|SIYE Time:15:41 on 22nd October 2018|
The Space Between
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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/AB, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Fluff, General, Humor, Tragedy
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Rape, Sexual Situations, Spouse/Adult/Child Abuse, Violence, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: Harry and Ginny's lives have finally evened out. They've faced trauma, and loss, more than most have, but they've fought hard to find a normal.
If only things could stay that way... Old enemies find new ways to seek revenge.
This story is the sequel to Bound. It would be extremely helpful if you read that first.
Warnings are to be safe. It's probably overkill. Please message me if you have any questions or concerns.
Hitcount: Story Total: 96462; Chapter Total: 2918
Awards: View Trophy Room
Thank you, Arnel, for all of your help!
Readers, tell me what you're thinking, give me feedback. This chapter took me forever to write. I need motivation ;)
My second book is up for pre-order right now on amazon. You can find the information in my profile. Please go check it, and my first novel, out.
As always, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the new chapter!
Ginny stared at Teddy through her open front door and couldn’t fathom that it was actually him. He’d outdone himself in his disguise for their dinner with the Parkers. The only reason she knew it was him was because Harry had warned her how Teddy would present himself, and the house was under the strictest security so not just anyone could get in.
“Who’s that?” James asked pointed as he wandered over and stared at the older gentleman in the door.
Teddy stuck out his hand, “Baxter Hornsby. I work with your father.” Even his voice sounded distinctively different. Gone was the sandy-haired, tall, young man and in his place was a short, solid man of about sixty with dark, slightly gray hair, and light green eyes.
James shook his hand reluctantly. “I’ve never met you before.”
“He works in the MLE,” Ginny explained quickly. “Please, come in Mr. Hornsby. I’d like you to meet our guests. This is Julienne and Curtis Parker and their daughter, Natalie. You know Hermione and Ron Weasley, of course. These are their children,” she pointed around the table. “Rose and Hugo, and these are my children, Al,” she pointed, “and Lily, and of course, James. You remember Professor McGonagall and Professor Longbottom, I’m sure.”
“Of course,” Teddy held out a hand to shake. “How do you do?”
“Er,” Nat held up a hand like she was in class.
Harry walked over with a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses. “What’s up?”
“Why is Teddy dressed like that?” she asked the group at large.
Teddy, unfortunately, faltered and spun to gawk at her.
“I told you,” Professor McGonagall chuckled dryly. “Change back, Mr. Lupin. No point in keeping it up now.”
“How did you know it was him?” Al questioned, astonished, as he studied his godbrother morphing back into himself. Then he spun on Ginny. “Why was he like that, Mum?”
“A small test,” Ginny cupped his chin and grin. “We’ll explain over dinner, I promise. Everyone, let’s sit.”
They refused to comment, despite the nagging of the six children, until they’d consumed the chicken Ginny had prepared for the evening. They dug into treacle tart with abandon as the conversation flowed around them.
“Well,” Harry pushed his plate away from him. “First off, Minerva, Neville, thank you for being here for this. Ginny pointed out that having Nat’s Headmistress and her Head of House in on this conversation would be a smart move, and I agree.” He turned to Natalie, who was staring at him, wide-eyed. “First things first, Nat. We had Teddy disguised because we wanted to see just what you could do. Curtis, could you tell that it was Teddy?”
“No,” Curtis admitted as he took a small sip of wine. “I saw nothing wrong with his appearance, but to be fair, I wasn’t looking for someone to be disguised. When he changed his face before, it was very obvious that something was wrong. This was a total change and a cohesive fit. I’m assuming,” he turned his intelligent eyes on Teddy, “that you chose a real person to mimic?”
“I did,” Teddy smiled ruefully. “It’s the owner of a pub near my grandmother’s house.”
“What did you see, Miss Parker, when you looked at Mr. Lupin?” Professor McGonagall asked Natalie curious.
Nat glanced around the group. To Ginny, she looked a little off kilter. “I saw…” Nat began hesitantly. “I… well, see, he didn’t look right. I don’t know how to explain it. I could just tell it was him.”
“That’s so cool,” James whistled.
Ginny shot her son a quelling look, but James only grinned in response. “You helped Mr. Potter find a missing woman, Nat, after which Professor McGonagall suggested to him that you might have a gift. I did some research,” Ginny pulled out her notes. “We believe that you’ve got a gift called Augmentum Imaginari.”
“What exactly does that mean?” Julienne probed curiously. “Is it going to be a problem? Is that why you asked to put security on our flat?”
“What it means,” Ginny explained carefully, “is that Nat will be able to see through magic and see something to its core. Teddy is a great example. We have another one, although we’re not sure that Nat will know what it was. Al, can you fetch the box from the counter?”
“Sure,” Al hopped up from his seat at the table and scrambled over to get the plain, black box that Minerva had transfigured earlier before Nat’s arrival. He brought it back and at a nod from Ginny, set it before Nat, before taking his seat next to her again.
“What is that, Miss Parker?” Neville posed the question.
Nat stared at the box. “It’s… it’s a box. I don’t…” then she cocked her head to the side and narrowed her eyes a bit. “It should be green.”
“What do you see?” Curtis studied his daughter curiously.
“I don’t know,” Nat shrugged helplessly. “I see the box, but the color looks wrong. It’s supposed to be light green, like lettuce colored.”
Ginny turned amazed eyes on Harry, then to Minerva.
“Exactly,” Professor McGonagall agreed quietly, clearly impressed. “I transfigured a head of lettuce into a black box.”
“Really?” Nat’s wide eyes turned to her Headmistress. “I see a box that’s green.”
“I see a black box,” Rose told. Ginny saw her niece was slightly disappointed, but she rallied quickly. “That’s so neat that you can do that!”
Curtis cleared his throat as he also studied the box. “This sounds like an interesting, er, magical gift. I’m sensing there is a major ‘but’ to this, though.”
“Unfortunately,” Ginny agreed.
Harry scraped at his brow wearily. “It’s exceptionally rare. In this case, it’s rarer than Teddy’s gift for changing his appearance. Because she will be able to see things exactly as they are, it means she can see magic that has been used for illegal purposes. No one will be able to trick her. She can use that as a very powerful asset, however…”
“She could be exploited,” Julienne concluded heavily, her eyes haunted.
“Yes,” Ginny replied softly.
“No one is going to hurt her,” Al piped in stubbornly. He looked at Nat. “We’re going to keep you safe.”
Rose nodded fervently. “Don’t worry, Nat. We’ll stick with you.”
“Secrecy is going to be essential,” Neville told Natalie. Ginny watched him try to conceal his concern for his student. They knew, the adults anyway, how serious it was for Natalie. They would, of course, tell Curtis and Julienne to true ramifications once the children were off to play upstairs. They needed to know, to be aware.
“Is there anything else?” Hugo asked curiously, hopping in his seat.
Ginny waved them off. “Go on. I know you want to show them your new game. Troll Wars,” Ginny explained to the Parkers. “It’s a new game my brother came up with.”
“Let’s go,” Hugo crowed in excitement, sprinting away from the table and ignoring his mother’s remonstration about his table manners.
She watched them go racing up the stairs, all except Al. Ginny watched her son deliberately hang back so that he followed Nat up the stairs and was ready to catch her when she tripped about halfway up. A sharp memory of Al, when he’d been about two-years-old, flashed through her mind. Ginny had been heavily pregnant with Lily and Harry had been stuck at the office later than usual. She’d given the boys a bath and her sweet, little boy had carefully stacked the toys while James had thrown them higgledy-piggledy all over the floor, along with a good bit of water. She’d been so tired, so worn out from the day, but as she looked into his baby face and his brilliant green eyes, she’d seen that her middle child would be a calm in the storm and that the details mattered, greatly, to him. Al showed it now in how he watched Natalie. He’d promised to take care of his friend, and her sturdy, solid little boy was growing into a careful, sturdy, considerate young man.
She shot Hermione a glance and intercepted one from Julienne. All three women had seen what Al had done.
That was interesting…
“So,” Curtis interrupted their silent exchange, clearly having missed what had just occurred. “What does this mean for Nat?”
Harry held up at hand and moved over to the stairs to set up charms to make sure the kids didn’t try to spy on them. “Okay,” he turned back to the group. “Only George could find a way through that.”
Ginny grinned into her glass of wine. “You’re sure he hasn’t taught James, yet?”
“I have a little sway over George,” Harry sighed heavily as he dropped into his seat. “I made him swear not to reveal that secret.”
Ron opened his mouth, but at a silent glance from Harry, shut it with a knowing grin. Ginny would have to worm that out of her husband later.
“Miss Parker’s ability is one that can be learned, of course,” Minerva explained to her parents. “Notable, powerful witches and wizards throughout history have managed to do what your daughter can do naturally. Your daughter is bright, engaging and a good student.”
Julienne smiled sadly. “I’m sensing a ‘but’ coming our way.”
“She’s not magically powerful,” Neville sighed as he rubbed at his eyes and sat back in his chair. “She can learn and remember, but she’s moving along at the pace we expect from our first years.”
Curtis glanced between them, his eyes crinkled a bit as he contemplated them. “It’s odd to hear that my bright daughter isn’t excelling, but–”
“No!” Neville held up a hand. His round face looked horrified and Hermione had to grab his wine goblet before he spilled it. “I don’t mean that. She’s very smart, but she’s…” he glanced helplessly at the Headmistress.
“She’s book smart,” Minerva supplied.
“I know that all too well,” Hermione admitted ruefully. “I knew more about Defense than Harry, but he could outperform me in the magic every single time. I never could keep up. In a test of facts, though…”
“Hermione knew her stuff,” Harry confirmed. “But she couldn’t cast a Patronus until much later than I could. That’s Nat.”
“A Patronus?” Julienne queried with a raised eyebrow.
Harry pulled out his wand, waved it, and the silver stag circled the room. “That’s a Patronus.”
“It’s beautiful,” Julienne whispered in awe as she watched the stag canter around the room. “What’s it do?”
“It’s a magical protection,” Hermione explained as she wiped her mouth with her napkin. “It’s used to ward off a few dark creatures.”
“Nat won’t be able to do that?” Curtis asked in concern.
Ginny felt her heart go out to him. It had be to so overwhelming to leave his child in a world he didn’t understand. “She will! The thing is, Harry could do that at thirteen where most don’t learn until they’re adults. You see the difference?”
“Harry is powerful magically…” Curtis said carefully.
Harry said, “No,” while every other wizard or witch said, “Yes.”
Ginny grinned at her flushed, annoyed husband. “So modest. You’re adorable.”
“Anyway,” Harry shot her an exasperated glance, “we want to be extremely careful with Natalie’s safety. In the normal course of things that wouldn’t be a concern and as long as we are able to keep her ability under wraps it should remain that way.”
“What about the children?” Julienne asked as she glanced around. “We’re asking them to keep a big secret.”
“The kids will keep the secret,” Ron assured her without reservation. “We’re famous and in our lives are a lot of secrets. They’ve grown up with knowing there are certain things they can’t tell anyone. Besides, we need them watching her.”
Hermione reached over to pat Julienne’s hand. “I know this is scary, but our children are the first line of defense since they’re with her all the time. At Al’s age, Harry had already faced the most powerful Dark wizard of the ages twice and won both times. We don’t underestimate our kids, even if we are trying to protect them.”
“They’ll keep the secret,” Teddy agreed wholeheartedly. “One because they care about Nat, but also because they will see it as the honorable thing to do and the kids live by a certain code.”
Ginny shot him a quizzical look, but he didn’t meet her eyes. “You’re taking Nat to Brazil this summer, right? Does she speak Portuguese?”
“Yes,” Curtis confirmed wearily. “And yes, although not well. She’ll pick it up again quickly, but we’ll be at the University much of the time so I don’t expect it to be a problem.”
“I doubt she’ll have any trouble away from home,” Harry replied honestly. “I think it isn’t going to be obvious to anyone who doesn’t know her well that this is what she’s doing and most people will pass it off as your influence, Curtis.”
“Agreed,” Minerva cleared her throat. “I will be working with her a few times a year to see how she is progressing, but I doubt I will be needed to teach her any new skills. Still, while I trust Professor Lucas,” she commented dryly, referring to her replacement for Transfiguration teacher, “I do not know him well enough to let him in on this secret.”
Ginny hid her smile behind her glass of wine. The new teacher had replaced Minerva and had been at Hogwarts for twenty years.
“I have another security question,” Julienne piped in after a lull in the conversation. “Harry is the head of the police, right?”
“Sort of,” Hermione explained to her. “He’s in charge of the witches and wizards that investigate the very serious crimes. A petty crime would be investigated by the MLE, or the Magical Law Enforcement. His branch is more specialized.”
“Okay,” she nodded contemplatively. “How long have you been the Head, erm, Auror? Did I say that correctly?”
“You did,” Harry chuckled easily. “A long time. Teddy was small, I know that. Ginny was pregnant with Al.”
Teddy snorted as he pointed at Harry. “I remember distinctly. My grandmother had to go out of town and I was seven. I was staying the week here while she was gone, and you worked all the time. I only saw you for stories right before bed.”
Harry grimaced as he stood and picked up the plates around him. “He’s right. I worked a lot during the transition.”
“Not to mention James crying all the time,” Ron reminded him helpfully. “I’m still deaf from that and I didn’t even live here.”
“He didn’t cope with teething well,” Ginny explained to the Parkers.
“It got so bad that Ginny didn’t know she was pregnant with Al,” Ron told them with a wink for his sister. Ginny picked up a bun and lobbed it at her brother’s head, but he laughed and caught it, taking a big bite. “She’f za bes of mums to deal wif dat,” he told them through a mouthful of food.
“You’re still disgusting,” Ginny said scathingly while the Parkers laughed.
Hermione shot him a quelling look. “Can we get back to the matter at hand?”
“I need to be going,” Minerva told them as she rose slowly to her feet. “We’re getting a transfer student from America and I still have some forms to fill out for her.”
“This late in the year?” Hermione blinked in surprise at their old professor.
“I’m afraid so,” the older woman sighed heavily and Harry helped her shrug into her traveling cloak. “She and her sister have come to live with their grandparents. She’d been at the Salem’s Witches Institute, but her grandfather is insisting on her starting with us. Thankfully, we have very similar teaching schedules, so she shouldn’t have too many difficulties in integrating.”
“Her sister isn’t starting?” Ron asked, and then shook his head. “Never mind, younger sister, right?”
“Indeed, Ron,” Minerva confirmed.
“The new girl is a second year,” Neville said as he also put on his cloak and ran a hand through his thinning, blond hair. “Thank you for dinner.”
Ginny stood on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Give Hannah our love and we’ll arrange to have dinner again this summer. I think Luna is coming home in July.”
“She’ll like that,” Neville shook hands around.
Al slumped into his seat next to Scorpius and stared at the corn flakes like they’d done him a personal injury. He knew he was being stupid. No one knew the real reason his parents had been forced to get married, but it still felt like he had a taint. He hadn’t told Nat or Rose when they’d come over for dinner, even though they’d pulled him aside to ask.
Amazingly when he’d explained that he’d gotten an answer and his parents wanted it kept quiet, they’d both respected it. Scorpius had given him the same, after he’d told him when he got back.
He did confirm that they’d gotten married because of his sister, though. That wasn’t a secret.
James wouldn’t talk to him about it, which left Al feeling out of sorts and grumpy.
“You okay?” Rose asked quietly from across the table. “Are you sick?”
“He’s fine,” James interrupted her and reached across her for the bacon, barely avoiding her hand when she tried to smack him.
Nat’s solemn eyes met his and he thought, just for a moment, that maybe she knew what was bothering him, but he shook it off and hunched his shoulders over his breakfast. He didn’t want to think about his mum being violated, or about any of the horrible things she’d had to go through. Just as soon as the summer hols came around, he was going to talk to Teddy. Teddy wouldn’t blow him off and try to act like a tough guy.
The worst part was Al had thought James was coming around and wouldn’t be quite as big of an arrogant berk.
“Attention students,” Professor McGonagall’s voice floated through the hall.
Al looked over, along with everyone else, to see her standing in front of the teacher’s table with the Sorting Hat in her hand and a small girl, close to Al’s age, standing next to her.
“We have a transfer student from America, Caroline Baker. She is in her second year and I will trust that everyone will make her feel welcome,” the Professor said. It was more of an order rather than a request.
Caroline Baker stared straight ahead, but even at a distance Al could tell she was shaking. She had golden blonde hair pulled up in a neat bun, and blue eyes the exact color of the lake. They didn’t seem able to decide between azure blue or slate gray.
“Wow!” James whistled low under his breath while Louis snickered. “Hope she ends up in Gryffindor, ‘cause she’s a–” he froze at the dirty look Roxy was giving him.
“You leave her alone, James, or I’ll make you miserable!” Roxy’s amber eyes flashed dangerously as she glared at him.
James tipped his head to the side and regarded her carefully. “I’m just looking.”
“And if she was Lily and someone was ‘just looking’ like you’re just looking?” Dominque fired back, her brilliant red hair practically standing on end in her ire. “Don’t be a–”
The hat interrupted their quiet argument by shouting out, “Gryffindor!”
The table erupted in cheers.
“Gymnast,” Nat told them. Al glanced over at her and saw her studying the new student. “She’s really fit.”
“Bah!” James spit out, still stung from the girls’ take down. “I could take her.”
“I bet you couldn’t,” Nat rolled her eyes at his brother. “A galleon says she could beat you in arm wrestling.”
James’ sneer was one for the record books. “I’m not fighting a girl!”
Nat’s answering smile was all sweetness. “Good, because you couldn’t take her, I…” her voice faded off as she gaped at the new girl, who had sat down a couple of seats away.
“What’s the matter?” Rose questioned in concern.
“Uh…” Nat swiveled around, looking ill. “I need to, erm, go talk to Professor McGonagall.”
Al rose with her. “I can come.”
“No, no,” she assured him hurriedly as she made her way forward.
Al watched her come up to the side of the Headmistress as she stood speaking to Professor Sinestra in the front of the hall.
The old professor looked at her for a moment, before beckoning her off to one of the anti-chambers from the Great Hall.
“What was that about?” Rose wondered aloud.
“Who knows,” Scorpius sighed as he dug into breakfast. “We’ll ask her in Defense.”
They didn’t get a chance to ask Nat about it until break.
“I saw something on her face,” Nat explained quietly after they’d quickly explained to Scorpius about Nat’s odd power. “I thought I was going crazy, but Professor McGonagall was able to explain it to me and it’s nothing to worry about. She had a magical healing and I could see the before and after, so it was freaky. But,” she continued on a little breathlessly. “I did promise not to tell anyone because her medical records are private, if you know what I mean and it isn’t our business, you know?”
“‘Course,” Scorpius patted her on the shoulder. “So, I have to ask. Are the giant squid’s tentacles all real, because I think he’s had some added on.”
Nat breamed at him while Al and Rose laughed. “Was your holiday okay?”
“It was fine,” Scorpius waved it off. “My mum’s parents came to stay from Greece, along with my aunt Daphne, so Dad wasn’t home much. Aunt Daphne took me to a Muggle cinema and then we went for Chinese take away, which we ate in Hyde Park. My dad would have busted a gut if he’d seen us.”
“I think I’d like your aunt,” Al mused as he could barely picture Scorpius doing any of those things. “We never get to do that because of security.”
“You’ve never been to the cinema?” Nat glanced between them curiously.
“I have,” Rose corrected as she leaned back against the stone of the castle. “My Muggle grandparents have taken Hugo and me, but not Al. With his dad’s work, he can’t exactly go traipsing off anywhere he fancies.”
Al scuffed his shoe along one of the cracks in the walkway, dislodging a bit of moss and dirt. The truth was, while he loved his family, he also knew that there were decided disadvantages to having famous parents, especially his dad. He’d never felt like his dad was trying to overshadow him, but nor did Al ever see a way that he’d be able to come out from the aura of all his father had accomplished.
He thought about his parents, not even out of Hogwarts, but having to get married. Suddenly he couldn’t take it any longer. “Someone poisoned my parents when Mum was pregnant with Hope.”
The bell rang.
“W-what?” Rose hissed out, horrified, as she covered her mouth. “W-what? When?”
“Oh, Merlin,” Scorpius said as his skin went several shades paler, which wasn’t something Al was sure it could do. “You’re joking?”
“You can’t say anything to anyone,” Al whispered urgently. “They don’t want anyone to know!”
“Of course not,” Rose’s eyes filled.
Nat stepped forward and hugged him tight, briefly offering comfort. “Let’s get to class. We can talk later.”
Al trudged back to the castle feeling simultaneously better and worse in equal measures. He’d let his parents down. He’d let his family down. He hadn’t explained everything, nor would he, but…
Rose threaded her arm through his and squeezed gently. “It’ll be okay, Al.”
“Thanks, Rosie,” he replied without feeling. Nothing felt like it would be okay, ever again.
Harry stared around the conference room that he infrequently used for his Aurors. Typically he didn’t call staff meetings, as he didn’t want to go to them himself, and it was bad form for the boss to be a no-show.
It was, in fact, the same room where he’d sat across from Isabella Crabbe and her sister when Goyle’s mum had pleaded for her son’s release from Azkaban.
Gregory Goyle was still locked up and would be for at least another year. It didn’t matter any longer. His parents were dead now. His aunt Isabella was crazy and on the run, doing Merlin only knew what with potions.
“Sorry,” Kingsley came in with a wave, his deep, sonorous voice resonating through the room. “I was unavoidably detained, Potter.”
“No problem,” Harry wasn’t at all sorry to delay the meeting. The moment the Minister was seated Harry closed and locked the doors, magically sealing them against listening and turned to face his twelve Aurors. Silas Raeburns, the oldest of the crew, had been part of the Aurors the longest. He, alone, remained from the crew that had been active before Voldemort’s reign of terror. His lined, craggy face was still as sharp as it had ever been, but he now sported thick, steel gray hair. He sat straight as he eyed Harry impassively. Harry didn’t know what he’d do when Raeburns retired. He counted on his steady, immovable presence, plus his decades of experience. It was almost like having Moody back, but without the rampant paranoia.
“Say,” Collins, a man a few years Harry’s senior interrupted. “I thought Macmillan would be back by now.”
“She’s asked for another few weeks,” Harry told the group at large. “I’m inclined to give her the extra time to be with the baby, since Susan is our only senior female Auror. I’d rather give her more time now than risk her quitting altogether.”
Thomas Gregory cleared his throat, looking uncomfortable. “That’s the thing, boss. We need more women.”
“I’m aware,” Harry bit back the annoyance. He’d tried, with each seventh year Hogwarts class, to get women to train, but thus far he’d had only one take him up on it and she was still in her third year of training. His niece, Dominique, had told him over Christmas that she was thinking about it, but she was still in her fourth year. “I’m going back to Hogwarts next week, but in the meantime we’ll have to make due.”
Harry glanced at Kingsley and saw the Minister gesturing at his pocket watch.
“Right,” Harry pulled out the heavy box that he’d retrieved from storage from its spot on the floor by his feet and set it on the table. “I’ve got a personal problem that now needs everyone’s attention. Almost twenty years ago my wife and I were attacked. Is everyone familiar with the general story?” He scanned the room and saw no one was giving him a questioning glance. “Right, well, what I need to have everyone understand is that I’m about to reveal details that are pertinent, but I would request that they remain private. My children could be adversely affected if word got out and they are still young. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” a murmur floated around the room.
Harry forced himself to take several slow, deep breaths before he started in on the story. “Ginny and I were attacked with a Blood Boiling Hex and landed in St. Mungo’s. Everyone knew that, correct?” At every nod, he went on. “That’s where the official story moves sideways from the truth. What everyone thinks happens is that Ginny and I acted like a couple of teenagers, she ended up pregnant, and we were forced to marry.” He looked down at his simple wedding band and thought of his beautiful wife and the life he’d made with her. “What really happened, that no one but the Minister knows, is that a woman named Isabella Crabbe used me to magically impregnate Ginny.”
Several sharp, indrawn breaths, a couple of gasps, and a fog of stunned silence filled the room. No one moved as a dozen sets of eyes bore into him.
“Then we were poisoned,” Harry continued the story and fought with every fiber he had to keep his composure. “It was a little known poison called Dolore Tardus. It’s slow acting, and so obscure that it’s a miracle that we were cured. However, the poison was still inside my wife and she lost our baby.”
“Merlin’s beard,” Raeburns muttered at just above a whisper.
Harry closed his eyes briefly before glancing around. “At first we kept it quiet because we didn’t want our daughter to feel like she was unwanted. After, we kept it quiet because we thought Isabella Crabbe was dead and we wanted to protect our future children from feeling like we were forced to be married. At this point, my oldest children are aware of the truth, but our youngest isn’t ready.”
“This…” Collins looked stricken as his brown eyes flashed with sympathy. “I’m sorry, Harry. I have to ask, though. Why are you telling us now? Isabella Crabbe is dead, as you said, so…” his voice faded off as he stared at Harry in horror. “She’s not dead? The recent rape case, the woman that you’ve been taking a personal interesting in?”
“Yes,” Harry rubbed at his brow behind his glasses. “We’ve confirmed that she’s not dead. I’ve had a Muggle expert confirm that the body we found could not have been Crabbe. She was a younger woman of African descent. I’ve got Scotland Yard combing through their missing persons cases, but so far they’ve had no luck. That first year I received a note that said, ‘I know your secret’. Each year, from a Muggle post box, I get a letter. It isn’t always the same time of year, or the same post box and I’ve had no luck in tracing the sender. I now believe it is Isabella Crabbe, but for what reason, I haven’t got a clue. I need help.”
“What do we know?” Raeburns asked him flatly. “We know she took that girl not long ago and let her be raped by men working for her, right?”
“Yes,” Harry confirmed as he pulled out Cori Yale-Oldford’s file. “The information that I have from her is that the men took her and she believes she was kept alive for them to play with. However, her being pregnant might have been part of the plan. We know there were others who were experimented on and didn’t make it. Most of them were older men who she believes were Muggles who might be homeless. They’d be the least likely to be reported as missing. No one lived long. I’ve started to check for potions ingredients, for any illnesses coming in through St. Mungo’s that can’t be explained, but I’m coming up blank.”
Kingsley gazed at him thoughtfully. “What about selling overseas or on the continent?”
“It’s possible,” Harry nodded as he considered that idea. “I didn’t think it was possible to get magical items over the border, but with a powerful enough witch or wizard, I suppose anything is possible. Isabella Crabbe is brilliant. Background on her. Her father wouldn’t support Voldemort, so she was captured, handed over to her soon-to-be husband, who spent weeks raping her until she was pregnant and was forced to marry him.”
Auror Gregory swore under his breath. No matter what she’d done, Harry couldn’t stomach the violence that had been done to her. Gregory seemed to form his words carefully. “How old was she when this happened?”
“She’d just turned fifteen,” Harry said as he forced down the bile. He had nieces that age. “She was a Greengrass, but she and her sister were both attacked. Her nephew, Gregory Goyle, is still in Azkaban for his crimes with helping the Death Eaters. He’s showed no remorse and hasn’t been cleared. His mother died a few years ago.”
“How did you identify Crabbe?” another Auror, Becket Hera asked as he took notes on a scroll.
This was the sticking point for Harry. He had given it a lot of thought, had run it through Kingsley, and had opted to keep Natalie out of it. He trusted the men in the room with him or he’d have fired them. There was no room for a traitor in the Auror department. However, a single slip of the tongue could cost a child her life. All he risked for his children was embarrassment if the truth of his marriage to Ginny got out, but this was serious. So, he lied through his teeth and gave Nat’s dad the credit. “One of my sons, Al, is friends with a Muggleborn named Natalie Parker. Natalie stayed with us over Christmas and I met her father, a Muggle expert in bones and faces. He’s an anthropologist. Is anyone familiar with that term?”
“Yeah,” Gregory nodded. “They study ancient bones.”
“Essentially,” he agreed with a slow nod. “However, Curtis Parker is a world renowned anthropologist and he often deals in recent murder cases, helping to solve crimes. I contacted him and he has some computer program that can make a person look older or younger. He took the sketch that Dean Thomas made from Cori Oldford’s memory, and we were able to confirm it. After that, Curtis examined the remains we had that we thought were Crabbe and confirmed that it was definitely not her.”
“So, we need to figure out what Crabbe is up to,” Raeburns said carefully. “Then we need to figure out how to stop it and bring her to justice.”
“Yes,” Harry nodded towards the files. “I have some notes on what happened to me, but it isn’t a large casefile. We’ve got very few leads and no idea how she’s funding what she’s doing. Also,” he said regretfully, “because we believed she was dead, we didn’t attribute any of our unexplained cases to her. That was a mistake that we will need to rectify. If she’s been murdering people for the last twenty years, we need to pin those on her.”
“You think there are more?” Kingsley questioned, straightening in his seat. The light from one of their fake windows shone off his bald, dark head and Harry met his gaze head on.
They exchanged a silent conversation, a trick they’d perfected in the last decade of working closely together. “I think it would be prudent to check all avenues. I would like to bring in Hermione Weasley. One, because I trust her implicitly and two she already knows the history of what I’ve shared. Do I have any objections?”
Several groans, but no objections. Hermione was thorough, easy enough to work with, and she never showed up unprepared. However…
“She makes us fill out the damn paperwork,” Collins grumbled in annoyance as he leaned back in his seat, tipping the chair up onto two legs. “She’s a stickler about it.”
Harry grinned sympathetically. “I’ll make sure she doesn’t. We need to liaise with the MLE and she’s our best bet as they like her and aren’t too fond of us. They’ll have the information on any stolen potions ingredients and possibly back alley sales that we might not have been alerted to.”
The head of the MLE, essentially Harry’s counterpart, was a man named Helminth Smith. He was Harry’s old classmate’s, Zachariah Smith’s, uncle. If it were possible, which Harry wouldn’t have put money on when he was in school, Helminth was even more unpleasant than his nephew. The old coot had resented Harry taking over the Aurors at such a young age and he’d made sure that everyone knew his objections. No one cared, though. Smith was old money, an old family with ties back to Helga Hufflepuff, and he kept his job for purely familial reasons. He didn’t want it. He was a figurehead blowing steam when the mood struck.
It was really Hermione running the department, along with her other duties, but for pretense sake, it was made to look like Smith was still in charge.
A loud knock sounded at the door. Only Harry’s assistant, Daniel, would be at the door and he knew better than to interrupt unless it was urgent. Harry rose and moved to unseal the door to admit the younger man.
Instead he found Daniel along with one of their newly minted Aurors, Kyle Stebbins. Kyle shot him a nervous glance and held out a note. “We got word from Hogwarts.”
That effectively lodged Harry’s heart into his throat as he unfolded the letter and read.
Body found on the grounds, near the lake. Request Auror Potter to investigate immediately. His son, Albus Potter, was one of the children who found the unidentified body. We do not believe it is a student.
Harry stared at the words and felt his entire world tilt sideways. “Hell. Okay,” he turned back to the room. “Raeburns, Gregory, Collins, you’re with me. The rest of you, we’ll meet again tomorrow if I don’t make it back this evening. Kingsley,” he handed the note over to his boss and waited while the Minister quickly scanned it. “Are you coming?”
The older man nodded. “I need to check in with my office first. I’ll meet you there. Tell Minerva.”
“I will,” Harry said as he shook his hand and went to fetch his traveling cloak.
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