The Master of Life
By Mr. Intel
Chapter Five – Martha Maybeck
Three days before the wedding, Ginny bounded down the stairs and into the living room. Ron was tucked into a corner with the same copy of Quidditch Monthly he’d been holding onto for the past week. Hermione had several books and papers strewn on the floor in front of her. They both cast nervous looks at each other before recognizing Ginny’s presence.
Ginny narrowed her eyes at them. “What’s it going to take, Ron?” she said with emphasis and a significant look to Hermione so he got the point.
Ron just turned white and choked on whatever he was going to say.
She sat by Hermione. “What have you been up to?” she asked brightly, ignoring her brother, who was still fighting with the urge to both speak and stay quiet.
The older girl pushed a worn leather book toward the middle of the floor. “I’m getting ready for work at the Ministry. They have an orientation Wednesday afternoon and I want to be prepared.”
“That looks fascinating,” replied Ginny unconvincingly. “Either of you seen Harry?”
Ron cleared his throat a few times, but ended up pointing toward the kitchen.
“You might want to wait a tick,” Hermione suggested knowingly. “He was flooing someone and I think it had to do with the wedding.”
Her interest piqued, Ginny couldn’t resist tiptoeing out of the living room.
Harry was indeed in the kitchen and he had his head in the fireplace. She decided to wait for him to make his floo call and sat on one of the kitchen chairs.
It was mid-morning and the breakfast dishes were cleaned and put away. Mum would have them out back working on the vegetable garden this afternoon if they lingered, so she was going to have to think of something for her and Harry to do for lunch outside the Burrow. With reporters stirred up about their impending nuptials, it was even more difficult to get anything done.
Looking at Harry bent over in the fireplace (who on earth could he be floo calling for so long?) reminded her that he needed a distraction, of which several promising possibilities came to mind. Ever since he had shown her his memories, she hadn’t been able to shake off the feeling that he’d never feel good enough to deserve any happiness. It’s what drove him to work hard for things, but it’s also what sent his mood spiralling toward depression and anger. It was going to be Ginny’s job as his wife to help him be normal, even if he didn’t have the foggiest notion what being normal meant.
Harry finally pulled his head from the fire and it went out with a green flicker. “Sorry,” he said when he noticed her at the table. His face was flushed. “Did you need to use the floo?” He folded a piece of parchment and nervously stuffed it into his back pocket.
She smirked at him. “No, but if you need to make another call, I don’t mind watching your backside for you.”
He smiled back and the red left his face. “Ha, ha.”
Then it came to her. It was his handsome face, she decided, that tended to bring on fits of inspiration. The dreamy green eyes... “What are you up to for the next hour or so?” she asked.
He eyed her warily. “Nothing. Why?”
She stood and took him by the arm. “Because you and I are going to visit someone.”
It was still a month before she could take her Apparition test, but Ginny didn’t want to risk Harry splinching them because he didn’t how to get to their destination. So she gambled that the Ministry wouldn’t be able to tell that she’d been the one to Apparate them to Westmeston
They appeared at the end of a lane, where four houses faced a small cul-de-sac.
“Where are we?” asked Harry as he tried to find a familiar landmark. “Who do I know out in the country?”
A woman appeared in the doorway of the nearest house carrying a three month-old baby. There was a flash of recognition on Harry’s face. “Teddy?”
They followed the lane that led from the road and up the small stairs.
“Harry,” said Andromeda graciously. “What a welcome surprise.” She turned to Ginny. “I was just looking at your wedding invitation. Congratulations.” She beamed at them and gestured with her free hand. “Please come in.”
The entry gave way to a large sitting room filled with pictures and scenes from exotic locations. Warm sunlight spilled across a wooden floor with a large braided rug in the middle. The room was framed with comfortable leather sofas and chairs. On the opposite side of the windows, stood a handsome brick fireplace. Harry sucked in a breath. Above the mantle, two large portraits hung, one containing a familiar shock of bubblegum pink hair and in the other, the warm smile and bright brown eyes of her husband looked serenely down at them.
“I keep them here for Teddy, so he can know who his parents were,” explained Andromeda, who put her grandson in a wooden cradle by one of the sofas. To Ginny’s relief, they weren’t enchanted paintings; she didn’t know how Harry would have handled that. “I was just going to visit the market.”
Ginny hesitated. “We can come back.”
“Nonsense,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “But perhaps you can watch Teddy for me? He’s a good baby and shouldn’t need feeding until I return.”
Harry caught her eye and smiled. “That’d be great,” he said turning back to Andromeda.
“If you have any problems, floo ‘The Enchanted Tomato’.”
They nodded and watched her disappear with a small ‘pop’. Ginny immediately rushed over to Teddy.
“He’s so cute,” she singsonged and scooped him up. “And so light. Harry,” she said, offering him the baby. “Do you want to hold him?”
Harry stared at the infant in wonder. Ginny handed the small bundle over and looked at her future husband with unashamed happiness. He caught her eye and grinned.
“He’s great,” Harry said. “I’m his godfather.”
Harry seemed to be stricken with happiness and it made Ginny smile wider. “You look good holding a baby,” she said.
“Yeah?” he replied, offering Teddy back to her. “Let’s see how you look.”
She shook her head. “I want to savour this moment a little more. Besides, I’m not the godmother yet.”
They settled into the sofa and watched Teddy’s face as he slept. “Have you thought about having kids?” Ginny asked. Teddy made a sucking motion with his lips, as if dreaming of a bottle of warm milk.
She felt Harry’s eyes on her as she pretended to tuck Teddy’s blanket around his heart-shaped face.
“Ever since I can remember,” he said softly.
She met his gaze. “Do you still want to have them?”
“Only with you.”
Ginny couldn’t help it. She leaned across and kissed him tenderly. Harry’s hands were busy, so she did all the touching, but he didn’t seem to mind. They broke apart when they heard the baby hiccough.
Looking down, they saw Remus’ eyes staring at them.
“Poor thing,” Ginny cooed and rubbed her fingers across a chubby cheek. “You’ll be scarred for life watching your godfather snog like that.” He smiled and began to squirm.
Harry chuckled and spoke to Teddy. “Yeah, but remember that it was your future godmother that attacked me with her lips.”
“Hey,” she said and smacked him lightly on the shoulder. “I couldn’t help it.”
She felt her face turn warm at the admission, but ploughed on. “You look right holding a baby.”
Teddy squirmed some more and reached out a hand, grabbing a hold of Ginny’s dangling hair.
“Ow,” she said and prised his hand off. “You’ll have to grow your own hair, Mr. Teddy. I need mine.”
He giggled as she put her finger on his middle and wiggled it around.
Harry planted Teddy in her lap and stood. “You watch him for a minute. I’m going to go find his toys!”
She giggled along with Teddy as Harry strode off on his mission. By the time Harry returned, Ginny had him on his back on the braided rug. He was trying to eat his toes but only managed to get one of the big ones in his mouth.
“Here,” Harry said, kneeling down and dropping a load of brightly-coloured plastic shapes onto the floor. He dug through the pile and extracted a soft ring with keys on it. Teddy reached out his fist and took the ring, immediately shaking it in the air. His big toe was forgotten and the ring was shoved into his mouth instead, over-large keys splayed out over his face.
Ginny laughed again. “You’re going to be a good dad, Harry.”
He beamed at her and rummaged through the toys for the next one.
It was good to see Harry so happy, Ginny reflected. She knew Harry’s happiness came from family or the approximation of one that had been given him when he first met Ron. She was about to start a new family with him and if she inherited anything besides her hair from her mother, then she was a baby factory in waiting. It was scary contemplating starting a family so young, but Ginny knew they were both mature enough to handle the responsibility. The only variable was timing.
Harry had other needs, too. He was fiercely dedicated to his friends and to fighting evil. It was somewhat of a shock to her that he wasn’t going to go straight into the Auror Academy from Hogwarts like he’d planned. Still, with the pressure of reporters and stalking wizards aiming for a crack at the most powerful wand in history, she could understand his hesitancy to be in such a publicly visible role. Ginny knew that his greatest weakness was his lack of self confidence, especially when it came to relationships and this reflected in big changes in his life. She would just have to help him along.
“You know,” Ginny said. “I think you should take some time tomorrow... for yourself.”
“Huh?” said Harry, clearly confused by the change in the conversation.
“It’s just...” She bit her lip. “We’ve been so focused on wedding things lately and you seem so relaxed with Teddy... I just think a day off would do you some good.”
Harry sat, leaving Teddy to shake the keys some more. “I can’t just leave you to do everything by yourself...”
“Harry,” said Ginny firmly. “I can handle Mum, and whatever she’s going to throw at us tonight.” She moved onto the floor and leaned into him. “I’ll be fine. You need this.”
He looked down and fingered the stuffed dragon he had chosen as Teddy’s next toy. “I have wanted to do some more spell practice at the Auror’s casting range...”
“Then you should do it,” she said with a note of finality.
Andromeda returned just as Teddy began to get tired again and whisked him away for a nappy change. Harry returned the toys and they said their goodbyes.
“We’ll write to you while we’re on our Honeymoon,” promised Harry.
“I look forward to it. Please come back and see Teddy whenever you can.”
“We will,” Ginny said and Apparated them back to The Burrow.
The Auror Headquarters was housed in a sprawling facility located within the second floor of the Ministry. It was one of three parts of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and boasted its own canteen, communications division, and even had a laundry. The most popular part of the Headquarters for Britain’s Dark Wizard catchers, however, was the casting range.
The head of the D.M.L.E., and former temporary Minister of Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt ran a tight ship which inspired confidence and allowed him to stay clear of most high-level interference from the Ministry. It also provided him the opportunity to give Harry some much needed time to continue his magical education and, in Harry’s opinion, to try to convince him to join the Aurors.
“Back for more wand work, Harry?” asked Kingsley as he signed a form and sent it to a tottering pile on the corner of his desk.
“If that’s still okay,” replied Harry. “I wanted to work on my nonverbal spells.”
Kingsley tapped his wand on a small pad in the middle of the desk. “How about I train with you today?”
Harry started. He knew the ministry was still reeling from Crackshot’s reforms and the D.M.L.E. was waist-deep in investigating and prosecuting criminals from the war. “Uh... sure. If you’re not too busy.”
The bald wizard smiled and stood. “I just cleared my schedule for an hour. Even the crusty old head of the department has to get some time in at the range every month and I’ve been wanting to see your abilities first hand.”
“I’m nothing special,” Harry said, watching Kingsley curiously.
“Let’s see if you’re right.”
The casting range was at the end of a tunnel that ran from the Auror Headquarters down and to the right of the Ministry proper. It was insulated from every other office by at least five hundred feet of solid rock. Upon entering through a check desk, the tunnel opened up into a wide area illuminated by an artificial ceiling enchanted in a similar way as the Great Hall at Hogwarts. Currently, it was mimicking a sunny day with high, thin clouds.
In the middle of the range, sat three large fields. On each field, Harry could see groups of Aurors or trainee Aurors being drilled on obstacle courses or in mock combat. Along the sides were various-sized rooms for individual or small group training. It was to one of these that Kingsley led Harry.
The room was one of the small group training rooms, styled after a Japanese dojo. A padded floor dominated the interior, with square wooden pillars supporting a high panelled roof. Rice paper windows filtered only a little light, but obscured anyone from seeing inside.
They changed into thin, cotton training robes and met in the middle of the dojo.
“Instead of working on nonverbal spells, how about we try something different today?” asked Kingsley.
“Sure,” replied Harry, still uncertain about the man’s motivations. “I’m always up from something new.”
“Good,” he said with a wide smile. “What I want you to do is to think outside the normal, Hogwarts-style of duelling. As you know, fighting Dark Wizards means fighting the unexpected and the use of the Unforgivables. Since you can’t block those curses or other, just as foul spells, Aurors need to be able to... be creative.”
Harry narrowed his eyes. “What exactly do you mean by ‘creative’?”
“Well, if I were to cast a Killing Curse at you right now, what would you do?”
“Stun you or dodge or something,” Harry replied.
Kingsley nodded. “Exactly. But if you are fighting two or more wizards, it gets a little more complicated because they’ll be working together and it won’t take long before you dodge into another spell.”
Harry was beginning to understand. He’d bested six wizards the other day with the help of Ron, Hermione, and Ginny, but he’d also used raw firepower from two wands and they hadn’t bothered with any of the Unforgiveables. And if he’d been alone... “So by being creative, you think I’ll stand a better chance against multiple attackers?”
Kingsley nodded again. “I understand that you had a certain penchant for rule-breaking at school. I want you to apply that to the rules of duelling. Some rules can be bent, others... can be broken.”
They faced off on opposite sides of the dojo. Harry left the Elder Wand in his regular robes and wondered idly if losing in a sparring match would transfer its allegiance to his opponent. He somehow doubted that.
“Begin!” Kingsley yelled and began to shoot spells rapid-fire.
At first, Harry ducked and dodged as he normally would, but Kingsley was very fast and would anticipate his manoeuvring with a second or sometimes third spell. Harry was lucky the first few times and was able to get a shield spell up before being jinxed. Then he started to counterattack.
Harry had good natural speed from his Quidditch experience and his many brushes with life-and-death situations. He also had the innate ability to make split-second decisions. With all of that on his side, Kingsley was still the better opponent and Harry found himself flying backwards and skidding to a stop on the rough padding of the floor.
“You need to open your mind,” Kingsley explained as Harry stood to face him again. “Stop thinking about the way a duel normally operates. It’s not always about offensive spells and shields or dodging. Use your magic in new ways that give you an advantage over your opponent. Use the environment against them. Anything can be a weapon; anything can help you in a fight.”
Harry considered this and looked at the wood and paper of the dojo, wondering how in the world he would be able to use that to his advantage. “Okay.” Then he had a crazy thought.
Harry pointed his wand slightly downward, toward the floor between himself and Kingsley. When the older man began his attack, Harry shot a light Banishing Hex and was forced backwards. He twisted in midair and performed a stronger version of the same spell on one of the wood posts that lined the walls of the dojo and was propelled forward toward Kingsley. He shot hex after hex at Kingsley as he flew toward him, forcing the bald wizard to dive out of the way and landed with a roll that launched Harry unsteadily back onto his feet.
“Stupefy!” yelled Kingsley and Harry realised he was facing the wrong way.
Trying to think outside the box, Harry Apparated to a spot behind the pillar he’d just banished himself from. He turned and shot a Reductor Curse at the side of the pillar and sent a thousand splinters of wood at Kingsley’s back with another Banishing Hex.
Surprised, the Auror was forced to dodge again, but came up firing three hexes in quick succession. Harry flattened himself to the ground and covered his head as the pillar exploded, showering bits of wood everywhere and puncturing the paper windows.
“Good!” Kingsley said, straightening up. “Adaption. Improvisation. But you weakness,” he said with a wave of his finger, “is not your technique.”
Harry caught his breath and stood, nodding before resuming his attack.
Everything was fair game as Harry opened his mind to different possibilities. Kingsley began to use more advanced techniques as Harry’s improvisation increased. Soon, there were transfigured bits of wood, and conjured but dented bits of metal littering the dojo. Smoking holes in the floor and ceiling and missing chunks of wall bore testament to the fact that each was apt at avoiding attacks in new and interesting ways.
Harry lunged himself sideways to avoid a carefully aimed Stinging Hex and yelped as it caught his foot. Ignoring the pain, he pulled a paper window from the wall with a swift “Accio!” and as it flew toward him, transfigured it into a block of solid stone and banished it toward Kingsley.
The stone exploded in a shower of rock and dust and Harry used the visual distraction to Disillusion himself and mend the sting.
There was a sucking noise and the dust was siphoned into Kingsley’s wand. Harry banished a nearby dented, metal shield toward him and knowing that it would be deflected, sent a series of Stunning Spells after it. Kingsley blocked every one and hit Harry with a Finite Incantatum, which dropped the Disillusionment Charm.
“Stop trying to curse me and curse me!” he yelled.
Harry grunted and gave up all pretence. Spells were shot with snakelike speed, each man hexing and deflecting even as they spiralled closer to one another. Harry dully noticed that as he concentrated on the fight, he verbalized less and less spells, making them even faster. The air was buzzing and rippling with magic and the walls of the dojo continued to fly into splinters and puffs of fiery smoke. Harry’s hair tingled when a Stunning Spell shot over his head and he could smell that it had been singed. Kingsley’s earring was blasted off with one of three different hexes that Harry could not identify even though he’d been the one to cast each of them.
Kingsley bent low and swept his wand in a wide arc that caused Harry to jump and he did a mid-air cartwheel. The older wizard punched the air along the arc as he flew with more hexes that Harry knocked down with his wand.
Then Harry used the first nonverbal spell he learned. Flicking his wand over his head, Kingsley shot into the air as if suspended from his ankle by an invisible hand.
“Expelliarmus!” bellowed Kingsley and Harry rebounded it with a strong “Protego!” but dropped Kingsley in the process.
Harry pounced on him as he fell, yelling “Stupefy!” The red beam of light struck him before he hit the ground and the head of the D. M. L. E. lay silent on the floor. Taking deep breaths, Harry took the Auror’s wand and then revived him.
“I know what you’re trying to do,” said Harry as he examined the slim strip of willow. “You want me to be an Auror.”
Kingsley stood and brushed off his robes, wincing slightly as he extended his hand. “I’m trying to get you to free your mind.” Harry handed his wand back. “We need a lot of help in to get the Ministry back on track, and you would be very valuable in that effort, but it won’t do anyone any good if you join the Aurors unwillingly.”
Harry imagined what it would be like to be a part of a department that was headed by Kingsley. It would be hard, dangerous work but that was nothing new to Harry. Thinking of Ginny and their impending marriage, Harry shook his head. “I’ll tell you what,” he said, smoothing his hair back. “Let me talk to Ginny on our honeymoon. If she agrees, then when we get back, I’ll put in my application.”
“How long with that be?”
Harry smiled, thinking how nice it was going to be to escape from the unwelcomed limelight of fame. “Dunno. It depends on the weather.”
While Harry was meeting Kingsley at the Ministry, Ginny was eating lunch with Ron and Hermione. George was there during a break from getting the shop ready for a grand re-opening.
“It’ll be open the week before book lists go out,” George said, nicking a crisp from Ron’s plate.
“Watch it,” said Ron and swiped at his brother’s hand but he was too quick.
George grinned. “You should come work for me,” he said and popped the crisp in his mouth. “I’ll be the mastermind and you can be in charge of sales.”
Ron seemed to consider this and when Hermione opened her mouth to speak, Ginny cut her off. “That’s a great idea. Ron’s been itching for something to do.”
“I have?” he asked sceptically. “Since when?”
George slapped him on the back and stood. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve secretly been harbouring a love for sailing the seven seas with your teddy bear... Careful!”
Ron took a half-hearted swing at his brother, but missed when George hopped back a step. Ginny could see the wheels turning in his mind and he stared at Hermione for a long second. “Yeah, all right.”
George smiled. “Well that’s settled, then. I’m going to break the news to Verity. She’s been angling for the position, but she’s better suited for other tasks.”
“When can I start?”
“I need to make a trip to one of our suppliers tomorrow. Fancy going to Bristol?”
Ron grinned and George popped back to Diagon Alley.
“Excellent,” he said and finished his sandwich with a flourish.
“I’m so happy for you,” said Hermione and Ginny got the impression that she wasn’t quite sincere. “You’ll be great for George.”
Ron banished the plates to the sink. “He looked happy enough.”
“You probably helped that,” said Ginny knowingly. “He’s still sad about Fred – probably will be for the rest of his life.”
There was a pause as Fred’s memory washed through them. “Yeah,” replied Ron. “I reckon if I’d been as close to Fred as George was, I might not ever get over it.”
The girls nodded, feeling sombre and there was a knock at the door.
Molly bustled into the kitchen. “Ginny, Hermione, that’ll be Cousin Martha. Be a love and help her inside. Ron, you fetch her bags and show her to Bill’s room.”
Ginny had forgotten, but was secretly glad because with family here, her mum wouldn’t ask her to weed the garden in the hot July sun.
The witch at the door was Aunt Muriel’s cousin from Warrington, Martha Maybeck. Ginny recognized her name through the years as one of the people her mum often wrote letters to. She couldn’t remember meeting her, but on the mantle in the living room, there was a picture of their family with Martha from when Ginny was a baby.
Along with the rest of the Weasley and Prewitt family, Martha had been invited to the wedding, but was one of the few that had asked to sleep over at the Burrow the night before. Since she had a hard time travelling by floo and hated Apparating, she’d arrived early by Knight Bus.
“Thank you, Ronald,” Martha said when he’d taken her bag and heaved it upstairs. She looked to be the same age as Professor McGonagall but was a head shorter and wore her long grey hair in a French braid along her back. “Molly,” she said and shuffled inside. They gave each other a quick embrace. “It’s been too long.”
“Yes it has,” Molly replied. “With the war and all...” She left the rest unspoken but Ginny could tell by the look in Martha’s eye that she understood.
Martha turned to Hermione. “And who is this?”
“I’m Hermione Granger,” she replied and held out her hand, which Martha took with both of hers.
“Ah yes. I remember from the Prophet.” She pressed her lips together. “They say you fancy Ronald.” Hermione blushed. “I wonder if you’re as bright as you look.”
Molly huffed and Hermione began to giggle. Ginny decided she was going to like Martha quite a lot.
She turned to look at Ginny. “Hello, Ginevra,” she said slowly, staring at her up and down appraisingly. Ginny felt suddenly underdressed in her Weird Sisters t-shirt and ripped jeans.
“It’s just Ginny,” she replied and like Hermione, held out a hand.
Martha took it and gave a solid squeeze, then pulled her into a hug. Ginny was surprised by the gesture, as she didn’t really know her. “I’ve changed your nappies a time or two,” she said as if reading her mind. “There was one particular time, when Molly and Arthur visited Ireland for their anniversary...”
Ron thundered down the stairs. “Wasn’t that the time when Fred turned Percy into a rat?”
Martha smiled. “Yes it was. He never wanted to me to bring my cat Raspberry back after that.”
Now it was Ginny’s turn to giggle.
“I’m famished,” Martha declared. “You wouldn’t happen to have tea ready, would you?”
It was just past two, but Molly never turned down a chance to feed someone. “It’ll be ready in a trice. Come into the kitchen and we can catch up.”
They demolished a plate of cucumber sandwiches and two pots of tea while Martha and Molly caught up. Ginny began to feel more and more comfortable with her as the afternoon wore on.
“So tell me, Ginny,” Martha said while Molly banished the tea service to the kitchen and set it to wash. “I understand you’re heading out of the country for your honeymoon.”
She seemed very well informed, thought Ginny, but then she remembered that her mother had been sending weekly letters to Martha for almost twenty years. “Yes,” she replied. “We’re going to Canada.”
Martha smiled reminiscently. “I used to live in Canada. Do you mind me asking which part?”
Ginny looked warily at her mother and brother. “I... er...”
“Don’t be shy, dear. I’m sure your family will keep it to themselves.” Martha turned to each person in the room and they responded with a nod. “There, you see?”
“Victoria,” she admitted after some deliberation.
“Ah,” Martha said knowingly. “That’s the spot, isn’t it?”
Ginny didn’t know, having never been there, but she nodded all the same.
“It’s the most beautiful city in the world, if you ask me, and I’ve been to quite a few of them.”
“Martha used to work for the Ministry in the Department of International Magical Cooperation,” Molly informed them. “She was an ambassador.”
“Yes, yes,” interrupted Martha. “That’s all very boring to young folks like these, however.”
“I think it’s fascinating,” said Hermione. “What countries did you visit?”
Martha chuckled. “Almost all of them at one time or another. I started out in the Far East, in Hong Kong, the seat of the British Wizarding Consulate to Asia. From there, I went to Sao Paulo, then Cairo, and finally, to Victoria. Each of those cities hosts a Consulate to their respective areas and the witches and wizards are assigned to work with the different Magical Governments there.”
Hermione was growing more and more interested and Ginny could see her hand twitching for a quill and piece of parchment. “How come they don’t teach this at school?” she lamented.
“Probably too boring,” offered Martha.
“Nothing’s more boring than Binns,” said Ron and they all laughed.
“Back to Victoria,” said Martha. “When you get there, you’ll have to visit the Butchart Gardens.”
“I’ve read about those!” said Hermione unsurprisingly. “They’re supposed to be enchanted.”
“Indeed they are, and by none other than Thomas McCafferty, the head gardener for more than forty years.” There was a wistful note in her voice and Ginny knew that there was a story there.
“Who’s that?” asked a confused Ron. Ginny was glad, because she wanted to know as well.
Martha fiddled with her handbag and pulled out a photo. “He is one of my best friends.” She passed the photo to Ginny. It was a colour photo, but it had been dimmed a little at the edges by time. The witch in the picture was young and beautiful, had long black hair and crystal blue eyes. The man beside her was a head taller, thin-framed, and wore a ridiculous-looking moustache. They were embracing beneath a large, painted wooden structure that reminded Ginny of the orient.
“This was taken in 1937,” explained Martha. “Just before I left to come back to England – before Grindelwald began his campaign in earnest.”
There was a shudder that ran between the two older witches. “That was the last time I saw Thomas.”
“So how do you know he’s still the head gardener?” queried Ginny.
“Oh, we still trade owls from time to time. He’s getting along in years, just like me, but his wand is still sharp and the flowers are as beautiful as ever.”
“Why didn’t you go back, after...” asked Hermione, again voicing the exact question Ginny wanted an answer to.
“After Grindelwald was defeated?” asked Martha in return. “Well, that’s a long story that I won’t bore you with right now. Suffice it to say, it wasn’t meant to be.” She took the photo back from Ginny and placed it carefully into her purse. She couldn’t be certain, but Ginny was almost positive she saw a mist of wetness in her cousin’s eyes.
The clock struck three. “I’d better get dinner on,” said Ginny. “Harry’ll be back soon, and he’s always hungry after a couple of hours with Kingsley.”
Martha and Molly retired to the living room to continue their visit and Ron and Hermione stole out to the garden, leaving Ginny to herself while she prepared dinner.
It was strange to Ginny that Martha wouldn’t go back to Thomas after the war. They definitely looked like more than friends in that photo, and Ginny knew as much as anyone what it felt like to be separated from love during a war. There was a story there and she felt strangely compelled to find out what it was.
She kneaded the dough by hand, mentally calculating the days before her seventeenth birthday when she could use her magic more openly. Then she remembered that when she was married, in two short days, she would be considered of age anyway. Setting the dough on the counter, she brushed off her hands and went into the cold pantry to find some meat and vegetables. As she passed the family clock, she noticed a pile of papers stacked on the small table underneath. The top one had the familiar banner of Madam Malkin’s Robe Shop emblazoned along the head and she stopped. Her eyes glanced down to the bottom of the paper and she gasped.
Picking up the stack, she rifled through the bills and her eyes grew wider with each one. Between the caterers, the band, the robes, and half a dozen other things, her parents were paying over two thousand Galleons for her wedding. Arthur was still out of work, which meant there was no income. How were they able to afford it all?
Narrowing her eyes, Ginny knew that she would have to make sure her wedding didn’t cost her parents a single knut. There was only one way that was going to happen, and if she knew her husband-to-be, he would agree in a heartbeat.
You may find the sparring scene between Harry and Kingsley familiar. The format and some dialog for that scene was taken from "The Matrix". It was inspired by SonicDale and hopefully it was enjoyable.
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