|SIYE Time:14:08 on 20th November 2017|
The Space Between
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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/AB, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Fluff, General, Humor, Tragedy
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Rape, Sexual Situations, Spouse/Adult/Child Abuse, Violence, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry and Ginny's lives have finally evened out. They've faced trauma, and loss, more than most have, but they've fought hard to find a normal.
If only things could stay that way... Old enemies find new ways to seek revenge.
This story is the sequel to Bound. It would be extremely helpful if you read that first.
Warnings are to be safe. It's probably overkill. Please message me if you have any questions or concerns.
Hitcount: Story Total: 75581; Chapter Total: 1698
Awards: View Trophy Room
I have another book coming out the first weekend in March 2016 called The Pursuers
Please go to my profile and take a look! My book, The Overseer's Son, is only $0.99 on amazon. I really need help getting the word out.
If I can get enough book sales through here, through all of you sharing on facebook, writing reviews, etc, then I'll take a request for a one-shot to post here for you. I never do this, but if we can see sales pick up I will make the time and devote the energy. Otherwise I have to spend more time sewing and not writing because money ;)
Thank you all for everything! Let me know what you thought of this chapter. We'll get back into the heavier action next chapter.
Thank you Arnel for beta'ing!!!
The bills were going to do them in, Teddy was sure of it. This was not how Friday nights were supposed to go. On top of Victoire’s student loans to become a Healer, they had rent, food, and utilities in this Muggle flat in the armpit of London. Teddy stared at the bits of paper and tried to force himself to focus on them. It didn’t work. All he saw was the shabby kitchen around them, and his stomach rumbled while Victoire cooked. It was like his brain was rebelling at the impossibility of it all. They’d only been married a month and already Teddy was seeing that being an adult was going to be tougher than anticipated. He’d been functioning well enough on his own, but they’d committed to paying for part of Victoire’s loans now, rather than waiting until after she was finished.
He had a stipend from training. She was paid a small allotment for working after classes in the hospital. It was just not enough. “I think I’m going to see if George could use me for a few hours on weekends.”
Victoire turned from the stove with a slight frown on her face. “It’s that bad, huh?”
“It’s that bad,” he agreed as he stretched and went over to take the spoon from her so he could continue with the sauce. They traded off cooking nights, although it was often more of a matter of who was home first. That was always a toss-up. “Take a look.”
She studied the papers in much the same way that he had. “It looks like you’re right.”
“I didn’t really want to be,” Teddy mused. “I have another year until I’m done with training and I get full pay. You work half the weekend anyway, so it isn’t like I’m missing out on time with you. Your shoes are beyond magical repair, and my wand needs to be replaced. We simply need more money.”
Victoire glanced over to the door where her uniform shoes sat waiting for the next day. Healers had specified modes of dress and she’d bought them second hand when she’d started training. Victoire had been keeping them alive through will power and spells, but they were ready for the bin. When she turned back to him, it was with a rueful smile. “No one said it would be easy.”
Teddy turned off the stove and pulled her into his arms. “I think they told us it would be bloody hard, but so far the worst part is figuring out how to pay for it all.”
“I didn’t really appreciate just how much I had when I lived with my parents,” she said thoughtfully as she boosted onto her toes to press her lips to his. “But I’d still rather be here with you and poor as we are, than back home.”
He grinned against her lips and deepened the kiss. “We could forget dinner.”
“We should eat since we can’t afford to waste food,” Victoire reminded him. Sadly, she was right.
They ate, they talked, they cleared up, then went to bed because that was the best perk of being married.
The next morning, bright and early, Victoire reported to the hospital and Teddy headed out to Diagon Alley to see his now official Uncle George about a job. WWW wasn’t open yet, but Teddy knew George would be in already. He knocked at the shop’s door and when George saw who it was, he came to open it.
“If she’s chucked you out already, I can’t help you,” George told him as he ushered him into the shop. “Come on, let’s have a cuppa.”
Teddy waited until they were settled at a table in the back room before asking. “I need a part time job.”
George’s face stayed impassive as he studied him. “What’s up?”
“Victoire’s student loans have put us over,” he told his uncle. “We could shuffle off the debt until she’s done with school, but you know how the goblins are. They don’t like debts, and we don’t want to be indebted to them for longer than we have to.”
Understanding washed over his face. “How many hours were you looking for?”
Relieved, Teddy explained the situation. “I’ll take whatever you can give me, honestly. I’ll do anything.”
“That’s good because all I have left are the jobs no one wants,” George laughed broadly. “You can start now.”
“We’ve had nothing from Crabbe,” Auror Gregory reported to Harry. It was the middle of August and things were extremely quiet in the office. Normally that would be excellent news, but it left Harry edgy and constantly on alert. Harry was sure that Isabella Crabbe was up to something. He was equally sure that whatever it was, he was not going to like it.
These were the moments when Harry found his job the most frustrating. There was nothing they could. They had no leads, and it appeared that she had gone to ground. For now.
Gregory cleared his throat and Harry studied him expectantly. “We’ve had one other problem.”
“What is it?” Harry asked.
“Lupin fell asleep in training today,” Gregory informed him flatly. “This is the third time this week.”
Surprised, Harry opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by a knock at his office door. “Enter.”
Hermione poked her head in. “I’m sorry, Thomas, I didn’t realize you were here. I can come back.”
“No need,” Gregory told her.
“Send Lupin to speak to me,” Harry told him. “Immediately.”
The moment the door closed, Hermione spun to him. “What is that about?”
“I have no idea,” Harry admitted as another knock sounded at the door and Harry’s assistant, Daniel appeared in the door. “Yes?”
“There is someone from Gringotts here to see you,” Daniel explained quickly. “He says it’s urgent.”
“Send him in,” Harry rubbed at his temples. “Hermione, this may need to wait.”
“Of course,” She assured him as a goblin that Harry vaguely recognized came in.
Harry held out his hand. “Harry Potter.”
“Hignold,” the goblin told him in a voice that was slightly higher than any other goblin Harry had every spoken to. He shook Harry’s hand, but only briefly.
“Have a seat,” Harry indicated the empty chair. “Do you mind if Mrs. Weasley stays or do you need privacy?”
“It concerns your ward,” Hignold grumbled.
Harry tried not to show his confusion. “My ward?”
There was another knock at the door.
It was like a play where the performers kept entering and exiting the stage. Harry rose, a little annoyed now, and barked out, “What?”
Teddy opened the door. “You wanted to… oh,” he said as he spotted the goblin.
“Him,” Hignold pointed to Teddy.
“You’d best come in, then,” Harry said sharply. The way the goblin was looking at Teddy did not leave Harry with a warm, glowing feeling inside.
Teddy closed the door behind him and stood with his back to it. “I have the money.”
“Excuse me?” Harry blurted out in alarm.
“I… we were late on our loan payment this month,” Teddy told him. “I have the money in my desk, though. I was going to stop at the bank after training today.”
“There is interest incurred due to the lateness of the payment,” Hignold informed him threatening.
Teddy nodded. “I have it all. I’ll be back in two minutes.”
The silence in the room was unbelievably uncomfortable as Teddy left, then came back with a leather satchel that clinked in his hand. He passed it to the goblin. “I’m sorry. I have another job, now, so next month will be on time.”
Hignold stood, made for the door, and said, “It had better be,” before he slammed from the office.
Teddy sank into the vacated seat. Harry saw his hands were shaking. “I’m sorry about that.”
“What is going on?” Harry demanded of his godson. “You cannot be in debt to the goblins, Teddy! It makes you vulnerable to blackmail.”
“It’s Victoire’s schooling,” Teddy explained miserably. “I’m taking care of it.”
“And that’s why you’re falling asleep on the job here?” Harry demanded. “Teddy, you’re our only trainee. I need you to get through training, but if you can’t handle the job–”
Teddy sprang to his feet. “I can handle it! I have a weekend job with George, and I started delivering pizzas for a Muggle shop. I’ll be able to drop the pizza shop after a month. We worked it all out.”
Three jobs… his godson was working three jobs, and was still clearly broke. “I can help you.”
“No,” Teddy’s jaw firmed so that he looked just like his stubborn father. Hermione must have seen it, as well, because she let out a small gasp. Harry was a little surprised she hadn’t added anything in the conversation. “We’re managing. We’re going to do this on our own.”
“You need to figure out how to get more sleep,” Harry informed him. “There will be repercussions if you keep falling asleep.”
Teddy inclined his head and left.
“I think you were a little too hard on him,” Hermione told Harry sadly. “God, he looked so much like Remus just then.”
“That’s why you think I’m too hard on him,” Harry reminded her, but it didn’t help his conscious any. “What did you need to see me about?”
Hermione held up a roll of parchment. “Budget issues for the Aurors.”
Harry groaned. That was just about his least favorite subject. “Okay, let’s get to it, then.”
When he arrived home later that day, it was to a daughter who wanted him to sit and snuggle on the couch. Harry sat with her pressed against his side. “What’s up?”
“I don’t want to go to Hogwarts,” Lily informed him with a sniff. “I just want to stay here.”
“I see,” Harry said, even though he absolutely didn’t. He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “You don’t want to go off with your cousins?”
Lily shook her head. “I will miss you too much.”
“Lily-Lu,” he sighed and wished she could stay at home. Technically, she could, but Lily would miss out if she didn’t go. “Sweetheart, it’s going to be a wonderful time. You’ll have your brothers there, and Hugo. You’re going to have a lot of fun.”
“I don’t want to go,” Lily told him as she pressed her face into his chest.
“What happened to upset you?” Harry asked her as he ran his fingers through her hair. “You were excited when we got the book lists yesterday.”
“That was yesterday.”
Harry glanced around to the kitchen and saw Ginny and Polly studiously ignoring them. Clearly, they weren’t going to help him out.
“What happened today?” Harry asked her gently.
“Nothing, Daddy, I just don’t want to go,” Lily sobbed in his arms.
“Okay,” he said firmly. “You don’t have to go.”
Lily stared up at him hopefully as Ginny snorted from the kitchen. “Really?” she asked him.
“Really,” he promised. “You can continue to homeschool here with Mum.”
His wife rolled her eyes and mouthed the word, ‘sucker’ at him.
Harry made to get up, but Lily clutched his hand. “Not yet,” she pleaded and he settled back on the couch with her.
Lily kept up her stubborn stance of not going to Hogwarts for two days and no one knew what had happened. Her resolve lasted all the way until they were in Olivander’s where Hugo was picking out a wand.
Then, without warning, Lily changed her mind and said she wanted to go.
And asked for a kitten.
Harry said yes. Ginny must have broken something with how hard she rolled her eyes. She poked him in the stomach. “You are the biggest idiot I have ever met.”
He shrugged, enjoying the sight of Lily playing with the kittens. “It’s a small price to pay.”
“Harry,” she said in exasperation. “You’re spoiling her!”
“She could have had a kitten anyway,” Harry reminded her. “She’s allowed to bring a pet to school. Besides, she wasn’t trying to wind me up. She’s just… a little emotional. You have no patience for that since you’re rarely that changeable.”
“I would like to point out,” she said in just over a whisper, “that if I acted like that, you would be ready to tear your hair out. When it’s Lily, though, you bend over backwards.”
“I know,” he agreed as he slipped an arm around her trim waist. “Think of it this way,” Harry said as he bent to kiss her. “I absolutely adore our children. I could be worse things.”
“I can’t believe we’ll be in third year,” Rose said to Al and Scorpius as they sat on the floor of Al’s room. Scorpius was to spend a long weekend at the Potters. Unfortunately, Nat wasn’t there. Her parents were in town and they were spending time together as a family at the Potter’s beach house.
“It does seem like time is flying,” Al agreed as he flipped through his new Defense Against the Dark Arts book. “Lily was swearing she wasn’t going to go.”
Rose nodded grimly. “That was probably my fault. I told her about feeling all alone in the tower the first week I was at school.”
Al’s gaze rose slowly to his cousin’s. “Do not tell Mum that. She was furious with Lily for waffling.”
“Lily seems like she’s younger than she is,” Scorpius added.
“She’s always been babied,” Al confirmed. “It isn’t that she’s immature, but I think she really enjoys being looked after. That’s just her. She’ll need that from James and me this coming year. Thankfully, James has stopped being a prat and can help out with that.”
“You know, most little sisters would head to school and tell their big brother to shove off,” Scorpius laughed.
Rose grinned and shook her head. “That’s not Lily. I don’t mean to imply that there is anything wrong with her, of course. I’m sure she’ll outgrow it, but she’s not likely to do anything stupid or risky.”
“I bet she’ll go to Hufflepuff with Lucy,” Al mused as the door creaked open and Lily came in with her tiny, gray kitten in her arms.
“Are you talking about me?” Lily asked as she sat down next to Rose.
“Yep,” Al said as he scratched the top of the kitten’s head. “We were saying you are likely to go to Hufflepuff.”
“I’m going to be in Gryffindor,” Lily replied easily. “I’m going to choose that one.”
Al had told her about being able to ask the Sorting Hat about which house one wanted to be in.
“What’s the kitten’s name?” Scorpius asked Lily.
Lily smiled so hugely, she was practically beaming. “Ducky.”
“You named the kitten, Ducky?” Scorpius asked, a little confused.
“It’s because she’s as soft as a duck down,” Lily said. She held up the kitten for Scorpius. “Here, if you hug her you’ll see what I mean.”
Scorpius’ expression was so full of consternation, Al barely managed to hold back his laughter. It wouldn’t have surprised Al at all to learn that Scorpius had never held a kitten. Al certainly couldn’t imagine Draco Malfoy having kittens in their big mansion. Finally, his mate took the kitten and held it one hand. “Right.”
“No, not like that,” Lily crawled over to reposition the kitten on Scorpius’ shoulder. Ducky rubbed her nose against his cheek and purred loudly. “See, she likes you,” she told him cheerfully.
“Right,” Scorpius said again as his shoulders relaxed fractionally. He held the kitten closer and let out a long sigh. “She’s really cute, Lily.”
Lily sat back next to Al and rested her head against his shoulder.
That was Lily. She was cuddly, lovable, and happy most of the time. She could be stubborn, feisty if someone really annoyed her, but mostly she was sweet.
“I’m glad you decided to go to school,” Rose told her.
“I am too, I guess,” Lily’s eyes filled with tears. Al didn’t have to see her to know it, because Scorpius was suddenly looking panicked.
He stuck his arm around his baby sister and squeezed her shoulder. “You have to cut that out, Lils, or Scorpius is going to faint.”
“Piss off,” Scorpius laughed nervously as he lay back on the rug to let the kitten curl up on his chest.
Harry hated paperwork. He’d hated it for as long as he’d held the job as head of the Aurors and it hadn’t changed. He frequently put it off so long that someone, usually Hermione, would come tell him off for holding her up in her reports. Now that Hermione was head of the Magical Law Enforcement Department, he supposed she would have someone under her to come berate him for leaving it too long.
It just wasn’t as much fun when it wasn’t Hermione. Harry was so used to her nagging him about homework that it was nostalgic now to see that annoyed, prissy expression on her face. He could swear that sometimes her hair still stood up on end, even though it was short and well under control now.
That was the problem with working with family, he supposed. They always knew how to push the right buttons.
A knock sounded at his office door. Harry glanced up and scowled. “If it’s Hermione, tell her I’m not done.”
“It’s not, Mr. Potter,” came Daniel’s nervous voice. “You have a guest to see you.”
Harry rose quickly and said, “Send them in.”
Whatever made Harry’s assistant nervous had to be much more interesting than paperwork and it would give him an excellent excuse as to why he wasn’t done.
The door was pushed open and to Harry’s shock, Draco Malfoy waited on the other side. Draco was dressed in severe black robes that left his pale face almost white. Harry rather thought that some of his old classmate’s hair had to be turning gray, just as his was, but it was so pale already that it was nearly impossible to tell. Draco’s face bore the same fine lines around the eyes that crossed Harry’s.
“Draco,” Harry said with as much neutrality as he could manage. Draco’s son was, after all, staying at Harry’s house. There was no point in being hostile. “Please, come in.”
Malfoy entered and seated himself in one of the guest chairs while Daniel quickly closed the door. Harry sank back into his own seat and contemplated the other man. He didn’t say anything. If he was honest, Harry had no clue what to say to him. They rarely interacted with each other.
“I imagine you know why I am here,” Draco said finally.
Harry shook his head. “To be honest, I don’t. Scorpius is fine. They were getting up a game of Quidditch when I left this morning.”
Draco’s jaw tightened ever so slightly before he forced it to relax. His expression didn’t, otherwise, change. “I did not come to talk about my son. I do not approve of their friendship, but I find myself unable to curtail it either. I am sure you feel the same way.”
Harry had two ways of responding to that statement. He could either get mad, or be amused. He decided on the latter. “Actually, I like Scorpius a great deal. He’s a good, smart, respectful kid. I think he is an excellent friend for Al. He is welcome at my house any time.”
Real surprise crossed Draco’s face now, and it must have been quite a shock because he didn’t bother to hide it. “You… you’re…” he struggled to control his reaction and pull it back towards neutral.
“When you think about it,” Harry went on, now truly amused, “Al is the child of three of the oldest Pureblood families. You have the Potters, the Weasleys, and the Prewitts. But then you throw Nat, the Muggleborn, into the mix and my argument all falls apart. Then there’s Rose, who is a half-blood herself.”
Draco held up a hand. “I can see what you are doing. I… I am under a lot of pressure. Scorpius is unwilling to uphold family traditions. It is causing a lot of strife in our family.” Now that he said it, Harry could see that there was more than the rapidly approaching middle age in Draco’s face. His eyes were weary, and clearly disappointed.
“You’re not going to change him,” Harry informed him simply. “He’s already made his choice. He needs you to love and accept him where he is. I like family tradition as much as the next man, but sometimes they need to change. If you push him too hard, he’s going to mutiny.”
Draco’s pale brow arched. “If your son told you that he was going to be a Death Eater, would you just accept that as a change of tradition?”
“No,” Harry replied as the thought hit him in the gut. “But we aren’t talking about that level of revolt. We’re talking about your son being unwilling to discriminate against someone just because they were born to Muggle parents.”
“Some might say that we are too accepting as a society,” Draco replied as he smoothed out an imaginary wrinkle on his robes.
“The some that would are also the ones who helped get us into a war,” Harry retorted as he felt the first twinge of annoyance. “You said you didn’t come to discuss your son.”
“No,” Draco agreed. “It is about a relation of my wife’s.”
Dread filled Harry as though he’d replaced all of his blood with ice water. It burned through him as he sat back in his seat. “Isabella Crabbe.”
“She was the aunt of my wife,” Draco confirmed steadily, but Harry could see it was bothering Draco to speak about her as much as it bothered Harry. “She was also the mother of a friend of mine. I did not know her well. I only met her a few times, but I understand that she is causing a lot of problems right now.”
That was a mild understatement. “Go on,” Harry invited.
“I spoke with my father-in-law a few weeks ago about her,” Malfoy said with deliberate enunciation of each word. “He wants to be sure that it is known that we have nothing to do with her. None of us have seen her in decades. I believed her dead. He also wants me to pass along a message.”
Intrigued, now, Harry leaned forward and rested his folded hands on his desk. “What would that be?”
“She is brilliant,” Malfoy said through lips that barely parted. “She is one of the smartest people you will ever meet. That’s what he told me. But he also explained that after what she went through at her husband’s hands, after all of the abuse, she is equally as insane as she is gifted. She should never be underestimated.”
“I will not underestimate her,” Harry assured him. “She’s already proven just how resourceful and cruel she can be.”
A sudden image of the last time he had spoken to Malfoy filled Harry’s head and he spoke without thinking it through. “Do you remember when I visited you in Azkaban?”
Wary, Draco nodded, but didn’t speak.
“My wife was pregnant with our daughter, Hope,” Harry said with a lot more composure than he’d have been able to manage ten years before. “I have always appreciated that you wanted to help me then. I think of that now, when I see our sons laughing and having a good time.”
The corner of Draco’s mouth twitched slightly. “I seem to recall telling you that I hoped your kid would look like your wife.”
Harry chuckled and was so grateful that he and Draco, while not friends, could be cordial with each other. He remembered vividly that Draco had said that he hoped that their child looked like Ginny because Harry was too ugly to replicate. He’d said it in jest and Harry had taken it that way. “Yes, Al does look a lot like me, poor kid. Lily looks a lot like Ginny, and just as beautiful. It would have been easier if she hadn’t been. She starts this year at Hogwarts.” He shook his head. “Sorry, I’m still at a loss for how she grew up so fast.”
Malfoy, however, didn’t seem to have noticed that Harry had turned into a sap. “My wife wanted a girl.”
That was it, though. Draco didn’t add anymore.
Scrambling for something to say, Harry admitted, “I think having girls is harder. She just has to look like she might cry and I buy her a kitten.”
Malfoy stared at him blankly before bursting out laughing. A light of mirth filled his pale eyes. “It might be best that we never had one.” He stood and schooled his face. Draco held out his hand which Harry shook. “I appreciate your time.”
Harry nodded. Before Draco could leave, he said, “I know we’re not going to see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I hope you can trust that your son is safe when he’s with us.”
Draco paused for just a moment. “I can accept that.”
Then he was gone.
Harry slowly sank back into his seat and stared at the closed door.
Four minutes later, when Harry still hadn’t managed to move, it was opened again by an annoyed Hermione. “Are you done with those forms yet?”
“Draco Malfoy stopped in to see me,” Harry informed her.
That stopped Hermione in her tracks. “What did he want?”
“To tell me that their family has nothing to do with Isabella Crabbe and that we shouldn’t underestimate her.”
Hermione considered him for a moment, then held out the forms. “Give them over.”
“I’m not done,” Harry reminded her, even as he held them out.
Hermione took them and tucked them under her arm. “It’s not like you were ever going to finish them anyway. I’ll just forge your signature again.”
“You’re the best, Hermione,” he said.
She waved and headed for the door. “You’re lucky I love you.”
Scorpius tried not to show just how much he liked the kitten, but Lily seemed to know anyway. Every chance she had, she handed the kitten off to him to hold as though he was doing her a favor. She’d smile at him in a way that let him know she understood. It was nice. He’d never had a sibling, but Scorpius had always thought that having a little sister would be annoying. They were supposed to be bratty, but Lily was never like that. She was so sweet that it was difficult to ever get mad at her, and he had to admit that she never tried to make James or Al mad. If he could have had a sister like that, Scorpius thought it might have been okay. The only horrible part was the crying. When she started crying, it felt like he’d been clubbed with a Beater’s bat. Scorpius ended up with equal parts panic, a desire to make her stop, and the inability to move.
Al knew what to do, though, and never seemed to mind Lily’s tears.
“How do you do that?” Scorpius asked him.
Al shrugged. “You get used to it. She’s always been like this.”
Scorpius was sure he wasn’t going to get used to it, and also thankful he didn’t have to deal with it often.
By the end of the second day at the Potter’s, he just plain liked the kitten and didn’t care if anyone saw it. He carried it around with him a good bit of the time, when Lily didn’t have her. He was even used to Lily, who was hanging around them more than she had in the past.
His father had been beyond annoyed that Scorpius was going to the Potters, again, that summer but Astoria Malfoy had finally managed to put her foot down. It wasn’t like Draco would let Al come visit him at his house.
Al’s cousins came over on his third day there and they all went out to play Quidditch for several hours. It was so much fun flying with them and Mrs. Potter even came out to fly.
She stomped them all into the ground. No one could get the Quaffle from her and they all tried their best.
“Your mum is unbelievable,” Scorpius told Al in awe as they flew side by side over the back of the trees, watching her shoot the Quaffle straight by Fred, who was in goal. “I’d have liked to see her play professionally. I bet she was amazing.”
“James plays like her,” Al agreed with a whoop as his brother stole the Quaffle from Molly. “I think that’s what he’ll end up doing. He wants to play for England.”
“Are you trying out for the team this year?” Scorpius asked him.
Al shook his head. “I think I’ll give it another year. I won’t make it. Rose wants to try and I’m betting she will.”
Rose flew better than almost all of them. She wanted a spot on the team and had been putting in the work all summer long in order to get a place.
“Agreed,” Scorpius said as they shot back into the game.
When Mr. Potter came home from work that evening, Scorpius saw right away that something was wrong. Al must have seen it as well because he asked, “What’s up, Dad?”
Mr. Potter, who had been absently removing his cloak for over two minutes, jolted and turned to stare blankly at Al. “I… it was just work, Al. It’s been a long day.”
Al and Scorpius exchanged a look, but didn’t press it. Al might have challenged his father, but Scorpius wouldn’t. As nice as Mr. Potter was, he was still the Harry Potter, which carried some weight with Scorpius.
Then Mr. Potter smiled at him. “I saw your father today, Scorpius. We had a nice chat.”
Scorpius felt himself shrink as he fought not to stare at the floor. “Oh.”
Harry clapped him on the shoulder. “It was very polite, I promise.”
That was something Scorpius could believe. His father was mostly polite.
“We even shared a laugh,” Harry said.
Stunned, Scorpius gaped as Harry made his way into the kitchen where Ginny and Lily were fixing dinner with Polly, the house-elf. Scorpius had offered to help, but Lily had wanted to make the dinner mostly by herself and had, very nicely, told him to scram.
Harry pulled Ginny off to one side and whispered something in her ear. Her already pale face when even whiter.
Al and Scorpius moved out of the way as the two adults headed for the stairs up to their bedroom.
“What was that about?” Al whispered to Scorpius.
“No clue,” Scorpius said honestly.
“Hey,” Lily called to them. “Can you come help me while Mummy is upstairs?”
Scorpius glanced over and saw her smiling as she held up a knife and a red bell pepper. “Sure.”
The dinner was amazing. It was some sort of Mexican dish that was a mixture of cheese, spices, tortillas and beef. “This is great, Lily-Lu,” Harry told his daughter.
“Thanks,” she beamed at him. “Nat left this recipe for me to try. I’ll have to tell her it went well.”
“When is she coming back again?” Scorpius asked Al.
“Wednesday,” Al said around a mouthful of tortilla chips. “Her parents couldn’t stay through September first.”
James groaned as he shoveled in another bite. They were all eating like pigs, but no one cared.
Mrs. Potter dished some more onto her plate. “Lily, I could cheerfully get fat off of this.”
Ginny felt like the entire night was spent in a fog. She tried to focus on her children, who only had another week, but the news that Harry had brought home with him left her in a daze.
It wasn’t often that Harry talked to her about his work. Much of it couldn’t be shared, but this had been so horrifying that he hadn’t been able to keep it inside.
They’d finally figured out what Isabella Crabbe had been doing all summer. “Tell me again,” Ginny said after the kids were in bed and they were alone in their bedroom.
Harry sighed as he flopped back onto the bed, still dressed. He wasn’t done for the day. The only reason he was home then was that the Healers had kicked him out and told him to go home. Specifically, Audrey. “I don’t know much, Gin. She was too out of it when the Muggles found her.”
“But she said there were a dozen other girls?” Ginny prompted as she sat next to him and ran her fingers through his thick, dark hair.
“That’s what the translator said,” Harry confirmed as he captured her hand and pressed his lips to her palm. “This has turned into such a mess. I don’t know how we’re going to end it.”
It had been years of thinking Isabella was dead. Then they’d learned she was alive, well, and causing a lot of damage to a lot of people.
“Do the healers have any idea what was done to her?” Ginny asked him hesitantly. She had the beginnings of an idea, but it was admittedly a bad, desperate idea.
Harry shook his head. “Audrey knows that she’s been raped, but she has no idea what magic was used on her…” his voice trailed off as he stared at her, a sudden looking of dawning comprehension. “You mean, Natalie, don’t you?”
“It’s a bad idea,” Ginny said with the shake of her head. “But she would be able to see what was done.”
That was a blessing and a curse for the girl. She had a gift to see magic at its core and she was getting better and better at using it all the time. All summer long, Minerva had come by to continue lessons with her.
“If you’re desperate, Harry,” Ginny began, but stopped when he shook his head.
“I can’t take her to see that woman,” Harry said with finality. “She’s only thirteen. I know she’s tough and she’s seen a lot in her time, but–”
She touched a finger to his lips. “That child has seen genocide pits in Africa with the bodies of hundreds of children in them. Can you really say that this will be worse? Most of her injuries will be healed by this point.”
Harry scrubbed hard at his face. “You’re right. I’ll go ask her parents.”
She waited up for him, trying to amuse herself with silly novels, but nothing kept her focus. Eventually, Ginny made her way to Lily’s room and stole Ducky from her daughter’s bed. The kitten peeked one sleepy eye open and then snuggled back in on Ginny’s stomach as she settled back into her bed.
The kitten was admittedly adorable, even if Harry was the biggest sucker on the planet when it came to their daughter. He was right, though. She did love that he loved their children and Lily wasn’t spoiled. She was a lot of things, including sheltered, but she wasn’t a brat.
“It’s just you and me tonight,” Ginny told the kitten. “I wonder how you’ll do at Hogwarts. You’re going to be the tiniest kitten there.”
Ducky purred in response.
The door creaked open and an exhausted Harry trudged in. Ginny glanced to the clock and saw it was almost three in the morning. “That good, huh?”
He fell face first into the mattress. “She saw, Gin.”
He started to tell her the story, in fits and starts, as he took the kitten and held it close like the miniscule ball of fluff would keep them both sane.
Harry had gone to speak to Nat’s parents, Curtis and Julienne Parker, to ask them if Nat would be able to help. Nat had heard what he’d wanted and insisted on going. “Her parents wanted to come as well, but I didn’t have permission to bring Muggles into St. Mungo’s,” Harry explained.
He had taken Nat to the room and Audrey had told them that they were having a beast of a time with the woman because the translator only understood about half of what she was saying. “It was an African dialect that was specific to only a small part of Tanzania called Hadza. She had also spoken a little bit of Swahili at first, but after she was woken with most of her injuries healed, she panicked and reverted to the other language.”
“That had to be so traumatic for her,” Ginny said sympathetically.
“Then,” Harry went on through a huge sigh, “Nat walked into the room and started speaking to her in her own tongue.”
She felt her mouth drop open in stupefied silence.
“So it turns out that she and Curtis had been in that part of Africa for a better part of six months and it was one of the dozens of languages that she speaks,” he finished. “He was able to get a better handle on the story from her, unfortunately.” Harry was broken. Ginny could see it in every line of his body. “I didn’t want her to have to hear that. I didn’t want to ask this teenager to help me do my job, but she calmly translated the story for me, Luv, like she wasn’t telling me a tale of sadism, rape, and murder.”
Ginny hugged him and held on. She didn’t know what to say. There were no words adequate to speak at that moment anyway.
“Then Nat examined her and said that a lot had been done to her reproductive tract.”
“No one else was in the room, right?” Ginny asked him quickly.
Harry shook his head. “It was just myself, Nat, the woman, and Audrey. I made sure no one could listen in before we started. Nat described to Audrey what she was seeing in the woman’s magical injuries. She said there is also a potion at work in the woman’s body. She can see it in her veins.”
Impressed, she let out a low whistle. “That’s a new trick.”
“It is,” Harry agreed as he seemed to age before her eyes. “I don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep it quiet that she’s an Augmentum Imaginari. The only bright side was the African woman spoke no English at all and couldn’t understand what Nat was telling us.”
“Was Nat okay after you took her back to the beach house?” Ginny asked hesitantly.
“She seemed to be,” he told her with a helpless shrug. “I asked if she wanted to talk about it, but she said she was tired. She said it wasn’t the worst thing she’d seen in her life and that I shouldn’t worry about asking her for help.”
“She’s a tough kid,” she agreed. “I don’t think she should be asked a lot.”
“The strangest thing is,” Harry told her as Ducky yawned and stretched in his hands, “that I think it helped to her to help me. I think a lot of the time Nat feels a little helpless and overly cloistered. This was something tangible that was a real asset to me. I don’t want to risk anyone getting wind of what she can do, but I think if I can safely get her help with something, then I’m going to let her. I think it would do her a lot of good.”
Ginny didn’t know what she thought of that idea. It didn’t seem right to ask that of a child, but then again at thirteen Harry took down a hundred Dementors.
“She speaks several African languages,” Harry chuckled softly. “She is really the strangest kid.”
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