The Sugar Quill
Author: Penpusher (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: By the Pricking of My Thumbs  Chapter: Prologue
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“By the Pricking of my Thumbs”

“By the Pricking of my Thumbs”

by Penpusher




“George!  For goodness sake, will you hurry up?  You’ve got to be there an hour before your flight to check in your baggage.  At least, that’s what the ticket says, and we’re never going to make it through the traffic if you don’t get moving!”  Ginny was virtually jumping up and down in frustration.  Harry, sitting quietly behind the steering wheel of Fred’s small hatchback, chuckled to himself as George, head down and cringing, dragged the last of his luggage out of the house and flung it unceremoniously into the boot of the car.


“Finally!” exclaimed his sister, as George practically fell into the back seat, fumbling for the seatbelt.  He scowled at her.


“I still don’t see why I couldn’t just Apparate or Port,” he grumbled, eliciting a frown from Ginny.


“Look, Fred went over this twenty times,” she told him with a distinct lack of sympathy.  “You’re supposed to be a MuggleMuggles use planes and boats and trains.”


“And cars,” added Harry mildly, starting the engine, “Don’t forget cars.”  Ginny gave him a Look, but didn’t bother to comment.


“Have you got your Passport?” she turned back to George as Harry put the car in gear.  George turned naïve wide eyes towards his sister.


“What’s a Passport?” he asked, cluelessly.


“That little red booklet Fred brought back from the Ministry for you,” supplied Harry helpfully, revving the engine. “You know, the thing he said was the final result of his three-month stint in Forgeries!”


“And don’t you start now, Harry Potter!” Ginny turned on him almost spitting, like a small red-furred wildcat. “I’ve had quite enough trouble this morning sorting out this pitiful excuse for a wizard who thinks he can pack, without any backchat from someone just as bad!” 


Harry caught George’s eye in the rear-view mirror and bit his lips in an effort not to smile.  George winked, and Harry, momentarily distracted, almost took the gatepost with him as he backed the car out of the driveway.


“Harry!  Just watch where you’re going!” Ginny berated him.  “This isn’t the Knight Bus, you know!”  George grinned behind his hand and tapped her on the shoulder.


“I thought you told me I was supposed to be a Muggle!” he protested in hurt tones. “If I’m a Muggle, then I’m no sort of excuse for a wizard, never mind a pitiful one.”  Ginny almost bared her teeth at him, but thought better of it.


“Where packing is concerned, until you learn the difference between essentials and …” she began.


“You’ve obviously never been on the Knight Bus, my love, if you think I drive like Ernie Prang.” remarked Harry talking over her in a conversational tone.


“I never said I had …”


“And another thing.” George’s aggrieved tones cut across Ginny’s reply. “I’ve packed more cases than you’ve had Fizzing Whizzbees, and I’ve never left anything behind.  Well, anything important anyway.”


“Oh no?  What about that time you …”


“And besides,” interrupted Harry, his mouth twitching with suppressed laughter, “the Knight Bus is a completely different prospect: diesel engine, magically enhanced steering, absolutely loaded with Get Out of My Face charms …”


“I’m a seasoned traveller, I am,” continued George loudly. “I don’t need a nanny to …”


“WILL YOU TWO STOP IT?”  Ginny was almost beside herself as her two companions finally gave in to their laughter, “Honestly, you’re just as bad as you were at school! Why do I bother?”


“Ah!” said Harry, throwing an arm around her shoulder, still laughing. “You bother because you love me, that’s why.”


“Sometimes I … Harry, watch out!””  Narrowly missing an oncoming Volvo, Harry hastily put both hands back on the steering wheel and concentrated on driving. 


George was mumbling to himself.


Orationem Gallo … orationem gallo … Hey, this wretched charm Fred taught me doesn’t work!”


“That’s because it isn’t Gallo, it’s Arabilis - Gallo will get you speaking Irish!”  Harry carefully moved on to the motorway and put his foot down. “Besides, there are an awful lot of Arab languages and unless you’re a bit more specific, you’ll get an embarrassing mish-mash of all of them!”  George grumbled and went back to his book.  Ginny looked over her shoulder at the title and read “Make Yourself Instantly Iranian - a Wizarding Guide to Acting the Part”.  She smiled: George obviously had a long way to go.




The journey was just like any Muggle airport run, but it was new to the gang who were used to travelling rather more colourfully by broomstick or, latterly, by Portkey or Apparation.  However, on arrival at Heathrow, the general reaction was sheer amazement at the Muggles who managed to do this commute several times in a week.


“It’s so inefficient!” complained Ginny, as she and George waited for the Courtesy Bus; Harry was parking the car. “The least they could do is provide some kind of assistance with the luggage.”


“They do.” Harry caught the tail end of Ginny’s comment as he approached the bus stop.  The corners of his mouth bent into a wry smirk. “They’re called trolleys.  You’ll see them when we get to the airport building.”




But by the time they reached Terminal 1, the subject of trolleys was the last thing on Ginny’s mind.  The bustle of travellers rushing to and from Departure Gates, the bad-tempered people in uniform, the endless indecipherable blaring through the Tannoy, and the confusing array of monitors whose contents changed even as you were reading them startled even George into silence.


“Come on,” said Harry.  Having miraculously found a trolley, without having to resort to either unauthorised magic or gratuitous violence, he was piling George’s luggage on it.  He smiled at their confusion.


“We’ve got plenty of time; the plane doesn’t go for another hour.  Let’s get this stuff checked in and we’ll go for a coffee.”




Twenty minutes later found them sitting at a Formica-topped table drinking Kenco filter coffee and nibbling at Morning Coffee biscuits.  George was beginning to recover from the shock.


“I can’t believe Muggles actually live like this all the time.”  He shook his head in bewilderment.  Ginny’s face was serious.


“I’ve never felt particularly sorry for them before,” she added, “but now I see what they have to live with, well, my heart goes out to them.” She bit into the jam doughnut she had chosen then scrutinised it, frowning. “And if this is the sort of thing they have to contend with for lunch, I’m even sorrier!”


Harry laughed, taking a gulp of coffee.


“Neither of you have ever visited an airport before, have you?”  They shook their heads.


“But you have, Harry,” replied George. “How come?”  Harry shrugged.


“Well, I travel to some pretty out of the way places, you know,” he said, easily, “Sometimes it’s actually less hassle to travel Muggle-style all the way than have to go into detailed and unlikely explanations to justify a stretch covered by broomstick or Portkey.”  He stopped, suddenly raising his head in a listening pose. 


“George,” he said, swallowing the last of his coffee and getting to his feet, “I think that was the call for your plane.”  The others had indeed picked up a garbled sort of racket through the Tannoy, something resembling an asthmatic bullfrog shouting into the shallow end of a large swimming pool, but to Harry the noise apparently made some kind of sense.  Obediently, they followed him as he made his way towards the correct Departure Gate. 


“George,” muttered Ginny worriedly, “how on earth are you going to keep up this pretence of being a Muggle once you get to, well, wherever it is you’re going?  You’ll stand out like a sore thumb!”  George grinned.


“Don’t fret, sister-mine,” he replied. “The Wizard Embassy is sending a representative to meet me.  He’ll sort out all my day-to-day needs.  Don’t worry - I’ll be fine!”  And with that he kissed her briefly on the cheek and wrung Harry’s hand in farewell.


 “Good luck,” Harry clapped him on the shoulder. “Take care, and try not to get any U.U.M. Notices.  This time it could mean more than just a fine!”  Ignoring that, George returned Harry’s salutation and, turning on his heel, went through the gate.  Harry shook his head.


“An Embassy escort?  Hah!  It’ll be twice as obvious that George is no Muggle if he’s accompanied by one of those idiots!”  But Ginny wasn’t listening.


“It’s not George who needs to worry about Unauthorised Use of Magic Notices,” she muttered as they watched her brother disappear into the crowd.  Harry slung an arm around her shoulder as they started to move away.


“You’re not still worried about that, are you?” he asked.  She shrugged in reply.


“Sometimes, yes,” Ginny admitted. “It would only take one slip and I’d be toast.  Oh, Harry, let’s watch him get on the ‘plane!” 


Ginny suddenly took off for the new Observation Gallery from where she could plainly see a number of people, including George, walking across the tarmac towards the huge 747.  She leaped quickly onto an escalator.


“Hang on, Ginny!” Harry ran after her.  “I’m not sure it’s open yet; they’ve only just finished building it.”  He caught up with her at the top of the escalator where she had paused, reading a notice.  She turned smiling eyes to him.


“Look, Harry!” she exclaimed.  “They had their grand opening ceremony two weeks ago.  Although,” her eyes swept along the wide curve of concrete and glass, “I confess, it doesn’t look as though it’s pulling the crowds.” 


Harry had to agree: apart from one lone plane-spotter at the far end, the place was completely empty.


Although it was unlikely that George would see them or even think to look, they stood waving like maniacs for a while.  As Ginny continued to follow her brother with her eyes, Harry looked around the new Observation Gallery curiously, his eyes lighting briefly on the lone figure standing quite still at the other end of the Viewing Window.  Harry looked away, blinked then turned back, frowning in disbelief.  As he stared, the figure swivelled slowly round to face him and smiled ironically, raising a hand in salutation.  Harry tapped Ginny on the shoulder.


“Ginny,” he began, “do you…”


Abruptly, pandemonium broke out around them.  The Tannoy began blaring incomprehensible instructions at a far greater volume than before, accompanied by a number of wailing klaxons, shouting officials, and running air stewardesses.  Ginny saw other people standing on the Observation Gallery being physically pulled away from the windows by staff, and turned to Harry just in time to see him stowing his wand away in his sleeve.


“I’ve put an Everyday charm on us,” he explained. “I think we can probably look after ourselves better than anyone else here today.”  He turned worried eyes to her.


“Ginny, quickly: do you recognise that man over there?  On the other side of the window?”  She followed his gaze and gasped, her hand to her mouth.


“Great Merlin!  Harry, it’s Peter Pettigrew!”  Harry nodded grimly, his mouth hardening into a straight line.


“And what’s he doing here, I wonder?  Nothing good, I’ll be bound!”


As if in answer, a shadow fell over the window and the two wizards looked up sharply.  Ginny’s mouth fell open and she grabbed at Harry’s arm in shock.


“Harry, that ‘plane.  It’s coming straight for us!”  Sure enough, a huge cargo plane was coming in much too low and much too fast, apparently heading straight for the Terminal Building.  Harry, his wand already out, was making several swift passes through the air.


Praetidictio vaticinium,” he muttered, watching the scene in front of him keenly.  Dotted white lines, angles and arrows started to form over the ground, the air in between and the cargo plane itself, just like an architect’s diagram.  Harry studied the lines for a second then shook his head, horror dawning in his eyes.


“It’s not going to hit us, Ginny.  If it doesn’t change course immediately, it’s going to take out that Boeing down there: the one George is on!”  Harry wasted no more time.  Vaulting the safety rail, he ran as close to the glass as he could get, raised his wand and started intoning, trying to get a fix on the rogue plane.  Ginny joined him almost immediately, but refrained from speaking lest she should distract him in his task.  The plane wasn’t slowing down and Harry frowned, biting his lip in concentration.


“I can’t get a grip!” he gasped, panting with effort. “It’s too heavy for a Stasis Charm, and it’s moving too fast for me to catch it with an Anti-Gravity Hex!”  He raised his wand again.


“Keep trying, you have to!” screamed Ginny, white-faced with fear.  She grabbed his arm and suddenly, with her contact, Harry’s mind cleared.  He could see the scene before him as if in a black-and-white negative, and all the possibilities of its destiny flashed before him.  He saw the smoke and conflagration as the cargo plane ploughed into the barely moving Boeing and exploded; he saw it shiver in mid-air and drop to the ground just in front of the passenger plane, engulfing both in an inferno of burning fuel oil; he saw it lift its nose momentarily, just enough to send it smashing through the thick glass of the gallery window, crushing staff and travellers alike to pulp, reducing the terminal building to rubble; and he saw it change course in mid-air, turning to avoid both buildings and machines, landing safely on an unused part of the runway.


Harry turned to the girl beside him and took her hand in his.  Abruptly, power surged through his body towards his wand arm, and a jet of purple light shot from the end, dividing as it met the unyielding surface of the cargo plane to make a gleaming purple cage around its immense bulk.  Ginny clung to Harry’s hand with all her might, pouring all the resources of her considerable talent into his mind, watching in fear and then incredible relief as the cargo plane slowly, ponderously lifted its nose, changed course and came in to land harmlessly on the tarmac.  The next thing she saw was the shadow of a passenger plane going past the window: George’s Boeing 747 had kept to its take-off window.


She felt a drag on her hand and glanced down at Harry in concern.  He had slid down the window in exhaustion and was sitting with his head bowed, trying to get his breath back.  She knelt down at his side, putting an arm around his shoulders, running her fingers soothingly through the black hair falling over his face.  He glanced up at her and sighed.


“Ye gods, that was hard, Ginny,” he breathed, having scarcely enough energy to hold his head up. “Without your help, I don’t think I could have…” Breaking off, he turned sharply towards the other end of the Observation Gallery.  The figure of Peter Pettigrew had disappeared.


“Hey, you!”  A loud shout interrupted them and they turned towards the sound.  A uniformed official was gesturing angrily at them.


“The area behind the safety rail’s out of bounds, can’t you read the signs? And what are you doing here anyway?  The Observation Gallery’s been cleared already.  If that plane had crashed into the building, you’d have been the first to go!”  Ginny’s face reddened with annoyance, and she opened her mouth to protest, but Harry laid a gentle hand on her arm, levering himself to his feet with difficulty.


“Ah, but it didn’t crash.  And in the end, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?”  Leaning on Ginny and smiling benignly at the bemused official, Harry exited quietly, stage left.



“Ah!  They’re back.  He got off okay then, did he?”  The voice was Lee’s, delivered over the rim of a hot mug of tea, and Harry and Ginny entered the kitchen of Harry’s House to a universal smile from all its current occupants.


“Traffic bad was it?  You look just about all-in.”  This was from Fred.  Fred no longer lived in Harry’s House, having moved into a flat a couple of miles east of St. John’s Wood, near Mornington Crescent, but this in no way prevented him from treating his old stamping ground as a second home when he felt so inclined.  In fact, the other residents scarcely noticed the change, particularly when George, having been evicted from his brother Ron’s flat in favour of Hermione, promptly took over the vacant room.  Lee and Oliver had also been made homeless by the marriage, but had willingly transferred their belongings and their lives to Harry’s House, much to the delight of its owner: it made up a little for the loss of Hermione


Oliver waved his wand in the direction of the teapot and two fresh mugs of steaming tea floated over to the new arrivals.  Harry sank gratefully into a chair and Ginny threw the car keys into Fred’s lap before sipping gratefully at the hot liquid.  Fred leaned forward curiously.


“Harry, has anything happened?” he asked in a quiet voice. “George is okay, isn’t he?  You didn’t have any sort of - accident?”  Ginny smiled wryly.


“Prevented one, more like, Fred,” she replied, giving Harry a chance to gather his wits.  “Harry here has just averted potentially one of the worst aviation disasters to happen at a major airport, and he’ll never get any of the credit!”


“I had a good deal of help from you,” Harry responded, having sunk half of his tea and sat back in the chair, feeling slightly more human.  Between them, Harry and Ginny told the story of the near catastrophe, reassuring their friends that George’s plane had simply continued on its journey, unaware of its near miss.


“You say you saw Peter Pettigrew,” Fred’s tone was casual, but his eyes were hard.  Harry nodded.


“It couldn’t have been anyone else; I saw his hand,” he shuddered, remembering how and when Pettigrew had received that particular appendage.  Fred nodded slowly, but said no more.


“And George doesn’t know how near a thing it was?” Lee asked Ginny. “Perhaps someone ought to tell him.  After all, it might have something to do with the job he’s on?”  He looked questioningly at Fred, but received no answer.


“I’ve sent an owl to George telling him what happened,” Ginny said, “but seeing as he’ll be travelling for at least 18 hours including overland at the other end, I sent it to his destination address with instructions to wait for him.  It’ll be a little while before he’ll be able to reply.” 


Oliver rose to his feet with a purposeful look on his face, pointed his wand at the tea things and began to clear away.  While they were washing themselves up, he went to investigate the contents of the fridge, exclaiming in triumph on finding 1lb of minced pork and a couple of red peppers.


“Who’s in for supper tonight?” he demanded over his shoulder.  The response was unanimous, including Fred.


“Okay, I’ll cook,” Oliver said, still investigating the food supplies.  Ginny leaped up in guilty consternation.


“Oh, Oliver, no!” she protested. “It’s my turn to feed everyone tonight.  You do far more than your fair share!”  Oliver shrugged, using his wand to empty a small cupboard of its stock of tins.  The occupants of the kitchen ducked as the tins floated swiftly towards the now clear kitchen table.


“I only got back last week after two exhausting months in Transylvania,” Oliver began. “I’m sick of travelling, sick of Quidditch and, most importantly, sick of hotel food.”


There was a shocked silence.


“Sick of Quidditch?” breathed Lee in disbelief.


“When you’re sick of Quidditch, you’re sick of life!” murmured Harry, shaking his head sorrowfully.  Fred said nothing.  Oliver made an impatient sound.


“Oh come on, guys!” he exploded. “I’m speaking figuratively.” He sighed.  “Look, I’ve had a hard time this year, what with injury and touring.  The team’s only holding on by a shoestring this season.  They desperately need this hiatus in London; they’re close to collapse, and so am I!  I’m tired of living out of a suitcase, I'm fed up with staying in cities I never get a chance to explore and I detest sleeping in hotel beds!  I miss being at home with you all, so during the brief time I get here, I want to taste real home cooking!”


Harry stared at Oliver, whose eyes and hands were firmly occupied in manually opening tins of tomatoes, and smiled sympathetically.  Oliver’s career had been meteoric; he had been the envy of all who knew him at Hogwarts, and a name to conjure with for generations after him.  But the life of an international Quidditch player is short and full of adversity, and it seemed that for Oliver, even the job of manager was beginning to pall.  Harry was about to say something bland and soothing when he heard Ginny cut in smoothly.


“Real home cooking, eh?” she said, in mock offence. “And is my food not “real” enough for you, then?”  Oliver stopped opening tins long enough to put a companionable arm around her shoulders.


“Ginny, my dear,” he said, on balance once again, charm oozing from every pore, “I love everything about you, including your stupendous cooking.”


“But you don’t want to eat any of it?”


“Let me finish.  I said I love your cooking, but seeing as I’m away for so much of the year, and I’m so grateful to you guys for keeping things sorted for me here while I’m on tour, I feel I should really pull my weight when I’m home.  I honestly don’t mind cooking, it’s the shopping I can’t stand!”  He pointed his wand at some onions, which floated gently over to a wooden board where a sharp knife began to dice them.  Ginny hugged him. 


“You’re sweet,” she said.  He grimaced at the adjective, but went on gamely.


“And, of course, there’s the little matter of my cooking being streets better than anyone else’s here!”  He ducked as wands were drawn and flying objects hurtled towards him from all corners of the room.


“Okay, okay, I give in!” he shouted from under the table, “Now, will somebody please call off the ironmongery and peel some potatoes for me?  I’ve never been able to master that charm!”



Harry leaned his elbows on the kitchen windowsill, breathing in the fragrant steam from his cocoa.  He sighed.  The day’s happenings had drained his energies, but despite his body’s acute need for space to recharge itself, sleep seemed to be eluding him.  Absently, he rubbed his eyes.  Most of the garden swam in a fuzzy haze despite the bright moonlight.  Fruitlessly, he groped in the pocket of his dressing gown; his spectacles lay buried somewhere in the heap of clothing on his bedroom floor.  Concentration furrowing his brow, he lifted a purposeful hand to point carefully at the glass.


Aspicioclare!” he murmured.  The glass shimmered; its molecules shifted then settled in an instant.  Outlines clarified, objects became recognizable, reflected moonlight sharpened into knife-edged detail. 


“That’s a neat trick.”


Harry didn’t bother to turn round.  The voice was light, clear and unfogged by sleep, but its slight edge of irony was meant to carry weight.


“Just how long have you had that particular ability?” the voice continued.


“For a while now,” Harry responded in a level tone.  “A wand is really only a conduit, you know; just a means of focus.  The magical core, be it phoenix feather, dragon heartstring or unicorn hair, merely amplifies what’s already in us.  It doesn’t add or subtract anything, no matter how much we want it to.”  Ginny smiled faintly, moving to take her place next to Harry at the window.


“Have you told anyone about it?” she asked.  Harry shook his head.


“There never really seemed to be much point, to be honest,” he replied.  “I’m sure I can’t be the first to conjure without a wand, and I definitely won’t be the last.  I’m positive Albus Dumbledore could have cast spells with a broomstick handle if he’d wanted to!”


“Very true.” Ginny dug into her dressing-gown pocket and offered Harry the contents.  He gave a quiet chuckle at the pair of spectacles in her hands.


“Thank you,” he replied, taking them but making no move to put them on.


“I thought you’d need them,” she said mildly. “Although,” she squinted briefly through the kitchen window, “it does rather seem as though you’ve come up with a reasonable substitute.  Finite incantatem!


Harry glanced towards the girl as she performed the counter-charm, then his eyebrows gathered in a puzzled frown.  He opened his mouth to speak but let the breath go as she smiled gently and held out her hands for his inspection: empty.


“You’re not the only one who’s been experimenting,” she told him calmly, “and, no: I haven’t spoken of this to anyone else yet either.”  Harry nodded thoughtfully, chewing on his bottom lip.


“Ginny,” he began, frowning slightly, “when did you first notice it?  I mean, when did you cast your first spell without your wand?”  The girl shrugged.


“A couple of months ago, I guess,” she replied. “Shortly after the battle with Voldemort.  Why?  Do you think that situation might have had something to do with it?  Brought it on somehow?”  Harry shrugged.


“I’m as much in the dark as you are, Ginny,” he replied. “This really isn’t my area of expertise, but I’m beginning to wish it was.”


“This – magic without wands,” Ginny began, hesitantly. “Is it something you’ve always been able to do?”  Harry shook his head.


“No, not at all,” he replied. “I’ve been as bound to my wand as any other wizard for most of my life.  It happened only a couple of years ago.”  Harry paused as though uncertain of his next words.


“I don’t know whether you remember, Ginny,” he began at length, “but my first really important quest when I took up my job with LA University led me to China.  I remember writing to Ron in great excitement.”  Harry grinned reminiscently.  “Almost as soon as I took up my post, I published a paper on some obscure Chinese writings I’d uncovered in the depths of the UWIZ Library in London.  The reviews were so encouraging that the University agreed to fund a trip to follow-up some of my leads.  I was absolutely ecstatic: so many pathways to choose from, legends to explore, possibilities to untangle.  No one from the University had ever been to China – it was something of a closed book to us.  Things are much easier now, of course, but we still don’t know much about their magical history.  I always intended my visit to be the first of several, but…” Harry’s eyes slid away, then he looked back up to Ginny with a smile.  “Perhaps when you have several weeks to spare, I’ll tell you all about it.”  The tone was light, but Ginny was not fooled.


“What happened in China, Harry?” she asked gently. “Did something go wrong?”  Harry looked away.  He paused for a moment then raised his eyes to Ginny once again.


“Suffice it to say,” Harry began heavily, “that I have not returned.  Nor will I.”  He stopped speaking and for a moment, seemed lost in the past.  Then he shook himself.  “Anyway,” he continued, “during that visit, I found myself in, well, something of a dangerous situation.  Let’s just say I made a serious error of judgment and the results lost me my wand.  The situation was critical, Ginny.  If I had been defeated…” He broke off.  “Anyway, I managed to extricate myself.  I emerged virtually unharmed, but it was only afterwards that it became clear to me exactly what I had done in order to save myself.”


“You’d used magic bare-handed.” Ginny finished for him.  Harry nodded.


“Yes,” he replied, “and that was only the beginning.  With practice, I found I could cast a number of quite powerful spells unaided, although it’s a very tiring process.”


“Do you know of anyone else with the same ability?”  Ginny asked.  Harry shook his head.


“I’ve researched it – of course I have!” he told her. “But I can find nothing concrete in any of the great wizarding texts.  I tried to ask Hermione once and, I suspect, aroused her suspicions – to no good purpose, however.  Unfortunately she could shed no further light on the subject.  Oh, if only Albus had lived!  As the years go by, I miss his wisdom more and more.”


“Hmm.” Ginny frowned, quietly pacing the kitchen floor.  She looked back at Harry.


“Are you worried about this – this new ability?” she asked.  “I mean, is that why you’re drinking cocoa at 3.00am when you should be deeply asleep, aided by Oliver’s good red wine!”  Harry opened his mouth to give her an easy affirmative, but paused before speaking.  Sharing.  He looked into her questioning eyes and slowly shook his head.


“No, Ginny,” he said quietly.  “My use, or otherwise, of wands is not currently the source of my insomnia, although I confess, your own revelations have given me considerable pause for thought.”


“So what is it that’s bothering you?”  Ginny returned to the windowsill and picked up Harry’s cocoa, making a face as she sipped it.  “This is cold, by the way.”


“It’s really the events of this morning that are preying on my mind,” Harry began, absently casting a heating charm on his drink.


“Oh?” Ginny replaced the mug on the windowsill.  “But we’ve done all we could, Harry.  We’ve owled George and we’ve also given Fred all the information we could.  I really think it’s up to the Ministry now.”  Harry sighed.


“Yes, I know,” he replied, “and I wish I could leave it there, but there’s something niggling me about this morning; an off-key note somewhere.  It smells wrong, Ginny, and I’m worried.  I’ve got the horrible feeling I’m not seeing the wood for the trees.  Can you follow that?”


“Sort of.” Ginny bit her thumbnail thoughtfully.  “Suppose you run the whole thing by me, and I’ll try to play Devil’s Advocate?”


“Okay, Ginny, it’s this way.”  Harry frowned, stroking his bottom lip with his index finger. “Pettigrew was on the Observation Gallery the same time as us, right?  Now that’s just too much of a coincidence for me to swallow.  He had to have something to do with the cargo plane going haywire.  Now, say he was there specifically to cause a serious accident.  Why do it in the full view of two wizards powerful enough to avert the crisis?  Surely he could have picked a better time to cause mayhem sometime after we’d left the place.”  Ginny narrowed her eyes in concentration and shook her head.


“No, Harry, that’s not how I read it at all,” she protested. “I don’t think this was a random act in any manner of being.  I think George was his target, and if we hadn’t been there, Pettigrew would have succeeded in taking him out.  That’s why it’s so important that we contact George face to face as soon as possible: he must be in terrible danger.  We have to persuade him to come home.”


“Hmm.”  Harry sounded not totally convinced. “Ginny, I know what you’re saying makes sense, but somehow I just can’t completely believe in it.” 


“But what other explanation could there be?”  Ginny frowned in exasperation and spread her hands wide.  Harry shook his head.


“I don’t know,” he replied. “I just don’t know, but I just think there’s more to this than meets the eye, that’s all.”


The red-haired girl smiled and placed her hands lightly on his shoulders.


“Come on,” she said gently.  “I’ve got a busy day tomorrow, and you have a lecture first thing.  It’s a bit late now to be getting in a good night’s sleep, but we’ll be more comfortable continuing this discussion upstairs.”  Harry smiled.


“You have a very practical turn of mind, don’t you?” he commented, putting his empty cocoa mug in the sink.  Ginny raised her eyebrows.


“Growing up as the youngest of seven children, and the only girl,” she replied with spirit, “my survival depended upon it!”  Harry chuckled lightly, putting out a hand to ruffle her hair.


“Keep me down to earth, Ginny,” he said, throwing an affectionate arm around her shoulders as they made their way to the staircase. “Keep my feet on the ground and stop me flying off into the Land of Speculation.  For all our sakes!”


“And what’s wrong with flying?” she replied archly. “Are you scared?”


“Who me?” Harry shook his head firmly.  “Never!”

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