|SIYE Time:21:58 on 20th January 2018|
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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Nymphadora Tonks
Warnings: Death, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Summary: After four years working overseas for the shadowy Department M, a world-weary and dispirited Harry Potter returns to the land of his birth. He meets some old friends and makes some new ones, as he learns that much has changed since he left home. AU, a ‘Harry never went to Hogwarts’ story.
Hitcount: Story Total: 45054; Chapter Total: 3354
Awards: View Trophy Room
I’d add a longer AN here, but I’m in the middle of trying to install my new desktop and its proving a nightmare. I’ll just pause to thank Arnel for her help before I go back to swearing at my computer screen…
Chapter 10 — Walls
“They were posted everywhere,” Hestia explained. “I confiscated around three hundred of the leaflets, but I have no idea how many might still be in circulation.”
Harry stared at the brown leaflet in his hand. It was certainly inflammatory, if rather flowery in its use of language.
“And you have absolutely no idea who distributed them?” Dedalus asked.
“No, I woke up this morning and found them spread all over Hogsmeade. No one I asked had a clue who put them there,” Hestia said apologetically.
Harry glanced around the section’s office. He’d never seen all the members gathered together before. In fact, there were several faces that he didn’t even recognise. Counting Dedalus, the section totalled thirteen witches and wizards. He hoped that number wasn’t a bad omen.
They’d been called in due to the unexpected leaflet campaign that had just been launched against the Ministry and, specifically, against Kingsley himself. Hestia Jones, whose normal area of operations included Hogsmeade and who owned a house there, had discovered the flyers that morning and felt they were sufficiently serious to bring to Delalus’s attention. He’d been in agreement and pulled everyone in.
“Hmm, I’m most concerned at this turn of events,” Dedalus announced. “Wizarding society has been ticking along quite happily since Harry here dispatched the Dark Lord, and we really don’t need this kind of dissent being spread.”
“I know these things aren’t very complimentary to the Minister, but they’re probably just the work of some crank, aren’t they?” a wizard Harry didn’t recognise asked.
“I’m not so sure,” Dedalus disagreed. “This unfortunate document is positively dripping with old-fashioned pure-blood bile. Virtually all the old blood supremacists are either dead or gracing Azkaban with their presence. I don’t like the idea that we could have a fresh wave of racist provocateurs ready to start whipping up trouble.”
“This thing does sound like an actual threat to Kingsley,” Dora pointed out. “Look at the bit - ‘the foul contamination of our society by the usurping idiot Shacklebolt must be stopped as soon as possible, and by any means’. That definitely sounds like a threat to me.”
“That’s exactly what I thought,” Hestia agreed. “I suspect whoever did this has some magical talent, too. You don’t manage to pin hundreds of leaflets to every available space in Hogsmeade without somebody noticing unless you have some ability.”
“Very true, my dear Hestia,” Dedalus nodded. “In any event, the section’s primary mission is to seek out subversive elements and deal with them before they become a problem. If this turns out to be the work of a few disgruntled individuals who have a beef with the Minister because he raised the taxes on Firewhiskey, then fair enough. If, however, this is the first act of some new band of militant extremists, then I want them found as soon as possible. I want you all to keep your ears to the ground and try and found out who did this. Right, off you all toddle.”
“Great, one more thing to worry about,” Dora muttered as they stood to leave.
“You did say things had been too quiet around here. See, whenever I turn up, trouble occurs,” Harry said wryly.
“Oh, you said it, babe, you said it,” she grimaced in reply.
“I ’ve had the information back from the goblins!” Hermione declared enthusiastically.
Harry smiled at the young witch’s obvious excitement. It was becoming clear his new friend liked nothing more than finding solutions to problems, which suited him down to the ground. The potential new threat to the Minister had been taking up a lot of their time and they hadn’t had the chance to do much more investigation into ‘Mr Winter’ and his murderous gang.
“Do we have a name?” Dora asked expectantly as she cleared a pile of files off a chair so Hermione could actually sit down.
“Edgar Stephens,” she replied triumphantly. “I took the liberty of looking him up in the Ministry’s records before I came here. He’s a forty-six-year-old widower who runs a small firm that imports potion ingredients. According to his tax returns, the company had a gross turnover of just over 8,000 Galleons last year.”
“Hmm, he’s hardly a big player, then,” Harry noted.
“Indeed, which is what makes the rest of my information so interesting. I took the liberty of requesting that the goblins send details of any other transactions this person made that were direct transfers into the Muggle banking system. They were extremely efficient, and provided me details of numerous transfers made over the last fifteen years,” Hermione said.
“Fifteen years? This bloke has been making payments for that long?” Harry asked in surprise.
“Oh yes, but the really interesting thing was the amount of these transactions. Over that period, more than 914,000 Galleons were converted and paid to various Muggle accounts,” Hermione noted.
“914,000 Galleons? But that’s over…” Dora began.
“Approximately 4.57 million Pounds,” Hermione interrupted. “Quite a lot for a business that has only made a small profit in the last five years.”
“He’s being used a front, he has to be!” Dora exclaimed.
“Did you find anything else out about this Edgar Stephens?” Harry asked.
“Not a great deal; he lives in a small house in Hogsmeade from which he also operates his business. He has no criminal record that I could find and he’s generally pretty unremarkable.”
“Sounds like the perfect person to recruit for this kind of stunt,” Harry noted. “I think we’ll need to pull this guy in for questioning as soon as possible.”
“Can I attend the interview?” Hermione asked hopefully. “I promise I won’t get in the way.”
“Hey, of course you can, babe,” Dora smiled. “Not only are you an official of the DMLE, you handed this git to us on a plate. Besides, I think we might need your legal expertise.”
“I’m happy to help in any way I can,” Hermione beamed.
“Great, you’re a star, Hermione,” Harry smiled. “Oh, by the way, this is a completely off-topic question, but do you know a witch called Daphne Greengrass?”
“Daphne Greengrass?” Hermione repeated, the smile vanishing from her face instantly. “Yes, I do. What do you want to know about her for?”
“Let’s just say her actions have started to arouse our suspicion,” Dora explained.
“I’m not surprised, she’s an evil bitch,” Hermione spat. “She was part of a group of Slytherin girls that always hung-out together back at Hogwarts. While groups of teenage witches can traditionally be a bit cruel and snobbish, this bunch really took it to the extreme. They terrorised any witch who wasn’t a pure-blood to the point that several girls stopped attending the school. Daphne Greengrass was always the most aloof of the group. She was one of the prettiest girls in the whole of Hogwarts, and she certainly knew it! I was a buck-toothed, frizzy-haired Muggleborn without many friends, so you can imagine what they thought of me.”
“So, this bunch were pure-blood supremacist, were they?” Harry asked.
“Oh, definitely! Most of their families were either supporters of the Dark Lord or even actual Death Eaters. I know Ginny had some problems with the group’s leader, Pansy Parkinson, so you might want to ask her, too,” Hermione suggested.
“I will,” Harry agreed. “Strange that a girl like that would be able to get a job as the Minister’s Event Coordinator, though.”
“What did I tell you about the Ministry’s recruitment policy?” Hermione said bitterly. “The Greengrass’s are an old, rich family of good standing. Daphne could probably waltz into any job she fancied.”
“Interesting,” Harry pondered.
“Yeah, it is, but forget about it for the moment,” Dora advised. “We have a suspect we have to pick up.”
“Damn right,” Harry agreed.
Maybe now they would get some answers.
Edgar Stephens proved to be a thin, unremarkable looking man with straggly hair and a long, aquiline nose. His extreme nervousness was betrayed by the way his eyes kept glancing from Harry to Dora rapidly, with the occasional appealing look in the direction of Hermione, who sat at the end of the table quipped with a legal pad and quill.
“Do you have any idea why you’re here, Mr Stephens?” Harry asked with exaggerated politeness. It was always best to give a suspect the chance to incriminate himself first.
“Umm, no, no, I can’t think,” the man replied, desperately trying to appear collected. “Has there been a complaint about my goods? I assure you, I only source my ingredients from the most reputable of…”
“What if I said the word ‘Gringotts’ to you, Mr Stephens?” Dora interrupted.
“Gringotts? Why, yes I have a vault there. I don’t understand what you’re asking me,” Stephens said nervously.
“Okay, let me clarify something for you. Were you aware that any payment made by Gringotts directly into the Muggle banking system is a matter of public record, and the information regarding those transfers is freely available?” Harry asked. Hermione chose this moment to slide the sheet of parchment detailing all the transfers made from Stephens vault in front of him.
“Oh,” the man said quietly.
“Oh, indeed,” Dora smirked. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Stephens.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” he protested.
“You are on the verge of being arrested for handling stolen money, illegally passing funds into the Muggle economy, possible tax avoidance and several other unpleasant things,” Harry snarled. “So tell me, Mr Stephens, how does a middle-aged, moderately successful potion ingredient supplier manage to make transfers in excess of 914,000 Galleons?”
“The money wasn’t mine. I was just doing someone a favour,” he mumbled.
“Who?” Harry demanded.
“I… I don’t know,” Stephens said lamely.
“You don’t know? You just decided to let some random stranger traffic a shit-load of gold through your account out of the good of your heart, did you?” Dora sneered. “Pull the other one, matey, it’s got bells on it!”
“No, I was paid for doing it,” Stephens admitted miserably. “I never met the person who did it, though. I was originally contacted back in 1985, via an anonymous note delivered by owl. The note promised me a cut of two percent of any funds that were passed through my vault. Back then I was desperate for money, which is probably why this person chose me. It was common knowledge that I was on the verge of bankruptcy, my wife was threatening to leave me because we couldn’t make ends meet, so I figured I had nothing to lose. I was to show my agreement by placing a candle in my front window, and the next day I received another letter giving the details of a Muggle bank to transfer the money to. When I got to Gringotts, I found that 20,000 Galleons had been deposited into my vault, so I earned 400 Galleons for doing virtually nothing! I was able to pay a couple of pressing creditors and put food on my table for the first time in a week.”
“And these transfers were always arranged the same way?” Harry enquired.
“Yes, I’d always just receive my instructions by regular owl post. They were quite random, though. I could go months and months without receiving one, and then sometimes I’d have three in a month. They were all very, very welcome, I have to say,” he sighed.
“Weren’t you ever tempted to just keep the money?” Dora asked.
“Oh, no! That first note made it very clear what would happen to me if I tried anything like that. Once I was a day late getting to the bank as I was ill, and the next morning I found a note pinned to my door warning me that both me and my wife would be losing body parts unless I completed the transfer immediately. I didn’t hang around, I can tell you!”
“You do understand what you did was illegal, don’t you?” Harry told him firmly. “At least part of these funds have been used to finance criminal activity, and you’ve made yourself party to those crimes by your actions.”
Stephens shrugged. “Whatever was going on, I knew that it wasn’t going to be legal. I’d be a fool not to, wouldn’t I? I hold my hands up and confess that I’m guilty. I’m not sorry, though. If I hadn’t taken that money then I would have bankrupt, homeless and single. My wife stayed with me until she died, and I was able to keep her in reasonable comfort thanks to those transfers. I was able to save my business and keep a roof over my head. I might be going to prison now, but I still think that on the whole it was worth it.”
“Okay, Mr Stephens, you’re under arrest,” Harry sighed. “If you can think of anything that will identify who was behind all this, it would go a long way to reducing your sentence.”
“And probably get me killed,” Stephens snorted. “Sorry, I don’t know anything, and I wouldn’t tell you if I did.”
Harry glared at the man in frustration. The investigation had just hit a brick wall.
Sombrely, Harry regarded the dismal condition of the room. The wallpaper had long since peeled off the walls and there was a distinctly unpleasant smell to the place. He wrinkled his nose in disgust.
“Yeah, pongs a bit, doesn’t it? The Death Eaters pissed and crapped all over the place, the pigs,” Ginny said in disgust.
“Sounds like the kind of thing they would do. I hope you didn’t have to clear it up,” he replied, still casting his eyes around the ruined reception room. While they’d never used this room much, it still shocked him to see it in such bad condition.
“A few Vanishing and Cleaning Spells, that’s all,” she shrugged. “It was better than having to work in that stench. Trust me, this place smelt a lot worse before.”
Harry turned and looked at her sadly. “So, how are you and Bill getting on clearing the traps and curses?” he asked.
“Pretty well,” she confirmed, “but it’s a huge job. Bill said he’s never seen a single building laced with so many traps. They must have really hated you guys.”
“Grimmauld Place was seen as a nest of traitors to the cause,” Harry explained. “The Black family had always been staunchly pure-blood and extremely Dark. For Sirius to take it over and effectively turn it into a base for the Light side was an abomination to them. They probably wanted to befoul the place as they felt we had done. Bastards.”
“Unfortunately, it will be a few weeks at least before we’re finished here. The upstairs areas are even worse than down here. One of the main bedrooms on the second floor even has several Level Two curses placed in it. We have to go careful with them or we’ll risk blowing up the whole street,” Ginny apologised.
“I understand. I expect that was Sirius’s bedroom. They would have taken special care trapping that one,” he said angrily. “It wasn’t enough that they killed him. They had to despoil his memory, too.”
“I’m sorry, Harry,” Ginny said simply and reached over to take his hand.
Harry ran his thumb over her knuckles, marvelling at how small her hands were. They weren’t soft or girlish hands, however. Ginny was clearly a girl unafraid of a bit of hard work. He thought of his former lover Martine’s hands in comparison: soft, manicured and delicate. Somehow he felt they represent the woman, herself: on the surface immensely appealing, but lacking any real substance or depth. Ginny’s hands had been put to more practical use, and seemed all the more real for it.
“Come on, we’ve cleared out several rooms upstairs. Let me show you,” she said gently.
He allowed himself to be led to the door and he gratefully left the room. Seeing it in that condition had a much greater effect on him than he’d expected. He’d thought he was prepared to see the worst, but clearly he’d been fooling himself.
“I can see this place is going to need a lot more work than I first thought,” he said as they started up the stairs.
“There are people you can hire to do that sort of thing, you know,” Ginny explained. “I can recommend a few firms that can come in and clean and redecorate that place. Obviously, Gringotts deals with a lot of wealthy families and they generally pay to have work of that sort done for them. If you explain to these firms what you want, they should be able to get this place sorted out, no trouble.”
“Actually, I think that’s a good idea. For some reason, I thought once the traps were gone I could just come in and slap a bit of paint about and everything would be fine. That’s simply not going to cut it now. I can’t stand seeing the house like this. It’s like every childhood memory I have of being here has been tarnished, somehow. No, I’m going to need to completely change everything.”
“Hopefully, you can create some happy new memories here,” Ginny smiled, confirming to Harry that she understood exactly what he was thinking. She was good at that.
“Yeah, any ideas on how the place should be remodelled?” he asked.
“Let the professionals come up with the ideas,” she shrugged. “I know this one firm which is run by a girl who was in the year above me at Hogwarts. Parvati’s incredibly creative and can come up with the most wonderful ideas. Let her have a look round the place and she what she thinks,” Ginny suggested. “Ah, this is the room I wanted to show you. We’ve cleared this one out completely, and it’s not in such a bad state as some of the others.”
Harry stopped dead on the landing and stared at the door in trepidation. “This was my bedroom,” he announced quietly.
“I suspected it might be,” Ginny admitted, giving his hand a squeeze. “Do you want to see it, or do you want to give it a miss?”
“No, let’s go in,” he said, steeling himself for the worst.
Ginny pushed the door open and they went in. Harry glanced about his old bedroom. It was largely as he remembered it: the same red walls, the same large comfy bed that Sirius had such a hard time getting him out of most mornings, the same Quidditch posters randomly stuck on the walls. His bookcase that was previously positioned against the far wall had been overturned and smashed, but someone had taken the trouble to neatly stack the books in several piles. He walked over and picked one off the nearest pile.
“The Adventures of Captain Hawksmoor: The Wizard Pirate!” Harry read out loud, a grin creeping onto his face. “I used to love this book.”
“I think one of my brothers had that,” Ginny smiled as came over to join him. “Charlie, I think, or maybe Fred. I can’t remember now.”
“Fred? He was the one who was…” Harry began, before trailing off. He realised suddenly that he was being insensitive.
“That died in the war, yes,” Ginny finished the sentence. “It’s alright, Harry. It’s been a few years now. We all miss him terribly, but we know that Fred would never have just stood around while others fought the Dark Lord. He hated everything the Death Eaters stood for and would probably have been happy to know he died fighting them. I’m proud of what he did and the memory of him brings a smile to my lips, so don’t be scared to mention him.”
Harry put the book down and drew Ginny into his arms. “Bloody Voldemort,” he cursed. “How many families have been ripped apart because of his megalomania? It’s weird, you know. I think he was just a cowardly, frightened child lashing out because he was hurt, really. So much pain, so many dead, just because he hated what he was.”
“What do you mean?” Ginny asked, her head resting on his shoulder.
“Did you know that Voldemort was a half-blood? His father was a Muggle who abandoned him and his mother before he was born. While I would normally think that was reprehensible behaviour, his mother had used a Love Potion to trap the man. Imagine what a Muggle would feel once he realised he’d been completely controlled by a little bottle of blue liquid? In those circumstances, I can almost understand him deserting them. Almost,” Harry explained. “Voldemort’s mother died shortly after he was born and he had a rough upbringing in a Muggle orphanage which, I think, left him incapable of loving, or even fully trusting, anyone. He was ruled by negative emotions: fear, hate, anger, loathing. No wonder he turned out so badly.”
“You sound almost sorry for him,” Ginny said in puzzlement.
“Sorry for him? No, not really. He had a choice in everything he did. In a strange way, because he never truly had a proper relationship with another human being, be it his parents, relatives, friends or even a lover, I don’t think he ever really grew up. He was always this immensely powerful child who lashed out at everyone around him just because he’d been hurt,” he continued, voicing an idea he’d never really spoken out loud before. “It’s the same with this obsession he had with immortality. Most normal people wouldn’t actually want to be immortal, I suspect. Oh, they might flirt with the idea, but would you really want to see all your friends and loved ones wither and die before your eyes? I think not. Voldemort, of course, didn’t care about anyone. But his real motivation was fear: he was terrified of death. He was so scared of being weak or not in control, and death is the one thing that none of us can avoid. I often wonder if he was afraid he’d be judged after his death. After all the things he’d done, that would be something to be afraid of.”
“Personally, I hope he gets exactly what he deserves on the other side,” Ginny said fiercely.
“He will,” Harry assured her. Although he didn’t mention it, he knew the Dark Lord’s sundered soul would never find peace again.
“There’s all sorts of things in the closet,” Ginny told him in an effort to cheer him up, he presumed. “Most of the stuff is undamaged, too.”
Harry released her from his embrace and smiled down at her. “Let’s go and see, then,” he said with a warm smile.
They walked over to a pair of double doors set in the wall. Taking a doorknob in each hand, Harry pulled the doors open and surveyed the contents of the closet.
“Bloody hell,” he gasped. “Why did the Death Eaters leave all this stuff?”
“I have no idea,” Ginny replied warmly. “Maybe they thought there was no point trashing the possessions of some teenage kid. I guess they never dreamed that teenager would go on to kill their glorious leader.”
Harry snorted and bent down to examine the various objects piled on the floor. There were more books, magazines, his precious record collection propped up in one corner, and various pairs of trainers neatly lined up. His eyes then came to rest on something at the back.
“My broom!” he gasped and eagerly grabbed the beloved object. He stood and turned so he could examine it in the light.
“Blimey, Harry,” Ginny gasped. “That’s a Firebolt!”
“I do love a girl who knows her brooms,” Harry smirked. “Sirius bought it for my fourteenth birthday. I’d wanted one for ages, but he kept telling me my Nimbus was good enough, the big git. I remember I nearly went through the roof when he handed it to me. It was the best present I ever received in my life.”
“Wish I’d had someone give me a Firebolt,” Ginny complained. “I never got to ride a decent broom until I joined the Harpies.”
“Decent? This broom goes a bit beyond ‘decent’, my girl. This is undoubtedly the greatest broom ever made in history!” he exclaimed.
“Yeah, like there aren’t a dozen better brooms on the market now,” she sniggered.
“I wonder if it still flies alright,” he muttered.
“Um, Harry, I hate to be an old stick-in-the-mud, but I think I’d better give that a once-over before you try and ride it. I’ve only done a surface scan for curses, and who knows what the Death Eaters might have done to it.”
“You’re right, I guess,” Harry nodded, disappointed.
“Leave it with me and I’ll check it out. If you want, I’ll do it now. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours…”
“Oh, no, I have plans for you tonight, Miss Weasley,” Harry smirked.
“Oh, really?” she asked with exaggerated casualness.
“Yeah, I do,” he grinned.
Propping up his beloved broom against the wall, he turned and suddenly swept the red-haired witch off her feet and into his arms.
“Harry, put me down, you prat!” she laughed.
“Nope, you see, over there is my bed. I slept there for years as a teenager and I was never lucky enough to convince any beautiful young witches to join me. I think it’s time that changed,” he said huskily.
“What happened to taking things slowly?” she asked, her voice wavering a little.
“I just want you to join me. We can go as far, or not, as you like,” he told her.
She looked up at him with her large, brown eyes. Harry could feel her body trembling slightly in his arms.
“Well, why don’t you take me over there and we’ll see where this takes us,” she replied in a quiet, husky voice.
Harry needed no further encouragement.
“O kay, we’re nearly done,” Carla said. “Just a bit more colouring around the tail and we’ll be there.”
“Great! It’s looking really good, actually,” Harry noted while peering down at his upper arm.
“Yeah, it’s come out alright, ain’t it?” she grinned. “I get a lot of requests for dragon tattoos, even from the Muggles, but I’ve got to say this design it my favourite. I always thought that the Horntail was the coolest looking dragon going.”
“I agree, I’m glad you talked me into having this one done,” Harry nodded.
“It looks a lot cooler than that thing you wanted me to do. What was it? A big, black dog? A family pet was it, or something?” Carla asked absently while concentrating on her work.
“Something like that,” he smiled faintly. “I probably will get that done some other time, but you’re right. This tattoo does look a lot better. I might get the dog done on my chest, sometime.”
“Yeah, that would be a better place for it,” she agreed, before grunting slightly and sitting up. “We’re done! Congratulations on getting your first tat. As you were such a good boy and didn’t flinch once, you get a lollypop.”
Harry laughed as Carla handed him a wrapped lolly. He removed the paper and popped it into his mouth. He was delighted to find it was cherry flavoured.
Carla waved her wand over his arm. “Okay, that will have stopped any bleeding and sealed it against infection. You just need to rub some cream into it every night before bed for about a week. Looks good.”
“Yeah, it does,” he agreed, standing so he could look at himself in the mirror. Both Carla and Dora had been nagging at him to get it done, and Ginny had admitted she quite liked the idea of him getting a tattoo, as well. If he was honest with himself, he’d had to admit it was his girlfriend’s opinion that had motivated him the most. “Can I put my t-shirt back on now?”
“If you must. I was rather enjoying the view, actually,” Carla sulked.
“Don’t let Mad Dog hear you saying that,” Harry smirked, before attempting to pull his t-shirt over his head with knocking the lollypop out of his mouth.
“Nah, he knows I see all sorts of things in this line of work. I did a Prince Albert for some bloke last month. It’s all part of the job,” she shrugged.
“So, you lot have any luck finding out who put up all those posters in Hogsmeade?” Carla asked.
“No, we’ve found nothing,” he admitted. “I just hope whoever did it doesn’t try the same stunt in Diagon Alley. One good gust of wind there and we could have those blasted posters spread over half of central London.”
“Whoever it was is certainly stirring up a lot of trouble,” Carla said glumly.
“What do you mean?” Harry asked.
“Nothing serious, like, it’s just that these bloody things seem to have reignited a lot of bad feeling,” she explained. “There’s one bloke who comes in here occasionally that hangs out with a bunch of former Snatchers. They used to drink in that shithole at the end of Knockturn Alley before Shacklebolt cleaned the place out. Now they hang around some Muggle boozer in Finsbury Park. Anyway, it appears these posters touched a nerve with this lot. They’ve been spouting off about how inferior Muggles are and all that crap. Started a few fights, too. The Magical Patrols got involved and there was a bit of agro with them, and all.”
“You’re always going to get a few idiots who like causing trouble,” Harry pointed out.
“Yeah, but there hasn’t been anything like that happen for a while. There’s a lot of muttering going on out there and some of the old prejudices are coming to the surface again. These posters have stirred up a lot of resentment and bad feeling,” she told him worriedly.
Harry looked at her. It appeared that getting to the bottom of this mess was more important than he’d imagined.
Ginny’s lips were soft and intoxicating. Harry groaned in pleasure as her tongue gently began to caress his in a slow, erotic dance. He let his hands slip under her t-shirt and his fingers encountered her warm, inviting flesh.
They were currently reclining on Dora’s sofa and they had the flat to themselves. Dora was over at Bill’s, so Ginny had come over here. Harry had cooked them a simple Spaghetti Bolognese dish, they’d cracked open a bottle of rather pleasant red wine, and then retired to the living area to relax. It hadn’t taken long for them to start getting frisky.
Dimly, Harry was aware that this kind of activity wasn’t something he was used to. He was holding his girlfriend in his arms and kissing her. How many times in his life had he actually done that with a girl? Practically all his relationships in the past had been about sex, pure and simple. A fulfilment of basic desires. He was beginning to realise what he’d been missing out on all this time. Oh, he was sure that he and Ginny would probably end up in bed shortly, but this intimacy, this gentle display of love and affection, felt wonderful to him. Naturally, it was too good to last.
The Floo flared green and a dishevelled Dora staggered out. For a moment, Harry was irritated that she had returned early, but then he caught sight of her face.
“Dora, what’s the matter?” he asked in concerned.
The witch just shook her head as tears began to fall down her cheeks.
“Tonks, what happened? Where’s Bill?” Ginny asked, scrabbling to her feet.
“Your brother…” Dora spat angrily. “Your bother… he’s a bastard!”
“What did he do?” Ginny asked in alarm.
“He…he…” Dora began but then suddenly flung herself down on the nearest chair and began to cry. Harry watched her with mounting alarm. He hurried over to her and took her in his arms. She buried her face in his shoulder and continued to sob.
“Umm, should I go?” Ginny asked awkwardly.
“Perhaps it would be for the best,” Harry said reluctantly. “Maybe you should have a chat with Bill.”
“Good idea,” Ginny replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Harry, okay?”
Harry nodded and watched her vanish through the Floo. As sorry as he was to see her leave, perhaps he could now convince Dora to tell him what was wrong. Gently, he rubbed her back and let her cry herself out.
It was a good half an hour before Dora lifted her tear-stained face up to look at him. She looked thoroughly miserable.
“Want to tell me what happened?” Harry asked softly.
“I’m a bloody fool,” she muttered angrily. “I thought Bill was different… I thought he really cared about me.”
“What did he do?” Harry asked, his own temper beginning to rise. If Bill had cheated on Dora he would make sure there wasn’t enough of the curse-breaker left to fit into a matchbox.
“He… he… well, we were in bed, you know, doing what we normally do in bed, and he…”
“Yes?” Harry encouraged her.
“He asked me to change,” she said miserably.
“What?” Harry asked in confusion.
“He asked me to change. He wanted me to use my Metamorphic abilities to alter my appearance,” she clarified, her voice as cold as ice.
“Ah,” Harry said simply.
“Do you know, you and Remus are about the only two blokes who have never asked me to alter my appearance? Back at Hogwarts, most boys only wanted to date me because I could look like someone else. Oh, Tonks, can you look like so-and-so? Can you make your boobs bigger? Can you make your arse smaller? Do these bastards not realise just how insulting that is to me? It’s like I’m not good enough for them as just me.”
“What did Bill ask you to do?” Harry asked warily.
“Oh, the old classic: can I make my tits bigger. That’s always the first one they ask for,” she growled.
Harry looked at her shock. He’d never really thought about her abilities in that way before. Dora as she was naturally had always seemed incredibly sexy to him. He recalled peeking through the keyhole of her bedroom door when he was younger and having his teenage mind blown into a million pieces. If a bloke couldn’t be satisfied with what he’d seen back then, there had to be something wrong with them, he decided.
“Maybe Bill just said it without thinking,” Harry suggested.
“And maybe he thinks I’m not good enough for him as I am,” she replied bitterly.
“What did he say to you afterwards?”
“Oh, he was all apologetic and begged me not to go. Like I’d stay after he said that to me! Bastard!” she yelled and leapt to her feet.
“Dora, I’m not trying to justify what he did in any way, but maybe you should talk to him again before you make any decisions,” he suggested gently.
“Talk to him? I never want to see the bastard again in my life!” she raged.
“Just… don’t do anything rash, okay?” he said. She was so angry that it was unlikely that she’d listen to anything he had to say at the moment.
Dora just snorted. “I’m going to bed,” she announced and stormed off to her room.
Harry watched her go with a sinking heart.
It was around midnight and Harry couldn’t sleep. He was worried about Dora and so decided to check in on her. Stealthily, he padded across the floor to her room and paused to listen. Although he couldn’t hear anything, a faint light could be seen coming from under the door. Gently, he knocked twice but received no reply. After dithering for a moment, he came to a decision and slowly opened the door.
The room looked like a hurricane had hit it, with clothes and possessions scattered everywhere. A couple of candles provided the illumination, although it looked like they were nearly spent.
Dora herself was sprawled on her bed, apparently deep in sleep. She’d managed to remove her jeans and t-shirt, so was clad only in her bra and knickers. Harry again wondered how any man could not be satisfied with such a gorgeous young woman such as her.
He was about to turn and leave when something caught his eye. Venturing further into the room, he saw an empty bottle lying on the bed next to Dora. Picking it up, he saw that it was a vodka bottle and it had been drained thoroughly.
Sighing to himself, Harry turned and left the room, closing the door behind him quietly. He’d make sure that a Hangover Potion was waiting for his friend in the morning, but there was little else he could do for the moment. All he could do was be there for her.
He might have known things were going too well.
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