Ginny stepped through the front doors into the main St Mungo's waiting area and immediately went to join the other witches and wizards waiting in line for the Welcome Witch so that she could find her husband easier. However, she hadn't been in line more than thirty seconds before one of the medi-witches approached her.
"Mrs Potter?" she inquired. Ginny nodded. "Please follow me. I've been instructed to take you back to the A and E where your husband is waiting for you."
Ginny smiled at her and followed her down the labyrinthine corridors that led to the Accident and Emergency department. Along the way, she noticed how calmly efficient the busy healers were, a big change from the night Harry had been brought in last October.
"Here we are," the medi-witch said as they reached a short side hallway with only one door in it. Harry was using it to "pace" his wheelchair, rolling the length of the passage one way, turning and going back the other way.
Ginny recognized the hallway as the one leading to the Aurors' arrival room and she immediately knew why her husband was pacing; he was worried more of his Aurors had been hurt on the mission and he was waiting to see who the victims might be. She thanked the medi-witch and waited patiently for Harry to notice her. When it became obvious that he was too distracted to look up, she spoke to him softly.
"Harry, dear. I'm here. I know you're worried. Shall we find somewhere quiet to wait?" she suggested.
Harry's head snapped up and he rolled to a stop next to her. He reached up, grabbing her about the waist and murmured, "Thanks for coming, but no. I want to stay here where I can see both Mary Beth's door and the Aurors' entrance."
Ginny sighed. "All right, Harry. We'll stay here," she acquiesced.
Her husband gave her a wan smile and resumed his pacing. It was going to be a long night.
It took an hour, but Ginny finally managed to convince Harry to sit on a waiting area sofa with her and now the two were huddled on the hard, lumpy cushions with their arms around each other. Across the room, Ginny watched Susan Bones-Finch-Fletchley as she gently teased fibres from a hole in Auror Pendergast's robes and slipped them into an evidence vial. When she was done, she deposited the vial in an evidence bag and Banished the bag to Forensics. She then folded the robes and put them in another bag.
"I found the most active damp fibres and sent them off for analysis," Susan said, looking at Harry. "The lab should be able to ascertain the components of the potion used on the metal fragments, just from the few I was able to find—thank goodness of that new detection spell we learned last week! The rest of the material around the holes is dry and any metal fragments or singeing will be dealt with by Forensics later."
Ginny felt Harry lift his head from her where his chin rested on the top of her head.
"And the robes?" he asked.
"Going to Evidence. I'm taking them there myself, and then I'm going home to Justin. I haven't seen him or the girls in nearly three days and I need to sleep in my own bed and reacquaint myself with my family," she said.
Ginny smiled at her friend. "I'm sure your family wants you back just as badly," she said, raising her head from Harry's shoulder to give him a significant look. "I know we always felt more complete after Harry came back from a mission that lasted far too long for our liking."
Susan yawned and looked at the clock mounted above the archway that led to the corridor. "Justin always takes at least part of the day off on the day I return from a mission," she said. "I've already told him this one's wrapping up, so he's expecting me." She addressed Harry with her next question, "Do you think Ron will require me to stay at Headquarters longer than it takes to write my report?"
Harry shook his head. "Absolutely not, but if he does, tell him I told you to go home."
"Thanks, Harry. I'll do that." Susan yawned again and stood up. "The sooner I leave here, the sooner I'll be home," she said. "Good night, er, morning, Ginny."
Ginny stood up. "I'll walk you over," she said. At the Aurors' arrival room where Susan would Disapparate, she said, "We'll send word once we know something."
The two witches hugged and Ginny returned to the waiting area. She found Harry slumped over with his elbows on his knees and his hands fisted in his hair, a sure sign that he was worrying, just as his pacing had been.
"Harry, what's wrong?" she asked, coming to sit next to him.
Harry looked over at her, his eyes red-rimmed. "The healer just brought word that Mary Beth has slipped into a coma," he choked out. "The poison went undetected too long and her body is having a hard time fighting it. I'm terrified that she's going to die needlessly."
Ginny began rubbing his back in small, soothing circles. "I know, Harry, I know," she said quietly. "All we can do is hope the healers can counteract the damage like they did for you a year ago."
They sat huddled together for a time before Harry spoke again. "Is this what it felt like waiting for me wake up last year?" he asked in barely a whisper.
Ginny closed her eyes, thinking of how scared she'd been after Harry's first duel with this gang of criminals. "Yes, Harry. This is what it feels like every time I wait for you to wake up in hospital," she answered truthfully.
Harry flung his arms around her and held her tightly to him. "I'm so sorry, Ginny," he nearly sobbed. "I had no idea waiting was so hard."
She wiggled a bit and draped her legs over his so they could sit more comfortably. "There's a good chance Mary Beth will wake and be whole just like you were," she said. "I mean, the healers didn't figure out that you'd been poisoned for nearly twenty hours and it was another two before they found the antidote to the poison since the bezoar they'd given you didn't work. Because you knew what to look for, Mary Beth's chances are so much higher than yours were."
Harry raised his head from her shoulder. "That's good to know," he said in a steadier voice. He sounded calmer as he added, "Ginny, I'm sorry I broke my promise to you last October."
She cocked an eyebrow at him. "Why are you apologizing now?" she asked, wondering why he was bringing the subject up.
"I just realized that part of the problems we've been having lately stem from the fact that I don't keep the promises I make to you very well," he explained. "For years I've been promising that the next mission will be my last and then another high profile case comes along and I become too involved in it and end up getting hurt in some way. I know I promised you a year ago that I'd stay at the office while others did the field work and—" He broke off, running a hand through his hair and sighing deeply. "Well, I didn't stay back like I said I would."
Ginny grabbed his hand and held it tightly in her own. "If I recall correctly, you promised me you would stay safely at the observation point where you could direct the team and call for backup if your Aurors needed it. I never made you promise to stay back at the office because you would never feel comfortable not being a part of the action. That's part of what I love about you, Harry; your 'saving people thing,' as Hermione is so fond of reminding me," she said.
Harry snorted. "Did you have to remind me of that?" he asked. An embarrassed smile flitted across his face, but it didn't quite reach his eyes.
"Yes, I did, sweetheart," Ginny said, "because we're Gryffindors, the brave and true, who want to see justice done so badly that we need to be in the thick of things just to make sure things are done right. The promise you broke last October was one I knew would be hardest for you to keep. To be honest, it hurt so much when the hospital called me to tell me you'd been admitted again, but in a way, I was also proud that you went down fighting."
Harry held her close. "Does it bother you that I was finally hurt so badly that I'll never fully recover?" he asked.
Ginny shook her head. "No, Harry, it doesn't. What the Matron did to you could have turned out so much worse; I'm not a widow, and as hard as it's been the last few months, I thank my lucky stars every night that your mind is intact and that you aren't a permanent resident of this hospital."
Harry pulled her close again. "Then I'm glad, too," he whispered, "I really am."
Ginny closed her eyes and laid her head on his shoulder. A moment later, Harry's cheek was resting comfortably on her head.
Ron stood in the doorway to the waiting area and ran a tired hand through his hair. He hated to wake his sister and best mate up, but the news he had for them was too good to wait. Walking slowly and quietly, he approached Harry and Ginny and gently laid a hand on each of their shoulders.
"Harry… Ginny… It's Ron. I have good news," he said.
The two woke with a start and his sister giggled with embarrassment.
"Is Mary Beth all right?" Harry asked, looking hopeful.
Ron smiled tiredly. "I've just come from talking to the healers," he explained, looking directly at Harry. "Thanks to your quick thinking, they were able to save her. She'll make a full recovery and will be going home in a few days."
Harry pushed Ginny's legs off his lap. When he looked up at Ron again, there were silent tears coursing down his cheeks, something that surprised Ron because his best friend was usually not one to be emotional. "That's such good news, Ron," Harry choked out. "Is there someone with her now?"
Ron nodded. "Her family arrived a half hour ago and witnessed her awakening. Thanks for staying, mate. You, too, sis," he said.
Ginny covered a yawn with her hand. "You going home now?" she asked.
"Can't," Ron said with a sigh. "One of the suspects is on his deathbed and I need to stick around because I promised I'd be with him at the end."
"Who? Why?" Harry asked.
"One of the Matron's assistants, the one who killed the forensics team, turned himself in Friday afternoon while we were on surveillance and turned Minister's Evidence. He made a full confession and gave us some valuable evidence against his colleagues, all because the Matron used him as a pin cushion and was slowly poisoning him."
Harry whistled softly. "You've recovered the Pensieve memories to go with his statement?" he asked, sounding like he was back as the Head of Department.
Ron scowled, feeling annoyed. "Yeah, we have, Harry," he said. "Whenever the Wizengamot gets around to trying the Matron and the others, everything he gave us will be admissible. Robards made sure of that because we don't want them to get off on a technicality."
"Neither do I," Harry said. He tilted his head to one side as if considering something. Then, the added, "I'm sorry, Ron. I had no right to ask about the memories. You've done a brilliant job closing this case, something I failed to do twice. Forgive me?"
Ron nodded and stood up. "I've got to get back," he said. "Oh, do you know how Scorpius is?"
Harry smiled and gazed into Ginny's eyes. "Last I saw, he was surrounded by his family," he said. "I think with time, he'll be just fine."
Ron said, "Glad to know that. Draco's raised one courageous kid." And on that thought, he left the waiting room for Tim Dawson's bedside.
It had been hours since he'd been given leave to go back to Auror headquarters to complete his report. He'd finished it a few minutes ago and turned it in to Robards, who had dismissed him to go home. However, he wasn't ready to face the empty walls of his flat, the pictures of Emily on his mantle or the empty space in the wardrobe in his room that used to hold her clothes. Brodie sighed. The logical place to unwind was his favourite pub, but the idea of drinking alone at ten o'clock in the morning—even if it was after work for him—didn't sit right. Still not sure where he was going to end up, he cleared his desk, secured his file cabinet and left the Auror Office.
He wandered the streets of Muggle London aimlessly for nearly an hour, not really paying attention to where he was going, still too keyed up from the mission to go home. Eventually, he bought a paper cup of tea and a sticky bun at a small café and continued on, finally meandering his way back to the front entrance of St Mungo's. He stared at the derelict building for a few seconds before he realized what he was looking at.
He stepped up to the manikin. When she asked his business, he stated he was an Auror checking up on a patient. He was admitted immediately and found himself staring at the lines of chairs occupied by the hexed and the sick who were all waiting to see the healers or be admitted to the hospital. Once inside, though, he had no idea where he wanted to go, although he knew it felt right to be here. He took a seat in a corner by the door and sat down to finish his tea.
"Brodie, mate, I thought I sent you home hours ago!" a familiar voice exclaimed a few minutes later.
Brodie looked up to see Ron Weasley and his wife—he'd forgotten her name—standing before him. Ron looked sad more than tired and Brodie fleetingly wondered why.
"You did," he answered, "but I can't go home just yet. My flat's felt empty since Emily died." There. He'd said it, admitted to himself why he wasn't at home, comatose from lack of sleep the last few days.
"You came back to check up on Dawson, then?" Ron asked.
Brodie shrugged. "I just started walking and ended up here after I finished my report," he said. He stood up. "Might as well go up and see the git and find out why he killed Emily and her team. I'll see you later."
He stepped towards the back of the waiting room, but Ron caught his arm, stopping him. "You can't, Brodie. It's too late," he said.
Brodie stared at him, unable to understand why it was too late. "I… I don't understand."
It felt as if the bottom had dropped out of his world. Dawson dead? Bloody HELL! How was he going to find out the reason behind Emily's death now? Turning towards the wall, Brodie slammed a fist into the nearest support column repeatedly as the pain of discovering her dead seared through his mind. He let out a string of swear words and would have said a few more, but a warm hand on his shoulder stopped him.
"Brodie," a soft voice said soothingly, "come home with us."
He turned his pain-filled eyes on Ron's wife who gathered him into a hug and he held on, willing the pain away, until Ron cleared his throat. Brodie let go and stepped back, glancing at Ron sheepishly.
"Come on, Brodie. Hermione's better at fixing plaster dents than I am." Ron gave his wife a quick one-armed squeeze and then gestured for Brodie to follow him.
Brodie hesitated, looking at Hermione. "You're sure you want me at your house?" he asked.
Hermione turned from where she was contemplating the rather large hole made by Brodie's fist. "Go on, you two. I'll be along in a moment," she said reassuringly as Ron jerked his head towards the door. Brodie murmured his thanks and followed Ron out onto the street.
Five minutes later, he and Ron appeared in the foyer of the Weasley's home and Brodie could only stare. "You… you live here?" he asked, completely overwhelmed by the spacious room. "Why are you an Auror?"
Ron chuckled, "Welcome to Weasel's Keep. And yes, I live here." He hung his robes and cloak on a hook by the door and held out a hand for Brodie's cloak. "Harry, Hermione and I were Gryffindors at Hogwarts during the Second War. Hermione calls it my 'saving people thing', although the term applies more to Harry than it does me, I suspect. So yeah, that's why I'm an Auror."
He couldn't help but smile as Ron led him into the kitchen and lounge area. "You've made all this money as an Auror?" Brodie asked, still incredulous.
"Heck no, my brother George owns Weasley's Wizard Wheezes and before I went to the Auror Academy, I spent five years after the war helping him get back on his feet. We made a tidy profit and the rest, well, the rest is history," Ron said modestly. He stuck his head in the cold cabinet and pulled out two beers, tossing one to Brodie. His face lit up as he remembered something. "Brodie, come see this. Hermione gave it to me for Christmas."
He led the way through the lounge into a small sun room and stopped before an enormous model of a Quidditch pitch. Raising his wand, Ron muttered a couple of spells to animate the miniature figures. They began flying through the moves of the Cannons' last match, a spectacular upset over the Tutshill Tornadoes. "Isn't this a beauty?" Ron asked.
Brodie popped the top off his bottle with a charm. "Erm… It's amazing!"
"What's amazing?" Hermione's voice came from the direction of the kitchen.
"The Quidditch set," Ron called. He took a long pull on his bottle, then flicked his wand at the pitch again. This time the players froze mid-action. "Want to play two-a-side? I'm going to need to practice if I'm going to beat Hugo at Easter."
"Sure, what do I do?" Brodie asked as Hermione brought in a bowl of crisps and another of popcorn. She told them when lunch would be ready and then left them to their game.
The time flew by. Since neither Ron nor Brodie was any good at manipulating the players they scored against each other very quickly. They also fouled each other on a regular basis—resulting in frequent, high-scoring free shots—but it was Brodie who saw and caught the Snitch before Ron, just as Hermione called them to the table.
Over a meal of spaghetti marinara with meatballs, garlic bread and green salad, the three compared their years at Hogwarts and told stories of their travels. Brodie was on his second glass of wine and third helping of spaghetti when he realized he was having fun for the first time in months and immediately felt guilty. He pushed his plate away, suddenly no longer hungry.
"Brodie, are you all right?" Hermione asked, a concerned expression on her face.
"I'm fine," he said evasively.
Hermione crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair, looking him over suspiciously. At length, she turned to Ron and said, "Methinks we have another Harry on our hands."
Ron grinned. "Brodie, Brodie, Brodie, you have no idea how many times we've heard those exact words from Harry," he said. "It won't do you any good to give us that answer because we're not going to believe you."
"Nope, absolutely not. There's a certain tone of voice Harry used to use with those two words and right now, you sound exactly like he did, so we know something's bothering you or you're hurting in some way, or both. You might as well just tell us," Ron said matter-of-factly.
Brodie sighed. "You're going to think I'm a nutter," he mumbled.
"Try us," Hermione said encouragingly.
He looked from one to the other and when he saw they were serious, Brodie sighed heavily and gave in. "For the first time since Emily died I'm having fun, and I'm feeling guilty about it," he nearly whispered.
Ron put down his fork and took a sip of wine. "I know how that feels, mate, and so does my brother, George. It took us both a long time to get over Fred's death, and the first time the two of us realized we hadn't thought about him for an entire afternoon, we felt guilty for days."
"Good to know I'm normal," Brodie muttered into his wine glass. "But how do I stop feeling guilty?"
"Just let time take over," Hermione said. "That's what we finally ended up doing. And we talked about how we were feeling, about the conflicts we were dealing with internally. Just the act of talking about them helped, or at least it helped me."
She caught Ron's eye and he seemed to agree with her because he asked Brodie, "Has telling us helped?"
Brodie sighed. "Maybe a little," he hedged.
They returned to their meals, but every bite seemed to sit like a ball of lead in Brodie's stomach. Finally, he pushed his plate away and excused himself, enquiring about the location of the toilet.
When he found it, he locked the door and stood with his hands braced on the marble slab surrounding the sink. Then, he let the tears of frustration and anger course down his face. He was angry at Tim Dawson for dying before he could answer his questions. He was irritated with himself for not going directly to the hospital from the Ministry, and he was frustrated because he had wanted Dawson to pay for his crimes and now there was no way he would. Brodie let out a frustrated growl and banged his fist on the marble hard enough to make his hand hurt.
A knock on the door made him jump. "Brodie, are you all right in there?" Hermione's voice called through the door.
Damn! I forgot the Silencing Charm, Brodie thought. "Yes, everything's cool," he called aloud.
The quiet sound of a foot tapping on the floor reached him. "Erm, Brodie, you forgot to Silence the room. You're acting like Harry again," Hermione called to him. "Come out and talk to us, please. It's the only way we'll know how to help you."
Brodie closed his eyes, cursing silently, and unlocked the door after splashing his face with water. He found Hermione waiting for him in the passage and before he fully comprehended what was happening, he found himself in her embrace again. Two hugs in three hours… he hadn't felt this sort of human contact since Emily's funeral and it was his undoing. Great, body-shaking sobs wracked his frame as Hermione rubbed soothing circles on his shoulders. It took a while, but she finally persuaded him to go back to the lounge with her.
As they entered, Ron handed him a small glass of Ogden's Finest. "To Emily," he said, raising his glass and Brodie returned the salute, feeling the spirit burn on its way down to his stomach.
Hermione led him to the sofa after Ron refilled his glass, but Brodie didn't drink it. Instead, he set it on the table next to the sofa and sat down with his face buried in his hands. Hermione sat next to him and began rubbing his back again. He shrugged her hand away.
"Brodie, I know you're hurting," Hermione said. "Please talk to us."
He lifted his head, unashamed of the tears still rolling down his cheeks. "TIM DAWSON IS DEAD AND I NEVER HAD THE CHANCE TO CONFRONT HIM!" he yelled.
"Yes, he is," Ron acknowledged quietly from the wing chair he was sitting in. He waited a moment and then asked, "If you'd had the chance to speak with him, what would you have asked?"
"Why?" Brodie blurted. "Why kill Emily? Why kill the forensics team when they had done nothing but answer the summons to help with the investigation?"
"I did ask him that," Ron said calmly.
Brodie stared at him. "You did?"
Ron nodded. "I did, and Dawson said he did it on a whim, a spur of the moment idea. He had no clue that he'd killed all four people until it was announced in the Prophet the next day," he said.
"A whim?" Exasperated, Brodie stood up and began pacing. "A whim. Merlin, it's so senseless!" he exclaimed, pulling at his hair. "He ruined so many lives with just that one act! If he weren't already dead, I'd kill him! I wanted him to suffer! Suffer just as much as I and the other victims' families have and now we'll never get to see Dawson pay for his crimes!"
Ron stood and blocked his path. "I beg to differ there, Brodie," he said quietly. Brodie stared at him, one eyebrow raised questioningly. "Dawson might not be paying in the way you wanted him to, but he's paid with his life. Shirley Gorman poisoned him two weeks ago with one of her poison metal fragments because his actions displeased her. I watched him die this morning and it wasn't pretty. In the end, he was in great pain because his organs failed one by one and he had no motor control over his limbs. However, his mind was cognizant to the very last moment: he knew exactly how and why he was dying and that's punishment enough in my book."
Brodie shoved his hands in his pockets, thinking. At last he asked, "Did he… did he show any remorse at the end?"
Ron reached up and put a hand on his shoulder. "Tim Dawson apologized to each and every one of his victims before he died. He made a full confession yesterday, giving us valuable testimony that, when coupled with the other statements and evidence we've gathered, will help the Ministry convict Shirley Gorman, Beda Bardsley and Ogden Sperry several times over," he said. "I'd say he showed plenty of remorse and suffered just as much as you are, Brodie."
Brodie turned away and walked out of the lounge into the Quidditch room where he stood gazing out over the snow-covered garden. The floor creaked a little as Ron followed, coming to stand beside him.
"Will Dawson suffer even though he's dead?" Brodie asked.
Ron shrugged. "I'd like to think so, at least for a while. But then again, I'm not sure I want him to. I… I think he's suffered enough."
Brodie couldn't believe what he was hearing. "How?" he managed to sputter.
"You didn't see him at the end, Brodie," Ron said. "You didn't see his eyes; they were filled with physical and mental pain so great that even the most powerful spells and potions weren't alleviating it. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, especially not on someone who was trying to apologize for the things he'd done."
Turning away from Ron, Brodie sighed. "I suppose wherever he is, Dawson is getting his just desserts and I'll just have to accept that. And you're right, death by poison isn't something I'd wish on anyone either." He yawned, suddenly too tired to hold himself up. He turned to see Hermione standing in the doorway. "Thanks for lunch. It was delicious. I'm glad you invited me over."
Hermione smiled. "You're welcome, but Brodie, you're not going anywhere except upstairs to the guest room. You'll Splinch yourself if you try to Apparate home," she said practically.
Realizing she was serious about him staying, he acquiesced with a mumbled "thanks" and followed Ron upstairs to the guest room. As with the rest of the house, the room was spacious and comfortable-looking with an enormous four-poster bed in the middle of one wall. Suddenly, it was all Brodie could do not to throw himself on it fully clothed.
"There's an en-suite through that door," Ron said, pointing. "If you put your Auror robes and clothes in the laundry chute, they'll appear in the wardrobe when they're clean."
Still somewhat amazed by the house, Brodie thanked him and shut the door, leaning on it briefly to steady himself before he stumbled to the bath where he found a pair of pyjamas waiting for him. That was all the invitation he needed. Half an hour later, warm and relaxed, he fell onto the bed just awake enough to pull the covers over himself.
Scorpius was screaming. He knew he was still in the cave surrounded by dead corpses and his only thought was to escape, but when he reached for his wand in its special pocket, he couldn't find it and the idea of being wandless terrified him more than the bodies did. He screamed in frustration and began thrashing about, trying to knock himself out of the air, even though it meant falling on his head.
"Scorpius! Scorpius!" a voice called urgently. "Wake up, son!"
He felt gentle hands in his hair and on his shoulders, shaking him awake. Someone was patting his leg while his right hand was clasped tightly in someone else's. He finally opened his eyes, completely confused by the sight of his parents and grandparents standing over him with concern in their eyes and expressions of fright on their faces.
"What is it, son?" his father asked. "What did you see?"
Scorpius shuddered violently, not wanting to speak of the terrible dream. "I… I… can't," he whispered. His throat felt raw and his head was pounding, but worst of all, his body was trembling and he couldn't make it stop.
"Look at me," his father requested. When Scorpius did, he continued, "Don't bury your fears. Whatever you dreamed about was your body's way of coping with your kidnapping and telling us what you saw will help your mind heal. I need you to tell me what you saw, even if it's only a few words."
Scorpius looked away. He couldn't tell, he just couldn't. His grandmother handed him a goblet and he took it gratefully, gulping the warm liquid that soothed his throat and sent tendrils of heat into his stomach. He felt better now that the dream was fading. He asked for more water as his father repeated his request. Scorpius drank deeply, still deep in thought, then handed the goblet back to her.
Finally, he whispered, "I was in the cave."
"Were you alone or was someone there?" his mother asked.
Startled by the fact that she'd asked the question, Scorpius answered, "I was alone in my cell surrounded by dead bodies."
"Dead bodies?" Grandfather asked.
"Yeah, the torture victims who died in the chains attached to the wall," Scorpius said as he fought to suppress the image that rose in his imagination.
"That must have been terrifying," his father said.
"Yeah, it was."
"You're safe now, Scorpius. No more dead bodies, no more caves," Grandmother said. "We're not going anywhere. Do you think you can sleep again?"
Scorpius shook his head. He was afraid to close his eyes and go back to sleep so soon. "Not yet," he said.
Grandmother held up the book she'd been reading. "It's a soppy romance, but if you want, your mum and I will read to you," she said.
"I'd like that," Scorpius said, which made his family relax and sit back in their chairs.
Grandmother marked her page and opened the book to the first chapter. "'The wind blew steadily across the moor as Lady Abigail Woodley stood grasping her handkerchief and surveying the smoking ruins of the grand mansion,'" she read.
Scorpius closed his eyes and let his mind drift on the soothing cadence of her voice. Pretty soon, his mother took up the reading and her voice helped him relax even more. Scorpius sighed contentedly, remembering the many nights when she had read to him when he was little and how safe he felt snuggled against her side while she read. Finally, he succumbed to sleep once more.
A/N: To all of my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day is filled with the people and things you are thankful for. For me, I'm definitely thankful for the hundreds of reviews I've received for this story since I began posting it in April. I'm thankful to my loyal readers and critics alike because you force me to think about my story through your comments and questions; on more than one occasion I've decided to change it a little because of something someone wrote in a review. I'm also thankful to my pre-beta readers for their dedication and time to help me with the story, so Miz636, Mutt n Feathers, RebeccaRipple, Rosina Ferguson, and RSS, I'm sending you big Thanksgiving hugs. Another big thank you goes to my beta, Aggiebell, for all she does to make sure my chapters are posted each Thursday.
On a different note, I'm still working on the next chapter because my computer time has been cut short due to a problem with my computer. The machine itself is working just fine; it's the complication of my husband being home on holiday every day this week that's limiting my writing time as well as the fact that I've been cooking for days to get our family meal on the table today. I will try my best to post on Thursday, December 8th, but I'm not guaranteeing anything. No matter what, though, I'm dedicated to finishing this story and hope to have it completed and posted in full by the end of December.