Roger watched his daughter as she nibbled on her lip, staring at the scarlet steam engine.
"You're scared," his son declared triumphantly, eager to point out a flaw in his seemingly perfect sister.
"Quinn," Cho said sternly. "Don't tease Wan-li. Soon you'll be joining her."
"Two years," Roger said, ruffling his son's hair affectionately. He then bent down to look his daughter in the eye.
"You can owl me anytime. Same goes for your mother. And it's okay to be nervous. Everyone is. But you'll make wonderful friends there." He pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. "I'm going to miss you, princess."
Wan-li threw her arms around her father and hugged him tight. Then she hugged her mother and, a bit reluctantly, her younger brother. As she was boarding the train, there was a commotion further down the platform and a tall, blue-haired boy ran between two trunks, pursued by two teenaged girls and an irate woman.
"Ginger! For Merlin's sake, will you leave him alone for five minutes?" The woman called, reaching out and pulling the closer girl back. She looked to be about fifteen or sixteen years old, and it dawned on Roger as he took in her freckled face and brown hair, that this was Fred Weasley's daughter.
"But Muuuuuuuuuuum, Teddy took my new edition of Quidditch News!" The girl complained, "I just got that yesterday and it's in pristine condition. He'll muck it up and crease the pages!"
"Yes he will because he knows it bothers you," said the woman Roger now knew to be Katie Bell. "But I've taught you the spell that will remove the creases, sweetheart. Don't let him wind you up like this. He'll give it back sooner when he realizes he's not getting the reaction he wants." She sighed and kissed her daughter's forehead. "Have a good term, love. Try not to fight with Vicky too much. Fleur still talks about those boils you gave her last year."
"She deserved it," Ginger grumbled.
"Take the high road. Now go say goodbye to your grandmother and get your sandwich."
"It's always sodding corned beef."
"Language, Ginger," Katie said, before slipping a handful of coins into her daughter's hand. "Just take it and then buy yourself some cauldron cakes. She means well."
Roger looked away from the scene to face Cho's disapproving glare. "Pick your jaw off the floor and wave to your daughter," she bit out. He waved to Wan-li, who had found a compartment and was leaning out the window, smiling nervously at them. He could hear the Weasley clan's boisterous send-off, but didn't dare look. Instead, he grinned at his daughter and blew her kisses until the train rounded the bend.
"Say goodbye to your father, Quinn," Cho said, "we need to get home."
"But I thought we were going to have lunch with Dad today," Quinn asked confused.
"I'll see you tomorrow," Roger said, "we can have lunch then."
"Can we go to McDonald's?" Quinn said excitedly as Cho's lips thinned.
"Sure," Roger said, anticipating the Howler he'd get when he got home. Cho did not approve of Muggle fast food restaurants.
"Good bye, Roger," Cho said, giving him a hug. "Have fun with the Widow Weasley," she whispered harshly in his ear.
He hugged Quinn and then watched them leave. His former wife had never caught him with another woman. He'd never had an affair. His gaze occasionally wandered, however, and when that was coupled with his terrible housekeeping and his inability to be a strict parent, she'd decided that their marriage was over. It had been just over three years now, and Roger was of the opinion that in this, as in all things, Cho was right. He still saw his children regularly and he had his own flat which he could keep as messy as he liked. He hadn't dated, preferring the simplicity of his hand and an issue of Quidditch Illustrated to satisfy any needs that might arise.
But he was intrigued by Katie Bell. He didn't know why. She wasn't beautiful like Cho. Cho had perfect, ivory skin and shiny black hair. Her figure was slight, but her breasts were wonderfully large for her frame and rather perky. Katie was tall, almost as tall as he was, and she didn't seem to be particularly well endowed in the breast department. Her hair was frizzy and she wore it back in a ponytail, which Cho always said led to breakage. He didn't think it would feel as nice draped across his thighs, or in his hands.
He wandered out to the Muggle side of King's Cross Station, intending to grab a quick lunch, when he spotted her. She was standing in the carpark, lighting a fag. This simultaneously repulsed and attracted him. Intellectually, he knew it was a disgusting habit, but it was so very un-Cho-like that it felt like an act of rebellion to go up to her.
"Hello, Katie," he said.
"Oh bugger," she replied, her eyes widening. "Sorry. Usually, everyone Apparates away, so I sneak off and have a quick fag. It's just the stress."
"It's okay," Roger said with a smile. "I'm not here to police you."
"Thank Merlin for that," Katie said. "Molly'd have my hide if she ever knew." She exhaled a long stream of smoke. "I haven't seen you in years. I mean, I've seen you around, but we haven't really talked."
"No," Roger said, "not since the funeral." Katie had been five months pregnant then, and she'd stood, numbly accepting condolences while Bill and Fleur had supported her. He remembered that they'd been terrified that she'd miscarry from the stress and the grief and the couple have followed her silently, hovering like guardian angels in wait.
Katie nodded and took another long drag. "I heard you and Cho separated. I'm sorry."
"It was for the best," Roger said, shrugging. "After the war, I think a lot of people got married who shouldn't have. We were no exception."
"But you have your children," Katie reminded him.
"Yes," Roger said with a proud smile, "and for that, I don't regret a minute of it."
"Just prepare yourself. It won't be long before they're teenagers." She grimaced. "Pray that your daughter never falls in love with a boy. Pray, Roger."
"Teddy Lupin?" Roger guessed, remembering the blue-haired boy on the platform.
Katie nodded. "She's mad about him. I don't understand why, she's known him her entire life. There's no mystery there. What makes it worse is that Victoire is mad about him too. And what Vicky wants, Vicky gets." She dropped her butt onto the pavement and snubbed it out with her shoe. "One week, they're the best of friends and the next, I'm getting owls home from Hogwarts because they've landed each other in the Hospital Wing. Ginger has her father's ingenuity and my temper which results in some nasty hexes."
"Wan-li's very quiet," Roger said, a little worried.
"It's always the quiet ones you need to watch out for," Katie said with a wink before checking her watch. "I've got to go. Molly always has a big lunch for us after we drop off the kids."
"Oh, right," Roger said. "Well, it was nice to catch up."
"Yeah, it was," Katie replied. "See you."
Roger found himself thinking of Katie often over the next several weeks. He didn't feel too guilty about it. After all, they were both single adults. Unfortunately, this began to impact his work performance and after the Minister sent an Auror to see if he had been Imperiused or otherwise cursed, he had to force his thoughts to non-work times.
Thankfully, one Thursday afternoon, a simple lunch with his son provided significant distraction.
"Mummy has a boyfriend," Quinn announced over Chicken McNuggets and chocolate milk at McDonalds.
"Oh," Roger said, taken aback. He knew that it was unlikely Cho would be single forever. She was smart and very beautiful. She'd always had male admirers.
"She says he's just a friend, but I saw them kissing yesterday. They're keeping it a secret because he's famous," Quinn continued.
"Famous? Is it Harry Potter?" Roger asked carefully, wondering if Harry was the sort of man to cheat on his wife.
Quinn shook his head. "He's married, Dad," he said, as if married people couldn't have affairs. Roger envied his son's naïveté. "It's Oliver Wood."
"Well," Roger said, thinking about the handsome Quidditch captain, "does she seem happy?"
Quinn nodded. "But it's not fair. You'll be extra-lonely now."
Roger smiled. "How could I be lonely? I have you." Quinn grinned up at him and he took the opportunity to steal one of Quinn's over-salted chips. "Do you like him?"
Quinn shrugged before stealing one of Roger's chips in retaliation. "He's okay. He calls me 'sport', though. And he talks to me like I'm five sometimes."
"I don't think he's ever had kids," Roger said thoughtfully, "and if he's really serious about your mum, you probably make him a bit nervous. If you hated him, Mum wouldn't be as eager to be with him."
"So if I act like I hate him, Mum will send him away?" Quinn said hopefully.
"Hey, none of that," Roger said warningly, "he makes her happy. She deserves happiness."
"Fine," Quinn grumbled.
"But if he ever hurts her, you go on and hex him," Roger added in an undertone. "Besides, if she's busy with her new boyfriend, that means we can spend more time together."
Katie dipped her brush into the paint, wiping the excess on the edge of the can.
"So, they're going to inner Mongolia on some sort of 're-harmonizing your magic' thing," Angelina continued, filling in the mint green stripe she was working on. "Sounds like a load of tripe to me."
"I don't understand why she stays with him," Katie said with a sigh, "she always seems so miserable."
"It's the sex," Angelina said knowingly. "He's great in bed. Just not so great out of it."
"Who's great in bed?" George said, walking into the room with a tray of iced teas. "Some refreshing beverages for my favourite women."
"Thanks, babe," Angelina said, accepting hers with a kiss. "Adrian Pucey."
"Ah. Alicia still with that bastard, then?" he asked, passing Katie her iced tea. "I never liked him."
"We know," Katie said with a grin. "You tell us every chance you get."
"Angelina doesn't let me be right often," George said, "I have to make the best of the opportunities I get. This is coming along nicely," he added, gesturing to the room.
"Thanks," Katie said, "I want everything to be ready for when Ginger comes home for the holidays."
"She'll love it," Angelina said.
"And don't worry about Mum," George added, correctly interpreting Katie's anxious expression. "A place of your own is long overdue. And I think it'll be good for Ginger to have somewhere to escape to."
"Somewhere Vicky-free, you mean," Katie retorted.
"Some days I want to hex that Teddy Lupin," George growled, "toying with her like that."
"He's a teenage boy, George," Angelina said, "he probably doesn't even realize he's doing it. Besides, it's not like you were any better."
"I was better!" George said in indignation.
"You snogged Serena Fawcett!"
"Only because you snogged Fred!"
"It wasn't a proper snog, George, it was a goodnight kiss after the Yule Ball. You didn't even like me then."
"You don't know that! I could have been harbouring secret lusty feelings!"
"Do you two need some alone time?" Katie asked, "because I have a feeling the make up shag is coming up and you are not christening my daughter's bedroom."
Angelina and George had the decency to look appropriately guilty.
"Sorry, Katie," Angelina said. "George, make us some sandwiches, will you?"
When her husband had left, Angelina cast a worried look on Katie.
"Don't look at me like that," Katie said with a frown.
"Like we're going to have a conversation about how un-shagged I am," Katie retorted. She dipped her paintbrush back in the can and resumed painting.
"I was just think—"
"Silencing spell, Angelina," Katie warned, pulling her wand out of her back pocket.
"—ing you might like to come to the Ministry ball tomorrow night."
"I thought you wanted me to babysit the twins?"
"Percy and Audrey volunteered. Little Molly isn't feeling well, so they're not going to go. You know Percy. If the girls get sniffles, he's rushing them to a Healer. But that does mean that there are two tickets going spare," Angelina said.
"There's only one of me," Katie replied, "and you're not setting me up on a date."
"Alright," Angelina said, trying — and failing — to hide a huge grin.
"Stop," Katie said, flicking paint at her.
Roger sipped his red currant rum and scanned the ballroom. Cho had arrived moments earlier with Oliver and there had been a small flurry of activity. Reporters had been glancing over at him longingly, hoping for a controversial soundbite from the ex-husband, but being the Head of the Department of Mysteries had its benefits. He suppressed a grin as Rita Skeeter struck a coy pose that caused her wooden hip to unhinge itself. As he walked away, he could hear her hissing at her assistant to help her realign herself.
Katie Bell walked into his field of vision again, listening to Charlie Weasley talk about the dragons that had been hatched earlier that week. He'd been trying to be nonchalant but she caught him looking this time and smiled, rolling her eyes at Charlie who was nattering away about the healing properties of infant dragon dung. He smiled back and was surprised when she laid her hand on Charlie's arm, making her excuses to cross to Roger.
"Thank you," she said, "I was afraid I was going to have to hex him. Hopefully, he'll find Hagrid soon. I can't imagine anyone else who'd be interested in that rabble."
"You're welcome. Can I get you a drink?" Roger offered. He caught the eye of an nearby House Elf who scurried over with a tray of beverages. After Katie had selected a glass of white wine, they moved out to the balcony. Warming charms had been placed around it so the guests could mingle outdoors without freezing in the December air.
"I saw that Oliver arrived with Cho," Katie said after a few moments of silence. "How are you?"
Roger shrugged. "I've known for a little while. It's still taking some getting used to. But she seems happy. Quinn, my son, isn't crazy about it though. I don't know how Wan-li will react when she comes home in a week. It's them I'm worried about more than myself, to be honest."
Katie nodded. "I don't know how Ginger would react if I started seeing someone. When she was younger, I didn't want her to think I was forgetting her father, or replacing him. But now? I don't know."
"So you haven't dated at all?" Roger asked, surprised.
She shook her head. "At first, I just felt so guilty whenever I even thought about fancying someone. And I had my hands full with Ginger. Now that she's almost out of Hogwarts and we've finally moved out of the Burrow, everyone's been trying to set me up." Katie smiled at him. "I just don't feel ready. You know what I mean, don't you?"
Roger nodded, before taking a long drink of his rum. He hadn't wanted to date until seeing Katie that day at King's Cross. Now it looked like his hopes had been dashed.
Katie looked at him strangely. "Is something wrong? You look…sad."
"No," Roger said, embarrassed that his emotions had played so clearly across his face. "Sorry. I was just reminded about something from work." It was an easy excuse; one Roger used often when he was in difficult situations. After all, not even the Minister of Magic himself could question him on that one.
"Ah. Are you ever tempted? I mean, to tell someone something? A big secret?" Katie asked, leaning in towards him, her eyes glinting with mischief. It was excessively attractive, Roger thought as he adjusted his robes.
"Yes, but I physically can't. Remember the jinx Hermione placed on the parchment you had to sign when you joined Dumbledore's Army?" Katie nodded. "Well, it's something like that but more complex, obviously."
"What if you left the Department?"
"We'd have to surrender our memories. The secrecy oath that we take lasts even beyond death. There were a few cases of ghosts revealing Ministry secrets about 200 years ago."
"That's incredible," Katie said. "What I wouldn't give to know what you do down there."
"Honestly? What I do is very boring. I mostly handle administrative tasks now. Payroll and benefits," Roger said with a groan. "But I used to do research. Unfortunately, I was too ambitious and managed to get myself promoted to the top job."
"But the pay is nice."
"Oh yes. We're the highest paid department in the Ministry, even above Aurors," Roger said with a grin. "If I didn't have the kids to look after, I'd take a pay cut and go back to my old job."
"The things we do for our children," Katie said with a wry grin.
"And you're still with George at the shop, then?" Roger asked.
Katie nodded. "It was the obvious choice at first. Molly didn't want me to work, but I knew I'd go spare if I just sat around the house all day. And George needed help getting the shop back on its feet after the war. Angelina didn't mind babysitting Ginger while I was on shift, and during my breaks, I could pop up to the flat and check in. I thought about leaving. A lot, actually. Angelina's a bit of a terror when she's in a temper and well, with seeing each other constantly, we all got on each other's nerves. But then George and Angelina bought a house and Ron moved into the flat and we didn't spend every waking moment together. I don't make very much money, but the Weasleys gave me and Ginger nearly everything for almost sixteen years. George wanted to give me Fred's half of the shop, so I could have a bit more money, but that's for Ginger. She'll get it when she comes of age." Katie shuddered. "Honestly, I'm not looking forward to it."
"It's strange to think that she's already in Fifth Year," Roger said. "It seems like not so long ago that we were facing off on the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch."
"Yes. You were always a gentleman," Katie said with a smile, "you stole the Quaffle from me countless times, but you never deliberately fouled us."
"I presume you're referring to Marcus Flint," Roger said.
"Who else? I swear, he told his team before every match 'Do try and kill that Bell girl, if you could. Thanks chaps,'" Katie replied with a laugh. "Every year my parents would ask if I really needed to play Quidditch."
"You should have taken up Gobstones. Much safer," Roger said.
"Oh but the goo! Terribly unladylike. My mother would not have approved."
"You don't talk about your parents very much," Roger said. "Are they still living?"
Katie nodded, her smile fading from her face. "When they found out that I was pregnant, they were— unhappy is the nicest way to put it, I suppose. And then Fred died, and they couldn't understand why I wouldn't just give the baby away. They've never met Ginger. Never wanted to." Katie rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. "But Arthur and Molly have always been wonderful to me and Ginger. They never told me I was stupid for getting pregnant when I was eighteen or foolish for thinking I could raise her on my own. I just wish my daughter knew some of her Bell relations as well as the Weasley ones."
Roger put his arm around Katie's shoulders and wordlessly drew her into a hug. He brushed his lips over her forehead and she looked up at him. Their eyes locked and Roger leaned down to kiss her, only to be interrupted by the sound of breaking glass from across the balcony. Katie moved away from him, her cheeks red.
"I'm sorry. I cried all over your nice robes," she said, looking at the ground.
"Katie—" he began.
"I should go. Thank you for the drink," she said, looking up at him briefly before fleeing back into the ballroom. Roger watched her go before swearing under his breath. She'd told him she wasn't ready and he'd still tried to kiss her. But he'd been certain that she'd felt the attraction, if only for a moment.
"Roger Davies tried to kiss you."
"And you ran away."
Angelina rolled her eyes.
"He eez a vehry good kisser," Fleur said, with a wicked grin, "and he haz lovely big hands, though not as big as my Bill's."
"Oh stuff it, you two," Katie said, tossing a pillow at the women sitting on her couch. She summoned the wine bottle from the kitchen and refilled their glasses.
"Do you fancy him?" Fleur asked, taking a sip of the wine.
Katie shook her head. "I don't think so. He's smart and handsome and easy to talk to, but so are most of the men I know."
"Weasleys don't count," Angelina interjected, "they're your brothers."
"Well, I don't fancy Harry or Oliver or Lee," Katie countered.
"That's because Harry is practically a Weasley, Oliver is completely unfanciable, and Lee is a manwhore," Angelina said.
"Thees is true. You know, he was after Gabrielle a few years ago." Fleur pointed out, nodding.
"Fine, but how is Oliver unfanciable?"
"He made us get up at the crack of dawn and train in ridiculous weather!" Angelina said. Katie gave her a look. "I was never that bad!"
"Uh-huh. And yet, George still married you."
"Fine. Oliver isn't unfanciable. But he's not single either," Angelina grumbled.
"Katie, you are avoiding ze issue," Fleur scolded gently. "Do you theenk you might fancy Roghair?"
Katie shrugged. "Does it matter?"
"Of course it bloody matters, woman!" Angelina exclaimed. "He obviously fancies you. He's a good bloke, not like that arse Alicia's with."
"You would look very nice together," Fleur said, as if that settled everything.
"Even if I fancy him, I'm not dating him," Katie said. "I've gotten this far without a bloke, why do I need to change that?"
"I don't know how you survived 15 years without sex," Angelina muttered.
"15 years without sex, not 15 years without orgasms," Katie countered. When Fleur and Angelina stared at her, she rolled her eyes. "Merlin. You two are completely repressed. I have my lovely pink vibrating friend and the special Falmouth Falcons issue of Quidditch Hunks and that's all I need."
"Falmouth Falcons?" Angelina said, "please tell me you don't get off to Marcus Flint. He used to beat the crap out of you on the pitch at Hogwarts!"
"He has nice thighs! And a lovely stomach," Katie countered, her cheeks turning bright red.
"I thought you had better taste," Angelina said sadly, shaking her hand.
"Oh come off it," Katie scowled, "I'd never lay a hand on him in real life. He's repulsive. I just enjoy certain aspects of his physique." She drained the rest of her wine. "Can't we just gossip about Ron and Hermione's latest fight? Please?"
"She turned heez penis purple thees time," Fleur whispered.
The snow was falling lightly and Roger held a firm grip on Quinn's hand to stop him from slipping. His son was determinedly pulling him towards Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes and no matter how many times Roger told him that Wan-li would not appreciate a joke gift for Christmas, Quinn insisted she would. He finally relented and Quinn dragged him through the door. The shop was packed with holiday shoppers and Roger was relieved to see that George and Angelina were manning the counter. An awkward run-in with Katie while his son was watching was not something he was keen to enact.
"Dad! Daaaaad! Look at these! Don't you think Wan-li would like one?" Quinn said, tugging on his arm and pointing to a shelf stacked with Daydream Charms.
"Definitely not," Roger said, pulling Quinn away from the WonderWitch products. "If you can find her something nice you can get it for her, alright? But no jokes. She's had a tough term." Quinn nodded and ran off to the other side of the shop.
"Sorry, I couldn't help but overhearing. Is Wan-li alright?" Roger turned and saw Katie Bell standing next to him, re-stocking the display of Nosebleed Nougat.
"She's having a difficult time fitting in," Roger admitted. "Some of the other kids call her Whiney." He grimaced. "She came home announcing that she'd changed her name to Sarah."
"I'm sorry," Katie said. "That's awful."
"Not everyone's that bad. It's just a few of the girls. But she's not adjusting well. I know I shouldn't, but I want to pull her out. I want to bring her home and quit my job and home school her."
"It's understandable. But taking her out of Hogwarts won't solve anything," she said gently. "Listen, do you want me to talk to Ginger? See if she can keep an eye out for her?"
Roger shook his head. "Thanks, but I don't know if that'll help things or just make them worse."
Katie considered him for a moment and then said, "What are you doing on Boxing Day?"
"Sleeping in?" Roger answered, confused.
"Why don't you come over to the Burrow and bring your kids? There's always way too much food and maybe Wan-li can make some friends with Ginger's younger cousins," Katie suggested.
"Really? Wow," Roger said. "I'll have to check with Cho, of course, but that sounds great. Thank you." He wanted to kiss her and was trying to think of a logical reason why he shouldn't, when Quinn bounced up to him, crashing into his leg.
"Dad! Dad, come see the Pygmy Puffs!" He said excitedly. "Wan-li would love one. They even have singing ones! She'd like that, wouldn't she? Wouldn't she, Dad?"
"I'd better leave you to it," Katie said with a laugh. "Let me know if you can make it to the Burrow."
Roger nodded, watching her retreating back before Quinn gave a yank on his arm that threatened to dislocate it.
"Boxing Day with the Weasleys," Cho said, her jaw set tightly. "Whose idea was that? No, let me guess. Katie Bell." She flicked her wand at the dishes and they began washing themselves in a rather violent manner. Oliver was upstairs, putting the kids to bed so that Roger could talk to Cho without interference.
"Yes, it was her idea," Roger said, wishing he didn't have to talk to Cho about this, "She thought it might be good for Wan-li. Help her make some friends."
"You told Katie about that? You have no right to tell that woman about our daughter's problems," Cho said furiously.
"That's it," Roger said, "Enough. Katie is a friend of mine — and a friend of yours, last time I checked. She has a teenage daughter. She has been through this. She's offered help. I don't know why you have such a problem with her."
"My problem is that you can't stop staring at her," Cho said, "It's pathetic."
"I fancy her, alright? I admit it. But that is beside the point."
"That is the point, Roger."
"Are you jealous?" He asked incredulously.
"Is that why you're doing this?" Cho replied. "You want me to be jealous? Roger, our marriage is over."
"I know," he said evenly, "I get that. I don't want you to be jealous, Cho, but I think you are. If you can't have me, no one else can, is that it? Or do you think she's not good enough for me?"
"I was a bit shocked when I heard about Oliver. And I was upset. But it was more that I had to hear it from our son rather than hearing it from you. I like Oliver. He's a solid bloke and he makes you happy. Don't I deserve the same? Do you want me to be miserable forever?" He asked coldly.
"No," she said quietly.
"Then stop acting like it, Cho. Katie is a good woman and I want to be with her."
"Does she want to be with you?"
"I don't know," Roger said honestly, "I hope so. Look, why don't you and Oliver come to the Burrow with us on Boxing Day? The kids'll love to have you there and it's not like Oliver'd feel out of place."
Before Cho could answer, they heard Oliver coming back downstairs.
"Hey," he said, "I think they're finally asleep. Is everything alright?" He directed the question at Cho.
"Yes, it's fine. Roger was just saying that Katie's invited us all to come to the Burrow on Boxing Day. Do you want to go?" Cho asked him with a smile.
"Of course!" Oliver said, beaming, "I haven't seen old Percy in a dog's age. And I need to talk to Harry about that charity game." He wrapped his arm around Cho and looked over at Roger happily. "We'll have tons of fun, mate. You've never been to a proper holiday party until you've been to a Weasley holiday party."
"Ginger! Help me with these dishes, please!" Katie called from the kitchen. Ginger stormed in and began to portion the pudding onto a sea of plates, not caring when it fell on the floor.
"Honestly, Ginge, what is the problem?" Katie asked in exasperation.
"Why did you have to invite Whiney Davies? She's so annoying," Ginger said with a scowl.
"Don't call her that. You remember what people called you when you got to Hogwarts? It's cruel."
"What's cruel is having a mother who gives you a stupid name," Ginger shot back.
"Your father picked that name," Katie said quietly. "You know that."
Ginger mumbled an apology. "Don't know why you had to invite Whi— Wan-li," she said after a few minutes.
"She's having trouble in school. I thought if she met some other kids, made some friends outside of Hogwarts, it might help," Katie explained, using her wand to clean up Ginger's offerings to Crookshanks Jr., who was trying to lick the floor clean. He mewed loudly when Katie finished cleaning, and she got some leftover ham off the counter and threw it to him. "Darling, what's the real problem?" She asked gently.
"I saw Vicky and Teddy," Ginger said after a few moments. "I think…I think they're together."
Katie wordlessly wrapped her arms around her daughter, stroking her hair.
"It hurts so much, Mum. I keep telling myself that he's a bastard, but it doesn't help," Ginger said, sniffling.
"I know. I'm sorry," Katie said, "I know that it hurts."
"How would you know?" Ginger said.
"You think your father was perfect?" Katie asked. "He didn't even see me as anything other than a mate until his last year at school. I can't tell you the number of times I lay in bed, thinking I would die of heartbreak. I was so afraid he'd reject me, I never got up the courage to tell him how I felt. I just sat and watched while he dated all these girls."
"So what happened?"
"Your Uncle George got tired of it. I think it was more that he got tired of his private time with Angelina being interrupted my little crying fits. He went to Fred and told him that I was mad about him and he should ask me out before I died of misery." Katie chuckled. "Fred later told me that he still thought of me as little Katie with my hair in plaits and scabby knees."
"Do you think that's what Teddy thinks of me?" Ginger asked.
"I don't know, sweetheart," Katie said carefully, "But maybe wait a little while before you do something, alright? Don't rush off to confront them. At the end of the day—"
"I know, I know. She's still my cousin and Teddy's still Uncle Harry's godson," Ginger sighed.
Katie smoothed her daughter's hair down before kissing her forehead. "Exactly. Now you go tell everyone to clear their laps and I'll bring out the pudding," she said, levitating the plates into the air.
Roger smiled as he watched Wan-li playing with Dominique. Fleur's second daughter was a bit shy as well, and they were sitting in a corner with Wan-li's new Pygmy Puff, Luke.
"She looks happy," Katie said as she passed by with a pile of dirty dishes.
"Yeah. I think she is," Roger said. He watched his daughter for another moment, and then followed Katie into the kitchen.
"Thanks for doing this. It means a lot to me," he said.
"It was my pleasure, honestly. I'm glad to see that she's made a friend. Nicky's a really sweet girl," Katie replied, setting all the dishes in the sink. "She's in second year, but she's got a September birthday, so she's not much older than Wan-li."
"She's great. I can't remember the last time I saw Wan-li look this happy. I'll talk to Bill and Fleur later; see if we can arrange some playdates for the rest of the holidays." Roger moved closer to Katie and opened his mouth to speak when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye. Katie followed his gaze up to the sprig of mistletoe and blushed.
"Bloody kids," she muttered. Roger disagreed. He thought whoever had put it there was marvellous as Katie was now leaning up, her hand resting on his shoulder. Their lips brushed in the slightest of kisses, but Katie didn't pull back right away. Roger leaned in and kissed her more firmly, his hands coming to rest on her hips. Katie responded almost immediately and her hands clutched at his shoulders, her body flush against his. Soon, Roger's tongue was parting her lips and she moaned, sending shivers through his body.
"Oy! Auntie Katie!"
There was a bang as the kitchen door flew open and Roger and Katie broke apart. Roxanne stood in the doorway, her mouth open in shock.
"Yes, Roxie?" Katie said, trying to subtly straighten her jumper.
"Um…Mum said she needs you to come upstairs. Something about Auntie Alicia." Roxanne stared at them for another moment before retreating.
"I should go," Katie said with a smile. Roger nodded, not trusting his voice. He waited until she had left and then laughed to himself. Of course something like this would happen when he was finally getting somewhere with her. He shook his head and then rooted through the cupboards until he found a bottle of Ogden's.
Katie lay awake, trying not to think about Roger. Despite her best efforts, she kept replaying the kiss in her mind. It had been so long since she'd felt that humming of desire. She looked over at Ginger's still form and then slipped out of bed. They might have their own flat now, but at Christmas, everyone stayed at the Burrow. Molly and Arthur hadn't worked on all those expansion charms for nothing. Katie just wished she didn't have to share a room with her daughter. It was one more thing Ginger resented her for. When Katie was dressed, she walked downstairs and quietly threw on her cloak and a pair of boots before heading out into the still night.
Fred had been buried in the orchard where he used to fly with his siblings. It wasn't a far trek from the house in summer, but in the dead of winter, the journey was made difficult by snow and frozen earth. At last, Katie arrived at his grave, panting slightly from the effort. She cast a warming charm on her clothes and then sat down in the snow. "Hey you," she said softly, her fingers tracing the grooves where his name had been carved in stone. "I kissed someone tonight. Someone obviously not you. Roger Davies. Do you remember him? His hair's receding a bit, and I think he needs specs because sometimes I catch him squinting at things out of the corner of my eye—" she broke off and took a moment to think. "Anyway, he's a nice bloke. Used to be married to Cho. For some reason, he's taken a fancy to me. And I think I fancy him back. No. I do fancy him. But this is scary, Fred. I never thought I'd be with someone not you. I never wanted it until now. Merlin, I wish you were here."
"So do I." She turned and for a moment, thought she was looking at Fred's ghost. But then she focused and saw the faint lines on his face. "Sorry," George said, "I couldn't sleep and I saw someone sitting out here. Figured it was you. Mum doesn't visit him in the night anymore." He sat down next to her and took her hand, warming it between his. She hadn't even realized it was cold. "Roxie told us what she saw. He'd want you to be happy, Kate. To find someone."
"I know. I don't know if Ginger's ready for this, though," Katie said. "Me being with someone."
"Ginger's not the one who isn't ready," George said, "No one has been more dedicated to being a good mum than you. But it's time for you to take off your mum hat, and put on your Katie hat and think about yourself for a change. It's not being selfish."
"You really think I should do this?" She asked. George pulled her between his legs and rested his head on top of hers.
"I think you need to do this. Otherwise, you'll spend the rest of your life kicking yourself for not taking the chance."
"What if he breaks my heart?" Katie asked worriedly.
"Then we'll beat him up and send his family jewels back to him in the post. Standard brotherly stuff," George said matter-of-factly. "Katie, if you never try, you'll never know."
Roger had been disappointed when he hadn't received an owl from Katie before New Year's. When he thought about it, he realized that she likely had plans with her daughter and the rest of the Weasley clan that she wouldn't put off for him. And he felt slightly guilty about his own readiness to dump his children on Cho and Oliver if Katie had owled. So he spent the evening with Quinn and Wan-li, watching the Muggle fireworks from the balcony of his flat and eating pizza. In the end, he was glad Katie hadn't owled. This infatuation of his couldn't eclipse his responsibilities as a father.
It wasn't until he was back at work that he heard from her. On Monday morning, Eloise Midgen, his personal assistant, delivered his mail with a knowing smile. Roger groaned. For security purposes, all correspondence for department heads and the Minister were screened by their assistants with a spell that Roger himself had helped develop. It revealed the emotions and intentions of the letter writer as they had written the letter. Any time the writer wanted to do harm to the recipient, the letters were immediately sent to the Aurors, who investigated further. During the divorce, Eloise had sent many of Cho's letters to the Aurors, to the point where Harry Potter visited Cho and asked that she not divert so much of the Aurors' valuable time to her petty squabbles.
He flipped through the letters until he found the one with unfamiliar handwriting. Katie had invited him round for dinner when he was free. A grin broke across his face and he quickly penned a reply. Eloise came in with a cup of tea and some toast.
"Who is she?" She asked, perching on the edge of his desk.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Roger said, sipping the tea.
"Don't play this game with me," Eloise warned, "A woman thought about snogging you while writing a letter. I want to know who she is."
"Private, El," Roger said.
"Uh-huh," Eloise smirked and then spotted his response to Katie's letter, snatching it up before he could stop her. "Katie Bell!" she crowed triumphantly.
"Please don't tell anyone," Roger said, wondering why he'd ever thought he could keep anything from her, "It's early days yet and I don't want to jinx it."
"Then I won't jinx it. I will say this, though: you've been happier than I've seen you in a long time," Eloise said before hopping off his desk.
Roger stared at her retreating back and then shook his head.
Katie's back was pressed into the fridge, her hands buried in Roger's hair. This was not going according to plan. They were supposed to have a nice relaxed meal and then discuss what they each expected from this relationship. Maybe some snogging.
She hadn't even uncorked the wine when Roger slid his arms around her waist, his lips moving to her neck. And now they were going at it like teenagers in her kitchen.
"Stop," she said, pulling away at last, "this is going way too fast."
Roger stepped back. "I'm sorry. I've just been thinking about kissing you ever since Boxing Day."
"I know. Me too," Katie said, "But I don't want to rush things." She smiled at him and then turned back to the counter, finally uncorking the bottle of wine with a wave of her wand. "Let's have dinner."
Dinner conversation was a bit awkward at first, but once they started to talk about their children, it came more naturally.
"I have a question for you and it may seem strange," Roger said.
"Alright," Katie replied, taking a bite of her chicken pot pie.
"I'm curious to know why you named your daughter Ginger; I don't mean to be offensive, but—"
"It's fine," Katie said after she'd finished chewing. "Fred and I were talking about names one afternoon. We decided on Gideon if it was a boy, after one of his uncles who'd been killed by Death Eaters. They were Molly's twin brothers and Fred and George were named after them: Fred Gideon and George Fabian. Then we came to girls' names. I liked Emily, but Fred wanted Ginger. He'd been to see this old Muggle movie called Shall We Dance starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. And he thought it would be such a lark if he and his daughter could have this magnificent Wizarding tap dance routine complete with Weasley Wizard Wheezes products and take the world by storm," Katie recalled. "It was a joke, but then he died the next day. I couldn't give her any other name after that."
"It's a beautiful name," Roger said quietly.
"Thank you. I wish she thought so. She knows why she has the name, she just doesn't appreciate it yet. I think she wouldn't mind so much if she had the Weasley hair. But she got my hair instead." Katie shrugged.
They finished their dinner in companionable silence and after the dishes were washing and they were sitting on the couch, Katie broached the topic of relationships.
"You know that I haven't been with anyone since Fred and it's not just the emotional thing that scares me, it's a bit of the physical thing too," she said carefully.
"You mean sex," Roger said, flushing slightly when Katie nodded.
"It's not that I don't want to have sex with you; I do. It's just been a really long time and I don't want to jump into it. But I don't know what you expect. If you were seeing another witch—"
"I'm not seeing another witch," Roger said gently, looking into her eyes. "I won't lie to you, I really want to sleep with you. But I'm not going to push it. We'll go at your pace."
Katie nodded and then leaned over to kiss him. "I like this pace."
"Me too," Roger murmured, threading his hands through her hair.
Oliver looked green; there was no other way around it. "I'm going to be sick again," he said to Roger.
"No, you're not," Roger said calmly, handing him a glass of cold water. "Drink this and relax. It's your wedding, mate. Enjoy yourself."
Oliver gulped down the water. "I know. I know. And Merlin, I love her so much. But I'm terrified. What if I'm not a good dad? I mean I'm okay with Quinn and Wan-li, but with the new one on the way…"
"You'll be fine," Roger said, patting him on the back. "I was a wreck when Cho was pregnant with Wan-li. I thought I was going to drop her on her head or something. But something just happens when you see them: your child. For the first time. All you want to do is protect them and love them. And yeah, you make mistakes and you put the diapers on backwards, but that's part of being a dad."
"Cheers," Oliver said. "I'm really glad Cho married you. No, I mean it," he protested when Roger started to laugh. "Your kids are fantastic and you've been a really good mate. Kinda feel like I'm marrying you too, in a way."
"Oy, none of that," a voice called from the doorway. Katie stepped into the room, done up to the nines in pale yellow dress robes. "You have your Davies, I'm keeping this one," she murmured to Oliver, before giving him a kiss on the cheek. "You two need to get down there. We're going to start in a few minutes." Oliver nodded and took a deep breath before heading downstairs.
"You look beautiful," Roger said, pulling Katie into his arms. "I'd never choose Oliver over you."
"Thank you," she replied, kissing him gently. Roger wanted to do more; indeed, they'd only been shagging for two weeks and he found himself pulling her into cupboards and empty rooms whenever he could get the chance. But it was his ex-wife's wedding day and Cho would curse him to the Andes if he missed it for sex.
"I should go down there. I have to catch him if he faints, after all," Roger said, moving away with a reluctant sigh.
"Yes. Cho is getting a bit much – she's been snapping at everyone, so Molly and Angelina have taken the children out to the garden until the ceremony," Katie agreed as they made their way downstairs.
Roger winced, but nodded. He well remembered Cho's pregnancy mood swings. Which brought up another subject in his mind.
"Katie," he asked cautiously, "Do you think you'd ever like to have more children?"
She turned and looked at him appraisingly. "You asking for a reason?"
"Well, just all this, I suppose," Roger said, waving his arm vaguely to indicate the surrounding hubbub.
"I don't know," Katie answered honestly. "I don't think so, though. Why? Are you feeling a mad desire to spread your seed because your ex-wife is up the duff?"
"I've just been thinking about what it would be like if you were pregnant," he said, his thumb stroking her waist. "I want to experience that with you."
Katie laughed and shook her head. "Pregnancy's nine months, love. Children last a lifetime. If you really want to see what I was like, Molly's got a ton of photo albums. Besides," she said, "we can't have as much sex when there are babies. Trust me. That's all Angie would talk about for a good 2 years."
Roger grinned and kissed her. "Well, then." The conversation was definitely closed for now, but he was hoping to reopen it in after they moved to the married stage of their life. He'd dropped a few hints, but Katie had point blank told him that she only intended to get married once and they needed to be dating for more than six months for that to happen.
"Come on," Katie said, pulling away from the kiss, "you can't be late."
They stepped out into the large garden of Oliver and Cho's new home and headed for the grand marquee. Katie took her seat next to Ginger and Roger went to take his place by the altar, arriving just in time to stop Oliver from hyperventilating.
Roger watched with pride as his son and daughter preceded their mother down the aisle, charming every witch and wizard in attendance. When Cho started her way down, he quickly looked at Oliver to make sure he wasn't going to faint, and then found Katie's eyes. He smiled at her and she smiled back. Ginger rolled her eyes and mouthed 'Losers' very clearly. Roger looked away, fighting the urge to snicker. When he looked back, Ginger gave him an apologetic shrug.