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Chapter 22 : Alone
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I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
Alone - Heart
The next morning, Gideon woke Araminta with a tray of breakfast.
“You didn’t have to...”
“I didn’t. Arieda did.” He grinned, and waited until she sat up, then placed the tray on her lap. “How’re you feeling?”
“Better still, thanks,” she replied. “Really, I’m fine now. I’ll go back home later. Dumbledore said I shouldn’t be here when I don’t need to be...”
“Are you sure?” he asked with concern. “You can stay if you want to; we can keep you out of the way of everyone else, and I can stay too-”
“I’m fine,” she insisted. “Besides, I should really go back home; some Death Eaters are quite sociable, you know, they like to visit...”
That just made him feel more worried.
“Oh, don’t worry, they won’t do anything,” she said reassuringly. “They’ll do more if I’m not there when they expect me to be.”
He nodded, trying to ignore the disappointment in the pit of his stomach.
“You know where to find me if you ever need me,” he reminded her.
She smiled softly.
“I know,” she said.
He left her in her room to eat and get dressed, and settled down in the kitchen to wait for her.
It wasn’t long before Arieda joined him.
“Everything okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, it’s all good.”
She said nothing for a moment, just looked at him.
“I’m glad,” she said. “She needs you. She has me, I know, but ... I’m not you. She’s strong-willed as anything, and she won’t flake under pressure ... but she’s finding it really tough. She’s seeing Voldemort himself twice a week, and it’s taking all she’s got to keep this up. But ... she needs people there for her, to remind her that she’s not alone, to help her through it. She needs you.”
This only exacerbated his guilt.
“I’ve been awful to her,” he groaned, burying his head in his hands.
“Don’t be daft, of course you haven’t – I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. Look, I didn’t exactly expect you to take her news well. I told her you wouldn’t, but she told you anyway, even though I said it was a bad idea. It’s good now that you do understand, but I didn’t think it worth the risk. And it’s not like I took it well when she first told me. The only reason I didn’t completely flip is because Dumbledore was there, and he believed her, and ... well, if we can’t trust Dumbledore these days, who can we trust? It still didn’t sit right with me for a while though. I mean, all I knew was that she’d found out the truth about her parents and wanted revenge on their killers. For all I knew, she still thought of me as scum. It wasn’t until after she’d told you that I realised she wants to fight for us, and not just against Voldemort. So, you shouldn’t feel bad. Your reaction was only natural.”
“You still stopped me hurting her-”
“She’s spying for us. I’m her go-between. Regardless of what she says, that still makes me responsible for her safety. I couldn’t have you going for her. Besides, you would have felt terrible if you’d done something. And I don’t think it would have helped her any either...”
He clenched his fists in anger, as he thought of the abuse that she had suffered at the hands of Travers. Perhaps she had deserved to be the one to take him out in the end.
“And you’re here for her now. That’s all that matters.”
He nodded, determined that from now on, he would be there for Araminta no matter what.
“Are you sure they won’t hate me?”
“Araminta, they don’t even know that you have anything to do with Voldemort. They’re not in the Order, they don’t even know what it is. I didn’t tell them a thing about you. Trust me, you have no need to worry.”
“Why didn’t you say anything? You hated me a week ago.”
“I don’t think I wanted them to know. Molly really liked you when she met you, you know. She thought you were really good with the kids – and they liked you, which is always a bonus. Besides, the less they know about anything, the better.”
“Why don’t they know about the Order?” she asked curiously.
“It was only set up in my Fourth Year, after Molly had had Bill and Charlie. Voldemort wasn’t quite so powerful then, and we weren’t so short on numbers. Dumbledore couldn’t bear to bring them into it when the boys were so young. Things have become more desperate since, which is why people like the Potters and Longbottoms remained involved since having children, but Dumbledore still doesn’t like recruiting people who already have children. He tries to make sure that those who do play less of a front-line role, so to speak, giving them lower-profile roles instead. He says there’s no prioritisation either way, but it’s obvious that us single, childless men and women are given the more dangerous jobs. And he’s right,” he added, “the fewer people that are dependent upon someone, the more disposable they are-”
“Don’t say that,” Araminta cut in sharply. “Of course you’re not disposable.”
“That’s the way it is. And I can’t say I disagree. If James were killed on a mission I could have been on instead, I’d feel so bad that I’d cost Harry his father, and Lily her husband, when I’m wifeless and childless. And I know that if Louisa were still alive, if we’d had children, other people would want to sacrifice themselves so as my kids wouldn’t suffer. It’s just human nature, isn’t it?”
She fell silent.
They were crossing the large, overgrown garden behind the Burrow, sidestepping the odd gnome and fanged geranium.
“I used to de-gnome the garden at home when I was younger,” she said quietly. “It was oddly therapeutic.” She booted away a gnome that had crossed her path; it flew nearly ten feet before landing with a splash in the large pond.
They reached the front door, and he rapped three times on it. The quiet murmur of voices inside tailed off, and was replaced with the sound of chair legs scraping against the floor, and footsteps heading towards the door.
“Who is it?” Arthur’s voice called.
“Gideon,” he replied. “With a guest.”
“What were the first Chocolate Frog cards we swapped?”
Gideon felt Araminta’s bemused gaze on him, and fought back a grin.
“You gave me Hengist of Woodcroft, in exchange for one of my countless Agrippas.”
Arthur pulled the door open, and they entered the kitchen.
“It’s her,” Gideon affirmed, as Arthur opened his mouth. The older man nodded, and shut the door behind them.
“Chocolate Frog cards?” Araminta muttered to him as Arthur led them through to the kitchen .
“It’s an ideal question. Nobody would even think to research that kind of thing.” He grinned at her and she rolled her eyes, but she looked amused all the same.
Molly was sitting at the kitchen table, cradling a baby in her arms. She stood up as they approached her.
“Gideon, what a lovely surprise! Why didn’t you say you were coming? And Araminta! I wasn’t expecting you! How are you? Oh, how wonderful! I’ll just put the kettle on-”
“I’ve got it,” Gideon grinned, crossing to the sink. “Sit down, Mol, stop faffing.”
Molly sat back down in her chair, and indicated that Araminta sit next to her.
“You haven’t seen our newest arrival.” She beamed, and held the little girl out to Araminta, who took her in her arms.
“She’s so beautiful,” she breathed, looking down at the baby. “I’m so pleased for you that she’s a girl.”
“So am I; maybe they can finally stop being such baby machines,” Gideon joked, as he set the kettle down on the stove. “I’ve got more than enough nephews to buy birthday and Christmas presents for as it is. The only trouble now is that I have no idea what to buy for a baby girl.”
“I’ll help you with that when the time comes,” Araminta said absentmindedly, her eyes still on the baby in question. “I hear you called her Ginevra?”
“Ginevra Molly, yes.” Molly smiled proudly. “Every time I became pregnant, Marlene reminded us that as Billy’s middle name is Arthur, our first born girl should have the middle name Molly. And Louisa, Gideon’s wife – you know about Louisa?”
“I do, yes.” Araminta raised her head from Ginevra, and her eyes flashed across the room to Gideon for a moment, before turning to Molly.
“Yes, well she always said that her first-born would be called Ginevra, so, given all she did for us, it seemed only right. We asked Gideon and Arieda if they were okay with it first, naturally-”
“And we said yes straight away.” Gideon smiled at his sister.
“It seemed like a fitting tribute to them both, really. They were such wonderful aunties to our children, and such incredible women, it seemed the right thing to do-”
Molly trailed off, her eyes welling up. Both Gideon and Arthur moved to comfort her but, to Gideon’s astonishment and pride, Araminta reached across and took Molly’s hand in her own, squeezing it lightly.
“It’s a lovely gesture,” she said quietly. “And I’m sure they’re both truly honoured.”
“Thank you, dear. I hope they are.” Molly pulled a handkerchief out of her sleeve and dabbed at her eyes with it. “Oh dear, I am being silly. I’m sorry, you didn’t come to put up with an old woman’s tears-”
“Mol, if thirty-one is old, then we’re all in trouble,” Gideon put in, trying to lighten the atmosphere – and redirect the conversation away from Louisa.
“I may as well be sixty-one, for all that bringing up six boys has done,” she replied, with a slight shake of her head.
After a cup of tea and a few minutes of light-hearted chatter about nothing in particular, Araminta was dragged off by Charlie to see his drawings of dragons.
“Araminta hasn’t come here to see your pictures, dear, don’t bother her-”
“It’s fine,” Araminta reassured her. “I’d love to see them.”
Gideon grinned. She caught his eye, and smiled back, before Charlie tugged her out of the room.
“She’s so good with them,” Molly said. “Even the twins like her, and that’s no mean feat.”
“She’s certainly one of a kind,” he agreed.
“How are you doing?” she asked him, a concerned tone to her voice.
He didn’t even bother to say he was fine. His sister had always been far too perceptive.
“As good as I can be,” he said, trying to avoid eye contact.
Molly might not have been in the Order, but she wasn’t unaware of what was happening. Although she didn’t know about the Order, she knew he was an Auror, and she knew what he’d been through. That was all she needed to know.
“I hate to see you so downtrodden,” she said, reaching across and taking his hand in hers, and squeezing it comfortingly. “I’m not even going to pretend that I know how you feel, but what I will say is that you mustn’t give up.” She paused. “Araminta must be one special girl.”
He frowned, finally looking at her.
“What do you mean?”
She smiled slightly.
“You think I haven’t noticed the way you look at her? It’s like you just forget everything, as though you have no cares in the world. It’s as though she’s the only thing that matters.”
It was what he’d been trying to avoid, trying to deny, for weeks. But hearing it from his sister, who had always been there for him and would never dream of lying to him, finally made it all real.
Arieda had said that Araminta needed him. In reality, it was he who needed her.
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