|SIYE Time:14:35 on 19th March 2018|
Category: Pre-OotP, Post-OotP, Alternate Universe
Characters:Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Minerva McGonagall, Neville Longbottom, Nymphadora Tonks, Other, Remus Lupin, Ron Weasley, Severus Snape, Sirius Black
Genres: Drama, Romance
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Sexual Situations, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Sequel to Darkness Within. This story begins the night before Harry's fifth year at Hogwarts. Canon couples accurate to JKR. The romance between Harry and Ginny will develop slowly due to their ages. Please note rating and warnings.
Hitcount: Story Total: 18254; Chapter Total: 445
Awards: View Trophy Room
A sincere thank you to everyone who is reading and reviewing! Special thanks to Arnel for helping me rewrite some of this chapter that definitely needed help!!!
O.W.L.s and Birthdays
“What’s Professor Slughorn like?” Neville asked.
Harry shrugged. “He seems okay. I don’t think he’d pull out a blood quill for detention or anything like that.”
“That’s quite a glowing recommendation,” Anna smirked.
The boys laughed.
“I’m not sure what to say about Slughorn. He seems…” Harry rubbed the back of his neck. “…like a collector. He collects people. Even Dumbledore admitted he likes to bring students together into a sort of club. He wants to influence whoever he thinks will have power or an important job in the future. I don’t think he’s cruel or evil, but there’s something about him that makes me uncomfortable. I wish Remus would return as our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher,” Harry said.
“Thank you, Harry, I would enjoy teaching at Hogwarts again. However, I don’t believe Horace Slughorn will be teaching Defense. He’s a Potions Master.”
“But Snape teaches Potions.” Harry paused uncertainly. “Is he leaving?”
“This is only a guess, but I believe old Slughorn will be teaching Potions, and you’ll probably have Snape as your new Defense professor,” Sirius said. “By the way, I do believe those are your O.W.L. results.”
Bitty was standing next to Gran with three letters in her hand.
“Thank you, Bitty.” Gran took the letters and held them out to the teens. “Well, don’t keep us waiting. We’re all eager for the results.”
They grabbed their letters, tearing them open quickly and staring at the enclosed parchments.
“An ‘Outstanding’ in Herbology,” Neville announced. “I did it!”
“Congratulations!” His grandmother smiled. “And your other scores?”
“Charms, Transfiguration, and Defense are ‘Exceeds Expectations,’ and I have ‘Acceptable’ in Care of Magical Creatures and Potions.”
“I’m very proud of you, Neville! Six O.W.L.s and four classes you can continue into N.E.W.T. level. That’s very well done indeed! Your parents would be so pleased.” Her smile trembled slightly with emotion as she took a sip of her tea.
“Come on, Harry. Hand it over.” Sirius demanded. “It can’t be that bad!”
Harry passed the letter to his godfather with a smile on his face.
Sirius glanced at the parchment briefly before handing it to Remus.
“Seven O.W.L.s with an ‘Outstanding’ in Defense. Excellent job!” His godfather grinned. “Do you know what classes you want to continue into N.E.W.T. level?”
Harry nodded. “If Professor Slughorn will accept me into Potions with ‘Exceeds Expectations,’ I’ll be taking that, Defense, Transfiguration, Charms, and Herbology.”
“Sounds like a good plan!” Remus smiled. “Anna?”
Her eyes were wide as she looked up. “I passed everything.”
“Ten O.W.L.s?” Neville exclaimed. “That’s brilliant, Anna!”
“Thank you,” she wrinkled her nose. “My only ‘Outstanding’ is in Potions. I have six ‘Exceeds Expectations’ and three scores of ‘Acceptable.’ I don’t mind admitting I’ll be happy to give up Arithmancy.”
“We all thought you and Hermione were crazy to even attempt that class,” Harry laughed.
“Still, I bet she managed an ‘Outstanding’ in it, as well as everything else!”
The boys chuckled.
“Alright, now that I have independent confirmation that you’re all brilliant, go outside. We’re working on nonverbal spell casting and wandless spells for the next hour,” Remus announced.
Groaning, the three teens headed out to the garden.
Charlie glanced at the letter again, feeling a bit like a love-sick fool, which he supposed he was. Still it was his first letter from Anna. Hopefully, the first of many.
Ginny had handed it to him after giving him a ‘welcome home’ hug. “Mista brought this over. She’s Anna’s owl. It’s an invitation for tea tomorrow.”
He flipped the letter over and saw that the seal was unbroken.
“I didn’t read it.” Ginny arched an eyebrow. “Anna and I exchange letters almost daily. Mista is still here if you want to send a reply. I’ve almost finished my letter to her.”
“How is she?” he asked.
“Anna’s fine. We just finished two weeks of dancing lessons at the Manor. She, Neville, and Harry have daily lessons with Remus and Sirius. Even Tonks drops by occasionally to duel with them.”
Charlie blinked in surprise. “They’re dueling!”
“And getting better every day,” Ginny smiled. “Ron and Hermione are so jealous! To be perfectly honest, I am too.”
“Anything else new with you?”
She grinned. “Harry asked me to be his girlfriend.”
Charlie stared at her. “You’re serious? Wow! My baby sister has a boyfriend.” He paused. “Is there…um…anything I need to say to you, or to him?”
“No, Charlie.” Ginny kissed his cheek. “We’re good. Thank you for asking though.”
He nodded, still wondering when his little sister had managed to grow up.
“I’m sending my letter in just a minute,” she said. “Do you want me to add a note from you, or are you going to write your own letter?”
“I’ll write my own. Just give me a minute.”
He was still working on his response when Ginny handed him her letter to post with his. “Be careful with Mista,” she advised. “I’m going off to bed.”
Mista was a beautiful tawny owl with an air of intelligence and a haughty independence which caused Charlie to approach her rather more carefully than he would the average post owl. Talking to her softly and stroking her gently, he attached the letters before taking her outside. He almost sighed with relief as she disappeared into the starlit sky.
“Very well done.” Tonks walked towards him. “That owl has a bit of a mean streak with men. I think she was roughly intercepted a few too many times last year at Hogwarts.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Charlie hugged her. “It’s good to see you! How are you?”
He grimaced. “Yeah, I imagine things in the Auror office aren’t easy these days.”
“Scrimgeour is a better Minister than Fudge, but that’s not really saying much,” Tonks admitted. “I don’t know if you heard about the murders of Amelia Bones and Emmeline Vance.”
“Dad told me when I arrived. I’d met them, of course, but I didn’t know either of them well.”
“They were great witches. No nonsense women to be sure. The Death Eaters aren’t even trying to hide their activities anymore.” She rubbed her forehead tiredly. “The Dementors have become a terrible problem as well. They’re roaming all over the country attacking people, and now they’re breeding.”
“That’s disturbing on so many levels,” Charlie muttered.
Tonks chuckled. “It certainly is. I was supposed to give this to your dad.” She pulled out a small package. “Is he still awake?”
He shook his head. “Is it important, or can I give it to him in the morning?”
“Morning will be fine.” She handed him the package, and he tucked it in his pocket. “Let’s walk a bit.”
They walked in silence for several minutes, heading away from the house.
“Anything new with you?” he asked.
“Trying to seduce an older man. I think he’s finally weakening.” She winked.
He chuckled. “I wish you luck.”
“Look, full disclosure. I know about the betrothal letter and about your tea at the Manor tomorrow.”
Charlie nodded. “I heard you were a frequent visitor at the Longbottom’s. I was also told you were the investigating Auror after Anna was attacked.”
Tonks sat on the old stone bench. “Not much of an investigation when there’s no charges filed.”
“I’m not asking you to break a confidence or anything, but Bill wasn’t able to tell me much, and if there’s something I should know…”
“My first year in the Auror Department, we had a violent double murder. I’d never seen anything like that before. Threw up on the floor,” Tonks said. “Mad-Eye pulled me aside, talked me through it all. Bit of a bonding moment for us.” Her smirk was forced. “Anyways, he took me out to a pub and told me about a few of the rougher incidents during the first war. A couple of the Aurors had trouble for a while because of what they saw, or what they had to do. Nightmares, flashbacks. One even left the Auror Department.”
Charlie nodded. “We had an incident on the Reserve four years ago. One of the handlers was killed by a dragon. It wasn’t quick.” He winced. “There wasn’t much left to bury when it was over either. Some of the guys had a hard time for a while.” He paused. “Are you trying to tell me that Anna’s having flashbacks?”
“I’m trying to tell you that when well-trained adults experience something they can’t handle, it has an impact.”
“Anna will be okay,” he said. “I know she will.”
“I agree. She’s a survivor and a powerful witch. Just be careful with her, yeah?”
“I would never hurt her, Tonks.”
“I know.” She stood up and patted his arm. “I should be getting back. See you soon.” She started walking towards the Apparition Point.
“Thanks,” he called out.
She nodded as she turned to Apparate. “One more thing, Charlie. Don’t push her up against a wall.”
As they strolled along the garden path, Charlie took Anna’s hand gently in his own. She glanced at him with a shy smile, but allowed him to hold her hand. A tightness in his gut he hadn’t even noticed eased with that smile.
He’d been surprised when he arrived at the Manor for tea to find everyone there. Augusta and Anna had welcomed him and led him to the garden room. Remus and Sirius had greeted him while hastily shoving some notes under a thick tome. Neville and Harry followed them into the room having apparently just finished working on something in the greenhouse. Charlie quickly realized the advantage of having so many people present was the lack of awkward lulls in the conversation.
Anna was too nervous to do more than respond when spoken to for several minutes. He wasn’t sure what to do or say to help her relax so he focused his attention on the others. As everyone was finishing their tea, she quietly suggested they go out to the garden. Neville and Harry led the way down the path, allowing a measure of privacy for them as they followed along.
“I didn’t get a chance before to congratulate you when they were talking about O.W.L. results. Ten is fantastic!” Charlie said.
“Thank you. I was hoping for more than the one ‘Outstanding’, but…” her voice trailed off, as she shrugged.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I also had ten O.W.L.s with just the one ‘Outstanding’ in Magical Creatures. Bill and Percy each achieved twelve O.W.L.s. I still don’t know how they did it,” he laughed.
Anna smiled. “Did you always know you wanted to work with dragons?”
“Pretty much.” Charlie nodded. “I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I decided, but I knew from a young age I wanted to be a Draconologist. Working at the Reserve in Romania has been a dream come true.”
She stopped walking and bit her lip as she looked up at him. “Aunt Augusta said you were trying to get a transfer to one of the reserves here in Britain.”
“I am. The Reserve in Romania is not a particularly good place to have a wife or raise a family. But even if we…” He took a breath trying to collect his thoughts. “The fact is, with the war starting again and Voldemort being such a threat, I want to be closer to my family. I can work at the Welsh Green Sanctuary or the Hebridean Black Sanctuary and still Apparate home almost every night. I’ve been away for five years, and I recently realized I’ve been away too long.”
Anna started walking slowly again. “What makes you say that?”
“Since I’ve been gone, Percy’s become estranged from the family. Bill fell in love and is now engaged to be married next summer. The twins quit Hogwarts and are starting a joke shop on Diagon Alley. My baby sister apparently grew up enough to have a boyfriend.”
She laughed. “You have to know Harry and Ginny are perfect for each other.”
He glanced ahead. Harry and Neville were too far away to hear their conversation. They were smiling as they chatted and turned around. Charlie realized it was because of Anna’s laughter.
“Yeah,” Charlie admitted. “He seems like a great guy.”
They walked in comfortable silence for a few minutes.
“Have you thought at all about what you want to do in the future?” he asked. “I mean as far as a career is concerned.”
“I’ve considered becoming a Healer, but it’s a rather demanding career choice. I enjoy making potions, but I’m not sure I’d want to do that all day every day. I guess I’m rather undecided.” She bit her lip.
He smiled. “You look very cute when you bite your lip like that.”
She stopped walking. The color drained from her cheeks and her hand began to tremble slightly in his. Charlie knew he had somehow screwed up, but he had no idea how. “Anna, whatever I did wrong, I’m very sorry.”
She blinked several times and her chest rose and fell rapidly as her breaths quickened.
“Anna, we’re in the garden of Longbottom Manor. You’re perfectly safe.” Charlie kept his voice very calm and steady.
She glanced around quickly. “Charlie…sorry…I’m fine.”
He looked at her carefully for a moment. “Do you want to talk about what just happened?”
“No,” she shook her head. “Tell me about the baby dragons on the Reserve.”
Charlie relayed every sweet sappy story he could think of regarding baby dragons and soon Anna was smiling again. She was still holding his hand when they returned to the Manor. He realized Neville and Harry had either not noticed the brief difficulty or had not reacted because it was brief. He wondered how many episodes Anna had experienced in the last month. At least his first official visit with the young woman he hoped to marry had ended well.
Molly waited patiently until everyone had finally retired for the night. She chose to ignore the fact that Bill and Fleur were still out for an evening stroll. She could only hope her youngest children didn’t realize they were not just walking when they disappeared every evening.
“Charlie, how was your visit at Longbottom Manor?”
“I already told everyone at dinner that it went well, Mum.”
She nodded. “I know. It’s just…I feel as though there is something you’re concerned about, but don’t want to say.”
Charlie looked at her for a moment before setting his book aside. “I said something that upset Anna briefly, but other than that we had a nice conversation.”
“What did you say?” she asked.
“I don’t remember the exact wording, but something along the lines of ‘you look cute when you bite your lip.’ Anna started to panic. I talked her down pretty easily. She didn’t want to talk about it afterwards.”
Molly tried to contain her feelings of anger and resentment. The Malfoy family had been nothing but trouble to her family for years, even before the cursed diary was slipped in her daughter’s cauldron. Seeing that her son was watching her closely and waiting for a response, she sighed. “I don’t know why that would upset Anna, but then again she refused to tell anyone what actually happened. Honestly, I’m not sure I’d be willing to talk about it either. The bruises were so awful.”
“I didn’t know you had seen her injuries,” Charlie said quietly.
She stared at her son, her mind racing as she considered what she should say. Making up her mind, she nodded. “I was there with Augusta when Poppy applied the first treatment of bruise paste and Murtlap Essence. Anna had bruises on her upper arms, her hips, her breasts, and her bottom. The marks on her wrists were horrible. She was obviously restrained in some way, and she fought hard against those restraints. Poppy said it would take at least a few days for the marks to disappear even with the dual treatment of bruise paste and Murtlap Essence.” Molly paused and took her son’s hand. “The worst was the bruising of Anna’s upper thighs. It was obvious he pushed his knee against her closed thighs very hard trying to separate them.”
Charlie’s eyes were cold and hard as he attempted to keep his anger in check. His skin darkened as his muscles tensed. Molly had never seen her son in such a state of simmering fury.
“Why the fuck would anyone treat a woman like that?”
“I don’t know, son. There’s no excuse for what he did to her.”
He nodded. “I’m going out for a run. I’ll see you in the morning, Mum.”
Ginny awoke on the morning of the thirty-first with a feeling of utter contentment. She would be seeing Harry in a few short hours. He would be arriving with Neville and Anna shortly after noon. They were to spend the entire day together. Mum had planned for an evening birthday dinner for Harry and Neville since their birthdays were only a day apart. Everyone would be at The Burrow, including the entire Weasley family, except for Percy of course.
Ron and Hermione had been talking for days about the activities they could enjoy before the actual dinner. Quidditch was of course at the top of Ron’s list. They had also discussed swimming in the pond, a game of sardines, and even dancing. Mum reminded them the dinner would last longer than usual since Neville and Harry would need time to open their presents and blow out the candles on their joint birthday cake. It was a clever creation depicting the golden snitch floating over a Mimbulus mimbletonia plant.
Fortunately, the morning passed quickly and soon the Floo activated. Remus came through first, followed by Tonks and Sirius. The teens came through next, with Augusta bringing up the rear. For several minutes, there was nothing but hugs, greetings, and random excited chatter.
Ron managed to maneuver everyone outside and was soon barking orders for a Quidditch game.
“I’m not playing, Ronald!” Hermione exclaimed after hearing that she was supposed to be a Chaser for one of the teams.
“Neither am I,” Anna said. “I’ll happily watch and cheer you all on, but that’s all.”
“How are we supposed to field full teams if you two refuse to play?” Ron demanded.
Harry glanced at Neville. “Since it is our birthday, I’m sure we can get Sirius, Remus, and Tonks to agree to play,” he said loudly. “Don’t you think, Neville?”
The adults quickly agreed to play, and though they didn’t have full teams, they certainly had enough participants to play a realistic Quidditch game.
Hermione and Anna cheered both sides enthusiastically. Everyone congratulated the winning team, which included Harry and Neville, when the match finally ended.
“Good catch, Harry.” Charlie smiled as he patted his rival Seeker on the back.
“You didn’t fall for my feints at all,” Harry observed.
“I’ve been around too long for that,” Charlie chuckled. “Still, you’re the fastest and most reckless flier I’ve seen in quite a while. You could probably make professional.”
“Let’s go to the pond,” Ginny suggested. “We’re all hot. It’s the perfect time for a swim.”
Harry took her hand as they walked to the pond. He kept squeezing her hand and giving her looks that made her heart race. Ginny knew a moment alone with Harry was not likely anytime soon, but she hoped for a few minutes later in the evening.
At the pond, everyone undressed to their undergarments. Tonks quickly transfigured the girls’ knickers and bras to look more like proper bikinis, and they were soon swimming and floating.
Ginny was not oblivious to the fact that Bill and Fleur disappeared behind a tree for an extended time. Nor did she fail to notice the way Charlie carefully maintained a respectable distance as he spoke with Anna. Ginny was trying to figure out how to sneak away with Harry for a few minutes when Sirius started a splash fight that quickly drew everyone in.
It was a thoroughly drenched, laughing group that made their way back to The Burrow for the birthday party. Mum was in her element. With two birthday boys to cook for, she’d prepared a feast that started with bowls of steaming split pea and ham soup, followed by a joint of beef and a huge bowl of Bubble and Squeak. Ginny made sure her brothers let her sit next to Harry who was sharing the head of the table with Neville. The two were a bit cramped together and kept bumping elbows. The other diners laughed when Neville growled at Harry for nearly putting his elbow in Neville’s plate one too many times.
When everyone was groaning with satisfaction, the boys opened their presents. Two clear themes were evident as the piles grew. Harry’s presents were mostly related to Defense and Quidditch, while Neville received Herbology books and gardening paraphernalia. Fred and George snuck off for a few minutes while Mum brought out the cake. Neville’s eyes were big as saucers at the sight of such an extraordinary cake. His sincere praise had Mum flushing with pleasure as she cut and served each piece. After Ron put down his fork following his fourth helping, George flicked his wand and began a truly awesome fireworks display. Harry scooted his chair close enough to Ginny’s so that he could put his arm around her. She laid her head on his shoulder and contentedly watched the brief display in his warm embrace.
As the last sparkling ember died away, Dad turned on the wireless to Ginny’s favorite station.
Harry turned to her, using the formal words they’d been taught in their dancing lessons. “Would you do me the honor of dancing with me?”
She smiled as she took his hand and stepped into his arms. For a time, she could believe they were alone dancing under a moonlit sky. Other couples slowly revolved around them. Whispered conversations, muted giggles, and other sounds filled the night.
Ginny noticed Charlie dancing with Anna only a few feet away. They were talking, and then, he lifted her into his arms, twirling her slowly. She laughed as he set her back on her feet. A bright light suddenly emerged from their bodies and began to swirl around them. Charlie and Anna were frozen in place, as still and silent as statues. The golden light seemed to solidify as it surrounded them, distorting them from view.
“Bill, look!” Fleur exclaimed.
Cursing under his breath, Bill drew his wand and hurried towards the couple.
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