|SIYE Time:15:11 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: 96448; Chapter Total: 2732
Awards: View Trophy Room
I know, I know! It's been forever. Things have been a little crazy here, and might be for the next several months as my house is going to be under a massive construction project. Please be patient and leave reviews! :D
For anyone wondering, my third original book is in edits right now!!!! Stay tuned for more information.
Thank you, Arnel, for all your help!
Summer came and Al was equal parts glad to be home and missing his friends. James oscillated between moody, surly git and obnoxious older brother. He did, at least, have Rose, Hugo and Lily to hang out with when James was being an obnoxious prat. Nat went straight from the train to get on an airplane to fly to Brazil. Al and Rose spoke to her using the mirrors that they’d all received for Christmas, but with the time difference it was difficult to find times to talk.
Two weeks after the end of school, his parents threw a huge dinner party for all their friends and family over the weekend. Everyone was there, including his entire family, Teddy and his grandmother, the minister, Neville and his wife, and Luna and her family.
Luna and Rolf had only returned to England the week before, so this was the first time he’d seen them in almost a year. Al loved Luna, very much, even if she was a bit odd. Her husband was one of those brilliant types who lost the thread of conversations, often, and constantly used words that Al had no hope of understanding.
Their twins, Lysander and Lorcan were pretty cute. They both had their mother’s blonde hair and their father’s hazel eyes. Everyone loved the twins who were fun to play with, but the girls especially glommed on to them.
This worked in Al’s favor, as his cousin Victoire was attached to the toddlers, which mean he could pry Teddy away from his girlfriend.
He dragged his god-brother off into the trees, away from everyone else.
“What’s up?” Teddy asked the moment they were out of earshot.
Al glanced down at his trainers and tried to think of what to say.
“Ah,” Teddy intoned, cottoning on. He sat down in the grass beneath a tree and leaned up against the trunk. “Come on, this is probably going to take a bit.”
Al sat a few feet away and leaned against his own tree, drawing his knees up to his chest. “James is being an arse.” It wasn’t what he’d meant to say, but it had come out anyway.
“I expect he is,” Teddy agreed as he picked up a twig. “Everything that’s happened, Al… it’s a lot to take in. Your parents, your dad in particular, have had a rough go of things. It was difficult for me to deal with, and I was a lot older when I found out.”
There was a stinging behind his eyes that Al didn’t want to acknowledge for fear it would only grow. “I guess I always knew that I had another sister, but… she was murdered.”
“Yes,” Teddy agreed slowly. “She was. She and I would have been raised together, and we’d probably have been pals. You, James and Lily are like my siblings, but you’re all so much younger than I am. I can remember your mum being pregnant with you. I held you, Al. I look out for you guys, but Hope would have been different. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss that until I understood what I’d lost. I have Victoire, and she’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but as kids she was a baby for the longest time.”
Al sniffed and picked at his laces. “My parents had to get married.”
Teddy snorted. “I think that’s the least of our worries. They love each other so much. I envy that. I want that, you know? I think I’m going to have that with Victoire, but I have to tell you they’ve set the bar high.”
“I think,” Al said slowly as fear and anxiety ate at him, “that Dad put up the latest round of protections around the house because the woman who attacked them is still on the loose. Something he said made me think that, and Aunt Hermione made those Portkey socks that work like the Galleons do and will get us home if we’re kidnapped.”
His god-brother’s expression remained forcibly neutral, but Al knew him well enough to know it was confirmation without breaking a trust with Al’s dad. “You don’t need to worry about it,” Teddy told him flatly. “Your dad is the best at what he does. You’re safe here.”
“It isn’t enough to be safe,” Al complained, his fear swapping over into annoyance. “This is my family, and I–”
“Wait,” Teddy interrupted, holding up a hand for silence. Al waited while Teddy struggled under something that seemed to tear at his heart. “Listen, I’m the big brother, here, right?”
Al nodded, thankful that it wasn’t James. Technically it was, but James abdicated that role when it came to responsibility. Being a royal pain in the arse was the only big brother role that James took seriously.
“You’re twelve, and it isn’t on you yet,” he leaned forward and met Al’s eyes head on. “You’ve got enough on your plate with school, dealing with James, and I know you’re looking out for Nat. Let this one go for now. I’m not saying,” he interjected quickly, reading Al’s mutinous expression, “that I’m sidelining you forever, but come on. Your parents never had a normal childhood, and I can promise you that the one thing they’d really love is if you kids didn’t have to grow up too quickly. Can you understand that?”
He mulled, and thought, and mulled and finally nodded. He could understand how his parents would want him to have a safe, normal, happy childhood. It was something they’d never had, and he would dare to guess that they’d likely do all in their power to shield them from what could be traumatic events. “It isn’t exactly working out that way, though.”
“I know it isn’t,” Teddy sighed heavily and kicked at a small rock. “Let’s get back to Hope, okay? It sucks. It flat out sucks that you’ve lost your sister, and that she never had a chance to grow up. It’s horrible that someone would do this to your parents. It’s scary to think that someone might still be out to get them, but you have got to keep in perspective that your dad killed Voldemort. Voldemort was true evil. He was powerful, dangerous, and unbelievably sadistic. You haven’t been taught the full picture yet in school, but you can find the books in the library. There’s a particularly good one called The Rise and Fall Of The Dark Arts. There are two versions of that book, one was completed about ten years ago. Find a copy of that and read it. When you have a full understanding of just what your dad has accomplished, it will help you accept that you’re safe with him, and also help you understand why you should let him think he’s sheltering you. You have no idea how much he loves that Lily is so innocent and untouched by all of this. Al, she’s a breath of fresh air from our jobs. I can be having the crappiest of days, and one hug from her and it’s all gone.” Teddy paused for a single breath. “If it was me, and I hope it is someday, I’d do the same with my family.”
Al felt his shoulders hunching under the unspoken reprimand. Teddy wasn’t being mean, or harsh. He was simply reminding Al that, as a kid, he didn’t know everything. Most of the time, though, it seemed to Al that he knew next to nothing. “Do you ever feel like Dad is overshadowing you?”
“Nope,” Teddy shook his head firmly. “First off, he’d have to stand in my light to do that, and he never would. He wants me to succeed and do better than he does, although he’d never want me to struggle under the weight that he has. He willingly put his life on the line to make sure we can live in peace. I aspire to be as brave and as dedicated as he is, but the bottom line is I hope I never have to prove myself in the way he did. If we get there, again, then my family and everyone I love will be at risk. I’d rather be an ordinary Auror, living a relatively quiet life, than a hero.”
Al ran his hands through his hair and leaned back against the tree. A single tear slid traitorously down his cheek. Immediately, he found Teddy’s solid arms around him as several more tears forced their way out. Nothing was said in the minute it took him to pull himself back together.
“I love you, kid,” Teddy ruffled Al’s hair. “Give James time, okay? He’s stuck being a git for a while, but he is your brother and you have to make allowances for him.”
Teddy moved back over to his tree as Al said, “He was picking on a girl.”
“Then he likes the girl,” Teddy informed him without a single moment’s hesitation. “He’s going to be one of those who has no idea what to do with himself.”
“That’s stupid,” Al muttered, even as a grin tugged its way across his mouth. “I told Fred, and he warned James off. The girl is… she’s different. She’s American.”
Teddy cocked an eyebrow and opened his mouth to speak, but a voice came from the edge of the wood. “Teddy? Al?”
“Here, Ginny,” Teddy called back and hauled himself to his feet.
“It’s time to eat,” his mother’s voice said in a tone that brooked no argument. It was time to go in.
It was the shouting that woke Natalie from her sleep. It was the banging and screaming that had her reaching for her backpack, the one that held her wand. “Dad?” she whispered into the darkened room, but heard nothing. She glanced around, but saw only the crack in the shade over the window that let in the light from the capital city of Brasília.
Curtis Parker been out late at a dinner with some colleagues from the University at the restaurant in the hotel, and had told her she could go to bed. Where was he? What time was it?
“Cale-se!” someone hissed out. Her Portuguese, while still rough, could translate that one.
Nat flung herself to the floor and crawled under her bed, dragging her backpack with her. With trembling fingers, as the doorknob rattled, she pulled her wand free, and, on impulse, grabbed the two-way mirror that her fingers had grazed. She was in sweatpants, which thankfully had a large pocket. She shoved the mirror in, and after a moment’s hesitation, also threw the wand in. If she was going to be taken, there was no way she could fight.
Where was her father?!
Nat bit hard on her lip to stifle the surprised gasp as the door was forced open. Seconds later the bed was wrenched up, and she was grabbed roughly by a man dressed in camouflage fatigues.
“Ela está aqui,” the man called over his shoulder.
Before she could get a good look at him a dark bag was thrust over her head, and a sweet, sickly smelled filled her nose.
The world went black.
Her next awareness came with a pounding headache, a roiling stomach and the smell of damp, rotting earth.
Her wand was sticking her painfully in her side, but otherwise her limbs felt heavy and a little numb. She didn’t speak, didn’t move, as she tried to take in her surroundings.
The smell was wet, of earthen buildings and forgotten caves, but there was a slight tang of fresh air, so there had to be ventilation somewhere.
Fear licked hungrily at her, wanting to draw her into a romping game of panic and tears, but she bit hard on her lip and forced herself to focus.
Sounds… she heard a small drip off to her left, a slow, melodic trickle on water. No insect, no birds and as near as she could tell, there were no humans in the near vicinity.
When she finally wiggled her fingers, it was to find that she wasn’t bound as she’d have expected. Undoubtedly, the men who had taken her hadn’t seen her as a threat. Nat was tiny, just a child.
How little they knew.
Natalie pulled in a deep breath and tried not to think about her father. She needed a way out, and thank goodness, she’d managed to grab her ticket to freedom.
“Hello?” Nat choked out through a phlegm-filled throat. Nothing. “Olá?”
Nat pulled the mirror from her pocket and cleared her throat. She really hoped she could reach Al, but Rose would do as well. “Albus Potter,” she whispered into the mirror.
The mirror sprang to life as dancing, dazzling lights played around the room and the world spun until it showed a darkened bedroom that she knew to be Al’s.
Nat glanced around her again, quickly, trying to spot a sign of the time of day, but there was none. If it was night in England…
“Al!” Nat bit out more urgently. “Al, you need to wake up!”
A groan came from somewhere off the glass of the mirror as the image shook roughly, coming to show Al’s sleepy face, his eyes hardly slits in the dim light. “Wuzamatter?” the words came out, blurred together.
“I’ve been kidnapped,” Nat managed to say through the rush of emotions, namely gratitude, that overwhelmed her. “I need your dad!”
For a second he didn’t move, then his eyes popped open, fully alert and he was off and running.
She heard, more than saw, Al’s frantic cry for Harry, heard the quick explanation, and saw Harry Potter’s face fill the mirror, even as he was shoving on his glasses.
“What happened, Nat?” he asked her urgently. “Are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” Nat assured him. “I was sleeping in my hotel room in Brasília, and some men broke into my room. They put a hood over me, and I think they drugged me because I feel a little sick and it was nighttime when they got me.” She paused, trying to work her brain into a slower thought process so she’d stop babbling. “I’m underground somewhere. I can’t see the sun. No one is around me, and I don’t know where my dad is.”
“Okay, Nat,” Harry said evenly. “I’m going to get you, or at least ensure that someone is there to rescue you. It’s going to take a while, but we’ll get you out of there. Cooperate with your captors and pretend like you don’t understand a word their saying, okay? Do not, under any circumstances, let them know you’re magical. If they’re Muggles, we don’t want them to be spooked and kill you. If their magical…”
“I understand,” Nat promised him.
“I’m going to end the call and head straight to the Ministry, but I will have the mirror will with me. I want you to wait about twenty minutes, count if you have to, and then call me back if the coast is clear. Can you do that?” his intense eyes scrutinized her, even through the mirror.
She nodded, “All right.”
The mirror went blank and Nat shoved it back into her pocket. She ignored the debilitating tremble in her hands as she finally allowed herself to be afraid, and began to count.
Harry’s arrival at the Ministry was only moments before Arthur, Hermione, Percy, Kingsley, and about a dozen others who were on the alert system that Harry had activated.
By protocol, everyone converged on the conference room outside the Auror’s office, the only one that had a fireplace attached to the Floo Network.
“I need Brazil,” Harry barked at his assistant, Daniel, the moment he saw the young man walk through the door. “She’s in the capital city.”
“Yes, sir,” Daniel answered as he knelt at the fireplace and tried to raise someone.
“What’s the situation?” Kingsley asked as he took his customary seat at the head of the table.
It was not typically the Aurors that dealt with British wizards being kidnapped overseas. It typically fell to the head of the International Cooperation or, in some instances, Helminth Smith as the head of the Magical Law Enforcement.
He was currently on the receiving end of a death glare from the obnoxious Smith and an annoyed stare from the head of Magical Cooperation, Adina Kaiser. Adina was, on the whole, a good sort. She was reasonable, fair, and a genius. She was about fifty with nut-brown hair and matching eyes. She had the sort of thin, pinched face that one might expect to see on a pixie, but she was a tall woman, about Harry’s height. It gave her an odd, mismatched appearance.
“I know I’m overstepping,” Harry told Smith, trying to sooth egos so he could ensure their cooperation. “The child who has been taken is the daughter of Dr. Curtis Parker. He recently completed work for the Aurors. It is possible the child was taken because of his work with us. In this case, I will take point until such time as we prove that isn’t the case. We haven’t made contact with Dr. Parker yet, nor have we heard about a ransom.”
It was a sticky situation, asserting his control over that of the other department heads. In terms of rank in the Ministry, Helminth outranked him. Harry was, for all intents and purposes, on the same level as Hermione, who was Deputy Head of the MLE. However, a change that Kingsley had instituted after he’d become Minister was to reorganize the office hierarchy so that the Head Auror had complete autonomy. The only person who could overrule Harry was the Minister himself. Harry had the authority to take over any investigation at any time, for almost any reason.
He didn’t often use that power, because it tended to generate ill-will among his colleagues, but in this case he was going to keep that right to have his fingers straight in the pie. What most of the people in the room didn’t know was that Nat’s powers could make her a serious security risk for them.
Arthur shot him a curious stare, but nodded in approval. Harry grinned weakly at his father-in-law, appreciating his support and the encouraging smile that graced Arthur’s lined face.
“I would like to know how you were alerted,” Adina put in.
“That would be the mirrors, right?” Hermione said as she sat on the edge of her seat. “I made the children two-way mirrors for Christmas last year. The girl is friends with my daughter, and we knew that she would be traveling all over the world when she wasn’t in school. It was the only way they could keep in touch as owls will take weeks or possibly a month to reach her.”
“Exactly,” Harry pulled the mirror out and set it on the table. “She is supposed to be contacting me shortly, as long as the coast is clear.”
“I have Brazil,” Daniel turned his head to inform Harry. “They have a man who speaks excellent English, and he’s requesting permission to come through.”
Harry glanced towards Kinsley, who nodded slowly. “Have him come through.”
Daniel’s head went back through the fire for another thirty seconds, before standing and taking a step back. “I’ll get tea, Mr. Potter, and then try to find the girl’s mother.”
“Thanks, Daniel,” Harry waved the young man off. Daniel had clearance, but he would not be part of the discussion.
A moment later a large, powerfully built man spun to a stop at in the grate and stepped out. His skin was the color of mocha, with brown hair and thick, wavy brown hair trimmed very precisely. He glanced around the room, his eyes fixing on Harry, who felt his gut relax a bit. He knew this man. “Philippe,” Harry moved forward to shake his hand.
He’d met Philippe Alverez several years before when they’d been on holiday in Brazil for the Quidditch World Cup. Ginny had been working, of course, so in their free time Harry had mingled with some of the foreign heads of state. Philippe was his Auror counterpart in Brazil.
“Potter,” the man shot his hand firmly. “What happened?”
“We’ve had a child abducted,” Harry told him quickly. “She’s twelve, and her name is Natalie Parker. Her father has done some work for us, but he’s a Muggle. I believe he’s lecturing at one of the Universities in Brasília. We’ve not been in contact with him, but Natalie has a magical mirror that she shares with her friends. She contacted my son to get me the message that she was in trouble.”
Philippe rubbed absently at his cheek. “Do we know who took her?”
“She’s not seen them since she was snatched, but she says she thinks she was drugged,” Harry explained.
“Probably Muggle, then,” Percy frowned, his eyes full of concern behind his horn-rimmed glances. “Otherwise she’d have been rendered unconscious with a spell.”
“Agreed,” Harry added with a quick glance towards his brother-in-law.
“The problem is,” Helminth interrupted them. “You do not have clearance to go to Brazil, Potter, nor can you operate in a foreign country. Even for a Ministry employee, we do not call out the entire staff to rescue one person.”
Harry only spared him a sideways look, then went back to speaking with Philippe as if they hadn’t been interrupted. “She’s got a trace on her, of course. Can you use that to find her?”
“It’s possible,” Philippe said as he turned back to the Minister. “How important is this?”
It irked Harry that they could so easily dismiss the life of a child, but if she was in the hands of Muggles, it wasn’t a simple law enforcement case. There were channels and paperwork. Kingsley took a deep breath and studied his hands. “Her father has sensitive information about an ongoing investigation. We do not want him to be in a compromised position. If he and his daughter are able to be retrieved safely, we want that to happen. We can’t guarantee that she was taken by Muggles, and we need to react as if this were the worst case scenario.”
Harry’s attention, along with everyone else, was diverted back to the mirror as it came to life with Nat’s pale face shining through, and her tiny, fragile voice, saying, “Harry Potter.”
Seconds had never moved so slowly for Nat. She had to focus on her counting, and breathing, or she’d break down in tears.
The images kept flowing through her mind, replaying like a horror movie. The first time she’d seen a man die she’d been six. He’d been shot five feet from her. His face had frozen in a mask of pain before he crumbled to the ground.
It was his abused wife who’d killed him.
When she was seven, she’d seen a child trampled by cows in India.
When she was nine, Nat had watched helplessly as a man fell into a dig pit. It normally wouldn’t have been fatal, but he’d hit his head on an exposed stone wall. He’d never opened his eyes again.
The year before she’d gone to Hogwarts, when they’d made a short trip into Syria, she’d seen a woman shot by local fighters.
The fighting was supposed to have been limited. It wasn’t the war zone it had been even a year previous.
Her father had whisked her away from that country just as fast as he could, and they were leaving behind children she’d played with, girls her own age who would soon be sold as child prostitutes to pay bills.
Nat couldn’t blame her father for pulling her from the situation, nor could she forget the look of utter despair on the children’s faces.
Their dark, beautiful, soulful eyes haunted her now. The eyes were sometimes dead, even though the child still lived; but others were old, much older than their years.
It was time.
Nat cleared her throat again and stood on shaking legs to move to the short, wooden door. “Hello? Is anyone there?” She pounded her palm against the door, then waited. There was no sound, but the drip of water on stone and earth.
She sighed and moved back to her place on the floor, heartsick and scared stupid. Her dad was missing, and her mum would be worried sick.
Her dad might be dead.
Nat cleared her throat and held up the mirror. “Harry Potter,” she whispered into the glass and watched the lights swirl.
Seconds later, his face appeared through the glass. “Natalie? Are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” she sniffed as gratitude poured out of her. “I haven’t seen anyone.”
“We have someone from Brazil here, Nat,” Mr. Potter went on. “We’re going to try to use your trace to track you down, which means I’m going to need you to perform magic for us. It doesn’t have to be big, just shooting sparks will do it, but I want to try something first. Can you get your wand?”
“I have it,” Nat held it up so he could see.
“Okay,” Mr. Potter nodded in relief. “I want you to walk over to the door. Can you see a keyhole?”
Nat moved over to the door and examined it with her fingers in the dark room. Her palm brushed a door handle, but didn’t find a lock. “It doesn’t seem to have one.”
“But it’s locked?”
“Yeah,” she showed him as she tried to pull the door open.
“I want you to try the unlocking spell. Do you remember that one?”
“Alohamora,” Nat repeated as she pulled out her wand. She pointed it at the door and repeated the spell. Nothing happened. “It didn’t work,” she grunted as she pulled on the handle.
Harry’s face gave nothing away. “I don’t want you to worry, Nat. There could be a lot of reasons why that particular spell didn’t work. Namely, that there is no key and it’s locked with a big slab of wood on the other side, okay? I want you to count every five minutes and perform a spell. If you need to contact me, I will have the mirror with me. Don’t worry,” he went on in a low, soothing voice that guided her towards feeling less panicked. “We’re going to get you out of there. I’m waiting for your mum, then I’m heading to Brazil myself. In the meantime, the Brazilian Ministry is working with their Aurors to attempt a rescue. I’m friends with their Head of Department and he’s a good man. We’re coming for you.”
“Okay,” Nat replied in a trembling voice.
“Every five minutes,” Harry reminded her. “I’ll see you soon.”
She nodded as the mirror went black.
Natalie moved back to her place against the wall and began to count.
Contacting a Muggle establishment from inside the Ministry had been impossible up until Hermione. Hermione ran into several instances when it would have been helpful to use a telephone. She’d petitioned the Ministry to investigate and was turned down, saying they were not Muggles and would not behave in such a way. She appealed directly to Kingsley, who had granted her permission to investigate the problem.
Though she’d been sneered at, mocked and ridiculed, Hermione had soldiered on much to Harry’s amusement and her husband’s bafflement. Arthur, learning of her aspiration to hook the Ministry up, had taken up the challenge.
The first problem was shorting out the electronics, but Hermione had fixed that by finding an old rotary phone. The next had been shielding the wires from magic, but it turned that heavily shielded cable that Hermione was able to appropriate from the British military, was enough to keep it from being shorted out. The one phone resided in the Minister’s office and could only be used by his express permission.
George was now using the same shielding technology, much to the Ministry’s chagrin, to make a lot of money on new gadgets.
Julienne Curtis was in Australia according to her boss at whatever television station she worked at, and Daniel had no luck in convincing them that they needed to contact her until Harry pulled the phone away from his assistant and said it was life and death.
Unfortunately, that didn’t resolve anything because she was still half a world away. She did, at least, know that something had happened and they received word that if she heard from Curtis, she was to call the Ministry directly to let them know.
“I thought the telephone was a stupid idea,” Kingsley admitted when Harry hung up. It was only himself, the Minister and Daniel in the office. “Don’t tell Hermione I said that; she’ll have my hide.”
Harry wanted to laugh, but the situation was too dire. They had word out to the Muggle Police in Brazil that there was a problem, but so far they’d been unable to locate Curtis.
“Sir,” Daniel said hesitantly. “I’ve had word from Ginny asking for an update. Can I let her know? Your kids are going spare, apparently.”
Harry considered the younger man. It was nearly four in the morning and they’d yet to receive confirmation that Harry was cleared through the Brazilian Ministry to travel. “Yeah, but go to my house. I’d rather you tell her in person. Then get some sleep and head back in.”
“I’ll come straight back,” Daniel said solemnly as he headed out.
The second he opened the door, Adina walked right in around the young man. “I’ve had word, Harry. You can head out. The paperwork is now in order and Philippe said he is waiting for you.”
“Thanks, Adina,” Harry nodded briefly and headed for the door to move down towards the fireplace that was connected up for international travel.
“Harry,” a voice from the hall stopped him and he turned to find Arthur waiting for him.
Harry paused and waited for his father-in-law to speak.
Arthur took a deep breath and glanced around, making sure they wouldn’t be overheard. “You’ve ruffled a lot of feathers on this one, and I think it was the right call. People are going to be curious as to why you went to all the trouble for Nat. They’re going to speculate and ask questions. Be careful, son.”
Harry’s heart jolted in fear, even as his body hummed with the thought of action. “I understand.”
“Good luck,” Arthur clapped him on the shoulder and Harry made his way to the correct fireplace.
Traveling to Brazil was not unlike traveling anywhere in Britain. The only problem was that it took minutes, rather than seconds, to come through to the other end.
Philippe was waiting for him, along with the Brazilian Minister of Magic, a woman whom Harry had only seen once years previously. She was a stately woman with iron hair, streaked with dark threads, and sharp, brown eyes. She was diminutive in size, but one look at her left Harry with the impression that she was not a woman to be messed with.
“Mr. Potter,” she said with crisp, precise English that still hinted at an accent. “We are happy to have you. We have a team, right now, working to retrieve the girl, but her father is still missing. I’ve alerted the Muggle authorities and they have launched a search. Your colleague, Mrs. Kaiser, has been most helpful in using your trace on the girl.”
“Please,” Philippe held out a hand. “I’ll take you to our meeting room.”
They left Harry to wait, mostly by himself, in a large, sparsely furnished room while the local MLE narrowed in on Nat’s position. Every so often someone would poke their head in to smile at him, but as almost no one spoke English, he was left to his own devices.
The minutes crawled by like an eternity.
Finally, two hours after he’d arrived, Philippe burst in and motioned him to follow. “We have her location.”
Nat had fired sparks off forty times, at the instructed five-minute intervals. She’d not seen anyone, nor heard anything. Her head ached. Her stomach hurt. She was starving, and her blood sugar was in the toilet.
The silence was driving her mad. The counting was making her crazy. The loneliness and fear had won and she was now in a full out panic.
Several times she’d forced herself to not pick up the mirror and make the call, reasoning that there was nothing that talking to Mr. Potter could do.
It didn’t help that the drip, drip, drip was driving her crazy, or that the cold was seeping in and she was shivering violently. Her sweats were damp and nothing she did helped. She was too weak to move, to try to warm herself up.
Finally, she gave in, because she knew she was close to losing consciousness, and thinking was taking all of her effort. She pulled out the mirror. “Harry… Potter,” she whispered.
His face shone through, with weird lights all around him. She blinked, trying to focus and it registered in the back of her head that she had spots before her eyes. “I’m hungry,” she said before he could even speak.
“We’re nearly there, Nat,” he huffed out, clearly running. “Just hold on and we’ll get you to–”
Her hand dropped, too heavy to hold up anymore and she felt herself sliding sideways, even as the door burst open. She saw men she didn’t know, rushing for her.
She wanted to protest, wanted to fight, but there was nothing left in her except the rushing in her ears and the cold, clammy feeling that always preceded her passing out.
The world went blank.
Harry hung back, as ordered, even though it contradicted everything in him. He was used to being in charge, used to diving in when he felt the need to. Here, in Brazil, he had to hang back and be grateful they’d let him come at all. “She needs food immediately,” he said again to Philippe. Harry had completely forgotten about Nat’s need for food on a regular basis in the chaos of simply trying to find her. “I think she passed out.”
“I’ve alerted a Healer,” Philippe assured him. “She’s coming straight off and should be here any moment.”
A man shouted something to Philippe, who replied in Portuguese. The rapid exchange went straight over Harry’s head, so he kept his eyes fixed on the house.
Nat was, apparently, somewhere in that house, and from her description Harry had to assume there was a cellar or underground basement of some sort. The house was apparently deserted, which did not leave Harry with a good feeling. He’d have expected some guards.
There was a soft pop from his left and a young woman, several years Harry’s junior, appeared next to them. She was dressed in light blue robes that looked clinical.
Philippe greeted the young woman, and motioned to Harry. “She doesn’t speak English, Harry. Can you give me a rundown of what we can expect?”
“She was cursed by something in Egypt,” Harry began, and waited for Philippe to translate. “If she needs the exact name, I can get it. But, basically, her blood sugar drops.”
“I’m not sure how to translate that,” Philippe said with a frown.
“She gets hungry fast and passes out,” Harry rephrased it.
After a quick exchange, the Healer smiled at him encouragingly.
“I think we have it,” Philippe turned as his men shouted something. His eyes widened. “I think we have your missing Muggle, too.”
Moments later, a man appeared leading a stretcher with a bloodied Curtis Parker on it, unconscious. Right behind him, came a man with Nat in his arms. The tiny girl was miniscule in the huge Auror’s arms.
Harry let out of a sigh of relief as the Healer moved into action to triage them before moving them to the local magical hospital. Harry knew, from experience, that he would not be allowed near them until the Healer had cleared them. One too many run-ins with his sister-in-law, Audrey, had taught him that.
Harry glanced at Philippe. “Can I examine the building?”
Philippe held out a hand. “We shall do this together.”
Absolutely nothing about the kidnapping made any sense. The building was an abandoned farmhouse well outside the city, right on the Tocantins River. No magic, except for Nat’s, was detectable on the premises, and yet something about it struck Harry and decidedly wrong.
“It had be Muggles,” Philippe assured him slowly, but Harry could tell his heart wasn’t into the statement.
“Something is off,” Harry shook his head as he gazed around the dusty, unfurnished upper room. “I don’t like this. Something isn’t right about this.”
Philippe’s dark eyes studied him for a long moment. “I can’t argue with that. I have no proof of anything magical, which means I can’t launch an investigation, but I agree. It feels like this is… I can’t think of the right word.”
“It’s a set-up,” Harry supplied. “Someone made everything look like this so we’d think it was Muggles. But why? Why do this?”
“This child,” Philippe cocked his head sideways. “You’ve gone to a lot of trouble for this child.”
“She’s my son’s best friend,” Harry met his eyes straight on. “She’s been a guest in my home. What would you do for your son?”
“The same,” Philippe conceded. “But, I have to ask, because I’m starting to wonder. Is there more?”
Harry sighed heavily, knowing he had to give the man something else or the questions wouldn’t stop. “My family is being threatened, Philippe. Curtis Parker is helping me. I owe him, but he also has sensitive information that could hurt my family. I can’t let that fall into the wrong hands, if it hasn’t already.”
Satisfied, Philippe nodded. “Let’s go to the hospital, then. Hopefully, they will be well enough to talk by now.”
“Good,” Harry agreed as they made their way down the rickety steps. “Can you let someone know on my end that things have ended well?”
“It’s already done,” Philippe assured him as they emerged into the newly dawning day. Harry glanced at the sun that was cresting the mountains in the distance and marveled at the landscape around him.
Brazil was a beautiful country.
He walked over to Philippe who grasped Harry’s arm to pull him into oblivion and lead him to the hospital, where hopefully Harry would get some answers.
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