The ride from the restaurant to Harry's home was more animated in the beginning, while Theo and Hermione went through everyone they knew named Daniel, but when that stopped - neither knew that many people with that name, even in passing - the car was silent again. Only it was comfortable this time; Hermione accepted that Theo needed his thoughts and prepared herself for him being silent often, while Theo silently thanked her for understanding and leaving him to it. The look she'd given him, along with the small smile, told him she knew.
She stopped the car in front of the house, on the curb rather than the driveway, and Theo waited until she had shut her car door before following, making sure to grab Alexei's school bag before he got out. He looked up at the house, barely being able to remember the last time he'd been inside. James was nine now; it had been the boy's third birthday, just before Alexi was born. After that, he'd seen James a couple of times out with Ginny or in the Ministry with Harry and they'd all gone out once not long after Alexei's birth for Al's birthday, but he had not been in the house and he hadn't seen him for years. He wondered if James remembered him, he hadn't gone into the office when he'd called for Alexei the day before. He knew Albus and Lily didn't know him. Theo stepped through and shut the door, entering the chatter-filled living room.
"Dad!" Alexei came running over, looking even more excited than he had been about football. "Harry showed me how to levi- levi- move things."
"Levitate," Theo said with a chuckle.
Alexei gave him a stern look that looked too cute to be taken seriously. "That's what I said."
"I'm sorry," he replied in surrender, holding up his hands. "Are you ready to go?"
"I don't want to go," the little boy pouted. "Me and Lily are playing."
"You can't stay here forever, Lex," Theo sighed. "You can play with Lily another day."
"But you never come back," James said from the couch, staring up at him with accusing eyes. He did remember.
"Then we'll just have to change that, won't we?"
"You see, James, we told you all you had to do was guilt-trip him," Ginny said with a knowing smile.
"Evil," Theo muttered loud enough for them all to hear. Most laughed, but James and Lily nodded quickly.
Lily stepped up from behind Alexei; her new friend had said his dad was okay and now that James knew him and could talk to him like a friend, she just had to now. She held out her hand. "Hello."
"Shake her hand or she'll kick you," Harry and Ginny's youngest son said from the other side of the couch, mostly hidden by his father.
Theo took it quickly. "Hello."
"Daddy says you find people," Lily stated.
"Sometimes," he nodded.
"You're looking for Hugo." Another nod. Lily shook her head. "He got himself into trouble. I told him he would soon, but he didn't listen."
"Lily," Ginny warned, her eyes on Hermione and Ron.
Lily turned to face them, angry. "Well, he did. And I did tell him. You think he's good, but he's not. He's bad." Her eyes went back to Theo and she pulled on his sleeve. "Hugo's bad."
"Lily!" Harry snapped.
"Stop it!" another voice yelled at the same time. From the corner, a red-haired little girl, who looked so much like Ron, stood up. Rose, he recognized her immediately from the photos on Ron's wall. "Leave my brother alone! He's not bad, he's not!"
She ran out of the room then, and after a look Ron followed her. Hermione gave Theo a soft smile, thanked him and said good bye before leaving, too. The silence in the living room became awkward, even between the boys, who looked everywhere but at Lily. Tears swam in the little girl's eyes, but none fell, and she remained stubborn, believing what she said to be true until Ginny led her out of the room.
"I don't hate it," she said hurriedly to Alexei at the door. "He's much more fun."
"Sorry about that," Harry said once it was just him, Theo and the boys.
"Hugo is bad?"
"He has a bit of a temper when he doesn't get his own way, he knows he's smart, so he thinks he's better than everyone else, he gets into mischief. Kid stuff," Harry shrugged stiffly. "Naturally, Lily's imagination has her thinking Hugo is bad. Well, she makes it sound worse than it is anyway."
"Kids will be kids," Theo murmured. He pointed to the door. "I think it's Rose you need to be worried about."
"She's just upset."
"She fought with Hugo before he disappeared," James whispered loudly, like it was a scandal. "Said he was bad and he lies because she didn't believe him when he said he was sick. She's guilt-ridden."
"James, don't," Harry said. "Boys, go with Alexei and get the cookies you made during the weekend. You promised he could have some."
With a nod and a promise that they could have one before their dinner, the three boys left the living room and went to the kitchen, leaving just Harry and Theo alone this time.
"The waitress at the restaurant remembered Hugo, they're calling him Matthew by the way. He left a name on a napkin. He must have overheard that, too."
"Daniel. That was it."
Harry looked thoughtful. "I don't know a Daniel. Where do we start looking?"
"Old cases," Ron said from behind. He looked as determined as Hermione had been in the car and repeated his words with a confident nod. "I'll also check prison records, see who's been released. They could be people we've put away, relatives of those people; their names, next of kin, known associates, they'll all be in the files. If I had a grudge, I'd think kidnapping a kid would be a good way of panicking the family."
"That makes sense," Harry nodded. "And it's better than nothing. Come to the Ministry tomorrow morning, Theo? About nine? We might be able to give you somewhere else to look."
Theo turned to the now open door, hearing the boys' voices get closer, and he gripped Alexei's bag tighter. "I'll see you there. But we have to go now." He called Alexei's name. "Can we use your floo?"
"Be my guest," Harry said, pointing to the powder. "Good bye, Alexei."
Alexei waved, unable to speak because of the cookie in his mouth, and Theo took his hand and left the Potter residence, with determination on his face, a name in his mind and curiosity burning in his veins.
Hugo is bad?
The old building they were being kept in was quiet, too quiet Blaise thought. He sat with his knees pressed to his chest against the wall, by the door he'd been pushed through. He'd been sat there since the afternoon, his back was stiff and his behind was numb, but when he focused, he could just make out their voices. He hoped to hear something that would help piece together what they wanted from himself and the kid; he refused to move in case he missed anything.
But it was quiet now and Blaise was both disappointed and nervous, though he refused to let the kid see either emotion. Hugo was lying on his back in the corner to Blaise's left, his eyes were closed and his arms were folded over his chest, his right hand resting on his left. Blaise would have sworn the kid was asleep, except the position was too stiff, not relaxed like a sleeping little boy should be, and his mouth was moving rapidly. He was talking to himself; Blaise had no idea what.
Every so often, Hugo opened his eyes and turned his head to look at Blaise, who would try to give him a reassuring smile without wincing because his bruises had no where near healed, as he could tell from the pain, then Hugo would go back to his original position and close his eyes.
The boy was a mystery, one he was afraid he couldn't solve, more afraid that he didn't want to. Hugo had told him that he'd stopped crying because 'the bad men yelled', but now he was too calm. Six year old kids should not be calm in a situation like this, when a grown man was freaking out.
And I've put criminals in jail who don't scare me as much as the kid.
"What are you doing?" Blaise asked quietly. He needed to break the unsettling silence that hung in the air around the creepy building, but he didn't want to startle the kid.
Hugo didn't move or show that he had been startled in any way. He just opened his eyes and turned his head, he tried to raise an eye-brow as Hermione liked to do and failed. "What are you doing?" he copied.
Blaise smirked, then groaned. "I asked you first."
"Remembering their names and faces," Hugo said with a shrug. "Your turn."
"Listening for any information on this place, since you won't tell me," Blaise answered. "Maybe if I know enough, I can find a way out for us. I can take you back to your parents."
Hugo was silent for a moment and looked as though he wanted to say something. Maybe he was going to finally tell Blaise about this place, maybe he'd heard more than he'd said and was willing to share. Instead he shrugged his little shoulders.
Hermione said the kid was different, but this is a whole new definition of the word.
"Thanks," he said with a roll of his eyes, putting his ear back to the door.
Their prison became silent again, but Blaise didn't care this time; it was time to give up getting the boy to talk. He was on his own. So, he listened and he waited until their voices came back.
"I'm telling you, man, something is seriously wrong with that kid," one said hurriedly. "It was normal for him to cry and yell, and he did - for about an hour. There hasn't been a word from him since then."
"Because he's smart enough to listen to our threat," the other stated, a little nervously, Blaise thought.
"But you'd think he'd still be crying, that we'd see red eyes when we saw him, but there's nothing!" the first pointed out loudly. They were definitely nervous. Blaise glanced at the kid, thankful that he couldn't hear. Or didn't seem to, at least. "It's giving me the creeps," he continued.
"He's a bloody six year old," the second cried. He'd obviously had to repeat himself. "All you have to do is give him his food. It's not like you have to spend all day with him."
The first, probably the younger of the two if Blaise remembered the voices right, huffed and muttered things Blaise couldn't hear. Then he spoke louder. "What does Dan want with this kid anyway? Why not go for the other guy's kid? The guy he actually wants?"
Blaise frowned and cursed silently. They still weren't giving names. He'd heard them talk about the one they wanted, or their boss wanted, the one Hugo had heard, too. But he was always 'him' or 'the guy'. They never said his name. But they knew he had a kid. Either their boss had only given them information he wanted them to know and they didn't know his name or they did know and just didn't care enough to name him.
Or they know you might be listening and just don't want you to know.
He got rid of that thought quickly.
"Because taking his kid would get him personally involved and he might miss something," the second guy said. "With the Weasley boy, he can be somewhat professional and follow the trail to Dan."
"Somewhat? What's that supposed to mean?"
Blaise wanted to know that, too.
"All I know is that the guy Dan wants has a personal connection to a relative of the kid."
"That's why Dan chose to take Weasley?"
"Partly. I also know that Dan is intrigued by the kid. I don't know why, before you ask. I just know that it had to be Hugo Weasley, so I took Hugo Weasley."
They left again, talking about food, and Blaise slumped against the wall; he'd heard all he would for the night, he suspected. He turned to glance at Hugo again, who was now sat up with his legs crossed and staring back curiously, and Blaise had to know what was going on.
What is up with this kid?
A few minutes after eight, Theo put Alexei's film back on and went into the kitchen to wash their dinner plates. He told Alexei he had half an hour before he had to go to bed, but he made a bet with himself that the little boy would be fast asleep on the floor long before that. He'd had a long, exciting day playing football at school and then going to Lily's. Theo had barely spoken to her and already thought she was a handful.
I wouldn't be surprised if Ginny and her family just fed the kid sugar.
He paused what he was doing, his hands just hovering over the water, when he thought he heard something. Thinking it was nothing, he shook his head, but barely moved when he heard it again.
"Daddy, the door!" Alexei yelled from the living room.
Oh. So, he had heard something. Theo jogged to the door, hoping whoever was knocking hadn't been there for too long - it had to be important if they were coming over at this time. He reminded Alexei of the time and asked him to stay in the living room as he went past, then opened the door.
"Ms. Granger?" he said, so surprised that it sounded more like a question.
"Hermione," she corrected with a smile. "You're allowed to call me that. May I come in?"
Theo nodded quickly and stepped aside for her to enter. His eyes watched her move, trailing down her back to her legs for a brief moment before mentally yelling at himself to be professional and keep his eyes on her face. Damn dream.
"Can I help you, Hermione? Do you need anything?"
"I came to talk to you," she answered, looking around.
"Oh." They stood in the hallway and stared at each other, letting the silence drown them and become awkward, until Theo remembered his manners. "The kitchen is this way. There's a place to sit, Lex is falling asleep in front of the TV and I don't want him distracted. He can't have an excuse to stay up for longer."
Theo groaned, seeing Alexei standing by the doorway; he'd obviously been listening to their conversation and his big smile said he knew his dad's plan to keep him occupied and wasn't going to fall for it. Hermione realized this, too, he noticed quickly. He watched as she knelt down, so they ware eye-level.
"Hello, Alexei. What's your movie?"
"Avengers," he replied. "They're gonna fight soon."
"It's your favorite part, you should go watch it," Theo interrupted, tapping Hermione on the shoulder to lead her away. He held out his hand to help Hermione up and waited until Alexei went back to his movie. He showed her to the table, moving about to avoid more awkwardness. "Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, juice?"
Theo kept his back to her as he grabbed a glass and got her drink, breathing in and out, so when he finally faced her, he felt mostly calm and was able to put her glass on the table in front of her without his hand shaking. He hated his dreams, the way he felt when he was around her - the ache he felt to be near her was a constant reminder of what he feared would come. He felt he was being betrayed by his own body; he knew he'd be completely normal around her if the dreams had never existed. He'd feel comfortable in his own home with her sitting at the table and would be able to help her with a much clearer head. But he wasn't.
"Are you okay, Theodore?"
"Theo," he said instinctively, another reminder - that was what she called him on the roof when she had said those three words to him. "Please. And I'm fine. What do you want to talk to me about?"
"Okay, Theo," Hermione said, understanding that he was politely trying to get back to business. "I just wanted to thank you for letting me come with you to the restaurant. I told you that I'd do anything you'd ask and if you'd told me no, I wouldn't have come. I would have hated it and fought, but I promised, so I'd have stayed in the end. So, thank you for letting me. And for getting the information from the waitress. Ron said you were going through old cases to find a connection to the name. I almost lost hope, but you can still do something. I don want to imagine where we'd be if she hasn't given us that napkin."
Theo sat quietly and listened to her talk. She kept her head up and her eyes seemed focused on him, only him. If she noticed him flinch at the mention of her husband - soon-to-be-ex, he reminded himself - she didn't say anything. "You came to thank me?"
She nodded. "I know it feels silly, you only got a napkin really, and I almost stopped myself a few times. But you're doing everything you can to find my baby, Hugo wrote that for us to find, which makes it important and you found it." Hermione placed her hand over his and squeezed. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," he murmured. Slowly, he removed his hand. "I need to go put Lex to bed, I'll be right back."
He all but ran from the kitchen, stopping only when he reached the living room, and let his heartbeat slow down. Once it was back to normal, he went to Alexei; just as he'd predicted, the little boy was fast asleep on the floor. The day had tired him out completely. Theo picked him up, careful not to wake him, and carried him to his room. He pulled back the sheets, lowered him down gently and covered him up. Bending down, Theo left a quick kiss on his forehead.
"I love you," he whispered before leaving, only closing the door halfway.
He was surprised to find Hermione waiting for him at the front door. "I thought it was time I left you with your son and I have to get back anyway. I only came to thank you for everything you did today. I would have said this to you at Harry's, but -"
"You had to go to Rose, I know," he answered. He opened the door for Hermione to leave. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"See you tomorrow," she replied, leaning up to kiss his cheek.
Only she didn't; in the same moment, Theo moved and she caught his lips in a light kiss. Shock and surprise was the reason they let it continue for longer than it should have, Theo was sure, but in that moment he didn't care. She pulled back before anything more could happen.
"Sorry," he said quickly. "I shouldn't have moved."
"I didn't mind," Hermione replied softly, her lips curved ever so slightly to reveal the third smile he'd seen from her since she'd come to his office. "Good bye."
"Bye," he said after a moment, but Hermione was already gone. Theo closed the door and leant against it, feeling lightheaded. His dream was definitely coming true.
A/N: The Avengers belongs to Marvel Comics, the movie belongs to Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures.
Finally a new chapter and only three more to go. I hope you enjoyed, please let me know what you think. :)