Questions and Answers

little_bird

Story Summary:
What happens when the past collides with the present and threatens to cast the Potters' and Weasleys' lives into disarray...

Chapter 80 - Grand Gestures

Posted:
07/14/2011
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1,091


Ginny glanced at her watch, and muffled a stinging oath, as she stuffed several scrolls of parchment into her battered and well-worn bag. She slung the scuffed leather strap over her shoulder and darted out of her office, nearly running for the lift on the other side of the floor. She frantically punched the button, dancing impatiently on her toes. 'Come on...' she muttered. She'd promised Harry she would only go into the office long enough to sort out the Quidditch stories going into the Sunday edition of the Prophet, but the task had taken more of her time than she'd believed. Harry had mostly hidden the disappointment that she had to work on their wedding anniversary, but it couldn't be helped. The Quidditch season would start soon, and Sunday's edition featured a splashy spread on the Montrose Magpies, the current European champions.

The lift doors opened and Ginny nearly leapt into it, index finger automatically pressing the button for the ground floor repeatedly until the doors closed. The ride down the four floors felt interminable, and at last, Ginny arrived at the ground floor. One Apparition later, and she slammed through the garden gate and skidded to a stop at the back door of the house.

Ginny took a moment to take several deep breaths, and run a hand over her hair in an effort to tidy it before she went into the house.

Bright red rose petals were sprinkled on the threshold of the kitchen. An envelope with an ornate inscription of, "Open Me," floated at eye-level. Ginny let the bag slide to the floor while she plucked the envelope from its place and opened it. A pair of pearl earrings slid into her waiting palm. The pearl studs Harry had given to her that first long-ago Christmas, during her last year of school. Harry had given her other pieces of jewelry over the years, but Ginny always returned to this pair of earrings. She'd worn them during her first press conference as a member of the Harpies' reserve squad. On her wedding day. The team interview when they'd played for the European Cup. The day she announced her retirement from professional Quidditch. Her interview with the Prophet. Every Ministry affair and party. Ginny tilted her head to one side, then the other, as she fastened the studs into her ears, then followed the path of rose petals out of the kitchen.

The scarlet trail led up the stairs and into their bedroom. A dress hung from the slightly ajar wardrobe door - one of Harry's favorites - a deep green silk frock that he claimed framed her collarbone perfectly. Another piece of floating parchment exhorted her to change, and in much tinier letters, to be quick about it. Smiling, Ginny grabbed the dress, and slipped into the bathroom to have a quick wash and let the dress slither over her heated skin. She debated with herself for a moment, and twisted her hair into a loose chignon.

She returned to the bedroom, and searched for the shoes that would not only go with the dress, but wouldn't pinch her toes. She turned at the sound of a soft, nearly soundless pop and watched as a small bouquet of calla lilies, their stems bound together with a single gold-edged red ribbon, were set just on the foot of the bed. Ginny bit her lip, blinking back the sudden sting of tears, as she reached out and lightly stroked a creamy white petal. It was a replica of the bouquet she'd carried on their wedding day twenty years ago.

'Do you like them?' asked a familiar, yet disembodied voice from the doorframe.

Ginny scooped up the flowers and cradled them in her arms. 'They're lovely. Thank you.'

Harry pulled the Invisibility Cloak from his head, ruffling his dark hair. 'Not as lovely as the person holding them,' he told her.

'Oh, stop,' Ginny demurred, blushing, but smiling all the same. She studied Harry, dressed in a dark suit with a shimmering blue tie. 'You look nice, too. What's the occasion?'

'James is with George and Katie for the night. Lily's at Ron and Hermione's. And Albus is with your mum and dad.' Harry strode across the floor and gently tugged Ginny's free hand until she stood in front of the cheval mirror in front of him. 'I think there's something missing, though...'

Perplexed, Ginny gazed at her reflection. 'I do seem to be missing shoes,' she quipped.

Harry held up a hand, a necklace twined around his fingers. 'How about this?'

Ginny's eyes darted to the image reflected in the mirror. Harry draped the necklace around her throat and carefully fastened it, letting his hands slide to Ginny's bare shoulders. Her fingertips grazed the baroque pearls separated by delicate silver links of a chain. 'It's...' Her cheeks flushed. 'Beautiful.'

'I'd thought about getting something to match those earrings,' Harry told her. 'But nothing ever seemed quite right for you. Found this about six months ago. Been saving it for our anniversary.'

Ginny frowned, mentally reviewing a tidbit of long-forgotten information. 'I thought the twentieth anniversary was china, not pearls.'

'There will be china on the table at the restaurant,' Harry replied.

'Oh, well. In that case...' Ginny turned and rummaged in the wardrobe, until she had located a pair of shoes that wouldn't make her regret wearing them, and grabbed the heavy, silk wrap she usually used at the Ministry ball every summer. 'Shall we?' she asked, holding out a hand.

Harry grasped the hand she offered, and kissed the fingertips. 'Yeah.'

XxXxXxX

Ginny smirked slightly at their surroundings, letting the wine slide down the back of her throat. 'You do realize this is all just the tiniest bit twee, don't you?'

Bemused, Harry glanced around the small bistro a French Auror had recommended. It was cozy and dark, with candles on the tables. Discreet waiters hovered nearby, while a musician tucked away in a corner provided suitably romantic music. The window held a view of the Eiffel Tower. 'I thought you liked this sort of thing...'

Ginny laughed softly. 'I do. Doesn't make it any less twee. It's like something out of those novels that I pretend I don't hide behind the towels in the airing cupboard.' She reached across the table and grasped Harry's hand in hers, squeezing it lightly. 'I never thought you'd voluntarily go for something like this. It's not something you like particularly.'

'But you do,' Harry countered. A slow smile spread over his face. 'And I like making you happy.' He twisted his hand so he now cradled Ginny's, thumb caressing over her wedding rings. 'Would you change anything?'

Ginny's fingers curled over Harry's. She inhaled slowly, the past twenty years playing through her mind. The births of their children. The enforced separations because of his work. The enforced separations because of her Quidditch career. The turmoil the war still wrecked on their lives. Trying to raise the children in as normal a life as possible. The feeling that they were somehow attempting to swim against an oncoming tide that was relentless in its journey forward. But to change it? Ginny couldn't have foreseen this day twenty years ago, but she could no more imagine changing anything about their life together than she could imagine trying to change Harry. 'No.'

'Think you can put up with me for another twenty years?'

Ginny pulled her hand from Harry's and laid it gently over his cheek. 'Yes.'

XxXxXxX

Harry tapped the doorknob of the back door of the house with his wand, and gestured for Ginny to precede him. Ginny paused long enough to pry the shoes off her feet and drop them next to the door. She could retrieve them in the morning. Harry let the jacket slide from his shoulders and he draped it over the banister of the staircase. He followed Ginny up the stairs, and into their bedroom. One arm wound around Ginny's waist as he began to press kisses against the side of her neck. Ginny's head tilted to give him freer access. She reached up and slowly pulled the pins from her hair, one by one. The chignon unraveled, tendrils of hair brushing over Harry's face. His head moved slightly, nuzzling the back of Ginny's neck, breathing in the familiar, but no less intoxicating for it, flowery scent of her hair. This scent, more than any other, made him dizzy with more than need or desire.

One of Harry's hands sought the zipper of Ginny's dress. He slowly lowered the zipper until he was able to gently push the dress off her shoulders. It slipped first to her hips, caught for a moment, then slid down her legs, landing in a pool at her feet. She lifted her arms to unclasp the pearls, but one of Harry's hands closed over her wrist. 'Leave them on,' he whispered hoarsely. He traced the pear studs in her ears. 'Those, too.' He lowered his mouth to the area behind her ear, hand sliding down her neck, over her shoulders, then back up the sensitive skin inside her arm, leaving tiny shivers in its wake. Ginny's hand twined in Harry's hair. Her fingers tightened briefly, as his fingertips brushed over the delicate skin inside her upper arm, returning to her shoulder, then wandering lower, molding the curves and hollows he knew so well.

Harry could navigate her body blindfolded, fingertips tracing over the subtle and not-so-subtle changes childbirth had wrought. Ginny turned in his arms and leaned back a little to examine him. 'I think someone has too many clothes on,' she commented, tugging at the knot in his tie. The silk loosened with a soft rasp. She nimbly unbuttoned Harry's shirt, while he shrugged if off. Ginny couldn't see the scars he bore in the darkened bedroom, but her hands skimmed over them with unerring accuracy - the old ones that had faded into dim shadows of what they once were and the new one that still stood out in relief to the surrounding skin. Faint stubble roughened his jaw line, and Ginny rose on her toes to rub her cheek against it, abrading her skin.

She wrapped her fingers around Harry's belt and pulled to the bed.

They didn't need to speak, beyond murmured words of encouragement or approval. But then again, after twenty years of sharing a bed and a life, words weren't necessary.

XxXxXxX

Ginny levitated a large tray containing their breakfasts, tea, and the Sunday Prophet. It was the kind of Sunday morning routine they'd had in the early days of their marriage. Aside from lunch with the rest of the family at the Burrow, Sunday was the one day of the week they tried to keep for themselves, free from the pressures and influences of work. Even after the children's births, they managed to steal a weekend here and there for themselves. Before she shouldered the bedroom door open, Ginny slid a thumb under the Prophet, checking that Harry's gift was still hidden under it. She directed the tray to the top of the bureau, then bent over the bed, running her fingertips down the side of Harry's face, until his head jerked away and he squinted up at her. 'Wha' time is i'?' he asked grumpily.

'Almost ten.'

Harry haphazardly poked his glasses on his nose and attempted to glare at his wife, but the effect was quite spoilt by the riotous halo of hair that erupted in peaks and valleys from his head. Ginny merely giggled, patted his cheek, and clambered onto the bed, crawling over Harry's knees. She Summoned the tray and settled it in front of her crossed legs and poured tea for each of them. Ginny handed Harry a cup, then a plate of toast, and a small, flat package. Harry, still in a haze, gazed blankly at the package, hovering under his nose. 'What's that?'

'Your gift.'

Harry reached around Ginny and set the toast, then the tea on the tray, then plucked it from her fingers. He pried the lid off and parted the tissue paper. 'You didn't have to get anything...' he muttered.

Ginny rolled her eyes, and nudged his thigh. 'You didn't have to get me anything, either,' she reminded him. Harry grunted and looked down at the parchment nestled in the folds of the tissue paper.

'Rome...' he breathed.

'We've talked about going to Rome since before Al was born,' Ginny said wistfully.

Harry lifted the Portkey tickets from their nest and studied them. 'Two weeks in October?' he asked doubtfully.

Ginny nodded. 'It'll be lovely and warm. Sunny,' she wheedled, in an attempt to persuade Harry going to Rome for two weeks in October was a marvelous idea. 'It can be the honeymoon we never had a chance to take...'

Harry's eyes flicked up from the tickets balanced in his palm to Ginny's somber face. 'Gin...'

'It was my fault we didn't have the chance to go when we were first married,' Ginny continued, as if Harry hadn't spoken. 'I thought, sure, we could have the wedding in the off-season, and go away for a few days, but I was afraid if we went anywhere for longer than that, I'd lose my position and -' The tide of words was stemmed by Harry's hand landing over Ginny's mouth. Her eyes narrowed dangerously over the edge of his calloused palm.

'Is that look supposed to scare me?' Harry scoffed. 'Might work on the children, but I'm immune to your looks,' he declared. 'Now then,' he said, settling against the pillows stacked behind his back and retrieved his abandoned tea. 'It wasn't just Quidditch training. It was also my job that prevented us from going anywhere longer than a few days after the wedding,' he reminded her. 'Then we had James, then Al, then Lily. And in all the confusion of attempting to keep up with Teddy and the three of them...' Harry shrugged. 'Either way, it doesn't much matter now.' He snagged a piece of toast and nibbled the edges.

Ginny's mouth dropped open in outrage. 'That's it?' she spluttered.

One of Harry's brows rose slightly. He tugged Ginny's wand from the pocket of her dressing gown and flicked it wordlessly at the tray, Banishing it to the bureau. He captured Ginny's wrists in his hands, rolling them both over, so he pinned her to the mattress, arms extended over her head. 'Two carefree weeks in Rome with you? After the children, it's the best gift you've ever given me.' He transferred both of Ginny's wrists into one hand, and used the other to push the dressing gown from her shoulders. His head dipped to the exposed skin, tongue flicking desultorily over it, making Ginny squirm. 'I love it. And I am thrilled that we're finally going to Rome.' His mouth roamed over her collarbone, to the column of her neck, and grazed over her mouth. 'Thank you,' he said sincerely.

XxXxXxX

Daphne gently untangled herself from Draco, easing from her bed so she didn't wake him. He kept his separate bedroom out of habit, but sought her bed more and more, claiming he slept better. They were due to return to England soon, and even the realization that they were to begin preparations to make that journey was enough to dim the slight light in Draco's eyes. Daphne didn't wonder why Narcissa remained in Nice for the most part, preferring to only go back to England for a week or two at a time. While Draco still had surveillance from the French Ministry, the distance from England made it feel less oppressive. She would let him sleep for a while longer.

She splashed a little water over her face to chase the last of the sleepy cobwebs away, then lifted her dressing gown from a hook on the back of the bathroom door. Daphne felt no need to dress for what had often proved to be a solitary cup of tea and plate of toast on the terrace with a book for an hour or two before the others were awake. And after breakfast, she would retreat to the shore, indulging herself in a little sunbathing and quick swim in the sea. As Daphne slipped from the bedroom, she drew the comfortably shabby dressing gown over her arms and shoulders, and made her way into the villa's kitchen.

Scorpius was huddled into a chair at the small table in the corner, stolidly munching his way through a bowl of cereal. Daphne moved about the kitchen with the ease of familiarity, preparing tea. 'Good morning,' she told Scorpius. He grunted in reply. She blew a breath out through her nose, and maintained the grip she had on her temper. 'Something bothering you?' she asked mildly.

The spoon clattered in the bowl. 'I'm nothing like him!' he declared.

'I beg your pardon?' Daphne asked in confusion.

'Grandmother said I was like him,' Scorpius said in an accusatory tone.

Daphne blinked several times. 'Explain,' she said shortly. Scorpius gave her a look of utmost disbelief. 'Oh... Right.' She poured tea into a waiting cup and carried it to the table, where she took the seat across from Scorpius. 'I think she merely meant to say that until something challenges your worldview of the way things ought to work, you're rather stubborn about it.' She cradled the cup between her palms, letting the warmth seep into her skin. 'I know he hasn't been very attentive to you, but I'm going to ask that you give him... Give him some time.'

Scorpius hooted in derision. 'He's had fourteen years,' he scoffed. 'Am I supposed to give him fourteen more years to decide I'm worth his time and effort?'

'That isn't quite the issue,' Daphne began, but was cut off by Scorpius' sudden movement.

His chair scraped discordantly across the floor. 'I've only got three more years until I'm of age, Mother. And then I can...' He paused, then hastily stood and marched to the sink with his empty bowl without another word.

'Until you can what, Scorpius?' Daphne asked quietly.

The boy's lips pressed together, but he shook his head. 'Never mind, Mother.' He began to stalk from the kitchen, but her soft voice was as effective as a Stunning charm.

'Scorpius.'

Scorpius stopped, one hand on the door, looking at his mother expectantly.

Daphne heaved a sigh, and set her cup on the scuffed table. 'I promised you this... thing... with your father wouldn't change my relationship with you,' she reminded him.

The skin around Scorpius' eyes tightened briefly, but he nodded once, then banged out of the kitchen, leaving Daphne alone with the idea that perhaps it had changed the way she and her son were able to relate to one another.

XxXxXxX

Hermione dropped into a day lounger next to Harry. 'Hi, Harry,' she chirped.

Harry cracked open an eyelid and promptly shut his eye once more. 'Hiya.'

Hermione snorted with mirth. 'Good weekend, I take it?'

Harry didn't reply, but allowed a slow smile to spread over his face.

'Can I talk to you for a bit?' Hermione asked.

'Work or personal?'

'Work.'

Harry sat up with a sigh. 'Go ahead...'

'Two months ago, someone approached me about publishing a textbook,' she began, with only a slight whisper of the nervousness that accompanied a delicate topic she used to display as a student.

'Oh?' Harry gazed at her curiously. Textbook publishing wasn't something that fell under the auspices of the Auror Department.

'Potions, actually,' Hermione babbled. 'I've spent the last two months looking over it and it seems all right, but it does need the approval of Kingsley, the Wizangamot, and...' She took a deep breath, and added in a small voice. 'You.'

Harry ran a hand over his face. The prospect of a holiday in Rome was looking more and more appealing. 'Why?'

Hermione chewed a fingernail worriedly. 'It's Draco Malfoy...'

Harry blinked. 'What?'

'It's really good, actually,' Hermione said, a bit defensively. 'The potions are age appropriate, sequenced in a logical order, so what you learn with a previous lesson carries into the next one. And he even cross-referenced potions ingredients based on what we use them for. It's quite thorough.'

'I have no doubt,' Harry murmured. 'And he wants to have this published?'

'Yes, Harry,' Hermione said testily. 'Do keep up.'

'Not under his own name, of course,' Harry surmised.

Hermione's head shook. 'No. He wants permission to use a pseudonym.'

'That shouldn't be a problem,' Harry mused. 'Have you presented it to the Wizengamot yet?'

'I think it would be best if you, Kingsley, and I were to present it to them as a united front.'

'Could you bring a copy to me in the morning?' Harry began to piece an idea together. 'I've got a couple of trainees and young Aurors who didn't manage to scrape together more than an Acceptable on their Potions N.E.W.T. I know at least one of them struggled through Potions for their entire time at Hogwarts. And if this book is as good as you say...'

'What about Teddy?' Hermione suggested. 'I seem to recall his marks in Potions were... erm...' Her cheeks grew pink.

'Abysmal?' Harry chuckled. 'It didn't matter what we said or did with Teddy. He never quite grasped Potions.' He thoughtfully examined Teddy flying in low swoops over the paddock. 'Can't hurt,' Harry agreed. 'And he won't mind being asked to look over it.' He stretched elaborately, and stood. 'And on that note, I hereby refuse to talk about work until tomorrow morning.' He strolled to the stone wall, climbing over it to join the others in dividing into teams to play a leisurely game of Quidditch.

XxXxXxX

The train hurtled through the countryside, filled with the clamor of dozens of teenagers renewing their acquaintances with each other. Girls squealed in high-pitched glee to see their year-mates. Boys attempted to maintain their nonchalant fa├žade, unsuccessfully suppressing their smiles under a gruff exterior. In one compartment, two boys sat in unaccustomed silence.

Somehow, Al and Scorpius had managed to find an empty compartment for themselves. They sprawled across their respective seats, opposite one another, glumly staring out the window at the rushing scenery.

Scorpius wasn't unaware of what had happened to Al at the hands of his uncles. Lily had written to him about that unfortunate game that had humiliated Al and between the two of them, discussed it and its ramifications for Al. Al himself had kept a fairly regular correspondence with Scorpius throughout the summer holiday, but he never mentioned the Quidditch match. Scorpius felt the letters he'd received from Al bordered on the perfunctory "everything's-fine-how-are-things-with-you" variety.

Several times, Scorpius opened his mouth to speak, to ask Al about the game, but lost his nerve. It wasn't until the witch with the tea trolley came and went, leaving them with a small heap of pumpkin pasties, cauldron cakes, chocolate frogs, and licorice wands that Al abruptly turned away from the window. 'How was your summer?'

Scorpius blinked, considering the cauldron cake he held loosely in one hand. Should he talk about his conversations with both his mother and grandmother, or ought he to keep it to himself for now? He wasn't certain Al would listen just now. Scorpius imagined he must have still been smarting from the thrashing he'd received at the hands of his uncles. It was unusual for Al to cling to a grudge for this long. In the end, Scorpius settled for a murmured, 'Fine.' He broke off the edge of his cake. 'Yours?' he couldn't resist adding, despite the fact Al had sent an owl at least once a week.

Al's skinny shoulder jerked. 'Fine,' he muttered, his forehead resting against the glass of the window. 'I can't wait for the Quidditch to start,' he said, baring his teeth in a slightly feral smirk. He said something else, too soft for Scorpius to hear, but the other boy could have sworn Al had said, 'I'll show them what I can do...'

It sent chills up Scorpius' spine.

XxXxXxX

Draco cast a worried eye at the rolling ominous clouds, wincing slightly at the faint rumble of thunder. His hand tightened around Daphne's. 'We'd best go back before...' A drop of rain struck his cheek. 'It starts to rain,' he sighed resignedly.

Rain began to fall rapidly, coming down in sheets, soaking through their clothes. Daphne laughed softly. 'I think it might be a little too late for that,' she told him, starting to run, towing a reluctant Draco behind her, feet sliding a little in the wet grass.

Draco pulled back, digging his heels into the turf, calling out a warning. 'Daphne, you're going to...' Her feet slid out from under her and Daphne fell to the grass with a wet splat, arms flailing. 'Fall...' Draco grunted, as he tumbled next to her. She laughed even harder, arms outstretched against the ground, at the sight of the normally impeccably dressed Draco splattered with mud, hair falling wetly into his eyes, clothes plastered to his body. 'It's not that funny,' Draco said indignantly. 'Stop laughing.' He sat up glaring at Daphne. 'Stop laughing!' he ordered. It only made Daphne's giggles escalate into outright whoops of glee. Huffing testily, he swooped down and kissed her soundly, fingers twining through her upturned hands. Draco lifted his head a little and stared at Daphne for a long moment before he scrambled to his feet and held out a hand to her. Daphne gave it a calculating look, before she accepted it and he hauled her to her feet.

They dashed into the house, through the French doors and stood for a moment, dripping on the rug. Almost fearfully, Draco's hand inched up to the top button of Daphne's shirt. Trembling, he carefully slid the button through the buttonhole, glancing at her face. His hands drifted to the next one, then the next, until he could push and tug the wet fabric from her arms and shoulders. Daphne reached for Draco's buttons and aped his actions, but when she tried to push the shirt off his shoulders, he pulled away. 'Why?' Daphne asked softly.

'I don't want you to see,' he said painfully, his right hand closing tightly over his left forearm. Daphne took a steadying breath, and one by one, pried his fingers away from his arm. Draco visibly tensed, but made no move to stop her in the face of Daphne's determination. As she peeled the shirt from his body, the harsh sounds of his breath began to fill the room. She held his arm out toward the flickering light spilling from the fireplace.

'You can't see it,' she told him gently.

'You can,' Draco insisted, eyes squeezed shut, face turned away. He wasn't expecting what occurred next. Daphne's head bent, her wet hair brushing over the skin of his bared forearm, lips moving delicately over the nearly invisible scar of his tattoo.

'You can't,' Daphne murmured, straightening and cupping his jaw with one hand, turning his head, so she could meet his gaze. 'There's nothing to be afraid of, Draco.'

He gulped, and allowed one hand to rest lightly over her collarbone, lighter than butterfly wings. Oh yes there is... he mused to himself, then didn't think of anything else than the sensation of his wife's body in his arms.