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Dad wasn't pleased. “You were kidnapped again, Rosie?” he asked as I took a seat in his office.

“It wasn't my fault,” I told him, rolling my shoulders a bit. Those ropes had been tight.

Mum had come down to the atrium to collect me, and she'd had the Incarceration Curse off in a trice. Once the ropes had disappeared, she ushered me straight upstairs to the Auror department, where my dad and Uncle Harry were sitting in Dad's office.

Now, when one has just been kidnapped, there are no people one would rather see when one is released than a pair of Aurors of that reputation and my mum (who really ought to count for at least two people). I felt pretty certain they would keep me safe if I stuck around them closely enough. But it was a little intimidating to walk into a room and sit opposite the three of them while they questioned me. The last time that had happened had been right after the serial killer team Venatici had kidnapped and tried to kill me, but I'd been too tired at the time to be bothered with it. Today I sat across from them and felt about ten years old.

It really hadn't been my fault, though. Not that I was aware of, anyway. Can I help it if crazy people happen to kidnap me occasionally?

“What did she say exactly?” Uncle Harry asked. He had a Quick-Quotes Quill poised in the air above them, ready to take down my statement. I'd had my statement taken many times, but I never entirely trusted those quills. Magical Law Enforcement always bought the kind that was supposed to take down one's words verbatim, I'd been told. I'd never actually verified it, but if Mum wasn't having a fit over it, it must be true.

I tried to remember Ambrosia's exact words. “Um. She said she was in the middle of a job, and I'd almost messed it up by bringing in McBride.”

“Who?” Mum demanded, pouncing on this.

“A skip I picked up last week, Joseph McBride. He was out on bond after trying to forge Galleons, and he missed his court date.”

Mum went to the door to bark orders at Dad's lackeys, telling them to get everything they had on Joseph McBride.

“What else, Rose?” Uncle Harry asked.

“Um,” I said, trying to think. I'm not good at instant recall under stress, okay?

“This would be a lot easier if we had a Pensieve,” Uncle Harry remarked to my dad.

Dad nodded. “I bet the Department of Mysteries has one.”

“They're very rare,” Mum said. She was still standing at the doorway. “I've been wanting one for my department for ages. Do you think they do have one down there? I don't remember ever seeing one.”

“That was years ago. And we didn't see everything they have hidden down there,” Uncle Harry pointed out.

“I'm going to requisition one,” Mum announced. “Do you think we could get it today?”

“No,” Dad and Uncle Harry said in unison.

I was inclined to agree. From what I knew of the Department of Mysteries, it took those blokes weeks just to respond to a request for information, much less actually help out.

Uncle Harry shook his head. “We'll do without. All right, Rose, try to remember what was said. What happened first?”

I went over the conversation with them, trying to remember everything that had been said. I was afraid I'd left something out, but I did the best I could. Dad and Uncle Harry walked me through it twice, questioning everything, and I had to admit, they were good at what they did. I remembered more when they were asking me for more details.

“All right,” Mum said when Uncle Harry finally declared the subject exhausted (I suspected by 'subject', he meant me rather than the topic of discussion). “If she didn't intend to kill you, what was the point in kidnapping you? I don't believe this 'warning you off' nonsense for a moment. She must have intended to lay a false trail, to keep you out of her hair for a while.”

“Not bad,” Dad said, giving her a nod, “but you can't assume everyone is as smart as you are, Hermione. This Ambrosia person might really have meant to scare Rose off.”

“They haven't met Rose, then,” Uncle Harry said, giving me a wink. “What about the American accent?”

“Bit dodgy, that,” Dad said. “Was it real, do you think?”

“It could explain why there's no record of her,” Mum said.

“So you did look her up in your files?” I asked Dad.

“Yeah, came up dry. If it's an alias, it isn't one we know of. We looked through our still-at-large files and didn't turn up any women who fit Ambrosia's description, either. I think she's a new player, but I'm not sure who she's working with.”

Great. I'd been hoping Dad would come up with something there. “I don't see how McBride fits into all this, though,” I said. “That part didn't make any sense to me. What does he have to do with Lenny or Annable? Or Gormly?”

“A project involving two drug dealers and a forger?” Dad said thoughtfully. “Manufacturing some kind of Ministry-controlled substance, maybe?”

“There aren't many that you'd really make much off of on the black market,” Uncle Harry pointed out. “Floo powder is regulated to manufacture but not to purchase, and it's cheap anyway. It wouldn't be worth the effort.”

“Maybe they're making a knock-off of some of Uncle George's Defence Against the Dark Arts products,” I suggested. “That could make some real money.”

“Could be,” Dad said. “George does make some bloody complicated stuff.”

“Let's start from the beginning,” Mum said, pulling a piece of parchment toward her. “It all started with this case, so we'll begin there. Herbert Annable is murdered with a Killing Curse, possibly by Lenny Graves.” She scribbled on the parchment.

I've seen my mother's thought process on paper before, so I knew what she was looking for: all the facts on this initial incident. “Lenny was buying something or other from Annable-”

“What was he buying, exactly?” Mum said sharply. “It might be important.”

“Um...” I thought back. “Mallowsweet and daffodil, I think? No wait, asphodel.” Hey, maybe I'm better at remembering details than I thought. Probably not, though.

Mum wrote it down.

“Lenny attempts to buy what is probably an illegal substance from Annable, they argue over the price, Lenny goes to hide in the bathroom,” Dad said, picking up the narrative. His eyes followed Mum's quill across the parchment as she wrote. “He leaves his wand with Annable, on the coffee table. While he's in the bathroom, a man comes in and uses Lenny's wand to kill Annable with a Killing Curse. Lenny comes out, finds the body, picks up his wand again, and the MLEs arrive and arrest him for murder after testing his wand. At the Ministry, Merton Graves hires a lawyer for Lenny and he is offered a plea bargain for manslaughter. The Auror department is never contacted about the arrest, despite the use of an Unforgivable Curse, and Lenny is released on bail, which he promptly skips out on.”

“Right,” Mum said, tapping her quill against the table. “I looked into that, and I can't find anyone who will admit to having authorized the plea. The attorney who offered it to him said he received a memo instructing him to do so, but the memo is gone now.”

“Convenient,” Uncle Harry grunted.

“I know,” Mum agreed. “I'm inclined to believe him, though, so I've been investigating who was on duty at the time Johnson received the memo, and none of them have turned up anything in their background checks to indicate suspicious behaviour. Honestly, I'm not sure where else to look. If it wasn't someone officially on duty, then there are another hundred possible suspects. It will take me forever to investigate all of them.”

“You're sure you didn't miss anyone?” Dad said.

Mum gave him a look. “Of course, Ronald. I've checked all of them. Well, obviously I didn't check Andrew. He's family. But I've been through everyone else's file, interviewed them all, and there's nothing. Whichever one of them did it, they've covered their tracks very well.”

Oh, holy Kneazles. I suddenly felt like there was a ringing in my ears. Andrew Campbell. Dominique's Andrew. She hadn't looked into him because he was her niece's husband, and Mum didn't believe a member of the family would be guilty of corruption. “Mum...”

Uncle Harry seemed to have noticed my expression. “What is it, Rose?”

“I think you should investigate Andrew, Mum.”

Mum's eyes narrowed. “Why?”

Dominique was going to kill me, but I had to do it. “Because he's run off and left Dominique for another woman. That was why I was at your house the other day,” I added to Uncle Harry. “Aunt Ginny helped us pull the wedding announcement from the Daily Prophet. Andrew was going to announce his engagement, but Dominique hasn't told Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur that she's getting a divorce, so we didn't want them to find out in the paper.”

“Bastard,” Dad said.

Uncle Harry nodded his agreement.

“Yeah, about that, if he turns up all bloody and bruised, it had nothing to do with any of your sons or nephews,” I told them.

“Well done,” said Uncle Harry.

“He may be a worthless human being for running out on Dominique, but that doesn't prove he's the one who offered an illegal plea bargain,” said Mum. “I'll look into him, though. If he's the one behind that missing memo, I'll find out.”

Andrew might prefer getting beat up by my brother and cousins over having Mum investigate him, actually. He was very ambitious, and having Hermione Weasley as an enemy was not going to do his career any good.

“All right, what's next?” Mum said, drawing a line down her paper to start a new column.

“Gormly's death,” I told her.

“No, what's next is you running into Ambrosia Heggs at the wandmaker's,” Dad corrected me.

We went over the sequence of events from my visit to Skone through to finding Gormly's body. Mum didn't like hearing it, especially the part about my breaking into Gormly's house. Uncle Harry seemed to take it in stride that I'd done something illegal. You would think they all would have gotten used to it by now, but Mum never does.

“He was manufacturing something, then,” Mum said after I'd described Gormly's kitchen. “We'll look for the report, it should say what he was up to. Maybe it will give us a clue to what this group's 'project' is.”

I watched her draw another line down the paper. Mum was a little frighteningly methodical sometimes. I wouldn't necessarily use the word 'pathologically', but...

She looked up, all business now. “All right. What's next? This McBride person? Should we classify this in with your kidnapping, since they were directly related?”

Dad shook his head at her. “Hermione...”

“What?” Mum looked at him with her quill poised in the air, blinking owlishly.

“She's our daughter.”

“Oh.” Mum turned a little pink, and she patted my hand. “I'm sorry, dear. I didn't mean to bring it up so cavalierly.”

I shrugged. “I'm fine. I've been kidnapped before, and this time wasn't nearly as scary.”

“She's your daughter,” Dad told Mum.

I told Mum everything I knew about Joseph McBride, which wasn't much, and what had happened when I picked him up. She was frowning by the time we were through.

“I'm not sure this has told us a thing. Where is the file on him? They should have turned it up by now.”

Mum went outside to yell at the secretaries, and Dad and Uncle Harry exchanged a glance.

“What?” I said.

“Rose, if there's anything you left out because of your mum...”

“No, Dad, I told you everything.” Except that Lenny was sleeping on my couch, but that hardly seemed like it would help figure out what was going on.

“We have two dead drug dealers, a forger, and a woman involved somehow in organized crime.” Uncle Harry shook his head. “I can think of a few scenarios, but we have no proof, and no leads. We need someone to flip.”

“Maybe they've still got McBride,” Dad suggested.

“They would have bonded him back out, wouldn't they?” I asked. “I mean, he wasn't listed as having a violent history or anything. And he came along pretty quietly once his roof was on fire, actually.”

“They probably did, yeah. Your mum won't be pleased about that,” Dad said, rolling his eyes.

“Dad, did you ever have Cullip picked up?” I asked then, remembering what he'd said when he'd come to my flat.

He pulled a face. “Yeah, but we didn't get anything useful out of him. He didn't know anything about Annable or Gormly. Gone straight, actually – said he'd found religion and was trying to lead a better life, wasn't involved in the drug trade any longer.”

Damn. I supposed that really had been a crappy lead, but I'd still sort of hoped it would have played out.

Mum came back in then. She didn't look happy. “McBride was bonded back out. He's probably gone into hiding by now. We have to find the attorney who authorized the plea bargain, he's the last person left we might have access to.”

“Just what we were saying,” Uncle Harry said. “Rose, why don't you go on home. We'll contact you if anything comes up.”

I noticed he hadn't exactly said they'd contact me if they found out anything. Typical. Well, why not. I was tired anyway. I could do for a nap.

I gave my mum a quick hug, and waved to Dad and Uncle Harry. “Bye. Don't say anything to Scorpius about me being kidnapped, okay?”


Scorpius and Lenny were in the living room, examining a painting, when I got home. I half-expected it to be the painting of Lenny and his guitar, but instead it was a rather lovely painting of my uncle Bill's house, Shell Cottage, with the ocean behind it.

“I thought you were saving that one to give to Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur for Christmas?” I said, nodding at the painting.

“I am,” Scorpius said. He was rubbing his chin with one hand, looking thoughtful. “But I think I might just bring it by Mr. Barnes' office first, see what he says. I didn't have anything like this one in the lot I gave him. I think it might be good to show him I can do seascapes too.”

“I've always liked the beach painting you gave Hugo,” I agreed.

“Right. I'll be back in a bit.” Scorpius put the Shell Cottage painting in his Muggle art carrier thing, and trotted off for the agent's office.

“How's it going with my case, man?” Lenny asked.

I sighed and flopped down into an armchair. I wasn't sure how much I should tell him. It had all started with Lenny, so maybe he ought to know. On the other hand, I didn't want him accidentally telling Scorpius I'd been kidnapped today, so maybe I'd leave that part out. “It's not going real well, Lenny, to be honest.”

His face fell. His brown eyes, no longer bloodshot as they'd always been while he was using, looked at me pleadingly. “You're not giving up on me, are you? I didn't kill Annable, Rose, I swear.”

“I know you didn't. I've even almost got my parents convinced of it,” I said, and when Lenny's eyes widened a bit, I added swiftly, “They don't know you're here, they just think there's something very fishy about your case. Look, Lenny, did you ever buy from a man named Nicomedes Gormly?”

Lenny shook his head. “No, man, I always bought from Annable. He gave out samples.”

I tried not to roll my eyes. “Samples. Okay, then. Did you ever meet a blonde woman who might have gone by the name of Ambrosia Heggs?”

“Yeah, man. She was Annable's boss.”

I sat up straight. “What?”

“What?” Lenny repeated, looking startled.

“Lenny, why didn't you say something before?” I demanded.

“Was I supposed to, man?” He looked a little paranoid. “It was a dude who killed Annable, not her. I didn't think about it.”

Oh, holy Kneazles. Had I asked him before about Ambrosia? I couldn't remember. I thought I had done, but apparently not. “What do you know about her?”

“Annable said she was sort of the regional boss for greater London,” Lenny told me. “She brought him his, um, products to sell, and she took most of what he made, I guess. I never met her, actually, I just saw her once leaving Annable's when I was coming over. Annable didn't like her, man. He said she was a crazy bitch.”

“Is that it? Nothing else? Did you ever hear of The Organization?” I couldn't believe he hadn't mentioned any of this before.

“What organization, man?” Lenny said.

I had a feeling he was exhausted as a source, as Uncle Harry says. His brain was so addled from years of drug use, even now that he was sober I wasn't sure how much he could actually recall.

“Can you remember anything else Annable might have mentioned about who he worked for, or with, or anything else?” I asked, hoping something else would come up.

“No, man, we mostly talked about how much he was going to charge me per ounce,” said Lenny.

I chewed on my thumbnail while I thought this over, and Lenny flipped on the wireless and looked for a Quidditch match.

I needed to tell my parents that Ambrosia had been Lenny's supplier and coordinator. I wasn't sure how to do that without revealing how I knew and therefore implicating myself in a crime. I didn't like to think of the looks on their faces if I told them I'd been harbouring the fugitive I was supposed to be bringing to justice. An anonymous source? That might work. A barman, maybe. I got a lot of good tips from barmen, and they probably wouldn't question it. Not to my face, anyway.

If Ambrosia had been Annable's boss, had she ordered his death? Or had Gormly killed him after all, and Ambrosia killed him in retaliation? Was Gormly part of this Organization thing or not? I wasn't sure Lenny's information had actually helped me. It felt like all it had done was give me more questions. I had a bunch of pieces and no idea how they fit together.

Ambrosia needn't have bothered kidnapping me to warn me off. I had no idea what was going on.

“Lenny, what made you decide to post bail through Angelo's instead of Pilliwickle's?” I asked suddenly. The thought had just popped into my mind out of nowhere. I wasn't even sure why I was asking, although I had wondered about it before.

He shrugged. “Well, man, I knew you work for Angelo. I was kind of hoping...”


I had a feeling I knew what he was about to say, and sure enough, Lenny went on, “If I jumped bail on these charges, I didn't want anybody from Pilliwickle's coming after me. You should see their bounty hunters, man. They're not as nice as you.”

Great. Lenny had known all along that Angelo would give me his case when he skipped out on his bail. I felt kind of stupid and kind of flattered. He'd known I was a sap, because I'd let him go before when I knew Pilliwickle's was looking for him. But on the other hand, he thought I was nicer than any of Mrs. Pilliwickle's skip tracers. That made me feel a little better, although 'nice' probably wasn't something I ought to aspire to as a job skill.

“You owe me, Lenny,” I told him.

He hung his head sheepishly. “Sorry, Rose.” His face turned serious then, and he looked up and met my eyes. “Do you want me to turn myself in? Maybe your parents will make sure I get a fair shake from the Wizengamot. I'll still give you the money for helping me.”

I shook my head. “Not yet, Lenny. We still don't know who it was at the Ministry who sold you out. Your case was mishandled and bounced around so much, my mum hasn't traced the person yet.”

I didn't want to tell him the person was very likely my cousin's soon-to-be ex-husband. If it wasn't Andrew, I probably shouldn't accuse him of corruption, if only to Lenny. Being a wife-and-child-abandoning, cheating bastard didn't necessarily mean he was also a corrupt lawyer.

The door banged open and Scorpius came in with his painting carrier bag thing (I had forgotten the Muggle word for it) slung over one shoulder, red in the face. Some of his hair had pulled out of the braid he'd had it in when he left, and now hung loose around his face. I didn't think I'd ever seen him look so very pissed off.

“What happened?” I asked, scooting off the chair.

Scorpius flung the bag down, and it bounced end over end down the hallway to our bedroom. Uh-oh.

“The damned agent is gone! He's gone! His office is completely emptied out!” Scorpius paced back and forth in front of the door, kicking it shut as he went past. “There were two other artists there, and they said he'd done a bunk – ran off with everyone's money – he was never really an agent at all, just printed off some cards to trick people – bilked us all out of our money – squatting illegally in the office space – can't believe this, bloody damn hell-”

Oh, holy Kneazles. “He wasn't a real agent?” I repeated in disbelief. All that money for nothing...

Scorpius still looked ready to explode, and vented some of his feelings by kicking one of the chairs over. “He stole all the paintings off one of the blokes I met today! Every one of them! He didn't even take one of mine!”

“Hang on, are you pissed because he didn't steal your work?” I asked. Men are so weird.

“At least if he'd taken one, I'd feel like I had some bloody talent. But Barnes didn't think any of my bloody paintings were good enough to steal.” He kicked the chair again.

Seriously weird. His feelings were hurt because the fake agent hadn't wanted to steal his paintings as well as his money? Jeez.

“Man, that sucks,” Lenny said. I'd almost forgotten he was there.

Scorpius drew a deep breath, pushed his hair out of his face, and then bent down to put the chair right. “Sorry,” he said to me, and I went to him and wrapped my arms around his waist.

“I'm sorry he didn't steal your paintings,” I said, trying to make my voice sound like I didn't think he was mental.

“All that bloody money for nothing,” Scorpius muttered, but he put an arm around me. “Thanks, Rose.”

“What do we do?” I asked. “Do we go to the MLEs? Can't we get the money back?”

“He was a Muggle,” Scorpius pointed out. “We'd have to go to the Muggle authorities, and I don't know about you, but I don't fancy the idea of them looking into me, even as a victim of a crime. I'm not sure I even have the proper documentation to exist in the Muggle world. Even if I did, what could they do? How will they find him? It probably wasn't even his real name.”

I was really getting tired of people using aliases. “There must be something we can do...”

“If I ever see him again, I'm going to hex him, I don't care who's watching,” Scorpius muttered.

I let go of him and took a step back. “Did you get all your paintings back?”

“Yeah. They wouldn't all fit in the damn portfolio,” he added. “I had to use my rucksack. Nobody noticed a thing, they were all too busy shouting and running about with their own paintings. I left before the Muggle MLEs showed up.”

“Policemen,” I corrected him absently. He was probably right, the Muggle police would want too much identification from him, things he wouldn't be able to provide, and he would give himself away and break the Statute of Secrecy. Scorpius had been raised a pureblood, he knew even less about Muggles than I did. Except old theatre music. Somehow I didn't think would help.

Scorpius stacked his paintings against the living room wall where he always kept them, working in silence. Lenny picked up a book off the coffee table and started reading, and I watched my boyfriend, wondering if there was any way I could track down Barnes and get the money back (and maybe give him a good hexing). I'd never tried to trace a Muggle before and wasn't sure if I even could. I was pretty good at finding wizards who were hiding. But Barnes was a Muggle, and using an assumed name. I wouldn't be able to use any of my usual methods. And Lydia probably wouldn't be able to help at all. I really relied on her for information on my skips.

I discarded the idea, and figured we'd just have to consider this a wash. Over a hundred Galleons down the drain. I really needed to find out who the real killer was so I could get Lenny exonerated and get that eight hundred Galleons from him.

Still, I was really glad I'd given Mrs. Kochel some money while we'd had it. At least we wouldn't be evicted again.

Scorpius headed for the bedroom once all his paintings were back in place and I followed him, closing the door so Lenny couldn't hear us. Scorpius sat down in the middle of the bed, crossing his legs underneath him. He looked very unhappy.

“I really thought this was my shot,” he said plaintively.

I sat down next to him and laid my head on his shoulder. “I know.”

“Maybe I should just give up.” He was staring at his hands. There was a spot of red paint at the base of his thumb, and he rubbed at it a bit. “Maybe I'm never going to be good enough at this.”

“Don't say that. Something will happen. This wasn't your break, but it will come.”

Scorpius flopped back on the bed, stretching out. I curled up next to him, putting my hand on his chest. He reached up to link his fingers with mine, and kissed the top of my head.

“This sucks royal hippogriff,” I said.

“Yeah, it does,” he agreed.

I decided not to mention I'd been right about Barnes after all. It seemed unlikely to please him.

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