|SIYE Time:12:33 on 26th September 2017|
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: 72735; Chapter Total: 2825
Awards: View Trophy Room
Have you checked out the free preview of my book? Check my profile!!!!! Pretty please :D I made the top 50 in young adult books list on amazon. Thank you to everyone who has.
So this story... I haven't written anymore, because quite frankly my head is stuck in the original. Never fear, as soon I'm through with the other, I will focus on this one. Full stop, tons of work on it. Promise. You can show your support for me by reading the free chapter of my book on amazon ;)
I have to thank Arnel for being a rock star beta!
Last, there is THIS chapter and NEXT chapter this still focus heavily on Nat, then it switches. Have patience dear readers, I promise we'll swap it up. I need to get some stuff settled with her first, as I'm setting a stage for a very big, complicated, looooooong plot. It'll be worth it, just hang tight.
Tell me what you think! Thank you for all the fun reviews everyone! ~Sarah
Her parents could only stay for two days, but they were an amazing two days. Nat went flying with Al to show her parents and although they were a tad uncomfortable about it, they quickly overcame it. Mostly, Nat knew, because Al refused to go very fast while they were watching.
Her parents and Al’s parents rubbed along really well and when Rose’s parents came over the night before they left, the six of them stayed up late laughing and talking. Nat heard Ginny say to her mum that it was as if they’d known them forever, which Nat could appreciate. She felt the same way about Al, Rose and Scorpius. There was an almost instant connection between the four of them.
“My turn,” Rose said as Nat fiddled with her dad’s laptop on their last day there. He’d brought it along, ostensibly to show her something he’d discovered on this really old skeleton, but Nat knew it was because he’d lost several files and needed her to find them. Harry and Hermione had fiddled with it till they coaxed it into working in the magical house. She was showing several of the Weasley cousins the aging software.
Rose sat in front of the laptop and Nat took her picture using the computer’s built in camera. She played with it for a while and eventually an image took shape, showing Rose at eighteen. “You look like your mum, but I figured you would. This software is really advanced, too. I can modify the image a lot more than I used to with the older version. It used to take a long time to get an accurate picture and even then it was still guess work with some science.”
“You look good, Rose,” Fred told her.
“What about you, Nat?” Al asked. “You’ve done everyone else.”
Nat went to the desk top and pulled up the folder with her stored pictures. “I did mine ages ago. It’s nothing special, really. I probably won’t change much.” She clicked on the file and pulled it up. “I changed a lot from my baby pictures. If I age myself before I fell in the tomb I grow up to be pretty much exactly like my mum, but something must have gotten mixed up when I got cursed. I didn’t put it together until yesterday what must have happened. See, this is what I’ll turn into now.” The picture had pulled up, showing her straight hair around her small, heart-shaped face. Her nose was too small, her eyes too big, and her cheeks to high and her mouth too wide.
“You sort of look like one of those Muggle pixies that we saw at Euro Disney last year,” Rose told her.
Nat cocked her head to the side. “You’re right, sort of. Mostly it’s in the shape of my face and thankfully without the pointed ears. And this one,” she went back to the folder, “is a rendering from a picture from when I was three, before the curse.” She clicked it and a tall, pretty woman who looked remarkably like her mother, but with her father’s eyes and nose, appeared.
“Wow, that is different,” Al said, whistling.
“You would have been so pretty,” James said and Rose and Roxy both hit him hard. “OW! Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way, I just…”
“I know, James. It’s okay,” Nat said, closing the files, trying to not let James’ words sting. “It is what it is and no sense being upset by it. I’m just glad to know what happened. I was really confused before.” She grinned at them. “So that’s what I did in my free time growing up.”
Nat had to work hard not to cry that evening when she hugged her parents. “We’re both going to make it back to London for your Easter holiday,” her mum promised. “I’ve already told my boss that’s not negotiable since it’s also your twelfth birthday.”
“We love you, Peanut,” her dad said. “I wish we didn’t have to get back to work.”
The Potter and Weasley kids refused to let her brood over her parents and it was quickly decided that they were going to have a game of what they called ‘midnight hide and go seek’. They Floo called all the cousins and nearly everyone in the family decided to join in and shortly after dinner, Nat found herself dress in all black in the Potter’s large dining room with the rest of the family. They looked like a motley crew about to attend a funeral. Only Aunt Audrey couldn’t come because she was on call that night at St. Mungo’s. Even Teddy had come.
“The rules are simple,” Harry told her. “It’s a normal game of hide and go seek with a few twists. One person is ‘it’ and the rest scatter to hide. The person who is ‘it’ gives the rest of the family a one minute head start before going out to search. The person who is ‘it’ tries to find and tag as many people as possible and those that get tagged also go seek out the others who are hidden. After five minutes of play Gran will call out and those who haven’t been tagged have to leave their hiding places and try to make it back safely here to the table where Gran will be waiting. That’s the dangerous time since it’s easier to get caught then. Either the last person not tagged, or the first person back to the table wins. We play it in pitch darkness and the boundaries are already marked around the yard, through the woods, with red lights. You won’t be able to go past the line.”
“Gran is the referee and her word is final,” Grandad Weasley said cheerfully, donning a black cap over his silver hair.
“Do you do this often?” Nat asked, seeing the excitement on everyone’s faces, including all the mums.
They all nodded. “Every chance we get,” Dominique assured her.
“Who’s ‘it’ first?” Nat asked, but Ron has already put a hat in front of his mother, who drew out a name.
“Percy is ‘it’ first,” she said. “I’ll give the signal in one minute for Percy to start.”
Nat felt Al take her hand in his.
“Go,” Gran Molly said and Al pulled her behind him, out of the house.
Nat couldn’t ever remember having more fun in her life. Her heart raced every time they were nearly caught, and they laughed when they were caught and they caught others and when the dads and Ginny would jinx each other trying to get back first. Nat and Al only once managed to make it back to the table without getting tagged, although Lucy beat them there by about thirty seconds. They sat with Gran Molly and waited for the others to get back, breathless with excitement. “How did you come up with this?”
“It was George, well really it was Luna, but you don’t know her,” Gran told her. “All of them were having trouble after the final battle and grieving. George was really down and Luna told us about this game she and her father would play. By the end of the first night everyone loved it.” Gran sighed, but it wasn’t a sad sigh, more of a remembrance. “It was good to watch. They kept it up, playing nearly every time we all got together. I’ve always been the referee and sometimes the babyminder. Just as soon as Teddy was two Harry had him out there playing as well. Teddy would giggle or talk and give them away, but the others tended to let Harry escape with him, chasing slowly while Teddy shrieked with laughter.”
Nat tried to picture Teddy as a baby and formed a clear image of the toddler in Harry’s arms, running around in the dark. It was a good image. “This is so much fun.”
When they finally fell in to bed, well after midnight, Nat was exhausted and happy, even though she missed her parents. It was Christmas Eve the next day and everyone would be back Christmas Day for presents and a huge dinner. She let out a contented sigh and fell asleep immediately.
Christmas Eve was quiet around the Potter house during the morning. They’d all slept in late from their game the night before, and they sat around in the living room playing Exploding Snap. They were on their fourth game when the fireplace roared to life and Scorpius stumbled out.
“Hey,” Al said, looking surprised. “I thought you said you couldn’t come.”
Scorpius looked unsure for a moment before sitting down with them. “I’d had enough. My dad isn’t speaking to me, and my mum is mad at him for not speaking to me. She told me I could come over for a while when I asked. I needed to get away from him. Sorry I didn’t send an owl to check before. I was about ready to lose it.”
“Did I hear–”
Nat turned to see Ginny frozen in the doorway, surprise written on her face, but it faded quickly. A small smile came to her lips.
“Mum, this is Scorpius,” Al said, introducing him.
“Hello,” Ginny said. “Al said you might come. I’m glad you could make it.”
“Thank you,” Scorpius said, his cheeks a little pink.
Ginny nodded. “Lunch will be in about twenty minutes you lot. I’ll call you in a few to come set the table.”
“I’m Lily,” Lily said, holding out her hand. Scorpius shook it and said hello.
“You should have been here last night,” James told him. “We played midnight hide and go seek.”
“What’s that?” Scorpius asked, picking up one of the exploding snap cards.
Nat played her next card while Lily explained the game. “It’s so much fun! We’ll have to let you know next time we play.”
“I’ve never had so much fun,” Nat told him, unable to contain her grin.
Scorpius grinned back, and Nat could tell he wanted to try it. “Hopefully, my dad will just disown me and I’ll be able to do whatever I like.”
Before anyone could comment the whole pile of cards blew up, and singed Al’s sleeve.
After lunch they went out back to fly. Nat tried to get on a broom by herself, but once again the broom dumped her off. “That is not fair,” Nat grumbled as she climbed onto Al’s broom with him. “I’m loads better now that I’m not cursed.”
“It’s all right, Nat. I don’t mind,” Al assured her. “We can go really fast today.”
They flew until nearly three o’clock when it started to snow. They went in for hot chocolate and to warm up. Nat sipped at some unsweetened herbal tea, as they sat around the kitchen table, chatting happily.
“I’ve got to go,” Scorpius said finally. “I promised Mum I’d be back by four o’clock.”
“Come back any time,” Ginny told him sincerely and he grinned at her. “We enjoyed having you.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Potter. I’ll see you later.”
Harry arrived home about an hour later and was told about their house guest. He only raised an eyebrow at the name, but seemed reassured by Ginny’s words that he was a nice boy. They ate a quiet supper and everyone turned in early, knowing that the whole family would arrive around ten the next morning for gifts. They didn’t do gifts on the end of the bed like most families. Instead they’d all gather and exchange gifts together around the tree.
“He was nice,” Ginny told Harry as she chopped onions next to her husband, while he diced potatoes. While she could have done it quickly with magic, they enjoyed this time together to talk and reconnect. There was a very reasonable chance that none of the children would wander in to the kitchen. They’d have been put to work. “Honestly, Harry, I was so surprised, but he’s just a normal kid. He looked so scared, though. I think he thought I was going to kick him out.”
“I trust you,” Harry assured her quietly. “I just…” his voice faded off.
She turned to look at him, trying to read his expression. “What if your grandparents had turned Sirius away? What if Narcissa hadn’t spared your life in the forest? You’d be dead. She saved you by not revealing you to Voldemort.”
“You’re right,” he said firmly, dumping the potatoes in a pot. “I want to get to know him better, though. We should invite him over when I can actually meet him.”
“We will this summer,” Ginny promised, sniffing from the onion odor. “I think you’ll like him, and if he comes during the day I can send you a message and you can come home to meet him.”
Harry nodded slowly. “I went back through the box.”
She frowned, trying to figure out what he meant. “That box?”
“The records of what happened,” he told her quietly. “I looked through all the case notes. I know it can’t have been her who sent the note since she’d dead and I’m still getting them, but I’m constantly drawn back to it.”
“Luv,” Ginny said gently, putting her arms around his waist and pulling him in tight. “You have fantastic instincts. Maybe there is something there to find.”
He sighed heavily, and laid his cheek on the top of her head. “I keep circling back to her, and wondering if she had an accomplice. I thought maybe her sister, you know, Goyle’s mum, but she died a few years ago. I’ve investigated every avenue and I can’t see where else I can look.”
“Do you want to talk to Hermione?” she probed, eyeing him curiously. “She is the Deputy Head of the Magical Law Enforcement, after all.”
Harry shook his head. “I have nothing to go on except those stupid notes. We’ve got no leads on them, at all. She’s not going to have any more insight than we’ve had. I just… I don’t want to make a move without having something.” He ran a hand through his hair, standing it even further on end. “I can’t explain it properly.”
She stood on tiptoes and gently brushed his mouth with hers. “I trust you. You’ll figure it out someday, and in the meantime you’ll keep us safe.”
“More security around the house,” Harry said after a moment pause, not really looking at her now. “After the kids go back to school, so that they don’t ask questions.”
“Lily?” Ginny asked, but needn’t have. She knew Lily wouldn’t question her father doing something around the house. She accepted those things, where as her curious brothers would want to know every detail.
His troubled eyes met hers. “Am I doing the right thing?”
“I don’t know,” she licked her lips, and held his gaze. “I trust you, though. You’ll figure it out, and if you don’t then we’ll realize that it wasn’t worth fretting over.”
“Mum!” James yelled, skidding in to the kitchen. “I’m starving.”
“Set the table,” Ginny and Harry said in unison.
James rolled his eyes, and walked out hollering, “Al! Mum says set the table.”
He was gone before they could scold him.
The next morning everyone was in for a surprise. Nat, Al and Lily padded down to the living room and found a large, redheaded man sleeping under a quilt on the sofa.
Lily squealed and threw herself onto the man, who grunted and woke up with a start. “UNCLE CHARLIE!!!”
Shortly thereafter Harry, Ginny and James came running in to see what the commotion was about and Nat realized immediately that Charlie was not expected at all this Christmas. After hugs were exchanged and she was introduced, Charlie explained. “Wanted to surprise Mum,” Charlie told them, while Lily snuggled in his arms. “Can’t kip on her sofa if I’m going to surprise her. You were all asleep when I got in last night so I thought I’d just see you this morning.”
They talked and laughed over breakfast. Everyone busted up when Ginny put her freezing hands on Charlie’s arm to warm them up and he started swearing and pushed her over to Harry. Nat grinned as she watched Harry manfully tolerate her freezing fingers on his cheeks. “It’s real love when a bloke will put up with this,” she said winking at Lily and Nat.
“Yeah, not for brothers, Smidge,” Charlie said to her as he walked over to the table to sit down.
Nat was sitting next to Al. She leaned over to him and said, “That’s how big Fred will be in a few years; you too if you work at it. You’ve all got the same general bone structure.”
“Come again?” Charlie asked.
Nat blushed. She hadn’t realized he was listening. “Erm, bone structure… you, Mr. George, Fred and Al all have the same body architecture. I was telling Al that’s what he’s going to look like if he works at it.”
“I thought George told you to call him the holey one?” Ginny mused.
Harry ignored his wife’s joke. “Really?” he questioned, looking skeptical. “Al looks more like me, I think.”
“His face yes, but his body no. James has your build. It’s in the shoulder breath and the width of their bones. James is going to have your build, maybe a bit taller, but Al’s bones are thicker than James’ bones.” She grabbed Al’s wrist and held it up, along with hers. “See how much wider it is? His wrist is over twice mine. Even though he’s skinny now, he’s going to grow into the bones. The bones don’t lie.”
Charlie was goggling at her and Lily giggled. “Her dad is a world famous Muggle bone man. He knows all about people and what they’ll look like and guess what, Uncle Charlie! I’m going to be extremely beautiful, just like Aunt Fleur! Nat showed James how to draw my picture of what I’ll look like. I’m thinking about having twenty boyfriends when I get to Hogwarts.”
Nat had to bite hard on her cheek to keep from laughing and she saw that Lily’s mum was having the same problem. Lily was stringing them along for all it was worth and Nat could see that Charlie had taken the bait. “I don’t think so, Lily! You’re not dating until you’re at least forty.” He turned to Harry, who was looking pale and horrified. “Back me up, here! Maybe she should be schooled at home.”
“I suggested it,” Harry sighed. “Gin says she’s going to Hogwarts.”
“Ginny,” Charlie said, trying to sound reasonable. “Boys are no good. The whole lot of us are rotten to the core. You can’t let Lily go to school! What about an all witches school, then?”
“There aren’t any in Europe, Charlie. She’s going to Hogwarts,” Ginny said firmly. “I went and I was just fine.”
Harry went even paler. “Oh bloody- no, no she’s not going! I know what happened with you and I’m not–” he cut off mid-sentence blushing.
Charlie was glaring at him. “What do you mean you–”
“Excuse me,” Ginny interrupted calmly. “She’s going to Hogwarts you two. She’ll have a great time, maybe have a few boyfriends, play Quidditch, learn something and graduate. End of discussion.” Ginny grinned at her daughter. “Lily Luna, it’s not nice to wind up your dad and uncle. You hold an important position, being the baby girl of the family. They’re terribly frail where you’re concerned. Best give it a rest for now.”
“Hey!” Charlie said, but Harry seemed to agree with his wife.
Nat helped clean up from breakfast and watched avidly as Ginny showed her how magical cooking was different from Muggle cooking. Before long she was back into the groove of preparing food. “We typically had a cook wherever we went. My dad liked to hire local women who often wouldn’t get as good a job otherwise and we always ended up with fantastic local food. I loved hanging out in the kitchen with them, learning to prepare different dishes.”
“You are a fascinating kid, Nat,” Ginny told her affectionately. “You have so many different interests. I can see why Al and Rose are so fond of you.”
Nat blushed. “I’m fond of them, too. I’ve not really had friends that I’ll get to keep for longer than a few months.”
“I heard from Rose and Fred,” Ginny continued, “that you’re part of the reason that James has settled down a bit.”
Nat eyed her warily, not sure if she was in for it or not. Ginny didn’t seem angry, but she could imagine that when provoked that Al’s mum would have quite the temper. “Erm…”
Mrs. Potter turned to her, a twinkle in her eyes and Nat relaxed. “I’m not angry. Fred told me that you convinced him to turn James’ underpants pink.”
“With flowers,” Nat added before snapping her mouth shut. She relaxed when she saw the older woman smiling. “He just wouldn’t stop going on about being on the Quidditch team!"
“I gathered,” Ginny said resignedly. “I love him to bits, but from everything I’ve heard he’s just like his namesake, Harry’s father. You’ve had a good influence on Al as well. When he wrote and said that he’d made a friend who shut James up and helped him stand up to his brother… well, that cinched it. I wanted to meet you. You wouldn’t know it now, but James used to torment Al all the time. I’ve not seen him really pick on him much.”
“James isn’t so bad,” Nat said, resuming cutting the onions, and sniffing back the tears that sprang up from the powerful fumes. “He just needed to remember that he wasn’t the only one who could dish it out.”
Nat tensed for a split second as Ginny’s arm came around her shoulder for a quick half hug, but then relaxed. “Yes, but only Lily, Fred and Dominique have ever dished it back to James. You’ve given Al the courage to stand up for himself.”
Nat kept chopping up onions as she spoke. “I dunno about that… but anyway Al helps me all the time. He’s kept me out of the hospital wing more times than I can count. He’s got excellent reflexes and always manages to catch me before I hit the floor or a wall or the stairs…”
“I’d noticed that,” his mother agreed. Nat glanced at her quickly, not sure how to read her tone, but Ginny went on to another subject. “You’ve led an interesting life. Most kids haven’t ever left their own country, but you’ve been everywhere and you know things most adults will never know. For instance, you seem like a very capable chef, especially for someone so clumsy. You’re very dexterous with your hands.”
Nat grinned. “Thankfully it’s mostly my feet that get me in trouble, not my hands. I love to learn. It keeps life interesting. It doesn’t even matter what I’m learning. A lot of the cooks my dad hired were usually really great about me helping them because most of them had kids so it was refreshing to be around someone who didn’t mind me much. Many of Dad’s colleagues didn’t want me around because they were all confirmed bachelors, or so my dad said.” She dumped a pile of diced onions into a bowl. “I’m glad Dad liked having me there. He’s a great teacher, always willing to show me what he was doing and explain it to me.” Nat froze as she heard a scream from the living room.
“That will be Gran seeing Charlie,” Ginny told her with a wink.
Lunch was served at eleven o’clock and the whole crew tucked in. Nat had convinced Mrs. Potter to let her make traditional Korean orange chicken and everyone was raving over it, much to her delight. She’d wanted to give something back to them for all they’d done for her. They’d taken her in so she didn’t have to spend Christmas alone, rid her of a debilitating curse, and even gave her two wonderful days with her parents. Nat thought that the least she could do was make something for them.
“This is fantastic,” Ron said, already on his fourth helping. “It’s not anything like what you’d get at a restaurant.”
“It’s all in what you put in it,” Nat said, blushing.
After lunch Teddy arrived with his grandmother and they gathered near the large tree in the living room to open gifts. Nat curled up at the foot of one of the couches, laughing with everyone as they opened gifts and threw wrapping paper at each other.
“Here,” Al said, handing her a gift. “This is from Rose and me.”
“Thanks,” Nat said, chewing on her lip and opening the paper to see a small, hand held mirror. “It’s nice,” she told him honestly.
“That’s a two-way mirror… well, four-way,” Rose told her. “I asked Mum to make them for us. You’ll be heading all over the world during the summers and this way we can all talk and keep up with each other. Owls take weeks to make it around the world. Mum says it will work just like Skype or like FaceTime on the iPad. Al, Scorpius and I have one as well. That way Scorpius won’t have to hear it from his dad if we want to talk. ”
Nat’s lower lip began to tremble and tears prickled at her eyes. She felt Rose’s arms go around her shoulders. “Thank you. I… this is the best gift. I didn’t want to wait weeks to hear from you this summer.”
She heard someone clear their throat and she looked up to see Hermione smiling. “I do have a condition on those mirrors. You’re not allowed to use them during class or during detentions if you ever wind up in detention.”
Nat let out a watery giggle. “Deal.”
Nat gave Al and Rose their gifts, something she’d had to badger James into helping her with, but it had been worth it. It was a hand drawn picture of the four of them, Al, Rose, Scorpius and her, aged up to around twenty, standing arm in arm. She’d had James write “To the Future” on the bottom and she’d then had Ginny help her make copies. It had Scorpius on the left, Rose then Nat in the middle, and Al on the other end.
“I wanted to give you something that only I could really give you. I gave one to Scorpius too.” Nat explained, feeling inexplicably shy. She shot James an appreciative look. “James did a good job drawing them for me.”
“It’s great,” Al told her.
“We’ll have to hang on to these until we are twenty and then pose for a camera and put them side by side,” Rose exclaimed enthusiastically. Al stared at her dumbly. “Okay, probably I’m the only one who’ll want to do that.”
Al’s cousin Molly leaned over Rose’s shoulder to look at the picture. “Is this right? Is Rose really going to be that tall?”
“Let’s see,” Charlie said, holding out a hand.
“She’s not that tall, actually,” Nat said sheepishly, casting Rose an apologetic look. “She’s only slightly taller than average now. She just looks really tall next to me. Scorpius will be a little taller than her and Al.”
Fleur took the picture from her husband. “Mon Dieu! Look at them.”
Harry took Al’s copy to examine it. “Most people have to actually wait to grow up to see how they’re going to turn out, or take an aging potion. This is quite a talent you’ve got. How tall will you be Nat?”
Nat sighed heavily. “If I start really growing I might get close to five feet, which is about a meter and a half, but I probably won’t. Odds are good I’ll be a couple inches below that.”
George took it next. “Well, you four make quite the set.”
They were almost done with gifts when Gran Molly stood up to start handing out lumpy packages. “Excellent,” Al whispered next to her. “Weasley jumpers.”
Gran moved around the circle and handed one to Nat. “When I wrote to Rose she said you’re about Lily’s size, but I think it might be a little big.”
“I don’t mind,” Nat said, overwhelmed. “Thank you!” she said, hopping to her feet and throwing her arms around the older woman. “Thank you so much!” The jumper wasn’t even opened, but that didn’t matter. It was currently being squashed between them.
“You’re welcome,” Gran said, holding onto her, and giving her a hard hug back. When they broke off, she didn’t fully let go but cupped Nat’s cheek with her soft hand. “You’re a good girl, Natalie.”
Nat sniffed and opened her jumper along with everyone else after Gran had finished handing them all out. She beamed as she pulled the plum jumper over her head and rolled the sleeves back a bit. It was warm and soft and she felt like she belonged. She settled back on the floor next to Al. She grinned at him and he grinned back before plucking at the hem of her sweater. “It’s a dress on you.”
If Nat hadn’t rolled her eyes and looked away from him for a split second she’d have missed the look Ginny, Hermione and Gran exchanged between them. It was an odd mix between shock and knowing. What does that mean? she thought.
“Nat?” Al caught her attention.
She swatted at his hand away playfully. “Doesn’t matter, Al. I think it’s perfect.”
Harry and Ginny walked hand in hand up the stairs of their quiet house. The excitement of Christmas was over and everyone was settled in for the night. The kitchen had been put to rights, the presents stored and all was still as the world was blanketed in thickly falling snow.
Harry closed the door behind them and Ginny went over to the bed and crawled in, sitting with her back propped up against the headboard to watch Harry as he changed into sweat pants and a t-shirt. They had been married for almost twenty years and he still had the ability to turn her insides to mush. When he looked over she grinned at him. “What’s up with you?” he asked, pulling on his shirt and padding over. “Are you sleeping in those clothes?”
“Al is completely gone over Natalie,” Ginny told him and she enjoyed watched the shock wash over his face.
Almost instantly his expression turned skeptical. “Come on, Gin,” he shook his as he sat on the edge of the bed and laced his fingers in hers. “They’re eleven. Don’t you think it’s a bit early to be matchmaking?”
“I’m not matchmaking,” she correctly mildly. “Al is a completely different kid around her.”
Harry hesitated, “Well… I mean, he seems like he’s come out of his shell some, but… Ginny, they’re eleven!”
“That is not the son we sent off to school,” Ginny pointed out stubbornly. “I hardly recognized him even though I’ve been seeing the shift in his letters.”
“I guess you’re right,” he said. “She does seem to bring something out in him, but she’s definitely an odd child.”
“Oh, yeah,” Ginny agreed laughing. “But in the best kinds of ways. I didn’t know what to expect when we met her but here she is, this tiny little dynamo who has the poise of someone so much older. She’s funny, smart, respectful and I really like her. I really like her parents, too.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed. “They were great. Curtis and I had a good time at a pub before the Portkey left. The whole traveling by magic thing didn’t throw him as much as I was expecting.” Sighing Harry lay down with his head in her lap so she could stroke her fingers through his hair. “She is titchy, though. She even makes Lily look like a giant, and that’s not really easy to do since Lily is small like you.”
Ginny scrunched up her nose, pretending to glare at him. “I am not small.”
“Well,” Harry said giving her a once over from his limited vantage point. “Well… not small in certain places.”
“You…” Ginny said, leaning over to kiss him. “You are trouble, Potter.”
“Ah, but you knew that when you married me,” Harry reminded her. “I’ve always been trouble.” They kissed again. “Speaking of marrying me, what do you want to do for our twenty year anniversary? It’s only a few months off.”
Ginny’s mind went almost immediately out to the little grave across the stream, to their first child. When she thought of their wedding, Hope always came to her mind. “Yeah…”
“Gin,” Harry sat up and pulled her into his arms. “I didn’t mean to make you sad.”
“No,” Ginny said, wrapping her arms around his trim waist thankful that he could read her so well. “No, you didn’t. I’m not sad. It’s just hard to believe that if she’d lived that she’d be about to turn nineteen.”
Harry gently kissed her temple. “Time has flown by.”
“The kids are going to ask more questions soon,” she said, burying her nose in his soft shirt. “Honestly, I’m amazed that they haven’t yet. If they do the math they’ll figure out I was sixteen when we got married.”
Harry sighed and pulled her backwards so that they fell back onto the bed with Ginny half-sprawled across him. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
“I don’t want them to know the whole story,” she admitted with a hitch in her voice. “I don’t want any of them to hear just how awful people can be.”
He ran a hand through her hair, letting it fall gently through his fingers. “Then we don’t tell them the full story.”
“We can’t lie to them, Harry,” she huffed. “Just because I don’t want them to know, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the truth. Just… just maybe not the truth any time soon.”
Harry shifted and pulled her more fully against her. “Teddy took it okay,” he reminded her gently. “Well, he cried some, but he understood.”
That had been one of the hardest talks Ginny had ever sat through. Teddy had known about Hope already. He’d seen her grave all his life because he was in and out of their backyard as much as his own. When he’d finally learned to read he’d asked her and she’d told him about the baby they had lost. It was very brief details, but enough that he could understand. When he was fifteen he finally did the math and worked out just how young Ginny had been, he’d gone straight to them for some answers.
Harry had told him the truth. Ginny had tried not to cry, but she hadn’t managed it and by the end of the story Teddy was crying on her shoulder, his tall, lanky frame shaking.
“How did you do it?” Teddy asked. “I’m going to be sixteen soon and I can’t even imagine being in that position.”
Harry had looked at him steadily and had replied softly, “Just make sure you don’t put anyone in that position, yourself included.”
Teddy understood completely.
“Bill asked me to talk to Teddy,” Harry said, snapping Ginny back to the present. “He’s worried about Victoire.”
“What did you tell him?” Ginny said, eyeing him.
Harry shrugged. “I told him that Teddy knows the truth about Hope and that he didn’t have to worry about it.”
Sighing heavily, she nodded and slowly rose up from the bed to change into her sleepwear. “Still, you should have that talk with Teddy before too long. They’re getting to be that age and it’s looking like they’re going to stick it out. I’m sort of surprised at how long they’ve been together.”
“I will,” Harry assured her as he slid under the quilt. “Definitely before she comes home this summer now that she’s of age and finishing school, but let’s go back to Al.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Look, I’m not saying they’re going to get married or anything. I’m just saying that he’s smitten with her, even if he doesn’t know it and I’m inclined to think that he doesn’t or he’d be shy around her.” Ginny padded back over and crawled in next to him, cuddling up to his side. “Mum and Hermione also saw it. He’s careful with her and very aware of her. Hermione said it’s like watching how you are with me. You really didn’t see anything?”
Harry rolled until he was half on top of her and kissed the tip of her nose. “What was there to see?”
“She loves flying,” Ginny smirked. “He loves taking her flying.”
“Well, if that isn’t a marriage proposal I don’t know what is,” Harry said dryly. “Let’s send out the invitations.”
“You mark my words, Harry. She’s going to have a major impact on him, more than she already has.”
Her husband bent again, nuzzling her neck. “If you say so.”
“I want to go to Ireland for our anniversary,” she told him, tilting her head so he could get to that spot she loved behind her ear. “Let’s leave Lily with Ron and Hermione and spend a weekend away.”
“I was thinking a whole week,” Harry murmured as he made his way down to her collarbone.
“I like the way you think.”
“Look at the snow!” Nat said the next morning. “It’s so beautiful.”
“Snowball fight!” James shouted as he came into the kitchen and looked out the window. “I’m going to get the cousins.”
The fight was intense and fiercely competitive.
Nat ran across the bridge, over the almost completely frozen stream with Al hot on her heels, snowball in hand. Nat’s foot hit an exposed tree branch and she fell giggling into a pile of snow next to a large oak tree.
Al flopped next to her, laughing. “I think I win this round.”
“You won the last round,” Nat panted. “Come on, we have to get a move on before we get ambushed”. She put her hand down and it slipped on something under the snow. “What’s that?”
Al frowned and then comprehension crossed his face as he pushed the snow away from a grave marker.
‘Hope Potter 23rd August 1998’
“It’s my sister’s grave. My mum had a miscarriage,” Al explained. “She doesn’t talk about it much and when she does mention it, she cries.”
Nat stared at the name and date, her mind racing as the dates and math started to filter in. She didn’t know exactly how old Al’s mum was, but Nat was reasonably certain she wasn’t more than thirty four or thirty five. “That’s sad. I’m sorry, Al.”
Al nodded, and stood. He held out his hand and hoisted her onto her feet. “It was a long time ago.”
“Yeah,” Nat agreed and watched his face. He didn’t seem to realize that his mum had been a teenager when she’d gotten pregnant.
A snowball hit Al in the back of the head and the fight was back on.
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