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Author's Note: Ok so this chapter is major in terms of the plot and also in terms of emotion. I know that at some points in this chapter you may not get all the information but don't worry in due time, my dear readers! The story is picking up and things are getting more complicated. I hope you like this next installment. As always reviews are much loved and thank you for tuning into my story!
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Chapter 11- Lies


Hermione and Harry were on their walk home from the ministry. The cold, crisp March air had caused both of them to bundle up a little more than usual for the day wearing their ministry cloaks along with scarves to match. Normally, Harry would’ve just apparated, but Hermione was fond of the walk through the city and back to his- or, as it was turning out to be, their- flat. It had become their evening routine as of late. Ever since they had returned from Italy, the pair had rather enjoyed their long strolls together as it gave them a chance to talk, something they had sorely missed for the last two years.

They had returned from Italy the week before. Hermione had been saddened to leave, but having Harry there helped ease her pain. He had done his best to comfort her as she bade goodbye to the Tattori villa for the time being.

Arm in arm they walked through the streets as the sun made its way down for the day.

As they approached the stairs leading up to the complex, Harry felt a sudden heat emitting from his pocket. Reaching his hand inside, he felt for the enchanted coin that he knew was causing the warmth.

It was Ron.

Harry and Ron had long ago taken one from Hermione’s book and enchanted two coins with dual Protean charms along with a few other charms they’d learn from the Auror department so as to make a fool proof method of communication for their travels.

“Damnit!” Harry pretended to smack his forehead like he was upset. “I left that file on my desk… I’m sorry, Hermione. I’ve gotta run back to the ministry. Ed’ll kill me if I don’t read that over tonight.”

“Alright, see you when you get back,” said Hermione with an easy shrug.

“You sure you’ll be ok getting in?”

“Harry, I’m perfectly capable of unlocking a door… Go on, now.” Hermione shooed Harry off as she climbed the stairs. Harry nodded and then back pedaled towards the alleyway so that he could apparate.

Behind the cover of the building, Harry pulled out the coin and placed his wand’s tip to it. The coin radiated a bright gold glow with the touch of his wand, the coin having recognized Harry’s holly wood and phoenix feather core. Suddenly, the words on the coin rearranged themselves until finally they formed an address. Quickly Harry read the location and then with a POP! apparated away.

Harry’s eyes had to readjust to the darkness that he had apparated into. He seemed to be in some cellar with stone walls dimly lit by a single flame coming from a lantern. Before him were two men grunting in an obvious struggle with each other.

“Lumos!” he called. The illumination from his wand allowed Harry to finally see a dark haired man in a black cloak strangling a man on his knees. With a great heave, the attacker lifted his victim in an attempt to finish him off giving Harry a very clear view of a blue faced Ron, his eyes nearly bulging out.

Harry did the only thing he could think of. He punched the attacker straight in the nose.

The man released Ron who immediately started gasping for much needed air. Harry grabbed the first thing he could find: a frying pan. With a great arc, he smashed the attacker over the head causing him to fall to the ground in a heap, unconscious.

“It-it took… you… long enough,” spurted Ron still holding his throat.

“Sorry… couldn’t get away.” Harry bent down to help Ron stand. “Who’s this charming fellow?”

“Vito Mancini… he’s the son of one of the blokes Hermione got kicked off from the Wizengamot.” Ron searched the ground and found his wand. Flicking it towards the fireplace, he set a small fire in the hearth. Harry took note of the cramped quarters Ron was living in. Besides the tiny fireplace, there was a cot in the corner with a trunk at the end of it. Off to the side by some cabinets was a table with a couple of chairs. Ron still gingerly rubbing his throat walked over to one and sat down.

Harry went about restraining Vito before joining Ron.

“So what are your plans then?”

“Ed gave me a large supply of polyjuice potion so I’m going to become dear old Vito here. I figure I can lock him in the trunk-”

“Like Crouch did with Moody?” Ron nodded as he summoned a couple of glasses and two butterbeer bottles. “Did Ed give you translation beetles?” Harry asked as Ron poured.

“Yeah… weird, aren’t they?” Ron took a huge swig of his drink which seemed to help his throat a bit. “I kinda like the feeling of them though… He gave me two sets of the Italian ones- not to mention all the other languages he gave me just in case. They pretty much have to be in the entire time. My beetles are always so tired… I think they might hate me.”

Harry smirked. Ron never did have much luck with magical creatures. “Gelato’s the trick… especially Pistachio.”

“Really?” asked Ron hopefully.

“Yeah they love it… also they like to bathe in olive oil. It’s apparently good for the exoskeleton or something. I can only speak for the Italian ones though.”

“Hmm, I’ll keep that in mind.” Ron finished his glass and immediately poured himself another while Harry still nursed at his own.

“So what have you heard so far? Do you know what they’re planning?”

Ron shook his head and sighed, “No… there’s tons of rumors going around. Most people are too scared to talk though, so I can’t get anything out of them. There’s a huge inner circle here that’s hard to tap into. The polyjuice is going to be my only way in. I finally got this bastard alone…” Ron scowled at the still very unconscious Vito.

“Inner circle?” inquired Harry.

“Oh yeah… the three families that she got kicked off: the Mancinis, Rizzos, and Costas… it’s insane. It’s like all those muggle tales of Italian mafias. They pretty much control everything down here. I’ll know more when I get in.”

“How you gonna work the accent? And the whole speaking Italian thing?”

“Gotta eat the beetles...”

Harry nearly spit out his drink. “What?!”

“Well you’re not allowed to chew or anything… they get real mad if you do! You just open your mouth and they crawl in there. They latch onto your vocal chords or something. I have to get them to mimic this git’s voice before I have them latch… Have you really not done it?” asked Ron surprised.

“No… sounds disgusting!”

“It feels a bit creepy at first with them wiggling around in your mouth and all, but once they start it’s the oddest thing. It’s almost soothing on your throat... like you’ve taken a throat numbing potion or something,” Ron explained.

The two friends went silent for second. Harry tried his best not to shiver at the thought of the beetles squirming around in his throat. The idea really did wig him out.

“You wouldn’t happen to have any veritaserum would you?” asked Ron after a minute.

“No, not on me. You didn’t get any from Ed before you left?” Harry couldn’t help the tone that came with it. Normally, they brought a vial with them on every mission.

“Ed and Kingsley were so rushed to get me to Italy that I forgot to grab some extra vials. I’ve run out… would you mind picking me up some?”

Harry nodded standing up. “Yeah, I’ll grab you some. I should probably get back though.”

“I’ll contact you. I only stay in one place for a couple of days before I move. Just have the serum ready at a moment’s notice. I’d like to be able to question Vito soon,” finished Ron standing with Harry. The two old friends gave each other a quick hug.

“Be safe,” urged Harry before apparating back to the alleyway outside of his apartment.


**********


The next night Hermione could not meet Harry for their walk home. She sent an owl detailing an excuse about a last minute meeting with a Warlock from the Wizengamot, but alas she was not being truthful. As hard as it was to believe, Hermione had become rather good at lying. Well, she’d always been good at lying. She just never used the skill regularly until recently. It all served a purpose though. She had tossed and turned about it, but she knew the best way to keep those she loved safe was ultimately to lie.

She hated doing it, but Cesare had long ago convinced her that it was the only way. The less people knew the better. The more lives they spared, the more loved ones they protected. The wizarding world was not yet ready for the truths Hermione was going to unleash. All in due time though the truth would be revealed.

Hermione made her way up the windy stone path leading to the seemingly deserted home.

Off the coasts of Sweden and tucked behind dark woods lay this blackened and battered house. If any muggle were to look upon it, they would immediately turn away feeling the urge to run from the premises. This place could not be marked on any map. It was unplottable. No witch or wizard, regardless of power or skill, would ever be able to find this house, except of course for the witch making her way towards it right at that very moment.

Hermione was the only one permitted to know.

Long ago Cesare Tattori had given the house to its one occupant in hopes of keeping that person alive. It was the only way, he knew. They had to do everything in their power to protect their client. Everything.

As she approached, the barriers and wards of the house stopped her holding her where she was. Hermione could feel the house’s magic surveying her, making sure she was no foe to the person inside. Then as if the house were giving her a welcome hug Hermione felt enveloped in magic as blue light swirled around her. The house recognized her and engulfed her in its protection.

Immediately once Hermione stepped through the barrier the house changed form into a much brighter and happier place. The setting sun’s hues even seemed to turn more vibrant and beautiful. Hermione walked inside, the doors opened for her without her having to touch them.

There sitting cross legged in his usual chair waiting for her was the client.

“Hello, Hermione.” His Italian voice was like silk as it rolled over his tongue. It was smooth and yet dark hinting to the past manipulations he’d coaxed others into and the streets from where he came. The client looked up at her expectantly. It had been a long time since her last visit and he was eager for the information that he knew she would bring. He had been cut off from the world for months now. “You haven’t come to see me in almost a month.”

“I apologize. Things have gotten more complicated since my last trip.” Hermione walked around the coffee table and sat down on the white sofa perpendicular to her client’s chair.

“How so?” he inquired.

“Cesare is dead.” Hermione tried her best to sound detached and unfeeling, but she felt her eyes give way to more. As good as the client was for information she also knew he was a cold and self centered son of bitch. He was the last person she wanted to share her emotions with.

At her words though his face fell and fear set into his middle aged eyes.

“The Italian Ministry’s position is that it was a failed heart that got the best of Cesare. After Turturro was murdered, they arrested Aldo and tried him for Turturro’s murder. I got Mancini, Rizzo, and Costa suspended from the hearing and Aldo was acquitted. Cesare then placed Aldo at the library where he could be watched under the eyes of the other Tattori elves. After Aldo’s case Cesare released a statement saying he supported the Wizengamot’s decision. He was found dead three days later. I’ve only just returned from his funeral. I’ve had to take care of a few things, but I came as soon as I could,” she finished in a very fact like manner.

The client uncrossed his legs anxiously and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees putting his head in his hands. Hermione could tell that he was trying his best not to freak out as his fingers nervously combed their way through his thick graying locks.

“You wouldn’t happen to have any of those Russell’s Sprouts you always cart around, do ya?”

Hermione pulled her pack from her purse and offered it to him. With a shaky hand he reached forward and took a cigarette. The client put the cigarette to his mouth and then lit the tip with a flick of his wand.

“Care to join me...” He said nodding towards the pack.

“What the hell,” shrugged Hermione as she too grabbed a cigarette and lit it. She hadn’t felt the need to smoke since her last fight with Harry, but now seemed just as good a time as any.

“I don’t know how you’re not chain smoking these things after that piece of fucking fantastic news.” Hermione sat at the far end of the couch and looked down at her hands. That piece of ‘fucking fantastic news’ had caused a tear at her already worn heart. Suddenly realizing the sensitive subject the client attempted to readjust himself. “Sorry about your friend…” he muttered.

“Thanks,” she said quietly before taking another drag.

“What does that mean for you then? First, Turturro. Now, Cesare. Sounds like your next.”

“I know… I’ve cut down my travels and Jean has been tying up a lot of loose ends for me. Hopefully we can officially try the case internationally by the end of the summer.”

“The summer? I have to stay in this shit hole till the end of the summer?!!” He looked at her incredulously, raising his voice.

“From the very beginning, we explained to you that it would take some time getting this thing off the ground. First and foremost we have to keep you safe and more importantly alive. The only way we can do that is if you stay here. You knew what you were signing up for when you took the deal,” countered Hermione sharply.

“How am I supposed to TESTIFY if every person that knows where I am winds up DEAD?!!! Explain that to me!” cried the client frustratingly. “You’re the only one left damnit!”

“Settle down,” hushed Hermione calmly before patiently adding, “I am the only person who has ever had the great privilege of knowing where you are. Not even Cesare was privy to the information. We did that for a reason… AND I am not dead-”

“Yet,” he finished dryly. Hermione glared at him.

“I am not going to die… I’ve taken plenty of precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen. And even if it does, you will be taken care of.”

“Does that back up plan include Jean?” He could tell just from her look that it did. He sneered, “You know how I hate that-”

“It doesn’t matter who you hate. As long as I am your councilor then you’re damn well going to mind who I work with. He’s the only one I trust with a case of this magnitude. At your request he hasn’t been involved too heavily, but if I so happen to… well… die… WHICH I won’t by the way! But if I were to then he would get all the necessary information to keep the case moving forward.”

Hermione finished her cigarette and transfigured it into her usual dust particle before standing up. Her patience had run thin and it was time for her to go anyway.

“What makes you so sure you won’t be hit? Those families can get to anyone,” he called just before she reached the door.

Hermione turned back around to face her client, “Lord Voldemort and his death eaters couldn’t kill me at eighteen. What makes you think some weaker Italians can do it at twenty three?” With that, Hermione walked out the door.


**********


With Hermione off to speak with some Warlock, Harry was left with an open evening. Normally he would walk home with Hermione, maybe grab a bite to eat along the way. But tonight, since she was gone, he actually had to figure out what to do with himself. Luckily, Ginny had asked him to dinner over at her place. It seemed like lately they had been seeing less and less of each other, so he was relieved when she’d asked.

Harry unlocked her door using the spare key. He heard the magical locks click open and then stepped inside.

“Hellllloo? Anyone home?”

“Hey, Harry,” called Penny from the sofa looking up from reading an article in the Prophet. “Ginny’s in the shower. She just got back from practice.”

Harry nodded and made his way down the hall. Stopping at the bathroom door right outside of Ginny’s bedroom, he heard her singing a new tune from the Weird Sisters. He knocked softly.

“Hey Gin, it’s Harry.”

“I’ll be out in ten minutes, Harry!” she called from beyond the door. “Just wait in my room. I’ll be done soon.”

With a shrug, Harry moved into Ginny’s brightly decorated room. Her Harpies uniform lay crumpled on the floor. Harry passed by the walls looking at all the different enchanted photographs from over the years. Looking down at her desk, his eye caught sight of Hermione’s careful handwriting on a note attached to a stack of papers.

Ginny,

I read over the whole thing. Everything seems good.
It sounds amazing! Let me know what you decide.
Either way, I’ll support you regardless.

With love,
Hermione


Harry lifted up Hermione’s note. His curiosity peaking as he read what lay underneath. It appeared to be a contract of some sort for the Los Angeles Razorbacks. Intrigued, Harry started flipping through the papers. As he did so, his expression grew more and more worried till finally he reached the last sheet. His breath caught in his throat. There at the bottom was Ginny’s signature.

Ginny’s going to LA?

As if on cue, Ginny emerged from the bathroom clad in only her towel. Harry’s hands still held open the last page of the contract and he looked up from it to stare at her completely bewildered. She stopped in her tracks.

“Gin, what’s going on? Are you… are you moving to LA?” asked Harry confused.

Ginny felt herself falter. She didn’t know what to say. “I… erm… that’s why I asked you to dinner so that I could… so that I could explain-”

“Explain what? That you’re leaving?” Ginny winced at the severity in his tone.

“Harry, don’t be like that.”

“Be like what? How am I supposed to react?” His words were sharp. He could feel a surge of outrage within him that was just barely underneath the surface. He wanted to scream, but he held himself at bay. In an attempt to calm himself, he took a deep breath as Ginny simply stood stock still where she was. Having cooled, he redirected, “How long have you had these?”

“For about three weeks now.” Harry visibly deflated with her words.

“When were you going to tell me?” he asked quietly.

“I don’t know…” Ginny shifted her weight uncomfortably under his gaze. “I guess after I felt like I’d thought it through. I didn’t want to tell you until I made a decision.”

“So I take it this means you’re going then?”

“Yes.”

Harry felt like a little part of his world was slowly caving in on itself. “When does the season start?”

“Spring training starts April 1st.”

Once again Harry felt like the wind was knocked out of him. Ginny felt her mouth dry up as she witnessed Harry’s reaction. “April 1st?” he choked. It was less than three weeks away. She’d already known about this for so long and hadn’t told him. And now, she would be leaving in less than three weeks. He felt like waves of shock were just slamming against him.

“Wh-what am I supposed to do?... Am I-am I supposed to move with you? Because I can’t-”

“I don’t expect you to come with me, Harry,” she interrupted quickly. “I know your job is here with the Ministry. I know you have to stay.”

“So what then?” His hands flying up emphasizing the question. Ginny could only look down at her feet. This was the part she had wanted so badly to avoid. She didn’t want to hurt him. “Was I even a factor in this at all?”

“Harry, of course you were,” she answered sincerely.

“It’s just that I thought-” Harry stopped himself. He couldn’t finish the sentence because for the first time he did not want to tell Ginny what his hopes and dreams for their future together had been. He didn’t want to tell her his plans of proposing to her at the end of the summer. Molly and Arthur had already given him their permission when he’d asked for her hand two Christmases ago. He’d already bought the ring.

But Ginny did not even need to hear of those hopes because she already knew of them. She knew the moment the day she graduated from Hogwarts what Harry intended. Plus, her family was big and they gossiped. No more than twenty four hours after asking for her hand had Ginny found out. Surprisingly, it had been Bill who had caved and spilled the beans to his baby sister. She had had years of practice in squeezing out information from her brothers. It was just a matter of time before one of them gave in.

Sighing she looked up at Harry’s sad eyes. “I just need to do this.”

“Why?”

“Because I’ve never been on my own, Harry.”

“So you’re trying to get away from me?” Ginny felt her heart break with the way he said it. His voice was so small and child like.

“No,” she immediately said, but then felt the need to reconsider. “I don’t know…” Ginny closed her eyes and told herself she had to stop lying. She had been avoiding the truth for years to the point where now this avoidance felt like a whole string of lies tied to one another on a fateful rope. She couldn’t take it anymore. She had to tell him the truth. She just hoped that maybe one day he could forgive her for it.

“Harry,” she began shakily. “I don’t want what you want. I’m not ready for marriage or for kids or for the future that you have planned for us. I need to be out on my own. I feel like I have to be on my own for once… and I-I can’t do that if I’m here in England. I-I can’t do that if I’m…” Ginny felt the words hit hard in the back of her throat. It was almost as if her body was refusing to let them out, but she knew she had to say it. So she swallowed deep and with tear filled eyes choked out the words she never thought she’d hear herself say. “I can’t do that if I’m with-with you.”

A pin could have dropped as the two stared at each other. Harry felt like his heart was somewhere in pieces on the floor, shattered. His limbs felt like jelly and his head felt numb. Suddenly her teary eyed gaze was like a razor blade straight to his chest.

As quickly as his dead limbs could move he made for the door.

“H-harry?” She tried to stop him. He turned back but avoided her hurtful eyes.

“N-no… it’s… it’s alright. It’s fine… I’m fine. You should do this. You should… I-I don’t want to hold you back.” Harry stopped his babbling and just stood there staring at his feet trying not to appear distraught.

“Harry…” Ginny tried to move closer, but Harry backed away into the hall.

“No, no… I’m fine… I should go. I need to go.”

And as quickly as he had arrived, he left.

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