Disclaimer: Harry Potter and his world – JK Rowling's. I'm just borrowing for fun.
A/N. Starting with the usual warnings –
The Keeper is a mystery/angst novel-length fic, Post-Hogwarts, Post-Epilogue and based on canon outcomes. This will not be pretty. (There go half of the readers.) I love AU and non-canon based stories but I needed to write one that dealt with the outcomes of the ships in the books without killing off major characters (translates as I am crazy and a glutton for punishment).
It is a story that picks up four years after my post DH one-shot The Sacrifice. If you haven't read it, no worries. The necessary bits of it will be in this one.
There will be an HHr affair in this fic…it will be short (at least I think it will be). I know – I ask myself the same thing – if it will be short why even bother.
Angst – yes. If you never liked TCC and TPP, don't waste your time.
Don't ask me how long the story is. I'm terrible at chapter estimates but it's safe to say it won't be 68 chapters long – I hope not! LOL!
Much of it is unwritten and in my experience in TCC and TPP reader reviews and opinions do influence what I write.
Here's The Keeper.
Chapter 1 - Four Years Later
14 September 2021 - About 5 a.m., somewhere in Southeast Asia
A raging storm lashed angrily upon the small rural village, punishing it severely with howling winds and relentless rain. Lightning intermittently lit the flooded ground and thunder broke the monotonous sound of the downpour as a figure of a woman suddenly appeared in the middle of a rice paddy.
Immediately drenched from head to toe, she cast off the used magical transport device and paused to regain her bearings, trying to figure out which way to go. Unfortunately this was as far as the emergency Portkey could take her and she had to get to her ultimate destination on foot. Her only hope was that she wouldn't be too late. They now knew who she was, knew where she lived and would find her quickly.
Recognizing something familiar, she began to trudge barefoot through knee deep mud, slipping and sliding frequently, the sporadic electrical discharge from the sky the only thing illuminating her path home. She moved as fast as she could, ignoring the agonizing pain in her chest and legs and the need to stop to breath.
A zipping sound pierced the air and a sharp pain cut through her left shoulder from behind with such a force she lost her balance and fell forward. They found her. She had been shot, a flesh wound but it hurt and bled profusely nonetheless. Her pursuers were close and were gaining ground.
Another gunshot rang out and plunked into the bank of the rectangular plot, narrowly missing her head. She could hear them. There were two men arguing in some dialect, a language she was not familiar with. Transient hired muscle, she concluded. She crawled into the adjacent field and hid under the cover of yet to be harvested grain.
Contemplating her next move, she decided that using magic was not only unfair but potentially counterproductive. She groped around for something, anything that she could use as a weapon and she felt wood a couple of feet to her right. It was a three foot long four inch thick bamboo. That would suffice. Already poised to attack, she patiently waited.
As the second man passed she crept up from behind him and swung hard, hitting a targeted area at the back of his skull. The bamboo cracked on impact, vibrating in her hand before she let go of it as the burly man face-planted into the soft earth. The taller one heard and turned, gun aimed at her but she was quicker; her finger was already on the trigger of his partner's Glock 21. She squeezed it and the bullet punctured the goon's forearm, shattering bone, injuring nerve and muscle and forcing him to drop his weapon. His howl drowned by the continuous deluge, the man scampered away as she rapidly emptied the clip at his feet, discarding the .45 calibre pistol once it was empty.
A female voice crackled over the air, "Jose…come in…over…"
Somebody was trying to get in touch with the passed out 'Jose' through an antiquated Muggle device, a two way radio. There would be more armed Muggles soon and it was only a matter of time before a magical squad was sent to track her down. The woman got on the slick elevated man-made path and resumed her run. There was not a moment to lose. She had to get to her son.
In a couple more minutes she looked up ahead in the clearing and was heartened by the sight of what she had called home for about a year. She disengaged the protective wards long enough to get through and magically secured the usually unlocked front door wandlessly. A spare weapon was inside a nearby cupboard and she grabbed it, replacing the one she lost at the meeting. She cleaned up and dried herself up somewhat on her way to her son's room, reaching his bed just as he woke up.
"It's that time," she was still trying to catch her breath, the gnawing pain on her shoulder now constant.
"What's happening?" the thirteen-year-old boy with a mess of raven hair and deep green eyes sprang up to a seated position. He grabbed his spectacles from the bedside table and put them on. There was alarm in his voice and expression as the singular lamp in his room shed light on her injured condition, "Mum, you're bleeding!"
"I'm fine. Listen to me," she took him by the shoulders and said with a gravity she had never spoken to him before, "There are evil men who are on their way as we speak. They must not find you here. We talked about this many times and you promised."
"You promised me you'd listen and you wouldn't argue."
Sensing the urgency in her voice, the young man got up and changed into faded jeans, a white shirt and runners while she summoned a rucksack prepared from long ago.
"What about you?" he asked, reluctantly taking the backpack from her, tears visibly streaming down his cheeks.
"I can't leave."
She had to stop them now. Running away would be futile for they would track her down.
"I can help…"
"NO! I need you safe!"
"Maybe Dad can help."
"The Ministry already chose to stay away. This is not your Dad's fight," she explained for the umpteenth time. The last thing she wanted was to get Ron involved. She appealed to him, "Promise me you won't tell him."
The boy hesitated.
"I promise," he resigned himself to her wishes as he brushed the wetness off his cheeks. He sniffed, the crying had stopped for now, "I'm going to Dad's then?"
She held up an old Air Jordan sneaker and transformed it into a Portkey. They should be home by now.
Swallowing the lump that was in her throat, the answer came out stiffly, almost apologetically, "You're going to your father's."
"My father's," he repeated. Resentment replaced the concern in the boy's eyes as he grasped the Portkey in his other hand, "Is he expecting me?"
She nodded. She called and talked with him and his wife before all hell broke loose when it became apparent it would. The thing was bigger than she thought it was.
"Stay with him...until I sort this out. He'll protect you."
"I don't want his protection. I don't need it," her son replied defiantly.
The sight made her heart ache. It reminded her so much of how his father was at his age questioning the wisdom of those older who had decided for him. Intuitively she knew that would be the wrong thing to say. He already hated it that physically he looked so much like Harry.
"You could be right but I disagree, so just humor me and stay with him until this is over, okay?"
Hugo was a good kid. He would do it because she asked.
"He doesn't even know I'm his. How sure are you he will protect me? Or do you want me to give him and Aunt Ginny your letters?"
He eyed her keenly. The letters were for when he decided that he was ready to let the truth out and she couldn't tell Harry and Ginny in person. It was not fair to have him deal with this on his own. On the other hand she needed Harry's help with Hugo and to help effectively Harry had to know. Experience had made Hugo more mature than his thirteen years and he saw her conflict. Hugo shrugged.
"I don't care," he deadpanned but the hurt showed in his eyes, "If you want I'll give them the letters and it'll be good because they'll send me away."
"They won't send you away," she reassured him, recognizing his fear of rejection despite the brave front, "And if you are ready to let everyone know I prefer that you wait for me and not face this alone."
Hugo nodded. It was her fault that he didn't know his father well, that he didn't want to know his father. Since telling him the truth two years ago conversations about his other biological parent were infrequent and, recently, testy at best. He was only eleven then and while she knew he would not fully understand why she did what she did, she thought it the appropriate moment. They had just moved for the third time in two years and he was in a new school. Hugo could start, at least physically, being himself.
He was hurt and mad at her then and rightfully so. Guilt filled her that day she robbed him of the remainder of his childhood. When she decided to have him, she knew that time would eventually come but she never thought it would be this horrible. And when Hugo got over being angry at her he directed his ire at his father despite her insistence that Harry was not at fault. The few times they went back to London to visit Hugo chose to stay clear of Harry. He kept to himself and had eventually withdrawn even from his sister Rose and his best friend and 'cousin' Lily. Hugo was miserable every time they visited and after their trip last year told her flat out he preferred not to visit anymore. Now she was asking him to live there with someone he disliked, maybe even despised.
Hugo brooded silently and she felt the storm within him. Like his father when he got this way it was best to leave him be to sort it out. It was heart wrenching to watch knowing that she did this to him and all the reasons why she thought this would be okay faded in the background. This was not okay and while she had been perfectly willing to make the sacrifice to buy time and keep the rest of her family happy, she did not realize she had signed him up and condemned him to the same lot, not until it was too late. Her sacrifice was now his for as much as he wanted to be free of the lie she started he understood from the get go how the truth could destroy the people he cared the most about. And the decision to tell Harry was no longer entirely up to her.
Since leaving London four years ago things had not turned out the way she envisioned they would. How did she ever think this would be the best thing to do for him? Had she known then that he would suffer this much she would have let the truth out a long time ago and spread the hurt evenly around.
She watched Hugo as he magically altered his hair and eyes to the brown colour he had grown up with and guised under since infancy. In the past, she had to help with the transformation but he was adept at doing this now. His greatest motivation to learn was his preference to look this way. She pulled the boy into her arms and hugged him tight. He hugged back as his tears fell on her shoulder and hers on his.
"I have every intention of coming back for you," she said with determination, "But in case I'm somewhat delayed look after Rose, okay?"
He nodded through his sobs understanding exactly what she meant. She kissed him on the forehead and pulled away just as the Portkey glowed a bluish hue.
"I love you, honey," she choked on the words. "Tell Rose I love her, too."
At the next clap of thunder the darkness took her son away. She was comforted by the thought that Harry and Ginny would do the right thing. As she removed all evidence of Hugo being in the room and extinguished the lamp beside her, she sensed that the perimeter had been breached. She was right. The Fidelus had been broken. The front entrance provided token resistance. Five men moved swiftly into the house, all heavily armed and needing no real reason to kill. There were voices from the outside and some under the raised floor. She summoned another concealed wand and aimed both weapons at the entrance, ready to fight.
The door to Hugo's room came off its hinges and a sudden burst of bright light blinded her momentarily. A cacophony of gunfire and curses ensued. Hermione Granger remained calm as she fought back, thinking of Rose and Hugo, and how she had to see them again.