|SIYE Time:10:32 on 23rd 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: 18687; Chapter Total: 584
Awards: View Trophy Room
Just returned home from the Harry Potter festival in Staunton. Definitely a fun weekend away and some truly ingenious costumes! Tremendous thanks to my wonderful beta, Arnel, for her work with this chapter!
“Charlie, I do believe you have rendered your mother speechless. It’s not a particularly common event.” Dad smirked for a moment before sighing heavily. “Perhaps we should give her a minute to collect herself. Let’s go into the kitchen and put the kettle on. A cup of tea will be just the thing to have on hand when Molly recovers her voice.”
“Sorry, Dad,” Charlie murmured as he followed his father into the kitchen. He had arrived at The Burrow only minutes earlier. After hugging his parents, he had quickly informed them that he had a problem and needed their help. He had then asked his mother to write a betrothal letter on his behalf for Anna. Her response had been wide eyes and shocked silence.
“Son, please forgive this question, but I have to ask,” he rubbed the back of his neck. “Over the Christmas holidays, the night you and Anna were both at Grimmauld Place at the same time…well, I know a bottle of Firewhisky went missing that night. I know things…sometimes happen when alcohol is involved, things people don’t…intend.” He sat on one of the kitchen chairs and gestured for Charlie to have a seat as well. “But everyone seemed perfectly sober in the morning, so I didn’t think much of it…” his father shrugged and cleared his throat. “Charlie, were you and Anna together that night? Is she pregnant?”
Charlie’s eyes widened in shock. “No!” He rose from the chair swiftly. “Merlin, is that what you and Mum thought when I said I had a problem and needed help? You thought I knocked up Anna?”
“Yes,” Mum whispered from the doorway. Her lips were trembling slightly. She clearly had tears in her eyes.
Charlie slowly pulled his wand from his pocket and held it up. “I swear on my magic that I have never inappropriately touched Anna.” His wand glowed briefly before he set it on the table and approached his mother. “The truth is I’ve never touched her in any way.” He shook his head at his own foolishness. He had not explained himself well at all. Of course, his parents had been confused.
“Oh, Charlie,” she murmured as she hugged him tightly. “I shouldn’t have doubted you. I know you are an honorable man. It’s just…”
Easing back slightly he looked his mother directly in the eyes. “I’m sorry for how it sounded when I asked you to write the betrothal letter.”
Taking his mother’s arm gently, he led her over to a chair at the table and sat with his parents.
Blowing out a breath, Dad smiled as he poured a cup of tea for each of them. “All right, son. Please explain what is going on, and perhaps start at the beginning this time.”
Nodding, Charlie collected his thoughts. “The problem I was referring to earlier is that Bill told me about two betrothal letters Augusta Longbottom received for Anna. The letters are from the Malfoy and Macmillan families.”
“Remus informed me at the last Order meeting,” his father said. “Son, if you’re worried about Anna and trying to protect her, you don’t need to.” He leaned back in his chair and took a sip of tea. “No one’s going to force Anna into a betrothal with the Malfoy boy.”
His mother patted his hand reassuringly. “Betrothal agreements are different than they used to be. It’s not just the parents or guardians who have to sign, the couple must sign as well or the contract is not valid. Anna is an intelligent young witch. She certainly wouldn’t sign anything she is not comfortable with.”
“But, she is very innocent, and rather quick to try to please others when she can,” Charlie quietly argued. “If Augusta presses her to accept a betrothal with the Macmillan boy, the grandson of one of her oldest friends, don’t you think Anna might agree, even if she doesn’t really want to?”
His parents looked at each other in silent contemplation before Mum replied. “You may have a point, Charlie.” She stared into his eyes, her lips pressed together for a moment. “However, it is their family business. Why do you want to get involved? Why did you ask me to write a letter for you?”
He raked both hands through his hair. “Because she needs to know she has options, and because I’ve been planning on courting her for a long time now.” His voice was soft as he made the confession. While his actions were certainly pure when it came to Anna, his thoughts were not always so virtuous.
“How long, son?” Dad asked quietly.
Charlie swallowed uncomfortably, but managed to meet his father’s gaze. “I…uh…I had a…dream about Anna the night before the World Cup.” He felt himself flushing, but tried to ignore it. “I really believed at the time it was just a dream. Bill talked me down when I panicked.”
His father nodded slowly. “I had forgotten you and Bill left the house that night. Seemed rather late to go for a swim.”
“You knew we left The Burrow?” Charlie asked.
He was met with a slightly incredulous look. “I have seven children. Don’t you think I have Alarm Charms on the doors to notify me if one of you leaves the house at night?”
Charlie chuckled. “I guess that explains a few things.”
“So, when did you decide you wanted to court Anna?” Mum inquired.
He shifted uncomfortably in his chair. “Well, once I was back in Romania, I…uh…you see I was dating this girl at the time, and we were…close. Suddenly, being with her didn’t feel right. I wasn’t interested in…well…that is to say…”
“You no longer wanted to be intimate with her,” Dad guessed.
Charlie nodded. “I ended our relationship the day after I returned to Romania. Then, I put in transfer requests for the Welsh Green Sanctuary and the Hebridean Black Reserve so I could move back to Britain. Nicolas put in a good word for me, and both places have promised to offer me the next available position.”
“Oh, Charlie,” Mum set her tea cup down and smiled wistfully.
“They don’t get openings very often, Mum,” he reminded her. “That’s part of the reason I took the job in Romania in the first place. It’s so much larger, we have openings almost every year there. The reserves here have an opening maybe once every five years or so.” He shrugged. “Still, I figure time is on my side. Anna’s still in school. I’m bound to get a position at one of them in the next couple of years.”
Dad rubbed his chin. “Son, I’m not sure how to say this tactfully. As a matter of fact, I don’t think there is a way to say this well.” He sighed. “She might not be interested in you. It’s not just her age, but also your age difference. Seven years may not mean much when a couple are in their twenties or thirties. However, right now, she is a sixteen-year-old girl and you are a twenty-three-year-old man.”
Charlie laughed and felt himself relax at the slight frown Mum was sending Dad’s way. “Logically, I know you’re right. I understand that if she thinks of me at all, I’m probably just one of Ginny’s many older brothers. I can’t really explain it, but I know we are meant to be together. We just need the chance, the opportunity to get to know one another better. I planned to ask her out on a date this summer, figured with her being so close to seventeen by then, it would be okay to ask. I hoped she’d agree to be my girlfriend, and we could start exchanging letters.” His voice trailed off as he thought of the slow and careful courtship he had been planning. It couldn’t work that way now. The betrothal letters Augusta had received changed everything.
“A betrothal agreement is such a serious step,” Mum said. “The stigma of breaking a contract can be rather harsh in pure-blood society. Your father and I haven’t raised you children in that mindset.”
He nodded solemnly. “I know this is serious. If Anna agrees to the betrothal, I promise you that nothing will make me break it. I would never intentionally hurt her in any way.” He took a drink of tea. “Look, I understand my interest in her seems really sudden to you. I haven’t said anything because I was embarrassed about how my feelings for her would seem with our age difference.”
Charlie shrugged uncomfortably and his cheeks darkened. “I also didn’t want you to think that it’s just physical. I’m not going to lie and say I don’t want her in that way. I definitely do, but I also want to be her friend, her confidant. I want to make her laugh, to hold her when she’s upset, to be her husband and hopefully have children with her someday.”
His parents exchanged that long look that always seemed like a silent conversation was taking place.
“Well, then,” Mum said as she stood up. “I have an important letter to write.”
“Do you need help, dear?” Dad asked carefully.
She raised an eyebrow. “Of course, not! I was raised a Prewett. I can certainly manage to write a proper betrothal letter.”
Ginny rubbed her head in exhaustion as she attempted to finish her essay for Defense Against the Dark Arts. It had been a horrible week. The Quidditch match against Hufflepuff had been the beginning of the nightmare. Without the twins as Beaters, the team could neither score nor mount a proper defense. She knew the replacement Beaters, Kirke and Sloper, had tried. Unfortunately, they had virtually no experience and seemed to lack any natural talent. They were just as likely to send one of the Bludgers at their own teammates as at the opposition. One of them had even managed to strike Angelina with a bat.
Ron had continually failed to stop Hufflepuff from scoring. As annoyed as she often was with her brother, she felt nothing but sympathy for him. Ron was a decent Keeper when his head was truly in the game, but his lack of confidence was crippling. She was relieved when she finally managed to catch the Snitch and put an end to their misery. It was shocking that so much had gone so terribly wrong in a game that lasted less than thirty minutes. She had honestly been surprised they only lost by ten points.
The Quibbler had published the interview with Harry. Hermione and Luna were both very pleased with the article entitled ‘Harry Potter Speaks Out at Last: The Truth about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the Night I Saw Him Return.’ While it was wonderful to see the truth finally out and available to the public, Harry suffered another week of detentions and was banned from further Hogsmeade trips as punishment for giving the interview. Of course, Dolores Umbridge’s intense negative reaction to the article ensured that every student at Hogwarts read The Quibbler within days. Ginny forced a reassuring expression every night Harry returned from detention. She, Hermione, and Anna always had Murtlap essence ready for his hand. The message ‘I must not tell lies’ was visible on Harry’s hand all the time now. Ginny wondered and worried if the hateful message would be a scar he carried for the rest of his life.
In the meantime, Neville and Anna were feeling the strain of maintaining a carefully polite demeanor when dealing with her potential suitors. Neville had allowed Ernie to accompany their group to Hogsmeade and later given permission for Ernie and Anna to go for a walk to the greenhouses and to visit Hagrid together. It wasn’t until Malfoy approached him that morning expecting the same privileges that Neville realized his mistake. Knowing he would be showing a favoritism he was not supposed to display if he refused, he agreed to their walk around The Lake stipulating that he would be following from a distance.
The moment Neville and Anna returned to the common room, Anna kissed her cousin’s cheek and went up the stairs. Relieved to have an excuse to take a break, Ginny set down her quill and rapidly ascended the stairs.
Entering the fifth-year girls’ dormitory, she saw Anna lying flat on her back on the bed with one arm flung over her eyes. “Are you okay?” Ginny asked softly as she approached her friend.
“Mm-hmm,” Anna mumbled, lowering her arm and patting the bed beside her in invitation. “Just tired and cramping a little.” She held up the small bar of Honeydukes dark chocolate in her other hand. “Want one?”
“No, thanks,” Ginny smiled as she stretched out on the bed beside Anna. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you were having your monthly.”
Her friend sighed. “Monthly is a misnomer. It’s only been three weeks since the last one,” Anna complained and took another bite of the chocolate bar.
Ginny stifled a giggle. “So, how did the walk with Malfoy go?”
“Fine,” Anna admitted. “He was polite, asked a lot of ‘getting to know me’ type questions about my childhood in Virginia, Longbottom Manor, favorite things. Amazingly he didn’t sneer once, not even when I mentioned how much I enjoy my lessons with Remus.”
“Are you…um…becoming...interested in him?” Ginny inquired.
Anna laughed. “Definitely not. The fact that Draco is apparently capable of acting like a gentleman doesn’t change the basic facts.”
She held up her hand and began ticking off fingers. “First, his behavior at the Macmillan party was completely unacceptable. I don’t care that his parents probably told him to do it, taking a skin sample off my chest was not okay. Second, he has been insulting one of my best friends for years because of her blood status. Honestly, I think he’s jealous that Hermione is the top student in our year. Third, he is generally not a nice person to anyone, and I am not one of those girls who finds ‘bad boys’ appealing. Fourth, he thinks entirely too highly of himself just because he is a rich pure-blood from an influential family. Some of his attitude may be a façade. I realize he was raised to think that way, but some of it is his natural personality. I really think he believes he’s better than most people. Fifth, he’s a Slytherin prefect, and I don’t trust him.” Her voice had a cold finality by the end.
Ginny nodded soberly. “What about Ernie?”
Anna sighed and ate the last bite of her chocolate bar.
“If it’s too personal,” Ginny murmured. “Please don’t feel like you have to answer.”
Anna shook her head. “It’s not too personal. I just…I like Ernie. He’s kind, intelligent and funny. He’s a genuinely decent person and his grandmother is a good friend of Aunt Augusta.”
“ I’m not attracted to him,” Anna admitted. “I feel like he’s become more of a friend, but that’s all.” She groaned. “I don’t want to think about the stupid betrothal letters anymore.” She sat up. “Tell me about Harry.”
“What about him?” Ginny squeaked rolling up and hugging her knees to her chest.
“He’s been watching you when he thinks no one’s paying attention,” she explained.
Ginny bit her lip, a small smile on her face. “I thought he was, but then thought it might be just wishful thinking.”
“I do believe he has finally realized that you’re a girl,” Anna smirked.
Ginny laughed. “Over the Christmas holidays, Harry said something about not seeing me as just Ron’s little sister anymore. And, when he hugged me…” she sighed. “But, if he’s interested, why hasn’t he done anything about it?”
“Well, he is a fifteen-year-old boy,” she shrugged. “Harry may need more time to figure things out. He also might just not know how to start something.”
“So, I should just be patient,” Ginny muttered.
“That is one option,” Anna agreed. “Or, if the moment seems right, you could be the one to start something.”
Ginny raised an eyebrow at her friend incredulously. “Is that what you would do?”
“Definitely not,” Anna grinned. “You are much braver than I am, though, and far more certain of your feelings.”
“Ugh,” Ginny groaned, collapsing back on the bed as both girls dissolved into giggles.
“You brought my sister?” Fred rolled his eyes.
Neville glanced around quickly wondering what the Weasley twins were up to this time.
Angelina raised an eyebrow as she pointed a finger at Fred’s chest. “You asked me to go find people to play the game. Then, you stipulated that I had to find an equal number of boys and girls, avoid prefects and anyone else who might turn us in, and oh by the way, I could only bring people who were good-looking and not gits.” She threw her arms up in exasperation. “How many people did you actually think would qualify and be in the common room?”
“Okay, simmer down,” Fred muttered, eyeing his sister warily as she fingered her wand. “Just a bit surprised, that’s all.”
“Uh, what kind of game are we playing?” Seamus peered around the seventh-year boys’ dormitory.
Neville was relieved that his roommate had asked so he didn’t have to. The beds had been shifted sideways against the walls leaving a clear space in the middle of the room. It looked remarkably like the set up a couple of months ago at Grimmauld Place.
“As a service to ourselves and others,” George began.
“During a ridiculously stressful year with the Toad,” his twin continued.
“We were planning a game of Spin the Bottle,” Lee Jordan concluded.
Seamus laughed. “Excellent!”
“Is this another drinking game?” Harry asked.
“Not exactly,” Katie admitted.
“Although, I think we should all take a shot, or three, from that bottle before we begin,” Alicia added, motioning towards the full bottle of Firewhisky in Fred’s hand.
“Wait a minute,” Lavender said. “Is this the game where we kiss whoever the bottle points to?”
“I do love half-bloods and Muggle-borns.” Fred smiled fondly. “Always so quick to understand the games we like to play.”
“I’m not sure we should be doing this,” Neville stated quietly with a glance towards Anna. This game seemed like a particularly bad idea given the current situation.
“What happens in this room, stays in this room,” George declared firmly. “Anyone who thinks they can’t abide by that should leave now.”
A few nervous glances passed around the room, but no one left.
“And, we’ll play by the rule of witch’s choice,” Angelina decided, with a reassuring look towards the younger girls in the group.
“That rather spoils the game, don’t you think?” Lee glanced around at the others for support.
Lavender raised her hand primly and smiled as though she was in class and had just been called upon. “What is witch’s choice?”
“It allows the witch to decide whether to have a kiss on the lips or on the cheek,” Alicia explained. “Given the age range and…uh…family relationships present, I think we should follow Angelina’s suggestion.”
Neville inwardly sighed in relief as everyone agreed and glasses were conjured so each player could have a couple of shots before beginning. The Firewhisky was quickly consumed, and the bottle was placed in the middle of the circle of students.
“I’ll start the game,” Fred announced, muttering a quick spell and tapping the bottle with his wand before spinning it. He grinned when the bottle pointed towards Katie. She bit her lip nervously for a moment before kissing him on the lips. They were both smiling when they parted.
Lee spun next and raised an eyebrow towards Angelina who kissed him thoroughly.
George smiled reassuringly at Lavender when the bottle stopped in front of her, and looked pleasantly surprised when she kissed him full on the mouth.
Angelina was the next to spin and looked up cheekily when she saw the bottle point to Seamus. “Are you ready, my lad?” she asked with a smile.
“I certainly hope so,” Seamus drawled.
They were still kissing when Alicia spun the bottle and peered at Neville uncertainly.
“I’ve never done this before,” he whispered when she was a foot away from him.
“No worries,” she murmured before pressing her lips gently to his.
The feeling was brilliant, though over before Neville was ready for it. He was sure his blush was deeper than hers when they parted.
Harry was the next one to spin the bottle. He swallowed audibly when it landed on Ginny and glanced nervously towards her brothers.
“Forge,” Fred said. “I think it’s time we turned our backs and hummed a happy tune.”
“Right you are, Gred,” his twin replied.
They both pointedly turned their backs and hummed loudly as Ginny slowly approached Harry. Neville could hear a few murmurings from the pair before their lips met. He turned away, suddenly feeling as though he were intruding on an intensely personal moment.
“Your spin, Anna,” Angelina announced.
“Okay,” his cousin murmured, spinning the bottle and sighing with relief as it landed on him.
Neville was slightly surprised that she kissed him on the lips instead of the cheek, but as she backed away, they were both trying and failing to suppress their laughter.
“What’s so funny?” Seamus asked.
“We are definitely cousins,” Anna giggled.
“Merlin,” Neville wondered aloud. “How do the pure-blood families who all marry their cousins manage to…uh…”
“Do it?” Fred asked with a grin.
Neville felt his cheeks burning as he nodded.
“Too many generations of doing what they’re told,” George replied, his eyebrows wiggling suggestively. He pulled out a second bottle of Firewhisky. “Let’s all have another round in celebration of cousins who do not wish to marry!”
Glasses were once again refilled and everyone drank before continuing the game.
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