Wow. Three chapters in already. I hope this chapter starts to give you a flavor for where the story is heading. Thank you for reading. As always, the characters herein belong to JK Rowling.
“Harry! You home?” Ron’s voice rang out as he entered the Potter house with a large food basket hanging from one arm and a large satchel of baby supplies slung over the other shoulder.
“In the drawing room,” Harry’s voice echoed through the house in response.
Harry’s house elf Hermys appeared in front of Ron with a crack and levitated the basket from his hands. “Let Hermys be taking that from you, Master Ron,” the elf chimed happily.
“Thank you, Hermys,” Ron replied gratefully. “I think she tried to cram our whole bloody kitchen into that basket,” he confided in the elf after taking a careful look behind him.
“Hermys is honored to carry the food that Mistress Hermione has brought for Master Harry, no matter the burden.”
“Hermys, please set up lunch on the patio,” instructed Harry, coming out to meet his friends. “It’s a nice enough day, right?”
“Beautiful out today,” replied Ron, dropping his granddaughter’s travel bag onto the table in the front hallway.
“MIONE!” he called towards the front door, “are you gonna bring my favorite baby girl inside today or just sit in the car, snacking on her toes?”
“Keep your shirt on, Mr. Weasley,” she retorted as she carried the squirming infant into the house. “She doesn’t just pop out of the car seat on her own, you know. And besides, I am definitely hungry for some toes!” Hermione lifted the little girl over her head so that she could nibble at her chubby little toes. The baby squealed with delight and kicked her feet back and forth, finally knocking Hermione’s reading glasses off of her face.
“Here, let me get a good look at this little munchkin,” offered Harry, allowing Hermione to retrieve her glasses. “Hello, there, beautiful! You are a Weasley, aren’t you? Look at those little red curls.”
“Amazing how strong it came through, being, what, one quarter Weasley?” commented Ron, staring intently at Amelie.
Harry was making faces at the little girl, holding her just far enough away to thwart her attempts to seize his glasses. She gurgled and babbled determinedly, flailing her chubby little arms. “She’s got quite a thing for spectacles, no?”
“Reparo” Hermione studied her glasses for a moment before sliding them back onto her face. “Mind you don’t let her get yours, Harry. She stole Arthur’s the other day and he didn’t get them back until she went down for her nap.”
"Why don't you two just get your eyes fixed?" asked Ron. "I heard that the muggle doctors can do this manipulation now that makes your eyes as good as new."
"It's called an operation, dear," replied Hermione, rolling her eyes. "And I don't fancy some muggle doctor poking around my eyes while I'm asleep."
Harry nodded in agreement. As much of a pain as his eyesight could be, his glasses had gotten him this far.
"Muggles are getting bloody ridiculous with this technology of theirs," Ron said contemplatively. "Did you know that they're working on some quantum tele something or other that's gonna let them travel anywhere even faster than apparition?"
Hermione snickered at her husband. "You're as hopeless as your dad, you know that? It's called quantum teleportation, and the most they've been able to send through it is a few digital pictures. Seriously, Ron, have you been listening to Xerxes the Seer on Wizarding Wireless again?"
"What of it? He's got sources all over the muggle world. Last week, he said that he has it on very good information that the muggles are gonna use that quantum thing to send people to the moon. And I am not as bad as dad! Best I can remember, I never caused the evacuation of Heathrow Airport."
"Ron, my dad banished you from the kitchen after what you did to the microwave oven!" Hermione retorted. "And these 'sources' that Xerxes quotes are all inside his head. He exaggerates everything the muggles do to boost his ratings. It's all a bunch of nonsense."
“He has a pretty big audience for his nonsense,” observed Harry. “It seems like the Muggle Affairs Department is constantly dealing with some imaginary crisis or other. The Minister can’t be bothered to deal with it, so he orders an investigation every time some doddery old fusspot corners him in public and demands to know what’s being done about the latest imaginary muggle death machine. Your dad definitely picked the right time to retire.”
Arthur Weasley had chosen to retire from the Ministry on his ninety-second birthday. Even for a wizard, it was an exceptionally long career. For Arthur, it had never been so much about the job as it was about doing something he loved. As his one hundredth birthday approached, he still found a childlike glee in studying the muggles and their devices.
“Some retirement,” snorted Ron. “He spends more hours helping George experiment on muggle contraptions than he ever spent working in the Ministry.”
“Your dad is George’s secret weapon,” chuckled Hermione. “If his genie glass inventions can keep something safe from Arthur then they’re practically indestructible.”
It was funny, but true. Arthur’s love of muggle gadgets was matched only by his propensity for accidentally destroying them with magic.
The effects of magic on muggle electronics had been a vexing problem for generations of wizards before Hermione discovered the shielding effects of magical glass. During one of Ron and Harry’s first cases with the Auror Department, she realized that the enchanted glass used by middle eastern Genii could be used to shield electronics from magical interference. But it was George who saw the true potential of the idea. He developed a process for shaping the glass into all manner of decorative covers and cases for muggle gadgets. Weasley’s Wizarding Wraps were now sold all over the world. Aside from opening up the wizarding world to computers, televisions, and cell phones, it had also led to a dramatic reversal of fortunes for the family. The Weasleys had enjoyed great prosperity while many of the other old wizarding families suffered financial ruin in the aftermath of the Second Wizarding War.
Harry had been one of George’s earliest supporters, providing the galleons he needed to launch and expand the company. As a result, the considerable fortune that Harry had inherited from the Potter and Black families had ballooned. Harry was never completely comfortable with his wealth, and he give away a great deal of the proceeds. He established the Remus Lupin Center at St. Mungo’s which provided free wolfsbane potion and counseling to werewolves while researching a cure for lycanthropy. He also created a Nymphadora Tonks Fellowship within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement that paid for Aurors to travel abroad and study the magical techniques of other wizarding nations. There were now five students attending Hogwarts on the Fred Weasley Memorial Scholarship that Harry founded with George. Particularly dear to Hermione was the Dobby House, a relocation program which helped freed house elves transition into normal society.
"If wizards spent as much time studying new magic as they do rehashing old family feuds and blood purity rubbish, we probably would have found a way to apparate to the moon by now," Harry added sanguinely.
“Lunch is served on the patio, Masters and Mistress,” Hermys announced with a low, proper house elf bow. Harry observed Hermione’s discomfort from the corner of his eye. Or maybe he just knew it was happening and saw it in his mind’s eye. So hard to tell after all these years. “May I take the young Mistress so my master and his company can have a proper lunch?”
“Thank you, Hermys,” said Hermione, not letting her mixed feelings show through. “She has a bottle in the travel bag if she gets hungry.” She watched the house elf smile and make silly faces at Ameile as he carried her into the sitting room. Hermys had always been terrific with children, more so than Kreacher. Of course, Hermys was at least a hundred years younger than his father.
The three friends took their seats around the patio table and began filling their plates.
“So how is the rest of your clan? ” asked Harry. “Are Rosie and Scorpius getting on these days?”
Harry smirked inwardly at the pained look that appeared on his best friend’s face. It had been forty-five years since they finished school and over fifteen since Scorpius married Rose and Ron still struggled with the concept of a Malfoy infiltrating his family.
“Well, they are either madly in love or they’re about to kill each other. Is it an odd or an even-numbered day?” replied Hermione, sardonically.
“Poor Rosie,” mused Harry. “She got her mother’s temper and her father’s relationship skills.”
“What’s that supposed to mean,” demanded Ron. “We haven’t had a good row in, what is it, dear? At least a week or two.”
“Quiet, Ronald,” Hermione admonished him, much to Harry’s amusement. The three of them had known each other for over fifty years. It was not as though he hadn’t been smack in the middle of many of their infamous arguments. They had calmed considerably over the decades, but they could still make quite a scene from time to time.
They ate in silence for a few minutes before Harry stared meaningfully at the other two and cast a silent muffliato charm around the table. It was a redundant, almost silly act considering the powerful wards and protective spells that surrounded the Potter estate, but old habits die hard.
“What the bloody hell has gotten into Percy?” he asked. “I’m hearing that he and Audrey are separated and he spends all his time listening to university-age muggles read bad poetry in coffee shops.”
“He and Audrey are just taking some time apart while he works through some personal issues,” replied Ron through a half-full mouth. “At least that’s how she explained it to Mum.”
“How do you know what he’s been up to? Do you have him under surveillance or something?” added Hermione.
“No,” replied Harry, somewhat crossly. “It wasn’t necessary. When the Deputy Minister for International Affairs goes off his trolley, leaves his family and goes skirt-chasing among muggles a third of his age, people do tend to talk.”
“It’s not as bad as all that, Harry,” reasoned Ron. “Percy’s been working at a midlife crisis since he was what, seventeen? Stands to reason it would happen sooner or later. Besides, there’s no way he’s actually going to catch any skirts he might happen to chase. This is Percy we’re talking about.”
“We just can’t have him going barmy,” replied Harry. “He hasn’t been right since the trial and it’s getting worse. Maybe the strain is too much for him.”
Hermione set down her fork and regarded Harry calmly, but with sadness touching her features. “Harry, nothing has been right since she died. The trial put a huge strain on all of us. This may just be how Percy copes.”
Harry chewed a bite of his sandwich thoughtfully, staring involuntarily towards the hilltop where Ginny lay. “All I’m saying is that we need to keep an eye on him, for his own sake.”
After lunch, Harry, Ron and Hermione enjoyed a bottle of wine on the patio while Ameile napped. The sun was just beginning to dip towards the trees when the little girl awoke and Ron and Hermione began to gather their things.
“We told Hugo and Fiona that we’d have her back before dinner time,” Hermione explained apologetically, “otherwise we’d love to stay for dinner.”
“I understand,” replied Harry. “Another day.”
“Definitely. How about on Saturday?”
“Well, I’m supposed to go to some benefit dinner at the Ministry, but I doubt they’ll miss me. I think I already sent some gold to whatever it was they’re raising money for.”
“Saturday it is, then,” she beamed at him. Her bright smile faded to a look of concern as she noticed Harry’s somber, distracted mood.
“Are you OK, Harry,” she asked. “I mean really OK?”
“I’ll be OK, Hermione,” he replied. “It’s just always hardest when I’m saying goodbye to people. Goodbyes didn’t bother me before she died. Now I always feel like every one could be the last.”
“Harry, why don’t you come back to the house with us? It sounds like you could use the company.”
“Thank you, Hermione. I really appreciate it. But it’s been four years now. I have to figure this out someday.”
She studied him for a long moment. “OK, but if you ever need to get out of the house or just talk to somebody, you know you can always come see us. Day or night doesn’t matter.”
“I know, and I love you both for it. More than you’ll ever know.”
She flung her arms around his neck and drew him into a warm embrace that lasted until they heard Ron’s impatient voice coming from the driveway.
“Bye, Harry,” she said. “See you on Saturday.”
Harry spent the rest of the day trying to make himself busy. He read through the stack of field reports and training evaluations that he’d brought home from the office. Then he sorted through the day’s owls, responding to some and setting others aside to deal with later. He even wandered into the kitchen and tried to talk to Hermys. Eventually, though, it became apparent that he was annoying the elf, even though Hermys was far too polite to ever say anything.
Harry collapsed into an arm chair in the sitting room. He was tempted to turn on the muggle television, even though he hated most of the brainless drivel that aired in the evenings. He picked up the Daily Prophet and tried to read the business section, but his eyes kept drifting to the picture on the mantle. Fifty year old Harry and Ginny waved at him from the black sand beach of a Caribbean island as the surf gently rolled in and out in the background. Even at fifty, her auburn hair glistened in the sunlight and she looked stunning in her white bathing suit. They were celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, looking forward to another twenty-five years that would never...
OK, television it would be. Harry clicked past a couple of evening talk shows and a show where some idiotic muggles were trying to win money by seeing who could carry the most croquet balls in their underpants. Being a muggle was harder than it looked sometimes, Harry realized. Not only were they expected to do utterly ridiculous things for money, most of their entertainment came from watching other muggles do the same. He was about to settle for a cooking show when a familiar face appeared in the fireplace.
“Hi, Rosie,” Harry said with a huge grin, “how is my favorite goddaughter today?”
“I’m fine, uncle Harry. How are you,” she replied.
“I’m doing OK. What can I do for you?”
“Is it OK if Octavia and I come over?” she asked.
“Of course it is,” Harry answered gratefully. “Is everything OK?”
“Everything is fine,” Rose replied as she stepped out of the fire with her daughter in tow and an overnight bag on her shoulder. Apparently this was not a spur of the moment decision. “It’s just that Scorpius is in America on business, and he and I had a little argument earlier.”
“Say no more,” Harry said soothingly. “I’ll have Hermys bring us some tea. And what can I get for you, sweetheart?”
“Pumpkin juice?” Octavia asked with a big grin that showed off her missing front tooth.
“How about milk, dear?” replied Rose in the mother voice that clearly was not a question. “It’s late and you don’t need to be bouncing off of uncle Harry’s walls.”
“Octavia, I think Lily’s old dolls are all still in the closet of her bedroom, if you’d like to see them,” Harry offered.
“Dolls are for babies,” Octavia replied with a disparaging look. “Can I play with James and Al’s old video games?”
“They’re in Al’s old bedroom on the second floor, as long as your mum doesn’t mind.”
“That’s fine,” said Rosie, “but not any of the loud, violent ones. How about that one where the nice Italian plumber saves the princess from the gorilla?”
Octavia rolled her eyes at her mother as she headed off up the stairs.
“Well I always liked that one,” said Rose defensively as Harry grinned at her.
“So out with it, Rosie,” Harry asked once they were alone. “What’s going on between you and Scorpius that you can’t discuss with your mum and dad?”
“It’s not really as bad as all that,” she answered, not quite meeting his gaze. “It’s mostly just that they’re having dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Perfect tonight and I didn’t want to mess up their nice evening with my train wreck of a family life.”
The Perfects was Rose’s derogatory term for her brother Hugo and his wife Fiona. Fiona was the daughter of one of Fleur’s cousins, although she lacked Fleur’s obvious Veela bloodline. They had met one summer while the Weasley family was visiting the Delacours in Siene. Harry did have to admit that Hugo and Fiona’s life had gone pretty much by the book: falling in love in Paris, the wedding in Marseille and three beautiful children including the recent addition of Ameile. Pretty much the exact opposite of Scorpius and Rose’s story of premarital pregnancy, delayed matrimony and constant squabbling. But Harry had also seen Rose and Scorpius at their best, and the love that burned between them was a thing to behold. It reminded him of Ron and Hermione in their younger years, only about ten times more volatile.
“Rose, you know your brother loves you dearly. Just as much as your mum and dad. I’m sure they would have been happy to see you.”
“Well, it’s not just that,” she admitted. “Every time I try to talk to Mum and Dad about the rows that Scorp and I get into, she tries to psychoanalyze our whole relationship and dad just starts drinking.” Rose signed and rolled her eyes dramatically. “You and Teddy are the only ones who get it."
“I can’t really say that I always get it, either, Rosie,” Harry admitted. “But I’m always happy to listen while you work things out.”
“Teddy’s the same way!” Rose proclaimed. “You two are like the only men on earth who know how to just shut up and let me talk.”
They both laughed at her unintentional moment of candor.
“Well, I had a lot of practice, thanks to your aunt Ginny,” Harry said before he quite realized what he was saying. They stared at each other for a long, awkward moment, not sure what to say next. Harry and Ginny in the photograph stopped waving and stared at them somberly.
“You still miss her a lot, don’t you, Uncle Harry,” she asked, looking into his sad eyes.
“More than anyone really knows,” he admitted.
“I miss her too,” Rose said in an uncharacteristic whisper. “When I got pregnant with Aiden, she was the only one who never judged me. She never tried to play ‘what if’ or give me any advice I didn’t ask for. She just kept telling me that she loved me and that you and her would always be there to support me, no matter what I decided to do. When I was in labor, I wanted Mum there worse than anything in the world, but that was just because bloody labor hurts so bad that anyone who isn’t on drugs cries for their mummy. As soon as it was over, I wanted to see you and Ginny as much as Scorpius.”
Harry regarded his niece with tears in his eyes. “You won’t tell Scorpius that, right?” she asked, forcing a small smile through her own tears.
“One more secret for the two of us,” Harry replied.
Both of them had to rush to dry their eyes as they heard Octavia coming back down the stairs.
“Uncle Harry, can we play with the boggart?” she asked.
“I don’t know, sweetheart, it’s awfully close to your bedtime. I wouldn’t want you to have bad dreams,” he replied. Silently, he wondered who he was kidding. Octavia was basically fearless, and if anyone was likely to have bad dreams tonight, it was him.
“Please, please, PLEASE!” she wailed. Harry looked helplessly at Rose.
“For a few minutes,” she gave in. “But first you have to go put your pajamas on and brush your teeth.”
Five minutes later, Octavia bounded out of Lilly’s bedroom in her long nightgown. Harry waved his wand at the cabinet in the drawing room where the boggart had taken up residence, unlocking the door. Moments later, an acromantula the size of a German shepherd crawled out of the cabinet. Octavia screamed in mock horror.
“Riddikulus” shouted Harry, waving his wand. The spider suddenly burst into a shower of confetti, much to Octavia’s delight.
Harry banished the confetti back into the cabinet and waited. Seconds later, an angry, hissing snake appeared, rearing up and baring its fangs.
“Riddikulus” said Rose, and the snake suddenly swelled up and then popped like a balloon, hissing around the room before speeding back into the cabinet.
Harry waited in anticipation. This boggart had never been especially creative. Nothing like the nasty one that was kept in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom at Hogwarts. What happened next stunned them all. A dark-haired muggle man with beady eyes rose out of the cabinet, striding towards them. He suddenly brandished a gun and pointed it directly at Rose. Somewhere in the background, they heard a blood-curdling scream in a voice they knew all too well.
“Riddikulus!” Harry waved his wand at the boggart to no avail. Nothing remotely humorous was coming to his mind. “Riddikulus” he shouted again, struggling with all his might to imagine the man in his underpants, but nothing happened.
Harry stole a glance at Rose and found her clutching Octavia with a terrified look on her face. The man with the gun stalked closer. Harry was about to use much stronger magic against the boggart when Octavia reached up and grasped her mother’s wand.
“Riddikulus!” the young girl cried, and suddenly the man was wearing Molly’s favorite Sunday dress, brandishing a turkey leg instead of a gun. Harry sighed with relief and cast a spell to force the boggart back into the cabinet. He locked it securely and turned to find Octavia holding Rose, who was holding her face and sobbing.
“Octavia, run off to bed,” Harry said quietly. “I’ll be up in a moment to tuck you in.”
Octavia kissed her mother gently on the head and then skipped away to Lily’s room.
Harry dropped to his knees and pulled Rose close to him. “Shhhh,” he whispered, “everything is OK. It was just a boggart. It must have figured out that it can’t scare Octavia, so it went after us, instead.”
After a few minutes, Rose regained some control. Harry poured two glasses of firewhiskey and offered one to Rose. She downed it in one gulp and handed the glass back to him.
“I’m so sorry, uncle Harry,” she finally managed. “I should have been stronger. But that scream. It was her, wasn’t it?”
“Yes,” he replied. He looked at her with fatherly affection but his voice sounded far away.
“I’ll take care of Octavia. Why don’t you go to bed?” he offered.
She nodded and smiled at him gratefully. “I know it sounds awful, but I don’t think I’m up to answering any of her questions right now.”
Harry smiled at his god-daughter, then his look turned a little more serious. “Rosie, does she know?”
“About how Aunt Ginny died? I think so. I know I’ve heard Aiden and her cousins talk about it around her.”
“No, I mean does she know where she was when Ginny died?”
“Oh, that,” Rosie replied as fresh anguish appeared on her face. “No. I wouldn’t know where to begin.”
“She’ll have to know someday,” said Harry thoughtfully. “But not now. Not when she’s so young.”
Harry kissed Rose on the forehead. “Good night, Rosie. I’ll probably be gone by the time you’re up. I’ll have Hermys keep some breakfast warm for the two of you.”
“Thanks, uncle Harry,” she replied and turned to head up the stairs to Al’s room.
Harry found Octavia reading in bed. He sat down on the bed next to her and peered over her shoulder. It was a Nancy Drew mystery that Hermione had bought for Lily when she was about Octavia’s age.
“Lily loved those books,” Harry said, smiling.
“She’s so smart,” Octavia replied, setting the book down. “Nancy Drew, that is. Lil’s smart, too, but she doesn’t solve any mysteries.”
“You’re really smart, yourself, you know?” Harry told her. “The Riddikulus charm is pretty advanced magic. They don’t teach that at Hogwarts until third year.”
Octavia beamed at him for a moment, then looked concerned. “Papa Harry, I won’t get in trouble with the Ministry for doing underage magic, will I?”
Harry smiled at her. As Head Auror, he was privy to all of the spells that the Ministry used to detect underage magic outside of Hogwarts. Among the many magical protections he had placed on the estate was one that blocked most of the Ministry’s monitoring spells. “I think it will be OK this time,” he replied. “Just make sure that you don’t do it again.”
“Papa Harry, who was that man that the boggart used to scare you and Mum?”
Harry struggled for a long moment to think of what to say.
“He was a very bad man. He hurt a lot of people very badly. But he’s gone now. He won’t ever hurt anybody again.”
“Papa Harry, is he the man who killed Great Aunt Ginny?”
“Yes, sweetheart, he was,” Harry replied softly. “How did you find out about that?”
“Lillian and Billy told me about her. It made me sad that she died when I was so little. I wish I could remember her. Mum says that she was the nicest witch in the whole world.”
“She was,” Harry answered simply. “And she loved you and your brother and all of your cousins more than anything in the world.”
Octavia stared at him for a long moment. She reached under her pillow and pulled out a stuffed unicorn that Harry immediately recognized. Narcissa had given it to her years ago. The unicorn was made of the finest silk with onyx hooves and obsidian eyes. Its horn was made of spun gold fabric, and it was enchanted to gallop about and play with the child that owned it. At the moment, it seemed rather annoyed about being stuffed under Octavia’s pillow, and it snorted and stamped its hooves with displeasure.
“Papa Harry, do you want to sleep with Artemis?” she asked. “Grandma Cissy told me that she would keep nightmares away.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to keep her here with you?” he asked. “That boggart was pretty scary.”
“It was kind of scary,” she admitted, “but I think it scared you and mum worse.”
Harry picked up the unicorn and kissed Octavia on the head. “You’re a brave little girl, and I love you very much. Good night, Octavia.”
The unicorn struggled and kicked as Harry carried it into the drawing room, clearly upset to be leaving its owner. He set it down on the coffee table and picked up his firewhiskey. After downing the glass, he poured himself another. Sleep was not going to come easily tonight.
“Maybe I should take you to bed with me,” he said to the unicorn. It glared at him and turned to face the opposite wall. “Or maybe not.”
Twenty minutes later, he peeked into Lily’s room to find Octavia sleeping peacefully. “Voldemort himself couldn’t scare that one,” he mused. He set the unicorn down on her pillow, where it turned around a couple of times before plopping onto its side. Her arm instinctively wrapped around it.
“Good night, sweetheart,” he whispered.
Harry climbed the stairs to the master bedroom, already dreading the sleepless night that likely lay ahead. As he pulled on his pajamas, his thoughts drifted back to Percy. His brother-in-law had long since acquitted himself of the way he turned his back on the family when Minister Fudge refused to acknowledge Voldemort’s return. In the aftermath of Ginny’s death, he had proven himself beyond a shadow of doubt. But his recent erratic behavior disturbed Harry deeply. Harry lost himself in the memory as the worst days of his life played out in his mind’s eye.
Updated Author's Note, Feb. 14, 2013 -- I have been very remiss in pointing out two very important sources of inspiration for this chapter. The bit about Arthur causing the evacuation of Heathrow Airport as well as the name of Scorpius and Rose's oldest child both came from Padfoot4ever's incredible story Delicate, along with the majority of my Scorpius/Rose head canon. The bit about genie glass and the name of Harry's house elf both come from Mrs_Granger's amazing Harry Potter and the Winters After the War. I would encourage anyone to read these two stories. They really are two of the best you'll ever find.
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