Harry sat in his office leafing through a stack of parchment. He sighed as he straightened his glasses and continued to make notes on the various Death Eaters who were coming up for parole hearings. He ground his teeth together as he muttered, “How they could even think about letting him out...” He scribbled furiously into his note pad and scarcely took notice of the folded memo as it sailed into the room - not until the vivid red paper airplane began circling his head. Annoyed at the disturbance, he hastily unfolded it, “Don’t they realize I’m in a hurry?” His eyes quickly scanned the page.
Disturbance on Diagon Alley
Your presence is requested at once.
Alarmed, he quickly stood and stepped to the next office. He impatiently rapped at Ron’s door.
“Come in,” Ron called out.
“Did you get a note from the Minister?” Harry quickly stepped into Ron’s office.
“No, something wrong?”
“He said I’m needed on Diagon Alley. Thought you should come along as well,” Harry stared down at Ron who was still shuffling papers on his desk. “Now!”
“Alright, I’m coming. What do you think the problem could be?” Ron matched Harry’s quick pace as they made their way through the crowded corridors.
Harry looked around for any hint as to the problem in the faces of his co-workers. Seeing none, he grumbled, “They’ve probably just caught someone trying to nick something valuable. I don’t know why they’ve called us into it. Think we should pick up Hermione on the way?”
“No, she has to be in those parole hearings for most of the morning,” Ron shook his head as they stepped into the lobby.
“Harry, Ron, let’s go!” Hermione’s face was anxious as she stepped off the lift.
“Shacklebolt summoned you as well?” Harry’s confusion increased. “Any idea what’s going on?”
“None, but he said it was urgent,” she hurried across the atrium to the nearest floo. Throwing powder into the flames, she crisply announced, “Diagon Alley,” as she stepped in.
Harry was quick on her heels as he sped into the fireplace. Once his eyes focused on the familiar street, he was taken aback by the odd white haze surrounding him. Some people were running pell mell while others seemed glued in their place. Screams filled the air. Directly before them stood the remains of a shop so badly damaged it was unrecognizable. Despite his many trips to Diagon Alley, Harry couldn’t immediately make out which shop it was. He quickly glanced to either side of the building and noticed with regret that whatever had caused the structure’s collapse had damaged the stores that flanked it as well.
“I haven’t seen anything like this since...” Ron’s words were lost as he froze in surprise - his eyes upturned.
Harry was locked in place as he followed his friend’s stare. A blood red skull hung ominously in the sky. As he watched, its visage twisted into an evil grin and an ominous cackling rumbled through the air.
“A red Dark Mark?” Ron said with surprise.
The panic on the street grew as the crowd scattered in fear.
As the trio approached the damaged buildings, Harry noticed that dust hung over the building like fog. Debris rained down from the walls that were left standing.
“What happened here?” Harry demanded of the nearest spectator. Healers and their assistants, Ministry staff, and wizards Harry didn’t recognize carefully pieced their way through the rubble. Others stood around with dazed expressions apparently rooted to their spots. He swallowed as he noticed the line of black bags off to the left of the remains of the building.
“I don’t rightly know. I was in Gringott’s when I heard the explosion,” the stout man replied.
“Explosion?” Hermione questioned.
“Definitely an explosion,” Angelina hurried to Hermione’s side. “We heard it in the shop.”
“Should you really be here?” Hermione looked protectively at her sister-in-law.
“I was following George. Once he realized which building it was, you couldn’t keep him out. He went in, but he hasn’t come back out,” Angelina bit her lip as she looked at the trio of faces before her. “Can’t you tell what it is?”
Harry stepped back a few steps - looking right and left, he saw the stationery shop’s damaged sign in its window and recognized the remains of the Apothecary. All the color drained from his face as he stammered, “Quality Quidditch Supplies. Ginny’s in there.”
“Harry, over here!” Kingsley Shacklebolt’s boomed over the tumult. Harry turned to see Shacklebolt standing in the doorway of the Apothecary. “Did you bring Ron with you?”
Harry nodded robotically - his eyes still fixed on the damaged building.
Shacklebolt eyed him hesitantly, “Are you alright?”
“No, sir. Ginny’s in there. Today the team was signing autographs.”
The Minister ran his hand over his bald head. This definitely changed a few things, “Harry, we’ll need to bring in the other Aurors. We need to track down whoever is responsible for this. It’ll be best if we start immediately,” He paused and his voice softened, “I assume you’ll be wanting to assist with the recovery task.”
“Of course, I meant rescue,” Kingsley swallowed and placed his massive hand on Harry’s shoulder, “Harry, I have to tell you; it looks grave. So far, no one has walked out of there.”
“I’ll contact the other Aurors,” Harry’s voice sounded as if he was speaking through a long tunnel.
“No, Harry, I’ll contact Harrison for you,” Shacklebolt looked at his friend in concern.
“Thank you,” Harry turned on his heel and sped into the rubble. He looked back to where he’d left Hermione and Ron standing and wasn’t surprised to see they were gone. They were inside the remains of the building, of course. Two of the walls were down and the ceiling had caved in. Clouds of dust filled the air rendering wand-light virtually useless.
“Over here!” a thin blonde witch pulled at a large section of the wall. Harry reached for his wand, “It won’t work. You have to do everything by hand.”
Of course magic wouldn’t work. Harry thought back to the time he spent repairing Hogwarts. Powerful dark magic had been used here. He was thankful to see George’s rangy form approaching him. “A little help?” he called over his shoulder.
Together, the pair pulled the section of the wall off the buried wizards. Once the wall had been moved, healers descended on them.
“This one’s got a pulse,” the blonde healer knelt over a gray haired woman. She called for her assistant and the pair scooped the woman up and turned on the spot.
“Is Angelina still out there?” George looked at Ron in concern.
Ron wordlessly nodded.
“I can’t get her to leave. Think Hermione could help?” George nodded to Hermione who was leaning against a section of wall, wiping her streaming eyes.
“I’ll get Hermione to take her to Mum,” Ron carefully made his way to his wife. He leaned over her and whispered into her ear. Hermione nodded and squeezed his hand before she left.
Harry and George met up again with Ron in the midst of the ruined building. The three created an assembly line of sorts as they removed the shattered pieces of the building and passed it amongst themselves. The work was tiring and unrewarding. Harry cringed as he glanced at the growing row of black bags on the walk.
As the hours passed, more and more volunteers came to help. Harry was no longer able to tell who anyone was or where they worked. The ashy gray powder that clouded the air over Quality Quidditch Supplies settled on everyone’s clothing giving them all the appearance of living, moving sculptures.
His reverie was broken as he was pulled roughly backward as another section of wall tumbled to the ground next to him. “Thanks,” he coughed as he looked at Ron.
Ron wiped his sweaty brow, streaking the dust into a muddy gray paste.
“We’ve got more over here!” a wizard shouted eagerly throwing bricks aside.
A flash of red caught Harry’s eye and his breath choked in his throat as his eyes focused on the deep red stain crossing the familiar Hollyhead Harpies jersey. He locked eyes with Ron who stood and stared down at the rescue underway.
An older man, Harry vaguely recognized as Arthur, stood while cradling a tiny girl in his arms. Tears streaked his face as he pushed errant strands of red hair from her pale face. The girl’s vivid red ponytail and Harpies jersey made her a twin of Ginny in miniature. The familiar sight caused his stomach to lurch. Harry stumbled as he propelled himself through the wreckage in search of fresh air. Harry couldn’t catch his breath as he watched Arthur walk to the row of black bags.
Instantly, Bill was at his side, “Harry? What is it? Did they?” His worried face loomed over Harry’s as he was unable to voice his last question.
“No, nothing like that. It was just a little girl,” Harry leaned against the wall of the stationery shop, careful to test to see if it would support his weight. “I just needed some air. I didn’t realize you were here.”
“We’re all here,” Bill patted Harry’s shoulder as he turned back to the task at hand, “If you’re sure you’re alright.”
Harry nodded and waved him off. Straining his eyes, he stared at the gray-cloaked figures moving slowly before him. Eventually, he found Neville working next to George. Percy knelt with Audrey at his side. Hermione was back. She leaned over parchment as she seemed to be directing who went where. He smiled faintly, of course she’d be in charge of organizing the massive number of volunteers. Hagrid’s hulking form leaned over the back wall not too far from where the little girl had been found. He and Grawp - those two were easily distinguished from the others - pulled entire sections of the wall off those buried underneath the rubble.
“Over here!” Hagrid’s voice echoed over the crowd as a knot of rescuers hurried to assist him. He threw bricks and boards over his back as if they were wads of paper.
“He’s found the team,” Gwenog Jones’ voice choked as she looked down at their still forms.
Harry cringed as he looked at the faces of his friends. In his concern for Ginny, he’d forgotten her teammates were there as well. Some of them still clutched quills in hand as if they’d gone to sleep while signing autographs. One by one, they were carefully pulled from the wreckage. A healer sped alongside those carrying the stretcher. The speed her wand flew over Montegue’s arms showed the urgency of the situation. She took hold of the emergency portkey and vanished from sight.
As one member after another of the victorious Quidditch team was pulled from the wreckage, Harry’s alarm grew. Why wasn’t Ginny here? He gave another involuntary glance at the black bags - surely not.
Make-shift lights stood at the four corners of the building casting eerie shadows over the scene. A wizard Harry didn’t recognize bent over a pile of splintered bricks. As he threw the top ones out of his way, a hand was visible amid the wreckage. Harry froze as he stared down at the familiar gold solitaire. They’d found Ginny.
Later, Harry wouldn’t remember how he’d made his way from one side of the building to the other. He’d explain it as some unseen force that pulled him to her side. Carefully, a cluster of rescuers worked to free Ginny from the pile of ruins. For Harry, it seemed as if his heart was buried as well. A young healer crouched over Ginny, her eyes closed in concentration, “Let’s get her to St. Mungo’s. Harry, are you coming with us?”
Harry stared into the familiar face of Katie Bell, “Definitely.” He reached down and clutched Ginny to his chest. With Katie at his side, he turned on his heel and disappeared.
The pop drew Ron’s attention. Realizing the only cause for Harry’s sudden absence, Ron ran to his father and whispered into his ear. Arthur turned to follow his son-in-law leaving Ron standing alone amid the wreckage. He looked around and was surprised to see a crowd of people, all with nearly identical anguished faces, apparently standing behind some invisible boundary. He looked into their eyes and understood that they were waiting for some hint of news about someone they cared about....someone still missing. Drawing a deep breath, he knew that he couldn’t help Ginny at the hospital, but he could still be of use here.
St. Mungo’s was a flurry activity the likes of which Harry had never seen. Everywhere he looked, healers and their assistants scurried through the halls as anxious strangers filled the waiting rooms and stood lining the corridors.
Katie looked at him as he lowered Ginny’s still form onto a stretcher, “You’ll have to stay here.”
She silenced him with a glance as she pointed firmly at the floor, “Stay here. I’ll let you know as soon as anything changes.”
Harry nodded and silently watched as she whisked his life away. The minutes passed like as many days. He crossed the room and found the single empty seat on the cracked leather sofa. A worn copy of “The Quibbler” sat on the table nearest his perch. He picked it up and tried to concentrate on reading, but sitting still only made the waiting more difficult. After spending at least an hour staring at the same article, he surrendered to his nervous energy and stood and walked to a quiet corner of the room where he leaned against the wall. For the first time, he surveyed the other occupants of the waiting area.
Moira Carlisle and her two little girls were waiting across the room. Ashlyn seemed to be asleep as she laid across her mother’s lap. Moira’s face was taut as she absently stroked the little one’s black hair. Bethany sat happily on the floor playing with a toy train someone had left to occupy the younger visitors to St. Mungo’s.
Of course the families of the World Cup team were here. Harry’s eyes stung as he remembered the sight of the entire team buried beneath the back wall of the shop. His eyes scanned the room and quickly found Martin Hull and his son, Andrew. He cringed as he remembered Ginny had promised Andrew she’d bring Teddy back on Saturday. Martin must have sensed someone staring at him, and he looked up and locked eyes with Harry. Harry managed a half smile, and Martin nodded in return.
A group of volunteers entered the waiting area bringing sweets to the children and tea for the adults. A woman with her gray hair pulled back into a low bun hesitantly brushed Harry’s arm with her fingertips, “Anything for you?”
Harry sighed, “No, nothing thank you.”
The woman looked more carefully at him, “Harry Potter?”
“Did you have someone in the explosion?”
“My wife,” Harry couldn’t complete the sentence. If he said it, then it would have to be real. For now, it still seemed to be just another nightmare.
“I’m so sorry,” she allowed her hand to rub across his back as she walked away.
Healer Smythe walked through the waiting room doors flanked by two assistants. His eyes briskly looked over the mass of family members until they fell on the Hull family.
Harry studied the healer’s stooped shoulders and cautious steps. He cringed when he saw the man stoop over Martin to speak softly in his ear.
Martin’s face grew ashen as he pulled Andrew to stand next to him. The pair cautiously followed Healer Smythe into the corridor before one of the assistants closed the door behind the group.
“No!” Martin’s anguished cry echoed through the doorway. “Oh, please no!” the man’s pleading sobs filled the waiting room.
Harry wanted to go to Martin to help his friend. Somehow, though, he was fixed to the spot. He couldn’t persuade his legs to move. He gritted his teeth and looked at the floor. He stood frozen against the wall, watching as the others in the room were visited by members of the St. Mungo’s staff. Quickly, it became apparent that those waiting didn’t want Healer Smythe to come to their side.
“Harry?” Hermione’s hand rested lightly on his arm.
His eyes snapped open. Ron was standing slightly behind Hermione. George and Arthur flanked Molly.
“Have you heard anything yet?” Hermione continued.
“No, nothing,” his throat was sore from all the dust and grime he’d inhaled. His chest tightened as Healer Smythe reentered the room, closely followed by Katie. Harry tried to step back, but he was already leaning against the wall.
“Harry, will you come with me for a moment?” Healer Smythe’s kind eyes looked on him with compassion.
“We’ll come with you,” Molly stepped forward, but Arthur caught her arm.
“I think it would be best if you didn’t. I’d like a moment alone with Mr. Potter,” Healer Smythe nodded to Molly as he turned to lead Harry from the room.
Harry was only vaguely aware of traveling the short distance into the corridor outside the waiting area. Katie quietly stepped back to close the door behind them.
“I thought you’d like a moment of privacy,” Healer Smythe patted Harry’s shoulder.
Harry met the man’s eyes. Despite trying to remain calm, he was painfully aware of the sound of his own heartbeat in his ears.
“You can relax, son, I believe,” he paused for a moment, “they both should be. She has a concussion, several broken bones, and moderate internal injuries. I gave her a sleeping draught to help keep her calm. I know how important that is right now,” Healer Smythe smiled down at Harry.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief, “Then why did you come for me?”
“You’ve noticed the pattern? I’ve been doing this a long while. Being the one to inform the family is .... draining. I can handle it better than some of the younger healers. Also, I tend to get the patients with the least hope.”
“Does that mean?”
“No, I recognized Ginny from the last time I treated her. I knew that privacy was going to be more of a problem for you, so I took her. I’m glad I did. She needs the peace of a private room in her condition,” Healer Smythe saw the confusion evident on Harry’s face. “You don’t know?”
Harry realized his hands were trembling. He stuffed them into his pockets in annoyance, “Is she that badly hurt?”
The corner of Healer Smythe’s lip curled in a smile, “She does have rather extensive injuries. She’s still not out of the woods yet, but I’m optimistic. However, I was meaning the fact that she’s expecting a baby.”
Harry’s eyes grew wide, “She’s what?”
Healer Smythe turned back and winked at Katie, “See, I said they wouldn’t have known yet.” He turned back to Harry and shook his hand, “You’re going to be a father. Now, you can go on in her room, but remember that she’s supposed to be asleep. Don’t try to wake her.”
Harry nodded and stepped quietly into the darkened room. Ginny appeared to be sleeping peacefully despite being wrapped in so many bandages. He walked to the side of her bed and searched for a safe place to touch her. It seemed as if all her exposed skin was covered with deep purple bruises. He pulled the armchair up next to her bed and sat and carefully laid his hand atop hers. Very gently, he ran the fingers of his free hand over her abdomen. A baby - after all this time. Unexpectedly, he felt tears forming in his eyes at the thought.
Staccato footsteps echoed down the hall. They stopped in Ginny’s doorway. Hastily, he wiped his face as he turned around. Molly and Arthur were looking in.
“They said we could come in. Do you mind?” Arthur had an arm wrapped around Molly’s waist. Harry couldn’t tell if it was for comfort or for support.
“No, please,” Harry choked.
“Healer Smythe said he believes she’s going to be alright,” Molly patted his hand, misinterpreting Harry’s tears. Her eyes gazed sadly at the sight of her battered daughter.
Harry nodded, “I know.”
“Harry, why don’t you go home for a moment to clean up? Healer Smythe said she’d be asleep for hours,” Arthur suggested.
“No, I don’t want to leave her,” he held tightly to her hand.
“Harry, she doesn’t need to see you like this,” Molly nodded to the blood and the filth staining his robes.
One quick glance in the mirror above the sink on the wall told him that she was right. He stood and nodded stiffly.
“We’ll let you know right away if there’s any change,” Molly reached out to hug her son-in law.
Harry quietly walked through the door and out into the quiet corridor. In no time at all, he found himself in the crowded waiting area. Soon, he was surrounded by anxious family members, “She’s going to be fine. She’s asleep.” He wasn’t sure if he was trying to reassure them or himself. He turned to leave, but the sight of a familiar person caught his eye. He flew to Malfoy and grabbed him by the collar, “How dare you come here!”
Malfoy’s red-rimmed eyes betrayed his surprise, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t lie to me!” Harry shoved him against the wall. “Were you the one who conjured the Dark Mark?”
“I’m not a Death Eater anymore,” Draco tried to push Harry’s arm away, “you should know that.”
“Tell that to Ginny!” Harry screamed as Hermione and Bill tried to pull him off Draco.
“No, I’ll tell that to Cassie,” Draco whispered.
“What?” Hermione asked.
“Nothing you’d be concerned about,” Draco muttered.
“Who’s Cassie?” Bill stared at Draco.
“Cassiopeia....my daughter,” Draco’s face took on a whiter shade of pale than normal. “Do you think I would have let her go get your wife’s bloody autograph if I’d known?” His eyes searched the room wildly. “Do you?” he yelled.
Nervous healers and visitors turned to watch the exchange taking place.
Harry let go of Draco’s robes and backed away in shock.
“Cassie was so excited to be going. She even had her Harpies jersey on. She woke us up at 5 this morning to get in line, “ Draco shook his head, “Astoria doesn’t know yet. They told me I had to wait here. How am I going to tell my wife that our daughter’s gone?” Draco slid down the wall and collapsed in tears.
Harry felt as if he’d been punched in the stomach. He’d seen Draco’s daughter. He’d watched as Arthur carried her out of the rubble. He did something he never expected to do, he knelt beside Draco and put a hand on his arm, “I’m so sorry. I had no idea.”
Harry stood up and looked at the crowd still watching his interaction with Draco. He stared at Hermione who was looking at Draco with a mixture of confusion and sadness.
She put her hand on Harry’s shoulder, “Go home. Clean up. We’ll let you know if anything changes with Ginny.”
Harry looked down at Draco, still leaning on the wall while siting on the floor. His eyes seemed unfocused, and then he dropped his head onto his forearms. No, there was no way he could pretend his sadness. Draco didn’t know about the attack.
Harry jerked his head up and nodded at Hermione, “Thanks.” He walked briskly to the waiting floos. Grabbing a handful of powder, he stepped confidently into the green flames. Arriving home, he was almost surprised that it still looked largely unchanged. Yes, Kreacher had cleaned up the breakfast dishes. But the house looked so normal. The copy of The Quibbler was still turned to the article about the snorkshak uprising that Newt Scamander had written. The note from Luna that had been attached to the magazine was folded at Ginny’s place at the table.
Jerking himself out of his reverie, Harry strode through the house on the way to the shower. Flinging his clothes to the floor, he allowed the hot jet of water to soothe his aching muscles. Funny, he hadn’t noticed how sore he was before. A stab of pain shot through his hand when he held the soap. He held his hands up before his face. He’d cut himself, but he didn’t know when. He looked through the glass shower door at the pile of clothing on the floor. Obviously his blood was mixed with that of so many others.
Harry closed his eyes and leaned against the tile wall of the shower. He could still hear Martin’s anguished cries as if he were standing next to him. Victoria was dead. How would he tell Ginny that one of her closest friends was gone? His thoughts changed direction. Could he tell her? Healer Smythe implied that her condition was precarious.
He stepped out of the shower and reached for the thick crimson towel. He dried off quickly and stepped into his closet and found a pair of comfortable blue jeans and the dark green shirt Ginny had given him for his birthday. He turned and glanced into her partially open closet. Should he bring her a change of clothes? He rummaged around until he found her favorite navy sleep pants. Digging further, he located the cream t-shirt with Harpies emblazoned on the front. No, that wouldn’t do. It would prompt too many questions. He dug in the dresser again and pulled out the t-shirt with multi-colored kittens he’d given her as a joke on their first anniversary. He was surprised that she wore it often. Folding it into the overnight bag, he caught a whiff of the smell that was so uniquely Ginny. He realized he needed to hurry. What if she woke up and he wasn’t back yet. He stuffed her tooth brush and toothpaste into the bag. What else? He added her hairbrush for good measure.
He wanted to be the first one to see her when she woke up. He wanted to be the one to tell her.....tell her what, “Hey, Ginny, did you know you’re pregnant?” He shook his head, no, that definitely wasn’t the way to do it.
He started out of the bedroom when he was distracted again. He stared at the closed door. Hesitantly, he pushed open the stiff door. For an instant, he was surprised to see how clean everything was. No one ever went in this room. Of course, Kreacher would take care of it, though. He smiled despite himself. No dust ever defiled Kreacher’s house. He allowed himself a few extra minutes as he crossed into “that” room. When he and Ginny had first spoken of having a baby, they’d begun to look for things for the perfect nursery. He slid his hand down the smooth dark wood of the rocking chair. He picked up the emerald green blanket folded neatly of the arm of the chair. He held it close and let the memories wash over him.
Since the healers hadn’t found a specific cause for their difficulty in having a baby, Harry had refused to let Ginny completely do away with this room. Instead, they’d simply chosen to close the room off and pretend that it didn’t exist - much like that desire on both their parts. Instead of really facing the issue, they’d just shut the door. Now, though, that had changed. Somehow.....
He tightened his grip on the blanket. He’d take it as well and hope that Ginny would understand his meaning.
“Does Master Harry need something?” Kreacher was standing in the doorway of the nursery.
“No, Kreacher. I don’t,” Harry hurried out the doorway. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been lost in thought, “Um, Kreacher.”
The elf shot to attention.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard. There was an accident today. Ginny has been hurt,” Harry paused as he watched the little elf’s eyes widen, “and we’ll be at St. Mungo’s for a while.”
Kreacher made a low bow, “Kreacher will be listening for his master’s call.”
Harry thrust the blanket into the bag and flew down the stairwell.
In no time at all, he was back in Ginny’s room. Her condition was unchanged although now he found Hermione and Ron in the room with her.
“Mum needed a bit of air,” Ron explained on Harry’s arrival. “Its hard to see her like....this.”
Hermione looked curiously at the bag in Harry’s hand, “What’s that?”
“Oh, I thought she’d like some things from home. I remember how much she disliked the dressing gowns here. I wanted her to be comfortable.”
Hermione’s worried face drew up in a slight grin. Married life had definitely been good for her friend, “I’m sure she’ll appreciate that later.”
Ron’s stomach growled, and he shifted uncomfortably on his feet.
“Go on, go get something to eat,” Harry shooed them from the room as he scooted the chair closer to Ginny’s side once more and took her bandaged hand in his. Alone with Ginny again, he listened to the still-ragged sound of her breathing. A wave of fear washed over him as he realized how much of a battle she still faced. Gently, he reached out and lightly brushed his fingers over her abdomen. Too early for even the slightest lump, he fell back on Healer Smythe’s words of congratulations. A baby. Even in this dark hour when they’d been forced into the world’s tumultuous grasp, Harry couldn’t hide his excitement. A baby. It gave him a whole new reason to live for....to fight for.
He leaned back in his chair and clenched his teeth. In that moment his mind flashed to the danger surrounding them. A baby. They’d have a new weapon to use against him. Not just Ginny and the rest of his extended family. This baby, this flesh and blood....he’d have to make the world safe for him or her.
He realized he couldn’t linger here and pretend the threat didn’t exist. That was why he was an Auror. He’d have to fight the battle head on. He’d go where the threat began. If Charlie had met up with the people in the woods in Romania, then that’s where he’d be headed. It wouldn’t be easy, but Ginny would have to understand.
He looked down at her pale face and closed eyes. Of course she’d understand. That was part of what made Ginny who she was.....
Once she was stronger and settled back at home, he’d have to go.
Plans began to unfurl in his mind. He needed to talk with Charlie to get even more specifics on the things he’d seen and heard. He’d go alone. As quickly as that thought entered his head, it passed. Of course he wouldn’t be alone. He realized that Ron would be with him. Hermione would want to come as well, but he couldn’t allow that. Someone had to stay with Ginny and help keep her safe. Someone he’d trust with his life.
The solution clicked in his head. He’d place the house under the fidelius charm and Hermione would be the secret keeper.
He looked at the design on the tile floor beneath his feet. He realized how much the past was repeating itself. His parents had hidden themselves to protect him. Now, he was about to do the same for Ginny and this unnamed little one that would be entering the world. He’d do everything he could to protect them both. Sadly, he realized that would include putting Ron and others in danger. He wouldn’t let this child...his child grow up alone.
Harry started unexpectedly when Healer Smythe next appeared in the doorway. He hummed quietly to himself as he passed his wand back and forth over Ginny’s sleeping form, “She’ll still be out for at least a few more hours. Why don’t you take a moment and go get something to eat before I have two patients in here?”
At first, Harry planned to protest, but Healer Smythe’s gaze let him know it wasn’t really a request, “You’re sure she won’t wake up while I’m gone.”
“Absolutely,” he moved his wand in a complicated pattern, “I think she needs at least 5 more hours for her body to heal before she’s ready to deal with all that’s happened.”
Harry stretched his back as he turned to leave. He hadn’t realized how stiff he’d gotten during the short period of time. He must really have lifted more weight than he’d thought.
“Tell her parents that I’d like a moment to examine her before they come back. Her mum’s been on pins and needles, but I said she’d have to wait until you left. We really can’t have to many visitors back here today. I’ll come out for them when I’m ready,” Healer Smythe turned his attention back to Ginny as Katie came in to the room. The effects of the intensity of the day weren’t hidden on her face. She’d pulled her hair back into a messy bun and gray shadows had formed under her eyes.
“Long day?” Harry paused before he left the room.
“That doesn’t even begin to describe it,” Katie pushed her long bangs from in front of her face, “when I became a healer, I wanted to help people. I wasn’t prepared for anything like today.”
“None of us were,” Harry said bitterly. As the Head Auror, he should have seen an attack like this coming. Once the World Cup was over, he’d worried about an attack happening somewhere else. When none came, he assumed that their preparations had somehow thwarted whatever plan had been in place. He hadn’t seen this coming. Now, so many people were dead, and Harry couldn’t pass the responsibility off to someone else. “I’ll let you get back to work,” Harry lightly touched her arm as he walked into the softly lit corridor.
Although Harry didn’t feel hungry, he knew he would before the day was over. Since he’d been assured that Ginny was still sound asleep, he decided that now was as good a time as any to visit the tea room. He pushed open the heavy wooden doors and found himself to immediately be the subject of interest.
Mrs. Weasley ran to him and grabbed his arm, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, she’s still sleeping. Healer Smythe wanted privacy to do the exam, and he sent me to the tea room. He said he’ll come get you when he’s finished,” Harry glanced around the room and was surprised to see how empty it had become in the hours he’d been in Ginny’s room. Understandably, Bill and Fleur had left along with George and Angelina. Ron and Hermione sat on one of the tattered couches - Hermione leaning against Ron’s shoulder, obviously asleep. Harry walked closer to Ron and sat on a neighboring couch, “You can go home, you know.”
Ron shrugged, “Hermoine won’t let me. She wants to stay until she’s sure, well, she wants to stay till Ginny’s awake.”
“Healer Smythe says that’ll be at least five more hours,” Harry ran his hand through his already messy hair.
“I’ve slept worse places,” Ron surveyed the state of the now-darkened room. He settled back on the couch and Hermione stirred for an instant. He wrapped his arm around her waist and she fell back into her sound slumber. “Kingsley find you?” his eyebrows arched at the question.
“No. When was he looking for me?” Harry sat up straighter on the chair. Of course he should have checked in with the Minister by now. However, he’d just been so consumed by his worry about Ginny that it hadn’t been a priority.
Ron screwed up his face while trying to remember exactly when he’d seen the Minister, “I think it was a few hours ago. He said he was going to find you, but I imagine the Welcome Witch kept him from the room.” He gave a weak smile, “That lady’s frightening when she’s angry.”
Harry allowed himself a quick glance at the stern-faced witch at the desk. She shot an intense look in his direction. Did Professor McGonagall have a sister? He lowered his eyes, “Any idea what he wanted?”
“I’m sure it was about what happened today, but I don’t know exactly,” Ron gave an apologetic look.
“I understand. You get some sleep. I’m not leaving Ginny’s side till she’s out of here, and I’m putting you in charge tomorrow,” Harry clapped his hand on Ron’s knee as he stood up.
Ron looked at the clock on the wall, “I think you mean today.”
Harry looked at the clock as well, “I suppose I do.” Harry stepped onto the lift and pressed the button that would take him to the fifth floor. He wasn’t surprised that he didn’t pass anyone else in the corridors. He wondered if the tea room was even open. When the lift doors opened, he was happy to see the doors to the brightly-lit room were opened wide.
“Good morning,” a young witch dressed in lavender robes greeted him.
“Hello,” Harry nodded in her direction.
“Feel free to seat yourself wherever you’d like,” she indicated the numerous empty tables and private booths, “Would you like a menu?”
Harry reached for the page she offered and realized he still wasn’t hungry. He
stared down at the list of choices and couldn’t find anything he wanted, so he was surprised when a steaming bowl of soup slid in front of him.
“You looked like you needed someone to make the decision for you,” the little witch set a mug of pumpkin juice at his place. “Don’t worry, I get that often around here, especially today.” She gave a hesitant smile and her eyes widened in recognition for who she was chatting with, but Harry had to applaud her restraint when she nodded to him and walked away. “Let me know if you need anything else. My mum says that chicken soup’s good for the soul. Make sure you finish that.”
Harry ate slowly while looking around at the few other occupants of the room. They all seemed to share the same glazed expression and most seemed to be partaking of the chicken soup. Yes, he was sure she’d served many bowls of that today. It was half past two when he stood to leave. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a generous sum and left it on the table.
After the meal, he leaned against the back wall of the lift and closed his eyes. If the trip had taken any longer, he was certain he would have fallen asleep standing up. As it was, just as his eyelids became heavy, the bell rang indicating he was back on the first floor. He stepped out quietly. He looked over to see that Ron was indeed asleep, Hermione’s head now in his lap. Someone, Harry glanced back toward the Welcome Witch, had placed a faded blanket over Hermione’s legs.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were still missing, so Harry assumed they were back with Ginny. He looked up at the clock. They could have only been in the room for 30 minutes. He sat on a bench to give them a little more time with their daughter. He picked up a tattered copy of Witch Weekly and thumbed through it, not reading it, but it made him feel as if he had something to do. His ears perked up at the sound of somewhat familiar footsteps in the hall. He looked up, expecting to see Mrs. Weasley, but found himself staring into the face of Gwenog Jones. He pursed his lips together, not sure of what to say. Thankfully, Gwenog took the first step toward greeting.
“How’s Ginny?” Gwenog’s eyes were bloodshot and the grayness of her face made her look as if she’d aged ten years during the day.
“Healer Smythe said she’s still not perfectly stable, but she should be alright,” Harry answered in a voice scarcely above a whisper.
“That’s wonderful news,” tears welled up in Gwenog’s eyes. She seemed to want to speak, but the words wouldn’t come.
“I know about Victoria,” Harry guessed that was the news Gwenog was reluctant to share. She looked at him in surprise. “I was in the waiting room when Healer Smythe came to talk with Martin.”
Gwenog drew in a deep breath, “Did you hear about Carlisle and Goode?” Her eyes closed as she willed herself to tell him.
“No, what? No!” Harry’s voice rose with concern.
Gwenog silently nodded. Then, she bit her lip and took a deep breath to calm herself, “They were all at Ginny’s table. If she hadn’t stood up to greet that little girl. She’d...” her voice trailed off.
Harry looked at her in surprise. That was why they hadn’t found Ginny with the rest of the team. She’d moved away from the tables to visit with Malfoy’s daughter. That random act had saved her life while somehow taking away the little girl’s. Harry shook his head, “I didn’t know that.”
Gwenog patted his back, “I know you’ll want to be getting back to Ginny now. I’m looking for the rest of the team.”
Harry turned and looked at the clock. The Weasleys had been back long enough. He stood slowly and nodded at Gwenog, “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t say anything to Ginny right away.”
Gwenog looked at the floor and walked down the hall.
Harry pushed the doors open and walked the familiar path to Ginny’s room. As he crossed the doorway, he wasn’t surprised to see Arthur pacing back and forth in the room while Molly sat smoothing Ginny’s hair.
“Back so soon?” Molly barely looked up from Ginny’s side.
“I’ve been gone almost an hour,” Harry stepped to the foot of the bed. “Any changes?”
“Not really,” Molly’s lower lip trembled.
“She’s going to be fine,” Harry insisted while taking his place in the chair to the left of the bed. “Why don’t you go home for a bit? I can send Kreacher for you in an instant.”
“No, no,” Molly insisted.
“No, dear, he’s right,” Arthur put his hand on Molly’s shoulder. “They’re going to keep her asleep for a few hours yet. Let’s go home for a few hours.”
Harry settled in his chair as he listened to the sounds in the hall - quiet conversation, a patient’s buzzing snoring in their sleep, the cries of a family whose patient lost their final battle. As the gravity of the situation sank in, he was no longer tired. He spent the hours waiting for Ginny to wake up mulling over what he knew about this latest group to pose a danger to the Wizarding World. He knew that Charlie would be key in discovering more. At least he could tell Harry where the group had been gathered when he’d stumbled across them.
As the light in the window outside showed the faintest trace of the pink of a new morning, Katie Bell silently stepped into the room.
“Don’t you sleep?” Harry asked her with concern.
“Apparently not today,” she pushed an errant strand of hair behind her ear. “We have a nice break room with a few beds down the hall. I’ve had a couple of quick naps.” She waved her wand over Ginny slowly and closed her eyes in concentration, “Looks like she’s really healed up nicely. I think we can let her wake up now.”
“You’re certain?” Harry sat up straighter in the chair.
“That is what I’ve been trained to do. Yes, she’s strong. She’ll be able to handle the rest of the recovery now. I expect we’ll be keeping her a few days to be sure, though,” Katie gave him a faint smile. “Have you decided how you’re going to tell her? You’re in a very unusual situation. Most of the times, it is the mom that gets this privilege. Do you want to tell her or do you want me to so she can surprise you? I’d say she’s due in early April.”
“She’d know I already knew,” Harry took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “I’m hoping that news can get her through the rest of what I need to tell her.”
Katie stepped back and braced herself against the wall. She gave the slightest shake of her head, “Don’t tell her too much too soon. I’ve heard about the team members. I’m sure that will be hard for her to take. We’re going to have to be very careful to make sure that everything goes alright for.....” She chewed her lip and stared down at Ginny, “She’s really very lucky. Sorry, I have more patients I need to see. If we haven’t come by to check before then, let us know when she wakes up.”
Harry nodded and watched as Katie walked out the door. He wasn’t sure what he was going to tell Ginny. How did he tell her that one of her best friends was gone along with the teammates. What if she asked about the little girl....Malfoy’s daughter? Harry knew she was strong, but...
A stirring at the door caused Harry’s head to pop up. Hermione stood in the doorway with a careworn expression, “I was walking by the room when I saw Katie talking with you. Any news?”
“They’re ready to let her wake up,” Harry’s voice was subdued.
“That’s a good sign,” Hermione sat in the chair on the opposite side of Ginny’s bed. She lightly stroked the back of Ginny’s arm.
Harry’s face was anguished, “How am I going to tell her about her friends?”
“She’s strong. It won’t be easy, but she’ll face it,” Hermione answered.
“I thought you were asleep,” Harry noticed Hermione’s exasperated expression.
“Don’t you hear him?” Hermione jerked her head in the direction of the waiting room.
“That’s Ron?” Harry stifled a laugh. “I thought it was coming from next door.”
“I’m seriously thinking about casting a silencing spell on him, but it tends to disturb his sleep,” Hermione sighed. “I’ll just go up to the tea room and get a drink. I know you’ll be able to help her now.”
Harry wished he were that certain.
After another hour passed, Ginny’s eyes began to twitch behind their lids. She was dreaming; Harry reached out and held her hand in his. He watched her carefully and soon her eyes opened a crack. She seemed to be having a hard time focusing. She squinted a moment before her eyes began to furiously dart back and forth. She tried to push herself up, but Harry was at her side gently lowering her back onto the pillow.
“Don’t try to sit up yet,” Harry whispered.
“I don’t. Where? What happened?” Ginny turned her head back and forth, “Is this St. Mungo’s?”
“Shh - try to calm down,” Harry brushed her hair back from in front of her eyes. “You’re going to be alright.”
“But we were in Quality Quidditch Supplies. How did I get here?” Ginny’s face was a mask of confusion.
“I’ll tell you everything, but right now you need to try to relax,” Harry stroked her cheek. “You’ve been pretty badly hurt, and the healers have kept you asleep for several hours. Let’s not let all their hard work go to waste.”
“I want to know what happened!” Harry watched as the color rose in Ginny’s cheeks and her breathing took on some of the ragged sound again, “Please, Harry, what’s going on?”
“Not yet,” Harry felt helpless as he stared into the turmoil evident in Ginny’s face, “but it is for a really good reason. Healer Smythe said you need to be still and calm.”
“Healer Smythe?” Ginny’s eyes opened wider in alarm.
“You’re going to be alright, but only if you can calm down,” Harry laid his hand on her shoulder. He couldn’t help from allowing a shadow of a smile cross his face, “better than fine, actually.” He stepped back and reached into the overnight bag. He pulled out the soft green blanket and carefully draped it over Ginny. The smile now reached his eyes.
She looked back at him in bewilderment, “Why did you bring this here?”
He continued to stare back at her. The smile widening on his face.
She rubbed her fingertips along the edges of the blanket and stared down in a dazed expression, “Do you mean?”
Harry was surprised to see tears forming in her eyes. He reached down and wiped them away with his thumb. He stroked her cheek tenderly with the back of his hand, “You’re due in April, but Healer Smythe said you have to be really careful right now. Your body is under a lot of stress. We need to make sure he stays put.” He knelt back over her and brought his lips to gently meet hers.
Ginny was sleeping peacefully again when Molly and Arthur returned.
“She was having trouble with pain, so they gave her a numbing draught. Put her right out,” Harry laughed a bit at the memory of Ginny fighting to stay awake.
“She’s never taken well to that stuff,” Molly shook her head, “The twins used to try to get her to drink it just to see what odd things she’d say.” Molly was lost in thought for an instant, an indulgent smile on her face, “How was she when she woke up?” Molly’s knuckles were white where she gripped the edge of the bed.
“Alright really - very confused, though. She doesn’t remember anything about the explosion. As far as I can tell the last thing she remembered was being at Quality Quidditch Supplies,” Harry tried to reassure Molly.
“So, you told her everything?” Molly’s face was creased by grief as she carefully took her daughter’s hand.
Harry looked back up at Molly and Arthur, “No, Healer Smythe said it was important to keep her quiet. She’s been through a lot already.”
Arthur nodded without a word, but Molly seemed unconvinced. Her eyes hung on the blanket now covering Ginny. She picked up a corner, “Where did this come from?”
“Oh,” Harry attempted to act nonchalant, “I brought it from home. I thought it would make Ginny more comfortable.”
“A bit small, isn’t it?” Molly probed.
“Its Teddy’s,” Harry stalled. “It was small enough to pack easily.”
“I’m sure,” Molly pursed her lips as Ginny shifted in the bed and let out a slight groan. “Poor dear, when did they give her the potion?”
“Maybe an hour ago. She wasn’t awake long before they decided to do it which is why I didn’t have time to send Kreacher for you,” Harry attempted to apologize.
“No apology necessary, Harry. We understand,” Arthur stepped back and sat in the unoccupied chair.
A faint tap at the door drew Harry’s attention. “Have you seen this yet?” Ron extended his hand and gave Harry the morning’s copy of the Daily Prophet. Not surprisingly, most of the front page was taken up by an oversized picture of the ruins of Quality Quidditch Supplies. The vivid red Dark Mark hung ominously overhead - its silent roar evident even on the printed page.
Harry took the paper out of Ron’s hand and quietly unfolded it. He wasn’t surprised to see a scathing article about the ineptitude of the Auror staff along with criticism of Ministry security. Harry shook his head and rubbed his temples. Of course, Harry would take the ultimate blame. He was the Head Auror. He should have seen the threat coming.
“No one blames you, Harry,” Ron looked at his friend with concern.
“I think everyone blames me right now,” Harry thumped the page in exasperation. “I blame myself,” he added as an afterthought. He tossed the paper on the table beside Ginny’s bed.
“Since you’re not the bloke who decided to blow up the building, I don’t see how you can take responsibility,” Ron was indignant.
“After Charlie’s warning, I should have...” Harry stopped, not sure what more he could have done.
Arthur motioned for Harry and Ron to follow him into the hall, “Harry, what else could you have done? I know you’ve spent weeks interviewing prisoners in Azkaban - following up on their associates. Do you know how many owls I’ve gotten complaining that you’ve been trying too hard to find people involved in some type of plot?” Arthur put his hand on Harry’s shoulder, “Sometimes you can’t act on a threat until they decide to make the first move.”
A cry from inside Ginny’s room ended the conversation, “No!” Ginny’s hysterical scream echoed into the hallway.
Harry sped around the corner and immediately saw what had caused her to shriek. She was sitting on the edge of the bed. Her eyes were fixed on the Daily Prophet. In his haste to get the paper out of his sight, he’d left it in plain view of Ginny. While Harry had seen the picture on the top of the front page, he hadn’t paid attention to the bottom of the page. If he’d seen it, he would have hidden it from her view. There, below the fold of the page, was a list of those who’d perished in the blast along with a small picture of each. The first person on the list was a smiling Victoria.
“Oh, please, Harry!” Ginny viewed him with mixture of confusion and betrayal. “It can’t be true. No,” she pointed to the page. Her voice became higher as her alarm grew.
Harry ran to her and enveloped her in his arms. He held her for a moment while the sobs wracked her body. Ron, Arthur, and Molly were frozen at the sight of Ginny’s despair. Then, as the cries built in intensity, he pulled away, “Ginny, you have to try to calm down. You can do it. Please!”
She bit her lip and nodded while taking a deep breath. Harry helped lay her gently back on the bed. Ginny didn’t see the worried expressions of those surrounding her room. Her eyes were still shut fast, trying to erase the memories that had come flooding into her head.
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