From: Your Secret Santa
Title: A Life So Very Much Less Than Ordinary
Pairings: Harry/Luna. Background Ginny/Scorpius and Teddy/James. Appearances by Albus, Lily and a bit of Kingsley. Cameo by a very unimpressed Draco Malfoy.
Summary: When his wife leaves him for a man half her age, Harry has trouble getting back on the horse. His children, bless them, don't make it much easier.
Length: ~33,000 words
Warnings: Infidelity (see summary), but more in terms of moving on than dwelling on the act itself. All sexual activity is among consenting adults (even dear Scorpius is 20), with a tiny reference to Teddy/James at 24/17. Epilogue-compliant but not interview-compliant (ie: Luna has never married).
Author's notes: nolagal, I couldn't believe my luck when I saw that you'd listed both of these pairings. I hope you enjoy this resulting Potter family saga. Enormous thanks to my two betas for helping me out with the most spirited and helpful feedback I could have asked for along the way, and thanks as always to r_becca for her patience with me. :)
"Just try them, would you?"
"I don't know. They're not really my style."
"Well, not to be an arse, but you don't really have any style."
"What? Well. Okay. Maybe I don't. But you don't think they make me look like, I don't know, a walking cucumber?"
"Because of your eyes?"
"They're not cucumber green, Dad. They're emerald. I think they look nice."
Harry frowned, glancing between the two hangers in each of James's hands. "What's wrong with black?"
"Black's boring. You're too important for black. Besides, Mum's wearing that new bronze and cranberry silk wrap, right?"
Harry blinked. "Is that code for 'red and gold'?"
"You mean, is that gay for 'red and gold.'"
"I didn't say that!" Harry laughed, ducking out of the way of James's punch to his arm. "Yeah, she is."
"So, go with the green. The pair of you will look great, every Ministry functionary will have their pants charmed off, and you'll get anything you want in that bloody budget next week."
Harry still wasn't convinced, but he had work to do and couldn't stand around all day discussing colour palettes. "Fine," he sighed, waving his hand. "Green it is. Oi, Malfoy!" he added, calling out the door.
James gave Harry a mock bow, grinning as he passed Scorpius in the doorway and nudged him with his elbow.
"All right?" Harry heard him say, with Scorpius murmuring, "Yeah, yeah, you?"
As soon as Scorpius stepped into Harry's office, though, he looked much less comfortable. "Yes, sir?" he asked stiffly. Malfoys and their damn standing on ceremony. The kid might be one of Harry's top trainees, but he was also Harry's other son's best friend. It wouldn't kill him to relax a little bit around Harry sometimes. Christ.
"You picked up Mrs Potter's robes for the gala, right?"
Scorpius nodded, his shoulders straight and his hands clasped behind his back.
"How do they look?"
Scorpius went as still as a statue, his lips pressed together. Finally, as if he'd been holding it too long, he released a long, slow breath. "Stunning, sir," he said quietly, his gaze dropping to the floor. "She'll look beautiful."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Always does, doesn't she?"
Later, he would wonder why he didn't see it, didn't think to question the way Scorpius's cheeks flushed and his breathing sped up. Later, he would get blisteringly drunk and wrack his brain for details of every conversation he'd ever had with Scorpius in which Ginny's name had come up (or vice versa), wondering how he could possibly have missed it.
But for now, Harry had already turned back to his desk as Scorpius made for the door, had already busied himself with the pairing assignments for next week's training exercise and barely heard the murmur, full of longing, that escaped Scorpius's lips as he exited Harry's office.
Later that night, with his feet rooted to the spot and his drink nearly clattering out of his hand to the floor, the colour of his robes no longer seemed terribly important to Harry.
Not with his gaze pinned to the shoddy spell work beside the tapestry at the end of the corridor and the two bodies flimsily concealed beneath it. Not with flashes of bronze and cranberry fluttering over a lifted thigh and gathering under an exposed bit of cleavage. Not with the open robes and thrusting hips of a sickeningly familiar blond trainee on display for any Auror unlucky enough to look this way.
Their Silencing Charm had held, though, which was something, although it hardly mattered when Harry's mind was quite able to fill in the soundtrack for itself. The hallway might as well have been alive with the desperate moans and pleading gasps that the faces before him, with reddened lips and half-closed eyes, looked more than fit to utter.
"Oh, hey, there you are. Shacklebolt was looking for you to give the–"
Harry didn't move, but James's chatter ground to a halt within seconds.
"Oh. God. What. What? Okay. Dad, come on, come here. Jesus fucking Christ. Let's get–"
James grasped Harry's arm and steered him back to the main ballroom, but it didn't matter. He'd already seen it. There would be no erasing that image from his mind for as long as he lived: his wife shuddering in the arms of a man half her age, her moment of climax nauseatingly familiar to him in the way her lips mashed together and her eyes squeezed shut. The only unfamiliar part was the blond head nestled against her neck.
He wrestled out of James's grip when they reached the far end of the ballroom, placing one palm flat against the wall. He closed his eyes, breathing hard and trying to steady himself. Beside him, he heard James rustle in his robes for a cigarette, muttering the words to light it.
"Jesus fucking Christ," James hissed again. He settled against the wall as well, one hand on Harry's shoulder.
He didn't bother telling James that smoking was bad for his health. After another minute, Harry opened his eyes and reached for the fag.
Later still, Harry felt only the cool night breeze sweeping down the open collar of his shirt, the damp wine stain across the front catching the chill and making him shiver.
"All right. You're okay. Here, one more step. Teddy! Give us a hand, yeah?" James steered Harry through the door to the little house he lived in with Teddy and into the living room, shoving some books and rumpled clothing out of the way before dropping Harry onto the sofa.
Harry stared straight ahead, blinking, as Teddy moved into his field of vision. A spoon clanked against the side of a mug as Teddy stirred a cup of tea, tilting his head at Harry.
"What, is he drunk?" Teddy gave Harry a knowing wink, but James must have shot him a murderous look because Teddy's face quickly fell.
"No, but maybe he should be." James perched on the edge of the sofa beside Harry, rubbing his shoulder. "Hey. You're here tonight," he added softly to Teddy, as if he'd only now realised it.
As far as Harry understood it, Teddy divided his nights between Hogwarts with the other professors and home with James. He seemed to take pleasure in never actually informing James of the nights he'd be home; more times than Harry could count, James had raced home from the pub with the other Aurors after a message that Teddy was coming home, or – and Harry tried not to think about this too much – had shown up for work in the morning with a bit too big of a grin on his face or a few too many pinkened marks on his neck after swearing he was going to have a quiet night and turn in early.
And that was a situation Harry was never, ever going to find himself in again, now that his wife was quite obviously too busy giving Scorpius fucking Malfoy that morning-after grin to bother with –
Harry sank back against the sofa cushions, groaning.
"I'm here," Teddy confirmed, and out of the corner of his eye, Harry caught them exchanging a warm look in between concerned glances at Harry. Teddy stopped to ruffle James's hair as he passed into the kitchen. When he reappeared, he set two glasses on the coffee table and opened a bottle of Ogden's finest. He poured two shots and handed one to James. "Good thing, too. Ginny was by earlier." He glanced between James and Harry on the sofa.
"What, already?" James replied on his behalf. "Oh, bless you," he added as he took the drink from Teddy. "I thought we'd have a few more minutes before she figured out we'd come here instead of Gran's place, or even Al's. Well." He stopped, frowning into his glass. "Fuck. No, guess we won't be going to Al's anytime soon." He passed Harry a glass. "Here. Merlin knows you need it."
Harry clasped his drink and brought it to his mouth, holding it in his unsteady hand for only a brief moment before downing it all in one swallow. Dimly, he was aware of Teddy moving to the armchair across from them and giving James a quizzical look.
"What's wrong with Al's place?" asked Teddy. "And Ginny looked a bloody wreck. Wouldn't tell me anything, just to Floo her if I saw Harry." He nodded at Harry while still talking to James. He sighed, as if bracing himself for bad news. "What's going on?" he asked quietly.
"You two are welcome at Al's," said Harry, surprising himself with the words as they began tumbling out of his mouth, "but I don't imagine I am. Not while–" he swallowed across the name – "Malfoy still lives there."
James sighed, pressing his fingers to his temple.
Teddy's face shifted. "Malfoy? Last time I heard that name, in that tone of voice, he'd given Rollins a black eye."
"Yeah, but Rollins is a dick and totally deserved it," said James. "Called Malfoy a Death Eater jizz stain or something. Think it might've been Al who gave him the black eye at the pub later, come to think. Malfoy just took the credit."
Their chatter swirled around Harry's head, but he could barely process it. The whisky burned down his throat and stung his stomach, and he tried to focus on the matter at hand.
"All right," Teddy sighed. "So what's he done now?" He reached for the bottle to refill their drinks, then sat back with his own cup of tea.
"A crap Disillusionment charm, for one," grumbled James, knocking his drink back. "A simple fucking Disillusionment charm," he continued, riling himself up. "And Mum! She's lived with an Auror for twenty-five years and can't even remember that's the first thing we're trained to see right through. Bloody hell." He set his glass down and kneaded the heels of his hands over his eyes. "I need to bleach my eyes out after seeing that."
Harry let out a choked bark of a laugh that turned into a coughing fit over the whisky. When he recovered, he glanced up at Teddy and sighed. "My wife," he began slowly, "is having an affair with a twenty-year-old man who works for me, and who shares a flat with our son." He tipped the glass up again, closing his eyes as the liquid burned down his throat.
Teddy had the good sense to grimace. "Oh. Oh." He glanced at James. "And you– tonight? Saw somethi– Ugh. At the Ministry, seriously? They did?"
James and Harry nodded together miserably.
"Okay. Uh. Jesus." Teddy glanced nervously at the fireplace. "You don't really want to deal with that tonight, right?"
James snorted a laugh, letting his head fall back against the sofa cushions as Harry moaned, burying his face in his hands.
"Well, I can take you back to Hogwarts; I've got a decent sofa in my rooms. Or, Luna's usually up late feeding the Thestrals and making sure the firsties aren't trying to sneak into the Forbidden Forest, if you want to try her cottage."
Harry sat back on the sofa, one palm still covering his forehead. "Oh, Christ. She'd give me some sort of ginger-breast hot cocoa and make me interpret my feelings through dance, wouldn't she?"
Teddy grinned. "It's like you know her."
Harry smiled, shaking his head. "I think I'll go with Ron and Hermione," he said, "but thanks."
"I mean, or," James piped up, "maybe you could just go home and pretend it never happened?" Harry felt a new wave of sadness at the look of hope on James's face, as though he were ten years old again and hoping for a puppy.
"She must know he knows, babe," said Teddy softly, "or she wouldn't have come here looking for him in the first place."
The endearment caught Harry off guard, and he felt a flush creep up his neck. He ducked his head down to avoid the look of warmth and compassion passing between his son and Teddy, and suddenly he felt very out of place. "I, uh, should get out of your way, if you've–" he gestured helplessly at them – "got a night at home for once."
Teddy smiled at him. "It's all right, Harry. I don't have to spend every night at the castle, remember? Professors are allowed to have personal lives now. Thank the war for that, or something. And anyway–"
The rush of the Floo igniting cut him off, and all three of them turned to the hearth as Ginny swept out.
She audibly sighed with relief. "There you are," she said breathlessly, clutching her chest. "Harry, please. Come home with me so we can talk." Her hair was pulled back and she'd changed into a t-shirt and jeans, but her make-up was still smudged and her eyes were bloodshot. "James," she added wearily, stepping towards him, "honey, just let me–"
James's face shuttered, and he folded his arms over his chest.
She paused, her gaze dropping to the floor. "I know everyone saw us," she added quietly, her voice shaking. "About half your team quite helpfully pointed it out, in fact." She raised her eyes again and looked at Harry, her jaw tight.
"Well, they're trained to be loyal, aren't they?" James bit out. Harry instinctively put a firm hand on his arm.
"Don't talk to your mother that way," he murmured. He glanced between James and Teddy. "Give us a minute, please?"
Giving Harry a supportive smile, Teddy got up and pulled James to his feet as well, dragging him off to the kitchen. When they were gone and he'd heard the door click behind them, Harry took a deep breath.
"That wasn't the first time, I suppose?"
Ginny let out a long, slow breath, sinking down into an armchair. "No," she said softly.
He nodded, swallowing. "Does Al know?"
She shook her head, tears forming in her eyes. "No. No one knows. Well." She bit down on a wry laugh. "Until tonight, at least."
Harry was quiet for a long time. Finally, he raised his eyes again. "He's Al's age, Ginny. He's barely twenty years old. What, just– what were you thinking?"
She stopped shaking her head. Her face hardened as she looked at him. "Don't patronise me," she said quietly.
"What? Okay, no, I think this is in fact a situation where I'm allowed to patronise you. He works for me, for Christ's sake! How is he meant to finish his Auror training now – have you thought of that?" He kneaded his hands over his face.
"He's already spoken to Shacklebolt. He can transfer to the other team and you won't need to supervise him anymore."
Harry stared at her. She had thought of it. He had a dozen more questions to which he didn't really want the answer. Sighing, he leaned forward, elbows on his knees. Only one thing mattered. "Gin. You're my wife. We can work through this." He took a deep breath. "I can forgive this," he said slowly, as if convincing himself of the words only as they left his mouth. "Let's just go home." He stood up, knocking the coffee table with his knees and rattling the whisky bottle.
She remained seated, not looking at him.
"Gin, come on. I'm knackered. We'll talk about it in the morning. Go to one of those marriage counsellors of Hermione's if you want. It'll be okay." He held out his hand to her.
She only blinked at it, then up at him. "No," she said softly, and he could see her hands shaking in her lap. "I didn't mean for it to come out like this, but I did mean to tell you. Soon."
He frowned, staring at her.
"Harry, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she said with an anguished sigh, swallowing down a sob. "I'm in love with him. I want a divorce."
That was only the beginning.
Two days later, Harry found himself alone in the house he and Ginny had always shared, the house in which they had raised their family. After he had dragged himself to work, she had packed up her belongings and moved into the vacation cottage they kept in Scotland. Harry hadn't asked, but if the flying rumours were anything to go by, Malfoy had gone with her.
It wasn't so much that the world was cruel, he decided, as that it had one hell of a twisted sense of humour.
The Daily Prophet, Sunday, March 21:
Today's delicious gossip comes courtesy of your intrepid reporter's sources at the Ministry of Magic itself, where it seems a certain esteemed department head is currently nursing a broken heart. What's the source of Auror Cuckold's woe? Why, his very own wife! Let's call her... Henrietta Harpy. Seems dear H.H. has not only been dipping her toe in her husband's company ink, but she's barely waited for that ink to reach the age of consent! That's right, my curious little doves: this unscrupulous old bird has a thing for young... rooster, that is. Get your minds out of the gutter! All I can say is, you young witches better line up, because if A.C. decides to get a little revenge, you'll be the first in line.
Harry charged through the doors of the Daily Prophet, clenching the latest issue in his fist. Employees scattered in front of him like a parting sea, clutching parchment to their chests and glancing at each other with a mix of alarm and delight. Their whispers buzzed in his ears.
"Albus," he bellowed as he strode onto the floor he wanted. He stopped in front of a familiar desk, panting, before thrusting the paper in front of his son's eyes.
Al glanced up at him. "Oh, hi, Dad," he said calmly, leaning back in his chair. "How's life?"
Harry glared at him, rattling the paper again. "Life would be better," he muttered through clenched teeth, "if you would be so kind as to keep our family business out of the bloody papers."
Al arched an eyebrow. Harry honestly didn't know where the kid got his cheek; maybe stray Weasley blood from Charlie or something. "Don't know what you're talking about," said Al smoothly.
Harry leaned forward, his fists balancing him over Al's desk. "Seven years of checking your grammar in every single essay you handed in," he ground out. "I think I know it by now. The wandering ellipses make an appearance yet again." He narrowed his eyes, and Al finally had the good sense to flush. "You're a sports reporter, Al." He softened his voice, sighing as he regarded his son. "What are you doing writing things like this?"
Al didn't answer. Harry fell into a chair across from him, rubbing his forehead.
"She's not a harpy," he muttered, then frowned. "And I'm not a cuckold."
Al rolled his eyes. "Yeah, you are. But so am I, sort of. And everyone else in this fucking family." He leaned forward, eyes blazing. "Do you know that cocksucker actually tried to convince me he's in love with her? With my fucking mother?"
"Language," said Harry wearily, running a hand through his hair.
"What, fucking?" Al snorted.
"No." Harry made a gesture in front of his face. "Cocksucker." His voice trailed off, and he grimaced, clearing his throat. "You know your brother's asked you not to use that–"
"Dad." Al gripped the desk. "Listen to me. She deserves to be humiliated in the bloody papers, doesn't she? Don't tell me you're actually going to sit here and defend her."
Harry looked away. Yes, he was rather thinking of doing that. Dammit. Of course he was angry with Ginny, but what bothered him even more was seeing over the past few weeks how angry their children were at her. "There's more going on here than you know about," he said carefully, trying to come up with a good defence for Ginny.
Al narrowed his eyes. "What, like you cheated on her first?"
"No." Harry glared at him. "But, I mean–" He waved his hand again – "people generally don't leave a perfect marriage." He frowned, not entirely sure where the words had come from. Too much of Hermione's influence, he figured. But Al's face shifted, at least, from anger to something shaded in sadness.
"Oh." He fidgeted with a quill on his desk. "Yeah. I guess not." After a pause, Al sighed, leaning back and gazing up at the ceiling. "All right, I'm sorry about the paper," he huffed. "But it's not entirely my fault. Luna was going on the other day about older women and their sex drives, and I just couldn't handle it. I just, I mean, how is she not this complete vulture woman, preying on blokes young enough to be her son! And Scorpius!" He clenched his hands into fists over the desk. "That lying, motherfucking piece of–"
Harry let out a strangled noise before he could stop himself. Al stopped dead, his eyes wide.
"Oh. God. Fucking hell." He looked at Harry, breathing hard and shaking his head. A few seconds later, his lips tugged up and he was fighting down a grin. The grin turned into a burst of giggling, and the giggling turned to full-blown laughter. Before he knew it, Harry had joined him, burying the right side of his face in his palm and hiccupping through great gulps of laughter. "My mother is sleeping with my best friend, Dad!" he wailed. "This is fucking ridiculous! And now I can't even use my favourite curse word." He wiped a few stray tears from his eyes, still choking on a giggle.
Harry got to his feet, still kneading his forehead and grinning. "Come on. Let's grab some lunch. You can tell me what you were doing talking to Luna about sex drives."
Al squeezed his eyes shut for a second as he pushed his chair back. "I wasn't talking to her about that. Just, you know Luna. It came up. Something about how I shouldn't be so hard on Mum because of – ugh. Okay, never mind. I don't want to talk about it. She said you should come by and see her, though."
Harry started walking to the lift. "Luna?"
"Wait. Do you see her a lot?"
Al shrugged. "I go for tea sometimes, feed the Daliwinkles. She's always got the best stories. Lily and I went the other day. Anyway, she asked about you."
Harry smiled to himself at that. Of course she did. He hadn't seen her in several months, so it was long past time they caught up. And Al was right. She did have good stories. "Yeah, all right. I'll go up this weekend, then. See how Lily's doing, too." He glanced sideways at Al. "Has she said much to you about all this?"
He shrugged again, looking down. "Little bit."
Harry pressed his lips together. He couldn't very well criticise his children for being so close, but at the same time, it had made raising them hell sometimes over the years. Their instinct to protect each other had always been strong.
As if sensing his frustration, Al nudged Harry's arm. "No, she's okay. Pissed off, like all of us, but she's fine. Go see her. She'll like that." He pressed the button for the lift and they rode down in comfortable silence, Harry still wondering just how many people on his staff, or in the Wizarding world as a whole, now saw him as Auror Cuckold.
Harry sent Luna an owl that afternoon, asking when would be a good time for him to come for tea.
He received a reply soon after, reminding him that she didn't drink tea after February, too much caffeine for spring didn't he know, but she would be delighted to have him over for juice or water on Friday afternoon.
He wrote back to agree, grinning and shaking his head. He'd barely sent his owl off again when another appeared, tapping at the private entrance to his office. Anticipating Luna to have decided that Fridays were for planting bananas or that he should bring his own glass for the juice because all of hers were being used to grow alfalfa sprouts, he grabbed the envelope quickly from the owl's beak.
If you would be so kind as to get it up for your wife again, I would be ever so obliged. I'd just as soon not have a daughter-in-law who's older than Astoria, thanks.
Harry threw the note onto his desk and went off to double the difficulty level on the obstacle course for the first-year trainees.
On Friday, Harry left the office for an early lunch break and made his way to Hogwarts. He had planned to meet up with Lily while she was also on lunch and maybe have a quick chat; he and Ginny had come weeks ago to tell her the news, but he hadn't been able to see much of her since then. Relying on reports from Al about how she was coping wasn't quite the best parenting strategy, he'd decided.
To his surprise, however, Teddy met him at the gate. Giving him a wave and gesturing him over, Teddy produced a small scroll from his pocket. "Sorry, Harry," said Teddy, passing the scroll over. "She asked me to give you this. Don't think she's up to talking just yet." He stepped back and kicked at some stones on the ground, giving Harry some space as he unrolled the parchment.
Very busy with N.E.W.T.s, yeah, yeah. His eyes scanned the page. Maybe the weekend after next, sure. Sorry, Daddy. Hope you are well. I'm just very busy.
He sighed, glancing up at Teddy again, who gave him a sympathetic look. "She can't be that busy," he muttered. Teddy clapped him on the shoulder as they made their way through the gates.
"No, probably not. But she's a bit out of sorts, I reckon. Not quite ready to talk it all through. Well." He was about to say something else but stopped himself, clamping his mouth shut.
Harry glanced sideways at him as they walked. "What?"
Teddy pressed his lips together. "I mean, she is talking, at least a little bit. Just not to you or Ginny, I guess." He gave Harry a helpless shrug.
"To you, then?"
Another shrug. "Little bit, but mostly to James and Al, I think. And Luna."
Harry's brow creased at that. "Yeah?"
"I've talked to Luna at meals, and she says Lily's been coming down for tea more often since–" he waved his hand. "You know. Sometimes Al comes in, too. James gets letters from Lily, I do know that. Anyway, don't worry about it, Harry. The point is that she's got people to talk to. She'll come around with you and Ginny when she's ready."
They had reached the point in the grounds where Teddy would have to head back to the castle and Harry would continue down to Hagrid's old cottage, where Luna now lived as Care of Magical Creatures professor. Harry stopped, giving Teddy a forced smile and nodding. "Yeah. Hope so. Keep an eye on her for me?"
"Of course." He glanced over Harry's shoulder, squinting. After a few seconds' stunned silence, he began to laugh. "Looks like you're getting a royal welcome."
Harry followed his gaze down to Luna's cottage, where she had dressed a stack of pumpkins to look like him, each wearing glasses, messy mops of dark hair and tea towels tied around their middles to simulate what he could only imagine were Auror robes. He glanced back at Teddy, raising an eyebrow.
"Don't look at me." Teddy was still laughing as he backed his way up the hill to the castle. "You've known her thirty years, haven't you? Don't tell me she can still manage to surprise you." He gave Harry a salute and continued up the hill as Harry turned back to the cottage, grinning.
Ten minutes later, settled at Luna's kitchen table with his hands wrapped around a teacup of warmed juice, Harry wasn't feeling quite so forgiving of Luna's quirks.
"Don't be so hard on her, Harry," Luna was scolding him, sipping from her own cup. "You're very difficult to love."
"I'm–" He blinked at her. "I am? I thought–"
"You think everyone loves you, yes. That's true. But that's not love love." She tilted her head at him as if she were explaining this to a child. "Everyone loves Harry Potter. That part is easy." She paused, her eyes faraway. "But who are you really, behind the name? It's very difficult to know, and love, the true Harry. Well, I mean, I wouldn't know," she added, dropping her eyes as a spot of colour crept up her cheeks. "But I imagine it is, anyway."
He regarded her. "Do you really think that?" he asked quietly. "I mean, I'm– me," he stammered. "I'm just Harry. She's always known that, hasn't she?"
Luna rested her chin in one hand, her elbow propped on the table and her big eyes as dreamy-looking as ever. "Well, 'always' is relative. When did she first fall in love with you?"
"After–" Harry swirled his hand in front of him. "I don't know. The battle, I suppose. Or maybe–" He pressed his lips together. That Quidditch match? The Chamber of Secrets? Or even earlier, in her child-like way, back when –
"Maybe before she even met you," supplied Luna, both hands curving around her cup. She blew on the juice as if to cool it. "Back when you were a name in a book, a name her parents talked about but no one who could possibly be a real boy." Her eyes twinkled at that, and she smiled gently at him. "That's the way it was for most of us, remember. Well," she added, "except me. My mother always warned me about you."
Harry tilted his head to the side. "Really?"
"She didn't trust you," continued Luna in a matter-of-fact tone. "'A baby, bring down Voldemort?' she used to say. 'Vigilance, Luna. Voldemort is not gone, and that child will have a hell of a fight on his hands when he returns.' She was always quite wise." Luna paused with the cup at her lips. "Well, until she convinced herself that the potion she was testing would work more thoroughly if ingested while on fire." Her mouth tightened, and Harry found himself at a loss.
"I– yeah. I'm sorry about that."
She smiled at him. "Me too." They were quiet for a moment before she spoke again. "The point is, Harry – who are you? Underneath the great person of Harry Potter, vanquisher of Voldemort and continued Auror defender of the Wizarding world, what are you really like? What do you like to do? What are your hopes and dreams? One thing about a man Scorpius's age," she added absently, "is that he's definitely got hopes and dreams."
Harry frowned, picking at the side of his cup. The warm juice was giving him a headache. He'd have to remember to let Al know just how grateful he was for suggesting that a visit with Luna would lift his spirits. Christ. "I'm quite aware, thank you, that Scorpius is young and fit and has hopes and dreams," he muttered. "He's probably got a monster cock, too, and can get it up nine times a night." He rubbed his eyes.
"Oh, Harry, don't be crude." She reached across the table and covered one of his hands with hers. "I don't mean to upset you. Although, it is true that women have their sexual peaks much older than men, so actually, Ginny and Scorpius might just be a very good match."
"Luna, please," moaned Harry, dropping his head in his hands. "I can't have this conversation."
"I know, Harry, but you have to." Her voice was full of genuine concern, and reluctantly, Harry opened his fingers and peered at her again before lowering his hands. "I expect Ron and Hermione have been telling you that she'll come to her senses if you just wait a little while?"
He nodded. "Yeah, actually. That's exactly what they say."
She took another sip of juice. "It's a normal reaction. They're trying to deny what's happened. If she comes back, then you can forget it ever happened and move on."
"I– yeah. That's pretty much it. But, I mean, what else am I supposed to do?" He hadn't meant to come here and set his heart out on his sleeve quite like this; Luna was an old friend, but they'd never really been close enough to discuss something as intimate as the state of Harry's marriage. Still, she had a point, and he couldn't help but find her point of view a little bit refreshing after all the assurances of the return to normalcy that Ron and Hermione kept insisting would happen any day now, as soon as Ginny got tired of the novelty of her young lover. He swallowed, frowning.
It had been nearly two weeks, though, and there was no sign that she was going to change her mind.
"Well, you're supposed to take care of yourself, and spend time with your children, and go to work like we all do, and dress up a pumpkin when you're in a good mood, and come have juice with me on Friday afternoons." She smiled at him.
Her smile lit up the whole cabin, he decided as he regarded her. Her long hair was tied back at the nape of her neck, the occasional blonde strand fluttering over her cheek, and she must not have classes on Fridays because she was wearing what seemed to be mismatched gardening clothes instead of robes. Her light eyes and the flush of her cheeks made her look consistently fresh and windblown, without any concern for make-up or jewellry. He tried to maintain his anger at Ginny, at the entire situation, but he found that with Luna sitting across from him so calmly, speaking so rationally about it, it was difficult to feel anything but a bit of weariness, punctuated by moments of genuine peace.
"Juice on Fridays would be lovely," he said with a small smile.
"Good." She lifted her cup to her lips again but paused halfway there, distracted by something out the window. Her eyes lit up. "Do you ever get the feeling that the butterflies are watching you?" she whispered excitedly, leaning forward in her chair even as her gaze continued to flicker occasionally back to the window. "No, don't look at me like that. But think about it! They've got tremendous intelligence for their wingspan, and why else would they flutter around windows so much?" She chewed on her bottom lip.
Harry tried to remain incredulous, but the truth was, after nearly thirty years of Luna being Luna to him, hardly anything she said or did surprised him anymore. Well, it did, come to think, but only until he closed his gaping mouth again, shook his head and started to laugh.
"What's funny?" She smiled back at him, open and honest, and he only snickered more. She glanced around the cottage, as if something hidden under the floorboards had emerged to tell Harry a joke when she wasn't looking.
"Nothing," he managed at last, running a hand over his face. "Nothing is funny, and you are still one of a kind."
She pointed her index finger at him. "Don't call me mad," she warned, her eyes narrowing. "You just think inside the box too much. Just like Albus."
"If anything, I think Albus would be just like me, not the other way around."
She shook her head sadly. "Yes, Harry," she sighed. "You would think that."
"Speaking of my children," he said, his grin fading, "have you heard much from Lily about all of this?"
Her face fell neutral at that, and she wet her lips before sipping from her cup again. "Yes."
It was the fewest words Luna had spoken all afternoon. "And?" prodded Harry.
She set her cup down. "Don't make me betray a confidence, Harry."
He grew alarmed. "Is she all right?"
Luna sighed. "She will be, but for now, she's having trouble accepting what's happened. She's very angry with Ginny."
"Well, yeah. We all are." Harry fished Lily's note out of his pocket and showed it to Luna. "We were supposed to meet today, but she sent this with Teddy instead." He gave her what he hoped was a pleading look. "You don't have to betray her confidence. I mean, if she's talking to you, then that's great. I'm glad she'll talk to someone, if it's not me or Gin. But..." He gave her a hopeful look.
Luna frowned as she read the note. Finally, she glanced up at Harry. "You didn't hear this from me," she began, and Harry nodded quickly. "She's been quite enamoured of Scorpius herself lately. Well, she was. Before all this happened, at least."
Harry's mouth fell open. Oh. Christ.
"She's gone to Al's place at the weekends sometimes, as I understand it, having pizza with him and Scorpius or playing a bit of Quidditch." She sighed. "I certainly hope Scorpius wasn't doing anything to encourage her, but I do think she might have been under the impression that they were... dating. In a way."
Harry buried his face in one hand, his anger at Ginny flaring again. "I don't suppose she ever mentioned this to Ginny?"
"I think she might've done, yes." Luna reached for Harry's hand again.
He squeezed it, grateful for her warmth. "What a bloody cock-up," he muttered, shaking his head. "Is this family ever going to recover from this one?"
She smiled at him, leaning forward. "It doesn't really look that way, does it?" She gave a soft laugh when he groaned, closing his eyes. "But yes, Harry. You will. That's what Potters do best, isn't it?"
When Harry got back to his office, a very impatient Kingsley Shacklebolt was waiting for him. He stopped tapping his fingers on the side of his chair and glanced up when Harry entered. Harry frowned, closing the door behind him.
"Please don't tell me this is about–"
"–the kid recently transferred to my unit who then promptly took a fortnight's leave for 'personal reasons'? Why yes, it certainly is."
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose.
"So, out with it, Harry. What was it – one night stand? Blow job on stakeout? Come on, I've heard 'em all over the years."
"So have I," Harry reminded him, "and Christ, no, that's not it."
"All right, not you, then. Did James have a thing with him or something?"
"No!" He paused. "I wish it were that."
"Well, that kid sure is tense about something to do with you. Begged me to take him on and wouldn't tell me why."
Harry fell into his chair, rubbing his forehead. "Do not tell me he had any complaints about working with me."
"No. Spoke very highly of you. He only said that personal circumstances would prevent you from working together from now on, but since he still needed to complete his final year of training, would I be so kind as to take him on my team."
Wearily, Harry looked up. "And would you?"
Kingsley gave him a steady look. "No," he said simply. "I would not. I didn't give up Ministry fame and prestige to come back to the Auror corps to train the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed firsties. Christ. My team is for vets only; you know that."
"Yeah, I know, and I never asked him to leave, and also, are you seriously telling me you don't know the reason? I thought every Auror in Britain and probably on the Continent knew by now."
Kingsley's face remained as stoic as ever, betrayed only by a slight quirk of his lips. "You mean the great Disillusionment Charm debacle?"
Harry put his head down on the desk.
A low, rumbling laugh sounded across the room. "Oh, Harry, I'm sorry. I am. But you've got to admit it's–"
"No, I don't. And it's not funny."
Kingsley's voice turned grave. "Look, I sympathise, Harry. I do. But the only misconduct regulations we've got on the books are about inappropriate relations between members of the team. So if you can prove the kid made James's work environment miserable after a game of hide the salami went wrong, or hell, if you want to take that hit yourself, then you might have a case." He paused, sighing. "Ginny, however, is not covered by that. Whatever's happened between them is technically not supposed to infringe on your work environment."
"Well, who wrote that fucking rule?" grumbled Harry.
Kingsley rose, smoothing out his robes and reaching out to clap Harry on the shoulder. "You're stuck with him, I'm afraid. If you want to make the little bugger's life a bit rougher than the other trainees, I would have nothing but the blindest of eyes to turn to it, you understand. But that might make it a bloody long year."
"Take your bag of lemons, Harry, and make the best lemonade out there," continued Kingsley, reaching for the door handle.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Seriously? That's your pep talk?"
"Yeah." Kingsley grinned. "And before you pour Malfoy a cup, go ahead and piss in it."
The Daily Prophet, Wednesday, April 7:
You all remember Auror Cuckold and Henrietta Harpy, don't you? Well, it seems the plot of that juicy tale just got even more tangled. Your intrepid reporter's sources now indicate that H.H. wasn't the only member of A.C.'s family with eyes for the young rooster she snared. That's right: H.H.'s very own daughter was engaged to marry the rooster herself, when the harpy stepped in and swiped him out from under her nose. Sacrebleu! Can it be true? Will A.C. be able to save the day this time, or... will this love triangle bring this powerful family down forever?
Harry stalked through the Prophet offices once more, only to find Al's desk empty. He glanced around for signs of life and spied a still-steaming, half-drunk cup of tea. He narrowed his eyes.
"Mrs Potter got to him first, sir," a small voice piped up behind him, and Harry whirled around to see a trembling man with a thin moustache pointing to a conference room near the private offices. "Er– I mean, Mrs Weasley. Mrs Malfoy?" His face flamed. "No, clearly not. Sorry, sir. I–" The man bit down on his lip and resorted to pointing. Harry followed the man's gesture and through the windows into the room saw Ginny tearing a strip out of Al herself. He dropped his head and stifled a laugh. This entire situation was insane.
"'Ms Weasley' will do, I think," said Harry. "Thanks." He strode to the conference room and barged in.
"... no respect for either your sister or your mother, Albus. How on earth can you justify–" Ginny stopped when she saw Harry. Sighing, she closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead with one hand.
"Can I join you?" asked Harry, closing the door.
She waved her hand.
"So, you've already covered disrespect. Have you got to dignity or privacy yet?"
She gave him a small smile. "Not yet."
Harry stepped forward.
"Dad! Come on, I don't need this from you, too," Al protested, folding his arms over his chest as he leaned against the conference table. "Besides, we all take turns on the blind items. You don't even know I wrote that."
Ginny massaged her temples. "The ellipses, Albus," she moaned. "Every single time with the ellipses."
He frowned. "Well," he huffed. "This is my job, you know, and you two can't just show up here and shout at me like I'm a child."
"Stop acting like a child," Ginny shot back, right on cue, "and maybe we'll–"
"Me? You want me to stop acting like a child? Oh, that's rich, Mother."
"Albus," said Harry in a warning tone.
"I didn't know Lily'd told Mum about Scorpius!" His eyes flashed as he flung his index finger out at Ginny. "What the fuck, Mother?"
Harry shifted the subject. "Engaged, really?" he said, his voice low but infused with as much authority as he could muster, considering how sick he felt. That voice usually worked wonders on Al who, despite his fiery temper, had always hated feeling chastised. "Unless I am very much missing something, that's a hell of an exaggeration."
"Well! She might as well have been."
Harry glared at him. "Albus."
Al dropped his eyes, shifting uncomfortably under Harry's gaze. "Okay, fine. They weren't engaged."
"They weren't even dating, Al," said Ginny quietly, her palm on her forehead. "Scorpius never did anything to encourage her. You know that."
"I don't know anything. All I know is that–"
"–that whenever she showed up at your flat, he left as quickly as he could," said Ginny, her tone hardening. "That once he figured out she had a crush, he hardly spoke two words to her."
"Yeah, he's just such a fucking prince, isn't he?" said Al coldly.
Harry took another step forward. "Watch your mouth, son," he said in a low voice, trying to keep his emotions under control. Bloody hell. Who was he supposed to believe? He wanted to believe Ginny, but Al wasn't wrong: her track record regarding anything to do with Scorpius and the truth wasn't exactly golden. Harry could only cling to his deep-seated belief that she would never have willfully hurt their daughter like this.
Al pressed his lips together, looking away, and Harry turned to Ginny.
"Are you telling me the truth?" he murmured, his back to Al. Anger flared in her eyes, but she bit down on whatever she was going to say. Tight-lipped, she nodded.
"She told me she had a crush on him," she said quietly, "and I did what I could to convince her it would be a bad match, that he was probably gay, that–" she swirled her hand in front of her – "I don't know. Anything I could think of. What was I supposed to say, Harry?" Her tone was full of anguish. "I was so confused, and I was still trying to figure out how to tell you. I couldn't very well tell Lily the truth. I'm sorry, but I just–" She buried her face in her hands for a moment, wiping away tears.
"Okay," said Harry, trying to compose himself. "All right. Let me talk to Al."
She glanced back at Al, who was studiously ignoring her, and then nodded, moving to the door. "I'm sorry, Albus," she murmured as she reached for the doorknob. "Tell your sister that I love her, and that I really want to talk to her, whenever she's ready. Okay?"
Al continued to ignore her, but Harry nodded on his behalf as Ginny left, wiping her face.
The room fell silent as the door clicked shut. Harry moved to lean against the table next to Al, folding his arms across his chest to mirror his son's pose. They stayed there in silence for a long moment before Harry spoke. "Did Lily put you up to this?" he asked quietly.
Al snorted. "Of course. She's worse than Uncle George when she gets an idea in her head."
Harry sighed. That much was true. "You must be pretty pissed off at Scorpius."
Al didn't say anything.
"Have you spoken to him since he, uh–" Harry grimaced – "moved out?"
Al shook his head. "Not much to say to him, is there?"
"Yeah." Harry sympathised, but it still stung him to see Al like this. He tried another tack. "Do you really think your mother – or hell, Scorpius too – do you really think they did this to hurt Lily?"
Al was silent for a long time. "I don't know why the hell they did it," he said at last, staring straight ahead.
Ah. And therein lay the source of all Potter family anguish at the moment, thought Harry. None of them, possibly including Ginny herself, could understand why she'd done this, why a relationship with Scorpius Malfoy was worth losing her husband and children. Harry nudged his shoulder gently against Al's and nodded. "Yeah. That's the big question, I guess."
They stood there together awhile longer, the bustle of the outer office belying the stagnant calm and simmering anger inside the silent conference room. Harry wracked his brain for a strategy, some sort of plan, anything that would help him fix his family. Not necessarily to bring Ginny back; he wasn't sure he could ever want that again, but a way to stop the fighting and the distrust and the mud-slinging.
Al's column had been right about one thing: one pair of careless, improbable lovebirds now seemed capable of tearing the Potter family apart.
The next day, two unmarked letters awaited Harry when he arrived at work. He glanced between them and chose the darker-hued one first. Seemed ominous.
He wasn't wrong.
Rumour has it you were lunching with Shacklebolt's secretary last week. Merlin help me, if I'm forced to abide one more dinner watching my son paw your tramp of a wife just because you are too busy chatting up the help to get Weasley on her back again, I will come down there and hex your balls rotten.
He balled it up and threw it in the bin, his jaw clenched. The second letter, sealed in an eggshell-blue envelope, looked infinitely more inviting. He opened it.
How are you feeling, Harry?
Come by to talk, if you want. I had an incident with the baby Dinklevorks a few days ago, but the roof should be stable again now. Lily says hello, by the way. I think she misses you.
He felt a smile tug at the corners of his mouth despite his foul mood, and he found himself tempted to reach for a book on his shelf that might actually tell him what on earth a Dinklevork was. Before he could, though, two other things in the letter struck him. First, Lily missed him. He swallowed around a lump in his throat. Thank God. If he lost her as well as Ginny, he didn't know what he'd do.
Second... He smoothed the letter flat over his desk, rereading it. No one had actually asked him how he was doing since this whole thing had begun.
He touched the pad of his index finger to the letters of Luna's name on the parchment, lost in thought.
Later that day, Harry sat in his office, his elbows on his desk and his palms folded in a cruel facsimile of a prayer pose over his face. When the knock came at the door, he tried to focus on the task at hand.
"Yeah, come in," he called.
James entered the room, with four others from his team in tow. Bringing up the rear – sneaking in just before the door closed, more like – was Scorpius.
"First batch of second year trainees, sir," said James, a little too gleefully. "Five today, four tomorrow, and five on Friday. Awaiting your evaluation and next set of instructions." He gave Harry a crisp salute, and Harry rolled his eyes.
"Thank you, Auror Potter," he said with a small smile. "At ease."
Since arriving back from his 'personal time' and being shunted off Kingsley's team and back to Harry's, Scorpius had kept a low profile. Harry, for his part, hadn't bothered to initiate any contact. He sent orders through James or Ron and observed from afar, making sure the trainees were getting through their tasks satisfactorily. But now, with mid-term evaluations looming, he could no longer put off a face-to-face meeting with Scorpius. Despite his pep talks to himself and his breathing exercises before they came in, despite knowing that he was an adult with decades of experience in this job, seeing Scorpius now made all the repressed fury bubble to the surface again. Scorpius looked a bit nervous but was masking it with squared shoulders and a lifted chin. He gazed straight ahead, breathing evenly, with his hands clasped behind his back.
The cheeky bloody bastard.
"Malfoy," said Harry quietly. Exchanging glances, the others in the room stepped back as Scorpius clenched his jaw and took a step forward.
"What are you doing here?"
He paused, lips parted. "I– uh. I'm here for my evaluation, sir," he managed, swallowing. "Like the rest of the team."
"Are you sure about that?"
Scorpius blinked, his chest rising and falling more rapidly as the others snickered behind him. "I am, sir."
Harry rose from his desk. All he saw when he looked at this kid was Ginny's slender fingers messing up his blond hair, Ginny's pink mouth dusting kisses up his smooth, square jaw. "Are you sure you want to stand there while I evaluate your performance for the last six months?"
He saw Ginny's hands tearing at Scorpius's robes and pushing into his open shirt.
Scorpius tightened his jaw.
"Are you sure," he continued, his voice rising, "you picked the right career? The right superior to piss off?"
Scorpius's nostrils flared, and he dropped his eyes to the floor. "No, sir, I didn't mean to–"
All he saw was Ginny's legs spreading for Scorpius as he hovered over her, telling her that she deserved someone young and whole and without the baggage of a lifetime.
"Ah!" Harry forced a laugh, too loud and dramatic. He looked around the room. "He didn't mean to, boys! What do the rest of you say – are you ready to take Malfoy here on stakeout with you? Do you trust him with your life? Do you trust him–" he narrowed his eyes on Scorpius again – "to have your back no matter what?"
"Fuck, no!" cried James, leading a rouse of chuckles and shouts from the others. "He'd be off getting his dick wet while the rest of us were under fire!"
Harry regarded him as the catcalls died down. "Would you?" he asked quietly. "I'm inclined to agree."
"Harry, I'm sorry," murmured Scorpius, his face painted in anguish. "I love her."
Something snapped in Harry at that. "Then we can't trust you," he bit out. "Desk duty until further notice, Malfoy, and you don't so much as leave that desk for one second of the day unless it's to bring me coffee. Understood?"
Tight-lipped, Scorpius raised his head and nodded, his eyes sad.
"Dismissed," muttered Harry, waving his hand. "Evaluations postponed until tomorrow."
Wordlessly, James ushered them out, pausing only to give Harry a sympathetic look over his shoulder as they left.
All Harry saw when he looked at the kid was Ginny's body shuddering underneath him as he shoved inside her, making her moan and beg for more the way she never had for Harry.
It wasn't Friday and he didn't want juice, but Harry went to see Luna nonetheless that evening. She let him in with a broad smile and a hug that left him feeling a little bit boneless and infinitely lighter. She took his hand and led him inside, depositing him on her sofa and curling up in a chair across from him.
She didn't say a word and didn't need to. He felt awkward in the silence for only a few moments, but as soon as he accepted it and relaxed into it, he found it soothing. The longer it went on, the farther away he got from the ability to break it with meaningless words. She watched him, but it didn't make him uncomfortable. To his surprise, he found himself opening up under her gaze, wanting her to see the real him, everything that was wrong without having to say it.
"Shh," she murmured at last, which was almost funny, because he'd grown so used to the silence he'd stopped considering what to say. "It's all right," she added, her voice like a dream. "Everything will be all right."
A sob rose in his throat at that, and he pushed it back down, swallowing hard. "I don't think it will," he whispered, his voice tight. "I really, really don't think it will."
Without another word, she rose from her chair and sank down beside him on the sofa, gathering him in her arms. She stroked her hand over his cheek and into his hair like she would a child, holding him as he trembled, unsure what to do anymore or how to feel. She began to hum, something melancholy and beautiful, and the sound poured over top of him as he closed his eyes against her chest, breathing evenly.
He woke some time later, the light having faded from the windows, with his head in Luna's lap and one of her hands still stroking his hair. She glanced down from her book as he turned his head, gazing up at her. She must have removed his glasses, because she was fuzzy around the edges, like a mirage.
"Hi." She smiled at him.
"Sorry," he croaked, trying to sit up. He cleared his throat. "I should go."
She cupped his face once more, her fingers tickling at the indents he could feel from her skirt in the side of his face. "Launch marks," she said with a solemn nod. "For luck."
He let out a breathless laugh, rubbing his eyes. "See you Friday?" He regarded her, taking in her calm expression and warm eyes. She nodded.
He gathered his things and stumbled out the door, unsure of what had just happened.
He began to visit her every Friday afternoon like clockwork. The second week, he brought biscuits. The third, she let him feed the Daliwinkles unsupervised, while she shredded the ginger root for whatever non-tea concoction she had in mind. The fourth, he found himself arguing passionately about the virtues of the tube sock over the regular sock, complete with models from Luna's closet.
In between those visits, he took up a cautious correspondence with his daughter.
James says you're working too hard. You should spend more time with Uncle George or Uncle Charlie, Daddy. They know how to party.
He'd frowned at that one. What sort of partying were they doing with her, anyway?
I'm glad you wrote, Lil. Work is busy, but hey, that's life. Just wait till this time next year, when you're a working stiff, too.
She'd told him more about her classes after that, and how Madame Tewkes thought she might be perfect for an apprenticeship at the most coveted potions shop in Wizarding Paris.
You'd like Madame Tewkes, Daddy. She's got big breasts. Maybe you should ask her out!!!
Wordlessly, he'd dropped that one on Luna's kitchen table the following Friday. She scrutinised it, her mouth turning down.
"Lenore!" she exclaimed, shaking her head. "Oh, I don't think she'd be right for you, Harry."
"Big breasts, though," said Harry thoughtfully.
She swatted his arm, and he laughed.
"Okay, okay. But, uh, should I be worried that my daughter is trying to set me up with her buxom potions professor?"
"Maybe." Luna grinned, but it soon faltered. "Why, are you interested?"
"No." He held her gaze for a few seconds until she looked away.
"Too soon. Yes, you're right."
"It's not that." She looked up at him again, every emotion open on her face, as usual. "I mean, maybe it is, a little bit. It's strange to think about dating again." He rested his chin in one hand. "Do you think I should consider it?"
Her lips parted and she sighed, gazing at him openly. "Now, what should I say to that?" she murmured, getting up to clear away their dishes.
He let the moment pass, but not before setting one thing straight. "Luna."
She glanced back over her shoulder.
"I'm not interested in dating Lenore Tewkes, no matter how big her breasts are."
She smiled, relief etched in her face.
"... and then the rotten bastard had the gall to tell me I'd filled out the field report wrong! So I said to him, 'Oh yeah? Why don't you go fuck my mother, Malfoy. Oh, wait.'"
Harry approached the table with three pints of beer balanced in his hands, shooting James a weary look as Al rolled his eyes, their laughter dying down.
"Oh, brilliant," said Al, grabbing for his beer and swallowing a quarter of it in one go. He sat back against the faux leather of the booth, wiping his mouth. "So. This is cosy."
Harry balled up a napkin and threw it at him, grinning. "Don't be an arse. I've hardly seen you two in weeks. Do your old man a favour and have a bloody beer with him."
James grinned, lifting his beer in a mock toast before taking a sip. "Cheers, Dad."
"Yeah. Thank you for the beer, Dad," recited Al.
Harry shook his head at them fondly. "So. What's new? Besides torturing Malfoy."
"That's about it," said James, grinning. "Never gets old."
"Fuck him," said Al. "I don't want to talk about that wanker. My spare room still smells like his fucking socks."
"You could clean it," Harry pointed out.
"I could clean it," mimicked Al, making a face. "Thanks. Hadn't thought of that."
"Are you all right for rent?" asked Harry, ignoring him and sipping his beer. "Might need to get another friend in there, to split the costs."
"Yes, Dad, thank you." Al rolled his eyes at James. "Hadn't thought of that, either."
James gave Harry a helpless shrug, and Harry suddenly had what he considered the perfect solution.
"Wait." He gestured between the pair of them across the table. "Why don't you move in with him?" he said to James.
They both blinked at him.
"Help him out with the rent, bond with your brother," continued Harry. "Why not?"
A moment of stunned silence fell over the table. A few seconds later, Al began to laugh, his eyes wide with incredulity. "What's he talking about?" he said to James, grinning. "Is he– Did you– Wait. He doesn't know?" Al started laughing full out at that. "How can he not know? Oh my God, oh my God, this is the best day ever!" He ran his hand over his face, dissolving into gales of laughter.
James elbowed him hard in the ribs.
"Ow. Fuck off!" Al punched him in the arm.
"Hey, hey." Harry glared at them. "What's so funny? It was just a thought. If you don't want to, I don't care." He took another swig. "Can't stay with Teddy forever, though, can you? I just thought you might want to–"
"Dad." James was blinking at him, his face coloured with disbelief. "Stop. Okay? Just stop. What are you on about? What do you mean, I can't stay with Teddy forever?" His voice cracked on the last words, and he suddenly looked desolate.
"I– wait. No. Why are you so upset? I just meant, you know." He waved his hand.
"We went through this years ago," said James quietly. "You are aware that I'm gay, right?"
Al's laughter hiccupped away, and he sat fidgeting, his head down.
"Of course I am!" Harry's gaze shifted from James to Al and back again. "Just, I mean, it's not very stable, is it, with Teddy at Hogwarts all the time? It's nice that you take care of the place while he's gone, but it's not really long-term."
Al's head snapped up at that. Still gaping at Harry in disbelief, he leaned forward. "You think they're just fuck buddies, Dad, is that it? Bit of a tumble when Teddy's not on Prefect supervision?"
"He thinks I just water his plants," James joined in, turning to Al as if Harry weren't there.
"Well, if that's what you want to call it," said Al, laughing again.
"Fuck, yeah." James slammed his hand down on the table. "I dress up in this little French maid costume with my arse out and toddle around with a feather duster till he gets home."
"Bet he pays handsomely for it, too," said Al.
"Damn right. Sometimes the other maids come, too, when the service sends a few extras. But I think I'm his favourite."
"Bet you are." Al nodded solemnly. "Mind your place, though. Wouldn't want him to get tired of you and take away your room and board."
"All right!" snapped Harry. He rubbed his forehead, softening his voice. "I didn't mean to–"
"Didn't mean to invalidate my entire relationship?" said James coldly. "No problem."
James took one more swig of beer and wiped his mouth. "It's all right, Dad," he bit out. "Never really expected you to understand." He got up and grabbed his cloak, striding out of the pub before Harry could stop him.
Blinking, he turned back to Al.
"You're a complete arse," muttered Al, draining his pint. "Do you really not get this?" he added, leaning forward over the table. "Do you really not understand that those two are more married than anyone else in this fucking family? That's James's house too, Dad. They're a couple, you fucking idiot."
"Well, I know that, but–"
"Then why the fuck would he move in with me?"
Ah. Closing his mouth, Harry frowned into his beer. Goddammit. He was a fucking idiot.
Al softened up a bit after another beer and clapped Harry awkwardly on the back, promising to help smooth things over with James. After he left, Harry contemplated going home to continue hitting his head against the wall by himself, or heading over to Ron and Hermione's, but neither seemed too appealing. He could hear Hermione's chastising voice in his head even now if he told her what he'd said.
There was only one other option, one person who might be sympathetic. Or, at least, one who would be a bit nicer about telling him that he was an idiot.
"Harry!" Luna's face lit up as usual when she opened the door of her cottage to find him there. "Come in. I was just washing the Gurtphoos." He paused to look her up and down, smothering a laugh when he realised she was soaking wet from the waist down, despite wearing knee-high galoshes. Her hair was knotted back in a complex but messy twist at the nape of her neck, as usual, with strands spilling down the side of her face. She gestured him inside, wiping her brow with the back of one wrist.
Behind her, a bathtub took up most of the kitchen and was full of wriggling little – what were those? They looked a little bit like Mandrakes, but with a covering of something Harry decided was tree bark.
"They need weekly baths until they're six months old," she sighed, "or else the moss will grow over their mouths. They're very sweet-natured, but a bit of a pain, really."
They began chattering at Harry in a garbled language, and one threw a handful of water at him.
Luna glanced back over her shoulder at him again, pausing. "You look awful, Harry. What's happened?"
He sighed, settling onto her sofa. "Do you promise not to call me an idiot?"
"Hm. All right. But if you really deserve it, I reserve the right to renege."
"Fair enough." He smiled at her, but it faded as he recounted what had happened at the pub. When he finished, she was looking at him with a sorrowful expression on her face.
"Oh, dear," she murmured. "Just a second, Harry. I'll be right back." Turning back to the tub, she Levitated it outside, and he heard a bit of a skirmish with a gush of water and some mad squawking from the Gurtphoos. She came back inside, wiping her hands on an old shirt. "Oof! Well, they're all set till next week, then. Now. You thought they were flatmates?" She sat down beside him, ignoring the squelch of water into the sofa.
"You promised," he warned.
She laughed. "No, I didn't." She sat back against the sofa, rolling her head to look at him. She was quiet for a moment. When she finally spoke, her voice was grave. "Coming out to you was very difficult for him."
He furrowed his brows. "I– Yeah. I know."
"No, maybe you don't. He went through a phase in, oh, I don't remember – fifth year, maybe, or sixth, when he withdrew from all his activities, really took refuge inside himself. I saw a bit of it, Harry. He knew he was different, and the last thing he wanted was to disappoint you."
Harry felt his throat close up. "I– but, how could he think that? We've– I mean, we've raised him with gay people in his life; we've always supported him. Haven't we? Why would he think–"
"It doesn't have to make sense to you, Harry. It is what it is. There was a time when he thought he wouldn't be able to be an Auror, if you want to know the truth, because he didn't think gay men could do a job like that." She held her hands up at Harry's protests. "It made sense in his head, I suppose. He was a confused teenager." She sagged further into the sofa, her hands clasped over her middle and her legs splayed. She was lost in thought, it seemed. "The first time he saw Kingsley with a date at one of those Ministry functions, he was so excited. He came for tea when he got back to school and said to me, 'Luna, I can be an Auror! I really can.'" Her eyes were far away, and Harry's heart clenched.
"You knew before I did," he murmured. He wasn't angry, not really, but a wave of sadness rushed over him.
She glanced over at him. "Yes, I probably did." She placed her hand on his knee. "I see these kids every day during most of their teenage years, though, Harry. Remember? It's normal that their teachers know a little bit more about them than their parents at that age."
He nodded. "Yeah. All right. I still wish he'd talked to me earlier, though. I thought–" He recalled those years, not too long ago, and winced. "I thought he just had a harmless crush on Teddy back then. Sort of a big brother or hero worship sort of thing."
"I think that was part of it," said Luna with a smile. "Well. Not the big brother part."
Harry barked out a laugh. "No. Guess not." He shifted on the sofa to face her, covering her hand with his. "They just haven't been together very long, though. I didn't mean to be an arse, but I really thought it was maybe, I don't know, more casual than it is. He's known Teddy all his life. I thought maybe someday he'd venture out a bit, or something. Find someone else."
She shrugged. "He still could. You're starting over in your forties, aren't you? No, don't look at me like that." She squeezed his hand. "I just mean that anything can happen in a relationship, Harry. You know that. It doesn't mean you shouldn't give it all you've got while it lasts."
Harry pursed his lips.
"Besides," she continued, "it must be going on six years by now. I think that's certainly long enough to be considered a long-term relationsh– Oh. Wait. No, my math's wrong. Harry, wait. I meant two years, or–"
"Six years?" Harry pulled his hand back, gaping at her. "He's twenty-two years old, Luna! It was three years ago when he and Teddy came to us and told us."
"Um." Luna rose quickly, heading to the kitchen and pulling out a pair of glasses. "Water?"
"No, thanks." He scrubbed at his face. "Tell me what you know."
"Oh, Harry. All I do lately is tell you your children's secrets! They'll never trust me if I keep doing this."
"I'm their father! Why don't they trust me?"
"They do, Harry, but–" She wrung her hands, abandoning the water glasses and sinking back down on the sofa. "James was still at Hogwarts when he and Teddy first got involved. Don't." She pointed her finger at him. "Don't you dare judge either of them, or me. It was before Teddy started teaching here, and James was damn lucky to have him, if you ask me: someone who cared about him and was willing to teach him, and–"
"He's got seven bloody years on James! What the hell was he going to teach him at that age? Oh my God." He buried his face in his hands, wondering how he would ever look Teddy in the eye again.
"Harry." Luna moved closer to him and wrapped her arm around his shoulders. "Stop it. They were safe, and look! It worked out for the best. They fell in love. Would you rather he'd had Teddy to help him with those feelings, help him understand that it was perfectly normal to be attracted to men, or would you rather he'd spent those years in shady clubs, taking any offer he could get?"
"Those weren't the only options!"
"They're in love, Harry," she repeated. "They've got that cute little house together now, and they're committed to each other, and they're trying their best to stay stable despite Teddy having to be at Hogwarts most of the week, and that part's not easy for them, you know. I remember when Ginny was travelling with the Harpies so much after you got married," she added, her face guarded. "You were miserable."
He opened his mouth to reply but then closed it again. He did remember that, and he was miserable. But that wasn't the same as Teddy and James. Was it? He raised his eyes to Luna, and the look on his face must have snagged something in her, because she crawled forward on the sofa and put her arms around him.
"Oh, Harry," she murmured. He sagged into her arms, his hand pushing into her hair as he breathed her in. "It's all right. He'll forgive you."
He nodded against her shoulder, comforted by her warmth as she stroked his hair. After a moment, he shifted to look up at her again. "Did you ever want children?" he asked quietly, not sure if that was too personal to ask.
She was quiet for a few seconds, her hand pausing against his temple. "No," she said at last. "Not really. I always thought I'd have more time, I suppose. I didn't get back from Sweden until I was twenty-eight, remember, and then there was that stretch where I wasn't eating anything white. That wouldn't have been a good time."
He hid a smile.
"For awhile I was in love with an older man who didn't want any," she continued, and Harry's heart clenched a little bit. He'd met a few of Luna's lovers over the years, but none of them ever seemed to last, and he'd never dwelled on the idea of her actually being in love with someone long-term. He clamped down on a flare of jealousy. That was ridiculous. He had no right. "By the time I started teaching at Hogwarts, it seemed more than enough to be surrounded by children every day. Oh, don't look at me like I'm some old spinster who missed her chance," she said, narrowing her eyes.
"I've no regrets in my life, Harry. If I've ever had one, I've gone back and fixed it as soon as I could. That's no way to live, always wondering, what if...?"
"No," he agreed. "It's not. And you were clever to fix it so you got a batch of them at eleven and missed the potty training years." He shuddered, and she laughed. "My children love you, you know," he added after a moment, smiling at her. "Thank you for everything you've done for them."
She framed his face in her hands and then leaned in, kissing him on the forehead. "You're welcome," she murmured. He rested his head on her shoulder again, considering. No regrets, right? "I was jealous just now," he said softly, "when you mentioned being in love with another man."
He felt her heartbeat speed up a fraction. "Is that so?"
"Yeah." He turned to look up at her.
"Well, you do seem to end up on my sofa with my arms around you quite often these days, Harry," she deadpanned.
He laughed, wriggling to sit up again. Before he could think about smoothing the strands of hair off her face or even leaning in to kiss her, though, he heard a terrible squelching noise. Glancing down, he realised they'd both been sitting in a puddle of water from Luna's soaked trousers.
She winced, giving him an apologetic look. "Whoops."
"I should leave you to get cleaned up." He rose, offering his hand to help her up from the heavy water.
"Should you?" She regarded him with her big, round eyes that always saw too much, her head tilted to the side and a warm smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
He let the look between them intensify, a thrill flipping through his stomach at that feeling, unfamiliar after so many years in a slowly crumbling marriage, of desire and attraction for someone new. He reached out to run his hand slowly down the side of her face, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. She closed her eyes and leaned into the touch. "Yeah," he forced himself to say. "I should."
He gave her a wistful smile as he stepped away, and she opened her eyes and nodded.
If Luna's cottage was a rare spot of warmth and welcome on the horizon of Harry's life as the spring wore on, his office continued to be beacon of nothing but charred tension. James, while insisting everything was fine and Harry should quit worrying so much, continued to avoid him whenever possible. Post delivery, moreover, was usually the worst time of day.
Scorpius is too proud to complain, but I know you're making his life miserable. Can you please, please try to see reason – for me? He doesn't deserve desk duty! Can you please try to be an adult here?
Harry binned that one.
Your progress is astonishingly slow, but then, why am I surprised? Three months later, and this charade of a 'relationship' continues to suck up my son's time and youth and every marriage prospect I've put in front of him with well-placed families. Why on earth he would want your wife's saggy tits instead of young, perky Colette Smythe-Jones is anyone's bloody guess. Desk duty is a bit generous, under the circumstances. Do feel free to have him scrub the floors with a toothbrush if it will make him come to his senses.
Well, that one was downright friendly, in comparison to the usual. He'd have to think about that toothbrush idea. It wasn't bad.
Mum keeps trying to corner me in Hogsmeade! MAKE HER STOP!!!! She is SO embarrassing. I hate her.
Exams are soon. You can't get angry if I don't get six N.E.W.T.s like James! He's not human! I'll totally get more than Al, though. That's not hard. If I do, you HAVE TO let me go to Paris!!!! You promised!
He grinned at that one. God. Paris. He hardly saw her as it was. He sighed, setting that letter aside to respond to later. As he shuffled the parchment on his desk, one more envelope peeked out. Recognising the colour, he tore it open.
Hi, Harry. How are you feeling? Lily is better, I think, although she's still quite angry with Ginny. I'm trying to get them to sit down and talk, but I don't think she's ready yet. It would be better if they could do it before the Gurtphoos mature, since I'll have less time after that, but, what can you do? It's hard to rush these things (the Gurtphoos, I mean. Not the other. Well, maybe both.)
I wanted to show you something tonight, though. Are you free? Meet me in the Forest at 10 p.m., if you're not working. Sixteen paces past my pumpkin patch, turn left, and head in another 9.5 jumps. That number is based on one leg, but you can jump on two if you want. In that case, though, it might be closer to 11 jumps. Send up a flare if you get lost, and I will make fun of you.
He propped that one up on his desk and reread it a dozen times throughout the day, grinning every time.
Later that night, Harry followed Luna's instructions and found himself in an eerie clearing in the Forbidden Forest. He blinked in the darkness, which was even more pronounced this far in than it had been out on the Hogwarts grounds.
"Luna, is that you?"
The figure turned, and Harry could make out Luna's silhouette in the moonlight. "Shh," she murmured, placing her index finger to her lips. She smiled at him and beckoned him forward. When he reached her side, she took his hand in one of hers and pointed into the clearing with the other. "Do you see?"
Harry's eyes adjusted to the dim light, and he glanced around. At first he couldn't see anything, but slowly, they began to step forward.
"Oh, they recognise you!" she exclaimed quietly beside him, squeezing his hand. "Look, they're coming closer."
One by one, an entire herd of Thestrals crept silently across the clearing, gathering around Harry and Luna. Their bodies shone in the low light and their eyes glowed. They were intimidating beasts, and the thought of them generally gave Harry the shivers, but now that he was in their presence again for the first time in ages, he remembered how peaceful and soothing they were. He felt his boots sink into the ground and his very essence anchor itself, centering him. He looked over at Luna.
"Perfect," she murmured, reaching out to stroke down one's nose. "Don't they make you feel better?"
Harry nodded, joining her where she pet the creature nearest them. They gathered in close, and Harry felt his lungs open up for the first time in months. He took a breath of fresh air and let the feeling of peace settle over him. "Remember when we were the only ones who could see them?" he ventured, smiling. "Back at school?"
She turned to him and glanced up. "It was nice to have someone to show," she agreed. "For the longest time, I thought I was mad."
Her voice was tinged with sadness, and for the first time, Harry considered not only the mystery that was Luna Lovegood as she appeared from the outside, but as she might appear to herself. "I didn't think that was something you'd ever thought about yourself," he said awkwardly. She pressed her lips together, her hands smoothing over the creature's side.
"Of course I have," she murmured, averting Harry's gaze. "A society this conformist..." She shook her head. "Do you really think it's possible to interpret the world the way I always have, the way my father taught me to, without more than a few moments of panic about your sanity?" She forced a soft laugh, but she still wouldn't meet Harry's eyes.
"Hey." He abandoned the Thestral's soft coat and slid his arm around Luna's shoulders instead, pulling her close. She leaned forward, resting her cheek against the animal's side and closing her eyes. Harry nestled himself against her, listening to both heartbeats next to him. "I've never thought you were mad," he said quietly.
"Oh, Harry." She laughed again, wiping her eyes quickly. "Of course you have."
"No," he said quickly. "Not really. Not like that. I just–" He considered it, not wanting to lie to her. "I like the way you interpret the world," he said at last, his hand smoothing circles over her back. "You're right: there aren't really that many different points of view in the Wizarding world. I've always been grateful for yours." He paused. "A little jealous of it, too, to be honest."
She glanced sideways at him. "I don't believe you."
He laughed against her shoulder. "You don't have to believe me! It's true, though." His hand ceased its movements against her back, but he kept it anchored there, suddenly breathless.
She lifted her head to face him, backing herself against the Thestral's warm side. "I'm grateful for your point of view too, Harry," she said softly, reaching up to trace the side of his face with her fingertips, "and a little bit jealous of it."
In the moonlight, her hair glinted like gold and her few drying tears glowed across her pink cheeks. She looked both strong and vulnerable, like an earthbound goddess searching for home. Without thinking about it, he leaned down and kissed her.
The feeling of peace and security that the Thestrals had bestowed only intensified as he pulled Luna close and she opened herself to him. With a soft gasp, she parted her lips and deepened the kiss, her fingers drawing across his jaw line. He hadn't kissed anyone but his wife in decades, but he barely let himself dwell on that. He didn't want to. All he knew was that being with Luna lightened his heart and made him feel whole again, sensations he could only hope that he evoked in her as well.
She pulled back slightly, resting her forehead against his and cupping his cheek. She smiled against his mouth, dispelling any potential awkwardness, and then leaned in to brush another light kiss over his lips. They turned back to the Thestrals, arms locked around each other. "Do you want to know something that makes me sad and happy at the same time?" she asked him.
"Of course." He kissed her temple.
"The kids these days. They can't see them." She nodded at the creatures surrounding them. "Not one of them. It started happening gradually over the years, of course, the further we got away from the war. But there was always one or two in every class. Not anymore."
Harry considered that. It was sad and happy news at the same time. "They just think the carriages move themselves?"
She nodded. "There aren't even rumours of them anymore. They just faded away, right out of existence. If no one talks about them, after all, and no one can see them, what's left to keep them here?"
Harry drew her close again, wrapping his arms around her and settling her head against his shoulder. "They have us," he murmured, smoothing one hand over her hair.
She smiled up at him.
An owl sailed in through Harry's window early the next morning, rattling the pane and waking him up. Disoriented, he grabbed his glasses and patted the bird on the head, taking the letter.
The Thestrals said to thank you for coming. They had a lovely evening. They think you're a very good kisser.
(Well, I told them to say that last).
His head dropped between his shoulders and he laughed before flopping back down on his bed. He fell asleep again with visions of her fading in and out of his dreams.
Harry glanced up at the knock on his door. "Oh, hey." He beckoned. "Come on in."
Teddy entered the office and closed the door behind him, but not before jerking his thumb back over his shoulder. "So, I don't know if you know this, but Scorpius is in the loo, scrubbing the floors with what looks to be a toothbrush."
Harry grinned as Teddy laughed, falling into the chair across from him.
"Oh, you miserable bastard."
Harry shrugged. "Wasn't my idea. Just a friendly suggestion that I thought had merit. What's up?"
"I'm on lunch; don't have long," said Teddy, his face turning serious. He took a deep breath, giving Harry a pointed look. "I talked to James last night about a few things."
"Ah." Harry leaned back in his chair. "I was wondering if he'd mentioned it to you."
"He hadn't." Teddy frowned, looking away. "Which was odd in itself, and generally indicates that he was too upset to talk about it."
"I'm sorry, mate," said Harry, exhaling in a low rush. He drummed his fingers on his desk. "I'm an idiot."
He nodded. "Yeah. You really are." But he was smiling sadly at Harry.
"He's been avoiding me ever since, no matter how many times I apologise. How can I make it up to you two?"
Teddy spread his hands. "I don't know. He wears his heart on his sleeve, that one. Eldest child, Harry: all he's ever wanted is to make you proud. Any tiny indication that he's failed at that?" Teddy sighed. "He goes 'round the twist a little bit."
"I didn't– I mean." He cleared his throat. "I know I'm an idiot, and that's been pointed out by many secondary parties now–"
"–but I really didn't know it was so serious between you two. I mean, we should have had a ceremony or something! A reception? A party? Whatever you want."
Teddy was silent for a moment. "That's kind of you, Harry. I appreciate it." He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped together. "But it's a bit tricky, you know? I grew up with your family. James was following me around with his toys when he was five years old. It's–" He ran one hand through his hair, looking uncomfortable. "I never wanted to draw too much attention to us, you know? Thought it might be bad publicity for your family. Not to mention that it makes me seem a bit–"
Teddy looked stricken. He dropped his gaze. "Yeah. I guess. I mean– is that what you think? You've been great," he hastened to add, "and you've always accepted us, but–" He found Harry's eyes again and held them. "You've never told me what you really think about me being with your son. Especially now that you know that it's for good. He's the one for me." Teddy paused, his face melting into a wistful smile. "He's the only one."
Harry hesitated. He should just reassure Teddy and send him on his way. No need to open any cans of worms. But he couldn't quite let it go, not if they were going to talk openly about this. "Was he the only one when he was sixteen?" he asked quietly.
Teddy opened his mouth, hunching over in the chair. "Ah," he said after a moment. He pressed his lips together. "Seventeen, and– no. There was a time when he wasn't the only one. He knows about that. But we couldn't seem to let go of each other. By the time we told you and Ginny, we were sure. It was just the two of us, and it has been ever since. Okay?"
"He was never in your classes?" Harry narrowed his eyes, mentally doing the math about James's years at Hogwarts.
"No." Teddy shook his head, his voice firm. "Absolutely not. I didn't work there yet, and I would never, ever touch a student. God, Harry, you can't think that. You can't think I would–"
"No, I don't." Harry sighed. "And you never need to worry about bad publicity or any of that, okay? Christ." He gestured around. "You might have noticed that I'm perfectly capable of attracting bad publicity all on my own."
Teddy smiled, but he still looked distraught. "I should have told you, or asked you, when I started seeing him." He dropped his eyes. "I know he was young."
Harry sighed again, rubbing his eyes. "I'm not thrilled about it," he admitted. "Back then, I mean, starting when he was so young. Not now. I mean, now it's fine. It's more than fine; it's wonderful." He paused to give Teddy a genuine smile.
"But I'm sure you thought we were supposed to be, you know–" Teddy frowned. "Brothers."
Harry considered that, as he had several times since James had first come out to him, Teddy in tow. "Not necessarily. Back in the day, a person could have made a solid argument for how me and Ginny should have been like siblings, too, since I was pretty much raised in her house."
Teddy laughed. "Ah. Yeah. Good point."
"Look." Harry leaned forward. "I'm not thrilled he was so young, but on the other hand, I'm glad it was you." He sighed. "In a way, you were the son I couldn't raise by myself when I was seventeen," he added quietly, giving Teddy a sad smile. "Godson has been a wonderful thing; son-in-law will be even better."
"Christ, Harry." Teddy swallowed, looking down at his hands. "You're going to make me all teary."
Harry pushed down a grin. "Then we'd better change the subject. Listen, can I ask you something?"
"What do you think of Luna?"
Teddy regarded him carefully, not speaking for a moment but clearly sizing Harry up, trying to guess his angle. Harry averted his eyes. "I think she's just about the cleverest, kindest, most unique person I've ever met," he said at last. "Not everyone appreciates her quirks, shall we say, but for those who do, there's no one like her."
Harry nodded, fiddling with a quill.
"What do you think of Luna?" nudged Teddy with a grin. "Is that the real question?"
Harry shot him a look. "No. Maybe. I don't know. It doesn't matter. It's too soon, isn't it?"
Teddy shrugged. "Been a few months. I think you'd be allowed to start up with someone new, if that's what you wanted."
"Would the kids hate me?"
Another shrug. "I don't think so. They all love her. Christ, Al spends more time at Hogwarts now than he ever did as a student. Whenever he needs an idea for a column, he goes to see Luna and he's got material for weeks."
Harry laughed at that as Teddy rose from his chair. "Yeah. Sounds about right."
"I've got to get back. Go for it, Harry," he said with a grin. "I think she'd be good for you."
"Ah, but would I be any good for her?"
"Only one way to find out."
Harry nodded, running his hand through his hair. Yeah, that much was true.
He looked up.
"For what? Look, you're family, Teddy. No matter what. Okay?"
Teddy nodded, giving him a grateful smile as he opened the door and left.
They weren't scheduled to meet that week – Harry had night drills nearly every evening and Luna's N.E.W.T. students were driving her mad – but by Friday, he found he couldn't stay away. He headed to Hogwarts just before dinner, hoping to see her for an hour or so before he'd have to return to work. He made his way across the grounds feeling like a teenager again, his nerves alight and the memory of Luna's lips against his still fresh in his mind.
He felt himself beginning to get hard every time he thought of her lately – the way the strands of her hair fell across her face, or the way her soothing voice could warm him from the inside out. His wanking fantasies had ceased to feature sad, lingering images of Ginny or lonely, unattainable images of buxom celebrities. Instead, every time he touched himself lately he thought of Luna's delicate hands on him, Luna's voice murmuring filthy things in his ear and Luna's slender body clenching around him.
As he approached her cottage, he paused to close his eyes and breathe in the cool summer air, trying to steady his arousal.
He opened his eyes again to see her leaning against her door frame, hands in her trouser pockets and a light in her eyes. Her hair was loose, and Harry's breath caught. It was even more beautiful than he'd imagined whenever he dared to fantasise about what she might look like with it unbound. It fell nearly to her waist in golden sheets, wavy and uneven at the ends, making her look impossibly small and vulnerable underneath it. As he approached, she gathered it at the nape of her neck and began twisting it over one shoulder, putting it in a loose braid.
"No, leave it," he said breathlessly as he climbed the few steps to her cottage. "God, please, leave it loose."
She smiled at him and dropped her hands. He picked up where she'd left off, letting the strands twine around his fingers. He braided a few pieces but then ran his fingers through them to free them again.
"Hi," he murmured at last, looking into her eyes even as his hands continued to caress her hair. "Expecting me?"
She shook her head, smiling. "No, but a woman can always hope."
He leaned down and kissed her, not wasting any time. "I'm sorry," he breathed against her lips. "I've been thinking about you every minute." Her lips were warm and soft under his, and she returned his kiss with enthusiasm, arching up to meet him. He buried his hand in her hair, cupping the back of her head as he guided her mouth to his.
"Come inside," she whispered. "You'll scandalise the children."
"They're not supposed to be out here," he growled, backing her through the door and closing it behind them.
"Then you'll scare the Mirqwrats." She laughed, cupping his face in her hands. "Kiss me again."
He obeyed, trying his best to make sure she understood exactly how she made him feel, exactly what he wanted to do to her.
She pulled back after a moment, moaning softly. Her lips were red and wet, and she sucked her bottom lip between her teeth. "Wait a second," she teased. "Is this a booty call? I've heard the children talking about this. I've been warned about men like you."
He fell onto the sofa with her, kissing up her neck. "Have you?"
"The ruse is up, then." He pulled back, grinning at her. "I've forty-five minutes to spare, then I'll be leaving. Would that make you feel cheap?"
She laughed, swatting at him. "You're an utter cad." Framing his face in her hands again, her smile turned from mischievous to wistful. She forced his gaze. "Is this something you're ready for?" she murmured.
He nodded. "Yeah. If you are." He swallowed, letting his fingers drift down her collarbone inside her blouse. "I can't stop thinking about you."
"You're just lonely." She lifted her chin.
"I'm the only single woman you know." She arched a brow.
"No. Well, maybe, but that's not why."
"It would be easy to introduce me to your children." She narrowed her eyes.
"Luna!" He laughed, leaning in and stealing another kiss. His fingers moved to unbutton her blouse, each new button eliciting a sigh from Luna as she leaned back into the sofa cushions, pulling him with her. Her own fingers fumbled with his shirt, until they were both skin to skin. He pushed her hair back and nuzzled her neck, his lips moving up to the shell of her ear. She let out a breathy laugh, pulling him closer. "I hear you have a theory about older women and their sex drives," he murmured, grasping her earlobe lightly between his teeth.
"Oh, I've several," she whispered, running her fingers through his hair, settling them against the back of his head and drawing him down to her neck. She arched against him.
"So? Tell me about them." His mouth moved over her neck and collarbone, and he paused at the hollow of her throat to breathe her in. "What do they like?"
"Are you sure you want to hear it?" she said with a soft laugh.
He nodded, fingers trailing over her cleavage.
"All right. Don't say I didn't warn you." She settled back against the cushions as he draped himself over top of her. "First," she continued, her voice playful but seductive, "we ever so occasionally need a bit of extra stimulation to get wet."
Harry groaned. The words themselves were clinical, but coming out in Luna's breathy voice, while Harry's lips were moving closer to her breasts, made them unbearably erotic. "Do you, now," he murmured. "And what could I possibly do to help with that?"
"Oh, I think you're doing just fine," she gasped, her fingers tight around the back of his neck.
"What else?" He lifted his head slightly and ran his thumb along the edge of her bra. His index finger slid back up to the strap and pushed it off her shoulder. With the fabric over her breast loosened, his thumb easily slipped inside, and he brushed it lightly over her nipple.
He felt her stomach muscles clench as she arched towards him, gasping. "Well," she managed, leaning down to kiss the top of his head, "once we've had sufficient foreplay, we really, really like to get off." She paused. "Several times."
Harry moaned deep in his throat, abandoning all attempt at a slow seduction. His fingers shoved the lace of Luna's bra aside and he sucked her nipple into his mouth, flicking his tongue over it in a steady rhythm. "Tell me how to get you off," he growled, his tongue still moving over her breast. "Tell me what you want."
She laughed. "You don't know how?"
He glanced up at her, grinning. "Oh, I know how."
"Married for twenty-five years!" She laughed again. "I should think you know how."
"Oh. No, Harry, I'm sorry. Wait."
He sat up and wiped his mouth, avoiding her eyes. She struggled to sit up, too, leaning on her elbows with her blouse open and breasts exposed. Christ. He closed his eyes. After a moment, he felt her hand cup the side of his face. He pulled away and tried to steady himself. It didn't matter, he told himself. Ginny was gone, she wasn't coming back, and it was time for him to move on. But if that was true, then why did any reminder of his marriage still knife him like that? Luna's fingers moved over his jaw. Despite himself, he leaned into the touch, sighing.
"When you're ready," she murmured, "I want you. Very much. But not before then. Not if it's a rebound thing, or if you're still thinking about Ginny. Not till you're ready." She paused, stroking his cheek with her thumb. "Men like having sex with me," she added wearily, as if this fact were a terrible inconvenience for her.
Harry opened his eyes.
She dropped her hand and sat back against the sofa. "I'm not married, I've no children to complicate things, and I'm attractive enough, I think."
He stared at her.
"No strings." She spread her hands, a sad smile on her face. "Normally, I don't mind, and I know you're attracted to me, Harry. You always have been, at least a little bit."
He opened his mouth to reply to that but then closed it. She was probably right.
"I feel very close to you." As usual, the open honesty on her face and in her words always brought him up short. He took her hand. "And I want to have sex with you right now," she added, smiling. He ducked his head down, grinning back until her tone hardened. "But you're not like everyone else. You're not just any man. I love your children, Harry, and I even love your ex-wife. I will not jeopardise their respect just to be intimate with you. I can get off with anyone." She waved her hand. "I can get off by myself, to be honest, and it would probably be better than it will be with you."
"Damn. I'm killing the mood, aren't I?"
"Little bit." He smiled at her and moved closer again, tilting her chin up for a soft kiss. "I want you, too," he murmured against her lips. When he pulled back, he let their foreheads touch as he ran a light finger down to her collarbone and between her breasts before lifting it away again. "But maybe you're right. I can't promise you anything yet, and I just, I don't know. I don't ever want to hurt you."
She sat back and nodded, pulling her blouse closed with one hand and reaching out to brush a lock of hair from his forehead with the other. "So," she said briskly, "we wait, and we'll see what happens. In the meantime–" she had already pushed herself up from the couch and righted her clothing – "I think you should spend more time with your children, work out your own life and what you really want from it, and then maybe we can talk." She gathered her hair around the nape of her neck and began to tie it, looping it blindly around her hands until it formed a messy knot. Gazing down at him, her face still wore her trademark honesty, and he could tell she didn't quite believe everything she was saying.
Still, he got up and pulled his own shirt closed.
"Oh, Harry, I really am sorry." She was gazing down at his crotch, and he grimaced. Well, why not. There had to be some advantages of being around someone as brusque and unembarrassed about absolutely everything as Luna.
He reached down and adjusted himself, giving her an apologetic look as he did.
She smiled. "Better?"
"Not really." He smiled back, though, moving towards her and tipping her chin up again. He leaned down and kissed her, trying to keep it brief but nearly losing himself in the taste of her again. He pulled back at last and swallowed. "God," he moaned. "It's not that I don't want to," he said with a small laugh. "Remember that."
"I know, Harry," she said, pointing to the door, "but now I've got Nifflers to feed. Goodnight."
The Daily Prophet, Monday, June 14:
It's been far too long since we've checked in with Auror Cuckold, don't you think? Well, you will all be happy to know that he seems to have left Henrietta Harpy in the dirt at long last. Intrepid spies have spotted him apparently renaming himself Auror Suave and making the beast with two backs with a certain fair maiden who is much more, shall we say, age appropriate for our hero than the whoring bit of arse that H.H. chose to dally with...
Harry was grateful that the Daily Prophet offices were only a stone's throw from the Ministry; these trips down to shout at Albus were really eating into his workday.
"Don't start, Dad," said Al defensively as Harry approached his desk. "I didn't mention any names."
"You still need to quit putting our business in the papers, though," grumbled Harry. "My business in particular. I haven't been 'spotted' doing anything." Especially not the beast with two backs, he didn't add.
"I got an anonymous tip that you've been going to Hogwarts every other night, and probably not to see Lily, and by 'anonymous,' I mean, 'from Draco Malfoy,' so I did some investigating, and wouldn't you know, he's right. So, who's at Hogwarts worth seeing so often, Dad? If you tell me it's Madame Tewkes and those cha-chas of hers–" he made a rude gesture with his hands – "you might just be my hero forever. Yow! Come to Mummy."
Harry pinched the bridge of his nose. "You are an appalling child. And Draco Malfoy needs to mind his own business for once." He fell into a chair across from Al.
"Yeah, what else is new. James thinks he's going spare trying to get you back with Mum, though." Al grinned. "Which, okay, if there is one decent thing to come out of all this, it's got to be that Malfoy's doing his nut over it." Al laughed, pure glee etched across his face. "That bloke is such an uptight little monkey fucker. Way worse than Scorpius, and that's saying something."
Harry sighed, and then reached into his robes. He pulled out a stack of parchment and passed it over to Al.
Wary, Al grabbed it and opened it. His jaw tightened. "Divorce papers," he muttered, flipping through the stack. Finally, he raised his eyes. "So, it's done?"
"It's finalised now, yes." Harry felt the corners of his mouth turn down. "We signed the final papers this morning."
Al let out a long, slow breath, his trademark scorn deserting him for once. "You okay?"
"Me?" Harry's eyes widened. "Oh. I– well. It's strange, but, yeah. I'm okay. You?"
"You are seeing someone," said Al suspiciously. "Aren't you?"
Slowly, Harry nodded. "Would that bother you?"
"Dad, I'm not a little kid," said Al, too briskly. He handed the papers back. "You can shag whoever you want. So can Mum. So can I, so can James, so can– well, no, Lily can't, not if her blokes want to keep their bollocks. What do I care?" He paused to furrow his brow. "It's not Madame Tewkes, is it?"
Harry choked on a laugh. "No. God. No. It's... well. Don't tell your mother yet; I don't know where it's going. But, it's... Luna."
His eyes widened. "Luna Luna?"
"Is that okay with you?"
A strange look passed over Al's face that Harry couldn't quite place. "Yeah," he said at last, avoiding Harry's eyes. "Of course. It's fine."
Next on the agenda was James.
One night after work, after weeks of avoiding it and hoping the problem would solve itself, Harry stopped at a florist before Apparating to Teddy's – James and Teddy's, dammit – house and knocking on the door. There was silence for a few seconds followed by a bit of fumbling. Someone knocked a pot over with a clang, and then he heard laughter and cursing.
"Just a second!" Teddy called, and Harry suddenly felt his face heat. Christ. He should leave.
When Teddy opened the door at last, he was still buckling his belt and pulling his t-shirt down over his torso.
"Harry!" He couldn't mask his grin, and he smothered his face in one hand. "Sorry, didn't hear the bell. Come in."
Harry glanced back over his shoulder. "You're busy. I can come back when–"
"Come in." He grasped Harry's arm and hauled him through the door, still laughing. "Just– newlyweds." His eyes twinkled, as if daring Harry to object after all they'd talked about since the row with James. "You know how it is."
"Dad! Oh my God, Teddy, shut up." James appeared in the hallway, looking mortified. He subconsciously checked his zip, his face still flushed.
"I know you're gay, James," said Harry, giving him a pointed look. "Remember? And I know you two are a couple, and I know if you could be married, you would be, and I know you love each other and I know you–" he waved his hand – "have sex sometimes. All the time, maybe. Gah. I don't know. And that's something I fully support. Obviously." He awkwardly held out the plant he'd bought.
"Dad." James clung to Teddy's arm for a moment, burying his laughter in Teddy's shoulder. "You are so embarrassing! God, come here." He moved forward and took the plant and then, as if seeing it for the first time, squinted at it.
Behind him, Teddy blinked between the plant and Harry. "Cacti?" he said at last.
"Just a bit of a housewarming gift." Harry spread his hands. "For your house. That you have, together."
"Look at that, babe," said Teddy, holding up the plant. "Two mini cacti, just for us. Just what I've always wanted." He paused. "One's bigger. That one's mine."
"What? Fuck that. Mine's the bigger one."
Blinking, Harry regarded the plant once more. Two very phallic cactus roots shot out of the dirt, side by side. The shop girl had assured him they would flower beautifully within the week, and he'd thought it was a nicely masculine housewarming gift. They hadn't looked quite that... erect... in the shop, though.
"I'll just take our new gift to the kitchen," said Teddy, grinning. He held it up, giving Harry a genuine nod of appreciation. "Thanks, Harry."
When he was gone, James shoved his hands in the pockets of his jeans and frowned at the floor.
He looked up, chewing on his bottom lip.
"You're my son," Harry began. "Don't tell the other two, but you're probably my favourite."
The corners of James's lips tugged up.
"And I am so bloody proud of you that I just, I can't even tell you."
James pressed his lips together, his throat muscles tense. After a pause, he stepped forward and threw his arms around Harry. "Christ, Dad," he whispered, choking back a sob. "Just don't be so daft, all right?"
"I won't. I'm sorry." He clapped James on the back, holding him tight. When James finally untangled himself, he wiped at his face, lifting his chin and swallowing. He beckoned and Harry followed him into the kitchen, where they could hear Teddy putting the kettle on.
James nudged Harry with his shoulder as they entered. "The cacti were a nice touch, by the way," he teased. "Very gay."
Harry winced, shaking his head. "Oh, shut up."
Five N.E.W.T.s, Dad! FIVE!!! Can you believe it?! So now Al had the worst results in the family, and I am amazing. You can tell him I said that, too, because he told me I probably wouldn't get more than three, so he can bugger off.
Madame Tewkes wants me to do some more training before I go to Paris, though, so I can learn the French labelling and measuring systems. Is that okay? I'll be home in a few weeks to pack, though, and then I'll be off! I'm so excited, Dad. Paris!!! Will you visit me there? You can bring Luna. (Yes, Al told me! It's okay with me, I guess, but you should probably know that she really likes being single. So you're not allowed to take away her independence or anything, because there is NOTHING WRONG with being single, God.
"I hear I'm taking away your independence." They were sitting at the edge of the Lake, cross-legged on the grass and skipping stones.
Luna sank one on its first skip and paused to glance over at him. "Really?"
He laughed, telling her about Lily's letter. Her eyes widened with each word.
"Oh, for pity's sake. Is that what she took away from that chat?" She shook her head. "She came by a few weeks ago and we finally got to the bottom of some of her issues, I think. It wasn't so much Scorpius himself that held her interest, but just the idea of a boyfriend in general."
"You married late, Harry, but you forget the customs around here, even after all these years: most Wizarding children are engaged by the time they're Lily's age. Even sooner if they're purebloods."
He considered that. Al and Scorpius had been the last of their friends to stay unmarried even at age twenty, he knew. He pushed down thoughts of the gilded wedding invitations from Malfoy manor that could come swooping down on him any day now. Christ. The good news was, Malfoy père would surely never permit it. He almost smiled in satisfaction at that thought. "Yeah. I guess. So, she wanted to be engaged?"
"She was just feeling left out. All her friends had boyfriends and some were already planning weddings. I think she created a bit of a fantasy for herself, that's all."
He felt a pang of sadness for his daughter, his beautiful, clever little girl who just wanted to study potions in Paris, not plan a wedding. Not yet, at least. She must have felt a complete misfit among her friends. But he smiled as he filled in the blanks of the letter. "So you told her a woman could have a very fulfilling life without a husband, and–"
"–maintain her independence while still dating whenever she wanted to, yes." Luna skipped another stone, shooting him a coy smile. "I maybe, might ever so slightly also have mentioned," she added, biting her lip, "that her mother might have married too young, before she'd properly experienced life, and look where that had got her."
Harry's mouth fell open. "You didn't."
"I'm sorry!" She cringed. "I got carried away!"
"What did she say?"
Luna grinned again. "She was shocked at first, but then, you know, she actually laughed. I'm not proud of it, but... we might have made fun of Ginny for a little while. I don't really think that about her, Harry," she added, turning serious again and grasping at Harry's arm. "But it did get Lily to talk about it at last. There were some words out of her mouth that weren't very nice, but I think they made her feel better."
Harry moved closer to her on the grass, taking a stone from her hand and clasping his fingers into hers. He leaned in to kiss her earlobe, cheek, temple, until she sighed, leaning into him with her eyes fluttering closed. "Am I taking away your independence?" he murmured, only half-joking.
She opened her eyes again, blinking out at the Lake. "Would it bother you if you were?"
"Then yes." She tilted her face up towards him. "Just as I'm taking away a bit of yours – and before you've even properly got used to it again. I'm the one who should be worried." She kissed his nose. "You're hardly stable, Harry."
"I'm stable!" He thought about it. "Well, okay. But you make me feel stable, at least. Is that enough?"
She laughed. "No, probably not. But you're very endearing, so for now, I think you'll do."
The following Friday, Harry got home from work, showered and put on something clean and a bit nicer than usual. Life was good. His children were all well-adjusted again, all three of them were speaking to him, and it was possible that at least one of them was also speaking to their mother. The loos at the Ministry had never been tidier since Scorpius had been on toothbrush duty, the threatening letters from the kid's bloody father had fallen off, and Harry's divorce, painful as it was, had been finalised at last.
The weight that had settled in his heart when he'd signed the last papers a few weeks ago had now lifted, and he found himself feeling optimistic, even giddy, about the future. Luna made him feel young again, and the hours they spent just lying on her sofa chatting about everything under the sun had made him face the very real possibility, for once, that a life without Ginny could actually be good for him, could make him feel alive again. All he knew was that the world was a little greyer when Luna wasn't around.
He wanted to make her happy, that was the bottom line, and that wasn't a sentiment he'd felt about Ginny in years.
He had to stop himself from jogging across the Hogwarts grounds to her cottage. In addition to wanting to make Luna happy, he wanted to make her moan. He wanted to make her tremble and shudder and writhe underneath him, and he needed to convince her that he was finally ready, that he could move on with her with no regrets and no thoughts of his ex-wife. He bit his lip at the thought of finally being with her that night, of making love until they were sticky and spent and then waking up in the early morning like giddy teenagers to do it all again.
As he approached Luna's cottage, however, a twinge struck him. Oh. Someone was there; he could see shapes moving through the windows. Okay, he could wait.
Then he spotted a broom leaning against the front door. He squinted. He'd know that broom anywhere; he'd bought it himself and had all sorts of custom work done on it.
That was Al's broom.
Laughter rang out from inside the cottage, like someone being– being– tickled, Harry decided, and his vision swam. Al's face when he'd shown him the divorce papers and finally admitted to seeing Luna – there had been something off about it. Hadn't there? And every time he mentioned Al, Luna acted strangely. Didn't she?
Luna was going on the other day about older women and their sex drives. That's what Al had told him, back in the spring. When? When? She spoke to Al about things like that? How the hell would that come up?
In bed, his brain unhelpfully supplied, with her leaning back against the pillows and spreading her legs, and him crawling over top of her, begging her to teach him how older women liked it. God, were he and Scorpius comparing notes, then, on how they'd move in on Harry's women, make a fool of him, laugh at him behind his –
He squeezed his eyes shut. He was being ridiculous. Taking a few steadying breaths, he tried to reclaim his sanity. "What the hell is the matter with you?" he muttered to himself, setting off towards the cottage again. Just as he'd decided he was overreacting, though, the door swung open. He took refuge behind a nearby hedge, watching from between the branches.
Al stepped out onto the porch, smiling back through the door and mouthing what looked like Thank you. Luna appeared behind him and hovered in the doorway. Harry blinked. She was wearing nothing but a dressing gown, her hair tied back and her feet bare. She was rumpled and beautiful, like she'd just woken up. Oh, God. As Harry watched, she took Al's face in her hands and leaned forward, kissing him on the forehead. He closed his eyes and let her, his shoulders sagging.
Harry couldn't watch anymore. He sneaked around to the back of the cottage and waited for Al to fly away. When he did, Harry stormed back across the grounds to the gate and Apparated away, his stomach a knot of sorrow and fury.
Harry tightened his jaw against the nausea as he landed with a crack outside James and Teddy's house. He stormed in, slamming the door closed behind him. "Have you seen Al?"
"Hey," said James, glancing up from the books he'd spread all over the kitchen table. "What's up?"
Harry only shook his head, tight-lipped. He poked his head in the fridge and pulled out a beer. "Teddy here?"
"Maybe later," said James, eyeing him. "He usually stays at the castle for dinner on Fridays. Hey, are you all right?"
Harry tipped his head back and let the beer drain down his throat, swallowing rhythmically. After a few long seconds, he wiped his mouth. "Yeah. Fine." He paused, glancing back out the kitchen door. "Is Al around? He's not at home."
James shook his head. "He came here for a bit, smiling like I haven't seen in awhile, actually, but now he's gone again. Why?" James was still watching him carefully, but Harry couldn't mask his response.
"Gone where?" His voice was pinched.
James waved a hand. "Out. How should I know? That kid gets more tail than I ever did at his age."
Harry's fingers whitened around the bottle. "Is that all she is to him?" he bellowed before he could stop himself. He slammed the bottle down on the counter and then sagged against it, breathing hard.
"Whoa, hey, what's going on?" James couldn't quite keep the note of glee out of his voice to have new gossip presented to him without even begging for it. "Who'd he shag?" he added with a laugh.
Harry aimed his index finger at him. "Don't," he spat. "Don't you dare defend him. Did you know about this? Was it, what, some big laugh at your old man? Some bet between you two, see if he could get in her knickers?" His voice began to waver, and he swallowed, turning away. Fucking hell. The night Ginny left, he told himself he'd never let anyone matter to him that much again. Yet here he was, watching his heart land on the floor once more, squashed down by a heavy boot.
"Hey. Hey." James searched out Harry's eyes. "What happened?"
Sighing, Harry pulled out a chair and sank into it across from James at the table. "Al and Luna," he said quietly, rubbing his forehead.
"Al and– what?" James blinked at him. "No. No way. Not possible."
"Of course it's possible," snapped Harry. "I didn't say you and Luna."
"Oh, nice." James leaned back, kicking at the legs of Harry's chair.
Harry squeezed his eyes shut. "Sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean that." At James's disapproving grunt, Harry opened his eyes again.
"What, exactly, do you think you saw?"
"I saw him leaving her cottage just now," muttered Harry, gesturing in front of himself. "She was wearing a dressing gown, and she, I don't know, kissed him and–" He dropped his hands to the table. "And he's young and fit and I'm old and ridiculous, and Jesus fucking Christ, what is it with forty-year-old women and their bloody–"
"She did not kiss him," protested James. "Not remotely possible. Not on the lips."
Harry swallowed, frowning.
"Dad," insisted James, leaning forward. "Did you see them kiss on the lips, like lovers would? Or on the forehead or cheek or something, like she's his bloody mother. Which is exactly how he thinks of her, by the way."
Harry turned away.
"Oh, you bloody idiot. Cheek?"
"Fine. Forehead. But why was she in a dressing gown? And why–"
"She takes baths! She also walks around in vests in the summer with her breasts hanging out! That's just Luna, Dad. Christ. When did you go completely mad?"
Crossing his arms over his chest, Harry shook his head. "I'm not mad. I know what I saw." His brain supplied the rest, with some fit young bloke – it didn't have to be Al, God – showing up at Luna's doorstep just as she was getting out of the bath. She'd let him in with an open smile, let her hair down for him, let his hands push her thin garment aside and roam over her body, let him push her down on the bed and take her, still wet and soapy and with their moans echoing off the surface of the water as it drained...
With a grunt, Harry stormed out again, leaving James calling after him.
Once home, Harry sat down on his living room sofa and let the silence of the house bleed through his ears. There was a faint buzz to it, an indication of the static or activity that had once graced this house but which had since fallen quiet. There wasn't much here anymore, he thought sadly, but an old man and his melancholy.
After twenty minutes of feeling sorry for himself, his Floo flared to life and Luna tumbled out. She righted herself and put her hands on her hips. "Harry. Are you mad?"
"I'm getting tired of being asked that question today, if you don't mind."
"Well, I do mind," she continued. Surprised, he studied her. Her tone was still calmer than Ginny's or even Hermione's when they were in a strop, but for the legendary serenity that Luna usually exuded, it was downright furious. "If you have something to say to me, or something you suspect about me, I shouldn't have to hear it from James. You bloody well come and ask me about it."
"James should mind his own business," muttered Harry.
"No, he shouldn't."
"Fine." Harry stood up, glaring at her. "Are you fucking my son?"
Her eyes narrowed. "No. My turn." She paused. "Are you fucking your ex-wife?"
Harry sputtered. "What? Luna!"
"Of course not!"
She nodded, apparently satisfied. Her tone eased. "Do you see how each question was equally ridiculous?"
Harry huffed, protecting himself with his arms folded tightly across his chest. "My question was not. I saw him leaving your cottage today. You were barely dressed, and–"
She strode towards him and jabbed him in the chest with her index finger. "Harry," she said quietly, though her eyes flashed, "I don't get angry very often, as you know." She paused, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. "But I love your children like they were my own. You know that. What on earth would possess you to think that I would–"
"Then what was he doing there?"
She threw her hands up. "He came for tea, you daft fool! I told him I just can't drink it in the fall, so we went out to the pumpkin patch to pick some lemongrass and gillywiggle to steep instead, and I fell in the mud like usual, and he laughed at me until he was almost crying, the unhelpful little brat, and I went inside and had a shower while he chopped the herbs, and then we drank it, and it tasted bloody awful, and then he left." She spread her hands. "What's missing from that story? Oh yes." Her eyes were furious. "The part where I had sex with him. Honestly, Harry!"
"How do I know you're not lying?" He didn't mean to say it, not really, but the words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He clamped his mouth shut and dropped his eyes, not able to look at the suddenly sympathetic look on Luna's face.
"Oh, Harry," she sighed. "Not all the women you love, who have tea with twenty-year-old men, are sleeping with them and lying to you about it."
His stomach turned. "That's not what I–"
"Yes, it is." Her voice softened. She took a step towards him. When she reached him, she slid her palms up his chest, rubbing in slow, narrow circles. "It is what you meant. Harry, listen to yourself."
His anger evaporated like a deflating balloon, and he sagged against her, clutching her waist. "Fuck," he muttered. He replayed her words in his head, leaning back to look down at her. "How do you know I'm in love with you, by the way?" he murmured.
She smiled, her hands still smoothing over his chest. "Why else would the thought of me with another man drive you to such madness?" she said softly.
He groaned, lifting his hands to her face to frame it. He pushed her hair back with his fingers and let his thumbs brush over her cheeks. "I think I'm having trust issues." He gave her a helpless little smile, but she nodded solemnly.
"I think so, too."
"You're not even mine to be possessive of, and here I am, being possessive of you." He pulled her close, kissing her forehead.
"Well," she said calmly, "in general, that's not a bad thing. Only when it makes you unreasonable, like assuming I'd want to be with someone whose balls aren't saggy and who only has to shave once a week."
He pulled back to look at her, frowning. "My balls aren't saggy."
"Well, I don't know that, do I, when you've not let me see them." She lifted her chin in challenge.
His eyes wide, he barked out a laugh. "Oh, really. Then I'd better stop acting like such a blushing virgin, then." He bent his head, catching a flare of triumph on her face before he kissed her. Where their previous kisses had been soft and tentative, this one seared with bottled passion. She immediately slid her hands down his stomach and under his t-shirt, their warmth and softness igniting him. He moaned into her mouth when he felt her push her tongue forward, tangling with his, and he opened to her immediately. "Christ," he muttered against her lips. "Luna."
"I think you should come upstairs and be possessive of me," she murmured, untangling herself from him and grasping his hand. She led him up to his bedroom but hesitated when they entered. She eyed the bed, then turned to him with a face clouded with uncertainty. "If you'd rather go back to my house," she said quietly, "or–"
He shook his head, wrapping his arms around her again. "The bed's new," he murmured in her ear. "The house might be the same, but–" he sighed, resting his head against hers. "I don't think of it that way anymore. It's just my house. And this room–" He glanced around before searching out her eyes again. "The bed's new," he repeated. "Okay?"
She nodded. With steady fingers, she began to unfasten the buttons on her blouse, pushing it off her shoulders before starting on her jeans. He stopped her, closing his hands over hers and taking over. He smoothed his fingers over her stomach as he slid her zip down, his eyes taking in her body as it appeared bit by bit before him. He kissed her again as he began to push her jeans down her hips, feeling her hands under his t-shirt again, sliding it up his chest.
He broke the kiss only long enough to let her push the shirt fully over his head, grasping it by one sleeve and throwing it on the floor. She moaned softly as she looked at his bare chest, moving her fingers through his dark spattering of hair and up over his shoulders. He still looked all right, he'd always thought, even for his age: he worked a physical job and it showed in his shoulders and biceps, his rough hands, his ridged stomach. She moved her hands over every part of his torso she could, making light, gasping noises and bending her head every so often to plant a kiss on his skin – one to his shoulder, just there; another to his left nipple, over there; one more to his forearm, where she opened her mouth and dragged her teeth lightly down his wrist, sending a spark of arousal straight to his spine.
"Oh." She glanced up at him coyly. "Like that?"
He pulled his lower lip under his teeth and nodded, lost in her smooth skin and the playful light in her eyes. "Clothes off," he growled, capturing her mouth again. He never seemed to tire of kissing her. As eager as he was to move on to more than kissing, he couldn't stop long enough to get too far. Her mouth was so soft and yielding, her lips pink and open and eager and fuck, he couldn't stop kissing her, needing to taste her and feel her moans against his mouth.
He entertained only a fleeting thought of Ginny, and then only to note that Luna would be only the second woman he'd ever slept with in his entire life. He nearly laughed into her hair, but satisfied himself with kissing down her ear and neck, letting his teeth scrape her skin until she gasped. What had come before no longer mattered; he had a new life now, and he was allowed to fall in love again. Wasn't he? He couldn't even remember how Ginny used to taste anymore, never mind how she'd felt underneath him. All he knew was the scent and touch and feel of Luna, the larger-than-life presence with which she always lit up a room, the way her skin glowed and her smile melted him every time he saw it, and –
How it always had. How he'd always been drawn to her, even before he'd ever thought to ask why. He should thank Ginny, in a way. Without her actions, he might never have realised that he'd belonged with Luna all along.
Full of emotion, he began to tremble as he watched her step out of the rest of her clothes and sink down on the bed, beckoning for him to join her. Her gaze dropped to his quaking hands, and she reached out to steady him, helping him out of his own jeans. Finally free of them, he crawled onto the bed and knelt over her, reaching out to slide his hand up her calf and slowly up her thigh. She shivered.
"Is it possible," he murmured, "that we should have done this twenty-five years ago?" He couldn't keep the note of regret out of his voice, that single burst of yearning, but she didn't let him dwell on it.
"No," she said, her voice breathless but firm. "Things happen when they're meant to, Harry. Just think of all you wouldn't have experienced if you'd taken a different path all those years ago. And anyway–" she lifted her chin, sucking in a deep breath as his hand travelled higher up her thigh – "what makes you think I would have wanted you back then?"
His hand paused, and he dipped his head to kiss the curve of her knee. "You didn't?" he murmured.
Letting out a low, throaty moan and tangling her fingers in his hair, she sank back against the pillows. "Of course I did," she breathed, and when he glanced up, he caught her with her eyes closed, a look of anguished longing on her face that was naked and bared even for a woman like Luna who always wore her heart on her sleeve. He turned his attention back to her leg, moving his mouth up her thigh. "But don't think that means I've been pining away for you all these years," she said pointedly, the look vanishing from her face when next he looked up.
He grinned. "Not at all." He licked lightly at her inner thigh.
"I've had a very fulfilling life," she continued, her fingers in his hair beginning to direct him more urgently as she spread her legs.
"I've no doubt." He glanced up, giving her an honest smile, and she laughed. "And now your fulfilling life includes me," he added, shifting between her legs and propping himself up on one elbow.
"All right, all right." She swatted at him. "I get it: I'm terrifically lucky to go to bed with the great Harry Potter. Now get on with it." Her laugh turned to an open moan as he continued kissing his way up her inner thigh, finally reaching the wetness between her legs and teasing her with the tip of his tongue. "Oh, Harry," she breathed. "God."
Hearing her voice take on that tone of arousal and desperation made Harry's body flood with desire. He swept his tongue up slowly, pausing to tease her with the tip, before following it with his fingers. The pad of his index finger circled slowly around her entrance while his mouth moved up to her clitoris. She arched against him, her hands clutching his shoulders. When he slipped one finger inside her, she squeezed her thighs around him and gasped.
"Harry," she breathed again, hauling him up to face her. "Come here." He wiped his mouth and shifted up to kiss her hungrily. When he pulled back, he hovered over her, holding himself up on his arms while her hands explored his body.
"Be careful not to fall in love with the 'great Harry Potter,'" he said quietly, leaning down again to kiss her neck. "He's too hard to get to know." He closed his eyes, overcome with anxiety for a moment, until he felt Luna's palm cupping his cheek. He opened his eyes and gazed at her.
She smiled up at him. "Just Harry, then," she murmured. "Just that fascinating but ever so slightly messy bloke from school who used to know just what to say to me when no one else did." She sat up and kissed him again, moving them so that he was on his back and she could climb on top of him. Her wetness brushed over his thigh as she shifted up, and his cock thickened even further at the sensation. "I've never been in love with the 'great Harry Potter,'" she whispered, even as she grasped his cock and guided it to her entrance. "Just you, Harry."
His heart pounded in his ears as she sank down on top of him, slowly taking him in. "Luna," he breathed. She felt so good, wet heat gripping him as she eased down, and he choked out a gasp of gratitude. "God," he murmured. "You feel brilliant."
She settled his cock fully inside her and smiled down at him. As she gently began rotating her hips and working him deeper, he gazed up at the flush on her cheeks and the light in her hooded eyes.
"Here," he whispered, reaching up to brush her face with his fingers. "Let your hair down."
She stilled her hips and gave him a devilish look, before reaching back and untying the loose knot. Sheets of blonde hair tumbled around her shoulders and over her breasts, cascading down her back and whispering over his thighs when she tilted her head back and shook it out. He loved her hair; God, he loved it. He reached up and grabbed fistfuls of it, letting it surround his fingers with sensation. It was almost the most erotic thing about her, that gorgeous hair tumbling down her back and swaying as she began to ride his cock.
"Why did we wait so long to do this?" Full of desire and with a hundred emotions warring inside him, he managed a low laugh, clutching at her hips.
She smiled down at him, biting her lower lip. Her hands slid up his chest, pausing over his nipples as she leaned down. "I don't know," she whispered just before she kissed him, her mouth hot and insistent.
Groaning, he thrust up just as she slammed down, their pace increasing as they eased into a steady rhythm. He sat up enough to work his thumb over one of her nipples, bringing it to his mouth. She gasped and clenched her cunt around him as he licked at her, his tongue flicking over her taut nipple. "Come here," he murmured, suddenly eager to try every position he could think of with her. "Like this." He lifted her off of him, watching with parted lips as his cock emerged from her body, slick with her wetness and achingly hard. Nudging her, he guided her onto her stomach. She gathered her hair at her neck and pulled it over one shoulder as he hauled her up on her hands and knees. She threw a desperate look at him over her shoulder before dropping her head and shoulders down and pushing her hips back.
"You want to fuck me like this?" she breathed, and the words shot straight to Harry's dick. Luna was never so crude, never used words like that, and hearing them come out of her mouth in the moment of passion was unbearably erotic to him.
"Yeah," he managed, grasping her hip with one hand and his dick with the other. "Is that okay?"
With her hair framing her face, rough and tangled and God, so sexy, she glanced back again. "Do you see me protesting?" she said with a low laugh.
"No," he allowed, "but, you never know."
"Harry," she gasped as he shifted, his cock brushing her entrance again. "Please."
He pushed inside again, savouring the greater control he had in this position. She spread her legs wider and let him sink inside of her, groaning and pushing back. Twilight simmered through the window, bathing her in orange and shadow. The arch of her back held him riveted, and he leaned down to place kisses up her spine, his arms wrapping around her torso and pulling her close. The moved together, gasping, her body hot and wet around him every time he slipped out and thrust back in again.
He eased her down until she was on her stomach, her legs still spread wide as he pushed deeper inside her. He covered her back, lifting himself up on his palms on either side of her shoulders even as his lips moved steadily up her back and neck, kissing her and whispering to her about how he'd never felt this way before, never wanted anyone as much as he wanted her. He buried his face in her hair, breathing her in and nibbling at the shell of her ear.
"Harry," she breathed again, his name desperate on her lips as she clutched at the pillow and writhed underneath him. She moved steadily, her nipples catching on the sheets and making her gasp. "I need to come," she murmured at last, her voice low and desperate in ways he'd never heard from her before. "Oh, God, you have to–" The words were swallowed in another moan as Harry pulled her up on her knees again.
"God, yes," he breathed. "Come on, then."
Her hair was a hopeless tangle, swirling over her shoulders and draping her breasts, and her flushed face shone in the low light. "You first," she said with a breathless laugh, leaning back into him. He was already close, so very close, and he didn't need more incentive than those words from her. He grasped her hips and thrust in hard, gazing down at the sight of his cock emerging from her body before shoving back in. She was gorgeous and perfect and God, she understood him better than anyone ever had, didn't she? And her hair, golden in the darkening room, it made him want to just take her, tangle with her, lose himself in her.
He breathed her in once more and came hard, pushing himself inside her as deep as he could. His mind fell blank as heat flared through his body. His cock thickened one last time and began to pulse, and he felt the bursts of come release inside her.
"Oh. Oh," she gasped. "I can feel you. I can feel everything. Don't stop. Oh, God, Harry. Don't stop."
He nearly sobbed as he clutched her to him, his chest hair rough against her silky back, and drew her up into his lap. The white heat that raced down his spine began to ebb as his orgasm slowed, and he was left with a trembling, breathless Luna in his arms. As she sat back in his lap, his softening cock still buried inside her, she reached down and began to touch herself. "Oh, Luna," he breathed when he saw her. "Oh, Christ." She moved her fingers in steady circles for a moment before reaching up and grasping one of his hands.
"Your fingers are bigger," she explained, panting. "Go on. Just like that." He took over for her, mimicking her movements and achieving a steady rhythm over her clitoris. She was heavy and soaking wet under his fingers, and his cock pulsed feebly again in response. "Oh!" she gasped. "I felt that."
He laughed, nuzzling her neck and breathing her in again. "Come on," he urged. "Come for me, Luna. Come with my cock in you, so I can feel it." His other hand moved up to her breast, his palm moving in equally steady circles over one nipple until he was sure the stimulation would drive her mad.
She choked out a moan, falling forward as she came. Her hands sprang out to stop her fall, and she writhed under Harry's touch. She shuddered underneath him, her thighs tensing and her cunt growing thick beneath his fingers. "Oh," she panted. "Oh. Oh." Finally, he felt her pulses shudder over his cock, her body clenching and spasming with her climax.
Harry wrapped his arms around her as she spiralled down. He held her tight to his body, dusting the side of her face with light kisses, as her arms came up to cover his. "I think you might just be perfect," he murmured in her ear. She turned in his arms to kiss him on the mouth, a kiss full of emotion and lingering desire.
"I'm glad you're pleased with me," she said, smiling against his mouth. His cock slipped free of her body, and he felt a rush of fluid follow it. He groaned at the stickiness but also felt a renewed shudder at the sense memory of what they'd just done, how she'd made him feel, and he couldn't help but squeeze her even tighter in his arms before letting go. They both fell to the bed in a tangle, laughing, as Luna Summoned her wand and performed cleaning charms on them.
She nestled up against him and rested her head on his shoulder. They lay together in companionable silence for a few moments, and Harry was just about to drift off, when –
"Ah." Gasping, he arched up against her. "Oh," he breathed. "God. I don't think I can– I– Luna." He glanced down. "What are you doing?"
Her hand had drifted down from its innocent perch over his stomach and was gently kneading his balls. "Hm," she said, her brow creasing. "I was wrong. They really aren't saggy."
Luna rose early the next morning, insisting she had to feed the Gobberspoofs before they cocooned for the day. She gave him a lingering kiss and promised to come back later with a basket of Kondy berries and some fresh ginger-breast.
He squinted up at her sleepily. "Ginger root, you mean."
She rolled her eyes at him like she always did when she was convinced he had no clue what he was talking about.
He grasped her and pulled her back down to the bed, rolling her over as she laughed, kicking her legs out. "Stay," he murmured against her neck, pressing his weight on top of her. "We'll pick berries later." His hand drifted over her body, lightly tracing her breast and continuing down her side and over her hip. The curve of her arse was warm under his palm, and he let his fingers tickle down her cleft and between her legs again, teasing her.
She moaned and arched against him, her fingers tangling in his hair and guiding him down for a kiss. When she broke it off, she smiled up at him. "Your breath is ghastly," she murmured. Eyes wide, he laughed into her neck.
"Ah. Fair enough." Withdrawing his hand, he pushed himself off the bed and headed to the loo to relieve himself and clean his teeth. On a whim, he turned on the shower. Wandering back to the bedroom, he found Luna searching for her knickers amidst the tangle of clothes on the floor. Standing in the doorway, he grinned at her. "Join me?" He gestured back towards the shower. She tilted her head to the side and regarded him, her eyes roving over his body, before she gave him a coy smile and followed.
A few enterprising spells later, the space was much more comfortably suited for two. The hot water cascaded over them, and Harry found himself desperate to touch her again. She looked beautiful with her hair wet, long tendrils snaking down her back in a dripping sheet. She backed him against the tiles and pressed her body to his, her lips moving over his neck and chest and her fingers stroking him to hardness. They soaped each other slowly, with lingering touches, pausing to kiss every few seconds. She stood under the water and slid her hands up his chest when they were clean, her breasts dragging against him.
"Luna," he groaned. He turned her quickly and pressed against her back, guiding his cock between her legs. When she spread her palms over the tiles above each of her shoulders, he covered her hands with his, pushing roughly inside her. The water warmed him from the inside out, and the sight of her closing her eyes and parting her lips as he began to thrust nearly undid him.
"God," she gasped, clenching her fingers to his. "Harry."
The steam rose around them, clouding Harry's vision but heightening his senses. He let the heat engulf them, his body alive and Luna's moans desperate in the echoing chamber. He surged inside her, dropping one hand right away to touch her as he came, and she clenched around him almost immediately, gasping. She was thick and wet under his hand as his cock slipped out of her, and she grasped his wrist, pushing his fingers inside to absorb her last pulses. He shuddered once more at the feel of his own come on his fingers where they moved inside her, wet and hot and oh, God.
They slumped against the wall as the water cooled, Luna turning to kiss him lightly on the mouth and murmur that if that was going to happen every time she told him he had bad breath, she was going to start doing it more often.
When she finally left, a glow on her cheeks, Harry made himself a cup of tea, read the morning paper and wondered what on earth he'd ever done without her.
The knock on the door later surprised him. Ron, Hermione or his kids usually used the Floo, and he hoped Luna would know by now to come inside without knocking. He got up from the table and stretched, still feeling like a giddy teenager after the night – and morning – he'd had. He opened the door with a grin on his face that quickly fell.
Ginny hovered on the step, wringing her hands together. They stared at each other for a moment.
"I– well, come in, then," said Harry after an awkward pause. "I'm not going to leave you out on the step."
Her shoulders sagged in relief as she stepped inside, turning to close the door behind her. It took her a bit too long to turn around again, and Harry regarded her from the hallway, his arms folded defensively over his chest. When she turned to face him at last, her mouth was turned down and her eyes brimmed with tears.
"Oh. Christ." He swallowed, reaching out for her arm. "What is it? Are you all right?"
She let him steer her into the living room, shrugging out of her cloak as she sat down on the sofa. She dabbed at her eyes before looking up at him when he sat down beside her. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I've been a complete idiot."
Harry's mouth fell open, and he instinctively sat back, moving away from her. Of all the things he'd expected her to say, that hadn't been it. "I– okay. Well, I mean, not a complete–"
"Harry." She squared her jaw. "I'm the laughingstock of the Wizarding world. You think I don't know that?" She shook her head sadly. "Ginny Potter, age forty-five," she began, mocking the headlines, "embarrassing herself all over London with her latest toy boy. How are Auror Potter and the children coping?" Barking out a shrill laugh, she collapsed against the sofa. "They all hate me, think I'm some awful tiger woman who pounces on teenage boys or something."
Harry winced. "Well. I mean, you did–"
"I know," she wailed, "but I didn't mean to– I just– oh, I don't know what I was thinking. He's a child. He can't possibly be interested in this." Her hand drifted down to her stomach and she sucked in a breath, letting the bit of sag around her middle flex.
"Oh. Well, maybe he was? I mean, I–" Harry cringed, looking away. "Ginny," he said at last, "I don't think I'm the right person to be talking to you about this."
She glanced up at that, her face falling. "Oh, Harry, please," she begged. "I'm so sorry. I don't know who else to talk to. Hermione thinks I'm a slag, and my mother! Oh, God." She buried her face in her hands. "My friends are all embarrassed for me, I know they are. Luna's the only one who's still friendly when I see her, but I can't imagine even she doesn't think I'm insane."
The mention of Luna's name coming out of Ginny's mouth made Harry's spine tense. He studied Ginny's face while she gazed down at her hands. He no longer saw the beautiful, vibrant woman he'd fallen in love with so many years ago. All he saw now was the mother of his children, her face tired and any sense of what she actually wanted from her life no longer visible to him at all. He glanced away and let thoughts of Luna fill his head, as they did so often these days: the way she would smile just for him, or grab his hand to rush him off to show him something bizarre, or peer, wide-eyed, at a hatching brood of Morphlefiggles, or whatever they were called, as though a life with such wonders in it was all she needed to feel fulfilled.
And the fact that Luna had, indeed, been the only one of Ginny's friends to remain serenely non-judgmental about her affair, even as Luna herself had begun spending more time consoling Harry... it spoke wonders about her character. Smiling to himself at the thought of how her smooth, light hair had felt in his hands, and how her warm lips had opened just for him, Harry could barely contain himself not to run off to see her right that second.
"It's just, it's hard not to be attracted to someone like him," Ginny was saying, "and the sex is still amazing, but I can't help but think even he thinks I'm a trollop somehow."
Harry's smile faded. "Wait. So... he hasn't chucked you?"
She blinked up at him. "Well. No."
His face hardened. "Gin, what are you doing here?"
"I don't know," she sighed. "He seems so excited that we really are together now, that I'm–" she dropped her eyes – "finally divorced and can truly be with him."
Harry clenched his fists in his lap.
"But what am I thinking? It's not like I can ever marry someone like him! What about when he wakes up in six months, or two years, or whenever, and realises he's stuck shagging an old woman! What if he wants children? He's young, after all, he should have that chance, but I can't, not anymore, and I don't want to, and just, he's so brilliant, all the young witches are always hovering around him, trying to catch his eye. Who's to say he won't get tired of me and go after someone his own age? It's just that–"
"Ginny." Harry's tone was hard. She stopped, blinking up at him. "What are you doing here?"
She slipped her hands into his, leaning closer to him. "Harry," she breathed. "Did I make a mistake?"
He sighed. "I can't tell you that," he said at last. "Do I wish you hadn't left me for a teenager? Of course I do."
"He's not a teenager."
He shot her a look. "Do I wish you hadn't left me for a Malfoy, for our son's best friend, for a kid our daughter was having her own wedding fantasies about? Of course I fucking do."
She shook her head back and forth rhythmically, tears spilling down her face. "Lily still won't speak to me," she whispered. "And Al only answers direct questions with a yes or no."
Harry squeezed his eyes shut for a second. Damn her and her tears. He reached his arm out and gathered her against his chest, letting her sob. "They're still angry," he said quietly, "but they'll come around." He paused, trying to sort out what to say. "Listen," he said at last. "Are you happy with him?"
She peered up at him through her messy hair, sniffling. She nodded.
"And he's treating you well?"
She laughed, then nodded again. "God, yes. Like I'm the bloody queen."
Harry sighed, stroking her hair and leaning his chin against the top of her head. "Then don't worry about whether or not you'll ever marry him or have his children. Just enjoy whatever you have together. Maybe it'll last, maybe it won't."
"Sod the papers, Gin!" Christ. Of all the pep talks he didn't want to be giving at the moment. "Just, if you're happy together, then be bloody happy together, all right? Merlin knows I wasn't making you happy, so, I mean, do what you need to do to get that. Okay?"
She lifted her head, one hand splayed across his chest. "Do you mean that?"
"Yeah. Sort of. I don't know."
She laughed softly, her hand moving up to cup his cheek. "You're just a stupidly good man, you know that, Harry Potter?"
He frowned, but didn't push her away as she stroked her thumb along his cheek.
"Maybe I did make a mistake," she said quietly, tilting her head up towards him. "Maybe you are the one I belong with..." She trailed off as she brushed her lips against his, moving into his lap to better reach him.
Harry was so stunned that he didn't move for a moment, until a gasp in the hallway startled him. He jerked his head up to see a flash of blonde hair flying out of sight. "Oh, Christ," he muttered, taking Ginny by the shoulders and pushing her back. "Oh, fuck."
He raced out to the hallway and through the open front door, nearly tripping over a basket of fresh ginger-breast. He tore outside. "Luna!" he called, scanning the yard. "It's not what you– it's not– fuck!" He skidded to a halt at the end of the lane, panting. There was no sign of her. He turned to see Ginny at the door, wrapping her cloak around herself. "Get out," he muttered, looking away. "Don't come back here and do this to me, Gin. Just don't."
Her head down, she followed the lane down to meet him. When she reached him, she hesitated. "Luna?" she asked quietly, her eyes on her shoes.
"Yeah," said Harry, running his hands through his hair. "Luna."
"For how long?"
His mouth fell open. "How– what?" His jaw clenched. "You mean, was I fucking Luna while we were married? No, Ginny, I wasn't," he snapped, stalking back up towards the house. "Go home to your boyfriend," he called, his heart in his stomach. "I think you've done more than enough to ruin my life lately."
He didn't look back when he heard her Apparate away.
Harry stood in his living room for a long time, blinking at the wall and trying to choose his best course of action. Hermione would know what to do, he decided, but just as he reached for the Floo powder, the thought struck him that she would probably tell him to pounce on Ginny's uncertainties, use this opportunity to take her back and mend his family.
That just wasn't what he wanted anymore; he knew that much. He sank down on the sofa, trying to think of what he could possibly say to Luna to make this go away, make her understand that he did want to be with her, that he was trustworthy even in Ginny's presence.
The Floo roared to life before he could make a decision. It wouldn't be Luna, he figured, and he had no desire to talk to anyone else. "Fuck off, Gin," he muttered, his face in his hands.
He raised his head. "Lily?" His mouth fell open. "Oh, Christ. I– sorry. I didn't mean–"
"It's okay." She gave him a lopsided smile, stepping through the hearth and dropping her handbag on the floor. "It's not exactly a sentiment that surprises me."
He didn't know what to say to that.
"Oh, Dad. James was right. You really are a bit pathetic." She came over and sat down beside him, putting her arms around him.
"Oh, thanks a lot." He managed a smile for her, hugging her back. "I thought you were staying at school awhile longer."
"I am. But I heard you'd gone completely off your nut, so I came to see you. Al's coming later, by the way, when he gets off work, and he said to tell you that he would like a full explanation, with footnotes, for how you could possibly – especially after promising James you would seriously work on keeping your head out of your arse, by the way – could possibly think that he was shagging your girlfriend. He also said to tell you–" she paused, gazing up at the ceiling as if to recall the exact words – "that he is very fond of Luna, and she's been very kind and motherly to him during this painful period of his own mother's complete insanity, but that the thought of shagging her was – well, I think the sound he made was something like, Grrrrppffffwah." She pulled her lips back and bugged out her eyes, and despite his humiliation, Harry couldn't help but laugh.
He buried his face in his hands again. "I'm sorry," he moaned. "You can tell Al that it doesn't matter anyway, because I've cocked it up with Luna now, too. He'll have to find his new mother-figure somewhere else."
Lily sighed, wrapping her arms around him again and resting her chin on his shoulder. "Oh, Dad," she muttered, and she reminded him of a shorter, less judgmental Hermione, in a way. He settled back against the sofa and let her tell him all about her life, chattering and pulling things out of her bag to show him, and despite his unresolved issues with Luna, he couldn't help but feel a little bit better.
Luna ignored his letters over the weekend, though, and put a large X across her front door over a hastily sketched (and not very flattering) picture of Harry. He left her alone as best he could, and finally, he received a note from her Sunday night.
I'm sorry, Harry. I don't mean to be melodramatic about this, but you really hurt my feelings. Ginny came to explain, and I know nothing happened between you. But I still need a bit of time, okay? I can't expect you to get over her in a matter of months, no matter how much I wish it could be so.
After two weeks, even Kingsley intervened to ask him if he needed some time off.
"You look like shit, Potter," was actually what he'd said, and Harry had grimaced, draining his cold coffee. "Go fix whatever you broke, and bring back my enthusiastic fucking division head tomorrow morning."
Wearily, he sent Luna a note.
10 p.m., 11 jumps in. The 2-footed kind.
Please? I miss you.
That night, he ventured into the Thestrals' clearing, approaching with soft footsteps so as not to startle them. They watched him with calm eyes, lifting their heads and stilling as he raised his hand to run it over each of their coats.
When she appeared some time later, her hair loose in the summer breeze, he dropped his arms to his sides, breathless at the sight of her.
"Please give me another chance," he murmured. "I'm not above begging, I'm really not."
"You're not ready, Harry," she said quietly. "It's too soon."
"No." He reached out for her hands, shaking his head. "It's not. It's exactly the right time. You've always been there, Luna. Always. Since we were kids, you were the one who understood me, the one who, God, I don't know. You just enchanted me every time I spent time with you. I've been a little bit in love with you for years."
"Oh, Harry." She looked away.
"What if I asked you to marry me?" He squeezed her hands in his, searching out her eyes.
Abruptly, she raised her head. Her eyes were wide. "Don't you dare." She blinked at him another moment before she began to laugh, reaching up to cup his cheek. "Harry. My God. You don't need to marry me to prove anything to me." She gave him a mischievous grin. "People would think it's a shotgun."
He choked out a laugh, pulling her close and burying his face in her shoulder. "Well! I have to prove it somehow. You won't believe me that I–"
"I believe you," she murmured. "It's not that. It's just–"
"What would you tell me if our roles were reversed?" he said, trying another tack. "You'd tell me to stop thinking so much, to just go for it, and–"
"No," she said pointedly, "I'd tell you to do what you think is best for you, not for me." She held his gaze, those beautiful eyes of hers boring a hole through him, and he took a step backwards, dropping his shoulders.
"Right. Yeah." He almost bumped into a Thestral as he backed up. "You're right. I don't want you to do anything that feels wrong to you. I'd never want that."
She moved towards him again, sighing. "It doesn't feel wrong, Harry. That's not it at all." She smiled up at him, her hand on his chest. "It doesn't feel wrong whatsoever, actually." She blushed, laughing softly. "It's just that... it's complicated."
He nodded, gathering her in his arms again. She rested her head on his shoulder, reaching behind him to pet a nearby Thestral. "Complicated can be okay, though," he ventured after a long pause. "Can't it? Keeps things interesting."
She laughed against his neck, following it with a soft kiss. "Harry, you never have trouble keeping things interesting."
"Neither do you," he shot back, grinning into her temple. He pulled back to look at her, searching her eyes before leaning in to kiss her. It was quiet, slow, the way their first kiss had been before more urgency had taken over, and it warmed him all over. She reached up and let the pads of her fingers trail over his lips and down the line of his jaw. "Can we try?" he murmured, not wanting to break the spell. "We don't have to get married, and we don't have to promise to feel this way forever, but for now, we do feel this way, right?"
She nodded, blinking up at him.
"Then tell me we can try."
The moon began to rise overhead, and the Thestrals shuffled their feet, moving off into the trees as Harry and Luna remained locked together in the middle of the clearing, holding each other and kissing gently. Finally, Luna looked up at him, her face relaxing and her eyes filled with emotion. "All right, Harry," she murmured. "We can try."
It had been some time since Harry had received an emergency call in the middle of the night. When this one came, he was curled up behind Luna in his bed, his dreams placid as he breathed in her soft hair and draped his arm around her body.
His eyes flew open and he struggled to sit up. The Patronus near the door spoke with Kingsley's authority.
"Emergency alert number 893. Repeat, 893. Three men down and two unaccounted for. All off-duty Aurors are to report to the Ministry immediately for further instructions."
Beside him, Luna shifted. She opened her eyes and turned to him, blinking sleepily.
"Shh. It's okay. Go back to sleep." An 893? Bloody hell. The force hadn't had that big a cock-up in years. He swung his legs over the bed and began to rub the crust from his eyes. He stopped dead, however, at the creature's next words.
"Harry," the Patronus added, its voice grave. "Come to me first. James and Scorpius are the two missing."
He froze, his mouth falling open.
Behind him, Luna sat up. Her hands gripped him by the shoulders and shook him gently. "Go," she said firmly. "I'll call Ginny and Teddy and the kids. We'll meet you down there."
He turned to her, stricken. James had only been fully trained for a year and a half. Harry knew the risks, of course, but he'd never imagined that something like this could happen so soon, with James still so young. No. He wasn't ready. He would never be ready to face news like this.
"Harry." Luna spoke through his haze, cupping his face in her sleep-warm hands. "You'll find him," she said calmly, but in a tone of pure authority. "You'll find both of them. But you need to focus." She leaned in and kissed him. When she pulled back, he felt stronger. He nodded.
Fifteen seconds later, he'd stumbled into jeans and a t-shirt and Apparated away.
He stormed into Kingsley's office, panting. "There were no raids scheduled tonight, and sure as hell none with my fucking trainees," he barked. "What happened?"
Kingsley was surrounded by five members of his team, all of them bent over the desk arguing and pointing at a map. When he saw him, Kingsley stood up straight and sighed. Any intuition he might have had to give Harry words of comfort was soon repressed, however, and Kingsley cleared his throat. They were all professionals here; Harry knew that.
"Malfoy happened, that's what," grumbled one of the other Aurors.
"Got something to prove with you, don't he, Potter?" said another, shaking his head.
"We were staking out a jeweller down Knockturn," said Kingsley, sighing and running a hand over his bald head. "Malfoy insisted on observing. It was supposed to be routine, just some surveillance, so I let him come." He grimaced. "Should've asked you, Harry. I'm sorry about that."
Harry waved his hand. "What happened?"
"Still trying to figure that out. Five of us were cloaked, further up the Alley, and three were closer to the door. James was one of them. There was a bit of a bang and a glow started spreading over the shop, and James got on the wireless; said they could hear a commotion inside. I gave them authorisation to investigate. Almost as soon as they entered, there was an explosion of magic. Nearly tore the roof off the place."
Harry's stomach turned over.
"We ran down there, and Boothe and Fawkes were on the floor, knocked out. James was just... gone."
Harry closed his eyes, trying to remain standing. "And Malfoy?" he pressed.
"The only trace of anything we could see was a ring of gold on the floor of the main showroom, with something like vines coming up off it. They got longer the closer you went, and you could feel it trying to suck you in. I didn't know it at the time, but Hawthorne just looked it up. It's some old bloody curse that–"
"A Pradhurst Vortex."
Kingsley stopped, and he and the rest of the Aurors looked over at Harry.
"I know it. Never seen one, but that's got to be it, right?"
"Oh, Christ." Harry took a steadying breath, his limbs numb. "And Malfoy?"
"Fucking jumped in!" someone called from behind Harry, and the other Aurors groaned and murmured among themselves.
Harry whirled around "He what?"
"He did, Harry," said Kingsley. "He came charging down the Alley, and I hollered at him to get the hell back, but he wouldn't listen. Said they'd have a better chance of getting out together than James would alone, and before I could hex him to the spot, he'd jumped right through the bloody thing. Another blast, and I had three more down, with two of the best of the new ones just fucking gone. I'm sorry, Harry. Christ, am I sorry. I've got every researcher in the Ministry looking it up, though. If there is any human way to get them back, we're going to find it."
"Twenty-four hours," muttered Harry, rubbing his forehead. "They've got twenty-four hours to align the coordinates again and jump back the way they came."
Everyone in the office stared at him.
"Did you think I sent away for this fucking badge?" he barked. "Malfoy's right, the little bastard. I don't know what the hell sort of books he's been stealing from his grandfather's library and copying out, but he's fucking right. They do have a better chance in a pair than one would alone, because one has to calculate the rotation of the orb, and the other has to keep an eye on that gold hedge. But if they don't do it in twenty-four hours, they're fucked. A Vortex that strong won't stay in one place any longer. Close off the area," he added. "I want everyone who was there earlier, plus my team. We're going down there to wait for them."
He sent his Patronus to Luna.
There's nothing we can do but wait, he instructed it to tell her. Gather everyone at my place, and tell Ginny I'll hex her if she tries to come down here. It's too dangerous. I'm not leaving here without them, though.
Hers arrived at his side moments later.
Don't be reckless, Harry, it told him. No matter what happens, it's not your fault. I love you.
He clamped down on the emotions surging through him, not least of which was the realisation that she already knew him better than anyone, and knew what he needed to hear.
They set up every precaution and piece of equipment they could think of, monitoring the magical activity inside the shop and for a five-kilometre radius. The owners of the shop had apparently already left town; no one was left to blame if James and Scorpius didn't make it back. They would only be able to sigh and talk sadly of Dark magic gone awry, and Harry would have to pick up his life and find a way to move on.
He could barely think straight.
He could think only of James at two years old, punching his newborn brother in the arm and running away to hide under the front porch until a rabbit scared him out. He could think only of James at eight, reading a children's book about the war and spending the next two weeks wandering around the house answering questions only in his garbled, nonsensical attempt at Parseltongue. He could think only of James at eleven, quaking on Platform Nine and Three-Quarters but refusing to be seen holding Harry or Ginny's hand as they waited for the train.
He could think only of James at fourteen, his face scarlet and aghast as Harry tried to explain to him how penises went into vaginas.
Or James at nineteen, walking through the door with Teddy's hand clutched in his, desperate for Harry's approval.
Harry scrubbed at his face, the fingers of his other hand clenched around his wand and his boots rooted to the spot in the showroom of the jewellry store.
"At ease, Potter," said Marten, clapping Harry on the back as he passed behind him. "You'll put your back in spasms, standing there so rigid like that."
"Get the fuck back in position," he muttered.
At five a.m., he sent another Patronus back home, explaining the twenty-four-hour parameters and giving a too-optimistic outlook for James and Scorpius's chances for survival.
At ten a.m., Harry took a deep breath and began to walk towards the golden ring himself, prepared to go through to get them. Kingsley grabbed his arm at the last minute and hauled him back, punching him squarely in the jaw.
At eleven, the glowing vines began to fade. The floor inside the circle heaved, and the golden hue flickered like a neon sign about to go out. He swore he heard someone calling his name, but the sound was so distant that he could barely make it out.
The entire shop swayed, the floorboards creaking and the lights shutting down. Harry gripped his wand, his eyes glued to the circle and his body frozen in hope. Come on, he urged his son and Malfoy. You know how to do this. You fucking come back here or I'll never forgive you.
He amended that, swallowing around a lump in his throat.
I'll never forgive myself.
At 12:04 p.m., the ring glowed brilliant white for a split second and then disappeared, zapped back into the floor. There was a shout and a thud, followed by a great deal of smoke. When it began to clear, James and Scorpius were piled in the middle of the floor, coughing and retching.
Choking around a sob of relief, Harry immediately channelled the feeling and sent the swiftest, clearest Patronus of his career.
The St Mungo's foyer was crowded when the Auror team arrived.
"I'm not hurt," insisted James as Healers rushed to him, poking and prodding. "It's okay."
Covering her mouth with her hand, Ginny stood, looking momentarily agonised as her eyes flickered between James and Scorpius. Finally, Harry saw Scorpius incline his head a fraction towards James, giving her a small smile, and she sobbed, rushing to throw her arms around James. Lily joined them, clinging to James, and Al, his face white and his eyes bloodshot, cautiously approached them and punched James in the arm, muttering at him never to fucking pull a stunt like that again. When Ginny finally let him go, James turned to Teddy, hovering in the background looking even worse than Al.
"Jesus Christ," murmured Teddy, swallowing over a sob as he enveloped James in his arms and buried his face against his neck. James clung to him, shaking.
"It's all right," he whispered. "It's all right."
At a gentle touch against his arm, Harry tore his gaze away from the scene before him and found Luna at his side, stroking her hand soothingly up and down his arm. He nearly collapsed against her.
"Shh." She smoothed her hand down his back, anchoring him. "They're all right now."
He nodded, taking a deep breath as James untangled himself from Teddy at last and turned to Harry.
"You reckless bloody idiot," said Harry, shaking his head. "Don't you ever do that to me again."
James choked out a laugh, giving Harry a hug. "I won't," he murmured.
As Harry released him and gazed out over his family again, though, he noticed something astonishing begin to happen. His hands shoved in his pockets, Al was approaching Scorpius even as Ginny stood apart from him, tears slipping down her cheeks. Harry couldn't hear what they said, but with heads bowed, Al and Scorpius exchanged a few words, small smiles appearing on their faces despite their clenched jaws and tense shoulders. James joined Al a few minutes later, clapping his hand on Scorpius's back.
"You rat bastard," he said, loud enough for the others to hear. "Saved my fucking life."
Ginny sobbed, her trembling hand covering her mouth. Luna moved beside her and put an arm around her, rubbing her shoulder.
Scorpius shifted. "You'd have done the same for me," he said quietly, his head bowed.
"I don't know if I would have," said James. Shaking his head, he threw an arm around Scorpius and pulled him in close, his fist against Scorpius's back. "Fucking bastard," he muttered again as he pulled back, but both he and Scorpius were grinning. "Go on, then," he added gruffly, giving Scorpius a push in Ginny's direction. "Tell her you're all right."
At this pseudo-blessing, Scorpius stumbled towards Ginny, his face collapsing in relief as she grasped his filthy robes, her hands then flying up to frame his face. He fisted his hands in the sleeves of her blouse and kissed her, messy and gasping and with more emotion than Harry had ever thought either of them capable of, to be honest.
Harry ducked his head down, frowning, until he felt Luna's hand in his. She tilted his chin away from the scene until he was facing her. "Let's pretend that's not happening," she whispered.
"Oh, for pity's sake."
Harry turned at the loud, clipped voice to find Draco Malfoy striding into the foyer, accompanied by his frantic-looking if picture-perfect wife.
"I'm alive, Father," Scorpius called over his shoulder, his arms still wrapped around Ginny. "I'll be with you in a moment." Grinning, he captured Ginny's mouth in a kiss again, his thumbs sweeping over her cheeks and the pair of them exuding an aura of passion as well as stability that surprised Harry. He looked away again, accidentally locking gazes with Draco.
He momentarily lifted his arm from around Luna's waist, raising both hands in mock surrender. "Hey, I tried," he said to Draco. "Turns out she's just not the one for me. You might start thinking about bridesmaid dresses that'll fit these two." He waved his hand in the direction of James and Al, who made faces and rude gestures at him in return.
Sighing, Draco pinched the bridge of his nose. After a moment, he peeked through his fingers to see Scorpius and Ginny still locked together, their foreheads touching and their eyes closed.
Harry waited until closer to midnight before he carefully got out of bed, pausing to appreciate the way the moonlight draped itself over Luna's sleeping form, and headed back to St Mungo's. The staff was thin at that hour, and visitors even more so. He slipped down the hall to Scorpius's room and pushed the door open. To his relief, Scorpius was awake.
His gaze locked on Harry's across the room, and Scorpius took a deep breath, his shoulders sagging when he released it. "Sir?" he murmured.
"Call me Harry, for God's sake." He approached Scorpius's bed and gave him a tight smile.
Scorpius's face relaxed. "Okay. Yeah. Harry."
"All right?" Harry gestured down at him.
He nodded. "Yeah. I don't really need to be here, but my father insisted they keep me overnight." His lip curled up in a smirk, and Harry almost stopped short at how bloody young he looked. "You know how he is."
"I do. So, you'll be ready to start Stealth and Tracking tomorrow? I'll give you the morning off, but I want to see you at noon sharp for preliminary exercises."
Scorpius's eyes widened and he nodded again. "Absolutely." He paused. "Thank you," he added softly, his eyes still on Harry.
Harry waved him off. Looking around the room, he located a stiff-looking chair in one corner and settled into it. "So, you're squared with James, it seems," he began, looking out the window, "and Al too, I hope?"
"I– yeah. I think we're okay. He, uh, punched me in the nose, stormed off, felt bad, came back to heal it, and got me a beer. That was a few weeks ago. I think he's coming around. Today helped, I guess."
Harry leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "Today did help," he agreed. "You recognised a rare Dark curse and knew your colleague would need help to get out. You saved his life." He paused, taking a deep breath. "You saved my son's life."
Scorpius said nothing.
"Thank you," Harry murmured.
Scorpius nodded. "You're welcome," he said quietly.
"Okay." Harry wiped his face. "That all means I can't keep you on toothbrush duty, so we'd better square this between us, all right?"
Wide-eyed, Scorpius nodded again.
"I just need to know one thing, Malfoy, and I need you to tell me the truth."
Scorpius hesitated. Finally, he said, "I can try, but if it's–" he frowned. "If it's something that will hurt Ginny in any way, then no, I won't tell you the truth."
"Then will you tell me a bullet-proof, plausible lie?"
Scorpius stared at him a moment before letting out a bark of a laugh. "Yeah." He rubbed his eyes. "Okay."
Harry looked down at his hands. "You know what I want to know, don't you?"
"Yeah. Probably." Scorpius pursed his lips. "How it started, right? I bet she hasn't told you that."
Harry shook his head slowly. "I haven't asked," he confessed. "Haven't had the guts."
"What are you afraid of, that I was sixteen and sleeping in Al's bottom bunk when she wandered in with her lingerie in one hand?"
Harry choked, his stomach sinking like a sack of bricks. When he looked up again, though, Scorpius was grinning.
"I, uh, might have had that fantasy, but no, that wasn't it."
"I lied," Harry deadpanned. "You're due in at oh-six-hundred tomorrow, and you're making breakfast for the crew when you get there."
Scorpius laughed, balling up a cold washcloth beside his bed and throwing it at Harry.
They were silent for a long moment, the grins slowly fading from their faces, before Scorpius finally cleared his throat and spoke. His voice was much quieter and more sombre.
"It was when Al went on tour with the Harpies for that behind-the-scenes gig," he murmured, his gaze dropping to his bedspread where his hands fidgeted in his lap.
Harry blinked at him. He opened his mouth, thinking back on that two-week stretch the year before. "I sent her over to see if Al had that shirt of mine," he muttered, his brow creasing.
Scorpius nodded, his neck and shoulders tense. "Al had asked her to check in on me anyway, to make sure I wasn't living on mayonnaise and ham or suffocating under a pile of unwashed training robes." He smiled faintly. "Things he knew my mother would never think of. We just... talked those few weeks. A lot."
He fidgeted some more but finally looked up, holding Harry's gaze.
"For the first few days, she treated me like she treats Al. Like a kid. Another son. But the more we talked, the more she just, she stopped looking at me that way." He let out a short laugh. "And I never, ever looked at her like she was anyone's mum. I mean, I knew she was, but, Merlin's bloody balls, she was always just so beautiful, and so brilliant..." He trailed off, his face twisted in wistfulness. "She's always been so different from my own mother that I never thought of her that way. She's just... Ginny." He couldn't contain the look of wonder on his young face.
Harry stared down at his hands. "There was that night around that time when she said she and Parvati got into the wine, slept on her sofa. She didn't come home."
Scorpius was quiet. "Yeah. She was with me."
Harry exhaled a shuddering breath. "And I never asked Parvati, never questioned it."
"She said you wouldn't care enough to do that."
Harry closed his eyes. "That's not fair." But was it? He remembered that night last year. He remembered being grateful to have the entire bed to himself for once; he hadn't slept better in years.
Pain coloured Scorpius's face. "I shouldn't have told you," he muttered, shaking his head.
"No." Harry waited for Scorpius to look over at him again. "I needed to know. Thank you," he added gruffly. He swallowed, his tongue like cotton in his mouth. He shouldn't have come. Making amends with the kid was one thing; torturing himself like this was something else entirely. He should go back home, crawl into bed beside Luna and breathe in the light scent of her hair. Maybe she'd be awake; they could make hot cocoa and sit on the edge of the bathtub with it the way she liked, keeping their feet warm in a layer of sudsy water.
"So..." Scorpius eyed him. "Is there any version of this situation whereby I don't have to switch careers now?" He tried to keep his tone light, but Harry could see the disappointment etched on his face.
"Maybe. Does she actually think you're worth all this trouble?"
Scorpius's smile turned shy. He nodded.
"And you still think she is? I know your father's not very pleased about this, and not to mention that I could terminate your training right now for what you did, you know. Make sure you never work at the Ministry again."
Harry didn't know what answer he was hoping for, but Scorpius didn't even hesitate. "She's worth everything," he murmured, his face completely open. "Absolutely everything. My father–" he waved his hand – "he's all bark and no bite. He'll be fine. And, fuck it, I'll shine shoes for a living. I mean, I want to be an Auror, more than anything. But not more than I want to be with her."
There it was. That was all Harry wanted to know. He sighed, rubbing his eyes. After a long pause, he nodded, rising from his chair and standing at the foot of Scorpius's bed. "All right. You seem sincere, and you always have been top of your class. You can keep your job."
The relief that flooded Scorpius's face was almost comical.
Harry clenched his fingers around the railing at the foot of the bed. "But let me make a few things perfectly clear, Malfoy."
Scorpius's face froze again.
"If you ever lie to me again, about anything at all – how you take your coffee, what time you got to work in the morning, whether you had authorisation to search a premises with magic – I will not only kick your scrawny arse out of the Auror corps, but I will personally make sure that shoe shining is the only work you ever get. Is that clear?"
Scorpius dropped his eyes. "Yes, sir."
"Second," continued Harry. "If you ever decide you're tired of her, or she's too old for you, or anything like that, you do not make a single move until you tell her, straight up, that it's over. If you ever lie to her, or God help you, if you ever cheat on her, then your job will be the least of your worries. I will string you up by the bollocks myself, do you understand me?"
Scorpius gave him a tight-lipped smile. "Yeah, I do."
"Good." Harry released his grip on the bed railing. "Get some sleep, Malfoy. I need you sharp tomorrow."
"Yes, sir," he said to Harry's retreating back. "And Harry?"
Harry turned, his hand on the door.
Harry gave him a curt nod before opening the door and stepping back out into the hallway. He stopped short.
Standing near the door with their hands curled around paper cups of tea were Ginny and Luna. Smiling at him, Luna nudged Ginny forward.
"You, uh–" he jerked his thumb back towards Scorpius's room – "heard all that?" He felt his face heat.
She nodded, giving him a sad smile. Stepping forward, she took his hand and squeezed it. "Thank you, Harry," she murmured.
"Yeah, yeah." He looked away, catching Luna's eye and suddenly feeling a bit stronger knowing she was there with him. "He'll make a great Auror someday," he added to Ginny as he released her hand. "Can't stand in the way of that."
She nodded again, then glanced back to give Luna a smile. "Goodnight, you two," she said as she moved to open Scorpius's door and slip inside.
"Goodnight," said Luna, moving to Harry's side. He instinctively wrapped his arm around her shoulders and let her rest her head on him. He kissed the top of her head and breathed her in, feeling more settled and anchored than he had in months.
"Hi," he murmured into her hair, smiling.
She lifted her head and grinned back. "Hi." Her lips brushed his. "All right?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I think so." He pushed a lock of hair off her face. "You didn't need to come."
"I know." She took his hand and steered him back down the hallway to the exit. "But that's the thing about me and you, Harry: if I get up in the middle of the night, you'll probably find me out in the pumpkin patch. But if you get up in the middle of the night, it's probably because you've gone off to save the world again." She gave him a sideways look, and he laughed, squeezing her hand.
"Yeah. I guess that's true."
"Come on, Saviour. Take me back to bed."
On Harry's desk sat a photo from the Christmas that capped that year – possibly the most turbulent year of his life, at least since he was seventeen.
Harry and Luna anchored the photo, standing in the centre amidst their new family. Luna had one hand on her hip and the index finger of the other in Harry's ear. He wished he could remember why. For his part, he'd wrapped one arm around Luna's waist and was giving the camera a goofy smile. He did remember the reason for that part: right before it was taken, they'd sneaked off to the loo for a round of sex that was both too frantic and too upright for their age, but about which Harry had zero complaints.
He supposed the finger in his ear might be her way of signalling that memory. He loved her, to be sure, but sometimes he still didn't quite understand how her mind worked.
To one side of them, Teddy had his arm around James's shoulders, and they seemed to have forgotten the camera on the mantle was there at all, lost as they were in each other.
To the other side, Al had Lily in a mock choke-hold, her delicate Parisian scarf trapped under his arm and invisible to the camera – which she ranted and raved to no end about the next day when she saw the print.
And in the back, off to one side, stood a shy but beaming couple. Ginny's chin rested on Scorpius's shoulder, and although he was facing the camera, his downcast eyes kept sweeping to the side as if in pure appreciation of the woman beside him.
The lot of them, having seen enough scandal to last a lifetime, were content now in the complex web they'd woven – the one that had started with emerald green robes and a shoddy Disillusionment charm and had ended with a family that could only be described as a little bit unique, a little bit absurd... and overall much more ordinary than you might think.