|SIYE Time:2:19 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: 78607; Chapter Total: 3046
Awards: View Trophy Room
Have you checked out my book yet??? If you haven't, take a second, head to my profile and check it out! There is a FREE preview on many of the sites. Please, please, please at least go look :)
If you have read it, let me know what you think. I want to hear! Good and bad.
Thank you, Arnel, for all of your help!!!
I'm working on my third original right now. Once that is done I'll put more work into this story and might move to posting faster. I'm just very focused on the other story and can't hold two plots in the forefront of my brain. It will happen, though. My track record proves I do NOT leave things unfinished.
Review! Tell me what you think.
Harry walked slowly through the bowels of the Ministry, neither hurrying, nor strolling. He greeted colleagues and chatted amiably as he made his way through the storage rooms that were located in the level below the Department of Mysteries. It was mainly the archivists who worked down this low.
“Afternoon, Mr. Potter,” the head archivist, Maud Blanch whispered.
Harry had never heard her say anything above a whisper. If there was a fire, he was pretty sure no one would know because she didn’t seem capable of shouting. For all that, he liked the older woman, in her jumper with a puppy on the front, and her thin wire spectacles that were the exact gray of her hair. She was pleasant, efficient, and above all, more self-sufficient than any of the Unspeakables in the Department of Mysteries. “Evening, Mrs. Blanch,” Harry smiled blandly. “I need to visit the Auror’s archives.”
“Of course,” she waved him through.
Harry touched his wand to a metal disk in the wall, a routine he was very familiar with. The disk turned green as new spring grass, and he made his way through. If he’d not been himself, it would have turned red and he’d have been blasted by something that George had invented for the Ministry a decade earlier.
He walked more quickly now, bypassing several long rows of book cases, that were full of books, scrolls and labeled boxes, until he reached the one that contained all of his case notes from when he and Ginny had been poisoned nineteen years earlier. He dragged down the familiar box and hefted it over to a large, wooden table.
Harry stared down at the box as bile rose unbidden into his throat. No one was allowed to look in this box. He’d put a hex on it so that if anyone but himself touched it, the other person would be very sorry. It was the same curse used on the prophecies in the Hall of Prophesy.
Slowly, almost unwillingly, he removed the lid to dive once more into the only official record of his oldest child’s short life.
News came in the first week in December that her parents weren’t going to be home. Her mum was covering a UN peace summit and was sequestered with the other journalists in France. Her dad was stuck in South Africa looking at several thousand year old bones and couldn’t get back to England. Nat sighed. “I’m staying here for Christmas,” she told her friends.
“No you’re not,” Rose said, rolling her eyes. “You can come home with one of us. I’ll send an owl to Mum and let her work that out between her and Aunt Ginny.”
“I wish I could invite you over,” Scorpius said morosely, “but even I don’t want to go home. My dad was livid when he heard I’d been Sorted into Gryffindor. He still hasn’t written to me. Mum says he’ll get over it, but I know Christmas is going to be awful.”
“Want to come to my house?” Al asked, looking concerned.
Scorpius shook his head. “That would be worse, trust me. My dad may not hate yours, but they’re not exactly pals. He’s not going to be pleased when he figures out we’re friends.”
Rose eyed him curiously. “Are you going to let that stop you?”
“No,” Scorpius assured her quickly. “The old pureblood ideal isn’t for me. I’ve always thought it was rubbish. My grandparents nearly lost everything because of You-Know-Who.”
“Voldemort,” Al and Rose said together.
Nat had been told the full story months before and laughed. “How about just calling him Tom Riddle, then?”
It was worked out that Nat would stay with Al’s family for the holidays. Rose’s family was going to be spending a few days with her Muggle grandparents so they weren’t going to be home the whole time.
“You’ll like my parents,” Al told her as they walked off the train. He grabbed her arm and pulled her upright as she nearly fell. He didn’t miss a beat and kept talking. “My mum is a great cook and my dad is really funny. Lily is a lot of fun, too.”
“I’ll see you three later,” Scorpius grumbled as he saw his parents. “This holiday isn’t going to be a laugh.”
“See if you can come over,” Al said to him. Scorpius only shrugged, hunching his shoulders as he walked off.
“Come on, you two,” James hollered and they waved to Scorpius as he walked away.
James was already standing next to two older people and a small, red headed girl. Nat saw with a shock that Lily, for she couldn’t be anyone else, was beautiful. It was not usual for nine-year-olds to already be so attractive, but Nat could tell she would be stunning when she was grown. She turned to study Al’s parents and saw that Lily looked nearly identical to her mum, and Al was the spitting image of her dad although his dad’s hair was starting to gray a bit. She saw the facial discrepancy that she’d noticed between Al and James. James’ face was more along the lines of his mother, but not identical. He probably bore a stronger resembles to a grandparent.
“Hi, Nat,” Mrs. Potter said warmly as Mr. Potter took her bag from Al, giving him a hug. Al had refused to let her carry it, stating she needed both hands to keep herself upright. Nat had laughed. It was the truth.
“Thank you for inviting me,” Nat grinned, trying not to be nervous. “My parents are really grateful as well.”
“It’s our pleasure,” Mr. Potter assured her as they walked to the car. “Al and Rose have told us all about you.”
“We couldn’t let you spend Christmas alone,” Mrs. Potter assured her with a warm smile.
It wasn’t like a normal car, Nat realized quickly. The seats were extremely spacious and all four kids fit well into the backseat. The ride was easy, the four of them bantering back and forth. Nat realized quickly that she was going to love Lily, who was fun and funny and didn’t take anything from anyone. They arrived at a house that was down a long, winding tree-lined drive up to a large, ivy covered walls. Nat followed Al inside, looking around at the home. There was a sitting room off to the right and an open kitchen and dining room towards the back of the house.
“You’re in with me,” Lily told her, and led her up to her bedroom. She had bunk beds with lilac coverings. “I’m on the top,” Lily said as Al followed in, putting Nat’s bag on the bottom bunk.
“I told her to do that,” Al winked at her.
Nat playfully punched his arm as he walked out.
“Come down, you lot,” Ginny called. “The family will be here shortly for dinner.”
“Everyone?” Nat asked Lily who nodded.
“Yep, the whole family gathers the first evening they all get home for the hols. It’s a tradition and we’ve got the biggest house, so we usually host. It takes a long table to seat us all.”
Nat and Lily wandered into the kitchen to find Al’s parents locked together and laughing as they kissed each other. They would have beaten a hasty retreat, but James skidded into the kitchen, sliding on his sock covered feet, and called out, “Gross!”
“Don’t look,” Al’s dad said and James rolled his eyes as they continued kissing. They were a lot like Nat’s parents, so she didn’t mind.
Within thirty minutes the house was full to bursting and Nat was in heaven. She’d never been to a really noisy family get-together. Her parents were only children, all of her grandparents had died before she was born and she didn’t have any other living relatives. Everyone laughed, argued, and enjoyed each other and she instantly felt welcomed.
“What do your parents do?” Bill Weasley asked her during dinner. It had given her a start to see him for the first time. His face looked as if it had been mauled by an animal, although Rose had given her the full story weeks before, so she knew it was a werewolf. It looked like it had been very painful, though.
“My dad is a forensic anthropologist,” which she went on to quickly explain, “And my mum is a journalist; Curtis and Julienne Parker.”
Bill looked impressed. “I’ve heard of your dad. He’s really well respected in the Muggle world, did a lot of work in Egypt while I was there for a short trip a few years back. I didn’t get a chance to meet him, but I’ve always wanted to.”
“I wish you’d have had the chance!” Nat exclaimed. “I’d have met you then as well. I’ve been with my dad pretty much all the time since I was a baby.”
“Really?” Gran Molly probed as she dished more food onto Nat’s plate. “What about your mother dear?”
Nat groaned as she tasted the truly excellent potatoes. “These are amazing!” she exclaimed after she swallowed. “Erm, well, Mum was around as much as she could be when a big story wasn’t breaking. She stayed with Dad and me almost constantly between Cambodia, Australia and South Korea ‘til I was about one, and then Dad took over most of my care with the help of a nanny till I was five and my nanny got married. I traveled around with him to various places while he worked. They wanted me to go to a boarding school when I was five, but I refused. So I’ve been doing homeschooling online.”
“Online?” Roxy asked.
“You know,” Rose said. “My Granger grandparents have that computer that connects to other computers using the internet– you know, online. I showed it to you last summer when we were there.”
“Oh right!” Roxy said, cottoning on.
“But you wanted to go to Hogwarts?” Teddy asked. Nat had been momentarily surprised when she met him. His hair was bright blue, but oddly enough looked natural on him. She noticed that he sat close to Victoire and they smiled at each other a lot.
Nat shrugged. “Can’t learn magic online. Besides, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I love being with Dad and traveling around the world, but I don’t want to be an anthropologist.”
Hermione studied her, in a way that let Nat know that she knew people. “You’re an unusual eleven-year-old, Nat. In a good way, of course, but you talk like an adult.”
Nat flushed but that wasn’t the first time she’d heard it. “Yeah, well… I’ve had a weird childhood and most of my time was spent with extremely brilliant adults, so I had to learn fast to talk to them and ask good questions or they wouldn’t have let me participate and I’d have been bored out of my skull. It’s sad to say that the weirdest part of my life hasn’t been going to Hogwarts, but I love the castle! I don’t have to move all the time and I can make and keep friends. We don’t really have a home of any kind, just a tiny flat we keep in London to store a few things and crash in when we’re in town.”
“How many languages do you speak?” Percy Weasley asked her, pushing his glasses up further on his nose.
Nat bit her lip and looked up at the ceiling, counting. “Erm, thirty or so.” Everyone gasped. “I don’t speak most of them fluently!” she assured them hastily. “Some of them are dead languages, and several are fairly useless unless you’re in a remote part of Africa, but I played with a lot of kids all over the world so I know a lot of slang.”
“What about swear words?” George asked and ducked as his wife tried to slap him upside the head.
“George!” Gran Weasley hollered.
Nat smiled sheepishly. “Much to my father’s chagrin I can curse fluently in several languages. The workers at digs didn’t often censor their tongues, but I don’t use them. My dad always says that it’s better to think up different words to express what you’re feeling.” She sighed. “Dad and I rarely stayed in one place longer than three to six months, but I pick up languages quickly.”
“She’s got an excellent memory,” Rose added. “She can go around the room and name all of you.”
Nat blushed hard and wanted the conversation off of her. “But I can’t fly a broom.”
“That’s true,” Al added laughing. “The broom dumped her off.”
“Really?” Harry blurted out. “You mean you fell?”
“No, it was weird, Dad! She was on and it turned her upside down so she’d fall off!”
“The broom knew I was a disaster waiting to happen, so it shook me off before I could get too high,” Nat added helpfully while everyone laughed. “I love to fly, though! Al’s taken me up a few times.”
“She wanted to go a lot faster than the school brooms can go. Dad’s the one you should fly with on one of the Firebolts.” Al told her. “He can go wicked fast; so can Mum.”
The conversation thankfully moved off her and Nat took in everything, deflecting James from tormenting Al and getting into a lively discussion with one-eared George (he insisted she call him that although Ron dryly referred to him as ‘the holey one’) about the joke shop which George and Ron ran together.
After dinner Nat followed Al to the living room and tripped on a rug, nearly pitching into Al. Al’s reflexes were excellent, though, and he caught her before she could hit her head.
“Do you always do that?” Audrey Weasley asked her, walking over to them. She seemed to be sizing Nat up, literally, taking in her tiny stature. She tucked her chestnut hair behind her eat.
“All the time,” Nat said, trying to keep her sense of humor over it and not get embarrassed. “At least now that I’m in the Wizarding world I don’t have to deal with casts or surgery anymore.”
The brunette cocked her head, looking at her through her glasses. “Did you have a lot of ear infections as a child?”
Nat was flummoxed. “Yeah, I had to get tubes when I was six and everything, but I still get them several times a year.”
“Hmm, would you mind if I had a look?” Audrey asked and explained, “I’m a Healer which is just like a doctor.”
“No, please look,” Nat said and she sat in the chair that Audrey pointed to.
She used her wand and muttered some spells. Victoire had come over and she asked a few questions using words that Nat didn’t totally understand. “You were in Egypt, you say?” the Healer asked and Nat nodded. “Ever in a tomb?”
“Mhmm,” Nat said. “I got lost in one, once. My dad was frantic and it took nearly two days for me to find my way back. They thought I’d been kidnapped. I was only about three and Dad had no idea how I’d gotten away from the nanny, let alone into the tomb. I spent weeks in hospital after that one.”
“Bill, come look at this,” Audrey called to him. “I’m surprised Poppy missed it.”
She pointed her wand into Nat’s ear and Bill whistled. “I’ll be damned. I haven’t seen that curse in years.”
“Curse?!” Nat squeaked as everyone else around her said the same.
“It’s not really a surprise Poppy missed it,” Bill said fairly. “You only get that in Egypt. She’s probably never seen a case before.”
“Curse?” Nat repeated, trying not to sound as hysterical as she felt.
“It’s called Mortuorum Ambulantum. We can fix that,” Audrey assured her. “You’ll probably always have some scarring, but we can lift the curse and get rid of some of the scarring which should help with your balance.”
“Do you have problems with your blood sugar?” Bill asked her. “You’re so small, though, it’s really obvious what it is.”
“She does,” Al said, sounding odd. “You can really help her?”
“Of course,” Audrey smiled. “Let’s do that now, then. No need to put it off when she can barely walk without falling. I need a particular potion for the scars but I can go by Floo over to St. Mungo’s and get that while Bill deals with the curse.”
Bill grimaced. “Come on, Nat, you’re going to want to lie down for this one. It’s going to hurt– a lot.”
“I’ll bring back a pain potion as well,” Audrey said and she went over to the fireplace.
Nat barely had time to register that the woman had disappeared into green flames in the fireplace before she was led over to a squashy sofa. Al followed her over and sat down next to her hip on the sofa, taking her hand. Nat saw Ginny and Gran exchange a glance, but she couldn’t read what they were silently communicating. Rose hovered around, looking concerned.
“Ready, Nat?” Bill asked.
“Ready,” Nat agreed, trying not to be nervous. It didn’t matter if it hurt. If she’d stop falling over her feet all the time it would be worth it.
Bill uttered a spell, but it was forgotten in a blinding flash of pain that was so intense that she could hardly breathe. She squeezed Al’s hand and bit down on her lip, trying to keep herself from screaming. It felt almost like a headache, but it burned and was razor sharp in its intensity. It seemed to drag on for hours, but finally the pain faded and she found herself shaking and a woman’s arms around her, holding her. “It’s okay, it’s all over,” Ginny’s voice floated softly into her ears which were ringing a bit. “You’re all right now, Nat.”
Nat was clammy, the hand in Al’s was limp now, and Ginny was stroking her brow just as Nat’s mother would have done if she’d been here.
“I’ve got it,” Nat heard Audrey say. “Here, Nat, drink this. It’s going to tickle in your ears, but then it will be over with. I’ll give you a pain potion and you can get some sleep.”
Nat drank. It tasted terrible, but the itching that followed was like nothing she’d ever felt. She wanted to claw the sides of her head off. She heard Audrey telling Ginny that the scarring was really bad and that Nat had been cursed so long ago that she didn’t know how much was going to be repaired. Al held one hand away from her head in a strong grip and Nat knew Bill held the other to keep her from scratching while Ginny simply held her. The pain and itching crested and then faded.
Nat was drained in a way that she’d never been before. Something was pressed to her lips and she drank without any real thought. The pain faded to nothing. Then competent, practiced arms were lifting her, carrying her up the stairs, setting her on the bed. She felt a mother’s hands, so gentle that she knew they had to belong to one of the mothers, wiping her brow with a warm, wet cloth. Her shoes were removed, the covers lifted up to her chin and Nat fell heavily into sleep.
As soon as Nat was in her bed, Ginny pulled Harry in to their room and shut the door. She stared at him.
“What?” he asked, unable to resist running his fingers through her loose hair.
“If that were my daughter,” she said finally, “I’d want to know what happened. We need to find them and try to get them here.”
“Gin,” Harry sighed and pulled her in close. “Luv, I know how you feel, but the red tape involved in getting those sorts of permits would take weeks. I can’t make that happen.”
Harry groaned softly, and knew he was sunk. Whatever it was about Natalie, she’d pulled a string in Ginny’s heart, and now the thought of her going through this without her parents was reducing his unbelievably stoic wife to tears.
“I’m not crying,” she protested unconvincingly. She didn’t raise her eyes from his shirt, and he was reasonably certain he’d find a wet spot there. “I’ve got allergies.”
“Since when?” he probed. “I’m pretty sure I’d have noticed that.”
Ginny slowly curled her fingers in until they were clutching at his shirt. “Harry… that little girl is in a house full of strangers, and she’s just gone through a very painful healing. I’m asking you to play your Harry Potter card and get her parents here. Tomorrow, preferably.”
When she finally looked up, her eyes were dry, but red. “I don’t know that I can,” Harry admitted slowly. “It would take a lot of cooperation, and most everyone is on holiday right now.”
Her lower lip trembled, even as she bit it and looked away.
Harry swore softly, and pulled her back against him. Every so often something like this would get to her, and she’d be unreasonably upset over something that he couldn’t possibly fathom. Except it always had a root, and the root typically lay not far away in their backyard, in the small clearing along with Hope’s grave.
“Okay,” Harry assured her firmly. He cupped her cheeks and kissed her tenderly. “I’ll make this happen. Between myself, Hermione, Percy and your dad we should have enough connections.”
“Thank you,” she said softly. He could see the gratitude in her eyes, and knew she was glad he hadn’t mentioned her tears. It had taken him a lot of years to learn to read his wife, but he had a reasonable grasp on it now.
He nodded and took her hand. “Let’s go make this happen.”
Nat woke slowly, and blinked her eyes open to find Audrey Weasley sitting in a chair next to her bed, reading a book. She looked up and smiled kindly at her. “How are you feeling?”
“Odd,” Nat admitted honestly.
“I can imagine. We’ve tracked down your parents to let them know what’s happened. Harry and Ron sent word that they’re bringing them back with them. Hopefully, they’ll be here tonight.”
“Really?” Nat said breathlessly, hope filling her. “You’re sure?”
She smiled kindly. “Well, we can’t be sure they’ll make it tonight. Your dad might not get here ‘til tomorrow, but they’re both thrilled that you’ve been cured, or mostly anyway. I’d like to have another look at your ears.”
“Of course!” Nat said, sitting up slowly. She wasn’t sure if it was her imagination or not, but she thought she might be hearing better than she had ever before, although she was dizzy.
Once again Audrey performed the same exam on Nat. “Well, it’s definitely loads better. Bill and Victoire are going to want to see this if you don’t mind. Victoire has been studying with me to become a healer. Still, you’re not totally better. As I said you had a lot of scar tissue and some is still there so your balance isn’t ever going to be perfect, but you should trip less often.”
“Well, that’s something,” Nat said, thankful for it.
“I’m not sure you’ll ever catch up with your height either. You’re always going to be small for your age, but you should make some progress that way.” Audrey pulled Nat’s hand out in front of her and had her hold it in the air. Nat saw it shaking and knew what that meant. “I’m afraid the blood sugar issue is likely to remain and may even get worse if you’re not careful about what you eat. As I said, you had the curse for years, longer than most people do. It’s actually amazing that one of the curse-breakers didn’t hear about it and have you cured shortly after you came out of the tomb. Bill was telling me last night that they’d healed a bunch of Muggles over the years. Here,” she handed Nat a glass with juice, which Nat drank down, only spilling a little bit with her shaking hands, then a slice of turkey. “Eat up and then you can head downstairs for a late breakfast.”
After breakfast Ginny told Al that he could take Nat up on her Firebolt 2. “Really?” Nat asked, not daring to believe she’d heard right.
“Yes, but Al, you hold tight to her and don’t go too fast. Just fast enough,” Ginny said winking. “I’d take you up myself, but I’m preparing for your parents to stay with us and I’ve got an article to finish.”
The morning would have dragged on if it hadn’t been for flying with Al, James and Lily. Their house was set on sixteen acres and without any chance of being spotted by Muggles they were allowed to fly anywhere within sight of the house.
“Faster, Al!” Nat screamed, throwing her arms up in the air, reveling in the feeling of the cold air stinging her face.
His grip on her waist tightened. “I can’t go faster while holding you and the broom. You hold on tight and I’ll speed up.”
They landed a while later when they heard Al’s mum holler. Nat hopped off the broom and threw her arms around Al’s waist for a tight hug. “That was amazing.”
He hugged her back somewhat awkwardly, but his sheepish smile said he was pleased.
Teddy, still with his blue hair, was sitting at the kitchen table when they piled into the room and Nat did a double take. “What happened to your face?” she asked, sitting across from him and taking a large bite of her sandwich. “Your nose is off slightly and your cheek bones aren’t right.”
He looked genuinely surprised. “I hardly did anything to change them today. It’s supposed to be subtle.”
“Your bone structure doesn’t match, like you’re wearing prosthetics or something. Here,” she stood up and leaned over the table, poking at his nose. “Your nose should end right here, lower down and your cheek bones are down here, but your cheeks are puffier than they should be, considering your weight. Did you do magic to change?”
Teddy winked at her as she sat back, screwed up his face and created a pig’s snout for a nose. Everyone laughed. “I’m a Metamorphmagus, which means I can change my appearance at will.”
“Amazing,” Nat said, really impressed. “If you meet my dad, make sure you do that to him. It will drive him nuts till he figures out what the differences are in your face.”
Teddy grinned. “I’ll do that.”
“So what do you do?” Nat asked before taking another bite.
“I’m in Auror training for another year and a half, which is sort of like a policeman,” he said, also digging into his lunch. “My mum was an Auror and my godfather is the head of the Auror department, so they just let me in.”
“No, they didn’t,” Ginny said, rolling her eyes and ruffling his hair affectionately. “You worked hard in school to get top marks and you earned your place. We’re really proud of you!”
Lily giggled. “Teddy’s going to hurt the bad guys and Victoire will get to patch them up again. They’re quite a match. Are you going to get married soon?”
Teddy’s face went scarlet. “It’s a good thing you’re cute, Lily-Lu, ‘cause that question is getting old.”
“When you have a baby can I mind it?” Lily asked him propping her chin on her hand, her face masked in innocence.
“Lily!” Ginny choked out, trying to inject a scolding note into her tone, but failing when she laughed.
Nat could see Lily was having Teddy on, and he apparently knew it as well. “Funny, Lily… really amusing.”
They cleared the table and Ginny sent them into the sitting room with Teddy while she tidied up some. Teddy grabbed Lily around the waist and hauled her up into his arms, tickling her. “What’s the meaning of teasing me, huh? Just because you’re adorable doesn’t mean you can get away with everything!”
“Just wait until she’s older,” Nat commented, grinning at their antics. “Lily is going to be gorgeous.”
They all stopped and looked at her. “Really?” James asked, somewhat taken aback.
“Oh, yeah, definitely. I wish I had my dad’s computer. I could show you. I tried to learn to draw by hand, but I’m no good.”
“I can draw,” James told her. “I’m really good at faces.”
An impish smirk flitted over Nat’s face. “Get some paper and a pencil, then.”
Nearly an hour had passed and everyone was still standing behind James, except for Lily who was wiggling in a seat across from them. “Can I see yet?”
Nat said “Not yet,” at the same time that James said “No!”
“The eyes still aren’t quite right, right here,” Nat pointed. “They’re still a little too narrow. Yes, like that. Okay, the other one. Excellent.”
“What are you kids up to?” Harry Potter asked and they all jumped.
Nat looked up and saw, to her utter delight, her father standing next to Harry. “Dad!” she yelled, and ran to throw herself in her father’s arms. It felt truly excellent to have one of his hugs again.
“Hey Peanut,” he whispered into her hair, kissing her brow. “I have missed you so much.”
“Me, too,” she said.
Harry’s voice made them both look over at him. He was standing there, looking down at James’ drawing that he held in his hand. “What on earth is this?”
“It’s what Lily is going to look like when she’s eighteen,” James told him proudly.
Nat watched Harry’s hand that held the drawing start to shake and he sat heavily down on the sofa, staring dumbfounded at the picture. “No, no way. I cannot handle having a daughter that’s this beautiful.”
Lily went over to see the picture, perching herself in her dad’s lap. “Wow, I am beautiful!”
Harry groaned and closed his eyes, letting his head fall back. “This is going to kill me, Lily Luna. We’re going to have to lock you up to keep you safe.”
“You’re not locking me up. Mum won’t let you.” Lily put her arms around his shoulders and kissed his cheek, before resting her head on his chest. His arms came around her and he held her tight. “It will be all right, Daddy.”
“I’m not so sure about that. Have you seen how old your Uncle Bill is looking lately?”
“Yes, but Victoire is dating Teddy now and Uncle Bill likes Teddy so that’s all right,” Lily explained patiently.
Harry sighed. “Teddy is still a boy, and boys are not to be trusted.”
“Hey!” Teddy griped good-naturedly. “Besides, you’re the head of the Auror department, Harry. It’s not like just any bloke would ask Lily out.”
“Not to mention killing Tom Riddle,” Nat added. “I’ve heard that counts for something.”
Harry smiled wryly.
“Can I see the rendering?” her dad asked, holding out his hand for the picture. He kept his other arm around Nat and she was happy to stay snuggled into his side. Her dad studied it carefully and looked back at Lily. “This is an excellent job, Nat, as always. I agree that you’ve got her nailed. You drew this?” he looked over to James who nodded. “Quite a talent you have, young man.” Then she felt her dad stiffen as he looked at Teddy who was wearing a playful grin. “What on earth have you done to your face?”
Everyone, except her dad, laughed while Teddy explained.
Her mother arrived shortly before dinner with Al’s Uncle Ron. Her mother spent several minutes with her before setting to work helping Ginny finish up the dinner preparations. When Nat looked in on them she saw them laughing and talking.
Dinner was fantastic and the conversation flowed easily around them. Her parents knew how to fit in anywhere, but they seemed to have a genuine connection to Al’s family even though they were Muggles. After dinner Audrey and Bill came by to talk about what had happened to Nat.
“Bill Weasley,” Bill said, holding out a hand to shake her father’s.
“Curtis Parker, my wife Julienne,” her father said, studying Bill’s scarred face. “Animal attack?”
“Curtis!” Her mother gently smacked his arm. “It’s rude to ask!”
Bill laughed, “I’d have expected him to ask, Mrs. Parker. Yeah, in a manner of speaking it was an animal.”
“Julienne, please,” her mother said as they sat down around the sitting room. Nat sat between her parents, something that she didn’t get to do often.
“I’m Audrey Weasley, a Healer, which is like a doctor,” she explained. “I noticed yesterday how small Nat is for her age, although she doesn’t appear to have achondroplasia. Then she said she’d been in Egypt which got me thinking.” Audrey smiled kindly at Nat. “Then I watched her trip and noticed just how bad her balance was and I asked to examine her. She told us about getting lost in the tomb when she was three and ending up in hospital for several weeks.”
Her mum and dad both let out a groan. “Those were the longest two days of our lives.”
“Was she average sized before that?” Audrey asked and her parents nodded. “So the recurrent ear infections began after, as I suspected. Most people who are cursed with Mortuorum Ambulantum are cured reasonably quickly, but Nat’s had this curse working in her for eight years, so it’s had time to do some damage. The honest truth is that I’ve never seen a case this advanced and we don’t really know what problems it might cause later on. I’m going to do some research, but it will take time. She might be a unique case. What I see in her ears is that there is scar tissue still present, but it is definitely improved. I will, of course, continue to monitor her in the months and years.”
“Most Muggles who are cursed end up dying,” Bill told them. “The curse attacks the adrenal system, which produces hormones in the body. Another side effect is damage to the ear canal. That leads to balance issues. The victims eventually fall one too many times because of their balance being damaged and fall off a cliff. Because Nat is magical, her magic would have saved her from the worst falls.”
Nat reached for her parents’ hands and held them, not wanting them to be scared. “I haven’t tripped once today, though, and I was able to go over three hours between breakfast and lunch without feeling bad.”
“That’s excellent,” Audrey said, clearly pleased.
Her dad cleared his throat. “So how did you examine her? With your, erm, wand I expect?”
“Yes,” Audrey said.
“That’s when she noticed the curse,” Bill explained, his hands folded between his knees as he leaned forward in his seat. “It’s a relatively common curse in the old Egyptian tombs. The ancient wizards would put it on to keep the Muggles out and doing them in before they could loot the tomb. They’d be cursed with recurrent and severe ear infections that would damage their balance and hearing. Left alone to work it rapidly weakens the adrenal system, which is why she’s hypoglycemic and so small. It might have left scarring on other systems in her body, but we’re not sure. As Audrey said, she’s one-of-a-kind. We’ve removed the curse and fixed a lot of the scar tissue, and Audrey gave her a potion that’s helped boost her glands to start working again, but some of the damage is permanent. She’s probably never going to be tall and her hypoglycemia is still present. But it’s a definite improvement.”
Nat heard her mother sniff and she saw, to her horror that her mother was crying. “Mum… don’t, I’m okay!” She leaned into her mother and wished she could say more.
“Thank you, all of you, for helping her. I’m so grateful,” her mother said.
“Yes, and thank you for coming to get us. Those Portkey things really make traveling a lot faster.” Her dad squashed her into a tight hug. “I’m glad we get this time with her.”
After dinner, Nat and Al’s parents congregated around the kitchen table drinking tea and talking while James, Lily, Al and Nat sat in the sitting room, playing wizard’s chess.
It was Al verses James. Nat and her father had been playing chess for years, but it was nothing like this. It was entertaining to watch the pieces shout instructions and warnings. She’d played a few times with Al. She was good, but she’d noticed that he and James seemed to have an instinct for playing.
“Ohhhhh,” Lily whispered excitedly. “Al’s got his check mate face on!”
Nat looked and saw the quiet triumph there.
James looked up, noting them and rolled his eyes. “All right, what am I missing, Al?”
Al pointed to the board and Nat saw how in the next move James would be in check mate. Nat wasn’t really paying attention to the game, though; instead she studied his face and the expression there. It hadn’t come over his face until after Al had James cornered. Interesting. “Does he always do that?”
“Yep,” Lily told her laughing. “It drives Uncle Ron nuts. He keeps trying to get Al to hold it in, but he never does.”
Al shrugged, sitting back. “If there isn’t anything that can change it, what’s the point?”
“Let’s spy on the parents,” James said suddenly, a mischievous glint in his eyes. He pulled something that looked like flesh colored string from his pocket and crawled over to the side of the couch.
“If Mum catches you, James…” Lily began but then moved over to him, smiling impishly.
Nat looked to Al for an explanation. “They’re called Extendable Ears. We’ll be able to hear into the kitchen. Mum and Dad don’t want us using them.”
“Oh… neat!” Nat said, taking the one James offered. She watched them snake towards the kitchen and towards the adults. She followed suit and stuck the end in her ear.
“She’s a savant about faces,” Nat’s dad was saying quietly. “I’ve never seen another person in all my years that could look at someone and age them up to whatever age I needed or deconstruct the faces and say who the parents could be or what their race would be. She’s got a gift with faces. She can do it with skulls too, but she’s better with a live face. I only get better results from a DNA test.”
“When did she start doing that?” Ginny asked.
There was a long pause and Nat guessed he was probably thinking back on it. She remembered it vividly. “I really started to notice it when she was three or four. She’d be toddling around when I was working with the sketch artists and she’d always take a look at the faces we were doing. There were times when she’d say ‘das not wight, Daddy. Da nose isn’t long enough.’” He sighed. “I can still remember her saying it, just that way. She was always right.”
“That’s amazing,” Harry said, sounding awed. Nat felt her cheeks flush.
“As soon as she figured out how to use the computer she starting using it to create the faces,” her dad said.
Her mum laughed. “It was good fun to watch her try to teach Curtis how to use the software. She was five! He never did get it. Nat would get anyone working with him to help her learn new things. He had several interns who taught her quite a lot.”
“She’s an amazing kid,” Ginny said again. “She talks like an adult.”
“We took her to a psychologist a few times, especially since she’s been exposed to a lot of things that most children wouldn’t normally see,” her mother told them.
Nat looked over at Al, who was studying her as he listened to their parents talking.
“We didn’t want her to be hurt by the work,” her dad explained. “The doctor spent a lot of time talking to her and said that she’s fairly well adjusted, clearly brilliant, and that she’s very typical of a homeschooled child, especially for an only child. They tend to talk more like an adult and don’t have problems talking to a wide range of people. Nat’s just… different… but in a very good way. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve asked for her expert opinion on several cases and been astounded by the fact that I consider her an expert even though she’s a child and has had no formal schooling on the subject. There are times when I look back and wonder if I shouldn’t have… if she’d have been better at a boarding school, but I believe she can understand just how much she’s helped people and that someday that will mean a lot to her.”
Nat pulled the Extendable Ear from her ear. She didn’t really want to hear anymore. She saw Al do the same and shortly after James and Lily. She crawled back over towards the couches and sat with her back against them, staring into the fire. They all sat around her, Al on her right side. He took her hand in his. “You okay?”
“It was really hard some days,” Nat whispered, seeing the flames dance. “I have seen a baby who had been murdered… well, just her skeleton really. It was tough, but I got an idea of what the parents might have looked like long before the DNA could come back. The police were able to catch them using facial recognition software from the drawing I came up with on the computer. I just… I see them. I see them for what they are.” She shuddered. “It was important work and I’m glad I did it, but I’m never going to get the image of that baby’s skull out of my head.”
Al’s arms came around her first, then James on her other side and finally Lily throwing herself on top of the pile in an awkward and amazing hug. Finally Lily sat back on her heals and asked, “What’s a savant?”
“Genius,” Al said quietly. “Nat’s a genius.”
“Well, we knew that,” Lily said, rolling her eyes and reaching for her mug of hot cocoa. “Why can’t they use normal words?”
“I’m not a genius,” Nat corrected. “I’m gifted, but not a genius. I just have an eye for faces, like my dad said. And,” she added with a small smile. “They didn’t expect us to be spying on them so why would they use easier words?”
“You’re a genius with languages, too,” James reminded her, ignoring her jab that they’d been spying. He went back to the chess board and started to reset. “Can you learn to speak Mermish because I have several questions about the giant–”
“Bedtime, you lot!” Ginny called, coming into the room. She eyed Nat and Al who were still sitting close together on the floor. “You two okay?’
Al answered for them. “Never better, Mum.”
Nat gave her parents hugs and went to bed not long after with Lily. She crawled into bed, snuggling under the soft, warm covers. “Night, Lily.”
“Night,” Lily said. She was quiet for almost five minutes and Nat was almost asleep when she spoke again. “Am I really going to be that beautiful?”
Nat yawned and rolled onto her side. “Yeah, you will be. You already are. As long as you remember that beauty is as beauty does, you’ll have the boys throwing themselves at your feet.”
There was a long pause before Lily asked, “What does that mean exactly?”
“Treat people well or it won’t matter what your face looks like– no one will want to be around you,” Nat explained. “Not that I think you’ll have a problem, though. You’re nice.”
“Still, I’ll remember that.” Lily let out a sigh. “Thanks, Nat.”
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