|SIYE Time:15:25 on 17th December 2018|
Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, General, Humor, Romance
Warnings: Extreme Language
Summary: Annabel has had a bad day. She tries to deal with it as best she can.
The last thing she needs is to meet someone else who has hurt her, someone who she hasn't seen in many years. Or is it?
Do people really change. Has James Sirius Potter finally grown up?
Note added by admin: while the H/G portion of this tale is secondary and comes later, the story is a fine addition to the Northumbrian post-canon, and is welcome at SIYE.
Hitcount: Story Total: 21575; Chapter Total: 1722
Awards: View Trophy Room
Common Piece: Potters Alarmed
Ginny stepped back to admire her handiwork. To the untrained eye it appeared to be an empty, though thoroughly weeded, flower bed. An experienced gardener would notice that the narrow rectangle of fine black soil under the living room window was not simply weed-free, it was filled with bulbs. Satisfied that her work would result in a good display of tulips, daffodils, and allium in the spring, she turned to cast a critical eye over the front door.
The final task Ginny had set herself was to tidy up the straggling, snail-infested clematis that was half-heartedly clambering up the trellis to the right of the door of their new home. Picking up her secateurs and preparing to fight the unruly tangle of stems, she gazed up at her new home and her mind drifted.
The house, Common Piece, Sutton under Hill, Derbyshire, was ideal. It was remote, and the long narrow track, Commonpiece Lane, was the only approach to the property. The red brick box whose front garden she was busily knocking into shape was, she knew, perfect for them. She had dealt with an overgrown garden before, and by the spring the rear garden would be free of the dandelions, burdock, and nettles that currently infested it. She would again have a vegetable garden. Four bedrooms were enough for the kids, in the unlikely event that they ever all turned up together.
The house and its grounds were much smaller than Drakeshaugh. That was a good thing; the children were no longer children, and grandchildren were a long-distant prospect. The Potter chicks had flown the nest and were making their own way in the world, some more successfully than others. Pushing aside worries about her eldest, Ginny assured herself that moving out of Grimmauld Place for the second time had been a sensible decision.
Harry’s reluctance to sell any of the houses in which they’d lived, loved, and raised their children meant that they already owned three properties. If their calculations were correct, this fourth would be theirs a few years before Harry retired. They were comfortable–they were more than comfortable–although rather more of their wealth than necessary was tied up in property. By buying, but not selling, they had become small-scale property tycoons by default. If they sold their other homes, they’d be rich. But Harry wouldn’t sell any of them, not even Drakeshaugh. Places, or the memories of them, were important to Harry.
Don’t blame Harry, Ginny reminded herself. It had been a joint decision, like every decision they made. Had she felt strongly about it, she’d have fought it. The hopeless prospect that they’d one day return to Drakeshaugh would not die; it was a barely-burning ember neither she nor her husband could extinguish.
A cloud passed over the sun. Under its cooling shadow, Ginny was brought back to her newest garden, and was reminded that it was early autumn, not late summer. There was a lot to do before the onset of winter, and she was supposed to be working on the clematis, not drowning in a pool of bittersweet memories. Striding over to the door, she sternly reminded herself of the target she’d set. She would have the work completed before her husband arrived home. The alarm had doubly delayed her. First by simply sounding, and second by stirring up distracting memories.
Ginny didn’t quite achieve her goal. She was still clipping and tying the clematis when a bright blue glow in the lane behind her signalled the arrival of Harry’s car. He was a little earlier than usual, but it was Friday, and he tried to finish early on a Friday. Putting down the secateurs and pulling off her gardening gloves, Ginny stood and turned towards the narrow lane that ended at the gate. Strolling over the flagstones, which were scattered across the lawn like stepping stones, she reached the low wooden gate at the same moment as her husband. After they’d exchanged hellos, he leant over the gate, and they kissed.
‘Good day at the office?’ Ginny asked cheerfully.
‘Could’ve been worse,’ Harry told his wife.
‘But not much, by your expression,’ she observed.
‘Politics!’ his shrug was the only explanation she needed. ‘What is it that you want to tell me?’
‘What makes you think I have something to tell you?’ she asked.
‘More than twenty-four years of marriage,’ he reminded her, his eyes twinkling.
Lifting the latch, Ginny pulled open the gate. Harry entered the garden, looked up at the red brick dwelling, and examined the lawn and flower beds.
‘Garden’s looking a lot tidier,’ he observed. ‘You’ve been very busy. I expect you’ve already finished the back garden.’
‘You cheeky sod! It’s not even started, as you well know.’ As she spoke, he put his hands on her waist and looked into her face.
‘What’s happened?’ he asked.
‘Alarm went off today,’ she said vaguely, deliberately not telling him where.
‘Alarm! You’ve had an intruder?’ he asked. ‘Here? Impossible! Who? How did they find you? Why didn’t you call me?’
‘I didn’t want to bother you,’ she said. ‘And, besides, it took me a while to figure out which alarm it was.’
‘Not here, then?’ asked Harry, relieved. As his wife shook her head, her silver-tinted, red hair shimmered in the early evening light.
‘It must have been Beaumaris,’ he concluded. ‘Lily–or one of the other Harpies–did something they shouldn’t have at Five West Terrace.’
Again, Ginny shook her head.
‘Craig didn’t try to get in, did he?’ Harry glowered.
‘After what happened when Lily dumped him? He wouldn’t dare,’ Ginny told her husband.
‘We should have…’
‘No, we should not!’ Ginny told him firmly. ‘I told you she’d eventually realise what a selfish young man he was, so long as we didn’t try to tell her. Nothing brings out Lily’s stubborn streak faster than her interfering parents, you know that! If we’d said anything to her, she’d probably still be with him.’
‘I suppose…’ agreed Harry thoughtfully; he gave his wife a hopeful smile. ‘She’s okay now, isn’t she? It was great to see her so happy at your Mum’s last Sunday. I can’t remember the last time I saw her in such a good mood.’
‘You said that at the time, and it got me thinking. I’ve been asking around. There’s a rumour going around the Harpies that Lily’s got a new man,’ Ginny confided. ‘It appears that they’ve been together for a while, but they’ve been so discreet that the papers haven’t found out yet.’
‘Lily? Discreet? What’s his name?’ Harry asked.
‘I don’t know, not yet,’ Ginny told him. ‘But now I know he exists, I’ll find out soon enough.’ She folded her arms. ‘I want you to promise that you won’t run a full background and security check on him when I do.’
‘Promise!’ Ginny demanded.
Hanging his head, Harry mumbled his reluctant acquiescence. ‘So, what happened in Beaumaris had nothing to do with this new man of hers?’
‘I told you, the alarm wasn’t at number five, Harry.’
‘Grimmauld Place? It should have been empty. Hugo and Al were on early shift. When they left the office at noon, Al told me that they weren’t going home; they were heading straight up to Sheffield to see how Rose and James are getting on,’ said Harry.
‘That’s what they told you?’ Ginny asked. ‘Interesting. They didn’t mention meeting anyone else?’
‘No, but what’s that got to do with the Grimmauld Place alarm?’
‘It wasn’t the Grimmauld Place alarm, either, Harry.’
‘Not here, or…’ It took him a moment to catch up. ‘Who’s been to Drakeshaugh?’ he asked.
‘The kids,’ Ginny told him.
‘I wonder why?’ Harry’s question was addressed more to himself than his wife. ‘Why would they go to Drakeshaugh, and why wouldn’t they tell me?’ As he looked into Ginny’s eyes, he somehow knew there was more. ‘You said “the kids”. I assumed that you meant Al, Hugo, Rose, and James. Was Lily with them?’
‘Not just Lily,’ she told him. ‘When I said “the kids”, I meant it.’
‘Violet’s at school, and Flossie’s in training; she was still in the Auror Office training room when I left…’ The truth finally dawned on Harry; his mouth became an astonished O. ‘The kids! You don’t mean “the kids and their girlfriends”, you’re talking about “The Gang”, aren’t you?’
‘All seven of them,’ Ginny confirmed. ‘When I finally found the Drakeshaugh Map at the back of the bottom drawer of my desk, they were already heading toward the gate. Henry, James, and Annie were in the lead. I think they were probably going to walk up to the Drakestone.’
‘I’m still not certain that we can trust James around Muggles,’ said Harry worriedly. ‘I don’t want to have to arrest him again, Ginny. He’s only two years into a four-year ban. Perhaps I should go and speak to him.’
‘We are not going to interfere, Harry,’ Ginny told him firmly. ‘He’s an adult; one week from today we’ll be celebrating his twenty-third birthday. Besides, you know that interfering won’t work! I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t told you about the alarm. We have no idea what they’re doing, and we don’t need to know.’
‘James can be headstrong, and he’s made some big mistakes in the past,’ Ginny assured her husband. ‘But that’s all behind him now, and besides, he’s with Al, Hugo, and Rosie; those are three very sensible kids. So’s Annie, remember? We should simply be thankful that they’re together.’
‘Yes, but James and Henry!’ Harry reminded her, ‘And Lily and Annie, when they get together…’ His face creased into a nostalgic smile. ‘The most devilish of little angels. I wonder how, and where, James and Henry met up again?’
‘We’ll find out when they tell us,’ said Ginny firmly.
Their evening meal over, the Potters were sitting on the sofa and listening to the news. Ginny was leaning forwards, purring contentedly, and Harry was gently scratching her back. When the alarm sounded, Harry slid his arm from under his wife’s top. Leaving her to refasten her bra, he dashed through into the study. When she arrived, moments later, he was already poring over the map.
‘James is standing very close to Annie,’ said Harry worriedly. ‘They’re so close that their names are overlapping. Perhaps she’s hurt, perhaps he’s carrying her!’
‘Perhaps they’re snogging,’ Ginny suggested, her cheeks dimpling in mirth.
Harry dismissed that suggestion with a dismissive eye roll. ‘The others seem to be just milling around in the yard. No, they’re all moving close to each other, and they’re getting closer.’
‘We’re spying on our kids, Harry,’ Ginny reminded him. ‘We promised ourselves that we wouldn’t spy on them. That’s why the maps are in the drawer. They have to make their own mistakes, and we have to be there to help pick them up when they do.’
‘I was right about Craig, wasn’t I? And about Amelia.’
‘True, but you were wrong about Kristen.’
‘I didn’t realise she was using a love potion,’ Ginny admitted. ‘But neither did you, Harry, and we’re both usually pretty good at spotting them. There must have been a little spark of something between James and Kristen, at least for a while. If there hadn’t been, we’d have noticed. I was talking to Lavender about it this morning. She thinks that Kirsten must’ve started using the potion when she realised James was falling out of love with her.’
‘Lavender? Why were you discussing James with Lavender?’
‘I wasn’t–not at first, anyway. She turned up here at about eleven o’clock. Unannounced, as usual; you know what she’s like! Her excuse was that she “really needed to discuss Albus and Violet’s relationship.” But an excuse is all it was. What she really wanted was to have a good nosey around our new house.’ As she quoted Lavender, Ginny used the slow and sultry whisper Vi’s mother always affected. ‘Apart from the fact that her “darling Violet” had spent the night before she went back to Hogwarts at Grimmauld Place with Al–which we knew–she didn’t actually have anything to discuss. The conversation sort of drifted.’
Harry was nodding, while still staring at the Map. ‘They’re very close together, and they’ve stopped moving. Now–oh I should’ve realised–they must all be sitting in one of the cars.’
‘See, they got together for some reason, and went to visit their old haunt,’ said Ginny. ‘Nothing to worry about.’
‘How did they meet, and why go to Drakeshaugh?’ Harry asked.
‘It’s our kids and their friends, not a case for the Auror Office!’ Ginny reminded him forcefully. ‘Perhaps they were reminiscing, James decided to contact Henry, and they decided to meet at the stone. They were always wandering off up there when they were younger.’
‘Possibly, but after … after the last incident… after we called in that Obliviator to alter the Charlton’s memories, James hardly ever spoke about Henry again. It was almost as if James had been Obliviated, too, or at least had his memories altered.’
‘After the lecture you gave James and the others about all the problems their friendship was causing, I’m not surprised he stopped talking about Henry. Until we called in the professionals, you were Obliviating his best friend at least once a year.’ Ginny looked into Harry’s face and saw the return of a guilt she hadn’t seen in many years. ‘It’s not your fault, Harry. It had to be done!’ she assured him.
‘True,’ although he agreed, Harry didn’t sound happy about it. ‘But… I’ve just realised… that Obliviator… the last one we used; it wasn’t just any Obliviator, it was Raymond Patterson, Craig’s father.’
‘Was it?’ Ginny’s hackles rose. Numerous suspicions and concerns fuelled the wild and paranoid thoughts burning in her mind. She opened her mouth, saw Harry’s concerns, and reconsidered her response. ‘Does that matter?’ she asked thoughtfully, trying to remain rational. ‘Seven years ago, Lily was only twelve, Raymond Patterson was just another Obliviator and, after a fourth year where they weren’t talking–just like you and Ron–James and Craig were finally back to being friends. That was long before Hermione became Minister. And Craig and Lily didn’t get together until last year, at…’
‘At about the same time Raymond Patterson decided to enter politics,’ Harry observed.
‘True, but he can’t possibly have been trying to set up some master plan all those years ago. And, like I said, at the time James and Craig were friends. In those days, we used to call him Henry the second, remember?’ Ginny paused.
‘But now Patterson is trying to persuade everyone that he’d make a better Minister than Hermione,’ Harry grumbled.
‘You don’t like the “Muggle-borns have too much power” platform he’s using to drum up support,’ said Ginny forcefully. ‘Neither do I, it’s an appeal to nostalgia for a “better time” that never really existed. But seven years ago, Patterson was simply a Ministry professional doing his job. And you have to admit that he did it well. After he dealt with them, Henry and Annie Charlton never regained their memories, unlike all the times you or I Obliviated them.’
‘True,’ Harry admitted. ‘Sometimes, you know, I wonder if James is right about the statute. I always hated having to alter the Chartons’ memories.’
‘So did I.’ Ginny gave her husband a consoling hug before continuing. ‘We weren’t very good at it, either, were we?’
‘Intent!’ Harry nodded, guilt creased his features. ‘We never had it, and that’s why it took Patterson so long to sort it out.’
‘Magic always boils down to intent,’ Ginny agreed, reaching up to caress his cheek. ‘Your heart was never in the Memory Charms you cast on them.’ She looked into her husband’s bright green eyes. ‘Deep down, in here…’ she placed a hand on his steadily-beating heart ‘…you didn’t want to do anything to jeopardise our kids … no, not just the kids … our precious friendship. You didn’t want the Charltons to forget. Neither did I! It’s a good thing that we couldn’t–can’t–bring ourselves to constantly Obliviate other people’s kids. Remember the damage that was done to the Hume boys all those years ago?’
‘Patterson had no problems with altering the Charlton’s memories, parents and kids,’ said Harry grimly. ‘That’s another reason to hope that Hermione wins, and stays on as Minister.’
Pullin g her Mirrorphone from her pocket, Ginny looked down into the screen. ‘Something wrong, Harry?’
‘What time did the kids leave Drakeshaugh on Friday night?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know, I didn’t look at the clock.’
‘Neither did I, but…’ He waited. Realising that he wanted independent confirmation, she thought back to the events of that evening.
‘It was dusk,’ she said. ‘It wasn’t completely dark, and we were listening to the news on the Wizarding Wireless Network. The main part of the bulletin had finished, and that idiotic Quidditch “expert” of theirs–Larry MacNamara–was making his usual ridiculous guesses about the likely off-season player transfers. That means it must have been near the end of the broadcast. At a guess, between quarter to and five to seven.’
‘That’s what I think, too,’ Harry said. He was looking worried.
‘Why do you want to know, Harry?’
‘I checked with the Portkey Office. Al activated his car’s Portkey at eighteen fifty-two. Henry and Annie must’ve been in the car when he did it.’
‘You can’t be certain about that, Harry. Perhaps he dropped them off at the bottom of the track,’ Ginny suggested. ‘And we saw them leave. They were all in the car, all seven of them. We have to trust them.’
‘There’s a chance that an Auror and a trainee Auror, together with two other witches and a wizard, have broken the Statute of Secrecy,’ said Harry gloomily. ‘I can’t ignore that!’
‘Damn it, Harry,’ said Ginny angrily. ‘I told you to not to snoop! Why in Merlin’s name did you contact the Portkey Office? We were better off not knowing! Rose and Hugo were with them; if the Minister’s kids broke the Statute, and the press find out, it will cripple Hermione’s re-election campaign!’
‘I know,’ Harry admitted.
‘We’re the only ones who know who was in the car,’ observed Ginny. ‘Is there any way for the Portkey office to find out?’
‘I don’t think so,’ Harry admitted. ‘But why didn’t Al or Hugo say anything to us at The Burrow, yesterday?’
‘I don’t know, Harry, and neither do you, but it doesn’t matter!’ Ginny snapped. ‘They’ll tell us when they’re ready. Just drop it. Stop investigating, before you do any more damage, okay?’ With that, she broke the connection.
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