Author's Note: So, I realize it's been pretty much a year since I updated this fic. Let's just say that college is hard, and I've been swamped. This fic has been burning at the back of my mind, though, and I hope there's still interest in it. Hopefully I'll be able to update more frequently. Thank you for reading, as always!
"This had better be good, Parkinson. I was sleeping. We've got a match tomorrow."
Despite her fiery tone, Ginny's eyes betrayed her worry. She knew that Pansy wouldn't call her out of bed in the middle of the night for no reason. The moment she'd set foot in the office, her eyes had darted around, searching for Harry, but upon finding him absent, her jaw set tight.
Pansy sat behind her desk. She kept her spine rigid and her face impassive, but once Ginny came to sit in one of the uncomfortable leather chairs across from her, she pushed a cup of tea towards her. "I'm sorry," she said, and meant it. "We've had a spot of trouble."
"There's been an accident."
"In the middle of the night?"
"Not an accident, then." Pansy paused, struggling to find the words. She bowed her head and rubbed her temples. "Damn it, I can't do this."
"He's dead," Ginny said, her voice steady, almost resigned. "As soon as I got the owl, I knew."
Pansy looked up and caught Ginny's gaze. Her eyes were glassy, but she seemed altogether unsurprised at the information. Her shoulders quivered.
"How?" The word came out sharp.
"We haven't determined a cause. We found him in his study."
Ginny clutched the mug of tea desperately. Her fingers looked so small and frail, not anything like the tough Quidditch player Pansy knew her to be. Then, abruptly, she let out a choking sob. Tea sloshed over and spilled down her leg, but she didn't seem to notice.
Pansy handed a tissue across the desk to her, then slowly reached for a small legal pad and self-inking quill. "Ginny," she said gently, "I'm so sorry, I know it's an awful time, but I need you to answer some questions if you can."
To her credit, Ginny nodded into her tissue. She took a few deep, rasping breaths and tilted her head back. "Of course. Of course I will."
This, at least, was easy. She could do this with her eyes closed. Pansy allowed the tedious work to lull her into a numb state. She walked Ginny through the last twenty-four hours, asking her where she'd been, who she'd been with. Was there anyone who could confirm her story? Did Harry have any enemies? Obviously he did; he was The Boy Who Lived twiceover, and there were still sympathizers of the Dark Lord lurking in the shadows. Finally, Pansy reached the question she'd been dreading.
"When was the last time you spoke to him?"
Ginny got very quiet, drawing into herself. Guilt gnawed at Pansy's insides, and she wished she was anywhere but here. Back at her flat with her old Doberman and a cup of tea, or even in bloody Azkaban with its cold walls. Anywhere else.
"I think," Ginny started feebly, "It was yesterday morning. No, the day before that. I didn't speak to him yesterday. We usually fire call first thing, but I couldn't get him yesterday. We had a row. I don't even remember what it was about."
"You couldn't reach him?" Pansy probed.
"No. It was odd," Ginny admitted. "He didn't try me again, either. D'you think that's important?"
"It could be. Are you sure you can't remember what the row was about?"
Ginny's brow knit as she frowned. "I think it was something about his birthday. He wanted me to come home—Oh, Merlin." She held her hand over her mouth. "And I said no. I wasn't going to be with him on his birthday. I'm a monster!"
And she was off, her shoulders heaving with each heavy sob. Pansy passed her a few more tissues. She felt her back knotting with every sound and knew she wasn't going to last much longer. Neither of them would.
"Listen, Ginny, you aren't—I mean, you should contact your mum. Go see your kids, be with them. Don't go home for a couple of days, alright? Lie low. Once the Prophet gets word of this…" She trailed off at Ginny's panicked expression, then hurried on. "Don't worry, we'll handle it. I promise. Just try and take care of yourself for now and let us worry about that."
Again, Ginny nodded. She seemed to steel herself for a moment, then drained the last of her tea and set it down on Pansy's desk. "You'll find who did it," she said with certainty. "And when you do, I'll see him hanged."
The sharp words startled her, but Pansy set her mouth in a grim line and nodded sharply. "We'll get them," she promised. At least that was a promise she knew she could keep. Already anxieties formed in the back of her mind—what if she couldn't? How would that make the Ministry look? The Auror offices? She could imagine that damned Skeeter woman sinking her teeth into the supposed incompetency of her department.
"Right," Ginny said. "I should be with my children." The sentence hung in the air for a moment, as though Ginny found it hard to actually rise from her seat. She looked lost.
"Use my fire," Pansy offered. She grabbed a battered tea tin from her desk and prized it open. "It's the least I can do."
Ginny smiled gratefully and took a handful of powder from the tin. "Thanks. I do mean it. And for what it's worth, I don't blame you. It's not like we hadn't considered it. It's always a dangerous business. I think that's why Harry loved it, honestly. It just gave him something to do once the war was done."
Once Ginny departed for her mum's place, Pansy sat alone behind her desk. She stared at the file in front of her and mulled Ginny's last words. She'd seen that look in Harry's eyes before; like he took everything just a bit too personal. Like he still had a battle to fight. It made him a strong Auror, but it also got him in trouble more than once. Quietly, Pansy wondered if it hadn't gotten him in too deep this time.