|SIYE Time:12:33 on 26th September 2017|
The Space Between
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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/AB, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Fluff, General, Humor, Tragedy
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Rape, Sexual Situations, Spouse/Adult/Child Abuse, Violence, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry and Ginny's lives have finally evened out. They've faced trauma, and loss, more than most have, but they've fought hard to find a normal.
If only things could stay that way... Old enemies find new ways to seek revenge.
This story is the sequel to Bound. It would be extremely helpful if you read that first.
Warnings are to be safe. It's probably overkill. Please message me if you have any questions or concerns.
Hitcount: Story Total: 72732; Chapter Total: 2570
Awards: View Trophy Room
IMPORTANT! My second book releases on April 9th! If you wanted to get a copy for pre-order, it's still 60% off right now. (if you're reading this past 2015 you've missed it!) Links to my books are in my profile.
Thank you Arnel!!!
REVIEW peeps! I received some really great reviews and it spurred me to writing this chapter faster. You make a difference.
Oh, and please PLEASE check out the free preview for my book! I write here on SIYE for free, but paying the bills is lovely, too.
Harry and his crew was met at the gates of Hogwarts by Hagrid, who assured him straight off that Al was okay and was currently sitting in Neville’s office with his friends, waiting to be questioned.
“He held up,” Hagrid said as he led the group of Aurors and the Minister around the lake. “He kept his cool. Well, he would. He’s your kid. Rose is upset, though.”
“What happened?” Harry asked as he tried to match the half-giant’s long strides through the grass past Hagrid’s cabin and towards the lake.
Hagrid glanced back and slowed a bit. “From what I got from the kids, they were taking a walk before dinner and found the body in the bushes. Nat says she smelled it, or summit’ like that. I was closest, so Scorpius came to get me and I alerted the rest of the staff. It’s a right mess, too.”
“Any idea who it might be?” Kingsley questioned as he came up along Hagrid’s other side.
“Nat says it’s a white male,” Hagrid shrugged. “She says he’s not a teenager, but couldn’t tell his age without some kind of ray.”
X-ray, Harry surmised. “Okay, did she say anything else?”
“Uh,” Collins butted in. “Are we talking about a student?”
“This is the one who has the father that studies bodies,” Harry reminded the other man and saw them all nod in understanding. “Is the body in bad shape?”
“It’s not really a body anymore,” Hagrid told them sadly. “Tell the truth, I had no idea what I was looking at at first. The smell gave it away, though. You know what I mean.”
“I do,” Harry agreed coldly as they made their way around the lake to the group of professors he could see off in the distance.
The next hour was spent in a routine that was familiar and yet never quite the same twice. Harry’s scan of the body was cursory. The smell was horrible. It was that dead, cloying, rotting stink that could bring bile to his throat even after all this time. The skin had liquefied and was sunk around the body. Maggots were everywhere, crawling over and feasting on the desiccated flesh. Pictures were taken, notes were transcribed, and arrangements were made to transfer the body back to St. Mungo’s.
Professor McGonagall and Neville waited for him off towards the edge of the crime scene while he issued final instructions to his men and conferred with the Minister.
Wearily, he walked over to the professors. “I need to see the kids, now. Kingsley?”
“Yes,” he said in his deep voice as he marched along beside him. “I can’t stay much longer, but I want to hear this for myself.”
“They’re in my office,” Neville told him. “Harry… how did this happen?”
“I wish I knew,” Harry sighed in exhaustion as they made their way up to the castle. He ignored the small faces that peered out at him from the windows and concentrated on every footstep as he made his way to his friend’s office, the office that used to belong to Professor Sprout.
Neville pushed open the door and Harry took in the scene quickly. Scorpius leaned up against one of the walls, his hands in his pockets. His pale face was deathly white, and his hair was slightly disheveled. Al sat on the edge of the desk while Nat and Rose sat in the chairs that Neville had for his students.
They all spun at the adults’ entrance and like a shot, Rose was up and out of her seat, throwing herself into his arms, sobbing hysterically. “Uncle Harry!”
“Hey,” he knelt and pressed her close, soothing his hand over her bushy hair and kissing the crown of her head. “It’s okay, Rosie. You’re okay. I’ve got you.”
Twelve she might be, but she was still his niece and his goddaughter. He’d kissed her tiny cheek the day she was born, had protected her all her life, and he would gladly lay down his life for her. He loved her more than she’d ever understand. She was the child of his best friends, and he held on until she’d pulled herself back together again.
“S-sorry,” she whispered, embarrassed as she swiped the tears from her flushed face.
Harry cupped her thin cheeks and implored her brown eyes to meet his straight on. She looked so much like her mother at that moment that it was like being thrown back in time by a Time-Turner. “You have nothing to be sorry about, do you hear me? That was a horrible thing to go through and there is no shame in crying, all right?”
Rose nodded and led him lead her back to the seat while Minerva conjured up a couple more chairs.
Harry held out a hand to Draco’s son, who eyed him nervously. “You must be Scorpius.”
“Yes, sir,” the boy agreed politely and gave him a firm shake.
“I wish I was meeting you under better circumstances,” Harry smiled sadly. “Please have a seat. Everyone knows the Minister, except Nat. Natalie Parker, this is Minister Shacklebolt.”
Kingsley held out his hand to the little girl and she shook it.
“Use my seat,” Neville offered Harry.
As soon as he sat across from the kids, he studied them closely. The boys looked like they were on the verge of throwing up. Rose was still hot with embarrassment and fear, but Harry saw Al take her hand and give it a squeeze. She shot her cousin a grateful glance. Of anyone, Nat looked the most composed.
“Please tell me what happened,” Harry instructed gently.
The children looked at each other, and it was Al that answered. His son’s cheeks stained pink as he gazed at him, shame faced. “Dad… I told them about the poison and about why Hope died.”
Harry stared at his son, trying to decide exactly what that meant, but he needn’t have bothered. Al’s eyes clearly begged understanding and mercy. “I see.”
“I know you said not to talk about it,” Al went on bleakly. “I just couldn’t keep it in anymore and… I blurted out that you’d been poisoned.”
His son, his quiet, serious little boy… not so little anymore. He’d told him plainly what he’d said to his friends, and from all of the children’s expressions, none of them had heard more. No one looked guilty, and Rose would have. “That’s understandable, Al. I’m sure it’s been on your mind.”
“He said it right before the bell for classes,” Nat went on, sitting forward in her seat as her swing of strawberry blonde hair, fell around her shoulders. She absently pulled a tie from her wrist and pulled the mess of hair up and away from her face. “We went on a walk around the lake so he could explain properly, without anyone overhearing. He told us how you were poisoned in the hospital and that’s… that’s…” her eyes were overly bright as she paused. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Potter.”
He nodded in appreciation, even as his gut clenched involuntarily. “Please, go on.”
“I smelled it first,” Nat admitted quietly, nervously. “I know that smell, although I’m not around it often, but it’s the sort of thing that a person doesn’t forget, you know? There is this body farm in America that… well, never mind that. I know the smell. The body looks to be at least a week dead, and I looked at the soil carefully around the body and I think that it had to have been placed there, and not died there. The ground around the body didn’t look right. It wasn’t trampled or covered in the fluids like I’ve seen at other body dumps.” She shot Rose an apologetic nod. “I’m sorry, Rose. I know it’s awful. If I hadn’t seen it all my life…”
“Tell me about the victim,” Harry gently steered her back on topic. “Age?”
“I don’t know,” Nat shook her head. “I’d say definitely more than twenty. I’d possibly say closer to forty, but I can’t tell without x-rays of the teeth. There was too much flesh, still, and I’m not that good at it. He’s definitely a man. The skull was clean enough that I could tell by the brow ridge and… I can’t explain it, but I’m pretty sure he’s white. He wasn’t a tall man, and from the amount of flesh still around him, I would say he was probably fairly thin, but that’s also a guess because scavengers could have got after him. I saw a…” Nat paused and glanced at the Minister nervously, before turning back to Harry. “Can I tell you everything right now?”
Understanding, Harry nodded. “The Minister is a good friend, one I trust implicitly. He’s been informed of your gift and is helping to ensure your safety.”
“He has a green aura around him,” Nat admitted quietly. “I don’t understand it. I’ve never seen that type of thing, but there’s this green… it’s like that slime green on- no, wait. You wouldn’t know of that television show. It was…”
Horror filled Harry. He glanced at Kingsley and saw the same disgust and recognition on his old friend’s face. Kingsley cleared his throat meaningfully. “That’s extremely helpful, Miss Parker. I think that will give us the leads we need. I’m sure this is difficult–”
“It isn’t, actually,” Nat interrupted him in her quiet, but insistent voice. “That’s not my first body. It’s not even the worst I’ve seen.” Rose squeaked in horror, but Nat appeared not to notice as she continued on. “I may not want to do this as a profession, but I know that I’m helpful in this instance and if I can be of assistance, I will be.”
“Nat…” Al shook his head. “You don’t have to put on a brave face on this one. We all hated it.”
“I hate it,” Nat agreed as she turned to Harry’s son. “I hate murder and I hate the violence. Someone killed that man and that’s what I hate, but death and decay? That’s natural. It’s a part of life. It’s only the bodies of babies that really get to me.”
Minerva’s quick exhalation was the only sound in the room. Harry stared at the remarkably stoic girl sitting across the desk from him and had to marvel at the unbending steel he saw in her. She wasn’t hard. She wasn’t cynical. She was a bizarre mixture of realist and optimist.
Definitely the strangest kid he’d ever met.
The door banged open, making everyone jump. Harry was on his feet, raising his wand, only to freeze when he saw Draco Malfoy positively vibrating with fury in the doorway.
Scorpius swore under his breath, so softly that Harry assumed he was the only one who heard it.
“Malfoy,” Harry gave him a tight smile. “We aren’t quite done yet, but will be in a moment.”
“My son,” Draco drawled quietly as he stepped into the room. “Will not be questioned without my presence. Am I understood?”
“Father,” Scorpius shot his dad an annoyed glare. “I can do this without you.”
Draco gave him a quelling look, which shut Scorpius up. Harry rarely ever saw his former classmate lose his cool. Apparently he could with his son, because his son had fear on his face. He had to stop himself from hexing him on the spot. No one’s kid should quail like that. Vivid flashes of Uncle Vernon danced before his eyes, taunting him.
“I want my son transferred from that house. The people he is associating with are clearly exposing him to dangerous —” Draco’s cool tirade was cut off by Harry’s burst of laughter.
“You’re worried about what’s he’s exposed to?” Harry blurted out, caught between amusement and incredulity.
Draco’s mouth firmed imperceptibly. “I’ve paid my debt to society, Potter. I do not owe you anything.” It was said carefully, with a lot of meaning behind the words.
Somehow, Draco had worked out just how Hope had come to exist and he’d told Harry that he knew. They’d come to an agreement that they were even, with Draco’s silence about Harry’s daughter’s conception, and for Harry saving Narcissa from going to jail.
Harry nodded slowly. “I appreciate that you want to ensure your son’s wellbeing, but this matter cannot be discussed with you present.” He stepped out from behind the desk and gestured Draco out into the hallway. Harry was reasonably certain that he’d have refused if the Minister hadn’t been standing behind him, brooking no argument.
They exited and Harry shut the door, casting a charm on it so no one inside would hear them.
“That’s my son,” Draco hissed meaningfully, pointing at the door.
“I know,” Harry turned to him, rubbing at the ache forming behind his temples. “It’s my son, as well as my niece. I’m fully aware of just how this feels. I’m not legally allowed to discuss this case with you presently, or I would allow you to be there. Your conviction means that, even though he is your son, you cannot be privy to any sensitive details to an ongoing investigation.”
His gray eyes narrowed briefly. He considered Harry for another moment. “I want to speak to my son.”
“We’ll be done soon,” Harry retorted as calmly as he could manage. If the roles were reversed, he’d have wanted to be with Al, and he understood the impotence that Draco had to be feeling at that exact moment. Until he’d become a parent, he’d never quite gotten just how far someone would go to protect a child. He’d done everything he could to protect Hope, and it hadn’t been enough to save her. He’d not failed with Teddy, nor with James, Al or Lily. He faced his former enemy and tried to explain. “I’m not going to hurt your son, or endanger him in any way. I simply need to question him on the events today, and then he is free to go. I will treat your son with the same level of concern as I treat my own.”
Draco’s shoulders stiffened and it was the only visible reaction the other man had. Harry could see the turmoil written clearly over his pale face. He loved his child. He clearly cared, and Harry could imagine that Draco hearing about a dead body being found on the grounds had scared Draco into coming here.
Harry also knew, without a doubt, that Draco had no idea how to reach Scorpius and Draco’s own lack of a positive role model meant he was failing spectacularly at parenting his child. He would have been in the same boat with his children, if not for Arthur Weasley. He glanced down the empty corridor, past suits of armor that quickly snapped back to attention, like they hadn’t been eaves-dropping on the conversation, and saw one of the ghosts float out of the wall, cross the hall, and go through another.
“All right,” Draco replied finally. This time he was fully in control of himself. “I want to speak to my son when you’re done with him.”
“It won’t be much longer,” Harry assured him as he removed the charms he’d placed on the door. This scene reminded Harry that even though he’d be getting a much louder interrogation just as soon as he was back at the Ministry and Hermione tracked him down.
Scorpius regarded Mr. Potter carefully as he came back through the door, without his father, thank Merlin. As soon as Harry sat, Scorpius took up the story. “Nat said she smelled something and she went to look and then we all saw the body. I wanted to vomit.”
“Understandable, Mr. Malfoy,” Professor McGonagall assured him.
He nodded at the old Headmistress in thanks. “Then Nat told us to back up so we didn’t contaminate anything and she sent me to get Hagrid. Rose was crying and Al was trying to get her to calm down.”
“Sorry…” Rose sniffed.
Scorpius huffed out a short laugh. “I wanted to cry, Rose! It was revolting. I might have if Nat hadn’t sent me off.”
“Me, too,” Al added helpfully with a wink for his cousin. “I wanted to cry.”
Rose gave a watery giggle.
“So, I got Hagrid and that’s the end of it. Nat told the teachers what she knew and Professor Longbottom brought us up here and asked us to wait,” Scorpius finished and sat back in his seat.
Mr. Potter turned to the Minister. “Did you have anything else?”
“Just one question,” the Minister said slowly. “Was anyone around when you found the body?”
Scorpius thought about it. “I think there were a couple of prefects up by the Quidditch pitch and two seventh years snogging further down the lake. We weren’t going much father because we didn’t want to disturb them.”
“Yeah,” Rose nodded fervently. “I didn’t see anyone else.”
“All right,” Harry stood. “You may go. Scorpius, your father wants a word with you. He’d waiting in the corridor.”
Scorpius’ heart sank.
His father stood rigidly outside the door and immediately ushered him down into an empty classroom, where he shut the door and spun slowly to face him.
The story of Scorpius’ life. He shoved his hands in his pockets and eyed his father warily. “I didn’t kill anyone.”
“I want you to in Slytherin.”
Also the story of Scorpius’ life. “That ship has sailed, Dad,” Scorpius sighed. “Can’t you just disown me? It’d be simpler that way. Try for a better son next time.”
“Scorpius!” He glanced up in time to see his father’s outrage. “I do not want to disown you. I just want you to behave in a way that does not besmirch the Malfoy name.”
That was rich. Scorpius didn’t say it, though. His father would explode all over him for reminding him of his past. “I’m doing the best I can.”
“I don’t want you to be friends with Potter or that mu-” thankfully he cut himself off or Scorpius would have had to hex Draco and he wasn’t quite adept enough to get away with it yet.
Scorpius met his father’s eyes straight on. They looked so much alike, a lot like Al and his dad. The difference was that Al was a lot like his father, while Scorpius only looked like his dad. It was a pity, too. It shot up any hope Scorpius had that his mum had played his dad false and they weren’t actually related. “I’m never going to be who you want me to be and I don’t care to try. You don’t have to like my friends, but I’m not ditching them to make you happy. I’ll see you at the summer hols unless you send word that I’m to go live with Aunt Daphne.”
“I’m not through with you!” Draco bellowed as Scorpius made his way to the door.
He paused and let the hurt that had him in its grasp run through him. “You were through with me the second you realized I wasn’t the son you wanted me to be, Father.” Scorpius pushed the door open and walked through.
He found his three friends waiting for him.
Nat hugged him briefly, same with Rose.
“Come on,” Al clapped him on the shoulder.
He didn’t turn around to see if his dad was watching. He didn’t need to. He could feel the hate that was aimed at his back.
Ginny would have paced with Hermione except that one of them had to be calm and sensible and it was, apparently, Ginny’s turn.
“He’ll be back soon,” Ginny held out the glass of water to Hermione. “He’d have said if the kids were hurt.”
Hermione’s hands shook so badly that the water sloshed everywhere. She was in enough of a state that she didn’t even notice. “A body?” she moaned for the millionth time that hour. “Where the hell is Ron?”
Ginny bit back a retort. If she was swearing, then Hermione was in no fit state to be reasonable. “He’s upstairs with Lily and Hugo, remember? He’s keeping them entertained while we wait for Harry to get back from Hogwarts.”
“Harry’s probably at the Ministry,” Hermione turned to march towards the fireplace, the water glass still clutched tightly between her white fingers. “I can track him down there.”
“Or you can wait here,” Ginny grabbed her arm to stop her. “If you go into the Ministry looking like a crazed lunatic, they’re going to fire you.”
Hermione rounded on her, red faced and close to tears. “How can you be so calm!?”
Ginny moved over to pull her sister-in-law into a hard hug. “Because Harry will make sure they’re safe, Hermione. That’s what he does. You know that.”
“You’re right,” Hermione sighed after a moment as she ran a hand through her messy curls. “I’m having a massive meltdown over this. How did our parents stand this?”
“We didn’t tell them,” Ron reminded her as he jogged down the stairs. “We kept everything to ourselves. Personally, I prefer hearing about what my kid is up to.”
Ginny had to agree with her brother. “Are they asleep?”
“Yeah,” Ron confirmed as he slumped down onto the couch, his long legs sticking straight out in front of him as he threw an arm over his eyes. “They’re curled up on Lily’s bed, so I left them there. We might leave Hugo for the night. I’ll put him in Al’s bed after he’s been asleep for a while.”
“That’s fine,” Ginny agreed easily. He’d be back the next morning first thing anyway. She studied Ron’s tired eyes and knew that the same anxiety she was feeling was running through her brother. “Does it feel like something is starting?”
Ron’s easy grin flashed briefly. “Not really, but only because I’m not sure it ever stopped.”
“A fair point,” Hermione murmured as she went to sit with Ron. She curled into his side as he draped an arm around her and kissed the crown of her head.
Ginny wished like hell that Harry was home, so she’d have someone to lean on. Almost as though he was reading her mind, Ron held out his other arm and with a short laugh, she went to lean on his other side.
Sometimes her older brother wasn’t a complete prat. She was really thankful that right now was one of them as she rested on him. Ginny closed her eyes, for a moment, just to try to block out some of the fear.
The next thing Ginny knew, someone was gently shaking her shoulder. “Hmmm?” she groaned softly and blinked her eyes open to see Harry kneeling in front of her. “Huh?”
“You fell asleep,” Harry told her quietly. “Ron?” he poked his best mate in the chest. “Come on, it’s almost midnight.”
“Rose!” Hermione’s eyes flew open as she groped for Harry’s hand. “Is she okay?”
Harry nodded as he squeezed her hand. “I saw her myself, Hermione. I gave her a hug and everything. She’s okay. It was scary and shocking, but she’ll be fine. They weren’t in any danger.”
“Tell me what happened?” Ginny demanded quietly, then listened in stunned silence as he related the details back to her.
Harry paced around the living room in his best Muggle suit and tried to bury the nausea. He glared at Teddy, who was laughing at him from the sofa while he demolished an entire pack of crisps. He was also in a suit, and he looked a lot like his father at the moment.
“Shut it,” Harry griped as he surreptitiously tried to flatten his hair.
“It didn’t work,” Teddy said around a mouthful of crisps.
Harry flopped down next to him and stuck his hand into the crinkling bag. “What could be taking so long?”
“You’re asking me?” Teddy chortled with an elbow in the ribs. “Victoire takes an hour to do anything. I’ve given up trying to understand them.”
“Ginny doesn’t usually take this long,” Harry reminded him. “Throw on jeans and pull her hair up in a tail with that thing. What’s it called?”
Teddy shot him a baleful look. “You’re a mess. This is sweet, and all, but it’s just Lily. It isn’t like she’s going to turn her nose up at you.”
“It’s her first date,” Harry reminded him. “I’m setting a stage and damn it, Teddy, I never went on any successful dates until after I was married!”
“That’s sad on so many levels,” his godson remarked dryly.
His annoyed glare only made Teddy laugh. “You’re cool as a slug.”
“Why shouldn’t I be?” Teddy pointed out evenly. “I’m secure in Ginny’s love for me, and I know she and I will have a great time. Plus, this isn’t my first date with her.”
Harry compressed his lips and jumped to his feet again, needing to pace some more. His insides were all churned up over this. Bill had introduced the idea of taking his daughters out on special dates to help show them how they were supposed to be treated. Harry had loved the idea, but now that the time had come… “I want her to have really high expectations.”
“Holy Hippogriff, Harry, you have got to calm down. Go take a shot of fire-whisky or something.”
“You were this nervous on your first date with Victoire,” Harry reminded him flatly. “I thought you were going to puke.”
“But Lily is ten,” Teddy reminded him. “Also, I wasn’t worried about the date. I was worried about Bill flattening me. Ginny had already walked me through how to be a gentleman. I had that bit down. If you haven’t figured that out by now, there’s no help for you.”
“Cheeky kid,” Harry rejoined sourly. “I don’t know about this.” There were serious concerns to their safety. They had no new leads on finding Crabbe and no idea what she was up to or any leads on the body that they’d found the week before at Hogwarts. Their best guess was that the older gentleman was a Muggle. Because of his security concerns, he was driving Lily to a Muggle restaurant three towns over and not to one of the wizarding-run establishments that he could have made reservations for. Teddy was taking Ginny to Diagon Alley to a place just down from George’s shop that one of Ginny’s classmates owned. It was upscale eating compared to The Leaky Cauldron.
“Harry?” Ginny’s voice floated down the stairs and he spun to see Lily in a pale blue dress that floated down to her calves. Her bright red hair was up in a sort of bun with riotous curls spiraling down and around her shoulders. Her cheeks were flushed and her brown eyes bright with nerves and excitement.
“Lily…” he breathed out her name and felt his fear fade. He could do this, Harry decided as he moved over to meet her at the bottom step. He stooped to kiss her cheek and take her hands. “You look beautiful, Lily-Lu.”
“Thank you, Daddy,” she grinned up at him as he escorted her over to the corsage he’d bought especially for the occasion.
Harry drove them the twenty minutes to the next town. He kept glancing in the rear view mirror at her, strapped in her booster seat as per the Muggle laws in Britain. She didn’t technically need one. He’d never let the car crash. Arthur Weasley had made too many modifications to the car for that to happen, but it still was prudent to keep up the pretense in case a Muggle policeman happened to pull him over.
“Where are we going?” Lily asked him as she sat very still in her fancy party dress.
“It’s a surprise,” Harry told her with a grin. “But, they do have all your favorite foods there.”
He pulled into the parking lot and heard her excited squeal. “Indian?! Oh, Mummy is going to be so jealous.”
Before she could open her door, Harry was out and pulled it open for her, holding out his hand. “Ladies sit and wait for their dates, Lily.”
Lily giggled. “I’m no lady.”
“True,” he said as he clicked the fob that would lock the BMW and pocketed the key. Hand in hand they went into the restaurant and into the heavenly smells of curry and warm spices.
“Do you have a reservation?” asked the Indian man with midnight hair so dark it was almost blue, at the front asked.
“Potter,” Harry told him. “Table for two.”
“Ah, yes,” the man nodded as he scanned the book. “Please, right this way.”
The moment they were seated, Harry took Lily’s hand and squeezed gently. “Happy birthday, Sweetheart.” He felt so unbelievably blessed to be sitting with her, to see her bright smile and be in the aura of her joy and innocence.
“This is the best birthday surprise,” Lily informed him as she looked around. “I need to turn ten more often.”
“Any time you want a date,” Harry told her evenly, “You just ask. If I can’t, Teddy would love to take you out. I think he’s lonely without Victoire.”
“Are they getting married?” Lily asked him curiously as the waiter brought over wine for Harry and water for Lily.
Harry shrugged. “I don’t know. I know you’d like it, but they’re still very young.”
“But sometimes people get married young,” Lily replied as she took a sip over her water and set the glass down carefully. “Maybe they will, too. I want Teddy to be part of our family.”
“Lily…” Harry studied her small face carefully. “Is he your brother, just as much as James and Al?”
She nodded as a small pink tinged her cheeks. “Yeah, but other people don’t see it that way.”
“I don’t care what other people think,” he said quietly. “We’ll always be talked about, and we can’t control what they’re saying about us. We can control how we react, and I don’t want to go along with the crowd. We have choices and I say Teddy is already a part of our family.”
Lily nodded absently and worried at her bottom lip.
“What’s the matter?” Harry asked carefully as he set the menu aside.
“People don’t always have good families,” Lily said as she stared down into her lap. “You didn’t have a good family, right?”
Harry felt his insides freeze over as he watched the storm clouds gather on her face. “My mum and dad were great, Lily, but no, my aunt and uncle weren’t good people. Gran and Grandad were amazing and they made me feel loved and accepted. Even if I hadn’t fallen in love with Mummy, I’d have always had them as my family.”
“Okay,” she nodded after a minute and gave him a small smile. “Let’s eat.”
But her comment nagged at him the entire rest of the evening and by the time he was back home and changing from his date, he was itching to discuss it with Ginny.
His wife, however, wasn’t completely surprised. “She’s been worrying about Scorpius, if you can believe it.”
Harry sat heavily on the edge of their bed, his tie held limply in his hand. “She’s got a right to worry there. Draco was fuming when I met up with him at Hogwarts. Scorpius is afraid of his dad, although I don’t think he’s physically abusing him. It’s more that he’s not good enough in Draco’s eyes.”
Ginny sat next to him and saved the tie he was mangling. “I think it’s going to make him stronger. We can’t protect him from that, Harry. We can only give him a break when he wants it. I met up with Draco’s wife last week in Madam Malkin’s when I was getting new robes.”
“What?” Harry blinked in surprise. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because it wasn’t a big deal,” she soothed as she stood and started to remove the pins from her hair. Harry watched the tendrils fall with absolute fascination and had to force himself to pay attention to her words. “She told me that she was happy our sons are friends and if she can, she’ll let Scorpius come this summer. I understood that she had to work around Draco and she didn’t need to state it out loud. I was actually glad for that ruddy Ministry ball.”
“The what?” he shook his head, sure he’d heard her incorrectly.
Ginny shot him the look that spoke volumes without her uttering a single sound. “You are useless. You know that, right?”
He couldn’t help but chuckle as he pushed to his feet and strode over to wrap her in his arms and bend to kiss her neck. “We’re going to a ball?”
“Yes, you daft git! You’re getting an award since it’s the twentieth anniversary of the final battle coming up.”
Harry groaned. “How did I miss this?”
“I think I was naked when I told you about it.”
“Ah,” he smiled lazily as he started to work the buttons loose at the back of her gown. “Well, you can’t fault a man for being distracted.”
“Nat?” Al said as they made their way back up to the tower to drop their bags before dinner. Rose and Scorpius both had to stay after in Transfiguration after they’d somehow turned every scrap of parchment into feathers and Professor Lucas decided to make them clean them up by hand.
“Hm?” Nat glanced up at him confused. “I’m sorry, Al, were you saying something?”
Al sighed and shook his head. “You’ve been distracted for days.”
“Exams,” Nat waved it off. “I want to do well, you know.”
They fell into an uncomfortable silence as they continued to walk. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” she confirmed with an easy smile. “I’m–”
“Natty-gnat!” the voice of Peeves rang through the hallways ahead of them.
“Oh, no,” Al groaned and tried to think of how they could duck out of the corridor.
The poltergeist flew above them, cackling happily as Nat stared up at him blankly. He taunted her, all the time, but she never reacted. Al had no idea how and Peeves seemed to think of it as a personal challenge. “Natty-gnat, tinier than a rabid bat!”
“Clever,” Nat drawled evenly. Al had to pull her out of the way as Peeves tried to drop a book on her head.
“Get stuffed, Peeves!” Al bellowed, finally getting annoyed.
“Peeves doesn’t really rhyme with anything but ‘grieves’ and ‘leaves’,” Nat mused as she continued to make her way down the hall. “I guess we could say ‘No one grieves when Peeves leaves’, but it doesn’t really have a catchy tune to go along with it.”
“Tiny little gnat!” Peeves blew a raspberry at her and flew off into the ceiling.
Al eyed his retreat with concern. “We should move in case he comes back.”
“I hate being called gnat,” Nat shrugged her shoulders, unseated her book bag and nearly tripped when it slid to the floor.
He snatched it up and slung it over his own shoulder. “That’s your name, though.”
“No, g-n-a-t,” she sighed. “I am tiny like a gnat. It’s an unfortunate coincidence.”
“You don’t look like one, though,” Al said as he tried to cheer her up.
“I guess,” Nat mumbled. “I used to want to have people call me Leah, ‘cause that’s my middle name. You know, nothing rhymes with Leah, it’s just lee-uhhhh,” Nat drew it out.
Al studied her as they moved to the portrait hole. “I can call you Leah, if you’d like.”
“It’s okay,” Nat stopped at the Fat Lady. “I don’t need people confused as to what they call me.”
“When it’s just us, then,” Al grinned as he patted her shoulder.
“Password,” the Fat Lady asked with a huff.
“Dragon dung,” Al and Nat said together and she swung open.
They walked in on James having a row with the new girl, Caroline. Her blonde hair tumbled down around her red face as they squared off against each other.
“Oh, yeah!?” James bellowed straight into her face.
“Yes!” Caroline shouted back. “I don’t need your help!”
“You!” James growled and to Al’s horror, he saw the girl step back in fear. Nat gasped, but his brother was too furious to see what he’d done.
Al dropped the bags and sprang forward, pushing his brother away from the girl. “Stop it!”
“Leave off, Al!” James shoved him back a pace, but Al came right back again.
“Go cool off!” Al moved straight into James’ face, eye to eye, until his brother truly focused on him.
James took a deep breath and stepped back from Al. He shot Caroline a furious glare. “Fine,” he said as he stormed off out of the portrait hole.
Al turned to see Nat standing with Caroline who was shaken and on the verge of tears. “I’m sorry, for whatever he did,” he told the girl. “I didn’t think my brother could be that big of a prat.”
Caroline shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. Thanks, Al, Nat. I was…”
“It’s okay,” Nat took her arm. “Come on, let’s go up for a bit.” Nat shot him a very clear look that telegraphed that he was to go away.
“I’ll see you later,” Al stuck their bags out of the way and he, too, made his way out the portrait hole. He couldn’t believe what he’d just seen. He’d never seen James that angry, especially not with a girl. If there was anything his dad had pounded into their heads it was that they were never to hit or hurt a girl and yet…
A small noise from an empty classroom drew Al’s attention as he moved over to peer in. James kicked the leg of a desk.
“What the ruddy hell was that?” Al demanded as he walked in and shut the door behind him. “You scared her!”
James spun slowly to stare at him. “I didn’t scare her. She’s too annoyed to be scared.”
“You scared her,” Al argued back. “I saw her flinch, James! I can’t believe you’d scare a girl. What is wrong with you?”
James’ face paled slowly, but she shut his mouth and shook his head. “Get off it, Al. I’m not discussing it with you.”
“You’re not discussing it with me?” Al stepped towards his brother and pulled on every ounce of courage he could muster. “You stay away from her, James, or I’ll make you sorry. You don’t treat girls like that. There’s no excuse for it.”
James’ shoulders sagged and he pushed past Al, leaving him alone in the ringing silence of the classroom.
Al stared off at the retreating dark head and had to fight the urge to write to his parents. He wasn’t a snitch. He needed Louis. If anyone would know what was up with James, it would be his cousin.
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