|SIYE Time:2:17 on 16th January 2018|
The Space Between
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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/AB, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Fluff, General, Humor, Tragedy
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Rape, Sexual Situations, Spouse/Adult/Child Abuse, Violence, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry and Ginny's lives have finally evened out. They've faced trauma, and loss, more than most have, but they've fought hard to find a normal.
If only things could stay that way... Old enemies find new ways to seek revenge.
This story is the sequel to Bound. It would be extremely helpful if you read that first.
Warnings are to be safe. It's probably overkill. Please message me if you have any questions or concerns.
Hitcount: Story Total: 78600; Chapter Total: 1449
Awards: View Trophy Room
I'm back and watch me disappear again. I'm sorry about that. Long chapters, three jobs, three kids, homeschooling, and it all just goes away.
Please, please check out my original novels on amazon! PLEASE! Search for Sarah Jaune or go to my profile here and you can find a link to them.
Thank you Arnel for beta'ing!
Healer Martha Sterling was one of the oldest and most respected Healers in St. Mungo’s. She specialized in midwifery and had, Teddy knew, delivered both Harry and Ginny. Of anyone Teddy would trust, it would be the ironed-haired woman in front of him. She was as sturdy as Teddy remembered and still sported spectacles like she’d worn when Lily had been born. She was one of Victoire’s instructors, now, no longer delivering babies and it was to her that Teddy and Victoire had run to the day after they’d learned she was pregnant. The only thing they’d done before the appointment was to stop in at Shell Cottage to tell Bill and Fleur the good news. Fleur had cried and spoken in rapid French with Victoire, while they hugged each other. Bill had been too choked up to speak. He’d just clapped Teddy on the shoulder and stuck his hands in his pockets.
“I don’t know what happened,” Healer Sterling said after an initial exam to verify that Victoire and the baby were doing well.
Nothing had prepared Teddy for seeing the glowing light above Victoire’s smooth belly. The light was their baby and it pulsed and shone, transfixing him so entirely that when Martha had removed the spell, he’d wanted to shout for her to bring it back. It was only then that he’d realized he’d been squeezing Victoire’s hand tightly and that they both had tears in their eyes. No matter what happened, they were both committed to their child.
“If I had to guess,” Healer Sterling said, “I would say that it has to do with being part Veela. We’ve never had a Veela train to become a Healer, so we’ve never had one try to perform the charm to induce ovulation. As a rule, the Veela are a very fertile lot so it’s never been tried, that I know of.”
Victoire let out a long sigh. “I was afraid you were going to say that. So the theory is that the charm undid the birth control potion?”
“That’s my best guess,” Martha agreed with an apologetic shrug. “I have sent a letter to a couple of hospitals in Europe, where Veela populations are larger, to see if anyone knows, but this is possible a unique case. I am planning to write a paper about it in hopes that further research might be done.”
“Is this going to hurt them?” Teddy wanted to know. That was his primary concern.
She shook her head. “As far as I know, it didn’t do anything to them.”
“I know Ginny had–” Teddy began, but stopped at raised hand.
“Ginny’s situation was entirely different. While inducing ovulation is usually difficult for the mother, we had a unique situation. Ginny had just been through a war. She was nearly killed in an attack. She was also poisoned. All of those things led to Hope’s death. I checked Victoire over thoroughly and she’s not suffering from anything but mild morning sickness, which is absolutely normal and expected. As I said, the Veela tend to be a fertile lot. Victoire’s mother fell pregnant the first month that they tried, each time. It’s my professional opinion that her body simply wanted this and made it happen. Magic sometimes works that way.”
They asked about a hundred more questions about the pregnancy, and Victoire’s continued study, before they headed out to meet Harry at Gringotts.
“I still can’t believe you took the money,” Victoire said on a long sigh. “Well, actually I can. I can’t pretend I’m not breathing a sigh of relief that we aren’t going to go hungry.”
“We’d never have gone hungry,” Teddy promised her, a little hurt that she thought he’d let them starve. “I would have seen to that, but we might have had to stay in that flat, and that’s just not enough room for three people.”
“We could have made it work,” she said as they walked up the steps to the bank. “We could have always made it work, but I’m glad we don’t have to.”
Teddy was more than a little thankful that Harry had thought to put aside money for him. It made him feel loved, humbled, and a little annoyed all at once. He really had wanted to do everything on his own and it was just the littlest bit galling that he hadn’t been able to carry out their plans, but a baby changed everything. The birth control potion was free to any married woman in Britain. Teddy had reasonably expected that they would have been able to prevent a pregnancy until the very moment that they were ready. Victoire’s unexpected fertility was a shock in more ways than one. Harry’s words kept running in a loop through his head.
“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.”
In his deepest heart, Teddy knew his godfather was right. If he didn’t take the money, the baby would be loved, but also a major source of stress. That wasn’t what Teddy wanted for his child. He wanted the baby to be a really good thing. And it was. He was already deliriously happy and scared out of his mind.
“There you are.”
Teddy almost tripped as his head jerked up to see Harry and Bill waiting for them. Both men were beaming at them, and Teddy had the wildly inappropriate thought that this was odd that their fathers were pleased they’d shagged.
Victoire walked over to hug her father again, and he led them into his office while Teddy and Harry trailed behind.
“How did it go?” Harry asked them the moment the door was closed.
“She thinks it’s because I’m part-Veela,” Victoire told them as she took the seat her father held out for her.
“Your mum mentioned that after you left this morning,” Bill said without surprise. “She thought that might be the reason.”
“It’s a best guess, anyway,” Teddy said as he went to stand behind his wife, rubbing absently at her shoulders.
Harry let out a small sigh. “I won’t pretend I wasn’t a little concerned that something else might be going on, especially with all that’s happened, but Victoire hasn’t been snatched so it was just a small, niggling doubt. Anyway, we should get the forms signed that need to be.”
“At which point, you’re going to look for a house, right?” Bill asked the younger couple pointedly. “I have taken the liberty of compiling a folder on available properties.”
Victoire fluttered her hand. “Come on, Dad, we’re not going to die where we are. I want to take a breath and get used to everything.”
“And I want you under tighter security with protected transportation,” Bill said pointedly. He flicked a glance to Teddy. “You’re married to an Auror. That carries with it a certain risk and now that you’re pregnant, my concerns have doubled.”
She sighed and glanced up at Teddy, who shrugged. “I’d be happy to move tomorrow, honestly. I don’t love that flat.”
Her big, blue eyes filled with tears. “But it’s our first home!”
Teddy swore under his breath and knelt to cup her cheeks. “The next home will be special, too, and we can actually decorate a nursery. Won’t that be something to look forward to?”
“You’re patronizing me,” she said as she narrowed her eyes.
“A little,” he agreed with a grin and kissed her lips quickly. “But the flat has mice in the walls and cupboards, so I’m ready to move.”
“I am too stupid for Hogwarts,” Rose said frantically as she flipped quickly through her Transfiguration textbook and pulled manically at her hair. The common room around them buzzed with tension, nerves, and the quiet desperation of students about to wage war with their exams. No one was messing about, now. “Why didn’t I start studying weeks ago?”
“I think it was Quidditch,” Nat pointed out reasonably as she tried to concentrate around her friend’s panic attack. Rose had been on the point of fainting for days, now. “You wanted to win the cup, which you did, so now you can focus on school. You’ll be fine, though. You’re best in our year.”
“Hey,” Scorpius protested mildly, not even bothering to look up from the notes he was rereading.
Nat inclined her head. “You’re right. It will be down to you two, except in History of Magic. I expect to take top marks in that.” It wasn’t pride or conceit, either. It was simple, logical deduction. Natalie was the only person who had remained attentive and awake through every single one of Professor Binns’ inanely boring lectures.
Al sighed and dropped his head to the table with a loud thunk, and jumped up again at the manic squeal of delight and piercingly shredded the sanity of the common room. Nat’s heart thumped hard in her chest as she turned to see Lily waving a letter over her head.
“What on earth is the matter with you?” Al hissed out as he rubbed at the knee he’d plowed into the table when he’d sprung from his seat.
“LOOK!” she said in a voice that was half a scream, half a hysterical giggle. “LOOK!”
Lily shoved the parchment into Al’s hands and started dancing around in a circle.
“What’s going on?” James demanded as he came over from where he’d been studying. Nat knew it was bad when even James was taking his exams seriously, although if she had to guess, she’d have laid money on the fact that Caroline was sitting with him as his primary motivating factor.
Al gasped and Nat glanced up sharply to see his face go from pale to scarlet in a matter of seconds. James nicked the page from his brother and read it quickly. He let out a low whistle.
“I’m going to be an aunt!” Lily crowed in happiness, as she took the letter back from her brother.
“Well…” James began, but shut up when Lily grabbed his hand and began twirling him about. “Hey, now!”
Nat finally put two and two together. Since it was unlikely that Lily meant either James or Al was currently reproducing, that left only Teddy and Victoire. That was good news, of a sorts. The problem was that, as far as Nat knew, they were poor as the proverbial church mice. “Well, good for them.”
“Uh,” Rose said as though coming out of a fog. “What is she talking about?”
“Teddy and Victoire,” Nat replied.
Rose’s eyes went from clouded, to confused, to completely elated in the matter of three seconds. “Really?” She sprung up at once and grabbed the paper from Lily’s hand to scan for herself while James tried manfully to extract himself from his baby sister’s still-dancing clutches.
Chaos ensued, but Nat only had eyes for Al, who couldn’t seem to move, or meet anyone else’s gaze. She grinned, but tried not to show her amusement at his obvious embarrassment. Quietly, she stood and took his arm to lead him off towards a quiet corner. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he mumbled while he shuffled his feet and still refused to look at her.
Nat’s brow rose as she stared up at him and tried to catch his eye. “It’s just sex.”
Al let out a half-strangled grunt and shook his head.
“They are married…” she reminded him. “You didn’t think they were sleeping in separate rooms, right?”
“Leah!” he practically growled out her middle name, the one he only used when they were alone. “Merlin’s beard!”
Nat felt her grin slowly fade. “You’re really embarrassed by this?”
“I just… I…” he faltered and ran his hands through his hair, standing it even more untidily upon his head. “I read that she’s pregnant and the image of them actually, you know…”
“And it wigged you out?” Nat nodded in understanding, then laughed at his blank look. “It’s Muggle slang, all. It means you freaked out.”
Al nodded miserably. “I do not ever want to picture that again, is all.”
She nodded in understanding. “That’s reasonable.”
He glared at her for a moment and shrugged it off. Or tried to, anyway. Nat could see it was still bothering him. In some ways, Al was adorably clueless about a lot of the things that went on around him. Rose had had her period for a while, a fact that Scorpius knew about and accepted. If she was feeling terrible, she would tell Nat and Scorpius why, but hadn’t ever said anything around Al. She sensed, probably in the same way that Nat did, that he wasn’t quite ready to hear that.
Nat had intentions of breaking him of it, but not right before exams.
“A baby is a great thing,” she reminded him. “Think how happy your parents will be.”
Al’s shoulders slumped and he let out a long, painful sigh. “You’re right. I’m being stupid.”
“A bit,” she agreed jovially. “Let’s go save James from Lily and get back to studying.”
As they made their way back to the table, it hit Nat for the first time that she was fourteen, now. She was three years away from being an adult and in this world, she had no idea what she was going to do with herself once she hit that mark.
In three years, she would be an adult… legally. She shivered a bit and decided to give her studies just a bit more of an effort. She might only be finishing her third year at Hogwarts, and there was still plenty of time left, but that didn’t mean she should slack off. She’d never be as good as Rose at school, but somewhere in the mess she’d have to figure out who it was she wanted to be when she was grown up.
Victoire’s face popped into her mind, and instantly the face of a baby, a perfect blend of Teddy and Victoire appeared to Nat. She had a gift for faces, one she didn’t use often now, except if Al’s father really needed help in an unsolved case. But it was still there, sharp as ever. It had grown, in some ways, like her ability to spot magical signatures. That could be a useful, marketable, skill.
She shot a glance longingly at the letter and felt her heart fall into her stomach. Nat forced her face to remain neutral as she sat back down to her studies. It was important that she be able to earn a living for herself. After all, Victoire was studying to be a Healer. She could get by on her own. In the world they lived in, it was actually close to a necessity for a couple to have two working parents in order for the family to get by comfortably. Inflation hadn’t bypassed the magical world, oddly enough, because they had to deal with Muggles on a regular basis. If one wanted to buy a house, it meant going into the Muggle world. Many of the current homes were passed on in the family, so they didn’t come up for sale often. The exchange rate into the Muggle pound hadn’t kept up with the trends of the slowly devaluing currency.
All of which were things Nat’s mother talked about at length and were things Nat would cheerfully like to forget. Her home life, such as it was, had been traveling from one spot to another, never stable, with one parent. Her mum had come and gone. Her nanny had left for another job. She’d never had a place that felt like home. She’d never had the boring stability that was so wonderfully, beautifully Al’s home.
That, if she was honest, was what Nat wanted to do with herself. She wanted a home. She wanted a family. She wanted to stay in one place and cook amazing food. Maybe she’d work, like Mrs. Potter had, after her kids left for Hogwarts. Or maybe she wouldn’t, like Gran Weasley. But that’s what sounded like the most perfect thing ever to her vagabond, weary soul.
What Nat feared most, as she settled down to flip back a page and reread what she’d just read, was that it was a pipe dream, one that was insubstantial smoke and could never materialize into reality. With a small sigh, she went back to studying.
It was, without a doubt, the most uncomfortable silence of the previous hour, and that was saying something. Hermione stared pointedly ahead of her at the picture on the wall and refused to answer the question. She crossed her arms and had one leg over the other, tapping furiously to an internal rhythm that might drown out the hideous conversation.
“Hermione,” the therapist intoned. She was young, pretty, blonde, and wickedly smart. Hermione had chosen her for her intelligence, and hadn’t counted on how uncomfortable her obvious good looks would leave her when Ron was in the room.
She shook her head and felt a single pin start to slide lose. Hermione didn’t want to fix it, as that would mean uncrossing her arms.
Then a large, warm hand settled on her knee and she nearly jumped at the contact. She flicked a glance to Ron’s steady, blue eyes, and turned away again.
“Please,” he said in a gruff voice. “Just answer.”
Hermione had explained it to her therapist, and then realized with a shock that she didn’t know how to articulate it to her husband. Her therapist, the lovely Rebecca Hargrove with the big blue eyes and dimples to go along with her perfect, toned body, hadn’t been willing to just explain it to Ron for her. Even though the logical, rational side of Hermione’s brain told her that she needed to learn better communication with her husband, it didn’t mean she wanted to do it here. Now. With her.
“Hermione,” Rebecca said quietly. “It’s harder in your imagination than it will be in real life. Ron loves you. He’s been there for you, through terrible things, for most of your life. I want you to stretch yourself and trust that he will be there to catch you.”
Hermione didn’t roll her eyes, but only just. Annoyed, now, mostly with her therapist, or so she told herself, Hermione turned in her seat and glared at Ron as she said, “I feel like when we’re having sex you’re picturing someone else.” There, she’d said it. That wasn’t so bad.
Ron’s mouth fell open. “What?”
“What Hermione means is–” Rebecca shut up at the look Hermione shot her.
“I meant what I said,” Hermione told him coldly. “We haven’t really fixed anything. In the last year, the few times we’ve had sex, it’s like you aren’t even present. You’re going through the motions, pretending like you care, while really it’s likely you’re picturing yourself with someone else.”
The only thing that gave Hermione hope was that Ron appeared stunned. Maybe…
But then he ruined it, in the way that only Ron could. His face and his ears went red, which meant that he was about to lie to her, and yelled, “You’re off your rocker!”
It stilled something in Hermione, and left her insides hollow and aching. “See?” she said quietly. “You don’t want me anymore, and you’re barely able to hide it.”
It hurt so badly, that Hermione could have curled into a ball and cried for days.
“I don’t…” Ron stuttered, then shut up. He looked at the therapist nervously, then back to her.
“If what she is saying is true, Ron,” Rebecca interjected quietly, “then I need for you to be honest with her. If we have to start from the beginning again, to rebuild the relationship, that can only be done with total honesty.”
Ron shook his head and she saw the gray streaks that indicated he was getting distinguished, while she was simply lined, sagging, and aging. “It’s not like that.”
“What is it like, then?” Hermione found herself asking and wished she’d kept her mouth shut. But the hurt was rapidly spinning back up into the wilder, easier anger and venom that didn’t feel quite as acutely as the hurt. “What’s her name, Ron? Who is she? How old is she? I bet she doesn’t have stretch marks.”
Real anger blazed into Ron’s eyes. “I think of you!”
“You do not!” she shot back childishly.
“I do!” he argued instantly, and then deflated. “I think back on you, when you really loved me, not when you put up with me because we’re married and stuck in this situation.” Ron’s mouth twisted into a grimace. “That you also had stretch marks, or was really pregnant. God, you were so wonderful when you were pregnant with Rose! You loved me, you needed me, you wanted me! I want to go back to that. I want that wife back.”
A stunned silence permeated the air between them.
“All I want,” Ron went on in a voice that bespoke of years of fighting what they both felt was a losing battle, “is to have the Hermione who smiled when I came into the room. I don’t need you to look different,” he told her honestly. She could see the honesty written plainly all over him. “I am getting older, and so are you. That’s how it’s supposed to be, and I want you just the way you are, but that’s just physical. What I miss, what I want…”
But suddenly she knew. “You want me to love you.”
His chin went up a bit, but then he shrugged. “Yeah, that’s it. I know when we’re a hundred, I’ll still want you physically, but it doesn’t mean much when you’re only just putting up with me.”
Hermione felt the first trickle of shame snake through her defenses, followed closely by the first tears of grief. She’d never had therapy after the war. She’d stood strong for her friends. She’d ignored all of the horror and trauma they’d faced. As far of becoming an Auror, which had been Ron’s first job, they’d had to go through all of the pain and suffering. If an Auror left those things unsaid, it meant that they could easily be weapons used against them. At the time, Hermione hadn’t given it a second thought.
She’d gone back to Hogwarts to finish her education by herself. She was a modern woman, with a brilliant mind. Hermione had walked into the horror that was the school to find ghosts of people who shouldn’t have ever died. They weren’t the real ghosts, not like the Gray Lady, but ones that haunted her nonetheless. In order to survive that year alone, she’d pushed it all down. She’d pushed it down through graduating and getting a job. By that point, it was second nature for her to ignore the deeper feelings that were a cancer on her soul. When things were tough at work, she dealt with it outwardly, and hid it inwardly. It had gone on that way until nothing she did, anymore, had any meaning or any real feelings attached.
She’d even begun to ignore her own children.
She knew all of this, now, thanks to the brilliant work of the effingly perfect Rebecca Beautiful Hargrove.
The tears poured out, now, as they had over the last five therapy sessions. They’d been too young when they’d married. They’d been too broken. They’d been too damaged. They’d been too… it was easy to keep going.
But she wasn’t young, anymore, and she’d been married for many years now. She was an adult and responsible for her own actions. She might have married Ron because she was young, and in love, and maybe thought that no one better would come along. That was possible, sure, but Hermione was pretty sure she’d married Ron because he had the same wounds that she did.
Only he had had medical treatment for his and they’d healed over years ago, while she’d stacked up bandages until all she was, was a bloody mess of white, cotton gauze.
When the tears cleared, she realized that Ron had held her through them, just as he always had. He might hate the tears, but he was used to them, now. Rebecca handed her a tissue and they waited for her to compose herself.
Finally, Hermione turned to Ron and studied his face. He was exactly what he’d always been, but so much more. He was stronger now, sturdy in ways that she’d come to take for granted. He was exactly who he portrayed himself to be. There was never any artifice with Ron. With Ron… with Ron, she had a husband who had stood by her. She had a husband that was proud of her for what she’d achieved. She had an amazing father for their children, and a man willing to sit through a therapy session about sex. She smiled then, just a little. “I’m still a mess.”
“I know,” Ron agreed evenly as he took her hand and ran his thumb soothingly along the back of her hand. “It’s always been you for me, luv.”
Hermione nodded and swiped at a stray tear. Her hair had come all undone and was curled wildly around her face. “I must look a fright.”
“You look beautiful,” he said simply. “You always do.”
She snorted and shook her head, but felt her heart melt when he raised her hand and pressed a kiss to her palm. “I do love you, but I haven’t shown it in the way you deserve or need. I have to work on that.”
Ron squeezed her fingers and turned to the therapist. “You keep helping her fix herself. She’s doing loads better since she started seeing you.”
Hermione had to fight the urge to scowl, because damn it, he was right. The pretty, perky, perfect Rebecca was good at her job. Now the trick would be for Hermione to remember to follow all of her advice.
They left therapy a little while later, holding hands, which she knew was a step in the right direction. Ron bent his head, like he was going to whisper something, but instead nibbled gently at her ear. She shuddered. “Let’s go home,” he told her huskily. “We only have one more day before the kids are back from school. Best use it wisely.”
For the first time, in a very long time, Hermione was in complete agreement with him.
Victoire wasn’t in tears, which was good, but neither did she look entirely happy with the situation. “We have no furniture!”
“You’ll buy furniture,” her father reminded her as he gestured around at the house behind them, while both Bill, Fleur, and Teddy worked to pacify Victoire.
Harry chose judicious silence and waited with Ron by the large lorry. They hadn’t moved everything with magic, as would have been easier, simply because Victoire and Teddy had lived in a Muggle flat. But today was moving day, and all of the kids were home for the hols, which meant they had ample young helpers to help move everything.
The house they’d chosen was lovely, a small cottage on about an acre. It had once been a grounds keeper’s house for a large, rambling Muggle estate, but had been renovated into the current incarnation. The home was white with wooden shutters, and a gabled roof. It had four bedrooms, in all, and would suite them just fine. The yard was partially fenced with a low, stone wall that was grown over in Ivy.
Best of all, Harry and Bill had already put up all the wards that they could think of, plus a few they’d nagged Hermione into looking up for them. Victoire had told them they’d gone overboard.
Molly had sniffed in approval, even as she’d set to arranging the kitchen.
“What’s up, Dad?” Al asked quietly behind him.
Harry turned to find his son watching his cousin warily. “It’s nothing, Al. It’s hard setting up a house.”
“Your job,” Ron told him seriously, “is to stand around quietly and wait until she tells you to move something. If that doesn’t happen, you need to read her mind and move what she thinks she wants moved, until she changes her mind and yells at you to stop.”
Harry punched his best friend in the arm. “Shut it, you. He’ll never get married if you scar him now.”
Al looked on the point of laughing, but then the tears started, as Harry knew they would.
Fleur said something soothingly in French and pulled her daughter into her arms. She shooed the two men away, who appeared extremely grateful to be out of the line of fire.
Teddy clutched at his hair as he came over. “I told her we could buy furniture first, but she said no!”
“That doesn’t matter,” Ron assured him dismissively. “She’ll change her mind six hundred times anyway. Do you remember when–”
Harry stopped that train of thought with flick of his wrist. Ron glared at him, mutely. “Let’s just start moving things in, and then when she’s calmed down, she can tell us where to put them.”
“Why can’t she do that herself with her wand?” Al asked him curiously.
“I have never been able to figure that out, son,” Harry assured him with a long sigh.
They had the house moved in in a matter of an hour, thanks to the adults with wands, and Fred, Louis, James, and Al running in all of the smaller items.
The women and girls had been hard at work on cleaning, for which Harry was very thankful. He didn’t know why their family tended to fall into these sorts of lines, but neither was he going to protest. He’d rather move beds and haul dressers around when Victoire decided that the Head of the Aurors might dent the walls if he moved it with a spell, than scrub toilets. But her beautiful, happy smile was all the payment he needed.
“Thanks, Uncle Harry,” she said as she threaded an arm through his and rested her head against his shoulder. “I can’t believe I have a house!”
Harry felt the prickling behind his lids and ruthlessly shut it down. He pressed a kiss to her temple and patted the hand that rested on his arm. “Soon enough you’ll have a baby, too. Time is moving too quickly.”
“I meant to ask,” she said as they stared at the semi-arranged master bedroom. “Do you still have any of the stuff from Grandma Andromeda? Maybe some of his baby things?”
“As a matter of fact, I do,” Harry said after a moment’s thought. “I think we kept his crib and a few toys. They’ll be in the attic, I expect. Aunt Ginny will have a better idea of what is up there.”
“I’d like to get some of his things to put in our nursery,” Victoire explained quietly. “I think it’s really important to bring as much in from his family as we can. I know he had you,” she told Harry, “but I think the loss of his parents still sits there.”
Harry nodded thoughtfully. “He’ll be a great father, though.”
“Oh, I know he will,” she replied with a laugh. “He had you to show him how.”
He turned and found Hermione standing in the doorway behind them. She had a bit of dirt smudged on her face, but she appeared relaxed and happier than he’d seen her in a long time. “Yeah?”
“You’ve had a note from the Ministry,” she said as she held out a sealed envelope.
Harry took it and tore it open to read the short note from one of the Aurors, Thomas Gregory, asking for him to return to the Ministry as soon as possible. He sighed and tucked the note back into the pocket of his robes. “I have to go.”
“Is everything all right?” Victoire asked him.
He smiled, mostly for her sake. “I’m sure it is, but being the head of things means that I never really get any time off. I’ll come back for dinner later, if I can.”
“Please try,” she urged him quietly. “It’s our first meal here.”
“I promise to try,” he said by way of reply. As Harry said a hurried goodbye to some of his family, at least the parts he saw on his way to the door and out of the wards, he reflected that sooner or later he would need to retire.
Then he reminded himself that the last time he’d been out of work due to a political coup, he’d nearly driven Ginny to murder him in his sleep. He didn’t do well sitting still and he liked working. Plus, there was a crazy woman on the loose and he had a personal stake in bringing her to justice. The problem was that Isabella Crabbe could, and did, go to ground for months and years on end and in the interim, bad guys continued to cause trouble.
Ten minutes later he was walking into the Auror’s office to find several Aurors waiting on him. “What’s happened?”
“We just heard from the American Aurors,” Gregory explained quickly as he pushed his glasses up onto his sand-colored hair and held out the letter for Harry to read.
He skimmed it quickly, then froze and forced himself to go back over it again, slowly this time.
Ministry of Magic, London
Attn: Auror Department
Re: Thorfinn Rowle
To whom it may concern: We have your rogue Death Eaters. Come and get them, if you want them.
-Auror Department, Magical Congress of the United States, New York City, New York
Harry stared at the words, then snorted out a laugh. “Bloody Americans.”
“Do you think they really have them?” Susan asked him. “It seems like a joke.”
“The Americans are a joke,” someone muttered from the back of the group, but Harry ignored him. He’d worked with the Americans a few times and had found them tough, but somewhat lax on the rules.
It was typical of their department to send something like this. “I’d started to think those two were dead. I hadn’t pictured them in America.”
“So you think they really have them?” Susan questioned again.
Harry nodded. “It’s what I’d expect from them. They joke to let off tension. I imagine that the capturing of those two was not a fun process, and now they have to hand them over to us for trial.”
He considered that for a moment. If they were convicted of crimes in America, he could leave them there to rot. The Americans had a magical prison in the Gulf of Mexico that made Azkaban look like a day at the beach. Removing those two Death Eaters to England meant a lot of time, money, resources, paperwork, and risk.
It was a risk transporting them. Anything could go wrong in transportation.
“I need to speak to the Minister about this,” Harry told them. “We do nothing until I’ve had a word with her.”
“She’s already gone for the day,” Susan told him, speaking of her mother-in-law.
He nodded, tucked the missive from the Americans into his pocket, and headed for the door. “I will catch her at home, then. This cannot wait.”
Harry had only been to the Minister’s house once, but was struck anew by the quiet elegance of the old stone estate that sat high upon a hill. He rang the bell as the sun began to set and Harry realized he was going to miss dinner, if this didn’t go smoothly.
Allison Macmillan herself answered the door. She was average height and weight with eyes which were a vibrant blue in a gently lined face. Her general appearance wouldn’t give one pause, if a person were to pass her on the street, but the way she carried herself always bespoke power to Harry. He never underestimated this woman. “Harry,” she said with a faint smile. “Come in.”
“I’m sorry to call so late, Minister,” he said as he stepped into her home and followed her down a short hall to her sitting room. She sat herself on a gray damask couch and waited while he sat opposite on the matching armchair. “We’ve had a letter from the Americans.”
Her brow rose in question. “Surely that should have gone to the Department of International Magical Cooperation.”
“It probably should have, but the American Aurors are…” Harry struggled to find the right word.
She waited a beat. “I believe the term you’re looking for is mavericks.”
He chuckled, despite the seriousness of the situation. “Not quite what I was looking for, but close enough. If I were to read between the lines of the note, I would say that they’d just finished a long fight, and they’re asking for me to come pick up the rubbish.”
“Indeed?” Minister Macmillan said politely. “What rubbish are we speaking of, exactly?”
“That’s where it gets complicated,” he explained quietly. “They seem to have captured Dolohov and Rowle.”
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