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Trapped by LoveSpell
Chapter 5 : The Regret
 
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 The Regret

“And we’re all we got, so let’s hold on tight/ To the dreams that came before the fight/ We were living smoke and mirrors anyway…” Lifehouse (Smoke and Mirrors)
___________________________________________________________

Elle glared at Parvati. Why couldn’t Bellatrix have gone after her instead?

“What are you doing here?” Elle asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

Parvati raised her eyebrows and looked Elle up and down. “I work here,” she replied coolly. Her crisp magenta robes clung tightly to her body, and she held in her hands a stack of files. Her wand was tucked safely in her front pocket, and her brown hair was pulled back into a strict bun at the nape of her neck. Harry had to admit, she looked pretty professional.

Elle wrinkled her nose. “I know, I know, secretary to the Minister,” she said, in a snooty British accent. “What exactly does he make you do that keeps you here so late?”

Parvati pursed her lips. “It wasn’t my choice to stay late,” she replied, with forced calm. “Unfortunately, I had some filing to finish before I could go home. Apparently, when a famous couple gets divorced in a deserted Ministry courtroom after hours, there’s a lot of extra paperwork to sort through.”

An uneasy silence followed her words. Elle’s cheeks flushed, and she tightened her grip around Calla’s shoulders. Parvati smirked.

“And at least I have a job,” she continued. “What exactly are you doing with yourself these days, Elle? Going on trips to the beach? Shopping? Spending most of your ex-husband’s hard-earned money?”

“Hey!” Calla shouted, shooting Parvati a dirty look. “Why don’t you go back to filing and leave my mother alone?”

Parvati sniffed, and looked at Calla with an appraising stare. “I’d be careful with what you say to me, little girl,” she said softly. “The Ministry has the power to expel you from Hogwarts, and we wouldn’t want that to happen before you even arrive, now do we?”

Calla bit her lip and looked up at Elle. Elle took her hands off Calla and took a step towards Parvati, raising a pointed finger to her face.

“Alright, you can mock me,” Elle said fiercely. “But don’t you dare talk that way to my daughter…”

Parvati gazed steadily at Elle’s hand, which was now inches away from her nose. “Still wearing your wedding ring I see,” she said quietly. “Why is that? Too clingy to let Harry go?”

Elle froze and gazed down at her ring finger, her heart suddenly beating erratically. She hadn’t even thought about taking off her ring…her beautiful wedding ring, which she had worn for eleven years. Her hand would feel so strange without it…so naked. It was a part of her; it showed that she belonged to someone, that she had vowed to love somebody forever…but, unfortunately, that was now no longer true.

With a sigh, Elle withdrew her hand. Shakily, she slipped off her wedding ring and held it in her palm for a moment, not sure what she should do with it. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend.

“Here,” she said after a moment, handing it to Harry. Harry took it, surprised.

“I don’t want it,” he muttered. “I gave it to you.”

“Well, I don’t want it either,” she said bitterly. “If you don’t take it back, I’ll throw it in the fountain. They can sell it and donate the money to St. Mungo’s.”

Harry sighed, and pocketed the ring. Maybe he would burn it after they all got out of this mess.

“Look,” he said to Parvati. “After me and Elle signed the…the divorce papers…Bellatrix showed up.”

“What?” Parvati asked sharply, suddenly on edge. “In the Ministry?”

“Yes,” Harry said seriously. “She wants to kill us and kidnap Calla, and she thinks Malfoy is working for her.”

Parvati turned her head sideways and stared at Malfoy. Malfoy ran a hand through his unkempt hair, and grinned.

“Hi,” he said, nodding his head at Parvati and winking. “How ya doin?”

Parvati rolled her eyes and turned her gaze back to Harry. It took all of Elle’s strength not to giggle. Draco sounded so…so American.

“Where is she now?” Parvati asked.

“Immobilized,” Malfoy responded. “I stunned her and I’m pretty sure a wall fell on her. But she could reenergize at any moment.”

Parvati stared frostily at him, her nostrils flaring. She looked a little like McGonagall.

“A wall?” she asked disbelievingly.

Harry cleared his throat. “I kind of, um, blasted the room apart,” he told Parvati sheepishly. He saw the look on her face and held up his hands. “I’m sorry, it was self-defense! Please don’t charge me for the repairs.”

Elle shook her head. Parvati groaned.

“Can’t you two do anything normally?” Parvati asked in exasperation, taking out her wand. Her bangle of bracelets dangling from her wrists shook slightly, as if echoing her frustration. “Does everything have to be a bloody adventure?”

“Sorry,” Harry and Elle said together.

“I hope you two know that you ruined my night,” Parvati muttered, conjuring a patronus. In the next second, a silvery panther appeared. However, just as suddenly as it had appeared, it pranced out of the room and vanished from sight.

“Why, had a hot date or something?” Elle asked, watching the patronus as it disappeared.

“As a matter of fact I did,” Parvati said sternly, straightening up and tucking her wand away again. “Not everyone gets married at the age of seventeen like you. Besides, he’s a very respectable wizard…”

“Wait,” Harry said, before Parvati could get into the details of her love life. “Who did you send that patronus too?”

“Kingsley,” Parvati answered. “I sent him a message telling him to gather all the Aurors and to report to headquarters immediately. In the meantime, we need to bring you three to the safe room until Bellatrix is captured. Also, I should alert the Minister…”

“I’ll go up to headquarters and meet with Kingsley,” Harry interrupted. “You can take them to the safe room and me and the Aurors can come up with a plan…”

“I’m sorry Harry,” Parvati interjected. “But if it’s you Bellatrix is after, then you’re putting the rest of the Aurors in danger. I think it’s best if you stay out of sight for the time being, and let Kingsley and his team handle this.”

“What?” Harry asked in disbelief. “No, you can’t be serious! I need to do this, I need to fight her myself…she’s never going to stop…”

“Until she kills you,” Parvati finished for him. “And we need to prevent that from happening, to the best of our ability.” She took a deep breath and faced him with a forbidding glare. “Come on, Harry,” she said. “We’ve gone through all the drills and procedures. You know what has to be done. Let the Aurors do their jobs, and let me do mine.”

“No, I can’t let her get away this time…”

“Please dad!” Calla cried, looking at Harry with a pleading stare. “Please…come with us.”

Harry faltered, and looked at Calla’s desperate face. Her green eyes were filled with worry, and her hands were clutching at her white nightgown nervously. Harry’s resolve vanished.

“Okay,” he said softly, bending down to Calla’s level and giving her a hug. “You’re right. I’ll stay with you. That way we can all be safe.” He pulled away and tucked a strand of Calla’s black hair behind her ear. “Don’t worry,” he whispered to her. “I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

Calla bit her lip and nodded, attempting a smile. “Thanks dad,” she whispered back.

Parvati looked at Calla approvingly. “Good girl,” she said admiringly. “Now come, we must move quickly.”

“Wait!” Malfoy exclaimed, as they began to move toward the lifts. “What about me?”

Parvati rolled her eyes again. “I suppose you better come with us as well.”

Her heels clicking unsettlingly on the tiled floor, Parvati turned and opened the grills for one of the golden lifts. They all filed inside, and a second later were whisked away to the upper floors of the Ministry. Elle and Calla stood at the back, side by side. Elle was stroking Calla’s hair.

“Don’t worry,” Elle said quietly, repeating Harry’s assurances. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

Calla looked up at her mother. “Mum,” she said hesitantly. “Who’s Bellatrix? And why does she want to kill me?”

Elle sighed. “Bellatrix was one of Voldemort’s Death Eaters,” she explained slowly. “A very evil one. Remember the story I told you, of why your dad is so famous?” Calla nodded. “Well, after Voldemort was defeated, Bellatrix lost everything,” Elle continued. “And now, I suppose, she wants revenge.”

Calla narrowed her eyes. “But what does HE have to do with this?” she asked, pointing to the back of Malfoy’s head. Elle hesitated.

“Well…Bellatrix and Malfoy are related,” she said softly. “And Bellatrix sort of forced Malfoy into helping her. But it was a mistake…and now…now he’s going to help us.”

Malfoy shifted uneasily from his spot near the doors. Elle didn’t know if he had heard them or not. The elevator stopped, and they all tiptoed quietly out into the dark corridor, wands held aloft.

Elle gulped. They were right in front of the Auror offices. She hadn’t been there in ages, but it felt like just yesterday that she had been sitting in her own desk, right next to Hermione, swapping assignments with Harry. Harry had always tried to trade her for the more dangerous tasks, but they usually ended up going together. The two of them as a team had sent more Death Eaters and Voldemort supporters to Azkaban than any other Auror.

Elle spotted her old desk near the front, right by the windows. It was empty now, but it had once been filled with all her little knickknacks…pink office supplies, butterfly figurines, lace coverings, Starbucks coffee cups, pairs of jeweled sunglasses, hair accessories, framed photos of Harry and Calla, a candy jar…now, the desk just looked like a sad, lonely piece of wood. Elle remembered sitting in her swivel chair, shooting office memos over to Tonks on the other side of the office and pulling pranks on Moody’s desk whenever he left to go to the bathroom. Elle guessed that Moody probably didn’t miss the days of returning from the loo only to find that his desk had been turned into jello, or covered in bows. Ah, those were the good old days.

But taking care of Calla had been, and still was, more important. Being back in the Auror headquarters, Elle could remember the day she had quit so clearly…

They were in the middle of a large, luxurious banquet hall, celebrating Harry’s promotion. In a few moments, Harry would be named Head of the Auror office, in front of all their friends and coworkers. Elle had never seen Harry so happy in her whole life…finally, after all these years, he was doing what he was truly meant to do and was enjoying it wholeheartedly. And why shouldn’t he? He had worked hard for this, and he had his wife by his side to bask in his glory.

Yet Elle couldn’t shake the feeling that something just wasn’t right. Ever since the night Harry had told her Bellatrix Lestrange was dead, she had felt that something was wrong. She should have been relieved, but instead her fear for Calla’s safety intensified. And things hadn’t been so hot between her and Harry either. Harry was growing more distant by the day…he spent all his free time at work, he stopped coming home for dinner…he had even stopped picking up Calla from daycare, which used to be his favorite thing in the world. Lately, Elle had felt like a single mother…cooking for Calla by herself, putting her to bed, reading to her, and then getting up early to join Harry at work, where he would barely acknowledge her and only stop what he was doing to ask her how Calla was. Work used to be fun…but it was slowly and steadily becoming a nightmare.

Elle knew that Harry was keeping something from her; she just didn’t know what it could be. Was it another woman? That didn’t seem like something Harry would do…but then again, anything was possible.

Elle spotted Ron and Hermione across the room and walked over to them, Calla slung across her hip. The exuberant four-year-old beamed at the two of them and wriggled out of her mother’s grip.

Hermione laughed. “Hello Calla,” she said kindly. “I love the new dress! Did your mum buy that for you?”

Calla stuck out her lower lip, her beam suddenly replaced by a moody expression. She sashayed slightly from side to side, her pink lacy frock swishing noisily around her shins.

“Yeah,” she said sourly. “I hate it. It makes me look stupid.”

Elle sighed. “Calla, you loved it in the store!”

“No! It’s ugly! I want my Quidditch robes that dad bought me!”

Elle gritted her teeth. Calla had been acting like, well, like a brat. Ever since Harry had become so distant, Calla had been picking fights with her and refusing to listen. Elle hoped that it was just a phase…she knew Calla normally wasn’t like this. Elle had tried asking Harry for help, telling him that maybe if he spent more time at home it would make Calla feel better, but Harry ignored her and kept telling Elle that Calla would grow out of it. It was easy for him to say…he didn’t have to listen to his daughter’s embarrassing temper tantrums all the time…

Hermione gave Calla a sympathetic smile. “Nonsense,” she said assuringly. “You look beautiful.” She looked at Elle and the two girls shrugged their shoulders.

“You’re lucky you have a boy,” Elle told Hermione enviously.

Hermione grinned, glancing down at two-year-old Kevin, who was holding his father’s hand and looking at Calla with an uneasy expression.

“It’ll get better,” she told Elle comfortingly. “She just misses Harry, that’s all.”

“Where is he, anyway?” Ron asked, looking around.

Elle rolled her eyes. “Who knows?” she said bitterly. “I never see him anymore.”

Ron and Hermione glanced at each other. Hermione cleared her throat, and tucked her hair behind her hair. Elle noticed how radiant Hermione looked in her sleek black cocktail dress. Elle had tried to dress up nicely for her husband’s ceremony, but just before they were about to leave, Calla had deliberately spilled her bottle of juice all over Elle’s strapless red gown in a random fit. Elle had been too exhausted to repair the dress or to search for something new, so she had ended up attending the party in jeans and a t-shirt. She knew she looked wretched, and that she should’ve put more effort into her appearance seeing as how her husband was the guest of honor, but at the moment she didn’t quite care.

“Maybe if you just spoke to him…” Hermione suggested slowly.

Elle shook her head. “He doesn’t listen to me anymore,” she murmured, trying not to cry. The last thing she wanted to do was provoke Calla and risk a scene in front of all their colleagues. She glanced at Ron. “Maybe if you talked to him Ron…you’re his best friend, he’ll listen to you…”

Ron looked uncomfortable, but saw the desperate look on Elle’s face and nodded. “I have to admit, he’s been a downright arse lately,” Ron admitted.

Hermione narrowed her eyes and glanced down at Kevin. “Ron…” she warned.

Ron grinned sheepishly. “Oops, sorry,” he said, covering his son’s ears. He looked back up at Elle. “But I’ll talk to him,” he promised. “Let’s just let Harry enjoy his night.”

“Somebody say my name?”

Elle sighed and turned around. Harry jogged over to them, a huge smile on his face, looking fit and powerful in his brand new suit. He grinned down at Calla, and then looked at Ron, Hermione, Elle, and Kevin. Kevin looked up at him.

“Arse,” he repeated, and then giggled. Elle laughed.

“Good one, Kev,” she whispered, winking at the little boy.

“Daddy!” Calla cried. Harry picked up the little girl and twirled her around. Calla smiled and giggled happily, suddenly angelic. Her moodiness appeared to have vanished.

“I’m glad you guys made it!” Harry said exuberantly, grinning at Ron and Hermione.

“Of course!” Hermione said, laughing. “We wouldn’t have missed this for the world!”

“Yeah, well done mate,” Ron said, slapping a hand on Harry’s back. “Head of the Auror office. You’ve earned it.”

“I never could’ve done it without you two,” Harry said sincerely, putting Calla down and running a hand through his windswept hair. His glasses sat lopsided on his nose, but he didn’t bother to fix them.

Elle wanted nothing more than to punch him in his face. It was like she didn’t even exist.

“Where have you been all night?” Elle asked in exasperation, putting her hands on her hips. “You were supposed to help us get ready and then we were going to come here together.”

Harry turned and stared at Elle, as if just realizing that she was there. “What are you wearing?” he asked in disbelief.

Elle’s face turned red. “Calla ruined my dress,” she said through clenched teeth. “If you had been there, maybe I could have fixed it…”

Harry took a deep breath, feeling a twinge of annoyance. “You really should stop blaming everything on Calla,” he said to his wife sourly. “We all know how clumsy you are.”

“Mate,” Ron said in a warning tone, catching Harry’s eye. “How about you just drop it, okay?”

“But Elle, this is my promotion ceremony! How do you think this makes me look, having my wife show up looking like she can’t be bothered to be here?”

“Harry!” Hermione said in shock, looking at him in outrage.

It took all of Elle’s strength not to curse Harry right where he stood. “Never mind,” she spat, flipping her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “You stay here with Calla, I’ll just see you guys later. Make sure you keep an eye on her…you can do that much at least, can’t you?”

She stalked off, heading in the direction of the open bar. Harry sighed and closed his eyes, massaging his temples with his hand. Calla seemed a little surprised at her mother leaving so suddenly, but then her and Kevin began to play and the two kids were instantly distracted from the awkward tension surrounding the adults.

“What was that for?” Hermione hissed. “Why did you have to be so hard on her? You know how hard she’s been working, taking care of Calla and finishing up all those assignments at work…”

“I’ve been working just as hard,” Harry shot back. “You know why I have to be at wok all the time, you know why I have to keep my distance…if she finds out that Bellatrix is still alive…if I don’t find Bellatrix and kill her soon…”

“I know,” Hermione said gently. “I know you’re trying to protect her. But Harry, don’t you think you’re being a little harsh? She’s still your wife, after all. And you’re being unfair.”

Ron nodded in agreement. “Yeah, she doesn’t deserve to be treated like that,” he said honestly.

Harry immediately felt guilty. He looked at Elle from across the room. He knew that he hadn’t been spending much time with her lately, and that he’d been preoccupied in finding Bellatrix…but she knew he still loved her…didn’t she?

“She could be a little more understanding,” Harry said in his own defense. “You know Elle, she’s always being difficult…”

He looked to Ron and Hermione for support, but none came. It was clear that they were on Elle’s side.

“Alright,” he conceded, suddenly ashamed of himself. “I’ll talk to her. Come on, Calla,” he said, taking the little girl’s hand. Calla waved goodbye to Kevin and clutched Harry’s hand tightly as they walked through the crowd. Harry kept getting stopped by various people congratulating him on his promotion, but his heart was no longer in it. Elle, for once, was at the top of his mind.

He finally made it to the bar, where Elle was standing against the wall, glowering at the crowd and sipping slowly on a butterbeer. Calla came up to her and touched her leg gently.

“Hi mama,” she said quietly.

Elle’s face relaxed, and she picked Calla up and hugged her. She knew Calla didn’t mean the things that she said or did. All those tantrums and fits were just her way of coping with Harry’s unexplained absences. Elle figured that if she were a four-year-old, she would be acting the same exact way. Every day that Elle left Calla to go to work was like fighting a losing battle…Elle couldn’t bear leaving her. All they had was each other, and they needed to stick together, with or without Harry.

“Hi baby,” she whispered back, holding her daughter tightly.

Harry watched the two of them, and he got an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. How much longer would he have to keep abandoning the two people he cared for most in the whole world?

“Hey,” Harry said to Elle, softening his gaze. “I’m sorry for what I said earlier.” He gave her a small smile. “You look beautiful tonight.”

Elle swallowed, her eyes growing misty. “Harry,” she said slowly, gathering up her courage for what she was about to say. “I have to tell you something…”

“Hold on,” Harry said, stopping her as he saw the Minister of Magic arrive out of the corner of his eye. The Minister walked to the center of the room and cleared his throat, magically magnifying his voice with his wand. The whole room fell to a hush.

Harry looked at Elle, his heart beating in exhilaration. “Can it wait a second?”

Elle frowned. “Not really,” she said. “I need to tell you…”

“Ladies and Gentleman!” The Minister announced. “Thank you all for coming. It is my very great pleasure to announce the new Head of Auror office, a young man who has proved himself worthy in every aspect of defense against the dark arts…”

Ron and Hermione were at the very front of the room, smiling at Harry. Tonks, Kingsley, Moody, and all the rest of his fellow Aurors were there as well, beaming and waving at him. Calla was looking up at him admiringly. This was it…the moment he had waited most of his life for…

“Harry, I’ve been thinking and…”

“It is my great pleasure to introduce our guest of honor, Mr. Harry James Potter!”

The whole room erupted in applause. Calla jumped up and down laughing, clapping her hands. Harry was just about to turn and shake the Minister’s hand, when Elle took hold of his arm and held him back for a moment.

“Elle,” Harry whispered. “The Minister’s waiting, everybody’s looking at me, I’ll be right back…”

“I quit, Harry.”

Harry stopped and stared at her, white-faced. “What? What do you mean?”

“I’m quitting my job. I don’t want to be an Auror anymore.”

There was silence between them. The room continued to cheer. Calla began tugging on Harry’s leg, and Harry glared at Elle.

“Now,” he said through gritted teeth. “You tell me this now…”

Elle nodded, her eyes watering. “I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “I’ll turn in my resignation to the Minister tomorrow…or to you, I guess, since you’re my boss now.” She bent down and picked up Calla, who instantly began to whine at being torn away from Harry.

“Congratulations,” Elle told him stiffly, before turning around and pushing her way back through the room.

Harry stared after her, before gathering his wits and shakily making his way up the Minister. He shook the Minister’s hand, and flashbulbs from cameras burst all around him.

The party continued well into the night. Elle never returned.

Elle sighed, tearing her gaze away from her old desk. Harry had become even more distant after that night. He usually crashed at Ron and Hermione’s place, but after their son Michael was born he spent even more of his time at work, oftentimes sleeping at his desk or renting out muggle hotel rooms in the surrounding area. When he did come home, it was always at ridicules times like one or two in the morning, and he would stay just long enough to grab a bite to eat, sleep, and change his clothes before heading back to work. Elle often felt as if her and Calla lived alone.

On the other hand, Elle felt much better being able to stay home with Calla. Sure, it was hard the first couple of months…she missed her job, and missed feeling like she had a purpose in life. But she no longer felt guilty about neglecting her child. She took it upon herself to teach Calla everything she knew and to open her eyes to new things. And even though it took awhile, Calla finally grew used to not having Harry around. The temper tantrums stopped, and Calla began to grow older, wiser, and more independent by the day. Before she knew it, Elle was celebrating Calla’s eleventh birthday, and the summer before she would leave for Hogwarts was approaching fast.

Parvati led them all to a hidden corridor near the back of the Auror offices and they stopped in front of a blank wall. Parvati took out her wand and tapped the wall three times. Magically, a door appeared out of nowhere. Parvati turned the doorknob and led them inside.

It was a tiny room with wood floors and blank walls. There was no furniture, no adornments, no windows…nothing. The only thing remarkable about the room was a shelf lining the far wall, which was filled to the brim with all kinds of defensive magical objects- a sneakoscope, an invisibility cloak, Peruvian instant darkness powder, and a pensieve were among them.

Malfoy raised his eyebrows. “THIS is the safe room?” he asked in disbelief. “I have rooms at the Malfoy Manor that are more secure than this.”

Parvati sighed. “Only employees who work in the Minister’s office have access to this room. There’s a magical force field around it, as well as an alarm system installed, so if somebody tries to enter we’ll know immediately.” She looked at Harry and Elle. “If you two need help, send a message to either me or Kingsley with your patronus. We’ll come and get you as soon as we’re sure the area is secure. Other than that, I’d advise you not to try and contact anybody by any other means.”

Elle, despising the fact that she was being forced to take orders from Parvati, nodded dully. Calla looked tense, and Harry seemed slightly aggravated that he was now obligated to entrap himself in yet another deserted room with his ex-wife.

“What about me?” Malfoy asked, smirking at Parvati. “Want me to stand as bodyguard?”

Parvati shook her head. “You are to come with me,” she ordered. “And tell me everything you know about Bellatrix Lestrange- her whereabouts, her motives…and how you became involved with her.”

Malfoy grinned at her uneasily. “You know,” he said, in the familiar Malfoy drawl. “I always liked you.”

Parvati recoiled. “Ugh,” she said, looking disgusted.

They stood back as Harry, Elle, and Calla made their way into the safe room. Elle touched Malfoy’s arm gently as she passed through the threshold.

“Hey,” she said quietly, locking eyes with him. “Thanks.”

Malfoy looked down. “Don’t thank me yet,” he muttered.

Harry looked at Elle’s hand, and how it was resting comfortably on Malfoy’s shoulder. A feeling of intense rage bubbled inside of him.

“Malfoy,” he hissed, clenching his hands into fists. “If anything happens to my daughter…I’m coming after you…”

“And if nothing does happen to your daughter, then you won’t have to,” Malfoy interrupted tiredly, rolling his eyes. “If you guys survive, then I’ll probably be dead.”

Harry shut his mouth. He took Calla’s hand, and the two of them walked hesitantly inside the room. Elle gave Malfoy and Parvati one last look before taking a deep breath, and stepped over the entranceway. Parvati nodded briskly, and sealed the door behind them.






“Well…” Elle said, looking around the bare room and shrugging her shoulders. “At least it’s better than the courtroom.”

“And it has toys,” Calla said in forced lightheartedness, walking over to the shelf and picking up the sneakoscope.

“Don’t touch that, you might break it,” Elle said, in the meantime running her fingers over the pensieve. She tripped over a bit of raised floor, knocked the pensieve over, and it went tumbling to the ground with a loud thunk.

Calla laughed. “Great example, mum.” She bent down to pick up the pensieve and returned it to the shelf. “What is this anyway?”

“It stores your memories,” Harry murmured, joining them in front of the shelf and peering at the pensieve.

Calla raised her eyebrows. “Sounds like you’ve had some experience with that one, dad,” she said suspiciously.

Harry grinned. “I’ll tell you a story sometime,” he promised.

Elle bit her lip, fighting back her words. Sometime, soon, and eventually were a few of the favorite phrases Harry liked to say to Calla, and she bought it every time. Elle sighed and walked over to the other side of the room, sinking back against the wall and sliding down to sit on the floor. Calla joined her, resting her head against her mother’s shoulder.

Elle smiled, stroking Calla’s hair gently. “You should try to sleep,” she told Calla softly. “We might be in here for a while, and it’s very late.”

“But I’m not tired,” Calla replied, yawning.

Elle laughed. “What did Ron and Hermione say when you told them where you were going?”

Calla hesitated and began examining her fingernails, avoiding Elle’s gaze. “Actually…I never told them where I was going.”

Elle frowned. “What?”

“Well, I left them a note…”

“Oh Calla! They must be worried sick!”

“It’s okay,” Calla said quickly, reaching into the pocket of her nightgown. “I took the cell phone with me. Ron and Hermione have a phone in their house now, so that Kevin and Michael’s muggle grandparents can call. I can call them right now and tell them that I’m alright!”

“Calla, you heard Parvati, we aren’t supposed to contact anybody…”

“Oh please tell me you aren’t going to listen to that woman! She was so rude to you!”

Elle laughed again. “Trust me, that was downright cheerful compared to what she’s usually like. At least she’s trying to help us…”

Harry stayed silent as he watched Elle and Calla converse. Both of their heads were bent together in comfortable banter, Elle’s blonde hair mingling with Calla’s black, like the perfect image of night and day. He watched as Elle absentmindedly threw her arms around Calla’s shoulders, throwing her head back to laugh whenever Calla tossed her an amusing wisecrack. He watched the dimples shine in Calla’s smile as she argued playfully with her mother, her green eyes full of sarcasm and sincerity. It was clear for anyone watching to see- the two of them were very close, and nothing would ever be able to break them apart.

Harry knew that Elle had basically devoted her whole life to taking care of Calla, but Calla was older now, and would be going off to Hogwarts soon. Then Elle would be left alone, and what would she do then? Harry had never thought about this before, but the idea worried him. Without Calla, Elle would be lost. She lived and breathed for her daughter…but what would she do when Calla no longer needed her?

“Here,” Harry said suddenly, interrupting them out of their reverie. “Give me the cell, I’ll call them up.”

Calla looked at Harry in surprise. “Dad, I wasn’t really being serious. What if something bad happens?”

Harry gave her an assuring look. “Nothing bad is going to happen,” he said confidently. “I just don’t want Ron and Hermione doing anything drastic, they’ll think it’s their fault you went missing.”

Elle raised her eyebrows. “So the goody-two-shoes Auror is actually going to break the rules?” she asked in mock astonishment.

Harry ignored her, and retrieved the cell phone from Calla. He took a few minutes, pretending to be busy searching for the number and checking the reception. There wasn’t a great signal, since they were both underground and surrounded by magic, but he figured he could at least give it a try.

Calla settled back down, her head resting once more on Elle’s shoulder. Her eyes closed, and soon Elle’s eyes closed as well. A couple of minutes later, the sound of heavy breathing met Harry’s ears, and he could tell that the two of them were near sleep. Harry took a deep breath, and dialed the number for the Weasley residence. To his great relief, Ron picked up after the first ring. Thankfully, he wasn’t shouting this time.

“Ron, it’s me!” Harry whispered urgently into the cell phone.

“Harry? Bloody hell, where are you? Are you alright?” Ron answered at once, sounding anxious.

“Yeah, me, Elle, and Calla are just hiding out in the safe room until the coast is clear,” Harry responded, as quietly as he could. “Calla fell asleep, and I think Elle’s starting to drift off too. I assume you got Kingsley’s message?”

“Yeah,” Ron said. “Hermione’s just packing up the boys’ stuff and then we’re dropping them off at my mum’s before heading to the Ministry. We were worried sick after we got Calla’s message and Hermione almost had a heart attack when she found her missing…”

“It’s okay, we’re alright now,” Harry interrupted.

“Good. Listen mate, I’ve got to go, I’ll be there as soon as I can and we’ll track down this hag…”

“Hey Ron, can I ask you something?” Harry interjected again, pacing slowly around the tiny room.

“What?” Ron asked, now sounding confused.

“Do you…I mean…were you being honest when you told me that I did the right thing by divorcing Elle?” Harry asked, making sure to keep his voice low and steady so that Elle wouldn’t hear him.

Ron sighed wearily. “I had a feeling this was coming.” He cleared his throat. “To tell you the truth mate, I thought you were making the biggest mistake of your life,” he answered bluntly, after a lengthy pause.

Harry frowned. “Seriously? Then why…”

“Because you’re my best friend, you were having a shitty night, and I wanted to make you feel better,” Ron replied in exasperation. “Youd’ve done the same for me. Besides, what did I know? Maybe it was for the best.”

“But Ron, how could I possibly have stayed married to someone who doesn’t trust me?” Harry asked, suddenly wild for justification and support.

“Oh give it up, will you?” Now Ron was annoyed. “You gave her plenty of reason not to trust you, and you know it! Now I’m not saying a lot of this isn’t her fault too!” Ron continued hastily, before Harry could angrily interrupt. “But you lied to her about something major, and then claimed that you had never lied at all! I mean, would YOU trust you?”

Harry sighed. “I guess not,” he grumbled. “But maybe you were right, and we have changed…”

“People are allowed to change and still stay together,” Ron told him wisely. “Honestly, I can’t think of anyone more perfect for you than Elle.”

“Why?” Harry asked, confused. “We barely have anything in common. Okay yeah, we both like Quidditch and saving people, but other than that we have no similar hobbies, our taste in music, food, movies…pretty much everything…is completely different, and well…she’s crazy!”

“That’s not true!” Ron objected. “You both love…uh…Calla!” He sighed again. “Okay, so you two are different. Big deal. That’s not why you guys are so nauseatingly made for each other.”

“Why are we, then?” Harry asked curiously.

Harry could hear Ron grumbling under his breath, probably cursing himself for having to take part in this tedious discussion over Harry’s love life.

“You want an example? Fine. Remember when I came with you to take Calla shopping for a toy broom, and you bought what you thought was a Witch Weekly magazine for Elle, but what was really an issue of…”

Hogsmeade Hotties,” Harry whispered, mortified at the reminder of his accidental purchase of the Wizarding World’s equivalent to Playboy. “That was an accident, Ron.”

“Of course it was,” Ron said smoothly. “Anyway, my point is, any other wife would have been seething over the fact that her husband was looking at porn…”

“I didn’t even open it!” Harry exclaimed.

“…But when Elle saw it, instead of throwing it in the fire and slapping you in the face, she glanced at the magazine and said, ‘Hmm. Interesting. Anything good in there?’ And then she asked if you would mind if she borrowed it! Now that is every man’s dream wife. If only Hermione were so understanding…”

Harry grinned. It was true, Elle did laugh off a lot of things Harry did…stuff that he knew would render at least a long lecture if it happened in the presence of any other woman. But still…was this small fact enough to save their marriage? Or was it already too late?

“I guess what I’m saying,” Ron continued, “is that she puts up with you. And speaking as someone who’s been your friend for the past two decades, that’s quite enough to overcome all of your differences.”

Harry saw Elle stir out of the corner his eye, and her blonde hair swiveled as she looked around for him.

“I gotta go,” Harry hissed to Ron. “I’ll see you once we get out of this mess. Good luck, be careful.”

“You too,” Ron said, before hanging up.

Elle stared at Harry as he pocketed the cell phone, being careful not to wake Calla up. “Everything okay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Harry said, throwing her a rare, weary smile. “Ron and Hermione are on their way to the Ministry.”

Elle sighed. “I hope they know what they’re doing.”

“They’ll be fine,” Harry said, taking out his wand and conjuring a bundle of blankets and pillows for Calla out of thin air. Elle slowly took the sleeping girl and laid her down, throwing the covers over her and brushing her hair off of her face.

“Sleep tight, my girl,” she whispered. She stood up, and joined Harry on the other side of the room. They both stood motionless for a few beats, observing their daughter.

“She’s getting so big,” Harry said to Elle, a small grin playing at the corners of his mouth.

“Yeah, our little girl is all grown up,” Elle replied, smiling nostalgically. “And she’s slipping through our fingers.”

Harry took a deep breath, running a hand through his tangled black hair. “Listen, Elle…” he said, not knowing quite where to begin. “I know this night’s been crazy, and we haven’t really had a chance to talk in…well…a long time…but I just wanted to say, I’m sorry.”

Elle looked at Harry in shock. “What?” she asked, feeling as if she had just hallucinated.

Harry cleared his throat. “I’m sorry,” he repeated. “For lying to you. For being a lousy husband. For…for everything.”

Elle opened her mouth to say something, but then shut it again. She pulled back her hair into a ponytail, and then released it and let it loose again. Whenever she was at a loss for words, she always resorted to playing with her hair. Finally, her hands returned to her side, and her eyes met Harry’s. Truthfully, she appreciated his apology. It had just come a few years too late.

“Thanks,” she said, chewing on her lip.

Harry ran his hands against his jeans, casting a tired eye around the room. “Well, I guess there’s nothing left to do but wait…”

“Harry?”

Harry looked back at Elle. “Yeah?”

“I…I’m sorry too.”


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