|SIYE Time:12:31 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: 72704; Chapter Total: 2234
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thank you, Arnel, for beta'ing!
Also, please PLEASE check my author's profile to find my original stories for sale. Pretty please!!! :D
Despite the fact that James didn’t want Harry to speak to Caroline’s parents about being abused, now that he was alerted to the possibility, he had to take action. Harry notified Hermione, who ran the staffing on those sorts of issues. It came back to Harry that the child and her sister had been removed from their previous home because of the death of their mother and suspected abuse, although no charges were filed. Interviews had been conducted in the home when the children had first arrived in England, but someone would visit again to do a wellness check.
That duty dispelled, Harry dove back into trying to figure out why Natalie had been taken. He’d hoped, at first, that the poison she’d been given would give him an inkling as to what Isabella Crabbe might be up to, but that ran dry. It was a little known poison in Europe, but common in South America because the ingredients were more readily available.
After weeks of fruitless searching, and no new leads, Harry had to table to investigation. It was frustrating to no end.
Nat was still on a feeding line, but she had been well enough after a week that her mum had gone back to work. The addition of their newest member, the house-elf Polly, had made the load of having Nat there not only do-able, but easy. Ginny was free from cooking or cleaning, and Polly was clearly enjoying being with a family. When Harry had contacted Minerva to ask about a house-elf, Polly had jumped at the chance. She was refusing to be paid, which stuck in his craw, but she so obviously enjoyed what she was doing that it didn’t leave him feeling too guilty.
This left Harry at odds with himself. He had no reason to put off reading his mother’s letters except that part of him was still strangely reluctant.
James, however, was going to stage a protest if he didn’t soon.
So, on a clear evening in mid-July, Harry took the bundle out to the bench near his daughter’s grave and sat to read.
He unfolded the first one slowly, trying to prolong the inevitable.
I was so thankful to Dumbledore for suggesting that I write to you and I hope you do not mind that I am doing so. I know we were a few years apart in school, but I will always remember how kind you were to me when I was a first year. Now we are in the same position. It has been very lonely here, even though I have James with me. I am used to a fast pace and all of the activities that have been a part of my life since graduation. I am adjusting to being in the house all the time, mostly because I’m too tired to do more than be pregnant. No one told me it would be quite so exhausting. James is restless. He’s worried about me, so it has put him on edge. I don’t know what to say to reassure him. Nothing in our lives is guaranteed.
I do hope that you and Frank are well and that things are smooth with your little one. I know that having to take a sabbatical from the Aurors must be very difficult, even if you are excited about the baby. Do take care and be safe.
Harry stared at the words, the handwriting, the script he could still vividly remember from the first time he’d seen it in Sirius’ room in Grimmauld Place.
With hands that were steadier than he could have imagined, he moved on to the next letter.
Thank you for replying. I’m going spare! James has taken to pacing and I want to throw things at him. This is hormones, right? I’m not turning into a nutter, right? I know what you mean about Frank’s mother, and I’m sorry she is giving you a hard time. Family can be very trying. My parents have both passed now, so it is only my sister and her husband. My sister is trying under the best circumstances, but her husband is unbelievable. I’ve never met someone so narrow-minded! I thought Petunia was difficult. My sister is also having a baby, and I thought we might be able to bond over the experience, but it isn’t happening. She doesn’t want her child exposed to mine, and she’s accused me of trying to upstage her. It’s so ridiculous! I’m sure you’ve guessed, but we didn’t exactly plan for this to happen. I thought James was going to faint when I told him. He was a rock, though. Sirius told me later that he cried when it was just the two of them. He’s very excited now, but the fear of what we’re facing with the world the way it is, is just unbearable sometimes. In a way, though, I’m so very thankful for the baby. I have wanted children and part of me thinks that if we’d waited until a safer time, we might never have had children. Does that sound silly or naïve? Sometimes I feel like that.
Please give Frank my regards. We will be finding out the gender soon. Are you going to find out?
Harry sighed and packed the letters in. He’d read the rest some other time. If he were honest, especially once he’d had children of his own, he’d have bet that he hadn’t been planned. It was difficult to swallow that his birth, not something his parents were looking for, was what set off the chain of events that led to their deaths.
Still, it was rewarding to see this glimpse of his parents. He’d been more than a little panicked when he’d learned, at the age of seventeen, that he was going to be father. Harry glanced to Hope’s grave and felt a small prickle in the corners of his eyes.
“Harry?” Ginny’s voice floated towards him in the darkening evening air. She sat next to him and took his hand. “Are you all right?”
“I’m not sure what I am,” he admitted sadly. “I know I’m tired.”
“About that,” Ginny squeezed his fingers lightly. “We’re leaving.”
He cocked his eyebrow and stared, sure he hadn’t heard her. “Excuse me?”
“I have it all arranged,” she leaned in to lightly brush her lips to his. “I even packed your bag. We’re going to France for the weekend, to that little place on the beach that Bill and Fleur inherited from her parents. We’re not taking the kids.”
Harry eyed her skeptically. “What, exactly, are we going to do with the kids, then?”
“Teddy and Victoire are spending the weekend with them,” Ginny informed him.
“Uh,” he could see several pitfalls with that.
“Teddy is sleeping on the couch, and I told Victoire she could use our bed,” Ginny went on like he hadn’t made a sound. “Victoire already knows how to handle Nat’s needs with her feeding line. Polly will still be here handling the house. Teddy is here for security, but they’re not leaving the grounds. Plus, I spoke to Nat’s mum not even an hour ago, and she’s fine with that plan. Our entire family is close by, Harry. You’re exhausted and so am I. We need to get away. We missed celebrating our anniversary.”
Harry leaned his head against Ginny’s and breathed in her familiar, comforting scent. “I don’t know about this.”
“We’re going,” she replied firmly. “If I have to stun you and drag you along, we’re going. I want to sleep in, drink too much and make love to you without having to lock the damn door. We’re going.”
“Well,” he grinned as his lips moved long her jaw to her neck, “when you put it that way…”
Teddy crossed his arms and glared at his unrepentant godbrother. “Do you really want to do that?”
“What?” James asked innocently, sticking his hands behind his back.
A large snap came from the kitchen and the Dungbomb flew out of James’ hand and into Teddy’s.
“Thanks, Polly,” Teddy told the elf.
“You is welcome,” she called back. “Master James will go to bed now.”
James glared between them before heading off towards the steps.
The moment the house was quiet, Polly excused herself for the tiny room in the cupboard under the stairs. Teddy flopped on the couch and groaned as Victoire curled into his side, wrapping a slender arm around his waist. “Do you think they left us to do this just to cement that we don’t want kids right now?”
Victoire laughed her melodious laugh and kissed the spot on his chest where her head rested. “It wasn’t that bad, you know. At least no one is in diapers.”
“That’s true,” he said with a yawn as he rubbed a hand up and down her arm. “I still can’t believe your parents said you could do this. I thought I was going to be on my own when Ginny suggested it.”
“You really needed me here for Nat’s care, though. Mum was okay with it,” Victoire reminded him. “That usually means it’s going to go that way. Dad’s putty in her hands.”
Teddy couldn’t help the amused grin as he could just picture how that conversation had gone. “That’s how it’s going to be for us, huh?”
“I’ll make sure you’re very happy with losing,” she giggled unrepentantly. “I promise.”
He kissed her, trying not to get too caught up in the moment. It didn’t hurt that he was exhausted. “I am beat! I swear I’ve minded children before, but James was just a rat tonight.”
“He’s hurting,” Victoire murmured. “I can see it in his eyes. I don’t think he knows how to talk about it.”
Teddy shifted a little, trying to pull her in closer. There were a lot of times when he wished he could race through the next few years and start his life with Victoire, but at the moment he was thankful they weren’t completely there yet. It was daunting. “I tried to talk to him. He ran off.”
Her fingers traced a lazy circle on his shirt causing gooseflesh to erupt all down his arms. Teddy sucked in a steadying breath and tried to remind himself that there were four kids upstairs, none of whom were likely asleep yet. He glanced around the spotless living room and let out a low groan. “You’re… really trying to drive me nutters, aren’t you?”
“It’s a perk,” Victoire assured him, silently giggling. “I’ll stop, though.”
He almost regretted it until he heard the faint sound from Victoire’s wand that meant it was time to change Nat’s feeding bag.
“Go on up to bed after you see to that,” he whispered as he kissed her. Teddy would have offered to help, but she’d have turned him down anyway. Victoire was already in school to become a Healer, and she wanted to get as much experience as possible. Unfortunately due to budget cuts, Healer training was now offered only via tuition, so Victoire had needed to take out a loan from the goblins. Bill and Fleur had offered to pay for it, but she’d discussed it with Teddy and they’d decided together that they wanted to try to make it on their own. It felt like the right thing to do. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she purred as she rose gracefully and headed up the stairs.
Teddy watched her go and reflected that it was going to be a long, long weekend. He fluffed up his pillow, grabbed a sheet off the end of the bed, waved his wand at the lights and fell almost instantly to sleep.
The next day Lily talked him into going on a picnic for lunch with food that she’d prepared herself. She even ran it by Victoire, who thought the whole thing was utterly adorable.
Lily had him haul a full hamper while she carried a blanket and they made their way out into the yard to set up away from the house.
The entire time, Teddy couldn’t help but wonder what Lily was up to.
It wasn’t until she’d set everything up, that Lily broke down. “James was crying last night.”
“Oh,” Teddy breathed out the word. “You heard him?”
Lily nodded as her lower lip trembled. “I went in to talk to him, but he told me to beat it.”
For someone as sensitive as Lily, Teddy knew that her brother’s rejection would cut straight to the heart. “James is at a really hard age, Lily-Lu. Plus his head is stuck up his bum.”
“You need to talk to him,” Lily gazed up at him with those big, doe eyes, the exact same color as chocolate, and he knew he was sunk. Just the littlest bit of moisture, and he was a goner. The damnedest thing was Lily had no clue, at all, that she could so easily manipulate the situation around to what she wanted.
“I tried to talk to him,” Teddy told her honestly. “I can’t make him talk.”
Lily’s lips turned into an adorable pout. “Big brothers are hard work! I only have you three, but Mummy had six. How did she manage them?”
Privately, Teddy suspected Ginny did so by sheer force of will. That was just how Ginny was made. She was a powerful witch, with just the hint of a mean temper if someone made her mad. Lily had her moments, but most of the time the child in front of him was like a pixie, flitting happily through her life. “You and your mum aren’t the same people, though. What she did won’t work for you.”
“I guess,” Lily agreed as she glanced off across the yard. “I like having you and Victoire here.”
Her cheeks went a little pink, making the light smattering of freckles stand out even more. “What’s up?”
“Are you two going to get married?” she blurted out quickly.
“I think so,” he smiled easily. “It’s definitely looking like that’s what will happen. It’s what we’ve both wanted for a few years.”
Lily’s smile was absolutely lovely, showing promises of the beauty she was going to be. “I like how you are together. You’re always touching, and hugging, and you pay attention to her! I want that someday.”
“You’re going to have it,” he told her without a moment’s hesitation. “Boys are going to be flocking to you. I don’t have to worry about that, though. James is going to be all over that.”
She scrunched up her nose in thought. “I don’t mind that so much. I know it bothered Mummy, but I think it’s wise to listen to my brothers about the boys around me.”
Teddy’s mouth dropped open. “Seriously?”
“Yeah,” she nodded, lost in thought. “I’m not a boy, so I don’t really know how boys think. If one of you told me a boy was not good for me, I think I’d probably listen. Everyone wants me to be happy, so they’ll try to protect me from someone who is mean.”
He started to speak, stopped, then cleared his throat. “That’s a remarkable way of looking at it.”
“Plus,” she added as her expression fell just a bit. “If I am as beautiful as Nat says I’ll be, then a lot of boys will only want to date me for my looks and I won’t like that. Did you like Victoire because she’s so beautiful?”
“No,” Teddy assured her with absolutely certainty. “I appreciate her beauty, Lily-Lu, but it’s her heart, courage and brains that I fell in love with. If she had only been a pretty face, I wouldn’t have been involved with her.”
This was turning into one of the oddest conversations he’d ever had with anyone. Most girls he knew were extremely independent and insisted on setting their own courses. Lily, despite a mother who was fiercely independent, was forging her own path along a different track.
Reassured, Lily took a bite of her sandwich. “Good! I want people to love me for my heart and not my face.”
“They will,” he said quietly. “You’re so sweet, Lily, that it would be difficult not to appreciate it. But, uh, you do know that most girls don’t want be told what to do, right?”
She shook her long, red hair. “I don’t want to be told what to do, either! I just want advice. I trust everyone around me to give me advice. Even James would know a prat if he saw one, since he’s one himself.”
Teddy burst out laughing, it pealed out until he had to hold his sides. “True.”
“When do you think you’ll get married?”
He almost answered, almost told her that he was currently saving for a ring and hoped to be able to ask her in a few months, but instead he shoved a sandwich in his mouth and left her wondering. He still had a full year of Auror training left, but after that he would be ready to help support her while she finished her schooling. That was the goal.
He’d also been informed, casually but firmly, by Fleur that weddings took a year to plan.
As far as hints went, it was one he knew he was going to need to heed. Or else.
He finally managed to pin James down, almost literally, Sunday morning. Ginny and Harry weren’t due back for several hours, yet, but he wanted to make sure they had enough time.
After shoving James into his bedroom, closing and locking the door magically, he turned to stare into eyes that were the same shade as Lily’s but held none of her innocent joy. “Talk to me.”
“About what?” James fell back on his bed and glared at him.
“You can’t keep this up,” Teddy told him gently as he made himself comfortable at the end of the bed. “I know you’re hurting over what happened to your mum and dad.”
His mouth compressed into a tight line and he glanced away.
“It was rape,” Teddy went on and for once when he spoke about it, he let his feelings show on his face. “Your parents were essentially raped and you’re smart enough and old enough to have figured that out.”
James’ face turned bright red as he flew to his feet and paced across the room. The anger washed off of him in long, rolling waves, filling the room with the heat and oppressiveness. But this was what Teddy was hoping for, so he waited.
“I hate this!” James finally shouted at the top of his lungs. “I hate the whole fucking situation!”
It was the first time he’d ever heard that word come out of James’ mouth, but he let it ride. “Tell me.”
“I just–” James froze as he balled his fists and his entire being vibrated. “We’re never safe! We’re always under lock and key because of Dad and now we have this shitty person trying to harm us, and I can’t have any friends over from school without a lot of planning and…” he swallowed hard. “My mum nearly died because of that bitch and now I have to know that I drove her so crazy, crying all the time, that she nearly died when she was pregnant with Al!”
“Wait a minute!” Teddy sat forward, holding up a hand. “Who told you that? Your mum was not that sick. She just needed bedrest.”
“I heard Aunt Audrey talking about it with Gran,” James muttered as his anger deflated.
“This isn’t your fault,” Teddy informed him quietly. “Do you blame your dad for all the bad stuff that happens to him?”
“No,” James sighed, but Teddy couldn’t tell if he meant it. “I don’t like all the restrictions in our lives.”
Teddy shook his head. “You’re just going to have to suck that up until you’re seventeen, kid. I know that’s hard, but look at it from my point of view. Do you think I liked that my parents were killed when I was an infant? Do you think I like what life dealt me?”
Shame. James’ expression telegraphed it straight out. “No. No, you’re right. I don’t like that my mum gets hurt, though.”
“Your mum is a seriously tough woman,” Teddy reminded him. “She takes care of herself and she chose to be with your dad.” But instantly he knew he’d said the wrong thing.
James’ ire flared right back into life. “She didn’t choose him, though! She had to marry him!”
“She chose him years before they were married,” he retorted with conviction. “The fact that they love each other as much as they do tells me that they were always going to be together. You have to let that one go or it’s going to make you crazy.”
His godbrother continued to pace restlessly around. “There’s this girl at school.”
This, Teddy knew, was another major part of the problem. “Al mentioned her.”
“She makes me crazy, too,” James grumbled as he leaned against the wall and slumped down to the floor. “I act like an arse when I’m around her and I can’t seem to stop myself!”
“Find a girlfriend when you get back to school,” Teddy suggested with an amused smile. “You’ll soon forget about her.”
“I don’t fancy her!” James shot back. “I think she’s been hurt.”
“I didn’t say you fancy her,” he said agreeably. “I’m just saying that if she makes you this nutty, it’s best to avoid her. Getting a girlfriend will help with that.”
“I do sort of think one of the Ravenclaw Chasers is worth a second look,” James conceded.
Teddy waited a long moment. “Are you ready to quit being a prat to everyone around you? None of us signed up to be your dueling dummy, you know.”
“Yeah,” he grinned sheepishly. “All right, I’ll try to quit. Can I see if Louis can come over?”
“Sure,” Teddy waved his wand and unlocked the door. Adding Victoire’s baby brother to the mix wouldn’t add too much to the insanity. Plus, James had opened up. It was a start.
“You need to have this in at least another few weeks, Nat,” Audrey Weasley told her as she checked her over in early August.
Nat sighed and flopped back in her bed, the place she’d been for more time than she’d care to remember. “I’m tired of being sick and tired.”
“I know,” Audrey patted her hand consolingly. “I am sure that you’re going to be well enough to go back to school.”
She eyed the Healer. She heard a major ‘but’ coming her way.
“But, you may have to keep the feeding line longer.”
“No,” Nat closed her eyes and tried not to cry. “How come?”
After a long silence, Audrey explained. “Your body is still recovering from the poison. You weren’t healthy to begin with, Nat. It’s almost always going to take you longer to recover from major illnesses.”
Nat stared down at her hands and nodded. “Okay.”
“It won’t be a big deal,” Audrey assured her. “You can use the backpack that we’ve modified to hold it. It will come down your sleeve and most people won’t even notice.”
She’d have loved to argue, but they had created a way for her to walk around without the pole that normally kept the feeding bag. Before that she’d been practically bedridden. At the time, Nat hadn’t cared because she’d been too exhausted to move, but now she wanted to get out a bit more. They’d found a way. The small backpack had a soft latch in it that could keep the magical bag upright and flowing into her body. Nat knew that Muggles had similar contraptions for patients with feeding tubes, so she supposed if they could manage it, so could she.
“Scorpius is here,” Al called out as he skidded into the room. “Are you done yet, Aunt Audrey?”
“We are,” Audrey said with another gentle pat on Nat’s hand. “Let me help you with the backpack.”
The only problem would be carrying her school bag and wearing the backpack, but as she explained it to her best friends, both Al and Scorpius promised to help her out.
They played Exploding Snap for a while, then chess. By the time dinner rolled around, Mr. Potter was home and debating with Scorpius and Mrs. Potter over if the World Cup winners had cheated.
Ginny was of the opinion that Uruguay had been robbed of the cup.
Right in the middle of Harry telling her she was wrong, Nat fell asleep.
Ginny held her finger up to her lips and pointed out that Nat was out. “Let’s get her up to bed,” she told Harry.
As soon as they had Nat settled, Ginny turned to dinner. “Are you going to be able to stay to eat, Scorpius?”
The boy nodded. “My father is in Germany until next week, so he won’t know I’m gone.”
She tried to hide the sadness that his words inflicted on her. “All right, then.”
At dinner James, who had had a remarkable turnaround from the difficult grump he’d been for the first part of the summer, suggested a game of hide-and-seek since Scorpius was there.
Soon enough her home was overflowing with her nieces and nephews. Thankfully, after a long nap, Nat was even able to come down and enjoy the fun.
As she gazed at Harry in between one of the games, she mouthed, ‘this is good’. He grinned back, but it wasn’t meeting his eyes.
They’d located the woman’s family, the one that Isabella Crabbe had used to fake her death twenty years before. Harry had a meeting with them early Monday morning at their home in Kent and it was weighing on him.
But, for now, there was peace in the childish game. It was enough that they could spend this time together.
The summer was flying by. Curtis Parker came to stay for a week along with his wife. He kept trying to thank Ginny for caring for the child, but as she told Curtis, it was exactly what she hoped someone would do for her child. She could do no less.
Harry stared down at the copy of the report he’d just received from a man in Hermione’s side of the office on his visit to Caroline Baker’s home. Nothing was reported amiss. The child seemed to be fine, and they would do another well check at Christmas. Whatever it was that had set James off, Harry couldn’t push it any further.
And yet… he tapped a finger on the page, unsure of what he could be missing. Obviously, if this child’s safety was in question, that was of paramount importance, but that wasn’t what was nagging at him. The home was reported to be fine, not perfect, which was great. They were making an effort while not putting on a front. Harry couldn’t name what was bothering him, but it left him in the uncomfortable position of going over the… he had to check the name, Penelope Douglas. He’d need to go over her head in order to investigate this himself.
There was just something nagging at him that he couldn’t name. He rose slowly and made his way from his office.
Daniel looked up from some paperwork. “Are you off, sir?”
“I need a word with the minister, then I might be out of the office for the rest of the day,” Harry sighed as he donned his cloak. “You can head out when you’re done.”
“All right,” Daniel agreed reluctantly. “Send an owl if you need something.”
Harry waved and made his way up to Kingsley’s office, only had to wait a moment with his secretary, then entered to see the older man looking as exhausted as he felt. He closed the door and set Douglas’ report in front of him.
“I have a problem, politically speaking,” Harry explained while Kingsley’s quickly scanned the report.
“This is a child abuse investigation,” Kingsley held it up. “That’s not exactly your area.”
“I know,” Harry agreed, “but something about this child is setting off all my alarms. I want to interview her myself.”
Kingsley rubbed wearily at his brow as he sat back in his seat. “You’re going to cause waves in the MLE. You’re already causing waves.”
“I know,” Harry agreed heavily as he sat forward and laced his fingers, studying them, but not really seeing them. “I’ll back off if you want me to.”
“If I wanted you to back off,” Kingsley retorted, “I wouldn’t have promoted you to the Head Auror position. I need someone like you with tenacity and great instincts. Go, interview the kid, but take Hermione with you. We want witnesses, and we also want it to appear to the MLE that you are keeping them in the loop.”
“Okay,” Harry replied. He made his way quickly to the lifts and pressed the button, waiting for the doors to slide open. The problem was that he was unlikely to gleam any more than the investigator had unless… he froze as the doors slid open, a crazy, completely unorthodox idea suddenly coming to mind.
Harry stopped in to inform Hermione of what he was doing, to which she called him a nutter, but agreed to meet him at Caroline Baker’s home in an hour, then he made one quick stop before heading home.
He found the house in the typical level of chaos for a rainy afternoon. There were games everywhere and the noise level was close to deafening as not only his kids chattered happily, but also Rose, Hugo, Nat, Louis, Fred, Lucy and Roxy all crowded around the expanded kitchen table playing a game that Rose and Hugo had received from Hermione’s parents. Whatever it was, they were all shrieking in laughter while Ginny worked in their joint office and Polly doled out snacks, clearly in seventh heaven.
“Hey, Dad,” James grinned at him. “You’re home early.”
“I need a quick word with Nat, then I’m off again,” he told them easily, trying to keep it light. “No one is in trouble, guys, just a logistics question.”
Nat rose and shrugged on the backpack that held her feeding bag. It was all black, but oddly enough had a small, purple butterfly that Lily had stitched on for her to make it prettier. “Save my spot,” Nat called out to the group as they slowly made their way up to his office.
“Hey,” Ginny blinked in surprise as she saw them come in. “You’re home early.”
“I needed a word with Nat,” he told her, conveying more without saying a word. “None of the bigger girls are here?”
“No,” Ginny laughed and waved that off. “Fleur and Angelina took Mum, Dominique, and Molly out for a spa day of some sort. That’s why we’re inundated with kids at the moment, but with Polly here it isn’t even work. I offered to do something and she kicked me out of my own kitchen.” She stood on tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “Thank you for hiring her for the summer.”
It had been one of his better ideas. Admittedly, it had been his father-in-law who had suggested it. “I just need the room for a few minutes,” he told Ginny.
“No problem,” she breezed on out. “I’ll get myself a snack and make sure no one spies on you.”
Harry had thought this through carefully as he watched Nat sit in one of the seats. “I have a professional favor to ask of you,” he began. Then he paused, unsure if he was doing the right thing. Harry could now see plainly how easy it had been for Curtis to fall into asking his daughter for help when he was working on new skeletons. The child just had this way about her.
He took a deep breath and pulled a mouse from his right pocket. He’d placed a spell on the creature moments before entering the house. He’d bought the mouse ten minutes earlier in Diagon Alley rather than conjuring it. He’d needed a live born mouse, not one created from nothing in order for this to work. Otherwise all she’d see was his conjuring. “What do you see on the mouse?”
She cocked her strawberry blonde head to the side and studied it, then held out her hand for it. The moment she touched it, she gasped. “It’s… wow. It’s got like a heat haze around it, do you know what I mean by that?”
“I do,” Harry agreed. It was that distortion of light waves caused by heat on objects that made it appear as though the object was moving.
“But, it also has sort of tiny blue sparks traveling through it,” she said as she held up the docile mouse for inspection. “I’ve seen this before.”
Harry’s breath caught. “Have you?”
“Yes,” she nodded as her blue eyes flicked up to his. “One of my house mates, Caroline Baker. Except the one time the blue sparks were really strong around her. Also, she’s had other colors around her head, like reds and purples. She’s always covered in spells. I told Professor McGonagall but she says that Caroline is part of a sport and is magically healed often. I think she’s a competitive cheerleader.”
He opened his mouth to ask another question, but then thought better of it. He had to meet Hermione shortly, and things had just taken a serious turn. “Thank you for this. Nat, if you ever see that thing with the blue sparks on anyone again, you need to let me know immediately, okay?”
Alarm crossed her tiny face. “Is Caroline okay?”
“She will be,” Harry rose quickly to his feet, and raced out.
He Apparated to a spot down the hill from the home where Caroline lived and saw Hermione waiting for him in the light afternoon drizzle.
“Well?” she asked quickly, nervously.
Harry nodded dejectedly. “Nat made the connection without my even asking her to.”
“Oh, dear,” Hermione chewed at her bottom lip and pushed a stray wild hair from her face. “Her grandparents are Delmar and Elizabeth Compton. It was their daughter who married Caroline’s father, and she has a sister who will be in Hugo and Lily’s year.”
Harry gave a sharp nod and they made their way up to the house. Delmar and Elizabeth –call me Betty– were the typical small, watery-eyed grandparents that one might expect to find on any street in England. They were friendly, but there was definitely something sad about them.
Harry shook Caroline’s hand and studied the tall, blonde-haired, blue-eyed thirteen-year-old. She was definitely the type to have caught James’ eye, but she was also poised and more than a little aloof. She moved with an athlete’s grace and confidence.
“You look like your sons,” Caroline commented carefully.
“I hear you don’t much care for James,” Harry grinned to show her he understood completely.
She smiled back, a little warmer than before. “He’s not my favorite. Al’s okay, though. This is my sister, Honor.” Caroline pulled a girl out from behind a tapestry.
Where Caroline was fair, this girl was dark, with hair almost coal black and hazel eyes so deep they were almost brown. She was a little chubby and tall for her age. She stood awkwardly off to the side, trying desperately not to be noticed. “It’s nice to meet you, Honor.”
“‘Lo,” was the entire response they received before she bolted for the stairs.
“She’s really shy,” Delmar explained sadly. “Poor mite has been through a lot. Please sit and have some tea.”
“We need to do something first,” Harry explained. “I need to ask for your trust and patience because what I’m about to do is extremely unorthodox.”
“It’s not illegal,” Hermione added quickly. “But, we have some concerns about Caroline’s safety.”
The grandparents glanced at each other in alarm. “What’s wrong?”
“We have a small idea of what could be wrong,” Harry said as he pulled out his wand. “Are you ready, Caroline?”
Her face glazed over in a look he’d seen more than he’d care to remember and she tried to run. Harry immobilized her, levitated her, and placed her on the settee before anyone else in the room could react.
“I’m sorry about this,” Harry said to the spluttering, horrified grandparents. “She’s not responsible. Just a moment.”
He waved his wand over the child, waited until he felt the pull of the magic, and removed the Imperius Curse from her. She let out one long shudder before her eyes popped open wide in horror.
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