Harry walked over to Ginny, feeling very disgruntled. She was standing on the porch talking with Hermione and two Aurors but stopped and looked at Harry. He had left his mind open ever since she had returned, so she was aware of his unhappy mood. "Sal's under a lot of pressure," she said to him. "Don't worry about it."
"Everybody's under pressure," Harry grumbled. "Does she want me back or not?"
"Oh, she does!" Susan Bones exclaimed. "She was hounding the Minister for three days to bring you back. Ginny's right, don't worry."
Harry looked over to where the Head Auror was talking with the two Ministry officials and Popeye. She stared at the ground as the old Auror seemed to be haranguing her. She glanced up at Harry.
"See?" Ginny said, taking his arm. "She's already sorry."
Ten minutes later there was a low rushing noise. First, four Portkeys in the shape of four old hats appeared on the porch, followed by sixteen Aurors, four per hat. Ron was the last to arrive.
"Good thinking!" Harry said to Ron when he joined him. "No noise that way."
Ron shrugged and glanced at the Head Auror, who was on her way over. "Is she still being touchy?"
Harry grunted. "Everyone's telling me not to worry, so . . ." He looked at her, waiting for his orders.
"I'm sorry," she said immediately. "I was a little touchy. There's lots of pressure, but that's not your problem. I'll stay out of the way."
Harry waited until she walked back to Popeye and began speaking with him. He turned to Ron. "You're going to have to stay here, you and three others and Hermione. Hide yourselves inside, but stake out the front hallway and grab anyone who comes in. Ginny." He turned to her and she smiled brightly.
Harry laughed along with everyone else who heard her. "I'll remember that. But what exactly happened at the stadium?"
Ginny took his hand and put it on her elbow. "I'll take you there and show you."
"No, first tell me what you did."
She saluted, but Harry glared at her. "Okay, okay! I'll be good," she giggled.
The other Aurors moved closer as she began to speak. "I figured that the least likely place anyone would be at this hour was the locker room, so that's where I Apparated. I kept your cloak on and went out onto the pitch. Chamberlain and his wife were there —"
"Croaker wasn't?" Harry asked.
Ginny shook her head. "Nope, only the two of them. They were walking toward the skyboxes that were parked on the grass, and he was carrying something that was covered with a blanket."
"That'll be the blanket it was wrapped in when we moved it."
"So they went into one of the boxes, number seven, and a minute later they came out empty–handed. I waited until they Disapparated, and then I went in and there it was, inside a locker under some bottles of butterbeers. And that's it."
She beamed at Harry. "So when do I get the reward gold?" She laughed at Harry's look of bemusement. "No reward, huh?"
"No," he said out loud, but in his mind, You'll get one later. How about a bubble bath and a massage?
I'll take the bath. Your massages always end up as something else. The others saw Harry smile.
"Okay," he said, becoming serious and looking around at his team. "Let's go. Ron, keep Susan, Dennis, and, um, Tony. Does everyone else know Exmoor Stadium? Anyone not know it?"
No one said anything. Finally Harry glared at Ginny with his face set. "And you are staying here, Mrs. Potter. No arguments."
"Yes, Boss," she simpered. Sorry, love. I can't wait for my bubble bath.
Harry sighed and shook his head, trying to ignore the snickering around him.
Five minutes later Aurors surrounded Exmoor Quidditch Stadium and a moment after that an Anti–Apparition spell had been cast over it. Harry led them inside. The pitch and empty seats were weirdly lit by wandlight as the Aurors fanned out across the grass and up into the stands. Harry, Popeye, Seamus, and Parvati sprinted for the skyboxes parked at one end of the pitch. Harry swore when he saw that the door to number seven was ajar. He kicked it open and all four of them swarmed inside.
It was empty. On the floor next to a row of seats that faced a large opening was a wooden box. The floor around it was strewn with butterbeer bottles, some of which lay broken in small puddles. Harry peered into the empty box and swore again.
"He beat us back here, dammit! He must have heard Ginny Apparate and come back."
He leaned against the wall next to the window and thought hard. There were now Aurors guarding at least three places: Godric's Hollow, the house in Dunster, and the stadium. He wasn't sure, but Sal had probably left a guard on the house in Withypool. And a couple of Aurors were still up at Hogwarts. The department was getting a bit stretched.
He also realized that, even though he had his job back, he needed to recover the Pensieve and bring the thieves to justice if he also wanted to restore his reputation beyond his boss and his Aurors. He knew that they had never lost confidence in him — he looked at the faces of the three who were with him, and he saw only patience — but others, like Croaker, were waiting for him to make another mistake.
"They're running out of places to hide," said Popeye, bringing Harry back to the present.
"So what could they do now? Where could they go?" Harry mused. "Do they know anyone who might be willing to hide them?" He stared out the window at the dark pitch; points of light from the wands of his Aurors moved around the stadium like fireflies. "They must be getting desperate, so . . . maybe they'll take a chance and hole up someplace that's not quite so safe."
He pushed away from the wall. "I have an idea where they might be, but I don't want a swarm of Aurors showing up there. Popeye, keep looking here. I don't think you'll find anything, but it's a big place."
He took one of the hat Portkeys from Parvati that they had brought with them for the return trip and stepped outside the skybox. He touched the hat with his wand; it turned instantly blue and in a moment he was back in front of the house in Dunster. No one was in sight. He went to the front door and gave the password. Ron opened the door and looked at him with surprise.
"Where's Ginny," Harry interrupted. "I want you and her to come with me. The stadium was empty, they came back and took the Pensieve, but I have a hunch where they went, and if I'm right we won't need Aurors, just friends."
"She's upstairs checking out the rooms that Deverill set up for the team. I'll go get her. What about Hermione?"
"Good idea, she should come, too."
Ron went back inside but at that moment Ginny came bounding down the stairs; Harry had let her know that he was back. Why would they go there? she sent. They'll be caught!
"They will be caught," Harry said firmly, "but they have no place else to go, they don't know anyone else in Britain."
"What are you talking about?" Ron frowned, now back with Hermione. "Stop with the mental stuff, will you?"
Harry held up the Portkey and touched it once again with his wand. "Take hold," he said, and Ginny, Hermione, and Ron all grasped the brim of the beat up straw hat, which Harry noticed for the first time had something written on it. "What's a Hatter?" he asked Ron.
"A Muggle football team. Are we going to Lu —"
But the hat was glowing blue, and moments later they stood on a cliff overlooking the sea, although in the darkness they could only see whitecaps breaking on the rocks below them. They all turned at the same time to look at a shadowy shape about a hundred yards away, a small house standing back from the edge of the cliff. Soft candlelight glowed in two of the windows.
"Shell Cottage?" said Ron. "Why the hell would they come here?"
"Because Fleur's a relative and they know that it's not very likely there would be Aurors here," replied Harry. "Someone's awake, too." He pointed to the lights.
"So what do we do, just walk in and say, Hello, you're under arrest? They'll Disapparate."
Harry frowned. "We'll have to put a jinx on it to keep them from leaving."
"No," Ginny said, "I don't like that. Bill and Fleur haven't done anything. If Chamberlain and his wife came here, they must think that they can get some kind of protection. And Bill would never do anything illegal. I'll bet they're sitting around talking, and Bill and Fleur are trying to convince them to turn themselves in."
They were all silent, staring at the cottage. "We have to do something," Harry said at last.
Ginny took his arm. "Let me go to them. Maybe it'll be less threatening and they won't panic."
"Ginny's right," said Hermione. "And even if they Disapparate, they'll probably leave the Pensieve behind."
Harry hesitated, but his instinct told him that Ginny was right. "Okay, but Ron and I will be right outside."
He and Ron ducked under the Invisibility Cloak and they set off toward the cottage with Hermione staying back a few paces. They walked slowly in the dark, not wanting to light their wands. While they walked Harry and Ginny kept their minds open to each other, and he sent her a stream of instructions and advice, until, when they stood before the door, Ginny gently pushed his thoughts out. Let me do it, love. I'll be fine. Stay inside me, but don't say anything.
Harry let her go and he and Ron stopped a yard from the door; Hermione moved to the side, staying out of the candlelight. They could hear voices from inside, speaking French. Ginny looked around to where she knew Harry and Ron were standing, gave them a quick nod, and knocked on the door.
The voices stopped, and Ginny called out, "Bill! It's me, Ginny."
A second later the door opened and Bill stood framed in candlelight, holding up a lantern. "Ginny!" he exclaimed. "What are you doing here? Where's Harry?" He peered into the night, and started to speak again, but Ginny cut him off.
"I know they're here, Mr. Chamberlain and his wife. I need to talk to them." Bill pulled her inside and closed the door, after a last look around.
Ginny walked toward the fireplace where low flames flickered. Fleur stood next to a wingback chair in which her aunt sat; Fleur's hand was on her shoulder. Chadwick Chamberlain stood in the middle of the small room, nervously shifting his weight from one foot to the other. He glanced to the side and Ginny saw the Pensieve sitting on a small table at the end of the sofa; a gray blanket lay on the floor next to it.
"Ginny," said Fleur, not moving and not lifting her hand from Patience's shoulder. "Zis is a surprise. Why 'ave you come 'ere?"
"Harry guessed that you would be here," she said to Chadwick. "I thought that you would feel better without Aurors, so . . . so I'm here."
"Yes, Aurors," Chamberlain muttered. "It's over, isn't it?"
"We just want the Pensieve back," Ginny said quietly.
"Your 'usband is outside, isn't 'e?" asked Patience. "We will be arrested."
Ginny gazed at the veela. Her features were finer than Fleur's, her hair even more silvery. "I don't have anything to say about that. It seems that you've decided to stop running, and . . . and I know how much Fleur loves you both, and I don't want anyone to get hurt."
Bill put his arm around Ginny's shoulders. "No one will get hurt," he said calmly. "I'm glad you came, Gin. We were just talking about what to do next."
Ginny looked at Chadwick. Even while everyone else was calm, he was agitated, on edge, wound up like a spring or like a snake ready to strike. His face was taut, he was breathing hard, his eyes kept moving around the room. She noticed that his wand was tucked inside his belt; no one else's was visible. She felt a tendril of concern from Harry, but pushed him away. Bill is right next to me. Nothing is going to happen.
"You are persistent, Mrs. Potter," Chamberlain said, his voice also betraying agitation. "How did you find our house in Dunster? It was you and Mr. Potter there, wasn't it?"
Ginny nodded. "Mundungus Fletcher brought us there accidentally. He went back to Godric's Hollow to fetch the, uh, Madam Sprout's foot, right?"
Chamberlain gave a short laugh and dropped onto the sofa next to the Pensieve. He brushed his thinning hair from his brow. "We tried to stop him, but he said he knew how to heal a Splinch. He is a fool."
"At least he was trying to help," Ginny murmured.
"Bah!" Chamberlain spat into the fire and Fleur gave a start; he ignored her. "All he cares about is gold, but we needed someone who knew the Ministry, knew how the Aurors worked, how they think. He is clever, but a fool all the same."
There was a noise outside the window behind the sofa, and Chamberlain twisted around to look. "Why don't you tell your husband to stop his games and come inside.
I have nothing to gain by resisting; I am finished."
Patience glanced at Fleur, and Ginny could tell that some kind of communication had passed between the veelas. Fleur seemed to grow sad for a moment. She took her hand from her aunt's shoulder, and Patience rose and went to the sofa; she sat next to Chadwick and took his hand.
"Cheri, zis is not ze end of ze world, or of you. You tried your best; you tried to do ze honorable t'ing. What 'appened is not your fault."
He looked balefully at her. "Tell that to the dementors."
"No," said Bill, "the Ministry does not use dementors, for anything. They stopped using them almost five years ago."
"Well, there's a blessing." He laughed shortly again. "But don't tell me it's fine to use an Imperio."
Bill shook his head. "I can't tell you that, I'm sorry. You'll have to face a jail term. But —"
"Bill, wait," Fleur cut in. "I t'ink Ginny should get 'Arry. Is zat okay?" she asked the two sitting on the sofa.
Chamberlain shrugged and his wife nodded. Ginny went to the door, opened it, and sent a thought to Harry. She stepped outside — only to keep the Chamberlains from guessing that she and Harry could communicate without speaking — and a second later Harry and Ron stood before her. Ron beckoned to Hermione and Ginny led them back inside.
"Mr. Potter," Chamberlain spoke from the sofa. "So why did you send your wife inside? Shouldn't she get the collar now?"
Patience frowned at him. "What does zis mean, ze collar? Zere is no collar on 'er jumper."
"It means credit for an arrest," Harry said, stepping forward, "and I have to inform you that you are both under arrest for stealing Hogwarts property, using an Unforgivable Curse, kidnapping, and other offenses." He paused. "Sorry, I have to say that. Ginny suggested that she come inside because it would be . . . more comfortable for everyone."
Chamberlain looked away from Harry and gave yet another short, disparaging snort. "Thank you for being so considerate. I'll try my best to return the favor from my cell."
There was a long, uncomfortable silence in the cottage, until Chamberlain sighed quietly. "Forgive me, Harry. You're only trying to do your job. I deceived you and many others." He looked up and his eyes were troubled, even fearful. "How many years will I get? Will they send me to Azkaban?"
"I don't know, it's not up to me," Harry said. He felt sorry for Chadwick Chamberlain now. He was no longer a jovial, smiling wizard, conning all those who trusted and liked him, but a small, deflated, failed criminal. "But why did you do it? That could make a difference in your sentence."
Chamberlain shrugged and leaned back, staring at a spot on the wall past Harry's head; Patience rested her cheek on his shoulder, but he ignored her. "I don't know," he muttered.
He suddenly took out his wand and instantly Harry and Ron were pointing theirs at him. But he held up his hand and placed the tip of his wand on his temple. As he slowly pulled it away, a silvery strand like a filigree of smoke emerged with it from his head. He held it over the Pensieve and gave the wand a little shake. The memory floated down and sank into the swirling, liquid mass.
"Je suis fini," he murmured. "Je suis fichu."
"Chad! No!" His wife turned his head with her hand to face her. "It is not over, my darling, don't say zat! Per'aps it will not be so bad." She looked around from Harry to Fleur to Bill, and back at Chamberlain. Her voice started to break, and tears came to her eyes. "We 'ave met Kingsley Shacklebolt, 'e is a fair man. 'E will not punish you cruelly, you 'ave not done anyt'ing evil. You were trying to right an injustice!"
He would not look at her; he simply stared at the Pensieve. "It's all there," he said without looking up. "All your questions are answered."
"Can I ask one?" Harry said quietly. When Chamberlain didn't answer, but kept staring at the Pensieve, Harry continued. "There's only one person whose motive I don't understand. Why did Amander Croaker want the Pensieve?"
Chamberlain stared at him, puzzled. "Croaker? What are you talking about? He had nothing to do with . . . with this. What makes you think he did?"
Harry was shocked. "He didn't? He didn't want me sacked for fouling up when we took it from Hogwarts?" Do you believe him? he sent to Ginny.
"I have no idea," said Chamberlain curtly. "Didn't you screw up?"
Harry opened his mouth to retort, but Patience spoke. "It was not 'im, it was Julia Sprout. She wanted you off ze case because of Godric's 'Ollow." Everyone's face in the room except her husband's showed surprise. Harry's shock was now even greater, and he couldn't find his voice; he just stared at her dumbly.
Fleur spoke to Patience sharply in rapid French, and Bill also said something.
What the hell is going on? Harry sent to Ginny. She shook her head.
"What did you say?" Ron demanded, frowning at Bill. "Translate, will you?"
"It was nothing," Bill said. "Fleur said she didn't believe that, but I said to let her talk."
"I don't believe it, either," Harry snapped. "How —?"
Wait, love, came from Ginny. It might make sense. Harry stared at her incredulously. He said to Patience, "Explain, please, Mrs. Chamberlain."
The veela took her husband's hand and held it. "She wanted to 'ide ze Pensieve at your parents' 'ouse because she knew zat you would never go zere. But zen Mundungus Fletcher saw you zere before ze Pensieve was moved from 'Ogwarts, and she was afraid you would go into zat room upstairs, and zen all our plans would be ruined."
Still doesn't make sense, went from Harry to Ginny, but he didn't speak. Instead he turned to Ron. "We'll sort everything out at the Ministry. It'll all be in there." He indicated the Pensieve, and gave a hand signal. Ron stepped forward and pointed his wand at Chadwick Chamberlain.
"Sir, I'm taking you to the Ministry of Magic. You'll be held there —"
"Ron!" Fleur took a step forward and her eyes flashed. "Please, must you do zat in 'ere? 'E is my uncle! Chadwick," she said in a low, throaty voice that made both Harry and Ron feel strangely sympathetic to her. "'Promise to go freely wit' zem."
Chamberlain bowed his head, and gazed at his wife for a long moment. She caressed his face. A single tear ran down her cheek.
Chamberlain stood and handed his wand to Ron. He took Patience's and also passed it over. He strode to the door. Ron went after him, but as Chamberlain went through it he suddenly whirled and yanked it closed behind him. A loud wail filled the room. Everyone was momentarily stunned by Chadwick's violent action and by the keening, grief–filled lament that Patience had let loose.
Harry was the first to snap out of the spell. He jerked open the door and sprang outside. Chamberlain was nowhere in sight. "He has to be here!" he cried to Ron, who had come out behind him. "He doesn't have his wand!"
"Look . . . down zere." Fleur stood in the doorway with Bill. She was pointing to the cliff and tears were now streaming down her face. Bill put his arms around her. Harry, realizing what had happened, held his hand out behind him. Ginny took it and they walked to the edge of the cliff; Ron and Hermione came and stood by their side. They all lit their wands. On the rocks below lay the still body of Chadwick Chamberlain.
"You see," said the quavering voice of Patience, and they turned to see her standing next to Fleur, weeping, "'e did not want me to suffer ze same torments zat 'e would 'ave suffered in prison, in your Azkaban. Now I will only suffer ze loss of my beloved, but not 'is torments." She turned and went back into the cottage.
"I don't understand," said Ron after a few moments.
"She's a veela," Bill said. "She feels what her husband feels. There is no way he could have kept her from knowing everything he was suffering in prison. If Azkaban drove him mad, then she would have also gone mad. He didn't want that."
"At least he gave you his memory," Ginny murmured to Harry. She put her arms around him; he stared blankly out over the dark sea. "Love, there was nothing you could have done. He wanted to die, and no one was going to stop him."
Harry held her tightly. Everything that had happened since last Monday — was it only three days ago? — had been a nightmare. Nothing had gone normally, nothing was right. Everything had turned to chaos, to madness, and now to death.
He suddenly needed Ginny, needed her solidity, and needed the certainty of her existence that was the anchor of his life. He wished they were alone, at home, in their bed, where he could taste her lips, feel the heat of her body, breath deeply the smell of her sweet fragrance and the musk of her sex. Only her physical being had substance; suddenly everything else seemed insubstantial, in a universe tottering on itself, about to crash on top of him, bury him, suffocate him, obliterate him as it had just obliterated Chadwick Chamberlain.
Hold me, love, Ginny said in his mind. We will be okay.
Harry realized that he was trembling and that his face was wet with tears. He took a deep, desperate breath with his nose buried in Ginny's hair. He stood up straight and looked into her eyes. They weren't ablaze, but she smiled and gazed at him steadily. The universe righted itself; the world steadied and Harry knew that they would be okay.
Ginny stood on her toes and kissed him. Musk? she sent with a teasing grin that put a dimple on her cheek.
Harry laughed out loud and glanced quickly around, embarrassed. They were alone; everyone had gone back inside the cottage. "That's right," he said. "I'll elaborate when we get home."
He took another breath and wiped his face. He went to the edge of the cliff and peered down. "Light your wand again," he said to Ginny. With a quiet "Accio," the body rose toward them. Harry put it gently down on the grass. He conjured a large blanket and covered it.
They went inside the still room where everyone looked up at them except Patience, who was on the sofa, still weeping, with Fleur at her side, an arm around her. "I brought the body up," Harry said. "Mrs. Chamberlain, we'll leave you here now."
She nodded silently and Fleur gave Harry a grateful smile. He nodded to Bill and the two of them walked back outside. Bill gazed at the form underneath the blanket.
"Should I leave him here?" Harry asked quietly. "There's no need to bring him back to the Ministry."
Bill thought for a moment. "Yes, I think she'll want to mourn with him. We'll take care of it. You go get this all finished up and go home. You look exhausted." He put his hand on Harry's shoulder for a moment, before turning and going back inside.
Harry waited for Ron, Hermione, and Ginny to come out. They decided to return directly to the Ministry rather than risk stirring up the Muggles in Dunster. However, Ginny said she would go to the flat in Hogsmeade.
"I'll have a cup of Euphoric Wizard waiting for you," she said as she kissed him. Before Harry could speak she turned and was gone.
Harry cleared his throat. "Come on, mate," he said to Ron. "I want to get this over with and get home."
But it was another three hours before Harry stepped wearily out of the fireplace in the flat. The sky in the east, visible through the picture window, was showing signs of dawn. The owls on their perch clucked a welcome. Ginny was asleep on the love seat, wearing her bathrobe over a nightgown and a pair of thick red socks on her feet. There was a parchment on the floor next to the love seat; Ginny's hand dangled over it and it had obviously fallen out of her grasp when she fell asleep.
Harry picked up the parchment. It was from the Department of Magical Games and Sports informing Ginny that the English National team would be holding daily practices at ten in the morning, starting Monday, at the Harpies' practice pitch in Holyhead, Wales, under the direction of the new manager, Harpies' head coach Happy Field. Harry smiled; he leaned down and put a gentle kiss on Ginny's cheek. He started to turn away but she moved and grabbed his trouser leg.
"Don't go," she murmured with a sleepy smile.
He knelt and they kissed, a proper snog that lasted several minutes while Harry's hand wandered over Ginny's soft, terry robe. His stomach growled.
"I haven't eaten since sometime yesterday afternoon," he said, standing and pulling Ginny to a sitting position. "Are you hungry?"
Ginny picked up the parchment from the floor and held it up. "I'm back on the team," she grinned, "and Happy is the new manager. It's just brilliant, love!""
Harry brought her into a hug and held her. "We're both doubly happy, then. I'm so glad. You are the best."
"So," she said seductively as her hand went inside his shirt and started massaging his chest, "exactly how hungry are you? Do you have to go back to work today?"
"Very, and no." Without another word he picked her up and carried her into the bedroom. He set her gently on the bed. "How about that bubble bath?" he asked, bending over and kissing her.
"Sounds wonderful. I was hoping you would remember."
"I've had bubbles on my mind all night." He led her into the bathroom and she stood while Harry undressed her. He held her at arm's length while the tub was filling, drinking her in.
"How come it's taking so long to fill?" Ginny pouted. "This is supposed to be a bath, not a display."
"Sorry," Harry grinned. "Too much lovely scenery."
Ginny punched his chest, but he grabbed her and started another snog while his hands did what they had done before, but this time without the hindrance of the robe and nightgown. When Ginny began uttering little squeals he picked her up and lowered her into the bubbles. The bath proceeded slowly, with Harry using a large, soft cloth to make sure that every inch of her was perfectly clean.
After the bath, Harry helped her out of the tub and dried her off. He took her hand and led her back to their bed. "I've been thinking about this for hours," he said huskily. "It was very hard to concentrate on my work." She said nothing, but pulled the covers back and lay down. He stared at her hungrily while he took off his clothes. She opened her arms to him.
Love me! she commanded.
Harry straddled her on his hands and knees and began kissing, starting with her face and very slowly working his way to her toes. Whenever she gasped or moaned or twitched or heaved her hips, he lingered at that spot. Her moans would become cries and her twitches shudders, and she would clutch his hair and press his mouth to wherever it happened to be.
When Harry had finished loving her last little toe, she heaved him onto his back and did to him exactly what he had done to her. Half an hour later, Harry pulled her back down and they made slow love until finally they lay on their sides facing each other, caressing, speaking in each other's mind. After several minutes, when Harry's hand had stopped moving, Ginny lifted her head and peeked at his face. He was sound asleep, breathing deeply and evenly. She took her wand from her bedside stand, dried up the sweaty sheets, and pulled the covers back into a semblance of order. She got back into bed and snuggled next to him under the covers.
They slept until well after noon. Ginny awoke first and went into the kitchen and brewed a fresh kettle of tea. When she came back Harry was awake; he stretched and yawned.
"Now I'm even hungrier. It's been almost twenty–four hours since I ate."
Ginny sat on the edge of the bed and grinned. "I thought I took care of your appetite earlier this morning."
"You did, and very nicely, very muskily."
She giggled. "Do you want breakfast or lunch?"
"Whatever's quicker. There's something I want to do today."
They showered and dressed and ate a hearty lunch. Harry told Ginny to wait for him. He went down to the inn's dining room and asked Stan if he knew where Tony Trostle was. The barkeep directed him to a farmhouse a mile outside the village where Tony was doing some renovations, and Harry Apparated there. Soon they were back, and Harry went upstairs to fetch Ginny. The three of them Apparated to the woods behind the house in Godric's Hollow.
Tony peered through the trees at the yew hedge, and in the other direction at the Muggle houses beyond the fence. "Nice property," he said, admiring the stream and waterfall in the little culvert. "Let's go see the house."
Harry gave Ginny a smile and led the way through the hedge and around to the front; Dennis and Katie waved from the doorway. Harry went to the front gate and he, Ginny, and Tony turned to face the house. Harry put his arm around Ginny's shoulders. "We're going to tear it down and build a new one. Ginny's going to design it."
She put one arm around his waist and the other on his chest. She peered up at him with delighted eyes and leaned her head on his shoulder. Harry squeezed her. "It's going to be our home forever," he said to Tony. "I don't care how much it costs. It's going to be perfect." He looked down at Ginny and kissed her.
Tony gazed at the house and down the lane toward the center of the village. "There's Muggles all around. It'll be tricky if you want to keep it enchanted."
"Driving up the price already?" Harry laughed. "Well, it's up to Ginny, but if she wants enchantments, that's fine with me. Anything she wants is fine."
"What about those Aurors?" Tony pointed to the two guards at the front door. "Aren't you still investigating here?"
"It'll be done by day's end. Oh, and there's two pieces of furniture I want from it. I'll take them out this evening."
The little chair and the crib? Ginny asked. Harry just smiled.
They returned to Hogsmeade and left Tony, who had to get back to his renovation job, and spent the rest of the day in the flat. Harry filled Ginny in on what had happened last night at the Ministry, but Chadwick Chamberlain's last memory had not been analyzed yet, so he didn't have many details of the plot and the crime.
"The only thing I know for sure is that Ron was right about Deverill. He wanted to use the Pensieve to look at old Cup matches. When I left the Ministry last night they hadn't heard from Professor McGonagall yet to see if he had visited her, but they didn't waste any time sacking him."
"That's so there won't be any complaints from the other teams," Ginny said as she snuggled up closer in the love seat. "It'll be brilliant to have Coach Field as the manager. Merlin, she deserves it! Three league championships in a row! She should have been the first choice, anyway."
"And you deserve it." Harry pulled her into yet another snog.
And so the day passed quite pleasantly. When an owl arrived from Saliyah announcing that the Pensieve case was officially closed except for a few minor details that Harry could take care of tomorrow, they Apparated back to Godric's Hollow to fetch the green rocking chair and the crib from the upstairs bedroom.
The house was empty and quiet as they took a final look around, but Harry felt only peace as they walked back into the woods behind the hedge, carrying the two pieces of children's furniture. Ginny had the rocking chair, and Harry Levitated the dismantled crib, its pieces bound together with magical twine. Tony would be demolishing the house later next week — even though he wouldn't be able to start the new construction until later in the summer — because Harry wanted to be sure that nothing else happened to disturb the place and the memories of his parents.
They put the furniture in a corner of the bedroom when they got back to the flat. On Saturday, Harry went into work to tidy up the loose ends of the case, and on Sunday they Floo'd to the Burrow to gather with the family on the anniversary of Fred's death.
The entire family was there, including all the grandchildren. Charlie had flown in from Romania the day before and had parked his dragon in the Forbidden Forest at Hogwarts; Hagrid was always happy to babysit for him. Each year his hair was a little longer and each year Molly's displeasure at it lasted a little less long. He also bore a few more dragon–burn scars on his arms. But his presence was the only thing about the event that Ginny looked forward to. He had heard about her getting the sack from the National team but not about her reinstatement.
"Good!" he exclaimed. "Now I don't have to go beat the stuffing out of that Deverill sod."
Molly clucked and Aunt Muriel scowled, but Ginny hugged him tighter.
In the middle of the morning, under gray skies and a cool southerly breeze, the family gathered round Fred's grave. It lay under a tall oak about a hundred yards past the garden at the edge of the woods. George and Ginny stood holding hands at the foot of the grave. Molly, weeping into a handkerchief, and Arthur were next to George with Angelina on their other side. Charlie supported Aunt Muriel, who was becoming quite frail. Harry stood with Ron and Hermione, and held Teddy who had turned his hair red in honor of Fred. The others stood silently: Bill, Fleur — who had spent the last two days with Patience before the latter returned to France with her husband's body — Victoire, and Dominique; Percy, Audrey, and little Molly; Andromeda; and Lee Jordan with his wife Danielle, one of the original employees of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
George took a breath. He looked at the headstone with the dates of Fred's birth and death, and the simple epitaph, He Is Ours.
"It doesn't matter how long it's been," he began. "It's still almost impossible for me to stand here and not scream and want to go out and kill someone. But you, my brother, are what keeps me from doing that. You and my beloved Angelina and my family are what keep me from going insane. You do it by making me laugh. Not a day goes by, not an hour in the day, when I don't laugh because of you, because you say something funny to me about whatever is going on. If it wasn't for that, I don't think I would still be alive. And that's despite the fact that some of your jokes are terrible."
Molly was now sobbing openly, and Arthur put his arm around her. All the women and some of the men wiped tears from their faces. Ginny stood on her tiptoes and kissed George's cheek. She took the bouquet of flowers she had brought and placed it on the grave. She knelt down on the grass, put her hand to her lips, and pressed it against Fred's name on the headstone.
"I love you, my darling," she said through her tears. "I always will and I'll never forget you and I'll always come here to visit you." She paused. "And I think your jokes are all brilliant."
A chuckle passed around the graveside; even Molly hiccupped and smiled. Ginny stood, and each person placed a single red rose on the grave. Little Molly, the youngest grandchild, was the last. She glanced at Ginny who was now holding hands with Harry, smiled shyly, and kissed the grave with her hand. Everyone smiled, and Molly ran and buried her face in her mother's robes.
They stood about the grave, talking quietly while the children ran around. Molly and Aunt Muriel sat on a bench that George and Charlie had put in after Fred's funeral five years ago. Harry had brought Kreacher and Winky along to prepare the midday meal, and when it was ready they all returned to the house.
"So, Harry," Charlie said after everyone had been served and was tucking in. "Most of us don't know how you solved the big Pensieve mystery. Tell us."
Harry swallowed a mouthful of Shepherd's pie and put down his fork. "I didn't solve much of anything. Chadwick Chamberlain left it all in the Pensieve, which is back at Hogwarts, by the way." He nodded at Ron. "Escorted back up there without incident by the future Chief Deputy to the Head Auror."
Ron stood and gave a grandiose bow, but Aunt Muriel, sitting two places away from him, reached across Charlie and rapped his knuckles with a spoon.
"You are too full of yourself, young man!" she scolded. "Sit down before you knock over the table."
"Thanks, Auntie." Ron smiled at her. "We'll name our first daughter after you."
She glared at him. "It will do you no good at all. You're not inheriting a Knut from me."
Charlie patted her hand. "Go on, Harry. So you got the Pensieve safely back, and . . .?"
"Well, the whole thing was cooked up by Chamberlain several years ago. He was teaching at Beauxbatons and became obsessed with getting the Pensieve back —"
"What do you mean, back?" George interrupted. "It belongs to Hogwarts, it always has!"
"Turns out, no. No one knows where it originally came from, but it actually bounced back and forth between the two schools more than once. It was in France until about three hundred years ago, but no one knows how it got there or how it ended up in Hogwarts. Anyway, he decided it belonged to Beauxbatons and —"
"You know, 'Arry," Fleur said, waving her fork in the air, "people who are converts to a cause, like Uncle Chadwick was for Beauxbatons, are often more fanatical zan someone who is born to it. Maybe zat is why 'e wanted ze Pensieve back so badly."
"That makes sense," Harry nodded, and thought for a moment while everyone watched him. "He was not a bad man, and I do think that if he could have got his hands on the Pensieve without hurting Percy, he would have." He paused again, and spoke quietly. "It was awful, looking over that cliff and seeing him there . . ."
He took a breath and let it out. "Anyway, Chamberlain convinced his wife to help him. She didn't want to, and it took a lot of convincing before she went along with it. She also tried to keep him from Imperiusing Percy, which is why we let her go back to France."
"Zat was very good of you," Fleur said with a sad smile. "She will never marry again, you know. Veelas are true to zere lovers forever."
"Oh, that's beautiful!" Molly exclaimed, and started to cry again; Arthur wiped her tears with his napkin. She took his hand, kissed it, and looked lovingly into his eyes.
"Well," Harry said after a moment, "then Chamberlain tried to think of how he could get close to Hogwarts without making people suspicious or attracting too much attention. He quit his teaching job and started a new career as a joke dealer. It gave him a perfect cover to go anywhere. He also knew Professor Flitwick, which got him into the castle."
"What was that wooden disk that you and Ginny found?" asked Percy. "Did he create it?"
Harry shook his head. "No, and he got a lucky break there. As Dumbledore told us, McGonagall created it because she was starting to use the Pensieve heavily. The runes give extra protection and power to the Pensieve, so —"
"They actually should be written on the basin itself," Hermione put in. "I discovered in my research over the past few days —"
"You bloody well didn't sleep!" Ron exclaimed.
Hermione shrugged. "Well, it needed to be done. But as I was saying, it's probable that there were runes on it at some time in the past, and I would say that they were probably put on in France and removed here in Britain."
"Well, as I was saying," Harry continued after a short silence, "Professor McGonagall created the Pensieve Coin, as it's called —" he nodded at Hermione "— but it's ironic, because that's what allowed Chamberlain to manipulate the Pensieve. You can control the way it works by changing the runes, or by using a different Coin with different runes. What he did was pretty interesting, really. It allowed the Pensieve to affect whoever used it. Of course that got everyone to thinking that something was wrong with it. But it seems like it only affected two people, McGonagall and Professor Firenze."
"It would have eventually affected everyone in the castle," Hermione cut in again. "Firenze's mind was just more sensitive, being a Seer. So it was very good that you took all the precautions that you did, Harry."
"Take a bow," Ron said to Harry out of the corner of his mouth. Aunt Muriel muttered under her breath and Charlie patted her hand again.
"And what about Fletcher?" George asked.
"That's getting ahead of the story," Harry answered. "First, Chamberlain had to get the Pensieve out of the castle, and that's where Madam Julia Sprout came in. Chamberlain had come to know Amander Croaker and found out from him that Sprout was beginning to suffer from dementia. And she knew it was happening, that she was gradually going to lose her mind."
"Right!" said Ron. "She went off about you and your mum's blood protection and wouldn't stop."
Harry nodded. "That was probably a symptom. So Chamberlain went to her and convinced her that she could use the Pensieve to cure herself, to keep her mind intact."
"She could extract her own memories magically," Hermione interrupted once more, earning a scowl from Harry that she ignored, "put them in the Pensieve, and view them again at any time. That way she could remember things that would otherwise be completely gone."
"May I continue?" Harry asked.
Hermione blushed. "Oh, sorry. I won't say anything else."
"Much obliged. So where was I? Oh, yeah. So Sprout got the idea to use the house at Godric's Hollow —"
"Harry, dear," Molly cut in, "is it true that you and Ginny will rebuild the house and move there? Does that mean that you've decided to have a baby?"
Harry stared at her, George snickered, Fleur clapped her hands, Aunt Muriel sat up straight, Arthur looked startled, Charlie turned to his sister with a grin, and Ginny groaned.
"Mum, can you please let Harry finish? We have to leave for Hogwarts soon."
"Oh, oh, of course," Molly said, flustered. "Please continue, Harry."
He took a breath, and looked around the table. "Maybe I should make a long story short."
"No, no!" George cried. "It's a brilliant story, if everyone would just shut up." He glared at Hermione. "Continue, Harry, and take your time."
Harry grinned at him. "Chamberlain had already got the idea to use more than one hiding place for the Pensieve, the houses in Dunster and Withypool, so he was okay with having another hiding location at Godric's Hollow. Sprout had been studying the blood protection that still existed there, and she had finally figured out a way to break it, at least as far as the bedroom was concerned. So she figured that it was completely safe.
"So now they could make the Pensieve do strange things, which caused Professor McGonagall to ask the Department of Mysteries to look at it, and Sprout had the perfect cover to go up to Hogwarts and get us to take it back to the Ministry.
"And then, just about a week and a half ago, Philbert Deverill got wind of the plot. He liked to bet on Muggle horse races, and he had just won a lot of money. His bookie was Mundungus Fletcher, who had already been approached by Chamberlain, with a little help from his wife. Dung is susceptible to the ladies, as we know." He grinned at Ginny.
"He was always a sweetie to me," she said. "I don't think he realized that he would be running into Harry, and certainly not me."
"Right," Harry continued. "Well, they met in an out–of–the–way pub someplace near Cambridge and Deverill started talking about the World Cup with Dung, and how he wished he could get other peoples' memories of matches, and after a few bitters Dung actually asked him if he could use a Pensieve, for a price of course." Harry shook his head in wonderment, almost admiration. "The man is remarkable. Sometimes his ideas are brilliant. Criminal, but brilliant."
He glanced at his watch and at the rapt faces looking at him. "When do we have to leave for the memorial?"
"Not for another half hour," said Charlie. "I want to hear the end of this." There were nods around the table.
"Okay," Harry said, and took a swig of butterbeer. "So Deverill was now in the plot, and he went to see the house in Dunster, which the Chamberlains had already got hold of. It's a nice, big one. It used to be a boarding house for magical people who went to Exmoor for sightseeing. But Deverill was new at crime, and he became nervous that someone would get suspicious if he kept going there to check the Pensieve, so he cooked up the cover story of keeping the National team there. But when Ginny walked into the team meeting on Tuesday, he panicked a little. He was afraid that she might sniff out that something fishy was going on. So he jumped on the chance to boot her off the team. Later that day he met the Chamberlains at Exmoor Stadium, and just to be safe they set up one of the skyboxes as a backup hiding place. And that's it."
"Wait a minute," said Bill. "Did all of this have anything to do with Ginny's not being First Chaser? All the sportswriters were surprised that she was picked for Second when she had just won the scoring title."
"Definitely," Harry said with a nod. "Some of the other team officials told us that he wasn't going to pick her at all, but too many people told him he was nutters, so he relented but wouldn't make her First."
"What exactly happened on the trip from Hogwarts to London," Percy asked. "Who Imperiused me?"
"That was Chamberlain," Harry said. "He did it while we were all distracted by Mundungus outside Honeydukes. Then he walked from Dervish and Banges, where he had met his wife, to the Perth road. I remember wondering why he walked and didn't Disapparate. He didn't want to take a chance and run into us if we had stopped along the road someplace. He had a car waiting. It was parked on the side of the road, and no one noticed it. When he saw the coast was clear, he Apparated back to Hogsmeade and fetched his wife. They followed us, and he kept you under control while she drove. He figured that we would have to stop when we got lost. He Confunded the two Muggle drivers and when we all went to look at the accident, he made you grab the Pensieve and Disapparate. They kept you in the house in Dunster, in the same room that Madam Sprout was in when we found her. They must have always planned to release you right away because it would have been too risky keeping you there after the team moved in. They Apparated with you to their house in Withypool and sent you through the Floo network from there. They had already cleaned that house out, so there was no way we could trace them back to Dunster."
Percy looked glum. "And he killed himself because he didn't want to go to Azkaban?"
Harry glanced at Fleur. "Not exactly. I'm sure he didn't want to go to Azkaban, but he also didn't want his wife to suffer along with him. She's a veela, and she would have felt everything that he did."
"E' did a noble t'ing," Fleur said solemnly, "but bot' of zem should 'ave known better. For a veela to do such a terrible t'ing, I do not really understand it."
"She loved him," said Bill, and put his arm around her shoulders.
"I suppose." She sighed, and shrugged.
"Any more questions?" Harry looked around the table.
"What will happen to Mundungus and the Unspeakables?" asked Charlie.
Harry shook his head sorrowfully. "I don't know. Dung has lost any chance of ever working for us again. He won't lose his pension because he never had one; Kingsley always refused to put him on the official payroll, and now we know why. It will be hard to put him in prison since so many blokes are in there because of his helping us catch them. They would kill him, and no one wants that." He shrugged. "He might actually go free."
"And the Unspeakables?" Charlie prompted him.
"Amander Croaker never actually did anything wrong, but . . . how shall I put this? He was embarrassed, and what was worse, he embarrassed the Department of Mysteries. I don't think we'll see much of him for a long time. As for Sprout . . . I don't know. Is it right to punish someone who's losing her mind because she tried to stop it?"
"Of course it's right!" Audrey said angrily. "They Cursed Percy! My daughter was frightened out of her wits! How can they not punish her?"
There were murmurs of agreement around the table, and Harry nodded reluctantly. "She's finished as an Unspeakable, at any rate. Kingsley will have to decide what to do with her."
"Remarkable," Arthur said into the silence that followed. "Harry, you should be proud. You did a bang–up job even after they treated you so unfairly."
"You mean Kingsley treated him unfairly!" Ginny's eyes flashed and she scowled at her father. "He should have known better."
Arthur heaved a sigh. "Yes, he should have. But I won't condemn the man for one mistake. This was the first major crime we've had since . . . well, since you and Harry caught Dolores Umbridge. And it all ended well, wouldn't you say?"
Ginny smiled and leaned her head on Harry's shoulder. He put his arm around her and sent her happy thoughts of a Quidditch World Cup, a baby, and a new home for them to live in.
# # # #
On a hot summer's day at the beginning of August, a Saturday when Ginny didn't have team practice, the Potters took another picnic luncheon to Hogwarts. It was the middle of the school's summer holiday, and the grounds were empty. They walked down the path to Hagrid's cabin and turned off toward the magical fountain. They sat with their backs against the rowan tree, holding hands, listening to the doves cooing in the branches above and to the pleasant tinkling of water cascading into the basin. Ginny lifted her head to the warm sun and closed her eyes. She sighed and put Harry's hand in her lap.
They sat for a long time without speaking, hearing the sounds around them and the voices and emotions that they unconsciously shared. They felt contentment, and the inner voices were muted and undemanding: an itch; a memory of a joke; a chuckle; the tickling of hair being blown in the soft breeze; the feel of each other's warm palm.
They became aware of another voice, somehow not distant but faint, barely a whisper.
Ginny opened her eyes and they looked at each other, puzzled. Someone's nearby.
Harry glanced around, but there was no one. The lawn was empty and the trees at the edge of the Forest were still. The breeze had died and not even a leaf was rustling.
Ginny moved their clasped hands and Harry turned back to her. She placed Harry's hand on her belly and pressed hers on top of it. Her eyes grew wide. The whisper was now louder, but it wasn't a whisper, it was . . .
"It's a baby." Tears came to her eyes. She loosened her belt and pulled her blouse out.
Harry's face split into a huge grin. He got up on his knees and put his hand inside her jeans and pressed it against the flesh of her abdomen. He closed his eyes and listened. "Is it a heartbeat?"
"No, it's too soon. It's a life." Tears fell down Ginny's cheeks. "Our child."
Harry bent down and kissed her. She put her hands on the back of his head and clutched his hair. As their kiss went deeper and deeper they fell into each other and into the new life that was inside them both.