Chapter 7 : Seven
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Harry lived four blocks from Bill. His building wasn’t opulent— in fact, it was slightly shabby. The front door had a lock, not a doorman, and a wide, dusty staircase, not a lift, went up into the stale smells of dinners past and a few cats. He was used to the climb, but most people weren’t. Hermione, for example, hadn’t been up to his flat since she’d got pregnant. But Graínne seemed unfazed by the climb. Of course, she had walked across the Eurasian continent in the last year, so she was fairly strong. He unlocked the door and released a warding spell and let her in.
The smells of a luscious breakfast met them, and Dobby came sprinting. He hugged Graínne, weeping, and then hurried off to put breakfast on the table.
It was a clean little place, with one largish room that served as lounge and dining room and study all together, a galley kitchen, a small bathroom, a small bedroom. The views from the windows weren’t very pretty, and all of the rooms had little or no decoration. The sword she had used that day long ago, her favorite, the fanged scimitar, lay in display brackets on the mantle, glittering as if brand new, and there were some pictures around, of Ron and Hermione with Conan, of the Weasleys, Sirius, James and Lily, Remus and Zanni and their children, of Hagrid, Dumbledore, Moody (who had died in the Battle of Hogsmeade), her parents, her brothers. The couch was somber black leather, a good quality couch, but not very elaborate. The armchairs were comfortable and expensive, but plain. The rug was plain blue. There was no red anywhere, the predominant color they had chosen as they were putting Godric’s Hollow together four years ago. No forest green, no cream accents (only off-white walls). Somehow that touched her heart. He had not made a home without her, only a resting place.
He looked a little embarrassed. "Would you like a tour?"
He showed her the other rooms. In the bedroom, by the narrow bed made up in navy cotton sheets and comforter, the Kingmaker lay in its scabbard on the floor. There was a plain, straight chair by the closet, and she could almost see him sitting there in the mornings, putting on his boots. On the bedstand, by the lamp, the other photo taken by the American photographer stood in a nice frame. Whereas her photo had been of Harry’s face and her profile, this was of her face and his profile. It was the only decorative thing in the room.
"It isn’t much of a flat," he said by way of apology, "but it’s all I’ve needed."
"I’ve been living out of a knapsack. This is palatial by comparison." She wasn’t exaggerating. For all it was not homey, neither was it unpleasant, and it was certainly comfortable and warm.
"Breakfast is ready!" Dobby called merrily.
They lingered over it, remembering old adventures, telling new stories, savoring the ritual they had known in school of meeting over this meal. They purposefully avoided talking about Dark Wizards and separation and loss. It was a lovely morning; why spoil it with hurtful things? They read the newspapers, where the incarceration of Rodolphus Lestrange was a huge story filled with a great deal of speculation and not much fact. Kingsley did not disclose the name of the Auror who had brought in Lestrange, and there was conjecture that it was Harry. The society column, which Graínne stumbled on by accident, mentioned the doings of people they knew, dapper bachelor Justin Finch-Fletchley and his witch-du-jour whose name no one had bothered to get, the stunningly beautiful Padma Patil-MacMillan and her handsome husband Ernest—
“Since when is Ernie MacMillan handsome? I remember him as pudgy with bad skin."
"Since he invented a hybrid butter hops that has revolutionized the butterbeer industry, at least that’s what I read about it. His skin’s cleared up, but he’s still pudgy. He’s working with mangoes now, as I understand it. I haven’t paid much attention. Don’t give a damn about mangoes. Research grants and fame have not been good influences on his personality. I liked him in school, but he’s a berk now."
Graínne snorted, going back to the column. "Oh, here’s you. ‘Harry Potter, hero of the Order of the Phoenix, was reportedly spotted at Calamity Jane’s with three unidentified young ladies on Friday night last week. The girls seemed to be closely related to each other, perhaps sisters, and very friendly with Mr. Potter. The buxom blond beauties apparently spoke no English, and left with Mr. Potter after several rounds of drinks.’" She looked up from the paper at him, one eyebrow raised, trying hard not to laugh. It was a fierce struggle.
"All right, A, I’ve never been in Calamity Jane’s. It’s the worst sort of Eurocentric cliché interpretation of the American West, according to Ron and Hermione, and that society column cow Jane Dane writes that I go there to feel closer to you. B, I was with you that Friday night, and I was here afterward. You can ask Dobby."
"I never said anything!" A giggle almost escaped.
"You looked," he grumbled, but there was a familiar twinkle in his eyes. He liked the bantering. It was normal. He grew serious. "Dane has it out for me. She’s always putting me in disreputable places with alleged hookers and drug dealers and mob lords."
"You should sue her." The urge to laugh ebbed away.
"Nah, she’d counter-sue me for calling her a Great Dane bitch in heat to the papers two years ago. Rita Skeeter loved that one. She referred to it for a month. She hates Dane."
"So because you named this Dane person for her actions, she has license to print libel?"
"No, she’s very careful not to print libel. See, it says reportedly. Makes all the difference."
"She’d better not cross me."
"Ah," said Harry, leaning back in his chair and gazing dreamily at the ceiling. "There’s a cat fight I’d like to see."
She laughed suddenly. "Men are all alike," she chuckled.
"Maybe with regards to sexy ladies," he conceded, and was rewarded with a splendid blush.
After a few minutes, Graínne sat up straighter. "Parkinslut a widow?"
"Big surprise, eh? It’s rumored she killed Marcus Flint, that there’s something suspicious about his death. Nagged him to death is my bet, but Slytherins are all pretty good with poisons. Anyway, he’s dead, she’s been linked with every horny Dark wizard under the age of seventy from here to the Urals. Quite a home wrecker."
He watched her for a moment. Her face was very hard. "What are you thinking?"
"That I owe her. I’d like to pay her what I owe her, but I need to think it out very carefully."
Harry was suddenly afraid. "Don’t get in trouble, Graínne. I’d like to catch her at something big that will cost her everything short of her life."
"Oh, me too. I know it’ll take time to find it, but I will. You know what they say, revenge is a dish best served cold. Oh, here’s Fred and George, complete with photo."
He accepted the change of subject. "They’re in every other week. They like being well-to-do, and it helps their business to be flamboyant. Are you sure you wouldn’t like to date them?"
"Please don’t start that again— oh, you’re joking. Ha."
After reading the paper, they played wizard chess. Neither of them were on their best games, but they laughed a good deal, which was better than a good game. Dobby made a light lunch, and afterward they walked the six blocks down to Ron and Hermione’s.
The afternoon was splendid. The weather was clear and cool. Conan loved to laugh, and was very physical, running and tackling, and very magical. He could already summon without a wand. Auntie Graínne and Uncle Harry were so well favored that Mum and Da could sit on a bench together and be left alone by their rather demanding son. They had a picnic tea on a blanket in the waning sun.
At six, they went to their separate lodgings to prepare for the evening out. Cheryl helped Graínne choose clothing, since the latter had never been to a nightclub. She was adorably nervous about it, for the evening had the feeling of a first date to it. Going out to the park or hanging out together to read the paper didn’t count as a date. One did that with one’s buddies. Going to dinner and nightclubs was very date-ish.
When Harry picked her up, his face showed his appreciation. Cheryl had insisted Graínne wear the slim black trousers that went with a Muggle suit that Graínne used to wear out Sundays, paired with a tiny black tank top. The fact that they didn’t meet in the middle was a plus, Cheryl declared firmly, especially since Graínne’s abs were like rock. Over it, a silk Californian, which varied gently in color from apple green to emerald and back. She was wearing the ruby necklace and earrings that Harry had given her, as well. Black heels completed the outfit, and she walked as steadily on them as if she had worn them every day of her life, rather than never in the last four years.
"Smashing," he told her softly.
"You too," she answered, walking around him as if inspecting. Black jeans and boots were paired with a red sweater and white shirt and a loose black robe.
"Want me to give you a hair cut, Harry?" Cheryl offered.
"No thanks. I’ve an appointment tomorrow. If I have long hair tonight, maybe the Great Dane will mistake some other poor sod for me."
Cheryl did not laugh as expected. "You should do a background check on her, Harry. Anyone that nasty has to be Dark Arts."
"The world isn’t divided up into good people and Death Eaters," he answered. His eyes kept straying to Graínne, whose hair had been tamed out of its tight corkscrews into softer, larger spirals, drawn back from her face, but loosely, in charming disarray. "We can Apparate to the corridor outside Ron’s door. It’s safer than landing in the middle of their lounge when they’re trying to get ready to go out. I guess we’d better get going. They always have a hard time leaving."
"Is Conan clingy?" Graínne asked.
"No," Cheryl laughed, "Hermione is."
And indeed, Hermione had a difficult time leaving. Her parents were pleasant Muggles, glad to see Graínne again, happy to have their grandson to themselves. Ron finally had to use a stern voice to keep her from returning to their flat a third time, and she groused a little afterwards. Just like old times.
They meandered through Diagon Alley, investigating shops they had ignored as children. Graínne felt wonderful contentment, wandering hand in hand with Harry, sharing little asides as they had always done. He could not resist giving her little gifts, a few flowers, a pot of iridescent ink, sweets, a pair of lapel pins shaped like a dog and a cat, a model of the new Thor.
"I can’t," she objected as he gave some coins to the vendor of beaded evening bags after she had admired one. "Harry, don’t."
"I don’t want to see you lack for anything," he explained with a charming grin. "And your birthday is coming up, and I’ve missed four years of giving gifts. What’s the American expression? Suck it up."
She laughed. "I knew it was a mistake to come shopping with you."
"I’m not going near Quality Quidditch Supplies, then. My broom is still more than adequate for my needs."
"They don’t sell Thors, yet. Although I hear they’re negotiating. That’s thanks to the Gryffindor team, by the way. Sarit Savich used to send me notes on company stationary occasionally telling me thank you on behalf of Thor Brooms for breaking the European market open for them, but it was really the World Cup, and she knows it. She was just being nice because the other Houses have raised money and bought Thors to level the field. Gryffindor still has the best Quidditch robes. Oy, let’s go up to the Burrow next weekend and play some Quidditch," he said, turning to the others. "It’s been too long since I got on a broom and chased a Snitch."
"Actually, Mum and Dad would like that. Ginny’s supposed to be home Saturday, and I was told to tell you there’s a supper that evening, and you’re to come," said Ron, reminded.
"If you offer Quidditch, the twins will be there early," said Hermione.
“They’re always late to family things," Harry explained to Graínne.
Window-shopping had not lost its charm yet, but the shops were closing and the clubs and restaurants were getting crowded. They had a delicious supper, and then walked over to Ladder Alley.
Graínne looked around with interest. She had never been here, of course, since the whole street was created only two years before as an entertainment district. Harry’s hand on her waist gave her a feeling of confidence that reinforced her image of perpetual cool readiness. She had turned heads in the restaurant, unknown to her, just because she was beautiful, and not because she was with the famous Harry Potter. Harry had kept current pictures out of the paper with assiduousness that bordered on obsession, so his face wasn’t that well known. But Graínne was causing a stir, and he began to be afraid he’d be noticed eventually. Well, one could not hide forever.
They went into a club called River City first, but it seemed to be transvestite night there. The next place they tried was Penelope’s, which was very crowded. The day-shift security manager from the Ministry spotted Ron, but he was already tipsy, and they decided to leave when he started insisting that Hermione dance with him. The third place, called Archer’s, was pleasant, though, and they enjoyed themselves for quite a while, there.
It was a shock to Graínne to realize she’d know people here, that her generation of Hogwarts students was the group for whom this district had been created, and they would be here in London on a weekend night. Ernie and Padma greeted them like royalty greeting peers, implying all the time that Aurors were fit company for them, but everyone else was suspect. Padma was rather put out that Graínne and Hermione only wanted to hear about Parvati, and had no interest in Padma's wardrobe or garden club triumphs. Likewise, Padma showed no interest in Conan, Hermione’s work, or where Graínne had been for the last four years. Ernie was annoyed that Ron wanted to talk about Neville Longbottom, who was also in research, and Harry was more interested in Graínne than he was in Ernie’s new project. When everyone was thoroughly annoyed, the MacMillans made catty remarks about Graínne’s long absence; but those remarks were ignored, and shortly after so were the MacMillans.
Colin Creevey was there, without a camera, and Luna Lovegood was on a date with someone they had never met. There was a whole retinue of seventeen and eighteen year old girls who threw themselves at Harry as if Graínne did not exist, much to her annoyance. She never noticed the circling men who were continually offering her cigarettes and lights and drinks, for she never accepted, and barely heard any of them speaking, but she found the girls irksome. Even infuriating. Harry found it all somewhat amusing, long ago inured to the presence of fan girls, but the young men fawning over Graínne made him rather uncomfortable. Even infuriated.
So Graínne was primed for a fight when she came face to face with Candy Hirsch, Parkinson’s best friend from school. They traded insults until Candy lost her temper and pulled her wand, and the man with her dragged her away.
Harry and Ron bustled Graínne and Hermione out as well.
"Who was that with her?" Graínne asked, nostrils still flared.
Harry and Ron glanced at each other. "Outsider named Galmar Stein. From the Netherlands, I think," said Harry casually. "Dark Arts, no known direct ties to the Death Eaters, but the company he keeps isn’t pleasant."
She only nodded, and then they Apparated into the courtyard outside Bill’s house. From there they walked back to Harry’s, where they sat and drank butterbeer and ate the snacks Dobby kept supplying, talking over old times and laughing a great deal. Graínne was still angry about Hirsch, but she let Harry charm her into a better mood.
Around midnight, Ron yawned and stretched. "Well, love, it’s getting late, don’t you think? Want to walk home with us, G?"
Hermione gave him a hard nudge and a hiss.
"What?" he demanded.
"She might not be leaving yet," Hermione hissed.
"As a matter of fact, since this is my date with her," said Harry firmly, "I had planned on escorting her home myself."
Ron turned bright red and burst out laughing. "What an idiot I am! Of course! It’s the butterbeer talking, that and feeling like she’s my sister. Seeing as I feel she’s my sister, you treat her well, or I’ll have you, Potter! Ready, love? G’night, mates, thanks for a beautiful day!" In a few moments they were gone. Harry closed the door behind them and turned to look at Graínne, a little embarrassed.
She chuckled. "That was— just like Ron. Well. It’s getting late, I guess."
"Do you want me to take you back?"
She shook her head sheepishly. "I wouldn’t be able to sleep. And that’s all there is to do. Bill and Cheryl are trying to conceive, and they aren’t quiet."
"That’s way more than I wanted to know," he chuckled, crossing to where she stood.
"Sorry," she laughed, putting her hands into his and looking up at him.
"I had a wonderful day with you," he said quietly, standing closer to her. "I haven’t had a wonderful day in over four years."
"Me neither. You’ve been lovely to me all day—"
He laid his fingers on her lips, and could hardly breathe as she closed her eyes involuntarily at his touch, her hands going to his chest, her lips moving against his fingertips. "You say it as if I am being nice out of pity or obligation," he whispered, pulling her close. "As if I have not loved you with my whole heart all these years, as if I had stopped wanting you, desiring you—" He had to stop because she was kissing his neck.
"I have dreamed so long, first of what lay ahead, then of what might have been—"
"Graínne, I love you—" he said against her throat, his right hand tangled in her hair at the base of her skull.
"And I love you, Harry—"
There was a loud pop in the fire. "Harry?"
Graínne smothered a shriek as they bolted apart, summoning her wand from the table, and Harry automatically stepped in front of her, to shield her from attack.
"Hello, Morag," he said, his voice calm, his emotions instantly under supreme control. Morag was a Legilimens of surpassing excellence, and he was not convinced that she couldn’t tell his thoughts through the fireplace, no matter how near or far her hearth was from his.
"Mother!" gasped Graínne, not quite so quick to recover. She attempted to smile in welcome, but Morag’s expression was not pleasant.
"You are still dressed, I see," said Morag acidly.
"How else should we be?" asked Harry delicately, but a coolness crept into his voice and body language. She had insulted him, and he meant for her to know he didn’t like it.
"What’s wrong? Is someone hurt?" Graínne demanded urgently.
"No, nothing’s wrong," Morag answered, surprised and confused, distracted from Harry’s tone, to which she had been ready and willing to rise. She had not expected Graínne to be in a condition to think of anything or anyone but herself. The fact that she was stoked Morag’s annoyance. "Why do you ask?"
"It’s after midnight, Mother," said Graínne, sounding surprised. "You always taught us not to call so late, unless it was an emergency. Has something happened?"
"No, no, I commonly speak to Harry at this time.”
“At this hour? No wonder he looks so tired!”
“He told me this is the best time to call. I am surprised to find you there, Graínne."
"Why shouldn’t I be here?"
"As you pointed out, it is late, and it is hardly proper—"
"What’s up, Morag?" said Harry, iron in his tone and his face. She’d gone too far. Graínne’s left fist, clenched around her wand, was turning white and trembling. He would not allow anyone, not even her own mother, goad her or dictate her actions.
"I was looking for either of you, to let you know we will be arriving tomorrow evening, around eight o’clock. Where shall we meet?" Morag knew she had offended him, that she had crossed the line, and she responded somewhat defensively in tone, if innocent in phrase. She did not back down far, but she stopped pushing. She did not want to have trouble with Harry when she got there.
"Bill and Cheryl Weasley have asked if you will come to their house for supper. That is where Graínne is staying." His words were terse, clipped, though polite.
"I tried there, it took forever for someone to answer, and he was very short with me." Her tone was offended and complaining.
"They’re early risers, they’d probably been in bed for several hours," said Harry gently, forcing himself to calm down. "We went out this evening with Ron and Hermione."
"You went out? Do you think that’s wise?" Morag snapped.
Harry and Graínne exchanged a look. Graínne took a step toward the fire, and Harry could see her fists clench. He took a step forward, too.
"Of course, Mother," she answered evenly, her tone at great odds with her clenched fists. "There is a lot of healing in dancing and laughter."
Morag stared at her, clearly angry. Then she looked at Harry, as if Graínne had been speaking a language she did not understand. "Dancing? You went dancing?"
"And dinner," Harry added with a grin, knowing this would rankle much more than offended airs.
"And drinking," said Graínne in a helpful tone.
“We did drink more than common, didn’t we?”
“Yes, but not too much.”
"And we laughed a great deal, don’t forget," said Harry.
"A great deal," Graínne agreed.
"But the clubbing wasn’t as much fun as people make it out to be, not enough to do it again in a hurry," Harry added fairly, looking at Graínne fondly. "Once in a while, don’t you think?"
"Yes, that’s plenty for me," she agreed.
"It was nice to have a regular date-like date, too. It was much different from going to Hogsmeade on a Saturday like we did at school, wasn’t it, love? Or sneaking off for a snog in the Room of Requirement—"
Graínne shushed him, giggling. "Yeah, honey, it was very grown-up." She looked back at her mother’s glaring face in the fire. "So how is everyone?"
"Fine dear," said Morag after a second, and her tone was soothing, as if speaking to a child who had wakened with a nightmare. "No need to worry."
"No worries. Except maybe about your job security. Can you just leave at the drop of a hat?"
"Well, there are some advantages to being head of the department," she answered automatically, for a moment forgetting to treat Graínne like a lunatic.
"I can’t wait to see you all again," said the daughter, and there was no doubting her sincerity. "You said we, who else is coming?"
"Your father and I, Will and Dora, David, John, and James. Fergus and Bruce are still in school, of course, and Charlie must work, and Bart and Kate are overdue for a baby." There was a certain sourness in the way she held her mouth as she announced this last, as if Graínne should have known that there was a baby due, and timed her reappearance more appropriately.
"What number is this, five?"
"Six. Aine Kennis was born two years ago."
"Och," said Graínne, and her voice was a little hoarse. "After me! That’s so sweet! When my training is over, I’ll have to come and visit, meet my namesake."
Morag’s expression became careful. "We’ll see," she said lightly.
Graínne reacted instantly, her fists doubling again. "Mother," she began, furious, but Harry took her right hand, tenderly prying it open and lacing his fingers with hers.
"We’ll see you tomorrow evening, then, Morag," he said firmly, and there was no ignoring the dismissal. When she had said goodbye and disappeared, Graínne shook her head as if to clear it.
"She can still push my buttons," she grumbled.
"And she’ll be trying to, you may be sure. If she can make you lose control of your emotions, she has grounds for taking you into custody." He turned his flue off.
"That was my thought." She looked up at him, troubled. "I’m going to need your help, to keep from losing my temper."
"You may have to help me keep mine, as well. I’ve never liked how they bully you, and me by association." He took her hands again. "I don’t want to lose you again, love."
"Whatever happens, Harry, I belong to you."
"And I to you. So they can’t separate us." He bent and kissed her softly, a long, sweet kiss. She made a small mewling noise when it seemed about to end, sliding her hands up his chest. So he put his arms around her and kissed her until his ears were ringing.
When he realized this, he also noticed that neither of them was wearing robes anymore, that she had only paused in kissing him to pull his sweater off over his head, and that they were standing at the foot of his bed. His glasses were perched on top of her head.
"Are you sure?" he panted, throwing his sweater aside.
"I have always been sure." She started on his shirt buttons.
"And you’ll marry me at first opportunity?"
"I will." She flashed a dazzling smile at him.
He caught her hands. "Then let’s wait for that."
She looked him in the eye. "You don’t want to make love?"
"I have never wanted to make love more,” he answered, with something like a groan in his voice. “But if we make love, and you get pregnant, what about Auror college? They won’t accept you."
She sat down on the foot of his bed and handed his glasses to him. "Well, it’s like this, Harry. Most of the bad guys are dead or locked up. I don’t need to be an Auror anymore. Going to more school, whether it’s a month or three years, to get a certification I’m not going to use, when departments all over the world are downsizing— it seems a little pointless. When there was a Voldemort to fight, it seemed right for me to do it. Now that he’s gone, there’s no more need." She looked up at him and shrugged. "I’ve done everything an Auror does already. The adventure is over, you’ve rescued me from death and madness, and I’m ready for living happily ever after."
He sat down next to her. "I’m not usually very good at the rescue, and happily ever after isn’t a real condition."
"It’s a state of mind, not a circumstance. And you’re very good at the rescue. I’m not crazy anymore. And you kept me from hexing that bitch at the club, which kept me out of jail. So are you for or against? Because right now I can’t tell."
He laughed, which was what she intended. "Graínne, love, I don’t want you to be sorry," he said, growing serious again.
"What, about Auror college? Heck, beloved, if Abe Greeley’s willing to take me now, after four years, he’ll be willing to take me when I’m ready. If I find I want to become an Auror, I can go to college later. Or if we need money. But the most important thing has always been becoming we."
"We’ll never need money. So, in summary, you are saying that becoming an Auror was a response to Voldemort’s threat in our lives, not otherwise a lifelong ambition?"
"Well, pretty much."
"But you were preparing to be an Auror even before you came here."
She considered. "I was heavy in defense arts because my family has so many Aurors in it, and because I’m a Discerner. I had thought, since I had so much training to begin with, that I would succeed as an Auror. It naturally goes with being a Discerner, like being an Animagus or a Metamorphmagus. Do you want me to be an Auror?"
"If you are happy not being one, I’m perfectly happy. It’s nasty and dangerous, and I’d worry about you constantly. Is there anything else you do want to do? We talked about teaching as well, I seem to recall."
"It would be supremely cool to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts, I think, but only at Hogwarts." Suddenly she yawned colossally. "Oh dear. Four years of not sleeping, and now I’m tired!"
He laughed. "Are we agreed that we can wait to make love?"
She chuckled. "I can wait right now, but I’m not sure I can wait some other time."
"That will have to be enough to get on with. We can only deal with one moment at a time. I guess I’d better take you back to Bill and Cheryl’s, then."
"It would be nice to just turn in, not walk four blocks in the cold and rain."
"It would be nice, but it would be a greater test of my resolve than I can survive. Is it raining? Well, we can Disapparate out, right to the stoop." He looked around for their robes. "Someday soon, I won’t have to say goodnight to you on a stoop."
"I look forward to the day."
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