|SIYE Time:6:28 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: 102768; Chapter Total: 2106
Awards: View Trophy Room
Please don't shoot me! I know it's been forever and that I such and I'm really sorry. As a bonus, I have included an extra 3500 word chunk at the end that I wasn't going to post until next chapter.
My life is crazy right now.
Thank you Arnel for beta'ing!
Please check out my books on amazon. My penname is Sarah Jaune.
“She looks green,” Lily noted as she stood by her mother and Honor on the platform as light swirls of snow danced around them. It wasn’t snowing, exactly, more like a snow globe that was turned upside down, except nothing was sticking to the ground.
Honor nodded as she shifted from one foot to the other. “She’ll be okay, though. She just needs to get used to it.”
Lily privately doubted that Honor’s older sister would adjust to their short stay with the Potters. Honor’s grandparents had traveled to America to settle some things there, and Lily was excited to have one of her new best friends over for a few days. Unfortunately, Caroline looked like she might vomit. They weren’t close enough to hear as she and James hopped out of the carriage, but the look on her face said it all.
Unbelievably, James seemed to read Caroline’s discomfort and pulled her to the side to talk quietly to her. She nodded and some of her blonde hair slipped down out of her cap. Lily’s eyes went wide as she saw James tuck it back for her, then quickly drop his hand.
Her mother’s gasp told Lily that Ginny had seen it as well.
“They aren’t together,” Honor told Ginny shyly. “Caroline would have told me.”
Ginny made a non-committal noise and held out a hand for Caroline while she beamed at her. Only Lily saw the hesitation on her mum’s face. “Caroline, it’s good to see you again.”
“Thank you for having us,” Caroline said with what anyone could see was a forced smile.
“We’re just waiting on Al,” Lily told her. “Dad is getting Nat sorted out, and Al wanted to say goodbye. I was thinking we should do midnight hide and go seek tomorrow, Mum. Honor wants to try it.”
Her mother quirked an eyebrow. “Well, we’ll have to see. If the snow picks up, it won’t be a good night for it.”
Lily opened her mouth to say that she had heard the snow wasn’t going to continue, when she saw her mum’s eyes flick to Caroline. Understanding washed through her, and Lily hunched her shoulders. Just because Honor might like something, didn’t mean Caroline would. Everyone knew that Caroline was struggling with her father’s death and all that had gone along with it. Annoyed with herself for forgetting, Lily didn’t say anything again until they were all in the car heading for their home.
“We’ll be sharing a room,” Lily said, then felt like an idiot because both girls knew that already. It would be a tighter squeeze, but since Nat was going with her parents and a squad of Aurors to the beach house, it was still only the three of them in there. Lily didn’t know Caroline terribly well, but she suspected that she should probably try to get to know her better. James couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off of her, but not in a weird, creepy way. He seemed genuinely concerned.
Al, who was the only one without a friend to bring home, vacillated between staring out the window, and staring at his feet. Lily like the word, which she’d just learned the week before. Vacillate… it seemed like most of her friends did that, on a daily basis, about everything. One minute it was fashionable to wear a feather in your hair, and the next they’d vacillated to it being horrible. One minute this boy was the cutest in the class, the next it was another. Nothing was ever stable and she wasn’t used to it. Lily had spent her whole childhood with Hugo, who was as sturdy and stable as one could hope for. Hugo didn’t vacillate about anything. He was simply Hugo.
“Wow!” Honor pressed up against the glass and stared at the house as they turned down the drive. “It’s beautiful, Lily!”
“I think so,” she agreed as she studied Ivy Run. The old, two story house, with the ivy that grew wild all around filled Lily with a sense of hope and joy every time she saw it. Here was home. Here was love. Here was– she blinked as the door opened and was immediately filled with a huge, brawny man with closely cropped red hair in jeans and an old, red shirt. “Uncle Charlie!” Lily practically squealed in excitement. The second the car stopped, she crawled over Al and James, ignoring their grunts and protests, and pushed out of the car to run for her uncle. She threw herself up into the air, knowing full well he would catch her.
He did, and the absolute joy of seeing her uncle flooded through Lily, overwhelming her completely. She burst into tears.
“Lily…” Uncle Charlie held on tighter as she wrapped her legs around his waist and let him hold her up, like he had when she was younger. He patted her back and kissed her temple. “Hey, what’s wrong?”
She sniffed and shook her head, unable to speak yet.
Lily felt another hand on her back, her father’s touch, one so familiar. “Lily-Lu?”
“Maybe it was the surprise of seeing me,” Charlie said hesitantly as Lily continued to cry.
It wasn’t that, though, but she couldn’t say what it was that left her raw and hurting inside, so she held tighter and her uncle didn’t let go.
Ginny watched Lily cling to Charlie and wondered if her daughter hadn’t gone mad. They’d meant to surprise the children with his visit, but now she wondered if she shouldn’t have told them he was coming to stay for a month. She wouldn’t tell them the whole reason, of course, not yet. Her brother’s face betrayed none of what he’d been through in the last two weeks, but Ginny could still see it in the tightness around his eyes.
“Charlie, this is Caroline and Honor,” she said by way of introduction.
Caroline looked ready to faint as she stared up at the huge man before her. “H-hello,” she stuttered.
“An American!” Charlie said with a smile that creased immediately into a frown as Caroline backed up into James and nearly tripped over him.
“Well,” Ginny cleared her throat. “Let’s go in and get some hot chocolate. It’s cold out here.”
She herded the kids into the house and went straight for the kitchen, only to find Polly the house-elf already busy at work with the preparations for dinner. “I is making hot chocolate madam,” she told Ginny in her squeaky voice.
“Thank you, Polly,” Ginny said in a grateful sigh. She had told the elf that, since Nat wasn’t coming, she didn’t need to either, but Polly had insisted. Another elf from Hogwarts was going to be staying at the house on the beach with Nat and her parents. Nat’s blood sugar was more stable, but if something happened she could need food immediately, or to be seen by a healer. A house-elf could Apparate with the girl, or bring help to her. At this point, Neville had assured Ginny in a letter the previous week, the house-elves at Hogwarts were used to Nat’s special needs and they had a plethora of volunteers for the Christmas hols.
She heard Harry helping the girls take their stuff upstairs and glanced over when she heard Charlie drop on the couch with Lily snuggled up to his side, her face pressed to his chest. A strange, creeping sensation tickled down Ginny’s spine as she watched them, but sure… no. There was no way that Lily could have sensed what Charlie was going through. No way at all… but…
“Mrs. Ginny?” Polly interrupted her thoughts. “Is everyone arriving at six?”
Forcing herself to focus, she turned back to Polly and the dinner preparations.
Dinner was an unmitigated disaster. Everyone started piling into the house and Caroline had a panic attack, to the point that Audrey gave her a calming draught to get her to stop hyperventilating.
Granted, it was a lot of people in the house.
Honor, on the other hand, was nervous, but excited to meet everyone.
Ginny felt terrible for Caroline. She’d known that it would be hard to have the large, family meal, but Nat had done it without any problems. They were simply two different children who had lived two different lives.
Caroline had been through unspeakable tragedy. The only bright spot was that Audrey was already on hand to help calm her down, and Caroline knew Audrey already through St. Mungo’s.
“Maybe we should call it early,” her mum said in a whisper to Ginny.
Ginny shook her head and sighed. “Audrey says she wanted to sleep, so we’ll let her sleep and be by herself.”
They ate, but Ginny couldn’t help noticing just how broody the whole thing left James.
By the time they’d finally cleaned up and cleared out, Ginny could only plop herself on the couch with a very large glass of wine, right next to Charlie, who was drinking a beer.
Harry, very tactfully, took himself off to bed.
“What was that about?” Charlie asked her curiously.
“That’s the girl,” Ginny told him. “James killed her father, right in front of her. That’s the one.”
Charlie let out a low whistle. They’d told the family the general story of what had happened, but not the specifics, just that he was a terrible man. “You know…” her brother said thoughtfully as he loosely held the neck of the beer bottle between two fingers, “it makes what I went through seem kind of petty.”
She held her breath and waited, hoping that maybe this time he’d talk about it. When Charlie had asked if he could stay with them, Ginny had known something was up. Often times, Charlie stayed with their parents, or with Bill, whom he was closest to, but when he stayed with them it always meant that he was hurting. The last time had been during Al’s first year at Hogwarts. He’d come for Christmas and said he’d wanted to surprise their parents, but had told Ginny later that he really just needed time to recharge. They’d lost his favorite dragon to scale rot and an infection that wouldn’t quit. It was such a tragedy, one that should have been preventable or treatable, and Charlie had taken it hard.
He took a long pull on his beer and set the empty bottle on the side table as he slouched in his seat. His large, scarred hands ran down his jeans, smoothing them out some. “Lily is like magic.”
Surprised, Ginny laughed softly. “Well, I’m a little biased, but I wouldn’t say that.”
He scratched at the side of his head and wouldn’t meet her eyes. “She’s like… she’s this little sprite of a thing, so tiny, and she loves with her whole being. Sometimes you just need that kind of magic.”
She reached out to him and laid a hand on his arm. “What happened?”
She knew the basics. One of his co-workers had died, but this seemed to be more.
Charlie’s jaw muscles worked, like he was chewing on his tongue. It took him a full two minutes to answer. “The woman who died was my girlfriend.”
Stunned, horrified, Ginny pushed up onto her knees and locked her arms around his neck. He gave her an awkward squeeze, but she knew he didn’t have it in him to reciprocate. “I’m so sorry!”
“It wasn’t a dragon or anything,” he told her in a tone so flat that it broke her heard. “She was murdered by this crazy local wizard who wanted her. She was… she was strong, and smart, and beautiful, and he wanted her. When she kept turning him down, and he kept coming, she filed a complaint. That’s when he killed her. He strangled her with his bare hands, then shot himself with a Muggle weapon of some kind.”
Ginny’s hands flew to her mouth. “Charlie…”
“I wasn’t with her that night,” Charlie went on and now his voice cracked. “I was seeing to a sick hatchling. If I’d been there–”
“You don’t know that,” she told him quietly. “You don’t know.”
He shot her a dry smile. “You’re the only one I could tell, you know. Well, probably George, but all the rest of them would have scolded me for sleeping with her when we weren’t married.”
“It’s not illegal there,” Ginny pointed out. She wasn’t shocked. She wasn’t even surprised. Except… “I thought you were gay.”
Charlie choked on his own spit. “Excuse me?”
“Well,” she hesitated. “When you didn’t bring anyone home, I thought that maybe you were gay and didn’t want to tell Mum.”
He glared at her for a moment before letting out a snort. “I’m not gay, Smidge,” he said simply, using her childhood nickname. “I just hadn’t found a girl who could keep my attention away from the dragons.”
Which was a statement all on its own. “But this woman did?”
He turned away again. “Sort of.”
“Sort of?” she prodded.
“I cared for her, of course,” he said as he pushed himself to standing and strode across the room to stare into the empty grate of the fireplace. “She was as mad for the dragons as I was, but mostly we were just lonely.”
Ginny didn’t need to give that much thought. She wouldn’t want to sleep alone every night. It didn’t sound like something many people would willingly choose. Not everyone needed to marry or find one person to spend their life with, and Charlie was that kind of man. But that shouldn’t mean a life alone if for short periods he wanted companionship. Unfortunately, they were so far behind the rest of the world here in England, that she couldn’t see a way around it. She opened her mouth to say something else, although for the life of her she couldn’t imagine what it would be when he stopped her cold.
“Tell me what’s up with that Caroline girl.”
She blew out a breath of pure frustration. “What she’s been through… no one should have to go through that. I can’t really tell you more than that, except to say that I’m glad her father is dead.”
Charlie was silent for a long time. “I think I can imagine what must have happened.”
“I’m not sure you can even do it justice,” she said honestly.
“James is half in love with her.”
It was the conclusion that Ginny had come to, as well, and one that left her extremely disconcerted. “I think it’s obvious for anyone who wants to see it, including Caroline.”
“I think,” he said as he cleared his throat, “the thing that surprised me the most is that it’s not the selfish kind of love I’d have expected from him. It’s not that love that isn’t really love, but is infatuation wrapped up in only wanting the other person to fulfil your needs.”
“You have such a lovely view of love, Charlie,” Ginny assured him dryly. “But I take your meaning.”
Her brother grinned at her. “He isn’t looking to get anything from her. If you’d told me he would be capable of that before he was forty, I’d have laughed at you. I thought he was going to be a berk for years yet.”
“Killing a man to save someone’s life does tend to change a person,” she remarked quietly.
His face fell instantly. “I’m sorry, Ginny. I didn’t mean anything by it. I love him, of course, but he was a pain in the arse most of the time.”
“He was,” she agreed with a sigh, knowing she couldn’t deny it if she wanted to. “I think she’s most of why he changed. He sees something in her that’s calling to him. But I don’t think it’s going to last.”
“No,” Charlie drawled out evenly. “It can’t last, not with how young they both are. He’s only fifteen, right?”
“Yeah,” Ginny said evenly. “At fifteen I knew Harry was the one. At sixteen I was pregnant and married. By seventeen I’d buried my first child.”
He swore under his breath. “Bloody hell, I always forget how young you were, but you’re right. That’s… that’s extremely off-putting, you know that right?”
“I do,” she confirmed easily. “We think of them as so young, and maybe they are in experience compared to what we went through, but James is less than two years from being a man. He’s already taken a life to protect another.”
“Does he know what he wants to do with himself?”
“Quidditch,” she said with a grin of pride. “That, at least, I know he can do well. I think he’d likely to be the only one. Al likes the game, but it’s not the life for him. I imagine he’ll follow Harry.”
“What about Lily?”
“I don’t know,” Ginny mused thoughtfully. “I’m not sure she’s yet found the thing she loves, but it’s still her first year. She, at least, has plenty of time.”
She went to bed that night with thoughts of James and that dream that wouldn’t stop haunting her. It wasn’t like she could predict that Caroline and James would be an item in a few years, but the prospect left her shaken and unable to sleep.
Harry rolled over and wrapped his arm around her waist. He nuzzled his nose into her neck. “It will be okay.”
Ginny really wished she could believe that.
The chaos the next morning was not from Caroline, but arrived in the form of Scorpius Malfoy through the Floo at seven o’clock in the morning. The boy tumbled out of the fireplace and Lily, who was sitting on the floor with her cat, yelped in alarm. Ginny sprang up from her seat at the table, spilling her first cup of tea all over, and then blew out a breath when she realized there was no threat. “Scorpius…” she scooted around the table to go to him. “What’s the–” her voice faltered at the flushed and angry face before her, with the eyes that were flooded with unshed tears.
“Are you okay?” Lily asked him quietly. When he didn’t answer, she scooped up Ducky, who meowed in protest and headed for the stairs. “I’ll wake Al.”
The second Lily was gone, Ginny reached out for him, but he backed away. “I need help.”
“Alright,” she said evenly.
“My aunt is in Ireland,” he explained. “I want to go stay with her for the rest of the hols.”
Ginny nodded slowly, taking it all in. “What happened?”
His mouth scrunched in fury, but he shook his head, refusing to answer.
“I can’t help you if you don’t give me something. Does your mum know where you are?”
He hesitated, then shook his head.
She let out a long sigh and felt the weight settle on her shoulders. “Let me send her a message, then.” She could tell the boy wanted to protest, but he didn’t as his shoulders sagged. “Go sit down,” Ginny instructed gently. “We’ll get you something to eat.”
She went to the kitchen and saw Polly already hard at work on breakfast. “Thank you,” Ginny told the house-elf. “I’ll be just a minute,” she told her as she grabbed a quill and a scroll.
Astoria, Scorpius turned up this morning and wants help getting to his aunt in Ireland. What would you like me to do? -Ginny
She sealed it up, and tied it onto the leg of Al’s owl. “Go on quick, now,” she told the owl gently. “I need an answer, so wait on her.”
The owl hooted, then took off out of the window that Ginny held open.
When she turned back, it was to find Al sitting across the table from his best mate, talking in a low murmur. Ginny wanted to leave it alone, or send Harry in to talk to the boy, but Harry was at work, and Scorpius had effectively run away from home. She plopped down into a seat next to Al. “Alright, I need you to spill.”
“Father and I had a row,” he told her slowly, deliberately forcing calm into his tone. She knew he wanted to scowl or yell, maybe both at the same time. “He lit into me last night about how my grades were slipping, and how I wasn’t living up to the Malfoy name, and how I was such a disappointment.”
Surprised, Ginny sat back and tried to process it. From what she’d heard from Harry, Draco had been working hard to improve his relationship with his son. This didn’t seem to fit into the narrative at all. An inkling of an idea tickled the back of her head, but she didn’t bother to explain it to Scorpius. He was too angry to process or care. “If your mum says it’s okay, we’ll get you to you aunt, but if she doesn’t, our hands are tied. It’s kidnapping to take you up there without their approval.”
His face fell and he dropped his head to the table. “I just want it all to stop.”
This time she did reach out and gripped his hand. “It will get better. One way or the other, it will get better.”
Unfortunately, better might mean when Scorpius moved out and cut off all ties with his family. She didn’t want to ever suggest it, though.
By the time Lily reappeared, she had Caroline and Honor with her, and all three girls were dressed in jeans and jumpers. She didn’t mention Scorpius’ upset, and they laughed and joked through breakfast like they were all back at school.
Ginny heard back from Scorpius’s mother around lunch. She took the note from the owl and walked over to the sink so that she could read without the kids seeing it.
Ginny, Thank you for taking him in. I have spoken with my sister and she is coming back to England immediately. She can meet Scorpius in Diagon Alley at seven o’clock tonight. I would come to get him, but I do not believe that would suit him. Is there any way you can get him there at that time? Let me know, and thank you again. -Astoria
Ginny jumped as she heard someone cough behind her. She spun to find Charlie holding out a hand for the note. Wordlessly, she handed it over.
“I have to go anyway,” he said after a quick scan. “I can take him.”
“Are you sure?”
Charlie nodded and glanced over his shoulder to where Al and Scorpius played chess at the kitchen table. “I feel for him.”
Scorpius walked silently with Al’s Uncle Charlie through the cold streets of Diagon Alley towards the joke shop. They hadn’t spoken much since they’d left the house, but Scorpius knew it was coming. He didn’t want to deal with it. He’d only just met this man, even though one could tell instantly that he was a Weasley. He was red-haired, freckled, and with the same general face, but with one distinction. Charlie was huge. He was brawny, muscled, and covered in scars all over his arms. He had the sort of air of a man who knew how to take care of things.
“Through this way,” he said as he pushed into the shop and nodded to George. “We’re a bit early, so we’ll wait in the back.”
“No problem,” George called with a wave. “Go on up to the office. I’ll send her up once she gets here.”
Silently, Scorpius followed Charlie through the back of the jokes, and crowds of kids shopping and looking through the merchandise. They wended their way through a storage room and to a flight of steps into what looked to have once been a flat, but was now a large, spacious office. Scorpius dropped down onto one of the sofas and tried to keep his eyes from meeting Charlie’s.
“What’s the point in sulking?”
Startled, Scorpius’ head shot up. “I’m not sulking!”
“World class sulk,” Charlie told him mildly. “Your father is a complicated man in a complicated position.”
“What do you know about it?” Scorpius fired as he jumped to his feet, furious. He strode to the bigger man, who didn’t rise from his own seat and jabbed a finger at him. “You don’t have to live with him!”
Charlie inclined his head slowly. “I don’t know him well, but I did get to know him right after the war. He was broken by what happened. He’d blindly followed a father who bullied him into behaving and thinking certain ways. I have to ask you, do you really think what your father does to you is any worse than what your grandfather did to Draco?”
That stopped him cold. Scorpius rocked back on his heels as he felt the world tilt a little. “No. But that doesn’t excuse–”
“There is no excuse for what he does,” Charlie agreed as he interrupted him. “But there are reasons. Sometimes we get into these patterns of thoughts and actions. We try to break free, but they’re really hard to break out of.”
Scorpius considered that, then slowly made his way back to his seat. “Do you do that?”
The older man chuckled softly to himself. “I’m not married because of it.”
“What… what do you mean?”
“I have this bad habit of losing myself in my work. I give all of my time and attention to it,” he explained to Scorpius. “I even neglect my family here. I’ve always been that way. I’d forget to do chores because I was interested in something else. I didn’t ever write home. I wasn’t great at school, but what I liked were magical creatures and Quidditch. Those two things had my full attention. I never even had a girlfriend at Hogwarts because by the time I thought about it, I’d already graduated.”
“Do you want to get married?” Scorpius asked hesitantly.
Charlie shook his head. “No, I’m happy where I am. My work is my real love, but I’m never going to get the chance to even come close because no one can stand being ignored for that long. Eventually, they all leave. That’s my bad cycle. I know it, but I don’t really want to change it.”
Scorpius had wondered why Charlie had been willing to bring him to meet his aunt, but he saw now that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing. Al only knew what it was like to have parents that loved him, so he didn’t really get it.
“I don’t think I’ve met your aunt,” Charlie told him. “I’ve never met your mum, either, come to that. They weren’t here during the war, right?”
“No,” he confirmed as he tapped his toe. “My grandfather took them to America to finish their education. They didn’t come back until after the trials were over.”
“I was already back in Romania by then,” he said evenly. “Your aunt was in Harry’s year?”
Scorpius nodded. “Mr. Potter says he didn’t know her very well. My aunt is the best,” he said and finally felt himself relax. “She stands up to my dad for me, and loves me, and doesn’t push me into things. I wish she was around more.”
Charlie didn’t say anything for a minute. “Does she travel a lot for work?”
“I don’t think she really works, actually,” Scorpius replied slowly. “She has money from my grandfather, which she invested, but I think she just likes to travel.” And suddenly he saw that maybe, just maybe, it was a bad cycle for his aunt, too. Admittedly, Scorpius didn’t know much about his aunt’s younger life or if she was running from something. “Lily says you’re her favorite uncle,” he blurted out. He was tired of talking about himself.
He looked flattered, maybe a little surprised. “Really? I thought that was George. I’ll have to rub that in his face.”
Scorpius grinned and opened his mouth to respond when a firm knock sounded on the frame of the open door and he turned to see his aunt standing there, grinning at him. Relief flooded him as he sprang up and rushed her for a huge hug. She made a crooning noise as she held onto him and swayed a bit. He was as tall as she was, now, or almost. It was close. She pulled back and cupped his cheeks so she could study him. Her blue eyes were warm but concerned and her golden blonde hair was pulled back in a loose knot at the base of her neck. Gently curling tendrils fell artistically to frame her face, which was a lot like her sister’s. High cheek bones, a straight small nose, and perfectly sculpted brows. Aunt Daphne always appeared put together. Her clothes, however, were another story. She was dressed in tight Muggle jeans, matched with a scarlet cable-knit jumper, and black boots that clung to her calves, ending just below the knee. “You look tired, baby. What happened?” she asked gently.
He shrugged and wished for the millionth time that he could live with Daphne permanently. “We had a fight. He threatened me and–”
“Wait!” Charlie exclaimed and Scorpius jumped. He’d almost forgotten the big man’s presence. “He did what?” he asked in a low, furious voice.
The teenager eyed him for a minute, trying to decide what would be the best course.
His aunt took over and held out her hand to Charlie, while keeping one arm around Scorpius’ shoulders. “You must be Charlie Weasley. I’ve heard a lot about you over the years. I’m Daphne Greengrass.”
He took her hand, which completely engulfed his aunt’s. “Yeah, nice to meet you. Listen, Scorpius, if–”
“Please don’t concern yourself,” Daphne told him simply. “My brother-in-law is a hotheaded arse of the first order, but I assure you it wasn’t physical violence. He’d threaten Scorpius with disinheritance. He does that a lot when he doesn’t know what else to do with him.”
Scorpius smiled like that was all that had happened, like he hadn’t seen his father’s hand twitch as though going for his wand.
Charlie didn’t buy it. “What happened?” he asked the teenager again.
His aunt gave him a searching look. Her expression faltered. “Scorpius?”
His first inclination was to lie to her, but he’d never, ever lied to her, but the truth wasn’t something he ever wanted to admit. “He didn’t touch me.”
That was the truth.
She took his chin and held on, narrowing her eyes. “You thought he might?”
Reluctantly, he nodded.
She swore under her breath and pulled him in for another hug. “What do you want to do?”
“I just want to make it through the hols and then go back to school,” he told her quietly.
Daphne closed her eyes, then rose up to press a kiss to his forehead. “Alright. We leave for Ireland in an hour.” He relished in the contact, which his mother never gave him, and his father would have disdained. It didn’t matter that Draco wasn’t Lucius. They were still Malfoys, and that meant there were certain rules.
“Can I do anything else?” Charlie asked them.
“Can you tell everyone I’m sorry for how I acted?” Scorpius asked him as he remembered his behavior that day, and how tense he’d made the whole house.
Charlie shook his head and clapped him on the shoulder. “You have nothing to apologize for. I hope to see you again sometime. It was nice to meet you, Daphne.”
“Same,” she said as he walked them back down through the shop and parted ways to go shopping.
“Let’s get something eat at The Leaky Cauldron, then we’ll get our Portkey,” she told him as she ushered him back down the alley. It wasn’t until they were seated that she spoke again. “The first place you thought to run was the Potter’s?”
Scorpius squirmed a bit as he stared blankly at the menu before him. “I figure… you know, Al’s dad is the one who can stop things. I didn’t know where you were at the time.”
“Oh, Scorpius…” she sighed sadly and reached out to take his hand, much as Mrs. Potter had done. “I haven’t done a good job of being there for you.”
“You have!” he protested, but stopped when she shook her head.
“Your father loves you,” she told him honestly. “But he is damaged and not facing things like he should. If he’d done therapy, none of this would have been a problem, but he’s too proud for that. My sister doesn’t have the spine to tell him to go. She could threaten to leave him if he doesn’t, but she won’t do it.”
Scorpius wasn’t really hungry anymore.
“They wanted me to marry him, you know,” Daphne snorted as she waved to the barman. “That would have been a disaster. I said no, of course. That didn’t go over well. They wanted a connection with the Malfoys.”
“You mean Grandfather?”
She gave him a tight smile. “He thought I should be grateful that he’d found me such a brilliant husband. In the end I threatened to tell the Malfoys what really happened during the war, and they backed down. Astoria was still the good little girl. She could have him for all I cared. I knew we wouldn’t suit, not like they suit either.” Daphne was rambling now, but Scorpius didn’t interrupt. “They kept saying how America ruined me, but what America taught me is that I could tell them to eff off and be happy with my life, and you my darling nephew, are going to need to do the same someday.”
“I’m going to try,” he promised as he felt his stomach settle down. “Maybe if I refuse to see him, he’ll get help.”
“It’s worth a shot,” she told him with a proud grin. “If not, he can eff off, yeah?”
Scorpius laughed. “Yeah.”
The trip to Ireland was a balm to his bruised heart, and his aunt promised to be there at the train station to get him for the summer hols as long as he could find some place to stay for Easter. That was solved when he was back on the train and Al assured him he would be welcome. “I have to clear it with my mum,” Scorpius said. “You do as well.”
“You know she’ll agree,” Al told him as he filched a carrot stick from Nat’s snack bag. He ignored her glare. “Anyway, Nat, how was the ocean?”
“Cold and wet,” she told him as she swatted his hand away from her grapes. “But I’m sure you could have guessed that. How did Caroline do?”
“About as well as you’d expect,” Rose sighed. She pushed her curly auburn hair back off her face and tied it up in a messy bun. “She was freaked for a bit, but Lily said she calmed down eventually. It’s not a surprise, though. We’re a lot to handle and Uncle Charlie was there.”
“I heard Uncle Charlie tell my dad that your aunt is gorgeous,” Al told Scorpius with a roll of his eyes.
Scorpius had to consider that one, and wave off the irritation. “I guess she is, but I’ve never known her to have a boyfriend or anything. She’s always been single.”
“Same for Uncle Charlie,” Al said, completely oblivious to the turmoil roiling inside Scorpius. “I doubt he’ll ever get married, but my dad was so funny. He said he hadn’t noticed! Your aunt was in school with him, but besides from this one girl, Cho something, he only had eyes for my mum.”
“It’s like my parents,” Rose agreed with a wry smile. “Except mine have had to go to therapy to try to pull themselves back together. They don’t think I know, but I can see them talking to each other like a therapist talks.”
“When were you in therapy?” Al wanted to know.
“I saw it on the Muggle tele,” she informed him with her nose up in the air. “At my grandparents while my parents went on what they said was a date, but really was therapy because they came back from it and weren’t speaking to each other.”
Nat shook her head. “It happens sometimes. I think if my parents lived together all the time, they’d need therapy. They seem to prefer only having short stretches.”
“Why are we talking about this?” Scorpius questioned.
“Your aunt,” Rose reminded him. “Or something else, I forget. But in any case, you’ll be welcome at Al’s over Easter. Aunt Ginny likes you.”
Scorpius nodded and slouched back in his seat. He really hoped that was true.
Harry stared at the stack of notes from the years of investigation into Crabbe and wanted to throw something. It had been months since James had killed Donald Baker, and since then Isabella Crabbe hadn’t made a single move. She hadn’t hinted at what she was doing, or what she was planning. They’d had a couple of years where they were able to find traces of her, but now as March was about to tick into April, Harry was realizing that it was Baker who was leaving all the crumbs for them to find. Baker had been sloppy and erratic. It was that man who had led to them knowing she was active in England.
It was maddening beyond anything. The only clue they had that she wasn’t dead was that they were finding traces of missing women from poorer parts of Europe. They were coming here as Muggles, and then they vanished. Harry still wasn’t sure why she targeted only women.
He hadn’t let up on the security around his children, and was thankful that they were back at school. Soon enough he would have them home for the Easter holidays, and that was a treat, but Hogwarts was truly the safest place for them.
Al was fourteen already, and Lily would turn twelve soon. Time kept flying by, but he was no closer to an answer than he had been a decade before. Ten years before he’d assumed that Crabbe was dead.
He looked up at the knock on his door. “Enter.”
Teddy came in holding out a piece of paper that he knew immediately had been sent over from the Muggle Cooperation Coordinator for the Aurors. “We have the Muggles searching for a woman. We think it might be connected.”
He studied the sheet and his heart sank. She was young, only just eighteen. He glanced up to see the bags under his godson’s eyes. “I can handle this. You get home and get some sleep.”
Teddy shook his head and took the sheet back from him. “I have it. I just keep hoping we find someone alive. I’ll get onto tracing her steps.”
He watched the younger man go and wished they could find something. Harry felt like he was losing his edge, and maybe the public was losing their trust in him, but there was nothing to find.
Crabbe was too good at hiding, and she’d had a lot of years to practice. It was going to take a miracle for them to find her before she hurt anyone else, and Harry simply didn’t see that happening.
If Teddy were going to rate his day on a scale of bad to dreadful it would fall somewhere along the line at horrendously unimaginable, he thought as he unlocked the door to his and Victoire’s tiny flat. He’d barely escaped the cool April rain throughout work that day, but that was the least of his problems. Surveillance had turned into an impromptu arrest which led to finding the remains of two women, their bodies badly decomposed and showing obvious signs of torture and abuse. It bore all the hallmarks of the Crabbe case, but with no evidence to link them. Frustration ran wild through the Aurors and it was only growing.
All he wanted was a meal, a shower and to try to forget the awful image that was now burned into his brain.
He pushed the door open slowly, dropped his keys on the side table and saw his wife sitting on the small, shabby couch watching him. Her beautiful face was ashen and she absently picking at her fingernails. Teddy frowned in concern. “What’s wrong?”
“I…” she said breathlessly and waited for him to hang up his cloak.
He strode over and took her hands, stopping the nervous movements. “What is it?”
Victoire closed her eyes and tears started to run down her cheeks. Panic flooded him. Had someone died? “I’m sorry,” she half sobbed.
“For what?” He asked, a little more harshly than he’d meant to. He softened his voice. “Victoire, what’s wrong? What happened?”
She pulled her hands from his and wiped at the tears, meeting his gaze with her red rimmed blue eyes. “I’m pregnant.”
The breath was forced from him as a kind of panicked stupidity flooded in. He couldn’t have heard her correctly. She’d taken the potion to prevent pregnancy for a year and that year wasn’t up until late July. Teddy watched her face and saw, but only dimly registered, the anguish, guilt and fear that played over her beautiful face. “What?”
“I’m pregnant,” Victoire repeated quietly. “I… I… w-we were learning how to induce ovulation last month and we practice on ourselves and I asked! I made sure that it wasn’t going to do anything to interfere with the birth control and Healer Sterling promised me it wouldn’t! I missed my period last week. I k-kept waiting for it to s-show up and then when I got home today I did the pregnancy spell and checked and… Teddy…” she cried, tears raining freely down her face. “I’m so s-sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen! I don’t know how it happened, b-but–”
Teddy’s heart just about broke in two from the misery that was radiating off her. He pulled her into his lap and crushed her in with a hug. “Stop. You have nothing to be sorry about. I… I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, but it’s a good thing.”
Words seemed to be beyond her now and she kept crying in his arms, sobs wracking her slender frame as he held her, soothing her. Oh sweet Merlin… she was having a baby. They were broke, living pay check to pay check in a tiny one bedroom flat. Victoire had at least another eighteen months of training to become a Healer that they’d already paid for with loans. She wasn’t going to be able to complete it now, at least not in that timeline.
“What are we going to do?” Victoire whispered into his shoulder, her delicate hands fisted in his shirt.
He ran his fingers into her long, blonde hair and kissed her temple and words that Harry had spoken to him years before came flooding back as if Harry were standing there saying them in his ear. There will be a time when she will be at her most vulnerable, and it’s on you to be the one protecting her, even from herself. It will be on you to shelter her and make sure she’s safe, that she feels safe. It hadn’t made much sense at the time, but now it rang true, crystal clear. He pulled back and cradled her face between his hands. He grinned and hoped that it didn’t show any of the fear or anxiety that was currently warring in his gut. “We’re going to have a baby.”
A tentative, hopeful smile formed on her lips. “Really? You’re not mad?”
He shook his head and kissed her gently. He loved her so much, had loved her for more years than he could count. “I’m not mad,” he promised. “I might still be a little stunned, but definitely not mad.”
Her lips trembled as she nodded. “I… I was so scared you’d be mad.”
“No,” he promised, pushing a lock of her golden hair away from her face. “Why would I be mad? We want kids.”
“Not right now,” she said quietly. “How are we going to do this?”
Teddy shook his head. “That’s on me to figure out.”
Victoire glared at him. “Why is it on you?”
Teddy truly smiled this time at her exasperation and annoyance. “Because it is; you have other things to worry about.”
She looked for a moment like she wanted to argue, but instead she put her head on his shoulder and sighed. Teddy maneuvered them so that they were lying on the couch with her body half on his. “I’m scared,” she admitted as she traced her fingers over his chest.
“Why?” Teddy asked, although he could name at least a dozen reasons why he was scared. He ran his hand up and down the smooth skin of her arm, still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that in nine months he was going to be someone’s dad.
The words flooded out of her. “My parents are going to be so disappointed in me that I won’t get to finish my training and… and… we waited all those years not having sex so that we wouldn’t have a baby too soon and now…”
“No,” Teddy interrupted her. “Your parents are going to be thrilled to be grandparents and they will understand. You can still finish training if you want, just… you know… maybe on a different time table.”
He kissed her temple and shook his head. “No buts. We waited to get married so we’d be ready. I knew when I said ‘I do’ that I was saying that if we had a child, I was ready or at least I could get ready. We can do this.”
Victoire was silent for a long time. “I’m going to be a mum.”
He was going to be a dad. “You’re going to be a great mum,” he promised. “Are you hungry?”
She shook her head. “I tried to eat something. I was feeling sick and I ate to try to settle my nerves. I threw it up.”
Remorse filled him. “I wish you hadn’t been so scared to tell me.” Teddy pulled her in closer and held on. “I’m sorry I made you feel like that.”
Another quiet sob left her. “It… it isn’t you, I just… everything is really overwhelming r-right now and…”
Teddy needed to see her face, needed to see her eyes. He gently extracted himself from under her and knelt next to her on the couch. He kissed her, wanting her to feel his reassurance. “I love you. No matter what I’m always going to love you and we can do this.”
Victoire nodded. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t stop crying.”
Something Harry had told Ginny once when she was pregnant with Lily popped into his head and he had to bite back a laugh. Remember… your brain has been hijacked by the baby. Ginny had nearly chucked a spoon at him for saying it. Teddy ran his fingers over her brow, marveling at just how beautiful she was. He grinned. “I think you probably do know what’s wrong with you. You’re right in the middle of your midwifery rotation.”
“Hormones…” Victoire answered slowly. “I can’t seem to stop myself or control it… or anything.”
“It’s okay,” Teddy promised and kissed her forehead. He saw her look down and she touched her stomach. Their baby was growing in there. It was such a huge thing and yet the baby was tiny at this point. He didn’t know how small, but figured it couldn’t be much bigger than a grain of rice. He rested his hand on top of hers and felt overwhelmed by the fear, love, joy and terror that swamped him all at once. He didn’t know how they were going to do this, but he’d figure it out because he wouldn’t let her down.
Working on impulse and needing to reassure her, he moved her shirt up a bit and kissed her flat belly. He closed his eyes as it hit him straight in the gut that his child was in there; his child who wasn’t going to grow up an orphan. His baby was going to have his dad there every night. A single tear fell down onto her exposed stomach and she ran a hand into his short locks. “Teddy…”
“I’m going to be a dad,” he whispered and looked up at her with his heart in his eyes. “Thank you,” he croaked out. It didn’t matter that he’d just turned twenty-two and that she wasn’t yet twenty. It didn’t matter that it was going to be hard and stressful and that he had no way of supporting them. Right now it only mattered that they were becoming a family, that she was there loving him and giving this to him. The rest could wait.
Victoire went to bed less than an hour later and Teddy stewed over his dinner as his stomach knotted up more and more. He didn’t want to eat anything and didn’t want to sit here with all the thoughts racing through him. Closing his eyes, he pulled out his wand and sent a Patronus to his godfather asking him to come. Teddy knew he would unless Harry absolutely couldn’t. He stood to cast a Muffliato Charm on their bedroom door so that his wife wouldn’t hear anything and he waited.
Harry and Ginny were nearly done with supper when Teddy’s wolf Patronus burst into the house.
“Harry,” the wolf said in Teddy’s voice. “I need to talk to you. Come to the flat but be quiet, Victoire is asleep.”
Harry looked at Ginny curiously. “I wonder what that’s all about.”
“Our son needs you,” Ginny told him looking speculative. “Sometimes you just need your dad to talk to, right?”
Harry eyed her suspiciously. “Do you know what’s going on?”
“No,” Ginny said honestly. “I may have a guess. Go before he starts to worry.”
Harry rose and kissed her. “I’ll be back when I can.”
Harry Apparated to a small alley not far from their flat and walked quickly to the building where they lived, and up to the flat. He knocked briefly and the door was flung open. He took in his godson’s white face and entered, closing the door. “What’s the matter?”
“Victoire is pregnant,” Teddy said without preamble.
And just like that, Harry thought, I’m a grandfather. Harry felt his face split into a mile wide grin as he pulled Teddy into his arms. “Congratulations!”
Teddy hugged him back and held on. Harry could feel Teddy shaking and before he could fall over, he guided the young man to sit on his couch. He sat as well, studying his face. “We didn’t plan this,” Teddy admitted. “I don’t know what to do!”
Harry nodded, understanding completely. “Panic is normal. Do you feel like your guts are filled with rocks?”
He nodded and looked so young to Harry. “How did you do this at seventeen?! How did you stop yourself from screaming and running from the room?”
“Did you scream and run from the room when she told you?” Harry asked hesitantly.
“No!” Teddy blurted out, sounding slightly hysterical. “No, I kept it together, reassured her and kept calm, but Merlin, it took all I had to do that and I have no idea how we’re going to make this work.”
Harry put his hands on his shoulders and shook him slightly. “You’re amazing with kids, Teddy. You always have been. You and Victoire are going to be great parents.”
“We’re barely making it,” Teddy said, closing his eyes. “She’s not going to be able to finish her training and we’re dead broke from her tuition.”
“You’re going to get a pay rise when you renew your contract this summer,” Harry reminded him gently even though he knew that wasn’t going to help overly much. He’d wished, yet again, that they’d let him help. He’d been arguing with Teddy for months to let them pay for Victoire’s schooling or let Bill and Fleur help, but they’d been stubbornly refusing, insisting on doing it themselves. While he’d admired it, he’d also known it was possibly going to cause them problems.
“How did you do this?” Teddy asked him again, his lost eyes meeting Harry’s.
“I had the family helping us,” Harry reminded him. “I’d also inherited a lot of money so funds were never a problem. The whole family pitched in through the good and the bad.”
He seemed to consider this. “But…”
“This isn’t a bad thing,” Harry reassured him feeling again a swell of joy at the thought of a new baby. “You’re young, but you’re adults and you’re married and you love each other. You have a lot of family around to help. If you’d stop being stubborn I could give you the money I set aside for you years ago.”
Teddy shook his head. “No. I need to do this myself.”
“No,” Harry rebutted. “You don’t. The money would have been yours when you got married if you’d just taken it. Besides, in our will you get a quarter of everything we have.”
Teddy just stared at him like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “What?”
Harry pulled him into his arms again, remembering when he had been small enough to carry around. Now he was a man, taller than Harry, and he was going to be a father. He was going to know what it was to love a child more than he could have ever imagined loving anyone. “You are mine. You’re also your parents’ child, but you’re mine, too. From the moment they died that was it for me. You have been more than my godson your whole life and you know that. You know Ginny and I love you and consider you one of ours. If your grandmother hadn’t been there, Ginny and I would have raised you. You four get an even split of everything.” he said, referring also to James, Al and Lily.
“Harry,” Teddy said breaking away. “I can’t…”
“Why not?” Harry asked him, staring him down. “I didn’t earn that money, kid. It was given to me. Why can’t you take it? Did it make me less for having been given it?”
“No, but…” Teddy looked again.
Harry stood and walked over to look out the small window onto the busy street below. When he turned back it was with a lump in his throat. “I am so proud of you. You are an amazing man; you’ve turned into the kind of man that I admire and respect. Your parents would be so pleased with you. You’re a great husband, and you’re going to be a great dad. Sometimes things happen in life that we didn’t plan for and it’s okay to say that you need help. That doesn’t make you any less.”
“I… that… it should go to them, not me,” Teddy faltered looking so uncertain.
Harry strode over again and sat, meeting his gaze. “Look me in the eye and tell me that you aren’t my son; that you haven’t looked at me as your father all these years. This isn’t about blood.” Teddy closed his eyes and a sob shook his shoulders. Harry hugged him again. “I love you, and I’m so proud of you, but this stubbornness has got to stop. You’re giving me my first grandchild! Let me help make that a little easier.”
“I’ll pay you back,” Teddy croaked out finally.
“Not even going to consider that,” Harry grinned as they pulled apart. “I don’t need money. I need you to be happy and for this baby to be a really good thing, not something to worry over.”
Teddy nodded slowly. “Okay. Okay, we’ll take the money. I…” he looked around the flat. “I couldn’t figure out how we were going pay rent, student loads, and buy food without Victoire’s stipend from working in the clinic. I was thinking I’d get a third job again, but my hours now are so erratic and–”
“Ah, well,” Harry interrupted knowing how this was going to come out. “I have about a hundred thousand galleons put away for you so you should be covered.”
Teddy’s mouth fell open.
When Harry finally made it back home he found Ginny in bed reading. She set the book aside and looked at him expectantly. Harry’s burst out in a joyful laugh as he came over to crush her into his arms. He kissed her soundly before telling her. “We’re going to be grandparents.”
Ginny hugged him hard, practically squealing with excitement. “I was hoping that’s what he wanted to talk about! Oh, Harry!” They kissed, holding each other’s faces as they expressed silently all the things they didn’t need to speak out loud. “Did you get him to take the money?”
“Yeah,” Harry promised. “I’ll transfer it all over tomorrow.”
“Good!” Ginny said firmly. “Damn stubborn kids are giving me gray hairs.”
Harry buried his face in her neck, grinning. “Not yet for you, but they’re definitely giving them to me.”
She ran her hand through his hair which was graying around the edges. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” he promised as he looked into her beautiful, brown eyes. “We have an amazing bunch of kids.”
“That we do,” she said immodestly. “I wonder how Victoire is going to react to him taking the money.”
“Teddy mentioned that, and I told him what I’d have said to you,” Harry explained and she quirked an eyebrow. “Life threw them a big surprise and now that it’s three of them, they need help and…” he broke off.
“What?” Ginny prodded him.
He swallowed hard, fighting back the tide of emotions. “I reminded him that he’s our child and we’re happy about this and the money is going to be his one day after we’re dead whether he likes it or not. If he was looking at his kid in the same position, what would he do?”
“You’re a good dad,” Ginny whispered. “You really are just amazing.”
Harry held her, too choked up to speak.
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