|SIYE Time:15:08 on 22nd October 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: 96436; Chapter Total: 2442
Awards: View Trophy Room
Nov 18th, 2015: I am participating in a podcast on Nov. 21st!! I will be answering fan questions about my writing, publishing, original stories, plot lines, new projects, as well as fanfiction, and so on. If you have a question, please visit my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sarahjaune OR email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The podcast will be available shortly after and you’ll be able to find the link on my facebook page or on twitter: https://twitter.com/SarahJaune
Thank you Arnel for all of your help! Also, please see my Author’s Profile to find links to my original works. I love fanfiction, but paying the bills is also pleasant. Thanks again! ~Sarah
May Contain Triggering Material!!!!
Harry’s mind raced as he quickly ran through the possibilities. If the girls were really hidden, then he could leave them be and continue on with the rescue of the students in the snow. Harry had a lot of faith in the little house-elf’s ability to hide them. If anyone could keep them out of the way, it would be the elf who had worked in Hogwarts her whole life. If it was Dodi Baker running through Hogwarts at that very moment, he would be at the disadvantage. He hadn’t gone to Hogwarts, and thus wouldn’t know his way around.
“Where else should we be looking?” someone called to Harry, which snapped him out of his thoughts.
The map would be helpful in tracking down whoever broke into Hogwarts, because Harry was sure that Al was right. His son had seen someone and there was no way this much snow should have fallen in the location that it had.
But the map was needed to save lives right now. Harry handed the map to Neville. “Keep going, Neville. I have to go check something out.”
Neville nodded, not even surprised as Harry took off towards the castle with his son and Scorpius trailing along behind him. He nearly told the boys to head back to the Great Hall. It was exactly what Ginny would have wanted, not to mention Draco, but he didn’t, mostly because he knew how much he’d hated having adults shove him to the side.
Dumbledore had given him a chance to prove himself, and right now he was with Al to help guide and protect him.
“Where did you see the man, Al?” Harry asked as they bounded up the steps.
Al pointed and took the lead, running along until they came to a deserted corridor. “It was that window,” Al said, pointing towards it. “I saw him there and his head was at least to the top of the window.”
Harry examined it and realized the man Al had seen had to be several inches taller than himself, at least. That was how large Dodi was, but it was reckless to break into Hogwarts. It was also nearly impossible, although not completely. The school was hooked up to the Floo Network, but it was monitored to make sure that nothing unauthorized happened.
There was no way… Harry stopped his racing mind and forced himself to think. Caroline was a cheerleader with a Muggle team, meaning she used the Floo to get home on a regular basis to attend practices. That meant her grandparents’ home was connected, which meant that Dodi Baker simply had to break into his in-law’s home and he would be able to get to the school without it raising too much suspicion.
It was so simple, so easy, yet a major flaw that none of them had seen. They’d left the girl to continue with her sport because she’d been through enough trauma and no one had wanted to take away something she loved, but that had left a gaping hole in the security around the school.
Kingsley had told him they’d removed Caroline’s grandparents and her sister from the home. There would have been no reason to leave security to watch the house. Not only that, but they didn’t have the manpower to leave someone at the house.
“Dad?” Al asked, interrupting his thoughts. “What should we do?”
Harry turned from the child who looked exactly like him, to the pale version of Draco with slightly darker hair. Harry hadn’t noticed before that Scorpius’ hair was starting to darken. He was intelligent, it was clear from his sharp, gray eyes, but the one thing that Harry didn’t see on Malfoy’s son was malice. There was nothing mean, condescending, or flat out rude about this kid. He simply wanted to help.
There were a lot of things they could do. They could search the castle, but with the size of Hogwarts, that would be a nearly impossible task. They could go back to rescue more students from the snow. They could verify that Caroline and Nat were both safe, but that might lead them to be in danger.
Harry was stuck without a way around it. Without the map, he had no idea where to search. If the man was searching for Nat or Caroline, likely Caroline, then he would possibly have a way to track her down, but there was nothing like that in the magical world, and no Muggle object would work in the magic-filled castle.
He needed to speak to Caroline and try to figure out what her dad was up to. “Let’s go to your common room.”
That, at least, could be searched and cleared.
They walked quickly back down to the common room and Harry smiled at the Fat Lady. “How have you been?”
“I have been well,” she told him primly, smoothing down her skirts. “Password?”
Harry held up his hand. “Is anyone in the common room or dormitories?”
The Fat Lady blinked in surprise. “No, Mr. Potter, it is quite empty at the moment. All the students who weren’t hurt are in the Great Hall.”
“I am going in and I want you to admit no one to the common room,” Harry explained quickly. “In fact, I would rather you made yourself scarce and didn’t come back for a while.”
“I cannot abandon my…” her voice trailed off. “Very well. Password?”
“Dragon dung,” Al and Scorpius said together.
The portrait swung open and they all climbed in, shutting the portrait behind them. Harry cast several charms on it, closing them into the room.
Now the only way in or out, apart from the fireplace, would be with a house-elf and Harry was going to solve the first one immediately. He took a tiny packet from his pocket and opened it as he moved over to the warm, crackling fireplace. He knelt, threw in a small pinch and said, “Ministry of Magic, Office of Magical Transportation.”
Within moments, he had made the arrangements to shut down the Floo Network in, out, and between the various fireplaces in the castle.
Minerva might not approve, but as Head Auror, it was his right to take control for safety reasons. He grimaced as he thought about the possible scolding she would give him. Or maybe not. She tended to agree with him on safety.
Harry straightened and put his packet of Floo Powder back in his pocket. “Polly, I need you to bring the girls to me.”
Nothing moved for a moment. For a single heartbeat, he thought that something might be wrong, then with a loud pop, the girls appeared, holding the hand of the little elf.
“Mr. Harry Potter, sir,” Polly squeaked with a small curtsey.
Nat sank onto a couch, looking decidedly green. Caroline’s face was as white as a ghost. “Are we safe?”
“No,” Harry shook his head. “I may send you back into hiding shortly, but I had questions about that letter your father sent you.”
Caroline sat next to Nat, while the boys hovered behind the girls on the couch. Harry sat as well, hoping to put the girl at ease. “What do you want to know?” she asked hesitantly.
“I want you to tell me, as much as you can, what it said,” Harry explained.
“I didn’t read it closely,” Caroline admitted while staring at her feet. “I skimmed it, then burned it, but basically he said that if I didn’t meet him outside the castle he would hurt my family. I warned my grandparents the last time I went for cheer practice, but they said not to worry about it.”
Harry bit back his annoyance that her grandparents not informing the Aurors that Donald had made contact with her. Since Dodi was not supposed to be in the country, he could understand why they might take it as an empty threat. But still, if she was supposed to meet him… “When was the meeting set for?”
“Uhm,” she chewed nervously at the side of her thumb, which Harry saw was red and raw. “Two days ago, I think.”
It was enough time for him to cook up some scheme in order to break into the school, and to cause a diversion. “Do you think he is coming after you?”
“I don’t know,” Caroline admitted miserably. “He never wanted me before. I can’t imagine what he wants from me, now, except to use me. I was nothing to him except a prize to show off when it was convenient.” She gestured to her face, and Harry felt intense rage at her implication.
Caroline knew that the only thing that made her father care, at all, was her pretty face. She knew she was worthless as a person to the man who had helped give her life.
“You know he’s sick, right?” Scorpius said to her. “It’s not you. My grandfather is pretty insane, as well, but nowhere near as bad as yours. You have to ignore him.”
“You’re worth more than that,” Nat agreed, taking Caroline’s hand.
She nodded, but didn’t speak.
“Was there anything else?” Harry asked her gently.
Caroline shook her blonde head, and gazed up at him with eyes raw from pain. “If you have the chance, kill him.”
Harry sat back in his seat, stunned at the venom of her words. “Caroline…”
She shook her head and turned away from him and Harry saw a girl that was utterly broken. Acid filled his gut at a sudden, horrible thought. He couldn’t ask it, though, not in front of the other children. Harry hoped he was wrong. There were many, many types of abuse. He knew that Caroline had suffered physical and emotional abuse, but…
No. She was checked for that at St. Mungo’s. She could have still been abused in other ways, but Harry was sure she hadn’t been raped. It wasn’t much comfort, but it was something.
Still, Caroline had every reason to wish the man dead.
“Okay, I want you all to stay here,” Harry told them. “No one comes in, no one goes out. Polly,” he turned to the little elf and wished suddenly that she’d agree to work for him fulltime. “I am going to ask you to take me from this room, then come back in and wait with them. If they need to be moved to safety, can you do that for me, please?”
“Yes, sir,” Polly assured him, holding out a hand.
“Stay here,” Harry reminded them, not that they had a choice. They were locked in as surely as everyone else was locked out.
A second later, he was outside the common room. He righted himself, then instinctively ducked a jet of red light that nearly hit his chest. “Go!” he hollered at the elf, who was gone a moment later, while he rolled and brought his wand up, ready to defend himself.
There was no one there.
Harry stood warily, gazing around the corridor, while he kept his back to the wall.
“That way!” a voice said from behind him, coming from the Fat Lady’s portrait. It wasn’t the Fat Lady, though. This was definitely a male voice and one Harry recognized all too well.
“Which way?” Harry hissed quietly.
“To your right,” Sir Cadogan blurted out in exasperation. “Can’t you see him?”
Harry bit back his frustration and scanned the walls, trying to spot something, anything, that could be a large man throwing jinxes at him.
This was stupid. “Come out, Baker!” Harry called. “I think we’re beyond hiding from each other.”
The man appeared suddenly, as though from thin air, his wand held in his hand. He didn’t use it, though.
This was definitely Donald Baker. The big, powerfully built, blonde man smiled pleasantly at Harry. “I am here for my daughter.”
“You can’t have her,” Harry replied, equally pleasantly. “You’ve lost all rights to her.”
“She’s mine,” he said forcefully. “I have heard all kinds of stories about the great, wonderful Harry Potter. You’re a bit of a nothing in America, of course.”
Harry had a fleeting thought about moving to America, just so he could be a nobody for once, but he forced himself to focus. Baker was trying to distract him. “What’s the end game in this, Baker? What do you hope to gain from grabbing your daughter?”
“Can’t I simply miss her?” Baker said as he started to circle Harry, who still had his back pressed to the wall. “She is my life, of course. I miss her and her sister dreadfully, especially now that my wife is gone. My wife’s parents never liked me. I’m simply trying to get them back, you see.”
Harry wanted to ask if Caroline was the real target, but he knew he wouldn’t get the truth out of this man. He also didn’t want Donald to know just how much Harry had learned. “Donald Baker, you are under arrest.”
“Only if you can catch and keep me,” the big man said with a vicious swipe of his wand.
Teddy listened carefully to Raeburn’s instructions as they observed the location where the girl, Veronica, was supposedly being held captive in the low, one story shack that didn’t appear to be much of anything. The boards along the side appeared to be rotten and falling off and there were several holes in the windows.
“I make out four people in there,” Susan Macmillan told them quietly. “I’m not detecting any traps between us and the front door, but I’m sure the door will be jinxed.”
“Here’s what we do…” Raeburn explained quickly.
Teddy was still in training. He was still a novice. He’d never done anything this dangerous before, but this was why he’d become an Auror.
The plan was simple. It was carrying it out that was going to be difficult.
“Are you ready?” Auror Gregory asked him.
No. “Yes,” Teddy lied as he closed his eyes and waited for the transformation.
“Remember to watch for traps,” Macmillan reminded him. “We’ll be right behind you, okay?”
Teddy nodded, too nauseated to speak.
He marched for the door in a body that felt nothing like his own. He wasn’t this tall, broad, or blond. He didn’t wait to be let him. He flicked his wand at the door, sending it flying open and marched in like he owned the place.
Three men jumped to their feet, wands raised, only to lower them when they saw who it was. Or rather, who they thought it was.
“What are you doing ‘ere?” barked a short, fat man with no hair and skin that appeared smooth as a baby’s bum.
“Watch your mouth,” Teddy growled, thankful that his modified vocal cords dropped his normal voice down another couple of notes. The trick was the American accent. He’d never been fantastic at accents, but at least American was attainable. When asked to sound French, he butchered it so badly that he Fleur had actually thrown a newspaper at his head.
He glared around at them and strode in, slamming the door shut behind him.
They all took a step back, clearly not looking for a fight with him.
“Didn’t go well, Baker?” one of the others, a man with a full beard and absolutely no fat on his tall, lanky frame. “Did the avalanche work?”
“It worked,” Teddy bit out, trying to keep the words short. He had to verify that the girl was alive and, hopefully, get her out so the team could storm the place and capture them.
“So, uh, where’s the girl? She’s going to do her nut if you don’t have the girl,” the first one commented.
Teddy pulled out his wand and Stunned the man. “Fuck off.”
Unbelievably, it worked. The man slumped over and the other two didn’t even bat an eyelash. Their assessment of Donald Baker’s character had been spot on.
“Any more stupid questions?” Teddy wanted to know of the other two.
They shook their heads.
Then, the skinny one handed Teddy a gift. “We saved the girl for you like you wanted.” Clearly, he was hoping to placate Teddy. He waved his hand vaguely towards a back door.
Teddy forced a cruel smile and strode for the backdoor. He couldn’t believe they were going to pull this off. He banged the door open and the girl jumped in terror as she stared at him.
“No!” she cried, trying to curl into a ball as Teddy slammed the door shut behind him.
He knew that the other Aurors would be listening in with Extendable Ears, waiting for this. The second Teddy Apparated away with the girl, they’d rush in.
“Shut up, you stupid bitch!” Teddy glared, coming towards her. She was manacled to the wall, unfortunately. He flicked his wand, releasing the restraints.
She tried to scramble away from him, but the poor girl was emaciated and clearly weak. Her dark hair hung limp around her thin face, but there was fire in her yet. “No!” Veronica screamed, lashing out at him. She sprang to her feet and Teddy caught her. He held her tight and concentrated and Apparating to St. Mungo’s.
The hospital had a specific room set up for just this purpose. It was empty, save for a bed along the wall. Veronica screamed shrilly as Teddy deposited her on the bed and transformed back into himself.
“You’re okay!” he assured her, holding up his hands for peace. “My name is Teddy Lupin. I’m an Auror and you’re in St. Mungo’s. You’re safe.”
Veronica’s eyes glazed over as she curled into a ball and began to sob hysterically. Teddy covered her mostly naked body with a blanket and went to find one of the Healers. Many of them had been called to the school to help deal with the crisis there, but a few were still on duty. He found a woman that he only knew by sight and explained the situation.
Then he turned back to the room, knowing he needed to take a statement as soon as she was able.
Teddy allowed himself only a brief smile. Yes, he’d been part of saving this woman’s life, but her life was never going to be the same again. There was no celebration there.
Susan Macmillan joined him before he was able to question Veronica Sinestra. Veronica’s parents and her fiancé, Stephen Davies, all rushed into the hospital just minutes after Teddy contacted them to let them know she was safe. It was heartbreaking to see how broken she was from her ordeal. She had asked for a moment alone with her fiancé, and he’d come back out to get them, pale and shaken, but clearly determined.
Teddy thought he knew what that was about. He’d heard in the briefing that Veronica was going to be killed because she was unable to have children. He didn’t know how he’d have reacted if Victoire had told him that. It wouldn’t have changed his love for her, and he’d still marry her, but it would definitely be a blow. They both wanted children.
“I’m just glad we have you back,” Stephen kept saying to Veronica. “We’ll deal with everything else that comes.”
The story that Veronica told Susan, while Teddy observed, was unbelievable.
“They took me from the market,” Veronica explained quietly. “I was taken to that place where you found me and they forced me to drink a potion. Then the men took turns raping me. They… they tried to induce ovulation a few times,” she said through a thick, veil of tears, “but nothing happened.”
Susan nodded sympathetically. “Do you know what the potion was for?”
Veronica shook her head. “There was another girl at one point, but I think she was working for them. There was an older woman, too, but I only saw her once. She seemed to be the one giving orders. But that one, the American that you were pretending to be,” she nodded towards Teddy, “he was also in charge. I think he had all the money. You’re…” her voice trailed off, but Teddy knew what she was asking.
“I’m a Metamorphmagus,” he explained quickly. “I’m really sorry about shouting at you. I needed to stay in character to make sure we could get you out safely.”
She seemed to be swallowing back something completely vile. “He liked raping me. He enjoyed torturing me, got off on it, the sick fuck.”
Stephen leaned over her and gently pressed his lips to her bruised forehead. “I’m so sorry, luv.”
Veronica smiled up at him, almost as though she couldn’t believe her luck that he was still there with her. “I made it out.”
“We’ll let you get some rest,” Susan said, bringing the interview to a close. “We will have more questions later, but for now I want you to have some time with your family. We will leave a guard on duty, just in case, but I do not think you’re in any danger here in St. Mungo’s.”
After some goodbyes, Teddy was left to stand guard outside the door for several hours before being relieved by another Auror.
He made his way from the hospital and walked back to his place, letting his mind wander through uncharted territories. He’d done his job, exactly how he was supposed to do it. He’d saved a life for the first time.
Teddy felt good about it, but couldn’t stop the pain from the look in Veronica’s eyes when she’d thought he was Donald Baker. It was fear and loathing that was so potent, it still felt like a gaping wound in his side. Before he knew it, he was outside his flat, climbing the steps to unlock the door.
The smells that greeted him were warm, fresh bread, some kind of meat, and a sweetness that could only mean Victoire. He smiled as he dropped his keys on the sideboard and went to find her in the kitchen.
She was stirring something on the stove, her back to him, even as she flicked a grin at him over her shoulder. “Hey. You’re home late.”
“You’re here,” he sighed happily as he wound his arms around her waist and hugged her from behind, bending to kiss the nape of her neck. “Merlin, you’re like chocolate right now. I needed your smile.”
Victoire set her wand aside and turned in the circle of his arms to wrap him in a tight hug, kissing him tenderly. “I just knew you’d need me tonight. I told Mum and Dad that I had to go, but I’m not sure they noticed anyway. Did you hear about the avalanche?”
“I did,” he nodded as he swayed gently. “Is everyone okay?”
“No one has died, thankfully,” she informed him quietly as the wonderful aromas wafted around them. “But a couple of the kids are badly hurt. Dom wasn’t in it, but Louis was. He has frostbite and a concussion, but Aunt Audrey sent word that he’ll be okay.”
Teddy let out a small sigh of relief that their family was all going to be fine. He kissed her again, wishing he could simply forget the world with the woman in his arms.
The world, however, wouldn’t be forgotten.
“Tell me,” Victoire prompted. “Tell me what you can.”
He did, at least the parts that he was able to share. There would always be secrets between them, things that he couldn’t divulge due to Auror rules, but he could unburden enough that he knew he’d sleep tonight.
It was only another few months and he’d never have to say goodbye to her, only goodnight. “Let’s eat,” Teddy said after another moment. It would come soon enough.
Harry deflected the first curse, parried with Expelliarmus, which Baker blocked. Harry expected this, though, and in his momentary distraction, fired off the Full Body-Bind Curse. Unfortunately, Baker was ready for him and blocked it with a Shield Spell.
A moment later, he was gone. Harry straightened, unsure of what exactly had just happened.
There was only one explanation and that was a Portkey.
Harry swore softly under his breath and checked the area around the portrait hole. Nothing.
It was one more thing they’d have to protect the castle from. The rules had been relaxed a bit since Voldemort’s downfall. After all of the Death Eaters had been rounded up, there wasn’t as much call for keeping the school locked down like a prison.
Leaving the kids locked in the common room, Harry went back down to the rescue.
It was nearly three hours before he was able to speak with Caroline about her father, and then all he was able to learn was that he was a rotten bastard. Harry already knew that much.
He didn’t push, though he suspected that she would need to spill those secrets at some point. After assuring himself that his kids, plus his nieces and nephews were all fine, he left the school via the front gate and Apparated back to the Ministry to learn that Veronica Sinestra was safe and in St. Mungo’s.
He didn’t like Raeburn’s tactic of using Teddy to gain entrance to the building. It could have gone horribly wrong, straight from the off, but he had to admit it was a clever gamble and he was glad that his godson had acquitted himself admirably.
Harry made it home to a nearly silent house. Lily and Ginny were both sitting at the kitchen table, mugs of tea in their hands, when he appeared in the fireplace. Lily cried in relief when she saw him and ran for him, practically throwing herself into his arms for a big hug. “Are they okay?”
“Yes,” he promised as he kissed her brow.
Unbidden, the image of Caroline’s damaged, hate-filled eyes flew through his mind. Caroline’s expectation of her father was that he would hit and abuse her. She’d likely never ran to Dodi Baker for comfort or reassurance. She’d never known his love or had trust in him.
It was so unbelievably sad that Harry felt his eyes sting from it. That child was in for a rough road. If she and her sister ever made it out of this to live a normal life, it would be a miracle. Harry’s childhood had been, by all accounts, miserable, but at least his aunt and uncle never violated him. They’d abused him, but he’d never had to worry that one of them was going to treat him so inappropriately that he’d wished them dead.
He’d just wished them far away from him.
“Harry?” Ginny’s voice broke into his maudlin thoughts. “Are you hungry?”
She looked pale and tired, worn down from all the stress and worry. Harry had a fleeting thought that this was what Molly Weasley had gone through when Voldemort had been powerful.
Or maybe it had been worse.
Whatever it was, it was definitely wearing on them.
The worst part was they were no closer to ending this than they had been the day before. The only bright spot was that they’d saved everyone, including Veronica.
And Minerva hadn’t been too cross that he’d sealed all the fireplaces and wasn’t letting up on that any time soon.
James turned from the common room fire towards the small voice that was calling from the darkened, seemingly empty room behind him.
His head throbbed amazingly, even though Hannah had told him he should be feeling better right now. The pain was too much, though, and he’d wandered down in the middle of the night to stare at the dying fire and try to build up the energy to go get more headache potion.
What he didn’t need right now was Caroline Baker. She always made his head ache more as he fought to find things to say to her that wouldn’t make her cry.
He felt himself shift away from her, more annoyed than he cared to admit. James felt like dragon dung and he didn’t want to be tiptoeing around this girl who left him confused and… he didn’t know what, exactly, but it wasn’t a nice feeling.
The couch dipped a little as she sat on the other end. “I couldn’t sleep, either. Are you okay?”
“No,” he bit out, still not wanting to talk.
He half expected her to get up and leave, but she didn’t. James shot her a sideways glance and noticed her chewing on her thumb. It was bleeding. “Stop!” he told her, swatting her hand away from her mouth. He took ahold of it, even as she tried to pull away, and focused on the raw skin. “Bloody hell, Caroline! Look what you did to yourself!”
She did look, but if she cared she didn’t show it. Caroline continued to pull on her hand until he let go, and she folded her fingers together in her lap, keeping them still.
James waited, but she seemed unable to speak, so he went back to watching the fire.
They sat in silence for a good ten minutes before she spoke. “I’m sorry for the avalanche. The whole thing is my fault.”
It sounded as though every word she spoke was unbelievably painful to utter. James didn’t even bother to turn her way. “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard today. You didn’t make your father do that.”
“I should have just gone to meet him,” she went on, like he hadn’t said anything at all. “He’d have what he wanted and that would have been the end of it.”
“Until he used you to get to us,” James pointed out spitefully. He cursed himself silently, wishing he’d kept his mouth shut. “Sorry,” he muttered, feeling like an arse. “I didn’t mean…”
“There’s no point in any of this,” Caroline told him in a tone that screamed resignation. “You have no idea… there’s no point. I should just give up and let him take me. He’ll eventually kill me like he killed my mom, but I already feel dead anyway. There’s no point in fighting anymore, not after all that’s happened.”
Suddenly, his head didn’t hurt anymore. It was as though he’d been struck by lightning, and the only thing he could think about was the burn that centered in his heart, straight where the jolt had gone in. James turned to face her now, fierce and angry. “Stop it! You’re not dead! You’ve already survived him.”
Caroline’s eyes closed as silent tears streamed down her cheeks. “I wish he was dead. I wish I was dead.”
He wanted to ask why she was telling him, of all people, any of this, but the words wouldn’t form. Nothing came out of his mouth, even when he forced it open, trying to pry words from his numb lips. The anger evaporated into fear.
“My sister wants to kill herself,” Caroline sobbed, still with her eyes slammed shut. “I did, too, but I told her we’d live for each other. I can’t do it anymore. I hurt too much.”
James let out a slow, aching breath. “Okay.” He stood and reached down to gently take her hand. He tugged until she stood, and led her out towards the portrait hole.
The fact that she didn’t even question him was unbelievable. She didn’t pull her hand from his, as he pushed the portrait open and stepped out to see Neville standing guard.
“James, what are you–” he began, then blinked as he saw Caroline.
“We’re going to see Hannah,” James told him softly. “It’s…”
Neville sized them up, but Caroline’s tears, plus her refusal to meet anyone’s eyes seemed to settle the matter. “Straight up there, yeah?”
James nodded. Whatever Caroline was going through, it was too big for him. She needed more help than that. He was only fourteen and knew nothing about… whatever this was.
They walked slowly, silently.
“I don’t want to go,” Caroline admitted after a minute. “But, I think I have to.”
“I think you do, too,” James agreed.
“I didn’t tell your dad everything,” she said as she pulled him to a stop. “I can’t tell anyone what happened.”
James stared down into her beautiful face, with her red, puffy eyes and tried to think of how to make this right. There was nothing he could do, though. “You can tell my dad anything. He’s… he’s the perfect person to tell.”
Grief, so raw, rushed over her that James had to fight not to reach out and hug her. If it had been Lily, that’s what he’d have done. Well… if he was honest, James would have only done that as long as no one else was around to take the mickey out of him. He knew what Caroline would do. She didn’t like to be touched. He was still shocked that she was holding his hand, but odds were good she’d try to flee if she wasn’t, so he suspected it was the last part of her that was going for self-preservation.
“You are so lucky,” Caroline hiccupped as she swiped at her face with her free hand. “My father is… God, he’s such a bastard. He’s a sick, sick, bastard.”
He waited, not sure he wanted to know, but absolutely sure that if she wanted to share that he would listen.
Caroline inhaled deeply and waved at her face. “He thinks I’m beautiful, you know. ‘Caroline, at least you’re beautiful, because you’d be a useless idiot otherwise.’ That’s what he’d say to me.”
James honestly couldn’t imagine it. She wasn’t stupid.
“He’d tell his friends about me, but ignore my sister, Honor,” she went out, letting out the poison. “Then he’d whisper it to me in the dark.”
Icy horror filled him as he realized just what she was implying. James squeezed her fingers lightly, reflexively, but it seemed to snap her from whatever place she was in.
Embarrassed, Caroline turned away. “What’s the point in living after that?”
“It wasn’t your fault,” James croaked as he fought not to cry. “He’s the one who’s wrong in this. You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“You British have this sense of purity,” Caroline said bitterly. “You have this code that everyone lives by because of this blood status mania and you know what?” she turned back to glare at him like it was his fault. “I’m never going to fit into that, all because my father thought was I was beautiful.”
“No!” James shook his head frantically. “That has nothing to do with you! That’s not your fault!”
She almost pulled away from him, but he tightened his hold. “Let go.”
He wanted to do what she asked, but James knew her life was at stake. “As soon as we’re at the hospital wing.”
“I don’t want to go,” she pulled again, but not enough to break free. James was sure she was stronger than the effort she was making.
She was mad, now, but it could switch back to destroyed at any moment.
Slowly, James stepped towards her. Moving carefully, he wrapped his arms around her and hugged her to him.
After only a few seconds, she broke down sobbing on his shoulder.
Eventually, he managed to get her up to Hannah, who gave Caroline a potion to help her sleep.
The next morning, James learned that she’d been removed to St. Mungo’s for further evaluation.
Neville found him later and commended him on what he’d done.
The words meant nothing, though. All James was left with was the memory of this girl who had been utterly destroyed by her father, the man who was supposed to protect her.
All while James had always been a total arse to his own father.
He sought Al out later on and made a point to talk to his little brother as though they were friends and James hadn’t spent his entire life being a berk to him. Al, although a little confused, went along with it.
There was nothing like a midnight confession to give him perspective, and the perspective James was left with was that he really didn’t like the person he’d been most of his life.
It was time to change that.
Go up and read my author's note please!!!!
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