Author's Note: It has been a long time since I updated. Well…life happened. Now that I am living in lock down due to the pandemic, I have more time on my hands and decided to finish this. Let's hope for the best!
As Harry apparated in front of the Burrow, cold air hit him straight on his face. It was nine in the morning yet there was no sign of the sun. The sky was grey, reflecting the young Auror's mood. Harry Potter walked through the kitchen door, oblivious to the mess from last night's dinner at the garden. The Weasley house was strangely hushed and the only sound was coming from the kitchen, he decided to take a peak.
Molly Weasley wheeled around, not expecting anyone early on the Boxing day.
"Harry!" "You nearly gave me a fright."
Harry smiled a little as he moved forward to greet Mrs. Weasley. "I did not know there was anything in the Wizarding world which could give you a fright."
Smiling, Mrs. Weasley greeted him back.
A moment later, Harry could feel her eyes on his face, scrutinizing. He tried to organize his expression knowing that Mrs. Weasley has mother's instinct; she could guess if something was wrong. Before he could even say anything, she was frowning.
"Harry, you do not look good. Did you sleep last night? Where were you last night after dinner? Neville was looking for you, Ginny said you left early."
Acting as nonchalant as possible, Harry said, "It is nothing Mrs. Weasley. I had a bit too much to drink."
Mrs. Weasley gave a disapproving shake of head and said, "Have a seat, I will make some tea for you."
There is no point in arguing with her, Harry sat down without any protest.
"Is Ginny up yet?" Harry asked after a while.
"Why don't you wake her up?" "I will make breakfast in the meantime, not that anyone is going to wake up before eleven," Mrs. Weasley said disapprovingly, looking at the Weasley clock.
Ginny's room was on the first floor of the Burrow. Harry knocked slightly, not intending to catch her unaware. When he did not get any response, he creased open the wooden door. Ginny's room was small but colorful with the posters of Gwenog Jones, Captain of the Holyhead Harpies and the wizarding band 'Weird sisters'. However, the interior of the room did not steal his attention as much as Ginny's frame on the bed where the young witch was fast asleep. Wearing her pajama bottoms, she almost looked like a little girl. Harry had to smile, despite himself. Not wanting to wake her just yet, Harry sat down on the only chair available in the room. Harry knew he cannot stay angry at her much longer; he had to see her this morning after leaving abruptly last night. He slowly edged forward to move a strand of hair from Ginny's face.
Ginny stirred, opening her eyes slightly.
"Hey," Harry murmured.
"Ugh…W-what time is it?" The young witch was still groggy from sleep.
"I can not tell the difference between reality and dreams. Are you really here?"
Amused, Harry said, "Yes, I am." Then Harry kissed her on the forehead to reassure. Ginny sighed contently and said after a moment, "I barely slept last night."
"So did I," Harry replied softly.
"We should never fight, it is bad for our health," Ginny said slowly.
Chuckling, he replied, "I know, I do not like it too."
Ginny motioned him to sit right next to her on the bed and as soon as Harry sat, Ginny embraced him tightly.
"Never leave me like that," Ginny's voice was muffled as she hid her face on Harry's robes. He held the young witch tightly, trying to show how truly sorry he was for his behavior.
"I am sorry, love."
"I went to see Healer Pye a couple of hours ago," Harry said after a brief pause.
Ginny looked up, with a confused expression, "How did you find..."
"He had duty last night."
"And?" Ginny asked cautiously. Defeated, Harry said, "Pye said your plan has merits and…we should give it a go."
"Just like that?" The young witch was surprised.
Smiling a little, Harry replied, "We debated a little, in the end he was able to convince me."
Ginny was quiet for a few seconds until she added, "Wow! I-I never thought it would be this easy-"
Harry murmured, "Ginny, it was not an easy decision to make." I have realized that I owe you. You never complained about the experiments I did on you."
As if questioning himself, he added, "Well, how could you? You were never in a condition to question me. I took advantage of your condition and I am sorry. Truly sorry..." Harry trailed off, without being able to meet tGinny's gaze.
He was looking at his hands, unable to break the stretched silence between them. Ginny tugged on his left arm, forcing him to look at her.
"Harry, if I had a problem with your experiments, do you think I would not have said anything?"
"I know. But it never occurred to me-"
"You took consent from my parents who were responsible for my well-being at that time. They trusted you and it was good enough for me."
"Harry, it is okay," Ginny's eyes were imploring for him to understand.
Resigned, he slumped on Ginny's comfortable bed while she moved slightly to close their distance.
As the young couple listened to their steady breathing for a few minutes, Harry said, "I have few conditions though."
Ginny rolled her eyes and said, "Of course you do."
"We need to take someone with us."
"For safety. I do not trust the Malfoy's one bit," Harry had an explanatory tone on his voice.
Ginny huffed and said, "Fine. Who? Not anyone from my family obviously! When I say my family I mean Hermione as well," Ginny said strictly.
"Hermione is trustworthy but she can be often-" she trailed off, not intending to finish her thought.
"Paranoid?" Harry provided.
Ginny chuckled softly, "Yes, that."
"How about Neville?"
Ginny took a second to contemplate and nodded.
"Yes, I like him. Besides, we could always do with another Auror," she added with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.
Harry looked at the beautiful soft eyes of the redhead and said, "You know, I would never let anything happen to you."
With a smile tugging on her lips, Ginny Weasley murmured, "I know. My brave knight in the shining armor."
The next couple of days at work were hectic. Harry could not decide whether he should ask The Malfoy's for their consent. Given his profession, he could easily make their visit look like a raid or inspection. But it would lead to a number of questions within his department which Harry would rather not lie about.
Realizing he was overthinking this, he sat down to write the letter. He knew there is only one person he could address his letter to.
The older witch still owes him for saving her son's sorry arse during the battle.
Harry's letter was brief and formal without giving away much about their intention of visit. Five days later, when he was about to leave for work, he found a grey owl tapping at his flat's window.
Mrs. Malfoy's letter was brief with a posh handwriting. She gave her consent and asked for a specific date of their visit.
The young Auror took a deep breath and thought if they are really doing this, he needs to make sure they take all the necessary precautions.
The next afternoon when he was buried in his paperwork, Neville strode into his cubicle.
"We have a problem."
Frowning, Harry looked up. Neville Longbottom had the same serious expression that he always wears whenever he was about to broach a difficult topic.
"I went to the Manor today."
Neville moved his wand to bring a chair in front of his table to sit down and added, "The cellars are warded. Apparition is impossible there."
"Wards can be.."
Without letting Harry finish, Neville said, "Yes, can be broken. But it is some sort of ancient house magic. I asked Mrs. Malfoy as well, she said it was warded as long as she could remember."
Taking a pause, he added, "Makes sense why the Death Eaters thought it was the best place to hold the prisoners."
Harry's frown deepened. He had hoped if anything goes wrong he would be able to disapprate Ginny or have Healer Pye summoned quickly.
"We could talk to Ginny's brother Bill. He has expertise in this field," Neville suggested.
Harry shook his head, "No, Ginny is adamant about this. Only need to know basis."
"We could always take Healer Pye with us, I am sure he would be willing if we ask..." Harry trailed off.
Neville stood up while rearranging his robes and wand. "You are worrying too much. Look at the bright side. You do not have to meet the Malfoy's. She has lifted the ward of the front gate. You can visit the manor anytime."
Surprised, he asked, "Why?
Neville shrugged and said, "They are moving to their Surrey home. The manor already looks half-abandoned."
Harry rubbed his temple and said, "Good. I do not think I have it in me to control myself in front of Lucius."
Meanwhile as their day of visit came closer, Ron finally proposed to Hermione on a Friday afternoon. The manner of the proposal was hilarious; Ron tried to take Hermione on a lunch date from her work. Oblivious, Hermione kept saying how she could not because of a work deadline. Ron kept giving her hints, insisting for a good fifteen minutes until he lost his temper and ended up proposing to her in the midst of her colleagues.
Everyone was happy for the couple, of course. They had celebratory dinner at Burrow that night, the Weasley brothers kept congratulating Ron on his 'smooth' act, while the witches gushed about the upcoming nuptials. Mrs. Weasley was obviously very emotional; she burst out in tears twice, saying she had never felt so happy in the last five years. Harry was happy for the couple as well, yet mostly he kept quiet. He simply could not shake off the ominous feeling amid such joy and celebration. Ginny noticed his quietness after a time, the young witch moved away from everyone to sit next to him. She simply held his hand tightly to give assurance.
Ginny's eyes told him what he needed to know. They will be fine as long as they have each other.