Author's Notes: And it's done. I had more fun than should be allowed coming up with the tongue twisters—and trying to figure out some way to work them into the story.
Epilogue: Telling Truths
Three Days Later
"Well?" George asked eagerly when Ginny walked into the back room of WWW.
She grinned as she dumped her rucksack on the floor and settled into a chair next to Harry. "You're safe," she said.
"They got him, then?" Ron asked.
"We got him," she replied. "Caught him red-handed, too. Well, green-handed." She smirked.
"Hang on," Harry said. "We?"
"We," she said happily, "me and Malfoy."
"You and that git? I thought you were suspended," Harry said.
"Robards reinstated me. Said they never would've caught him if it hadn't been for my tenacity."
"Bloody well right they wouldn't've," George said.
"Yeah, yeah," Ron interrupted. "Enough about Ginny. I want to know about Davies."
"It was the ink that really broke the case," Ginny said, turning to Percy. "The clerk at the shop was very helpful—she knew as soon as she saw the sample whose it was. Seems Davies has it custom made. Nobody else wants that pine smell he puts in it, and that, plus the dark green colour, makes it especially distinctive." She gave Harry a sly look. "And she was almost falling over herself in order to get Harry's attention."
He kicked her foot. "Shut it, you," he said. "That bloke in the back was acting the same way about you."
"Maybe," she said, shrugging. "But we'll never know if that's the case or if you're just projecting."
"What?" he squeaked. He cleared his throat and repeated it in a more normal tone. "What? I wasn't projecting. I—"
"Merlin's balls," Ron said, "would you two stop flirting and get on with the story, please?"
"Sod off, Ron," Harry grumbled, the tips of his ears turning red. Ginny winked at him and grinned when the blush that had started in his ears spread across his cheeks. Harry was quite adorable when he was embarrassed. "I'll get you for that," he whispered to her, "see if I don't." She waggled her eyebrows at him in challenge.
"Ugh. Do you two have to do that in front of me?" Ron moaned.
"Oh, grow up, Ron," Ginny said. "If Harry and I want to flirt, we'll flirt. Whether you approve or not. Right, Harry?"
"What happened after I had to leave, Ginny?" Harry prompted, obviously trying to direct the attention away from himself. She decided to let it pass this time and returned to her story.
"Did you know Davies and Smith were planning on opening a joke shop?" she asked conversationally.
"Blow me," George said.
Ginny gave a mock shudder. "No thanks," she said, her eyes cutting to Harry. "My interests lie somewhere else for that sort of thing." Interesting. His neck turned the same red as his ears.
"That, I think," Percy said, "is too much information, Ginevra. What about the joke shop? And how did you find out about it?"
"Harry got called in for an emergency team meeting," she explained, "so after he left, I took the evidence we'd collected and went to have a little chat with Robards."
"Even though you'd been suspended?" Percy asked He sounded amazed that she'd just ignore that little fact and go into work anyway.
She gave him a pointed look. "Really, Percy," she said, shaking her head in disbelief, "you're my brother. Shouldn't you know by now that I'm not really the best rule-follower around?"
"That's our Gin-Gin," George said, grinning. "Always the rebel. Never the follower."
"Merlin's beard, Percy," Ron added. "You grew up with her like we did. You know how she is."
Harry winked at her and she winked back.
"Robards had some interesting information to share, once I showed him the evidence," she said, turning back to her explanation. "That's when he told me about D & Z's Daily Dalliances. That's what they were going to call it," she added when she noticed their confused looks. "They were set to move into the shop next month. But they had to eliminate the competition first."
"Us," Ron stated, matter of factly.
"You," Ginny confirmed. "WWW is really the only name in magical prank and joke items right now. So they took it upon themselves to frame you for tax evasion and fraud. Even if they didn't manage to shut you down for good, the time you'd spend fighting the charges would be time away from the shop—and the workshop. It'd be enough to let them get their feet on the ground."
She looked at Harry. "Remember when they said you didn't want to know what the previous iterations of the Truth Twisters did?" He nodded warily. "Davies found out. Firsthand," she added.
George snorted in laughter. "How bad?"
"Did you know that if you don't treat the boils within two hours, they start to connect?
"Boils?" Harry asked.
"Giant purple and green ones," Ron confirmed.
"And you get them everywhere," George said.
"Everywhere?" Harry asked. "Even—"
"Everywhere," Percy said, shuddering. "I've never seen them connect, though."
"It was quite the scene," Ginny said. "And the truth-telling bit—well, it gets stronger. Makes you say all sorts of things you don't want to."
"I thought the final version made you say things you don't want to," Harry said, sounding confused.
"Nah," George said, waving his hand. "It just makes you a little more willing to say things, see? You can still control it and keep yourself from spilling the beans if you really didn't want anyone to know."
"So?" Ron asked. "What'd he say?"
Ginny raised her index finger. "In a minute, Ron. Robards told me to take my evidence and catch up with Malfoy—"
"Git," Ron said.
"Ponce," George said.
"Arse," Harry chimed in.
"Partner," Ginny reminded them. "Malfoy was at D and Z's when I got there. You know how he'd been pulled off to work with Samson on the Greene case?" They nodded. "Well, Greene works in the BLTO."
"BLTO?" Harry asked.
"The Business Licensing and Tariffs Office," Percy said. "That's convenient."
"Isn't it, though? They found evidence of Greene granting operating licenses to people who really have no business at all even thinking about opening a shop, and he had a list of spurious reasons to send over to the auditors if he needed someone else—or their shop—out of the way. He'd even tried to close Ollivander's down once, believe it or not." She shook her head in disbelief. "Greene was kind enough to be very meticulous when it came to keeping records. Davies and Smith paid him, and more than once, to get him to investigate perfectly law-abiding citizens. They're the reason Blaogoon's Books went out of business; Davies wanted Blaogoons' location." She smirked. "Malfoy told me Greene squealed like a stuck hippogriff, once they got him into interrogation."
"That's great," Ron said, "but you wouldn't have made such a big deal about Davies and the older version of the Truth Twisters if there hadn't been a point. So… what's the point?"
"That's the best part," she said, laughing. "When I got there, Malfoy and Samson were interviewing Davies. Those boils were getting bigger and bigger every minute, and Malfoy kept asking questions while Samson looked menacing. You could tell Davies was trying to fight it, you know?" She snorted. "Actually, the more he fought, the bigger the boils got, now that I think about it."
"Really?" George asked eagerly, reaching for a new purple notebook and a quill. "We could use that!" he said, turning to Ron. "You know, in the Skiving Snackboxes? And the—"
"Oi," Harry said, "focus, please! You can plan your next Wheeze later. I want to know what happened."
"He confessed. Broke down and said, 'Rummaging Roger wrongs Ron,' plain as day," Ginny said. "And then Smith, the pansy, chimed in with 'Dastardly Davies did the deed!' So not only do we have the evidence, we've got their confessions, too."
"Will they be admissible in court?" Percy asked.
"Should be," Ginny said, unconcerned. "It's not like we administered Veritaserum illegally. They did it to themselves."
Ron burst out laughing. "Brilliant!"
"What happens next?" George asked.
"They've arrested Davies and Smith. I'm sure they're going to hire solicitors and try to get out of it, but really, I think it's an open-and-shut case. You lot are going to have to testify, though," she said, looking at them. "That includes you, Harry."
"That's fine," he said, looking unconcerned. "They deserve anything they get. You do good work, Weasley," he said, smiling at her. The words were innocuous, but the look he was giving her was anything but, and she felt those damn butterflies begin to flutter in her stomach again. Between the smile and that look…she was done for. If only her brothers weren't in the room.
"So," Ron said, breaking the tension, "time to celebrate now?"
Ginny looked away from Harry, feeling her face flush this time. Blast him. She thought she was over blushing around him. She was an Auror, damn it.
"Got any more of those Truth Twisters?" Harry asked, turning his head to look at George. "The real ones, I mean," he clarified.
"Got some right here, mate," George said, reaching behind him to grab the bowl of sweets from off the desk.
"They won't make me say anything I don't want to, right?" Harry asked George. "I can stop myself from saying something if I don't want anyone to hear?"
George gave Harry a calculating look. "That's right," he replied. "And since you can throw off the Imperius so easily, you won't have any trouble at all with these."
"Let's have one, then," Harry said, holding his hand out. His eyes locked with Ginny's as he took the sweet and unwrapped it.
"Harry, you don't have to—"
"I know I don't, Ginny. I want to," he said, winking, before popping the sweet in his mouth. "Glorious Ginny glows gorgeously. How very gorgeous is glorious Ginny when she glows." A slow smile—a devastating smile, she thought—grew on his face.
"I—you think I'm gorgeous?" she asked, ignoring her brothers and the gagging noise Ron was making. "Really?"
He opened another one, eating it quickly. "Fabulous female form is fantastically fit," he said when he was through chewing.
"Right," she said, looking at her brothers pointedly, "you lot, get out. Harry, you stay."
"But, Ginny, I need to go through the books," Percy complained.
"Do it later, Percy," she said, staring at Harry, who was blushing again, although his eyes sparkled brightly.
"Out!" she demanded. She pulled her wand and started tapping it against her thigh, her eyes never leaving Harry's.
"Right, we'll just—" Ron said.
"—be going now," George finished, grabbing Percy by the elbow and dragging him towards the door.
"But—" Percy said.
"I think we can find a better use for your talents right now, Percy," George said. "Unless, of course, you want Ginny to hex you?"
"Erm, no," Percy replied. "No, I don't want that. Let me just—" he gathered the books up into an unsteady pile—" take these with me. I can work on them somewhere else."
"All right, boys and girls," George said as he and his brothers were leaving the room, "don't do anything I wouldn't do." He winked at Harry as he backed out of the room and closed the door behind them with a click.
"So," Ginny said.
"Did you mean it?" she asked. "Those things you said?"
"Of course, I meant it," he said. "You heard George. I could've stopped myself and said something different if I hadn't wanted to say it."
"But why now, Harry? Why not last month, or last year or…" She threw her hands up in frustration.
He shrugged and looked down at the floor. "Was afraid, I suppose. I just… We're friends, yeah?"
"Friends aren't supposed to think about each other that way. Especially when we're talking about the little sister of some of the best friends I've ever had. You know I love your family, and, well…"
She crossed her arms and scowled at him. "You know what? You're a prat, Harry. A great, giant, bleeding prat."
"So I've been told." He gave her a cheeky grin, obviously trying to lighten the mood. She raised an eyebrow at him and watched as the grin faltered, then faded.
"Right then," he said, "the truth is - you're brilliant." He held up his hand to stop her from speaking. "Let me finish. You're brilliant. I've known it forever, and there's always been something telling me I should just gather my Gryffindor courage and do something about it, but it's just been this niggling little voice, and I could mostly ignore it. Until the past few weeks, when we were working together." He looked at her seriously and stood to move closer to her. "We work well together, Ginny—we complement each other, and I know I'm just a Quidditch player and you're the Auror, but I really enjoyed helping you with this. At least, I think I helped."
She nodded, entranced.
"Besides," he said, flushing a little, "you're dead sexy when you take charge like that." He shrugged and looked sheepish. "I didn't have much of a chance, really."
"You really are thick," she said, moving closer to him—so close they were almost touching.
"I know," he said. He put his hands on her shoulders.
"But I'm not much better," she admitted, moving her hands to rest on his waist. "I could've—should have—said something earlier."
"Yeah?" he asked cautiously.
"Yeah," she said. "You're right. We do work well together. And we're definitely more than friends."
He looked hopeful. "What exactly are you saying, Ginny?"
"Give me one of those Truth Twisters," she said, backing up a little bit to grab one from the bowl on the counter, unwrap it, and put it into her mouth, chewing and swallowing quickly. "The git gets the girl; the girl the git gets, is what I mean," she said.
"You mean me? And you?"
"Harry," she said. She waited until he was looking her in the eye.
"I know you're not stupid, but are you being thick on purpose?"
"I'm not being thick. I'm just…making certain."
"So you are being thick," she said, making sure to keep her voice matter of fact, in spite of the frustration she was feeling. If only he'd just shut up and kiss her.
"Yeah," he admitted. "I'm being thick." He straightened his shoulders and looked her in the eye. "Ginny, can I—"
"Don't you dare ask to kiss me, Harry Potter, or I swear to Merlin I'll hex you so badly you'll make Davies' boils look like they were cast by a Squib." She watched his face fall and grabbed his hand before he could back away. "Wait, Harry. That came out wrong. I meant that you don't need to ask. Just…you know."
"You know?" Harry said, a small smile teasing the corner of his mouth.
"Oh, for the love of Merlin. Do I have to do everything myself?" she said, standing up on her tiptoes. She paused right before her lips touched his. "Shut up and kiss me, Harry."
"Whatever the witch wishes," he whispered, right before he lowered his lips to hers.
A/N, part 2: And now for a little secret of my own. :o)
I never intended for Draco to be Ginny's partner. He was supposed to just be some random obnoxious bloke, and Ginny would (quite often, and quite unfavourably) compare him to Draco. But there were so many people who thought it was Draco that I eventually just went with it, especially since I knew when I started writing that I wanted to make the "villain" of the fic be anything but a Slytherin. I thought the idea of making the "bad guys" be a former Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff would be fun; it went against the stereotypical 'Slytherins are evil' trope, at least. And if I was going to go so far as to make a Hufflepuff (where I would almost certainly be sorted, if I'd had the chance) be one of the thieves, well, then, who would be better to make Ginny's partner (and an honest one at that!) than Draco Malfoy?