A/N:This is the very first chapter of the very first story in the Redemption Series. This disclaimer should be applied to every chapter following: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter universe. If I did, my life would be far more glamorous than it is now. I'm just here to write a good story, not make money. Bear in mind that this story and its sequels were envisioned and partially written before DH, and therefore not canon compliant after HBP. Enjoy!
There was another explosion, and Matt's hands tightened over his ears. He was hiding under the bed with his eyes shut, and he knew he'd wet his pajamas because he was so afraid. There were men in his house, bad men who were hurting Mother and Dad. They were wizards like Dad, and they were doing bad magic, the kind of magic that Dad went to work to stop people from doing. Two of the men were big and scary, and the other one was evil. Matt saw them before he shut his door and hid under the bed. The third man was the leader. He was telling the bigger men what to do. He was a thin man with loads of blond hair and a pointy face. Matt closed his eyes and covered his ears and tried to pretend they wouldn't find him.
"Potter won't ignore this!" Matt heard the blond man yelling right outside his door. "An attack on a fellow Auror? When he gets here, I'll duck out the back and come around—"
The explosion shook the floor, and Matt couldn't help it. He screamed. And he knew the blond man would come in and find him now, and he pushed himself further under the bed.
"Potter, sir, Potter's here!"
The noises and shouting outside were so loud that Matt couldn't make out anything else of what they were saying. Then the door opened, and someone pushed their face under the bed, and Matt screamed again.
"It's Matthias!" the man was shouting. "Tonks, I found Roger's son!" The man reached under the bed to grab Matt, and Matt bit his hand. He couldn't let them get him, he didn't want them to hurt him like they hurt his parents. "OW! Matt, Matt, it's Harry, don't you remember me?"
The word "Harry" got through to Matt somehow. Dad's friend Harry from work and Harry's girlfriend came over for dinner a few weeks ago. He said Matt could call him Harry and not Mister Potter. Matt liked Harry. He stopped screaming.
"Matt, it's Harry, I came to save you. Come on, we have to go."
Matt grabbed the reaching hand and let Harry haul him out from under the bed. Harry picked Matt up and held him while they ran out of the room. Harry held him too tight, but Matt didn't care, he just wanted Harry to find Mother and Dad so they could run away.
The explosion was so loud it hurt Matt's ears, and suddenly he was flying and he hit the ground, tumbling out of Harry's arms as Harry was knocked from his feet. Matt felt something rush past him, like strong wind, and he couldn't breathe for a moment. Then he felt pain, awful pain that was so much worse than falling off his toy broom that Matt didn't even understand it. He stared at Harry, who was jumping back to his feet, then raised his hand to his face. His face was all wet, and it hurt so much.
"It's my cousin!" a woman shouted. "Harry, duck!"
She threw herself on top of Harry, and a jet of light went over their heads. Both of them spun around with their wands out and sent their own jets of light. Matt saw the evil blond man duck out of sight.
"Get Matt out of here," Harry commanded, pushing the woman with bright blue hair toward Matt. Then he turned and roared, "Malfoy!"
The woman crouched down in front of Matt and scooped him up just like Harry did. They started to run, but then the woman tripped and Matt went sprawling again. He fell against something soft. It took him a minute to know what he was looking at. It was his mother. She wasn't moving. She had blood—
"Don't look, Matt!" the woman cried out, picking him up again. She spun and flung out a spell at the big man who'd started creeping up on her, and the big man fell over, frozen. She covered Matt's eyes. "Don't look, okay?" She hurried out the door and the blast of cool air over Matt's wet face made him hurt so bad, and made him dizzy. There were lights flashing in his eyes when the woman took her hand away.
"Malfoy!" he heard Harry shouting. "You think you can ambush me? Why don't you come out and face me like a man? You afraid you can't stand up to me in a fair fight?"
Then a voice spoke right next to Matt and the woman holding him. "I know I can't, Potter."
The woman screeched and pointed her wand, but there was a loud crack, the same noise Dad made when he disappeared to go to work.
"He's gone, Harry," the woman called out.
"I noticed," Harry said grimly, marching outside to meet them. "But we got Crabbe, junior and senior. Malfoy's got no allies left." He looked at Matt. "Merlin."
"Where's Mother and Dad?" Matt asked him.
Harry made a strange hissing noise and turned his head away. "Why doesn't he just give up?" he said, his voice sounding like he was in pain. "Why won't he just stop. His lord is dead. Why can't this end?"
"You know it's not you he wants," the woman said softly, cradling Matt closer. "He wants to trap you and bring Ginny out to rescue you."
"Yeah, I know." His hands tightened into fists. "My fiancee didn't kill his father!"
"He knows that. But he has to take his revenge, doesn't he? Any Weasley will do. Bill and Fleur are out of reach in France, and he'll never get a step ahead of Charlie. Ginny's the only one he can really go after."
Harry turned around with tears on his cheeks. "They're dead, aren't they? The boys that killed his father are dead. Why can't he just let it go?"
"I don't know," the woman said. "What I do know is that this boy needs a Healer."
Matt, head spinning and eyes flashing, lifted his hand to his face. It was still wet.
"Let me take him," Harry said. "St. Mungo's will be too traumatic for him, tonight. I'll take him back to Grimmauld Place. We can take care of him. He'll probably feel safer there."
She nodded, and Matt felt himself being passed over to Harry with a very detached sensation, like his mind and his body were separated. He looked over and saw that the woman's shirt was streaked with blood. He looked down at his hand. His hand was red.
Matt's vision went black.
Harry sat in the middle chair of the kitchen table at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, carefully holding little Matthias Markham. The boy was still unconscious, but Molly and Hermione had done well with the burns on his face and neck. They were trying to find a potion in a book of healing tips that they could brew up to keep Matt from scarring. He looked at the faces around him and felt some of his anger fading, while weariness set in. Sirius had left this place to him to do what he would with it, and now that the Order of the Phoenix was no longer needed, Harry had made it into a refuge.
Lupin and Tonks, whose wedding had been just weeks ago, were staying here, and the living members of the Weasley family. He'd had to bring them here, because Malfoy's vengeance would find them at the Burrow all too easily. Arthur and Molly had been too shell-shocked, a year and a half ago when they found out their sons were dead, to protest the move. Charlie had wanted to be with his family, but Bill and Fleur were expecting and decided to leave for a little while to stay with her family, until Malfoy and his remaining lackeys were caught. Harry didn't see Ginny in the press of people, but he knew where she'd be. He left Matt with Molly, telling her to take him to St. Mungo's if they didn't find the potion within half an hour, and went to find his fiancee.
She was exactly where he thought she'd be. She came here often. She never cried, but she would go still and cold, until she'd worked through the bout of melancholy and returned to her more cheerful self. Harry figured the attack tonight would have brought up painful memories. It did for him.
He came up behind her and slid his arms around her, drawing her against him. She leaned her head back against his chest, but didn't speak. He stared. It was a small memorial they'd built to the boys. Pictures of the three of them, Ron, Fred, and George, with their posthumously awarded Orders of Merlin pinned beside the pictures. There was a broken bit of Fred's wand that they'd found at the scene, and a used packet of Peruvian Darkness Powder. Clippings from the Daily Prophet detailing what they'd done, with lots of words like "heroic" and "sacrifice." And Harry's contribution to the memorial—the letter they'd written, with Hermione's help, explaining what they'd done. It had all of Hermione's precise wording, but the devil-may-care jokes in the message came from the twins, and the bold heart was all Ron.
Harry was being eaten up by the need for vengeance, back then. He'd avoided Ginny and hurt everyone. He just wanted to get back at Snape for what he'd done. He wanted revenge. And while his heart was dying with it, the Weasley boys made their decision to spare him from it. He was needed to battle Voldemort, but it couldn't be done when all Voldemort's followers stood in the way. They'd found a way to deal with both problems.
They'd infiltrated one of the gathering places for Voldemort's followers, and they'd attacked. Attacked like nothing anyone had seen since Gideon and Fabian Prewett. They'd battled through a pack of Fenrir Greyback's werewolves, and found what they were looking for: Rodolphus and Bellatrix Lestrange, in a meeting with Lucius Malfoy and Severus Snape. They'd killed them. They'd taken out the most serious players of the enemy's side, and they'd enacted Harry's revenge for them. But they'd died for it, the three of them.
Harry's eyes fell on the last bit of the letter. Live, it said. Don't let it poison you. Make our sister happy. Live. His eyes blurred with tears, and he pressed his face into Ginny's hair.
"I miss them so much," he muttered.
Ginny still didn't speak, but she laid her hands over his, pressing his arms closer around her, and turned her face into his shoulder.
Then Hermione came in. Her part of the memorial to the boys was in her arms, sleeping. Her nine-month-old daughter, Maggie. Ron had gone with his brothers to save Harry, but Hermione had wanted him to leave something behind.
"Charlie's just arrived, with a potion he uses for dragon burns. Molly's using it on Matt."
Harry nodded, and smiled softly at Maggie. He reached out a hand and ran it over her soft, fine hair. It was nearly blond now, but Molly said all her kids had hair like that as babies. Maggie would be just as flaming red as her father, someday.
"I should have left her in her crib," Hermione said, "but with everything . . . I wanted her with me."
Harry could feel the moisture of Ginny's tears soaking into his shirt, suddenly, and it surprised him. She never cried. She stepped away from Harry and held out her hands to take her niece. Hermione surrendered the lax little body cautiously, but Maggie slept on.
"Hello there, beauty," Ginny whispered, pressing a kiss to the slightly scrunched forehead. "At least someone's sleeping."
Hermione, as if reminded, rubbed her eyes wearily. "It's been a long night. Now that Matt's safe, we should all get some sleep."
Harry nodded in agreement, but Ginny shook her head. "I want to see Charlie first."
"You'd better hurry, then," Hermione said. "I think he wanted to get to bed himself."
Ginny handed Maggie back and went downstairs, Harry trailing her.
As they entered the kitchen, he saw that Lupin and Tonks were gone, Matt had been put to bed somewhere, and only Arthur and Molly were there with Charlie. He looked up as they came in and smiled. "Oh, there you are. I have some news, and they were pestering me to tell them. I wanted to wait and tell you all at once."
"Is it good news?" Harry asked warily.
Charlie grinned. "Yeah. Madam Hooch is retiring from Hogwarts."
"That's good news?" Ginny asked in bewilderment, sitting down in the chair Harry held out for her.
"It means I'm taking her place," Charlie said, grinning even wider. "I'm going to be teaching the little snots how to fly now. And with the student population built up a bit, they're going to start sorting the kids into houses again. McGonagall can't do it now, what with being headmistress, so she's asked me to take over Gryffindor."
"That's excellent, Charlie," Harry said with enthusiasm.
Ginny had a very bothered look on her face, but all she said was, "Yeah, Charlie, that's wonderful. I'm happy for you."
"I'll still be close by, you see?" he said to Molly gently, taking her hand and squeezing it.
Molly nodded, with a few tears streaking down her cheeks. "I'm glad."
Harry felt stabs of sympathy and regret. Bill's absence was hard on her. With Percy dead in an attack on the Ministry two years ago, just months before his brothers—it had been a desperate effort from the Death Eaters to distract Harry from finding the last Horcrux, and a retaliation against the Ministry for failing to recognize Voldemort's return with due reverence—Bill and Charlie were the only sons she had left. Well, and Harry, who she insisted was as good as a son, especially since he'd be her son-in-law in a matter of months. He'd delayed a couple of times, wanting to catch Malfoy before his marriage, but it didn't make a difference in his status in the Weasley family. Besides, he'd been forced to stop dragging his feet, because Ginny swore she'd kill him if she heard, "I just want you to be safe first," one more time.
He and Ginny headed down the hall together to check on Matt, laying hidden under a swath of bandages on a cot in Hermione's room.
"Why didn't they offer that post to you?"
"At Hogwarts. Why didn't McGonagall ask you to do it?"
"She did," Harry said quietly. "I told her no, told her to ask Charlie. I'm too busy trying to keep Malfoy away from the rest of the world. Maybe in a little while, when Malfoy's been caught and when Molly doesn't need Charlie nearby quite so much. It just isn't the right time."
Ginny accepted that, and they turned back to gaze on the boy whose life had been destroyed a few hours ago.
"He's so small and he looks so vulnerable," Ginny whispered. "I just realized—he's an orphan. What's to become of him?"
"At least his scars won't connect him to a crazy murdering dark lord," Harry muttered.
Ginny gave him a look that did not strike him as particularly sympathetic. "Does he have any family?"
"His mother didn't. His father's family—they're Muggles. They remind me of mine."
"They've all but disowned him. Matt is going to be a wizard. They won't want him."
"He'll be put in an orphanage, then," Ginny said sadly.
"No, he won't."
Harry didn't even realize he'd spoken aloud until Ginny asked him to repeat himself. Stunned, he heard himself say it again. "He won't go to an orphanage. I don't want him to. Nor to the Markhams."
"Harry, what are you saying?" she asked plainly.
"We're keeping him, Ginny."
"Merlin, Harry, I'm nineteen years old! I don't want a child, not yet."
"Hermione's twenty. As am I. If she can handle it, we can."
"Harry, we need to talk about this, think about this, before we make this kind of decision."
Harry looked at her with the kind of determination he normally reserved for winning a war. "It's made, Ginny. Do you want to marry me or not?"
"Of course I do!"
"Matt's part of the deal, now. Think about it before you make that kind of decision."
Ginny's mouth opened in shock, and her eyes were full of hurt. "Harry?"
He rubbed his eyes and sighed. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be harsh. But, I'm tired of orphans growing up to kill each other because of misunderstandings and neglectfulness. That ends with Malfoy and I. Matt's going to know better than that. I want to see a future with some hope in it, Ginny. I want to give hope to him."
Her eyes had gone softer, and she wasn't bristling with anger and hurt feelings. "Let's talk about it more tomorrow, okay?"
He could tell she was not taking him serious, was chalking this up to an overemotional outburst, but he just nodded wearily. "Okay. Goodnight, sunshine."
She kissed him chastely and retreated to the room next to Hermione's, leaving him alone in the hall.
"My sunshine," he murmured with contentment, and turned to head upstairs. Everything from her shining hair to her brilliant personality had earned her that nickname. When Harry slipped into his bed and shivered from the cold sheets, he lay a hand on the empty space beside him. It was getting lonely up here. "We need to step this wedding up," he muttered as he fell asleep, exhausted.