|SIYE Time:15:09 on 22nd October 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: 96440; Chapter Total: 3119
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thank you, Arnel, for all of your help! You are a rock star :D
I hope you enjoy the chapter. Please check out my original work. If you look in my profile, you'll see the links to my book. My second book will be on sale/presale shortly. If you like my stories, you'll like my original.
Thank you for all of your support! Let me know what you're thinking about The Space Between :)
Winter melted in to spring as their classes picked up and the competition between the houses heated up. Gryffindor beat Hufflepuff in the Quidditch match, but only just. James was still being annoying about it, but Al was getting better at ignoring his older brother. James’ taunts and jabs didn’t hurt quite as much with his friends around all the time.
He, Scorpius, Rose and Nat walked down to breakfast on the last school day before the Easter holidays to find the post already waiting for them and a big, fat letter for Nat from her dad. “He’s getting me from the train,” she said between bites as she read through it quickly. “Mum will be here on Sunday for my birthday.”
“That will be nice,” Rose said helping herself to some eggs. “Come on, we’re going to be late for Defense.”
They exited the hall right behind James and Louis, and hurried up the stairs. Al held back a bit, not wanting his brother to see him, and none of his friends commented. They all knew that James could be a pain.
The corridor ahead of them was vacant except for a small knot of fourth year Slytherins. One of them was on the Quidditch team, but Al couldn’t remember what his name was. His face looked a bit like a pug’s, a bit squashed.
“Oh, look,” pug face drawled out quietly. “It’s the Potter bastards.”
Al saw James and Louis freeze in front of them. Nat hissed out a slow breath. He glanced over and saw her expression was bleak. She rallied almost instantly and took a step towards the three boys, all of whom were significantly bigger than she was. “Last time I checked, their parents are married.”
“Not because they wanted to be,” the boy laughed derisively. “I’ve heard stories about how they were forced to marry when your mum was sixteen.”
Al’s stomach dropped. What he was saying didn’t make any sense. His parents were in love. It was pretty disgusting most of the time, to be honest. They hadn’t been that young.
“Shut up,” Scorpius growled pretty much in unison with Louis.
“Can’t take the truth?” another boy with brown, curly hair asked them. “At least my parents kept it in their pants before-”
Al didn’t even think. Neither, it seemed, did James. They both ran forward towards the boys, and would have started wailing on them if Scorpius and Louis hadn’t grabbed them.
“Boys!” a sharp voice called down the hallway. “Get to class, all of you. No fighting.”
Al’s vision was red. He wanted to hit the stupid kid for saying something like that about his parents. Scorpius dragged him back.
A small hand fitted in to his, and tugged, and he felt the breath leave him, the anger die, as he followed the trail of strawberry blonde hair, as it pulled him towards their class. He didn’t see which way James and Louis had gone.
He sat in class, not taking in a word of what the professor said, and left in a daze, not sure of where he was going. Natalie guided him in to a vacant classroom and pushed him gently into a chair. He sat. His ears were still ringing.
“Al,” Nat said quietly. “How old is your mum?”
“She’s thirty-six,” Rose said quietly. He looked up at his cousin and saw the devastation on her face. “Al…”
“It can’t be true!” Al blurted out. He couldn’t believe it.
Scorpius’ pale face was even whiter. “There’s this law, Al… if you get pregnant when you aren’t married, then you have to marry the… the other person.”
Al’s mind raced through all the things he knew about his parents, but none of this computed. “My parents love each other!”
“They do,” Nat agreed softly. “But Al, your sister was born in 1998.”
“So?” Al blurted out, a little harsher than he’d meant to. “What does that mean?”
He turned to see tears on Rose’s cheek. “Oh, Al… I didn’t even think about when Hope was born! Aunt Ginny’s birthday is the eleventh of August.”
“Al, if you do the math backward,” Nat said quietly, “She had just turned seventeen when Hope died.”
Al closed his eyes, and felt Rose and Nat hug him. He felt sick. He felt horrible.
He couldn’t wait to confront his parents, and yet he dreaded the train ride home the next morning.
It couldn’t be true.
Al couldn’t settle. He felt edgy and jumpy as he stared at the clock, waiting to make sure his brother and sister were asleep so he could go talk to his parents. When it finally hit nine, he crept from his room only to find James in the hall doing the exact same thing.
They stared at each other, brown eyes glaring at green. “Go back to bed,” James hissed.
“No,” Al refused stubbornly. “I want to know. You should go back to bed. You’ll only make Mum cry.”
James recoiled, clearly shocked. “I won’t make Mum cry!”
“You always make her cry about everything,” Al hissed, crossing his arms. He didn’t care if James beat the stuffing out of him; he wasn’t going to let his brother win this time. “She gets really sad when we ask about Hope, and you’ll only make it worse for her. I don’t want you to hurt her!”
James’ face went white. “I don’t do that.”
Al simply stared at him. “You’re not stupid, James. Don’t pretend you don’t know how upset you make her all the time.”
James swallowed hard. “I… I won’t. You talk, and I’ll listen.”
“Promise?” Al asked him suspiciously.
“I swear it,” James murmured, still looking off kilter. “I don’t want Mum to cry.”
Al nodded once, and walked down the hall to his parents’ bedroom door. The light shone under the crack, and he could hear their quiet voices. James stood so close behind him that he could feel the heat coming off of his brother. Al raised his hand, hesitated for only a fraction of a second, then knocked.
“Come in,” his mum’s voice called to them, and Al reluctantly opened the door.
Ginny watched her two sons, both of whom looked pale and drawn, as they made their way into the room. She and Harry were sitting in their bed. She’d known something was coming. They’d both been so quiet when they’d gotten off the train.
She patted the bed, and watched James close the door, before they both climbed on, sitting cross legged and looking at them.
Her two boys, both of whom looked so much like Harry.
“What’s up?” Harry asked them.
They exchanged looks, and it was Al that answered. “We heard something at school.”
Ginny’s heart sank, even as her pulse kicked into overdrive. She knew, without having them tell her, what they’d heard. Her breaths came out in short pants as her vision clouded.
“Ginny!” Harry took her hand.
But she couldn’t hear him clearly. Her ears were ringing, and she closed her eyes.
No. It was too soon. Her little boys shouldn’t have to hear this, not now.
Young legs crawled over, and two little boys threw themselves on her, holding her tight.
“We love you, Mummy,” Al whispered. “Please don’t cry.”
She held on, fought back the tears, and the bile that resignation flooded through her system. It took her a few minutes to get herself back to calm, but finally she managed. She nodded at Harry, who started the story just as he had with Teddy a few years before. The two dark haired children, who looked so alike, but couldn’t have been more opposite, sat back and studied them.
“We were at a funeral,” Harry began, and she could feel the nerves that shook his hand as it held hers. “I was seventeen, and your mum was sixteen. It was just after the last battle. Someone attacked your mum, and I defended her. We both ended up in St. Mungo’s.”
He took a steadying breath, before he continued recounting the story to their children. “While we were in the hospital, a woman broke in and…”
Harry glanced at her, and she read the anguish on his face. It was like rape. They had both felt so violated by what had happened. Neither of them wanted to admit it to the kids.
“What happened?” Al squeaked. He looked terrified.
“We didn’t want to tell you, now,” Ginny admitted and hated that her voice quavered. They were only thirteen and twelve. “We didn’t tell Teddy until he was almost sixteen.”
Al and James exchanged a look. It was Al again who spoke. “We need to know, Mum. Someone at school said stuff. Others know.”
“They don’t know all of it,” Harry said, and his voice sounded a lot lower than normal. “Only a few people know the whole truth, Al. Once you hear it… it’s not pretty.”
James looked like he was going to be sick. He was pressing his lips together into a hard line.
“I want to know,” Al said miserably. “Even if it’s awful, I want to know.” James nodded in agreement.
“The woman,” Ginny haltingly picked up the story. “She used your dad to magically impregnate me.”
Both of them stared at her. “What?” James finally blurted out, breaking his silence. “Like… like not the normal way, but with magic?”
“Yes,” Harry confirmed, misery washed off of him in waves. “Then she poisoned us.”
Both of their faces went blank. “What?” Al looked devastated. “What?! Why would someone do that?”
“She was really ill,” Ginny said quietly, remembering just how insane Isabella Crabbe was, and still remained now that they knew she was still alive. Their house was under the Fidelius Charm again, though, so while the kids were at home they were safe. “She’d just lost her son, and she’d had a very hard life. The why isn’t really that important right now. That can wait. What happened after,” she took a steadying breath, and fought back the tears. “We had to get married, because that’s the law. Do you know–” they both nodded curtly, so she didn’t explain further. “Aunt Audrey cured your dad and me of the poison, or she thought we had been cured. I was really sick, and…”
“Hope didn’t make it,” Harry said through a voice choked with emotion. “The poison stayed in your mum enough that Hope couldn’t live. We lost her when she was seventeen weeks pregnant.”
They both looked shattered. Al started to cry first, but James followed shortly after. Both Ginny and Harry cried with them, holding their sons in their arms.
“I get why you didn’t want to tell us,” James said after a few minutes. His face was blotchy and red, but Ginny couldn’t have loved him more than she did at that moment. She was pitifully grateful that he wasn’t upset that they’d kept it a secret. “Mum… Dad, I’m so sorry.”
Ginny nodded, too choked up to speak as she cupped his damp cheek and kissed away one of his tears.
“We don’t want to tell Lily,” Harry told them. “She’s too little, and this…”
Al shook his head violently. “No, we can’t tell her.”
James’ eyes took on a hard glint. “We’ll make sure no one at school tells her, either.”
“James,” Ginny began reproachfully, but cut herself off when she saw the look in his eyes. Something was shifting there, so she changed tactics. “Just don’t get expelled, all right?”
He nodded once. “Who else knows?”
“The family knows,” Harry said after a moment. “The adults, anyway. A few key Ministry members know, but it has been kept very quiet. We didn’t want that bit to be exposed. If Hope had lived, it would have been crucial that she not know how she got here. Teddy knows, so does Victoire. We weren’t planning on telling anyone else until after they’d finished school.”
They both nodded, and looked at each other, almost like they were silently communicating. “We’ll keep it quiet,” Al said finally, brushing at a stray tear.
“Thank you,” Ginny whispered, pulling her children to her. They were what this bearable.
“You can talk to us any time,” Harry assured them. “We know it’s a lot. We spent a lot of time talking it over with Teddy.”
“Did he cry?” Al asked in a small voice.
Ginny nodded. “It’s okay to cry. You’ve lost a sister, even if you didn’t know her.”
Al’s lower lip trembled, but he held it together. “Did you hate having to get married?”
It looked like it took all of his will to ask, and Ginny marveled at the strength she was seeing in him. “No, Al, we were always going to get married.”
“Yeah,” Harry assured them. “Your mum was supposed to go back to school that year. It wasn’t the time we’d have picked, but it worked out. Marrying your mum was one of the best things I’ve ever had happen to me. I don’t regret that at all.”
“Do you want to talk some more now?” Ginny asked gently, although she suspected they were both ready for bed.
They both shook their heads. “Maybe later,” James replied. His brown eyes looked so overwhelmed that she pulled him to her for another hug. “I love you, Mum,” he whispered into her shoulder.
“I love you, too,” Ginny promised him. You helped me survive all of this, she added silently.
When his sons had asked him, point blank, why he’d put the Fidelius Charm back up on the house Harry hadn’t lied. He also hadn’t told them the truth. Threats come in all the time. That was part and parcel of being an Auror and they should always be vigilant. Oddly enough it was Al who seemed not to buy it. His quiet, introspective look gave Harry more than one moment of disquiet. After the week they’d had with the boys and them learning the truth about Hope, this felt like one more thing to list of parental worries.
Harry didn’t have time to dwell on it, though. He’d set up a meeting with Cori Oldford at her home in London at nine o’clock on the Friday before his children were set to go back to school. Harry went into the office at eight, retrieved the address from his assistant, Daniel, and headed right back out to walk the ten blocks to their flat. He needed the cool, spring air to clear his head and compose himself for whatever he was going to hear.
Harry checked the slip of parchment as he stopped outside an older, stone building that looked to have been converted to flats decades before. The building was maintained, but there was a faint air of poverty. This was the sort of place that Teddy was looking to move in to, the kind that a new couple would be able to afford. It made him grin. It was the step someone took on their first trek out into the adult world.
He surreptitiously unlocked the front door with a quick Alohomora charm, before making his way up to the second floor. At the door marked 3B, where the ‘B’ was slightly crooked, he rapped smartly.
The door opened to Carter. He looked tired, but otherwise unchanged from when Harry had seen him last at Cori’s bedside.
“Mr. Potter,” he stuck out his hand with a small smile. “Come in.”
He was ushered into a small sitting room with a shabby chintz couch and a single arm chair that might have come from a dumpster the week before. It was clean, but clearly older than Harry was himself.
Cori looked wan as she picked at her nails from her seat on the couch. Harry didn’t reach out, simply sat in the chair across from her so her husband could sit with her. As soon as they were all seated, he saw the tiniest drop of her shoulders as she glanced at Carter and Harry knew he’d made the right call. He’d put in a request for Oldford to be present at home, made sure his boss gave him the morning free, with pay. Carter Oldford was so junior on the list that it was not the sort of leave he could have managed for himself.
“How have you been?” Harry asked as he studied the blonde hair that had been regrown for her along with the blue eyes that still wore the haunted expression that he’d seen weeks before in the hospital.
“I…” she sniffed as stilled her fingers when Carter gently took them. “I miscarried last week.”
Harry checked his immediate response of, ‘I’m sorry’. It was a different situation than many other women. “How are you dealing with that?”
“Confused,” she wiped away an errant tear that trailed down her cheek. “I’m really s-sad, but also relieved. It’s difficult most days. I… I go to my mom’s house and spend my days with her because I don’t want to be alone, but… part of me is very sad.”
“Part of the baby was yours,” Harry reminded her gently. “It’s okay to grieve and be upset if that’s what you’re feeling.”
Cori nodded, but didn’t look up at him.
“Any luck on finding the guys who did this?” Carter questioned after a moment’s silence.
“In that,” Harry was relieved to tell them, “we have a few leads. I was able to get the records from the Ministry about who was recorded as the baby’s father. That’s given us a very good idea of who would have been with him. He’s got a group of blokes he’s been known to associate with. We’re making headway.”
“What about the woman?” Cori probed in a shaking voice.
Harry kept his face carefully neutral. “We have a few leads on that.”
He left forty minutes later after hearing her go through the story again. As near as he could tell, she was part of a group that was being experimented on. Most of the time they took homeless Muggle men, but she was taken by the men and the older women had let them use her. That, in itself, was troubling. What motivations could Isabella Crabbe have had to let them rape the poor girl? Isabella Crabbe was, to coin a favorite phrase of his niece, Roxy, a flaming psychopath. But could she have wanted Cori pregnant or was she trying to pacify the men she’d been with?
Thankfully, Curtis Parker was in London and Harry had arranged a meeting with him that afternoon after Curtis had agreed to examine the remains of the woman they’d thought was Isabella Crabbe. Hermione had brought him into St. Mungo’s that morning and he would likely be at it for another couple of hours in the examination room down in the basement of the hospital.
Harry went back to his office, checked in with his assistant, took the memos, case files and general update on the morning’s happenings, before he locked himself in his office to fill out his report on Cori Oldford.
A knock sounded at his door and Daniel stuck his head in. “Mr. Potter, Mrs. Weasley is here to see you with Mr. Parker. Shall I show them in?”
“Please,” Harry stood as Hermione came in with Curtis. “I thought I was going to meet you at the hospital.”
“We were done early,” Curtis shook his hand and took a seat. He handed over a folder. “I got everything I needed quickly. I can go over the science with you, if you’d like, but I can tell from the teeth that the victim from the fire was no more than twenty or twenty one. Also, although it’s difficult to tell definitively because of the damage from the fire, I would guess that the woman was of African descent.”
Harry glanced at Hermione. “How could we have gotten it that wrong?”
Hermione shrugged helplessly. “Curtis has offered to give the Healers a book to study, but essentially we use magical signatures to identify bodies. It’s typically reliable, but…”
He flipped over the folder and saw two dozen pages of notes in Hermione’s clear, precise handwriting. Harry turned to the pictures and saw the shots done in stills, rather than in typical magical fashion of moving portraits, of the teeth, nose area and a shot of the pelvis. He held it up. “What about this one?”
“You see that the pelvis is not fully fused,” Curtis began, but at the blank look on Harry’s face, changed tactics. Clearly he was used to working with the police. “Basically, as we age the bones fuse and become harden at a prescribed rate of growth, with typically only a few years of wiggle room. I look at the spaces between the bones to see if they’re fully formed. In this case, it was at the very end of fusing, so her hips and teeth together give me late teens or early twenties. Although this woman could have had a child via Caesarian section, her bones do not otherwise indicate that she has born a child.”
“The Caesarian rate among wizards,” Hermione went on, “is extremely low. We call it ‘removing’ here. There is not specific term for it. But when Curtis told me about the birth I went to check in with the midwives and confirmed with Healer Sterling that Mrs. Crabbe did not have the baby removed. He was a big baby born at home.”
“How does she remember things like that?” Curtis asked Hermione curiously as he turned more fully in his seat, his intelligent eyes studying her.
Hermione laughed softly. “I should have introduced you. She’s got a mind like a trap, but as I said the rate is low. She delivers fifty babies a year, maybe one or two need to be removed. It’s the type of thing you would remember.”
They went over the finer details of the body, and Curtis gave him a general idea of whom to search for in locating the real woman that had been burned that night.
He’d known as he closed up his files that Isabella Crabbe was still alive, but having it confirmed was more than he wanted to consider.
He also had concerns for Natalie’s safety buzzing around his brain. Curtis had agreed to let him put up protective charms around their flat, a very nice flat in a posh part of London, but it wouldn’t hold up against anyone seriously bent on hurting the child. They hadn’t yet gone over the issues with Natalie. They’d decided to have everyone over for dinner the next night so that they could talk and discuss what Ginny had learned.
“Mr. Potter?” Daniel knocked at the open door. “Are you done with me for the day, sir?”
“Yes,” Harry grinned and waved him off. “You’re free. Have a date tonight?”
“I do,” the handsome twenty-three-year-old grinned. Ginny’s only stipulation to Harry’s assistant was that it couldn’t be a young, unmarried woman after the previous assistant, a woman older than Dumbledore, had retired.
Harry waved him off. “Tell Blake I said hello, then. I’ll see you on Monday.”
“Thank you, and I will,” Daniel said cheekily. “Ginny sent an owl to remind you to be home on time.”
Ginny’s entire concern had been that Harry not get hit on.
She hadn’t counted on his new assistant being gay. When she’d learned, she’d laughed at her own folly and had become very attached to the young man.
“Got it,” Harry acknowledged as he capped his ink bottle. “Heading out now.”
First thing Monday morning, he’d be opening a task force to start sifting through the records of all the missing and unexplained deaths over the last two decades.
That night, however, was an overdue talk with Teddy after the kids were in bed. With their doors warded against eaves-dropping.
Later that night, with the kids securely asleep in their beds, Harry, Ginny and Teddy sat around the end of the long kitchen table while Teddy tried not to look sick.
Harry wasn’t sure why he was bothering, since he also feeling decidedly green. Ginny was the only one who was unaffected by the conversation.
“We’ve already had the talk, of course,” Ginny finally broke the awkward silence as the light from the candles flickered around them. “But if it’s serious with Victoire–”
“It is,” Teddy interrupted her quickly, his earnest face so like Remus in that moment that it tripped Harry’s grief for his lost friend all over again. “I want to marry her.”
Harry stared at him, a little surprised. He’d known that Teddy was getting serious, but he hadn’t realized it was quite that far along. “Now?”
“No,” Teddy shook his head grimly. “No, she needs to go to school and focus on that. Plus I can’t afford to move out, can’t afford a ring, or anything. I’m definitely finishing my training before I ask her. Then we can decide from there if we’ll get married before that, but… I told her last night that I meant to at some point.”
Absently he rubbed at a chin that needed to be shaved and stared at the nineteen-year-old. “That’s sensible, enough, and will keep Bill from throttling you. You’ll need to ask his permission. That’s big with him.”
“Got it,” Teddy’s skin went even greener at the prospect of facing off with Bill Weasley. “I will.”
“You’re still being safe, right?” Ginny probed delicately. “We can deal with surprises, but the consequences are sometimes difficult to stand up against.”
Teddy’s cheeks went slightly pink as he stared at the table. “We haven’t and we’re not going to.” Finally he met her gaze head on. “I’m not ready to be a dad right now. I’m not ready to support a family. We both… I mean, it’s… it’s not fun, because I really want to be with her, but I’m not doing that to her. The shame and– damn, I’m sorry, Ginny! I didn’t mean–”
Ginny patted his hand as tears threatened. “You didn’t. Someone at school told James and Al about Hope and us having to get married. We had to tell them the truth.”
“Oh,” Teddy breathed out the word rather than spoke it. He shot Harry a questioning glance. “How did they take it?”
“About like you’d expect,” Harry muttered grimly. “About like you did. We’ve been reeling from that. We thought we had years.” He reached over to take Ginny’s hand, wishing he could take away her pain. “Something about marriage that I need you to know, Teddy, something I’m not sure Ginny wants to cop to, but it’s served me well.”
Teddy waited while Harry gathered his thoughts.
“There will be a time when she will be at her most vulnerable, and it’s on you to be the one protecting her, even from herself,” a gentle squeeze to Ginny’s fingers as her eyes told him clearly to go on. “It will be on you to shelter her and make sure she’s safe, that she feels safe.”
“He’s right,” Ginny took Teddy’s hand and linked the three of them. “There are some times when we’re too vulnerable. I do that for Harry, as well, although it tends to be subtler and when no one is there watching. We protect each other’s hearts, keep each other from falling apart, and help pick up the pieces when we do.”
Teddy grinned at them. “You’re why I want to get married. I see how you are and… I want this.”
Later that night, in the dark of their room, both naked and a little sweaty, Harry ran his fingers through her hair and tried to quiet his mind.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked him as she trailed her fingers along his bare chest. “It might help.”
He sighed wearily. “I’m going to fill in the rest of the department on Monday and form a task force, choose someone to head it up.”
Ginny’s decidedly indelicate snort was more informative than words.
“Okay,” he admitted reluctantly. “I’ll probably head it up. I will have someone else checking over my shoulder, though. I don’t want to miss something because I’m too close to the situation. I’m concerned that I’ll miss something.”
“Probably a wise decision,” Ginny murmured as she kissed his bare skin, sending a shiver up his spine. “What did Curtis say?”
“Exactly what we expected,” Harry told her. “It wasn’t Crabbe. So I have the body of a young, dead woman and her family has been wondering about her for the last twenty years.” He couldn’t express the remorse that caused him. It also made him blindingly angry if he thought about it too long. He would find her family, come hell or high water. Curtis had taken a DNA sample from the bones that he was hopeful he’d be able to run through the Muggle police. Harry had made contact with his Scotland Yard counterpart and told him that the request was coming through him.
Her soothing, gentle hand stroked his cheek. “You’ll find her.”
“I thought everything was peaceful,” Harry sighed as he stared at up the darkened ceiling. “We’ve had peace for so many years and now… the smugglers were dealing in potions ingredients, which we know that Isabella Crabbe is adapt in. We haven’t seen an uptick in illegal potions, though.”
“You’ll figure it out,” Ginny said confidently. “She’s got to be getting money somewhere, right? Find the money. That’s what you always say.”
There was a low knock at the door. “One second,” Ginny sat up and quickly grabbed her pajamas while Harry threw on sweatpants.
The moment she was clothed and back in bed, Harry went to magically unlock the door. He pulled it open to find Al on the other side.
“Hey,” Harry tugged him in gently and closed the door. “What’s the matter?”
“Tomorrow…” Al shifted from one foot to the other, his small face screwed up in concern. “With Nat… she’s coming and there’s something wrong. I know it.”
Ginny held out her arms and Al rushed forward towards her. “Come on,” Ginny guided him into the middle of the bed so he could lay with them, his mother’s arms around him as she kissed his brow. “You know we wouldn’t let anything hurt a child, Al, but more than that we know she’s your friend. You don’t have to worry about this, okay? We’re on it.”
“But…” Al’s voice trailed off. “It feels like something bad is going to happen.”
Harry ran a soothing hand over Al’s dark hair. “Your mum and I always keep you safe. We’re going to make sure Nat is safe as well.”
What he didn’t say, screamed loudly through the room. Harry could read the thoughts as though they were printed in a Muggle cartoon thought bubble. “This isn’t like Hope, Al,” he promised his son gently. “Nat isn’t in danger today and you’re going to have to trust us to keep her safe, which,” Harry realized heavily, “is the sort of rubbish that would have made me mad when I was your age. I wanted to be doing, not sitting on the sidelines. Is that about right?”
“Yeah,” Al sniffed in a small voice. Then more forcefully, he added, “If I can help Nat stay safe, then I want to help.”
“You can,” Harry replied and ignored the look Ginny shot him. “You already do. Her curse, while cured, means she’s still a bit of a klutz, right? You protect her from that.”
His son gave him that look that told him he wasn’t fooled. It was very unnerving to see his green eyes, mirroring doubt and annoyance back at him. “That’s not all that’s wrong or you wouldn’t have called a meeting.”
“We wanted to have them over for dinner,” Ginny argued instantly as she shifted onto her side and propped her head up on her hand to see them better.
“But that’s not the only reason,” Al retorted stubbornly. “Something happened.”
Harry searched Ginny’s eyes and saw her resignation. “You’re right, but we want to discuss it with Natalie’s parents first. That’s their right. Can you understand that?”
Al nodded reluctantly. “She’s not going to die, is she?”
“No!” Ginny promised with heartfelt sincerity. “She’s got a gift that some people might like to exploit. We need to protect her from those people, okay?”
Shoulders relaxed and Al swallowed back the obvious fear. “Okay. I can look out for her, too.”
His son… his son’s courage, openness and absolute loyalty humbled Harry. He took Al’s chin gently in his hand and pressed his lips to his dark locks. “I know you can.” Then saying the thing he’d never heard, ever, in his young life. “I trust you, Al. Right now you’re job is to be her friend and to report anything you see to Neville, okay? When you’re older and a bit more trained up, then you can take an active role if you still want to. Is that a deal?”
He hesitated only a split second. “Deal.”
Ginny shot him a look that screamed, ‘what are you doing?’ but Harry knew what it was to have a drive to be in the thick of things. If Al had that same drive, it was best to channel it and help him hone his skills, rather than knock him down. Also, Al wasn’t reckless like Harry had been as a boy. That was James. Al was careful, methodical, and despite what he’d have said even a year earlier, Al was showing him a whole lot of courage. It would be interesting to see what he did with it.
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