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The Solution is Murder by Prefects

Format: Short story
Chapters: 7
Word Count: 13,600
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Mild Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Mystery, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Shacklebolt, Tonks, Cho, Draco, OtherCanon
Pairings: Harry/Cho

First Published: 06/16/2006
Last Chapter: 06/19/2006
Last Updated: 06/19/2006

Summary:
For LogicalRaven... As one of the top Aurors, Harry has seen many things in his days, yet nothing prepares him for the sadistic killer who is taunting the Aurors with each new victim. A specialist is called in to help Harry solve the disturbing series of crimes... Cho Chang. Written by Scarhead


Chapter 1: Chapter 1
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A/N: There are a lot of people to thank for their efforts in making this story happen. Linaewen, BJAuth and Haylie_Lupin all helped with the riddles (thank goodness!) JaxGranger was the brave soul who beta'd this monster for me! And of course the talented Jaydah made the amazing banner! Thank you all for your help...I would not have been able to make this story work without you!

A/N #2: To LogicalRaven: This story was just my little way of showing you what it is like to be on the other side of a riddle. :) I have so much fun with the competitions and the duels and I know that you work so hard on making them so much fun for us. I hope this story shows you even a little bit of how much you are loved and appreciated!



It had all started exactly 9 days ago. An anonymous envelope appeared at the offices of Kingsley Shacklebolt, Head Auror. Inside was a picture of a modestly decorated room, pale blue walls, gleaming hardwood floors and furniture that was obviously not new but looked well maintained. There was also a riddle. It had been seared into the thick rough parchment.

To the merry Jaspar:
You have been warned and have been told –
Heed me ere the next victim grows cold.
The words in here, they will suffice
And I'll repeat my riddle thrice.

To the merry Jaspar:
The Dark Lord hid behind his name
An appellation from one of shame.
Each victim's blood is on your hands –
Worse than the Dark Lord, as it stands.

To the merry Jaspar:
Though you use neither wand nor spell,
The blame is yours, as you know well;
Your fault that all I knew was lost
And now I shall exact the cost


The answer of the riddle stumped everyone. Each of the aurors had taken a crack at it and had come up empty handed. Harry himself had spent hours pouring over the enigmatic riddle but to no avail. No one had been overly concerned with it until the first victim had been found. In the very room that had been in the photograph that was with the riddle. There they discovered the new riddle, burned into the pale blue wall behind the victim.

Kxm o cbwwcm baoebfowbzf oft o xslbfpcbfe zi eckm,
Oft kxm wnm izcczvbfe qckmx - nmlm'x vnow wz tz.
Wnbfp zi o vzlt izl o xbfecm tmqmswbzf,
Ott wnm xmqzft zi wnm wvmfwr xby izl smlimqwbzf.
Wnmf wnbfp zi o vzlt izl xnzlw xksscr
Oft ott o gkmxwbzfbfe cmwwml ilza wnm abttcm zi wnm mrm
Fzv eckm bw wzemwnml, otdkxw wvz ibiwn'x, bi rzk slmiml


The blackened letters loomed ominously on the otherwise pristine pale blue wall. Harry ran a hand through his hair as he stared at the cryptic message that had been burned on the wall. At least they assumed it was a riddle. The letters had been scrambled or put into some sort of code.

Kingsley had sent an owl to the ministry to have their top code breaker join in the investigation. They were waiting for him now. They had been waiting for several hours now. Harry was getting more frustrated and infuriated with each passing minute. Colin Creevey poked his head in through the door and hollered “Oy, Harry, the code breaker is here!"

"About bloody time…" Harry snapped back "Does he think that the bloody killer will wait around? I want this solved so I can ..." His words died in his mouth as a tall beautiful woman walked into the room. Her long dark hair was swept up into a no nonsense bun and loose tendrils hung softly around her neck. Her long lean figure was encased in a businesslike set of deep blue robes – professional, yet elegant. Her dark eyes were like ebony set against her porcelain skin.

She strode purposefully across the room and held out her hand to shake his. Harry quickly regained his composure and gripped her hand in a brief handshake.

"Harry Potter! If you tell me you don't remember me then I will be deeply offended." As soon as he heard her soft lilting voice the memories flooded back to him.

"Cho?" He asked incredulously. "What… How…Wow it is wonderful to see you again!" he leaned in and gave her a warm hug. "How have you been?" Her slight frame fit perfectly in his arms he noticed.

"I've been good Harry. It is wonderful to see you again …I just wish it were under better circumstances." she nodded grimly towards the wall and the message burnt onto it. The young woman's body had been removed hours earlier by the Muggle police. Cho stepped forward to survey the message. "This seems to be a type of cryptogram. I can probably have this worked out for you in a few hours."

"The sooner, the better, Cho. This guy is taunting us. I want to stop him before anyone else gets hurt" Harry's green eyes showed the concern that he was feeling. "Let's head back to my office and I will get you set up with everything you need to solve this."

The two apparated to the Ministry, and, after Cho checked in, they headed to Harry's small, cluttered office. Newspaper clipping and photos cluttered the walls and the desk was covered in a small mountain of paperwork. Harry cleared off a chair for Cho before writing a quick note and with a wave of his wand; the paper flew from his office towards its destination.

"I just messaged Colin. He will send over the pictures of today's crime scene." There was brief awkward silence. Neither knew what to say. It had been almost 10 years since they had seen one another and they were uncertain of where to begin. Cho cleared her throat before starting small chat.

"So how have you been Harry? It is good to see you are doing what you always wanted." Cho smiled at her old friend. The warmth and sincerity was apparent in her eyes.

"Some days I wonder why I ever chose this profession." He said with a sad half grin. He shook his head briefly before looking up at her. "But what about you? This is definitely an interesting career choice. Code breaker?" Cho laughed softly.

"Actually I am an Epigraphist. I work in Egypt most of the time. I am back in London on a bit of a holiday."

"Epigraphist?"

"Yes, I help to decipher hieroglyphics, but I have also studied cryptography and ciphers extensively. So, I hope I will be able to help you." She paused for a moment before asking "So, how is everyone? Ron, Hermione...Ginny?" Her words hung in the air for only a moment. Harry seemed oblivious.

"Ron is great. He is now the new Flying instructor at Hogwarts, and happily married to Hermione. She is a healer at St Mungo's, well she usually is. Right now she is at home with their babies. They just had twin boys. Ron is absolutely terrified that they will be just like their uncles, Fred and George." He paused and took a deep breath. "And Ginny? Well last time I spoke to her she was doing okay. She is living in Scotland now with Dean and their daughter."

"You mean, you two aren't together?" Genuine surprise filled Cho's dark eyes. "I thought you two were meant to be together. I am sorry Harry"

Harry who was slouching on his chair, staring vacantly at the enormous mounds of papers, turned to look at her. He was touched by her concern. He just gave her a half grin and abruptly changed topics on her.

"So, it's great that you have been brought in on this. We are going to need the help. He is intelligent and arrogant. It's a deadly combination…" Harry grimly looked over the reports on his desk. He pulled a thick envelope out of the pile and withdrew the first riddle that had been sent to the offices. He handed it over to Cho. "This was the first riddle he sent to us. We have been unable to crack it yet. Maybe you will be able to make sense of it."

Cho lowered her eyes to the photo in her hands. The thick parchment reminded her of cardboard because of the weight of it. The writing seemed to be identical to the charred words on the wall of today's crime scene.

To the merry Jaspar:
You have been warned and have been told –
Heed me ere the next victim grows cold.
The words in here, they will suffice
And I'll repeat my riddle thrice.

To the merry Jaspar:
The Dark Lord hid behind his name
An appellation from one of shame.
Each victim's blood is on your hands –
Worse than the Dark Lord, as it stands.

To the merry Jaspar:
Though you use neither wand nor spell,
The blame is yours, as you know well;
Your fault that all I knew was lost
And now I shall exact the cost


Her dark eyes skimmed the words several times. The words made no sense at first. As if a fog lifting, her mind racing over the words, different ideas rushed in on her. The excitement that she felt when ever starting work on a new project swept over her.

A stray tendril of dark hair came loose from her bun and swept down to her face, she absently tucked the offending hair behind her ear and looked at Harry. "I need some parchment and a quill. And a quiet place to work." Cho spoke in a businesslike tone.

Harry escorted Cho to an unused interview room where she could work in private. After supplying her with the items she required, he headed back to his office to work through some of the paperwork that had been accumulating on his desk. The mind numbing paperwork would help him get through the agony of waiting impatiently for the answer he needed to start investigating this murder. He was anxious to find this killer and bring him to justice. That is the part of the job that made it all worthwhile.

Several hours later just as he finished filling out and filing about half of the papers that littered his inbox, his office door flew open. Cho stood in the doorway. Most of her hair had come loose from the bun and her face was abnormally pale. Her worried eyes bore into his.

"I figured it out." She whispered.


Chapter 2: Chapter 2
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Harry leapt to his feet and dashed to the doorway where Cho stood, her pale face was full of frustration and worry. He gripped Cho's arm, afraid she would collapse. She shook him off and tugged him back towards his desk. She laid out several pieces of parchment and jabbed her finger at the writing on it.

"Here,-And I'll repeat my riddle thrice. and here, The Dark Lord hid behind his name, An appellation from one of shame.. They are hints about how to solve the riddle." She looked to Harry's bewildered face. A flash of mild annoyance flickered in her ebony eyes. "Look at the only part repeated 'thrice'… it's a bloody anagram."

Harry studied the line again. To the merry Jaspar "Just tell me the damn answer, Cho. I don't have time to play games." The weariness echoed in his voice.

"It’s you, Harry. The answer to the riddle is Harry James Potter." Cho spoke softly. "It is a letter to you."

"Bloody Hell." He muttered as he reread the entire riddle taking in each line as a blow to his heart. After rereading it, he sank into the chair behind his desk and ran a hand through his already messy black hair. "He murdered that girl to get at me. Her blood is on my hands." He paused before continuing almost inaudibly. "Her name was Holly. Holly Raferty. She was only 23 years old."

An uncomfortable silence filled the air, until Cho spoke again, this time with trepidation.
"That's not the worst of it, Harry." Cho paused as Harry's eyes sharpened. He grabbed the paper again and looked at the riddle once again.

"There will be more murders." He muttered angrily as he reread the letter. Cho nodded her head almost imperceptibly. "Cho, I need you to help me with this next riddle. I need to know what he is telling us so I can stop him." Harry jumped up and stuck his head out the door. Michael Corner was walking by.

"Can you get Creevy to send me that picture immediately? It’s important." Michael looked at Harry for a moment and then hurried off to find Colin.

Harry turned back to his office. Cho was looking at the letter again.

"Harry," she started. "Who would want you to suffer like this? They have to know this is the best way to hurt you." She watched him to see what his response would be.

"I have loads of enemies, Cho. Any of those who followed Voldemort, any of the dozens of those I have helped to put into Azkaban over the last five years, Merlin, it could be anyone who was ever in the Slytherin house." His voice trailed off. She could see by the look on his face something had dawned on him. However, before she could ask him what it was, a thick envelope soared into the room. Harry snatched it out of the air. Cho was forcibly reminded of the way he looked grabbing the snitch out of the air during their years of competing in Quidditch at Hogwarts. She was quickly brought back to the present when he thrust a muggle photograph into her hands.

Kxm o cbwwcm baoebfowbzf oft o xslbfpcbfe zi eckm,
Oft kxm wnm izcczvbfe qckmx - nmlm'x vnow wz tz.
Wnbfp zi o vzlt izl o xbfecm tmqmswbzf,
Ott wnm xmqzft zi wnm wvmfwr xby izl smlimqwbzf.
Wnmf wnbfp zi o vzlt izl xnzlw xksscr
Oft ott o gkmxwbzfbfe cmwwml ilza wnm abttcm zi wnm mrm
Fzv eckm bw wzemwnml, otdkxw wvz ibiwn'x, bi rzk slmiml


The jumbled letters charred onto the blue wall glared at her. She pressed her mind past the circumstances and thought only about the code in front of her.

"Alright, it looks like a basic cryptogram. The key to figuring these out is starting with the one letter words they can only be 'a' or 'I' then we move to the two letter words 'an', 'as' 'at', 'in', 'is', 'it', 'on', 'or' or 'of' then we start to work out the other letters from there. Finding the little words will give some letters to start with. Then we figure out the others from there." She sat at Harry's desk and grabbed a quill. She quickly started working on letters. Harry stood beside her occasionally suggesting ideas or questions. He quickly realized that he was hindering rather than helping, so he stayed quiet and let her work. As he watched her, he thought back to the time when they dated briefly in his fifth year at Hogwarts.

Looking back on that time now, he realized what a tremendous strain it had been on her after Cedric died. And while he was trying to deal with terror and trauma from being the one to watch as Cedric was killed, he had had no idea on what to do and what to say to comfort her. They had both made mistakes and neither of them had handled it well.

He took a seat on the chair she had occupied hours earlier when they had arrived at the ministry, his mind going back over the letter that had been addressed to him. He had spent a lot of time worrying about the safety of others around him, and had feared the worst would happen… and that it would be his fault. That's how he had pushed Ginny away.

After Dumbledore's funeral, he told her why he needed to put their relationship on hold. She had been furious, but she understood why he was doing what he had done. They had kept their distance from each other until he had faced Voldemort.

Harry had murdered the dark lord and in that instant, he changed dramatically. He knew everything about Voldemort; what he stood for and what he intended to do to not just Harry and his loved ones but to anyone who was unfortunate enough to not have the proper lineage. Yet it didn't lessen the effects of what murdering a man did to Harry. He pushed everyone away. Claiming to need time and space. After a couple of years of waiting for Harry to wrestle his demons, Ginny grew tired of waiting and she found love and happiness. The two things Harry didn't think he was capable of giving her.

He had mourned their relationship when she married Dean, but he was glad that she had been able to find the contentment and joy that he would never have been able to give her. They were pleasant to each other now at Weasley family gatherings, which he still attended, but the closeness that they had shared ten years ago was gone. After Ginny married Dean, Harry began to pick up his life and joined the Aurors' Academy. He devoted his time to his career. He dated infrequently and spent most of his precious time off reading.

"You are right. It's another riddle, Harry." Her frustrated voice interrupted his thoughts. He took the paper that she held out to him. He read the deciphered riddle for the first time.

Use a little imagination and a sprinkling of glue,
And use the following clues - here's what to do.
Think of a word for a single deception,
Add the second of the twenty six for perfection.
Then think of a word for short supply
And add a questioning letter from the middle of the eye
Now glue it together, adjust two fifth's, if you prefer.


"Ok, let’s break it down." Harry started with a rush. His senses leapt into high gear with this new break in the case. "Single deception…well that could be a ruse, con, lie or maybe trick. Second of perfection…. E. "

"No, not the second in perfection, Harry read it again. It's the second of the twenty six so it has to be the letter B. Con-B, Ruse-B Lie-B" Shaking her head in frustration. She looked at the next line. "Short supply. Needed? Wanted? Few?"

"Rare? Odd?" Harry paused. A look of dawning comprehension filled his green eyes. "Lie-B-Rare-Y…library!"

Cho reread the puzzle and nodded. "He is giving you a location, Harry. Maybe that's where he will strike next. A library."

Colin Creevy chose that moment to rap sharply on the door to Harry's office. He opened the door and stuck his head in.

"Harry, there has been another murder. Hogwarts." The tension was apparent in his voice. "Meet you in Hogsmeade." There was the familiar popping noise as Colin apparated.


Chapter 3: Chapter 3
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The scent of musty old books and the rich smell of weathered old leather were the first things he noticed as he entered the room. The library had not changed in the ten years since Harry had left Hogwarts. As he walked in the doors, he felt as though he was eleven all over again. He made his way to the restricted area and immediately spotted the familiar ginger hair of a Weasley.

Ron stood near several other professors with a grim look on his face. He had been offered the job as Flying Instructor after several years as a member of the Chudley Cannons. He had helped to improve the Cannons, so much so that they had won the League championship four years in a row. Ron was lauded as the best keeper that Cannons had ever had. He finally decided to retire after several years so that he could spend more time at home with Hermione, who was by then finished her healer training at St. Mungo's. Headmistress McGonagall had offered him a position on staff which he had happily accepted.

Harry nodded at Ron to indicate that he would talk to him shortly. As he ducked under the tape into the crime scene, he noticed the girl’s body was leaning against the bookshelf with a thick old book in her lap. It looked as though she was merely taking a nap. He looked over to see Hannah Abbott talking in hushed tones to Madame Pince. The elderly librarian was clearly distraught. She was wringing her hands and tears shimmered in her distressed eyes.

Colin Creevey was snapping picture after picture of the area while Michael Corner searched the crime scene with his wand, hoping to pick up some trace bit of evidence that would help them find the killer. The ebony wood of his wand gleamed as it emitted a pale yellow light which he scanned over the area. Harry headed towards him.

"What have we found out?" He asked in a gruff voice, trying to mask the pain and guilt he was feeling from looking at the dead girl. He knew that she died in order to torment him. Her blood was on his hands now.

Michael looked up at Harry with a grim look on his face. "Abigail Hanolan. Ravenclaw. She was only sixteen years old. Just a baby." Michael's sad eyes looked down on the young girl." Hannah is interviewing the librarian and Tonks is in with Headmistress McGonagall. We found another code" He gestured to the book sitting on Abigail's lap. "On the book." Harry waved Colin over and instructed him to get a few photos of the book before he picked it up.

Harry lifted the heavy text and turned it over in his hand. It was one of the books from the restricted section. Moste Potente Potions His mind flicked back to second year when Hermione had found the recipe for polyjuice potion, then it flashed forward ten years to his Auror training when he had spent hours reading through the book for the torturous potions courses at the Auror Academy. This book seemed to be a part of his life since the moment that he found out that he was a wizard.

The burnt inscription was another series of seemingly random letters. Yet, Harry knew it had to be more.

B OATBS VSAMA YJV OATBS HTHBI
VSAI YJV NPHMP HTHBI PMYBIT
PSA PVBIN GJFA IAXP, HIW PMY PSABM OANP
YAP GHIIJP SAEK OVP NPHMP EYBIT.
HIJPSAM SHNPAIN PJ PSABM NBWA,
RJM SA FVNP AIW HIY EBA
SBN GJFKHIBJI RJEEJVN MBTSP OASBIW,
HIG RBIBNSAN OY HNDBIT, "VSY?"


"What was a sixteen year old doing with a restricted book on potions? And what was she doing in the restricted section?" Harry looked at Michael and Colin. "Michael., can you go see what you can dig up about this girl? I need to know everything. Family history, class schedule, extra curricular activities, and who her friends are. Talk to everyone. Get me a report as soon as you can." Michael nodded before hurrying from the library. Harry turned to Colin. "Colin I need these photos in Cho's hands as soon as they are developed. Can you put a rush on that?"

"She'll have them in twenty minutes, Harry." Colin said before following the path Michael had taken.

Harry surveyed the scene again before turning to head towards Ron and some of the other teachers. He shook hands with the professors and muttered a few quiet greetings before excusing himself and Ron. He pulled Ron to a quiet corner where they could talk.

"Tell me everything you know, Ron. No matter how tiny the details are they may help us figure things out. Start with what a fifth year was doing in the restricted area." Harry started as gently as he could. He knew that his friend was still reeling from the death of one of his students. Ron nodded, a sad weary look in his eyes.

"Abby was actually a prefect for Ravenclaw, she was also a seeker for their house team. She is one of the best. I told her just yesterday that if she puts in the time training and practicing she could go pro after school. I… I can't believe she is gone. She was like a young Hermione, but without the fear of flying.“ He paused for a moment, chewing his lip. “Why was she here though? Madame Pince should have the note for the restricted section, so you could probably ask the professor who signed it. I can’t understand it myself." He stammered, the shock of his student’s death had shaken him deeply. He lifted his eyes to meet Harry's, "Find the bastard Harry, find the sick bastard who is murdering children and make him pay."

Harry nodded, that is what he wanted to do more than anything. "Is there anything odd happening here at Hogwarts? Anyone odd hanging about? Hearing any talk from anyone that seems strange to you?"

Ron was quiet for a moment, "There was a meeting last week with Headmistress McGonagall. The board has appointed a new Potions master, and the staff is very unhappy with their choice, but it has become the cursed position since Snape left, so there is no other choice. It is like the Defense Against the Dark Arts position was when we were in school."

"Who did they appoint, Ron?" Harry asked in a practiced casual voice. After years of Auror training as well as almost seven years as a full Auror, Harry had become adept in hiding his anxiety to those he had to interview.

"Draco." Ron couldn't keep the distaste from his voice as he spit out the name. Harry couldn't keep the surprise from his eyes.

"Malfoy?" He blurted out before he could stop himself. Ron simple nodded. Harry hadn't seen Draco Malfoy since they were teenagers. Shortly after Dumbledore was killed, Draco, along with Snape, had been caught by the Aurors and had been brought before the Wizengamot. After a lengthy investigation and an arduous court session, Snape had been sentenced to a life sentence in Azkaban. Draco however had been let off with a stern warning and along with numerous financial 'contributions' to various Ministry members. Since that day Draco had become the model citizen, he maintained that first his father and then later Voldemort himself had controlled Draco with the Imperius curse and he had been helpless to stop his actions. Harry had kept a close eye on him over the years, waiting for an opportunity to arrest him again but had yet to see the man step out of line.

Harry's mind began to race. Things started to click. Who wanted to see him suffer? Who hated him more than anyone else? Who had access to Hogwarts? And who was evil enough and clever enough to devise and execute this plot? He turned on his heel without another word and stalked out of the library, leaving a puzzled Ron in his wake.

Moments later he stormed into the potions classroom that he had despised throughout most of his years here at Hogwarts. Very little had changed, it was still dark, dank and dismal. He strode through the room intent on the potions masters office at the back. Just before he reached it, the door opened and a tall slender man stepped out. With his silvery blond hair and steely grey eyes, it could be no one other than Draco Malfoy.

Harry didn't miss a step; he closed the gap between them quickly. Draco watched him with a look of utter revulsion on his pointy face.

"You know, Potter, I would have been fine with never having to see you agai…" His words were violently stopped as Harry's fist connected with his pale face. The blonde man fell back against the doorframe, his hand gripping his jaw. "What the bloody hell was that for you miserable prat?"

"That was for Dumbledore, you smarmy wanker! You may not have cast the spell but you sure as hell caused his death." Harry growled as he rubbed his knuckles, that had just recently met with Draco's face, with his other hand. Then he drew in a deep steadying breath and continued in a very professional manner as though nothing had happened, "I'd like to question you on the death of Abby Hanolan."

Draco said nothing. He rubbed his jaw and glared at Harry.

"What can you tell me about Abby? You must have hated teaching muggle borns like her."

"You're a bloody nutter, you are!" Draco snarled.

"Why was a fifth year student in the restricted section looking up a dangerous potions book?" Harry continued as if Draco hadn't spoken.

"Go to hell, Potter!"

"Listen Malfoy, you either answer my questions now or you answer them after a few days in Azkaban." Harry's professional tone never changed, which seemed to infuriate Malfoy even more. His pale face now flushed with anger, Malfoy sighed resignedly and responded with a look of loathing.

"Fine lets get this over with, you overbearing git."

~*~*~

Cho grabbed the paper coffee cup to discover it was empty. She tossed it in the now overflowing waste basket in the corner. Crumpled papers, and discarded cups littered the area surrounding it. She ran her fingers through her tousled hair; with a practiced hand she twisted the dark locks into a loose knot, using her wand she secured it up on her head.

After hours of working, the table in front of her was completely buried beneath the papers scattered on it. She turned her attention back to the photograph. She knew it was a simple keyword cipher and if she had the keyword she would have it solved in moments. However without it, it was like looking for a needle in an extraordinarily large haystack. With a deep sigh, she pushed her chair away from the table, leaning back and stretching her arms above her head.

Cho had never met a code or cipher that she hadn't wanted to solve. She thrived on the challenge that it presented her. This cipher held even more weight because of the lives that may hang in the balance. However that wasn't the only reason for her desire to crack this code. The fact that Harry was depending on her made it more important.

Many years ago she and Harry had parted ways in a less than desirable manner. Her pain of losing Cedric, her first real boyfriend, had been devastating. She been unable to deal with the grief and guilt that she had felt and Harry had been dealing with his own issues caused by Cedric's death. Looking back on it now Cho could see that being so young had made them incapable to deal with problems that a mature grown up would have troubles handling. Her and Harry's hadn't been an acrimonious break up but it had not been pleasant either. They had gone their separate ways and had not looked back. Not until fate drew them back together so many years later.

~*~*~

"Bloody hell Potter! How many times do we need to go over this? I have told you everything I know about Abigail." An exasperated Draco rolled his eyes.

"We'll go over everything until I am satisfied that I have what I need." Harry sat on the desk behind him. "Now you said that…" A sharp knock on the classroom door interrupted him. Hannah Abbott's dark blonde hair poked into the room.

"Harry? Can I have a word with you?" Hannah asked in a businesslike tone. Harry followed her into the corridor.

"What's up?"

"Have you heard from Micheal?"

"Not since I talked to him in the library. That was a couple hours ago. He is supposed to be getting me as much information as he can on the victim. Has he not checked in?"

"He's not here at Hogwarts, I checked the offices, Tonks has gone to the victim's family home but he hasn't shown up there. We've sent word to him but there is no reply. I am starting to get worried." Hannah looked genuinely upset. Harry was beginning to share her concern. One of his own was now missing.




Chapter 4: Chapter 4
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The meeting room was filled to capacity; several worried co workers paced the large room while others sat around the large oak table. Harry strode in looking down at the clipboard in his hands, with Cho following at his heels. He slammed the clipboard on the table effectively silencing the crowd. All eyes focused on Harry as he looked around the room.

"Kingsley has just given me our assignments. I am to continue on the riddle case with Cho, Hannah, and Colin. Tonks will be leading the rest of you in the search for Michael. We are not assuming that his disappearance has anything to do with the riddle case but we are not ruling that out. Tonks will brief you on your specific assignments now." He paused briefly, "I may not be directly involved with the search, but I want updates at least once an hour. Michael is a coworker and a friend. Find him quickly." Harry gestured for Hannah and Colin to follow him and Cho. Tonks stood up to take his place. She reached for the clipboard and promptly knocked it to the floor sending papers scattering everywhere. A small chuckle rippled briefly through the room.

The quartet headed to Harry's tiny office. Harry pushed aside some papers and sat on the edge of his desk with the others standing in front of him.

"What have you got for me?"

"Here are the photos of today's scene. The riddle is in there as well." Colin handed over the thick folder to Harry, who set it on the desk beside him without opening it. Hannah cleared her throat.

"I spoke with the staff; no one knows how or why the victim was in the Restricted section. Madame Pince did not see a note nor did she let the girl into that area. In fact she says the only people who have accessed it in the last couple weeks were the teachers."

"Hannah, Colin. I need you two working double time on this one. I had asked Michael for a report on the victim so now you two are on that task. We need to have a complete profile on Abby. What she did, who she knew, I need to know everything about this girl. I want you working together at all times. I don't want to risk losing another member of our team. Cho and I will be working on the codes and riddles. We need to see what this psycho is going to try next. Keep in touch with me and watch each others backs. Officially we aren't assuming this guy had anything to do with Michael's disappearance but unofficially…" Harry's voice trailed off, lost in his own worries.

"We'll send you a report as soon as we have anything. We will get this bastard, Harry. And we will get Michael back." Colin stated as he opened the door for Hannah and the two of them left the office, Harry watched them walk down the hall. Cho placed her delicate hand on his shoulder.

"It's not your fault, Harry."

"This sick bastard is killing innocent people…children to get to me. And now my friend and colleague has been taken …I am pretty sure this is actually all my fault." The true depth of the devastation he felt echoed in his voice.

Cho pulled on his shoulder to turn him so she could look at him. Her warm ebony eyes looking deep into his troubled emerald ones. She could see the guilt and anger that was tormenting him. She raised her other hand to his cheek to comfort him.

"You cannot control what sick people do, Harry. You did not plan this, you did not ask for it. You are a victim as well." Her voice was firm, but full of empathy and warmth. He nodded in a hesitant manner signaling that he understood, but she could see that he didn't fully agree. An uneasy silence echoed through the small room while Harry thought about her words. They stood together neither wanting to break apart this moment. Her soft hand caressed on his cheek offering him a tiny measure of solace. It was her way of showing him that she supported him. It was her way of showing him that he wasn't as alone as he tended to believe. In a barely audible voice, she whispered, "I'm here for you, Harry."

His eyes locked with hers. Without warning he placed his hands on her tiny waist and pulled her forward. With one step forward, she collided with his chest and she was wrapped in his arms. Her breath caught in her throat. Her heart which had been beating rapidly seemed to stop all together. As she looked up into his eyes, she became lost in the deep green that was moving closer. She closed her eyes and tilted her head up to meet his.

An abrupt knock at the door shook them both back to reality. Each took a step back as Tonks poked her vibrant pink head in the door.

"Harry? I just wanted to get Michael's notes from today. I… am I interrupting something?" She seemed to notice Cho's vivid scarlet blush and her apparent interest in the floor beside Harry's desk. For his part, Harry appeared to be attempting a 'Tonks' impersonation. In his effort to get her Michaels notes as quickly as possible, he managed to knock three quills, several rolls of parchment, two folders and a bottle of quick dry ink onto the floor. He handed Tonks the notes and guided her back to the hallway.

"Please keep me informed about this, Tonks. We have to find him as soon as possible."

Tonks decided not to mention the scene that she had just walked in on.

"Let's get to work on this. The sooner we solve things the sooner we will stop this maniac." Harry said as he came back into the office. Cho looked up in surprise.

"Don't you want to talk about what just happened?" Her eyes flashed dangerously.

"Talk about it? What's to talk about? There is nothing that can be done to change it now." Cho gaped at him, unsure of whether to club him with the chair or to storm out. Before she could vent her fury Harry continued. "Kingsley would fire me if I hexed Tonks for interrupting our moment, besides we need her. She is one of the best Aurors we have and we need her to find Michael." He grinned at her. The wide grin made him seem ten years younger. She couldn't help but smile back at him.

Harry reached for both the folder that he had tossed aside. He gestured for Cho to sit on his chair while he opened the folder. The disturbing images of the scene at the library loomed up at him; he suppressed the anger and the sadness that filled his mind when he looked at them. Instead he quickly rifled through the photos and found the newest coded riddle. He really looked at it for the first time focusing on the code and not the crime scene surrounding it.

"I think this one is a simple keyword cipher. It is pretty simple to figure out. What they do to encrypt it is they take the keyword and then add the rest of the alphabet and then they use that to encrypt the alphabet." She looked back at Harry's confused expression. She grabbed a scrap of parchment and a quill and began to write, "Like this, if the keyword is 'CIPHER' they would encrypt the alphabet like this…

C = A
I = B
P = C
H = D
E = E
R = F
A = G
B = H
D = I
F =J
G = K
J = L

And so on. You ensure there are no duplicate letters but they can also put the keyword at the end and work through it backwards. So the word BAD would become ICH. If you have the keyword it is simple to decode it but without the keyword…well it is almost impossible." They sat silently as Harry looked at the paper she had written the example on and the book.

"Is it possible for it to be a phrase or multiple words?" Harry was strictly focused on the problem at hand.

"It could be anything; the spaces wouldn't be part of the cipher though."

"Alright, lets both start working on this see if we cant find this bloody keyword, then when we can work on the riddle that is hidden within it. I'll get you set up in the boardroom again if that's okay with you? Or you can work in here if you would be more comfortable." Harry said.
"I know where the boardroom is; don't worry about escorting me there. I will be back when I have it figured out." She quickly gathered her parchment and her photograph and left for the boardroom. Harry sank into the chair that Cho had just vacated as he grabbed a quill. He started to try different keywords.

~*~*~

Harry crumpled up yet another parchment covered in writing and scribbles. With a deep sigh, he grabbed another paper. He had tried every variation of his own name along with all nicknames associated with him. The Boy Who Lived. The Chosen One. Gryffindor. Seeker. Auror. He had even tried some of the insults that the Slytherins had enjoyed calling him throughout school. Nothing had worked yet. He had thought that since the first riddle had been addressed to him that maybe this keyword could have been related to him as well. So far he had been unsuccessful.

"I got it!" Cho burst into the room. The door banged against the wall as it flew open. She slapped the parchment on the desk. Harry looked up with interest. He reached out and took the parchment.

I begin where you begin again,
When you start again trying.
The twins come next, and try their best
Yet cannot help but start lying.

Another hastens to their side,
For he must end any lie.
His companion follows right behind,
And finishes by asking, "Why?"


"Okay, we need to figure this out and we need to do it fast because if this is like the last one it will lead us to the next attack, and if we can get there before him, we may be able to stop him." Harry stated brusquely. Cho leaned over Harry's chair. He could her murmuring softly to herself as she read the riddle again.

"So, we break it down like the last one." Her voice was all business. "'I begin where you begin again; when you start trying again' Begin, Start. It could be something that begins or starts, a race, a game, a quest, a hunt, a search… there are so many possibilities."

Harry nodded, "What about a synonym for begin or start? Commence, originate, activate, occur… again too many possibilities. What about the second section? 'The twins come next, and try their best; yet cannot help but start lying.' The only twins I can think of are Fred and George and Ron and Hermione's newborns. Maybe it has something to do with the Weasleys?" After a brief pause, he shot an alarmed look at Cho. "You don't suppose they are in any danger do you?"

"Let's not jump to any conclusions… we need to work this through every riddle has some logic in it that will lead us to the answer. We just need to work this through logically. Twins. Hmm there are also the Patil twins. Or maybe we are taking it too literally." Cho fingers drummed on the desk, Harry was noticed it was something she did when she was deep in thought. "'Another hastens to their side; For he must end any lie' So, are we looking for three people? Four if you include the last bit as well."

"Well it could be Hogwarts, it could be referring to the four founders, but he has to know that McGonagall has increased the security of Hogwarts in light of Abby's death. It just doesn't seem likely that he would head back there." Harry shook his head and read the riddle again.

Harry and Cho sat on either side of his desk, heads almost touching as they bent over the photos. They worked with weary resignation for hours working through the different areas and people that could fit the riddle. Nothing seemed to make sense.

Until Cho jumped up and ran around to his side of the desk.

"Merlin! It is a location!" She gripped Harry's wrist tightly with one hand and with the other she still held the riddle. Without another word, she apparated them both from the room with a pop.





Chapter 5: Chapter 5
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As the feeling of compression lessened, Harry opened his eyes. His office had vanished and he and Cho were now in Diagon Alley. He yanked his arm out of Cho's tight grip.

"Bloody Hell, woman, what were you thinking? You do not drag me along without so much as a word on where we are heading. I need to know so I can be prepared to defend us if necessary." He glared at her, before looking around. "What in Merlin's name makes you think the killer will strike here?"

Cho had been so excited when she solved the riddle she hadn't even thought twice about grabbing Harry and apparating straight away. However, looking at her decision from Harry's point of view she could completely understand his frustration. She held out the photo of the riddle that she clutched in her left hand. Harry yanked it away and looked at it in frustration.

"Harry, I'm sorry. I didn't even think. I should have told you but I just wanted to get here as soon as possible. Take a look at the riddle, it is all there. 'Begin again', 'start again' - A starts the word 'again', 'Start lying' -L. The 'twins' line refers to two L's. 'End any lie' -E. 'And finishes by asking, "Why?"' -Y. A-L-L-E-Y. Alley…it has to be Diagon Alley!" Her eyes sparkled with excitement and touch of trepidation.

Harry glanced up from the paper to stare at Cho, the anger ebbing from his eyes. "Good work…but you can't just apparate me without telling me. What if we had been ambushed? I would have been taken by surprise not just by the killer but by you too." Cho nodded with agreement a chagrinned expression on her face.

"This just doesn't feel right." Harry stated, his eyes searching Diagon Alley. The streets crowded with late afternoon shoppers. A young family coming out the Magical Menagerie, the little girl had her arms wrapped around a big black and white cat. Her parents smiling down at her. A tall blonde man in expensive robes was walking away from Gringott's, his head down counting out the galleons in his hand. A group of young boys raced by Harry and Cho. He could hear their excited voices talking about the Nimbus 3300 broom. "This is too busy and too open for an attack on anyone. The other locations were more secluded."

"I know, but where else could it be? The answer has to be alley." Cho looked around.

"Knockturn Alley!" Harry grabbed Cho's arm and they began to race down the crowded street. Darting in and out of the people milling about. Harry collided with a young man. He hollered his apologies as he raced by, glancing back to see the young man getting up with a scowl on his face. They made a quick right turn onto Knockturn Alley. They slowed down slightly to be able to search the area. "Keep your eyes open, Cho, let me know if you see anything."

The bright day seem to disappear as they hurried through the dark gloomy alley. The buildings were all grimy and close together which blocked out most of the sunlight. There were very few people wandering around. Most of the patrons of Knockturn Alley were not as open about where they did their shopping. As they rushed down the alley they were about to follow the alley around a sharp bend when a distinctive popping noise could be heard. Harry and Cho looked at each other and picked up the pace. As they came around the corner Harry stopped suddenly. He reached out to stop Cho as well.

In front of him, a lanky man lay sprawled out near the wall. The man appeared to be in his late thirties. His black hair was cut short and his eyes a deep brown. However his eyes were glazed over. The man was obviously dead. The wall that he was next to was etched with the code that Harry knew he would find with the next victim. He had hoped to find the killer before there would be a next victim. The markings on the wall were so freshly etched that they were still smoking.

23 17 17 19 7 21 17 11 16 23 14 17 10 7 5 7 21 4 23
10 4 18 18 13 17 26 21 11 23 17 24 17 4 9 2 5 1
26 11 16 19 17 17 12 1 16 10 11 22 17 13 4 16 20 7 4 13 13
2 5 1 9 4 16 18 24 17 7 21 17 7 21 10 17 17
26 13 1 17 23 11 13 10 17 11 18 2 11 7 13 17 9 7
21 11 16 18 7 5 7 21 5 23 17 11 18 18 11 23 5 1 16 18
2 5 1 5 9 7 17 16 21 17 11 10 14 21 17 16 2 5 1
26 11 16 16 5 7 9 4 16 18 11 12 21 10 11 23 17 16 5 14
7 21 4 16 19 1 12 5 16 4 7 22 17 10 2 14 17 13 13
11 16 18 7 21 17 11 16 23 14 17 10 14 4 13 13 2 5 1
10 11 4 23 17 7 21 5 23 17 26 13 1 17 23 16 5
24 5 10 17 11 10 17 11 13 13 2 5 1 16 17 17 18 11 16 18
18 4 9 9 17 10 17 16 7 7 21 5 1 20 21 7 21 17 2 11 10 17
14 21 11 7 24 11 19 17 23 7 21 17 24 26 13 5 23 17 4 7
4 23 16 5 20 11 24 17 11 23 2 5 1 14 4 13 13
19 16 5 14 25 1 7 2 17 7 11 16 5 7 21 17 10
12 11 10 7


Cho choked back a sob as she check the man for a pulse. Tears streaming down her face, she turned to Harry and shook her head. Indicating that there was none. It was the first murder victim she had ever seen, in fact it was the first dead body she had ever seen. She stepped back, turning her back to the victim. Her shoulders shaking as the tears began to flow.

Harry quickly opened his communication mirror that all Aurors carried with them to alert Hannah of the latest victime. He snapped it shut and looked to Cho. He stepped up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder. He turned her around and pulled her slight frame into his arms. He just held her as she sobbed against his chest. He heard the popping sound of Hannah and Colin arriving. He gestured for them to begin working the crime scene. They nodded briefly and started to work.

With a deep ragged breath, Cho pulled back and looked up to Harry. She wiped at her damp cheeks. "I'm sorry, Harry. I have never .. I just.." The catch in her voice stopped her from continuing. Harry nodded with a sad half smile on his face.

"I broke down my first time seeing a dead body too." he confided, thinking back to his fourth year at Hogwarts, at the end of the Tri Wizard tournament. He had brought Cedric's body back from the graveyard meeting with Voldemort. He understood the pain of seeing a dead body. Despite the time he had spent during the war and as an Auror, seeing bodies still bothered him tremendously, he had just learned to mask it well.

"Really?" With a steadying breath, Cho pulled away from Harry and turned to look at the code on the wall, she took care to avoid looking at the body. "It looks like a simple number cryptogram. I should be able to crack it in an hour or so. Then we can solve the riddle that is inevitably hidden there and then we can catch this bastard."

Harry quickly wrote down the numbers onto a scrap of parchment and after double checking them, he and Cho apparated back to the office. Without a word Cho grabbed the paper and headed to the boardroom to get to work. Harry took this time to check the memos that were floating around his desk. There were several from Tonks alerting him to the progress on the search for Michael Corner. There had been very little to work with and so far the search had been fruitless.

He leaned back on his chair. With one hand he pulled off his glasses and the other he rubbed the bridge of his nose. The stress and exhaustion from the last several days catching up with him. He hated the waiting. Waiting for Cho to solve the codes, waiting to hear word from Tonks about Michael, and waiting for this murderer to slip up and give them the opportunity to catch him. If given the choice Harry would be out doing something, anything to break the case but he knew that he had to wait. He wanted desperately to be involved in the search for his friend, but after a lengthy argument with Kingsley Shacklebolt, Harry understood that he needed to be working on the riddle case instead.

During the war the DA had become a force to be reckoned with. They fought with heart for Professor Dumbledore. In essence, they really did become Dumbledore's Army. They battled along side seasoned Aurors and Order members against Voldemort and his followers, their presence proved to be the key ingredient to victory time and again.

Lavender, Michael, Luna and Seamus were attacked while on routine patrol through Hogsmeade. Luna and Seamus were killed instantly with Avada Kedavra curses, but Lavender and Michael were outnumbered and were captured by the Death Eaters. Harry had been incensed, determined to find his friends as soon as possible. After several weeks with no leads, Harry had been forced to make an agonizing decision - the decision to abandon the search for Lavender and Michael to focus the DA's efforts in the war towards the fighting of the Dark Lord. He had been wracked with guilt but knew that it was the only decision that he could make. To defeat Voldemort and pray that the Death Eaters would reveal the location where his friends were being held.


After the reign of the Dark Lord was ended, most of the Death Eaters were captured and imprisoned in Azkaban. There were many willing to talk to reduce their sentences. Amycus Carrow, one of the Death Eaters that was involved in the Battle of the Tower on that dreadful night that Dumbledore was killed, came forward and revealed the location that Lavender and Michael were being held. The DA reacted immediately rushing their injured comrades to St Mungo's. Due to the damage that had been inflicted upon the pair during their imprisonment, Lavender died shortly after arriving at the hospital. Michael had survived and spent seven long months recuperating from the injuries.

Harry spent most of his time at the hospital during Michael's recuperation. He was there to try and keep Michael's spirits up during the arduous healing process. The guilt Harry felt is what started his daily visits, but as he spent time getting to know Michael he found that the two shared a lot in common and they became good friends. Once Michael was released from the hospital, he went directly to the Aurors academy and joined straight away.

"Harry, I have it!" Cho's excited voice interrupted his thoughts. Harry slipped his glasses on and looked down to the parchment she placed in front of him. They had been right to assume that it was a riddle.

Seek the answer to this riddle
Chase me - if you can
Keep unravelling, till you find me
The three clues already at left hand.

To those add a sound you often hear
When you cannot find a phrase
Now thing upon it very well
And the answer will you raise.

Those clues, no more, are all you need
And different though they are
What makes them close? It is no game
As you will know, but yet another part.





Chapter 6: Chapter 6
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Seek the answer to this riddle
Chase me - if you can
Keep unraveling, till you find me
The three clues already at left hand.

To those add a sound you often hear
When you cannot find a phrase
Now think upon it very well
And the answer will you raise.

Those clues, no more, are all you need
And different though they are
What makes them close? It is no game
As you will know, but yet another part.


"If I never see another riddle again, it will be too soon. I am prepared to bash my head on my desk after all of these." Harry groaned, "I recognize this part" He said pointing to the beginning of the second stanza. "The answer is 'er'"

Cho looked at him questioningly. "How did you get that so quickly?"

"I have had to answer that one before." He didn't mention that it was similar to one he had to answer for the Sphinx during the maze in the Triwizard Tournament. "What about the first part? 'Chase me' is obviously him taunting us. 'Unraveling' seems like an odd word choice. It could be a hint as to where his next attack will be."

Again he could hear Cho murmuring as she read the riddle over and over again to herself. He glanced up at her the glimmer of light flicker in her eyes as something seemed to click into place.

"Wait this line… "The three clues already at left hand" Why does it say at 'left' hand? It seems to be an odd word choice. The phrase I know is already at hand. It doesn't say anything about left or right." Harry looked back at the paper nodding in agreement. Cho continued, muttering the line again and again. " 'three clues' Wait a minute maybe he means the something in the first three lines…"

"Hold on, 'Seek', 'Chase' and 'Keep'. The first word of each line. They are on the left hand side. Then add 'er' Seeker, chaser and keeper. It is talking about Quidditch. It has to be the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts. Let's go!" Harry jumped up, knocking the chair back against the wall.

In another moment, the pair was standing outside the front gate of Hogwarts. They began to run towards the Quidditch pitch the moment their feet hit the ground. Harry kept an eye out for anything strange. Anything at all that seemed out of the ordinary. It seemed unusually quiet. The full moon was just rising over the horizon, lending an eerie bluish light to the grounds. Harry maintained a frantic pace as they neared the Quidditch pitch, Cho stayed right on his heels.

"Lumos" Harry's wand lit up and he began to scour the pitch area. He found nothing unusual or out of place. Just an empty stadium. He could see the lights from the castle off in the distance. Harry spotted the Quidditch supply shed and decided to check it out. Old brooms, misshapen bludgers and threadbare Quidditch jerseys littered the tiny shed. There was nothing of interest. Cursing under his breath, he strode back towards the pitch. He looked at Cho who shook her head to indicate that she had found nothing either.

"What did we miss?" Cho asked. She reread the riddle that she still clutched in her fist. "Dammit, Harry we screwed up! Read the last stanza 'It's no game' He is telling us that it’s not Quidditch. What are we missing?"

"Dammit, we are going to lose another victim! He can't win Cho!" Harry looked over her shoulder, "What makes them close? Wait… 'The answer will you raise' Broomsticks. It has to be… It is something that all three have in common and is not a game."

"The Three Broomsticks! We have to get off the school grounds so we can apparate there. We need to hurry!" Cho grabbed Harry's arm and began running back the way they came. The moment they ran through the gate both of them apparated to the front door of the Three Broomsticks. Harry pulled out his wand and motioned for Cho to do the same. The tavern was nearly empty as they entered. Madam Rosmerta came to the greet them

"Harry, how are you dear? We haven't seen you in here in…"

"I am sorry, this isn't a social call. I wish it were. Have you seen anyone unusual in here tonight?" Harry's businesslike tone made Rosmerta look nervously at him.

"Through the back door, someone ran through here about 10 minutes ago." Rosmerta pointed them towards the back door.

"What did they look like? Did you recognize them?" Cho spoke up before going towards the back.

"Sorry, I didn't, they were wearing a long black robe with a hood. Besides they rushed through here so quickly, I didn't have time to see much."

"Thank you Rosmerta, please lock the door behind us and then call the Auror's headquarters and talk to Colin Creevey or Hannah Abbott. Tell them we are closing in on the killer and we need them here as soon as possible. Don't let anyone through that door unless they show you an Auror's badge." Harry turned to Cho, "Actually, you should probably stay here as well. If he is still there it is going to be too dangerous."

"I'm going Harry, I fought in the DA with you in the war. I know how to handle myself." With that she turned away from Harry and headed to the back door.

Harry pulled Cho behind him; she squeezed his hand as he reached for the door. As Harry's hand closed on the doorknob a hazy purple mist began to swirl around their feet. It quickly climbed swirling faster and higher until they were unable to see anything around them. Cho grabbed hold of Harry's arm. Her panic was barely being contained.

Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the swirling mist evaporated. They were no longer standing at the back of the Three Broomsticks. They were standing in a small damp cavern. Flaming torches were affixed to the wall to provide light. There was nothing in the cave but an ancient wooden door at one side. A tattered piece of parchment was attached to it. Harry looked back to see if Cho was alright and then quickly strode across the small space to rip the note off the door. He read it out loud.

Potter,
I am pleased to note that you have indeed proved smarter than I ever would have given you credit for. Maybe there is a shred of truth beneath all the lies that make up your hero reputation.

I do hope you had as much fun with my riddles and codes as I did watching you struggle through them. If only Chang hadn't shown up, I would have had many more hours of enjoyment watching you struggle. Maybe after you fail here, I will pay her a visit.

Through this door lies your chance to finally face me and if you are as good as you think you are, you may even kill me. You managed to get through my first task, the riddles. Now let's see if you can manage to survive my next challenge for you.


Harry crumpled up the note and tossed it aside. "He didn't expect you here. It was supposed to be a challenge for me. Cho joined him as he opened the door wordlessly. The room on the other side of the door was pitch black. As the door latched shut behind them the torches on the walls blazed to life, illuminating a strange room. The floor was comprised of stone tiles, each marked with different letters. There was a door on the other side of the room about 15 feet away. Harry turned to see that there was another piece of parchment tacked to this side of the door as well. He ripped it off the wall and read out loud so Cho could hear as well.

You have had riddles, codes and ciphers, how about we try some trivia? This should be easy Potter. What was the first name of the first man you m-m-murdered? But be forewarned, one wrong step may be your last.

"Murdered? Voldemort? Is that who he is talking about? His real name was Tom Riddle." He looked at Cho to see what she thought.

"Tom? We could never cross this room with three steps. I don't think that is who he is referring to. Is there anyone else before Voldemort that the killer can be talking about?" Cho asked gently.

"I don't go around murdering people for fun Cho!" Harry snapped at her.

"I know you don't Harry. But the killer obviously is blaming you for things you had no control over. I don't think you are a murderer, I know you aren't."

"I know. I'm sorry…it is just...he is getting to me Cho. I need him brought to justice. I need him to pay." Harry ran a hand through his messy black hair. "Hold on, 'm-m-murderered' he must be talking about Professor Quirrell. I don't know his first name though."

"It was Quirinus ." Harry looked at her in astonishment. "I had to do a research on him for an advanced DADA class I took years ago." She flashed a wry grin at him. He chuckled and stepped forward.

"The tiles are just large enough for both of us to stand if we stay very close. So the first letter is Q." Harry pulled Cho into his arms. Her back to his front. Together they tentatively stepped on the Q stone in front of them.

"U" They took the big step to the U tile. Harry's arms were wrapped firmly in place. She felt safe despite the terrifying situation they were in.

"I" The next step was a larger one than the previous ones. As the stepped Cho's foot slid off the stone and it crumbled beneath her feet. She slid down from Harry's arms, but he quickly tightened his grip and pulled her back to safety. Harry looked down the hole where the stone used to be. Below them was a huge deep hole, at the bottom were blue and orange flames flickering in the darkness.

"Hell" he whispered "He wants me to go to hell."

"Harry," Cho spoke sharply, "Just focus on the task at hand." He nodded briefly before they located the R stone. As one they took the short step.

"'I' Do you see the I stone?" Harry asked distractedly. The pair frantically searched all the surrounding stones.

"There." Cho raised her arm and pointed to a stone that was almost a meter and a half away, her terrified eyes looked up to Harry. "I can't jump that Harry."
"Yes you can… We need to switch positions so that I can jump first. Then, you will jump to me, and I will catch you." His quiet earnest voice told her that he meant every word he said. "I won't let anything happen to you Cho." She nodded almost imperceptibly.

After a few moments of maneuvering, Cho moved back to the R stone so that Harry could jump to the I. He began rocking back and forth bending his knees and swinging his arms for momentum. As his feet left the solid rock, Cho held her breath. Scared to watch but terrified not to, her eye stayed glued to Harry's athletic figure until his feet made contact with stone he was aiming for. Using his arms for balance he turned to smile at her.

"See? Simple as can be." His eyes were alive with the excitement. "Now your turn."

Cho finally breathed a sigh of relief. After a few more steadying breaths she carefully stepped back onto the R stone and began to prepare herself for the jump. Harry's eyes never left hers. He held out his arms to catch her. His eyes signalled that he was ready. With a curt nod, she began to mimic Harry's movements from only moments before. With in moments she was soaring through the air. Mid- jump she knew she wouldn't make it. Her jump was just too short.

Harry's hands caught her under her armpits but her momentum caused her to continue to slide through his hands. He's not going to be able to stop me. Her panic was just barely being held at bay as she tried to grab hold of him. Her fingers scrambling desperately against the nylon jacket he was wearing.

His right hand caught the cuff of her coat and his left managed to grab hold of her right wrist. The floor beneath her crumbled instantly. The warm acrid air blew past her face as she dangled precariously from Harry's hands.


Chapter 7: Chapter 7
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"Harry!" Cho shrieked as she desperately tried to hold on to him. She glanced over shoulder to see the fiery depths below her, and her panic began to take over. Terror filled her dark eyes as she looked back up to Harry's tense face.

He struggled to pull her up, without losing his balance on the small tile. His shoulders and arms ached from the strain as he held on tightly.

"You need to help me Cho, try to put your foot on the stone. Help me pull you up." After several long strenuous moments Cho managed to swing her foot up to catch the edge of the stone. Her eyes locked with Harry's as he carefully balanced himself while pulling her the rest of the way up. When both feet were firmly planted on the small stone, he wrapped his arms around her. Both of them were panting and trembling, from the emotional as well as the physical strain that they had just endured.

After several moments, Harry murmured into her ear. "We have to keep going." Nodding in agreement, she turned around carefully to resume their original position., her back to Harry's front. She wordlessly pointed out the next letter, which was thankfully close to them. They stepped together.

The remaining few stones were crossed with relative ease. Within a few moments they were standing on a ledge that looked similar to the one they had started on, on the other side of the dreaded stones. An empty space with the exception of a flaming torch affixed to the wall next to a large old door. Harry looked at Cho questioningly; she pulled her wand out to the ready as Harry did the same. She nodded quickly, a sharp determined glint reflected in her ebony eyes. With a deep breath, Harry pulled the door open and he stepped through with Cho right behind him.

The heavy wooden and wrought iron door slammed shut behind them. The ominous sound echoed through out the cavern, which was much larger than the previous two. Tall stone pillars reached up to the ceiling 20 feet above. Harry instinctively pulled Cho behind him in a protective manner. Both of them had their wands at the ready while they looked around the huge dim cavern.

Suddenly the torches at the opposite side of the cave flared up and burned high. And from the solid rock wall, a figure emerged. The figure was clad in a long dark robe and hood that obscured their face from Harry and Cho's vision.

Harry quickly surveyed the room and saw nothing but a barren empty space. Not an ideal place for a fight. There was nothing to use for cover. It would be a true duel. The quickest and most accurate would win. However Harry had the advantage of having Cho with him. Having another person greatly helped his odds.

Yet, it could be a huge disadvantage, Harry knew he would be more concerned about protecting her than himself.

"Who are you?" Harry called out to the figure. A malevolent laugh rang out through the empty cave echoing off the solid rock.

"Still trying to be the hero, aren't you, Potter?" The last word was spit out with revulsion. "But only when it suits you! You have this façade that you show to the world. The poor little hero who does everything you can to save those around you. The real you has only been revealed to a select few. Those of us you have destroyed."

Harry's mind tried to place the voice but the acoustics of the cave made it impossible to figure it out. While trying to distinguish the voice he also tried to formulate a plan to apprehend this madman, without putting Cho into harms way.

"Destroyed? The only person I ever destroyed was Voldemort. Are you one of his followers?" Harry tried to keep him talking while he thought things through. Again the evil laugh echoed through out the cave."

"The only one? What about Quirrell, Diggory, Black, the list goes on and on. Potter, if only you had the brains that your little girlfriend here has. I bet she knows who I am."

Harry looked to Cho and could see by her pallid face and the tears shimmering in her eyes that she had in fact figured things out. He looked back to the dark cloaked man standing on the other side of the room.

"Let me tell you a little story Potter… During the epic war between the Dark Lord's army and that of the Order, there were many casualties. People were murdered, captured… some were even tortured. I fought by your side through many brutal battles and you led me to believe that I was a friend. … that I mattered. I was captured by the Death Eaters and I was tortured. I was tortured everyday, mercilessly for hours at a time. It was a risk that I knew that I would have to face if I was involved in battle. But you never deemed me worthy enough to rescue. I was a disposable pawn in your war." The dark figure reached up and pulled back the dark hood.

Michael Corner stared at Harry with a look of pure loathing. "Did you know that the dark side has come up with potions and spells that make the Cruciatus feel like a tickle? They tested each and every one of them out on me. Whenever I would lose consciousness they would give me another potion that would not only revive me but would leave me unable to pass out for hours. There was another potion that made the pain last for ages. The healers say that is a pain I will have to live with, there is no antidote for that one."

Harry staggered back in disbelief. "Michael?" He choked out. It felt as though someone has sucked all the air out of the room. He couldn't breath. Michael couldn't be the one behind it all. They were friends. "We tried to find you and Lavender. We looked everywhere we could think of, but the war was raging on around us. I never gave up looking though Michael. I thought you knew…"

"Shut up Potter! Do you think I haven't heard all of these lies before? I was forced to listen to your rubbish while I was 'recovering' in St Mungo's. You… you… you… that's all you ever think about isn't it? That's why Lavender is dead you pompous ass! She was the sweetest kindest woman who bravely faced the dangers of war because she believed in what you stood for. She was sure you would save us right up ‘til the end. She was wrong. You only saved us when it was convenient to you." Michael's blue eyes glared at Harry, his voice full of rage and hatred.

"You were in love with her weren't you?" Cho asked softly.

"I… yes… but she's gone and it’s his fault." Michaels’ wand flashed briefly, and with a bellow, a jet of green light shot towards Harry. His Auror trained instincts took over as he jumped and rolled out of the path of the curse. The blast hit the wall where Harry had been standing moments before; rocks and stones crumbled from the wall and ceiling. He quickly took aim and let his own curse loose on Corner. "Stupefy!"

The shimmering blue hex flew across the room, Corner jumped aside but not quick enough to avoid it all. The curse hit his left shoulder knocking backwards against the stone wall. He bounced back quickly, his eyes flashing with anger and frustration. "Avada Kedavra!" His voice shook with rage as the green light blasted towards Harry.

Harry's eyes widened as he dove out of the line of fire. Michael growled in frustration as Harry avoided the killing curse. He quickly aimed his wand and barked, "Crucio!"

Cho's screams of pain echoed throughout the cave. Her body dropped to the floor convulsing in agony. Harry's eyes flew to Cho's writhing body for a moment, then anger and rage made his blood boil. He raced across the cave and both men grunting as Harry's shoulder collided with Michael's stomach, the pair tumbling to the ground in a tangle of flying fists. Rolling on the hard ground, Michael pinned Harry to the ground and jammed his wand into Harry's throat.

"You are so pathetic, Potter!" Michael pushed his face right up to Harry's. Harry could feel his hot breath on his face.

"Why not just come after me? Why murder all those others?" Harry snarled.

"You stupid prat, what better way to hurt you? Each of those deaths was your fault. Just more people that you failed to save. Some hero you turned out to be. You were more worried about getting involved with that tramp again." He gestured towards Cho's motionless figure.
"But how did you get into Hogwarts to kill Abby? You would have been spotted by someone."

"Potter, how dimwitted can you be? You have been fooled with this one before! Triwizard Tournament. Mad Eye Moody?" Michael laughed derogatively.

"Polyjuice potion." Harry growled.

"That's right! My, you really are slow, aren't you? You probably wouldn't have gotten this far without the lovely Cho Chang leading you by the hand through each and every riddle. Merlin, it was sure lucky that she came along isn't it?" He laughed again. "You lot are a simple bunch to manipulate. All it took was a simple comment or two to Kingsley about getting Cho to look at the first riddle and he has her flooing back to England before the first body is cold."

"You wanted Cho here?" Harry asked in surprise.

"She dumped me because she wasn't over you, you arrogant ponce. Do you think I wouldn't want her to suffer as well? I never meant to kill her I just wanted her to get close to you again so she would endure the pain of losing you, but death will work just as…” Michael's body flew off to the left side as foot came out of no where and connected to the side of his head. A solid thud sounded and Harry looked up to see Cho standing over top of Michael with her foot jammed into the back of his neck.

"You miserable git! I didn't dump you because of Harry. I was just not in love with you. You did this to get at Harry? Destroy his reputation, ruin his life and then kill him? And you planned all the riddles and codes to get me involved just to hurt me?" Cho chuckled softly, "You are a sad, weak little man. And you are about to spend the rest of your miserable existence rotting in Azkaban. I hope it was worth it!"

"Incarcerous!" Thin, strong ropes flew out of the tip of Harry's wand and wound their way around Michael securing him. Harry then pulled out his enchanted mirror to contact Colin and Hannah, telling them to bring brooms to get past the cave with pit of flames. He turned to Cho and pulled her into his arms. She rested her head on his shoulder. Harry kept his eye on Michael over her head. Ten minutes later, Colin and Hannah arrived finding them still in the cozy embrace.

As Michael was apparated out accompanied by his former coworkers, Cho pulled back to look up at Harry.

"You know part of his plan did work, Harry." She spoke softly. He looked into her dark eyes. He lifted his hand to brush a stray lock of her cheek; tucking it behind her ear. Her voice was barely above a whisper, as though she was afraid to say it. "I am falling in love with you again."

Harry's hand lingered on her cheek. He lowered his face to hers, capturing her lips in a soft tender kiss. A kiss filled with passion and promise. He pulled back just slightly breaking the kiss.

"I knew I still loved you the moment you came back into my life." He smiled at her as he rested his forehead against hers. "You know, I have always wanted to visit Egypt." Smiling at her, he apparated them back to his office with her still safely tucked into his arms.

~*~*~

Through the dark dank air, he could barely make out the wall beside him where he had been carving little marks to count off the days he had been here. At least what he thought were the days he had been here. The days blended all together. Things in Azkaban had a way of melding together. The cell was a tiny room. The ceiling was so low that he had to duck his head when he stood up. A dirty mat and a threadbare blanket were in one corner of the room. In another corner was a filthy, smelly toilet that only flushed occasionally. There was a tiny window that was so filthy that it let in no light.

This was now his home.

All thanks to Potter. Michael sneered at the thought of Harry. He will pay and that little tramp too! His mind working over on his plan. His eyes shone with an evil gleam. It wouldn't be long before he exacted his revenge.


And this time it would be different.



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