Dean Thomas was the first to recognize Ginny when she and Harry stepped out of the emerald flames. Perhaps because he was once her boyfriend some recess of memory sprang to attention. Perhaps because she was a beautiful young woman, he would have noticed anyway. Whatever caught his attention, he watched his teammates through the glass of one of the magical signs. They were older of course, he could tell, but was unsure how. Perhaps it was how they carried themselves, their Auror robes, or maybe they were somehow more substantial. They looked the same. They behaved the same, even to how closely they walked together and how, if not otherwise occupied, they held hands, no different than in the corridors of Hogwarts.
Day-to-day Harry and Ginny came to the Ministry via the portal in the pantry of Twelve Gimmauld Place. It opened into a door at the back of their practice room in the Auror Office and, while not actually official, Ron's wand work allowed them comings and goings unseen by the many Quidditch supporters who recognized Ginny. Today though, for Arondine's monthly Auror meeting, they came the public way, to be seen. It was always a little inconvenient because they rarely made it to the lifts without encountering someone who wanted their time and attention. Regardless, their passage from the fires was deliberate. Anyone who cared about the Ministry rumors knew this was the Potters coming to the monthly Auror meeting. This was as good a way as any to announce that Harry wasn't interested in Arondine's job.
Dean was waiting to accompany a squad from Magical Law Enforcement on an arrest for trafficking in dark objects; in this case, a cursed vase that slowly poisoned everyone around it. Altair McKucheon, the perpetrator, was a career criminal with a reputation for violence and unpredictability. But a deadly artifact was thoroughly out of his range. He was usually more in the line of those items that always manage to fall off the back of brooms, cauldrons, potion ingredients, magical utensils and the like. Dean was assigned to manage the dark magic. The Law Enforcement squads were good, but if things ran off the rails, an Auror could take charge. It was the sort of job Arondine gave to young Aurors, a worthy experience at a modicum of risk and good relations with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement to top-it-off.
Dean, Harry, Neville and Ron finished Auror training in 2002, Ginny finished a few months later because of her Quidditch schedule. Kingsley was true to his word but some, like George and Seamus, sought other careers, and others found training for three further years too daunting. Neville did better than anyone, probably even Neville, expected. He left in 2003 after marrying Hannah Abbott. She had the family business and everyone knew he belonged in Herbology. Shortly after, Ron's portrait clients and work with George became so overwhelming that he was usually working from home.
In 2002 anyone you asked at the Ministry would have said that Harry would be given a prominent assignment in which to distinguish himself before being made head of the Auror Office. That was more or less a foregone conclusion; he was the hero who won the war. According to Ministry gossip, Harry disappeared into “The Ms” because he was working on a secret project for Kingsley. “The Ms” was Ministry slang for the six Muggle Investigations Offices in Arthur Weasley's Department. Each “M” for “Muggle,” was to investigate one of the aspects of Muggle life: government and politics, law and justice, education and health, money and finance, with one office dedicated to non-magical culture in the UK. MI6 was the wands-on branch. Kingsley made Harry squad leader, although he and Ginny were the whole squad. In the rest of the department they called it “Muggle Interventions” and assumed it was the house of spies.
Dean may have been first to recognize Ginny but he was neither the only one nor that far ahead of the crowd. Ginny didn't call attention to her fame. Off the pitch she never wore Quidditch capes, Harpy talons, colors or anything to emphasize her Quidditch stardom. Her Auror robes were tailored, knowing the fitting spells, how could she not use them? Yet, her robes were no different than Harry's. Her hair was braided as Fleur taught her, but instead of leaving the plait to hang sensuously down her back, she wrapped it around so that it became a braided crown. In the office, or on assignment, Ginny was ready for anything. But with her picture on posters throughout the wizarding world, even in places she had never been, she was immediately recognizable.
She was just then recognized by a group of fifth years harassing a magical sign with deliberately incoherent questions while they waited for their classmates to step from the fires. As soon as a tall blonde girl shrieked “It's Ginny P,” her voice rising in pitch with her excitement, the entire class moved toward Harry and Ginny as if magically attracted. Those still stepping from the fires followed, quickly joining a semi-circular scrum around the two. Staff from the Education Department rushed over. They were there to escort the class through a day at the Ministry. Harry stepped aside and back while signaling them that it was alright to let the students talk to Ginny.
“Ginny P” was how she flew, her Quiddich name. Back when they first established Muggle identities they opened accounts as “Mr. Harry James and Mrs. Genevra Weasley Potter.” They retained these monikers in the wizarding world and Ginny flew under her own name. Lettered on the back of her Harpys match cloak it was shortened to “Genevra P.” Match announcers seemed unable to say “Genevra” fast enough for the play-by-play, so they called her “Ginny” and left just the “P” that abbreviated “Potter.” The name stuck, she was“Ginny P” to her fans.
Ginny knew pleasing fans was part of her job; she knew it helped the Harpys sell tickets, and she did it well. Some of it was work, the long lines of collectors hoping to get a highly prized autograph. Some of it was bloody well irritating, the wealthy wizards who assumed she could not but find them attractive. Some of it was office work, the fan mail Nessie loved so much. For Ginny it was young people, particularly the schoolgirl witches, who were the fun of it. The nice part of being famous was telling kids it was fine to pursue their own dreams no matter what anyone said. It was no different this morning.
Ginny encouraged the excited group, “You can do what you put your mind to,” and teased, “there's nothing like Hogwarts, so do it all, the study, the snogging, the friends and fun.”
Harry watched, long experienced with Ginny's popularity. It was part of Quidditch, so he was happy to step back and enjoy the view. As he watched over the little crowd of students, automatically settling into an Auror's scan of the surroundings, he was thinking of Farnsworth's problem. It was good that a time turner wasn't likely. Farnsworth was smart, patient and knew where his suspect was. Who knew what threat to secrecy he might pose with all the resources at his command? How much surveillance could Farnsworth get with just his suspicion? There didn't seem to be a key to this puzzle. He thought no further because one of the fifth year boys was approaching.
“You must be really good to guard Ginny P.”
Harry was thinking of a tease when the boy caught the gleam of the small, elegant gold Phoenix that Harry, like all the Order of the Phoenix, wore on the left side of his robes. He looked into Harry's eyes and realized this was the man who defeated the most powerful dark wizard of all time.
Harry smiled and winked. He saw the fifth year's moment of recognition as a lightening or brightening where the light behind his eyes somehow increased in intensity. It wasn't just that his pupils opened, it was more that his entire expression brightened, was more alive.
Captivated by what he saw, Harry was still absorbing the experience when Ginny took his elbow and steered him over to the rest of the students. “Everybody, this is my husband Harry, Harry Potter.”
The class was un-containably excited. It was great to have a day with no lessons, but to meet Ginny P and Harry Potter right out of the fires was amazing, exciting, brilliant. As excited as they were, it was a few minutes before the Ministry chaperones could move the class along to their first appointment. When they did, Harry and Ginny continued over to the bank of lifts, acknowledging each of those who greeted them but moving quickly as they were nearly late.
As the lift door closed, Harry asked Ginny about the boy's expression. “Did you see the look on that boy's face, the one who talked to me, who thought I was your bodyguard?”
“The celebrity look! That's what I call it. It happens when someone recognizes you when they don't expect it. When they're taken by surprise and realize they're talking with someone famous, someone they know at a distance, like in The Prophet, or Quidditch. It does something to their sense of self. The Sally, George or Josephine who talked with Harry Potter is not the same Sally, George or Josephine they were before. I don't really know what it is, what happens to them, but I know it happens. You would too if you weren't such a recluse.”
Harry caught the “recluse” jibe but when the lift abruptly switched direction upward, then settled into a smoother ride, he was still more curious about the boy's expression. “So, the boy, how do you think he knows me, fifth years would still have been at home during the war.”
“Who knows Harry, maybe he spends as much time in the Library as Hermione, or maybe his Mum told him stories, or Slughorn's shown him the shelf, or his folks were in the war. Whatever it is, you made his day. Maybe more. You're history, that's means famous forever Harry, you'll never be just Harry again.”
He set his thoughts aside as they crossed the corridor from the lift and made their way into the main room of the Auror Office. He wasn't finished thinking about it, but work came first.
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