An outtake to Imogen's Home Is Where The HeartIs based on events from INVICTUS, Alpha & Omega, Home is Where the Heart Is, and other bits, on Christmas Eve, 1999.
stood in the doorway looking down at the sleeping form of his baby
daughter. Hope, both her name and yet something more ─ something Harry
couldn't quite put a finger on ─ but which he knew was very important
to both him and Ginny.
He marveled again at the angelic face
of his daughter, so much like her mother, and yet a part of him as
well. Harry wondered what dreams were racing through her mind and he
prayed that she would never suffer the nightmares that had plagued him
He no longer tossed and turned at night, waking
intermittently to find Ginny watching over him, her chocolate-brown
eyes filled with concern for the man she loved with all her heart; he'd
learned to suppress that enough to keep his suffering from disturbing
Still, there were nights when the nightmares of
Voldemort and Son Tey would rouse him and he would slip silently from
their bed and go to stand in the doorway of Hope's room, letting the
sight of the sleeping child ─ their daughter ─ help sooth his jangled
He knew that someday he'd need to speak to Ginny about what had happened but, as yet, he couldn't.
Ginny awoke to find Harry gone.
rolled over, expecting to snuggle against the warmth of her husband's
body, only to discover him gone and the spot where he should have been
cool to the touch.
In the beginning, it had frightened her to
awaken and find Harry gone from their bed, especially when they had
still been living at The Burrow following Voldemort's defeat, but after
the first few times, she'd come to realize that this was simply another
way that he sought to hide his demons from her.
She knew about
the nightmares, both the ones from his sixth year when he'd gone
missing for 24 hours and the ones from the final battle with Voldemort
in the Hogwarts hospital wing. She'd nearly lost him both times, but
somehow their love had endured, becoming even stronger in the process.
she knew that Harry wrestled nightly with his demons even as he tried
to project an image of calm so as not to worry her. She wondered if he
would ever tell her what had really happened when Voldemort had
captured him, and then sighed in resignation as she realized that it
was ridiculous for her to expect Harry to open up when she was
unwilling to talk about things herself.
As she lay there
wondering how long Harry had been gone, her mind turned to thoughts of
her mum and dad at The Burrow, of Sirius and Remus at Hogwarts, of her
brothers scattered everywhere, but who would all be at The Burrow
tomorrow afternoon for a Christmas feast.
Then she stopped and
remembered that Bill wouldn't be there and the familiar dull ache
returned to her stomach as the pain of his death nearly three years ago
came back to her again. He'd never seen Hope, and it hurt to realize
that he never would.
As the tears rolled down her cheek, Ginny
forced herself to turn away from thinking of Bill. It would never do
for Harry to come back and find her upset. It was hard enough hiding
the panic attacks which occasionally would engulf her when someone or
something would remind her of that terrifying nothingness she'd been in
while unconscious after Voldemort had tried to kill her at the end of
her fifth year.
She instead smiled to herself at the thought
of Ron and Hermione together this night. Even though they'd been dating
for almost five years, and lovers for three, this was the first night
they'd actually spent together with the knowledge and consent of their
Well, the consent of Hermione's parents at least.
shook her head at the memory of her mother's reaction to the news that
Ron wouldn't be staying at The Burrow tonight. She hoped that it went
well for them, and then sighed at the unfairness of it all; her brother
and his girlfriend were snuggled up warmly in bed while she waited for
Harry to come back from his vigil.
And with that thought in mind, Ginny arose and made her way down the hall to where she knew she would find her husband.
Ron lay in bed staring at the ceiling and again marveled at how lucky he truly was.
was somewhat of a miracle that he was even here tonight, asleep in
Hermione's bed. His mother had been none too pleased when he'd informed
her that he was staying at Hermione's tonight and that they would be
joining her parents for Christmas morning before coming to The Burrow
later that day.
His mother had raised an eyebrow at this news
and then asked, in what Ron recognized as a deceptively calm tone, if
he wouldn't rather sleep in his nice soft bed rather than on Hermione's
Ron had watched as Ginny had covered her mouth to
stifle the giggle threatening to break free as he, red-faced but
resolute, had replied that he wouldn't be sleeping on the couch
tonight. Then, before Molly could react, he'd hurriedly kissed his mum
on the cheek, said goodbye, and Apparated to the Hermione's flat.
had giggled slightly, and told him how brave he'd been as she kissed
him on the cheek before returning to help her mother in the kitchen
with dinner. He'd been left at the tender mercies of her father, who'd
smiled knowingly before hauling out the chessboard.
He still didn't really understand why Hermione loved him.
He wasn't the bravest of blokes, nor the handsomest.
He didn't have money or power or a lot of material things.
When he came right down to it, he wasn't very special in any way.
He was just…well…Ron.
looking down at the sea of brown curls nestled against him, Ron knew he
wouldn't trade what he had for anything in the world.
Tilting his head slightly, he lightly kissed the crown of her head and whispered, "I love you, Hermione."
as her mind started to slip over the edge of consciousness into sleep,
Hermione heard the words and, in an instant, felt as though she was
flying on the clouds themselves.
True, she knew that Ron loved
her, and that he had for a long time. Still, she recalled how ─ not
that long ago ─ that she and Ron had struggled to reconnect after the
final battle with Voldemort and how a night of baby-minding for Harry
and Ginny had changed that.
She recalled the night Ron had
nearly died their sixth year and how she'd admitted to him, even though
he was unconscious at the time, that he was the only one for her. She
sighed slightly at the memory of trying to sleep with him that night
and hoped he wouldn't thrash about as much this time; it would not be
good manners to hex him on Christmas Eve.
In her mind's eye,
she could still see his worried face ─ taut with strain, his eyes
filled with a pain that touched her soul ─ looking down upon her when
she'd first reawakened after their rescue from under the debris of
His first words then had been, "I thought I'd lost you forever, Hermione," even as he gently laid his hand against her cheek.
In spite of her still slightly befuddled state, she'd instinctively known in that instant that she would all right.
muscular, and still Quidditch-obsessed, Ron wasn't perfect by any
means. But, for all his faults ─ and her boyfriend had a few ─ Hermione
knew he was a good man at heart and that was all that truly mattered.
wrapped her arms a little tighter around Ron's chest, snuggled a little
closer, and allowed the steady beat of his heart to lull her off to
sleep as she wondered how Arthur and Molly were doing now that all the children were gone.
had taken some time for Molly to calm down after Ron's abrupt and
strategic withdrawal. Arthur and Ginny had exchanged knowing glances
and simultaneous shrugs of acceptance as Molly had given full vent to
her feelings about Ron actually "sleeping" over at Hermione's.
when it was all said and done, Molly had come to the realization that
her last baby was really gone. Arthur knew it had been hard enough on
her when Dumbledore had approached them about Ginny marrying Harry.
Molly had put a good face on it, privately, she'd ranted and raved for
weeks about the injustice of it all before accepting that the young
couple truly loved each other. It had taken Arthur reminding Molly of
the events of the previous spring before she finally realized that it
was truly something meant to be. They didn't know most of the story,
and probably never would, but clearly something special existed between
their daughter and Harry for their love to have survived what he and
Molly had witnessed that morning.
Privately, though, Arthur
had been rather grateful for Ron's absence tonight as it afforded him
the perfect opportunity to do something he'd wanted to do for weeks.
Bill's death at The Massacre, as the failed counterattack against
Voldemort had become known as, Molly had been nearly inconsolable when
Clarke and Charlie had arrived to tell them of their son's death. It
wasn't that Molly couldn't accept that he was gone ─ she'd lost family
during the first war ─ but rather the fact that they had no body to
mourn or bury, for none of the bodies of those killed or known to have
been captured had ever been found.
She'd refused to let the
others see it the previous year, but privately, in the security of
their bedroom, Molly had cried her heart out and it had nearly broken
Arthur's, because there was nothing he could do about it. He'd resolved
then that this year it would be different.
After he and Molly
had eaten, Arthur had suggested they go for a walk down by the
riverside as he had something he wanted to show her. Reluctantly, Molly
had agreed and together they had walked slowly down to the tree where
their children loved to play and then beyond it to a spot of open
ground that Molly knew Bill had always liked to come to when he needed
Reaching the spot, Arthur stopped and pointed at a small English oak, which now occupied the center of Bill's haven.
may not have a body, Molly, but there is no reason for us not to have a
special place to remember our son. I planted this tree last summer as a
gift to you, so that you will always have a place to come and remember
Molly had said nothing, her eyes bright with tears as
she slowly walked forward and gently ran a hand down the trunk of the
young sapling before she dropped to her knees, and he had rushed
forward to take her in his arms and give her back all the strength
she'd ever given him.
It had been some time before they'd
returned to the house, and now, as he sat snuggled with Molly under the
duvet before the fire, Arthur silently thanked the powers above that
this Christmas Eve would be spent with just his wife. For the first
time in over thirty years, there would be no children running
underfoot, no explosions from the twins' room, no extra houseguests, no
friends to worry about.
It seemed almost sacrilegious for The
Burrow to be so empty and yet, as he felt the steady rhythm of Molly's
breathing as she slept wrapped in his arms on the sofa, it also seemed
The two men sat silently before the fire, staring at the dancing flames, each lost in his own thoughts this Christmas Eve.
Finally, Remus broke the silence.
"Is it your turn or mine, Padfoot?"
"I believe it's mine, Moony."
with that, Sirius picked up his glass of Firewhiskey and made the toast
which had become traditional at such moments for the two old Marauders.
"To absent friends and comrades."
"To absent friends and comrades."
words had echoed slightly in the room as John Clarke emptied the shot
glass of Jim Beam as he toasted the picture he'd placed on the mantle.
It was a wizard photo of him and several others taken the morning of
the assault on Voldemort.
He'd volunteered, even though he had
only his .45 as a weapon, because he knew better than most what to
expect and recognized that they'd need all the help they could get.
Even so, all his experience had never prepared him for the disaster
which had unfolded.
It had been a trap, and they'd walked
right into it. A third of the force had died immediately under a hail
of Killing Curses as soon as they Apparated into the battle zone and
half the rest had been killed or captured in the desperate struggle to
escape. Only the Herculean efforts of Bill Weasley, and a few others,
had enabled the survivors to circumvent Voldemort's anti-Apparation
wards and escape. Clarke and Charlie Weasley had been among the last to
flee by Portkey after a futile attempt to retrieve Bill's body after
he'd been struck down by a curse from a Death Eater who'd penetrated
the shrinking defensive perimeter.
Still, he thought grimly,
the bastard who's sold them out hadn't profited by it. It had taken
several weeks to find him, but in the end, Charlie and the twins had
located his hiding place and captured him. Clarke could still envision
the man's terrified face as he pleaded, begged, and even tried to bribe
his way to freedom, before the disgusted Marine had personally executed
him. It was the first time he'd ever killed in cold blood, but, after
what had happened to his friends, Clarke knew he'd lose no sleep over
it -- and hadn't.
Setting the glass down, Clarke walked over
to his desk and silently reviewed the materials which had been
delivered earlier that week.
The first batch had arrived by
FedEx, and contained the legal papers necessary for him to assume
ownership of Puller's Place, now that Brickard had finally succumbed to
the cancer that had eaten away at his insides for the past year.
second, thicker, stack had been delivered by private courier from an
old friend at Langley. He'd had to call in several favours to obtain
them, but it had been worth it. Snake had sent him not only the
Agency's file on Son Tey but also files from British MI5, France's
DGSE, Israel's MOSSAD and several other foreign intelligence services,
including the old KGB and its successor, the FSB. Combined with the
Ministry of Magic's report, which Moody had somehow managed to obtain
and forward to him, the pile was almost a foot thick.
It had taken him the better part of two days to go over them, and it had not made for pleasant reading.
had been very lucky to survive his encounter with Son Tey. The man had
a well-deserved reputation as a ruthless and efficient master of
torture who inevitably left only corpses to mark his passage. In fact,
if what Clarke had read was true, then Harry was the only living
survivor of Son Tey's work, and thus the one man who could testify
against him in court, Muggle or Wizard.
"Except, he won't live to stand trial if I have anything to say about it."
having faxed some instructions to a trusted friend in London, Clarke
closed the folder in his hand, sat back, and stared at the pen next to
the legal documents before him. Then, recognizing that he was just
postponing the inevitable, Clarke picked up the pen and signed his name
with a bold flourish, thus becoming the new owner of Puller's.
he finished placing the legal papers in the envelope to be FedEx'd to
the solicitor in London the next morning, Clarke thought to himself,
"The good part is that this will give me the means to keep my promise."
Then, he rose and walked over to the mantel and looked again at the picture of him and Bill Weasley.
Tey can run, but he can't hide forever. Sooner or later, Bill, I will
track him down and see that he pays for what he's done."
The picture of Bill simply smiled grimly back and nodded in agreement.
he stood there, Harry felt a pair of small hands wrap themselves around
his waist as a slim body pressed against his back, the beat of her
heart steady and comforting through his thin t-shirt.
"Harry?" He could hear the gentle concern in her voice as he turned to face Ginny in the dim light of the hall.
Placing a finger to her lips, he said softly, "Shh! It's nothing, dear. I just wanted to check on Hope."
He could see the smile drift across her face as she glanced around him and peeked at their daughter asleep in her bed.
Looking back up at Harry, she whispered, "Do you think she'll appreciate her presents tomorrow?"
shook his head and smiled ruefully as he lightly ran a finger down the
center of his wife's back, causing her to shiver ever-so-slightly at
"Probably not. She'll disappear under the paper and
spend hours playing with the boxes and ignore all the neat things we
spent days agonizing over."
Ginny grinned at this
pronouncement as she started to lead Harry back to their bedroom, then
glanced up at him with a slight gleam in her eye before adopting a
coquettish look as she asked, "And what about you, Harry? Will you
appreciate all of your presents tomorrow?"
Pulling her close,
so he could feel her heart beginning to beat faster, Harry replied, "I
already have my present, dear. Now, what say we find a nice soft
comforter then go downstairs and snuggle in front of the fire?"
Ginny grinned at the memory of a magical night long ago. "Like we did that night at The Burrow?"
Harry smiled, "Yes, only this time, I won't have to worry about your father catching us cuddled together like then."
Ginny's eyes widened and her hand flew to her mouth in surprise at this revelation.
"My father…caught us?"
nodded. "Mm huh. Scared the life out of me too when he woke me up. Made
it seem your mum was about to come downstairs and I was terrified at
the prospect of having her find you and I asleep on the couch together."
started to giggle at the expression on Harry's face as he told her
this, and then she said, "So that's why Dad kept giving me funny looks
all morning. I honestly thought I had something on my face for half the
Harry reached up and lightly brushed his thumb over her
lips to silence her as he whispered, "Enough talk of the past, Ginny.
Let's go enjoy the peace of Christmas morning while it lasts." Then,
taking her hand, Harry led a suddenly blushing Ginny downstairs so they
could make some new memories to add to the old ones.
A/N: Although this is a stand alone outtake, this piece will serve as the jumping off point for the sequel to INVICTUS, tentatively entitled, ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT.
My thanks to Sherry for a wonderful beta job. As usual, she helps me find my way to the end of the tunnel.