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SIYE Time:21:22 on 23rd October 2018


The Space Between
By YelloWitchGrl

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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/AB, Post-DH/PM
Characters:All
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
Rating: R
Reviews: 345
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: 96582; Chapter Total: 852
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
My new book is up for presale and several of my books are FREE with Kindle Unlimited. Here's the link: amazon.com/dp/B0797MFDJJ

If it doesn't come up, search for Sarah Jaune on amazon and you'll find me.
Please help support my writing and make this something that helps me pay the bills! Please. If you like my writing, I bet you'll like these stories.

Thank you Arnel for beta'ing. I hope you like the chapter.




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Chapter 36

James didn’t feel like he was sixteen. His birthday had been quiet, thankfully. His family hadn’t made a big deal of it. But he was sixteen. He was only a year off from becoming a man in the eyes of the wizarding world. Or rather, it was only eleven months because it was already October and they were heading into their first Hogsmeade weekend.

Normally, he’d want to go because it was a chance to get out of the school. He’d even forced himself to go back to the place where he’d killed Caroline’s father, just to make sure he could face it. But this weekend was different because Caroline had a cheer competition and his dad was taking him. He’d wanted to see what it was all about for a long time, but he hadn’t been able to get his dad to bend and take him.

Now, though, they were finally going. Finally… if his father would ever finish his breakfast. James glared at him. He’d used the Floo to get home earlier that morning so they would have plenty of time to drive to this Muggle event in London, but now his father seemed in no hurry to actually go.

“Glaring at me won’t change anything,” Harry mused as he took another sip of coffee. His green eyes held amusement and a bit of resignation. The lines around his eyes deepened even further as James watched him pop the last bite of bacon into his mouth. “Alright,” he said as he rose.

James didn’t growl ‘finally,’ but only because he was trying to be more mature than an eight-year-old. It was a lot of work. “Bye, Mum!” he called to his mother, who was still upstairs.

Then he was sprinting for the BMW. He threw open the door to the front seat and slid in, buckling his seatbelt so the Muggle police would have no cause to pull them over.

“You really want to go this much?” Harry asked as he dropped into the driver’s seat. “Do you have any idea what a cheer event is like?”

He honestly didn’t, but he didn’t want to admit it. “What’s it like then?” he demanded as his father started the car.

“It’s a bunch of girls waving poms and shouting chants,” Harry explained with a sigh. “I am glad that Caroline enjoys this sort of thing, but I think we’re in for a boring afternoon.”

It took them almost an hour to get there and when they did they found that finding parking in the huge stadium’s lot was nearly impossible. “There’s a lot of people here,” James noticed in surprise. “Do you suppose anything else is going on?”

“I have no idea,” his dad grumbled as he pulled into an impossibly tight spot in the back of the lot. “Come on, maybe they have a football match going on as well.”

“What’s football?” he wondered as he squeezed out of the car and shut the door. He glanced around at the sea of cars gleaming in the early morning light. The sky overhead was overcast, as it often was in October, but these clouds had the dark hue that might mean a storm was coming.

“It’s a Muggle sport,” his dad told him as he scanned around. “We’re to head to that domed stadium, I think.”

They waded through the parking lot, past parents and grandparents, all making their way in with them. His father presented their tickets at the gate and they were told where to go. “Up the stairs down that way, dear,” the ticket taker told them.

They followed the instructions and filed into the filled stadium where down on the court mats were spread out, along with television crews and a bunch of lights. “Those are cameras, right?” he whispered to his father, who nodded as they scooted around a bunch of people to find their seats.

Both he and his father had chosen to dress in jeans. His father wore a jumper while James had donned a black hoodie. He saw now that they fit in well with the men in the crowd. There were a lot of men, but also women and children. Within twenty minutes most of the stadium on that side was filled, which surprised him until he remembered that the performance would be happening towards the audience. He didn’t see Caroline’s grandparents, although he knew they were here, nor did he see any of the other cheerleaders.

An announcer came out and spoke, talking about regional championships or something that James didn’t completely understand. Then the first group was announced, and a group of small girls and one boy came out in bright red and black outfits. They couldn’t have been much older than five or six years old and they had a small routine set to music.

His father rolled his eyes towards him with a clear look that he’d told him so, but James ignored him. The kids were cute, even if it was boring. They had four young groups, and then next up were girls about six to age nine. These kids did cartwheels, which was at least a little more interesting. That went on for another forty minutes or more as many of the same color combinations came out. Red and black, black and gold, blue and silver, blue and red, purple and white, etc. The costumes were all colorful, and the music lively, but he had to admit his father was right.

“Thank you, division two teams! Next up, the division three girls,” the announcer said and the first group came out. They appeared to all be about Lily’s age, or around about that.

It was then that things went from boring to interesting. The girls did flips up in the air, and put girls up into the air. They did jumps and gymnastics that there was no way he could ever do. “That’s not too bad,” James told his father.

Harry was frowning. “Any idea what division Caroline is in?”

“No clue,” James informed him. “She said she’s in the blue and silver, though.”

Division four was even more impressive, with faster routines, more girls thrown up in the air, and several stunts that left James stunned.

But no Caroline.

The crowd went wild as the first of the division five teams came out, the black and gold uniforms, and they all paused on the mat, their heads down. The music started with an explosion of sound and an equally explosive movement from the group as they all moved as one, jumping up into the air, kicking their legs out to the side. They went instantly into these backflips where they didn’t even run into them.

“Merlin…” Harry breathed out. “This… this is not what I expected.”

“Not a single pom,” James laughed in amazement as a girl went flying up into the air, twisted about, and was caught again. It was all over too fast, but then another team was out with an equally amazing routine, and then another, and another, until finally the blue and silver girls came running out onto the stage.

He spotted Caroline instantly with her bright, sunny hair up in a tail at the back of her head. Her face was done up for the competition, but at that distance he couldn’t make out the details. She took her position and James watched as the routine started.

It was like flying, that’s what he’d think later. The girls moved seamlessly together, running between each other, flipping around each other. They would throw a girl up in the air and another group would catch her as she flipped and spun. Caroline flipped and danced, tumbled and smiled. She looked happier than James had ever seen her. Then it was over, and he stood and clapped, proud of her for reasons he didn’t know how to express. For a second he thought she saw him, but then the moment was gone as the girls ran off the stage.

They finished with the girls groups and then there were four groups that were coed. While the tumbling was impressive with the girls, the tosses and lifts were nothing compared to what happened with the boys in the groups, helping to get the girls higher up in the air. It was stunning. There was a coed group from Caroline’s gym, because they had the same color uniforms, but she wasn’t part of the group. It was fun to watch.

“I definitely want to come back,” James said as it ended and they started handing out awards.

“We will,” his father agreed with an easy grin. “I honestly thought we’d be so bored. We’ll have to bring your mum next time. She’ll enjoy this. Are we meeting Caroline after?”

James nodded as he watched the awards going to the smaller girls’ groups. “We’re giving her a lift back to our place, then we’ll take our, uh, way back to school. Her grandparents have something this afternoon, remember?”

His dad inclined his head as he clapped politely along with the rest of the crowd. Caroline’s group came in second in their competition, losing to the purple and white group, but they didn’t seem to care. “Where are we supposed to meet her?”

“She said to head to the back after,” James told him as everyone else rose and they did as well, descending down into the crowd.

They broke off from most of the crowd and followed along with some of the parents as they wound around the lobby of the stadium. James realized that they were heading to a smaller gym off towards the back where all of the groups were waiting. As soon as they were in the door, Harry spotted Caroline’s grandparents and waved, moving over to greet them.

James scanned the groups of girls, feeling suddenly nervous of what to say to her or how to act. Here, in this world, he didn’t know his place. He definitely didn’t know his place with Caroline. That might never be answered, but he was so proud of her and… he didn’t know what else. All of the feelings were a huge pile of jumbled somethings. He scanned the girls in the blue and silver and spotted her instantly, drawn to her as he always was. She saw him a second later and the world around them faded to a sizzling void of noise and things that just didn’t matter then. He strode over to her and grinned. “You did great!” he told her as he stopped a foot away from her.

He wanted to hug her. The urge was so strong he actually swayed towards her, but he stopped himself just in time, knowing she didn’t like being touched when it was uninvited. She beamed, and to his relief stepped up to hug him. “Sorry, I’m all sweaty,” she said with a laugh as she threw her arms around his neck and he held on, swaying with her for just a few seconds. Her hair smelled fruity and he realized then that it was covered in glitter and sparkles. She had on a huge bow, which should have looked ridiculous on a fifteen-year-old, but oddly it didn’t. It was cute. Her make-up was heavy, and didn’t quite look like her, but he guessed that was for the show.

“I don’t care,” he assured her as he reluctantly let go.

It was only then that he became aware of all the other girls around him, staring at them. James glanced around at all of the pretty girls, who were studying him as though he was in a glass jar.

“This is James,” Caroline said to them as she turned back to her team. “He goes to school with me.”

A particularly bubbly brunette with sparkling blue eyes bounced over and held out her hand with a wide, toothy grin. “Hi! I’m Libby! We’ve heard all about you!”

Absolutely everything she said was an exclamation point. James shook her hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Is that your dad over there?” another girl asked as she skipped over. “He has to be! He is hot!”

“Uh…” which left James extremely uncomfortable.

“Shut up, Brit,” Caroline told the girl. “He’s old!”

“Old doesn’t mean not hot,” Brit assured her.

“You look like him a lot,” a third girl said, crowding in around them. “I’m Bianca, by the way.”

“Nice to…” James’ voice faded off as the girl let out a squeal of giggles and glanced behind him.

He turned to see one of the boys from the coed team walking towards them. He was a bit taller than James, and about twice as wide, with light brown hair and almond eyes. His was good looking, as far as James could tell from what the girls around him were doing. “Caroline,” he drawled with an easy, confident smile as he stopped next to her. “You did really well. All of you did,” he told the team.

James glanced to Caroline and saw the tiniest flash of panic and fear flicker into her eyes and just as quickly back out again. Here in this world, with her mask firmly in place, it seemed as though she knew better how to hide. More than that, James realized, she didn’t tell them anything.

None of these girls knew she was a witch. None of them knew she’d been part of her father’s death. He’d have bet money that she hadn’t told any of them what her father had done to her, because here she could pretend to be normal and enjoy the thing that made her happiest. This guy obviously had a thing for her, and James couldn’t really blame him, even though it ate at him. He wanted to get angry and lash out at something, anything. He wanted to punch the guy, or throw a hex, but of course he didn’t have his wand and then his dad would end up filling out forms until dinner if he did that. He might even go to jail for punching a Muggle.

James didn’t want to be jealous, and he had no right because she wasn’t his, but worse was the feeling of helplessness because he didn’t know what to do to help her.

Caroline straightened her shoulders and nodded at the guy. “Thanks, Jack. You did great, too.”

Jack nodded to James. “Who’s your friend?”

“This is my boyfriend, James,” Caroline told him with such a smooth delivery that James nearly ruined it by falling over. So she was playing it that way… well, he couldn’t fault her. It would be the easiest way of getting rid of a boy that she didn’t want anything to do with.

So instead of ruining it by stuttering, he held out his hand to the other boy and shook. “Hey.”

Jack returned the shake with his eyes narrowed, ever so slightly. “Hey.”

Which was it, of course, because they were guys. James turned back to Caroline. “Are you ready?”

“Yes,” she said as she grabbed a blue and silver bag from a pile of them, her name in glitter on the outside. James held out his hand for it, and she handed it over wordlessly, before taking his hand. “By everyone! See you next week.”

They walked silently back to his father, who was waiting for them at the edge of the small gym, eyeing them curiously. He didn’t ask, though. He hadn’t seen her grandparents leave, but they must have because they were nowhere to be found.

They left the stadium and a cold breeze blasted into them. It was at least ten degrees colder than when they’d walked in. “Do you have a jacket?” James asked as they stopped outside the door.

“No,” Caroline shook her head. “It was warm when- James, no, it’s okay!” she protested as he pulled off his hoodie and handed it to her. “You’ll be cold, now.”

“I’m good,” he promised, which was mostly true. He smiled to himself as she pulled the hoodie on over her cheer outfit and it fell down past her fingers and went almost down to the level of her skirt.

To his surprise, she took his hand again as they walked to the car. “He might come outside,” she whispered to James as she swayed into him so he could hear her.

They reached the car and his dad opened the boot so he could drop the bag in, then they slid together into the backseat. James hadn’t even considered sitting in the front with his father for the trip back to their house.

“What,” Harry said as he pulled out of the parking spot, “is going on?”

Caroline let out an exasperated sigh and folded her arms, which were still wrapped in the black hoodie. “Many of the cheer guys are gay! It’s so annoying that the one who isn’t has a thing for me, and has for like a year. Me saying no hasn’t stopped him from hoping.”

Alarm flared inside of him as he studied her furious face. “Is he bothering you?”

She shook her head. “It’s nothing like that, but he just keeps talking to me even though I’d rather he didn’t. He’s always nice and polite. All the rest of the girls would be happy if he liked them.”

But not Caroline… that wasn’t her. He wondered for a brief second if she thought of him that way, but then she reached over and took his hand again, linking their fingers to rest on the seat between them. Her smile in the safety of the car was more fragile than she’d ever have shown anyone else. “Thanks for that, James. I was worried for a second you wouldn’t play along.”

He laughed, despite himself. “Of course, I was going to play along. That’s what friends are for.”

They made it back to their house in time for a late lunch. Caroline washed off most of the make-up while James filled his mum in on the details of the competition. “I’ll have to go next time,” Ginny told the girl as she came back into the room. “Let’s eat up and then we’ll send you two back to school. Did you want to change?”

Caroline shook her head as she handed James his hoodie. “I will when I get back to the dorm.”

She caused quite a sensation in the halls of Hogwarts an hour later as they walked back from Professor Longbottom’s office. “Nice legs, Caroline!” a Ravenclaw seventh year called out.

“Piss off, Noaks,” James shouted back with a glare. “Keep your stupid mouth shut.”

Noaks was not a stupid man, so he wisely shut his mouth. The look James shot him could have been lethal all on its own.

“I should have changed,” Caroline sighed. “I only had leggings, though, and I ripped a hole in the knee just before the competition. I didn’t want to ask your mum to fix them.”

“She wouldn’t have minded,” James said as they stopped before the Fat Lady. “Higgly Wigs,” he gave the password.

“Wait,” Caroline stopped him before they could enter the common room. Her anxious expression had something inside of him clench. “I don’t…”

James bent forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I know.” And he did, he really did. Back here, in the castle, back in their world, he felt surer of himself, and more in control. Here where they belonged, he knew a bit more about where to step. “No pressure from me.”

She threw her arms around his neck again, and hugged him hard. “You’re maybe the best friend I’ve ever had, except for Honor. Thanks.”

Then with that she was through the portrait hole, leaving him just a little off balance, but definitely happy.

~*~

“What about this?” Victoire asked nervously as she came out of the changing room in a pair of maternity jeans and a red blouse that hugged all of the curves, especially the bump of her stomach. Ginny and Fleur both gushed over her, even though Ginny knew Fleur didn’t really understand her daughter’s desire to buy Muggle clothes.

“You look wonderful,” Ginny promised as she remembered her own time in these clothes and just how contrary being pregnant could be. “I remember feeling like I was so fat, but also never so amazing when I was pregnant. You just need to get used to your new figure.”

Fleur nodded in agreement. “Teddy will be thrilled, I promise my love!”

Victoire stared down at herself, then turned to the mirror, twisting this way and that. Her belly was very noticeable now. It wasn’t something she would be able to hide, except in the largest of witch’s robes. She rubbed at her stomach, then shook her head. “Let me try something else.”

Ginny absolutely did not like shopping for clothing. It was about as fun as peeling carrots by hand, but when Victoire had asked her to come along, she hadn’t been able to say no. Fleur wasn’t likely to upset her daughter’s feelings over the clothing, but Ginny definitely provided a buffer.

When she’d been expecting, Harry had come clothing shopping with her, but that had been in another time and place. Ginny had been so scared for their baby’s life that everything was ten times harder than it should have been, and she’d needed his support to make it through. Her mum had come, as well, but there was nothing like Harry’s eyes lighting up as he saw her to help booster her mood to stop being so afraid. Her baby, Hope, had died because of a poison. Ginny was totally cured, so it wasn’t likely that anything would go wrong, but still… she hadn’t wanted to risk it. She hadn’t been able to find the hope she needed to believe that things would be well.

Still, things had turned out and that baby was no longer a baby. He was sixteen, and head over heels in love with a girl. If Ginny wasn’t totally off her rocker, James would stick to Caroline like glue until either she shook him off or she gave in because it was clear to Ginny that there was a trust there between them Caroline probably didn’t have with anyone else. She was a severely broken person, one who had been through the worst of the worst that life could throw at her, so for her trust was more precious than love. Maybe they were the same thing, but Ginny didn’t really think so. She loved many people that she didn’t fully trust. George was one of them. Given half a chance, and a guarantee that she wouldn’t be able to retaliate, and he’d have pranked her with his latest product every single time he saw her.

“Darling,” Fleur went on as Victoire tried on something else. “You don’t really need much clothing, you know. Not zat I don’t want you to have it all, but most of your robes with fit cover your belly.” Ginny didn’t react at her slip back into her accented French. Fleur’s accent was, while not gone, almost completely erased by the years of practice she’d had from living in England. She only reverted back to it when she was upset or scared.

“I know, Mum,” Victoire said in exasperation.

Ginny put a hand out to Fleur and squeezed her fingers. She shook her head and silently mouthed that they shouldn’t argue over it. Whatever was going on, here, it wasn’t about the maternity clothes.

Victoire stomped out of the dressing room in a long, flowing gown of deep blue. “Wow!” Ginny said, completely honestly. “You look beautiful.”

“I do?” Victoire asked as she turned to the mirror and frowned at her reflection. She smoothed out the dress and turned sideways, her long blonde hair flowing around her shoulders. “I mean for reals, Aunt Ginny? Not in a Veela way?”

Ginny rose and walked over to stand next to her, her arm going around her waist as she stared at Victoire in the mirror. “In a real way. Now what is this about?”

Fleur rose as well, and came to stand between them and the mirror, eyeing her daughter speculatively. “Why do you need a dress like this?”

“I…” Victoire chewed on her bottom lip and shook her head. “It’s a stupid party that we’ve been invited to. Teddy’s classmate invited us along. She’s Muggleborn and she’s… well, her family is rich and important.”

“Darling,” Fleur soothed with a smile, “your family is rich and important.”

“Not in the Muggle world!” Victoire protested. She waved her hand. “Sure, Uncle Harry is Harry Potter, but that doesn’t mean anything in the Muggle world. I’ve met up with this woman before and she has this way of twisting things so you know you don’t rank like she does. It’s… I hate it. I don’t like her. I think she had a thing for Teddy way back when, but he says they were only friends. She’s so beautiful, Mum, and I just feel like a fat cow right now.”

Fleur scoffed quietly, and shook her head. “You are zee most beautiful girl in the world, my darling! No woman can compete with you.”

Ginny didn’t say anything, at first, because she understood completely what Victoire was saying. Unlike Victoire, though, Ginny wasn’t stunningly beautiful. She was pretty, sure, but not in the same way as a Veela was. Her existence since she was fifteen had been as the one Harry had chosen, but never the prettiest girl at the party. “You know how much Teddy loves you, Victoire. He clearly doesn’t want this other woman.”

Victoire threw up her hands and moved over to sit in one of the overstuffed chintz chairs. Thankfully, no one else was around. Ginny had slipped the owner a wad of Muggle money to have the changing area to themselves, and now she knew why. She’d sensed that something was wrong with Victoire and that they’d need some privacy. The shop was large and the dressing rooms were towards the back of the store. She pulled out her wand and cast a discrete Muffliato Charm so that no one would hear what she was saying. Fleur sat to one side of her daughter and Ginny to the other. It was to Ginny who Victoire turned, which didn’t surprise her. “I’m so young! Everyone else is having a lovely time building their careers and they’re all still out partying. I know she’s going to say something about how Teddy was trapped by me. You know…”

“I know,” Ginny agreed quietly, her sorrow a kindred spirit to her niece’s. “I know just what you mean.”

She did. She’d married Harry because of her baby. They’d been forced into it, because that was the law. It was a cruel, insane law, one that they’d worked to have changed, but no one would be the first to stand up and say that it needed to go. It was tradition, and tradition was hard to break. People had whispered and wondered about them through all of it. Everyone assumed that Ginny had trapped him. The people who knew her knew she hadn’t. The people who loved and trusted her knew that it hadn’t been that way. “You two were married for almost a year before you got pregnant,” Ginny reminded her quietly. “It wasn’t a sudden thing.”

“I don’t know why this is bothering me so much!” she wailed unhappily as she covered her eyes and tears poured down her cheeks. “Why does she get to me.”

“It’s because you love Teddy that much,” Fleur answered, surprising Ginny. “You want only the best for him. You want to be worthy of him. You want others to think he has the best. It’s your love that’s breaking your heart because you don’t think you are the best.”

Ginny blinked once, stunned. She’d never, ever, thought of it that way. Had that been what she’d been doing with Harry? Had she worried that whole time that she was simply not good enough? Was it a sign that she loved him so much that she’d only wanted the best for him? Maybe… maybe that was part of it, but it felt like there was more to it. “It’s difficult to stand up to the gossip and the mean comments. It’s hard to not fall when people keep hitting you. I get that, but Teddy married you and you know he is the happiest when you two are together. I think you need to cling to that and ignore this woman. Have you told him how she makes you feel?”

Her niece shook her head. “He wouldn’t understand. He doesn’t think about things like this.”

“I think you should tell him,” Ginny prodded quietly. “I think he has the right to know.”

Victoire sighed. “Okay,” she said, but Ginny knew it wasn’t a commitment. “Let’s finish picking out clothes.”

~*~

Victoire wiggled and tugged and twisted, trying desperately to get the zip at her back without having to resort to Teddy helping her. She’d banished him from their bedroom so that she could get ready and surprise him, hoping he would enjoy the dress. She’d settled on the blue dress because it had fit her the best, and flattered her fair complexion, but now at home she felt even fatter and uglier than ever before. She knew she was being ridiculous. She knew how stupid she sounded, she honestly did. She was part-Veela so she couldn’t be anything but beautiful, but it was like a show-plate. All polish and no substance. Plus, her father’s human contribution meant that she’d broken out in blemishes because of the baby and the stupid creams and potions weren’t safe for the baby, so she had to live with the spots on her chest, arms, and cheek. Despite knowing that they were tiny, to her they felt humongous and like everyone would see them. It felt terrible to be pregnant just then, and that made her feel like the world’s worst mother. She stopped trying to get the zip and felt her whole body slump in defeat. She’d tried her wand first, of course. It was lying by the wall, having fallen there after she’d lost her temper and thrown it across the room. It was no good. “Teddy?”

She waited while his steps thunder up the steps. Before he could open the door she called for him to stop. “I want you to close your eyes.”

There was a pause. “Why?”

“Because I said so!” she growled as she stalked over to the door. “Do you have them closed?”

“Yes,” he agreed cautiously. “What’s up?”

“I’m going to open the door and turn around and you’re going to do up my zip without peeking,” she told him as she followed through with what she’d said.

He reached for her and felt around until he found the bottom of the zipper and slid it up. “Can I look now?”

“No!” Victoire griped as she went back to her mirror to survey herself. She wasn’t perfect, not by any means, but it was the best she was going to do. If he didn’t gasp in delight she might throw him like her wand. She turned to face him and found him lounging against the door frame, his arms crossed, his eyes closed, and a bemused smile on his face. She did not like that smile. It engendered so much anger in her that he could be so calm when she felt so terrible. She had a thought about leaving him there and just going to her mother’s just to eat chocolate cake all night. But of course that wouldn’t help, and then she’d be stuck with her mother and her father might actually kill Teddy for upsetting her when he hadn’t actually done anything wrong.

It was very complicated being pregnant.

She took a deep breath and fought to hide her anxiety. She ran one more hand down her dress, smoothing it out as she studied how handsome he looked in his Muggle tuxedo. It was black, of course, just like every other man’s would be. She’d spoken to her aunt Hermione to make sure she understood the dress code etiquette for the evening. Teddy would still stand out, though, even in a sea of black. Merlin, she loved him. “You can open your eyes now.”

Teddy did and a second later he straightened, a beam of pure happiness radiated from him. “Victoire… wow! You look… wow!”

It was a great reaction, and he followed it up by swooped her up in a tender hug, placing a gentle kiss on her lips. His hand ran down her back and over to her front, caressing their baby through the slippery material of the dress. “You’re both gorgeous,” he said, and she could tell he meant it.

“Thank you,” she replied and fought back the urge to cry.

“Are you ready?”

“Almost,” she said with a sigh as she turned and pointed to the floor. “Can you get that?”

Teddy released her to scoop up the wand, a feat that was easy for him but had recently become difficult for her. “How did your wand end up there?”

“You don’t want to know,” she promised and vowed never to tell him of her tantrum. She hiked up the dress to reveal her bare feet.

To his credit he didn’t laugh. He did smile annoyingly, though, as he retrieved her shoes and helped buckle them on her feet. Unless she could slide them on, she was no longer capable of bending to get the shoes on. He draped a black wrap over her shoulders and kissed her temple. “Are you sure you want to wear heels?”

“Mum enchanted them,” Victoire explained. “They’ll cushion my feet and I won’t trip. Mum is good at those things. They matched the dress.”

“Right,” he said by way of a response. “Well, let’s go.”

He’d borrowed Harry’s BMW for the night so that they had a nice ride to the party, and she was infinitely grateful when they pulled up to the huge castle of a house. The drive was gravel, and a butler waited for them. He opened Victoire’s door and she was grateful for his extended hand, she really was, but it just wasn’t enough to heft her out of the car. She wasn’t going to cry.

“Just a moment,” Teddy said as he hopped out and hurried around. The butler ducked out of his way and Teddy practically had to lift her out of the car. “It’s alright,” he soothed so only she could hear. “You’re seven months pregnant, luv. It’s fine.”

The butler beamed at her, and she felt better for the smile as she straightened and Teddy handed over the keys to a valet. “This way, madam, sir,” he told them as he ushered them up the steps and another car pulled in just behind them. That car was a limo, which Victoire had only seen a few times. She had to fight not to stare and to watch her footing.

She waited with her parents at the top of the steps, just inside the doors, greeting all the guests. Her parents were a grand couple. It was clear that her mother dyed her hair so that it was still the same auburn as her daughter’s, but her clear blue eyes were open and sweet as she greeted them. Her father was equally charming, telling them how happy they were that some of her old school friends could make it to their celebration. Then it was time to shake her hand and Victoire did not want to. She just didn’t want to put herself through it.

“Catherine,” Teddy greeted her warmly, while his hand stayed on Victoire’s lower back. She was a younger, more beautiful, version of her mother. Her hair was up in an elaborate twist with a few curls artfully falling down to her neck. Her make-up was done to perfection and it was galling to see that her skin was perfectly clear. Her eyes were not nearly as nice as her mother’s. It wasn’t that they weren’t beautiful, but her eyes held none of the warmth.

“Teddy,” she purred as she boosted up so she could kiss his cheek. “It’s so lovely to see you. Victoire, my…” she surveyed Victoire who had to fight not to squirm. “Well, you’ve really blossomed in the last few weeks! I think I saw you just last month and one couldn’t tell you were pregnant. Now look at you.” She submitted to Catherine’s kiss to her cheek, but oh, how it rankled.

“Doesn’t she look spectacular?” Teddy said as he beamed down at her. “She’s never been more beautiful.”

Because Merlin, the man was a clueless twit. He had no idea of the dragon’s nest he’d just stepped into, or the dig that was part of the woman’s words. He was the biggest moron in the world when it came to women.

But he loved her. He loved her so much, and he’d said exactly the right thing to have Catherine taking a step back and to Victoire’s shock, looking just the littlest bit jealous.

They moved on a moment later, but she stayed by his side because he was her hero and she was so proud to be with him, and it was clear that he was proud of her, too. People would ask about the baby, and they answered that she was due in January. They ran into some of their other school friends, and were soon joined by some Muggles their own age. Everyone, except Victoire, had a glass of champagne in their hands. It was a party, and Teddy had made sure she had water, which was what she’d wanted to drink. They had everything, but she’d been wanting water, so water she had. They danced. It was romantic to dance with him, held close as he asked if she was tired. “I’m fine,” she assured him.

“Good,” he whispered into her ear, making her shiver. “Because I definitely want to get you home and take this dress off of you.”

She might have blushed, but not so much that anyone else would have noticed.

The dinner was lovely. They were seated next to the son of an earl and his wife. Aunt Hermione had explained that seating was arranged based on social status, which had made sense. Their seating arrangement, next to an earl, therefore, seemed odd. How they’d come up with that, Victoire had no idea and she didn’t want to question it. They were a bit older than they were, probably close to thirty, and the wife confided that she was expecting their second, but wasn’t very far along yet. “You look stunning,” she assured Victoire. “I looked like a stuffed goose when I was that far along.”

Victoire finally started to relax. It was not so bad. The party was a good idea and she was so glad that they’d come.

“So,” the earl said as he dabbed at his mouth, “what sort of work do you do?”

Teddy had an answer for that. They both did. “Victoire is in school to become a doctor, although that might be a little delayed. I’m in law enforcement.”

“Really?” his wife said with a raised brow. “What sort of law enforcement?”

“The sort I’m not allowed to talk about,” Teddy answered with an apologetic smile.

“Quite right,” the earl agreed with a pat to his wife’s hands.

His wife, however, was not deterred. “Maybe you’ve heard about the migrant women that have been disappearing. I’m just so worried about them and it seems like no one is looking into it.”

Teddy froze. “I hadn’t realized it was that publicized.”

“You’re part of that investigation?” his wife demanded. “We’re all so worried. I know that a woman like me won’t be targeted, but I think that makes it even more reprehensible! If I were taken the entire country would be turned upside down. These women deserve the same.”

Victoire felt Teddy’s tension. He couldn’t say anything about what they were doing or the fact that it was really a witch that was taking the women. She smiled at the countess and shook her head. “Teddy has been working long, long hours on this case. It’s been important to keep things quiet. In this case, the public won’t be helpful. I am glad you are so concerned. I am as well, but I promise they’re trying to find those who are responsible.”

Teddy squeezed her hand under the table as the woman nodded and let it drop.

Maybe she could be his hero, too. She grinned as her baby shifted a bit, kicking at her belly button.

Later, as she lay naked in his arms in their beautiful house, she told him how she felt about Catherine.

“You’re kidding,” Teddy exclaimed, clearly startled. “Victoire… I… you should have told me you felt like that! I wouldn’t have asked you to go. I didn’t… I don’t think Catherine feels like that towards me. Maybe she did back in school, but that was years ago.”

She shifted until she could press a small kiss to his neck. “It doesn’t matter now.”

“She’s nothing compared to you, you know,” he said as he gently ran his fingers up and down her arm. “I want nothing more than to be here with you, having a baby with you. I can’t imagine being with anyone else.”

“I love you so much,” she said as she thought about what her mother had said. “I want you to have everything.”

“I have everything,” he told her earnestly. “I have you! I worry sometimes that I’m not enough for you. All I can do is continue trying.”

She laughed, then, because what else could she do? “I bought more maternity clothes.”

“Yeah?”

“Mhmm,” she said on a happy sigh. “There’s this short red dress…”

Teddy groaned and pressed his mouth to hers. “I’m taking you out to dinner tomorrow night just so I can see it.”
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