I know, long overdue.
Her father hadn't made it quite clear what he had told her mum but Ginny didn't care. She was going back to Potter Manor and this time she was taking Dudley. She should have spent more time with him in the last two weeks but he seemed to have found something to do. She assumed most of them were outside because she hardly remembered seeing him inside the house.
Once inside the gates, her father left Dudley and Ginny to walk to the house so he could proceed onto work. Ginny asked Dudley about the weather, and the Burrow. After that Dudley asked her about Harry, and the Burrow. The conversation was light and unobtrusive.
"So this is Harry's house?" Dudley asked.
Ginny almost replied that the house belonged to both of them before she realized that Dudley didn't know they were married. "Yes, this is the Potter family home."
"Wow." Dudley breathed. "All those years staying at my house and he could have been here."
"No one has lived here in quite some time." Ginny replied.
"That's too bad." Dudley murmured.
By this time they had happened along the point in the road where the path split off to the left.
"The house is up ahead but I want to see what's down here first." Ginny veered to the east and Dudley followed behind. After the first layer of trees passed, the area opened into an expansive field that stretch as far as Ginny could see. Somewhere a stream bubbled. What caught her eye the most was on the left side of the space were two sets of three golden hoops. The Potters had a Quidditch pitch. Nothing of extreme fancy, but it was a lot more than they had at the Burrow.
Ginny turned back to the main road and continued till the round in the bend.
"This house is terrific!" Dudley exclaimed as the building came into view. Ginny smiled at him and continued walking. He followed close behind.
"What's the plan for today?" Dudley questioned.
"We are going to try and clean up the house and grounds as much as possible and then go from there. The house might need some new furniture or replace a broken cabinet. I already know I am going to ask Emi to buy new linens for the beds."
"Who's Emi?" Dudley asked.
"Why don't I just show you?" Ginny pushed the door open and stepped into the atrium. Emi was waiting for her. She bowed to Ginny and turned to Dudley. "Hello. Are you being Ginny's friend?"
Dudley stood shocked for a moment but then nodded. "Hello."
"Dudley this is a house elf. House elves serve old magical families. The Potters have three elves. This one is named Emi." Ginny explained.
"Er…nice to meet you, Emi." Dudley said.
"Emi be so glad that Mistress Ginny has returned so soon! Eyton and Pate will be happy to see you too. Would Ginny like to wait for Harry here or I can be making some tea in the parlor." Emi rushed off.
"Harry isn't coming today, Emi." Ginny said, rather slowly. Dudley recognized the far off look in her eyes when Ginny said Harry's name. It was gone as quickly as it had come.
"We came to help you clean." Ginny continued.
"We has been cleaning since Harry and Ginny left two days ago. Would you like to see? The house be looking much better now that it is clean." Emi proposed.
"I would love to Emi, but Harry and I made a list of things we would like to do so why don't I give that to you?"
"Of course, Ginny."
Ginny fished a piece of parchment from her robes and handed the list to the elf. The list included replacing linens throughout the house, allowing apparation to a select few to the house itself, setting up the floo, and stocking food.
"One other thing." Ginny said. "Harry and I would like to make Potter Manor a safe house for people this year. I am sure you know of a Dark Lord that has recently regained power" Emi shuddered. "and I would like to prepare the residence to take in refugees if needed."
"A most excellent idea, Ginny!" Emi squeaked. "We will get started right away."
Ginny then allowed Emi to give an updated tour of the house. The elves really had done a tremendous job eliminating dust and whipping down walls. Ginny was surprised on how much they had accomplished in such a short amount of time. Some of the rooms were still unfinished (upon which Emi apologized profusely) but about half the house was livable. The public spaces like the kitchen and sitting rooms had seen the most attention, while the entire east wing of the house that had nothing but bedrooms remained untouched. Emi didn't take them there.
Ginny found the three of them walking along the hall to the master bedroom. She halted mid step. Dudley immediately saw Ginny stop and turned back to see what the disturbance was. Emi stopped shortly afterwards. Ginny's two companions waited expectantly.
"Have you touched the bedroom?" She whispered.
"Pate was just working on it this morning when Ginny arrived." Emi provided.
"Please take me back down to the sitting room, Emi." Ginny ordered. She turned expectantly away from the room. She couldn't go in there. Not without Harry. Not yet. Dudley was surprised at the turn of events but followed down the flight of stairs.
Once in the kitchen, Ginny flumped into a chair and stared into space. Dudley turned towards Emi. "Do you need any help? Ginny and I came to help today. We will be here until around six o'clock."
"That is very kind of you, sir." Emi replied. "I thinks you could help since you be wanting to."
"Do you have anything to do outside? Gardens or orchards?" Dudley inquired.
"O yes. The Potters is having a large garden behind the house." Emi wilted. "I am afraid all the plants have died."
"That's alright, Emi. I will clean it up and then Ginny can decide what she wants to do with it. Do you have any tools?"
Emi escorted Dudley to the shed behind the house and Dudley's eyes grew wide when he saw just how large the garden really was. It had probably been used to grow food for the entire house in its prime. Dudley immediately began his work.
Inside, Ginny was having a silent conversation.
I couldn't do it. I couldn't go in there. She began. It felt so wrong without you.
Calm down. You don't have to go in there if you don't want to. Harry replied.
But I wanted to. I wanted to go and see it, but I couldn't walk down the hall…I feel so lost.
I wish I could hold you right now. Ginny please don't feel upset. I will come see you again soon and then we can go in there together. How does that sound? Harry replied.
Alright. Ginny sighed. Don't make me wait so long this time.
I promise I will do my best to see you as soon as I can.
Ginny noticed there was no time frame on that promise, but knew it was the best Harry could do. Ginny stood and stretched. Revisiting the rooms already clean, she began to make them her own. She rearranged furniture and set aside pieces she thought needed replacing. She threw open windows to let in light and fresh air into the dusty house. In the east wing, Ginny made her way from bedroom to bedroom, cleansing each from dust and wear before examining the contents of each.
Half-way through the day Eyton announced to Ginny that lunch was served in the kitchen. Ginny made her way down and saw a sweating Dudley walking in from outside.
"There you are Dudley. I had wondered where you had gone off to." Ginny smiled at him.
"I have been outside in the garden. Are we coming back tomorrow? It needs a lot of work." Dudley asked.
"Yes we are." Pate placed two bowls of hearty soup and some bread on the table. "Thank you, Pate."
He bowed and retreated.
"Would you like some help? I could make things go faster." Ginny offered.
"Not today. Something things are just better without magic." Dudley smiled at her. "I could use some help tomorrow though." He took a bite of soup. "None of the plants grow anymore."
"Perhaps we can plant some new ones." Ginny suggested. "Pate. Eyton." The two elves scurried forward. "What was planted in the garden before?"
"All sorts of vegetables and herbs." Pate offered. "The gardens provided food for the entire house."
Ginny nodded. "Would the three of you be able to care for the gardens when Dudley and I leave for school?"
"Of course, Ginny." Eyton replied.
"I would like you to purchase all the materials needed to complete what Dudley has started. We will return tomorrow and everyone will be outside."
Both of the elves bowed and lunch concluded. Ginny returned to the east wing, and Dudley walked back outside.
Harry lounged comfortably in the kitchen. His feet were on the table and his father's book was propped on his knees. He read it carefully. Harry didn't want to miss anything that could help. The process seemed simple enough but, from the journal, Harry knew that was anything but true.
Ron was currently in the library and Hermione stood at the counter, cutting what sounded like carrots. The last two weeks proved Hermione to be a pretty amazing cook. Harry had provided the money to purchase an expanse of food to keep Ron happy. The three occupants of Grimmauld Place were still awaiting the return of Kreacher.
Harry worried for Ginny. While he knew that he was perfectly alright, Ginny had no idea and was taking the idea of Harry in danger rather harshly. Harry didn't know how to sooth her. The pair had also grown accustomed to each other's presence over the summer. Now that they were separate it felt like the world was against them. Harry sighed.
Hermione missed a slice in cutting.
"Stop sighing, Harry. You sound like an old lady." Hermione said over her shoulder.
Harry looked up in surprise. He hadn't realized that he had been sighing…well at least more than once.
"Sorry, Hermione." He mumbled.
"You have been quiet." She replied.
He didn't respond. He watched the back of her head. Hermione's hair was pulled into a messy bun on the top of her head, a few wisps of hair escaping the rubber band that held the mop of brown hair in place. She seemed to be struggling with either a really slippery carrot or a thought she had been stuck on for a while.
"Harry…it's just, you know how it is. I can't help but worry about you, and well, you never told me how the trip to see Ginny went." Hermione stumbled.
Harry began to let out a sigh but then decided he didn't want to sound any more like an old lady than he already did so instead he let his feet thunk to the floor. He marked his page in his dad's journal and stood. "It went as suspected."
"What's that mean?" Hermione spun around, brandishing a carrot. "Talk to me Harry. It's ok to feel discouraged; I just need to know where your head is."
Harry didn't keep the sigh from leaving him this time. "It was hard, Hermione. Extremely hard to leave her and come back. Not that I don't like you and Ron," he added quickly ", but I just wish I didn't have to leave her."
This time it was Hermione who sighed. "If only we could tell Ron, then you would be able to go see her more often. You wouldn't have to feel like you are sneaking around."
"I would like that."
"Especially with school starting soon. It would be much better to see her as much now and then maybe during Hogsmead weekends, but only if it's safe of course." Hermione argued with two thoughts in her head. On one side, she desperately wanted her friend to be happy but on the other hand she didn't want to risk the safety of Ginny for one evening's activities.
"I told Ginny to find a way for me to sneak into Hogwarts." Harry whispered.
Hermione gasped. "Harry! That's dangerous. What if you got caught? Think of what would happen to Ginny."
"I know, Hermione. You don't have to tell me the risks." Harry countered.
"Then you know it's a stupid decision."
Harry closed his eyes. He took in Ginny's feeling of warmth and channeled it to keep from yelling at Hermione.
"Yes, I do, and so does Ginny." Harry replied.
"Then how could you possibly think, for even a second—"
"Hermione, do you know what it's like to have someone so close to them you can hear their thoughts and read their emotions but you can't see them?" Harry cut Hermione short. "It's like having a ghost living in your head. You know everything they want and need but can't touch them to give it to them."
Hermione's face changed rapidly, from anger to confusion to thoughtfulness, and then finally to a look of understanding. "You can communicate with Ginny somehow can't you?"
"Everything makes sense now!" Hermione screeched. Harry winced. Hermione continued, "I knew something was up ever since the day you told me Ginny needed help with the laundry but Ginny never came to tell you that. Then there were all those times when you and Ginny would start laughing at nothing at all. At your wedding, neither of you said a word but your eyes said you were talking to each other. That's how you knew how to get to Potter Manor wasn't it?"
Harry was amazed she had said all that in one breath. He was surprised she hadn't turned blue from the lack of intake of air. Harry also had to be amazed at how observant Hermione was.
"How do you do it?" Hermione said.
"Ginny and I, we don't know how we can do it, but we can talk to each other in our minds. I can hear what Ginny is thinking and she can hear me. I have started to…feel how Ginny is feeling too. I can tell when she is sad or excited about something." Harry explained.
Hermione leaned against the counter, a far off look on her face. "Remarkable." Then her face fell. "O, Harry. That must be so awful. I understand now. I will help you meet with Ginny. I just don't want her to get hurt."
"I assure you, Hermione, that nothing, nothing, is more of my concern than Ginny's safety."
"I wish we could tell Ron." She mumbled.
From the door way came the voice, "Tell me what?"
Ginny channeled her energy into the foreign spell. The previous night, Dudley and Ginny had returned home, exhausted and ready to fall over. Ginny rushed to her mother's book shelf in the sitting room and found a book of household spells; then located the gardening spells. When Dudley and Ginny returned to Potter Manor the next morning, Ginny was fully prepared to assist Dudley in the sad excuse of a garden. Dudley had really outdone himself with his preliminary clean up, but finally relented to Ginny's help once she pointed out how close September 1st was and how unlikely they were to escape from her mother's roost for much longer.
Dudley marveled at how quickly the weeds disappeared and how all of the tools moved at once. Ginny was never pushy and always asked what needed done before jumping on Dudley's toes and taking over the project. This made Dudley very grateful to the fiery redhead. He also appreciated how included Ginny made him feel in the project even if he was no longer doing the majority of the work.
Slowly the garden was coming back to life. Rows of mixed soil appeared and Dudley precariously placed little signs in each plot to indicate what was growing where. With the help of all of the house elves the garden was done by the time Mr. Weasley came to collect Ginny and Dudley on the second day. Nothing was planted and nothing would be planted for another couple of weeks, but at least the garden was back to looking new and ready for seeds instead patches of overgrown weeds and dried dirt.
The house elves were working around the clock, trying to fit in seventeen years of cleaning into a matter of weeks. Ginny begged them not to overwork themselves, but all three just brushed off her advances with small waves of their hands and asked if she needed anything else done. The east wing of the house was nearing completion and Ginny asked for an assessment of the house. She asked Emi how many bedrooms the house held. Ginny nearly fell out of her chair when the house elf replied with a chirpy "26." Dudley seemed rather impressed as well.
Now, Ginny and Dudley were waiting for Mr. Weasley at the end of the drive. Any moment he would appear and whisk them back to the Burrow and Ginny's overpowering mother.
Hey, Gin. I might get to see you more often.
Ginny raised her eyebrows at Harry's unusual comment but made no other outward movement that she was carrying on a conversation in her head. People might think she was crazy.
O, yeah? Why's that? She asked.
Ron found out our little secret. Harry replied.
All of them.
Hmm….that was interesting. Harry seemed unhurt and rather cheerful so she knew Ron didn't know all of their secrets.
Really? Even the one that you shag me on a semi-regular basis? Ginny launched at Harry.
Well…I was a little vague on the sexual side of our relationship. Ron didn't mind.
Ginny smiled an evil smile. You didn't tell him that you like when I do that think with my tongue?
Harry's response was a few seconds delayed. No…
Then you didn't tell him all of our secrets. Ginny smirked. She really did love messing with poor Harry.
Maybe we can keep that secret to ourselves.
So, I shouldn't have told Tonks when she asked for pointers? Ginny replied, barley keeping a giggle between her lips. She felt a wave of embarrassment pass through the link.
You didn't. Harry replied.
Maybe I did. Maybe I didn't. What are you going to do if I don't tell?
You know full well what I plan on doing to you once I can get a hold of you. Harry growled back.
I seemed to have forgotten. Perhaps you could remind me? Ginny flirted in return.
Woman…no, we are not talking about this right now. I was telling you how I will get to see you again before you leave for school.
I am intrigued. Ginny whispered.
I can't be with you as much as I would like but I do get to come see you now that Ron doesn't need distracting. I still have things we need to finish but now I can fit you into my busy schedule.
I am glad I made the cut.
Don't push it.
In the next fortnight Ginny and Dudley went back to Potter manor twice but neither stay was for more than a couple of hours. Her mother was becoming far too observant of their multiple outings away from the house and was insisting on either attending wherever they were going or Ginny and Dudley not going at all. Mrs. Weasley tended to lean more towards the second of the two.
Four days before school was about to start was their second visit to Potter Manor. Harry made arrangements to also come but was unable to the day of their visit. This left Ginny in a sour mood for the rest of their day and Dudley on a tight string. Often he felt like asking the simplest of questions would send Ginny into an angry tangent or tears. Most of the time he kept silent unless Ginny started the conversation.
The house was nearing completion and Ginny was rather sad to leave for Hogwarts and not get to visit it. She had been enjoying the intensity of work surrounding the house's upkeep. Emi had to remind Ginny that the three house elves had taken care of the place for years and they were perfectly capable of doing so just now. Ginny requested, with Harry's permission, for the elves to return to Hogwarts for the school year and only return to the house every so often. They agreed.
September 1st was approaching faster than anybody realized. Before long the Hogwarts express would be zooming away from Platform 9 ¾ and any chance of seeing Harry in the near future would surely fade with it. Ginny was not having a good day at all.