|SIYE Time:2:22 on 16th January 2018|
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: 78620; Chapter Total: 2072
Awards: View Trophy Room
I managed to update faster this time! Thank you Arnel for helping me out with editing!
Also, pretty please, go check out my novels! My first novel, Shelter, is on sale for a limited time for just $.99! Less than a dollar! You can find it on amazon. My author's name is Sarah Jaune and the links are in my profile. Please help support my writing by going to see a preview of the books! You don't need a kindle to read, you can download to a web browser. Also, if you find my book's page on goodreads you can enter to win a free signed copy of my first book.
Last, but absolutely not least, my latest novel (a story of ghosts and demons to keep you up at night!) is on sale as well for $2.99! It's a Halloween treat. Summary:
It's easy to say that curses do not exist, or that ghosts and demons are fairy tales, until the fourth man you've dated has died and your innocent childhood crush ends in leukemia.
Thus is the life for Carolina Richards. Most girls plan weddings rather than attending funerals. Where most people see a forest, she sees demons in the trees.
Now she must make the hardest decision of her short life: choosing between the life of another, or losing the only thing that has ever made her happy.
I hope you enjoy this chapter! We're going to close one part of the mystery soon-ish, but other bits will continue on for a good, long while. Review and let me know what you think! Also, I know this story is a monster in length. I appreciate everyone who is sticking with it.
Buying a beach cottage in Devon was one of the easier things Harry did that week, mainly because he had nothing to do it with. Rather, after the kids were back at school, he handed the job of the cottage off to Ginny, who happily went around with Luna and her twin boys to go about and inspect homes. Ginny’s rational was that Luna was so rarely in England that she wanted the time with her good friend and that any home that could withstand the young twins, received the gold seal of approval.
It was a good theory. Lily and Hugo went along one day with Ginny. She’d expanded the car so that all four children would fit, even with the car seats, but Lily had been in such a grumpy mood that Ginny decided to send their daughter off to stay with Fleur for a few days, while Hugo went to spend his days with Gran Weasley.
To say that Lily was upset over the attack on Nat would be a major understatement. Early in the morning after the attack, Harry had awoken to his daughter climbing in to bed with him, straight into his arms where she cried on his shoulder for a solid hour.
Harry hated tears. He hated that he couldn’t fix what was wrong so that Lily would feel better. There was nothing for it but to hold on until the grief and fear had crested.
When Lily arrived back after her time with her aunt, she was definitely in a better place. Fleur had that effect on her youngest niece. The two were bonded and Fleur seemed to understand Lily better than anyone. It helped that Victoire was still living at home, and Lily was able to help with the wedding plans. She was full of stories about creating favors and picking out cakes. Fleur and Lily, apparently, made several cakes to test out for the wedding so that they would have the perfect flavor. Harry appreciated what Fleur had done for Lily. He knew that they made all of those cakes to keep Lily occupied, and that the favors for the wedding were made up this early just so Lily could keep herself busy.
He just wished they given him some of the cake! Harry had lunch with Ron, George, and Bill in Diagon Alley one afternoon where they told him about all the cakes Bill had been bringing for them and just how delicious they all were. Harry had to push that off to the side. He liked treacle tarts better, anyway, and it was a simple matter of smiling at Molly and asking nicely for him to have one delivered to his house.
Harry had been putting Teddy out into the field more and found that, like his mother, Teddy was going to be a good Auror. Harry was already sure of it. He wasn’t arrogant, as Harry had seen others try to be. Teddy was willing to learn, to be mentored, and when it came down to it, he had guts. He would dive in when needed. It did, however, remind Harry that he was putting Remus and Tonks’ son on the line every time he sent him out into the field and at this late stage in Teddy’s training, he was going out into the field with the seasoned Aurors.
Harry knew he had to get used to it now. Things could radically change, but if the questions that Al was asking him after the attack were any indication, his younger son was going to follow in his footsteps and become an Auror.
But at the moment, Harry had more problems than Teddy, or even Al. With the kids safely back at Hogwarts, he had to turn his concentration fully towards finding the two women who were missing.
He’d finally been given the details on the second woman. Her name was Jaylyn Teresa. She was a black girl who was two years out of Hogwarts and she hadn’t been seen in two months. They’d had no reports of her anywhere, and no indications if she’d left willingly or had been kidnapped. Harry re-interviewed her mother and found that it was out of character for Jaylyn to be gone from contact for so long, but that her daughter was a free spirit who liked to travel. There were no magical records of her leaving the country, so Harry had teams going to attempt to find Muggle records of travel, which didn’t always document when a person went somewhere. Jaylyn did have a passport, as her father was a Muggle professor at Oxford, but he claimed to have no knowledge of his daughter’s whereabouts.
The only crucial piece of the puzzle was that there had been a bitter divorce between Jaylyn’s mother and father. Because she had married a Muggle, Mrs. Teresa could divorce legally. There was no soul bonding. Also, because she was magical, she could remove her daughter from her husband and he would never find the child. The Ministry did have strict rules about such practices and could remove the child from the magical parent, but most of the time the Muggle parent did not seek to fight through the Ministry. It was intimidating enough, and despite their best efforts to ease the burden on the Muggle parent, it was still daunting to walk into the Ministry and claim their parental rights.
Their first break in Jaylyn’s case came a week after Harry was back in his position as Head Auror. He received word that the Muggle records had turned up a hit that she’d taken a train to France several months before, but there was no evidence of a return trip. Harry was in a tough spot. He could ask the French Ministry to do a search for her, apply for special permits to send one of his own Aurors, or assume she had left willingly and was not a victim of a crime. He didn’t really have the man power to send an Auror to France, and he knew that the French government wouldn’t give it more than a meager effort. The only option that Harry didn’t see as on the table was letting it go. He couldn’t let it go, not with Veronica Sinestra a confirmed kidnap victim.
A knock sounded at the door and his assistant, Daniel, stuck his head in. “Something came for you, sir.” He held out an envelope with a plain, red, wax seal, and from his expression, Harry could see that something was wrong with the younger man.
“What’s the matter?” Harry asked as he rose to retrieve the note.
“It came by crow,” Daniel explained. “I thought it was a small, black owl, but it was definitely a crow. When I took the note, the bird evaporated.”
Harry stared at him, stunned. “Right, clear out then. If you don’t hear from me in five minutes, send Shacklebolt in, alright?”
“Yes, sir,” Daniel replied, not needing to be told twice. He left, closing the door smartly behind him.
Harry ran his wand over the note, trying to detect anything, but apart from the faint hint of some seasoning, the note was free of magic. It would have been nice if Harry had had Nat on hand to look at it and know if it had been tampered with, but these were skills that Harry had possessed for many years. He wasn’t, however, as good as Dumbledore. No one was, to be fair, but since he understood his limitations, Harry knew he could be mistaken on the innocence of the parchment.
Deciding not to delay any longer, Harry broke the wax seat and unfolded the parchment. On it were coordinates that Harry thought were Muggle latitude and longitude numbers. He stared at them, unsure of what to make of it, except that it would be a specific location and someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to make sure he received them. They had to mean something.
Then he noticed the post script.
Al hated History of Magic. The only redeemable thing about the class was that Nat loved it and could get them through the exams, and he wouldn’t have to continue on after fifth year. He only had three and a half more years before he could give it up. Fred had explained at breakfast that they would be selecting their subjects for the following year and they would do well not to pick divination because the professor who taught it, Professor Trelawney, was a dingbat of the highest order.
That was fine by Al. Unfortunately, Rose, Scorpius, and Nat were all set on taking Arithmancy which sounded very difficult.
“I think I want to take Arithmancy, Ancient Runes, and Care of Magical Creatures,” Rose had told them. “I don’t want to miss out on a class with Hagrid.”
“You only need to pick two subjects,” Fred had pointed out to his younger cousin. “That’s a lot of work.”
“Will our schedules allow all three?” Scorpius wondered.
“Yep,” Louis had told them as he reached across the table for the kippers. “But really, you don’t want to do that to yourself. James and I are only taking Care of Magical Creatures and Muggle Studies. Those seemed to be the easiest. It gives you more time for the other classes.”
“I want those three classes, as well,” Nat told Rose, completely ignoring what Louis had just said.
Which left Al sunk. If he didn’t take those classes, he’d be without his friends and loathed as he was to admit it, he didn’t want to do any classes without them. That meant a lot of extra work next year.
A small elbow knocked him in the ribs and he turned sideways to see Rose’s eyes dart between him and the front of the class.
“What?” Al hisses, annoyed that she was trying to get him to pay attention in this class.
“Binns asked you a question,” she told him quietly.
Al turned to smile sheepishly at the ghostly professor. “I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t hear you.”
History of Magic was the last class before dinner and Al was always loosing track of time while his stomach rumbled ominously. Normally Binns didn’t seem to notice that they were even there.
“I asked, Periwinkle, if you know who started the Giant War of sixteen-ten,” Binns said, clearly annoyed.
“Nope,” Al replied, not even bothering to pretend to think about it.
Binns nodded. “Very well.”
He went back to reading his translucent notes, which had been about a Muggle secrecy act.
Al shook his head in amusement. He couldn’t even work up the energy to care. All he needed to know was that wizards had been cruel and horrible to magical creatures, Muggles, and each other. The whens and whys were just an added bonus.
Besides, Nat could tell him anything he needed to know.
The second they left the class, Al shivered as a gust of frigid wind whipped through the corridor, leaving them all huddling together just to stay warm.
“Let’s get up to the common room,” Scorpius said through chattering teeth as a group of fourth year Ravenclaws passed in the opposite direction. “We can drop our stuff and wait there until it’s time to eat. I wonder if it’s still snowing.”
Al turned to a window and saw that it was indeed still snowing. “Yep. I wonder what we’re up to now.”
That morning there had been over three feet of snow on the ground. All outdoor classes had been canceled and the Quidditch match, Slytherin verses Hufflepuff was due to start early the next morning.
Scorpius seemed to be thinking what Al was. “They’ll never be able to play in this.”
“They can’t cancel, though,” Al reminded him.
“If someone dies it’s going to be a major problem,” Nat sighed as she wordlessly handed her bag to Al. He was used to that at this point, and he didn’t mind. By the end of a long day, Nat was often too tired to carry her school bag and her feeding bag.
Al slung it on his shoulder and continued on as though nothing had happened. “Quidditch isn’t cancelled for anything, especially not snow.”
“But this is an abnormal amount of snow,” Nat pointed out. “I can’t even go to the game if they hold it! The drifts are well over my head.”
“That’s not really saying much,” Scorpius laughed as he held a hand above Nat’s head.
She grinned back and stood up on tiptoes as the light from a wall sconce bounced off her strawberry blonde hair. “I guess not.”
“I’m going,” Rose said decidedly. “If they hold it, I’m going. I want to see if I’d be able to tough it out. If I’m going to make the team, I really need to be committed.”
“I am not that committed,” Nat assured her. “I will sit in the common room and drink herbal tea next to the fire while you three shiver through the game.”
The next morning, the blizzard was still roaring around outside and the storm had dropped another foot of snow, putting the piles over two meters in some places. They ate breakfast together before Nat wished them farewell, waving cheerily as she headed back up to the warm common room.
“You know, I reckon Nat has the right idea,” Al told Scorpius quietly as they piled out onto the cleared path.
They all three gazed up at the snow banks off to either side and Al couldn’t help but imagine them tumbling down onto the students. It was with relief that they made it to the stadium and climbed up to their seats, which were covered in snow. Al, Rose, and Scorpius brushes off the benches, but the second they sat, the wet started to seep into their trousers.
“Oh, this was a bad idea,” Rose shivered as she scooted closer to Al. She motioned to Scorpius to scoot closer to her, as well, on her other side.
“We’re going to keep you warm?” Scorpius questioned, bemused as he did what she wanted.
A low whistle blew before she could answer.
“Is that the start of the match?” Rose had to practically yell to be heard over the howl of the wind.
“I think so,” Al confirmed as he squinted through the swirling snow. He knew that players were out there, somewhere, playing, but for the life of him he couldn’t see more than a few splashes of green and blue, which had to be the players’ uniforms.
They sat through the game, unable to see or hear anything for ten minutes before Rose said, “This is stupid.”
Glad that Rose had made the pronouncement, Al nodded. “Let’s go back.”
They weren’t the only ones. Only a few of the diehard Quidditch fans weren’t already streaming down the stairs to head back to the castle. They almost tripped over Caroline as they made their way down the icy steps.
“Sorry,” Al told her, grabbing her arm to keep her from falling.
He hated that he saw her flinch. Al let go as soon as he was sure the older girl wouldn’t fall.
“It’s okay,” she shuddered as she hunched her shoulders. “I don’t know what I was thinking! I don’t even like Quidditch that much, but I thought…”
“We do like Quidditch that much,” Rose informed her as they began the hike back up to the castle, “and we’re not staying. This is madness.”
“They should have called the game,” Scorpius agreed. “They can’t hardly see to play and the Snitch might be lost for days out there. Someone is going to get sick.”
The warmth of the Entrance Hall was absolute bliss compared to the battering they had been enduring outside. “Oh, thank goodness,” Caroline sighed as she pulled her scarf down away from her wind-chapped cheeks. “What are the odds on us getting hot chocolate from the kitchens?”
“Excellent if we can track down Nat,” Scorpius said as they turned up the great staircase to head to the common room. “Hopefully, she’ll have seats by the fire saved for us.”
But when they arrived back at the common room, Nat wasn’t there. Al’s heart skipped a beat when he saw the empty room.
“Maybe check up in your dorm?” Al asked as he tried not to panic.
Rose didn’t need telling twice. She sprinted for the stairs and was back a minute later, saying Nat wasn’t there.
“We need to find her,” Al said as he forced himself to think. Then it hit him. “Polly, I need you.”
A moment later, the house-elf appeared with a loud crack, startling his friend. Al knelt before the small elf. “Do you know where Nat is?”
The house-elf shook her diminutive head. “I will go find her, sir.”
“Please,” Al said, trying not to beg. “She might be hurt. She was supposed to be here. We’re going to look, as well, and try to alert the staff.”
With another crack, the elf was gone and Al spun to his friends. “We have to find her!”
The four of them took off, back out of the portrait hole and ran straight into his cousin Dominique. She had her bright red hair up in a bun and her blue eyes sparkled, just as his Aunt Fleur’s always did. “What’s up?” Dom asked as she noticed their panicked faces.
Before Al could speak, Rose filled her in on the situation.
Dom, who was one of the Gryffindor Prefects, understood quickly. “You four look, I’ll find a professor. I just saw Neville not four minutes ago!”
“Wait!” Al snagged her arm before she could take off. “If something’s happened, you shouldn’t go alone.”
“He’s right,” Rose nodded fervently. “I’ll go with Dom, you three stick together and search from here to the Hospital Wing. It’s likely that’s where she’d go if she wasn’t in the common room.”
“Okay,” Al agreed as his cousins took off back down the stairs and he, Scorpius, and Caroline headed down towards the hospital wing.
All Al could think about was his father’s last words to him before they’d used the Floo to get back to Hogwarts.
“Watch out for Natalie, okay? She’s in danger.” His dad had been so serious when he’d said it, too.
Fear, anger, and panic coursed through Al as they ran full tilt towards the hospital wing. He glanced left and was amazed to see Caroline keeping up with them, not even winded.
It was too bad she didn’t want to play Quidditch. She was clearly a supreme athlete.
They skidded to a halt outside the hospital wing door moments before Polly popped up next to them.
“She’s in there, sir,” Polly pointed towards the door as Al yanked it open.
Al found Nat folding up bandages, sticking them in a pile.
She appeared to be perfectly fine. Nat blinked her blue eyes, glancing between them. “What’s wrong?”
“You…” he was too winded, and too stunned to speak.
Scorpius crashed onto a bed, laughing hysterically. Or hysterically laughing, Al couldn’t tell which. “You gave us all a fright, Nat! We thought someone had snatched you.”
“No,” she shook her head. “I was bored, so I came up here to help out. Madam Longbottom said I might any time I liked. You really thought I’d been kidnapped?”
The door burst open again, this time spilling in Rose, Dom, and Neville.
Al just shook his head and flopped onto the bed next to Scorpius. He was really, really glad they’d been wrong, but that didn’t mean his heart was ready to stop racing just yet.
It was only then, as his head lay back against the pillow, that he heard the low, sonorous rumble from outside the castle.
Harry stared at the warehouse in Ireland, unsure if it was abandoned or not. It appeared abandoned, but that didn’t always mean much. This was the place the coordinates had told him to go. He was here alone, although the rest of his team knew where he was and they were all standing by, ready to assist if needed.
It was extremely stupid to meet like this, but he didn’t have a lot of options. He hadn’t told any of his family what he was doing, because he knew they would be, understandably, panicked.
Harry walked slowly towards the two story structure that might have once been an airplane hanger. It looked to be the sort of thing he’d have seen in an old Muggle movie on the telly. The walls were sheet metal that was mostly gray, but had distinct patches that were starting to rust through. Broken window panes lined the south facing wall, the one that led up to what had been a road at one point. The grass was currently taking over, popping up through cracks in the tarmac, at least what he could see through the patches of snow. The grass, most of which was withered and brown in the chilly air, danced gently in a small, chilly breeze. It was snowing like mad up in Scotland and Harry knew Hogwarts was drowning in feet of snow, but the storm had only skimmed them, before slamming the north with ferocious tenacity.
It was supposed to have let up already, but it was holding on, stalled above Scotland. Harry had heard Hermione worrying over it that morning during a staff meeting between them and the new Minister.
Harry wasn’t worried. Hogwarts had seen plenty of snowstorms.
He cast the Homenum Revelio spell on the building and found that only one person was inside. He marched on, wand raised, ready for whatever awaited him, or so he thought.
Harry pulled the heavy, rusting door open a crack and peered inside. He blinked when he spotted Jaylyn Teresa wrapped in a thick, heavy down coat that was the color of warm honey. Her dark face was ashen and she appeared to have lost at least a stone. The last picture Harry had seen of the girl, she’d definitely had a rounder face. Her dark eyes were haunted and darted nervously around as she stood waiting for him to approach.
“We’ve been looking for you,” Harry informed her quietly as he took measured, careful steps to reach the fidgety girl.
A lone tear slid down her cheek and she pushed at it with the palm of her hand. “I’ve been really stupid.”
He stooped ten feet from her and waited. “Do you need help?”
“I’m going to be killed if they find out,” she told him flatly. “But… but I know where the other girl is being held.”
Harry’s heart leapt, but he forced himself not to react. “You mean Veronica?”
Jaylyn nodded as another drop of regret traced a line down her face. “I thought it would be better this way, but it’s not. Here,” she held out a slip of paper. “She’s supposed to be killed tomorrow. They figured out she’s infertile, so she’s useless to them.”
Harry took the paper, realizing it was a receipt from a market. On the back was another set of coordinates. “Let me get you home,” he pleaded softly.
Jaylyn shook her head. “If I don’t come back soon they’ll know something is up. You have almost no time to get her back safely. If… if I send another raven, come meet me back here again as quick as you can, okay?”
Harry opened his mouth to object, because he didn’t want to use this young woman as an informant, but she Apparated away before he was able to say a single word.
Harry stared down at the coordinates, his mind racing, and turned on the spot, vanishing into thin air.
He made it back into the Ministry, and up to the Aurors’ office, in record time, hurtling down the corridor to find his team. The grabbed Macmillan, Raeburn, and Gregory and the four of them located the coordinates on a map, figuring out that it was part of an old Muggle development. They all stood around the conference room table, staring down at what might be their last chance to save a girl’s life.
“We Apparate here,” Harry pointed to a location just off the coordinates. “It looks like that’s a stand of trees. Hopefully no one will notice us arriving. After that, we see the lay of the land and move in.”
The conference room door opened and Kingsley stuck his head in. “I need a word, Potter.”
Harry opened his mouth to object, then realized that Kingsley was eyeing him in a way that meant they really needed to talk.
“So,” Harry turned to his team. “I trust you three to do this. You have whatever resources you need. Raeburn,” he nodded towards the senior Auror. “This is yours.”
“We’ll get her out, Potter,” the older man assured him.
Harry moved to the door and hated that he was going to have to trust that they would. Whatever Kingsley had for him was going to be very important.
They were barely in Harry’s office when Kingsley told him, “I figured out the money trail.”
Harry sat behind his desk and waited for Kingsley to take his own seat.
“Donald Baker, otherwise known as Dodi, has been entering the country legally as a Muggle with a Muggle passport,” Kingsley informed him bitterly. “What’s more he has filed papers with the Muggle authorities to get his kids back. He’s pressing to have his in-laws arrested.”
Harry was out of his seat before the words had left Kingsley’s mouth. The older man waved him down. “You took care of it?”
“It’s done,” Kingsley promised. “We had no trouble with the requisite to tamper with the Muggle records. The children’s medical exam at St. Mungo’s was enough for the Minister to approve it. No, he will not gain custody. The oldest is still at Hogwarts, of course, and we have moved the youngest and her grandparents to a safe location. I took the liberty since this all came about while you were meeting the girl. That’s quite a shock, by the way.”
“To put it mildly,” Harry agreed dryly. “Anything else? You mentioned money.”
“Yes,” Kingsley pulled out a thick stack of papers that had definitely been printed using a Muggle printer. “We know how he’s getting money into the country, and it’s through a Muggle venture. He bought a national chain of stores that Muggles shop at frequently. He’s also to move large amounts of goods and capital into the country without anyone being the wiser.”
Harry growled in frustration as he read through the sheets before him. “How on earth did he pull this off without our knowing?”
“That’s the best part in this,” Kingsley grumbled sourly. “I just found out that he’s Helminth Smith’s cousin.”
Harry’s eyes rose slowly to meet Kingsley’s. “Bloody hell!”
“Quite,” the other man agreed. “Smith couldn’t have rigged his election. He was always too big of an idiot, but the head of the American Leins du Sang? He’s a crime boss. If Donald Baker didn’t know how to do it, he could have hired any number of people to rig the election so that his cousin would win and continue to shield him.”
“We should bring Smith in for questioning,” Harry said as he clenched his fist in fury. “I can’t believe…” but the words faded off because, of course Harry could believe it. Nothing about Smith didn’t scream smarmy or untrustworthy. He’d been a thorn in Harry’s side for decades now. “We should wait until after we have Veronica back safely.”
“Agreed,” Kingsley told him. “You’re not going on that raid, right?”
Harry was supposed to be the Head, which meant most of the time he stayed behind. It was exactly what Ginny would want him to do, but she’d understand if he didn’t. Being married to his best friend was like that. They understood you better than anyone else. He flipped absently through the stack of papers, trying to work through the rage that still filled him. He froze when he flipped past a picture. Harry went back to it, staring at the big, blonde man with the buzz cut. He had a massive, square jaw that was so cartoonishly American that it was almost laughable.
Harry had seen those blue eyes. He’d seen this man, too, but mostly he knew those eyes. Caroline’s eyes. Where had he seen…
Then it hit him straight in the chest, more painful than a punch to the gut. “This man was at the Ministry ball!” Harry exclaimed as he held up the photo to Kingsley. “He was harassing Ginny, and I went to save her from him. We came over to you after that, do you remember?”
Kingsley’s eyes went wide. “Maybe we should talk to Ginny about–”
There was a loud, single rap and the door burst open, spilling Daniel in. He was pale. “There was an avalanche at Hogwarts! They need help!”
Harry was on his feet and running again before he even knew it.
Al stared out the window in horror as he saw mountains of snow sliding down over the Quidditch stadium, knocking over the goal hoops, tumbling the stadium seating over as though they were nothing more than twigs. Al gasped in horror as he saw students flying, limbs waving, down into large embankments of snow.
Most of the professors were in the stands!
“Neville!” Al cried out as his godfather skidded up next to him.
Neville swore and took off out of the hospital wing. “Get help, Al! Call the Ministry!”
Al didn’t need telling twice. He ran into Hannah’s office, noting the Matron wasn’t there, and grabbed the Floo powder off the mantel. He tried to calm himself enough to light the fire but his hands were shaking so badly that he couldn’t form the words.
“What’s wrong?” Caroline asked, coming in behind him.
Al shook his dark head and called out to the house-elf. “Polly, I need a fire!”
The elf appeared next to him, nearly scaring him out of his wits, snapped her fingers and the fire sprang to life in the grate. Al threw the Floo powder in and called out, “Ministry of Magic” before sticking his head in.
It was the work of two minutes to secure help. He pulled his head free and found Nat and Caroline working to fix up the hospital wing beds. “Where are the others?” Al asked them as he came back into the ward.
“Went down to help,” Nat explained as she rang her hands and glanced back out the window. “I’ve never seen anything like that, Al! The snow shouldn’t have done that! There isn’t enough of it.”
“I know,” Al agreed as the suspicions he’d been harboring for several minutes solidified. It was a distraction and he knew exactly why. He stared at Nat. “You need to hide, okay?”
Nat shook her head.
“You need to go, Leah,” Al said as he took a step closer, totally forgetting that Caroline was there. “If someone is after you…”
“It’s me,” Caroline whispered, making Al jump. He turned to look at her and saw she was white as a ghost. “My dad sent me an owl a few days ago. He’s… he’s…” She started to cry.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” Al demanded, a little outraged that she’d kept it to herself. “That should have been reported.”
Caroline shook her head. “He said he would kill everyone around me, including my grandparents, if I didn’t do what he wanted. I burned the letter, though. I didn’t sneak out of school like he told me to. Now he’s gone and done this,” she wailed as her arm swung out to encompass the snow.
Al didn’t have much time to think. Any moment, Ministry personnel would be streaming through to help aid in the search for buried students. “It… okay, you two go hide. Polly, can you hide them?”
The little elf nodded happily. “Polly is happy to help young master. I is hiding them very well. We won’t be found.”
She held out her miniscule hands to the girls and they each took one. Moments later, they were both gone.
It wasn’t a second too soon, because the fire roared to life behind him and his Aunt Audrey was leading the charge.
The chaos that ensued was tremendous. Every able bodied student was sent to help dig through the snow. The younger students, the few who hadn’t been at the game, were told to stay in the Great Hall, but Al ignored them. Instead, he followed his father out into the blinding storm to help search.
His brother was out there, somewhere. Most of his cousins had been outside as well.
Al spotted Hagrid first, mostly because he was the biggest one moving around. His dog, Lulabelle, was sticking her dark head into mounds of snow and pulling students up using her powerful jaws. Hagrid hadn’t had that dog very long, and she was only a puppy now, but at seven feet tall Al couldn’t even begin to imagine how large she’d be when she was full grown.
“Stay back!” his father ordered as he fell in line with all the other adults from the Ministry who had rushed to the school. They all move their wands and Al was left to wonder how they all knew what to do, and how to do it. The snow started to melt and black coats began to emerge from out of the pure, white snow. The moment someone is revealed, typically lying unconscious, another person rushed forward to bring them out.
Al could barely stand to look at the white faces of the people coming from the snow. He wanted nothing more than to rush in and help, but what if they weren’t just knocked out… what if they were all dead.
Without thought, Al turned to see Aunt Audrey running her wand along a small girl. He rushed over to see that it was a girl from his year that he didn’t know very well because she was in Ravenclaw. Audrey glanced up and noticed his expression. “She’s okay,” she reassured him. “Most of them are just knocked out. It was a hard push.”
Al didn’t know for sure, but he thought that if a Muggle had been hit like that, they’d have been… more than knocked out.
Something, Al didn’t know what, itched at his back. It wasn’t a feeling, exactly, but… he turned, scanning the world around him, but saw nothing. There was nothing to see except for acres of snow and frantic searchers. He tried to crane his neck to see the trees beyond, but there was nothing. Where had the snow come from? He turned back to stare up at the castle in the distance and noticed the convoy of people that was levitating the injured into the castle. The rooves of the castle were still coated in snow… a lot of snow. Al narrowed his eyes and kept searching for something. He didn’t know what.
Then he saw it. There was a speck, it must be a person, passing through one of the towers close to Gryffindor Tower. It was too large to be a student, Al was sure of that. Or if they were a student, they had to be in seventh year. The person’s head went well above the window and Al knew that window was over six feet tall.
“Dad,” Al turned to see his father helping a fourth year from the snow. He firmed his mouth into a thin line and said more loudly. “I’m going up to the Great Hall, okay?”
“Go,” Harry waved him off.
Al almost felt bad about lying to his dad, but not enough to change his mind. The second he’d gained the castle, Al took off at a run the window where he’d seen the large man. He thought briefly about trying to find his friends, too, but didn’t want the man to get away from him.
He ran past Gryffindor Tower and saw the Fat Lady still in her frame. She yelled something at him, but he didn’t slow down until he was right outside the corridor. Al stopped and poked his head around, but unsurprisingly, there was no one there. He crept along, trying to hurry as quietly as he could. He passed the place where the Room of Requirement was hidden and kept going. He knew all about that, thanks to Fred. Uncle George never hid anything from his kids, unlike Al’s parents who didn’t tell them anything.
James had finally managed to steal the Invisibility Cloak and the Marauders’ Map– Al’s brain froze.
The map. Loathed as he was to turn around, as painful as it was to think about abandoning the identity of the unknown man, that map was key to finding everyone. It showed everyone on the grounds, everyone buried in the snow.
Al spun and raced off for Gryffindor Tower and almost slipped when he tried to stop before the Fat Lady. “Bat Dung!” he gasped to the Fat Lady.
“Yes,” she sniffed. She hated the password, but one of the prefects had set it, so she swung open and Al took off for his brother’s trunk, hoping James had left the man in his room.
Ten minutes later, Al raced back down to his father, waving the map. Harry’s face lit up with relief as he snagged it from Al and quickly started directing the rescue efforts to the correct locations.
Al was ushered, none too gently, back up to the Great Hall by his aunt and he plopped down next to Rose, who was pale and shaking. “They won’t let us help.”
“I know,” Al nodded. He didn’t really expect that they would. They were thirteen… well, almost thirteen. “Have they found James yet?”
“Not that I’ve seen,” Dom said from her seat across the table. “Molly didn’t go to the game, thankfully.”
Al couldn’t keep it in any longer. “I saw someone sneaking around upstairs.”
They all looked at him, Dom, Scorpius, and Rose. “What do you mean?” Scorpius asked him.
He stared at the pale boy and shook his head. “It was a big guy. It had to be an adult, because he was huge. I saw him walking up by that corridor that leads to the Room of Requirement.”
“Where’s Nat and Caroline?” Rose said in a panic as she gripped his arm. “I just realized–”
Al felt his stomach drop as he realized the colossal mistake he’d made when he hadn’t warned his father about that. “They… they’re…” he cleared his throat and said, barely above a whisper, “they’re hiding. Polly has them safe.”
Al rose shakily to his feet. “I need to go find my dad.”
None of the adults paid him the slightest attention as he left the hall. Seconds later, Scorpius caught up with him. “Safety in numbers,” he assured Al as they made their way back outside.
Al spotted his dad and nearly cried out when he saw James in Harry’s arms. Al sprinted down to them just as James blinked his eyes open. “James!” Al called out, practically crushing his brother in a fierce hug. He hadn’t let himself think about how worried he’d been until just that moment.
Unbelievably, and truly it was Al would think later that it was James’ concussion, but his brother hugged him back. “‘M okay,” he slurred the words a bit as Harry finally set him on a stretcher.
“We’ll get you up to the castle,” Harry told him and Al was unsurprised to see the fear and worry on his father’s face.
“Dad, I need to tell you something,” Al blurted out urgently. He glanced around at everyone, but no one was paying attention. “I was with Caroline Baker before the avalanche and she said she had a letter from her dad.”
His father’s face, if it was possible, went even paler. “Where is she?”
“She and Nat are hidden,” Al explained quickly. “Polly hid them after Caroline told me. But Dad–”
Harry was already turning towards the castle and Al had to grab his arm. “I need to speak to her, Al.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Al shook his head and pointed up to the castle. “I thought I saw a big man up there. I think someone is in the castle and look at the snow,” he pointed towards the rooftops.”
His father turned to see what he was pointing at and realized why Al was so upset. “The snow didn’t come from the roof.”
“It didn’t come up from the forest, either,” Al replied with a shake of his head. “Someone had to do this, create all this snow. I think…” he didn’t say it, because it sounded stupid to say it out loud.
“I want to hear,” his father encouraged gently, and Al could see that Harry already knew.
“I think it was a diversion,” Al mumbled.
Harry nodded. “I agree.”
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