Chapter 1 – A New Day Dawning
Ginny sat back in her chair and glanced around her small, brightly decorated bedroom. This room had become a sanctuary of sorts for her over the years. When her loud, boisterous brothers had been too much for her, or her mother had been fussing fit to drive her mad, she had retreated to this room and simply closed the door. In here she felt safe and comfortable, cut off from her troubles and able to relax.
Having this private space to retreat into had been a huge comfort to her the summer after she returned home from her first year at Hogwarts. She had been a complete mess at that point, reeling from the horror of having been possessed by a teenage Voldemort and confused by the strange images that lurked in her mind. Add to that the sudden realisation that she was falling in love with her rescuer, a certain Mr Harry Potter, and it was safe to say Ginny's world had been turned upside-down.
It was here, in her small, cosy, little bedroom, that she had started to put her life back together. She'd spent days just lying on her bed, sorting through her guilt and the fear that Tom wasn't truly gone. Time, however, had been a great healer and eventually she came to accept that there was little she could have done to prevent the events of her first year occurring. She had been an unworldly eleven-year-old girl away from home for the first time; what chance did she stand against a powerful Dark magic artefact created by one of the most feared men in history? When it was time to return to Hogwarts to start her second year, it was a more hopeful Ginny Weasley that boarded the train at Kings Cross.
In the end, her second year at Hogwarts had proved to be a strange one. Free of the terrible influence of the diary, she proved herself to be academically extremely gifted. It had been a couple of months into the school year when Ginny finally realised why she was finding her schoolwork so easy: Tom Riddle had left all his memories in her. At first, she had been shocked and horrified, but in time, she came to accept the knowledge she had inherited and began to use it for her best advantage.
It was after she had returned home that summer that she had started to form 'the master plan' as she thought of it, in her mind. Tom's knowledge could be enormously beneficial to her; she just needed to decide what she wanted to achieve with it. That had been easy to decide: she wanted a life of adventure, excitement and romance, and one person was uniquely positioned to give her all that and more: Harry. Once she had realised this she began to construct an intricate and cunning plan to bring the Boy Who Lived into her sphere of influence and eventually to seduce him. She'd had many wonderful fantasies thinking about how exactly she would go about it, too.
However, few plans survive contact with the real world, and Ginny had found herself having to throw most of her ideas out the window when at the beginning of the previous school year she encountered a distraught and angry Harry who had been abandoned by his friends.
Despite her concerns that she was making her move too soon, she found herself supporting and encouraging Harry, and pretty soon they had formed a warm friendship. Her previous plans crumbled into dust as she found she had no need to try to manipulate him. Simply being herself seemed to be enough.
She'd learnt many valuable lessons that year; the main one being that she wasn't nearly as clever as she thought she was. Although she was proud to say she helped Harry immensely throughout the Triwizard Tournament he'd been forced to compete in, some of her actions proved more harmful then beneficial. The rift she had helped widen between Harry and her brother Ron had nearly condemned her love to being stuck with his hated relatives for the entire summer. She had simply not appreciated the pain that the breakup would cause to both Harry and Hermione Granger, his other good friend.
Things had soon spiralled out of her control. When she and Harry had been ambushed by the ambitious Theodore Nott, a momentary lack of control had sent the Slytherin boy tumbling off a high tower to his death. While she had always hoped to become close to Harry, the shared guilt at becoming a killer was not how she envisaged it happening. Without Harry, she knew she would have broken down after that terrible night, but he had remained strong for her and their awful secret had bonded them closer together.
Ginny also cursed herself for not realising sooner the dreadful trap Harry was being lured into at the end of the Tournament. They had come within a hair's breadth of losing everything that night. Luck had been with them, however, and Voldemort had been denied his chance to reclaim his body. As an added bonus, Peter Pettigrew had been captured, which had allowed Harry's godfather, Sirius Black, to clear his name. In the end, things had worked out better than she or Harry could ever have hoped for.
Not that her life was a complete bed of roses, mind. Some members of her family continued to be frequent source of aggravation, particularly Ron. While Percy could be equally annoying, Ron had the immediate edge due to the fact that she still lived under the same roof as him. Fortunately, during the week they had been back from Hogwarts he had largely ignored her.
A less immediate although infinitely more serious problem was that somewhere, lurking hidden away, was the disembodied spirit of Voldemort, desperately seeking to return and unleash his fury on the Wizarding world. He would be hungry for revenge against Harry and would do everything in his power to destroy the Boy Who Lived.
The thought of Harry brought a smile to her lips. Tenderly, Ginny picked up Harry's latest letter, which had been lying on her desk. Realising she hadn't looked at it for at least a good ten minutes, she unfolded the letter and began to read it for about the twenty-eighth time since she had received it yesterday.
My Darling Ginny,
I can't believe it's only been a week since I saw you last. It really feels much, much longer. I guess it's because we spent so much time together last term it just feels odd not to see you every day. I really miss you!
It's probably just as well I'm so busy or I'd be moping about in a sulk. Sirius's house is in a right state and we've been working flat out to try and make it liveable. I don't know if you know anything about the Black family, but they were a pretty nasty bunch for the most part, and the whole house is littered with Dark magic artefacts. At the moment, we're just boxing up anything we find and we'll deal with them later. Some of the objects we've discovered are just bloody evil!
We've definitely not been helped by the family house-elf, a miserable little creature called Kreacher. The nasty little bugger was very loyal to Sirius's mum (who was an 'evil cow' according to Sirius) and does everything he can to get in the way. He's the reason the house is so filthy and neglected.
Anyway, after a couple of days of fighting through the dirt and muck, we realised it would take us all summer to get the place half-decent, so we decided to employ a little extra help. Dobby was ecstatic at the idea of coming to work for me and is delighted with his ten Knuts a week salary! Needless to say, the cleaning has come on in leaps and bounds since Dobby joined us, even if Kreacher has apparently decided to hide in a cupboard most of the time. Still, not a great loss.
Hopefully, the house will be in a condition to receive visitors soon. Do you think your mum would let you stay over for a few days? We would be under adult supervision, after all (if you can call Sirius an adult). If not, maybe you can come and spend the day here sometime (am I sounding needy here? I'm really missing you!).
Anyway, I'd better go as we are making a start on the guest bedrooms today. If you are allowed to stay, I have to make sure you have a nice place to sleep, after all.
Missing you loads.
Ginny grinned. She strongly suspected Harry had sought advice from Sirius again regarding some of the wording. Being referred to as 'My darling Ginny' was lovely, but rather out of character for her normally reserved boyfriend. Not that she was complaining, mind.
While she was delighted by the affectionate tone of the letter, it did bring a number of problems to mind. While they both needed a break, she couldn't let Harry and herself neglect their training for the entire summer. The Harry that had kissed her goodbye at Kings Cross station a week ago may have been virtually unrecognisable in terms of capability from the angry youth she had befriended in the Gryffindor common room last year, but he still had a long way to go it he was to be a match for Voldemort. With the Dark Lord seeking to return, they couldn't afford to waste any time in turning Harry into the kind of wizard he needed to be.
Ginny suspected that Sirius would be sympathetic to Harry's position and be more than happy to allow his godson to practice magic during the holidays. A pure-blood like Black could easily obtain a waiver from the Ministry, meaning that Harry could continue his training without fear of prosecution. Twelve Grimmauld Place sounded like a perfect place for him to practice and even contained a library, which he had previously described as being filled with dangerous and sometimes outright illegal books. The thought of all that forbidden knowledge gave Ginny a strange thrill.
Unfortunately, as promising a location as Harry's new home sounded, Ginny still faced the problem of being allowed to actually visit the place. Her mum, while apparently rather pleased she and Harry had got together, was still rather reluctant to permit her to visit the dark and potentially dangerous Black household. Dumbledore had made several comments regarding the safety and suitability of Grimmauld Place, so naturally the Weasley matriarch now believed the place to be a death trap. Ginny also suspected that her mother didn't totally trust her to be alone with her boyfriend. Quite what she thought would happen, Ginny wasn't certain, but she suspected that Molly Weasley imagined the two of them would fall prey to their teenage hormones and commit all manner of disgusting and degrading acts if they were permitted any time alone. In fact, her mother was probably paranoid she'd become pregnant before her fourteenth birthday. As if she would allow that to happen to herself!
While Ginny was quite happy with the idea of experimenting with a few 'disgusting' acts with Harry, the very last thing she would ever allow would be to become pregnant at this age. While she didn't doubt for a moment she would one day want children (she was, after all, a Weasley and producing offspring was in her blood), she had a lot she wanted to achieve before she settled down with a family. The most immediate and pressing of those goals was removing Voldemort and his followers as ever being a threat to her and her loved ones. That, Ginny knew, meant training Harry and herself to their full potential.
"Ginny," came her mother's voice from somewhere downstairs, "can you come down, please. We have visitors."
Pushing back her chair, Ginny suppressed a groan. 'Visitors' probably meant one of the numerous wings of the Weasley or Prewett family, and she was probably about to face a boring afternoon listening to some distant relative she barely knew whittle on endlessly while her mother lapped it up. Nothing was more important than family to Molly Weasley, no matter how distant or annoying.
Unenthusiastically, she trudged down the stairs and along the passageway that led to the kitchen. Once she entered the room, she gasped in surprise.
"Harry!" she exclaimed before launching herself into his waiting arms. She found herself literally lifted off the ground as he hugged her tightly.
"Hi, Ginny," he whispered into her ear. "Pleased to see me?"
"Why did you warn me you were coming," she asked, pulling away from him slightly so she could get a good look at him. "And where did you get those clothes?"
"Ah, that would be my doing, Ginny," a male voice answered from nearby. Peering around Harry's shoulder, Ginny saw a grinning Sirius Black standing next to her equally amused mother. They both obviously found the girlish enthusiasm with which she had greeted her boyfriend funny. Ginny ignored them and continued to inspect Harry's new look.
"Well, I must say they are an improvement on what you normally wear," she said approvingly. "You're looking very smart indeed, Mr Potter."
Harry blushed at her words, but they were entirely justified. Sirius had clearly taken a big hand in selecting the new clothes and Harry now had the appearance of a stylish, well-to-do, young pure-blood wizard. His dark-coloured trousers were obviously expertly tailored and were form-fitting in all the right places. An expensive looking black shirt left open at the neck was visible underneath an exquisite dark blue velvet jacket that was cut in the wizarding style. His outfit was finished off with a pair of shiny black brogues that positively gleamed in the afternoon sunlight. All in all, Harry was looking pretty damn fine.
"I couldn't have my godson wandering around looking like a tramp now, could I?" Sirius smirked. "A couple of days ago I decided both Harry and I were in urgent need of a complete change of wardrobe."
"Not that I had much choice," Harry interrupted. "You burned all my clothes apart from the one's I was standing up in!"
"Best thing for them, Harry," Sirius replied smugly. "But tell me, honestly, did you really want to carry on wearing those rags the Dursleys forced on you?"
"No, but I didn't want you to have to go out and spend a fortune, either," Harry objected. "The assistant in the tailors shop nearly cried in happiness when he realised how much you were spending."
"Harry, my lad, you are the sole heir of the Potter family and my ward," Sirius objected. "You have to keep up appearances, you know."
"Yes, and I would remind you that you now have a very demanding girlfriend, Mr Potter," Ginny added with a mischievous smirk. "I'll be expecting you to look your best for me."
"Precisely!" cried Sirius gleefully. "It would be an absolute insult to this beautiful young lady to turn up in those rags you were wearing before."
"Okay, you win," Harry said, raising his hands in surrender. "I like the new clothes, honestly. I was just concerned at the price of everything. I mean, did I really need ten pairs of silk boxer-shorts?"
"Ooh, silk," Ginny purred. "I love silk!"
"Ginny," Molly said warningly.
"I was just double checking in case Harry comes to stay here sometime and I end up doing his laundry. I'd need to separate his underwear out and do a separate wash, wouldn't I?" Ginny pointed out, lying through her teeth. "Come on, Harry. Let's take a walk round the garden."
"I think that maybe you should…" Molly began.
"So, Harry was telling me that you make the most exquisite coffee and walnut cake, Molly," Sirius interrupted. "That's my absolute favourite. I don't suppose you have a little piece I could try?"
"Oh, Sirius, I wish I'd known. I would have made one for you," Molly cried in distress. "All I have in is a custard tart. I would have…"
"Custard tart!" exclaimed Sirius. "I haven't had a slice of that in years. So what do I have to do to cajole a piece of your wonderful tart off you, my dear lady?"
While he'd been talking, Sirius had placed his right hand on Molly's back and had been subtly guiding her away from the back door. His left hand, however, was frantically signalling the two teenagers towards the exit. Needing no further encouragement, Ginny grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him towards the kitchen door. As quietly as she could, she opened it and pulled her boyfriend outside before her mother even knew what was happening.
"Come on, Harry, let's head up to the orchard. We shouldn't be disturbed up there," Ginny said, practically pulling him along.
The two of them hurried across the garden and passed through a gap in the hedge. Skirting around the edge of a lush, green field, they headed up a steep hill until they reached the ring of tall trees that surrounded the family orchard. Once they passed inside the line of mixed Ash and Chestnut trees and were out of sight of the house, they turned and looked at each other.
"Well, Mr Potter, we seem to be alone," Ginny noted with a smirk.
"We do indeed, Miss Weasley," Harry replied, matching her grin. "Whatever should we do now?"
Ginny didn't reply; she just launched herself at him and succeeded in knocking him to the ground. Before he could voice any protest, she threw herself on top of him and began to kiss him passionately. Whatever complaint Harry was going to make about her rough behaviour was soon forgotten and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close to him. It was several minutes before their lips parted.
"Have I told you how much I've missed you?" Harry asked as they both gasped for breath.
"No, but I'm beginning to get the idea," Ginny replied. "But perhaps I need a bit more convincing?"
"Oh, definitely," he agreed before pausing. "Err, none of your brothers are likely to come up here, are they?"
"Nah," she assured him. "The twins are at Lee's house and Ron is visiting Neville. Providing Sirius can keep my mum occupied I have you all to myself."
"Sirius promised to buy us at least half an hour alone," Harry informed her. "I have every confidence in his ability to distract your mother."
"Well, what are we wasting time yakking for?" Ginny demanded. "Do you know I haven't been kissed all week? I may well waste away from neglect!"
"We can't have that now, can we?" Harry agreed and pulled her mouth to his.
If there was a better way to spend a summer's afternoon, then Ginny didn't know of it. She'd dreamed for years that one day Harry and she would be together, and the reality was even better than her imagination. The last year had been kind to Harry; he'd grown considerably and was starting to fill out in a wonderful way. Rather than the thin, almost scrawny boy he had been, the regular exercise he had been doing had started to build muscle, which she could feel as she ran her hands over his shirt. As their lips pressed against each other's, Ginny started to feel excitement build inside her. When Harry slipped his hands inside her t-shirt and began to caress her back with his rough hands, it was just about all she could do to stop herself from ripping his clothes off. She was immensely annoyed, therefore, when Harry tore his mouth from hers and pulled away slightly.
"Ginny," he gasped. "As fantastic as this is, we don't have a lot of time and we need to talk about some things."
"Can't we talk later," she demanded. "There will be plenty of time to chat when we go back to the Burrow."
"No, there's stuff we need to talk about in private," Harry insisted. "Stuff we put off talking about at the end of term."
Realising what he was referring to, Ginny reluctantly rolled off Harry and lay on her side next to him. This was not going to be an easy conversation.
"Harry, if Sirius was only sure of distracting my mum for half an hour, I don't think we have time now to discuss everything we need to, " she told him. "I mean, I think we've used most of our time up, anyway, and trust me, this won't be a conversation we want to rush."
"No, I understand that," he agreed. "I think you need to come over to Grimmauld Place so we can talk about everything in private. But what I really wanted to say to you now is that when we have that talk I think Sirius should be included."
"What?" Ginny exclaimed. "Harry, I didn't want you finding out that I had Riddle's memories; I certainly don't want your godfather to know, too. He'd probably ban me from ever seeing you again, or just turn me over to Dumbledore."
"Hear me out," Harry insisted. "Sirius and I have talked an awful lot over the last week and I've really got to know him better. For one thing, he comes from a pretty Dark family and I don't think he'd really be too shocked by any information you could come out with. Besides, I don't think he's terribly happy with Dumbledore right now. Twelve years in Azkaban during which our esteemed Headmaster did sod all to get him out or check his story has shaken Sirius's faith in him. Let's face it, Ginny; we need an adult on our side. If we're going to train over the summer like we did last year, we need him on board. Now, I'm not exactly sure what this terrible secret you have to tell me about my scar is, but I can guess it's not going to be good judging from your reaction. Whatever it is, I suspect we're going to need his help."
Ginny dropped her eyes. As much as she wanted to tell Harry there was no way in hell she was sharing her secret with anyone else, she had to admit what he said made sense. She wasn't even fourteen yet and that severely limited her freedom of action. Her mother would be watching her like a hawk now she had a boyfriend, and that meant they wouldn't be able to continue with the planning and training they both needed. If Molly Weasley ever found out that she was training to fight Voldemort's followers… well, she didn't even want to think what the results of that would be! As much as she wanted to keep this between Harry and herself, they needed Sirius's help.
"I see what you're saying," she said hesitantly, "but it's still a big risk. If my secret ever got out, Harry, just think what the Ministry would do to me. I'd be pumped full of Veritaserum until I was a vegetable and thrown in Azkaban until I rotted."
"I know," Harry agreed, "but I really do trust Sirius. I don't think there is a chance in hell that he'd betray us. That said, I expect my dad thought the same thing about Peter Pettigrew. No, when we tell Sirius about this I'll be standing right behind him with my wand out and if he even looks like he's not happy to keep this quiet, I'll Obliviate him."
"Do you even know that spell?" Ginny asked, a little shocked he'd suggest such a thing.
"Yeah, I found it in one of the books in Grimmauld Place and I'm pretty sure I can cast it. I wouldn't have even suggested this if we didn't have a back-up plan. There's no way I'd ever risk losing you, Ginny, it would just destroy me," he said passionately.
Ginny felt herself melt at his fierce defence of her. She'd dreamed for years that Harry would come to feel the same way about her as she did about him, and now it appeared her dreams were a reality. It was just a shame that they were stuck in the middle of this life-threatening mess and she didn't have the time to fully enjoy it. They faced a terrifying Dark Lord, an incompetent Headmaster and a corrupt Government. Between that lot and the well-meaning interference of friends and family, the picture didn't look too rosy.
"Alright, let's do it," Ginny said after some thought. "But I have two conditions. If Sirius agrees to help us, I want an Unbreakable Vow from him that he'll tell no-one else about me or anything he learns. Okay?"
"Yeah, that seems a pretty sensible precaution," Harry agreed. "In fact, it's a shame my parents didn't ask for a vow from everyone who knew their location when they went into hiding."
"It would have probably saved their lives," Ginny agreed. "My other condition is that I'm not going to tell Sirius absolutely everything I know. There are some things that have to stay just between us. I'll explain everything to you first, and then we'll decide exactly how much to tell Sirius. It's probably better if I explain exactly what Voldemort did before we involve anyone else."
"Okay," Harry said warily. "I have to say, I'm starting to get a bit scared about what you have to tell me, Gin. Is it really that bad?"
"Yes, Harry, it is," she told him earnestly. "But every problem has a solution, and I have an idea how we can address this. I won't kid you; we are in for a long, hard battle, love. We'll need to train hard if we're going to win this, and become the best we can be. I expect we'll need a lot of luck, too."
Harry snorted. "When have I even not needed a ton of luck? About the luckiest thing that's ever happened to me was you deciding to come and help me last year."
Ginny leaned forward and pressed a light kiss on Harry's lips. "You're very sweet, but that was nothing to do with luck. That was just me wanting to help this sexy, raven-haired bloke who I really fancied in the hope he would snog me. My intentions were purely selfish."
"Well, that plan worked out nicely, didn't it?" Harry laughed.
"It did, and I only wish I had more time to enjoy the fruits of my success, but I think my mum will be wondering where we are by now," she lamented.
"Probably," Harry agreed. "I mean, Sirius is good at proving distractions, but this is your mum he's up against."
"Come on," Ginny said, climbing to her feet. "We'd better go back before the search party arrives."
Hand in hand, the two of them made their way back down the hill. They ambled along in no particular hurry, just enjoying the beautiful weather and the lush green countryside around them. They eventually arrived back at the house and found the back door still wide open, just as they left it. Creeping quietly into kitchen, Ginny saw her mother sitting at the kitchen table with her back to them. Sirius was sat across from her and appeared to be surrounded by a mountain of empty plates and bowls. Clearly, Harry's godfather had managed to sample more than a piece of custard tart. As they stood by the door, Ginny could hear her mother speaking.
"…and if it wasn't for Hagrid creating a diversion we would have been in all sorts of trouble, bless him. I still don't know how Arthur and I got away with it. I mean, my bra was lying right there on the floor; how Professor Kettleburn missed seeing it I'll never know!"
"Ahem," Ginny cleared her throat loudly, causing Molly to jump about a foot out of her seat. The Weasley matriarch spun round and looked at her daughter in wide-eyed horror.
"Oh, there you two are," Molly said in a flustered voice. "Err, did you have a nice time?"
"Yes, we had a lovely walk up round by the orchard," Ginny replied, struggling to keep her voice neutral. A quick glance at Harry showed that he looked as embarrassed as her mother.
"Sounds perfectly enchanting," Sirius cut in. "Your mother was just telling me about some of her adventures during her time at Hogwarts. It quite makes me wish I'd been at school at the same time as her. She must have been the prettiest girl in the whole of Gryffindor House. I bet you had to fend the boys off with a stick before you were married, eh, Molly?"
"Oh, Sirius, really!" Molly scolded him, although she didn't look displeased with the compliment.
"Did you get a chance to talk to Mrs Weasley about Ginny coming over to help decorate?" Harry asked his godfather.
"Oh, I quite forgot," Sirius exclaimed before turned to address Molly. "We've finished clearing out most of the house and we've just got a few rooms to decorate now. Harry mentioned that young Ginny here is a bit of a budding artist. We thought she might like to do some of the fine detailing while we boys just slap the Paint Charms on the walls."
"Is it quite safe?" Molly asked. "Albus mentioned there were a lot of Dark Artefacts left about the house. In fact, he was worried about Harry staying there…"
"Albus really is turning into a bit of a worrywart in his old age, isn't he?" Sirius laughed. "Oh, there were a few unsavoury objects lying about but we soon cleared them out. The most dangerous thing we had to contend with was a Doxy infestation in one of the spare rooms. No, the house is perfectly safe, just a bit dull and depressing. A lick of paint here and there will do wonders for the old place."
"Perhaps I should come over with Ginny and give you a hand as well," Molly suggested doubtfully.
"That is wonderfully kind of you, but total unnecessary," Sirius assured her. "Most of the work is done, the place just needs brightening up, is all. But why don't you bring Ginny over tomorrow morning and have a look for yourself? If you're happy with everything you can then leave her in my supervision."
"Alright, that doesn't sound unreasonable," Molly agreed. "I was just a bit concerned about the way Albus described the house. No offence to you, of course, Sirius."
"None taken," Sirius said, favouring her with a charming smile. "I totally understand your concerns, even if I do think Albus has rather exaggerated the whole thing. Quite why he was so insistent Harry should live with his dreadful aunt I have no idea. That beastly woman barely fed the poor lad."
"I can't deny that I worried about poor Harry, left with those awful Muggles," Molly agreed, obviously in agreement with Sirius's words, but also reluctant to criticize Dumbledore too much. "I understand Albus wanted to keep him safe, but there had to be a better way, hadn't there?"
"There were loads of better ways, Mrs Weasley," Harry interrupted. "I don't think the Headmaster ever really believed me when I told him how bad the Dursleys were."
"He's too trusting for his own good sometimes," Sirius agreed. "He just assumes that because Petunia was Harry's aunt that she would automatically love and care for him. Albus always sees the good in people but he can sometimes miss seeing the bad in them, too. The Dursleys are vile, petty excuses for human beings and Harry should never have been left with them."
Molly sighed. "Sadly, I have to agree with you, Sirius. Harry should never have been left in the care of those people. Why, he was always just skin and bones when he came here to visit. What sort of monsters can't even be bothered to feed a growing boy like him?"
"Exactly," Sirius agreed. "I've heard about how you always treated Harry like one of your own, Molly, and I can't thank you enough. You really do have a heart of gold, my dear woman."
"Oh, don't be silly, Sirius," Molly blushed. "Anyone would do the same for a wonderful boy like Harry."
"But you're the one who did," Sirius insisted. "You looked out for him while I couldn't, and I'll always be in your debt for that."
"Yes, thank you, Mrs Weasley," Harry added. "You really don't know what it meant to me to be able to come here during the holidays. I don't remember too much about my mother, but I really hope she was like you. Thank you for being so kind."
"Oh, really, it was nothing," Molly said. "Oh, I really should clear these dishes away."
Molly stood and began bustling about, collecting the empty plates and transferring them to the sink. From where she was standing, Ginny could clearly see her mother's eyes were damp. Whatever issues she had with her mum, Ginny had to admit at that moment she was so proud of being the daughter of Molly Weasley that she thought she would burst.
"Well, as wonderful as it has been, it's time for Harry and I to head home," Sirius announced. "Molly, your reputation as the finest cook in the land is well deserved. Everything you served me today was scrumptious. Thank you for that veritable feast you gave me."
Sirius walked over to Molly and planted a big kiss on her cheek, causing her to blush like a schoolgirl. Ginny barely managed to supress a giggle at how girlish her mother was acting.
"Goodbye, Mrs Weasley. I'll see you tomorrow," Harry said, and then promptly shocked Ginny by walking over and hugging her mother. Never before could she remember him actually instigating any physical contact. Of course, this nearly set Molly off crying again, but she was also beaming with pleasure at Harry's gesture.
"Come along then, Harry," Sirius said with a grin. "We still have a lot to do today."
"Um, can I just say goodbye to Ginny?" Harry mumbled.
Molly and Sirius exchanged a brief look.
"Of course, Harry," Molly agreed with a knowing expression on her face. "We'll just be in the living room."
"Don't take too long," Sirius said winking at them.
As soon as the two adults disappeared into the other room, Ginny leapt into her boyfriend's arms.
"Oh, it was so good to see you today," she told him, hugging him tightly. "But will everything be alright tomorrow? Do you think Mum will be happy to let me spend the day at your house?"
"Yeah, I think so," Harry said with a mischievous grin. "Remember I told you we hired Dobby to help with the clean-up? What I didn't tell you was that Dobby roped in a load of elves from Hogwarts to help. He said they were all bored with no pupils at the school and were grateful for something to do. There's only one room that hasn't been finished yet, and that's the one we'll show your mum. We'll make a start slapping a bit of paint about, and once she's left we'll call in Dobby's gang to finish the job. We'll have all day free to talk."
"Brilliant!" Ginny exclaimed. "I'm starting to think it will be a good idea telling Sirius about everything. He definitely has a sneaky side, hasn't he? I never, ever thought I would hear someone convince my mum that Dumbledore is anything less than perfect."
"See, I told you," Harry laughed. "But I'd better go. I'm sure your mum's timing how long we're out here."
Harry leaned down and gently pressed his lips to hers. The kiss was slow and tender, and made Ginny's knees tremble.
"Damn, has anyone ever told you what a great kisser you are, Harry?" she asked him.
"No, actually they haven't," he said grinning.
"Good, because no one else gets to sample those lips but me," she said possessively. "Come on, you'd getter go before Mum comes looking for us."
A few minutes later, Ginny stood beside her mother as Harry and Sirius disappeared into the Floo. Both Weasley women remained standing in the living room for a moment after they had left.
"Sirius appears to be a good influence on Harry," Molly ventured eventually. "He certainly seems happier than I've ever seen him before, and I must say he looked extremely smart in his new clothes."
"Yes, he did, didn't he?" Ginny agreed happily.
"I can't say how delighted I am that you and Harry have got together," Molly continued. "I always hoped he would see what a wonderful girl you are. I just wish that he and Ron hadn't had that massive falling out."
"Ron's got a lot of growing up to do," Ginny replied. "He's got to learn to keep his temper in check or he's going to keep losing friends. He's already lost Harry and Hermione and he'll make an enemy of half the school the way he's going on."
"I'm worried about him, Ginny," Molly sighed. "Some of the things he's been saying since he came back from school… they just don't sound like him, at all."
"He'll come round," Ginny prophesised. As much as she was disgusted with her brother, she still loved him and hoped he'd see sense. Not that she was ever going to let him influence Harry again, though.
"I hope so, my love, I hope so," Molly said sadly before heading back to the kitchen.
Ginny watched her go before she turned and headed back to her room. Harry's visit had put her in a wonderful mood and she was determined not to let her idiot brother spoil it. Maybe tomorrow, if her mother proved amenable, things would get even better.
Talking a seat at her desk, Ginny began to re-read Harry's letter for the twenty-ninth time.
"Well, I do have to say I think you were right about Albus," Molly Weasley said. "This place looks absolutely fine to me. Perhaps he was just misinformed?"
"I really don't know, Molly," Sirius replied. "Quite how he could judge the place as unfit for Harry to live without seeing it first is beyond me. I sometimes wonder if Albus is taking on too much, you know. What with Hogwarts, the ICW and his position on the Wizengamot, I think he's spreading himself a bit thin. He'll work himself into the ground if he's not careful."
"I hadn't thought of it like that," Molly said in a distressed voice. "That really is too much for anybody to take on, even him. He must never get a moment to himself, the poor man."
"I fear you're right, Molly," Sirius agreed gravely. "He really should be encouraged to take things a bit easier. I mean, most men would be thinking about retirement at his age. I think he's getting tired and it's starting to effect his judgement."
"Oh, I'm sure it's not that bad," Molly disagreed. "He probably just needs a good, long holiday. A nice rest will do him good."
"Yes, but when will he ever have time for a break? I understand he's over in Paris hosting a conference for the ICW as we speak," Sirius pointed out. "I just think he's been making some rash decisions lately. And all this stuff about You-Know-Who returning…"
"He must have had a good reason for saying that," Molly objected.
"Yes, but Harry was there and he didn't see any sign of the evil bugger, and if anyone would recognise him it would be Harry," Sirius pointed out gently.
"I suppose so," she said doubtfully, "but we all depend on Dumbledore so much. I can't bear to think what we would do without him."
"No one lives forever, Molly, and we will have to manage without him someday," Sirius said firmly. "Now, what time did you want Ginny back?"
"What? Oh, if she could be home before six that would be good," Molly replied absently. "I would invite you over for dinner but Ron will be back and with him and Harry not getting on…"
"That's quite alright," Sirius said, shepherding Molly towards the Floo. "We are well provided for here. I'll make sure Ginny is back in plenty of time for dinner."
"Thank you, Sirius," Molly replied while stepping into the Floo. "Now, you will call me if there are any problems, won't you?"
"Of course I will. But really, my dear lady, what can go wrong with a bit of decorating? The worse thing that can happen is that we accidently paint the walls pink," he joked.
"You're right, it's just me being overprotective again," Molly scolded herself. "You have a good day, Sirius, and let me know if you need anything."
"Naturally, Molly. Give my best to the rest of your family," Sirius said graciously. He stood and watched until the green flames of the Floo flared and Molly Weasley vanished. With a sigh, he turned and headed by to the living room.
"Has Mum gone?" Ginny asked as soon as he entered.
"Yes, I didn't think she was going to leave for a moment," Sirius confided. "Your mother is a lovely woman, Ginny, but she does make an awful fuss."
"Tell me about it," Ginny grumbled.
"Still trying to sow some doubt in her mind about Dumbledore?" Harry noted. "You're doing a better job of it than I would have ever believed possible."
"It's high time we all stopped treating Albus Dumbledore like some sort of god," Sirius noted sourly. "People forget just how bad things got at the end of the first war with You-Know-Who, and part of that was because of his weak leadership. If half of what you tell me about his behaviour in recent years is true, Harry, then he should be pensioned off and thrown in a retirement home."
"No arguments here," Ginny agreed. "Now, Harry and I need to talk about a few things, but after that we'll need to sit down and have a chat with you, too."
"Ah, yes. This mysterious conversation that you two want to have," Sirius said. "You know, Harry, when you persuaded me to arrange for Ginny to come over here unsupervised, I assumed it was just so you two could snog. I have to say, I'm a bit disappointed there's a serious reason behind it."
"Oh, we'll snog later, but we have some things we have to tell you first," Harry said grinning.
"That's my boy," Sirius replied, wiping an imaginary tear from his eye.
"At this rate, you'll be lucky if you get a peck on the cheek," Ginny said warningly. "Come on, Harry. We have things to discuss."
Harry nodded and, taking Ginny's hand, led her out the door and towards the staircase.
"Enjoy your 'talk'," Sirius called as they left the room. She could hear him sniggering as they left.
"Is he really in his thirties?" Ginny asked in disbelief as they climbed the stairs. "He acts more like a teenager than you do."
"I can't decide if that's more of an insult to him or me," Harry laughed. "Come on, Gin. This is my room just here."
Harry led her into a spacious bedroom that had been decorated in Gryffindor colours. The walls were a warm, vibrant red colour and the curtains and carpet were a yellowish-gold. The brightness was tempered by the furniture, which was all of old, dark-wood construction and looked expensive. While the bed wasn't a four-poster, it was large and Ginny had a sudden, irrational desire to sprint forward and throw herself on it, possibly dragging Harry with her. She mentally slapped herself: they had important things to discuss today.
As if sensing her mood change, Harry took her hand and led her to a small sofa that was placed in front of the unlit fireplace. She could just imagine that on a cold winter's day this would be just the place to curl up and snuggle in comfort, but on this warm summer's day it would serve as the perfect place for their discussion. They sat themselves down and Harry looked her expectantly. She sighed and wondered where to start.
"I guess the first thing I need to explain is exactly why Voldemort didn't die completely when you destroyed his body back in '81," Ginny began. "When he was at Hogwarts, Riddle became obsessed about death and the idea of dying. He felt that death was the ultimate enemy and a truly powerful wizard should be able to defeat it. He actually found the solution in a book of Ancient Egyptian magic and to his delight found the method had been successfully used before. Have you ever heard of a Horcrux, Harry?"
"Can't say that I have," he replied.
"It's the foulest of magics, and requires a human sacrifice through a deliberate act of murder to work," she explained. "It literally splits a wizard's soul into two. The wizard will keep the major portion of his soul with him and take the smaller piece and place it into a specially prepared container. This could be anything, as long as it has the required ability to absorb magical energy, even another living entity can be used. The container is then magically sealed and layers of protections can be cast on it. Because it contains a 'living' human soul, it's extremely hard to destroy. It takes something of enormous destructive ability to destroy a Horcrux, like Fiendfyre or a dragon's venom. But while the Horcrux exists, the wizard who created it is inseverably linked to this world and cannot truly die. He might lose his body, like Voldemort did, but his spirit will be tied to this plane of existence."
"And he'll have a chance to regain a body later, like Voldemort tried to do, right?" Harry asked.
"Exactly," Ginny said smiling, glad that he understood the concept so readily.
"But you mentioned that these Horcruxes had been made before?" he pointed out. "Are there other immortal Dark wizards out there apart from Voldemort?"
"Actually, there aren't" she said. "And you've hit on the one thing Riddle didn't like about using a Horcrux. No matter how well protected it was, it could still be destroyed. As far as records go, Horcruxes have been created twice before by Dark wizards. On both occasions, the forces of Light were able to hunt the Horcruxes down and destroy them, before the wizards themselves were dealt with. One of the wizards revealed the location of his Horcrux himself under torture, while the other just picked a crap hiding place. Either way, with their Horcruxes destroyed both wizards were executed without problems."
"Wow," Harry gasped. "But this means we can deal with Voldemort, right? We just need to find his Horcrux and deal with it."
"Ah, this is where things get difficult," Ginny noted. "Riddle wasn't stupid and realised that no matter how well hidden a Horcrux was, it could still be destroyed. So, being a smart lad, he figured that if one of them would be hard to find, multiple Horcruxes would be even harder."
"He made more than one? Bloody hell!" Harry exclaimed. "Just how many of these things did he make?"
"I can't be absolutely sure because Tom's memories only go up to the creation of the first one, but he established that extra protection could be gained by creating a magically significant number of Horcruxes. He felt the most suitable number would be seven," she explained.
"Seven!" Harry said in horror. "But if they're all well hidden we may never find that many! He really split his soul up into that many pieces? Is that even safe?"
"Well, actually, no," she confirmed. "If you read a history book about the war against Voldemort, it's noted that over time he became less and less human-looking. Each time he split his soul he lost a little more of his humanity. The only good thing about this is that Riddle realised that might happen and knew there would be a limit to the number of times he could do it. From the research he did, I think he's reached that limit."
"Great, so he can't make any more," Harry snorted, "but I think seven are plenty enough to worry about, anyway."
"Not seven," she disagreed. "Voldemort had to retain the major piece of his soul with him at all times, so he just planned to create six. Additionally, one of his Horcruxes has already been destroyed. You should know; you stuck a basilisk fang through it."
"The diary?" Harry noted in surprise. "That contained an actual piece of his soul? Now I think about it, I guess that makes sense. So we have to identify and find five others, then. Do you even have an idea where to start?"
"Actually, I know exactly where one piece of Voldemort's soul is at this exact moment," she replied hesitantly.
"Great!" Harry said enthusiastically. "If we explain all this to Sirius I bet he'll help us retrieve it. Where is it anyway?"
Ginny didn't immediately answer. For a long while she sat and stared into Harry's bright green eyes. Then, with a trembling hand, she reached up and gently traced Harry's lightning-bolt shaped scar with her finger.
"I'm sorry, my love," she whispered. "But one of the Horcruxes is right here."
Harry stared at her horror.