Harry Potter is the Property of JK Rowling
So yep, all good things must come to an end, and this good thing has gone on WAY too long. I deeply apologize to anyone who was looking forward to subplots that got dropped in the interest of putting this thing to bed. But quite honestly, after the drastic fall of reviews, I'm guessing that everyone else is just as ready for this to end as I am.
To everyone who is also following Rise of the Phoenix, I am hoping to get another chapter up this weekend, but just in case I don't, I will be starting NaNoWriMo on Tuesday which means that I will be doing no fanfiction writing during the month of November - at least not until I get my 50k. I may be back sooner, but no promises.
Hope you enjoy- it's a long one.
The Year After
The Ever After
Becca stared at the files in front of her; they had become a blur of nonsense to her some time before. She was trying to figure out when it had happened, when had her life gone so horrifically wrong? Was it when she was twelve; when she first realized that Rufus wasn't the man she thought he was? When she was a teenager and she returned to find that she had been bartered in trade? Maybe - maybe she had been doomed before she was Rebecca Scrimgeour, maybe when she was Natalie Moran, the moment her birth parents were murdered, maybe that was when her life was cursed.
The last few months with Percy had shown her a different life; the way life might have been if she'd been normal. It had been so wonderful, that happiness and sense of security, feeling like there was finally someone who would never, ever hurt her. No matter what. But she didn't dare trust him, she didn't dare trust anyone. Sterling Warrington had been the only man her father had trusted, and he had betrayed him, he had murdered him. Proof that you could never trust anyone.
"Becca?" She looked up, Percy stood in the door, his jacket slung over his shoulder. "I'm going to see George."
"Isn't he going to the hearing?"
Percy fought off the urge to be cruel to her, to ask her what it was to her. But they still had to work together; there was no reason things had to be nasty between them.
"Not much point, he signed the papers."
"He signed them?" She looked up in surprise. Wasn't he going to fight for her? Wasn't he even going to try? "I thought…"
"He's doing what he thinks is best for her, whether she is being a bloody selfish prat or not." He said bitterly "Women seem to have this thing about thinking just dumping people is okay, agree or not, we don't have much choice but to go along, so why fight it?"
He was so angry it was shocking. She had never seen him speak against Luna before; usually he worshiped the ground she walked on. Then she thought about the rest of what he said, words so obviously directed at her. She remembered a time when she would have retorted in kind - not now, not when she knew she had it coming.
"I'll see you later then I guess." She turned away, but not before she saw him nod curtly. Becca sagged back into her chair, her hands over her face. She was hurting him, hurting him so badly she could barely stand it. The day before, she had thought she had just made him angry, but then George came and she saw the pain. They hid behind anger and frustration - but their eyes couldn't lie. It was nearly unbearable that she was the cause of so much sadness. Maybe it would be better if she left, quit her job and went away.
"Becca?" She looked up, surprised to find Delia standing hesitantly in the doorway. She smiled a little, realizing she had called her Becca, that was a rarity, and it was always a peace offering.
"Hi mum, come in."
Delia beamed while she crossed the office. When she was closer, Becca realized she had tears in her eyes.
"Are you okay?" She asked softly
"Oh yes sweetheart, I'm fine." She sat on the edge of a chair, perched with her arms crossed over her knees. "I'm just … happy to be mum again."
Becca smiled, glad that she had been able to make one person happy that day.
"I've been worried about you," Delia reached over the files for Becca's hand "I thought you might come to see me yesterday, but I understand why you didn't. You've been through a lot in the last few days."
"It's a lot to process," Becca shrugged "Like finding out everything you ever believed was a lie."
"Everything you believed has been a lie, just like everything I believed. The Warrington's were the first family to welcome us when we moved into the country; we shared holidays and birthdays, you and Sterling made mud-pies. To find out that … oh sweetie, to find out that that horrible man, what he did to your parents, what he tried to do to you. If Rufus had known…"
"I know," Becca had a lot of doubts about her father, but she had never doubted that he loved her. He might have gone about it in the wrong way, he might have been distant, but the love had always been there.
"I'll help you anyway that I can." Delia patted her hand, offering a soft, gentle smile. The mother smile that had comforted Becca as a child.
"Me too mum."
"I'm sure Percy will help you too." Delia winked "I'm not ashamed to admit now that I feel I horribly misjudged that boy."
Becca tensed at the mention of Percy's name. It wasn't something she wanted to get into with Delia, despite their reconciliation. She was sure she would try to talk her down from it, and she shouldn't be talked down - not from this.
"Becca," Delia looked at her sternly "What have you done?"
"Nothing, ...not yet anyway." She said honestly, a bit of omission wasn't lying after all. "I was just thinking that I should quit my job."
"What?" Delia sat forward again, her hands on Becca's "Why would you do that? You love your work, and I hear from Kingsley that you are quite good at it."
"Mum, it's the Ministry, think of all the horrible things Rufus did while he was minister, not to mention the things he did while he was trying to get into the ministers chair. I wouldn't put it past Sterling to start telling people now. It doesn't feel right, my being here, it feels like…a lie."
Delia looked at her shrewdly, since she was a child, she had always been able to tell when Becca was lying. She was telling a hell of a lie now.
"This is about Percy, isn't it?" She tapped her foot irritably "You've put those shields of yours back up, oh yes, I can see it. All in leather head to toe, painted up like a peacock's tail."
It was too much to handle, Delia chewing her out, but on the flip, doing it because she suspected Becca had done something to Percy. Not to mention, all her defensive secrets out of the bag. Her hand reached to the side of her neck, twisting a lock of mahogany hair around a finger and she began twirling like a mad woman.
"Oh, that's right young lady, you twirl that hair, at least now I know you're in there listening."
Becca sat back, her hand moving furiously, resisting the mad urge to reach up and twirl on the other side as well. It was a bit like the dream where you are out in public naked and everyone can see what you have going on in private, but this was like a reveal of the soul. All these things that she had thought she had so cleverly concealed all these years, really, she had known all along.
"I want you to be happy Becca, and Percy makes you happy. I've seen it; it made me so sad, watching you bloom into such a lovely young woman from afar and wishing I was a part of it. He brought that woman out in you, what are you thinking pushing him away like this? Why would you do this when you have been so happy with him?"
Her lips trembled and her hand stilled. Delia had never been like this with her before, at least, not since she was a child and they were talking about other things. School and her dreams for the future, even the way Rufus made her feel when he forced her to go into hiding. But never about relationships. She had never realized that Delia noticed. She couldn't deny it now, sitting under her mothers perceptive stare, it wasn't Percy getting hurt that she was afraid of, it was herself.
"I'm afraid Mum, what if…" She took a deep breath to steady herself. "What if he turns out to be like them?"
"You know," Delia smiled "A few days ago, I would have said he would do that very thing. But not now. Not after watching him the other night, seeing the way he looked at you, how far he went to protect you from Sterling. The Warrington's are a powerful family Becca, you know that, and Percy had no way of knowing which way I might go, which side I would take. He doesn't know me; you would have had your doubts too, considering how I've been the past few years. He must have thought it likely I would take Sterling's side, and you know, I came close to doing that very thing. I cared more about being a figure in society than you, and I am so sorry for that.
"But that boy…," She shook her head, then smiled warmly. It was still strange, having good thoughts about Percy Weasley. Accepting that he wasn't a boy under their feet, but a man deserving of respect. "That man, he didn't care that we could have squashed him. He risked himself, and he did it for you Rebecca."
"I know that," She couldn't stop her shaking "But that doesn't make it any easier."
"Well, pfft." Delia shook her head "Loving someone is never easy. Do you think it was easy loving your father - knowing he could go out and get himself killed every time he left the office, knowing he was trying to track down you-know-who? He was a stubborn man, stubborn and set in his ways, and once he got an idea in his head, there was no talking him down from it. But risk…loving someone is always taking a risk. People go away, they die. You can't escape it, even goldfish die."
"As I well know." Becca grinned a little.
"Yes," Delia smiled and squeezed her hands "You do. That didn't stop you from trying over and over again to get Rufus to buy them for you, did it?"
"No…but," She smiled sheepishly "But he stopped after ten."
"Well, there is being a softy, and then there is being a humanitarian." Delia winked "You can only let so many die dear before you feel compelled to put an end to their suffering. But I don't think you are likely to kill Percy."
Becca grinned, thinking of all the teasing and playfulness, the times when they might have been tempted to inflict bodily harm on one another.
"We have our moments." The smile disappeared as quickly as it came. Her face that had been so happy just a moment before, now once again unbearably sad.
Delia sighed "You looked so happy just a second ago, I know you were thinking about him, about the things you've shared. Do you really want to give that up, just because you're afraid?"
She didn't, not at all, but…
"Don't give me that face," Delia said, standing and putting her coat on. "I know that look; it's the same look you used to give me when you were trying to get out of spending the day with Rufus just because you thought it was a matter of principle." She skirted the desk and kissed Becca on the cheek.
"You'll come visit me? Soon?"
"Yes," She gave Delia a small smile. For first time in ages, she looked forward to it. "I will."
"And you'll bring Percy?"
Becca looked down and shrugged "I don't know."
"I think you do." She bent and kissed the top of her head "You just need to listen to your heart for once, instead of that stubborn head you inherited from your father. You'll figure it out, and then you'll do the right thing. You always do. "
Becca sighed as she watched her walk away. The right thing - sure, whatever that was. She pulled a file towards her and flipped it open, pulling out a sheet of paper. Work- that was what she needed to do, get her mind on work and let the rest sleep for awhile.
She looked over the paper, an adoption that needed to be finalized in court. They were first on the waiting list, they had been for a long time, but it didn't seem like they would get in any time soon. The courts were desperately behind. It was time to find an opening she might be able to beg and plead her way into switching around. She pulled a heavy book towards her, the court schedule, and then flipped it open. Halfway down the page, she came to
L. Weasley vs. G. Weasley: Annulment 11:00 a.m. Crtrm A
She paused over it for a minute, thinking about how wrong it was. George and Luna loved one another deeply, what Luna was doing made no sense to her, none at all.
She looked again at the folder, the family could be here in minutes - all it would take was an owl. Luna had obviously managed to slide into a slot that had just been made vacant before the scheduling witch had been able to schedule from the waiting list. It would be a dirty trick, but no dirtier than Luna sliding into, what should have been, her clients spot. If Luna had more time to think, maybe she would realize what she was doing was wrong. Becca might not be able to make Percy happy, but she could make someone Percy loved happy.
She picked up her wand, ran it over Luna's name on the registry, put in the name of her clients, and then waved her wand to send the memo to the family court office. Moments later a small blue paper airplane flew into the office - confirmation of the change in schedule. She grinned to herself, knowing Luna was going to be seriously pissed off, she would raise a stink and come down to yell and pitch a fit. Becca looked forward to it. She had a few words of wisdom for Luna Weasley. Technically, she supposed, she could be in a lot of trouble, but that would be up to the head of her department.
What would Percy do? Fire her?
Luna sat at the table, looking out over the London skyline from the window of her hotel room. She wasn't used to so much noise and so much hustle and bustle was unheard of in Diagon Alley. Life was so much quieter in the magical world, or at least it had been since the war ended. She raised her hand, a beam of light hitting her eye as the sunlight caught on a facet of her wedding rings. She reached out and pulled the drapes closed - the last thing she needed was nature rubbing it in. She had been trying to take them off since the morning she left the flat; in fact, she had tried desperately to leave them behind. She hadn't been able to, just the idea of being without them crushed her- she remembered all too clearly the night George gave her the engagement ring - the night of the first snow.
"I know you're afraid…I know it isn't going to be easy…we have a lot to overcome…but I also know that you are the bravest woman I have ever known in my life. If we give up now, it will be like letting Voldemort win. He took Fred, he took your father and it's because of him that that bastard hurt you. You didn't give up all those months that son-of-a-bitch kept you prisoner…please don't give up now. Don't let him take this away from us too."
Giving up - that was what she was doing now, she couldn't deny it. She was letting Voldemort win. She soothed her conscience with the knowledge that she was doing it for the right reasons.
That night was also when he had told her that he was capable of taking care of certain things by himself - she'd believed him at the time, so why was she so shocked to find out that he had done it? No, it wasn't the act itself, it was the words. His oh-so obvious need for her, the need that he was being denied.
She'd felt dirty when he touched her, she felt sick and vomited. He deserved better than that. Without her he could move on, he could find someone who could love him fully, who could love without barriers. No matter than it broke her heart, than she'd had one nightmare after the other every time she tried to sleep since she'd left. No matter that she felt like she would rather climb to the rooftop of the hotel and jump to her death than go to court today- she had to set him free. It was the path of selflessness, the path that wouldn't lead to misery.
She rose from the table, her eyes falling on her wedding rings again. She took a deep breath and then reached up to pull them off. They were half-way off her finger and her calm fell apart, she began to sob, great horrifyingly loud sobs that made her body shake. She fell to the floor at the foot of the bed, her head on her knees with her hand cradled over her heart while her mind screaming out in rage.
'How can this be right? How! How when it hurts so fucking much?'
She cried for a long time, her heart raging against common sense. She cursed the fortune teller, wishing violently that she had never gone into her hut, wishing she had never heard the prophecy. But it wasn't something that she could wish away. She had gone into the hut, she had heard the prophecy - there was no getting around it.
She slid the wedding rings back into place. Maybe if she tried to remove them when she wasn't alone, maybe if there were people watching she could force herself to be strong. She pushed up from the floor and then began to dig into her suitcases, pulling out clothes for court. Today, when it was all over and done, she would be taking a room in Hogsmeade so she could finish school, then she would leave for good. Go somewhere far, far away. Somewhere that she wouldn't have to be reminded of her past. It would be difficult, Ginny and the others were sure to be angry with her, maybe they would even hate her now.
She dressed quickly; it would do no good to fill herself with concerns for things she could do nothing about. If it was bad at school, she could always go back to doing home studies - after all, she had faced her demons at Hogwarts, she had nothing more to prove within it's walls.
Dressed now, she began to pack her bags, then she minimized them and put them in her shoulder bag. She picked up her wallet from the table, unable to resist the urge, she flipped open the catch and opened it to the pictures of her and George. It would be easier, she knew, if she took them out now, so she pulled them from the plastic while memories ran through her mind of the occasions when they were taken. The day at the beach, the day they blew up the shop the first time, the day he gave her the engagement ring and her birthday while they stood in her garden. She brushed a finger over George's face, staring down at her with love in their ice garden while they were married, and their honeymoon -the night on the boardwalk that had led her to where she was now, about to end her marriage.
She lifted the stack to her face, wishing she had kissed George goodbye the day she left - kissing the photographs would have to do, so she kissed them one by one and then dropped them on the table before going to the door.
She pulled it open, then her hand went slack and she let her forehead fall against the door. She felt hollow, like she had left the last part of herself behind. It was unbearable, nearly as bad as trying to remove her wedding rings.
Hating herself, she turned back and picked up the pictures.
Percy had expected much worse, George drunk on the floor, the garden blown apart, maybe the entire place burned to the ground. He was surprised to find that the only things George had destroyed were the pictures.
"Sorry to disappoint you." George said, turning away from the door and going back to the sofa. On the table was a wilted daisy. Percy sat next to him, noticing for the first time that there was a broken bottle amid the shattered glass, metal and torn photographs.
"So you did get pissed." He nodded a little, thinking of the night Penelope dumped him - trying desperately to force out the memory of Becca that came with it. "Nice to know the family tradition is in tact."
George looked like he was fighting tears, but it was a gallant fight. He had fallen apart when he lost Fred; he wasn't going to let that happen again. Perhaps it was because it was Luna who had pulled him out of all that, and through not falling apart, it was a way of keeping a part of her with him. He would hang onto himself, no matter how much he hurt. It was the last thing he would ever be able to do for her.
"You should go to the hearing George," Percy looked at his watch, it was only ten, he still had time. "You can still stop this."
He shook his head, his lip clenched tightly between his teeth. "But you can do me a favor." He picked up the scroll and handed it to him. "You can take this to the Family Court office for me."
Percy looked incredulous, even somewhat angry. "What the hell is wrong with you? Aren't you going to fight at all?"
"It's what she wants Percy!" He stood, welcoming the anger. "If she wants me out of her life so bad that she had to sneak out behind my back… if she wasn't willing enough to even try to work it out, then she must want out pretty damned bad! I can't stand in the way of what is best for her!"
"You're…" Percy stood, his face red with anger. "Both of you are just fucking unbelievable! You know damned well why Luna is doing this; she is doing this because she, for some damned stupid reason, has decided it is best for you. And now, you are going to let her go because you have decided it is best for her?"
He glared at him for another moment, and then he turned away.
"I'm done, you're a bloody damned git George. Both of you." He turned back "And you know what else? Fred would be pretty disgusted by what you're doing right now, giving up…it wasn't they way you two did things."
He opened the door, and then slammed it so hard that Luna's seashells from the beach on the island in the Seychelles fell from the shelf onto the floor.
George sighed and fell back against the sofa. He lay on his side, and then curled up - in the same manner he had so many times over the summer. For the first time, he wished he could go back to then. He wished he could start over, and he wished he could do it with Fred by his side. Together they might have been able to make this make sense, but alone, he felt helpless.
Percy was right, he was so right that George couldn't stand it. He should be fighting, this was wrong. How could it possibly be right for them to be apart? He thought again about the fortune teller, about her warning that if he tried to hold onto her he would hurt her more. He jerked up into a sitting position, a new thought coming to him. An angry thought, a seriously pissed off thought -
Luna had been keeping a secret from him, something that had to do with her. What if Luna was listening to the fortune teller too?
"Fuck the fortune teller!" He leapt from the sofa, and then went to dress.
"Excuse me?" Luna blinked at the Family Court Clerk "I have my papers right here, they say 11 am."
"I'm sorry," The witch with bright yellow hair smiled patiently "But we have another hearing scheduled for that time. I can reschedule you."
"No, I'm leaving town today, they knew that, that's why they worked me in today."
A heavy set witch with long dark hair and quick violet eyes came over, looked at the book, and then at Luna "Weasley, right?"
"Yes," Luna nodded, glancing at the clock in the corner. It was already five minutes past.
"I took that Marina" She nodded to witch at the book "Your hearing was cancelled."
"Cancelled? By who?" Luna asked angrily, but didn't she already know, or at the very least, have a solid suspicion or two? It must be nice to have family who worked in the Ministry. "Arthur Weasley, wasn't it?"
"Arthur?" The woman shook her head "The Ministers assistant has no scheduling authority with the family courts Ma'am."
"No, I'm afraid not." The witch shook her head "In matters such as this, we would be highly suspicious if a family member attempted to change a hearing."
"Oh," She backed off, "I'm sorry then…it's just, well, it's a difficult situation."
"Your hearing was bumped for an emergency adoption hearing, it happens I'm afraid. You should have gotten a notification owl."
Of course she hadn't, she had been staying in a muggle hotel, it was winter, and her windows had been closed -she remembered now having closed the curtains to block out the sunlight.
"Adoption," She nodded, thinking at least it had been for something important. "I understand."
"Yes, it was bumped by Rebecca Scrimgeour." The yellow haired witch, Marina, said cheerfully, apparently thinking she was putting Luna's concerns to rest, but doing just the opposite. Luna froze, her hands curling into fists.
"Really," She turned away from the counter "Thank you, you've been most helpful."
"Do you want to reschedule?"
"I'll get back to you."
She stalked to the elevator and punched the down button. The car opened and she stepped inside, thankful that the car was empty - she was about to have a major personal meltdown - better she calm herself a bit before she faced Becca, otherwise, she might actually Crucio her. By the time the car arrived on the lower floor, Luna had meditated herself marginally calmer. She pulled the outer doors open, looking around. Spotting the Peace Time Liaison's Office, she angrily pulled the glass doors open and went inside. She had only been there once, when it had only been a shell - but she knew where the main offices were. Percy's door was closed, the office dark. Becca's however, was lit, the door ajar.
"Excuse me, can I help you?" A woman at the reception desk asked.
"No," Luna said curtly, and then walked around the large half-circle desk for Becca's office. She headed angrily for the door, and then pulled it open, slamming it closed behind her so hard that pictures fell from the wall.
"How DARE YOU!"
Becca turned in her chair, her face so calm Luna knew she had been expecting her. The expression on Luna's face was fascinating, Becca had expected her to be angry, she hadn't expected rage. If that was what she wanted, then she was in for a fight.
"Nice to see you too Mrs. Weasley. That is your name right, Mrs. Weasley? But maybe you've forgotten."
Luna recoiled slightly; she had expected sarcasm, but not hostility. Not from Becca.
"You don't know what you're talking about, and you should stay out of other people's business."
"Normally, I would agree with you, but in this instance, I felt you needed some interference."
Becca leaned forward in her chair, pulling her hair from the leather tie as she did. It fell over her shoulder in a sleek wave, her aqua eyes fierce. She was angry, pissed off in fact. Here was Luna, blessed to have found the kind of love that so many dreamt of, and she was just tossing it away. It was infuriating.
"You have no right, this…" Luna was unnerved, she had never seen this side of Becca, it was the scary Becca she had heard Percy speak of before. She didn't know how to react to this person. "You don't understand."
"I understand that you have something that many would die for, that I am afraid to try to have, and you are pissing it away." From the corner of her eye she caught Percy's black wool coat, standing at the window besides her door, staring in. She motioned with her eyes for him to come in. She had been hoping Luna would come down here, that she could stall her long enough for Percy to come back. She breathed a sigh of relief.
"Luna, what are you doing here?" He said, his voice angry. "Aren't supposed to be upstairs, getting rid of my brother?"
Luna jumped, she had never heard him so angry, and certainly never at her. His appearance unnerved her, his eyes were so like George's - she had never noticed that before. Looking at him was like looking into a window, one that showed her what George might look like now. She didn't like what she saw.
"Is George here?" She asked quietly, not sure which answer she wished for more.
"No, he's not." He reached into his pocket, fingering scroll that George had signed - permission for her to end their marriage. "Why would you want him here?"
"I…It doesn't matter," Luna glared over at Becca "Thanks to her, the hearing needs to be rescheduled."
Becca tried hard not to grin; it was pretty much a losing battle. Percy looked confused, but pleased nonetheless. It was a little consolation, knowing she had done something to make him happy.
"This doesn't change anything you know, your tricking me. Like it or not, I've decided this is the right thing. I'm hurting him, just like I knew I would." She wiped away a smattering of tears. "I can't stand it, knowing how much."
"Well, lucky Luna." He pulled the scroll out of his pocket and held it out to her "You can go file now and be done with it, no need for a hearing. He's a damned idiot, but he's decided to give you your way, right or wrong, as usual. "
Luna flinched "He signed the papers?"
"Yes he signed, because he thinks it is best for you."
Luna heart was breaking while she reached out to take the scroll, every thing inside her was screaming that this was wrong, that she needed to step back - that Becca had done the right thing in giving her more time.
Percy didn't miss the look of hurt that passed over her face. She looked like she wanted to cry, like she had been the one wronged. She had no right to look that way, and it only pissed him off more. In fact, he was on the verge of turning her over his knee and paddling her. Instead, he pulled the scroll away. He was going to do what he should have done the moment George had given it to him. If they weren't going to fight for each other, then he was going to do it for them. He was going to save them from themselves.
"But I don't think it is best, so I am not letting you have your way." He turned for the fire and tossed it into the flames. "I've had about enough of you and your 'selfless' bullshit. It's time for you to grow up and stop acting like a bratty, spoiled little girl."
Luna looked at him in shock; he was yelling at her, Percy was honest to God yelling at her!
"Now, you get in that fire and you go home and talk to your husband." He glared at her. "You married him until death you do part, not until you decided to be a friggen prat and run out."
"Percy…" She gaped at him, unable to believe he was telling her off like that. He had never been cross with her, never spoke to her like that. "I can't...this it's for the best! I'm hurting him!"
"Stop being a bloody idiot Luna! Your leaving him, THAT is what is hurting him! Your not fighting to stay together, THAT is what is hurting him! Doing what YOU think is best for him, not giving him the choice, you can call it being selfless all you want, it's nothing but selfishness. You're hurting him, you're hurting yourself, and I'm not going to stand for it, not when I love you both too much to watch you hurt like this."
"I see a fork in the road you and your beloved travel, two paths, the decision of which to take is yours alone, he will have no choice. I must warn you to choose carefully…neither path will be easy, but one will lead to happiness, the other great misery."
A light clicked on and she realized -
She had chosen the wrong path…she had chosen the path of selfishness.
Her eyes filled while she threw herself into Percy's arms, hugging him tightly. He hugged her back, hoping more than anything else that finally, she understood.
"I'm sorry." She said, her tears wetting his shoulder. "I'm so sorry."
"You're apologizing to the wrong person." Percy hugged her, then pushed her gently away and smiled "Now get your arse in that fire."
"You're right, I have to go," She pulled away, hugging Becca quickly before rushing for the fire.
"Thank you, thank you so much!"
When she was gone, Percy and Becca looked at each other, quietly wary. So much was up in the air, feelings tossed about like scattered puzzle pieces lying on the floor. They needed to be picked up, to be put in some sort of order, or they would never be at peace. But what would the picture look like once they were done? Would it be a happy scene, or would it only be dark and lonely? Percy knew what he wanted - but did she? He looked at her now, his eyes full of sadness and longing, yet not a small amount of gratitude.
"You cancelled her hearing?"
Becca nodded "Are you going to fire me?"
He couldn't resist. "Did I fire you for being a pain in the arse all these months?"
Becca couldn't help grinning, and just that little gesture made Percy feel hope that maybe, things might be okay.
"I think we need to talk." She said, nodding to the chairs in front of her desk. She pulled them around so they faced one another, and then sat, pleading with her eyes for him to join her. He wasn't sure he wanted to. Despite the little bit of hope, there was friendship hope, and there was other hope. He couldn't go back to hoping for friendship with Becca, two days before there had been so much more to hope for. Losing that would be more than he could stand.
"You were good with her." Becca said when he reluctantly sat across from her. "Luna I mean, she needed someone to be tough with her."
"Luna has always been selfless to point of fault" He shrugged "We've been letting her get away with it for too long."
"I think maybe I could learn a thing or two from her. I need to stop thinking about myself so much." Becca leaned forward, her hands in her elbows, her elbows on her knees. "It's like that's all I ever think about, what Rufus put me through, what Delia's put me through, and the Warrington's…what Voldemort did…"
"You don't always think about yourself, you proved that today, you did a wonderful thing -a difficult thing."
"It was the right thing." She shrugged "They were being stupid, I knew I could do something about it, at least to give them more time to come to their senses."
"And it worked," He smiled and leaned forward, brushing her hair back behind her ear so her could see her face. "You're a smart woman Rebecca Scrimgeour."
"I'm a foolish woman." She looked down at her feet, afraid to look up at him. "And a hypocrite. I was yelling at Luna before you came about throwing away a good thing, when I have been doing the same thing."
She sat up, still not looking him in the eye, but taking surreptitious glances. "I was afraid. It's no excuse, but…after finding out the truth about Sterling and his father, and just how horribly wrong Rufus was about them, it made me wonder…how can a person trust anyone, ever? People lie, they cheat, and they do such horrible things to one another."
"Like me," Percy sat up, trying get her to look into his eyes. "You have every right to doubt me, I've done bad things, and I hurt a lot of people, my whole family for a long time."
"Not anymore, that was the past. You've changed, your family sees that, they adore you, Luna adores you, and even my mother can see it now." She looked up at him and gave him a watery smile "It's got me thinking that I'm pretty damned silly for doubting you."
"I would never hurt you, not intentionally." He leaned forward, taking her hands and pulling her closer. "But I did hurt you. I didn't mean to, but I did. That wasn't how I wanted you to find out…if there had been any other way…"
She put her hand on his cheek and nodded. "He didn't give you a choice. You did it to protect me."
He looked at her, knowing the time had come. It was now or never, either it would be okay or it wouldn't, but he had to find out. It couldn't wait another week, another day, or even another moment.
"I don't know if you want to hear this or not, or if you're ready, but…" He lifted her face to his, his eyes intense and full of devotion. "I love you Becca."
She smiled, her body shaking, her lips trembling with her tears. "I want to hear it. I'm not ready to say it, one day - soon, but I feel it."
He wiped the tears from her face, and then he smiled down into her eyes. It was enough, for now, it was enough. It was a foundation to build on, and they had all the time in world.
He grinned a little, a grin identical to the way his brother George grinned, a sweet, mischievous grin. "Now if I could just get you to admit that you ogle my arse."
Becca laughed, causing the tears to break from her eyes "Never."
He smiled into her eyes a moment longer, and in the seconds before he kissed her, he saw the future smiling back at him.
George dragged up the stairs; his entire body slumped in defeat. He'd been too late to stop her - now, there was nothing he could do about it. His marriage was over. He knew he should have gone to Percy, at least let him know that he had tried so he wouldn't be angry anymore. Instead, he had turned away from the smiling witch who had told him Luna just left, and then walked back out into the morning.
He decided he'd take his time. There was no hurry getting back, he wasn't about to open the shop today and the flat was too full of memories. He didn't think he would be able to live there anymore. He would rent it out, maybe he could stay with Percy for awhile.
He leaned against the wall, dreading what was waiting for him on the other side. He would go in, he would pack a bag, and he could come back for the rest in a day or two. He put his key in the lock, but the door turned easily under his hand, someone was inside. Percy probably, come to yell at him some more. He pushed the door open, but instead of Percy he found Luna, sitting on the rug in front of the fire, shreds of paper in her hands.
"I guess I don't blame you for destroying these. I might have too."
He leaned back against the door frame, blinking, wondering if perhaps he had died and was now in heaven, maybe he had gone mad and was having delusions - surely this wasn't real. Why would she come back? She had gone to court this morning, they were no longer married. And yet, as he looked at the hand that held the pictures, she was still wearing her wedding rings.
"Why are you here?" He whispered, every thought but that she might have returned to him coming to mind. He slammed the door on that one. He had given up on the idea of hope and a part of him had started to think that perhaps it was for the best that he hadn't made it in time.
"Percy made me." She smiled wryly as she stood, dropping the torn pictures again. "He's quite angry with me. He yelled at me and called me names."
"He did?" George looked up, surprised. Percy always called him names, but he adored Luna.
"He called me a friggen prat and said I was a spoiled brat, and was being selfish, which makes sense I suppose, considering I was a prat, I am pretty spoiled and I am selfish."
He refused to let it in, though the hope was demanding, pounding it's fists against his heart. He reminded himself - he had signed the papers, she had gone to court, their marriage was over…
'But she's still wearing her wedding rings!'
"If you've come to apologize for leaving me, you don't need to. I signed the papers because I want you to be happy. You don't have to feel bad."
"You might have signed them, but they didn't do much good." She said matter-of-factly "Percy burned them."
"He…" George was confused, "But the woman at the window said you'd been there, she said you'd just left."
"I had just left to go yell at Becca." Luna sat down on the sofa, pulling her legs up under her. She seemed to be making herself comfortable, as if she was planning on staying awhile.
"Why were you yelling at Becca?"
"Because she cancelled my court date."
He sat next to her on the sofa, trying to take it all in. His arm brushed against hers, the first contact they'd had in days, and he resisted the urge to pull her in, to smother her, to hold her prisoner there and never let her out of his sight again. He couldn't do that, he wouldn't.
"Luna, are we still married or not?"
She looked at him sadly, pain unimaginable filling her as she thought about how close she had come to throwing it all away.
"Yes, we're still married, and I'd like to stay that way … if you still want me."
She had tried to leave him before, this time she had actually left. Would she leave again the next time things were difficult? He couldn't live like that, never knowing when he might come home to find her gone. He couldn't…he wouldn't like that.
"I can't do this." He said softly "I can't have you just come back and act like nothing happened. You hurt me Luna, you have no idea…"
"No!" He launched himself up from the sofa, suddenly he was angry. All the memories, the secrets she had kept, the empty bottle of dreamless sleep potion in the Seychelles, the whole time she was at Hogwarts and the secrets that had lead to her breakdown, the risks she took…all the times she had gone behind his back, claiming she did it for him. And all of it had ended up tearing them apart. "I can't live like this; I can't live with all the secrets, with not knowing when you might get up and run out on me again!"
She stared at him, shocked and hurt, yet unable to deny what she had done. It was true; everything bad that had happened between them had been her fault. All because she had doubted him.
"You're right." She rose from the sofa, "I have never given you the trust you deserve. I've been selfish, just like Percy said. I…"
And suddenly it felt hopeless. She could fight against herself, but she couldn't fight him, she couldn't deny him if it was what he wanted.
She turned away, then picked up her coat and threw it over her arm and walked towards the door. She pulled it open and stared at the empty stairwell, knowing the moment she stepped into it and closed the door it would be the end. They could never, ever go back.
The only solution then, was to not walk through the door. She was doing it again. She had given up on them so many times, she could not…she would not give up on them again. Never again.
"No," She closed the door and turned back to face him. "I'm not leaving you. Not again."
They were silent, the smothering quiet stretching between them while they stared at one another. Then slowly, cautiously, George opened his arms. She launched herself across the room and fell against him, and he kissed her, a kiss somewhere between innocence and passion. He fell back into a chair, and then pulled her against him until she was in his favorite place, sitting in his lap, her head on his shoulder, so close that he could smell her hair.
"Do you still want me?" she whispered
It took him a moment to answer, to swallow away the tightness in his throat.
"I could never not want you." He pulled her closer, so close, closer than he had ever dreamed they would be again. "I thought I'd lost you, I went to the Ministry, they said you'd left…I thought…"
"You went to the Ministry?"
"Yeah," He grinned a little, remembering the chewing out he had gotten. "Percy… he's pretty mad at me too."
Luna looked at him for a moment, knowing she still owed him an explanation, but having no idea how to go on. She laid her head on his shoulder, and then took a deep breath.
"I chose the wrong path," She said, her breath warm against his neck - God how he had missed it. "The fortune teller, on the island, she told me I would have to choose between two paths and one would lead to misery, and one would lead to happiness. I thought I was doing the right thing…I never meant to hurt you."
Of course, just as he had suspected, it all came back to the fortune teller.
"How could you ever think that being without you is the right thing for me?" He twisted so she had to face him, and then cupped her face in his hands, his face angry and intense - his eyes filled with pain.
"I heard you," She whispered "The other night after I couldn't…I heard you in the bathroom, saying how much you needed me in that way. The way I couldn't give you."
He pulled back and looked at her. She had over heard him doing that? That had been the catalyst for all of this?
"Of course I need you that way!" He said exasperatedly "I need you in every way. I need to wake up next to you, I need to see you when I come up from the shop. I need to see you sitting at the table with your homework and next to me when we go to sleep at night. Don't you get it Luna? Compared to how much I need you in everything else, that is nothing!" He pulled her close, so close their noses touched "When will you finally understand that?"
And she did, finally, after all the times he had tried to tell her, she finally understood. George needed her exactly the same way she needed him - in every single way.
"I understand," She gasped and fell back against him "I didn't before, but I understand now."
He believed her, finally, he believed her enough to let the hope in. They had a lot to overcome, the road would still be difficult and navigating it wouldn't be easy, but they would do it together. Whatever came up - they would face it together.
"Promise me something." He said softly, his hands rubbing gentle circles on her back
"No more secrets." He said, his tone slightly angry again "Promise me, and mean it this time."
"I promise," She shuddered and moved closer, "No more, ever."
And she did mean it. She meant it from the very bottom of her heart. From now on, no matter what came their way, they would face it together.
She would never keep a secret from him again.
"Can I really stay with you?" She lifted her head and looked at him "Please George, can I?"
He pulled back and looked at her, wiping the tears from her eyes. She looked so frail, still so afraid. Yet there was determination there too, hope and promise. He thought back to the summer before, to when this all began, back to when he thought he had hated her and would have liked nothing more for her to be gone. They'd come so far since then, faced so many terrible things, but though he still had doubts, there was one thing he knew for sure. He knew how much she loved him. Misguided as she often was, everything Luna did, she did for him. They had a long way to go to happily ever after, but if he was going to find it with anyone, he wanted it to be with her.
He smiled and kissed her softly, a kiss that promised so many wonderful things to come.
"You can stay." He kissed her again, and again, until she felt a wonderful giddiness.
"You can stay with me forever."
-Two and a Half Years Later
They had never felt more at peace. The summer sun shone brightly around them. It was so peaceful; calm…they sat in the middle of the flower filled meadow while Luna braided together a chain of daisies and dandelions. The breeze ruffled her hair causing it to shift gently around her shoulders, settling, taking flight, and then settling once again.
She had never looked more beautiful.
"I love you." He reached up to touch her face, his head resting in her lap, the golden-red strands like flames against her pale skin.
Luna smiled and brushed a gentle finger over his lips. "I love you too."
He shifted onto his knees so he could cup her face in his hands and pull her closer. Their lips met in a kiss so sweet it made them want to cry. He broke the kiss; then whispered in her ear.
"The smartest thing I ever did was marrying you."
Luna smiled when he pulled back, brushing her fingers over his cheek. "I know exactly what you mean."
"Percy," a loud voice approached from the direction of the burrow "I swear, if this doesn't stop…"
"Were about to be invaded" George grinned, shifting to sit behind her so he could hold her. She grinned back at him, a knowing smile on her face. She had been expecting this; in fact, she had been expecting them long before now.
"I know," Percy sighed, rushing to catch up. "But what do you expect me to do about it? It was your brilliant idea."
They broke into the high grass around George and Luna, Becca falling into an angry heap, her cream colored dress fluttering around her legs. Percy sat at her side, looking embarrassed for having barged in on them, yet not a bit of guilt.
"Nothing." Becca backed off, reaching over for his hand. "It's not your fault. Like you said, it was my bloody brilliant idea."
"Mumzilla and Mum Kong at it again?" George smiled at them sympathetically, old memories resurfacing, but now, two and a half years removed from the events, he could laugh over them. It had been Harry who christened Delia Scrimgeour Mum Kong, after the infamous King Kong. It only seemed right, after all, Godzilla's arch nemesis was King Kong, and Becca's decision to let Molly and Delia plan their wedding had led to epic battles - the two women agreed on nothing.
"I don't care what they do anymore." Becca sighed and leaned against Percy. "As long as they leave my wedding dress exactly as Luna designed it…"
"Might want to hide it in that case." Luna grinned over at George, another wedding memory surfacing, this one not so nice.
"Mummy, Mummy, Mummy!" Four year old Sam Weasley broke into the circle, holding up his finger, his chocolate eyes alive with excitement. Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny close on his heels. "Look, a gnome bit me!"
"Oh!" Luna said excitedly, pulling his finger closer to examine it before she kissed the tip. "How exciting! Gnome saliva is very magical Sam, if you feel like dancing or singing today, you must do it, okay?"
"Okay Mummy," Sam said happily, turning to George "Look daddy, I have a magic bite! You kiss it too so you get magic."
"You got it buddy." George grinned, putting Sam's finger to his lips to kiss. "Thanks for sharing."
He watched his son run off, his curly brown hair shining in the July sun. Sam had only been with them for six months, but already it felt like he had been theirs forever. Someday, he knew, he and Luna would have children they would create together, but Sam was theirs and they couldn't have loved him more. Luna's desire to have a child had never abated, and so they had decided to adopt. The day would come when she would be ready, they were getting closer, more and more every day thanks to Luna's therapy. They were in no hurry; there were other ways to show their love, certain things they now did for each other, sharing more and more as time passed.
"Sorry," Hermione said, sitting down on Luna's other side. "We tried to stop it, but we were too late."
"It was Ron's fault," Ginny glared at her brother before sitting down next to Becca, Harry on her other side. "Dangling the thing in front of the boys face so he could see up close."
"He was curious." Ron shrugged, snuggling close to Hermione, as if he might need protection from George and Luna since he was the reason their son had been bit. Luna just smiled at him, she had been bit by a gnome or two in her day, and no harm had come to her.
"He has to learn to learn to stay away from them somehow I suppose." George shrugged, and then hit Ron across the back of the head. "Not that it lets you off the hook for letting my boy get bit."
Ron looked at George indignantly for a minute, the conceded that he probably had it coming.
"We should be inside," Luna said guiltily, they were supposed to helping with the last minute wedding details. "The wedding is only a week away, there's so much to do."
"You go in if you want, I'm staying out here where it's safe." Percy put his arms around Becca and she beamed up at him, her aqua eyes alive with happiness. He bent his head and kissed her softly, the facets of her engagement ring sending sparkles around the gathered family when her hand moved down his arm.
"I'm not going back in there." She said stubbornly when they pulled apart. "I'd rather admit that I ogle your arse."
"You do ogle my arse." Percy smirked
"No more than you ogle my legs." Becca laughed "And my arse."
"You're getting married," George piped up "If you're not ogling, you're doing something wrong."
"Get down!" Ginny hissed, nodding to the house where the door had just opened. They lowered their heads, hiding like the cowards that they all knew they were.
"I'm doing what Draco and Eloise did" Ron said, not bothering to repress a shudder when the coast had cleared and they could sit up again. "She's even worse now than she was when you lot got married. Who knows how bad she'll be when it's my turn?"
"Elopement is definitely the way to go." Harry agreed
"Good luck with that." George grinned "Ginny being the only girl. Mum will have her chained to the house."
Luna giggled, they would find out soon enough. Harry, she knew, had already bought Ginny's ring. Ron, she also knew, had been looking. Mumzilla was going be to on the rampage for a very long time.
"Luna," Ginny whispered softly "Look"
Luna looked at Ginny, and then followed her nod to the spot where they had watched so many sunrises that first summer after the war.
Sam stood, his arms outstretched, his face tilted up into the sun while a soft breeze ruffled the curls around his face - his tiny body shifting back and forth gracefully atop the fallen tree. He smiled beatifically, an expression of absolute bliss upon his face while he listened to the harmony of the soft whispering wind.
She felt George's arms tighten around her and she twined her fingers with his, laying her head back against his cheek. Then she looked over at Percy, catching him smiling back at her, she turned her head and looked at Ron and Ginny - they were smiling too- remembering that lovely morning three years before when they shared their first dance with the wind.
George rose, pulling her to her feet, and then he led her over to the fallen tree. They smiled at one another and took their sons hands in theirs, one on each side, and closed their eyes to sway to the music, their faces lifted to the wind.
Rest gentle ones
You've nothing to fear
The uncertainty's over
The future is here
Believe in your love
It will never lead you wrong
Listen to your hearts
And trust in my song
The time to doubt is past
Now it's time cheer
See that you live louder
With every passing year
They'll be forever watching over you
For your happiness brings them peace
Look for them inside your heart
They're never out of reach.
Luna opened her eyes, her hand reaching up to wipe away her tears. Percy and Becca had joined them by the fallen tree, Becca was tucked tightly under Percy's arm as usual, and she too had tears on her cheeks. Becca, Luna knew, often thought of Rufus when she was here, but most often she thought of her birth parents, Martin and Emily Moran. She had set out to find out as much as she could about them, though the information she found was little, it was enough to put her heart at peace.
"Percy!" A loud voice broke into the quiet from the direction of the Burrow, Mumzilla had found them - and she wasn't alone.
"Rebecca! You get in here right now!" Mum Kong shouted, scaring away a flock of birds from a nearby tree "This wedding isn't going to make itself happen you know!"
"It's inevitable." George grinned at them, swinging Sam up on his shoulders. "Mumzilla has super tracking skills, only stands to reason Mum Kong does too."
"Daddy," Sam asked "Why do you call Gramma Mumzilla?"
George looked at Percy and Percy grinned back at him. "Pray you never find out kid."
They turned back towards the burrow, the wind ruffling their hair while the sweet wind-song whispered in their ears.
A song that would go on forever.
Thanks to everyone who has loved and followed this story through all the long hiatus's and fits and starts. I deeply apologize for the fact that it took so long to reach completion. I hope that it ended on a satisfying note for you. As for what is coming next - who knows. = ) I will be ending Rise of the Phoenix hopefully in December, and maybe starting something new in January. Lots of stuff up in the air right now. Hope everyone has a nice Halloween and an even nicer holiday season.
CJ - Lady of Gryffindor