|SIYE Time:14:45 on 17th August 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: 92586; Chapter Total: 871
Awards: View Trophy Room
The long wait is over! At least I keep posting, right? I have a new book releasing soon, details to follow. Thanks for sticking around and please continue to review. It helps me feel like it's worth it to keep on writing.
Thank you Arnel for editing!
“Anything?” Ginny inquired quietly as Harry finally crawled into their bed many hours later.
“Too many bodies, too many dead women,” Harry explained to his pillow since he couldn’t bring himself to raise his head and look at her. “I know what she did to you, Gin. I know she impregnated you. She’s still doing that, but it’s like she’s experimenting on the women. I just don’t get what her end game is or what’s the point. I don’t even know if it’s still personal or not. She’s stopped sending me that stupid note every year. She skipped last year.”
“The one that said, ‘I know you’re secret?’, or something?” she asked as she leaned over and pressed a light kiss to his cheek. She ran a soothing hand up and down his back, almost like she’d done with the children when they were small.
He felt so terrible that it was manna to his broken heart. “That’s the one. I guess she’s tired of taunting us, and now she’s simply out to cause chaos. We found the girl’s family, exactly where Nat said we would. She was Ukrainian, the daughter of a local businessman. They’ve been looking for her for months. She was twenty years old. The parents, and her siblings, are devastated. They’re…” his voice broke as he thought about the conversation he’d had with them when they’d finally been able to connect the Floo to them. “They’ll be here tomorrow to collect her. I offered to have her remains taken to them, but they wanted to escort her home. We were able to get their entrance into the country cleared quickly, because of the circumstances.”
“Oh, Harry,” Ginny wrapped an arm around his shoulder. “I’m so sorry. Your job is so tough.”
“I don’t feel like I’m making any difference in my job!” he grumbled, beyond frustrated.
She shook her head against his shoulder. “You have made a difference. In every other respect, except with her, you’ve been extremely successful. Crime is down and we’re safer. You’re still a bit of a legend,” Ginny teased as she ran her hand up into his hair. “This one is personal, though, which is why it’s getting to you. Imagine how everyone in the Ministry felt when Voldemort was rising to power the first time? They weren’t able to catch him or stop him. There was no real way to end his reign of terror and we still had Dumbledore then.”
“I’m no Dumbledore,” Harry agreed with a grimace as he turned his head and met her chocolate brown eyes. He saw no condemnation there, only compassion. “You put up with so much from me. There are so many late hours and long days. It’s so many nights and weekends.”
Ginny’s mouth twisted into a smile. “I married you knowing who you are and what you were going to do. You try your best to be there for the big moments, and that’s all I need from you. When things aren’t crazy at work you’re here, not off drinking or creating more work for yourself.”
Harry reached out to her, running his fingers gently down her cheek, enjoying her soft skin and the familiar touch and scent of her. “I can’t retire. I thought I could. I wish I could, but I just can’t.”
“Your brain is on and firing all the time,” she agreed with a snort. “You’re too nosey for that. You’d never be able to leave it alone. You’ll be like that ‘til the day you die.”
He pushed himself up and over her, pressing his mouth to hers in a long, slow kiss. He was smiling, though. She always had that effect on him. “How about I turn that curiosity around on you?”
“I would very much enjoy that,” she promised with a laugh. “That was a line corny enough to come out of a Matilda Magpie romance.”
She shrieked as his fingers found her side as he tickled her.
“We will miss you,” Nat’s parents had said. They’d flown in for the express purpose of seeing her off to school on the train, but hadn’t seen her all summer. She hadn’t realized just how isolated their jobs were until she’d been forced to stay put.
“Are you okay?” Al asked as he loaded the trunks up into the luggage racks. At fourteen Al was gaining in height fast, as well as muscle. He was turning into his Uncle Charlie as she’d predicted years ago. James might always be a little taller than him, but Al would outweigh him easily by at least a stone of muscle. Nat hadn’t even bothered to offer to load the trunks. She knew better than to attempt it. She’d end up in the hospital wing again for her efforts. The trunks still weighted more than she did. Well, probably not, but it was a close thing.
“I miss my parents,” she said heavily as she stared at them out the train window. They were talking with Mr. and Mrs. Potter as well as Rose’s parents. “Where is Rose?” she asked suddenly, realizing that her friend had disappeared.
Al shrugged as he plopped down next to her. “Your parents are right there.”
“I never get to see them,” she reminded him. “I can’t because of my safety. I wish I weren’t rubbish at magic.”
He eyed her warily, shifting a bit so he could get a better look at her. “You’re good at some magic.”
“I’m terrible at defense,” she pointed out grumpily, then she saw his face and closed her eyes. “I’m sorry, Al. I’m trying not to be a brat. I just feel… dreadful.”
She didn’t expect him to say or do anything, so when he took her hand and gave it a squeeze, it shocked her enough to have her eyes fly open. “It’s okay,” he promised.
The door slid open and he dropped her hand quickly so that Rose wouldn’t see. She shook her head as she sat across from Nat. “Boys are running up and down the halls, screaming their heads off.”
“Already practicing for when you’re a prefect?” Al wondered and then laughed as she tried to kick him. “Well, it’s going to be you and Scorpius. We already know that.”
Rose pretended to scowl, but it only lasted a second. “I think it’ll be me, as well. No offence, Nat.”
Nat held out her hands. “No one in their right mind would make me prefect. You can’t even tell if I’m in first year or not.”
“It’s not that bad,” Al protested, but it was a feeble attempt. Most of the first years were taller than Nat. “Anyway, you’ll start growing soon.”
“I’ve looked at myself, and I don’t think the odds are good,” she assured him as the train gave one final whistle and started to move. “Where’s Scorpius?”
“Loo,” Rose answered. “I ran into him on my way back.”
The door slid open and a boy from their year with a Ravenclaw badge sidled in. Al scrambled back in his memory until the name came to him. Andrew Holmes. He was tall, thin, and had one of those faces that stood out as memorable. He always walked as though he knew where he was going and who he was. Al hadn’t spoken to him much, apart from a few class assignments, but he’d assumed him to be a bit stuck up. “Can I sit with you?” he asked in an accent that didn’t sound like most of his friends. “Everywhere else is full.”
They all glanced at each other, and then back to him. “Sure,” Nat said easily as the compartment door slid open again and Scorpius sidled in.
Andrew sat down quickly next to Rose, and after a moment of contemplation, Scorpius sat next to him. Rose shifted ever so slightly towards the window, away from the boys. Nat eyed her speculatively before turning back to Andrew. She didn’t believe for a single moment that everywhere else was full. Andrew was, without a doubt, a Brainiac nerd of the highest order. He didn’t beat Rose or Scorpius for top of the class, but he wasn’t far off. He was also popular and charming. He had brown hair that curled just a bit at the ends. It wasn’t too long, nor was it short. He had blue eyes that were deeper blue than normal, and he always looked as though he’d just stepped off the beach. His skin was always tanned. He was athletic, she knew that. He was already on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team and had been since second year. She’d studied his profile a few times, trying to place it, because she knew she’d seen it somewhere. But really, she shouldn’t have tried so hard with his face. It was all in his accent. “You’re royal.”
He blinked, surprised, as everyone stared at her blankly. “I’m the third son of a Duke, actually. I forgot that you’re Muggle born. Have you seen me in the press or something?”
Nat shook her head. “It’s the accent and a bit in how you carry yourself. The royals walk like they own the place.”
Andrew smirked and settled back in his seat, suddenly relaxed. “I rather think they do.”
She eyed him speculatively, unsure of what to make him of.
“We don’t have royals in the magical world,” Rose pointed out coldly. “So no one will treat you that way here.”
Andrew pointed to Al as he shifted to face Rose. “If you don’t have royalty, you have something just as close. Harry Potter is as close to a god as one gets to it.”
Rose gasped in outrage. “Uncle Harry doesn’t lord that over anyone! He’s a good, humble person.”
Andrew opened his mouth to retort, and then closed it. “I think we got off on the wrong foot, which is my fault. I should have gone on to say that I find the whole thing ridiculous and I was glad to be out of that world. I was happy to find out I belonged somewhere where status was more on merit, not birth.”
Rose crossed her arms and turned to glare out the window and to Nat’s shock, Andrew’s expression fell, just for a moment.
A light went on in her brain and she realized exactly why this fourth year Ravenclaw had chosen to sit with them. And she felt badly that he’d blown things up so amazingly. “So the third son? Don’t they just need and heir and a spare?”
Andrew took only a second to pull himself together. “My mother wanted a girl very badly. Father didn’t have the heart to say no, so they kept trying until they had their girl.”
“You were supposed to be a girl,” Al said with a grin. “How does that feel?”
“Well,” Andrew’s lips twitched and a single dimple popped out on his right cheek. “Having seen how my mother dresses my sister, I’m heartily thankful I was born a boy. I don’t think I could stand pink ruffles. They’re terribly itchy.”
Rose glanced back once, but turned away again.
“How old is your sister?” Nat asked curiously.
“She’s three,” he answered and his whole face lit up with genuine love. He’d been handsome before, but with that expression on his face, he was now positively radiant. “I hated having to say goodbye this morning, but thankfully she’s old enough to remember me now when I’m gone. My bothers are all gone off to school, as well, so it’s only her at home. I have another younger brother, and he just started at Eton.”
Nat’s brain fired at that. “You have another brother younger than you?”
“He’s my twin, actually,” Andrew explained. “He didn’t want to start until this year when he was fourteen. My father and he had a huge row over it, but David won.”
“Are you two identical?” Rose questioned, maybe surprising herself.
Andrew nodded as he studied her carefully. “It was a surprise that we both didn’t end up here. Professor Longbottom was the one to come and explain it to us, and he had no explanation for why we wouldn’t both be magical. It’s hard being here without him, but I like being just myself. I’m not one of the twins here.”
Rose nodded, but fell silent as her eyes drifted from him back to Nat. She seemed to be sending a silent plea to her.
“So your sister,” Nat prompted. “You seem to adore her.”
“Claire is impossible not to love,” Andrew assured them. “She’s bright, funny, mischievous, and such a joy. It took my mother ages to have her, so we were all so much older. I’m definitely her favorite, although her nanny hates me. I take her out to the stream behind the manor and let her ruin all those hideous dresses.”
They all laughed at the image.
“I think she’s magical, actually,” Andrew told them. “She made a frog hop into her hand. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it fly through the air from ten feet away.”
“Wow,” Al whistled. “That’s impressive, especially at that young an age. Will your parents be okay with that?”
Andrew considered that seriously. “I think if she’d been first, no. I think if my oldest brother had been magical it would have been a major problem. But they didn’t need me, and I’ve been able to show my mother that things are good in the magical world. My mother is sheltering my sister terribly.”
“Except when you’re there to make sure she gets dirty?” Rose quipped with a raised brow.
“Well, yeah,” he grinned, his one dimple showing clearly.
Rose blinked, her cheeks turned a faint pink, and she turned away again.
This was going to be interesting.
“So are you trying out for the team this year?” Andrew asked the boys. He turned back to Rose, but she still wouldn’t look at him. “I hear you’re great at Quidditch, as well.”
When she didn’t say anything, Scorpius cleared his throat. “I’m not sure, honestly. I like the game, but it’s not going to sadden me to not make the team. I think Al will make Beater this year.”
“Good lord, yes,” Andrew agreed as he sized Al up. “You’re the perfect type for it. Is that your preferred position?”
Al nodded. “Rose is the Chaser, but I prefer being a Beater. My dad was a great Seeker, but none of us have any interest in it.”
“Lily isn’t likely to start playing seriously,” Scorpius agreed with a chuckle. “Much to your mother’s chagrin, I think. She’s very happy to sit and watch us play most of the time.”
Andrew’s brows furrowed together. “She’s the tiny redhead, right? She looks a bit like a fairy.”
“That’s her,” Al confirmed slowly, looking confused.
Andrew shot him a pained glance. “I am so sorry. My sister is going to be that beautiful when she grows up. It’s going to be a nightmare.”
Al scowled angrily. “She’s too young for you.”
Al, Nat knew, was dense, but this was pushing it. She silently groaned.
Andrew wasn’t fazed. “I didn’t mean it like that. One brother to another, you have my sympathy. It’s well known that she’s the prettiest girl at school, so–”
“Wait!” Al flew to his feet and resisted Nat’s attempt to pull him back to his seat. “What do you mean she’s the… she’s practically a baby still!”
“Albus,” Nat hissed out his name and this time he heeded as she pulled him back into his seat. He glowered at her, and she had to resist the urge to laugh. “You have eyes. You can see what she looks like.”
His red face slowly drained of all color. “I do not like this.”
“Neither does your dad,” Nat reminded him.
“Come on, Al,” Rose interjected, although it looked like it pained her to do so. “Lily wins the prize.”
“There’s Dom,” Nat reminded her. “She’s still at school and she’s arguably more attractive than Lily.”
Rose shook her head. “She’s amazing to look at, but she also seems like she’d kill you as look at you. Plus she’s dating someone.”
Nat didn’t miss that she didn’t out her cousin by saying she had a girlfriend.
At one point Nat would have put Caroline in the run, but she wasn’t taking care of herself, probably on purpose.
“Do you have any pictures of your sister?” Nat interjected suddenly, scrambling to change the subject. She glanced to Scorpius, who hadn’t said anything, and saw he was staring out the window, not paying any attention to them.
“Yeah,” Andrew said as he pulled a wallet from his back pocket and flipped it open. He pulled out a picture from inside the folds and passed it over.
The tiny girl in Andrew’s arms had his blue eyes and curling brown hair. Her cheeks were chubby, and her smile radiant. In her head, the girl aged up and she could picture the features changing and transforming. “She’s adorable,” she assured Andrew. “She’ll definitely be a beauty.”
He grinned down at the picture, then showed Rose, who was leaning over to see. Rose’s smile was genuine this time. “She’s really cute.”
Andrew studied it for another moment before returning it to his wallet and putting it away. “My brothers think it’s weird that I like hanging out with her so much.” He almost looked like he wanted to be embarrassed, but then Nat watched him squash it down. “But I feel like she’s the only one who gets me, or just lets me be. She’s like me.” He blushed faintly under his tan. “That sounds stupid.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Rose assured him, finally letting go of her anger. “It’s difficult when you don’t fit in with everyone else, even if they love you.”
Andrew cleared his throat. “So, I have every intention of beating you in Ancient Runes this year.”
Rose appeared taken aback for a moment, then her eyebrow rose imperiously. “I’d like to see you try.”
“Are you okay?” Al asked Scorpius as they walked together up to their dorm later that night. They’d ditched their roommates after dinner, and the girls at the bottom of the staircase. It was the first chance Al had had to ask him alone. “Is it your aunt?”
Scorpius shook his head and didn’t say anything until they were in their dorm, the door closed. “No, my aunt is doing as well as she can.”
“Is it your dad?” Al asked cautiously, unsure of if he was pushing too hard.
He shook his head. “It’s nothing, Al. I’m just tired and glad to be back.”
Al really didn’t think that was it, but he couldn’t say anything else because their dorm mates burst in on them, laughing and carrying on.
“Did Andrew Holmes sit with you?” Smitty asked as he threw himself into his bed. “I hear he has a thing for our Rose.”
“She’s not your anything,” Scorpius grunted as he unpacked his trunk.
“Hark!” Matt joined in. “I hear the green-eyed monster. Do you happen to have a thing for our fair Rose?”
Al spun to stare at Scorpius who appeared genuinely stunned at the question. “No, I…” his voice trailed off as he laughed. “She’s like a sister to me, and she’s too damn good for you.”
Not to be outdone, Ansel threw a wadded up sock and pitched it at Scorpius, who caught it nimbly. “So any objection to Andrew pursuing her?”
“Not if she’s good with that,” Scorpius replied evenly.
“Oy,” Smitty laughed as he sat up in his bed. “What’s he got that I don’t?”
“Class?” Scorpius mused.
“Brains?” Al added helpfully.
Smitty laughed as he rose to unpack his trunk. “Well, if you’re going to be picky about who she dates.”
They all settled down minutes later, even though it was Sunday the next day, September the second, and they had the day off. It would be a chance to get back into life in the castle and time to catch up with friends. They had plans to have tea with Hagrid the next day.
The train ride wouldn’t let him sleep. It wouldn’t let his brain shut off. He’d had this weird thought that Andrew might have been saying something about Lily, which sadly happened more than Al wanted to admit. Okay, not so much to him. People rarely talked to him about his sister, probably because he was a little irrational about her. She wasn’t like other kids her age, which, yeah, he knew wasn’t that much younger than him, but she seemed a lot younger than him! She seemed fragile, and everyone felt like they should be taking care of her… looking after her.
But he had to admit that if Andrew had wanted to hit on Lily, he wouldn’t have sat with her older brother. So apparently, he’d missed the fact that Andrew had a thing for Rose. Now that they’d pointed it out, it did seem obvious. The guy had inserted himself into their group in one of the only ways that he really could. It would have been weird if he’d come up to them in the halls, the library, or during class. The four of them were a group and it wasn’t like they really let others in on that.
Al wasn’t sure he wanted anyone else in on that. He didn’t think Scorpius was lying about his feelings for Rose. He really did think he saw her as a chum, as a sister, but still.
Rose would make up her mind about Andrew. If she wanted him in their group, well, then Al would have to learn to deal with that. It would just be weird.
But he would learn to deal… at least when it came to Rose.
“It’s not, you added that incorrectly.”
“I didn’t,” Rose protested, glowering at Andrew while the five of them studied in the library. It was a bit like a tennis match in Nat’s opinion. They kept going back and forth with each other, and had been all that first week of school. They’d reached another weekend and it didn’t seem as though Andrew was going to give up.
“Mm, see there? You missed the one.”
“I didn’t! I… oh. I did.” Her face flushed as she used her wand to remove the mistaken quill marks.
Al and Scorpius were studiously ignoring the other two while they did their own work. Nat would have been happy to leave them alone, but Rose had forbidden her to do so, even as Andrew kept seeking her out.
“You have to think he’s cute,” Nat had said that morning in their dormitory.
Rose’s nose and mouth scrunched up into a tight ball as she pulled on her jeans. “He isn’t really interested in me.”
“Rose,” Nat strung her name out as she watched her friend search through all of her tops before pulling out a red one. “He’s clearly smitten!”
“How do you know?” Rose demanded suddenly, then flinched as one of their roommates came in from the loo. She lowered her voice as she grabbed her trainers and sat next to Nat on the bed.
Nat stared at her in amazement. “It’s not like he’s suddenly hanging out with us because of me! So unless you think he’s gay and after Al, then he’s into you.”
“Why wouldn’t he be interested in you?” she demanded sharply.
She could have cursed herself for slipping up like that. Rose was too sharp to miss anything. “I just meant–”
Rose flew to her feet and spun on Nat. “No! You don’t get to put yourself down like that.”
“I’m not,” Nat protested shrilly. “I just meant… you know, he wasn’t looking at me the whole train ride here! It’s not me he’s been seeking out to talk to in the halls.”
Her friend deflated and mercifully seemed to forget what Nat had said. “I don’t know what to do!”
Which was, Nat realized as she shook herself back into the present, the real problem. Rose liked to know what she was doing and where she was going, but there was no roadmap for the first boyfriend and Nat was positive that Andrew wanted to be Rose’s first boyfriend.
So that left Nat enjoying the dance for what it was, and studying it carefully. She hadn’t had anyone interested in her, and while she had a bit of a crush on Al, she knew that wasn’t going to go anywhere. He was too good looking for her. Still, if she ever had the chance, she wanted to know what she should do.
Except that this looked painfully embarrassing and she wasn’t sure she ever wanted to be a part of it. “It’s really nice out.”
Everyone stopped their work to stare at her.
“Let’s take a break and go for a walk,” Nat said, turning mostly to Al as her face flushed a bit. If everyone else thought it was a stupid idea, at least she could count on Al to go along with her. “I think we could all use a break.”
“I think that’s a good idea,” Andrew said at once. “We can leave our stuff and get back to it in a bit.”
Rose opened her mouth to protest but everyone else was already standing.
Nat tried to think of how to maneuver things so Andrew was walking with Rose, and couldn’t come up with anything more than hooking her arm through Al’s on her right, and Scorpius’ on her left. Scorpius chuckled under his breath as she marched with the boys out of the school. “Devious, Nat. I like it.”
“Yeah, well,” she said as she realized just how tall the other two boys were. “You two need to either slow down or carry me. I’m too short to keep up.”
Andrew had Rose in conversation as they continued on out of the school without them and quickly left them in the dust as Al and Scorpius matched their steps to hers. The moment that the other two were out of earshot she let go. “Let’s go sit right there under that beech tree and wait for them to come back.”
“Why is she fighting this so much?” Scorpius wanted to know. “Doesn’t she like him?”
“Oh, she does,” Nat confirmed as she leaned back against the tree and idly watched Al braid blades of grass together. “But she doesn’t know how to get into a relationship and the not knowing is breaking her brain.”
Scorpius doubled over laughing. “Merlin! I can just see that bothering her.”
“Do all girls worry about that, or is it just a Rose quirk?” Al wondered as they lost sight of the other two completely around the lake.
“I’m not terribly concerned,” Nat admitted. She didn’t imagine she would find a boyfriend anytime soon, and accepted that it could be something that might happen when she was an adult. She frowned down at the grass and tried to picture it, but it wouldn’t come. She just couldn’t see anyone flirting with her like Andrew was flirting with Rose. While she was happy for her friend, it definitely left a twinge of sadness in her heart. “What about you two? Are you worried about getting a girlfriend?”
“Not particularly,” Scorpius laughed as he lay back in the grass. “I figure it’ll just happen, even if it’s a little weird at first.”
Nat turned to Al to find him not paying any attention to her, but staring off after Rose. “I like Andrew,” Al told her after a moment. “I wasn’t sure I would, but I do. So if we have to have someone else around, I guess I’m glad it’s him.”
Which wasn’t a response to anything Nat had said or asked.
When the other two finally made it back to them, Nat knew that they’d kissed. It was all over Rose’s flushed face. She didn’t get to ask her about it until after dinner, though, which drove Nat crazy. When they’d gone back to study, Andrew had held her hand as they’d walked and Nat thought that was just about the sweetest thing she’d seen.
“So?” Nat asked the moment they were alone in their dorm.
Rose slowly sat on her four-poster and stared off into space. “I was so caught up in our discussion on transfiguration that I completely missed that you three had ditched us. Then I noticed, and stopped and said something, and Andrew took my hand. I…” she licked at her lips nervously as her gaze fell to her hands. “I was so surprised and he said how he liked me, and had last year, but he hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask me. He’d spent all summer talking himself into it, Nat! I was… stunned. I mean, I’d noticed him, of course, but I hadn’t really been paying attention to him. He’s so handsome! I thought he’d be interested in someone else, but we talk about school, a lot, so I think he really likes that I’m really smart.”
“Of course he would,” Nat said as a grin threatened to split her face in two. “And?”
“And… so he asked if I wanted to go out with him and I was speechless and could only nod… and then he kissed me!” She was breathless and bright red by the ending of the tale, but her happiness radiated off her. “I hadn’t been kissed before, and it was… it was so sweet! I felt like my head was going to explode. I feel–” she held her hands to her, and then pushed them out again.
It wasn’t the words, but Nat could understand. “It’s a lot of feelings.”
Rose grinned sheepishly. “Do the boys think it’s weird?”
“The boys don’t think,” Nat assured her. “They’re very much in the ‘whatever’ camp. As long as you’re happy. Al thinks he’s a good guy, and doesn’t mind him hanging around if that matters.”
“It does,” Rose said as she kicked off her shoes and reached for her nightgown. “Al has been my best friend since we were babies. His good opinion matters.”
She froze, her face went sheet white.
“What is it?” Nat wondered in alarm.
“We can’t tell my dad!” Rose whispered urgently. “He’ll ruin everything!”
“Got it, Rose,” Nat patted her arm with a grin. “I promise to spread the word so that your dad doesn’t find out.”
“Rose has a boyfriend,” Ginny told Harry as she read through Nat and Lily’s joint letter. They’d taken to each writing a couple of pages before sending it on to her on the same owl. “His name is Andrew and he’s a Muggleborn. Nat says everyone likes him. He’s in Ravenclaw.”
When Harry didn’t say anything, she glanced up to see her husband frozen with his fork halfway to his mouth.
Ginny kicked him under the table, startling him back into animation. “Harry?”
“Rose is still a baby,” Harry said in as petulant a tone as she’d ever heard her husband use.
She couldn’t help but laugh. “She’s fourteen, Harry! I married you when I was sixteen, remember?”
Harry’s head hit the table. Repeatedly. “Why do they seem younger than we were?”
“They aren’t any younger,” she promised him. “We were too damn young, and that’s the truth of it. If we’d been anyone else besides us, I think it would have blown up in our faces.”
Harry raised his head and Ginny tried to ignore the red mark from where his head had fallen. He rubbed at it absently. “If she’s old enough to date, then Lily will be soon and I just do not like that.”
“Lily is going to have boyfriends coming out her ears,” Ginny reminded him ruthlessly. “She’s too beautiful not to. You have to get over it. Oh, and they’ve asked us not to tell Ron. I’m going to let you decide what to do with that.”
“Get him drunk first, I think,” Harry told her morosely. “He might be too pissed to hear me properly.”
Ginny didn’t comment further, since it wouldn’t do any good and she was too interested in what the rest of the letter said. “Al and Rose both made the Quidditch team as Beater and Chaser.” She set the letter down and studied him, the goofy grin on his face. “I don’t think you should tell Ron, actually. I know from experience how badly he’ll take it and frankly, she has everyone else there looking out for her. If she wants to tell her parents, she will.”
Harry shifted uncomfortably. “I’d want to know.”
“You’re the kind of father Lily will tell,” Ginny pointed out.
He let out a snort and shook his head. “No, no, Lily is the kind of child who will think nothing of telling me. That’s very different.”
She considered that for a moment, then decided he was right. Before she could say anymore, the fire erupted to life and a voice called to them from the living room.
“Mr. Potter!” came the voice of Daniel, Harry’s assistant. “They need you at a crime scene right now, sir.”
Fifteen minutes later, Harry was glaring at Lucius Malfoy as the old man stalked around the sitting room and wondered just why he, of all people, had been called out here. “Just explain to me, without shouting, what exactly happened.”
Harry turned to the rest of the room, which included Draco, Astoria, Daphne, Narcissa, and a couple he knew by sight, but hadn’t known until that evening. Their names were Irish and Bertrand Benoit and they appeared to be about his age, maybe mid-forties. They were well dressed, her in red robes, and him in black. Her hair was a coppery blonde, while his was brown already going to silver. They both gave off the same haughty air of snobbery that Harry would have expected to come out of Draco himself.
But the odd thing was that no one was dead, or dying, and no black magic seemed to have been done. The only thing wrong was Draco’s black eye and even that was fading with some attention from his mother.
The only person in the room who would look at him was Daphne. He hadn’t seen Scorpius’ aunt in a long time, but she appeared as she always had. Her blonde hair was done perfectly, her make up in place, and her blue eyes direct and unflinching. Charlie had once told him she was hot, but the woman looking back at him was too tough to be real. She was hiding something, but then again, she always was.
“What happened and why the hell is the Head Auror here when no one is dead?” Harry demanded again harshly. “I need an answer now, or all of you will be charged! It’s illegal to demand my time when I am not needed.”
Astoria shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “I asked for you, as a friend, Auror Potter. Things were out of control and we needed help. I… please.”
The woman was so pathetically fragile, that Harry softened, just a bit. “Tell me what happened.”
Here, though, Astoria faltered. Daphne let out an annoyed sigh and sat back regally in her chair. “This dinner,” she informed him, spitting out the word, “was to arrange Scorpius’ marriage to the Benoit’s daughter, Chloe. Chloe is in her fourth year at Beaubatons.”
Harry’s mind froze as he tried to rapidly digest what he was hearing. “Excuse me?”
“I have objections to arranged marriages,” Daphne informed him with a sardonic smile.
“You have no say in it!” Lucius screamed at her, his rage letting go finally. He strode towards the woman, but Harry stepped in front of him.
Long gone were the days when this man could scare him. “You will sit down, and you will hold your tongue until I ask you to speak.” He didn’t say it loudly, because he wasn’t after embarrassing the man, but he said it with enough force to let Lucius know he was serious.
“You cannot speak to me that way, in my own house!” Lucius spat vehemently. His lined face went pale with anger.
Harry didn’t smile, but it was a close thing. “I can do what I like, Mr. Malfoy,” Harry assured him evenly. “Including having you arrested. I wouldn’t test yourself against me, sir. Sit down while we sort this out.”
Lucius met his eyes for a moment, then he faltered and went to sit in the lone armchair that was still vacant.
“What happened tonight?” Harry asked again, this time his tone brooking no room for argument.
“We were discussing the terms of the marriage,” Draco told him curtly. “The Benoits have, uh, concerns because of Scorpius’ house placement and his associations.” His words halted abruptly as he realized what he’d said.
Harry’s children were his son’s friends. He hung out with Harry’s family. Years ago that would have bothered him, but now the whole thing was so pathetic that it was simply amusing. His lips cracked into a smile. “You mean the scum like us, eh, Draco?”
“Yes,” Mr. Benoit answered formally with a decided French accent.
“Well,” Harry eyed the man more closely, trying to gage him. “You’re right to be worried. Scorpius is a good kid, one with a good head on his shoulders, and he doesn’t buy into any of the pureblood nonsense. I’d suggest finding someone else for your daughter, if that’s what you’re looking for. He’s too smart and headstrong to change his mind.”
Daphne doubled over laughing while everyone around him burst out into a cacophony of angry speech.
It took a few minutes for order to be reached again, by which point the Benoits were fuming and wanted to leave. “Sit down!” Harry barked as he pointed them back into their seat.
“Who are you to–” Mr. Benoit began, but he didn’t finish his question. The look Harry sent him was not menacing, but he was done babysitting a family squabble and in no mood for this bigoted man.
“This whole thing is ridiculous,” Harry informed them. “Leave your children alone to find their own spouse. I know for a fact that you will lose Scorpius if you try to enforce this.”
“This is the way things are done,” Narcissa spoke up finally, quietly. “Marriages are arranged.”
“And look how well that has worked out for all of you,” Daphne drawled sarcastically. “You six, you’re miserable and you hate your spouse. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t cheating on you, Astoria!”
Draco’s shock was evident, but Astoria crumbled into tears and ran off. Harry didn’t bother to stop her. He knew that she, at least, hadn’t been the one to punch Draco.
“Get out!” Draco shouted at his sister-in-law, who ignored him, even though Draco appeared on the verge of murder.
“Scorpius is miserably unhappy here,” Daphne told him coldly. “You’re going to lose him because that boy actually has a spine, unlike you. He won’t bow to your wishes. Banning me won’t help that; you know I’m the only one he loves or cares about.”
To Harry’s shock, Draco backed off.
“How did you end up with the black eye?” Harry demanded of the other man.
“I threw the soup bowl at him at dinner,” Daphne answered sweetly for him. She held out her hands. “He neglected to duck. Are you going to arrest me?”
Harry let out a silent groan as he turned back to Draco. “Are you pressing charges?”
Draco appeared to consider it carefully. “Just get her out of here.”
“Fine by me,” Daphne assured him as she strode towards the door, her robes flowing out behind her. “I don’t want to be here while you auction for son off like a prized pig.”
Harry stared hard at Draco. “Do not call me in again for a family dispute or I will have you arrested. Am I understood?”
Draco nodded and turned away, clearly humiliated and Harry followed after Daphne.
He caught up with her in the gardens, just outside the gate. “Daphne,” he called out and she turned to wait while he caught up. He had so many questions he wanted to ask, so many things he wanted to know, but really there was only one thing on his mind. “What are you doing?”
She laughed, but there was no humor in it. “I’m self-destructing,” she informed him as the moonlight danced off her golden hair. “It’ll be more fun to take them all down with me.”
With that she spun, and vanished into thin air with only a small pop.
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