room.
In a flash Harry bounded off the bed and lunged at her, the force with which he did so drove them both out of the room. A cloud of steam started to issue from Ginny’s wand but ceased almost at once when she slammed into the wall and dropped it. Harry quickly bent down to retrieve it, not taking his eyes from her.
“Ginny? What are you doing here?” he hissed, holding her wand as he returned to full height.
“I . . .” She struggled to find words and the breath with which to utter them.
“You shouldn’t be here!” He grabbed her by the arm and started pulling her to the door. “Go back to the Burrow, Ginny.”
“No,” she said, trying to her arm out of his grasp. “I came here to talk to you, and to warn you . . . Bellatrix Lestrange might be coming here.”
Ginny expected some sort of acknowledgment, a widening of the eyes, in surprise, or fear, worry, something that would prove to her that Harry was listening and had understood what she said, but he didn’t even look at her.
“That’s why you need to get out of here,” he said, stunning her almost as much as being thrown into a wall had done. If Harry was saying what she thought he was saying, and there was little room for interpretation, she had walked into some sort of set up. The knot in the pit of her stomach tightened again as she remembered what had happened the last time he had come face to face with Bellatrix Lestrange.
It was a bit of a struggle, but Ginny managed to free herself from Harry’s grasp, thinking of how he had appeared when she and the battalion of Aurors had showed up at Malfoy Manor not forty-eight hours earlier. His escape had been narrow that day, and if she knew anything about Bellatrix Lestrange, Ginny was sure that the woman wouldn’t make the same mistakes again. If she managed to get to the flat there was little chance of a favorable outcome. Even after everything that he’d done and said recently, Ginny couldn’t bear to think of what Lestrange would do to Harry if she captured him. He had to be convinced not to do anything stupid and Ginny tried to think of a good argument to counteract Harry’s angry expression. When he opened his mouth to speak, she interrupted, saying the first thing that came to mind.
Ginny covered her mouth with her hand as though that would allow her to take her words back. She hadn’t known what she wanted to say, but that hadn’t been it. Though it had been the main reason she was coming here, it didn’t seem like the right thing to say when he was already pissed at her for being there and possibly seconds away from a Death Eater attack.
“I’m pregnant,” she repeated reluctantly under Harry’s penetrating stare.
“This is . . . You’re sure?” His expression had gone from one of anger to one of overwhelming doubt and he was fidgeting.
Ginny nodded, not trusting herself to say anything else. Her big secret was out, now the ball was in his court.
“Is it mine?”
His question made Ginny felt like she’d been slammed against the wall again. The breath she hadn’t fully got back left again and she could feel herself start to hyperventilate.
Harry swore under his breath before closing the distance between them.
“I’m sorry, Gin, I didn’t mean that.” He reached out and touched her arm. “I know that you haven’t –“
“You have a lot of work to do.” Trying to remain calm and breathe normally, she pulled her arm away from Harry and grabbed the doorknob.
“But –“ He put his hand on her shoulder to stop her from leaving.
“Don’t.” Ginny raised her wand, making Harry take a step back. She opened the door and then paused to see if he would try to approach her again but he didn’t. Barely able to hold it together, she turned and fled the way she had come not twenty minutes earlier. As she ran out of the building she knocked over a man. She didn’t stop to apologize because she thought she heard Harry calling her name.