The house stood lopsided and asymmetrical. The roof was blown to smithereens. It was just a gaping vortex with shingles hanging on by threads. Above the house, contorted and twisted in the clouds, was a symbol that nobody thought was ever to see the light of day again. The Dark Mark shone brightly in the sky with the skull’s strong jaw and coiling snake. Rising his wand in the cool night air, Harry silently flicked his wrist. The mark seeped out of the clouds.
Under the lamplight was a small group of wizards. Faces were all pallid under the streetlamps. Whispers broke out, scared and furious. Harry Potter stood in front of the group with a frown etched into his brow. He did not partake in the conversations.
Suddenly, the streetlamps went out. The balls of light soared through the sky one by one to Ron Weasley who stood in the very back of the crowd. It was best to keep prying eyes away. Masked in darkness, Harry allowed his eyes to adjust before walking towards the house that was in shambles.
The front door was blown off the hinges. Stepping over the broken splinters of wood, Harry saw the man first. Sprawled on the ground with blood seeping from his mouth, he clearly had been tortured before the killing curse was laid upon him.
Ascending the stairs, Harry gripped the railing for balance. In the hallway, mere feet in front of him, was a thin Asian woman. Harry blinked several times and felt her soft lips on his. He could taste her tears as they wept for a boy that was not him. Shaking his head, Harry stared down at Cho Chang’s unnaturally still form with a frown.
Her once tan skin looked oddly pale under the moonlight. Her mouth was opened in an ‘O’ shape. Dead, lackluster eyes glared at him. Harry had to look away.
“According to the Intel our men gathered, Cho married a Muggle man by the name of…” Ron trailed off as he consulted the file in his hands. “Dominic Maddox. She left the Wizarding World shortly after the Battle of Hogwarts and lost all communication with any wizard friends. She worked as a paralegal in a Muggle law firm. What the ruddy hell is a paralegal?”
Harry was barely paying attention to his best mate. Certainly, he had not stayed in contact with Cho because things fell apart badly at the end of their short-lived relationship. There was no need to talk to Cho for Ginny Weasley captured his heart in ways that Cho never could. There was still a clawing at his heart. She was his first girlfriend and now she was dead by a wizard who obviously had connections to Voldemort. It made him sick.
“… a daughter.”
“A daughter? Cho has a daughter?” Harry whipped around to face Ron.
“Yeah, the file says she’s three.”
“If she has a daughter… where is she?”
Ron shrugged. Harry looked down at the file to see a picture of Cho paper-clipped to the inside of the folder. She was smiling up at the camera, dark hair pulled back in her usual ponytail. She looked young and radiant. Harry couldn’t bring himself to look at her dead, cold body.
Closing his eyes, Harry focused on his surroundings. He concentrated on the magic of the house and used his senses to figure out if there was a surge of magical power anywhere within the walls. It was a technique that was taught in basic training that would enable an Auror to sense how powerful his opponent was.
There was a small bit of power emitting from the door at the end of the hallway. Stepping around Cho’s body, Harry strolled down the corridor until he reached the door. He could definitely sense magic beyond the barrier.
Opening it slowly, the room was decorated in purple and pinks. Flowers covered the walls. Ruffles were situated on the window and bed. On the far wall of the room was a closed closet. Stepping towards it, Harry slowly opened it to reveal a small shaking pile of blankets. Crouching down, he pulled the blankets aside to reveal a tiny girl sobbing silently.
With a wave of his wand, the Silencing Charm lifted and the small girl’s cries ricocheted throughout the room. When she saw Harry, she only screamed louder.
The girl, Harry later found out, was called Mei. She huddled herself in the closet, refusing to come out for Harry or any other male Auror. It was only until a witch stepped up that Mei came out of her hiding place and cried wildly for her mother and father.
Glancing down at his watch that once belonged to Fabian Prewett, Harry realized that he had been twenty-three for an hour already without even noticing. His mind wandered to Teddy sleeping soundly in his own bed with his plush Moony to keep him company. He thought of Ginny Weasley twisted in his sheets and her freckly cheek on his pillow. Harry called Ginny at nearly eleven o’clock to ask her to watch Teddy while he went to work. She obliged and went straight for his bed since she had practice early the next morning.
When he arrived back at his flat, it was nearly four in the morning. The living room was masked in darkness. Harry kicked off his shoes and slowly maneuvered throughout the living room.
Stopping on the way to his bedroom, Harry peeked in on Teddy. The boy was twisted around in the sheets. His head lay at an awkward angle off the pillow. His chin rested on Moony’s grey head. Soft snores escaped his rounded lips. Walking into the room, Harry shifted his godson’s body so that his head was on the pillow. He ran his fingers through the Teddy’s messy brown hair. The boy stirred slightly but remained asleep.
Upon entering his own room, he noted Ginny curled up like a cat on the edge of the bed. Her red hair sprawled behind her and her white skin shone brightly in the moonlight that was seeping through the window. Loosening the tie around his neck, Harry watched her sleep. The slow rise and fall of her chest, the soft puffs of air that escaped plump lips… Harry was memorized.
There was a tightening in his chest. Did Dominic Maddox ever watch Cho sleep? Did he feel a rush of affection and a knot coiling in his stomach? He wondered if Cho or Dominic ever got up in the middle of the night to see their daughter sleeping like a pretzel. Did they ever gently set her in a more comfortable position?
Crossing the room to his dresser, Harry dug through the piles of boxers until he saw a small blue box lying misplaced with the fabric. His fingers brushed the velvet fabric and he clenched the box in his hand. Snapping it open, a diamond ring with an asscher cut lay inside. He envisioned the ring sparkling on Ginny’s finger, her smile large as she showed her mother, Hermione, and sister-in-laws.
Burying the ring box in the boxers, Harry closed the drawer silently. Changing quickly, he slid into bed next to Ginny and felt his chest constrict. He placed a small kiss to Ginny’s speckled shoulder before putting his back to her and drifting off to sleep.
The next morning, when Harry woke up, Ginny was gone. The indention of her body was faintly visible in the mattress and pillow. A lump formed in his throat but he quickly swallowed it.
Harry leaned against the counter reading the Daily Prophet as Teddy shoveled cereal into his mouth. The attack on Cho’s home made the front page. There was a picture of himself at fifteen and Cho at sixteen gracing the cover. Harry’s stomach churned at the headline that read, “Harry Potter’s Ex-Girlfriend Found Slain In Home With Muggle Husband.”
“Almost ready, Teddy?” Harry called as he watched his younger self blush.
“Yeah,” Teddy said reluctantly. “I wanna go to work with you.”
“Don’t you like Mrs. Weasley and Victoire?”
Harry glanced at his godson over the paper. Teddy frowned as he forcefully shoved his spoon into the bowl.
“They’re alright,” he said slowly. “I just rather spend time with you.”
His heart clenched and a lump the size of a grapefruit formed in his throat. Pride and love gushed through his entire body. His brain quickly ticked off his itinerary for the day and concluded that he was simply too busy to take Teddy along. He wanted to procure of particular file of an ex-Death Eater and, hopefully, have some Aurors track him down.
“You can come with me another day when I don’t have so much to do. I promise.”
Teddy brightened immediately as he scampered off to his room to pack his bag. Harry cleaned the dishes with a flick of the wand.
Three hours later, Harry was waiting impatiently in an interrogation room. A thick manila folder lay closed on the table in front of him. He memorized the content thoroughly and fully. There was a twist of anxiety that knotted his insides. This wizard was his only lead.
“Get off of me!” a familiar male voice snapped as the door opened.
A tall, lean man brushed the Auror’s hands off him. His blonde hair was plastered neatly on his pallid forehead. Cold eyes glared at Harry as he straightened his signature black robes on his body.
“I should have figured it was you who beckoned me like dog,” he spoke swiftly.
“Have a seat, Malfoy,” Harry spoke evenly.
Draco Malfoy sneered before collapsing down into the chair opposite of Harry. It had been years since they had seen each other but the boyhood rivalry was still alive. Harry wondered briefly if his feelings towards Malfoy were akin to Sirius’ feelings towards Snape.
“I’m sure you’ve heard about the Dark Mark making a grand appearance once more.”
“I had absolutely nothing to do with that!” Malfoy hissed.
“I know but you bear the mark upon your arm.” Harry kept calm as Malfoy unconsciously rubbed his forearm. “Malfoy Manor was primary headquarters to Voldemort.”
Malfoy turned away in disgust, his face paling a ghastly white at just the mention of his name.
“Do you remember any Death Eater that weren’t caught by the Ministry, had the Imperius Curse lifted off them, or dead?”
“There were a lot of wizards whose names I never knew,” Malfoy answered slowly with narrowed eyes. “My mother and I kept close to Snape and that was it.”
Harry nodded but didn’t believe him for a second. He knew that Narcissa Malfoy no doubt hung around Bellatrix Lestrange quite a bit. He didn’t know exactly what kind of information he could get from Malfoy, but he expected more than nothing.
“Did you ever hear of someone who went by the name Cronus?” Harry pushed.
“Cronus? What sort of name is that?”
“This wizard who is coming into prominence is a Voldemort copy-cat who we believe calls himself Cronus.”
Malfoy didn’t say anything. His brows were furrowed in disbelief.
“I have never heard of a Cronus.”
Harry felt his frustration mounting. Glancing over at Malfoy, whose arms were crossed and lips were drawn in a straight line, Harry contemplated his choices. Kingsley gave him the go-to last night to implement his plan. It had to be foolproof. Harry knew - hoped that he was going about the whole thing the right way.
“I read in your file that you applied for an Unspeakable apprenticeship but was turned down because of the Dark Mark that was once upon your arm,” Harry lazily opened the file. Everything about Malfoy was in that file including O.W.L. marks to baby pictures. “So, you applied for an apprenticeship at an apothecary. You’re an apothecary’s assistant. Is that right?”
“What’s it to you, Potter?” he spat.
“I’m offering you a way into the Ministry. If you come and work with me on this Cronus case, if you try to infiltrate his ranks and report back to me…. when this is all over with, I will get you a fair apprenticeship at the Department of Mysteries and pay you quite generously.”
“What if I don’t accept?”
“Then you can go back to your little apothecary.”
“What if I do accept? Who all would know?”
A spark ignited inside of Harry. This was his only chance and he hoped that he wasn’t making the biggest mistake of his life.
“We’ll protect your parents and your girlfriend. We’ll protect you. The only people who will know would be myself, the head of the Auror Department, and the Minister of Magic.”
“What exactly would I do?”
“Find out who Cronus is, get into his inner circle, and help us bring him down.”
Malfoy didn’t say anything. His pallid face glowed unnaturally under the fluorescent lighting in the interrogation room.
“I saved your ass from Azkaban. I saved your whole family. You owe me, Malfoy.”
Malfoy’s jaw tightened and his eyes narrowed.
“Let me get this straight, Potter. You want me to be the Snape to your Dumbledore?”
The phrase made Harry falter. His insides froze instantly. He never thought of it that way. The simple fact remained that Malfoy was right. That was exactly what Harry was attempting to accomplish. He wanted a pawn in the enemy forces to do his bidding.
“This Cronus guy can’t stay in the woodwork forever you know,” Malfoy added with a sneer. “Why is it so important to you to track him down instead of just waiting a few more weeks until he makes his grand entrance? You must know he will eventually. A copy-cat would surely want to be in the limelight, to revel in the glory.”
“Just wait around, eh?” Harry snapped. “Innocent people are dying!”
“Tell me the real reason you called me in here, Potter, and I just might be inclined to assist you.”
“People are dying, Malfoy, and it’s my j-” Harry ranted as Malfoy stood up and walked towards to the door to leave. “WAIT! He wants my godson and my girlfriend! I’m trying to protect them!”
Malfoy turned around with a sneer dancing on his features.
“Cronus can’t get to your little Weasley girlfriend so he killed your ex-girlfriend instead. Almost Shakespearean, isn’t it, Potter?”
“Are you in or are you out?” Harry growled.
“I’ll see what I can do, but I make no promises.” Malfoy paused. “I’m not doing this for you, Weasley, or that little werewolf cub you’ve got. I’ve got my own stakes in this.”
With that, Malfoy left. Leaning back in his chair, Harry let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.
Harry did not leave work until around seven that night. When he arrived at the Burrow, although he told Ginny specifically not to, there was a small party waiting for him. All of the Weasleys (minus Charlie), Hermione, Luna, Rolf and Teddy were present to wish him a happy birthday.
Harry laid out on the prickly grass in the backyard with Victoire beside him. They were watching as the sun slowly started to set in the sky. A good several yards away George, Ron, and Bill were teaching Teddy how to degnome a garden. Ginny, Mrs. Weasley, Hermione, Angelina, and Fleur were all busy inside cooking dinner. Percy, his wife Audrey, their daughter they named Molly, and Arthur were sitting at the picnic table chatting about politics. At the far end of the lawn, Luna and Rolf were cuddled together whispering.
There was a calm peace that filtered throughout the house. Harry only half-listened to Victoire as she pointed out clouds in the sky and told him what she thought the clouds looked like. Soon, the girl became dissatisfied with her arrangement. She huffed as she tried to find a more comfortable position. A small weight rested on Harry’s chest and Victoire found no problem using Harry as a pillow.
Teddy laughed loudly as George cursed at a gnome who had no doubt bit him. Turning his head, Harry watched George chasing a gnome as Teddy squealed in delight.
Once the garden was degnomed, Teddy collapsed on the ground next to his godfather. A brown head quickly found itself on Harry’s shoulder. Ron and George lingered as well while Bill went inside to help with dinner.
“Saw Malfoy in the Ministry today,” Ron began as he took a seat in the grass. “What did the little rat have to say?”
Harry glanced at his best mate but said nothing at first. Instead, his arm snaked beneath his godson to pull the boy close to his body. Victoire, upon seeing the cuddling taking place, immediately scooted up on Harry’s other side. He wrapped an arm around the girl as well.
“Nothing much,” Harry replied. “He said he didn’t know of any Death Eaters who got away or who was behind this whole Cronus business.”
“You believed him?” Ron gaped.
Knowing he could not tell Ron of the arrangement he made with Kingsley and the head of the Auror Department, Odin Vidar, Harry merely shrugged his shoulders.
When dinner was finished, everyone sat around two tables slid together in the backyard. The conversation was light and cheerful. Quidditch and children were the main topics of discussion for a good part of the meal. Soon, rather than later, the conversation slowly turned to marriage.
“I daresay,” Mrs. Weasley started after a good three glasses of champagne, “that it will be nice to have Harry and Hermione officially become part of the family. When are you boys going to propose?”
Ron looked like he swallowed a lemon and Harry choked on his own glass of bubbly. The ring tucked away with his boxers floated in his mind. Harry dared a glance at Hermione who was quickly gulping down her glass with flushed cheeks. Part of him wanted to look over at Ginny to see her reaction. Glimpsing over at her out of the corner of his eye, he watched as she flipped her hair behind her shoulder and smiled at something Luna had said.
“Well?” Mrs. Weasley pushed.
“Molly, leave the boys alone,” Mr. Weasley chuckled. “They’re all still young.”
“We were married at twenty, Arthur! Harry, Ron and Hermione are all twenty-three now! Next month, Ginny turns twenty-two!” Mrs. Weasley protested. “I just want all my babies to get married so they can give me a whole boatload of grandchildren.”
Ron choked on a piece of beef causing Hermione to thump him loudly on the back. Harry looked across the table at his best mate to see a wild look on his face. She’s nutters, Ron mouthed.
“Well, it looks like Perce and I are the best kids you got, Mum,” Bill replied with a smirk. “We’ve already given you one grandchild each.”
“I theenk it is the perfect time to announce our news, Bill,” Fleur beamed. “We are ‘aving another baby!”
The table burst out into chatter, Mrs. Weasley crying loudly as she stumbled towards Fleur and Bill to hug them. George leaned over Teddy and tapped Harry on the shoulder.
“Would I be stealing Fleur and Bill’s thunder if I announced right now that Angelina and I were pregnant as well?” George whispered with a gleam in his eye.
“You’re joking!” Harry hissed.
“Found out yesterday, Mate.” George laughed. “The Weasleys are now officially reproducing like bunnies!”
Harry found himself staring at Ginny and imagining her belly plump and round with a tiny person growing inside. She would be a wonderful mother, Harry was positive. Ginny was so amazing with Teddy.
The party dispensed shortly after ten o’clock for most had to get to work early the next morning. Teddy lay in Harry’s arms like a sack of potatoes, his head lolled against his godfather’s chest and arms wrapped loosely around his neck. The boy was exhausted and kept dozing off in his godfather’s arms.
“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Ginny said as she stood up on her tiptoes to kiss him chastely on the lips so she wouldn’t disturb Teddy.
Harry’s heart pounded wildly in his chest. With a surge of love and passion, he blushed a deep crimson.
“Moveinwithme,” the words rushed out of his mouth before he could stop them.
“I… move in with me.”
Ginny’s mouth hung open and eyes were opened wide. Turning around quickly, she noted her mother dozing off in the arm chair. Her father was cleaning up in the kitchen. Everyone else had left to their respective homes.
“Harry… I don’t know what to say.”
“Say yes.” Harry swallowed a lump in his throat. “I reckon I’m the only guy your mum would approve you living with. You live at home too, so there are no lease problems or anything. Just… come live with Teddy and me.”
Ginny licked her lips before a large smile crossed her features. Slowly, she nodded her head. Harry’s chest roared.
“Yes! Alright… let’s do it!”
Balancing Teddy on his hip, Harry gave Ginny a tight one-armed hug and kissed her on the temple. For a moment, all the worries about Cronus had disappeared from Harry’s mind. He was, quite simply, happy and content for the time being.
Thanks for all the positive reviews and encouragement! Keep them coming! I've responded to all reviews. Next chapter, a Teddy chapter. :)
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