|SIYE Time:6:22 on 22nd January 2019|
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: 102759; Chapter Total: 2544
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thank you Arnel for beta'ing!
Readers... it's been insane here. I have another book coming out in a few weeks (check my profile for links) and I'm told that it's awesome, but I'd love to hear your opinion. The first of the series is FREE if you have kindle unlimited! It's called The Overseer's Son.
I know you want more chapters, but I need to pay the bills so my originals and sewing have to come first. I'm sorry. It's going to be crazy through the first week in June (minimum). Chapters will be slow until then.
However, I think most of you will enjoy how this chapter ends.... Reviews are always appreciated and I always respond to them. Questions are welcome, too.
Lily looked like she might start crying, which was not something that Al wanted to see happen. She stood up at the front with the rest of the first years and Al wouldn’t have been able to spot her if Hugo hadn’t been right next to her. He remembered his own sorting, when Nat had nearly passed out and grinned at the memory. It seemed like ages ago, but it was really only two years.
First up was Honor Baker, and she moved with hunched shoulders up to the front so that Neville could place the Sorting Hat on her dark head. She didn’t look into the Great Hall as the hat considered her, but instead seemed to burn a hole into the floor. Al saw her lips moving and wondered what on earth she could be muttering about, but after a minute, the hat yelled out, “Gryffindor!” and she came to sit at the table just a few places down from her sister. Caroline gave her a smile and a thumbs up as the sorting continued.
More than half of the first years were through when it was Lily’s turn and Al crossed his fingers under the table as the hat went on and fell down past her nose. He laughed, so did several others, but a moment later, it spit out the same result as Honor and Lily skipped happily over to sit with her new friends. Hugo was last and the hat barely touched his head before, “Gryffindor!” was shouted out and the feast began.
Overall, it was exactly what Al had expected, at least for Lily and Hugo. It was a relief for him, as it would make keeping tabs on her that much easier.
He listened, with half an ear as he stuffed himself, to McGonagall’s start of term announcements. There was the notice for the Quidditch team, which was interesting, but as far as Al knew there was only one Chaser spot open and he’d rather be a Beater. One of the seventh years in Gryffindor was the captain that year, but Al had no idea who she was.
Rose wanted to be a Chaser, and Al thought she had an excellent shot at making it. She wanted it even more than Al did. He wanted to play Quidditch, but despite two parents who both played, it wasn’t quite the passion for him. Still, it might be good to try this year. He might make it on as an alternate.
Nat poked him and he glanced over to see her smiling at him. “The feast is over if you’re done.”
He glanced down and saw he’d cleaned his plate. “I guess I am.”
They strolled up to Gryffindor tower, the seasoned veterans of two full years at Hogwarts, and split off to their respective dormitories to get some sleep.
Al and Scorpius arrived in their old room first and started unpacking their trunks in companionable silence.
“My dad wasn’t a berk today,” Scorpius said quietly.
Al paused in the act of digging out his pajamas and turned to him. They’d talked about it on the train, but mostly because it had shocked Rose to see Draco Malfoy as cordial to Lily and Harry as he had been. He hadn’t thought much of it. “Well, I don’t think he’d exactly turned over a new leaf, but it was something.”
Scorpius nodded in confusion. “I just wish I understood him!”
Al snorted and kicked off his shoes, which landed somewhere under his bed. “There’s nothing to understand, mate. Your dad faced off with Lily and Lily won. Anyone could have predicted that. You climbed a tree for her, and I have worn a sparkly crown more than once when she’s asked.”
His best mate laughed, and plopped down on the side of his own four-poster. “Please tell me someone has a picture of you in a crown!”
“James does,” Al assured him, “but he won’t show it to anyone because I have one of him in a pink bunny suit.”
Scorpius’ mouth fell open. “There is no way that even Lily could have talked James into that!”
“Oh she didn’t,” Al agreed seriously. “She asked, he said something like hell no, and a bit of accidental magic later, he was in the suit. They couldn’t get it off of him until she went to sleep that night.” A feeling of absolute contentment settled over Al as the memory replayed itself in his head. “For an entire week after that, he didn’t speak to us. It was the best week of my life.”
“How old was she at the time?” Scorpius questioned as the door burst open and their other dorm mates, Fabien Smithe, otherwise known as Smitty, Ansel Leathen, and Matthew Kingston, trooped in.
Al had to count back to remember. “I think she was four or five. Old enough to know what she wanted, and young enough to still have that kind of magical fit. Mum never said so at the time, but I know it is still one of her favorite memories. She kept the suit.”
“What are you two laughing about?” Smitty demanded, so Al retold the story, knowing it would be all over the tower the next day.
They all laughed over it.
“I saw you on the platform with your dad, Scorpius,” Matthew told him. “He looked like he was about to curse someone for a moment. Is the little redhead your sister, Al?”
Al nodded. “Yeah, that’s Lily.”
“Cor, she’s a looker,” Ansel said with a whistle, then he shut his mouth at Al’s withering glare. “I am not going to make a move on your baby sister, Albus, but I’d have to be a blind bugger to not see she’s beautiful.”
“Leave off,” Scorpius said mildly to Ansel.
Ansel held up his hands for peace. “I won’t mention it again.”
“You should get used to it, though,” Smitty told Al, who could feel his blood pressure rising with the heated flush on his face. “She was easily the best looking of the first years. It’s going to be a problem.”
“Not while Fred is still in school,” Scorpius reminded him. “He dotes on her and has no problem taking down anyone who messes with her. Plus he’s big. You don’t want to mess with him. When you add in James, Al, Louis, Hugo, and especially Roxy, she becomes someone you don’t want to mess about.”
Smitty grinned at him. “Fair point. Alright, let’s get to bed.”
“It’s done!” Teddy said triumphantly as Victoire came through the door.
“I know,” she laughed as she hung up her cloak and came over to wrap him in her arms. “You’re all done with training!”
“Not only that,” Teddy replied as he buried his face in her soft, beautiful hair. “I quit at the pizza place.”
She shook her head. “You just quit on them?”
“No, I said I could work out the two weeks, but the owner said he only needed me this coming weekend,” he told her and couldn’t quite hide his relief. Going full tilt with three jobs was exhausting, and he rarely saw his wife. It was the worst of all worlds, but he didn’t mind as much since Victoire needed to concentrate on school and he’d been so close to done with his. Now, though, he had a modest pay rise coming and it would be enough to get them by with only two jobs. George had assured him that as long as he needed hours, Teddy could have them at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
Teddy was fully aware that it was mostly out of familial obligation that he had that particular job, but he did work hard and was helpful with the shop.
“We should celebrate,” Victoire said, then had to bite back a yawn.
Teddy gently pressed his lips to her temple. “I got a recipe from Ginny and made dinner. Then we’ll get to bed early.”
“I feel old,” she sighed as she made for the table. “Oh! It’s her chicken tikka masala! I love this!”
“You owe me for this, by the way,” he groaned as he remembered what he’d nearly walked in on. “They were about to celebrate their lack of children in the house when I arrived.”
Victoire choked on his first bite as a giggle was forced from her. “No!”
“On the couch,” Teddy confirmed grimly. “I am scarred for life.”
She doubled over laughing so hard that he was compelled to laugh with her. “I’m sorry,” she said as she swiped at the tears that were dripping down her eyes. “It’s just been… merlin, what a long day! I love the thought of you walking in on them like that! How did you not know that’s what they’d be doing when their house was suddenly kid free?”
When she said it like that, Teddy realized that she was absolutely right, of course. Sheepishly, he shrugged. “I dunno, I just thought it would be Ginny at home, and I could get the recipe.”
“So,” Victoire popped another bite of the chicken in her mouth and swallowed before continuing. “Every time you took the kids out for a bit, you don’t think the first thing that they did was hop into bed?”
“Well…” he hadn’t really thought about it. Come to that, Teddy didn’t want to think about it. “I assumed they’d be sad that Lily was gone.”
She shook her blonde head. “Oh, there will be that, too, but more of enjoying having a spontaneous sex life again.”
Teddy stabbed at his chicken. “How do you know so much about it?”
Then he remembered her very passionate, French mother and decided that no, he didn’t need that question answered.
As they lay entwined together in bed an hour later, Victoire kept her head on his shoulder and her arm around his waist and he let the silence hang between them as comfortable as it was intimate.
“Thank you,” she said softly as she tilted her head to press her lips to the underside of his jaw. “I know you’ve been working so hard recently. Thank you for doing that.”
It wasn’t the first time she’d thanked him, and he didn’t shrug it off like he had before. Teddy had wanted to do this for them. He’d needed to make that stand on his own, to prove that he could keep the roof over their heads. He knew he was being stubborn. He knew that with a single word, Harry would give him some money and make it all okay. It would be easy. Done. Poof, like a spell, erasing everything that was broken.
But he hadn’t wanted easy. He’d wanted the work. He’d wanted the pride at knowing he’d managed it alone. Maybe it was stupid. Maybe it was crazy, but there was such immeasurable satisfaction in knowing they were making it on their own.
Teddy felt truly like a man and it was a feeling he wouldn’t trade for anything.
“You’re welcome,” he said simply. “I will always do this for us.”
Victoire was silent for a long time. “I know,” she said after a while.
Ginny sat up in bed, her heart hammering a mile a minute in her chest as she gasped in shock. The room was dark, nothing around her stirred. Her children were at Hogwarts. It had been just a dream.
“Wassamatter?” Harry slurred next to her as his hand groped out and found her hip.
“Bad dream,” she said even though that wasn’t quite true. Vivid dream. It had been a ridiculously vivid dream. Ginny let herself flop back on her pillow and Harry rolled over, resting his ear to her breast.
“Your heart is going crazy,” he said and this time he didn’t sound quite as sleepy. “What was it?”
She tried to piece it together, but nothing stuck out as the first image. Except... “It was about James, except he was older, at least eighteen or nineteen and he was in a hospital with people who didn’t speak English talking to him. He looked so sick, as he was curled into a ball on the exam bed.”
“Okay…” Harry said as his voice trailed off.
“Then one voice said something like, ‘he’s definitely been given something, right?’” she told him as she recalled vividly the sounds and smells of the hospital. “Then it flashed to you walking through this building I’ve never seen before and you have this baby in your arms.”
He shifted a bit and moved them until he was wrapped around her. It was only then that Ginny realized she was freezing.
“The baby had darker skin, like olive colored, maybe South American, you know?” she went on and at his nod, she continued. “Then you were getting in a car and driving to a house and in the house was a blonde woman that I don’t know, and Merlin, the biggest dog I have ever seen! It was bigger than Hagrid’s dogs.”
Harry snorted in amusement. “Do you know who the blonde was?”
“No,” Ginny admitted hesitantly, reluctantly. “But she looked familiar to me. I just can’t place her at the moment.”
Harry kissed her brow. “Go on, luv, before you forget some of the details.”
“Well…” she swallowed at the lump in her throat. “You told the woman that the baby was Jamie’s and Harry, the baby looked exactly like him except for his skin color! It was nutty! The blonde took the baby from you and said something like she’d look after it. Then I woke up!”
Harry contemplated that one for several silent moments. “It was just a dream.”
“I know,” she agreed heavily. “But James wasn’t there, Harry, and the woman had a wedding ring like… I seemed to have the impression it was James’ wife. But where was he and why was there a baby that clearly wasn’t his wife’s? What sort of meaning does that have?”
Then she really listened to herself, and she snorted. “Okay, stupid questions, because it was just a dream. I panicked when James wasn’t there, like he was dead or something.”
“Understandable,” Harry promised. “Are you ready to get back to sleep?”
She nodded, but didn’t fall back to sleep. Her mind kept drifting back to that baby. It seemed important, but Ginny had no idea how it could be.
The next morning she wrote the whole thing out and was shocked at the details that she could still remember from the night before, then she stuck the parchment in one of her favorite books, Matilda Magpie and the Squire’s Son, and headed into the office. Mostly she’d worked from home, in her time at The Daily Prophet, but times were changing and her children were at Hogwarts, safe and sound.
Isabella had had a hard life. She’d been born to a pureblood family that had assumed she would marry well and produce children that would carry on their bloodline. It was, she knew, a noble goal for some, but Isabella had wanted more for herself. She’d wanted to be a potion master. The moment she’d realized what potions were, she’d cleaved the knowledge of them to her bosom and worked feverishly to excel. She’d adored her potions professor at Hogwarts, and she’d known he’d seen her talent. He’d mentored her, as he’d done with so many others before her. It was such a fine, wonderful thing to be praised for her brain, rather than her ability to bear a son.
The Dark Lord had been gaining in strength. He’d been demanding allegiances with all of the old families, but her father had dithered. Oscar Greengrass had dithered for so long, in fact, that Voldemort had taken matters into his own hands and had Isabella and her sister kidnapped. She and Fiona had spent the better part of several months locked in dungeons while men did unspeakable things to them.
Girls. They’d both been school girls. They’d both ended up pregnant, and thus married, very quickly. Thus began the journey to the only thing that had been good in her life, her son, Vincent. He had been the only light in her life. He’d been spoilt, certainly. Her dimwitted, unpleasant husband hadn’t stood in her way as far as that, but she hadn’t felt like Vincent had ever been ruined by it. He hadn’t been smart. She’d known all along that he hadn’t inherited her brain, but his sweet, loving nature had more than made up for it. Her husband, and she scoffed now to even think the word, hadn’t touched her after her son had been born. Well, that wasn’t exactly true. He hadn’t touched her most of the time. She developed a potion that, if she took it regularly, would cause him to break out in hives if they were intimate.
On his nether region.
It was off-putting to say the least, but he caught on to what she was doing.
Now he was dead, dead not by her hand, but she had most assuredly hurried the process along. Poison was the best of revenge. He’d lingered in this life, in agony and greatly weakened until he’d died in the Battle of Hogwarts. She hadn’t been sorry to hear that. She hadn’t even cared.
All she’d known was deafening grief at the loss of her boy when there was no body to bury. She hadn’t wanted to believe the Malfoy boy when he’d told her that he’d burned in the fire. She still couldn’t bear the thought of it. It was, to put it mildly, the thing that had killed her soul.
Isabella wasn’t stupid. She also wasn’t ignorant of her own motivations. She knew she was now a homicidal sociopath, but that didn’t bother her now. She’d had one purpose in living a life of peace, and now he was gone.
And there was one man chiefly responsible. He hadn’t saved her boy. He’d saved the Malfoy boy and her nephew, Gregory, but that hadn’t done him any good as he was now in jail. Her sister hadn’t protected her boy. She could have taken him abroad to avoid the Ministry, but she hadn’t. Fiona had never been bold. She’d walked into her marriage and accepted the violations.
Isabella had simultaneously loved and despised her sister, often in equal measures.
But there had been years of quiet and grief. Years to plot and to scheme. Years to think of all the things that she would have loved to have done to her revenge.
She’d been hasty the first time. She’d thought out a plan, enacted it quickly without much thought, and the consequences had been the plot had failed. She’d successfully killed Potter’s child, but not his wife and not him. It still left a bitter taste in her mouth. He was happy now, with his pretty wife and his pretty children.
That would change, of course, when the time was right. She knew better now that to act without having every contingency planned for was asking for failure.
She hadn’t intended to be out in the open this quickly. There had been the necessity of funds and Donald Baker had appeared before, an omen of bad things to come but wrapped so prettily in Galleons. He was a typical brash, disgusting, vulgar American, of course. He’d come along with his own baggage in the form of daughters he had lost to his wife’s parents.
It was a good thing, too, because he was a horrible man and Isabella knew that they were better off away from him. She couldn’t say that to him, and she didn’t really care if he found a way to get his daughters back, but neither did she go out of her way to assist him in that. He brought the worst men, as well, into the smuggling operation. They required victims.
But then again, so did she. She was nearly there, too. It was what she told herself all the time. She had years, still, to perfect her plan.
Isabella had learned from the Dark Lord’s mistakes. He had ruled as the head, but Isabella did not stick her neck out. She didn’t want world domination through violence and terror.
There were other ways to ruin lives, quietly, but oh, so effectively. She would be able to do it, too.
She just needed more time.
She needed the girl, but Potter was wise to that one. The girl had potential, and she was weak. She would be easy to control if she could get her hands on her. It was something to be considered, if the opportunity arose.
But for now she’d settle for Donald Baker to stop being a complete arse. She had a plan for him, though. She’d squeezed about all she could out of him and he was turning into more of a liability, rather than an asset. Yes, it was time for him to learn that.
Harry tapped absently at the wooden table as he stared across the bar, lost in the memories of the night before.
“Oy,” Ron snapped his fingers in front of Harry’s face.
“Sorry,” Harry sighed heavily as he picked up his pint. Ron had come round the Ministry right before lunch to see Hermione, then had come down to drag Harry out. “Why didn’t you go out with your wife?”
“She had a lunch thing with the Minister,” Ron explained. “She’d told me about it, but I thought it was tomorrow. So, I’ll take her out then.”
He nodded absently as Ginny’s words came back to him.
“What’s up with you?” Ron demanded sharply.
“Ginny had this odd dream last night,” Harry explained. “I don’t know why, but it’s stuck in my head. She dreamed about James being poisoned or something, and it has me on edge.”
Ron hesitated. “Ginny isn’t a seer, though, so it was just a dream.”
“I know,” Harry agreed and took a pull on his beer. “But she was worried about it, and it reminds me of Crabbe. I’m on edge all the time that she’ll do something to my kids.”
“The stupid thing is that Hermione and I were there when her son died,” Ron pointed out with a snort. “She never did anything to us. She’s fixated on you.”
“It’s a blessing,” he said with a grimace. Harry was thankful that at last Rose and Hugo were safe. “The problem with Crabbe is that she isn’t flashy or showy. She’s not into the big displays to get attention to just how dangerous she is. She’ll work in the background to get what she’s after. We couldn’t stop Voldemort, but we still had a pretty good idea of what he was up to.”
Ron finished off his beer just as the fish and chips arrived. Harry knew his best mate had chosen the Muggle restaurant so they’d have the anonymity, but Harry had to admit the food was the best part. He’d never yet found a wizard or witch who didn’t mangle this meal. Even Molly wasn’t able to produce the traditionally British meal.
“I don’t miss the job,” Ron promised him. “It was good when the war had ended. It was the right thing to do to help the Ministry get back on track, and I used to think it was the kind of job that would make me feel fulfilled. Instead, I was left depressed at all of the rubbish we ended up seeing. Teddy graduated this morning, right?”
“Yeah,” he confirmed and tried not to beam like an idiot. “I know what you mean, and it worries me that Teddy will start seeing all of the bad shite we deal with, but most of the time it’s stupid, boring paperwork and following up leads. It’s not nearly as stressful as it was in the first five years after the war.”
Ron grunted, but Harry didn’t know if it was in agreement or dissent. Then he changed the subject. “Do you know, I rather thought Lily would go to Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw.”
“She decided on Gryffindor,” Harry informed him with a chuckle. “That was after she’d decided, again, that she wasn’t going to go.”
“I really thought you’d end up with a girl more like Roxy,” Ron said as he shoved a chip in his mouth.
“I thought that I would as well,” Harry agreed on a groan as the fish practically melted in his mouth. “Still, at least they’re all together now. I can’t believe Molly is graduating Hogwarts this year.”
“That’s not this year,” Ron shook his head. “She’s still in rompers. I refuse to accept that she’s seventeen.”
“We’re getting old, mate,” Harry said as he raised his glass for a toast.
Ron gave him a sly grin as they clinked glasses. “At least I’m not two or three years away from being a grandfather.”
“They won’t have a kid that soon,” Harry assured him. “Teddy says they’re going to get all of Victoire’s student loans paid off first before they try for a baby. Ginny asked,” he told him at Ron’s raised brow. “She’s ready for grandchildren, so much so that she was contemplating us having another.”
“You are too old for that,” Ron said flatly. “That broom has flown away.”
But unfortunately, it reminded him vividly of the dream. In the dream she said James had had a child at nineteen.
Harry seriously hoped that didn’t end up being the case because James, despite all of his progress, was not ready to have a baby in four years. That was a strange thought, as well. James would be fifteen in a matter of days.
Time was flying.
Time was flying. James still couldn’t believe it was almost Halloween and they were heading into Hogsmeade for the first trip. The captain of the Quidditch team, Amelia, had threatened to hold a practice for that Saturday if they hadn’t worked their arses off, but thankfully she hadn’t followed through. James was nearly out of sweets and there was almost no chance his mum would send him any.
What had surprised James the most about the team was Rose joining as a Chaser. His cousin was good, very good, especially for a third year. She wasn’t polished yet, but James could see the potential in her. She was the only new member on the team this year, since they’d lost their last team captain who had graduated the year before.
“Are you ready?” Louis asked as he laced up his trainers.
James nodded. He wanted out of the castle for a bit. His feet felt itchy and restlessness was the only part of him that he could recognize at the moment. “Let’s go.”
They made it down to the common room to head to breakfast and James skidded to a halt when he saw Caroline sitting by herself in the corner, huddled in jeans and a huge, red hoody that she always seemed to wear on weekends, no matter how hot it was. Despite their journey together on the Hogwarts Express, Caroline had been keeping to herself for the last several weeks. She wasn’t ignoring him, exactly, but neither did she seek him out. He would sit near her at meals if she was by herself, but more often than not she would choose to sit by herself, so after a week of that James had given up. There was only so much rejection a bloke could take.
Her sister was doing really well. After only weeks, one wouldn’t know that Lily and Honor had just met. They’d become the fasted of friends. Honor was undoubtedly still shy, but with Lily, and even Hugo around her, it didn’t matter as much if she wasn’t talking. She smiled more. She seemed to be looking into people’s eyes, at least with him when he talked to her and his sister. Honor was coming out of her shell, while Caroline continued to shrink further into hers.
“Hang on,” James said to Louis, who saw where he was looking.
His cousin groaned. “Let it go, James.”
James ignored him and strode over. “Come to Hogsmeade with us.”
Caroline glanced up slowly from her book. She shook her head. “I don’t want to leave the castle.”
“Why not?” James demanded. “I know there will be Aurors and other security in the village. Come with us.”
She didn’t even bother to answer, so he sat down on the chair next to her and waited.
“What are you doing?” she asked sharply.
“I’m not leaving if you don’t,” James promised. “You haven’t even had breakfast, yet, and you’re already too thin. Come on.”
Her brows winged up in annoyance. “Don’t you know it’s rude to talk about a girl’s weight?”
“Yes,” James grinned. If it had been his sister, or even a cousin, who was sitting like this he’d have plucked her up, but Caroline gave off a strong vibe that screamed Do Not Touch, and after what she’d been through, he respected that. “Come down and eat something, then you can decided.”
Caroline narrowed her blue eyes and tucked her short swing of sunny, blonde hair behind her ear. “Fine,” she agreed reluctantly, then joined them for breakfast where she picked at her food until it was time to go.
When she started back for Gryffindor Tower, James followed her and nearly plowed into her when she stopped short. “What are you doing?” Caroline demanded in exasperation.
Louis, who hadn’t made a single comment up until this point, filled her in. “He’s determined you’re going to go, Caroline. If you don’t, he’s not going either.”
“You are unbelievable,” she fired off and she actually poked James in the chest, sending him back a step.
He grinned and waited.
“Fine,” she sighed and started for the front doors. “Fine!”
The two boys fell into step next to her. Louis had asked him, more than once, why he was trying so hard with her. Louis was his best mate, but James hadn’t told him what Caroline had been through at the hands of her father. He wasn’t ever going to tell Louis, and he left his cousin thinking he had a major crush on her. James wouldn’t lie and say he didn’t think she was seriously pretty, because she was, and he probably had a small crush on her, but it was so much more than that.
He remembered vividly sitting on a classroom floor with her as she’d fallen apart. He couldn’t forget walking her up to the matron the year before and she’d told him about the abuse her father had put her through.
He still remembered the bleeding and cracked nailbeds that she’d spent so much time chewing on, and all the time she’d spent away from the school getting help to deal with what she’d been through.
That’s why he tried, because when his dad had been his age, Voldemort had been back and his father had fought him several times and the best that James could manage was saying he had won several Quidditch games.
That was important. James was certain, already, that Quidditch was the job he was going to pick, first as player and then as a manager, but that didn’t mean he shouldn’t try to do something else that was worthwhile. Being a friend to Caroline, because he knew where she was coming from, seemed like a worthwhile thing. She probably deserved a better friend than him, but he could do for now.
They stopped at the sweet shop, and had a Butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks. James and Louis talked around Caroline, but she didn’t contribute anything herself. He saw his brother, who was there for the first time, but didn’t do more than nod. That was their own rhythm for dealing with each other, and James liked it that way.
“Let’s go up to the Shrieking Shack,” James suggested suddenly.
Louis shrugged and Caroline didn’t say anything, but she followed along behind them so that was something. “Do you know the story?” he asked her.
“No,” Caroline answered without inflection.
“It was built for a werewolf,” James told him.
She shook her eyes and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, okay then.”
“It was,” Louis confirmed. “His name was Remus and he died in the Battle of Hogwarts. Remus was James’ godbrother, Teddy’s, dad.”
“You’re… serious?” she asked Louis hesitantly.
“No,” Louis shook his head and pointed to James. “He’s Sirius.”
“What?” Caroline questioned as Louis laughed and ducked away from James’ fist.
“Stupid, lame joke,” James said dryly. “One I’ve heard all my life. My name is James Sirius. My dad’s godfather was named Sirius, and my grandfather was James.”
“Oh,” she replied shortly and stuck her hands into the pockets of her hoody.
“Anyway,” James went on. “Remus was my dad’s teacher his third year and he taught him how to perform a Patronus. They used a Boggart to imitate a Dementor. He kept passing out,” he told her as he remembered his Uncle Ron telling the story, taking the mickey. “He practically lived on chocolate since that’s the–”
“Damn it!” Louis stopped just before the shack. “I forgot chocolate for Dom’s birthday.”
“Do you want us to go back with you?” James asked as he, too, remembered his cousin, Louis’ sister’s, birthday the next week.
Louis shook his head and took off back down the hill. “I’ll catch you up.”
“What,” Caroline wondered, “was that about?”
“Dom’s birthday,” James explained as they continued up the hill to the creepy shack. “She wanted chocolate and Louis was supposed to get some.”
“We could have gotten it on the way back through the village,” Caroline pointed out reasonably.
James stopped at the fence and turned to stare back down the lane. That was true. It wasn’t like they couldn’t have gone later. So was Louis trying to leave them alone? He shook his head. “Anyway, so the story goes that when Dumbledore became Headmaster, he built the shack and connected it with a tunnel to the school so that Remus could go to school. He’d be in the shack during the full moon, and everyone would be safe.”
“Where does the tunnel connect?” Caroline asked curiously, finally appearing to get into the story.
“The Whomping Willow, but I think they may have blocked it off,” he said with regret. James had tried to get the tree to freeze to test that, but the tree was even more murderous now than when his father and uncle had driven a car into it. “Voldemort hid out here in the shack before that final battle and Severus Snape was killed here.”
“God,” Caroline groaned. “I know who he was. Your brother is named after him.”
James nodded. “He was a brave man, but a serious pain in the arse from all accounts. He loved my grandmother, which is why he was on our side. Voldemort had killed her, even though he’d promised not to. In fact, at his funeral…” he trailed off when he realized he was probably going too far. “Well,” James cleared his throat. “My parents were one of the few who went to his funeral and they were attacked there. They nearly died.”
“I’m sorry,” she assured him earnestly. “That sounds horrible.”
“They’ve been through a lot, my parents have,” James agreed evenly. “It’s amazing they’re as normal as they are.” He fell silent when he realized what he’d said.
Caroline leaned against the rickety fence and stared at the dilapidated out that still bore an undeniably evil aura. “I hope I can be relatively normal someday.”
He didn’t know what to say to that. He couldn’t just tell her that all would be well. He didn’t know if it would, and it was the sort of stupid platitude that people always offered when they lacked anything useful to add. James scooted closer, slowly, and put his arm around her shoulder. She hesitated for only a moment before she rested her head against him.
A bellow of furious rage blew over them like fire from a dragon’s mouth as something bashed into him and a massive weight pinned him to the ground, while Caroline was knocked backwards into the fence which cracked.
James’ head hit the ground with a sickening crunch and stars danced furiously through his vision while his ears filled with Caroline’s screams of terror and anger.
Only one word made it through.
It was the one word that had the ability to motivate James into action, because if she was screaming, “No, Dad!” and “Get off him! Take me instead!” he knew there was nothing else he could do.
James felt the blow to his cheek and heard something snap. He knew there was pain, but his fury was so deep, his fear so palpable, that even as the fists began to squeeze his windpipe, James couldn’t not act. He saw a branch swing in the narrowing of his vision as his arms flailed, but Donald Baker was so enraged that his daughter hitting him on the head didn’t even seem to faze the bull-like man.
Where were the Aurors?
One of the sticks of the huge branch broke off and landed next to James’ head. He grabbed it, and without a second’s hesitation, plunged the end straight into Baker’s neck. James saw, in stunned disbelief, as the stick went all the way through and out the other side.
It should have broken off. It shouldn’t have done that, but…
Donald let go on James to grab for his neck. He gurgled and blood flew everywhere as men swarmed them.
James flinched as a gush of blood splattered all over him and the huge man was pulled off of him.
He stared in horror at what he had done while one of the Aurors that James couldn’t name at the moment examined the man and Caroline fell down on her knees next to him.
James turned to her as she pulled him up to sitting. His head swam as the world revolved around him and another man came over to mouth something at him.
His ears weren’t working.
But for just a moment his eyes were, as he watched the oldest Auror wave the others back while foamy, red bubbles dribbled down Donald Baker’s neck.
He was still alive, but he wouldn’t be for long and no one was trying to save him.
“James!” came a voice sharp in his ear. He focused on the man in front of him. “Do you remember me? My name is Thomas, Thomas Gregory. Are you okay?”
He nodded and turned to Caroline who sobbed hard. James reached for her and they fell together in a hug. James’ hand cupped the back of her head and almost pulled back when he saw the blood all over his hands. She changed his mind when she fisted her hands into his t-shirt at the small of his back and held fast.
Then his dad was there. How had his dad gotten there?
Intense, green eyes bore into his over the top of Caroline’s head, but Harry’s mouth, which was moving, still didn’t make any sound that could make it in.
He glanced again to the still, gigantic man that lay motionless on the ground five feet away.
James felt his gut clench as he fully understood that he had killed a man.
And he wasn’t sorry in the least.
“Are you hurt?” Harry demanded sharply.
James shook his head, even though his temples were throbbing in time with his heart. “Hit my head,” he managed to say.
Someone, another man, ran a wand over him and a moment later his headache lessened down to a dull ache.
The sound turned back on and James sighed in relief.
“Is… is he dead?” Caroline asked as she turned to stare at the shell that had once been her father.
“He’s dead,” Harry confirmed evenly. “What happened?”
“He came out of nowhere,” James told him as he tried to work through what had happened. “We were just talking and…”
And James had put his arm around Caroline.
“He screamed and tackled James,” Caroline said with a steadier voice. “Is it really over?”
Harry nodded as he crouched down further to catch James’ eyes. “You still look like you took a hard hit. Let’s get you checked out.”
Caroline took Harry’s offered hand as he pulled her to her feet, then he bent and picked James up. Unfortunately, James’ legs didn’t really want to support him. Caroline stuck her arm around his waist and helped prop him up.
“I’m escorting them back up to the castle,” Harry told Thomas quietly. “Meet me up there once you’re done here.”
“Yes, sir,” Thomas replied.
The three of them began the walk back up to the castle along with all of the other students, herded by teachers and Ministry officials.
Several of them turned back to stare at James and glancing down he knew exactly why.
He was still covered in the man’s blood.
“Thank you,” Caroline whispered so that only he would hear. He nodded, unable to say anything else.
Maybe someday he would feel guilt or bad or something else, but not today.
Today, all he felt was relief.
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