Chapter 8 : Eight
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She and Bill, in their pajamas and dressing gowns, looked disheveled but alert and indignant. Morag’s call had alerted them to the situation, and they had been waiting with coffee and biscuits when Graínne and Harry came in. They understood Morag’s intention, to take control of Graínne and take her to America. They understood, too, how bad that would be.
"And I think she should meet with Morag and Rory before they see you," Cheryl went on.
They made some plans, contingent on Penny’s availability, and then the Weasleys said goodnight. Harry made his goodnight inside out of the rain. It was almost two o’clock when Graínne got into bed, but she wasn’t complaining. It wasn’t every day one could get engaged to one’s soul mate, and here she had done so for the second time! Life could be pretty good sometimes.
They met again at breakfast, and went to St. Mungo’s with Cheryl afterward. Penny Rankin listened to them, and then gazed at Graínne with her most penetrating gaze.
"Are you willing to undergo Legilimency?"
"My mother is a very skilled Legilimens. I’ll have to undergo it whether I want to or not. But I have nothing to hide, and no reason to fear it. Yes, I’m willing."
Penny raised an eyebrow. "Your file states that you are a skilled Occlumens."
Graínne shrugged. "I’m okay. I can be broken."
"Only Dumbledore ever broke her," said Harry.
"Nah, Dumbledore never had to. Mom’s busted me plenty," said Graínne, "But not for six or seven years now," she added, surprised at the thought.
"Before you moved here?" Cheryl clarified.
"Yeah. A couple of years at Thunder Hall she didn’t know half of the stuff I did. Which accounts for my survival to this point, for the most part."
Harry smothered a laugh.
"I would like you to undergo Legilimency because I wish to see your current state of mind," said Penny, steering the conversation back in her direction. She had smiled at Graínne’s joke, pleased the young woman could make them.
"I will recommend based on what I see," she warned. "If I think it would benefit you to go home and be under parental care, I will say so to your parents."
"Even if—" began Harry, but Graínne laid her hand on his.
"Mom is domineering in general and angry in particular, but I don’t think she’d deliberately hurt me or prevent me from healing. If Penny thinks it’s the best healing," and she had to stop, unable to finish the thought.
Penny nodded, taking out her wand. "All right. I’d like you to relax, don’t worry about your mother or my recommendation."
The examination took longer than Harry expected. He had never observed Legilimency as a third party, and had never had a concept of the passage of time. At the end of it, Graínne blinked sleepily, and Penny rubbed her forehead for a moment.
"Graínne, child, you have made astonishing progress since you left on Saturday. One might hypothesize quite fairly that your past mental instability was caused by extreme grief and trauma, and your separation from Harry. Now that you know he is alive and you are together again, planning for your future, your mental constitution is completely normal, perhaps even healthier than average. I can safely recommend that you remain here. In fact, in my opinion, moving you to America would risk destabilization."
She blinked again. "And you’ll meet with them this evening?"
"Yes, of course."
"Thank you, Penny," said Harry fervently, taking Graínne’s groping hand.
"You are planning to marry. Have you set a date, yet?"
"Not yet." They glanced at each other, smiling.
"Wait until you talk to them, to be fair."
"It isn’t their decision," said Graínne stubbornly.
"No. But they are your parents. They deserve some consideration."
Harry nodded his agreement. "I don’t want you to lose them, love."
"I won’t, then. But please don’t expect me to do what they want just because they want it." She crossed her arms firmly.
"I wouldn’t dream of expecting that," said Penny easily. "Keep a good hold on your temper."
"Our plan is for you to meet with them before Graínne does," said Cheryl.
"They won’t like that," said Penny decisively. "It would be better, I think, to sit down and have a casual supper together, make them comfortable with everyone involved, and with your current condition — prove you are normal, in other words, and then have a candid talk. Are you comfortable with that?"
"If you think it will work, I’ll do it."
Penny grinned suddenly. "It shouldn’t be a hard sell. You are legally an adult, and I am attesting to your mental competency. There is no reason for them to remove you against your will." She glanced at her watch. "I regret, we must meet the next patient now. See you tonight."
Out in the hall, Harry gave Graínne a lingering hug. "I’ll leave work early, around five or so, unless I get a good lead."
"Okay. See you then."
He kissed her several times, until someone quite nearby said, "Aw, geez, get a room, will ya?"
Graínne whirled a kick in his direction, but Will ducked in time. Tonks approached, grinning. Harry had seldom seen a straight Tonks without pink hair, but today it was straight and shiny black, nicely styled, and she was pregnant. She gave him a hug while Graínne cried on Will’s shirtfront.
"I told you we shouldn’t surprise her," Tonks told Will. "She’s always had cat-like reflexes."
Will, who looked as much like a Cameron man as the rest of the family, grinned at Harry as Graínne gave Tonks a long hug. "And they seem to have gotten faster. Can we four chat a moment?"
"Sure. I’ve got to get to work, though, can we chat there?"
"Great. Atrium Apparate point." Will Disapparated with a crack, followed by the rest. They all registered with the security wizard and headed for the lifts.
"What brings you early?" Graínne asked.
"Morag. She’s mobilizing sympathetic troops, preparing to execute a hostile takeover," said Will bluntly.
"I thought she might." At Will’s look of surprise, she went on, ticking off her points on her fingers. "She’s bringing everyone who was stronger magically than I was four years ago, except James and John, I don’t get that, but maybe they’re just available. Her tone of voice to me has been insulting. She was furious with Harry for taking me out on a date. She’s harassed Bill and Cheryl." She glanced at her watch. "I thought I’d run over to Hermione’s to see if she’s been in touch there."
"So you’re prepared?" Tonks asked.
Graínne shrugged. "I’m not going. I’m not crazy, and I’m not leaving."
"Well, anyone can see you’re not mad," she answered calmly. "But Morag’s on a tear. She has moved the family clock out of the hall into her bedroom, so it isn’t readily viewable, and she keeps the bedroom locked when she’s not there. Fergus thinks it’s because the hand with your name on it isn’t where she thinks it should be, and I tend to agree with him. I don’t know what it says, though. She’s angry that you left without contacting us, stayed gone four years without a word, and then surfaced here. She expected you to come home."
"I did come home."
Neither Will nor Tonks missed the look of satisfaction on Harry’s face. Will grinned. "Okay. Unless you do something really whacked in the next fourteen hours, we’re on your side. For now we’re gonna go visit Ted and Andie Tonks, and we’ll see you at Bill and Cheryl’s sometime before eight." They returned to the Atrium.
Harry took her hand. "Get some rest later. You’ll be in better control if you aren’t tired.”
“I know, I know.”
“I’ll try to see your test with Shacklebolt, but if I don’t, I’ll see you at Bill’s around five thirty," he promised, and kissed her as the lift doors rattled open.
Hermione looked weary. “Graínne! Come in! Tea? Sorry, I’m out of coffee.”
“Tea’s great. How’s the cherub?”
“Punishing me, I think. Conan! Auntie Graínne is here!”
“Auntie Gwahn!” Conan came barreling from the nursery.
Graínne scooped and tossed, and he shrieked with laughter. “You’re a right little Quaffle, aren’t you, Conan?” she demanded, tickling his belly so he curled up in a ball.
“Bludger,” he corrected proudly.
Graínne produced a toy tiger from a pocket. “Brought you this.”
He crowed with delight, and scampered back to the nursery with his prize as Hermione brought out a tea tray.
“Did Morag call here last night?” asked Graínne bluntly.
Hermione looked bewildered, then understood. “Mum said a woman’s head kept appearing in the fire, asking for you and Harry, and that she wasn’t very patient. She thought someone, you know, like a stalker, had got our Floo number and was trying to get Harry’s.”
Graínne laughed. “She’ll be mortified.”
“So it was Morag. What’s up?”
Graínne explained tersely.
“Oh. Incompetence. Are you ready for her?”
“Yeah, I think so. I guess she’s pretty pissed.” Graínne sipped her tea. Hermione got it right away, one of those rare intellectuals with actual common sense. Graínne could not help but reflect on how she’d missed her friend for that.
“Surely she’s not unreasonable.”
“Reason is not her most dominant quality when she’s angry. Anyway, I just wanted to give you a head’s up in case she tries to enlist you. So. You look tired, did we keep you up late?”
Hermione sighed, blushing a little. “Not you. Ron is very romantic, and dates— going out— it really winds him up.” She twisted her napkin absently, ignoring her cooling tea. “And the upshot is that I’m probably pregnant again as a result.”
Graínne stared. That was an interesting leap in conversation. “Can you tell that soon?”
“No, not definitely, but I’m very regular, and this is the fertile period of the cycle. And I’m fertile enough that Conan was conceived during the fertile days despite birth control. I’ve been working flex-time for two months, after my maternity leave ended, doing remote office stuff for the Aurors’ department, acting as a secretary, but I can barely manage with Conan; if I get sick again on top of it—” Hermione covered her face with her hands.
This was disconcerting. Hermione was not a crier. Graínne took a deep breath, ignoring her psyche’s invitation to panic, and acted like the good friend she was, shifting to the couch next to her friend and hugging her. “Hm. What’s more pressing, H, a nap or work?”
“Work of course,” sniffed Hermione, wiping her face. True to her nature, she was not a crier, and she was already finished with her indulgence. She appreciated the hug, though.
“Well then. Go lie down for an hour, I’ll play with the Barbarian, then you work until twelve. I’ve got a one o’clock with Kingsley or I’d stay longer.”
“Go on. Nap. If you’re really pregnant again while you’re still post-partum, you need rest. I’m good with kids.”
“Oh, I know that. I—just— thank you, G, you’re such a dear friend!”
The time flew, for Graínne. Conan was wonderful to play with, and counted her very dear, so he was agreeable. At noon, Hermione had finished her backlog and was up to date, and seemed calmer and happier. Graínne refused lunch, instead grabbing a hamburger on her way down to the Ministry. By the time she arrived in the Auror’s department, she was composed, fed, neat and tidy. She walked past the first cubicle, which was assigned to a woman, Radania Kirk.
“Harry’s not in the office today,” she called out, before Graínne could speak.
“Really?” Graínne smiled toothily, reminiscent of an alligator— lots of teeth, little friendliness.
“Ah, Graínne Cameron,” said Kingsley from the doorway of his office. “Right on time. You look lovely today.”
“Kingsley Shacklebolt,” she answered warmly, and made a show of looking him up and down with obvious relish, and traded kisses on both cheeks with him. “Sexy as ever! You haven’t aged a day, man!” She never looked back at the gaping Radania Kirk. Kingsley Shacklebolt was one of the most powerful men in the United Kingdom, and an American upstart had just called him sexy! And he had laughed!
“There’s a reason I shave my head. It’s so no one sees the grey! Are you ready?”
“As ever was.”
“Of course. I would expect nothing less. Right this way.”
“I have to leave by five. Will this take longer than that?”
“I hope we’re done with this preliminary test by three.”
The room to which he took her looked for all the world like a dance studio. One wall was completely mirrored. “We’re being observed, of course, and the first—”
Graínne somersaulted to dodge the jet of golden light he shot at her, and leaving her cloak on the ground where she had rolled, and drew her wand. The duel was on.
“What’s my objective?” she demanded, countering a series of hexes without much effort.
“Not to lose,” he answered. “And don’t kill me, either. Nothing illegal.”
“I can do that, as long as you abide by the same rules. Pull an Unforgivable, and all bets are off.”
Kingsley was already worried for his skin not forty-five seconds into the game, and he really didn’t like her answer’s implication. He could tell already that she was powerful, and had known from the last battles that she was a brilliant fighter, in both guerrilla warfare and dueling, but she was stronger now, and faster. Much faster.
Behind the mirrors, Harry worried, too, but the three evaluators oohed and ahhed. After an hour had passed, Tamara Jones glanced at the others. “I’ve seen everything on the list at least twice, and a few things that aren’t on here. She’s tested out of the practical spells and hexes completely, except for the Unforgivables.”
“And her endurance is phenomenal. She hasn’t faltered once, and he hasn’t hit her yet,” marveled Cab Petrie. “And considering the ease with which she performs some of these harder curses, I’m betting the Unforgivables aren’t going to give her any problem, either.”
“Another hour, mates. Shack said two whole hours.” John Rittenhaus never took his eyes off the spectacle in the next room.
It did go on two hours. Only twice did Kingsley manage to get a hex through, and her counter-hexes were instant. She hit him a total of six times. At the end, a bell sounded, and Kingsley yelled, “Test over!” with an almost desperate note in his voice.
Graínne waited until he lowered his wand, and then did likewise, straightening. She was winded, but she didn’t look all that spent.
“If you are free Wednesday morning, we can schedule another test then. Thank you for your time, Miss Cameron.” He tried hard not to pant. He looked like he was going to faint.
“Thank you for yours, sir,” she answered, bowing formally. Then she grinned impishly, and put out her hand to shake his. “You’ve got some mean moves, man!”
“Are you joking?” he snorted. “You beat me at a three to one ratio.”
“You said not to lose.”
He laughed. “Where did you get those reflexes?”
“Irian Jaya has cannibals. Ya gotta be quick.” She bent to pick up her cloak.
“We could have used you four years ago.” He watched her closely, to see how she would react.
She straightened more slowly than she had bent down. “I was here four years ago, and you wouldn’t let me fight because I was too young. I was only allowed to participate at the end because my parents were no longer legally able to control my choices, and Professor Dumbledore realized it would be better to have me fighting under orders than risk my considerable talents and abilities getting used how I saw fit. But to be fair,” she added, “I wasn’t quite so fast four years ago.”
He nodded, smiling a smile that did not reach his eyes. He was annoyed. She was dangerously good at fighting, and she was still angry about the war and the Order’s age rules. None of the hexes and curses she’d used were Dark, but the combinations were often devilish in their results. “Well, the past is past, no helping that, and there’s still plenty to be done now. The wicked never rest. See you on Wednesday.” He disappeared through a door in the mirrored wall.
The three observers were beside themselves with enthusiasm.
“She’s completely—” began Cab.
Kingsley held up a hand. “She is a security risk until we know otherwise. And if I’m not mistaken, she’s closely connected with Potter, here. Discussing her performance in front of him would be unprofessional.”
Potter tore his eyes from the window, where he had been watching Graínne stretch her legs and back and shrug into her cloak tiredly. He gazed calmly at Kingsley. “Security risk?” he asked gently.
“She hasn’t been completely checked out yet.” Kingsley took up one of the checklists from the observers and started looking at it, just to keep from having to meet Harry’s eyes.
“You’re pissed off because she just whipped your arse.” The young man’s tone was still gentle, but there was steel in it that could not be ignored. Not to mention his offensive words.
There was instant and complete silence in the room. No one talked to Shacklebolt that way, but then Harry Potter was considered a rogue. He was usually a polite rogue, though.
“You are out of line,” Kingsley hissed.
“You know she’s as Dark Arts as I am,” Harry snapped, all steel, no gentleness. “She’s the daughter of Rory and Morag Cameron, Kingsley! She taught me most of what I know! She killed MacNair! She drew off Malfoy and Parkinson so I could fight—”
“Bartie Junior was Bartie Crouch’s son, and Voldemort could have ordered MacNair killed—”
“She was a child," said Rittenhaus in amazement. "She never had any time to become involved with Death Eaters. And Dumbledore himself trusted her—”
Kingsley turned a glare on him. “That was four years ago. No one knows where she’s been or who she’s associated with during that time.” He glared at all of them. “Her performance is strictly confidential. Completely restricted, do you hear? All reports come to me, not the college administration. No talking about it outside my office—”
“It doesn’t hang together, Kingsley. If she had no time to get involved in the Dark Arts before the death of Voldemort, how could he have ordered her to kill MacNair?” Harry turned and went out the door into the hallway, where Graínne was just coming out.
“Hi.” She looked up at him. “You look pissed.”
“I am. You look tired.”
“I am. Did you see the test?”
“Yeah. I think you scared the shite out of him.”
She laughed. “I know I did. And pissed him off, too.” She watched him a second. “What, do they think I’ve gone Darker?” When he didn’t answer, she gasped, but she still looked amused. “They do, don’t they?” Her eyes widened in amazement.
“There’s a lot of distrust, too many betrayals. They want to be very sure.”
To his surprise, she nodded. “That is the legacy of Voldemort, isn’t it. That we cannot recognize friends or accept help from unknowns. Well, they can’t know whether or not I’m trustworthy until they trust me. And it’s way too soon for that.” She shrugged, and smiled wryly. “I’m going to take a nap. See you at five thirty?”
“Yeah.” He glanced around the empty hallway and kissed her softly. “Get some rest.”
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