A/N: This is in response to the many 'Ginny is using a love potion' stories that abound in fan fiction. I do want to state up front that Ron and Hermione aren't always shown in the best light. My theory is that in a large family siblings don't always get along - this story highlights the issues that could be in Ron and Ginny's relationship which spills over into Hermione and Ginny's relationship. There are a few changes in canon, mostly in relation to the final battle, but it is explained in the first chapter.
I know this isn't the next chapter of either of my longer stories. I do apologize. I haven't given up on either of them. This story is complete and will be posted over the next few weeks.
Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Arnel, seekers_destiny, and Stephanie0! All of them turned this chapter around in one day. Thanks to Mark for Brit picking! I appreciate all of the help.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.
May 2006 - Eight Years after the fall of Voldemort
Arthur slowly made his way to the Minister's office. He'd had trouble walking since the stroke he suffered shortly after the end of the war and at times he struggled to find the correct words, but he felt he had improved so much. These days he only worked two or three days a week as a consultant for the Muggle Liaison Office. It was fun work and he enjoyed getting out of the house.
Hestia Jones looked up as Arthur approached the office. "Good morning, Arthur. How are you? How's Molly?"
"I'm well, thank you," Arthur smiled at the friendly witch. "Molly is thrilled to be spoiling the grandchildren and she's still strongly encouraging our unmarried boys that they would be happier if they were married."
Hestia laughed. "Who's left unmarried?"
"Charlie – he's still in Romania and I don't see him settling down anytime soon," Arthur smiled. "Ron and Hermione have been dating for almost eight years now and they've been living together for the last five years. Molly keeps the pressure up, but they are both stubborn. Hermione has a career and life plan and doesn't plan to get married until her career is firmly established."
"I bet Molly will win out eventually."
"No doubt," Arthur agreed.
"If you don't mind waiting just a few minutes, his current appointment is running a bit long."
"Not at all," Arthur smiled. He sat down in the extremely comfortable chairs and looked at the array of magazines. Choosing a gardening magazine, he settled back to wait. As he flipped through the pages, he had to smile. The Burrow would never look like these beautiful, orderly gardens and he was happy about that, but he rather liked looking at the gardens.
He'd flipped through half the magazine before Kingsley's door opened. Arthur nodded to Gawain Robards as he left the Minister's office. Robards nodded briefly, he'd never been an particularly friendly man.
"Arthur," Kingsley called from his doorway. "Come on in."
Soon Arthur was settled into Kingsley's office with a cup of tea and one of those small cakes he was supposed to be cutting back on. Kingsley joined him at a low table near the window.
"So what can I do for you?" Kingsley asked after taking a bite of a rather decadent looking éclair.
Arthur sighed. "I need your help, Kingsley. It's been eight years since I've seen my daughter. She'll be twenty-five years old in August and I don't know where she is or what she's doing. It's so frustrating. By the time Molly and I recovered and returned home our baby was gone."
Kingsley frowned. "We searched for Harry and Ginny. For over six months I had three Auror teams on them full time and we couldn't find any sign of them. We still follow up on any leads, but it's like they fell off the face of the earth."
"You're sure they left of their own accord?"
"It seems so," Kingsley replied. "As you probably know, we were holding a ball to honour Harry. He was supposed to receive an Order of Merlin that night. I didn't realize until later that there was any issue with Ginny accompanying him to the ball. Robards and your son, Percy, decided that it wasn't appropriate for Ginny to accompany Harry as she was 'too young' and it wouldn't look right for a hero to be accompanied by a school girl."
Arthur swore softly. "I don't know what that boy was thinking. I would have not had a problem with Ginny accompanying Harry to the ball."
Kingsley nodded. "I didn't think you would have an issue with them dating. I certainly didn't have a problem with it. Harry was devoted to her and they seemed quite happy together. Apparently, Percy went to the lengths of securing a date for Harry when he refused to ask anyone other than Ginny."
"He neglected to mention that to me," Arthur frowned.
"I asked him about it, but he was certain that he had done nothing wrong. He felt Harry should have a date for the ball, but in his mind Ginny was not the appropriate person so he found another attractive young girl who he felt was more appropriate for Harry to take. I've spoken to the girl as well. She met Harry a week before the ball when Percy set them up on a lunch date. Harry was nice and polite, but he was quite clear that he had a girlfriend. He'd agreed to take her to the ball, but he was not happy about it. I gather that Percy and Robards had given him the impression that he had to go to the ball and take someone, but no one from Hogwarts was allowed to attend."
Arthur frowned. "I thought Hermione went with Ron."
"I've often wondered if that set this whole thing in motion," Kingsley admitted. "Ron and Hermione admitted they didn't tell Harry she was coming to the ball. Harry was under the impression that Ron was in the same boat as him – unable to bring his girl to the ball. He found out the afternoon of the ball that Hermione was attending whilst Ginny was still unable to attend."
"How could they be so thoughtless?" Arthur wondered aloud.
"I don't know," Kingsley sighed. "I found out later that Harry attempted to contact me the day of the ball, but I didn't get any messages until it was too late. I have my suspicions that the messages were deliberately delayed, but I can't prove anything. Harry said he needed to talk to me and his first message mentioned the ball. He left two more messages. In his last one, he said he was sorry."
"Do you know how Ginny left Hogwarts?"
"We believe she left through the Shrieking Shack," Kingsley explained. "We didn't know that it connected to the grounds of Hogwarts. It was Madam Pomfrey who finally told us. It was built for Remus when he was in school. He would be secured in the Shrieking Shack during the full moon. Hermione told us that Ginny was upset – furious was the word she used – about not being allowed to go to the ball. Apparently she'd purchased a dress in anticipation of going, they didn't find out until three weeks before the ball that she couldn't go. Hermione reports that Harry was upset to discover that Hermione was attending. He asked and Ron told him he'd been given permission to bring her and Harry should have tried the same thing. Apparently, Harry did try and wasn't granted permission. I'm furious with the lot of them. If Harry had come to me, I would have granted permission in a heartbeat. The ball was to honour him."
"So Ginny snuck off to meet him and she took a fair number of her belongings," Arthur commented. "Minerva returned her trunk and it had mostly robes and schoolbooks."
"So they obviously had time to make a plan," Kingsley agreed. "We searched wizarding transports and Muggle transportation options and found nothing. As far as we can tell they didn't fly or take the train anywhere. We scoured the docks at Southampton, Plymouth, Dover, Liverpool, Portsmouth, and Aberdeen – honestly, I can't even tell you the places we looked, but I know we searched as many options as we could imagine. Our initial searches were focused on London and the surrounding areas as Harry was most familiar with the area."
"As I understand it, to travel on Muggle transportation one requires documentation of some sort," Arthur said.
"That is true," Kingsley agreed. "Harry definitely had the correct documentation. We provided it to him. He had a driver's license and a passport, but we can't find that it was used. If he used his passport, it would have shown up. The Muggles keep excellent records on that sort of thing. I can't imagine Ginny would have had such documents, but they could have made them or even used a charm to make the Muggles think they'd seen the correct documents. They even could have used magic to make the Muggles forget they were there or not enter their information. Harry knew a lot more advanced magic than most people realized and they were both of age so no longer had the Trace upon them."
He eyed Arthur compassionately. "I have no problem ordering a new investigation into their disappearance. I've always wondered why they left and if there was anything I could have done differently, but you realize we might not like what we find."
"What do you mean?" Arthur asked.
"They left the wizarding world, we don't know why. There have been whispers of illegal activity and all sorts of things. I don't believe them to be true, but I can't explain their absence."
Arthur nodded, he'd also heard outlandish whispers and rumours. "I need to know. We will deal with the fallout whatever it may be."
"Very well," Kingsley nodded. "I will order a new investigation. If you would do me a favour and not mention it to anyone, not even your family. I don't want anyone talking and getting their stories straight or anything. I want their first recollections."
"Of course," Arthur said. "I will, of course, tell Molly, but she won't say anything. You realize we've all talked about this many times over the years." He hesitated for a moment before adding, "I think the kids know something or suspect something. I don't know what it is or if it is even significant, but I get the feeling they are trying to shelter us from something."
The Minister nodded. "Of course. What makes you think they are hiding something?"
"I can't put my finger on it, but the way Percy and Ron spoke about Ginny's disappearance it seemed like they didn't want me to know something. I don't know if it was simply the fact that they'd had a hand in it or they didn't want me to hear some of the wilder rumours."
"There were a lot of rumours flying around," Kingsley agreed. "If you hear anything, please let me know." He frowned briefly. "Have you all discussed the disappearances recently?"
Arthur shook his head.
"Good, that will work to our advantage. I will keep you updated on the investigation." _
Seamus Finnegan and Terry Boot waited a bit nervously outside the Minister's office. Neither of them had ever been up here before and really had no idea why they'd been summoned, but they had been summoned up to the Minister's office first thing in the morning.
The Minister's secretary smiled at them and gestured them to the door. "The Minister will see you now."
The two Aurors soon found themselves sitting across the desk from the Minister of Magic. Seamus found it a bit intimidating to be in such close quarters with the man who had done so much for the wizarding community. Minister Shacklebolt had pushed through a lot of reforms and made things better for Muggle-borns and evened out the playing field for all.
"Mr Finnegan, Mr Boot, I have asked Auror Robards to assign you to a special task force for the next few months."
Seamus sat up straighter and exchanged a look with Terry. This sounded interesting.
"I have been asked to reopen the investigation into the disappearance of Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley," Kingsley revealed. "If you are interested in participating you will be pulled from other investigations and you will report to me, not the Auror office. Both of you knew Potter personally, correct?"
"Yes, sir," Seamus replied. "I roomed with Harry for six years and knew Ginny fairly well. She dated my best friend for most of our sixth year."
"And you Mr Boot?"
"I knew Harry from the DA and Ginny dated one of my best friends most of our fifth year."
"Excellent," Kingsley said. He looked at the two of them. "Do you have any thoughts? Did he say anything to you in the days prior to his disappearance or give you any idea why he might leave?"
Seamus and Terry exchanged another look. "If I may be candid, sir," Seamus said after a moment, "I wouldn't have been surprised if Harry quit the program, but I'm very surprised he disappeared. Harry was always very responsible and did what was expected of him. Of course that could have been part of why he left."
"Really? I thought he wanted to be an Auror and he seemed to enjoy the classes," Kingsley observed. He watched the two boys and noticed they seemed uncomfortable about something. "Please, if there is anything you know."
Seamus sighed. "Auror Robards was not at all happy about our Auror class – he made it clear that he thought we were a publicity stunt and didn't deserve our place."
"Did Harry complain about that?" Kingsley puzzled. "I know Gawain was not happy about your class, but the rest of you made it through your training. Your class did exceedingly well during training, much to his dismay."
"Mr Robards didn't like us and never let us forget that he thought we didn't deserve to be here. With most of us, he would simply make comments about our fitness or abilities, but he hated Harry. I felt like I was back in Potions class with Snape picking on Harry. Robards would ridicule him and magnify any mistake Harry made. Harry's work had to be perfect. Mr Robards made Harry work almost every weekend; sometimes, even if he'd been promised the weekend off, he was called in at the last minute. Harry had to make up the time that he worked with you," Seamus explained. "Robards told him that if he didn't put in the proper amount of time training, he would be kicked out of the program."
"What?" Kingsley was shocked. "Why didn't Harry say anything?"
"That's not how Harry operates," Seamus said quietly. "He gets angry, but he doesn't complain and he'd never file an official complaint. Did you ever see the writing on his hand?"
Kingsley nodded. "It said, 'I will not tell lies.' I wondered about that."
"He had several weeks' worth of detentions with Umbridge and she had him writing lines with a blood quill," Seamus revealed. "He never complained. He even hid it from Ron and Hermione at first."
Kingsley frowned. "I will speak to Gawain. Don't worry, I won't let him know you mentioned anything."
He looked at the two young men. "If you need anything, please let me know. I've spoken to the equipment manager and you will have access to whatever you may need. Re-interview their family and friends, if you have trouble speaking to someone please let me know. I have taken the liberty of securing a search warrant for Mr Potter's home. I don't know if you will find anything after all this time, but it is possible. Mr Bill Weasley is the Ministry-Gringotts liaison and he will be able to answer questions about Mr Potter's account.
"Please keep me updated, gentlemen. I feel we somehow failed Harry all those years ago and I'd like to make up for it."
Seamus looked up from the rather thick file on Harry's disappearance. "I thought this was going to be helpful, but it's a lot of tips and not a lot of information."
"What do you have there?" Terry asked sitting back in his chair.
"As you know, Harry was scheduled to receive his Order of Merlin, First Class the night of the ball. Robards and Percy Weasley didn't approve of Ginny as his date for the night. They gave some crap about it not being proper for a schoolgirl to attend the ball. I remember Harry bitching about it after they told him she couldn't go, but he still had to."
Terry nodded. "I remember him being upset about that. He told me no students would be allowed to go to the ball, but Hermione was there."
Seamus frowned. "You're right." He found Hermione's statement. "Hermione says that Ron applied for and was granted an exemption. They didn't tell Harry so he didn't find out until that day when he came home and found her at his house."
"I bet that didn't go over well," Terry remarked. He thought about it for a few minutes. "How was the friendship between the three of them?"
Seamus frowned. "I think it was good. They had their problems over the years. I know the paper has made it seem like they had a perfect friendship, but it wasn't always so perfect."
"What do you know about their friendship?"
"Harry and Ron became friends on the train on the way to school. Hermione was a bit – well, she was rather a bossy, know-it-all when school first started and she didn't really make friends. Remember when the troll was let into the school Halloween our first year?"
"Rumour has it that Hermione was trapped in the girls' loo with the troll and Ron and Harry saved her. They were friends from that day on. Ron and Hermione always argued, but they were still friends. Third year was really bad, I don't know any details, but there were times when the boys didn't talk to her at all. Fourth year, Ron was rather a git and he didn't talk to Harry for the first month after Harry was named Triwizard Champion."
"I remember that," Terry said. "He thought Harry cheated or lied or something."
Seamus nodded. "He was a real git about it for a while. Then there was the fiasco with Lavender."
"I never understood that whole thing," Terry said. "Lavender must have known that Ron and Hermione were crazy about each other."
"She did, but she had a crush on him and as she saw it Hermione never did anything about it so he was fair game," Seamus explained. "I was really surprised the three of them managed to regain their friendships after that year. I felt for Harry. Ron was always attached to Lavender and Hermione was always in the library, but Harry is very forgiving. I was a huge git to him at the beginning of fifth year. My mum was going nuts with all the articles in the paper over the summer and I …well, I accused him of being an attention seeking idiot. Obviously, I was the one being the idiot – I apologized to him and he never held it against me."
The two spent the next two hours going over the thick file. Finally Seamus said, "I don't think we will learn anything new from this. I say we visit Ron and George at the shop and then go to Gringotts. We can stop by Harry's house tonight and search his room and talk to Hermione. I can't imagine we'll find much at the house. Ron and Hermione have been living there for the past eight years."
Terry nodded. "I also think we need to talk to Professor McGonagall."
Ron looked up as the rather rude noise that indicated someone entering the shop sounded. It was mid-afternoon on a cool spring afternoon and there were very few customers in the shop. He broke out in a smile when he saw his old roommate, Seamus.
"Seamus, mate!" Ron set down the Quidditch magazine he'd been perusing. He rounded the counter the shook hands with the sandy-haired wizard.
"Ron, it's good to see you," Seamus replied with a smile. He gestured to his companion, Terry Boot. "Ron, you remember Terry, right?"
"Yes," Ron said shaking the other man's hand. Terry was a tall silent man. He was even a few inches taller than Ron's six foot three inches and rather muscular. Both Terry and Seamus were wearing the black robes of the Auror Department in vivid contrast to Ron's bright magenta robes.
Stepping back, Ron surveyed the two men. They were not the usual type of customer of the very popular joke shop. "What can I do for you gentlemen?"
Seamus stepped forward. "Actually, mate, we need to talk to you and George if you have a moment."
"Sure," Ron said in surprise. "Give me just a minute."
Ron headed into the back of the shop. It was much larger than it looked from the outside. Off to the right was the production portion of the shop. There were half a dozen employees chopping ingredients, mixing potions, and packing up Wheezes as the joke products were called. In the centre was the highly profitable defensive section of the shop. While the sale of defence items had declined after the war, they still sold quite well in some sectors. The Ministry of Magic was their biggest client.
On the left was Ron's destination, the administrative offices so to speak. George and Ron shared a large office and their bookkeeper had an office next door. Looking into the staff tea room, Ron said, "Verity, would you mind watching the front for a few? There are some people here to speak to me and George."
"Of course, Boss," Verity said with a smile.
Ron grinned as she stood and straightened her bright magenta staff robes. Verity was the employee who had been with the shop the longest. She was a pretty, bubbly blond and she was very friendly. When Ron had first started working at the shop, he and Verity had indulged in a bit of a flirtation. Nothing serious, but enough that Ron's long-time girlfriend, Hermione, still didn't like the witch.
As Verity headed out to the front of the shop, Ron knocked on the open office door. "George, there are some people here to see us. Is it okay to bring them back?"
George looked up from the parchment he'd been working on. "Of course, who is it?"
"Seamus Finnegan and Terry Boot, I don't know what it's about."
As George straightened the office a bit, Ron returned to the front of the shop to bring Seamus and Terry back to the office. Once greetings had been exchanged, Seamus and Terry settled into chairs across from George's large desk. George was seated behind the desk while Ron was leaning against the wall behind him.
"What brings you two gentlemen to our lovely establishment?" George asked.
Seamus leaned forward. "We are actually here in an official capacity."
George raised an eyebrow. "Really? What can we do for the Auror Department?"
"We have been asked to start a new investigation into the disappearances of Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley," Seamus stated.
Both brothers look surprised at the announcement. "Why?" Ron asked after a moment.
"Don't you want them found?" Seamus asked, rather shocked at the brothers' reaction.
"Of course," Ron retorted, "but the last investigation was really hard on my parents and came to nothing. I'd hate to see them upset for no reason. The last investigation dragged on for months and other than starting new rumours about them, didn't seem to accomplish much."
"We will try to avoid upsetting them," Seamus assured him. "Can you tell me what you remember of that night?"
"It was the night of the ball," Ron began.
Ron looked around the ballroom in awe. He'd heard his mother rave about Ministry Balls in the past, but he could never have imagined how elegant the Ministry could look. The thought of his parents dampened his spirits slightly, they were both still in St Mungo's over six months after the final battle had been fought at Hogwarts. They were both improving, but the Healers felt his mother would need another few months in hospital.
As he looked around, Ron determined that he would go visit them tomorrow and tell them all about the ball. Remembering the line of photographers at the red carpet, he realized that there might be pictures of them as well. He would ask Hermione to frame a nice picture of the two of them to take to his parents.
He looked over at his date and felt like he was the luckiest wizard in the world. He'd been crazy about Hermione Granger for years – he remembered way back in his fourth year suddenly realizing that one of his best friends was not only a girl, but a pretty one at that. It had taken him years to gather up his courage to ask her out, but now they were dating.
Hermione had taken the time to do something to her hair and it looked beautiful. He rather liked her bushy hair, but he knew she didn't like it. She was wearing some flowy sort of dark blue dress that highlighted her curves. He was so proud to be her date for the night.
"This is amazing isn't it?" Hermione leaned over to whisper.
"It is," Ron agreed.
"What's he doing here?"
Ron turned at his brother, Percy's, question. It was their oldest brother, Bill and his wife, Fleur. They had been in France for the past month with Fleur's family and hadn't been expected for the ball.
Ron watched his brother with a touch of jealousy. Even with the horrific scarring on his face, Bill was a good looking man and Ron thought Bill was still the height of cool. Fleur was elegant and incredibly beautiful in a set of rather expensive looking dress robes. As the couple walked past they definitely attracted attention.
"Ron, Hermione," Bill greeted them, hugging them both before greeting Percy and meeting his date for the evening, Audrey.
"We didn't expect you tonight," Percy said a bit stiffly.
"We didn't want to miss seeing Harry get his Order of Merlin," Bill said. "I talked to Kingsley the other day and he got tickets for us." Looking around the room he asked, "Where is Harry?"
"I'm not sure," Ron spoke up. "I talked to him earlier. He's not looking forward to this ball for some reason."
"He better show up," Percy fussed. "If he dares to skip out on this ball, there will be sanctions against him. He can't get away with ignoring the Ministry."
"Why would he skip the ball?" Bill asked looking from Percy to Ron.
Ron squirmed a bit. "Harry got upset when he found out he couldn't take Ginny to the ball."
"What? Why in Merlin's name couldn't he bring Ginny?"
"It's not appropriate," Percy said pompously. "He is the most famous wizard in the world and he is being honoured for his epic defeat of You-Know-Who. It isn't appropriate for him to bring a schoolgirl to the ball. Mr Robards agreed with me. We told Potter that he would need to bring another date."
"Why would you do that?" Bill asked outraged at the thought. "What do you have against Harry?"
Percy sniffed. "I'm not convinced their relationship is appropriate. I've heard rumours that there is something unsavoury about their relationship. There are rumours of love potions and all sorts of things. I felt it wasn't appropriate that she attend the ball."
"But she got a dress for the ball," Fleur said.
Ron's stomach dropped when he heard that. He hadn't realized she had done that. He glanced over at Hermione. "When did she get a dress?"
"Harry came to see her a few weeks ago and took her to Hogsmeade. They came back with a dress," Hermione explained. She sighed. "Hopefully she will be able to return it. He really should have asked first. Mr Robards told them that their dates had to be cleared by the Ministry."
"So it was Robards and your brother who decided that Ginny couldn't accompany Harry to the ball," Seamus clarified. At Ron's nod, Seamus asked, "What did you think about that?"
Ron looked a bit discomfited. "I don't think Ginny was the best person for Harry to be dating."
"You mean Hermione didn't think so," George broke in.
Ron flushed. "Yes, Hermione thinks so, too, but I agree with her. Ginny's…she's always had a crush on Harry and she's not shown the best judgement in the past. I just think Harry could do better."
"I wish you and Hermione weren't so down on Ginny," George said angrily. "Hermione holds a grudge longer than anyone I know."
"What does Hermione hold against Ginny?" Terry asked.
"Ginny's involvement in the Chamber of Secrets," George replied.
"George!" Ron yelled.
"What?" George asked. "It's not exactly a secret." Looking at the two Aurors he said, "You two remember the Chamber of Secrets?" Both men nodded and George continued, "Ginny had somehow been slipped an old diary that belonged to You-Know-Who. It somehow controlled her and made her open the Chamber."
Terry was shocked, but Seamus had heard the rumours. "So Harry really did kill a Basilisk and rescue her from the Chamber of Secrets?"
The brothers nodded. Ron said, "I just think she should have used better judgement. She never told anyone what was happening and she didn't question a diary that answered her. When she realized that strange things were happening, she should have told someone. She didn't ask for help or tell anyone what was going on. She's just lucky that no one was killed."
"She was eleven and we were ignoring her," George rounded on his brother. "It's not like some first year enchanted the diary – it was You-Know-Who! Who knows what kind of compulsion charms or whatever he may have put on the diary. How was she supposed to fight off a memory version of You-Know-Who? She didn't realize what was happening. Besides, Harry told me she tried to tell the two of you the morning she was taken into the Chamber and Percy scared her off."
"It was a little late by then," Ron retorted. "Hermione was already Petrified and she could have died. Harry almost did die and it would have been her fault."
"Harry never blamed her," George said.
Ron rolled his eyes, but didn't respond verbally. Once it was clear neither brother was going to say anything further, Seamus asked, "When did you realize Harry wasn't going to show up?"
"When Mr Robards came to look for him," Ron replied.
Ron's attention was recalled to the present when Mr Robards, the head Auror, arrived at the table.
"Percy," Mr Robards said. "Where is Potter?"
"He's not here yet," Percy said fussily.
"Damn, that boy better not mess things up," Robards warned.
"He's hardly a boy," Bill said with an edge to his voice. "The purpose of this ball is to honour him."
"This ball is fulfilling the people's need to fawn all over that boy," Robards returned. "As if he doesn't get enough attention, the Minister wants to give him a medal." Turning to Percy he snapped, "Make sure he is here! I swear he will be working nights and weekends for the next decade at this rate."
Bill glared at the retreating wizard before turning to Ron. "What did Harry say to you this afternoon?"
Casting his mind back Ron tried to remember if he had even talked to his best mate that day. He'd been so excited about seeing Hermione he'd rather ignored Harry. He glanced over at Hermione and of course she was able to come to his rescue.
"Harry was rather surprised to see me," Hermione said. She blushed. "He was rather upset that I was allowed to attend the ball, but Ginny was not." Giving Percy a rather embarrassed look she said, "I'm sorry to say he had some rather uncomplimentary things to say about both Percy and Mr Robards. I scolded him a bit and he calmed down. He gave me a hug and said he had to get ready. We didn't see him again. I could hear him in his room, but we didn't see him. When we left he called through the door for us to go ahead. He wasn't quite ready to leave."
Ron watched as Bill and Fleur exchanged a look. They were obviously upset. Fleur was speaking rapidly in French so Ron had no idea what she was saying.
At that moment a beautiful and rather exotic looking young lady approached Percy. She reminded Ron of Parvati Patil, one of their school mates who Harry had dated briefly in their fourth year. This girl had long black hair and big dark eyes with caramel coloured skin. She was dressed in bright turquoise dress robes that showcased some rather impressive curves.
"Mr Weasley," the girl said rather uncertainly looking around the table.
Percy stood as he answered, "I am Percy Weasley. You are Noor Sehgal, correct?"
"Yes, sir," she answered with a smile.
"Thank you for agreeing to help us out," Percy said with a smile. "Unfortunately Mr Potter is not here yet, but I'm certain he will be joining us soon. Why don't you sit next to my brother, Ron?"
Ron nodded in acknowledgment. Percy went around the table introducing everyone. Once he'd introduced them all he announced, "Miss Sehgal is to be Harry's date for the evening."
Ron's eyes widened and the thought briefly crossed his mind that Harry had all the luck. While Ron wouldn't have given up Hermione for anything in the world, he couldn't help but acknowledge that Noor was gorgeous. He watched proudly as Hermione immediately set about making Noor feel welcome. She was always so good at doing that. Out of the corner of his eye he could tell that Bill and Fleur were not happy with this turn of events. He knew that if Bill or Charlie had realized the Ministry wasn't allowing Ginny to accompany Harry they would have filed a complaint and requested an exemption – one that probably would have been granted.
"Have you met Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Oh yes," Noor replied with a beautiful smile. "We had lunch together the other day. It was a lovely luncheon and he was very kind."
"Wonderful," Hermione said with a smile. She looked over at Ron who could tell she was hoping Harry was actually interested in Noor. Noor was certainly much better looking than Ginny.
Bill stood abruptly. "I'm going to see if I can get in touch with Harry."
Seamus raised an eyebrow. "Percy found a date for Harry?"
Ron nodded. "He needed a date and he wasn't making any effort to find a suitable date, so Percy found one for him. I don't know why Harry was complaining. She was really beautiful – much better looking than Ginny."
"Did your brother discover anything?" Terry asked.
"No," George answered. He looked rather discomfited at the memory. "I was in a bad place back then. I didn't really want to be there and probably had too much to drink. As usual it was Hermione who noticed there was something wrong."
"Something's wrong," Hermione whispered to Ron.
He looked at her in confusion. Everything seemed fine to him. Hermione looked beautiful, he'd danced with her several times, and the food was great – what could be wrong?
"Of course something's wrong," Bill said with a bite to his words. "Harry is missing."
"He's not missing," Ron protested. "We saw him this afternoon."
"Right," Bill returned. "That's why no one has seen him all night."
"He's just upset about Ginny," Hermione fussed. "I can't believe he didn't come. He's going to be in so much trouble."
Ron jumped when the Minister of Magic addressed him. "Yes, sir."
"I understand you don't know where Mr Potter is."
"No, sir," Ron said. "We saw him before we left and thought he was following us."
"He's not at Grimmauld Place," Bill said, glaring at his siblings. "I checked, he's not there."
"We will find him," Kingsley said, "but for now I will need you to accept his medal, Ron."
"Me?" Ron paled.
Kingsley nodded. "You and Hermione can accept it together if you want."
Ron relaxed slightly, if Hermione was with him it wouldn't be too bad. She spoke up. "We will, sir."
Ten minutes later Ron stood back as he let Hermione accept Harry's Order of Merlin. She said a few words, he honestly wasn't certain what she said, but he knew whatever it was it would be the right thing.
By midnight, they were all back at Grimmauld Place – the Weasley brothers, Hermione, Fleur, and Kingsley. Ron and Hermione were searching through Harry's room – he'd taken over Sirius' room.
Ron swore softly. "Hermione, some of his things are missing."
"What?" Hermione asked anxiously. "Are you sure?"
"Pretty sure," Ron said. "He had a framed picture of Ginny next to his bed. His photo album that Hagrid made him is gone and his wardrobe is practically empty."
"What are you talking about?" Hermione scoffed. "It's full of robes."
"But all of his Muggle clothes are gone," Ron said.
"Are they in the laundry?"
The pair hurriedly made their way down to the laundry room. After a minute of rummaging through the baskets, Ron shook his head. "No, this is all mine"
"Ron, you really need to keep up with your laundry better," Hermione scolded.
"What did you find?" Kingsley asked, interrupted before the couple could start arguing.
"His things are gone," Ron said. "He left his robes, but his Muggle clothes are all gone."
"Damn!" Kingsley swore. "Did you find a note or anything?"
"No," Ron said.
"It is just the two of you who live here, correct?"
"Yes, Kreacher was killed during the last battle," Ron said.
"Kingsley," Robards ran into the room. "I've just heard from Minerva McGonagall. The Weasley girl is missing too."
"What?" Hermione was appalled. "She must have convinced him to run away. I was afraid something like this was going to happen."
"Why?" Kingsley asked.
Hermione looked over at Ron; for once she seemed unsure of what to say.
"Miss Granger," the Minister said. "Why were you afraid she would do something?"
Wringing her hands Hermione said, "I've never really thought they made a good couple. He never really mentioned her or even seemed attracted to her. In our sixth year I thought he fancied Luna Lovegood."
"Luna Lovegood? Xenophilius' daughter?"
Hermione nodded. "They had a lot in common and I know they talked quite a bit. They'd both lost parents and at times they were both treated as outcasts by the other students. I thought he didn't say anything because he was afraid Ron would make fun of him." She glared at her boyfriend. "Ron tends to make fun of Luna – calling her Loony."
Ron had to grace to blush under the sudden scrutiny from everyone. "She is a little odd, but if she makes Harry happy I don't have a problem."
"Anyhow, Harry finally got enough nerve to ask her to Professor Slughorn's Christmas party in our sixth year and they seemed to have a lot of fun. I saw the two of them together around the castle for the next few months. They would talk and eat meals together – I thought it was very sweet and that Harry was just shy. His first relationship, with Cho Chang, was a bit of a disaster and I thought he didn't want a repeat of that so he was taking things slowly. Then the day of the Quidditch final, Harry had been in detention and missed the match. He came into the common room afterwards and Ginny ran up and kissed him. Suddenly he was crazy about her and they were dating."
"Isn't it possible he fancied her and just didn't say anything?" Kingsley asked.
"It's possible," Hermione admitted, "but I don't think he did. He's not that good at hiding his feelings. He broke up with her at Dumbledore's funeral and I thought it was the end of this nonsense, but they started dating again this past summer. I don't have any proof, but I think she is using love potion."
"You believe she is using a love potion long term?" Kingsley clarified. "You realize that is a very serious accusation."
Hermione nodded. One of the new laws had outlawed long term use of love potions – it was still available as a joke product for one time or short term use, but repeated dosing of the same person was against the law. "She has a handwritten book of charms and potions. She told me it was a tradition for girls to collect charms, spells, and potions that they will need to start their own family. In her book, she has several love potion recipes."
"How is she dosing him?" Robards asked. He seemed to be taking the allegations more seriously than Kingsley.
"I think she is applying something to his letters," Hermione explained. "I've seen her spray something on her letters to him and Ron's seen him sniffing the letters. I think she might be using several different potions. Harry has a very strong will – it would probably be difficult to keep him under her spell."
"I don't believe that," Bill said angrily. "Harry is in love with her. He's not under a love potion. He's spoken to both me and Fleur about his feelings for her. She has the potion recipes because Harry has been threatened with love potions in the past. She also has several recipes for love potion antidotes."
Looking over at Robards, Bill asked, "Are Ginny's belongings gone as well?"
Seamus was shocked – both by the allegations and Ron's obvious contempt for his sister. He knew they didn't get along well, but he'd never imagined anything like this. He glanced at Terry who seemed surprised as well.
"So your theory is that Ginny was dosing Harry with love potions," Seamus stated.
"Yes," Ron said. "Hermione confronted Ginny with her suspicions the day of the ball and we think that's why Ginny ran away. Obviously, she convinced Harry to go with her. He never would have left on his own. He had no reason to leave."
Terry addressed George. "What do you think?"
"I don't know," George admitted. "I always thought they'd make a cute couple, but Harry didn't seem to notice her. They became friends, but I thought that was all it was. I thought she'd moved past him and was over him. I know she dated a few other guys, so I was really surprised to discover she had dated Harry. She seemed worried about him while he was on the run, but he didn't make any effort to keep in touch with her. It really shocked me that she started dating him again."
"Is she any good at Potions?" Terry asked.
"She is," George replied. "She helped us out here at the shop two summers in a row. I know she knew how to make a love potion. I've seen her eyeing our Wonder Witch products before, but I never let her buy any of them. Things were in such a shambles after the war, she could have found our recipe or hell, she could have taken some. Our records were pretty much destroyed."
"Would she really be that desperate?" Seamus asked. "It's not like she couldn't get a boyfriend."
"She always had a crush on Harry, though," Ron said. "Hermione thinks that when Harry asked out Luna, Ginny became nervous. Harry and Cho never had much in common or anything – that wasn't going to last, but Luna was a friend of his. Hermione thinks Ginny saw Luna as real competition and she went after Harry before he and Luna could become too involved. I mean the whole year we're on the run Harry never once mentioned Ginny to either me or Hermione. We went to Luna's house at one point and he was very upset that she'd been taken. After we were able to rescue Luna from Malfoy Manor, she and Harry spent a lot of time together. I honestly thought he fancied her. We figured he was over Ginny, but then a few weeks before she was to return to Hogwarts we discovered that they'd started dating once again."
"You can't tell our parents about the love potion," George said. "We never told them about our suspicions and it would just kill them."
"Your parents were injured in the battle, is that right?"
"Mum was," Ron said. "She was held under the Cruciatus by Bellatrix Lestrange and then Voldemort. It was horrible." Both brothers shuddered at the memories. Ron shook his head. "I don't know what happened. It took Harry long enough to end it."
Seamus was surprised to hear a touch of bitterness towards Harry. "Harry was hit with a Killing Curse and several Cruciatus Curses that night himself."
"I know that," Ron said hastily. "I'm not blaming him – I just wish he'd ended everything sooner and spared my mother. He knew he was the only one who could end it."
"The Healers at St Mungo's put her in a coma so she could recover," George explained. "She was in hospital for almost ten months. Dad had a stroke – from the stress the Healers thought. It was lucky he was in hospital when it happened or he might not have made it. Harry was the one who found him."
"It about killed my parents to hear that Harry and Ginny had run away and we didn't know where they were," Ron said. "We didn't have the heart to tell them about the love potions."
"But Minister Shacklebolt knew of your suspicions."
"Yes, Hermione told him right away," Ron said. "I think she feels guilty that she didn't say anything sooner. Hermione was suspicious of their relationship, but I didn't know what she suspected until the night of the ball. Hermione didn't want to make any accusations until she was sure. She was trying to get a sample of whatever Ginny was spraying onto her letters, but she couldn't find any. Ginny hid it really well. Hermione asked me to find one of Ginny's letters, but I couldn't find any. I hate the idea of her controlling him. It makes me uncomfortable to think about – I know I made a fool of myself under a love potion, but he never seemed to be acting crazy. We really didn't think it was a big deal until they ran away. We wanted to handle it ourselves so Ginny wouldn't get into trouble. She could have gone to prison if she'd been caught dosing him. I didn't like the idea of her controlling him, but I guess I underestimated her."
"So no one has heard from them at all?" Seamus persisted. "No notes that weren't signed or anything?"
Both brothers shook their heads. "I was hoping she would send something when my parents got out of hospital," George admitted. "I even tried sending them an invitation to my wedding, but the owl returned after five days with the invitation still attached."
After a few more questions it was obvious the brothers didn't have any more information or at least information they were going to share. The Aurors stood and thanked the brothers for their time.
Leaving the shop, both Aurors were lost in thought. "Where do you want to go?" Terry asked.
"Why don't we talk to Bill Weasley now," Seamus said. "It seems like maybe he wasn't on the same page as his brothers."
The two fell in step as they headed toward the large white building that dominated the Alley. "I'm sorry," Seamus said after a few minutes, "I can't see Ginny using a love potion on Harry."
"I think Ron is a little blind," Terry laughed. "He doesn't seem to realize that she's not only grown up, but gorgeous as well. I could tell Potter was watching her and I didn't even know them all that well."
Seamus nodded. "Dean hated it. I don't know what Hermione was seeing, but Harry was definitely crushing on Ginny not Luna. I don't doubt he was friends with Luna, but I didn't see any attraction between them."
"Doesn't sound like there's much love lost between Hermione and Ginny," Terry observed.
"Yeah, I have to say I never really noticed them as being overly friendly. Honestly, Hermione wasn't friendly with anyone but Harry and Ron. She talked to Neville a bit, but she mostly talked to Harry and Ron."
Together the pair climbed the steps to Gringotts and shortly afterwards found themselves in Bill Weasley's office. Seamus remembered meeting Bill once years before and of course they both remembered his beautiful, part-Veela wife, Fleur Delacour-Weasley, from the Triwizard Tournament.
Both Aurors stood when Bill entered the office and shook hands with him. Seamus found Bill much as he remembered. The older wizard was tall and fit with shoulder length red hair that he wore pulled back in a ponytail. Bill had blue eyes and Seamus was surprised to see he was wearing a dragon's tooth earring. There was a large photo of the Egyptian pyramids on the wall behind Bill as well as a photo that Seamus thought showed the interior of a tomb. On the desk there was a large picture of Fleur on her wedding day as well as pictures of all of the Weasley siblings. Included in there was a nice picture of Harry and Ginny together, Seamus thought it might have been taken after the war. They introduced themselves and explained why they were there.
"Thank Merlin," Bill exclaimed. "I hate the thought that they were run out of town by some well-meaning or maybe not so well-meaning family members."
"We've just spoken to Ron and George," Seamus said.
"Great, you got the Ginny is using love potion story," Bill said disdainfully. "I don't think either of them see Ginny very clearly. Ron will faithfully repeat whatever outlandish tale Hermione spins and George was pretty messed up back then."
"So you don't believe Ginny was using a love potion?" Seamus clarified.
"No," Bill replied firmly. "I don't know if they were in love, but they obviously fancied each other and enjoyed each other's company. They could talk to each other. Ron and Hermione basically ignored Harry that summer. In a way I don't blame them, they'd just started dating and they needed to spend time as a couple. They'd spent the previous year on the run with Harry and needed to learn how to be just the two of them instead of three of them. The thing I didn't like was the way Hermione kept throwing Luna his way. It hurt Ginny and it hurt Harry. I think that is a big part of the reason that he moved out."
"Moved out of where?" Terry asked.
"My parents' house, the Burrow," Bill explained. "At the end of the war he came to stay with my family, but once my parents were both in hospital I don't think he felt entirely comfortable staying there. He moved into his godfather's old house in London. Ron moved in there with him once Hermione and Ginny went back to school."
"What about Ron and Ginny? What was their relationship like?"
Bill sighed. "Not good. He resented being 'stuck' with a sister close to his age. He never wanted to include her in anything. I can't count the number of tears I dried when she was little – 'Ron was mean' or 'Ron wouldn't play with her'. I think the twins didn't help. They were great fun and great pranksters, but sometimes they didn't know when to stop."
Seamus nodded, having lived in the same house as them for five years, he was familiar with the twins. Bill shook his head. "They used to tease Ron about having a baby sister. If he played with her, they said he was too girly."
"You wouldn't say he was protective of her?" Seamus asked.
Bill shook his head. "Definitely not," he said emphatically. "I know my mum wanted Ron and the twins to look out for her, but they never wanted to and I can't tell that they did at all. Percy's idea of looking after someone was to tattle on them. He never really had much time for Ginny. Her first year at Hogwarts was a disaster, as I'm sure you know."
The two Aurors nodded. Bill continued, "I thought it appalling that she had four older brothers at Hogwarts and it was Ron's friend who had to rescue her. I don't know what happened. Ron definitely didn't want Ginny to become friends with Harry or Hermione. I think as the youngest boy, he felt a bit overshadowed. He guarded his friendships rather jealously."
"Were Hermione and Ginny close?" Seamus asked.
Bill looked at the two Aurors. "Normally I wouldn't say anything, but Hermione doesn't like Ginny."
"Do you know why?"
Bill shrugged. "Not really. I think she still holds the events of Ginny's first year against her. Hermione thinks that Ginny should have known better and she should have shown better judgement. She never has liked Ginny and that's just fine with Ron. Ginny wasn't overly fond of Hermione either – I know they hated having to share a room during the summer. I always thought it was just they were very different girls with very different interests, but I didn't realize until after Harry and Ginny left just how much Hermione and Ginny didn't get along."
"Did Ginny leave any message for your parents?" Seamus asked.
Bill shook his head. "No, that's one of the reasons I think they hadn't really planned to run or they left in a hurry. Harry was one of the few people who regularly visited my parents. My wife and I visited, but we travelled quite a bit that autumn. George wasn't in any shape to visit and Percy and Ron both said they didn't like hospitals. My parents would have done anything for any of us, but my brothers couldn't be bothered to visit them in the hospital."
"That's too bad," Seamus commented.
"Harry visited them weekly or sometimes more frequently," Bill said. "Ginny visited almost daily before she had to go back to school. I know Professor McGonagall allowed her to come visit them several times once she was back at school."
Seamus frowned. "No one in your family has had any word from them?"
"My wife and I received a baby blanket for each of our children shortly after their birth," Bill revealed. "There was no note or anything, but we've always thought they were from Ginny."
Pulling out a sheet of parchment, he quickly sketched a figure. "This is a protective Egyptian rune. I gave Ginny a pendent with the rune on it after her first year and she wore it all the time."
Seamus nodded; he remembered seeing Ginny wearing it. Bill continued, "All three of the blankets had this symbol knitted into the corner."
Seamus and Terry sat up a bit straighter. Bill nodded when he saw their reaction. "I know. The blankets appeared within a few weeks of their birth announcements in the paper. They were all sent by postal owls, but we couldn't trace where they were sent from or who sent them. I had some friends from work helping me, but we didn't discover much. All three were sent from different cities – Victoire's was mailed from Paris, Dominique's was mailed from London, and Louis's was mailed from Leeds. They were all sent during very busy times in the post office and no one remembered seeing who sent them. I showed the employees pictures of Harry and Ginny and they didn't recognize them. "
"There were no cards or markings on the boxes?" Seamus asked, impressed at the amount of work Bill had put into investigating the gifts.
Bill shook his head. "There were no cards and the boxes were plain cardboard boxes."
"Has anyone else in your family received anything?" Seamus asked.
"No," Bill replied. "We've asked and kept an eye out for anything that we thought might be from them. The one thing they did do is make arrangements to pay for my parents' hospital bill. A few weeks before they disappeared, Harry spoke to the billing department. Because some of the treatments used for my mother were experimental, they weren't covered. Harry made arrangements to pay for everything WHS didn't cover."
Seamus nodded as he made a note to speak to St Mungo's. The Wizarding Health Services (WHS) in many ways mirrored its Muggle counterparts and often experimental treatment was not fully covered. "So it seems they planned something."
"I don't know if that was an indication of planning or just Harry trying to help out," Bill said. "Money was a bit of a concern for a while. You remember how uncertain everything was at the end of the war. I think Harry just wanted to take care of the bill and not let anyone know what he'd done."
That did sound like Harry, Seamus had to admit. "Do you have any theory on why they left?" Seamus asked.
Bill shook his head. "I wish I knew. I've been kicking myself for the last eight years for going to France when my sister obviously needed me. I never would have left if I'd known. I don't know if Hermione's accusations played any part in their running, but I think it's a distinct possibility."
Seamus nodded. "If Harry thought she was in trouble, he would do whatever he could to help.
"Bill, what can you tell me about Harry's Gringotts account?" Seamus asked.
Sitting up straighter, Bill said, "Gringotts policy allows me to answer some questions, but there are some things that I cannot answer."
Seamus nodded; he was familiar with Gringotts restrictions. Bill said, "Harry has two vaults at Gringotts – his student vault and his family vault. Upon the death of his godfather, Sirius Black, in 1996, Harry inherited the Black family vault which was incorporated into the Potter family vault. Upon the deaths of Remus and Nymphadora Lupin, their infant son, Teddy, as well as Mrs Lupin's parents, Harry inherited a modest estate from them as well. I don't know if you recall, but the Lupins were living with her parents and Death Eaters attacked the home killing all of them – even the baby."
Bill shook his head in disgust. "I can't imagine why they had to kill Teddy, he was only a few months old."
"That's awful," Seamus said. "I didn't realize what had happened."
Bill nodded. "I won't bore you with all of the details, but due to the order of their deaths, Mrs Lupin inherited her parents' estate which then went to Mr Lupin. Harry was his only living heir. I understand they planned to make Harry their son's godfather. As the Lupins' only living heir, he inherited the Lestrange estate as well. He owns the home in London, where my brother and Hermione still live, as well as his parents' home in Godric's Hollow. The Lupins' home was destroyed in the attack that killed them. Harry inherited the Tonks' home which he sold shortly after the end of the war. He donated the proceeds from the Tonks home as well as the estate he inherited from them to the Lupin Wolfsbane Initiative. Harry established it to provide free Wolfsbane to any werewolves each full moon. The Lestrange estate he donated to the Marauders' Childrens' Home. That is another charity he established to provide for war orphans. The Lestrange's manor home is being used as an orphanage.
"Shortly before his disappearance, Harry made arrangements to transfer a sizable amount of money to a Muggle account at Barclays. Since that time, he has made occasional transfers from his Gringotts account. We do not have access to his Barclays' account, but as I'm sure you are aware you can obtain permission from a Muggle judge to view his account."
"Can you tell us how much money he transferred to Barclays?" Seamus asked.
"I am not at liberty to divulge that," Bill replied regretfully. "I can tell you that neither of them needs to work if they do not choose to do so. They did not remove even half of Harry's vault total. Due to the investments that have been made on his behalf, the vault that remains has been increasing in value. Harry also set up a perpetuity to pay for Council taxes and other payments on his Grimmauld Place home."
"So Ron and Hermione are living in London for free," Terry spoke up.
Bill simply nodded.
The two Aurors left Diagon Alley troubled by all they'd heard. They returned to Auror Headquarters to review their findings.
"I just can't see them leaving simply because of the allegations against Ginny," Terry commented. "It would be easy enough to disprove them."
"Playing the devil's advocate, is there any chance that Ginny could have been drugging him?" Seamus asked as he settled into a chair in the small conference room off the main Aurors' room.
Terry thought about it for a minute. "I don't think so. First of all, I don't see the need to drug him. I saw him watching her for most of our sixth year. Most love potions produce an exaggerated lust or longing for the person – they can't stand to be apart from the object of their desire. I didn't see any of that in Harry before he left. He missed her, but he wasn't going crazy."
"Have you ever heard of an aerosolized version of love potion?" Seamus asked curiously.
Terry shook his head as he considered the matter. "I will speak our potions makers and see what they think. I imagine it could be done."
"I'd like to speak to St Mungo's," Seamus said. "I think we should drop by Grimmauld Place tonight and tomorrow head out to Hogwarts. I'd like to hear Professor McGonagall's thoughts on the matter."
Hermione was puttering around the kitchen supervising the reheating of the Shepherd's pie Mrs Weasley had sent over earlier in the week. She was rather glad that Mrs Weasley sent over care packages so frequently. Cooking was one thing that she'd never really taken the time to conquer.
She could cook, of course, but often she would lose track of time or get lost in a book. She couldn't count the number of meals she'd burned or that simply had turned out poorly because she hadn't been paying attention to what she was doing while she was cooking. Ron was worse in the kitchen than she was, so she was thankful his mother was well aware of that fact. Usually they would get take away from somewhere or eat one of the many meals Mrs Weasley prepared. Hermione often thought that one day she would take some holiday time and really try her hand at cooking, but for now she didn't see the necessity.
Certain that dinner was well underway, she hurried upstairs to change out of her Ministry robes. She smiled as she walked through the house. It was much altered since her first glimpses of it almost ten years earlier. Now instead of darkness and gloom, it was decorated in soothing cream and beige colours.
Once she'd moved in full time after finishing at Hogwarts, she convinced Ron of the need to hire a decorating company to redesign and renovate the old Black home. As a result, it was a stunning masterpiece of modern wizarding design. The ground floor had been opened up and the portrait of Mrs Black removed. Instead of a long gloomy hallway, there was now an open floor plan. Walking in the front door, you could see clear to the back of the house.
The kitchen had stayed the same, but now there was a walk out to the small secluded garden in the back. On the first floor, the library had been cleared of the dark texts and Hermione had been happily adding to the collection. It now featured several seating areas and was one of her favourite rooms in the house. The only rooms that hadn't been redone were Harry's room and Regulus' old room, both on the top floor.
Since they didn't really know if Harry planned to return, they simply left his room as he'd left it. The top floor went unused. Hermione had cast stasis charms on the rooms so they didn't collect dust or require cleaning. Honestly, she and Ron had more room than they needed as it was, so they didn't need the rooms on the top floor.
After changing into jeans and a blue t-shirt, Hermione headed back downstairs. She expected Ron home before long and he always liked to have dinner on the table when he arrived home. Hermione didn't mind – in some ways it felt like playing house. Once they'd eaten, they usually spent their evenings in the library or on the ground floor. He might listen to a Quidditch match or read a journal whilst she read or did research. Several times a week they would go out with friends and family; they enjoyed living in London.
Ron arrived home and they sat down to eat. Hermione was enthusiastically telling him about a new exhibit opening up at the British Museum that she wanted to see.
"It sounds nice, Hermione," he commented.
"What's wrong?" she asked after a few minutes. Ron was unusually quiet tonight.
He sighed. "Seamus Finnegan and Terry Boot came to the shop today. They are reopening Harry and Ginny's disappearances."
"What?" Hermione was surprised. "Why?"
"That's what I asked," Ron replied unhappily. "They didn't really say why. I mean I'd love to see Harry again, but I have to admit I'm upset that he'd just up and leave like that. Do you know how upset my mum has been? I could kill Ginny for putting my mum through all of this. I heard my mum saying the other day that she's lost three children to the war." He shook his head. "Why couldn't she have left Harry alone?"
"Do you think that's why they're looking?" Hermione asked her mind racing. "Could your parents be looking for answers?"
"Maybe," Ron said uncertainly. "We never mentioned what we suspected Ginny of doing. My parents didn't need to suffer because my sister made poor decisions."
The pair finished their dinner in silence, each of them thinking about the disappearance of their best friend. Neither really knew what to think about it. They'd had no indication that Harry might leave. They'd spoken to all of their friends and tried to discover where Harry may have gone, but they'd not made any headway and it was upsetting for both of them. How could Harry and Ginny have vanished so completely? It didn't make sense. Harry had no reason to run, Hermione was certain of that. He'd been doing well at the Ministry and he'd always talked about wanting to become an Auror. That was one of the reasons she was so convinced Ginny must have influenced him.
Once they'd cleaned the dishes and tidied up the kitchen, they settled into the ground floor living room. Ron was reading the latest Quidditch Weekly, while Hermione read the Daily Prophet. The WWN played softly in the background.
It was just past seven when the doorbell sounded. Hermione was only slightly surprised to find Seamus Finnegan and Terry Boot on their doorstep.
"Hello, Hermione," Seamus said.
"Hello," she replied, stepping back so both of them could enter. "Ron told me you called at the shop today."
Seamus nodded and exchanged pleasantries while he and Terry divested themselves of their light jackets. Hermione hung up their jackets while Ron ambled over and greeted the pair.
Looking at his former roommate, Seamus asked, "So have you thought of anything else?"
Ron shook his head. "George and I talked after you left, but we couldn't recall anything that might help you."
Sitting in the living room, Seamus and Terry asked about the night Harry disappeared. As they'd expected, Ron and Hermione's version of events matched the account they'd given eight years earlier. After questioning the pair for close to an hour, Seamus asked to see Harry's room.
Hermione led the way. "We've redone most of the house, but we've left the top floor as it was in case Harry returns."
"I understand the house was a bit of a dump before," Seamus commented recalling Harry talking about the house.
"That's putting it mildly," Hermione replied. "Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, came from a Dark family. The house sat neglected and abandoned except for one poor, deranged house-elf for years. When we first came to stay here, ten years ago, it was awful. There were doxies in the curtains, mould, mildew, rot – it was dreadful. I think Sirius wanted to just burn the place down, but it had many charms that made it difficult to find. It was a perfect headquarters from which to fight against Voldemort."
"It looks really nice now," Seamus said.
"Thank you," Hermione said proudly. "We hired a company to redo the house once I moved in full time after finishing at Hogwarts. Ron had already been living here. It's so convenient having a house in London so close to everything."
"How much does a place like this go for a month?" Seamus asked.
Hermione stiffened slightly. "Harry inherited this house. It's more than paid off. We pay utilities."
"Nice," Seamus commented. Hermione flushed, but didn't respond.
The search of Harry's room didn't turn up anything. All of Harry's Muggle clothing was gone, as well as most personal items. There were some robes and a few Auror texts, but it was obvious that Harry had taken anything important to him. After thanking Ron and Hermione, the Aurors left.