Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I do not own Twilight. I make no profit from this work of fiction.
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One brief note: Not everything the characters assume is the reality of the situation.
"I've been worried about Harry lately."
The sound of a deep breath being slowly exhaled met my statement. I could understand why everyone wrote everything off for the past couple of weeks, but that didn't mean my concerns weren't valid.
Hearing the dishes being slowly set into place behind me, I knew what I was about to hear. I mouthed the words as Ron spoke them. "I'm sure it's nothing, Ginny." I hated hearing that. Having my feelings dismissed just because I happened to be pregnant was really irritating. "I understand that his being away some nights is hard on you right now, but I'm sure everything is fine."
I snapped the celery in half the way I wanted to snap my brother's neck. "Some nights?" I didn't bother picking up the vegetable knife Hermione had bought for me. I just snapped the stalk into small pieces, dropping them into the soup. I'd stopped cooking with spells during the fourth month of my pregnancy. Hermione had introduced me to Muggle cooking in an effort to channel my emotions. It had worked brilliantly, even I had to admit that.
"Look, if you're really worried, why don't we go visit him at Hogwarts tomorrow?" Ron's question was stilted, like he didn't really want to ask it, but he didn't see any other option. But since he had suggested it, I grinned broadly. I turned my head to look slightly over my shoulder at him. Watching him gulp gave me quite a sadistic thrill, I had to admit. "I-if you want. That is?" I could feel my grin widening as he became increasingly uncomfortable.
"Of course I do, brother dear." I'm sure my teeth flashed at him, but I'm not sure it was predatory. I couldn't help but hope that it was. "Besides, it'll do us both good to see Minerva." I gave him a single nod before turning back to the soup pot. I heard him sigh. I couldn't tell, with my back to him, whether it was a sigh of relief or frustration. Rather, I didn't want to tell. "And Hermione told me she had an interesting meeting with Malfoy when she was there last."
Choking coughs floated across the room to me. I knew it was cruel, but I really didn't care right then. Of all of my relatives, he'd been the most dismissive of my pregnancy. Oh, sure, he was all too thrilled to have another niece or nephew on the way. He'd even made several comments to Hermione about the fact that she wasn't pregnant yet. That had almost torn an irreparable rift in my already rocky relationship with her. The one thing that Ron had never learned was how to keep his foot out of his mouth. Which was a dangerous failing to have around a pregnant woman. I didn't even bother to hide the sadistic grin creeping on my face as I set the spoon to stirring the soup.
Turning back to face him, I found my brother practically leaning on one of the chairs for support. His face was paler than I had seen it in many years, his freckles showing in sharp relief. He'd set the table for three. We'd long given up the pretense of saving a place for Harry 'just in case'. My husband hadn't shown up for dinner at the house since the term had started. I couldn't help but be irritated by it, and Ron had more than noticed. He never had stopped trying to keep the peace between us since I graduated from Hogwarts. We'd had more than one row that had made the papers, and I knew Ron was worried that this situation was brewing into another newsworthy affair. For my part, I was angry enough to justify his concern. My brow was furrowed, my left hand was parked on my hip, and my right hand was pointing at him, ready to let him hear my latest grievances with Harry.
A knock on the door quickly deflated me. I glared at Ron as he skittered to answer it. He'd have done anything to keep himself from feeling my wrath. He wasn't the only one of my brothers to make a comparison of my temper to my mother's. Ron's bumbling words tended to be quite a bit more scathing than any of my other siblings. He was wringing his hands when he came back in the room, a wobbly smile faltering from his face as he glanced from me back towards his wife. Hermione had entered the kitchen, stopping just inside the door. She held a chocolate pie in her hands, one of the most delicious Muggle concoctions that she'd introduced us to. I gave her a tight smile, which she returned. She seemed to completely understand the tension, and neither of us really did anything to try to dissipate it while I served the soup.
Hermione waved her wand quickly when Ron started to reach for the bread, whatever spell she cast setting it to slicing and serving itself. I had to lower my head so he wouldn't see the smirk on my face. So interesting that she didn't even trust him to do something so basic as cutting the bread without screwing it up. And he wondered why she didn't want to have his kid. Clearing my throat gently, I glanced back up to find them both looking at me. I simply shook my head. The rest of the meal passed in relative silence, a far dry from the norm for us.
When we were putting away the dishes, Hermione leaned back against the counter as she held the stack of plates and bowls for me to put away. The look on her face said she clearly had some information. Her reluctance to share it told me that she felt that either I wouldn't believe her, or my brother would kick up a fuss. Standing there, the only thing I hoped was that whatever she wanted to tell me didn't involve having seen my husband with another woman.
The giggle that escaped her told me she'd been practicing her Legilimency. "Nothing like that, Gin. But I do have something you need to hear. And soon." I put away the last of the dishes, closing the cabinet door. Turning to her, I folded my arms over my chest. "Meet me for breakfast."
"Hermione, you ready?" Ron's voice rang out from the other room. "Surely you gals have gotten the cleaning done by now."
I could feel my face turning red as my irritation at him rose. Hermione placed her hand on my arm gently. "Tomorrow. At Dan's in Muggle London." I nodded, giving her a strained smile as she left. I heard the door close shortly after and swished my wand to set the wards. I didn't want any other visitors tonight. What I wanted was to know why my husband was throwing his family away. Especially when he'd said for so long all he wanted was a family of his own.
When I walked into Dan's, I was surprised at how kind all the Muggles were. I suppose I'd gotten just a touch snooty after graduation. Or it might have been that they were nicer to pregnant women. Wizards didn't tend to change their behavior around a witch no matter her 'condition'. But these Muggles... One held the door open for me, one escorted me to my chair and pulled it out, another laid my napkin across my lap and asked me what I wanted to drink... I smiled at each and thanked them, each one telling me it was 'no trouble'. I looked up after the last one left to see Hermione's brown eyes smiling at me.
They twinkled in a manner much akin to Dumbledore's, and I found myself both sad and angry at being reminded of him. Pushing the thoughts aside, I smirked at her as she took a sip of her morning tea. "So what couldn't you tell me last night with my brother around?"
I wasn't sure at first if I'd imagined the shaking of her hand, but as the tea drop spilled over the edge of the cup when she returned it to the saucer, I knew I hadn't. Frowning, I looked up to her face, wondering what exactly it was she was hiding. She cleared her throat softly before she spoke.
"I know Ron and Harry have told you about Malfoy Manor. About what happened there. About the drawing room." I had to strain to hear her, she spoke so softly. She wasn't looking at me as she spoke. Instead she was staring down at her plate and wringing the napkin in her hands, twisting the cloth tightly. "You weren't there, though, so you really can't understand. And Harry doesn't believe me." She lifted her cup with a shaking hand, the tea sloshing over the rim twice before she gave it up and set it back down.
When she lifted her face and her eyes met mine, I could see she was truly haunted by whatever she was about to tell me. The boys didn't like to talk about those days. And really, neither did she. No matter how often I'd asked the three of them, they'd clammed up pretty tight about that year on the run. Especially when it came to what happened when the Snatchers grabbed them. Judging from her reaction right now, I was finally getting a glimpse as to why they never wanted to discuss it.
"She had a kid, Ginny."
I blinked. It was the only response I could have under the circumstances. I really wasn't sure what to think, after all. Somewhere, I'd lost track of the conversation. I had no idea what woman she was talking about, or why someone having a kid should be such a shock. But, knowing Hermione, she'd make it clear. I just had to bite my tongue and wait a few minutes for her to do so.
When her hands finally stopped shaking so violently that even the table – at one point – had rocked on its legs, she took a drink of her tea. I raised an eyebrow, briefly wondering if there was anything in the cup to fortify her courage. She snickered. "No, I'm not quite that far gone." She set the cup back on the saucer. "Bellatrix nearly killed me, Gin. I can still feel the knife, resting against my throat, whenever I think on that moment. And it terrifies me that it's still so real to me, that I can't escape it." She took another sip of the tea, and to be polite I took a sip of my own. The waiter had been very quiet when he'd come. I'd hardly noticed him arrive and leave. I daresay that was her reason for making this her favorite Muggle restaurant. The help knew what it meant to keep mum.
She set the cup down once more, a small motion of one finger signaling the waiter to come over and bring another. Once the fresh cup was set in front of her and the waiter had stepped away, she took a deep breath and set her palms flat against the tabletop. I knew she meant to tell all then.
"I haven't yet figured out who the father is, or how she managed to get pregnant. But some time, when she was in Azkaban, Bellatrix had a child. A daughter." She looked down briefly before looking up at me again. I couldn't help the increase in my heartbeat. I tensed waiting on her to drop whatever bombshell she'd been holding back. "No magical training. Not a single wand, no outbursts that I've been able to find out about. Yet somehow, she's shown up here, able to do magic well enough to be enrolled in the sixth year courses at Hogwarts." My muscles were knotting waiting on her to finally tell me what was so important. She fell silent, though.
I'd never been a patient woman. I came by it honestly – my mum was one of the most temperamental witches in all of England. Well, of those who were still considered sane. "Hermione, I faced that bitch down myself. I know exactly how terrifying she was. Tell me what's got you in knots, yeah?"
Watching her take a deep breath, I couldn't help an exasperated sigh. "She's the spitting image of Bellatrix. Looks absolutely the same. And all my questioning has been able to turn up is that it seems like she's holding back in class. Ginny... What if, somehow, she was able to reincarnate herself?"
My jaw nearly dropped to the table. "Hermione, there's no way that she would have been able to in the moments between when she was dueling me and when mum came into it–"
"Gin, think about it!" She was nearly hysterical. I'd never seen her so unraveled. Whatever she'd been looking into definitely upset her. "If Voldemort wanted to know whether a spell would work, who better to test it on than one of his own that he knew would be targeted by us? And if he did... If he did, is he really dead? Because in that moment, that final moment when it was just him an' Harry... What if he..." Her voice trailed. My hands were shaking at the possibility she was presenting. Merlin knew we didn't need a third war with that bastard at the center of it.
I leaned forward, careful to keep my voice as quiet as possible. Even if Hermione had cast Muffliato, some habits were impossible to shake. "Have you mentioned this to Harry?"
She shook her head. "He won't listen. He won't even entertain the idea that she's Bellatrix's daughter. But Malfoy knows. He certainly isn't confused about the girl's parentage. But Harry's right about one thing. If she wasn't born while Bellatrix was in Azkaban, then she'd have to be a clone."
My brow furrowed with my confusion. "A clone?" I'd never heard of such an odd thing, and I'd been spending a great deal of time lately reading various Muggle books, trying to learn more about Harry's culture before he learned he was a wizard.
Waving her hand dismissively, Hermione took another sip before answering. "A Muggle thing – making a duplicate from existing living material."
"Why on earth?" My lips turned down in a severe frown. Muggles were strange creatures.
She gave a wan smile, one that I had seen many times when there was no good answer to the question. "Because they can." She took another sip. "Voldemort knew about many Muggle things – it's entirely possible he kept up with Muggle science just as easily as I did. If he had, then he could easily have taken Bellatrix to a Muggle cloning facility, even though human clones aren't permitted in most countries. But that wouldn't have stopped him."
I took a long sip from my teacup, holding it in both hands to make sure I didn't drop the dish. When I'd drained the cup, I set it back down in the saucer. "No, it wouldn't have. But are you sure she's a clone?"
Hermione shook her head. "I haven't talked to her. I have no idea what she is, other than a dead ringer for Bellatrix Lestrange."
Staring at the tabletop for several moments in consideration, I finally nodded. "Let's go talk to Harry. They're in Hogsmeade today. I talked to Minerva last week by Floo and got their schedules since he hasn't been coming home. If he won't listen to your concerns, he'll at least tell me something about this girl." I waited for her to nod before pushing back from the table enough to stand from the chair. The waiter was there in a moment to help me up. I couldn't help the blush that crept up my neck. After all, I certainly wasn't accustomed to this much attention.
Hermione chuckled as she looped her arm through mine, handing the man a bill. "I thank you, sir, but I'll see to her from here."
"Very good, madam." He executed a bow very neatly in the confined space, and I reflexively inclined my head back to him.
Hermione had plastered a grin to her face as she escorted me out, walking me down the sidewalk once we were free from the restaurant. The sheer number of people walking in Muggle London always surprised me, and I could have easily gotten lost in the crowd if Hermione hadn't been guiding me along. I simply let her lead me as we made our way to an alley. When she wrapped her arm around me, pulling out her wand, I was still distracted by the people milling about in the street a short distance from us. She chuckled softly as she turned us, the scene around us changing and twisting quickly. I felt my stomach tumbling over violently as it had when I was in my first few months of pregnancy. I suddenly understood why they discouraged us pregnant witches from apparating. I didn't even try to avoid Hermione's shoes when we landed in Hogsmeade. She could vanish the mess for all I cared, but she'd done this to me, she was going to reap the rewards of these particular actions.
She didn't say anything, but I could see her trying to move her feet back as I looked like I was about to heave a second time. I grabbed her elbow, and to her credit she did offer me a supporting hand. After several minutes passed, I did finally stop vomiting. "You ready for the second jaunt?" My head snapped up when she asked that, but I didn't have time to make any kind of retort before she spun us again. I'd never been so irritated that Hogsmeade was so far from London.
When we finally made it to Hogsmeade, I was dry heaving. There wasn't anything left of the few sips of tea, and I was incredibly grateful that I hadn't actually eaten anything. Hermione was good enough not to laugh in my face at my body's reaction to the trip even if it was quite clear that she found my misfortune amusing. The only thing that saved her from my infamous Bat Bogey Hex was the sound of my husband's voice coming toward us.
Looking up, I felt by breath catch in my throat. There was no denying this girl was related to Bellatrix. Seeing her with her hands on my Harry made my blood boil. A man behind them got their attention, allowing us to approach unnoticed. Hermione didn't even try to conceal her wand movements as she wove a spell about the girl. I simply shook my head, doing my best to keep from making any noise until she let me know she was done. I couldn't help but glare at the presumptuous witch hanging on Harry's arm in the meantime, though.
By the time Hermione had finally nodded at me, she'd let go of Harry's arm and walked towards the men who seemed to be experiencing a case of mistaken identity. Their conversation didn't interest me. I let Hermione listen in on that while I walked over to Harry. Tapping him on the shoulder, I crossed my arms over my chest as I waited for him to turn and face me. When he did, I started a drum beat with my left foot, letting my right support my full weight. I felt my heart clench in my chest as the color drained from his face. I hadn't been sure that he was cheating on me, no matter how suspicious I'd been of his staying at the school. I felt my head spinning, even though I managed to stay upright and even continue the steady thud of my foot against the street.
"Ginny, are you okay?" My foot stopped its tapping. I raised an eyebrow, staring at my husband. He sounded genuinely concerned. "Your face is green, and you look like you've been sick." He swallowed visibly. "I-is something wrong with the baby?" I felt the knots in my stomach release. Maybe I had just imagined everything? "Ginny? Talk to me, please, sweetie."
Uncrossing my arms, I gently touched his face, letting my fingers trail down his cheek to his jawline. "The baby's fine, Harry." I let a gentle smile turn my lips up as I cupped his face in my hand. "I... I've been worried about you. You haven't been coming home at night..." I let my voice trail off as his fingers came up to trail along the back of my hand. He turned his head, kissing my palm.
"I've been tutoring the new student." Pivoting on his foot, he gestured to the girl who looked uncannily like Bellatrix. "Miss Swan has required special instruction." The voice in my head echoed the barely-audible snort I heard from Hermione. Apparently she was listening to both conversations. That certainly explained how she always seemed to know so much. "Minerva ordered the extra tutoring sessions, honey. I wouldn't have stayed away from you otherwise." He leaned in, giving me a kiss on the cheek. He blushed a bit, uncomfortable with displaying even such a little amount of affection in front of his students. "I'll talk to Minerva and see if we can't work something out so I can be home more during the week too."
I smiled and nodded, taking his hand in mine and cozying up next to him. "Since Hermione and I did make the trip, do you mind if we spend some time with you here in Hogsmeade?" He cleared his throat gently, the way he did when he was about to break bad news to me. "I realize you've been escorting her around. We don't mind." I turned a bit, raising my voice. "Do we, Hermione." It wasn't a question, and she grinned, a bit too darkly to keep Harry from being at least a little suspicious. But she'd already told him she was concerned about the girl's parentage. I turned back to Harry, trying to get his attention focused back on me. "And we'd get the chance to get to know at least one of your students better." The girl had walked back toward us, careful to keep her hands to herself. The smile she gave me was one of the smiles Narcissa Malfoy had always given my mother whenever they'd happened to cross each other in the street. It took every ounce of my self-control not to cast a few non-verbal hexes on her and let the Healers sort it all out.
"Besides, she'll get the opportunity to ask embarrassing questions about you." Hermione couldn't have timed her statement any better. Harry blushed and the girl's smile became slightly more genuine. "Ginny and I know quite a few things you probably don't want every student learning." It must have killed her to do it, and I made a mental note to ask her how she managed, but Hermione actually winked at the girl. Looking past them I could see the men who had been embroiled in a serious debate actually preparing to attack each other. The girl noticed as well, her muscles tensing as she turned to address them.
Before she pivoted, she met my gaze. Her eyes, as they connected with mine, changed color and shape. In the blink of an eye, she went from a schoolgirl to someone that I would be a fool not to consider a viable enemy. Her irises flashed a brilliant crimson. Dark energy seemed to radiate from her. In that moment it was clear that she was declaring war on me. The malice in her glare gave me a very good idea who her father was. Whether Hermione had noticed I didn't know – I refused to take my gaze from the girl. Though the next few minutes would undoubtedly reveal quite a bit about her, the one thing I knew without any doubt was how Harry must have felt all those years. How he must still feel.
It didn't matter that she hadn't done anything to me yet. The promise was there. And I would never be able to close my eyes again without seeing that red stare glaring back at me.