Harry, Ron, Neville, and Gregory Goyle lingered in what was now Harry’s den after the Order of the Phoenix celebration party. Neville leaned against a fireplace while Ron and Gregory sat on a brown leather loveseat. Harry opened a bottle of champagne at the bar, although Ron stuck with his Butterbeer. After a disastrous evening with a bottle of Firewhisky his sixth year, Ron had lost his taste for hard alcohol.
“To the future of the Wizarding World,” said Harry, raising his glass. The others followed and drank.
“Harry,” Gregory said looking very nervous. “I- I want to ask you something.”
“What?” Harry asked. His green slitted eyes opened wide in curiosity. Gregory was usually very quiet and never really talked to Harry directly. He was here at the invitation of Neville, who had forgiven Gregory for his past, considering he had pulled through when they had needed him.
“Do you know what happened to my father?” Gregory asked.
Harry was quiet for a moment. Normally, given his new appearance this would have been chilling, but his gaze flicked to Ron and his face looked sad.
“I’m sorry,” said Harry. “Your father was killed after you switched sides.”
Gregory nodded and drained his goblet. He refilled it and drained it again.
“Keep doing that and you’re going to have a hell of a headache tomorrow,” said Ron quietly.
“He ran and was hit in the back,” said Harry. “He never suffered at all,” he added as if this would make Gregory feel better.
Gregory nodded. He knew his father was probably dead. Knowing he never suffered, although he may have deserved it did make him feel a little better about being the reason for his father’s death.
“If it makes you feel better,” Harry said. “Voldemort was just looking for an excuse. If it hadn’t been you it would have been something else.”
“Thought he didn’t need an excuse,” snorted Neville, sipping at his goblet.
“Not a good idea to randomly off devoted followers because their personalities annoy you,” said Harry. “Ruins morale.”
There was a moment of silence before they all began laughing.
“Ruins morale?” Ron laughed.
“He learned after the first time when half his followers renounced him,” said Harry.
“Suppose it makes sense, strategically,” said Neville. “Hey, Harry,” he said realization dawning on him. “Will you help me study for my auror exam?”
“Sure,” said Harry, surprised. “I bet I’d be a lot of use to the aurors, myself.”
“Might want to rethink that Quidditch career,” joked Neville.
The room fell silent.
“I was just kidding,” Neville mumbled. “Sheesh.”
“Change of subject,” said Harry. “Hermione looked well tonight.”
“Marriage suits her,” said Gregory. “Glad she didn’t get mixed in with the Malfoys. That would have been nothing but trouble.”
“Did Draco want her?” Ron said, surprised.
“His father wanted her,” Gregory said.
“What?” Harry said, shocked.
“Would have thought you knew that,” Gregory said.
“Not a clue,” said Harry, taking a seat in a chair that matched the couch. He put his feet on the low table in front of him. “How could he take a second wife?”
“I have two wives,” said Gregory, blushing. “More trouble than its worth, sometimes.”
“What!” Neville dropped his goblet.
Ron began to snicker.
“Padma was going to be married off as well,” Gregory spluttered. “Pavarti begged me to petition for her. They let me because of ‘cultural something-or-other.’”
Neville raised his eyebrows, impressed.
“Hey, do you ever get them to-,” Ron began.
“No,” Gregory said firmly.
“No?” asked Neville. “You don’t want to?”
“Of course I do,” Gregory said, running a hand through his hair. “I’m just not suicidal enough to ask for it and it hasn’t been offered.”
“Yeah,” said Ron. “Good idea. After a few years you’ll probably get it.”
“Snape took Hermione to the ballet,” Ron said sadly.
“Oh, come off it Ron,” said Harry. “You could have asked her out once in seven years.”
“You never asked her out at all?” Gregory asked.
“Asked her to the Yule Ball,” muttered Ron.
“Only after you couldn’t get anyone else,” snorted Neville. “I asked her before you did.”
Ron just turned red as Gregory looked at him.
“Well, I didn’t see you with anyone at the Yule Ball,” said Ron to Gregory, testily.
“Wanted to go with Hermione,” said Gregory. “Couldn’t ask out a Gryffindor, and certainly not her. She probably would have spit in my face.”
“Good point,” said Harry. “The twins ended up with those guys from Beauxbatons, didn’t they?”
Gregory nodded, smiling. “Padma still writes to Pierre. He and Oliver adopted a girl a few months ago.”
“You mean they were- ?” Ron asked, his face screwed up.
“Yea,” said Gregory, chuckling. “Knew the girls couldn’t fool around because of their religion and they made ‘damn good accessories,’ as Oliver put it.”
“We got dumped for a couple of poofs,” Ron said to Harry.
“Considering I wanted to be there with Cho, I don’t really care,” said Harry, playing with his glass.
“What did Lucius want with Hermione?” Neville asked.
“Use her as a pawn to get to Harry,” said Gregory.
“Pathetic,” said Harry, coldly. The other young men were a little chilled at his tone.
“Well, she ended up with someone obviously fond of her,” said Ron firmly, to everyone’s surprise.
“Didn’t think you’d ever approve,” said Neville.
“He didn’t leave her when she was in Mungo’s,” said Ron, looking glum. “Practically lived there for weeks.”
“So did you,” pointed out Gregory.
“I had a reason to,” said Ron. “Practically everyone was there for the week after the battle. All I did was get banged on the head.”
“How is Ginny doing?” asked Neville abruptly. “I didn’t really get to talk to her.”
“Well, I think,” said Ron. “At least Hermione can keep an eye on her at school. She hasn’t said a word to anyone about the battle.”
“She’s never been one to brag,” said Neville. “You didn’t even know she could fly until half the team got banned.”
“Good point,” said Ron.
Harry stayed silent and sipped his drink.
Ginny lay silent in her bed, listening to her roommates sleep.
Tom was dead, and she didn’t know how she felt about the whole thing.
She was certainly startled when she saw Harry for the first time, but she had never seen Tom out of school, only his memory of himself.
She never knew if Tom had ever realized as he sucked the life out of her in the Chamber she could see bits and pieces of his memory as she tired. He might not have cared, thinking she would die, but he was sure to have sought her out if she knew she had seen him at his most vulnerable.
She knew why he had turned into the evil monster Voldemort was. She saw. She knew. Worst of all, she understood and had forgiven him.
Harry thought he had it bad at the Dursleys. He never knew, but she was sure he did now.
Tom’s days of being another drone at the orphanage during the summer. The requests to stay at the school over the holidays denied year after year.
The nights when the older boys would stuff dirty rags in his mouth so no one would hear him scream. His body screaming in pain as he forced it to walk normally so no one would know he was weak. Weakness could get you singled out.
All because he couldn’t wield his wand. Why? Because the balance would be upset and the Muggles could find out about the Wizarding World. The precious Muggles, always needing to be sheltered from reality. Who would shelter him from them? No one.
Did this make Ginny horrible? That she understood? That she sympathized with the monster?
Her family would never understand. Could never understand. No one could.
Well, maybe one other could.
Ginny quietly swung her feet out of bed and felt them hit her dorm room floor. She slid into her slippers and reached for her robe.
As she made her way to the common room she wondered if he would think she was crazy. No matter, it had to be done.
Ginny sat up writing until the first rays of sun started filtering through the windows. When her letter was done she dressed quickly and made her way to the owlery.
When she got back she met up with some of her classmates and went to breakfast. Afterwards she took a very long nap.
“Does Ginny look all right to you?” Hermione whispered to Severus during breakfast Saturday morning.
“Very tired,” said Severus. “I’m guessing she was there last night as well.”
“True,” said Hermione. “She probably stayed up all night with the twins.”
Harry ripped open the envelope from the Hogwarts owl after giving her an owl treat.
He skimmed the letter from Ginny and sighed. It was about time she wanted to talk. A Hogsmede weekend was coming up and she wanted to meet. It was about time he got out, anyway.
A raven flew through Hermione’s window one morning and let out a piercing cry.
As Hermione rubbed her eyes she heard Crookshanks meow piteously. Her eyes opened and she saw her mother-in-law transforming from her animagius form. Anastasia scratched Crookshanks ears and he began purring loudly. She spelled light yellow robes and gold jewelry on.
“Hello,” said Hermione, a little startled.
“You do not share a bedroom with Severus?” Anastasia asked, frowning.
“He snores,” said Hermione reaching out to give Crookshanks a pat.
“Use the Bubble-Head Charm in conjunction with a silencing charm,” said Anastasia. “It will save you many sleepless nights.”
“Don’t tell her that,” Severus said, padding into the room. “She’ll do it whenever she doesn’t want to listen to me.”
“It works for that as well,” said Anastasia, smiling at Hermione.
“I could hear you all the way across our quarters,” said Severus, rubbing his unshaven face. “Must you be so loud in the morning, mother?”
“It is the only way to get you awake,” said Anastasia.
“I’m awake,” said Severus. “The whole castle may be up now.”
“Don’t exaggerate,” Anastasia said dismissively.
Severus waved a hand at her and left the room. Momentarily he returned with the tea service and began pouring cups.
“Your father and I were thinking,” started Anastasia. Severus rolled his eyes behind his mothers back. “Since you didn’t get to visit during the summer, you should come visit us for Christmas.”
“I think we can probably do that,” said Hermione slowly as she tried not to scowl at Severus, who was miming hanging himself behind Anastasia. “I had hoped to see my parents, as well.”
“They would be more that welcome to join us,” said Anastasia. Severus stopped misbehaving and looked impressed. “We are family now.”
Hermione still hadn’t told her parents she and Severus had a consummated marriage. She wondered how she was going to tell them without her father trying to kill her husband.
“I’ll owl my parents this afternoon,” said Hermione, taking a cup of tea from Severus.
“Does father know you’re here?” Severus asked, curiously.
“I told him I was going flying,” said Anastasia, avoiding the subject.
“When?” Severus frowned. “Last night? It must have taken you hours to get here from France.”
“I apperated part of the way,” said Anastasia, defensively. “I can just floo back.”
“Why didn’t you floo here?” asked Hermione.
“Because then father would know she was jaunting all over the countryside to corner me into coming for Christmas,” Severus said making a face at his mother. She sipped her tea and smiled at him.
“He was always such a little genius,” said Anastasia. “Never could trick him, never.”
“Your plans were never very good,” said Severus sipping his tea.
Anastasia turned and smacked him.
“I have had just about enough of you,” Anastasia said sharply. Then she rattled on in Russian at him and he turned pink.
Hermione smirked into her tea.
Finally Anastasia stopped with a firm nod. Severus sighed in resignation. Obviously, he knew enough Russian to recognize when he was in trouble.
“We’ll be seeing you the first day of your winter break, then,” said Anastasia with a smile to Hermione.
Hermione smiled weakly and nodded.
Anastasia turned to her son and pulled him down to her height so she could kiss him. Then she ruffled his hair and kissed him again. He hugged her and allowed himself a small smile of resignation at Hermione.
France for Christmas, it was.