Ch 40:- Discovery
The portkey delivered the Headmaster and Harry to the reception hall of St Mungo's where the same chaotic scene greeted Harry as he had witnessed the Christmas before.
Several wizard children were noticeable because of the sound of singing from inside them. Harry had a nasty suspicion that they had all had one or two pieces too many of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes 'Chanting Chocolate'. He'd noticed this particular confection in the shop during his visit before Christmas and he'd seen the large written warning on the packet that one piece per hour was the most that should be eaten. Still, Fred had said there would be no lasting damage, beyond a hatred for the particular song that the packet had been primed with.
The Headmaster lost no time in finding where the Weasleys were being looked after then escorted Harry to the ward, which turned out to be the Auror ward that Dora had been in. This time a couple of the single rooms had guards outside, suggesting that the two injured Death Eaters were held there. Dumbledore pointed Harry towards one of the larger rooms then spoke to the guards of one of the single rooms and disappeared inside. Harry pushed open the door he had been shown.
There were only six beds in this room and it looked as though the healers had decided to split the injured by gender. Ron, George, Charlie and Arthur were all dressed, though each sported a variety of bandages or sticking plasters. At that moment they were gathered round the two occupied beds of Fred and Bill. Fred was now conscious and talking to the others. So was Bill, but he looked white as a sheet, and his torso was swathed in bandages. As the door swung shut, Ron turned to look who had entered. His face lit up.
'Harry!' he said, grinning from ear to ear.
The others turned too and suddenly Harry was being slapped on the back, thanked and even hugged, in the case of Arthur.
'Thanks for coming back, Harry.' said Mr Weasley. I don't know why you did, but without you breaking the ring around the house and getting your Patronus to scare off the Dementors, we'd all be a lot worse off!'
'It wasn't just Prongs, Mr. Weasley!' Harry reminded him.
'No, indeed it wasn't, I haven't even had a chance to tell Ginny and Hermione how amazed I was to see their Patronuses.' He looked round. 'Will you boys stay here? I'll take Harry round to see the girls.'
Arthur steered Harry out of the ward and ushered him into the adjacent one before going back to the boys' ward. Harry immediately noticed only three people in the room. Hermione, Ginny and Dora were still dressed and were sitting on two of the six beds talking quietly. He wondered where Molly and Fleur were, but realised the end of the ward had been partitioned off and a healer was busy with someone else in there. He caught sight of Molly's head for a second or so, but he didn't see any more, because Hermione had looked round as he'd entered and immediately charged over to him.
As was usual when being greeted by Hermione, Harry was completely unable to see, or breathe, for several seconds. Dora replaced Hermione and her hug was almost as strong as Hermione's. Eventually she too let him go without saying a word, only to be replaced by a slightly battered Ginny who hugged him even harder and buried her face in his shoulder. Harry thought he heard a muffled sob, but he couldn't be sure. Hermione and Dora both stared at Ginny, then they looked at each other and shrugged.
At last Ginny let him go and looked up at him.
'Did we kill it, Harry?' she asked urgently. Her eyes had a look of intensity he'd rarely seen before. He was about to dismiss the question but the power of her gaze changed his mind.
'I – er – I dunno, Gin.' he said awkwardly. 'I showed Dumbledore the cloak but he said they're pretty much invulnerable...' Ginny's face fell. 'He's getting the cloak analysed and he wants me to look in the Black library.'
Ginny was about to say something else, but the partition opened and Molly Weasley came out. She had a livid black eye and a bandage on one arm. Her good eye scanned the room before alighting on Harry, whereupon she bore down on him like a battleship under full sail and enveloped him in the fourth crushing hug of the afternoon. To Harry's dismay, she immediately burst into tears...
It was Ginny who eventually lost patience with her mother.
'For heavens sake, Mum,' she muttered, 'You'll drown him.'
Molly didn't seem to hear, but the tears slowly abated and she finally managed to pull herself together. Harry's first comment nearly started her off again
'I'm awfully sorry people got hurt, Mrs.Weasley,' he said, experimentally.
Her lip trembled slightly, but fortunately she retained control.
'It could have been so much worse Harry.' She finally managed. 'Everyone will recover, and there's not many families can say they all survived an attack by Death Eaters and dementors.' she hesitated. 'Thanks to you Harry.'
He blushed. 'Well, I did a bit I suppose,' he mumbled 'but it didn't save The Burrow, or your possessions.'
Molly took a deep breath; Ginny looked worried.
'Harry Potter!' said Molly firmly, 'I realise you didn't manage to single-handedly capture all the Death Eaters, destroy all the Dementors, save everyone, and save the house as well - and I expect you will do better next time, BUT, if you hadn't returned to break the ring around us and help drive off the dementors, at least some of us would have been killed! So stop being modest and take the praise that's due!'
Ginny looked relieved, so did Hermione and Dora. It seemed to Harry that they thought he'd got off lightly.
'But what about The Burrow?' he asked.
'I expect it can be repaired,' said Molly, almost off handedly, 'and until then, the Ministry will no doubt provide – at least they will if they want Arthur to keep working for them. I'm not going back to The Burrow until it's unplottable anyway, not after all this, and that sort of thing takes time.'
Molly moved back over to the line of beds. 'Right, sit down, Harry' she instructed, 'and I'll ask the Healer for something for you to eat. Whilst you're eating, you can tell us why you came back and what happened. Albus only told us the bare minimum.'
'Shall I go and get Ron and the others?' asked Dora.
Molly chuckled. 'No, let 'em wait.'
- o -
Eventually everyone knew about Harry's jumps back and forth, his capture of Bellatrix and Draco, how Charlie had caught him as he'd caught the Death Eaters, and how Prongs had combined with Ginny's Patronus to attack the dementor.
Harry had heard about Fleur getting hurt as part of a wall fell away and Bill getting hit as he dragged her to safety, about Fred being knocked out by a ricocheting Immobilus and Ginny, Ron and Hermione's battle with the dementors, culminating in the girls finding the strength to raise a Patronus each.
By the end of the afternoon, everyone except Bill and Fleur had been treated and were free to go, but where to? Even Harry wasn't sure, after all he couldn't apparate to Number 12 if there was no emergency. Even his movement in the heat of the attack had apparently raised a few hackles in the Ministry. Albus Dumbledore had disappeared to the Ministry several hours before, with explaining Harry's disapparation high on his 'to do' list, but he still had not returned. They were wondering if they would have to spend the night at St Mungo's when the Professor finally appeared, looking somewhat preoccupied.
'Well Albus? Where are we to go?' asked Molly.
Dumbledore coughed in what Harry could only describe as an apologetic manner.
'I'm sorry Molly, the Leaky Cauldron is full because of a warlock convention, the guest rooms at the Rat and Fwooper are being renovated and the Puffskein and Mandrake has been close down after a health scare.'
'Not surprised!' muttered Dora, 'The food was rubbish there.'
Dumbledore turned his gaze upon her.
'In fact, the problem was a little more serious than a touch of food poisoning, Nymphadora. I imagine the three corpses would probably have preferred food poisoning as an alternative to the ritual disembowelment they received in apparently magically locked rooms.'
'So where do we go?' asked Ron. The girls were looking slightly green.
'Where do you think? asked Harry, with a grin.
- o -
It was New Year's Eve and the Weasleys had been installed in Number 12 Grimmauld place for four days.
The Ministry had been all too pleased to rid themselves of the responsibility for housing Arthur Weasley and his family, so the Weasleys' possessions had been stored in a safe place in the Ministry buildings from where the members of the Order could slowly transport them as necessary into Harry's house.
Apparently the renovation of The Burrow wouldn't take long, but arranging the necessary magical protection was expected to take a good deal longer, and Molly had been quite adamant that full unplottability was needed. Arthur had protested feebly that it really wasn't that important, but Molly had silenced him with a simple look.
Not all the Weasleys were at Number 12 that evening. Bill was still making progress in St Mungo's. Even if he hadn't been injured, he'd have been there with Fleur, who was also making steady progress.
Charlie, Dora, Fred and George were all at the Leaky Cauldron with Remus Lupin and Madeye Moody, waiting to see in the New Year. They were expected to come back later, half drunk and singing. They'd even taken a portkey so they didn't have to try apparating under the influence.
That left Arthur, Molly, Ron, Harry, Hermione and Ginny to entertain Albus Dumbledore when he appeared unexpectedly at dinner, with Minerva McGonagall.
The evening passed in detailed planning of the way in which The Burrow should be rebuilt and protected, and regaling McGonagall with the details of the battle that had caused so much damage.
Arthur had a number of improvements in mind that Harry suspected would make The Burrow look more like a fortress than a house, including some sort of magical moat, but Molly Weasley had a few slightly less radical ideas of her own and Harry was quietly confident that she would get her way.
The description of the battle from six points of view tended to be a somewhat confusing experience and Harry could excuse McGonagall for giving up trying to understand and simply sitting in a daze. He did, however, notice her start slightly and glance at Albus Dumbledore at the mention of the apparent destruction of the dementor.
'Albus?' she asked. 'Is that true?'
Dumbledore hesitated before answering. 'I am informed by the Ministry research wizards that the cloak Harry showed me certainly belonged to a dementor.' he said slowly. 'Dementors rarely shed their cloaks whilst alive, so it is indeed possible that Harry and Ginny's patronuses did destroy the dementor in question.'
Harry heard Ginny's whispered 'Yesss!' He almost copied her, but McGonagall was speaking again.
'Well, if you are sure – but how?' she asked, wonderingly.
'I am not sure, Minerva.' replied the Headmaster. 'I repeat, it is possible, but as to how, I fear I am at a loss. I am hoping Harry has been investigating the contents of his library to try to find some evidence of such a situation occurring previously.'
He turned to Harry, who coughed in an embarrassed fashion.
'Er - actually Professor, it's been a bit hectic for the last few days,' mumbled Harry, apologetically, 'and - well, I wanted to wait till the Ministry gave you an answer.'
'A sensible approach, I am forced to admit, Harry, and now you know as much as I. Perhaps you can initiate your search tomorrow?'
Harry nodded mutely. He'd seen Ginny's face at the mention of the library - he'd have no peace tomorrow.
It was late when the Headmaster and his assistant finally left.
Goodbyes were said, and New Year wishes exchanged as they all congregated in the hallway, then Dumbledore opened the door to leave. He followed Minerva McGonagall out but turned back and beckoned to Harry, who stepped outside at the Headmaster's call.
'There's no rush for the answer, Harry.' He said, with twinkling eyes. 'You have the rest of the holidays, after all.' - and he was gone.
- o -
After breakfast on New Year's Day, it was Ginny who mentioned the search first.
'Well? Let's get on with it then.' she said with a smile. 'Where do we start?'
Harry smiled back at her. 'There's a book on dementors on the desk in the study, I reckon Dumbledore meant me to start with that.'
'How did he know about it?'
'I left it in his rooms after he made it into a portkey. He said he hadn't read it.'
'You believe him?'
'Yeah. He'd have told me if he'd known.'
'Yeah, I'm sure. He's a show-off really.' He pushed open the door of the study and walked over to seat himself behind the desk. The book glowered at him from the leather surface, daring him to begin.
'Go on then, open it!' urged Ginny.
According to the index, there were three hundred and ninety four pages of text on the subject of dementors. Somewhere there might possibly be a reference to a means of destroying them.
'I'm going to need help here.' muttered Harry.
Ginny snorted with laughter. 'Typical. Ah well, move over then.' She hauled over another chair and sat down.
'Are you sitting comfortably?' she giggled, 'Then we'll begin?'
Together they started slowly worked through the text, attempting to decipher the archaic form of writing and then the even more archaic language.
It wasn't going to be easy.
- o -
Three days later and it was another late night. The house was in darkness, except in the study where Harry and Ginny laboured on.
'This bit?' asked Harry, for what seemed to be the thousandth time.
'Nah, can't be - here?'
'Maybe, hmmm.' He yawned. 'It's getting late again - and only ninety eight pages to go'
He stood up and strolled around the room to stretch his legs.
Suddenly Ginny gasped. 'Here, look!' she exclaimed, but after a few seconds she sighed. 'Nope. It can't be that one.'
'You always ask that. Here, you take a look.'
'Let's see then! Get your mitts out of the way!' grumbled Harry, as he flopped down on the chair again.
Ginny moved her hands and put her elbows on the table, propping her head tiredly on her palms. She looked at Harry out of the corner of her eye as he tried to read the writing. Eventually he managed to work out what the words were - now for the meaning.
Beware should patroni be raised by they who care for each above all other, for the powers of their Patroni together be multiplied manyfold. Mayhap they remember aine single occasion between them, an dementor caught unawares might be harried unto dissolution, or beyond.
'What the...?' Muttered Harry.
'See what I mean?' said Ginny, in a rather sad voice. 'It couldn't be the one. It - it just doesn't apply.' She stood up and slowly drifted round the desk to an armchair, where she perched on the arm with her elbows on her knees and her chin on her hands.
Harry was still trying to make sense of the passage, muttering to himself as he thought.
'... who care for each above all other...Hmm. Each what? - And other what, come to that?' He rubbed his face and tousled his hair. 'Each other? - Oh! - who care about each other, more than they care about all others?'
Harry sighed. Ginny was right about that not fitting, at least on her part. Still, might as well look at the second sentence.
Ginny sat still and said nothing
'...remember a single occasion between them... how the hell can they share one memory between them?...OH - the memory of something they did together?'
Harry looked up; Ginny was staring at him. He remembered the kiss on Christmas Eve...Nah, who was he trying to kid. It made no difference without the first part anyway. He stared at the words again but could see no other meaning. The lines of text were beginning to blur. It was time to quit for the night.
'I guess you're right, Gin.' he said bitterly. 'You'd have needed to have had a pretty extreme change of heart to fulfil those conditions.' He yawned. 'Time for - what's up?'
Ginny suddenly had a stricken look on her face and he saw her eyes begin to glisten.
'Me?' she burst out. 'Why me?'
Harry groped for words. It seemed so obvious; he couldn't think why she was even asking the question.
'You - you cared about Michael!' He stuttered, 'and Dean - and - and that other boy you said you fancied who you said wasn't interested. I know you used to – to – fancy - me, but that was ages ago.'
Ginny looked down at the floor. Harry watched as a tear fell onto the polished boards.
'What do you mean "used to", Harry?' she whispered.
Harry's heart gave a huge lurch in his chest. He was suddenly having trouble breathing.
'Hermione told me, a long time ago.' He finally managed. 'She said you'd given up on me.'
'Yeah!' muttered Ginny, bitterly, 'Gave up hoping - not caring! Because you hardly ever seemed to even notice me! - I was just Ron's little sister! Even now I sometimes wonder if I'm just someone to talk to until you find someone else.' Her voice grew stronger and she looked up at him again. 'It's you that would have to have the change of heart, Harry! You fancied Cho and then Dora, and there's that other girl you said wasn't interested in you, who you liked so much...You've never cared about me the way you cared about them.'
Another tear rolled down Ginny's cheek and splashed on the floor
Harry couldn't believe what he was hearing! Hermione had been wrong! He'd kept his feelings secret all this time because of what Hermione had said – and for once in her life she'd been wrong! He had to tell the truth, whatever it cost him - right now!
'Ginny?' he croaked, 'I told you before, Dora's gone, and – and Cho was just a bad dream.' It was time for a whole handful of those brave pills this time.
'The girl who I thought wasn't interested was - you.'
There, it was said.
Ginny looked totally shocked. 'Me?' she gasped.
It was such a relief to finally tell her.
Ginny stood up and took the three steps to stand in front of the desk
'When did this happen Harry? And why didn't you tell me?' she asked very quietly.
Harry looked up. Ginny's face was in shade now, with the light behind her making her hair into a halo around her head.
'It happened over the summer,' he said, slowly. 'I don't know how or why, I just found myself – caring about you - but there didn't seem to be much point in saying anything. Then there was Dean – and then that other boy who you thought - wasn't – intere – Oh.' He ground to a halt. Could she have meant him?
Ginny's tears had begun to flow again.
'Summer?' she almost wailed, 'But what about Dora? How could you do that if you were starting to care about me?' Her fists were clenched, more in frustration than anger; at least Harry hoped so.
He stood suddenly and moved quickly around the desk. He found he had a desperate yearning to hold her, to kiss her tears away, to make her smile again - and his body was reacting to her presence without even touching her. He hesitated then put his hands on her shoulders, as she stared resolutely down at the floor. He felt her quiver, but she didn't brush his hands away.
'I didn't know you still cared, really I didn't!' he said urgently 'If I'd realised, I'd have told you, I promise...but I thought you were interested in Dean...'
'Because you didn't seem interested in me.' she whispered.
'I know that now, Gin, but back then it seemed so hopeless...and Dora was fun, and she seemed so – desperate' He sighed. 'Do you really blame me?'
Ginny shook her head mutely.
'You're not just Ron's baby sister now, Ginny.' Harry murmured. 'You're grown, you're fun, you're clever, you're pretty, you're yourself. I talk to you because there's simply no one I'd rather talk to,' He took a deep breath, 'I really do care for you - above all other.'
He watched as Ginny's eyes rose to look into his, the tears still glistening on her eyelashes. Then she was suddenly in his arms, holding him close. Her eyes widened momentarily as she realised how she was affecting him, but she only held him closer - and smiled to herself.
'Harry?' She asked quietly, 'What was your best memory when you raised your Patronus back at The Burrow?' .
'Our kiss on Christmas Eve.' he murmured, wondering what Ginny was getting at.
She gently touched his cheek then reached round him. He heard the book on the desk thud closed. He raised his eyebrows in query.
'Our search is over.' she said simply – and kissed him.
- o -
The journey back to Hogwarts was remarkable only for its uneventfulness. No Malfoy and his rotweillers parading up and down the corridor indulging in a little casual bullying here or a little extortion there. No major fights, possibly because the prefects were taking turns to patrol the corridor stamping hard on any boisterous behaviour before it got out of hand. No alarms or frights, - nothing at all.
Harry sighed and stared contentedly out of the window into the darkness, as the train rattled up the valley towards the highlands. Flakes of snow were beginning to fly past the window; streaks of white, briefly illuminated by the lights from the carriage.
Hermione was reading the inevitable book, Luna the inevitable magazine and Ron and Neville were playing the inevitable chess - which Ron inevitably won. Harry glanced at the occupied seat beside him and thought about the one who was now found. Another responsibility, but this time willingly accepted and, hopefully, one that would make the others seem less onerous. She noticed his glance and turned to smile at him.
The members of the Order knew, but the rest of the school couldn't be allowed to find out. It would just be too dangerous for Ginny to be known as Harry Potter's girlfriend; he might as well stick a target on her back with a note written on it saying "Apply curse here".
They both knew it was going to be difficult to keep the secret. They certainly wouldn't be able to show the sort of affection that Ron and Hermione showed each other - but there were other ways and other means - and there was always the Room of Requirement.
The next few months were going to be very interesting indeed, and next summer Ginny would be sixteen...
Beside him, Ginny waved her wand at the partition between the compartment and the corridor. The blinds rolled themselves down and Harry heard the lock click. She leaned sideways just so - and his arm slid round her thus...
The others had looked up as the blinds had closed. Now they just grinned and went back to what they'd been doing. Harry felt Ginny snuggle against him and heard her sigh. He kissed her forehead and she sighed happily again.
Harry's gaze drifted back to the window.
The snow was heavier now –
Another storm was beginning.
- o -
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- o -
Well, to all who have reached here, well done and thank you for reading my fic. To those who liked it, I 'm pleased, for those who didn't, I'm sorry. For those who expected more, did you really expect me to finish off Voldy in a term and a bit? LOL
I was going to add answers to reviewers comments, but this update has taken so long bk6 is almost upon us. I wonder if I'll feel the need to continue that…