|SIYE Time:10:29 on 23rd 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: 96551; Chapter Total: 2293
Awards: View Trophy Room
First off, thank you for reading and reviewing! Second, please, please take a second to check out my latest novel, then come back and tell me what you think! Itís free with kindle unlimited, but otherwise only $.99! You can find all the information on my facebook page: www.facebook.com/sarahjaune
Otherwise google ďThe Overseerís Son by Sarah JauneĒ PLEASE! Iím begging! Iím pleading! I need help getting the word out to everyone about this latest book, which is a series of six coming in 2016. Help me pay some bills, while enjoying my fanfics. Share on twitter, facebook, where ever! Iím desperate and happy to admit it. I have a house that has holes in the ceiling (but thankfully does now have a roof!)
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Thank you Arnel for keeping me honest!
Ron stared out the window of the beach house, without taking in anything around him. He didn’t notice the half-finished beer in his hand, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore mere feet away, nor the smell of wood polish from whoever had cleaned the house last.
He stared, with one hand in his jeans pocket, the other with the mouth of the beer bottle hanging limply between two fingers, and contemplated the end of his family.
Hermione hadn’t come.
Ron hadn’t really figured she would come. She had given up already, Ron knew. He wasn’t stupid or blind. Somewhere along the line, his wife had begun to value her job more than their marriage. Her job was giving her more of what she needed than Ron was.
Unfortunately, she wouldn’t talk to him about it. Hugo had been acting out more at home, which left Hermione staying in the office later and later. Ron couldn’t really blame her for that. Kids seemed to have an innate ability to sense when the ship was sinking and rather than help, they defaulted to pouring on more water just to ensure the whole thing went down faster.
It wouldn’t be Hugo’s fault if Hermione moved out, or more likely she kicked Ron out, but there was no denying that his son was adding fuel to the fire. He didn’t blame him, though. Ron had never once doubted his parents’ love for each other. He’d never once thought that they would be anything but solid and happily married, not even after his brother’s death. The stress of that, the heartbreak, would have been crushing to Ron.
He valued family. He wanted to fix this, but without even a little crack to peer through, he wasn’t going to see what was going on in his wife’s head. They’d been married for a long time now, but there were still moments when he didn’t understand her at all.
The front door, which was to Ron’s back, banged open, startling him. Ron spun to find a furious Hermione glaring at him.
“Hey,” he said as he set his beer down on the kitchen counter and waited for the explosion. He knew that expression.
“You,” Hermione began, punctuating the word hard as she slammed the door closed and marched over to him, poking him in the chest. “You left!”
Ron shrugged and stuck both hands in his pockets, just to make sure he didn’t react by throwing the bottle against the wall. He was angry as well, but his had simmered into unbelievable hurt. Given half a chance it would boil over again, which wouldn’t help anyone.
Also, Ginny would be furious if he hurt her house.
“I told you I needed a vacation,” Ron reminded her quietly. “You said you were too busy. I told you I was going anyway. What’s the problem?”
“The problem, Ronald Weasley,” she informed him in an ever higher pitched voice, “is that I made it home to see that my son was gone, and so were you!”
He quirked an eyebrow. “I left a note. Didn’t you–”
“I found the bloody note!” she bellowed as she threw the crumpled ball at him. He hadn’t even realized she’d been clutching it in her fist. “You had no right to–”
“Stop right there,” he ordered her quietly. “I have every right to go on vacation. Most of Hugo’s care has fallen to me, so I arranged for his care. If you don’t want to leave it that way, you’re free to pick him up from Angelina and George.”
Hermione blanched and glanced away from him as her cheeks reddened. She didn’t say anything.
“Are we done?” Ron asked her. He hated dancing around the subject. He hated feeling as though he was walking tightrope with her on every issue. If she was planning on them splitting up, then he wanted to know now.
“I haven’t…” her voice trailed off as she studied him closely, taking a step away from him at whatever she saw. “You want to move out?”
“Not particularly,” he admitted honestly. “But this isn’t really a marriage anymore, Hermione. We’re at odds when we do see each other, but rarely see each other as it is.”
Her color rose even higher as she spun away to march over to the wine cabinet. With shaking fingers, she poured herself a generous glass of red wine. “So this is my fault for working too much?”
Ron rounded the counter, grabbing his beer as he went, and sat at the table.
This might be the table where they discussed their breakup. It was an incredibly heartbreaking thought, but there was no point in denying what was happening. After a minute, Hermione sat across from him. They both stayed silent for a minute.
“I love you,” Ron informed her simply. “I always have, and I always will, but you are unhappy. I’d like to work to save our marriage, but I can’t do that alone.”
He knew it was the wrong thing to say the moment it came out.
Hermione tossed her hair back in outrage. “You think I’m not trying?”
“I think you’re not home enough to try,” Ron said with resignation. “I know your job is important to you, luv. I get that you’ve always been ambitious and you want to help people. But at some point, it switched over in to being the thing you loved more than me.”
“That’s… that’s not true,” she denied fervently.
“Tell me you love me, then,” Ron told her.
She hadn’t said it to him in several months.
Hermione opened her mouth to reply, but her eyes glazed over in tears. “Oh, God…”
“Yeah,” Ron sighed as he reached over to take her hand. “What do you want to do?”
Tears filled her eyes and dripped silently down her cheeks which were steadily growing paler. “I want to fix this.”
“Are you sure?” he asked urgently. He didn’t want to drag this out. “I need you to be willing to meet me halfway on this. I can’t do this without you.”
She nodded and swiped at her tears with the heel of her free hand. “Yes.”
Ron nodded and sat back in his seat, letting her hand go. “I need to know what’s been going on with you.”
She shrugged helplessly and took a sip of her wine. “I don’t know. I’ve been really swamped at work.”
Ron arched an eyebrow and shook his head. “Try that again.”
“I have!” Hermione protested, but it was short lived. “I’ve let myself be swamped at work. Ginny says I have no boundaries.”
He personally thought Ginny was right, but didn’t say so. In taking sides, he’d learned that it was always better to take his wife’s side over his sister’s.
“I really want the new minister to succeed,” she admitted quietly. “Minister Macmillan has been great for us so far, but it feels like she’s meeting resistance from some areas.”
“This has been going on longer than that,” Ron said shortly. “This isn’t about the politics, anyway. Even when you were back in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures you didn’t work like this, and that was something you were passionate about.”
Hermione worried at her bottom lip and wouldn’t meet his eyes. “We had small children. They needed me at home more than now.”
“Hugo still needs you at home,” he pointed out flatly. “He’s been missing you. He knows something is wrong.”
Her eyes filled again. “I don’t know what’s wrong, Ron. I don’t know why I haven’t wanted to come home. You haven’t done anything.”
“Are you taking this week off?” Ron asked her softly.
“I can’t,” she shook her head. “It’s a busy time and…” Hermione stared at him as he held up a hand to stop her.
“If you can’t take the time to try to work on this, then there is no point in trying,” Ron informed her. “I’ll take a week here to think things through and then we’ll decide who is moving out.”
“No!” Hermione wailed in fury. “You do not get to make ultimatums like that! Not after all we’ve been through.”
Anger burned again, low in his belly, and the first hints of his own rage leaked through. “We’re not doing this to our children anymore! We have barely six weeks until Rose is home. I want this settled. I want Hugo’s life to be settled. As I’m the primary one looking after them, I think you should move out into a flat. With all the overtime you’re working, you’ll certainly be able to afford it.” More venom than he’d intended leaked out and she recoiled as though he’d slapped her.
“You want to take my children?” Hermione shook her head.
“I want your children not to wonder if they’ll have a parent to tuck them in at night,” Ron said, jabbing the wound harder. “They can’t count on you, Hermione. You’re never around.”
Hermione snapped her mouth shut. “I really hate you right now.”
Ron let out a slow breath, one he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. “But?”
She covered her face with her hands for a moment, then pulled her hair back away from her face and glanced out the bay window that faced out onto the beach. “But you’re right.”
“What are you going to do about it?” Ron questioned, unsure of where this would go.
“I’ll go home and pack a bag,” she sighed heavily. “I’ll send in an owl saying I’ll be here. I can’t ignore the office completely, though, Ron. We have a psychopath on the loose.”
He could work with that. “We’ll work on our problems and try to fix this?”
She nodded once and rose. She hesitated before she said, “I haven’t eaten all day. Can you make something while I’m gone?”
“Sure,” Ron agreed as he stood as well.
Hermione walked around the table and tentatively kissed him. Her eyes held pain, sorrow, anger, but also a tiny bit of hope.
They had a long road to go, Ron knew as he watched her head for the door, but he really hoped this was the first step towards a better place than they’d been.
It could get much worse, but Ron really hoped it wouldn’t come to that. All he could do was hope and fight to keep his family together.
Harry arrived home from work, almost on time, which was better than he’d been doing for months. They had no leads on Isabella Crabbe. They had no leads on Donald Baker.
They’d also had no kidnappings reported. It was a lull, but Harry would take it. He’d had a huge lull in the years between his daughter, Hope’s, death and Crabbe’s reemergence into his life.
Then one major success that Harry could claim was seizing all of Donald Baker’s assets in Great Britain. Every avenue of Muggle capital that he’d built up, the Ministry of Magic had taken as their own.
They’d received word from Baker’s American attorney saying that lawsuits were in the works, but the English legal system didn’t work that way and it would net Baker nothing to try.
They’d had no word from Baker himself.
Caroline was finally back at school. She’d gone back the week previous, and from what Harry was hearing, had fit back in. She was far from well. She continued therapy with a therapist that traveled to the school to see her. Her sister, Honor, was also in therapy but during his interview with the little girl, Harry hadn’t learned anything new. It seemed that Caroline had been right and her father had never sexually abused his youngest child.
It was a small comfort.
Honor and her grandparents continued to reside in a safe house, guarded by Aurors around the clock.
The reason Harry was late was that he’d taken the seventh year’s Defense Against the Dark Arts class to tell them, as he did every year, about the war against Voldemort. He also pitched that they were looking for Aurors, but had no takers.
It was a pity, but he would keep trying every year.
Harry pushed open his front door and called out to his family. He heard a good deal of laughter from the kitchen as he hung up his cloak and made his way around. To his surprise, he found not only Ginny and Lily, but also Teddy and Victoire. “This is a surprise,” he said with a grunt as Lily threw herself at him. He couldn’t quite believe his little girl was eleven now. She’d be gone to Hogwarts the next year.
It boggled the mind.
“We’re having takeaway,” Lily informed his as she dragged him to the table.
“It smells good,” Harry said as he kissed his niece’s cheek and moved to Ginny to pull her in for a full out snog. He’d been making a point of doing that more often.
Ginny laughed and poked his belly. “Beer or wine?”
“With pizza? Definitely beer,” Harry told her. “Thanks,” he said as he took the bottle and made his way over to the open boxes. “I don’t know whose idea this was, but it’s brilliant.”
“Mine,” Victoire admitted. “It’s been a long week.”
“How is training going?” Harry asked as they dug in to their dinner. He ran his hand along Ginny’s thigh under the table, until she met his hand with hers and they linked fingers.
“It’s good, but exhausting,” Victoire said after a huge mouthful of pizza. “I’m really glad Mum is handling most of the wedding details, because I couldn’t imagine adding anything else into my schedule. I know it will be worth it,” she said with a beaming smile at Teddy, “but we have a long, hard slog before we get to enjoy the benefits.”
“Even then it’s still sometimes a slog,” Ginny laughed as she handed Lily another slice of pizza. “It’s really easy to get caught up in work.”
Teddy inclined his head. “You’re in the run up to the world cup now.”
“True,” Ginny agreed. “We have a few months of play, yet, but I’m not taking an active role this year. The very last playoffs are right around your wedding so I’ve arranged to have another reporter take over come June.”
Teddy and Victoire exchanged a look. “Sorry, Aunt Ginny,” Victoire said earnestly.
Ginny waved that off. “Don’t be sorry! I do this job for something to do and because I love Quidditch. I love both of you more, though, so I’m happy to be part of your wedding.”
They would be more than part of it. They were Teddy’s parents in the truest sense of the meaning. When the mothers were escorted in, Ginny would be one of them. Teddy’s only living family, his grandmother, had been murdered.
They’d still never caught her killer, although Harry was reasonably certain it had been Crabbe. He just couldn’t prove it. Yet.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Harry assured them, “although maybe not as much as you are.”
The look Teddy sent Victoire’s way was so raw, so intense, that Harry had to glance away. It was a private look, but one he knew all too well.
The moment was broken by Lily announcing, “I want a baby.”
Everyone turned to stare at her. She looked confused at their stunned silence.
Ginny seemed to recover first. “You’re eleven, Lily-Lu.”
Lily burst out into giggles. “No! I mean, I want them to have a baby,” she informed them as she pointed towards Teddy and Victoire. “I’m tired of being the baby of the family. It’s someone else’s turn, now.”
Teddy let out a snort. “Lily, you’re in for a long wait. Victoire has two more years of training to get through to be a Healer.”
“And we’ll be in that small flat,” Victoire added. “We could have children there, but it’s not ideal.”
“Ouch,” Harry turned to Ginny, who had kicked him under the table. “What?”
Her pale brow rose pointedly as she stared at him, but for the life of him, Harry couldn’t think of what she wanted him to do. Casting her eyes up to the ceiling, she said, “The money, Harry.”
“The… oh!” It finally occurred to him what she was talking about. “Right, the money.” Victoire and Teddy both appeared mystified. “We have money for you for the wedding.”
They both continued to stare mutely.
“We set aside some money for Teddy, then for the other kids, for when they get married. You can have it, if you–”
“No,” Teddy said firmly.
Victoire smiled, but shook her head. “We’re going to do this on our own.”
“Are you sure?” Ginny asked quietly.
“Positive,” Teddy promised.
“Can I have some money?” Lily asked hopefully.
Harry turned to his daughter in amusement, “When you get married.”
“What do you want money for?” Teddy asked as he leaned over to ruffle her hair.
“I’ve observed,” Lily told them very earnestly, “that when one has money, there are more options available in life. I want all of my options to be open just in case.”
There was a small beat of silence before they all burst out laughing. She was so serious that it Harry could only laugh.
“So,” Ginny said after she’d wiped the tears of mirth from her eyes, “are you sure you still want the beach house for your honeymoon?”
“Yeah, I think that’s best,” Teddy said with a sigh. “Victoire is only getting three days off as it is. We’ll both continue to work and train, but we’ll have the beach at our feet when we’re off work in the evening.”
“I have managed to arrange all my shifts to be day shifts,” Victoire explained to them with a rueful grin. “It will at least ensure that we get some time together.”
“We didn’t have a honeymoon at first,” Ginny recalled as she glanced towards Harry. “I think we didn’t really get away until a year after we were married. But it was a different time and place.”
“True,” Harry said as he stood to retrieve a bottle of wine. He didn’t want to think about their first year of marriage, or what they’d lost. He especially didn’t want Lily asking about it. “Who wants a refill?”
Al couldn’t take much more of studying. In fact, he’d already made up his mind and fled out into the sunny grounds to enjoy the late spring day and all the fragrances that went with it.
Everyone else had stayed to study, but Al was done.
It was a Saturday and Quidditch had been over for a week. The Quidditch Cup had been won by a margin of twenty points by Slytherin, which had annoyed James to no end. Even his brother’s unbelievable personality makeover couldn’t compensate for the loss of the season. Gryffindor had come in second, well ahead of Ravenclaw, with Hufflepuff in at dead last. Again.
Al really hoped he could make the team the next year. He wanted to be part of the Quidditch team, but if he was honest, Rose was better than he was. Scorpius liked Quidditch, but had no desire to play on the team.
Al half thought that was because his father wanted him to try out for the team. Whatever it was, Scorpius was not having it.
He moved slowly, not in a rush, down the lawn towards the lake. His friends were signed up for three extra classes the following year. Al had, reluctantly, done the same. It was going to be brutal. If he did make the Quidditch team, he wasn’t sure how he’d keep up with practices and the extra homework.
A bird screeched overhead and Al glanced up at the hawk that soared over him, and towards the forest. He followed it with his gaze as it flew over Hagrid’s hut.
Smoke curled from the chimney of the small, wooden house. On a whim, Al followed the bird and went to pay a call.
He knocked at the door and heard a scraping as Hagrid stood. He pulled the door open and a grin split his face. “Albus Potter, haven’t seen you in weeks.”
“Sorry,” Al apologized. “Exams and all.”
Hagrid nodded, then stepped back.
Al made to walk in to the hut, but stopped at the sight of Caroline sitting on the floor with Hagrid’s puppy, Lulabelle draped over her.
Caroline’s troubled, blue eyes met his and he smiled as he stepped in and sat down at Hagrid’s table.
Lulabelle, who was has hyper as a dog could be, didn’t move away from the girl to greet Al. Instead she stayed put, bigger than Caroline, but still in the girl’s lap.
He couldn’t help but stare. It was so odd.
“I like her,” Caroline told him unnecessarily as she stroked the russet colored fur.
“I’ve been tellin’ Caroline, here,” Hagrid explained to Al as he poured him a cup of tea, “that she should get a dog.”
It was the strangest visit to Hagrid Al had ever had. The more time he spent there, the jumpier Caroline became. The jumpier Caroline became, the more the dog nudged at her. Al cut his visit short, only staying for the one cup of tea, and made his way back up to the castle, unsure of what he’d accomplished by skipping out on studying.
He made James in the entrance hall. “Hey,” he said to his older brother.
“You saw Caroline?” James asked without preamble.
“Yeah, she was with Hagrid,” Al informed him in surprise. Then it hit him. “The map?”
“She disappears sometimes,” James informed him as he glanced away. “After everything that happened, I checked once and saw she was down there. She was difficult to spot because the dog is always right on top of her. Since then, I’ve just assumed that’s where she’s gone.”
“I think the dog helps calm her down,” Al told him. “She was sitting on the floor with Lulabelle.”
James nodded absently. “Listen,” he said after a moment. “Sorry about the Quidditch thing. We worked really hard, and I felt like I didn’t play as well in this last game.”
It stilled stunned him worse than a curse to the chest in class to have James treating him like this. However, he tended to agree with James that his brother hadn’t played his best. He wasn’t going to patronize his brother by pretending otherwise. “You’ve had a lot on your mind.”
James shook his head. “I can’t let the outside world change how I play.”
“I don’t want you to tell me what Caroline said to you that last night,” Al told him flatly. “It’s none of my business, but I know it must have been really bad because you were more shaken up by that than when we learned about Hope. But, James,” Al put his hand on his brother’s shoulder and was surprised to see James’ brown eyes filled with anger. “She’s not your responsibility, you know. The teachers are helping her.”
“I know,” James mumbled and glanced away. “She’s avoiding me, too. I think she’s embarrassed or something.”
“Give her space, then,” Al pulled his brother around and hauled him back up to the common room. “Come on, we both have exams to pass.”
“Stop staring,” Harry hissed in Ginny’s ear.
Ginny shook her head and ignored him as she continued to observe Ron and Hermione while they waited on the train’s platform for the Hogwarts Express. “It’s getting better,” she whispered to her husband.
“What is?” Lily asked softly as she stared up at her mother curiously.
Ginny cupped her daughter’s chin and brushed her lips against Lily’s forehead. “Never you mind.”
She stared down at Lily’s brown eyes and her beautiful face and thought, even though she knew she was biased, that she had the loveliest daughter in the world.
“Nat’s coming home with us, right?” Lily queried again, for the hundredth time.
“Yes, she’ll be with us until August,” Ginny reminded her. She would be there through the wedding mid-July, but as it was only a small, family affair, it wouldn’t be a problem. They’d be able to trust everyone in attendance. Molly had wanted a bigger party for her grandchild’s wedding, but wisely agreed that they had no idea how to ensure everyone’s safety. It only took a reminder of what happened at Bill and Fleur’s wedding for Ginny’s mother to see sense.
So Nat would be with them. Nat’s parents had asked them to take her, as otherwise Nat would have been in Liberia with her father. It was not the sort of place one could take a child at the moment, especially not one who was still fragile and vulnerable.
Ginny hadn’t minded, though. The girl was easy to have around. She was helpful, bright, and kind. That was all Ginny could ask for in a houseguest. Come August, her parents had both arranged time off to spend here in England with Nat at the beach house.
“There’s the train!” Lily cried out as she ran from Ginny to grab Hugo’s arm. Her cousin didn’t even seem to notice as he, too, was waving at the oncoming locomotive.
“It’s another year gone,” Ginny reminded Harry thoughtfully. “We’ve been married almost twenty-one years now.”
“Your parents are approaching two-hundred years, right?” Harry quipped, then laughed as she prodded him in the side. “I still can’t believe Lily leaves us this fall. She was a baby a minute ago.”
Ginny studied her daughter as she hopped on Hugo’s back so she could see over the crowds that were surging around them. Hugo was turning into his father, indeed. Where Lily was still a tiny thing, Hugo was sprouting up, no longer even close to Lily’s height.
Ginny was reasonably certain he was taller than Rose, but she’d know for sure in a few minutes.
Hugo laughed as he hoisted Lily up, while they continued to wave.
An agonizingly long three minutes later, Al was in her arms, followed swiftly by James, then Nat, then Rose, and so on. Ginny laughed as she caught snippets of conversations, and questions that were fired rapidly around her.
She saw, but didn’t draw attention to, Harry directing one of his Aurors to a blonde girl that Ginny had to assume was Donald Baker’s daughter.
She was very pretty, but strikingly thin and clearly not attempting to take care of herself.
James, however, caught where Ginny was looking. “Let me introduce you, Mum.”
The gaggle of kids moved over to swamp Hermione, Ron, and Fleur, so Ginny went with her son towards the girl.
James smiled at her, but Caroline seemed to only shrink in on herself. “Caroline, this is my mum. Mum, Caroline. She’s a friend from school.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Ginny assured her as she held out a hand to shake.
Tentatively, the girl reached out with icy fingers and whispered in an American accent, “Hello.”
Harry stood back from them, keeping the Auror away as well.
“Hagrid has this puppy,” James went on as though the whole situation weren’t awkward, strained, and frankly heartbreaking. “He named her Lulabelle.”
Ginny snorted out a laugh. “Of course he did.”
“Lulabelle is kind of a menace, actually,” James told his mother. “She’s still a puppy, but she’s huge. She’s bigger than any of us, and during class she sometimes tries to jump on us. The only person she’s gentle with is Caroline. It’s like she’s a dog whisperer or something.”
Caroline’s eyes lit for a single moment, but then it was gone. She looked behind Ginny towards the group of kids. “Your sister starts next year, right?”
“Yeah, Lily,” James confirmed. “Why?”
“My sister, Honor, does as well,” Caroline added in a low voice as she made the first human gesture Ginny saw from her and reached out to take James’ hand. “Al says your sister is really nice. Can you ask her to sit with Honor next year on the train? Honor is going to struggle with making friends.”
James, although surprised, nodded quickly. “Sure, I will. Lily is really sweet. She’d be happy to, same with my cousin, Hugo. They both start next year.”
“Thanks,” Caroline said as she let go and turned to move towards the Auror. She glanced behind her one last time. “See you next year, James.”
“See you,” James called out as he gave half a wave. The moment she was out of earshot, and with the Auror, James demanded, “Where are her grandparents?”
“In hiding,” Ginny said into his ear so no one else would hear. “Your dad didn’t want her on the train. He was actually going to escort her home personally, but she begged to be allowed to go this way.”
James’ troubled expression touched something in her. She’d seen the changes in her son, but it was still unsettling.
Ginny caught sight of Al, Rose, and Nat saying goodbye to Scorpius, although they’d be seeing him again in a week. Ginny had corresponded with Scorpius’ mother, Astoria, to arrange for her son to spend a few days with them.
Ginny rather liked Astoria, even though she wouldn’t have said that when they’d been in school together. On the whole, the woman had become a type of ally to her in her quest to get their kids together. Ginny rather thought that Astoria was happy with the route Scorpius was taking.
Bracing herself for the noise, Ginny rounded up her children and herded them towards the car with Harry close by, keeping a firm eye on all the people around them.
They were attempting not to scare the kids more than they needed to, but it was difficult when so many things had gone wrong in the last few years.
However, they made it home without incident and walked in to find the house smelling of cooking ham and Polly, the house-elf, already installed in the kitchen.
Ginny had been wondering if the tiny creature would come again. Clearly, she needn’t have concerned herself. “Hello, Polly,” Ginny greeted her cheerfully. “It smells amazing. Kids!” she called out before they could dump their stuff. “Put everything away first.”
“Alright,” James called out as he hauled his trunk upstairs.
“Leave it,” Al told Nat. “I’ll come back for it in a minute.”
“I have it,” James said as he sprinted down the stairs and grabbed her trunk for her.
Ginny stared in disbelief as her oldest hauled the trunk up the steps and out of sight.
“He had a hard year, miss,” Polly told Ginny in a squeak.
Ginny turned to the elf and stared at her big eyes which were fully of worry. “What do you mean?”
“His friend is very sad,” Polly said, but then went back to cooking.
She let it go. There was no point in priming the elf. She’d rather hear it from James, himself, if he had something to tell.
Harry came up behind her and slipped his arms around her neck. She breathed in a warm feeling of comfort as he pressed his lips to her neck. “You smell better than the ham,” he told her, “but only just.”
Laughing, she turned and boosted herself up so she could press her lips to his. “You’re going to pay for that.”
“Promise?” he asked against her lips.
Ginny didn’t have to wait long to hear from James, and when it came, it was a shock.
She’d decide to plant tomatoes out in their back garden that year, although she couldn’t honestly explain why. Ginny didn’t exactly like gardening and tomatoes weren’t her favorite food. It ended up being endless hours of weeding.
Today was no exception. The kids had started a kind of Exploding Snap tournament and the whole of the downstairs ended up smelling like burnt farts. After complaining about the smell, James had fessed up to getting the cards from his Uncle George. At that point, Ginny had retreated from the house, donning her big, floppy hat to protect her face from the sun, and went to deal with the garden.
“I should have planted peas,” she muttered as she pulled up yet another weed. She at least enjoyed peas immensely.
“I think we need chickens,” James’ voice said from behind her, startling her so badly that she let out a small scream.
“You scared me!” she complained as she watched him come sit on the ground beside her.
“I didn’t mean to,” he said with a grin. He might not have meant to, but he clearly still found it funny.
Ginny waited for him, seeing plainly that he needed to collect himself. James fidgeted with a weed before finally plucking it up and throwing it into her small pile.
“You can talk to me,” Ginny assured him gently.
James shook his dark head. “I kind of promised not to tell.”
“How about if you tell me how it made you feel,” Ginny suggested as she tried to work around that. She didn’t want him to break a promise, but she also knew he wouldn’t be able to keep it inside. “I don’t know what happened, James, but I saw your father’s face after he came back from talking to Caroline. He was destroyed. It takes a lot to rattle your dad, but whatever happened to her, it hit something in Harry.”
James picked up a twig, stuck it into the ground and dug a small hole in the brown earth. “If… if I tell you how I feel, that’s not breaking my promise.”
“I don’t think it is,” Ginny replied honestly. “I don’t think she’d expect you to keep it all inside, not when it’s eating at you.”
“It shouldn’t be eating at me,” James told her bitterly. “It wasn’t me that it was done to.”
Ginny waited for him to go on, knowing he would when he’d found the words.
“I felt like…” he said slowly, starting off haltingly. “I felt like I’d been hit in the gut, you know?”
She nodded. “I’ve had that happen before.”
“I was so mad at her father, Mum,” he admitted reluctantly. “I think I could kill him if I saw him.”
Ginny closed her eyes briefly. She knew that James was speaking from the heart, but he had no idea what it would be like to kill someone. It wasn’t something that a person could just come back from.
She knew, however, that Harry had promised the same thing. He’d promised to kill Donald Baker.
Harry’s feelings towards Isabella Crabbe were complex and layered. The woman was a product of countless years of abuse, of torture, of subjugation, and finally of losing her son. She was brilliant, but also certifiably insane. Harry would kill her since she’d been the person who instigated the death of their daughter. If pushed, Ginny rather thought he’d want her dead. But if the option were there to put her in Azkaban, or even into a secure cell in St. Mungo’s, she thought he would do that. If they could make sure that she couldn’t escape, that would likely be enough for Harry.
But with all that Baker had done, Harry was ready to kill the man. It didn’t shock her that James felt the same way.
“He’s a horrible man,” Ginny said slowly.
“He’s the worst kind of man,” James spit out angrily. “I just want to strangle him for what he’s done!”
Ginny watched her son jab the stick into the earth again, but he didn’t break it off like she thought he might. Instead he found another, then another, lining them up until he could lean a leaf on them, creating a sort of hut.
“It also made me feel ashamed,” James said when he’d finally finished his creation.
Shocked, Ginny stared at him. “Why?”
“Because of how I’ve acted,” he told her quietly. “I’ve been a toe rag, Mum. I know I have been.”
She opened her mouth to contradict him, but ended up closing it again to think about what he’d said. “You haven’t always been the easiest to get along with,” she finally agreed diplomatically. “But I can see the changes in you.”
He shrugged. “I’m trying. I can’t just be an arrogant berk all the time, taking everyone around me for granted. I assumed, all along, that if I needed help, you and Dad would be there. I just assumed it, even though I haven’t done anything to deserve it. Caroline sat next to me, chewing her thumb until it was bleeding, and then…” James’ voice cracked as his eyes went bright from tears.
“Oh, Jamie,” she pulled off her gardening glove and cupped his cheek. “There are people in this world who have been so damaged by what’s happened to them, that they’re difficult to be around.”
James sniffed and shook his head. “I want to be her friend. I feel…”
Words failed him, but she knew because she knew Harry. “You feel protective of her.”
“Yeah,” he confirmed. “She’s avoiding me.”
“I need to tell you something,” Ginny went on softly. “I absolutely want you to be friends with Caroline if that’s what you want, but there are hard truths that you will have to live by.” When she saw she had his full attention, she went on. “Caroline is going to be hurting and broken for a long, long time. The only person that can fix Caroline, is Caroline herself. If she’s not trying, she’s never going to get there. Now,” she went on before James could interrupt, “she may be trying and failing. It may be one step forward, two back, and that’s okay. The road to recovery is never short, not after such unspeakable trauma, but you have to understand, James, that she’s going to be difficult to be friends with.”
Her son deflated before her eyes. “I’m not good enough for this.”
“No one is good enough,” Ginny assured him sadly. “But she is worth being friends with. She, and every other victim, deserves to have friends and family. She didn’t ask for this. She’s going to push you away a lot. She’ll cling other times. She’s going to be a broomstick ride of emotions, first up, then down. You only have to be two things.”
Hope flared in his brown eyes, eyes so like Lily’s and yet the expression was one Lily would never have. Lily didn’t know or understand the world. James, sadly, was learning all too quickly. “Yeah?”
“Two things,” Ginny repeated for him. “The first is that you need to not change. You have to be stable, steady, ready to be there when she comes close. This isn’t something easy, though. It’s going to be exhausting never knowing where you stand. You might also never see her succeed in getting better. I’m sorry,” she said as she took his hand, much as Caroline had at the station. “I want to tell you it will end beautifully, but that’s not real life. I hope it does, though.”
“What’s the second thing?” James asked her hesitantly.
“You need to be a friend,” Ginny said sadly. “Not a boyfriend. She doesn’t need that sort of complication in her life until she’s put herself back together again.”
James’ expression was so sad, so bitter, that it looked completely out of place on a fourteen-year-old. “I doubt she’ll ever want a boyfriend, Mum. After what she’s been through? I couldn’t do that to her. I just want to be her friend.”
Ginny very much doubted that, but she didn’t contradict him. They’d made some progress. She hoped they’d have a lot more in the years to come. “Okay, then,” was all she said as they continued to weed the tomatoes. She smiled as her heart warmed at the sight of James’ features, which were starting to go angular as he grew into the man she knew would resemble Harry so much. It was a good day.
PLEASE take a moment to read my author's note above! Very important!
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