"Harry, it's so crowded in here. I don't know how we'll even get to see her," Ginny said, standing up on her tiptoes in a vain attempt to see over the throngs of people in the hall. Frustrated, she gave up and blew a strand of hair out of her face. "Do they even have anyone directing traffic up there?"
Harry craned his neck, barely able to see above the sea of people himself. "If they do, they're shorter than you."
"Hmph. Maybe we should come back later."
"I don't think that's going to matter, love. If you want to see her, you've got to wait your turn." Ginny shuffled forward, shooting a glare at the little old lady that tried to cut in front of her. The lady sniffed and subsided, giving Ginny a glare of her own.
Harry sighed and looked around the marble hall. Their objective was still a tiny, indistinct rectangle and the air was oppressive with body heat and noise. They'd been waiting for fifteen minutes and in that time, Harry had fended off several elbows to the ribs, accidental and not-so-accidental shoves and caught a man trying to pinch his wife's bottom. A wandless Stinging Hex had done for that one. Resolutely ignoring the nagging itch between his shoulder blades, he crossed his arms and tried to enjoy himself.
Letting his mind wander, he thought over the events that had landed him in this crowded museum in Paris, waiting in a God-awful crowd to see what was possibly the most famous painting in the world. It had been more than a year since they'd learned of James's budding Seer magic and witnessed a man commit suicide by Dementor and thankfully, things had been quiet since.
Quiet, yes, but routine, he thought as they shuffled forward another few inches. Kids, work, home, kids, more work, bed … mostly for sleeping, these days. They'd tried to institute a date night once a week, but that had fallen by the wayside rather quickly, reducing their dates to a series of phone messages.
"Sorry, Gin, Artemis wants me to head up a new Muggleborn outreach committee …"
"Oh, Harry, I know we were supposed to have date night tonight, but Vijay wants to see more data on …"
"Hey, love, sorry to disappoint, but I had to schedule a parent meeting tonight and I think it's going to be a long one …"
"Harry, can you get the boys? We had some unexpected complications with one of our studies and it's all hands on deck. Oh no, it's date night! Can we reschedule?"
In addition to their demanding careers, they were in the middle of finding a preschool that met Ginny's exacting criteria. Harry waded through a veritable blizzard of bright and shiny brochures, all of them extolling the virtues of their particular programs. "Maths? Language? Science?" He looked at his just-turned-three-year-old son, currently engaged with pushing wooden cars around on a rug printed with miniature roads. "Are you sure he needs all of that?"
Ginny looked at him like he was completely missing the point and shook her head. "It's not so much about what he learns as it is about getting him ready to learn," she said. "I've spent much more time on playgrounds chatting to mums than you have and if they're going to compete against these bloody Americans, we need to get them on the way now."
Raising an eyebrow, Harry looked at his wife over his glasses. "You do realize that by the laws of this country, our boys are 'bloody Americans', right?" Ginny simply snorted and handed him another brochure.
Adding another wrinkle to their lives, Allie had started to predict the weather with an uncanny accuracy, tugging at Harry's jeans one bright, sunny afternoon to tell him that it was going to rain soon. "Allie, it's not going to rain today," Harry had said confidently, picking him up. "Look, there's the sun, shining on the Golden Gate … Bridge …" Trailing off as a shiver went through him, Harry saw dark clouds start to pour through the Gate as the wind picked up. Allie simply nodded in satisfaction as they went inside the house.
Ginny pulled on his hand, bringing him back to the present and he slid his feet forward on the slick marble floor, purposely bumping into her. "Prat," she mouthed, making Harry want to kiss her. I'll have to thank Juanita for bringing up Paris, he thought, remembering the mailroom conversation that had spawned this little adventure.
"So, where are you guys going for Spring Break?" she'd asked, sorting through her perpetually paper-stuffed mailbox.
Caught off-guard, Harry paused in his own mail search. "Erm, dunno. Haven't given it much thought."
"No?" Juanita looked at him over her cat-eye glasses. "The minute school is over next Friday, I have a Portkey waiting to whisk me away to Maui and an all-inclusive resort. I'm going to eat, drink and be very, very merry."
Shrugging, he stuffed the announcements, memos and assorted envelopes into his satchel. "Well, it's just a week, yeah? To do a proper holiday we'd need at least two."
"Do you ever actually look at your mail, Potter?" Sighing, Juanita pulled an envelope out of the mass in her cubby. "Look at this."
Bemused, Harry opened the envelope and read the note inside. "Seismic retrofitting?"
"Yep. A whole extra week. Couldn't have come at a better time, if you ask me."
Handing back the envelope, Harry adjusted the heavy satchel slung across his chest. "Well, I'll have to chat with Gin and see what her work schedule is like."
A sly smile spread across his friend's face, showing her white teeth against her dark skin. "I hear Paris is nice this time of year," she said, setting Harry's mind to whirling.
When he'd presented the idea to Ginny that night after a particularly rambunctious bedtime routine where James and Allie insisted on running around the house like wet, naked savages, she'd closed her eyes and sighed, giving Harry pause.
"Is it a bad time for you to get away? We don't have to go," he'd said, pulling the covers back on the bed. "We could do a … what do they call it? Staycation?"
Opening her eyes, she smiled at him. "Oh, it's never a good time to get away; you just have to do it. There's a few things I'll have to arrange, but I think they'll be able to do without me for a bit." Yawning hugely, she slid into bed.
"I thought that we could leave the boys with your parents." Harry got into bed, his attempt to snuggle up closer to her foiled when she pulled a thick packet of papers seemingly out of thin air. "I thought you were tired."
"I'm exhausted, but I need to get through this. I've got a meeting at nine tomorrow and I'm letting that Aaron lead it. I'm not as familiar with this bit of research as I ought to be." She frowned as she read and put the papers down after a moment. "Wait, leave the boys with Mum and Dad?"
"Yeah. Is that all right?" Harry looked at her in the light of the room, the tank top she wore displaying her hummingbird tattoo. The red on the bird's throat pulsed in time with her heartbeat and he found himself staring at it.
"Should be fine. Mum's been making noise about us bringing the boys for an extended stay over the summer anyway." She got a faraway look in her eyes and he reached out, pressing the tip of his finger against the pulsing red ink. "This would be our first time getting away without them."
"Mmm hm." He leaned forward, pressing his lips to that alluring spot, thoughts of Paris nights with Ginny filling his head.
"That'll be nice. Just the two of us again." She gave a happy sigh and picked up her papers again. "Good night, love."
"Good night," Harry said, abandoning his effort to pull her away from her papers. There will be no papers in Paris, he resolved.
In the line, Ginny bounced on the balls of her feet and Harry put his arm around her waist, pulling her close enough to rest his chin on top of her head. Her body against his felt very nice and he let himself relax into the sensation.
"Harry," Ginny murmured, barely audible above the sound of the crowd. "We're in a public place."
"So? No one can see anything." Settling her bum more firmly against him, she started to move up and down, creating a maddening friction. "Are you trying to get us thrown out?" Harry whispered against her ear. "You're never going to get to see your painting if you keep that up."
In response, Ginny stopped moving, but pressed more firmly against him, making him groan. "Oh, sorry. Need to move," she said, taking one big step forward and leaving him bereft of her contact as she shot him a saucy grin over her shoulder.
Harry put out a hand to stop an opportunistic interloper and closed the gap, resting a hand on Ginny's shoulder as they waited their turn to see the Mona Lisa. "What do you think the boys are doing right now?" she said as they slowly inched closer.
"Hmm, right this very moment?" Harry pursed his lips and frowned, hoping that he was giving a good impression of being very deep in thought.
Ginny looked at her watch. "It's coming up on Allie's nap time. I hope Mum doesn't try and make him stay awake; he'll be an absolute tyrant if he doesn't go down."
"Oh, love," Harry said, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her temple. "Your mum knows a thing or two about toddlers, I reckon."
"Yeah, I know …" Sighing, she shrugged and pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, giving Harry a sidelong look. "This is the first time we've been away from them other than just overnight. Maybe I should send Mum a message?"
"You remember when Teddy came to stay? How it seemed every time we turned around, there was Andromeda's swan with another question or bit of information?" Eleven-year-old Teddy had seemed like he was everywhere at once, constantly asking questions and nearly always underfoot and Andromeda's swan Patronus only added to the early chaos.
"Well, they're both weaned, James is potty trained and Allie only poos in his nappy now." Ginny leaned against Harry, voice wistful. "I suppose Mum can handle them with no trouble. I guess they don't need me as much."
A surge of warmth swept through Harry at the thought of their growing family, reminding him of that first glimpse in the Mirror of Erised. "Don't worry, love," he whispered, tickling the edge of her ear with his lips. "I'll always need you." Turning her head, Ginny kissed him, her mouth soft against his and he sank into it until the rather large man behind them cleared his throat.
Blushing at being caught, Ginny quickly closed the gap and Harry resigned himself to more waiting. "We should have come closer to closing," Ginny remarked. "But you apparently have some sort of surprise arranged tonight."
"I do." Harry grinned, getting ready for her attempts to wheedle it out of him.
"Is there a dress code?"
"I already told you that."
"You just said to wear that little black thing you like."
"And what are you going to wear?"
"Not a little black dress."
Ginny crossed her arms and looked up at him with one eyebrow raised. "But I bet it's not dress robes. I didn't see you pack anything like that."
"You didn't see me pack everything," Harry said, gently maneuvering her backwards. They were finally approaching their goal and he heaved an internal sigh of relief.
"I saw you pack your suit," she said. "So we must be going somewhere nice, but Muggle."
Harry shrugged and rocked back and forth on his feet. "Astounding deductive reasoning, Mrs Potter."
"Thank you," she said, acknowledging his praise with a haughty nod as she took another backwards step, finally reaching their goal.
"You got your little book ready and your pencils sharpened?" Harry put his hands on her shoulders and gently turned her around, helping her get to a good vantage point, subtly pushing aside a man with an enormous camera.
Ginny stared in silence at the surprisingly diminutive masterpiece. "Oh, Harry. She's beautiful," Ginny breathed after several reverent moments. Harry looked at the painting, trying to see some of what his wife obviously saw in it and shrugged.
"She looks a bit like she's going bald."
"That was the style. Highborn ladies of the time plucked their hair to give them the illusion of a high, refined forehead." Ginny opened her little spiral-bound sketchbook and pulled a pencil from somewhere out of her hair.
"Well, she must have gotten carried away." Harry sidestepped her elbow in the ribs, nearly bumping into the gentleman with the camera again.
Ginny snorted and visibly put him from her mind, staring at the painting behind the bulletproof glass. Nodding to one of the security guards that flanked the painting, Harry stepped aside to make room for another admirer. He would much rather admire his wife as she focused on creating her own sketch of the famous painting. Now that he had a wall at his back, the nagging itch that had been plaguing him finally started to subside.
After spending several moments assessing the crowd for threats, he turned his attention to Ginny as she stared at the painting. Her face had that strange, wide-eyed almost vacant expression that meant she was utterly focused on what was in front of her, absorbing as much detail as she could. Almost as if she were in a trance, she put pencil to paper, her hand flying as she started sketching with sure strokes.
Once she started drawing, her face lost the vacant look and came alive. Scowling, smiling, pouting … I bet I can just about read her thoughts, Harry mused, shooting a glare at an overzealous American woman that was getting dangerously close to joggling Ginny's elbow. Assured by the American's contrite look, he allowed his eyes to wander around the packed gallery.
He was looking at a painting of a richly-dressed man holding the reins of a very fat horse when he saw Ginny stiffen and cock her head at the painting. Frowning, he looked at the painting and back at Ginny. She shook her head, focusing back on her sketching and Harry allowed his eyes to wander once more, going back to staring at the fat horse.
"Harry!" Ginny hissed above the sound of the crowd, motioning frantically at him.
Stepping away from his spot next to the guard, he joined her in front of the painting, carefully maneuvering around a group of young teenage girls trying to take selfies with the Mona Lisa in the background. "All right?" he asked quietly, senses on alert.
Her sketch forgotten, Ginny frowned, narrowing her eyes at the painting. "I think there's more to the Mona Lisa than we thought," she said, keeping her voice low.
Harry looked at the image behind the thick glass. It looked the same as every other photograph of it he'd ever seen. "Gin, I don't—" he began, cut off when the woman in the painting blinked.
"Did you see that?" Ginny whispered urgently. "Harry, she's a wizarding portrait!"
Harry stared at the painting, willing himself to be still and shut out everything else around him in the crowded, noisy gallery. His heart skipped a beat when the woman in the painting sighed and leaned against the window, settling her chin in her hand as she gazed out at the hills. "What the hell?" he breathed.
"Did you know? I've never heard that da Vinci was a wizard! I wonder if his other paintings … Harry! Can we go to Milan?" Ginny asked, tugging on the sleeve of his jumper.
"Um, I suppose we … could …" Harry smiled down at his wife, trailing off as a 'you're being watched' sensation crawled across his skin.
"Harry!" Ginny gasped, digging her fingernails into his arm. "She sees us! She can tell we can see her moving!"
Harry looked back up at the painting and saw that the Mona Lisa had lost all semblance of a calm woman looking out on the world and now stared at the two of them avidly, almost hungrily. "Um … hm." Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the guards looking their way. "Finish your sketch, love," he said, nudging her hand holding the sketchbook.
"But—" Ginny began and Harry cut her off with a kiss. "Finish your sketch and we'll go get something to eat in the cafe," he whispered, cutting his eyes at the guard.
"All right," she said, taking up her sketchbook once more. Harry squeezed her arm and went back to his spot by the guard. He glanced at the painting, the Mona Lisa still looking between him and Ginny. She took on a calculating expression and a tingle ran down Harry's spine.
As Ginny continued to sketch, he watched the painting.
She's got something up her sleeve. What could a painting possibly need?
Ginny put the finishing touches on her makeup, carefully blotting her dark-red lipstick. Nodding at her reflection, she smoothed the bodice of her dress, the lace rough against her fingertips. "That black thing you like, indeed," she said, raising an eyebrow. Turning from side to side, she surveyed her figure critically, trying to assess how having two children in relatively quick succession might have affected her figure. Hips are a bit wider these days, but the dress still fits, so not completely out of bounds, I suppose. That wobbly bit though … She wrinkled her nose at the loose bit of stomach that refused to go anywhere, no matter what she did. The image of her mother came to her in all of her soft roundness and she felt a twinge of disloyalty at being glad she'd escaped that fate. So far, anyway.
She put her hands under her breasts in an effort to assess them, trying to judge if they were larger or not. Allie's been weaned for three months now, so … I guess they're a bit larger? she thought, trying to remember her breasts pre-baby. Maybe I should ask Harry. A sly smile crossed her face and a shiver shot through her gut.
"Speaking of, I suppose I'd better find him," she said out loud to the empty bathroom. Stepping into her black velvet high heels, she picked up a light coat suitable for the spring evening. She still had no idea where they were going, so she figured it would be prudent to be prepared.
"Meet me down at the bar," Harry had said, sticking his head into the bathroom as she was drying her hair.
"We're not going down together?"
"No. I have some things I need to take care of."
"Oh? Such as?" Ginny paused in her hair drying efforts to look at him. All she saw was his head as he leaned in the doorway.
"All will be revealed," he said, giving her a wolfish grin.
"Be off with you, then." She waved her hand at him, suppressing a giggle when he winked at her. And now he's nowhere to be found. She stood at the entrance to the hotel's bar, trying not to look like she was looking for someone while she tried to spot Harry. Not seeing him, she shrugged and went in, taking a seat at the mahogany bar.
"Madamoiselle?" the bartender asked, placing a clean white cocktail napkin in front of her.
"Bourbon et ginger s'il vous plait," she said, charmed at him calling her a young lady. Not bad for mid-30s! I'll take it!
"Bon," the bartender said, turning to a man that had seated himself a couple of stools away.
As she waited for her drink, she looked around the dim room, trying to see if she could spot Harry hiding in a corner somewhere, watching her. The thought of him doing something like that gave her a strange, crawling sensation on the back of her neck that was somehow both creepy and thrilling. "Merci," she said, as the bartender set her drink in front of her. She pulled out a 20 euro note and set it on the bar next to the glass.
"Non," he said, nodding his head toward the gentleman two barstools away. Ginny looked over, disappointed to see neatly-arranged blond hair instead of messy black and nodded her head.
He seemed to take that as an invitation and moved over, bringing himself and his martini right next to her. Ginny tried to think of how to say, "Thanks for the drink, but I'm not interested," in French and came up empty, resigning herself to entertaining the man until Harry decided to show up. Which he'd bloody well better do soon!
"It's fantastic to finally hear a familiar voice," he said, surprising Ginny with his Irish accent. "I've been here a week solid and all I've heard is this ridiculous French honking!"
Taken aback by his assessment of the French language, Ginny cut her eyes towards the bartender, glad to see that he was having an animated conversation with a gentleman that had an impressive handlebar mustache and didn't seem to be paying them any mind. She took a sip of her drink, deciding how to respond. "County Kerry, am I right?" she asked, just as he opened his mouth to speak again.
His blue eyes widened in amazement, crow's feet crinkling in the corners as he grinned. "Aye, you've got me! How did you guess that?"
"I knew a boy at school that sounded a lot like you," Ginny said, taking another sip of her very good drink.
"But you don't have the Irish in you, do you?" he asked, leaning one elbow on the bar, looking to Ginny like he was settling in for a long chat. "What sort of school was this?"
"A very exclusive, private school," Ginny said. Her eyes swept the bar again, looking for Harry.
He took a swig of his martini, holding the stem of the glass in his long fingers. "Private? You don't look like a private school swot."
"No? What do I look like?" Ginny turned to face him, engaged by his easy friendliness in spite of herself.
"You look like a girl that knows how to have a bit of fun," he said after giving her a good look. "I bet you played sport at school."
"Well spotted! I did play sport at school." You'll never guess which one, though. She narrowed her eyes at him as if she were examining some new species of bug. "You have the look of a … footballer to me."
"Ah, close! Rugby!" he said, puffing out his chest. "Flanker. I like to be in the middle of all the action."
"I'm sure you do," Ginny murmured. She'd only had half of her drink, but she was contemplating abandoning it and going back up to their room. I'll send Harry a Patronus and tell him to come find me. "Sorry?" she said, realizing he was still talking to her.
"I said I was being rude. Let me introduce myself. Brian O'Malley," he said, holding out his hand.
Ginny looked down at it, manners her mother had drilled into her taking over. "Jenny," she said, taking his warm hand in hers. The moment she touched him, a tingle like a mild electric shock went through her and she blinked several times in quick succession. When her vision cleared, Harry sat on the stool next to her. "I should have known!" she said, face flooding with color.
"Constant vigilance," Harry whispered, leaning forward to kiss her.
"How did I do?" Flustered, she picked up her glass, wishing she dared to hold it to her warm cheeks.
"Not too bad. You didn't give your real name and well done on identifying the accent."
"That should have tipped me off right there. Is Seamus really the only Irishman you know?"
"The only one I'll admit to." Harry grinned and finished his martini. "Are you ready?"
"You'll see." He hopped off the stool and held out his hand to her, giving Ginny her first opportunity to get a good look at him. He had on a charcoal-colored suit that skimmed his lean body and a pale blue shirt with a subtle pinstripe. In lieu of a tie, a sky-blue pocket square and shiny black shoes completed the look.
She reached out and unbuttoned another button of his shirt, getting a glimpse of dark hair near the hollow of his throat. "Two undone always looks better," she said, taking his hand and hopping off the barstool.
"Why not just do three?"
"Harry, you want to look intriguing, not trashy." Ginny put on her coat and took Harry's hand, squeezing it tight. "Do you feel like telling me where we're going?"
"And ruin the surprise? Where's your sense of adventure?" Harry smiled down at her, squeezing her hand harder and she found herself swept up in his enthusiasm, practically skipping down the marble steps of the hotel.
The spring evening air was cool on her skin, raising goosebumps on her bare legs as they walked along the Seine. Lights on the river barges packed with tourists reflected off the dark water, the breeze carrying sounds of music and laughter to them. Harry slowed his steps as they approached a riverside marina with a barge still docked. Finely-dressed people queued up, chattering happily in anticipation.
"A river cruise?" Ginny asked, eagerly anticipating an evening of dinner and dancing with Harry under the stars.
"Mmm, a bit touristy, don't you think?" Harry quickened his pace, pulling her away from the enticing barges. They continued walking along the river, the Eiffel Tower rising in the distance in front of them. Ginny's eyes traced the enormous iron tower, blazing with lights. It seemed like it had always been a symbol of the city, but she had to remind herself that it was a relatively recent addition to the skyline.
As she walked along the pavement next to Harry in the beautiful city, she realized that she was utterly content and relaxed. For once there weren't any thoughts about work or kids or household chores or any of the other thousand thoughts that rampaged through her mind at any given moment. There was only her and Harry, walking along a river in what was thought of as the most romantic city in the world and she gave a quiet sigh.
"What was that for?" Harry asked, interrupting her reverie.
"Nothing, just …" she said looking up at him. The lights along the river caught the silver at his temples and her heart did a little stutter step. She shook her head and smiled. "I was just thinking that I would be perfectly happy to stand here on the pavement and eat a fresh baguette for dinner as long as I was with you."
She could tell that pleased him by the way his eyes crinkled at the corners and he squeezed her hand again, pulling her to him for a kiss. "I hope what I have planned for us is better than a baguette on the corner," he said, his voice barely louder than the music from the river barges. "Come on."
Walking faster now, Ginny let herself be tugged along in Harry's wake, the crowds growing thicker as they approached the Eiffel Tower. "Isn't this a bit touristy?" she asked, looking at him with a raised eyebrow.
He shrugged, channeling his inner Frenchman by raising only one shoulder. "And the Louvre wasn't?"
"That was educational. Besides, we have to go back tonight and have that chat with the Mona Lisa. Did you already know she was a wizarding painting?"
"I didn't. I was as surprised as you were, love. I don't think any of da Vinci's other works are," Harry said, steering them through the thinning crowds towards one of the small buildings sheltered against the sturdy legs of the tower. "Aren't you supposed to be the one that knows all about art?"
"I wonder what she wants to talk about?"
Harry reached into the inner pocket of his jacket, pulling out two tickets. "We'll have to find out later." He handed the tickets to a well-dressed man standing underneath an awning that said simply, 'Le Jules Verne'.
"Ah, bienvenue au Jules Verne, madame et monsieur," he said as he opened the door. Inside was a smallish foyer, gold elevator doors shining in the low light. He pressed a button and the doors opened with a low ding. Stepping briefly inside with them, he pushed the button simply marked 'JV'. "Enjoy," he said, sending them off with another smile.
Ginny looked around the posh elevator, noticing that there was actually a little tufted bench to sit on. Grinning at Harry, she sat on it, primly crossing her legs at her ankles. One side of the elevator was a huge window and Ginny gasped as Paris came into view, the lights of the city getting steadily smaller as they ascended the tower. Taking her hand, Harry pulled her toward the window, putting an arm around her shoulders as they stared down at the city spread out before them.
"It's so beautiful," she breathed, making a foggy spot on the window. Impulsively, she sketched out a heart, making Harry chuckle as he kissed her temple. All too soon, the marvelous elevator ride was over and the doors slid open onto an opulent foyer with a smiling hostess at the other end. Ginny looked around while Harry chatted with the hostess, trying to convince herself that she really did belong here in this lavishly elegant place.
"All right?" Harry said, bringing her back down to Earth.
"Oh, yes, sorry. Woolgathering," she said, sure her cheeks were red with embarrassment at being caught gawking like a country bumpkin. "Do we have a table by a window?"
"I thought we'd have something to drink at the bar first." He took her hand and led her to the intimate looking bar, asking the bartender for, "Deux Moet et Flamel, s'il vous plait." Handing her a glass of fizzy champagne, Harry gently clinked his glass against hers.
"What are we drinking to?" Ginny asked, feeling almost like she was floating.
Harry pursed his lips as he thought. "To us," he said. "Being here with you … being anywhere with you still feels like a dream sometimes."
Ginny saw his cheeks turn pink and a swell of emotion threatened to upend her. "To us," she whispered, tapping the edge of her champagne glass against his. She took a sip, the bubbles dancing on her tongue as she held it in her mouth. Swallowing, the bubbly feeling seemed to expand in her stomach and she had a moment to think, That's never happened before, when she was seized by the unmistakable sensation of Apparation.
A second later, the squeezing went away, the black nothingness replaced with a different bar. Heart beating wildly, Ginny looked around, barely registering the fact that no one was surprised that a woman had just appeared out of thin air. She looked at the glass of champagne in her hand and set it carefully on the bar as if she were afraid it would explode.
Harry appeared next to her with a small pop, flooding her with relief. "Harry, what happened? Where are we? Was the champagne cursed? Are we in danger?"
"It's all right, Gin. Come with me." Harry handed her glass back to her and she took it automatically, following him as he led her to a wall of windows.
Far down below, the lights of Paris glittered and Ginny realized that they were still on the Eiffel Tower, only much higher up. Mouth open, she turned to look at Harry who was looking at her with unabashed glee. "How?" He held up his champagne glass, wiggling it back and forth, making the champagne froth. "The champagne … Moet et Flamel!" she exclaimed, realization dawning.
"It's the only way to get here. We are in what is most likely the most exclusive, magical restaurant in all of Paris. Welcome to Le Sommet de la Tour." He looked so delighted with himself and his surprise that Ginny's initial burst of fear melted away and she kissed him soundly.
"How did you hear about this place?" she asked, gazing raptly down at the lights of the city.
"Bill, of course."
"Of course." She saw Harry take another sip of his champagne and followed suit, disappointed when she didn't get the same fizzy sensation in her stomach. They stood quietly next to each other, Ginny glad for the close heat of his body as it was a little chilly by the window.
They were in the middle of trying to pick out landmarks when a man in perfectly subdued dress robes approached them. "Monsieur Potter? Your table is ready." Hand in hand, they followed the man to an intimate table with a flickering candle and an excellent view of the Arc de Triomphe across the river.
Before too long, their champagne was replaced with an excellent merlot and Ginny sighed in contentment, watching as Harry studied the menu, reading it carefully as he always did. "What are you ordering for us?"
Harry looked at her over the top of the menu. "Us?"
"Yes. Isn't that what usually happens in these places? The sommelier already did his show and the waiter gave the specials. So now the man decides what we're going to eat," Ginny said, sipping more wine.
One corner of his mouth curled up in a smile and he nodded. "I see. And what would my dear wife like to eat tonight?"
"I'm sure you'll figure something out," she said, giving him an airy wave. Drawn by the lights, Ginny looked out of the window, eyes settling on the Arc. "Do you think they're all right?"
"The boys. Do you think they miss us?" Ginny looked back at Harry and he set the menu down, picking up his wineglass.
"James might miss us a bit. I dunno about Allie, though." He took one of her hands, spinning her wedding ring around on her finger. "I'm sure if something had happened your mum and dad would let us know."
"What if they don't want to bother us? What if … what if James had a thing?" Ginny fought a rising sense of anxiety. They'd agonized over whether to tell her parents about James being a Seer and the small quartz stone's role in preventing madness, but they ultimately decided that they ought to come clean in case anything did happen while the boys were under their care. To their relief, Molly and Arthur had seemed to take it in stride.
Harry's stag Patronus burst out of his wand and galloped out of the restaurant, drawing gasps from their fellow diners. "We'll see what they say, all right?"
Embarrassed to have caused a bit of a scene, Ginny nodded and drank some more wine, trying not to tap her toes as she waited for a response. Shaking his head, Harry went back to studying the menu, conferring with the hovering waiter on their order. The waiter had just left their table when she saw her father's weasel Patronus streak through the wall of the restaurant and land on their table, nose twitching expectantly. "That was fast. What does he say?"
Placing his hand on top of the Patronus's head, Harry's eyes got a faraway look as he received the message. "They're fine. James misses us and he hasn't had any incidents. Allie is all right and they're both sleeping well." The silver weasel dissipated, covering their table in pearly smoke and Harry frowned.
"What?" Ginny asked anxiously.
"Arthur said they'd had an odd-looking fox hanging about the garden all day," Harry said, narrowing his eyes in speculation.
An odd-looking fox? "Do you think it's Coyote?"
"Maybe." Harry shrugged, not seeming overly bothered that an ancient deity might be hanging about his in-laws back garden.
"Should we … say anything?"
"What are we going to say? 'Oh, yeah, that weird fox isn't a fox, but a coyote. Well, actually more like the Coyote. Make sure you have a lot of honey on hand—He's got a bit of a sweet tooth.'" Harry gave her a mischievous grin and drank some more wine.
"I suppose you're right." Ginny set aside her worries, knowing that her children were safe with her parents and if Coyote was keeping an eye on things, that no harm would come to them. Leaning forward, she took Harry's hand in hers and squeezed. "Now, what did you order us for dinner?
Ginny savored the exquisite chocolate pot de crème, alternating her spoonfuls with the excellent coffee to keep the sweetness from overwhelming her tastebuds. Across from her, Harry tapped on his crème brûlée, breaking through the crust of sugar to the rich custard underneath.
"So," she said, carefully licking her spoon to ensure she got as much chocolate as possible, "how are we going to get into the Louvre? Isn't it crawling with security guards and cameras?"
"Well, they generally don't have any cameras or security in the loo," Harry said, grinning at her through a bite of crème brûlée.
"No wonder the entrance to the Ministry is in a toilet. Okay, so we Apparate into the loo. Men's or women's?"
"All right. Then what? Disillusionment?" Ginny scooped up the last of her dessert, the decadent silkiness on her tongue making her think of something else as she stared at Harry, the flickering candlelight making highlights and shadows on his face.
"To begin with. We'll have to go a bit slow, though. Might show up on film," Harry said, getting that look on his face that indicated he was thinking things through.
"What about the guards? The ones in the gallery today looked like they meant business."
"Mmm, they did, didn't they? Confundus ought to do for them." He looked at her over his coffee cup, mimicking her frown. "What?"
"Won't that get us in trouble? Confounding the guards like that?"
"Only if someone complains, and that's unlikely."
Ginny sipped her coffee, thinking over Harry's plans. They seemed simple enough on the surface, but long experience had taught her that things were rarely that easy. "What if they have … special guards?"
"Wizards. I mean, that place is a huge target, isn't it? We know they have them at the National Gallery at home. You even told me that it was a bit of a shit duty for when you'd really buggered something up." She grinned at him, setting down her coffee cup in the saucer. "I seem to recall you had your own turn there, didn't you?"
"Mm, I have no idea what you're talking about." Harry raised an eyebrow at her and continued eating his dessert. "Well, we'll have to cross that bridge when we cross it. Maybe they'll be too star-struck, yeah?"
"Well, I am very famous, it's true," Ginny said, brushing her long hair over her shoulders.
"You've made an impression here, that's for sure."
Ginny leaned forward, resting her chin in her hands. "Oh?"
Harry slid his empty crème brûlée dish to the side and took a sip of his coffee, clearly making her wait. Finally, he cleared his throat and inclined his head toward a couple seated at a table closer to the middle of the dining room. Careful not to move her head, she swiveled her eyes, seeing a very distinguished-looking wizard and his well-groomed wife. They were both silver-haired and looked like a fine match.
"No," she mouthed to Harry.
"Yes," he whispered, leaning in closer to her. "All damn night." Despite her resolve not to, Ginny glanced at the man again, blushing when their eyes met. "I bet you he's very smooth. Probably comes up to women at the bar and says, Crois-tu en l'amour au premier regard ou dois-je repasser une deuxième fois?"
"Oh, Harry. That's terrible," Ginny said, wrinkling her nose. "Do I believe in love at first sight?"
"Or do I have to walk in again?" He took her hands in his and squeezed. "How about this?" Clearing his throat, he gave her a serious look, his green eyes holding hers. "Savais-tu qu'on a cinquante procent de chances de coucher ensemble ce soir? Parce que moi je veux."
Ginny tried and failed to keep a straight face as she tried to figure out what he'd said with her rudimentary French. "Hmm, something fifty percent sleep with you? Harry, where did you learn these awful pick-up lines?"
Grinning, Harry let go of her hands and finished his coffee. "You remember when I was 'on loan' to the French Ministry? Had a lot of downtime and got to be pretty friendly with some of the blokes. Learned some useful phrases."
"Hmph, not sure how useful that's turned out for you."
Harry picked up her hand and kissed the back of it. "It's turned out useful enough. Come on, we've got an appointment with a very distinguished Italian lady." He motioned for the check and the waiter nodded, disappearing behind a door. A moment later, a man in pristine chef's whites came out, giving them a bow when he reached their table, attracting the attention of the entire dining room.
"Ah, monsieur Potter, your bill … it is our pleasure," he said, giving them a wide smile. Ginny held back a gasp, mentally going over the prices in the menu and the wine they'd had with dinner.
Looking at Harry, she saw his jaw tighten, the only indication of his annoyance. "Bon. Merci," he said, giving the chef a nod and shaking his hand. "Dinner was excellent. My compliments."
"You honor us with your patronage. Madame," the chef said, taking Ginny's hand and giving her a courtly bow.
"Merci," she murmured, unsure of how exactly she should proceed. Her conundrum was resolved when Harry took her other hand, nodding his thanks to the obviously pleased chef once more. "I thought he was going to ask you to sign a plate," she said as they walked back towards the bar. "You remember that place in Hollywood we went to with Ben with all the pictures of Muggle celebrities?"
"Thankfully, this isn't that sort of place." Grasping her hand tightly, he looked at her. "Ready?"
"How do we get out? Another champagne?"
"That's just to get in." The breathless squeeze of Apparation seized her and a moment later she blinked in the bright fluorescent lights of one of the women's loos in the Louvre.