Spoilers: Through Goblet
Classification: Post-Hogwarts H/G
Summary: Ginny Weasley has tried for years to bring to an end to her feelings for Harry Potter… she's even uprooted her life… but what happens when it's time to come face to face with him again? A post-Hogwarts tale revolving around Ginny's discovery of herself…while coming to terms with her feelings for Harry.…
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
A/N: This chapter has been revised as of October 2005
The evening was warmer than a typical spring night in Paris. Ginny stood with her shoulder leaning against a tall lamppost, her sweater hanging over one arm, and her eyes roaming over the many people out on the street tonight. Children with no cloaks on ran around and called out to each other as they played their games; adults sat in front of houses, shops and restaurants, talking or yelling out to the little ones; and people her own age, mostly couples, walked down the pathway hand in hand. Ginny watched them stroll at a pace that was unhurried… as if they had all the time in the world.
She wondered what it was like to feel that way.
Over the past few days, her life had seemed like a very fast hourglass with the minutes, hours and days trickling away quickly, with no intentions of stopping or even slowing down. Anticipating Monday morning when she would finally speak to Professor Andel had seemed to cause time to speed up, and just when she had planned it all out, just when she had become used to the idea of throwing herself at her professor's mercy, Harry's offer had arrived, sending everything into disarray again.
The night she'd received Harry's letter, Ginny had prolonged making a decision for hours and in the end, she'd decided ambiguousness was the best course of action. She'd written a letter to him, stating that it was unbelievably kind for him to offer, but there was a chance that the interview would be published in the university newspaper and she knew how he felt about publicity. However, she'd phrased the letter in such a way that it forced him to write back to give her a final answer.
She didn’t want to have to take his help. She didn't want to bank on Harry's obligation towards her and her family. She wanted him to want to help her out—or at least repeat the offer. And to her great surprise and surprising relief he did.
It's no problem, really. Even if your interview does get published, I trust that you won’t have made a mockery of it, like some journalists would. I'm happy to help you out. I insist. Just let me know when it's good for you. Like I said, I'm available most evenings.
After reading the letter twice, Ginny had decided that it was probably the right thing to do. She knew that she hadn't put up much of a fight and had virtually let Harry make the decision for her, but it wasn't something that she minded right now. Sometimes, it was necessary to put pride aside and take help… and Ginny was too relieved that things were going to work out to be ashamed that she couldn't do it on her own.
Trying to hide a smile, Ginny'd approached Andel after his lesson next day and proceeded to weave a tale about having contacted Madame's secretary to arrange the interview—only to find out that Madame herself would be on holiday for the next six months. Trying to look crestfallen, Ginny had managed a straight face through Andel's outrage at this and threat to write a not-so-friendly owl to the secretary. She'd hastened to explain (with a look of great humbleness) that there was no need to be angry now, what was done was done and she did have another candidate who had offered if Professor would be so kind to approve.
To say that Andel had been impressed by the mention of Harry was a bit of an understatement—his bug-like eyes bugged out even more, his grunt-like voice grunted frantically and he repeated Harry's name so many times in his loud, booming voice, that Ginny was sure the entire university was listening.
"YES… YES, OF COURSE, MISS WEASLEY." He drew himself up proudly. "A student of mine… interviewing…" he mumbled in a somewhat softer voice that echoed nonetheless.
Ginny smiled prettily.
"WELL, OFF YOU GO THEN! I EXPECT YOU'LL NEED TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BIG INTERVIEW. IF YOU NEED SOME EXTRA TIME, DON’T HESITATE TO ASK… THAT'S WHAT I'M HERE FOR."
But all Ginny had heard were the words ' yes, of course' and when she closed the classroom door behind her, she let out an excited squeal of victory. Grinning back at the scattered students who had looked her way, she practically skipped out of the building.
She owled Harry immediately and received a response rather quickly, agreeing with her suggestion for meeting on Thursday evening at the off-campus library. Clutching the letter to her chest, Ginny flopped onto her bed and, after bouncing a few times, stared up at her ceiling, unable to hide her to excitement. She was fully confident that everything would work out now. She was going to finish university this term, dammit, or she would go mad trying.
Thursday rolled around like it was nobody's business and Ginny became so increasingly panicked as the day progressed, that she hadn't looked over the list of questions she had prepared for Madame Hag. She needed to alter them a bit to suit Harry and though she had started to do it a few times over the past few days, she had been repeatedly interrupted by trivial things like customers at her job or professors in her other lessons. During the day on Thursday was her last chance, but as irony would have it, time just wasn't on her side. Her lessons had all run quite late that day; she'd spent the two hours before her shift working with several other students on a group assignment, an appointment that had already been arranged; and later, the café had been unusually busy for a weekday afternoon, which left her without any break at all, much less the dinner hour she'd planned to use. Before she knew it, she was standing in front of the library, waiting for him, feeling as though she had Apparated through time, starting the moment she had arranged the interview and instantly winding up here, minutes before she was supposed to meet him.
She jumped. Harry. Her brain seemed to stop working so hard. He was standing in front of her looking tall in a pair of loose jeans and a dark sweater that pulled slightly over his shoulders… shoulder that were… much broader than she'd remembered. His inky black hair was in chaos from the wind, his eyes dark from the night and for a moment, all she could do was stare at him, struck that he was here, in Paris.
"Hey," she said finally, jerking herself out of her daze and folding the notes that she had been trying to look over.
"Sorry, I'm late," he was muttering, "I got lost."
Her brow lifted. "Oh, were the directions I sent you confusing? I was so preoccupied when I wrote them–"
"No, no," Harry assured her, "they were fine. I'm just used to Apparating everywhere."
"You would be spoiled, wouldn’t you?" she laughed. "Whenever anyone from home visits, all they do is complain about the Apparition laws around here."
"Well, we wouldn’t complain if it wasn't so pointless," he said dryly, following Ginny to the front doors of the library and stepping inside after her. Grinning at his sullen comment, she lead him to a section that was designated for group work, separated by a low wall that was enchanted with a Muting Charm as a courtesy to the rest of the library. The section was empty except for a small cluster of people working quietly at a table in the corner.
"This is a big library," Harry commented, as they sat down at a table near the window and Ginny began to arrange her quill and notes.
"Hmm? Oh, yeah… the university's library is stocked strictly with linguistics material and it's a bit small, so many of the students come here to study," Ginny said as she flipped through her notes, looking for the correct sheet. When she finally pulled it out from the bottom of the pile, she looked up to find Harry slowly examining the library with the same bored, yet thoroughly engrossed expression he'd sported at the Auror's Convention. He had just settled his gaze on the handsome wooden ceiling beams when Ginny spoke.
"Alright, I have this list prepared from when I was going to interview Millicent, so I'll just have to change a few things as we go," she explained, but her voice trailed off as her eyes traveled down the list of complicated questions that she had researched for an interview that would never take place.
It occurred to her that the interview she had prepared for Millicent didn’t need to be altered to suit Harry—it needed to be changed completely. The questions were absolutely ludicrous when put in context with a twenty-four year old male auror. Half of them pertained to juggling motherhood and aurorship at the same time, and the other half were about Millicent's experience with Trolls, all very specific topics derived from Ginny's research.
"Erm…" she said, glancing up to now find Harry's eyes fixed on the group of students in the corner, most of them female, who had apparently finished studying and were giggling and gushing in throaty French. Ginny chewed on her lip and considered telling him that her predicament was a bit more complex than she'd thought, but realized there was no way to make it sound anything but completely irresponsible.
Listen, Harry, I know you took the time from your busy, meaningful life to help me out, it's only that I got caught up at the café I call work so I couldn't really prepare for the interview that the entire wizarding world has craved since the end of the war.
"Okay," she said loudly, snapping him out of the staring coma he was falling into. Ginny smiled brightly at him. "Listen, I… I've been so pressed for time, that I didn’t really get the chance to look at this, but … it appears that we'll have to change a bit more than I thought to make the questions pertain to you," she said, looking at him apologetically. "Just… if you can just bear with me, I'll be able to make them up as I go along."
"Er…okay," Harry said, looking a bit unsure.
"Right." Ginny plowed on. "So the first two questions ask for your name and date of birth, but I already know the answers to those," she said, sending him a grin before returning to the list. "And then… well, I know where you attended wizarding school, don’t I, so that one is done…."
Ginny found herself eliminating the next question… and the next one… and the two after that, as they all pertained to Millicent's childhood in London. Not wanting to pry into his life at the Durselys, which Ginny knew was not a subject that he liked to talk about, she kept reading the list, mentally skipping over many questions on the first page.
"Ah, here's one," she said, almost excitedly. "Can you talk about your strengths as a young witch—wizard, sorry—in training? At Hogwarts?"
He cleared his throat and thought about it for a few seconds… then a few more. "Well," he said at last, "Defense Against the Dark Arts was my strongest subject, wasn't it?"
"Right. Anything else?"
"Er…flying?" he asked uncertainly.
"Flying." The smile came automatically. She met his eyes. "D'you still fly, Harry?"
The corner of his mouth turned up. "No… Apparating's faster."
Ginny shook her head. "Not even for fun?"
"No, no time," was his sheepish reply.
"Neither do I. It's actually a bit strange. Everyone flies in France because of the Apparition laws, but I've taken to walking everywhere."
"The laws are stupid," he said again and Ginny shook her head.
"Right, any other strengths?"
"Er… not really… I was a pretty average student, wasn't I?"
She had bite back a smile. "Average" was certainly not a word any journalist would dare to use in an article about Harry… then again, she wasn't a journalist.
"Did you… particularly enjoy a subject… something that you weren't great at, but took pleasure in?"
"Er…" He screwed up his face. "Not really."
Ginny nodded, watching him, and trying to think of something she could ask him about Hogwarts that wouldn't seem as though she were prying. Then she wanted to roll her eyes at herself. This was a bloody interview, prying was inevitable!
"Can you talk about what it was like, being at Hogwarts your first year?"
Harry furrowed his brow. "What … do you mean?"
"Well, for me, I had grown up hearing all about the place. It was built up in my mind, as it is for most children from wizarding families… but for you…well, only because you hadn't known anything about the wizarding world before then, it would be as though you were Muggleborn, wouldn’t it… but different, because your parents had gone there, and … well, everyone knew who you were…."
"Yeah… right… you can say it better than I could," he grinned uncomfortably.
"Harry, it's your interview!" she exclaimed, almost laughing, and then she looked over her shoulder hastily in case she had been too loud. "Go on, then. Talk about Hogwarts, what was it like, being there for the first time and all that?"
"Well… I mean it was…new…and…scary. It was a bit scary, I suppose…." He trailed off, looking pained and Ginny hesitated, unsure if she should press him for more. Hogwarts was a huge part of Harry and if he didn’t want to talk about it, her interview would be missing one of the most important aspects of him.
After a moment, Ginny realized that she was staring at Harry, who was practically squirming under her close stare. Offering him a smile, she broke her gaze and shuffled some parchment.
She didn’t want to offend him… he had offered to help her out, and if she couldn’t focus on the more personal aspects of his character, like growing up at Hogwarts, in her essay, then she would just have to make do with what he did want talk about.
Heaving, a dramatic sigh, she said, "Fine, you don’t have to talk about Hogwarts. Really, what am I going to do with you, Harry?"
He grinned, seemingly relieved.
"Right," she said, studying the lists and resolving herself to look for personal questions before asking him from now on. The problem was that she was so limited already. Luckily, the very next one on the list not only fit Harry, but it left plenty of room for him to expand.
"Did you have any great role models as a child?" She knew it was a bit personal, but she didn’t think he would mind talking about it – it would almost be like reminiscing, right?
He shifted in his chair. "Er… yeah, I suppose."
Ginny paused. "Can - can you name them?"
"Well… Albus Dumbledore."
"Of course," she said, catching his eye and smiling.
His mouth turned up.
"Is that all then?"
"Dad?" she laughed. "You say that with full confidence?"
At this, Harry's shoulders jerked and he gave a helpless smile. "Yeah, you know… he was the first real… normal adult wizard that I ever met…."
"Normal? Are you mad?" she grinned, missing her dad insanely. "He had a plug collection, Harry, do you remember this at all?"
Harry was grinning. "Yeah, but… that's what made him so cool."
"Right," she rolled her eyes. She was about to ask him to expand on his other role model, but the question froze on her tongue. Much too personal, she decided, and looked down again.
"Does your position as auror hold demanding hours?" she asked, finding a question at last. She hated having to skip around like this, but there was nothing for it… the questions had all led into one another when they had been for Madame Hag.
"Mm-hmm," Harry said, nodding. Then, "it does."
Ginny bit her lip. "What, erm, type of hours do you keep, then?"
"Well… I mean, it depends on what I'm working on," he said, looking uncomfortable. "Do you need to know exact or…?"
"No, that's … fine." Then she allowed herself a bit of a grin at the next query. "How do your friends handle the time obligations that your position requires?" she asked, eliminating the word "family" from the original question. Perhaps this would cue him to talk about Ron and Hermione a bit. But—
"They understand it's necessary."
Her eyes stilled on the parchment. The stiffness in his tone seemed to settle around them and when she looked up, Harry's eyes were completely blank as he studied the surface of the table.
She chewed on her lip, and forced her eyes to move away from him. "Right… erm…the next query is: with whom did you study or prepare for your position as Auror?"
Ginny couldn't help smiling, thinking about Mad-Eye. "You apprenticed with him, right? For how long?"
"About three years."
"And in that time you learned…?"
Ginny stared. "Um… can you be a bit more specific… like, what sorts?"
"Er…Protection Enchantments… Concealment Charms… that sort of thing."
Harry lifted a brow. "You want me to list everything?"
"No, it's not that… can you… " She blew out a frustrated breath. This wasn't personal. It was supposed to be the meat and potatoes of her interview, his training, his work and if he wasn't comfortable going into detail about that, then she was in trouble. "Actually, can you talk about some of the things that he did teach you?" she asked tentatively. "It's only because this interview is really supposed to focus on your training and your work leading up to the Troll stuff …d'you mind?"
He took a breath and thought… and thought. "Well... some of it is not supposed to be… revealed and all that, so…."
"Oh. Well… is there anything at all that you would be able to talk about?" she asked, hating herself for pressing him. But she had to have something.
Harry blew out a long breath and after a moment, he muttered about some museum that Mad-Eye had been hired to provide security for with which Harry had helped. Ginny practically devoured the information, jotting down notes on the side of her parchment as her recording quill wrote everything Harry was saying.
The interview progressed in quite the same manner. It was apparent that Harry wasn't really comfortable giving Ginny more than yes or no answers to any of her questions and when she did ask him to expand, he looked as though he was suddenly sitting on a bunch of grindylows: squirming in his chair, furrowing his brow and looking as though even thinking about answering was causing him pain. He was uncomfortable with questions that might force him to talk about anything meaningful to him, and then he was quiet and almost defensive when asked to talk about his training or work. They were both clearly becoming frustrated by the evening—Ginny from Harry's lack of compliance, and Harry…well, from having to actually participate in the interview that he had offered to do.
Why, why, why was he acting like this?
"How many years have you officially been practicing as an auror?" she asked him. "Not including your apprenticeship and training."
"When did you receive acceptance into the Dark Force Defense League?"
Pause. "In my last months of training."
Ginny nodded. "And how long does it normally take an auror to receive the title?" she asked, knowing that it was impossible to get accepted before practicing at least one year as an auror.
Harry looked at her blankly, about to provide her with another obstacle. As if she needed any more. "What does that matter?"
She stifled a sigh. "Because … well, wasn't it a great honor for you to receive it so soon after training?"
Harry shrugged. "I didn’t deserve it when they gave it to me, so not really." He looked and sounded annoyed.
Part of her recoiled at hearing him put himself down but a bigger part of her wanted to take her ink bottle and throw it at his head. It was bad enough that he was being so bloody uncooperative, but now he was perfectly willing to be rude?
"Right, perhaps we can call it a night, then."
As though she had indeed chucked the bottle of ink at his head, Harry looked at her with a startled expression on his face. "You … do you have everything that you need?"
"No," she snorted, knowing that things would probably blow up from here. That's what usually happened when her temper caused her chest to burn the way it was doing right now. "Not even close. But it's not working."
Harry's look of surprise fueled her fire even more and now there was no helping it. She was bloody annoyed. She knew she was unprepared. She knew that Harry hated interviews and that it was up to her to make this as painless as possible. But what she didn't know was the reason she had to try her hardest to accommodate Harry only to receive absolutely no effort at all from him.
Suddenly, staying Paris next term didn't seem quite so detrimental to her life as it had before.
So Ginny lifted a brow and gathered her papers. "Obviously, I should have prepared better for this. But…" A million different retorts formed in her head. You could be a hell of a lot more helpful, was one. You're acting like a stupid prat for some reason and it's starting to really get on my nerves, was another. But then she looked at him.
His brow was drawn as he watched her struggle and his eyes… well, behind the confusion… were guilty. Of course. Here he was, guilty Harry.
And here she was, sympathetic Ginny. It was like clockwork.
They looked at each other for a moment. "Sorry," he said, looking more uncomfortable than she'd seen him all night—and that was quite an accomplishment. "I'm not a very good person to interview, I probably shouldn’t have offered."
His tone of voice had Ginny's eyes shifting to his. Guilt wasn't the only emotion present there… there was disappointment, as well. Suddenly, Ginny felt a bit of her own guilt. She didn’t want him to be disappointed in himself because of her.
She made a noise in the back of her throat, somewhere between laughter and fatigue. "No… you're not a good person to interview. But I'm a horrible journalist." She heaved a sigh. "I should have prepared better for this, Harry, really. If I had, I could have researched your work and had specific things to ask you and—"
"No, Ginny, why should you have to research my work when I could just tell you about it?" he asked in frustration.
"No buts," he said, rubbing his eyes under his glasses. "I just… look, can we start over?"
Her eyes nearly fell out of her head. Start over? They had already been there for almost two hours. "I… I don't think we need to start over," she said finally, looking back at her notes. "Let's just continue, then. Can you talk about your troll work, that's really what this is supposed to be about and I can just… fill in the blanks with what we already have."
Harry raised his hand in a defeated gesture. "Only if you're sure that's fine… here, why don’t we go back and I can expand a bit on some of the other questions? Just for a little while?"
She hesitated. "It's going to take longer if we do that and I don’t want to keep you here all night, Harry—"
"So?" Then, with an apologetic grin, "I've nothing better to do anyway."
She blew out a breath, not feeling quite so good about getting her way. He hated talking about himself, which was probably the entire problem… and now, because he had offered to help her out in the first place, he was stuck.
However, as they began going back to the other questions, Harry didn’t act as though it was a chore. He took it upon himself to look at her list of questions and expanded on the subject matter, even going so far as to suggest other topics that might be useful. And because all Ginny wanted was a good interview, she found it easy to switch into journalist mode, not holding back on asking him whatever came to mind and just letting him deal with answering.
"You trained Mountain Trolls for security positions?" she asked incredulously after a while, absently chewing on the end of her quill and stopping abruptly when a little feather stuck to her tongue. It didn’t even seem like an interview anymore. They were old friends, conversing back and forth about Harry's work—how she had originally thought the interview would go in the first place. "I thought Mountain Trolls were on the Ministry's list of Untrainables," she said, daintily picking the piece of feather off her tongue.
"They are—er, they were. We… figured out a way to train them."
Her mouth dropped. "Really? How?"
"Well, it's sort of complicated… the thing about Mountain Trolls is their brain—it's sort of a… a selfish brain, it won’t accept any knowledge that it's taught, it only learns from it's own experiences."
Ginny knew most of this from a beginners course she'd taken second term at l'Academie and she also knew that the Mountain Troll was a very sought after species for use on Security matters. But they were just so vicious, that it was virtually impossible for the Ministry to use them. Obviously, history had changed.
Harry continued, "The team I was studying with figured out that it wasn't the Mountain Troll's entire brain that was the problem… it was a certain part of it—" He gestured with his hands, holding his left one in a fist and placing his flattened right hand over it. "There's a shield on the brain like this, which blocks certain knowledge from coming in. The team figured out a way to transfigure the shield."
She looked at him, baffled. "What sort of transfiguration spell does that?"
Harry's lips quirked. "The one they made up."
Ginny sighed and sat back in her chair, feeling suddenly quite relieved at how well this was going. "Well. You've certainly been busy," she said, her voice tinged with laughter. "Creating Transfiguration spells…"
"I didn’t really have anything to do with that—I was involved in keeping the Trolls, er, calm while they transfigured their brains."
She gaped at him. "Calm?"
He shrugged. "Calmer."
She slapped a hand over her mouth. "Good lord, Harry…"
Much later, Ginny reached the end of her list. "That appears to be all I need."
Harry lifted a brow. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I think I have enough. It's really mostly about the Troll stuff and you gave me lots of information about all of that, so…" She allowed herself a sigh. "I can’t wait to write it out and turn it in and be done with it—ugh." For she had glanced down to find that the quill, which had been recording their conversation all evening, had just scrawled I can’t wait to write it all out and hand it in and be done with it – ugh.
"Finite," she commanded and the quill spun once before flopping to the table with a tired whistle. She looked at him with a tired grin. "I can’t thank you enough, Harry."
He waved his hand. "It was no problem." He didn’t quite meet her eyes. "If you need anything else, just owl me at the Ministry… or … make it up," he shrugged.
Ginny shook her head on a laugh. "It wasn't nothing, I'm sure you had to take time out your busy schedule to do this," she said, gathering her notes and pushing them into her bag. "So, thanks again."
Harry leaned back in his chair, stretching a little. "My schedule isn't as busy as you think. I actually have a lot of free time here, so it was good to get out for a bit and have normal company." He sent her a sideways smile as they stood and walked out. "All of my co-workers are so bloody old."
Ginny laughed but suddenly, the mystery of why he'd offered to help her became quite clear. He was bored. A vision of him at the Auror's Convention rose in her mind, standing there and staring around and around that blasted room as though trying to make it interesting.
The beginnings of guilt crept up on her. She knew she shouldn't feel badly since she had extended him an invitation to her café and it wasn't exactly as though she and Harry were good friends anymore. But as she pictured him with nobody for company besides those ancient people at the Convention, she couldn’t help but feel guilty that the only reason she'd gotten together with him at all was for her own purposes.
They stepped out into the night, which was still warm and walked down the large steps to the pathway. Once they reached the walk, Ginny tied her sweater around her waist and turned to him, an idea forming.
"Do you have to get back any time soon?"
His brow went up. "Er… no, why?"
"There's an ice cream seller a short way down. Would you like to walk for a bit? We haven’t really gotten the chance to catch up since you've been here."
"Er… are you sure you don’t have anything else to do?" he asked doubtfully. "It sounds as though you have quite a workload."
She did, of course. There were three essays due in two weeks, which she hadn't even started. But she waved that aside. "Look, we've been cooped up in a library for three hours, I'm not doing anything else tonight. I finally have the blasted interview finished," she said dramatically, throwing her arms out and he grinned.
"If you say so. Where is it then?"
"This way." They turned down the pathway and walked against the wind; Ginny reached up and twisted her blowing hair into a haphazard knot at the back of her neck.
"So, I've been meaning to ask you something," she said as they walked down the lantern lit street. "Why didn’t I recognize anyone else the other night? I mean surely you're not the only Auror from England's Ministry here?"
"Not everyone has to attend these things, most are too busy with their assignments and research," Harry explained. "These annual conventions aren't very… er, necessary. Normally the only Auror's who aren't on assignment are the ones who aren’t really… assigned much work."
At once she understood. "Ahhh… in other words, Auror's who are too old to handle the complicated jobs, then?" she asked with a smirk.
"I never said that," Harry said mildly.
Ginny laughed. "If that's the case, why are you stuck here and not on some dodgy mission? In between assignments? Or did you just want the excuse to visit Paris?"
"Eh," Harry shrugged and dug his hands into his pockets. "Something like that." There was a short silence, then, "So, how does it feel to be going home soon?"
Ginny sighed. "Oh, well, I'm really happy about it. But I'm also terribly sad. Paris has become home to me."
"You must miss everyone, though?"
"Like mad. Although I won’t be saying that when I get back, that's for sure. All Mum needs to do is wake me up one time like she used to." Ginny did a very high, very good impression of her mother calling her name in the morning. "And I'll be running for the hills."
Harry turned to her, looking amazed. "Bloody hell. That brings me back. I remember hearing her call your name about ten times before you actually woke up. Bit annoying."
"Tell me about it."
But he smiled knowingly. "You'll probably be so happy to finally see her, you'll want to wake up early just to have breakfast with her."
She was about to reply with a joke, but the thought made her smile. "Probably."
"Are you going to live at the Burrow?"
"Yes. Until I find a job and can afford to live on my own."
"What sort of jobs will you apply for? The Ministry?"
At this Ginny made a face. "It's what everyone expects—and there are tons of jobs within the Ministry for linguists, most of my friends already have positions lined up. I just… I dunno what I want to do yet. Oh, here we are."
They turned the corner and a bright red cart came into view. There was a short queue of people standing in front of the seller who was spooning out large scoops of various flavors onto cones. Ginny's mouth began to water – she hadn't stopped to eat all day.
"So have you seen all the sights of Lacasse, yet?" she asked him as they stood at the end of the queue.
"What sights?" he asked curiously and Ginny looked surprised.
"What do you mean, what sights? The city is full of them."
"What sorts of things?" he asked her. "Besides the Eiffel Tower?"
"Well, that's Muggle Paris, but there are some fantastic things to do here, too."
They were suddenly next to order, so they told the seller what they wanted. Just when Ginny had reached inside her pocket for some coins, she sighed when Harry reached his arm across her and paid for both.
"I see you haven't changed," she remarked dryly as they stepped away, carrying cones piled high with chocolate and hazelnut ice cream.
"Hmm?" he asked, as if nothing had happened, licking the side of his scoop.
"That's okay, I won’t protest now – I'll just pay next time."
From the corner of her eye, she saw his eyes dart towards her.
"I mean to say, obviously you need a tour guide or something, Harry, because you can’t leave Lacasse without seeing at least some of the tourist spots. How long will you be here?"
"Er… another week or two, I think. But, you're really busy, Ginny, I don't—"
"Yes, and that's why I'll take a much needed break from all my work and show you around the city."
He sent her a sideways look. "I'm sure you have other things to do with your free time."
"Will you stop?" she scolded. "If I didn’t want to I wouldn't." Then she had a thought while she ran her tongue along the side of her ice cream. "I mean, unless … you won’t be able to get away."
"No, it's not that," he was quick to assure. "I suppose if you are insisting." He gave her a sideways smile.
Ginny smiled back. "I am."
"All right then. When is it good for you because my evening schedule is completely open."
She looked at him curiously. It was the second time he'd said that, but it was now occurring to Ginny that she'd certainly heard him talk before this about how busy he was here – and then she remembered. It was when she'd invited him to her café at the Ministry. Smiling to herself, Ginny chose not to voice this and pretended to think over her schedule. "Well, I'm working all weekend—except for Sunday. Sunday night?"
"That's fine. What'll we see? The Eiffel Tower?"
Ginny found herself smiling. "We can go into Muggle Paris if you like."
"What sort of things are there to see here?"
"Hmmm, let's see… there's merpeople rock – that's always fun at night. It's a huge rock—more like an island–in the middle of the lake where the merpeople always lounge around—mostly at night. You can rent these charmed glasses that allow you to see it, since it's really far away, and you get to watch them having parties and playing games."
"I hate merpeople."
Ginny heaved a sigh. "Well, these merpeople are really beautiful—they have green hair."
"Beautiful," he echoed.
"You'll see," she said firmly. "There's also Jaques the Jaunty's tomb—it's on this huge hill surrounded by a really pretty trellis."
"Wasn't there a tapestry of him at Hogwarts? The poltergeist who's trapped inside his own tomb?"
"That's right, Transfiguration corridor. And he is trapped, you can hear him laughing in there if you listen at the right angle."
"Really?" Harry seemed much more impressed by Jaques the Jaunty's tomb than merpeople's rock, so Ginny told him they would go there. They walked for a few more minutes, talking about the other sights in Lacasse and it wasn't until Ginny found herself yawning widely that she decided to call it a night.
They'd walked so far that it was legal Apparition to the flat and once she and Harry agreed on a place to meet Sunday night, Ginny raised her wand and next second, her bedroom was materializing around her.
She'd Apparated right in front of her wall mirror and the first thing she saw was herself. With a weary sigh she walked forward to get a better look, although she wished she hadn't. Her hair was a mess from the wind, her eyes looked very worn and – something she didn't understand at first—her cheeks were bright red. It took her running a finger along the skin between her nose and cheek and feeling a burning sensation to realize that she had sunburn. She stood, confused, staring into the mirror and trying to figure out if it had been that sunny walking from place to place today, when there was a swift knock on her bedroom door.
"Eh? I mean, come in."
The door creaked open by itself and Ginny turned to see Brian leaning against the frame, regarding her with a raised brow.
She turned away from the mirror at last and tossed her bag onto her desk chair, flopped onto her bed and flipped off her sandals. "Well, what?"
He heaved a long, slow sigh and took his time answering. "Oh… I dunno…. I haven’t seen you in nearly five days and here you are, coming in at one in the morning. I think we're growing apart, Gin."
"One in the morning?" she exclaimed, staring at him before looking at her watch. It read 12:57 am. She groaned. "I can’t believe I lost track of time. This is terrible. I have to be at l'Acadamiè tomorrow at seven." She pouted. "Will I ever get my ten hours of sleep?"
At this Brian rolled his eyes. "Nobody gets ten hours of sleep, love, there's a bit of real life for you. Anyway, where were you?"
"I was getting my interview," she said absently, pushing past him and walking into the living room to see if she'd had any post.
"Interview?" he asked in surprise. Ginny froze in the motion of flipping through the two letters that she'd found on the sideboard. "Millicent? At one in the morning?"
"No," she said carefully, pretending to study an envelope and thinking very fast. She hadn’t told Brian about Harry—at all. The truth was that Harry had most definitely been a sore subject back when Ginny and Brian had become friends—a subject that she had deliberately chosen not to talk about at all, with anyone and before long, the fact that Ginny knew Harry had turned into a sort of secret that she'd had to keep up every time Brian mentioned reading something about him.
Ginny answered Brian casually. "Actually, I found someone else to interview."
She bit her lip. "Harry Potter."
Brian snorted. "Yeah, right. Who is it then?"
"I'm serious. I ran into him at that Auror's thing and we got to talking and he offered to let me interview him." Ginny worked hard to keep her voice neutral, but she refused to meet Brian's eyes.
"Harry Potter doesn't give interviews, love," he said matter-of-factly, his dimples appearing in his cheeks. He thought she was joking. "It's a lovely wish, though."
"It's not exactly a formal interview, Bri—it's really pretty basic without all the Troll stuff. And he's had experience with Trolls so it really worked out well—"
"Hang on," Brian interrupted and now he was looking at her very carefully. "Are you trying to tell me that you're serious?"
"Yes," she said patiently. "I'm very serious."
"You were … just now… interviewing Harry Potter?"
"Yeah," she hopped up onto the window ledge and opened a letter from Sarah, trying desperately not to look at him. "Look, I used to know Harry—I went to Hogwarts with him. He was a friend of my brother's—what?"
For Brian's face suddenly gaped at her. "A friend of your brother's? You never told me that."
"So? It never came up."
"I've mentioned Harry Potter to you—last summer, I was saying how he was involved in that Ministry bust—the one where they caught almost fifteen Ministry members in the act of—"
"Look, Bri, Harry isn’t someone famous to me," Ginny said, hopping off the window and walking behind the low wall into the kitchen. "He's just… another friend of my brother's, someone I went to school with. So when someone mentions him to me, I suppose I don't advertise that I know him or anything because it's really no big deal."
"Ginny," Brian said, looking at her as if she were mad. "He's like… the next best thing to a bloody god—"
"Oh, please, you sound like a teenage girl."
"He saved the bloody wizarding world, I have a lot of respect for him, as do many people."
Ginny uncapped a bottle of juice and took a swig. "He's really a normal bloke." She almost smiled as she said that.
She rolled her eyes. "Real eloquent." Finding that she couldn’t concentrate on anything as her eyelids were drooping, Ginny tossed Sarah's letter aside and slid off the ledge. "I'm going to bed. Good night."
Brian didn't answer and when Ginny finally looked at him, she saw that he was watching her closely. "What?" she asked, not meeting his eyes.
He shook his head after a moment. "Nothing. I'm just… I can’t believe you never mentioned it before, that's all."
Ginny bit her lip. "I'm sorry, I… it wasn't as if I was keeping a secret or something, it just honestly isn’t a very big deal."
She hated lying to him. But what else could she say?
The sunlight poured through the high castle windows, spraying bright pools across the dark corridors of Hogwarts. It was June now and as Ginny walked down a particularly long corridor, the weight of the events from the previous night slowed her steps considerably.
Her slow journey came to a halt at the entrance to the hospital wing. She'd known that she would come across it; she'd taken the long route back to Gryffindor Tower for a reason and this was it. For a few long minutes she stood in front of the closed wooden doors, wishing that she could see through them… or make herself invisible and go inside. She took a deep breath and the air was so shaky in her lungs, it made her shiver. There was no way she would ever go inside. It was not her place and besides… nothing she had to say would be of any comfort.
That's not true, snapped an angry part of her heart. She had plenty to say, plenty to offer. She'd been through something terrible. She'd met Voldemort, too, hadn't she?
Heaving a sigh and looking up at the tall doors, Ginny shook her head wearily. Her lack of self-confidence made her furious at times, but it didn’t stop the fact that her hope was starting to fade. She couldn't defend her feelings anymore. It was a losing battle and the more she fought it, the more she lost.
The horror from last night came back to her in a flash and she closed her eyes, having to remind herself that it wasn't still happening… that Harry was safe.
But Cedric Diggory isn't.
Ginny squeezed her eyes closed. She would not feel guilty for being happy that Harry was alive. It was positively crushing that a student had… had died, but…
Ginny opened her eyes sharply as the memory of a deadly diary appeared in her mind. She'd spent a good part of her first year at Hogwarts thinking that Tom Riddle would eventually kill her. He'd made sure, towards the end, that she knew who was in power and it was terrifying, preparing to die… thinking there was no way out… no one to save her. It still scared her.
The doors came into focus again. They were solid barriers meant for the sole purpose of holding her back. If they weren't there, it would be so much easier to go in. But she couldn’t do it—she couldn’t reach out her hand and open the door herself. It was… too big a task. It took too much effort.
She stood in front of them, her eyes roaming over the dark wooden panels waiting for something… anything that might be a sign telling her it was okay to go inside… that he might actually appreciate what she had to say. She tried to imagine what she would say— what she would like to say, rather—and there were no words that came into her mind. It was always just a… feeling she wanted to pass from herself to him. Comfort? No. It wasn't her place to comfort him. There were people he already trusted for that. Ironically, it was her own brother, her own parents, and that alone gave her reason enough to walk through those doors and inquire how he was feeling. Or offer him some support… or even something more simple like… some sweets… or a funny story … anything.
But Ginny didn't want to be polite anymore… she wanted to reach him. She wanted to offer him something that nobody else could, and tell him that she knew what it was like to be trapped and alone and scared. She was willing to do it, to open up her own wounds if it would comfort him.
But it wouldn't. If she knew anything in the world about Harry, she knew that to him, she was nothing more than an acquaintance… someone who used to embarrass him and someone he wasn't fully comfortable around. He'd saved her life, sure, but … that wasn't enough for him to want her around… to allow her in….
"Oh… hello, Michael." She knew she oughtn't, but the smile just happened. "All right?"
"Yeah," he said, peering at her closely. "How are you?"
"Oh…" Ginny trailed off and automatically looked at the doors. The little happiness she'd felt at seeing Michael, who had been a lovely friend all year, faded. "I'm …okay," she said, knowing it sounded untrue.
Michael nodded, looking concerned. "You've… probably a lot to be going on with right now. Have you just come back from seeing Harry?"
"Hmm? Oh, no… I was… just on my way back to Gryffindor Tower. You?"
He shrugged. "To be honest, I… well, I was looking for you." He said the last part with a bit more confidence and Ginny almost thought he looked taller somehow. Her heart skipped a beat.
"You … were?"
Michael nodded. "Mm-hmm. I wanted to ask you, well… would you mind if … I, er, wrote to you this summer?"
Her eyes flew to his. They were brown, just like hers, only darker… they looked almost black… like his hair. His hair was short, though and not in the least bit messy.
But it was still black.
Appalled, Ginny snapped herself out of her thoughts. "Oh," she said a bit stupidly. She knew there was more behind his question. She'd caught him staring at her a few times during the year and the way he was looking at her now with those dark eyes seemed to want to make her read his thoughts… that his offer to write to her meant much more. Her heart in her throat, she felt an automatic pull to look back at the doors of the hospital wing.
But she refused to look back. "Of course you can write to me. I'd love it."
His face broke out into a grin. It made him suddenly look very… handsome. Her heart skipped again.
"Cool," said Michael.
"Cool," she returned, smiling a bit.
They stood there looking awkwardly at each other.
"Well, I've got to be at lunch," Michael said after a minute. "I'm meeting some friends. I'll see you?"
Ginny nodded and watched him walk off, a lump forming in her throat. It was then that she turned back to the doors. They were still closed. She furrowed her brow. How was it that a pair of closed doors could make her feel so… guilty?
It was as though she'd just betrayed him somehow.
She liked Michael Corner just fine and felt a little thrill when she thought about what had just happened. She was moving on. She had to start somewhere and she liked Michael and he obviously liked her and…it was fine. Fine.
There had been no betrayal here.