(The Burrow, the future)
Harry paused just outside the house which Ginny had just entered ahead of him. He was slightly nervous about this meeting, but he quickly forced himself to control those feelings and entered the house. Thankfully Ginny had been blind to his temporary pause, having been too busy greeting her mother and father who were sat in the living room. Harry quickly pasted on a happy smile as he greeted his in laws. He didn’t notice any signs that he might be in any trouble. He also noted they were the first to arrive, he had a feeling this was going to be a long evening.
“Are you okay Harry?” Arthur inquired as he took note that he was somewhat more quiet than normal when he was here.
“Yes I’m fine,” Harry responded quickly. “I’ve just had a lot of my mind recently, work and all that you know,” he added swiftly to cover up his real concern.
“Yes I’m sure you’ve been busy in the Auror office lately with the pickup in attacks on muggle born,” Arthur agreed with a sigh as Ginny and Molly entered the kitchen leaving them alone. “I have to wonder if it is someone who was a follower of Voldemort or if it is someone with a personal bias against them,” he mused as he ran a hand through his now graying red hair.
“My personal thoughts are probably a little of both,” Harry told him as he stood back up and paced a little. “I think whoever is doing this shared Voldemort’s beliefs, but wasn’t an active follower as far as I can tell, he also has a bias against Muggleborns as a whole,” he explained. “But we’ve had no luck in finding anything that might lead us to a suspect,” he added in a heavily frustrated tone.
“You’ll find him Harry, of that I have no doubt,” Arthur assured him with a small smile. “For all we know there is more than one of these attackers, it might be the work of a group,” he pointed out. “The Ministry has done all it can to make things more equal between pureblood, halfblood and Muggleborn,” he stated with a sigh. “But no matter how much things have changed, there are still some who do not like change,” he finished.
“We’ll find them Arthur,” Harry promised as his mind focused on his work for a moment. “I promise you that,” he added. “So what is the reason behind this meeting, I mean just us, Ron and Hermione and Fleur and Bill?” he inquired as carefully as he could. “Why not the others?” he added.
Arthur gave him a tired smile before he responded. “Molly has been getting a little worried about you and the others you mentioned,” he explained. “She thinks all your marriages are becoming somewhat troubled,” he went on. “She wants to discuss this problem with you all, the others all seem fine to her which is why they are not invited,” he finished.
Harry frowned as Arthur confirmed Molly at least suspected some trouble in their marriages, but at least it seems she didn’t suspect anything in particular and especially nothing going on between him and Fleur.
“I think Molly might be overstating things myself, but you know how she is when she gets a bit of steam behind her,” Arthur continued, breaking into Harry’s thoughts. “Best just to let her get it out of her system,” he said with a chuckle.
Harry didn’t respond and instead walked to the nearby window and looked out into the garden just in time to see Ron and Hermione arrive. This evening was going to be hard to get through if Mrs. Weasley was going to insist in sticking her nose in things again. He cared for the Weasley Matriarch, but she could be a right busy body when she wanted to be, in fact her actions made it clear where Ginny got her own flaws from. He looked up as Ron all but barged into the house and headed straight for the kitchen with only a quick ‘hello’ to him and Arthur, Hermione entered a little slower.
She looked around and quickly moved to pull him into a hug. He could feel Hermione was feeling stressed in the way she held him. It would seem the fears of Mrs. Weasley were not without merit. He wondered what was wrong between her and Ron. He knew their marriage wasn’t without its problems, but he had not heard of any major problems lately. Finally after a few minutes Hermione released him and moved to greet Arthur.
“Good to see you Hermione,” Arthur told her after a much quicker hug. “How have you been?” he inquired.
“Not too good lately,” Hermione admitted as she sat down. “Work has me very stressed of late. The Ministry seems to want to keep putting more and more pressure on Muggleborn employees,” she told them as Harry sat next to her. “Ever since Malfoy got the ear of the new Minister, things seem to be slowly changing for the worse,” she went on and they could both tell by her tone she was angry about this. “I still can’t believe that twit and his parents got let off after all they had done during the war,” she spat.
Harry snorted his agreement, having had the same thought many a time. “They are like cockroaches Hermione, they always find a way out,” he said bitterly. “They got their pardon mostly on the fact Narcissa didn’t give me away after Voldemort supposedly killed me in the Forbidden Forest and they also used the fact that Draco didn’t actually kill anyone during his time as Death Eater,” he reminded them.
“I know, they even decided that because Lucius didn’t take part in the final battle as he was too busy looking for his son they could show him leniency,” Hermione continued with a shake of her head. “Even with Kingsley in office at the time, the Ministry was still making idiotic choices,” she spat.
“Remember Hermione, even with so many purebloods dead the government still had many members of the old families in powerful positions,” Arthur pointed out. “They did their best to stop change coming to our world, it took us years to make any head way as you well know,” he added.
The trip down old history reminds Harry why he sometimes regrets working for the Ministry at all. Being an Auror was his goal after the war and he achieved that goal, but the politics of the Ministry still stank to high heaven. Even with all the changes Kingsley managed to get in during his tenure as Minster, the old families did their best to keep things in their favour. Now they had a new Minister in charge after Kingsley stepped down, clearly he’d had enough of politics. Harry tried to stay away from politics as much as he could, but he often had to attend sessions of the Wizengamot instead of his proxy.
The depressing air surrounding their discussion was quickly displaced when Fleur walked into the house with Bill close behind her. Harry could tell instantly that Fleur was as nervous about this meeting as he was. He moved to greet her in as normal a way as he could. He had to force himself to ignore his body’s natural response to having her so close. He felt Fleur shudder slightly at the contact before they pulled away. He noted Bill had moved to greet his father before going straight for the kitchen as Ron had before him. Fleur greeted both Hermione and Arthur before sitting down, Harry made sure to sit across from her.
“And how are you Fleur?” Arthur inquired hoping at least one of them was not under pressure or stress from work.
“Tired, Victorie is playing up more and more,” Fleur answered as she wiped at her eyes. “She is getting closer and closer to Teddy Lupin and Bill is being the over protective father, she is rebelling at his refusal to allow her to date him,” she told them.
Harry shook his head having already heard about this from his godson Teddy, who didn’t like Bill Weasley too much with his constant interference in his attempts to form a relationship with Victorie.
“No father wants to let his daughter leave the nest as they say Fleur,” Arthur responded gently. “I had trouble letting go of Ginny when she decided to marry Harry, even after knowing him for so long it was difficult to let him in a sense take my daughter away from me,” he admitted much to Harry’s and Fleur’s discomfort.
“That doesn’t make it any easier for me to deal with,” Fleur protested with a slight glare. “Bill is always at work and thus doesn’t have to deal with the fall out of his choices,” she told them.
Before Arthur could respond, Molly shouted out it was time for dinner. Harry gave Fleur a small glance before he turned and headed for the kitchen. Fleur let out a sigh before following as she was not looking forward to this meal. She just knew Molly was going to stick her nose in things again, the woman really needed to butt out and allow her children and their spouses to work things out on their own. Her view of Molly Weasley had never been favorable. She was a woman who didn’t know when not to interfere in other people’s business.
During the war she was always trying to control how much information Harry, Hermione and the others learnt. Even though it was his life mostly in the firing line, she refused to acknowledge that Harry was entitled to that information. She had never understood why Harry had not just turned around and told her to stick it when she tried to force them upstairs. Entering the kitchen she quickly sat down and hoped the evening would go fast. Harry sat down on the other side of her in between Hermione and Ginny, as he waited for his food his mind drifted.
(Hogwarts, the past)
Harry sat in an empty classroom with his eyes closed as he tried to figure out how to find the answer to the clue in his egg. It was really doing his head in that he could not crack it. Hermione and Neville had both tried to help, but neither of them knew what the screeching noise meant, time was quickly running out. He knew Fleur was just as clueless as him, he had no idea how Krum and Cedric were doing with the damn thing as he didn’t talk to them often. Now he had this blasted Yule Ball to contend with and he had to find a partner to go to the dance with. He had intended to go with Hermione, but she had already been asked much to his annoyance. He then considered asking Fleur to go. But he had chickened out at the last minute. Ron was constantly asking him for help in this regard as well.
The ball would be held in two weeks’ time and then a week or two later the second task would be held, time was growing slim for him to crack the egg and find out what they planned. Giving up for the time being he headed out to find Hermione, wishing for a diversion. He found her outside on the bridge.
“How is it going with the egg?” Hermione asked as soon as she spotted him.
“Not good, it is really is beginning to piss me off,” Harry replied as he leaned on the railing. He looked out across the chasm that separated most of the school to the main grounds. “I have no idea why they had to make the damn thing so difficult,” he spat.
“It is supposed to be difficult Harry,” Hermione pointed out with a slight grin. “That is part of what makes the tournament attractive, it is a challenge,” she told him.
Before either of them could say anything else Cedric appeared with Cho Chang following close behind him, he was clearly looking for Harry as he made a beeline right for him.
“Hey Harry, may I have a word?” he inquired.
Harry nodded and moved away from Hermione who went to speak with Cho who was clearly waiting for Cedric, maybe the two had become an item. Harry wasn’t up on the local gossip, it held little interest for him.
“So what’s up?” Harry asked.
“I wanted to repay you for warning me about the dragons in the first task, had it not been for you I would have been barbequed,” he stated with total belief. “So if you haven’t worked out the egg clue yet I suggest you take it and have a bath with it,” he whispered to ensure no one overheard him.
“Take a bath with it?” Harry was confused why he would need to have a bath with the damn thing.
“You’ll work it out Harry I’m sure of it,” Cedric responded with a grin. “Use the prefects bathroom, the password is ‘responsibility’ and don’t forget to take the egg with you,” he added before he turned and re-joined Cho and then they walked off arm in arm.
“What did he want Harry?” Hermione inquired as she re-joined him and soon noted his confused expression. “What is it, what did he say?” she asked.
Harry quickly explained what Cedric had told him in exact detail, Hermione’s expression became thoughtful as they walked off towards Hagrid’s. Harry didn’t bother to say anything as he knew better than to interrupt Hermione when she was working on a problem, he couldn’t wait for this tournament to be over.
“Maybe you have to put the egg into the water,” Hermione finally said as they closed in on Hagrid’s hut. “Maybe the screeching is not screeching, but another language,” she continued confidently. “It is the only thing that makes sense,” she stated with a nod of her head.
Harry considered her idea and had to admit that it did make sense to him, why else would Cedric tell him to take a bath with the damn thing? Well he hoped Cedric’s hint would give him the result he needed, he knew warning Cedric about the dragons was the right thing to do.
(The Burrow, the future)
Harry shook his head to shake the memory and wondered why he was thinking about fourth year so much lately, maybe it was his growing desire to finally end the charade that was his marriage. His desire to be with Fleur permanently instead on meeting for brief embraces, he let out a sigh before he began to eat his meal. There was no talking while they ate, but Harry could feel Mrs. Weasley’s eyes on him at times, and Arthur had already told him she was concerned about his marriage which meant she intended to stick her nose in things. Once they had eaten they retired to the living room. Molly remained standing while the rest of them sat down.
“The reason I invited you all here is because I’m becoming very concerned about you all, worried your marriages may be failing,” Mrs. Weasley jumped right into her prepared speech. “I have been hearing about problems growing between you all, arguments in front of people and you Harry I heard you walked away and left Ginny on her own during a night out and I won’t have it,” she continued and they all could tell she was getting herself worked up about this. “Family is everything and Arthur and myself spent a lot time raising you to understand that, granted when I said that I meant, Ron, Ginny and Bill, but you should also understand this Hermione, Harry and you too Fleur,” she stated coldly. “I will not have this family made to look like a laughing stock when people get wind of all this. Whatever problems you have I want them sorted out and quickly,” she ranted.
Harry noted Hermione did not look impressed by Mrs. Weasley’s speech, neither did Fleur and he knew he didn’t much care for it either. She had no idea what was going on with any of them, she just wanted to ensure things remained the same the way she liked them.
“Now I don’t want to hear any more talk of problems between any of you, is that understood?” Mrs. Weasley demanded with a look she had long used to get her children to obey.
Ginny, Ron and Bill all fell into line as they had always done when confronted by their mother. Harry however didn’t feel like been bullied into obeying anyone today and especially not Mrs. Weasley.
“No offense Mrs. Weasley, but my problems with Ginny are no one’s business but mine and hers,” he stated as he stood up with a glare of his own. “We have had multiple talks about what is causing those problems, but sadly Ginny doesn’t seem to learn from her mistakes,” he went on doing his best to keep his anger under control.
“Excuse me, my faults?” Ginny spat jumping to her feet in anger, but Harry ignored her.
“How dare you talk to me like that?” Mrs. Weasley gasped in surprise as Arthur let out a groan having already suspected this meeting might go downhill fast.
“I agree with Harry,” Hermione stated. “Our problems whatever they may be are not your concern Mrs. Weasley,” Hermione added with a small glance at Ron who stared stonily back at her.
“But I just,” Mrs. Weasley tried to say, but Harry cut her off again not willing to listen to any more.
“I would appreciate you staying out of things Mrs. Weasley and allow us to deal with them ourselves,” Harry finished before he turned and stormed out of the house. The last thing he heard was Mrs. Weasley’s gasp of surprise at his response. Ginny came running after him, but he didn’t wait for her and vanished from the property as he apparated and headed for his favorite hiding spot.
Hermione stormed out right after Ginny with Ron hot on her heels. Ginny could see Ron was pissed and more than likely with the way Harry had spoken to their mother. Hermione vanished before Ron could pull her back. He let out a growl as Hermione ran from the argument now going on inside the house. They were not surprised to see Fleur high tail it out of the house and appareted as well. Ginny was furious with the way Harry had once again blamed her for their many problems. She was even more angry that he had done it in front of her family, turning she walked back into the house to see her mother on a right tare at the disrespect Harry had shown her. Arthur was trying to calm things down, while Bill was pacing up and down.
“Molly enough, I told you they would not appreciate you getting involved,” Arthur stated as Ron re-entered still looking pissed off. “Harry and Hermione are both private people and don’t like other people getting involved with their private affairs,” he reminded her.
“Yes but we are family and I have the right to be worried when I hear talk of the possible failures of my children’s marriages,” Mrs. Weasley shot back in a huff.
“I can’t believe he is still blaming me for things,” Ginny hissed as she collapsed back onto the sofa.
“They have some nerve just storming out of here like that,” Bill finally said with a put out look. “I told Fleur we were staying for a few hours not an hour,” he added. “And mom no offense, but as far as I’m concerned my marriage is fine,” he stated.
“Clearly not Bill,” Mrs. Weasley shot back. “Or Fleur wouldn’t have run out of here,” she pointed out.
Bill growled at little as his mother pointed that out, before running a frustrated hand through his hair and sitting down next to his sister.
“Maybe we should all calm down and let things settle for a day or two,” Arthur said trying to make everyone calm down. “We are going to get nowhere like this,” he added.
The others reluctantly nodded their heads in agreement. Mrs. Weasley however remained in a bad mood as she was not used to people talking back to her once she had put her foot down.
Harry sat within the center of the great monument in meditation. He liked to come here especially when things began to get to him. He kept himself hidden from the muggle guards who kept an eye on this historic site. He could feel the ancient magic that flowed around the ancient stones and they help him find his control again. He was feeling angry, guilty and nervous after the confrontation at the Weasley’s, especially as he knew he shouldn’t have lost his temper so damn fast. The meeting however made him worry what would happen when the Weasley as a whole found out about his affair with Fleur. He could sense a major blow out with his family coming and he had no idea what would be left when it finally exploded.