Disclaimer: It all still belongs to JK Rowling. Lucky lady. But at least
we can play with them.
A/N: I have had this idea fermenting for quite a while and this chapter has been written for nearly as long. I am a bit stuck on my other two fics, so I thought I would see what you think of this.
I know Harry/Ginny is not the most popular ship out there, but my regular readers will know that I really love them.
So, let me know what you think, and if I should bother continuing.
Oh yeah, readers of Muggle and ASD, do not despair…I have no intention of abandoning either story.
A big thanks to Tabitha (ObdisianEmbrace) for her beta services. You're the best Tab.
Chapter One: Well, Hello Ginny!
Harry Potter leaned in the open driver's door of the car to farewell his cousin. The heavy clouds that were just about ready to dump their load of snow, had rushed the day towards an early twilight—the street lights had flickered on ten minutes earlier—and it was freezing cold.
"Say 'hi' to your mum and dad for me," said Harry, grinning and pulling his long coat more tightly around his slender frame. Harry's companion emitted an inelegant snort.
"Yeah, right!" Dudley Dursley chortled, his bulky frame, so dissimilar to Harry's slender elegance, was wedged behind the steering wheel. "I'll give them your regards, right after Mum asks me whether you're looking after yourself and eating properly. They both laughed.
Even though Dudley and Harry had gotten over their many past differences, Harry's Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon still eschewed anything to do with Harry. Vernon had berated Dudley long and loudly about his continued association with his cousin, but Dudley ignored most of his father's blustering these days.
"Are you sure you don't want a lift?" asked Dudley. Harry just looked at him with raised eyebrows.
"Dud, I'll be home and lighting my fire before you're out of the car park."
Dudley snorted again and turned the ignition key. "Yeah, yeah. I'm sure it must be wonderful to be a wizard." The engine, which had wheezed into life reluctantly in the freezing conditions, coughed and died. Dudley swore and turned the key again. The motor hiccoughed for another second then died again. Dudley, not the most patient of individuals, smashed the steering wheel with clenched fists as big as ham hocks.
"Shit!" He tried again but this time the engine didn't even catch. Dudley clenched his fingers around the steering wheel and shut his eyes. He concentrated on taking deep breaths. In, out. In, out.
Dudley's eyes snapped open. The car was suddenly burbling away as if it had a Rolls Royce engine under the bonnet. And Harry was putting a long, thin length of tapered wood back in an inside pocket of his overcoat. Dudley's eyes rose to Harry's carefully blank face.
"I didn't hear you say anything."
Dudley huffed out a breath that indicated that he was partly impressed, but also partly irritated. "Did you just start it or did you replace the bloody engine? It's never sounded this good before."
"Just gave it a quick overhaul," said Harry casually. He grinned. "You know; cleaned the filter, adjusted the carburettor, changed the oil, reset the timing."
"You're a bloody mechanic, too," groused Dudley.
"Hardly," answered Harry his voice now bored. And then when Dudley just continued to gaze through the windscreen with a slightly put out expression on his face, Harry added, "I can put it back the way it was if you'd rather."
Dudley's eyes snapped back to Harry's face. "No!" he said, and then, grudgingly, "Thanks."
Dudley pulled the door shut and rolled down the window so that he could continue to talk to his cousin. He pulled the seat belt around his substantial torso. Dudley had lost a lot of weight since his teenage years, but he was still a bear of a man. "You know, Harry, it is really hard not to feel totally jealous of you. Even now, when we've been mates for the last five years."
"No, it's not just the magic, though it hardly seems fair that your mum ended up being a witch and my mum didn't, even though they were sisters." He held up his hand for silence when Harry would have interrupted again. "No, it's not just the magic, Cuz. "You're smarter than me, you're good looking. The girls flock to you…"
"Dudley! Stop talking bullshit!" Harry finally interrupted. "You've never expressed any desire to be magical. And in case it's slipped you're mind, you're the one with the steady girlfriend, not me. And," he added, more than a little peeved, "while you lament your mother's lack of magical talent—a talent that she would deny ever having wanted, by the way—just remember that she's still here, while my mum—and my dad—were both murdered by a sodding arsehole of a wizard who was responsible for committing thousands of murders and causing mayhem in our world and in yours."
Dudley had the grace to look more than a little chagrined. "Sorry, Harry. Ignore me. You know how I run off at the mouth before I put my brain into gear." Harry stepped back as Dudley prepared to drive off.
"Are we still on for the nineteenth?" asked Dudley.
"Of, course. As things stand at the moment any way." Dudley backed out of his parking spot. Harry raised his hand in farewell.
"Say 'hi' to Amanda for me." Dudley stuck his thumb in the air in acknowledgement before moving off at a greater rate of knots than was strictly necessary, or indeed legal within the car park.
Harry had planned to Disapparate back to his home but in the end he decided to walk for a little while. He thrust his hands into his pockets and marched to the Main Street where he slowed to a stroll, idly looking in the shop windows. It was nearly Christmas and Harry had not done any shopping yet. Being in a Muggle town, it was the perfect opportunity to look for a present for Arthur Weasley. And Dudley and Amanda.
The shop interiors were already lit to ward off the encroaching darkness. A few flakes of snow were drifting down lazily, but Harry's steps kept pace with his thoughts. It had been a long time since Dudley had reacted so negatively to his magic.
Not that Harry used it often; in fact it was quite rare for him to use it when he was away from the magical world, other than to Apparate or Disapparate to or from a meeting with Dudley. Of course, he was very careful to appear in, or disappear from, deserted areas. Only twice since he had passed his Apparition test when he turned seventeen—the legal age for a wizard to use magic out of school—had Harry been in the position where he had had to modify the memory of a Muggle who had seen him appear out of nowhere.
The spell was simple for Harry. He only had to make his unwitting audiences forget, at the most, fifteen seconds. Still, it was not something he relished doing and so he had become even more careful, Apparating to even more deserted areas and then walking to meet Dudley. He didn't mind. Wizards could become very lazy and Harry didn't want to go down that path.
All Harry ended up buying during his stroll were two CDs for Arthur Weasley. For his fiftieth birthday at the beginning of this year, Harry had given Arthur a portable CD player with ear plugs and batteries that he had charmed to continue to recharge themselves. Arthur's eclectic tastes included Elvis Presley and Enya and the two CDs enclosed in appropriate Christmas gift boxes and nestled in the small plastic bag that Harry now carried, were by these two disparate artists.
As Harry exited the shop he grinned to himself. Molly Weasley would be more than a little peeved with him because she often complained bitterly that she could no longer have a conversation with her husband as he always had earplugs stuck in his ears listening to that 'infernal caterwauling'. Harry would just have to make sure he got Molly an extra special gift to make up for Arthur's obsession with Muggle music.
Since the day Harry had met the Weasley's youngest son, Ron, on the train that was taking them to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to begin their magical education, the two had become inseparable and Harry had rapidly found himself integrated into the Weasley family. Molly Weasley, who already had seven children, had taken the small, scrawny orphan to her heart and even before she had officially met him, she had begun to mother him.
For his first Christmas at Hogwarts, Molly had sent Harry a hand knitted jumper and the most wonderful home made fudge that he had ever tasted. Molly was the best cook Harry knew. For the first time that he could remember, Harry had known what it was like to be part of a real family. A family that did not begrudge the air he breathed. He had revelled in the affection lavished on him by the wonderful Molly.
Arthur and five out of the six of the remaining Weasley offspring had all been of a like mind and over the years, Harry had become a Weasley in all but name. Of course, he stood out like a sore thumb because every one of the Weasleys had flaming red hair (except Arthur's was thinning and his remaining hair was more grey than red) and Harry's hair was as black as night. Bill and Fleur even designated him as 'uncle' to their boys, Guy (pronounced Gee) and Leon, and Charlie and his wife Devon felt the same way now that they also had a son. Sam was just a month old.
Harry was thinking that he would go and look in a Muggle toy shop for the kids' Christmas presents when he found himself walking past a brightly lit café. Thoughts of gifts for the kids still occupied his mind and he had already passed the café's large window when he stopped dead in his tracks. He stood rooted to the spot for several seconds, his brow furrowed and seemingly unaware when a light flurry of snow blew into his face and smeared his glasses. Without thought, he raised his left hand and passed it in front of his face. Immediately, his glasses were snow-free and clean, though his face felt like millions of tiny little icicles were piercing his skin.
Surely he had imagined what he thought he had seen because the Weasleys were at the forefront of his mind. And even if he had seen it, red hair while not as common as blonde or brunette, was not unheard of.
But that particular shade of red is very distinctive.
Harry turned slowly, as if in a dream and found himself back in front of the café window, staring at a young woman who had her back to the window. She was sitting at a table set against the side wall. Her long, straight, flaming red hair was spread over her slight shoulders. It fell to her shoulder blades and an ugly, bulky, olive green jumper enshrouded her torso.
Harry shook his head. It couldn't be. Could it? The hair was certainly the right colour. And she appeared to be the same tiny build, even though all he could see of her was the ridiculously large jumper that was so long, she was sitting on it, and a rather thin leg encased in faded denim. Her left elbow rested on the table supporting her head and she appeared to be writing.
Harry stared for a full two minutes, hoping the woman would turn her head slightly so that he could see more of her face. His thoughts were whirling. He had to find out for sure. It had been four and a half years since he had last seen her but he remembered her delicate heart-shaped face as if he had only seen her yesterday.
Not allowing any more time to talk himself out of his decision, Harry back-tracked to the door and entered the nearly empty café. Two middle-aged women surrounded by shopping bags were sitting towards the back, talking and occasionally raising mugs of coffee to their mouths, and a young couple were holding hands across their table, their eyes focused solely on each other, their coffee forgotten. There was no one behind the counter.
Ten steps carried Harry across the dirty vinyl floor. His stomach lurched. The young woman was so engrossed in her task, she did not register the presence of the dark-haired man standing several paces away. Her eyes never strayed from the exercise book in which she was writing but as Harry watched, she put down her pen and reached for her half empty mug of cappuccino, absentmindedly lifting it to her lips as her eyes remained glued on what she was writing.
Ginny Weasley thought that her heart would stop beating. In fact, she was sure it had for a split second because the large mug of coffee fell from her suddenly nerveless right hand, and totally paralysed, she watched, horrified as the milky brown puddle spread inexorably over her precious writing before reaching the edge of the table and dripping over her denim clad legs and onto the floor.
Everything was suspended except for the slowly spreading coffee. Ginny had stopped breathing and every vestige of colour had drained from her face. A high pitched buzzing filled her ears, blocking out all noise except her erratically beating heart. Her brain was mired in horror and the only part of her body that seemed to be working was her eyes, and she wished she could close them because she did not want to continue to watch the destruction of several hours work, and she certainly did not want to look up and see the face that belonged to that voice.
A slight movement in the corner of her eye registered and the next second, she was gazing down at a perfectly clean and dry page in her exercise book that was now only covered with her small, neat writing. Her jeans too were now dry and coffee-free, as was the floor. She knew what had happened, just as she knew—had known as soon as she had heard that voice—who was standing next to her. Slowly, as if she had just been released from a Full Body Bind, Ginny raised her head and stared into the beautiful emerald green eyes behind the lenses of a pair of round, wire-rimmed glasses. Those eyes still haunted many of her waking and most of her sleeping hours.
Harry was shocked. It was definitely Ginny but she was a shadow of her former, vivacious self. Always petite, she was now rail thin—unhealthily so. She was as pale as one of the Hogwarts' ghosts and even the tiny freckles that had once marched cheekily across her nose and cheekbones thumbing their noses at her otherwise flawless peaches and cream complexion, had faded. Those cheekbones now looked as if they had been carved with a hatchet, standing out below huge, haunted brown eyes that had once radiated mischief and an unquenchable joie de vive. At the moment however all Harry saw in those eyes was misery and fear, and perhaps a little resentment and defiance.
"How did you find me?" Ginny's voice was as dead as her eyes were haunted, and if Harry had expected any sort of welcome, her tone of voice quickly disabused him.
"I didn't find you because I wasn't searching per se. I just happened to see you as I was walking past the café."
A streak of angry colour appeared along those chiselled cheekbones and for a second Ginny's eyes glittered with a spark of the famous Weasley temper.
"Oh, come on Harry," she snapped. "Why would you be in this Muggle town if you weren't searching for me?" She paused for breath and then hissed, "And I hope nobody saw you wielding your wand when you cleaned up the coffee you made me spill."
Harry's eyes narrowed a little and when he spoke it was with an equal bite in his voice. "Firstly' nobody saw me wielding my wand because I didn't use my wand. And secondly, we stopped actively searching for you at least two years ago. Of course, that hasn't stopped any of us doing a double take every time we see a girl with long red hair. Just as I did today."
Ginny swallowed painfully and Harry was sure he saw a hint of tears before she looked back down at her exercise book where she began to flick her thumbnail across the edges of the multiple pages. Harry watched her efforts to distance herself from his presence for several seconds before pulling out the chair opposite her and lowering himself into it.
Ginny's eyes snapped to his face. "Oh, do have a seat!"
Harry's eyebrows rose. He was surprised by her nastiness. She had always been so easygoing. He decided to ignore her taunts, putting them down to the shock of seeing him so unexpectedly. "What happened, Ginny? Why did you run away?"
Ginny lowered her eyes again and was now nervously twirling her Muggle pen over and over in her fingers. She did not answer.
Despite his good intentions, Harry could feel his anger begin to get the better of him but he made a valiant effort to tamp it down. This whole scenario was just so surreal. And Ginny was so not the person he had come to know all those years ago. But it was definitely Ginny Weasley, and the fact that she was even alive was a miracle.
From the moment he had known that it was really her, his instinct had been to grab her and hold her tight in case she disappeared again. But he did not need his Legilimency skills to know that any such move would be met with violent resistance. To get over the awkward moment and to give himself time to fully assimilate the fact that he had found Ginny, Harry surreptitiously conjured, with a casual wave of his hand, a cup of cappuccino for himself and a fresh one for Ginny. She looked at the drinks in amazement and then she raised her shocked eyes to Harry who was already taking a sip of the milky coffee. He raised his eyebrows at her over the top of his cup.
But instead of commenting on his wandless and non-verbal spell work, Ginny said acerbically, "Have you an objection to paying for a drink, Harry? I don't remember you being a penny pincher."
Harry lowered his cup. "You know I'm not but I was unwilling to leave you alone for the length of time it would take me to walk to the counter and order the drinks. I have a feeling you would have made a bid for freedom."
Ginny's face coloured again—Harry noted that her embarrassment did not produce the all encompassing angry red that always suffused Ron's features when he was angry, instead a delicate pink wash of colour covered her cheeks and forehead—and she quickly looked away from Harry's piercing regard. The fact that he was right in his assumption that she would have made a run for it made her clench her fists in her lap with resentment and anger.
Harry too lowered his eyes. It disconcerted him somewhat that he remembered the soft peach tinge that stained Ginny's skin when she was embarrassed or angry. He gazed into his cup and grinned mentally as he realised that he should not be so surprised that he remembered what Ginny looked like when she was angry. After all, she was a redhead and she was her mother's daughter and whilst he loved Molly Weasley dearly, nobody could deny that she had a formidable temper.
Being a surrogate son, he had not been spared many demonstrations of the power of that temper over the years. He had always been treated the same as any of Molly's natural born sons and he truly never wanted it to be any other way regardless of how uncomfortable those moments could be.
Whilst Harry had been reminiscing, Ginny had made a valiant effort to pull herself together. She had not been this discomposed since just before the end of her fifth year at Hogwarts and on that occasion her whole life as she had known it had come to an end. She was not going to allow matters to escape her control this time, however.
To this end she yanked a large fabric patchwork bag from where it hung over the back of her chair and began stuffing her book and pens into it. She knew Harry was watching her but she steadfastly kept her eyes down. She longed to just drink in his features, commit this new, mature Harry to her memory so that she would have something wonderful to latch onto during her darkest times.
But she could not weaken.
"You have to leave Harry and I want you to forget that you've seen me. Please don't tell my…my family." Ginny choked as she said these words but she took a deep breath and continued stoically, surreptitiously wiping tears from her eyes. "I've made a new life for myself in the Muggle world and it would only cause trouble if I was to go back."
When Harry made no move to get up, she reluctantly raised her eyes to his face. He was looking at her as though she had lost her mind. His expression was a mixture of pity and incredulity. "If you think I can pretend to your parents that I haven't seen you, haven't spoken to you, then you're mad. Have you any idea what your disappearance has done to them?"
Ginny stared at Harry for a second, then she lowered her head and pretended to be looking for something in her large bag. But not before Harry had seen the tears still shining in her eyes.
He decided a little more guilt heaped on her shoulders might increase her obvious feelings of remorse.
"I doubt you'd recognise your mum and dad, they've aged so much. You remember what your Mum went through when Percy defected…well you can multiply that by a hundred."
"Stop it," whispered Ginny.
"You were the light of their lives, their much longed for, much loved daughter. They think you're dead."
"Shut up!" Ginny dashed the spilled tears from her cheeks with a furiously shaking hand, at the same time as she scooted her chair back noisily and stood up. When she would have swung her bag over her shoulder, Harry grabbed her wrist. His fingers and thumb easily overlapped and the tiny bones felt as though they would break if he exerted the least amount of pressure.
"Let me take you home, Ginny."
"Leave me alone, Harry. This is none of your business. I am none of your business." She tried to pull her hand free and when that didn't work, she tried to prise his fingers apart with her free hand. She most definitely did not need Harry Potter manhandling her.
"Yeah, it is my business. You are my business," Harry contradicted, and then he yelped, releasing Ginny's wrist smartly, shaking his hand and then raising it to his mouth. Ginny had dug her fingernails into the back of his hand after failing to prise his fingers open. And she had drawn blood
"That bloody hurt!" said Harry through clenched teeth, but he was talking to fresh air. Ginny had taken advantage of her hard won freedom and was hurrying towards the door. Harry saw red. He made sure his back was to the two women as he thrust his hand into his pocket and touched his wand. He did not withdraw it from the deep coat pocket but after grasping it for a moment, he withdrew his hand and raised it, fingers splayed, towards the door and muttered, Colloportus. He heard the squelching noise that told him the door had sealed itself just as Ginny grabbed the handle and pulled.
She looked like she had dislocated her shoulder as her hand flew off the large metal handle due to the force she had used to open it. But without pausing, she grabbed the handle again and tugged even harder. When the door still failed to open, she rattled it in its frame, getting angrier and angrier with every passing second.
Harry saw the oblivious lovers register an intrusion into their blissful aloneness and reluctantly look towards the door and the crazed woman trying to open it. He knew the two women with all the shopping had also tuned into the show, and a guy had entered through a swinging door at the back of the café and was standing behind the counter, frowning as he watched Ginny's antics.
Finally Ginny gave up; she kicked the base of the door viciously before swinging around and glaring at Harry. "You open this door Harry Potter," she ground out through white lips. "You open it now."
Harry moved towards Ginny as the proprietor called out, "Are you all right, Ginny?" as he walked out from behind the counter.
Ginny turner towards him as if he was a lifeline. "He's locked the door, Simon, and I can't open it."
Simon frowned again and looked at Harry suspiciously. Harry raised his hands in an 'I don't know what she's talking about', gesture as the beefy man strode to the door. When he grabbed the handle, the door opened easily. The lines already etched on Simon's large forehead deepened as he looked at Ginny, who in turn was looking furious and embarrassed.
Ginny took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. It must have stuck or something," she said in a mortified voice.
"Are you sure you're all right, kiddo? You look really pale."
Ginny glanced at Harry who was standing with his arms crossed. She wondered where his wand was. She hadn't seen it once and yet he had cast at least four spells in the last fifteen minutes. She wrenched her eyes away from his smug face. She'd give him smug!
"This man is harassing me, Simon. He just came and sat at my table and started to make lewd suggestions. Can you call the police for me?"
Harry raised his eyes to the ceiling and shook his head as if to say, 'Ginny, Ginny, Ginny!'
The next thing Ginny knew, Harry's wand was in his hand and he had pointed it in quick succession at the five Muggles. She watched with her mouth open as Simon moved back behind his counter and began to fiddle with his coffee machine, the two lovers grasped hands and stared into each other's eyes again, and the two ladies continued on with their conversation as if they had never stopped.
She turned her furious face back to Harry as he pocketed his wand. "You Obliviated them?!"
"I wouldn't have needed to if you hadn't brought Simon into this. You have no one to blame but yourself."
Ginny mouthed silently for several seconds, then she let out a noise of unadulterated rage and pure frustration before turning back to the door and wrenching it open. As she hurried off down the street, Harry was right on her heels, his long black overcoat flapping around his legs.