Tea with Ginny
Unbetaed and incomplete - and fanfiction...
Chapter 2 - Tea with Ginny
I suppose I can now fit all of my life neatly into two categories – before “that day” and after. Ginny had scheduled a week in advance for a luncheon date – something that was not all that unusual – we were both busy women. Now that the children were, for the most part, grown and launched, the relationship we’d started back when we were mere slips of girls at Hogwarts continued to set down roots. We could go a month or more without seeing the other and restart a conversation as if we’d been apart for mere minutes. Ginny seemed out of sorts when I arrived for tea, but that wasn’t all that unusual; she’d been out of sorts most of that year, starting sometime shortly after Christmas. When I arrived, the house was tidy and the table already set. I paid no particular attention to the fact that the Floo was deactivated, and a number of charms were activated that would make our conversation difficult, if not impossible to interrupt.
“I’ve got to bring you in on some secrets,” she said, opening the conversation.
Secrets? I thought – we’ve known each other for decades – what’s not to know?
“The summer after sixth year at Hogwarts – your sixth year, my fifth,” she said, smiling as she explained. “I spent a lot of that summer with Harry’s old tutor.”
“Abelard,” I replied, dredging the name up from memory. “But I thought you were working with Jasmine.”
“I worked with Jasmine for part of the prior summer – combat stuff, mainly. By the next summer, Jasmine had moved out. No, I spent most of my time with Abelard,” Ginny narrated.
“Working on Occlumency?” I asked.
“Hardly; the dragon magic took care of that nicely. Abelard was a Seer – I was his last pupil – not a proper apprentice, but he taught me what he could in the time he had left. If he’d lived longer, I would have done the whole course, but as it was, he was forcing his body to keep going until he saw Jasmine and then Harry married off,” she said with a knowing smile.
“I never knew,” I said, racking my memory for any clues I might have missed.
“After the war, Harry wanted nothing more than a normal life – no secrets, no conspiracies, no fame. We did what we could to keep my training secret without telling outright lies to friends and family,” she said, suppressing a wince.
“So, what was the lie?” I asked.
“It was misdirection, more than a lie,” Ginny said. “My residency in America?”
“At the Tulane School of Magical Medicine?” I volunteered.
“A year of that time was spent in the residency – most of the remaining time was spent with another Seer – someone who doesn’t want their identity known, otherwise I’d tell it to you.”
“And the balance?” I asked, noting the careful phrasing of the words.
“The balance was spent with M’lau,” she said.
“Harry’s dragon?” I asked, tapping the side of my head.
“The original, not the copy,” she answered.
The number of people who knew about Harry and Ginny’s dragon magic was pretty small – limited, I guess, to the immediate Weasley family and Headmistress McGonagall and the late Headmaster Dumbledore. The Weasleys were incredibly protective of their own – they might mercilessly tease each other at Christmas dinner but next to nothing leaked out – ever. Harry and Ginny almost never spoke of the dragons after our sixth year, and at the moment, I couldn’t remember them ever raising the topic after we left Hogwarts.
“Why the secrecy?” I asked.
Ginny smiled. “You know better than to ask the question – when dark Wizards rise to power, the smart ones co-opt or assassinate the Seers aligned with the opposition. Grindelwald did it, and Voldemort did it too, in the first war. The real Seers have learned to keep their gift a secret.”
“So what have you done?” I asked.
“This and that, not much, actually,” Ginny replied with a sly smile. “I’ve helped the Ministry a bit from time to time.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“Ron’s had some amazing breaks in his career – some of it was due to being a really good Auror, and some of it was due to information from a ‘confidential informant,’” Ginny said, hooking her fingers when she said the last two words.
“Did Ron know?” I asked.
“I don’t think so – he might have had suspicions – he’s really quite sharp you know,” she answered.
“So why tell me now?” I asked.
“Because it’s the only way I can explain this,” Ginny answered, flicking her hand towards a cabinet. None of the doors in the cabinet opened, but a grey stone bowl materialized on the table in front of us.
“A Pensieve,” I said, regretting it the moment the words left my mouth.
“Yes, a Pensieve – it holds a fragment I wanted to show you.”
I’ve visited my share of Pensieve memories, but this one was different – the colours were off – they had a sepia tone that I’d never seen in a Pensieve memory. The scene was familiar – if it was Ginny’s memory of a vision, then she was approaching her house, the one I was sitting in at the moment, entering the house through the kitchen door and proceeding to the sitting room where we were having tea. The sounds were muffled, but as she approached the sitting room I heard the sounds of a couple being intimate. As the observer rounded the corner I saw myself – more tanned and toned that I was at the moment, engaged in some very vigorous lovemaking with Ginny’s husband - Harry Potter. The Pensieve memory came to an abrupt halt and I was back in the here and now, sitting in the same room.
I was mortified.
“Ginny, I have never,” I began earnestly.
“I know,” she replied serenely. “Yet this is something that I saw a number of times – it’s a very likely future – I’d peg it at having a greater than 90% probability.”
“That Harry and I would have an affair?” I gasped.
“Nothing of the sort, Mrs. Potter,” she replied.
My mind raced while Ginny kept silent.
“As you might guess, I was shocked when I had the first vision – I tried to capture the memory in a Pensieve, but I was sick, violently retching up everything I had in me, which made the capture a bit difficult. I captured the next vision – one rather like this one, only from a different angle. I needed to discuss it with someone, but you can imagine my reluctance to talk to Harry about this.”
“Yes,” I replied obviously.
“It was Harry who caught the clue,” Ginny explained.
“In the vision, Harry was wearing a wedding ring – but it wasn’t the one that I put on his finger,” Ginny said.
Ginny began to talk, the words pouring out of her like an overflowing rain barrel. She explained a number of things that I’d had always known in some way, but we’d never discussed, which now, in hindsight, made perfect sense. Then she tackled the real story, breaking down several times until she got through the recriminations, the confessions, the absolutions and the assurances. In summary, Ginny had slightly more than a year left to live; Ron had a similar amount of time. No, she wasn’t sick; she was in good health, actually, notwithstanding the contextual depression she’d been weathering. Learning that your husband is soon going to become a widower tends to take the bloom off of the rose, don’t you know.
I cycled through the usual stages, trying at first to reckon this like a particularly stout puzzle, but in the end, I accepted it. Before that day, my relationship with Ron had slid into a lazy groove, each of us living our lives in parallel, checking in from time to time to a familiar comfort. After that day, the status quo wasn’t good enough any more.
Ron hadn’t minded – once I got my head around the new reality, our love life was terrific. Ron started coming home on time; even leaving early so we could catch a show, or have dinner with friends.
Ron put his finger on it succinctly: “When you know that you can only put so many things on the list, you dare not put junk on it.”
And so I lived that year with a short list. It was bittersweet when Autumn came – knowing that by this time next year, I’d be a widow; but Ron took more leave from work that year than he’d taken in the prior five years. We made the most of the time. I’d considered taking a Sabbatical year, but Ron sensibly pointed out that I loved teaching almost as much as I loved him; so now I could teach like I was living with a short list.
Spring was the usual sweet and sour combination of rain and crocuses; but I saw both with new eyes. June and July were crowded and hectic, but the first of August came with the realization that summer was almost over.
I had a tingle of regret when I went away on a day trip to Switzerland for an educator’s conference, knowing with awful clarity just what the jangling of my bracelet meant when the terrier began to glow with a terrible red light. The charm next to the terrier was a portkey, prepared in advance for the occasion. I wasn’t surprised in the least when the portkey opened up into the shock-trauma ward at St. Mungo’s. I was surprised, however by the cold glare I received from Harry on her arrival.
“I’m sorry,” he said, meeting my eyes for a moment before looking away. “He passed quickly – but not so quick that he didn’t have time to remind me to tell you on his behalf that he loved you.”
What little light remaining in Harry’s face extinguished as he said those words. He bit his lips, nodded to me as to a vague acquaintance, and then left the room.
It was only then that I realized how alone I was in the world.
I’d reached the end of the short list.