The calm after a storm. That would accurately describe how Clara felt when her tears finally dried up, and her shaking subsided. The dark emotions that had been swirling chaotically through her had been replaced by something else; peacefulness she hadn’t felt in a long time. James’ arms were still wrapped around her and it was with a jolt that she broke away from him.
She scrambled to her feet, feeling her cheeks burn. Strands of hair sticking to her tear stained face, Clara stuttered embarrassedly, “I’m sorry. Oh God, I can’t believe I—”
“Clara.” He only said her name, and it stopped her mid sentence. Messy dark hair falling into his blue eyes, bright with some unknown emotion, James reached forward and brushed the hair from her face. “Stop. Don’t apologize for being hurt.” His tone was gentle, and the hand on her face even gentler.
“Didn’t think you’d be such a good therapist.” Clara mumbled, slowly feeling a little less mortified.
James threw back his head and laughed, and Clara raised her head and gave him a half smile. “Another one of my hidden talents, my lovely Clara.” Then, adding in a ridiculously pompous voice, “And how does that make you feel?”
Clara giggled and rolled her eyes at him. “You bare absolutely no resemblance to Dr. Phil at all.”
“Thank God. I’m much better looking.”
Clara smacked him lightly on the arm. “Arrogant.”
James took a bow, “Always.”
Clara got the feeling she would be doing a lot of eye rolling while in James’ company. The two smiled at each other for a moment, warmth building between them. Clara felt at ease, something that surprised her given that she had just cried her eyes out into his shirt. Crying like that was something she hadn’t done in years and now it felt as if a great burden had been lifted from her shoulders. She thought of the people downstairs who she had just dropped her bombshell of a secret on, and reluctantly spoke to James, shattering the moment they had been sharing. “I should go back downstairs. Your family must think I’m a complete head case.” She grimaced.
“Nah.” James replied casually. “That’s only me. They’re much more open minded.”
Clara glared at him and tossed her hair over her shoulder, turning to the stairs. “Are you coming?” She called to James.
“Oh indeed.” But he hadn’t moved, just stood there staring at her.
Clara suddenly felt warm. “What?”
James shook his head, “Nothing.” He smiled at her, but something was off. His mask was back; he was showing her what he thought she wanted to see. Clara frowned as he swept past her and down the stairs. For someone who Clara had envisioned as having everything, a loving family, relatively well off, good looks, James sure was very adept at hiding himself. And it intrigued her.
Clara followed him back into the kitchen and everyone grew silent at once at the sight of her. Clara shoved her hands into the pockets of her jacket; she hated the attention. Ron opened his mouth, but Hermione put a hand on his arm, silencing him. The whole room filled with tangible awkwardness. Then Harry stood up, and the rest of the adults looked happy to defer to him what to do, almost as if they were used to him taking charge.
“Clara? Would you mind coming in here with me?” He held open a door to a small sitting room off of the main room.
Clara merely nodded, happy to get away from the staring eyes and most of all, James’ blue gaze boring into her back. She followed Harry into the room, and he snapped the door lightly shut behind them. Clara fiddled with her hands, unsure where to put them, unsure what to say. What do you say? She had no idea what was going to happen now that the families that had taken her in knew her secret.
Her secret. The very thought of talking more about it made her stomach roll. It made her feel dirty and helpless, but there was also a determination that hadn’t been there before. She wanted to speak, to put the bastard who made her life hell pay for what he did. A new set of emotions, of shadows crept into the recesses of her mind. Dark, and violent, they stirred deep within her, scaring her more than any other feeling she had experienced. Taking deep, calming breaths, Clara pushed those dark thoughts down, repressing them. When she turned and met Harry’s bright green gaze, no anger or violence could be seen in her eyes.
For a moment, the two simply stared at each other, assessing and calculating. They were both very aware that their pasts were similar, but trust was not something that came easy to Clara and she wasn’t about to open herself up to this man, no matter how safe she felt with him.
And his son, her traitorous mind whispered. Clara ignored it.
Harry was the first to look away. He walked to the window, staring out into the bright sunlight yard. Clara could’ve sworn she saw a few garden gnomes skulking in the garden. Then Harry spoke, “My parents died when I was only a baby.” His voice was heavy with sadness. “I was raised by my aunt and uncle, never knowing I was a wizard or even how my parents really died. But my aunt and uncle, they were terrified of magic. They tired every way to ‘squash’ it out of me.” He ran a hand through his untidy black hair. “I’m not pretending to know exactly what you feel like, but I do understand. And if you want it, I’m going to help you in any way that I can. Because no one should have to suffer like that.” Clara saw the fire in his eyes, the hardness of his mouth. Harry met every word he said. Clara could see that this was a man would had felt injustice, pain and every type of suffering, but emerged a stronger person. Staring at him now, Clara felt almost overwhelmed. She didn’t know what to say.
“Thank you.” She managed at last. “I’ve never talked about…it…before.” She let her breathe out slowly. “It feels better.”
The black-haired man smiled at her, and Clara felt herself smiling back. “Now,” Harry rubbed his hands together. “I’m going to get you into Hogwarts.”
Clara knew a ridiculous grin had covered her entire face. “Really?” She asked Harry, sounding like a five year old on Christmas.
He smiled at her fondly, and Clara couldn’t help the warm feeling that was blossoming inside her. She wasn’t used to people caring so much about her. She found herself enjoying it, even reveling in it.
Careful, she chastised herself, or you’ll get a head as big as James.
Ha, that wasn’t possible.
Harry dropped a hand on Clara’s shoulder, and she didn’t flinch away from the contact. His green eyes were serious, but also understanding. “If you ever want to talk, you know where to find me.”
Clara nodded, but didn’t say anything and Harry led the way back into the kitchen. Ginny smiled when she saw Clara as did Hermione. “Harry, you’re going to owl McGonagall now, right?” Ginny asked her husband.
“Yes.” Harry replied. “The sooner the better. Term isn’t that far away.” And the black haired man vanished out into the garden, presumably to find his owl. Clara sat down at the table between Rose and Ginny, and was certain to smile as warmly as she could at the younger girl. The redhead’s eyes were wide as she stared at Clara, looking as if she didn’t know how to talk to her anymore. Clara’s heart sank; she had been afraid of this. Did her new friends think she was a freak?
Clara took a deep breath. “Rose,” She began. “I know it’s a lot to take in, but this doesn’t change who I am. It’s just a scar from my past. We’re still friends?”
Rose’s brown eyes filled with tears and she hugged Clara fiercely, taking her off guard. “I’m so sorry.” The girl whispered in her ear. “For what happened.”
Clara’s eyes stung a little, but she quirked a smile. “I get a new beginning and a new leather jacket.”
Rose laughed and the tension between the two girls vanished. Ginny reached over and squeezed Clara’s hand. “Everything is going to be okay. You’re with us now.”
“Yes. The infamous Potter-Weasley clan.” James drawled, just as Al and Lily came inside, holding brooms. “She should be running for her life.”
At the dark look Ginny was giving her eldest son, Albus remarked “No, you should be.”
James huffed and with an air of great dignity, exited the room. Clara watched him go for a moment, before she realized the younger Potter boy was addressing her. “Clara? Want to play some Quidditch with us?”
Clara bit her lip. “I’m terrible at Quidditch.”
Al laughed and smiled broadly at her. “So is Lils, here. Doesn’t stop her from playing.”
Lily looked outraged, and shoved her brother. “I am not that bad.” She cried.
“Whatever you say.” Al smirked, looking for a moment very much like his older brother.
Lily stormed from the room, making sure the tail of her broom whacked Al on her way out. He grinned the grin of one who has won a great victory,
“You really are terrible to her, Al.” Rose chastised. “No wonder she likes James better.”
“Oi! She does not!” The raven haired boy objected. Despite having just infuriating his little sister only moments before, Al seemed quite put out that Lily might like James better than him.
Rose’s only response was to roll her eyes at Clara, who grinned. Never having had siblings herself, she couldn’t help but enjoy the dynamic between the families here. There was clearly so much love between them, despite the bantering and teasing. Sadness flickered briefly in Clara’s eyes, as well as the smallest dark feeling of jealousy.
Molly Weasley, who had stayed relatively quiet during all the previous events, spoke now. “Clara dear, would you mind helping me? There’s a dreadful amount to do, and Rose is absolutely awful in the kitchen.” Rose stuck her tongue out at her grandmother, but didn’t argue. “I started a fire once.” She stated, almost proudly, standing up. “Come on, Al. Bet I can beat you to the clearing.” And the two cousins raced from the house. Ginny and Hermione stood as well. “I’m so sorry, Mum.” Ginny apologized. “But I really must get some work done.” Hermione grimaced as well. “I have dozens of files to organize for the Minister. I really must go to the office for at least a little while.”
Mrs. Weasley waved them out of the door. “Don’t you worry, dears. Clara and I can manage everything just fine. Just make sure you’re back for dinner!” She called just as the two women vanished out the door.
Shaking her head, Mrs. Weasley turned back to the kitchen and Clara. “Those two will work themselves to death.”
Ron got up from the table, stretching his long legs. “You know them, Mum. Wouldn’t have it any other way, the two of them.” He shrugged, smiled at Clara and left the room, leaving only Mrs. Weasley, Clara, and Mr. Weasley rocking slowly by the fireplace.
Mrs. Weasley was still frowning. “After all they’ve done, you’d think they would be entitled to more time off.” She said, almost to herself.
“All they’ve done?” Clara repeated questioningly. Mrs. Weasley shot her a sharp look.
“You mean you don’t know?”
“Don’t know what?” Clara had that feeling again. The one telling her she knew what Mrs. Weasley was talking about, but just couldn’t pin it down.
“About the War of course.” Mrs. Weasley was looking at her strangely, and Clara couldn’t blame her. “The wizarding war against,” She swallowed. “Voldemort.”
Clara doubled over as images flooded her head; images of death, Killing Curses, men in masks, and above it all, a stark white face with snake eyes and a cold high voice. Other voices filled her head, mixing with the first. Clara screamed as pain shot from her head down her spine, making her collapse. Through the din of voices, one rung out through them all.
Strong, powerful, and commanding, the single voice resounded in her head, growing and growing until she was sure her head would explode.
And then Clara blacked out.
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