|SIYE Time:2:16 on 16th January 2018|
The Space Between
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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/AB, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Fluff, General, Humor, Tragedy
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Rape, Sexual Situations, Spouse/Adult/Child Abuse, Violence, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry and Ginny's lives have finally evened out. They've faced trauma, and loss, more than most have, but they've fought hard to find a normal.
If only things could stay that way... Old enemies find new ways to seek revenge.
This story is the sequel to Bound. It would be extremely helpful if you read that first.
Warnings are to be safe. It's probably overkill. Please message me if you have any questions or concerns.
Hitcount: Story Total: 78599; Chapter Total: 2236
Awards: View Trophy Room
MY THIRD BOOK IS ON SALE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go to my author's page and find the links, please! Please! Help support the work I do that pays the bills, while also enjoying the work I do here for free!!
Thank you Arnel!
Also, this chapter is coming out only a week after the last one as an "I'm sorry" for the long wait between 13 and 14 and because it was super easy to write. I was asked for a lighter, fluffier chapter in a review. I hope this fits the bill.
Tell me what you're feeling in the reviews! I do listen. I'm taking what you say seriously. I have a lot of stuff to get through in this book and it's going to take a long time to get there. If it gets too heavy or depressing, say something. Me adding in a chapter to what will be a story that's upwards of half a million words long (or more) isn't that big of a deal. We're going to be working on this one for a long time yet. Like years. I want to say soap opera like, in that the story just keeps going, but that brings up all kinds of weird images in my head, so let's say this is like a long running TV show. If we need to take a little time off from the main story to have some fun, that's absolutely allowed.
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Teddy gazed around the tiny, dingy flat and had to admit it was no palace. Victoire’s small hand slipped into his and squeezed. “It’s perfect.”
He couldn’t help but laugh as he gazed down at her. “Are you seeing what I’m seeing because I think you might need glasses.”
She led him over to the third-hand couch and had him sit next to her. She rested her blonde head against his shoulder and sighed in contentment when he put an arm around her shoulder. “That table over there was the first one my parents had in their home. That table saw so many happy memories and it has the scars to show a long life of trials that only give it character, and right there,” she pointed to a box they’d yet to unpack. “Those are your grandmother’s dishes, Teddy. Those are the dishes that your mum ate off of as a child and that means she is here, and Grandma Andromeda is here with us. Your bed,” Victoire went on as a smile began to tug at his lips, “Is brand new and it’ll be just for us. It was really nice of Aunt Ginny to buy that for you as a house-warming gift.”
Thinking about her and that bed was not helping him anyway. “Uh…” he cleared his throat. “Yeah.”
“I have been thinking about it,” Victoire went on, not seeming to notice that his temperature was going up. “This isn’t the place we’ll have our babies, or where we’ll have fancy dinner parties, but this is the perfect place to gather with our friends from Hogwarts and look back on in ten years and think about how poor we were, and it didn’t matter because it was just you and me.”
Teddy brushed a kiss on the top of her head. “You’re right. It’s a place to start.”
“Yes,” she nodded and leaned further into him. “This whole flat is filled with things from people who love us and who want us to have a good life together. So, I think it’s perfect.”
She was right, of course. She usually was and she tended to see the better side of things. Teddy still missed his grandmother horribly, but getting to move into his own place felt like another step towards being the independent man she’d wanted him to be. By July he’d be a fully qualified Auror and his salary would take a huge boost, but just as that happened, he and Victoire were getting married and they’d have added expenses plus starting to pay off her loans from becoming a Healer. They would be poor as the proverbial church mice, but they’d have each other every day.
And every night.
Teddy tried to shake that off, but as if she’d read his mind, Victoire boosted herself up to kiss him, running her hands into his hair and holding him captivated by her soft lips. He skimmed his hands along her waist to guide her hips until she was straddling him on the couch and she would have no trouble knowing just how badly he wanted her. She let out a low purr as she settled more firmly into his embrace, deepening the kiss until he couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe. All he knew was Victoire, and her scent and the curves of her body pressed against his chest.
Merlin, he loved her so much.
The simple thought had him pulling away and holding on, trying desperately to stop the wild pounding in his heart. “We have to stop.”
She didn’t reply as she sucked gently at the pulse on his neck.
Teddy groaned and tried to keep himself focused. “Luv… please… you’re… wow…”
Victoire sat up a bit so her blue eyes could meet his. The passion that he read there nearly undid him. “I want you. I want us to do this.”
“I do, too,” he replied throatily, stating the obvious. “But we can’t risk it.”
“We…” she hesitated and chewed at her lip. “We can do other things that don’t risk pregnancy.”
All sorts of wonderful images filled his mind, but he shut them down. “I don’t know…”
“I really want to,” Victoire said, but this time she sounded surer of herself as she climbed from his lap. He wanted to weep at the loss of her body on his, but his eyes went huge when she knelt before him.
“What…” he tried to think, tried to focus. “Your dad is going to kill me.”
Which was his only objection. It didn’t matter that they were engaged or adults. That didn’t matter, at all, to Bill Weasley.
“My dad is not going to know,” she reminded him as her pale brow arched. Victoire’s smile was radiant. “I have been waiting for this and we can do this without any risk of pregnancy. This is our place, Teddy… no one else’s. Please, I want to.” She cocked her head to the side. “Then, you can return the favor.”
“Ginny will know.” Because she would. She had a knack for knowing.
“Aunt Ginny has lots of very fun stories and she was married at sixteen,” Victoire informed him with a tiny laugh as she ran her hands up his thighs. “You’re already twenty and she’s not a hypocrite. If you really don’t want to, then we’ll wait.”
Teddy was a lot of things, but an idiot was not one of them. “We just have to be careful.”
“We will be,” she promised as her nimble fingers found the button on his jeans. “Now, stop arguing with me and enjoy.”
He did stop arguing. When it was her turn, he carried her to the bed because she deserved the bed when he explored her body for the very first time. The most beautiful sight on the planet had to be the love of his life coming completely undone under his touch.
Later, much later, when Victoire was back with her parents and he went to pick up another box from Ivy Run, Ginny gave him the once over and the small smirk that crossed her lips told him she did know. All Teddy could think was he wanted to be that all knowing when he was a parent.
James turned into the unused classroom at the sniffling noise, then nearly turned right back around when he saw Caroline crying in a corner, practically curled into a ball. She spotted him, though, so he stopped and waited while she swiped furiously at the tears on her cheeks.
He didn’t know why he did it, but his feet propelled him until he was sitting next to her on the ground, watching the flames of embarrassment flicker over her flushed face and puffy eyes.
There were no words that he could think to say that wouldn’t make the situation much worse. That, at least, he knew was the biggest issue with him. But now that he was on his second girlfriend, he thought he was starting to appreciate just when to keep his mouth shut around a girl. They tended to blow up over the stupidest things.
Caroline’s gaze flicked up to his, then back down again.
Finally, though, he couldn’t take it. “Do you want me to go?”
Her shoulders shrugged, which he took to mean as, ‘no’.
So he waited in the uncomfortable silence, not sure of what to do. Part of him wanted to get up and leave, but that seemed like it might make things worse and he really didn’t need to make things any worse between them. It was already strained and tense in the common room and during classes. He still didn’t know what to do about this girl, but he was fourteen and in his third year. He needed to figure them out at some point.
James really wished that girls weren’t so complicated. His cousins who were girls weren’t complicated. It might be because most of them were older than him and tended to smack him if they felt like it. He still had no idea why they felt like it so often, but now that he was getting older it had mostly stopped.
Roxy would still cuff him upside the head on a regular basis. She said it was good for him and James doubted that she’d ever stop, even when he was a head taller than her.
He really liked that he was getting taller. Annoyingly, Al was shooting up, too, and they were holding steady at the same height and Al weighed more than James did now.
James’ head snapped up to look at the girl and swallowed hard as her pretty eyes met his briefly. “For what?”
“It…” she hesitated. “It was me that put the bone in the corridor last year.”
For a long moment, he couldn’t remember what she was talking about. Then it hit him and shock flooded through him. “You did?”
“I was under the Imperius Curse,” Caroline muttered miserably. “Your dad took it off of me.”
James stared at her for a long, long time, unable to process what she was telling him. “My dad…”
She nodded and pushed a lock of her long, straight hair behind her ear. “He’s really nice.”
“Yeah,” James agreed, even though he wasn’t really sure what he was agreeing too. He was still too stupefied by what she’d told him. “What…” he shut his mouth when he realized he didn’t know what to ask.
“I don’t want everyone to know,” she said with a small hitch. “I’m sure you want to tell everyone it was me, but I don’t–”
“I won’t tell anyone,” James sat back, affronted that she thought that. “Did you tell Louis?”
His cousin had been there with him when Nat had tripped on the bone.
“I did,” she sighed and rested her cheek on her knees. “You’re… you’re the last one. I didn’t know how to tell you, to tell you that I’m sorry.”
It burned in his gut, sticking into him that she’d told him last, but he didn’t know why that ate at him so much. “You don’t have to say you’re sorry. You didn’t do it on purpose.”
Her eyes, the same blue as a sky right after a summer storm, were filled with pain so poignant and James had to look away. There was something about this girl that left him defensive and out of sorts… but still he was drawn to her. If he’d had to words to label it, it would have been something like tenderness or concern, mixed with a healthy dose of ire.
James’ hand moved automatically to brush at a tear on her cheek, but her startled gasp and flinch left his hand frozen between them. His fingers curled back and he let his hand drop. “Who hit you?”
She shook her head as she covered her face. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It matters,” he said as rage filled him. He had to fight hard not to raise his voice.
Caroline stood on shaking legs and headed for the door. At the last moment, she turned back. “I’m sorry, James.”
Then she was gone in a swing of blonde hair, leaving James more confused than he’d ever been in his life. Even when his girlfriend found him ten minutes later, he couldn’t begin to explain to her what he was doing on the floor of an unused classroom.
One look at her pinched expression, and James knew he couldn’t tell her the truth. He took her hand and smiled what he knew was the kind of charming smile that made her melt. “It was nothing, Kara. I just needed some time to think. My dad quitting his job and all…”
Thankfully, she bought it.
“You didn’t need to come help, Mum,” Ginny said to her mother as they prepared dinner that night for the family. They’d meant to have this dinner weeks before, but with Andromeda’s death, things had been pushed off while they all learned to cope with it. Ginny still couldn’t believe she was gone. She’d been closer to her own parents’ age and it was crippling to think of losing her parents now. Poor Teddy had taken an entire week off from training, but now he was back into it, using the work to push through the pain.
“I wanted to help,” Molly assured her as she peeled potatoes with her wand. “You know, I never thought you’d be the one to cook. You were always so determined not to do anything I did.”
Ginny laughed softly and gently nudged her mum with her shoulder. “I used to think a lot of things, but I grew up and realized that there were more important things than running away from stuff just so I’m not pigeonholed.” She took a deep breath. “So… Harry’s not working.”
“He’s driving you up the wall, right?” Molly mused as she put the potatoes in a pot. “Yes, I love your father but I’m not looking forward to him being at home all the time. I’m sure it’s going to be quite the adjustment.”
“I feel bad about it,” she admitted with a sheepish grin. “He wanted to paint the house, the Muggle way mind you, and ugh, Mum, I just about lost it! I didn’t want the house to stink like Muggle paint when we could just wave our wands and make the walls another color. He’s enjoyed flying with the kids a lot, but I have to take them in to do lessons and then everyone’s upset with me like I’m the bad guy.”
“Send him to work at George’s shop,” Molly suggested reasonably. “Make him get a job.”
Ginny shook her head and stopped what she was doing to turn more fully towards her mother. “He needs to be investigating. That’s what makes him happy.”
“Then he should do that on his own, freelance,” Molly told her simply. “Dumbledore did it.”
“Harry is not Dumbledore,” Ginny pointed out, knowing she was stating the obvious. “He’s powerful, but not like that. Dumbledore couldn’t be contained.”
Molly considered the problem for another moment. “Is Kingsley coming tonight?”
“Yes,” she confirmed, hoping that Kingsley would have some good news for them about the investigation into Isabella Crabbe, but not holding her breath. Ginny was reasonably certain that if anything had been solved, Kingsley would have stopped by to say something before now.
“Let’s just wait and see what he says when we talk,” Molly said after a long pause. “I think it will be something Kingsley is interested in Harry doing. Not a single person I’ve spoken to put their quill mark next to Smith’s name when they voted.”
That was the consensus that Ginny had as well. “It’s not supposed to be possible to cheat the voting parchment.”
“But,” Molly reminded her, “it is something that Harry can spend his time looking into. If someone did cheat, to get Helminth into office, then he can figure it out. He’s tenacious that way.”
That was very true. “You’re right.”
“Another thing I never expected you to say, my love,” Molly assured her with a broad smile on her lined face. “I never had those fun years where you would rebel against me and we’d battle over the boys you wanted to bring home. I used to think that we would when you were a toddler. You climbed bookcases and if you didn’t want to eat your sprouts, there was no one who was going to make you. I saw all that strong will and I was sure that you were going to be the biggest handful as a teenager.”
“That wasn’t the way it happened, though,” Ginny said as her hands stilled and she stared into the half-finished mix. “We were at war all those years, plus after the Chamber of Secrets I wasn’t the same ever again.”
“And you were in love with Harry,” her mother reminded her. “Your focus was on him and how you felt about him.”
“I dated other boys,” she reminded her.
Molly shook her head sadly. “They were just placeholders for you. None of them actually touched your heart.”
Ginny put down her wand and went for the wine, pouring them each a glass. She didn’t care about cooking at that moment. “You know, I used to think there was no way he’d ever look twice at me.”
“I still don’t know that I understand that,” Molly replied honestly as she took a sip of wine. “You’re smart, brave, and beautiful, Ginny.”
“When I saw him as Harry Potter,” she said, trying to figure out how to explain it to her, “I didn’t think there was any way I could be smart enough, brave enough, or beautiful enough for him to notice I was alive. It was so difficult to believe that he’d look at ordinary me, the one who had nearly killed a bunch of people in my first year, and see anything worth loving. But,” Ginny smiled sadly at her mother’s devastation, “I learned to love myself again. I learned to respect who I was, and more importantly I learned to see him as Harry, just a man like any other. Granted,” she chuckled dryly, “one with a few more tendencies to get into trouble than others, but still…”
“Just a man,” Molly agreed. “I couldn’t have asked for a better husband for you.”
Ginny had to agree. “And now I have to worry about Lily, although I admit I don’t worry overly much.”
“No,” her mum grinned broadly and turned back to the cooking. “Lily is not headstrong, nor is she gullible. She’s the prettiest little duck, but I think she will find a nice, young man to settle down with and have a good life. She doesn’t fight things.”
She could only hope that Lily’s life was smooth sailing. Thus far her daughter had no life ambitions, although she liked the idea of creating new spells and charms for healing people. She’d seen her aunt working on them, and thought that it was fascinating, but she was still so young. “I can’t believe she goes to Hogwarts next year. What will I do without her and Hugo?”
“Cry,” Molly assured her confidently. “That first day you’ll cry a lot, maybe even the whole first week. I bawled for quite a while after you’d left. It’s a grief that is filled with joy and sorrow, but then you learn to live with the hole that is left in your life and you find new ways of filling your day.”
“I could work more,” Ginny mused as she heard the door from the back of the house. She turned and saw Harry coming in. “Hi.”
“Hey,” he stepped up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and kissed her on the neck. “It’s starting to smell good. Can I help?”
“I have a job for you,” Molly told him simply.
“Mum!” Ginny sighed in exasperation.
Molly waved her off and turned to Harry, who stared at her, a little nonplused. “As your mother, it is my duty to inform you that if you’re not going to have gainful employment, I have chores at my house that you can see it. Idle boys have always been boys in trouble in my experience. Our shed is falling down and needs to be rebuilt.”
A slow grin crept over Harry’s face. He turned to Ginny. “You’re ready to kill me, aren’t you?”
“Well,” Ginny chewed at her lower lip, then decided to be honest. “Yes. I need you out of my hair.”
“I see,” he kissed his wife soundly. “Okay, Mum, I’ll get to that shed next week. But, do you want some help in the kitchen?”
Ginny prodded him towards the door. “I’m enjoying a glass of wine with my mother while we cook. You’re not wanted.”
He winked, clearly not affronted. “Okay, I’ll be outside, then, with Arthur.”
The moment he was gone, Ginny turned to glare at her mother. “Really?”
“Well, it’ll give you a break,” Molly told her, completely unrepentant. “And I do need that shed rebuilt. If your father does it, he’ll end up in St. Mungo’s and I’ll have Audrey glaring at me for letting him do it.”
She had to concede that her mother was probably right. “Teddy’s totally moved out now. He got the last of his stuff last night.”
“Has that been hard?”
Ginny didn’t know quite what it was. “He’s just so grown up. I know he and Victoire are itching to move to the next phase, but there are times I wish I could tell them to slow down and enjoy their time now. But, that’s easy for me to say since I was married so early.”
“You were a different woman, though,” Molly reminded her gently. “You’d just lived through war and tragedy. We were all damaged. You were mature beyond your years.”
“I was supposed to be a mother at seventeen,” Ginny’s eyes strayed to the window that overlooked the back garden. She saw Harry and Arthur tending to the plants out by Hope’s grave and felt a pang that was so bittersweet now.
“You were a mother at seventeen,” Molly reminded her. “You were a mother to Hope and you were Teddy’s mother. When you weren’t in training or at a game, you had that little boy here with you, just as often as you could. I marveled at you, my love. I don’t know that you ever saw that. We were all so worried and protective of you, but you’ve always been so strong.”
“Mum…” Ginny felt the funny prickle behind her eyes and into her nose that told her she was really close to tears.
Molly cupped her cheek and stroked at it with her thumb. “Do you remember how the boys used to have that council where they’d put each other on… what was the word?”
“Probation,” Ginny recalled. “Harry was in hot water when I was pregnant with Al because I was so sick.”
“I remember talking to Bill afterwards,” Molly said as her eyes lost focus. “He was so scared for you, so angry with Harry. I tried to scold him for being so hard on Harry, but he looked at me and said, ‘Mum, you don’t understand. We watched her nearly die once already because of a baby and it was his job to protect her. He left her to deal with James all on her own.’”
It hadn’t been exactly like that, but it was close enough. Harry was a lot of things, but perfect wasn’t one of them. When faced with a child that would not be consoled, and no experience in parenting, he’d hid at work. It had taken years of therapy to come to terms with what had happened. She’d never blamed Harry for dropping the ball when James had been tiny and colicky. Ginny had known, from day one, that Harry would struggle to learn to be a father because he’d never had a good, consistent father. She’d accepted that, but to her brothers, who’d always had Arthur there, his behavior was unacceptable. They didn’t see that Harry was starting from nothing and they wouldn’t accept less than stellar for their baby sister. She could understand where they were coming from, but had a better perspective. After Al’s birth, she’d given Bill a piece of her mind and reminded him of just how far Harry had come.
It also hadn’t helped that Teddy had been a remarkably good baby, so Harry’s standards for what a baby was supposed to do were extremely skewed. James had been, and still remained, their most difficult child. Speaking of Teddy… no. Ginny mentally shook herself. She was not bringing up anything with her mother. Molly would lose it if she thought the kids were doing anything but holding hands. Her mother was still extremely old fashioned. “I have heard James is on his second girlfriend this year.”
“Yes, I heard that, too,” Molly sighed as she dumped potatoes in a pot. “Lucy wrote me a nice, long letter last week and let me know all about the doings at Hogwarts. That boy is going to be just like his grandfather, you mark my words.”
That was a scary thought. “Of course,” Ginny pointed out as she mulled that over, “if he finds a lovely girl to settle down with that will be okay.”
“You never met him,” Molly reminded her. “I only did once, and I can assure you that he was wild. Even after they were married, I heard stories about him and Sirius. It was challenging taking Sirius seriously,” she paused as her brows knit. “You know, that’s more difficult to say than one would expect. Sirius seriously… well, anyway, knowing his past I had a hard time not seeing him as reckless. Those two had a reputation. Lily was said to be a calming and stabilizing influence on him. I think she must have been a very strong woman to stop him from running around.”
Ginny thought it was more likely that Lily’s tenacity for wanting things her own way had won James over. She simply wouldn’t bend when James was behaving like an arse. “We have some letters from her to Neville’s mum. Did I tell you about that?”
“No,” Molly said in surprise. “When did you get those?”
“Last summer,” Ginny took a long, slow sip of wine. “Harry learned that he wasn’t a planned baby.”
“Well,” Molly had to laugh at that one. “Honestly, darling, how many of the babies were planned? They were so young and the world was in such a state? You and Percy were planned. That’s it. You planned for Lily, but the others? Nope.”
Now that she thought about it, Ginny felt the amusement bubble up. “Let’s see. Victoire was planned, Lucy was planned, Rose and Hugo were planned and… yeah, Lily. So about half of them.”
“Exactly,” her mother agreed. “Babies come when they’re going to come. We don’t always have a say in that.”
As they gathered around the table that night, all her brothers and their wives, minus Charlie, plus Kingsley, Ginny couldn’t help but be grateful that they were so close that this group had the cohesion of long standing friends, as well as family. Teddy and Victoire smiled at each other in a way that she knew spoke of further intimacies than they’d shared before and she was glad for them… and hoping that one of those unplanned babies didn’t make an appearance. Still, she trusted both of them and their good judgement. She thought they’d likely be careful. Ginny also thought that Fleur might have an inkling of what had occurred with the couple, but if she had, she was keeping it from Bill. Bill had mellowed a good bit in his years, except when it came to his daughters. If Victoire or Dominque were involved, his brain devolved into that of a stampeding Hippogriff.
Lily and Hugo were not terribly happy to be sent up to play once they’d finished eating, but they trudged along, knowing it was futile to argue. Harry put up several protective charms to stop them from listening in on the conversation, but Ginny knew that Lily wasn’t likely to anyway. Hugo might, though.
“I think,” Arthur said as soon as they were sure it was safe, “that we need to take a closer look at this election. Something is rotten with it.”
They were all seated around the long, wooden table that could expand to hold the entire family.
“I shouldn’t have retired,” Kingsley said on a long, slow sigh. “I had hoped that Macmillan would come in and I knew she’d do an excellent job of supporting Harry, but Smith… I really wanted him pushed out, but he’s got all that family clout.”
“What he’s doing in the Auror department is just obnoxious,” Teddy added as he twirled his wine glass between his fingers. “I’m not even involved in most of the oversight, but it has all the Aurors annoyed and on edge. We still have no leads on finding that missing woman and now another is gone.”
Ginny’s heart clenched. “When did that happen?”
“Yesterday,” Arthur said sadly.
“What can we do, though?” Ron asked them. “George and I have been talking about it–”
Angelina shook her head, cutting him off. “No.”
“But, babe,” George turned to his wife, who glared back stubbornly. “It might be the only hope we have of finding some answers.”
“No,” Angelina pointed a finger at him. “If you want to be sleeping on the couch for the next five years, then you go right ahead, but this is reckless and premature, not to mention immature.”
“Can I ask?” Bill interjected.
Hermione nodded, looking alarmed. “Yes, what are you two talking about?”
“We have this plan to oust him as Minister,” George told him. “It was actually Fred’s idea. He and the kids came up with it and sent me a coded message.”
“It’s a damn stupid idea,” Angelina interjected. “I’m extremely annoyed that your son thought that was a good use of his time while at school.”
George shrugged that off, totally unabashed. “I actually think it’s brilliant. He gives me hope that he’ll continue in the family business.”
“Please,” Bill held up his hands. “Someone explain before we all agree that it’s a damn stupid idea.”
“See,” Ron picked the story back up, shooting his sister-in-law a nervous glance. “The kids thought that creating a scandal around the Minister would be enough to get him to resign. They wanted it to be something embarrassing that would force him out of the Ministry, but wouldn’t be enough to land him in Azkaban or in any legal trouble. As Fred put it, he’s an idiot, not a criminal. They reckon, and we all agree, that if the voting was rigged, it wasn’t done by Smith, but by someone who wants to use him as a puppet.”
“But the question is who,” Hermione reminded Ron. “We don’t know who.”
“We know who,” Harry sighed heavily. “It’s Isabella Crabbe. We don’t know why or if Smith knows he’s being used.”
“Okay,” Hermione nodded in acquiesces. “What was Fred’s idea?”
George chortled. “See, this is the kicker. It’s already happened. Nat told him this story about a one of the Muggle royals being caught on one of those, what do you call them,” he turned to Hermione. “Recording somethings?”
“Tape recordings?” Hermione tried to fill in.
“Yeah, something like that,” George nodded enthusiastically. “The bloke said something nasty about a reporter being an idiot, or something like that. It’s the sort of thing that Smith likely does, but we don’t know because we never record things like that except with a Quick Quotes Quill.”
“How,” Hermione rolled her eyes to the ceiling, “do you propose to record the Minister saying something embarrassing, though? None of those things will work in the Ministry.”
“Oh, that’s no problem,” George waved it off confidently. “We have that system you used to get the telephone to work and we can make it work on other devises.”
“I’m not sure that you will, though,” Hermione narrowed her eyes, lost in thought. “They’re extremely sensitive. You might just pick up the sound vibrations from the magic in the air.”
Everyone stared at her blankly.
“Never mind,” Hermione shook her head as a flush spread over her cheeks. “The point is that it’s not a good idea, and I don’t think it will work.”
“Thank you,” Angelina held up her glass, toasting Hermione. “I can always count on you to be sensible and keep these idiots out of prison.”
“I think Harry should look into the voter fraud.”
Everyone turned to Ginny.
“Come again?” Harry linked their hands under the table.
“I think you should try to figure out how the voting was rigged,” Ginny said again. Then she turned to Kingsley. “Can you commission a special, independent review?”
“It’s not exactly in my prevue, even as Head of the Aurors,” Kingsley turned to Hermione. “What do you think?”
She tapped her fingers rhythmically on the table. “It could work. If we have enough support from the department heads we could form a commission. Or, we could start a public call for it.”
“We need the press on board,” Ginny agreed, which was more her area. “I can get a few people to push stories about the election, calling it into question. We could do informal polls, seeing if the numbers add up. My impression is that Smith won by a landslide.”
“It was steep,” Arthur agreed sadly. “Something like ninety percent of the voters.”
“Wait a minute,” Victoire turned to her grandfather. “Do people know that it was that much?”
He shook his head. “That’s not supposed to be public information.”
“Okay, then,” Victoire smiled at him. “I think it’s time that leaked to the press. That, right there, would get everyone wondering.”
“She’s got a point,” Harry told Arthur.
Molly patted her husband’s shoulder. “You’ve been a good employee, but you’re about to retire. I’m not sure we can risk your pension.”
“Screw the pension,” Harry shook his head. “If anything like that happens, you know we have the money to make up for it.”
“Harry…” Arthur began, but Harry shook his head.
“No,” Harry’s jaw firmed. “I have money, which means you have money. We’ve been through this. You’re my parents and I love you. I can’t ask Percy to lose his job now, not when his kids are still in Hogwarts.”
Percy shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Technically, I’m not privy to that information anyway.”
“It would be me or Arthur,” Hermione told Harry.
“You don’t need that job, either,” Ron pulled her hand up to his lips as he gazed at her in concern. “It’s causing nothing but stress in your life right now. You really should let Zacharias Smith go down in a flaming ball.”
“He’s right,” Fleur agreed pointedly. “It is not your job to clean up his messes.”
Hermione pinched her lips together and said nothing.
“Hermione can’t take the fall,” Bill said to his father. “She’s got a good shot of being Minister someday and she’d do a damn fine job of it. Harry’s right, Dad, you should leak that to the press in an interview. If you are fired, we’ll pick up the slack. You took care of all of us for all those years, working hard and sacrificing. None of us would mind doing the same for you.”
Arthur turned to his wife and Ginny watched their silent exchange. She knew, even before her father spoke, what the outcome was. “I’ll arrange an interview for you,” Ginny told him quietly. “I have a friend who is really good and she’ll do the story justice.”
The dinner broke up twenty minutes later and it was with exhaustion that Ginny climbed into her bed, feeling a little sick at the thought that her father’s long, good career might go up in smoke.
“It’s the right thing to do,” Harry told her as he climbed in beside her.
She didn’t want to think about it, though. “I was talking to Mum about when we were at Hogwarts.”
“Were you?” he asked as he kissed her shoulder and wrapped his arm around her middle.
“I used to think you’d never see me as anything but this skinny, freckly redhead,” Ginny reminisced and was extremely thankful to no longer be that same girl. “I thought there was no way I could compete with someone like Cho Chang.”
“Oh, how little you knew,” Harry grinned. “That whole crying thing…”
She snorted and turned to face him so she could trace her fingers over the familiar plains of his face. “Lily is definitely a crier and yet you never run from her tears.”
“Well,” he reasoned fairly, “I’m used to her crying and I’m not exactly fourteen anymore. Besides,” Harry kissed the tip of her nose, “I would do anything to put a smile on Lily’s face. She’s my little girl, the only girl, so she gets special consideration.”
“We were talking about Lily, too,” Ginny told him as she closed her eyes. “She’ll be so easy. She’s not going to date the wild boys. There isn’t a rebellious bone in her body, which means that if she didn’t have all those brothers and cousins, she’d be easy to take advantage of. Since she does have them all looking out for her, including Hugo who is going to be just like Ron, we’ll be fine.”
“I dunno,” Harry said after a moment’s pause. “I think with her tender heart, she could be led astray. I’m still worried.”
“You’re going to worry,” she knew that one as certain fact. “But she, at least, won’t be hampered by the insecurities that plagued me. Merlin, I was so sure I was going to die loving you and you’d still never know I existed. I was going to end up married to some poor berk I didn’t really care for. I actually imagined myself feeling sorry for him, whomever that ‘him’ was.”
Harry burst out laughing. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Nope,” she grinned at her own folly. “I was dramatic at fourteen. I was this big time martyr in my own head. I think I’d convinced myself that if I didn’t believe you were ever a possibility that it wouldn’t hurt as much when you went out with other girls.”
“Did that work?”
“Not in the least,” Ginny sighed as she let her hand creep down his side. “I couldn’t give up on you. I just knew… I don’t know how I knew, but I knew you were the one, you were it for me. There probably could have been other girls for you, but you were my one and only.”
“No,” he replied simply. “There was never going to be anyone but you. From that first kiss, I was hooked. You held my heart without any effort and you kept it safe, even when I didn’t know that’s what I needed. I didn’t understand then, but do you remember when you came to get me from the foot of the tower after Dumbledore fell?”
“Yeah,” she turned her gaze back to his. “I took your hand and pulled you back to the castle.”
“You didn’t really have to pull, though,” he reminded her. “I wanted to go, because I knew that wherever you were leading me was where I needed to be. I would have followed you anywhere, Gin. My heart was already tied to yours then. The thing I feared most was losing you. I could risk losing Ron and Hermione more than you, even though I didn’t know it at the time.”
She wanted to cry. Ginny’s heart swelled under the influence of his words until all she felt was amazing gratitude. “You never told me that.”
“I don’t think I really understood it for the longest time,” Harry admitted honestly. “At the time I couldn’t have said that I’d pick you over Ron. That would have been too difficult. Now, though… now I know that I’d pick you and Ron would tell me to pick you. Hermione wouldn’t thank either of us for that, though, so I’m thankful I don’t have to choose.”
“Me, too,” she assured him. She pressed her mouth to his and let her hand wander further south. “Now, we’re going to play a game where I get to touch you in ways that only I get to touch you and only I have ever touched you. How does that sound?”
“Really bloody brilliant,” he groaned against her mouth.
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