A/N: Thank you so much to the people who reviewed, liked, and followed! Particular thanks to Korlan, who makes up half of the reviews I've gotten so far, I really appreciate it. This will be the second to last chapter, so you all know! Also, thank you to notYacob for notcing my mistake, I have hopefully fixed.
Harry's wand was in his hand out of nowhere, pointing towards the ground still. Oak closed his briefcase behind him, his hands empty.
"Dropping your girlfriend off at work, hmm? How dutiful."
Harry took a step forward, his face stone. "You think I don't recognise legilimency, Oak? Me? I had Severus Snape throw that damn spell at me for a year. I was an Auror. I'm asking, what were you doing?"
Sophie felt her breath catch in her throat. She thought that the strange feeling she had when she made eye contact with Oak was … off. She thought maybe she was being dramatic. But it sounded like was worse than she guessed.
Oak was silent, his hands in his pockets. Mr. Ruth walked into the room, glancing from Oak to Harry, to his wand, reading the tension and frowning. Sophie stood, alarmed, some unnamed fear forming in her. "Mr. Ruth, you-"
"Mr. Ruth. Good. Let's go back to your office promptly-"
All three muggles looked at Harry, who was now raising his wand. "You broke the law, Oak. You attacked my girlfriend. I'm also thinking that this isn't the first time, not just with her, but with a lot of muggles."
Mr. Ruth looked over to her, his eyes confused, his mouth a thin line. "M-Muggle? Sophie? Did Mr. Oak attack you? Who is this young man?"
She couldn't stop her voice from shaking. This job was silly and she didn't particularly care for it, but Mr. Ruth had always been kind to her. "Mr. Ruth, please, I think you should leave."
"It's too late, girl." Oak leaned back against the counter of her desk. "He already needs to be obliviated."
"Obliviated?" He glanced around the room again, as though hoping that someone would explain the joke. Instead the tension grew thicker. He took a few hurried steps towards Sophie's desk, his hand reaching for her phone. Harry raised his wand and a red light hit Mr. Ruth in the shoulder. He crumpled to the floor, his head narrowly missing the ledge.
She ran around the outside curve of her desk, reaching for him. She touched his face and wrist, feeling even breaths and pulse. "He'll be okay Sophie, it'll be easy to wake him up. I just didn't want him to hear any more. Better to keep it as simple as possible." He raised his wand toward the ceiling, a shimmer of light coming down around them in a dome shape. "That will stop other muggles from barging in too."
"The great Harry Potter stunning muggles, breaking the Statue of Secrecy left and right. I'm sure the Daily Prophet would be fascinated." Oak's voice was silk over nails.
Harry's face changed from stone into a careful kind of blankness. "Why were you using legilimency on Sophie?"
Her hands were shaking, everything seemed a little fake, though she were watching a play and was suddenly put on stage. She walked over to Harry's side, Oak's smirking face becoming clear as she turned towards him.
"Tell me, Potter. How do you get where you're going? How do you make your food or repair those absurd glasses of yours, hmm?"
Harry moved so that he was largely blocking her, she had to step to the side a little to see Oak, to see what was happening. "I believe that I asked you a question first."
"And I'm answering it, aren't I? The answer, of course, is magic. You used magic. Magic is a tool to be used, a skill, something powerful for us to control."
"You would use your power against people that don't have it?"
Oak snorted. "Muggles have plenty of power, Potter. It's us wizards who feel like we have no middle ground with them. It's either they are sweet, powerless creatures that we need to protect like giraffes in a safari or the bane of us all, ready to wipe us all out with their primal fears and bombs that can blow up the whole earth. But I don't feel that way. I think we can live together."
"Why. Were. You. Using. legilimency. On. Her." His voice was low and mean, he took a step closer towards him. Oak's smirk dropped a little before picking right back up. "You aren't listening. legilimency is a tool just like any other. There are Muggles out there who can cold read a person and make them believe they talk to ghosts. Yet I don't see the outrage against them."
Sophie sighed, perhaps stupidly bringing attention to herself, but forging ahead. "First, there is a lot of outrage against those people taking advantage of people who are desperate and grieving. Second, what is legilimency?"
Harry didn't take his eyes off of Oak, though he lowered his wand a little. "It's more… complicated than this, but basically he was reading your mind, your memories. And I want to know why."
Sophie had a steep swooping sensation in her stomach and felt for a moment the world narrow, her mind losing focus. She thought that, at least in her own mind, things were safe. She felt exposed, open, like she had her dress tucked into the back of her pants and had been walking around showing her butt to everyone. But she didn't do it. Someone had done it to her, like a cruel prank. What a horrible thing to learn. She wasn't even aware she started speaking, really, her eyes focusing on the beige swirls on the floor some distance away. "He was looking for information about you. He's done this to me twice, I think. At the time it felt like I couldn't look away, I couldn't figure out why our conversations were flicking through my mind so sharply."
She could feel Harry's eyes on her face, but she wasn't quite ready to look at him. Harry took a deep, shaky breath. "I'm going to summon someone from the Department of Magical -"
"Are you? Let's think about this, why don't we? You know I'm not pureblood supremacist. I'm not some knob who's out to bully some muggles to feel better about myself. I'm using tools at my disposal to gain information that might be helpful to me. No one knows what's going on with you Potter, not with your time, or motives or your money. I was merely looking for some insight, gossiping really, though rather one sided. Maybe eavesdropping would be a better analogy. You're not going to have me arrested for eavesdropping, are you?"
She felt her feet moving, the tips of Harry's fingers grazing her shoulder but not stopping her as she moved to stand in front of Oak, his face still smirking as he looked down at her, one eyebrow raising, he stupid loud mouth opening. She swung her hand back and slapped him across the face, her arm almost completely straight to reach him, the crack loud in the plush room, her hand burning and stinging. Oak's head snapped to the side and then right back as he looked at her with open shock. "You son of bitch, you straight bastard, eavesdropping my arse, eavesdropping into my head, eavesdropping my private memories, my mind. How about I eavesdrop your teeth onto the floor you bleeding -"
Harry's hands were gently pulling her back, putting her behind him again. He kept one hand on hers, grazing his thumb against her burning palm. "I'm going to call the department now."
He raised his wand but Oak, rubbing his cheek, gave a forced, mean little laugh. "Fine, it will hurt you worse than it will hurt me, anyway."
The phone rang on her desk, seemingly growing louder as the silence dragged on. On the last ring, though it was clear Oak wanted Harry to talk, he seemed to lose his patience. "Surely you see the issue, don't you? Call them in for this and we'll have to explain her. Why she knows everything, who she is to you, that she can't do magic, poor defenseless baby." He grimaced a little has he moved his hand down from his face. A brilliant red spot was growing there. "We can all talk about how much you've broken the statute. Maybe they'll take care of her while they take care of him." Oak nodded to the man still crumbled on the floor by her desk.
Harry was stiff next to her. She leaned forward a little, looking at the angered worry on his face in profile.
The bite in his voice wasn't quite able to mask the uncertainty. "Haven't you heard, Oak? We're engaged."
Oak went back to leaning against the counter of her desk. "Bullocks. If I'm going to go down for unpermitted legilimency, might as well go the whole way and tell them what I saw. Which definitely doesn't include an engagement. Unless, what? Are you going to ask her now? How terribly romantic. But I think that would rather going against the spirit of the law, wouldn't it? Doesn't your dear friend Granger go on about that all the time, how the spirit of the law matters?"
As Harry's wand lowered, Oak's smirk grew wider.
"No. Call them."
Harry looked down at her, worry breaking through the fury still lingering on his face.
"We'll try to plead our case that I shouldn't have my memories wiped. We'll do what we can. But we can't let this man bully us into silence. Blackmail is an endless game if you let it start."
He considered her for a long moment, worry and anger and fear crossing his face, mixing together into something that looked a lot like love. Without looking away from her he shot that red spell at Oak, who fell slowly forward and landed with huge boom, not too dissemilarly from his name sake.
They continued to look at each other. Sophie took one his hand in hers and with a smile she didn't quite feel, she said, "If you run, you'll just be sweaty and out of breath and tired by the time whatever thing is chasing you catches up. Best to face it. We'll see what happens."
Harry nodded once, then twice and then held her hand tighter as he did the spell that made his Stag appear. He whispered something to it, and the combination of the good magic's presence and Harry's hand wrapped around her hand quelled some of the fear rolling in her stomach.
He again put her behind him as the room suddenly had three more people in it, two in dark green robes and one in a midnight purple. They glanced from Harry to Oak to Mr. Ruth, then the taller one in green robes, with a great black mustache, shot something up to the ceiling and nodded in approval as the dome shimmered into existence again before shimmering out. "To be expected, I guess, with a former Auror here. Care to tell us why a muggle and the richest wizard in Europe are unconscious on the floor, then?"
They were completely silent as Harry told the story start to finish. She moved closer to him, further behind his back, like a toddler who thought they were hidden behind the curtains, their feet still showing underneath. Despite her earlier bravado, she was becoming increasingly scared and couldn't seem to stop herself from bunching her hands into the back of his shirt.
She didn't want to forget.
Harry came to an awkward close. The only thing breaking the silence were the footsteps of the other, shorter young blond man in green robes coming slowly closer. She could feel Harry stiffen underneath her hands. The young man leaned around Harry like he was a pillar and smiled widely at her as they made eye contact. "Cor. Harry Potter's girlfriend. I thought you were going to be single forever, mate, after Ginny Weasley. Come on now, don't look so worried, we aren't going to obliviate you."
"You're not?" Harry and Sophie said it at the same time, their voices high.
The young man laughed, "No, course not. Don't think I didn't notice you still holding your wand, ready to knock us all out. But 'sides that, we aren't going to do anything your girlfriend, honestly."
"But, the Statute-"
A low, calm voice spoke from the otherside of the room. Sophie moved from behind Harry a little, peering around his shoulder. A handsome woman with a square jaw and an easy going face, the one wearing purple, was speaking, "The statute is to protect the wizarding world from widespread knowledge of its existence. Tell me, do you plan on telling people about our world? Write on one of the muggle things, comp-compures, or whatever? Or film us with one of those cameras?"
Sophie shook her head vigorously, her eyes wide. She stepped out further from behind Harry. "I would never."
The woman in purple looked more serious now, her eyes dark and focused. "Will you tell your family? It will be hard to keep from them, won't it? You have a direct link to a wizard, so we aren't going to be picky. But that's where it stops. If you tell your friends, and they tell their friends… you can see how that can become a problem?"
Sophie stood a little straighter. "Harry's secrets, all of them, including the wizarding world's existence, are safe with me."
She gave her a half smile, her eyes less serious. "Good to hear. We're going to have to report it, unfortunately. But I don't think that any action is going to be taken against you. Potter, you're going to have to stay and explain some more things, but your girlfriend is free to go."
Harry nodded and Sophie glanced up at him, trying to read his facial expression, but he wasn't looking at her, instead he pulled her towards her desk. The taller man in green spoke as he leaned over Oak. "In fact, why don't you head home? We'll make some sort of excuse for you, very convincing, so you won't get in trouble with your work."
Sophie and Harry shared a glance, Harry looked away first. "Can I take her home and come back?"
"Best not, goes against protocol."
She gathered her purse and jacket slowly, distracted by the glowing lights coming from people's wands. Harry squeezed her hand once as she passed, still not fully looking at her. She glanced back as she entered the lift doors, her stomach dropping as she saw Mr. Roth wake in confusion, the woman in purple's wand in his face, before his eyes went distant and his normally intelligent face went slack and dumb looking. The doors closed.
It was fun the whole week is lasted, Harry thought bitterly to himself. He was slumped on his couch waiting for Ron and Hermione to come back. He supposed that he should feel more relieved than bitter, considering how everyone said that they wouldn't have to obliviate Sophie, even though they weren't engaged, unless they broke up. He asked a lot of people why, when that wasn't the law, but they all just gave him cheerful smiles and slaps on the shoulder. He grew increasingly frustrated until Kingsley, rolling his eyes, said bluntly that they were fudging the rules because it was him, and no one wanted to be the one to ruin any small amount of happiness he found.
He swallowed thickly, thinking that that fudging they were doing for him would be short lived when Sophie inevitably dumped him.
Hermione came through fireplace, reading something in a file in her hand, glanced at him, then glanced again and threw the file on the coffee table when she got a good look at his face. "What's happened?"
Harry almost smiled to himself. He could always trust Hermione to get to the point.
"Oak's been reading muggle's minds without permit. I caught him reading Sophie's and we had a bit of stand off before I called in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement."
Hermione slowly sank on to the coffee table, her hand raising to cover her mouth. "They oblivated Sophie?"
"They're going to oblivate her?"
"No. They said that they wouldn't unless we broke up. I guess they're fudging the rules for me."
Hermione lowered her hand, open and closing her mouth a few times, her eyebrows furrowed. It was unusual to see her so confused.
"Then what's wrong? That's great news! I mean, it's not great that our ministry is 'fudging rules' for people they consider more important than the average person, but that's a different conversation. "
"It is. Except that I'm certain that Sophie is going to dump me."
"You didn't see her. She saw them obliviate her boss, we were at her work, and her face… I don't want to see that expression on her face ever again. She looked horrified. And Oak isn't going to take this lying down. He's going to expose the whole thing just for petty revenge, I know it. I wanted to avoid this as long as possible, but it hasn't even been a bloody week. And now Sophie knows what oblivating looks like and she's going to get a wave of wizards just poking into her life any day, any second now. It's like a lost my mind temporarily, I convinced myself that this wouldn't happen, but of course it has-"
"Where is Sophie?"
Harry frowned down at his hands. "At her flat, I guess."
"Go talk to her."
He shook his head, his stomach clenching at the thought. "I'm not ready yet. For this to be over."
He heard Hermione sigh and looked up to see her face set in exasperation. "You're assuming a lot right now. And what? Are you going to become more ready? Instead of avoiding things and getting worried here by yourself, just go talk to her."
He felt his dread build, but he couldn't deny Hermione's logic. He rarely could. "I'll call her first, to see if she's there."
Hermione nodded and watched him as he stood and walked slowly over to the phone. He picked it up and dialed her number, the only number he had memorised because no one else he knew used them, and let it ring and ring until it hit her message machine. He put the phone down with a click and frowned over to Hermione.
She hadn't answered.
She grinned down at Rufis who was curled on her lap, looking sleepy except for his excitable tail. All of her parents' dogs were cute and sweet, but Rufis was her favourite in her heart of hearts. Her mum came in with a couple of mugs of tea and a small plate of biscuits. She could hear her brother raising his voice at someone on the phone in the office across the hall, probably a client.
"A half day at work? That's a lovely surprise. I would think you would have spent it with your young man though? Not that I'm complaining, of course."
She let out a deep breath and scratched behind Rufis' ear, not looking at her mum. "How did you know, with Dad, that you were serious about him? That you wanted a future with him?"
Her mum stilled for a second and then gave a small little laugh. "I didn't, still don't."
She looked up at her Mum with a scoff. "What, still don't? Isn't it a little late for still don't?" She gestured around the room, to the piles of family photos and knick knacks gathered on family outings, to the entire house in general that they had lived in for twenty five years.
"Your father really irritates me sometimes. You don't think it ever occurs to me to spend the last third of my life doing what I like, alone, maybe moving to Portugal or something like that?"
"Mum…" Sophie looked at her with wide, shocked eyes.
Her mum gave another low laugh. "Don't you worry, dear, I'm not going to divorce your father. I don't know what I'd do without the old coot, really. The point is, life isn't like hollywood films or fairy tales, were you know that you've found your soul mate and you're a perfect fit, and everything will always be rosey and sweet. Simply put, you can't know. When you open up to someone and spend time with them, you can't know if it's going to be a waste, if they'll break your heart, if you'll regret it. No, insteady, you have to listen to yourself. Is life usually better with them in it? Do they tend to make things better or worse? Do you care about them, do you like how they care about you? Darling, what brings this all up? Are things alright with Harry?"
Sophie opened and closed her mouth a few times. To answer that would be to decide and she needs to clear things in her mind first. "What did you think of him, anyway, what was your first impression?"
Her mum leaned back, biting into a biscuit. "He seemed like a gentleman and very sweet. Not to hard on the eyes either." She laughed at Sophie's agasted look. "But more than all of that, he seems like he would be very, very intense. It sounds like his life hasn't been the easiest."
She clenched her hands together. "I- he's life is very complicated. It is exactly that, very intense. I just… I don't know what to do?"
"Has he done something to worry you?"
"No!" She gestured widely, startling Rufis. "No, he's wonderful. He's all those things, a gentleman and sweet and very good looking and kind of intense. He's world is just extremely intimidating. My life has been very, very easy and his has been very, very hard. Sometimes I feel like a child, more like a burden than anyone helpful. I'm not sure how involved I can get without just...mucking it up for him."
Her mum bit into another biscuit with narrowed eyes. "You're in love with him."
She spluttered. "I-I'm not even sure if I should be dating him."
"Does he want you to be involved in all of these infuriatingly vague things that you will probably never go into detail with me about, or no?"
"No, not at all."
"What is he looking for then?"
She stilled and sat in silence and thought about it. All he's worries and fears, he's reluctance to start dating.
"I think he just wants, um, well, I guess, love?"
She came over and pulled Rufis from her lap, placing him gently on the floor, and pulled her into a hug. "Then you have exactly what he needs and he needs what you can give him. It doesn't get much more simple than that." Her mum patted the top of her head. "There is no hand book, no guide that's not complete nonsense, that can tell you if something like this is worth it or not. As long you value and love yourself, like I know you do, you'll know in your heart what's worth it or not. So the question then becomes, is he worth it to you now?"
She pulled back a little, her mind clearer already. "Yeah. Yes, I already knew that, I never doubted that."
"Then there you go. Look at you, my little girl growing up."
She rested her head against her mums shoulder, taking in the scent of her lilac laundry detergent, and felt safe. "Thanks mum."
Harry was lying on the living room floor, Hermione and Ron whispering loudly about him on one sofa.
"Poor bloke, he's an anxious mess."
"It's rather silly to me, I mean, didn't Sophie say that she wasn't going to be scared off?
"Yeah, but he's convinced that she's going to leave him now that the reality of the situation has presented itself."
"What reality? She's not going to be obliviated!"
"Unless they break up, though. Maybe she thinks that's kind of heavy?"
"How do you mean?"
"Like, Hey, you have to date me or your memories get wiped? That's kind of rough, isn't it?"
"Like maybe she'll think that's too much pressure, best be done with it now before I have to get too many memories removed?"
"Exactly. I mean, she's known Harry less than a year, what if he turns out to be a complete arse? One of those guys who cheats?"
"Or never remembers anniversaries?"
"Doesn't ask how her day has gone?"
"Right, just is a tosser in general, but she becomes afraid to break up with him because then she'll have a ton of memories erased, and that's extremely scary."
"It's a tough one."
"Would you two please, please, kindly shove off ? I'm three more words away from hexing you both."
"You don't have to get all cross with us, we're just empathising with your fears."
Harry pulled out his wand, but the phone rang just as Hermione and Ron let out squawks of fear. They all paused, looking at the phone as it continued to ring. Hermione pushed the back of his head. "Hurry up, answer it!"
He picked up the phone. "H-Hello?"
"Henry?" Harry felt his something in his chest shift.
"Yes, I - Everything was cleaned up with the ministry."
"So I'm not going to have some witch it purple pop up behind me any second?"
"No, definitely not."
"What will happen to Oak?"
"He'll have a trial, I'll give testimony, most likely, but it's not too likely you will need to."
"There will be proof enough in his memory. You know. Of - of yours."
"Huh. Alright. So that's that then?"
"Yeah. As far as your end goes."
"That's a relief. Since today took a turn and tomorrow is Saturday, I wondered if you'd like to do something fun with me? My brother's friend is opening an art gallery, which could be fun or boring, I guess, but I thought It'd be fun to dress nicely and stand around, pretending to know anything about it, and then afterward go to some shitty pub somewhere and drink the oddness of today away, still dressed nice. How does that sound?"
"That doesn't sound good?"
"I-no, that sounds great. I just thought - I called earlier and you didn't answer, so, I thought-"
"Oh I'm at my parent's house right now. I was a bit shaken up earlier, but nothing Mum's tea and biscuits didn't fix."
He pulled the phone away from him, looking at it as though it had gone mad, then put it back to his ear.
"So...I mean, you're okay with how things went today?"
There was a long pause and then a breathy sigh. "They're not going to wipe my memories?"
"No, I don't think it even occurred to them."
"How anti-climatic after all that worrying we did."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"Then it's good. I mean, I feel bad for Mr. Ruth, and I still question the morality of all that, but it's only a couple minutes, at least… and now we don't have to have that worry hanging over us any more. So… yeah, I guess so. It works out pretty well, in a way."
"So you aren't going to dump me?"
There was a muffled sort of sound, which he realised was her doing a huffing kind of laugh into the phone. "No, of course not. You aren't going to dump me?"
"What? Why would you even ask that?"
She sighed. "Because I hid behind you like a small child."
Harry pulled the phone away again, giving it a look of even further incredulity. "You didn't though? Unless I hallucinated that part where you slapped Oak across the face?"
"You stood in front of me ninety percent of the time!"
"Of course I did, I said I would protect you."
"I-I, fine, okay, thank you, you great lummox. Will you get fancy then trashy drinks with me tomorrow, or no?"
"Of course I will."
"Good then, swing by my place tomorrow around five."
"Okay, yeah, I'll see you."
"Wait- I, are you sure you're okay?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Things happen and they're frightening until they're not. We're at the until they're not part, so good. It's not the end of the world, you know?"
"You're right. You're right."
"Are you okay, then?"
"Yeah, you know, I really think I am."
They said their goodbyes and Harry hung up the phone. It didn't all make a lot of sense to him just at the moment, but he felt lighter than he had in years.
Maybe it really was okay.
He turned to look at Ron and Hermione, who were smiling with blatant I told you so faces. "She sounded right furious mate."
"Relationship's barely hanging on by a thread, it seems."
"Shut up." Harry smiled broadly at them, making their smiles wider. He started walking to the living room door.
"Where you going?"
"I think I'm going to write to McGonagall."