t h i r t e e n

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"She... wait, I'm sorry love, but... what?" Harry asked River a while later.

He'd burst through the door from the studio, beelining to where River was still crumpled in a ball on the floor. He'd scooped her up and arranged her on the couch, bringing her a glass of water and a box of tissues and wrapping himself around her.

For a long time, all she'd managed to do was cry into the soft cotton of the shirt on his chest while he whispered encouragements and reminded her over and over that he loved her and was there for her.

When she finally forced the sobs to stop and her breath to steady just slightly, she could still only really get out small broken parts of what she wanted to say.

"Jasmine... she's... w-well I guess she's a-alive. I just... y'know that unknown number that called me the first day here? It was... it's her," she said, and Harry gaped at her, shock clear across his features.

"What... how?" he asked, and she shrugged.

"S-she wouldn't say anything over the phone. She said I need to go home."

"Well, let's go. We'll get the first flight we can," Harry said gently.

"'W-we'?"

"Of course. I'm not going to let you figure out whatever this means across an ocean from me unless you'd rather I didn't come," he told her, and she shook her head.

"I... I need you to come," she told him, and he nodded.

"Then of course I will."

"I... I'm scared," she told him, and he hugged her close and kissed the top of her head.

"You'll be alright, my angel. Everything will be just fine. We'll go to New York and figure this out and I'll be right there with you and everything will be just fine."

His tone was soothing but she could hear the tinge of uncertainty in it. She knew he must be almost as confused as her by this situation. Their whole relationship had started pretty much based upon her sister's death, and now apparently her sister wasn't dead.

It didn't feel real. It felt like a movie or a soap opera or something, and she had to keep listening to Jasmine's voicemail and hearing her voice almost as a way of pinching herself to convince herself it was actually happening.

The next day went by in a blur. Harry did everything. He was absolutely amazing. River couldn't quite manage to focus on anything long enough to accomplish even the smallest of tasks.

He booked the tickets, packed her things for her, and guided her gently through the airports, doing his best to keep her away from any paparazzi. He made sure she ate, even though she had no appetite at all and kept her hydrated.

Overall, he and he alone was the reason she wasn't completely falling apart with concern and anxiety and confusion. He kept a firm grasp on her hand almost constantly and swiped any stray tears away when they came unexpectedly. He whispered sweet nothings to her when he seemed to somehow sense she was about to fall apart, reminding her he loved her every chance he got.

Finally, they were in New York. They stepped off the plane and found their car service right away, and as soon as they were safe in the backseat of the car, River felt herself falling apart.

"I'm scared," she told Harry, and he shook his head and took her into his arms as best he could around his seatbelt.

"What are you scared of, lovey?"

"All of it. I woke up yesterday morning and my sister was dead. I woke up this morning and she wasn't."

"I know. I don't... I don't understand either, but I'm sure there's some sort of explanation-," he stared, but she cut him off angrily.

"'Explanation'? Harry, her death fucking broke me. Her death almost led me to my death. Her death... her death was the hardest thing I've ever been through and now... now apparently it wasn't even true? I almost actually killed myself over the death of someone who wasn't even dead!" she yelled, her voice bordering very closely to a shriek. Harry held her closer, nodding.

"I know, love. I know. I'm not saying it didn't hurt you. I know it did. I'm just saying that there has to be some sort of explanation, right? There has to be something," he said gently, and she shook her head.

"What if... what if it was because of me?" she asked in a small voice and Harry was immediately shaking his head right back.

"I'm sure it wasn't because of you, love."

River took a deep breath, doing her best to steady herself. They pulled up to her parents' house and nervousness and anxiety felt like they were coursing through her veins.

Her eyes darted to Harry and he kissed her forehead. She caught his lips as he went to pull away, kissing him deeply. Being connected to him made her feel steady and sane for the first time since she'd heard her sister's voicemail and she wanted to kiss him forever and forget about whatever was about to happen.

"I love you," she whispered as she pulled away eventually. He smiled.

"I love you too," he told her, turning and pushing the car's door open. He reached for her, helping her out, and suddenly her parents' house was looming in front of them. It looked ominous, like it was waiting to eat her alive.

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