James glared down at the envelope lying on the table and ran a shaky hand through his messy, red hair. A letter from his father was clutched in his white knuckles. With a growl he crushed the parchment into a wrinkled ball. From the corner of his eye, he could see his little brother slowly approaching the Gryffindor table.
"So, I assume you've already read your letter from Dad," Albus stated quietly.
James clutched the sides of his head, still glaring at the destroyed letter. "I can't believe she'd do this. My whole summer is ruined because of her."
Albus plopped down next to him with a loud huff. A few Gryffindors gave the pair a curious look before quickly looking away. The Potter boys were infamous at Hogwarts for two reasons, their horrible mood swings and the speed of their curses.
"I just can't believe Dad would let her get away with this. He's always said we don't have to do anything we don't want." Albus crossed his arms angrily.
"She probably threatened him," suggested James. "She's not happy that we only come a few weekends in the summer, so now she wants a whole month. I can't wait until I'm sixteen and then I don't have to see her at all anymore."
Albus perked up at this, pushing his oval shaped spectacles up to peer closely at his brother. "Where'd you hear that?"
"I told him," a short, blonde Gryffindor girl stated as she sat down across from the boys. She was quiet pretty with her heart-shaped face and bright blue eyes. "Angela Perks," she said in introduction and held out a hand for Albus to shake. "And you must be James' Slytherin brother Albus."
"I am." Albus gently shook her hand and blushed. James snickered at that, so Albus punched him in the arm. "So, are you his girlfriend?"
James nodded. "She is, but don't tell Dad yet. You know how he is. He'll be planning our wedding already and I'm only fourteen!"
Angela giggled. "Is he really that bad?"
"A hopeless romantic," Albus explained. He reached out to take a biscuit, his appetite returning somewhat. "Now, how do you know that James doesn't have to go see our lovely mother once he's sixteen?"
"My parents are divorced too," she shrugged. "I hate going to see my Dad, but the Ministry says I have to. My Mum's lawyer said that according to the law, once I turn sixteen, no one can make me go anymore."
"Only two more years," James sighed.
"That's not fair. I don't want to go either!" Exclaimed Albus.
"Sorry Alby," James smirked, "It's every man for himself."
Albus huffed in frustration. "I just don't understand why she'd even want us there for a month. She knows we can't stand her and all we end up doing is fighting the whole time."
"It's all a contest," James explained. "She thinks that if she spoils us enough then we'll want to stay with her instead of Dad, as if that would ever happen. She's already spoils Lily horribly."
"I know," Albus nodded. "I can't even stand to be around her anymore." He looked down at the table top and scraped at the worn wood with a long fingernail. "It's horrible when she comes to stay with us. All she does is complain about all the stuff Dad won't get her and she doesn't even call him Dad anymore! Viktor is 'Dad' to her now. It hurts him so much when she says that."
James grimaced. "It makes me really uncomfortable."
"Your Dad sounds like such a great guy," Angela observed aloud. "I don't understand why your Mum ever left him."
"She wanted a famous Quidditch star," explained the youngest Potter boy, "Dad saves the bloody world and that just isn't good enough for her. She still tries to milk his fame though. Drags us around to all these posh places so blokes from the magazines and papers can take our pictures, it's so bloody annoying."
Harry ran a hand through his messy, black hair. He was angry, frustrated, and slowly losing patience with his ex-wife. It seemed as if nothing would make the woman happy. Even when getting her way, she'd still complain.
"It's just one Quidditch game, Ginny," he pleaded. Ginny's disembodied head glared up at him from the fireplace. "Can't you understand how important this is?"
"Important to you maybe," she huffed. "Viktor and I have already made plans that weekend."
"You've got the boys for the whole month! Isn't that enough for you? Can't you give me this one thing?"
Ginny's eyes narrowed as she flipped her long red hair over her shoulder. "I suppose if it's that important to you, but I want something in return."
Harry sighed and nodded. "Well, what is it you want?"
"I want to legally change Lily's name," she stated bluntly.
"What?" Harry nearly exploded with rage. The pictures on the walls rattled as Number 12 was shaken by his magic. Ginny's eyes widened in shock and Harry attempted to get himself under control. "What are you playing at?" He growled. "I won't allow my daughter to take that oaf's name."
"Don't talk about Viktor like that," Ginny sneered. "He's a great man and Lily loves him, but no, I wasn't planning on changing her last name."
"Then what are you planning on changing?"
"Her first name," she replied. "It seems silly to keep it as Lily when we always use her middle name."
"No one does that but you and Viktor."
"And she likes it," Ginny stated calmly. "And I prefer to call her Marie."
Harry slumped to the sofa and clenched his fists at his sides, willing his magic to remain calm and serene, even as his insides twisted with fury. "I won't allow it," he ground out through clenched teeth, "I won't allow you to change her name. If she wishes to change it when she's an adult, she can do it then, but I won't like it. Lily is a beautiful name and she should be proud to have it."
"She's not your mother," Ginny argued. "And she doesn't need to live in your mother's shadow."
"My mother was a great woman!" Harry shouted.
"With you it's always about them. I'm sick of hearing how great they were. This is about our daughter, Harry, not your mother."
"I didn't say it was about my mother." He got up and began to pace. He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep breath. "I won't allow it."
"Well, then the boys won't be going to your first game."
Harry turned toward the fireplace and let out an animalistic snarl. Ginny's eyes widened in surprise, but she didn't back down. Suddenly a little light went off inside Harry's head and he knew exactly what he needed to say to change his ex-wife's mind, as stubborn as it may be.
"I suppose you're right," he replied with a slight smirk. "I'll just have to inform them that they won't be able to come to their father's first professional Quidditch game because their mother won't allow it."
Ginny's eyes narrowed. "You're always trying to turn them against me," she hissed.
"I don't need to try," Harry sneered. "You've done a bang up job of that yourself. And while we're talking about turning our children against each other, I'd like to mention that my own daughter doesn't even acknowledge me as her father anymore. Whose fault was that?"
"She spends more time with Viktor," Ginny argued.
"Because you won't let me see her!" Harry shouted. "I only get a few holidays a year and a week in the summer. If you're getting a month with the boys, then I should get a month with Lily."
"She doesn't want to stay with you."
"The boys don't want to stay with you," Harry stated bluntly, "but you're making me send them to you for a month. It's only fair that I get a Lily for a month."
"You've poisoned them against me!" Ginny yelled through the green flames. "That's why they don't like me anymore. It's all your fault."
Harry groaned in frustration. "I'm sick of arguing over this. If you want the boys for a month, then I get Lily for a month. That's my final word on the matter!"
"You can't do this," Ginny whined.
"Yes, I can. I'm sick of arguing."
"She'll hate you for this," she hissed. "I'll tell her this is all your fault."
"I know you will," Harry sighed, rubbing his brow tiredly. "And I don't care. Eventually she'll grow up and she'll realize that love doesn't have anything to do with getting to do whatever you want and having someone buy you everything your heart desires. How will you deal with her then, Ginny?"
With a huff his ex closed the floo connection and the formally green flames turned back to a bright orange. Harry stared at the flames for a few minutes, feeling shaky and sick. Each time he finished a conversation with Ginny it always felt as if he'd just fought a Death Eater.
"Is Master Harry alright?" Kreacher, his ancient house-elf, asked from the doorway of the sitting room.
Harry nodded. "I'm fine Kreacher, but I think I'll go visit Ron and Hermione."
"Of course, sir."
"She's insane!" Harry shouted as Ron opened the door to the flat he shared with Hermione. "Certifiable by St. Mungo's bleedin' mad, that's what she is!"
"Hermione!" Ron yelled. "Harry's here!"
Hermione strode into the living room, pinning her hair up as she went. Harry noticed that she was wearing a rather revealing red dress. He opened his mouth to comment on that, but then noticed that Ron was equally well dressed in a nice black suit. Suddenly he felt very guilty.
"I'm sorry," he groaned. "I'm a horrible friend. I completely forgot it's your anniversary."
Ron clapped him on the shoulder. "Don't worry about it mate, you've got a lot on your mind. I'm sorry about Ginny. I still don't understand why she turned into such a crazy b-witch." He corrected as Hermione glared.
"Ron, you shouldn't talk about your sister that way. I know she's hard to deal with, Harry, but you know it's due to her own insecurities. She's intimidated by you and for someone who's based their entire sense of self worth on the fact that they are independent and strong…well, that's a very frightening thing."
Harry ran a hand through his hair. "But I would never do anything to hurt her and I only lost control that one time."
Hermione gave him a skeptical look. "You destroyed an entire wing of the house."
"She brought another man to my bed!" Harry shouted angrily, his magic causing the windows to shake threateningly. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "See, I'm getting better," he urged, "And I haven't destroyed anything since then."
"Harry, mate, go over to Mum and Dad's and have yourself a nice big dinner. Mum will dote on you, Dad will tell you some jokes and you'll feel ninety-nine percent better." Ron smiled and steered him toward the floo.
Harry shook his head. "I'll just apparate, you know I hate the floo." With a final apologetic wave to his friends, he disappeared with a pop.
"What a mess," Ron sighed. "I still don't get it. Ginny loved Harry ever since she was a little girl, then she gets him and doesn't want him. It just doesn't make sense."
"It doesn't make sense to us, but it does to her," Hermione explained. "I think she still loves Harry, but she's frightened of him."
"Harry's not scary," Ron argued. "Sure, his magic goes a bit wonky sometimes, but it's not his fault."
Hermione shook her head. "That's not what frightens Ginny. I think she's afraid of Harry because he has so much power in the wizarding world. Let's face it, if Harry suddenly decided that Ginny should never see their children again, it wouldn't take much for him to make it happen."
"But Harry would never do that!"
"Of course he wouldn't," she agreed. "But Ginny isn't the most logical person in the world."
Harry didn't head to the Weasley's. He knew if he went to the Burrow, Mr. Weasley would try and cheer him up and Mrs. Weasley would dote on him and stuff him full of sweets. But, at the moment, he didn't feel much like being cheerful and eating sugar. Instead he felt like he really wanted to continue to complain, rage and whine, and there was only one good place for him to do that.
"Aunt Petunia, are you home?" He called out as he unlocked the backdoor to Number 4, Privet Drive.
He and his Aunt had started to have a better relationship about 10 years ago after Vernon passed away. Harry had gone to the funeral and found only Aunt Petunia there. Aunt Marge, Vernon's sister, had passed away years ago from a heart-attack and Dudley was in prison for some petty crime. So Harry had stood next to Petunia and even held her hand as they planted Vernon in the ground. Surprisingly enough Petunia had invited him back to her house for tea and from then on they began to see each other quite regularly. He even brought the boys around to visit and Aunt Petunia would fill them up with sweets and spoil them with toys.
"Harry, is that you?" Petunia questioned, her back to him as she stood in front of the stove. "I was just about to make tea."
"Wonderful," Harry grunted. "I just got off the floo with Ginny. You wouldn't believe what she wanted to do now."
Petunia's lips pursed together in a tight line at mention of Harry's ex-wife. Hermione called it her Ginny face, since it was the expression she always had when someone mentioned the redhead. The years alone with only Harry to depend on for any kind of company had made her very protective of her nephew.
"That woman, she should have been happy that you even gave her the time of day, and now look how she treats you. And parading around the boys the way she does! Augusta sent me a paper from Germany with both boys pictures plastered on the front page with their mother grinning like a Cheshire cat. It makes me ill to think about them being used like that."
Another surprising thing about Petunia's return to Harry's life was her immediate friendship with Neville's grandmother, Augusta Longbottom. They'd met at a birthday party for the boys and got along like a house on fire. It wasn't really all too surprising, considering they're both highly judgmental people who spend most of their time gossiping.
"She wants to change Lily's name," Harry explained through gritted teeth. "Her first name."
The sound of a tea cup smashing against Petunia's nice, white linoleum floor echoed through the small kitchen. Harry waved his wand to repair the cup and then watched in fascination as his aunt slowly turned to face him, a strange look upon her face. He'd seen her annoyed before and even upset, but never as furious as she appeared to be now.
"That horrid, horrid woman," she shrieked angrily. "That she could come from such a wonderful family, but turn into such a sour thing, it makes me think that some people are born with bad blood." Harry gave her a dark look. "Not you of course, Harry. You know we were wrong to treat you the way we did when…" Aunt Petunia choked up a bit before taking a deep breath and carrying the tea tray to the table. "But look at you now, a good man and a wonderful father, even after everything you've been through, while that horrible woman you were with is so awful to you."
Harry smiled softly at his aunt, feeling a bit of warmth spread through him at the thought of someone taking up his banner and fighting for his side. It felt good to have someone commiserate with him regarding his ex-wife. He just couldn't do this with Hermione or Ginny's family, for obvious reasons.
"Of course I told her no," he stated assuredly. "When Lily's older, she can decide what she wants to do."
Petunia grimaced. "She spoils Lily just as we spoiled Dudley and you know how that turned out. In and out of prisons, getting into fights, wanted for this and that, it's a nightmare. Too much like his father, that's the real problem."
"Can't argue there," Harry agreed with an amused snort. He stirred a teaspoon of sugar into his tea and stared out the window wistfully. "I just don't understand where everything went wrong. What did I do? Was it because I wasn't there for her and the children enough? Was it my accidental magic? I just don't get it. We were so happy when we married, where did it go wrong?" He looked to his aunt for answers, but she merely sighed and shrugged her shoulders.
"You'll drive yourself crazy with all the whys and what-if's," Petunia stated, shaking her head sadly at some random memory. "Tell me about the big surprise you wrote to me about just yesterday."
Harry's eyes lit up and he smiled wide. "You won't believe it, Aunt Petunia. I hardly believe it myself!"
"Isn't that Harry Potter's owl?" A voice questioned aloud.
Albus glanced up from his mashed potatoes in time to see his father's gigantic, snowy white owl, Tamasin, gracefully glide over the tables in the Great Hall. The large owl swooped down to the bench and stood still while Albus untied the envelope with his name on it. A second envelope hung from the owl's leg, that one was addressed to James and Tamasin flew off toward the Gryffindor table to make his next delivery.
"That's strange, isn't it?" Scorpius Malfoy questioned from across the table. "Your father doesn't usually send mail in the evening."
Albus grimaced at his friend. "I hope it isn't more bad news."
"Well, go on and open it," urged Scorpius.
Albus ripped open the envelope and watched two squares of paper fall to the table. He glanced at them curiously and then pulled out a small piece of parchment inside the envelope.
"It says that this is the first part of my Christmas present and I'll find out the second part when I read the Daily Prophet tomorrow." Albus reached down and picked up the two pieces of paper, then nearly dropped them in surprise. "Merlin's beard!"
"What is it?" Questioned Scorpius.
"Two tickets to the first Quidditch match of the season, the Holyhead Harpies versus the Chudley Cannons! You're going to go with me, aren't you Scorpius?"
Scorpius grabbed at the tickets and then stared down at them as if they were made of gold. "Of course I'm going; this will be the biggest match of the season besides the championship game."
"I wonder what the second part of the present is. What do you think it could be?"
"Who knows," Scorpius shrugged. "Knowing your father, it could be anything."
Maxwell Zabini leaned over to look at the tickets. "I'm so jealous right now. You'll have to tell me all about it."
Albus' brow furrowed as he remembered something he'd been trying to forget. "That's the same month that James and I have to go to our Mum's. She better not try and keep us from going."
Suddenly James popped up behind Albus. "I'll sneak out if she says we can't go. She has to let us go. There's no way Dad will let her keep us from going."
"I hope so," Albus agreed.
Albus worried on the tickets for the rest of the night. He was barely able to concentrate on his Transfiguration homework, which was not good, since Transfiguration is his very worst subject. When he wasn't worrying about whether his mother would let him go to the game or not, he was contemplating what the second part of the present would be. By breakfast time the next morning he was nearly jumping off the walls of Hogwarts with all his nervous energy. He wasn't at all prepared when James came running up to him with a Daily Prophet before he even made it to the Slytherin table.
"You won't believe this, Al! Merlin's balls, you won't believe this!" James continued to ramble excitedly as Albus snatched the Prophet from his trembling hands, nearly dropping it as he read the headline on page one.
"Potter signs with Holyhead Harpies," he read aloud. Standing next to him, Scorpius gasped in surprise and craned to look over his shoulder. "First male Harpy in history."
James grinned maniacally. "Mum is going to have a fit when she sees this."
"Wasn't your Mum a Harpy for a few years?" Scorpius questioned.
Albus nodded. "She was reserve chaser for a couple years, but quit when they never put her on the starting team."
"Bloody hell," murmured the blonde Slytherin. "Are you certain your father wasn't in Slytherin?"
Albus grinned. "The hat almost put him there, but he talked his way into Gryffindor because he met your Dad."
"No way!" Exclaimed Scorpius. "You're making that up!"
"Can we get back to the subject here?" James questioned, a gleeful smile plastered on his face. "Dad is the new starting Seeker for the Holyhead Harpies!"
Albus walked toward the Slytherin table in a daze. Voices called out to him, wishing his father good luck and congratulating him as well, even though he hadn't done anything at all. The Daily Prophet was still clutched in his white knuckles as Scorpius pushed him down to the bench.
"Give me that," Scorpius urged. "I want to read it aloud."
"Go ahead," Albus mumbled. The rest of the Slytherin table looked at him with concern.
Scorpius laughed. "Don't mind him, he's just in shock. Now, let's get back to this thrilling article. Page one, I do believe." He held up the paper for the rest of the second years to see.
"Read it," Maxwell urged.
"Ah hem," Scorpius cleared his throat with a regal air. "On Tuesday morning it was announced by Gwenog Jones, former Harpy and acting Harpies team manager, that the famous Harry Potter would be replacing Stella Croxton as starting seeker next season. This is doubly exciting news considering the Harpies have never in the history of their team had a male player in any position. When questioned about this, Gwenog merely said, 'It's a misconception that the Harpies are an all woman team. The Harpies pick the best players and they've just happened to be women, until now. We're happy to have Potter sign with us and we're sure that this next season will be the Harpies most memorable season yet.'" Scorpius stopped to sip his water and the second-years groaned.
"Come on Scorpius," Mindy Atwater urged. "We haven't got all day."
"Don't you all have your own Prophets you can read?" Albus questioned.
"Sure, but Scorpius reads it best," she replied with flushed cheeks.
Scorpius grinned. "Of course I will continue milady, now where was I. As many Quidditch fans may remember, Harry Potter's ex-wife Ginny Weasley (now Ginny Krum)," at the former Mrs. Potter's name the Slytherin's all booed, "was a reserve chaser for the Harpies, but quit after she did not make it on the starting team in the third season. Gwenog had this to say, 'Weasley was a great chaser, but she couldn't be patient and wait for a seat to open up.' When asked why the Boy-Who-Lived wouldn't be starting on the reserve team, she answered with, 'Are you bloody mad? Have you ever seen him play?"
The second-years all laughed at that and Albus chuckled dryly. Scorpius gave him a look of concern, but continued on with his reading.
"Potter's first test will be in the first match of the season, versus the Chudley Cannons. The Cannons have won three championships in a row and their players are all well-seasoned veterans on the pitch. I asked Oliver Wood, Cannons Keeper and acting manager, if he had any thoughts regarding Potter's foray into professional Quidditch. His reply was short and succinct. 'Get off my pitch.'"
Everyone laughed again and this time Albus couldn't help but join in. He knew he should be happy for his Dad and excited that he'd have a professional Quidditch player for a father, but for some reason all he could think about was his mother. How was she taking all of this? Albus figured not very well, and that didn't bode well for James and him when they went to stay with her in the summer.
"The first match of the season isn't until June 5th," Scorpius continued reading. "But I know I'll be dusting off my Harpies pennant long before then. I hope to see you all at Cannon stadium for the first game of what looks to be one hell of a Quidditch season!" Scorpius ended with a flourish and the group all clapped.
"You should be happy Albus," Maxwell urged.
Albus ran a hand through his hair, a nervous gesture that James and he had both picked up from their father. "I am happy for my Dad; I'm just worried about how my Mum's going to take it."
Ginny glared down at the Prophet, her knuckles white and her hands shaking. She threw the paper down angrily and tore up the picture of Harry smiling and waving as he stood next to Gwenog Jones. How could he? How could he when he knew that playing for the Harpies had been her dream for most of her life? That bastard, he did it on purpose. He used his clout to get on the starting team just to spite her. She should have known he'd eventually do something like this considering he nearly ended up in Slytherin.
"Ginny, are you okay?" Victor questioned as he entered the large dining room. He took a seat across from her at one end of the long, wooden table.
"I'm fine," she snapped. "Just reading today's Prophet."
Victor's brow raised in shocked surprise as he noticed the shredded newspaper. "Reading it or trying to eat it?" He flicked his wand and the paper repaired itself. With wide eyes he read the front page. "So Potter has finally decided to play Quidditch, took him long enough."
"What?" Ginny glared at him confusion.
"I knew he would the first time I saw him on a broom. He's a natural."
"They put him on the starting team," complained Ginny. "Just because he's Harry freaking Potter. I stuck it out two years on the reserves with no end in sight."
"There wasn't an open starting position," Victor stated calmly. "They told you there wouldn't be for a few years."
Ginny nodded and picked at her toast. "But I was an excellent player. I was sure they'd move me to the starting team as soon as they saw what I could do. They never gave me a chance."
Victor sighed and didn't argue. Instead he merely held up the Daily Prophet and read the rest of the article. He could feel Ginny's intense glare burning a hole through the paper, right into his head.
"Mum, is there any toast?" A soft voice questioned from the doorway.
Ginny smiled at her only daughter. "Of course there is dear, come sit down."
"Good morning Marie," Victor greeted as he folded the paper and laid it on the table next to his plate.
"Morning Dad," she answered. "Is that the Prophet?" She grabbed up the paper and her eyes widened at the front page. "Wow, Harry is going to be starting Seeker for the Harpies! I can't believe it."
"Yes, I suppose it pays to be Harry Potter," Ginny remarked snidely.
Victor sent her a glare. "Ginny," he warned quietly and Lily frowned.
"Do you really think he got picked because of who he is?"
Ginny opened her mouth to respond but Victor interrupted. "No, that's not why he was picked. Your father is a great Quidditch player and a natural on a broom. I'm sure he'll play wonderfully."
Just then a large, snowy owl swooped into the room. It was an impressive bird and Ginny still found herself in awe of it every time it flew through her window. Tied to its leg was a letter addressed to Lily.
"It's Harry's owl," Lily stated. "Hello Tamasin." She greeted the owl while offering it a bit of bacon. Tamasin plucked the bacon from her fingers and dutifully waited for her to untie the letter.
Ginny was on edge while Lily read the letter. She knew what it was regarding and she knew there would be an outburst coming soon. Lily would not be happy to learn she'd be spending a month at her Father's home.
"A month!" Lily exclaimed. She glared at her mother. "I have to stay a month with him and the boys are coming here. I don't want to spend a month with Harry. I've already made plans for this summer. Natalie and I were going to take a trip to Paris with her parents."
"I know dear," Ginny stated. "But Harry really would like to spend some time with you this summer."
"I won't go! It's not fair. He can't just tell me what to do. He can't make me go."
"Marie, don't get so upset." Ginny tried her best to calm down her daughter. "It won't be so bad."
"Won't be so bad! It's terrible and I won't go!"
A loud thud echoed through the dining room and both Lily and Ginny started in surprise. Victor was sitting like a statue on the other side of the table, an angry expression on his normally emotionless face. His hand was still squeezed into a tight ball and his water glass had overturned from the vibration of his fist slamming into the table top.
"That is enough," he whispered in a dangerous tone. "You will be going to visit your father and that is that. I will not hear anymore whining and crying about it, from either of you!"
Lily's eyes filled with tears and she ran from the room, her wailing echoing from the high ceiling as she went. Ginny turned to Victor, ready for a fight, but immediately backed down when she saw the cold look in his eyes.
"I've never stepped in before, because Lily is your daughter," Victor explained. "But if she is going to claim me as her Father, then she will not embarrass me in such a way. I wish to have a daughter I can be proud of, not a spoiled brat."
Ginny's own eyes grew cold at that last statement. "How dare you!" She threw her napkin to the table and stood to leave. "That is my daughter you are talking about." She rushed out to find her daughter as Victor calmly lifted his fork and finished his breakfast.