Harry had taken the news better than Theo had expected, but maybe that was the man's Auror training kicking in. He'd been calm and rational in the floo call, hadn't bombarded Theo with questions as previous clients and their families had on the phone or in his office nor had he gotten overly hopeful. Theo couldn't stand when clients got their hopes up only to watch them come crashing down; he imagined Harry couldn't either. It would certainly explain how the man knew to act in this situation; he'd seen it all before, had probably told others to act in that way.
His friend had thanked him for the information and had another Auror go to Adam for a better profile; they wanted a face to look for. They all hoped to find the man and to find Hugo safe, but they didn't put all their faith in the profile and have hope of finding Hugo so quickly. It would only hurt more if they didn't. Instead they put their faith in their department and Theo's help, hoping to find Hugo soon.
Harry had promised he'd speak to Hermione about everything, from the description of the man who had taken Hugo to the store to the missed calls on her phone from Adam. She'd need a friend there for that information, family, Theo was sure. He remembered when he'd missed a call about Alexei once. Granted, his son had been sick and left in day care until Astoria had finally gotten to him, not missing, but that feeling, that you could have done something to help had you paid attention, was the same and he was glad she had Harry and Ginny. They'd been the ones to tell him it wasn't his fault, they'd tell Hermione, too.
He didn't pretend to comprehend what any of them were going through at this time, if he were honest with himself he didn't want to, but he also didn't pretend that the case had no effect on him and that night he'd let Alexei grab his blankets and pillows and camp in the living room with him, reading the comics to him until the little boy had fallen asleep in his arms.
My little boy.
Only when he heard Alexei's light breathing did Theo allow himself to close his eyes. And the dream came back another night, stronger than ever.
Theo had taken Alexei to school as normal, despite his fear of leaving him alone. He put his fear down to being a parent; Hugo was taken quickly and it was efficient, planned, so the little boy had been taken for a reason. Alexei was fine, Hugo was not. Alexei was safe and he'd make sure Hugo would be, too. First things first, he had to find him.
He had to talk to Ron Weasley.
Harry had given Theo Ron's address during the floo call. He'd said that Ron would have stayed with Hermione and their daughter, Rose, that night, but would likely come home for clothes. Theo hoped Harry was right and knocked quickly, three sharp bangs with his fist against the white door. He glanced around the neighborhood while he waited; it seemed almost unnaturally quiet, empty. One neighbor nodded when their eyes locked before he got into his car. He was gone by the time Ron Weasley opened the door. "Mr. Weasley?"
The door opened further and Ron nodded, his eyes slightly red, but clear of freshly shone tears. "Hermione said you were very professional and Harry said you were coming," he muttered, looking Theo up and down, then he stepped back and walked away, leaving the door open to let him in.
Stepping in and shutting the door, Theo slowly followed Ron down the hallway. He paused to watch the pictures on the wall; Ron and his daughter laughing on a couch in a living room; both kids with a small group he assumed were the Weasley grandkids, he recognized Harry's in the middle; all four of them in the park, Hugo looking as he did in the photo Hermione had given him. They looked happy, like a family. Swallowing the lump in his throat, both over the thought of family and of the woman in his dream looking back at him and laughing, Theo continued and entered the kitchen. The man had done well for himself, despite the divorce they were still going through; the room was spacious and light, from the cream walls to the light wood cabinets, and a door opened to the garden. It wasn't a large garden compared to others Theo had seen, nor was the house in general, but it was enough for a single father and two children when they weren't with their mother.
He found Ron leaning against the round dining room table, waiting impatiently for him. "You're being paid to help find Hugo, so why are you here?"
"I want to ask you some questions," Theo answered softly. He put his hands into his pockets and stood a little straighter; he didn't want to let Ron Weasley know he was uncomfortable. This case was so much different to other cases he'd been on already and now here was another reason why; he hadn't gone to school with his previous clients. Theo took a deep breath and imagined Ron as someone else, someone he didn't know of, hoping it would be easier to find out what he needed to know.
"I don't know what happened to Hugo, I wasn't there," he stressed. Theo noted immediately how guilty the man in front of him felt with those few words, seeing what Harry had been talking about in the conference room.
"I didn't think you did, I swear. I'm not here to investigate you," Theo reassured him, his hands flying out of his pockets and into the air in surrender. He stepped a few paces forward and lowered his hands slowly. "Ms. G -" he stopped, tried again; they were all telling him to call her by her given name, they seemed more comfortable doing so. "Hermione told me that Hugo liked to go to the comic book store, that it calmed him, and it turned out to be somewhere they took him. Now I need to know if there is anywhere else they could go, anything that would stand out to you as a reason why they'd take your son. I would ask your ex-wife, but I thought it would be better to give her some time after what she found out yesterday."
"No," Ron said, shaking his head, a ghost of a smile on his lips, as though he was remembering something. Theo frowned, which only caused Ron's smile to widen ever so slightly. It wasn't enough to make them forget the situation they were in, but it amused Ron enough to show it. "She makes you nervous. You don't want to see her cry."
Sure, her crying is what makes me nervous; let's go with that as the reason.
Theo shrugged awkwardly. "It's easier to talk to a complete stranger than it is talk to someone you're familiar with, whether you know them or not," he said, mostly honest with his words. It did feel harder for him because he knew of them, but it wasn't the whole reason why it felt harder to talk to her, and there was no way he was going to reveal any of that to her ex, especially not his dreams.
"I know how hard it can be, I'm an Auror," Ron agreed. "And she's not my ex, she's still my wife. The divorce isn't final yet."
Theo took a step back, now eying the man warily. Ron had his back straight, his head up and chin in the ear, as though his words were the start of a dangerous game, competitiveness laced in his tone, and whatever Theo said next would determine which way the game would go. But Theo didn't understand why; Harry had said the decision to divorce was mutual, that they'd both fallen out of love, both wanted to move on. So why was Ron reminding Theo that they were not yet divorced? Why was he being watched like he was being analyzed? Like Ron was figuring out if he was worthy? Worthy of what? Unless... Oh, my God, did I give something away?
Theo couldn't remember. Ron hadn't seen his reaction to the photograph, had he noticed something in his voice when he'd claimed Hermione to be his ex-wife? Something Theo himself hadn't noticed? No, that was crazy. Wasn't it?
Damn dream, making me paranoid. Making this so much harder.
He cleared his throat, brought his attention back to the world around him, and looked Ron in the eye. He'd be honest, but wouldn't play the game. "Whether the divorce is final or not, you're still separated. Not being together anymore is an ex in my book."
"I suppose it is," Ron murmured appreciatively. If he was still playing, Theo must have passed. Leaning forward, Ron answered his question. "Hermione and I have good jobs, a life that pays well enough for us to buy our kids what they ask for on their birthdays and Christmas, to take them in holiday every so often and spoil them on occasion. But we're not rolling in money. We don't have anything they would want and I don't know anywhere they might take him. If Hugo is not at home or at school or with family, then he's at the comic store with Hermione or he's at the park with me. I don't know how to help."
"Then why did they take him?" Theo muttered, pacing the room. Ron must have known he was only voicing his thoughts, a habit he'd picked up from spending so much time with Adam since he was a child, because he kept quiet. Listening to Adam speak his problems out loud had had a calming effect on Theo and he'd started doing the same. He'd sit and he'd tell himself about his cases; it helped. "Not for money; no ransom. Planned out; not random. Last place he was seen; go back to Adam."
He turned back to Ron, who had been watching intently in confusion, and pulled out his wallet, fishing out a business card from inside. He dropped it on the table and Ron picked it up hesitantly. "If you think of anything, you call me."
"I will," Ron said quietly. "You're going back to Adam's shop. Why?"
"A feeling," Theo said weakly, walking away. Honestly, he wasn't exactly sure. It was just the last place anyone had seen Hugo. But his instincts said to go back and he always followed them; he had to. "As soon as I know anything, you'll know. I promise."
Then he was out the door. He made sure he ignored the photographs.
Adam watched Theo with narrowed eyes while he banged his head on his arms, which were stretched across the counter. He noted the strange looks the man at his side was getting, but didn't say anything, not even to ask how he was. He knew it was about the case, about finding the little boy, and he knew Theo wouldn't give him any information while people were listening. So he went back to his customer, gave the kid his receipt and waited for him to leave. As though Theo knew they were now alone, he sat up quickly, his forehead red due to the number of times he'd hit himself. "I am good at my job," he said suddenly. "I have never lost a case. Not one. But this one, I don't know where to look or what to do. I'm so confused and worried that I'm going to get the boy hurt or worse because I don't know. It'll be my fault."
"It will not be your fault," Adam said sternly, angry that Theo would even think that. "You will figure it out like you always do and you will find Hugo. Just sit and be quiet and think. It'll come to you."
Theo did as he was told; he sat on his stool, silent and still except for his light breathing, and Adam sorted through the latest Superman issues that had come to the shop, leaving him alone to think everything through. He got up suddenly, a thought coming to him, and went to the door. He faced the counter, feeling Adam's curious eyes on him. "Go through exactly what happened the other day. I want to retrace Hugo's steps in here."
"You told the Auror who came in for the profile that once Hugo got to the counter he seemed in a hurry to leave," Theo said calmly, softly. He shut his eyes. "I want to know why. I'm six years old, a man has taken me from school and brought me here to calm me down. Why do I need to be calm? Why doesn't he just take me where he needs to go?" Theo opened his eyes and frowned. "Because he doesn't know yet. He needs me calm so he can find that out without interruption. So he brings me here. Go," he pointed to Adam.
Adam moved to the front of the counter, pulled himself up to sit on top and give Theo space to move. "Hugo came in, we said hi and I asked who the guy was."
"A friend of Daddy's," Theo answered.
"Yeah. The guy tells him to pick a comic and pulls out his phone. Hugo goes to the Batman comics, the guy follows him."
"He's still keeping an eye on Hugo," Theo said, going to the same place. It was the exact place he'd gone to all those years ago, the first time he'd ever come to Adam's. It was the place he'd gone to when he was afraid, same as Hugo.
"Hugo started looking through the comics. His hands were shaking, he was upset. I thought it was something to do with his parents divorce." Adam took a deep breath to calm down, the memory of the day getting to him now that he knew that wasn't the case. "He kept turning to glance at the man he came with, he was on the phone; I could see him, but I couldn't hear him. Hugo was closer than I was."
"He must have heard something," Theo finished and Adam nodded.
"Because then he started to mess with his school bag, but Hugo had his back to me and I couldn't see what he was doing. The guy had his back to both of us. Then Hugo stopped, just as the guy got off the phone. He told Hugo to hurry up and they came to the counter." Theo moved and stopped in front of him, waiting patiently to hear the rest of the story. He still needed to know what he was looking for. He needed the end for everything to make sense. He needed to know to find Hugo, he was sure. "Hugo came to me with two comics, the guy told him to pick one but I said he could have both. Hugo said no, gave me the one he didn't want, practically pushed it into my hands, and the guy paid for the other. Hugo was out the door as soon as the guy said it was time to go."
The silence between them grew as Theo took in everything he'd been told. The tension mounted, threatening to suffocate them both, until Adam had to ask what he was thinking. He looked up slowly, shaking his head, and for a moment Adam thought he wasn't going to answer him. "There just seem to be things that don't make sense," he eventually said. "Hermione told me that when Hugo was upset she'd have to actually pick him up to get him out of here." He looked to his friend for confirmation, who nodded. "If he was scared and upset, you'd think he'd try hard to stay here. So why did he leave so willingly?"
"Because he was taken, he didn't run away like you did," Adam answered quietly. "I wouldn't be surprised if they threatened him to keep quiet and do as he was told."
"Yeah," Theo muttered, rubbing his eyes. He was so tired, sleep had seemed inevitable last night. His dream had woken him after two o'clock and he'd spent the rest of the night figuring out how to talk to Ron Weasley. That hadn't gone according to plan. "What was the comic he didn't want?"
"Why?" Adam asked, confused.
"Curiosity. I want to know what was so bad about it that he threw it back at you."
Adam laughed softly and searched through the pile of comic books behind the counter. Once he found the right one, he pushed it in front of Theo. "And he didn't throw it at me."
"Hmm," was Theo's only response. In his mind he went through the scenario again, retracing the little boy's steps over and over while he flicked idly through the pages. Then he noticed it; the reason Hugo had gone to his bag in haste while his kidnapper had his back turned; why that smart little boy had left the shop so quickly. There was the answer, right in front of him. Written in pencil, in a six year old's messy handwriting. "So like his mother," he whispered.
"Okay, Ted, you make less sense as the day goes on," Adam sighed.
"Don't call me that," he glared, holding up the comic and tapping his finger over the top left corner. "Rizzo's. He heard the guy give a name and went in his bag for his pencil. Then he gave you the comic so you'd find it, probably thought you'd call his mum. He's as smart as his mother, it's a little scary."
"He reminds me of Lex." Adam scoffed. "Hell, he reminds me of you. The only Rizzo's I know is the Italian restaurant in the center of London. Do you really think they'd kinap a kid and take there?"
"No, it may have just been a place to meet whoever he was calling," Theo admitted. "But I'm going to check it out anyway." His watch beeped, signaling the hour. "After I've picked Alexei up from school and found a babysitter."
He turned to his friend expectantly, dejected when Adam shook his head apologetically. "Can't help you, sorry. Hannah's with her parents, Lizzie is who knows where and I promised Luke I'd take him to a movie."
"It's okay, I'll figure something out," he waved and left the shop quickly. Alexei's school had finished and they only stood with him for fifteen minutes before taking him inside to wait. Theo had to get there before then, he didn't want a repeat of last time when the headmistress had acted concerned and asked how life at home was. But, hoping he didn't regret his next decision, he stepped back inside. He'd want to know if he was Adam, he felt it only right to tell him now. "Lizzie is with that creep Marc in town. I saw them on my way here."
He couldn't remember the last time he'd heard Adam swear.
A/N: Yay, new chapter. Let me know what you think. :)