Harry and Hermione had never really argued before. They have had their disagreements of course, but they had never argued to the point where they were barely speaking to each other. It had been two days since their fight in the training room and they were no closer to making up. That night he had ended up sleeping in his grandparent's old bedroom, conjuring a mattress on the floor because he couldn't bring himself to sleep in the bed. That was probably the worst night he had spent in a very long time. The night after was not any better. He had tossed and turned, unable to sleep as the guilt ate at him and small remnants of indignation and anger continued to flare in his veins. He couldn't make himself go to her and apologize. First, because he didn't think that he was completely wrong, and second because he wasn't sure that she would even forgive him. He made her cry. The image of her, looking up at him with hurt in her eyes and tears on her face was one he would not easily forget. He could barely forgive himself so how could she?
The day right after the fight had been…awkward to say the least. At first he and Hermione had tried to avoid one another but that wasn't the easiest thing to do when you had a child around. Cattie was an observant little girl, way smarter than she had any right to be, so it was ridiculous for them not to expect her to pick up on the tension between them. The fact that they weren't sharing a bed anymore made it clear that something was very wrong. She had woken up the morning before and as per usual she had headed over to their bedroom to wake them up for breakfast. After coming in all prepared to launch herself into her parent's bed and hopefully shocking them into wakefulness, she had only seen her mother in the room –her mother whose eyes were red-rimmed from more than a little bit of crying--she had been terrified. Cattie wasn't always with the two of them but there was never a time where she did not know where they were or had at least a small idea of what they were doing. Not seeing her father lying in bed like he was supposed to be scared her more than Harry or Hermione had expected. She was deathly afraid of losing them and in that brief moment, she had no idea where he was. All the little girl could think was that her daddy was gone; it was like her worse nightmares were being realized.
Harry heard her crying all the way down the hall and he had flung off his blankets and run to her without even a second of hesitation. It had taken nearly twenty minutes to calm Cattie down. At one point Hermione was holding the little girl in her arms and rocking her back and forth, murmuring soothing words in her ears while Harry rubbed her back, when their eyes had met over her head. They had not spoken but at that moment they had not needed to. They had come to a mutual decision. They couldn't let Cattie see how things were between them; it would scare her or her hurt or more than likely, both. They had told Cattie that he was working on something really important so that was why he wasn't sleeping in their bedroom for now. He had a feeling that the little girl didn't all together buy it but she hadn't asked anymore questions. He and Hermione had ben trying to act like nothing was wrong whenever she was around; trying to smile and laugh through meals until Harry would escape the awkwardness and go and hide out in the library or the training room. He tried to cut down a little on the training, trying not to run himself until he was on the brink of collapsing but what else could he do? It was either train or think about Hermione and he just wasn't ready for that. They went about it like they were putting on a front for Cattie's sake but Harry would be lying if he said that was the only reason. A part of him felt that maybe if they pretended everything was okay, it would all just work itself out. He wasn't even sure if he knew how to apologize to her. He never truly had to do so before, at least not for something so serious and he was at a loss.
It was six o'clock in the morning and Harry was already downstairs at the dining room table. He had long ago given up trying to sleep and now he was just slumped in his chair, feeling miserable for himself. His ars were folded on top of the table with his head resting on them as he was stared out the windows, scowling at the bright morning sun. It was obviously going to be a nice day and the clear blue of the sky had him fervently wishing for rain. At least that would match his mood. He was contemplating just skipping breakfast entirely and the tense affair it would not doubt be when he heard the sound of footsteps in the hall. Guess it was too late to run away now. He lifted his head, forcing himself to sit up straight and appear alert, or at least less miserable.
As the footsteps grew closer to the dining room Harry could feel his throat start to close up and he swallowed hard, the palms of his hands already beginning to sweat. He and Hermione had been putting on their little act for the past couple of days but that was only when Cattie was around. Neither had tried to spend a second in the other's presence without their daughter around. It was just too tense, too awkward, and too stressful. The air was always thick with things they needed to say and Harry could feel himself choking on it. On the guilt and the residual feelings of anger. He was getting more and more nervous as the footsteps grew louder and he was seriously debating running out of the backdoor when instead of Hermione, Cattie entered the room. Harry practically sagged in relief when the little girl came into view, hands shoved into the pockets of her jeans and chewing on the end of her ponytail. She was looking down, her brows furrowed.
"Morning Kitty-Cat." He greeted her, smiling. The sound of his voice seemed to surprise her, her head snapping up before she tried to echo his smile. Harry's brows furrowed as he took a good look at her face. That wasn't her smile. Her expression completely lacked the brightness he was used to seeing whenever a smile stretched across her face. "Come here." He said, motioning with his hand for her to come towards him. She hesitated for a moment before moving from the door, slowly making her way over to his chair. She stopped in front of him, still looking at the floor and continuing to chew on her hair as she shifted her weight from foot to foot. He tilted his head to try and catch her eyes but she continued to stare stubbornly at the floor. He poked her in the side until he drew a giggle from her and she finally looked up at him.
"Finally I see those pretty eyes of yours." He reached down and pulled Cattie into his lap, only half exaggerating his groan of effort. She was definitely getting heavier. Immediately Cattie leaned her shoulder against his chest and pressed her forehead to his neck. "Where's your mum?" It might have been six in the morning but he was pretty sure that Cattie had already tried to pull her mother out of bed. Hermione should have been right behind her, or at least still dragging herself down the stairs.
"She said she had something to work on so she'd eat later. You both always have something to work on." She muttered. Harry could guess that Hermione just wasn't up to sitting through another falsely happy meal. He could understand the feeling even if it hurt to think about her avoiding him.
"I guess lately things have just been a little…busy for us." They sat like that for a moment, Harry just holding the girl and waiting for her to speak but she said nothing more. Something was obviously wrong. Cattie was a pretty energetic kid; especially in the morning so seeing her that quiet was a telling sign that something was bothering her. "Do you need to talk about anything?"
Cattie continued to stay quiet for a little longer, taking her hands out of her pockets to fiddle with the hem of his t-shirt. Harry made to prod her again when she finally spoke up. "Did I do something wrong?" she asked. If she hadn't been so close and the room so silent he would have missed her softly spoken question.
"Wrong?" he asked, confused "Why? Did you do something that you want to tell me about?" Cattie might have been a pretty well behaved child but she wasn't perfect. It wouldn't be the first time she had done something she shouldn't have. Still leaning on him, she shook her head. "Then what's the matter? Why do you think you did something wrong?" Her fiddling with his shirt increased until her fingers were tangling in it and she shrugged. He reached around her and gripped her hand, stilling her fidgeting fingers. "Tell me."
"It's just…are you and Mommy mad at me? Neither of you look happy at all and even though you eat with us now we never have fun like we did before and you're still in the library all the time and mommy looks so sad when you leave and…is it my fault? Did I do something wrong? I didn't mean to. I'm sorry!" By the time she finished speaking, her words were coming in a stumbling rush and she was almost gasping for breath, tears shining in her bright eyes. For a moment he couldn't speak, feeling too shocked to come up with anything. He honestly had not believed that Cattie would notice that anything was wrong. After that first morning, he and Hermione had done their very best to project the illusion that everything was okay so that Cattie would have nothing to worry about. It looked like they weren't doing as good of a job as he had thought.
"Oh luv." He wrapped his arms around her and placed his chin on top of her head. "We're not mad at you. Why would we be if you haven't done anything wrong? It's just that your mum and I are going through something right now so things have been a little…tense lately."
Finally she looked up at him, leaning away so she could peer at his face with serious green eyes. "So you're having a row?" Harry's lips quirked and he nodded. Straight to the point as always.
"Oh." She nodded slowly, pursing her lips. "What are you rowing about?" Harry cast around for the proper way to answer her. He was not sure if he should really tell Cattie the full truth, at least not when he hadn't talked to Hermione yet.
"Just something simple really. I haven't been spending as much time as I should with you and your mum lately so she's a bit worried about that, you know? She doesn't want me to work myself too hard."
"That sounds like a silly thing to fight about. If it's so simple, why are you still fighting? I don't like it when you're mad at each other because mum is sad all the time and you are too, I can tell." She was biting her lip and trying to hold back tears and she looked so much like Hermione had that night that Harry felt his chest start to hurt all over again. He cupped her face, laying his forehead against her's.
"I'm sorry, my luv. The last thing your mum and I wanted is for you to be upset."
"It's alright. Just, please don't be angry anymore. Okay?" she sniffled.
"Okay." Harry leaned back and smiled down at her.
"Promise you'll make up?" It took a moment for him to answer her. He didn't think he could promise her that things would be worked out between him and Hermione anytime soon. He couldn't even get up the nerve to talk to her. But Cattie was staring up at him, her eyes wide and trusting, expecting him to fix everything. With a tight smile he nodded, hoping he would not end up regreting it later.
"I Promise. Now we should get to our breakfast so please stop it with those teary eyes before I start crying to. Then we'll never eat." Laughing, she clambered out of his lap and into the chair next to him. She was smiling again, looking much brighter than she had when she first came into the room. Their breakfast appeared a few seconds later and Cattie dug in with vigor, chattering as she ate her eggs and fresh fruit, her mind now free of worries about her parents and assured in the knowledge that everything would soon be fixed. After all, her daddy could make anything better. Harry, on the other hand, picked at his food as his own mind drifted to the woman upstairs. She was hiding away from him and it hurt. It hurt that in barely two days they had gotten to the point where they could not spend time with each other, even around Cattie. But it wasn't all that different from what he had been doing, was it? For the past month he had been steadily hiding away from Cattie and from Hermione. He was beginning to understand what she must have felt all that time. How could he have done that to her?
Before he and Cattie finished breakfast, he made sure to ask DeeDi to bring some breakfast up to Hermione.
Harry spent the rest of the day thinking about her. He had been trying to avoid doing just that since their fight but after speaking to Cattie, he couldn't keep her off of his mind. He had only been thinking of how he had hurt her before that he was failing to see that he was hurting her now. He could not keep doing this to her. By the time afternoon rolled around, he had made up his mind. He knew that he was going to apologize to her but what he didn't count on was how much of a coward he was. He thought that once he came to the decision that he would just be able to walk up to her and say he was sorry but apparently, he was wrong. Hermione seemed to make a special effort to avoid him the entire day but he had managed to corner her once or twice. The problem was that once he did, he would feel sweat beginning to bead on his forehead and his tongue would get all twisted and heavy. He would open his mouth to speak and the words would refuse to come out. He kept expecting her to lash out at him, to refuse any apology he could come up with because God knew he wouldn't forgive him if he was in her shoes. He would ended up chickening out every single time, going to hide out somewhere and getting more and more frustrated with himself.
Soon it had darkened to night and Harry had yet to apologize. Cattie was long ago in bed and Hermione had followed soon after. Now Harry was sitting on the floor of his grandparent's bedroom, leaning against a wall and continuiously banging his head on it to remind himself just how stupid he was to miss his chance. He didn't want to go one more night with her thinking that he was still angry or that he was still avoiding being around her. He didn't want to have to go one more hour hurting her. Screwing up his courage, he stood up from the floor--rubbing the back of his head as he did so—and left the dark bedroom. The hallway was silent as he walked barefoot to his and Hermione's bedroom, growing more and more nervous as he drew closer to the door. When he stopped in front of the door he wiped damp palms on his sweatpants before gripping the doorknob. He could not hear anything from inside of the room so he hesitated, wondering if she had already decided to turn in. He couldn't take the chance though; he needed to speak to her. It took a deep fortifying breath and a mental pep-talk before he turned the knob and stepped into the room.
The lights were off, the only illumination coming from the fireplace. His eyes found Hermione easily, lying on her side with her back to him and the blankets pulled up to her shoulders. Harry felt his heart sink. She was already asleep. He had missed his chance again. Sighing and cursing himself quietly, he dragged himself over to the bed and stood at the edge, watching Hermione's still form. He could see the outline of her body through the covers, the tendrils of her hair flaring out behind her and tangling over her pillow, and he ached to touch her. He missed her so much. He had only spent two nights without her, a few days where he couldn't reach out for her or feel the warmth of her smile and he felt like it had been years. All he wanted to do was climb into the bed and pull her into his arms. He just wanted to hold her and feel her breathe against him. He would be glad to have her rake him over the coals for what he had done if that meant things could go back to the way they were. He just wanted her back.
"Are you just going to stand there and stare at me all night?" The sound of Hermione's muffled voice surprised Harry enough that he almost fell to the floor, his heel catching on the hem of his pants when he jumped backwards and almost sending him tumbling to the groud. Thankfully he managed to steady himself but his face still flushed with embarassment. At least her back was to him and she hadn't seen that. He honestly thought she was alseep and he had been staring at her unabashed for who knew how long. He continued to stand therefor a moment, fidgeting and unsure of what to do next. His heart was beating hard enough that he was sure she could hear it in the quiet room; half because she had scared the hell out of him and half because it had been awhile since she had spoken directly to him. Hermione kept her back to him and if she hadn't spoken again, he would have thought he had imagined hearing her. "Well?" He hadn't noticed the strange sound of her voice at first but when she spoke again, that single word shook. Maybe she was as nervous and uncertain as he was. He relaxed a little. At least he wasn't the only one.
Gingerly Harry sat down on the bed, pulling his legs up next to him and settling next to her. Now that he was closer, Hermione rolled over onto her back and her eyes finally met his. He couldn't look away, melting into her gaze and into something he had been missing in an almost agonizing way. Though she was now facing him her body was still tense, pulled tight as a bow string. She was looking up at him silently; a frown puckering the skin between her brows and those dark eyes of her's wary and hesitant. He had the sudden urge to reach down and smooth away that frown. She did not seem much inclined to be the first one to speak unfortunately, more than likely just not knowing what to say. Harry could understand that because he couldn't seem to find the right words either. He didn't have any idea where to start or even how to. The one thing he was thankful for was that unlike the past two days or so, the silence between them was not so suffocatingly tense. It wasn't stifling to the point where neither of them could spend more than a second near each other. If anything the air betweeen the two was expectant. Both of them knew that there were things to be said and each was just waiting for the other to figure out how to begin. In the seconds that they stared at each other, Hermione had inched closer to him until she was pressed against his side. He felt the last renments of tension in his body slip away from him. He leaned his hand on the space of mattress near her hip so that he was partially leaning over her. Having him so close to her seemed to relax her too and a soft smile danced at the edges of her mouth.
"Hi." Harry said gently.
"Hi." She answered him. Her voice still sounded shaky, almost a croak really, and for a moment Harry frowned. He thought that they had reached a sort of plateu, where the uneasiness and discomfort that they were both feeling had faded away at least a little. So why was there still a quiver in her voice? But then she sniffed quietly and he finally noticed that something was wrong with her face. Every light but the glow from the fireplace and the soft beams of the moon from the window had been extinguished so maybe that was why he hadn't noticed the state she was in. The blankets were tangled around her body as if she had been tossing and turning in an effort to get comfortable, she was wearing what looked like one of his shirts, and worst of all her eyes were swollen and puffy (he had a feeling that if there had been a bit more light in the bedroom he would see that they were also red rimmed). She had been crying. Again, she had been crying over him. He flinched, the reminder of why he was here in the first place a tangible blow.
"'Mione." He reached over to touch her face but his fingers stopped just short of brushing her damp cheek. His hand dropped awkwardly onto the mattress instead. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you like I did that night. Or how I've been hurting you…that's the last thing in the world I would ever, ever want to do." He swallowed past the painful burning in his throat, looking down into her eyes and trying his best to convey just how regretful he was. Hermione moved from under his arm and Harry felt a rush of panic, thinking that she didn't believe him and was planning to climb out of the bed to get away from him. Frantically, he grabbed for her hand as she scooted from under him. He didn't know why he was grabbing onto her; if she really wanted to leave he wouldn't try to hold her there to stay with him. A part of him had been trying to prepare himself for her blowing off his apology and sending him packing anyway.
"It's alright Harry." She soothed as she placed a hand over the shaky one on her arm, gently pushing it until his grip loosened. He slumped in defeat, taking that as a sign that she really wanted him gone but instead of completely pushing him away like he thought she would, she kept his hand in her own. He felt a spark of hope. So she wasn't getting rid of him, at least not yet. Instead of climbing off the bed she scooted back so that she was sitting up and leaning against the headboard, eye level with Harry. "I know you weren't trying to hurt me, you never would. And I'm sorry to-" she held up a hand when he opened his mouth to protest and reluctantly, he kept quiet. She continued, "I'm sorry too. I might have pushed a bit too much then, especially when it was so obvious that you were tired and in pain. It's just that I hate what you've been doing to yourself! It's too much. You don't need to train and train until you're barely standing."
"I know that you're right Hermione, about me going just a bit overboard. I shouldn't have been ignoring you and Cattie like that but I can't agree that it's something I don't need to do. Yes, I'm pushing myself and I'm not in the best condition but it's a small sacrafice, Hermione. I rather be bruised and tired than weak and unprepared." There didn't even have to be light in the room for him to see her eyes flash. The hand that was still holding his tensed.
"That is the most ridiculous thing you have ever said." She said firmly. "Honestly Harry, what kind of sense does that make? If you're hurt and exauhsted then you are weak and unprepared. How do you expect to be able to defend yourself if you're on the brink of passing out from an unnessecary amount of training?"
Harry scowled back at her disapproving expression. "Unnessecary? It's anything but unnecessary and you know that! And it isn't just about defending myself, its about defending you and Cattie too." Why did it feel like they were heading right back to where they started? Already heading back to the exact same argument from before and that was definitely not the direction he had intended for this conversation to go.
Hermione seemed to feel the same way because she made an obvious effort to soften her tone but he could still see the frustration just under the surface. "Are you still on that? We talked about this already; it is not only your job to defend us. This is a partnership. We're protecting this family together and to do that we both have to be strong. You need to be in your absolute best shape." Her eyes softened. "I also need you to be healthy, Harry. I love you and seeing you do this to yourself is too hard for me. The worst part of it is that I can't even stop what's hurting you because it is you."
"I just need you to understand why I'm doing this. Voldermort could find us tomorrow. He could get to us before I have a chance to get to him and I can't be caught off guard." His voice had taken on an almost desperate quality, needing her to understand his why he was doing what he was doing. It wasn't like he enjoyed how the training was affecting him, the bone deep exauhstion and the pain that would seem to radiate from every point in his body, but he felt that every single bit of it was worth it. He could gladly (and with a large amount of guilt) agree that he was wrong in the way he was ignoring his family and worrying Hermione so much and he had every intention of changing that but he just couldn't bring himself to say that he was wrong in everything. Every time he had fought Voldermort he had been unprepared for it, completely taken by surprise, and only luck had saved him. This time he had the opprotunity to be ready and he didn't want to waste it. He was going to use it as best he could and that meant he couldn't afford even a second to slack off. He had so much more to lose now.
Hermione huffed, shaking her head at him. "I understand completely. You of all people should know that I am anything but dense and I know you better than anyone else." She was failing at keeping her frustration in check now; he could hear it clearly in her voice. "You are trying to be as prepared as you possibly can be, you don't want to be weak, and you're scared. You are scared that if you aren't as strong as you could be or that you do not know enough, Voldermort will slip past your guard and take away what you love. Just like he's done so many times before. But what you're doing right now? You're making yourself weak." She lifted her hand to place it on the side of his face but that did little to lessen the impact of what she said next, "How do you plan on protecting anyone when you are too weak to do anything? If you keep this up Harry, Voldermort will kill you. How will you be able to stop him? How will you protect us then?" Harry flinched hard, jerking away from the gentle hand on his face and he stared hard at her in complete disbelief. How could she say something like that? The thought of Voldermort getting him out of the way and going straight for his family, didn't she know how that would make him feel? How much hearing that hurt? He was sure she did know because even though she had spoken the words firmly, the breath she took as he stared at her shook her entire body. It probably hurt her just as much to say it as it did for him to hear it.
What he hated the most was that she was right. He knew it and on another level, the thought had been nagging at him since the first time he had collapsed to the floor of the training room. He had not bothered to aknowlege it, instead just believing that if he trained hard enough then he would have enough strength and power to do what needed to be done. But now he could not get the image out of his head. Him being cast aside in a flash of green light and Voldermort advancing on Hermione and Cattie. She would stand and try to fight him no doubt. She was a powerful witch but she would not be able to stop him, she couldn't. She would die trying to protect their daughter, just like his own mother had. He shuddered and squeezed his eyes shut but the image would not go away. It was burned into his mind and it kept repeating over and over again. His eyes were closed so he didn't see Hermione move closer to him, reaching out to touch his arm with hesitant fingers.
"Harry." His eyes flew open and he saw her looking at him with teary, pleading eyes. "That was a terrible thing to say but you have to understand why you can't keep doing this! You are doing more harm than goo-"
"I know." His voice was gruff, trying to choke past the image in his head and the feeling of failure. He got it now. He understood and he felt like a fool. "I'm a selfish bastard, aren't I?" He smiled but there was not a touch of humor in it. It was mocking and miserable and it was Hermione's turn to flinch. She gripped at his forearms, shaking her head fiercely.
"No. You are anything but selfish. You did what you did for us. You just went about it in the wrong way." Harry scoffed.
"You mean in the most idiotic way possible?"
She tried for a rather watery smile as she moved onto her knees, lifting her hands up to his shoulders and giving them a reassuring squeeze. "It wasn't completely idiotic." He groaned and dropped his head into his hands, carding his fingers through his hair and gripping at the dark strands until his knuckles turned white. It was one thing to weaken himself to the point where Voldermort would have a magnificintly easy job of offing him but it was so much worse to think about leaving his girls unprotected. They were the most important people in his life, what he was truly fighting for, how could he make such a stupid mistake? Harry allowed Hermione to carefully pry his fingers away from his hair and she slipped her own through it in a much gentler caress. He leaned his forehead against her stomach as her hands soothed through his hair and down his face until she cupped his chin. He had not noticed that his eyes had slipped closed until she leaned back a bit and lifted his face and he opened them. Her eyes were just as gentle as her touch.
"Listen to me Harry," she said as she looked down at him, "this does not mean that you have to stop every bit of your training. All I want is for you to slow down. Know what your limits are and don't push them so much. Stop shutting me out, let me help you. This is a fight for both of us and we can't rely on each other if we have no idea what the other one is doing. Can you do that for me? Please?"
There was no reason for him to deny her, she was absolutely right. And he missed her. The two of them had begun training together but as he became more and more obsessed, he had pushed her away until he was spending all those hours alone. It was just then, leaning against her and having her looking at him like that, that he realized just how lonely he had been all that time. Plus he knew that there was no way she would take 'no' for an answer.
"I will. I promise I won't leave you out again because, well, I need you. I'm so sorry that I forgot that. Merlin knows where I would be without you." He meant every single word. She was his rock, his everything, and it was stupid of him to forget that.
Hermione's eyes were shining with moisture and relief by the time he finished. She opened her mouth to say something but then seemed to think better of it, shaking her head again before she bent towards him. Harry felt like he had been waiting forever in the seconds it took for their lips to finally meet. As soon as he felt her lips against his own he gasped, his breath leaving him all at once. It was like he had being given a sip of the sweetest water when he had not even noticed how desperately thirsty he had been. His arms were around her waist before he knew it, moving up to his knees so that he could hold her body more fully against his own. His hands were on her face and tilting her head so he could slide his mouth just so against hers. She fit perfectly in his arms and to his body, every touch of her hand and shift of her body resonated through him like he knew nothing else ever could. Keeping one arm around her waist, he leaned them backwards until they were falling on the bed, pressing one hand to the mattress to keep the fall soft.
He could feel her legs wrapping around his waist, her hands fisting the fabric of his t-shirt and dragging her nails faintly over the exposed skin of his lower back. He was pressing her against the bed and she smelled so good he could not help but to slide his nose against her neck, her hair so silky that he had to run his fingers through the curls, and her lips so soft and warm that he couldn't help but to taste and bruise them. Almost three days it had been since he could even kiss her and my god how had he waited so long?
He needed her in some many ways, in every way, and he could never let either one of them overlook that again. He needed her to know it with every fiber of her being. So he pressed the words into her skin, murmuring his gratefulness against her collar bones and her ribs and his love against her knees and her thighs. He whispered the words into her ears and pressed them against the corners of her mouth, slipping through her lips until her knew that she would feel and believe every word.
He would not make the same mistake twice. Hermione had always been there for him, that amazing mind of her's had gotten him out of more trouble than he could count and he needed her if he ever expected to win this war. He would not shut her out again and even if a part of him was still struggling with the idea of cutting down on his training, he couldn't fall back to this point. He had made a bad decision and if Hermione had not brought him to his senses things could have ended a lot worse. This time he would keep her right where she needed to be, at his side.
- - - - - - - - -
Early morning found Harry and Hermione bright and happy and already long awake. They had not slept much during the night having realized just how much they had been missing each other. It was strange how barely three days apart had felt like years. For months now they had spent just about every waking (and sleeping) moment together and both had gotten used to being able to reach out for the other whenever they wanted to. Those three days they were denied that and it had been way too long for both of them. After the sun had risen, Hermione reminded Harry that Cattie would no doubt be coming to wake them for breakfast and it would probably be better to go ahead and get out of bed instead of ending up in another mad scramble.
"Go!" Hermione laughed as she tried to push Harry out the bathroom door. He had only just finished his shower and Hermione was trying to take her own but he had planted himself quite firmly in the doorway. He was grinning down at her as she pushed at his chest, trying and failing to get him to move. His hair and his skin were still damp and he was only wearing a pair of jeans, a white t-shirt slung over one of his shoulders.
"Why? It's not like I would be seeing anything I haven't already seen." He teased, winking and tugging on the tie of her robe. Color flared in her cheeks and she batted his hands away. His grin widened. She was really adorable, her hair tangled all around her head and clad in that fluffy white bathrobe, her face still flushed. She shook her hair out of her face with her hands on her hips, looking up at him with her patented stern glare.
"That may be so but Cattie will be in here soon and I do not want to have to explain to her why we're both in the bathroom." Cattie was a little too smart for her own good, he was pretty sure she would figure it out and they would not have to explain anything. Somehow that was much worse. Then he was being pushed out again and this time he let her, the grin still bright on his face as he was shoved out and the door closed behind him.
"Just shout if you need some help! I'll rush right in!" he yelled through the door. He was about to turn away from it when it swung open and Hermione leaned out, standing on her toes to give him a quick kiss.
"I have managed to keep myself clean for several years now but thanks very much for the offer." The door was closed again before he could say anything and he was left staring at it, a rather goofy grin on his face. Hermione had a pretty amazing effect on him. It was different from what he had felt with Cho, he did not have any of that stumbling nervousness where he couldn't figure out what to do with himself but she still managed to send him into a complete, lovestruck stupor. He was slowly pulling on his shirt and trying to decide how angry Hermione would be if he went right back into that bathroom when there was a timid knock at the bedroom door. Surprised, he tugged his shirt the rest of the way on and went to answer the door. It was obviously Cattie but she wasn't really one for knocking, more the type to barge in and launch herself onto the bed to wake them up in the most shocking way she could. But with the past two nights of Hermione sleeping alone, Cattie was probably much more hesitant to burst into the room. She didn't want to catch her mother in tears again.
Harry opened the door and the little girl stared up at him with wide, shocked eyes. She had not expected to see her father there at all, especially not looking so energized and grinning at her the way he was. "Morning Kitty-Cat!" without waiting for a reply, he swept the child into his arms and brought her into the room.
"Daddy! What are you doing in here? Did you and Mommy make up?" A bright smile broke out onto her face and she threw her arms around his neck.
"Of course! Your Mum loves me; she could not bear to stay mad at me too long." He said. He carried her over to the couch and fell back on it, laughing as Cattie let out a squack of surprise. She rolled out of his lap and sat next to him, half leaning on his shoulder. Tilting her head back, she looked up at her father with her most innocent expression.
"So that means the row was all your fault, right?" Harry threw his head back and laughed, longer than was all together nessecary but he was in a pretty good mood.
Calming down, he chuckled, "Pretty much."
"I knew it." She sighed happily "I'm glad you aren't fighting anymore. It felt like the entire house was sad and I didn't like it at all."
By the time Hermione came out of the bathroom Harry and Cattie had long tired of trying to wait patiently for her and were entertaining themselves. The little girl was lying on the couch, trying desperately to wiggle away from Harry as peals of laughter escaped her mouth. He had her by the legs, holding them still as she tried to kick at him, tickling the bottom of her bare feet. Cattie reached over her head for a pillow and began trying to hit him over the head with it, the entire time still laughing and flailing.
"S-Stop it!" she gasped out between giggles.
Harry was laughing, trying to avoid the pillow as he continued to tickle her. "What? I'm sorry I couldn't understand that!" She managed to get one leg free but he caught it again when she aimed a kick at his side. "Daddy's 'not that smart', huh? Take it back and I'll let you go!"
Face flushed and eyes squeezed shut, she shook her head vigourosly, "B-But its true!"
Hermione finally came to her daughter's aid when her laughter started to turn into soundless gasps. "Alright, that is quite enough." She said, trying to keep the smile off of her face. "You can't torture her for speaking the truth, luv." Harry let Cattie go and the little girl scrambled backwards, still trying to catch her breath as giggles continued to escape. He pouted up at her, eyes wide and sparkling.
"You're both so mean to me. You are supposed to let me believe that I'm the most intelligent one in the house." 'Tsk'ing, Hermione reached down and patted his cheek.
"Aw, how could you believe something so obviously untrue?" his mouth dropped open in indignation and Cattie was sent into another fit of laughter.
"That's right Daddy, you're the fourth most intelligent person in the house."
"Four? Who else is there?" His face screwed up in confusion. Was there someone else in the house that he had not met yet?
"There's Mommy, me, Trouble, and then you." She held up four fingers, wiggling at him and then both she and her mother were laughing at him.
Hermione was now leaning on the arm of the couch, an arm around her waist. "Oh, you forgot that there's Hedwig too."
"You're number five!"
"He's number eight actually! How could we forget DeeDi and-"
"Okay!" Harry shot to his feet and whirled around, pointing a finger at the two laughing girls in front of him. "Enough out of you two!" He grabbed Cattie who was too busy laughing to try and get away, tucking her under his arm and beginning to head for the door.
She squealed, kicking her legs. "Eight isn't a bad number! We're not even counting the portraits!"
"I'm going to put this one outside and then you're next!" he called over his shoulder to Hermione. She laughed, following after them.
"You wouldn't dare!" She began jogging after them and he sped up until he was practically running down the hallway, Cattie kicking harder as she was jostled around. The family was soon running around the house, laughing and trying to catch one another, threats of being locked outside or dumped in the pool being thrown back and forth. Things were finally back to where they could all breath again, where they could take just a few moments to ignore the dangers lurking on the horizon and just enjoy being a family again.
- - - - - - - - -
It took a long time for the three of them to actually get to breakfast and then it took much longer than usual to get through the meal. Cattie must have been storing up quite a bit of energy during those three, very much subdued days because she managed to talk during the entire meal. She babbled about books and things she wanted to do, dreams she had and whatever else popped into her head. She watched Harry and Hermione like a hawk, fairly bouncing in her chair every time they looked at each other and smiled (which was quite frequent). By the time they were all done, Harry was sure that the little girl would want some kind on nap but quite on the contrary, she seemed almost more energetic. That energy, and the fact that she was practically radiating happiness, is how she managed to convince her parents so easily to go for a visit to the Lupin's.
She had become almost obsessive in visiting them since Jack had been born. She adored the baby, having taken to staring at him for hours on end in complete fascination of everything he did. She seemed amazed that something so small could actually be alive. Though Jack was not quite so small these days. He was three months old now and roughly the size of a six month old, and developing faster than they had expected. He had learned how to crawl around earlier that month and a mobile Jackson turned out not to be such a great thing. He was a terror, gaining a habit of tucking himself into the most random of places and getting his chubby little hands on all kinds of things. Ted Tonks had not been wrong when he guessed that the baby would be a handful.
An hour after breakfast and the Potter family were on their way. Cattie flooed with her mother, practically pushing her into the hearth in her excitement to leave, and Harry followed shortly after. His landings were definintely much better but he was starting to really hate the nauseating way of travel, especially so soon after a meal. He stepped out of the fireplace at the Lupin home feeling rather green around the gills and he immediately cringed at the sound of crying. None of the Lupins, or Malfoy for that matter, was in the room but Hermione was standing a bit away from him, trying to brush soot from Cattie's hair.
"I think they're in the kitchen." She said. The crying had changed in pitch, sounding almost angry now, and it was coming from the direction of the kitchen door. Not needing to be told twice, Cattie squirmed away from Hermione and bolted towards the door. Harry winced as the door swung open and the crying grew louder. Jack was an adorable kid but when he decided he was unhappy, he went out of his way to make sure you knew it. He and Hermione exchanged a look and then followed the tail end of Cattie's braid into the kitchen.
They had expected to see Remus or Tonks inside with Jack, maybe both of them, but the sight that greeted them had Harry biting his lips to keep in laughter. Instead of Jack's parents, Malfoy was standing next to the kitchen island and Jack who was sitting in a highchair. The baby was crying hard, his little round face screwed up and red and his pale hair sticking straight up in the front. He was wearing a stained bib with 'Hide Your Witches' in sparkling letters on it and a diaper. Malfoy was still in his pajamas, the gray training pants blue shirt speckled with flecks of the same orange colored food that was on Jack's bib and all around his face. A small bowl of what looked like mashed carrots was clutched in on of Malfoy's hands and the other was holding a spoon. He was trying to bring the spoon to Jack's mouth but the little boy would turn his head away from it, crying and kicking his tiny feet. The older blond looked like he was ready to scream in frustration; even his usually perfect hair was plastered to his forehead with a fine sheen of sweat. Frankly, he looked a mess and it was becoming more and more difficult for Harry to keep from laughing out loud. Who would have known that Malfoy would be bested by a six month old?
"Bloody- Eat!" he growled, trying again to shove the spoon towards the baby's mouth. Jack's screaming took on a higher pitch and Harry could swear that he was glaring at the bigger blond.
"Need any help, Malfoy?" Harry snickered. Silver eyes flashed towards the couple in the doorway and Harry could swear that a touch of color brushed Malfoy's cheeks. He shook off his embarassment and sneered at them but it fell pretty flat. The effect was ruined by the carrots on his clothes and the fact that he looked like he was going to explode any second.
"No Potter. I have it under control." He dropped the bowl and the spoon on the counter, facing Jack and glaring down at him. "Don't eat then!" The baby had stopped screaming once the bowl was out of his sight but he was still sniffling, looking up at Malfoy with wide, liquid amber eyes. Malfoy's face softened and he shook his head. "Spoiled rotten little..."
Cattie had sidled up next to him and she stood on her toes, peering into the discarded bowl of mashed food. She prodded it with a finger and tasted it, her face scrunching up in disgust immediately. "Ew! Jack's not eating it because it's disgusting! I wouldn't eat it either."
Malfoy scoffed. "It cannot be that disgusting. He finished another bowl not even ten minutes ago."
Hermione pushed past Harry and moved farther into the kitchen, shooting a polite smile to Malfoy before moving across the room and pulling Jack out of his high chair. She kissed the one part of his face that was relatively clean and the baby grinned, gripping the soft fabric of her light purple sweater with dirty fingers. "Maybe he's already full then, Draco." The blond cringed as she said his name. It was going to take a very long time before he could get used to that and he hoped she would get over this new compulsion before he had to.
"Thank you for bestowing me with such an astute observation, Granger, but Tonks said to feed him two bowls. He has finished one so he should be eating another one." He reached out for Jack but Hermione stepped around him, smiling again as she set about finding a cloth to clean the baby's face.
"Babies will eat when they are hungry and if he's not eating, then he's not hungry. Just give him a little while and maybe he will want it later." Now that he was free of carrots, though he was still a little orange around the mouth, Hermione dropped another kiss on Jack's cheek. Malfoy seemed ready to say something rather unkind but after a glance at Cattie, he settled for just shooting a glare at the back of Hermione's head. He sat on one of the kitchen stools and crossed his arms over his chest. Cattie climbed up into the one next to him, smiling happily, and Harry could only shake his head. He simply could not understand why his daughter seemed to like the other boy so much; frankly he thought Malfoy had very little redeeming qualities. Shrugging, he took a seat across from them, leaning his elbows on the counter and trying to ignore the dark look Malfoy was giving him.
"Where are Remus and Tonks?" He had expected them to be coming downstairs by then but he did not hear them at all. The only people around appeared to be Jack and Malfoy. Said blond frowned at the mention of the other occupants of the house. It wasn't the usual frown of irritation he had when they were around, more of…concern? Instantly Harry was on alert. He straightened in his seat and pressed his hands on the counter, leaning forward. "Did something happen?" He asked hastily.
Malfoy rolled his eyes at him. "Oh calm down Potter. No need for the dramatics." But there was still worry in his expression so obviously there was some cause for concern. "I'm sure that you did not have time to notice but there was a full moon a couple of days ago." He nodded as the realization dawned in Harry's eyes. Malfoy was right, he had not even thought about the full moon and Remus's 'condition' and he suddenly felt very guilty. Things were bound to be more difficult for Remus now. Even though his family had expanded, he would still have to go through his changes alone now that Sirius was gone. Hermione stopped bouncing Jack on her hip and came to stand near his shoulder, her eyes on Malfoy. He continued, "Remus did not want to risk anything with Jack in the house so he hid out somewhere else. Tonks went to bring him home a couple of hours ago."
"I guess we can just wait for them then?" Hermione said, sliding into the stool next to Harry. She settled little Jack on her lap and smiled brightly at Malfoy who was sitting directly across from her. He cringed again and Jack gurgled a laugh. Malfoy lasted all of ten minutes before he decided that he had enough of sitting with Gryffindors and he headed upstairs, no doubt to rid himself of his food stained clothing. Hermione followed a little while later to get Jack dressed in something other than a diaper and dried carrots.
An hour or more later Tonks and Remus finally returned home. Harry and Hermione had been waiting for them in the living room and Malfoy was back in the kitchen with the two youngest in the house, getting Jack to finish up his food while Cattie 'helped'. As soon as the front door opened he was out of the door and in the room before the couple had even fully stepped into the room, the baby perched on his hip and Cattie trailing after him. Tonks had her arms wrapped around Remus's middle, trying to support his weight but she stumbled a bit when they moved into the room and almost lost her balance. Harry ran to her side and grabbed onto Remus so that they did not fall. Remus looked like he would noy be able to get back up if they hit the floor.
He was pale, dressed in a pair of torn robes of an unidentifiable color, the fine layer of dirt covering them making it hard to distinguish. The area underneath his eyes was so dark that they looked bruised and he could barely stay on his feet. Harry helped Tonks move him to an armchair and Remus gave him a weak smile. "Thank you, Harry."
He squeezed his adopted uncle on the shoulder. "It's okay, Moony. Are you alright?"
"Are you hurt?" Harry jumped a little, not having noticed Malfoy coming to stand so close to him. Remus shook his head tiredly but then he winced, reaching up to rub at his temples. The blond frowned, obviously disbelieving and Tonks scoffed. She looked just as tired as Remus and her fingers were twisting together restlessly. She was worried and it was understandable, Remus was clearly not in the best of shape.
"Oh no, he's perfectly fine." She said, sarcasm dripping from every word. Jack was making little whining noises in Malfoy's arms; his chubby hands were opening and closing as he leaned towards his mother and Tonks reached for her son, the worried frown on her face immediately relaxing into a rather tired smile. She held him close, rubbing her cheek over his ruffled hair. Holding him back a little she looked over the baby with a raised brow. "I never took you for the Gryffindor type Draco but I guess we all have our secrets." She said, noting the yellow shirt and red romper Jack wore. A little lion was embrodiered on the front and it would prance and roar every few seconds or so. Malfoy sneered, indignant.
"And I never took you for being mad. At least not completely. Granger here had an obvious lapse of judgement when she dressed him."
"I think he looks absolutely adorable." Hermione had joined their little group by the chair, casting a concerned eye over Remus. "We don't know how things could end up. He might just be repersenting his future house."
"That's the ticket, Hermione." Remus chuckled but the laughter was cut short, turning into a groan of pain as his eyes squeezed shut. Malfoy was gripping his shoulder when he opened them again, Tonks close at his side, Harry and Hermione hovering near. "You can all stop looking at me like I'm going to fall over dead, I'm fine. I just bruised myself a bit during the transformation and I have a little headache but I'm quite alright." He looked anything but 'alright'. Harry felt Hermione's hand on his arm and he glanced over his shoulder at her. She shot a pointed look at Remus and then tilted her head towards the fireplace. "I think we should go home for now Remus, so you can get some rest." She said gently and Harry nodded in agreement. Both Remus and Tonks looked worn out and not at all up for guests.
Harry clapped the older man on the shoulder. "Yeah, we'll come back and visit later on."
"Are you sure?" Tonks asked while shifting Jack to her other hip. "You know we always love when you three visit." Harry did not even have to look at Malfoy to know that he was sneering. He didn't believe for one second that the other boy was ever happy to see them, at least not him and Hermione. He couldn't fault him for it though because the feeling was more than mutual. Ignoring Malfoy, he smiled and answered her,
"We're sure and you," he squeezed Remus's shoulder before letting his hand drop back to his side "take care of yourself."
"Don't I always? But why don't you all come back for dinner tonight? I am sure that I will feel much better and I have something I need to discuss with you, Harry." Though he was still smiling, there was seriousness in his eyes when he met Harry's. Whatever he had to tell him was obviously something important. Just as seriously, Harry nodded. He understood.
Hermione leaned down to give Remus a careful hug, echoing Harry's well wishes. After a hug for Tonks from the both of them and a nod to Malfoy, they moved over to the fireplace. Cattie had been standing a few steps away from the armchair the entire time, silent after seeing her favorite 'uncle' in such a state. Before following her parents to the firepace, she scurried over to Remus's side and hugged what she could reach of him. "Feel better Uncle Moony." She whispered in his ear before hurrying back over to her parents. Harry picked her up and after a wave, he grabbed a handful of floo powder and went home, Hermione following right after.
Cattie spent the next couple of hours moping around the house. She had wanted to play with Jack and see Tonks and her Uncle Moony but that had not happened at all, at least not the way she had wanted it to. Her Uncle Moony hadn't been feeling well, he had looked terrible and it put her in a rather listless mood. She must have grown tired of wandering around the house and sighing because Harry found her in her bedroom, sprawled on her stomach across her carpet with Trouble curled up on her back. The cat seemed quite content in it's resting place, not at all mindful of his Mistress's unhappy mood but Trouble did take the time to give Harry a rather disgruntled look when he was shooed away. It took quite a bit of prodding to get the little girl up and off the floor and after Harry assured her that Remus was going to be perfectly fine, it only took a promise to let her play his guitar to get Cattie back in a happy mood.
Half an hour later Hermione stepped into the sun room to the sound of rather awkward plucking of a guitar and Harry's voice as he gently chided Cattie for the wrong placement of her fingers. Harry spotted her first, watching them from the upper level, looking down at him and Cattie with a tender sort of smile. He returned her smile and waved a hand for her to come and join them. "Come down." He called up to her. "Maybe you can give it a try."
She leaned on the railing, her hair falling forward as she shook her head. "No thank you, I do not have a musical mind." Even from his spot next to Cattie on one of the cushioned beach chairs, he could see a teasing sparkle in her eye. "Shouldn't you say something more romantic than 'come down'? Right now is the perfect moment for Shakespere."
"Shakespere?" his brow furrowed in confusion.
"Yes, Shakespere. 'What light through yonder window breaks?'" If anything his expression grew even more confused.
"Er, come again?" Hermione looked outraged, staring down at him with wide, disbelieving eyes as her mouth dropped open.
"Romeo and Juliet, Harry! The ultimate classic of Shakespere, the love story that has been imitated and redone a thousand different ways a thousand different times! Surely you know what I am talking about."
His mouth formed a small 'o' and he nodded, "Oh. I've heard of it before of course but" he shrugged "never read it. I can't quote lines to you."
"Honestly! I thought everyone had read such a well known story." She said, shaking her head as she started down the stairs.
"The Dursley's weren't exactly the Shakespere types, you know." He chuckled. He doubted any of the Dursley's had ever even touched a book other than to prop up a table leg, Dudley probably thought that 'Shakespere' was some kind of ice cream flavor. Hermione had made her way over to them and stood in front of him, reaching down to ruffle his hair.
"My poor Harry. Obviously there are still many things that I need to teach you."
He grinned and winked rougishly. "You promise?" A slow smile spread across her face and she leaned down, a hand on his cheek as she pressed her lips to his in a warm kiss. He never had to remind himself to kiss her back, his body just slipped into the action so easily. A sigh from next to them reminded the couple that they were in fact not alone and they quickly pulled apart.
"Are you two going to be like that again?" Cattie asked with a clear note of exasperation. Childishly, Harry stuck a tongue out at her.
"That's love, my dear." Cattie rolled her eyes and Hermione laughed.
"You will understand it one day."
"Oh no she won't! Not if I can help it." Harry's stomach turned at the thought. There was no way any perverted boy was ever getting near his little girl, not if he had something to say about it. Hermione shook her head at him with a smile before she reached into the back pocket of her jeans and pulled out a small and very familiar book.
"I actually came down here because I wanted to ask you about this book." Harry's jovial smile dropped from his face, the color draining right along with it.
"Where did you find that?" He asked caustiously, his gaze still fixed on the book of soul magic in Hermione's hand. He wouldn't say exactly say that he had been hiding it from her but he wasn't ready to share it with her just yet. That one line about the human horcruxes was still bothering him and if she read it, she would no doubt make the connection and…he just wasn't ready yet. Hermione's brows pulled together and she frowned slightly, not understanding his reaction.
"I was putting your jacket away, because you left it on the floor, and this book fell out of the pocket." She continued carefully. "I was just wondering where it came from. I don't remember seeing anything like it in the library." Trust Hermione to keep some sort of mental log of the books they had.
"It was there, just a bit in the back." He reached for it but Hermione pulled it back, slipping it into her pocket. For a moment they looked at each other, Hermione with questioning eyes and Harry close to twitching with nervousness. Cattie had stopped fiddling with the guitar and was looking back and forth between her parents. Her eyes were wide, afraid that this was going to be the start of another fight. Harry could practically feel her panic growing so he forced a smile to try and relieve the tension that was beginning to build.
"Why don't we talk about this upstairs, okay?" He asked, standing up.
Hermione's smile did not hold any of the strain that his own did but her eyes were hard, shrewd even as she stared into his face. "That sounds fine." She turned to Cattie, managing to brighten her smile even more. "We'll be just upstairs, okay Cattie? We will be right back so stay out of the water." The tension had seeped from Cattie's shoulders and she nodded, rolling her eyes.
"I know that."
After one more smile to their daughter, Hermione gripped Harry's hand and began to tug him towards the stairs. Harry felt his trepedition growing with each and every step, he was sure that his palms were sweating in Hermione's grasp and that she could tell just how nervous he was. Maybe he was over-reacting but he couldn't help it. What if his suspicions were correct? Hell, he pretty much believed that they were. It made too much sense for him not to be a horcrux. Would Hermione even be able to look at him right again knowing what he was probably carrying around with him? They reached the landing and walked through the door but instead of stopping in the corridor like Harry expected them to, Hermione continued to drag him towards the dueling room. They passed the portraits and went inside, closing the door behind them. She released his hand as it swung shut and then turned around to face him, hands on her hips. That sweet smile from before was gone and her mouth was now set in a firm line. She took the book out of her pocket.
"What is this all about Harry? I skimmed through it a little and it's quite different from what you have been reading. Half of the spells in here make no sense at all! But what I'm really wondering about is your reaction. Why were you trying to hide it from me?" Harry was not sure if he was relieved that she had not fully read the book just yet, if she did not already know then he would have to explain it to her. "Didn't we just talk about this? The whole 'keeping things from each other' thing?" she continued.
There was a tense few seconds of silence before he sighed and began to speak, "I found it in the library while I was looking for more information on the horcruxes. I figured a book about soul magic would say something about them and I was right." He reached for the book and this time she let him take it. He could find the page now with no need for a book mark so he flipped it open right to the section on horcruxes, holding it open and passing it back to her. He continued talking as her eyes moved over the words, "There is only a small bit about it but it does say something that the others don't." Here he hesitated again and that drew her attention back to him. "The book says something about…human horcruxes."
Just as he had expected, it did not take long for Hermione's quick mind to make the same connections his had. She drew herself up sharply, her eyes opening wide and the color draining from her face. Her body was so still that Harry almost thought that she had been stupfied. He wanted to reach out for her, to grab her shoulders and shake her back into the present so she could think up some way to convince him that he was wrong. He didn't dare to touch her though so he kept his arms crossed tightly over his chest, his nailss digging painfully into his forearms as he waited anxiously for her to speak.
The time it took her to snap out of it was much shorter than it felt but Harry knew the moment she was back. She bit her lip, her eyes flicking back and forth in rapid thought before she finally started to speak, her voice sounding rather breathless, "I know what you're thinking Harry but-"
"Who would be a better canidate than me?" He interupted. He started to pace and one of his hands lifted to grip hard at his hair. "You know just as well as I do that Voldermort is just the type of sick, narcassistic bastard to make me a horcrux! I am walking around with a piece of him in me right now, I know it. Even more of a piece than we already know about!" He was working himself into quite a state already, his pacing growing more and more furious and his breath coming is quick bursts. Hermione moved towards him and grabbed his arm, stepping into his path so he was forced to stop and look down at her. The arm underneath her hand was twitching, his entire body humming with restless, panicked energy. His face was pained as he met her eyes, frantic with the need for her to prove him wrong.
"Calm down." She held his eyes as she spoke. "We don't 'know' anything so you do not need to jump to any conclusions just yet. You're acting like it's already been decided when we don't even know for sure. There is a perfectly easy way to find out, I'll cast the same spell on you that we used for the actual horcruxes and then we will know for sure. Then we will deal with what comes if it comes."
He stepped out of her grasp, nodding stiffly. "Fine. Do it now then and get it over with." He did not want to waste one more second of wondering. He took several more steps back until he was a ways away from her and he waited. Hermione was looking at him and biting her lip, as if she wanted to say something but was trying to keep it in. Slowly she nodded and pulled out her wand. She was sure that she did not need it but if she was casting such a spell at Harry, she wanted to be sure that she took every precaution. Harry could only stare at the tip of the wand aimed at him chest, his heart in his throat. If his suspicions were correct then they could very well be back in this position. She might have to kill him, to kill the fragment of Voldermort's soul that might be lurking within him. He hated the thought. It seemed that every corner he turned, he found another connection between him and that bastard. The very chance of having that monster's soul being inside of him, that the death of his parents was more than likely used for the ritual, made his entire body churn with disguts and absolute hatred. Ontop of the disgust was something even worse, fear. He was scared, scared that this could mean that he was more like Voldermort than he first believed and if that were true, he would end it himself. There was no way he would let Hermione do it.
The wand in Hermione's hand was trembling despite the resolute expression on her face. She was afraid too. She knew Harry; she knew what he would do if by some horrible twist of fate he was a horcrux and she knew that she would not be able to take it. There was no way she could allow for him to be taken away from her like that. She would find a way to stop him and to fix this. It was that thought that sent a rush of determination through her and stilled her hand. She was one of the brightest witches to pass through Hogwarts, she would find a way. Hermione flicked her wrist in the now familiar pattern and while praying with every fiber of her being, she waited for the light to envelope Harry.
There was a split second after Hermione cast the spell that Harry had the irrational urge to turn around and run right out of the room. He didn't want to know. It took everything in him to stand his ground as he felt the spell wash over him. He stared down at himself fully expecting to see that sickening swirl of red and black surrounding his body. Instead the light around him was pale yellow and tinged with a sickly looking green. A feeling of extreme relief crashed over him, so strong that he sunk weakly to his knees. He didn't know what the yellow meant but he knew that Voldermort's soul was not inside of him, that's all he needed to know. He closed his eyes, pressung his lids together tight enough for it to hurt and he thanked whoever it was up above that decided not to screw him over this time. A rare moment of grace it seemed. Hermione sucked in a deep breath, realizing then that it was the first she had taken since she cast the spell. She was kneeling next to him not even a second later.
"I'm-I'm not?" He gasped out. He didn't even know what to think, he had been so sure of it. He had thought about the possibility so many times after reading that book and every time it would enter his mind, he believed a little more that he was a horcrux. He had not realized until he was standing there, waiting for Hermione to cast the spell, that he had begun to fully believe it. It was such an obvious thing for Voldermort to do, the ultimate way for him to assert his power over his 'enemy'. Maybe Voldermort was not as cliché as he thought he was.
"I told you not to jump to conclusions." Hermione laughed, nudging his shoulder with her own. He turned his head towards her and grinned. Her face was bright with the same relief he was sure was shining from his own. She might not have believed it as much as he had but she was not an idiot, they had just dodged a bullet and she knew it. "It doesn't make much sense for Voldermort to use you as a horcrux anyway, at least not intentionally. He would need someone he could control and keep and eye on at all times. Objects are one thing but people are too fickle."
"But for all we know, Voldermort could be using a death eater. I mean, now that we know its possible for humans to be used we have to keep a mind open for the possibility." Despite the subject matter, Harry's voice was suprisingly happy. He was feeling infinitely better now. He had come so close to losing everything and the relief of knowing the from at least this, he was safe was enough to leave him feeling like he was on cloud nine.
Hermione sighed heavily. "I don't even want to think about it. That would make things so much more difficult, we should just focus on the things we know for sure now."
Harry frowned, leaning back on his hands on the stone floor. "I have a feeling she and Voldermort will have to be destroyed around the same time. I don't think he ever lets her out of his sight." Hermione nodded in agreement.
"That makes sense to me. All we can do for now is to be ready to fight what we know and prepared to defend ourselves against what we don't. Voldermort is bound to have some kind of surprises up his sleeves; I just hope it isn't more horcruxes." She stood up. "We still have a few hours before we go back to the Lupin's for dinner so why don't we try for a little light training in the mean time?"
Harry got up after her and grinned, rolling his eyes when she stressed the 'light'. "Sounds like a plan to me." Hermione was already moving into dueling position when she stopped, slapping herself on the forehead. He lifted a brow.
"Cattie. She's still in the sun room. We better tell her to come on out of there before she decides to go for a swim or something." She laughed. Yeah, Harry could see that happening. Hermione jogged out of the dueling room, leaving him alone while she went to fetch their daughter. After she was gone Harry sat back down onto the floor, running a hand through his hair. The soul magic book was placed on the floor a bit away from him, he had not noticed Hermione putting it down but she must have before she cast the spell. He leaned forward and slid the book over and held it between his hands, pressing his fingers into the rough leather of the cover. He was more than lucky. Things could have ended so much worse. But even though he wasn't a horcrux, the fact that it was possible was still bothering him. Turning another human being into a vessle for your own soul was a completely revolting thing to do and it was just the type of thing he could see Voldermort doing. Would he have actually passed up the chance? Harry was not too sure he would have and it was nagging at him. And then there was that spell. The 'cleansing' spell in the book that he could not make heads or tails of and it was all driving him crazy. There was something important in this book that he needed to know and he was going to figure it out.
The door to the dueling room opened as Hermione returned and he slipped the book into his pocket.
- - - - - - - - -
By the time the Potter family was getting ready to return to the Lupin home, Harry was wishing they hadn't made the promise. Hermione's 'light' training had turned out to be anything but, at least it hadn't felt light. She didn't hold back, not one bit. He had almost forgotten just how powerful she was until she managed to throw him into a wall the moment his guard was down. Hermione had apologized profusely, saying that she should have gone easier on him but that was the last thing he wanted to hear. His pride took more of a bruising than his body did. He made sure she knew that it was only because he was still not in top shape that she had gotten the drop on him. No other reason. They decided to end the training not long after that and after he changed his clothes and he headed down the stairs, Harry's body reminded him just how little rest he had gotten in the past few days.
He was walking down the stairs, going slower and slower with each step and sorely wishing he could turn around and go to bed. Crawling under the covers sounded like much more fun than a trip through the floo. The only thing that kept him from refusing to go was the fact that Cattie was completely excited and the reminder that Remus had something important to talk to him about.
"It better be life or death." He muttered to himself when he reached the bottom step. He was the last one to make it to the family room so as soon as he entered Cattie sighed in what he guessed was exasperation, shaking her head at him.
"You're going to make us late, daddy."
"Late? How can we be late if they didn't give us a time to be there?" Harry answered, waving a careless hand. Hermione had stood up from the couch when he came in, as ready to get going as Cattie was. She tapped the watch on her wrist.
"It's after six o'clock so Jack is more than likely already being put to bed. We wanted to see him. Plus, it would be good to get there a little early from some pre-dinner conversation." She said, giving him a rather pointed look. So she had not missed Remus's not-so-subtle hint.
"Yeah, yeah. I get it." He wondered if the two of them were going to be ganging up on him like this the rest of his life. It seemed incredibly likely. Hermione laughed and reached for a handful of floo powder, throwing it into the fire before reaching back for Cattie.
"When will I get to go by myself?" the little girl asked as she settled into her mother's arms.
Hermione paused before answering, exchanging a glance with Harry who shrugged. "We'll think about it and maybe you can try it next time." She answered her. Cattie looked rather put out but she nodded and tightened her grip around her mother's shoulders. "Grimmauld Place!" and then both Cattie and Hermione were gone. Harry waited a few seconds before following after them. He stumbled out of the Lupin's fireplace and right into something solid. A hand caught him under the arm before he could fall and he turned his head to see Ted Tonks smiling brightly at him, amusement glinting warmly in his eyes. Harry flushed with embarassment.
"Er, sorry about that, sir."
Chuckling, he released Harry's arm and clapped him on the shoulder. "No need to apologize, son. I shouldn't have been standing in front of the floo like that. At least we didn't end up all spralwed and tangled on the floor. That would have been terribly embarassing, hmm? Definitely not something that lovely wife of yours would have wanted to see." He said with a wink in Hermione's direction. Said 'lovely wife' was standing near the couch and she laughed, mostly at the horrified expression on Harry's face that she could see over Mr. Tonks's shoulder.
"Are you trying to traumatize the poor boy, Ted?" Andromeda Tonks said from the doorway of the kitchen, no doubt where Cattie had disappeared to. She slung the towel in her hands over her shoulder and crossed her arms over her chest, smiling at the young couple. "We've been waiting for you two. Nymphadora is in the kitchen trying not to burn dinner-"
"I'm using a wand mum!" Tonks yelled from somewhere behind her mother. Ted laughed as he sat on the couch, stretching his legs out to rest on the coffee table.
"And yet we're still worried."
Ignoring them both, Andromeda continued, "and Remus is upstairs putting Jack down for the night. I think he's waiting for you, Harry? He said that he had something to talk to you about." She had moved farther into the living room by then and she none-too-gently pushed her husband's feet off of the table, shooting him a rather pointed look.
"Ah, yeah. Thanks." Harry gave the older woman a quick smiled before turning in the direction of the staircase.
"Where's Draco?" Hermione asked as he passed by her and he snorted, his face twisting into a mask of disgust before he could even think about it.
"Who cares?" dodging the slap Hermione aimed at his arm, he headed up the stairs. On the way down the hallway to where he remembered was Jack's nursery, he passed the open door of what could only be Malfoy's room because he caught sight of the blond lounging on a large bed. He was twirling his wand between his fingers, a deep frown on his face and his eyes focused on the ceiling. Those silver eyes flashed to the doorway as Harry passed it, setting on him just as he glanced inside. Malfoy stared at him blankly for a second and Harry found himself pausing, a little unsettled by the dark, faraway expression on the blonds' face. It was only a brief moment before the expression faded away and Malfoy's face pulled into a scowl. With an irritated growl he flicked his wand and the door soundly swung shut, the sharp sound pulling Harry out of his own brief reverie. Shooting a glare at the closed door, he continued down the hallway.
Remus was still in the nursery when Harry reached it, standing just outside the open door and peering in. The room was a little dark, a single light like a muggle lamp in the corner the only thing illuminating the room, bathing it in a warm and soothing light. Remus was over by the crib, leaning over it with his arms resting on the bars as he looked down into it and at the sleeping form of his little boy. Harry didn't know whether he should alert him to his presence, not wanting to intrude of what felt like a private moment. The decision was made for him though when Remus turned his head just enough to smile at him and spoke,
"Come on in, Harry." He said softly, voice barely above a whisper. Of course he already knew he was there, he probably heard him coming up the stairs, werewolf hearing and all. Harry quietly moved into the room and came to stand beside him, his eyes moving in the same direction as the older man's. Jack was lying on his back, dressed in yellow footy pajamas with a single large duck stitched on the stomach. His little arms stretched out and his breathing soft and even, the pale wisps of his hair tousled as usual over his forehead. There really was not any need for either of them to be too quiet; the globe from last time was floating above the crib. It just seemed like speaking too loudly would disturb the feeling of peace in the room.
"Sometimes I can't believe the life I have now." Remus said quietly, his eyes never leaving the baby as Harry turned to look at him. "I'v always wanted a family of my own but I never really let myself dream that it would ever happen. I couldn't even imagine that any woman would be willing to love me once she found out what I was, let alone agree to have a child with me." Finally he looked away from Jack and looked at Harry with a sad sort of smile. "I was so jealous of your parents when you were born. I was happy for them, don't misunderstand me, but they had everything that I ever wanted and everything I thought I would never have. Not to mention that you were a beautiful baby, Cub." Harry made a face, not sure if he should thank Remus for the compliment. The older man chuckled and continued with a smile that was a little less sad. "Your mother told me that I 'shouldn't be so pessimistic' because there was someone out there for me who would give me the family I deserved. I honestly didn't believe her at the time but after she said it, I think a part of me started to hope. I think that if it wasn't for her I would have never taken a chance with Tonks." He reached out and ruffled Harry's hair gently. "I'm grateful to your mom for a lot of things."
Harry ducked his head, a suspicious tingling at the back of his eyes making him look away as Remus's hand came down to squeeze his shoulder. The older man seemed to understand and he slung an arm around Harry's shoulders, moving them both away from the crib. "Come on then, let's leave Jack in peace."
Harry cleared his throat and nodded, the smile he aimed at Remus tinged with embarrassment. "Yeah."
They stepped out into the hallway and Remus closed the door behind them. "So Moony, what did you have to talk to me about?"
"Dumbledore." Instantly, Harry found himself scowling. Remus led them to another bedroom, his and Tonks's. His arm dropped from Harry's shoulders and he gestured towards a couple of armchairs near a window. Harry took a seat, his back to the window. Before the other man came to join him, he went and picked up something from an endtable, then moved the other armchair so that he could sit facing Harry. Without a word, he handed over a copy of the Daily Prophet. Harry opened it and right on the front page was a picture of Dumbledore. He was sitting at his desk at Hogwarts, a grim expression on his face as he spoke, gesturing grandly. A bold headline was right above the picture:
Albus Dumbledore Declares 'War on Dark Side'
Harry looked up at Remus with a raised brow and he leaned forward, placing his finger on the paper and at a particular section of the article. Harry continued reading:
" 'The wizarding world cannot sit idily by while Voldermort He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named prepares his army for an inevitable war.' Said Dumbledore. 'We cannot simply wait for Voldermort He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to bring death and destruction to our world while we hope for the best. No one will be safe. You will not be spared if you remain neutral. You will not be spared simply because you are a pure-blood. Voldermort will force you to follow him or he will kill you. Now is the time to make a choice and to prepare yourself to fight for your families and for your life.'
When asked what the wizarding world should do to prepare themselves, the Headmaster had this to say: 'Practice defensive magic. Make sure that you will be able to protect yourself when the times comes because it will. Teach your young children how to hide themselves and your older children how to fight. Have a plan of escape for your family for if your home is attacked. Remember that Hogwarts will always be a strong, inaccessable safehouse for anyone neeeding it.' Dumbledore continued by saying, 'The world seems to be a peace right now but this is only the calm before the storm. There will be a time when our world will seem to be shrouded in darkness but in those times, you need only to follow me and Harry Potter, the Chosen One, and we will lead you back into the light.' "
Harry stopped reading there, dropping the paper to his lap and leaning back in the armchair. His hand went up to tug at his hair, not at all sure what he should think about what he just finished reading. He actually did not disagree with Dumbledore completely, the wizarding world should be preparing themselves, but what was with the 'Chosen One' thing? He thought all of that was supposed to be some kind of secret. This was just what he needed. With a heavy sigh, he dropped his hand into his lap and looked across at Remus. The man had been watching him silently the entire time, hands folded under his chin.
"Have you spoken to Dumbledore lately?" he asked. Harry snorted incredulously, shaking his head.
"Of course not. What do I have to talk to that old man about? And what's this 'Chosen One' shite about?" Remus lifted a brow, frowning a bit at the explitive and Harry muttered a 'sorry'.
"Well, you are the Chosen One, aren't you?" he shrugged "I think a lot of people expect you to be the one to bring an end to Voldermort so that isn't too much of a surprise." Harry groaned and Remus continued, "I was wondering if Dumbledore had made any attempt to bring you back over to his side? The way he's speaking, it seems as if he is expecting you to be there with him to 'lead' in this war."
"Dumbledore isn't an idiot. He knows there isn't anything he can say to me that will make me forgive him for what he did. There's nothing he could come up with that will make me believe in him again. And I have no intention of leading a damn thing. I'll finish Voldermort because that is what I have to do for myself and for my family, the rest of the wizarding world can stumble around in the dark. I don't care." They would turn their backs on him the instant he was not useful anyway, just like they always did.
Remus shook his head. "People will always follow you Harry, not matter what you do. You have 'leader' written all over you." Harry's scowl only deepened. "As for Dumbledore, he may not be an idiot but he has quite a bit of confidence in his abilities. Obviously he thinks that you will be back on his side sometime soon, maybe because of the shared goal of destroying Voldermort? He thinks that you need him so he expects you to come back. He'll try to bring you over to his side."
"Well it's not going to happen."
- - - - - - - - -
A little while later Remus and Harry were sitting in the kitchen with the rest everyone else. Well, everyone except for the still sleeping Jackson. The kitchen island had been elongaded to fit everyone, the Potter family seated on one side with Ted Tonks and the Lupins, Andromeda and Draco on the other side. It was a rather tight fit for all of them but it was not uncomfortable. The food was delicious, roast chicken and fresh vegetables mostly prepared by Andromeda, and they were all enjoying each other's company. Ted had Cattie giggling throughout most of the meal, pretending to shove carrots and such up his nose and then pulling them from behind her ears. They were all laughing and talking and even Malfoy seemed to be enjoying himself. Harry wasn't sure if he would ever get used to seeing the other boy laugh in a way that wasn't cruel.
Ted was in the middle of telling a particularly hilarious story about a time when Tonks was sixteen and snuck out of the house during the summer holidays, only to be caught a two o'clock in the morning when she tried to climb into her own window and got stuck when there was a strange sort of crackling sound. Remus jumped, his face going sheet white in seconds and his eyes widening in horror. The laughter died off immediately as every eye turned to him.
"The wards." He breathed and Tonks gasped. The crackling sounded again, louder this time. Death-eaters, there was no doubt. Harry could feel it, the fear and the horror already beginning to permeate the air. How could this happen? They were supposed to be safe here. He and Remus jumped out of their seats, Hermione and Draco not even seconds behind. Malfoy already had his wand in his hand, face the color of ash and lips pressed tightly together. Hermione moved so that she was standing in front of Cattie who was looking between them all with obvious confusion, fear beginning to make its way onto her face.
"How?" It was Andromeda this time. She was asking what they all were wondering, what about the Fidelus. Ted Tonks suddenly cursed and began frantically searching his pockets. His body was starting to tremble more and more as he searched, jumping out of his seat to dig farther into his pockets. Finally he stopped and looked at them with wide, guilt-ridden eyes.
"It's gone." He croaked. Confused, Remus moved past Tonks to grip his father-in-law's shoulders.
"What? What's gone?"
Ted began speaking, the words coming out in a rush. "That piece of paper you gave us with the address. I keep it with me everytime we come to visit, just incase I forget but its gone! You know I get numbers all mixed up I just-I just…this is my fault! They found you because of me-"
"We don't have time for this!" Draco snapped and the sharp words seemed to spur everyone into action. Hermione picked Cattie up from her stool and gave her to Tonks, the woman almost dropping the child as she was shoved into her arms but she quickly righted her, wrapping her arms tightly around the small form.
"Take Cattie, go upstairs and hide her and Jack." She said hurriedly. Tonks didn't even hesitate. She had already been preparing herself for a mad dash upstairs and to her sleeping son. Tonks might be an auror but being in the front lines wasn't her main priority right now, Jack was. She spared a second to look over her shoulder at the people who were pretty much her entire family, her apprehensive eyes lingering just a little longer on her husband, before she steeled herself and ran out of the second door in the kitchen with Cattie held tight in her arms. The little girl had her arms wrapped around Tonks's neck and the last thing Harry saw as the door swung shut was frightened, emerald eyes. They could still hear Tonks thumping up the stairs when the wards finally broke with a jarring 'crack'.
Andromeda seemed to be frozen in her seat and Malfoy had to pull her to her feet, shoving her behind him as she shakily pulled out her wand. Everyone else already had their own wands in their hands. Hermione was at Harry's shoulder as they faced the door, Malfoy to his left and Remus and a still shaken Ted behind them, standing close to the door that led to the staircase. He did not turn to look at any of them but he could feel their fear just as strongly as he felt his own. But along with the fear and the shock, Harry felt a twinge of excitement. This could be it. Voldermort could finally be playing his hand and this could be Harry's chance to put an end to him. It was the worst time and place possible for Voldermort to attack, when just about everyone Harry cared about was in one place, but it might be his one and only chance. He would just have to make sure that nothing happened to his family.
The second the wards broke, the living room door must have been blown open and the 'boom' of it shook the entire house. Harry felt the wind blow past him as Remus rushed from behind him and right out the kitchen door. The next thing he knew he was running right after him, straight into the living room where the Death-eaters were entering the house. They were climbing in through a gaping and smoldering hole that was once the back wall, crossing over the scattered bricks that used to make up the fireplace. There were already scorch marks on the walls and as Harry's eyes flashed over the room, he knew that there was no way the house would ever be the same.
The black robed figures of the Death-eaters were steadily streaming into the house and looking at them as he prepared to fight, Harry began to get angry. How dare they? How dare these poor excuses for human beings destroy their feeling of safety, pervert the comfort and happiness of Remus and Tonks's home? He would not let them get away with this and he was not going to let Voldermort destroy anymore of his family.
"Crucio!" Harry dodged the curse before it could hit his chest, his hand lifting and a curse flying towards the mass of Death-eaters before he heard the unforgiveable impact with the wall behind him. A spell was shouted over his shoulder and a flash of blond hair in the corner of his eye identified Malfoy behind him. There was a brief second where Harry thought that the spell had been aimed at him but the beam of red light that struck one of the death-eaters proved him wrong. The blond shoved past him and raced after Remus, shooting curses and ducking spells as he sprinted across the ruined room.
In the seconds that followed, Harry could do nothing more than react. There was no time to think, no time to calculate what to expect as death-eaters seemed to come in every direction. There was no time to take note of any injuries he know doubt had, the distant throbbing of his left arm and a warm trickle he could feel above his right eye. He was deflecting curses and returning spells, moving so quickly that he was only catching glimpses of Hermione as she fought just as feircely. He was trying his best to keep an eye on her, covering her back whenever he could just as she was doing for him, and every time he caught sight of those wild curls and fierce eyes, she was closer to the staircase. Cattie, Jack, Tonks, and now both Remus and Draco were up there which meant that there was no way in hell they could let one death-eater up those stairs.
With every spell he cast he could feel that this fight was different from the battles he had been in before. He had long given up trying to just incapacitate, he was shooting to kill. There was too much at stake to allow the chance of any one of these bastards getting back up once they went down.
Harry had made his way to the far end of the room, death-eaters on every side. He was casting spells with one hand and his wand was clutched in his other. He had retrieved the wand from his sleeve knowing that casting with it did make some spells more powerful and right now they could use all the power they had.
"Inflatus!" Harry shouted, slicing his wand in a swift arc and the four death-eaters around him flew backwards as if by a strong wind. One of them sailed backwards and right into another who was sprinting up the staircase, towards Hermione who by now was almost at the top. Both death-eaters went tumbling over the side, breaking a part of the banister and hitting the ground with a sickening crunch as a piece of the splintered wood impaled one of the men just below his ribcage. Blood began to pool beneath his body, adding to several other stains already soiling the carpet. Harry paid no mind to the dead man or his unconcious comrade; he had noticed something much more worrisome.
The amount of death-eaters in the room had dwindled significantly since the fight had started, most of them nothing more than crumbled forms and specks of blood around him. There were still five or six of them around him, attempting to surround him even as he kept his back towards the wall, but the majority of them were trying to force their way up the stairs Hermione was defending. She might be one of the most powerful witches he knew but there were eight of them and only one of her, she wouldn't be able to hold them off forever. Harry wasn't understanding it. As arrogant as it might sound, he was usually Voldermort's top priority so why weren't all the death-eaters concentrating on him? There had to be another reason for them to be here other than just him and that sent his heart plummeting right to his stomach.
Half a second after horror began to dawn on his face, a death-eater got the best of Hermione. She had just thrown herself to avoid a sickeningly familiar green curse when another impacted right near her feet, blasting a hole in the floor and sending her flying sideways into the wall. As far away as he was from the stairs he still managed to hear her pained gasp. A death-eater pushed roughly past another in front of him at the top of the stairs, leaping nimbly over the hole and striding purposefully down the hallway. From behind, a section of pale blond hair could be seen.
That was when Harry snapped. The tingle and burn of the magic he only knew as his began in his palms and spread like wildfire. The death-eaters only got a glimpse of a mask of fury and power before they were sent convulsing to the ground. Steping over the fallen figures, he strode towards the staircase. He knew that it was only the training he and Hermione had been doing with his power that kept his head on straight as he moved across the room. Usually by this time, when his magic was clawing through him like a cold fire, he could think of nothing else but destroying whatever it was that was causing his anger. His mind swam with the need to get rid of what was threatening those he loved and he rarely noticed the world around him until it was finished. Now though his mind was crystal clear, fear and fury giving sharp clarity to his thoughts as he scaled the staircase. A death-eater was turning towards him, wand at the ready and an unforgivable on his tongue before a motion of Harry's hand sent him crashing through the already broken banister. Three death-eaters had followed the first down the hallway and already the shouting of spells could be heard. Those that were left on the staircase were turning back to stop the furious wizard coming towards them but it was too late, seeing Hermione painfully picking herself off the floor sent a fresh wave of rage through Harry and he didn't give them time lift their wands.
"Are you okay?" Harry asked as he reached the top of the stairs and Hermione, skirting the edge of the hole only inches away. Hermione had gotten to her feet by then, body half hunched in pain and sweat soaked face already beginning to bruise. It looked as if her teeth had bitten through her when she was slammed into the wall; blood was trickling down her chin. The sight of her had his hands shaking and as much as he wanted to reach out and support her, he had to keep them clenched at his sides.
"Fine." She gasped through clenched teeth, attempting to clean away the blood on her face with an irritated wipe of her hand. "We have to follow them." A glance wasn't even spared to him as she made her way around the hole, her eyes focused down the hall and to the sounds of fighting, where their daughter could be caught in the crossfire. A door to one of the bedrooms was blown off its hinges and she was running down the hall, adrenaline numbing the pain that was coursing through her body. Harry was right behind her.
The door that had been blown down was the one to Draco's room but the blond was not inside. Instead it was Remus, shouting a 'Locomotor Mortis' at the death-eater that was closing in on him. The person was bigger than him and Remus had to scramble backwards when he hit the ground, growling and cursing something about 'filth' as his wand rolled away from him. Remus stood over the man with his lips pulled back into a snarl, a human mask of the wolf within, and hissed out a spell Harry didn't recognize. The man's entire body arched tense as a bowstring for a brief moment before he slumped to the ground. Remus stared down that the limp body with hard eyes, clenching and unclenching his wand. He seemed to have lost all color in his skin, scorch marks were on his clothes and he was favoring one side of his body but his face was set in determination. Harry and Hermione were standing in the ruined doorway and just looking at him, Harry could see and understand the panic and desperation the man was feeling. Everything they wanted, cared about, and needed, was in this house and in seconds it was all being torn away.
His eyes finally moved away from the death-eater and to the couple at the door, apparently noticing them for the first time. He snapped out of whatever stupor he was in and came striding towards the door. "Dora has the kids barricaded in Jack's room. Draco is with her." He said quickly. He was out the door and jogging down the hallway in seconds, Harry and Hermione having no choice but to go after him as he continued to speak. "I think I might have caught sight of Ted but I'm not sure." They stepped over the fallen body of another death-eater, a woman. Her mask was cracked and wisps of dull brown hair concealed her face from view. "I was with them but the death-eaters came up and…" He shook his head.
It was strangely silent now. They were crossing over broken picture frames and passing scorched walls, the air was so still that it made it all that much more surreal. Harry's mind couldn't fit this place with the house he knew; it was all so different and wrong and he couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. When the attack had first begun, the amount of death-eaters had seemed overwhelming but now that so many lay mostly dead in their wake, he realized that there really had not been that many. Why send so few people to kill or capture your enemy? It made no sense. What was Voldermort playing at?
The silence was brutally shattered by a tortured scream, the sound coming from the direction of Jack's nursery. "No." Remus gasped before running towards the room and the continuing screams with Harry and Hermione on his heels. The first thing Harry did when they reached the room was scan it frantically for any sign of Cattie and he didn't know if he was relieved or horrified to see that she was nowhere in sight. Any relief he might have felt evaporated in a second when he realized he was wrong about something else, there were more death-eaters. Three in fact and they were standing in a semi-circle, backs to the door and one of them had a wand pointed at a writhing figure on the floor, screams still tearing out of their throat. In a gap between two of the cloaked figures, Harry could see a once lovely face twisted in anguish, pale blond hair tangling around her. It was Andromeda.
The Unforgivable was dropped for a moment. "Tell us where they are!" One of the death-eater's roared. From the large build of his body and the rather thick quality of his voice, Harry pegged him as either Crabbe or Goyle Sr. The three death-eaters looked like creatures of nightmare in the nursery, the evil that practically radiated from them perverting a room that was warm and peaceful only a short while ago in a way that made Harry feel physically ill.
"N-No." Andromeda sobbed out, body still twitching with residual pain. The death-eater lifted his wand.
"Expelliarmus!" Hermione shouted the spell with enough power to send two of the death-eaters flying in one direction and their wands in another, the one who had been performing the Crucio grunting as he stumbled backwards. None of them stayed down for long.
"Avada Kadavra!" Obviously this guy was a fan of the Unforgivables. The curse had been directed at Hermione but she was already running into the room by the time it struck the ground where she had been standing. One again they were in the middle of a fight, spells and curses flying in intent to kill from both sides. Remus was dueling with the larger death-eater, inching his way to Andromeda as she attempted to drag her body towards a wand that had rolled beneath the crib. Harry had just felled the death-eater he was dueling when several booms, each on louder than the first, and then a sharp crack echoed though the house. His head snapped towards the door, body already turning to run out when he glanced back at Remus and Hermione who were still dueling the remaining two death-eaters. Remus was getting the better of his opponent but Hermione had to dodge curse after curse, the only way to avoid the constant stream of Unforgivables heading her way. For a second their eyes met and there was no question of what she wanted him to do. Cattie might be in trouble and as much as they loved each other, she always came first.
He lingered a little longer than he should have, his heart constricting with the knowledge that there was a chance that this was last time he saw her. Putting his daughter at the forefront of his mind, he turned his back on them and ran into the hallway. It was only four steps from the nursery to Remus and Tonk's bedroom or what was left of it. A gaping hole much like the one downstairs had replaced the door and part of the wall. The door must have been heavily warded and that meant that it was protecting something important. There was no doubt this was where Tonks and the kids were hiding. Once again he was hearing screams, just one and it was a voice that maximized every bit of protectiveness and terror he felt.
"Cattie." He was through the hole without even a moment of hesitation, not knowing what to expect but knowing that his little girl was in danger. Where the rest of the death-eaters had come from Harry couldn't fathom but there were four more inside of the bedroom. Three were still masked but one stood proudly in the center of the room, platinum blond hair was tied back from a face that would have been handsome save for the twisted smirk on his lips and the gleam of triumph and pleasure in his eyes. Lucius Malfoy. There was no surprise at seeing him there, just a rush of fiery hatred. What did give Harry pause was that Draco was standing at the foot of the bed, an arm's length away from his father with his wand pointed right as his chest. There was a slight tremor in his arm but his gaze was steady on his father's face, his eyes burning with more hatred than even Harry felt. Malfoy Sr. seemed unconcerned, holding his wand casually at his side as he eyed his only son.
Kneeling on the bed, close the headboard was Tonks. She was sitting with her wand pointed at the death-eaters, facing Draco's back. Cattie was tucked close behind her and she had placed Jack on the bed. The baby actually appeared to be asleep and Harry wondered if Tonks had charmed him because at a time like this, there would be no doubt Jack would be wailing at the top of his lungs. Cattie was half curled over the baby, her entire body shaking and pale while she stared fixedly at Lucius. She remembered him. She remembered what a bad man he was and what he had done. The little girl whimpered when his smirk widened.
Almost lazily Lucius's eyes slid from his son and over to Harry, not in the least surprised to see him standing in the doorway. "Potter, how nice of you to join us."
"Sorry I can't say the same." Harry growled, already focusing and calling up his magic as he lifted a hand to send out enough magic to rid the world of every death-eater in the room. He didn't want to give Lucius or the rest of them a chance to send out even one curse.
"You should stop right there, Potter." Lucius drawled, smirking. "I've heard of your little tricks. Do you think you could manage to destroy us without killing every single person in this room?" Harry faltered, glancing quickly at his daughter half hidden behind Tonks before his eyes returned to Lucius. Though he kept his face blank, inwardly his mind was racing. He had been practicing and he knew his control of his magic was better than it ever was but could he risk it? When he had gotten to those death-eaters on the staircase, he had basically done a powerful Expelliarmus and it was the falls that had felled most of them. He could end someone when he focused his magic on the individually but he couldn't risk doing that now. He could go after Lucius and one of the other death-eaters could kill Cattie before he could do anything. This room was too small and there were too many lives he couldn't risk.
Slowly, reluctantly, Harry lowered his hand. He couldn't risk it.
"Good boy." Malfoy's smirked widened before he turned back to face his son, effectively ignoring Harry.
"Now if only you would listen to reason. This is where you have been hiding yourself, Draco?" He drawled, his tone a mockery of concern. "With blood traitors and half-bloods? Just when I think you could not bring more shame to your family."
"You are not my family." Draco spat. The smirk on Lucius's face didn't change but even from where he was standing Harry could see his eyes flash, amusement moving into something darker and angrier.
"In that I should say that you are correct. How can I claim a blood traitor as my own? An idiotic child who turned his back on his family and ran away from an opportunity that was offered to him on a silver platter? No, you are no longer my son." Lucius lifted his wand, twirling it between his fingers and Draco flinched, whether from the threat of his father's words was unclear. "Of course there is a chance of forgiveness, Draco. All you have to do is step aside."
"Fuck off." There was sweat beading on the blonde's forehead but he didn't waver. Lucius dropped his smirk as fury twisted his features and quick as lightening his wand was pointed at his son's heart.
"This was your decision." He hissed. "Avada-"
"No!" Someone pushed past Harry and came racing into the room, running to a frozen, disbelieving Draco as the beginning of a scream sounded from Tonk's.
It was only after Draco had been pushed out of the way and the curse impacted with the man did Harry realize who it was. Ted Tonks had rushed right into the room and shoved Draco out of the way of the killing curse. He stepped into the line of fire to save the boy he had come to consider like a grandson and now he fell to the ground, eyes staring up at the blankly, never to see again. That was when all hell broke loose. Draco was lying on the ground where he had fallen but he rolled onto his back and pointed his wand at his father, feeling enough hatred and grief to perform a second 'Avada Kadavra'. Lucius Malfoy was sent to the ground just inches away from the body of Ted Tonks. Both Tonks and Cattie screamed for their fathers and while Tonks stayed crouched on the bed, only the basic instinct to protect her child keeping her there, Cattie launched herself off of the bed.
"Daddy!" She yelled again, fear sending streams of tears down her face as she started to run to him. Harry was already halfway there, heart beating out of his chest to get to her as a death-eater began to rush towards them. He couldn't let them get to her first. A swipe of his hands send the death-eaters through a wall but he was so focused on getting to Cattie that he didn't see or have time to stop the other. He was inches away from his daughter, his fingers brushing her arms just a spell sent her flying sideways and into the arms of the last death-eater.
"No!" But it was too late. The death-ear was disappeared with a resounding clap and with him, Cattie.
Harry stood in the middle of the destroyed bedroom, not able to look away from the spot his daughter had been. Distantly he could hear Tonks crying and screaming and Hermione had come in, grabbing onto his arms and shaking him, yelling at him to know where her daughter was and getting more hysterical by the second but it was all a blur. He was hearing everything like he was underwater and he couldn't look away from that spot. His daughter was gone. Cattie was gone.
A/N: Er, hopefully the ridiculously long chapter makes up for the lack of updates? Yes it is a complete excuse but I've been stuck on the entire death eater scene for months. That's what took me so very long, along with general procrastination of course. Action scenes are not my forte but hopefully it was alright. I apologize in advance for any errors and/or awkward sentences and such, especially towards the end because it is almost 6am haha.
Anywho! I just want to say thank you everyone for continuing to read and support and send me so many wonderful reviews, I honestly appreciate every single one. Thank you for helping me out with things I've messed up or don't make sense, constructive criticism has seriously done me a lot of good. I especially thank all you readers who have stuck by me for so long! I know this story has had some…ups and downs but really, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy this chapter and the ones to come 3