|SIYE Time:12:01 on 16th August 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: 27299; Chapter Total: 663
Awards: View Trophy Room
With thanks to my beta, Arnel.
Albus knocked on the door of the hut and waited patiently.
“Just a tic, then!” Hagrid threw the door open. “Professor Dumbledore, sir! Come in, come in! I’ll put the kettle on.”
“Thank you, Hagrid.” He smiled as he patted Fang on the head. “I haven’t seen you in the last couple of weeks, so I decided to pay you a visit. I hope you are enjoying a pleasant summer.”
“Sure am! Just finished fixin’ up me hut better than ever. Grawp is havin’ some trouble settlin’ in like, what with the trouble in the forest,” Hagrid admitted. “He’ll be fine soon, though. I’m keepin’ him closer.”
Albus settled himself in a comfortable chair. “I’m sure he will. I must say I’m very proud of you, Hagrid, for bringing your brother here and working so hard these many months to help him feel comfortable.”
“Least I could do really,” he replied. “Me dad would’ve expected me to help out.”
“Indeed.” Albus stroked his beard. “I wonder if your brother would be more comfortable in a cave in the mountains. The Forbidden Forest is home to so many creatures.”
“True enough. And not so willin’ to share as they used to be.” Hagrid frowned.
He nodded. “Hagrid, I hope you will permit me to arrange a better home for your brother. I have a perfect location in mind. Will you allow me to prepare the space?”
“O’ course, sir!” Hagrid was beaming as he handed Albus a cup of tea.
“Excellent! I was hoping you would approve of the idea!” He took a sip of tea. “I wonder if you can help me with something. I have given it a great deal of thought and believe I’ve come up with the perfect solution, but I do value your opinion.”
“I feel I’ve let you down, and let Grawp down,” Albus admitted. “As brothers, you’ve had precious little time together. Grawp requires more of your expertise so that he is comfortable living here. I also have a great need for your assistance within the Order. There are so many jobs I’m not willing to trust to anyone else.”
“I’ll do whatever you need me to!” He promised.
Albus clasped his hand. “Your trust and loyalty means so much, particularly in these troubled times with Voldemort gaining more influence by the day. Death Eaters and Dementors seem to be running rampant all over Britain.”
“How can I help, sir?” Hagrid asked.
“Well, I have an idea that will allow you ample time to fulfill your familial obligations, as well as allow me to send you off on frequent missions for the Order.” He sighed. “Hagrid, there are so many tasks I would assign to no one, but you. Unfortunately, I feel somewhat constrained by your teaching obligations. I wonder if you would be willing to take a sabbatical.”
“A what, sir?”
“A sabbatical. It is a period of leave, generally one year, during which a professor hones their skills by engaging in focused study of a particular topic of interest. You have a unique opportunity to learn from your brother and bring your expertise back to the school next year.”
Hagrid frowned. “But who would teach the classes while I’m gone?”
Albus smiled. “I do believe I’ll be able to convince Charlie Weasley to take the teaching post during your sabbatical.”
“I always liked Charlie,” Hagrid commented. “Great with animals!”
“He is indeed,” Albus nodded. “With Charlie covering your classes, you’ll have ample time to help your brother settle comfortably into his new home and to complete your duties as gamekeeper.” He paused. “And I won’t feel guilty asking you to go on regular assignments for the Order. I really need you to complete certain tasks for me, as well as to liaison with Madam Maxime occasionally during the coming school year.”
“Ya need me to…what?”
“During these troubled times, we must maintain good relations with the magical communities in Europe,” he explained. “I’m quite confident you are the perfect person for me to send to France to have meetings with the Headmistress of Beauxbatons in the coming year.”
“Yes, sir,” Hagrid swallowed. “Happy to do me duty to the Order!”
Albus took his time walking back to his office. His conversation with Hagrid had been productive. Recent events had him feeling rather more hopeful than he had since his foolish mistake with the ring. Glancing briefly at his withered hand, he frowned. No point dwelling on it. According to Severus, he had several more months to live. He meant to make the most of them.
Entering his office, he approached the majestic phoenix. “Fawkes, my old friend. I need you to deliver a letter to Nicolas Vasile at the Dragon Reserve in Romania and await his response.” He stroked the bird’s scarlet plumage thoughtfully. “Of course, first I must compose the letter.”
He had maintained a friendly correspondence with Nicolas ever since the debacle with the Chinese Fireball during the first task of the Triwizard Tournament. Albus had been appalled by the loss of so many dragon eggs and had wanted to reach out to the director of the Romanian Reserve to apologize. The Heads of each school had been kept in the dark about the specifics of the first task, which was planned by Ludo Bagman and Barty Crouch, Sr. Albus had insisted on knowing the details of the remaining tasks, not that his knowledge had prevented the disastrous conclusion of the tournament.
Nicolas had been quite gracious, blaming only the British Ministry and no one else for the loss of the eggs. The subsequent letters Albus exchanged with the director covered a variety of topics, one of which was Charlie Weasley. Nicolas was lavish in his praise of the young Draconologist, whose skill set was developing in unique ways. The director had expressed disappointment in Charlie’s request for a transfer to one of the small dragon reserves in Britain. Naturally, he had written a glowing recommendation for Charlie, while reminding him the transfer could take a few years since openings were rare.
Albus knew his letter would have to be highly persuasive to secure the year of absence he needed for Charlie to become his Care of Magical Creatures professor. Nicolas did not want to lose the dragon handler any sooner than he had to. Albus sat in the chair at his desk and stroked his beard. He needed the director to agree to the year of absence. With Nicolas’s letter of permission in hand, he was certain he could convince Charlie to take the teaching post. Albus needed both Charlie and Anna at Hogwarts. He needed to learn more about the magical bond they shared. As Order members, he had frequent access to Bill and Fleur and intended to observe them far more closely also. He wanted to understand the magic he had witnessed.
He picked up his quill and began to write.
“Gin, we’re going to be caught!” Harry protested.
“I don’t care!” She pulled him behind the broom shed. “Kiss me!”
Harry glanced around quickly before pulling Ginny to him. His mouth caressed hers, kissing her slowly, gently. She moaned into his mouth. He tightened his grasp as he pressed his tongue between her slightly parted lips. The feel of her was deliciously overwhelming. His hands roamed over her back, her shoulders, her neck, always returning to the fiery red hair. The scent of her floral shampoo lingered on her tresses and permeated the air around her. Harry groaned with sweet desire.
“You’re right,” he murmured. “I don’t care if we’re caught.”
Ginny giggled as he left a trail of kisses down her neck. Her hands were in his hair, probably making it look even messier than normal. He couldn’t care less.
Easing back slightly, Harry stared into her beautiful brown eyes. “I’m looking forward to being back at Hogwarts with you.”
She grinned. “So we can make use of all the school’s broom cupboards?”
“No!” He laughed as he stroked the length of her arms. “I want to be able to take you to Hogsmeade on proper dates. We can have lunch together at the Three Broomsticks and visit a few shops. I can buy you your favorite chocolates from Honeydukes.”
“That will be nice,” Ginny agreed, then smirked cheekily. “Though I wouldn’t be opposed to broom cupboards.”
“We can find better places than that.” Harry kissed her lips gently. “The Room of Requirement.” He tilted his head and kissed her again. “The Astronomy Tower.” He pressed his mouth to hers once more, wrapping his arms around her tightly, preparing to deepen the kiss.
“Great to hear you’ve identified some good snogging locations at Hogwarts,” Sirius commented.
The couple sprang apart, both blushing slightly.
Sirius was leaning against the wall of the broom shed, smirking at them. “Sorry to interrupt, Pup. We’re going back to the Manor for lunch. Remus is insisting on normal lessons this afternoon.”
Harry ran his hand through his hair. They were originally supposed to leave directly after breakfast this morning. He supposed the extra couple hours were all he could realistically hope for.
“Sirius, you won’t…um…mention to Mum how you found us, right?” Ginny asked.
He shrugged nonchalantly. “All I heard was a conversation about Hogwarts. Didn’t notice anything else.”
The teens shared a brief glance, relief mirrored on their faces. Hand in hand, Harry and Ginny followed Sirius back to the house to say their goodbyes.
Charlie held Anna’s hand as they strolled along the main walkway through the gardens of Longbottom Manor. The stone path led them in a wide, meandering circle around the large house. Approaching the ward lines in several places, it was almost exactly one mile in length. The route snaked around trees and crossed two narrow wooden bridges over the stream on the property. Occasionally, a smaller path branched off, but they followed the main one. The sun was rapidly setting. Brilliant hues of red, orange, and pink painted the sky and were easily visible through the canopy of trees.
Charlie had been pleasantly surprised when Augusta invited him to come to the Manor for a few days. He had quickly packed a small bag and followed them through the Floo. The opportunity to spend time with Anna and her family was not something he would pass up. Lunch was a calmer affair than what he was used to at The Burrow. The conversation covered a variety of topics, including the betrothal announcement for the Daily Prophet, the latest news about Death Eater attacks, and a planned trip to Diagon Alley at the end of the week. The house-elves had prepared a delicious meal consisting of grilled sea bass, coconut rice, and a garden salad.
The afternoon lessons began as soon as the meal ended. Neville went to the greenhouse with Remus, while Harry and Anna headed directly to an open space behind the house. Charlie joined Sirius as he walked behind the two teens and stopped several yards away from them.
“I mostly just sit and observe.” Sirius conjured a large Adirondack chair and settled into it. “They know what they’re supposed to do.”
“I heard they often practice dueling in the afternoon,” Charlie said.
“They’ve all become quite good. Remus and Neville will join us for dueling practice in about an hour. In the meantime, Harry and Anna will attempt wandless magic.”
Harry and Anna placed their wands in the grass a few feet in front of them. They both stood looking at their wands with hands outstretched towards them, focused expressions on their faces.
Charlie conjured a simple wooden bench. “What exactly are they supposed to try to do?”
“Harry is trying to cast the Wand-Lighting Spell. Anna is trying to Summon her wand.”
Charlie sat on the bench and stared at the older man for a moment. “Why?”
Sirius smirked. “Wandless magic is quite an advantage in battle. Don’t you think it’s something that would benefit them?”
“Of course, but they haven’t even completed their education at Hogwarts. How many fully-trained adult witches and wizards can perform magic without a wand?”
“Not many,” Sirius admitted. “But Harry and Anna already have. Now they just need to learn to control it.”
“When did they cast wandless magic?” Charlie asked.
“Harry used the Wand-Lighting Spell after he and his cousin, Dudley, were attacked by Dementors last summer. He’d dropped his wand, and said the spell in desperation as he searched for his lost wand in the dark.” Sirius rubbed the back of his neck before continuing quietly. “Anna wandlessly Stunned the Malfoy boy and then Summoned her wand. That’s how she escaped.”
“You can’t be serious!”
“And, yet I am, in more ways than one,” he muttered.
“That fucking…” Charlie’s voice trailed off as he attempted to master his emotions.
Sirius nodded and exhaled slowly. “Anyways, the point is that Harry and Anna have both already done wandless magic when under extreme stress. They are capable of it, but they need to learn to control it. Remus believes once they can reproduce the spells they have already managed without a wand, they have the potential to learn other spells as well.”
Charlie watched them quietly for several minutes. “I would imagine the line between wandless magic and the accidental magic young children perform can be pretty thin for teens.”
“Which is why they only practice a few days a week for an hour at a time.” Sirius shrugged. “They may never be able to control wandless magic. In the meantime, they are quietly focusing on the magic in their bodies, on feeling it move and flow.”
“Almost like meditation,” Charlie murmured. He could certainly understand the benefit of learning to feel magic in such a fundamental way.
“You did it!” Anna exclaimed.
Charlie’s eyes snapped to the lit wand in front of Harry. Sirius leapt from his chair and hurried over to his godson as Anna pulled her friend into a congratulatory hug.
“Excellent work, Harry!” His godfather patted his back. “Let’s see if you can do it again.”
Harry nodded and closed his eyes for a moment. His breathing slowed as he stretched out his hand to the wand still on the grass. A moment passed before the tip of the wand lit brightly once more.
“How are you doing it, Harry? What’s different today?” Anna asked. Her eyes were bright with excitement.
A faint blush spread over Harry’s face. “Well…erm…to be honest, my mind wandered for a bit there. I was actually thinking about Ginny.” His gaze was fixed firmly on the ground in front of him.
Charlie frowned in confusion while Sirius started laughing beside him.
“Were you just thinking about Ginny, or were you thinking about snogging your girlfriend behind the broom shed this morning?” Sirius chuckled.
Harry looked up sheepishly. “I was thinking about how her hair always smells like flowers, and about how I feel when I hold her.”
The slight longing in his tone sobered Sirius. “I’m very proud of you. I know it’s been difficult to continually attempt a task that seemed rather impossible.”
Remus and Neville joined the group a few minutes later, and the dueling practice began. Watching Anna and Neville pair up to duel Harry was stressful enough for Charlie. Unfortunately, Sirius suggested Charlie monitor a duel pitting the three teens against Sirius and Remus. Charlie’s wand was clenched tightly in his hand, ready to Stun one or all of them at a moment’s notice. He didn’t relax until Augusta finally ordered them all back into the house to change for dinner.
The dinner conversation began with a discussion of Harry’s success with the wandless ‘Lumos’ spell and with speculation about how to help him progress in his ability. Charlie was impressed with the comradery among the teens, as well as with the thoughtful discussion that ensued as everyone enjoyed the roast lamb with parsnips, carrots, and potatoes, served alongside a strawberry and plum salad.
“Anna, I sent off the formal responses to the Macmillan, Zabini, and Malfoy families this afternoon,” Augusta announced. “They should receive the letters declining interest in a betrothal well before the announcement of your betrothal with Charlie appears in tomorrow morning’s edition of the Daily Prophet.”
“Thank you, Aunt Augusta,” Anna said. She pushed the food around on her plate a moment longer before setting her fork down and drinking the last of her wine. “I’d like to go outside for a walk before it becomes too dark.”
“Of course, dear,” her aunt replied.
“May I join you?” Charlie asked.
Anna nodded as she stood and led the way out of the dining room. The first several minutes of their walk was in silence and at a fast pace. Charlie wasn’t sure what to do or say so he strode along the path beside her and waited for her to become calmer. He was quickly learning she was an odd mixture of strength and timidity, of fearfulness and perseverance. Eventually, her pace slowed. When she paused to watch a rabbit nibbling on clover by a bush, he took a chance and reached for her hand. Anna smiled as she laced her fingers through his and continued walking slowly along the path.
The sun was setting rapidly. A myriad of fiery hues blurred the ever-darkening sky.
“Anna,” Charlie began. “If I were to buy you an engagement ring, would you wear it?”
“Yes, of course, but…my parents’ rings, as well as both sets of my grandparents’ rings, are in my vault at Gringotts.” She bit her lower lip. “What would you think about using one of their rings?”
Charlie led her over to a nearby garden bench. “If it will make you happy to use family rings, that’s exactly what we should do. Perhaps we can visit the bank tomorrow, and you can select what you want to use.”
“Eager to put a ring on my finger?” Anna smiled as she sat beside him.
“Yes,” he admitted. “I want it to be perfectly clear to anyone who sees you that you’re with someone.” He stroked the side of her face gently with his thumb. “May I kiss you?”
“Yes, Charlie,” she murmured.
He stared into her eyes as he slowly closed the distance between them. Her eyelids fluttered closed just before their lips met. He could still taste a hint of the wine she had consumed earlier that evening. As her arms slid around his neck, he deepened the kiss. The softness of her lips, the warmth of her body, drew him in. His initial intention of a rather chaste first kiss slipped from his mind. His mouth slanted against hers as he moved one hand to support the back of her neck. He traced her lips with the tip of his tongue before he pressed gently into her mouth. Tightening his arm around her back, he pulled her closer to him. Her lips moved against his in innocent experimentation, while her fingers toyed with the hair at the base of his neck. He groaned in satisfaction. She pulled back suddenly.
Her eyes were wide as they met his. He relaxed his hold on her, not completely letting go, but giving her the space she apparently needed.
“You okay?” he asked.
She nodded, but looked uncertain.
“Anna, I will always stop when you want me to stop. You can always say ‘no’ if you don’t like what I’m doing. I will never force you to do anything.” He began slowly rubbing her back.
“You growled at me,” she said. Her tone was more confused, than accusatory.
Charlie stared at her incredulously for a moment. “I wasn’t upset with you in any way if that’s what you’re thinking. When a man is…sexually excited, sometimes he growls or groans in the same way a woman makes noises when she is…enjoying herself.”
She bit her already slightly swollen bottom lip. “I wasn’t sure.”
“Have you had any experience with kissing? I mean, willing experience?” He cringed at his own awkwardly worded question.
“I kissed Neville and Fred when we were playing Spin the Bottle a few months ago in Gryffindor Tower.”
“I’m guessing that was the twins’ idea.”
Anna nodded. “We all promised not to tell anyone, but…”
“Your secret is safe with me,” Charlie assured her. “So, how was it?”
“Kissing Neville was really awkward. We both laughed because it just felt so wrong.” She shrugged. “About like trying to kiss a sibling, I imagine.”
He smirked. “I guess that explains why Augusta didn’t just betroth you with Neville. I’ve been half expecting it for months now.”
“I think for a time she hoped we would end up together, but realized it wouldn’t work.”
“And kissing Fred?” Charlie asked.
Anna blushed slightly. “Interesting.”
He laughed. “Good for Fred!”
“You’re not jealous at all?”
“No.” Charlie shrugged. “I might have been a bit jealous a few weeks ago, but not now.” He stroked her cheek lightly with his thumb. “We are meant to be together, and we have a betrothal contract to prove it. Besides, I’m not a hypocrite. I have a definite history with several women.”
“I’ve slept with six women. None of them were one-night stands. I had a dating relationship with each of them.”
Anna nodded slightly. Charlie was relieved she didn’t seem upset about his level of experience.
“Anything else you want to talk about?” He asked.
“Will I like Romania?”
“What do you mean?”
“We both know if there was an opening at one of the dragon reserves here in Britain, you would’ve already been notified. Besides, I don’t think seeing each other once every couple of months on Hogsmeade weekends or school holidays is enough for us. I’ll have to go to Romania with you.”
He’d been thinking along similar lines and felt reassured that she had come to the same conclusion. “Anna, only family members are permitted to live on the Reserve. We’ll have to marry within the next couple of weeks.” Charlie paused, searching her face for a moment. “That does not mean the marriage needs to be consummated anytime soon.”
“This is all happening so fast.” She took a slow breath. “Can we even marry before my birthday in October?”
“With a signed betrothal contract, we can legally wed in several places, including Scotland and Romania.” Charlie replied. “Our families are not going to be happy with us.”
She nodded. “They didn’t see what we did.”
“Are you ready to talk about the visions from our bonding?”
“No.” Anna sank into his arms, her face pressed against his neck in the same way she had hidden that night.
“It will be okay,” he murmured. Easing her back slightly, he kissed her forehead, then her cheek. “May I kiss you?”
“Yes, Charlie, and you don’t always have to ask.”
“Good to know.” He smiled as he pressed his lips gently to hers in a sweet caress.
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