This story has been edited for prosperity as of 7/26/2013. If you do notice a mistake, please don't hesitate to ignore it.

Also, isn't it obvious that I'm not JK Rowling? And if I had Warner Brothers' money, why would I be writing Fanfiction at all? None of these questions and more are answered in...

The Minister's Daughter

by Don E. Delivery

Brief Summary:

Harry Potter always had a way of attracting trouble. Who knew trouble could be so attractive?

Relationships: Harry/Ginny, Harry/OC

Author's Message to Readers:

If you've ever read one of my stories, you'll notice that I typically use humor and romance to drive my stories forward. This will be much of the same, leaning a bit more towards romance in the beginning, while the story is being set up, and then progressing into action and adventure. Essentially, Harry's loyalty to his first love and the Weasleys is being tested by a new woman, a clerk in his auror department. Little does he know who this woman really is, the company she keeps, and the social circles she dips in and out of. One does not simply sex up the French Minister of Magic's daughter and expect it to stay quiet...


For what it's worth, when we first started fucking, I had no idea she was the French Minister's daughter.

To me, she was just the tall, slender, long-legged blonde who sat at the third desk down from me in the auror department. Ron had even confided in me that he thought she was a babe; unfortunately for him, he had decided to bring it up at a family dinner and he was still paying for it with Hermione. Ginny had looked sharply at me, as if gauging me for a reaction, but I told her I had no idea who he was talking about.

I knew exactly who he was talking about.

In any case, Ms. Dubois' duties in our department were restricted to producing flying sticky notes and occasionally making coffee, so it wasn't like we had that much contact on a day to day basis. But one day, after a remarkably frustrating morning consisting of one bowl of runny oatmeal and a stack of documents chest-high, I sipped the delightful beverage through my perpetual scowl while waiting for Ron to return from the lavatory. Immediately, before I could convince myself talking to this woman was a bad idea, I went to her desk to thank her for the extra effort she put into making something that typically went unnoticed into the highlight of my stressful morning.

Ginny was still my girlfriend, and while she said our relationship was very serious, I was having second thoughts seemingly every other second. Locking eyes with the blonde for the first time, it became startlingly clear that I had no interest in continuing that particular relationship any longer; at least, not when I could have a woman like the grey-eyed fox in front of me, smiling like the cat who was about to mount the canary.

That didn't mean I ran out and bought her a diamond ring, nor did it mean that I asked Ginny to return hers. As you might guess, our situation was quite a bit more convoluted than that, considering the wedding had already been planned and replanned by my best friend, my girlfriend, and my soon-to-be mother in law. To cancel now would be the most dramatic turn of events since the death of Voldemort himself, and if I wasn't very badly mistaken, Harry Potter as a runaway groom would be the biggest news story since the Dark Lord's demise.

So... why did I wake up this morning, unclothed, with Patricia Dubois' long arms wrapped around my waist and her blonde head on my chest?

Chapter One: Basic Ministrations

I showed up to work with a smile on my face.

While for most people this would probably be a regular occurrence, for me, it took sheer strength of will to produce a believable smile, and I had been doing it so long that it had become second nature to me. For an actual happy expression to grace my visage was obvious proof something was wrong with me.

The floo network was troublesome on the best day, but I wiped the soot from my robes with a whispered spell, and without breaking stride, I crossed the lobby and slipped my wand into the guard's waiting hands. He tossed it back to me with a laughing smile, calling me a 'tosser' in the process.

Seamus made a heck of a guard, if only because he rarely made trouble and was usually reasonable if someone didn't have their wand or proof they worked at the Ministry. He was still far too concerned with women and alcohol, but at least he had learned to discuss those exploits away from work, unlike his unruly behavior in school.

I caught the wand and placed it back into its holster. Checking my watch revealed I was five minutes late; I smiled even bigger, knowing that I was never, ever late, and I was absolutely certain no one would say anything to me about it because I was such a hard worker.

"Late, eh? What are we gunna do with you, Potter?"

The brisk, haughty voice of the self-proclaimed nanny of the DMLE caught me a moment before her icy cold grip caught my elbow. "Don't think I didn't notice you slacking off, Potter." She pulled me close, then she lowered her voice, gracing me with a gentle smile that was a lot more familiar to me than her chastising. "It's about time! You haven't taken time for yourself in ages!"

My smile, which had fallen a bit when Mafalda Hopkirk grabbed me, returned in full force. "Thank you, ma'am." I paused a moment while she reached for another young auror's elbow, fetching his attention as quickly as she had mine. "Is there anything you need done at the moment?" I asked.

"No, son," she said, shaking her head. "Get you a cuppa and meet me in my office at nine. Until then, I don't know... find something to do. Go bother one of the clerks." She turned and addressed the auror, a recent graduate named Davidson, who had continued walking right past his boss. "Charlie," she screeched, chasing him down with a fierce look on her face that caused me to roll my eyes, still smiling.

I watched her read him the riot act for a few moments before I did what the old witch told me to, heading toward the clerks near the front of the department. Hopkirk had doted on me ever since I started with the aurors straight out of Hogwarts. Miranda, Mafalda's niece, who had just been starting Hogwarts in my sixth year, had told her aunt the full extent of my involvement in the war, and the old woman had always treated me well because of it. In fact, she was like a grandmother to me, and Ginny and I had even come by her home for dinner a few times.

She wasn't much of a cook, true, but she made up for it by mixing astoundingly good drinks. You wouldn't think it upon first meeting her, but the Irish-born woman could really hold down her liquor - and yours too, if you didn't finish it first.


Ron had joined me, and he slapped me on the back good-naturedly. I noted with a fair amount of amusement that he was smiling too, which probably meant Hermione had forgiven him... for whatever it was he had done recently. "Top of the morning to you, Chosen One." He looked at me strangely, perhaps noticing my much improved mood. "Did you have sex last night too? Wait... nevermind, it was with my sister, wasn't it? Don't you dare tell me."

"Well, you just told me about you and Hermione, so what's the difference?"

"The difference is," he said, waving his hands around wildly, "she's my bloody sister!"

I just laughed. "Well, stop asking me so many bloody questions about it and I won't tell you."

Ron appeared to realize something. "No... Ginny left town yesterday around lunch - I remember 'cause Hermione ate with her - so it couldn't have been that." He shrugged, sticking his hands in his robe pockets. "Why are you smiling? You're always frowning by this time of the morning." He gasped. "Did you get a raise?"

"Yes, but that's not why I'm smiling..." Ron opened his mouth to complain about my raise when I cut him off. "I didn't get a raise, Ron. Stop being so gullible."

He punched me in the arm, drawing another laugh. "So, what gives? You're not going to tell me why you're so happy?"

"Guilt-tripping me isn't going to get you anywhere, Ron; you should know that after dealing with Hermione all these years."

Ron cleared his throat, looking around to make sure nobody was listening. "You're my best friend, Harry, but you don't smile without good reason to. Never have, and probably never will." I followed his eyes to an increasingly familiar-looking blonde, who quickly turned her head as I caught her staring. "You can't tell me something hasn't changed. Harry Potter flashes the world's most charming smile and the ladies swoon... even the hot French ones."

Channeling my best Lucius Malfoy impression, I said, "Flattery will get you... everywhere."

He rolled his eyes. "Seriously though, you're my sister's husband, or as good as, so you'd better keep your hands off the birdie and save it for the bride."

I faced him with a curious glance. "You think I'd go for her?" I asked, tilting my head in Patricia's general direction.

"I think you're as warm-blooded as any male, and I'd probably go for her, so... yes. But you've always been the best of us, so I expect you to behave admirably."

Maybe I was tired of behaving admirably. Inwardly I seethed, though it wasn't Ron I was really mad at. Mostly I was angry with myself because he was right; I did need to stay away from Patricia Dubois, and worst of all, I had a distinct feeling that she had no problem putting her hands all over me.

Changing the subject, I said, "What's on your agenda for the day?"

Ron sighed. "We've heard that a gender-bending wizard... or witch I guess... has been Apparating in and out of Muggle politicians' homes just about the time someone shows up with a camera. I think it's that Boy George fellow myself, but we've got to go interview a diplomat and his wife and try to get to the bottom of it before we Obliviate them." He kicked over a clerk's little tin trash can, as the young man who typically worked there wasn't in today. "It burns me up. I could be at home with Hermione, but I'm called in to track down England's flashiest flamer."

I snickered. "Nice one. I'm headed to find something to do right now. Hopkirk is busy punishing the new recruits for slacking until nine, so I've got about an hour and a half before anything meaningful needs to be done." I eyed the fallen trash can for a moment before kicking it across the floor for good measure. "You want to meet me for lunch at twelve?"

Ron considered my invitation a moment before frowning and shaking his head. "Sorry. Can't. I promised Hermione I'd come home and clean up the kitchen."

"Why? What's so wrong with the kitchen that can't wait until the evening?"

"Well," Ron began, sounding rueful, "Hermione didn't get home from school until late, so I decided I'd surprise her with dinner. She doesn't like doing take out all the time, so I used magic to cook last night." He paused. "You already know I'm not that good at it." That was an understatement. "Anyway, I figured I'd make something easy, so I cooked shepard's pie. And, well, I kind of... blew everything up."

I snickered. I could only imagine the chaos of a kitchen run by chef Weasley. "And let me guess... you just left everything there until Hermione came home..." But that wouldn't explain why he was so happy this morning...

"No! That wasn't it at all! She came home right as it happened, and took a massive chunk of pie in the face." I burst out in laughter. "I'm not kidding! I just knew she was gonna freak, so I jumped up and immediately began apologizing, promising her the world and telling her how much I love her, just knowing she was gonna kill me on the spot... and the funny thing is, she didn't even get mad!"

"What did she do?" I asked, despite already seeing where this was headed.

"She jumped my bones, and," he lowered his voice, "she looked just like a younger Gwenog Jones on a broomstick... except it was my broomstick!" The redhead smiled whimsically, and I had to laugh; only Ron would compare Hermione, beautiful in her own right, to a burly female Quidditch player and think it a compliment. "We were so busy, we forgot to clean the kitchen!"

I opened my mouth to say something, but no words came out. Instead, I shook my head and patted him on the back. "If it's any consolation, I'd rather spend lunch with someone else anyway."

Again, Ron punched me in the arm. "Later, Harry." He walked around the corner, presumably to take the elevators elsewhere, and I watched him go with a wry smile. He had not changed in eleven years, and while I had picked up a few of his characteristics over the length of our friendship, he was still one hundred percent Ron Weasley. Hermione kept him in line well enough, but even she knew it was impossible to truly change him.

I avoided looking at Patricia and instead joined one of my favorite clerks at his desk, sitting down as silently as I could in the chair in front of him. The thin, old man was currently searching through a box of folders with his bare hands, and only the top of his prematurely gray hair could be seen over his oak desk. A metal placard holding a stack of business cards with the name Albert Forthright emblazoned on them was placed at the edge of his desk, alongside a few moving photos of his son playing footy, his daughter dancing with her husband, and Albert and his wife looking dotingly at a little girl I assumed was the smoking hot married daughter.

"Stop looking at my daughter, Potter," he said, without looking up. I'd swear the man had eyes in the back of his head if I wasn't already looking at it.

"Good morning, sir. Would it make you feel better if I told you I was looking at your wife instead of your daughter?"

He shrugged, still wrist-deep in files. "My wife is the most beautiful woman in the world, so I can't say I blame you." He finally turned his attention to me, laughing at the mock lovestruck look I was focusing on his wife. He took the picture out of my hands with some difficulty and placed it back on his desk, just out of my reach. "What can I do for you, Harry?"

"To be honest, sir, I hope you can't do anything for me." I smiled. "Madame Hopkirk asked me to find some work, so I'm following orders."

He leaned back in his seat, sliding a bit as the wheels reacted to his motion. He placed his feet on the desk, and hummed a bit, looking as though he didn't have a care in the world. "Nothing to do; at least, not for you and me. Not 'til nine."

"What happens at nine?"

"I'm not sure..." he said, before lowering his voice almost to a whisper. "I think the French Minister is coming to meet with some dignitaries... namely our own minister, Hopkirk and Weasley."

Percy was the minister's undersecretary, but also acted as a courteous diplomat when the big wigs came to town. He had proven himself to be a clever, strong-willed individual after Voldemort's fall, and he had even reconciled with his family. Now, he was married with a three year old, and doting grandmother Weasley spent most of her time watching the toddler and encouraging Ron to have one just like it; this, of course, only encouraged Ron to gripe about his once outcast brother under his breath.

"Something about a war brewing between giant clans in the Chartreuse mountains. We," he said, pointing to himself and then to me, "should stay out the way and let the big boys clash." He chuckled. "No pun intended."

I couldn't agree with him more; still, I found it highly unlikely someone wouldn't at least try to rope me into it somehow. The ministry could find no better mascot than the last person to kill a dark lord, and though I was an unwilling participant forced into it by a prophecy, now I was loyal to my country and would do whatever it took to keep a good minister in power. Thankfully, Kingsley Shacklebolt fit the bill splendidly. "Shack won't let me stay out the way; as far as I can tell, he loves putting me on cases like these." He snorted, and I tried to emulate Kingsley's no-nonsense voice, with hilarious results. "No fun? Check. Middle of another country? Check. Ice cold? Check. Sounds like another job for Potter!"

Albert smirked. "Don't act like you don't want the big jobs, Harry. The Prophet used to have you pegged as an attention-seeker, and I can see where they got that from." I knew he was just saying this to irk me, but damnit, that stung a bit. "I say that with all due respect," he added, laughing.

"Tell me why I sat down at your desk again?" I said, trying to play off the fact he had actually gouged my feelings.

"Because you were looking for conversation, not work. Besides," he changed the subject, waving his arms. "Look around you. Does anybody look busy to you?"

I scanned the row of desks, noticing most of the clerks were currently flapping their gums, just like Albert and I. A few aurors mingled about, but most were watching their shoe laces or gathered around the wireless, which was pumping out a rather warbly version of a Weird Sister's hit.

My eyes lingered on a desk in the middle of the hall not too far from my own, but I did my level best not to stop very long. Despite that, I knew that Patricia had noticed me, and judging by the annoyed look on her bright face, she knew I was ignoring her.

What did she expect? I was about to be married to two different people, and keeping a straight face at work was hard enough without the two of us in each other's business constantly. I couldn't deny that something about the girl gave me a pleasant buzz, especially in my loins, but that was just more reason to stay away from her in plain view of everyone. I could lose my job or, worse, my entire family.

"I suppose not," I finally said, glancing again at Patricia, who had turned away but was watching me in a compact mirror with a grim look on her face. Damn, I thought. She's pissed at me.

"Why is Dubois looking at you like you shit in her cereal? Did you saddle her with the Beaumont case?"

He was speaking of Alexander Beaumont, a Diagon Alley apothecary owner who had a penchant for taking live Muggles and using them as ingredients. Of course, he always regrew what he used and Obliviated the unwilling participants, but it still made for very messy paperwork. It was also exceedingly hard to pin the crimes he was accused of on him, as he was careful to send the Muggles back home without us figuring out who they were. In any case, I hadn't bothered her with the case details, and I told old Forthright that.

"Well, she's definitely staring daggers at you. Good luck with that," he said, almost gleeful that someone was annoyed with me. "I've heard she's a spitfire when she's irritated." He glanced around him, making sure no one was listening in. "Like her father in that regard..."

I didn't comment. I didn't know the girl's father, I only knew the girl, and I was already well-aware that she was going to have it out with me the next time she had me alone. Judging by my prior experience with women, they didn't appreciate being ignored.

"Well, sir... it was nice catching up, Albert, but I'll see you later."

He mumbled a farewell, going back to lightly digging through his box of files. I had a feeling he was just trying to look busy in case one of the higher ups walked around the corner. He was a good man, Albert Forthright, but his last name was occasionally unsuitable.

Cleverly, I avoided going past Patricia's desk in favor of circling around the building. As I walked, I chanced one quick glance in her direction and noticed her eyes following me. Sweating slightly, I quickly headed for my cubicle, sitting down and hiding myself as soon as possible.

It was to no avail, as she appeared behind me about thirty seconds after I sat down. I cringed, preparing for an onslaught.

"Good morning, Mr. Potter," she said, placing absolutely no emphasis on any of the words in the sentence. I was surprised to find that the venomous look she had been giving me was replaced by a pleasant grin. Still, her eyes lingered a bit long on my face, and her hand reached out to touch the nape of my neck over the back of my chair. My cringe became a shiver of pleasure, but I did not turn around. "I need your help," she informed me unceremoniously.

"Yes, Ms. Dubois?" If anyone heard me speaking to her, I was going to sound disinterested. A spike of guilt stabbed me in the gut then, as her friendly smile turned into a sneer.

"Well," she said, casting her eyes around the building before sinking down behind my cubicle walls and facing me with a severe expression. "I've been looking for the asshole who fucked me last night, as I expected at least a 'good morning' from him, but instead he's avoiding me completely. Problem is, I've already seen him looking back at me, but he's trying to pretend I don't even exist. Have you seen that yellow-bellied, sorry-excuse-for-a-man-"

She was starting to raise her voice, so I pulled her into the cubicle and hit her with a searing kiss, which soon turned into a manic attempt by Patricia to pull out my tonsils; our tongues rolled around in each other's mouths like some hastily choreographed dance, which ended with a tell-tale smack across my face. "How dare you?" she asked, though she leaned her forehead against mine, looking satisfied.

"I'm sorry, Patricia. I should have said something to you, but I don't want everyone to notice us being friendly. Instead, everyone's noticed, because I haven't said anything to you." I ran my hands through my hair in frustration, trying not to look nervous at how close she was. "You know we both have a lot on the line if we were caught in a scandalous position. You'd lose your job, I'd get demoted, the Weasley's would never talk to me again, and... well, I'm not sure what your family would do, but it's probably not a positive thing."

"Harry," she said, as we finally broke contact, "this thing between us is the only positive in my life right now, so for you to act like I'm some kind of non-entity is a negative thing."

"I'm sorry. Again. Let me make it up to you," I insisted, grabbing her long-fingered, manicured hands in mine and kissing them lightly. "I'll take you out to lunch." Ron was unavailable, Ginny was out of town, and my stomach was already growling this morning, so why not take the lovely girl to lunch?

She shook her head, before stopping mid-shake and reconsidering. She put a finger to her lips. "On second thought, I'd love to go to lunch with you. However, I get to pick the place."

"Okay," I said, grateful to have a companion for my meal, especially since it was the woman I had just had sexual relations with the night before. Thinking about it sent a flash of heat up my neck, and I recalled the events leading up to our consensual coitus.

It was getting very late, and while I had been off for at least an hour, I was still glued to the chair in front of my desk, staring at the cubicle surrounding me. I had no reason to rush home this evening, as Ginny was off with the Harpies, and though she was just a reserve chaser, the game was against a German team and she wouldn't be back until the next afternoon.

I didn't have any place better to be, so I continued gazing at my three-walled office, the only form of solace I could find in my life at the moment. We didn't have a tele at home, as Ginny had never enjoyed watching the quickly moving pictures, and there was nothing to eat as far as I could remember. Our dog had run away the week before, probably out of boredom, so there was no pressing reason to return home before midnight.

Despite that, I couldn't think of anything better than propping my feet up on my desk and listening to the quiet in the auror department. There were only a few aurors and clerks still on duty, and even they were preparing for the next shift change, when they could go home to their families and spend quality time together.

I wasn't at all sulking because my girlfriend was gone again.

"Hey, Harry," came a voice from over my shoulder. I was startled so much I nearly fell out of my chair in my haste to turn around. Fortunately, it was the lovely Ms. Dubois rather than anyone who would rush me out of the office or put more work on my desk. "What are you doing here so late?" she asked.

I briefly considered whether or not I should politely tell her to bugger off, or if I should tell her the truth - that I had no place better to be. Figuring it wouldn't hurt to start a conversation, I said, "Honestly? I don't want to go home."

"Why?" was her reply, and she sounded like she really wanted to know. Patricia was notoriously inquisitive, especially when it concerned other people in the department's private lives; I had always assumed it was a facet of her blonde roots, but it could have just been an extra willingness to speak to her co-workers. "Don't you, ah, live with your girlfriend? Ron's sister, right?"

"Yes," I muttered, not really feeling like talking about her as I was still annoyed that she was gone. "She's playing a game in Berlin tomorrow morning, so she left with the team to spend the night there."

"Quidditch, huh?" I nodded, and she changed the subject. "Well, that's nice. At least you'll have some free time to yourself, right? That's something."

"The problem is," I said, swallowing my reservations, "I don't want free time to myself. I want someone dedicated to me, who doesn't have to jet out every few days for a match they won't play in-"

I bit back any further words, realizing I was sounding like a cross between a rambling lunatic and a lovelorn teenager, and that I was talking to a woman I had fantasized about as recently as the night before.

"-and you're probably thinking I'm a creep with a ton of relationship problems, and wondering how quickly you can walk away without being snooty."

She laughed. "Well, I wasn't... but now that you mention it, you do have relationship problems." Her smile was intoxicating, and suddenly one just like hers blossomed on my face. Surprised, but enjoying the experience of talking to an attractive woman, I leaned back a bit more contentedly in my seat. "Trust me, I understand." She didn't elaborate, she just leaned against the wall and eyed me with a speculative look.

Waving my wand once, I produced a comfortable chair, much like the one that currently sat at Patricia's unoccupied desk. "Here, have a seat and I'll tell you all about them."

"You're sure?" she asked, suddenly tentative despite her usually boisterous behavior. Not that she was loud, per se, but that she usually had no problem talking to... well, anyone I guess. "I'd hate to interrupt something."

"No, no, I insist. It'll do me good to get this off of my chest for once." At that, she took a seat, needing no further convincing to join me. I had a feeling her reasoning for sitting with me went further than simply lending an ear for my benefit, and I was strangely determined to find out why she even cared. "Would you like anything? Maybe a cup of coffee or tea?"

She shook her head no at coffee, but fervently nodded at my offer of tea. "Coming right up," I said, feeling like showing off a little. I conjured green tea that was the perfect temperature and flavor I liked, and then I handed it to her. On the ceramic mug was stylized writing, proclaiming Patricia the 'Best Clerk Ever'.

She giggled, admiring the mug. "Very nice. Charming, as well." The words fell out of her mouth, and the temperature in the cubicle rose to match the hot tea. She cleared her throat and quickly moved the conversation away from how charming I was. "So, what's the big story, Harry, and why do you need to get it off your chest to begin with?"

The second question was more difficult to answer than the first, but I started with it anyway. "Well, the only people I can really talk to about Ginny are her brother and my best friend, who is married to her brother and is her best friend as well. You can see the problem, right?"

She nodded, looking thoughtful. "Okay, I guess that makes sense. I wouldn't go blabbing to my fiancee's brother about any problems we had, so I could see that. But... why on Earth would you trust me?"

I thought for a moment before shrugging non-chalantly. "I guess the only answer is: Why wouldn't I trust you?"

Again, she giggled. "Too true! Okay, out with the story then." She licked her lips, distracting me a bit, but I turned my eyes away and focused on telling the cubicle wall my problems. It remained utterly still while I began my story.

"I've known Ginny since my first year in Hogwarts, but she didn't start until my second year. I met her the first time I met Ron, and she had a crush on me even then, supposedly because she wanted to hear about the Boy-Who-Lived a lot when she was a kid." I glanced at Patricia to see she was paying avid attention, so I felt confident about continuing. "During the next summer I went to stay with the Weasleys for the first time, as me and Ron were already best friends and my aunt and uncle had virtually locked me in my room."

I didn't mention that they had literally barred the window in my room and locked the door, as I didn't think she didn't need to hear that story. Ever.

"So, I showed up at the Weasley's, and Ginny's face flamed bright red with embarrassment because she already had the hots for me. Of course, back then I could care less about girls, especially one who idolized me for someone they had read about." She snorted. "It happens more often than you'd think. Anyway, her first year at school was awful for her, because she didn't have any friends, her brothers were dicks to her most of the time, and Lucius Malfoy had slipped her Tom Riddle's diary during the summer."

She looked confused. "I know Malfoy, but who is Tom Riddle?"

"You know him better as the Dark Lord Voldemort," I said, slightly surprised that she didn't shiver when I said his name. Instead, she nodded thoughtfully and encouraged me to keep going. "Anyway, the diary was a horcrux." She opened her mouth to say something, but I cut her off before she could ask the obvious question. "A horcrux is an object that holds a portion of a person's soul. The only way that one can be made is by committing a cold-blo0ded murder, splitting your own soul in the process. Voldemort made a record-breaking seven of them. We didn't know at that time that they even existed, and here young Ginny was stuck with one."

"Naturally, writing in the diary meant that Ginny was slowly becoming possessed by Tom Riddle's bit of soul, and though she tried to throw the book away, it was too late; when I found the book later that year, she retrieved it from me, trying to protect me, but it consumed her to the point she was more or less sleep-walking around the castle while Voldemort took control."

"That's horrible."

"Yes, it was. Voldemort forced her to open the Chamber of Secrets, which was created by one of the Founders of Hogwarts and hidden from the rest of the school, and when she went missing, Ron and I set off to look for her. As it turned out, Salazar Slytherin could speak to snakes, and the only way it could be found was by a Parseltongue who knew exactly where to look. By a series of coincidences, we found the entrance in a bathroom, and because I inherited Voldemort's talent for Parseltongue as a child, voila, I spoke and the sink became a portal."

Patricia looked disbelieving, which was much better than the usual reaction - disgust that I had a notoriously dark trait.

"If all of this sounds a bit unbelievable, I understand, but I swear on my magic every bit of it happened. Ron and I went after Ginny, and one of the tunnel's collapsed." I avoided mentioning Gilderoy, who was still in St. Mungo's and was well-known amongst English and French readers. I didn't want Patricia thinking I played a part in his unfortunate self-Obliviation. "Ron was on one side, leading back up to Hogwarts, while I was the only one who could save Ginny in time, so I sent him to go fetch help and went after his sister."

I conjured myself a glass of water and took a sip, refreshing my throat and solidifying my voice. "That's better. Long story short, I confronted Riddle's horcrux in the Chamber. Ginny was lying there dying, while he drained her of every bit of her magic." Patricia gasped. "I know, fucked up, right? In any case, I traded barbs with Riddle - a few zingers, a few Dumbledore references - and lo and behold Tom reveals a fifty-foot basilisk that was under his control, commanding it to kill me."

"Okay, now I don't believe you. Basilisks don't even exist anymore."

"You're right, but only because I killed the last living one on record. With a sword, through the mouth, getting stabbed in the process." I laughed at the doubtful look on her face. "Fortunately, Fawkes, Dumbledore's phoenix, showed up before the fight started and took out the snake's eyes, allowing me to actually see what I was fighting."

"I'm sorry, but I absolutely refuse to believe-"

"I'll show you the scar," I said, already pulling up the sleeve on my shirt. "Look-"

Her mouth fell open, and she blinked rapidly before turning her eyes away from my almost grotesque-looking arm. "Put it away!" A scar, about a foot in length, shined vivid pink over the top of a sickly green bruise.

I tilted my arm so that it entered her vision once more, and she squeaked childishly, drawing my laughter. "You don't believe me!"

"Okay, I believe you! Just stop showing me!"

Still chuckling, I rolled my sleeve back down and continued my story. "Anyway, to make a long story short, I killed the basilisk, and then killed Riddle by stabbing the basilisk's tooth through his diary. He writhed in agony, disappearing in front of my eyes, and Ginny woke up, disoriented but otherwise unharmed. She didn't remember anything."

Patricia looked equal parts captivated, grossed-out and confused. "That was very brave of you, but I don't see how that has to do with your relationship problems..."

"But that's the thing! It has everything to do with it. She was possessed by Voldemort. She was infatuated with me as a child, just because I defeated Voldemort. She is the youngest of seven siblings, and her brother became my best friend, who helped me defeat Voldemort. It all comes back to Voldemort!" I sighed, running my fingers through my hair. "Would it be so wrong not to have a constant reminder of everything I've ever lost in my bed at night?"

She didn't smile, not at first. She merely watched me, analyzing me in that way women do that is undeniably sexy and always mysterious. I knew she would never freely divulge her thoughts, and yet I could feel them pouring into my mind like a faucet...

She wants to be in my bed tonight instead...

Just as quickly, I cut off the tendril of accidental Legilimency, and the sense that she wanted me was gone. Slowly her lips formed an uncertain smile, and I itched to press mine against hers. I shook the feeling off, trying to keep it together.

"I don't know, Harry. I'm sure the two of you are in love or you wouldn't be getting married!" She smiled as she said it, but I could tell she wanted to say something else. "Maybe you should let her be a reminder of what you still have to live for, rather than what you're missing now."

Her calm and collected smile was convincing, but I knew better. She was attracted to me, and I had a feeling if I gave her any indication I felt the same, she would reveal everything to me.

"It's just that... sometimes I feel like, if Voldemort never existed, then Ginny and I would have no reason to be together. I spent so much time convinced that I was going to die fighting Voldemort, that I think I made vows to my friends that I could never hope to keep. I told Ginny when the Dark Lord was gone that we'd be free to live our lives, but really, all I did was give her what she wanted, getting rid of any freedom I would have otherwise had."

"Well," she said, looking like she was still piecing everything together in her mind. "Why do you want freedom so badly? Perhaps all you really need is some security."

I snorted. "I think what I really need is a break. Just... a way to clear my head of anything to do with crime-fighting and Weasleys." She laughed softly, placing one hand on my shoulder, sending a pleasant shock through my midsection.

"Then take a break!" She pushed me lightly and removed her hand. "I hear Hopkirk tell you to take some time for yourself at least twice a week. I'm sure they'll grant you leave if you ask nicely..."

A moment passed where I didn't say anything at all, still focused solely on not reading her mind; even so, I could sense she wanted me to hurry up and say something or she was going to go mad. Her pulse was quick, and it was hard for me to distinguish which one of our hearts was beating faster. Again, I forced myself to break the connection, as I'm sure she wouldn't want me taking even the slighest peak at her thoughts - which, of course, made it all too tempting to begin with.

"I guess you're right..." I said, not really sure how to move the conversation forward, or why I wanted to converse at all. A part of me wanted to drown in my sorrow, and the other knew that would lead somewhere Patricia and I weren't ready for.

"Harry, let me ask you a question. Okay?"

I nodded my consent, still a little too distracted to speak properly. "Sure. Whatever you want."

"What do you want?"

Patricia laughed, breaking my reverie. "I want it to be a secret to the very last moment. I promise the food will be the best thing you've ever eaten. Okay?" Her face was so priceless I couldn't possibly refuse, so I smiled and nodded.

"It's a date," I said. Her face went suddenly blank, before she stood up and walked some distance away from my cubicle.

"Sir, thank you for your help. I think everything's going to turn out just fine."

She went back to her desk, and she did not turn back to look at me. Perhaps she had decided to turn my game against me, as my smile fell a bit. I looked up to see an owl sitting on the top of my cubicle, and I stood up to grab him, looking curiously at the letter clutched in its grasp.

I snatched it, and the owl flew away, batting its wings swiftly and leaving as quickly as it had come. Rolling out the parchment revealed the delicate handwriting of my fiancee, and my face whitened significantly as I read the missive.


Caught a quick Portkey back this morning. I hurt my knee in the hotel room last night and can't play today. It's okay, I can walk, it'll be fine in a few days, so don't worry! Meet me at home for lunch, and I'll tell you about my trip.

Love, Ginny

PS: Hermione is bringing by some treacle, so come home hungry! Love you, my Chosen One!

-end of Chapter One-