Unofficial Portkey Archive

Broken Strings by What contented men desire

Broken Strings

What contented men desire

Copyright: What elements of this story that I own, and are not the property of anyone else, are licensed CC-BY-NC-SA. That means that you can take anything in this story, up to and including the whole thing, and use it however you like, as long as you promise me three things:
1. You will link back to me (preferably to my author page)
2. You will not make money off whetever you do
3. You will share your work under these same conditions

This is a new project I'm taking on, born out of a weird and twisted mind. It'll be pretty short, looking like 10 chapters right now, and I've got the next two already written and ready to be digitized.

Words of warning: If the idea of Harry and Ginny or Ron and Hermione having kids makes you physically ill, run away. This is fully DH- and epilogue-compliant (with a handful of exceptions), which means that James, Lily, Rose, Hugo, and even Albus Severus are all here. But it won't be a happy story, or a sad story. It's the story of a life, and life is sometimes good and sometimes bad. Hope you enjoy.

Last comment, this chapter contains spousal abuse. If you can't handle that, don't read. If any of what I wrote sounds familiar to you, contact someone; most countries have abuse hotlines. If you or someone you know has been victimized by their spouse and you're not satisfied with my portrayal of the subject, I'm sorry both for your hardship and my disappointing depiction, but I frankly couldn't bring myself to do research.

Chapter 1: Endings

"It was a beautiful service, Harry."

Harry Potter grunted in reply. He'd been deflecting comments like that all day, all from people he'd never met but who seemed to be on first-name terms with him. He didn't understand funerals, really, not even after all these years. He understood grief, god knows he understood that all too well, but as he looked over the crowd of people gathered to, ostensibly, mourn the end of a life, he saw a lot of talking, a lot of laughing, and a lot of the eating of little sandwiches. He did not see a whole lot of grieving.

Another witch Harry didn't recognize approached, eyes filled with a disgusting painted-on sympathy. "I'm so sorry for your loss." She told him, her words dripping with untruth as she shook his hand. Harry wasn't stupid; he was famous, and so was his wife, and they were both rich, so this funeral was really a society event. Harry hated society events.

"Yeah, well, she was old." He returned bluntly. "Old people die." The woman blinked in surprise, and seemed more than a little put out, which suited Harry just fine. He didn't have many pleasures in life anymore, so he had to take them as they came.

The man to his right, the very spitting image of Harry himself as a younger man, elbowed him lightly as the woman passed by, shaking hands down the very, very long line of immediate family. "Dad, be polite." He hissed. "These people have come to pay their respects to Mum."

Harry looked back at the crowd. The President of the Holyhead Harpies, the club his wife had played for in her younger days, was chatting up some rich old crone from the Bridge club Ginny had joined when the team finally gave her the boot (and a generous severance package). "The hell they are."

James Potter followed his father's eyes. He knew what was going on as well as anyone else did. "I know," He admitted. "But you have to pretend."

"I played the game for fifty-five years. Let an old man be."

"Please," James pleaded, "If you won't do it for Mum, do it for the family."

Harry swore under his breath, looking down the long line of relatives. He certainly had a large one, even if he didn't talk to most of them very often. Both James and his youngest sister Lily had married, and their kids had married, and so on in the grand Wizarding tradition of marrying young, so that even Harry's great-grandchildren were starting to conceive children of their own. Some of them were, anyway; Harry squinted at the youngest of his descendants, a young lad of fourteen, and dearly hoped that he wasn't starting to sow his wild oats just yet.

Only Albus - who had changed his name to Albert literally the moment he turned seventeen, though Harry still called him by his birth name mostly to be annoying - had no children. He had come out as gay, to the great disappointment of his mother and grandmother, when he was in his twenties. It was only Harry's strenuous intervention that kept him officially part of the family. He gingerly passed his hand over the ancient scar on his right buttock, but still winced. Ginny had been mad that day.

But none of his family knew about that; not even James, who was more privy to his mother's dark side than most. They all wept, and wept honestly, for the mother and grandmother and great-grandmother they all dearly missed. Harry Potter may have been an angry, bitter old man, but he loved his family and knew how important this was to them.

A curse on smart-assed children.

True to his word, Harry was tolerably polite to the remainder of the well-wishers. Not looking at them helped; eyes on the floor, shake a hand, mumble "Thanks for coming," and let everyone think you're sad.


It was easy, anyway, until one of the mourners grabbed him into a bone-crushing hug.

"Bloody fucking hell!" He exclaimed, turning more than a few heads his way, as he tried unsuccessfully to escape the maniac who was trying to murder him. "Get the fuck off of me, you stupid tit."

The attacker tutted him. "I don't know why I bother; after all the years I spent trying to teach you manners, this is how you greet me."

"Hermione?" It was indeed Hermione. She looked as old as he felt, but she bore it gracefully, after her own fashion, and wore the same gentle smile she used to wear, when they were both much younger and more foolish, to show him that she wasn't really angry.

"Of course it's me; who were you expecting?"

Harry straightened up, but didn't get far before his back erupted in fire. So much for that. "Sure wasn't expecting you," he answered, nodding at the casket, "Considering."

"Not many Weasleys left to keep me away," She remarked sadly, casting her eyes down the line of relatives to where Lily Malfoy, youngest of Harry's immediate brood, was giving her a look of unforgiveable hate. Hermione shrank. "Though apparently still too many."

"Don't worry about Lil, Aunt Hermione." James cut in. He was always the diplomat, so unlike his namesake, and his parents, in every way that Harry often wondered if the boy was even his. Only the uncanny resemblance kept him from questioning too deeply. "You've got as much right to be here as anyone."

Hermione smiled at him, but she looked more tired than happy. She was getting old, Harry knew; they all were. "Thank you James, but I should be going all the same." She laid a hand on Harry's shoulder; it was warm, or else he was just cold. "I just wanted to give my condolences."

"Thanks, Hermione." Harry said and, for the first and last time that day, meant it.


The house was quiet. A small house would have been comfortably still, reposing for the first time after many long years of riot and noise. But Harry Potter lived in a big house, a big and old house passed through generations since his family began; and when big houses get quiet, Harry was learning, they're as still as death. Even one other person made the mansion bearable, but his wife worked and his children were all together at Hogwarts, little Lily's first year, so Harry was left alone, suffocating in the silence.

Harry hated this house, and so had his father. Before Harry's wedding, Potter Manor had stood unoccupied for a century. It was intimidating in its size and emptiness, and seemed much the larger for being full of nothing; the most recent incarnation of the Potter family, all five of them, took up only one wing, and Harry knew for a fact that there were rooms he had never visited. He didn't care to rectify that.

He padded softly through the corridors, past the sheet-draped statues they had never bothered to uncover, carefully watching for the little uneven areas of the floor that still tripped him up after more than fifteen years, lest he spill his tea. He arrived at the parlour without incident but, for all his prior effort, nonetheless lost his grip on the mug when a female human dropped out of thin air onto his rug.

"HERMIONE!" He exclaimed, rushing to help his old and dear friend up from where she lay groaning on the floor, and was shocked beyond belief when her face purpled under his gaze.

"Harry?" She asked, staring blearily up at him as one eye blackened and swelled shut.

Harry was horrified, but he pushed that to the back of his mind in favour of the more pressing issue: his friend's comfort. "Come on Hermione, let's get you up." She offered no resistance, hanging in his arms as limply as a wet noodle. As soon as he set her down on the sofa, and sat beside her, she came alive and threw herself at him, gripping the front of his shirt as though he were the only thing holding her onto the mortal plane. Harry forced himself to ask: "What happened?"

She could barely speak through the tears that flowed freely and noisily, sobbing in a way that he had never seen Hermione behave. She was Hermione the Strong, Hermione the Indomitable. And she was sobbing into his shoulder. "Ron…" She choked. "He hit me." A fresh wave of sobs. "I can't believe he hit me."

The first thing to go through Harry's mind, after the initial surprise, was the urge to kill Ron Weasley. Ron was a soft target; Harry hadn't been an Auror like he had, quitting the training years ago to raise his children, but he had kept in shape and he knew that he could apparate over and break Ron's neck in eight places before the wanker's wards even recognized an intruder.

But then Hermione burrowed closer into his side, as if sensing his murderous desire, and he forgot that thought. What was most important right now was the young woman crying into his shirt. He ran his hand through her hair, finding it surprisingly soft, and hushed her soothingly as he had hushed his own children not too many years ago. "Just let it out, it's okay."

"Don't…leave me." She pleaded, closer to the mark than perhaps even she realized.

"I'm not going anywhere," He promised, and meant it.

She cried for hours, and when she ran out of tears she went on sobbing those awful choking hiccoughs that tore at the listener's soul, until she finally fell asleep in his arms. Harry didn't move an inch, or say a word, except to rub her back and remind her that he was still there. She didn't sleep for long, and when she awoke she rubbed her eyes and hissed at the contact with her swollen one. "Is Ginny home?" She asked hoarsely, having sobbed her vocal chords away, as she dabbed gingerly at the swollen flesh.

He took her hand and squeezed it, gently removing it from her injury. "No," He replied softly. "She's playing a tournament in America."

Hermione sniffled. "Good. I don't want her to see me like this." She looked away, and Harry could sense rather than see the new tears welling. "I don't want you to see me like this either."

He took her chin in his hand and gently turned her head towards him. "Then let's get you fixed up," He suggested, drawing his wand. "I promise my healing charms have improved." She smiled at that. It looked painful.

"There, good as new." His voice rang with a hollow cheerfulness, trying to bolster her spirits and her own and failing miserably. He didn't keep it up. "What happened, Hermione?"

She swallowed heavily and stalled for a moment under the pretence of checking his handiwork. "I guess you know Ron lost his job last week," She began when her excuse lost the last of its credibility.

Harry did know; Ron had been implicated in a huge misconduct scandal within the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and had been fired very publicly. He had denied the allegations strenuously, but in his less charitable moments Harry wasn't so sure. He had heard Ron's boastful stories, and he knew that his friend cut corners everywhere. He was an impressively bad Auror, really, but Harry would never tell him that to his face.

"Ever since then, he hasn't been the man I married." Hermione continued. "All he does is drink and eat, and listen to Quidditch on the wireless. Last night, I'd had enough.

"I told him he was being childish, that he would overcome this, and that he should go out and look for another job. He told me he was happier without one." She smiled thinly. "I might have lost my temper after that."

"I guess he did too."

She nodded. "I said some not-very-nice things, but the next thing I know he's standing over me with his fists up, and then you were picking me up off the floor."

She looked in danger of crying again, so Harry held her tightly against himself. "You can't go back."

"I know," She responded. "But I have to."

"Hermione, no!" He almost shouted, and kicked himself when she flinched away. "I still remember some of the psychology we did in Auror training; you and I both know that if he did it once, he'll do it again."

She smiled thinly again. "I know, and I know I'm falling into every pattern in the book, but the man I married is still in there. I have to believe I can get him back."

Harry shook his head. "No. Stay here for as long as you need, forever if you like. Just don't go back."

She kissed him on the cheek, but still got up. She was shaky, as though she was unsure how to use her legs, but she waved him back when he moved to hold her. "Thank you for the offer, but it's time for me to go home."

"Why?" He demanded, angry despite himself. "You know he'll do it again; every abuser does. Why do you think he'll be the exception?"

She paused, and half-turned so he could see the fresh tears rolling silently down her cheeks. "Because I made a choice, and so did you, and that's the way it is."

"It doesn't have to be."

She smiled again. It was a sad smile, a far-away smile that told more in a moment than Harry would know in his entire life. "I'm sorry, Harry." And she was gone.

Until the next time, and the time after that, and the time after that…

Really, it was inevitable that one day Ginny would be home.