|SIYE Time:14:09 on 20th November 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: 75591; Chapter Total: 2059
Awards: View Trophy Room
First off, thank you Arnel for beta'ing!!!
Are you ready to shoot me yet? I know the wait was long between chapters and I'm so sorry about that! It's been bugging me, too, I promise! BUT I finished writing my fourth novel and rather than continue to split my brain between the two stories, I pushed through on that one so it could go to editing.
REVIEW! Tell me what you think! Keep me motivated to write the next chapter. I'm not kidding, the more you're engaged, the more motivated I am to keep going. Ask questions if you have them.
Also, thank you for the Silver Trinket award! I really didn't expect to win one, so that was super sweet and awesome :)
Thank you again for all of your support and stay tuned, because my third novel is releasing shortly :D If you haven't checked out the first two, go see my profile for links!
It was a change of tone, Harry thought with a shiver of dread that left him cold. He reread the note again, the one that Isabella Crabbe must have sent him, as she’d done every year.
This year it had been late, not arriving until early November. He’d been ready to write it off, but no, it was here and it didn’t say, ‘I know your secret’ as it had every other year.
He stared at the scrawled words and tried to fight down the urge to rush to Hogwarts.
‘If I can sneak a rotting body in, what else can I do?’
A knock sounded at the door and Daniel popped his head in. “Sir, there’s a dragon in London.”
“A…” for a moment, Harry’s mind went blank. “Excuse me?”
“Yeah,” his assistant grimaced. “The Magical Creature Department has it mostly under control, but I was told to let you know just in case they need to call in back up. There’s a Head of Department meeting up in the Minister’s office shortly, also. I was told to remind you.”
He’d forgotten. Harry shoved the note back into the file and came to his feet. “Okay, I’m coming. How did a dragon get to London?”
“It was being transported to America,” Daniel sighed heavily as he handed over a report. “It broke free and hurt at least one of the handlers. Still, though, it’s only a Welsh Green, so at least it isn’t one of the more vicious ones.”
Harry shook his head sadly and made for the lift. It was not a complication he needed that day, although admittedly, these sorts of things were relatively rare and would require much of the senior ministry to deal with it.
Kingsley was retiring in a matter of days and the votes for the new Minister were currently being tallied. Thus far it was appearing as if Allison Macmillan, the woman Kingsley wanted as Minister, would be stepping in. The other candidates were a farce, as far as Harry was concerned. Arthur had declined to run, which Harry thought was a relief. It wouldn’t make his father-in-law happy, although Harry felt like he could be a good leader.
But Arthur, too, was close to retiring.
Time moved, seasons changed, and people left. It was odd, in a lot of ways, for Harry to know he was older now than Remus had been. Remus, who hadn’t lived to see his son crawl, but as a child Harry had looked up to both Remus and Sirius, searching them out for comfort and reassurance. He saw now, as pushed the button for the lift, that Remus and Sirius were often grasping at straws, trying to figure out what to say to this child that was cursed from day one, even though they didn’t know the exact nature of it. Nothing, absolutely nothing, about Harry’s childhood had gone along any sort of normal path and Harry knew now that that sort of impotence to affect any change in Harry’s life had to drive Sirius and Remus mad.
Harry understood, now, just why Molly had attempted to keep them safe. He wanted nothing more than that wrap his children up and never let go, but he remembered too Dumbledore’s words that it was folly for the old to forget what it was to be young.
So the note, the note that was designed to impose fear upon him had worked. Isabella Crabbe was telling him that she was able to put a dead body at Hogwarts. She had access to two of his children, plus most of the children in his family. If he reacted as Molly would have, he’d pull his children. So, it was with great reluctance, he remembered that the teachers and staff were not the only ones that could and would protect the castle.
Cedric’s face flashed into his mind just as the doors slid open, so it took him a second to realize that Hermione was standing at the lift doors, staring at him in stunned horror. It took him a moment to realize he hadn’t pushed the button to go to the next floor and had been standing in a completely still lift for at least a minute. He hadn’t even realized Hermione had been on his floor.
“What’s wrong?” Harry asked as she joined him in the lift. In her hand was a piece of parchment that was shaking gently. “Hermione? Were you looking for me?”
“Helminth Smith has been named Minister of Magic,” Hermione hissed through clenched teeth.
Harry shook his head, sure he’d heard her incorrectly. “No, it was going to be–”
“It’s not her!” Hermione interrupted furiously, her eyes a little bright as a single curl sprang from a pin. She pushed it roughly behind her ear, but only managed to knock another few loose. “This is a disaster, Harry!”
He couldn’t wrap his brain around it. Smith was an idiot. Smith was worse than Fudge who had, at least, managed to do some good. He wasn’t stupid, but Smith was. He was the worst form of narcissist that Harry had ever had the misfortune to work for. They were doomed. Not only that, but he hated Harry. “Fancy quitting?”
Hermione’s dry stare said plenty. “I don’t run from a challenge and neither do you.”
“We don’t need the money, though,” he pointed out as a pit formed in his stomach. The doors swung open to an extremely somber group. Harry had to stop himself from turning tail and going back down to his office as everyone stared at him.
The only person who looked happy was Helminth himself, and… Harry blinked as he spotted his former classmate Zachariah Smith. He had not aged well. The boy had grown from a blond-haired, brown-eyed, fit teenager into a pudgy, bald man in glasses. His grin was still every bit as smarmy and smug as Harry had remembered.
“Ah,” Helminth paced around the room, his hands behind his back. Harry had to fight not to react to the man. His very existence set Harry’s teeth on edge. Ron had, at one Ministry party, called Helminth a horse’s ass, but Harry had told him that was unfair to the horse. Helminth normally sat on his bottom, watching everyone else work and fret, but today the thin man was enjoying taking up space in the room, making everyone watch him.
Kingsley, who had been in the background, gave Harry a small grimace.
“You may be excused,” Helminth said to the former Minister. “I’m sure you have work to do down in your old department.”
They could have heard a pin drop. Harry opened his mouth to say something, but Kingsley shot him a quelling glare. “Yes, of course, Minister. Congratulations again. I shall see everyone later.”
The moment Kingsley was gone, Helminth turned to Hermione. “This is a Department Head meeting, Mrs. Weasley. You are not needed. I’ve already appointed my replacement.”
Hermione took a short breath. “Of course, sir,” she smiled at him and Harry knew she was thinking about pinching his nose. “I have a report for you about the dragon.” She handed over the paper and left. He dropped it on the table, not even bothering to look at it.
“Now,” Helminth indicated a chair for Harry to sit in at the long table. He almost didn’t. It went against everything in him to sit on command for this berk, but he moved over to seat himself. “The Ministry has been run by one man for a number of years now. In the wake of the war, my predecessor was a stabilizing influence, but it is time to build again, to make the Ministry strong once more.”
That was when Harry tuned him out.
The speech went on for almost an hour.
Harry didn’t know how long it lasted, because ten minutes in his assistant sent him a memo that he was needed downstairs and left, but Arthur informed him later that Zacharias was now Hermione’s boss. Zacharias had no experience, at all, in the MLE and had, as far as Harry knew, been a clerk down in Magical Transportation. He also learned later that Helminth would be requiring regular reports and was demanding audits on all activity.
Harry wasn’t worried about any of that, though, as he sat in a conference room. His entire focus was on the woman who had been kidnapped from a street in the village near her home.
Veronica Sinestra. Harry hadn’t ever met her, but she’d been close to Teddy’s age and he did know her.
Harry stared at her parents, Leanne and Miles Sinestra, a couple in their late forties with only the one child. Veronica had recently celebrated her twenty-first birthday. Leanne was Deputy Head of the Department Magical Accidents and Catastrophes. Her short, dark hair was a little disheveled as her dark, frantic eyes pleaded with him. The redness bore testimony to the amount of crying she’d done. Miles worked for Gringotts, and was as fair as his wife was dark. He seemed to be aging with every moment that Harry spent with them. “She was going to the market this morning? Does she have a job?”
“No,” Leanne said as she nearly tore a handkerchief to shreds in her wrestles hands. “She… she had worked at Gringotts for a few years, but she was quitting to get married and h-have a family.”
Harry felt the ache in his gut as he pictured the girl. “Have you spoken to her fiancé?”
“Yes,” Miles leaned forward in his seat as the wood creaked beneath him and held out a pleading hand. “His name is Stephen Davies and he’s a good man. He’s a Quidditch player, and he’s in Russia at the moment, but he’s trying to get a Portkey back right now.”
Harry felt something in his gut unknot. It was often a family member, specifically a boyfriend or husband, in a missing person’s case. It didn’t happen often, but with an alibi as tight as being in Russia, he knew he didn’t have to grill the fiancé the moment he was home. “When she didn’t come home, you went to look?”
“I did,” Miles told him. “I thought it was weird when she was an hour late, but I needed to get to work and didn’t want to leave until I knew she was okay. I just had this feeling, you know? Something didn’t feel right. I found the groceries on the side of the road. I knew something was wrong, then. I didn’t like that Leanne wanted to go to the market, but I thought it was Muggles that might try to harm her and she could look after herself well enough against them, but this…”
Harry knew exactly what he meant. Although it was not impossible for her to have been ambushed by Muggles, it was so rare that a Muggle could overcome a wizard, that it was not the standard answer in any assault. “Was there anything with the groceries?”
“Just the note that they told you about,” Miles indicated the parchment in front of them.
His gaze shifted to the note, even though he’d already read it at least twenty times. The handwriting alone was enough to tell him exactly whose quill had been put to the parchment.
‘So much easier than sneaking into Hogwarts’
It sent a shiver up his spine. “We’ve already got Aurors coming the area, looking for any clues,” Harry told them. “I know you’ve been told almost nothing, but that’s because it’s part of an ongoing investigation. I will not jeopardize your daughter’s safety, but I need to protect the information we have which is why I am not filling you in completely on the backstory of who we are looking for.”
He took in a deep breath and wondered in this would be just like the girl, Cori, who had been taken and raped. Harry sincerely hoped it wasn’t the same case, but his gut was telling him that they would find her in close to the same situation. The question was why, though, and what was the purpose? If Isabella Crabbe had to keep her cronies cooperative by supplying them with rape victims, what did that say about them? What truly didn’t make sense was that, even though she was a skilled potion maker and would have access to the birth control potion, she hadn’t seen fit to give it to Cori, leaving Cori to get pregnant.
That was traceable by the Ministry. They’d have known who the father was within a few weeks and he’d have been prosecuted after being forced to marry her.
Nothing, nothing, was making any sense to him. Whatever her aims, or goals, Harry was as lost as the poor parents in front of him. “I need to see Mr. Davies the moment he’s back in England.”
“He’s coming straight here,” Miles promised him as a single tear slid down his cheek. The stoic man didn’t even try to cover his grief and fear.
A knock sounded at the door and Arthur poked his head around. “I need a word.”
“Yeah,” Harry waved his father-in-law out. “Can you two excuse me? I promise that if we hear anything, someone will be in immediately. I’ll be back shortly.”
The wife leaned into her husband and wept.
He led Arthur into his office and shut the door, facing the old man. “What’s up?”
“It’s not good, Harry,” Arthur sighed heavily and sank into one of the chairs. “No one I talked to was going to vote for Smith. Not a single person! I’m not sure how he managed to become Minister, but I don’t trust the results.”
Harry perched on the edge of his desk. Office politics were not his thing, and he had a case to solve. “My plan is to ignore him.”
“He’s not going to let you ignore him,” Arthur fired back, his cheeks flushing in temper. “He’s going to make all our lives more difficult.”
“He can try,” Harry shrugged, completely unconcerned. “He is my boss, but he doesn’t have grounds to fire me and frankly I’ll quit before I bend to him.”
“He made Zacharias Smith the new head of the MLE,” Arthur pointed out quietly.
Harry swore softly, turning away. “He won’t last long.”
“He might,” Arthur reasoned. “I think we need to talk about this, as a family.”
“I can’t right now,” Harry pushed off from his desk. “I have a missing woman and a lot of work to do. Smith can try to interfere in my department, but he’ll be sorry if he tries.”
Harry pulled the door open and strode from the room, pushing the new Minister from his mind. He had important things and actual work to focus on, while all around him the Ministry began to stumble into a new level of normal, marked by unease, fruitlessness, and general grumblings about the new way that things were being handled. Or mishandled, depending on who one spoke to.
A week later they still hadn’t located Veronica and it was starting to look like the might not. It was only through chance that they’d saved Cori during a raid. Harry had spoken to Cori again, and found her happy, recovering and expecting a baby in early spring. She didn’t have any other insights to add that might help. Harry hadn’t wanted to press her at all, but Veronica’s life was in danger. He’d let it go, though, after wishing the young woman and her husband well.
Veronica’s fiancé, Stephan, was a mess. He’d answered Harry’s questions, cooperated when needed, but was easily angered at the lack of progress and tended to lash out when he was frustrated. He wasn’t happy with the investigation, which Harry fully understood. He wasn’t happy about it, either.
“The Minister wants to speak to you,” Daniel told him after Harry made it back into the office one morning a few days later. He’d only gone home to change, eat, shower and sleep for two hours before heading back in to keep going on the search. “He’s insisting.”
Harry ignored the memo that Daniel was holding out for him. “I’m busy. Let him know that he can wait or come see me later this afternoon.”
“I’m the one catching hell for this,” Daniel told him bluntly. “He’s threatened to fire me. There’s a Muggle saying, you know. ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’.”
Swearing under his breath, Harry grabbed the memo. He knew that phrase and knew he wasn’t being fair to his assistant. “Okay, I’m going. I’ll be back in ten.”
Harry made it to the lift without being stopped once. The one person who’d looked like they wanted to say something, turned tail at the scowl on his face. He went up one floor and marched over to the Minister’s office. “He wants to see me?”
“Take a seat,” the secretary said with a small tremor.
He studied the woman, one who’d worked for Smith for years, and cocked his head to the side. She was pinched around the mouth and eyes, but there was something else there, something he couldn’t name. “I’m not waiting,” Harry replied firmly. “He’ll see me now or I’m going back to work.”
“I…” she faltered and Harry fought to remember her name. Beverly… Betty… Bonnie… he shook it off. He wasn’t likely to remember. “Just one moment,” she told him as she rose to knock at the door. She was barked at and she flinched visibly.
Alarmed, Harry moved towards, but she held up a hand. “He’s busy. You need to wait.”
“He can come find me when he’s done being busy,” Harry shrugged it off and made for the office door.
“Potter!” the voice bellowed through the room and he turned to see Helminth standing in his door, glaring at him angrily. “I need a word.”
Harry almost retorted with, ‘then be available’, but thought better of it and made his way to the office. He sat and nearly smiled when he realized when Smith glared at him for being so impertinent. He kept his mouth shut, though, and waited.
“I do not like how you are handling the current crisis,” Helminth began smoothly. “I believe that your lack of progress on the case is a concern.”
Harry felt his heart trip over a bit, but he continued to maintain his silence.
“I have concerns that you are too close to the situation and would do better with someone else overseeing it. I have a couple of people that I will be sending to your office to–”
“No,” Harry replied coolly, cutting him off.
Smith’s ears turned ever so slightly pink. “You do not get to say no.”
“I do, actually,” Harry smiled evenly. “I have complete autonomy so that if there is corruption in the upper levels of the Ministry, the Aurors remain free to operate to bring back order.”
“I have rescinded that law,” Helminth told him smugly. “You will now be subject to oversight.”
There were a lot of things that Harry loved about his job. He loved the excitement. He loved the mystery. He really loved helping people and bringing justice to those who didn’t follow the law. He’d never loved, and never tolerated, the political games. “I’m tendering my resignation,” Harry stood, feeling the pit of guilt, knowing he was leaving the department in a bind. “Effective immediately. I’ll go pack my things.”
Without waiting for a response, he strode for the door.
“Wait!” the voice called out to him, but he didn’t stop.
Harry told his staff, quickly, what had happened. The only blessing was that Kingsley, as a newly reassigned Auror, had seniority and the role of Head Auror automatically fell to him. There was no getting around that. It was a centuries old practice.
Daniel told him he’d pack up his stuff and have it shipped over to his home, which allowed Harry to make a break for it.
He wanted out. He wanted air. He wanted…
Harry found himself striding down Diagon Alley towards Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and his best mate.
One look at Harry’s face, the moment he entered the shop, and Ron called out to George, “Hey, I’m taking an early lunch.”
George swore at him, but he too could see the thunderclouds on Harry’s features. “Yeah, sure.”
They had a favorite Muggle pub that they frequented. It was a quaint, out of the way, hole in the wall that no one else seemed to know about. Without having to say anything, Harry and Ron Apparated to a grove not far from the small village and walked the ten minutes down to the pub in silence.
Ron bought them each a pint and sat with Harry. “You ready to tell me?”
“I quit,” Harry said after a long drink of the amber liquid.
“You’re kidding me,” Ron whistled in awe. “I thought you’d die in that office, hopefully eighty years from now.”
“Smith tried to pull rank,” Harry shrugged off just how badly that had bothered him. “He demanded I come to his office and then wanted to make me wait. I had things to do, and I wasn’t going to listen any of his rubbish. He wanted control of the Aurors, so I quit.”
“I wish Hermione would quit,” Ron clicked their glasses in salute. “She’s a nutter over this whole thing. I swear she’s sleeping there half the time, trying to fix ruddy Zacharias Smith’s mistakes. We don’t need the money, but she likes the work… or she did.”
Harry felt his temper rise dangerously. He wanted to throw something. “Hermione should have been made the Head. It was her right and she’s the most qualified.”
“I know,” Ron snorted into his drink. “She is playing nice, trying to get along with that worm, but I don’t think Hugo has seen her in almost a week.”
“Please tell me you didn’t point that out,” Harry said to his best mate.
Ron shook his head, red hair that was just a tad too long covered his eyes before he could push it out of the way. “I’ve learned a few things over the last several decades. The most important lesson has been when to keep my trap shut around my wife. She doesn’t need the guilt, but if it goes on much longer I am going to have to say something. I had my son asking me this morning when Mum was coming home. Ginny says he’s been extra grumpy, too, during the day.”
“Shit,” Harry breathed it out and downed the rest of his beer. “Your dad wants to have a family meeting.”
“It’s probably time,” Ron agreed. “Should we let Mum coordinate it?”
“Ginny will,” Harry sat back in his seat and contemplated another round of drinks. “You know she doesn’t like sticking those big meals on your mum, not with her lumbago acting up.”
Ron nodded and signaled for another drink. “You tell me when, and I’ll stun Hermione and drag her from the Ministry.”
“I can’t believe Dad quit,” Al said for what felt like the hundredth time. From the annoyed sigh from his cousin, it was probably closer to the thousandth time. “Well,” he glared at Rose, “I’m sorry, but I just thought he’d stick with it. He loves his job. Loved,” he corrected.
“We’re hearing a lot of funny rumors, though,” Rose reminded him as they made their way up to the hospital wing to visit Nat.
Scorpius shook his blond head in disgust. “I asked my dad about it, which was a mistake. I should have left that one alone. He sent me a snarky reply about keeping my head in the books since Rose is beating me in Transfiguration.”
Rose snorted, giving her silent opinion of that.
Al was top in Defense, Rose was top in Transfiguration, and Scorpius was stomping on them in Charms. Far and away, Scorpius was best in the class. The only other class with such a large achievement gap was History of Magic, the prize for which went to Nat and that was because she was the only one who gave a pixie’s fart about paying attention to Professor Bins. Still, Al was forced to admit, Nat was really good at the class and tended to make it interesting. She’d started giving fun lectures on various topics, which were starting to draw a regular crowd every Friday night in the common room. History, in her hands, came alive and was very funny.
“Do you think she’ll get that feeding line out today?” Rose asked as they neared the hospital wing’s door.
“I doubt it,” Al sighed heavily. “Not with her nearly collapsing this morning.”
Nat’s bag had run out in the middle of the night, hours before it should have, and when she’d stood to go to the loo, Nat had crumpled to the floor. Thankfully, Rose had been there to see and had called for help.
Natalie had missed most of their morning classes.
“I don’t know how she does it,” Scorpius told them. “If it were me, I would be so mad about having to haul that thing around with me.”
Al was forced to agree with him. He pushed open the door and saw her on the bed, tiny and a little pale. Nat smiled at him and it sent a small thrill through his belly that he quickly squashed flat. “Are you okay?” he asked her.
Hannah came out and Al forced himself to remember that she was Madam Longbottom, and not Hannah at school. “Oh, good,” she smiled her cheerful smile that seemed to light up her round, pretty face. She tucked her short swing of blonde hair behind her ear and ushered them forward with the crook of a finger. “Nat, here, has been really bored today. You three can visit for a while before dinner. Call if you need me.” She left them to pull chairs over to Nat’s bed.
Unlike Madam Pomfrey, Hannah didn’t hover and fuss. Al missed the old matron, but had to admit that the new one was a very nice change, plus he knew his godfather was a lot happier having his wife here with him all the time.
“How are you feeling?” Rose asked Nat as she took her hand. “You look a little sick, still.”
“Yeah,” Nat leaned her head back against the fluffy pillows and sighed. “It’s been a rough day. I keep getting sick. Madam Longbottom figured out what happened, though. Apparently the bag had a hole in it and it leaked out. She’d never heard of it happening, but it could have been accidentally cut or something.”
Rose’s expression changed swiftly to understanding. “Your pillow was wet! I noticed that but didn’t think anything of it.”
“Yep,” Nat spit the word out with a heavy emphasis on the ‘p’. “So, now I’m stuck here through today. What did I miss in classes?”
“Not much,” Scorpius assured her. “We have your stuff, though, if you feel like making any of it up tonight.”
Nat shook her head and closed her eyes. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to. Maybe this weekend.”
The professors, all of whom were aware of Nat’s condition, would give her the extra time to work through it. She would, in due course, get to all of her assignments, but it had been explained to them by Healer Weasley that Nat was fragile and would need special considerations when it came to her school work if she was ill. It didn’t hurt that Nat was always polite, helpful, and never milked the situation unless she needed to.
If it had been James, Al doubted that the teachers would have cut him any slack.
“I hate being in here,” Nat said quietly. “She says the line isn’t coming out before January, which means I can’t go home.”
“You can come to my house,” Al reminded her. “We’ve already arranged it with my parents and your parents can come stay, too.”
“I know,” Nat licked her lips and sniffed a little. “I’m sorry, I’m just… tired. Have you heard anything else about your dad?”
“Nope,” Al told her. “All I know is that he’s driving Mum nuts. Lily says he needs to find a job because he keeps trying to fix things around the house that Mum doesn’t want him to fix.”
Rose’s lips twitched into a reluctant smile. “I bet Uncle Harry will be back in the Head Auror position soon. Most of the wizarding community is calling for him to come back, what with that woman still missing. Did you see the paper? Her poor fiancé looks like he’s lost a stone.”
“I dunno,” Scorpius replied skeptically. “The new Minister is starting to make it sound like all the bad things were Harry’s fault and that stupid Rita Skeeter is not helping.”
“I just don’t understand how he was elected in the first place,” Al said thoughtfully. “I mean, no one wanted him and everyone thinks he’s a joke. How did he get the job? He wasn’t even popular.”
“You can’t rig the voting, right?” Nat asked them.
Scorpius nodded. “It’s a lot like anti-cheating spells we use for exams, here. You can’t get around them, so everyone knows they can trust the vote.”
“Can we start a petition for a recount?” Nat wondered, but not with any enthusiasm.
“It doesn’t really work like that,” Rose said sadly. “Once the vote goes through, it’s there until enough people get mad and want to chuck the Minister out.”
“If he gets much worse,” Scorpius grumbled as he glanced around to make sure the matron wasn’t listening, “we should fake a scandal to get him out.”
“Or find an actual scandal,” Rose giggled. “He probably has at least one.”
“How would we manage that?” Nat asked them. “We’re just kids and we’re stuck here in school.”
“Uncle George,” Al and Rose said at the same time, as if the answer should be obvious. Al smirked at her consternation.
“Don’t worry, Nat,” Al assured her consolingly. “If it gets that bad, we won’t even have to ask. He’ll already have a plan.”
Teddy hurried through the hospital’s corridors, trying not to panic. He didn’t even know exactly where he was going, but he couldn’t manage to stop himself long enough to ask.
All he knew was his grandmother was here and he needed to get to her.
“Teddy!” a voice caught his attention and he spun to see Audrey Weasley coming down the hallway. Her face was maddeningly neutral.
“Is she okay?” he demanded, skidding to a halt near the woman. He could remember, vividly, when she’d been so tall and he’d looked up to her. Now, though, he stood a good half a head above her.
Audrey took his arm and guided him down another corridor and opened a door, ushering him in. Victoire sprang to her feet and rushed to him, her face very pale and soaked in tears. She threw her arms around him and cried as he held on.
Teddy stared at the woman in the bed, her face sunken and colorless.
“She’s very ill,” Audrey explained gently. “I don’t know that it’s going to be long.”
He couldn’t take it in. He’d seen her just that morning. Teddy held fast to Victoire, needing the stability and warmth that she offered, knowing he’d fall apart if she wasn’t there. “What’s wrong with her?”
“I…” Audrey hesitated. “I don’t know,” she admitted reluctantly. “It’s like she’s been poisoned, but I can’t detect anything. I honestly can’t find anything wrong with her, except that she’s gravely ill.”
“How long?” Teddy asked her as he and Victoire moved as a unit to the bed so he could hold his grandmother’s hand. This woman, this strong, amazing woman, who had raised him his entire life, lay dying. She’d survived the loss of her family, her husband, her daughter and son-in-law and now… he had no idea how to go on without her, no clue what to do or say. He felt rudderless and adrift and it scared him straight to his toes.
Victoire gripped his arm and kissed his shoulder. He felt her tears, her grief as poignant as his own, soaking into his shirt and his center shifted straight again.
The door behind them opened and Harry and Ginny poured in with Lily and Hugo right behind them.
His parents, the ones he’d looked to, rushed in to hold him tight while Victoire hugged a sobbing Lily.
This, his family, his anchor in a bad storm, held him through the hours until Andromeda Tonks breathed her last breath and moved on to the next great adventure.
The next several days were a blur of funeral preparation and dealing with the estate. Harry helped him sort through most of the paperwork, along with Bill. It hit Teddy as it never had before that he had no blood relatives left on this planet, none who would willingly stand with him. But the men who worked tirelessly with him, his father in all but blood and his soon-to-be father-in-law helped put straight everything that needed to be taken care of.
It turned out that Andromeda’s house was mortgaged to the hilt, something she’d never mentioned to anyone. They discovered, much to Harry’s great ire, that she’d done so to continue to take care of Teddy and not have to work when he was younger.
“She could have asked me for money!” Harry fumed as he continued to sift through the documents. “Teddy, I had no idea… I’d have paid everything off if she’d said something.”
Ted Tonks, Teddy’s grandfather, had been the primary source of income. Upon his death, all Andromeda had had was the house.
“Harry,” Bill interjected quietly as Teddy stared numbly at the mounding paperwork. “You didn’t know and she didn’t want to ask. I’m sure if it had been dire, she’d have said something. As it is, we sell the house and call it even.” The look Bill shot him said a lot more than that, but Teddy had no ability to try to interpret.
His heart was too tired to care. The only comfort was in those around and him and his fiancé, who spent as much time as she could with him, holding him and letting him grieve. Ginny had insisted he move in with them for the time being and he’d done so, more to make her happy, but now he knew it had been the right decision. It was difficult to fall into a dark hole when so many people were holding him up. He spent an hour with Lily on the couch the night before, while she sat reading. He played with his sister’s soft hair and enjoyed her small giggles at the silly adventures of Martin Miggs the Mad Muggle. After she’d gone to bed, and Victoire was finally off her shift at the hospital, they’d walked into the village together, hand in hand, just to get out into the cooling air of an oncoming winter.
A loud clack pulled Teddy back to his grandmother’s study. Harry nodded curtly and shoved papers into a bag he’d brought along.
“It’s important to know how to deal with this,” Bill told him quietly, placing a firm hand on his shoulder. “I know you’re in a fog right now, but you need to know. I had to deal with all of that stuff after my brother was killed because my parents just weren’t capable and neither was George. As the oldest, this sort of thing is going to fall to you.”
Teddy gave a curt nod and refocused on the task before him as Bill ran him through estate laws and all that needed to be dealt with.
It soon became apparent that even with the sale of the house, Teddy was going to be saddled with an extremely large debt. Cold fear clenched at his gut as he tried to work through how he could pay that off and still get married.
There really was no way to make it happen.
“Stop it,” Harry told him firmly, snapping him out of it. “I’m dealing with the money. There’s no need for you to. We wouldn’t be doing this now if she’d said a single word to me about needing money.”
“No,” Teddy shook his head, ready to argue as his pride prickled.
Harry took him by the shoulders and shook his head. His green eyes bore straight into him. “You are my child, my responsibility. You have been nearly every day of your life. If you think, for one moment, that I’m going to let you derail not only your life but also Victoire’s, you have another thing coming. Your grandmother was in debt because of your care as a child. Your care as a child was my responsibility. End of discussion. If I didn’t miss her so much, I’d be bloody furious with her for keeping this from me!”
He wanted to fight, wanted to tell Harry he’d make it work somehow, but with the salary he currently made, there was no way that he could pay it off. Once they added in Victoire’s debts from becoming a Healer, they’d be sunk. Mostly, maybe selfishly, Teddy didn’t want to have to tell Victoire that he couldn’t marry her. He desperately wanted her in his life, in his arms right then and there. He didn’t want to put it off even longer. It wasn’t fair to her. “Okay, thanks.”
Harry hugged him hard. “I love you. I know you feel like an orphan, but–”
“I don’t,” Teddy replied immediately, a little surprised. “I still have my parents here, but she is, was,” he corrected with a lump in his throat. “She was a lifeline for me and I don’t know how to work without her there every morning, but I still have you and Ginny. I maybe miss my parents at times, but I always had you. I always had my grandmother. I wasn’t alone or… I’ve always had a big family and I still do.”
“Good, I’m glad you know that,” Harry replied with a long sigh. “We’re going to be here with you, every step of the way, and until you’re ready, you’re living with us. After that, we’ll find you a flat.”
He didn’t have a clue how he’d be able to afford it, but he’d have to look. Teddy thought it might be possible to find one in Muggle London.
A knock sounded at the door and Ginny poked her head in. “The kids and I are done packing up the photo albums.”
Harry stood and crossed to her, kissing her tenderly as he swayed with her in his arms.
No, Teddy was not an orphan. He wasn’t alone in this insane world, and he wasn’t going to be grieving by himself. He had so many people who loved and cared about him.
Hugo wandered in, skirting around his aunt and uncle. He plopped into the seat next to Teddy and said, in a small voice. “I’m really sorry, Teddy.”
“Thanks, Hugo,” Teddy replied in a hoarse whisper as he clapped the lad on the back. Hugo surprised him by throwing his arms around him. Teddy held on to the boy and fought back another wave of tears.
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