The Sugar Quill
Author: peachpicker  Story: Fleeing Hogwarts  Chapter: Chapter One - Fight and Flight
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Fleeing Hogwarts

Harry Potter and his world is J. K Rowling's marvelous, shiny invention. I'm just playing with it, still dazzled by it all, and do not expect any profit from its use other than inspiration. No broomsticks were harmed in the writing of this story.

Author's Note:
This story is a prequel to my first fan fiction story, Aftermath. Realistically, this story should have been Part I and Aftermath should have been Part II of the same overall story. Fleeing Hogwarts should be read before Aftermath. This chapter is the first of ten chapters, although it can be read as a stand-alone story.

Consider this story to be rated Immature for occasional use of strong language and Mildly Risque for blatant appreciation of the human version of the two-gender system. If you want something stronger, it may be found in most "soap operas" on television in the UK and the USA.

Many thanks again are due to J. K. Rowling for providing such a fertile ground for the imagination of fan fiction writers to grow in. My gratitude goes to NightZephyr for her excellent beta work. This Part One was inspired by Sharon's comments upon reading Aftermath. Thank you, Sharon. It was exactly the right nudge. I hope you like the results.

Fight and Flight

After the Death Eater attack on Hogwarts that ended with Dumbledore's death, many of Ginny Weasley's friends and classmates had not returned to Hogwarts during her sixth year due to fear of further attacks. As a result, many classes were reduced in size and often contained students from all four Houses. Harry Potter, her clandestine boyfriend, had not returned to Hogwarts for his seventh year, and was on a mysterious quest that supposedly was too dangerous for her to know about. Ginny's brother Ron and her best friend Hermione Granger sometimes would be seen together doing research in the library. They never seemed to attend classes, nor did they eat with the other students. They definitely did not sleep in the Gryffindor dormitories. Ginny wondered if they were officially students at all. Nevertheless, Headmistress McGonagall appeared to tolerate their use of the library. Neither Ron nor Hermione would say what they were doing. From reading letters from her parents, Ginny realized that they were still under the mistaken impression that Ron, Hermione and Harry were normal seventh year students. Ginny knew better.

* * *

Now that she was off of the Quidditch pitch, Ginny flew her broomstick in a leisurely way toward the main entrance to Hogwarts Castle. Flying helped clear her head, it really did, despite reminding her almost too much of Harry. He had often flown near dawn or in the late evening, alone in the sky, hoping to forget for a few minutes his life and his terrible obligations. Now that Harry was no longer at Hogwarts, out of her loneliness Ginny had taken on the same habit. She often flew near dawn, as the sky began to turn light. Sometimes the dawn would lift Ginny's heart in a semblance of hope, but this morning the clouds had hung low and thick, their substance shoring up her fortitude but hardly lightening her spirit.

Nearing the Hogwarts Castle entrance, suddenly Ginny was startled to see several figures rise out of the bushes near the heavy oak doors. They were on brooms and wearing masks and Slytherin robes. They turned toward her and accelerated. One of the shadowy figures attempted to cast a Stunning Spell which missed Ginny. A young woman's voice yelled harshly. "You bloody cretin! She could've fallen. We have to catch her, not kill her! Do it like we practiced or we'll really be in for it!"

The figures flew closer to her and time after time herded her away from the castle entrance. Then she saw a hole in their formation and dove through it, streaking for the entrance. She glanced back, to see them still following her in formation. There was something odd about that, she thought. That was too easy, that opening. Then, just outside the door she saw another figure, then a second, waiting for her! They would have had her in a heartbeat if she had landed in front of the entrance. She angled away from the trap, flying along a castle wall.

Where can I go? Ginny thought. Even if I catch someone's attention, the windows are all locked and warded. Nobody can let me in. Even the owlery is warded against everything but owls. Where's a security hole when you need one? she thought angrily. She quickly looked all around, assessing her options. Can't fly in or out of the grounds. Those wards are nasty. I can walk through the gate, though. Too slow! Too slow! They'll get me, Stun me! Then Ginny had a flash of inspiration. Oh! What if I run through the gate? It's worth a try. Did they leave anyone outside the gate? Not that I can see. This is going to be tricky...

Ginny slowed as she gained altitude. It was enough for the two fastest pursuers to draw closer to her without them realizing how much speed she had in reserve. Then she went into a dive and they followed, faster and faster, then Ginny suddenly pulled out of the dive. One of the pursuers hit the ground hard, misjudging when to pull up. The other was still close behind her, and was joined by two others. This time she flew up at full speed, the three following closely. "Really tricky," she thought. "Now!" Ginny sharply went into a dive and two of her pursuers hit the overhead wards and, stunned, they fluttered to the ground. They had forgotten that the wards prevented anyone from flying outside the grounds by flying high. Ginny knew just where the wards were, having tested them time and again just for her own amusement.

Still at top speed, Ginny flew toward Hagrid's cabin. The remaining three pursuers held back a bit, having learned how quickly Ginny could change direction. They expected her to attempt another feint to get them to crash into the cabin. Further from the cabin than they expected, Ginny swerved and flew at top speed toward the exit gate for the grounds. The pursuers swung in an arc and picked up speed, hoping to cut Ginny off from the gate. However, she had just enough of a lead to flip off the broom and run for four steps through the gate. Hopping back on her broom, she aimed for the sky and the now welcoming dark clouds. A glance downward showed yet another Slytherin on the ground, having misjudged when to walk or run through the gate. The ward against flying in or out of the grounds had taken him out. Didn't even have to hex you, you bastards, she thought fiercely.

The last two pursuers were now climbing into the sky behind her, but the clouds were closer. She pointed her broom towards Hogsmeade, making sure that her pursuers saw her direction before she entered the clouds. After she was well inside the cloud layer she slowly curved toward the south, toward the general area where she knew Harry was. She flew slowly enough that her robes did not flap in the wind streaming around her, possibly attracting the attention of her pursuers.

After ten minutes of slowly gaining altitude, she could see the clouds becoming lighter above her. Mustn't get above the clouds. They could have someone up there, watching, waiting. Ginny shook her head. Fine case of paranoia you've got, Weasley. Of course, they really were after you, weren't they? She snorted with grim amusement.

Ginny came to a stop. Well, it seemed like it was a stop, but since the clouds had been moving easterly earlier, relative to the ground, she supposed that was still the case. Am I drifting toward the Netherlands at a lazy clip? Or was it Denmark or Norway? She shrugged, not really caring. She decided it was time for an inventory. Wand. Jeans. Shirt. Jumper. Bra. Knickers. Funky watch from Fred and George. We'll see what that can do in a bit, right? Flying cloak... damn... not completely impervious to rain. Cauldron Cake, somewhat flattened but likely edible. Double damn... one shoe missing.  No wonder my foot's cold. Happened running through the gate, I reckon. At least I still have both socks. One locket, with picture of Harry, Ron and Hermione. Good thing photos don't wear out from just looking at them. I'll see the real Harry soon, and Ron and Hermione, too. It's about time, Harry. Right?

Okay, watch. Do your thing. Fred and George, this gadget of yours had better work at four hundred meters altitude or whatever it is. Ginny turned her wrist to see the time in the still early light of dawn. Still way early. No one will miss me for hours yet. It's Saturday and they'll think I'm having a lie-in. Ginny thought a command at the watch: "SHOW EVERYONE." A map of the UK appeared in glowing lines above her wrist watch. Fred and George in London, me near Hogwarts. Harry, Ron and Hermione near Godric's Hollow. Right!

Ginny decided to eat the Caldron Cake, and ended up wolfing it down with more hunger than she expected. She was uncomfortably aware of the cold mist she was in, and was about to cast a warming charm. Then she realized, Oh, no! I'm still under age and I'm away from Hogwarts! Somebody might track me if I use my wand! Ginny sighed and thought, Still too close to Hogwarts to land somewhere. Okay, let's get on with it then. Fred and George, this had better work, or I'll hex you into next week! She focused a command again to her watch: DISTANCE TO HARRY.  Glowing characters appeared in midair above her watch: 520KM. POINT TO HARRY. The map of the UK reappeared and rotated until it was oriented to match the ground beneath her. Then a glowing arrow appeared on the map, pointing somewhat to her left. She swung her broom a little and now the arrow pointed straight ahead. The map and arrow started to fade until she thought STAY ON to the watch. Soon she was flying to Harry as fast as she could in the early dawn light now filtering down through the thick clouds, with a golden arrow showing her the way.

* * *

A while back, Harry had discovered that his watch could do more than Fred and George had indicated. His was able to communicate only with Ron's and Hermione's watches, or so they were led to believe. One day he had commanded the watch to show where Ron and Hermione were, and it indicated Hogwarts, as expected. He knew they were researching something in the library. Then Harry, thinking of Ginny as he did so often, wistfully commanded the watch to show where Ginny was. To Harry's surprise and delight, the watch did as commanded. After further experimentation, Harry concluded that there were only five others that his watch connected with: Ron's and Hermione's, which he had known about, and Fred's, George's, and Ginny's.

Harry regretfully refrained from using his watch to send any messages to Ginny, Fred or George, not being sure if there could be problems. The watches were experimental, after all. Maybe sending Ginny a message could set off an alarm or damage the watch or something. If her watch worked like his, it would vibrate if she received a message from him. She could be startled enough by that to catch unwanted attention. Still, he was so frustrated with the slowness of the secret exchange of letters that they had managed since school resumed. Nevertheless, Harry used his watch more frequently than he would dare admit to Ron and Hermione, to reassure himself that Ginny remained safe at Hogwarts. Unfortunately, seeing that she was there at Hogwarts sometimes would leave him even more moody and out of sorts than usual. It was very frustrating that he could not meet her at Hogwarts during his rare visits. She just wouldn't be safe if he were to be seen with her.

* * *

Damn, it's cold, Ginny thought. She slowed to a stop and tucked the flying cloak around her as best she could. She had been flying in the clouds to remain undetected by wizard and Muggle alike. Unfortunately, what looked like fog when she was still, became a miserable, cold, insidiously wet mist when she flew at top speed. The cloak was beginning to soak through. Her hands and face were terribly chilled, no matter how much she crouched close to the broom handle. After waiting a little bit, floating motionless within the clouds, she felt a little better. Okay, broom. Let's press on. She gave a shuddering sigh. Damn, I'm cold.

* * *

Harry had not slept well. This night's dreams had been a confusing mix of images of Ginny, Voldemort, and Harry's parents, although he could not remember any details. There was a hint of coming light in the sky, so Harry decided to get up and go outside, hoping the morning air would clear his head. When he stepped out of the cottage door, he heard the tentative beginnings of bird song in the woods that surrounded the cabin where he, Ron and Hermione were staying. Under other circumstances, he thought, this could be a promising morning, even though there are a lot of clouds. I wonder if they will clear up later?

Then, not bothering to resist his impulse to check on Ginny and the others, Harry idly thought a command to his watch: SHOW EVERYONE. He looked at the map of the UK that appeared. George and Fred in London. Ron, Hermione and me here. Ginny at... He caught his breath. She was not at Hogwarts! A chill ran down his spine. Harry did not recognize her location. SHOW GINNY. The map now was centered on Ginny's location, but did not show as much detail as a simple road map. MAGNIFY. Still no helpful details appeared. MAGNIFY.

After some study, Harry noticed the dot that represented Ginny had moved slightly. He waited and watched the dot, until he was sure. She must be flying at the top speed of her broom! She's coming in this direction! She's about a quarter of the way here. Or, he suddenly realized, someone might be bringing her in this direction against her will. What if someone had taken her watch and it was not her that he was watching? Oh, wait. The direction bit only works if she is wearing it. Still, better not reveal the exact location of the hideout, yet. In a near panic, Harry did not realize that he wasn't thinking straight, that Ginny's map would still show the location of Ron and Hermione at the cottage near Godric's Hollow, even if he was not there.

Harry rushed into the cottage, and seized his broom and flying cloak. He dashed back outside and rose into the overhanging clouds, aimed straight as an arrow toward, he fervently hoped, his Ginny flying to meet him.

Once he was on his way, Harry calmed down enough to realize that he must stay out of sight. Then he cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself and his broom so that no one would notice him. Next he cast a warming spell for the times he passed through the thick clouds. The cold mists became uncomfortably wet at high flying speeds. An Impervius Spell seemed to decrease his speed slightly, but was worth it. Finally, Harry swept aside his cautious thoughts about the watches. He used his watch to send a brief message to Fred and George, telling them that he was flying to meet Ginny.

* * *

Eventually, on Harry's display of where the two of them were, the two dots merged. She had to be right here, in these clouds. Where was she? Harry looked wildly around, his heart beating hard in his chest. He began circling. Where was she? MAGNIFY. Still not enough. MAGNIFY. Yes, there! The two dots, his and hers, were now separated just a little, circling each other. Where?... Then through the mist he saw her, below him and off to the left. "Ginny!"

Her head turned with a jerk toward him. "Harry?" She rose to his level, and they began orbiting each other. Closer. Closer. Slowing, slowing, until he saw her eyes, wide and unsmiling, her wand pointed at him. "I need to know it's really you, Harry," she called to him, "and you need to know it's me." Harry drew his wand, though his heart was already telling him, yelling at him, that it wouldn't be needed. "Harry, when and where was the second time we kissed, and did anyone see us?"

"The first time was in front of everyone in Gryffindor's Common Room," he called to her. The clouds seemed to swallow his words, muffling them in cold, wet cotton. "The second  time was outside the portrait hole, just after the first time, and the Fat Lady and her friend Violet said something like, 'oh, how sweet' and 'it's about time.'" Harry was looking, staring, at Ginny, drinking in the sight of her.

"Now you have to ask me something, Harry." They were orbiting, circling closer now. Her eyes were dark pits, ready to swallow him. Her hair was a wild, wind tossed, red tangle around her head. Streaks of water from the clouds had left trails on her pale face. Or had they been tears? Her lips were almost colorless, compressed into a firm straight line. Her robes were wet and bedraggled, and she had lost a shoe somewhere. She was holding herself rigid, trying to keep herself from shaking from the cold. He wanted nothing more than to hold her close, to protect her. "Harry?" Her wand was still pointed toward him.

"Oh! Um. Where did we last kiss, and what happened just after that?" Harry smiled at her and waited.

"We kissed under that old oak by the pond," she said softly. Their brooms were only a few feet apart now, and now, instead of the two circling some ill-defined space between them, the clouds seemed to be moving in a slow, stately dance around them. They could touch hands now if they reached toward each other.

"And then?..." Harry said, searching her face.

"And then you said that you loved me, and... and... then you promised me that some day we would be together again, whenever, however we could be." Her eyes searched his face and there was no longer even the slightest suspicion or fear in her eyes. "Then I told you that I loved you, and I always would, to the end of time and beyond. Then Ron and Hermione called you, and you and I hugged one more time, and then you walked to them... and you all Apparated away." Ginny smiled sadly at him. "It's all burned into my memory, Harry. I could never forget it."

By this time the world had stopped spinning slowly around them. The two broomsticks and their riders floated down toward a small patch of woods, where a little stream flowed by a grassy bank. Then, as they landed on the grass, the  brooms were flung aside with sudden impatience and the two seized and held each other for a long, long embrace and, finally, a kiss.

Harry realized that Ginny was shivering in his arms. Then she was violently shaking from the wet cold that she had endured for the last hour. "Ginny, you're hands are so cold! Your cloak is soaking wet!" Ginny's teeth were chattering now. He removed her flying cloak which had so inadequately protected her. After casting warming and drying spells on her cloak and very carefully casting a warming spell on Ginny herself, he removed his own cloak and wrapped it around her. Then he sat on a reasonably smooth and dry boulder near the edge of the stream and pulled her onto his lap and held her close, waiting for her trembling to stop.

Her arms reached under his robe, seeking his warmth. "Harry! You're only wearing pyjamas and a robe. What were you thinking?"

Harry laughed. "I was thinking my Ginny was on her way to me, and I had to meet her the soonest." Her shaking had begun to subside now, but she still held him close, so close. "I spotted you on my watch's direction finder after you had left Hogwarts. Ginny, why didn't you cast warming or drying charms? You could have put up a shield, couldn't you?"

Ginny shook her head and reminded him, "I'm still under age, and I was away from Hogwarts before I could get a chance. The Ministry could have detected my under-age magic. I didn't dare, Harry. They or others might have used it to find you."

"Oh. Good thinking, that." Harry then asked, "Ginny, what happened?"

"Some Slytherins tried to capture me. Please, can I tell you later? Ron and Hermione will want to hear, too."

Her shaking was diminishing; his arms around her knew it; his heart, where her head lay against his chest, knew it. The steam rising from Ginny's cloak ceased, and his almost idle thought summoned her now warm, dry cloak to them. The cloak wrapped itself around them both. Recalling it later, Harry would wonder at the ease of such spontaneous, wandless magic. But for now, the warmth and wonder of her in his arms was enough.

"Harry, do you have anything to eat? I'm absolutely starving."

"I can Apparate and bring some food back."

Ginny shook her head violently. "I don't want you out of my sight. Not for now, anyway." She shuddered. "I think I could fly now, though not in those clouds. Talk about a slow, trickly, cold shower!"

Harry transformed a rock into a coffee mug and dipped it into the stream. Then he transformed the water into hot coffee and handed the mug to Ginny. She held it in her hands, her eyes closed in bliss as the warmth entered her fingers. Then her eyes opened and shown with gratitude as she began sipping. "The flavour might be off a bit. I'm still working on that," Harry apologized. "Hermione tells me it should still be safe to drink, though." Ginny grimaced a little at the taste but kept on drinking. At least it was warming her insides.

"Ginny, how are you at side-along Apparating? Did you get a chance to practice it yet? I know you don't have a license yet."

"I can do it. Dad's taken me several places that way," Ginny replied. Her shivering had largely subsided by then.

"If we Apparate, it would save us an hour of flying."

"Okay." Ginny took another sip of the ersatz coffee and swallowed, grimacing a bit at its taste. "You really do need to work on the flavour," she said with a small smile, her gaze never leaving his face.

Without further thought, their lips met. Her face was still cold and pale, though no longer fearfully so. Her mouth tasted of the truly horrible coffee, and something indefinable that was Ginny, his Ginny. "I've missed you for so long," Harry whispered.

"I've missed you, too, Harry."

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