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Chapter 4 : A Place to Start
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"You said we were going to Adam's," Alexei whined.
Theo waited until they had stepped into the elevator, their backs to the wall, and he was thankful only a few others had entered with them. He knelt down so he was eye-level with the boy, keeping their hands joined so Alexei couldn't cross them over his chest to go with his stuck out bottom lip; a combination he was prone to using when he sulked. "I did say we'd go, but I never said straight away and I won't take you if you continue to moan. You know I don't like it when you fight with me. Are you going to be good and let Daddy finish work?" Slowly, Alexei relaxed, no longer pouting, and nodded twice, his head slightly to the left.
He smiled and ran his hand across Alexei's cheek until it was returned. He kissed the top of the little boy's head and straightened up, not surprised when Alexei wrapped his arm over Theo's stomach and leaned in. He let go of Alexei's hand to hug him, keeping an arm in place so he still had hold of the boy in some way.
The elevator finally stopped at their required floor, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and they stepped out. It took only a few minutes to find Harry Potter's office, after asking for the way, and he knew right away Hermione had already sent word to her friend because he was stood outside his door, leant against the frame stiffly. He noted immediately similar habits he'd picked up with Hermione; the light twitching of his hand, the occasional scratch of the head or nose, crossing and uncrossing his arms and standing a little straighter every few minutes. Situations which brought about sadness, fear and worry in a person always brought with them the desire to move, to do something, he'd noticed in his job. And he knew it was completely acceptable for someone to do so, for the man in front of him to do so. He couldn't always be the rational, cool-headed Auror he'd heard about all the time, he wasn't the Savior anymore, he was man whose nephew had disappeared and who didn't know what to do.
Stepping an inch closer, Theodore cleared his throat, hoping he didn't startle him. Maybe Harry was past being startled by anything, because his only reaction was him turning his head to face him, his eye-brows raised in acknowledgement. Harry moved away from the wall, his hand outstretched for him to take. "Theo Nott, after you left here I didn't think I'd see you back." Harry dropped his hand as though burned, his eyes betraying how he felt, as he remembered why Theo was here. "I wish they were different circumstances. This must be Lex. I remember you, but sadly you probably don't remember me."
Alexei answered by burying his head in Theo's side. "Give him time."
"Are you sure about bringing him?"
Theo nodded stiffly. "Ask yourself that if you become a single parent and you'll understand."
Harry's eyes widened a fraction, afraid Theo had misunderstood. "No, I meant will he be okay on his own for a bit. Ginny, has to work, so she's bringing our kids here to me; they'll be here in about thirty minutes. They'll go in my office with Lex; will he be okay alone until then?" he explained and pointed to the large room across from the office. "We'll only be there, so we can still see them. And I trust Annie." He pointed to his assistant, who waved hesitantly.
"He'll be fine, Harry," Theo reassured him. "Ginny's bringing all three?"
"Yeah," Harry said softly. "I was okay leaving them with Ginny at home, but she has to go and I didn't want, they just need to stay with me."
"And when you're a single parent that feeling is magnified," Theo prompted him to what he'd said a few minutes ago and Harry realized he hadn't misunderstood after all. Their thoughts had been exactly the same. "I understand how you're feeling."
"I don't," Alexei's muffled voice came from Theo's side.
Chuckling softly, Theo wondering when he did so last, it sounding foreign even to him, Harry bent down. "It's just grown-up talk, kiddo. Nothing to worry about," he lied. "I bet you're going to be a really good boy for your dad and sit in my office because you seem like a really good boy."
"I am," Alexei agreed, confused when Harry started to laugh. He didn't see Theo roll his eyes. He pointed to the shelf by the door of Harry's office. "What's that?"
"It's a doll," Harry answered, glancing at it. "My daughter left it here yesterday."
"Funny looking doll," he replied, pulling a face.
Harry leaned in closer, like he was revealing a closely guarded secret. "It sticks it's tongue out at you when you squeeze its tummy. You want see?" Alexei nodded slowly and Harry stood up to get it, handing it to the little boy. Both men watched in silence as Alexei examined the doll and pressed his thumbs into its stomach. Its mouth opened wide and the doll's tongue stuck out almost immediately, causing Alexei to jump back into Theo and scream. "Yeah, Lily did that, too. Her uncle George made it for her birthday. Now she loves it, she squeezes it in everyone's faces."
"Can I play with it?"
"Sure, go nuts."
Theo led Alexei into the office and sat him down in one of the chairs. "Harry and I are only across the hall if you need me, okay?" He left Alexei to play with the doll and followed Harry into the conference room. "Go nuts? You're going to regret those words ever leaving your mouth."
"I'm sure I'll manage." Harry let him in first and they sat in the chairs nearest to the doors, the chairs turned sideways so they could use the table, speak face-to-face and still have a view of the office. "Have you ever had a case like this before?" he asked cautiously.
Theo gave a half shrug before explaining. "A family asked me to find their teenage daughter; she ran away because they didn't approve of her boyfriend, was about ready to get on a train to France with him. A woman asked me to find her husband who hadn't come home from his weekend business trip; that trip was in fact a getaway with his mistress and he'd been enjoying it so much he'd lost track of the days. Probable kidnapping? No."
"But you've looked for people before," Harry said, more to himself, only needing that confirmation; Theo could help.
"We will find him, Harry," Theo told him, gently but with a fierce determination Harry expected from a man with a child, especially a child who was the same age as Hugo, as Lily.
"I know. Ask your questions."
"Before I talk about the case, I wanna ask, and forgive me for sounding rude but, I'm surprised you're allowed on it, considering your family. Why?"
"Because looking for him is not what will go to the Wizengamot, so there's more leeway; we can be a part of the search because there's no evidence to compromise. Besides, family know more about the missing person than strangers; we're helpful." He almost choked on his words. "I never thought I'd ever have to say 'we'. It'll be out of my hands when we catch them, the events leading up to them going to jail, a different Auror will be in charge."
"If that's the case, I'm surprised his father isn't here."
"Ron's having a really hard time," Harry admitted. "He keeps saying it's his fault, if only he'd gotten there sooner Hugo would have been at home."
"He has no idea what happened or how things might have turned out, he shouldn't beat himself up over 'what if's," Theo said, although he imagined he'd do exactly the same if he were ever in that situation.
"He knows that really, it's just hard. So I told him to take a couple of days off, wait to see if there'll be any contact, a call or a note, and to think of anything out of the ordinary, any place he could be, so we can start somewhere."
"I'm actually going to start at Adam's comic book store; Hermione said Hugo loves that place and it's the only way to calm him down," Theo told him, explaining his reasons. "I'm thinking if he was taken, then for the people to have took him as successfully as they did they would have needed to know everything about him and the family, from what time school starts and ends, who takes him and when, to how to stop him from causing a fuss and alerting people to them."
"Which would mean knowing how to calm him down," Harry continued, understanding.
"Which would mean knowing about Adam's," Theo finished, a small but pleased smile on his face; he had a place to start looking and Harry was agreeing with him, so it had to be a step in the right direction. "I'm going as soon as I'm done here. It's the reason I came really, I wanted to run it by you. I thought about asking Ms. Granger, but she looked like she was about to cry again. It still sounds strange, calling her that."
"I wish I could go with you, but I've got the kids, so you'll call me once you know anything, good or bad." He started to choke again and Theo promised he would. "And she won't hate you for calling her Hermione, she hates Ms. Granger more than she hated Mrs. Weasley."
"Yeah, she said, but that sounds weird, too."
They both turned when they heard a multitude of voices; three children talking at once, while a woman tried to calm them down and a lone little girl yelled at someone for playing with a doll. "Right. They're early. I should go help with that," Harry said, getting up from his chair and leaving the room swiftly. From his place in the conference room, Theo could see Harry control the situation. His boys had stopped shouting and Lily was no longer telling off his own son. Theo almost got up when he saw Alexei begin to cry, but stopped midway out of his seat when he witnessed something he never thought he'd see; Alexei listened to Harry and calmed down.
"That just never happens," he whispered to himself, awed.
He fell back down into his seat and waited for Harry to return, Ginny with him. "It's good to see you again, Theo. When was it last? Valentines Day?"
"Yeah, you teased me mercilessly for not having a date," he replied, vividly remembering when they bumped into each other in Diagon Alley that day. Throughout the whole partnership with Harry in their four years of Auror training, the only person he spoke to from Harry's friend's and family was Ginny Potter née Weasley. Even though he knew by then he wanted to be a private investigator, he wanted to the skills and the training or an Auror, figuring they would come in handy, especially if situations like this came around and they asked for help. As a qualified Auror, Theo could play a bigger role to help with their investigations. He'd become good friends with Harry during training and Ginny joined them frequently for lunch. It had been quite a while since Theo had seen Harry and their kids had been toddlers when it had been all seven of them, but he still saw Ginny at least once a week. She always managed to bump into him 'unexpectedly' and drag him to lunch. She said everyone had a close circle of friends and then their own friends outside. Currently, Theo was outside, with herself and Harry, but she told him often that she'd make him part of the circle at some point.
He dreaded her ever finding out about his dream; would it push him out or would she use it to finally pull him in permanently? After the war Ginny and Harry became one of few genuine friends he could admit to having and saw regularly; he was scared of losing that.
"Well, it's not right, you not being with someone," Ginny said playfully, bringing him out of his thoughts. "Speaking of which..."
"No, I'm not. Yes, I'll think about it." He changed the subject away from his love life; Alexei had already wounded his ego enough with the comment he made when Hermione had been in the room earlier. "How did you get him to calm down so quickly?" he asked, pointing to the children.
Harry shrugged, "I told him he could play with the doll. He really likes it, I will never understand why."
"We'll never understand the mind of a six year old," Theo answered and Ginny agreed. "I should go, I've got work to do."
He shook Harry's hand, then let Ginny hug him. "Thank you for taking this case," she whispered in his ear. "I know you'll find Hugo."
"I won't stop," he whispered back, that determination back. "I promise."
They followed him to the office, where Theo called for Alexei and said good bye. "Are we going to Adam's now?"
"So you did your job?"
"Not yet," he said honestly, getting into the elevator. He pressed the button to the atrium. "I've still got a long way to go."
Theo opened the door and Alexei swung on his arm, jumping onto the step, and let go, running inside. He left the boy to read, making his way to the counter instead. The bell on the old door had rung, so he just waited for his friend to come out from the back. Eventually he did and Theo couldn't help but smile upon seeing him. "Your old age is getting to you, Adam. It took you ages to come out this time."
Adam glared, not appreciating the joke. "That had nothing to do with age, thank you very much. Now I will tell you what I told Lex on the phone; the Spiderman issue he wants will not be here until Thursday, he can wait two more days."
"He called you?" Theo demanded, shocked.
Adam's eyes widened. "You didn't know that? Uh oh."
Theo shook his head. "I'll deal with that later, it's not why I'm here. I have a new client and she says her son loves to come here; do you recognize him?"
Theo pulled out the picture that Hermione had given him before leaving his office; a happy, smiling little boy sitting on a swing in the park, his brown hair was spiked up and his face was red from running, she'd said. Adam took it in his hands. He only had to look for a few seconds. "Yeah, that's Hugo Weasley. He was in here yesterday. Why?
"He was? Who was he with?"
"Hugo said he was a friend of his dad's. Something didn't feel right, though, he looked really upset. I tried to call Hermione, but her phone was off. I've never met his dad, I didn't know how else to get in touch. Why? What's going on, Theo?" he demanded.
"Do you remember what the guy looked like?" Theo pressed.
"Tall, about six feet, tanned from the sun, dirty blond hair and dark eyes. And he had a scar on his hand. Now I've answered you, you answer me."
Theo called Alexei and payed for his new comic book quickly. He had to go; he'd promised Harry he'd call him, Hermione would want to know, too, and he needed to talk to Hugo's father. "You've just described the person who kidnapped him from his school."
A/N: Yay for a new update and for longer chapters. They were bound to come eventually. :P
Spiderman belongs to Marvel Comics. The freaky doll is part of my imagination. If it's real or one is similar, I don't own one. :P
I hope you are enjoying this story. Reviews would be much appreciated. :)
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