((A/N: Here we are at the last chapter to tie up some loose ends. I hope everyone who's still reading has enjoyed the ride. I suspect we've already lost everyone who did not like the story. :-) This chapter is double the normal length, but I just couldn't split it. And as my beta points out, that's with a number of things intentionally omitted.))
Chapter 17 - Epilogue
Ginny and Harry walked towards the Quidditch pitch to see the outcome of the Triwizard Tournament. She softly sighed at the loss of Quidditch since the end of April.
"What's wrong?" Harry asked.
"Just feeling a little depressed about no Quidditch for the last two months. At least we'll be able to fly around here again for the last couple of days of the term starting tomorrow."
Harry chuckled. "You're really having withdrawals, aren't you?" he asked with a teasing smile.
She playfully smacked him on the chest with back of her hand. "You're just as bad, especially after your match when Gryffindor played Viktor's team."
"And I almost won it too," he said with a very slight pout. "Even if Viktor says he wasn't playing 'all out' to avoid injuries, I still think he was giving it all he had at the end." Harry shook his head.
"You're just sore because you wanted to beat him and the Golden Snitch took a lucky turn for him when you were in the lead of the chase," she teased him.
Harry grumbled. "I had him beat."
Ginny let go of his hand and put her arm around his waist. "I know you did, Harry. You just got unlucky, and that happens sometimes. Overall, you did play as well or better than he did."
He put his arm around her shoulders and squeezed slightly, a smile on his lips from her compliment. "Thanks." He took a deep breath and let it out, as if to let the depressing topic leave him. "So, who do you think will win the Tournament?"
"It's hard to say. They're all very close in points, so the time advantage to the leader will be very small." And there will be no Barty Jr to interfere, she thought.
"Take a guess anyway," he encouraged her.
"OK, I'll pick Cedric. How about you?" She really was curious who he thought would win.
Without hesitation, he said, "Fleur."
"I think she's the best in Charms. Cedric is good in an all-around way, but I think the maze and what's in it will favor someone who's very good in Charms. Of course, just like my game, one bad break could really change things."
"True," she said with a nod.
"Hey, isn't that your brother Bill?" he asked her as they neared the stands. Her brother was walking onto the pitch, not into the stands.
"Oh, good, he made it. I invited him to meet someone," she said a little vaguely.
Harry gave her a penetrating look.
"Yes," she quietly admitted. "It's something that needed to be done because I changed things. It may not matter, but I thought they deserved a chance to meet and decide for themselves."
They climbed into the stands and found a place with their friends. The third task started and everyone watched Cedric, Viktor, and then Fleur enter the maze in quick succession. Ginny had been amused to see that Fleur had successfully rescued her little sister in the second task. She was not sure what had changed to cause that. Perhaps the French witch had taken the contest a little more seriously without Harry in it, but that was only a guess on Ginny's part.
Also different from last time, there was a spell placed on each contestant. It projected a colored dot twenty feet above the head of each contestant. That allowed the crowd to see about where each contestant was, and made the task a lot less boring than in the other timeline. Supposedly, the three contestants could not see the dots while they were in the maze.
After about ten minutes of watching the dots move, occasionally pausing, while the contestants obviously were solving problems, the crowd moved just enough that Ginny saw her twin brothers on the other end of the row from them.
"Harry?" She leaned over to whisper to him. This was not something she wanted Hermione to know about. When he leaned her way, she whispered, "Fred and George are on the other end of our row. This would be a good time to go talk to them. I'll even keep Hermione occupied."
"You're sure about this?" he softly asked.
She nodded. He shrugged and got up. Ginny quickly engaged Hermione in conversation about their OWLs next year. If the brunette noticed or cared about Harry getting up to talk to someone, she did not ask about it. A few minutes later, he rejoined her looking smug, but Ginny had to wait another ten minutes for his answer before Hermione wound down. Ginny looked at him, eyebrow raised.
He leaned over and whispered to her. "We now own thirty percent of what will become Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes, fifteen percent to each of us with our investment. We'll talk about it more with them over the summer."
"And our conditions?"
"We'll be silent partners and they also agreed to finish school. They didn't argue at all," he said with a wry grin.
"I'm surprised it was so easy."
He lightly chuckled. "I think it was the fear of your mother that motivated them to accept as is, at least after I mentioned it," he added wryly
She chuckled as well. "Probably."
It took another half hour for the blue dot to reach the center of the maze, passing the yellow and the red dot at the very end. As the hedges fell down, Fleur was transported back to the entrance of the maze holding the Triwizard Cup. The Beauxbatons students were cheering wildly, while all of the others were only clapping politely.
"Good call," Ginny congratulated her boyfriend.
"Thanks." Then his smile got bigger. "Of course, it will be interesting to see of there is a protest over her winning or not."
Ginny was confused. "Why would there be a protest?"
"Based on the colored dots above their heads, you saw how she passed them at the last minute, right?"
"And you still remember that she's part Veela, right?" he asked with an expectant expression, waiting on her to put it together.
It suddenly clicked. "Do you think she stunned them with some Veela charm to win?"
"Possibly, but I don't think the rules discuss anything like that," his grin firmly in place.
A few minutes later, when Cedric and Viktor were back with everyone else, a small argument broke out. Ginny looked at her boyfriend suspiciously. "How did you know?"
"It's the obvious thing to do. I think it would have been more sporting of her not to do that, but I can't exactly fault her for it either. While she did complete the second task, she came in third there for a reason: her Veela nature probably warred with her about going under water. Or at least the books say full Veela rarely go under water. I admire her strength of will to do it anyway, but I suspect that reminded her that she is a Veela."
"That's well reasoned, Harry."
They both looked to Hermione, who they had not realized had been listening in. "Thanks," he said with a small smile. "I don't know that for a fact, but it seems reasonable to me."
"Oh, look, Dumbledore has called Bill over. I bet he's checking for charms cast or something like that," Ginny hypothesized. She was glad she had invited her brother now. He was definitely getting to meet Fleur. What happened from here was up to them.
After an hour and many protests down on the pitch, Ginny and Harry walked back to the castle with everyone for a celebration of drinks and snacks. The crowd was led by Fleur, still proudly carrying the Triwizard Cup.
Ginny came bounding down the stairs of The Burrow, her pony-tail swinging behind her. As she hurried for the Living Room to wait for Harry, her mother called to her as she passed through the kitchen.
"Ginny dear, please find Percy in the back garden and tell him to come in. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes."
"OK, mum." Ginny hurried to find her brother. She had only been home for one day from school after their fourth year, but she was still anxious to see Harry. He was supposed to be here any minute to join them for dinner.
Running out the back door, she saw her brother sitting on the garden bench -- the same bench where she had had several very important conversations on over the last couple of years. She wondered what was so special about that bench that seemed to cause it. That question was more poignant than normal, based on the distressed look on Percy's face. His posture of sitting with his elbows on his knees and his head slightly hanging down did not help.
"Percy? Is something wrong?" she asked with concern in her voice.
He had watched her come over, so there was no surprise, but he hesitated anyway. "Perhaps," he finally said.
Ginny recalled several other serious conversations she had had with Percy about his future, and wondered if she was about to have another. "Anything I can help with?"
"I doubt it." He pulled his hands up, interlocked his fingers, and set his chin on his hands, still looking straight ahead.
"If you'll tell me, I can at least listen. Maybe you'll figure it out on your own by trying to explain it to me," she suggested, taking a seat next to him. It was a strategy she had used many times during the war with her old Harry
Percy sat there for a long moment. "I'm not sure it would be appropriate."
"Oh? Try me. If it's something I don't want to hear, I'll stop you; but I've heard about almost anything you could tell me, from fights to disaster." He gave her a pointed look. "History is very useful, but you know what it's like at Hogwarts. It is its own world, with most problems in miniature."
He actually gave a short low grunt. "I suppose that true in a way, but Hogwarts doesn't have parents there."
"Ah," Ginny wisely said, or she was trying to sound wise. "And what's happened between you and Dad?"
Percy's eyes went wide. "How did you know that?"
"Because if it was Mum, everyone would have heard about it when she yelled at you," she said with short giggle, trying to lighten the moment; but Percy's expression did not change. "So what happened?"
"We had a fight in his office today." He paused for a moment and looked at her, as if judging her in some way, before he added, "I said some unkind things. I stopped short of saying a few worse things, but we did not part on happy terms." He breathed deeply and looked to be struggling with something; Ginny said nothing. "I've been thinking that I need to go pack my things and move out."
"I see," she finally said when it was obvious he was not planning to add more. Apparently, her other talks with him had blunted the big argument that had led him to have a flaming row and become estranged in the other timeline, but the root problem was still there. "Ignoring how you said it, what did you accuse Dad of?"
"You can tell me, Percy. I won't try to blackmail you with it like the twins would. I really am trying to help," she told him gently. "As the youngest, I see and hear a lot more than many people would suspect, and I may be able to give you some advice." The fact that she was "older" than her brother thought, as well as that she had the other timeline knowledge, gave her a lot of confidence to deal with this.
Percy fidgeted some more while looking down at the ground. "I, er, I yelled at Dad for not doing more. I know he's capable of doing more, but he won't -- and I think it reflects badly on me. I get painted with his brush and I don't like it. I don't like being held back because of him." He finished with frustration in his voice.
"I see," Ginny slowly said. The problem was the same as in the other timeline. "Percy, will you answer a few questions for me?"
He looked at her, "I don't see how that…"
"Please," she interrupted. "Answer a few questions for me. It might help more than you think."
He shrugged. "I guess it can't hurt. What do you want to know?"
"If you could do any job you wanted, what job would you do?" she calmly asked.
Percy puffed up a little. "I'd be the Minister for Magic. I think I could fix some very real problems and make it better for everyone."
Ginny was not sure he could fix all that much, as the whole system needed to be redone, in her opinion, but that was not up for debate at the moment. "I thought so," she said with an innocent smile. "Now let's pretend you've worked hard and we're in the future where you're the Minister. You would work hard at being the best Minister you could be, wouldn't you?"
"And you'd be happy doing that work, wouldn't you?" she asked just as innocently.
"Then what would you say to a person who asked you why you weren't working harder to get a better position?" she asked sweetly.
Percy sputtered for a moment. "B-but, Ginny… What are you talking about? I'd be Minister. There's nothing higher than that!"
"I suppose it's only from a library book, but I was under the impression that the Supreme Mugwump of the ICW was a more powerful position. Instead of being over only one nation, you'd be leading many nations." She smiled and waited.
"But that's just over a body of representatives, not over a whole country. The power of the Minister is immense; he can change the direction for a whole country. Besides, why would I want to get mixed up with those other countries?" Percy argued.
She had him right where she wanted him. "Do you see what you're doing, Percy? You've found a job you're happy in and you're fighting me to keep it, despite the fact that there are other jobs that are at least more visible in our world, and potentially more powerful. You're really saying that you're happy where you are and you don't care about what others think if you don't try for the other jobs. Now think about Dad. What does he enjoy doing most?"
Percy sat there with a stunned look on his face, and Ginny let him think it through. As she did, she heard the back door to the house open. Looking up, she saw Harry. She smiled at him and held up her hand. He looked at her quizzically for a second before he nodded and returned into the house.
Ginny looked at Percy, who was still thinking hard. "You understand now, don't you?" She did not wait for an answer. "Dad does the job he does because it's what makes him happy. You've met others at the Ministry who do jobs they hate, haven't you?" He absently nodded, still half lost in thought. "I bet they're miserable, but Dad's not. Not only is Dad happy doing what he is, he's also a department head. How many of those are there? Fifteen?"
"Eighteen," Percy corrected her softly in a reflex manner.
"So adding in the Minister, Dad is one of the nineteen most influential people in the Ministry's administration, with hundreds of people below him on the ladder of power. That sounds like quite an accomplishment to me," she told him with pride in her voice. "He's near the top and he's happy. Can you imagine what Dad would be like as Minister? The stress would kill him." Percy slowly nodded. "So why should he strive to do something that would be not only disastrous for him and everyone else, not to mention make him unhappy?" She almost asked him if he was so cruel as to push their father into that, but decided at the last second that would be going too far.
Percy dropped his face into his open hands.
Ginny put her hand on his back and softly rubbed, like their mother used to when they were little. "What's the family motto, Percy?"
"Family first," he said, his voice muffled by his hands. A quick sniffle followed. "I've been a fool," he said a little bitterly. "I forgot how good I had it."
"You've only singed the bridge, brother, not burnt it. Go inside, admit your mistake, and apologize."
He pulled her into a hug and held her tightly. "Thank you, Ginny."
"Or, how about I send him out to you? Maybe it would be best not to do this in front of Fred and George," she said lightly.
Percy gave a couple of rough chuckles and a final sniffle. "Would you? I would be most appreciative." He gave her a pat on the back before releasing her. "Thank you again."
"Any time; you are my brother and I don't mind helping you when you're being a prat about something," she told him with an impish smile.
He laughed with her. "By the way, how are things between you and Harry? I saw him at the back door."
Ginny beamed. Harry was her favorite topic. "We're doing really well. How about you and Penny?"
"We're … discussing things," he said vaguely.
She wanted to tease him about being the first to get married, but decided that would be a topic for another time. "That's good to hear. So, shall I send Dad out?" He nodded. "Don't worry, Percy. He'll always love you." She walked to the back door, thinking of when she had lost her parents in the other timeline. With a happy sigh at having them again, she opened the door to find everyone scrambling from the windows to hurry into the dining room.
Ginny shook her head. They were so predictable, and loveable, she thought. "Dad?" she called out as she walked into the dining room. He was standing a little stiffly behind his chair. Her mother was near him and looked as if she might have been crying. "Percy would like to speak with you in the back garden." She gave him a smile to let him know it would be all right. He walked over, gave her a quick hug and a whispered "Thank you", before he walked outside.
Her mother looked intently at her.
"We're a family, Mum. It will be all right." She had barely got that out when her mother rushed over and engulfed her in a hug, practically squeezing her to death. As her mother stepped back, she looked over and saw all of her family smiling, with Harry grinning the biggest.
Ginny took her seat beside her boyfriend, who took her hand in his under the table and squeezed it. "What did you tell me, Ginny? Family first?"
He squeezed her hand again. "I like that; I like that a lot."
Ginny thought that sounded great, like maybe she would not need to change her family motto when she changed her last name.
A very confident Ginny used the Floo to travel from home to The Three Broomsticks. She was a little early, but she had a reason. "Madam Rosmerta," she said to the owner of the pub, "I'd like to get some scones, fruit, and tea for two, as well as one of your private rooms for an hour."
"Certainly… Miss Weasley, right?" The owner and waitress asked with a smile and Ginny nodded. "That'll be three Galleons for everything. If you'll give me a few minutes, I'll get the food for ya."
"Thank you." Ginny sat down at a table facing the door.
A few minutes later, Rosmerta returned with a tray of food and a tea service. "Ya can have room one. Just leave everything there when you're done."
Ginny handed over three of the golden coins. She snagged a small cube of melon as she waited for her friend.
Two days ago at Harry's birthday party, Ginny had heard that Hermione had a meeting with Professor McGonagall today at ten in the morning, the same time Ginny did. Ginny quickly guessed the purpose of the meeting and had invited Hermione to have breakfast with her an hour before. She hoped Hermione would understand what she was about to do.
While she waited, she reflected on her boyfriend, or rather her two boyfriends -- past and present. Even knowing what she did now, she was very sure she would have still come back in time to fix things, if she was again in the first timeline. Harry was still a wonderful person, but he was not the same as her old Harry. She could now admit this to herself now; she had been in denial for a while.
This Harry was more well-rounded, more knowledgeable about many things. That caused him to stop and think about something before acting -- usually. He still occasionally reacted, especially if someone needed help, but it was pretty rare. Harry was also learning the harder spells at a slightly slower rate. He did not have the drive to learn every combat spell he could get a hold of. He had the power to do whatever he wanted, but he was not as fanatical about searching for combat spells. Those and some other minor things were positives, she thought.
This Harry was also not quite as passionate about everything he did. He still cared and did things well, but some of his fervor was not always there, making him a little more easy-going. She missed some of that passion about life the old Harry had, probably caused from having to live life on the edge for so long, but not much was missing and she might be able to instill some of that missing passion given more time.
For the most part, the two Harrys were remarkable similar. Ginny thought that was because they had both been raised with the Dursleys in his formative years. Also, this was his personality: Harry would always be "a good guy", helpful, powerful in magic, as well as trusting and loyal. He also did the right thing, not the easy thing, and wanted everyone else to do the same. As she knew from personal experience a few years ago, winning Harry's trust back after losing it was not an easy thing to do, and she had only partially lost it. To each Harry, family was the most important thing in his life.
A young witch opened the outside door of the pub and walked through it, breaking Ginny's train of thought. With a smile, Ginny stood and grabbed the tray. As she walked towards the back rooms, the new visitor to the pub saw her and followed her.
"Hi, Hermione. I've got us a room." She led the way.
"Oh? What's so secret? Wait, he didn't, did he?" Hermione walked quickly and looked at Ginny's left hand as she held the tray.
Ginny laughed. "No, not yet, but I don't think it will be long. Close the door if you would," she said as she set the tray down on the table there. After Hermione had closed the door, Ginny pulled her wand out and put a Silencing charm on the door. "Just for good measure so our gossip doesn't leak out," she said with a teasing tone.
Hermione harrumphed as she sat down and started pouring tea for both of them, before dishing our some fruit for herself. "I can't imagine who would care what we say."
"You never know," Ginny said mysteriously as she started filling her plate.
Hermione looked at her. "Are you going to tell me why you wanted to get together this morning now?"
"Sorry for the dodge, but I was afraid that if I told you that, our conversation would have overshadowed Harry's birthday party night before last. He's only seventeen once and I wanted it to be special for him," Ginny explained. "Plus, I was very distracted at the time," she added off-handedly.
"What would have disrupted the party?" Hermione looked genuinely confused.
"You told everyone that you had a meeting with McGonagall this morning," Ginny simply said, as if that should explain everything.
Hermione nodded. "We have a little less than an hour before I need to go."
"Before we need to go," Ginny corrected her.
"What do you mean?"
"I got a note in my class schedule to come meet with her this morning also, so when I heard that you did too, it wasn't hard for me to guess what the meeting was about. I thought we should discuss it before we talked with her." Ginny buttered a scone and nibbled on it while she watched Hermione work on the puzzle handed her.
Hermione's eyes suddenly went wide. "You think she's going to talk to us about who will be Head Girl, don't you?"
Ginny smiled. "What else could it be? I asked Harry if he was to be Head Boy and he won't answer me yes or no…"
"Meaning that he is and has promised not to say anything," Hermione finished.
"When you know Harry, it's obvious, isn't it?"
"True," Hermione agreed before she took a sip of her tea and thoughtfully looked over the rim at Ginny. "Do you want to be Head Girl?"
Trust Hermione to jump straight into the problem, Ginny thought. "Yes, but not for the same reason you do, so I thought I'd offer you a deal."
Hermione's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean -- a deal?"
"Simply that. I know it's important to you to be Head Girl because you want on your resume, or CV, when you go looking for a job. I know that you've been planning on this since your first year here. You want the position for the prestige that comes with it. My primary motivation for the position is for the Head Boy that comes with it," she said with a smirk.
Ginny lightly laughed at the predictability of her friend. "I'll do my best in the job, but the main reason I want to be Head Girl is so I can spend more time with Harry. I'd be willing to tell McGonagall that I'll concede and you can be Head Girl if you'll agree to two things," Ginny offered.
Hermione studied her very carefully for a long moment before a slightly distasteful expression came over her. "Why does it sound like you're trying to … blackmail isn't right …" Hermione struggled for a moment. "I don't know what to call it, but why this offer?"
Ginny wanted to bang her head on the table. "Why does everyone always seem to jump to the worst possible conclusion?" she softly and rhetorically asked. Before Hermione could say anything, Ginny answered, "Most importantly, you're my best female friend, so I'm not blackmailing you. I'm not even trying to manipulate you, as I'm telling you everything up front and I have no intention on forcing you to do anything. I'm just trying to make it easier for both of us to get what each of us wants. You want the prestige of Head Girl; I want maximum time with Harry."
"So what do you want from me?" Hermione asked warily.
"Two things. First, when the patrol schedules are made up, I want to be assigned to always be with Harry."
"That doesn't sound too bad," Hermione said, a bit hesitantly.
"Second, I want you to ignore my coming and going to the Head suites. If you'll agree to both of those things, I'll tell McGonagall that I don't want to be Head Girl. If you don't think you can agree, then I guess we'll just need to let McGonagall choose between us. If I become Head Girl, then I'll get what I want. If you become Head Girl, then Harry and I will have to find some other way to spend more time together." Ginny calmly looked at her friend to see what she would say.
Hermione pondered that for a moment. "The patrol schedules are easy enough." She paused to think the other through, chewing on her lower lip slightly as she did. When her face lit and her eyes went wide, Ginny knew she had fully understood the request. "Ginny! You can't do that! It's against all the rules!"
She waved it way with her hand. "We break the rules all the time, Hermione. It only matters that we have a good reason."
"I do not!" Hermione protested.
Ginny snorted. "So says the girl who helped rescue the Philosopher's Stone in her first year, and who has helped my twinly brothers find spells for pranks on Slytherins," Hermione blushed at that one, "and who has borrowed Harry's Invisibility Cloak more times that I can count for a midnight run to the library and into the Restricted Section without a note from a professor, and do I need to bring up your few curfew breaks this last year with that seventh-year Ravenclaw? What was his name?" Ginny innocently asked as if she really did not know.
Hermione was very red by now. "All right, I get your point. None of us are perfect, but you can't be sneaking into Harry's room anytime you want just to have, well, you know…"
"What?" Ginny casually asked while raising an eyebrow.
Hermione nervously looked down and mumbled a word too softly to make out.
"I don't plan to have any need for Silencing or Contraceptive charms, if it really matters to you," Ginny said, wondering if her friend was jumping to the completely wrong conclusion.
"But, but you said…" Hermione sputtered.
Ginny laughed. "You really did think I wanted to visit him only to have sex, didn't you? Admit it."
Hermione was pink and looked down. She finally guiltily nodded.
"Tsk, tsk, Hermione. I will admit that I plan to sleep with Harry, but I don't plan on us having sex."
"But… I don't understand," the brunette said.
Ginny smiled at her, enjoying the tease. "I only want to sleep with him. There's nothing like going to sleep and waking up in his arms. I feel so … secure, at peace with the world too." Ginny blushed a little now. "We did that a few times last year when we fell asleep in the common room. We got up early before anyone else did so we weren't caught, but even on an old couch, it was the best night's sleep I've ever had." In this timeline, she added to herself. She also mentally acknowledged that Harry might decide to take that last step before they got married, but she thought he probably would wait for their wedding night to make it more special.
Hermione shook her head in disbelief before putting her face in her hands. "I can't believe I'm having a conversation like this," she mumbled.
A laugh almost escaped, but Ginny held her amusement to a big grin. "If it would make you feel any better, I will also say that I expect to have a ring on my left hand in the not too distant future. I believe there is an old school policy that would let me stay with Harry based on our relationship."
"Really?" Hermione asked as she looked up in surprise, as if she thought Ginny was pranking her. "You expect him to ask you before school starts?"
"I believe that he is only waiting for my sixteenth birthday to ask me the special question," Ginny confirmed. "So I will probably come to school with a ring in September," Ginny stated with a happy smile. "Even better, as far as the school policy is concerned, we now have a Familial Agreement in place," she said smugly.
The brunette sighed. "I suppose this is another one of those obscure Pureblood traditions that I have not been able to find information on?"
"Possibly," Ginny answered. "This one is one of the lesser-used ones nowadays, although it was popular a couple centuries ago."
"Would you explain it to me?" Hermione looked hopeful at gaining new knowledge.
"The Familial Agreement," Ginny started, as if lecturing, "can serve several purposes. In its most basic form, it ties two families together for mutual protection, much like a treaty does between two countries, although this agreement is magical and therefore more binding. It can also be used to tie two families together through marriage, by giving the other family right of first refusal. In this case, Harry would need to be consulted and turn me away before I could even consider another marriage offer in any form. Furthermore, and to my main point, once Harry makes an offer to me, I'm considered betrothed in every way except for legally, meaning I can't sign documents as Ginevra Potter or legally represent Harry, but for all practical purposes, I can be considered to be married and would be fully under Harry's protection, just as a wife is under a husband's protection. From his point of view, he can mostly treat me like a wife, even requesting that I be with him or at least near him."
"But why would people do that?" Hermione asked. "It seems so, so strange, backward even."
"Because it gives me Harry's protection so no one else can make a marriage offer in any form, and there are a few obsure Pureblood laws and traditions that can practically force a girl into a marriage. And because we're only almost married, we still have the choice to break off the marriage before it does become legally binding if we suddenly decide we don't love each other after all. In our present day of more choices and being less," she waved her hand a few times as she paused to search for a word, "feudal, I suppose, it has fallen out of use. The more binding Marriage Arrangement is still used by some Pureblood families," Ginny scrunched up her face to show what she thought of that, "but the Familial Arrangement does work in this situation. It takes me off the market, so to speak, and makes Harry more legitimate in the eyes of those in power. It also makes my mother happier," Ginny added with a wry smile. "While she knows minds can still be changed, it gives her the comforting illusion of permanence already -- although I don't think she would express it that way."
Hermione seemed put out. "When did you do this, Ginny? And why haven't you told me before?"
"We did it at the end of Harry's party, after everyone else went home. Since he was seventeen, he could legally sign the agreement, and of course, my dad signed for my family and for me. By tradition, Harry can make an offer for me the day I turn sixteen, and I believe he will do so on my birthday in nine days." She beamed at the thought of accomplishing her final personal goal from time-traveling.
Hermione shook her head again. It occurred to her to look at her watch and she frowned. "We really need to leave and I don't know what to say."
"You can think about it as we walk if you want," Ginny offered, grabbing the last scone as she rose. She took down her Silencing spell and led the way out, waving to Madam Rosmerta as they passed through the main room.
It was a quiet walk up to the castle as Hermione contemplated what Ginny had told her. "You're really serious about this, aren't you?" she asked Ginny as they approached the castle's front doors.
"I am. Have you decided?"
Hermione shook her head. "No. I wish you had told me sooner."
"I almost came over to your house yesterday to talk, but I knew you had a date with Ron last night and I did not want to do anything that might distract you or cause an argument between you two." Ginny looked at her friend with curiosity as they made their way through the corridors. "How did that go? Ron wasn't up when I left."
Hermione looked at her as if trying to decide how much to say. "I never appreciated how few details you and Harry share with the rest of us until now." A wry grin came over her. "Can I just say that you were right about us and that will be our only date?"
Ginny barely contained her knowing smile. "Will you still be friends?"
"Yes," Hermione answered without hesitation. "We actually had an enlightening talk after a difficult start. That led us both to understand friends were all we should be."
Now Ginny did let her smile show. "Enlightening for you or for him?"
A slight blush colored Hermione's face. "Probably more for me, but I think he had a few revelations too." She was saved from further questioning as they had arrived at their Professor's door.
Ginny smiled at her friend and knocked on the door. It was opened a few seconds later by their Head of House, looking the same as ever.
"Miss Granger, Miss Weasley. Please come in and make yourselves comfortable in a chair." McGonagall closed the door and then walked across the office so she could sit behind her desk. As she made herself comfortable, she reached over to a tea set and poured three cups of tea.
"Good morning, Professor," Hermione said, as if she was uncomfortable with the momentary silence. "It was a surprise to get a note from you for something other than my normal book list."
"I can imagine," McGonagall said cryptically, although not unkindly. "You might be surprised at how much work a teacher does over the summer; however, this goes beyond that."
"This is because you're also the Deputy Headmaster, isn't it?" Ginny asked as she accepted her cup and saucer.
"Indeed, Miss Weasley." She handed Hermione her tea before taking a sip from her own cup. "I have a problem that involves the two of you, and I'd like you to help me solve it. My problem is that it is time to pick the Head Girl for next year and you two are the final candidates."
Hermione gave Ginny a look as if she was impressed that her friend had figured out the reason for the meeting. Ginny was amused at Hermione's reaction, but managed to keep her expression to a twitch of the corners of her mouth.
"Each of you would make an excellent choice, although for different reasons. Because you are both Gryffindors, the Headmaster has left the decision up to me as to which of you will be Head Girl and which will be the seventh year prefect. I'm afraid that I'm having a difficult time choosing as well. Therefore, I've decided to call you in and ask if each of you wants to be Head Girl, because if only one of you has the desire, then that will make things much easier."
Hermione quickly answered, "Yes, Professor. I've wanted to be Head Girl since my first year."
McGonagall nodded acknowledgement, as if she had expected that answer. She turned to Ginny.
"Will Harry be Head Boy?"
The barest of smiles graced McGonagall's lips. "Yes, the Headmaster and I have chosen him for that position. I gather that would provide incentive for you to want the Head Girl position as well?"
Ginny grinned. "That would be an added incentive for me to be Head Girl, so yes Professor, I would like to be Head Girl too."
McGonagall sighed. "Well, that did not help. Let's try a different approach. Miss Granger, will you please tell me why I should pick you."
"Of course, Professor," Hermione said smoothly. "I believe I would be a good Head Girl because I am at the top of my class academically, proving that I have good study practices and techniques. Therefore, I believe I can balance my academics with taking on the duties of Head Girl. I also believe I have a good relationship with all of the professors here. I'm also well known by the entire school, so people will know who to come to when they need help. I've also been a friend of Harry's since his first year here, and we've been Prefects together for the last two years, so we have demonstrated that he and I can work well together."
McGonagall nodded. "Those were many of my observations as well." She turned to Ginny. "Miss Weasley, your turn."
Ginny sat up just a little straighter. "Professor, I believe I can claim those same advantages, plus a little more. I'm also at the top of my class, just slightly behind Hermione, but by choice."
An eyebrow made its way up towards McGonagall's graying hair. "Please elaborate, Miss Weasley."
"As you know, I was advanced a year shortly after I started." McGonagall nodded. "I believe that shows I understand my studies here, and I could have gotten even better than the outstanding grades I did, but I chose not to."
While McGonagall seemed very intrigued at her statement, Hermione turned to her with a penetrating stare that all but demanded an answer. "But why, Ginny? If you could have done better, why didn't you do the best you could? Why did you let me think I was the best in our class?"
"Because I know that for you, being first in your class is one of your life's goals and I did not want to prevent you from achieving that. It meant more to you than it did to me, so I purposefully held back because of our friendship. I merely needed to have grades that were almost as good as yours to be considered for Head Girl, believing that my other qualifications would probably win the position, as long as other considerations that I had no control over were not a major factor."
Hermione looked completely shocked at the revelation.
"That is very commendable, Miss Weasley," McGonagall said with a nod. "Did you have anything else to recommend about yourself?"
"I do. I too am known by all of the professors and get along with them well, even Professor Snape," she said with the barest of smiles, which McGonagall matched. "I am well known by the entire school because of various things I've done, some of them individually, but mostly by virtue of working on teams, such as our Quidditch team; also, I encouraged Harry to start his Defense Study Group and helped him lead it. I have a good working relationship with each of the houses."
A glance showed Hermione wincing at that, as she had helped Harry lead the Defense Study group too, but had not mentioned it.
"Although I have not been a Prefect per se," Ginny continued, "I have acted in that capacity leadership-wise and people respond to me as if I were one. I've helped to encourage others in Gryffindor to do the right thing as I've helped Harry. I've also taken the time to help the younger students with their studies when they get stuck. Finally, besides having worked with Harry as an unofficial Prefect, I have, and will continue to have, a closer relationship to him than anyone else." Ginny could not help the grin as she said, "Just recently, Harry and my father signed a Familial Agreement."
This time, both of McGonagall's eyebrows went up. "One with all of the clauses?"
"Yes, Professor. Harry has mentioned that I will receive a very special birthday gift in a little over a week," Ginny said proudly. "I believe that if you need to chose between us for Head Girl based on abilities, experience, and relationships, I'm the better choice," Ginny replied, far more calmly than she felt. She wondered if she could create a portal between the seventh year girl's dorm room and Harry's room if Hermione was picked as Head Girl.
McGonagall leaned back in her chair and thought about it.
Ginny looked over at Hermione and her friend looked very concerned. She was also fidgeting and glancing at Ginny. She suspected that Hermione was thinking very hard about the deal she had offered her earlier.
"For several reasons," McGonagall said very slowly, "I wish I could make both of you Head Girl, but that is not possible." She reached into a side drawer and pulled out a silver badge and a gold badge, then looked at each of them carefully.
"Professor?" Hermione nervously asked. "What does the rest of the staff say?"
She looked like she did not want to say it, but McGonagall answered, "Overall, they are evenly split." After another few seconds of thought, the Deputy Headmaster put the two badges on her desk with her hands covering them and slid them over, one in front of each girl. When she raised her hands, the gold one with "HG" was in front of Ginny and the silver one with a "P" was in front of Hermione.
Hermione looked crushed and Ginny felt for her, despite her elation.
"Thank you for your vote of confidence, Professor," Ginny softly said, "but may I please ask Hermione one question before either of us pick up a badge?"
McGonagall looked very curious. "If you wish…"
"No, Ginny," Hermione quickly said, her eyes filled with unshed tears. "I'll always know what should have been and it wouldn't be the same. And you are right, you are a better leader than I am -- even the Slytherins respect you." She reached out and grabbed the silver badge before turning to Ginny. Leaning over, since the chairs were close enough, she hugged her friend. "Congratulations. Please promise me one thing, though."
"It's yours if I can," Ginny told her as she returned the hug.
"Don't hold back. Do your best and push me -- push us all," she whispered with much emotion, causing her voice to crack on the last word.
Ginny smiled. Hermione was still her friend. "I will for you."
Hermione pulled back and nodded. Turning to McGonagall, she asked, "Is there anything else, Professor?"
"No, you've been most helpful, as usual." With a kind smile, their professor said, "Since you are here and I know how well you treat our library, if you would like, you may visit and pick out three books to take home with you and read, as long as you return them on the second of September. I'll speak with Madam Pince so she knows I gave you permission."
Hermione sniffled as a tear finally spilled onto her cheek. "Thank you, Professor. I'll see you on the first." She quickly got up and hurried out of the office.
As if choreographed, both Ginny and McGonagall sagged back into their chairs as they let the emotion and stress of the moment bleed away in a welcome silence.
After several deep breaths, McGonagall sat back up and looked at Ginny. "Congratulations, Miss Weasley. I'm also heartened that this did not destroy a friendship."
"I am too; I am very glad," she said fervently.
McGonagall pursed her lips as if working up her courage. "If I may, what were you going to ask Miss Granger at the end?"
Ginny found it very hard to lie at the moment. "I was going to ask how badly she wanted it and if I should offer to withdraw my desire for the position … no strings attached." She had felt badly enough for her friend after the badges had been revealed that she would not have held her to the offered deal.
"I'm impressed, Miss Weasley." McGonagall slowly gave her a real smile. "I believe I have made the right decision."
Ginny found it hard to be happy at the moment, her friend's loss still weighing on her. "I hope so."
A slender book was placed on the desk next to the golden badge. "Please take this as well and read it before the first of September. I'll expect you and Mr Potter to be on Platform 9 ¾ at half past ten to help new students and parents as needed. The password to the Headmaster's office at the beginning of the year will be 'Ginger Snap', and you can tell Mr Potter that the password on the door to the Head suite will be 'Two from Gryffindor' and you may change it when you wish. Unless you have any questions, I hope the rest of your summer is pleasant."
She reached out and picked up the badge and the slender book, which Ginny saw was titled Policies and Procedures for the Head Boy and Head Girl. "Thank you, Professor," she said.
"Miss Weasley, if you would like to hand a few your Head Girl duties to Miss Granger, assuming she is agreeable, I don't believe anyone on staff would mind." McGonagall's smile was still firmly in place.
That made Ginny smile too. "I'll be sure to discuss it with her." After a few seconds of wondering, Ginny decided to ask her burning question. "Professor? If I may ask, why did you choose me?"
Professor McGonagall looked at her for a moment, her stern look slipping back into place. "This will stay between us, Miss Weasley." Ginny nodded. "I believe your leadership qualities are slightly better and you are more of a well rounded individual. By that, I mean that you would have a better chance of being in any of the four houses."
"Also, while the staff is evenly split overall on which of you to pick, when I asked the other three Head of Houses, all three thought you would make the better Head Girl," McGonagall explained.
"Thank you for answering my question," Ginny said humbly as she rose from her chair. She started to leave and made it as far as the door when McGonagall called out one last time.
"And Miss Weasley," the softer look returned to the older woman. "Once you have a ring on your finger, please make an appointment with me for some Sunday afternoon and bring your intended along. I have a few stories the two of you might like to hear."
Ginny's heavy emotions started to lift as she thought about Harry and their relationship. She gave a heartfelt smile. "Thank you, Professor. We'll take you up on that offer. While I expect to enjoy them, I'm sure they will be particularly special for Harry. I hope you have a pleasant summer too." She left the office.
She could not believe Harry had withheld the information that he was Head Boy from her. She would need to do something about that. Maybe a prank that made all of his clothes except for his boxers disappear as he walked in the back door of The Burrow in front of her family. If she was lucky and the twins were there, they might even get the blame, she thought with amusement.
First, she headed for the library. She wanted to make sure Hermione was all right. After that, she would track down Harry and tell him her good news.
Ginny took the Floo to Sirius's house, to start her journey to Hogwarts for her last year there. As she came out, she was swept into an embrace and kissed for all she was worth. She took a moment to get her breath back before saying teasingly, "Mr Potter, I hope I'm the only one you greet like that."
Harry laughed. "I'd be an idiot to do that with anyone else, especially if you ever caught me," he joked.
"You've got that right," she replied with a grin. "Are you ready to go?"
"Yes. I've already told Sirius and Hestia good-bye, so we can leave now." He started walking her to the Apparation spot outside the front door.
"How's Hestia doing?" Ginny asked with concern.
Harry shrugged. "She looks the same to me and complains the same." He grinned at her as he whispered, "Honestly, I'm ready to leave for her last month. She's been really vocal about her problems the last few days."
Ginny swatted him on the shoulder as they neared the front door. "You'd be complaining too if you were eight months pregnant." Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Is this how you're going to be treating me one day?"
To his credit, she saw him instantly figured out what she was asking. "No, not at all." He smoothly added, "It will be easy with you because you will be the one I'm taking care of."
She grinned to match his. "Good answer."
He took her outside, shut and locked the door behind them, and then at the Apparation point, he took her hand tightly and took them both to Platform 9 ¾. The old man who watched the Portal to the Muggle portion and the Apparation point bade them to hurriedly move along so whoever came next would not land on top of them. They moved to a spot about half way between the Portal and the train. There were a few older students already there and they waved to them.
A few minutes later, the first lost-looking student came through the Portal from the Muggle side. As he looked around with wide eyes at the train and the Platform, Harry waved him over.
"Hi, I'm Harry. Is this your first year at Hogwarts?"
"Yes," he said timidly.
Harry knelt down and flashed a friendly smile. "Well, you're in the right place. Just pull your trunk over and get on the train. You can sit in any compartment except for the ones in the first passenger car; those are reserved. I'm sure other first-years will be joining you soon."
"OK, thanks." The boy struggled to pull his trunk along, so Harry quickly pulled out his wand and shot a Featherweight charm at the trunk. The boy stopped and looked in surprise as his trunk suddenly became a lot easier to carry.
"Magic is really useful at times. That will last all day."
"Thanks, Harry!" The boy walked almost normally now as he headed towards the train.
"That was well done, Harry."
Ginny had been concentrating on the exchange, so she had not seen their friend walk up.
"Hi Hermione." Harry gave her a hug.
After Harry, she came over and gave Ginny a hug too. "Hi Ginny."
"I know just the spell to help you out." Pulling out her wand, the Gryffindor Prefect cast a spell. When she was done, flaming letters spelling "Information" were several feet above their heads.
Ginny chuckled, as did Harry. "Thanks, I think," he said wryly.
"I forgot to ask the other day, but how are your parents doing? Are they having concerns about not seeing you much after you finish here?" Ginny asked.
"Yes, we've had several talks about that recently. I've done my best to assure them that now that I have my Apparation license, I can come see them as often as I'd like, but I'm not sure they believe me."
"I suppose they're concerned that you'll just get so busy that you won't have time, not that you'll avoid them on purpose." Ginny tried to comfort her friend.
"You have a point," Hermione agreed. "I told then that I want to get a degree from a Muggle university too, so they should see me often enough. That seemed to make them feel a little better."
"I'm sure you'll work it out. You always do find solutions to the really hard problems," Ginny assured her.
"Thanks. So I don't run out of time, I'll go make sure everything is ready for the Prefect meeting," Hermione offered.
"Thanks!" Ginny exclaimed. She was thrilled that Hermione was not only still her best female friend, but that she had wanted to do some of the Head Girl tasks. They had had a long talk the week after the positions had been awarded and Hermione had admitted to Ginny that after she had cooled down and thought about it, she really did agree with McGonagall that Ginny was the better choice, even if that hurt.
As Ginny turned around, she saw several first-year girls coming their way. She should not have been surprised, but they all stopped in front of Harry. From the looks in their eyes, she could tell they were crushing on him; it was so cute.
While Harry was busy, she heard her name being shouted and looked up to see Lavender and Parvati running towards her.
"Let me see! Let me see!" Lavender was shouting. Parvati looked just as eager.
Ginny saw Harry glance up at her and shake his head slightly. It was obvious he saw it all as silliness. She just held out her left hand.
Parvati grabbed her hand and looked with anticipation. "It's wonderful. Big enough to make a statement, but not too big. It looks flawless."
"It is. It's also a Potter heirloom," Ginny told them of the engagement ring on her left hand. She was even more pleased that it was the same ring she had received in the other timeline. She had no idea why Harry had picked this ring both times, but the sentimental value had reduced her to tears and she had had a hard time pulling herself together to explain that to Harry. When he had learned, he had been most pleased.
"So, how did he propose?" Lavender asked eagerly.
Ginny smiled as she remembered. "We were having a party at my house for my sixteenth birthday. Right in the middle of the party in the evening, he came up behind me, put his arms around me, a spell hit us, and then he Apparated us away."
The two girls gasped and looked very surprised. "What happened?" they asked at the same time.
"We reappeared in the middle of Stonehenge just as sun was setting." The girls ooh'd. Ginny also noticed Tracey Davis and Daphne Greengrass had walked up and they were listening intently too.
"He told me not to worry, that my father had cast a Muggle-repelling charm on us. He then lifted me up on the what was left of the center alter stone and told me that true love had brought us together, while he pulled the ring out of his pocket. Then he asked me to marry him." Ginny sighed along with the other girls. "I wish I could say that I did something wonderful like leaping into his arms and kissing him, but I was so overwhelmed I sort of melted and cried with happiness."
"It's OK," Parvati told her and gave her a hug, which the others joined for a big group hug.
Ginny took a deep breath to clear the emotion and gave a small grin. "At least I was able to stick my hand out so he would know I accepted and he could put the ring on." The girls all laughed. She looked over and saw Harry chuckling and shaking his head at her.
"You're the first to get engaged, and you're Head Girl engaged to the Head Boy with a set of rooms all to yourselves," Lavender said with a big smile implying a lot.
"Sorry, girls," Ginny said with an almost evil smile. "No details for you there. We'll abide by the rules. That's the official story and we're sticking to it."
There were a many chuckles as Daphne drawled, "Right."
"Hey Ginny, could you give me a little help here?" Harry called.
She looked over and saw a small crowd around Harry. "Why don't you go get on the train? I need to help Harry." The four girls bade her good-bye for the moment. She took a few steps towards Harry and, to her surprise, several of the boys came to her with adoring faces. Suddenly, she knew what Harry felt like with the first-year girls.
Harry and Ginny wearily entered their rooms for the first time that evening. The Prefect meeting had gone well, as had the train ride and the Welcoming Feast. All of their duties had just added up and it was late. They looked around at where they had found themselves.
There were four Portal doors to take them to the place near each of the common rooms, as well as the door they had just used, which was near the Great Hall. Besides the main room, which looked very comfortable with two work tables, two couches, two chairs, and a nice fireplace; there were three other doors. The one in the middle was to their bathroom, which looked like a smaller version of the big Prefect bathroom. The other two doors went to each of their bedrooms.
To keep up appearances, they each went to their own room and pulled their trunks out of their pockets and expanded them before they quickly unpacked. Ginny also used the toilet that was in her room -- each bedroom having its own water closet. She changed into a nice pair of blue silk pyjamas and then padded into Harry's bedroom. He was just crawling into his bed, wearing only his pyjama bottoms.
When he saw her, he grinned and held up the top sheet. She grinned back and hurried over, crawling in with him and then snuggling up to him as he turned off the lights with a quick wave of his wand.
She craned her neck up and briefly kissed him. "I love you, Harry." She snuggled into his side as she laid her head on his shoulder and put her arm over his stomach.
"I love you too, Ginny."
She lightly squeezed his body. "Can we do this every night? I can't think of a better way to go to sleep." She felt his chest and stomach bounce a little as he silently chuckled.
"I can," he said confidently, "but we said we wouldn't do that until next August. Are you sure we shouldn't get married before then?"
Ginny giggled lightly. "That would be nice, but Mum would have a cow if we got married before I was seventeen."
His arms went around her and he was silent for a moment. "I wonder if I could get Sirius to talk her into it?"
She started laughing. "I'd like to see him try." Harry joined her.
"It would be a good show," he agreed.
Ginny squeezed him again. "Be patient, Harry. I'll make it worth your wait."
He kissed the top of her head. "I'm sure you will. I also know there are a few other things we can do until then."
Ginny groaned. "You are going to make this so hard on us if you're not careful. I'm really trying to be good."
"Sorry," he said, sounding very contrite. He tightened his hold on her.
She kissed his chest where her mouth was and relaxed. She could wait. There were no stupid destinies hanging over either of their heads. All was as it should be.
Ginny was hand in hand with Harry as they walked to the Headmaster's office. She had a good idea what was about to happen and wondered if she was right. "I think it would be best if you made the offer," she whispered to him.
He looked at her as they continued down the corridor. It was obvious he was trying to think of all of the possible outcomes. She was not sure why he was thinking so hard; they had discussed this situation multiple times.
Harry sighed. "I'd prefer it didn't happen at all, but I agree. If it must be done, I should be the one to do it."
She squeezed his hand in a show of support. "Have you heard any more news about Draco, other than he came to visit his mother?"
He chuckled. "Sorry, but I forgot to tell you. Sirius said that Draco was not well received during the visits he had with various people here in England last week, so he's decided to live on the continent. Other than the occasional visit to see his mother, he won't be returning to England.
"That's a relief," Ginny sighed, glad that the prat could generally be ignored. Sirius had already told them, with much glee, that Draco was a very changed person. Narcissa had said that even at the end of Draco's seventh year, he was not a leader in the school, much to the boy's frustration.
Arriving at the Headmaster's office, she told the gargoyle, "Walkers Shortbread". It moved aside and they went up the stairs.
"Just think," he mused, "no more having to remember all of these sweets and desserts soon."
Ginny snorted. "Thank Merlin. I swear I get fat just thinking about it all."
Now he snorted as he raised an eyebrow while looking at her. "You, fat? Hardly."
She gave him a questioning look, easily containing her tease. "Hardly? So while I'm normally not fat, I am fat sometimes?"
He leaned over and kissed her temple as he whispered, "Only in the right places." Further conversation was prevented by him knocking and an "Enter" being quickly said from the other side of the door. They entered the room.
"Mr Potter, please come in. Miss Weasley, I did not expect you, but you may join us too," the Headmaster cordially said, as if he really had not minded that Harry had brought Ginny along when the Headmaster had invited only Harry.
"Thank you, sir. I'm glad you don't mind Ginny being here. I could not think of anything you might tell me that would be a problem for her to hear, especially as we will be married in less than two months." Harry had been very polite, as he had been all year. Ginny knew Harry still respected Dumbledore, but she thought he still had not totally forgiven the old man for putting him with the Dursleys and for failing to ensure that Sirius had had a trial when the man had been first captured.
"That is an excellent point." Dumbledore gave his famous grandfatherly smile. "While we have met a number of times this year for official duties, we have spent very little time together getting to know one another, not only this year, but through most of your years."
"Isn't that as it should be, Professor? I believe most students never see the inside of your office unless they are in trouble beyond the capacity of their Head of House."
Ginny felt Harry casually grab her hand and hold it. Even though he was calm on the outside, she could tell that on the inside, he was not.
Dumbledore chuckled. "Quite true, Mr Potter."
Ginny mentally congratulated Harry for his accomplishment. He had worked for several years to get the Headmaster to call him Mr Potter instead of Harry. He had finally done it at their first staff meeting of this year when he all but shamed Dumbledore in front of the entire staff by asking, "Why am I the only student you call by first name, even when I've asked you not to?"
"Nevertheless, as you've finished your NEWTs and you'll be finished with Hogwarts in a few days, I thought we should discuss a few things."
"Oh? What's so important to discuss? About all that's left is the train ride home, and we did not discuss the train ride here before it happened," Harry said.
Much like Hermione, Harry could wield logic when he wanted to, and Ginny was enjoying it.
Dumbledore's smile disappeared, from his eyes as well as his mouth. "I'm afraid this is of a more personal nature. You see, there was a prophecy made about you shortly before you were born…"
"That is what you've been holding out on me, isn't it?" Harry hotly asked, his anger rising quickly. "You waited six years since I first asked you at the end of my first year to tell me that I'm the one destined to kill Tom Riddle, haven't you?"
The Headmaster looked slightly startled at the mention of Riddle's name and started to answer, but Harry did not stop. He quoted:
"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches…
Born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies…
And the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not…
And either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives."
(Quoted from OotP by JKR)
Dumbledore looked shocked.
"Is there anything else you've withheld from me, Professor?" Harry fixed him with a stare.
Ginny could feel Harry's power as she held his hand. In fact, as she looked at him, she realized he was starting to glow slightly again. She squeezed his hand to get his attention and to calm him down, but he either ignored her or did not feel it.
"How did you know?" Dumbledore hoarsely whispered.
"It doesn't matter, unless," Harry dramatically paused, "you're willing to make an Unbreakable Vow to tell me everything you've withheld from me and to never communicate what I explain to you to anyone else -- ever."
Dumbledore sat there stunned for a moment. As if he suddenly realized there was someone else in the room, he slowly turned to Ginny. "Miss Weasley, I have found much mystery about you and suspect you are involved as well. Would you tell me what is going on?"
Wishing she could make her eyes twinkle but knowing she could not, Ginny settled for an innocent smile. "I'm sorry, Professor, but anything I might say would need to be covered under Harry's offer."
The old man shook his head slowly. "I'm so disappointed in both of you."
Harry laughed. "As was said in the Muggle movie Hermione showed me last summer, you'll need to get used to disappointment."
Dumbledore did not look pleased.
"The bottom line is that as the one who was forced to and did end Riddle's miserable existence, I can tell you he's already dead. You already have multiple proofs. It's time to give up your obsession with Voldemort and let me lead my own life," Harry demanded.
"Is that what you really think, Mr Potter?"
"What else could it be, Professor, but that you want to decide how I must live." Harry had lost some of his anger and all of his glow, but none of his intensity. "You forced me to live with people who hated me, and you kept trying to send me back. You even told me you knew you were condemning me to ten hard and dark years. You let Sirius go to prison so he could not take care of me. You allowed Voldemort into this castle as a teacher in what looks suspiciously like a test for me, as I can think of no other reason to endanger a school full of children with a magical artifact that you knew Voldemort would covet. And I know things would have been worse as the years went by if Sirius had not been rescued and many known Death Eaters who were not in prison had not been rounded up about five years ago -- something you should have taken care of despite what Fudge wanted at the time. The only way I can explain all of that is that you had your plan for how everything should be, regardless of what anyone else wanted. I am alive and happy today because some people you could not control loved me enough to help me destroy Voldemort."
Dumbledore seemed to age in front of them as Harry ranted. Ginny was sure she had never seen him look so old, so … defeated.
"Could you not accept that I loved you too, Harry? That I wanted you to enjoy your childhood and so I tried to shield you from as much ugliness of life as possible?" Dumbledore asked, almost pleading in his grandfatherly way.
Harry gave a sharp shake of his head. "I can accept that you believe that, but not that it's true. If you had really cared for me, you never would have left me at the Dursleys or you would have at least checked on me at frequent intervals to see what really happened there. I may respect your knowledge, but I do not adore you as so many others do."
The Headmaster looked lost in thought as he looked at the young man. Ginny wondered what he would do.
"I'm afraid I can not take your offer, Mr Potter," he said with a sigh. "I find Unbreakable Vows to not be a good action, except under the most dire of circumstances, which this is not. However, I will implore you once again to explain to me what happened."
"And I refuse without a Vow, as it is not your personal concern," Harry said stubbornly, his determination clearly visible.
Dumbledore did not refute Harry's statement and Ginny found that interesting. Instead, he again contemplated Harry for a moment.
"Will you at least tell me your proofs for the prophecy being fulfilled?"
"I don't see why not," Harry said magnanimously. "You've heard all of this before."
Dumbledore looked slightly surprised.
"There are three reasons. First, because those who had a Dark Mark no longer do, indicating that the caster is dead. Second, because Professor Lupin still has his present job, five years after he started, indicating that the person who cast the curse on the Defense Against the Dark Arts position is dead. And thirdly," Harry grinned for the first time in the meeting, "because I, the fulfiller of the prophecy, said so and you should trust me because I have your and everyone else's best interests in mind -- all for the greater good, you understand."
Ginny thought Dumbledore did not like that last part, based on his sour expression, but she understood why Harry had said it. She admitted to herself that there was something very satisfying about throwing Dumbledore's words back at him. A small part of her was petty enough to want to tell him of his failure in the other timeline, but it was probably for the best that her time-traveling secret was kept to Sirius, Harry, and herself.
Dumbledore said nothing for a long moment, so Harry said, "If there is no other pressing business, I hope you'll excuse us, Professor. I believe I need a breath of fresh air before dinner." When Dumbledore still said nothing, Harry stood and helped her up with the hand he was still holding.
Just before they made it to the door, a beautiful trill filled the air for a few seconds. With a deep breath and a relaxed smile, Harry walked them over to the bird. "Hello again, Fawkes, or maybe it's good-bye. I did enjoy seeing you this year." As Harry held out his hand the bird let him softly stroke the side of his head. Ginny also reached out and stroked the bird, although she did not say anything.
When Ginny pulled her hand back from the phoenix, Harry led them out of the Headmaster's office. Ginny took one last look back and saw a very troubled-looking old man. She wondered if he would accept that Tom Riddle was dead now.
Down in the corridor, Ginny looked at Harry and saw that he looked a little tense again, now that they were away from Fawkes. "Did it feel good to get all of that out of your system?"
Harry chuckled at first, before he started to give an all out laugh, one that seemed a little maniacal at the end. "What in the hell did I just do? Damn! That felt good to get that off of my chest. Please help me to never get that angry again, but yes, it felt really good."
She gave him a wry smile. "I'm glad you understand that should only be a one-time thing. Perhaps he'll now believe that Voldemort is dead, and I think he needed to understand how he made several bad decisions after your parents were killed, but you can't keep the hate in you. It will eventually hurt you, too."
"I know," he acknowledged as they made their way for the front door. "I think I can let it go now. I've already started in some ways. In fact, I really don't hate him all that much. I think I mostly pity him, as he will need to live with knowing what he did to me."
"That's a start, Harry," she told him as she squeezed his hand. "Now, why don't go find our favorite tree by the lake, sit under it, and just relax."
He wetted his lips slightly, as if in anticipation. "I like that idea," he said mischievously. "How about I also nuzzle and kiss your neck, right where you like it most?"
Ginny closed her eyes and shivered slightly as memories of previous times came to her. Then she opened her eyes and said, "I agree," as she started walking faster, pulling him along. Harry laughed and she enjoyed his happiness.
Ginny was very nervous as she Apparated to the entrance hall of their castle. Their home still amused her, even after five years of marriage and living here. Harry had wanted to live in a castle, so he had bought one. It was not very large as far as castles went, but it was theirs.
As she passed the cloak closet, she handed her broom case to the suit of armor next to the closet. It acted as it was charmed to do, taking the case and holding it. It also snapped off a salute to her. She snorted at the antics of the armor, wondering who had charmed it to do that. The problem was she had too many choices between her brothers, Sirius, Remus, and her husband. Based on the armor's action, she would bet it was either her husband or Remus. One of the others would have made the gesture rather less acceptable in polite society.
At the sound of the armor clanking slightly, she saw Harry poke his head out of a doorway down the corridor.
"Ginny? What are you doing home so early? Didn't you have practice until six?"
She smiled at him as she make her way to him. "I did, but I was allowed to leave early." She greeted him with a kiss and kept her arms around his neck.
Harry's eyes narrowed and his head tilted slightly; he looked at her with a critical eye. "Is something wrong, dear?"
Ginny almost laughed. He missed very little. "No," she told him with only a hint of mirth escaping her.
He looked at her even more carefully. "Then why are you home early?"
"Can't I come home to see my wonderful husband?" she playfully asked.
"The Harpies never let you go early unless you're injured. Did you hurt yourself on some new Chaser play?" He was starting to look very concerned.
Ginny took pity on him and started to come to the point. "No, but you are correct that I was sent home for medical reasons."
His hands immediately went to her shoulders, pushing her back to his arm's length, and he examined her very carefully -- even turning her around to check her back side.
As she turned back to face him, she laughed, which angered him slightly, based on his expression. "Harry. What you're looking for isn't on the outside, it's on the inside."
"What? Did they find a growth or something in you?" He had not panicked yet, but it looked like he was heading that way.
"Sort of." As his look of panic continued to grow, she hurried into her explanation. "Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when I told you that I was a week late in taking my contraception potion?"
"Yes…" he guardedly drawled.
"Well, because of that oversight, you will have an heir in a little over eight months," she told him with her biggest grin.
Harry stood there in shock for several seconds before he whooped and stepped forward, grabbing her around the waist and twirling her around. When he set her back down on the ground, he kissed her so soundly Ginny felt weak in the knees.
"Wow! You can do that again," she exclaimed, and Harry proceeded to do just that. She felt star-struck and barely noticed him sweeping her off of her feet until he was striding down the corridor, one arm under her back and the other arm under her bent knees.
He walked into the sitting room and let himself fall back onto an overstuffed couch, still holding her. He still had a goofy grin from the good news. "So, I assume you had a team physical today?"
"Yes," she said as she nodded too. "It was time for the monthly check. Since we're all women on the Harpies, they do it like clockwork to make sure surprises don't happen and we are able to continue to play."
"So, do you know what we'll get?" he excitedly asked.
"Yes," she said and teasingly said no more.
After a few seconds of her looking like the cat that got the canary, his hands moved extraordinarily fast and she was being tickled. No matter how she tried to squirm, she could not get away. "OK, I give! I give!"
"And?" he asked after stopping the tickling, although his hands were still in place.
Breathily, as she was still recovering, she said, "Sirius will be pleased that your firstborn will be a son." He again kissed her soundly and she was glad she was not still standing.
"I'm so glad," he told her. "I know you said you weren't ready for children yet, but I think you'll be a wonderful mother for him."
She laid her head on his shoulder and enjoyed feeling him hold her tightly. "It's not that I don't want to be a mother, I was just having so much fun playing professional Quidditch that I didn't want to stop this soon." She sighed. "But I guess those days are over now and it's time for the next phase of my life."
"Hey, don't sound so glum," he said consolingly. "When we finished Hogwarts, you said you only wanted to play for seven or eight years, so you're not that far off. Also, when the kids are grown, you can go back and be a coach or something. Oh, and in a few years, we can teach them how to fly and play," he said enthusiastically. "So you don't need to give up the sport forever. Besides, I still have the box seats so you can see every Holyhead Harpy game for as long as you want."
Ginny stretched up and briefly kissed him, appreciating his support. "You're right, I had planned to stop in a couple of years anyway."
"And you'll be a wonderful mother too. It's not like you need to work, or me either for that matter."
She shrugged. "I suppose not, not with the Potter fortune, but I don't like relying on it."
"I know what you mean. I'd prefer to take care of us myself," he admitted.
"Speaking of working… How was your day?" She watched his face with her head still on his shoulder.
"It was fine," he told her matter-of-factly.
Ginny sighed deeply and he looked down at her with an amused smile.
"You know I'm not supposed to talk about what I do at the Department of Mysteries. So which answer do you want? Fine? Interesting? All right? Challenging? Or long?" He finished the list with a grin.
She closed her eyes and slowly shook her head, although a wry smile was trying to get out. Harry, true to his promise at work, almost never talked about what he did on the job. There had only been one exception in five years, and that had come about a year ago. She thought back to that time.
They had been sitting in their living room in front of the fire late on a Friday night. Harry had been reading some old book whose cover looked vaguely familar, while she had been looking over her Quidditch playbook, trying to find a better defense against the Spear Formation. Out of the blue, Harry had asked her, "Since the time-travel spell you used requires a pint of fresh blood for every year you desire to come back, and it must be from the same person, whose did you use?"
That statement had caused her to freeze, both physically and mentally. After a long moment, she slowly looked up to find his green eyes ablaze with curiosity as he stared at her.
"I found this book at work today that describes a ritual that sounds like exactly what you told me you used when you came back in time. I can see why you used it, as it is extremely accurate, as long as you create the mixture correctly. You had once told me that you had help, which is obvious as there is no way you could have sacrificed that much of your own blood and still completed the ritual. So who helped you?" He was completely calm, but also completely focused on her for the answer.
She was not sure she wanted to answer him, but his look demanded it. "You, uh, you found that book at work?"
He nodded, but he did not let her look away.
After an uncomfortable moment, she finally said, "Hermione. She was the only other person on our side left, and she was a quadriplegic. I convinced her to check my equations and be the sacrifice, since I was the only one physically capable of doing the ritual." She was not sure why she had never wanted to share that, but it had not seemed right.
Harry looked at her for a moment longer before he quietly said, "Thank you for telling me that."
"Why?" she asked just as quietly.
He smiled his knowing little smile. "For some reason, I've always felt it was Hermione, but I wanted to know for sure. Then when I found this book today, my curiosity was piqued again. I wondered again when I saw her doing an experiment, just before I was leaving for home. You know how she can get, how focused she can be when pursuing research."
Ginny had nodded and smiled. It was one of their friend's obvious traits.
"Somehow, I knew I owed her. Even though I didn't need to, I stay a few extra minutes to watch what she was doing." Harry shook his head slightly and grimaced. "I'm glad I did because there was an undetected curse in an object she was working on and she was surprised and unable to contain it."
"Fortunately, my magic was strong enough to contain it and she was able to escape unharmed," Harry said with a finality, ending his story there.
"Stefan will be pleased," Ginny commented, glad her friend was all right, and wondering how many dangerous things her husband worked with that she never knew about.
"If she tells him, and you may not," he told her sternly. "Not him or her."
She nodded meekly. Ginny knew of his promise to keep the secrets he encountered on the job. She wondered how this was exempt. Then she realized she already knew of the ritual he had asked about, so nothing new there; and she only knew that Hermione had been working on a cursed object, no surprise there. It's one of the things everyone knew the Department of Mysteries did; they researched things, many of which were old objects and most of those were cursed.
Harry had been recruited to work there because of his power level, and therefore his ability to be able to overcome problems with brute force, if need be. He had accepted the offer because it had sounded interesting and it kept him out of the public eye.
Ginny thought of Stefan and wondered what he thought about Hermione's job. She wondered if he sometimes disliked the shroud of mystery surrounding his wife's work. He was a nice Muggle-born Wizard that she and Harry had managed to get to know a little over the four years Hermione had been dating him. Because she had met him at Oxford, after she had left Hogwarts and he had left Durmstrang (he had been a friend of Viktor Krum's), Ginny and Harry had not been able to spend much time with Hermione and Stefan until recently. A few months ago, the two had graduated from Oxford and gotten married. That was when Hermione had also started working at the Department of Mysteries with Harry, who had started working there immediately after he had left Hogwarts.
"Back to the important subject," Ginny said, trying to get her mind out of the memory and off of Harry's work. "What do you think we should name him?"
Harry looked across the room, staring at nothing in particular. After a few seconds, he said, "I think I'd like to use my dad's name, but probably as the middle name." He looked down at her, obviously still thinking hard, which caused him to talk slowly. "What about Edward James?"
She considered it. "I think I'd prefer something else, as that would get shortened to Ed or Eddie, and I've never cared for those. How about Tristan? I saw that on your family tree."
"Tristan James Potter," Harry said as if tasting it. "It will be pretty hard to shorten," he pointed out.
"Some might try with Tris."
He snorted. "I doubt it, it has no ring to it." A grin came over him and he craned his neck and kissed her soundly again. "I like it. Tristan James Potter. I can hardly wait to tell Sirius and Remus."
"Can you imagine what my mother will say?" she said with a chuckle.
Harry laughed. "I better put a deafening spell on us, not to mention a shield to protect our ribs."
"She's not that bad," Ginny said through a light laugh.
"Perhaps not, but you'll have to admit that she will be very enthusiastic in her rejoicing," he said with an easy grin. "I've heard the story many times from Bill about when he told his mother that he and Fleur were expecting."
"True," she agreed before she got a mischievous smile. "Speaking of enthusiasm, how about if you take me up to our tower and remind me how I got pregnant? I want a reminder of how much you love me."
Harry laughed again. "I'll happily satisfy that urge any time you have it, Ginny." He momentarily set her down on the couch, stood up, and then picked her up again, causing her to squeal in delight. As he started walking towards their bedroom, he sincerely told her, "Thank you again for everything you've done for me, Ginny -- in both timelines. I love you so much."
Ginny looked at him as he carried her. "I love you too, Harry, and I always will -- no matter how many times I have to travel through time."
((A/N: When I started this story, I had one goal in mind: a redo fic with only Ginny going back, not Harry. Along the way, I came up with three other things to accomplish with the story: while Harry is always a "main character" in an HP story he is not the focus of the story (Ginny is); the story is told only by females, never by Harry or any other male; and a semi-believable redeemed Snape. I hope everyone who has made it this far has enjoyed this story.
I want to give a big thanks to Wolfs_Scream! Despite the fact that my name is listed the author, Wolfs_Scream played a very important role in making this story read much better by being my editor. He pointed out mistakes (in grammar and in plot) as well as encouraged me with comments to make the story better. He's a (mostly) hidden hero and I deeply appreciate his help.
I also appreciate those who have left reviews, especially the long, meaningful, and/or funny reviews, whether positive or negative. While I enjoy writing just for the fun of it, well thought out reviews make writing more enjoyable.
To those who have been wondering, I finally found where my muse for Lily's Child went and I've convinced her to come back home. :-) Work will be restarting on that very soon. Other short stories might also pop out ... one never knows. -- Kevin))