The Sugar Quill
Author: Anne (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Dancing Days  Chapter: Part 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.

 

 

PART ONE

Harry Potter pushed open the door of his spacious apartment after a long day at work, undecided about what to do for his dinner, but looking forward to being back nonetheless. He hadn't been home for a week, away on a mission for the Aurors, and couldn't wait to collapse…but first- the mail. He scooped up his mail off the table by the door where Hedwig and other owls dropped non-urgent messages throughout the days when Harry was unavailable.

As he was sifting through the numerous letters (most of which were the typical fan mail/marriage proposals that he got on a daily basis) Harry headed into his kitchen and gazed forlornly into his virtually empty refrigerator. There was a half a carton of milk, the dregs of what used to be peanut butter, clinging to edges of a jar, and a molding head of lettuce. He sighed.

Then he picked up the telephone Hermione had given him for his birthday; (she'd said "Oh you'll love it Harry! It's so easy to keep in touch!" He hadn't bothered reminding her that he'd grown up in a household with telephones until he was eleven, because it seemed rather pointless as the Dursleys rarely let him touch theirs anyway.) And punched in Hermione and Ron's number, because they were his only wizard friends with the muggle device in their home. Hermione insisted she needed it to keep in touch with her muggle friends. Ron insisted she needed it to drive him crazy.

Sure enough, it was Hermione who answered.

"Hello?"

"Hey 'Mione. Do you know what I can make for dinner out of milk, a bit of old peanut butter, and a moldy head of lettuce?"

"Other than indigestion? Oh Harry!" She half groaned, half laughed. "Welcome home! You're kidding about the food, right?"

"I wish. I just got home, checked my mail, and then had the unfortunate idea to look in my refrigerator. I think I'll go out."

"You could just conjure some food." She suggested.

"But that would require cooking…" Harry reminded her, pointedly.

"Well, hit the Leaky Cauldron, then. That wouldn't be too bad. Tom always has something nice and hot cooking."

"I suppose I will."

"Have you heard from Ginny recently?"

"Just before I left, so last week- she was in Milan, but supposed to be heading to Paris that night."

"When is she coming home?"

"Still no word on that yet, but by the time she gets back I may be dead from starvation, anyway."

"Poor baby!" Hermione laughed

"Well, I'd better take my mail and head over to the Leaky Cauldron if I want to get any food tonight."

"Alright, Harry, good night!"

"'Night, 'Mione." Harry hung up the phone and pulled his cloak out of the hall closet, heading out into the drizzly evening. He ordered Yorkshire pudding at the Leaky Cauldron since Tom seemed to be going regional. He sat at the counter and chewed quietly.

"Harry!" A voice called from behind him. He turned around on his stool to be faced with Jenna Gotheld, an ex-girlfriend.

"Jenna! What are you doing here? Didn't you move to South Africa?" He stood up and gave her a quick hug.

"Yeah, but I'm back in England for business for a few days- it figures it'd be raining." She gave a lopsided grin.

"Well, it frequently is." Harry commiserated, smiling. "So, how's Africa?"

"Incredible. It's so beautiful I can't even begin to describe. The people in the Ministry are so nice, too! I'm really enjoying it, but it's not home and it's good to be back. You have quite a fan-following there, you know."

"Do I really?" Harry grinned and raised his eyebrows.

"Oh yes- I'm dating a man who is Afrikaans and I was at his family's house the other day. He has a little sister who is madly in love with you. She's eight."

"Really?" Harry's grin widened. "What’s her name?"

"Rosa. She just thinks you're the greatest thing since Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. Poor deluded little thing." She gave a fake sigh.

"Hey!" Harry pretended to be indignant. "So, what's this brother like? Did he come back with you?"

"Yeah. He's great- really sweet. I think he may be 'the one' for me. His name's Chad and you'll probably meet him before we go. The reason I came back is for the Fletcher wedding. Since Amelia is marrying a muggle, I think Mundungus wants all the wizards he can get there and as the Ministry's ambassador to South Africa, that means me. I'm sure you're invited, too. It's probably in that huge stack of mail over there."

Harry grinned ruefully at the pile of parchment and envelopes that was sitting next to his rapidly cooling Yorkshire Pudding. "I've been away for about a week and it all kind of piled up. C'mon, help me open my mail." He suggested with a smile, giving her half the pile. "So, 'the one', huh? When do I get to meet this guy?"

"Who says you do?" She teased.

"Well I have to check him out for you, don't I?"

"Funny, I don't recall any rules about introducing your ex-overly heroic-boyfriends to your current romantic interests…"

"Who are you calling 'overly heroic'?" Harry pretended to look offended.

"Moi?" Jenna said innocently.

They began to sort and a second later Jenna grinned, holding up a letter.

"I think this one's from Rosa!" She said waving it in front of his nose.

"Really?" Harry looked up interested, and took the letter from her. "You keep sorting, I'll read this."

He started smiling at the first words the eight-year-old had written and didn't stop.

"Listen to this:" he quoted "'My big brother is dating Jenna Gotheld and she told me that she used to be your girlfriend! I asked her why you two ever broke up just so she could date Chad, but she didn't tell me. She just started to laugh very hard. I didn't think it was so funny. Thanks for saving the world! Love from your biggest fan, Rosa'."

"She didn't actually write that did she?" Jenna asked laughing and turning brilliant shade of fuschia.

"Oh yes she did!" Harry replied, cracking up. "Look, it's right there in black and white! The kid obviously has very keen taste in people!"

"And she asked why we broke up…" Jenna muttered loudly.

"I heard that!"

"I know you did- you were supposed to!" She shot back. "Oh my goodness! I almost forgot- I left Chad in our room upstairs almost an hour ago! You'll have to sort the rest of your mail by yourself."

"Well, Jenna, it was great to bump into you again. I'll probably see you before you leave. And you really cheered me up while I was moping about thinking of the head of lettuce that is rotting in my fridge at the moment."

"Ewwwww." Jenna wrinkled her nose. "G'night, Harry." She pecked him on the cheek and headed back up the stairs as Harry turned back to his now cold Yorkshire pudding with an inexplicable sense of sadness at seeing her go. He decided against finishing the meal and after gathering his mail again bid good night to Tom and headed out into the dark Diagon Alley.

 

** Meanwhile in Paris ** (If you don't speak French you may want to consult the brief translation of this section directly following it. For those of you who do, good luck deciphering it- I'm far from fluent!)

Ginny Weasley tumbled out from under her feather down comforter at the incessant ringing of her alarm clock, pulling half the puffy cream bed cover down with her. She looked tousled to say the least, wearing her nightshirt (one of Harry's old practice Quidditch jerseys). She stumbled over into her kitchenette and put on some strong coffee, as she was still exhausted from going to the theater with clients the night before to examine one of the actress' costumes she was supposed to duplicate. Well not duplicate, per say, but rather "convert" into robes for a costume ball. The thought still made her head hurt. (Well have you ever tried to make an 18th century ball-gown into robes?) The three glasses of wine she'd had hadn't helped either.

In truth, Ginny had been having a rough week since she'd left Milan and come to Paris. Not that she didn't love her French office and employees thereof, but being in the city of light and love without Harry…well… it lacked something.

She arrived at the Montmartre town house, which they'd converted, to a studio in a huffy mood. She was frustrated with the street artist who had offered to paint her -on one condition- that she take off "those 'orrible robes", and she suspected not replace them with anything; frustrated with the vendor who'd sold her her morning crepe and left off the sugar, which she felt so desperately in need of; and frustrated with herself for being over two hundred miles from where she really wanted to be.

As a result when she arrived at her drawing desk, she wasn't all there.

**(italics translated at the bottom)

"Virginie! Virginie! Ou est-tu?" Ginny's assistant Thérèse asked impatiently waving a hand in front of her glassy stare. Startled, Ginny looked up abruptly.

"Ah, Thérèse, pardon. Je suis desolée. J'ai avoir un rêverie." Thérèse's interest was peaked as she asked, "Ah oui? De quel es-tu rêve? Où de qui?" Ginny just smiled at the second question, but replied. "D'Angleterre. J'ai mal du pays."

"Je suis desolée, mademoiselle. Qu'est-ce que tu-as? Tu ta famille te manque?"

"Oui, et mes amis. Je manque eux beaucoup."

"Pouquoi n'es pas-tu prendes des temps de vancances et vais à ta maison?"

"J'ai travail ici, Thérèse. Tu sais ça."

"Je vais arranger tout cette pour toi. Tu vas."

"Vraiment? Merci, Thérèse! Merci Beaucoup! J'adore toi! Au revoir!" And she apparated away.

(Translation(of French only)): "Virginia! Virginia! Where are you?"

"Oh, Thérèse. I'm sorry. I was daydreaming."

"Oh? What were you dreaming about? Or whom?"

"Of England. I'm homesick."

"I'm sorry. You miss your family?"

"Yes, and my friends. I miss them a lot."

"Why don't you take some vacation time and go home?"

"I have work to do here, Thérèse. You know that."

"I'll take care of all that. You go."

"Really? Thanks Thérèse! Thanks so much! I love you! Good-bye!")

When Ginny popped up she was back in her loft, grabbing her sketch pad and giant purse and magically locking her door behind her. She went downtown and caught a train to the Norman coast where the WTA (Wizard Transport Agency) had both shuttles leaving for London and boats for the Cornish Coast. Ginny decided on the train ride into Rouen that she'd go first to Ottery St. Catchpole, not far from Penzance, and visit her parents.

After all, she hadn’t seen anyone in England for upwards of five weeks now, and as much as she just wanted to get back in Harry's arms, ten to one odds were he'd be out on business for the Aurors.

She planned to go home for a bit and have dinner with her mum and dad, then head up to London. Luckily there was a boat leaving only half an hour after her arrival at the coast and Ginny was able to buy a ticket easily on the only half full converted fishing boat. She sat up front, chatting with the captain, who was a Cornish wizard, educated by his mother. He was very interested in hearing about Ginny's years at Hogwarts and her large family. It turned out he had four brothers himself and didn't live far from Ottery St. Catchpole. They had a very enjoyable talk, in which Ginny told him how long she'd been gone and how much she was looking forward to getting home to her family and friends, and boyfriend (whom she refrained from mentioning by name).

By the time they reached the port in Penzance she was very anxious to get back to Ottery St. Catchpole and she simply disapparated from the wharf, since she decided she had enough nervous energy built up to keep from splinching herself- what a homecoming that would be!

When she popped up on the lane outside the Burrow, Ginny felt butterflies well up in her stomach, feeling remarkably like a bunch of small golden snitches. She flat out sprinted to the front gate, but when she got there, stopped abruptly. What if her parents weren't home? What if they had company? What if she was crashing a party? Her fears were quickly put to rest, though, by the warm lights shining from behind the kitchen curtains and the memory that there were no other wizards in Ottery St. Catchpole so who would her parents invite over? She slowly pushed open the gate, which swung easily, invitingly, and walked up the path. She rapped her knuckles smartly on the door and re-adjusted her bag on her shoulder as her mum called "Coming!" from inside.

Molly opened the door, wiping her hands on a tea towel, and looked expectant.

"Hi, Mum." Ginny said, grinning nervously.

"Ginny!" Molly threw her arms and tea towel around her daughter's neck. "Arthur, come quick! Ginny's back!"

And suddenly her father came running, adding his embrace to her mother's. Ginny was laughing and tears leaked from her eyes.

"Wow." She said wiping them away with the back of her hand. "I didn't realize how long it had really been until I saw you guys!"

"Come in, Ginny! How long are you staying? Where's Harry?"

"In London, I suppose. I just got off the ferry at Penzance and Disapparated straight away. That's why I can only stay for dinner, Mum. I've not seen him in over a month. I left Paris and came straight here."

"Oh." Molly's face had dropped a bit at the information that Ginny would have to leave as suddenly as she'd come, but she brightened quickly. "Well, you'll have to have a good home-cooked meal. I don't suppose you've had one since you left?" She suddenly gave her only daughter an accusatory glare.

"Not really; not the kind you make, Mum. Maybe if Harry can get away for a bit we can both come back for a visit." This news certainly brightened Molly and Arthur's faces and the three Weasleys went into the kitchen where there was a roast simmering on the stove.

"Would you like to owl Harry, Gin?" Arthur asked, gesturing to Errol Jr., the owl he a Molly had gotten when Errol Sr. had finally -er- fallen off his perch.

"No thanks, Dad. I'm going to surprise him, too." Ginny grinned at him, and turned to her mother. "What's cooking, mum?"

"Roast end of beef in my special gravy. And mixed veggies." Molly replied stirring the pot. "You're not leaving my house without a hearty meal in you. You're too skinny, Ginny."

"Mu-um…" Ginny groaned good naturedly. Her mother softened her gaze.

"Are you sure you can't stay the night, dear? And take the train first thing in the morning?"

"No, Mum. Really- I haven't seen Harry in five weeks! If you think I wasn't eating…just think about what he must have been doing!"

A look of utter horror dawned on Molly's plump face. "Oh my…I shudder to think. Just imagine if Hermione left Ron alone for a month…he'd starve!"

"I don't think he starved," Ginny laughed, "But I can't imagine he got many 'home cooked meals' either."

After a very pleasant meal and visit with her parents during which Molly lobbied ferociously for her to say the night, Ginny considered her options. She could go back to London that night, probably arrive around midnight, and possibly see Harry, or maybe not. (He often went away for days on end for mysterious business for work.) Or she could stay the night at the Burrow in her old room and leave first thing in the morning after having breakfast with her parents. There was no doubt that no matter how much she wanted to see Harry right away, the idea of collapsing into her inviting bed upstairs was very appealing. In the end, that is what Ginny decided to do (much to her mothers delight) so she lugged her bag upstairs and shoved open the door to the familiar room.

It looked exactly as Ginny had left it when she'd moved to London and lived with Ron for awhile after her seventh year in Hogwarts. While her various apartments were now decorated in creams and pastels giving them a light and airy feel, her childhood bedroom had walls of a vivid emerald green. She'd painted them that way herself the summer she'd been ten. She flopped down on the floral bedspread, dropping her bag on the floor next to her, and gazed around contentedly. It had been too long since she'd been at home in bed with her parents downstairs having coffee in the kitchen. The only thing missing was the racket that should be the combined presence of her six brothers.

It was too quiet in the Burrow- no explosions from Fred and George's room, no yelling at the ghoul in the attic from Ron's, no Percy shouting at Fred and George and Ron for keeping him from his homework, no Charlie zooming past her window on his broom waving at her, and no Bill arguing with mum about his hair or his earring or his girlfriend (or more to the point lack-there-of). Ginny missed all of those sounds, even the ones that had driven her nuts when they'd been there. She missed her whole family being in one place.

Come to think of it, she'd not seen them all under the same roof since Ron and Hermione's wedding and in her opinion it was about time they were. Hmm… she'd have to talk to Hermione about the idea when she got home. Thoughts of what kind of event she could have that would get them all there tumbled around in Ginny's head as she drifted off to sleep.

The next morning Ginny awoke to the comforting sound of banging pots and pans from downstairs. She hopped out of bed and ran barefoot down the stairs, taking them two at a time. She came into the kitchen grinning and humming. "Just call me angel of the morning…", an old muggle song she had stuck in her head. Her mother looked up at her entrance and grinned.

"Morning, Ginny! Are you up for pancakes?" She surveyed her daughter's long legs, which were exposed beneath one of her brother's old t-shirts, which she'd slept in and added, "You really are too thin."

Ginny rolled her eyes and smiled, "Yes Mum, I'd love some pancakes, and enough with the weight lecture, okay? You're worse than Madam Pomfrey. My doctor seems to think I'm in perfect health."

Molly sniffed as though she didn't think doctors should go around saying foolish things like that, but she didn't comment. Instead she changed the subject.

"Do you expect Harry to be in when you get back to London?"

"Well, I just don't know." Ginny replied, sitting down at the table and pulling over the copy of the Daily Prophet that lay on it.

"D'you know I haven't see a British paper in a month?" She asked no one in particular, but her father came in at the same time and replied.

"No, actually, but we're very sorry. We could have sent the Prophet over." She grinned up as he dropped a kiss on the top of her head.

"That's okay, Dad, but thanks. I just meant I'm not very up-to-date on what’s happening here in Jolly Old England.

"Well, we haven't heard from any of your brothers very recently, except for Percy, because while he goes to Croatia to help sort out their squabble with Serbia," Ginny couldn't help grinning. Only her mother could reduce an international incident to a "squabble". "Penny and the kids are going to come visit us! I'm so excited to see them all; little Noah must be so big now. You know how quickly babies grow." Molly brushed a tear out of her misting eye as she looked at her "baby" who had indeed grown-- to quickly for a mother's liking.

"The ministry is in a complete uproar over who Percy is planning to appoint Assistant Minister of the Council on the Dark Arts. He won't even tell us who he's looking at! Usually the job goes to some retired Auror of course, but rumor has it that they may give it to some foreign witch who just popped up last year. She's supposed to be very young and quite talented. I can't remember the woman's name- do you Arthur?"

"Ermm… something Delacour, I believe. She's French, I know."

Ginny's ears perked up at this name. Unless she was greatly mistaken Delacour had been the last name of one of Harry's fellow champions in the Triwizard Tournament during her third year- the one from Beauxbatons.

"Really?" She began cutting up the pancakes her mother had set in front of her and munched on her first bite happily.

"Delicieux!" She exclaimed, and then at the strange looks from her parents corrected herself. "Sorry, delicious!" she blushed.

Molly smiled, "It must be wonderful to be fluent in so many languages."

Ginny blushed again, "Just three." She said.

"Just three?!" Arthur laughed. "For me it's just one!"

Ginny smiled and said, "Well it's not so wonderful when you've been up for thirty-six hours and you start speaking English to a French customer in Italy. I did that just this last week!" Her parents laughed.

After dinner Ginny ran back upstairs and changed into a fresh pair of robes. She gathered her bag and a few things she was bringing back with her and a foil wrapped package of leftovers for the malnourished Harry. Then she headed back down to the living room, kissed both her parents good-bye and promised her mother she'd owl as soon as she arrived.

She Disapparated to the Penzance train station, where she headed into the wizard platform (15 and 2/9) and bought a ticket for the 10:15AM to King's Cross, London. It didn't leave for a few minutes so Ginny stepped inside the station shop, looking for something to read on the journey. She looked at a variety of novels- muggle and wizard, cookbooks, and non-fiction, before the best sellers table caught her eye. Prominently displayed was a shiny black covered book with the gold title emblazoned as "Harry Potter: The Boy Who Lived" Beneath that in smaller print it said "An Unauthorized Biography Of The Greatest Hero of Our Time By Gillian Merran". Ginny suppressed a laugh as she read the inside of the book jacket. She decided to buy it if for no other reason than to tease Harry when she got home. She handed it to the middle-aged witch behind the counter whose eyes brightened when she read the cover.

"You a fan, darling?"

"Of the author? No, actually I've never heard of her work before."

"No, not the author- she works for the Prophet, I think. No, of Harry Potter!"
"Oh." Ginny smiled. "Yeah, I guess you could say that. But then, aren't we all?"

"Well, I know I am!" The witch gave a toothy grin. "Me husband gave me a copy of that for me birthday last week. It's a great book!"

"When was your birthday…ummm, sorry I didn't catch your name."

"Sherry. Sherry McNeil, and it was the twenty-second."

"Well, happy birthday, Sherry. Thanks." Ginny said, handing over the money and taking the book.

"Thank you, umm-" Sherry called as Ginny pushed through the door to the shop.

"Ginny. Ginny Weasley." She called back and headed out to her train, which had just pulled into station.

Once Ginny was settled into an empty compartment she pulled out the book and opened the crisp first page. The first sentences said: Lily and James Potter welcomed their first son, Harry James, on July 31, 1985. (A/N: I know Ms. Rowling has said it was 1981, but for the purposes of this fitting in with some of my other stories I've changed the year a bit so that the current books take place now and so on…) Due to circumstances some have called fate and many have deemed tragic, he was to be their only child…

The author went on to say how Sirius Black had been named Harry's godfather and gave an account of the night of Halloween 1986. Then she continued to talk about the Dursleys, whom remarkably had been quoted. The author called them rather unpleasant people, but did quote Petunia Dursley as saying "Well, we tried as we might to stamp it out of him, but he's just like my horrid sister, that one." The clever writer used this quote to illustrate the ways in which Harry was like both his parents, following in their talented steps at Hogwarts, becoming head boy, inheriting James' Quidditch talent, and ultimately choosing the Aurors as a career.

Ginny was quite impressed by the talent of the young woman and found herself agreeing with Sherry McNeil's diagnosis of "It's a great book!". The book was so well written in fact, that it presented information that Ginny knew as well as her own name in such a way that it all seemed new.

Granted, it was a biography of Harry Potter the hero, not the man Ginny was in love with, but it made the train ride pass so quickly that she felt as though they'd barely left Penzance when the train pulled to a stop at platform 17 and 5/8 in King's Cross. Ginny gathered her things and hopped off the train, crossing from the wizard platform, through to the still bustling muggle station. The clock on the wall read 11:45 AM.

Ginny hurried out of the station and signaled for a cab. One pulled up quickly and as she climbed in she noticed the cabby eyeing her robes curiously. She ignored his interest however, and smiled at him. "Charing Cross Road, please." He pulled away from the curb and into the non-existent traffic.

The taxi driver told her about his twin daughters whose birthday it was that day. Upon hearing this news Ginny pulled a silver ring off her finger and a golden locket from her purse. The ring she'd picked up at the Parisian flea market (marché aux puces) and the locket she'd gotten to give to Thérèse for being so kind and letting her come home. She'd be able to find Thérèse something else in London, though.

Fifteen minutes later Ginny said "Pull over by this bookstore up here, please." And the driver did as she asked. She climbed out of the cab and handed him the ring and locket saying, "For your daughters. Tell them happy birthday." The man looked up at her in surprise and then his ruddy complexion broke into a grin.

"They'll love them. Thanks so much, miss."

She pulled some money out of her purse. It took her a moment to realize that it was a few silver sickles. She rummaged further, but only found francs. It was no use, She had no British Muggle money.

She counted out seventy francs and handed them to the driver saying, "I'm so sorry- I've just got back from France and this is all I've got. You'll be able to change them at a bank. That's about ten pounds." The driver looked up at her and noticed it was beginning to drizzle.

"Miss," he said, "This one's on me." And drove off.

Ginny grinned to herself, and turned towards the Leaky Cauldron, which the muggle driver hadn't even seen. The pub was nearly empty as it was a bit too early for the lunch crowd and Tom was wiping down the bar when Ginny walked in. She walked up to the counter and said good morning to him and he grinned back at her.

"Haven't seen you in awhile, Miss Weasley!"

"No, I've been in Europe for over a month now and I just got into King's Cross twenty minutes ago. Let me tell you, it's great to be back Tom! I can't wait to get back into Diagon Alley and see everyone!"

He smiled at her and said, "Well, you know the way." And gestured toward the back door that led out to the small courtyard behind the pub where the entrance to the magical street was. She walked across the courtyard, tapped the brick above the trash can, and stepped through the archway back into her world.

As Ginny entered Diagon Alley she meandered along the street watching a group of small children with their noses pressed up against the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies, strolled past Florean Fortescue's Ice-Cream Parlor and saw a group of old wizards seated at a sidewalk table slurping ice-cream cones and chatting about England's chances for the next Quidditch World cup as the title holders. England had won the last cup during Harry's first year as seeker, but the key argument of one thin, lively old man seemed to be "Wi'out Potter, we've got no chance of catching the Snitch so it doesn't matter 'ow wonderful our chasers are!" The rotund balding man across from him was citing the cup from Ginny's third year at Hogwarts in which Viktor Krum, the Bulgarian Seeker, had caught the snitch, but Ireland's superb team of chasers had led them to victory anyway.

Ginny continued on her way, turning off Diagon Alley and eventually finding herself on Harry's street. She walked into the building where his apartment was and climbed the four flights of stairs to the front door, which she opened magically. The living room was lit only by the late morning sunlight streaming through the windows and Ginny made a quick search of the apartment. Upon finding to her satisfaction that it was empty, she dropped her bag on the couch and headed to the kitchen where she opened the refrigerator to put away the leftovers her mother had sent with her.

"Ewwwwww…." She wrinkled her nose. "I leave you alone for five weeks, Harry, and- just ewwwwwww…" She regarded the smelly head of lettuce with disgust. Finally she levitated it with her wand over to the trashcan and dropped it in; then she shut the refrigerator door.

She walked silently to the master bedroom and pushed open the door. She was met by the overwhelming smell of him. She couldn't believe she'd never noticed it before, but there was a combined "smell" of Harry. His shampoo, soap, after-shave, and him-- all combined to make his smell. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed that.

Then Ginny decided to Apparate to The Auror's Academy, on the chance that Harry might be there. She popped up on the cobbled street outside the formidable building and walked up the stairs to the guarded entrance. She introduced herself to the guard and handed over her wand, as all visitors were requested to do for examination. The guard did a quick dark arts detection spell and then an identifier one. When he was satisfied that she was indeed Virginia Weasley he issued her a temporary talisman, which would take her directly to Harry's office. She took the floating orb and held it in front of her, saying "Harry Potter's Office, please." The globe took off and Ginny had to jog to keep up as it zoomed into the massive building.

Chapter 2

The tiny talisman led her through a number of different halls and Ginny would later swear it took her back through at least three. Just when she was getting so frustrated that she thought she might smash the little orb into one of the corners it seemed so fond of slipping around without her noticing it came to a dead halt- in front of a blank wall. Ginny knew that this was indeed the entrance of Harry's office- now if only she could figure out how to enter it… Suddenly the talisman glowed green and as Ginny watched a word appeared in it: Familius. Now that she had the password, Ginny paused. She hadn't seen Harry in over a month, and now he was right behind that wall. Would he have changed? Had she? She felt her stomach do a flip-flop, but she shook her head, as though to clear it, and said clearly, but quietly "Familius!".

The wall suddenly slid apart as a slit appeared in it. The first thing Ginny saw was a desk piled high with papers, and behind it, his back to her, she spotted that shock of unruly black hair. Harry appeared to be talking to someone through something in his hand and was unaware of Ginny's arrival.

"No! I need to know how many there were!" He was saying, obviously agitated, raking a hand through his hair. "How can I know how many agents to send if I don't know what they're up against? How am I supposed to know if I need to go back out or if I put together a team to handle it?" He paused, probably making the person on the other end squirm Ginny imagined. "Umm-hmm. I thought so. Get back to me. Thanks." Ginny thought the "thanks" was a bit pointless after the interrogatory nature of the rest of the conversation, but she just smiled.

"I'm not totally sure whoever that was isn't crying just now." Ginny said, making Harry whirl around and gasp. She grinned. "Glad to see me?"

"Gin!" In seconds he had crossed the office in two quick strides and wrapped her in a huge hug and kiss.

"Mmmmm." She murmured, pulling back slightly. "Have I ever missed doing that! It's so good to be back."

"When did you get back?" Harry asked as Ginny removed a stack of papers and sat cross-legged on his desk.

"Around noon. I got into Cornwall last night and stayed the night at Mum and Dad's. Then I got the 10:15 from Penzance to King's Cross and went to your place to find you, but needless to say you weren't there." She smiled. " I left my stuff there including some leftovers Mum sent- and from the looks of your fridge, you need them! I got rid of the lettuce…ewww." She made a face and Harry laughed.

"I knew I loved you for a good reason!"

Ginny grinned. "Absolutely! But that's not it…" she smiled mischievously.

Harry grinned back, but then his face turned serious. "The last month has been absolute hell without you."

"I know. I found the lettuce." Ginny said wryly.

"That's not what I meant, but yeah, that too." Harry grinned. "But you know what I mean- why are you back in London? In England for that matter?"

"I got homesick…" Ginny said, making a face at him. "You know, I could just go back to Paris…"

"Or not!" Harry exclaimed vehemently.

"Or not…" She agreed. "Oh! I almost forgot! We have to get a birthday card for someone."

"Who?" Harry asked.

"Shirley… umm, hang on now- it's coming…. Shirley McNeil! That's it! No, no, that's not it- it's Sherry McNeil!"

Harry gave her a bemused look. "Why exactly are we getting a birthday card for someone whose name you can't even remember?"

"Because she's a great fan of yours, it'll make her whole year, and she sold me this fabulous book! Wait'll you see!" Ginny rummaged in her purse where she'd slipped The Boy Who Lived. She drew it out and handed it over to him as Harry groaned upon seeing the cover.

"Not another one!"

"But this one is actually well written!" Ginny protested mildly, but she was smirking. "Sherry said the author worked at the Prophet, so I have to ask Hermione. Anyway- Sherry's husband got her the book for her birthday which was the 22nd and it would just make her day if you sent her a birthday card. Please?"

"Oh give it to me." Harry said, holding out his hand, smiling at her. "Did you honestly think I wouldn't sign a birthday card?"

"No, but it was fun guilt tripping you into it anyway!" Ginny grinned and conjured a card with a picture of a birthday cake on the front. The candles appeared to really be blazing, and she did a quick spell that enabled the recipient of the card to blow them out. She opened the card, plucked a quill from amongst the jungle of papers on the desk, and quickly wrote:

 

Dear Sherry,

I'm sorry this card is so late, but we hope you had a wonderful birthday and many happy returns!

Sincerely,

Ginny Weasley and

Then she handed the card to Harry who quickly scrawled:

Harry Potter

Next to her name and returned the card to Ginny.

"Thank you." She said, sliding it into and envelope and giving him a kiss. "You just made her day."

"Glad to do it- though I must admit I don't see how."

"Well, of course you don't silly! You are Harry Potter, so you don't have to idolize yourself! But other people do…Sherry does, and so does Gillian Merran." She flashed the book again and Harry reached out quickly grabbing her around the waist. He pulled her towards him, as Ginny squealed "No fair!" and plucked the book from her hands.

"I just knew there'd be downsides to dating a very proficient Seeker who is also seven inches taller than me." She pouted.

Harry laughed, "Oh, now you're going to break up with me because I'm too good at Quidditch and I'm too tall?"

"You'd deserve it." She said, making a face at him. He laughed again.

"I thought you wanted me to read this book!" He said.

"No! I just wanted to tease you mercilessly with it!" Ginny exclaimed vehemently.

"Oh really?" Harry raised his eyebrows playfully.

"Yeah- I guess the scheme's up though, so you'll just have to read it instead." She giggled at his confused expression, because Harry had the distinct impression he'd just been tricked- and he was right.

At that same moment Hedwig came flying through the partially opened window and dropped a thick envelope and a thinner one on Harry's desk before settling on her perch and flapping her wings a bit to rid them of the water droplets they'd acquired during her flight. Harry first picked up the thin envelope and opened it.

"Now that's interesting…" He murmured as he read; "Mundungus Fletcher wrote me back." He said, by way of a very vague explanation to Ginny. "Hey! Listen to this- 'I've also sent your invitation to my granddaughter's wedding. Something of a touchy subject in the family just now, but it's on the 8th. Hope you can come. - Fletcher.' That's what Jenna was telling me about last night."

"Really?" Ginny said with sudden interest. "Amy Fletcher's getting married? That's interesting… And who's Jenna?"

"Old girlfriend. I didn't know you knew her." Harry said.

"I don't. Why do you think I asked?"

"Not Jenna, Amelia Fletcher."

"Oh. Well, we met a few times when we were children, but Amy's a squib, so when I went to Hogwarts we lost touch. We were never that close anyway, though. Not a great personality, as I recall, but then she was only about five."

"She's a squib?" Harry said incredulously. "Mundungus Fletcher's granddaughter is a squib?"

"Yeah, the whole family was very shocked, too, but you can find squibs in some of the most powerful, old wizard families. Heck, even Dumbledore's great aunt was one."

"Really?" Harry said, surprised, before turning to the thicker envelope and pulling out various slips of parchment. Ginny nodded and seemed about to say something when Harry's mouth dropped open, conspicuously.

"What?"

But he only managed to mouth silently, gesturing with the card he was holding. Finally he handed it to Ginny who read it and said, "Oh my. You don't think it could be a joke, do you?"

Harry, who had collapsed into his chair, shook his head and replied.

"No- they haven't got any sense of humor."

"Of all the freaky coincidences…" Ginny said shaking her head and setting down the invitation on the desk. It looked something like this:

Miranda and Godfrey Fletcher request the pleasure of

your company at the marriage of their daughter

Amelia Julianne Fletcher

To

Dudley Vernon Dursley


On the date of December the Eighth in the year Two Thousand and Ten at 2:oo PM at the Church of St. Winifred, Little Whinging, Surrey.

Ginny sifted through the other sheets that had come with it. One gave detailed instructions to the church and specifically requested NO Apparating, please. Another told the recipient where the couple were registered (Mark's and Spencer's- bride's choice and Sainsbury's- groom's choice) but Ginny didn't recognize either store as they were both Muggle ones. The last slip said:

We ask all guests to come in formal Muggle clothing if at all possible, to allow for the comfort of all our guests. Thank You. - The Fletchers

Ginny read this to Harry and he laughed. The idea of Vernon and Petunia Dursley sitting through their own son's wedding with half the guests wearing brightly colored robes was laughable at best.

"So what are you going to get them?" Ginny asked.

Harry looked at her in surprise. "Who says I'm going?"

I do Ginny thought, but she said, "Harry, you like Mundungus Fletcher- do you really want to miss this opportunity to see him in Muggle clothes?" Harry laughed. "And you'd have to have a good excuse for not going- I think Fletcher's going to need all the friends he can get at this wedding. I can't imagine he's too thrilled about it."

"That's true." Harry conceded.

"I'm sure Dumbledore will be there - they're friends. And last, but really not least, Harry, they're your family. I know you hate them and they hate you, but it's just right that you should be there, and besides, ten galleons says they don't know you've been invited and I can't wait to see the look on their faces." Harry laughed again.

"Who says you're going?"

This time Ginny did say, "I do. Besides, you don't think I'd let you have all this fun alone, do you?"

"I guess not." Harry grinned.

"And I get to go shopping for Muggle clothes! How much fun can one girl have? I'd better call Hermione for help. Harry laughed again at her antics.

"Alright, Gin. You've convinced me- I'll go. Hey! Are you going already?" Ginny had pulled out her wand and was halfway through the apparition spell.

"Well, I've got to go see Hermione about helping with my outfit! After all, the wedding's only in four days! I think our invitation must have been delayed. I'll see you tonight, okay?"

"Okay," Harry agreed reluctantly and leaned across his desk, giving her one last kiss before she disappeared.

***

Ginny popped up outside the offices of the Daily Prophet and walked through the magically revolving door. A gentle snow had been falling in the cobbled street outside and she shook off her cloak when the first blast of warm air hit her. As she did this someone across the lobby began snapping rapid pictures. Ginny quickly turned her head to one side, obscuring the photographer's view of her face. This had been a bit of a problem ever since the press had spotted her and Harry together at a number of public functions. The wizarding community of London at least had been abuzz with rumors and Ginny had been recognized once or twice in Hogsmeade as well.

She hurried across the floor bustling with people towards the staircase that would take her up to Hermione's office shielding her face from the persistent cameraman. As she neared him, the man lowered his camera and called out.

"Hey! Ginny! Is that any way to treat an old friend?" She looked up in surprise.

"Colin!" She changed her direction and headed over to him. He wrapped her in a huge hug.

"I’m sorry…" Ginny blushed, "I thought you were-"

"Trying to get a picture of you to plaster across the front page?" Colin nodded understandingly. "Yeah, sorry about that. Actually, when I see a woman as beautiful as you enter my place of work the artist in me takes over- I just couldn't help myself." Ginny grinned at him and blushed again.

"Consider yourself forgiven a thousand times over. I've just become a little paranoid about the press lately. I never even realized how much they must hound Harry until we started going out, but I was mercifully hidden from the public eye until the last two months or so, when we stopped being so careful about where we went."

"Umm hmmm." Colin nodded. "Well, Gin, here's a tip. Don't hide."

"Huh?"

"Well, Harry is very relaxed with the press because he knows that they're always going to write about him. If you're going to be romantically involved with him, then they're going to write about you, too. Just don't hide every time someone tries to snap your photo and eventually they'll keep it to a relative minimum. It'll never go completely away, but it will subside. Right now you're news; enjoy it for now, and remember it won't be like this forever."

Ginny leaned over and pecked Colin on the cheek.

"Thank you, Colin. That helps a lot. And it was great to see you again."

"Not a problem- it's always a pleasure, Ginny." He smiled at her and waved as she headed up the staircase, then turned and walked across the bustling lobby.

Ginny smiled to herself as she ascended the staircase until she reached Hermione's office. Unlike Harry's, which she'd only just left, this one had a door and a shiny nameplate on it:

Hermione Granger, Reporter

Ginny tapped lightly on the door, as she heard voices inside.

"Come in!" Hermione's exasperated voice called, and then continued speaking to the other occupant of the office, "Gillian, it's good, but it lacks something- it lacks you. Do you know what I mean?"

As Ginny slowly pushed open the door to the impeccably neat office (it's Hermione's, what else would it be?) her eyes rested on a blonde girl a year or two younger than her with curly hair standing across from Hermione, who was leaning against her chair, on the other side of her desk.

As the girl nodded and her curls bobbed, Hermione's gaze fell on Ginny.

"Ginny! What- what are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in France? Harry said- Oh my manners! This is Gillian Merran, a reporter here, and Gillian, this is-"

"I know." Gillian said simply as Ginny laughed at Hermione's surprise. The young woman turned to Ginny, "It's such an honor to meet you, Miss Weasley."

"Well, thanks. It's nice to meet you as well, Gillian." Where had she heard that name? Oh! The book!

"I actually just read your book- very well written, I must say. I'll have Hermione here let you know what Harry thinks."

The poor thing looked like she might have just collapsed and died right there in Hermione's office had a chair behind her not made a fortuitous catch- as it was directed by Ginny's wand. Now it was Hermione's turn to suppress laughter.

"Gillian? Gillian? Are you okay?" Ginny stood back slightly as Hermione revived her with "Ennervate."

"Did you- did you just say that Harry Potter is going to read my book?" She looked at Ginny expectantly.

"Erm, yes?" Ginny said tentatively.

The girl looked like she might have fainted dead away again if Hermione hadn't gently helped her to her feet and guided her to the door.

"You go back to and finish work on this article, Gillian. And then you might want to go home and have a lie-down."

She nodded rather numbly, "Lie-down… yes, a lie-down…" and headed out into the hall.

"Do you think she'll be okay?" Ginny asked, concerned.

"She'll be fine." Hermione said, suppressing a smile, "Once she gets over the shock. It's great to see you Gin!" And she gave Ginny a quick hug.

"You too, 'Mione. It's so good to be back." She let out a contented sigh and flopped down into a chair.

"So, have you seen Harry yet?" Hermione asked, pointedly.

"Why do you think I said it was good to be back?" Ginny teased, wiggling her eyebrows, "But yeah, I just came from the Academy."

"Ah." Hermione nodded. "Did he know you were coming? Because if he did, he's going to get-"

"No, I surprised everyone- even myself, actually. I was being utterly useless at work and Therese kicked me out, so I went to visit Mum and Dad on my way back to London."

Hermione snorted. She highly doubted that Ginny had been kicked out, but to each her own…

"How are Molly and Arthur?"

"Just great. Oh, it was so great to see them, even if I did have trouble thinking of anything but Harry while I was there."

Hermione grinned knowingly. "Yeah, I can imagine. So why aren't you two glued to each other's sides now?"

"Well, he's at work and I don't really want to trail around after him there. Besides, you and I have a mission."

"We do?"

"Indeed." Ginny produced the parchment invitation and passed it to Hermione, who, in turn unfolded it and read it over quickly.

"Are they… serious?" She asked incredulously, and Ginny nodded.

"It's going to be great. I'm sure the Dursley's don't know Harry's been invited and I, for one, can't wait to see the looks on their faces." She grinned evilly and slowly Hermione began to as well.

"That would be priceless…" She admitted.

"You better believe it! Anyway, Harry would have to go anyway because, as I pointed out Mundungus is going to need all the friends he can get at this thing. I think the invitation was little more than a plea for help."

"You mean Harry was thinking about not going?" Hermione asked.

"I know!" Ginny nodded vigorously, "I couldn't believe that he wouldn’t want to go and rub their noses in it! But that's Harry for you- a complete enigma sometimes. But I need your help. You see where it asks that all guests wear formal muggle clothes?" Hermione nodded. "Well, you know what that means: Shopping!"

Hermione laughed. "Okay, count me in. Just let me give this article to my editor first." She waved a long roll of parchment in the air.

"No problem." Ginny said, but before the words had even left her lips, Hermione had set down the parchment on her desk, muttered a spell, and it disappeared.

"Ready?" Ginny asked.

"Ready."

And they headed out of the Prophet offices, out of Diagon Alley, and into muggle London.

* * *

"No, Hermione!" Ginny insisted for the fifth time as they stood on a street corner off the Fulham Road. It seemed to the two women as though they'd been in just about every shop in London-- twice.

"But why not?" Hermione asked, earnestly. "After all, they are registered there, so I see no reason for you not to get an outfit there as well."

"Hermione," Ginny gave a long-suffering groan. "I am not getting this dress at Mark's and Spencer's! I understand that it's a nice, sensible shop, but really! For one thing it says formal, and for another… just no!"

"Fine, fine. Just forget I said anything." Hermione murmured as Ginny said, "Mark's and Spark's… honestly!"

"We're going to Soho, now. I need to check in at my office there, and then we can start some serious shopping!" Now it was Hermione's turn to groan.

"But, Ginny! My feet hurt!" Hermione could swear she heard Ginny mutter "Hmmph. Lightweight." as the two Disapparated, making more than one of their fellow pedestrians do a double take. When they popped up they were in a bright and airy looking loft with bolts of fabric draped over everything in sight.

"Martin!" Ginny called, smiling at the disarray. Soon a young man's head popped up from behind a velvet-laden couch. Martin was fairly short (just a bit taller than Ginny's five feet, seven inches) and slight of build with short cropped nut-brown hair. He had a young face that made him look even younger than his twenty years and belied his efficiency as Ginny's London apprentice.

"Miss Leasley!" He grinned; showing off the three pins he had clenched between his teeth which he promptly removed and repeated, "Miss Weasley! We weren't expecting you back yet!"

"Yes, well, I took a bit of time off from Paris to come home for awhile, Martin, but it's strictly vacation, so you won't see much of me."

He nodded knowingly. "So what are you doing here?"

"I have to get a Muggle gown for a wedding, and since you're Muggle born I was wondering if you had any suggestions about where to look.

"Oh! A gown!" Suddenly Martin's face got very business like, "Would you let me throw something together, Miss Weasley?"

He had already whipped a sketchpad off a nearby table and was making rapid moves across it with a quill.

Hermione smiled and Ginny shrugged at her.

"Sure, Martin, let's see what you've got. We've certainly got nothing to lose at this point."

He handed her the thick pad which was covered in sketches of women in long flowing robes, many of them Ginny's own. However on the particular page that Martin had drawn on was a rough sketch of a woman wearing a gown that floated in ruffles just below her knees. Its back dipped down to the small of the woman's own in a rounded V shape and the front had a smaller rounded V that came to its narrowest tips of fabric over her shoulders, displaying her collar bone. It was accompanied by a wrap around the shoulders.

"Martin, my friend, I think you've done it." Hermione said to the young man, who blushed as Ginny just gazed at the sketch and grinned stupidly.

"Perfect… it's perfect. Not too dressy or flashy, but not casual at all, either. Just perfect." She murmured, not taking her eyes off the picture. "I think in a deep, deep color, don't you, Martin?"

In answer, Martin just waved his wand towards somewhere in the back of the room and out floated a bolt of deep, navy blue fabric. As it came to a halt in front of Ginny and Hermione, Hermione realized it was silk.

Ginny beamed at her young, but obviously talented assistant.

"I knew I hired you for a good reason!" She exclaimed gleefully. "Now surely I have something in here somewhere for a wrap…" she said as she began to forage through more bolts of fabric.

Soon Ginny resurfaced, clutching a bolt of heavy, shining satin in a shade of antique ivory. Over on a table Martin had rolled out yards of the silk and, taking the drawing, he placed it on top of the fluid material. Then he took out his wand as Hermione watched with interest. The first thing she'd noticed whenever she'd been in any of Ginny's offices was the total lack of supplies, save the fabric. Not even so much as a pair of scissors.

As Martin began to speak under his breath a pale white light emitted from the tip of his wand and he began to trace delicately over the outline of the dress in the sketch until the very lines themselves began to glow. Then the fabric itself raised into the air and began to writhe and twist, the light weaving in and out of the masses and folds as though it were some kind of unbreakable thread.

Then as soon as it had started the fabric dropped limply back to the table in a heap. Martin acted like this was nothing unusual, went over to the fallen silk, and sorted through it until he found what he was looking for. Sure enough, he came up holding a dress- the dress. The very same dress from Martin's sketch. It was gorgeous; the ruffled hem was flawless and it hung in the air with such ease it might have been draped over a body already.

Ginny, who had just performed the same spell on the satin and was folding up the wrap, turned around and smiled.

"That looks perfect, Martin, thanks." She said warmly as she plucked the dress out of the air.

Hermione was utterly amazed. This Ginny was nothing like the dumbstruck one she'd seen moments earlier, this one was absolutely business-like and totally composed. It was strange how true passions could do that to some people; Hermione remembered more than once having babbled incoherently over an article or book.

When she looked up, Martin had flushed to the roots of his hair and remarkably resembled a radish with brown fuzz because Ginny had simply yanked her robes over her head in order to try on the dress. She seemed completely unaware of Martin's presence, or perhaps growing up in a house with six brothers did that to someone, Hermione speculated.

Six brothers or not, Hermione felt obliged to rescue Martin from what was obviously a very trying moment in his young life.

"Erm, Ginny?" She tentatively began.

"Hmmm?" Ginny asked, as she picked up the dress to pull it over her head.

"Well, put some clothes on!" She finally exclaimed, unable to take it any longer- Martin now had his eyes screwed tightly shut.

"Huh? Hermione- this is 'clothes'!" Ginny explained with a lightening grin fingering the lacy slip she wore beneath her robes. "When you grow up in a house with six older brothers, 'clothes' is anything at all that covers what's absolutely necessary and not much else, usually. I mean this is positively religious, by comparison to some of the things that Fred and George have barged in on me in. Why, the stories I could tell you-" Hermione cut her off and pointed at Martin, who was squeezing his eyes shut to the point that it looked rather painful.

"Oh!" Ginny exclaimed with a sheepish smile. She hurried over to him and said, "Martin, sweetheart, it's okay- you can open your eyes. I promise I won't take anything else off. It's just that the bathroom seemed like a wasted trip…" She trailed off as Martin opened one eye, a crack, but shut it tightly again when he saw his boss standing in her bare feet and the slip.

"Gin," Hermione said sighing, "Just put some clothes on, okay?"

"Okay, okay!" Ginny held up her hands in mock surrender and finally pulled the dress over her head.

As she spun around, long hair flying behind her, even Hermione had to gasp. At this point Martin forced his eyes open and began to clasp at what he (at least in part) had created.

"You're going to knock them dead at this wedding, Gin." Hermione said, and Martin nodded vigorously, obviously at a loss for words.

"You think so?" She asked, giving another little twirl.

"Absolutely."

 

//
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