Harry watched contently as his six-year-old grandson raced around the room on a toy broomstick. Alex had inherited the flying genes from the Potter/Weasley side of his family, and it was obvious that the boy would eventually be on the Quidditch team of whichever House was lucky enough to have him.
Once Alex had tired of flying, he landed quite gracefully at Harry’s feet. The child clambered onto the sofa next to his grandfather, eyes desperately seeking approval. Harry couldn’t help but grin at the messy mop of reddish-brown hair and the eyes that mirrored Lily’s.
“Granddad, did you see me?”
Ruffling Alex’s hair, Harry chuckled. “I sure did, my boy! You’ll make the House team someday.” Semi-seriously, he added, “Mark my words.”
Earnestly, Alex said, “Yes, sir.” With that, the boy helped himself to the tray of biscuits, and all was quiet, but comfortably so, for a good ten minutes. That was when Alex had managed to shake Harry to the core with a simple question.
“Where was Mum when I was a baby? Uncle Al said that she was away, but he didn’t tell me where she was.”
How was Harry supposed to answer that question? How could he tell his grandson that his mother had been in Azkaban for killing a man in a fit of madness? Worse still, how could he justify it without condoning murder? Not once, in his sixty-four years on this Earth, had he felt like running and hiding as he did at that moment.
“Well, I don’t know how to answer that,” he said honestly.
“Why?” Alex didn’t understand why his Granddad would not answer such an unassuming question.
“I don’t know that, either.” Harry felt himself sink deeper and deeper into a hole with his evasions, but could he, in good conscience, actually give Alex what he wanted? An ache formed behind his eyes. Removing his glasses, he rubbed the bridge of his nose to massage away the discomfort, but to no avail. Alex was still waiting.
There was no way around it. The boy had to find out sometime, and it was better that he learned of his mother’s stint in Azkaban from family. “Alex, I—first, let me make something clear.
“Killing people is very, very wrong. Hurting them is wrong, too, but killing is even more wrong than that. Do you understand?” Harry needed to be sure before he said anything more.
Alex nodded, so Harry continued. “Before you were born, a bad man… hurt
your mum, and that made her sick for a little while.” He drew the line at explaining temporary insanity to a child. “While your mum was, er, sick
, she killed the bad man.” There
, Harry thought with relief. I said it.
“But Granddad, hurting people is wrong! Why did Mum do that?” To Alex’s credit, he displayed an appropriate level of shock and dismay at the thought of his mother being a murderess.
However, Harry knew that he couldn’t allow his daughter to take all the blame for this. “It is, but sometimes, someone does something so bad that they shouldn’t live around other people. That’s why we have jails and prisons.”
Alex said grimly, “And Mum went to prison.”
Harry nodded. “Yes, she did. Killing the bad man is still awful, even though he deserved to go to prison and never come out.” Taking a fortifying breath, Harry pushed on. “That’s why she only spent a year in prison instead of a long time; the Ministry understood why she did it.”
Alex hung his head. “But that means that Mum’s just as terrible as the bad man, but nobody else
Harry swore to himself. Could I possibly screw this up worse?
Not only had he embarked on an uncomfortable explanation, he may have compromised his daughter’s relationship with her son. He removed his glasses and leaned his head back, staring at the ceiling with no idea of how to proceed.
Finally, Harry knew he had to say something to defend Lily. “It’s a little different, Alex, but you wouldn’t understand it right now. Maybe when you’re older.”
That statement was met with a deathly silence. For over an hour, neither talked nor looked at the other, the silence this time vastly more uncomfortable than the previous one.
The impasse between them was interrupted by the sound of the door opening. Lily sailed into the room, but her airy smile was squelched by the dark looks of both her father and her son. First, she asked Alex, “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
When Alex didn’t answer, she put her hand on his arm, but he jerked himself away from her roughly. As Harry saw this from the corner of his eye, he thought to himself, What have I done?