The Sugar Quill
Author: peachpicker  Story: Fleeing Hogwarts  Chapter: Chapter Two - A Cheery Good Morning
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A Cheery Good Morning

Harry and Ginny walked carefully from the Apparition point through the still, dark woods. Since Ginny had lost one shoe at Hogwarts, she found it easiest to remove the other shoe and both socks and walk barefoot, although it was awkward to do since the forest floor was littered with sticks and twigs and gnarled roots of the old trees. A couple of birds were idly reminding each other to not stray into the other's area, and a buzz of an insect or two could be heard. Soon Ginny could see a ramshackle cottage ahead that appeared to need considerable repair. Ginny noticed how cautious Harry had become when approaching the cottage. It looked as if it had been abandoned many years ago. After a moment of observation, he appeared to be satisfied with what he saw, but still carried his wand at ready.

A cat was sitting on the doorstep. "Harry, is that Crookshanks? We wondered what happened to him when Hermione joined you and Ron."

"Let me check." Harry muttered a spell while pointing his wand at the cat. "Yeah, that's him. We always check him after he's been outside. Hermione worked out a spell to do it. Ask her to teach it to you when you get a chance."

The cat recognized Ginny and began to happily circle her ankles and rub his face on her bare toes after they stepped into the cottage. Harry closed the door and hung the brooms in a corner of the kitchen area. The inside of the cottage was better kept up than its outside suggested. She saw a sitting room area to the right, with two seats big enough for two people each. There were two small side tables and a small coffee table holding a few books. The bookshelves to either side of a door at the back of the room were loaded with books. A glance at the titles showed Hermione's influence. To Ginny's left was a kitchen area with a large table, separated from the sitting area by a large couch. She saw no sign of Ron and Hermione.

Harry began preparing a breakfast of eggs, toast, and sausages. Ginny sat down at the kitchen table with a big sigh and a happy grin. Crookshanks hopped into her lap and bumped his head against one of her hands. As she absently began to scratch his head, the cat began a raucous purr. Harry asked her, "Coffee or tea? Real coffee, mind you."

"Tea this time, lots of it. When I was flying here I promised myself that I'd have some the earliest I could."

The door to a bedroom opened and Ron walked out, yawning hugely. He was wearing the bottoms of a pair of orange pyjamas that featured the Chudley Cannons. "G'morning, Harry. Ginny." He pulled up a chair, sat down, propped his elbows on the table, covered his face with his large hands, and sighed a huge sigh. "Coffee ready yet, Harry?" Ron croaked. Then Ron's eyes popped wide open. "Bloody hell, Ginny! What are you doing here?"

"And a cheery good morning to you, too, Ronnikins," Ginny replied brightly.

"Ginny!" A delighted cry came from the bedroom. Hermione ran out and the two young women happily hugged each other. Ginny saw where the top half of Ron's pyjamas had gone. On Hermione the Chudley Cannons orange top extended to mid-thigh, and the sleeves had been rolled up to accomodate her shorter arms. In her private opinion, the color didn't flatter either Ron or Hermione, but at least it didn't clash outright with Hermione's hair and skin tones. The orange looked much better with her brown hair than it did with Ron's red hair. Hermione looked really cute in her half.

Ginny caught Harry's eye and tilted her head slightly, indicating Ron and Hermione, and raised one eyebrow questioningly. With a small smile Harry nodded slightly, silently imparting the information that Ron and Hermione had been together a while. Ginny looked at Harry and silently mouthed, "About time." Harry nodded and grinned.

"Ginny." Ron glared at her. "Why. Are. You. Here?"

"Don't look at me like that, Ron, or I'll hex you within an inch of your life, see if I don't," Ginny said pleasantly, while tapping her wand in the palm of her other hand suggestively.

"Harry," Ron now glared at him. "Did you kidnap Ginny from Hogwarts or something?"

"No," Harry replied, "but a gang of Slytherins nearly did. Tell them, Gin."

"Not yet," Ginny grinned wickedly. "I'm having too much fun with Ronnikins."

What Harry said had finally sunk in. Ron grabbed his coffee and took too large a swallow. After coughing and choking out, "too hot," Ron managed to say, "Tell us, Gin. What happened?" Ron still cast a glare at both Ginny and Harry and even Hermione, who was so obviously delighted with Ginny's arrival.

* * *

"I don't think you should stay here, Ginny," said Ron anxiously. "Hogwarts has to be safer... um... if you stay inside."

"No, Ron. The Slytherins that tried to catch me stay inside too. It's too easy to be alone in a hall somewhere and then get caught."

"It must be safer at The Burrow then."

"You've not heard, have you?" Ginny looked at them. "Somebody tried to attack The Burrow. Fortunately no one was at home at the time. Mum and Dad were at an Order meeting. They didn't break the wards on the house, but they did get into the outbuildings. They made quite a mess, especially of Dad's Muggle artifacts."

Ron's face paled. "Are Mum and Dad okay? Where are they now?"

"They are staying somewhere else, for now. I checked with Fred and George, but they didn't want to tell me where Mum and Dad were. Security, you know. They reckon they are safer than at The Burrow anyway."

Ron looked worredly at Ginny again. "Hey, let's put it to a vote," Ron said desperately. "How many say Ginny should go stay with Mum and Dad?" Only Ron's hand went up. Ron glared at Harry. "What changed your mind, Harry?" Ron demanded.

"If it's not safe anywhere anymore then I want Ginny here with me. At least I'll have a chance to protect her myself. And protect you and Hermione, too." Harry stared Ron in the eye, a smile no longer on his face. "We're all in it together. We all protect each other."

Ron grumbled, "How many kisses did it take for Ginny to change your mind?" and took another swallow of coffee.

"Five."

Ron spewed coffee all over his lap. "You counted them? I was joking!"

"You were? It wasn't obvious." Harry turned and gave Ginny a grin and a quick little kiss on her cheek.

"It's just not safe here," Ron said, attempting to ignore the intimate byplay. "I wish there was some way to shield you, both of you girls," Ron said, looking anxiously from Ginny to Hermione. "I wish I could put impervious armour on you both."

"Something like that nice orange suit of armour you're sharing with Hermione?" Ginny said sweetly. Harry burst out laughing.

Ron stood up, now glaring at everyone, and started for the door. "I'm going for a walk," he growled.

"You might want to change your armour, first," Ginny replied, pointing at Ron's pyjama bottoms. "It's still a bit cool outside, and you have wet coffee stains too."

Ron swung back toward the bedroom. With a few waves of her wand, a grinning Hermione pulled together an egg and sausage sandwich and wrapped it in a napkin. She handed it to Ron with a sympathetic smile when he emerged in jeans, shirt, jumper and trainers. "You might get hungry, Ron." He mumbled his thanks and started out the door.

Harry called to him, "Ron, I beefed up the wards at the northwest corner yesterday. Can't come back from the river that way any more." Ron grunted as he stalked out of the house, not bothering to close the door.

"He'll come around, Ginny," Hermione said quietly. "He really does know that it's not safe anywhere now." The door clicked shut with a wave of her wand.

After they had eaten breakfast, Ginny started to wash the breakfast dishes as she would at The Burrow, without using magic. Then she looked with longing at her wand and moaned in frustration. "I can't do magic here. I'm still under age."

Hermione said, "Ginny, we put up special wards like some they have at Hogwarts. When you're inside them, you can do any sort of magic and the Ministry of Magic won't detect it. You can even practice Apparating inside the wards." Then Ginny grinned in delight, reached for her wand, and happily began cleaning the dishes the way she had wanted to ever since she received her wand at age eleven.

* * *

"I need to tell Mum and Dad what happened." Ginny looked at the others. "Do you all know that our watches can communicate with each other's and with Fred's and George's watches?"

"I thought it might be the case, but Fred and George didn't say anything about their watches or yours. They did warn us that they were experimental. I did send them a message when I was flying to meet you." Harry looked at Ginny speculatively. "We should compare what we know about all our watches."

After some discussion, they realized that the watches were all the same, except for appearance and who they were tuned to. Only one person could use a watch. For example, Ron and Harry could not trade watches and have the magical features work. Besides the locator and direction finder feature, they could use the locations shown to Apparate to each other. The other feature was sending and receiving text messages. They could send messages to one or more individuals in the group. In this case, Ginny sent a message to both Fred and George that she was with Ron, Hermione, and Harry. She informed them briefly of the attempted kidnapping as well, and asked them to tell their parents and Professor McGonagall that she was safe with the others, but to keep her location secret.

* * *

"It's about time that I learn what you all have been doing." Ginny's eyes were flashing a familiar impatient intensity that that made the three acutely aware of how near Ginny's hand was to her wand. "No more secrets, right? I know you've been avoiding certain subjects today when we talked. I'm not leaving you. I'm not going off to hide with Mum and Dad. I'm not going back to Hogwarts either. I'm with you now. You have to tell me what's ahead for us." Ginny looked at each one in turn until she got a reaction. Hermione voiced assent at once. Harry closed his eyes briefly, while letting his thoughts settle into shape, and then looking at her and nodding decisively he said, "Okay." Then he clearly but silently mouthed the words "I love you" to her. Hermione and Ron did not see this, but Ginny felt that she had cleared her greatest hurdle.

Then she looked Ron long and hard in the eye, and raised her eyebrows. "It's us, Ron. All four of us. Understand?" Ron looked at her, clearly uncomfortable for both being a final holdout and also wanting to protect his baby sister. "Ron, none of us have been safe for a long time now, right?" Ron reluctantly nodded agreement with that. "Doesn't it make sense that the more we know, the more we have a chance to get around the obstacles, and the more we can avoid situations that could hurt or kill us?"

"Yeah, but what if you get captured?" Ron was very unhappy with the train of thought he had so often imagined,  and also had avoided thinking about when he could manage it. "What if it happens to any of us?" he said, looking fretfully at Hermione. "They can make us spill all we know, before they kill us."

"Ron, how is that any different than it has been for a long while now?"  Ginny's eyes were flashing again.

"Uh, well, only in the amount you know, really."

Harry interrupted. "Ron, Ginny already knows about our biggest secret, the Horcruxes."

"Horcruxes?" Ginny said questioningly.

"No, she doesn't. Didn't. Why did you mention their name?" Ron said angrily.

"She knows I killed something in Riddle's diary," Harry replied. "She might not know that the diary was a Horcrux, or even what a Horcrux is, but all it would take is for Voldemort to know what Ginny knows about it already. Then he would know the other Horcruxes should be checked. It wouldn't take long to realize that someone had killed off his Horcruxes. He might even guess that we were the ones who did it."

"I agree," Hermione interjected. "There's no longer any reason to hide from Ginny what we all know about Horcruxes. We also should tell her the rest, too. I think she could help."

Ron sat, looking at his feet as if they had the answer to his inner turmoil. Finally he looked up, and daring to look Ginny in the eyes again, he said with great reluctance, "Okay, then. Let's tell her. Tell her everything."

"Okay. Fair enough." Ginny was still not smiling. She looked at each of them again. "What the hell are Horcruxes, and why do we... we... care about them?"

//
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