The Arrangement

Chapter One

Introductions and the Final Year

Disclaimer: I do not own anything affiliated with Harry Potter, (i.e. this story or the previous one, which by the way, if you are reading this one and have not read the first one, I would advise you to read it now since I doubt this one will make sense.)

Ginny Potter was nervous. How could she not be, the situation being what it was? She'd burst into tears when her eleven-year-old son James had gotten his Hogwarts letter. James had been ecstatic, and his younger sister Ella had been pea green with envy, so to speak. However, seven fairly uneventful years had passed, and James and Ella had been blessed with much safer and happier years at Hogwarts than either she or Harry had been lucky enough to enjoy. James and Ella had quickly become outrageously popular, and not only because their last name was Potter. Ella had always been a very social girl, and an almost intolerably pretty girl at that. In fact, with sparkling green eyes and long pretty auburn colored hair, she was almost the spitting image of her grandmother, a comment that was made almost as frequently as references to James looking like his father. James too, was a handsome boy or young man rather, having inherited Harry's looks to the point of them looking like brothers. James's taste in women was seemingly different from his father and grandfather's. He had been 'dating' Ana Marsh since fifth year, a pretty brunette, and the two were inseparable. Ginny had been hysterical when James had first started to date Ana, but Harry had told her to calm down, and that it probably wouldn't last. Harry had been proved wrong however, and now he was just as worried as his wife. How were they going to explain to James that he didn't have the choice of who he could and could not date, let alone marry for that matter?

Hermione and Ron Weasley were in the same boat. Their daughter Natalie had come home for Christmas holidays in her sixth year professing her love for Will Bones. Ron had overreacted and forbade the two from dating, which didn't hold much weight in the following argument, since he couldn't tell Natalie the real reason. Understandably, Natalie and Will were as big of an item at Hogwarts as James and Ana. The four parents had worried and talked and had finally agreed that the two would be told about the arrangement before their seventh year started.

Well, now it was August 30th. Two days before September 1st, when the Hogwarts Express would carry James, Natalie, Ana, and Will to their seventh and final year at Hogwarts, and Ginny was waiting for Harry, Ron, and Hermione to get off work and come over so they could discuss things with their children. James was out with Ana, buying things for their seventh year, and Hermione had called at lunch, sounding frazzled, to report that Natalie was being fitted for dress robes for the year, and that Will was accompanying her. This did nothing to calm Ginny's nerves so she paced in the kitchen, cooking various dishes while Ella watched in wonderment.

"So is this like some new Zen relaxation thing?" Ella asked unconcernedly as she unwrapped a muffin.

"No, it's an I-don't-know-what-to-do-with-myself-until-your-father-gets-home thing." Ginny replied, pulling yet another batch of muffins out of the oven.

"Which would explain why you're doing all of this the Muggle way." Ella said.

"Yes and no. I'm doing it the Muggle way because it takes longer and I desperately need something to occupy myself, and your Aunt Hermione told me a long time ago that doing everything magically makes you lazy."

"I always thought she was a bit funny." Ella said.

"Ella! She's your aunt!"

"Yes, and I love her dearly, Mum, but honestly, she's like McGonagall but…younger."

Ginny burst into laughter before she could stop.

"That's not true!" she said gasping for breath.

"Yes it is. She's even got the look. Remember that time Natalie and I got caught bewitching Violet Thomas? I thought McGonagall had died or something and Aunt Hermione was like channeling her spirit."

"Ella…" Ginny pleaded.

"All right, all right, I'll stop. So…new subject. What is it about Dad coming home that's got you pacing and cooking up a storm? The only time I've ever seen that is when Grandmum gets mad at Uncle Fred and Uncle George."

"It…" Ginny paused, "It's your brother. We have something that we need to tell him that's very important."

"Oooh…is ickle Jamesie in trouble?" Ella asked, her eyes lighting up mischievously.

"No, Ella, and you aren't going to be able to be a part of it, no ears allowed…Extendable or real."

Ella sighed, but brightened quickly.

"That's fine. I was planning on going out tonight anyways."

"Oh? Where to?"

"Cecilia wants Bryan and me to double date with her and Jeff."

"That sounds like fun, but be sure you don't mention the words 'double-date' to your father."

"When is he going to accept the fact that I'm fifteen and can date? When Dad was my age he'd already kissed a girl!"

"Yes and see how well that turned out for him." Ginny said.

"Yes, well, he's forgotten her long ago, and speaking of which, you were sixteen when you started dating Dad."

"That was…different." Ginny said vaguely.

"Right Mum, sure. Just think about this next time you and Daddy try to stop me from dating, you were seventeen, only two years older than I am, when you got married and had James."

"Ella." Ginny put down her spoon and turned to her daughter, "Things when your father and I were teenagers were crazy. Your Dad and I decided that we wanted to be together for as long as possible, since we didn't know how long that would be. During the time that I was recovering your Dad hit a rough patch and came out of it knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his life and he didn't really see a point in waiting, and nor did I, so I don't ever, ever, want to hear you use your father and I as an example in your 'love life'. Are we understood?"

"Yes, mum. I was just…I wasn't thinking is all." Ella said hastily. "May I go and get ready now?"

Ginny sighed.

"Yes, and I'm sorry I'm being so mental on you. I'm not myself today."

"And this is different from everyday how?"

Ginny and Ella whipped around to see Harry, Hermione, and Ron grinning at them.

"Dad! How long have you been standing there?" Ella asked quickly.

"Only a second," Harry fixed his daughter with a piercing stare, "Why?"

"Just wondering." Ella said hastily, and quickly ran upstairs.

Harry watched her leave with a sigh.

"Ron, "Mione, let me congratulate you on getting a good daughter." He said heavily.

"Good or not, look at the mess we're in now." Ron said edgily.

"Ronald, calm down, please. I told you that we would deal with this like the mature adults that we are." Hermione said testily.

"What, are you saying I'm not mature?" Ron asked, "I can be bloody mature! I am bloody mature, 'Mione! I'm a bloody mature thirty-four year old! An immature person would pound Will into the ground! Have I done that? No! So, excuse me if I can't help but think that I'm mature!"

Hermione opened her mouth to retort, but Harry cut her off.

"Let's go sit down and have a drink while we wait for James and Natalie, shall we?"

Ginny nodded and grabbed a couple of glasses from the counter as she passed by it.

Ron and Hermione sat down on opposite sides of the living room, and Harry and Ginny sat facing them.

"So…I think it would be a good idea if we just, you know, try to go over what exactly we want to tell James and Natalie before they get here." Hermione said, setting down her drink.

"That sounds like a great idea Aunt Mione, but I think you're a little late."

The four adults looked over at the doorway to see James standing there.

"James! You-you're early, darling." Ginny said nervously.

"Yes, well, Ana wanted to go out to eat but I told her I had to come home and talk to the four of you about something or other, but that I'd pick her up as soon as we were done, so I thought that it would be best if I came early. This shouldn't take very long should it?" James asked nonchalantly.

"It will take as long as it takes young man, and I think it would be best if in the future, you decided not to schedule frivolous events after important family meetings." Harry said, gritting his teeth.

"Oh, since when has taking my girlfriend out on a date been a frivolous event?"

Ginny sighed and cut in quickly.

"James, darling, will you please go and see when Ella is planning on leaving?"

"Yes, Mum."

James obediently left the room, not looking at his father.

"Oh good, now we can discuss this before Nattie gets here." Hermione said, relieved.

"Oops…am I early then, Mum?"

Ron groaned and turned to see his daughter standing timidly in front of them.

"No, darling, no, we just aren't collected yet, but I suppose there's no sense in holding it off. Go and fetch James will you? He's just upstairs trying to get Ella hurried about."

"Okay."

Ella left, looking at her parents oddly.

"So we're just going to plunge right in?" Hermione asked in dismay.

"Well, now, plunge is a bit of a strong word." Ginny said quickly, "Ease into it, that's what we should do…casually mention the subject."

"Oh and how do you propose we do that, sweetheart?" Harry asked scathingly, "Just like this I suppose, 'Say James, been thinking about marrying that girl of yours anytime soon?' 'Oh you have? Well, sorry son, but no can do, you see, if you and Natalie don't get married, some stupid Voldemort wanna-be is going to come along and try to do the whole world in.'?"

"I never said you should go about it like that!" Ginny retorted.

"I agree we need to be more sensitive about this." Hermione said.

"Sensitive? How in the bloody hell can we be sensitive about this?" Ron asked, his eyebrows rising in disbelief.

"Well, Ronald, you could try not to say 'bloody' every single minute." Hermione said impatiently.

"I don't say bloody every single minute! I---"

"Sorry to interrupt what I'm sure would be an extremely interesting battle of the wits, but Natalie and I are sort of wondering what this whole family emergency meeting is about."

The four parents turned shamefacedly to meet their children's eyes.

"Erm, well, why don't you sit down?" Ron said awkwardly.

"Splendid." Natalie said briskly, and she and James promptly sat down in two chairs.

"Yes, well, erm…who wants to tell them?" Harry turned to look around at his friends who were all avoiding his eye.

"Great…I guess I'll start then." Harry turned to look at James and Natalie, "James, Nattie, we erm…well there's something that we decided long ago that we would tell you before your erm seventh year began, and well, here it is, so, erm…yes well, the thing is…I told you both about…about prophecies, right?"

James and Natalie both nodded.

"Good, well, since you know what they are we won't go into detail, but there is, that is to say, was, a prophecy made some time about us, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and I that is, or actually rather, not us per say, but it was at the time, its actually you and…erm…you're horribly confused aren't you?" Harry asked in dismay.

"Just a bit, Uncle Harry."

"Why don't you just spit it out, which might make it easier." James suggested.

"I…I'm not too good at just spitting it out, so, erm…Ron? Why don't you—?"

Harry gestured to James and Natalie and Ron stood up.

"Right. Okay, erm. Ahem. Well, as Harry said, long ago, oh bugger. Here, this is it kids, there was a prophecy made about you two and basically you have to get married before you both turn seventeen, or some psycho comes around and murders the entire world."

Ron sat back down and braced himself for the blow.

"I…what?" Natalie asked dazedly.

"Married? Really?" James looked at his parents who nodded in confirmation and then let out a whoop, "That's fantastic! Wow I mean…gosh! I was planning on asking her anyways, so, I mean, this is great!"

The four parents looked dumbstruck.

"Really? I…I had no idea you felt that way, James." Harry said in surprise.

"Honestly, Dad, how could you not? I mean, Ana and I are absolutely crazy about each other, why wouldn't we get married?"

"OH! Oh, no. No, no, no. No, this is bad, very, very bad." Ginny said.

"What's bad?" James asked confusedly.

"James, sweetheart," Ginny said, taking his hand, "You aren't supposed to just marry any old girl, darling, you're…well, you're supposed to marry Natalie."

"I—what—excuse me?" Natalie choked.

"Natalie? But, why?! Mum! We...we can't possibly!" James said in horror.

"Oh, God." Hermione moaned, "I'd hoped they wouldn't think of that just yet."

"Think of what?" Ron asked bewilderedly.

"Dad! Come on, James and I are cousins! First cousins! That's illegal! We can't marry!" Natalie said, shocked.

"Uh…Ginny...why don't we go get some drinks?" Harry asked.

"Great idea!"

"NO! No, you stay right where you are." James whipped out his wand and quickly locked all the doors. "Now, no one moves until they tell us why the bloody hell we have to get married."

"We've told you." Ron said angrily.

"James! You can't do that!" Ginny said.

"Do what?" James asked.

"Magic! You aren't seventeen!"

"Mum, Granddad is the Minister of Magic, he'll clear my record, and this was an emergency."

"Like hell he will!" Harry said, standing up, "You're abusing your grandfather's position young man and I will not allow it! And this was not an emergency! An emergency is someone dying! This is you being the stubborn, spoilt, childish fool that you are!"

"Well you know what they say, Dad, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!" James retorted.

"James Sirius Potter!" Ginny walked over to her son and drew herself up to her full height, "You will NOT talk to us like that, and I will not stand for it! Now, you are going to listen to me, and you are going to listen well. Prophecies come true. You cannot stop them so you will be wasting your time if you try. Your father had his share of experience with them, and" She glanced at Harry, "while his view is slightly skewed in the fact that you are our son, he knows what's best in these situations. Now, I know that this seems like we're telling you what to do, but we aren't. We are simply trying to explain to you what this prophecy entails so that hopefully you can make the right choice. Now, I would suggest that we all sit down and try to talk about this reasonably. Natalie, you haven't said hardly a word, darling, why don't you tell us how you're feeling about all of this?"

"I…well, Aunt Ginny, I'm feeling a bit confused. I—we took a course in prophecies, everyone had to, and it said that they generally don't entail the um…people involved doing something like marrying when they're cousins…so I'm a bit confused…about that."

"Oh," Ginny cast an alarmed look at Hermione and sat down, "Perhaps your mother could explain that better."

"Yes, thank you Ginny." Hermione glared at her, "Natalie, sweetheart, this, well, it's just that, your father and I got married and decided not to tell you this, but there's really no way around it, but Ron is not your father. I…during the war, I met a man, and I was foolish and thought I loved him, and well, he ended up dying before I could tell him that I was having you, and well, to make the long story short, your real biological father is not Ron, and therefore you and James aren't technically cousins."

"Oh Merlin." Natalie whispered, "So…it's all been a lie? You've all lied to me, to James, for seventeen years?"

"Don't be so dramatic Natalie, we did what was best." Ron said.

"You…I can't even listen to you! I…I don't even know who you are!" Natalie said.

"I'm your father, Natalie! It may not be biologically true, but I married your mother, so I'm still your father!"

"Oh, isn't that convenient?" James said, "You're her father when she's trying to disobey you, but you aren't when we have to get married. Come on Natalie, we don't have to stay here and listen to them."

"Natalie Jane, don't you dare go in that fireplace!" Hermione cried, and Natalie and James stepped into a burning green fire.

"Don't talk to me, Mum. And don't any of you dare try to find us!" Natalie cried, as she and James were whisked away in a flash of green.

"James! Natalie! Please, just come back and listen!" Ginny cried, but it was too late.

"You see? Stubborn kids…This is why I didn't want one of our own Mione." Ron said.

"Ron, shut up."

"This isn't going to solve anything! What are we going to do?" Harry asked.

"What can we do? They aren't going to listen until we give them time to adjust, so we have to give them time. I for one am going to go to bed, if I can even sleep, and try to forget this ever happened."

"Yes, we'd better be getting home." Hermione said.

"Yeah, bye Harry. I'll call you if Natalie comes back."

When Hermione and Ron went home, Harry was left alone in the dark living room, trying to find a way to fix the mess they were in.

He stared into the dying fireplace for hours until he finally was overcome with fatigue and fell asleep in his chair.

OoOoOoOoOoOoO

A/N: And….I'm back! I actually wanted to make this chapter longer, but I felt really impatient tonight, and I've been away long enough so here it is! PLEASE, PLEASE tell me what you think!