|SIYE Time:4:45 on 16th January 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: 13302; Chapter Total: 346
Awards: View Trophy Room
Sincere thanks to all who have been reading and reviewing and to my beta, Arnel, for patiently helping me with every chapter. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone celebrating this wonderful time of the year!
The meeting of the Order of the Phoenix at Grimmauld Place finally concluded. The teens were called to come down to the kitchen for dinner. “Feels like last summer,” Ron commented as he sat next to Hermione at the large wooden table.
“Yeah,” Ginny smirked, glancing around and lowering her voice. “Except now the place is ridiculously clean, and Mum and Kreacher are arguing over who cooks and serves what!”
Harry sat beside her, resting his hand on her leg underneath the table and rubbing his thumb in small circles above her knee. This was their first evening together at Grimmauld Place of the summer and likely their last. Ginny wished she knew what had been discussed during the Order meeting, but as usual the teens had been sequestered upstairs. Most of those attending the meeting had left as soon as it concluded, including Professor Snape -- whose black cloak had swept out the front door as Ginny descended the last step.
“Charlie,” Professor Dumbledore sat across from Anna and her brother. “I received a letter from Nicolas Vasile earlier today.” He slid an envelope across the table. “I contacted him a few days ago with a proposal and have happily received a favorable reply. You see, I was hoping to secure a leave of absence for you so that I could in good conscience offer you the position of Care of Magical Creatures professor at Hogwarts for the upcoming school year. I couldn’t possibly offer you such a post if it would adversely impact your career as a Draconologist.” His blue eyes twinkled. “You’ll notice that your director has granted you a year of absence from the Reserve in Romania if you choose to accept the teaching position. What do you say, Charlie? Will you become my newest professor at Hogwarts?”
“What about Hagrid?” Ron blurted out.
The Headmaster smiled benignly at her brother. “Hagrid has family obligations which, along with his work as gamekeeper and the tasks he wishes to undertake on behalf of the Order, will make it difficult for him to teach classes.” Turning his attention back to Charlie, he continued. “Hagrid was very enthusiastic about the idea of you taking over his teaching post for the coming school year. Naturally, with the unique situation you and Miss Henry find yourselves in, I felt it would be very convenient indeed for you to be at Hogwarts.”
“Oh, Charlie!” Mum set a heavy pot of lamb stew on the table next to a large shepherd’s pie. “What a wonderful opportunity!”
Charlie looked up from the letter he was reading and nodded. “It is a generous offer. Thank you, Albus. Anna and I will need to discuss it this evening. Perhaps I can give you my response tomorrow.”
“Certainly.” Dumbledore nodded agreeably. “I feel I should inform you all that I received a letter from Narcissa Malfoy recently. Young Mister Malfoy will be attending Durmstrang for the upcoming school year.”
“That is certainly welcome news,” Augusta commented.
Ginny chewed her lip as she glanced at Anna. Her friend was sitting between Charlie and Neville, the engagement ring on her finger sparkling in the light. Conversations swirled around them as they ate their dinner. Charlie and Anna murmured quietly to one another a few times, but were otherwise silent as they ate. Mum stared at them periodically with a slight frown on her face. She wondered if Mum was as confused as she was that Charlie failed to immediately accept the job offer.
As the meal ended, Professor Dumbledore stood up. “Thank you for a most excellent dinner! Charlie, I wonder if you would accompany me out so that I may explain a few more details about the teaching position.”
“Of course.” Charlie stood up and squeezed Anna’s shoulder lightly before he followed the Headmaster out of the kitchen.
“Anna.” Fleur smiled as she rose and tugged the girl’s hand gently, leading her towards the door. “You must come and see the fabric samples I have for wedding gowns. What sort of style are you interested in? I am considering a sleek….”
Fleur’s voice faded as Ginny’s two future sisters-in-law left the kitchen.
Ginny was about to follow them when Harry spoke. “I’m surprised Charlie didn’t accept the teaching position right away. Wasn’t he worried about being apart from Anna?”
“Charlie doesn’t exactly flaunt it, but he’s clearly a quietly knowledgeable young man,” Sirius observed. “I’m sure he realizes with a signed betrothal contract he can marry Anna immediately and take her wherever he wishes, including back to Romania.”
“He wouldn’t do that, would he?” Neville’s concern was clear on his face.
“Of course not! We have so many wedding plans to make, and Anna has to finish school!” Molly exclaimed. “She’s not even of age yet! Charlie wouldn’t do such a thing. I’m sure he’s just taking his time to consider things carefully, that’s all.” Mum’s eyes focused on Dad clearly willing him to agree with her.
Dad nodded. “Let’s not jump to conclusions. So much has happened so quickly to Charlie and Anna, it’s only natural for them to want to slow down and think before making any decisions. Charlie was quite correct to say he should discuss the offer with Anna. A couple should try to make joint decisions whenever possible.”
As Ginny left the kitchen, she couldn’t help but notice that Dad did not contradict Sirius’s opinion.
Charlie stepped into the library at Grimmauld Place. He was only slightly surprised to see all the men gathered there, even Neville, Harry, and Ron. Apparently, they were avoiding the constant talk of wedding plans occurring in the drawing room. Charlie had rescued Anna from looking at fabric swatches to discuss the teaching post, but had returned her there at his mum’s request after their conversation.
“Firewhisky?” Sirius asked holding out a full glass.
“Thanks.” Charlie accepted the glass, drinking it in one long swallow. “I’m accepting the teaching position at Hogwarts.”
Dad exhaled loudly. “Glad to hear it. You had your mother worried.”
He nodded. “Anna and I needed to talk about it. The Malfoy boy not attending this year helped, but she was still concerned about me not working with dragons for a year. Working at one of the reserves here in Britain is one thing, teaching is another situation entirely.”
“I think you’ll be great at it,” Ron enthused. “Plus, you’ll be able to watch our Quidditch matches!”
Charlie smiled. “I have to admit I’m looking forward to being back at Hogwarts, and hopefully I’ll be able to witness the Gryffindor team securing the Quidditch cup.”
“Out of curiosity, before this teaching job came up, were you and Anna planning on returning to Romania together in a couple of weeks?” Sirius inquired.
Charlie’s face hardened. “Does it matter now?”
“No,” Bill said firmly. “It doesn’t matter now in the least. You and Anna will be here in Britain.” He refilled his brother’s empty glass. “What has you unsettled?”
Charlie sat on the sofa and sipped his drink. “Albus’s offer has me unsettled. Why does he want Anna and me in Britain so badly?”
“Well, he needs a Care of Magical Creatures teacher,” Ron said. “Professor Dumbledore explained that Hagrid is too busy to teach this year.”
He stifled a scoff. “I know what he said, but you must realize he arranged for the need in the first place. You don’t honestly believe Hagrid asked for a year off teaching. Albus likely talked him into it. I’m also wondering what the hell he offered Nicolas to secure my year of absence from the Reserve. I guarantee he did not obtain that letter from my director by just asking nicely.” Charlie drained his glass. “Perhaps we should talk about something else for now.” He gestured towards the teens as he gave Bill a pointed look.
The boys glanced at one another before Harry responded. “I think we can handle hearing whatever it is you have to say.”
Charlie briefly made eye contact with his dad, Remus, and Sirius before setting down his empty glass on the side table. “Okay. You all heard Albus asking me to walk with him so he could provide specific information about the offer.” He paused waiting for a few nods of affirmation. “Well, our conversation wasn’t just about salary and benefits. I mean, it started that way, but I think he expected me to accept the position at Hogwarts immediately and decided he needed to talk me into it.” Charlie leaned forward bracing his forearms on his thighs as he pressed his hands together.
He continued in a low voice. “Dumbledore made a point of reminding me that Anna would not be one of my students, since she is not pursuing a N.E.W.T. in Care of Magical Creatures. He then casually mentioned that my living quarters will be the ones closest to the Gryffindor common room entrance. He even expressed his respect for the traditional rights of betrothed couples and stated that since Anna will be of age, an adult legally, in a couple of months, her whereabouts will not be monitored. Is it clear now exactly what he is offering? What he is clearly willing to not just ignore, but sanction, to have Anna and me at Hogwarts?”
Remus’s thumb and forefinger were pressed against his closed eyelids. “Albus is willing to turn a blind eye to you having Anna in your bed every night.” A growl escaped the man’s lips. “Is that your intention?”
Charlie met the other man’s gaze. “I will never force Anna to do anything she is not willing to do, and Merlin knows, I will never intentionally harm her or frighten her,” he snapped. “Beyond that, I will make you no promises, and it is truly none of your business.” He rubbed the back of his neck and took a slow breath. “What concerns me is that Albus is desperate enough to have Anna and me at Hogwarts that he would be so blatant, so obvious about telling me he would condone a sexual relationship to develop between us at his school. Those are not the words of a Headmaster trying to fill a teaching position.”
Bill nodded. “It is certainly odd that he would say such things. He had to know how inappropriate it would sound, and yet he was willing to offer the extra inducement to have you at Hogwarts. The only excuse I can think of is the magical bond between you and Anna. I mean, he’s been perfectly satisfied this past year having you working for the Order in Romania, so that isn’t it. Anna’s a good student, but she isn’t a prefect or particularly special to the school in any way.”
“Do you think it could simply be intellectual curiosity on his part?” Dad asked. “I mean Albus does like to have a hand in things and to understand magical phenomena. The bond between you all is fascinating and certainly something I could imagine piquing his interest.”
“I agree,” Sirius said slowly. “But Bill and Fleur are here, members of the Order, and generally at his disposal. If Albus is simply curious about the bonds, he can talk to them; observe them. They certainly know more about the bond and have experienced it for far longer.” He sipped his drink.
“Not to state the obvious, but why not simply ask Professor Dumbledore?” Harry inquired. “He is sharing information a lot more freely lately.”
Charlie nodded. “I did ask him. I asked very calmly and respectfully why he is so intent on both Anna and me being at Hogwarts this school year. His only response was that he believes it may be extremely beneficial to everyone.”
“Albus is a brilliant wizard. He often sees and understands more than he is willing to share. In this case, perhaps he suspects something important that involves the bond,” Remus said quietly. “He may even strongly suspect, but he doesn’t know with enough certainty to say.”
“Alright,” Bill agreed. “What do we suspect that we are willing to guess about the bond?”
Sirius sighed. “We can guess from your experience with Fleur that over time Anna and Charlie will also notice changes in their magic. The question is what is the advantage of having two couples to observe instead of just one?”
“Comparison,” Remus responded. “With two couples for comparison, a far greater understanding of the situation and of the potential of the bond can be made. And why would that be beneficial?”
Harry shrugged. “Because knowledge is power.”
“And because he suspects that knowledge will be helpful in the future,” Charlie quietly added.
Dad groaned as he rubbed his chin. “Albus suspects this will happen again. Doesn’t he?” He glanced around the room. “Molly and I will have to talk to Muriel. Maybe we can learn something. At least this magical bonding seems to be far more positive than negative. My eldest two sons are happily engaged to be married. I have two future daughters-in-law discussing wedding plans with my wife.” He smiled. “Honestly, from my perspective all of this is rather hopeful, but I do understand that the unknown can be stressful. I also notice it is getting rather late.” Dad gestured towards the old clock on the mantel as he stood up. “Time for bed, boys!”
“Charlie,” Neville said. “Did you tell Anna everything you just told us?”
He shrugged awkwardly. “Not exactly,” he admitted.
“We’ll keep it to ourselves then,” Neville decided. The other two teens nodded in agreement as they left the room.
Remus cleared his throat. “Charlie, I probably owe you an apology,” he began.
“No, you don’t.” He shook his head. “You’re the closest thing Anna has to a father, and I need to remember that.”
Charlie and Anna strolled along the path through the gardens of Longbottom Manor. The sun was setting, casting brilliant red and orange streaks among the blue hues of the sky. Evening was the best time to capture a bit of privacy. Stepping off the path behind a large tree, Charlie pulled Anna into his arms. He lowered his mouth to hers, pressing gently on her soft, warm lips before deepening the kiss. She sighed, one hand threading through the hair at the back of his neck while the other clung to his shoulder. He supported the back of her neck while lightly caressing the length of her spine through the summer dress she was wearing. Anna arched her back as his thumb traced the line from between her shoulder blades down to the top of her knickers and then back up again. She bit back a soft moan.
Charlie smirked as he gazed down at her. “You have the most wonderfully sensitive back,” he murmured. He placed a few gentle kisses on her neck before taking one earlobe between his teeth, pulling lightly as he sucked on the tender bit of flesh. Several minutes passed in careful exploration before Charlie stepped back. He breathed in slowly, determined to maintain his self-control even if it meant curtailing their activities far sooner than he wished.
Anna rested her forehead on his chest for a moment. “Charlie, I need to share some things with you.” She glanced around briefly before conjuring a simple blanket for them to sit on and casting a privacy spell. They both sat on the blanket facing one another. Charlie took one of her hands in his own, tracing small circles on her smooth skin with his thumb. He’d wondered if she would decide to share the details of what the Malfoy boy had done, and steeled himself to be calmly supportive.
“What would you like to tell me, Anna?” he asked quietly.
She stared into his eyes for a moment. “How familiar are you with Occlumency?”
“Very familiar,” he admitted, trying not to react to the unexpected turn in the conversation.
She raised an eyebrow slightly in surprise.
Raking one hand through his hair, he sighed. “My job at the Reserve…I, well, it’s complicated, but the fact is my boss, Nicolas, decided I needed to learn Occlumency. He began teaching me a few years ago. I’m not an expert, but I’ve learned enough to satisfy him.”
Anna nodded. “My grandmother taught me Occlumency after my father decided he would be bringing me to Britain and enrolling me at Hogwarts.”
Charlie frowned. “Why did she teach you such complex magic at such a young age? You couldn’t have been more than, what? Thirteen?”
“Yes. I was thirteen.” She rubbed her forehead. “Grandma didn’t want anyone to know about certain things, so she taught me to block my mind, compartmentalize it so that I can be completely…blank when I need to be.”
“Are you certain you want to tell me these things, Anna? Everyone is entitled to a few secrets. You don’t have to tell me anything you are uncomfortable with me knowing,” Charlie assured her.
She smiled slightly. “You need to know.” Exhaling slowly, she squeezed his hand. “Neville and Ginny both know the first part. I’m a Parselmouth.”
His eyes widened in surprise, and he tried to stifle some of the wonder on his face. He had always been fascinated with anyone who could communicate in any way with animals. Yet, logically, he understood that most people were frightened by anyone who could speak the snake language because Salazar Slytherin and Voldemort were both Parselmouths. It was generally considered a Dark Art, something to be hidden. No wonder her grandmother had wanted her to hide it.
“Would you say something, please?” Charlie asked. “Will you speak in Parseltongue for me?”
She closed her eyes for a moment and then began hissing in a soft, sibilant way. Charlie couldn’t contain the smile that spread over his face at hearing her. Nor could he deny his awe when a small garden snake slithered into view, hissing intently at his betrothed as it moved on to the blanket.
Anna looked at the reptile, continuing to make soft hissing sounds for a moment before the snake slithered from view.
“That’s amazing, Anna! Did someone teach you how to do that?” Charlie asked.
She shook her head. “No, I can speak to snakes because my mother could.”
He nodded. “I know conventional wisdom is that the talent is hereditary, but then Harry can talk to snakes so that doesn’t exactly follow. Was your grandmother a Parselmouth?”
A solitary tear ran down her cheek. “Not my grandmother…”
Charlie reached out and carefully wiped the tear from her face with his thumb.
“My grandmother told me never to tell anyone, but we’re going to be married and you have the right to know,” Anna whispered. “The man my grandmother married was a wonderful person, a Healer. She was already pregnant with my mother when she met him.”
He felt suddenly sick to his stomach and reached out for the pale girl sitting on the blanket, pulling her onto his lap and holding her tightly against him.
“Grandma couldn’t escape when he attacked her,” Anna’s voice was so shaky Charlie had to focus to hear her words. “He tricked her because she was Head Girl, and he was a prefect. She was trying to be responsible and do her job, and then she was so scared. When she realized she was pregnant, she left Britain and ….”
“Shhhhh.” Charlie tightened his grip. “Don’t say any more, Anna.”
He held her for several minutes while she gradually became calmer and quieter in his lap.
“Does anyone else know?” he asked, stunned by how hollow and empty his own voice sounded.
She shook her head against his chest. “No, I’ve never told anyone, and I don’t think anyone else knows.”
Charlie nodded. “I’m glad you trusted me enough to confide in me, and I’m so sorry that happened to her.” He rubbed her back gently in a soothing circle.
Anna sighed, snuggling into the side of his neck.
“It’ll be okay, love. I have you,” he murmured, holding her firmly against him. His words were calm, reassuring. His thoughts were a far less pleasant torrent of emotion.
Molly exhaled slowly as she paused outside her daughter’s bedroom door. Ginny’s fifteenth birthday party had been wonderful. Everyone complimented her on the food, cake, and decorations. Ginny received some fabulous presents, including a lovely bracelet from Harry. The teens had been laughing all day as they traipsed from the pond to the orchard to the picnic tables, engaged in a variety of activities and eating an impressive amount of food. It had been a wonderful party.
Molly raised her hand to knock on her only daughter’s door.
“Hi, Mum!” Ginny smiled as she threw open the door. She was clearly still on an emotional high from yesterday’s festivities.
“Hi, Ginny dear,” she began. “I wanted to have a little talk with you.” She sat on her daughter’s bed and patted the space beside her.
Ginny sat down looking a bit cautious.
“I’ll get straight to the point,” Molly said. “I saw you and Harry kissing each other last evening, and I think we should discuss…well, how relationships progress between witches and wizards.”
Her daughter’s eyes widened. “Mum, we already had that talk. We had it last summer just before my fourth year, and we had it again this summer right when I came home. Remember?”
“Yes, dear.” Molly picked at a loose thread on the blanket. “I know we’ve had the talk, but that was before you and Harry became boyfriend and girlfriend, and…well.” She patted Ginny’s hand. “Now, you know I adore Harry and I’m very pleased the two of you are together. I just…I just want you to know that it’s okay to take your time. It’s also okay to draw a line. Harry will understand and respect you for it if you state clearly what the line is. For example, you could tell him that sweet, closed mouth kisses are the line for this school year.”
Ginny raised one eyebrow. “Mum, that ship has sailed.”
“Oh.” Molly frowned. “How far has it sailed?”
“Not too far.” Ginny chewed her lip. “Just, you know, not closed mouth.”
“I see. Well, you could draw the line then at kissing. That way, Harry will understand you don’t want to do anything beyond that.”
Her daughter’s jaw set tightly and her face reddened. “Are you planning to have this talk with Charlie or Anna?”
“Ginevra!” Molly began hotly, before sighing and closing her eyes. She continued more calmly. “No, I’m not. They are both older than you and Harry. They are also legally betrothed, and Anna is wearing an engagement ring on her finger. I trust them to proceed at a slow pace when it comes to physically intimate expressions of affection. I trust you and Harry as well, I just…I hope you don’t rush into things.”
Ginny’s expression relaxed a bit. “Mum, I know you probably want us all to wait until our wedding nights, but…”
“I’m not that much of a hypocrite,” she admitted softly. “Your father and I didn’t wait until we were married. I can hardly expect my children to wait, and I’m realistic enough to know that all of the boys with the possible exception of Ron have already…” she gestured vaguely with one hand. “Please, Ginny, just don’t rush. There really is no hurry.”
Ginny shifted closer and hugged her tightly. Molly soaked up her daughter’s sudden display of affection. “I won’t rush, Mum, I promise,” she whispered.
Molly nodded into her daughter’s hair. “I love you, Ginny.”
“Love you, Mum.”
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