Abby rolled over in bed, squeezing her eyes shut to try to force herself back to sleep. But after several seconds to no avail, she let out a tired sigh and turned to stare out the window instead.

It was early morning, but the sky was overcast and grey, drops of rain pebbling across the glass as the storm outside brewed stronger.

She wished she could claim she loved the rain, but she didn't. It impacted her mood even on the best of days, and these days were anything but.

A fortnight had passed since she'd reacquainted with her brother. And ever since then, her nights had been filled with restless sleep as her brain replayed their exchange on repeat.

All the ways it had gone wrong, all the words that could have made it better. The anger, the resentment, the nostalgia, even the brief glimpses of joy.

Abby's eyes followed a single droplet as it travelled down the pane, collecting at the bottom.

She hated the rain. The thunder. The fog in the aftermath that obscured every path. Extinguished every light. Seeped slowly into her mind.

She really, really hated the rain.


Abby awoke some time later to the sound of a scream.

Heart pounding in her ears, she threw her covers off and shot out of bed, stumbling towards the sitting room. "Clara?" she said.

The girl whipped around at her voice, gesturing wildly with her arms, unable to form a proper sentence.

"How–?" Abby said, darting her gaze around the room. "How the hell did this happen?"

Every ledge, every surface in the room was filled to the brim…with owls.

Owls with letters.

"They just showed up all at once!" Clara said, her voice nearing hysterics. "I was in the kitchen, and I ran in after I heard–I don't even know how–they all just–ugh!"

She shivered in disgust and backed away as one of the owls squawked at her.

"I'm moving out, I swear to bloody Christ, I am," she said, edging back against the wall. "Last straw, this is the last straw!"

With her pulse still beating loud in her ears, Abby leant towards the nearest owl to take the letter from its clutches before pausing.

"Do you reckon they're dangerous? Or...or have rabies or something?" she said.

"How the hell should I know?" Clara said. "We should call the police."

"What are the police gonna do?"

"A hell of a lot more than we can!"

Turning back to face the owl, Abby stared at the letter in its beak, curiosity getting the better of her. "Let me just…" she said, reaching for it slowly.

Avoiding its large yellow eyes, she snapped her arm the rest of the way forward and grabbed the envelope before swiftly moving back.

Abby didn't know what she was expecting, but to her surprise, the owl simply straightened up and flew right back out the window.

"I guess we just…have to take the letters?" she breathed out. "Take them and they'll leave."

"Be my guest!" Clara said, throwing her hands up and heading back to her room.

Rolling her eyes, Abby proceeded to relieve each of the owls of their envelopes and packages. And just as she predicted, they all flew back into the storm.

With adrenaline still coursing through her system, she picked up one of the letters with shaky hands and was shocked to find her name written on it.

Clara had disappeared back into her room by this point, for which Abby was grateful. Because when she opened the first envelope, it became clear these were from the Wizarding world.

You should be ashamed of yourself. A muggle like you with Harry Potter? Leave him and his family alone!

Prudence Clutterby

"What…?" Abby whispered.

She stared at the words for what felt like ages, struggling to process them. Or perhaps, not fully wanting to.

At some point, her legs buckled of their own accord, forcing her to drop down to the couch as a weight like a brick settled into her gut.

Then, as though on autopilot, she reached for a nearby envelope and opened it as well.

Who the hell do you think you are!? Stay away from Harry Potter, you homewrecker!

Another envelope.

If you're looking for a quick shag, look elsewhere!




Muggle slag.

Abby crumpled up the letter in her hand and clutched her stomach with the other, feeling as though she were about to be sick. No one had ever spoken to her like that. No one had ever called her such things. She knew she should stop opening them, but there was a morbid desire to keep going, keep reading, keep pressing into her wound.

Who were all these people? Coming out in droves to attack her. And how did they know? How did they know?

Swallowing back the lump in her throat, Abby stood up on shaky legs and ran towards her room to grab her phone, dialling Harry's number in a daze.

It rang a couple of times before he picked up.

"Harry," she said before he could get a word in.

"Hey," he said with surprise. "You alright?"

"Yeah…I think," she said, trying to keep her voice steady. "Can you come over? There's something I need your help with."

Harry paused for a second. "What's going on, Abby?" he said. "You're scaring me. Are you not feeling well?"

"No, no, it's nothing like that," she said, raking her fingers through her hair. "Just…there were a bunch of owls in our flat…and they all had letters. And I don't know what to do…I don't know how they found out, I don't–"

"Okay, it's okay," he said in a calming voice. "I'll be right there, just stay where you are. Give me five minutes."

A rustling of movement sounded on his end, and Abby nodded. "Okay," she said before bidding him goodbye and hanging up.

She took a seat on the floor against the bed, resting her forehead on her knees and folding into herself. The words from the letters flashing in her mind's eye on and on again.

Wicked girl…Homewrecker…Slag…


The most innocent of them somehow sounding the dirtiest of all.

Never before had she experienced such vitriol from anyone, let alone for something she had no control over. It made her feel trapped within her own body. Her useless, muggle body.

She squeezed her eyes shut and willed the feeling away, but it settled in her stomach like a chunk of lead.

It was only a few minutes later when the sound of a pop came from the sitting room.

Her head snapped up, a shot of fear running through her. She knew it was the sound of apparition, but Harry had never appeared inside her flat like that.


Until now, it seemed.

She stood up and rushed to meet him.

"Are you okay?" he said, grabbing her arms and looking her up and down. "Did you touch anything? Open any letters? Did anything come into contact with you?"

The whirlwind of questions threw her off guard. "I–yes, I opened some," she said. "Is that bad?"

Without responding, he took out his wand and turned her palms up. He whispered something that caused them to glow blue for a second before fading back to normal. He then turned his wand horizontally and moved it from her head to her feet, as though scanning her.

"You're okay," he said, closing his eyes for a moment before stuffing his wand back in his pocket. "I'm sorry, Abby. I'm so so sorry for all of this."

He wrapped his arms around her, clutching her to him.

While Abby had managed to stay relatively composed thus far, the feeling of his embrace caused her eyes to well up.

"I saw the paper," he said after a moment. "Just now, at the Burrow. I…"

Abby moved back slightly to meet his eyes. She hadn't noticed how pale his face had looked or the sheen of sweat glistening over his brow.

"I didn't know," he said, shaking his head. "And I don't know who….or how…"

He trailed off as he glanced around the room, his eyes settling on the few opened letters scattered on the couch.

"Oh, God…" he said.

"Please, don't," she said as he reached for them. "They're not worth reading. Let's just talk about this."

But he already had the first one in his hands, his face growing darker as his eyes moved across the page.

She was about to pull him away from the others when the sound of Clara's door opening made her pause. In all the chaos, Abby had completely forgotten she was still home.

Harry's head snapped up as the girl entered the room. "Shit," he said to himself, crumpling up the letter in his fist and turning to Abby. "Was she here the entire time? With the owls?"

"Yes, with the owls," Clara spoke up, arms crossed. "Was that your doing? Some sort of romantic gesture or something? Bloody ridiculous, it was."

"Listen, you need to go back to your room right now and stay there," Harry said, his tone leaving no room for argument.

Not that Clara didn't try.

She raised her eyebrows. "Excuse me? Who do you think you are, exactly?" she said. "I live-"

"I'm not messing about here, just do as I say," he said, voice raised. "It's for your own good, trust me."

Abby glanced between them. "Clara, just listen to him, please," she said, moving towards her and taking her hand. "This is serious."

The girl clicked her tongue but did as she was told, walking back to her room and slamming the door shut behind her.

Harry then turned to Abby. "Did she see anything? Besides the owls, I mean," he said in a low voice. "Did she read any letters? Did any of them emit any sort of magic?"

Swallowing hard, Abby shook her head. "I don't think so. It was just the owls," she said. "I woke up to her screaming about them, but she ran into her room after I came out."

"Okay…okay, that's good," he said, looking distracted.

But then, with a grunt of frustration, he sat down and slammed the crumpled letter in his fist against the table in front of him.

He held his head in his hands for a moment and stared at the floor before picking up another.

And another.

And another.

"Harry, stop it," she said, sitting beside him and placing a hand on his arm.

The anger was practically sizzling off him, growing more intense with every word he read.

"No. If you had to read this nonsense, then so do I," he said, opening a new one now that contained a newspaper clipping.

Abby definitely didn't want to see what was printed about them, but she couldn't help but stare at the moving black-and-white photograph beside the text.

It was a picture of them sharing a (thankfully) innocent kiss at the beach that Harry had taken her to on their first date. She remembered marvelling at how peaceful and private it had seemed at the time, not another soul in sight. It made her skin crawl now to think somebody had been there, watching. Taking photographs.

That uncomfortable thought stayed with her until she was forcibly pulled back to reality by Harry, who seemed to have finally snapped. He'd pointed his wand at one of the letters, causing it to burst into flames.

Abby gasped in surprise but the fire died quickly.

Harry, on the other hand, had risen to his feet at this point, pacing back and forth with his hands scraping through his hair.

"Not a word in that pile of rubbish is true," he said, pointing at the envelopes. "Not a single word! They know nothing about you and me. And I swear on my life if I ever meet any one of them face-to-face, I'll…"

He continued pacing for a moment before settling against the wall with his head in his hands, breathing heavily.

"Harry," she said, standing up. She made her way over and gently lifted his face.

Closing his eyes for a moment, he shook his head. "I don't care who knows or what their opinions are. It just kills me to see them speak about you that way," he said, eyebrows furrowed. "You. Of all people…I can't imagine how you must be feeling."

"Well…it definitely wasn't what I expected to wake up to this morning," she said with a weak laugh.

"I'm sorry–"

"I know," she said, placing a hand on his chest. "Now, stop apologising."

Harry nodded, looking apologetic.

Leading them back to the couch, Abby sat down and sunk back into the cushions, staring up at the ceiling.

The thoughts from earlier that had been pushed away by Harry's arrival seeped back into her mind as all the chaos began to settle.

She knew he didn't agree with anything that was written in those letters. But the words still weighed on her in a way she couldn't explain, even to herself.

"It hurt," she admitted quietly. "I wish I could say it didn't, but…I don't really have thick skin. Quite the opposite, in fact."

"Nobody would, reading all that," Harry said, meeting her eyes. "They've been writing shit about me in the papers since I was a child, but they always manage to find something new to hurt me with."

Licking her lips, she stared at the pile of letters on the table, several unopened ones still lying there. "It's more than even that," she said.

Harry looked at her in question.

"I suppose it's just…easy to forget," she said. "All this. You and different we are."

"We're not that different."

She glanced up at him with a small frown. "We are, though, Harry," she said. "We're worlds apart in so many ways. And sometimes it's scary."


Struggling to find the right words, Abby sighed and shook her head. "Because I don't know if I'll ever be enough," she said with a shrug. "For your world, your family. Sometimes even for you."

Harry opened his mouth to say something, but she continued over him.

"I just feel like I'm constantly one step ahead and waiting for you to catch up, or…a hundred steps behind while everyone else is at the finish line," she said. "Does that make sense?"


"I'm not asking if you agree, I'm asking if it makes sense."

"Well, it doesn't make sense, and I don't agree."

"That doesn't make sense."

"Well, I still don't agree!"

If it were any other situation, Abby might have laughed. But the look on Harry's face now was the furthest thing from amusing.

"How are you not enough for me?" he said, his gaze intense. "When have I ever made you feel that way?"

Privately, Abby thought that question was pretty rich. But she didn't want to bring up any examples that had the potential to hurt him. She knew he hadn't been in the best place when they'd first met, and he still had a lot of things to work through.

But his grief was not what she was referring to. It never had been. She could understand grief.

"Harry, look around," she said, gesturing to the room. "You can't deny there's some sort of weird power dynamic between us. And I know that's not your fault, but you must understand how difficult this is for me."

"Of course I understand," he said, looking offended. "Why do you think I tried to keep it from you for so long?"

"But that's part of the problem," Abby said, throwing her hands up. "I told you, I feel like I'm a hundred steps behind. Like I'm in the dark about so many things. Even psychotic strangers seem to know more about you than I do."

Harry's shoulders relaxed. "Is that what you want? I'll tell you everything. I'm ready and willing to do so. We've just been…busy with other things."

She looked away and shook her head. "I know you will. But it's not only that, it's…"

"What?" he said, taking her hands. "You want me to change the way I've been doing something? I'll change. I know I wasn't always honest with you from the start, but I laid it all out for you before we got together, and you said that we should try, so I'm trying. Now, tell me what to do."

"I don't–"

"Tell me what to do," he repeated.

"I can't–"

"Why can't you?"


His nostrils flared as he looked away from her, breathing out heavily.

"I don't know," Abby said desperately. "I'm just talking out loud here."

Grabbing the stack of unopened letters, Harry began ripping them to shreds one by one with his jaw clenched hard.

Abby didn't have the strength to help him calm down. Or the words, for that matter. It seemed as if all at once, everything was spinning out of control. And she had no idea how to stop it.

She knew she wasn't being fair. There were things that were out of Harry's control, and she couldn't hold them against him. But this morning's events had preyed on her insecurities in a way that left her feeling entirely too vulnerable. And she needed more time to figure out what exactly was bothering her most about all this.

But time was definitely not on her side today. Nor a moment of calm, it seemed.

She heard his small grunt of pain and looked over to see Harry wincing. He dropped the envelope in his hands as if it had burnt him, a creamy purple substance oozing from the ripped edges.

Before she could ask what was wrong, he quickly picked it back up and moved away from her.

"Harry! You're–you're…" she said, pointing at him, unable to get any words out.

His veins were turning a bright shade of violet, spreading from his hands to his face. And she screamed as his eyes rolled to the back of his head, and he collapsed to the floor.

"Harry!" she said, running over to him.

She was afraid to touch him lest she made things worse somehow. But she quickly checked his pulse and breath, letting out a small sigh of relief when everything seemed to be working normally.

It was short-lived, however, when she lifted his shirt and saw the purple stuff spreading across his chest.

"Oh, God," she said, clutching her head.

Swallowing down the bile rising in her throat, Abby ran to grab her phone. Her fingers were in the process of dialling the emergency number when her eyes landed on the envelope at Harry's side.

Would a muggle hospital even be able to help him?

Surely it would be better than nothing?

And anyway, what other choice did she even have?

With panic rising, Abby scrolled down her contacts for Hermione's number instead and prayed that she would pick up.

"Please," she whispered, tears beginning to blur her vision. "Please, Hermione…"

But the line kept ringing, not even a voicemail greeting in sight.

Terrified that she was wasting too much time, Abby considered her other options, wishing she had someone else's number. Anyone else's. How could Harry not give her anyone else's number?

A sudden idea popped into her head. She quickly leant over Harry and patted down his pockets for his mobile, hoping with everything that he was carrying it with him.

With a rush of relief, she felt it in his trouser pocket and quickly pulled it out.

Her fingers were shaking at this point as she opened up his recent contacts.

There were only two numbers. Hers and an unsaved one.

Without thinking twice, she dialled the number and prayed for the person to answer.


Abby blinked back tears as the sound of the boy's voice floated over the line.

Oh, God…

"James, it's me, Abby," she said, trying to keep her voice even. "Are there any adults nearby that I can talk to?"

"Where's my dad?" he said.

"He's right here, he's right next to me. But he's not feeling well," she said. "Please, James. This is serious. Please, just hurry."

No response came for a moment, and Abby was nearly ready to give up and call an ambulance when Molly's voice came over the line.

Feeling a rush of relief, she explained everything to the woman as quickly and clearly as she could through her growing panic, grateful for Molly's soothing words.

"Arthur will be there in a moment, dear. Just try and stay calm," she said. "St. Mungos will fix him right up."

But despite the certainty in the woman's voice, Abby couldn't get her heart rate to settle.

If Harry had been more cautious, if he'd been paying attention, then perhaps none of this would've happened. But he was already angry, and she'd gone and made things worse.

Abby closed her eyes and placed her forehead against his. "Please be okay, Harry," she whispered to him. "Just please be okay."

Moving the hair away from his brow, she brushed her thumb over his scar. "You're right…you did lay it all out for me. And we did say we would try," she said with a nod. "But I talk out loud and say stupid things all the time, you know that. You know I say stupid things…"

Before Abby could continue prattling on, a sharp knock sounded on the door, startling her. She got up at once to open it.

Arthur Weasley was standing on the other side.

She'd only met the man once before, and barely any words were directly exchanged between them. But something about his presence seemed to instantly calm her.

Stepping aside so he could enter, Abby led him to Harry at once.

"I'm sorry, I–I didn't know what to do," she said, as they both knelt beside Harry. "I wasn't sure if I should call an ambulance or…"

"You did the right thing," Arthur said, waving his wand over Harry's chest. "Can you tell me how this happened?"

Abby looked around. "He touched something in one of these envelopes…" she said. "Some purplish substance, I don't know what. But he seemed to know it was dangerous. It looked like it was spreading through his blood. And he just sort of…collapsed out of nowhere."

Spotting it near Harry's foot, Abby moved closer to examine it, but Arthur held his hand up.

"Best not get too close," he said, pointing his wand toward it. The envelope lifted off the floor and into a small clear bag that Arthur produced from thin air.

Before Abby could ask any questions, she heard the sound of footsteps approaching and whipped her head around.

Clara was standing at the foot of the couch, staring from Harry to Arthur to his wand in complete shock. "What the hell is going on?"

Abby swore loudly, scrambling to stand up and block her view as if it made any difference. There was no denying what she'd been able to see.

Things had well and properly gone to shit now.

She looked at Arthur apologetically. "She's…I don't…I'm…" she said, shaking her head, not knowing what to say.

He stood up as well and pocketed his wand inside his cloak. "I'm going to portkey Harry to St. Mungos. I'll have to go and grab something afterwards, but I'll be right back," he said, speaking quietly as he eyed Clara over her head. "I'll have to call in Ministry officials. I'm very sorry, Abby...but your friend needs to have her memory wiped of this."

Abby blinked a few times in shock as she watched Arthur portkey Harry away and then disapparate, leaving her alone to process his words.

It felt like her entire world was spinning. Clara was shouting something behind her, but she couldn't make it out over the noise buzzing in her brain.

Memory wipe.

The words caused her stomach to drop.

Ever since she'd first learnt that memory charms existed, the concept of them horrified her. How could anyone have the power to just steal someone else's memories?

Would they even be careful? Precise?

With the way wizards seemed to look down on muggles, Abby highly doubted they'd be bothered to stick around and see the results.

Feeling her gut twist with guilt, she looked over at Clara, an innocent bystander in all this mess. She didn't know what to say to her. How to comfort her, warn her, even. Everything was just happening too fast.

And yet, it could have been hours instead of minutes that passed when she finally heard another pop of apparition.

Her heart leapt in her throat.

Spinning around, she saw Arthur reappear carrying a thick, silvery blanket in his arms that he handed to her at once.

"Put that on," he said. "Make sure it covers every inch of you. It's an invisibility cloak."

She opened her mouth to respond, but he cut her off.

"They can't know you're here," he said, wrapping it around her. "It'll cause…certain issues. And it's best we deal with that later."

"But what about…" she said, looking over at Clara, who seemed in a complete stupor at this point.

Shaking his head, he covered her face with the cloak. "I'm sorry," he said, again. "Just stay quiet and don't move. Please."

It was a mark of how urgent everything was that Abby barely noticed or cared about her lack of reflection in the mirror across from her. She was much more concerned with Clara, who looked terrified as Arthur approached her.

"Please don't be afraid," he said gently, maintaining a safe distance between them. "Nobody's going to hurt you."

"How did–how did you do that?" Clara said barely above a whisper, gesturing to where Abby now stood invisible.

Before he could respond, however, multiple apparition sounds erupted in the room at once, causing Clara to scream.

Abby tried to as well, but it seemed her own fear had paralysed her.

Ministry of Magic officials dressed in black uniforms appeared all around them, wands raised at the ready. One of them wasted no time casting a spell that turned the girl rigid, fear frozen on her features.

As the man held his wand up again, Abby tried to call out to stop him, but for the life of her, she couldn't make a sound. She couldn't even move a muscle.

What the hell was going on?

They uttered the charm and levitated Clara to one of the bedrooms, and all Abby could manage to do was stand there and watch.

Until she heard her name.

"...Abigail Waters."

She looked over at another man who held up a scroll of parchment in his hands.

"Not here at the moment," Arthur said with a patient smile. "I imagine the hundreds of owls arriving at her doorstep caused a bit of a fright. Either way, I'm sure Harry will be filing for special permissions once he's out of hospital."

The man lowered the scroll and raised his eyebrow. "That's all well and good, Weasley, but there's no documentation as of yet," he said. "She'll have to be Obliviated, too."

Abby felt her heart skip as she stared between them. She tried to quiet her breaths and remain very still, even though she was certain by this point that Arthur had cast a spell on her to prevent her from moving.

"I want you to think very long and hard about this, Reynolds," Arthur said, no longer smiling. "I know you're all aware of the news that broke this morning. And I also know you're intelligent enough to grasp the gravity of the situation. Special permissions will be granted to Abigail Waters. Until then...lower your wand and go help find whoever put your Head of Department in hospital."

Reynolds' nostrils flared, but he didn't say anything more. Instead, he looked around at his team and gave them a signal with his hand.

A second later, they all disapparated.

Abby felt herself regain control of her limbs at that moment, and she practically crumpled to the floor in her surprise.

"Oh, dear," Arthur said, rushing over to help her back into a sitting position. He untangled the cloak from her limbs and carefully folded it before setting it aside. "I'm really sorry for all of this...I couldn't trust that they would listen to reason alone."

"It's okay," she said.

Even though it was anything but.

She'd been so close to getting her memory wiped. So close to forgetting magic and Harry and their whole relationship together.

If it weren't for Arthur stepping in to speak on her behalf.

Her. But not Clara.

Clara didn't mean anything to Harry. Her thoughts and her memories weren't important. She was just collateral damage.

Just a muggle.

Abby squeezed her eyes shut for a moment and let out a shaky breath, filled with pent-up tension from all the chaos that had just occurred. Only she really didn't have time to recuperate.

She had to check on Clara. She had to make sure Harry was okay. And now, apparently, she had to deal with hit wizards potentially hunting her down to erase her memory.


Looking up, she met Arthur's eyes. They were kind, entreating, with wrinkles etched into the corners of them.

Kneeling down, he placed a hesitant hand on her shoulder. "I can't imagine how scary this must all be for you," he said as if sensing her inner turmoil. "But I promise you, your friend will be just fine. As will you."

"And Harry?"

Arthur gave her a small smile. "Harry's made of much stronger stuff than any of us," he said, patting her shoulder before letting his arm drop.

Swallowing hard, Abby tried not to dwell on his non-answer.

"You can side-along apparate with me to St. Mungos, if you'd like?" he said, holding out his arm.

She stood up and nodded. "Let me just check on Clara real quick," she said, gesturing to the hallway behind her. "I'll be right back."

The girl was thankfully in her own bed, sleeping soundly and breathing steadily.

Abby had no way of knowing whether they'd botched her mind or not. But Arthur's reassurance, despite not being backed by any evidence, was enough to calm her down for now. Perhaps against her better judgement, she trusted the man.

He seemed to love and care for Harry like a son; that was enough for her.

Rushing into her own room, she changed out of her pyjamas and into something presentable in the span of a minute. Then she hurried back to the sitting room.

In the short time she was gone, Arthur had cleared the entire flat of letters, leaving no trace of owls, post, or incriminating magic.

She walked over and locked her arm with his, and in a second, they were gone.


"It's never open, that place," Abby said as she followed Arthur towards an old rundown department store.

Purge and Dowse Ltd. She'd passed by it many a time over the years on her way to and from primary school. The boys used to always try and scare the girls into believing that the dummies' eyes were following them as they walked by.

It wasn't helped by the fact that the film Child's Play had only just come out a few years prior, and Abby's best friend Ange had been convinced one of the dummies at the window looked just like Chucky.

As she stood in front of the glass now with Arthur, she was surprised and slightly creeped out by the fact that the storefront looked exactly the same as it did all those years ago.

What was far more surprising, however, was Arthur leaning forward to whisper something to one of the dummies.

"We're here to see Harry Potter," he said in a perfectly polite voice.

Abby stared at him, feeling utterly bewildered.

She was suddenly hit by the fact that she barely knew this man, and he could very well be off his rocker.

But before she could consider making a run for it, Arthur beckoned her towards the glass.

"Take my arm, we'll step through together," he said.

Abby threw a quick glance around the street, feeling a bit stupid. No passersby seemed to be paying them the slightest attention. But perhaps they would in a moment, when two grown adults made impact with a glass window.

Shaking her head, Abby decided to throw caution to the wind. After all, she'd witnessed far madder things since meeting Harry than permeable glass.

Taking Arthur's arm, she closed her eyes and braced herself for the impact as they took a step forward.

Only it never came.

Instead, she felt a cool rush of water around her, almost as though they were stepping through a waterfall. And when she opened her eyes the very next moment, they were standing in a bustling reception area.

She felt her jaw quite literally drop as she took it all in.

It was set up like a normal hospital, with a front desk and waiting area. But the patients that littered the wooden benches were unlike any she'd ever seen before.

One man had his own severed foot resting casually on his lap, looking rather annoyed by the woman beside him violently vomiting up rocks into a wooden bucket.

A little boy with a bright purple face and orange pustules was lying on his mother's lap as she brushed her fingers through his hair. He let out occasional giggles as the man across from him periodically shifted from human form to a green goo-like blob with eyes, and then back again.

Then there was the person in front of them in the queue who seemed to be stuck in a transition from human to rhinoceros.

It was quite the first foray into the wizarding world. But it did make her feel slightly comforted in an odd way.

If people with conditions as extreme as these could be casually sitting in a waiting room, then it meant the calibre of treatment in a magical hospital far surpassed that of a non-magical one.

She just prayed Harry's condition wasn't even more extreme.

"He's still being treated," Arthur said, after speaking with the receptionist. "We won't be able to see him until the Healers are done, but we can wait in the family and visitors area on his floor."

She nodded and followed his lead as he walked through the corridor towards a doorway that led to the stairs. She was struck by a sudden thought and took a few steps to catch up with him. "How am I able to see everything so easily?" she said. "I thought there were repelling charms and things like at Hogwarts."

"At least…that's what Harry told me," she added quickly, unsure if she was meant to share that she'd been to the castle already.

"It's true of many magical places, yes," he said. "But not for St. Mungos. You need only know it exists to be able to see it. Many witches and wizards have muggle parents or family members. It would be rather unethical to bar them from visiting or even seeking treatment themselves."

Abby considered this for a moment. "But it's ethical to get their memories erased without their consent?"

A small frown came over his face at that. "People with special permissions–immediate family or those granted authorization–don't. Anyone else witnessing magic gets their memories slightly modified," he said. "But it's rare here. If a muggle knows about St. Mungos, they most likely know about the wizarding world. And therefore…they already have special permissions."

She shifted her gaze away from him.

"It won't happen to you," he added in a low voice. "You're in a bit of a limbo right now when it comes to the law, but Harry will settle it all when he's out of here. Believe me."

Feeling unsatisfied with that response, Abby shook her head. "Why should it matter?" she said. "I mean…just because I know someone important, I get special privileges? While people like my friend get their minds messed with. It's just not right…"

With a small sigh, Arthur opened the door to Harry's floor and gestured for her to step through. "I know it may seem barbaric, but it's the only way for both races to live in harmony. History has taught us that much," he said. "We all have to make a sacrifice, Abby. Wizards will always live in hiding…and muggles will always live in ignorance."

Abby knew he didn't mean it in a derogatory sense, but it didn't stop the feeling of outrage from rising within her.

But she forced herself to swallow it down for now. There were far more important matters at hand.

She shifted her attention back to her surroundings as Arthur led her down a corridor and through the doorway of another waiting area–this one far more empty than the one on the main floor.

There was only one other occupant in the room, an old woman who was conked out on a red velvet sofa, snoring loudly.

This waiting area also seemed to have much better furnishing. Various mismatched armchairs and couches, footrests and fluffy pillows, a nice shaggy rug in the centre of the room. It had an overall atmosphere of comfort and warmth.

It was very different to the waiting rooms she'd sat in as a kid while her mum had been in hospital. With their uniform straight-backed chairs of minimal cushioning. Generic ugly wallpaper and dull scenic paintings on the wall. It had all been so cold and clinical.

Sensing movement out of the corner of her eye, Abby turned around to see Arthur pointing his wand at one of the chairs and transforming it into a brown leather recliner.

And suddenly, it all made sense.

Abby couldn't help the chuckle of amusement. "Of course," she whispered to herself.


"Any preference?" Arthur asked, gesturing to her chair.

"I'm good with this couch, thanks," she said.

Arthur shrugged, letting out a small groan as he took a seat and stretched his legs.

In all the chaos of the morning, Abby had barely spared a thought towards Arthur. But with nothing else to do now, she quietly observed him.

Despite his spry nature, there was no denying the age on his face. He looked tired in the sort of way that seemed perpetual. Like he'd been through far too much in a short time.

Regardless of the lingering irritation she felt from their exchange before, she could tell he had a gentle heart. And she couldn't help but feel bad for him. Harry had mentioned in passing once that George had a twin brother that died in the Wizarding War. And then there was Ginny and her Quidditch accident.

Abby couldn't imagine losing one child, let alone two, and she wasn't even a mother yet. But if it was anything like the emotions she already felt towards James, Al, and Lily…it was unfathomable.

At the thought of the kids, her mind took another detour. She closed her eyes and dropped her head in her hands.

God, if anything happened to Harry…

No. Stop it. Don't go there.

She shook her head. He would be fine. He would be perfectly fine. Maybe none of them would ever even have to know.

But then…James had been the one to answer her phone call. He'd heard her sounding scared. Knew that something was wrong with his dad…

Before Abby's rumination could go any further, it was thankfully cut short by the sound of the door bursting open.

It was Hermione who rushed in, her pale face a stark contrast to her deep gold-trimmed, violet robes. If the situation weren't so urgent, Abby might've stopped to marvel at them. But alas.

"Molly sent me a patronus at work," Hermione said, slightly out of breath. "There was already talk spreading throughout the Ministry this morning. Ridiculous articles being printed. What's going on? What happened?"

Arthur stood up and guided her to sit down, explaining the situation in a calm voice.

Abby was too distracted to pay attention, though. Her face had heated up in embarrassment at Hermione's words. She knew it was stupid considering everything that was going on, but the thought of hundreds of people knowing about her and Harry…seeing the picture of them kissing. It was bloody mortifying.

"Do you know if Molly's told anyone else?" Arthur said in a low voice.

"Just Ron and me. He's on his way," she said. "She hasn't told the kids, obviously. Just said you had to go and help Harry out with something for work. James apparently wasn't buying it."

They talked in hushed voices for a few more seconds before Hermione stood up and walked towards her, taking the seat next to her.

"Hey, Abby," she said, offering a small smile that she returned.

They sat in silence for a moment, Hermione staring down at her hands as if contemplating something.

"How are you feeling?" she said eventually, meeting her eyes.

Terrified. Frustrated. Overwhelmed.

"I've…had better days," Abby said.

"I wish this wasn't your first introduction to the Wizarding world," Hermione said, shaking her head. "People can be so vicious behind a quill, I know that. I've had experience with it, myself. The hate letters, the prejudice…and of course, Harry being in hospital–used to happen rather frequently, that."

Furrowing her eyebrows, Abby leant in. "What do you get hate letters for?"

Hermione looked up with a sad smile. "I'm muggle-born," she said with a shrug. "To these sorts of people, it's just one step above being a muggle. In fact, some wizards even think we stole magic from them–not that that's even possible. But these are the types of humans we're dealing with here. Brainless, barbaric…"

"Berks?" Abby finished for her, causing them both to laugh.

The act felt odd on her cheek muscles, but in a good way.

"All this is to say…" Hermione said, placing a hand on Abby's arm. "It's a minority of wizards, but they can be loud and sometimes violent. Fit to burst with hatred and jealousy. And fear…most definitely fear."

The look on Hermione's face transformed into something much more intimidating, then. Her mouth set in determination, and her eyes lit with fervour.

Abby was almost afraid herself.

"We'll never let anything like this happen to you again. Harry won't allow it. And neither will I," she said. "We're going to place protective spells on your home. Make sure it's impenetrable and undetectable. We'll get you special permissions with the Ministry. And if anyone has anything to say about that, I'll–"

"Make them rue the day they ever crossed Hermione Jane Granger-Weasley," said a new voice dramatically.

Hermione rolled her eyes as Ron walked in and sat on the other side of her. "This is serious, Ron."

"Am I not being serious?" he said. "You're terrifying when you're in revenge mode. It's always been a huge turn-on, though, let me tell you…"

She turned to face him. "Your best friend is lying in a hospital bed right now," she hissed at him. "Have some decorum."

Slouching back against his chair, he waved her comment away. "He'll be fine," he said, giving Abby a reassuring look. "In a couple of hours, we'll be knocking back drinks at the pub. Welcome to the life of Harry Potter."

Arthur chuckled on the other side of him but didn't say anything. Perhaps afraid of Hermione's ire, himself.

Strangely enough, Ron's attitude did wonders on Abby's nerves. He'd brought a lightness and calm to the room that had been desperately needed. And whether or not he was right in his assumption about Harry, it felt good to have a little bit more hope.

When a knock on the door sounded a few minutes later, however, she felt the nerves instantly return.

"Harry Potter?"

A woman in bright lime green robes was standing in the doorway with a scroll floating in front of her.

"Yes, that's us," Hermione said, raising her hand.

With a nod of recognition, she entered the room. "Mr. Weasley...Mr. and Mrs. Weasley," she said, greeting everyone. "Pleasure to meet you all."

She glanced at Abby as well, an awkward silence passing for a second before she reached for the scroll in front of her.

"My name is Healer Lockwood, and I've been treating Mr. Potter. He's asleep and recovering at the moment," she said before turning to Arthur. "We were able to identify the poison you brought in rather quickly. Extract of aconite–"

Hermione cut her off with a gasp. "But that's lethal to mu–!"

Stopping short, her eyes flitted over to Abby before returning to the Healer. "I-I mean, it can be lethal," she said, instead.

The Healer nodded. "Indeed, it's rather toxic. But most cases of exposure result in full recovery," she said. "Even if left untreated for a period, one's own magic can form an adequate defence system. Though...large or repeated exposure can be lethal even to witches or wizards."

Abby swallowed hard.

"So can we see him when he wakes up?" Ron said.

"Of course. But he'll be out for at least another hour or so. It's to be expected," she said. "With our treatment running its course, it's best to leave him be."

Abby nodded along with everyone else, even though her eyes were growing unfocused.

"I can't believe this," Hermione said, pacing back and forth. "Aconite! It's a highly controlled substance. I bet you anything they didn't have a licence for it."

"That's definitely the most shocking bit of this all," Ron said.

"Harry's going to be in a rage when he finds out," she said, stopping and staring at him with her lips in a solemn line.

With a sigh, Ron let his head fall back against the wall behind him. "Well, I wouldn't blame him," he said. "It's absolutely mental, all this…"

"Let's just focus on him getting better right now. He doesn't need to know the details until he's out of here," Arthur said, looking each one of them in the eye. "And whatever you do, do not share this with anyone. If word gets out about this…it may give others ideas."

Abby could feel all their eyes on her as she looked down at her shoes. Concerned, scared, maybe even pitying.

Pity had always made her skin crawl. It made her want to disappear. She'd never liked causing a fuss.

But she had a terrible feeling this was only the beginning. Perhaps after today, her life was going to change in ways she never could've expected. Ways she couldn't even fathom right now.

They all sat there in silence for some time, processing the new information. Thankful at least, that the worst was over now.

Except fate seemed to be playing a cruel joke on everyone today. Because the very next moment after the thought passed through Abby's mind, the doors burst open once more.

"Molly?" Arthur said in surprise.

Abby snapped her head up.

The woman came rushing into the room, her face pale, grabbing Arthur by the arm.

"What on earth are you doing here? Where are the children?" Arthur said.

"Arthur, it's Albus," Molly said, out of breath. "It just happened all of a sudden–he overheard me while I was floo calling Ron about Harry's situation–one minute he was fine and the next, he collapsed to the floor."

Abby, Ron, and Hermione all stood up with various exclamations of shock.

"It was just like last time," Molly said. "After Ginny…"

Abby turned to Hermione who looked white as a sheet. "What happened last time?" she said. "What's going on?"

"I tried everything to wake him," Molly said with tears in her eyes. "I had no other choice but to call the mediwizards. They've taken him to the emergency ward."

"The night Ginny passed…" Hermione told her quietly. "Al's magic seemed to just…burst out of control. It shook the entire house, even the windows shattered."

"Was it like that this time?" Arthur said, overhearing her and turning back to Molly.

Molly took a seat, wiping a handkerchief across her brow. "Not as strong, but I could definitely feel the impact," she said, closing her eyes for a moment. "Oh, what are we going to do, Arthur? Harry and Al both in hospital…if Harry wakes up before him…"

"Merlin…" Ron said, shaking his head. "I'm starting to think it's best he stays knocked out for as long as possible."

At this, Molly erupted into a small sob and covered her mouth as she rocked herself back and forth.

Arthur sat down beside her, rubbing her back and comforting her despite the anxious look on his own face.

Feeling her head start to spin, Abby sat back down as well, about a hundred questions buzzing through her head. The most pressing of them being:

"Is he gonna be okay?"

She looked at everyone, hoping somebody could give a straight answer. "Al, is he…is he going to–"

"I'm sure he will be," Arthur said, nodding. "It's happened to him once before. Yes, it seems he's a bit worse off this time, but…I'm sure he's going to be just fine."

He seemed to be trying to convince himself as much as he was Abby.

Not feeling very reassured, Abby hung her head in her hands.

Everything was spiralling out of control, and she didn't know what to do. She could feel her pulse beating loudly in her ears. Her entire body was on edge, almost like she was waiting for another disaster to strike.

And she stayed that way for however long it took until the door finally opened once more. Minutes, hours later–she couldn't be sure. Time always did move strangely in a hospital waiting room.

It was Healer Lockwood again. Abby sat up in her chair at once.

The woman approached with a smile on her face, but Abby still waited on bated breath.

"Mr. Potter is awake if you'd like to come and see him. Everything looks good. Though…" she paused for a moment. "He hasn't been informed of his son's condition as of yet. I figured it might be better coming from one of you before Albus's Healer shares the details. But if you'd rather–"

"No," Ron spoke up. "We'll tell him."

"So soon?" Molly asked, twisting the handkerchief in her hands. "Can't we wait until he's officially discharged?'

"Are you out of your mind?" Ron said, looking at her. "He'd never forgive us if we did that. We've got to tell him right away."

"I would agree with Mr. Weasley there," Healer Lockwood said. "It's his right as a parent. He may need to sign some consent forms as well if certain procedures are required."

Arthur looked between them and gave a tired sigh. "Can we just give him just a few moments to settle in? Make sure everything is in order," he said, looking up at the Healer.

The woman nodded. "As you like," she said. "His vital signs are all normal now, we're just keeping him here for further monitoring."

"Won't be normal for much longer," Ron muttered.

The Healer gracefully ignored him, bidding them farewell and wishing them luck.

Abby couldn't even allow herself to feel the relief of knowing that Harry was okay. She was too nervous at the prospect of him finding out about Al.

It seemed to be a common sentiment around the room–everyone's face filled with worry or dread.

"We shouldn't all bombard him at once," Arthur said before turning to Molly. "Best you stay behind until you're calm enough."

"Maybe you should, as well, Dad," Ron said quietly. "Might be better coming from me and Hermione."

Arthur seemed to hesitate for a moment before nodding. "Just make sure to reassure him we've got everything handled," he said, squeezing his son's shoulder, a meaningful look passing between them.

"Are you coming, Abby?"

Caught off guard by the question, Abby glanced up to see Hermione standing in front of her. "Er…yes," she said, rising up from her chair. "Sorry, I'm just…a bit out of it. I'm not really sure what to think or–or how to feel about…well, anything."

Hermione gave her a sympathetic frown. "Come on," she said, gesturing for her to follow. "He'll want to see you more than anyone, I imagine."

Taking in a steadying breath, Abby nodded and walked out with her.

"And anyway…maybe he'll handle the news better with you there," Hermione said as they headed down the corridor after Ron, who was slightly ahead of them.

Abby seriously doubted this, but she wasn't about to say anything. Until his son was out of hospital, there was no way Harry would be handling the news well at all.

Focusing her attention outward, Abby noticed the corridor they were walking down was lined with old portraits of men and women in Healers' robes who moved their heads as they walked by. Some offered sympathetic smiles, and others a simple head nod of acknowledgement. She wondered if this was standard behaviour or if they happened to know something they didn't.

It reminded her of her trip to Hogwarts with Harry. How the portraits there seemed to whisper excitedly around them whenever they passed. At the time, she had no idea what to make of it. But now it seemed obvious that they were just excited to see Harry Potter.

It was always 'Harry Potter' in her mind whenever she thought of his fame.

Harry was the man she loved. Harry Potter was the man everyone else loved. Or hated. Or feared.

She wasn't quite sure how witches and wizards perceived him, but the brief glimpse she'd got so far told enough of a story. Everyone seemed to know Harry Potter. The young, the old. The living, the non-living. The inanimate…

He was like royalty. But even more than that, he was their saviour. A good and humble person, to boot. It was no wonder they revered him.

She didn't know why the thought intimidated her so much, but it did.

"Right, this is the one," Ron said, as they reached the end of the corridor and slowed to a halt in front of room 606.

There was a handwritten card in a brass holder on the door bearing the words:

Healer-in-Charge: Hyacinth Lockwood

Trainee Healer: Wilfred Babington

"Try not to look too miserable when you walk in," Ron told them.

Hermione nodded and attempted to relax her features into a smile that was about half-way convincing as Ron knocked on the door.

Feeling her nerves kick in again, Abby braced herself for the sight of Harry. The last time she'd seen him, he'd looked nearly lifeless, poison spreading throughout his body, his chest barely moving.

She had no idea what could be waiting for her on the other side now.

"Who is it?" came a muffled voice.

It sounded clipped and irritated.

"Glad he hasn't lost his charm, at least," Ron said before pushing the door open.

They walked in to find Harry sitting up in bed, looking slightly pale and with his hands covered in bandages, but otherwise normal.

The swell of relief that burst through Abby's chest was enough to put a genuine smile on her face. And as they met eyes across the room, Harry's own scowl vanished. He immediately sat up straighter as she approached.

"You're here," he said, clutching her hand. "Are you okay?"

"Me?" she said. "You're the one in a hospital bed, Harry. You scared me half to death."

"I'm sorry," he said, shaking his head. "I'm so sorry for all of this. I…I don't even know how…"

He trailed off, looking over her shoulder at Ron and Hermione.

"What was it? In the envelope," he said, his voice taking on a different tone. "Nobody's bloody telling me anything."

"You've barely opened your eyes, mate. Who'd have the time?"

With a dismissive wave of his hand, Harry readjusted himself against the pillows behind him. "Well, I'm awake now, so…" he said, gesturing for them to talk.

Both of them hesitated for a moment, Ron shifting his weight on his feet while Hermione worried at her bottom lip.

"Oh, go on, just tell me," Harry said a little sharply. "What difference will it make? I'm already angry."

"You'll be even angrier when you find out," Ron muttered, causing Hermione to glare at him.

She then turned to Harry and sighed, approaching the edge of his bed and wringing her hands together.

Abby watched the entire interaction with curiosity. She wasn't sure if they were afraid of upsetting him or just afraid of him. But either way, it wasn't as if they had any fault in this.

"There were traces of aconite," Hermione said finally. "Not enough to be lethal to wizards, but…"

The rest of her sentence hung in the air for a moment.

Abby once again felt the awkward weight of everyone's attention directing toward her– Harry's stare feeling especially piercing even from her periphery.

"Who's on the case?" he asked Hermione, his voice eerily calm.

It was the tightness of his jaw, the way his nostrils flared, the stormy look in his eyes that all told a much different story.

"I want clearance on all information and evidence gathered thus far. The case will be transferred to my team. One of you send an owl to Davis to arrange a meeting in an hour–should be enough time to get myself out of here," he said, removing the covers and grabbing his wand from under the pillow. "I'll just need to convince the healer to discharge me–"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, slow down there," Ron said, appearing at the bedside as Harry attempted to get up. "You're not going anywhere just yet."

"Oh, come off it. You know they're only keeping me here for observation," Harry said, pushing him away. "They can observe me leaving."

But Ron forced him back into bed by the shoulders. "Just sit back down and listen. There's something we need–"

"Ron, get your bloody hands off me or I swear to Merlin–"

"Let's just pause for one second!" Hermione said, causing them both to look up at her.

Abby swallowed hard, her heartbeat quickening.

"Harry, please. You need to listen to us. The Aurors are handling this case as we speak, believe me. It is their top priority," she said, placing her hand on his arm. "But it's not ours. There's something more important we have to discuss."

At this, Harry shrugged her hand away, looking outraged. "What the hell could be more important than this?" he said loudly. "Abby could have been killed, Hermione. She could have been poisoned to death because of some fucking lunatic, and you're going to stand there and tell me there's something more important–"

"It's Al," Abby said, having had enough.

Harry paused, the rest of his words dying on his lips.

"What–what is?" he said, looking from one person to the next. "What's going on? Where is he?"

Licking her lips, Hermione took his hand in hers. "Harry...he's in the emergency ward. Molly said that he overheard her telling Ron about your accident," she said, looking as though the words were causing her great effort. "He must have assumed the worst…he fell unconscious just like that night after Ginny…except he hasn't woken back up yet. It's been about an hour. We haven't heard from the Healers yet, but they're supposed to give you an update soon."

Shaking his head, Harry seemed at a complete loss over what to say. "No," he said quietly. "No, this can't…"

Then suddenly as if a switch flipped, he threw off his covers and grabbed his wand. But he stood up a bit too abruptly, it seemed, wincing as he pressed his palm into his forehead and stumbled. Ron grabbed his shoulders to steady him.

"Just take a second and bloody breathe," Ron said, staring him down. "The Healers are working on him. They're gonna come here and update you as soon as they're done. You need to wait."

"Because that's so easy, Ron!" Harry said as he threw his hands up in frustration. "Just wait while my son is lying unconscious in a hospital bed. As if you could ever do the same!"

With a pained look on his face, Ron dropped his hands and took a step back.

"Harry, there's nothing you can do," Hermione said, voice desperate even as she watched him walk towards the door.

Abby didn't bother trying to call out to stop him. If it felt better for him to be closer in proximity to Al, then so be it.

She, Ron, and Hermione caught up with him as he headed towards the staircase, ignoring the calls of hospital staff around them.

One nurse jogged up to them, mouth open to chastise Harry. But with a single withering look from him, the man gulped and stepped aside.

It was the power that he held. So obvious by the way people moved out of his way, asked no questions, treated him with the utmost respect.

It was…utterly disorienting.

Once they reached the ground floor, Harry pushed open the double doors and headed down the corridor. He seemed to know exactly where he was going.

Abby didn't really want to think about the implications of that.

As they crossed through the threshold into the emergency ward, he stopped a nurse exiting from a room to the left.

The woman's eyes grew large the second she saw him. "Mr. Potter…aren't you supposed to be–"

"Which room is my son in?" Harry said.

She opened her mouth then closed it, looking from him to the rest of their little group. "He's still being worked on," she said, holding her clipboard tight against her chest. "Healer Abassi is with him now. He'll come to you with an update if you'd like to wait in the family area–"

"I wouldn't," Harry said in a forceful tone.

"Harry…" Hermione said softly.

The nurse offered him a sympathetic look but remained firm. "With all due respect, Mr. Potter…you'll distract the healers from their work," she said. "I'll go back in there and see if there are any updates, but I promise you, your son is in the very best of hands."

Harry clenched his jaw tight. "Go, then!" he said, flinging his arm out. "And don't bother coming back out until you've got something useful to tell me!"

The woman bowed her head. "Of course, sir."

As soon as the nurse disappeared, Hermione shut her eyes and shook her head while Ron tried to lead Harry to the waiting room.

But he wasn't having much luck. Harry wanted to stay planted in the corridor until the nurse came back out despite all the foot traffic and chaos around them. And he was growing increasingly agitated as Ron and Hermione tried to reason with him.

"Harry…" Abby said, touching his arm lightly. "Look at me."

His head shot towards her, and they stared at each other for a moment as he breathed in increasingly shallow breaths. Abby wasn't even sure what she was going to say, she just couldn't stand by and watch him like this.

He was desperate in a way she'd never seen him before, looking so alone despite everybody around him.

Lacing her fingers in his, Abby squeezed his hand, trying to spread as much comfort in one touch as she could. "I'm here with you. We all are," she said. "But you need to breathe. You're going to send yourself into a panic."

Harry closed his eyes in response before opening them back up again, his face in pain. "I can't do this," he told her, shaking his head and growing even paler by the second. "I can't…"

Before she could respond, he swayed in his spot, looking ready to collapse.

"Harry!" Hermione shouted as both her and Abby reached out to ease his fall.

An older nurse ran over from the opposite end of the corridor at the sight of him and started waving her wand in different directions above his chest.

"What's going on?" Abby said, feeling a shot of fear run through her. "He was fine a minute ago. The Healer said he was fine."

"I'm sure it's just the stress. He should have been in bed recuperating," the nurse said, looking at Ron and Hermione with a disapproving frown. "Come on, Potter...up you get..."

After a few seconds, Harry's eyes fluttered back open, staring at them all in confusion for a moment before he regained awareness of his surroundings.

"It's fine, I–I'm fine," he said, massaging his forehead. "Just got a bit lightheaded."

"Scarpering off against your Healer's orders will do that to you, Potter," the nurse said briskly. "If you refuse to go back to your own room, then we'll bring a bed to you. You can have one on this floor so you're closer to your son. But you'll stay put until you're cleared for discharge. Am I understood?"

To Abby's surprise, Harry nodded and allowed Ron and Hermione to help him stand back up.

"Right then, off you go. Follow Nurse Prescott to your room," she said, gesturing towards a woman ahead of them. "And I don't want to catch a glimpse of you till you're mercifully out of our hair."

Seeing the look on Abby's face, Hermione offered her a small smile. "Harry's no stranger here, unfortunately," she muttered. "What with his old job, and…well, being him."

Abby didn't quite understand what she meant by that. But she shook the thought for now and followed the others into Harry's new room, watching as he got settled into bed again.

He looked absolutely exhausted. Whether from the stress and worry of the situation or his own condition, she couldn't be sure. Either way, perhaps it was for the best that his eyes seemed to be fighting to stay open.

"Ron and I are going to go upstairs and let the others know to come down here. Then I'll have to go and deal with a few important matters," Hermione told her in a low voice, shifting her eyes towards Harry who was dozing off. "Can you stay with him and make sure he doesn't do anything stupid?"

"Er…yeah, of course," Abby said, feeling slightly taken aback.

She was embarrassed to admit even to herself that she was a bit intimidated at the prospect of being alone. When it came to anything magical, she just couldn't help but feel like a child–helpless, unable to be left unaccompanied.

Hermione gave her an encouraging nod and squeezed her shoulder. "We'll let Arthur and Molly know to wait on this floor," she said, glancing at Harry then back at her. "Good luck."

Licking her lips, Abby nodded and waved both of them goodbye as they left the room.

As soon as the door closed behind them, she breathed out a long exhale, surprised by the feeling of relief that came with the silence.

Walking over to Harry, she took a seat on the couch next to his bed.

His face had yet to regain its normal colour, forehead drawn in a frown even as he slept.

Letting her instincts take over, Abby leant closer to him and ran a gentle hand through his hair, knowing how much the sensation always relaxed him.

But the touch ignited something in her instead, and she squeezed her eyes shut, letting a few tears slip down her face.

Seeing him in this state made her insides twist with guilt. Their argument from earlier that morning still replayed in her mind, and she was so frustrated with herself for the things she'd said.

Who knew what could have gone differently if she'd just kept her thoughts to herself.

Abby tried to focus back on her surroundings, not wanting to follow that train of thought. It hurt too much to consider. She just prayed to anybody who would listen that Harry and Al would both go home soon in perfect health.

Leaning over, she placed a feather-light kiss against his temple before resting her arms on the bed rail. She dropped her chin onto them and took the quiet minutes she had to observe every intimate feature of his face until her own eyes began to grow heavy.


A sharp knock on the door awoke her.

Abby rubbed her eyes and glanced up at the clock in the room. She felt like she'd been asleep for hours, but it had only been about twenty minutes.

It was a testament to just how exhausted Harry was that the sound didn't startle him awake, as well.

"Er…come in," Abby said, praying it was one of the Weasleys.

But the door opened to reveal a man in the standard lime green healer uniform.

Feeling a bit nervous, Abby fixed her posture and combed her fingers through her hair, trying to look as put-together as possible in the hopes that she'd be taken seriously.

From the moment she'd stepped foot in St. Mungos, it was as though she'd shrunken into herself. Like she was afraid of being noticed. But if she and Harry were going to make this relationship work, she needed to start getting comfortable around other wizards.

"Hello," the Healer said, giving her a kind smile. "I'm Healer Abassi. I'm here to speak to Mr. Potter about his son."

Abby held her breath for a second before nodding. "Would you like me to wake him?"

The man bowed his head. "If you could," he said. "I'm sure he'd rather it be a familiar face. Word on the street is he can be quite tetchy."

A glimmer of amusement shone in the man's eyes, and she felt herself relax slightly. Surely Al couldn't be in that bad of shape if his healer was able to crack jokes.

Leaning in closer to Harry, she gave his shoulder a gentle shake. "Harry," she said in a low voice close to his ear. "Wake up."

His eyes immediately shot open, and he shifted them around until he met her stare.

"Hey, sorry," she said. "I wanted to let you rest, but...the Healer is here about Al."

The words caused Harry to scramble up into a seated position. "Right–yeah–hi," he said as the man approached. "I'm awake."

"Hello, Mr. Potter. My name is Healer Abassi, I've been treating your son, Albus," the man said, conjuring a stool and taking a seat next to his bed.

Harry only nodded, tension emanating off him as he waited for the man to continue talking.

"First and most importantly, Albus is stable. All of his vital signs look great–"

"Oh, thank God," Harry breathed out, dropping his face into his hands for a moment and looking too overwhelmed to speak.

Abby rubbed his back up and down, feeling emotional at the sight of him.

Healer Abassi waited until Harry looked up again before continuing. "It appears he suffered from a severe case of accidental magic," he said. "As you witnessed the last time something similar happened, intense stressors can sometimes lead to magical outbursts…usually in the form of destruction of nearby objects. But in more extreme and rare cases…injury and death. Both to themselves and others in the vicinity."

Harry visibly swallowed.

"Thankfully, in both instances, it seems Albus' case was not that severe," the man said. "He did suffer some internal damage this time, but we were able to patch everything up like new."

While everything the Healer was saying boded well so far, Abby couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong.

He cleared his throat and looked down at his clipboard for a moment. "I do have some concerns about his magic, however," he said, glancing back up.

At this, Harry's back tensed underneath her fingers. "What sort of concerns?" he said.

Healer Abassi sighed as he clasped his hands together. "Unfortunately, I don't have many direct answers for you at the moment. But the current readings of his magical signature are quite low."

Harry furrowed his eyebrows as though trying to process the words.

A look of empathy crossed over the Healer's face, disrupting his otherwise professional mask. "Magical ability is a…spectrum," he said, his tone patient. "Underage wizards move up and down that spectrum frequently until they reach their full magical maturity at age eleven. Albus could very well move up with time, but...the normal extrapolation of this sort of data…"

He flipped through various pages of his notes before putting the clipboard down. "Well, it would suggest that…your son may not retain his magical ability, Mr. Potter."

Harry fell back against the pillows, placing a hand atop his head as he stared off into space.

"How could something like this happen?" he said after a moment. "He's done magic before, I know he has. So many times when he was younger."

The Healer nodded. "Research is still very behind on how emotion relates to our ability to produce magic, but there is a definite correlation between the two," he said gently. "Things like grief and depression have been known to suppress magical ability. Why Albus' magic is going through these sharp peaks and valleys, I can't rightly explain. But...everyone responds to life events differently."

A stoic look crossed over Harry's face causing Abby to direct her own question at the Healer. "Is there any hope things could get better?" she said. "That he could get his magic back eventually?"

"Oh, there's always hope," the man said with a nod. "We won't know his official magical status until he turns eleven. But until then…we can continue running tests to see if there's anything else we can discover that may help him."

The answer didn't seem to shake Harry out of his stupor, so Abby smiled in thanks at the man by way of reply.

Taking that as a signal, Healer Abassi stood up, waving his wand over the stool to make it vanish. "I'll leave you both to process this information," he said heading toward the door.

Before opening it, he hesitated for a moment and looked back at Harry. "Your son is alive and well, Mr. Potter. I'm sure he'll want to see you first thing when he wakes up."

With that, he exited the room, leaving an uncomfortable silence in his wake.

Abby wasn't sure what to do at this point. She didn't think she was the best person to comfort Harry about something like this when she didn't fully understand the implications of it herself.

She wasn't naive enough to think that raising a non-magical child in a magical world would be easy. Hell, she'd barely been here a day, and already she'd struggled.

But surely Al's case would be very different from her own. He was growing up in this world, he was familiar with it and its people. He belonged here.

And who was to say that he'd never get his magic back? She assumed that wizarding medicine was similar to the muggle world–always growing, changing, developing. The Healer had suggested so himself.

There was always hope. There had to be.

With a small frown, Abby reached out to take Harry's hand in hers. No matter what, it was cruel that after everything he'd been through already, he'd now been dealt yet another blow.

She only wished she could somehow ease the heavy burden that always seemed to be weighing him down. But she felt powerless.

"I don't understand…" Harry spoke up finally, his voice hollow.

Abby knitted her eyebrows together, a wave of sadness overcoming her.

"I mean–I know I should have been there more…I should have been better," he said, staring straight ahead. "I should've–talked to him more…noticed more."


"But was I really so terrible?" he said, holding his hands out at a loss. "Did I really screw things up so badly?"

His voice caught at the end of his sentence, and he hung his head, placing the heels of his bandaged hands against his eyes.

Abby took a seat on the bed and pulled him in. "You're not," she said, resting her chin on his head. "I promise you, you're not."

He let out a long breath and leaned into her.

"Everything will be okay," she whispered, running her fingers through his hair. "You'll see…everything will be just fine…"

Albus was alive and safe, and he would wake up soon. And the sight of him would make Harry feel better. She knew it would.

Until then, she would continue to hold him in this same position, rubbing his arms and his back gently, pouring every ounce of love and comfort into her touch.

She had a sneaking suspicion he hadn't been touched like this in years. And that thought alone made her want to never let go of him again.

"I've dreaded this for so long," Harry said into the silence, his voice sounding congested. "A part of me knew, even though I kept trying to deny it. And now…I've got no idea what the hell I'm supposed to do."

Abby swallowed hard. "Maybe you just take it day by day?" she said. "We don't know what the future holds, Harry. What's the point in dreading something that might never happen?"

He shrugged. "Better to be prepared," he said.

"I don't think it works like that."

He blew out a loud breath and rested back against his pillows. "How does it work, then?"

Licking her lips, she stared down at the bed covers and fiddled with a loose thread. "I don't know, I just think that...whether you prepare or not–if bad things happen, it's going to hurt no matter what," she said. "And if good things happen–well, then you've wasted all that time preparing for nothing."

At this, Harry rubbed a hand down his face. "It's not that simple," he said. "He's my son, Abby. I worry if the wind blows slightly too hard in his direction. I can't just–I can't just stop."

"I know it's easier said than done," she said. "But maybe it's worth trying."

He leant his head back and stared at the ceiling. "I just can't get it out of my head," he said. "All this time…all that hurt he must have been feeling. I didn't see that. What kind of father does that make me?"

"But you see it now," she said, grasping his arm. "And you're making changes now. You've been trying to do better by him–by everyone. I know you have."

"Clearly I've not done enough–"

"But you will," Abby said.

"What if I can't?" Harry said in frustration. "What if he doesn't get better? What if the promises I made to him all go to shit because he never gets to go to Hogwarts or learn magic or–or become a wizard? What, then? What kind of life does he have to look forward to then?"

Abby gazed at him for a moment with her lips parted. "A normal one," she said quietly.

"What?" Harry said, turning to look at her.

The way he was staring at her, it was if she'd said something ridiculous.

"A normal one," she repeated. "Like the other billions of people on this planet."

Bringing her knees up to her chest, she turned her face away from him and stared at the wall.

"What's wrong?" he said, noticing the shift in her mood right away.

She shook her head. "Nothing, I just…" she said, pausing for a moment. "How can you say that?"


"You know what," she said, snapping her head towards him. "You're worried about Al's feelings–I get that. And I can't imagine how difficult this must be, but…the way you're going on about it all–there's life outside of Hogwarts and magic, Harry. And it could be just as good and just as important."

With a click of his tongue, he sighed. "You know that's not what I meant," he said, throwing his covers off his legs and turning his back to her as he sat on the edge of the bed.

"Then what do you mean, exactly?" she said loudly. "Because you're making it sound like his life will be meaningless."

Harry gripped the mattress hard. "I did not say that," he said, his jaw clenched hard. "And I don't think it, either. But it won't exactly be easy, will it? He'll be missing out on so many opportunities that he's been looking forward to his entire life. He'll be isolated from everyone he knows, made to feel like an outsider. Like he's lesser than."

"And who would make him feel that way?" Abby said, throwing her arms out. "Cause I sure as hell hope that you never would."

"Of course I bloody wouldn't!" Harry said, getting to his feet and turning to face her. "But I'm not naive, Abby. I know what it's like to live in a world without magic. To be cut off from everything and everyone, and I–"

He stopped abruptly, shaking his head.

"And you what?" she said, feeling a lump forming in the back of her throat.

"I...I can't have that for him," Harry said, looking back up at her with pain in his eyes. "His family, friends, the entire wizarding world. They wouldn't understand him. It would make his life miserable."

Blinking a few times, Abby nodded slowly. "I see," she said before standing up from the bed and turning to face him.

They stared at each other for a moment, a hollow pit forming at the bottom of her stomach.

"There's a lot of things I don't agree on with you there," she said. "But most of all this: I think it's you that wouldn't be able to understand him. And I think that would hurt him the most."

Harry opened his mouth to reply, but she cut him off again.

"Because for me? I could handle the hateful, prejudiced–dangerous–words from strangers. I could handle the threat of memory spells. Feeling completely lost and insecure in a new environment. I could handle it all if I knew you were on my side, Harry. If I knew that you understood me," she said, her eyes starting to well up. "But maybe you don't. And maybe that's the problem. I will always be less than you."

"That is not true," Harry said through clenched teeth. "THAT IS NOT TRUE!"

But Abby only shook her head. "I've felt it before, but I could never find the words to describe it," she said. "It's there. It's always been there. Your own prejudice."

"Abby, stop–"

"I hope with all my heart that Al is able to heal from this, to have his magic back," she said, backing away from him. "But if he doesn't…I pray to God he never has to doubt his worth to you. Because that would make him miserable. Believe me…I would know."

She started walking towards the door, but he quickly caught up with her.

"Where are you going?" he said, his voice coming out raspy. "You can't just leave like that. You can't just say things that aren't true!"

Abby wiped her eyes and shook her head. "I just need some time alone."

"Please," he said, his voice raw with desperation.

Despite everything, her heart broke at the sight of him. He looked so much younger, every emotion exposed on his face. It felt so cruel to leave him in a state like this, but she knew if she stayed a second longer, they'd both say something they might regret.

"I just need some time alone," she said again, this time softer. "I think we both do."

He took her face in his hands gently, like he was holding something fragile. Brushed his thumb across her cheek. "How can you think I see you as less than anything or anyone…when you've got an entire goddamn world inside of you?"

His eyes burned her skin with their intensity. And he leant in to press his lips to hers before stepping away. "Take all the time you need," he said. "Just come back to me."

Feeling slightly dazed, Abby turned around and left the room before he could say anything more. Only Harry could break her heart and then set it aflame in the span of minutes. Only he had that power over her.

It was terrifying. Exciting. Exhausting.

She turned around before he could say anything more and left the room.

Hurrying down the corridor, Abby headed toward the waiting room so one of the Weasleys could help her get home.

Everyone was still there besides Hermione, and they all paused to look up at her when she entered the room.

"I have to go," she blurted out, trying and failing to act natural.

The last thing she wanted was for everyone to know that she and Harry had fought. But Abby could feel herself suffocating the longer she stayed. And after the day she'd had, she was just about ready to fall apart.

Ron shifted his eyes towards his parents before standing up and walking out with her into the corridor. "Is everything okay?" he said quietly. "The Healer told us Al was stable, but nothing else."

Swallowing hard, Abby nodded. "He should be awake soon," she said. "You'd probably do better to talk to Harry about the rest, though. I'm just a bit tired. Think I need to go home and rest a little."

Scrunching his forehead, Ron glanced over his shoulder before looking back at her. "You two got in a fight, didn't you?"

"What?" Abby said, her heart skipping a beat. "Why would you–that's not–I mean, we didn't…"

He laughed and patted her on the shoulder. "It's okay," he said, raising his eyebrows. "I won't tell anyone."

Abby looked down at her fingers and exhaled loudly. "I can't imagine what you must be thinking of me," she said. "Harry in hospital…his son right next door. All because of me. And then I go and pick a fight with him on top of everything else."

"Actually I wasn't really thinking any–"

"I promise I didn't intend for this to happen," she said, willing him to understand. "I never wanted to make this all about me. I…I was just trying to help."

"Bloody hell…" Ron said in response.

Bracing herself for his judgement, Abby pursed her lips and looked him in the eye.

"You are both…so annoying," he said, shaking his head.

She blinked a few times, at a loss for words. "What?"

"Look at you," he said, gesturing towards her with a chuckle. "You're just like him. Did you ever stop to think that maybe you should be making this all about you because it is all about you? Somebody tried to kill you today. Do you get that?"

Letting out a shaky breath, Abby nodded.

"I don't think you do. Because if it were me…" Ron said, pointing at his chest. "I wouldn't be sat around here worrying about anybody else but myself."

The urge to defend herself rose up within her. But as she took a moment to consider his words, she realised that he had a point. Her own self-preservation was not high on her list of priorities today. From Harry to Al to Clara, even to Arthur, she'd put so much energy into worrying about everyone else that she hadn't really stopped to grasp the reality of her own situation.

There were people out there in the world, right now, that wanted her dead.

Maybe she'd been trying to distract herself from that fact by thinking about the others. Or maybe it was something even more troubling than that.

Did she not care about her own welfare enough to be frightened? Or did she believe that her pain and her fear were less important than those around her?

Abby closed her eyes for a moment, feeling a deep ache growing from somewhere within her.

"Come on," Ron said eventually, his voice soft. "Let's get you out of here."

Snapping out of her thoughts, she gave him a grateful look before following his lead. Her mind was racing in so many different directions. She just needed time alone to think everything through.

The corridor they were walking down soon gave way to a nurse's station and a pair of large double doors. Abby could barely remember the layout of the hospital as she'd been in too much of a state when she'd arrived here with Arthur.

Ron pushed the doors open and entered into the reception area, but she nearly bumped into him when he froze in his step.

"Oh, fucking hell…" he said through gritted teeth.

Abby looked around his arm to see a hospital staff member corralling a large group of people with cameras towards the entrance of the hospital.

"What's going on?" she said.

"They're reporters," Ron said in a low voice. "Just stay close to me. And don't look up. The flash'll make your eyes go all wonky."

Feeling her heartbeat quicken, Abby did as she was told. The distance to the door wasn't very far, but they'd barely made it halfway when several shouts erupted throughout the room, followed by a series of blinding lights and noisy clicks of cameras.

They'd been walking at a normal pace before so as not to attract any attention, but Ron grabbed her arm now and practically dragged her to the exit.

He was shouting something at her, but she could barely hear over the sound of them calling out and yelling questions. Random words and phrases pierced through the cacophony of noise, but none as quickly as her own name.


" and Harry meet?"

"Abby! Abby!"

" long…dating?"

"...the Chosen One…?"


She felt an arm wrap around her waist and push her forward through the crowd, but she couldn't see anything past the flashes of the cameras. Until the light of the sun and the outside air hit her face and she nearly cried out in relief.

"Let's get to that alley so I can apparate us away," Ron said, gesturing ahead of them.

She jogged to keep up with him, wanting to get as far away from those people as possible.

"Hold my arm tight," he said as soon as they stepped into the shadows.

Abby grabbed on immediately and squeezed her eyes shut as she felt the familiar uncomfortable sensation of being squeezed through a small tube.

When they reappeared a second later, she took a gasping breath and leant over, grabbing her stomach.

It was one thing to apparate under normal conditions. It was another to do so while she was already in a panic.

"Easy does it," Ron said, leaning down and placing a hand on her back. "You're okay. You're safe."

She knelt down to her knees, distantly aware that there was cold, wet grass beneath her. The feel of it seemed to ground her.

"Where are we?" Abby said, looking around.

"Harry's back garden," he said with a shrug. "I wasn't sure where else to take you. Thought somewhere familiar might help."

She wiped her knees off and stood back up on shaky legs. "No, it's perfect, thank you. I'll take a bus to my flat," she said. "You can go back to the hospital. Make sure Harry and Al are okay. And send me a message somehow if anything changes. Hermione has my number."

But Ron didn't move.

She looked up to find his face set in a deep frown.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly.

Abby didn't respond. She didn't know how to. She simply dropped her head into her hands and let out a sob that emanated somewhere from deep within her.

And she couldn't stop. Even though she knew Ron was there. Even though the rain from earlier that day had started to pick up again, mixing with the tears streaming down her face.

She couldn't stop.

Because today had been one of the worst days of her life, and she was exhausted. So incredibly exhausted. And there was a heaviness in her chest that had been weighing her down since she'd opened her eyes that for the life of her, she couldn't seem to get rid of.

Letting out a ragged breath, Abby raised her head and looked at Ron, trying and failing to compose herself.

"I wish I could tell you it won't always be like this…" he said, furrowing his eyebrows. "But there's a reason he spends so much time in your world. I'd want to escape it all too, if I were him. Just to feel normal."

The word 'escape' triggered a memory in her from long ago. A conversation she'd had with Harry before they'd gotten together. Before they'd even really become friends.

'This is my pretend world,' he'd said. 'You're pretend…but I don't know if I want you to be.'

The sentiment had cut so deeply at the time. The fact that he could be so real for her, and yet…she was only his escape from reality.

Until everything changed of course. Until he'd brought her over, and introduced her to Ron and Hermione. Embedded her into his life. And now…the final barrier between her and Harry's world was broken.

Reality had set in…and it wasn't off to an amazing start.

"He's worth it, though," Ron said, pulling her away from her thoughts. "The madness."

Abby's heart twinged in response.

"Oh, you don't need to tell me that," she said, bringing her face up to the rain in the hopes that it might wash everything away.


The bus ride from Harry's house was a dreary one. Part of her wanted to go home and curl up in bed, but another part of her was afraid that doing so would just sink her into a worse mood.

Plus, she had no idea what state the flat was in after this morning. What state Clara was in.

Her stop arrived before she could make a proper decision. She got off the bus and walked along the pavement with her head down against the wind, the rain having finally let up.

She could go to Ollie's shop and practice. But even that felt too exhausting of a prospect.

And anyway…did it even matter now? Auditioning for a spot in the Wizarding orchestra when the entire Wizarding World had probably seen her face splattered across the front page of every paper this morning.

Abby paused at the crosswalk, unsure which direction to take. She pulled out her mobile to give herself something to do while passersby walked around her, and she stared at it as if it would give her some sort of answer.

Her thumb hovered over her list of contacts, scrolling through them despite knowing she'd come away empty.


Her childhood best friend who lived halfway across the world at the moment. They hadn't talked since Abby's birthday.


Would definitely just end up feeling worse.


Acquaintances at best. They'd never even hung out outside of work.


He'd already done enough for her. She didn't want to be a burden.


Abby paused as she stared at the name, feeling the familiar sensation of guilt rise up within her.

Ex-boyfriend. Former best friend.

Letting out a long sigh, Abby leant back against the brick wall of the shop behind her.

So many times over the past couple of years, her fingers itched to call his number. To hear his voice and talk about any inane thing just to feel the comfort of his friendship again. To laugh and debate and argue and reminisce. To be everything they were at the start.

But she knew they could never be.

Abby was about to give up and shut her mobile before a name under Sam's caught her eye.


That option was even more far-fetched than the one before it.

And yet…

Maybe it was masochism…wistfulness…the overpowering feeling of loneliness. Or perhaps it was just curiosity or longing.

Despite everything that happened, she did long for her brother. The one person in the world who'd always felt like home.

At that moment, she would have given anything to wrap him in a hug and forget everything. To travel back to a place and time when the world felt simpler. When her mum was still there and Ryan was still her annoying yet adoring little brother. And her dad wasn't yet the man he'd become.

The ache in her chest expanded and for a moment, she felt so much younger than her age. So much more in need of comfort.

Wiping at her eyes and steeling herself, Abby decided to throw caution to the wind and dial his number, knowing that he wouldn't answer, but feeling the need to try anyway.

Seconds passed with it ringing, getting louder and louder in her ear each time. Abby was just about to end the call after the fifth ring, when her brother finally picked up.

Her stomach dropped.

"Hello?" she said, hearing her blood rush in her ears.

"Hi," he said back.

An awkward silence followed.

Abby hadn't thought this far ahead. She'd very much assumed he wouldn't answer.

"I just wanted to…erm," she said, feeling her mouth go dry. "I just wanted to talk to you."

Another bout of silence.

She was starting to regret this decision. It had been a pure impulse borne out of a feeling of loneliness. But perhaps it would only make things worse.

"Why do you sound like that?" he said after a moment.

"Like what?"

"Like you've got a little cartoon cloud raining over your head."

Despite everything, Abby couldn't help but let out a sniff of amusement. "Pretty accurate description of today."

Ryan sighed over the phone then. "What did you want to talk about, Abby?" he said, not beating around the bush. "I think we both said enough last time."

She shook her head even though he couldn't see. "I didn't mean what I said then," she said, her voice small. "It's all I've thought about every day since I saw you. But I didn't mean any of it."

Feeling her emotions start to rise up for the umpteenth time that day, Abby looked around the street and tried to compose herself, too embarrassed to cry in public. She pushed off the wall behind her and headed off in a familiar direction, hoping to get a bit of privacy.

"You did, though," Ryan said. "You meant a hell of a lot of it."

"I was shocked," Abby said, crossing to the other side of the road towards the river. "How did you expect me to react when you've all been keeping this secret from me for years."

"It was never meant to be a secret," he said, sounding frustrated. "But you and Dad can't bloody speak for five seconds without biting each other's heads off, apparently."

"And that surprised you?" she said.

He didn't respond.

Letting out a long sigh, Abby took a seat on one of the benches across from the river. "Look, it doesn't matter," she said. "I didn't call to fight. I called to…"

"What?" he said. "Cause I picked up against my better judgement, and now I'm starting to regret that."

Abby stared out at the water in front of her and shook her head. "I don't know," she admitted. "I've got no idea why I called."

He didn't reply for several seconds, but she knew he was still there. Perhaps wanting to say something, but struggling to find the words.

They were always alike in that way.

"I just missed you," Abby said, her voice wavering a bit. "Have done for years."

It felt incredibly vulnerable to admit, but she decided she had nothing more to lose at this point.

"That's it, really," she said. "That's all I wanted to say."

Abby had half a mind to end the phone call right there, unable to bear the sound of silence on the other end. Or worse–a rejection.

But then he finally spoke again.

"Naomi's a good person, you know," he said, his voice losing the bit of edge it had had all throughout the conversation. "Better than he deserves."

She blinked, thrown off by his statement. "Yeah…I've noticed as much."

"You'd like her," he said. "She' that thing about her like you do."

"What thing?"

"Dunno, just…a warmth, I guess," he said. "How you can make anyone feel comfortable–special."

Something caught in her chest at his words. She never knew he thought that way about her. And somehow that, more than anything, made her want to cry.

"It's like magic."

At this, Abby couldn't help but let out a bark of laughter.

The irony of it all was too much to bear. And after all the stress of today, it felt good to laugh.

Leaning back against the bench, she let out a small sigh. "Well, thank you for saying that," she said. "It definitely, er…it definitely made my day."

"So you're still just as odd as you've always been, then," Ryan said.

There was a fondness in his voice that made the heaviness in her heart lift.

"Listen, whatever's bothering you…" he said. "You'll be okay, Abby. You don't need an idiot like me to tell you that."

She smiled softly to herself. "You're not an idiot," she said. "Just an arsehole sometimes."

He chuckled.

After another stretch of silence, Abby opened her mouth to speak, but he beat her to it.

"Maybe, we could, er…" he said, sounding hesitant. "Maybe we could try again sometime. Without that whole family reunion thing. Just me and you."

"Maybe we could," she said, nodding.

They exchanged a few more pleasantries after that, and then Ryan hung up the phone.

With a long sigh, Abby felt something inside of her unravel for the first time in years.

And she cried. But this time it was a good cry.


Abby wasn't sure how much time had passed since she'd ended the phone call with Ryan, but she was still sat in the same spot after what must have been hours. Her phone was somewhere deep in her pocket, and she'd only gotten up occasionally to buy a sandwich or stretch her legs.

There was something peaceful about sitting by the water. Surrounded by strangers, but still alone and able to sift through her thoughts.

Her mood had definitely improved by now, especially after talking to Ryan. But there was still a lingering sense of unease from the way she'd left things with Harry.

They'd both been so emotional, Harry even more so. And though many of the things he'd said had been hurtful, he'd merely pressed on an old wound of hers that had been inflicted long before he'd ever come into her life.

The feeling of not doing enough. Not being enough.

Harry couldn't have known how tender her heart was to those types of blows, however blunt.

She closed her eyes as a gentle wind brushed across her face, taking a moment to revel in it.

Nobody could ever make her feel lesser if she did not believe it herself. And if they ever tried, then she had every power to walk away. She'd learnt that a long, long time ago. But sometimes, she still needed a reminder.

Her eyes remained closed even as she heard footsteps on the pavement walking toward her. But when they stopped in front of her, she looked up and let in a small intake of breath.

Harry was stood there, dressed in his regular clothes again, appearing completely healthy. The colour was back in his face, and his hands were now fully healed.

"What are you doing here?" she said, straightening up in her seat. "How did you…"

"May I sit?" he said, gesturing towards the spot next to her.

She nodded. "Of course," she said quietly.

Taking a seat next to her, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared straight ahead.

"How's Al?" she said.

"He's good," Harry said, shifting his head toward her. "He's awake, back to normal. He can come home tonight."

Abby exhaled softly. "That's so good to hear," she said, touching his arm.

Harry glanced down at her hand for a moment before looking up at her. From a closer distance, she noticed that his eyes were slightly red.

Feeling unsure, Abby made to remove her hand, but he quickly placed his own atop hers, holding it there.

He stared at her with an intensity in his green eyes that felt magnetic. Try as she might, she could not pull her gaze away.

"I need to know what you want," he said, a solemn look on his face.

Abby frowned, surprised by this statement.

"Because I want you," he said, bluntly. "I want you so badly."

Blimey, he was just getting straight to it.

"But if you don't…" he said, his lips parting. "Then I'll go away. I'll leave you alone. Give you peace of mind and privacy. Because I know that's what you'll risk by being with me."

He took her hand in his and stared down at her fingers.

"That's why I tried so hard to keep you away from it all," he said. "Not because I thought any less of you, but because I didn't want to scare you–I didn't want to lose you. And now I may have ended up doing it anyway."

She shook her head, but he continued.

"I was afraid today, Abby. So bloody terrified. And because of that, I said things I regret, and I am so so sorry for that," he said, looking back up at her, his eyes pleading. "If I have to spend the rest of my life proving to you what kind of man I am, then I'll do it. Because that's not me–I promise you, it's not."

"I know," she said, placing her hand against his face.

"I just dreaded the idea of my son feeling anything less than everything that he is," he said, his voice getting raspy. "But you were right. He might never have to feel like that if I never make him feel like that. Because I've got that power."

Visibly swallowing, Harry placed his hand on top of hers. "For that alone…I love you," he said, causing her heart to race. "I love you."

The words on his tongue felt so incredibly intimate. Like he was pouring every ounce of feeling he had into them.

Everything Harry did was done with intensity. She'd learnt that long ago. And she'd fallen hard for it in response. He'd claimed earlier that she had a whole world inside of her, but he had the universe. A never-ending abyss of life and passion and possibility. And he had no idea.

"Being with you…it's like coming back to life again," Harry said, brushing his thumb gently down her cheek and over her lips. "You make everything better. And brighter…and safer."

She closed her eyes, her insides burning at his touch.

"And I love you," he repeated. "You must know by now that I do."

With a soft smile, she responded.

"I love you, too," she said, her voice coming out higher-pitched than usual. "Obviously."

Harry let out a long breath that he seemed to have been holding forever and relaxed his shoulders.

"And in response to your question," she said. "All I've ever wanted is you, Harry. I just want to be sure that…no matter what happens with the outside world, we're on each other's sides. I could handle it all as long as you understand and respect me."

He nodded, a serious look on his face. "Of course," he breathed.

"And you'll also have to tell me you love me again," she said, bumping her shoulder against his. "Like repeatedly. In case I forget."

With a wide smile, he nodded once more. "Of course."

"Okay, that's it. If I think of anything else, I'll let you know," she said, making him laugh.

Placing his arm around her shoulders, Harry held her close as he relaxed back against the bench. They both stared at the gentle movement of the water, lost in their own thoughts. And Abby took a moment to marvel at the fact that they had so many memories in this exact spot on this exact bench. At this point, it seemed just as much a part of their relationship as either of them.

She laughed privately at her own joke.

"How did you find me here, anyway?" she said, glancing up at him.

Harry shrugged. "Figured you'd be in one of three places: home, playing piano, or…somewhere to brood."

With a roll of her eyes, Abby shoved him lightly. "So you guessed here?"

"Well, it is our spot, isn't it?" he said with a grin. "What better place to brood?"

"Good point," she said, before another thought crossed her mind. "Where are James and Lily?"

"They were with Andromeda all day. Then George offered to take them to be with their cousins so they could get their mind off things," Harry said, his mouth drawing into a small frown. "I checked in on them before I came here, though. James was really happy to see me."

Abby smiled. "Oh, I'm sure," she said. "I can't imagine how scared he must have been today."

With a long sigh, Harry nodded. "Yeah…" he said. "I just…I always expected my kids' lives would be more peaceful than my own. And sure, they're not out there fighting dark wizards, but…they've dealt with more than I ever wanted them to."

She laced her fingers with his and gave his hand a small squeeze. "There's just certain things you can never prepare for, I guess. No child's life is ever perfect," she said with a shrug. "But they've got you, Harry. No matter what comes their way…they've got you."

Shifting her head up, Abby met his gaze and smiled. "How lucky they are…" she said softly.

Something she said seemed to have affected him because he cleared his throat and looked down for a moment. But not before she saw his eyes glisten.

And she was surprised when a second later, he took her face in his hands and kissed her deeply.

Abby immediately melted against him. It seemed all of today's stress was unravelling for both of them, and they clung to each other with a desperation they'd never felt before.

In the back of her mind, Abby knew they had to put a brake on things. And as Harry brought his lips to her neck, the voice got shoved to the forefront. She had to physically pull his head away and look him in the eye.

"Harry…" she said, breathing heavily. "While I love the enthusiasm…we're sort of in public."

Pressing his forehead to hers, he let out a shaky breath. "I can fix that," he said before standing up and taking her hand in his.

He moved them to the nearest secluded spot before apparating them away. And a second later, they were in his back garden. It was moments like these that she fell in love with magic all over again.

They'd barely made it through the backdoor when Harry grabbed her again and continued where they left off. She'd never seen him like this, but she sure as hell wasn't complaining. She needed this just as much as he did.

He groaned softly when she pressed into him, and the sound made her pause for a moment, despite everything in her screaming for her to shut up and keep going.

"W-what are we doing?" she said, her heart pounding against her chest. "I mean–to be clear, I'm very open to multiple possibilities. But I just wanted to make sure you're–"

He held her against him and she let out a small gasp despite herself. "I'm very open to multiple possibilities as well," he said into her ear, causing her face to burn. "Which possibility were you thinking? Because I can be flexible with many, many possibilities."

She shuddered slightly as he took her ear between his lips. "The–the possi–oh, whatever, just take me upstairs right now," she said as he continued to tease her.

Grinning, Harry did as he was told, leading her up the staircase to his bedroom.

She'd only ever gotten a small glimpse of it once before. But today, she was seeing it in a whole different light. Everything about the dark wood and navy blue bed covers and the clean scent of Harry and his faint cologne that invaded her nostrils made her desire amplify in a way she didn't think possible.

It seemed almost forbidden to be in here. To watch Harry take off his socks and get on the bed, patting the spot beside him as if they'd done this a hundred times before.

Abby walked over and sat down on the bed, feeling like she was a teenager all over again. Harry always seemed to have that effect on her. As if everything they did together was her first time. Because it never even came close to feeling this way before. This level of excitement, anticipation, desire…love.

She was so in love with him even as just he sat there breathing.

"You're sure, Harry?" she said, lying next to him and placing a hand on his face. "It's been a mad day…I don't want you to feel like you need to do anything or–or make up for anything..."

His lips lifted slightly in amusement. "You're mad if you think I haven't been aching for this for weeks," he said, running his hand from her shoulder down to her arm, his fingers leaving goosebumps in their wake. "I know I had issues before. But I promise you…I wouldn't do anything if I wasn't ready."

And from the look on his face, she believed him.

His pupils were dilated in the dimly lit room, his usually bright green eyes muted in the darkness. Yet they'd never looked so intense. So brilliant.

Feeling her heart lift, Abby nodded.

"I love you," Harry said, kissing her softly.

She let out a small sigh and opened her mouth to him, letting him take the lead as he rolled them over and leant down to deepen the kiss.

And in the back of her mind, she marvelled at how a day could start so miserably…and then end in absolute bliss.


A/N: Well, it's been two years, I think. But I finally updated. I always did promise that it wasn't abandoned. The story will most likely have 1-1.5 chapters left before it's finally–after 8 years–able to be labeled 'complete'. Let's hope it doesn't take another two years to get there, though.

I'd like to give a very heartfelt thank you to Petrificus Somewhatus (for having a birthday so I could be motivated to finish this chapter), Saliient91 (for endlessly motivating me and having faith in me to finish this story), and Nauze.

And a special thank you to them for taking time out of their days to beta a 19k word chapter. Couldn't be me, but I'm eternally grateful to them and all their support and friendship.