Ginny Weasley/Harry Potter
Harry Potter
The Harry Potter at Hogwarts Years
Philosopher's Stone Chamber of Secrets Prizoner of Azkaban Goblet of Fire
Published: 09/18/2001
Updated: 03/30/2002
Words: 425,244
Chapters: 21
Hits: 583,257

Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions


Story Summary:
During his fifth year, Trelawney did a Tarot reading for Harry. She told him he would have to make a choice that could "change the world as we know it." At the beginning of his sixth year, Harry chooses, and the world does change. Does it change for the better? If he wants, can Harry change it back? Or is giving Harry exactly what he wants Voldemort's ultimate revenge? The sequel to
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Chapter 08 - The Sister

Chapter Summary:
During his fifth year, Trelawney did a Tarot reading for Harry. She told him he would have to make a choice that could "change the world as we know it." At the beginning of his sixth year, Harry chooses, and the world does change. Does it change for the better? If he wants, can Harry change it back? Or is giving Harry exactly what he wants Voldemort's ultimate revenge?

Harry Potter and the Time of Good Intentions

(or: The Last Temptation of Harry Potter)

Chapter Eight

The Sister

Harry stared at the door which she had slammed in his face. He rang the electronic doorbell again, leaning on it, even though he knew that this was rude. He had another problem now.

He backed up and looked at the second-floor windows. He cupped his hands around his mouth and called, "Maggie! Miss Parrish! Please! I'm sorry I startled you, but now that I've followed you home, I'm afraid I'm lost! If you could at least---"

She flung up the sash of the window directly above him and yelled back testily, "All right, all right! Shut up!"

He gazed up at her, so like Ginny, and yet so---Muggle. Ginny hadn't been exposed to much of the Muggle world so far, just the trip from the Leaky Cauldron to Hermione's flat, but she'd been as wide-eyed about the Tube and London stores and automobiles and buses as Hermione had been about everything she'd seen in Diagon Alley. Maggie appeared to be a Ginny who understood the Muggle world, who was completely comfortable with all of the day-to-day details.

She looked down at him grimly, then slammed the sash down. A couple of minutes later, she was opening the door again, ushering him inside. The vestibule of the building was a good five by six feet, meaning that they could stand inside and face each other without being particularly close. She leaned against the wall with her arms crossed, staring at him truculently.

He looked back nervously, still amazed by how much she looked like Ginny. Smiling feebly, he asked tentatively, "Can I explain?" She still glared at him. He waited. Still no reply. He reverted to his other plea. "Listen, here's the address I was trying to get to when I noticed you on the train." He held out the directions to Dean's house. She stared listlessly at the paper.

"Why did you follow me home?" she demanded, thrusting Dean's address back at him.

"Well," he began cautiously, "I have this girlfriend, and she had two older sisters who were born in 1970 and 1972. They disappeared during the Easter holidays in 1979. You look just like my girlfriend. Except she has brown eyes. I just---when I saw you, I had to follow you. If I could tell her where one of her sisters is…"

"Sister?" she whispered.

He nodded nervously, expecting to be ejected any second. Suddenly, a dark-haired man with a very pronounced arch to his brows appeared at the door, making Harry jump in surprise. He had a key, but Maggie Parrish quickly stepped forward and opened the door for him; he wore sweats and running shoes and had the most muscular Jack Russell terrier Harry had ever seen. He must have gone running with the dog, Harry thought.

Then the man Harry had thought was just another tenant leaned over and kissed Maggie Parrish on the mouth quickly. He spoke breathlessly, still slightly winded from his exercise. "Hello, Love. He gave me a run for my money. Why is it he never seems to lose weight when we do this?"

She smiled lovingly at him. "I thought we were trying to get you to lose weight, not him. Anyway, he's all muscle, aren't you Billy?" The last part of her statement had been directed at the dog in a sing-song voice; she crouched next to him, patting his side firmly but affectionately, while the dog turned and lifted his head so he could lick her chin. She laughed, petting him some more. Billy, Harry thought. Did she name the dog after her oldest brother without knowing it?

The man had noticed Harry and looked at him as though he were trying to avoid seeming hostile, but also as though he would be perfectly willing to be as hostile as necessary should the need arise. "Who's this, then?"

Maggie stood and raised her eyebrows at him, her arms crossed again, her lips drawn into a line. He thrust his hand at her sweaty, winded boyfriend. "Harry Potter. Nice to meet you, er--"

"Bernard Parrish." He grasped Harry's hand rather hard, and Harry met the pressure obstinately, without showing any strain. They released each other's hands warily, still sizing each other up. Harry realized that he and Maggie had the same last name; they weren't dating, they were married. He spied rings on each of their left hands and tried not to smile with pleasure; Mrs. Weasley would love that! Bill and Charlie still weren't married. Of course, Maggie was one of the two top reasons why they weren't married. He cleared his throat.

"Could I possibly come inside to talk to you both? If you don't like what I have to say, you can set your dog on me…"

He tried to sound light-hearted, but for a moment they looked as though they might seriously consider doing this, and he looked back and forth at their faces nervously. Finally, she relented and said, "All right. Let's go up."

The Parrish home was warm and comfortable. The walls were painted a Provençal yellow, the overstuffed upholstery was deep burgundy, and there was a thick oriental carpet on the floor before the fireplace, where Bernard Parrish was stooping, selecting just the right pieces from a stack of wood so he could start a fire. Gryffindor colors, Harry thought. The room was done in Gryffindor colors…

Maggie waved Harry to a chair while Bernard finished lighting the fire. He sat next to his wife on the couch, his arm around her protectively while they looked at Harry. Facing the two of them, he was suddenly more nervous than ever before in his life. What if Parrish had a meltdown upon learning that his wife was a witch? What if she did? Harry had definitely not counted on this.

Billy leapt upon the couch and settled next to Maggie, putting his chin on her leg. She smiled down at him and rubbed him behind the ears. Harry was calmed by this somehow and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry to intrude into your lives like this. I just happened to see Maggie on the Tube, and she looks exactly like my girlfriend, who had two older sisters who went missing in 1979. The younger sister was born in 1972, like Maggie, and her name was Margaret. She family called her Peggy. It just seemed too much of a coincidence. And Maggie said that she was adopted and doesn't remember anything from before she was seven. I told her that I know her family, that they hadn't died in a car crash--and she slammed the door in my face."

Maggie leaned forward, her face in her hands, her husband no longer touching her. When she lifted her head again, he saw that her eyes were red. "What do you expect me to do when you tell me that my parents abandoned me? What happened? Was I beaten and abused? Is that why I can't remember anything from before I was adopted?"

"No, no," Harry assured her, frowning. "Why? Did someone tell you that?"

She leaned back, shaking. "No. When I was growing up, doctors kept telling me that I should remember everything, in fact. Kept saying that there was nothing physically wrong with me, no head trauma. Blocking the memories was something I was doing on purpose. They assumed that it came from emotional, rather than physical, trauma, that I came from an abusive household and they'd grown tired of me and put me out, or something. I'm not sure why the hospital matron told me I was the lone survivor of a traffic accident."

Harry shrugged. "I suppose she thought you would believe it."

She nodded. "You say you know my family. Please--can you tell me what happened? Why did they send me away?"

"They didn't send you away." Then he did his best to tell her the story of her disappearance, omitting any references to magic. "Your brothers have never really gotten over it. They thought it was their fault, even though they were only thirteen and fifteen. Your parents had two more children after that; a son in 1980 and another daughter in 1981. That's Ginny; she's my girlfriend. It's amazing how much you look like her…"

She rose and walked to the fire; she rested her head on the mantel, staring. "Abducted," she breathed. "I can't believe it. I was abducted. And then what? Was I--sold? Like a black-market baby?"

Her husband looked grim. "It sounds like that. Must have been some sort of organized ring. The blokes doing the abducting might have been operating independently, offering children to slightly dodgy adoption outfits. Your parents are on the old side…"

She looked up at her husband. "Well, that was because of--you know--"

Bernard turned to Harry and explained. "Her mum and dad had a daughter of their own. She died. Leukemia. By then they were almost fifty, and when they decided to adopt, agencies didn't want to touch them. Even the ones who would give them the time of day wouldn't consider letting them adopt a baby, so they said they would take an older child, a girl, preferably with red hair…"

Maggie sat on the raised hearth, hugging her knees. "Valerie had red hair. Their other daughter," she said softly.

Harry frowned; it seemed plausible. Someone who was simply paid to deliver the goods kidnapped Annie and Peggy and took them to be adopted by people who were desperate and had no other means of having a family. But something nagged at him. Somehow, the way they'd disappeared from the park in Ottery St. Catchpole still screamed that magic was involved. How else had she lost all memory of her early life if not through a memory charm? Perhaps a ring of Death Eaters was abducting Muggle children for the black-market adoption business, and they'd simply assumed Annie and Peggy were Muggles.

He looked at Maggie and Bernard Parrish; after shocking them with the news that he knew her birth family, he couldn't just blurt out that she was a witch. Hermione's reaction hadn't been dreadful, but he didn't think he'd handled it expertly. He needed to tread lightly before trying that again; and he was still wary of what her husband's reaction would be. He'd given them enough startling news for now.

Harry looked at her, sitting on the hearth, moving bits of a burning log with the poker. The flames lit her face, so uncannily like Ginny's. She looked up at him, then her husband, and laughed. "So. Do you think I should hang it up, Bernie? After all, I never saw this coming."

He smiled at her. "Oh, come on. When's the last time you saw anything coming for yourself? You can only do readings and charts for other people. I know you've said you just want to live your life spontaneously, without knowing what's going to happen…'Course, that's probably just because you're rotten at doing it for yourself…"

Harry was perplexed. "What?"

Maggie turned to him. "Oh. Right. See, when you first rang my bell, I thought you'd followed me because you wanted a private session. I've had fans follow me home from the studio before, but I only do readings for close friends now. This seems to happen every time the car is at the mechanic's and I end up taking the Tube…"

Harry shook his head. "Sorry. I'm lost. Am I supposed to recognize your name?"

She looked embarrassed now. "Oh, listen to me, thinking I'm so well-known. That'll teach me. You have no idea, do you?" He shook his head dumbly.

"Maggie," her husband said proudly, "is the foremost Seer, Prognosticator and Tarot reader in London. Which probably means in all of England."

"Except for the fact that I can't make a decent chart for myself. I've tried, many times, but it just all goes wrong, so I've given up."

Bernard continued, "She writes an astrology column that appears in a slew of rags--sorry darling--highly-reputable newspapers--" She stuck her tongue out at him; Harry liked how playful they were with each other. "She appears on the telly to discuss what's lurking in the wings for England's and Hollywood's film luminaries; and," he went on, smiling, "she was even consulted by the Prime Minister's wife. That was a bit of a scandal. Not for our Maggie, of course; for the Prime Minister's wife. For my darling wife it was something of a coup. Put her on the map."

Harry furrowed his brow. "So, you do Tarot readings?"

She nodded. "And star charts. With a person's exact time and location of birth I can produce a complete chart. As long as it's not for me, like I said. I also do tea leaves and I have a crystal ball, and I also read palms. I was doing an early-morning taping today for Eye On Cinema. You know, celebrity predictions." She smiled. "Now you're wondering why I was nervous about you, since you're thinking, 'Brilliant. I'm stuck in this flat with this woman who's crackers and her crackers husband and dog--'"

"Hey!" Bernard said, trying to sound offended, but ruining it by laughing.

Harry smiled at them; this was wonderful! She knew about some of her abilities and she was using them, making a living at it. "Actually," he said, nodding at the dog, "Billy doesn't seem crackers at all."

Maggie and Bernard both laughed at that, and she went to sit next to her husband again. She gave Harry an appraising look. "So," she said, sounding very much like a solicitous older sister, "you're my little sister's boyfriend. A bit grown-up looking, aren't you?"

He'd neglected to shave again that morning and had a slight shadow on his face. The curse of having black hair, he thought, rubbing his hand over it. "I'm sixteen. She's fifteen. We've been together since June. But I sort of--had a crush on her for years before that."

"Well, you seem to be all right. Went out of your way to come here and talk to me, took the chance that I wouldn't think you're some kind of crazed stalker--" Harry looked down, thinking about following Ginny around Hogwarts. "You didn't know that I wouldn't call the police. Actually, I was this close…" She held up her finger and thumb. "And then you started in on being lost," she smiled, "which just struck me as funny. How many stalkers ask for directions? I thought you were most likely harmless."

He remembered her face in the vestibule; she hadn't looked like she'd come to this conclusion right away, but he wasn't going to argue with her. Her husband put both arms around her affectionately; they seemed like they might be newlyweds, Harry thought. They were very sweet together.

"Anyway," he said to his wife, "if he'd given you any trouble, you could have just made the flowerpots fly at him or something. Used your magic powers against him." Harry's jaw dropped. Had he just said what he thought he'd said? And she remembered it! They both did. Clearly the Ministry monitoring was less than perfect. On the other hand, the Ministry didn't know that Maggie Parrish was a witch. They didn't know that she was probably the long-lost Peggy Weasley.

Maggie laughed. "Stop it! I do not have magic powers!" She turned to Harry. "It's stupid, really. Sometimes odd things have happened--"

"I swear! She truly is magical!" he grinned.

She swatted him playfully. "Calls me Maggie-the-Witch, he does. Because he knows I hate it. And yes, sometimes things--happen--around me, but I think that there's always a logical explanation for everything. If we don't know what it is, we just haven't looked hard enough."

"It sounds like you have more in common with your little sister than just your looks," Harry said, but the moment he did, he was thinking, That was dumb.

Her eyebrows flew up. "What?"

"There you go, Mags! It must run in the family! You come from a clan of witches!"

She swatted him again. "Stop that! I do not! I'm sure they're perfectly normal…"

Harry fought down a guffaw, thinking of Mr. Weasley's plug collection. He thought of flinging garden gnomes over the privet and the ghoul in the attic. He thought of owl post and talking heads in fireplaces and dishes flying about the kitchen washing themselves and the clock which had Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and You're late! on it instead of numbers. He thought of the flying Ford Anglia…

"Well," he said, when he felt certain he wouldn't erupt into laughter, "would you like to meet your sister? She came down to London with me. She's at my friend's flat. They're getting acquainted. I was supposed to be looking for--well, it's a long story. I can do that another time. This seems more important, suddenly. Would you like to meet her?"

She widened her eyes, looking frightened. "She's here? In London?"

"Yes. And if you come with me…I might avoid getting lost on the way back," he added sheepishly. She turned to her husband.

"What do you think?"

He shrugged. "It's up to you."

She frowned, rising and pacing around the room. "I wish I could do decent charts for myself…" She eyed Harry thoughtfully. "There's still something you're not telling me. I can tell by your aura."

Harry goggled. "You can see my aura?"

Bernard rolled his eyes. "Here it comes. The aura nonsense…"

Maggie smiled ruefully. "He refuses to believe. But another reason why I slammed the door in your face," she said to Harry, "is your aura. I've never seen anything like it, ever."

Harry frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"I mean, you have two auras. Very clearly. One is sometimes stronger than the other. Right now it's the green-tinged one. Sometimes it's the red-tinged one. But I can always see them both. And right now, both of your auras are a little black as well, which means you're holding something back. Not lying exactly, but close."

Harry squirmed; Trelawney would lose her job if Maggie Parrish ever showed up at Hogwarts. She was the genuine article. Did he have two auras because he had the memories of two lives? How strange that she couldn't do charts for herself…But then it occurred to him why this might be.

"When's your birthday?" he asked her suddenly. She stepped back.


"When's your birthday? What date have you been using to do charts for yourself?"

"December thirty-first."

He frowned, trying to remember what Mrs. Weasley had said; something about Annie being born on the very day that Charlie started school, which would be September 1. But when was Peggy born?

"Who told you that was your birthday?"

"My parents, of course."

"Yes, but who told them?"

She looked blank, then sat down suddenly. "Oh my God. You're right! How on earth would they know? That can't be my birthday! Bloody hell! Oh, excuse me," she added hastily. "No wonder I've never been able to do a decent chart for myself…"

Harry swallowed, closing his eyes. Think, think, he commanded himself. What did Mrs. Weasley say about Peggy's birth?

And when Annie was just a couple of months past her second birthday, Margaret was born. Named after my sister Meg. We called her Peggy.

"Maggie," he said slowly, "I think your birthday is around November first, not December thirty-first."

"November first? That was yesterday. How do you know?"

"Because--because your mother told me. In --and you're going to think this is strange--another life." Harry didn't know how else to communicate this, but if there was anyone in London likely to believe him, it was Maggie Parrish.

"That's it!" she cried, leaping up. "That's why I'm seeing two auras on you. Just now, when you were looking like you were thinking very hard, your red aura was the strong one. And now it's faded again and the green one is dominant. Each of your auras must be connected with one of your lives…how curious…"

Bernard was rolling his eyes. Maggie sat next to him and patted his leg affectionately. "Oh ye of little faith," she said to him a little smugly. She turned to Harry. "Seeing auras is the one thing I do that he doesn't completely believe…"

"Let's say 'don't believe at all,' so we're absolutely accurate," he drawled.

Maggie ignored her husband. "How much do you know about this other life? Did you find out about it through a medium? That's something I don't do; no séances, no talking to the dead. I'm just not a conduit between this world and the next."

He shook his head. "No. I've--I've just recently become aware of the other life. In fact, you're the only people I've told. I'd like to keep it quiet."

Maggie was still looking at Harry. "Fascinating…But," she said, "your auras--both of them--are still a little black. You're still holding something back."

Harry grimaced. "If you don't think I'm the one who's crackers, I have to admit something: You know when I said that your, um, unusual abilities are something you have in common with your sister? Well, I can do, er, strange things too."

She looked at him with wide eyes. "Yes, you can, can't you? That makes so much sense! That also explains why your auras are so strong…" She looked like she had another thought. "Wait! If my birthday is November first, that means I'm a Scorpio, not a Capricorn!"

"You also don't know where you were born. Didn't you say you also need that to do a proper chart?"

"Yes…Do you know where I was born? From that other life?"

He nodded. "You were born just outside a village called Ottery St. Catchpole."

"Ottery St. What?" Bernard said suddenly. Maggie hit him lightly with the back of her hand.

"Oh you--there are loads of villages across England with names like that. Where is it?"

Harry shrugged. "Sorry--I've never been there in this life. And in the other one…I was taken there, but I never had to work out how to go on my own. So I have no idea."

She strode purposefully into the kitchen and came back with two newspapers; she started rifling through the pages and found what she was looking for in one of them. "Here we go!" she said, holding up one of them. "Yesterday's copy of the Sun. The birthday horoscope I worked out for people born on November first: This year will be full of surprises. A family reunion will help you to understand yourself better. Not everyone will be glad to see you; don't expect to be universally popular. Set your sights low; you are habitually disappointed when you expect too much. You have unique abilities that set you apart from the rest of the world and make you a force to be reckoned with in business. Those who are in relationships should expect that bond to deepen in times of adversity, while the unattached will have good luck when friends act as matchmakers."

She gazed at what she'd written for a minute after she was done reading it to them. She looked up at Harry. "Well, I suppose that sounds about right. How odd. I'm twenty-four now and I didn't even know it." She put the Thursday newspaper down and picked up another one. "Today's horoscope that I wrote for Scorpios: Take in a stray that follows you home. The domino effect will change your life forever. Careful not to startle others as it could have disastrous results. You can be self-involved, but today you have permission. Allow yourself to be the curious cat."

She grinned. "I've never felt that Capricorn was right for me, and now I know why! Oh, thank you if only for that! You've given me my birthday!" She looked at the paper again, grinning, even though it wasn't the rosiest horoscope Harry had ever heard. The part about taking in a stray was uncanny, though, and it wasn't as though she knew she was a Scorpio when she wrote it.

He took the paper from her and stared at his own horoscope, thinking about what he'd done the day before. It was amazing; the horoscope for Leo was spot on for him too, and he'd never thought that when reading these things before. He looked up at her.

"So--you can really do this stuff? You're serious; you're not faking it."

She bristled. "No, I'm not faking it! Honestly, I am so tired of--"

"I'm sorry. It's just that--I always used to fake my Divination homework. I was hopeless at it. I just kept predicting my untimely, gruesome death, and the teacher was happy."

She looked at him shrewdly. "Divination homework?"

Harry just realized how peculiar this must have sounded. "Yes. Remember how I mentioned that your sister and I also have strange abilities? Well--we go to a special school for people like us. It's, um, a very progressive school…"

She raised her eyebrows. "I'll say. I wish I'd gone to a school like that."

He grinned at her. "It's fantastic! You would have been brilliant in Divination; they probably would have had you teaching the lessons! Everyone in your family went there. That's where your parents met, and your brothers all went, too. Your oldest brother Bill and your younger brother Percy were both Head Boy. And Charlie was captain of the Qui--I mean, the house team. There are four houses, and the house teams compete against each other. I'm captain of my house team. And Ginny's on her house team too. We're in different houses. Your brother Ron is the captain of their house team."

"There are boys and girls on the same teams? That is a progressive school. Hm…"

Harry wasn't sure whether he'd said too much. He'd managed to tell her a good bit about both the school and her family without once mentioning magic. Hopefully when she eventually learned about being a witch, she would take it in stride. He thought it might help to get her to Hermione's. And Hermione had books now that she could show Maggie…

"So, um, do you want to go see her? We could call first; my friend wrote her phone number on the directions I was using."

She'd been staring at the horoscope again, but now she looked up at him as though she'd forgotten he was in her flat. "Oh,yes, of course. What's the number? What's her name?" When he told her Hermione's name, she stopped what she was doing. "Hermione Granger? You know her?"

"Actually, we just met earlier this week. Ginny's over at her place now. They're getting acquainted."

She grinned. "Well, here I go…" She punched the numbers on the phone, then pressed a button for the speaker, so Harry could hear and talk too. He heard the phone ringing, then after a few moments, Hermione's voice answering.


"Hello, is this Hermione Granger?"

"Who is calling, please?" Hermione's voice had become wary.

"My name is Maggie Parrish, and I'm calling because--"

"Maggie Parrish! I don't want to talk to you. I've seen what you do to people who do. I've read the horrible way you dissect their lives, second-guessing all their decisions, and I will not sit still and let you--"

"Shut up!" Maggie yelled at her. "I'm not calling you to put you under a microscope. Harry Potter is here in my flat."

"Harry's there? Why?"

"Hello, Hermione," he called into the speaker. "I got a little lost," he said sheepishly.

"Lost? I gave you perfectly good directions." He heard a familiar annoyance in her voice. "Did you switch trains where I told you?"

"Er, no. I saw Maggie and I--followed her home."

"What?" That was Ginny's voice now; apparently Hermione had a speaker phone as well. "I thought I was the only one you stalked…"

"Calm down, Gin. There was a good reason for it. Listen, Hermione, can I bring her over to your flat? I want her to meet Ginny."

"All right. But what about Dean?"

"Actually, I've had another idea for how to get the others all together in one place. I'll tell you once I get there, all right? How's Ginny doing?"

"I'm fine," came her voice out of the speaker. "As long as people don't talk about me like I'm not here…"

Maggie chuckled and whispered to Harry, "I like her."

"We'll be over soon. Maggie will make sure I don't get lost."

They all said goodbye and Maggie went to talk to her husband. They both seemed to be satisfied that Harry wasn't a nefarious character who was trying to lure her to his flat for some dreadful purpose; she had been reassured by hearing Hermione and Ginny on the phone.

When they were ready to go, Bernard kissed her, and Harry pretended he was looking at a print on the wall near the door. He was still holding the Friday newspaper, which he folded and put in his pocket. Bernard held his wife's slim waist lightly, and she clung to him for a second before letting him go. Harry swallowed, thinking of him and Ginny.

Using the directions Hermione had drawn up for getting to Dean's house, Maggie managed to work out how to get to the flat Hermione shared with her teacher. In no time, it seemed, they were knocking on the door and Hermione was opening it. Maggie started forward, then stopped when she saw that no one would ever mistake her and Hermione for being dead ringers.

Hermione also froze when she saw Maggie. "You're Maggie Parrish?"

Maggie smiled ruefully. "Well, I'll assume from your reaction that you don't watch me on television." Hermione shook her head dumbly; Harry could tell that Hermione was taking in the striking resemblance between Maggie and Ginny. He muttered in her ear, "Don't mention magic. She nodded, ushering them into the entrance hall, then into the living room, where Ginny was. She looked up and gave Harry a smile that touched his heart, but it disappeared when she saw Maggie step out from behind him. Her face dropped and she looked terrified.

"Harry; what or who is that?" she whispered, standing and backing away.

He grinned. "You'll never guess who I spotted on the train! Your sister Peggy! Only she goes by Margaret now. Well, Maggie, actually. I couldn't believe how much she looks like you…"

"Sister?" she gasped. Harry heard a rushing sound in his ears as he realized the magnitude of his blunder; damn! He suddenly realized that he didn't know whether Ginny knew about Annie and Peggy. It certainly appeared that she didn't. In the other life, Ginny found out after she came up from the Chamber of Secrets and her mother blurted it out. Ginny had never been in the Chamber in this life. This had gone dreadfully wrong. Ginny stared at her sister, openmouthed, then at Harry. With an inarticulate cry, she ran from the room; they heard her open the door of the flat and run into the corridor, then down the stairs.

After standing frozen for a moment, Harry cried, "Ginny!" and then sprinted after her. He was getting better at running, but she was also fast and had had a good head start. He'd noticed at school that she was very fast at going downstairs; she could really get up a rhythm and go pattering down an enormous staircase in nothing flat. Harry was a flight behind her, hitting the ground floor a moment after she'd pushed the exterior door open and had collided with a man walking past the building. Both Ginny and the man staggered, but she recovered quickly, dashing toward the street.

"Ginny!" he called. She paused for a split second, and that's when it happened; the driver blew the horn first, unfortunately, and threw on the brakes second, but the car was still moving, and he couldn't stop it from striking her. She was thrown up on the hood, then rolled onto the street in front of the car's wheels. After that she was very still.

Harry flew through the door and to her side, crouching next to her, calling her name some more. The driver was getting out of his car, coming round to look, a dreadful expression on his face.

"She just ran out into the street!" he said with a catch in his voice. "I tried to stop…"

Harry could feel a pulse, but it was weak. She had a bruise on her forehead and he was afraid to touch her, to find out what else might be wrong. Hermione was at his elbow quickly, while someone cried out that they were calling the police and an ambulance. Harry gazed down at Ginny's inert form, tears prickling behind his eyelids.

"All my fault," he choked. "She didn't understand about cars and things…I shouldn't have sprung this on her…"

Hermione put her hand on his arm. "You said not to mention magic," she whispered to him, "but isn't there something magical you can do to help her?"

He shook his head. "I'm not trained in that. I need to get her back to our school. That's were she needs to be. I can't let Muggles get near her…"

Hermione grimaced. "And how will you get her back?"

"I'm not sure. It's about an hour between the village hall and the entrance to the secret passage in the school. And I would have to get her to the Leaky Cauldron first."

"Well, usually after something like this, you have to worry about internal injuries. She could be bleeding inside. You'd better move fast."

"I can only go so quickly--" he started to say, when he had a sudden idea. "Listen," he said to her softly; there was a crowd of people standing about now, and Harry could hear a siren working its way through the traffic a few blocks away. Maggie had reached them, panting, and was leaning over Ginny with concern, smoothing hair from her brow. While she was distracted, Harry whispered to Hermione, "I know of a spell that could possibly get me back to school very fast, but I've never done it before. I might not be able to. Cover for me; I'm going to run back inside to try it."

She nodded, bending over Ginny and stroking her arm lightly. Harry looked at Maggie. "I'll be right back." She didn't question this; he ran into Hermione's building. He worked at slowing down his breathing once he was indoors and couldn't be seen by anyone. Taking his wand out of its long pocket, he attempted to focus, but it was difficult with the sound of the sirens getting closer and closer. He closed his eyes and tried to be completely aware of everything his body was doing; he thought about moving very, very fast, pictured himself running like the wind....He swished his wand through the air and pointed it at his own head, then spoke in a firm, clear voice.

"Tempus fugit."

He looked around; he didn't feel any different. He listened for the sirens; he couldn't let Ginny be taken to a Muggle hospital! They weren't supposed to be in London. But suddenly, he realized that he not only wasn't hearing sirens, he wasn't hearing any noise at all. The world was utterly still. He turned and opened the door.

He stepped out into the street, into an eerily silent universe populated by uncanny statues. The statue of the driver of the car that had struck Ginny was standing with one hand on the hood, looking down at her, a tear that had been streaking down his face frozen in position next to his nose. There was a Hermione statue, and a Maggie statue and a prone Ginny statue, still just as bruised-looking. Harry's heart was in his throat. He looked up and down the street; not a soul moved anywhere; the wind didn't even rustle anything. Harry was moving between seconds, between milliseconds, and everyone else in the world appeared to be standing still.

He breathed a sigh of relief. He'd done it! He glanced at Ginny. She'd be safe now; he could get her back to Hogwarts and it would be as though almost no time had passed for her. If she had internal bleeding, it wouldn't progress while he was getting her to Madam Pomfrey.

He returned to Hermione's flat, finding some paper and a pencil to write her a note explaining what he was doing.

Dear Hermione,

It worked. I'm taking Ginny back. I know I said not to mention you-know-what to Maggie, but now I can't be here to talk to her about it. I know you just found out about yourself a few days ago, but if you can find a way to tell her that she is the same, that would be very helpful. You can tell her how barking mad you thought I was when I told you; perhaps that would help her.

I had an idea for getting Alicia, Dean and Justin together in the same place so we could tell them. You mentioned in one of your letters that you are doing a concert in London on December 28. That is during our Christmas holiday. Perhaps you can send personal invitations and tickets to them for the concert? It's worth a try. You'll need to send tickets to me too; I'll let you know how many when you return.

Thanks for talking to Maggie, if you decide you can handle that. I'll contact you later to tell you how Ginny is.


Harry ran back outside with the note and carefully wrapped Hermione's hand around it. Then he gently removed Ginny from underneath Maggie's hand and picked her up with his left arm under her knees and his right arm around her back, her head pillowed on his chest. It was disconcerting not to feel her heart beating, but he knew that if he stayed in this state, her heart would not beat again for what would seem to him decades, and yet she would still be alive. He staggered away from the car which had struck her; when he reached the tube station, he stared going down the stairs, but he realized that he couldn't take the train while he was moving between split seconds. He staggered back up to the street with her body. He would have to carry her all the way to the Leaky Cauldron.

Luckily, she was as light as he remembered her. He thought of taking her to Madam Pomfrey after he and Ron had discovered her with Malfoy in the Potions dungeon. Fortunately, she wasn't really hurt that time; now she was, and her life depended on his getting her to Hogwarts.

He stopped to rest periodically, brushing her hair gently out of her face. He was enormously relieved when he finally reached the wizarding pub. When he entered, the pub patrons and Tom were frozen in mid-drink, mid-sentence, and, in Tom's case, in mid-pour, an arc of amber liquid connecting a brown bottle to a small glass on the bar in front of him.

Harry put Ginny down in a chair near the fire so he could retrieve the envelope of Floo powder from his pocket. Then he realized that this probably wouldn't work if he was still moving faster than the rest of the world. He shouldn't combine magics that way; it was too unpredictable and risky. He took a deep breath and tried to act very quickly. He took the spell off himself, and the people around him in the pub started moving again; a witch sitting at the next table pointed at Harry and Ginny, a shocked look on her face. To her, it would have seemed that they had appeared out of nowhere. He tossed some Floo powder in the fire and cried, "Hogsmeade village hall!"

He clutched Ginny's body to him, made her as much a part of him as possible, until finally, they fell out of the grating into the backstage area in the hall. Harry quickly performed the Tempus fugit spell again, then picked her up and started to enter the passage behind the wardrobe which led to the fourth floor corridor at the castle. Then he stopped and thought about whether this was really the smartest thing to do. It took about twenty minutes longer to get to the fourth floor corridor than it did to simply walk back to the castle from the village hall, and the infirmary was also quite close to the entrance hall, while it was dismally far from the fourth-floor corridor with the large mirror. He decided that since he was traveling between milliseconds anyway, he didn't need to use the secret passage. He could walk right out in the middle of the High Street and down the road to the castle without anyone noticing a thing.

So he did just that. He still had to stop frequently to rest, but once he was within a half-mile of the front doors of the castle, he didn't stop once. He carried her into the entrance hall and looked around; the castle seemed quite deserted. Had no one above third year opted out of the trip to Hogsmeade? Then he wondered how he was going to explain to Madam Pomfrey what had happened to Ginny…

His mind went blank; he looked up at the marble stairs leading to the hospital wing. Think, Potter, think…And then, as he looked intently at the stairs, it came to him. No one was around; they wouldn't just suddenly see Harry and Ginny appear out of thin air. He set her down at the foot of the stairs, and before he took the spell off himself he bent down and kissed her brow, her cheeks, and very lightly, her lips.

"It will be all right," he whispered to her. He took the spell off himself and immediately felt a draft coming into the entrance hall from the open front door. He leaned down to listen to Ginny's heart, and when he was satisfied, he scooped her up again and carried her up the stairs, not stopping until he reached the door of the infirmary.

He opened the door noisily, banging it against the wall, and he called out, "Madam Pomfrey! Come quickly!"

She bustled out of her office, looking nonplussed until she saw Harry carrying Ginny. "Over here!" she ordered, patting one of the beds. Harry followed her and put Ginny down carefully. "Now--what happened?"

"I'm--I'm not sure. I found her at the bottom of the stairs in the entrance hall."

She nodded and began to examine Ginny. When she passed her wand over Ginny's midsection she looked very concerned. It was glowing with a strange purple light. She pushed past Harry and strode to her office, returning with a corked vial containing a viscous-looking magenta potion which emitted a lavender mist when the vial was uncorked. Pomfrey carefully poured it between Ginny's pale lips.

She gazed at the watch she wore around her neck on a pendant, which appeared upside down to Harry. After a few minutes, she waved her wand over Ginny again, muttering words Harry didn't catch. When she was done the wand glowed pale blue instead of purple. Madam Pomfrey breathed a sigh of relief. Then she looked up at Harry.

"Suppose you tell me what really happened, Potter."

* * * * *

McGonagall gave him that gimlet eye that he remembered so well. Fortunately, he hadn't had to see it directed at him since his fight with the twins on his first day back. He swallowed. What had Pomfrey told the headmistress? he wondered.

"Well, Potter? What do you have to say about Miss Weasley's condition?"

Harry felt himself breaking out in a sweat. Calm down, he thought. Getting so nervous she can see it isn't going to help. "I found her," he said in a choked voice, "at the bottom of the stairs in the entrance hall. I had just come back from the Quidditch pitch, since I wasn't permitted to go into the village today--"

"Ah," she said knowingly, nodding. "The Quidditch pitch. I see. That's where you were. That makes sense. And then?"

What did she mean by that? "And then when I came in the doors, I saw her just lying there..."

She looked at his face shrewdly. "Are you sure, Potter? For someone who just 'found' her, you're looking terribly--guilty. Is there nothing you wish to add?"

He looked back at her, the wheels in his mind spinning. Finally, he knew what he could say to explain the unmistakable guilty look he evidently had on his face. He put his face in his hands.

"I'm sorry, Professor. It's all my fault. Ginny being like this..."

Now she put her fingers together, nodding. "Go on, Potter." He lifted his face to her again.

"You may or may not know that I--I used to follow Ginny around the castle."

She nodded grimly. "I was aware of that. Continue."

"And then--near the end of last term, I decided--well, I decided that I'd been stupid and pathetic and she was never going to give me the time of day and I gave up. I forced myself to stop thinking about her, and I stopped following her. I haven't followed her since the new term began. And she and my sister have become friends now, so--it's just a bit awkward, seeing them together. And now that this has happened, I can't help feeling that if I hadn't been so defeatist, if I hadn't given up on her--then I would have been there, I could have kept this from happening, or taken her to the hospital wing sooner. Who knows how long she was lying there?"

Professor McGonagall nodded, her face relaxed and sympathetic now, and Harry knew that she'd believed the story he'd just told her. He really did feel responsible, of course, so he no longer had to worry about his face betraying his feelings. And she was apparently finding his reasoning plausible.

"Potter, your job at this school is to be a student, not Miss Weasley's bodyguard. You cannot hold yourself responsible for this." Harry tried to smile feebly at her; he hadn't had that much contact with Professor McGonagall since September first, and he was gratified that she was talking to a Slytherin student in her office with no apparent bias against him. He noticed that Professor McGonagall looked very troubled.

"Madam Pomfrey did say something perplexing," she said. "Miss Weasley's injuries are not at all consistent with a tumble down a flight of stairs--even a long flight of marble stairs. Pomfrey did her apprenticeship in Edinburgh, you know, and had to work on witches and wizards who were not unaccustomed to a Muggle city, and unaware of how fast Muggle automobiles could travel. That was over fifty years ago, mind you, but there are always some people who will drive dangerously fast in the city. She says she saw Miss Weasley's sort of injuries many times when she was in Edinburgh; they are consistent with a person being struck by a Muggle car. She also says that you did in fact find her very quickly; she estimates that Miss Weasley couldn't have been lying there more than a few minutes when you came upon her. Naturally, she could not really have been struck by an automobile, as the nearest Muggle village is several hours away from here, even by broomstick. The question becomes: what at Hogwarts could cause a person to suffer these sorts of injuries?"

Harry swallowed and tried to look confused; it wasn't that hard. "Another perplexing thing," Professor McGonagall continued, "is that there were various strange articles stuck to Miss Weasley's clothing. I recognized a cigarette end, a piece of gum, and a bit of shiny paper with the name of a Muggle sweet on it. There was also a great deal of dirt on the back of her clothes, the sort you find on a Macadam road. It was almost as if she was struck by an automobile on a paved Muggle street, then magically transported back here seconds later. The problem with that, of course, is that--"

"--you can't Apparate anywhere on the grounds of Hogwarts," Harry said mechanically. Years of conditioning from the Hermione in his other life kicked in suddenly, and when he looked up at a surprised McGonagall, he stuttered a bit. "S-sorry to interrupt, Professor."

She looked at him appraisingly. "Have you been reading Hogwarts, A History, Potter?"

He swallowed. "Just a little, ma'am," he lied.

She beamed with approval. "Glad to hear it. Thumping good read, if I do say so myself. In general, I'd say your performance this year has been a pleasure to see. I've been getting nothing but glowing reports of your work from all of your teachers. It's a pity you're not a prefect..." she trailed off; Harry wondered whether she knew about the changed O.W.L. letter and the reason why he wasn't a prefect. She looked at him through narrowed eyes. "I understand you've been down at the Quidditch pitch most mornings. Have you by any chance been receiving some extra tuition?"

Harry frowned. "No. I've just--I've been running in the mornings. Around the pitch. And doing some other exercises. Just keeping fit. Nothing special. Rather boring, really." What did she suspect? Her face reorganized itself into a blank, friendly mask.

"At any rate, it's a good thing you were in the entrance hall when you were. Miss Weasley is very lucky, according to Madam Pomfrey. She is being very cautious with her. She may be unconscious for several days, perhaps even longer. Madam Pomfrey will be monitoring her all day, and various professors will be taking turns at night. We will also be asking her close friends to help during the day, to give Poppy some small breaks. Miss Weasley was gravely injured, and will very likely be in hospital for some time."

Harry felt stricken, and knew that the expression probably showed on his face. "I-I'm glad I found her when I did," he whispered. "Could I--could I go see her?"

She smiled indulgently at him. "Yes, Harry. You may." He knew she had softened toward him since she was using his first name.

He didn't need to be told twice. When he left the headmistress' office, he ran as fast as he could to the hospital wing. Before he'd gone to McGonagall's office, he'd made a trip up to the owlery to send a message to Hermione confirming that he and Ginny had arrived at Hogwarts. He hadn't heard back from her yet about whether she'd been up to telling Maggie about being a witch. He still felt guilty about laying that on Hermione when she'd just found out herself, but there was no helping it, with Ginny injured...

He reached the infirmary quickly and burst in the door; Madam Pomfrey looked upset at first, then relaxed when she saw it was him. She waved him over and he stood uncertainly, looking down at Ginny's pale face and then at Madam Pomfrey's concerned, wrinkled one.

"How is she?" he asked softly. She shook her head.

"Stable. But I'm worried. That head injury isn't going to allow her to awake for some time. And I want to keep monitoring her for internal bleeding."

"Can I--can I sit with her?"

She smiled at him indulgently. "Of course. But let me teach you something first," she said and proceeded to show him the charm she'd used earlier that had told her that Ginny's problem was internal bleeding. When Harry performed the charm, his wand glowed with a pale blue light, as Madam Pomfrey's had the last time he'd seen her do it. "If it turns purplish, or worse, red, you come get me, understand? You don't need to do it constantly; every fifteen minutes or so should do. How long do you plan to stay?"

He gazed at Ginny, his throat tight. "As long as you'll let me." She nodded; probably everyone knows that I used to follow her around, Harry thought. That sort of thing would be common knowledge.

He glanced up at the clock on the wall so he would know how soon to check her again. Ginny had also cracked a couple of ribs, but they were already mending nicely. "I just can't understand the things on her clothes...."

Harry didn't look at her. He sat in a chair pulled up to Ginny's bedside and took her left hand in his. She probably wouldn't wake up any time soon, but he wanted to be by her side when she did. He couldn't believe how stupid he'd been, spring Maggie on her....

Every fifteen minutes he checked her with his wand; he breathed a sigh of relief each time it glowed pale blue. Harry heard Madam Pomfrey bustling about in the apothecary; he didn't turn around when the door to the infirmary opened, but the moment he heard a familiar voice, he jerked up and hastily took his hand away from Ginny's.

"Potter! What's going on? What's happened to our sister?" Ron came striding into the room ahead of Charlie and they were both at her bedside in trice. "Professor Black came flying down to the village to find us. Get away from her! I thought you were leaving her alone, and the first chance you get to be with her when she's unconscious and can't tell you to sod off, you're sitting here touching her hand!"

"Ron!" Charlie said sharply; it was a good thing, Harry thought, that Charlie didn't have to teach his brother.

Harry swallowed, unable to respond. Madam Pomfrey came bustling into the room. "Weasley!" she said, addressing Ron. "I'll thank you to keep your voice down in my infirmary! Potter is responsible for bringing your sister here before she could bleed to death internally! If anyone has a right to sit here and hold her hand, I'd say it's him!" Harry was shocked; he'd never heard Madam Pomfrey say such a thing before. Ron looked slightly abashed at being addressed in this way, but not so much that he backed down.

"I don't want that Slytherin near my sister," he growled, looking at Ginny.

"Did you completely ignore everything I said? Potter saved her life! Now, you are to report to the Headmistress. You too, Professor Weasley. She is waiting for you to be present before she calls your parents. Professor McGonagall can tell you everything you need to know. In the meantime, if Potter wants to stay, he has my permission. Since I am in charge in this infirmary, that is all that matters!"

She looked at Ron, daring him to challenge her authority, and he immediately backed down, but he gave Harry a good glare before he turned to go, Charlie's hand on his shoulder. Charlie looked back at Harry, sympathy in his gaze. Sorry about that, he mouthed at Harry, who nodded back at him, his lips drawn into a line. When they had closed the door, Madam Pomfrey turned kindly to Harry and said softly, "How is she?"

He looked down at Ginny's expressionless face. "The same." Madam Pomfrey nodded.

"That's good. Can you stay a little longer?"

"Of course."

He sat and took Ginny's hand again; when Pomfrey was gone, he raised it to his lips. "I'm here, Ginny," he whispered to her. "I'm not going anywhere."

He had only checked her with his wand once more when Ron and Charlie returned. Harry heard the door open and close, but he didn't turn, nor did he bother taking Ginny's hand from his own. He heard Ron walk to her bed, then looked up at him when he stopped and stood on the other side of it, taking up Ginny's other hand. Charlie followed, but this time he came to stand near Harry, putting his hand on Harry's shoulder and saying softly, "Thanks, Harry."

Harry looked up at his friend and teacher and nodded. He knew what he meant. Then he looked back at Ginny, feeling the comforting pressure of the hand on his shoulder; he knew that Charlie was not all that thrilled that Harry had followed Ginny around, and it even seemed to Harry that he might originally have befriended him to try to keep an eye on his sister's stalker. But that friendship had grown to have a life of its own, and Charlie had never once requested that Harry stop following Ginny.

Ignoring the two of them, Ron said to his sister, "Mum and dad will be here soon, Ginny." His voice shook a little. "Well, Mum will, anyway. Dad was about to Apparate to the village, but another emergency came up at work." He sat on the edge of the bed, his voice soft, gazing at her face as though she could really hear and understand him. "He's trying to figure out whether someone has made an illegal Portkey; a woman in London was hit by a car and disappeared into thin air. And a Muggle-born witch was there too; it's possible they may need to get the Accidental Magic Reversal squad out there, if she's the one who did it. It's a big mess; there are about a dozen Muggles whose memories need altering. Not to mention the Muggle-born witch." Harry groaned inwardly; he'd hoped to cover his tracks better than this, but of course, Maggie and Hermione weren't the only ones who would have noticed that Ginny had vanished. Other people had been milling about after she'd been hit. What if they modified Hermione's memory and she forgot that she was a witch again? She'd wonder why on earth she had an owl, for a start, not to mention the magic books. Good grief, Harry thought. What a mess...

"Potter," Ron said suddenly. Harry looked up at him; he hadn't reprimanded him for taking Ginny's hand this time. Perhaps it was because Charlie was standing next to him. Harry didn't speak. Ron's voice quavered and he sounded reluctant. "Thanks. For being there. McGonagall told me what you said." He looked down at his sister. "I never thought I'd say this, but I kind of wish you were still stalking her, too. It never occurred to me that could give her some kind of protection..."

Harry grimaced. "But you wish I weren't a Slytherin."

"Well, of course," Ron said, without hesitation. Harry clamped his mouth shut and breathed through his nose, trying to control his anger.

"That's all you see when you look at me: a Slytherin. You might be interested to know that I'm also a decent human being. If I'd found anyone in the condition Ginny was in, I'd have brought them up here and I'd still be sitting with them."

Charlie patted his shoulder again. "Of course you would, Harry. I know what sort of person you are." He looked pointedly at his younger brother, his eyebrows raised.

Ron looked at Charlie, abashed, then at Harry, and mumbled, "Sorry." Then he went back to watching Ginny. Harry was torn between telling Ron off for being such a house-bigot and wanting to be friends with him again. It would have been nice if he and Ron and Draco and Charlie could all hang out together...and Jamie and Ginny, too. He remembered the Ron from his other life; the Ron who assumed that everyone in Slytherin was evil, the Ron who reacted negatively to the news that Hagrid was half-giant and who was very, very alarmed by Harry being a Parselmouth, and didn't subscribe to Hermione's theory that house-elf liberation was a good thing. Ron was really no different in this life, Harry thought. He just hasn't had me and Hermione to be good influences on him...

"For instance," Harry said to him, "I don't think it's right that Hogwarts no longer takes Muggle-born students. Do you think it's right?"

Ron shrugged. "It's the law."

"But is it a just law? Do you think it's right for Muggle-born witches and wizards not to know who they are? What they are? To have their memory altered all the time if they make something happen? Wouldn't there likely be fewer cases of accidental magic if all magical people knew that they were magic?"

Ron frowned at him. "Since when do Slytherins give a damn about Muggle-borns?"

"Ron--" his brother said warningly again.

Harry bristled. "This Slytherin has a mum who's Muggle-born."

Ron's eyes opened wide. "Oh, right. Evans. What a mind-bender that was! I mean--well, look at her, and look at you--"

"Oh, thanks very much for that," Harry drawled. He elbowed Charlie, who had started to laugh, then stifled it.

"You know what I mean."

"Well, people always say that all I got from my mum are my eyes, that otherwise I look just like my father."

Ron looked confused. "You don't look anything like Snape."

"He's my stepfather, stupid. My father was James Potter."

"He was in seventh year when I was a first year," Charlie told Ron. "Gryffindor Quidditch captain. A Chaser. Like you," he added pointedly. Ron squirmed a bit.

"Oh. right. Snape married to Evans...that's a mind-bender too." Ron shook his head in wonder. "Snape's a lucky son-of-a--"

"Watch it," Harry warned in a low growl. He tried not to notice Charlie's sly grin. Ron apologized again, not very sincerely.

"Now, your sister--I can see now that she's your mum's daughter."

"Yeah. All she got from our father was his hair color, combined with a little of mum's." He couldn't help his mouth twisting into a smile as he looked at Ron. "You think my sister's pretty, don't you?"

Ron opened his mouth to speak, then closed it, making his brother laugh out loud. When he did speak, he didn't answer Harry's question. "Why do I think that if I say, 'yes,' you'll look on it as an excuse to pull out your wand, and if I say 'no,' you'll do the same thing?"

"Now boys," Charlie said, although he was smiling. "No dueling in the infirmary..."

Harry laughed. "Paranoid, aren't we?"

Ron laughed too. "Well, I do the same thing. If a bloke looks at Ginny, I notice. And if someone were to insult her, they'd also have to answer to me."

"And me," Charlie said, sounding miffed.

Harry quieted, gazing at her face again. "Why would anyone insult her?" he asked softly.

Ron and Charlie didn't have an answer for him. They were all silent for a few minutes, sitting companionably with her, and Harry felt unaccountably happy, considering that Ginny was still in grave danger. Just being able to sit quietly in the same room with Ron was a big step. When the door to the infirmary swung open, all three of them whirled around. It was Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.

"How is she?" Mrs. Weasley wanted to know, dashing across the room to be at her daughter's side. Harry and Charlie backed off to make room for her. Mrs. Weasley didn't notice them; no one in the world existed for her except her daughter.

"Sorry we took so long, boys," Arthur Weasley said to his sons, "but the moment I arrived at the office and they told me about the crisis, I told your mother to wait for me so we could come together. Bill and Percy and the twins will be by later."

"Why did you have mum wait?" Ron looked puzzled.

His father sighed. "Because there seems to be a connection to the London situation," Arthur Weasley said evenly.

"A connection?" Ron squeaked, incredulous. Mr. Weasley looked at Harry.

"Are you Potter?"

"Yes, sir."

"Professor McGonagall told us what you did." He extended his hand and Harry took it. "Thank you," Ginny's father said to him sincerely. Somehow, in this life, Arthur Weasley had a firmer air of authority than in Harry's other life, where that authority frequently splintered into absurdity (Harry thought of his plug collection again). Perhaps with two departments to run at the Ministry, this Mr. Weasley had precious little time for hobbies or absurdity. Harry had actually rather liked that side of Mr. Weasley; it reminded him of Dumbledore.

"I'm glad I was there, sir." Now Mrs. Weasley pulled him to her in a hug and planted a kiss on his cheek.

"So are we. So are we," she said pulling back from him, her eyes shining. She was as Harry remembered, smelling like Floo powder and fresh-baked bread.

"Do you mind?" Mr. Weasley said quietly to Harry. "We need to discuss some private family matters." Harry shook his head and moved toward the door.

"Can you tell Madam Pomfrey I'll be back?" Ron nodded to him. Harry gave him a small smile; maybe he and Ron could be friends in this life.

When he was in the corridor again, Harry looked down, realizing that he was still in the coat he'd created by transfiguring his school robes, and the Invisibility Cloak was still in his pocket. Before he'd shut the infirmary door completely, he ducked into the corridor, put the cloak on, then returned, closing the door slowly and quietly. Harry thought it might be possible that Mr. Weasley wanted to discuss family business; but he had a feeling that he was really going to discuss the "crisis" in London.

"Do either of you know where Ginny was today?" he asked his sons, sounding rather like a police officer. "Did she go into Hogsmeade with you?"

Ron shook his head. "No; we asked her to, but she said she had a lot of assignments to do. I thought that was strange, since most of the professors take it easy on us when there's a Hogsmeade weekend, but I didn't argue."

Charlie looked uncomfortable, as though he wished he had argued with her. "Nor did I."

"So, as far as you know, she was here in the castle?"

Ron shrugged. "Where else?"

"How about on a London street, getting hit by a car?"

"What?" her brothers said in unison.

Mr. Weasley looked down at his daughter sadly. "A girl meeting Ginny's description was hit by a car in Fulham. Then she vanished into thin air. There were Muggles all around who saw her there one second, lying in the street, then she was just--gone. At first we thought it was an illegal Portkey, but now--"

"What?" Charlie said, putting his arm around his mother's shoulders.

"Well, we did some digging and discovered that the accident occurred right in front of the home of a Muggle-born witch. When our people ran some tests on the accident site, there was no Portkey signature. Once we found out about the witch living there, we did some tests on her flat; no one was home. There were no signs of magic there, accidental or otherwise." Harry gave a mental sigh of relief; thank goodness he had not helped Hermione to buy a wand. "However, right inside the door to the witch's building, there was a magic signature. A spell, done with a wand. A very obscure spell. Dark magic. I can't tell you its name; it's classified."

Dark magic! Harry thought. Of course dark magic! his brain responded. You should have known. Something as powerful as that! It was because of Voldemort that he knew about the Tempus fugit spell, after all. He should have known it was dark magic. On his way back to the castle with Ginny, he had wondered why Dumbledore hadn't suggested that he and Hermione use it to save Sirius and Buckbeak, but now he knew. Dumbledore would never advocate the use of dark magic. Even as he was going through Hermione's things, trying to find some paper and a pen for the note he'd left, Harry had thought that it was a good thing he had honorable intentions; someone whose intentions weren't completely honorable could do some very nefarious things using that spell...

And suddenly, he knew; he knew how the Weasley girls had been taken from the playground in Ottery St. Catchpole! The Tempus fugit spell. Of course. It made perfect sense.

"What does this spell do?" Ron wanted to know.

His father frowned. "When a person puts this spell on himself, he can move so fast that he is going between split-seconds. It has been used occasionally by dark wizards to commit horrible crimes, but we haven't seen it for years..."

Harry suddenly realized that Mr. Weasley must know already that his daughters had been taken using this spell; he and dozens of Aurors had gone over Ottery St. Catchpole with a fine-toothed comb. One of them must have discovered the signature of the Tempus fugit spell at the swings where the girls had last been seen. Harry swallowed. He had used dark magic. It was to save Ginny, but it was dark magic all the same...

"Why don't dark wizards use it more often?" Ron wanted to know.

"It's very dangerous. You can put yourself into an early grave. Outwardly there is no clue, but inside one's body...When one is using this spell, the inner workings of one's body age ten-thousand times faster than normal."

Ten-thousand times! Harry thought. He was unsure how long he'd taken to get Ginny back to Hogwarts. It had felt like somewhere between two and three hours. That was--he did the math quickly in his head, rounding off the numbers--almost three years. He'd aged his bones and internal organs an additional three years to get Ginny back. Granted, wizards lived longer than Muggles, but still...

"Wow," Ron said. "Why would anyone use a spell like that very much?"

His father shrugged. "I don't know. It's possible some people have used it without knowing the downside. And while the spell itself isn't illegal, it's usually used for masking illegal activity. No one uses it for good."

Harry bristled; I used it to save Ginny! he thought. But he could understand Mr. Weasley assuming this; it was a spell waiting to be abused.

"Do you have any idea who performed the spell?" Charlie wanted to know.

His father shook his head. "None. We're wondering about the Muggle-born witch, though. Like I said, the signature was just inside the entrance to her building. And when we checked her flat we also discovered that she has an owl. Which might not mean anything; after all, there were no magic signatures in her flat, and I've heard of some Muggles who have pet owls. We couldn't spend a lot of time looking around, had to Apparate out. The witch's flatmate was coming home."

Charlie looked thoughtful. "Did you find the witch?"

"No, and that's another disturbing piece of the puzzle. Plus, some of the Muggles who were there said that there were two girls who looked like Ginny; the one who was hit by the car was lying on the ground, and the other one was leaning over her. The Muggle-born witch was also bending over her. Then the girl who had been struck by the car disappeared. And apparently, the witch didn't return to her flat."

"You don't think she did the dark magic?" Ron suggested.

His father frowned. "Unlikely."

Ron looked very perplexed. "So are you saying that Ginny was in London today, that she was hit by a car, and that someone who used this dark magic returned her to Hogwarts and put her in the entrance hall, where she was found by Potter?"

His father looked grim. "It certainly looks that way."

Ron paced back and forth. "Does McGonagall know? She'll expel Ginny as soon as she wakes up!"

"Now, Ron. I know better than to reveal certain things to the Headmistress." He looked meaningfully at his older son, who held up his hands; he wasn't about to tell his boss anything either. "I'm just--worried about Ginny. I wish she could tell us what happened. But it sounds like she may continue to be unconscious for some time. She may know who did this. She may have gone to London of her own free will, maybe even using this spell."

"Ginny using dark magic?" Charlie said incredulously.

Mr. Weasley sighed. "When I was in school, I remember finding all kinds of interesting spells in books that just seemed to be crying out to be used. And sometimes I did, with my friends. Most of the time, they were harmless. But sometimes...sometimes we were lucky we made it through the day alive." He turned to Charlie. "You and Bill had your share of that." Charlie looked down. Now his father turned to Ron. "You kids think you're immortal because you're young; you find spells in books and try them, not knowing whether they're dark magic or what the long-term ramifications might be. It could be that Ginny and a friend of hers thought they'd have a lark and use this spell to go to London, not knowing it was dark magic, not knowing about the downside, the internal aging. Actually, we're probably lucky that whoever went with her had the presence of mind to return her using that spell; it saved her life."

Harry breathed a sigh of relief; at least Mr. Weasley recognized that a person didn't have to be a dark wizard to use this spell. One could just be a young, ignorant witch or wizard...

"If only we could find that Muggle-born witch and the girl who looks like Ginny..."

Ron furrowed his brow. "Could someone have taken them too, using the same spell?"

His father raised an eyebrow. "I hadn't thought of that. It's possible."

Harry went to the door as quietly as he could, opening it and closing it without the Weasleys noticing. He sped down to the dungeons in the Invisibility Cloak, then stopped in the corridor outside his mother's classroom.

"Accio parchment! Accio quill!" he cried. He didn't have time to go all the way to his dorm and back. In minutes, he saw the articles hurtling down the corridor toward him. He stopped them when they were a few feet away, then took off the cloak and put it back in his pocket. He transfigured his jacket back into his Hogwarts robes and slipped into the Potions classroom to write another letter to Hermione.

Dear Hermione,

I hope you and Maggie are all right. If it is at all possible, stay somewhere other than your flat tonight. You can go back to pack for your trip tomorrow. Take someone with you when you go. Maybe Alec? I say this because the Ministry knows about Ginny's accident. It's a long story. They also know you were leaning over her when she disappeared, and I think they want to put a memory charm on you. Do not let this happen, or you may forget you're a witch.

Did you talk to Maggie? I hope so, but if you didn't, it's all right. Please send a reply as soon as you get this so I know you and Maggie are okay.


He ran up to the owlery and chose a school owl at random. Afterward, he dragged himself down the many stairs to the Great Hall and went to the anteroom to wait for Jamie and Draco; they were supposed to meet him and Ginny after they returned from Hogsmeade. He dozed off, waiting for them, then started when he heard the door opening. Jamie ran in, her face flushed with the cold; she looked like she had had a good day. Draco was looking far too cheerful for Harry's taste. He lifted his face to them, unable to muster anything other than an expression of utter despair.

"Oh!" Jamie said, rushing to him. She sat on the floor next to him, and he put his head in her lap, wishing he could cry, but no tears would come. Tears are for when someone else wrongs you, he thought. This is all my fault.

His sister smoothed his hair back from his brow while he told her what had happened. Draco sat nearby, watching them. When Harry was done describing everything, he started in on berating himself again, but she shushed him and rubbed his back and he quieted once more. He laid with his head on his sister, feeling her comforting touch, so like his mother's, and he ached for what he had done to Ginny.

* * * * *

A week later, when Harry made one of his many daily visits to see Ginny, he entered the infirmary to see her sitting up in bed chatting to his sister. He ran to her, his heart in his throat, throwing his arms around her. She cried out in pain and he backed up. He apologized quickly, but she pulled his face to hers and quieted him with a quick kiss.

"It's all right, Harry. I'm going to be rather sore for a while. Madam Pomfrey said I was out for a week. Is that true?"

He nodded, speechless, gazing at her face, her dear face... "Yes," he said in a croaky voice. "Have you spoken to anyone besides Madam Pomfrey and Jamie?"

"Just Draco. But I've only been awake for--what is it, Jamie, fifteen minutes? Draco's gone off to find Charlie so he'll know. Then Charlie can go get Ron."

Harry smiled. "You should have sent Jamie to Ron. He thinks she's so pret-ty..." he teased his sister.

"Harry!" she said, laughing, both swatting his arm and blushing.

"So," he said, sobering, sitting down to talk to Ginny, "no one's asked you yet how this all really happened." She shook her head. "And I still have to tell you about Maggie, since you ran in front of that car before I could do it..."

"Oh, Harry! How can I have a sister? Or did you say two sisters? I don't understand why mum and dad never said anything..."

Harry had been thinking about this for a week, and he finally came up with a plausible way for him to know about Annie and Peggy. He told her that he had heard his mother and stepfather talking about the case when he was younger; when his mother had been an Auror, she was one of the people who had been called to Ottery St. Catchpole to look for the Weasley girls. He had forgotten all about it until he had seen Maggie on the train and followed her home. Ginny listened attentively, taking all this in. He also told her that her father suspected that she and a friend had used the Tempus fugit spell to go to London; he would volunteer that it was him, and that it was because he had found a Muggle newspaper in the Hogwarts library (probably left there by a half-blood student who had received it from a Muggle parent) and seen a picture of Maggie in it. So he could say that he had told Ginny about the sister and they had traveled to London to find her, but when Ginny saw a cat run into the street she had chased after it and was struck by the car.

Ginny contemplated this story; while it was a good story, especially as it made finding Maggie the reason for the London trip, omitting any mention of Hermione, they could still both be expelled for leaving Hogwarts without permission.

"But McGonagall thinks Ginny fell down the stairs," Jamie interjected. "And if you are able to tell your parents where one of your sisters is," she said to Ginny, "I doubt they're going to turn you in to the Headmistress. Or you," she added, talking to Harry now.

"There is still the matter of using dark magic to get Ginny back here--"

"Which they're happy about! Don't worry; if they're reasonable people, and they seem to be, they'll understand you wanting to find your sister," she said to Ginny. "They haven't seen their daughter in seventeen years. I think they're going to be thinking about other things besides the two of you breaking school rules, or even whether anyone used dark magic."

Harry smiled at her, then gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "My sister, ladies and gentlemen," he said to the audience consisting only of Ginny. "Ever the voice of reason..."

The door to the infirmary banged against the wall and Draco, Charlie and Ron entered, Charlie and Ron at a run. Ron's robes were billowing behind him, his lanky frame moving swiftly to be by Ginny's side. Charlie was grinning ear to ear. Harry stepped out of Ron's way; he didn't seem to see Harry anyway.

"Ginny! You're awake! Charlie said you were." He turned and noticed Jamie, his ears turning a bit pink. "Oh," he said more softly. "Hello."

Jamie smiled charmingly at him. "Hello. Draco and I were visiting with her when she woke up. I wanted to stay with her, so he went to find Charlie. Draco's such a wonderful boyfriend..." she added, looking in his direction. Ron's face rather fell; did he care anything about Cho Chang? Harry wondered.

"Oh. Boyfriend. Right; Slytherin," he said softly. Charlie moved forward to kiss his sister on the forehead, then sat on the edge of the bed smiling at her. While Ron was still looking at Jamie, Draco surreptitiously gave Harry the map; he'd used it to find Charlie, evidently. Then Ron turned back to his sister. "How are you?" he smiled at her. "I'm so glad you're awake!"

Madam Pomfrey returned from her office, clapping her hands. "What's this, what's this? Too many people! She needs rest--"

Ginny made a noise of protest. "Madam Pomfrey! I've been unconscious for a week!"

"Now, now, I've told Professors Black and McGonagall that you're awake and Professor Black is calling your parents so they can come and see you. I'm sure everyone is interested in knowing what happened..."

Ginny looked nervously at Harry, just moving her eyes. I don't know if I can do this, her look seemed to say. He tightened his grip on her hand, willing additional strength into her.

Draco and Jamie left for the Slytherin common room so the space around Ginny's bed wouldn't be too crowded when the Weasleys arrived. Ron and Charlie and Harry continued to talk to Ginny, and Harry felt his heart turn over every time she looked at him; she was clearly so happy that Harry and Ron were getting along, even though Ron didn't know that Harry was her boyfriend. Charlie didn't know either, and although he and Harry were already friends, they would have to take care when telling Charlie, too, so he wouldn't change his mind about that. He's also my teacher, Harry thought. That's something you really want to tell your teacher...Oh, by the by, I've been snogging your baby sister...

When Mr. and Mrs. Weasley arrived, Mrs. Weasley came running to her daughter, hugging and kissing her, making her wince as Harry had.

"Ow, mum! Careful!" Ginny cautioned her. "Yes, I'm awake now, but Madam Pomfrey says I'll still need bedrest for at least two more weeks, if not more."

Mrs. Weasley looked at her, shaking her head, crying freely. "What happened, Ginny? How did this--"

"I think," her daughter interrupted her, "that before I tell you that, you should tell Ron about Annie and Peggy."

Charlie's jaw had dropped. He mouthed his lost sisters' names, staring at Ginny in disbelief. Harry saw the guilt he must have felt at thirteen blossom anew on his features.

Her mother backed up, her hand over her mouth. "Annie and Peggy? How on earth--"

Ginny nodded at Harry. "He told me. He overheard his mum talking about the case; she used to be an Auror." Mr. Weasley nodded with understanding; maybe my mum really was on this case, Harry thought. It was a reasonable assumption; so many Aurors were.

"Who are Annie and Peggy?" Ron wanted to know. "What's this got to do with what happened to Ginny?"

Haltingly, Mrs. Weasley told Ron about the lost sisters, and Harry watched his face change from shock to anger. "Why didn't anyone tell me?" he demanded, his gaze moving from his parents and older brother to Harry and his sister.

"Now, now, Ron," his mother said soothingly, her arm around his shoulders. There didn't seem to be much point..."

"Much point?" Ron echoed, his voice going up an octave.

"I'm--I'm sorry, Ron," Charlie said softly. "It's not exactly something I enjoy thinking about..."

"Let's hear what else Ginny has to say," Mr. Weasley said evenly, coming back to the reason why they were in the infirmary.

"Thanks, daddy. Anyway, Harry found a Muggle newspaper in the library some half-blood must have received from home, and there was a picture of me in it! Only it wasn't; it was someone named Maggie Parrish, a famous Seer. Harry remembered his mum talking about the disappearances of Annie and Peggy, and he put two and two together. He told me, and I immediately wanted to leave the castle to go find her; Harry made me stop and wait, but finally, we were able to get away to go look for her in London. We started with this television studio where she was filming something, and we followed her to a flat where she was going to conduct an interview with a cellist, I think. We waited for her to come out, and just when she did, I noticed this kitten walking into the street, about to be hit by a car, so I ran out--I guess the kitten was better at guessing when the cars were coming than I was. The last thing I remember was being hit, then waking up here about an hour ago."

"Who took you to London and back?" Mr. Weasley wanted to know. Harry slowly raised his hand.

"That would be me," he said softly. For a split second, he saw Charlie Weasley glaring angrily at him. But then Mrs. Weasley's arms were thrown around him again, and he was in danger of suffocating.

"Thank you, thank you!" she cried over and over. When she backed up from him, she was absolutely beaming. "You not only saved Ginny's life, you found our Peggy! I can't believe it!"

"Now Molly, calm down," Mrs. Weasley cautioned her. Harry swallowed.

"We'd appreciate it, sir, if you--if you could not tell the Headmistress about this. It was with the best of intentions, you understand. We were trying to find one of your daughters..."

Ginny looked at both of her parents pleadingly. "Please, Mum and Dad. I'm just as much to blame as Harry. I begged him to find some way for us to get to London to look for her. And you too, Charlie. Please don't tell the Headmistress."

"You could have asked me to go look for her," Charlie said resentfully.

"Well--" Harry waffled, grasping at straws. "I remember my mum saying that you and Bill blamed yourselves. I didn't want to bring up the bad memories if it wasn't really her. You're my friend. I was thinking of this as something I could do for you, instead of something I would be asking you to do."

Charlie nodded, acknowledging this. Mr. Weasley looked grudging, but finally relented. "Oh, all right. You make a good case." Then he looked at Harry and sighed. "I'd finally gotten to the point where I didn't think about them every day. I can't believe you found one of them..."

Harry gave him a small smile. "Glad I could be of some help."

Ron was still flabbergasted. "I have two more sisters," he kept repeating.

"And the Headmistress isn't hearing anything from me about it," Mr. Weasley said firmly.

"Well then!" Mrs. Weasley said, clapping her hands. "We'll have to contact her, welcome her back into the family..."

Harry had heard from Hermione before she left for New York; she had in fact talked to Maggie, and was surprised by how calmly Maggie took the news that she was a witch. Of course, Harry thought, she already knew, in a way. Maggie had volunteered to take on Sebastian while Hermione was gone, so she could communicate with Harry without having to wait to receive an owl from him. They'd been corresponding almost daily. Maggie's husband Bernard had accompanied Hermione to her flat to pack for her trip. At first, Harry had been saddened that Hermione was going to be away for a month just after finding out she was a witch; now he was glad. Perhaps after a month the Ministry of Magic would forget about her and not bother to try to do the memory charm. It was a very good time for her to be out of the country.

"Maggie's married to a Muggle," Harry said quickly. "We had a chance to tell her she's a witch, but only just; then there was the accident to deal with..."

"Of course, of course. I can be very diplomatic. But Potter," Mr. Weasley said, looking concerned, "where did you learn the dark magic you used...?"

Harry squirmed. "I found it in a book of my dad's," he lied. "It was the only thing I could think of that would enable me to get her back here quickly."

He nodded. "I'd have done the same thing. You've a good head on your shoulders."

Suddenly, Madam Pomfrey came bustling into the room. "That's enough! Just her parents now; you three, out!" she said to Ron, Charlie and Harry, shooing them toward the door to the corridor.

When they'd left the infirmary, Ron grabbed Harry by the robes. "Wait," he said, making Harry wonder whether he would feel obliged to tell the Headmistress, considering that he was a prefect; somehow Harry wasn't convinced he felt the same as his father and brother about not reporting Harry.

"Potter; I have to talk to you about a couple of things. First--thanks for what you did. Helping Ginny and finding one of my other sisters. I--I never knew. And--I need a favor."

Harry smiled at him; Ron was asking him for a favor! Surely this was working out well; he would never have done this in the not-too-distant past. "What is it?" he asked.

"Well--Pomfrey isn't going to let Ginny out of the infirmary for a while still. And we have our first Quidditch match coming up soon. I was wondering--would you object terribly to swapping with Gryffindor? We were supposed to play Hufflepuff on December seventh. Since you're the Slytherin captain--could we switch? I know you're not supposed to play Hufflepuff until the middle of February, but obviously without Ginny..."

Harry smiled at him. "That sounds fine. Yeah, we can switch. It wouldn't be any challenge for Hufflepuff to play your team without Ginny on it, anyway," he laughed. "Not that you don't make me work..."

Ron gave him a half-smile. "You make me work too, Potter." He nodded at the stairs. "I'll go tell the rest of Gryffindor that Ginny's awake. See you back here later?"

Harry was so happy he had to force himself not to leap about shouting. Was this Ron talking to him? "Yeah," he said, smiling.

When Ron left, he was still standing with Charlie, who did not look happy. "Harry," he began slowly, "why didn't you tell me?" He'd already asked him this in the infirmary; perhaps he didn't think Harry had given him a completely honest answer, with the others in the room. To Harry's surprise, Charlie looked like he was tearing up. Charlie wasn't a typical teacher, but this was still a bit of a shock to Harry.

"I'm sorry, Charlie," he said softly. "I meant what I said. If you were holding yourself responsible in any way--mum said you and Bill were with them in the park when they disappeared--it just seemed better to wait to tell you."

He nodded grimly. "I can see that. And yes--I've held myself responsible every day of the last seventeen years. Thank you for finding her."

"When your mum and dad say they won't tell McGonagall--they really mean it?"

"If they said it, they mean it. They're not going to take this lightly, you finding one of my missing sisters." He sounded a little envious. How often he must have fantasized about finding them himself.

"That's what I thought. They seemed like that sort." Charlie gave him a small smile and clapped him on the shoulder. "I'm going to get all of the teachers together in the staff lounge and tell them she's awake again. And you need to warn your team about the change in the schedule," he smiled, before striding away up the stairs. Harry stood and looked at the door to the infirmary for a long minute; it hadn't occurred to him how grateful everyone in the Weasley family would be that he'd found Peggy! Maybe if he and Ginny were honest with Ron and Charlie about their relationship, they'd give them their blessing now....

Harry went skipping and whistling down the stairs to the dungeons and eventually to the Slytherin common room, his heart lighter than it had been since he'd found himself in this life. He announced cheerfully to the Slytherin Quidditch team that they had to practice extra now that they were going to be playing against Hufflepuff in place of Gryffindor, and they left immediately for the pitch, their brooms slung over their shoulders. When Ginny finally emerged from the hospital wing with a clean bill of health, the only fly in the ointment of his life would be eliminated. And when she was recovered, they could tell Ron and Charlie about their relationship and be open and above-board and happy. As he flew above the pitch, the cold autumn wind whipping his hair about, he felt that until then, life could not possibly be more perfect.

* * * * *

The match with Hufflepuff approached with alarming speed. Harry went to his classes, visited with Ginny in the hospital wing, wrote to Maggie and then to Hermione when she returned from New York, and trained his team. The Weasleys, except for Ron and Ginny, made a trip down to London to see Maggie; first Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, then one by one, the older brothers. Ron and Ginny would get to go during the Christmas holidays. Maggie wrote back to Harry, thanking him profusely for giving her this family, and he couldn't help grinning ear to ear while he read it. On the day of the match,. he brought the letter to Ginny so she could see it, and afterward, she leaned forward, wincing only slightly, her hand resting lightly on his cheek as she whispered affectionately, "If there was a way to convince my family that I can be with a Slytherin, I think you've found it." Harry gazed into her eyes; he had to agree. It made the obstacle of his being in Slytherin seem very small indeed. Ron, of all people, had actually been practicing with him for his Quidditch match.

"Now, not to brag, but I'm a damn sight better than any of the Hufflepuff Chasers, so if you can get good at blocking me, you should keep them scoreless," Ron had said to him just the day before.

Harry had laughed. "When have you ever worried about bragging? And I've been good at blocking you since we were in third year, Weasley," he countered good-naturedly. Ron laughed.

"I'm not in third year any more, Potter." Even though they still called each other by their last names, they had a tentative sort of friendship now. Harry had to admit, Ron was better than ever; he must have been practicing constantly all summer.

"Aren't you worried about making me so good you won't be able to score on me when we play against each other?" Harry had wondered aloud to him.

Ron gave him a sly look. "Oh, you think I'm showing you everything I've got, Potter?" Then he shot Harry a grin, which he returned. Draco scowled at the two of them from his broom as he whipped around the pitch, catching the Snitch over and over; Harry suspected that he might be jealous of his new friendship with Ron, especially as Ron didn't bother to disguise his admiration of Jamie. She was sitting in the stands, waving to Draco when he wasn't busy running down the Snitch, and Harry couldn't help notice that there were times when Ron seemed to be showing off for her. Draco also had years of habitual Weasley-hating to undo, and he was very reluctant about this. On top of everything else, Draco was convinced that because Cho Chang was Ron's girlfriend and Head Girl, she was going to try to get all of the other prefects to vote for Ron to be Head Boy. It wasn't that Draco thought he would get it, so much, but for Weasley to be Head Boy just rankled.

Harry swallowed, looking at Ginny; how could he have felt that there was so very much wrong with this world? She leaned forward a little more, brushing her lips against his; he opened his mouth slightly and felt her do the same, felt the tip of her tongue reach out and flick at his teeth...

"Ouch!" she suddenly cried against his mouth. She was holding her middle.

"Oh, sorry," Harry apologized; he should have leaned toward her more, he realized. She was still tender. She smiled at him.

"It's okay. I won't be here forever."

She leaned back against her pillows, surveying him. "Ron says you should keep Hufflepuff scoreless in the match. That's high praise from him."

He moved up so that he was sitting on the bed closer to her. "Can we tell Charlie and Ron about us as soon as you're fully recovered? Everyone in the family seems to be over the moon about finding Maggie--I mean Peggy."

"That's okay. We're all used to thinking of her as Maggie now. I can't wait to meet my brother-in-law! It's so strange for one of us to be married. Did she say anything about having children? Maybe I'll be an aunt soon!"

Harry leaned even closer and laughed. "I think they're still newlyweds, so I'm not about to ask. I'll leave that to your mum. Isn't that what mothers are supposed to do to their daughters? Start pressuring them to have children as soon as they've tied the knot?"

Ginny reached up and hooked her hands around the back of his neck. "I think," she said, her eyes smoky, "that I'm not really interested in discussing my mother just now..." She pulled Harry to her, this time keeping her upper body against the pillows, and he followed where she wanted him to go, his mouth pressed against hers, letting it fall open naturally; then there was the incredible feeling that she'd lost all her bones as he held her face up to his, the feather-light caresses of her fingers down his arms and the outside of his legs...

His head was spinning; he had to force himself to stop kissing her. He gave her one last exaggerated smacking kiss on the tip of her nose before standing to go. "I have to get my broom and Quidditch robes now. The match starts in half-an-hour."

She looked at him with eyes full of love. "Good luck."

"If you say it, then it will be so," he proclaimed with a grin and a flourish of his hand. She pretended to be about to throw one of her pillows at him.

"Go on with you," she laughed. "Such a ham!"

He laughed and came back at her one more time for a kiss, which was deeper than he'd intended, leaving him almost breathless. She looked at him from under half-lowered lids.

"Think good thoughts during the game."

"I think after that, I will definitely be thinking very bad thoughts," he countered.

He finally managed to leave the hospital wing (after two more false starts) and was glad he'd taken up running again as he had to sprint down to the pitch.

The stands were full as once more, three-quarters of the spectators were booing the Slytherins and cheering their opponents, which today happened to be Hufflepuff. Harry was too happy to care. We'll show them, he thought fiercely, walking to the center to shake hands with the Hufflepuff captain. When Madam Hooch blew her whistle and fifteen brooms rose into the air, Harry felt the familiar rush, the feeling of being in his element again. He looked over to where Ron, Charlie and Jamie were sitting together, along with Simon and Stuart and his mother and stepfather. They all grinned at him, clapping, even the twins. He waved back, then went to take up his position near the Slytherin goals as the Quaffle was hurled into the air. Harry gave his dad a small nod and received one in return. This was for his dad as his head-of-house, but it was also for his dad as his dad, the man who'd trained him to do this all his life, to follow in his footsteps.

A boy from Ravenclaw was doing the commentary. Harry missed Lee Jordan.

"And Slytherin has the Quaffle! The Slytherin Chasers trade it back and forth, impressive formation flying there, pity they're all such--" Harry whipped his head around; he saw Professor McGonagall giving the boy the evil eye. "--such Slytherins. And Slytherin scores! Ten to zero, Slytherin!" Harry tried not to laugh; the spirit of Lee Jordan was living on.

It seemed that he blinked, and the Quaffle was captured by the Hufflepuff Chasers, who tossed it back and forth on their way toward Harry, all attempts to intercept it by his Chasers failing. Harry hovered near the center, bracing himself. The second the Hufflepuff Chaser released the ball, he was off. In a split second, he had it in his hand and was flinging it almost the length of the field to one of his Chasers, who quickly scored single-handedly, as though the Hufflepuffs didn't even have a Keeper.

"Twenty to nothing, Slytherin!"

And so it continued; the Hufflepuffs couldn't score on Harry, but his Chasers were able to get the Quaffle through the Hufflepuff goals about two out of every three tries. As the score became very unbalanced at one-hundred twenty to nothing, the Hufflepuff Beaters started getting more aggressive. Draco was marking the Hufflepuff Seeker as she'd seen the Snitch twice and Draco hadn't spotted it once. Suddenly, Harry saw one of the Hufflepuff Beaters hit a Bludger right at Draco's head, and Harry yelled to him, "Draco! Dive!"

As soon as Draco heard this, he did, which was probably the only thing saving him from concussion. The Hufflepuff Seeker did a one-eighty and followed him, thinking he'd seen the Snitch. Then, when Draco didn't see the Snitch anywhere near the ground, he pointed his broom up again and headed for Harry; luckily, their Chasers were busy scoring on the Hufflepuffs again, and he didn't have to protect the Slytherin goals at the moment.

"What the hell, Harry? Why'd you tell me to dive?"

"Bludger," Harry said briefly, watching as the Hufflepuff Chasers started bearing down on him again. Draco nodded and zoomed up above the goals, out of the way, circling around to see if he could spot the Snitch himself, instead of relying on the Hufflepuff Seeker. Harry intercepted another attempted goal and then dodged a Bludger heading for his left leg; it grazed his broom, making him fly crazily for a minute until he stabilized his flight again. He swallowed. He should have seen that.

"One-forty to nothing, Slytherin!"

Now it felt like the majority of the people in the crowd were cheering them on; Harry felt the adrenaline pumping through him as the crowd started coming over to the better team. Except for the members of Hufflepuff House, who wanted to be cheering for losers? Harry saw a Hufflepuff Beater pull back his bat and strike a Bludger straight at him, the metal bands on the bat ringing out when they struck the heavy metal ball. Harry clenched his jaw and ducked down below where the Bludger was going to fly; he reached up his hand and caught the heavy ball, almost being carried along with it. The effort of catching it took his breath away and he winced, his hand stinging.

"Oi, you!" he called to the Slytherin Beater nearest him, then when he saw his face, he hurled the ball in his direction with one hand. The Beater readied himself, then swung back his bat. With a crack, the Bludger was flying through the air at one of the Hufflepuff Chasers. It hit the twigs of his broom, making him collide into another Chaser. They both slipped off their brooms briefly, hanging down, one of them by just one hand. It took them a few minutes to right themselves; they gave Harry murderous glares.

Harry looked back at them with a smirk; they still hadn't scored on him. He watched his well-trained Chasers put the Quaffle through one of the Hufflepuff goals again.

"One-fifty to nothing, SLYTHERIN!" the Ravenclaw boy screamed. No doubt about it; they were giving the crowd something to watch. Harry intercepted two more attempted Hufflepuff goals, then he saw something small and gold flitting near the ground.

"Draco, dive!" he yelled again. His best friend did as he was told, immediately and without question. The Hufflepuff Seeker seemed to think this was to get Draco out of the way of a Bludger again and didn't notice that diving had made it possible for Draco to see the Snitch, right near the middle of the field, not two feet off the ground. Harry watched him, grinning; any moment he would have it in his hand...

Harry didn't see it coming until it was too late; while he was watching his best friend come closer and closer to the Snitch, a Bludger was hurtling toward him. He looked up and finally saw it, turning too slowly, taking the blow on his right shoulder, crying out as he lost his grip on his broomstick; he went one way and his Thunderbolt went the other.

"Potter's been hit by a Bludger!"

The ground was coming up to meet him at an alarming speed; he tried to right himself in the air, bending his knees so that he could withstand the impact. He had a split second to brace himself, but he didn't realize how high up he had been when he'd started the free-fall and he hadn't really solved the problem of falling in a very awkward, twisted position.

Everyone around the pitch was on their feet, gasping, and when he hit the ground far too fast, he screamed in agony and collapsed; he was fairly certain that both of his legs were broken. There had been two very loud cracks! upon impact. His right shoulder was also in a great deal of pain; it felt dislocated. He lay on his back, biting his lip so hard that it bled, and then he simply blacked out from the pain.

* * * * *

He heard hushed voices. He identified one clearly as Madam Pomfrey. He must be in the hospital wing. He strained to identify the other voices; an anxious-sounding man seemed to be his dad, a terse woman, his mother. There was a curtain pulled around his bed and he could hear footsteps, shoes striking the hard tiled floor in an asynchronous tattoo. He lifted up the sheet covering him and looked down at his body; both legs were wrapped in bandages and there were also splints. Presumably a boneset had been applied under the bandages; in his experience, people with this sort of injury only need a few days to be back on perfectly-functioning legs again. He felt extremely grateful for wizard medicine.

His shoulder ached a little, but not too much; Madam Pomfrey must have popped it back into its socket and given him some pain potion. The hospital smock that had been put on him felt tight around his neck; he tried to pull it away from his Adam's apple, but it still felt constrictive. He inched it up his body, then grimaced as he pulled it over his head. There; no one was around, there was no reason he couldn't just sleep in his drawers. He wasn't going to be going anywhere anyway.

He put his hand on his sternum, missing the basilisk amulet again. Ginny, he thought suddenly. Is she still here? He didn't know. The voices and footsteps receded and he thought he heard to door to the corridor opening and closing, followed by Madam Pomfrey's office door. The lights in the infirmary were extinguished and he now saw nothing but blackness.

He listened in the dark for a particular sound, and after a while he heard it; another person in the room, breathing. She's still here, he thought. The moon rose and some light streamed in the room, but Harry could only see it reflecting from the ceiling; the bed curtains effectively shut out most of the light. He continued to listen to Ginny's breathing; it didn't sound the same, somehow. He decided to take a chance.

"Ginny!" he called in a loud whisper. He received no answer. He decided to try again. "Gin--"

"Sshh!" came her reply. "I heard you. Wait a minute."

He heard movement; he wasn't sure which bed he was in, so it was unclear to him whether she was having to travel a great distance or she had to go quite slowly. Finally, he saw a pale hand part the curtains around his bed. She stood in the opening, the moonlight limning her from behind, her thin hospital smock also lit from behind, making Harry's mouth go dry.

"You're--you're out of bed, Ginny. You must be feeling better," he said weakly, unable to take his eyes off her.

"Oh, Harry, you had us all so worried!" she exclaimed stepping toward him. She leaned over his face, her hair tickling him, and captured his lips in a soft kiss. She pulled back, tracing the outline of his face with her finger. He looked at her in awe; the moonlight coming through the opening in the curtains made her skin look silvery and other-worldly. He reached up his left hand and stroked the side of her face, then brought his hand around behind her neck to pull her face down to his again.

She acceded without a protest, and when she made a small animal noise in the back of her throat, he arched his back and responded in kind, unable to prevent the groan of desire that emanated from his own larynx. She was kneeling on the bed now, and she flinched momentarily as he moved his hands down her side to grasp her waist; he needed to be careful about her internal injuries, which still pained her.

He felt her hands on the planes of his chest, moving softly, tortuously, and he groaned against her mouth again. She was driving him mad, and there was literally nothing he could do; he was completely incapacitated, and even if he weren't, she wasn't ready for anything more than some snogging and groping.

She lifted her mouth from his, moving it down his throat to nip at his collar bone. He stroked her hair, her shoulders, her back; he moved his hands further down, tentatively, feeling a tremor move through her as she paused to take in this sensation, focus on it. Then she was moving again, her lips making a trail down his chest. He was shaking uncontrollably and she stopped.

"Are you cold, Harry?"

He laughed; if she kept moving down his body like that, she'd know exactly how not cold he was...

"Not exactly. I'm just not sure how much more I can take, Ginny. You're driving me mad and I can't--well, I can't do anything. I can't move my legs, I can't turn over--nothing. I appreciate the thought and all," Harry took a deep breath; it pained him to say what he had to say, "but I think you should go back to your bed."

She sat up. "Are you sure?"

He stared at her; he loved her so much. But this was just not the time. "I'm sure."

She nodded, then reached down and grasped the hem of her smock, pulling it over her head. Harry stared at her body; she was absolutely breathtaking.

"Are you still sure?"

* * * * *

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