If things had been different, Harry reflected, as he stared into the fire and tried to ignore Ginny's calm, waiting presence on the chair opposite his, then we wouldn't be sitting here.
It was a ridiculous observation, so obvious Ginny would laugh at him for mentioning it. But that was the level of thought going through his head right now, the night Ginny had told him she wanted a divorce—and why.
"You know it's the best thing for both of us, Harry," Ginny said gently, breaking into a silence Harry wished could have lasted hours. "We're not happy. We haven't been for a long time. Don't you think we should go our separate ways, so that we each stand a chance of building our own lives, where we are happy?"
Harry felt his temper flare. He meant to stay quiet and keep his eyes on the hearth, he really did, but he snapped around to face her and let fly. "If you weren't happy, why didn't you fucking tell me about it, instead of fucking around behind my back with Zabini?"
Ginny's cheeks turned red, but she lifted her head and clasped her hands in front of her. "I'm going to pretend you didn't just say that, Harry."
Harry's barriers had broken, though, and he wouldn't be stopped. "Oh, let's pretend that you didn't say half the sanctimonious shit you've spouted this evening, too," he sneered at her, rising and pacing up and down in front of the fire. "I want to talk about this. Why didn't you leave me and then start sleeping with Zabini? You could have! Was it that much trouble, to keep your hands out of his pants for five minutes?"
"I don't deserve to be insulted like this." Ginny's voice shook, but Harry glanced at her and knew, from the way she was half-shredding her sleeve, that it came from anger and not fear. "I'm just trying to do what's right for both of us, make this divorce nice and friendly, and you—"
"Maybe I don't want to pretend we're friends," Harry snarled, and a vase above the fireplace hurtled across the room and smashed into the far wall. He knew that meant his magic was out of control. He didn't care. "We were husband and wife for five years. Why—"
"And those have been the five worst years of my life," Ginny said, her voice suddenly clear and cold as she leaned forwards.
Harry paused, his throat tight, his heartbeat so loud in his ears that it was hard to hear her. Well, I did say that I wanted to talk about this.
"Why, Ginny?" he asked, and he hated the way his voice pleaded and whinged, but he couldn't stop himself. Ginny had sometimes asked him to try a little harder, and they'd had their fights like any couple, and they'd had a shared sadness when she miscarried the baby last year. But those sorrows had only brought them closer together in the end. So Harry had thought, at least.
Now Ginny was looking at him with something very like loathing in her brilliant brown eyes, and Harry wondered if it was new or if he was just seeing her, really seeing her, for the first time.
"Can you ask?" She tried to laugh, but something sounded caught in her throat, and the noise came out harsh. "You've been a failure at everything you tried since killing Voldemort, Harry! You just sit around the house, or you go and sit around Ron and Hermione's house, or you fly for fun! And that's all you do! You wouldn't be an Auror, you wouldn't be a professional Quidditch player—"
"You know why that is—" Harry's hand had fallen, not to his wand, the way it sometimes did when he argued with people, but to his right leg, where a long scar still cut across his calf. A legacy of Nagini's bite when he'd killed her master, the scar didn't make it hard to walk unless he was tired, but it had weakened the muscles. The Healers at St. Mungo's had told Harry flatly that he shouldn't ever fly at the insane speeds necessary for professional Quidditch, because his leg would cramp and he'd fall.
"You could have tried!" Ginny was on her feet, shouting at him. "You could have bloody tried, Harry! But you never did! You just shrugged and gave up quietly at the first sign of opposition! That's not the man I married! That's not who you were in Hogwarts, or I would have died down in the Chamber of Secrets!" She stopped talking for a moment, flushed and panting, but she'd probably wanted to say these words for a long time, and they continued tumbling out of her. "And then you couldn't even give me a baby that would live—"
"That's fucking low, Ginny," Harry hissed, using the anger to cover just how much that had hurt.
"So I went after someone who'd risk something for me," Ginny continued, "who'd make love to me even though I was the famous Harry Potter's wife and we'd be tarred and feathered in the Daily Prophet if someone found out. And finally he convinced me that staying with you because I wanted you to be happy was its own form of cowardice." She lifted her chin. "That's the truth, Harry. All of it. You can't make me happy. You never could from the day you told me you didn't want to be an Auror. Blaise has helped me grow as a person, he's taken chances for me, lied for me, and worked to win my heart. You never did that. You just always assumed I'd be there, always assumed I'd catch you if you fell, and never remembered that I might need some catching of my own." Her hand strayed down towards her belly. "And Blaise has given me a baby that's going to live this time."
Harry shut his eyes for a moment. Then he opened them and said, "Get out."
Ginny rolled her eyes and drew her wand from her sleeve. Harry tensed, but Ginny just flicked it and called, "Accio trunk!" Her traveling trunk zoomed towards her from the bedroom. She caught it easily and spelled it to float behind her. Then she turned to Harry. "Blaise thought you might do something like this. He's waiting for me, and I'll always have a place in his home. Now I'll leave before you do something violent."
Harry growled wordlessly at her.
"And it seems that we aren't having an amicable divorce after all," said Ginny. She smiled slightly. "I'd advise you to find a very good Arguer, Harry. You know next to nothing about wizarding divorce law, do you? It's a labyrinth. That was part of the reason I hoped we could avoid this, after all—a last gesture of kindness on my part. I see now that I shouldn't have bothered."
He really might have lifted his wand to curse her if she'd stayed a moment longer, but she swooped through the door and was gone.
Left alone in the small neat house in Hogsmeade they'd bought together, Harry sagged back on the couch, put his head in his arms, and took a deep breath.
He was twenty-three, he'd been married to Ginny since he was eighteen, he'd thought he'd be married to her for the rest of his life, and now he was about to go through a separation from her that she had every reason to make as difficult as possible.
Slowly, he rose and made his way to the hearth to Floo Hermione—the only source of advice he could think of right now, even though it was almost midnight. He couldn't imagine how the Weasleys would react to Ginny's announcement. He'd like to get there first, if possible.
If it was possible. If they weren't all on Ginny's side from the beginning, since she was their daughter and he was just their son-in-law.
He might have lost his family as well as his wife.
Harry shook his head, blinked, and told himself to stop thinking like that. He couldn't think like that, not if he wanted to have some chance of surviving this. Maybe Ginny was right and he hadn't done anything worth mentioning in the last five years, but he could still react to danger right in front of him.
He had to be able to.
Draco vaguely thought there was something familiar about the snowy owl that swooped down and landed on the windowsill of his office the moment he opened it, but that didn't stop his jaw from dropping when he read the request she carried.
Then he leaned back in the chair—comfortable and supremely soft, of course—behind his desk and uttered a long and joyous laugh.
Oh, this is just too rich. The very worst thing to happen to him—
Draco's memory helpfully reminded him of the Dark Lord, and he grimaced and amended his thoughts.
One of the worst things ever to happen to him, and he has to come to me for help? Me!
With a growing sense of hilarity, the rightness of the world, and the fact that all good things came to those who waited, Draco read the letter again.
September 17th, 2003
I'm about to get a divorce from my wife, Ginny Weasley. On the advice of Hermione Weasley-Granger, I'm interested in retaining you as Arguer, since you have a reputation as the best there is. I assure you I can pay very well.
Draco put his hand across his mouth, but it was futile. He sagged forwards across his desk and started laughing again.
It must have galled Potter badly enough to hear that Draco had made a successful practice for himself as an Arguer, an expert in wizarding divorce law, after the war. But that would be nothing compared to how it would feel to ask his old enemy for help. Repressed frustration screamed between every line in the letter, from the spiky writing to the assumption that Draco would make him pay through the nose.
Draco caressed the letter for a moment.
It never really occurred to him to refuse Potter's case. How could he, when it would not only make him richer but would be so much fun?
And destroying a Weasley in court was the perfect complement to making Potter pay, in more than one sense.
Draco wrote a measured response accepting Potter's offer and suggesting a meeting the next day to talk about it, and sent it off with the snowy owl, who hadn't once stopped watching him mistrustfully. Draco grinned at her and waved her off with a lordly flap of his hand. Yes, she should mistrust him.
Five minutes after she'd gone, he was still laughing.