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Author's Note: I'd like to thank everyone for all of the positive support and reviews! I have one last chapter to post for Persuasion so that means that I can post the chapters for this story quicker instead of every other week. Get geared up! Anyway enjoy the latest...
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Chapter 15- The Interrogation of a Mancini


Ron strode briskly down the long hallway. The corridor was wide and lined with many portraits, all moving and whispering harshly to each other as Ron passed by. At the end of the hall were two large oak doors. Without even bothering to knock, Ron shoved them open to reveal the grand study.

He took two steps into the room before halting. He waited patiently, stoically like a soldier reporting to their commander.

The enormous room was lined with bookshelves all stacked to the brim with the family’s inherited collection. Off to the right, a roaring fire crackled in the depths of the marble hearth giving the room its lustrous glow. Above, the glass domed ceiling gave way to the thunderstorm outside. Lightening streaked across the night sky and a loud thunder clap was heard off in the distance.

It went without notice as Ron’s entire body stayed rigid and stiff. His eyes were trained on the man behind the great desk as he waited for Dante Mancini to acknowledge his presence. Ron had learned long ago to only speak when spoken to, so he held his tongue. His cloak dripped softly on the imported Persian rug that he stood upon. He had traveled through rain and wind to return here, but he would make no move for his wand to utter a drying spell lest he wish to interrupt Dante Mancini. And no man ever interrupted Dante.

The room was silent but for the cackling of the fire and the scratching of Dante’s quill.

Dante dipped his long feathered quill into the ink one last time before signing the document with a flourish. Then methodically he slowly lowered his spectacles from the hump of his nose before looking up at Ron with his dark, near black eyes. His eyebrows furrowed and his expression turned to one of disgust as he took in the man before him.

Ciro,” His voice was menacing and sharp. With a quiet pop a little house elf appeared just before the great desk clad in a very tattered pillow case.

Yes master?

Dry him,” spat Dante. Without even a second’s hesitation, the elf scurried to Ron and immediately cast the spell over his body. A steam soared upwards from Ron’s clothing as the elf completed his task. Once finished the elf turned and bowed to Dante. “You will do well Ciro to have him dry next time before he reaches my study. Iron your hands for your laziness!!!” The elf only bowed once again, this time even lower, before disappearing.

Inwardly Ron felt sick. The elf’s hands would be black and blistered because of him. He knew he should’ve done the drying charm before he had entered the manor, but he had been so rushed, already a half hour late. The imposing wizard would not tolerate his tardiness as it was, thus he dared not risk taking the extra moments to make himself comfortable. He swallowed the bile rising in his throat with the thought of the elf’s punishment.

Good evening, son… Sit down.” Dante motioned to one of the cushioned chairs, another imported piece like much of the furniture. The study especially was lavishly adorned as it was the most frequented room by the master of the house.

Ron did as told, sitting across from his apparent father.

You’re late. You know how I regard punctuality, Vito… We will have to deal with that later.” Ron felt cold icicles shoot through his insides as fear settled into his veins. Dante, he knew, would be relentless regardless even if he appeared to be the man’s first born son. Ron was sure to be punished for his error, punished severely indeed. “But first, you must tell me… did you find him?

No, father. There is no sign of him anywhere,” Ron answered in an Italian voice that was not his own, the beetles working their impressive magic on his vocal chords.

For a moment it appeared that the older wizard was unaffected by the information, but then suddenly his face contorted into one of unimaginable fury.

THAT MUDBLOOD BITCH!!!!” He exclaimed vehemently before grabbing the first thing he could. It was a glass paperweight. With an outraged cry, Dante stood and threw the crystal ball towards the left wall. It shattered into thousands of pieces. Ron flinched. “I knew it! She has hidden him and hidden him well!!!

Ron sat stock still as he watched Dante pace in front of the large fireplace, his cloak billowing behind him and his shadow mirroring him along the opposite wall.

Filthy, conniving, little bitch… I will, I swear it, I will get her. She will not ruin my legacy!!” Dante steadied himself before rearing back on his son. “He is her only evidence! She has nothing else! YOU got to Turturro before she could!!! That blood traitor! That worthless, spineless potion maker had it coming the moment he even thought of setting foot in her office! YOU MUST FIND SALVATORE! He is all she has left!!!” Dante returned to his rant muttering curses under his breath as he stalked back and forth.

Ron’s ears had perked up during Dante’s rage. Thankfully, the action had gone unnoticed by the seething wizard as he continued to fume.

The wheels in Ron’s head were spinning crazily, but he kept his face guarded. He needed to speak to Harry. Something deeper was going on, something much more important. Spineless potion maker? How did they get to Turturro? One thing was for sure: Hermione had gotten herself into something exponentially larger than what initially it appeared she had. This was most certainly not just about some elf trial and Ron knew he had to get to the bottom of it. But he needed Harry, he needed the veritaserum, and more than anything he needed to interrogate the real Vito Mancini.

Because now he had some questions, some very large questions that needed answering and that could only be done by the man currently locked in Ron’s trunk.

Dante suddenly stopped his tirade in mid stride. He turned to Ron with a wicked gleam in his eye, a gleam that sent shivers down Ron’s spine.

Thank you, Vito, for trying to locate the man. I appreciate your… urgency,” Dante hissed as his right hand reached into his robes. Ron’s stomach plummeted with the word. Out of the folds of his cloak, Dante drew a black, gnarly wand.

Ron knew what was coming, but he could not fight it.

I think it’s time for your punishment, dear boy!” The excitement evident in Dante’s voice was sickening to Ron. The auror in disguise could only steel himself as his false father raised his wand to him.

CRUCIO!!!


**********


Harry sat at his desk in the Ministry quietly thinking since he had nothing else to do. He had been spending more and more time at the Auror Department even though his only real assignment was to protect the witch he currently lived with. The same said witch was the reason he had been coming into the office and staying there until the wee hours of the night. Hermione, working again back in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, was still keeping long hours at her job. She had many cases to catch up on and so as long as she was out somewhere, Ministry included, Harry went too.

Recently she had taken two short trips, both to Paris to see Jean. Harry had followed her- without her knowing of course- under a disillusionment charm and occasionally with the help of his invisibility cloak. But each time she had only stayed a couple of days before returning back to London and to her desk within the Law Department.

Harry was required to stay in close proximity to her. He was required to watch her every move.

And it was driving him insane.

They had yet to speak of the picture that had turned up in the Daily Prophet last week. Both of them seemed to have silently agreed to never mention it and Harry could not decide if he actually wanted them to discuss it. Although he would admit that he was still plagued by the photograph and still on occasion found himself looking at the paper’s front page. He had kept it secretly stashed in his upper desk drawer underneath a few spare scraps of parchment. He knew Hermione was plagued by it too… if not plagued, then at least unsettled by the entire thing. He knew it by her taking two trips to Paris during the last week and her ‘busy’ work schedule.

But he also knew it by the way they interacted now.

It was too thought out, too puppet like. They acted as if they were being staged in some play making sure to stand here while the other stands there, never crossing the floor if the other was, and most certainly never getting too close. Their friendship was now a dance around each other. One picture, one snapshot in time had turned something so inherently comfortable to something so unbearably and perpetually awkward. If anything, Hermione seemed more troubled by their interactions than he was. He found her lost in thought a lot lately and he knew the reason for her holed up in her office was to stay away from the tight hallways and rooms of their apartment. Their friendship had lost that level of intimacy. And Hermione kept her distance for fear that her nearness would tip toe near the edge, a line she had crossed for a brief moment in the street of Diagon Alley. Harry knew she wasn’t allowing herself to be around him.

Since she was absent from the apartment, Harry was stuck doing his job… watching her.

And the more he watched, the more he noticed things he had never realized before. The way she would tuck her hair behind her ear and smile as she leaned in to speak with someone, the way she bit her lip in an unknowingly sexy way whenever deep in thought, the way the corner of her mouth twitched whenever she found something amusing. It was maddening!

He was required to watch her, but what he found was that he had started studying her and even more disturbing was the fact that he liked doing so, he relished his new discoveries. Harry was beginning to think he was becoming a voyeur with how well he paid attention to her. Constantly, he had to keep tabs on her every move, but by the end of the day he felt semi creepy after tailing her for so long and actually getting satisfaction from doing so. But he continued doing it anyway. He had made a promise to Ron to stay close, to keep her safe and he would not break that promise. He’d do his job… even if it meant sacrificing his mental health.

Harry suddenly felt a familiar heat erupt in his pocket.

“Speak of the devil…”

Scooting his chair out to make space, Harry reached inside his trousers and pulled out the coin that he never ceased to cart with him. Reaching over, he grabbed his wand from the edge of his desk before placing its tip on the coin’s surface. Just like before, the coin again glowed as it recognized his phoenix feather wand and then slowly the letters on the coin began to rearrange themselves.

Bring the serum. The coin is a portkey.

Sifting through his desk drawer, Harry pulled out three vials of the truth potion. Quickly he stuffed them in his pocket before making his way towards the exit. As he exited the Ministry and made his way towards a back alleyway, Harry again drew his wand and his enchanted coin.

Pointing his wand towards the coin he muttered, “Portus.” And then was pulled away right at the navel.

Harry opened his eyes when he felt his feet land on hard ground. Again, Ron was staying in a small cramped space similar to the last place Harry had seen nearly a month ago. This time the room only had a bed, a desk, and a sink with a few shelves above it.

Sitting on the bed was a beat up and bloodied Ron gingerly holding what appeared to be a sprained wrist.

“Jesus Ron…” Wasting no time Harry took the few steps closer to Ron to get a better look at him. Ron’s left eye was a little swollen along with his lower lip. What caught Harry off guard and what he noticed more than anything was the way his best friend shook as if he was in shock or something, as if he had just come inside from a blizzard. Ron’s muscles twitched with spasms uncontrollably. “What’d they do to you? Is your cover blown?”

“N-no… not at all. Mancini j-just likes torturing his own son,” replied Ron quietly, his body still shaking.

“Did you bring a med kit?” asked Harry already knowing the answer.

“Yeah, it’s in the trunk. Third lock.”

Harry went to the trunk wordlessly and began fishing out the emergency med kit that every auror was supplied with. Part of their training was learning basic healer spells and practices. Once he got the kit he grabbed the wooden chair from the desk and sat down a little to Ron’s left. Silently he laid the kit out on the mattress. Then with a well practiced hand, he went about rubbing the salves on Ron’s wrist as gently as he could. Ron slowly began to calm down under the company of his best friend, but the shaking didn’t stop.

“So what happened?” inquired Harry as he started bandaging Ron’s wrist.

“Mancini sent me out on a mission to find this man named Salvatore Marsabello. I didn’t know why he wanted me to find this bloke, but I went. I followed the tip Mancini had heard, but I found nothing. Salvatore’s been missing for nearly seven months and Mancini can’t find him anywhere,” explained Ron.

Harry opened a pus vial and then carefully began applying the ooze to Ron’s eye and bloody lip. As the goop sank in, Ron hissed sharply. The stinging was only momentary though and soon he was fine again and returned to his story.

“I returned back to the manor last night… I was late gettin’ back. Mancini was not only upset that I’d come back empty handed, but also because of my lateness… Blimey, remind me to never be late again Harry,” whispered Ron shivering still from the thought of his torture. “I ended up passing out during it. He left me on the floor. I woke up this morning, sent you the message, and then came back here… The beetles lasted through the whole thing though. They’re tough little buggers. They stayed latched on and everything… It was their voices that made me come to.”

Harry offered Ron a potion that he took without question. The effects were immediate as Ron visibly eased and his shaking body relaxed. Harry packed up the kit and put it away in the trunk trying hard all the while to push the anger in his veins down. He so badly wanted to find Mancini. He wanted to torture him until his bones shook like Ron’s had. He wanted to finish him off, silence him forever for having laid a finger on his best mate. His jaw tightened as his blood boiled with the thought.

“It’s alright, Harry. I’m ok,” said Ron taking notice of Harry’s suppressed fury. Ron knew his friend so well by now. He knew the things that were running through Harry’s mind because they were the same things that ran through Ron’s whenever Harry came close to danger. He was intimately acquainted with those dark thoughts, the hate driven wishes for harm upon your friend’s enemy. He had wished the same upon Bellatrix, he had wished the same upon Snape at one point, and of course he had wished the same upon Lord Voldemort.

“Did you bring the serum?” Ron asked, changing the subject.

Harry nodded and reached into his pocket to extract the vials that lay there.

“Well let’s question the bastard then,” said Ron finally standing. They both stood before the trunk as Ron waved his wand before it, unlocking the secret compartment and revealing the magically enlarged cavern that was hidden beneath the last lock. Sitting at the bottom his eyes squinting towards the sudden intrusion of light was none other than Vito Mancini.

Harry pointed his wand at the unarmed prisoner and stunned him unconscious. Then with a natural ease, he levitated him out of the trunk. Quickly Harry made do by restraining Vito in the wooden chair that Harry had just been sitting on.

Ron walked over to his desk and pulled out two little boxes and a vial of clear liquid. Ron tossed a box to Harry before looking down at his own. Unclasping the lid, Ron peered inside at the two little beetles. Unlike every other time before that Harry had ever seen, the beetles did not spring from their tiny home. Instead they lay worn and spent. “I’m sorry to do this to you boys. I know how bad last night was for you too… but we are going to question Vito and I need your help. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to, but I figured you blokes would want to be the ones to do this job especially,” finished Ron softly.

The beetles looked at each other before nodding their tiny heads decisively. Then they hopped out of their beds and climbed all the way up to Ron’s shoulders. From there, one broke off and went up to his ear while the other broke and went to his mouth which Ron had opened. The beetles situated themselves and prepared for the task they had volunteered for. They wanted answers for the reasoning behind their torture just as much as Ron did.

“You ready?” asked Ron. Harry nodded and watched as Ron uncorked the vial he had pulled from the desk. Ron then held it under Vito’s nose. Vito’s eyes fluttered open until finally they focused on the two aurors before him. As the Italian registered who they were, he sneered with disgust.

Before Vito could utter a word of contempt, Harry’s hand latched onto the man’s jaw forcing his head back and his mouth open while Ron spilled the first vial of veritaserum into Vito’s mouth. The captive did his best to spit the contents out but it made no difference. There only needed to be a single drop to do the job.

Your name?” Ron’s voice was clear, but full of revulsion for the wizard before him.

“Vito Mancini.” The Italian spoke but it was against his will. His tongue rolled without his permission even though it was obvious he was trying to fight against it.

Who is Salvatore Marsabello? Why does Dante want to find him?” There were loads of questions that Ron needed to ask, but first he had to know why the older Mancini so desperately sought after this man.

Vito’s mouth would not open. It seemed to snap shut as his face became a mixture of pain and fury. Ron and Harry watched oddly as Vito could not open his mouth even though the serum was compelling him too.

Harry turned to Ron as realization dawned on him, “He’s sworn an oath, Ron. There’s no way the serum is stronger than the magic. He can’t tell. The magic is binding him.”

Ron’s lip quivered with anger and outrage. He wanted to scream. Why had he been tortured then?! What was the point of all of this?!!! How did this all tie into Hermione?! How was he supposed to protect her?!!!!

Gently Harry placed a hand on his shoulder to calm his best mate, “Listen, Ron. Just think of another question. What else did Mancini talk about last night? Was there anything that he said to you that we can ask Vito about?”

As Ron wracked his brain to think of something, Harry waited calmly. Suddenly a light bulb went off in Ron’s head. Quickly he turned back to Vito.

What happened with Turturro? Dante said that you got to him. Did you kill Turturro?” Ron was eager to hear the answer. His memory had been jogged and he suddenly remembered how his ears had perked with that admission in Dante’s rant. It was the first bit of anything that the older Italian had slipped. Their conversations were always so curt and direct that Ron never seemed able to get any information out of them. Dante must have told Vito everything all at once and then Vito must’ve taken an oath. The two probably never mentioned the facts again. But last night, last night the elder Mancini had slipped. He’d released a bit of information to an auror disguised as his son.

Yes. I killed the blood traitor,” replied Vito hatefully.

Aldo was innocent?” inquired Harry, his brows furrowed in confusion. The weight of the situation was beginning to hit him square in the chest. If Aldo was innocent, if a Mancini had killed Turturro then… then what did this all mean? Why did they want to kill Hermione? Were they still after Aldo?

The elf was a decoy, a cover up. I altered his memory. I charmed his memory so well that even that clever mudblood cannot even get him to remember!” Vito laughed a sick, high pitched cackle as he finished.

Are you out for Aldo too? Is that why your father wanted him executed?” asked Harry urgently, suddenly worried for the sweet house elf that ran the library in that quiet Italian town and wore miniature tweed suits.

Yes, my father wanted the execution. He wanted to get rid of the evidence, he wanted to be safe. But it is of no concern anymore! That filthy whore can tuck the elf away in that library for all we care! She can’t break my memory charm! Aldo will never be of any use!!

Any use? Any use for what?” spat Ron angered by Vito’s insults to Hermione. The Italian’s mouth shut again though. His lips slammed closed powered by the enchantments of his father’s spell. Ron gave a frustrated cry at the man’s lack of explanation. “Fine! Then why Turturro? Why did you kill him? Dante called him the potion maker. What does that mean?

Turturro was commissioned by my father to create a potion for his business.

What business?” asked Harry eagerly. Once again, the younger Mancini’s lips tightened to a thin line. “Can’t speak of the family business, eh?” Vito only shook his head.

But why did you kill Turturro?” intervened Ron hotly, repeating his question from earlier.

Turturro was going to talk. He was going to go to that filthy mudblood and-” Before Vito could finish Ron socked him hard right in the jaw. The Italian’s head reared back and slammed into the backing of the chair.

STOP CALLING HER THAT!!!!!!” Ron screamed, his face going a bright red. Vito’s head fell limp against his chest having been knocked unconscious by Ron’s blow.

“Well I guess that’s the end of that interview,” muttered Harry while Ron continued to pace heatedly in what little space the room offered. Without a word, Harry went about undoing Vito’s restraints and levitating him back into the trunk as Ron sat down with a huff. The springs of the bed squeaked with Ron’s sudden weight.

Harry returned to face Ron and sat down in the now vacant chair.

“Boys it’s ok to come out now,” whispered Ron, who was still trying to calm himself. As Ron put the beetles away in their little box, Harry did the same for his and then handed the box to Ron. With a gentle air, Ron gracefully levitated the boxes and the vials back into his desk drawer. Then he turned back to Harry as he spoke.

“So… let me get this straight then. Vito killed Turturro who was commissioned by his father to make a potion for some business venture… of what the nature of that venture is we have absolutely no clue. Then they framed Turturro’s house elf Aldo for the murder and tried to get him executed, but Hermione got him off luckily… Am I right so far?” asked Ron.

Harry nodded before adding, “Aldo apparently has some information that Mancini thinks Hermione would like, but she can’t get it because of Vito’s memory charm so she’s been keeping Aldo at the library in the town of the Tattori villa. The Tattoris are probably protecting Aldo then,” concluded Harry.

Ron exhaled with a deep whoosh. “I don’t know mate… It sounds like Hermione’s got herself deeper into something than either of us thought.”

“I don’t think this is just about Aldo’s trial… there’s something else going on and Aldo’s trial was just the tip of the iceberg,” replied Harry. The two boys’ minds were swarming with questions. There was still so much left to be answered, answers that would be hard to get now that they knew Mancini had made his followers take an oath. Vito had remained silent on all the things that they were most curious about. And now one thing was for sure, Ron’s job was going to be all that much harder. How was he going to get the information they needed?

“Mate, it looks like it’s up to you,” said Ron running a hand through his thick, ginger locks. “Hermione knows what’s going on, she just hasn’t ever told us anything. You’re going to have to get her to open up. I think I’m at a dead end here… I mean… I’ll do my best to find out anything else and try to give you guys a heads up on anything. But… I think it’s up to you, mate.”

Harry sighed. He had that exact same feeling.

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