Hello, everyone! I'm BAAAAACK!
my new fic... I hope you'll all enjoy it. It is, as promised, the
sequel to Shades of Grey – so if you haven't, go and read that
first. This story will make much more sense then. Shades of Grey
was only ever a prequel to this. And please, please, PLEASE note
that this is rated "R" for a REASON if this bothers you, or you feel
it's inappropriate... go find something else to read, please.
We'll both be happier.
I'm also letting you know that this is being posted un-beta'd – so I apologise for any glaring errors. My dear James recently moved, and is incommunicado at the moment – so I'm starting without him.
As with my other fics... I own nothing. It all belongs to JKR, who is a brilliant author, and I aspire to own one tenth of her talent... but I just play with her creation for my own amusement until her next book comes out – which brings us to my point. Book Six will most definitely wreak havoc with all our fics – making them all AU... so I want to have this DONE by then. Probably not a problem (Quiet, Shotgunn – I can hear you all the way over the pond here in Canada!), but I thought I'd give you all fair warning that this fic will NOT last into the summer – um, summer for us Northern Hemisphere folks, anyhow. I hope to have it done in six weeks or so – and then, I think, I'm going to take some time to work on my original stuff.
Enjoy, people... and go down to the left hand corner and click on that little purple box – your reviews feed my muse, and make me happy!
Chapter One: Return to Hogwarts
"Hey, there," Ginny wrapped her arms around Harry's waist from behind. "What are you doing out here?"
"Thinking," he said, her sleep-warmed body pressing against him felt good in the pre-dawn chill. She must have just come from her bed.
They would return to Hogwarts today for his seventh and final year.
"It's been an... eventful... summer."
"That it has," he felt her grin against his back. Turning, he pulled her close and hugged her tightly.
"Thank you," he whispered.
"For what, exactly?"
"For helping me to see that it's not all black and white. Nothing is black or white... it's all shades of grey."
"Oh, Harry," she looked up at him with shining eyes. At that moment, the sun broke the horizon and she smiled, and he caught his breath, realizing once again how very lucky he was that this beautiful witch had chosen him.
"It's not!" Ginny said softly, her eyes searching his. "It's not grey, Harry. It's a rainbow."
"A rainbow..." Harry mused. "I like that."
"It's true, Harry. If life were black and white... or even shades of grey, it would be boring... predictable. Our lives are not boring or predictable," Ginny said, holding him closer.
"Well, that much is certainly true," Harry laughed. "I'd like to try 'boring' and 'predictable' for a while, you know."
"Wouldn't we all?"
"Come on... I need to get packed. And your mum will probably have breakfast on in a little while."
"We need to leave here by nine," Ginny said, looking out over the lake and grounds as the sun peeked over a hill in the distance.
"I know. I don't really want to leave, now that I've found it."
"You can come back. Only one more year."
"Yeah..." Harry looked down at her shining brown eyes. One more year, and then what?
As Harry packed the last of his things into his trunk, he smiled. Down the hall he could hear Ron and Hermione bickering.
"Hermione... where is my Transfiguration book?"
"How would I know, Ron? It's your book!"
"You borrowed it!"
"Why would I borrow your Transfiguration textbook when I have my own?"
"I remember.. last week, you asked if you could..."
"That was the new Quidditch book you got in Diagon Alley, Ron... and I put it on your bed after I was done with it!"
"Why would you want to borrow a book on Quidditch?" Ron called, disbelievingly.
"It had a section on the Bulgarian national team," she said. "I thought it might mention Viktor..."
Harry winced... he knew what was coming.
"That bloody wanker?" He heard Ron cry. "I don't know what you see in the git, he's a..."
"Ron! Viktor is my friend..."
"They never stop, do they?" A soft voice spoke. Harry turned to see Ginny standing in the doorway to his room, a wide smile on her face.
"Apparently not. I wish they'd just..."
"Yes. All of us do, actually," Ginny pulled away from the door, coming further into the room. "It might give us some bloody peace and quiet."
Harry laughed. "I don't know... it might just give them more things to fight about."
"Is that possible?"
Harry closed his trunk and latched it, then turned to her. "All packed?"
"I don't have room for a couple of things."
"Actually... I don't think I'll need them. Old jeans and stuff..." she flushed. "Since you bought me new clothes..."
"I was wondering if you'd mind if I just left some stuff here?" Ginny asked, looking rather uncomfortable. "If I send it home with Mum, she'll have a clean out... and toss it before we come home at Christmas, and there are some things..."
"Leave whatever you like here," Harry said. "No one will touch it."
"Thanks, Harry," she said, retreating.
Harry watched her go, a strange feeling constricting his chest. He wondered about it... and then recognized it for what it was. He had no objection whatsoever to Ginny leaving her things here... as a matter of fact, it made him feel rather...
Quickly dismissing his thoughts, he scanned the room for anything he might have left behind, then levitated his trunk and guided it out of the room and down the stairs.
Surprisingly, Harry was the first person in the hall. Ron and Hermione could be heard above, arguing still, and he smiled to himself. He'd grown up around arguing, or, if he were honest, being yelled at. He wasn't exactly sure why, but the tone of Ron and Hermione's conflicts was very different.
Almost comforting. Harry realized it was because it was very obvious, perhaps to everyone but Ron and Hermione, that they argued because they cared about each other. A lot.
The last month had been interesting, to say the least. When he'd been told in Dumbledore's office at the end of the last school year about his Aunt Petunia, and about Aunt Daisy, he'd not really taken it all in. Spending the time with Aunt Petunia here at Potter Manor had certainly clarified a few things. Sadly, he reached up and touched the chain about his neck. It was really the only thing he had from the Evans side of his family.
Well, kind of. He was still intrigued by the boxes that had been in the family vault. He had intended to go and look in them, but time had gotten away from them all. Lazy afternoons with Ginny had been much more appealing than spending time away from her, for any reason. He knew full well that when they returned to Hogwarts, they would probably be far too busy to spend as much time as he would like together. The boxes had sat in the Evans family vault for twenty years... they would still be there in a few more months when he had time to look in them.
Perhaps there would be something of his Aunt Daisy's in them...
"... and you never give me any credit..."
"I do so!" From above, Hermione's shrill voice followed Ron, who was grumpily dragging his trunk down the stairs.
"You do not!" he yelled back. "Bloody women."
Harry grinned at his lanky friend. "When are you two just going to kiss and make up?"
"What?" Ron turned crimson, looking horrified at Harry. "What are you on about?"
"Trust me, Ron," Harry said happily, "It's much better than fighting."
"Yeah, well... I..." Ron seemed lost for words, but was saved from having to respond by Ginny and Hermione's descent.
"You're a prat, Ron," Ginny said in passing.
"Me?" Ron looked at his sister, nonplussed. "Why am I a prat?"
"You just are. I'm beginning to think it's something you'll never grow out of," Ginny said, reaching up and kissing Harry lightly before allowing him to drag her trunk to sit on top of his.
"What were you thinking?" she asked softly.
"Just now," she looked at him. "I looked down from the landing and you were... off somewhere."
Harry sighed. She knew him so well, and after so little time. What would it be like...
"I was thinking about my aunt."
"Let it go, Harry," she said softly, her brown eyes concerned.
"No," he shook his head. "Not Aunt Petunia... although she entered into it. I was thinking about my Aunt Daisy, actually."
"The one who..." Ginny blanched. "Did Dumbledore..."
"They never found her, Gin. Her body is still out there somewhere."
"Harry, you're not thinking of..." Ginny looked horrified for a moment.
"No," he denied. "I'm not. There's no sense in it now. It's been nearly thirty years."
"I'm sorry, Harry."
He looked at her, mildly confused. "For?"
"You've lost so much... even more than you knew you had. I wish it could have been different for you."
"You know, Gin... at times I do, too," he said softly, pulling her close and hugging her. "And at other times, I wouldn't change a thing."
"All right, you lot?" Mrs Weasley hustled into the front hall. "Are we ready then?"
"All ready, Mum," Ginny confirmed, pulling gently away from Harry.
"Come, then... your father will be waiting for us with a car outside the Leaky Cauldron..."
"Why can't we just floo to Hogwarts?" Ron complained. "Dumbledore does..."
"Because," Hermione said sharply. "It would never do for the other students to not see us on the train, Ron... we're Heads... how would we explain...?"
"All right, Hermione!" Ron rolled his eyes. "Point taken. Can we go?"
Harry quickly shrunk his trunk and Ginny's and tucked them in his pocket. He turned to see her smiling at him as he picked up Hedwig in her cage.
"Handy, that," she grinned.
"I don't know why more of the students don't do it," he shrugged.
"Because of the restriction on underage magic, perhaps?" Ginny giggled. "That, or it's not that well known a charm, and it takes a bit more ability to do it than you're willing to admit?"
"Mum can't do it. Why do you think we've been forced to carry about trunks every year?"
"It's not an easy charm, Harry."
Harry flushed and shrugged. "Whatever you say."
"Oh, I like that," Ginny wiggled her eyebrows at him. "Submissiveness... I could get used to it!"
"Sub...?" Harry looked at her, horrified, as she pulled him into the floo behind her and stuck out her tongue at him as she tossed a handful of floo powder at their feet and shouted.
"Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes!"
Flying through the Floo network with Ginny in his arms, Harry sighed. He loved having her in his arms. How on earth were they going to survive at school?
Their arrival at the twins shop was heralded by the twins throwing confetti over their heads.
"Final year! Final year!" Fred chanted happily as he tossed the multi-colored confetti over the group.
"Oh, they grow up so fast!" George said, wiping a non-existent tear from his eye.
Just as Harry was about to open his mouth and tell them both to cut it out, the confetti that they had been tossing turned into multicolored butterflies and fluttered about, disappearing just as quickly.
Looking down at Ginny, Harry smiled. She was entranced by the butterflies.
"They're so pretty!" she said, turning suspicious eyes on her brothers. "How did you two come up with something so nice?"
"Simple," said Fred, pausing in his odd loping dance about the group, his handful of confetti falling to his side. "We..."
"... didn't," said George, recovering quickly from his exaggerated emotionalism of a moment before.
"Nope. This one was from Zonko's. We're trying to develop something similar..."
"...but not with butterflies..."
"...we thought flying..."
"Fred!" George made a shushing gesture, nodding towards Molly.
"I... Ri-ight," Fred nodded. "Nothing, nothing to see.."
With this, he promptly pushed the bag containing the confetti behind his back and tried to look innocent.
Everyone but Molly laughed. Her rather derisive snort told everyone what she thought of their "development".
"Come on, now... across to the Leaky Cauldron then, meet up with Dad and the others..."
"The others?" Harry asked.
"Yes, Charlie and Bill will be joining us."
Harry glanced down at Ginny, who looked up at him and shrugged.
"Right then," Fred nodded, surreptitiously moving behind Harry and Ginny and shoving them along. "Right along, let's go."
"Fred...!" Ginny resisted until she felt a package being shoved up the back of her jacket, and suddenly grinned and went along with her rather pushy brother.
"Don't ever say I didn't do anything for you, little sister," Fred muttered.
"Not yet released. Do let us know how it works out, hmm?"
"I love being a tester for you two."
"And you're very, very good at it. There's one thing in there..."
"Specially developed just for greasy-haired gits, that. Enjoy."
In moments, it seemed, they were across the Alley, and walking into The Leaky Cauldron. Harry shifted behind as Ginny dropped the package into his waiting hands and quickly, and quietly, cast a shrinking charm on it and slipped it into his pocket. It might prove to be an interesting year, after all.
For the first time that Harry could remember, they made it to the station and onto the platform with ten minutes to spare. Quickly, Ron and Hermione said their goodbyes and disappeared onto the train to find the Prefects car and take up their duties as Head Boy and Girl. Harry was saying his goodbyes and watching Ginny as she hugged her father when he became aware of the man standing next to him.
"Charlie," he nodded, holding out his hand. Charlie took it and shook it firmly, his blue eyes drilling into Harry's own.
"Remember what I told you, Potter."
"Charlie," Harry swallowed. "I really care about her. This isn't... casual... for me."
"Better not be, mate.. because it isn't for her. And if you hurt her, I'll have to kill you. And that would upset Mum. I don't like upsetting her, she's got an awful temper."
Harry nodded solemnly, and turned as Ginny approached to curl in under his arm, which somehow had found its way around her shoulders.
"I'll take care of the bike, Harry..." Bill smiled.
"Make sure you do... and I wouldn't say no to your meeting us in Hogsmeade with it one weekend, you know," Harry grinned.
"Might be able to do that, at that," Bill nodded, his eyes glazing over at the thought of riding the bike all the way to Scotland.
"Bike?" Charlie glanced between the two of them. "What bike?"
"Wait until you see it..." Bill started in on what looked to be a very long, involved, description of Harry's birthday present.
"Harry, we really should..." Ginny gestured at the train.
"Right..." he said his goodbyes, accepted a handshake from Mr Weasley and a bone-crushing hug from Ginny's mum, and turned. He had just followed Ginny up onto the step when he heard Charlie call out from the platform.
"Hey! Potter! Why on earth did you trust this git with a machine like that...?"
"Tell him to let you have a go, Charlie... I don't mind!" Harry laughed as the whistle blew and the train began to pull away.
"Gits," Ginny muttered.
"No," Harry shook his head. "Your family is wonderful, Ginny."
"For blood-traitors, I suppose they are," came a snide voice from behind them. "Pity about that. Of course, there are wizards and... wizards."
Turning, Harry saw the white-blonde hair and steely grey eyes of his least-favorite Hogwarts student.