SIYE Time:21:43 on 17th September 2021

The Duke
By sweeet_babe

- Text Size +

Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, James Potter, Lily Potter, Other
Genres: Angst, Drama, Fluff, General, Romance
Warnings: Death, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Violence
Rating: R
Reviews: 43
Summary: Some time ago a prophecy was made, one that said about two powerful and strong souls who would be able to defeat even the strongest of wizards, bringing peace that the Wizarding World has not seen for centuries. But for that to happen, they would have to be entwined through marriage.
Everything was going well, the children were born healthy and were promised to each other, until one of them was kidnapped.
Hitcount: Story Total: 6970; Chapter Total: 427

Author's Notes:
I feel that I need to apologize for the delay ahahahahahah
some things - depression - have happened in my life in the last few months, along with the horrible results of my exams that made me fall into a limbo of feeling like a failure - it's no use telling me that I'm not a grade, I know that, but it still hurts
And all of that was a block for me to be able to write anything I needed to think too much, and in the few days that depression left me alone, anxiety came to do her job and I couldn't control myself enough
Anyway, something happened on Saturday and I wrote the last 5k of words that were missing and here's the chapter

thank you very much to everyone who comments on your theories and your ideas about what can happen, fill me with love and desire to keep writing this


| J. P |

James still remembered the lullaby whispered against his son's sweaty, childlike curls as he cradled the boy in his arms, feeling like the happiest man in the world, with a life in his arms.

He still remembered how beautiful Lily looked, lying on their bed, sleeping soundly after breastfeeding Harry, her white nightdress wrinkled and her messy red hair against the pillow, resonating just like Harry did, hugging his father.

He still remembered putting him to sleep, kissing his forehead where a birth scar made him unique, making James think of how magical it was to have that life there, so close to him.

It was Harry's first day trying to sleep in a room separate from his parents.

James still remembered Lily's scream, how he couldn't move when looking at the empty crib, the broken window, how he wanted to vomit when the curse breaker said there were Dark Arts there.

James still remembered running through the streets of Godric's Hollow, wearing only a red robe, as he rummaged through the garbage, entered the alleys, and looked desperately for his son.

James still remembered shouting at the healers when they brought a dead child, the same size and appearance as Harry, hit by an Avada Kedavra, 'It's not Harry!'

He still remembered the photos, the stories, the chase over them, how Lily got sick with each passing hour, and how he needed to take charge of everything, even if all he wanted to do was cry and scream.

How did someone catch a child? A newborn?!

When Lily asked him to put an end to it, when she asked him to just find a way to get all those people out of the castle door, stop the reports and let them cry in peace, he said. He went on the balcony of the main hall, the one on the third floor and facing the main street in the village.

James, feeling sick to see all those people, feeling that he had been overcome by pressure from the press, from the population, from the King, raised the black flag and left, not waiting to see the reaction of the people when he confirmed that Harry was dead.

But he knew he wasn't, he knew Lily knew it too, they were just tired of looking like two nuts, when they still had to deal with the pain of having a kidnapped child.

James still remembers the taste of blood, when he fought with Death Eaters, when during one of the missions, he left for Yeovil and was caught. He still remembered the torture, the blood splattering on his face as they beheaded a child identical to Harry. He knew it was the Imperius Curse, he knew it was all a lie, but it still hurt and haunted him more than all the deaths he had seen in person.

He thought he was going to go crazy.

James remembered all of that, he still remembered when Dumbledore told him about the whole prophecy, about the expiration date that their son had.

'You are crazy!' James screamed, breaking everything he saw ahead, feeling so angry that he thought he might explode. 'My son is not dead.' He assured him, snarling at Dumbledore, the fucking King, teeth clenched and faces close together, as if James dared him to deny it.

There were so many things that James remembered; from when Lily talked about hosting the Dueling Party because a fortune teller had told her that Harry was closer than they thought; from when he spoke to Arthur and heard the man say that his daughter was going to get married, the same girl who was supposed to marry Harry, the same girl that Dumbledore said she had a power that could be even harmful to her.

James remembered all of that.

But he didn't remember where he met that man.

'Henry Figg..' He murmured, watching the Auror follow Miss. Weasley through the garden, discreetly and very attentively, while the girl spoke non-stop, which James thought it should be with the man.

'It's a pretty common name,' Lily replied, smiling at the elf who poured tea into her cup. The two were sitting on the balcony of their room, watching from a distance all the guests to settle down and have time to discover the garden, the rooms, before the opening dinner. 'Figg is a Muggle surname.'

'But he is not a squib.' James scorned, and as if to prove it, the Auror levitated a gnome who tried to pull the hem of Miss. Weasley, who didn't even seem to notice, still talking and interacting with the statues.

'No, but he may be a Muggleborn.' Lily shrugged, legs crossed, and a magazine propped there, even though he knew she wasn't reading, but was also following the guests with her eyes. She was less brazen than James, wearing a hat that cast enough shadow over her eyes so that no one would notice that she was staring at them. He had already been caught in the act by a Marquise and a Count, both of whom seemed very close for someone who has met a few minutes before.

'Do you think they would have sent him? Aurors tend to be prejudiced, you know. ' James said, sipping his own tea.

'Oh, of course I know.' Lily laughed humorlessly, flipping through the magazine when a Lady watched them. It was as if they were two jesters on top of the ring. 'That girl, doesn't she seem very interested in Mr. Longbottom?'

'Who? The one wearing a yellow dress? For sure... Do you think they have an affair?'

'Of course not, Frank is a good man-'

'-I'm talking about Mr Figg and Miss. Weasley.' James interrupted, noticing when she sat at the water fountain, Henry standing.

'Why do you think that? She's a decent girl.' Lily seemed convinced enough to drop the magazine and actually look at the girl, watching them both in silence, at the same time that Henry seemed to smile and so did Ginny.

It was as if they were talking telepathically.

'I don't know, I just thought he was too careful with her, as if at any time he could jump in front of an Avada Kedavra to save her.' James said, shrugging.

'He's being paid well to do just that.' Lily reminded him, dropping the teacup next to his, then intertwining her fingers with James'. 'We need to get down.'

'Unfortunately.' James winced. 'I feel that nothing we talk about is taken seriously, it is as if we are forced to wear black for the rest of our lives.'

'It's only a week,' Lily whispered, making him stop looking at Henry and look at her, those green eyes that made him fall in love. 'I promise it will be worth it, you will see.'

'I always believe in you,' The two got up, walking together into their room, so clean it was as if no one slept there. James had spent so many years just with Lily at home, that he didn't even remember having such an immaculate environment and people around. It was a little scary. 'But this time I admit that I'm a little reluctant.'

'You are stubborn by nature,' she said, leaving the room as she straightened the pink scarf around her neck. 'I remember you complained about my desire to have this party.'

'But I still don't understand the reasons.' James whispered, now that they were in the corridors, even though it was the fourth floor on the west side and there was no room being occupied over there.

The walls have ears . He remembered his father always saying.

'What if she is wrong?'

'What if she isn't?' Lily looked at him, eyes steady on him. 'What if our son is here?' She spoke hopefully, almost in an inaudible whisper, it was horrible when other people got into their hopes for Harry.

'I haven't seen him anywhere.' James argued, a little irritated, following his wife into the room where there was a crowd of people.

'And how would we know if it's him? We haven't seen him for more than 20 years.' Lily shrugged, stopping them before finally entering through the big white double door, wide open and making them listen to the side conversations. 'We have an ace up our sleeve, and if it doesn't work...' She seemed unable to continue the sentence, but James thought nonetheless, we will accept that he is dead.

'Oh, duchess!' A short, plump lady howled from across the room, near the door to the garden, the egg yellow color in no way favoring the pale skin. 'We were waiting for you to have tea.' James couldn't help thinking about all the teas that Lily hadn't been invited to until that last month, having to force himself to smile at that woman who was staring at them curiously.

'Thank you, Mrs Brown, but I think it will be more pertinent to start the party, it will be quite a week, and we will have so much to do!' Lily smiled happier than usual, also seeming to force herself on it.

They continued to socialize and chat with everyone there, hoping to give the right time they had planned to serve the main banquet, smiling and laughing at the bad jokes.

'I have never seen people more false than these.' Sirius whispered, reaching for James for the first time, serving him with firewhiskey.

'Thank you very much,' he thanked, the drink burning the inside of his throat. 'I don't remember receiving so many invitations to drink since I was 18 and the four of us were single.'

'Half of these people already speak ill of us, the other half will after tonight.' Sirius barked, a blonde woman looked at them as if she was afraid. 'Not unlike before, but now they feel they need to lie and pretend it isn't true.'

'Don't say that next to Lily, she's trying hard.' James scolded, watching when Miss. Weasley came into the room, her cheeks flushed with the sun and her hair a little disheveled, nothing much, she looked a little sweaty, as if she had run around the garden like a child. Mr. Figg was right behind her, camouflaging himself in the sea of people, barely seeming to be seen by others as he walked over to an empty window.

The Auror kept watching everyone in the room, stopping for a few seconds to observe some people in specials, but then rolling his eyes around the room again, always ending at Miss. Weasley sitting on the couch, talking to her brother.

When he once again scanned the room, he looked at James. The boy suddenly looked scared, as if he had been caught - and he was, in a way - but soon he rearranged his posture and nodded to James, as if asking for forgiveness for not making himself so invisible.

James knew him from somewhere, he knew it, he just didn't remember it.

He didn't go to the Ministry much to end up colliding with an auror, and he hadn't visited the Weasleys' house in a long time to have seen him there. The few times he will travel and speak to Arthur, he was careful to only have them at home.

Where did that boy come from, then?

James was about a second away from going to him and bombarding the man with questions, but he was stopped when Lily took him by the arm and drew everyone's attention so she could start the Duel Party.

As if to prove that he was a good Auror, Mr. Figg was not in James' view for the rest of the day. Which showed that he was efficient at work, but that did not make James forget the restlessness that rumbled in his chest, his mind working hard to remember.

James wouldn't rest until he remembered.

| G. W |

Ginny never thought that being alone would be so much fun.

Okay, maybe she wasn't alone, because Henry was still watching her like a shadow, and there were still all eyes on her like they were just waiting for her to explode and destroy everything around her.

But still, Ginny felt a strange freedom as she walked through the garden at night, shortly after dinner, thanking everyone for not paying too much attention to social rules and that Ginny was a single woman. Maybe it was because no one else really had any hopes that she would end up getting married so she didn't need a lady company beside her.

And Henry was always there, it was hard to ignore that. At least for her.

'Do you think we can manage to reach the stream that Mrs Potter told us about? She said it looks beautiful at night.’ Ginny asked, but Henry - who was particularly awkward since they got there - said nothing, just nodded.

This upset the woman.

Not having other people talking to her, or not having men praising her as they did tirelessly with the Patil sisters, or Miss. Brown, it was something Ginny no longer cared about - she didn't care so much, because there were still days when she was sad and cried with that loneliness. But not having Henry talking to her, it looked like a much sharper knife that cut through it in a much deeper way.

'Do you think they will let me take part in the Duel tomorrow?' She looked over her shoulder again, hands folded in front of her as she walked down the stone road, surrounded by flowers, bushes, fairy lights and sculptures that waved once or twice other.

'I don't think so, Miss, I'm sorry.' Henry kept his hands back, three steps away from her, still not looking directly into her eyes.

Ginny could still see him, even though the fairies didn't seem to make much of a point of illuminating him, as they did when following her, however, she still realized that Henry's green eyes were always a spot above her head, as if suddenly he was afraid that if he looked at her something bad would happen.

Henry's coldness hurt more than the others, Ginny didn't know why. Maybe she was used to being alone, but she could always run back to Henry and be heard.Maybe she was just used to his friendship.

'A pity, then.' She started walking again, blinking away the tears that had gathered in the corners of her eyes. How silly to cry about that!

One of the fairies that flew around her, landed on her shoulder, didn't bite her or anything, just sat there, as if comforting her. Ginny continued on the stone path, completely silent.

She never imagined visiting such an elegant house, but even so, Ginny felt that if the walls spoke they would contradict themselves with the various colors that painted them and the cheerful style that perpetuated in each room, and would make you cry.

It was easy to see how dejected Mrs. Potter always looked, looking for someone in the crowd and never seeming to find. Her green eyes had a gray shade that Ginny thought was sadness, and her cheeks were so pale that it was as if her skin hadn't been exposed to the sun for weeks, if not months. She also noticed how thinner Lily was than the photos that appeared in the history books or in the newspapers that she stole from her father; Lily was taller than she, with long arms and legs, but even smaller than Mr. Potter. The fabric of her dress was very elegant, but it looked too loose even with all the ribbons tied around her back.

Ginny wondered if Lily was sick, if the sadness had consumed her, or if she had always been that way.

She did not fail to notice when the Duchess smiled at her over dinner, everyone was talking to everyone and Ginny was silent - except when her mother or Ron asked her something - and Lily was sitting next to the husband, across the table and to the right, but the woman maintained eye contact with Ginny as if she knew what she felt, smiling at what seemed for the first time that day to be a real smile.

Lily should have known very well what it was like to be lonely and have to get used to it. Not that Ginny understood the pain of losing a child, she hoped she would never know, but she could still imagine.

Before leaving for the gardens, Lily asked her if she would like to have tea with her and the other women. Nobody had ever invited Ginny before, she was nervous with the idea of sitting in a room with all those women who didn't seem to like her very much, so she denied and thanked her, saying that she preferred to know a little more about the garden.

'It's a good choice,' the Duchess said, smiling and with her hand on Ginny's shoulder, not looking away even for a second. 'The stream is wonderful at night, with the stars and the moon illuminating... Very romantic.' Lily blinked, then straightened her back and turned to the other women who were talking near the bookcase, calling them to join her in a tea.

Ginny did not expect - at least, she would like to think she did not expect - the romantic mood that Lily referred to to influence Henry's attitude towards her, but she continued to allow herself into the silence of her mind to imagine if the Moon at the top of the sky and the stars reflecting in the water, they would make Henry attracted to the corset she had squeezed in, and the red lipstick that the elf stained her fingers to paint on Ginny's lips.

Perhaps because of the perfume Bill had given her last Christmas, which smelled of flowers and something French that reminded her a little of Fleur, but not so sweet.

However, when they finally arrived at the stream, where the idea of a great place for dating really passed, Henry continued to stand three steps away from her, standing by a tree, watching as Ginny stretched the rug she had taken for both of them and sat facing the water.

Something inside broke when reality invaded expectation, her hand smoothing the fabric of the dress as if it were the most interesting thing. The fairy was still sitting on her shoulder, her wings were not flapping and the light was getting a little weaker, as if she were feeling Ginny's pain and trying to make Henry realize her intention of going to that part.

'Don't you think it's a very hot night for tea?' Ginny asked, trying one last time.

'It depends on the tea,' Henry replied, looking thoughtful. 'Perhaps a tea with fresh herbs will become a little refreshing, or with orange peel.'

'Who would have tea with orange peel?' Ginny looked over her shoulder, just for a few seconds, and Henry's eyes locked with hers.

'I know some Aurors who drink them during missions, when they need something that will calm them down and remind them of home, but that will keep them awake,' he said calmly, hands still behind his body, eyes looking away to watch the sky and then the various trees that were around them.

'Did you notice how that guy... Mr. Rosier, looked a little uncomfortable when dinner started?' Ginny remembered what she wanted to say as soon as she left the table, but she ended up forgetting, and also needing to change the subject and make him look at her again, feeling a little pathetic about almost begging for attention.

Henry looked at her. 'No, I didn't notice. Why do you think that? He seemed very excited when talking to Mr. Black.’

'Maybe it was nervousness, there were two pretty girls sitting next to him, and they seemed to want to get his attention. But I realized, just that, he looked a little out of place.' She shrugged, looking back at the water when Henry looked away again.

Ginny cursed herself for thinking that Henry might want something with her, she should already know that things were not as easy for her as for other women.

'Not that it is very difficult to feel out of place here,' she said, watching her reflection in the water.

'Did you find it?'

'Well, we are at a Duke's house, I don't think I will be able to not feel out of place… Mr. Potter has already met the King.' Ginny whispered the last part, as if it were a secret between them that she wanted to keep, remembering how furious her father looked when he learned that the man had come to the King to ask questions that, of course, no one wanted to tell her about.

'I don't know, there is something about them that makes me feel almost familiar.' Henry approached, she could say, because of the noise of the branches breaking and the leaves crushing under the boot he wore. But Ginny continued to look at the water.

Something moved deep inside, something she couldn't see what it was.

‘Familiar? Yes, they are very polite and seem to want to get close to people and make them feel at home.’ Ginny put her hand in the water, curious as a child looking for Christmas presents around the house.

'Didn't you feel like you already knew the two of them for a long time?' Henry asked, standing a few steps behind her, she saw him in the reflection of the water, now cloudy because she was trying to catch whatever moved below.

It could just be a fish, of course, but Ginny was skeptical of that. She heard Mr. Potter talking about how the only lake that had fish was one much further away, close to the quarries.

‘No, but it’s also like they’re not complete strangers.’

‘I don’t know, the last time I felt like this, was when…’ But Ginny didn’t pay attention, she finally got to whatever it was, it was icy and slippery like moss, but it had scales that scraped her skin. Something small and thin clung to her wrist and she screamed at the sensation, agonized by the sensation of small hands sinking into her skin.

Ginny pulled her arm up as fast as she could, screaming even more when she saw an animal stuck in her arm, big eyes and pale skin, the head bigger than the rest of the body, sinking the small nails further into her arm, and what should have been the animal's hair, burned like fire against her skin when it touched her. The mermaid's tail bounced off Ginny's arm, causing pain that seemed unreal when compared to the animal's size.

'Run.' The mermaid said, neither seeming to blink or paying attention to the fact that she was out of the water. ‘Now.’ Before she could say anything, a spell made the animal drop from Ginny's arm now red and looking irritated, falling into the water like a piece of stone.

'Come on.' Henry grabbed her, forcing her to get up.

Ginny was paralyzed, fear freezing her veins and making her barely able to breathe properly, still seeming to feel the slimy, cold sensation of the animal against her, huge dark eyes locked on hers, how the voice sounded thin and made her feel dizzy as if she had been attacked by a spell.

She didn't even realize that it was Henry who was pulling her all the way until she tripped over a rock, seeming to be enough for her to wake up from the panic trance she was in. 'What was that?'

'A mermaid.' Henry continued to hold her arm, wand drawn and Ginny's body close to him, as if he were ready to hide her behind him and take down anyone who appeared there.

'You can't think she was serious... can you?' She asked a little hopefully, feeling her arm burn and sting as if it had been cut and now it had been dipped in alcohol.

'Do you want to stay there to see if it's true or not?' Henry looked at her, his green eyes dark with what seemed to be concern, his teeth clenched. 'These animals do not lie, let alone speak to humans on a regular basis. That was not right. ’

‘Why did my arm look like this?’ The two didn’t follow the path they came from, but Henry took them for what seemed to be where the elfs walked, behind the house, in a part that had almost no fairies lighting up or statues. It looked almost abandoned when they got closer.

'It can be many things, I will have to look closely.' He knelt on the floor and opened a secret passage as if he had been doing that for years, lighting up the stairs for Ginny. 'Come down. We don’t want anyone to see your arm like that. ’

'Where are we?' She did as he was told, even though her right arm seemed to hurt to the bone, taking care not to fall off balance and fall backwards in what appeared to be an underground path. It was cold and dark, with few candles lighting up the front, and it smelled of mold.

'Under the kitchen.' Henry closed the passage, finally seeming to calm down from the latest events, pulling Ginny's arm close, lighting it with his wand. 'It hurts?'

'A lot.' She felt dinner coming back when he touched the wound, the pain almost leaving her on her knees.

'It is probably a poisonous mermaid, we will have to clean this up and... Cut it out.' Ginny warned herself then, her eyes bulging towards Henry, who even in that gloom seemed to apologize for having to hurt her. ‘It’s a small cut, just to extract the poison they contain and that’s probably why you’re feeling so much pain.’

'Great, it's the first day we're here and a mermaid attacks me,' she said, her head thrown back and a snort coming out of her lips. 'My mom will be ...' Henry interrupts her, his hand on her mouth in a silent request for her to be quiet once in her life, while they can hear footsteps above them, footsteps that don't seem to come from the kitchen, but from the garden.

Ginny hears when the person runs and stops over where they entered, Henry is quick to camouflage them with a spell and pull them close to one of the walls, as if he just waits for the person to open the door and go look for them there

But the person seemed to give up, saying something to someone that they cannot identify who it is or what is said, but they both seem quite irritated. Ginny almost loses her eyes when she realizes that the second person didn't seem to have come from anywhere, and that he was probably already around, just waiting for them. Again, fear freezes her, but this time it is a little different, she looks at Henry, who is also looking at her in fright, and it is almost as if they are communicating by mind again, because Ginny knows what he's thinking when the drags into the tunnel, at a much faster pace and without lowering the wand once.

The mermaid was right, and they weren't as safe as they thought. Someone there was planning, at best, to kill Ginny that night.

Ginny didn't even wait for Henry to pull her to run any further when they thought they heard the noise of the passage being opened, she didn't even remember the pain, or she cared about the noise of rats and other animals that got scared when they passed, moving on, not quite sure where the tunnel ended.

It was common for older houses to have these tunnels, especially if the family was wealthy, her father had said that the tunnels served as an escape route for when things got bad with the advance of the First Wizarding War, and then they became useful for wealthy families to hide their wealth or, families allied with Voldemort, to keep their prisoners.

Fortunately, the Potter didn't seem to want to keep any prisoners there, all through the tunnel there were only other paths that they would probably lead to either in the main rooms or in the office, as they had at home. Ginny and Henry passed a wine cellar too, where two elves were, but luckily, none of them heard them, or if they did, they pretended not to.

Henry helped Ginny open the wooden door that, by his calculations, would come out on the floor where Ginny was, near the winter Garden that served as the divider of the west and east wing. There was no one around, thanks to Merlin, all the doors were closed and few were the rooms that had the light on. She wondered if people had already started sneaking out to date, or did they wait at least one day.

Ginny heard many stories of couples who were married eight months after a Duel Party, and the woman had a child who was born ‘’early.’’

'My mom must have realized that I didn't come back.' She whispered, pulling Henry into her room, the two of them walking on tiptoe. They were still invisible to anyone, but she doubted that they could put a silencing spell on them without anyone noticing, even the pictures could scream for it. She herself had seen the great-grandfather's picture yell at George when he did it once.

'If she talks to me, I will say that I brought you safely but you wanted to go to sleep early.' He calmed her, looking embarrassed when Ginny put him into the room. ‘Miss, I don’t know if it’s very-’

'Henry, no one cares about my honor anymore, and my arm is turning purple.' She showed it, almost vomiting when she realized how swollen and purple the arm was getting, as if blood was not flowing from the elbow down. 'Get it over with,' Ginny pleaded, feeling the pain again now that the adrenaline had gone, sitting on the bed and turning her face to the window.

'This is going to hurt,' Henry predicted, after silencing the room and taking her hand gently, stretching her arm and causing Ginny an absurd pain, which felt as if the bones wanted to rip her skin.

‘Ah!’ She screamed, biting her lip hard as soon as Henry tied something separating the injured part from the other.

'I need to ensure that the poison does not rise further,' he explained.

'Just get it over with.'

'Miss, I'm going to need you to stay here...' Ginny went to the desk, stretching her arm over the wood, thinking how she hadn't wanted Henry to touch her for the first time under those circumstances. She wanted him to take her hand, to caress her skin, but not when her arm looked like it would explode in pus. 'I'll start.'

'OK. I trust you.' Ginny took a deep breath.

'Thank you, Miss.' Henry said, before finally touching his wand on her arm and murmuring words that Ginny didn't understand, not when the pain left her deaf and blind, making her stomp like a madwoman, struggling when the heat took part of her right arm, going up her shoulders, throat, and making her look like she was going to explode in seconds.

It burned like pure fire, and she made the mistake of looking at the outstretched arm and seeing the open skin and spilling yellowish green goo mixed with blood, Henry squeezed her flesh as if it were nothing, and Ginny thought she would die because of a damn mermaid.

The scream burned her throat and echoed throughout the room, she hoped Henry had protected them well, because she could have woken up the entire mansion now. The taste of blood and iron filled her mouth, probably her lip had hurt when she clenched her teeth to stop the scream, but it was impossible, it hurt like it never hurt, it was almost torture.

Fingers on her right hand didn't move, or if they did, Ginny couldn't feel it. This time she didn't look at Henry when he swore, touching his wand again to her feverish skin and saying more charms, also seeming to mumble an apology.

Ginny continued to scream and struggle for what seemed like eternity, until everything went cloudy and she heard Henry say it was over, casting healing spells that stopped the heat from rising in her arm, just as the pain subsided, but Ginny still felt she was shaking and would probably fall if she tried to get up or move her arm now. Henry untied the tape and placed his hands on her skin as if to calm whatever was going on there, she was unable to observe.

'It's over, it's over,' he murmured, conjuring ice and placing it under her skin. 'There was more poison than I imagined, but I promise that there is nothing more, I took everything away... Tomorrow you will be better again, I promise.'

'Thank you, Henry,' Ginny said weakly, not even feeling the tears that were streaming down her face, the sobs being the only thing she heard now.

She looked at the arm again, this time closed, returning to the original color, a little less swollen, and with only small reddish parts, where she believed Henry had made the cut. Henry continued to run the ice over her injured skin, his other hand holding hers as if he said he was there, and everything was fine.

'I'm going to need help getting to bed.' She had also been thinking about one day having his help to go to bed - and it wasn't for sleeping - but today she really needed help, and Ginny doubted that a house elf would help her more than Henry was doing. ‘Sorry about that, but I don’t think I can take my dress off by myself.’

| H. F |

Henry gasped.

It seemed more frightening to have to help Ginny get into her pajamas, than to tear off what looked like a kilo of Mermaid venom, watching her skin open spewing goo, blood, and listening to her scream.

He almost fell off his chair when she asked him to.

But he was her security guard, the guy who should cherish her life, and Ginny had already suffered too much in one night, he wouldn’t make her sleep in those tight clothes just because he felt he could get hard just by looking at her back.

'Of course, Miss.' Henry stood up. He had already washed many aurors, people would be shocked at how weepy men are when they get hurt, and how they beg for help when they see their own blood dripping on the floor, even if it is for a small injury.

Joe once nearly passed out when he realized that his shoulder was dislocated and his arm looked almost like gelatin. Henry had to help him shower that night.

But Joe and everyone else were guys that Henry wasn't attracted to, they stank of blood, sweat and dirt, Ginny didn't. The woman's arm had almost been eaten alive by the mermaid's poison, and she still smelled of flowers and looked like the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. It would never be the same.

Henry went to the wooden barrel that was in the corner of the room, separated by a wooden divider, taking the towel placed there and stretching the rug in front so that Ginny would step on when he left - he didn't want to think too much at that moment - and moved the wand to fill the barrel with hot water. He spilled some salts and soap, before making sure it was warm and good for her to get in. Henry didn't know if she would prefer to use the stairs or not, but he left it there anyway. If she wanted, just push it with her foot and use it.

'You don't have to look that worried,' Ginny said, looking even weaker, but at least she wasn't crying anymore. 'I already said, nobody cares about my honor, besides, nobody will ever know.' She shrugged. ‘It’s not like it means anything, you’re just helping me.’

His chest hurt a little, the idea of another man helping her into the bath - but with ulterior motives - making him a little more discouraged. Just as he had been since they arrived, failing to forget that she was likely to return to her house, married.

Yes, it meant nothing. For her. Henry was just a personal security guard, not a man she would like to show off in the bath.

The wet skin, red from the heat, the foam hitting the breasts...Henry denied, trying to clear his mind of those thoughts.

'Sure, Miss.' Was all he said, walking over to her and helping her to her feet, holding her for a few more seconds with the excuse that she looked like she might fall at any moment.

The two went as far as the bath awaited her, Henry remained behind her when Ginny stopped in front of the barrel, hands shaking like a teenager when he undid the first button on her dress. Her skin was much more fragrant there, and it looked much softer and paler, he could even see some freckles disappearing under the back of her neck. Henry salivated with the urge to kiss that part.

He undid another button. Two are gone, only ten more to go, he thought.

Ginny said nothing, a firm hand on the wooden partition, waiting patiently as Henry discovered how much more beautiful she was under the dress. There were other clothes underneath, of course, but Henry could feel the warmth of Ginny's skin much more eagerly now.

When the top of the dress fell to her waist, arms free from the sleeves, Henry found himself with the job of untying the corset. The piece made Ginny look so delicate and fragile that he thought she could break it when he undid a knot and loosened the piece. He had never taken off any woman's corset. In fact, he had never taken off any woman's clothes, and it seemed such an intimate moment that he thought sex was too overrated compared to undoing every button, tie and knot that women used.

As soon as the corset fell, Ginny seemed to be taking a deep breath, and Henry almost laughed softly at what seemed to be the best time of her day. And then, all he needed was the chemise so that he could see the top of her naked.

But Henry thought it would be more polite to wait, so he began to undo the lace on the dress, and loosen the fabric so that it fell completely to the floor, and again, he heard Ginny sigh for what seemed like relief.

Henry looked at her delicate calves, and found himself a fool for wanting to run his hands and mouth over that region, slowly climbing up every little part of her beautiful legs. Of course, he had never seen her legs, only when she wore pants to fly, but Henry liked to imagine that they were as beautiful as everything else.

'Excuse me, Miss.' He asked, politely before pulling the white petticoat down, his chest swelling and throbbing madly as he watched the fabric tease the floor and was aware of how long her legs were even though she was short , and how beautiful her ass was. Henry felt his own cheeks warm, noting the few freckles lost on the back of her thighs, and a few on her ass.

The monster roared in Henry's chest at the thought of another man having knowledge of these freckles. It seemed so intimate now that he saw her that way, and Henry thanked him for never giving in when co-workers asked him to go to Fantasy House , where he would probably see various types of naked bodies. He liked to be surprised at how soft a woman's skin - Ginny’s - looked beneath all those layers, and how much more beautiful it was than his colleagues' descriptions.

He never had much time to court anyone, and even when he did, there weren't many women who wanted him. They generally preferred the richest, tallest, and strongest, or those who at least knew how to speak to them without stuttering, Henry thought. He didn't expect the special woman either, he just always seemed very… empty. None drew him enough attention that he wanted to see her naked, of course some were beautiful and made him feel hot, but they almost never wanted to chat with him, so there was no opportunity either.

'Excuse me,' Henry asked again, now reaching for the hem of the thin white chemise that Ginny wore, hoping she would nod so he could properly see her naked, or at least, her back.

'Okay.' Ginny nodded, her voice a little hoarse, raising her arms up - the right not so much, and he believed it was still hurting.

Henry almost ran out of breath and fell back when the fabric went up and showed him the wealth of freckles on her back, her pale, delicate skin looked even softer than her legs, her shoulders smeared with a little sun, and shoulder blades filled with freckles of all sizes and shades. Henry noticed that there were orange, others more brown, some a little reddish and few that were almost black. He wanted so much to run his hand over her skin.

Her scent invaded Henry's mind in a way that he thought would go crazy, and he probably would, never being able to see another naked woman and not compare her to Ginny and her perfection.

Again he wondered why she had never been asked to marry. He almost fell to his knees right there.

'So, Miss.' He managed to say, his voice hoarse than usual. 'Do you want help getting into the bath?'

'I can do it, Henry, thank you very much.' Ginny didn't turn to see him, and Henry thought it would be better, maybe if he saw a tiny part of her breast, he would be cursed for the rest of his life for not being able to touch her.

'I'll be waiting for you, there's a towel over there, and if the water is not as you like, you can call me.' Henry turned on his back, thinking that seeing her walking naked was also not the best way to try to survive the burning desire in the chest.

But listening seemed even worse, because his imagination didn't stop, the noise of the water and her moan of satisfaction made him have to thank the witch fashion and the fact that his robes protected him from being discovered.

The next few minutes would be slow and painful torture, he knew it, smelling the sweet soap, listening to the water fall to the floor whenever Ginny moved in the bathtub, her little murmurs of satisfaction, filling Henry's imagination with the most perverted images.

He felt ashamed to think that this woman would subject herself to things as dirty as the ones he was thinking about in his fantasies.

'I'm done.' Ginny woke him up from what appeared to be the fifth fantasy that Henry created in his mind. The water fell again, and worse than before, now he imagined her body smooth and warm, reddish and sensitive, smelling like the fragrance that would lead him to death.

Henry waited for her to call on him to help her go to the dresser where all her clothes were, not wanting to pay much attention to the strands of hair that stuck to the back of her neck.

'The bath really helped me,' Ginny said, walking back into the partition. 'I can manage to put on my pajamas, it's button-down, I won't have to make so much effort.' She smiled at him, flushed like a pepper, disappearing behind the wood and making him wait again. 'Do you really think that whoever it was was after me?' She asked, still dressing.

'I think.' Henry was blunt. 'But I did not understand why the other person, who clearly saw where we entered, said nothing. We don’t hear footsteps, which means he was there.’

'Should we tell someone?' Ginny appeared, wearing a light pink nightdress with dark pink buttons, delicate flowers embroidered on the hem. She accepted Henry's help to walk to the bed, she was not so pale anymore, and her arm looked much better, but he still realized that she was holding firmly on the furniture to stand.

'Let me take care of that, Miss, it's my job,' Henry said, covering her up as if Ginny were a helpless child who needed help. He sat next to her on the bed, enjoying that moment that would probably be unique, forgetting that she had been tagged with a boy who was probably dead, or if not, very far from her, and that Arthur had already found a replacement for the position of husband.

And it wasn't Henry.

He sighed, feeling strangely at peace when she shook his hand. 'Thank you for taking care of me.'

'I would never do the opposite.' He smiled, unable to take his eyes off her. 'How's the arm?'

'Sore, but I can feel my hand again.' To prove it, Ginny wiggled her fingers for him to see, laughing softly at that.

'Tomorrow will be better, I put good healing charms on you. It won't even be scarred.' He knew that women could care about that, he even cared about the one he carried on his forehead, always keeping it hidden behind his hair.

Ginny didn't say anything for a moment, just stared at him, luscious brown eyes that reminded Henry of a home feeling, flushed cheeks from hot water or a combination of that and the sun, and adorable freckles that he would like to spend hours counting each one, foolishly trying to memorize them for when he was forced to leave, not wanting, and not thinking he would be able, to ever forget her.

Henry thought how much easier life would be if he could just woo Ginny the right way, that seeing her naked would mean much more than just a helping hand, and that he probably wouldn't see just her back.

He thought about the life he would have had if he had been lucky enough to be born in a mansion like that. Not that he didn't love her mother, far from it, he was very grateful for everything she did. But things could be simpler if he were the son of the Duke and Duchess and had the opportunity to marry Ginny.

But life was not that easy. And, not for the first time, Henry cursed Harry Potter for disappearing and putting him in such a difficult position, of having Ginny so close and yet so far.

'Good night, Miss,' Henry murmured, and just because he felt brave, he leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. 'Sleep well.'

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