I took McBride's bounty straight to Mrs. Kochel. It wasn't the full amount, but it was enough to keep her from throwing us out until I got her the rest of the money. I was sort of afraid that if I didn't pay our rent a bit early, Scorpius's agent was going to come up with another fee to eat away at our meagre funds. And as much as I loved my boyfriend and wanted him to be successful, I wasn't sure how much I trusted this agent fellow. After all, what did we really know about him?
I only brought this up with Scorpius once, and he got so angry about it, he went and slept on the recliner in the living room. I didn't trust his ability to judge character, apparently. So I didn't mentioned it again, and though Scorpius was still a little snippy, things seemed to go back to normal, relatively speaking.
Speaking of relatives, my cousin Dominique's dinner party was looming. I had already gotten dressed when Scorpius informed me he would not be coming along, because he had been unable to procure a babysitter for Lenny.
“Ha ha,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“You go on and have a good time,” Scorpius told me, watching me fasten on a pair of dangly earrings.
“If you're still brassed off because of what I said about Mr. Barnes,” I began, and he interrupted me in a lofty and rather annoying voice.
“No no, I'm just really feeling the painting tonight. I think I'm going to finish it. The last layer of paint should be dry enough by now for me to carry on.”
“Fine,” I said.
“Fine,” he said.
I went to the dinner party alone. Clearly being cooped up together for too long, with an illegal houseguest, was straining our cordiality a bit.
Dominique and her husband lived in a very nice, Edwardian terraced home near Cambridge. She had married Andrew Campbell four years ago, and had a son who was roughly the age of Victoire's daughter (I was even more vague about Dominique's baby than I was about the Lupin kids). I didn't like Andrew. I'd tried, because Dominique had been so determined to marry him, but I thought he was a pompous arse. Dominique was something of a pompous arse herself, so this seemed to work out for them.
Victoire was waiting outside when I got to Dominique's street, and handed me a bottle of wine. “Here,” she said. “Use it well.”
“Thanks. Where's Teddy?”
“Still being a baby. Where's Scorpius?”
Victoire chuckled. “Men,” she said tolerantly.
“So, you reckon she's pregnant?” I said as we went up the stairs.
“I can't think why else she would call us all here. You know Dommie, she likes to make a statement.”
Dominique's engagement announcement had involved a seven-course meal and a display of fireworks, and the birth of little Thornton had caused the arrival of singing letters in iambic pentameter (Scorpius had called it a Howler, which it hadn't technically been, though it had been really loud). So if she were pregnant again, a large dinner party seemed right up her alley. Great, we got to celebrate the procreative powers of the Weasleys tonight. Again.
“Are you going to tell her about...” I pointed at Victoire's belly.
“No. Shh. I haven't even told Teddy yet.” Victoire didn't bother to knock, but went right in. Privileges of a sister, I supposed.
Dominique was in the living room, surrounded by most of my female cousins. I spotted Molly over with the men, who were huddled around a small wireless that was replaying the last Quidditch game of the season. It appeared Dominique had actually gotten all the cousins together, which was no small feat. Even Lucy was there, and she hardly ever turned up to family gatherings if she could possibly avoid us. But all twelve of us were here tonight. It was sort of nice, even though I thought Dominique was mental.
“Oh, that was rough, he really ate it on that one,” Molly was saying, shaking her head at the tiny screen of the wireless.
“Broke his arm, didn't he?” James agreed. “Yeah, there go the medi-wizards...”
“Victoire!” Dominique said, leaving her little circle. She was a little taller than her sister, a lot thinner, and a lot less fun. “There you are, chérie. I wondered when you would get here.”
“Hello, dear,” Victoire said, giving her sister a kiss on the cheek. Dominique liked to play up their French side. Victoire did not. If she actually spoke any French, I didn't recall ever hearing it. I wasn't so sure Dominique actually spoke much either. Enough to sound pretentious and somewhat social-climbing. Her husband was an attorney with the Ministry, did I mention? You could practically smell the ambition when you got around Dominique and her husband.
I was smelling a little less ambition than usual, actually. I looked around her living room. Andrew was nowhere to be seen. I was about to ask where he was but was interrupted by a loud roar from the area around the wireless.
“So close,” Albus said, shaking his head. “Missed it by an inch.”
Dominique waved her wand at the wireless, which shut off. There came a general mutter of disappointment, and she said brightly, “Come along to the table, everyone.”
Andrew was definitely not there. The meal (three courses) seemed otherwise normal for a Weasley meal, with several conversations going on at once, except that nobody asked about Dominique's husband. By the time the pudding was over, I was starting to wonder what was going on, because I didn't think she was pregnant again after all. Dominique finally got to her feet at the head of the table, and cleared her throat.
This had very little effect.
“Shut up, you lot,” Victoire said loudly over the din.
Everyone fell silent, except Fred chortling a bit at the back, and Dominique drew a deep breath.
“I wanted to let all of you know first,” she began, her voice steady but oddly toneless. “But you mustn't tell the adults until after I've let our mum and dad know.”
The words could have meant pregnancy, but from the way she said them, I was sure now that wasn't it. I had a bad feeling about this. Victoire and I exchanged a glance, and I knew she was thinking the same thing.
“Andrew and I are getting a divorce,” Dominique announced.
Lily drew in her breath sharply. “What happened?”
“He's... he's met someone else,” Dominique said, and burst into tears. There was a general outcry from the table, as half my cousins rushed to comfort her, and the other half broke into fiery denouncements of Andrew.
“That bastard!” James said loudly.
“We'll take care of him for you, Dommie,” Louis promised. There was an uncharacteristically ugly look on his face.
“He says he's going to marry her,” she sobbed. “I don't know what I did wrong. I don't understand, I thought he loved me...”
“Shh, it will be all right,” Lucy said, hugging her.
“How?” Dominique demanded hysterically. “How will it be all right? He said they've sent the notice to the papers! The papers! He only told me last week, the bastard!”
“I'm going to kill him,” Louis said.
“I'll help,” James volunteered.
“Yeah, I'll hold his arms,” Fred agreed. Hugo was nodding vigorously beside him.
Albus, always the most rational of my male cousins, sighed and said, “Hold his arms? Are you barbarians? Put him in a Body-Bind Curse, then we can all have a go at him at once.”
“Do you want to be arrested?” Victoire said loudly. “You need to be Disillusioned, then have a go at him. That way he can't identify you to the MLEs and press charges.”
“Good thinking,” Louis said, nodding at his sister. “Disillusion ourselves, Body-Bind the bastard, and then we can get him.”
Dominique sniffed, wiping the tears off her face. “Thanks, boys. It means a lot to me that you'd do that.” She tried to say something more but went back to sobbing broken-heartedly instead.
I was standing near her, between Victoire and Lily, and I started to edge backward a bit, away from the hysterics (I don't like crying, okay? I don't even like my own crying), but Lily grabbed my arm and held me in place. Victoire didn't seem to notice.
“Is there anything we can do?” she asked her sister gently. “I'll watch Thornton any time you need, of course.”
Dominique managed a nod, and threw her arms around Victoire. I was pretty sure she was just nodding in gratitude, since she didn't make any suggestions of what we could do.
The boys had what they could do well in hand. Hugo seemed to be organizing the boys into a hit squad, and was advising them on the most painful hexes they could use on Andrew. Being a trainee Healer clearly had its uses.
“When are you going to tell Mum and Dad?” Victoire asked softly, stroking her sister's hair.
“I don't know,” came Dominique's voice, muffled against Victoire's robes. “Promise you won't tell them, Victoire. You can't say anything to any of the adults, or they'll tell Mum and Dad.”
“I promise, I won't say anything.” Her voice was very soothing. Dominique was still crying, hugging her sister while Victoire held her in almost the same way she held her children.
“I don't know what to do any more,” Dominique mumbled. “I... I haven't got anything left.”
“Of course you do,” Victoire said briskly. “You still have your son.”
Dominique nodded, sniffing loudly. “Yes. My baby...”
“Get Thornton and pack some of your things, you're coming to stay with me for a few days, all right?” Victoire nodded firmly and set Dominique upright again. “Yes, that's what you'll do. Go on, go pack, you'll come home with me.”
This seemed like a good plan to me, and not only because it absolved me of any need for involvement in the whole mess. Not that I could have done much anyway, since I couldn't exactly invite Dominique and her baby to stay with me and Scorpius when we already had an accused murderer sleeping on the couch. Besides, Victoire was her sister, and she had a really nice guest room. And a baby-proofed house.
Dominique went off to her room, accompanied by Lucy and Roxanne, to pack her bags, and Molly began a loud conversation with Lily about how she'd known all along that Andrew was no good and would do this to Dominique someday. Lily had apparently also known all along. I felt sort of left out; I'd just always thought he was a git. Victoire glanced around and then drew me aside a bit.
“Tomorrow's Sunday,” she said in a low voice. “They put the engagement notices in the Daily Prophet on Sundays. What if Andrew is announcing his engagement tomorrow? We have to stop it, or Mum and Dad will know what's going on.”
“Stop the paper from printing an engagement notice?” I repeated skeptically.
Victoire nodded firmly. “Yes. It will be too painful for Dommie to see it, it's better if it doesn't run until she's had more time. And we don't want anyone else in the family to see it.”
“Stop the press, are you mad? How are we supposed to do that? Dominique never does things like this,” I complained, feeling irritated that I had to be part of another familial madcap scheme. “Normally the really mental stuff comes out of Roxanne and Fred.”
“And you,” Victoire pointed out.
“And Johnny,” I retorted.
“Johnny doesn't count,” she replied. “Look, you go over first thing tomorrow morning to Aunt Ginny's and see if she can call in a favour and have this stopped. She knows everyone at that paper, and she's married to Harry Potter. If she can't stop it, then it can't be done.”
It was true, Aunt Ginny got away with absolute murder because she was married to The Boy Who Lived. “We promised not to tell any of the adults,” I said uneasily.
“No, I promised. You never said anything,” Victoire said serenely. “You'll have to have Scorpius wake you up early. And I mean early, Rose, not nine or ten. The paper will have already gone to press if you wait too long.”
“Why me?” I asked.
“Aunt Ginny likes you best,” she said. I wasn't sure that was actually true, so I gave her a look.
She rolled her eyes. “All right, she likes you a lot, and you know how close she and Uncle Harry are with your parents, that ought to count for something. And you haven't anything better to do, and you're a fast talker.”
“All right, all right, I'll do it,” I said. “How early are we talking, though?”
I was sort of hoping nobody would be awake at the Potters' at this hour of the morning (honestly, I don't think those numbers should even exist), because then I could Apparate home and go back to bed, but I could see lights on. Someone was up.
I sighed and knocked on the door. At my parents' house, I just went right in, but Uncle Harry was Head Auror. I wasn't sure I could walk right in, and even if I did, I wasn't sure I wanted to. Who knew what his security was like.
Aunt Ginny answered, still wearing her dressing gown over her pyjamas. Her red hair was tied up in a sloppy ponytail, showing off a few streaks of grey. “Rose! My goodness, it's not even seven, what are you doing up so early?”
“I'm sorry to bother you, but it's kind of an emergency.” I followed Aunt Ginny into the house to the kitchen, where she sat me down at the barstool next to the butcher block island in the middle of her spacious kitchen (I'm pretty sure Scorpius would leave me for Aunt Ginny's kitchen. Every time he's been to the Potters' house, he's given it longing, soulful gazes the entire time).
“What's going on? Do you want me to make coffee?”
Aunt Ginny got up to start a pot of coffee, and I tried to think of how to break the news to her.
“Victoire sent me. We need a favour, and it has to be this morning. We think you're the only one who can do it.”
Aunt Ginny smiled, pulling out two coffee cups from a cabinet. “I'll do my best. What is it?”
“Dominique's husband left her-”
Aunt Ginny dropped a cup. It shattered against the tiles, and she gaped at me. “What? But Thornton isn't even a year old! How could he? That bastard-”
“Yeah, I know,” I said, making a face to indicate that Andrew Campbell was the biggest bastard in the world. “But he says he's met someone else and wants to marry her, and he told Dominique that he put the notice in the papers and we're afraid it will go out before Dominique has a chance to tell Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur about her divorce, she doesn't want them to find out that way-”
“Say no more,” Aunt Ginny said, holding up a hand. She picked up her wand from the counter and waved it at the broken cup, which leapt back onto the island and repaired itself. “I'm friends with the editor of the Daily Prophet, I'll Floo her and she'll have the notice pulled if it was set to run today. I doubt she'll run it at all, actually; her first husband left her in much the same way.”
“Thank you,” I said, smiling at her. Aunt Ginny really was very cool.
She went off to the fireplace to Floo her friend, and I watched the coffee dripping for a bit until she returned.
“There, all taken care of.” Aunt Ginny went over to pour us some coffee, and handed me a cup. “So he ran off and left her? With a little baby? What an unbelievable pile of rat droppings. I never liked Andrew.”
“That seems to be the general consensus,” I agreed. “I never liked him much either, but I didn't think he'd do this.”
“Well, there won't be much left of him when Bill finds out. Bill will kill him.” Aunt Ginny smiled serenely, sipping her coffee. Apparently she was fine with the idea of her brother killing someone. I hadn't stopped my brother from joining in on that sort of plan myself, so I supposed I shouldn't judge.
“He'll have to kill whatever's left when the boys are through with him,” I told her. “Louis was heading up a mob last night after Dominique told us.”
“Poor Dommie,” Aunt Ginny said, shaking her head. “Good for the boys. Just don't let them get caught.”
“Victoire suggested they Disillusion themselves first,” I said.
“Good thinking, that woman.”
“Thanks for helping us, Aunt Ginny.” I smiled at her, feeling very fond of my auntie. “You have to promise not to tell anyone about Dominique's divorce, though. She made us all swear not to tell.”
“You told me,” Aunt Ginny pointed out with a small smile.
“Well, I had to. Besides, I never actually swore.”
“I see. Is she already divorced now?”
I shrugged. “I don't think so. She was a little hysterical at the dinner party when she told us about it, I didn't get the whole story.”
Aunt Ginny's eyebrows went up. “She told you at a dinner party?”
“She threw a dinner party to tell us,” I corrected her. “Invited all the cousins.”
“Oh my,” Aunt Ginny said, shaking her head. “That is very... very like her. Well, she's better off without him, he's obviously not good enough for her.”
We drank our coffees for a bit, then Aunt Ginny asked, “How are you and Scorpius?”
“Good. Had a little argument a few days ago,” I admitted. I never talked to my parents about it when Scorpius and I fought. I hated seeing my dad's eyes light up with the hope that I might dump Scorpius, and my mum asking me if I want to move back home... Ugh. But I didn't mind talking to my aunt about it. She didn't judge, and even though she didn't like the Malfoys either, she didn't seem to be eagerly awaiting the day I came to my senses and dumped my boyfriend. I liked talking to her, actually. I was feeling sort of glad now that Victoire had made me come over here, even if it was far too early in the morning to be early in the morning.
“Sorry to hear that,” Aunt Ginny said, and I knew she meant it. “It happens to all couples. I fight with your uncle all the time. And I don't know if you've noticed, but your parents have been known to fight occasionally as well.”
That was the understatement of the year. “Yeah, I've noticed.”
“What were you fighting over?”
“Oh...” I sighed. “It's this agent he's got for his paintings, there are so many fees to start up, and I said to him, we don't really know anything about this bloke, and he got all angry and said I should trust him to be a good judge of character or something like that.”
“Ah.” Aunt Ginny nodded sagely. “You crushed his masculine ego a bit.”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“He's got an agent though? That's good, isn't it? Maybe his career will start taking off now.”
I appreciated that she had refrained from adding the word finally.
“I hope so. He's very talented,” I said, and grinned then, wanting to lighten the mood. I didn't want to think about doubts. Scorpius had an agent, and he was finally going to make it. “Someday he'll be a famous painter. I just don't know how I'll handle his celebrity status.”
“Ah yes,” Aunt Ginny said dryly. “Being married to a celebrity can be a pain.”
“Yeah, but on the other hand, I'll have known Scorpius since before he became famous. It'll be different than with you and Uncle Harry. He was already famous when you met him.”
“When I met him, he was eleven years old and a twerp,” said Aunt Ginny.
“Scorpius was a twerp when I met him, too,” I said fondly, thinking of my first day on the Hogwarts Express. All right, I'd been kind of a twerp back then, too, but Scorpius had definitely been one.
Aunt Ginny didn't seem to be listening to me any more, though. She went on in a dreamy sort of voice, “Then he kept saving me and my family. And then he saved everyone. Sometimes I still think how amazing it is that Harry Potter loves me.”
I eyed her warily. Maybe someone had conked her on the head while I wasn't looking. I'll admit, I dissociate a little between the famous Harry Potter, Boy Who Lived, Chosen One, and Defeater of You-Know-Who, and the Uncle Harry I knew, who had once tickled me until I wet my pants (in my defense, I was only six). I had a hard time picturing him as a boy killing basilisks and Dark wizards, and just as much difficulty picturing him as a romantic hero to poor deluded Aunt Ginny.
Uncle Harry came in then, looking rumpled and in need of a shave and wearing a pair of pyjama bottoms with a tear in the knee. He looked pretty scraggly and scarred, and I was pretty sure there was a law that said men his age weren't allowed to run around shirtless. Yuck.
Aunt Ginny seemed to snap out of her reverie when she saw her husband. I was half-expecting her to burst into an embarrassing confession of love, but instead she said, “Did you take out the rubbish?”
Uncle Harry looked shifty for a moment, then said, “I was, uh, saving it. For first thing this morning.”
Aunt Ginny rolled her eyes, and Uncle Harry took out the rubbish. Things seemed to be back to normal, so I decided to pretend I hadn't had that little conversation with Aunt Ginny.
“What are you doing here so early, Rose?” Uncle Harry asked when he came back in. “I wasn't aware you ever got up before noon.”
“Um.” I wasn't sure if I should tell him or not. It was sort of need to know. Aunt Ginny had definitely needed to know, but her husband didn't. Would she feel that she had to tell him?
“Just girl stuff,” Aunt Ginny said firmly. “Don't worry about it, dear. Want me to knock up some breakfast?”
“I do,” I volunteered. Aunt Ginny was far and away a better cook than my mum. Honestly, those Potter kids didn't know how good they'd had it.
Uncle Harry sat at the counter next to me and ruffled my hair. He'd been doing that since I was little. I had to admit, I kind of liked it, even if it did mess up my hair. I rearranged my curls and Uncle Harry asked, “How's your case coming, Rose?”
“Nothing new to report,” I said truthfully. “Dad told me to be careful until he got to the bottom of things at the Ministry, and I haven't got any new leads, so I've pretty much just been twiddling my thumbs the last couple of days.”
“Sorry about that. Better safe than sorry, though,” Uncle Harry said, giving me an encouraging smile. It was easy for him to say, he was Head Auror. Besides, if Uncle Harry had ever actually lived by 'better safe than sorry' in his life, I would be very surprised.
“You sound like Hermione,” Aunt Ginny said, giving him a sidelong grin. He winked at her.
“I don't suppose you've found out anything you can tell me?” I asked Uncle Harry hopefully.
He shook his head. “Nothing that would help you find Lenny.”
Damn. Uncle Harry never shared inside Ministry information. He was almost as tight-lipped about it as my mum was. Well, no matter, I'd just try to stop by Dad's office and wheedle it out of him.
I stuck around long enough to eat eggy bread, beans, and sausages with Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry, then left them to do whatever it was old married couples did on Sunday mornings, and went home.
Scorpius was puttering around the kitchen when I came through the door, scrubbing the counters with his purple dish gloves on, his hair pulled up into a ponytail. He looked up when he saw me and paused in mid-scrub.
“How'd it go?” he asked.
“Aunt Ginny fixed it at the paper,” I told him, setting my handbag down on the counter.
We looked at each other for a moment, and then I said, “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you.”
“I'm sorry too,” he said, dropping the cleaning rag in the sink. “I shouldn't have been so touchy.”
It was probably just both of us feeling weird because Dominique was getting divorced, but I sort of felt particularly in love with him this morning. I really didn't want to fight about the stupid agent again, and promised myself to let it go. If he wanted to throw our money away on this, that was going to have to be fine with me. I'd just work a little harder to find evidence to clear Lenny, and then we'd have that money to make up for all these fees and stuff.
“I love you, Rose,” Scorpius said, putting his hands on either side of my face and pulling me in for a kiss. The dish gloves were damp and cold, but I didn't care, and wrapped my arms around his neck.
“Aww,” came Lenny's voice. “That's sweet, man.”
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