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Smoke and Mirrors by PH71

Format: Novel
Chapters: 24
Word Count: 139,145
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse

Genres: Drama, General, Mystery, Romance, Action/Adventure
Characters: Harry, Ron, Hermione, Andromeda, Charlie, Shacklebolt, Percy, Ted, Lucius, Narcissa, Dean, Ginny, Seamus, Teddy, OtherCanon
Pairings: Harry/Ginny, Andromeda/Ted

First Published: 06/11/2019
Last Chapter: 07/02/2020
Last Updated: 07/02/2020

Summary:

 

The Dark Lord has fallen. Justice must be brought to those who served him. The Order of the Phoenix are determined to help build a better world, but several missing Death Eaters are still at large - and wizarding Britain could soon face an even graver threat. A canon take on post-Deathly Hallows. Multi-POV following the journeys of Harry, Ron, Andromeda, Hestia, Dean and Percy.



Chapter 1: Andromeda I - Wild Thing
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Author's Notes:

 

This story will be my interpretation of the years that followed The Battle of Hogwarts. I won't have one single POV character and will instead use several, but primarily I will use Harry Potter, Andromeda Tonks and Ron Weasley. I'll be sticking to book canon, however I will take some liberty with various Pottermore canon - but nothing major. The Cursed Child is completely off the cards and will have no impact on this story whatsoever, consider it retconned.

 


 

 

Andromeda sat comfortably against the big tree reading her copy of Advanced Charms. It was a warm spring day and what felt like the entire school and its faculty were off watching Slytherin and Hufflepuff, in the big match that would decide the 1966/67 Quidditch Cup. Slytherin were looking to regain their crown which Gryffindor pipped them to the previous year. Andromeda didn’t care about quidditch though. She was just glad that it meant a nice peaceful afternoon alone studying in the sun.

 

“OH FOR CHRIST’S SAKE WHY WON’T YOU WORK?! IT’S THE NORTH LONDON DERBY!”

 

Andromeda jumped at the sound of the stranger’s voice. She thought she’d been alone in this secluded section of the castle grounds near the Great Lake, but alas, she evidently wasn’t. It had been a male voice, quite deep, but certainly not as opulent or proper as the pureblood boys that frequented the Slytherin dungeon. 

 

As she glanced over she saw a rather frustrated looking blonde-haired boy, who was wearing a red long-sleeve shirt with a cannon on the front - she assumed (very wrongly) that it must be a Chudley Cannons top. He had broad shoulders and a fairly stocky body, but he looked like he kept in quite good shape. The perfect build for a beater - not that Andromeda cared in the slightest about quidditch or the horrible boys who played it… well, not anymore, anyway.

 

The stranger in the red top was now desperately tapping his wand against what looked like a muggle-radio. She could’ve sworn she recognized the boy from around the castle, but she couldn’t put a name to him – perhaps he was a year or two older.

 

What she noticed most as she got closer towards him was his funny haircut. It looked a little bit like a mop and was definitely not a style you saw often in pureblood circles – he was almost certainly a muggle-born, or a half-blood at the very least. Not that there was anything wrong with that.

 

“REPARO! REPARO! REPAR-

 

Suddenly the radio sparked into life and the mop-haired boy’s face lit up in elation.

 

Andromeda had stood up now and was walking over to the boy, with the intention of giving him a stern telling off for making such a racket. Whilst she didn’t have the same temper that her older sister was infamous for – she was still a Black, which meant a certain level of respect and fear from strangers before even opening your mouth. An older boy or not, if he thought he was going to impede her studying with his noisy radio, then he had another thing coming. 

  

“A wonderful game so far today. There has been drama at both ends of the pitch. And now it is Lucius Malfoy with the quaffle and-

 

“NO NO STUPID THING FOR FU-

 

The boy stopped mid-sentence and clumsily dropped the radio to the ground. She thought he’d looked angry before, but seeing Andromeda walking over had taken him over the edge. She wasn’t in the mood for any attitude, especially after just hearing that lying scumbag’s name on the radio. No bother, she’d soon put him in his place.    

 

But yet, as it would happen… this mop-haired idiot had other ideas… as before she even had a chance to open her mouth he raised his wand to her, which took her off guard… out of instinct alone Andromeda took out her wand too but-

 

“EXPELLIARMUS!!”

 

He’d disarmed her before she’d even had the chance to reason with him. She saw her wand soar through the sky and into his spare hand.

 

“Gotcha!”

 

The blonde-boy now carefully pointed both wands at Andromeda, whilst doing so he gazed at her sternly, almost as if he was sizing her up. His eyes darted around the trees to make sure there was nobody else with her. She’d never been so much as challenged to a duel by a boy before, let alone disarmed – it just wasn’t the done thing, especially to a Black. 

 

“What in the name of Merlin do you think you are doing?! If my Father heard about this! What kind of good-for-nothing-

 

“Say it! Go on! Good-for-nothing-Mudblood! There! That’s the word you were looking for, isn’t it?! You think I didn’t hear you in the corridor last week?!” he spat at her.

 

Andromeda shuddered at hearing the word said out-loud with such fury. She was no stranger to it of course. It was a favourite of her Father. Bellatrix too had recently taken to throwing it around the castle at the muggle-borns, no doubt to impress the nasty older boys she liked to tag along with.

 

“Not so cocky now that you’re disarmed, are you? None of your boyfriends hiding behind those trees are they?”

 

The stranger’s eyes shot past her once again to double-check that there was nobody waiting to ambush him. Andromeda wished there was. 

 

“Boyfriends? What boyfriends? You do not know anything about me I-

 

“Oh I know enough about you, Black! The whole school knows about what you get up to. Prefect’s bathroom is it? Or maybe you’re all at it in your dormitories! It wouldn’t surprise me… and you pure-bloods are all related to each other somehow too, aren’t ya? Christ! I reckon some of you must be more inbred than Yeast!”

 

Andromeda stood in stunned silence at the boy.

 

She’d never in her fourteen years of living ever had a member of the opposite sex dare speak to her this way. Her father never had the time nor enthusiasm to raise his voice to any of his daughters, even Bellatrix – instead opting to vent his fury at their mother for failing to birth him a son. The boys in her year would never dream of it either, she was a Black – and if that didn’t frighten them enough, they’d probably think she’d set Bellatrix on them, which to most reasonable people was almost as petrifying a prospect as a Basilisk.

 

Andromeda walked closer to the boy now, keeping an eye carefully on both wands which were still pointing directly at her.

 

As she got closer to him she noticed that he had remarkably prominent cheek bones and also that he smelt very strongly of lemon. It was a very different sort of smell to the potions that would waft off of the older boys in the Slytherin common room. This was a much more modern scent, not the sort of archaic aroma that just smelled like her Father.   

 

“Now Black, you listen to me. I don’t know what you were doin’ sneakin’ up on me like this on your own, certainly ain’t like you or any of your lot not to attack in a pack. But I spose you-

 

“I was not sneaking up on you! I did not even have my wand out. I think there has been a big misunderstanding and-

 

“A misunderstanding?! Are you takin’ the mick? You’re lucky that my old man brought me up betta than to hex a girl, Bellatrix!”

 

 “I AM NOT BELLATRIX YOU IMBECILE!” 

 

“You what?”

 

The famous Black temper had put him back in his place, he looked a little worried now. He’d definitely seen a flash of Bellatrix’s unrivalled rage when she’d screamed at him. She was still disarmed of course, but it was a real testament to the Black family name and her sister’s fiery reputation that he’d instantly shut up.

 

“I AM NOT BELLATRIX BLACK! I am her sister…Andromeda. I was not ‘sneakin’ up on you, I did not call you a mudblood in the corridor last week and I most definitely do not have any boyfriends! If you had let me speak before you decided to attack me… then you would have known that the only reason I came over here was to ask you to keep the noise down. Some of us have studying to do!”

 

She’d seen the look on his face before. The guilty puppy-type look. It was one their house-elf, Rudy, often wore when he’d displeased her Mother. Yes, she knew what was coming next. A heart-felt apology, a load of grovelling and-

 

“Andromeda?! Ha-ha! W’a sort of a name is that?”

 

Andromeda gave him a death stare.

 

“Well…Andromeda…” he began, smirking as he repeated the name her astrology-loving mother had given her.

 

“I suppose there might have been a bit of a misunderstanding here, given the circumstances-

 

“You will be giving me my wand back right now!” she snapped, holding her hand out towards him.

 

“What’s the magic word, Andromeda?” he replied in a sarcastic tone.

 

“Well I would use Accio, but since you have my wand in your hand I-

 

“Not the spell, you donut…”

 

Andromeda had certainly never been called a donut before.

 

“Please. The magic word is please. Dunno what silly bugger came up with that expression though, muggles are much more polite than magic-folk. Now, repeat after me Andromeda. Can I have my wand back please, Ted?”

 

Andromeda sighed. Grovelling and apologising was not something that came naturally to her. She had a right mind to head up to the Owlery and send a letter to her Father – this imbecile would probably be out of Hogwarts by nightfall. But she did like the way his muscular arms creased against his top, not many of the pureblood Slytherin boys were built like that – and the impertinent smile he now wore on his face really did bring out those cheek bones…

 

“Can I have my wand back please, Ted?”

 

“Course you can, love! Why didn’t you ask sooner?” he teased, as he handed her back the 10-inch dragon heart-string wand. She’d never been addressed as ‘love’ before and didn’t take too kindly to it – he wasn’t getting the satisfaction of a thank-you. And too right – he did steal her wand after all… 

 

“So that is your name then… Ted?”

 

“Not quite. Edward Tonks. Friend’s call me, Ted.”

 

“Oh, I see. So you think that we are friends now, do you? After you disarmed me and-

 

“I told you I thought you was your sister didn’t I! I’m sure it ain’t the first time someone’s mistaken you for her, look bleedin’ identical!”

 

It certainly wasn’t the first time someone had mistaken her for Bellatrix. It wasn’t the first time an older boy had mistaken her for Bellatrix either, in-fact, just a few weeks ago, she’d been sat in the common room studying with her back to the room, when Corban Yaxley had started gently running his fingers through her hair. He’d stopped very abruptly when she turned around and it became very apparent to Yaxley and the friends he was showing off to that she was not her sister, nor was she interested in partaking in the same sort of flirting that Bellatrix lived for.

 

“So, how come you’re out here sneakin’ up on me and not up at the quidditch pitch fawning over the Slytherin team like her then?”

 

“For the last time I was NOT sneaking up on you. I was coming over here to ask you to keep the noise down, you were making quite the racket. I could not hear myself think. And I hate quidditch and quidditch boys. I would sooner listen to a Mandrake cry than watch that nonsense.”

 

Ted’s face lit up that last part.

 

“Do you kno’, you’re the first person I’ve met here who thinks that? Even the other muggle-born lads I’m mates with can’t get enough of it. Load of bloody rubbish.”

 

“I have never liked it, my Father-

 

“I mean, yeah, decent sport on paper, init? Sort of a bit like football and field hockey combined but on brooms. Nothing wrong with that. Great concept…”

 

Andromeda really hadn’t the slightest clue what football or field hockey was, but she enjoyed his unusually common accent as he ranted. She didn’t hear accents like that very often, nor did she often hear people speak using such an unrefined idiolect. Her Mother would yell whenever Andromeda or her sisters dared to speak without using proper grammar, which had always been enough to put off Andromeda or Cissy… but Bellatrix would just laugh or shout back even louder. 

 

 “…bit brutal, even more than rugby, but watchable. I remember when me mates from my dorm dragged me down to our first game o’ the season in first year. Think it was actually the same game as today actually, us versus your lot. Had a few Slytherin boys calling me mud-blood in the corridor already-

 

“You were getting called that in first year?! But… but that is awful!”

 

“Yeah… well I s’pose I hadn’t really come to terms with wizard fascism just yet, but thought it would be great comeuppance if we beat them. So I went along. Anyway, first thing I noticed was that all your players was flying a whole load faster than most of our boys. Took me a while to notice cause of the weather, but then it hit me. All your lot had faster brooms! Course, was only new to the wizarding world at that point so it took me a few years to really come to terms with it, but it’s simple really, init? The kids with the richer parents have the faster brooms don’t they? I mean what sort of capitalist nonsense is that? Could sort of justify it at the top level I guess, there’s capitalism in every sport, but at schoolboy level, are they mad? No wonder it’s always Slytherin and Gryffindor what wins the Quidditch Cup. Outrageous, don’t you think?”

 

“Well, errr I suppose… I suppose that I have never really thought about it like tha-

 

“And okay. Okay. Let’s say you can get past the blatant capitalism of it all. I mean, it happens in football too. Man United paid £115,000 for Denis Law a few years back… o’ course, don’t get me wrong, absolutely cracking striker. Top rate. But over one hundred grand for a footballer? Insanity. But yeah. Say you get past the capitalism of the brooms. I’m watching my lads against the Slytherin bods and they’re giving it their all. Doing us right proud. 100-80 up! We’re lovin’ it. Been a real close game. I’m warming to it, not as good as football o’ course, but can totally see why you magic folk are so mad for it. Then all of a sudden the ref’s blowing his whistle. The game’s over. I’m going bonkers! We’ve only gone and beat ‘em ain’t we! Except nobody around me is celebrating. I look around. Everyone’s gutted. I turned to me mate, asked him what was goin’ on. Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when he tells me we’ve lost. Hang about, I said. How can we ‘ave lost, we was 2 goals up! That’s when he tells me. Says the Slytherin seeker’s caught the snitch, they’ve won. What the bloody hell is a snitch I ask him. Tells me-

 

“I am aware of the function of a snitch…”

 

 “You wha’? Oh yeah, sorry, got a bit carried away. But can you believe it? I’ve just watched my team for the best part of an hour. Blood, sweat, tears – the lot. We’re winning the game, then all of a sudden someone catches some stupid little golden ball and they’ve ended the game and got themselves ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY POINTS?! Who on earth came up with that? What was they smokin’?! What’s the point of the rest of the game?! I mean, I know the Americans have some daft sports, but that takes the biscuit as the worst sport I’ve ever seen. Bloody ridiculous!”

 

“Yes, quite…so err… I take it you, err… you were not trying to pick up the quidditch commentary on that contraption of yours then?”

 

“Course I bloody wasn’t! I was trying to pick up the football. The Arsenal are playing The scum.”

 

“I take it that is some kind of muggle sport?”

 

“Yeah, it’s a real simple game. Working man’s game. Sort of like Quidditch, but without the brooms. Just one ball. And no snitch, just two timed halves of forty-five minutes.”

 

“And you can only touch the ball with your feet, I assume?”

 

“Yeah! Well. Sort of. I mean, you can use your head too. And I guess your shin, any part of your leg really. And your chest, well, I mean, basically any part of your body apart from your hand. Although you can use your hands if you’re taking a throw-in, or you can use it all the time if you’re a keeper. Only in your box though.”

 

“But… they call it football? Sounds kind of stupid if you ask me.”

 

“It’s not stupid! It’s the best! And England only went and won the World Cup last year, didn’t they? Oh it was bloody brilliant it was. Went up Wembley with my old man for the final. Even saw old Nobby Leach there too, right in with the VIPs he was!”

 

“My Mother and Father cannot stand that man.”

 

“Who, Leachy? Absolute legend he is! First-

 

“First muggle-born Minister for Magic in history. Yes. It is all I would ever hear about at home. My Father is convinced it is all part of some kind of muggle-conspiracy to take over. He believes the muggles have planted spies among us to infiltrate from within.”

 

“What rubbish! Our governments are too worried about the Soviets blowing everyone up to notice a few poxy wizards casting a few spells here and there. You don’t believe that nonsense do you?”

 

“No. Of course not. But he reads The Daily Prophet and you know what they are like, spouting all these conspiracies and what not. They dare not say it in the papers of course, but my parents and a lot of their friends, sometimes I hear them when they have their dinner parties. Some of them say it would have been better if Grindelwald had defeated Dumbledore. That we would not have the filthy blood traitors in our government and the damned muggle-borns in our schools.”

 

“And do you think that?”

 

“No. I mean, of course when you are younger and that is all you have known you just sort of go along with it, don’t you. Just accept it as the truth. But a few of the teachers here are muggle-borns or half-bloods and some of my classmates from the other houses are muggle-borns, or half-bloods – and I do not think they are evil or horrible at all.”

 

“My old man’s always told me you ought to treat people how they treat you, don’t matter who they are or what they look like. Reckon your Father and his sort ought to think about that.”

 

“I reckon my Father, as member of the school’s board of governors, would be very interested to hear that his darling pureblood daughter was disarmed and threatened at wand-point by a damned muggle-born.”

 

Ted looked very much taken aback by that. She almost saw the same sense of fear that had briefly silenced him earlier.

 

“You-

 

“Relax. I was just jesting. Now if you will be so kind as to give me that,” she said, pointing to his radio.

 

Ted hesitantly picked up the radio, but when she smiled and beckoned for it once more, he relented and carefully placed it in her left hand.

 

“Reparo,” she whispered whilst focusing intently.

 

The radio suddenly spluttered into life.

 


 

Wild thing… you make my heart sing

You make everything groovy… wild thing

Wild thing... I think I love you

But I wanna know for sure…

 


 

Ted carefully adjusted a few buttons on the radio with his fingers and the muggle-song (which many weeks later she discovered was by a muggle-band called The Troggs and would, many years later, insist on being played at their wedding) abruptly ended, then some more noise burst out.

 

A fine save from the Scot in goal, Bob Wilson. He throws it out to Rice who is just outside his own box on the left hand side. Pat Rice has Frank McLintock and George Graham in space further up the field, but he may opt to hurl it up towards Charlie George who appears to have found some space in Tottenham’s half…

 

“You did it! You fixed it! You’ve got it back picking up the muggle stations again! I knew it would do it. My mates reckoned it would never work like all the other muggle-tech don’t, but one of the Gryffindor prefects overheard us talking about it in the Great Hall a few weeks ago. Said he was good at fiddling with stuff, was really interested in muggle-tech too. He did a good job, had it working for about a week now, but it cut out not long after you came over. I owe you big time, you’ve made my day!”

 

“Well, err, thank you, I guess. Charms has always come naturally to me. Any sort of repairing or cleaning spell is easy really, you just have to focus. Now, if you do not mind, I really ought to get back to my work. It was nice meeting you, Ted.”

 

“Pleasure was all mine,” he replied, holding out his hand. She smiled reluctantly and offered out her hand, which he took and firmly shook. As he shook her hand and briefly moved closer towards her she noticed the heavy-scent of his citrus aftershave once more (which many weeks later she discovered was a muggle perfume called Eau Sauvage by Christion Dior and would, many years later, insist on Ted wearing at their wedding) and then, just as she turned and began to walk away…

 

“I tell you what, Andromeda” he began… as she turned back around she noticed a sly smile had emerged on his face.

 

“How about on the Hogsmeade trip next week I take you for tea at Madam Puddifoot’s? You know, just as friends. Nothing more. Just as a thanks for helping fix me radio and as a sorry for you know, disarming and threatenin’ ya. What do you reckon?”

 

He was asking her on a date. The nerve. Her Father would be furious. Bellatrix would go berserk. And dear old Lucius, well, he would be livid. Yes, yes he would.   

 

Andromeda rolled her eyes at Ted, before she let a rare smile escape her face.

 

“I reckon my Father would be very interested to hear that his darling pureblood daughter had been invited on a date by a damned muggle-born, especially one with such a funny haircut” she said sardonically, before letting out a small laugh and walking away again, leaving him fairly bewildered.

 

“So was that a yes?!” he called after her.

 

“Yes! Meet me at 10 o clock inside Tomes and Scrolls. I have a few books that I need to pick up first” she yelled back.

 

“And Ted?”

 

“Yes, darling?” 

 

He was pushing it now.

 

“All of those things you said to me, when you thought I was Bellatrix. Best not to say anything like that to her, or any of her friends. And do not dare engage in a duel with any of them…I can only imagine the things they would do.”

 

“They don’t scare me!” Ted bellowed defiantly.

 

He was, at best, naïve. At worst, a fool, who could soon find himself with a one way ticket to the hospital-wing, or much worse…

 

“Well you had better make sure you stay out of trouble then! I do not go on second dates with boys who miss the first one. Detention is not an acceptable excuse!” 

 

“I don’t get into trouble! Trouble finds m-ARGHHHH

 

Ted’s scream sent shivers through Andromeda’s spine. She ran back towards him with her wand at the ready. It was unclear what was attacking Ted Tonks, but it looked at first like it could be a niffler, such was its small size. But nifflers didn’t tear into human flesh like this beast was doing.

 

“ARGHHHHH GET OFF ME YOU LITTLE BAST-

 

“PROTEGO!” Andromeda screamed at the top of her lungs, aiming as best she could at the hairy little monster. She had tried to separate the two of them with the shield charm, but the beast had somehow managed to deflect the spell with its tiny tail. It flew back at her and hit her left hand, sending her wand flying off into the distance.

 

 Ted was on the ground now in a really bad way… there was blood oozing out of multiple wounds and the beast now eyed up his neck, contemplating what would surely be a critical blow. She glanced on the grass on either side of her quickly, but could see no sign of her wand.

 

“Dromeda… keep her safe. Dora… make sure she’s alright” Ted whispered desperately to her.

 

Dromeda?

 

Nobody called her that. And who was Dora?

 

The beast opened its tiny jaws. It was time to finish him off.

 

“NO!!” Andromeda cried desperately.

 

It stopped and manoeuvred its head to face her. She knew instantly that it was a werewolf, only a little cub, but a werewolf nonetheless. The cub glared at her fiercely, as this happened its light brown fur suddenly shifted to scarlet red. Andromeda stared deeply into the cub’s eyes and thought for a split second that she recognized him.

 

Then, without any warning, the cub turned back to his prey and began tearing out Ted’s neck.

 

He let out an awful, bloodcurdling scream… it was a worthy headliner of any nightmare.

 

Andromeda woke up abruptly and for a brief moment still heard the young Ted’s scream. It took her a few moments, but once she’d collected her senses she realized it wasn’t Ted screaming, it was Teddy. Ted was dead.

 

She pulled herself up from the armchair that she’d dozed off in. As she walked over to her screaming grandson she remembered just why she’d fallen asleep in the armchair.

 

Dora. Dora, against her mother’s best wishes and desperate pleas, had followed Teddy’s father to the battle.

 

 It was this “battle” which they’d all been waiting for. They all seemed to expect, perhaps even hope, that when the time came, when Harry Potter would finally face him that they’d all be there to do their bit. Dora and Teddy’s father talked of it often… mostly in the kitchen late at night when they didn’t think Andromeda could hear them.

 

It had been wanting to be part of this “battle” that had cost Ted his life. She’d begged with him, pleaded with him, but he hadn’t listened. The moment they’d heard the Ministry had fallen and he’d have to go on the run, she told him to go to the nearest muggle airport and jump on the first plane out of the country. It was a perfect plan. The Ministry wouldn’t think to have any officials, death eaters or snatchers patrolling muggle airports. But he refused. He said that his grandfather had fought and died to help defeat Hitler – and that he would do the same to defeat You Know Who if he had to.

 

She lifted Teddy up from his crib and he stopped crying almost instantly, as his hair, which had been that same crimson from her nightmare, transformed back to the dark, dirty brown of his father’s. He looked at her and smiled a little, then she pulled him in for a hug.

 

That was when she heard a loud crack outside.

 

 The unmistakable sound of apparition.

 

It was Dora.

 

She was back.

 

They were back.

 

But the door didn’t burst open like she had expected.

 

Instead, there was a very feint knock on the door.



Chapter 2: Harry I - Guilt & Grief
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Harry’s forehead tinged with pain as the three of them walked down the staircase back down to The Great Hall. He sighed involuntarily as his hand reached to soothe the sharp pain.

 

Hermione let out an audible gasp. 

 

“Harry? Your scar-

 

“It’s not my scar… my scar’s fine. Just a headache” he said honestly.

 

“Bloody hell mate… nearly had me going there” exclaimed Ron, who for a split second had a very worried look on his face too.

 

“You should get some rest, Harry. Ron and I can go back, we’ll say you-

 

“I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep even if I tried to, Hermione. I’m tired, but I’m too awake to sleep. Do you know what I mean?”

 

She mumbled in agreement and seemed to decide against lecturing him any further.

 

As they reached the bottom of the staircase - Harry heard a deep, commanding voice in the distance that he instantly recognized.

 

“Keep them in the dungeons for now, Gawain. Savage, Williamson and the professors will give you a hand transporting them.

 

 

Wakanda, Podmore, Proudfoot and I have liberated Azkaban. Might take a week or two before we can get it secure enough-

 

Kingsley Shacklebolt broke off mid-sentence at the sight of Harry, Ron and Hermione as he came round the corner with a tall, bearded man who Harry didn’t recognize.

 

“Been looking for you three all ova’ the place!” Kingsley said with a smile.

 

“This is Gawain Robards… not sure if you’ve ever been introduced.”

 

The name rang a bell to Harry, but he couldn’t think why. 

 

“You were Head of the Auror Office under Scrimgeour,” Hermione declared.

 

That was why.

 

“The very same” Gawain said sternly, as he did so, Harry noticed that quite a few of his teeth were missing. This seemed a bit odd to Harry, as surely a simple spell could have fixed any dental mishaps he had suffered in combat or otherwise. At a guess Harry would’ve said he was only in his mid to late forties, probably around the same age as Kingsley.   

 

“You must be Miss Granger, heard a lot about you” he shook her hand.

 

“Mr Weasley… and ah yes. Harry Potter,” he noted, as he very firmly shook both Harry and Ron’s hand too.   

 

Hermione exchanged an awkward look with Harry, which didn’t escape the now temporary acting Minister for Magic’s notice.

 

“I’m sure they’ll be time for you all to get a bit more acquainted in the coming days, but Gawain’s a busy man y’know,” Kingsley patted Robards on the back as he said this.

 

“I’ll be on my way, Minister. I’ll update you when all the prisoners are locked up safely. Pleasure to meet you all.”

 

Robards addressed the three of them with his goodbye, but only made eye contact with Harry.  

 

Kingsley spoke only when he could be sure Robards was out of earshot.

 

“Gawain’s a fine man, good Auror too. Moody always spoke very highly of him – and there ain’t many at the Ministry you can say that about,” he said, almost smiling, but then seemed to pause and sighed slightly as he thought of his dead friend and former Order member.

 

“Great news about you getting made Minister for Magic though, isn’t it?” uttered Ron, breaking the slight awkward silence.

 

Harry and Hermione quickly added their congratulations too.

 

 

Temporary Minister for Magic,” Kingsley corrected. “But I appreciate your support” he added, with a sarcastic wink.

 

“I hope you get the job permanently, I mean, you have to! Is there anything we can do to help? I could, I mean, we could-

 

“Don’t worry Harry, my boy. I won’t be asking any of you to go canvassing for me or to put in a good word with The Prophet.”

 

Kingsley’s beaming smile couldn’t hide his obvious embarrassment from Harry.

 

“But Harry just finished off You Know Who for good this time! Surely if-

 

“I understand what you’re saying, Ron. I’m very humbled that you all have such trust of me, but I’d rather my actions speak louder than the words of others. I will need the help of all three of you with something else though, if you’d be willing?”

 

“Of course!” Ron said.

 

“Anything you need,” Harry added.

 

Hermione said nothing. Harry thought this was a little odd and he thought he caught a knowing glance between her and Kingsley.

 

“What is it you want us to do?” Harry asked.

 

Kingsley let out a loud laugh.

 

“Oh Harry, my boy, isn’t it obvious?” the temporary Minister for Magic replied.

 

Harry and Ron exchanged a very confused look.

 

“I want you to come and work for me – at the Ministry. Minerva tells me you’ve always wanted to be an Auror, Harry.”

 

Harry was almost lost for words.

 

“Blimey. Well, yeah. Yeah, but-

 

“But what? You don’t have the required N.E.W.T. grades? Harry, my boy. The three of you have accomplished more at 17 than most Aurors achieve in a lifetime! I need good people in the Ministry. People I can trust and rely on. I want all three of you in the Auror department as soon as you feel up to it. You’d be working under Rhea Savage, she’s Head of the Auror department now. Gawain’s got himself a promotion to Head of Magical Law Enforcement.”

 

“What about Pius Thicknesse? Wasn’t he under the Imperius curse? Surely it wasn’t-

 

“Yes Ron… he was under the Imperius curse” Kingsley retorted, before biting his lip slightly.

 

“The trouble is, he’s not come back. Not really. We’re not sure if they messed around with his memory or someone put the curse on badly, but he can’t remember much yet. Just about knows his own name, but not much else and he can barely string a sentence together…let alone perform a basic spell-

 

“That’s awful,” Hermione grumbled.

 

“Yeah it ain’t nice… didn’t even remember his own daughter at first… still, relatively speaking… compared to what we saw at Azkaban… he’s one of the lucky ones,” Kingsley sighed briefly. Harry dreaded to think what sort of horrors he might’ve found at Azkaban. 

 

“We’ve sent him to St Mungo’s for now, ‘keep an eye on him. We hope his memory will come back with time, but he won’t be fit for work for a good while yet.”

 

“Poor bloke,” Ron quipped. Harry agreed, but Hermione seemed to have her thoughts elsewhere now.

 

“Kingsley, before… when you were talking to Mr Robards. Am I right in saying you’re keeping the prisoners here, at Hogwarts?”

 

“You nevva miss a trick, do ya Harry? Yes we’ll be keeping them here for a short while, safest place for them until we’ve put enough measures back on Azkaban. Need to hire a few Aurors too, since we won’t be using Dementors anymore, can’t be trusted. The protective charms have already been cast back over the castle and grounds, so nobody can get in and out.”

 

”But. But… surely you can’t hold highly dangerous prisoners in a school?” Hermione exclaimed in horror.

 

“She’s got a point you know… and what if some of the Slytherins tried to break them all out?” Ron added.

 

Kingsley chuckled. “You don’t think I’d be that reckless, do you? Besides, Minerva would kill me if I even suggested it. No no. The rest of the school year and end of term exams have been cancelled. 7th year students will be permitted to take their exams next year, or resit the entire year if they wish – same applies to muggle-born students that were forbidden from attending this year.”

 

“It was Minerva’s call… to end the school year. The right decision of course. It would’ve been far too hard on the students and faculty to carry on with everything that’s happened, gives everyone time to mourn for those they’ve lost and spend time with those they haven’t.”

 

Harry noticed Hermione’s hand grasp Ron’s as Kingsley paused for a moment, with a solemn look on his face.   

 

“And yes, we’ll keep all of the prisoners here. The school’s teachers will stay on for the next few weeks to assist what ministry staff and Order members we have to stand guard, should any of the remaining Death Eaters attempt a break-out.”

 

Harry’s heart skipped a beat at the thought of this.

 

“You don’t mean that some-

 

“Some did escape, yes Ron. We caught most of them and a further search of the grounds and castle is still in progress, bodies are still being discovered or identified, but so far we think there’s at least 6 known Death Eaters unaccounted for.”

 

“Which ones?” Harry asked, sounding a tad more enthusiastic than he had intended. He thought he saw Kingsley raise his eyebrow at this, but maybe he just imagined it. 

 

“There’s Kenneth Crabbe…”

 

“Crabbe’s dad! Wonder if he knows about his son,” Ron pondered out loud. He made brief eye contact with Harry and they both grimaced at the thought of Vincent Crabbe being burned alive in the Room of Requirement.

 

“Travers and Selywn…”

 

Harry shuddered thinking back to when they’d run into Travers during their break in of Bellatrix’ vault – and Selywn had been with him when they’d blown up the Lovegood’s home.

 

“Jugson…”

 

He’d been there at the Department of Mysteries.

 

“Thorfinn Rowle…

 

“That big bloke from the café” Ron groaned, although Harry’s memory went first to Rowle firing off killing curses the night Dumbledore had died – one of which had inadvertently killed one of his own men. He might’ve even killed Harry that night too if Severus Snape hadn’t saved him.

 

“… and the Lestrange brothers. Rabastan and Rodolphus.”

 

Harry’s thoughts drifted back to witnessing Bellatrix’s death. He wondered if her husband had seen it too – perhaps he and his brother had already escaped, or maybe they’d slipped away in the celebrations that followed Voldemort’s final defeat.    

 

“All very dangerous men. Not to be underestimated. Travers has murdered multiple people, Rabastan and Rodulphus took part in torturing Frank and Alice Longbottom and all of the others have at the very least attempted to murder countless people… and that’s just the crimes that we know about.”

 

“But the war is over. It’s finished. Voldemort is gone. Surely they wouldn’t-

 

“We don’t know what their intentions are, Harry. We have to plan for the worst and move quickly to capture them all as soon as we can.

It’s unlikely with such small numbers and their leader defeated that they’d try anything – and we’ve got to be thankful that we captured the biggest threats. Malfoy, Yaxley and Dolohov have all been apprehended, Lucius actually handed himself in. Of course, we have Molly to thank for Bellatrix’s kindly demise.”

 

Harry saw Ron gleam with pride for a brief moment, before Hermione shot him a glare and Kingsley continued.

 

“We think it’s unlikely that they’d all have managed to escape together unnoticed. The Lestrange brothers are probably together though. I’ve got people standing guard at obvious places they might all try and rendezvous. Rodulphus Lestrange’s house, Malfoy Manor, Tom Riddle’s grave. They probably had safe houses that none of us knew about though. We’ll be conducting raids on all of their official addresses as soon as we can. All official magical portkeys to outside of the country have been temporarily halted until we can get more security at them… can’t take the risk that they’d try and break out using polyjuice. I suspect that they will try and lay low for as long as they can… evading capture will likely be their immediate priority. We’ll have wanted posters plastered in every magical residence and newspaper by tomorrow morning. The muggles will be looking for them too, they’re gonna plaster them all over their papers and television.”

 

“But Harry is right though, isn’t he? They won’t actually carry on fighting with You Know Who gone-

Kingsley looked ready to reply to Ron, but it was actually Hermione who interrupted him.

 

“But it’s happened before, hasn’t it? Last time I mean. Everyone thought he was gone before, but his most devoted followers carried on looking for him… The Lestrange brothers… don’t forget that it was after he was gone that they tortured Neville’s parents with Bellatrix and Barty Crouch Jr. What if they don’t believe he’s gone again this time?”

 

“Hermione’s right, Ron,” Kingsley added, looking quite impressed with her. “Most of these men ain’t rational people. They won’t think like you or I might. It’s not unknown for Death Eaters to go out fighting rather than get brought in. We’ll be starting interrogations of the captured prisoners from tomorrow. We’re hoping to cut some kind of deal with Lucius-

 

“What kind of deal?! You can’t let him off! Not again! He’s-

Kingsley smiled.

 

“Relax, Ron. Don’t worry. We ain’t letting him off that easy! He’s gonna have to give us a lot if he wants to avoid Azkaban – and even if he does… the best he can hope for is house arrest and believe me, he ain’t even gonna be able to go to the bathroom without us knowing about it!”

 

Ron still didn’t seem completely convinced by this. Hermione again reached out to hold his hand, which he took eagerly. Harry looked up and heard running footsteps, he looked over and given the man’s formal attire, he guessed it was someone from the Ministry.

 

“Mr Shacklebolt, sir. It’s the American Minister… she wants a full briefing. Supreme Mugwump, Babajide Akingbade, is after an audience too, as is Claude Peeters of the European Committee of Wizards. I can arrange a couple of portkeys in Hogsmeade if you’d like, but I need to know when you’d like to-

 

“Yes, thank you Basil. I’ll be with you in a moment, just give me a few more minutes,” Kingsley bellowed, before looking back at the trio with an urgent look on his face.

 

“I’d love to stay and chat with you three all day, but there’s a lot to do. Arthur and Molly are having a little Order get together at The Burrow tomorrow night. Suspect I’ll see all of you there, you’ll find out more about what’s going on… and possible employment opportunities,” he said, winking.

 

“We’ll let you crack on then,” Harry replied. Ron and Hermione added their goodbyes and they began to walk away, when Kingsley seemed to remember something.

 

“If I could just have a quick word in private, Harry?” he whispered.

 

Harry felt uneasy and couldn’t think of anything Kingsley would have to say that he wouldn’t mind Ron or Hermione hearing. Ron and Hermione glanced back, hanging on a little, before Kingsley tried to reassure them.

 

“It’s just about your Godson and his Grandmother,” Kingsley said, with a great deal of sadness on his face.

 

“Oh,” Harry stammered out, as Hermione and Ron said goodbye and left them to it.

 

The guilt hit him like a train as he was reminded that Remus and Tonks were both dead. He thought back to the conversation he’d had with Remus when he’d briefly resurrected him along with his parents and Sirius.

 

Remus trusted him, as did Tonks of course, otherwise they wouldn’t have named him Godfather in the first place. But the weight of responsibility he felt for the boy was crushing – was this how Sirius had once felt for him when his parents had died?  

 

“Harry, did Dora or Remus ever tell you the address of her mother’s place?”

 

“Well I think me and Hagrid had the-

 

“No… not for the mission. In the last month or so, did you ever have contact with either of them where they told you it?”

 

“No. I can’t remember what the address was at all if I’m honest.”

 

Kingsley rubbed the small stubble under his chin curiously for a moment, before raising his eyebrow at him.

 

“Curious… but that’s everyone in The Order that I’ve asked now. It’s as I had suspected.”

 

Harry wondered what he meant.

 

“As you suspected?” he asked.

 

“Dora told me the address about a month ago. She was the secret keeper and Remus obviously knew it too as he was living there, but other than that, it seems like I was the only other person they told. That means, given what happened…”

 

Harry thought he saw a hint of a tear escaping Kingsley’s slightly wrinkled eye-lid.

 

“…that I’m now the secret keeper. Since Bellatrix’s husband is still on the loose, it might be wise to keep the fidelius charm on that house until he is caught. It’s pretty unlikely he’d target her, but I’m sure Dora’s mother would appreciate the protection for her and Teddy.”

 

Kingsley then told Harry the address so he would be able to visit them.  

 

“I feel awful for her Harry, to lose your husband and your only child in the space of a few months. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone…”

 

Harry mumbled in agreement as a thought hit him. It felt strange, but he’d truthfully never really given much thought to Andromeda Tonks. His only concern and sympathy had been for Teddy, perhaps because he saw himself in his godson so much. 

 

“…still I guess that having Teddy around will give her a small dose of comfort, at least she’s not completely on her own. And Teddy… that poor little man. Remus was always very down on himself… said he shouldn’t have had a child he couldn’t provide for in this world. But we’re gonna build a better world, Harry…”

 

There was no doubt in it now –a tear had definitely escaped Kingsley’s slightly wrinkled eye-lid.

 

“… I told you I named Rhea Savage the new Head Auror. She’s a fine Auror – a real warrior, you’ll learn so much under her Harry. But that should’ve been Dora’s job. And Remus… Dumbledore recognized what a talented man he was-

 

“He was a brilliant teacher. The best Defence Against The Dark Arts teacher we ever had.”

 

“Exactly. He was always very humbled when you kids said that, not sure he ever allowed himself to believe you all either. But he could’ve had his pick. I’m sure Minerva and I would’ve had a bidding war with him high enough that young Teddy would’ve never wanted for anything in his life!”

 

Kingsley let out a small laugh at this, reminiscing on a future that sadly would never come to pass.

 

“He won’t,” Harry said confidently. “I’ll make sure of it. I won’t let him have the same miserable childhood that I had. I’m sure Andromeda will be a brilliant grandmother, but I will help her, as much as I can and as much as she needs. It’s my fault that Remus and Dora-

 

“Harry!”

 

Kingsley didn’t shout, but he raised his voice in an angry enough tone to silence Harry instantly.

 

“If you do one thing for me in the rest of your life… never… ever… blame yourself for the deaths of this war. They’re on Voldemort and his followers – nobody else. It breaks my heart that Dora, Remus, George, Moody… that they and so many others lost their lives. But they died for something they believed in – making the world a better place. Don’t carry any guilt on your shoulders, Harry. That’s the last thing they would’ve wanted you to do.”

 

The words were hard ones that Harry did not particularly want to hear. He would carry that guilt for the rest of his life, he was sure of it. But he nodded in agreement with Kingsley regardless – he doubted that the Minister for Magic believed his lie, but Kingsley didn’t press him.

 

“Mr Shacklebolt, sir. So sorry to interrupt you, sir. But the American Minister… she’s turned up at The Ministry and err… she’s not happy, sir. Eric Munch has wound her right up, she didn’t take too kindly to being searched with a Probity Probe and-

 

“I’ll be right there, Basil!” Kingsley grunted, with a much more noticeable level of annoyance than the last time he’d been interrupted.  

 

“I think Albus had the right idea never going into politics” he fumed.

 

“I’m sorry Harry, I must go. So much to do. On top of all that I still haven’t found the time to go and tell Andromeda. I feel awful…I should’ve gone to see her first. But she’s never liked me Harry, always said I was going to get her daughter killed. I was the one who got Dora into the Order you see, always was a bit of a protégé of mine. I’ll be damned lucky if she doesn’t kill me when I turn up on the door… and I couldn’t blame her, but I had to sort out the prisoner situation first. I-

 

“I’ll tell her. About Dora and Remus, I mean.”

 

“What? No. Harry. I can’t expect you to do-

 

“You’ve got enough on your plate, Kingsley. It’s the least I can do. And I am Teddy’s godson. It should be me.”

 

“Well…well if you’re sure Harry. If you’re sure-

 

“Positive. I can go and see her right now. It should be me.”

 

“Harry, my boy. If I wasn’t enough already…I am in your debt so much. I’ll see you at The Burrow tomorrow. Oh and just one more thing, make sure your friend Mr Longbottom gets an invite. I got some big plans for that young man too.”

 

Harry and Kingsley then exchanged a warm embrace before the Minister for Magic rushed off with Basil, which left Harry with the unenviable task of telling a mother that her only child was dead… and it was all his fault.

 


 

The effort of apparating on an empty stomach and no sleep took a fair bit of energy out of Harry. It was admittedly, still a much more agreeable arrival than his last visit, when he’d crash landed into the Hampshire home’s back-garden with Hagrid.

 

He walked up to the black door and knocked lightly.

 

If he was honest, he didn’t really know what exactly he was going to say to Andromeda Tonks, but he thought he better be quick - she’d already waited to hear this news long enough.

 

There was no answer.

 

Harry considered knocking again slightly harder, but then thought better of it - as it would only serve to frighten her more if she’d ignored his first knock out of fear.

 

“Mrs Tonks… Andromeda… it’s… it’s Harry Potter.”

 

Harry then heard someone’s footsteps slowly approaching the door.

 

“What was the portkey? What was the portkey you used the last time you were here?”

 

“It was err… it… it was a hairbrush!”

 

The door slowly opened from the inside. It soon became clear that Andromeda Tonks had used her wand to do this. She stood a fair way back from the door, with her wand in her hand, which was still directed at Harry.

 

Harry thought back to the last and only time he had previously met Andromeda. As soon as she’d seen him she had frantically questioned him on the safety and whereabouts of her daughter. He expected this time to be no different…but it was… as she just stared at him blankly, saying nothing.

 

“She’s gone… isn’t she?”

 

Harry swallowed nervously.

 

“Yes.”

 

There was no sign of any emotion on her face.

 

“The war… is it over? Is he defeated?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Andromeda lowered her wand and ushered him inside. He closed the door behind him – the middle-aged witch was already walking towards the living room when he looked back round.

 

Harry glanced at the pictures that covered the walls of the Tonks’ hallway as he slowly made his way through it. He was surprised to note that the vast majority of them were not animated, like most wizard family photos, but instead were stationary like you would find

in a muggle home.  

 

There was one photo where Tonks couldn’t have been any older than Harry had been when he’d first started at Hogwarts. Her hair, fashioned in a bob-cut, was her favourite bright bubblegum pink and she laughed joyously with Ted, Andromeda and an older couple that Harry guessed were Ted’s parents – they certainly wouldn’t have been Andromeda’s. It looked like they’d gone to the seaside for the day.

 

 His glance fell on Andromeda’s buoyant grin and he suddenly felt a bit overwhelmed by it all – the happy family photo was not so happy when you remembered that everyone else in that photo was dead.

 

“Would you like some tea?” Andromeda asked in a well-mannered way from the other room.

 

 He wondered why she was putting on this act for him – pretending as if the death of her daughter hadn’t affected her in the slightest way. This wasn’t what he had expected at all – it was almost as if he’d walked into Mrs Figg’s house instead.

 

“Erm well I-

 

“You’d prefer a hot chocolate? Nymphadora was never a big tea drinker either. That was one of the very few things she didn’t have in

common with her father.”

 

“A hot chocolate would be lovely,” he said.

 

As he came towards the end of the corridor he saw a framed image of what looked like somebody scoring a goal in a muggle football match. Uncle Vernon had only ever shown interest in Formula 1 motor racing, so the teams and people in the photo meant nothing to Harry, but a tall, dark skinned man in a yellow kit looked like he’d just scored past a keeper, who wore green. He presumed the players in red were some kind of beaters that were meant to have stopped the man in the yellow kit from scoring.

 

Harry noticed some writing in the corner of the frame that read:

 

“Anfield, 26TH May 1989. It’s up for grabs now!”

 

The fireplace simmered softly in the warm and toasty living room.

 

Andromeda was already perched on a long brown leather sofa, with a mug of tea in one hand and her wand in the other.   

 

 

“Sit,” she ordered softly.

 

Harry eyed up the vacant armchair opposite Andromeda, but Dora’s mother ushered him to sit on the sofa with her instead. Such was its size that there was still a big enough distance between them that Harry didn’t feel too uncomfortable.

 

Andromeda made a soft movement with her wand and a huge hot chocolate, decorated with whipped cream and marshmallows materialised out of thin air in-front of Harry.

 

“Thank you,” he said.

 

Harry took a sizeable gulp, then placed his mug down onto the side table that Hagrid had once broken.

 

“I take it that he died too… Teddy’s father, I mean.”

 

The somewhat cold manner in which she spoke of Remus irritated Harry, but he chose not to press it. This wasn’t the time or place.

 

“Yes.”

 

“How did they die?”

 

The impassive manner in which she asked these questions made Harry feel massively uncomfortable.

 

“I don’t know. Nobody does. Not yet. They were found together. It looked like it was the killing curse. They didn’t look like they suffered.”

 

Harry thought that Andromeda’s face hinted at her taking a small bit of solace in this, but he might’ve just imagined it as the cold expression remained firmly in place.

 

“Bellatrix. Was she-

 

“Bellatrix is dead too.”

 

Andromeda’s poker face was definitely broken by this revelation. At first Harry thought he saw a glimmer of shock, which then quickly subsided to utmost relief.

 

“How did she… who… who was she kill-

 

“It was Molly Weasley.”

 

She nodded slightly in acknowledgement of her sister’s death. Harry sensed that this brought her no pleasure or enjoyment, but there was certainly no hint of sympathy or sadness either.

 

“Kingsley thinks it might be a good idea if you were to keep the fidelius charm on the house for the time being. Bellatrix’s husband and his brother managed to escape you see, he thinks there’s a chance they might-

 

“He thinks they might what? They might come and attack me?” Andromeda sneered at him in a very derogatory manner.  

 

“Yes. Yes I think-

 

“Nonsense. Those two grunts barely have a brain between them. Rodolphus was a follower, not a leader. He’d always just do anything that Bellatrix told him to, that was always the main appeal for her. His brother, well, as my late husband would say, he was always a few sandwiches short of a picnic. I haven’t left my home in over a year – I won’t be letting those two stop me from doing so now.”

 

“Well. Well if you’re sure-

 

“Of course I am. Besides, I’m sure they are now wanted criminals? The Ministry is not still under the control of-

 

“Yes they are – K-k… Kingsley’s the Minister for Magic now. He’s working on-

 

“Minister for Magic? Is he now?” she scoffed.

 

A sudden realisation then overcame her. For the first time Harry saw genuine emotion on Andromeda’s face – and it was anger.

 

“He sent you here, did he? Kingsley? He was the only one that they’d revealed the secret to. When you first arrived I thought they might’ve told you at some point during the battle. But no. I bet they didn’t. What a coward. He didn’t even have the dignity to tell me of Nymphadora’s death himself-

 

“No. No it wasn’t like that. I offered to come. He was going to and he was really sorry that he hadn’t, but he had a lot on his plate, that’s all. There’s-

 

“I never trusted that man. You would be wise not to either.”

 

Harry bit his tongue and chose once again not to argue with her. He stared vacantly at the carpet for a little while as they now sat in an awkward silence.

 

The silence was then suddenly broken by the sound of a crying baby from the next room. Andromeda rose quickly to retrieve her grandson. She soon returned with little Teddy, who was no longer crying, in her arms – and Harry was afforded his first glimpse of his godson in the flesh.

 

“Teddy… there’s someone I think you ought to meet,” Andromeda whispered to the infant, who acknowledged her with a soft sigh.

 

“Would you like to hold him?” she asked, turning to Harry with a smile.  

 

“Yes. Please.”

 

Andromeda gently passed Teddy into Harry’s now outstretched arms. He’d never held a baby before. He was worried he might mess up and drop him, but Andromeda seemed to notice his nerves and reassured him that he was doing fine.

 

Harry looked down at his godson. He seemed impossibly tiny – it was bonkers to think he’d once been even smaller than this.

 

“Baa-waa,” Teddy uttered.

 

His godson’s little eyes were glowing green, just like his. But then, without warning, they changed to blue. Harry noticed the small tufts of hair on Teddy’s head seemed to flicker from blonde to brown a bit too.

 

“They change a bit more frequently when he’s nervous or excited. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal at that age. Same thing used to happen with Nymphadora. Should stop once he’s a toddler.”

 

But Harry barely heard her, as he was transfixed on Teddy, who was now smiling at him. He stared into his godson’s eyes. He was perfect. He was beautiful. He was-

 

It was too much. The events of the last year. The losses of the battle. All of it hit him at once. Moody. Hedwig. Dobby. Remus. Dora. George. Ted Tonks. Even Snape, who he know knew had died protecting him.

Suddenly Harry became aware that trails of tears were pouring out of his eyes – and soon enough, it was much more than that. He sobbed uncontrollably as he looked down at his poor little godson, who was completely oblivious to the fact he would never know his parents. It wasn’t fair.

 

“I’m sorry,” he cried to Teddy, before turning to face his grandmother.

 

 “I’m so sorry,” he repeated, as he sobbed some more, before Andromeda instinctively reached in and hugged him maternally. He wept into her knitted jumper, begging for her forgiveness for all of the death and suffering that he had caused.

 

Andromeda didn’t respond to his desperate pleas, instead she just shushed him and gently stroked his hair like he imagined his Mother might’ve done – and after a short while, he realized that she too was weeping.

 

 



Chapter 3: Hestia I - Obliviate
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Hestia breathed in the cold, wintery Welsh air.

 

It was only 4pm, but the sun had already started to set - she had a very pleasant view of it, as it escaped its hiding place from behind the garden’s large beech trees. It was good to get out of the house at regular intervals, even if it was just into the grounds outside.

 

To say that The Dursleys were getting restless would be a huge understatement. They’d been in hiding for the best part of 8 months now and it was safe to say that they were not too happy about it. In some ways it didn’t help, that Vernon especially, still seemed to have no real concept of how much danger he was actually in, although in some ways, perhaps it was better that way.

 

To some extent their agitation was understandable, as Hestia had gotten pretty fed up of being in hiding herself. To go from working five times a week as an Obliviator, whilst juggling all of her extra-curricular Order activities, to then suddenly hiding away in the middle of nowhere in a safe-house in Wrexham - well, it was certainly a shock to the system. 

 

Hestia always longed for a break from her job and Order life, but now she had been given it she missed nothing more than being busy. The endless rants from Moody about constant vigilance. The endless orders to wipe the memories of crazed or confused muggles that had seen something they shouldn’t have. The endless excuses to avoid going on a date with whatever man had asked her out that week.

 

Tonks always teased her whenever she told her friend about the latest rejection. ‘All the good men will be gone, you’ll end up having to settle down with Podmore if you keep bein’ so bloody fussy Hest,’ she’d say to her. Hestia would laugh along, never quite having the courage to tell her friend that it wasn’t that she was particularly fussy with men, but rather that she just wasn’t particularly fussed about men.

 

She wondered how Dora was getting along. If her calculations were correct she’d be about 7 months gone by now, with the baby well on its way. Hestia hoped it would be a baby boy. They were always the cutest ones.

 

It was no fun missing out on her friend’s pregnancy journey, but she had a job to do, even if the adaption into isolation was becoming increasingly difficult for her.

 

It was easier for Dedalus, he’d been retired for a few years and was a bit of an introvert anyway, so he was a bit more accustomed to a quieter life. He spent the first few weeks writing journals and reading old books, but he’d then become fascinated with the Muggle television programmes and would watch them all religiously with Vernon, Petunia and Dudley.

 

Dedalus had taken a real shine to Dudley in the last few months.

 

It had begun when the willy old wizard had taught him how to play Gobstones, which was a real passion of Diggle’s – he’d even represented England in his youth. Once they had grown tired of that he had shown him Wizard’s chess, with the violent magical twist on the game certainly capturing Dudley’s imagination.

 

However, by far the most entertaining chapter of their blossoming relationship had been when Dudley had taught Dedalus how to play muggle video games. It had been a completely alien concept to him at first, but he managed to get his head around it after a while.  

 

The game they played most often was a racing game called Mario Kart on Dudley’s Nintendo 64 console. Dudley would always race as his favourite character, Donkey Kong, who was a big gorilla that loved to throw bananas. Diggle’s character of choice was Wario, a beefy brute with a wild moustache – he often joked (but only when he was sure that he was out of earshot) that he looked just like Vernon.

 

Hestia heard some footsteps coming up the path, glancing back she saw that it was Dedalus, dressed in his ostentatious purple robes. He had a smile on his face as he pranced along merrily.  

 

“Enjoying yourself, are you, Dedalus?” she quipped.

 

“Oh yes yes! We just finished watching today’s edition of Bargain Hunt. Funny old programme. Two teams of muggles go around buying things that other muggles don’t want anymore, then they have to try and sell them on at a profit. Sort of thing that young ‘Dung likes to get up to. Very entertaining, it is. Dudley says that the muggle who presents it reminds him of me a bit. David Dickinson he’s called. Quite a handsome old chap he is.”

 

“Same initials too, ehh? Spooky stuff,” she said in a fairly disinterested manner.

 

“Yes I have to say I’m actually quite enjoying this being in hiding malarkey. Not all fun and games of course, got to be on our toes a little just in-case. But a little bit of fun lets you take your mind off of it all I find.”

 

Hestia nodded in agreement. She was envious of the old man in some respect as she wished she could do the same.

 

“How do you think they’re doing, Dedalus? Harry and the Order. Do you think they’ll manage to do it? We’re sat here completely in the dark to what’s going on, but do you think they’re any closer to killing off Vol-

 

“DON’T SAY HIS NAME!” Diggle squeaked softly.

 

Hestia exhaled heavily. She wasn’t scared of saying his name, never had been.

 

“Fine. Do you think they’re any closer to killing off You Know Who?”

 

“I… I… I don’t know, Hestia, dear. We have to hope that Harry and everyone else can figure out a way to do it. Dumbledore trusted Harry Potter and that’s enough for me! When’s Dumbledore ever got it wrong before? Never!”

 

Severus Snape instantly popped into Hestia’s head. Dumbledore had also inadvertently let Voldemort live at Hogwarts under his nose for months on the back of Quirinus Quirrell’s head, not noticed that his close personal friend Alastor Moody was actually being impersonated by a Death Eater for a year – and also hired that absolute fraud Gilderoy Lockhart.

 

“You’re right I suppose, Dedalus…”

 

It would do no good to dampen Diggle’s spirit by sharing her worries with him. Hestia of course did have full-faith in Harry Potter, but she was growing tired of being stuck in hiding now. It had been well over six months and they’d had absolutely nothing to do, surely Dedalus could have handled this by himself.

 

 She wondered if she’d have been more use to The Order if she was still working her Ministry job, but Mad-Eye and Kingsley had both warned her that given her muggle-born heritage - it might suit her to quit before she was pushed out. They seemed convinced that the Ministry would fall at some stage, which seemed inconceivable to her, but she supposed they knew better than she did given the vast experience they shared between them.

 

Perhaps the scariest part of their situation was that if Voldemort and his Death Eaters did win the war, then they would be completely none the wiser.

 

The very thought kept her up at night at least once a week. Harry, Mad-Eye, Tonks, Sturgis, Kingsley, the rest of The Order – for all her and Dedalus knew, they could all be long dead by now. It could have all been over weeks, if not months ago. There was simply no way of knowing and neither of them dared risked disobeying their orders and leaving the house to try and find some news, even though it was very tempting sometimes.

 

Hestia’s thoughts were interrupted as she heard a loud shout come from inside the house. She turned to Dedalus, who looked at her tensely before reaching for his wand. She did the same. 

 

“I swear…” she began, as they turned back towards the kitchen door. “If it’s just Dudley kicking off about that poxy diet again I’ll-

“HELP!!!!!!!! HELPP!!!!!!!!!!!” came a loud scream from inside. Hestia didn’t even recognize Dudley’s high-pitch panic-stricken voice at first, it was only on the second help that she clocked it was him.

 

“Come on!” she barked at Dedalus, as she sprinted into the house with her wand gripped firmly in her hand.

 

It was happening. It was finally happening.

 

They thought their defensive spells and cloaking charms would keep them hidden for a while – and they had, but deep down she knew if Voldemort set his sights on taking The Dursley’s hostage, then it wasn’t a case of if his Death Eaters would break through their defences, but when.   

 

Hestia thought back to her training.

 

She was no Auror, but had a fair amount of offensive and defensive experience both in her role as an Obliviator and working with The Order. There had been a few duels here and there, but she’d never truly been involved in a fight to the death.

If this was to be her first, would she crack under the pressure?

 

She felt somewhat reassured to have Dedalus by her side. He was no Alastor Moody or Kingsley Shacklebolt, but he’d still seen his fair share of battles in the First Wizarding War and lived to tell the tales, when many of his peers had no such luck.

 

As they reached the edge of the living room the screaming got more pronounced. Dudley was still frantically screaming for help and Petunia was in hysterics. Hestia couldn’t hear Vernon, perhaps they’d killed him first or were holding him hostage. She raised her wand and prepared herself to dart out into the unknown.  

 

“Hestia, wait,” whispered Dedalus. She turned to look at him and saw a quiet, determined fury in his eyes. “You stay back. Cover me,” he ordered.

 

Hestia obeyed the old wizard without question. She’d never seen him like this before, such was his sudden intensity he actually almost did remind her of Moody.

 

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” screamed Petunia from the top of her lungs. Dedalus stormed into the room before Hestia even had a moment to think about covering him. She rushed in after him, half-expecting to be blinded by a flash of green light that had inevitably struck him down, but when she made it into the room it was only Vernon Dursley who was on the ground.

 

“HELP HIM!! Please help him! I tried phoning an ambulance but I can’t get through to 999!” pleaded Dudley, who was crouched over his collapsed father, with his mother beside him holding one of her husband’s hands whilst she cried uncontrollably. Vernon’s face was blood red, his eyes lingering in the back of his head and his other hand grasping at his heart.

 

Hestia froze in shock, such was her surprise at the scene which had greeted her. Dedalus however was already scampering Dudley aside to get closer to the boy’s fallen father. 

 

“Corremedium,” he murmured softly, aiming a swish of his wand towards Vernon’s heart. Petunia watched on dumbstruck in terror, not saying a word. Dudley had his head in his hands.

 

Dedalus carefully swished his wand back and forth for a while, such was the carefulness of his strokes that it was almost as if he was playing a violin in a symphony orchestra.

 

Vernon’s eyes returned from the back of his head. He began breathing normally again, although he still looked a bit weak.

 

“Dad!” Dudley squealed in relief.

 

“Easy. Easy does it,” Dedalus muttered assertively. “Big heart attack your old man just had. No trouble of course, simple spell really. If I had the right potions with me he’d be back on his feet in a few minutes, but given the circumstances I think a day in bed or two with plenty of rest should sort him out.”

 

Vernon nodded vaguely, but still didn’t quite seem all there.

 

“You saved him! My Vernon, you saved him!” Petunia gushed at Dedalus, as she dabbed a handkerchief at the eyeliner that had run all down her face.  

 

“It was nothing! Really!” he smiled. “Heart attacks I can do, easy. No problem! Just don’t go getting dragon pox on us… now that might be a bit-

 

But Dedalus Diggle didn’t get the chance to finish, as Dudley Dursley, tears in his eyes, had embraced the pint-sized wizard in a big, bear-like hug that took his little legs right off the ground.

 

It had taken them the best part of five hours to get from their Welsh hideout back to Privet Drive, but at least now it was all over.

 

They’d all woken up very early to the sound of Kingsley’s beaming voice echoing out from his corporeal patronus. He hadn’t said much, but he’d told them the good news that the war was won and they were to return Harry Potter’s relatives to their home.

 

The Dursleys were understandably very happy to be going back to their normal lives. Dedalus too jumped for joy at the news and let out lots of sparks from his wand in celebration. Hestia had been delighted too of course, but there had been a solemnness in Shacklebolt’s voice that hinted that the victory had been bittersweet. How many had paid the ultimate price for The Order to come out on top?

 

The sheer fact that it was Kingsley’s lynx breaking the news to them, rather than Moody’s bat, meant that the latter had probably fallen. Hestia hoped that not too many others had died, but knew deep down that they had probably paid a huge cost for this victory.

 

Dedalus popped his head out from inside the house having helped the muggles unload the last of their possessions.

 

“You ready then, Hestia, dear?” he asked politely.

 

“Of course,” she responded quickly.

 

“Very well! Come dear, quickly now. I’ve stunned them gently so they’ll stay fixed in a daze on the sofa for a few minutes,” he said as he guided her into the living room.

 

Hestia made her way through to where Vernon, Petunia and Dudley were sat in silence, not moving a muscle between them. She retrieved her wand and mentally prepared herself to cast the spell.

 

The act of obliviation was to remove the memory of any magic in the muggle’s mind. A very simple spell, especially since on a typical day the muggles in question would have only witnessed one short event that they shouldn’t have.

 

The case of the Dursleys was of course, far more complicated than that, as they had been aware of magic for many years. Thus, this specific spell was a little more complex than the standard obliviation, but it was still one that Hestia had performed many times before with no bother.  

 

It was pretty standard stuff. Once a muggle-born witch or wizard came of age, then their parents or guardians, as well as the rest of their non-magic family were to have their memory wiped of any knowledge of the wizarding world. The same exact charm had been performed on her Mother when she’d come of age herself.

 

Of course, many moderates in the Wizarding world considered it a quite draconian and over the top policy, but Hestia couldn’t argue that it wasn’t in the best interest of protecting the statue of secrecy.

 

You couldn’t be too careful these days.  

 

“A shame really isn’t it… not a single photo of Harry anywhere on display. Poor lad,” Diggle mused to himself, but Hestia dwelled on his words.

 

It was a shame.

 

It was a damn shame that Harry Potter’s only living relatives had never seemed to care for him at all. He’d brought so much hope and freedom to the entire wizarding world, but couldn’t even get a look in on his Aunt and Uncle’s mantelpiece.

 

Her thoughts drifted back, back to her memories of being a bullied little first year Hufflepuff who felt lost and lonely in a world that she didn’t belong in. She was naturally gifted at charms even back then, but was severely lacking in confidence and didn’t see the point in bothering – like her Slytherin classmates said, she was just a worthless muggle-born loser who would never amount to anything.  

 

Then one day, Professor Flitwick announced a special guest. A pretty young red-haired witch, with piercing green eyes - an Obliviator, from the Ministry of Magic, who would be shadowing him for a few months whilst she completed some research for her training.

 

The Ministry witch then gave a rousing monologue about the importance of hard-work, studying and persistence if you wanted a successful career in charms or any other magical field. Hestia had been listening intently of course, but it wasn’t until the end of her speech, when she revealed that she was in-fact a muggle-born too, that Hestia truly became inspired.

 

The red-haired witch took a real liking to Hestia and became something of a mentor to her. She regularly boosted her confidence by praising her when she did well, or offered to help her when she wasn’t quite getting something.

 

There was even the time when she spotted Hestia sitting alone hiding away reading in the empty library on a Saturday. Hestia had hoped she hadn’t noticed and didn’t want her pity when she came over towards her, but instead of saying anything, Lily simply sat down opposite Hestia, smiled, then pulled out her research books and began working on them.

 

It was a simple gesture that she didn’t have to make, but the red-haired witch stayed sitting with her for the rest of the day, even occasionally engaging in friendly chit-chat. Hestia had thanked her later when she got up to return to her dormitory – and had then been crestfallen, when the young woman she looked up to had told her that she would be returning to work the next week.

 

The next time she saw Lily Potter was a year later, when her face was on the front page of The Daily Prophet after being murdered by Lord Voldemort.

 

Lily Potter had died to protect her only son – and he in turn had given everything to protect wizarding Britain.

 

That was when Hestia decided to do it.

 

It would be her way of saying thank-you to him, to Lily. It was the least he deserved. It would be the best present she could possibly give to the boy who lived.  

 

“Obliviate” Hestia said firmly, waving her wand at Vernon, Petunia and Dudley.

 

They blinked and then seemed to regain themselves.

 

“Well, we best be off now. Lovely meeting you all,” Dedalus chirped, doffing his top hat at the Dursleys. Vernon nodded vacantly. Dudley wished his old video-game partner a safe journey home.  

 

“Thank you again, Doctor Diggle. For all you’ve done for our family,” Petunia said.

 

“Don’t mention it dear!” he replied, giggling to himself at being referred to as a doctor as they made their way towards the front door.

 

“I hope we meet again sometime,” Hestia added. “I’m sure Harry will be in touch once everything has quietened down.”

 

There was a slight pause for a second.

 

Hestia thought maybe they hadn’t heard her, but then the youngest Dursley spoke – and what he said would haunt her until her dying day.

 

“Who’s Harry?” Dudley asked blankly.



Chapter 4: Ron I - Strength & Weakness
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The distant sound of the rooster’s morning cry stirred Ron from his slumber – and then, upon opening his eyes, he was briefly blinded by the piercing light coming from the spring sunrise. He tried his best to fall back to sleep, but the cockerel in the garden’s persistent crowing ruled this out as a feasible option.

 

It was Harry’s fault.

 

He’d been the one who had insisted on keeping the window open. It was stuffy of course – and it was a warm enough night that it made sense to keep it open, but Ron never liked keeping windows open. It meant spiders and other creepy crawlies could sneak in sometimes and give him a fright when he woke.

 

Dean Thomas once told him that muggles reckon you can swallow up to 8 spiders a year whilst you sleep – the thought both simultaneously disgusted and horrified him.

 

He peered over enviously at his best friend who lay comatose, completely unstirred by the commotion in The Burrow’s back-garden.

 

Ron on the other hand hadn’t slept well at all, especially for somebody who had barely got a wink of sleep in several days.

 

The limited sleep that he did get had been plagued by nightmares and horrific flash-blacks of Fred’s cold, dead body. In the dreams where he wasn’t seeing his older brother’s corpse – he would instead see dead versions of Hermione, Harry or the rest of his family.

It was bad enough being awake, but now he couldn’t even find any solace or sleep in the bed he had longed to be back in for months.   

There wasn’t even really anyone Ron could talk to about it.

 

Hermione was sympathetic of course, but he was scared of showing his fragility to her. He already had so many flaws and struggled to understand why she wanted to be with him when she was so perfect in comparison – the last thing he wanted was her thinking he was weak.

 

He couldn’t bring himself to talk to either of his parents – they were both already distraught enough at losing a son, without having to worry about him too.

 

George tried to put a brave face on it, but Ron could tell he was devastated by the loss of his twin. His entire personality had changed now, whilst he was still cracking jokes on a regular basis – they were much darker than they’d ever been before.

 

Percy was out of the question as he’d taken Fred’s death worse than anybody, even George. He not only held himself personally responsible for his brother’s death - since he’d been the one with him at the time, but he was also outraged at how unfair it all was. He’d kept repeating over and over again that it if there was any justice in the world then it would have been him who had died instead, since he was the one who had disowned his family.

 

Ron was far too proud to talk about his demons to his little sister – if anything, he was ashamed by how strong she was, especially compared to him. Ginny seemed as adept at coping with it as Bill or Charlie were.

 

Bill himself was out of the question as he was back at Shell Cottage with Fleur, but Charlie was staying in Bill’s old room. Charlie had always been a hero of Ron’s and he knew he could go to him with anything, but he was too embarrassed at the thought of breaking down in-front of him.

 

Charlie had always been so effortlessly cool, strong and talented and he didn’t want him to take pity on him, or think he was weak. 

 

That just left his best friend. Most people would consider it the most natural thing in the world to talk their problems over with their best friend, but well, most people’s best friend isn’t Harry Potter. To complain about grief to Harry would be like moaning to a werewolf about the struggles of finding a well-paid job.

 

Ron thought he heard some distant muttering coming from the window, but then he heard nothing at all, so guessed he must’ve just imagined it.  

 

“GEROFF ME!! GEROFF!!”

 

The sudden shout from the garden took Ron by surprise. It seemed he hadn’t imagined it after all.

 

He pulled himself up from his bed quickly to look out of the window. It soon became apparent that the shout had most likely come from a gnome that Bill had hurled away from the house. The eldest Weasley sibling now leaned against the side of the house and looked around for something in his jacket pocket, whilst in the distance a gnome scurried away to safety.

 

“Decent job though if you do decide to take it.”

 

The sound of Charlie’s voice caught Ron off guard slightly as he’d assumed Bill had been alone.

 

He guessed that Charlie hadn’t been able to sleep and had been pottering around in the garden or kitchen when Bill had arrived.

 

“Yeah well Fleur certainly wants me to… said I should’ve accepted it on the spot.”

 

Bill took out from his pocket what looked like a packet of muggle cigarettes. He pulled one out and offered it to Charlie, who gladly accepted. Bill reached for another cigarette and put it in his mouth, then he used his wand to light first his brother’s, then his own.

 

They both took a fairly sizeable drag and then exhaled.

 

“I thought she made you quit these?” Charlie probed.

 

“She did,” Bill replied bluntly.  

 

“We both took them back up after the wedding, helps with the stress. They’re not great for your health... but you stop worrying about that so much when you’re not even sure if you’ll make it to the end of the week.”

 

Bill took another long toke, but Charlie simply sighed and run his spare hand through his hair uncomfortably.

 

“I should have been here, man. I was selfish, Bill. Really selfish. I can see that now. I was up all night thinking about it and-

 

“Do yourself a favour and don’t blame yourself, Charlie. You worked long and hard to get the job of your dreams – you would’ve been foolish to throw it away. There’s nothing you could’ve done and-

 

“But look at everything that you have done, Bill! You were there the night Dumbledore died. You were there the night they flew Harry to safety. You took Ron, Harry, Hermione and countless others in at great personal risk at the height of the war. You were there from the start at the battle. If I’d just been there-

 

“There’s nothing you could’ve done, Charlie! Don’t you think we’re all thinking the same thing? Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

 

“But he’s dead, Bill! Our little brother, dead.”

 

What Ron saw next was one of the most peculiar things he’d ever seen in his life. Charlie threw his half-smoked cigarette to the ground, then pulled his hands into his face and… and he started to cry.

 

 It was an almost surreal experience to witness someone who had always displayed unwavering strength reduced to such a state, but Ron took significant solace from it. If it was okay for Charlie to cry, then maybe, just maybe, it was okay for him to not be okay too.

Bill had now also discarded his cigarette and he pulled his younger, yet much bulkier brother in for a hug. He patted Charlie’s back and whispered words of encouragement that Ron couldn’t hear over Charlie’s sobs.

 

“Little Freddie, Bill! Little Fred!” Charlie whimpered and wailed into Bill’s shoulder.

 

Ron couldn’t watch any longer – it was making him want to cry himself, besides that, he felt like it probably wasn’t a moment that he should be witnessing anyway.

 

He shut the window carefully so as not to make any noise, then lay back in bed as his brain raced away with his thoughts. It took no longer than two minutes for him to fall into a deep sleep.  

 


 

Ron awoke some time later to the sound of someone knocking on his door.

 

“Who is it? Door’s unlocked!” he grumbled.

 

The knocking continued.

 

It took a few seconds for him to realise, but Ron then noticed that the noise wasn’t coming from his door after all – it was coming from the window.

 

There was a big, brown owl with piercing green eyes and funny looking ears who was persistently tapping its beak against his window.

 

He’d never seen the owl before and had no idea who it was that was sending him post.

 

As he opened the window he heard Harry stir.

 

“W’as tha’ noise?” he murmured.

 

The owl wasted no time in hurtling its way into the room. Ron had to duck out of its way as it flew straight at him whilst hooting aggressively.

 

“I think I’ve got some post, mate,” Ron replied.

 

The little brown beast swerved straight over Ron’s head, then flung its letter very flamboyantly onto Harry’s bed.

 

“Oh. Maybe it’s for you.”

 

Harry barely even acknowledged that a letter had landed on him. This was a grave mistake, as the funny-eared owl dive-bombed onto his face and started pecking.

 

“OWWWW!!!!”

 

“Bloody hell!” Ron exclaimed, before grabbing a leftover sausage that Harry hadn’t finished from his dinner last night.

 

“Maybe he’s just hungry,” Ron mused as he seized the owl’s attention and motioned for it to come and eat the sausage. Its eyes lit up and it hooted madly before darting at him and snatching the sausage out of his hands with its beak.

 

Harry had grumpily reached for his glasses and began sitting up.

 

“I hope you weren’t planning on eating that, mate. The little monster’s gobbled it down already!”

 

“I think the only person I’ve seen eat a sausage that quick before is you,” Harry joked as he ripped open the envelope.

 

The owl was hooting loudly once again. Ron presumed it was after some more food, which was a big problem, as they didn’t have any more.

 

“Who’s the letter from?” Ron asked nosily.

 

“It’s from Hestia. She says her and Dedalus have gotten the Dursleys back home safe.”

 

“Well that’s great news!” Ron said sarcastically, as he noted the deranged little owl was now nibbling at some of Harry’s discarded socks.

 

“My uncle had a heart-attack whilst they were in hiding,” Harry noted curiously.

 

“Bloody hell! Did the old git cop it?”

 

“Nope. Dedalus managed to save him and oh…”

 

“What is it?” Ron asked, wondering what caused the sudden pause and change of tone in his best friend’s voice.  

 

“Hestia says something went wrong when she wiped their memories of any knowledge of magic.”

 

“What happened? They’ve not forgotten who they are like our old pal Lockhart, have they?”

 

“No. Not quite. They forgot all about magic, but they also forgot about...well, me. Hestia says they’ve got no recollection of me existing whatsoever,” Harry said dumbstruck, re-reading the letter to make sure he’d got it correct.

 

“Blimey!” Ron exclaimed. “All those happy memories of you, gone, just like that!”

 

“Dudley did say he didn’t think I was a waste of space when we said goodbye,” Harry mused.

 

“Would you have even seen much of them anyway? Might save you a few awkward visits over the years.”

 

“Yeah. Yeah I suppose you’re right. Oh. Oh no! Oh dear...”

 

“What is it?” Ron asked nervously.

 

“Well it seems that Hestia felt really bad about making them forget I existed. So much so that she’s bought me a present to say sorry.”

 

“That’s funny. He just had the letter when he flew in,” Ron pondered, looking down at the owl which had now moved on to a pair of Harry’s trousers. “You don’t think she bought you some sweets or chocolate, do you? Maybe that little savage ate it on the way here!”

 

“No. No see that’s the problem Ron. That little savage IS the present!”

 

“What?! You’re joking!” Ron laughed.

 

“She said she heard about Hedwig dying and thought I could do with a new owl.”

 

“Bloody hell! She's certainly picked you out a nice one... what’s his name?” Ron queried.

 

“She didn’t say anything about him having a name, just that he’s from the Canary Islands and was the owl in the shop with the most character.”

 

“Well he’s certainly got some of that!” quipped Ron. “What are you gonna call him?”

 

“Hmm,” Harry pondered. “I think... I think I’ll call him Dudley.”

 

“After your cousin?!”

 

“Yeah. I think-

 

“Why would you name an owl after that prat? All he ever did was-

 

“Gorge himself on food and attack me,” Harry said sassily, looking down at the owl with a funny expression on his face.

 

Ron laughed.

 

“I hope you never get to name your kids, mate.”  

 


 

It was a warm spring evening, which was just as well, since if it hadn’t have been The Burrow would’ve been very cramped with all of the guests huddling inside of it.

 

It had taken Ron and Harry a good while to make their way through the house and out into the garden.

 

They’d first been stopped by a very excited Dedalus Diggle, who excused himself from his conversation with Elphias Doge and Neville’s grandmother to come running over and shake all of their hands.

 

The silly old wizard had then spent the best part of five minutes reciting ‘hilarious’ tales of his time with the Dursleys. As Ron drifted in and out of listening to him he had overheard Augusta Longbottom, who was loudly boasting about how the Minister for Magic himself was headhunting her grandson to be an Auror, just like his father.

 

Ron eventually managed to slip away as he saw Hermione for the first time in an over an hour. He was pleased to see her and have the chance to talk, as she’d been very quiet and distant since they returned to the Burrow, but then Hermione had noticed Professor McGonagall on the other side of the house, chatting to his Mum, who seemed pretty pleased about something.

 

Hermione had immediately ushered Ron to join them with her to discuss the completion of their education, but he saw little point in tagging along as he had absolutely no intention of returning to Hogwarts. He wasn’t averse to letting his former Head of House and newly reinstated Headmistress know this, but he certainly wasn’t going to do it whilst his mother was in earshot.

 

Harry had eventually managed to wiggle away from Diggle, but just as he’d reached Ron again he had been cornered by an extremely apologetic Hestia Jones. It took Harry several minutes of insisting he didn’t hold any grudge, before she then broke down in tears over Tonks’ death and hugged Harry very tightly. She then returned to the sofa, where she’d been sitting with Bill, Charlie and Sturgis Podmore.    

 

Just as Ron thought they were in the clear they ran into Aunt Muriel. Ron had been very surprised to see her face lit up when she saw him, but it soon became apparent that this was only due to her delight at finally meeting Harry.

 

Muriel took off her hat and offered her sincere gratitude to Harry, even kissing him on the cheek – Ron had only ever seen her do that to Bill before. She then muttered a monotone well done to Ron, then gave him a feint pat on the back before scurrying off to the kitchen, which left Ron and Harry to finally escape outside.

 

“Honestly. You’d have thought you were the one related to her!” Ron sneered as the cool evening breeze ambushed his unkempt hair.  

 

“I’d happily swap that kiss on the cheek for your pat on the back any day,” Harry replied smiling. “Say, what do you think Hermione was talking to Professor McGo… Minerva about?”

 

 “She wants to do all of her N.E.W.T.S. next year doesn’t she?” Ron replied, as if it was the most obvious question anyone had ever asked him.

 

“Oh. She’s serious? I know she was talking about it, but I thought, well with Kingsley offering us all jobs and all, it seemed a bit, well…” Harry seemed to be hedging, as if he didn’t quite want to say what he was thinking.

 

“Pointless?” Ron queried.

 

“Yeah,” Harry concurred.

 

“Yeah well I thought that when she first mentioned it, but I suppose it makes sense really doesn’t it?”

 

“Does it?” Harry asked, sounding very confused.

 

“You’ve got to look at it through Hermione’s shoes, mate. She’s spent all these years studying and slaving away in the library. If she doesn’t finish school and get all of her N.E.W.T.S then she’s got nothing to show for it, has she?”

 

“Nothing to show it for it?” Harry responded, utterly bewildered. “Nothing to show for it?” he repeated, almost outraged.

 

“Again, from her shoes mate. Her mind works differently to yours or mine. I think she’d feel like it was all a waste if she never graduated. Completely barmy of course. Helped take down the most evil wizard of all time and has the Minister for Magic practically begging her to take a job, but well, I think it might be good for her in a way.”

 

“You think?”

 

“Yeah, well, I think the last year or so has taken its toll on her. She hides it well, but she struggled a lot with stress and anxiety in the last year. And she still has nightmares from when Bellatrix tortured her. I think getting back to a steady routine will help her out. She’s at her happiest when she’s studying in the library isn’t she?”

 

“True,” Harry agreed. “She’ll have Ginny and Luna too, won’t she? So she won’t miss us too much.”

 

“I bloody well hope she misses me!” Ron snapped. Harry chuckled as he gave Ron a knowing smile.

 

“I don’t really know what’s got into her the last day or so though. She’s barely come out of Ginny’s room,” Ron said sadly.

 

“I’m sure she’s just glad it’s all over. Like you said… it must’ve all just taken its toll on her,” Harry replied. Ron was very grateful to be reassured that it was nothing to worry about.

 

He thought he spotted Neville in the distance having a conversation with Luna and Ginny, but Harry didn’t seem to notice and instead started walking towards George, Percy and Lee Jordan, who were all sitting on some garden chairs with some drinks.

 

“You should take it Perce,” they heard George say, before he took another swig from his bottle of beer. “It will do you good to be back at work. Keep your mind off things. I’m sure you’ll love being back in the swing of things. ”

 

The trio all acknowledged Ron and Harry’s arrival. Lee reached into a bucket filled with ice and passed them a bottle of beer each, noted that they were the last bottles left, before swishing his wand which removed the two lids.

 

“Cheers Lee,” Ron said, before taking a gulp. He’d never tried an alcoholic beer before and his face grimaced at the unfamiliar taste.  

  

“But what about you and your shop? I’m more than happy to give you a hand if you want the-

 

“It’s fine, honestly,” George stated firmly, interrupting Percy. “Lee’s gonna give me a hand whilst he’s still setting up stuff with his radio business.”

 

“I’ll look after him, don’t worry!” Lee added with a smile, clinking his beer bottle with George’s.  

 

“What job’s that then, Percy? Kingsley asked you to be an Auror too has he?” Ron asked.

 

“HA!” George exclaimed. “They’re not that desperate!” he chuckled.

 

Ron couldn’t prevent himself from letting out a slight laugh himself. Percy grimaced at first, looking quite offended, but he then smiled slightly, perhaps just pleased to see George somewhat resembling his old self again.

 

“Good one, George,” he sniggered.  “And no Ron, not quite. Kingsley’s asked me to go back to the Department of International Magical Cooperation. He wants me to head up an operation to try and convince talented foreign witches and wizards to come and work at the Ministry. It all sounds quite important really. He said he’s even managed to talk someone very exciting out of retirement to go along with me to help sell it. I’ve got a hunch that it’s Newt Scamander. He just had that new book out and-

 

“Why would one of the most talented and well-travelled wizards of the last century sign up to go gallivanting around the world on Ministry business with YOU Perce?!” George chuckled. “I’ve told you. He’s gonna stick you with Fudge, anything to get that daft berk out of the country and out of the way.”

 

Percy raised his eyebrow and grumbled silently under his breath.

 

“Why is it Kingsley needs any one to go?” Harry asked. “To convince witches and wizards from abroad to join the Ministry I mean.”

 

“Well it’s just, a lot of very talented and experienced Ministry staff were lost or injured in the war,” Percy began. “And many who did survive are now awaiting trial or have been arrested.”

 

“There’s been arrests?” Harry blurted out before Ron had the chance.

 

“Oh yes,” Percy began, with a grave look on face. “Gawain Robards led a team which arrested a lot of the worst offenders yesterday.

 

Most of them just turned up at work as normal, so it wasn’t that hard. Runcorn, Hopkirk – Umbridge too.”

 

Ron shared a look of shock with Harry, who looked quite please at that last one.

 

“The trouble is,” Percy mumbled. “They’ve all been arrested for following orders. Terrible ones of course and some of the stuff they did is unforgiveable. But I can’t help thinking, well… I was working there and following orders too, wasn’t I? If they’re all in a cell then I deserve to be there with them. I told Kingsley as much. I-

 

“You’re talking bollocks, Perce,” George scolded. “What was it you said? You ended up in the Department of Transportation after they killed Scrimgeour? Keeping tabs on the Floo Network and illegal Portkeys is hardly the same thing as rounding up the muggle-borns or doing the Death Eater’s dirty work for them.”

 

“George is right,” Ron added firmly in defence of his brother. “Besides, you came back to our side when it mattered. Right, Harry?”

 

“Right!” Harry agreed strongly.

 

“That’s settled then!” George said smugly. “If you’re alright with The Chosen One, then you’re alright with me,” he concluded, before draining what remained of his bottle and hurtling it in the direction of a watching gnome in the distance. The bottle smashed, George cheered loudly and the gnome scampered away swearing.

 

Harry had been spotted by Ginny in the distance and she motioned for him to come and join her little posse. He excused himself before walking over to join her, Luna and Neville.  

 

“Right I’m all out. I’ll be right back,” George said, before pulling his wand out of his pocket.

 

“GEORGE!” Percy barked at him. “At least 10 percent of all splinching incidents occur after alcohol consumption. Don’t even think about it!”

 

 “Honesty Perce, you’re worse than Mum!” George sighed. “Fine. Don’t suppose you fancy popping to the shed to get your dear brother another beer, Ronnikins?” he asked cheekily, looking over to Ron. “Just make sure you don’t pick me up a Foster’s. Awful stuff. Tastes like rat piss,” he added.

 

“Don’t listen to him,” Lee chirped. “Foster’s is definitely the best one. Feel free to take one from my crate in there if you fancy it, Ron.”

Ron thanked Lee, stood up and began to walk over to the shed. He’d only had one beer himself, but Percy triggering the memory of his own horrific splinching was enough to put him off from apparating.

 

“Make sure mine’s a Heineken!” George shouted. “Get Percy another one too. He’s been nursing this one for half an hour! He might lighten up if he has some more!”

 

“How did you even get into muggle beer anyway?” Ron heard Percy ask.

 

“Went into hiding in a muggle village when we were broadcasting Potterwatch…” Lee began, before the conversation was fully out of earshot for Ron.

 

George and Percy had been in better spirits than he’d imagined they might’ve been, but he supposed that might just be the alcohol. He hoped that a few more wouldn’t sour their moods.

 

As he reached the edge of the shed he noticed some quiet voices coming from inside it. His first thought was that some of the gnomes might have sneaked inside, but he soon realized that it was actually just two people whispering to each other. He carefully pushed the door open just far enough that he’d be able to hear who it was.

 

“Just think about it, Arthur,” he heard Kingsley murmur.

 

“You know I couldn’t possibly accept such a position!”

 

Ron was surprised by the firmness and slight anger in his Dad’s voice.

 

“I need people by my side that I can trust. I trust you more than anyone. Thus it is only natural that I would-

 

“I will not accept a high-level promotion purely out of nepotism, Kingsley. It’s not right. I simply couldn’t-

 

Ron’s grip on the shed door suddenly slipped and he stumbled forward into the light, which alerted Kingsley and his Dad to his presence.

 

“Sorry!” he blurted quickly. “Didn’t mean to interrupt. George sent me to get some more beer, have you seen it?”

 

“Ah err yes. Yes I think it’s just over there,” his Dad said, pointing towards a big black cauldron which George and Lee must have filled with cans and bottles of beer.

 

“Muggle beer is that?” Kingsley said sounding interested. Ron nodded. “Never really got with the taste myself. Gin on the other hand, well that’s a different story. Developed a real taste for that when I was shadowing the Muggle Prime Minister. They were stressful times. He practically ran on the stuff.”

 

Ron slipped past his Dad and rummaged through the cauldron looking for the Heineken that George was after.

 

“I’m surprised you haven’t taken it up yourself yet,” Ron’s dad replied.

 

 Kingsley chuckled a little.

 

“Check back with me by the end of the week. And you Ron,” Kingsley said, turning to face him now.

 

“Have you given any thought to your prospective career at the Ministry?”

 

“Yeah…Yeah I have. I want to do it,” Ron said with a slight hesitation in his voice. He glanced at his Dad who showed no signs of discouragement or disappointment. 

 

“Excellent! When you’re ready to start…you’ll make a fine Auror, my boy,” Kingsley roared, before reaching out and giving Ron a very firm handshake. Ron felt a bit of pride at being addressed by Kingsley like that, as usually he only reserved ‘my boy’ for Harry.  

 

“Harry’s very keen to join of course,” Kingsley started. “Minerva told me he’s wanted to be an Auror since he was 15. Same for you was it?”

 

“Yes!” Ron lied.

 

If he was honest, he’d never really given much thought to future employment opportunities. When he was much younger his only aspiration was to be seeker for the Chudley Cannons. He’d often daydream of catching the snitch that won them their first league title for one hundred years.

 

But in reality he hated the pre-match nerves and stress of even playing in the House Cup at school – he would never be able to cope in a professional match, which was just as well as he wasn’t good enough to play at that level anyway.

 

“What about Hermione? She seems less keen on a job at the Ministry than you and Harry,” Kingsley mused. “I’m sure you of all people would know the reason for this?” he added with a very obvious wink. Ron’s dad laughed slightly.

 

“Well I think she wants to go back to school and finish her N.E.W.T.S,” he replied.

 

“Yes, she said as much to me earlier tonight. But she even turned me down when I offered her a temporarily placement for a few months before school starts up again. I suppose if anyone’s deserving of a break it’s you kids. But it seemed odd with you and Harry so keen to jump back into it.”

 

“I can’t say I blame her,” Arthur chipped in. “She’s probably just looking forward to spending some time with her family.”

 

The realisation suddenly hit Ron. His mind ran into overdrive so fast that he momentarily blanked out the conversation around him.

Ron’s thoughts were then interrupted by the sound of a man shouting outside.

 

“MISTER SHACKLEBOLT!! MISTER SHACKLEBOLT!”

 

Kingsley quickly bolted past Ron and flung open the shed door. It seemed somewhat of a scene had gathered outside, with many of the guests now staring curiously at Kingsley’s frantic and exhausted looking assistant. 

 

“Ah! There you are, sir,” Basil began, breathing heavily with sweat dripping off his face. “Mr Robards said they’ve done it, sir. They got him!”

 

“Thanks Basil,” Kingsley said urgently. “It seems I’ll be bidding you goodnight, Arthur. It looks like we’ve caught ourselves a crab.”



Chapter 5: Andromeda II - Wotcher!
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Andromeda shuffled down the street with Teddy as quickly as she could.

 

It had started spitting, which was something she hadn’t counted on when she’d left the house just ten minutes ago. It looked like it was going to be a nice spring day, with the sun shining and barely a cloud in the sky, but then the sun had cowered behind one of those clouds and now it looked as though the heavens may open. 

 

This was the trouble with travelling the muggle way. You didn’t have to worry about taking an extra coat or umbrella if you were using the Floo network or apparating. Andromeda couldn’t fathom how the muggles managed to cope with the unpredictability of the weather. You’d probably be alright if you lived in a place that was perpetually cold or hot, but not in Britain where the weather seemed to change on a complete whim whenever it fancied it.

 

Andromeda couldn’t see much of the pavement that she was walking on as Teddy was held tight to her waist in his blue baby sling, which meant he took up most of her peripheral vision. This was a particularly large risk as they were walking the streets of Fratton, which quite possibly has the largest ratio of dog-shit to pavement in all of England.

 

If avoiding dog-poo wasn’t enough of a challenge in itself – Andromeda also had to navigate the absolutely bewildering road system. There were some stretches of pavement on the way to Fratton Station where when crossing a road, or merely just from pavement to pavement - you would have four different directions of oncoming traffic potentially coming at you!

 

 Andromeda struggled to understand the way muggle roads worked at the best of times, but Portsmouth was by far and away the most difficult. Ted had always said that if you could learn to drive in Fratton you could work out how to drive anywhere. Nymphadora had never had the patience for it and had much preferred apparating everywhere once she was of age.  

 

Andromeda caught a slight glimpse of the train approaching in the distance. The platform was pretty busy with lots of families bustling here, there and everywhere. The red and blue train sauntering into the station almost resembled a sliced-open Battenberg, with the front of it dead flat and the rest of it sort of curving out.

 

Ted always said the modern electric locomotive trains were a wonderful feat of British engineering, but looking at the industrial, ugly train as it approached the platform – well, it certainly lacked the glamour and pizzazz of the Hogwarts Express.  

 

The journey that they’d be taking would probably take them the best part of four hours, with their initial train to Waterloo clocking in half of that time. There was something about being on muggle trains that Andromeda found quite relaxing and enjoyable, perhaps it was just the nostalgia of those long journeys to school when she was younger.

 

In truth, Andromeda was just glad to be out of the house. It was a chance to get some fresh air and to be around lots of people, even if those people were only there for a passing moment. She’d been cooped up in that house for almost a year in hiding and barely seen more than a handful of people in that time – and half of the people she had seen had been there solely to torture her.   

 

The time on the London bound train flew by and before she knew it they’d gone right through the Hampshire countryside and into Guildford, before eventually docking into Waterloo. The station was absolutely heaving with people and Andromeda struggled to work out where exactly they were meant to be going, but eventually a kind station guard directed her to the Jubilee underground line, which would take them to West Ham where they could make their connecting train.

 

It wasn’t her first foray on the London underground as she’d travelled on it many times with her late husband, but it was her first time along and she felt quite uncomfortable. The tube was jam-packed with foreign tourists and Andromeda could barely even fit on the carriage when she first got on.

 

The one silver lining of travelling with Teddy was that almost immediately a tall, bald man wearing a white t-shirt that read “ATLANTA 96” offered his seat to her. Andromeda thanked the man and noticed that the 5 multi-coloured rings on his shirt very much looked like Quidditch hoops, but she quickly learned that he was definitely a muggle when she saw him reach for his portable telephone and start talking into it.

 

It took a lot of sweat and a few tears from Teddy, but it wasn’t too long before they found themselves on the C2C train heading to Southend. Andromeda was very thankful when a dark skinned man offered up his seat to her and she stared out of the window as the train departed the East-London platform. It had been an early start for the both of them and Teddy soon nodded off in her lap – and it wasn’t long before Andromeda herself followed suit.

 


 

The foul stench of warm beer engulfed Andromeda as she made her way into the dingy lit pub. It was awfully humid at the best of times, but in the July heat it was unbearable. The Leaky Cauldron was more or less empty, save for a few middle-aged wizards who she expected scarcely left the place. The barkeep nodded in acknowledgement at her.

 

“What can I get ya?” he asked, as he smiled Andromeda noticed that more than a few of his teeth were missing.

 

“Oh. Sorry. I am just meeting a friend-

 

“JUST MEETING A FRIEND?!”

 

Ted’s booming voice gave her a shock. She hadn’t noticed him at all when she’d walked in. Andromeda absent-mindedly reached to sort out her hair, but then she stopped herself when she noticed what she was doing.

 

“Sorry Quincy, won’t be stopping for a drink today,” Ted said to the landlord. “Make sure you save some of that Weizenbier though. I’ll be back in with Dirk next week no doubt!” 

 

“Look forward to seeing you, Ted. Can’t promise I’ll still have any left tho’, popular stuff that, them Bavarian goblins sure know how to brew a beer!”

 

“That they do,” Ted quipped, as he reached out for Andromeda’s hand.

 

“Come on, ‘Dromeda, not got all day,” he said as he guided her towards the exit that faced into the muggle street.

 

“I am still not sure that I approve of that nickname,” Andromeda noted to him.

 

“Well I’m not sure that I approve of that purple cloak you’ve got on!” he cracked back at her. “You can’t go prancing around Southend in that in the dead of summer!”

 

Andromeda’s heart stopped.

 

“But you said…you promised that you would bring me a muggle dress to wear, Ted!”

 

She couldn’t believe it. She was going to look like an absolute idiot. The muggles would all be staring at her.

 

“Oh bugger! I did, didn’t I?” Ted said as a very serious and guilty look swamped his face.

 

Andromeda was crestfallen. It was the first time she was going to meet Ted’s parents and she was so very desperate to make a good first impression.

 

“I will look like such a fool, Ted.”

 

“You would indeed… it’s just as well I didn’t forget to bring you a dress then, isn’t it?” he chortled, before laughing loudly at her.

Andromeda felt her blood boiling. She hit him playfully on the arm over his denim jacket.  

 

“Ted Tonks! You are such a... such a…

 

“Devilishly good looking quick-witted chap?” he quipped, before grabbing her gently by the waist as she went to hit him again. She saw his green eyes smiling at her, before he closed them and kissed her softly on the lips like he’d done on many occasions over the last few months.

 

“I was going to say scoundrel,” she said at the end of their brief embrace.

 

“Scoundrel’s good too,” Ted replied with a grin on his face, before he began crossing the road.

 

“Where are you… that sign over there says the nearest train station is that way. I thought you said that we were going to get there the muggle way?” Andromeda asked, pointing in the complete opposite way to where Ted had begun walking.

 

Ted smirked.

 

“We are getting there the muggle way. No trains though!” he said, as he continued to stroll down the street, before stopping abruptly in-front of a red car. He slapped his hand on the bonnet. “What’d you reckon then, Drom? Nice motor, ain’t it?”

 

Andromeda felt a lump in her throat. “You. You cannot mean that… that

 

“Ford Cortina Mark II. Finest piece of totty to ever come out ah’ Dagenham. Brand new. Or so me old man said. Surprise present for me 17th birthday. I told him not to of course. Soon enough be able to apparate everywhere anyway, but he insisted on getting me a car. Could hardly turn him down could I?”

 

Ted reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a pair of keys, then put them into the door on the left hand side and opened it, indicating for her to get in.

 

“Come on, ‘Dromeda. I told Mum and Dad we’d be there at one!”

 

“But Ted. Travelling by train is one thing, but in a… in a car?”

 

“You’re not scared are ya?!” he asked incredulously. She was. She was very scared indeed.

 

She had read all about the muggle contraptions which were widely considered death-traps with wheels. The Daily Prophet was always reporting on new stories of witches and wizards narrowly avoiding getting run over and such forth. Muggles were awful at driving them, far worse than even the clumsiest of broom riders or carpet flyers – and there was a flying carpet crash or incident at least once a fortnight. In some circles there were even murmurs that the Ministry should put an outright ban on them.  

 

“You’re welcome to get the train if you want, love. Good luck getting there without me though!”

 

Andromeda huffed and puffed, but eventually relented and got in the passenger side. The inside of the car was one of the most confusing things she had ever encountered. There must have been almost a dozen different nobbles in the car, with numerous symbols and numbers that made absolutely no sense to her whatsoever.

 

Ted got in on the driver’s side and after a brief look at a map he revved the engine, thus beginning her first of many forays in muggle vehicles.

 


 

 

Andromeda was starting to regret her decision not to just get changed in the back of Ted’s car – he had promised to get out and not to look and it wasn’t that she didn’t trust him, but she felt embarrassed getting undressed in the back seat of a car.

 

The smell of fried meat and pancakes wafted in from the Little Chef restaurant and flooded the humid cubicle. It was one of those moments where you questioned everything that had happened in your life to lead up to that moment. She was getting changed into a loud muggle dress in a dingy toilet cubicle in a muggle service station, which was a weird sort of complex of petrol stations, toilets and restaurants which were strategically stationed at various parts of the muggle motorways.

 

It seemed quite sad that such was the struggle of transportation for muggles - that whole businesses operated around them having to stop for food or toilet breaks in the middle of travelling somewhere. You didn’t need to stop for a toilet break when getting a port key or using the Floo network – that’s for sure!

 

Andromeda opened the door after squeezing into the dress and stared at herself in the mirror by the sinks. It was almost like an out of body experience. She was certain that the person looking back at her was herself, but at the same time she knew that it simply couldn’t be. The muggle dress that Ted had picked out for her to wear made her look, well, like a muggle.

 

The dress, which Ted had quipped was “Slytherin green” was in-fact a much brighter green than Salazar’s favoured dark emerald. It was a very bright green, like the zest of a lime, with a bright white trim around the collar and the bottom of the sleeves – it almost made her feel like a key-lime pie. It was a far brighter shade of fabric than Andromeda would ever willingly wear, but perhaps what was the most disconcerting was how short a cut the dress was. It fell a few inches above her knee, which, especially given her lack of tights, by her Mother’s strict standards was nothing short of scandalous.

 

She stared into the mirror expecting, or maybe just hoping that eventually she would feel a bit better about herself, when suddenly a stranger tapped her on the shoulder.

 

“Oh my god I love your dress, hun! You look rocking, girl! Where did you get it?” said the muggle woman, who Andromeda guessed was roughly her own age, if not a few years older. She had fair skin, with even fairer hair and was wearing the wackiest dress Andromeda had ever seen. It was purple, but it was also orange and red and yellow – it was enough to give you a headache just looking at it.

 

“Sorry I err… it was a present, from a friend, you see,” Andromeda said nervously, wondering what her Mother would think if she knew she was talking to not just a muggle-born wizard, but a proper full-on muggle girl.  

 

“Ah, well you tell that friend they have great taste! Say, sorry if I’m wrong, but you look fairly liberal with a dress that short. Here, take a flyer!”

 

Andromeda took the leaflet, mumbled a slight thanks and looked down and it as the stranger scurried away.

 

OUR BODY – OUR CHOICE!     

 

On the 27th October our elected politicians will make a decision on whether WE have the right to legal abortion.

 

We’re marching in London on SUNDAY JULY 30TH

 

Will you be there? Remember – WE SPOKE out about the right to contraception and THEY HAD to listen!

 

Make sure YOUR VOICE IS HEARD!

 

Andromeda really wasn’t sure on what the general consensus of contraception and abortions was in muggle quarters.

 

Contraception was easy enough – it was a simple spell that was readily available and easy to learn for any teenage wizard worth his salt. It had been around for centuries and whilst it was a little controversial – the vast majority of the pureblood men and politicians who opposed it were all likely using it and cheating on their wives anyway.

 

Abortion though, well, it was fair to say that certainly was a bit of a taboo subject in the Wizarding world, especially among pureblood families.

 

It was quite difficult for a lot of pure-bloods to get pregnant in the first place these days, which her mother put down to inbreeding – and in years gone by she had never missed an opportunity to make snide remarks about her sister-in-law, their Aunt Walburga, who had married her cousin, Uncle Orion.

 

In the more recent history however, her Mother liked to keep a low profile at Black family gatherings. It was one thing to have married your cousin, but it was another thing altogether to have the shame of your firstborn daughter having an abortion at 16.

 

It was never publicly revealed which Slytherin boy had impregnated her sister, but Andromeda certainly had a few candidates in mind. It was probably Yaxley – that was certainly the most popular rumour, but there was no guarantee that it wasn’t Lucius or even Thorfinn Rowle.

 

Andromeda even suspected that such was Bellatix’s promiscuity that perhaps even she herself did not know who it had been. But what she had known was fury like nothing she had seen before. Their mother had been incredulous – and their father, well, Andromeda had never before seen him so disgusted at someone who wasn’t a muggle or a blood traitor.

 

“Wow! Look at you! Barely even recognized you and what’s that, have you grown legs? Consider me impressed,” said Ted, as he smirked. He hid it well, but Andromeda did not fail to notice his eyes lingering on her legs for longer than a momentary glance.

“I shall take that as a compliment,” Andromeda said, biting her lip as she got back into the car.

 

“Imagine what your family would say if they could see you right now! Where did you tell them you were going today?” Ted asked as he drank from his bottle of Tizer.

 

“I told Mother I was meeting a friend, not a lie by any means. I told Cissy where I was really going and who I was really meeting though of course.”

 

“You’re gonna be in the right shit if you ever fall out with her! The stuff she’s got on you…”

 

“Why would we ever fall out? She is my little sister! We tell each other everything Ted, we always have done. You know what Bellatrix is like. Cissy and I always had to stick together! I am not sure that she entirely approves of our err… courting… but she would never tell Mother, Father or Bellatrix about it. Besides, like I said, she tells me everything too. I know all about her little love affair with Fabian Prewett.”

 

“Well, if you’re sure you can trust her,” Ted said nonchalantly as he turned on the car radio and flickered around with it a bit.

 

A slow, brooding guitar melody got under way, before the thundering sound of crashing upbeat drums kicked in.

 

“Well that’s ironic. Fitting song for us, I reckon,” Ted remarked.

 

I SEE A RED DOOR AND I WANT IT PAINTED BLACK

 

NO COLOURS ANYMORE I WANT THEM TO TURN BLACK

 

I SEE THE GIRLS WALK BY DRESSED IN THEIR SUMMER CLOTHES

 

I HAVE TO TURN MY HEAD UNTIL MY DARKNESS GOES

 

“Cracking band, The Stones,” he said, strumming one hand on the dashboard. “Got nicked on drugs charges the other week too, helluva story that. Imagine that. Laying in ya’ cell and Keith Richards and Mick bloody Jagger walk in. Christ.”

 

“Drugs charges?” Andromeda asked. “I do not understand.”

 

“Drugs are illegal substances. You can get arrested for buying or selling them on. Not too sure I can think of a wizarding equivalent.”

 

“What do these drugs do exactly if they are illegal?”

 

“Well, some of them are a bit like alcohol I s’pose. Bring you up, take you down. You know liquid luck, right?”

 

“Well, I have read about it, yes.”

 

“Yeah, exactly, read about it. Incredibly rare. Incredibly expensive stuff. Even a posh young witch like you’s nevva come by any…”

Andromeda flushed slightly at being called a “posh” witch.

 

“Right so with these drugs though, you can get a similar experience to Liquid Luck for what the average man earns in a few hours work. A lot of people just do them casually for a bit of fun now and then, but some people get proper addicted to some of them. End up ruining their lives over ‘em.”

 

“Oh. That sounds awful,” sighed Andromeda.     

 

“Yeah,” agreed Ted. “But the old bill only went and busted Keith’s gaff didn’t they? They turned up at the house and found everyone high as a kite! Caught Jagger with a bit of speed, not that bad really. Charged Keith for letting people smoke cannabis in his house, what a load of nonsense. Harmless stuff that is” he said, shaking his head and looking annoyed, then he started laughing. “That’s not the best bit though! You know how the plod reckon they know they were all high? Well, they reckon that Jagger’s missus was wearing nothing but a fur rug when they turned up. A fur rug, ha-ha can you imagine them walking in and finding that?”

“That does sound like quite the shock. That poor girl,”

 

“They’ve got to be careful though, they have. Newspaper reckons that one of the other guys there, not in the band, just some random toff, well they reckon this bloke had a load of heroin on him. That’s proper dodgy stuff that is.”

 

“It is?” Andromeda asked curiously. “What is it?”

 

“Proper nasty stuff. One of the most addictive drugs out there. You ever see a homeless person off their rocker, they’re probably on smack. Ruins lives that stuff does. You get someone hooked on that – they’ll do just about anything for you to get another hit of it.”

 


 

Southend High Street was in many ways much like Diagon Alley. There was a vast array of smells, sounds and sights to ensnare one’s senses, with an endless stream of adults and children alike bustling around all of the shops. Whilst it was alike in that sort of sense – it was also in just as many ways completely different, it was almost like being on another planet, such was the contrast.

 

“There ya go!” Ted said, as he thrust a strange, yellow ice cream which had what looked almost like a little brown stick pointing out of the middle into her hand.

 

“Thank you, but err, what is it may I ask?” she enquired.

 

“That is the finest ice cream you’ll get in the country, love. Lemon ice. It’s sort of like a mixture between ice cream and sorbet. Rossi’s finest! With a chocolate flake, Cadbury’s of course! No idea why they call it a 99 though, they’re only a half crown each. Could buy like 8 of them for a pound.”

 

Andromeda took a slight lick, then a nibble and she did have to admit it was very nice indeed, although in the summer heat she found it was melting rather rapidly.

 

“I will never understand muggle money,” she sighed.

 

“Probably for the best anyway. Rumour is they’re getting rid of half crowns soon anyway! Mental if you ask me,” he snorted indignantly.

 

“Right well,” he pondered whilst looking out into the crowd of people ahead of them, whilst intermittently slurping big chunks of his own lemon ice. “Dad said they’d meet us outside Keddies at 1 o clock. Now by my watch that should be just about…

 

“Wotcher!”

 

Andromeda jumped slightly as Ted’s father popped out from out of nowhere and slapped his hand on Ted’s shoulder. He was slightly shorter than his son, as well as slightly rounder, but there was certainly a strong resemblance there. At a guess she would have said he was about 40.

 

“Alright, Dad!” Ted hollered, as he embraced his father warmly, being careful not to spill any of his ice cream on his father’s shirt. Andromeda had now spotted a slightly younger and slightly slender looking women, with dark brown hair standing alongside Ted’s father, who she assumed was Ted’s mother.

 

“Mum, Dad, meet Andromeda…”

 

“Wotcher,” his Dad said to Andromeda, as he pulled out his big hand and gave hers a firm shake. Andomeda offered a faint hello in reply. “Robert Tonks. But everyone calls me Bobby. This is my wife, Agata…”

 

“It is pleasure to meet you, Andromeda,” she said, in a vaguely Eastern European accent that Andromeda could not quite pick out.

 

“Teddy has told us so much about you. You are even more beautiful than he said you were.”

 

Andromeda flushed slightly at the thought of him telling his parents that he thought she was beautiful. She had to think fast to deflect away from it.

 

“Teddy?” Andromeda asked sarcastically at Ted. She had never heard of him being used by that name before. He blushed slightly. Ted’s father ushered them to start walking north and they continued their conversation as they trekked through the high-street.  

 

“I call him Teddy ever since he was little boy. He was Mummy’s little teddy bear,” Agata teased gently. Ted shot her a hideous look filled with embarrassment.  

 

“Oh don’t you worry, Andromeda. I’m sure there’s plenty more he’s kept quiet from you. We’ll fill you in on all of the secrets!” Robert said, winking once at Andromeda and then at Ted, who shot him a look that was halfway between anger and fear. “I hope that ice cream’s all you’ve eaten, Ted. Corr. Me and your mother taking you out for lunch with your missus and you’re on the ice creams already! What are ya like ehh, son?”

 

“You know what they say, Dad. Like father, like son!” Ted shot back.

 

“You calling your old man fat?” Robert scoffed incredulously.

 

“I’m not callin’ you skinny!” Ted joked.

 

“Bloody cheek! ‘Ere Andromeda he’s only showing off cause you’re here. Bet your parents don’t let you talk back to them like that, ehh?” Robert said, sneering at his son.

 

“Well… err no. Not quite,” she replied.

 

Ted and his father seemed to be exchanging in good natured banter, not uncommon to see between fellow pureblood students, but the idea of a parent and son or daughter talking to each other like that was a very alien concept to her. The Black family were all about respect, well, when Bellatrix wasn’t involved she supposed.

 

“Do you like seafood, Andromeda?” Agata asked her.

 

“Yes, I do quite like fish I suppose,” Andromeda replied politely.

 

“Well that is perfect. We take you to best seafood restaurant in all of Southend,” Ted’s mother said proudly, as they finally reached the end of the high-street and caught a glimpse of the sea-front. The tide was in and the crisp, blue waves were shining in the distance.

 

“Oh look… it is puppy that has escaped its owner,” Agata noted excitedly.

 

Andromeda caught a glimpse of the little animal hurtling towards them. Her heart started beating rapidly as she saw his teeth unravel.

 

“TEDDY! TEDDY NOOOO!” she screamed, but it was too late.

 

The little werewolf leaped up and began ripping at Agata’s throat. Ted and his Father were walking ahead of them laughing to each other and hadn’t noticed what had happened yet.

 

“KURWA! KURWA!” Agata screamed as Teddy tore into her flesh. He must’ve caught a main artery as soon there was blood gushing out and Agata collapsed to the ground, as passers-by watched on in shock and horror.   

 

“MUM!!” she heard Ted scream.

 

“OH CHRIST! AGATA NOOOO!” boomed his father.

 

Andromeda watched on helplessly. It was all her fault. She should’ve stopped him. But something felt a bit off. Her and Ted hadn’t even slept together yet, so how on earth would they have a grandson yet.

 

“NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!” Ted cried in horror as the little werewolf pup finally snapped his mother’s neck.

 


 

Andromeda’s eyes shot open as Ted’s cry gradually shifted into that of her grandson’s. She looked down into her lap and saw little Teddy’s tears dry up slightly when he noticed that she was awake again.

 

She shifted uncomfortably on her seat and as she saw the sea outside her window noted that they were almost there now. Andromeda felt her bum and back ache a little as she moved. Their carriage was now virtually empty, with only a mother and small son a few seats down and a greasy looking teenager in the corner for company.

 

The lad in the corner had short, spikey gelled hair and was wearing a black t-shirt with ‘Austin 3:16’ in block caps on it. Andromeda assumed his t-shirt must be some sort of religious reference – he didn’t particularly personify what she’d come to think of as the Christian-type, but she still struggled to get her head around muggle customs despite being married to Ted for the best part of 25 years. 

 

The little boy a few seats down was fully engrossed in playing with his spaceman plastic action-figure, whilst his Mother read a book called Bridget Jones. This thankfully left Andromeda free to daydream outside the window as she stared into the sea and Teddy rested his eyes again in her lap.

 

This is the LTS Rail Service to Shoeburyness. The next station is… Westcliff. Please ensure you take all of your belongings with you when alighting the train.

 

“That’s our stop Mummy, isn’t it?!”

 

 “No, no, Harry, Southend is one more after this one sweetheart”

 

Andromeda couldn’t stop herself looking over at the excited little muggle boy and his mother a few seats down from them.

 

“Mummy?! Mummy?!”

 

“Yes, Harry?”

 

“Are me and Buzz allowed to get some sweets when we’re out in town? We promise we’ll be good!”

 

“What do you say, Harry?”

 

“PLEASE!”

 

“That’s better! Now if you promise you’ll be a good little boy and are on your best behaviour whilst Mummy gets her eyes tested and pops into Boots for her prescription, then I’ll let you get some pick and mix in Woolies.”

 

“YAY!! Thanks Mummy! You’re the best!”

 

Andromeda almost allowed a slight smile to escape her permanent poker face. It did warm her heart to see the little boy’s face filled with such joy as he embraced his mother, but unfortunately it also served to remind her that Teddy would never experience such joy with his own mother, which made her feel very dejected as she glanced down at him.

 

She supposed at least in his Godfather he would have a positive male role model – and someone who actually understood what it was like to have no parents.

 


 

Teddy stirred slightly at the sound of the seagulls scuffling over some discarded vinegar-soaked chips on the pavement. The sudden movement from her grandson caught Andromeda by surprise and she instinctively reached out to grab him, forgetting that he was tightly secured in the muggle baby-carrier that Ted had originally bought for Nymphadora.

 

The mini panic caused her to momentarily stop in her stride, but Teddy didn’t notice as he was already back to sleep. He wasn’t as light as he once was. It was only really that he’d been such a tiny new-born to begin with that meant she was still able to carry him when walking in the first place.

 

Andromeda found the turning she was looking for and headed down it. Their destination wasn’t far now and she’d soon be able to have a nice sit down and a cup of tea. She saw the giant cherry tree in the distance and headed towards it, quickening her stride and walking into the road momentarily to avoid the litter on the pavement.

 

It looked like a fox had a fight with a black sack full of rubbish the night before – and the fox had won, quite comfortably, as the street was littered with empty juice cartons, crisp packets and banana skins. The middle aged-witch had to double take, as she could’ve sworn that one of the crisp packets proclaimed to contain Vanilla Ice Cream flavour crisps. It must be a strange muggle thing, she thought.

 

The tree came fully into view and shaded them from the sun, as Andromeda walked up the path towards the big red front door of Stapleton House. She pulled the door-knocker back a few times and after a few moments the door made a buzzing noise, indicating it was now unlocked.

 

A slightly tanned lady with a friendly smile on her face greeted them at the door.

 

“Oh hello,” she said in that very distinctive voice adults only ever use when talking to babies. “And what lucky person are you here to see today?” she asked Teddy warmly, although of course she was really addressing Andromeda.

 

“Robert Tonks,” Andromeda said.

 

“Robert Tonks…err… Robert… OH! You mean Bobby!”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Oh that’s fantastic! It’s been a little while since he’s had any visitors. I’m sure it will make his day to see you both. He’s down in room 14. Follow the hallway all the way down, take the first left, then right and he’ll be in the room next to the garden.”

 

“Thank you,” Andromeda replied courteously, not wanting to make too much of an impression on the nurse in-case she started asking any questions.

 

Andromeda opened the door to room 14 and saw Robert Tonks sitting in a brown armchair facing away from the door. He was staring at the television that was bizarrely not actually showing anything on it at all. It was just a black screen, with lots of yellow and blue writing on it.

 

She looked over at his bed frame which read:

 

ROBERT “BOBBY” TONKS.

 

ALZHEIMER’S.

 

DOUBLE INCONTINENT.

 

“Hello Robert,” Andromeda said warmly. The elderly man, now in his 70s with not a spot of hair on his head turned around instantly and looked at her curiously through his glasses.

 

“Hello,” he said blankly. “Who are you?”

 

“It’s me, Robert, Andromeda. Ted’s wife,” she said calmly. He had been losing his memory for the best part of three years now, so she was used to having to be patient with him.

 

“Andromeda…Ted’s wife… Ted. Ted…” he pondered to himself. It was evident that he was trying very hard, but could not quite put it together in his mind.

 

“Your son, Ted,” she prompted.

 

“My son…Ted…Ted…Ted! My son Ted! Yes. Yes of course. Chip off the old block, just like his old man. Kind and loving like his mother, too. Are they here too? Ted and Agata”

 

“No… no not today Robert. They’re busy today, but I am sure they’ll be here tomorrow,” she lied.

 

It was much easier that way.

 

Ted’s mother had died of cancer about five years ago, long before Robert had started losing his memory and had to be put in a care home. But he often forgot. The first few times her and Ted had taken the painstaking trouble of telling him that she wouldn’t be visiting him that day, or ever again, because she was dead – and it was horrible. It was like he had to go through the whole grieving process all over again.

 

The least they could do was spare him from that, although now it wasn’t just Agata who was dead. It was his son and granddaughter too. But Andromeda had barely been able to grieve properly for either of them herself yet. She was hardly about to stroll on in and announce to him that they were dead.  

 

“Oh. Well, at least you made the trip ehh, Andromeda? And wow… my goodness. Is that? Is that little Nymphadora? Haven’t you grown sweetheart?” he said in amazement at Teddy.

 

“No, Robert. This is Nymphadora’s son, Teddy. He’s your great-grandson,” she said smiling and lifting Teddy up and taking him over to meet Robert.

 

“Great? Great-grandson?” Robert uttered in disbelief, as he took Teddy into his arms.

 

“You see that, lad,” he said, pointing to the television screen with lots of writing on it. “That’s the Premier League table. The 20 best football teams in England play each other twice, then whoever gets the most points at the end wins the title. And look at that. It’s the last day of the season and look who sits at the top…The Arsenal! That crazy French fella Arsene Wenger has only gone and won it for us hasn’t he?!”

 

“I said to Ted we were mad to hire him. Should have gone for Johan Cruyff. But look at that – he was right. Said all along Wenger would win us the league!” Robert mused to nobody in particular.

 

Andromeda was always amazed at how no matter how badly Robert’s memory deteriorated – he would never forget anything to do with football, or conversations he’d had with Ted in relation to it.

 

Robert suddenly looked over at Andromeda in slight panic and fear. He ushered for her so he could hand Teddy back.

 

“Are you okay, Robert?” she asked worriedly.

 

His face was fluxed with shame and anguish.

 

“I’m sorry Andromeda. I think you’ll have to call for a nurse…I’ve messed myself.”

 


 

Andromeda rose from the train seat and onto the platform, lifting a sleeping Teddy gently so as not to rouse him.

 

She hadn’t quite fancied the long return trip from Southend to Portsmouth, so she’d instead got the train direct to Fenchurch Street from Southend Central. They’d got there in just under an hour. From there it was only a short 10 minute walk to The Leaky Cauldron, where she could head on through to Diagon Alley and get the Floo Network home.

 

As they came out of the station Andromeda headed on straight and then took a left, walking past a grand hotel and then a van selling caramelised nuts and various other assorted treats to muggle tourists. She walked down a few steps and headed on to walk past Tower Hill tube station, where she saw in the distance a poor young woman sitting on the ground.

 

It really was a shame how many homeless muggles there were. It seemed much more pronounced in the muggle world than in the wizarding world. She had no change to spare as she had used all of what she had brought with her throughout the day, but she did feel very bad knowing she couldn’t give the poor girl anything.

 

Andromeda tried not to make any eye contact as she walked past – it seemed a bit cruel and inhumane, but it was better that way, especially when you had nothing to give them. It was easier to just pretend they weren’t there.

 

“Spare any change, love?” she heard the muggle tramp ask in her London twang.

 

She kept her head down and carried on walking.

 

“WAIT!!” the tramp suddenly shouted. Andromeda stopped in horror, reaching into her coat she gripped her wand firmly in-case she had to use it to protect them.

 

“IT’S YOU!” she said, revealing the inside of her mouth which was a hideous combination of yellow teeth and black gaps.  

 

“I… I have no idea who you are. I am not from here,” Andromeda began, but it was too late. The tramp’s crazed eyes were looking her up and down in a strange sort of relief.

 

“I’ve seen you, I have! Yes! I’m good with faces, that’s why I got the job in the first place! I’ve seen you with him before. I know I have! You’re his other ‘alf, ain’t ya!” her eyes were manic. They seemed to be moving constantly, almost as if she was hallucinating and wasn’t really all there.

 

“I am sorry. You have seen me with who?” Andromeda asked perplexed.

 

“Oh, you know who, love!” she spat. “You have to help me, you do. He ain’t been in contact with any of us for weeks. That’s unlike him, it is. We’re getting desperate. Violet who kept watch at Waterloo OD’d last week. Dead at 29! 29! I’m only 28 myself. If he wants us to keep doing this he better start coughing up the goods again soon. You tell him, Miss! You tell him you saw me, on the lookout for the people in the funny cloaks like I promised!”

 

Andromeda nodded and mumbled in agreement. It all happened so fast that she never quite remembered what she had said to the woman. It had been almost surreal, but as she continued walking to Diagon Alley she surmised what must have happened in her head. 

 

There was only one person that Andromeda had ever been mistaken for in her entire life.

 

Bellatrix.

 

The man that the tramp had referenced must’ve been her husband, Rodolphus.

 

But why on earth was Rodolphus Lestrange hiring homeless women to keep watch at muggle train stations?



Chapter 6: Dean I - I Should Have Just Gone To Eton
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Author’s Note:

 

I consider myself a pretty big fan and would say I know about the vast majority of extra-canon JK has churned out on Pottermore and in interviews, Twitter etc, but I actually had no idea about the entire backstory that she initially had planned for Dean Thomas.

 

I’d written the majority of this chapter already and then had a brief look at his Harry Potter fandom wiki to double-check the time scale of him leaving home, then discovered all of this stuff about him having a step-dad and step-siblings.

 

I even re-read the sections of him being on the run in DH and in one of the PotterWatch radio broadcasts they even mention his parents and sisters being worried about him – so as I’m trying to keep to canon as much as possible I definitely wasn’t leaving it out!  

I had to re-write quite a few sections of it as I’d initially penned him as being brought up with a single-mother, with an Uncle Bruce who he was going off to live with to escape the war instead.

 

As another side-note: I’ve not seen too many fan-fictions structured and put out in the way I’m trying to do this, so I apologise if I lose anyone. I take a lot of inspiration from writers like Ken Follett, Stephen King and George RR Martin and I quite the idea of multiple narrators, flashbacks etc.

 If it hasn’t been obvious already the general rule of thumb is that if something is italicised it’s a flash-back, if not then it’s the present day.

 

Thanks once again for your continued support and readership.

 


 

It was lunch-time in Purley.

 

Dean had just apparated into a discreet corner on the street that he had grown up on, which, as it happened to be next to their local Indian restaurant, meant that he caught a nice whiff of the rich, spicy smell coming from their weekend ‘all you can eat’ buffet special.

He was for a brief second very tempted to make a pit-stop in the Sanderstead Tandoori, as he felt his stomach moan with hunger, but he’d already waited too long to be reunited with his Mum and Step-Dad.

 

Dean rushed down the road and eventually came to the big-black gate that lead to the house that he’d lived in since he was 4 years old.

The front-garden looked as well-maintained as ever. It was spring now and he could see the daffodils and other various plants and flowers that his Mum would always take such pride in blooming and blossoming. He rang the door-bell, not really knowing what to expect when the door eventually opened.

 

The door opened abruptly and he saw a shocked expression awash his mother’s dark face.

 

“MY BABY! MY BABY’S ALIVE!” she shouted, before bursting into tears and pulling him into a tight bear-hug grip. As he hugged her he felt her crying heavily into his chest. He looked up briefly and saw his step dad, Bruce, standing in the hallway with a big grin on his face.

 

“It’s good to see you, son. Your mother was getting real worried about you. I knew you’d be just fine though,” he said with a wink. His mother finally broke her hug and leapt backward to face her husband.

 

“You were just as worried as I was!” she said with a faux sense of outrage, before they both laughed and hugged.

 

“You look awful, Dean. Come in… I’ll put the kettle on. Are you hungry?” she asked.

 

“Starving,” he replied instantly, feeling his stomach rumble again.

 

“I’ll put the oven on too,” his Mum said, first going back to give him another hug before rushing off to the kitchen, leaving Dean and Bruce alone.

 

“Welcome home, my boy,” Bruce said, reaching out to shake Dean’s hand as they walked into the living room. “I think we’re the same height now.”

“I think I’m taller,” Dean jibed back, although he did actually think he was right.

 

“We’d be the same height if I hadn’t lost all my hair. I’m not letting you have that one just yet,” Bruce replied.

 

Dean laughed slightly.

 

 “You know, I remember when you barely reached my knees. Do you remember that?”

 

“Not really,” Dean answered honestly.

 

“I remember it like it was yesterday. D’ya kno’, it took you a month of me dating your mother before you would even say a word to me. Not that I blame you given who she was with before me,” he said with a frown on his face.

 

Dean always shuddered at the thought of the first man his mother had courted after his father had left her. He remembered very little of him, as he’d been so young, but he’d been a cruel, nasty man who had abused his mother both physically and mentally.

 

It had taken her many years to get over it, but meeting Bruce who was strong, yet soft-spoken and a real gentleman had managed to help her get through it. He’d always been ever so good to her. He was deeply loyal, fiercely protective and would always go out of his way to make sure they were both okay.

 

“I think I won you over with that football though,” Bruce said smiling.

 

Dean remembered it fondly. He was only four at the time and he’d never had his own football before. They’d gone over to the local field and his Mother had watched on positively beaming as her only child had bonded over a kick-about with the strange man she’d introduced as her ‘friend’. He’d hugged Dean enthusiastically when it was time for him to go home and he’d told him that the ball was his to keep. That had sealed the deal for little Dean.

 

They moved in with Bruce and his twin daughters from a previous relationship less than 3 months later. A year after that and they were married, with Dean and his mother taking Bruce’s surname.

 

He knew now that his mother had been worried about how Dean would get on with Bayley and Sasha, who were both 4 years old than him, but they’d got on like a house on fire for the most part.

 

Bayley and Sasha both knew what it was like to not know one of their real parents either, as their mother had tragically died through complications giving birth to the two of them. Dean’s mum had been very nervous about having to play mother to them, but everything had worked out wonderfully.

 

“Just think. You’d have been a bloody plastic London based Man United fan if it weren’t for me!” Bruce jibed.

 

“Yeah,” Dean laughed and appreciated Bruce’s efforts to break the ice with his light-heartedness, but his step-father could sense that something was troubling him.   

 

“I’ve got tea!” his mother piped in as she entered the room with two large mugs.

 

“Thanks,” Dean mustered as he took the boiling hot Cadbury’s mug and took a deep drink from it. His mum returned to the kitchen to get her own drink and then sat on the sofa opposite Dean next to Bruce.

 

His two parents looked at each other with concerned expressions on their face, then Bruce turned to him.

 

“So, I guess we should cut the small talk. You’ve been gone almost a year, Dean. You look like you haven’t slept in weeks and like you’ve seen some… unimaginable things. Was there really a war? What happened to you son?” he asked with a concerned look on his face, whilst he reached out to held his wife’s hand to stop it from trembling.

 

 And then Dean told them everything.

 


 

Dean looked around desperately at the various signs signalling all of the different departure gates as he walked through the main entrance.

 

Gatwick Airport was an absolutely massive place and he’d never been to an airport by himself before, so he was finding it very difficult to navigate.

 

It was all a lot easier travelling internationally by portkey, but that was too risky – at least this way there would be no trace of him.

Professor McGonagall had sat down with each and every muggle-born student before the end of the last year and explained the likelihood of what was to happen.

 

Dumbledore was dead, which meant it would not be long before You Know Who moved against The Ministry – and who knew what might happen to the muggle-born population of Wizarding Britain. She had taken the bold decision to wipe the records of every single muggle-born student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, so that they would be protected as best they could be if You Know Who and his followers were to purge or take control of the school over the summer. It was almost as if she knew something they didn’t.  

 

Dean had been one of the most outspoken students in the initial meeting with his Head of House. He had been adamant that he wasn’t going anywhere and would return to school. He wasn’t a coward. He was a Gryffindor!

 

But he had read and heard of terrible things happening over the summer. The Daily Prophet was ramping up disdain for muggle-borns – and whilst watching and reading the muggle-news there were many events that were very evidently influenced by dark wizards and Death Eaters, even if the muggles themselves were blissfully unaware of that fact. 

 

It was his Mum who had made the decision for him in the end. At first she had been very strong-willed and stubborn that he was to go. This tactic didn’t work on him, but when she started crying and guilt-tripping him instead he quickly relented.

 

He couldn’t let her down so he agreed to go and live with his step-sister in America until it had all blown-over, although deep down he knew it would only get worse – and soon Wizarding Britain would be in open war with You Know Who and his army of Death Eaters, Dementors and worse. He just wished he could have done his bit and been part of it.   

 

It hadn’t been too much hassle to sort out his departure. He’d had to get a passport and a VISA, but that was no bother really. Bruce had managed to do most of it for him. Bayley was based in Los Angeles for work and had a spare room in her apartment, so he would go and live with her and see what happened. She said she would be able to get him a job and he was reasonably excited about the move. At the very least it would be a nice new start.

 

The check-in process at the airport had been simple enough. Dean had only taken a small carry on-bag so he didn’t have anything for the hold.

 

He put his suitcase onto the security conveyor belt to go through the X-Ray, then as it slowly made its way in, Dean wondered what the border officer was seeing on the reading on his screen. That small suitcase he’d picked up from Wiseacre’s in Diagon Alley had about two full 15KG hold bags worth of stuff in it. It was a real test of magic vs muggle technology.

 

Who would win in this battle of airport security scanners and undetectable extension charms?

 

It seemed that the wizards had taken the victory as the stern staff of the airport barely raised an eyebrow when his bag went through. The metal detector failed to go off when he walked through it with his wand in his jacket pocket. Of course his wand was made from cedar and the heartstring of a Ukrainian Ironbelly dragon, so it shouldn’t have gone off anyway, but that didn’t dispel his nerves when he walked through it.

 

He had to remind himself that it was, after all, a metal detector, not a magic detector – and even if the airport staff had have found his wand, they would’ve just thought he was just an oddball that was carrying some weird kind of stick.  

 

Dean retrieved his bag from its tray and after putting it with the other collection of discarded trays he strolled through to the departure lounge.

 

There was still at least an hour before he would be able to board the long-haul flight, so to kill some time he thought he would wander through Duty Free. He soon regretted that choice though.

 

As soon as he walked in he was flanked by massive posters and cardboard cut outs of the muggle band Oasis. It all seemed to be advertising a new album being released called ‘Be Here Now’ and the poster showed what looked like a massive country house, with the members of the band dotting around outside standing in-front of a moped, whilst a white car was sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool.

 

Dean never had much time for Brit-pop bands like Oasis, Blur or The Stone Roses. His best friend, Seamus, was very much a fan though and often loved blasting their songs in their Gryffindor dormitory. He could just about make out the lyrics of what must’ve been a new single.

 

A cold and frosty morning there’s not a lot to say,

About the things caught in my mind,

As the day was dawning my plane flew away,

With all the things caught in my mind,

And I want to be there when you’re

Coming down,

And I want to be there when you hit the ground,

So don’t go away, say what you say,

But say that you’ll stay,

 

If the racket of the music wasn’t enough of an annoyance - the one thing that Dean hated most about muggle shops was the staff’s tendency to constantly badger you. Within a minute of browsing the aftershave section he had been harassed by four different people trying to shove samples in his face.

 

There was Armani, Versace, then Dior and Issey Miyake and Hugo Boss too. He was sure there was one that he would’ve really liked, but having test strips shoved in his face every time he tried to look had put him off going anywhere near them.

 

A pretty young red-headed girl advertising the latest Chanel release stopped him in his tracks though. She had piercing brown eyes, just like Ginny’s. The girl blushed slightly when she noticed that he was staring at her – he snapped himself out of it, feeling quite embarrassed.

 

He’d moved on from Ginny now.

 

Well, mostly.

 

He held no real ill-will to her or Harry, but he was quite disappointed at how it had all worked out. He thought everything had been going pretty swimmingly with her and he didn’t really know why they’d argued as much as they did by the end of it.

 

Dean had always tried to do right by her. He’d hold doors open for her, stand-up for her if anyone ever spoke out of line to her in-front of him and always insist on paying on every date they went on. She had called it controlling and patronising, but he was just trying to be nice and he knew that she didn’t have a lot of money so he didn’t like letting her split the bill like she would often suggest.

 

During one particularly-heated row she’d told him that she wasn’t a damsel in distress that needed saving, yet on numerous occasions she’d spoken in awe of how Harry had saved her in the Chamber of Secrets. Dean had pointed this out to her, which to put it lightly, had not gone down too well.

 

One of the last straws of their relationship had been when Cormac McLaggen inadvertently fractured Harry’s skull by hitting him with a bludger by accident. Dean hadn’t quite realised how serious the injury had been at first and he’d had to laugh at Cormac’s gross incompetence – as he’d flown past Ginny he’d made a joke about how You Know Who had spent years trying to kill Harry, yet after all that Cormac McLaggen might beat him to it if he wasn’t careful.

 

Ginny hadn’t seen the funny side, yet even Ron and Harry himself had cracked a laugh when he’d mentioned what he’d said later in their dormitory. It didn’t matter what Ginny thought now though. He might well never see her or any of the others again.

 

Perhaps it was for the best.  

 

It took great effort but as he made his way through the store he managed to duck and dive out of the way of a man trying to sell him a ginormous toblerone, then dodged another trying to sell him a bottle of ludicrously expensive vodka. Dean couldn’t have even bought it if he had wanted to, as whilst he was considered of age by wizarding standards at 17 – it would still be a few months before he reached the legal age to drink in the UK as a muggle.

 

As he escaped Duty Free he saw a big stack of newspapers on a side-wall. The headlines all read ‘BROWN BLOWS BILLIONS ON BENEFITS AS LABOUR ANNOUNCE FIRST BUDGET’ and with it there was a still picture of a white man in a suit, with dark hair, who Dean guessed was in his mid to late forties, who was addressing a collection of journalists whilst standing in-front of a red banner that read ‘NEW LABOUR - NEW LIFE FOR BRITAIN’.

 

Dean didn’t care much for muggle politics. He turned the newspaper over to see what was on the back-page.

 

‘INTER MILAN BREAK TRANSFER RECORD TO LAND SAMBA STAR RONALDO’ 

 

That was more like it. Dean pulled up a seat nearby, then eagerly read the article which described in detail how the Italian super club had spent an incredible 19.5 million pounds to buy the brilliant Brazilian from Barcelona.

 

He lowered the newspaper from his eye line slightly to check the departure board and see if his flight was boarding yet.  

 

“Oh, I sayyy…surely it can’t be…Dean Thomas?”

 

Dean didn’t immediately recognize the very ostentatious voice addressing him, but then he saw for his own eyes someone he’d shared the Hogwarts castle with for the best part of six years.

 

“Alright Justin, mate?”

 

“Dean! My goodness. It is you! What a surprise to see you here! I almost didn’t recognize you there for a second.”

 

Justin Finch-Fletchey had briefly broken away from who Dean assumed must be his parents. A very prim and proper white man, with old-fashioned spectacles and greased back hair, who Dean guessed was probably around forty-five and Justin’s father, followed his son but looked a bit hesitant.

 

“A friend of yours, Justin?” he asked, squinting curiously at Dean.

 

“Yes, Father. From school. You must excuse me for a moment. We have much to discuss,” Justin replied confidently, yet still very politely.

 

“Yes. Yes. Of course. Don’t forget though, Justin… first class boards first so we mustn’t dither too long.”

 

And with that his Father headed back towards his Mother and they headed to what looked like the Ralph Lauren boutique store.  

 

“So… you’re upping sticks too, huh? Always knew you were a smart man,” Justin said in a slightly condescending, yet very light-hearted manner, patting Dean on the shoulder slightly as he winked.

 

“Yeah, well… I thought it was best to be on the safe side. Nobody knows what will happen if You Know Who does kick off a war. And with Dumbledore gone, well, not even Hogwarts is safe anymore so-

 

“Hogwarts was never bloody safe anyway! Especially for us. I was nearly killed by a murderous snake for Christ’s sake. If it hadn’t been for that irritating ghost I would have been,” Justin scoffed, quite understandably still annoyed at his petrification in their second year.

Dean had dodged a bullet that year to be fair. The basilisk had made short work of many muggle-borns in the school, even several in his own year, but he’d somehow managed to avoid the potentially lethal glare of the giant serpent, more through luck than any kind of skill or planning.

 

“I wouldn’t have minded it that much,” Justin began. Dean knew that some kind of rant was coming.

 

“But that old fool Dumbledore didn’t even have the humility or self-respect to go to the Ministry of Magic for help. He was too concerned about the school’s reputation that he left several students petrified indefinitely. You can’t tell me that St Mungo’s couldn’t have cooked up a remedy within a few days? It was farcical! Never would have happened if it had been going after the purebloods. It beggars belief that a society can have such a ridiculous order based entirely on social class.”

 

“Yeah, terrible…” Dean managed to mutter out.

 

He’d never spoken to Justin that much particularly, perhaps that had been a good decision as he seemed to have all the self-awareness of a goldfish.

 

Dean thought it best to try and change the subject. He had never been particularly close to Albus Dumbledore, but he wasn’t exactly going to stand here and let Justin shit-talk a dead man he had at least held a lot of respect for. It did also seem a bit rich for him to be criticising their former Headmaster, when Justin himself had been a member of a group named Dumbledore’s Army for several years.

“So where are you heading then?” he asked neutrally.

 

“We’re flying out to Los Angeles. Father has got a transfer at work to the San Francisco office, so we’ll be based there for now. I might also shadow my Uncle if I get the chance. He works with the Foreign Office in Washington. He’s quite high up, you know,” Justin said very proudly, perhaps not all that aware of how he could be misconstrued as boasting.

 

“Oh that’s cool,” Dean said, doing his best to sound as interested as he could.

 

“How about you, lad? You heading to The States as well?” Justin enquired.

 

“Yeah, Los Angeles too,” he replied, trying to play down the fact that they were probably going to be leaving on the same plane. It really was a small world after all.  

 

“Ohhh snap,” Justin said, presumably thinking he sounded quite cool, but in his posh-voice he actually sounded as far from cool as it was humanly possible to be.  

 

“Yeah ha-ha… my sister lives out near Santa Monica so I’m going to go and live with her,” he added half-heartedly.

 

“Santa Monica, ehh? Right near Bel-Air? Why, you’ll be just like that coloured chap in The Fresh Prince!” Justin chided, positively under the impression that he’d just cracked the funniest joke anyone had ever heard. Dean didn’t really see the funny side, but chose to ignore the slightly offensive gag.

 

“Yeah,” he mumbled, doing his best to muster an awkward laugh and hide his annoyed demeanour.

 

“I’ll be a little sad to leave, you know. I won’t miss Hogwarts that much, nor the magic. No…I fear that was all a big waste of time now. I should have just gone to Eton like Father had planned. But it will be a shame to leave Oxford. We’ve got a really lovely house there. Of course, we won’t be downsizing in San Francisco, no if anything quite the opposite with house prices over there, but well, you can’t beat home. Where was your parent’s house?”

 

“Surrey,” Dean said quickly, which wasn’t technically a lie. Surrey was where people from Croydon told people they lived when they wanted it to sound fancier. If they wanted it to sound a bit cooler than they’d say they were from London, although anyone who lived in ‘proper’ London would fiercely argue that Croydon wasn’t really London at all.

 

“Lived there with my Mum and step-dad as long as I can remember. It’s a shame to have to leave them, but I guess it’s for the best.”

 

Dean didn’t fail to notice Justin’s slightly raised eyebrow when he’d said that he had a step-dad. He didn’t care what Justin thought of him though. 

 

“Hmm, yes. Not to worry though, Deano. It’s a good time to be leaving Britain anyway really… with Labour back in power the country will soon be bankrupt anyway. It’s a disgrace how much they’re going to spend on welfare. Bloody lefties. You know, it’s actually the wizard’s fault that they got in anyway.”

 

“You think?” Dean asked in bewilderment.

 

He knew enough about Wizards to know that they didn’t care in the slightest about muggle politics, let alone know or care enough to actively influence who the Prime Minister was.

 

“Well yes, it’s obvious really, isn’t it? The Conservatives had no chance of winning the election given everything that’s happened in the last few years. They had enough on their hands with the bloody Irish, but look at all the extra problems they had from the wizards. Mass murderers on the loose. A government funded bridge collapsing unexpectedly. Those bloody Dementors roaming the country making everybody miserable. Poor old John Major never stood a chance! Of course there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t exactly come out and tell everyone that it was actually the incompetence of the wizarding government causing all of it.”

 

 Dean wondered what would have happened if a British Prime Minister had gone on TV and announced to the public that wizards were behind all of the country’s problems. He guessed it would make a change from them blaming all of the foreigners and unemployed people.  

 

“With any luck they’ll all wipe each other out if there is a war,” Justin scorned.

 

Dean couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

 

“You don’t mean-

 

Justin reacted quickly to Dean’s incredulous response.

 

“Of course I don’t mean everyone at school. I mean you know, The Death Eaters and the Ministry forces. Almost as bad as each other if you ask me. Everyone else is far too young to be getting involved in a bloody war. Michael and Terry are both adamant they’re going to fight in any battle that they can,” Justin said as if it was the craziest thing he’d ever heard.

 

Dean had never been that fond of Michael Corner. It was nothing he had done personally, but he’d been Ginny’s ex-boyfriend, so Dean had to hate him on principle. He was emboldened by Michael and Terry Boot’s courage to fight though.

 

“I had a lot of fun at all of those DA meetings of course,” Justin mumbled.

 

“It was good to learn more spells from Potter and his friends for self-defence. But that night the Death Eaters raided the school and Professor Snape killed Dumbledore, well. That was it for me. It’s one thing training up for it and all, but I’m not willing to put my neck on the line to stay a part of the magical word. If everyone else wants to throw their life away, well more fool them. Some would call it bravery, but I say it’s just naivety. We’re not even 18, Dean. The days of teenagers being needlessly slain in pointless wars should be left behind in the 1940’s. We’ve made the right choice, pal,” he said solemnly, once again patting Dean on the shoulder.

 

It was at that moment that Dean suddenly began to question whether he had in-fact made the correct choice.

 

“You know, Zacharias Smith was even trying to recruit me for some kind of secret resistance movement his uncle is involved in,” he scoffed. “Told me to keep it all very quiet of course, but well, I suppose given the circumstances telling you won’t do any harm, will it?”

“Resistance movement?” Dean asked curiously. He hadn’t been asked to join any resistance movement.

 

“Yes. His Uncle is an Auror, isn’t he? On quite good terms with that Mad-Eye Moody fellow. He said they’re setting up a top secret resistance movement, recruiting some muggle-borns for some highly classified unofficial operation if You Know Who gets in power. Sounded like a bloody suicide mission to me. Well, as you can imagine, I practically laughed in his face at the idea. What sort of braindead moron would sign up for that?” he scorned.

 

“Yeah. Right…” Dean replied, but his head with racing with ideas. This was it. He’d wanted to stay and fight, but it wasn’t as if the Wizarding world had an army you could just sign up to when you were 17 like the muggles did. But if this resistance movement had been interested in recruiting Justin, then they’d surely take Dean too.

 

Dean looked past his old class-mate and saw that Justin’s parents were heading out of the boutique shop with several bags of clothes that they must’ve bought in there for some serious money.

 

“Ah, well, I suppose I best be off,” Justin murmured, having noticed this development himself.

 

“I’ll be sure to pop down from first class and come and see you during the flight,” the youngest member of the Finch-Fletchley clan said elegantly, as he reached out to shake Dean’s hand.

 

“Can’t wait, mate,” Dean replied, trying his best to sound as enthusiastic as possible. Justin’s handshake was almost like a metaphor for his whole character, half-hearted and weak.

 

“See you in a bit,” Justin said as a parting comment, which Dean mumbled a polite agreement too, although if Dean was honest he would’ve been pretty happy if he’d have never seen him again for the rest of his life.

 

As it would happen, Dean never boarded that flight bound for Los Angeles – and it would be four years before Dean, or anyone else in the Wizarding world would see or hear from Justin Finch-Fletchey again.

 

 

 

 



Chapter 7: Ron II - The Game
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Ron vacantly studied the entrance to the Ministry of Magic.

 

It had been almost nine months since the three of them had infiltrated the building, yet it felt like it happened so long ago it might as well have been in another lifetime.

 

The Magic is Might statue had been destroyed in the days following You Know Who’s fall – and in its place stood a gigantic memorial in tribute of all those who lost their lives to defeat him.

 

There wasn’t quite the same hustle and bustle that Ron was used to seeing when he’d visited the Ministry in the past with his Dad, but there was still a considerable work-force back to help run Wizarding Britain - and Ron, Hermione and Harry were attracting lots of attention from those who did walk past them.

 

Ron caught the eye of one of Kingsley’s aides and flagged him down.

 

“Is Kingsl– the Minister for Magic around?” he asked hopefully.

 

“The Minister is booked out for the next fortnight,” the young man replied nervously. “But I’m sure he might make an exception to see you,” he quickly added, before scurrying off quickly.

 

“And you wanted to come and see him on your own Hermione,” Ron said sarcastically. “That guy took one look at the famous Ron Weasley and-

 

“Ronald!” Hermione grumbled, as Harry laughed slightly.

 

“Well I’m sure Ron’s dad is technically his boss now,” Harry added.

 

Ron was pleased his dad had eventually relented and accepted Kingsley’s offer to be Permanent secretary to help run the Ministry, but even after just three days in the job he’d barely seen him at home, such was the vast workload.

 

It had made the three of them feel guilty about not getting involved in helping themselves, but they had been busy packing for their potentially long summer-trip around Australia to help Hermione find her parents.

 

“Ah. Mister Potter, we meet again.”

 

Ron saw the stern-faced Head of Magical Law Enforcement, Gawain Robards, who they’d met at Hogwarts in the aftermath of the battle.

 

“Mister Weasley. Miss Granger,” he said politely, as he shook both of their hands after Harry’s.

 

“Have to say the Minister and I thought the three of you might have taken a longer break before getting back into the swing of things. Certainly earned it. Nothing wrong with a strong work-ethic though, I like that,” he said, as Ron pondered the prospect of taking a break.

If he was honest it was one that was in-fact very appealing to him, especially given his nightmares and struggles with grief, but he would never admit it to Harry or Hermione.

 

He had to put on a brave face.

 

“We are going on a break Mister Robards. Well sort of,” Harry said.

 

“Oh. I see,” the Head of Magical Law Enforcement responded with a slightly disappointed look on his face.

 

“I did have some information I thought could be of use to you though, you know, in your hunt for the escaped Death Eaters,” Harry added.

 

Gawain’s eyes lit up and Ron thought it looked like the Head of Magical Law Enforcement’s mind was racing. Robards ran his hand through the beard on the bottom of his chin.

 

“Follow me to my office,” he barked quietly. “Can’t be too sure about what you say even in the hallways and corridors,” Gawain added, as his eyes shifted around the large open space.

 

“Constant vigilance,” Ron uttered in his best Alastor Moody impression.

 

Hermione and Harry laughed softly and even Gawain raised a brief smile.

 

“I miss that mad bastard,” Robards muttered as he and Harry swiftly walked away.

 

“What do you make of him, Ron?” Hermione asked curiously.

 

“Who? Mister Robards? I dunno, seems pretty alright I guess,” Ron replied.

 

“Do you not think it’s a little odd though? I was under the impression he was always a Scrimgeour man. Kingsley seems to be placing an awful lot of trust in him. If he was such good friends with Mad-Eye why was he never in The Order?” she reasoned, with a concerned look on her face.

 

“I don’t know, but I know Dad said it was never a good move politically to be a known member if you worked here. Didn’t give you a particularly long life expectancy either, especially in the old days.”

 

“I still don’t think we should trust him,” Hermione countered.

 

“Perhaps not. But I think we should play our cards a bit closer to our chest. We’re part of it now… aren’t we?” Ron asked rhetorically.

 

“Part of what… the Ministry?”

 

“The Game,” Ron whispered. “We’re pieces on the board now. Dad said working here is like one big game of chess. It’s like we’re back in that chamber in our first year. We might not want to be – but we’re pieces now, whether we like it or not. It’s time to start playing.”

 

“Ooh, what are you playing? Can I join?”

 

Ron and Hermione turned round in surprise at being interrupted by the female voice.

 

Ron almost didn’t recognize her at first. He’d only ever seen Hestia Jones in casual clothes before, but the dark-haired witch looked very smart in her black robes, which complimented her mocha skin and piercing brown eyes.

 

“Hi guys. Fancy seeing you here, ehh?” Hestia said warmly, before giving them both a quick hug.

 

Ron felt quite awkward when she gave him a slight kiss on the cheek, but he relaxed slightly when he saw her do the same to Hermione. He thought he caught a slight raised eyebrow from Hermione, but maybe he just imagined it.

 

“First day at work in the Auror office is it?” she asked.

 

“Not just yet,” Ron replied. “We’re just here to see Kingsl- the Minister,” he fumbled, as he corrected himself for the second time in the space of a few minutes. He felt his cheeks blushing slightly as Hestia smiled at his error.

 

“Well you’ll be lucky, Ron,” Hestia said sarcastically. “I’m waiting to see him myself later. We’re quite short staffed up in Obliviator HQ. Even just a few extra trainees to help with inbound news would really lift the workload. I don’t suppose you two know any half-decent muggle-borns or half-bloods that are looking for a job? They wouldn’t see much action, but the pay isn’t bad for what you have to do,” Hestia asked in a slightly jokey manner, but Ron could sense there may well have been serious undertones in her request for suggestions.

 

Ron mused slightly.

 

“Well I don’t know if they’re planning to go back to Hogwarts next year, but you could always try Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas. They both fought in the battle. They’re good guys.”

 

“They must be very good guys to have Ron Weasley speak so highly of them,” Hestia replied with a wink, which made Ron blush further. Hermione shot him a funny look.

 

“I best be off. Very busy up there. They’ll all be wondering where I’ve got to!” she added, sounding quite rushed.

 

“There was just one thing, Hestia. If you could spare another minute,” Hermione blurted quickly.

 

“Of course!” Hestia replied instantly, smiling at her.

 

“It’s just… I’ve read a lot about bewitching and memory charms, but I was wondering, if you would know… if you bewitch someone’s memory… does the length of time that they’re bewitched have any impact on being able to reverse the spell?” Hermione asked.

Hestia pondered for a moment.

 

“Well…” she began softly. “There’s no exact science to it, Hermione... there’s lots of extenuating factors that can influence it. If someone’s mind is vehemently opposed to the idea or memory being implanted on them, then, depending on the strength of the person’s mind, sometimes over a prolonged period of time the mind can slowly fight back and resist it-

 

“Sort of like when someone’s fighting back against the Imperius curse?” Ron blurted out.

 

“Yes, Ron. Exactly like that,” replied Hestia.

 

Hermione looked at Hestia hopefully.

 

“That’s why when implanting or removing a memory via bewitching or obliviation it is best to do so in a way that the person’s mind wouldn’t naturally resist to. For example, it is often quite easy to obliviate the memory of a muggle who has seen something they shouldn’t… like a dragon or a giant… because their mind thinks that seeing something like that is impossible to start with. If you are altering or implanting a memory in someone’s mind… it’s always best to alter it to something very similar, or if you’re implanting a memory or a thought in someone’s mind… it’s much less difficult if it’s something that that person’s mind would want to or has previously seen. To bewitch someone to have a completely independent thought or memory as if it was their own… inception… that is a very difficult art, which very few witches or wizards have ever successfully mastered. That’s why so many dark wizards just use the Imperius curse if they want to take control of someone’s mind. ”

 

“That’s why I bewitched my parents to move to Australia. I read that it was easier to bewitch people into doing or thinking something that they’d thought of before – and they always said they wanted to retire to Australia after I finished school. So it made perfect sense. It’s just… I don’t know if I’ll be able to reverse the bewitching of their memory to forget I existed,” she said with a worrying look on her face. 

 

Hestia studied her for a few moments.

 

“It’s very difficult to make somebody permanently forget about people that they love, or have loved, even with obliviation. You can bewitch or obliviate someone’s conscious mind and memory of someone, but if it is someone very important to them, who they have known for years… then the memory of that person will still exist in their subconscious… in their dreams… and one little dream can trigger an avalanche of memories in that person’s mind. I think even just seeing you again could break part of the enchantment you cast on them, Hermione. I’m sure it will all work out just fine.”

 

Hermione thanked Hestia, who gave her a slight hug and smiled at Ron before rushing off back to work.

 

“See,” Ron began. “Nothing to worry about. I told you.”

 

“I’m still not totally convinced, Ron. I’m sure Hestia knows a lot more about bewitching and memory charms than I do, but when she tried to alter The Dursley’s memory so that they’d respect and love Harry-

 

“But that’s just what she said, isn’t it? Their minds were probably so adverse to the idea of loving Harry after hating him all his life that it backfired and went wrong. And I still reckon she did him a favour if you ask me…”

 

“Ronald!” Hermione groaned.

 

The aide that Harry had flagged down earlier was now sprinting over to them, looking completely out of breath.

 

“The Min…ist….er….can…see…see you now!” he panted, as he doubled over.

 

They thanked him before he began leading them to Kingsley’s office.

 

“I think Harry should stay here… if he wants to,” Hermione said quietly, as she tried to speak to Ron without Kingsley’s aide hearing her.

 

“What?! That’s ridiculous!” Ron began. “He wants to come and help. Besides… you’ve just spent the best part of a year on the run living in a tent to help Harry defeat You Know Who. The least he can do to return the favour is come with us to Australia to help find your par-

 

“But Ron, don’t you see? I didn’t do all of that as a big favour to Harry… it was to help defeat You Know Who, yes, of course, that helped Harry, but that benefitted me too…and you… and everyone in the wizarding world – and the muggle one too. It would be different if they’d all been caught… but…

 

Hermione looked at him fearfully as she lowered her voice even lower.

 

“…there’s still Death Eaters out there, Ron. Murderers. And Harry can help catch them better than anyone… you know that. Whilst they’re still out there nobody is safe, not really. Not me… you… or-

 

“Ernie!!” Ron uttered excitedly as he saw his former Hufflepuff classmate heading out of Kingsley’s office door with a tall man, who judging by his long ponytail Ron thought must be the Auror, Robert Williamson.

 

“Good to see you both looking so well!” Ernie exclaimed in his typical bombastic manner. “No doubt you’ve both been recruited to join the ranks of the Aurors too…” he said knowingly. “My Uncle would be so proud that I’ve been personally head-hunted to-

 

“Now, now, Mister MacMillan,” Willamson tutted. “Your Uncle Albert was indeed a very proud man… and a very talented Auror… but if he taught me anything when I was a young recruit it was the fundamental importance of both modesty and respect. I endeavour to teach you both of those traits, if it’s the last thing that I do…”

 

Ernie made a comical face that said just what he thought of Williamson’s suggestion, before bidding Ron and Hermione farewell as he flanked his large companion.

 

Ron gave Hermione a bemused look as they entered Kingsley’s chambers.

 

The room itself was fairly dimly lit, quite large and appeared to have had a makeover since Kingsley had taken office.

 

There were many large moving portraits of magical creatures dotted around the walls, with the most impressive being of a giant Thunderbird flying around what Ron assumed was an African desert. Ron also shuddered slightly at an Acromantula skeleton that was transfixed on the ceiling – and noted in the far corner of the room a giant triangular grey flag with a squawking black falcon on it.

 

“I never knew you were a Falmouth fan!” Ron exclaimed, as Kingsley looked up from the piece of parchment he had been studying.

 

“Let us win, but if we cannot win… let us break a few heads,” Kingsley uttered the Falmouth Falcons’ motto, which caused Hermione to raise her eyebrow a bit, presumably not understanding the reference.

 

Ron noted there were moving pictures of several famous Falcons players dotted near the flag too. He recognized the infamous beaters, Karl and Kevin, the infamously brutal Broadmoor brothers of the 1960s, yet he did not recognize the fairly youthful looking dark-skinned man with dreadlocks aloft a broom on a separate picture above them.

 

“You’ll be pleased to know that is purely my attitude to Quidditch and not to politics, Miss Granger,” the Minister for Magic laughed, which seemed to reassure her a bit. “Although if the rumours are to be believed politics and Quidditch may well be intertwining in the coming months.”

 

Ron was unsure what to make of that last remark, but Kingsley quickly pressed on and changed the subject before he could think too deeply into it.

 

“Now… to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? You’ve not changed your mind about my offer have you?” Kingsley asked as he addressed Hermione.

 

Ron saw his girlfriend hesitate slightly.

 

“It’s not… it’s not that I don’t want to… it’s just… my… I need to…”

 

“I totally understand if you kids want to take some time off. You of all people deserve it more than anyone. You shouldn’t rush into-

 

“I need to find my parents!” Hermione blurted out. “I bewitched them to move to Australia and forget they ever had a daughter. All I know is the names I gave them and that they flew out to Sydney…I thought if I knew anything more about where they were going it could be tortured out of me. It could take weeks, if not months, years even to find them. I don’t know if I’ll ever find them and if they’ll even remember me when I do and-

 

Ron held Hermione tight to him as she broke down slightly. Kingsley looked on with quite a concerned look on his face.

 

“Do you have a picture of your parents, Hermione?” Kingsley asked calmly.

 

“Not…not on me. I didn’t take one with me when we were on the run… just in-case. But I put a lot of our belongings and family things in a safe place. I could easily get a picture from there.”

 

“Then don’t worry, Hermione. I have a connection or two in the Australian ministry. If you can get me a picture of your parents by tonight, then I can get their faces on every muggle television and magical newspaper in Australia by the time the sun comes up down under. I can probably even sort you out a Portkey from here to Sydney… we’ll have you reunited within a few days,” Kingsley said calmly.

 

“You… you can do all of that? Just like that?” Hermione’s voice cracked slightly as Ron saw what he thought were tears of joy.

 

“Hey, it pays to have a friend as Minister for Magic, ehh? You got nothing to worry about, Hermione,” Kingsley replied, with a wink.

“But…but how could I ever repay you?” she said, sniffing slightly.

 

“The wizarding world is already forever in your debt, more than most will ever know. Consider this a thank-you for everything you have done,” he said solemnly. “There are far inferior witches and wizards who have deemed themselves worthy of far higher rewards than simply having some help in tracking down lost parents.”

 


“So let me get this straight, Hermione,” Ron began as the two of them walked out from The Big Yellow Self Storage facility where Hermione had retrieved a few family photos.

 

“Some muggles have so much stuff that they pay other muggles to hold onto all of the stuff that they want, but don’t have room in their house for? I thought that was what lofts or sheds were for? Do muggles not have lofts or sheds?”

 

Ron really couldn’t get his head around it.

 

“Yes. Yes they do have lofts and sheds, but sometimes there’s not enough room in them,” Hermione began, pausing slightly as she noticed Ron’s bemused expression. “Most of the time people don’t put things into these storage units for very long. It’s usually just when they’re in the middle of moving house or have had a divorce or something.”

 

The idea of a divorce was just as foreign to Ron as the self-storage facility.

 

They were extremely rare in the wizarding world – so much so that a wizarding couple getting a divorce in Britain was practically a front-page news story every time it happened.

 

The only example Ron could think of was the divorce of Dolores Umbridge’s parents, which had happened well before he was born – perhaps that had been part of the reason why she grew up to be such an evil cow.

 

“Where are we walking to?” Ron asked, as he noticed Hermione was leading them down a side-street. He had been under the impression they were going to apparate straight back to the Ministry.

 

“My Mum and Dad’s isn’t far from here. Only a five minute walk or so. I thought we could stop by, not necessarily pop in, but just have a look outside perhaps. I’m just curious, that’s all,” Hermione replied and Ron muttered in agreement. He’d never actually been to Hermione’s house before, so it would be interesting even just to see it from the outside.

 

Ron couldn’t help but notice that the cul-de-sac wasn’t a million miles away from Privet Drive in appearance. He wondered if all muggle neighbourhoods had this same sort of generic template. Every single house on the street looked exactly the same. There was sometimes a different colour door or garage, but for the most part they were all absolutely identical.

 

The street itself was practically deserted. There was an old man in the distance walking a little dog – and a stray cat chasing a bird in someone’s front garden, but other than that it was very quiet.

 

Almost too quiet.   

 

“But. That’s impossible. How can-

 

“What is it?” Ron asked, a bit worried at the sound of concern in Hermione’s tone.

 

“There’s a ‘For Sale’ sign outside their house. But they would’ve only moved out less than a year ago. It took absolutely ages to sort out selling their house, what with the onward chains and what not… even then I had to use a bit of magic to speed it all up. Why would the new owners already want to… Oh Ron you don’t think-

 

“Hermione!” Ron exclaimed as he chased after his girlfriend who had now sped up, almost into a full sprint to the house she had grown up in.

 

“Maybe the new owners just didn’t like the area,” Ron mused. “I don’t like it much. Gardens can’t be that big, can they? Be a struggle to have a proper game of Quidditch in one of those.”

 

“Ronald Weasley!” Hermione began. “For once in your life could you please think about something other than Quidditch,” she pleaded loudly.

 

“Quid ditch? What’s that, then? New slang word for money is it? Old codger like me can nevva keep up.”

 

The two of them had been caught off guard by the interruption, but Ron noticed at once that it was the little old muggle he’d seen walking the yappy little dog who had addressed them.

 

 “What do you two make of it, then? I’m guessing that’s why you’re ‘ere, ain’t it? ‘aving a butchers at the ‘ouse where the Twickenham Torturer made his name for ‘is-self?”

 

Ron and Hermione exchanged confused looks.

 

“I’m sorry… we don’t know what you mean. We’re just here to look at the-” Hermione begun, before the old man butted in.

 

“You don’t mean you’re actually ‘ere to view the ‘ouse for sale?! Christ. I know they must be selling it quite cheap by now to try and flog it, but bloomin’ ‘eck, surely you wouldn’t actually wanna live in a place where four people were murdered?!”

 

“Mu-mu…murdered?” Hermione gasped.

 

“Yeah. You two been living under a rock or something, ‘ave ya? It was a national story. Put us on the map it did. Bloody nightmare. Taken about 10 grand off the value of my ‘ouse, that has. ‘appened about 7 or 8 months ago. A family of four bought the ‘ouse off this nice couple who moved to Australia. ‘ad the right idea they did – this country’s gone to the dogs now anyway, what with Labour in they’ll have all the bloody foreigners coming ova’ now. But yeah nice young couple moved in…Mum and a Dad…two lovely young kids… little boy and a little girl, think the youngest was only 3.”

 

“And they…. They were murdered?! The children too?!” Hermione asked, utterly horrified. Ron too was bewildered by what he was hearing.

 

“Oh yeah! Nasty business it was, but ‘ere’s the thing that nobody could figure out. They’d all been tortured they had. The wife… the ‘usband… especially the little girl and the little boy. But none of the doctors or police could figure out ‘ow they died. None of them ‘ad any stab wounds or blunt force trauma to the ‘ead… nothing. The coroners all concluded that the torture alone should not ‘ave been enough to kill ‘em.”

 

“So they never found out who did it?” Ron asked.

 

“You what? Never found out who did it?! Corr blimey you two ‘ave been living under a rock, ain’t ya! The police were stumped for weeks weren’t they, but then they found out the bloke’s brother had a spare set of keys, didn’t he?”

 

“And so he…” Ron began, but the old man was too eager to finish his story.

 

“So one day ‘e just lost it, didn’t ‘e? ‘e’d only just been discharged from Iraq for a few months, they reckon ‘e was struggling to get back to civilian life. Post-traumatic stress or whatever it is they call it. ‘is missus left ‘im and they reckon ‘e walked in one day and just went nuts at them. Ain’t sure if ‘e was ‘aving visions or flashbacks or whatever… but ‘e tortured them all and then managed to kill them all. That’s the funny part though… police couldn’t actually find ‘is DNA on any of them, but course ‘is DNA was all over their gaff where ‘e sometimes popped in and out.”

 

“So they convicted him? Even though there was no concrete evidence that he did it?” Hermione asked in horror.

 

“It couldn’t ‘ave been anyone else though. No sign of a break in. ‘e’s the only person with a key. ‘ad to be ‘im. ‘ad to be,” the old man concluded.

 

“What if it wasn’t him? He’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit and-

 

"Won’t be much danger of that. Fella ‘ung ‘imself the night he got convicted. Spent the whole trial in  tears adamant that ‘e didn’t do it. Felt bad for ‘im in a way. Probably didn’t even remember doing it. Anyway I best be off, won’t keep you kids no longer, ‘er at ‘ome will ‘ave me guts for garters if I’m not back soon.”

 

The old man sauntered off down the road merrily as if he’d been cheerily discussing the weather, rather than a brutal homicide.

 

Hermione looked haunted by what he had told them.

 

Of course it was obvious what had really happened.

 

Ron had thought Hermione had perhaps been a bit over-cautious in hiding her parents on the other side of the world, but she had been very clever- and very right in what she had chosen to do.

 

She always was.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Chapter 8: Harry II - Leads Leads Leads
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The Auror Office was frantically busy.

 

Gawain Robards’ de facto war room was dressed head to toe in newspaper clippings of the six missing Death Eaters. Harry saw the animated faces of Travers, Jugson, Selwyn, Rowle and the Lestrange brothers on every wall in the room, with various arrows of information and possible leads connecting them to various locations and acquaintances.

 

As Harry walked in he noticed several of the staff stationed in the room look up at him in surprise, but their eyes quickly darted back to whatever it was they were working on when they noticed the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement strolling in alongside him. 

 

“Stop your staring and get back to work,” Robards bellowed at them as he led Harry through the hectic main room and into the Head Auror’s private office.

 

“Mister Potter is not here to sign autographs!” he shouted at a hopeful young worker who tried his luck just as they were getting out of reach.

 

“That’s a shame. I was quite hoping to get one,” said a dark haired young woman in a rather sardonic tone as they entered the other room, which was deserted, save for the witch and a stubby wizard searching through some files in the far corner. 

 

Harry did not recognize the very pale witch, who had striking blue eyes and what looked like a wide collection of tattoos covering the few parts of her body that were visible under her black tunic.

 

“Mister Potter, meet your new boss… Miss Savage, who as you might have noticed has a very… questionable… sense of humour,” said Robards sarcastically.

 

Harry did recall Rhea Savage having been stationed at Hogwarts in his sixth year, but he’d never once caught more than a passing glimpse of her in the distance. He’d imagined her to be a bit older, as looking at her fairly youthful face she couldn’t have been more than 2 or 3 years older than Tonks, which was pretty impressive for someone who had just been appointed the Head of the Auror Office.

 

“And I’m sure you’ve noticed too that Mister Robards wouldn’t sense humour if it hexed him right in the face,” she jibed, as she reached out to shake Harry’s hand.

 

“You can forget the formalities with me Mister Potter…please just call me Savage…or Rhea if you would like.”

 

“So you tell him to forget the formalities, but then you still call him Mister Potter?!” mocked the short blonde haired man that had been filing on the other side of the room, who had seemingly dropped everything he was doing once he had noticed Harry and Mister Robards come in.

 

“Conrad Proudfoot,” he said, enthusiastically sticking out his hand to Harry. “Might I say Harry Potter… what an honour it is to finally meet you,” he flushed.

 

“For fuck’s sake,” Harry heard Robards sigh, which caused Savage to laugh slightly.

 

“Don’t you have something better to do than fawn over Mister Potter like a house-elf?” Robards grumbled at Proudfoot, before he turned to Harry with a bemused expression on his face. “Never would’ve guessed that these two bell-ends managed to take down a twenty-five foot tall giant together now, would you?”  

 

“I can’t take much credit for that, sir,” Proudfoot began. “It was all Savage. I just distracted the beast long enough for her to get a good shot at it.”

 

Harry noticed Rhea blush slightly, but she did not disagree with Proudfoot’s assessment.

 

“And a damn good shot it must’ve been, ehh? To take down a fucking giant! Course some credit would have to go to the Auror who trained you up, ehh?” Robards jibed at Savage.

 

“I am eternally grateful for everything you taught me,” Savage replied, in a completely deadpan and void of emotion manner. Harry laughed slightly. “I don’t seem to recall you taking down any giants, boss?” she added.   

 

“Too busy trying to secure the perimeter down, wasn’t I?” Robards barked back, before allowing a small smirk to escape his scarred face, which quickly changed to a frown again. “If we’d got there a little bit sooner we might’ve stopped the scum from getting away…still… I managed to blast Henri Avery into oblivion at least… reunited with his wretched father in hell now.”

 

Harry noticed Rhea nod in approval as a wry smile engulfed her face. 

 

“Did we ever find out who got Algernon Avery in the end, boss?” Proudfoot asked.

 

“No idea,” Robards responded. “Must’ve been a bloody good witch or wizard whoever it was though. Anyway, enough of this chit-chat. How’s our friend Mister Macnair doing? You reckon he’s ready to talk yet?”

 

“He was ready to crack two days ago, sir. I dare say he’ll tell us whatever we want to hear to make the pain stop,” Proudfoot replied.

 

Harry felt his heartbeat rise a bit.

 

He despised Walden Macnair, Lucius Malfoy and the rest of Voldemort’s followers that had wound up behind bars, but surely Kingsley hadn’t authorised them all to be tortured?

 

“It’s not what you think, Potter,” Robards muttered. “Although I am pleased that you showed such disgust at the thought of us using their own methods against them.”

 

“But if you… we’re not torturing him, then why’s he in so much pain?” Harry asked. He made a mental note that he’d need to work on his occlumency, as Robards had read his face like a book when he’d first grimaced at Proudfoot’s comment.

 

“Your pal Hagrid saw to that, lad. Damn near broke his back in that battle…”

 

Harry did vaguely recall seeing Hagrid hurtle Buckbeak’s would-be executioner across the Great Hall.

 

“…reckon he’s also got a few broken ribs, dislocated jaw, possibly a broken arm… dislocated shoulder… and more bruises than you’d care to imagine. Course, nothing a good healer couldn’t have fixed in a matter of hours, but we’ve got to be rational about this. These men know they’re going away for a long time, in some cases they’ll never see the light of day again. Not all of them are as willing to cooperate as our friend Mister Malfoy… at least this way Macnair has a reason to talk. He was quite close with Selwyn. We’ve already done a sweep of Selwyn's home in Scunthorpe, no sign of him… but Malfoy tells us he had some family in Ireland. Omagh to be exact. Well guess who else just happens to be from Omagh?”

 

“Macnair?” Harry asked excitedly.

 

“Exactly, Harry. Good part of the reason why they became such good friends in the first place the way Lucius Malfoy tells it," Proudfoot replied.

 

“If anyone can lead us to Selwyn it’s that bastard Macnair,” Savage spat.

 

“Agreed. And we shall start grilling him as soon as Wakanda’s finished with Yaxley,” Robards grinned.

 

“Have we got much out of him today?” Savage quizzed, as Proudfoot listened intently.

 

“Absolutely fuck all,” Robards sighed incredulously. “You’d think a man who spent the best part of a year as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement would be an absolute gold mine of information, but he hasn’t told us a damn thing that Lucius Malfoy hadn’t already told us in far more detail. Now he just keeps crying about wanting to see his blasted son. We’d probably get more out of fucking Dolohov than that soppy bastard.”

 

Proudfoot chuckled slightly at the wise-crack made by his boss, although Harry failed to pick up on whatever Robards was referencing.

 

“I remember when Dolohov first got brought in for murdering Fabian and Gideon Prewett,” Robards began, as he turned to look at Harry directly.

 

“We knew it wasn’t just him… that there were four other Death Eaters involved. A whole team of us, including Proudfoot here, were put to task and interrogated him round the clock. We tried every tactic in the book. Threats were made. Deals were offered. Nothing. Well, Barty Crouch wasn’t happy with nothing. He gave us a bottle each of the finest veritaserum that the Ministry could get their hands on. We plied Dolohov with the stuff for a fortnight… and that was the best part… all those galleons were wasted… as we still got absolutely fuck all out of him.”

 

Harry had to be somewhat, albeit, reluctantly impressed by Antonin Dolohov’s resolve. It would take an Occlumens of the absolute highest level to resist such probing.

 

“Waste of time veritaserum anyway,” Robards said. “I won’t sink to Crouch’s level and waste our resources on it… and I certainly won’t waste our time interrogating that fanatic nutter. Let him rot in his cell, with only the memory of watching his master finally fall to keep him company.”

 

“Here, here!” Proudfoot replied, as Savage added her agreement.

 

“Any progress on any leads since I’ve been gone?” Robards asked Savage.

 

“All dead ends, boss,” Savage replied glumly. “Badwal and Morris got nothing out of Kenneth Crabbe. He was fully cooperative… he just didn’t have anything at all of use.”

 

“I’m not surprised,” Robards commented. “He always was just Malfoy’s lumpy errand boy. I doubt in the last twenty years he’s so much as taken a dump without first asking for Lucius’ permission,” he added, which drew a few small laughs from Savage and Proudfoot.

 

“But still… you do have to feel for him… lost his son in the battle and his wife wants nothing to do with him anymore,” Proudfoot added.

 

“Dumb cunt should’ve thought about that before he got into bed with You Know Who,” Robards replied sternly, without even a shred of sympathy for the Death Eater in his tone.

 

“Twycross finally finished up his cross-examination of the Goyle boy,” Savage said, as she attempted to gloss over the awkward silence caused by Robards’ remark. “Mostly matched up with what Malfoy’s son told us. Took a few days before Goyle junior would stop bawling his eyes out and tell us anything after he found out what happened to his Dad. Twycross made a mistake there I think. I would’ve waited until after he’d talked to break the bad news to-”

 

“What did happen to his Dad?” Harry asked instinctively.

 

He instantly regretted it and felt really rude for interrupting the woman who was his effectively his boss now, but she waved away his apology.

 

“Of course, you wouldn’t know, would you? We’ve been trying to keep a lot of the details out of the newspapers whilst the others are still out there,” she added softly.

 

“Lot easier said than done with that poxy Rita Skeeter kicking around,” Robards grumbled.

 

“We’re not actually too sure what it was that killed Laurence Goyle in the end, Harry,” Savage began uneasily. “You see, it was actually quite hard to even identify his body in the first place. It was only by a family heirloom wedding ring identified by his wife that we knew it was him.”

 

“Had a very sticky end that one,” Robards chimed in. “Must’ve been in the wrong place at the wrong time when the centaurs joined the fight. He took at least 10 arrows to his person… and if they didn’t kill him… well… looks like he hit the deck soon after and was trampled to death in the charge that followed. Here’s hoping one of those arrows put him out of his misery before that. You should’ve seen what was left of his face… if you could call it a face.”

 

Harry grimaced in horror and felt a bit sick at the picture that Robards had eloquently painted in his mind. Robards seemed to notice this and as such he raised one eyebrow and winked at him.

 

“Still… he had a more dignified end than old Artemis Pyrites. You ever meet him?” Robards asked Harry, as he noticed Savage laugh at the mortified look that engulfed Proudfoot’s face.

 

“Err… no… no I don’t think so,” Harry replied.

 

“Weird dandy looking fella. Always liked to wear a strange pair of white silk gloves. No?”

 

Harry shook his head as he had no recollection of the man that Robards was describing. 

 

“Well he was a bit of an idiot to be fair… doubt You Know Who would’ve ever entrusted him in an important mission against you. He was at the final battle though… we found his body on the floor of The Great Hall. Nice and easy to identify of course, had his gloves on… only thing was they weren’t white no more… red as the Hogwarts Express they were.”

 

“Blood?” Harry queried, as he saw Proudfoot squirming.

 

“Oh yes. And I reckon it was mostly all his own. You see… I think Pyrites picked himself a fight with a rowdy bunch of house elves wielding kitchen knives.”

 

Harry fondly recalled seeing Kreacher leading a pack of the house-elves into battle against the Death Eaters.

 

“You’d think… sure, a wizard against a house elf… easy. Well one or two or maybe even three, yes, but it looks like Pyrites had at least 5 or 6 of them on him… and he weren’t a great wizard by any stretch of the imagination to begin with.”

 

“So he got stabbed to death,” Harry pondered out loud. He thought that it did very much indeed sound like a nasty way to meet your maker.

“Ohhhh but that’s not the worst part!” Robards ardently added. “No no no…. you see, yes, being stabbed to death is of course an ending you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Barbaric muggle way to die! But poor old Pyrites was a reasonably tall fellow… which meant the little house-elves only came up to around his waist.”

 

“Boss! Please…” Proudfoot pleaded.

 

“Looks like he took one or two of them with him… there were two dead elf bodies not far from his… but yes… I reckon one of those little elves wanted a bit of revenge for him killing their pals… so one of the little rotters stabbed him right in the scrotum. Must’ve burst like a balloon… and then when he dropped his wand and reached to feel the wound and assess the damage… another one got him from behind right up his arse-ho-

 

Robards stopped dramatically as Proudfoot violently vomited onto the floor, with a splash of the sick hitting one of the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement’s ruby red loafers.

 

“Oh for fuck’s sake, Proudfoot!” he whined angrily.

 

“Emundatia,” Savage said softly as she quickly swished her wand after casting the cleaning spell. In an instance the sick had disappeared and Robards’ shoe looked very shiny and good as new.

 

“Good work, Savage. Now, what was it I was talking about before we got side-tracked?” he asked absent-mindedly.

 

“Leads,” she replied quickly, before her boss could remember his anger at Proudfoot. “And our apparent lack of them. We’ve still got a few of the younger ones to question, but I think we’d be better off persisting with Lucius Malfoy.”

 

“Agreed,” Robards said, as Harry saw Proudfoot washing his mouth out with water on the other side of the room.

 

“Sir… I mean… Mister Robards… I-

 

“Yes Harry?”

 

“It’s not much…but-

 

“Oh yes. I forgot about what you said before! You’ll have to excuse me Harry. Got a memory of a goldfish I have,” Robards said.

 

“What is it? You have a lead?!” Savage quizzed Harry, as her eyes lit up like the sun in the sky on a warm summer’s day.

 

“Well it’s not much,” Harry replied hesitantly. “But my… my godson’s grandmother… Andromeda Tonks… she… she looks a bit like her sister, Bellatrix… and she thinks she got mistaken for her the other day outside a muggle underground station.”

 

“Mistaken… mistaken by who?” Robards replied urgently.

 

 “A homeless muggle woman.”

 

“A- what?! A homeless muggle woman thought she saw Bellatrix Lestrange?!” Robards remarked incredulously.

 

“Why would a homeless muggle know who Bellatrix Lestrange is?” Savage added in a perplexed tone.

 

“She told her that she’d been employed by a man to stay there and keep watch for people in funny cloaks. She thought she recognized Bellatrix as the man’s wife… she’d seen him with her before.”

 

“Rodolphus?” Savage wondered.

 

“But that’s not all,” Harry added. “She said there were more of them-

 

“More of what?” Robards barked.

 

“More of the homeless people…keeping watch for anything or anyone that appeared a bit strange… all over London-

 

“A network of homeless spies?” Savage gasped incredulously.

 

“We’ll have to bring her in!” Robards ordered.

 

“Who? Andromeda?” Harry asked nervously.

 

“What?! No!” Robards replied irritably. “The tramp. You know exactly where she was, Potter?”

 

“Tower Hill,” Harry responded instantly.

 

“Excellent,” Robards remarked. “Pukefoot!”

 

“Yes boss,” Proudfoot said, as he finished gargling some more water, perhaps still disorientated enough to not even notice that Robards hadn’t addressed him by his actual surname.

 

“Got a job for you. You can escort Mister Potter to Tower Hill to pick up his tramp… give him a full run-down of the policy of entering and exiting a muggle area. You know the drill.”

 

“Yes, sir,” Proudfoot mustered. “But sir. How… how will we know what tramp is the right one?”

 

“I imagine she’ll be the one that’s staring at you in your funny looking cloak,” Robards snapped back aggressively.  

 

“Of course, sir. Although won’t all of the muggles be looking at my funny cloak” Proudfoot replied.

 

“Oh just fucking get on with it, man!” Robards hit back, as Proudfoot laughed softly. He seemed to enjoy getting under Robards’ skin.

 

“Rhea,” Robards directed at Savage, who seemed to put on a serious face when being addressed by her boss with her given first name.

 

“Go and tell Wakanda to give it a rest with Yaxley for the day. I want you and her to have the first crack at Macnair… soften him up for me… I’ll show Potter the ropes and question the muggle... with any luck she’ll lead us straight to the Lestrange brothers.”

 



Chapter 9: Ron III - I\'m Fine
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Ron was ready to die.

 

This was it.

 

It must be.

 

His stomach was in knots and he no longer even knew whether he was the right way up or not.  He clung on desperately to the plush-toy falcon as they span relentlessly in mid-air.

 

“I think we’re here,” he heard Hermione muster out before they were both violently hurtled to the ground.

 

It took Ron a few moments to recognize that the ground they had landed on was actually a thick, soft carpet and not a hard, concrete floor.

 

He pulled himself to his feet slowly and tried to take in his new surroundings, but he was instantly hit with an intense dizziness that caused him to crash straight back down in a heap.

 

Ron could feel his stomach rupturing on the inside.  

 

He tried to hold down whatever it was that was coming back up, possibly the steak and kidney pudding that he’d had for lunch, but despite his best efforts he could only ensure that it didn’t escape his mouth.

 

The taste of his mouth filling with vomit then caused him to throw up all over the cream-coloured Kashmir carpet anyway.

 

He reluctantly looked towards Hermione, embarrassed to have made such an idiot of himself in front of her and humiliated that she would have to see him in such a state, but he was relieved to see that she too had just vomited.

 

There was an expression of upmost disgust and dejection on her face, as Ron saw some runny, dark coloured sick dribble down her chin. She gasped slightly when their eyes met.

 

“You’ve got sick on your chin… did you know?” Ron joked in a fairly hoarse voice, as Hermione laughed softly and cleared herself up after retrieving her wand.

 

Ron had just began vanishing the vomit he’d left on the carpet himself, when the brown door to the big function room swung open – and a tall, dark haired woman who looked like she was in her mid-forties strolled in.

 

“First time using a long-distance intercontinental portkey?” she asked in a knowing voice, as Ron and Hermione both nodded awkwardly. She had a slight accent, but not one that suggested she’d spent her entire life living in Australia.

 

“I remember my first time going from London to Sydney… nothing could prepare you for it. Trust me though I’ve been in charge of this portkey docking room for years and I’ve seen people chunder far worse than that. Some people even faint or pass out completely. Where is the port-

 

The woman stopped in her tracks as she saw the falcon in the middle of the floor.

 

“A bloody falcon! I suppose that’s Kingsley’s idea of a good gag. I’m a Wasps fan myself… I used to dread going into the Great Hall on a Monday morning when they’d beaten us at the weekend. Kingsley and his brother would always be the first to gloat… ah, those were simpler times… I’m Olivia by the way. Olivia Burke. You must be Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. It’s a great privilege to meet you both.”

 

 Ron felt a small amount of embarrassment, but also great pride that someone from the Australian ministry would consider it such an honour to meet them both. He noticed a slight frown appear on her face as she studied the two of their faces in greater detail.

 

“I always knew you were all quite young… but to see how young you are in person…” Burke began, before a lump in her throat caused her to stop briefly. “Oh I’m sorry. I’m sorry… you’re here to get away from all of that.... Kingsley has made sure that you’ll have a good time and enjoy your stay in Australia. I can assure you that he spared absolutely no expense on this little trip for you both.”

 

“Oh but Oliv- Mrs Burke…” Hermione began before hesitating. Ron thought Olivia seemed to look a bit uncomfortable at being addressed as Mrs Burke.

 

“…there must be some kind of mistake. We’ve only come for a short visit whilst I find my parents,” Hermione said, as Ron gave her shoe a very slight kick. She caught his gaze for the slightest of seconds with an indignant look on her face. “We have a tent with us and we’re quite happy to pitch up wherever-

 

“Oh, Miss Granger!” Olivia interrupted. “Rest assured as soon as we have managed to locate and make contact with your parents we will contact you immediately. But whilst you wait your Minister has ensured that you both will be treated to the best in entertainment and culture that Wizarding Australia has to offer, whilst staying in the most lavish and luxurious accommodation that galleons can buy.”

 

Ron wasn’t one to readily accept any kind of hand-out or charity, but after all they’d been through in the last few years he rather liked the sound of that.

 

“But…” Hermione began, before Burke waved away her protests.

 

“No buts Miss Granger! You are both going to relax and enjoy yourselves and that is an order! Now if you’ll follow me I’ll be taking you to my colleague Brad, who will apparate you on to where you’ll be staying. I would take you myself, but well… I should have finished my night shift over an hour ago and I am absolutely shattered,” Olivia said, as Ron noticed the bags under her eyes.

 

“We’re awfully sorry to have imposed on you like-

 

“Nonsense, Miss Granger!” Olivia replied softly as she led them out of the office and through a long, bright yellow corridor. “You must forgive me if I sounded like I was complaining. It was a favour for an old friend to stay late to meet you both… and it is not every day even as the Head of Magical Transportation that you get to meet such decorated war heroes.”

 

Ron suddenly felt a bit self-conscious that the Head of Magical Transportation for Australia had seen his vomit.

 

“So if you’re just finishing a nightshift… what’s the time here, then?” Ron asked.

 

“Just past seven o’clock in the morning, Mister Weasley,” she answered.

 

“Bloody hell! So we were spinning in that portkey for nine hours?! No wonder we both chucked up!” he exclaimed.

 

“Not quite,” Olivia replied. “Australia is just on a different time-zone to England. It is nine hours ahead. You were only using that portkey for around two minutes and thirty seconds… which I can agree does still feel like a very long time, especially on your first go… but it really is nothing to how long it would a take a muggle to get from one pond to the other… they’d be looking at closer to twenty four hours of travel to get from London to Sydney.”

 

“Oh,” he mumbled. “But wait… that means we’ve travelled in time… to the future…I always wanted to have a go using one of those time turners!” he added happily, still kind of confused, but excited by what they had just done.

 

It had been Friday night when they’d set off, but now it was Saturday morning - what a mind-fuck, Ron thought.

 

Olivia and Hermione seemed to exchange a knowing glance, which went right over Ron’s head as he still tried to come to terms with the strangeness of it all.

 

“Ah. Here is Brad now,” Olivia noted, as they saw a short, fairly old looking wizard in the distance. He jumped up excitedly when he saw them and rushed over immediately.

 

“Brad… meet our esteemed guests and friends of Harry Potter… Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger.”  

 

“How ya’ garn?” he blurted out. “I’m Brad, but me mates call me Bradd-o!”

 

They exchanged pleasantries, before Burke excused herself and presumably sauntered off home to her bed after she had reminded Brad that there was to be no dilly dallying.

 

Brad ushered them to latch onto his arms as he readied his wand, but Ron’s stomach still felt a little bit wobbly and he hesitated.

 

“I kno’ ya must ‘av ‘ad one heck of a trip on ya’ portkey... but trust me I’m an experienced apparatah… ya won’t even feel it, Mister Weasley, sir!”

 

“Just Ron is fine,” added, feeling a bit embarrassed at being called sir.  

 

“Come on then, Ronn-o! Miss Burke told me no piss fartin’ around,” he replied as he indicated once again for Ron to grasp on. Ron relented and instantly felt the horrible lurch of apparation as they left the Australian Ministry of Magic.

 

They came to an abrupt halt and from the salty air and feel of the wind Ron could tell that they were now outside.

 

“Right-o here we are,” Brad said as Ron took in their surroundings.

 

It looked somewhat like a suburban muggle park, with lots of vibrant, green grass and giant trees, many of which Ron did not recognize. These trees were a lot more exotic than the ones he’d encountered at Hogwarts or the various forests they’d pitched up in whilst on the run in the countryside.

 

“Where exactly is it we are, if you don’t mind us asking?” Hermione enquired politely.

 

“Oh don’t worry, we ain’t stuck you up out in the bush. Ya’ still in Sydney. This is Woollahra an’ trust me, Miss Burke’s made sure ya’ gonna have an absolute ripper of a trip. Ya’ stayin’ at the brand new hotel they’ve built next to Australia Magizoo!”

 

“Australia Magizoo?” Ron asked curiously.

 

“It’s the biggest Magizoo in the world,” Hermione replied. “It only opened in 1990… Newt Scamander said in the foreword for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them that it has the greatest collection of magical creatures ever assembled.”

 

“Sheila certainly knows her stuff!” Brad added.

 

Ron didn’t remember anything in his copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them about a giant Magizoo in Australia. He thought that he would’ve surely remembered something like that, but then he recalled that he’d had Bill’s old copy of the book, which would’ve been published well before it was even built. Hermione’s parents would’ve no doubt bought her the newest edition available.

 

“Now ya’ hotel ain’t far from here, but before we head off I best teach ya’ both the most important spell ya’ gonna need for ya’ time in Australia,” Brad said, as he retrieved his wand from his pocket.

 

“This’ll keep the mozzies and all the other little buggers from bitin’ ya,” he assured, before pointing his wand at himself and waving it quite aggressively. “Impedio Insectum,” Brad cast, as a very feint, almost invisible trail of liquid smoke engulfed him, before he waved his wand in their direction and two new smoke clouds appeared and submerged Ron and Hermione.

 

The smoke smelt vaguely chemically, before it softy absorbed itself into Ron’s skin, briefly making his skin quite moist, before it then faded away as though it had never been there at all.

 

“That will keep them off ya’ until the next time ya’ have a wash!” Brad announced triumphantly, as they offered their thanks to him.

 

“Ya’ shouldn’t need the spell to protect ya’ skin from the sun that we all use in the summa’, doubt it will get hot enough for ya’ to worry about that,” he added, as he started walking north and ushered for them to follow him.

 

“Why’s that?” Ron questioned as they started following their guide. “I thought Australia was supposed to be really hot?”

 

“Not when we’re comin’ up ta winter Ronn-o, mate!” Brad chortled.

 

Ron gave Hermione a confused look.

 

“It’s the same as the time being on the other side of the spectrum, Ron,” she said. “Australians have their summer months during our winter months, so where it’s almost June here it must be approaching their winter… although it’s still not too cold I suppose.”

 

“Ah nah… won’t ever get as cold as you Brits have it!” Brad exclaimed from ahead of them, as he lead them through the park.

 

They soon reached a turning and saw what looked like a huge palace in the distance, which appeared to have several armed guards stationed outside it. The guards were all wearing a funny sort of big, black bushy hat – their outfits were finished off with a bright red jacket and dark black trousers. Ron couldn’t quite make out the big object they were all holding aloft in their right arm.

 

“Are they beef-eaters?” a flabbergasted Hermione asked.

 

“Huh?” Brad mumbled. “Oh ya’ mean the guards! Look bloody stupid don’t they! Ya wouldn’t catch me dead in one of those. But don’t ya’ worry, Miss Granger. They ain’t real muggoes!”

 

“Muggoes?” Ron and Hermione asked in unison.

 

“Or Muggles as you Brits like ta’ call ‘em. Muggoes. Muggles. Same difference,” Brad said as he shrugged.

 

“But why are there people dressed up as muggles outside?” Ron asked as they drew closer to the impressive castle, which was a real contrast to the only castle Ron had ever been in previously. It had far more in common with the pictures he’d seen of the glamorous looking Beauxbatons Academy than the gothic-inspired ancient Hogwarts architecture.

 

“Beats me Ronn-o, mate. Muggo culture’s meant to be all the rage right nah ya kno? Wizard tourism industry is boomin’ over ‘ere and up in Asia and The States,” Brad said, before pausing and hesitating slightly. “‘specially now nobody’s been wantin’ a go to Britain the last few years,” he added nervously.

 

“But why would witches or wizards ever need to stay in a hotel when travelling abroad?” Hermione inquired.

 

“You have all the space you ever need in a good tent. Just need somewhere to pitch. Even the richest guests were pitched up in the same place as us when we went to Cairo… they just had bigger tents that’s all” Ron added, as he noticed one of the guards slowly leaving his post to meet them.

 

“Beats me, kidd-o! But people don’t wanna stay in tents no more. They wanna have an experience,” Brad replied, raising his eyes dubiously as he said the last word and chuckled lightly. “Load o’ old bollocks if you ask me. Can’t beat a nice trip in a tent out woop-woop.”

 

Ron laughed awkwardly in agreement, but if he was honest he had absolutely no idea what or where in the hell a woop-woop was.

 

“They wanna live like the muggoes do,” Brad continued. “They want real muggo waiters and chefs in the restaurants… they want real muggo barbers to cut their hair…they want real muggo everything, mate!”

 

Ron couldn’t quite picture the appeal and thought that it was quite odd, but then he casted a joyous image in his mind of his Dad turning up like a little kid at Christmas, absolutely revelling in a muggle-themed hotel.

 

“G’day Bradd-o ya daft cunt,” greeted one of the black hatted fake muggle guards in a thick Australian accent.

 

“Alright Tezza, mate? Lookin’ sharp in that sack o’ shit you call a uniform. How’s Noreen and the kids doin’ these days, they good?” Brad replied.

 

“Sound-o, mate. Who have we got here then?” the guard asked, as he smiled at Ron and Hermione.

 

“Ron Weasley,” Ron said as he shook the man’s hand.

 

“And I’m Hermione Granger,” Hermione added politely.

 

“Bloody hell, Bradd-o! What’s a daft old bludger like you doing with our VIP guests?!” Tezza asked in disbelief.

 

“I told you, Tezza, mate. I’m a big deal down at the Ministry,” Brad coolly replied.

 

Tezza laughed loudly before patting Brad on the shoulder. “Ah I have missed ya, mate!” he remarked, as Ron noticed Hermione yawn, which in turn caused him to do the same thing.

 

Tezza and Brad exchanged a nervous look upon noticing this.

 

“I best get yous two off to check-in,” Tezza said. “I could get in some real shit if the boss finds out I kept ya’ waitin’ talkin’ to this dick-‘ead,” he added, throwing a wink at Brad.

 

“Cya later Tezza, mate,” Brad said, as he raised his middle-finger to his friend, who raised his in return.

 

“Well it was sure nice meeting ya’ both,” Brad remarked as he turned to face them.

 

“A pleasure to meet you too,” Hermione quickly responded.

 

“Thanks for showing us around,” Ron added.

 

“No worries Ronn-o, mate!” Brad quipped. “Should see the overtime I’m getting for doing the morning shift today. Anyway I best be off… should be able to sneak a smoke-o before anyone notices I’ve been gone too long.”

 

Ron watched Brad skip along back through the Woollahra wilderness.

 

“Miss Granger, would ya’ like me to carry ya bag for ya’?” Tezza asked as he guided them towards the extravagant gate of the hotel.

 

“Oh no… it’s quite alright… it’s enchanted you see,” Hermione said.

 

“Ah thank Merlin you’re not one of those VIP guests,” Tezza replied excitedly. “Some of them are dead keen on this muggo thing. They ask ya’ to carry their bags like ya’ would if ya’ was a real porter in a propa’ muggo hotel… but most the guests are so rich the bags are enchanted and light as a featha anyway!” he said in an incredulous tone as he adjusted his hat.

 

Ron laughed slightly at the thought of it.

 

“Now me boss made us all promise that we wouldn’t ask ya’ any sensitive questions, like. But me little boy would nevva forgive me if I didn’t ask ya’ just one.”

 

Ron gave Hermione an uneasy look, but she smiled slightly and nodded.

 

“Go ahead,” she said.

 

“Okay,” Tezza began, as he cleared his throat and eyed up Ron and Hermione with a gravely serious face.

 

Ron wondered what question the man would consider so important to ask that he would risk getting in trouble with his boss for.

 

It had to be about something massive.

 

Something really hard-hitting.  

 

“Is it true what they say, like? Did You Know Who really not have a schnozza?” 

 


A cold breeze blew against Ron’s cloak as he explored the Woollahra wilderness.

 

The Sydney sun had set and it was both cold and dark outside, with only the odd flood-light and a few fireflies preventing the forest from being encased in darkness.

 

 He jumped slightly as he saw a little spider run past his shoe, but then he noticed a whole horde of them scattering away to the east.

 

Ron’s eyes shifted to follow where they were all going and he saw that they were all converging on a rose bush at the start of a clearing. His arachnophobia caused him to hesitate, but his curious nature soon overcame his fear and he trudged over to investigate.

 

A closer look at the rose bush did not give away the reasoning for the spider’s strange behaviour, but then he heard a hideous hissing sound approaching behind him.

 

Ron reached for his wand and his heart skipped a beat when it was not there, where he always kept it.

 

How could that be?

 

He never left the house without his wand.

 

It would be akin to going out without any clothes on.

 

He wasn’t that careless or reckless.

 

 Or maybe he was.

 

He had after all just followed a trail of spiders, which hadn’t exactly ended well the last time he’d been roped into doing that.

 

Why was it always spiders?!

 

But as the hissing grew louder Ron realised that it might not be an army of Aragog’s extended family that would be his biggest problem this time. He braved a look behind him and was horrified to find a giant snake staring down at him.

 

The snake hissed viciously at him as if it was trying to communicate with him. Ron wondered if Harry would still be able to communicate with it if he were here.

 

And where was Hermione?

 

At least Hermione wouldn’t have forgotten to come outside without a wand on her.

 

The snake suddenly shifted its appearance in vicious fashion and Ron was greeted by an even worse sight.

 

“You….you’re….you’re dead. Harry killed you!” Ron fumbled out at what appeared to be a reincarnated Lord Voldemort.

 

Voldemort hissed at him in what Ron presumed must be parsel-tongue.

 

How had he survived again?

 

How was he back?

 

“You…” the Dark Lord whispered. “You are no parsel-tongue… that my ancestor’s language was used in such fashion to bring about my destruction… you will pay dearly for that, blood-traitor!”

 

“I- I-

 

Ron floundered around but could not find the words or the courage to engage in conversation. He expected to see a flash of green light any moment now… he was unarmed… defenceless… it was only a matter of time.

 

“You fear I will kill you?” Voldemort smirked. “I can’t kill you here. If I were to strike you down now all that I would achieve would be waking you up from this nightmare.”

 

 It made sense now.

 

It was just a dream.

 

That was why he didn’t have his wand on him.

 

“How the hell are you in my dreams?” Ron demanded, as his fear evaded ever so slightly with the knowledge that this wasn’t real.

 

“How should I know?” Voldemort snapped back. “It’s your mind, not mine. The great mind of Ron Weasley… I must say, even with my limited expectations I am disappointed.”

 

“Disappointed in what?” Ron clamoured, but Voldemort began speaking again as if Ron had not spoken at all.

 

“But I suppose that’s your speciality, isn’t it? Disappointment. What would you say was your biggest achievement in your pitiful little life?” he spat.

 

“I… I… err…”

 

Ron thought hard, but Voldemort had interrupted him before he had the chance to answer.  

 

“I’ll tell you what your biggest achievement was, blood-traitor. On that transfigured chessboard in your first year… you used the power of your mind and your courage to recklessly sacrifice yourself for the greater good… the sign of a sharp, strategic mind… cunning skill… expertly applied under such pressure… that night was the first chapter in Harry Potter’s road to destroying the greatest dark wizard who ever lived… and when books are one day written of his conquest, even the most naive of readers may be duped into thinking that based on your actions that night... that you might well have played a crucial role in helping him destroy the great Lord Voldemort…”

 

“…BUT THEY WOULD BE WRONG!” Voldemort suddenly screamed after his calmly whispered monologue.

 

“You contributed nothing!” he raged. “You showed the signs of a sharp, calculating mind… but to what ends did you cultivate that potential? Did you master the art of Occlumency? Did you learn Legilimency? Did you scrutinise the history books documenting the downfalls of history’s greatest Dark wizards, so that you could conjure up a master battle-plan to defeat me… with as few of your foolish friends and family finding their way to an early grave as possible?”

 

Voldemort’s verbal onslaught had Ron lost for words.

 

He didn’t know what to say, but he could never have mastered Occulemency or learned how to be a Legilimens. He wasn’t smart enough to come up with battle plans to defeat the Death Eaters.

 

It wasn’t his fault that some of his friends and family had died.

 

Or was it?

 

“You forget that I am an accomplished Legilimens myself! You think that I can’t see what you are thinking?! You blame your failings and underachievement on not being clever enough for true greatness… but you are not stupid. Stupid people don’t have the self-awareness to know that they are stupid... they blame other people for their mistakes and misgivings. You are not as stupid as you might look Ron Weasley… no… you are just lazy.”

 

Ron saw You Know Who reach for his wand and he was almost glad.

 

Glad that this nightmare would be over.

 

But it was not over.

 

Not yet.

 

Voldemort waved his wand and conjured up a moving image projected on a cloud of smoke. Ron was greeted with an animated picture of his Mother’s face filled with tears, yet they were not tears of mourning… but tears of joy.

 

“You so seek your Mother’s approval… look at her, so happy that she is reduced to tears as she watches your oldest brother on his wedding day… what a pity that she will never get the chance to shed tears of joy at a wedding for her youngest son.”

 

The wand swayed in the moonlight and the image of Ron’s Mother disappeared.

 

“I will get married someday… you’ll see!” Ron retorted.

 

A small grin found its way onto Voldemort’s face.

 

“But who would want to marry you… you can’t mean the mud-blood?”

 

“Don’t call her that!” Ron spat back.

 

“Defensive of your girlfriend? Oh, how noble,” Voldemort laughed. “Do you know what was really noble? Harry Potter letting you have her.”

 

“He didn’t… she loves me not Harry-

 

“She’s only with you because Harry Potter didn’t want her… or maybe he did, but he felt so sorry for his best friend that he was willing to let him have that one small victory… your relationship is doomed to fail regardless.”

 

“You’re wrong! You don’t know anything-

 

“I KNOW ENOUGH!” Voldemort shouted. “I know that she will forever overshadow and out-earn you… and let’s be honest she’s already got quite a head-start in the finance department. You’ve wallowed in self-pity and jealously in Harry Potter’s shadow since you were a boy of 11… can you really handle spending the rest of your life in the shadow of your partner?”

 

“I… I…”

 

“You’re weak. You’re lazy. You’re a quitter. The mudblood is everything that you are not… imagine what she and Harry Potter could achieve together… they could revolutionise the Wizarding world… not for the better of course… but still… the most powerful wizard and witch of their generation… together as one… imagine what children they could create together.”

 

The thought of that caused Ron to snap.

 

He ran at Voldemort full pelt and threw his fists towards his face, whilst screaming in an uncontrollable rage.

 

Voldemort apparated before Ron could punch him.

 

He looked to his left and there The Dark Lord was.

 

“Gilderoy Lockhart could’ve wiped your memory in that Chamber and put you in St Mungo’s next to the Longbottom’s for the rest of your life… and it would have had no impact on whether I lived or died.”

 

“You’re just like that horcrux… you’re just trying to make me-

 

“You were more of a hindrance than a help! You unwittingly protected the man who betrayed your best friend’s parents to me… when Harry Potter had most of the school turn against him you didn’t stand by him like the mudblood… you turned against him too.”

 

“That was a mistake! I didn’t- I was-

 

“At the height of the war… when Harry needed all the help that he could get… when he needed that sharp, strategic mind… you didn’t take control… you didn’t hatch a cunning plan… you didn’t jump on a knight and sacrifice yourself… you bottled it! You ran away! You quit! Because that’s what you are Ron Weasley… and that’s what you will always be…

 

Avada…

 

Voldemort raised his wand and cast the spell so quickly that Ron barely even heard the words before the green light blinded his eyes and took him.

 


 

Ron bolted up in bed.

 

He felt his heart breathing at a million miles per hour and sweat covered his body, which was completely bare save for a pair of underwear.

 

His heavy breathing caused a startled Hermione to awaken next to him.

 

She strained to open her eye-lids and her brown eyes briefly stared deep into his soul, as they adjusted from mild curiosity to grave concern.

 

“Are you… are you alright, Ron?” she asked anxiously.

 

“I’m fine,” Ron lied.

 



Chapter 10: Harry III - Mr Black
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Harry looked down at the clunky golden watch that had once belonged to Fabian Prewett. There were cracks and bumps and blemishes, but he cherished the sentimentality of the 17th birthday present from Molly Weasley. There wasn’t a watch that all of the gold in his vault could buy that would be more valuable to him.

 

The position of the clock handles informed him that it was very nearly 5pm.  

 

He’d had quite the day so far.

 

At the very start of it he’d envisioned he could be travelling around Australia with Ron and Hermione by the end of the week for an indefinite length of time, but in a strange turn of events, thanks in part to Kingsley’s intervention – he now wouldn’t be going with them at all.

 

In a selfish kind of way he was quite glad. Harry had offered to still go with them even after Kingsley had metaphorically waved his wand - and seemingly fixed their problem of finding Hermione’s parents, but Hermione had insisted that it wasn’t necessary for him to tag along any more.

 

Ron had at first argued the case that Harry could come with them and it would be a nice little break for the trio, but Hermione disagreed on the basis that it seemed silly for Harry to go all that way for nothing.  

 

Harry thought there had been a slight undertone of Hermione hoping to have some alone time with Ron, which had quite amusingly seemed to go over her boyfriend’s head. Kingsley had tipped Harry off that he’d booked them into what he called “the honeymoon suite” at a fancy hotel in Sydney, which had made Harry chuckle.

 

The prospect of a break from it all did somewhat tempt Harry, especially as he’d never actually left the country and gone abroad before, but he knew deep down that he couldn’t truly rest easy until the remaining Death Eaters were brought to justice.

 

He’d learned over the years with the losses of Cedric, Sirus and Dumbledore that the best cure for grief was being preoccupied and keeping busy – and it was no different now, with the losses of Tonks, Remus, George and everybody else still heavily weighing on his mind.

 

There was still plenty of time left to travel the globe.

 

He was only 17 and with Voldemort gone, once the remaining Death Eaters were captured and brought to justice – the world would be his oyster.

 

Ginny often talked about wanting to visit the magical Mayan ruins in South America, as well as the Coliseum where captured wizard warriors would be pitched against the most dangerous beasts of Ancient Rome – and she also wanted to travel to Canada, where in British Columbia dwelled the world’s largest known community of vampires.

 

Soon enough they’d be able to do all of that – and much more.

 

A Voldemort-free future was something that Harry now had the privilege of looking forward to, although it was something he had to adapt his mind to, as optimism about the next few decades of life was a very new concept to him.

 

It was just a shame that so many would not get a chance to live and enjoy that Voldemort-free world. He’d lost friends and family in the war, but it wasn’t just their deaths that crushed Harry. It was all of the others who had died along the way for him too.

 

Colin Creevey wasn’t even of age and had sneaked his way into the battle. His death especially was such a needless loss, as he could and should have just stayed home and out of the whole thing. It made him at least somewhat understand why Molly Weasley had always been so protective of them.

 

The only silver lining was that Colin’s little brother had not sneaked his way in and been killed too. Harry wondered if maybe Colin himself had ensured that didn’t happen – and how Dennis must have felt when his older brother never came home.

 

There was Lavender Brown, who had, once upon a time, been Ron’s irritating and over-enthusiastic girlfriend. Harry had been horrified at witnessing her mutilated corpse being feasted on by Fenrir Greyback. The thought of it enraged him and made him glad that the werewolf had at least been captured - and would, in all likelihood, never again be able to add to his list of victims.

 

Harry’s vacant thoughts of death and justice were interrupted when Gawain Robards stormed into the interrogation room, which was dimly lit and smelled vaguely of incense.

 

“Ah, there she is,” Robards remarked, looking over to the opposite end of the small room that Harry had been waiting in, where sat the tramp that he and Proudfoot had picked up at Tower Hill. “Looks like she’s just coming to… best to stay quiet and observe me, Potter.”

 

“Okay,” Harry replied, as he wondered how Robards would approach the questioning of a muggle.

 

He’d only really witnessed Dumbledore interrogate someone in a serious manner. He wondered whether Robards’ style would contrast much from his former mentor’s.

 

Robards waved his wand in the direction of a table in the back corner of the room not too far away from Harry, which caused a self-writing quill to spring into life. Harry hoped that the muggle woman hadn’t noticed it.

 

 “What the…where… WHERE AM I?!” the tramp exclaimed in a frantic panic, as she noticed she was unable to get up from her chair due to the slight restraints that Proudfoot had cast on her hands and legs.

 

“Relax,” Robards calmly assured. “You are not our prisoner… we just have a few questions we’d like to-

 

“IF I AINT YA’ PRISONAH THEN WHY THE FUCK AM I HANDCUFFED FOR?! LET ME GO YA FUCKIN-

 

“Silencio,” Robards cast in an irritated tone, as Harry looked on in shock at the fact that he’d so casually – and so blatantly, just performed magic in front of a muggle.

 

The tramp’s face was an absolute picture.

 

She had continued ranting and raving, but after a few seconds had noticed that no sound was escaping from her mouth. It looked like she’d then started desperately screaming in horror, but once more, no sound was emitted from her vocal cords.

 

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way. We just have a few questions we’d like you to answer and then we can send you back to where you came from. Now, can you promise you won’t shout and scream and whine?” Robards asked the tramp in a fairly patronising tone of voice.

 

The tramp nodded her head in an absolutely frantic manner, as her eyes bulged in horror at the situation that had been bestowed upon her.

 

It was a pretty cataclysmic and life-changing shock to find out that wizards and magic existed to be fair, thought Harry.

 

“Good,” Robards replied, as he flicked his wand once more. “Dicerio,” he cast to reverse his earlier silencing spell.

 

“Firstly state your name for the record,” he said, as he stroked his beard intently.

 

It looked for a moment like the tramp was too frightened to even utter a single word, but after Robards sighed heavily in frustration she quickly changed her tune and piped up.

 

“Mah-mah…Mary… you…you,” she began breathlessly, before her nerves caught the better of her and caused her to become silent once more for a few seconds. “You’re that… you’re that ‘luminati ain’t ya! I knew it! I knew you’d come for me! You been watching me ain’t ya? Ain’t ya?!” she spat in a paranoid voice.

 

“It seems like it’s been you who has been doing the watching! You’ve been spying on the orders of a Death Eater! And not just any Death Eater, but one of the most wanted wizards in the entire country!” Robards answered incredulously.

 

“Death… death eater? Wiza- wizard what the… I ain’t know what you talkin’ ‘bout… what the fu-”

 

“That’s right. Me and my colleague Harry here are wizards,” Robards said calmly as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

 

Harry felt incredibly awkward as he looked from Mary to Robards in disbelief at what his boss was telling her. The homeless woman briefly caught eye contact with Harry and he wasn’t sure if she looked more disgusted or frightened.  

 

“I’m the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for the British Ministry of Magic… and I want answers. You see, we’ve got six dangerous men on the run. Murderers. Torturers. Rapists. And you… you’ve been helping them. Haven’t you?” Robards demanded, as he slammed the desk in-front of him with his right hand.

 

“I ain’t been helpin’ no fuckin’ murderers and no fuckin’ torturers and no dirty rapists! Oh my lord Jesus… won’t you save me… save me from these devils-

 

“It’s ironic that you’d look for help from him. He was one of us!” Robards announced triumphantly.

 

“One of you freaks?! How fuckin’ dare ya! How dare ya speak the lord’s name in such a-

 

“He didn’t perform miracles!” Robards mocked. “It was just magic.”

 

“You… you’ll burn in hell for this blasphemy!” she remarked angrily, as a wry smile appeared on Robards’ face.

 

“Incendio!”

 

The table that stood in-front of the chair that Mary was sat on suddenly burst into flames. She desperately tried to get up and make a run for it, but the restraints that Proudfoot had put on her held firm and prevented her from getting up.  

 

“We can play games if you wish,” Robards muttered, as the petrified woman looked like she may have a panic attack. “But I would prefer it if you would just tell us what we want to know… and then you can forget that you ever met us… quite literally in-fact!” 

 

Gawain flicked his wand and extinguished the table instantly - and with an additional swish it was as good as new, such was its condition that it was almost as if it had never been engulfed with the flames at all.

 

This development seemed to calm Mary slightly, although she still looked extremely stressed at the situation she found herself in.

 

“Now… how long have you been spying for him?” Robards demanded.

 

“For… for who? Mister… Mister Black?” she managed to blurt out.

 

Robards laughed enthusiastically, which caught both her and Harry off guard.

 

“Is that what he called himself?! Mister Black! Oh, old Gaius would’ve liked that,” Robards smirked. “Yes, how long have you been spying for him?” he probed.  

 

“What’s in it for me? I ain’t no grass. Treats us good he does, Mister Black, I ain’t got no reason to be telling you nothin! I ain’t scared of you and ya’ tricks,” Mary said stubbornly, although Harry could tell from her tone of voice that she most definitely was scared of Robards and his tricks.

 

Gawain looked over to him with an irritated frown.  

 

“Whatever he’s paying you... I’ll double it,” Robards replied with a wry smile.  

 

“Ya’ think ya’ can buy me do ya?” she snapped back at him.

 

“Well let me think…” Robards pondered. “Yes… yes I do.”

 

Mary fumed slightly, but the prospect of a pay-day seemed to finally defeat any resistance and loyalty she might’ve had to Rodolphus Lestrange.

 

“I’ll tell ya whateva it is ya want to kno’ for fifty quid… and not a penny less!” Mary demanded.

 

“Done,” Robards replied instantly, which seemed to shock Mary at first, although she soon looked quite satisfied with herself. She probably thought she would have to haggle quite hard for such a high price.

 

Harry wondered if Gawain Robards had any idea how much fifty pounds was, or whether he actually had even the slightest intention of keeping this bargain with her.

 

“So again I ask… how long have you been spying for Mister Black?” Robards repeated in a monotone, slightly passive-aggressive tone.

 

“I dunnah? A year? Got no way of tellin’ time an’ days when ya on the streets. All blurs into one it does,” she said nervously.

 

“And how exactly did this Mister Black recruit you?” Robards probed.

 

“I heard whispers of him, I did. We all talks, we do. I ‘erd from one of the other street girls that there was this dark haired fella… that he was giving out jobs to girls as look outs. He’d tell ya where to go and what to look for… check up on ya every now an’ then… an’ he pays ya well for it. Well I thoughts it was too good to be true I did, but then one night one of the girls… Wiktoria… she took me with her to meet him.”

 

Robards grew excited at this revelation.

 

“And where was it… where was this meeting point?” he asked coolly.

 

“I ain’t finished tellin’ ya the story of how he recruited me yet!” she interjected angrily.

 

“Mary. A wise man once said that brevity is the soul of wit,” Robards replied dryly.

 

“What the flamin’ ‘ell is that sposed to mean?!” Mary said with a strained look on herself.

 

“It means don’t waste my time!” Robards hit back, as he slammed his hand on his table once again.

 

“Where was it?! This meeting place?” he demanded.

 

“Camden! Camden Town it was… right by the Lock in a dirty little house… smelled terrible it did… like somethin’ or someone had died in there… and maybe they had,” she said as she smiled wickedly.

 

“Did he live there…Mister Black?”

 

“I don’t fuckin’ know! I only went there a few times… never stayed there too long… he didn’t like us being there too long. Think he was worried that his lady friend would run into us all and get mad at him… think she thought we was all giving him a few favours… well we fuckin’ weren’t… at least I weren’t… I ain’t no cheap whore!” she snapped angrily.

 

Harry’s interest peaked at her last comment. She must be talking about Bellatrix. He mused that Rodolphus Lestrange’s wife would’ve indeed been very angry to find her husband liaising with muggle women of any kind, let alone the homeless kind.

 

“And you met her? This lady friend… didn’t you? Enough times to remember her face?” Robards replied, with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

 

Harry wondered if this tramp actually could lead them right to Rodolphus Lestrange – and maybe even his brother too. He certainly hoped so.

 

“Oh yes. You don’t forget a woman like that. Proper nutter she was. Always fuckin’ fumin’ with him whenever she saw him talkin’ to one of us. Reckon she thought we was giving him favours or somethin… well I can only speak for meself but I fuckin’ weren’t… I ain’t no cheap whore!” Mary said with a vindictive look in her eyes.

 

“This house in Camden…,” Robards began, as he ignored her last remark completely. “You will take us there tonight.”

 

“But that’s the trouble! You think none of us girls ain’t thought of goin’ there to find him?! Ain’t no point. He ain’t there. The bleedin’ house ain’t even there no more!” Mary said with a wicked grin on her face.

 

Gawain Robards shot a curious glance in Harry’s direction and smiled slightly.

 

“What do you mean… the house ain’t there no more?” Robards probed.

 

“It ain’t bleedin’ there! We’ve gone lookin’ where it used to be but it’s gone! I dunnah if the council pulled it down or somethin’, but I’m telling you it’s gone. Disappeared overnight just like Mister Black did.”

 

“Potter!” Robards bellowed wildly.

 

“Round up Williamson, Morris and Badwal. Have Proudfoot send for Savage and Wakanda. We raid this place tonight and hit it with everything we’ve got!” he roared triumphantly. 



Chapter 11: Hestia II - The Lost Boys
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“Penny! I need you to check out this death in Basildon, please,” Hestia began urgently. “It’s probably nothing, but the guy on BBC News said the police were treating it as suspicious and they haven’t found a murder weapon yet. You know the drill, quick sneak of the autopsy and check for signs of the killing curse.”

 

“I’ll get right on it, boss!” Clearwater replied, before hurrying off out of the office.  

 

There were mountains of paperwork covering every desk in Hestia’s peripheral vision.

 

The Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes had been overwhelmed with work in the last few weeks, just as one incident was dealt with – another, far worse one arrived and Hestia was on the verge of a break down.

 

She’d done so much overtime in the past month that if she had been working in a muggle office they would have called in Working Time Directive weeks ago.

 

I just need some more time in the day, Hestia thought as she studied the report of the Dementors wreaking havoc in Glasgow.

 

“Hem, hem.”

 

The high-pitch female voice made Hestia jump and almost spill her coffee.  

 

She would recognize the sound of that toad-like woman anywhere.

 

Dolores Umbridge had always had it in for her, but one silver lining of her mostly irredeemable nature was that she never usually showed much interest in the Obliviators, or the rest of the department for that matter.  

 

The most that they had got out of her in recent months was that she didn’t approve of their newly adopted methods, especially Hestia’s ideas of following the muggle broadsheets and TV news coverage to try and keep on top of anything unusual happening.

 

“Excuse me Miss Jones… if you’re not too busy… a word… if I may,” Umbridge said in her overly polite manner, as she smiled with an ever condescending and pretend happy grin.

 

This was not an invitation.

 

It never was with her.

 

It was a threat.

 

No more, no less.

 

“Of course, Maam,” Hestia replied, whilst feigning politeness as best she could, with the happiest voice she was able to muster. She caught a whiff of Umbridge’s extremely effeminate perfume, which was a pungent mix of lavender, rose and vanilla. Jones did have to concede that the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Minister for Magic did actually smell very nice - it was just a shame that her attitude fucking stunk.

 

“Don’t be silly girl… please… call me Dolores,” Umbridge said, before giggling slightly and indicating for Hestia to follow her into a small side office, where, to Hestia’s great surprise, stood Kingsley Shacklebolt waiting with a stone-faced expression on his face.

 

The cold stare was juxtaposed quite spectacularly by the characteristically flamboyant robes he was wearing. Hestia could criticize Kingsley for many things, but his sweet sense of style was certainly not one of them.

 

“Now Miss Jones,” Umbridge began abruptly. “As I’m sure you are aware the Ministry is currently undergoing an unfortunate, yet, quite frankly, necessary restructuring programme, which of course I have been overseeing…”

 

Hestia didn’t particularly like where this was going, but she knew that Kingsley himself had been placed by Rufus Scrimgeour to head up the restructure. There wouldn’t be too many cuts in their department, he would make sure of it. He knew how busy they all were and how important the work they were doing was.

 

“Mister Shacklebolt has of course made his recommendations known - and I have to say that I am in complete agreement with his assessment of this department,” Umbridge said, as she smiled at Kinglsey, who dramatically winked in return.

 

It was good news after all then.

 

At best she’d maybe lose 1 or 2 obliviators, possibly some, if not all of the muggle-excuse worthy committee, but that wasn’t too bad.  

Hestia herself had questioned whether they really needed people specifically in that role, there were so many half-bloods and muggle-borns working in the department now that they could usually come up with good excuses on the job anyway.  

 

She hoped that she’d at least be permitted to keep Penelope Clearwater.

 

The Obliviator’s newest recruit was still a little inexperienced and prone to errors of judgment, but she more than made up for it with her hard-work, determination and strong commitment to the job. Hestia saw a bit of herself in the young muggle-born witch and she hoped to eventually groom her into a future leader of the department.

 

“And so we have come to the conclusion that The Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes will be absorbed by The Department of Magical Law Enforcement,” Umbridge uttered nonchalantly, which took Hestia by such surprise that she was rendered completely speechless.  

 

“Of course we hate the dreaded ‘c’ word,” Dolores continued. “…but sometimes some small cuts have to be made for the greater good.”

 

Hestia could definitely think of a C word to describe how she felt about Dolores Umbridge.

 

And what the fuck was Kingsley playing at if he had made this recommendation?

 

Was Umbridge lying?

 

Had Kingsley thrown Hestia and her team under the boss to try and score some points with his new boss Thicknesse?

 

“We tried our best to find similar paying roles for all of your skill sets here at the Ministry,” Kingsley piped in, with a tone that suggested they hadn’t tried in the slightest to do anything of the sort. “But things are pretty tight and our hands are tied by the Minister’s need to free up some extra galleons. I’m afraid that you and more or less every member of your team will have to be made redundant.”

 

She knew that Kingsley was a good actor – and he often pretended to dislike her around the Ministry to add some distance between them, but she was finding it very hard to see any of her friend in the man addressing her.

 

“This is ridiculous!” Hestia stammered, as she finally found her voice. “Our work load is only going up, not down – sure a few cuts here and there I could understand, but the whole bloody team?! Have you lost your minds?!”

 

“Now, now, Miss Jones, there’s no need to raise your voice in such a crass manner,” Umbridge retorted in an annoyed tone.

 

“Look around you!” Hestia yelled, as she motioned her left hand around the paperwork filled room in utmost frustration. “Does this look like a department that you can make cuts in?!”

 

“I think it looks like an overworked and underperforming office that could do with a change,” Kingsley replied before Umbridge could get a word out. The simmering anger in her toad-like face subsided slightly at Kingsley’s comment.

 

“And I think you and your team could do with a change too,” he continued. “That’s why I enlisted the Minster’s help in making sure that you and the hard-working members of your team were offered out to various wizarding governments across the globe. Just because we can’t make use of your talents doesn’t mean that somewhere else can’t.”

 

“You’d be surprised how much some other governments would pay for a British Ministry worker,” Umbridge added with a smile.

 

“Even those members of staff with less desirable blood-statuses were in reasonable demand… I suppose some countries can’t afford to be too fussy... hem, hem.”

 

She had raised her eyebrows when saying that last line to Hestia, no doubt insulting her for being a muggle-born.

 

It was disgusting.

 

Those attitudes were a plague among the high-ranking ministry officials, but when Hestia had first started working there none of them would have ever dared of making such a blatant display of blood supremacy like that.

 

Hestia didn’t like how things were changing, but she had no intention of being sent off to some far-flung foreign ministry where she could no longer influence and fight back against it.

 

She had been begging Kingsley for a more active role in The Order for years – and now he was playing a part in sending her away?!

 

“What if I reject your offer?” she said in a challenge to Kingsley. “You might not be able to pay me what you are now, but I’ll take a pay cut if that’s what it takes.”

 

“That’s very noble of you Miss Jones, but-

 

Kingsley was interrupted by Umbridge before he could finish.

 

“But that is simply not possible! We have made our decision and it is final. You and your motley crew of memory maniacs and muggle worthy excuse madmen will be gone by the end of the week. The Minister has already signed off on the plans. There can be no going back now,” she said triumphantly.

 

“Where is it then? Where is it you’ve managed to negotiate for me to go to?” Hestia demanded.

 

Umbridge looked at her with a smug, blank face, as if she was insulted at the mere suggestion that she would take enough interest to know that detail.

 

“You’d be based in Yugoslavia,” Kingsley said. “A muggle-war is raging in Kosovo. The wizarding community in the region is divided. Many wish to break international law and intervene in the conflict… some already have if the rumours are to be believed. The Yugoslavian Minister is paying big money to anyone who will join his cause… he needs the extra numbers to keep control of his magical population and save him the humiliation of crawling on his knees and begging the International Confederation of Wizards for help. He’d be finished if some of his people caused a global incident by breaking the statute of secrecy act getting involved in a muggle war.”

 

“Filthy sub-species with their incessant need for endless wars and conflicts,” Umbridge spat. “I’m sure Miss Jones will feel right at home,” she added with a crass smile, before an enchanted paper aeroplane note nudged her in the back. She opened it up eagerly before frantically excusing herself, under the guise that something considerably more important had just popped up that needed her urgent attention.

 

“What the fuck are you doing?!” Hestia hissed to Kingsley when she was sure Umbridge had left the room and was out of earshot.

 

Kingsley’s face took on a gravely serious look, as he quickly surveyed the surrounding area to see if anyone was listening to them.

 

“Not here,” he whispered.

 

Hestia pulled out her wand and stared intently at Shacklebolt with a face filled with rage. She had no intention of attacking him, but such was her anger in the heat of the moment that there was no knowing what she might do.  

 

“Very well,” Kingsley sighed.

 

“Sonus Rejicio!” he cast in a quick, commanding manner, as the short-term spell briefly prevented anyone from overhearing them.

 

The side office was quite well hidden and cut off anyway, but his charm would act as an extra line of defence.   

 

“Thicknesse has gone over to their side! We don’t know who else we’ve lost already, but many like Umbridge and Runcorn won’t need much convincing to join them. It won’t be long before You Know Who makes his move on the Ministry.”

 

“He wouldn’t dare!” Hestia argued.

 

“Snape murdered Dumbledore,” Kingsley shot back.  “All bets are off now. It’s only a matter of time. You wouldn’t believe some of the whispers we’ve heard for what Thicknesse has planned. Between Moody and I we managed to talk Robards round into convincing Scrimgeour to go for this restructuring plan. We’re not trying to save money Hestia, we’re trying to save lives. It’s not a coincidence that most of the staff on the way out are muggle-borns or half-bloods. And that’s across the board – not just in your department.”

 

“You’re just feeding into their pureblood supremacy!” she said in horror.

 

“That’s part of the plan. Their prejudice is blinding them to what we’re really doing. We’re getting good people and their families to safety whilst we still can… before the real war begins,” Kingsley said in a resigned sense of duty.  

 

“Oh and that’s what you’re doing with me is it?! Getting me to safety?! I want to stay and help fight them! I want to do my bit for the cause! Why else do you think I joined The Ord-

 

“Don’t speak of that here!” Kingsley softly commanded, as he double-checked once more that nobody was eavesdropping.

 

Hestia swallowed a lump in her throat, worried that she had touched a nerve. Shacklebolt could be quite intimidating when he got angry.  

 

He checked once more that his charm had held firm and there was no danger of anyone overhearing them.

 

“I’ve got no intention of sending you to Yugoslavia,” he whispered. “…but I do have every intention of Thicknesse, Umbridge and all of the rest of them thinking that you’re there.”

 

A sudden sense of understanding seemed to overcome Hestia.

 

“You will get your chance to do your bit for the cause,” he muttered with a wry smile, as he quickly waved his wand and reversed his silence cloaking spell, before hurriedly vacating the office without saying another word to her.

 


 

Hestia looked down at her list.

 

The name read “J TURNER – MGL – 18 – 07/05/1990”

 

This was the last one of the day.

 

Jordan Turner was only just eighteen years old when Hestia had first spoken to him at the tail end of last week, a mere few days following his birthday.

 

By both muggle and wizarding law standards he was now a man, but with his swept over greasy hair, fearful, mistrusting eyes and skinny frame he had seemed far more like a boy. A much worn and faded brown leather belt was the only thing that ensured his oversized, ill-fitting trousers sat near to his waist and did not fall down to his ankles.

 

It was difficult to believe that he was in-fact older than Harry Potter, who less than a fortnight prior had ended You Know Who’s reign of terror on Great Britain.

 

 It had been You Know Who that had inadvertently destroyed the life of Turner, who had been taken in for questioning with a host of other captured snatchers and Death Eater associates following The Battle of Hogwarts.

 

Jordan had spent the vast majority of his life working on his father’s farm, which was situated in a sleepy village town a few miles south of Yeovil in Somerset.

 

From what Hestia had managed to gather from him in his interrogation, he would often do various chores for his father in the field late at night – and it was one fateful night last November when he’d been in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

 

Fenrir Greyback and his pack of hungry, disgruntled werewolves had been prowling the British countryside for the best part of two decades. For the vast majority of the time their disruption had been kept to a minimum, with Greyback himself often in and out of Azkaban for various offences, primarily resolving around breaking the statute of secrecy by illegally recruiting new victims.

 

However, both in the years prior and during You Know Who’s rise to power, Greyback had, for want of a better phrase, had his leash unshackled.

 

It seemed that his reward for unblinking loyalty to The Dark Lord had been free reign to more or less indulge in whatever recreational activity he felt like. This was bad news for British farmers, as his werewolf pack preyed mercilessly on livestock all over Britain.

 

Hestia had suspected as much even when she was in hiding with Dedalus and the Dursley family. Where they were stationed in Wrexham picked up all of the local regional news, which for many months focused on the extraordinary story of wild wolves supposedly ravaging sheep farms all across Wales.

 

There were all manner of eccentric oddball farmers and locals getting interviewed by BBC, ITV and Channel 4 presenters, with each interviewee adamantly proclaiming they’d seen a giant wolf or multiple wolves going after one flock or another. One crazed man even professed he’d seen a werewolf.

 

Needless to say, muggles across the country, excluding the farmers and locals unlucky enough to grab a sighting themselves, did not take it altogether too seriously.

 

In-fact, much of the coverage was framed in such a manner that the presenters back in the metropolitan London-based studios were downright laughing at the ludicrous tales from the backwards country-folk.

 

Hestia even recalled Vernon Dursley, in-between laughing along at the coverage with his wife, making several offhand remarks about the Welsh being a load of ‘stupid bloody sheep shaggers’.

 

But the Welsh farmers and locals had not been stupid at all.

 

They’d simply seen and witnessed things that no sane muggle would ever be able to comprehend or understand.

 

Jordan Turner had been one of these poor muggles.

 

His only problem had been that he hadn’t simply spied or eavesdropped on Greyback’s gang from a distance, no, he’d actually been brave enough, or indeed, foolish enough to try and take them on.

 

Once the werewolf pack had pillaged their way through Wales it seemed they’d headed out to Bristol, Bath and then eventually made their way south to Yeovil and stumbled upon the Turner family farm.

 

Jordan had been bottling up some fresh cow’s milk ready for the morning Sunday market when he’d heard a commotion coming from their sheep herd. At first he had not been too concerned, assuming it was probably just a fox, or maybe even a badger.

 

But as he peered out into the distance he saw several large shadows on the sheep field, which was followed by a blood-curdling howl and a scream of pure terror from a sheep, which caused the others to quickly disperse.

 

The Turner family had followed the news for the last few months and knew all about the rumoured wolf-pack preying on local farms.

 

At first his father had laughed it off like most of the rest of the country, but in the last few weeks he had grown slightly concerned. There had been reports from other farmers, ones that he trusted, who were based in Bristol that had given more credible reports of something very strange and sinister happening.

 

Jordan had thought of running back to the main house and calling for his father when he’d heard that first sheep scream, but he’d thought better of it, as it was a good five minute run. By the time they’d both come back the wolves could’ve been long gone and taken or killed half of their herd.

 

He’d instead reached for the shotgun in the outhouse and fearlessly sprinted towards the defenceless sheep.

 

What he had seen when he’d got there had horrified him to the bone.

 

A big, vicious looking brown wolf with teeth as big as knives was sinking its teeth into the side of a terrified sheep.

 

Luckily for Jordan the wolf had been so preoccupied in feasting on its flesh that it hadn’t notice he was watching it.

 

The beast hadn’t noticed when Jordan had raised the gun, nor when he had taken his aim and it was only when the deafening shot had been fired that Jordan’s presence was finally known to it.

 

It had been too late for the wolf though, as Jordan’s shot had penetrated straight through its neck and fatally wounded it.

 

The blast had been so loud that it had caused Jordan’s hearing to be temporarily reduced to nothing more than a loud ringing noise, so he was unsure whether the wolf had let out a whimper or not, but after a few moments it fell to the ground, dead.

 

 Jordan had momentarily been quite proud of himself.

 

His Dad would be happy with him when he ran back to the house and told him that he’d caught a wolf in the act – and put a bullet right through it for good measure, but Jordan never got to tell his Dad what he had done.

 

As his hearing had returned he had been greeted by the sound of fierce, loud growling behind him, which was coming from the rest of the fallen wolf’s pack – and needless to say, they were not best pleased.

 

He had thought that the wolf he had shot dead had been big, but many of the other wolves that surrounded him after that had absolutely dwarfed the one that he had just killed.

 

It had been the one in the middle that had been the most terrifying.

 

It looked more like a bear than a wolf.

 

This wolf had been massive.

 

This wolf had been menacing.

 

This wolf had been Fenrir Greyback - and he had dived for Jordan Turner, knocked him unconscious and then sunk his teeth deep inside his neck, thus forever cursing the young muggle boy with the blood of a werewolf.

 

Jordan had recounted to Hestia how Greyback had explained everything to him in the morning when he’d come back around.

 

She thought how it must be bad enough for a wizard who is aware of werewolves to be bitten and then turned into one, but she sympathised with Turner who had previously never even known they existed outside of horror movies and folk tales.

 

It was one thing to be told all about the magical word as an excited muggle-born receiving a Hogwarts letter on your 11th birthday, but Jordan’s sorry entry into the magical world had been the polar opposite of that happy childhood experience.  

 

Greyback had bullied the young muggle into joining his pack, under the guise that he was one of them now – a monster, who his family would ostracise should they ever find out the truth. Unable to fend for himself, Jordan was left with little choice but to enlist within Greyback’s ranks and do his bidding for the indefinite future.

 

The young farmer and many others would join a growing portion of teenage boys and young men reported as missing in the UK. The police would launch various man-hunts and missing person investigations, but to no avail, as the families would be left forever wondering what happened to their lost boys. 

 

The next six months had seen the pack continue to ravage the country as Fenrir Greyback, quite literally, raped and pillaged his way through it. A few lost sheep paled in comparison to the number of teenage muggle girls who also began to go missing, with Turner reporting that Greyback, much like a black widow spider, would feast on and kill his helpless victims after he was finished with them. A corpse would often wind up in a local ditch, forest or river, with the police generally left baffled as to what cruel fate had fallen upon the deceased.

 

Turner had not understood why Greyback hadn’t held any interest in recruiting the females to join the pack, but Hestia had studied werewolves enough to have a good understanding of what his probable reasoning had been.

 

A female werewolf, unlike a male, can morph their body to almost three times its normal size during a full moon, as well as that they often develop twice as much of a lust for death and destruction. A she-wolf in the pack could have certainly threatened Greyback, especially if younger males within it lacking a mother-figure possibly gravitated towards her. An Alpha such as Fenrir would have never risked the possibility of having his pack taken over from within.

 

But now Greyback was behind bars – and, if the whispered rumours were true, he was first in line for execution following what would eventually become the Wizarding equivalent of the Nuremberg trials.

 

This had left many of the young and newly recruited werewolves without a leader.

 

A decent percentage of the werewolves that Greyback had turned in the last year were already dead of course, with many being killed in various skirmishes that their Alpha’s snatchers had encountered whilst parading around the countryside.

 

Those that had survived those battles, like Jordan, were then enlisted in as The Dark Lord took Hogwarts. Nothing could’ve prepared them for such a battle and with just knives, bats or their bare hands to defend themselves it was no surprise that a great number of them had fallen in the fray.

 

Yet just shy of 100 of them had managed to survive, which had given The Ministry a bit of a problem.

 

Hestia’s makeshift team had been given the job of at least partially dealing with it, as if they didn’t already have enough on their plate.

The short-term initial plan for these muggle werewolves was fairly simple. They were to have all memory of their previous life as a muggle erased.

 

At first it had seemed quite a drastic and harsh policy, to have them completely forget all of their family and friends, but it was deemed a necessary precaution to maintain the integrity of the secrecy act.

 

Hestia thought it may also in some ways be quite cathartic for the misguided young men, as they would no longer be as depressed about their fate. They could not long for the warmth of their previously loving families if they did not remember them.

 

The art of erasing the memory of a loved one from someone’s mind is a difficult craft to master, but Hestia had a fair amount of practice in the discipline. She had once spent 3 months on an internship in Ohio at the illustrious Munroe Hills Mind Centre, which controversially specialised in just that very branch of memory magic.

 

Munroe Hills’ team of highly trained, and indeed, highly paid, privately contracted Obliviators spent their time removing memories of former lovers, as well as helping people forget abusive experiences or traumatic events that they had witnessed.

 

There was good money to be made in the memory game in America, Canada and even closer to home in Switzerland, but Hestia was too much of a homely girl to want to move that far away. She would miss her Mother too much, even if she was only just an international Portkey away.

 

Hestia knocked on the door to the room that Jordan Turner had been allocated, noting that there was a bit of a foul smell lingering in the hallway.

 

A whole mini apartment complex had been knocked up temporarily whilst they decided upon where they would rehouse or base the remaining pack, yet, given the smell, it seemed that the former muggles had not taken to life back indoors too comfortably. 

 

The door remained shut and there was no hint of noise emitted from inside.

 

Hestia knocked once more, with more power this time, but yet again, no response.

 

It hadn’t been a full moon the previous night, so it wasn’t as if the young wolf would be tired after being up all night.

 

They generally brought them their evening meal in around half an hour, so Hestia couldn’t have imagined that he would’ve wandered off anywhere.

 

She gave the door one last try, but still nothing.

 

The nasty smell felt a little more pronounced now, with Hestia guessing that it was actually coming from inside Jordan’s room.

 

He hadn’t seemed particularly unhygienic when she had spoken to him earlier in the week, in-fact despite his greasy hair and generally unkempt appearance, he had probably been one of the most civilised and reasonable of those that she spoke to.

 

“Jordan!” Hestia requested. “Jordan – It’s Hestia. Remember we spoke last week?”

 

Jones gave the door several further thuds, which, much like her earlier knocks, were once again met with no reply. She pulled on the knob but it seemed that Turner had locked the door.

 

“Jordan! Please don’t make me force my way in there!” she pleaded, but to no avail and thus she was left with little choice.

 

“Okay I’m coming in – I hope you’re wearing some clothes….Alohomora!”

 

The door swung open and Hestia saw him immediately.

 

He was wearing the same clothes that she had seen him in last week, save for the worn and faded brown leather belt, which was not holding up his trousers to his waist, but instead held up his snapped neck and the rest of his limp, dead body from the coat-hook on the back of the door.

 

 



Chapter 12: Percy I - Andalusian Marmalade
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“Come on Perce, at least stay for one more,” George jibed, as ‘Merlin’s Mutiny’ by The Weird Sisters began playing on the Wizarding Wireless.

 

It was a little louder than Percy would’ve liked, especially as he was by no means a fan of said band, but he managed to resist the urge to implore his brother to turn the volume down to a more acceptable level.

 

He thought perhaps George needed the volume that bit louder to compensate for just having one ear, but he could’ve sworn it was significantly quieter earlier and he suspected the volume had only risen as George’s mood had become more boisterous.

 

“I really shouldn’t,” Percy replied meekly.  “My portkey leaves the Ministry at 9AM and I still need to double-check that I haven’t forgotten to pack anythi-

 

“Accio Heineken,” George uttered, with a flick of his wand – and the green bottle zoomed into his spare left hand. “Aperio!” he muttered, which sent the bottle’s cap flying up into the air. Percy’s little brother then handed him the beer with a sympathetic smile on his face.

 

Percy huffed slightly.

 

He could hardly turn him down.

 

If he left George’s now he would make it home for 11. His own one bedroom apartment was only a short walk down the road, it was so close it was barely even worth apparating or using the Floo Network to get there.

 

He didn’t particularly want to stay any later, in-fact he would’ve liked to have left a few hours ago when the others had, but he still harboured a terrible amount of guilt for Fred’s death and felt he ought to do as much as he could to placate George’s loss and fill the void left behind.

 

“Fine. But this really has to be the last one,” he insisted, as George let out a loud sarcastic cheer and raised his own bottle of beer to a toast.

 

Percy was no longer sure how many beers they had got actually through.

 

George had certainly been drinking at a much faster rate, which had caused him to break his seal and take frequent trips to the toilet, during which Percy had been secretly drinking large amounts of water to keep himself as sober as possible.

 

“And to think…we always used to call you boring, Perce! Look at you now… me and you… the last one’s standing!” George joked, as he began draining the rest of his bottle.

 

George had happily hosted what had winded up being Percy’s official send-off before he embarked on his diplomatic mission for the Ministry. Bill, Fleur, Charlie and Ginny had all popped by to wish Percy well on his trip, with the four of them retiring about an hour ago.

 

Ron hadn’t made an appearance due to disappearing off on his own international adventure with Hermione, whilst his Mother and Father had been busy at St Mungo’s visiting Aunt Muriel, who was still recovering from the nasty fall she’d had a few days prior.  

 

“You found out who they’re sending you with yet?” George asked eagerly.

 

“No,” Percy replied. “But I’m almost certain it will be Newt Scamander. I mentioned it to Father the other day and he didn’t confirm it either way, but judging by the look on his face he might as well have done.”

 

George laughed comically as he took another swig from his bottle.

 

“I’m telling you Perce – it’s gonna be Fudge. I’d put money on it!” he said emphatically.

 

“I’ll find out in the morning either way,” Percy replied, taking a meagre sip from his bottle before grimacing slightly at the hopsy taste.

 

“Where is it you’re off to first? Germany?” George asked.

 

“Prague,” Percy said matter-of-factly. 

 

“That is Germany, isn’t it?” George replied in a slightly confused tone.

 

“Not quite, no. It’s in the Czech Republic, although only a few years ago it was still Czechoslovakia. It caused quite the constitutional crisis for the Czechoslovakian Ministry. It’s actually quite interesting really, as technically the International Confederation of Wizards recommends that wizarding governments split with their muggle counterpart, but of course the Germany Ministry never bothered when they split that up into West and East-

 

“Alright, alright, Perce I think I get the picture,” George rudely butted in.

 

“But do you not find it utterly fascinating how muggle policy decisions, wars or independence movements can have such a big effect on our governments and way of life?” Percy asked in bewilderment.

 

“Not really, no.”

 

Percy sighed in dismay at his brother’s lack of interest in wizarding politics and international relations.

 

“Do you know what I do find fascinating, Perce?” George said, as a dangerous, drunk grin emerged on his face.

 

“No… but by all means, enlighten me,” Percy replied, indulging his younger brother.

 

“Do you reckon little Ronnikins is gonna finally lose his V-plates out in Australia?”

 

“Pardon? His V-plates?” Percy said in a confused tone, unfamiliar with the expression.

 

“Oh come on Perce. You know what I mean. Do you think they’re gonna bang?!” George jibed back, which caused Percy to almost choke on his drink.

 

“Merlin’s beard,” Percy exclaimed, as he finally realized what he meant.  “I don’t even want to think about that,” he added indignantly, as his younger brother chuckled loudly.

 

“The way Dad tells it old Kingsley’s got them a right romantic room at the hotel they’re staying at. They’ve got a Hot tub and a private pool and everything! I bet it will be bloody baking out there the whole time too. Young lovers, exposed skin, bit of booze flowing… oh I bet they’ll be at it like a pair of wild Encantados!” George exclaimed, as he did his best impression of the seductive South American sea-creatures.

 

“You’re truly repulsive when you’re drunk,” Percy groaned. “And besides… I don’t imagine it will be too hot out there at this time of year anyway… and they’ve gone out there so Hermione can be reunited with her parents… I dare say they’ll scarcely have time for such extra-curricular activities.”

 

“Trust you to put a dampener on it,” George interjected. “Extra-curricular activities… bloody hell, who calls it that?! Even you had a girlfriend once, Perce! Whatever happened to old Penny Clearwater anyway?”   

 

Percy felt a lump in his throat at the mere mention of her name.

 

“She- we – well… she moved abroad just before it all, you know… when Mister Scrimgeour was forcibly removed from…

 

“Oh right,” George said with a grimace. “Suppose she was muggle-born, wasn’t she? Probably the safest thing for her given how it all turned out.”

 

“Yes well she didn’t much want to leave, of course, but Hestia Jones eventually talked her into it. We talked about, you know, breaking up… but we both wanted to stay together, even with her moving to another country. We were both working so much that we didn’t see each other an awful lot at the time anyway, so I thought that we’d be able to make it last long distance.”

 

This wasn’t strictly speaking true.

 

Percy had feared that their relationship was doomed as soon as Penelope had left.

 

It had seemed inevitable that she would tire of him and, true to form, after a short while, her letters back had become much more infrequent – until they eventually stopped altogether. 

 

“And you didn’t? What happened?! You’ve never mentioned this before!” George demanded.

 

It was true.

 

Percy hadn’t – and for good reason!

 

Of course he’d only been reunited with his family for less than a month - and his love-life had hardly been a hot topic of conversation given everything that had happened, but even before that, he’d never spoken of this to a single soul before.

 

He worried that perhaps the water hadn’t worked as well as he’d hoped and he actually was drunk after all.

 

“We’d write to each other every week to begin with, although given her role in a foreign Ministry it became very difficult to talk about anything too substantial once You Know Who properly took over,” Percy sighed.

 

“What Ministry was it she was working for?”

 

“MACUSA. Although she was spending a few days a week at the Munroe Hills Mind Cen-

 

“Wait. Wait. Wait!” George yelled, as he excitedly slammed his bottle on the table, causing it to fizz up a bit.

 

“She’s working in New York for the MACUSA?!”

 

Percy thought he could see where this was going.

 

“Well yes, err, unless she’s transferred in the last few-

 

“But Perce! That’s one of your stops isn’t it?!” his brother cackled, with a maniacal laugh on his face.

 

“Yes but-

 

“Of course! That’s why you were so keen to volunteer for this mission. It all makes sense now!” George beamed.

 

Percy could not lie – the prospect of seeing Penelope again had certainly made the mission reasonably appealing for him.

 

It was not his sole reason for going, but he would not have held the same enthusiasm for it had she not been part of the overall package.

 

 

“Here we were thinking it was just typical Percy, keen to impress and get his teeth stuck into some work, but all along, it was all for lurveee!” George sneered.

 

Percy felt his cheeks reddening with embarrassment, which of course, his brother noticed instantly, causing him to grin even further.

 

In years gone by Percy may have lashed out, but seeing such a broad smile on George’s face brought him enough solace that he allowed his brother to have this small victory.

 

“I’m really only going to be there on business though. I won’t let my personal feelings cloud our overall mission. And besides, it’s been such a long time that I doubt that she would even want to get back with me-

 

“No!” George barked, as he slammed his bottle onto the table and gave Percy a fiercely serious stare.

 

“Look, I jest and take the piss Perce, but given everything that’s happened… I think… no I know… I know that you should go for it. Win her back. Why not? Life’s too short! You never know what could be round the corner and-

 

The radio suddenly broke from the song it was playing and a loud newscast began to play, which caused them both to look over in slight worry.

 

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE’RE TERRIBLY SORRY TO INTERUPT TONIGHT’S RAMBUNCTIOUS WIZARD ROCK SHOW, BUT WE HAVE SOME HUGE INTERNATIONAL SPORTING NEWS THAT IS BREAKING TONIGHT AT THIS VERY MOMENT…

 

Percy and George shared a sigh of relief at that last bit.

 

The war was still fresh enough in the memory that hearing an announcement like that made Percy fear the worst. Any sports-related news seemed very trivial compared to the possibility of one of the escaped Death Eaters causing some trouble.

 

THIS IS A SCANDAL THAT’S SET TO ROCK THE QUIDDITCH WORLD TO ITS VERY CORE, YES THAT’S RIGHT… WE’RE TALKING ABOUT A GLOBAL MATCH-FIXING RING THAT GOES RIGHT TO THE VERY TOP!

 

THE MOST HIGH-PROFILE OF THE MATCHES BEING INVESTIGATED IS THE 1994 QUIDDITCH WORLD CUP FINAL, HOSTED HERE IN BRITAIN, WHICH OF COURSE WAS INFAMOUSLY OVERSHADOWED BY THE CASTING OF THE DARK MARK BY FOLLOWERS OF THE RECENTLY DEFEATED YOU KNOW WHO IN THE AFTERMATH.

 

Percy noticed that his brother seemed to be smiling guiltily at something – and he couldn’t quite work out what it could possibly be.

 

INTERNATIONAL QUIDDITCH ICON, VIKTOR KRUM, CAPTAIN OF THE BULGARIAN NATIONAL SIDE, IS AT THE CENTRE OF THIS CONTROVERSY, AS IT IS REPORTED THAT HE DELIBERATELY CAUGHT THE SNITCH AT SUCH A TIME THAT HE KNEW HIS SIDE WOULD STILL LOSE THE MATCH…

 

“That’s absolutely disgraceful,” Percy mumbled. “And to think it’s taken this long for it to come to light!”

 

“Oh yeah absolutely…” George added. “Truly shocking!”  

 

 EVIDENCE HAS NOW EMERGED THAT PECULIAR BETTING ACTIVITY WAS RAMPANT PRIOR TO THE FINAL, WITH LARGE SUMS OF MONEY BEING PLACED ON AN IRELAND VICTORY AND FOR KRUM TO CATCH THE SNITCH. IT IS THOUGHT THAT WHILST THE MAJORITY OF THE BETTING ACTIVITY ORIGINATED FROM THE BALKAN NATIONS… THERE WAS ALSO SIGNIFIANT ACTIVITY IN IRELAND… AND IT IS WIDELY BELIEVED THAT THE IRISH NATIONAL TEAM WERE IN ON IT TOO…

 

VIKTOR KRUM HAS TONIGHT BEEN ARRESTED, ALONGSIDE OTHER BULGARIAN STARS LIKE IVAN VOLKOV, PYOTR VULCHANOV AND THE RECENTLY RETIRED KEEPER, LEV ZOGRAF.

 

AN INTERNATIONAL ARREST WARRANT HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR A NUMBER OF THE IRISH SIDE FROM THAT TOURNAMENT, MOST NOTABLY FOR THEIR DISGRACED CAPTAIN, AIDAN LYNCH, WHO TRANSFERRED FROM THE FALMOUTH FALCONS TO THE PHOENIX THUNDERBIRDS IN LAST YEAR’S SUMMER TRANSFER WINDOW, WHICH OF COURSE SAW THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE BRITISH AND IRISH LEAGUE’S STAR PLAYERS LEAVE FOR EUROPEAN, NORTH AMERICAN AND ASIAN TEAMS AMID THE UNCOMFORTABLE PROSPECT OF WAR IN THE COUNTRY.

 

WE WILL HAVE MORE ON THIS SENSATIONAL STORY LATER DURING OUR MIDNIGHT MESSAGE BEFORE BROADCASTING CEASES FOR THE EVENING…. BUT NOW WE RETURN TO OUR ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING…

 

“What are you laughing for?” Percy demanded. “Match-fixing is a very serious crime. I fail to see the funny side myself.”

 

“Well it’s like you said Perce. I just find it funny that it’s taken it this long to come to light,” George replied devilishly.  “It was the talk of the Irish tents in the campsite at that World Cup… any old Tom, Dick and Harry with an Extendable Ear prototype knew about this years ago.”

 

Percy spent the next quarter of an hour heavily reprimanding his younger brother for the inconceivably heinous crime of betting, albeit unofficially, on a Quidditch match that he had known to be rigged – and of course, for the even worse crime of not reporting it to a Ministry official.

 

George eventually wriggled his way out of it by jokingly blaming the entire scheme on his late twin brother, which alas, left Percy defeated. The two shared an emotional toast to Fred, before Percy finished his drink and finally excused himself to go home and finish packing for his big adventure abroad.

 


 

Percy coughed heavily and rubbed his chest slightly.

 

Indigestion.

 

Or maybe it was a hangover.

 

Whatever it was, it had not been helped by the uncharacteristically hurried fashion in which he had consumed his breakfast.

 

It was a shame that he had been in such a rush, as he usually liked to savour his breakfast, which was undeniably the most important meal of any sane and serious person’s day.

 

Percy’s breakfast of choice was a mug of black coffee, accompanied by two slices of wholemeal toast. The first slice, which would be ever so slightly over-cooked, had to be generously buttered and would always be consumed first.

 

The second slice, well, that was the real treat. This would be ever so slightly under-cooked and on it would be spread copious amounts of the finest Andalusian marmalade that galleons could buy. The lavish variety of the orange preserve that Percy favoured was crafted by a well-respected Spanish pure-blood family – and it was a morning treat that he enjoyed indulging himself in.

 

It had not been an easy upbringing in a family of seven children, which had seen lots of compromise and very little room for any luxuries, however mundane they may have been. This had spurned Percy on to work mercilessly hard at school, then later too in a professional capacity, to ensure that he – and furthermore, any of his offspring, would never have to experience that make-do feeling of being poor.

 

He glanced down at the face of the elaborate golden watch which he had received as a gift from his former boss, the late Mister Crouch.

 

One minute.

 

There were just sixty seconds remaining before the disused oven glove would transport Percy to Prague, but would it just be him that it would be transporting?

 

He had been apprehensively waiting alone for the best part of twenty minutes – and there was still absolutely no sign of Newt Scamander, or indeed, anybody else.

 

Could it have been a mistake?

 

Maybe there had been some kind of miscommunication and Mister Scamander had been sent to the wrong room, or perhaps he had the wrong room himself. That would make more sense than the great Magizoologist partaking in such a blunder, but Percy was specifically informed it was International Transport Room 5 and that the Portkey would be a red oven glove, so this must be it.

 

Thirty seconds.

 

Percy felt a drip of sweat fall from his forehead as he worriedly looked down at the oven glove.

 

He had been so very excited for this day, for the mission, for the chance to eventually see Penny again.

 

But now his stomach was in knots.

 

Scamander must’ve pulled out.

 

Something more important must’ve come up.

 

He had been banking on Penny being impressed by him travelling with such a famous figure.

 

He’d have to go it alone.

 

It was such an important mission for the Ministry and it would all be resting firmly on his shoulders.

 

Percy thought he might throw up.

 

The chance to make such a big impression to Kingsley by delivering the goods on his own was a prospect that the Percy of a few years ago would’ve relished, but the thought of it was scaring him half to death.

 

Ten seconds.

 

Bloody hell.

 

He really was going to be going it alone.

 

Merlin’s beard.

 

Five seconds.

 

This was it.

 

He was going to have to-

 

“Quick, young Perce! You’re going to miss it, lad!”  

 

Percy desperately latched his hand onto the oven glove - and only then did he finally learn who would be accompanying him on the mission.

 

It wasn’t Newt Scamander.

 

It wasn’t even old Cornelius Fudge.

 

It was Dedalus Diggle.



Chapter 13: Andromeda III - Pride and Prejudice
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Teddy’s hair twitched from jet black to light blonde as Andromeda held the milk-bottle to his mouth.

 

“Teddy. Teddy open your mouth for Grandma. Come on Teddy, be a good boy,” she pleaded, but he wasn’t interested.

 

It had been a struggle to get anything down him in the last twenty-four hours.

 

He cried a lot more in the days just following a full moon, she was sure of it, or maybe she was just imagining it in her paranoid mind. She struggled to sleep those nights out of fear of what might happen with him, but so far he had shown no signs of transforming. 

 

Andromeda pressed the bottle to his tiny little lips once more and after a bit more prodding he eventually relented, suckling on it whilst she rubbed his little belly through his pyjamas.

 

The moving images of the discarded Witch Weekly magazine on the oak coffee table caught her eye, with the back-page dominated by the wanted posters of her dead sister’s husband and his younger brother.

 


 

Gaius Lestrange had not been a regular fixture at the Black family’s opulent manor-house in the Bedfordshire countryside for very long, but Andromeda had already grown quite tired of his presence. His persistent brown-nosing of her father over the summer months had been nauseating at best – at worst, even somewhat concerning considering her eldest sister would, at some point in the next 12 months, wed his eldest son and officially join their families together in the process.

 

Bellatrix had been looking forward to her 17th birthday with baited breath for months, as she would finally be considered a fully-grown adult-witch, thus, not just capable, but also legally able to make her own life choices.

 

Or at least that was what she had thought.

 

In hindsight this train of thought had been nothing short of abject naivety on her part, as the mere idea that she would not still be behest to her Father’s will whilst she still lived in his house was nothing more than a pipe dream.

 

The subject of finding a suitable wizard to marry her off to was not something that had been readily discussed by their Mother and Father in recent times, in-fact -  more or less any subject involving Bellatrix had been off limits following the abortion incident.

 

Andromeda guessed that Bellatrix had thought after that scandal that she would’ve avoided the long-held tradition of pure-blood arranged marriage. It was something that Andromeda and Cissy had pondered themselves, after all, whilst the Black family name was practically royalty, what self-respecting, rich, pure-blood wizard would wish to marry one of their sons off to Bellatrix after all of that?

 

That had probably been something that her Father had also been rather concerned about. He had always been bitterly disappointed that he had never been birthed a male heir, but he always had the consolation prize of being able to marry off his darling daughters to the cream of the crop in pure-blood bachelors.

 

He was very good friends with the obscenely wealthy Abraxas Malfoy and if the rumours were to be believed - they had once discussed the possibility of marrying off their first born children together, with that philanderer Lucius even briefly courting Bellatrix at one point in time.

 

Of course that was undoubtedly off of the cards completely now, with Abraxas loathe to marry off his prized asset to such a disgraced young witch. Lucius would no doubt end up marrying one of the other less discredited pure-blood girls he liked to pursue at school. It could be Danielle Avery, Amara Greengrass or maybe even that bitch Olivia Burke – but definitely not Bellatrix.

 

Bellatrix was damaged goods and not even the prospect of their family name, reputation and wealth could paper over the cracks she had created. As her father had discovered - there was not a single self-respecting, rich, pureblood wizard who would considering marrying off their son to such a witch.

 

However, luckily for him, whilst there were no self-respecting, rich, pureblood wizards who would consider it – there was at least one rich, pureblood wizard that would consider it.

 

This was where Gaius Lestrange had come into the picture.

 

He was not self-respecting in the slightest, instead, he was utterly shameless in his lust for power, respect and social climbing. Whilst many other noble men with names like Malfoy, Crouch, Yaxley and Nott had pride and reputation to lose by entering their sons into such a bargain with Bellatrix – Gaius Lestrange was from a family that had not yet managed to carve out such pride or reputation into their name.

 

From what Andromeda had gathered from her Mother the vast majority of the Lestrange family had still been based in France at the turn of the 20th century, but following Grindelwald’s rise to power in Europe, a lot of the men had moved their wives and children to the comparative safety of Britain.

 

The patriarchs of the family did not do this to avoid Grindelwald’s war, on the contrary, the vast majority were actively following him into battle - and thus, they feared possible reprisals from a French Ministry that was keen to crack down on the dark wizard’s most loyal supporters by any means necessary.

 

Gaius Lestrange was still a teenager bogged down in his studies at Hogwarts when Grindelwald fell, with his Father subsequently locked up for life in the same prison that housed the man he had followed until the bitter end.

 

The Lestrange family had quite a few prosperous business ventures scattered across France, but they were soon purged following their owner’s demise and Gaius and his Mother were left with nothing but the cramped little cottage that housed them in Nottingham.  Andromeda’s Mother had not expanded on how exactly Gaius Lestrange had managed to acquire the comparative riches that he held today, but she did not have any reason to believe it had come about entirely from legitimate business practices. All that she knew was that at some point Gaius, after befriending many other like-minded pure-blood wizards at Hogwarts, had eventually married the misshapen looking Edith Bulstrode and popped out two sons – one of which was now lucky enough to have Bellatrix as his prospective bride.

 

Rodolphus Lestrange could indeed consider himself lucky to have Bellatrix as his bride, as the lanky, dark-haired boy was not someone that Bellatrix, or indeed any of the other Slytherin girls seemed to show any romantic interest in.

 

Bellatrix liked to flirt and fornicate with the most powerful, ambitious and talented boys, not quiet, timid lackeys like her prospective fiancé. Rodolphus was not particularly gifted in any of his classes, nor did he possess enough talent on a broom to warrant a place on the dominant Slytherin quidditch side. He was a follower, not a leader, with the only person he seemed to have any influence over being his younger brother, Rabastan, who was even shyer and stranger than his sibling.

 

Andromeda doubted that Rodolphus would be able to tame her sister, in-fact, she figured Bellatrix would probably chew him up and spit him straight back out. In many ways she thought that made Gaius Lestrange’s eldest son the ideal man for Bellatrix, but if her repeated tantrums were anything to go by, it did not seem likely that she saw it that way herself.

 

“Andromeda, my dear, you have not eaten much of your steak,” her Mother said suddenly, interrupting her day-dreaming at the dining room table.

 

“Did Rudy not cook it how you like it? I will summon him at once, he can cook you another one.”

 

“No, Mother, this one is fine,” she quickly replied before her Mother could have a go at their house elf.

 

She was not lying – the food that Rudy had prepared her was no less nice than it always was, but she just had too much on her mind to be hungry enough to eat it.

 

Even if he had over-cooked it she would not have complained about it. She hated to see him chastised by her Mother, or worse, when he would punish himself for the slightest of errors or mistakes in his cooking or cleaning.

 

Bellatrix had for many years taken a great sadistic pleasure in fabricating problems with the meals he prepared for her, not because she had any particular hatred of him, but purely because she enjoyed watching her Mother berate and punish him. There were even a few occasions that he had broken down in tears, which had brought great amusement to her triumphant sister, who seemed to enjoy watching others getting publicly humiliated, especially if they were people or creatures that she considered beneath her.

 

 “This is not the first time you have not finished your dinner this week, Andromeda. I do hope you are not taking part in that silly dieting trend that seems to have become popular with young witches. The Prophet said it originates from the Mud-

 

“I am not dieting!” she snapped before her Mother could say the word.

 

Druella Black did not take too kindly to any of her children raising their voices at her, but ever since Bellatrix’s fall from grace she had been a lot more lenient with her two younger girls.

 

“Andromeda Black!” her mother muttered in a stern voice.

 

“I am sorry Mother,” Andromeda lied, which caused the angry expression on Druella’s face to fade away slightly. “I should not have raised my voice at you… it is just lately I…  I am feeling so…

 

“Yes?” her Mother replied eagerly. “What is it, dear? I have sensed something has not been quite right with you lately, please, do tell me what it is and we can resolve it.”

 

 Andromeda had to think of something fast.

 

She could not tell her Mother what it was that was really stressing her out. That her Father selling off her sister to the highest bidder like an antique ornament had hit her with the stark realisation that this could one day soon be her fate too.

 

It wasn’t so bad for Cissy.

 

Fabian Prewett might be a flamboyant, rebellious Gryffindor, but he was still a pure-blood from a wealthy wizarding family. Her little sister still liked to keep their budding romance a secret, but there was no reason to believe that their Father wouldn’t greenlight a marriage between them if it one day got that serious.

 

Andromeda would not be so lucky.

 

Ted was a muggle-born and she would probably be disowned by her Father if he even knew she was dating him, let alone if she asked for his blessing to one day marry him. 

 

“I am absolutely dreading going back to school, Mother,” she mustered up. “We start studying for our N.E.W.T.S and I just… I do not think I can hack it!” Andromeda blurted out, as she unexpectedly burst into tears.

 

Her Mother did not reach out to comfort her instantly, as she had spent many years training herself and her daughters to avoid showing such extreme emotion, but after a few moments she came closer and began to run her fingers through Andromeda’s dark brown hair.

 

“Oh, my dearest daughter, you are such a silly girl sometimes,” she whispered softly in a slightly patronising tone. 

 

The reason that Andromeda had burst into tears was indeed due to her dreading the return to Hogwarts, yet it was not her N.E.W.T.S that kept her up at night, but her relationship with Ted.   

 

Her courtship of him had initially began as an exciting act of defiance and rebellion.

 

Their first date in Hogsmeade had been somewhat, if not entirely, influenced by her desire to rebound from Lucius Malfoy.  She had thought that if the Slytherin seeker had found out she had been on a date with another boy, a muggle-born no less, that he would first get extremely jealous- and then come to his senses and realise what a mistake he had made by casting her aside for Olivia.

 

As luck would have it that Hogsmeade trip had seen an incredible torrent of rain, which had put off most students from even bothering to venture out of the castle. Andromeda had headed there primarily to get the books that she wanted, not imagining that the muggle-boy with the silly haircut and the nice cheek-bones would bother braving the rain to meet her – but to her surprise when she had entered Tomes and Scrolls there he had been, browsing a book-shelf on the other side of the room.

 

They had gone on that date to Madam Pudifoot’s and save for the waitress had not seen a single soul from school the entire afternoon. In hindsight it was damn good fortune that they hadn’t. If anyone from Slytherin had spotted them together then their fledging relationship would have been over before it had even begun.

 

For the next three months they had primarily communicated by owl-post, with Andromeda frantically studying for her O.W.L.S she at least had a feasible excuse not to want to be too distracted by becoming Ted’s girlfriend. Then in July when most of her exams were over, they had met up again by the Great Lake in “their” spot, when the very last of the year’s Quidditch matches were taking place.

Much like their first meeting they could talk by the trees with very little chance of anyone stumbling upon them. That was when Ted had first raised his suspicions of the real reason why Andromeda had been somewhat pushing him away – that she did not want to be seen in public with him, that she could not be with him because he was a muggle-born.

 

She had tried to explain to him that it wasn’t that simple – and that he didn’t understand how her parents would react if they learned she was dating a muggle-born. He had at first been crestfallen, then he had furiously issued her an ultimatum, stating that if she was never willing to openly be his girlfriend then they were both just wasting their time.

 

He had begun to walk away from her when she desperately called out for him to stop, then as he had turned back to look at her she had ran towards him and flung herself into his un-expecting arms, before surprising him even further by passionately pressing her lips against his. It had been their first kiss – and before the sun had set that evening, she was pretty sure they had also had their one hundred and first kiss too.

 

 Over the summer they had met up at least twice a week – and Ted being a muggle-born meant he would always take her places that no witch or wizard would ever see them. It was perfect. It was lovely – and now it was going to be ruined by them going back to Hogwarts.

There were no secret rooms in the castle they could meet up away from the prying eyes of the pure-blood contingency.

 

Andromeda knew that Ted would not be willing to settle for months of letters and the occasional secret meet-up when there was a Quidditch match on – and he should not have to settle for that, he deserved to be with someone that loved him enough to publicly be his girlfriend.

 

But how could Andromeda do that?

 

She couldn’t.

 

And she knew sooner or later that Ted would break up with her and find someone else who would.

 

He would probably get with a pretty muggle-born or half-blood girl that didn’t act like a fish out of water whenever meeting up with his non-wizard friends and family. Andromeda would then have to watch Ted and this girl holding hands as they strolled around the castle grounds, or maybe when a Quidditch match was on she would stumble upon them kissing in “their” spot by the Great Lake.

 

Andromeda felt the hot tears continue to run down her face as her Mother carried on stroking her hair. 

 

 “Now, now, Andromeda… you are being so silly. There is nothing for you to worry about. Whatever happens your Father and I will be so very proud of you. Do you hear me?” she said, as Andromeda wiped her wet eye-lids and saw her Mother’s best attempt at a reassuring smile.

 

“But what if I… what if I-

 

She briefly considered confiding in her Mother.

 

It was only for a split-second.

 

She thought that maybe she would understand.

 

 Maybe she would let her fall in love with whoever she wanted after all.

 

“Even if you do fail your exams… and Andromeda, dear, you will not, but even if you do… you are a beautiful young pure-blood woman. You will be sixteen in a few weeks. It will not be long before your Father begins to search for a suitable husband for you… and I mean a truly suitable husband, not the… not the riff-raff that your sister has had to make do with… and then Andromeda it will not truly matter how good or bad your grades are. After all, as your Father quite rightfully points out… the only real reason a pure-blood girl needs to go to school is to advertise.”

 

“To advertise… to advertise what?” Andromeda mumbled amid her post-cry sniffles.

 

“To advertise themselves to the best young pure-blood men of course. It seems your sister was a bit over-eager in that department – I blame myself partially, although I did do my utmost to prevent her from doing anything too stupid. Oh but I did fail her… I did… oh Andromeda it is all my fault!”

 

It was not long before her Mother too had begun to cry – and in what was a very un-Black like event, they held each other for a good long while whilst they both bawled their eyes out.

 

Her mother, crying because she thought that she had not done right by Bellatrix – and Andromeda, crying because she knew now that when the time came, she would not do right by her either.

 

 

 



Chapter 14: Harry IV - The Camden Raid
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The relatively busy tube almost entirely emptied as it stopped at Tottenham Court Road station, with the eclectic carriage of muggle tourists of all colours and creeds emptying out to enjoy the shopping opportunities on offer.

 

The commercial London street had much darker connotations for Harry himself.  He vividly recalled the destruction that had been caused when they had encountered Antonin Dolohov and Thorfinn Rowle in that dingy café during the aftermath of Bill and Fleur’s wedding.

 

Sometimes he wondered how many deaths that the two dark wizards had been personally responsible for after they were defeated that night.

 

He knew deep down that the three of them had made the right moral choice to show the men mercy, that to kill them would have sunk Harry, Ron and Hermione to the Death Eater’s level – but that didn’t stop him from playing devil’s advocate in his mind.

 

Dolohov and Rowle were both stone-cold killers and the three of them had inadvertently let them go on to wreak more havoc on the wizarding world. It killed Harry to think that this may have led to the deaths of Tonks, Remus, George or any of the others that ultimately lost their lives.

 

The former and possibly more dangerous of the duo was at least now safely behind bars, but the erratic Thorfinn Rowle was still at large and possibly in cahoots with the other five missing Death Eaters.

 

It was two of those missing Death Eaters, Rabastan and Rodolphus Lestrange, that had led Harry and the eight other magical passengers onto the Northern Line service that evening. As the scattering of muggle passengers alighted the carriage Harry could once again see the other two groups of three Ministry staff huddled together throughout the train.

 

The furthest to Harry’s group at the rear of the carriage were Femi Wakanda, dressed in a flamboyant, yet still quite practical purple gown and Neville, in a comfortable looking grey hoodie, both gripping a hand onto the bars above their head, whilst the considerably shorter Conrad Proudfoot could only reach a bar that was many inches lower below his colleagues. Wakanda and Proudfoot seemed to be having a hushed conversation, as Neville remained silent, with a deep and thoughtful look in his eyes.

 

Harry had at first thought his pureblood friend had just felt a bit uncomfortable on what would possibly be his maiden muggle tube voyage, but then he remembered the obvious connection and extra investment that the sole son and heir of Frank and Alice Longbottom would have in this mission.

 

The closer trio, at the front-facing side of the carriage, was the attractive young muggle-born witch Farzana Badwal, alongside the foreboding figure of Robert Williamson and his flustered young protégé, Ernie MacMillan, who certainly was feeling quite uncomfortable on his first trip on the London Underground. He had not at first grasped the concept of holding onto the bars to keep your balance, so as soon as the train had departed Charing Cross he had been violently flung into Farzana -  who had wasted no time in giving him a stern telling off, with many muggle strangers quietly laughing nearby.

 

Rhea Savage and Josh Morris, who Harry was grouped up with, had both also laughed at Ernie’s mishap, much to his horror. Savage and Morris were both muggle-borns themselves so were no doubt more up to speed with using non-wizarding transport – and indeed, also wearing non-wizarding clothes, as they both blended in fairly well with their respective leather and denim jackets.

 

Josh Morris looked particularly sharp as he wore his faux-wool collars up, with a low cut white t-shirt underneath it that showed off his muscly frame. His fingers were adorned with several eye-catching rings, the most noteworthy of which was in the shape of a golden eagle. Harry had even noticed a couple of the young female muggle tourists eyeing him up, although Josh himself had been completely oblivious to them.

 

“So… since we have a few more stops and some time to kill, tell me, did you see much action in New York?” Rhea probed, as she shot her brawny colleague a slight wink as they each sat down in the now vacated seats.

 

Harry recalled in his mind the time that Ron had commented on the wacky designs and patterns on muggle public transport – and his horrified reaction when Hermione had said that it was primarily only to help hide the dust and the dirt.

 

“Erm… well there was the odd bit of bother here and there… but nothing massively exciting, I spent most of the time floating between the Transport and the Magi-… the Creatures department,” he quickly corrected, as he remembered they were still in the presence of a few muggles scattered about the carriage.

 

Harry was pretty sure though that even with Josh’s belated amendment that there was no such equivalent department for ‘creatures’ in the muggle government. 

 

“Guessing they thought I’d want to avoid too much action given I’d transferred from Britain,” Josh continued. “Still, it could’ve been much worse if Kingsley stuck to his original plan to send me home to Manila. It would’ve been nice to see my parents a bit more, but man, way too many…”

 

He silently mouthed ‘dragons’ to the two of them.

 

 “…causing all kinds of shit all of the time. It’s crazy how lapse the Filipino Ministry are about them, it’s a different world out there, man!” he said as he enthusiastically gestured his hands about whilst talking.

 

Rhea scoffed slightly, as the train briefly stopped at Goodge Street, as the last of the muggle passengers remaining on the carriage left the train.

 

“That’s great Josh, but I wasn’t talking about that kind of action…” she replied, rolling her eyes at him as the doors slammed shut and they began moving again.

 

Josh burst out laughing as soon as he realized what she had meant.

 

“For fuck sake Rhea!” Josh jeered.

 

“What?!” she replied in a mock incredulous tone. “An attractive fashionable bloke like you with a nice British accent and those muscles, you must have had all of the American witches queuing up for a go like you were Harry Potter or something!”

 

Harry laughed awkwardly as Josh sniggered slightly at Rhea’s remark, with the muggles now all off the train it seemed that they could now speak more freely. 

 

Rhea crossed her legs, putting her right over her left, as Harry caught the outline of a brightly coloured Holyhead Harpies tattoo that was partially on display through her ripped black jeans, which were tucked into a well-worn pair of purple doc martens boots.

  

 “Well, there was this one girl…” Josh began, as Rhea smiled enthusiastically.  

 

“Details! I need details, Josh,” Rhea snapped back quickly. “Do you know how many lesbian or bisexual witches there were in Paris? Nil-pwa, mon amie!”    

 

“Alright… alright, keep your hair on… so on this one assignment when I was in the Department of Transport I got chatting to this one chick, Kimberley, she was from Texas…”    

 

“Ooh, Kimberley from Texaaas!” Rhea ribbed in a mock Southern accent, which caused Josh to laugh involuntarily.

 

“Well you know me, I have a soft-spot for blondes, so we kinda hit it off from the get go and yes… she did love the British accent… we were seeing each other almost every other day after work at her place for well over a month and then one night…” he stopped mid-sentence, looking a bit uncomfortable.

 

“And then what?!” Rhea demanded, on the edge of her seat in anticipation.

 

“… and then one night her husband came home! Of course, she never told me about him now, did she?”

 

“Bloody hell,” Harry muttered.

 

“You can say that again!” Rhea added.

 

“And it’s not what you think. She wasn’t that sort of girl… well, not really. It was a pureblood arranged marriage type deal that their parents had set up, or rather, her parents had set up with him. He was this rich potion-maker, much older than her, almost old enough to be her dad…”

 

“Jesus…” Rhea mumbled with a disgusted look on her face.

 

“I felt a bit bad for her… but as you can imagine it went down like a sack of shit with him. It turned out he was reasonably influential at the MACUSA too… he was one of their biggest suppliers of potions in the entire country and he winded up being the main reason why I got transferred to the Creatures department outpost in Arkansas.”  

 

“Tough break, mate,” Rhea sympathised. “We’ve all been there.”

 

“You’ve been caught sleeping with a married woman too?” Josh quizzed back, with a look of real intrigue on his face.

 

“A lady never tells,” Rhea said in a faux-posh accent, as the train pulled into Warren Street and a group of three muggle-men, all armed with beers cans in hand, stumbled on board their carriage and started arguing among themselves.

 

“I’m fucking tellin’ ya Trevva, Hoddle ain’t got a clue. He ain’t got a bloody clue! How’s he not gonna take Gazza to the World Cup?”

said the shortest of the three men, before downing the rest of his can and belching loudly, which drew a rather disgusted groan from Farzana Patel on the other side of the carriage. The man, who had a buzz cut and a poorly kept beard, did not notice her, nor did either of his friends..

 

“Don’t worry Mark bruv,” replied the tallest of the three, who was wearing a black baseball cap and slurring his words quite considerably. “He knows what he’s doing. It’s coming home!” he cheered, as he took a large swig of his own can of beer.  

 

“Ere chuck us anuvva Stella then Tel,” the short man with the buzz cut light-heartedly ordered the man in the middle, who had spiked up hair and was wearing a creased black shirt that was much too big for him.

 

‘Tel’ obliged and passed Mark, the shortest man, another beer, as the baseball cap wearing muggle, Trevva, began eyeing up Rhea, before his eyes eventually fell on Harry.

 

“What’d you reckon four-eyes?” he asked, before briefly stumbling as the tube hit a bit of a bump. “You think it’s comin’ home?”

 

“Oh yes… definitely,” Harry replied, as he attempted to not rise to the jibe about his glasses. He had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Besides, they were on an important mission and the last thing they needed was any trouble with a group of rowdy drunk muggles, so he gave him the answer that he thought he would want to hear.  

 

“See it’s fuckin’ comin’ home lads!” Tel announced triumphantly to his two cronies, as he enthusiastically poured a large amount of lager into his mouth, spilling some over both himself and the floor of the train in the process.  

 

“What do you think sweet cheeks?” Mark said to Rhea, as he too started to eye her up.

 

Harry noticed that Josh no longer seemed to be in the jovial mood he had been in before. It was almost as if he was anticipating and preparing for some kind of trouble. The look on Savage’s face certainly suggested that there may well be some on the cards, although Harry was sure that the Head Auror would keep her cool.

 

“I don’t care much for football… and I certainly don’t care much for men who call me sweet cheeks,” she hissed, whilst giving the three of them a cold stare, before suddenly rising to her feet. Josh jumped to his feet too, with Harry following his lead.  

 

“HA! She’d be so lucky ehh lads?” Mark said, addressing both of his friends. “Ugly fucking greebo anyway. Off to go slit your wrists at the rock show are you, love?” he goaded, as Trevva and Tel laughed along, eyeing up both Harry and Josh as they did so.

 

Josh initially looked like he might rise to their attempts at provoking them – but Rhea shot him a fierce glare which kept him at bay.

 

“Aww, you not gonna defend your girlfriend? Must have a tiny pair of bollocks to go with that tiny little cock of yours!” Tel jested, daring Josh to react. Harry ran his fingers along the shaft of his wand through his jacket pocket, ready to use it as discreetly as he could should the time come.  

 

“Is there a problem here?” Williamson demanded, as the tall wizard came to their aide, presumably having noticed the commotion.

 

The large Auror towered over the drunk trio, even Trevva, the tallest of the three troublesome muggles, but they showed no sign of backing down – in-fact, Williamson’s arrival to the scene, with Ernie and Farzana in tow, only seemed to increase their desire for some kind of conflict.

 

“Who’d you think you’re talking to? Long haired cunt. Only problem here is your fucking barnet!” Trevva joked, which caused Tel and Mark to laugh too, although Harry thought the shortest of the three, Mark, did seem at least a little intimidated by the comparatively giant Williamson.

 

“Well, I say,” Ernie uttered in a dubious manner. “That is quite the insult from a man so insecure about his own haircut that he conceals it beneath a hat.”

 

“Ernie!” Robert berated under his breath, although Harry thought that for a moment Williamson had shown a slight smile and possibly even a fondness for Ernie at coming to his defence so quickly.

 

Harry thought he even caught a momentary grin from Farzana Patel at Ernie’s albeit quite passé retaliation at the muggle.  

 

“You’ll be insecure about having no teeth in your fucking mouth in a minute you fucking toff,” Tel raged at Ernie, as he threw his now empty beer can aside and raised his fists for a fight.  

 

 “Don’t worry about it Robert, they’ll be getting off at the next stop,” Rhea calmly instructed, as she saw the pony-tailed Auror losing his patience, with both Ernie and Josh also clearly ready for some kind of altercation, should it come to that. Harry felt more confident about Josh’s chances than Ernie’s and even his own should it wind up being one without wands.  

 

“Oh yeah, so who’s gonna make us get off then, you dirty goth slut?” Trevva asked incredulously, as his two friends stared the rest of them down in a quite antagonistic manner, as Josh and Williamson exchanged a quick knowing glance.  

 

“We’ll be at Euston soon,” Farzana said quickly, with a tone of frustration and impatience in her voice. “Let’s just confundus them now and be done with it.”

 

“You won’t do nuffink you blimmin’ paki!” Tel spat – and that was when it suddenly all kicked off.

 

Ernie MacMillan directed a punch at the much taller Tel as soon as the racist slur had left the muggle’s mouth. He stumbled slightly, but his friend Trevva soon got a strike of his own away, right into the former Hufflepuff prefect’s prim and proper face, sending him hurtling to the ground in a heap.

 

“You stay out of this,” Rhea ordered under her breath to Harry, as Williamson instantly jumped in to Ernie’s defence, as he sent a thundering right hand into Trevva’s nose, knocking him back a few steps, but surprisingly not down to the floor.

 

Morris laid a punch and a kick into Mark, who retaliated instantly by hurtling his half-empty beer can at Josh, splashing beer all over the muggle-born auror’s denim-jacket, whilst Rhea landed a heavy kick on Tel, who felt the full force of the half-French witch’s boot to his shin before she whacked him in the chin.

 

Farzana fought her way through and hit Tel with a vicious slap of her own as a receipt for his insult to her, before Willamson connected with another right hook to Trevva that did finally floor the tall baseball cap wearing muggle.

 

Harry jumped in to stop Tel from hitting Rhea, with the muggle’s knuckles slightly knocking into Harry’s head in the process. He felt momentarily dazed for a moment, before he heard a still-on-the-floor Ernie MacMillan yell “STUPEFY!” at the top of his lungs, soon after upon which a jet of red light hurtled into Tel, causing him to crash into the carriage door and down onto the floor.

 

Morris had a clearly defeated Mark pinned to the door, as the short man with the buzz cut looked absolutely horrified and in fear for his life having just witnessed his friend be knocked unconscious by magic.

 

The next station is Euston

 

“What in Merlin’s name has happened here?!” Femi Wakanda demanded, as she marched over with a concerned looking Neville and Conrad Proudfoot, who had rushed over from the other side of the carriage.  

 

Harry gave Williamson a hand pulling a slightly bloodied and dazed Ernie MacMillan back to his feet, as Williamson told Ernie off for using magic, before checking that his young trainee was alright and fussing over his injuries.  

 

“The muggles started it. Couldn’t be helped,” Williamson said quickly in Ernie’s defence, as an embarrassed looking Rhea pulled out her wand and started obliviating Trevva and Tel, as Morris did the same to Mark.

 

“All the same we’re on a tight schedule that doesn’t factor in fights with muggles or breaking the international statute of secrecy,” Wakanda grumbled, clearly unimpressed with the events that had transpired.

 

The train pulled into Euston and between Josh, Rhea and Harry they quickly managed to jostle the three muggles off of the train and onto the platform, as Williamson and Farzana began patching up Ernie’s face.

 

Wakanda used a voiceless spell to shut the carriage door as soon as the drunken muggles were off the train. Harry was not sure what type of magic she had used, but the electronic doors stayed shut even when several bewildered would-be passengers pressed the button on the door to get on.

 

“Luckily for us they don’t have any security cameras on these wretched things,” Wakanda muttered under her breath in a condescending fashion, as she shot Rhea a deeply unimpressed look.

 


 

Savage led the way as they made their way through the Camden Town underground station exit and into the night.

 

“BUY OR SELL FEEDER! FEEDER BUY OR SELL!” shouted a tall middle-aged white man in a thick black coat.

 

“FEEDER TICKETS BUY OR SELL!” bellowed another similarly dressed dark skinned muggle.

 

“There must be a gig on tonight,” Rhea noted to Harry and Josh as she guided them past without looking at the muggles. “They’re ticket touts. When a gig is sold out they sell tickets for it at double the price,” she added, with the sound of disdain and loathing in her voice.

 

“But how do they get the tickets if it’s already sold out?” Josh asked.

 

“They purposely buy a load when they go on sale specifically just to sell them on at a profit closer to the time,” Rhea replied.

 

“Is that even legal? To sell them on like that, just for a profit?” Harry enquired.

 

“No, not strictly speaking, but the muggle police don’t really bother enforcing it,” Rhea said. “I’m sure in the future when you can just buy and sell tickets on the internet it will cut these scummy touts right out of the equation though,” she added in a hopeful tone, as she checked behind to ensure that the other two groups were just behind them – they were, as Harry spotted a now blood-free Ernie MacMillan, with Williamson and Badwal making their way through the crowded Camden street.  

 

“BUY OR SELL FEEDER TICKETS! BUY OR SELL-

 

Harry spotted the next ticket tout abruptly stop his hollering, as he noticed a pair of muggle police officers dressed in the customary fluorescent yellow night-time wear. The muggle man calmly put his hands in his pockets and casually strolled off in the hope they hadn’t spotted him – and he was in luck, as they hadn’t.

 

 The first two touts they had initially walked past at the station were not as fortunate though, as Harry looked behind and could see that they hadn’t notice the two coppers walking towards them.

 

“See look at that,” Josh began incredulously. “It’s so much easier for the muggle police. Those three drunk blokes would’ve never started on us if we were coppers.”

 

“Yes… quite,” Rhea added slightly absent-mindedly, seemingly caught in a deep-thought.

 

“BUY OR SELL TICKETS!” yelled a tall man with a deep voice directly ahead of them. “FALMOUTH FALCONS BUY OR SELL!”

 

The large figure stepped into the light and Harry instantly recognized him as Kingsley Shacklebolt.

 

“Minister,” Rhea uttered formally, as Kingsley shot Harry a quick wink. They formed a semi-circle in-front of the Minster for Magic, with Williamson, Ernie and Badwal quickly joining, before Wakanda, Neville and Proudfoot formed in behind them too.

 

Harry saw Kingsley mutter something under his breath, but it was so quiet it was barely audible. His wand hand was still in his jacket pocket, so Harry guessed it must’ve been some kind of enchantment to stop passing muggles hearing what he was about to say to them.

 

“As I’m sure you’re all aware from your venture on the muggle underground,” Kingsley began, speaking quickly. “We’ve got an anti-apparation barrier secured in the area a mile wide in all directions. We can’t get in or out, but neither can they – and that’s all that matters. The Floo-network is on lockdown. Peasegood and Podmore are acting as air support, just in-case they have brooms and attempt to fly out.”

 

“Minister, surely you’re not going to be-

 

Kingsley interrupted the Head Auror with a heavy sigh of frustration.

 

“You will be pleased to know that I have heeded the Head of Magical Law Enforcement’s concerns that as Minister for Magic I should not be taking part in raids,” he said in an annoyed tone.

 

“Gawain is waiting for you not far from here, just keep walking straight ahead until you reach the phone box at the end of the road,” Kingsley said, before he gave Rhea a stern look. “I’ll be in the Mexican restaurant just across the street. If anything serious goes down you will send your patronus for me immediately… and that’s an order.”

 

“Yes Minister, sir,” Rhea replied swiftly, as Kingsley smiled a little, possibly still not used to being addressed as Minister or sir.

 

“I wish you all the best of luck,” Shacklebolt said, as he began to slowly stroll off in the opposite direction.

 

“And Rhea…” Kingsley barked, turning his head back round to face them all.

 

“Yes?” she replied confidently, although Harry sensed some nerves in her voice.

 

“Try not to take too long, girl! They’ve got 2 for 1 mojitos all night at this place. I can’t be duelling drunk at my age,” he sniggered.

 

“Just make sure you save some for us!” Josh shot back hopefully.

 

“You guys lock up those damned Lestrange brothers tonight – I’ll get you all so many mojitos that Proudfoot there will end the night puking up on another pair of Robards’ loafers!”

 


They followed the path that the pavement took them on for a few minutes in relative silence, until they reached the phone box and Robards revealed himself.

 

“Quickly! Behind me, single file,” he ordered, as Rhea formed a line behind their boss. Robards weaved through a back alley at a frantic pace that was as close to a sprint as he could manage, then led them out to a large opening by the lock. 

 

“It’s that house over there,” he said quietly, pointing in the direction of a very derelict looking property about fifty metres away.

Harry thought it was quite generous to even call it a house. It looked more like a shack, not all that unlike the hut on the rock that Vernon had ferried them off to all those years ago.

 

“Took us a while to uncover it and make it visible to the naked eye. The muggles still can’t see it though,” Robards said. “It had some damn good protective charms on it. We’ve not breached the inner defences yet, so if they are in there they won’t know that we’ve found them yet.”

 

“Willamson,” he commanded.

 

“Yes, boss?” Williamson replied. 

 

“Take MacMillan and Longbottom and secure the perimeter. You join them too, Proudfoot.”

 

Williamson and Proudfoot did as they were told without hesitation, ushering the two young apprentice Aurors along with them as they started casting protective enchantments around the nearby area as an additional defence.

 

“We’ll need heavy firepower to break the house’s defences,” he continued. “Savage. Wakanda. You’ll join me at the front. Badwal and Morris, you’ll act as cover.”

 

“Potter,” Robards muttered, as he put his hands into his worn-out woven woolly jacket.

 

“Yes,” Harry replied, eagerly anticipating his own orders from the Head of Magical Law Enforcement.

 

“You’re on air support with Peasegood and Podmore,” he said sternly, pulling out what looked like a Cleansweep Eleven from an enchanted bag in his pocket.

 

Harry tried to hide his disappointment at what he felt was Robards trying to keep him out of harm’s way, but his boss seemed to have an innate ability to spot what he was thinking.

 

“You’re the best flyer we’ve got, son. Podmore’s not bad on a broom, but he’s no Harry Potter. Now get up there and sit tight,” he added, before giving Harry a firm pat on the back and heading over to the house with Savage, Wakanda, Morris and Badwal.

 

Harry did as he was told and got onto the broom and quickly ascended into the cloudy sky.

 

He saw what looked like Sturgis Podmore directly ahead of him, with another figure who he guessed must be Arnold Peasegood to his left.

 

The warm spring wind brushed against his exposed face as he flew up to meet them, before he banked left and turned to watch over the house like the other two were doing. Podmore gave him a nod of acknowledgement and Peasegood winked at him.

 

From where they were positioned they really did have a perfect bird’s eye view of the proceedings on the ground, as Harry could see Robards, Savage and Wakanda all armed with their wands slowly approaching the front of the house, with Morris and Badwal close behind them on either flank.

 

In the distance he could just make out Williamson and MacMillan setting up additional shield charms on one side, with Neville and Proudfoot doing the same on the other.

 

“You reckon those bastards are in there?” Peasegood pondered to nobody in particular.

 

Podmore didn’t respond, instead rolling his eyes slightly as he appeared to want to silently focus on the mission at hand.

 

“Life in prison’s not good enough for those scumbags,” Peasegood continued. “Sooner we catch ‘em, the sooner they can go the way of their master.”

 

Suddenly there was movement on the ground.

 

“EXCINDO TUTELA!” came the distant cries of Robards, Savage and Wakanda, as blinding bolts of blue came flying out of their wands and crashed into the front of the house.

 

Harry could not tell if they had broken the inner defences of the property, but Robards sent a probing bolt of yellow sparks, which seemed to go straight through the front door unopposed.

 

Gawain raised his arm and ushered the others to follow him onto the porch, before he stopped abruptly just outside the door, with his wand pointed out cautiously.

 

Harry heard an odd flickering type noise.

 

It almost sounded like the noise a golden snitch would make when it was fluttering around in the nearby vicinity.

 

He adjusted his ear slightly and thought that it rather sounded like a ticking kind of sound, like the one a muggle alarm clock might make.

 

It looked as though Savage and Robards were having a heated discussion about something on the ground, with Robards waving away whatever it was that Rhea was saying to him.

 

“Anyone else hear that weird ticking sound?” Peasegood enquired. “Almost sounds like a bomb or something-

 

“OH FUCK!” Podmore yelled, as Harry saw Josh Morris suddenly barge past both Savage and Robards, thrust them out of the way and loudly cast “PROTEGO!” at the top of his lungs.

 

The initial explosion of the bomb almost threw Harry off of his broom.

 

He scrambled to cling onto it as shards of debris and smoke came flying up into the sky at random.

 

Harry ducked and dived on instinct alone as his glasses became fogged up and he lost all of his senses.

 

His ears had been deafened by the great sound that came from the detonation and all he could hear now was a migraine inducing ringing noise piercing into his ear-drums.

 

As he slowly gained his composure he flew out of the now thick, black smoke and plummeted to the ground as quickly as he could.

 

He could just make out the figures of Podmore and Peasegood who had just landed themselves.

 

Harry pulled up alongside them as they rushed to survey the damage.

 

The derelict house that had once stood in-front of where they were standing was now nothing more than a pile of fiery rubble.

 

Harry saw an uncharacteristically weary looking Gawain Robards in a heap on the floor.

 

He was covered in black smoke and debris, but he was still breathing and alongside Peasegood and Williamson who had now rushed onto the scene they helped pull him up.

 

Robards coughed heavily, possibly having inhaled a lot of smoke.

 

“Don’t fucking worry about me,” he wheezed, taking a deep breath before coughing again. “Where are the others?!”

 

To their right Badwal and Ernie had spotted Wakanda and were slowly helping her rise to her feet. She looked like she’d injured her left leg when she’d fallen to the ground, but other than that she did not look too bad, although her once vibrant violet dress was now a shade of dusty, dirty brown.

 

“Savage!” Podmore cried loudly, as Neville and Proudfoot helped him magically elevate a large pile of wooden debris which looked like it was once the front door.

 

The door had shattered into several pieces and seemingly crashed straight into the Head Auror, striking and then trapping her onto the ground, although aside from a few cuts and bruises on her face she looked relatively unharmed in the grand scheme of things.

 

“Where’s Josh?” was all she could muster, as she too coughed heavily, having probably also inhaled a lot of smoke in the blast.

 

Harry helped the others as they used wingardium leviosa and other charms to quickly lift the fallen remains of the property to try and find Josh Morris amongst the wreckage.

 

It took a few minutes to find him, but Harry knew they must have located Josh when he heard Rhea cry out in horror.

 

Morris lay flat out on his back in a huge pile of blood, eyes closed, with his left arm laying prone and clearly broken.

 

 Yet, it was his right arm that had taken the most damage in the explosion – as it lay five feet away from him, no longer attached to his body.

 

The flamboyant golden rings still sat on the fingers of his severed and crimson-soaked right hand, with the golden eagle staring directly up at Harry.

 

Podmore was the quickest to reach his fallen colleague, as a distressed Savage froze up in fear for her friend.

 

Sturgis put his hand out and reached down towards Josh’s neck, softly feeling around for a pulse.

 

“He’s still alive…just… but we need to get him to St Mungo’s… now!”



Chapter 15: Ron IV - Australia Magizoo
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A warm breeze brushed across Ron’s face, as he felt his fringe pushed to the left hand side of his face by the summery wind.

 

He leaned forward casually on the white marble railing towards the end of their hotel balcony, wearing just his sky-blue swimming trunks, whilst he watched the stunning sunset taking place across the scenic artificial beach that lay not far from their room.

 

Ron was not quite sure what kind of magic the Australians were using to conjure up such a relaxing ambience, but he was very impressed by it all the same.

 

There were entire geo-magical landscapes and weather-enchantment spells surrounding the inner walls of the hotel, which were all very carefully adapted for the preferences of different guests. Their part of the hotel had a tropical theme, equipped with a synthetic summer climate, palm trees and a beautiful beach, with the clearest of seas that one could imagine.  

 

The hotel’s colossal size was such that Ron and Hermione had not managed to venture out to any of the other geo-magical landscapes yet. However, Ron read in the glossy brochure (entirely devoid of any magical moving images in full faux-muggle style) that there was also a secluded woodland retreat theme for lovers of nature, as well as a winter wonderland, equipped with a massive mountain for skiing - and there was even a newly built and increasingly popular section entirely based on muggle Britain’s royal heritage.

 

Brad hadn’t been joking when he’d said that Wizarding tourism was booming in Australia – and they were even taking advantage of people’s reluctance and fear to travel to Britain too. Ron wondered how long they would be able to capitalise on that particular niche, as Kingsley’s new government was hopefully going to help usher in a new era of peace and prosperity in the coming months and years.

 

“Ronald!”

 

Ron heard Hermione’s faint call of his name, which was barely audible above the gentle whirl of the simmering bubbles in their enormous en-suite hot-tub.

 

He stared down into the bubbles for a brief moment.

 

There was something about the water that did not look quite right, but he could not put his finger on what it was that was off about it.

 

He was, for a brief moment, utterly mesmerised by the relentless pulse of the bubbles and he very nearly hurled himself into the warm and inviting water, but then thought better of it. 

 

“Ronald! Oh do hurry up, it’s urgent!”

 

There was a more frantic tone to his girlfriend’s call this time – and it was much louder too.

 

Perhaps she had received word that they had found her parents.

 

He paced quickly across the paved floor of their balcony and back into the room to see what it was that she wanted and… and…

 

Hermione was laying on her back, facing the balcony door… but her eyes were closed.

 

Ron looked at her in complete shock.

 

He couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.  

 

She was completely naked, except for a black lace bra that slightly covered her small, firm breasts.

 

Her eyes were closed, but not in a state of sleep – no, quite the opposite in-fact, they were closed in a state of pure pleasure, as, with the fingers of her right hand, she softly played with herself.

 

Ron felt his cock harden slightly and it began to bulge in his swimming trunks as he watched her caressing her completely shaved cunt.  

 

Hermione opened her dark, brown eyes and she grinned devilishly as they met his own.

 

She bit her lip slightly and motioned with her spare left hand for him to join her on the bed, whilst she continued to masturbate with her favoured right.

 

Ron could not quite believe his luck and momentarily paused in panic.

 

He had been dreaming of this moment for months, or years really.

 

He had secretly hoped once it was confirmed that Harry was no longer coming with them to Australia that this moment might somehow present itself, but to have it fall into his lap this way really was like a dream come true.

 

Ron excitedly pulled down his trunks and discarded them to the floor, letting Hermione have her first look at his now fully erect penis, which burst out from a bushy bed of red pubic hair.

 

“Oh fuck,” Hermione moaned, as she bit her lip once more and began playing with herself with increased vigour.

 

Ron had never heard her say fuck before.

 

It didn’t sound quite right coming out of her pure, pretty mouth, but it turned him on and made his cock swell up even more, as he began to pull himself onto the bed towards her.

 

“Quickly Ron,” she sighed desperately, as he clamoured towards her gorgeous naked body. “I need you inside me… please…  I’ve been waiting so long for you to finally fuck me!”

 

Ron began to slowly pull his bulging dick towards her tight, wet vagina.

 

This was it.

 

The moment of truth.

 

The moment he had waited so long for.

 

He thrust his cock towards her, but just as he was about to enter her everything went black and faded away.


Ron woke up in a panicked, nervous sweat, breathing heavily as he came to terms with the fact he had just been dreaming. 

 

His arms were clutched around Hermione’s waist, with the pair having slept cradled together in their pyjamas in the lightly air-conditioned room.

 

He felt Hermione stir slightly – and, to his absolute horror, he discovered that the erect penis part of his dream had in fact been based on reality.

 

His crotch was positioned in such a way that his bulging erection, which was pressing mercilessly into his pyjama bottoms, was also pressing mercilessly into Hermione’s bottom.

 

He thought that there was no way that she could not feel it.

 

Ron adjusted the positioning of his thighs slightly so that he was no longer making direct contact with her with his lower body, but just as soon as he had done that she had wriggled herself backwards a bit, which meant his cock was now pushed up against the back of one of her thighs instead.  

 

He wriggled slightly to get away from her again, but after a few moments she once again moved back towards him, inadvertently nudging his hard-on in the process.

 

It was almost as if she was doing it deliberately, but she was still half-asleep and probably hadn’t even noticed what was happening.

 

Ron lay awake in their king-sized bed still spooning Hermione for another ten minutes, with it gradually becoming less awkward as his erection slowly subsided.

 

It soon became apparent though that he would not fall back to sleep any time soon, so he relented and decided to get up and shower

.

The hotel bathroom was state-of-the-art, even by muggle standards according to Hermione – and it was all very impressive, with the hot water jets blasting against his fair-skin soon ensuring that he was fully awake and energised. 

 

Ron spent a considerable amount of time in the shower, as once he had fully washed his hair and body he slowly lathered himself up once again and masturbated, thinking of the naked Hermione from his dream as he relieved himself and eventually climaxed. 

 

It took several minutes to ensure the last of his cum had trickled down the drain… then, just as the last of it was washing away there was a knock on the bathroom door.

 

He ignored the knock as he meticulously watched the final traces of his semen slide out of sight.

 

There was another knock on the door, but this time it was a fair bit louder.

 

“Ronald! Are you alright? You’ve been absolutely ages in there!” Hermione remarked, with a slight sound of worry in her sleepy sounding voice.

 

Ron quickly wrapped himself in a towel and in a slightly panicked fluster he opened the door.

 

“I’m fine,” he said. “Just enjoying myself in the shower,” he blurted out.

 

“Oh, I see-

 

“Enjoying myself because it’s bloody brilliant!” he quickly added. “I mean, as shower’s go, its right up there… it’s really good… wakes you right up… you should try it!”

 

“Right, yes… well, I will have to, when I have a wash myself…” she replied, perhaps a bit confused at his feigned enthusiasm for the shower. “I was just a little worried that’s all, I know, I was just being a bit silly, but you don’t usually take that long and you locked the door and…

 

“You’d get used to locking bathroom doors too if you grew up living in a house with Fred and George!” he replied softly, with what he thought was a well-timed save, as he remembered the countless times that his older twin brothers had tormented him and caused many a toilet-related mishap, which were now nothing more than bittersweet memories.

 

“Yes, of course,” Hermione retorted. “And I know you would never wish for me to intrude or invade your privacy-

 

Ron momentarily considered correcting her on this point, as, on the contrary, he would’ve loved nothing more than for her to walk in on him naked, but he swiftly decided against it.

 

“I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I just wanted to make sure that you were alright,” she said, as she blushed slightly.

 

“As always I appreciate your concern,” he joked, before leaning forward and kissing her on the lips, which caused his soaking wet hair to press right up against her dry, bushy mane.  

 

She was slightly taken aback at first, but then soon pressed her lips back to his – and she even briefly parted them, to allow him to slip his tongue into her mouth, before she reached back and broke free.

 

“Oh and can you believe this?” she demanded, instantly killing the moment, as she then reached down towards the bed and picked up their daily newspaper, which must have been delivered whilst he was washing.

 

It was The Sydney Spell, which seemed to be the Australian equivalent of The Daily Prophet.

 

“CROOKED KRUM SEIZED AS MATCH-FIXING SCANDAL ROCKS THE QUIDDITCH WORLD!” read the headline, which was accompanied by an animated picture of Viktor Krum catching the snitch in the World Cup final they’d seen live all those years ago, before the Death Eaters had wreaked havoc on the camp-site. 

 

“Bloody hell!” Ron exclaimed.

 

“My thoughts exactly,” Hermione added in a glum tone. “You’re obviously a lot more clued up on the nuances of a Quidditch match than I am…” she added, as Ron reflected on whether this was the first time she had ever admitted that he was more clued up on something.

 

“You watched that match… do you really think it’s possible that it was fixed?” she asked.

 

“Well… I dunno,” he began, as he thought back to it. “I mean, it was a little odd that he caught the snitch in a losing position, but it does happen… it’s a very fast-paced sport so he could well have missed something or thought the score was closer than it actually was… and… well, Quidditch players aren’t exactly renowned for being the most intelligent of people -

 

“You know full well that Viktor is not stupid!” she hissed slightly.

 

“Well… no,” he conceded. “But if I remember rightly both Krum and Lynch spotted the snitch at the same time, so if Krum hadn’t have caught it when he did then they would’ve still lost anyway, just by an even bigger margin.”

 

“Yes, that’s what I thought,” Hermione replied, deep in contemplation. “Although Krum was, or rather, still is considered one of, if not the greatest seeker of his generation, is he not?”

 

Ron felt a slight flush of jealously at hearing her talk about Krum with such high regard.

 

“Well… I mean, some would argue that to be considered the greatest seeker of a generation you would have to win a World Cup, which Krum has never-

 

“If not the greatest, then one of the greatest then?” she sternly replied. 

 

“Yes, one of the greatest, of course,” he quickly conceded.

 

“Then wouldn’t one of the greatest seekers of his generation always be aware of what the current score was? And wouldn’t one of the greatest seekers of his generation do everything that was physically possible to avoid catching the snitch until he was absolutely sure it would win his country the World Cup?” she asked rhetorically, perhaps now questioning herself more than Ron.

 

“I… I suppose-

 

“Think back to our 3rd year… the final game of the season against Slytherin, when Harry caught the snitch to win the House Cup,” she said, once more deep in thought.

 

 “Oh yeah – that was brilliant!” Ron exclaimed, as he remembered the moment Harry had captured the little golden-snitch with both hands off of his broom.

 

“Think harder!” Hermione urged. “You remember, don’t you? Gryffindor had to win the game by at least 210 points, otherwise Slytherin would have still won the Cup on point’s difference.”

 

“Yeah… yeah I do remember, of course,” Ron said, as he thought he began to grasp what she was getting at.

 

“Wood drilled it into Harry for ages… whatever you do, Harry, do not catch the snitch whilst it is mathematically impossible for Gryffindor to win the Cup. You do remember that, yes?” she demanded.

 

“Yes… yes of course I remember. So what are you saying then? You actually think that this stuff about Krum is true? That he really did agree to throw the final?” he asked, slightly bewildered at what she seemed to be insinuating.

 

“No. Of course not!” Hermione snapped back.

 

Ron was completely lost now.

 

“But I thought you were saying-

 

“I don’t think for one moment that Viktor agreed to throw the match. His professional pride, desire to win and love for his country would prevent him from doing that,” she said solemnly. “However, I do think there’s a very good chance that it was fixed and that somebody may have been controlling him... but who… how… and to what end?”


Australia Magizoo really was quite something.

 

Their day had begun with an extremely filling breakfast that could’ve possibly put even Hogwarts to shame, as Ron loaded up on copious amounts of poached eggs, bacon and sausages.

 

Hermione had settled for a few freshly made French pastries and a slice of toast with something called Vegemite spread onto it. Ron was not sure what exactly Vegemite was, but it had an awful smell to it and did not look up to too much cop either – his girlfriend reassuring him that it was just a type of yeast extract did not particularly sell it either. It looked like it had been scooped out of the bottom of a cup in one of Professor Trelawney’s tea-reading classes.

 

Following their stomachs being filled by their respective breakfasts, they had spent nearly the entire day exploring the gigantic grounds of Woollahra’s wizarding tourist attraction – and Ron could see why it was such an attraction.

 

The park was filled with almost every creature that you could possibly name, with a large section even being dedicated to housing non-magical creatures of interest too - such as lions, giraffes and even wild polar bears in a sub-zero arctic section!

 

A lot of the magizoo’s star attractions were dedicated to beasts that Ron and Hermione had been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to encounter before. He had never really considered how lucky they’d actually been over the last seven years, at least in terms of seeing such a wide array of creatures.

 

Children and adults alike were crowding round for a glimpse of a phoenix in the flesh, which Ron shrugged off as nothing too exciting, as he’d seen Dumbledore’s one countless times before in their former headmaster’s office– and he’d even been flown out of the Chamber of Secrets by it in second year.

 

They balked at a massive queue that had formed for rides on the thestrals, with many lucky adults and children very excited at the prospect of riding on a beast that was invisible to them. Hermione read on a sign that outside of Britain the wild populations of thestrals were dwindling quite a lot, so for many non-Brits this would be their first and possibly only chance to ever see, or indeed, not see a thestral, which any British student would obviously just take for granted - they were even used as a mode of transport at Hogwarts!

 

If they had thought that the queue for the thestrals was large then that paled in comparison to the one for the hippogriffs, as everyone longed to receive a bow from one of the delightful, but deadly part-horse, part-eagle creatures. They did not linger there too long, as again, unlike much of the world’s population they had also had their fair share of experiences with hippogriffs.

 

The next portion of the park following the hippogriffs was dedicated to the world’s deadliest beasts – and after Ron hastily hurried Hermione away from the acromantulas, they spent a while looking at the magnificent Antipodean Opaleye dragon. The purple dragon was a New Zealand-native and as such, one of the more locally sourced creatures in the entire magizoo, although they soon noticed that the next part of the tour was actually dedicated entirely to the magical creatures of Australia.

 

At first they were introduced to the bunyips which were based in a large swamp. They were peculiar creatures, with big tusks, flippers for feet and large bushy tails. A sign near them spoke of how over the years there had been several infamous incidents where rogue bunyips had got loose and attacked muggles, with the beasts coming out at night in the cover of darkness to attack small children, women or defenceless household pets.

 

One of the world’s last living muldjewangk was housed in a lake not far from the bunyips. The muldjewangk, who did not surface whilst they were at the lake, were described as kind of like a cross between giant squid and merpeople.

 

It was said that in centuries gone by hordes of muldjewangk terrorised muggle fisherman all over the Indian Ocean, but in the last hundred years they had become an endangered species thanks partially to pollution in muggle waters, but mostly due to wizarding-poachers hunting them for their teeth and blood, with both apparently fetching a pretty penny due to their rarity and variety of uses.

 

It was just as they were walking away from the lake, somewhat disappointed at not glimpsing a sight of the muldjewangk, that they bumped into Tezza, who was the porter that had taken their bags upon arrival and asked about You Know Who’s nose. It seemed that Tezza performed an array of roles at the hotel, one of which also seemingly involved working with the creatures themselves.

 

“Alright guys?!” he chirped excitedly when he spotted them, as they said hello and made some small talk.

 

“Didn’t get to see the muldjewangk? Don’t be too down guys, they don’t like coming out during the day much anyways. The kids here are always devo at missing out like, but let me show you some little buggers that I think you’ll both be stoked on seeing.”

 

They followed Tezza over to some large gum trees, which had magical protections placed just in-front of them, indicating how dangerous whatever beasts they housed must be.

 

“Now these little ones might look cute, but trust me, they’re fierce little bastards especially if they’re after a bit of grub,” he said, as he pointed to what looked like a tiny little bear climbing the tree nearest to them.

 

“Isn’t that a koala bear?” a confused Hermione asked, as Tezza burst out laughing.

 

“They might look like koalas, but take a look for yourself,” Tezza said, before waving his wand and erecting a human-like mannequin on the ground about 10 metres directly below the creature. It noticed and after a brief second of contemplation it instantly threw itself down through the sky, claws first, soon landing on the head of the mannequin, tearing it apart with both its paws and teeth.

 

“Bloody hell!” Ron swore.

 

“You can say that again, mate!” Tezza replied. “That little bugger is called a drop bear and well… it lives up to its name,” he added, as the little beast tore furiously at the prop, before Tezza conjured it up a few dead rats for it to feast on instead as a treat for its part in the show.

“Do they mind being here… at the magizoo… with all these people ogling at them?” Hermione asked Tezza.

 

“The drop bears?”

 

Ron felt a little awkward as he guessed the train of thought and line of questioning that his girlfriend would have for Tezza.

 

“Yes, the drop bears, but, well, all of the creatures and beasts you house here really. Do they like it here… rather than being in the wild?”

 

“To tell you the truth Miss Granger,” Tezza said, as he paused for a brief moment before continuing. ”For most of them now there ain’t no wild no more anyway... what with all the poachers like, and it ain’t as easy as it was years ago keeping ‘em away from exposure to muggoes neither. It’s the same way most the muggo animals are going too. Woollahra’s the best place for ‘em I say.”

 

Hermione seemed content enough with Tezza’s response, although Tezza was hardly going to turn round and admit the creatures all hated it there if they did anyway.

 

The magizoo worker began guiding them away from the drop bear enclosure and further along to a stretch of grassland in the distance.

 

“Course, we don’t house any beasts that are sentient,” Tezza continued, as Hermione nodded along in approval. “You won’t find no centaurs, vampires or werewolves here… ‘tho all the guests would be clamouring to see ‘em if they were, as you can imagine, like.

Fancy that ehh? Seeing an actual centaur or werewolf in the flesh, now that would be proper gnarly!”

 

Ron was once more left feeling a bit spoilt by his education.

 

He couldn’t quite believe that Tezza had never seen a werewolf or centaur in the flesh, at Hogwarts they’d had a werewolf and a centaur among the faculty at varying intervals of his stint at school.

 

“What about house elves?” Ron asked nervously, as he stole a quick glance at Hermione, who looked even more interested in Tezza’s response to the latest question posed to him, as they walked past a giant, yellow warning sign that read:

 

“CAUTION: YOU ARE NOW APPROACHING THE YARA-MA-YHA-WHO ENCLOSURE. THIS BEAST IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS! DO NOT ENGAGE IT IF IT ESCAPES! CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 15 MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY A RESPONSIBLE PARENT OR GUARDIAN!”

 

“You certainly won’t find no house-elves here!” Tezza said in a slightly bemused tone. “Not working for us anyway… course we get lots of rich families from America, India and France come and visit who bring theirs along for the trip… ya’ kno’, funny thing is I’d never even seen one in the flesh before I started working here myself!”

 

“Why is that?” Hermione asked. “Are house-elves against the law in Australia?” she added, with a hopeful tone in her voice.

Tezza audibly chuckled.

 

“Against the law? We’d have to bloody have some for ‘em to be illegal! Never really caught on down here since nobody could bloody afford one. I’m sure whoever cooked up the idea for this place could have their pick of them now though, like, you know I-

 

“WHAT’S THAT?!” Ron burst out, as Hermione instinctively grabbed his hand, as she too saw a giant bear-like creature waddling towards them.

 

It was just their luck.

 

The one time they visit the magizoo was the time that the extremely dangerous creature broke out.

 

Why was it always them?!

 

At least Tezza would know what to do.

 

He didn’t look in the slightest bit afraid, which reassured Ron that he must know how to handle the very dangerous looking beast heading towards them.  

 

“What’s what?” a bemused looking Ted asked them, as Hermione and Ron both drew their wands, which confused him even more.

 

“Over there!” Hermione gasped, as she pointed over to the furry giant which was getting closer to them, albeit at a fairly slow pace.

 

“HA-HA! You can’t mean… oh you think that silly bugger is the dangerous beast that sign was warning yous about?” he asked with a patronising look on his tanned face, as Ron nodded awkwardly. 

 

“HA-HA! You wait until all of the lads hear about this one!” he blurted out, with a furious grin washed across his face. “Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger frightened off their rocker by a silly old yowie! COME HERE YA BIG WALKING CARPET!” Tezza shouted, as the yowie responded to his call and quickened his pace, although only slightly.

 

“They’re clever creatures, yowie’s, but they’re bloody pussies. Wouldn’t hurt a mozza, even if it was biting on one of their balls!” Tezza joked, as he stretched his arms out for the yowie to give him a hug.

 

The yowie towered over him, it must’ve been at least seven foot, but he showed no fear when it barked softly and wrapped its furry arms right round his thin-frame, almost lifting him off of the ground with enthusiasm as it hugged him.

 

“We call him Chewy,” Tezza said excitedly, as the yowie released him. “You know, like the wookie from Star Wars.”

 

“What’s Star Wars?” Ron asked blankly.

 

“Only one of the greatest bloody movies of all time, mate!” Tezza replied indignantly.

 

“I’ve never watched any movies,” Ron responded.

 

“You ain’t ever seen a single movie in ya’ life?”

 

Tezza looked in a state of shock, perhaps he was a half-blood or a muggle-born and had grown up with the muggle television.

 

Ron shook his head in response.

 

“Blimey. Where did you find this guy?!” Tezza quizzed Hermione.

 

“It’s kind of a long story,” she replied, before smirking a little at both Tezza and then Ron himself.

 

“Now you run along now Chewy,” Tezza ordered to the yowie. “Shouldn’t be out here near the yara-ma-yha-who anyway you daft git,” he added, as he poked his bear-like companion. The yowie obeyed, sauntering off in the opposite direction after uttering what sounded like it could only be a laugh at Tezza.

 

“Oh my goodness,” Hermione mouthed, seemingly noticing something in the distance. “Is that… is that…

 

“Too right-o, Miss Granger,” Tezza replied. “That is a yara-ma-yha who.”

 

Ron saw it out of the corner of his eye, rested on a similar tree to the one that the drop bear had been grasping to before it flew out of the sky.

 

The yara-ma-yha-who was a slightly slimy, amphibious looking red creature that can’t have been much bigger than the average goblin.

 

Its dark blood-red body resembled a frightening cross between a frog, an octopus and a common garden gnome.

 

It was truly hideous.

 

It hung to the tree by its tiny red hands, but it also had thin, slippery suckers on the rear of its body which it used to swing around the tree too, almost like a monkey would do with its tail.

 

“That little bugger is damn-near the most deadly beast in this entire magizoo. If I had to face the dragon or that thing without a wand – I’d choose the dragon every bloody time… you wanna kno’ why?” Tezza asked, pausing slightly for effect.

 

Ron suspected that he would tell them the answer whether they wanted to hear it or not, but nonetheless he humoured Tezza all the same.

 

“Alrite, I’ll tell you why… you run into a hungry dragon on a bad day, it’ll smoke you alrite… but dragons don’t play with their food… a dragon will roast ya’ long before it thinks about eating ya’ to stop ya’ from runnin’ away… but these things… mate… ya kno’ what these things do to ya? It uses those suckers to drain you of your blood, but not enough to kill ya’… na’, it takes just enuff to weaken ya’ and keep ya’ within its grasp… then it will swallow ya’ whole… they can swallow up to four time their body weight… but that’s not the last of it, oh na’, wouldn’t be so bad if it was, like, but that’s only the start of it… ya’ see once it falls asleep it pumps oxygen right through the victim’s brain and airwaves… acts kinda like an oxygen tank in there… to try and keep ya alive… then as it gradually comes out of its slumber it slowly regurgitates ya’… then… when it wakes up… it starts the process all over again. They can sometimes keep their prey alive for over four days before finally killing it for good.”

 

Hermione said nothing, but she had a look of utter disgust and horror on her face. 

 

“And has one of those…things… ever actually escaped?” Ron managed to muster.

 

“Oh Christ no!” Tezza jibed. “They’d probably shut the whole place down if one of those got out and killed a poor little ankle biter or somethin’. Can you imagine the bad press we’d-

 

“ATTENTION ALL STATIONS!”

 

A loud, slightly muffled booming voice came out from what looked like a small, portable muggle radio on Tezza’s belt.

 

“WHO WAS THE LAST OF YOUS TO HAVE SEEN OUR BRITISH VISITORS? I REPEAT, WHO WAS THE LAST OF YOUS TO HAVE SEEN OUR BRITISH VISITORS? OVER!”

 

Tezza smiled slightly.

 

“Funny you should ask that, Zoe,” he said into the radio. “I’m with ‘em right now. Over.”

 

“Is that you Terrence? Over.”

 

“Sure as hell is, Zoe, you see-

 

“What’s your nearest assembly point? Over.”

 

“Well… we’re just by the old Yara-ma-yha-who enclosure… so I’d say…erm… ah ya! The Great Barrier Reef café. Over.”

 

“That’s great. Head over with them now… I’ll meet you there in ten minutes. Over.”

 

“No worries, Zoe, mate. I’ll bring ‘em right down. Over,” he said into the radio, as he started heading east, then motioned with his hand for them to follow him.

 

The Great Barrier Reef café turned out to be a massive muggle-style aquarium, with a sizeable restaurant in the back serving up mostly seafood-based cuisine. The aquarium hosted mostly exotic fish found in the seas of Sydney, but there were also other creatures like sharks and turtles housed there too.

 

Tezza stayed with them in a waiting area of the main reception, which housed a large open-tank filled with different types of rays, which people, mostly children, were able to reach in and feed if they so pleased.

 

Whoever had designed the hotel had really gone all in on the muggle-theme, as this particular section even had a large boxed television raised up high on the wall, with some kind of muggle wildlife program playing.

 

“That man on the television. Is he a muggle?” Hermione asked, as the blonde, burly man in a khaki outfit stalked a large crocodile whilst he talked to the camera.

 

“Who? Steve Irwin?! He’s only one of the most famous muggoes in all of Australia! Surprised you ain’t heard of him,” he replied.

 

“But how… but how is he able to avoid being killed by that crocodile? If he’s not a wizard?” Ron quizzed, as he too began watching on at the TV in surprise.

 

“Beats me, mate. But he ain’t in no danger – those crocco’s love him,” Tezza said with a wry smile on his face, as he placed his left hand into the water and reached down. “Why… Steve-o up there’s in no more danger with one of those crocs than I am with this little sting-ray,” he added, as he caressed one of the floating flat creatures with his fingers.

 

“AH YA CUNT!!!!” Tezza blurted out, splashing water everywhere as he quickly removed his hand from the tank.

 

“The little bastard stung me!” he exclaimed in outrage.

 

“Hermione Granger? Ron Weasley?”

 

Ron saw a middle-aged lady with heavily tanned skin and thick dark hair, who he guessed had been the female voice from the muggle radio. She was well dressed, with a face full of perfectly applied make-up and the fixed-forced smile of someone who had probably been working in customer-facing roles for a long time.

 

“That’s us,” Hermione responded eagerly, with a distant sound of hope in her voice.

 

“I’m Zoe Federici. Head of Guest Relations here at the hotel,” Federici said, just before shaking both of their hands. “The Ministry have sent us word that they have found your parents, Miss Granger,” she added, flashing a brief smile and her bright, white teeth in Hermione’s direction.

 

Ron heard an audible gasp of both relief and excitement from Hermione, as she grasped onto his hand very tightly.

 

“Given the circumstances they thought it best to err on the side of caution and have opted against using magic to transport them here.  Their current working plan is for you to be re-introduced just after breakfast tomorrow morning… meet me in the main lobby reception just after 10AM... and in the mean-time, please, if there is anything I or any of my staff can do to improve your stay with us, all you have to do is ask.”

 


 

The good news that Federici had delivered to them earlier in the day had come as a pretty big relief to Ron, but it couldn’t compare to the relief that it had taken off of his girlfriend’s shoulders. In the hours that followed Hermione had finally allowed herself to properly enjoy the extravagant and exotic surroundings that they found themselves located in.

 

Their first act, on Zoe’s own suggestion, had been a trip to the beach bar in their section of the resort. The Guest Relations manager had insisted on pouring their first round of celebratory cocktails herself, which had presented a new dilemma for them, as neither of them had ordered an alcoholic cocktail before in their lives.

 

This did not act as a set-back for Federici, more-so, it actually put a genuinely excited smile on her face, as she whipped out a strange, leathery brown hat which had several corks attached to it with string.

 

“This isn’t just any old hat,” she had said. “This hat has been charmed to explore your mind, body and soul to work out the exact cocktail that you would most like at that given moment.”

 

They had each had a go at trying on the hat over two hours ago – and were both now pretty tipsy after consuming their fair share of cocktails at the bar. Hermione drinking the refreshing rum, lime and mint mojitos, with Ron knocking back the even sweeter pineapple and coconut concoctions called pina coladas.

 

Ron was now drinking his fourth, or maybe his fifth, as they relaxed on comfortable cushioned chairs back up at their balcony whilst watching the artificial sun-set. The synthetic weather was still warm enough that Ron sat with his top off, just wearing a pair of swim-shorts, whilst Hermione relaxed in a white swimsuit, which was nicely cut around her cleavage.

 

Ron was sure that Hermione had caught him on one of the few occasions that he had stolen a quick glance at her slightly protruding breasts – and to his surprise she had not told him off, instead she had said nothing, merely looking away hesitantly with a wry smile on her pretty face.

 

“You know… there was something Miss Burke said back at the Australian Ministry that I found a little… odd,” a tipsy Hermione said, as Ron looked over at her, pondering his reply as he tried to avoid staring at her cleavage.

 

“Did you know that Kingsley had a brother?” she said with a confused look on her face before he could think of anything to say in response. “She mentioned that back when they were at Hogwarts together Kingsley and his brother used to gloat to her about the Quidditch results.”

 

Ron did vaguely remember Olivia Burke making an offhand comment like that, but such was his mental and physical state following that horrific portkey journey that it had completely passed him by, not registering as particularly odd at the time – or if it had, that train of thought had swiftly departed the station of his mind just as soon as it had entered it.

 

“No… no I don’t think he’s ever mentioned having a brother before,” Ron responded, as he searched through his less than sober mind for any recollection of such a conversation.

 

“Don’t you agree that that’s a little bit odd?” Hermione offered, as she took a deep sip on her straw, twirling around the little mint leaves in her sugar-coated glass as she did so.

 

It was a little bit odd, Ron agreed, but that sort of thing wasn’t completely unheard of in the wizarding community.

 

“Perhaps a little, yes… but Mum never likes to talk about her brothers… maybe Kingsley’s brother was killed in the first war too.”

 

“That’s a good point,” Hermione said. “I hadn’t considered that… yes… yes, you may well be right.”

 

“Always the tone of surprise,” he teased sarcastically, as Hermione smiled a little, then let out a tipsy laugh.

 

“I do understand why she never talks about them,” Ron continued, suddenly steering the conversation to a more serious direction, perhaps partially due to the influence of the alcohol, as he noticed the expression on Hermione’s face turn from a smile to one of sympathy.

 

“Dad always said that a little part of her died the day she found out that they’d been killed… and I know it must have been really hard for her… but I do sometimes wish she would’ve talked about them more. Even just told us some funny family stories or something. It feels weird to even say their names out loud since nobody would ever talk about them…

 

Hermione reached over and placed her soft, warm hand on top of Ron’s, caressing his hand with her slim fingers as he kept talking.

 

“… I won’t ever let myself do that with Fred,” Ron added, trying to reassure himself more than Hermione.  

 

“When we’re married and have children of our own I’ll tell them every funny story about Fred that I know and-

 

Ron stopped himself as he realised what he had just said.

 

Hermione had already started laughing.

 

“Wait- that’s not what I meant- I-

 

“When we’re married and have children of our own?” Hermione jibed, as she sarcastically raised her eyebrows.

 

“No- no- I meant- you know what I-

 

“I’m very interested to hear what you meant to say, Ronald,” Hermione said, still giggling at his mistake, as she stood up from her chair after finishing the last of her drink.

 

Ron clumsily pulled himself up from his chair so that they were standing face to face in the sunset.

 

“Well I just meant if… you know if-

 

Hermione kissed his lips before he had a chance to finish.

 

He felt her arms wrap tightly around his shoulders, pulling him in even closer, as he rested his own arms around the back of her slender waist.

 

“I don’t know how much you know about the human anatomy Ron,” she said softly, almost in a whisper, as she temporary broke away from the kiss. “But it seems a little premature for you to be thinking about getting me pregnant when we haven’t even… you know…”

 

Ron felt his heartrate rise rapidly.

 

He didn’t quite know what to say.

 

Her skin looked so soft and creamy.

 

His eyes fell on her cleavage once more and he noticed the outline of her two nipples and breasts against her white swimsuit.

 

His cock tingled slightly as he imagined what it would be like to have one of her breasts in his mouth. 

 

“Why is it that we haven’t yet, do you think?” Hermione asked.

 

“I dunno… I mean-

 

“I suppose I have been awfully stressed about my parents… and I’m sure it has been awfully difficult for you too… we’ve been so caught up with everything we just haven’t really had time to think about it,” she concluded, as Ron nodded in agreement, even though it wasn’t the slightest bit true that he hadn’t had time to think about it.

 

“You do want to… you know… don’t you?” she whispered, with a look of doubt on her face.

 

“Yes!” he blurted out. “I mean… if… only if you want to,” he quickly added.

 

“You don’t think I look awfully stupid… in this swimsuit, I mean. You don’t think I look too-

 

“I think you look perfect,” Ron drunkenly pronounced, as he pulled her close and passionately kissed her lips. He heard her sigh softly as he ran his hands gently down her back, eventually resting them on her bottom.

 

Ron squeezed her bum cheeks firmly as her tongue aggressively fought its way into his mouth.

 

He lifted her up and stumbled slightly, before she straddled her legs around his waist as they continued lustfully kissing whilst he carried her into the bedroom, before thrusting her down onto the bed and pressing her down against the sheets as they continued their steamy embrace.

 

Ron broke away from kissing her lips and quickly worked his way across first to her right cheek, then further down the side of her face before he began amorously pecking her neck.

 

Hermione sighed softly, then began to press her nails across his back as he remembered the technique that Lavender had taught him during their brief fling in sixth year.

 

He opened his mouth as if to bite her neck, but instead he sucked strongly, causing his girlfriend to gasp with pleasure. Ron wondered if he would be the first person to give Hermione a love-bite, he hoped he was – and the jealous thought of Viktor Krum, or anyone else having done this to her only caused him to suck with a renewed sense of vigour.  

 

Hermione scratched his back in delight as he felt his penis grow harder and harder, as he broke free of his sucking to begin snogging her again, tasting the rum, lime and mint on her tongue and breathe as he did so.

 

His train of thought briefly went back to Lavender Brown – and he quickly pushed the horrific sight of her dead, mutilated body out and away from his mind.

 

He pulled back from his embrace with Hermione and got up slightly, before untying the cords and taking off his shorts, leaving him fully naked and exposed in-front of her.

 

Ron’s cock stood firmly to attention and Hermione studied it with enough curiosity for him to feel reassured that his was the very first that she had seen in the flesh. The excitement of her studying his naked body like it was a brand-new book made him feel about as horny as he could ever remember feeling.  

 

She followed his lead in getting undressed and smiled shyly at him, before sitting up and slowly taking off her white swimsuit and casting it aside, leaving only her glorious, bare-naked skin in its wake.

 

Her body was scattered with occasional freckles, much lighter and less noticeable than his own, but noticeable in their own way nonetheless. His dick stiffened up even more as he finally cast his eyes on her beautiful breasts and perky, pink nipples. She had a small mole on her left breast and just above her belly button – and upon seeing those little imperfections he had never felt more intimate and close to her.

 

He stared at her bare, naked body as she did the same to him, for all his sneaky glances at her breasts throughout the last hour or so, she was more than getting even now as she bashfully eyed up his cock.

 

Ron looked towards the middle of her legs and unlike her smoothly shaven sex in his dream that morning, her vagina was covered by small tufts of bushy, brown pubic hair.

 

They caught each other’s eye at the same time and hungrily embraced once more, lips against lips, tongue to tongue, as they began to explore each other’s body with their hands. Ron fondled her breasts firmly, as she reached out and got her first grasp of his erect cock.

 

He was surprised he didn’t cum there and then, but he relaxed himself as she begin gently pulling up and down on his penis as his right hand trickled down from her breast to her stomach, before he eventually reached the inside of her thighs and the tufts of her pubic hair.

 

Hermione moaned and swore under her breath as his fingers slowly glided their way through the hairs and reached her glistening clitoris and he began to softly rub it, as Lavender had once taught him.

 

At the time of their break-up Ron had harboured a slight tinge of regret that they had only ever gone as far as to fondle around with each other, but in hindsight he had absolutely no regrets considering that he was about to lose his virginity with the girl that he had loved for several years now.  

 

The sight of Lavender’s dead corpse once again entered his mind though - and for a brief moment all sense of arousal was lost.

 

“Don’t stop,” Hermione whispered gently – and he was soon just as horny as he was before when she increased the speed and force of her grip on his cock.

 

He continued to press his fingers against her, feeling her wetness increase with each stroke, causing her to dampen her pubic hairs and cover his index and middle fingers with the fruits of his labour.

 

“I think I’m ready,” she softly gasped, as she reluctantly relented her grip of his cock and lay back, opening her legs even further.

 

He stared down at his beautiful naked girlfriend, her dark brown eyes gazing down at him with a look of both excitement and slight nervousness on her face.

 

Ron remembered that he hadn’t yet uttered the contraceptive spell and quickly grabbed his wand from the bedside table, muttering the spell he had first seen written on a desk in one of the Herbology greenhouses in 3rd year.

 

 A feint and very quickly invisible trail of white smoke brushed against, then evaporated onto his penis, as he held onto Hermione’s thighs and then slowly but surely entered her tight, wet cunt.

 

Hermione gasped heavily, with what seemed like a mixture of pleasure and pain.

 

So this was it.

 

This was what it felt like.

 

The sight of Lavender’s corpse once again entered his horrified mind as he came to terms with the fact that he was finally inside of Hermione and had lost his virginity.   

 

He reached out and held one of his girlfriend’s hands, softly pulling his penis slightly out and then back inside of her again.

 

Now he saw Remus, Tonks and finally Fred’s lifeless body laid out in the great hall.

 

Ron tried to get the horrible, graphic images out of his head but they just wouldn’t budge.

 

He slowed his rhythm almost to a halt entirely - and felt the blood and the excitement of his arousal slowly shift away from his penis.

 

His eyes opened slightly and Hermione shot him a curious, concerned look.

 

“Are you alright?” she murmured.

 

Lavender – dead.

 

Remus – dead.

 

Sirius – dead.

 

“Ronald?”

 

Mad Eye – dead.

 

Tonks – dead.

 

Dobby – dead.

 

Dumbledore – dead.

 

Fred… Fred… dead.

 

“They’re all gone,” he mumbled, as he felt the hot tears began to form in his eyelids.

 

“They’re all dead.”

 

The tears began to slowly run down his face, before he quickly began blubbing his eyes out.

 

Hermione held him tight for a while, as he buried his face into her bosom and then slowly cried himself to sleep.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Chapter 16: Dean II - Sense and Sensibility
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Dean could scarcely believe it, but it really had been just over a month since the events of the Battle of Hogwarts.

 

The castle and grounds were almost unrecognisable from the state of death and destruction he had last seen them in. He wasn’t sure who exactly had overseen the repairs and the clean-up operation, but whoever it was had done a damn good job.

 

It seemed from the Ministry presence on the entrance gate that Hogwarts was still in a state of quasi-lockdown, with a keen-eye being kept on anybody coming in or out, which seemed understandable given that reports in the media suggested some prisoners were still being kept in the castle.  

 

Dean and Seamus had been locked in a hot debate about that at work the other day, with Seamus arguing that it was probably the Ministry itself leaking out that information to keep the rogue Death Eaters guessing as to the whereabouts of their captured comrades.

Dean himself though that was a pretty ridiculous idea, but their boss Hestia Jones had very sternly urged them to stop talking about the subject when she had overheard them, so perhaps there really was something in it after all.

 

As he made his way towards the castle Dean spotted the gigantic groundskeeper Hagrid strolling towards him in the distance. It was a bit hard to tell from so far away, but from what he could make out it looked like Hagrid was dressed about as smartly as Dean had ever seen him.

 

“Alrigh’, Dean?!” he cheerily bellowed out from afar with a huge smile on his face, as Dean warmly raised his hand in acknowledgement whilst a few small birds quickly scattered away in fear of the sudden loud noise.

 

“Good to see you Hagrid!” he added once they had gotten a bit closer together, as he studied the outfit of his former Care of Magical Creatures teacher in more detail. It wasn’t quite as smart as a suit, but it wasn’t that far off it. Wherever it was he was going or whoever it was he was meeting it must be something or someone very important.

 

“Fancy seein’ you ‘ere! You’ve not gone and got yourself a job at the ministry as an Auror too, ‘av ya?” Hagrid enquired once his big strides had taken him to just a few feet in front of Dean.

 

“Not quite,” Dean replied, as he observed that Hagrid even seemed to have trimmed his scraggly beard and bushy hair for whatever occasion it was. Maybe it was his birthday. “I have got a job at the Ministry, not as an Auror, but I’ve come to an arrangement where I can work part-time and finish my studies. I’m here to see Professor McGonagall about it.”

 

“Oh, well, that’s great news on the job at the Ministry… and it will be nice to have a familiar face around ‘ere next year.”

 

“Thanks, Hagrid.” Dean responded graciously, as Hagrid appeared to be deep in thought.

 

“But if you’re ‘ere to see Professor McGonagall for a one to one meetin’… that must mean… that must mean… oh no I betta’ not say. I’d get in trouble if I told ya! I’m sure she’d like it to come from her, not me,” Hagrid said with a guilty look written across his face.

 

“Has she not had many students in for one to one meetings?” Dean asked with a slight tone of panic in his voice.

 

He had thought it seemed a little bit strange when he’d received his invitation in the post for this meeting with the Headmistress, but he mused it had been an extraordinary year, so maybe she was having these private one on one meetings with lots of people ahead of the new school year.

 

“I expect I’ve already said too much… best leave the Headmistress to explain,” Hagrid replied sheepishly. “Anyway, ‘fraid I can’t stay to chat too much… got me big day at the Ministry. Won’t want to be late for it!” he added, as a booming smile returned to his grizzly face that still nursed a few reasonably fresh wounds and scars.

 

“Your big day at the Ministry?” Dean asked. “Are you… are you-

 

“I’m gettin’ me pardon!” Hagrid burst out before Dean could finish asking him if he was about to get married – perhaps Hagrid’s interruption had been for the best.

 

“I told Minister Shacklebolt he really didn’t hav’ ta’, that I didn’t want no fuss or nothin’, but he kept sayin’ it’s what Dumbledore would’a wanted for his most trusted friend,” Hagrid added, before tears quickly appeared in his eyes.

 

“That’s great news, Hagrid!” Dean said. “So that would mean you could get a wand and… and

 

“Legally practice magic just like any other witch or wizard, that’s right!” Hagrid beamed with pride. “Me old Dad would be so proud a’ me. Gonna buy meself a bottle of the finest fire whiskey Diagon Alley has t’a offer t’a celebrate… I’ll stop off and get summat nice for Fang too, he ain’t been eating right since the battle, reckon it was the stress of it all, but a nice bit of steak and he’ll be happy as Larry I reckon!”

 

“I don’t think any of us have been right since that battle,” Dean pondered, as the two shared a remorseful look. “I’m sure you’re right though, a bit of steak will sort anyone out, man or mutt! Best of luck Hagrid, you deserve it!”

 

“Thanks, Dean, means a lot,” Hagrid mustered, possibly about to start crying again, before patting down on Dean’s shoulder and strolling away towards the entrance gate.

 

“Say…Dean…” Hagrid added.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“It’d sure be nice to see a familiar face or two when you’re all back at school and what not… by all means… if you’d like t’a visit t’a hav’ a chat or a drink or what not… don’t be afraid t’a knock on my door.”

 

“That sounds great,” Dean replied. “I’ll definitely take you up on that offer,” he added honestly.

 

He hadn’t really given it too much thought, but he supposed his dormitory would be completely empty with none of Seamus, Neville, Harry or Ron returning to school with him.

 

It would be good to have someone to talk to – and Hagrid seemed like as good a companion as one could wish for.

 

He would certainly have some interesting stories of his ventures in the war.

 

“Ta ra, now, wish me luck!”

 

“Good luck, Hagrid!” Dean hollered as Hagrid strolled along out of sight.

 

Dean noticed two other ministry officials standing guard at the nearest doorway into the castle, both of whom seemed deep enough in their own conversation that they didn’t at first notice him.

 

“I’m tellin’ you mate, if that had been a muggle bomb like that prat Peasegood reckons then poor Joshy Morris would’ve had his arm back by now. It ain’t an easy process and it certainly ain’t a pain free one, but no dark magic… no problem… that’s the general rule of thumb!”

 

“I don’t know Jeff… it sure sounded like a bomb the way he tells it, like. Oh-

 

The two ministry workers cut their conversation short when they noticed Dean just a few yards in-front of them.

 

“Are you McGonagall’s two o clock? Dean Thomas?” the taller of the two asked, suddenly sounding a lot more official as he carefully examined a piece of parchment in front of him.

 

“Yeah, that’s right-

 

“Very well, lad. Come on through. Password to her office is Dashwood.”


The first thing that Dean noticed about McGonagall’s office was the large assortment of dark, wooden bookshelves, all of which were filled with old-style hardback books. It was not so much an office as it was a private library.

 

He had never been bad, or indeed, “good” enough to warrant a trip to this office when Dumbledore had been running the school, but he had still never heard Harry or Ron remark of how many books Dumbledore had stored in there. They would only ever mention the large portraits of past head-teachers or Dumbledore’s pet phoenix – but McGonagall did not seem to have either of these curiosities on display.

 

“Ah… Mister Thomas… you’re right on time… excellent,” the headmistress said, as a small smile appeared on her wrinkled face.

 

“Please, take a seat,” she added, offering him a comfortable looking arm chair that sat opposite her grand marble desk.

 

Dean thanked her and took his seat quickly, as his eyes still wandered around the room, eventually finding a portrait of Albus Dumbledore sat sleeping near the back corner of the room.

 

He felt a little nervous given what Hagrid had let slip to him earlier.

 

 It still didn’t make any sense to him as to why McGonagall had requested an audience with him in person.

 

Maybe she did not want him to return and had brought him here to break the news to him face to face.

 

“Now… I must first make an admission that I was a little surprised… pleasantly surprised, of course… but all the same… I was a little surprised to hear of your interest in returning to complete your studies,”

 

“Oh-

 

Dean felt his hands tremble slightly with nerves.

 

It seemed stupid to be worried about something so stupid given all that he had been through in the last year.

 

In that moment, with his palms softly sweating in his lap, he slightly regretted ever considering coming back to school in the first place.

 

It made him feel hopelessly young and like a child again to be worried about something so trivial in the grand scheme of things, but maybe being able to worry about such trivial things instead of war-time worries of the threat of death was part of the appeal of coming back to school in the first place.

 

“You must forgive me if you interpret that as a denunciation of your academic prowess as a student Mister Thomas,” the Headmistress quickly interjected, which reassured his anxiety about the situation a little.

 

“As your former Head of House I am well aware of your capabilities as a student, particularly in my own class, but it has not escaped my notice that much like your old dorm-mates you have been granted employment at the Ministry of Magic… and I had assumed, perhaps, that much like Mister Potter, Weasley, Longbottom and Finnigan… that you may also have not wished to return to Hogwarts to complete your education… which would be perfectly understandable given the circumstances of course. But it seems you have chosen to buck the trend of the boys that I once acted Head of House to…. if for nothing more than to satisfy an old woman’s curiosity, may I ask why?”

 

“Why I wanted to come back?” Dean asked rhetorically, as McGonagall studied him intensely.

 

“Well I guess my parents have always pushed on me the importance of getting an education. My Mum would go mental if I never finished school, even if I do have the job at the Ministry.”

 

Dean momentarily thought back to the moment that Minerva McGonagall had first met his Mum and Step-Dad when she’d delivered his Hogwarts acceptance letter.

 

“And yet Mister Thomas, I sense you have far outgrown the period of your life where you may let your Mother’s opinions seriously influence your life decisions,” McGongall replied as she read straight through his hastily prepared response.

 

The headmistress was right of course.

 

He was just a bit hesitant to admit the real reason and motivation for his return.

 

His head was filled with emotion as he thought back to Ted Tonks berating him when he’d first told him that he had no interest in ever returning to Hogwarts even if You Know Who did lose the war.

 

McGonagall eyed him with much interest as he paused for time a little longer, before he decided against his better judgement to open up to his old Head of House.

 

“It’s just… well… if he’d… if You Know Who had won then I wouldn’t have even had the choice, would I? The people who followed him and fought alongside him… they were the reason that I couldn’t come back for my last year in the first place. They didn’t think I should be here. But a lot of people… good people, fought and died, at least partly so muggle-borns like me could be here at all… I feel like I’d be throwing it all back in their faces if I then didn’t even bother to complete my education after all that.”

 

Dean hadn’t meant to rant as much as he had.

 

It just sort of all came out.

 

He had been too caught up in controlling his emotions and trying not to cry that he had not given much notice to how McGonagall had reacted, but upon meeting her eyes he discovered that his monologue had in-fact caused a tear to form in one of her eyes instead.

 

“Beautiful,” she whispered. “That really is quite…

 

The headmistress desperately sought to regain her composure, reaching down for a handkerchief to wipe the tear from her time-worn face.

 

“A fantastic answer, Mister Thomas… one that also reassures me that I have not made a mistake by inviting you here today… for I felt of what I am about to ask of you, and indeed my earlier guest, was perhaps a little too important to be discussed with the two of you by post.”

 

Dean still did not have the faintest idea of what she may be referring to.

 

The two of you?

 

Who else was there and what could possibly be so important that it required a one-to-one meeting to discuss it?

 

“From the vacant expression you are wearing I assume you have not figured it out yet?” McGonagall questioned, as Dean shook his head blankly.

 

“The wit of a Ravenclaw you may not possess, Mister Thomas, but the bravery and determination that you have shown in the last twelve months undoubtedly make you the stand-out choice to be our Head Boy for this coming school year.”   

 

“Head boy?” Dean involuntarily uttered out loud in complete confusion.

 

“Yes… and whilst it may seem a somewhat trivial role in the grand scheme of things, given everything that has happened… I imagine there has scarcely been a time in this school’s long and decorated history where the Head Boy and Head Girl of Hogwarts will have had more responsibility placed on their shoulders. I can assure you, Mister Thomas, this is not a proposal, nor indeed a decision that I have made lightly.”

 

Dean was momentarily lost for words.

 

He had not been quite sure what it was that McGonagall was going to ask of him, but never in his wildest dreams had he imagined he was being headhunted to take on the role of Head Boy.

 

“Well, Mister Thomas, do you accept?” McGongall eagerly enquired.

 

“Err…yeah…yes, it would be an absolute hon- err… Thank you, Professor,” Dean managed to stumble out.

 

“Excellent,” the Headmistress replied quickly, as she retrieved a scroll from the top of her pile.

 

“Please sign your name and date here…here… and here,” she said, as she passed him a piece of parchment and a quill whilst pointing to several different parts of it.

 

Dean signed and dated the scroll carefully, as he tried his best not to make any smudges.

 

He never had quite got the hang of writing neatly with a quill and ink.

 

“That’s lovely, Mister Thomas, thank you kindly…. I must confess I am awfully proud to have two Gryffindors as the first post-war Head Boy and Head Girl… of course I did hand-pick the two of you myself, but I must confess that I feel pretty confident that there will be no outcries of bias in who I have chosen.”

 

McGonagall’s admission that the Head Girl was a fellow Gryffindor only confirmed Dean’s thought that it must be Hermione Granger who she had chosen.

 

Harry had spent a lunch-break at work with Dean and Seamus just a few days ago where they had discussed Dean returning to Hogwarts – and who of their year may be joining him, with Hermione winding up being pretty much the only other person other than Dean and the Patil twins electing to return.

 

Hermione did seem the most logical choice for Head Girl.

 

It couldn’t really be anyone but her.

 

Even if you disregarded the part she had played in the downfall of You Know Who, as a student in her own right she had undoubtedly been the best in their year since the first day of school all those many moons ago.

 

There wasn’t really any competition.

 

“I’m sure Hermione and I will do the best that we can for you, Professor,” Dean said confidently, as he felt himself brimming with pride at the sudden thought of the responsibility his former Head of Year had placed on his shoulders.

 

McGonagall laughed softly.

 

“A very well educated guess, Mister Thomas, but, upon her own request following her initial expression of interest in returning to complete her studies… your class-mate Miss Granger was not considered for the position of Head Girl.”

 

“Oh,” Dean murmured, as he let out an awkward laugh to cover up his slight embarrassment.

 

“My choice for Head Girl was actually in the year directly below your own… but fear not Mister Thomas, as I have no doubt that you and Miss Weasley are well acquainted from your time spent on the Gryffindor Quidditch team together.”

 

Ginny!

 

He was going to have to share duties with Ginny?

 

It was no wonder Minerva McGonagall had hastily forced him into signing on the dotted line as quickly as she had.

 

Why did it always have to be Ginny?


The wind blew quite firmly at the top of the hill that overlooked The Burrow in Ottery St Catchpole.

 

Dean nervously checked his watch, before he saw her approaching in the distance.

 

Ginny’s fiery red hair flew across her face almost as fast and violently as she did across a pitch when playing Quidditch.

 

It was hard to gauge her expression from as far away as he was, but she did not look too happy.

 

He awkwardly held up his hand until she spotted him.

 

She did not wave back.

 

This had not been one of his better plans, but it was the only reasonable one that he could come up with.

 

Maybe he should have just asked Ron instead, but somehow he felt that asking him could have been an even worse idea.

 

And at least with this plan if it did backfire he at least got to see Ginny.

 

“You better have a bloody good reason for-

 

“This isn’t what it looks like!” Dean quickly interjected before she lost her rag at him.

 

“This isn’t what it looks like?!” she raged, causing those cute little dimples to form on her freckle-ridden face. “You send me a letter completely out of the blue begging me to meet up with you. You say you can’t tell me why. You say you wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t urgent?! Look, Dean, I’m sorry how things worked out with us, but I’m with Harry now and-

 

“I’m not trying to get you back!” Dean interrupted in a slightly raised voice, which momentarily stopped his ex-girlfriend in her tracks.

 

“Then what could you possibly want from me?!” Ginny asked in an indignant tone, as she angrily crossed her arms across her chest. “Is it an apology? Is that what you want?!”

 

“No! I don’t care about that. This isn’t about you,” he said in an increasingly frustrated tone.

 

“This isn’t about me, no? Then what is it about? Did you want an invite to my brother’s wedding? Did you want me to-

 

“I need to speak to Mad-Eye Moody!” Dean angrily announced over her protests.

 

That really did silence her.

 

She looked at him in complete and utter confusion.

 

“Your parents… I remember you saying that they’re friends with him. Do you think you or they could arrange for me to meet him… please?” Dean asked, trying not to sound as desperate as he felt.

 

“Mad-Eye? Mad-Eye? What could you possibly want to talk to Mad-Eye Moody about so desperately?” Ginny asked in a very probing manner.

 

“I can’t say,” he answered quickly, hoping to elude any further questioning.

 

“You can’t say?!” she replied in the characteristically incredulous tone that she often adopted when arguing.

 

“Look. Do you think you’d be able to help me or not? Do you really think I’d be here if I wasn’t desperate? I promise I won’t bother you or contact you again, but please, please can you help me with this?”

 

Ginny huffed, then once again gave him a pretty confused look, before rolling her eyes.

 

“My Dad’s home at the moment,” she began in a resigned sounding tone. “I can ask him if he can arrange for Mad-Eye to meet you, but I can’t promise that he’ll be able to talk him into it… Moody’s not much fond of strangers at the best of times.”


“Alastor! Alastor!” Mister Weasley called politely into his fireplace.

 

It burst into life, as it quickly took the image of Alastor Moody’s scarred and gloomy face.

 

“What is it?!” he barked in his thick Scottish accent.

 

Arthur Weasley turned briefly to give Dean a rather strange and inquisitive look, before looking again at his fireplace.

 

“I’ve got a young gentleman here… friend of Ginny’s… he’s requested a meeting with you.”

 

“I’m a busy man, Arthur. I don’t have time to take meetings with school-children.”

 

Arthur shot Dean a quick, awkward grimace.

 

“I understand that he has something very important to discuss with you.”

 

“What is it?!”

 

“I’m afraid he says that he can’t say,” Arthur replied in a somewhat sarcastic manner.

 

“Oh for fuck sake,” Moody snarled, as his fireplace face turned to look outwards a bit more, before he spotted Dean.

 

“What do you want with me, boy?!” he demanded, as the fire spat slightly.

 

Dean looked down fearfully.

 

This may be his one shot at convincing Moody to meet up with him.

 

He thought telling a white lie might be a bad idea, but he had to get his attention enough that he would give him an audience in person.

 

“I… I… Zacharias Smith mentioned that his Uncle was looking for-

 

“Put him through Arthur!” Moody quickly growled through the fire, as he eyed Dean with a curiously furious rage. “Put him through now.”

 

“Very well, Alastor,” Arthur responded, as he eyed Dean very curiously himself, before reaching out for a small bowl that Dean soon discovered was filled with the Weasley’s supply of Floo Powder.

 

Dean did not often travel by Floo-Powder and he had forgotten the awful little bits of dust you got caught in the back of your throat when using it.

 

He quickly came out at the other end and was flung into almost pitch-black darkness in what must have been Moody’s home.

 

Dean instinctively scanned his eyes around the room upon his arrival and-

 

“LEGILIMENS!” screamed Mad-Eye from out of nowhere, as Dean was almost thrust off his feet in surprise, at first at the incantation of the spell itself - and then the feeling of his mind being penetrated.

 

Suddenly it felt like his whole life was flashing before his eyes like a highlight-reel, as Moody seemed to search through his mind for the memory that he was looking for.


He was three years old asking his crying Mum when his Daddy would come home.


Then it was the day that McGonagall had visited many years later to tell him that he was a wizard.

 

“You’ve got to understand where I’m coming from, Mrs McGonagall,” his frightened Mother said. “You want to take my baby away to a boarding school that’s hundreds of miles away… and it’s just… boys like Dean… boys like Dean don’t go to posh boarding schools ...what if they all pick on him because of who he is and what he looks like and where he comes from?”

 

McGonagall smiled slightly.

 

“I can assure you, Mrs Thomas, that prejudice based on one’s appearance is far less prevalent in Wizarding society than it is in the Muggle one.”  

 

“And this Wizarding society,” Bruce responded curiously. “Would any of the other kids or adults look down on Dean because he wasn’t born to magic parents?”

 

The slight smile departed the witch’s face.


 

“SEND HIM OFF REF, RED CARD!!!” an 11 year old Dean shouted in the midst of a Quidditch match crowd.

 

“What are you talking about, Dean?” a befuddled and baby-faced Ron Weasley asked.


“I love you,” Ginny whispered into his ear, before passionately kissing him on a common room sofa.


Dean flew his broom closer to a fairly distraught looking Ginny.

 

“Blimey Gin… all those years You Know Who has spent trying to do Harry in… I think Cormac McLaggen might beat him to it if he doesn’t get a move on!”


The changing room was empty except for the two of them.

 

“What kind of fucked up person says something like that, Dean?!”

 

“I was only joking, Gin! It was just a bit of banter… I didn’t realise he was that hurt!”


Dean looked around nervously as he noticed their argument had attracted quite the crowd in the common room.

 

“WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT BEING SO OVER-PROTECTIVE OF ME?!”

 

“I DIDN’T TOUCH YOU! I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE ON ABOUT, GIN!”

 

“YOU DID TOUCH ME, DEAN! YOU DID! DON’T LIE TO ME!”


McGonagall’s office was full of concerned looking muggle-born students.

 

“I’m not going to hide like a coward!” he fumed. “I don’t care what You Know Who and his followers think of me. They don’t scare me from coming back to school!”


Gatwick airport was heaving with travellers.

 

“It was good to learn more spells from Potter and his friends for self-defence,” Finch-Fletchley began. “But that night that Death Eaters raided the school and Professor Snape killed Dumbledore, well. That was it for me. It’s one thing training up for it and all, but I’m not willing to put my neck on the line to stay a part of the magical word. If everyone else wants to throw their life away, well more fool them. Some would call it bravery, but I say it’s just naivety. We’re not even 18, Dean. The days of teenagers being needlessly slain in pointless wars should be left behind in the 1940’s. We’ve made the right choice, pal,” he said solemnly, patting Dean on the shoulder.

 

“You know, Zacharias Smith was even trying to recruit me for some kind of secret resistance movement his Uncle is involved in,” he scoffed. “Told me to keep it all very quiet of course, but well, I suppose given the circumstances telling you won’t do any harm, will it?”

 

“Resistance movement?” Dean asked curiously.

 

“Yes. His Uncle is an Auror, isn’t’ he? On quite good terms with that Mad-Eye Moody fellow. He said they’re setting up a top secret resistance movement, recruiting some muggle-borns for some highly classified unofficial operation if You Know Who gets in power. Sounded like a bloody suicide mission to me. Well, as you can imagine, I practically laughed in his face at the idea. What sort of braindead moron would sign up for that?” he scorned.

 

“Yea. Right…” Dean replied, as he was quickly sucked out of his memories and back into Moody’s front-room.


“THAT STUPID LITTLE FUCKER, ZACHARIAS!” Mad-Eye raged. “I knew I saw him spying on us… stupid little shit, he’ll get us all killed even sooner!” he ranted as he kicked a rocking chair with his one good leg, causing the chair to rock mercilessly for a few seconds.

 

“Sorry to have to do that to you, son,” Moody muttered, barely making eye contact with Dean. “You must understand. Nothing personal. But your little friend wasn’t wrong there about it being a suicide mission… I’d never recruit damn near kids for it. You’ve got your whole bleedin’ lives ahead of yous. Too many died last time.”

 

“But- but… no… please I want to join-

 

Moody laughed at him.

 

“You’re not joining anything, son,” he scoffed. “You’re leaving my house and going back to where you came from, with no memory of this, just as soon as I can say Oblivi-

 

“NO YOU CAN’T!” Dean pleaded frantically.

 

“Please! I want to join. I want to fight them. I’m not qualified enough to join the Ministry and fight with them that way, otherwise I would. It’s not like with the muggles… if you want to fight in a war you can just sign up to the army. If I could I would. I signed up to Dumbledore’s Army! I want to-

 

“You want to get out of the country, son. I don’t know anything about you but if you’re a friend of the Weasley family you can’t be that bad. I’ll let you in on a little secret… all of the most talented young muggle-borns at the Ministry… you know what’s happening with them?”

 

“No. But-

 

“I’ll tell you what’s happening with them, son. We’re getting them out. Shipping them all off to other countries. Some of the best we’ve got. Aurors and all. You want to know why?”

 

“Because they’re too scared to-

 

“NO! Not because they’re too scared to fight! Because we’re too scared to let another generation die!” he shouted.

 

“They wiped out all of the brightest muggle-borns in the Ministry’s ranks in the last war… it was one of the first things they did. They won’t hesitate to do it again this time. Better let them live to fight him and his scum another day than die in vain now. Potter and his friends… they’re too caught up in it all now. They may well pay the ultimate sacrifice in the war to come and meet the same fate as his parents… but you don’t have to go that way, son! Your cowardly friend at the airport had the right idea of getting out whilst he still could and you still can!”

 

“He’s not my friend! I was going to leave… that’s why I was at the airport! I packed my bags and I said my goodbyes, but I couldn’t do it… I’m not going out without a fight! I want to fight them and I will whether you’ll let me join your resistance movement or not!” Dean ranted at the battle-scarred wizard, who eyed him up and down before shaking his head once more.

 

“I’m afraid young Zacharias has gotten the wrong end of the stick if he thinks what we have planned is any kind of resistance movement. It’s nothing more than a handful of retired wizards who are looking to make things a bit difficult for You Know Who and his mob should the worst happen – and your friend was right, believe you me boy, it will be a suicide mission of the absolute highest order.”

 

“Then so be it!” Dean shouted adamantly.

 

“Look, you’ve got a lot of fucking nerve, boy. That I will give you,” Moody admitted. “But I’ve got enough blood on my hands, without yours on them too. I don’t know what you think you’d get out of fighting in this war… if you think you’re making some kind of noble sacrifice by trying to get yourself killed then-

 

“Then at least I might take one or two of them down with me!”

 

“We’re not having this conversation,” Moody said resolutely. “Go home, kid.”

 

“Just give me a chance to prove myself to you! I won’t let you down. I won’t-

 

“Oh for fuck sake,” Moody swore angrily.

 

It took another hour of heated discussions with the former Auror to finally talk him round, but eventually, after much resistance, Moody caved in to Dean’s relentless requests to get involved.

 

“I’m meeting a fella next Friday night,” he had said in his deep Scottish accent. “The 1st of August… 11.30PM sharp at Portsmouth Harbour railway station. Not the most glamorous job… but if you’re that hell-bent on playing your part… you might as well do something useful.”

 


 

Dean Thomas was at Portsmouth Harbour railway station at 11.30PM sharp on the 1st of August… but Mad-Eye never showed.

 

Mad-Eye was dead.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Chapter 17: Percy II - Absinthe
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

“You should’ve picked up one of these doughnut-cone ice-creams, Perce,” Dedalus chirped merrily, as he took another big bite out of the remnants of his cone, which had been lavished in both sugar and melted chocolate. “Absolutely marvellous, this is!”

 

Percy saw that Diggle’s chin was absolutely covered with chocolate. He sincerely hoped the small wizard would clean himself up before long, as by his own calculations of the map he was reading they were not that far from Franz Kafka Square, which was where they were meeting their very first prospective recruit.

 

He had mercilessly studied Monika Svoboda’s file.

 

She was in her late twenties.

 

Her Czechoslovakian muggle parents had left their home country in the late 1960’s, presumably for brighter economic prospects in Britain.

 

Not much longer than a decade later and their daughter, born with the gift of magic, had set off to harness that gift at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

 

Miss Svoboda’s academic record was nothing short of exemplary.

 

Her incredible grades dictated that that she was almost certainly a Ravenclaw.

 

She had been taken on by the Ministry very soon after graduating.

 

In just eight short years she had very quickly risen to a very respectable post in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, but then she had left quite abruptly, opting to take a senior post in the Czech Ministry instead just a few years before it all kicked off in Britain.  

 

It was Dedalus and Percy’s role and responsibility to convince Monika Svoboda to come back home and help rebuild the British Ministry to its past glory.

 

Percy was quietly optimistic that they should be able to manage it, after all he felt he was of a similar age to this woman and that they may very well have a few things in common.

 

She had been Head Girl, he had been Head Boy.

 

They had both left school and immediately taken up positions in the Ministry.

 

They were clearly both very intelligent and ambitious.  

 

Yes, he was quite confident that he could talk her around, very confident indeed.

 

Kingsley Shacklebolt had given him some discretion and flexibility around the sort of contracts he could sign for the prospective recruits, with vague outlines of the sort of job roles that they were recruiting for.

 

Percy felt sure that he could come to some kind of agreeable arrangement with Monika, then he and Dedalus would be off on their travels again to convince the next one and then the next one after that.

 

Easy.

 

Although they did have quite a daunting travel itinerary sketched out for the next few weeks.

 

After the Czech Republic they would move on to Denmark, Sweden and Greece, then onto Italy and Malta to conclude their European trip, before heading further afield to Turkey, Pakistan and India. They had business in Thailand too, before they travelled to North America to conclude their trip with a layover in Canada and then finally the one Percy was really looking forward to – The United States of America.

 

There was quite a few people they had to meet with in America who had left to work for the MACUSA, but Percy was only truly interested in seeing Penelope again.

 

The thought of rekindling his romance with Penelope Clearwater had been the driving factor in agreeing to this mission in the first place – and it seemed quite fitting that they were saving the best for last.

 

He could hardly wait to convince her to come back home to Britain and the Ministry.

  

They could make up for lost time.

 

Maybe he would ask her to move in with him.

 

Yes, that would be splendid.

 

That would be absolutely-

 

“Is this us, young Perce?” Dedalus asked rather eccentrically, as Percy was rudely dragged out of his daydream. He was at least pleased to see that Diggle had wiped his face clean of the very sickly looking chocolate that had dirtied it just moments ago.

 

The building was sign-posted in a foreign looking language, possibly French rather than Czech, but it was unmistakably the right place. The two of them crossed over to the other side of the road on the cobblestoned street in Prague’s old-town district.  

 

“Absintherie” read the yellow writing on the turquoise painted sign. The windows facing into the bar had a slightly tinted green look to them and there was an old-fashioned bright green bicycle resting against the wall.   

 

“What is an Absintherie when it’s at home anyway, then?” Diggle enquired with a puzzled look awash his pasty-white face.

 

“I don’t know, Dedalus,” Percy replied calmly as he pulled open the green wooden door. “But I imagine it is some kind of-

 

Percy was stopped mid-sentence by the sudden burst of an intense, warm medicinal smell emitting from the place that was almost certainly a very strong type of spirit alcohol.

 

“Blimmin’ ‘Eck,” Dedalus muttered under his breath.

 

“She said she would be upstairs,” Percy stated, attempting to take his mind off of the awful smell as he motioned for Diggle to follow him up the wooden staircase.

 

The upstairs of the bar was deserted, save for a lone table in the far corner, wherein sat a woman with dark-blonde hair and three small glasses of green liquid.

 

“Miss Svoboda?” Percy enquired politely, as the woman looked towards them and smiled, indicating for them to come and join her.

 

“Please, call me Monika,” she instructed softly, as she retrieved an ash-tray then lit a cigarette and began to smoke. She motioned to Percy and Dedalus as if to offer them both one too, but they both politely declined. 

 

Dedalus had seemed to momentarily consider taking her up on the offer, but he perhaps changed his mind upon the split-second look of disapproval that Percy had shot in his direction.

 

However, it had to be said that they were on first name terms already and she’d offered them both a cigarette and got a round of drinks in.

 

She must be keen. 

 

It was going well.

 

Percy knew all along that this was going to be a walk in the park.

 

It had never been in doubt.  

 

“You must be Mister Weasley and Mister Diggle,” she added, as the two wizards took their seats.

 

“And these must be our drinks,” Dedalus commented in a very concerned fashion, studying his small glass of green alcohol, which had only two small cubes of ice for company.

 

“I do not usually drink alcohol as strong as Absinthe,” Monika began, as Percy noticed her piercing blue eyes, which were making quite intense eye-contact with his on a seemingly intermittent basis. “But, as it is the Ministry paying I felt I should make the most of it.”

Dedalus laughed very loudly.

 

“A lady of my own heart,” he added when he had regained his composure.

 

Svoboda had bought the drinks under the impression that they would pick up the tab for her. They would of course, but still, she had some nerve and confidence.

 

Percy in a strange sort of way kind of liked that and thought it was another promising sign.  

 

Monika then raised her glass.

 

Percy and Dedalus followed her lead and raised theirs too.

 

“I am free and that is why I am lost,” Monika said in a quite dramatic fashion, before taking a large swig from her glass.

 

Percy wondered who it was that had said that.

 

It sounded like the sort of ostentatious speech closer that a tipsy Albus Dumbledore would trot out before a Christmas feast.

 

It was not lost on Percy that she had showed no signs of grimacing after the alcohol had hit the back of her throat, which perhaps led both he and Dedalus into a false sense of security over the strength of the alcohol they were about to drink.

 

“I am free and that is why I am lost,” Percy repeated, chinking glasses with Dedalus as they shared a bemused look before they both took large gulps from their glasses.

 

The absinthe hit the back of Percy’s throat and he had to bite his cheeks immediately to avoid projectile vomiting right there and then.

 

It was the strongest and most repulsive thing he had ever drank.

 

He was determined not to chuck it up though, as he was there in a professional capacity and if he threw it up he may look weak to Monika, who had not flinched in the slightest when drinking hers.

 

“Merlin’s cock,” Dedalus swore, as he began coughing violently, perhaps not possessing the same ability or motivation to keep it down.

 

“If you’ll pardon me for just one momen-

 

Percy watched on in absolute horror as Diggle made an immediate beeline for the men’s toilet, which thankfully happened to be stationed not too far away from their table.

 

“I’m awfully sorry for my colleague’s-

 

“I am not offended, Mister Weasley,” Monika began, as she took another thick drag of what Percy’s Mother had always called muggle death-sticks whenever she had caught his older brother Bill smoking one.

 

“Please, Monika, call me Percy.”

 

“Very well,” she smiled, as she delicately tapped her cigarette to rid it off the excess ash.

 

Perhaps all was not lost after all.

 

She was still smiling.

 

There was a slight twinkle in her eyes now, as if she was deep in thought and about to say something very profound. 

 

Percy wondered if the alcohol had gone straight to her head, or maybe it had just gone straight to his, but for a split second he felt there was a slight wave of sexual tension between them.

 

In an hour’s time they could probably look back and laugh at Dedalus chundering as Monika happily signed her contract to come back and work for the Ministry.

 

“I am not offended by your colleague’s weak stomach, Percy. But I am offended by the Ministry’s arrogant attempt to rehire me.”

Percy was dumbstruck.

 

“I- I-

 

“I hold no ill-will to you and your colleague, Percy. You are just doing as you have been instructed to do, as I would have done once upon a time. But you must understand the arrogance that the Ministry is operating under. The letter I was sent regarding this meeting. It was not sent to my home address. It was sent to my office address. Do you not think the inbound international postal workers talk? It’s not every day they receive a letter from the British Ministry for Magic.”

 

“I’m- I’m sure that was purely due to logistical reasons. We would not have known your personal address, so the only option was to-

Percy stopped briefly as they overheard Dedalus loudly puking up his goulash lunch and ice-cream dessert through the thin wooden walls.

 

He felt incredibly awkward as he watched Monika roll her eyes as she breathed out some smoke, which lingered in the air for a while.

 

The mixture of the smell of absinthe and tobacco fumes really was quite odd and not one that Percy found particularly pleasant.  

 

“The only option was to allow me to have to face the embarrassment of my employers questioning my commitment to them? To let my bosses think that as soon as the war in Britain was over I was looking to pack my bags and go home?”

 

Monika’s tone had very much changed into one of condescension and indignation. 

 

“Do you know why my parents first left Czechoslovakia?” Svododa asked him calmly.

 

“Well, I can’t say for sure, but I assume for some kind of economic reasons,” he replied reasonably confidently, as they heard Diggle vomit once more.

 

Svoboda laughed softly in a patronising manner.

 

“Of course, you can only think in economic terms, Percy. A wizard like you has never truly known what it feels like to be persecuted,”

Percy felt very offended, but thought it best to remain silent.

 

“My parents left Czechoslovakia when the Soviet Union invaded in 1968 so it could become a satellite state once more. They left their country with nothing for a better life. For a life without suppression. For a life without conflict. Do you know much of the Soviet Union and their brand of Communism?”

 

Percy shook his head blankly.

 

“My father used to repeat a saying that best described what his life was like growing up under communism…he used to say - sometimes there was no toilet paper in the shops, luckily there was not much food in them either.”

 

Svoboda took another sizeable swig of her absinthe once she had discarded the remains of her cigarette into the ash-tray, leaving perhaps only a mouthful or two remaining in her glass, which had warmed up sufficiently so that one may never have guessed that several ice cubes had once inhabited it.

 

“He and my Mother found peace and prosperity in England. Lots of food, lots of toilet paper too. They had a daughter, who one day turned out to be a witch. A slight hiccup in their plans, but they had the comfort of their own home and more importantly they were living in a peaceful country free of war, conflict and communism.”

 

The young witch then took another sip of her drink, before looking down disapprovingly at Percy’s glass that was still half-full.

 

“They thought they had left war behind them, but little did they know that the magical world that their daughter had thought so wonderful and exciting would be filled with more war than they could ever imagine. I spent my first two years at Hogwarts reading headline after headline of murder after murder. I did not dare tell my parents when they sent me letters asking how everything was going, after all, they were so proud of me. If only they knew what I had unwittingly signed myself up for.”

 

Percy shifted slightly in his seat, but he had no real argument to mount against her, perhaps she had only agreed to this meeting in the first place to vent her frustrations at someone.

 

“They told me that The Boy Who Lived had vanquished He Who Could Not Be Named, but he did not. Soon enough, the murders began again. The dark times returned. Tell me, Percy, have you ever read any of Franz Kafka’s work?”

 

He had no idea who Franz Kafka was, but for the street to have been named after him Percy had assumed he had been a muggle politician or a king.

 

“No,” he answered honestly. “But if I could just maybe tell you about what fantastic opportunities the Ministry has to offer a woman of your incredible talents and-

 

“Kafka was born right here in Prague. He didn’t like it much… he didn’t like much of anything, really. The majority of his work was dark and depressing. The stories he wrote were often set in horrific places, filled with fear, corruption and misery. He may as well have been describing what it was like to be a muggle-born in Wizarding Britain during the last few decades.”

 

Percy could see now that this was well and truly beyond a lost cause, but his professional pride meant that he could not give up on Svoboda without at least one more roll of the die.

 

“It’s different now!” Percy pleaded. “The dark times are over. You Know Who is gone, for good this time. Harry Potter made sure of that, I saw it myself. I was there. We can forge a new future, one that is free from fear, corruption and misery – but the Ministry needs people, good people, talented people like you, Monika.”

 

“I do not doubt that you believe that, Percy, but come on, get real! The dark times are over? Do you think that we abroad are not aware that you still have six Death Eaters on the loose? They say that ignorance is bliss, but they are wrong. Those who are ignorant naturally consider that everything is possible.”

 

Percy could not tell for sure, but he believed from her poetic tone of voice that she was quoting that Kafka fellow again.

 

She was most definitely a Ravenclaw.

 

“Wizarding society in Britain is not built for change, Percy. The very foundations of its design is to keep things the same. The-

 

“It will be different this time,” he relented. “It is different this time. The new Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, he is different he is-

 

“Another pure-blood Minister, is it then? Quelle fucking surprise. He may well have good intentions, but the same mistakes will be made once again, Percy. You are blind if you cannot see it. Tell me, will there still be the same four houses at Hogwarts in the coming school year?”

 

“Well, yes, of course!” Percy answered indignantly.

 

“Your reaction is exactly what I’m talking about, Percy. You cannot possibly even conceive of the idea that say for instance, Slytherin house… the very house from which your new… oh so different Minister for Magic was once a Head Boy for… was to be… terminated.”

 

“Well- well that’s impossib-

 

“A school which explicitly groups together the most prejudiced members of its society, based on the hiring preferences of a prejudiced ancient wizard who should be doomed to the history books, not held up on a pedestal for young, impressionable children to chant his name and wear his colours.”

 

Percy didn’t really have an answer.

 

He was left speechless once again.

 

It was perfectly clear how Svoboda had flourished so well in the Ministry. She was an excellent orator, clearly extremely intelligent and didn’t give you a word in edgeways, yet still remained very polite in the process.

 

It was incredibly frustrating as Percy knew he could not win a debate with this woman. She was running absolute rings around him. He almost wished Dedalus would return from the toilet to help back him up.

 

“In muggle schools in Prague they do not have a house that honours Josef Stalin. They do not wave red flags with gold hammers and sickles on them. In Berlin they do not have school houses honouring Hitler or the Nazis. They do not hang swastikas on the walls or chant Nazi songs at school football matches. Slytherin house remains at Hogwarts because of what, tradition?”

 

“No- no. Well, yes. But it’s not that simple, Monika. You must understand. I saw you were Head Girl once. I was Head Boy. You must know that the tradition of Hog-

 

“I know that when I was chosen to be Head Girl I was the first muggle-born Head Boy or Girl for a quarter of a century,” she fumed.

 

“Almost every other family name that fell before mine in the record books belonged to the Sacred Twenty-Eight. Well, do you know what I say, Percy? Fuck the Sacred Twenty-Eight!”

 

Percy desperately tried to think of a rebuffal to her point, but he was taken aback by her sudden swearing. He felt very flustered and straightened his shirt a little as he felt himself begin to sweat nervously. 

 

The men’s toilet door suddenly flung open and a rather refreshed looking Dedalus Diggle emerged from it, momentarily distracting Percy from his train of thought.

 

“Well then, what have I missed?” Diggle squeaked as he looked from Percy to Monika in slight confusion.

 

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” Monika murmured as she finished the last slithers of her drink and stood up. “I was once much like you, Percy. I once held the establishment and tradition on a pedestal… well here’s a piece of advice for you, as well as my answer to your new Minister. Fuck your prejudice… fuck your traditions… and fuck your Ministry!”

 

Monika Svoboda abruptly fled the table, departed down the stairs and they did not see her again.

 

“Hmph,” Dedalus muttered. “Not the best of starts for you then, ehh, Perce?” 

 

“I need a drink,” Percy mused. “Something pretty strong…but not that strong,” he added, as both he and Diggle shied away from seeing off their Absinthe.

 

“You know what you want, Perce? A nice cuppa tea,” Dedalus remarked in his ever boisterous manner.

 

“Yes, I think that would be perfect,” Percy replied, as he glumly made his way down the stairs.

 

Dedalus calmly strolled towards the bar to settle their tab with the muggle credit card that Kingsley had supplied them with.

 

Percy thought he had seen some of Penelope in Monika.

 

The thought that she may show a similar sense of resolve and reject him too filled his heart with the sort of misery and despair that Monika had described as being present in those Kafka stories.

 

“We’d… like… to go… somewhere… where… we can… get some… tea…tea…yes, tea! Tea!” he heard Dedalus loudly explaining to the Czech bar-keep in the sort of accent one only makes when speaking to someone whose first language is not English.

 

“Excellent!” Dedalus remarked.

 

“He says we can get some tea not far from here, Perce. Follow me. We take the first left and then it’s the forth building down.”

 

Percy slowly followed his companion across the cobblestoned street as a sense of sombre overcame him.

 

The meeting with Monika really had been an unmitigated disaster of the highest order.

 

He really could kill for a nice mug of piping hot tea, just like his Mother would make.

 

The thought of his Mother made him suddenly feel awfully homesick, which was ridiculous as he’d only been gone for a few days.

 

He had to pull himself together for Kingsley and for Penelope and perhaps more importantly for himself.

 

It was all going to be fine.

 

Monika was just a one off.

 

The others would all want to come back.

 

“Here we are, Perce. Looks like a nice quiet café, bet we’ll get a splendid cup of tea in here. That’ll make you feel better.”

 

Percy agreed with Diggle and followed him through the front door of the fancy looking establishment, upon which they were greeted by a quite large bald headed muggle-man who appeared to be some kind of security guard.

 

“You pay two hundred and fifty koruna entry each, but you get one free drink inside,” he said in a deep voice with a very thick accent, which Percy assumed must be Czech.

 

“Seems reasonable,” Dedalus quipped. “Here you are my friend,” he added as he presented the doorman with the money, who happily let them through following this exchange.

 

As they reached the bottom of the spiral staircase they discovered that the café was very dark and dingy, but it did at least seem to possess some quite comfortable looking sofas.

 

The ambience itself was not particularly relaxation orientated though, as the speakers within the place were playing some rather flamboyant muggle rock music quite loudly.

 

 POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME

OOH, IN THE NAME OF LOVE

POUR SOME SUGAR ON ME

C’MON, FIRE ME UP

 

“Might as well get those free drinks,” Dedalus said in a raised voice so as to be heard over the noise.  Percy nodded at him and followed the little wizard to the bar.

 

Percy thought that the woman serving at the bar was rather scantily dressed for this time of day, but at first he put it down to muggle fashion and culture that he perhaps did not understand.

 

“Two cups of tea, please! What? You don’t sell- I would like two cups of tea, please!” Dedalus squeaked at the woman serving over the loud muggle-music.

 

POUR YOUR SUGAR ON ME

I CAN’T GET ENOUGH

I’M HOT, STICKY SWEET

FROM MY HEAD TO MY FEET, YEAH

 

“She reckons they don’t serve any hot drinks!” a very disappointed Dedalus yelled up into Percy’s ear. “The chap at the Absintherie said it was a Tea Bar!”

 

That was when Percy first noticed the giant neon sign that was lighting up the opposite corner of the room.

 

It read “TITTY BAR”.

 

Percy did not quite grasp what this referred to at first, having never before encountered the muggle slang-term of “titty”, but upon further inspection towards the other side of the room it soon became quite apparent what it was that it referred to.

 

He felt another sudden flurry of home-sickness again as he wished with all of his heart that George was here to see this.

 

It would certainly bring a huge grin to a face that so seldom did smile these days.

 

Percy would never live it down once George found out about this.

 

“MERLIN’S BEARD!” an utterly astounded Dedalus exclaimed, as he suddenly noticed the topless muggle women dancing on the stage. 



Chapter 18: Harry V - The Squib
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Harry stood at the end of the very long, dimly lit chamber.

 

He had the slightest sense of déjà vu, but couldn’t quite picture why.

 

The towering stone pillars covered in carved serpents were casting large, looming black shadows throughout the place.

 

Where was Ginny?

 

Please don’t be dead, Ginny, he thought desperately to himself.

 

Harry put his hand into his robes to pull out his wand… but it wasn’t there.

 

Had he lost it in the commotion that had separated him from Ron and Professor Lockhart?

 

Maybe he had dropped it.

 

The rocky floor was damp and dark, which made it hard for him to search for it, but nevertheless he bent down to have a look all the same.

 

Harry walked slowly and carefully whilst facing the floor for a few steps, desperately trying to find his lost wand among the puddles, when suddenly he saw in the distance a pile of what looked like dead bodies.

 

The discarded corpses on the chamber floor were not skeletons, quite on the contrary in-fact, so they could not have been laying there for very long.

 

He walked slowly towards the first two, which were considerably closer than the rest of them… and… and it couldn’t be.

 

It couldn’t be his…

 

It was his parents.

 

He saw his Dad first, eyes still open, flat on his back with his fists clenched and a determined look awash his face.

 

His Mum was next.

 

Her eyes were closed, with a look of great pain and misery written across her cold, dead face.

 

The grief of seeing their dead bodies brought him to his knees in emotion.

 

He leaned towards his Mother and to balance himself he inadvertently placed his hand down onto one of the cold, wet puddles, only it wasn’t cold and it wasn’t wet.

 

Harry reached for the puddle once more and whilst his hand went through the dirty water onto the chamber floor - it did not dampen in the slightest.

 

He pushed himself up, back onto his feet and rubbed his head slightly, before taking a few steps away from the bodies of his Mum and Dad and onto the next body a few yards further down.

 

There laying across the chamber floor was Cedric Diggory.

 

“It’s just a dream,” Harry mused to himself, as his brain and memories suddenly caught up with themselves.

 

He wasn’t in the Chamber of Secrets trying to rescue Ginny from Tom Riddle and the Basilisk.

 

That was years ago.

 

This was all just in his head.

 


 

Baaaaaaasssssssssssss


 

The sound of the basilisk echoed throughout the chamber.  

 

Harry began pacing ahead towards it, leaving Cedric’s lifeless body in peace.  


Baaaaaaasssssssssssss


He saw the body of his godfather next.

 

It hit him especially hard knowing that he was now a godfather himself.

 

He wasn’t in the slightest bit ready for the kind of responsibility that Sirius had once had for him, which he in turn now held for Teddy.

 

Harry strolled past Sirius Black’s lifeless corpse and almost tripped over the next one.

 

It was Dumbledore.

 

He studied the peaceful face of his former headmaster.

 

Everything he had worked for had ultimately come to fruition.

 

Harry had defeated Voldemort once and for all, just as Dumbledore had planned, but he had not lived to see the victory.

 

“Do not pity the dead, Harry.”

 

He jumped at the words that echoed in the walls of the chamber, words that Albus Dumbledore had once spoke to him, although on this occasion they had not come from Dumbledore’s mouth, nor were they said in his voice.

 

They had been uttered in a much younger voice.

 

A voice that Harry had not heard in a very long time, but one that he would recognize anywhere.

 

It was Tom Riddle.

 

The charismatic and charming young Tom Riddle from the diary… from the horcrux… the one that he had seen in Dumbledore’s and Slughorn’s old memories. The one who had possessed Ginny and almost killed her down in the chamber all those years ago.

 

Harry began to sprint in the direction of where Riddle’s voice had come from.

 

As he ran he saw the spread-eagle corpse of Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody, whose magical eye flittered and fluttered to make eye-contact with Harry as he passed by. 

 

He saw Ted Tonks, Dobby and then finally reached the end of the chamber, where the corpses of Snape, Fred, Remus, Tonks and many others lay discarded among the ruin of Salazar Slytherin’s secret chamber.

 

At the foot of the giant stone carving of the Hogwarts founder that his Mother’s Gaunt family had descended from, stood none other than the charming young Tom Riddle.

 

“YOU!” Harry shouted, before he began to charge towards the adolescent version of Voldemort.

 

Riddle smiled, laughed a little, then with a click of his fingers, he was gone.

 

 He had disappeared into thin air.

 

It was as if he had never been there at all.

 

A large, simultaneously blinding and deafening explosion suddenly ignited just in the spot where Riddle had stood mere moments ago, causing a huge smoke cloud and various bits of debris to hurl itself across the chamber.

 

Harry wiped his eyes and waited for the smoke to clear, until he eventually saw Josh Morris, covered in blood, with just one arm attached to his body. He was screaming in pain as crimson liquid squirted out of the left socket.

 

Pity the living…”

 

The sound of Riddle’s voice had come from behind him, but when Harry looked back he was again nowhere to be found.

 

Then suddenly out of the blue there were masked Death Eaters apparating into the chamber.

 

Harry counted six of them.

 

The six missing Death Eaters.

 

The masked men all stared at him from a distance.

 

“And above all else, those who live without love.”

 

The sextet of Death Eaters disappeared via apparation slowly, one by one, from left to right, as Harry watched on in confusion as he heard the footsteps of the approaching Tom Riddle.

 

“You’re dead, Tom,” Harry said. “This isn’t real. This is just happening in my head.”

 

“Well of course it is happening inside your head, Harry,” Riddle smiled. “But why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

 

The sardonic nature of Riddle’s delivery made his quoting of the late Albus Dumbledore even stranger.

 

I don’t understand, Harry thought, although given Riddle’s reaction to this thought it seemed he might as well have just spoken out loud as he’d heard him all the same.

 

“In dreams, we enter a world that’s entirely our own,” Riddle responded, again quoting the late Albus Dumbledore.

 

“If this is a world that’s entirely my own then why I would be dreaming about you?!” Harry angrily enquired, at which Tom finally burst out into raucous laughter.

 

“This is your dream, Harry,” he whispered in his snake like voice, before gently pacing across the dirty stone-floor in-front of him.

 

“You could have cooked up all manner of creation in that mind of yours, but alas, look what your troubled mind has conjured up… an interesting setting… and a far more interesting companion… I wonder what secrets and riddles you seek to unlock with me tonight?”

 

The only thing that troubled Harry was that his mind had conjured up Tom Riddle and the Chamber of Secrets in the first place.

 

It was making him worry that not all of the horcrux inside of him was destroyed that night in the Forbidden Forest.

 

Perhaps not all of Voldemort was truly dead after all.

 

A small black snake, hissing slightly, slipped past Harry’s feet.

 

It looked back at Harry momentarily, then began darting off into the distance in a frenzied panic, as what looked like a badger suddenly appeared chasing after it.

 

Harry watched as the badger got closer and closer to the snake, when suddenly Tom Riddle pulled out a muggle gun and shot the badger dead in its tracks.

 

The badger never even heard the shot that took it down.


Baaaaaaasssssssssssss


 

“Tell me Harry, truthfully, how many died so that you could live?” Riddle asked in an antagonistic tone, as he played with the muggle-weapon in his right hand.  

 

“They all died because of you, Tom,” Harry spat. “They died so that you could live.” 

 

“Perhaps,” he acknowledged in reply. “But nobody died so that The Boy Who Lived could join The Ministry and take orders from relics of a bygone age like Gawain Robards, or play second fiddle to no-names like Rhea Savage.”

 

The words shot through Harry like the bullets that had flown through the flesh of the dead badger just moments ago.

 

“It was you who found and destroyed all of those horcruxes, not The Ministry. Robards and Savage still see you as some sort of child, but as a mere teenager you have accomplished more than the two of them will ever achieve in their entire lives combined. Perhaps you could justify Robards in his position, but what credentials does Rhea Savage have to be Head Auror over you?”

 

“She’s an experienced Auror,” Harry replied quickly. “Savage is very highly thought of at the Ministry. I haven’t even completed any training or-

 

Riddle laughed in a very crude fashion.

 

“Training?! Harry, outside of Albus Dumbledore and Lord Voldemort this country hasn’t seen a witch or wizard as famous or as powerful as you since The Four Founders!”

 

“Fame isn’t everything!” Harry shot back. “Robards and Savage deserve the positions that Kingsley has given them.”

 

Riddle raised his left eyebrow slightly, before frowning a little.

 

“Remember, Harry, I am a mere construct of your subconscious. If you truly believed that and did not have any doubts about them then we could not be having this conversation. Please, tell me, if that explosion had killed Robards and Savage who do you think Kingsley would have head up the department in their untimely absence?”

 

“I don’t know. I-

 

“Would Kingsley overlook you for Femi Wakanda and Robert Williamson?”

 

“No – yes-  I don’t kno-

 

“There’s a part of you that knows you were born to lead, Harry, but there’s another part of you that feels too noble to seek out the power and responsibility required to do so. You would do well to embrace that raw ambition inside of you.”

 

“I don’t want to seek out power like you-

 

Riddle raised his hand and motioned for Harry to stop.

 

“You don’t seek power for power’s sake, Harry. You have spent your young life reluctantly accepting it. That’s what separates you from Dumbledore, who spent his life reluctantly rejecting it, because he was worried about what he might do with it.”

 

The small black snake that had avoided the badger’s grasp slithered into Harry’s peripheral vision.


Baaaaaaasssssssssssss


“You must decide what kind of wizard you intend to be, Harry Potter,” Riddle continued. “Will you rise up, take control and mould the wizarding world into a better one… or will you cower away in a castle and let the same mistakes of history repeat themselves once more like Dumbledore did?”


Baaaaaaasssssssssssss


Tom Riddle suddenly disappeared as the chamber was plunged into darkness.

 

Harrryyyyyyyyyyyyy Potterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

 

Harry felt someone’s breath brush against his face.

 

He clenched up in fear.

 

Harrrryyyyyyyyyyyyyyy


In a swift motion he pulled his hands up towards his face to sharply push away whoever it was that was near to him.

 

“Harry!”

 

The giant orange blur standing over him in his bed made him jump.

 

“Harry are you okay?”

 

It was Ginny.

 

“I’m fine,” he managed to mumble out in a half-awake voice, as he scrambled for his glasses on the side table.

 

Ginny’s scarlet red hair and bright brown eyes came into view as he put them on and she looked at him with a grimace and slight show of concern, as he took a drink from the half-full lukewarm glass of water next to him.

 

“Sorry to barge in and wake you up, but we’ve had some post from Ron and Hermione. You weren’t having a nightmare, were you?” she demanded in a worried tone of voice.

 

“What? Nightmare? No,” he half-lied. It hadn’t been a complete nightmare after all – and his scar wasn’t hurting at all, which was a promising sign.  

 

“Post from Ron and Hermione? What did they say?” Harry asked eagerly.

 

He missed them both desperately.

 

It had been a strange transition to go from seeing them both, Hermione especially, for months on end to suddenly not see them at all.

He felt as though he was getting withdrawal symptoms.

 

“Well the letter they sent was addressed to the both of us and… well, since you were sleeping I assumed that you wouldn’t mind if I opened it without you,” she said cheekily, without the slightest hint of guilt or remorse at having done so.

 

“Not at all,” Harry replied with a smile.

 

“Correct answer,” Ginny retorted.

 

“Well… what did they say?” he asked impatiently.

 

“Hermione said that they’ve found her parents!” she announced excitedly.

 

“That’s brilliant!” Harry rejoiced, as he sighed in relief for his best-friend.

 

“I know! I’m so happy for her and it sounds like they’ve been having a nice little getaway in the mean-time too,” Ginny continued with the slightest sound of jealously in her voice.

 

 Harry felt a tinge of guilt.

 

Almost as soon as the war against Voldemort had ended he had gone straight to work as a trainee-Auror and had barely seen his girlfriend.

 

He had longed to see her every day for months on end during his year on the run - and now that he had the chance to do just that he was squandering it, but it just didn’t feel right to have a rest or a holiday when there were six missing Death Eaters still out there somewhere.

 

“I’m sorry that-

 

“You don’t have to say sorry to me,” Ginny interrupted before he could finish.

 

“Yes, but I-

 

“But what, Harry?” she snapped. “I won’t lie to you… I was hoping that we would have spent more time together in the last few weeks now that the war is over… and I am quite envious of Ron and Hermione having got to go away and spend some time together on the other side of the world… but-

 

“But what?” 

 

“But you’re Harry Potter… and a conventional life and relationship just isn’t part of the package with you – and that’s not your fault. I knew exactly what I was signing myself up to… it’s just hard sometimes… what happened to Josh Morris the other day… I thought the war was supposed to be over and done with…”

 

Ginny quickly excused herself and left Harry to get ready.

 

He had thought that she’d looked awfully close to tears before she had dashed out of the room- and he guessed maybe that was why she had made such a hasty exit. It was because she didn’t want him to see her getting upset.

 

He had suspected for a while that she was most probably harbouring those thoughts, but he felt awful having her all but confirm it.

 

Harry briefly considered running after her, but he decided it would be best to let her have some space, after all she had always complained that Dean had never given her any.

 

All that Harry had ever truly wanted was to have a conventional life and relationship, yet now he had the chance to have one he was still making things hard for himself and the people closest to him.

 

Dudley hooted harshly at him from the inside of his cage perched up by the window.

 

“You can say that again, Dudders.”  

 


Walden Macnair looked absolutely terrible. He was about as broken a man as a man could be. The Death Eater sat, if you could call what his broken back was allowing him to do sitting, in a hastily erected bean bag on the marble floor of the interrogation room.

 

The bean bag had been the only thing that Macnair had been able to sit in or on without screaming in agony for the best part of a week - and judging by the look on his face he was now about as broken mentally as he was physically.

 

An eager looking Gawain Robards sat opposite him in a fairly comfortable looking oak and leather chair. The Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement aimlessly fiddled with his quill as he studied the notes in the pieces of parchment on the table in-front of him.

 

Robards was the only one who was on the interrogation side of the chamber with Macnair. Harry, along with Rhea Savage and Femi Wakanda, the pair of whom had spent the most amount of time interrogating the Death Eater in the last fortnight, were behind the charm-field section on the other side of the room.

 

The charm-field, which Harry had discovered was a quintessential feature of almost all interrogation chambers, allowed for other Ministry agents to watch an interrogation without the suspect being able to see or hear their presence.

 

They were actually very reminiscent of the sort of glass-mirrored screens that Harry had once seen on old repeats of ‘The Bill’, a police-detective program which regularly aired on the muggle television. He had often watched that and another similar detective show called ‘A Touch of Frost’ on the few occasions that the Dursley’s had gone out for the day and left him to his own devices.

 

A common theme of those sorts of programmes was the “good cop, bad cop” routine, where one detective would aggressively interrogate the suspect, whilst the other would be somewhat kinder. Harry was not quite sure on the exact phycology of this method, but it seemed to work for the fictional police officers.

 

It was fairly safe to say that Gawain Robards liked to take an altogether different approach to his questioning.

 

His approach was less “good cop, bad cop” and more just plain old “bad cop, bad cop”.   

 

“I always thought you did lack a spine, Walden,” Robards said sarcastically. “Life imitating art I suppose,” he added with a smile, enjoying his own witty remark considerably more than anybody else watching on had seemed to.

 

Macnair said nothing. He merely glared at Robards with an intense look of fury and pain on his scarred and slightly wrinkled face.

 

“I’m sure that Savage and Wakanda have already informed you of the considerable case The Ministry has against you, Walden. The charges that landed you into Azkaban several years ago in the first place were not too pretty, but since then you broke out of prison, continuously colluded with The Dark Lord, played a crucial role in the illegal international transportation of many murderous giants and of course, most notably, are the prime suspect in the murder of Broderick Bode. Do you have anything to say in your defence?”

 

“No comment,” Macnair spat.

 

Robards grinned nonchalantly.

 

“As I have said, the charges levelled against you, much like the state of your back, are not pretty. However, any cooperation on your part that may lead to the arrest of one of your comrades will of course be heavily considered when you are sentenced.”

 

Macnair rolled his eyes in disgust.

 

“You want me to betray my friends like some kind of traitor…and for what? A couple of years shaved off of a life sentence?! I’m not fucking stupid, Gawain. I know that I don’t know enough to receive a get out of jail free card like some of the others might. Sure, I could sell out Selwyn to you, but you won’t drop all of the charges against me even if you did manage to make an arrest. I’d sooner take my chances on him and the others that got away doing some damage and breaking us all out of here.”

 

Robards sighed heavily.

 

“You really think that a handful of stragglers are gonna manage to do some damage to us and break you all out?!” he asked in an incredulous manner.

 

“I don’t see why not! You would be incredibly naïve to write them off,” Macnair snapped back defiantly. “Judging by how emotional your little bitch has been in the last few days… I expect they already have done some damage!”

 

Savage swore under her breath next to Harry, as Wakanda, who towered over the both of them in her leather heeled boots groaned.

 

“I warned you, Savage. I told you that you were emotionally compromised. You should have listened to me when I-

 

Savage loudly shushed Wakanda as Robards began to speak once more.

 

“You know, Macnair. I think you’re the one who is being incredibly naïve,” Robards said. “You talk about bargaining to get a couple of years off of your life sentence… I don’t recall saying anything about a life sentence. The act of murdering an unspeakable is a crime that has historically carried only one possible sentence… and it is not life, but death.”

 

 Macnair eyed Robards with a slight sense of caution, but Harry observed that he did not truly yet seem to believe what Gawain was suggesting.

 

“You won’t execute any of us,” Macnair attested in an arrogant tone. “The Ministry hasn’t executed anyone in decades. Barty Crouch liked to make out that he was tough on crime at the end of the last war, but even that silly old shit never sentenced Dolohov, Black or the Lestranges to death… and they committed the worst crimes of all.” 

 

Savage stole a glance at Harry when Macnair mentioned Sirius.

 

It had been just three days prior, on the same day that Hagrid had received a pardon of his own that Kingsley had also posthumously cleared Sirius of all charges against him.

 

Harry was very glad indeed that Barty Crouch had never sentenced Sirius to death, for if he had then Harry would’ve never even met his Godfather for the fleeting few years that he did.

 

Robards glared at Macnair with something between contempt and pity in his eyes.

 

“Do you know why Dolohov, Black and the Lestrange trio were never sentenced to death for their despicable crimes?” Robards asked in an irritated tone.

 

“Everyone knows why,” Macnair replied confidently. “Barty Crouch believed that a life-time of the Dementors was a much harsher sentence than a killing curse, although I guess he never banked on The Dark Lord returning to power and setting everyone free.”

 

Robards chuckled to himself and violently shook his head at Macnair.

 

“The only thing he never banked on was his son falling in with The Dark Lord. Allow me to let you in on an age-old Ministry secret, Macnair. Barty Crouch was full of shit. He never believed any of that bollocks about life sentences being the harshest sentence once could suffer, although I’m sure he said it enough times that even he might have believed it in the end.”

 

Robards rose to his feet and wandered over towards a fearful looking Macnair, who could do nothing but look up at the head of the Department for Magical Law Enforcement as he towered over him.

 

“Dolohov and Black were never meant to have life sentences. They were both in line for the death penalty – and they would’ve gotten it too, if Barty’s own bloody son hadn’t have winded up getting caught torturing the Longbottoms with the Lestranges. That left old Barty with quite the predicament. He couldn’t execute Dolohov, Black and the Lestranges but spare his son – the cries of bias would’ve finished his career. But he couldn’t execute his son either, as that would’ve finished his marriage. So we got the compromise option. It all worked out very well for The Dark Lord and his cronies, probably the only reason why you recruited the useless little fucker in the first place!”

 

Macnair said nothing. He re-positioned himself slightly, trying not to make eye contact with Robards and swearing under his breath in pain as he did so.

 

Harry trembled slightly at his new-found knowledge that Sirius may been sentenced to death if not for Barty Crouch Jr’s turn to the dark side. It was hardly a glowing endorsement of capital punishment.

 

“The mood of the public is one of finality, Macnair. They want some closure. They want some justice – and unlike Barty Crouch, as you well know, I do not have a child in the docks awaiting sentencing-

 

“You don’t have a child full-stop,” Macnair spat.

 

“Oh, Merlin,” Wakanda sighed under her breath, as Savage swore violently.

 

An enraged Gawain Robards instantly pelted the defenceless Macnair square in the head. The connection of his shoe to the Death Eater’s nose saw it break on impact, making a loud crunch and crack in the process.

 

Blood began to trickle down Macnair’s face and onto the cream coloured bean-bag, as he cried out in pain at the abrasive movement this had caused his injured neck and back.

 

Harry looked on in utter bewilderment at what had just happened, as Wakanda exhaled loudly.

 

Savage turned to him with a saddened look awash her pale face.

 

“Gawain’s daughter,” she whispered. “She… she died when she was only seven years old… dragon pox.”

 

Harry suddenly understood Robards’ extreme reaction and wondered if Macnair had known, judging by the look on Savage’s face he assumed that he probably had.

 

Robards began to pace frantically in-front of Macnair, as Wakanda eyed her boss with great caution and concern, perhaps fearing any further retaliation, although he seemed to have calmed down a little.

 

“You know actually Walden, I’m glad that you want to talk about family,” Robards said with an evil looking grin. “Savage and Wakanda took the liberty of informing me last week that you didn’t actually want to speak to or see any of your family at all. I must confess, given your reputation years ago at the Ministry as a devoted family man, I considered this development to be, well, strange.”

 

 “Go fuck yourself,” Macnair replied, to which Robards grinned with glee.

 

“I’m sure you remember your wife used to be quite close to mine once upon a time, so naturally I felt given the circumstances it would be my duty of care to reach out to Cara and make sure-

 

“You shut your filthy mouth, Gawain! Don’t you dare talk to my fuckin-

 

Robards motioned to punt Macnair in the head once more, but he had only pretended, which nonetheless still caused Macnair significant pain as he had flinched when reacting to the expectant kick.

 

Macnair tried to spit at Robards, but due to his hunched posture he succeeded only in spitting on himself.

 

“Oh, but I did dare to talk to her, Walden!” Robards jibed. “And I’m very glad that I did. Cara was most forthcoming about the issues in your broken marriage… and it all seemed to stem back to one thing…

 

“Don’t you fucking-

 

“The Squib daughter of a Death Eater,” Gawain mocked triumphantly, as Macnair looked shattered at Robards having discovered this revelation.

 

Harry noticed that there was a different kind of pain on the Death Eater’s face at this divulgence though. It was not one of discomfort or anger, but rather, for the first time Harry saw vulnerability in Walden Macnair’s eyes.

 

“The way Cara tells it, most of the blame falls at your feet, Walden. She thinks that little Niamh was so embarrassed when her Father got sent to Azkaban for being a Death Eater that she started repressing her magical abilities, so much so that she never actually has shown any magical abilities.”

 

Macnair, defeated, said nothing at this point. Harry watched the blood trickle down the pathetic looking man’s nose. He was no longer even bothering to wipe it on the dirty sleeve of his jumper like he had been previously.

 

“What was your plan if You Know Who wasn’t defeated, Walden? Wouldn’t it look a bit suspicious when your daughter didn’t get a Hogwarts letter this year?” he asked, more rhetorically than literally.

 

Harry felt his boss was perhaps pushing too far now, but either Robards didn’t sense Macnair’s agony or did and was merely trying to use it to his advantage.

 

Gawain now retrieved a piece of parchment from his desk and unravelled it.

 

“Do you know what this is, Walden?” Robards grilled, as he flashed the piece of parchment in-front of the captive.

 

Macnair remained silent.

 

“I’ll tell you what this is… written by Dolores Umbridge no less… this… this is what The Ministry’s official policy on Squibs was under your exalted leader’s control… and I quote…” he began, taking an exaggerated deep breath, which seemed more for show than any sort of respiratory benefit.

 

“The Ministry of Magic defines a Squib as a person whom is born with the assumption of possessing magical blood, yet possesses either extremely limited magical abilities, or indeed, is entirely devoid of any magical ability whatsoever. The primary cause of the birthing of Squibs is believed to be caused by the Mother fornicating, whether wilfully or against her will, with either muggles or mud-bloods - it is also a possibility that the Father may have falsified their own family history, thereby concealing their un-pure blood from the pure-blood witch who birthed the defected child. Either of these crimes, whereby a deformity such as a Squib is created, are punishable to the guilty party only by the Dementor’s Kiss.”

 

Macnair did not look up at Robards, instead much preferring to look at the floor, perhaps in the desperate hope that it would open up and swallow him whole.

 

“Alternatively, in cases where Squibs have previously shown some kind of magical ability at a younger age, but have since lost the ability, it is believed that their magic was stolen from them. There are many mud-bloods that defy the conventions of logic and biology by possessing magical abilities without magical blood – and this fairly modern phenomenon is believed to be caused by the mud-blood stealing magic from magic-users, i.e – Squibs. It is thought that the most common method of magical theft is achieved through fornicating, but research has also shown that a muggle may achieve the theft of magic by stealing the blood of a witch or wizard. The crime of allowing a muggle to steal one’s magical blood, even if the muggle somehow achieved this by force, is a crime that is once again punishable only by the Dementor’s Kiss.”

 

Robards finished reading and discarded the parchment onto the floor in-front of Macnair.

 

“You’re clinging onto an ideology that would’ve seen your only child suffer a fate worse than death, Walden!” he shouted incredulously.

 

Macnair looked considerably defeated at this point, but did not seem to be rising to Robards’ bait.

 

“You refuse to sell-out Selwyn and Travers and Co, but would they have stood in your corner when The Dark Lord came to take Niamh away and give her to the Dementors?” Robards asked in a disgusted sounding tone.

 

Macnair tried his best to hide it, but he had become increasingly uncomfortable and significantly more distressed since Robards began talking about his estranged daughter. He had flinched momentarily at the mere mention of her name again. Harry was not sure if Robards, Savage or Wakanda had spotted it, but he certainly had.

 

Robards continued probing and taunting Macnair for a further fifteen minutes, but no matter what was said to him he failed to take the bait and showed absolutely no intention of co-operating.

 

The only time his eyes ever truly showed signs of fight or life where when Robards mentioned his daughter, but Harry supposed that there was nothing they had to tempt Macnair to sell-out Selwyn or any of the others.

 

Robards was offering Macnair the chance to avoid being sentenced to death and merely see out a life sentence instead, but the Death Eater had previously assumed he was seeing out a life sentence anyway, so this must have barely seemed like an upgrade to him – perhaps the prospect of a quick exit even somewhat appealed to him in his broken state.

 

What they really needed to get Macnair to talk was something to truly tempt him.

 

“He’s a lost cause,” Wakanda commented to Savage and Harry after Robards had been at him for another quarter of an hour after that.

 

“If he was going to talk then he would have by now. I thought the reminder of his daughter might push him to it, but it looks like the prospect of dying and never seeing her grow up isn’t even enough for the sicko.”

 

“He does care about her,” Savage quipped back in a knowing fashion. It seemed Harry had not been alone in noticing Macnair’s body language when his daughter was mentioned.

 

“But she’ll grow up to be a Squib,” the Head Auror continued. “She’ll be an outcast and he knows both his daughter and his wife will always blame him for it… maybe he’d rather die than live with himself knowing he caused that.”

 

“Perhaps,” Wakanda conceded in an irritated tone, as the three of them watched on as a slightly exasperated looking Robards continued to interrogate him. “But all the same… if he won’t talk, he won’t talk.”

 

“What if we gave him a reason to talk,” Harry said, as an incredibly bold idea suddenly popped into his head.

 

“I’m all ears, Potter,” Savage replied. “What would you suggest?” she asked, as Wakanda eyed Harry with a slight look of bewilderment.

 

“Well the thing that is upsetting him the most is that his daughter will grow up to be an outcast and hate him, right?”

 

“Right,” Wakanda and Savage replied almost in unison, surprising themselves in doing so.  

 

“What if she didn’t have to be an outcast?”

 

“But she’s a Squib… how could she not be an outcast?” Wakanda replied, not cottoning on to what Harry had been suggesting at all.

Savage eyed him very carefully, perhaps pondering what she thought he may be implying.

 

“But don’t you see?” Harry began. “That legislation that Robards read out earlier about Squibs. They weren’t treated that badly before Voldemort was in power…”

 

Harry paused briefly as Savage and especially Wakanda reacted wildly to Harry so openly and boldly using Voldemort’s name. He forgot that people reacted that way to it and he thought it seemed especially silly since he was now long dead.

 

“… but even in civilised wizarding society they seem to be largely outcasts,” Harry continued. “I think the one thing that would make Macnair talk and lead us to Selwyn and the others is if he knew by talking he could stop his daughter from becoming an outcast.”

 

“But again, Potter, what exactly are you proposing we do? Send an owl to Minerva McGonagall and ask her to send an acceptance letter to Macnair’s Squib daughter if he talks?!” Wakanda asked in a condescending manner.

 

Harry did not reply instantly, but Savage again eyed him up cautiously.

 

“I think that’s exactly what he’s proposing,” Rhea said carefully, as she appeared to begin to contemplate the idea.

 

Wakanda looked mortified.

 

“But - but you can’t be serious,” the mature witch began.  “The implications – the mere idea of a Squib attend-

 

“Robards said that her Mother believes she repressed her magical abilities,” Harry interrupted. “If she was put in an environment with other children and felt confident and accepted for who she was then she might even develop some magical abilities.”

 

“And if she didn’t?!” Wakanda interrogated.

 

Harry’s mind darted into action as he tried to think on his feet and justify his reasoning to the older witch.

 

“Well, you don’t use magic in every subject at Hogwarts,” he mustered. “Potions… Herbology, erm…

 

“Divination,” Savage added. “Astronomy and History of Magic too, I guess even Care of Magical Creatures and…

 

“Arithmancy and Ancient Runes… oh and Muggle Studies too,” Harry quickly interspersed.

 

“You can’t seriously be entertaining this idea, Rhea,” Wakanda mocked.

 

“Do you have any better ideas?!” she snapped back. “This is all hypothetical regardless. There’s no guarantee that Macnair would talk even if we offered this to him, but yes, I think it’s certainly an avenue worth exploring.”

 

Wakanda tutted and then sighed dismissively.

 

“Good luck selling this idea to Gawain,” she snickered.

 

“Gawain won’t be a problem,” Savage replied confidently. “It’s Minerva McGonagall that I’m worried about.”

 

Savage smiled and then suddenly slapped Harry on the back affectionately.

 

“It’s a good thing we’ve got Potter here for that one,” she grinned, as she stared thoughtfully at Macnair through the charm-field. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Chapter 19: Hestia III - Just Like Heaven
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The conference room felt clammy and humid. It smelt of leather, coffee and tobacco, with the stale smoke of the various pipe and cigarette fumes still clinging to the air. Hestia looked at her watch. It had almost been an hour now and they still had several further items on the agenda of the meeting.

 

The blustering relic Tiberius MacLaggen was still boring on about the Floo Network and the steps that he was taking as Head of the Department of Magical Transportation to try and catch the missing Death Eaters. Portkey restrictions. Rationing the amount of Floo Powder any one household could purchase. It was all very dull.

 

She looked around the large red marble table that was filled with the various heads of departments.

 

Kingsley, as Minister for Magic, sat at the head of the table and even with his past experience in amateur theatre, seemed to be desperately struggling to feign interest in a single word MacLaggen was waffling on about. To his left sat his Undersecretary, Arthur Weasley, who was occasionally stopping Tiberius to ask him for some clarification on an obscure piece of terminology or process before writing a note.  

 

Next to Arthur on the far end of Hestia’s side of the table sat Amos Diggory, who had returned from early retirement to cover as Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. Hestia had heard from Charlie Weasley that Amos had been working part-time on a consultancy basis for Australia Magizoo, before Arthur had managed to talk him into taking a role in Kingsley’s new government.

 

Ramesh Patil, the Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, who wore a quite fetching dark blue and pink trim suit, was sandwiched between Diggory and MacLaggen, with poor Sturgis Podmore drawing the short straw in being sat directly next to Tiberius, with Hestia stuck on the far end of their side of the table. Podmore had at least had the good fortune to be appointed Head of the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, at least for the time being on an interim basis, before someone with more experience could be recruited.

 

Hestia wondered how Percy Weasley’s mission to recruit further staff was going now. From what she had heard from his brother and in whispered rumours around the Ministry, it did not sound like it was going particularly well. It seemed nobody, Kingsley and Arthur included, had banked on it being such a tough sell. It wasn’t a surprise really, after all, there were still six Death Eaters on the loose for Christ’s sake.

 

Ramesh Patil had been extremely evasive when he’d been questioned on the progress of that particular endeavour, preferring instead to discuss the MACUSA’s continued interest in The Ministry’s affairs. Patil seemed quite keen to cooperate with his American counterparts, although this was pushed back heavily by Kingsley and Arthur.

 

The Unspeakable, Saul Croaker, sat directly opposite Hestia, wearing his trademark light sensitive lensed glasses. Despite being inside and out of any natural light he appeared to have transfixed them to be so dark that nobody could see his eyes at all. Whilst Hestia recognized he was most likely doing it to avoid anybody being able to read his emotions, she also thought it was just as likely that he was using it as an excuse to rest his eyes and not pay any attention at all.

 

Who could blame him?

 

Saskia Marlowe, who sat next to Saul, was certainly someone who did wear their emotions on their face. Hestia had heard a rumour that Kingsley had appointed the former Holyhead Harpies chaser, captain and more recently, record-breaking manager, to be the new Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, but she had not believed it. Then, when she had walked into the meeting, there she was, sitting next to Femi Wakanda, the newly appointed Head of the Wizengamot, as the two drank some pumpkin juice together.

 

Rhea Savage, the half-blood Head Auror, took a drag from her cigarette and tapped it onto the ash-tray sitting in front of her. Wakanda did not look altogether impressed by Savage’s relentless chain-smoking and coffee guzzling next to her, but she could hardly say anything, as her boss, Gawain Robards was somehow smoking at an even more alarming rate to his Head Auror’s right. He perhaps had the advantage of not taking any breaks from smoking to wolf down any hot beverages.

 

Savage wore a dark black mesh dress, with its translucent long sleeves giving a glimpse of her tattooed pale skin underneath. Hestia thought at one point Savage had caught her looking at her tattoos. She had shot Hestia a dirty-look with her bright, blazing blue accusatory eyes. She did not quite know why, but the Head Auror had always intimidated Hestia.

 

She remembered Savage from school quite well. Rhea had been in the year above her in Gryffindor. A member of the Quidditch team, with a French father who played at international level, she had also been a very active and successful member of the Duelling club. Savage had been one of the coolest girls in the entire school at one point – and as such, a lowly Hufflepuff who spent most of her free-time in the library, Hestia had barely even spoken a single solitary word to her.

 

Tonks had said she wasn’t so bad when she had started working with her as an Auror, but it wasn’t like they had become particularly close friends either. Savage had an air of iciness around her and whilst Hestia had heard tales of her exploits in the field, there was still a doubt in her mind as to how valuable a mentor she would prove to be to Harry Potter, if he even needed a mentor at this point.

 

Hestia did have to acknowledge that Rhea’s new directive for Auror missions in highly muggle-populated areas was quite smart though. Savage had the idea for her team to dress as police officers, in an attempt to reduce or altogether avoid any conflict or problems with muggles.

 

This was hardly a revolutionary idea within the wizarding world and was common practice already in places like Japan, Australia and America, however, given the traditionally ultra-conservative practices of the British Ministry it was actually fairly ground-breaking. So much so that Hestia had not even dared to pitch the idea to the room for her own department, even with Kingsley as Minister it had seemed too bold of a suggestion.

 

Savage had inadvertently done all of the hard work in pitching and arguing the case for it though, so almost as soon as it had been universally approved, Hestia had added that she would consider a trial of the same practice for her own department. Rhea had not seemed to react too positively to this, which had again given Hestia cause to believe the young Auror did not much like her. It was no skin off the Head Obliviator’s back though, there were worse enemies to have, and Savage wasn’t exactly Dolores Umbridge.

 

“I think that’s quite enough now, Tiberius, thank you very much,” Kingsley’s booming voice announced, with many a sigh of relief on show at the table. MacLaggen did not seem particularly pleased at having been interrupted, but he did not argue with Shacklebolt and refrained from speaking any further.

 

“Amos,” Arthur motioned. “Anything further from you?” he asked.

 

Diggory had already gone into intensive detail about their attempts to renew relations with the Goblin community, as well as the problems relating to the foreign giants and mountain trolls recruited by You Know Who. He had also touched heavily on the Dementor problem, with nobody, Amos included, seeming to have any concrete idea of what exactly they should do with them.

 

“Nothing much, Arthur,” Amos said, as his eyes met with Hestia’s and he appeared to remember something. “With the help of Hestia and her wonderful team I can confirm we have completed our operation to wipe the memories of all of the newly created muggle werewolves.”

 

There were a few murmurs of approval scattered throughout the room.

 

“That’s good to hear,” Kingsley added. “Any ideas on what our plan moving forward with them should be?”

 

Amos looked a little flustered as all of the eyes in the room, Hestia’s included, began to converge upon him.

 

“Much like the problem with the Dementors, this is a complicated and sensitive matter, one which we cannot afford to rush into making any rash decisions on,” Diggory said, which received a fairly muted response. “The sheer volume in numbers is like nothing we have seen before in this country in modern times. The amount of Wolfsbane potion we would need to keep them under control during full moon cycles for the next 12 months alone is almost incomprehensible. We would need at least three extra highly-skilled potions specialists working full-time with us to help sedate them all for each and every full-moon cycle. We have 94 registered werewolves with us at the moment, but there could be even more-

 

“More?!” Tiberius MacLaggen blurted out, as Patil, Robards and Arthur all shot Amos very concerned looks.

 

“Our newest recruit within the Centaur Liaison Office has reported sightings of strangely behaving humans and wolves in the Forbidden Forest. It is not impossible that some may have found solitude in the Forest during or after the battle.”

 

“Have the school’s governors and Headmistress been made aware of this?!” Patil demanded indignantly.

 

“Of course,” Amos snapped back in a fairly passive aggressive tone. “The safety of the school and its pupils and faculty are of utmost concern to us all, none more so than I.”

 

Ramesh Patil looked a little uncomfortable at Diggory’s fight-back at his remark, which seemed a little heated, but given the context of his late son’s death having taken place at the school, it was perhaps somewhat understandable that he would take offence to the notion that he had not considered the children’s welfare.

 

“Hagrid will continue to work alongside the herd and we believe that the Centaurs themselves are more than capable of policing the limited amount of stray werewolves in the forest should it come to it in the immediate future,” Diggory announced, as if this was the end of the matter.

 

The idea that centaurs should be trusted with this role caused a few indignant looks to be shot in Amos Diggory’s direction, but following his previous rebuff to Patil nobody actually pulled him up on it.

 

“Very good, Amos. Very good,” Arthur wrapped up. “Sturgis, Hestia, anything from either of you to add?”

 

Sturgis shook his head to Hestia’s absolute dismay. They had discussed briefly that their plan for the meeting would be to further reinforce the idea that they were both very short on staff, which was true.

 

Podmore had been all for it in private, but perhaps out of trying to impress his superiors and not wanting to ruffle any feathers he was remaining silent now. Maybe he thought if they got desperate enough they’d let him keep the job full-time if he didn’t give them too many problems. Hestia had to wonder whether he was right to think that way, as with the recruitment process going as poorly as it was it did seem somewhat likely that it could well happen.

 

Hestia huffed audibly, given Sturgis one last chance to speak, before she gave up, realising she would have to fight the battle single-handedly this time.

 

“My only concern is our lack of staff,” Hestia began, which caused several raised eye-brows, most notably from Gawain Robards and Ramesh Patil.

 

“We are desperately short on Obliviators… which means we are only very slowly working our way through the mess that You Know Who left behind in relation to muggle-sightings of magic. I appreciate the efforts being made abroad by our colleagues in the Department of International Magical Cooperation to further recruit, but I would suggest if this endeavour is not fruitful that we put forward a motion to either reduce the qualifications required to hire new staff in the role, or alternatively have some kind of high-intensity intern-type training scheme for prospective new starters instead.”

 

Kingsley looked deep in thought as he stroked the light-stubble that sat on the bottom of his chin. Savage eyed Hestia up curiously, perhaps not approving of her suggestions.

 

“I don’t like the idea of dropping the qualifications required for the sake of it, but I do think your internship idea has some merit,” Kingsley finally stated.  “I will certainly look into it should our international recruitment drive not, as you so elegantly put it, prove fruitful.” 

 

“Anything further from you at all, Miss Jones?” Arthur asked, to which Hestia politely confirmed that there wasn’t.

 

“Very well, we shall move on then. Ms Marlowe? Got anything to share?” he asked the Head of Magical Games and Sports.

 

“Do you want the good news or the bad news?” Saskia replied sassily.

 

“Give me some good news first, Marlowe,” Kingsley requested in an eager sounding tone.

 

“Mister Croaker, a drum-roll if you would, please?” the former chaser asked of Croaker. The Unspeakable turned to her blankly, surprised at having been addressed by her, before turning back to look the other way.

 

“Jeez,” she sighed, bemused by the Unspeakable’s lack of a sense of humour, before flicking her wand to create a suspenseful drum-roll sound herself.

 

“Quidditch is coming back!” she happily announced after a few seconds of anticipation.

 

There were loud cheers of approval upon hearing this news, with Kingsley the most enthusiastic of them all.

 

“I knew there was a reason I gave you the job,” Shacklebolt said proudly. “Now what bad news could possibly dampen my spirits following that?” he asked somewhat nervously.

 

“A slight niggle with the Wright family,” Marlowe responded hesitantly.

 

The Wright family? The snitch manufacturers?” Podmore asked, in a confused manner.  

 

“The very same,” Saskia replied.

 

“What happened to them?” Kingsley asked, as Hestia wondered whether they had been tortured or killed by You Know Who’s followers during the war.

 

“Well it would appear they are somewhat caught up within this big match-fixing investigation. I’ve had a tip-off from an old team-mate who is involved within the prosecution-

 

“When you say they are somewhat caught up within it?” Kingsley said, seeking further clarification.

 

“Oh they are proper fucked!” Marlowe replied, before quickly apologising for her enthusiastic language, which raised a chuckle from Savage, but did not appear to go over too well with Patil, Wakanda and MacLaggen.

 

“From what I hear they’ve been manufacturing snitches specifically for the purpose of rigging matches for years, if not decades. For the right price they’ll enchant them to make sure they can only be caught by a certain seeker.”

 

Audible gasps were heard through the room.

 

“Are you shitting me?!” Savage mumbled to Marlowe, more rhetorically than literally. Saskia only nodded in embarrassment at the development.

 

“The higher ups within the Quidditch world are worried this could be the end of the sport,” Marlowe said. “I don’t share their fears, but it could be the end of the sport as we know it. There’s talks of trialling a new set of rules, ones that don’t involve a seeker or a snitch at all.”

 

“Quidditch without the seekers?” Savage gasped. “That’s like Rita Skeeter without the bullshit made-up stories! It could never work.”

 

There were a few laughs at Savage’s joke at the disgraced Daily Prophet journalist’s expense, with nobody at the Ministry sharing any particular love for the wretched woman.

 

“On the subject of bullshit made-up stories… I take it that Josh Morris was not injured by muggle explosives as The Prophet has suggested in recent editions?” MacLaggen enquired.

 

“Absolutely not,” Robards barked. “Complete centaur-shite as you would expect from her sort. It was dark magic that was responsible for that blast. And those responsible for it will have hell to pay when we catch up with them!”

 

“And when exactly is it you are expecting to catch up with them?” MacLaggen pressed firmly, with a seeming undertone of sarcasm that suggested he did not think Robards, Savage and co had made enough progress in their pursuit of the missing Death Eaters.

 

“Gawain and his team have made some considerable progress in the last twenty-four hours,” Shacklebolt interjected, as he attempted to mitigate proceedings.

 

“Even so, Minister, I fear the lack of transparency in this matter is-

 

“If transparency was what The Minister wanted from me he would have appointed me as Head of the Department of Magical Invisibility Cloaks, not the department of Magical fucking Law Enforcement!” Robards snapped at MacLaggen, who looked quite annoyed at the outburst, but did seem to clock on to the fact that he should probably accept defeat and pack it in for one day.

 

That sort of set the tone for the rest of the meeting, as it wasn’t just MacLaggen who seemed to feel like packing it in for the day after that. Nobody really had much more to add and it eventually petered out, with Arthur quietly calling a close to events and Kingsley, who had appeared to age at least five years in the last few weeks, eagerly dismissing everyone to much fanfare.

 

The Minister for Magic was the first one out of the door, rushing off to whatever other business he had to attend to, with his Undersecretary quickly following him. Podmore excused himself and hurried out under the assumption he had to go to the toilet, although Hestia suspected he was just getting as far away from her as possible before she could call him out for not supporting her in the request for extra staff.

 

“Hestia… a word?” Savage urged from the other side of the table, as Hestia began to pick up the book filled with notes that she had made in the meeting.

 

What on earth did Savage want from her?

 

Hestia felt slightly worried that Rhea was going to pick some kind of fight with her. She had definitely given her a few dirty looks throughout the meeting.

 

“Yes, Rhea?” she stammered, desperately trying not to sound as nervous as she felt.

 

She hadn’t ever really noticed before but Rhea was actually an inch or so shorter than her, even with the extra height that her heeled boots gave her, whilst Hestia just wore flats. The Head Auror had to look up at Hestia slightly, making frighteningly intense eye-

contact with her in the process.

 

“Did you enjoy that meeting?” Savage enquired, as she glimpsed at Hestia’s notebook, perhaps testing her. It had not gone unnoticed to Hestia that Rhea had not made a single note throughout the entire duration of the meeting, she’d hardly had the time in-between drinking all that coffee and smoking all those cigarettes.

 

“Yes,” Hestia lied. “Did you?” she shot back defensively.

 

“Fuck no!” Savage huffed indignantly, as if such a meeting was completely beneath her.

 

Hestia wondered why she hadn’t told the truth and admitted that she thought it was an awful waste of time too, now Savage probably thought she was even more of a loser than she had before, especially since she’d taken all of those notes. It was a force of habit more than anything else. 

 

“Yeah, well I guess it wasn’t great,” Hestia commented awkwardly, attempting to back-track slightly.

 

“That’s a fucking understatement,” Savaged added, before waiting for Saul Croaker, the last remaining straggler, to leave the room and be out of earshot. “Tiberius MacLaggen… could he beeee anymore of a cretin?”

 

Hestia howled with laughter at the random Chander Bing reference.

 

“You like Friends, then?” Rhea asked with seeming interest. “I thought I vaguely remembered you being a muggle-born.”

 

“Yeah… Friends is great,” Hestia replied. “I think I watched every episode at least four times when I was in hiding. I didn’t think you would watch TV… you know, being a half-blood and all?”

 

“Half-blood?” Rhea asked in a surprised tone. “I’m a muggle-born, mate,” she added.

 

“Oh,” Hestia sighed. “I thought… I thought that your Dad played Quidditch for France and that you-

 

“Oh, not that old fib,” Savage said guiltily. “That was just something I said to try and fit in and look cool back at school. My Dad was a muggle, at least I think so… I’ve never even met the bastard!” she added with a lot of scorn in her voice.

 

 Hestia couldn’t believe it. She thought instantly about telling Savage that she too had never met her Dad either, but the words never came. She hated talking about it and even though she knew Rhea probably wouldn’t judge her for having had the same thing happen to her, she still chose to hide it rather than open up about it.

 

“Sorry,” Savage said to break the awkward silence. “TMI. My bad. Anyway I won’t keep you too long… I’m sure you’re very busy, but it’s just about what you said about being quite short staffed at the moment.”

 

“What about it?” Hestia asked curiously.

 

“Well as Head Auror and Head Obliviator I think we should set up more of a communication channel between our departments,” she began.  “In France the Aurors and Obliviators worked within the same team… it was quite a good set-up they had over there. I think it would be beneficial to us both, especially whilst the six missing Death Eaters still pose a threat to your safety.”

 

“I’m not that worried about the Death Eaters,” Hestia shot back, slightly offended at what Rhea appeared to be implying about her ability to defend herself. After all she had spent the last year in hiding under the threat of Death Eater attack at any moment, whilst Savage had scored a cushy Ministry job in Paris.

 

Rhea seemed to sense the tension and eyed Hestia up strangely.

 

“Look, Hestia… I don’t doubt your…”

 

Savage paused slightly, eyeing up Hestia again with her tense gaze. The Head Auror was close enough that Hestia had a heavy whiff of her breath, which stank of stale-smoke and coffee.

 

“…talents… but these Death Eaters still pose a very real threat to us all and especially field agents, like you and your team. Quite frankly, if you’re not worried about them, you’re either a liar or a fucking idiot.”

 

Hestia was taken aback by this latest attack, which had a lot of scorn and repressed anger within it, in total contrast to how the conversation had gone previously. It felt like now the real Savage was coming out.

 

“I’m not either-

 

“I’ll see you around,” Rhea interjected moodily, as she began to walk off in somewhat of a huff. “I meant what I said though. If you or your team pick up something that sounds like it could be dangerous… let us know before you head out. Morris was lucky to lose his arm instead of his life… don’t let your pride put you or your staff in a hospital bed or an early grave.” 

 


The eccentric door-bell chime rang out into the brisk spring London night.

 

No response.

 

It was now the third time that Hestia had pressed the button and it appeared that this would be the third time that her Mum would not answer the door.  

 

All of the lights within her Mum’s upmarket Twickenham flat appeared to be turned off, which seemed a bit strange. They had, several days ago, arranged for Hestia to come over at 8pm, several hours after they would both finish work. It was going to be the first time that they would meet up since Hestia had been in hiding and her Mum had sounded so excited to finally see her daughter again on the phone.

 

Hestia did not particularly want to let herself in out of fear of invading her Mother’s privacy, but it was really rather chilly and she was beginning to regret not putting a light jacket or coat on above her mauve turtle neck sweater.

 

“Fuck it,” she thought to herself, as she pulled the spare-key to the flat from out of her pocket, pressed it into the hole and opened the door, escaping the bitterly cold wind in the process.

 

She had never actually been inside the fancy apartment situated in Whitton, just a stone’s throw away from Twickenham Stadium, most famous for being the enormous venue considered the home of English rugby.

 

As places to live in London went, even by the capital’s own ridiculously expensive standard, this part of town was particularly pricey. It was certainly fair to say it was a far-cry from her mother’s humble beginnings as a working-class daughter of a nurse and bus-driver.

 

Hestia kicked off her white Ellesse trainers, switched on the light and immediately upon doing so saw the elaborate centrepiece of the hallway. It was a framed photo of her Mother standing proudly in a black and bright blue graduation gown, contrasted kindly by her dark skin, flanked either side by her own Mother and Father as she celebrated being the first university graduate from her family all those years ago.

 

They had perhaps not imagined that little less than twelve months following the taking of that particular photograph that she would birth a daughter. Hestia was born out of wedlock and to this day had never met or so much as seen a picture of her Dad. It was a sore subject that was never discussed in any serious manner between Mother and Daughter – and that was how Hestia preferred it to stay.

 

Her thoughts briefly drifted to Rhea. She felt a bit more connected to the Head Auror after her revelation earlier. If she wasn’t such an arsehole Savage would probably realise they had a lot more in common than she would think, maybe they could even become friends, or at least allies within the Ministry.

 

It had raised a fair few questions when Hestia had been chosen to attend Hogwarts, as the question of whether her Father had perhaps been a wizard was raised on the odd occasion, but Hestia did not dwell on it and was quite pleased when her Mother was obliviated of all memory of magic on her 17th birthday as per British magical law.

 

Hestia becoming a witch had actually worked out rather nicely for her Mother’s fledgling career, which had been put on hold slightly following her somewhat untimely birth. Whilst they had both struggled quite badly in her first year with the separation, with Hestia off at boarding school full-time her Mum no longer had to juggle her work around term-time hours or expensive childcare, which would have been a necessity given the ill-timed early deaths of both her Grandma and Grandad. 

 

Ever since Hestia was a little girl, long before her discovery of magic, they had always lived together in Romford on the outskirts of Essex. However, prior to going into hiding on her Order mission the Head Obliviator had grown concerned that the Death Eaters might come after her at her family home.

 

Her Mother had been talking about the prospect of moving to a more gentrified area for many years, but even despite the massive fortune she had acquired with her Economics degree she had always remained quite humble and was quite hesitant to move. Hestia merely gave her a magical prod in the right direction to speed up the process.

 

As she made her way into the nicely furbished living room Hestia heard an unmistakable excitable jingle and meowing, which could only belong to Mr. Bond, who had so far put in just over a decade’s worth of service as the family cat. The little tabby tom-cat quickly scampered over to Hestia’s legs, overjoyed to see her for the first time in over a year and she stroked him affectionately as he purred enthusiastically in return.

 

A pre-pubescent teenage Hestia had thought calling a cat Mr. Bond was the funniest thing in the world – and she had always enjoyed making numerous James Bond related puns whenever calling him for meal-times. Her Mother strictly kept to calling him James, but Hestia would throw in 007 and pretend to be all manner of Bond villains when addressing the sweet moggie.

 

Mr. Bond finally settled down and sauntered off back to the kitchen, most likely to reacquaint himself with whatever food was in his dish, as Hestia studied the décor in the living room. The room was covered in so many bookshelves it might as well have been a library.

They were all here: Lewis and Tolkien; Austen and Christie; Orwell and Shelley, even recent favourites like King and Follett.

 

Perhaps the only thing more impressive than her Mother’s extensive literary collection was her assembly of classic vinyl-records. Hestia flicked through the neatly stacked pile closest to her. The Smiths, Killing Joke, Joy Division, Pixies - and then she finally stumbled upon what she was looking for, The Cure.

 

Hestia eventually found her favourite album, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, then carefully pulled out the phonograph disc for Side C and put it on her Mother’s turntable record player.

 

The dreamy synth-pop classic, Just Like Heaven, instantly transported Hestia back in time with nostalgia and she bopped her head to the sugary sweet guitar licks, before Robert Smith’s trademark dreary vocals entered the fray.

 


 

Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick,

 

The one that makes me scream she said,

 

The one that makes me laugh she said,

 

Threw her arms around my neck,

 

Show me how you do it and I’ll promise you,

 

I’ll promise that I’ll run away with you, I’ll run away with you,

 

Spinning on that dizzy edge,

 

Kissed her face and kissed her head,

 

Dreamed of all the different ways, I had to make her glow,

 

Why are you so far away she said,

 

Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you?

 

That I’m in love with you?


 

Hestia took a seat in a comfortable looking leather arm chair and pondered what muggle fiction book she may delve into as she killed some time awaiting her Mother’s arrival, but then she remembered that just that day she had managed to pick up the latest of Hideo Kobayashi’s academic journals.

 

Kobayashi, a lecturer and high-ranking reformist politician in the Japanese Ministry of Magic, was something of a maverick within inter-muggle relations and studies. The vast majority of his work was extremely ground-breaking and considered quite controversial in Britain, even before You Know Who’s lot had taken over and outlawed such liberally thinking material, but in his native Japan, as well as other progressive hubs like Australia, India and America, when Kobayashi spoke, people listened.

 

The latest in his long-running series, “Maguru Musings”, as was its English title, centred on the growing urbanisation of muggles, or maguru, as the Japanese call them. Hestia pulled open the textbook and began to read as she waited for her Mother’s arrival.

 


Maguru Musings, Edition 47: The growing urbanisation of the Maguru: Why this could be the wizarding world’s chance to reclaim rural areas for our own.

 

H. J. T. Kobayashi, translated to English by Sakura Kobayashi.    

 

In the last century we have seen an interesting trend within maguru society across the globe. Urbanisation. In the last few decades this has been especially prevalent in my native Japan. This was once a country of rural rice farmers and coast dwelling fishermen, but with the rise of capitalism and industry came also the rise of inequality in income between city dwellers and villagers. 

 

This trend of the maguru flocking to cities has caused some concern within the magical community across the world. 

 

Almost every major magical nation of note currently sees its government based in a city. From New York to Delhi, Paris to Sydney, Cairo to London – it is very rare that you will find a magical headquarters based in the countryside or a rural area, which thus often leads to the magical economy of that nation also lending large portions of itself to the city too.

 

Many of these places are among the most densely populated regions on the entire planet, which begs the question of why we as a magical community ever chose to centre ourselves and our governments in such close proximity to such large numbers of maguru in the first place.

 

The one area that we as a global community seem to have unilaterally agreed upon is that our children, the next generation of witches and wizards, should be educated as far away from maguru as possible, kept safe in the middle of nowhere, in often undisclosed or unplottable locations, but why then do we choose to house our governments and often too, ourselves and our families, in the cities?

The answer perhaps lies in the history books written by our ancestors.

 

The persecution of those possessing abnormal, supernatural or magical abilities is a problem that plagued wizard-kind across the globe for centuries in the medieval and middle-ages. As a consequence of this a concerted effort to build magical communities, where our kind could be safe in numbers, was something that appeared to be at the forefront of the minds of our ancestors.

 

It is not clear why exactly it was often seen as sensible to form a base in the centre hub of the maguru regions of a country, but one possible explanation could be that rural village dwellers are often more suspicious of outsiders or those they perceive to be different.

 

This could be an explanation for why our-


The noise of the key being thrust into the door took Hestia out of her reading quite suddenly.

 

Mr. Bond quickly appeared on the scene and rushed to the front-door to inspect proceedings for himself. The ageing black cat was delighted to discover that it was indeed the Mother of the house who had just entered it.

 

 “James?”

 

Her Mother’s voice sounded somewhat fearful of all of the lights in the house having been turned on and the music playing, but as she hang up her beige trench coat her eyes turned to the living room and she saw Hestia sitting there with a smile on her face.

 

“Hi Mum. How you been?” she asked buoyantly.

 

“HESTIA!” her Mother gasped excitedly, before quickly rushing over. Hestia stood up and was slightly overwhelmed by the warm embrace that soon followed.

 

“It’s so good to see you, baby girl,” she said on the verge of tears whilst hugging her. “You gave me an awful scare though. I thought someone had broken in. I can see you’ve made yourself at home already!”

 

“Sorry Mum,” Hestia replied somewhat guiltily. “It was quite cold outside though and you did say 8!” she added in a slightly accusatory tone.

 

“Oh,” her Mother sighed with a confused, then disappointed and frustrated expression in her eyes.

 

“Oh I did, didn’t I? I’m sorry baby. I completely forgot. My book club slightly over-run and it completely slipped my mind that we were meeting tonight. I’ve got a memory like a sieve these days! I think sometimes I’d forget to take my head with me in the morning if it wasn’t sewn on. You’re not mad, are you?”

 

“That depends,” Hestia taunted. “Do you plan on feeding your delightful daughter this evening?”

 

Naomi Jones sighed and lovingly raised her eyebrows in a sarcastic manner.

 

“I’ll think about it,” she replied. “But first let me put the kettle on and you can tell me all about your little assignment abroad. Are you allowed to tell me where you went yet?”

 

She watched her Mother elegantly make her way to the kitchen, fill up her kettle with some tap water and then put it on to boil. As she waited she began tapping her fingers on the work surface to ‘All I Want’, which had begun playing following the end of ‘Just Like Heaven’.

 

Hestia for obvious reasons hadn’t been particularly honest with her Mother about what she had been up to in the last year. The official story she had told her was that she was working as a foreign diplomat in the British muggle government’s civil service. She had kind of hinted that where she was going and what she was doing was somewhat dangerous, which had given her a reasonable amount of leeway in being excused from telling her the full story.

 

“If I told you…I’d have to kill you,” Hestia replied nonchalantly.

 

“I thought you might say that, dear,” her Mother sighed, as the kettle began enthusiastically boiling in the background.

 

“What are you reading at your book club?” Hestia asked as she attempted to change the subject, whilst her Mother pulled out two ceramic mugs and began making them both some tea.

 

“Memoirs of a Geisha,” she replied, before reaching into a different cupboard for some sugar. “It’s quite good, Hest. I think it would be right up your street. Two sugars, yeah?”

 

“Just one please, Mum, thanks.”

 

Her Mother handed her a mug of tea after putting in the sugar and ushered her towards the living room sofa.

 

“Now,” her Mother began as they both sat down. “You might not be able to tell me about where it is you went or what it is you’ve been up to, but did you at least find a half decent man out there?”

 

Hestia had never quite got round to telling her Mother that there never would be a man. She wasn’t prejudiced and would not judge her for preferring women, but it was still a conversation she was quite happy to avoid for the time being. It was pointless revealing anything until she at least had a woman to bring home to her, well… that was her thinking at least.

 

“Chance would be a fine thing,” Hestia joked.

 

“I don’t mean to pressure you, love, it makes me incredibly proud to see how committed to your career you are. You are your Mother’s daughter… and you’re still young… you’ve got plenty of time to find the one… but you don’t want to end up a lonely old cat lady like your Mother, ehh?”

 

“You’re not old, Mum!” Hestia replied, almost choking on her tea as she laughed at her Mother’s remark. “You’re only fifty!”

 

“HESTIA IRIS JONES!” her Mother suddenly shouted in a faux-aggressive manner. “WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT USING THE F-WORD WHILST YOU’RE UNDER MY ROOF?!”

 

Hestia took another large gulp of her tea and giggled to herself.

 

“All I’m saying is dear,” her Mother began. “You’re a very smart and intelligent young woman and any good man would be lucky to have you… you don’t have to think about weddings or babies just yet… speaking of which, how is Dora getting on? I still remember when you were angsty little teenagers going to your first musical festival together! Has she had her baby yet?”

 

“Mum,” Hestia mumbled breathlessly, as she felt some tears beginning to escape from her eyes.

 

“Dora’s…

 

She desperately tried to fight back the tears but it was a hopeless battle.

 

“Dora’s…. dead.”

 

Her mother gasped violently, almost spilling her tea, before rushing over and hugging Hestia as she began to weep.

 

“How….how?” she asked breathlessly, as Mr. Bond watched on in confusion at the sudden commotion. “Was there… was there complications with the birth?”

 

“Yeah,” Hestia managed to muster out in between her bursts of tears. It was a good thing her Mother had made that guess, as she was not sure that she had the strength or composure to come up with a more convincing lie.

 

“Oh my baby girl, I’m so sorry. To lose a friend like that… this world… what a wicked world… did the… did her baby… did her baby-

 

“The baby was fine, Mum. He’s completely healthy,” she added, which seemed to set her Mother off more than anything else had previously.

 

“Oh thank God,” her Mum sighed, before a sudden realisation seemed to hit her and she began to sob with renewed intensity. “Oh but her Mother, Hestia. Oh… oh I cannot imagine the pain… to be blessed with a grandson but to lose your only child at the same time. Oh, Lord… oh, Lord… have mercy on that poor woman.”

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  



Chapter 20: Andromeda IV - Bloodlines
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

The face of the ludicrously expensive silver watch her Mother had gifted her for her last birthday indicated she had just a few minutes left until she had to meet Ted.

 

“It is not 8 o clock already, is it?” Cissy asked from the dark brown leather armchair, which was perched opposite Andromeda’s one in their secluded and cosy corner of the Slytherin common room.  

 

“I am afraid it is,” Andromeda replied nervously.

 

Narcissa Black laughed at her older sister as she gently put down the hideously romantic looking Christmas card she was making for Fabian Prewett.

 

The card appeared to depict Cissy and Fabian in some kind of Hogsmeade in the snow type setting, with Fabian wearing his trademark Gryffindor red and yellow woollen ‘F’ sweater.

 

The real jumper, apparently hand-knitted and gifted to him by his older sister Molly, was of course currently being worn by Cissy, who in the last few weeks since “borrowing” it had barely took the thing off. She was even rumoured by her dorm-mates to go as far as to sleep with the damn thing as a pillow.

 

“You are so easy to read, Drom,” Cissy said, with another mocking laugh.

 

“What on earth do you mean?!” Andromeda demanded, as she glared at her younger sibling.

 

“You must really like him if he makes you this nervous,” Cissy replied with a knowing smile. “You should not be embarrassed by it. I think it is rather cute. My heart always skips a beat a little when I know I am going to see Fabby.”

 

“You read too many romance novels,” Andromeda hit back at her, which came across a little more defensive than she had intended. “I am not that nervous.”

 

“Sure,” Narcissa said with another sly smile. “My, my, what would dear Mother and Father think if they knew that a strapping young muggle-born had their daughter in such a fluster.”

 

“Cissy! Shhh!” Andromeda angrily whispered. “And I am not flustered!”

 

“Sorry!” Narcissa mouthed in a hushed tone. “I dare say nobody would believe it even if they did hear a rumour about you and him dating. The daughter of a Black dating a mug-

 

“Cissy!”

 

“Alright, alright! Sorry!” Cissy relented with a roll of her eyes.

 

 The hand of her watch’s clock had now darted forward a further minute. Andromeda did not want to be too early to meet Ted, as he always liked to turn up fashionably late.

 

He called it trying hard not to look like he was trying that hard.

 

 She called it utter nonsense.

 

“I think I shall have to love you and leave you,” Andromeda said to her younger sister, as she pulled herself up and reached out to hug Narcissa.

 

Cissy held her close enough that Andromeda got a large waft of the lavender perfume her sister had characteristically over-applied. She coughed slightly, then felt a little bit sorry for Fabian Prewett, who no doubt had not had the courage to bring this issue up with her either. Some Gryffindor he was.

 

“Good luck, sis,” Narcissa said as she bid her farewell.

 

Andromeda walked towards the entrance of the Slytherin common room and despite her previous protests she did have to admit that her sister was right.

 

She was nervous.

 

She was flustered.

 

She felt awful.

 

This day had been coming for a while and she really was not ready for it.

 

It was what she had been dreading all over the summer.

 

It was the day where her and Ted would have the talk.

 

The talk that she had been dreading.

 

Ted had dressed it up as a romantic Christmas date, but she knew deep down that all he really wanted to talk about was them going public with their relationship.

 

But that could never happen.

 

Andromeda ran her fingers through her long flowing chestnut brown hair as she readied herself to leave the dungeon.

 

“BLACK!”

 

All of the nervous energy suddenly vacated the premises of Andromeda’s body and it was quickly replaced by an envoy of rage and fury.  

Lucius.

 

As she turned around to face the slimy bastard she saw that he was not alone.

 

Malfoy was flanked by Corban Yaxley and Algernon Avery, both with big smirks awash their conniving, loathsome faces.

 

Standing a few feet behind them was the familiar sighting in these parts of the large lumps of meat, Kenneth Crabbe and Laurence Goyle. They were both not quite cool enough to be fully fledged friends of Malfoy’s, but they both seemed to relish in their roles as guard-dogs, which at least allowed them to be part of Lucius’ entourage in some capacity.

 

What was a bit unfamiliar and still took a little bit of getting used to was the third tag along to Malfoy’s entourage. Rabastan Lestrange, the very odd and peculiar younger brother of her eldest sister’s husband to be, was now, purely by association, considered worthy of at least some form of acknowledgement by the popular pure-blood boys.

 

“Andromeda!” Lucius began earnestly.  “If you could spare me just one moment, my dear.”

 

She felt her hand drawing up into a fist at him calling her dear.

 

How dare he call her that?

 

The sheer audacity of the boy seemingly knew no bounds.

 

The arrogance he carried with himself would give anyone the impression that he ran the place and was a 7th year Head Boy, but he was nothing of the sort, at least not yet. His height and frame did make him look a lot older than he was, but it was his confidence and ability to simultaneously intimidate and impress the others that meant he did practically run the place, despite not even being a N.E.W.T.s student yet.

 

It was that confidence and false-bravado that had meant that at first, despite him not even being old enough to be in the same year as her, when he had first began to court her, Andromeda had initially fallen for his charm and posturing.

 

She had been very naïve.

 

She was not naïve anymore.

 

“What do you want, Lucius?” Andromeda asked in an uninterested manner.

 

“I want you, Andromeda Black!” he announced in slightly raised ostentatious manner, so much so that it attracted the attention of numerous nosey onlookers. Yaxley and Avery both snickered, with Rabastan Lestrange looking back and forth at Crabbe and Goyle, possibly trying to establish whether he was permitted to laugh at this himself.

 

“More specifically, I want you to give me the honour of accompanying you to the Slug Club Christmas party.”

 

Andromeda felt very embarrassed as she noticed many eyes darting over in her direction, all waiting for her to say something. Public proposals to Slug Club parties of this nature were not unheard of, especially for the big festive one, which was always the biggest, but you would never catch someone like Lucius participating in such folly. 

 

“I am flattered, Lucius,” Andromeda began in a sarcastic tone. “But I am afraid that you are too young and lack the maturity to court a lady of my standing.”

 

Whatever he may have been expecting her to rebuff him with, if he had been expecting it at all, it had not been that. There were a few audible chortles and laughs throughout the room, although noticeably none came from any of Malfoy’s cronies or allies.

 

Lucius, quite unexpectedly, began to laugh himself, which in turn meant that Yaxley and Avery began to laugh too. Rabastan Lestrange let out a loud roar, although stopped prematurely when Kenneth Crabbe glared at him.

 

“Good one, Andromeda!” Lucius confidently countered to her. “I like that you are not as easily won as some of the other girls at this school. Of course, as a daughter of the noble house of Black I would expect nothing less. But the idea that I lack maturity is a quite simply preposterous notion. I stand before you as Slytherin’s youngest Quidditch captain and Seeker for a generation.”

 

“Lucius, I confess that I do not know too much about Quidditch,” she began, to a few snickers from Malfoy’s posse.

 

“Of course, my dear, as a lady you cannot be-

 

“But I do know enough to know one thing, Lucius,” she said loudly, interrupting his sexist intrusion. “The only reason that Xavier Shacklebolt is no longer the Seeker of our Quidditch team is because your Father’s gold bought you the captaincy.”

 

The Slytherin common room dungeon suddenly erupted into a mixture of audible gasps, groans and hysterical laughter. Nobody could quite believe that Andromeda Black had just said out-loud what the vast majority of the Quidditch watching school would often gossip about, but never dare say in ear-shot of Lucius, let alone directly to him.

 

Xavier Shacklebolt had apparently broken all kinds of records as Seeker a few years prior. The Slythern Quidditch team was always dominant, but with him at the helm there was never any doubt that they would win every match with absolute ease, whilst the general consensus with Lucius as Seeker was that they often won in spite of him rather than due to him.

 

At least that was what Ted had said was the general consensus of his Quidditch-watching dorm-mates. It had been Ted who had originally made that comment about the Malfoy gold being the only reason Xavier was no longer Seeker, she had not ever considered repeating it to Lucius himself, but in the moment such was her rage that she had gone full throttle without even thinking about it. And it had felt very good.

 

Lucius looked dumbstruck, but his surprise quickly turned to one of fury as a nasty frown appeared on his face.

 

“She’s got you there, Lucius!” the loud voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt bellowed across the room to much fanfare from those sitting with him. Malfoy glared over at him but said absolutely nothing to the school’s Head Boy.

 

Kingsley was one of very few students considered out of bounds of even Malfoy’s belittlement. Not only was he the Head Boy of the entire school, but he had won the Hogwarts Duelling Club’s prestigious annual tournament for three years in a row. There was one extremely important unwritten rule as a Slytherin, or indeed as a member of any other house in the school – Do Not Mess with Kingsley Shacklebolt.

 

“I can assure you, my Father’s gold did not-” Lucius began in a rage-filled voice, as his face began to turn bright red whilst he glared at her with his hate-filled eyes.

 

“Your father’s gold has bought you many things that you have desired in your life, Lucius,” she interrupted, much to his continued fury. “But there is one thing that I can promise it will never be able to buy. Me!”

 

And with that, before Lucius even had a chance to reply, she stormed out of the Dungeon in a triumphant rage, not even sticking around to hear the laughter and shock at her last victorious quip at him.

 

 She quickly darted her way through the dimly lit dungeon corridors until she eventually made her way to the nearest staircase. Andromeda raced up the stairs to the castle’s basement, then, checking that nobody was looking, she took a sharp right towards the kitchens and knocked twice on the door, then twice again, as Ted had instructed her.

 

Andromeda did not quite know what it was that Ted had planned for his Christmas gift to her, all he had really said was that it would be in her best interests to forgo from eating any dinner before meeting him. She had done exactly that and whatever it was she really hoped he was planning on feeding her something substantial, as she was really rather hungry.

 

The door suddenly flung open and she was greeted by a small, yet boisterous looking house-elf, who looked quite fat by their usual standards of body mass and weight. The elf suspiciously peered outside the door past Andromeda to check that nobody was watching.

 

“Follow me, Miss,” he whispered, ushering her into the kitchen which was surprisingly empty. She had assumed it would be full of house-elves washing up after dinner.

 

“It’s Saturday night, Miss,” he said, perhaps having noticed her eyeing up the vacated room. “We’re all on classroom cleaning duty... the Headmaster will have my head on a spike if he finds out I’m doing this and not up in the Transfiguration suite.”

 

Andromeda suddenly felt very guilty that Ted had talked this poor Elf into helping arrange this little date-night for them. Before she could ask the Elf how Ted had roped him into helping them out he directed her to a narrow corridor, then towards a further door-way down the hall, which appeared to be a spare room that the Elves had within the kitchen, most probably for storage.

 

You would never have guessed that it was a storage room though as it had been magically decorated to look like an old-fashion muggle Italian restaurant, with a red and white table cloth dressing the table that Ted sat at. He was dressed very smartly and she could smell his aftershave mixing in with the smoke emitting from the large candle that sat at the head of their table.

 

Andromeda made her way towards the vacant chair that was opposite Ted, yet before she could do so he bolted up to pull out her chair for her.

 

It was a very odd gesture and not one that she was used to within wizarding circles, but it seemed that it was a very polite thing to do in muggle culture and she appreciated the strange quirk and seriousness with which Ted took it. She kissed him softly on the lips before sitting down and placing a napkin on her lap.

 

 “May I int’rest you in some wine, Miss?” the podgy Elf asked politely.

 

“Err-

 

“Wotcher Toby! We’ll have a bottle of your finest red please,” Ted replied jovially.

 

“Very good, sir… and would you like your starters now too, Mister Ted, sir?”

 

“Yes, yes that would be smashing, mate, cheers,” Ted said to their apparent waiter, who Andromeda noticed seem to brighten up a bit at being addressed as Ted’s mate. Toby plodded off as quickly as he could back to the main kitchen.

 

“How on earth did you manage to get a house elf to arrange all of-

 

“Good evening, Andromeda, love. It’s very nice to see you too. How have you been for the last few weeks?” Ted interrupted in a sarcastic tone.

 

Andromeda was very taken aback and left momentarily speechless. She assumed he was being sarcastic, but she could tell from the undertone in his voice that he was not too impressed that they had barely seen each other since the school year had returned.

 

“I’m only joking ‘Dromeda!” he said, as a smile returned to his face. “How’d I get Toby to sort all this out for us? Well, what can I say? We’re pals,” he said, as if there was absolutely nothing strange about a student forming a friendship with a house-elf who works in the kitchens.

 

“And how exactly was it that you became…pals… with him?” Andromeda enquired, perhaps not wanting to know the real answer.

 

Ted looked at her and seemed quite pleased that she had asked, almost as if he was relishing in having an excuse to tell her the story.

 

“Well, funny you should ask that actually… long story short, I caught him drinking the dregs from a couple of cans of Coke in our common room one night. Anyway, we got chattin’ and it basically turns out the little fella bloody loves himself a fizzy drink. We’ve been trading muggle fizzy drinks and kitchen snacks for some time now,” he said with a mischievous grin.

 

“You mean to say, he did all of this for a fizzy drink?” Andromeda asked incredulously.

 

Ted scoffed.

 

“You’re having a laugh!” he cried.

 

“Do you know how much trouble I had to go to for this?” he whinged. “His favourite one that I’ve given him to try is Irn-Bru… and well… you can buy it in one of the shops in the village just out of Hogsmeade. So on the last Hogsmeade trip I sneaked out to the muggle village and bought a massive multi-pack of them for him… 12 cans! That set me back a few bob! I’ve told him he mustn’t drink them all in one go, I’m not sure if an Elf could overdose on Irn-Bru but I’m sure he’ll give it a good go.” 

 

Ted then spent several minutes attempting to explain what exactly Irn-Bru was and what it tasted like, before Toby eventually appeared with a bottle of wine and two glasses. After he had finished pouring them both very generous glasses of the Hungarian merlot, the Elf then clicked his fingers and two plates of beef carpaccio, which was littered with olives, walnuts and gorgonzola, appeared onto their plates to much fanfare.

 

Andromeda was very impressed as it was certainly a bit more upmarket than you would usually expect from a Great Hall feast. She wondered if maybe the elves were trained to cook fancier food for specific faculty members on request.

 

It did not take too long for them to get through their starter and first glass of wine, after which Toby soon appeared to give them a re-fill on their merlot and with a click of his fingers took away their empty plates and replaced them with two dishes filled with Spaghetti Bolognese. The pasta was garnished with large helpings of black pepper, parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of parsley leaves.

 

They chatted whilst they ate about fairly innocuous and normal things, such as how their studies were going and what their plans were for Christmas when they went home to see their respective families. Ted’s main excitement hinged on his parent’s Christmas dinner, which seemingly had the best of both worlds. There was the Turkey roast with all of the typical British trimmings you would come to expect, but they would also feast on food native to his Mother’s Polish homeland, such as fried carp, pierogi and herring.

 

She thought it all sounded very lovely and wished that she could spend Christmas with Ted and his family.

 

Christmas in the Black household was usually quite a dreadful affair.

 

Whilst her Father and Mother’s wealth would always ensure the three Black daughters had very lavish and expensive gifts, there was not much in the way of festivity and merriment. They would often host her Aunt and Uncle, who would of course bring along their two young sons, Sirius and Regulus, which would no doubt lead to quarrelling between the two sets of parents once enough fire-whiskey had been consumed.

 

Her cousin Sirius was very much a wild child who seemed to live to antagonise his parents. At their last family Christmas he had disappeared alongside his younger brother for the best part of an hour, before eventually emerging having dressed poor Regulus in Cissy’s school clothes, even putting his hair up and adorning his face with her makeup. It was safe to say his Mother and Father had been absolutely furious, although Narcissa and Andromeda had certainly seen the funny side, especially given his hopeless attempt to tie a bra on.  

 

Andromeda smiled as she recalled the bizarre sight of Regulus dressed so androgynously, then just as she was finishing up the last of her Spaghetti as graciously as one can possibly eat the cylindrical pasta, Ted commented on how they were like a real life version of Lady and The Tramp, which was apparently a muggle animated movie for children. He explained how it was about a rich, well-kept lady dog falling in love with a common street mutt. She did not approve of him referring to himself as a homeless stray dog, but the story did at least have a happy ending as the homeless stray moved in with the rich, loving family of the posh dog.

 

Andromeda feared that their love story would not quite have such a happy ending.

 

Toby eventually appeared to take away their plates again, offering them more wine, Andromeda hesitated as she was already feeling a little bit tipsy after two glasses, but Ted talked her round by arguing they may as well finish the bottle. It did make sense and she wondered if they didn’t finish it whether Toby himself might tuck into it, which was no doubt an awful idea. It was one thing getting him into fizzy drinks, but alcoholic ones would be a disaster.

 

The carpaccio and spaghetti had put quite a dent into her stomach and she had not anticipated the possibility of a third course, but the tubby Elf soon emerged with two small dishes of Tiramisu. Andromeda had never had any Tiramisu before, but the creamy coffee-flavoured Italian dessert filled with mascarpone, Marsala wine-soaked sponge and large dollops of cocoa was so delicious that she even asked Toby for his recipe, which almost made him faint with embarrassment.

 

It was not long after they had finished the last scraps of their Tiramisu that Toby nervously warned them that they only had 10 minutes left, as that would be when the rest of the Elves would return to the kitchen and begin preparing the next morning’s breakfast.

 

The last forty-five minutes had absolutely flown by.

 

Perhaps the wine had played a part in that.

 

Andromeda rose from her chair and felt slightly light-headed, but managed to compose herself relatively quickly. Ted stood up and they walked over to the side of the room nearest to the door.

 

Toby took his cue to leave them to have some privacy before they would be forced to part ways.

 

“I have had such a lovely time tonight, Ted. I did not know what to expect when you said you had an early Christmas present for me, but I must say you really have outdone yourself,” she said, barely noticing that she had begun nervously playing with the silver ring she wore on her ring finger.

 

“What can I say? I aim to please,” he replied, before smiling suggestively at her as they moved closer together, close enough that she could smell the wine on his breath. 

 

“I hope my Christmas gift to you is as well received. I would very much like to please you,” Andromeda remarked, which raised an even bigger grin from him.

 

They were very close together now. So close that not only could she smell his breath, but she could also feel its warmth as it brushed against her face.

 

“You don’t have to get me anything, love. I prefer giving to receiving anyway,” he whispered whilst staring into her eyes and leaning in towards her.

 

“You should reserve your judgment on that until you have let me give you something,” she replied softly, although she was not quite sure if it was her talking or the wine.

 

“And what is it that you are planning on giving me exactly?” Ted asked, before winking suggestively at her.

 

“What is it that you most desire?” Andromeda asked, as their lips almost began to touch.

 

Ted raised his eyebrows very suggestively at her.

 

 Suddenly she could not control herself anymore and took him by complete surprise by forcefully pulling him towards her and locking him into a deep embrace.

 

They kissed passionately as she run her fingers through his thick, blonde hair. She felt his strong hands reach behind to her back, using them to press her towards him even tighter as she tasted the merlot on his tongue inside of her mouth.

 

In the spur of the moment he pushed her gently, yet very enthusiastically up against the wall. She felt his hands slowly trickle down towards her bottom, he eyed her curiously to see if she would stop him, but instead she positioned herself so it was easier for him to place a powerful hand on each one of her plump arse cheeks over her dress.

 

He squeezed, softly at first, perhaps gauging her reaction again, but when she began to kiss him more vigorously he took his cue to squeeze a bit more firmly. She suddenly felt what must be his semi-erect penis press up against her through his trousers.

 

“Oh Teddd,” Andromeda involuntarily moaned under her breath, as he continued to kiss her and squeezed even harder on her buttocks. She had never before desired someone as much as she craved Ted in that moment.

 

With almost every fibre of her being she wished that she could take Ted back to her bedroom and they could explore each other’s naked bodies. Her mind ran wild with the thought of making furious animalistic love to him. 

 

The more she thought about it the more raw and primal her thoughts and desires became.

 

In the heat of the moment she even, for a split second, considered letting him take her right there on the table which they had just ate their three course meal.

 

But no.

 

She couldn’t do that.

 

Andromeda Black could not give away her virginity in the Hogwarts kitchens of all places!

 

The wine was putting ideas in her head.

 

Andromeda naughtily bit his lip, which seemed to completely astonish him, but judging by the increase of the bulge in his trousers it had not been a completely unwelcome surprise.

 

 She pulled away slightly so that they stopped kissing.

 

“I love you,” Ted whispered.

 

“I love you too,” she replied breathlessly.

 

“Then why can’t we have a proper relationship?” he asked, catching her off guard.

 

Andromeda had known this was coming and felt a lump in her throat, as he caught her breath slightly. Her heart rate had increased rapidly with her arousal, but this change in topic would no doubt put a stop to that too.

 

She almost wished he had taken her on the table if it had avoided them talking about this.

 

It had been a pleasant surprise that they had managed to dodge this topic of conversation for so much of their evening already.

 

“Ted,” she murmured. “I wish that things could be different…honestly I wish-

 

“You wish what? That I wasn’t a filthy muggle-born that-

 

“Ted!” Andromeda barked. “How can you say that?! You know that part of the reason I love you is because you are so different to all of the pure-blood bastards in my house!”

 

“You can say that all you like, but if I was a pure-blood like your little sister’s fella then we wouldn’t have to settle for kissing in a flaming kitchen storage room, would we?!”

 

Ted suddenly looked really annoyed now.

 

This argument had been brewing for months, so it was not unexpected, but still she had not braced herself for this moment as much as she should have. They had just had the most intimate and sexually charged moment of their relationship so far, why did they have to ruin it with an argument?!

 

“We wouldn’t? Would we?!” he repeated in a frustrated voice, but she could not bring herself to reply, all she could do was look at him with an expression of real sorrow on her face.

 

“You would not be safe if people knew we were dating Ted. A muggle-born dating a daughter of the Black house… you just do not understand-

 

“I understand well enough!” Ted snapped back. “My Mum came to this country from Poland with no family left alive… do you know why that was?” he demanded.

 

“Ted. Ted, please-

 

The alcohol seemed to have really gone to his head and she could see now that he was very visibly distressed.

 

“They were all killed! Thrown into concentration camps and either worked and starved to death… or the lucky ones were stuck in gas chambers and murdered on arrival! I’ve seen the way some of those lads look at people like me… if they had their way they’d do the same to us! Well they can bloody well jog on! If I have to fight a hundred of them to be with you then so be it. I’ll do it!”

 

 “Ted, please, please promise me you will not go looking for a fight with anyone. I fear I have already riled up Lucius enough tonight already, do not give him and his cronies an excuse to have a duel with-

 

“What’d you mean you’ve already riled him up enough tonight?” Ted interrupted.

 

Andromeda sighed. She should not have even mentioned it, as no good could possibly come of telling Ted about Malfoy’s invitation to the Slug Club Christmas party.

 

“Well… he… he invited me to attend Professor Slughorn’s Christmas party with him-

 

“He did what?!” Ted fumed. “And what did you say?!”

 

“I said no of course!” Andromeda replied angrily, as if there was any doubt over what her answer to Lucius would have been.

 

“I’ll kill him!”

 

“Ted! You will not under any circumstances speak of this to Lucius or anybody else,” she ordered. “I can assure you that you have absolutely nothing to worry about in regards to my affection… I would have thought from our kiss just now that much would at least be obvious to you – and I dare say that following on from my rejection earlier tonight, you will not have to worry about Lucius attempting to court me again.”

 

“Why’s that then?” Ted asked moodily. 

 

“Well, if you must know, we had a mild disagreement after I rejected him so publicly-

 

“Publicly?”

 

“Yes, well he asked me in-front of the whole common room. I did not have much choice. But he angered me so much that I stole your little insult about his Father having to buy him the captaincy to prevent Xavier Shacklebolt from carrying on in his position as Seeker.”

 

Ted looked gob-smacked.

 

“Wait?! So you said that… to Malfoy… in-front of your entire common room?!”

 

“Yes, well he was being really rather irritating and I figured that would be the insult that would hurt his pride the most… you know what boys are like with Quidditch.”

 

“You really are full of surprises, Miss Black,” he eventually chortled, before pulling her in for another kiss. The kiss was a welcome break from their spat, but it confused her as she was not sure if that meant that their argument was over or not.

 

“And that’s just given me the most brilliant idea!” he announced proudly, although Andromeda did not like the newly found crazed look in his eyes.

 

“What is it?” she enquired nervously.

 

“It’s…its perfect! The Slug Club Christmas party.  That’s what you’re going to get me for Christmas. I’m going to be your date to his stupid over-rated celebration of nepotism!”

 

Andromeda was too dumb-struck to even respond.

 

Ted looked absolutely giddy.

 

“Oh but don’t you see, ‘Dromeda? It’s perfect. We get to announce to the world that we’re together and it will completely piss off dear old Lucius Malfoy on the biggest stage of them all. Oh, can you imagine the look on his face?!”

 

“Ted,” she pleaded. “Have you not been listening to anything that I have been saying to you? You cannot seriously think this would be a wise move for either of us.”

 

His expression briefly turned from jovial to slight anger at her reply, before an even more worrying look appeared on his face. This was not one of anger, but one of calculating deliberation and it scared Andromeda far more than any look she had seen on her secret boyfriend’s face ever before.

 

“You know how much I love you, Andromeda,” Ted began, as she began to nervously play with her ring again. “But these past few months… I’ve been wondering how much you really love me. Do you love me… or just the idea of me? Am I your boyfriend… or am I just a weird experimental phase that you will soon grow out of?”

 

“Ted, you know that I love-

 

“All I know is that I don’t want to spend the rest of my life kissing you in kitchen storage rooms, or having to settle with secret letters and hiding in the shadows. Are we supposed to live like this forever?” he asked, as he stared at her with a mixture of frustration and sadness in his eyes.

 

She really did feel awful about making him hurt like this.

 

“Ted, you do not understand,” she started, as she felt the first tear trickle out of her eye and fall slowly down her face. “If my parents found out about us they would make me choose… they would disown me if I chose you… I would have nowhere to live… here at school I would be treated worse than dirt… once I am of age and have left school… maybe things could be different-

 

Ted laughed and shook his head.

 

“You want me to live my life for the next couple of years and pin everything on a maybe? A maybe?!”

 

Andromeda cursed her luck. She really had not phrased that last part too well. Why did she have to say maybe?!

 

“Well maybe I’ve had enough of living like a second class citizen. Maybe it’s time that you do make your choice!”

 

“Ted… Ted please do not do this, I am begging you-

 

“We can go to Slughorn’s Christmas party together, as a couple… or… or we can go our separate ways… once and for all,” he finished, seemingly with a lump in his throat, before taking one last desperate look at her and storming off.

 

“Ted,” she shouted after him, hurriedly following him out of the storage room door into the kitchen as hot, heavy tears began to pour out of her eyes.

 

 

“Ted!”

He had already managed to race out of the kitchen and into the basement corridor. She rushed out of the door, running past a confused and bewildered Toby, and saw Ted pacing about ten metres ahead of her, heading towards the corridor that would lead to the Hufflepuff common room.

 

Andromeda began to dart after him, she did not care if anybody saw them together in public anymore. She knew now that she loved him too much to worry about any of that.

 

“Ted! Ted wait I-

 

 As she turned down the dimly lit corridor she suddenly collided with someone or something very large which took her right off her feet. It was like she had run straight into a wild mountain troll. She landed onto the hard floor right onto her back, which winded her considerably.

 

“Oh my, Miss Black, I am ever so sorry.”

 

In her slightly dazed and confused state she could not quite work out who that voice belonged to, but whoever it was they were being very apologetic.

 

She felt a fat hand reach down towards her own and as Andromeda was slowly helped to her feet she realised that it was not a mountain troll that she had bumped into at all, for it was in-fact the very podgy, overweight potions Professor, Horace Slughorn.

 

“You really must accept my profound apologies, Miss Black,” he said slightly nervously, perhaps worried she would write to her Father to complain about his role in this incident, which was of course ludicrous as at the very least she had broken curfew by being out of bed this late. She very much doubted he would have been so apologetic had he bumped into a student not from his own house, or even one from Slytherin without the highly respectable family name that she held.

 

“I am afraid to say that I was not particularly looking where I was going, Andromeda. You must forgive me, but on one’s way to the kitchens at this time of the evening one does not often encounter many members of the faculty or student body,” he added, perhaps politely suggesting she should not have been wandering the corridors at this time of the evening.    

 

“Think nothing of it, sir,” she said, forcing a smile and praying that he did notice the tears she could still feel on her damp face from her argument with Ted. “It was my own fault… it is I who should apologise to you… I should not have been running… I… I just picked up a few snacks from the kitchen for my sister and I whilst we study this evening… in all of the excitement of the food I was just-

 

Horace Slughorn laughed merrily, loud enough that his ruckus chuckling stopped her mid-sentence. 

 

“Nonsense, Miss Black! Dare I say, it would be just a tad hypocritical of me to chastise anybody else for getting a bit too excited about food, would it not? Especially at this time of year?” he joked.

 

Andromeda laughed heartily.

 

If there was one really positive thing you could say about Horace Slughorn, it was that he did enjoy a bit of self-depreciating humour every now and then, especially with students from his own house.

 

“If you must know,” he whispered in a hushed-tone. “I am sampling some dishes for my Christmas party tonight. I am awfully excited. It is quite naughty of me really, as I have given one of the Elves the night off work just to cook for myself…but, well, it is all for a good cause, is it not? I expect at my little shin-dig I shall be blessed by the company of you and your sweet sister, Narcissa? I am sure you both have lots of studying to do, but I can assure you, if you really are that excited about food you will be absolutely blown away by what I have planned!”

 

As he talked of his party all that she could think of was Ted and his awful ultimatum.

 

It was not fair.

 

What was she to do?

 

“Miss Black?” Slughorn asked, interrupting her little day-dream.  “Are you sure you do not require a trip to the Hospital Wing, I could have the Matron check that you did not bang your head with that fall?”

 

“No… no really I am fine, I was just… I was just thinking about the lovely pudding that we had at your last Christmas party. The… the Cherry Pie, do you remember?” she managed to muster out.

 

“Oh yes, yes Miss Black that really was rather lovely, wasn’t it? Well if you’ve got a sweet tooth let me assure you that you will not be disappointed this year! I believe I am trying out a Tiramisu dish tonight that sounds like it will blow that Cherry Pie right out of the water!” Slughorn announced excitedly. Andromeda wished she could tell him just how right he was.

 

“That sounds splendid!” she replied enthusiastically. “And of course Narcissa and I will most certainly be attending. I shall not keep you any longer tonight though… I am sorry again for bumping into you,” she added, before quickly excusing herself, as her Head of House laughed off her attempt to apologise to him once more, then politely reminded her she was more than welcome to bring along a guest to his party before bidding her good-night.

 

Andromeda slowly made her way back to the Slytherin Common Room, carefully checking her appearance in a suit of armour to ensure there were no remnants of any tears left on her face. She was relieved to see that it did not look like there was and besides, at this time of night it would be highly unlikely she would cross paths with another soul before she reached the four-poster bed in her dormitory anyway.

 

As she quietly sneaked back into their Dungeon after whispering the password, she slowly made her way down the passage and in through the ancient black door.

 

She scoured the empty common room and as she had expected it was all but deserted, except for a handful of people sitting on the-

 

“Ah, Andromeda, what a pleasant surprise.”

 

It was just her luck.

 

Lucius sat comfortably on a black leather sofa with a satisfied grin on his face, as he watched her sneak back into the common room after breaking curfew.

 

Malfoy was not alone. He was flanked on his left side by Corban Yaxley and Algernon Avery, both grinning evilly, whilst Thorfinn Rowle sat in an armchair opposite them, reading from a dark red tattered old book.

 

There was a fifth member of Malfoy’s posse tonight though, sat next to him, holding his hand, wearing a dark black corset and a very satisfied smile on her face, was none other than Olivia Burke.

 

“Lucius,” Andromeda grumbled in acknowledgement, as she walked quite quickly, looking to get away from them to the safety of the girl’s dormitory as fast as possible.

 

“And where exactly is it that you have been tonight?” Malfoy asked in an arrogant tone.

 

“That is none of your business,” Andromeda replied through clenched teeth.

 

“Ah, but I am afraid, as I am sure you are no doubt aware, Miss Burke here is a prefect,” he said smugly. “If a student has breached their curfew without prior permission from a teacher, it is very much her business.”

 

Andromeda frowned at Olivia Burke, who looked very satisfied with herself indeed.

 

“Lucius is… unfortunately… quite correct, Andromeda, although I am sure you can offer us a reasonable explanation?” Burke asked in a very patronising tone.

 

“Well, if you must know,” Andromeda began. “I was at the library…reading,” she lied. It was not too fanciful a tale, as she did spend many of her evenings snowed under in books in the school’s library. She was very much known as a bookworm by her peers, some even commenting that she read so much it was a surprise she had not been housed in Ravenclaw instead.   

 

“Interesting,” Lucius smiled. “As luck would have it, our friend Mr Rowle here has only just returned from the library himself. Thorfinn, dear friend, do you recall seeing Miss Black in the library at all on this fine evening?”

 

Rowle looked up from his book momentarily.

 

“No,” he replied moodily, barely even bothering to look at her, before shaking his head and returning to whatever it was that he was reading.

 

“Well,” Lucius began, but Andromeda had anticipated this answer and thought quickly on her feet to continue her lie.

 

“I expect he did not see me because I was in the restricted section,” she added confidently, but Rowle’s chuckle under his breath in response caught her off guard.

 

“You really think Rowle would be wasting his time in the library not in the restricted section?” Algernon Avery asked in an incredulous tone. “What do you think he’s been reading all night, Hogwarts, A History?”

 

Yaxley and Burke both laughed at Avery’s quip, whilst Malfoy merely smiled triumphantly.

 

“You may wish to borrow that book on Necromancy that Thorfinn is reading, Black, as you are dead,” Lucius added evilly, causing even greater laughter from Yaxley and Burke, with Avery himself joining the chorus of jeers in mocking her.  

 

“You are hiding something, Black,” Lucius hissed. “I do not know what it is yet… but I will find out… and when I do, I can promise you that you will forever rue the day that you said no to a Malfoy.”

 

 


 

 

“And so, Mrs Tonks,” Professor Whitechapel remarked softly, as she peered down through her spectacles at Teddy in his tiny cot.

 

“This is now a third consecutive full moon that Edward has shown not even the slightest hint or sign of any kind of a transformation into a werewolf or wolf like creature?”

 

“Yes, Professor, none at all,” Andromeda replied truthfully to the St Mungo’s specialist.

 

The mature, greying witch had been working long enough that it had been her who Andromeda has first taken Nymphadora to see her regarding her Metamorphmagus condition, which had given her and Ted a serious fright at first. That the gene had now passed down to Teddy too was a very curious oddity to her, as it scarcely transmitted when one of the parents did not share the condition. 

 

Whitechapel waved her wand and a few small splashes of stars twinkled down to Teddy, who reacted excitably, trying to catch them in his tiny little hands.

 

“Yes,” she mused, seemingly more to herself than Andromeda as she played with a strand of her long, thin silvery hair. “Yes, I must say this is awfully promising. Whilst I would advise that you continue of course to stringently monitor young Edward, especially during the full moon period… it would certainly appear that he has not inherited his Father’s severe case of Lycanthropy.”

 

 “And the research?” Andromeda asked nervously.

 

Whitechapel played with a long strand of her hair which fell just above her ear once more.

 

“I have made a number of enquiries to my esteemed colleagues and peers across the globe and alas, as of yet I have not been able to locate a single similar case anywhere in the world,” the Professor replied with a slightly glum look on her face. “I have found papers that have explored reproduction in Vampires, who seem somewhat more inclined to engage in such… activity… but your grandson may very well be the first recorded case of somebody with Lycanthropy fathering a child. If anything I have somewhat unwittingly found myself now appointed the Subject Matter Expert in the field.”   

 

Andromeda sighed. It had been a long shot asking for Whitechapel’s help, but she had already searched every shop in Diagon Alley and not one of them had any passages about Werewolves birthing children.

 

The general consensus was that even if a Werewolf did find a suitable mate by choice or force, they did not typically wish to breed for fear of passing on the gene. Whilst those that may have wished to pass on the gene, did not so as they feared birthing a female she-wolf that could grow strong enough to eventually kill off or take over their pack.

 

 “I would not concern yourself too much for now, Mrs Tonks,” Whitechapel remarked, as she took a raspberry peppermint from a pot on her desk and placed it into her mouth. She offered Andromeda one but she politely declined.  “It would seem young Edward here is in perfect health and I do not have reason to believe that this is something that will change in the near future.”

 

“Thank you, Professor, but there is one other thing that is bothering me,” she replied. The Professor studied her with a curious stare as she heard the peppermint rattle against her teeth as she sucked on it.

 

“Do you recall, when my late husband and I first came to see you for advice when Nymphadora began to show symptoms of her Metamorphmagus?”

 

“Why, of course, dear,” Whitechapel replied as if it was the silliest question Andromeda could have possibly asked. “The first British case of Metamorphmagi for half a century? I could never forget it!”

 

Andromeda had certainly not forgotten the shock and excitement a much more youthful Whitechapel had displayed all those years ago.

 

“I remember you saying that for Ted and I to have birthed a child with her condition with no trace of the gene in either of our families… that it was a one in a million chance.”

 

“Yes,” Whitechapel responded calmly, before grinning. “And I seem to remember Mr Tonks himself making a rather amusing quip about how your marriage itself was a one in a million chance too. He really was a rather joyous man. I am awfully sorry for you to have lost him,” the elderly witch said, with a look of real sorrow on her face.

 

“That is very kind of you to say,” Andromeda said softly, as she tried not to think too much about Ted, or indeed Nymphadora either. She did not wish to start crying in public, which in itself was merely a hangover from her strict upbringing and Mother’s guidance on keeping your emotions in check.

 

“But Professor… I have been reading up on the subject and all of the historic research seems to suggest that for a first-born Metamorphmagi to pass on the gene without procreating with another Metamorphmagi is almost unheard of. It is why the vast majority of them died out, as they ran out of their own kind to reproduce with. Are you sure you did not make a mistake all those years ago when you said that no member of the House of Black has ever had been one?”

 

“I can assure you, Mrs Tonks, that I studied our records mercilessly and certainly there has never been a Black registered as a Metamorphmagi,” Whitechapel said in a slightly irritated tone, perhaps annoyed that Andromeda had implied that she may have made a mistake. “Whilst you are of course correct that it was extremely unlikely your daughter would pass the gene onto her son, with these mutations… and I use that word purely in biological terms… there is no exact science to it. It could well be that the mutation of the condition present in Nymphadora was a particularly strong one, in which case that would make it more likely to become hereditary.”

 

“I suppose you are right,” Andromeda sighed, feeling quite dejected as she did so.   

 

“And whilst you are also correct to some extent in your hypothesis that the rarity of transmission to offspring did lead to the Metamorphmagi, as you put it,” Whitechapel began, before taking another raspberry peppermint and slowly placing it into her mouth. “…dying out… I must add that the many wars which plagued Eastern and Central Europe in the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s were a far greater contributor to their plight. The vast majority of them were hunted down and killed if they were ever discovered, some even by their own governments, such were their frighteningly effective abilities at espionage. ”  

 

Andromeda recalled reading all about the great magical wars that ravaged those areas in her History of Magic classes. It was often the subject that the boys enjoyed the most due to the exciting tales of air-combat, bloody battles and mass spying between the feuding governments and revolutionary factions of the day.

 

In the end it had been a war that had taken her Dora too.

 

Whitechapel suddenly looked a bit apologetic, perhaps concerned that she had worried Andromeda about Teddy being hunted down, or maybe she had felt she had offended by inadvertently reminding her of Dora’s death.

 

“Of course,” she said hesitating slightly. “The days of the Metamorphmagi being hunted down are thankfully long behind us. There are very few known cases of the condition, many of whom much like your daughter, did not or do not even come close to exhibiting the signs of having as strong a condition as the most powerful ‘changers’ of the 18th and 19th centuries.”

 

That had at least been one of the small mercies with Dora. Whilst she was able to change her hair and eye colour at will, which she of course found highly entertaining, when it came to actually transforming or copying another person’s appearance she had always struggled in comparison. If she put enough practice into a particular face she could usually master it, but she had never managed to alter her entire body.

 

Andromeda had read tales of Metamorhmagi managing to perfect a face change within seconds of seeing their target. Some could reportedly even change their entire body height and weight, with many also able to change their skin colour too, which was another element of transformation that Dora had never quite managed.

 

Whitechapel continued to speak in a slightly apologetic tone for several more minutes, before Andromeda eventually excused herself and wished her farewell until their next session in a month’s time.

 

She picked Teddy’s cot up and walked with him through to the lobby, eventually plopping him down onto the reception desk table as she signed a form which would release a payment of gold from her vault to St Mungo’s for the appointment.

 

“Oh look, Anaisha, isn’t he cute?”

 

Andromeda turned to see a young Mother showing her toddler to Teddy, as a man who she assumed was the Father watched on smiling. The little girl herself, who was much bigger than Teddy seemed to be a perfect blend of the Father’s dark complexion and the Mother’s light one.

 

Teddy, who was sucking happily on his bright blue dummy, had his knitted red beanie covering whatever colour the tufts of his hair happened to be at this given moment, so if they were transforming to different colours the couple couldn’t have noticed.

 

Andromeda smiled warmly and complimented them on their daughter’s beautiful green eyes and thick, bushy hair, before picking her grandson up once more and making her way to the exit.

 

As she made her way to the connecting Floo portal on the ground floor, Andromeda pondered what she may cook herself for dinner when they got home. She could not quite remember if she had all of the ingredients for the Vegetarian Lasagne that Ted always loved to eat. There was definitely still some aubergines and courgettes hanging around, but she could not quite remember if she had any tins of red kidney beans left. It never quite tasted the same without them in it.

 

I think I will have some Tiramisu for pudding too, she thought. After the stress of being up all night watching Teddy during the Full Moon she deserved to treat herself. She could use that old recipe she had stolen from Toby the kitchen Elf.  

 

“1-1-4 Mountbatten Avenue!” Andromeda calmly directed as she threw the Floo Powder and stepped through, quietly brushing herself down for dust as she found herself back in the comfort of her own living room.

 

“Would you like some Tiramisu tonight too, little Teddy?” she said, looking down at her grandson, whilst speaking in a silly voice that one only uses when speaking to a baby.

 

“TEDDY?!” she yelled out in shock.

 

To her absolute horror she discovered that it was not Teddy at all she was looking at.

 

In his place sat the cute little mixed-race toddler, with her piercing green eyes and dark brown skin. The thick, black hair had pushed up the red beanie so much that it was clinging on for dear life.

 

The little girl looked up at Andromeda, sucking on Teddy’s baby blue dummy, with a cheeky smile on her face.

 

But it was not her face at all, not really.

 

It was Teddy’s. 

 

He had-

 

He had morphed his appearance into hers after seeing her for mere moments.

 

Dora could never in her wildest dreams have done that as an adult after years of intensive Auror training, let alone accomplished such a feat whilst she was still in nappies.

 

Andromeda looked down at her grandson with a look of grave concern on her face.

 

She wished that Ted was still there with her.

 

He would know what to do.

 

 



Chapter 21: Ron V - Inception
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Ron lay in his Australian hotel bedroom in a very comfortable position, lost within his thoughts as he stole a quick glance at the relaxing sight of the magically enchanted Australian daybreak.

 

 This was possibly the happiest he had ever been.

 

It was certainly the most content he had felt in his life for a very long time.

 

In the last week that had followed his quite literal cry for help with Hermione he had finally found the courage to discuss his feelings of doubt and depression with her, which in turn had done wonders for his mental well-being and nightmares. He knew there was still a very long way to go for both of them to recover from their traumatic experiences, but Hermione had reassured him that by opening up and talking about his struggles he had already made a big step towards eventually moving past them.

 

It had been a very strange experience for him to explore his feelings so candidly with another human being, especially so with one who had once told him that he had the emotional range of a tea-spoon.

 

Whilst they often now spent much of each day exploring their feelings with one another, by night and now, even in the early hours of the morning too, they spent most of their remaining time exploring each other’s bodies instead.

 

Ron saw the artificial sun rise in a tricolour of flaming red, yellow and blue as he once again momentarily took his eyes away from watching Hermione rise gently up and down as she straddled and carefully rode his naked body.

 

He quickly looked away from the beautiful sight of the sun-rise to focus his attention once more on the other beautiful sight that was right in-front of him. His light blue eyes locked with her deep-brown ones, then as she smiled softly at him, he watched her soft, small breasts and curly, light brown hair frantically bounce up and down as she began to hungrily drive them both to orgasm.

 

“Oh, Ronnnn,” she gasped breathlessly, before rolling her eyes back in pleasure.

 

Ron felt himself twitching and beginning to climax inside of her.

 

“Her…my….neee.”

 

She bent down and began to kiss him sensually, as he felt some of his seed drip out of her and back down onto his inner thighs which made her giggle.

 

Ron bloody loved Australia.

 

He never wanted to leave.

 

Maybe they could stay here and live life like this forever.

 


 

“Ron! Ron! You don’t have to shout so much!” he heard Harry’s distinctive voice bellow down the line. 

 

“Sorry… sorry mate I’m still getting used to using these things,” Ron apologised into the muggle-phone, of which he and Harry were using to communicate from their opposite sides of the world.

 

“I don’t know why we couldn’t have just used a fireplace,” he added in a slightly exasperated tone, to which he heard his best friend sigh and laugh. Hermione had insisted that they should speak via the muggle telephone if they wanted to talk candidly, as she was concerned that if they communicated by the Floo Network they could be overheard by prying ears either in Australia or back home in Britain.

 

“How is it out there?” Harry asked enthusiastically.  “Hermione certainly sounded like she’s been enjoying herself.”

 

Ron laughed to himself in his head. If only he knew the half of it.

 

“Yeah! Yeah it’s been great mate, everyone here is really nice, Kingsley’s sorted us right out with the hotel and that… it’s unbelievable. Great that they found her parents so soon so she didn’t have that hanging over her head for too long. I don’t want to ever come home!”

 

Ron beamed to himself, perhaps getting a little bit carried away in the moment.

 

He momentarily felt slightly guilty as he realised that they had been living it up, effectively being on a holiday, whilst Harry was back home helping the Aurors taking part in raids hunting down the missing Death Eaters.

 

“That’s great Ron! I’m really happy you’re both enjoying it so much out there, you both deserve a break after… well… everything.”

Ron now felt really bad.

 

“You should be out here with us, mate,” Ron said quickly. “You, Ginny, Mum, Dad, George, everyone… we should all be out here together having a good time.”

 

“I’d love to,” Harry replied with a resigned tone to his voice. “But we have to catch these last few Death Eaters first. I think we’re really onto something with this next raid. Kingsley and Robards have looked into the location that Macnair has supplied and it looks like it could be the real thing this time, not another trap.”

 

“You be careful, mate,” Ron warned, as he worried for his friend. “From what I’ve heard Josh Morris was lucky that he only lost an arm in that last raid.”

 

“You heard right,” Harry replied in a downcast and hushed voice. “But we’re being much more cautious this time. Robards and Kingsley have been planning it for a good few days now. I went through it with Hermione and even she couldn’t find any flaws in it. Does that make you feel better?”

 

“Yeah, of course,” Ron chuckled, although part of him did feel a little aggrieved that Harry had felt more inclined to discuss the raid tactics with Hermione instead of him.

 

Hermione was undoubtedly a far more accomplished user of magic, as well as a much more intelligent and logical thinking person than he was, but Ron had still to that day never lost a game of chess to his girlfriend.

 

Ron knew that most of his chess wins came through having greater vision to anticipate what move his opponent would make next, depending on which move he made himself. Hermione lacked that vision and would always make the most logical move in terms of the very next turn, rarely considering that a more cautious move that turn could reap much bigger rewards two or three turns further down the line. 

 

He had also read a lot of books on the great Goblin Rebellions and the great Metamorphmagi conflicts in Prussia, Poland and Russia. They were mostly hand-me-downs from Bill, but he had studied the many great battle tacticians and Auror equivalents of the past, so he thought he had a reasonable understanding of raid and siege warfare.  

 

“Wouldn’t hurt to run it past me too though, would it?” Ron asked in as polite a way in which he could muster.

 

“Yeah,” he heard Harry reply in what he thought sounded like a slightly surprised tone. “Yeah, of course mate, I’ll talk you through it.”

 

Harry spent the next five minutes carefully explaining to Ron the Ministry’s plan to raid the country manor house in the Irish town of Omagh, where they believed that Kit Selwyn could be hiding, possibly even with his friend Rufus Travers too, which would be like hitting two birds with one stone if they could manage it.

 

The plan essentially centred on setting a large anti-apparation perimeter for a few miles covering the entire estate. They would then raid the property, with several Aurors and Ministry staff, including Harry himself, providing air support, should Travers and Selwyn attempt to escape through flight.

 

It didn’t sound all that different from the botched Camden Raid, which was perhaps a cause for concern, although this time it did sound like they had plans in place to shield themselves should it be booby trapped like that building had been.

 

“We will outnumber them on foot and in the air… they may wish to come out fighting, but if they do we have the numbers to deal with them.”

 

“Yeah, should work, I guess,” Ron admitted, failing to find any real hole in the plan as he might have liked.

 

“I’m still not sure how I feel about being put on air support,” Harry suddenly interjected in an annoyed sounding tone.

 

“Makes sense to me,” Ron replied. “Unless they’ve recruited Charlie you must be the best on a broom the Ministry’s got!” he joked.

 

“Funny you should say that. Charlie is actually on air support with me. Did I not mention that?” Harry responded, much to Ron’s shock and horror.

 

“What?!” Ron shouted down the phone. “I thought you said it was just Aurors and Ministry staff taking part in this mission?!”

 

“It is, well… mostly,” Harry admitted, sounding a bit worried by Ron’s raised voice. “Your Mum and Dad reacted very similarly to you…Ginny too… Kingsley himself was also of the opinion that Charlie should not come with us to-

 

“Then why is he going then?! Kingsley is the Minister for Magic! If he didn’t think he should go then he should have bloody well put a stop to it!” Ron fumed, furious at the prospect of losing another brother to the Death Eaters.

 

He thought back to Charlie bemoaning his lack of involvement in the war with Bill a few weeks prior. It seemed like now in a desperate bid to make amends he’d developed himself a death wish. Ron wished he could speak to his older brother and talk some sense into him.

 

“Well,” Harry stumbled and paused. “He was very… adamant about being involved when he heard about it… nobody could quite manage to talk him out of it. And ultimately Kingsley left the decision to Robards as Head of the Department.”

 

“So it’s that bloody knob Gawain Robards’ fault, is it?! Hermione was right to question him. Bloody hell. Why is it that she is always right about everything?!” he groaned, checking round to see if Hermione had heard him say that. Ron felt quite relieved when, looking out of the side room’s window he saw she was still sitting with her parents, deep in conversation about something on the other side of the hotel lobby.

 

“Actually he wasn’t all that bothered either way. It was Savage who talked him round. She used to play Quidditch with Charlie at school… she said he was always so-

 

“I don’t care about how good he was on a broom playing Quidditch at school!” Ron raged. “He is a Dragonologist, not a flaming Auror! He has no business being on a Ministry raid! Ginny’s quite handy on a broom, why don’t you sign her up as well whilst you’re at it? Get Bill and George on the team too!”

 

“Ron, relax-

 

“Don’t tell me to bloody well relax! I’ve already lost one brother, I don’t want to lose-”

 

“Look… Ron… please listen to me… I will be posted with Charlie the entire raid… I promise you that no harm will come to him,” Harry said in slightly raised, yet still quite conciliatory voice.

 

“You shouldn’t make promises that you can’t keep,” Ron replied, feeling defeated. It was bad enough knowing that Harry was taking part in these raids without him there fighting by his side, but to now have to worry about losing another brother was almost too much to take.

 

“Well I’ve gone through the plan for the raid of the Manor with you. Like I said, they’ll be outnumbered. It will all be fine.”

 

“How rich is Selwyn and his family?” Ron asked, suddenly thinking of something, as the word ‘Manor’ reminded him of their unpleasant experience at the Malfoy residence.

 

“I…. I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “I… I think the estate is quite a large one, so they must have some money tucked away in a vault somewhere. Why do you ask?”

 

Harry sounded pretty confused, but Ron was sure he was onto something that could be quite big.

 

“You said they’ve got no way of escaping with the apparation perimeter and with you guys on air support there to chase them down if they try to fly away?”

 

“Yes, that’s right,” Harry replied confidently. “Kingsley’s been assured by the Irish Minister that the Floo Network in the immediate area will be put down, so they can’t escape through that either. They’ll have no way of getting away if they are in there.”

 

“What if he’s got a House-Elf?” Ron finally proposed.  

 

“A house-elf?” Harry mumbled.

 

“You said Selwyn’s probably quite rich, right? So he could own a House-Elf?”

 

“Well… yes, yes potentially, what are you saying?” Harry replied, seemingly having no clue what Ron was on about. 

 

“I’m saying,” Ron began, trying his best to hide his frustration at his best friend’s irritating failure to read between the lines.

 

This must be how Hermione feels all the time, he thought.

 

“You better make sure that apparation perimeter is Elf proof!”

 


 

Ron watched on jovially through their function suite window as Tezza, dressed in his beefeater gear, very overly enthusiastically escorted a couple of new arrivals and their children into the hotel’s reception. As he walked past the window he briefly broke character to roll his eyes dramatically at Ron, before returning to his forced smile and introducing them to the very charming Head of Guests relations, Zoe Federici, who seemed a much more naturally gifted people person.

 

David and Hazel Granger were very much enjoying finally being reunited with their daughter, which meant lots of extended conversations about the past twelve months where they had been separated on different corners of the glove. Over the past few days they had been filled in on what had happened, but not before a rather complicated procedure that had involved reversing the bewitching spell that Hermione had placed on them to forget that she ever existed.

 

The Australian authorities had given Hermione as much time as she needed to get them back up to speed, as they ultimately decided that it would be a good idea to let her discuss with her Mum and Dad what they planned on doing next.

 

As she was a muggle-born who was now of age, as per international wizarding law, their memories of magic had to be erased at some point, but it was deemed that they should be informed of how and why they had come to live in Australia first, to fully inform their decision on whether to return to Britain or not. 

 

Her Mum and Dad burst into tears almost in unison as Hermione finished telling them the exact details of what she had done and why, as Ron gripped her hand in support. She had still omitted an awful lot of the exact details of the battle against Voldemort and his followers, perhaps not wanting to frighten them any further, as they already looked horrified enough as it was.  

 

“And so… and so,” her Mother desperately tried to talk through her snivelling. “And so… if you… if you had been killed… by these people… we would… your Father and I would never have known we had a daughter again.”

 

“This was all very selfless of you, but I really wish you hadn’t have done it,” David Granger said in a sombre tone. “We should have been there for you. We’re your parents, Hermione. If going back to school was too dangerous you could’ve stayed at home, we would have looked after you, kept a roof over your head. Our job is to protect you. Magic or no magic we wouldn’t have let anything happen to our little-

 

“Dad,” Hermione interrupted in a frustrated, but sad voice. “The family who you, or rather, I on your behalf, sold the house to…”

“What about them?” Hazel Granger demanded, but Hermione could not seem to get the words out, as tears began to fill up in her eyes of the same colour as her Mother’s forename.

 

“They killed them,” Ron said for her in as dignified a fashion as he could manage.

 

“Oh, God,” her Mum cried, as she began to sob hysterically into her husband’s arms.

 

“Christ,” David muttered to himself, perhaps only now truly understanding the gravity of the situation they had found themselves in, as he eyed up his copy of an imported British newspaper, before picking it up and studying it.

 

“And these… these blokes on the run that keep popping up in the newspapers and on the telly… they’re not… they’re not…?”

 

“Death Eaters, yeah,” Ron replied, glaring at the stationary images of Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange, Thorfinn Rowle, Kit Selwyn, Rufus Travers and Phillip Jugson.

 

“You mean… some of these… these monsters… they’re still out there even now?!” Hermione’s Mother asked in a horrified whisper.

 

“They won’t be for much longer,” Hermione replied confidently, as she managed to compose herself once more. “I’m sure of it.”

 

They continued to discuss details of the last twelve months for around fifteen minutes, before eventually the subject of what her parents planned on doing next reared its ugly head.

 

Her Mum and Dad shot each other a nervous, slightly guilty kind of look.

 

Ron thought he knew what they were both thinking, and he did not blame them. The subject of whether her parents would return home to Britain was not something that he and Hermione had discussed, but he had assumed that the more they were told the less likely they would be to come back.

 

At the start of the conversation when David had talked of wanting to protect his daughter so passionately, Ron had thought that maybe they would come back after all, but given their reactions to the latest developments that glimmer of hope seemed to be fading rather rapidly.  

 

He thought Hermione had to be clever enough to come to the same conclusion. Although deep down inside, as he watched her body language carefully, there was a small part of him which was worried that she may not have planned for a scenario where her parents actually wanted to stay put across the pond.  

 

 “We don’t want you to think badly of us, dear,” David began softly, evidently looking very worried and nervous. “But your Mother and I… your Mother and I think… we think that-

 

“We don’t want to come home, poppet. I’m so so sorry,” Hazel said quickly, before bursting back into tears.

 

Ron felt Hermione’s hand pressed against his suddenly go limp. Maybe she really hadn’t seen this coming.

 

“We don’t want you to think it’s all because of the magic stuff,” David said urgently. “Don’t get me wrong, that is awfully frightening, but even the non-magical stuff is better out here. There’s a lot less crime. It’s more peaceful, the people seem kinder. Even the politics. It does look like the Troubles are finally over back home now… and I can’t imagine that Blair and Labour would be stupid enough to take us into any foreign wars any time soon… but at the same time, I mean, the weather is much nicer out here… we have a pool that comes with the house here… I think… I think what I’m trying to say is… is that- 

 

“We’ve always wanted to move out here,” Hazel stepped in over her flustering husband. “You know we’ve always talked about it. I think all you did was speed us up by five-ten years… and I think in a strange way by giving us this extra time out here you’ve given us the greatest gift of all, dear. To move back to Britain now after we’ve settled in so well here… well, it would seem a bit-

 

“Silly,” Hermione added, nodding her head. “You don’t have to explain yourselves to me. It was naïve of me to think that everything would go back to how it was before…I can see that now. Please don’t feel bad… if this is what you truly want, it would be awfully selfish of me to take that away from you.”

 

Her Mother and Father pulled her in for a very emotional hug, as Ron watched on somewhat awkwardly, spotting Tezza feign amusement as he pretended to struggle carrying the weightless luggage of the newly arrived guests, as a small young wizard and witch watched on giggling to themselves.

 

The four of them sat and spoke for at least another hour, as David and Hazel Granger both heavily insisted that their daughter visit them as often as was possible. They joked about how it was much easier for her to come and see them, with Hermione laughing about how awfully nauseous and sick they had both been following their arrival.   

 

Ron thought Hermione looked a bit nauseous at the prospect of her parent’s living on the other side of the world for the rest of her life.

 


 

Ron and Hermione sat on their balcony taking in the sun-set as they chilled in their hot-tub drinking a couple of cocktails, as the hot, thick bubbles bounced and pulsed relentlessly. 

 

“Do you think… do you think they truly want to stay here forever, or do you think it’s because part of the idea I planted in their head is still there?” Hermione asked glumly, without taking her eyes off of the sky.

 

Ron took a reasonably large gulp of his drink, having feared this topic of conversation may well present itself at some stage.

 

“If they really always wanted to come and live out here like they said, then it makes sense that they’d want to stay here,” he answered, before placing his hand gently onto hers in the warm water and gripping it firmly.

 

“Yes… yes I know that,” she replied, looking at him with a look of sorrow and regret in her eyes. “But everyone always thinks about doing certain things… it doesn’t mean that they would actually ever do it. I am just really scared that for the rest of my life I will wonder if it was truly free will that is making them stay here… or whether it was all my fault for bewitching them into doing it in the first place.”

 

Hermione began to sob a little once more, as she pulled herself closer and into his arms, which caused her wet, curly hair to press up against him.  

 

“They’re only still alive because of you,” Ron said softly, as he kissed her damp forehead gently. “They would’ve been killed if you hadn’t done what you did.”

 

“I suppose you are right,” she replied.

 

“I don’t really blame them for never wanting to leave this place,” Ron added jovially. “I’d quite like to stay here forever myself.”

 

Hermione laughed slightly.

 

“Now who is being silly?” she replied with a grin.

 

“What?” Ron cried, before chuckling. “I think we should carry on living at this hotel forever!”

 

“And who exactly is going to pay for that?” Hermione scoffed loudly.

 

“I think as Minister of Magic it is the least that Kingsley could do as compensation for all of our efforts,” Ron said in a very sarcastic tone, much to her amusement.

 

They spent the next ten minutes cuddled up together in the tub, eventually finishing their drinks, whilst calmly staring out towards the beach, watching each new wave crash with slightly less ferocity as the tide slowly went out.

 

“We have to go home now… don’t we?” Ron said, as he thought of the missing Death Eaters still on the loose, with Harry, Neville, Charlie and all of the others back home still fighting, putting their lives at risk whilst he and Hermione had a jolly up on the other side of the world.

 

“Yes,” Hermione said in a fairly remorseful, yet thoughtful tone. “Although I would quite like to spend a little more time with my parents… and I have always wanted to see the Sydney Opera House. I think we could get away with staying a little while longer,” she added, much to Ron’s relative surprise and delight.

 

“You think?” he asked excitedly.

 

“Well,” Hermione said in a merry tone, as she began to softly run her fingers through his soaking wet ginger hair. 

 

“It is Kingsley who is paying!” she exclaimed, before laughing guiltily, as Ron burst into laughter before pulling her closer and kissing her lovingly as they felt the unyielding, relentless pulsing of the piping hot bubbles and hot-tub foam surround them long into the night.

 

 



Chapter 22: Dean III - The Butcher\'s Apron
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The Hampshire coast-line wind blew both heavily and mercilessly against every inch of Dean’s body. He stood outside Portsmouth Harbour train station and looked down at his watch. It was just a few minutes before he was supposed to be meeting Mad-Eye Moody.

The former Auror had not shown up yet, which Dean was surprised by as he had assumed if anything he would have been the sort of person to turn up very early, which was why Dean had made an extra effort to be overly punctual himself.

 

He wondered how Moody would dress to blend in with muggles all around him, as with his magical eye and numerous war wounds, it was not as if he was a particularly inconspicuous character by any stretch of the imagination.

 

On that front though there was at least one tangible upside working in Moody’s favour, as due to their meeting taking place so late the train station was pretty dead anyway.

 

A small scattered stream of people, mainly in smart business wear, had filed out of the station towards the nearby taxi rank a few minutes ago, but there was not another scheduled arrival or departure for another twenty-five minutes now. The train station, which seemed to double up as a departure port for ferries travelling to the nearby Isle of Wight, had already seen its last departure of the evening via sea to Ryde, although there was one final scheduled arrival in just under an hour’s time.

 

Dean zipped his jacket up as far as it would go and braced himself against the chilling sea breeze. On his back he carried his bag which contained everything he had packed since leaving home. In it he had a week’s worth of clothes, as well as an enchanted tent that he had first received as a gift from his Mum and Step Dad for when he and Seamus went to the Quidditch World Cup.

 

He looked both ways to check whether Moody was approaching the station entrance yet. When he saw that he was not he took off his bag and pulled out his half-empty, luke-warm bottle of Coke and took a quick drink from it, savouring the fizzy, caramel-like taste as it trickled down his throat. When he looked back up he was briefly blinded by a head-lamp of a taxi that had pulled into the road a few feet away from him and all of a sudden it started flashing wildly at him.

 

“No,” he said, whilst signalling with his hand as he regained his vision. “No, it’s alright mate I’m waiting for someone,” Dean added loudly to the cabbie, who must have thought he was another late-working London commuter wanting a lift back to their Hampshire home.  

 

The taxi driver stopped flashing, but much to Dean’s surprise he began to manually roll down his side window.

 

“Come on, son, pop in, I haven’t got all night!” he ordered, much to Dean’s annoyance. He looked at the vehicle and even in the dark he could make out the stereotypical image of an English cab driver in the right hand side of the car. The balding, blonde, pale-skinned man looked to be in his mid-forties, with a slightly overweight frame and what looked like a large pile of CDs on his dashboard.

 

“I don’t need a taxi,” Dean replied in a slightly bemused tone. “Like I said, I’m waiting for someone.”

 

“You’ll be waiting a long time, son,” the cabbie replied in an unusually solemn tone, as he began to frown heavily. “Moody’s dead.”

 


“Who are you?” Dean asked the mysterious taxi-driver, once he had eventually gotten into the passenger seat after coming to terms with the unexpected death of the Auror he had met just days before.

 

He had been pinning all of his hopes on being involved within this resistance movement on getting on Moody’s good side. To hear that he had now died was an absolutely crushing blow. He couldn’t quite believe it.

 

Who would even manage to kill him?!

 

The cabbie, who Dean now realised was the man that Moody had said they were meeting that night, checked his rear-wing mirror, before slowly reversing out of the spot he had been parked in. He pressed his hand down on the clutch and began driving away into the night very slowly and carefully.

 

“Best I don’t tell you who I am, son,” he replied in a hearty sounding voice. “Don’t tell me your name either. The less we know about each other the better. I only knew it was you ‘cause Moody gave me a picture of you in-case he couldn’t make it… probably wise in hindsight… he never did miss a trick, that bloke.”

 

The fact that they were having to avoid telling each other their names seemed quite surreal to Dean. He had wanted to join this resistance movement that he’d heard about, but even so it seemed very odd to actually feel like he was in some kind of spy movie with danger and secrecy like this.

 

Dean took another look at the dashboard and sure enough, there was a half-ripped picture with his own smiling face on it. It took him a few seconds to work out where Moody had gotten a picture of him from, but upon closer inspection he realised it was one of the photos of him and Ginny that she had gotten framed when they were together.

 

She must have still had it laying around somewhere, then ripped her own face from it before handing it off to Moody.

 

The cheek of it!

 

“Moody said you were a muggle-born, yeah?” the mystery man said, briefly turning to face Dean, as he stopped at the red-light.

 

“Yeah mate, I am,” Dean replied, nodding, as he took another sip from his ever emptying bottle of coke.  

 

“Football fan?” the driver asked, as he returned his eyes to the rode as the traffic lights quickly changed from red, to amber, then to green.

 

“Yeah. I’m West Ham,” Dean said, as he wondered when he would get to go to another game at the Boleyn Ground with his Step-Dad or Seamus. He doubted somewhat that this conflict in the Wizarding world would be over and done with by the time the season resumed in mid—August.

 

The taxi driver scoffed slightly.

 

“Well, at least you’re not Tottenham,” he laughed, as he took a sharp right turn down a narrow road.

 

“You’re a Gooner, then?”

 

“Oh yes son, Arsenal ‘till I die!” the driver replied enthusiastically. “I tell you what… you can call me Ray, after the Romford Pele himself. You can be… let me think… John, after big John Hartson, your best player he is now I reckon.”

 

“Trust an Arsenal fan to pick an ex-Arsenal player!” Dean quipped.  “Why can’t I be Rio after Rio Ferdinand?”

 

He liked Rio Ferdinand.

 

The tall and lanky young nineteen year old central defender had burst onto the scene at West Ham in the previous season. Dean and his step-Dad had high hopes for him, as it was great to see a young black lad from South London get a run in the team after coming through the youth system.

 

“You can be Bobby bloody Moore if you want, son, ain’t no skin off my back!” the driver laughed.

 

There was a minute of relative silence after that, before he eventually stopped his car briefly to let a pair of relatively drunk looking young females cross the road.

 

“How did you know Moody?” Dean asked as he looked to break the fairly awkward silence. He wondered how the two seemingly very different men had crossed paths in life. He didn’t think they could have gone to school together, as this man was not quite as old as the retired Auror had been, or at the very least he didn’t look it.

 

“Probably shouldn’t tell you that either, son,” Ray replied, whilst wearing an uncomfortable expression on his face. “Did he tell you much about what we’re gonna be getting up to?”

 

“No,” Dean answered. “He didn’t tell me anything really.”

 

“Let me fill you in,” Ray said, as he pulled into a car-park down a narrow road on the top of a hill which overlooked the exit of what seemed to be another ferry port.

 

“Do you know who this fella here is?” his companion asked, as he rifled through his jacket and pulled out a black and white piece of paper, which upon further inspection appeared to be a cutting from a newspaper, most likely The Daily Prophet.

 

Dean stared at the animated man for a while. He was a relatively thin looking white bloke, who had thick black hair, which was a medium sort of length and he appeared to be roughly the same kind of age as Ray. He had a black cloak on and looked very angry. The picture appeared to be a mug-shot.

 

“No idea,” Dean admitted after a while. “I’m guessing he’s some kind of Death Eater?”

 

“Oh, he’s in with You Know Who alright,” Ray replied. “That’s Algernon Avery, who we’ll be looking for tonight. Nasty piece of work, always was, even as a teenager at school. Back then it was pretty obvious he’d end up in Azkaban one day… and he did… and he was there, until very recently when there was another breakout.”

 

Dean felt his heart almost skip a beat in shock.

 

“There’s been another breakout?!” he cried out in horror.

 

“Fraid so, son, almost everyone that they’ve locked up in the last year or so are already back out,” Ray said with a real sound of regret and annoyance in his tone. “Ministry’s trying to keep it all on the down-low, but they’re out there alright.”

 

The idea that there were escaped Death Eaters all over the country again scared Dean half to death. If the Ministry couldn’t even keep the bad guys safely imprisoned, then what was the point in even trying to catch them in the first place?!

 

“So…” Dean wondered. “So the Ministry wants you…and me… and the others… to hunt down and arrest these guys?”

 

“Not quite,” Ray scoffed slightly. “The trouble is, even if we could arrest them and get them back in Azkaban… You Know Who and his mob would probably just break them straight back out.”

 

“Then what’s the point?” Dean asked, feeling quite taken aback and frustrated by Ray confirming his own thoughts. “You said they want us to look for this Avery bloke tonight. What do they want us to do if they aren’t gonna lock him up?”

 

Ray seemed to sense Dean’s frustration and made a gesture with his hand indicating for him to calm down.

 

“They don’t want us to do nothing just yet, son,” he said in a fairly resigned manner. “At the moment we’re just spying on him. Its information that they want for now.”

 

“Information?! What kind of inform-

 

“Scrimgeour has a contact or two in the French Ministry of Magic,” Ray said stopping Dean in his tracks. “Rumour has it Avery has been sighted with several shady characters well known to the authorities out there. They think he’s set up some kind of smuggling ring, but the French Ministry are too frightened to move against him. They don’t know what it is he’s smuggling into Britain, but they know that it must be something proper bad.”

 

“But how do they know that?” Dean enquired.

 

Ray laughed a little, before pointing out of his windscreen towards the dock.

 

“Because he’s been smuggling it in on muggle ferries for several weeks now apparently,” Ray replied. “It has to be something extremely illegal for him to be getting that creative about getting it into the country. Avery hates muggles!”

 

Dean wondered what it could be.

 

He didn’t think it could be a dangerous magical creature that it would be against the law to breed or own, as that wouldn’t be very inconspicuous on a boat filled with muggles. Surely something like contraband magic carpets or dodgy cauldrons wouldn’t warrant that sort of operation either.

 

“So we just… wait… and try to spot him?” Dean asked, not really getting what it was they were hoping to accomplish from all of this. “How will we be able to tell what it is that he’s got, surely he will just apparate away as soon as he gets onto land and out of sight?”

 

A wry smile appeared upon Ray’s face.

 

“That’s actually where we’re in luck, lad. Moody’s contact went through everything The Ministry has on him. Avery’s family home is not far from here, about a fifteen minute walk. Might even explain why You Know Who has him on this to begin with. But even if he isn’t going back to his, we’re still alright, as he’ll have to get out of the 1 mile range before he thinks about apparating off anywhere.”

 

 “The 1 mile range?” Dean asked, not knowing what Ray was referring to.

 

“You’ve never heard of the 1 mile range? For apparating?” Ray asked, looking pretty dumbfounded.

 

Dean nodded and shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.

 

“Bloody hell, what are they teaching you kids at that school these days?! Never heard of the 1 mile range!” Ray sighed, as he put his head into his hands in annoyance. 

 

“Right, basically son, you can’t apparate to or from anywhere that’s within 1 mile of the coast, or the border if you’re in a land-locked country or region. If you live that close to the coast you have to get a special permit from the Ministry to have your own break in the charm round the outside of your gaff… bit of a nightmare, but it’s pretty standard fare in more or less every country going… it’s to prevent cross-country apparation... and in this case it will prevent that slimy prick from disappearing right away.”

 

Dean thought he saw a flaw in that plan straight away.

 

“What if he’s got one of those permits though?”

 

 “His house isn’t within the 1 mile radius, son,” Ray explained. “So whatever he does he’s got to get out of that 1 mile radius of the coast before he thinks about going anywhere…and I doubt Avery or anybody he knows will be driving a car or a bike so I’m banking on him being on foot.”

 

Ray retrieved a large map of what appeared to be the local area from his glove-box.

 

“I’ve mapped out the possible routes that he could take back to his house. The good news is that there’s plenty of opportunities on either route where we could make a move on him if it comes to it.”

 

He passed Dean the map to have a look at for himself. It looked like Ray had used some kind of permanent marker over the original map to highlight the ways that Algernon Avery could travel by foot or other means to his property just over a mile away.

 

“There’s only one ferry that comes into Portsmouth from Caen each day, more or less this time every night, little bit earlier on the weekend. I’ve got a list of them all here for you,” Ray said, as he handed him a heavily scribbled on piece of notepad paper.

 

“And so I should meet you each night, same time, at the station?” Dean asked.

 

“God no!” Ray replied, fairly gobsmacked. “This is dangerous stuff, son. At least if we’re separate and he comes onto one of us he’ll never suspect there’s another one watching him. There’s also two different routes he could use so we’ll have to split up to keep all bases covered anyway. You got a motor?”

 

“No, no I don’t drive,” Dean said.

 

“That’s not a problem. In-fact, even better. One of the routes isn’t particularly car friendly, so you’ll be better off on foot anyway. Just make out you’re a midnight jogger or something.”

 

Dean wondered what the local neighbourhood was like and whether it was the sort of town where a young, black lad like himself could jog around without attracting too much attention. 

 

He looked out of the window and saw an old man walking his dog. Dean stared at him long enough that Ray seemed to notice him too after wondering what Dean had been looking at.

 

“Now that’s an idea, son!” Ray announced suddenly. “Nobody suspects a bloke with a dog. Tell you what you wanna do, get yourself a pup from a rescue shelter. Take him out for night-time walkies, you’ll blend right in.”

 

“A dog?!” Dean replied. “But I’m living out of my tent at the minute. I’ve not got anywhere I could keep one.”

 

Ray looked pretty shocked at Dean’s revelation about living in his tent.

 

“Moody really didn’t tell you anything about this mission did he?” Ray sighed, as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small envelope that sounded like it had a key in, which he then threw to Dean.

 

“He told me you wouldn’t have anywhere to stay and it’s far too dangerous for you to stay with me and the wife… so I’ve got you a small 1 bed place not far from here. I got someone else to sort it out so I don’t know the exact address in-case I’m caught and tortured. It’s written on a scrap of paper in there.”

 

“Thank…thank you,” Dean gasped, pretty shocked at the thought of living in his own place for the first time in his life, as well as Ray’s talk of being tortured. “But how… how will I pay for the rent? I have some savings but I don’t have enough to pay-

 

“Sorted that out too, son,” Ray replied quickly. “In that envelope you’ll also find a letter of acceptance for an interview at a local shop for tomorrow morning… again, I got someone else to sort it so I wouldn’t know the exact one. Just make sure you tell ‘em you can’t work late evenings or nights!”

 

It was all too much information to register all at once. Dean had signed up to a resistance movement, but somehow overnight he now had his own place and had seemingly secured his first ever job too.

 

His family wouldn’t quite believe it!

 

“There’s also a telephone number in there. That’s my number. I’ll ring you every night, ninety minutes before and ninety minutes after the ferry pulls in to the harbour, we should both be back home by then even if we followed him back to his place. Don’t make a move on him or anyone else without my say so before, if we do strike, we’ll strike together, you got that, son?”

 

“Yes,” Dean answered quickly. “You’ll ring an hour and a half before and an hour and a half after. Don’t attack unless you give me the order.” 

 

“Good lad,” Ray responded. “It’s very important that you keep your distance. In the last war, if you got caught spying on Death Eaters you’d wind up being a newspaper headline… and that was only if somebody actually found your body. Don’t underestimate Avery, or anyone else he may be working with.”

 

“I won’t,” Dean began, before a blinding light unexpectedly shone from behind Ray’s cab, illuminating them both heavily.

 

“Fuck!” Ray cried, as Dean felt his heart begin to pound and his armpits sweat in sudden fear.

 

Dean felt into his pocket for his wand, quickly grasping onto it, as Ray abruptly opened his door.

 

“Cover me, son!” Ray ordered softly, as Dean pulled open his own door and stood guard as the middle-aged man climbed out of his car with his hand on his wand, which was thinly disguised within his jacket pocket.

 

“Who’s there?!” Ray shouted in a hostile tone, as Dean desperately tried to position himself in a way that would best shield his new ally.

 

Dean didn’t have a great deal of duelling experience and had never really been in a shoot-out before, so he wasn’t really sure how exactly one did “cover” someone else during a fight, but he would try his best.

 

In the heat of the moment all of the spells he had learned suddenly escaped him.

 

What was a good attacking jinx?

 

Protego?

 

No, that was a shield charm wasn’t it?

 

Expelliarmus seemed to always work quite well for Harry.

 

Maybe he would give that a go.

 

He was sure that Ray wouldn’t be able to see much past the blinding light, but his middle-aged companion bravely moved forward into it regardless, with his wand poking slightly out of his jacket in anticipation of any possible attack.

 

“I said who’s there?!” Ray shouted once more, this time in an even louder voice, as Dean suddenly heard a few muffled voices coming from where the light was. 

 

Dean pulled his wand out from out of his jacket so that he was ready to strike down anything or anyone that moved in that direction, but Ray seemed to spot this and wordlessly indicated for him to keep his wand out of sight.

 

Ray then walked confidently further into the light and completely out of sight.

 

Shit, Dean thought.

 

He quickly got out of the vehicle completely and charged, wand in hand, behind his new found ally into the brightness, but the light soon switched off and Dean didn’t see the Death Eaters that he had been expecting to find.

 

All he could see was a couple of fairly banged up looking Ford Estates, one of which must have had its full beam on to cause all of that light.

 

“Honestly it’s no bother!” he heard Ray say in a much more relaxed sounding tone to somebody in one of the cars. “Sorry to give you such a fright… we’ll leave you to it.”

 

The stocky wizard quickly made his way back to the car, ushering Dean back with him, although the manner in which he walked gave Dean the impression that he was much more irritated than he had let on when speaking to them.

 

“What… what was-

 

“A bunch of bloody muppets, that’s what that was,” Ray sighed angrily. “No Death Eaters there, son… just a couple of over-enthusiastic doggers!” 

 

“Doggers?” Dean asked, not knowing what he was on about.

 

To that Ray let out a proper belly laugh.

 

“Well I s’pose they definitely won’t teach you that in Muggle Studies,” he chortled, before telling Dean to get back into the taxi as they awaited the arrival of the ferry from Caen in twenty minutes time… although they needn’t have bothered, as Algernon Avery wasn’t on it… at least not that night.


“Head boy?!” Seamus scoffed, before cackling wildly. “Bloody hell. I might’a considered going back to school meself if I’d known old McGonagall might’a made me Head Boy!”

 

“Well she wouldn’t have, would she? As I’d have still been going,” Dean replied coolly.

 

To this Seamus laughed even harder, before shaking his head from the other side of the large mahogany table and submerging himself back in the newspaper articles that he was reading through.

 

Their job of researching through recent muggle newspapers, magazines and even current television news was for the most part a fairly mundane position, although it did mean that Dean was now a lot more caught up on current affairs.

 

They would occasionally stumble upon an article referencing something strange, or a muggle talking about something crazy that they had seen or come across. It was these articles that they would then cut out and keep for Hestia to rifle through and determine whether it was worth a further follow-up investigation or not.

 

“Bruce managed to get us tickets for the Tunisia game in Marseille next week, imagine that, watching England at an actual World Cup!” Dean said, as a preview of the upcoming international football tournament in the Telegraph reminded him.

 

“You’ll get to see them lose live in the flesh, what a treat!” Seamus jibed back.

 

“You’re just bitter that Ireland didn’t qualify!” Dean replied. “Who are you supporting then, if not England?”

 

“Brazil of course!” Seamus answered proudly. “They’ve got an unbelievable team. I reckon it’s between them and France, but I can’t bring meself to support France, with Vieira and Petit in midfield it just reminds me of Arsenal stealin’ the league from us!” 

 

Dean laughed, as he was very pleased that his friend’s beloved Manchester United had not won the Premier League once more in the recent season, especially as it really winded him up.

 

“But we’ve got Beckham, Scholes and Sheringham in our squad, I thought as a United fan you might want to see your players do well!”

 

“Not if they’re in a bloody England shirt I don’t,” Seamus responded moodily. “Me muggle cousins back home in Ireland would kill me if they heard I was supporting England. You know what they call the British flag over there?”

 

“No, what?”

 

“The butcher’s apron,” Seamus replied in a fairly dramatic tone.

 

Dean couldn’t confess to know all that much about ‘The Troubles’, or the conflict in Ireland which muggle Britain had been involved in for the past few years, but he certainly knew that whatever it was there was definitely no love lost between certain Irish contingents towards each other and the British, especially the English.

 

“I still don’t get why muggle Ireland is split but magical Ireland isn’t,” Dean said to his friend.

 

“Mainly cause of the monarchy… and religion… the magical community was never too worried about any of that,” Seamus answered.

 

“But then if that’s the case that the magical community didn’t care about the monarchy, how come the Scottish are still part of wizarding Britain?”

 

“How the hell should I know?” Seamus shot back with a slight smile. “Why don’t ya ask old Binnsy when you’re back at school?”

 

The pair returned to rifling through their newspapers and magazines, before they were interrupted by someone knocking on the door.

 

They made eye contact with each other, neither particularly wanting to get it, but eventually Seamus got up to see who it was.

 

He opened the door and standing before them was Harry Potter, dressed in what looked like a muggle police uniform. Dean had to do a double take as it was all very surreal.

 

“What the feck are you wearin’, mate?” Seamus asked in a bewildered tone, before Harry explained that he was taking part in a raid in a heavily muggle populated area.

 

“Makes sense I guess,” Seamus mumbled, as Harry then added that he’d been instructed to come and let their boss Hestia Jones know to be on alert in-case they required an Obliviator in the aftermath of their mission.

 

The Boy Who Lived quickly fled the scene, seeming not to have the time for any needless small talk. He’d worn a very determined look on his face, as if he was prepared for some kind of battle or fight.

 

“You reckon if we ever get any field work we’ll get one of those outfits?” Seamus asked, as he sat back down, before taking a chewing gum from his pocket.

 

He offered Dean one, but he politely declined.

 

“I hope so,” Dean said. “You know what they say, ladies love a man in uniform, don’t they?”

 

“Not all ladies!”

 

They both looked up in surprise as the Head Obliviator, Hestia Jones, emerged on the scene back from a break with a half-drunk bottle of Pepsi Max.

 

“Have either of you found anything of note in last week’s newspapers in between wondering what women want in a man?”

 

“Not really,” Dean answered truthfully.

 

“Nah, nothin’ much, Miss Jones,” Seamus said. “Harry Potter popped by though… he said Miss Savage wants you to be on alert in-case they need an Obliviator after their raid.”

 

Hestia huffed slightly.

 

“Oh did she now?” Hestia muttered moodily, indicating that she wasn’t altogether too happy about this, although Dean wasn’t really sure why, after all Obliviating people was quite literally her job.

 

“I suppose I have never been to Ireland before,” she considered to herself, as she made her way to her private office away from them.

 

“What d’ya mean… they’re goin’ to a raid in Ireland?” Seamus shot back quickly, in a concerned sounding voice.

 

Hestia gave him a strange sort of look.

 

“The mission is heavily classified. I can’t talk about it. I shouldn’t have even said that really,” she said, looking a bit guilty about having slipped up in front of them.

 

“But… but Harry was wearin’ a muggle police uniform,” Seamus fumed in disbelief. “They can’t go paradin’ round some parts of Ireland dressed in those! Have they lost their damn minds?!”

 

Hestia seemed a bit confused and caught off guard by his sudden outburst.

 

“I believe it was Savage’s idea. She mentioned that the part of Ireland they’re going to is considered part of Britain within the muggle world. I’m sure they will be fine, Seamus, I think that muggles will be the least of their worries.”

 

Seamus shot a very worried look at Dean, before Hestia eventually left them to return to her office.

 

“I hope they kno’ what they’re fuckin’ doing,” Seamus muttered, before exasperatedly running his hand through his hair in frustration.



Chapter 23: Harry IV - The Battle of Omagh
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The Auror office was buzzing with the sound of nervous energy and it smelt of stale sweat, cheap perfume and abrasive cigarette fumes.  

 

Harry studied the small, enchanted map of the Selwyn Manor that they would be raiding later that same day. It was a map that he had gotten very used to in the last few days as Robards, Savage and Kingsley meticulously studied and went over their plan, making the odd adjustment here and there as they secretly scouted the area in more detail with the help of the Irish Ministry.

 

The leader of the Irish Ministry, their Taoiseach, Orlaigh O’ Duinn, had actually reported to Kingsley that there had been a few suspicious deaths in the area recently, which they had initially put down to foul play from smaller, underground Dark wizard groups within Ireland itself. However, upon hearing of potential Death Eaters in the area, she was even keener to help in their mission in whatever capacity that she could to get rid of the potential threat.

 

Kingsley had been quite keen to take her up on her offer to get the Irish involved with the mission, but Robards was suspicious of her and saw to it that no Irish Aurors or Hit Wizards were to be involved.

 

Gawain believed that she had an ulterior motive of looking to distract her public with a good news story from the ongoing scandal that was rocking Wizarding Ireland, which related to pretty much their entire international Quidditch team, federation and numerous politicians, including O’ Duinn’s disgraced predecessor, facing trial for the ongoing match fixing scandal. Robards had put his foot down and that had been the end of that.

 

Gawain had permitted for Irish Wards to help with the anti-apparation perimeter though, as they knew the area better and it would have been a very time-consuming job for some of the more experienced members of the department who could be better spent planning or scouting for the mission itself.

 

The Manor sat towards the end of a large strip of secluded grassland at the bottom of a large hill, surrounded by a great lake which overlapped the large house on either side, but primarily flanked off towards the rear end of the house.  

 

The grounds had perhaps once been home to a muggle farmer in a past life, as at the very top of the hill there appeared to be some kind of disused barn which eventually led out onto a stretch of muggle road, which winded back towards the local village, where there was an actual farm filled with sheep, cows and pigs, as well as a large old-fashioned church, with its own graveyard where the local muggles appeared to lay their loved ones to rest.

 

The barn had been decided upon as the primary location of the end of the anti-apparation perimeter, which gave them roughly a mile of land in all directions, although the majority of the land in all of the other directions was made up entirely of lake.

 

It stood to reason that if Selwyn and any of his fugitive friends were camped out in the manor, that if they were to escape and get past the initial raiding party, then whether they were on foot or broom they would most likely take the route that lead back to the barn and the muggle-village once they figured out there was an anti-apparation perimeter in place. They would hopefully suspect and realise that the anti-apparition perimeter wouldn’t stretch into the village itself, which it didn’t, so if they did try to escape then they could entice them into a potential trap and false sense of security.

 

There were two very tiny animated figures keeping guard by the barn on the small enchanted map, which were meant to represent Robert Williamson and his protégé Ernie Macmillan, who were the defensive guard that would be kept at the anti-apparation point with a spare pair of brooms should anybody look to escape.

 

Although in reality they were only really there, kitted out in full faux-British muggle police officer uniform, to keep out any overly nosy muggles from the local village. This was because there was very little chance of Selwyn or anybody else managing to get that far, with Robards, Savage and Kingsley taking absolutely no chances with this mission after the abject failure of The Camden Raid.

 

If Selwyn could somehow blast his way past the initial raiding party, which would be no mean feat in itself considering it consisted of Gawain Robards, Rhea Savage, Femi Wakanda, Farzana Badwal and Arnold Peasegood, then he would have to contend with the defensive ground party, consisting of Conrad Proudfoot, Neville Longbottom, as well as four other members of the department who had not been used on the Camden Raid.

 

Harry had only ever had any meaningful interaction with one of these four, Gordon Hunt, who he remembered as the fresh-faced mid-twenties muggle-born lad who Gawain Robards had gone mental at when he asked to have his picture taken with Harry. Hunt, an excitable young Auror, had spent the vast majority of the last few weeks on guard at Hogwarts, where he was joined by the slightly older pure-blood Jeff Fawley, as well as their two female colleagues, Kwame Adebayo and Priscilla Weiss.

 

Fawley, Adebayo and Weiss were all primarily Wards by trade, specialising in protective enchantment casting, but from what Rhea had let on to Harry it sounded like they were all actually somewhat enjoying the additional overtime and field-work that they’d been getting as of late. It was primarily for their benefit that this final preparation meeting was taking place, as since they were typically posted out of office for almost the entirety of their shifts they had not been briefed on it as extensively as everybody else had.

 

In the unlikely event that Selwyn and any potential accomplices got through the raiding party and the six members of the ground crew, then they would almost certainly be halted in their tracks by the air support team that Harry himself was assigned to. For the Camden Raid he had been joined in the sky by hit-wizard Arnold Peasegood and Order of the Phoenix member Sturgis Podmore, but this time instead of Arnie, he and Podmore were of course joined by Charlie Weasley.

 

The three of them would support the ground team directly over the Manor and they were also in charge of providing an additional barrier should Selwyn or anybody else attempt to escape over the hill and towards the barn by means of flight themselves. In a strange coincidence all three of them had actually represented Gryffindor as Seeker at one point during their respective school-days.

 

They were not alone however, as they were joined by four other flyers who would be patrolling over the other side of the Manor, who were able to swiftly fly in and support the ground team too, as well as easily pivot to cover the large lake should any potential runaways use that as their escape route.

 

Saskia Marlowe, the new Head of Magical Games and Sports and former Quidditch ace, was the leader of this quartet of additional support which she herself had assembled, all of whom were former Quidditch players that she was close friends with and trusted dearly.

 

There was Venice Morgan, the American chaser, who had been one of her team-mates back in her days in the dominant Holyhead Harpies side which she had once captained and lead to both domestic and international glory.

 

They were joined by the bald headed former Tutshill Tornadoes keeper Dominic McCabe, as well as the former England captain and seeker, Octavian Addington, who no longer had his once famous, long, luscious golden locks, but instead a receding hairline which he appeared to permanently cover with a Pride of Portree branded purple cap. It was under this cap that he was able to give the false impression that he actually still did have the nice long hair that he was famed for, as the remnants of his formerly glorious curls still grew on the back of his head which the cap did not entirely cover.

 

Marlowe had gone the extra mile in her support of the mission by managing to supply them with several Nimbus brooms, which were definitely an upgrade on the Ministry issue Cleansweep brooms that they had been using on the Camden Raid.

 

Gawain Robards, assisted by Savage, explained every step of the plan to the room, whilst also making sure that each individual knew exactly what it was that was expected of them at any given point in the mission. It seemed a fool-proof plan so long as everybody stuck to it and helped each other out where possible.

 

Robards ended the meeting on a high, as Savage brought good news of Josh Morris’ condition at St. Mungo’s. Whilst it still seemed unlikely that his lost arm would ever grow back, there was at least a significant improvement in his general condition, as he was now back on his feet and able to do more or less every day to day activity without any assistance again. He was in such good spirits that he had even asked to come back to work, but Rhea had of course in no uncertain terms told him where to go whilst he was still on his road to recovery.

 

Harry looked down onto his wrist at the face of Fabian Prewett’s golden watch. It had many strange scratches and bumps on it, although its biggest curiosity was the very small engraved little heart just above the clock face, which had the initials “CB” on it. It was obviously one of Fabian’s former lovers, presumably engraved on that particular portion of the watch so that whenever he looked at it he would be reminded of that special someone.

 

The identity of “CB” had always remained a mystery to Harry ever since he had inherited the gift on his 17th birthday. He had no intention of ever asking Molly or even Arthur Weasley if they perhaps knew who it was, as he knew the subject of Molly’s brothers, murdered at the hands of Antonin Dolohov and his four unknown accomplishes, was understandably a very sore subject – and not the sort of thing you could just casually bring up over some apricot cobbler and custard at the dinner table.

 

It would likely forever remain one of life’s unsolved mysteries – and perhaps it was better and more exciting that way.  

 

The briefing had gone on a little bit longer than he had anticipated, but by the clock’s reckoning he still had several minutes until he would speak with Ron and Hermione again.

 

He was not quite sure why exactly they had gotten in touch again so quickly after their last call a few days ago, but he suspected, and also hoped, that this call would see them bringing news of their return to Britain. In a very selfish sort of way he had missed them both terribly, and he also felt it would be good to have them back to take part in the search for the missing Death Eaters.

 

Harry quickly paced out of the Auror Office and headed to the lift to make his way to Level 1, as it was in one of the back offices on the floor home to the Minister for Magic and Support Staff that he would be using the muggle telephone to speak to them. Kingsley was experienced with muggle technology from his time shadowing the muggle Prime Minister, so he had taken it upon himself to help set it all up for them.

 

The lift came quickly and he was pleasantly surprised to find it completely empty. He hopped in and set its course for Level 1. As the lift burst into life and began pulling him forwards and backwards in quick succession, his eyes were drawn to the animated poster with a list of all of the names of witches and wizards which were missing following the last twelve months of war.

 

The name that stuck out on the list most to him was his friend and former Quidditch team-mate Katie Bell. Nobody had seen or heard from her after the Battle of Hogwarts, of course the overriding presumption was that she had sadly been killed amid the mayhem, but as no body had been found there was to be no definitive closure for her family or friends. This was sadly the case for many others too due to the chaotic and often brutal nature of the battle, as well as the war itself, which had unfortunately left many bodies unable to be identified.

 

This of course did also offer the possibility that some of the reported missing Death Eaters could also already be dead too, but this was not a theory that too many people subscribed to. The majority of spells, hexes and curses that would cause such destruction or disintegration of the human body were seldom only used by Death Eaters themselves, so the chances of someone casting one against them was pretty slim.

 

His heart ached for Katie Bell’s family, who may never get the closure of finding her body. It was for people like the Bell family that it was so important that the raid later that day went smoothly, so that they could get that bit closer to bringing Voldemort’s wicked followers to the justice that they so deserved.

 

The lift stopped very abruptly, causing Harry to fly forward a little bit. The doors opened and he quickly stumbled out towards the little side-office that he had used to speak to Ron and Hermione previously.

 

“Plymouth,” he uttered softly against the password enchanted door, which swung open quickly following his command.

 

“Harry, my boy, good, good, I was wondering when you would get here,” Kingsley said warmly as he entered the room.

 

He was a little surprised by the Minister for Magic’s presence as he had not expected him to be there. Kingsley had not needed to help him start the original call with Ron and Hermione, as he had enough experience using the muggle telephone from his time at Privet Drive.

 

“Good to see you, Kingsley,” Harry replied. “It’s alright though, if you’re busy I mean… I can manage the telephone by myself.”

Kingsley gave him a slightly guilty look, which Harry thought was a bit odd.

 

“I’m sorry to disappoint you Harry, but you’re not here to speak to Ron and Hermione this time,” Kingsley said glumly.

 

“Oh,” Harry said. “Then what is it-

 

“You must forgive me for my deception, but I am afraid that it was necessary to prevent Rhea and Gawain from cottoning onto my true motive for bringing you here.”

 

Harry didn’t understand.

 

What could Kingsley possibly not want Savage or Gawain Robards to find out about?

 

“I didn’t want to drag you into this Harry, but for some reason Rhea really has it in for Hestia Jones,” Kingsley began, before stroking his beard thoughtfully.

 

“I’ve been pushing hard for her to be involved in this raid so that she could be my eyes on the ground, but your boss is adamant that under no circumstances should she be getting involved with it, unless in an Obliviating capacity afterwards. I could force her to take Hestia of course, but I don’t see that as too wise a move, it would undermine Rhea and Gawain’s authority and place Hestia in an awkward position. I would ask Sturgis or Charlie, but neither would prove as useful as you since they cannot cast a corporeal patronus.”

 

Harry still was not sure what exactly it was that Kingsley was asking of him. Was he worried that there would be Dementors on this mission?

 

“I’m sorry to have to ask this of you Harry, but I need you to give me my word that if anything happens there today… if you feel like control of the mission has been lost and you need some help… I want you to send for me.”

 

“Of course, Kingsley,” Harry replied without thinking. “Wouldn’t Rhea and Gawain do that themselves anyway though?”

 

Shaklebolt sighed.

 

“I hope so, Harry, I really do, but pride and wanting to avoid losing face can be a dangerous combination sometimes. Have you ever sent a corporeal patronus as a messenger before?”

 

“No,” Harry replied in a slightly down-beat voice. “Do you think you could teach me? Before the mission later, I mean?” 

 

He was not sure how good a teacher Kingsley would be, but Harry thought surely even in a couple of hours he wouldn’t be able to manage to teach him something as complex as a patronus spell. It would be a fruitless venture. It had taken him endless lessons with Remus Lupin to learn how to cast a patronus in the first place – and Remus had been the best teacher he’d ever had.

 

“Teach you?” Kingsley laughed. “From what I hear you’ve already got one of the best patronus charms in the business. You already know the hard part of the spell. The trick to the messenger part is in visualizing the person you want to send the message to, then telling your patronus what it is you need to tell that person… but you don’t say it out loud, it must come from within.”

 

It turned out that Kingsley really rather was quite a good teacher in his own right after all. They spent just under an hour together as Harry practised the incantation – and whilst Harry wasn’t altogether sure that he had completely perfected the charm, Kingsley was at least satisfied and confident enough that he could manage it.

 

“With any luck you won’t need to use it anyway, my boy,” he said, before swiftly departing after wishing him all the best in the mission.

 


 

Harry looked down upon the Manor from up above in the warm, early evening sky. The very real figures on the ground below did not look all together that different from the hastily erected battle-plans that Robards had conjured up in the Auror Office.

 

The air support squadron, of which Harry was of course a part of, were already high in the sky in place for the mission, awaiting the ground team to break the defences of the Manor and launch their attack. They had already broken through much of Selwyn’s protections without being detected, as it appeared the defensive enchantments on the outer grounds, whilst capable of keeping out even the nosiest of muggles, were not so adapt at keeping out highly skilled users of magic.

 

Ernie Macmillan and Robert Williamson had already been set-up at the outer reach of the Manor, which marked the check-point for the anti-apparition perimeter that had been erected to help prevent any potential attempts from Selwyn or anybody else to avoid capture.

 

Ernie was in a particularly jovial mood as he’d asked out Farzana Badwal on a date and she had not said no. His mentor, Robert Williamson, as well as Neville Longbottom, had both been very quick to point out that she had in-fact not said yes either, rather she had been so stunned into silence and embarrassment by the whole affair, that she had been too annoyed to even utter a single word to him. This had not deterred Ernie in the slightest though and he seemed convinced that she was at least somewhat interested in courting him, although even Harry had conceded this seemed wishful thinking at best.

 

“These Nimbuses that Saskia sorted us out aren’t too bad! I might have to get one myself for when I’m back in Romania!” Charlie commented from Harry’s left, as Ron’s brother practiced hovering up and down slightly on his broom.

 

“I used to love my Nimbus 2000,” Harry replied. “It was a great little broom.”

 

“I bet it was,” Charlie said with a slightly jealous sounding tone to his voice.  “Was that the one that the Whomping Willow had its wicked way with?”

 

“Afraid so,” Harry said glumly.

 

“Didn’t you get a Firebolt right after though?” Charlie jibed. “Gryffindor seekers never had brooms like that in my day… what about you Sturgis, when you were seeker did you have a broom that good?”

 

Sturgis Podmore grunted slightly at the sound of his name, but it was evidently clear that such was his concentration on the figures below and the mission at hand that he hadn’t heard a word of their conversation. Sturgis looked over in their direction momentarily, before shrugging his shoulders and returning his gaze to the action on the ground, of which there was actually very little to speak of.

 

“He didn’t,” Charlie mouthed, which caused Harry to laugh slightly. “Nevertheless I shall happily conform to the popular belief that you are the greatest Gryffindor Seeker of them all Harry.”

 

“Thanks Charlie,” Harry answered. “But I’m really not.”

 

“Is that so?” Charlie replied, sounding interested. “And who then, does the almighty Chosen One hold in such high regard?”

 

“Ginny,” Harry said back honestly, which caused a great smile to form on her elder brother’s face.

 

“Yes… yes I have heard rumours of this, Harry,” Charlie said curiously.

 

“She’s brilliant!” Harry replied. “She’s much better at Seeking than I ever was. I think she’ll make a better captain than me too next year. You have to try and get to a match and watch her, I think she could be a professional if she ever wanted to.”

 

Charlie chuckled a little bit.

 

“You may have misinterpreted what I meant, Harry,” Charlie began. “I didn’t mean that I’d heard rumours of how good Ginny is on a broom… I’ve seen that for myself many times… when she was little she used to steal my broom at night and fly it when she thought that nobody was watching, but being such an early riser I often was.”

 

Harry smiled at the idea of it.

 

“Hang on,” Harry said, in a moment of sudden realisation. “What was it that you meant then?” he asked, as below them they watched as the Raiding Party slowly made their way towards the large Manor house’s entrance gates.  

 

“That I have heard rumours of you holding Ginny in such high regard of course!” Charlie shot back.

 

“Oh,” Harry said awkwardly.

 

“Yes, Oh, indeed, Harry,” Charlie said in a very serious tone.

 

Harry suddenly felt a little bit uncomfortable, as he was not sure if Charlie was joking or not. It was always quite hard to tell with him. In a weird kind of way he was actually much more naturally gifted at sarcasm than even George was or Fred had ever been when he was alive, as with the twins you always expected it, but with Charlie you just weren’t sure.

 

Or maybe that was just from where he’d spent a lot less time around Charlie.

 

“Now, I really do hate to have to ask you this,” Charlie began. “But as a concerned and protective older brother I am afraid that I am honour bound to do so. Tell me Harry, man to man, what exactly are your intentions with my sweet little baby sister, Ginevra?”

 

Harry suddenly felt a little clammy.

 

“Erm,” he mumbled. “Well… I… we… erm… we-

 

“EXCINDO TUTELA!”

 

The loud cries from the Raiding Party down below instantly took their minds away from Ginny, as Harry looked down from up high as Robards, Savage, Wakanda, Badwal and Peasegood blasted at the large, black gothic gates that formed the last barrier between them and the Selwyn Manor.

 

Harry watched on nervously as he saw the five figures slowly, yet swiftly make their way across the courtyard towards the front-door. They were led by Savage, with Robards and Wakanda just behind her and Peasegood and Badwal at the rear acting as the guard.

 

He glanced back a bit and could see that Conrad Proudfoot, alongside Neville Longbottom and Priscilla Weiss, were now covering towards the opened gate, with Jeff Fawley, Kwame Adebayo and Gordon Hunt still patrolling closer towards the lake-side potential exit, of which the four ex-Quidditch players were all circling above.

 

On Savage’s signal Robards and Wakanda cast protective charms, then she, with support from Peasegood and Badwal, shot a furious blast against the big, black gothic door. It did not burst open as Harry had anticipated, nor did it cause a large explosion as he had feared like he had witnessed back in Camden.

 

Savage signalled for another blast attempt, although as she did so, in the corner of his left eye Harry thought he saw something pop into sight by the bank of the lake. He turned his head slightly to get a better look of it.

 

He couldn’t quite work out what it was from so high up, but it almost looked like it could be an Elf, or maybe a Goblin. It was parading its arms up and down as if it was conducting a classical music symphony, but Harry realised it must instead be performing some kind of enchantment.

 

“Have you two seen that thing by the lake?” Harry asked urgently, as he heard Savage’s fiery voice command yet another strike attempt on the front-door.

 

Charlie quickly turned towards him, then looked down towards the lake.

 

“Looks like an Elf,” Charlie said in a confused sort of voice. “What the hell is it doing?”

 

“I’ll check it out,” Podmore volunteered, but all three of them soon spotted one of the ex-Quidditch players heading down to check it out. They were a fair distance away, but it looked like it must be Dominic McCabe as Harry couldn’t make out any hair of any description flowing in the wind on their head.

 

Podmore held off as it looked like McCabe had it covered, but then the Elf suddenly spotted him and without any kind of warning sent a surge of sparks flying in his direction. McCabe managed to dodge it quite effectively to avoid being knocked off of his broom, but the Elf then seemed to finish whatever charm that it was conducting on the lake.

 

As it finished, as if by magic, the lake suddenly lit up incredibly brightly, instantly transforming from a deep blue sort of colour to a very vibrant and bright turquoise one.

 

“What’s it trying to do? Blind us?” Charlie muttered, as they watched McCabe dodge another bombardment of sparks flown in his direction. He now had his own wand at the ready and was firing jinxes at the troublesome little Elf, who side-stepped and dodged whatever McCabe sent towards it. Harry spotted the other 3 Quidditch player swooping down to aid their companion.

 

“I think it’s just trying to cause a distraction,” Podmore huffed. “We mustn’t break formation.”

 

Harry’s attention was quickly drawn back to the courtyard as he heard Savage yell once more, louder than she had previously and this time the subsequent blast seemed to do the job.

 

 The front door flew off – and they were in!

 

Unlike in Camden the house did not suddenly burst into flames or explode, but rather, albeit quite conservatively, Savage, followed and covered by Wakanda and Robards, burst into the property, with Peasegood and Badwal in quick pursuit.

 

Almost instantaneously one of the front windows was blasted in by a spell of some kind - and they soon saw what looked like a very overenthusiastic firework display from inside the house. Harry’s heart began to beat rather quickly, as he saw Conrad Proudfoot, Neville and Priscilla Weiss quickly make their way across the courtyard and into the house too.

 

Hunt, Fawley and Adebayo stood their ground outside the property in formation, ready and waiting should anyone manage to blast their way out. Harry wished that he was inside the house and was able to see what was happening. If Selywn and/or Travers were in there he wished he could help take them down and bring them to the justice that they so very much deserved.

 

“G- g- guys,” Sturgis fumbled in a frightened sort of voice. “The lake! There’s… there’s things coming out of it!”

 

Harry quickly looked across to the lake and couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing.

 

At the bank a wide array of creatures appeared to be emerging from the depths below. Some of them were human-like in their form, but some were a bit smaller and looked like they could be badgers, cats or foxes…regardless of what exact creature they were, Harry feared that all of them were…

 

“INFERI!” Charlie roared in sudden amazement.

 

“Fuck!” Podmore groaned, as the true enormity of the situation seemed to overwhelm him.

 

It seemed, upon the Elf’s bidding, that there was now a small army of dead people, animals and birds emerging from the lake. McCabe was still battling the Elf itself, neither seemed to have the better of the other, but the other three ex-Quidditch players, who had flown down to help McCabe, now seemed to be firing down spells at the dead people and creatures to try and take them down.

 

They had quite good aim, but it seemed for every one dead “person” or creature that they took down, another two emerged from the lake, then suddenly, without warning, something else altogether entirely began to emerge from it.

 

“Are they? Are they birds?” Podmore mouthed in horror, as what looked like dead sparrows, crows and pigeons began to come up from underwater and began to fly upwards into the sky, heading straight for McCabe, then Marlow, Morgan and Addington.

 

“We have to help them,” Harry said urgently, as they watched the ex-Quidditch stars fire hexes and jinxes at the flying Inferi birds.

 

“They might be able to handle the birds themselves,” Podmore said quickly, still sounding quite panicked.

 

“They can’t take the birds and the ones on the ground though!” Charlie shot back quickly. “Look, they’re heading towards the Manor, everyone down there will get flanked and caught by surprise if we don’t help them!”

 

Help.

 

That was it!

 

Harry couldn’t believe he had only just thought of it.

 

Kingsley had said if they needed any help to send for him at once.

 

He would cast his Patronus and send for Kingsley, just as the Minister for Magic had showed him how to do earlier on in the day.

 

Harry closed his eyes, quickly thinking of the happiest memory that he could muster. His thoughts drifted instantly to the moment at the end of the battle, where everyone had mobbed him in celebration, when Voldemort was finally dead. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Molly, Arthur, everyone was right by his side. In his mind he pictured it vividly, then-

 

A huge explosion of glass erupted from down on the ground.

 

Harry quickly opened his eyes and scanned the scene.

 

“It looks like they’re getting out the back entrance!” Charlie shouted, as they watched three figures emerge in the back-garden of the Selwyn house. He couldn’t quite tell who exactly they were from so far above, but they seemed to be, in-between firing flashes of spells back towards the house, heading towards what looked like a small, shabby looking shed.

 

One of them cast a spell to open the shed door as the other two covered him, then to Harry’s sudden shock and horror, he pulled out a broomstick, then one more for each of his companions.

 

“Looks like we’re gonna get to see who really is the best on a broom,” Charlie said in a very grave sounding voice.

 

Harry prepared himself for a chase, as he saw one of the figures mount his broom and begin to ascend into the air.

 

“I’ll take this one,” Sturgis said confidently, before bolting off downwards to meet the would-be escapee.

 

Sturgis surged downwards in the general direction of the runaway, casting some kind of pink coloured jinx that Harry couldn’t quite make out, but just as the potential Death Eater attempted to fly off there was a bright, blue set of sparks that came hurtling up from the ground.

 

Harry could just make out the figure of Rhea Savage, who had somehow managed to fire off a hex that had directly hit the escapee flat on the back. Podmore pulled up as he noticed it, as the man instantly hurtled back down towards the ground and landed in a heap.

 

“Nice shot, Rhea,” Harry heard Charlie shout, although he doubted very much that she would have heard him on the ground over all of the commotion.

 

Then, without warning, Harry was almost blown off his broom as he heard a devastatingly loud explosion on the ground. He wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but it looked like at least half of the back-garden had been blown to shreds by some kind of jinx or curse.

 

In his panic he suddenly remembered Kingsley and cursed himself for having forgotten in the heat of the moment to send for him.

 

“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” he shouted loudly, thinking once more of the emotional end of battle sequence, then he soon saw the tried and tested fluorescent blue Stag emerge from the tip of his wand.

 

He thought back to what Kingsley had taught of him.

 

With every fibre of his body he thought intensely of Kingsley Shaklebolt and could think of just one word – “help”.

 

Harry opened his eyes and looked down at his Stag patronus, which seemed to, he thought, to nod knowingly at him, before galloping off downwards towards the battle, before swiftly disappearing into thin air in haste to get his message to the Minister of Magic.

 

As his patronus disappeared from view Harry saw an altogether more worrying one playing out right in-front of him. It was the unwanted sight of two more figures on the ground running back towards the brooms that had been briefly discarded by the explosion, which had unfortunately not blown them to shreds like much of the rest of the garden.  

 

He saw Sturgis quickly fly back up to address him and Charlie.

 

“We out number them three to two!” he shouted. “I don’t think we’ll get any support from the others,” he added, as they looked quickly towards the lake where the four quidditch players were still duking it out with the birds and the Elf.

 

Harry looked towards the ground in horror as he saw the swarm of Inferi heading for the Manor. It seemed that Gordon Hunt, Jeff Fawley and Kwame Adebayo had at least spotted them, as they appeared to be edging towards mounting an attack on them head on. Even so, they were hopelessly outnumbered. Kingsley couldn’t get there soon enough.

 

“Harry, you’re the strongest on a broom and with a wand! You take one of them. Me and Charlie will take the other, that’s our best chance of taking them both down.”

 

Harry and Charlie nodded in agreement, as they watched the two dark wizards mount their brooms and begin their ascent upwards.

“NOW!” Podmore cried, as Harry immediately darted off in the direction of the larger one of the two.

 

His broom was quick and agile and he used its rapid pace to his advantage as he flew with utmost haste towards his target. His only slight concern was that whilst he was very experienced on a broom and in duelling, he did not have a huge amount of experience, if any at all, of duelling whilst on a broom itself.

 

He pulled out his wand and found it considerably harder to maintain balance and equilibrium whilst wielding it, in the process of which he suddenly had a new-found respect for both chasers and beaters, who managed to juggle wielding objects as well as flying all game long in a Quidditch match.

 

As he got closer and closer he began to recognize the figures that he was gaining on. They were Death Eaters after all, but it was not Kit Selwyn or Rufus Travers that he was fast-approaching.

 

The larger of the two figures was now recognizable, as he could see the short, blonde hair of the crazy and unpredictable Thorfinn Rowle. To his left, the much smaller figure with mousey-brown hair looked to be Phillip Jugson, who he remembered from The Battle in the Department of Mysteries.

 

Harry took a sharp nose dive down towards Rowle, but the giant Death Eater seemed to spot him coming at the last moment. Rowle reached for his wand, but he was not fast enough as Harry already held his steady.

 

“FLIPENDO!” he yelled, attempting to stop Rowle in his tracks, but his opponent saw it coming and managed pull his broom up sharply to dodge it. Rowle continued to ascend upwards and flew above and past Harry, who quickly turned to give chase to him.

Rowle kept ascending into the sky, although Harry was hot on his tail.

 

“CONFRINGO!” Thorfinn yelled blindly behind him, perhaps trying to make Harry’s broom, or even Harry himself explode into thin air.

 

“PROTEGO!” Harry cried, just in the nick of time, so that the protection spell would swallow up Rowle’s curse whole and do no damage to his broom or his body.

 

Rowle then swerved sharply, pulled up and in briefly going upside down, managed to escape Harry’s path and forge a brand new one just below him. Harry copied Rowle’s motion so that he too briefly went upside down and turned back on himself, although he had to swerve instantly as a flash of red-light flew straight past him, just above his shoulder.

 

There was such chaos now in the sky that he could not be sure whether the spell had come from Rowle, or from the melee below where Charlie, Sturgis and Phillip Jugson appeared to be scrapping in between ducking and diving out of each other’s way.  

 

It was to assist Jugson that Rowle now appeared to be heading, as a good deal below where he and Harry had risen up to Harry could now see the other Death Eater struggling to fend off the number’s advantage that was very much against him.

 

Rowle shot a curse in Podmore’s direction, but Sturgis saw it coming and quickly put up a shield charm of his own to block it, as Harry saw Charlie fire a purple-jinx towards Jugson, who only just managed to duck it.

 

Harry aimed at Rowle, although he was a moving target and such was the nature of his zig-zagging that Harry could not be sure that he wouldn’t hit Charlie or Podmore in the process of attempting to go for the Death Eater, as such he tried to be quite cautious in order to avoid taking one of his own down with friendly fire.

 

Rowle swerved and pulled up violently, aiming at Podmore once more, but before he could cast a spell, a violent, vibrant yellow curse could be seen hurtling towards him from the ground. It was perhaps Savage or one of the other ground crew members coming to their assistance, although how they could be sure of who they were aiming for from down there Harry could not be sure.

 

The light, amber sparks looked destined to hurtle into Rowle and knock him off his broom.

 

“INVORTO!” the Death Eater cried loudly at the last moment, swerving slightly with his broom, Harry saw that in a split-second the yellow curse had paused in mid-air, it was almost as if time itself had stopped. “PERCUTIO!” Rowle added venomously, before viciously pointing his wand in Podmore’s direction before Harry himself could react.

 

Sturgis himself did notice and quickly cast a defensive charm to protect himself, but it was too little, too late.

 

The bright, yellow curse that had been fired from the ground suddenly sprang back into life with extreme force that was no match for the hastily erected defensive barrier Podmore had produced. The curse clattered into him and sent him flying off of his broom.

 

“PODMORE!” Charlie yelled in shock and surprise, but he did not have too much time to think about it, as in this distraction Phillip Jugson managed to fire a black hex in his direction, which Charlie managed to parry, before chasing off after the brown haired Death Eater.  

 

Harry may have had a decent shot on Rowle, but his only thought in the moment was for the fast falling Sturgis Podmore, who he quickly chased down after. The broom was pretty quick, but gravity itself had a fair amount of pace and it took Harry a good few moments to even make the slightest gain on the falling member of the Order of the Phoenix. To Harry’s horror it seemed that Podmore was falling straight towards the roof of the main manor house. The impact of such a fall would surely kill him. 

 

As they got closer to the ground Harry managed to get within a position where he could cast a protective spell to stop Podmore from smashing onto the roof, but just as he thought of the right spell to cast he heard Charlie yell.

 

“Man on, Harry!”

 

Harry recognised the call, which in Quidditch was used, primarily by Beaters, to let their Chaser know that a member of the other team was closely gaining on them from behind. He chanced a quick glance behind him, and, sure enough there was Rowle rapidly gaining on him and within shooting distance of him.

 

“EXPELLIARMUS!” Harry blindly shouted with his wand, not able to fully crane his neck to get the best possible aim off. He continued to descend downwards in pursuit of Podmore, when all of a sudden a flash of blue-light from on the ground came from out of nowhere and seemed to completely cover Sturgis. It looked like somebody else on the ground had managed to spot someone falling from the sky and had saved him from smashing onto the roof and to his likely demise.

 

“EXPULSIO!” came a yell from behind Harry, as he managed to swerve himself to the right a little, not knowing whether the curse had come from that direction or the other.

 

The bright-orange sparks of the spell flew just past his face, so close was it to connecting that he felt his hair rustle slightly as it rushed past. Harry pulled up swiftly, which confused Rowle, who had cast the spell and who kept going and actually ended up flying slightly past and below Harry before he himself could pull up to engage him once more.

 

The apricot-tinted curse continued to fly downwards though, and to Harry’s horror he saw it connect with the back of the house, not far from the bubble where Podmore appeared to have safely landed.

 

The sky erupted for a brief few seconds with a blinding orange and yellow light, before a deafening explosion of noise could be heard as the curse caused half the house to blow up in a deadly inferno of glass, brick and smoke.

 

Harry looked down in horror hoping that everybody on the ground was unharmed, but he could not glance for too long as he saw Rowle return to come after him once more, the Death Eater too had briefly stopped in his tracks to investigate the carnage that he had inadvertently created.

 

“EXPELLIARMUS!” Harry fired at his target once more, but Rowle ducked and dived and flew past him yet again.

 

“INCENDIUM!” Rowle growled fiercely, as large flames quickly erupted from the end of his wand and flew out in Harry’s direction.

 

“AGUAMENTI!” Harry quickly cast, causing a tsunami of water to emerge from his wand to greet the fiery inferno. The water managed to drown out the majority of the flames, but he felt a bolt of pain shoot up his right leg, as it appeared a trailing flame had somehow managed to surge its way through, singing his trousers and some of his skin in the process.

 

He cried out in pain for a brief moment as he directed some water in the direction of the graze, causing it to sting violently for a few seconds, but hopefully disinfecting it to some extent.

 

His glasses had become steamed up from the hot, humid smoke that had been produced by the water cancelling out Rowle’s fire. He rubbed them quickly and when he gained his eye-sight back again he could not see the Death Eater in his peripheral vision at all.

 

Harry searched the sky left, right and up and down to try and find his target. It was like he was playing a life or death version of Quidditch. Rowle was the Snitch, and he just had to find him, catch him and end the match.

 

He flew up a bit, trying to get into a better scouting position, then into the distance, during which he seemed to be heading towards the direction of the anti-apparation perimeter, manned, at least at the start of the mission by Robert Williamson and Ernie MacMillan.

 

Whether or not they were still manning it now Harry could of course not be certain, but what he could be certain of was that there was a wide array of brightly coloured sparks coming from the sky in that direction, which he guessed must be Jugson and Charlie in their own aerial duel, perhaps Rowle too had spotted this and had headed off to try and assist his comrade.

 

Harry bent his body downwards, to ensure he could fly at the quickest possible pace and he headed off in the same direction, wand at the ready. He flew for a good couple of minutes with absolutely nobody in his sight, all he could see was the fire-work display of spells in the distance, growing ever larger and more visible as he got closer and closer to it.

 

He searched desperately for Rowle, unsure as to how he could have flown this far without Harry having spotted him yet. He had only been caught up by the fire and water for about ten seconds, or so it had felt at least. He couldn’t have thought that the Death Eater had got that much of a head start on him, but despite glancing up, down, left, right and even chancing the odd look behind him there was no sight of Rowle to be had anywhere.

 

Perhaps he had drifted a bit higher, or lower, or maybe Harry himself had unknowingly drifted higher or lower in the aftermath of Rowle’s Incendium curse. He kept accelerating on the Nimbus broom as swiftly as he possibly could, pulling up and above a little as he got close enough that he could now see Charlie and Jugson duking it out.

 

Charlie seemed to have the better of Jugson, who may well have been a better dueller, but even if he was he seemed to be no match for the Dragonologist and former Seeker in flight-mode. Harry saw Charlie perform a slight feint, pretending to go left, which caught Jugson off guard as he instead went right and fired a blue-looking hex in the Death Eater’s direction. The hex appeared to hit his broom slightly, very nearly causing Jugson to come tumbling off of it.

 

Charlie had Jugson right where he wanted him now, as the Death Eater was too preoccupied with trying to stay on his room to be able to muster up much of a defence.

 

That was when Harry saw Thorfinn Rowle, who was not much more than 10 metres away from Harry, although slightly lower.

The blonde-haired Death Eater had not seen or heard Harry catch up with him, and now his giant-back was like an enormous target for Harry to hit and he could not believe his luck.

 

Harry thought of the spell that he wished to cast as he flew towards the Death Eater, which would surely bring Rowle to some form of justice that would await him on the ground, when in the corner of his eye he saw Rowle’s wand aimed squarely at Charlie, who was completely unaware that he was being watched himself as he eyed up Jugson.

 

Rowle’s wand hummed with a tinge of green.

 

Charlie seemed to spot him at the last moment, but it was too late to save himself.

 

“AVADA KEDARA!”

 

“PROTEGO!”

 

Harry watched on in horror as the force of the spell smacked into Charlie, sending his body limp and knocking him right off his broom.

 

Harry’s shield charm had somehow just managed to beat Rowle’s killing curse to Ron and Ginny’s older brother, but whilst it had protected him from the harsh green spell that would’ve instantly killed him, the force of the defensive shield had still been enough to seemingly knock him out, or at least off of his broom, which incidentally, had shattered in half on the spell’s impact.

 

In that moment Harry briefly forgot about Rowle and Jugson altogether entirely, thinking only of his promise to Ron that no harm would come to his brother on his watch. Harry surged downwards in hot pursuit of the falling Weasley son, quickly gaining on him, at least this time Charlie had started off a lot higher in the sky than Podmore when he had fallen.

 

“ARRESTO MOMENTUM!”

 

Harry’s spell quickly flew off and connected with Charlie’s bulky falling body, instantly causing his fall to drastically reduce in speed, almost as if he had released an invisible parachute. Charlie was still some way below Harry, so he raced down to try and catch up with him, but as Charlie appeared to become somewhat aware of what was happening Harry heard him calling up to him.

 

“GO AFTER THEM HARRY! I’LL BE FINE!” it sounded like Charlie had shouted, although he very much did not look or sound fine. 

 

Harry studied the green hills beneath where Charlie would likely land. It looked like that part of the estate had so far managed to avoid any of the action. He was not sure if Charlie still had his wand or not, but against his better judgment he immediately pulled up, leaving the Weasley brother to safely descend to the ground, before hurtling back into the sky in the direction of where Rowle and Jugson would have been.

 

He scanned the skies but could not see either of them.

 

It was likely that their plan would be to escape and if they were to escape then they would likely fly towards civilisation, where the anti-apparation perimeter had been erected as the additional defensive barrier just for this very scenario.

 

Harry took some solace in the fact that even if they had got past him, Rowle and Jugson would still have the fearsome Robert Williamson to contend with, as well as Ernie Macmillan and maybe even Kingsley himself if Harry’s patronus had gotten to him as swiftly as he hoped.

 

The sun shone harshly on the back of Harry’s neck as he moved his body to be more streamlined so he could travel as quickly as possible towards the perimeter. He wondered what brooms Rowle and Jugson were flying on and whether his Nimbus would out-pace them, it had been quite hard to tell what type of broom they were on in the brief glimpses he had gotten of them so far.

 

As he eventually got closer and closer to the perimeter and could see the old-fashioned muggle barn he chanced a glance below him, trying to see if he could spot the figures of Ernie and Williamson on the ground. He thought he could just about make Williamson out, but he could not see Ernie, or indeed anybody else.

 

He wondered where Rowle and Jugson had got to – and whether they had flown past the perimeter without Williamson or Ernie spotting them.

 

Then, in the corner of his right eye, he spotted a shadow high above him, then another one not that far away. He looked up, peaking higher than his field of vision would typically allow and that was when he saw them.

 

It was Rowle and Jugson. They didn’t appear to have spotted him, possibly due to the glare of the sun beating down on them, or perhaps being more preoccupied with their escape, but whatever their reasoning was for them not spotting him this was his chance.

 

He had to fly up and cause some kind of diversion to prevent them from both escaping, or at least draw some kind of attention to the skies so that Williamson and Ernie down below would notice.

 

Harry quickly surged forwards and flew up, almost completely vertically, as he aimed to cut them up completely just before they reached the perimeter. He really hoped that they would take the bait, as he doubted he would be able to take them both on or out.

 

He was quite close to them now and thankfully neither of them had yet noticed his ascent towards them. Harry approached with Jugson on his near-side, so it would be him who he would have to target first, if his quickly concocted plan was to have any chance of succeeding.

 

“Arresto Momentum,” Harry cast towards Jugson’s broom in a hushed voice, instantly causing the Death Eater’s broom to massively slow down.

 

“Wait up!” Jugson yelled to Rowle, who had now drifted ahead of him. “Lousy bloody broom’s pulled up!”

 

“FULGEO PROMOVEO!” Harry shouted into the sky, as his wand shot out the blinding red, blue and green fireworks that he had cast. Almost instantly they shattered and caused the sky to light up in a primarily red hue, which would simultaneously draw attention to Williamson, Ernie and anybody else that happened to be on the ground.

 

“SHIT!” Harry heard Jugson swear, as Harry flew past him in pursuit of Rowle, who was heading straight for him in turn having noticed what had happened.

 

“AVADA KEDAVRA!” Rowle screamed, as the green-shot of light that accompanied the killing curse came flying towards him.

 

“PROTEGO!”

 

Harry’s quick defensive spell managed to deflect Rowle’s killing curse, but as Harry manoeuvred to dodge and get into a better attack position on Rowle, he noticed that it almost flew off into the direction of his comrade, Phillip Jugson, which appeared to be something which had not been lost on him either.

 

“WHAT DID I TELL YA ABOUT SHOOTIN’ OFF KILLING CURSES WHEN I’M RIGHT NEAR YA?!” Jugson shouted in an angry voice, but before he could continue his rebuke of Rowle his broom was hit by a trail of purple sparks that had come from down below.

 

“STOP WORRYING ABOUT ME AND GET YOUR FUCKING BROOM MOVING AGAIN!” Harry heard Rowle shout at Jugson, as he dodged and defended another killing curse from the big, blonde Death Eater. Almost as soon as he said this Jugson appeared to find the right counter-curse for Harry’s spell, although Harry could not hear it over the noise of another set of purple sparks from down below.

 

“EXPELLIARMUS!”

 

Harry’s trademark spell just missed the large target of Thorfinn Rowle, who furiously swerved and pulled up, trying to out-do Harry in their now continued hotly contested aerial duel. Rowle fired another killing curse towards him, but his aim was poor and it was always going high and wide of Harry, who still shot another Protego off just to be safe.

 

“FUCK! ME BROOM’S HIT!” Jugson swore loudly, as someone on the ground, who Harry could now spot was indeed Robert Williamson, got another even greater hit on him. The Death Eater began swerving uncontrollably, almost flying straight into a furious Thorfinn Rowle, before Harry had to dodge him too as he began to wildly descend to the ground.

 

Harry exchanged a momentary glance with Rowle, who cast some kind of defensive barrier protection to briefly block Harry off as he soared down to check on his fallen comrade.

 

“Bombarda!” Harry cast at the defensive block, instantly shattering it, as he flew after Rowle and managed to get a better look of Jugson’s fall to the ground himself.

 

The Death Eater had possibly gained some control of his broom as he was no longer turbulently zig-zagging, although he was still spiralling down heading straight for Williamson on the ground, who continued to fire spells at Jugson, yet he was struggling to hit his target now that he was moving a lot more quickly.

 

As Harry flew slightly lower down, still not quite in reach of Rowle, he thought that it looked like Jugson’s flight-path appeared to suggest he was aiming to land straight on top of Williamson, then, without warning, there was flash of purple and yellow, before a small explosion of sparks and loud screaming from both Jugson and Williamson as they collided on the ground in a big thud.

 

The impact on the ground sent both men flying in opposite directions and from his vantage point Harry could not tell whether either man was alive or dead following the collision, but both of them at the very least looked like they might have been knocked out.

 

Rowle snuck a fearful glance behind him and saw Harry heading directly for him.

 

The blonde Death Eater retrieved his wand once more and fired yet another killing curse in Harry’s direction, although as they were still separated by a fair bit Harry had plenty of time to send a counter-curse and save himself, although in doing so he almost fumbled and dropped his wand, as the sharp-turn caused his singed right leg to wither in pain.

 

This setback did not appear to have been lost on Rowle, who seeking his opening, waved his wand and from it some furious looking flames emerged, soon developing into large, fearsome ones that Rowle wielded like a large whip, he cast it, attempting to catch Harry out in his horrific flaming wheel.

 

“AGUAMENTI!”

 

Harry’s hastily cast spell managed to extinguish some of the flames, but it seemed whatever dark magic Rowle had used this time was far stronger than the flames that he had cast earlier, as Harry had not managed to eliminate any more than half of his flaming wheel of death.

 

The flames were truly ferocious and they reminded him of the Fiendfyre that the late Vincent Crabbe had quite regrettably cast and lost control of in the Room of Requirement.

 

He panted slightly, feeling a little tired of the chase, before darting and dodging the dangerously hot flames that flew mercilessly towards him, relentlessly pursuing him, as his wand continued to extinguish as much as it possibly could.

 

Rowle’s distraction had worked perfectly.

 

Harry fumbled to try and get into a defensive position, but he was still trying to protect himself from the flames, let alone from any further curses from Rowle himself.

 

He was in the clear.

 

Rowle might actually kill him this time.

 

“AVADA-

 

“EXPELLIARMUS!”

 

Rowle’s wand flew from the sky before he could cast the killing curse that almost certainly would have ended Harry’s life.

 

Ernie Macmillan, clad in his muggle-police officer gear and all, had appeared out of absolutely nowhere, completely blind-siding the Death Eater on one of the spare brooms that he and Williamson had stored at the check-point in-case they needed to assist the air support team.

 

Ernie had certainly done just that.

 

“IMMOBULUS!”

 

Harry, thinking fast, shot the freezing charm quickly at Rowle’s broom to prevent him from trying to escape, as Ernie extinguished what remained of Rowle’s dark-magic induced flames in the sky, before he pulled up victoriously, floating in-front of the helpless Thorfinn Rowle, with his and the Death Eater’s wand in either hand.

 

Rowle, furious, yet clearly defeated, bit his lip nervously as he evaluated his very limited options.

 

“Good job, Ernie,” Harry shouted to his former Hufflepuff class-mate, who looked towards him and nodded in acknowledgement.

 

“I’ve got the other one tied up on the ground,” he said confidently. “Williamson took a nasty bump, but he should be alright. How do you propose we bring this guy down?” Ernie asked, as Rowle sighed angrily at hearing of Jugson being taken out of the picture.

 

“I’ll stay close to him from the front,” Harry proposed. “You use Wingardium Leviosa to float him down. If he tries anything I can soon confund him or put a body-bind curse on him, although I imagine you’d like the use of your hands to stay on your broom and avoid a nasty fall to the ground?” Harry added, addressing Rowle directly as he spoke the last part.

 

Rowle glared at him menacingly, saying nothing, before briefly looking down to the ground. Harry judged it was about a thirty or forty feet drop towards the barn and hilly ground below. He doubted even Rowle would be stupid enough to want to fall that far to the ground and he did not want to needlessly kill or maim the Death Eater by knocking him off his broom unnecessarily.

 

“Do you not think we should put some kind of body-bind on him now? You know, just in-case?” Ernie asked, as he eyed up Rowle and manoeuvred his broom so that he was directly behind him. 

 

“I think we should be alrigh-

 

“OWFUCK!!-

 

Harry had not even finished his sentence of reassurance when Rowle unleashed a vicious elbow out of nowhere onto Ernie, almost knocking him off of his broom. He instantly regretted his show of kindness to the Death Eater, but it was no problem, he had his wand at the ready and Rowle had no hope of escape, as Ernie still had his wand.

 

“PETRIFICUS TOTA-

 

What Harry had not anticipated, and for good reason, as no sane person would even attempt it, was what Thorfinn Rowle did next.

 

The large Death Eater balanced himself slightly on his broom, before taking an incredible leap of faith straight off of it and full on flung himself towards Harry in mid-air.

 

It caught Harry off guard completely and in what felt like a split second he felt one of Rowle’s massive shoulders and arms violently grab him, in what was something between a spear and a rugby tackle.

 

Harry felt his broom come loose from his legs and within an instance they were both hurtling down towards the ground. As he rapidly descended to the hilly terrain below, he felt Rowle’s firm grip and hulking body holding onto him, perhaps attempting to use him as some kind of safety mat for when they would hit the deck.

 

He felt the grip on his wand loosen, before it flew out of his hand altogether and was lost in the chaos. A few helpless seconds went by, before Harry felt a crushing pain of impact on his back a fair bit sooner than he had anticipated.

 

A deafening crash rang through his ears as Harry felt Rowle violently flung off in another direction, as piles of wood flew through the air and he eventually landed in a large pile of old, decrepit hay and horse-muck. Whatever offering of softening the hay may have had on his landing as he crashed through the old muggle-barn, was immediately offset by the tumbling piles of wood that soon crashed down on top of him in the aftermath.

 

Harry’s very last memory of the immediate moments following his crashing through the barn was one of unimaginable pain as a large chunk of wood landed on his right leg, before a smaller one tumbled down and hit him square on the head, which caused everything to fade to black.

 


 

When he first came to his senses Harry thought that he was awakening from a snooze in his makeshift bed in Ron’s room back at the Burrow, but the sharp pain in his back and his right leg soon reminded him of what had just happened.

 

His head was absolutely ringing in pain. He didn’t have that much feeling in either of his arms, but after a few moments of struggling he managed to clear a piece of wood off his head and began to attempt to pull his possibly broken leg from out of the pile of heavy debris that had landed on it.

 

“Harry?!”

 

“Harry are you alright, mate?!”

 

He heard Ernie’s voice from outside of the destroyed barn’s wreckage, but Harry could not quite muster the energy to reply before Ernie’s voice trailed off away and out of earshot.  

 

The dimly lit remains of the barn made it hard for Harry to work out where exactly he was. He reached to either side of himself trying desperately to find his glasses. It took him a little while but he soon found them scattered to his left hand side, but upon finding them he discovered that they’d been completely shattered on impact, rendering them completely useless anyway.

 

Harry used his hands to try and scan for his wand, but he couldn’t find it amongst all of the broken up wood, splinters and dried up old horse shit in the dark. To try and find it without his glasses would be somewhat akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, which seemed quite ironic given the large amounts of hay that surrounded him. He saw a slight glimmer of light to his right, where the barn was still somewhat held together into place and seemed to maintain some resemblance of structural integrity.  

 

With great caution he moved his body ever so slightly to try and peer through the gap in the wood, causing himself great pain in his right leg in the process of doing so, as it was still well and truly trapped below the heavy debris that lay awkwardly on top of it.

 

“We’ll find Harry soon, I’m sure he’ll be alright, he’s survived worse than that before.”

 

Through the small gap in the barn wall Harry squinted and thought he could just about make out the towering figure of Robert Williamson, who appeared to be back on his feet, although from his tone of voice he still sounded pretty heavily winded at the very least.

 

“Any sign of that blonde fella that came crashing down with him?” Williamson asked in the distance, presumably to Ernie.

 

“Not yet. He’s not in that big pile over there, perhaps he crashed in through the roof. I’ll check it out,” Ernie said, sounding slightly panicked, although all the same it did not sound like he had come to much harm and presumably had not been sent flying from his broom in the same fashion that Harry had by Rowle’s vicious elbow.

 

Harry was glad for Ernie, as he would not wish the ghastly levels of pain in his lower back, head and leg on anyone, except perhaps for Thorfinn Rowle. He tried to call out to Ernie and Robert, to alert them to his presence, but he could not find the strength and all that came out was a brief cackle. The energy from trying to call out to them seemed to exhaust Harry’s lungs and he even felt slightly dizzy upon having done so.

 

He tried focusing through the gap in the barn as intently as he could, trying desperately not to pass out again. He felt sick, like he might vomit, but he managed to move past it and soon reverted back to just being in a massive amount of pain instead.

 

With a great deal of effort Harry placed an arm on the side of the barn, so that he could prop himself against it and make his leg more comfortable as he peered out, but surprisingly as soon as he did this the weight of his full body against the side of the barn caused it to fall and completely collapse outwards on itself. He fell to the ground, which hurt his leg tremendously, but he knew he must now be at least half-way out of the barn, as instead of the humid, stuffy smell of shit he could now smell some real, clean, fresh air as well.

 

He looked up into the direction of where he had heard Ernie and Robert talking not long ago, but he could not see either of them anymore. Harry had imagined that his fall and the tumbling of the wood may have caused enough of a noise for one of them to notice, but it seemed neither Ernie nor Robert had heard it.

 

At least being outside in the air now he had more to try and look at and didn’t have to settle for peeping through a little hole. The light of the sun as well also made it slightly easier to see than when he’d been stuck inside the barn, so he concentrated on trying to locate his wand once more, but again with all of the shards of broken wood all around him it made it extremely difficult to do so.

 

“Oh for pity’s sake, that muggle man in his car is back,” Harry heard Ernie complain loudly.

 

“I’ll move him on again, keep looking for the other one,” Williamson ordered urgently, as Harry strained to pull himself along the ground slightly to try and catch a glimpse of the towering Auror in the distance.

 

He saw a big blur jogging swiftly past what must have been the anti-apparation perimeter to the track of dirt-road just outside, where a large car, possibly a Range Rover had pulled up.

 

Harry surveyed his surroundings once more as he tried desperately to wrench his damaged leg free from the rubble of wood, but it just wouldn’t budge, each time he tried a horrific surge of pain cut up it and caused him to have to stop before he passed out from the dizziness. He was not sure how badly he had hurt his leg, whether it was broken or not, but he was sure that the earlier burn he had sustained from Rowle’s fiery curse had not helped matters.  

 

Using what little strength he had left he leveraged himself against the ground to try and slowly, but surely, manoeuvre his burned and possibly broken leg in such a fashion that it would come out from under the wood. He leaned his right elbow firmly into the ground, clenching his teeth as he tried to pull himself out, but it was no good.

 

He sighed desperately, before the sun’s glowing glare against his watch caught his eye. Fabian Prewett’s old watch had taken a massive battering from his fall. The face of it had been utterly smashed and the clock hands no longer worked. Harry felt quite saddened, as whilst he could pick up another watch very easily, he doubted he would ever own another one which carried the same sentimental value.

 

Molly gifting him her dead brother’s watch had been one of the greatest presents he had ever received, as it had finally made him feel like a proper member of the Weasley family. He could get it fixed one day perhaps, although admittedly in that very moment a working watch was hardly that high up on his priority list.

 

What he really needed was his wand.

 

If he could only just find his –

 

But there it was!

 

In the reflection of the bashed up old watch’s face he could see it!

 

There, not all that far away from him, barely an arm’s reach away in-fact, was his wand, or at least he thought it looked very much like it.

 

His vision was blurry enough that he could not categorically be sure that it was his wand, but he was almost certain. 

 

“I REALLY MUST ASK YOU BOTH TO LEAVE!” he heard Williamson order in the distance, presumably to whoever was in the large muggle vehicle.

 

“BAS DO NA BRETAINE,” shouted one of the muggles with a thick accent in a language that Harry did not understand. He guessed it was Irish, or maybe his hearing was just a bit off.

 

 “I DO NOT WANT TO USE FORCE OR TO ARREST YOU,” Williamson continued in a hurried fashion. “BUT AS A MEMBER OF THE BRITISH MUGGLE POLICE I WILL HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO PROCEED WITH- ARGHH

 

A deafening shot ran out in the area and echoed hauntingly.

 

Such was the ferocity of the noise that the vehicle’s security alarm system began loudly blaring.

 

Harry, his ears still ringing, clamoured to get a good look of what had just happened.

 

To his shock and horror he saw the big figure of Robert Williamson on the ground, he squinted as hard as he could to see and to his surprise he saw one of the muggles sticking out of the vehicle with what looked like a gun.

 

They’d shot Robert Williamson!

 

“OH FUCKING HELL!” he heard Ernie yell, who Harry saw quickly sprint across the perimeter to help his fallen mentor.  

 

He moved himself again slightly, causing his leg a great deal of pain in the process, but he shuffled with all of his might to try and see what was happening and get closer to what might have been his wand.

 

Another brutal shot ran out and it looked to be aimed straight at Ernie, but with a slight crack, Ernie had apparated out of harm’s way at the last moment as the bullet flew towards him.

 

“EVANESCO!”

 

Suddenly the glass-windscreen of the vehicle, offering the two muggle men inside some form of protection from any potential spells, disappeared into thin air, although Harry could not quite see where Ernie had cast his charm from.

 

“STUPEFY!”

 

Harry heard the two muggle men groan loudly as the force of Ernie Macmillan’s surprise follow-up spell caused them to crash back against their seats, possibly knocking them both unconscious on impact.

 

Ernie looked satisfied that the threat was duly nullified and Harry saw him turn back towards his fallen mentor Robert Williamson, when suddenly Harry saw a very large shadow slowly limping towards them both.

 

He looked back towards where his wand was located.

 

With all of his remaining strength Harry leaped towards his wand, hearing a nasty tear and rip on his leg that caused him perhaps more pain than he had ever felt in his life, yet his fingers had just missed his wand.

 

“EXPULSIO!”

 

The large muggle-vehicle erupted into a large fire-ball, instantly vaporising the helpless muggles inside.

 

Ernie was almost sent flying off his feet, but he used his arms to instinctively shield himself from the blast.

 

Harry watched as his former class-mate and friend almost fell down to the ground, before turning towards the direction of where the blasting spell had come from with his wand drawn ready for a duel.

 

Harry felt his finger-tips just grasp his wand and he tried desperately to pivot himself into such a position that he could pick it up and stop what was about to happen, but as he gripped it his fingers slipped, and it fell just out of his reach once more.

 

“STUPEFY!”

 

“AVADA KEDAVRA!”

 

There was a blinding flash of green-light.

 

Rowle’s killing curse overwhelmed the spell that Ernie Macmillan had fired towards him, drowning it out and casting him down to the ground like a discarded piece of chewing gum.  

 

 “No!” Harry sighed hopelessly to himself, as he could just make out his friend’s lifeless dead body laying limp on the floor beside the wrecked Range Rover.

 

He was momentarily completely consumed by grief and anger, grief for his fallen friend, anger once more that someone else had needlessly fallen to a Death Eater when he could have helped prevent it.

 

“Nice one, Finn,” he heard Jugson comment, as he tried once more to reach for his wand.

 

In the chaos of the muggles arriving Rowle must have sneaked out from wherever he had been hiding, found his wand and untied his partner in crime.

 

Harry cursed his luck.

 

If he had a big hulking body like Rowle he might well have been able to walk away from that fall himself.

   

The way in which the barn had fallen in on itself Harry thought that he was still covered enough that they may not be able to see him, although his vision wasn’t good enough that he could easily confirm that.

 

There were hot, white tears forming in his eyes as well, caused by both grief and anger, and they too clouded his vision.

 

“That kid apparated just after them muggles shot at the big fella. So right about ‘ere must be past whatever apparation enchantment they stuck on the place,” Harry heard Jugson stammer out, as the Death Eater slowly staggered towards his much taller comrade.

 

“Selwyn and Travers must be caught, or dead, we need to leave now or we’ll soon follow ‘em.”

 

“You can follow them if you like,” Rowle spat. “I’m not finished here. I’m gonna make sure that big ginger bastard is dead, then I’m gonna kill Potter and anyone else that my Inferi and Selwyn’s little cunt Elf didn’t finish off.”

 

Harry finally felt his finger-tips grasp his wand again, this time he tried desperately not to let it slip out of them before he could fully wield it, although his heart was beating rapidly, such was his panic and fury.

 

“Finn, even The Dark Lord himself couldn’t kill Potter,” Jugson said nervously, as Harry gripped his wand with his right hand, but he was still facing the wrong way to cast a clear shot at either of them.

 

He would have to re-position himself to be sure that he could definitely hit either of them, especially without his glasses on.  

 

”What makes you think we can?” Jugson added nervously, as Harry thought he heard a female voice and the sound of running in the distance.

 

Perhaps it was some of the others, or Kingsley, coming to their aid.

 

He hoped very much that it was, as he felt himself going dizzy again from the anger, the stress and most of all the pain in his leg, head and back.

 

“I learnt much from The Dark Lord,” Rowle growled. “But some things, even he was blind to, especially with Potter. Dolohov had this theory that-

 

“Did you hear that fuckin’ voice, Finn?!” Jugson cried. “More of ‘em are coming. That was too high pitch to be Kit or Rufus! Sounded like a woman! Let’s get out of here whilst we still can!”

 

Harry clenched his teeth and moved himself over, propping himself so that he could see them both as clearly as possible.

 

They were not too far from him.

 

They were within shooting distance, but he was dizzy, so very dizzy.

 

“If they want to come… let them come. I’ll give them a fucking welcoming sign!” Rowle snarled, before casting his wand into the sky.

 

“MOLS MORDE!”

 

Harry swore under his breath in abject fury as the Death Eater boldly cast the Dark Mark into the sky, illuminating their position to any remaining survivors of the raid.

 

“YOU MUST’VE HIT YOUR HEAD PRETTY BAD ON THAT FUCKIN’ FALL YOU DAFT CUNT!” Jugson shouted angrily. “HAVE YOU LOST YOUR DAMN MIND?!” he said, pushing his comrade slightly, although given the size difference between the two he did not push him all that far.

 

This distraction of the two in-fighting however was just what Harry had needed.

 

“SECTUMSEMPRA!”

 

 Harry fired the curse straight at the big blur of Thorfinn Rowle.

 

In his consumption by rage and anger in the moment he was not quite sure what his exact intention had been for the Death Eater, knowing what Severus Snape’s old curse had previously inflicted on Draco Malfoy, but at that moment he knew for sure that he had to take Rowle down – and he wanted him to feel it.  

 

“ARGHFUCKK!”

 

Rowle instantly screamed out in pain.

 

Harry was unsure where exactly he got him, but it looked like it might have been in the chest, or maybe even as high up as the neck.

The strength Harry had used to cast the strong, violent curse had taken a lot out of him.

 

He thought that at the very least he still remained covered on the ground, which was just as well as he could feel himself become very dizzy, too dizzy to cast another spell, too dizzy to even watch on, but he clenched his teeth and pried himself to carry on watching, trying desperately to find the strength to fire another spell in their direction.

 

“Fuck!” he heard Jugson yell suddenly.

 

“GEH- US O-T OV HEERE!” Rowle yelped in pain like a wounded dog.

 

“In this state?! You might splinch… it could kill you!” Jugson cried in terror, suddenly not in as such of a hurry to leave as his now potentially mortally wounded partner.

 

“JUS-T FU- FUCK-ING DO IT!” Rowle spluttered once more, before Jugson reached over to him with his hand - and with a loud sudden clack, they were both gone.

 

“No,” Harry sighed to himself.

 

“No!”

 

Why did he cast Sectumsempra?

 

He could have used a simpler spell to trap them both, or disarm them both, or confund them both… or anything!

 

Hindsight was a beautiful thing.

 

He looked up towards the sun as he began to feel sick again.

 

The sun was a beautiful thing.

 

It was shining so brightly, so lovely.

 

Harry felt the back of his head hit the muddy grass behind him as he looked up at the sun.

 

“THE DARK MARK IS OVER HERE! I THINK I CAN SEE POTTER!”

 

The sun almost looked like a snitch in a way.

 

It was so shiny, so small, yet so big.

 

It would be much bigger if he flew closer towards it.

 

Yes, that would be nice.

 

He could get back on his broom and he could catch the sun.

 

Ginny would like that.

 

Yes, she would think he was the best boyfriend ever if he caught her the sun.

 

“HARRY!”

 

Who was that calling his name?

 

It didn’t sound like Ginny.

 

“HARRY, ARE YOU ALRIGHT?!”

 

“Whus threre?” Harry mumbled, more to himself than anyone else.

 

He thought he saw the very worried and concerned looking face of Hestia Jones standing over him, but that wasn’t right, she wasn’t on the mission.

 

And did she always have two heads? 

 

One of the heads kind of looked like Savage.

 

It couldn’t be Hestia.

 

Or maybe it was.

 

“Harry, are you alright?” the strange double-headed woman asked once more, although this time Harry could not even muster a reply.

 

He felt all of the energy in his body suddenly leave him, and thankfully with it, all of the pain too.

 

The world suddenly faded to black as he passed out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Chapter 24: Percy III - Magical Matches
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

Authors Notes: 

 

Before we get into this chapter I want to give a big shout-out to the people who have taken the time out to post lovely reviews in the last few weeks and months during these difficult times. 

 

So a special thanks to some_random_person, hp_lover334, Ginny Lovegood and MissLacyBee.

 

There was also a few reviews from Anonymous reviewers, whilst I can't thank you by name I still say thank you very much!


 


 

Percy exhaled heavily, as even more of his insides painstakingly made their way out of his bowels and into the toilet basin below. The small of his diarrhoea in the Indian summer was, quite frankly, revolting. He retched slightly, momentarily worrying that some vomit would soon join the watery excrement in the pan.

 

The stress of the past few weeks had caught up with him in a rather big and rather disgusting fashion. Perhaps signing up to this mission had just been one giant mistake. He had hoped keeping himself busy would keep his mind off of his brother’s untimely death – and to an extent, it had. But he still wrestled with inner turmoil surrounding it on a daily basis, which combined with his homesickness and the constant change in climate, time-zone and lack of sleep was not a mix that his stomach appeared to be too fond of.

 

He supposed the constant change in diet hadn’t done him much good either, as in each new country they usually found themselves eating something completely different. This had not troubled Dedalus however, as he was a well-seasoned traveller from his days as an international Gobstones player. He had been particularly looking forward to their stop off in Jaipur as he had been there many a time, albeit many decades ago in his youth.

 

Diggle had been very insistent in indulging in some spicy food, and, not wanting to be embarrassed or outdone in front of their host, Percy had naively agreed to try whatever it was the eccentric little wizard had ordered. Dedalus may not have been all that good at keeping down alcohol, but when it came to spicy food he seemed to possess an iron stomach, whilst Percy’s stomach, used to the classic and not particularly adventurous British dishes that his Mother or the Elves at Hogwarts prepared, was evidently not so suited for such spiciness.

 

The mouth-wateringly hot dishes that the Indian waiters had prepared for them had been pretty tasty, but they had also been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back in Percy’s stomach, leaving him no choice but to urgently excuse himself from the dinner table just as they had finished their main course.

 

He knew already that he had been gone for so long that both Diggle and his illustrious British-Indian host would have no doubt about what it was he was doing in the loos. It was far too long to have been a quick trip for a wee.

 

Percy cursed his luck.

 

One of the only things that had remained consistent throughout their trip so far was the constant rejection from the prospective candidates he was trying to recruit for the British cause. Whether they were a potions master from Venice, an Obliviator from Roskilde or a Magical Creatures expert from Malta, none of the prospective candidates had been interested in answering the call to return to Britain, which they had all once called home at various points in their life.

 

Ramesh Patil, Head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, was understandably distraught at how desperately bad their mission had gone so far. Percy was not sure if Patil blamed him and Diggle for the poor response so far, but when he had last spoken to him from a fireplace in Antalya a few days ago, Patil had sounded very stressed and disappointed by it all.

 

Perhaps he was concerned that after receiving the recent promotion that his new boss, the Minister of Magic, would already be casting doubts about his decision to give him the big job. Percy did not believe that Kingsley Shacklebolt would be so rash in his judgment – and, furthermore, even if he was, if this recruitment drive was anything to go by it wasn’t as if he would be able to find a more experienced replacement at the drop of a hat either way.

 

This particular journey to Jaipur was a very important one though, as Kushal Shafiq, India’s head of the Ministry of Magalu (muggle) Relations, was arguably the one person that Kingsley had wanted to hire more than any other. Shafiq, in his early thirties, had been getting rave reviews in international wizarding circles for several years – and he was an ideal candidate to feel the vacant Head of Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes post, which Sturgis Podmore currently held on an interim basis.

 

Podmore was a good worker, but he lacked the innovation and creative mind to reform the Department in the fashion that Kingsley envisioned in his mind. Shafiq was an ideal candidate to do it as he was more experienced and had spent the last few years revolutionising India’s equivalent department, helping to lead them into the new age of modern magic, as well as playing a part in making them one of the most forward thinking and ground-breaking countries in the Wizarding world full-stop.

 

The best part of it was that Kushal Shafiq was not just an ex-Hogwarts alumni, but he was actually a distant cousin of Ramesh Patil, and Ramesh believed that the slightly younger man could very well be talked into moving back to Britain. He knew that Kushal had three relatively young children, all of which were rapidly approaching school-age, and the appeal of them attending Hogwarts, still a prestigious school on the world stage, as well as his own routes as a Ravenclaw prefect, would surely seal the deal.

 

Dedalus had also spotted something incredibly interesting in a local English language newspaper that he had found in the lobby of the restaurant they were currently dining it, which Shafiq’s Father happened to own. The Magical Mumbai front cover story was actually reporting that Shafiq was in talks with the British Ministry of Magic over an important role, and that Kushal and his wife had refused to rule out a return to the country that he had been born and raised in.

 

“Defaeco,” Percy uttered softly, before his bottom was wiped magically clean and he vanished the hideous mess that it had created in the pan below.  

 

He exited the cubicle and looked at himself in the bathroom mirror, before aggressively washing his hands. The soap by the sink smelled of a luxurious lavender, which juxtaposed how he looked and felt in that moment quite dramatically. His white shirt was drowned in damp-patches and his face was covered in sweat. He ran his wet hands through his thick, red hair as he contemplated all of his life choices that had led him to that moment.  

 

The only thing still motivating him in getting through this mission was getting to see Penny when they finally made it to New York. There were a few stops after Jaipur before they would reach New York, but it was now days, rather than weeks, before he would see her again. The thought brought a smile to his face and gave him the motivation and confidence he needed to get back out there.

 

Percy exited the lavishly decorated bathroom, briefly pausing as he first left it to let a young waiter pass him on their way back to the kitchens. The smell of sizzling spicy meat almost made him make a u turn back for the toilet, but his stomach quickly moved past it and he strolled nonchalantly back towards their window-side table, where Dedalus and Shafiq appeared to be talking to another waiter, perhaps discussing the bill.

 

As he got closer towards them, Percy began to hear Diggle’s unmistakable high pitch tone in a conversation with the young restaurant worker.

 

“Are you ready to order dessert, sir?”

 

“Yes,” he heard Diggle squeak in reply. “But my friend’s just popped to the toilet.”

 

“Oh,” the waiter mumbled nervously. “Do you have any idea what he is having, sir?”

 

“Well he’s been in there a while, so I imagine he’s having a poo!” Diggle added, before bursting into laughter.

 

“Dedalus,” Percy fumbled out with a smile, trying his best not to look like he was too annoyed in front of Shafiq, who in fairness did appear to have quite enjoyed Diggle’s joke.

 

“Oh there you are, Percy!” Dedalus giggled. “Do you fancy a dessert?”

 

“Erm, possibly,” Percy stalled.

 

He wondered if there would be an option that wasn’t too heavy. Given the state of his stomach he could perhaps manage some kind of light ice cream type dish, but anything more than that would probably be a bad idea.

 

“What are my options?” he asked cautiously, more to the waiter than Diggle himself.

 

“Yes or no!” Dedalus quipped, before laughing again. Shafiq again found this rather funny, although the waiter just stood there looking pretty awkward, perhaps not sure whether he should laugh or not.

 

“I’ll have the Payasam, my good chap,” Diggle said to the waiter, as he reached over and handed Percy the menu.

 

“Excellent choice, sir,” the young Indian man replied, making a note on his pad. “And for you, Mister Shafiq, sir?”

 

Percy studied the menu quickly.

 

It looked like Dedalus had ordered some kind of nut and raisin rice pudding dish. Percy did quite like rice pudding, but the thought of it at that very moment made him feel a little bit sick.

 

“Sandesh for me, thank you.”

 

“Very good, Mister Shafiq, sir.”

 

Shafiq had appeared to order a sweet cottage cheese based dish, which was enthused with cardamom and saffron. It didn’t particularly make Percy’s stomach feel all that good either.

 

“And for you sir, have you decided?” the waiter asked, finally addressing Percy himself.

 

“Erm,” Percy mumbled, as he scanned the list of desserts for something as plain as possible. “I’ll take the coconut ice cream, please, thank you,” he decided, not wanting to stall any longer.

 

“Fantastic!” the waiter concluded, before scribbling Percy’s choice down and politely taking the menu off of him, before scurrying off to the kitchen.

 

“Now that you have returned, Mister Weasley,” Shafiq began, as he adjusted his purple-rimmed modern looking glasses, causing a scent trail of bergamot and jasmine to emit from his heavily perfumed hands. “I fear we must return back to business.”

 

“Yes,” Percy stammered, as he finished drinking some more of the icy bottled table water to steady himself and his stomach.

 

“As I’m sure you are no doubt aware,” Percy began. “Our newly appointed Minister of Magic is most interested in acquiring your services in a similar role to the one you hold here in India.”

 

Shafiq smiled.

 

“I believe that most of India is aware, Mister Weasley, not just me,” he added somewhat smugly, most likely referring to the newspaper coverage this meeting had garnered.

 

“The British Ministry is willing to offer you and your family a most generous package should you be inclined to take up the position, as well as offering you a lot of flexibility in the implementation of your ideas to achieve similar economic and population increases that you have achieved here.”

 

They had already discussed in some detail Shafiq’s somewhat controversial policies that had made India one of the fasting growing Wizarding economies in the world.

 

In the last decade he had managed to help transform a dwindling population by incorporating a radical program, which involved expanding upon the way in which Indian witches and wizards found a partner to start a family with.

 

India, much like Britian itself, traditionally saw pure-blood families inter-marry to keep their blood-lines pure, with the occasional marriage to a half-blood here and there when there was a shortage of pure-blood suitors.

 

Shafiq’s own Father had bucked this trend however, instead choosing to marry a muggle-born witch from a wealthy muggle family. This was a great departure, given the Shafiq line was synonymous enough with pure-blood lineage that the British contingent, of which Shafiq’s father’s generation had been part of, had been listed as part of the Sacred Twenty-Eight when it had been published in the 1930s.

 

Shafiq’s Father, a fledging businessman who spotted a gap in the market, had originally set up what may well have been the wizarding world’s first ever Dating Program many decades prior, ‘Magical Matches’, which was specifically designed to match Indian witches and wizards with eligible suitors in a bid to combat dwindling birth-rates in the country.

 

Magical Matches was a huge success and Kushal had followed in his father’s footsteps, but, when he had been offered a job at the Indian government in the late 1980s, he had gone a step even further. With the help of his Father, he had revolutionised the dating program even more, by opening it up to include highly-vetted and highly-desirable muggle men and women too, most of whom were all extremely rich.

 

It had been considered very controversial when first introduced, and even now when Indian witches and wizards signed up to the scheme they still had to sign a waiver not to sue if they found a muggle-match but birthed a squib heir instead of a magical one. But, for the most part, this was actually quite rare, and in a society where decades of pure-blood inbreeding had made birthing children far from easy to begin with, it had been another raging success for the Shafiq family and made them even richer, as well as simultaneous increasing India’s fortunes at the same time.

 

Kushal had been the poster boy for his own innovation, as he himself had found his muggle wife from Magical Matches and he was now the proud Father of three young magical children. This had clearly helped sell it to the rest of the country and the Shafiq family had since expanded in other international markets too, but never before in Britain.

 

“My Father and I have always been keen to expand Magical Matches to Britain. We have had much success across Asia, the United States and elsewhere in Europe.” Shafiq stated, before pausing slightly as the waiter returned to serve them their desserts. “But all of the previous regimes in Britain have shown little to no interest in permitting us to set-up an office there. British exceptionalism was the most likely reason for that I imagine.”

 

“Thank you,” he added quickly to the waiter, as Diggle popped in with his own very excited thank-you before wasting no time and quickly tucking in to his dessert.

 

“Thanks,” Percy said to the already departing waiter, as he took a small spoonful of the creamy coconut ice-cream, which he had to admit was pretty tasty.

 

“Kingsley’s regime is different,” he added, before quickly eating another spoonful. “I’m sure alongside other economic efforts that he would wholly approve of incorporating Magical Matches into the British market. I certainly would!”

 

“That is most interesting,” Shafiq said, although he did not commit to so much as a smile on his face, despite Percy’s heavily feigned enthusiasm to try to get him on side. “Would you sign up then, Mister Weasley? Are you looking for a partner yourself?”

 

Percy almost choked on his ice-cream.

 

“Wh-who-me? No! No I’m not at all,” Percy managed to scoff out, as Diggle erupted into laughter.

 

“Young Perce here has already got his heart set on someone,” Dedalus added, smiling at Shafiq.

 

“Oh, do you really, Mister Weasley? How lovely. I was not aware that you had a girlfriend.”

 

“Well-

 

“She’s not his girlfriend,” Diggle laughed, as Percy furiously tried to kick him under the table to get him to shut up. “Not yet anyway! She immigrated to America, he hasn’t seen her in almost a year, but I’m sure when we get there it will be love at first sight all over again.”

 

Percy flushed red with embarrassment. He scoffed down a few scoops of ice cream in an attempt to cool himself down.

 

“You better get there fast, Mister Weasley,” Shafiq said in a sly voice. “America’s our fastest growing market for Magical Matches – and the ladies sure do love an American boy!”

 

Percy laughed awkwardly as Diggle giggled at Shafiq’s remark, but his heart almost skipped a beat.

 

He had never really given any serious thought to the idea that Penny might have found love in New York.

 

In that moment the sudden realisation that she might well have done just that gripped him, making him almost seize up in fear and make him feel like he needed another trip to the toilet.

 

But no.

 

He and Penny were meant to be.

 

He had waited for her.

 

She would be there, waiting for him.

 

He was sure of it.

 

It was written in the stars.

 

“We will of course offer all three of your children a school-place at Hogwarts when they are old enough to begin their education,” Percy said, as he changed the subject and attempted to gloss over Shafiq’s comments.  “I believe your eldest would be looking to start as soon as September.”

 

“Ah,” Kushal sighed. “So there is still a school left standing, then? It was my impression that in recent months it had resembled more a warzone than an educational facility.”

 

“I can assure you Mister Shafiq, the school’s faculty and Ministry staff have been working round the clock to ensure that Hogwarts is back in working order for the start of the new school year in September,” Percy quickly clarified, keen to reassure Shafiq of any concerns he may have had.

 

“That was the main reason my family left Britain in the first place, you know,” Shafiq said. “It is not safe. It is no place to raise a young family, Mister Weasley. In Britain, you have countless wars. Here in India, we like to count less wars.”

 

“Let me promise you, Kushal,” Diggle piped up. “You Know Who and his followers are gone for good this time! They won’t be a problem any longer.”

 

“What I believe my esteemed colleague is trying to say,” Percy quickly added. “Is that we in Britain do not enjoy warfare, far from it, but as Dedalus quite rightfully points out, You Know Who and his followers have been defeated now and-

 

Shafiq scoffed, before eating the final piece of his dessert.

 

“You say he and his followers have been defeated,” he said with a sneer, before taking a quick sip of water. “But you still have a whole pack of Death Eaters on the loose! That sort of environment is no place to a raise a young family.”

 

Percy finished his ice-cream and felt somewhat deflated.

 

Shafiq was proving a tougher sell than the local newspaper had seemed to indicate he would be.

 

Perhaps he was just haggling for a better offer.

 

Percy decided to try and brown-nose him a little further.

 

“I understand your concerns, Mister Shafiq,” Percy began confidently, as Kushal raised an eyebrow in a quite condescending fashion at him. “From all that I have read on Indian magical politics you have helped create quite a lot of very effective policies in terms of security and defence here. We would be very interested in using your experience in the field to help tackle the current slight Death Eater… niggle.”

 

Shafiq sighed, perhaps not too convinced by Percy’s hasty attempt to gloss over six very dangerous, radicalised dark wizards on the loose as nothing more than a slight niggle.

 

“You flatter me, but as I’m sure you’re aware my concern and focus is purely with regards to security in relation to Magalu threats, not pure-blood extremist death cults.”

 

Kushal was proving a hard nut to crack.

 

“And what Magalu threats are there exactly, if you don’t mind me asking?” Diggle responded, seeming somewhat interested. 

 

“Our primary concern of course is the threat of conflict and the nuclear arms race between the Magalu governments of India and Pakistan,” Shafiq answered, seemingly a bit offended that Dedalus was not aware of it. “It is my job to ensure our magical communities are protected in the event of such a reality, where missiles or in the worst case scenario, a nuclear bomb is dropped. Which is not all that unlikely given in the last few weeks our Magalu government, and Pakistan’s, have both been flexing their muscles and testing their nuclear capabilities. A concern to be sure, but under my watch there will be no repeat of The Nightmare of Nagasaki.”

 

The Nightmare of Nagasaki was a horror story familiar with absolutely anybody who had taken even their first year of History of Magic at Hogwarts. It was one of the worst magical catastrophes of living memory – nothing in the last century really came close to it.

 

It was a story of love, loss and great tragedy.

 

Japan’s muggle government had been locked in conflict with the United States of America for many years, with the latter keen to end the Second Muggle World War without need for a land invasion. The Japanese had no intention of surrendering that easily, so the Americans dropped an Atom bomb on the city of Hiroshima.

 

Percy didn’t really understand the muggle science of what exactly an Atom bomb was, or how it was made, but he did know that it was a very destructive weapon, even by magical standards. The bomb had killed somewhere in the region of one hundred thousand muggles, such was the destruction that nobody could be too sure on the exact number of lives that had been lost.

 

One life that had been lost however, was Eriko Yamamato, a muggle woman in her late-twenties, who, as destiny would have it, would become a name synonymous in Wizarding history given the events that followed three days after her death.

 

Eriko, when she was killed in the Hiroshima blast, was pregnant with the child of her secret lover and fiancé, one of Wizarding Japan’s brightest and most talented users of magic, Takeshi Yamaguchi.    

 

Yamaguchi burst onto the global Wizarding scene as a trailblazer and revolutionary talent as soon as he had left school, becoming known in the West as the “Merlin of the East”. It was rumoured that he considered both Newt Scamander and Albus Dumbledore as close friends – and his work in experimental defensive magic and especially in warding, was second to none.

 

The nuclear strike on Hiroshima had not had a great impact on Wizarding Japan, because there was no magical infrastructure or communities anywhere near the city, with the nearest built-up Wizarding area over two hundred miles away in Kyoto.

 

Kyoto, as well as the northern island of Hokkaido, were home to a fair amount of Japanese witches and wizards, but by far the biggest magical community in Japan was based in Nagasaki. The community based in Nagasaki was well-hidden from muggles and far larger than any equivalent in Britain. Percy envisioned it being double or maybe even triple the size of the UK’s largest wizarding village in Hogsmeade, as it had been home to over two thousand Japanese users of magic, as well as a vast array of creatures and beasts.

 

Whilst it had been proven throughout the Second Muggle World War that muggle weapons were no match for magical defences, the Japanese wizarding government were still proactive and wanted to ensure that they could protect their population against any potential future blasts. They instructed their Ward team to immediately launch protections against such strikes, tasking their best and brightest, Yamaguchi, with the most important job of all, protecting the large community in Nagasaki.

 

There were numerous different stories of what exactly happened next, but all of the most reputable Japanese and Western magical historians told varying interpretations of essentially the same story. Takeshi, unbeknownst to his higher ups or anyone around him, was stricken by grief and the loss of his wife to be and unborn child. He didn’t sleep for many days, seeking solace only in drinking large amounts of sake, a type of alcoholic Japanese wine made from rice.

 

Three days after the Hiroshima nuclear strike, another Atom bomb was dropped on Japan by the Americans, this time flattening Nagasaki. The magical community there, of just over two thousand people, should have been protected by Yamaguchi’s enchantments, but as he tearfully admitted at a grand trial six weeks later, in his sleep deprived, grief-stricken drunken depression, he had failed to adequately protect the magical village.  

 

The death and devastation that followed as a result of this, was catastrophic. The entire village was flattened, with every magical man, woman, child and creature that had lived there being wiped off the face of the earth. There were no survivors.

 

Yamaguchi, who should have gone down as one of the heroes in the history of modern wizarding Japan, was instead confined to the history books as one of its biggest villains. He pleaded guilty to all charges at his public trial, which took place ironically just a few days after muggle-Japan had surrendered, ending the war and the prospect of any future nuclear strikes in the process.   

 

Takeshi had disgraced both his family name and his nation, and following his public hearing had been left with only one choice to restore any sense of pride, face and dignity, Seppuku – a traditional Japanese ritual, which sees the partaker use a muggle blade to ceremoniously strike themselves in the stomach, killing themselves in the process.

 

The thought of it made Percy’s stomach curdle.

 

He looked once more at Shafiq – and he saw someone who looked talented, capable, and a man who certainly would not repeat the mistakes of Takeshi Yamaguchi.

 

“Mister Shafiq,” Percy sighed heavily. “Do you have even the slightest bit of interest in taking up the position we are head-hunting you for?”

 

“Not really, no,” he replied quickly with a brief smile, much to Diggle’s disappointment.

 

Percy cursed his luck and felt like ordering a round of heavy spirits, regardless of what his stomach might have thought of it. He was not looking forward to the conversation he would have to have with Ramesh Patil about this latest development.

 

“Then, indulge me if you may, why did you even agree to this meeting in the first place?”

 

To this, a bold remark even by Percy’s usual standards, Shafiq really began to grin in a very suave sort of fashion.

 

“I could’ve sworn that local paper said you was interested ‘n all!” Diggle cried indignantly.

 

“Mister Diggle,” Shafiq said warmly, looking at Dedalus who really did seem quite put out by this rejection, given he had seemed to have put more effort than usual in building up rapport with Shafiq than other prospective candidates.

 

“Mister Weasley,” he added softly.

 

“At heart, I am a businessman. It is nothing personal, but you must understand, allowing my President to believe that I had even the slightest bit of interest in your Ministry’s proposal gave me a lot of leverage. That newspaper story especially gave him quite the fright,” Shafiq said, before suddenly smiling once more.

 

“He almost doubled my salary overnight such was his panic!” he winked.  “So please make sure to send Mister Shacklebolt my upmost regards… you have been most helpful.”

 

“Bloody hell!” Diggle swore. “Now that is clever, Perce, you can’t knock that!”

 

Percy mumbled in faux agreement as he rose from the table indicating to Diggle that they should now leave, he was not in the slightest bit impressed by how Shafiq had used them and wasted their time.  

 

“Thank you for your… hospitality, Mister Shafiq, good day,” he reluctantly offered as parting words through his tightly clenched teeth.

 

“That is no problem,” Kushal said, rising up to shake both of their hands. “Oh and one last thing, Mister Weasley,” Shafiq added, as he gleefully took a sip from his drink.

 

“My Father and I are still very interested in expanding Magical Matches to Britain, even if I will not be relocating and working in your government… if your Minister is keen, please do get in touch, after all… you may well need us if your missus has hooked up with a strapping young American guy!”  

 

 



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