Saturday mornings used to be the best, Ginny thought a bit miserably. She vaguely recalled being eleven years old, running out on the front lawn to play near the lake or to visit outside. She used to have time to play Exploding Snap and chess. There was a time, she thought, when she used to be able to do things other than study.
Pulling on a pair of broken-in jeans and a Weird Sisters t-shirt, she brushed her hair back into a ponytail and heard the stirrings of her other roommates waking up. Hermione, she knew, would already be downstairs going over study materials, or possibly writing a letter to Ron. They both sought privacy for that activity anymore.
A little bit disgusted with the fact she had planned a day of schoolwork on a weekend, she grabbed her knapsack and headed down from the girls dormitory to the common room. Just as she'd anticipated, Hermione sat in the same spot she usually did, across from Ginny and Harry's favorite armchair on a sofa perpendicular to the fireplace. She was scribbling away on something that Ginny doubted was a letter, since their Transfiguration textbook was open on the sofa arm next to her.
"Wotcher, Hermione," Ginny said, collapsing on the sofa next to her and dropping her knapsack to the ground. "I can't believe you're already awake and studying."
"The brain remembers things best in the state that you learn them," Hermione said absently, nibbling on the end of her quill while she thought through a sentence. "Since I am most often tired during exam week, I thought I would spend at least some of my time revising when I'm dead tired."
Ginny raised an eyebrow. "Hermione, that's a little bit insane."
Hermione lifted her head and smiled, displaying her now perfect teeth. "It is, isn't it? Besides, it gives me an excuse to get out of bed when I can't sleep at night."
Ginny nodded. It was good to have Hermione in the same dorm, finally. There were few people in the world who could identify with her because of what she'd gone through, but Hermione Granger was one of those people, and as a result they were best friends. They'd grown up together – started as children, then as frustrated adolescents crushing on silly boys, and now they were young women in love with extraordinary young men.
"I wrote a letter to Harry last night and sent it off with one of the owls, though I told it that it should wait until a decent hour this morning." Ginny sighed and leaned her head back, closed her eyes. "How many hours until the Hogsmeade weekend?"
Hermione laughed. "Now that's insane. It's something like three hundred thirty six. Not that I'm counting."
"We're both insane, let's face it. I'm transfiguring teacups into horseshoes in my dreams. Green horseshoes. I have read more about werewolves in the last two days than I ever wanted to in the course of my entire life, and if I have to answer another question about the Draught of the Living Death, I will pull my hair from my skull." Ginny flopped on her back and studied the cracks in the plaster ceiling. "Do you know what I need?"
Smiling indulgently, Hermione closed her book and began to run a hand through Ginny's hair. "What do you need?"
"A good long shag. Do you ever just need one of those? Get the urge to go up to McGonagall and go, 'I'm terribly sorry, Professor, but I need to leave school to go kiss my boyfriend senseless because I'm afraid I won't recognize him in a few days because I'm using all my brain cells for other things.'"
Hermione chuckled and tapped her fingers against Ginny's skull for a moment before she responded. "I never used to think I was a very physical girl, you know? I was into books and reading… And then your brother kissed me. Maybe it's you Weasleys are all very sensual creatures. But I miss him terribly, suffice to say."
Both of them sat for a moment in silence before Ginny pushed herself up. "Come on. Let's go grab some breakfast. We probably just need food to pull us out of this mood."
"Wouldn't that be nice," Hermione asked, and stuck her tongue out "if it was that simple?"
Ginny spent all of the morning after breakfast revising with Hermione, particularly Potions, since that wasn't her best subject. Just before noon, though, she took a break to be by herself.
The window overlooking the Quidditch Pitch had been one of Harry's favorite spots to sit, she remembered, so she arranged herself in the window seat and stared out; which was why she nearly fell off it when a strange owl knocked on the window. Cautiously, she opened it and accepted the folded parchment from its outstretched leg. Before she could offer it a treat it took off. A quick examination of the envelope revealed that it was addressed to her with her brother's scrawling hand.
Dear Ginny, it read,
Harry got your letter. He wanted to respond, but he's been called away. They think they've got Rookwood. He's in the field for the next few days, but he'll be in contact as soon as he can be.
George is fine. Doing better, actually. I think he laughed last night.
Her heart twisted, stopped, and then suddenly started racing again. She had known when Harry had started training, of course, that he would go into dangerous situations again. In the corner of her mind she had always understood that she had chosen a man who would always choose the safety of others over his own. She had confidence in Harry and his abilities… but she knew that Augustus Rookwood had killed her brother.
Maybe, she thought, bringing her knees to her chest, the capture of the Death Eater that had been responsible for Fred's death would help bring closure for George, to her mother, her father, her brothers… herself… and Harry. Her whole family needed this – to know he was behind bars, beyond touching their family ever again.
The emotions rolling around in her stomach threatened to make her sick; something she had almost grown used to during the war and its immediate aftermath. She'd stood next to Harry and then held his hand through most of the memorials that he'd attended, and he'd attended every one. For that period of time she had put aside her own needs again to help Harry, and he'd appreciated it. Watching him grieve had helped her grieve, and some of the wounds had begun to heal.
The walls of the common room seemed to get closer and closer, Ginny noticed, so she jumped to her feet, grabbed her cloak and broom and headed down the stairs and out the front entrance. As soon as she was outside she kicked off, letting her broom carry her high into the sky. When she flew she could always feel connected to Harry. They both appreciated the weightlessness, the freedom of it. She rushed over the Quidditch Pitch, over the lake, and to the edge of the Forbidden Forest before looping back around to do it all over again.
She was about to do her third lap when she saw the form of a man on the edge of the forest. She was reaching for her wand when she felt the stunning spell and fell to the ground.
Harry arrived at the inn in Hogsmeade and tossed his bag in the room he would share with his mentor, Devon. Wasting no time unpacking, he grabbed his wand and Invisibility Cloak and jogged to the edge of the forest near the Shrieking Shack, where Devon was waiting with a group of Ministry employees.
As usual, conversation stuttered and then came to a stop once they realized who Harry was. Once Devon realized no one was responding, he turned and spotted Harry.
"Oy, Potter! Is that all the faster you can run? Get your skinny arse down here!" While the other Ministry employees goggled at Devon, Harry just grinned and shook the man's hand once he arrived.
"Sorry. Kingsley just now got 'hold of me. Went out with Ron last night."
"That's good. That's good. Always said you were too serious," Devon said. "Harry, these are the MLES that confirmed the sighting. They've been running security, trying to keep Hogwarts students and Hogsmeade citizens out of the forest until we could get here. This is Officer Stubbins and Officer Greeley. Stubbins, Greeley, this is…"
"I know who you are!" one of the officers exclaimed. Harry couldn't quite tell which was which just yet. "You're Harry Potter, aren't ye? I go by Greeley. Pleased ter meet ya!"
Greeley reminded Harry very pleasantly of Hagrid. He was a large man, being both tall and round, and his voice boomed over the hills of Hogsmeade. When he offered his hand for Harry to shake, it enveloped his completely.
"Pleased to meet you, Officer Greeley." Harry let the man pump his arm enthusiastically a few times before he turned to face the serious-faced Officer Stubbins.
She was quite a bit shorter than Greeley, with a small mouth and small eyes. Though she didn't smile, he could tell she was amused by Greeley's enthusiasm. Harry didn't trust as easily as he used to, but he found himself relaxing marginally with these two.
"Nice to meet you, Harry Potter," Stubbins offered, her hand outstretched.
Harry took it and shook it firmly. "Nice to meet you, Officer Stubbins."
"What do we know so far, officers?" Auror Devon asked, redirecting the conversation. "We have a confirmed sighting, but do we know he's got plans to stay here long?"
"The locals mentioned unusual activity in the haunted house sir, the Shrieking Shack, I believe they call it? No one's gone down to check it out. I, uh, figured it would be best if you lot did that," Officer Stubbins said immediately.
"Best idea we've got is he's moving towards the school," Officer Greeley picked up. "We aren't trained ter be trackers, ye know, but we do what we can with what we know. There's no way ter be certain."
Harry cursed. "What's the point of heading towards the school? That's heading towards more people who could sight him! Did you warn the Headmistress?"
"We did. She's issued a warning to all the students not to go near the forest or in it. They'll be picking up security around the school, as well, Auror Potter," Officer Stubbins said, trying to be reassuring.
"The sooner we pursue him, the faster we can get him away from the school," Harry said, turning to Devon. "I don't feel we have a lot of time to waste, sir."
"I don't think so either. Stubbins, Greeley, you'll continue to do what you do best here, is that understood?"
"Yes, sir." They both saluted and went back to walking their patrols.
"Our best bet would be to start at the Shrieking Shack, don't you think?" Harry asked, already striding in that direction. "It's been abandoned for quite some time. If they're noticing activity, I bet we can link it to Rookwood."
"It's the perfect location for a hideout," Devon agreed. "The locals will avoid it because of the legends and the students never come through here."
Harry shook his head. "You'd think so, wouldn't you?"
They ran the short distance from where they were up to the shack. Wands drawn, Harry knocked on the door. "Auror Potter! I am here for Augustus Rookwood! Open this door!"
There was, unsurprisingly, no response, and little sound from the abandoned building.
"One more time, Potter," Devon whispered, and crept around the side of the building.
Harry nodded at him and shouted once more. "I am with the Ministry of Magic! Open this door!"
"Break it down," Devon said flatly. "And then get the hell out of the way."
Harry backed away from the door and fired a Reducto curse at it. The door shattered into a million pieces, and Devon and Harry took cover while the shards flew.
"On my mark, we enter the premises, all right, Potter? Keep your wand drawn and your head up. Just because there doesn't look to be anyone around doesn't mean there isn't. Constant…"
"Vigilance," Harry finished.
Their search of the Shrieking Shack netted them no live Death Eaters, but there were suspicious items of clothing lying around. It looked as though someone had attempted to make a fire and cook food in one corner.
"He's been hiding out here," Devon said, tossing one of the tins of beans to the floor. "We're going to have to seal this place up."
"Why do you think Rookwood went on the move, then? If he's been hiding out here so comfortably?"
Devon shrugged his shoulders. "MLES have been doing regular sweeps of this place. My best guess is they got a little too close last night."
"Shite," Harry said under his breath. "We're just going to have to track him the old fashioned way. Shouldn't have been able to Apparate or use the Floo – we can't track him that way."
"That means he's on foot," Devon agreed. "And I'll just bet he left us a nice little trail. Rookwood never was the smartest bloke in the world and when he's scared he'll be that much more incompetent."
Harry and Devon picked up his trail headed towards the school and took off towards the center of the forest. It was a cold, nasty day but yet Harry managed to work up a sweat, going under logs and over foliage. He was reminded of the year he'd spent on the run. Devon eventually fell behind – not quite used to the strain of pushing his way through the magical forest. Harry felt right at home.
He'd followed the trail just as long as he could towards the edge of the forest when he heard a sound that stopped his heart. It was the sickening crunch of a body falling to the ground.
He ran, full out, to the clearing at the end of the forest where Rookwood was staring over the body of a girl. A girl with red hair. Harry's heart stopped. He tried to draw in breath but couldn't. He had thought that he'd conquered his worst nightmare – the death of one of the ones he loved – when he defeated Voldemort. This wasn't even supposed to be a possibility anymore.
Rookwood lifted his arms as though he were about to incant something. Harry couldn't waste any more time inside of his own mind. He had to act.
"STUPEFY!" He shouted. Rookwood's head shot up just in time and he rolled to avoid the spell.
Rookwood jumped to his feet and took aim at Harry, but his attempt to disarm Harry moved him further away from Ginny and Harry was able to concentrate, dodging Rookwood's attack. So he tried again. "Expelliarmus!"
"Protego!" Harry blocked his spell with a quick Shield Charm and ran towards Ginny while pointing his wand at Rookwood. "Halt, damn it!"
"Crucio!" Rookwood screamed desperately, his voice high and nearly inaudible. Harry tried to dodge, but couldn't manage it.
Pain ripped through his body. Blood clouded his vision. The pain was endless and boundless… and the few moments Rookwood was able to hold the spell were eternal. Still, when the spell broke, Harry was able to summon all of his energy. Pointing his wand at Ginny, he whispered, "Ennervate!"
She came to life, turning over on her belly in one fluid movement. Ginny reached for her wand and pointed it directly at Rookwood. "Diffindo!"
His skin tore, and he howled like a wounded animal, falling to the ground. "Stupefy!" Harry and Ginny incanted at the same time.
Rookwood fell face forward into the sod, a broken doll of a human being. Harry reached out a trembling hand to Ginny, who took it to rise to her feet.
"Harry." She ran a hand across his cheek and looked into his eyes. "Thank you. You have excellent timing."
He laughed, although he was ashamed to admit some tears got through as well. "What were you doing out here?"
"I was flying. I didn't want to get too close, and then all of a sudden I saw him. I wasn't prepared. It was stupid. It was the first time in months I haven't been ready for someone to jump out at me, and then there he was and I…" she pressed a hand to her chest, winced. "I fell from my broom. I think I might have broken something."
Harry ran a cautious hand up her side, kissed her neck. "You scared the shit out of me, Ginny. Scared the ever-living shit out of me."
"I'm sorry." She drew her arms around him, pulling him close. "I didn't mean to… I…"
"So. This is the girl," Devon called out. "This is the one you keep writing to, isn't it?"
"Yeah." Harry took a step back from her, but didn't let her leave his arms. "This is my girl, Ginny. Ginny Weasley, this is my trainer, Devon."
"You look kinda weak, kid. What did he hit you with?"
Harry winced. "Cruciatus. I couldn't get out of the way in time. It wasn't the worst thing I've ever lived through."
"You wanna know what I think?"
Harry shook his head. "What?"
"I think you ought to take a little medical leave. I'll go take Rookwood into custody – he can't hurt me while he's solid rock, anyway, and you can take your girl up to the Hospital Wing. Who knows? Maybe you'll get sidetracked on the way there."
"I think that sounds like a brilliant plan," Ginny said, looking up at Harry. "It's all up to you, though."
Harry grinned. "Yeah, I think that sounds brilliant."
Ginny found her hand securely tucked in Harry's as they walked together towards the castle, albeit it very slowly. The wind whipped her hair around, and she noted absently she must have snagged her ponytail on something, for it was unbound and flying in her face. They were silent for a few moments.
"I've missed this," Harry said suddenly. "Just walking, you know? Holding hands. We don't even really have to talk. I just miss this."
Ginny squeezed his hand. "I've missed this, too. We went without for a year, and then we had this summer… It's been hard to live without you sometimes."
Harry pulled on her hand until she was facing him and they'd stopped completely. "I would like you to promise me that you won't ever scare me like that again. It probably won't happen though, will it?"
"I will try to do my best not to be unaware like that ever again, Harry. But… you could no more ask that of me than I could ask it of you."
Harry curled his hand around the back of her neck and brought their faces closer together. "I've missed kissing you."
Ginny closed her eyes and whispered, "Good."
And it was. Her whole body had been sleeping and she didn't know it. Nerve endings came back to life and tingled with the power they were given. Heat pooled in her center and suddenly the gentle kiss they'd began wasn't enough. She fisted his cloak in the back, trying to bring their bodies closer together.
Harry broke the kiss for just a moment and angled his head, his tongue seeking entrance in her mouth. They began the rhythm that had become so familiar to them over the summer… a steady entrance and exit that mimicked the act they both burned for.
His hands, ungloved and cold, slid in her cloak and up the back of her jumper. With the ease of practice, he unhooked the back of her bra and let it fall slack around her arms. While they were still kissing, she felt him palm her breasts, rub callused thumbs over the buds of her nipples that came to attention at the pleasure and pain of his cold touch.
His mouth slid down to her neck, kissing her at her pulse point while he caressed her breasts. Ginny hooked a leg around the back of his thigh and began to rock her hips against his obvious erection.
Suddenly, his lips were back on hers and they were both so intensely focused on each other that at first they didn't notice when a voice interrupted them.
"Harry! Ginny!" Hermione had her eyes covered with one palm. "Headmistress McGonagall is looking for you! Auror Devon sent word that you'd be walking up and when you didn't show for a while she…"
"Hermione. Very kindly go away," Harry ordered pleasantly, his eyes focused on Ginny's lips. "We will be up in a few minutes."
As Hermione ran the other direction, Ginny ran a hand up and down his chest. "Some of us are up already."
Harry laughed, but it was a forced sound. "Please, don't. This is painful enough already."
"I'm sorry," Ginny said, her eyes on the ground, but Harry could see she had a smile on her lips.
"No you're not. Don't even pretend you are." Harry drew her into his arms and hugged her fiercely. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Ginny's voice was laced with emotion. "Thank you, Harry. For… saving me when I was an idiot when I was eleven and just now, and… Thank you for going after Rookwood yourself. I think… I think George will be okay with that."
Harry nodded. "I asked Kingsley if they could send me… When they were sure they knew where he was."
Ginny laid her head on his heart and simply listened to the sound of it beating for a few moments. "I feel like, seeing you again, knowing that Rookwood's going to jail… I feel like… everything will be okay."
As they walked to the entrance of the school, the first snowflakes fell from the grey skies.
Written for the Changing Seasons challenge on LJ, specifically for Rbecca who wanted something postwar with adventure and drama. And maybe a little smuttiness. Did I do okay?
Thanks to the fabulous Going Back to Square One, or Gbtso, or Jen2, for her wonderful beta job!