The Sugar Quill
Author: Mosylu (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Home is Where the Heart Is  Chapter: Chapter One
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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.

 

This is a sequel to "Home For Christmas", and starts quite shortly after that story ends. Enjoy. Oh, and American readers remember: Pissed means drunk in England, not mad!

Part 1

Snow was falling, coating the ground in a muffling blanket of white. Ginny breathed out and watched the resultant cloud melt a snowflake. She caught one on her tongue.

"Oy! Wee One!"

She looked up. Fred and George were tramping up the lane, grinning at her. "Happy New Year!" she called out.

"Are we too late?"

"We stopped in Diagon Alley to visit the party and someone--"

"Lots of someones--"

"Bought us drinks."

"Donít worry, weíre not pissed."

"Youíve got half an hour. Why so popular?" Ginny enquired, crunching down the snowed-in steps to meet them.

Fred and George grinned identical evil grins. "I reckon itís the Ars Amatoria candles we came up with."

Ginny grinned back at them. "Does Mum know about those?"

Fred winked. "No, but Dad does."

"Eurgh!"

"You asked," said George unrepentently, leaning down to kiss her. To Ginnyís dismay, she had not grown a single centimeter since fifth year--a definite disadvantage when all her brothers towered over her.

Fred elbowed George aside to kiss Ginnyís other cheek. "Harry still here?" he asked gently.

Ginny, not trusting her voice, nodded.

"Still--the same?"

She nodded again.

The twins looked at each other, and whatever silent communication passed between them caused her to be enfolded in a Ginny-sandwich of a hug a moment later. "Come on, Ginny-Ginny-wee-one," Fred said, his arm still around her shoulders. "Letís get in the warm."

She ducked out from under his arm. "I think Iíll stay out here a little. Itís not too cold."

They looked at each other again. Strangely enough, Fred and George seemed to understand her in this matter better than any one of her other brothers. "All right," George said. "But not too long, mind. Mumíll have our heads if you catch pneumonia."

She watched the snow for several more minutes, her lighthearted mood gone. She hadnít taken much joy in anything for six months. How could she, when he was wandering the world, in who-knew-what kind of danger?

When Harry had appeared on Christmas night, whole and safe, coated with snow and bearing gifts, her heart had almost leapt out of her mouth. Sheíd cringed at the inanity of her greeting: Hello, Harry--Happy Christmas. Argh!

It had taken half the dinner for her to regain her composure.

He was still Harry, the Boy Who Lived, the boy whoíd been her brotherís best friend for nearly eight years now, the boy sheíd loved for most of her life, and yet . . . no longer a boy. He was taller, leaner, quieter. Heíd never been a big talker, especially about himself, but heíd barely said a word about his travels in the week heíd been here.

And then there was the white in his hair . . .

"Oh--sorry--I didnít know you were out here."

She turned around, feeling a prickle of dejâ vu. "Itís all right," she said. "Itís a free porch."

He gave her a tentative smile, coming to lean on the snowy railing three feet away from her. In the moonlight, the planes and angles of his face were sharply delineated, and in his hair, the white tufts seemed to glow.

Before she knew she was going to, Ginny blurted, "What happened?"

He turned his head to look at her. Moonlight glinted off his glasses and hid his eyes from her. "What do you mean?"

Her question had been a bit vague . . . and more than a bit nosy. Ginny decided she didnít care how rude it had been--she wanted to know. "Your hair. How did it--"

He reached up and touched one of the white spots, the largest. "This, you mean."

"Yes."

He turned his face back to the yard. "Dunno. They just started showing up. I donít even know when--Krum mentioned them when I was at Durmstrang and I suddenly realized theyíd been there for some time." He shot her a little sideways glance from behind his glasses. "Bet you were hoping for something more interesting--like more curse scars."

She shook her head vehemently, still staring at the white patches. She didnít want him ever to have any more curse scars. "Did you have them looked at? They could be part of a spell--you could be sick--"

"I did all that," Harry said. "The minute I figured it out. Nothing. The witch said they were probably just from stress."

"She could have missed something--" Ginny knew she sounded like her mother, but she couldnít help herself . . . Harry had already been through so much, and if there was some sort of spell laid on him, she wanted to know so she could--what? Do something else than sitting around on the sidelines, the way it seemed sheíd done her whole life. Especially with Harry.

"Every place I went, I had them looked at. Theyíre nothing. The apothecary wizard at the Colonial School practically tied me down to look at them. He tried every diagnostic spell he knew, and there was nothing--and heís famous all up and down the East Coast for medicine. Even some Muggles know of him."

Reluctantly, Ginny left it. "The Colonial School--whereís that?"

Harryís tense shoulders relaxed--he must have been braced for more questions about his white patches. "Maine," he answered readily. "It was the last place I was before I came back."

"Thatís in the States, isnít it?"

"The eastern coast, yeah. Way up north. Freezing." Harry gave an exaggerated shiver.

"Did you like it there?"

He paused, thinking about it. "Well . . . it was odd. The place was built two hundred and fifty years ago, by American witches and wizards who wanted their own school in the colonies--they were still colonies then, you know."

Ginny dredged up her sketchy memory of Muggle history. "But rebelling, werenít they?"

"Oh--yeah--well, that was the other reason they wanted to build their own school." Harry grinned wryly. "Well, theyíd all been trained at Hogwarts, so they sort of . . . built what they knew."

"Oh--it looked a little like Hogwarts, then--"

"Almost exactly. Turrets and everything--" Harry laughed a little. "Sitting there in the middle of Maine--it looked so odd, you donít even know. I kept looking around for Hogsmeade, and Hagridís hut . . . I just got so bloody homesick all of a sudden, because it was Hogwarts and it wasnít--" He fell silent. "I donít sípose even Hogwarts looks the same anymore," he said after several long moments.

Ginny said, "They rebuilt the Great Hall first thing . . . and the greenhouses, of course Professor Sprout demanded those be taken care of . . . and the Ravenclaw tower just got finished." She bit her lip, remembering how the originals had come to be destroyed. "Must be odd for you, not being at Hogwarts anymore. I mean--" she fumbled, when he looked at her again, "--I mean, youíve been there for the past seven years."

"Yeah," he said slowly. "Yeah, I do miss it."

When he didnít seem inclined to go on, she said, "It was so funny, September first, getting on the Express without anyone--"

"What about your friends? Carmen and Jeremy?"

"Well, them, yes, of course--but no brothers." She paused and then decided to say it anyway. "No you."

"Ginny--"

"What do you miss most?" she asked quickly, suddenly fearful of what he was about to say to her in that leaden, reluctant voice. "About Hogwarts?"

He closed his mouth, then shrugged. "Dunno." He thought about it, tapping his fingers in the snow on the railing. "Feasts," he decided. "The ceiling of the Great Hall. The dormitory. Mail in the morning. The professors."

"Even Snape?"

He snorted with laughter. "Well--yeah."

"No!"

He nodded. "Pitting my wits, see," he explained, and continued. "Quidditch--even the insane morning practices Wood used to have us do, before he left. Divination homework with Ron. Talking Hermione into breaking rules. Mediating between the two of them. The giant squid. Seeing who the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is. Hogsmeade weekends." He shrugged. "Everything. I miss it all." He paused, studying the railing and the little holes his tapping fingers had made in the snow. "But most--"

"Yes?"

"I miss belonging there," he said in a rush. "I never used to belong anywhere, you know--before. But at Hogwarts, I did--and now--"

Now he was wandering the world, Ginny thought, with no real home of his own. While his scar and his name were welcome anywhere, there was no place he really knew, or that really knew him, except for England. "You could come back," she said gently. "To Hogwarts. To teach or something. Iím sure theyíd love to have you."

He shook his head. "It wouldnít be the same," he told her. "Iím done. Iíve left." He grimaced. "And I definitely left my mark."

On a lot of things, Ginny thought ruefully.

He was still speaking. "Besides, Iím not sure if I want to teach. Iím not sure what I want to do with myself now."

He looked so somber that she had to say, "Iíll bet you havenít had a good snowball fight in a year."

He gave her a puzzled look. "No--actually I havenít."

"Well then . . ." With one swift movement, she plastered his face with the snowball sheíd been hiding behind her back.

"Argh!"

She danced out of reach while he was still wiping snow off his glasses. "Come on then! Are you scared of me?"

"Too right I am!" he asserted, putting his glasses back on but staying on the porch. "Iíve seen what you can do with a Quaffle!"

"Come on, Seeker! See if you can get me!" She pulled a face, sticking out her tongue and waggling her fingers at him. She was being purposely silly, hoping to make him laugh out loud as he hadnít all week.

"Oh, no, your mum would kill us both if we came in all over snow--" But he was surreptitiously scooping together a fat ball from the porch railing.

Ginny ducked it, then took off across the front yard, laughing. Harry gave chase, firing snowballs faster than she could make them while running. Whatever Harry had been doing with himself all around the world, heíd certainly kept in shape.

He had longer legs than she did, too--a definite disadvantage. She whipped round the edge of the house and dove behind the chimney to catch her breath and consider her strategy.

As quickly as she could, she stockpiled ammunition in the corner created by the chimney and the wall. After a moment, she heard the muffled crunching of someone trying to tiptoe through half a foot of snow. Taking up one snowball in each hand, she carefully peered around the corner--

And got a faceful of snow.

She squealed aloud, but when her eyes finally cleared, she saw Harry crouched before her, reaching for her ammunition stock. She took the oppurtunity to stuff both her snowballs down the back of his cloak while he was distracted.

"Aughh!" He chucked snow in her face, but he hadnít had time to pack it properly, and it brushed harmlessly over her skin. She squealed again anyway, for the fun of it, and diving for two of her stockpile, scooted down the wall.

He came after her, two more of her own snowballs in his hands. "Give up?" he shouted.

"Never! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!" Ginny hadnít the foggiest what a torpedo was, but sheíd always liked the sound of the Muggle phrase.

He fired. She ducked, but got hit by the second one, fired directly after the first and at a lower trajectory. He hadnít lost any of his strategy while traveling either.

There was a squeak from the window as Ron shoved it up and thrust his head outside. "What are you two doing out there? Itís nearly midnight!"

"Nothing," Ginny singsonged innocently, pressing one of the balls from her stockpile into Harryís hand as he came up behind her.

"Nothing at all," Harry said, and, reaching up, plastered Ronís face with snow.

"Agh!" Ron swiped at his face. "Right, Potter--youíll pay for that--" The window banged down as Ron ran off.

Ginny burst at laughing, and finally Harry began to laugh too. Their mirth redoubled every time they looked at each other, to the point that Ginnyís stomach began to hurt in the lovely ache of shared laughter. They both fell to their knees in the snow, and she had to lean on Harry to even stay partially upright.

She looked up into his eyes as he laughed with her, and they were bright and sparkling, with none of the shadows that had been there, and he was just Harry, her Harry . . .

Her laughter faded. So did his, but his eyes were still bright as he looked down at her.

"Take me with you," she said suddenly. "When you leave."

Her words seemed to suck away the remainder of Harryís mirth. He stared at her, his eyes dark again, for several seconds. "Why?" he asked finally.

She bit her lip. "I--Iíve always wanted to travel more," she offered lamely. "I liked going to Romania . . . and Egypt . . . itís fascinating . . . "

"But that was with your family," he said softly. "It would be different with me."

Oh, how she hoped so. "I know."

He looked away and got up, brushing snow out of his hair off and off his clothes.

"Youíre going to say no, arenít you."

He swallowed hard. "Ginny . . . I canít say yes, donít you see?"

"Why not?"

"You--you canít Apparate yet."

"I take the test in May. Iíve been studying."

"I run into a lot of strange things--they seem to follow me around--"

"Youíve managed, and I survived the Battle of Hogwarts the same as you."

He looked up sharply. "Youíre still at Hogwarts, Ginny," he said with an air of finality. "You canít."

"Iím in my seventh year."

"But youíre not done."

"What does that matter?"

"No. The last half of seventh year is the most important."

She narrowed her eyes at him. As the youngest of a large family, she was accustomed to being told when she was too young or inexperienced for something that she saw everyone else doing, and she also knew when it was being used as an excuse.

He looked so miserable, standing there in snow to his ankles, trying to save her from herself, that she relented. "Will you take me with you this summer?" she asked instead. "When Iím done?"

When he said, "Yes," she knew he was lying. But she let it go . . . for the moment.

//
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