|SIYE Time:2:21 on 16th January 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: 78616; Chapter Total: 2051
Awards: View Trophy Room
First off, thank you to Arnel for the quick turnaround in editing!
Readers, are you done with me yet? It's been a month of insanity in my home. We had a scheduled remodel of our house (which needed a new roof) and we started, the weather was fine, just a teensy bit of rain predicted. Then the hurricane hit and while we weren't directly impacted, the storm system brought in a ton of rain and my house was damaged. The ceiling collapsed in my sons' bedroom. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but this time that should have been a lot easier turned into very late nights of work and no time to write. If you want to see a picture, you can check out the one I posted on twitter @sarahjaune
So, my house is coming back together now, and I finally had a spare moment to write and I wrote the whole chapter yesterday. 6500 words! I was that determined not to make you wait any longer.
But, anyway, back to the fun of this chapter. It's a bit of a recap, but I think we could all use it. We're making a step forward and taking half a step back, in some ways. God willing my house won't take any more water damage and I'll be able to get back on an every other week posting schedule! What a mess. I assure you I'd rather be writing.
Last, but not least, my fourth novel comes out shortly! It's already out on selfy, actually. Otherwise, it's a spooky tail that's perfect for Halloween and I hope you will give it a chance, because I'll admit it- I need the money. My kids have no flooring in their bedroom :-/ Also, my first novel is only $2.51 on amazon if you've been putting off checking it out. If you like how I write characters, you will fall in love with these.
The Webs We Weave summary:
It's easy to say that curses do not exist, or that ghosts and demons are fairy tales, until the fourth man you've dated has died and your innocent childhood crush ends in leukemia.
Thus is the life for Carolina Richards. Most girls plan weddings rather than attending funerals. Where most people see a forest, she sees demons in the trees.
Now she must make the hardest decision of her short life: choosing between the life of another, or losing the only thing that has ever made her happy.
As always, review and tell me what you think!
Harry kept his wand trained on the man he’d just Stunned as chaos swirled around him in dancing clouds of people, snow, and panic. Fear and anger warred bitterly in Harry’s gut, but he ignored them as he had for his entire career. He’d trained hard to learn to fight back against the urge to react emotionally rather than rationally. It was, Harry knew, what Hermione had been trying to get him to do the entire time they were at Hogwarts, but both he and Hermione had learned hard lessons. Harry’s instincts, his gut reactions, and his emotions were valuable tools when it came to fighting Dark wizards. But a cool head and steadfast logic would almost never steer him wrong. So he ignored the acid in his gut as he thought about the fact that Nat had nearly been snatched and waited for the teams that he knew were coming to back him up.
The Aurors and Hit Wizards arrived within moments, as Harry knew they would. They worked quickly to secure the man. Harry turned his attention away from the man, finally, to see Susan Macmillan staring at him. It was strange to know that she was head of this, and not him.
“Harry,” she said quietly.
“He tried to take a child,” Harry explained flatly, leaving his feelings buried deep inside. “I’d seen him at the train station when I was getting the children from school. I reported it to Kingsley. We exchanged spells just now.”
She tilted her head to the side and a single strand of dark, red hair fell across her cheek. Susan barely noticed it as she tucked it behind her ear. “I see.” Her tone said more than was spoken aloud. She did see. She was one of his better Aurors, much to Harry’s surprise and chagrin. When Susan had joined up, after the war, Harry had assumed she’d wash out. She’d been in the D.A. but Susan had never stood out to him, except as the niece of a great witch. She’d quickly proved her merit, though, and had earned everyone’s respect. Susan had a quick, agile mind that processed information and nuance quickly. What she lacked in aggression, she made up for in speed. She might not be who Harry would have sent in first, but as follow up to note the details, she was always sharp. He respected her immensely.
“I will discuss it personally with Kingsley, but the girl is safe,” Harry said under his breath, so only she would hear. Then louder, he added, “Let me know how I can help.” Then he took a step back, loathed as he was to do it. It felt wrong. He was supposed to be in there, right in the middle, but he couldn’t help the note of pride as he watched the Aurors that he’d trained perform their jobs, quickly interviewing everyone on the street to ascertain what exactly had happened.
The stories all lined up. The man grabbed a little girl, most assumed she was about eight-years-old, and Harry had come to her rescue. Harry had sent the girl off with Ron Weasley.
A flash went off somewhere to Harry’s right, but he barely paid it any mind. The press was always swarming around a big story. It would have been odd if someone from The Daily Prophet hadn’t been there. A small niggling of amusement flitted through him as he realized that it was no longer his job to give a statement to the press; or rather nag Hermione until she did it for him.
It felt like Hogwarts all over again when it came time for homework. He’d try, then Hermione would correct it. If he failed enough times, she ended up doing it for him. Harry sobered as he realized that was exactly what Hermione was doing for Zacharias Smith, her new boss. It was one thing for Harry to be rotten at speaking to the press. It wasn’t the main focus of his job, but Zacharias was actively damaging relations between the various departments and leaving Hermione to deal with the aftermath.
He shook his head, coming back to the present scene. The suspect had already been removed. Harry was not questioned further on the street, for which he was thankful. Susan came over to formally ask him to come back to the Ministry to make a statement, and Harry agreed. He had to focus most of his efforts on staying calm and in the moment, while his brain raced over all the possibilities. Nat was clearly the target. It was obvious that she’d been the one they’d been trying to secure.
He was escorted, as was protocol, by one of the junior Aurors, a man who had only qualified two years before. He tried to smile at the man, who Apparated with him to the Ministry’s main entrance so Harry could register as a visitor to the Ministry, but his face felt like it was glued in place. Harry could only hope he wasn’t scowling. “How have you been, Sam?” Harry asked as they waited for Harry’s wand to be checked. Sam was a big man, beefy and extremely muscled, but he was also fast. It was one of the reasons Harry had taken him on to train.
“Not too bad,” Sam said as he plastered on a huge grin. His teeth were the most noticeable thing about him, as they were brilliantly white. It was always striking to Harry, since his face was otherwise a dark, chocolate brown. His brown eyes were exhausted, though, telling the tails of the hours that the Aurors must be putting in on the missing women’s cases. Harry didn’t ask about how that was going. Sam wasn’t allowed to tell him, and he didn’t want to put the younger man in an awkward position. “It’s not the same, but we’re managing.”
They didn’t say anymore as they took the lifts up to the Aurors’ offices and Harry sat himself at Daniel’s desk. He had no idea where the personal assistant was, but was reasonably certain he wouldn’t be miffed if Harry used his chair.
“They’ll probably want you in the conference room,” Sam told him, “but they’ll insist I check that it’s available first.”
“No problem,” Harry assured him mildly. It was all an act. Inside his heart was still racing. They’d been having such a good day and now…
“I’ll be right back,” Sam said awkwardly as he shifted his bulk from one foot to the other.
Harry waved him off, not in the least surprised by what was happening. Five minutes later Sam was back to tell him the conference room was empty and he could wait there.
Harry sat in one of the large, comfortable chairs and waited.
And waited some more.
He paced a little, but mostly he sat and he thought through all of the things that had been going on for the last twenty years.
The list of events were not random. His classmate, Vincent Crabbe, was killed in the Room of Requirement, which set his mother off.
“No,” Harry shook his head as he whispered the single word. It went further back than that. It went back to the Greengrass family when Oscar Greengrass had married Beatrice Fudge three-quarters of a century before. Harry could picture their family tree better than he could his own, because in that tree lay secrets, lies, betrayal, and heartbreak. All of it had led to the death of his oldest child, Hope, and was the key to whatever was going on now. Oscar and Beatrice had had three children, Oswald, Fiona, and Isabella. The first war against Voldemort had broken out while Fiona and Isabella had still been at Hogwarts, and Oscar had dithered about whether or not he’d wanted to join the Death Eaters. In the end, he’d decided not to and his daughters had been kidnapped by Voldemort in retribution for the pureblood Greengrass family’s lack of support, and they’d been given to men significantly older than they were.
Fiona and Isabella had been violated; raped until they were pregnant. The law, as archaic and misogynistic as it was, stipulated that they were required to marry the father of their child.
Fiona Greengrass had married Lucas Goyle and they’d had one son, Gregory. Isabella, meanwhile, had been forced to marry Samuel Crabbe. Their son, Vincent was the trigger in all of this.
Oswald Greengrass, the eldest of the three children, meanwhile, had married Virginia Bode and they’d produced two daughters. Daphne had been Harry’s classmate, and she’d never married. Draco Malfoy, however, had married her younger sister, Astoria. Their son, Scorpius, was one of Al’s best mates.
It was a complicated, and twisted, web that melded together.
Fiona had died a few years before. Lucas Goyle and Samuel Crabbe had both died in the war. The only ones still alive from that grouping were Gregory Goyle, who was still in Azkaban. He was up for parole soon, but Harry didn’t know if he was going to get it. That left Isabella Crabbe. She had been presumed dead, and likely she wouldn’t have minded dying after the life she’d lived.
Isabella was the only one among them with any kind of brain. Oswald might have been smart, Harry didn’t know. He’d never met Draco’s father-in-law. Oswald had taken his two pretty daughters and skipped the country when Voldemort was reborn. He’d learned from his father’s mistake and hadn’t risked his daughters’ lives or sanity. Oswald’s refusal to support Voldemort, especially with pureblood daughters that were not, strictly speaking, blood-traitors like the Weasleys, meant they were supposed to toe the line and support the Dark Lord. Daphne and Astoria’s removal to America had been all that had saved them.
Or had it? Scorpius didn’t seem to feel that his father was treating Astoria very well. Harry wouldn’t have suspected that Draco would be violent with his wife, but there was pressure, on all sides, and in this tangled web…
Isabella had been brilliant at potions, but as she’d never graduated from Hogwarts, they’d initially dismissed her as the one to have poisoned Harry and Ginny, which had ultimately led to Hope’s death. What Harry had learned about Isabella’s life was that she’d learned to play dumb around her family, while she secretly taught herself to be a potions master. She was brilliantly gifted, perhaps even a genius, when it came to potions. Her one joy in life had been her son. At seventeen, Harry hadn’t fully understood that because it had been Crabbe, after all, and he’d essentially killed himself with that fire he’d set in the Room of Requirement. Crabbe had none of his mother’s brilliance, or intelligence. He’d been a regular chip off the old block; an exact replica of his father. But Vincent had been the one good thing in Isabella’s life. He’d been her one joy and with him gone, she’d lost any reason to live. She’d poisoned her husband first, after securing the poison from Bellatrix. The only reason Harry knew that was because Draco had heard his aunt talking to someone about trading for the poison. Bellatrix had made Isabella promise to use the poison on Harry if she had the chance.
Well, she’d certainly arranged the chance.
But first, she’d needed to practice and Isabella had no love for her abusive husband. Harry wasn’t entirely sure he blamed her for that one. Samuel Crabbe had gone to St. Mungo’s where Audrey had researched the poison until she’d found the cure. Crabbe had gone on to fight at the battle of Hogwarts, where he’d died because of his weakened state: the poison robs a person of health and vitality, slowly killing the body until there was no way to repair it.
If Audrey hadn’t figured out that Harry and Ginny had been poisoned early on, they too would have been permanently afflicted.
After her revenge on them, and her failed attempt to kill Ginny after she’d miscarried Hope, Harry had assumed she’d died.
Except for the notes…
Notes came, still, once a year saying, ‘I know your secret.’ Every year someone, and Harry knew now that it was Isabella, had sent that note. He didn’t know what secret she referred to, exactly. It could have been Hope’s conception, of course, but Harry wasn’t ashamed of that anymore. He did want to protect his children, but knew that if it came out they would handle it. The boys were already dealing with it. Lily would take it badly. It would hurt her deeply to know how her parents had been used, but she would make it through.
If that wasn’t the secret, then Harry didn’t know what it might be.
Harry pulled out his battered pocket watch and saw that he’d been sitting for almost two hours. That wasn’t completely unexpected, of course, but this was still pushing it.
His mind flashed back to Cori, the first woman who had been taken. She had been found raped and she’d clearly been experimented on. She’d miscarried a baby, too. What had been the aim there?
Harry just couldn’t see what Isabella might be up to. She had a lot of reasons to hate and a lot of people to be angry with, but she wasn’t actively trying to kill him or seek revenge. Maybe she was over getting revenge on him. There was always that possibility, although Harry doubted it. Typically people who were bent on getting back at someone stuck it out until it was over, or everyone was dead. Now she was after Nat, but Harry didn’t know why she might want her. On the outside, Nat appeared to be a harmless child. There should be no possible way that anyone had figured out her secret power to visually detect magic. The only people who knew were those he trusted completely. His own children were acutely aware that if they told Nat’s secret, her life was in danger.
Harry thought that the kids had told Scorpius about Nat’s secret, but Harry’s gut told him they could trust Draco’s child. Besides that, Harry was certain that Draco had nothing to do with Isabella’s crazy scheme. The Malfoys were still trying to gain back their former glory after the last war and Draco was more about image than he was about purifying the Wizarding population. That wasn’t to say that they’d suddenly let Scorpius marry a Muggleborn, but they were a lot quieter now about their collective narcissism. It was difficult to see Draco taking up a cause with a woman who was so clearly off her rocker.
Harry stood and stretched, moving around the room. He was, thankfully, calmer now than he had been a few hours before. He admitted it was more difficult when the kids were involved, first with bodies being left at the school, then Caroline Baker being put under the–
Harry froze mid-step as the face of a large, blond man filled his memory. Why, though? The name came back, Dodi Baker. He’d met a man with hair the same color as Caroline’s, with the same last name. Her grandparents had said his name was… Harry struggled, trying to recall the exact details, but they failed to surface. Also missing was where he’d met the man. It nagged at him, right in the back of his brain. It was tantalizingly close, and yet just out of reach. Where…
He shook his head, knowing it wouldn’t come to him until he was ready. Caroline had been under the Imperius Curse and someone close to her had likely put it on her. She hadn’t recalled seeing her father, but from what they’d told him about the man, he was evil enough to have done it. He’d beaten his children and possibly murdered his wife. There was nothing to suggest that Dodi wouldn’t do something horrible to other people outside his family. Plus, he was supposed to be part of the American mafia, the Liens du Sang. All of Harry’s attempts to find out more about it had been met with dead ends and people too afraid to speak. The mafia would be the perfect way to smuggle potions ingredients, though.
If Isabella Crabbe was cooking up illegal potions, she wasn’t leaving a trail of money in any location that Harry had been able to detect. If she was using people to experiment on, she wasn’t taking many of them. It certainly wasn’t as though people were going missing like in the days of Voldemort, and Isabella didn’t seem bothered by blood status.
There was a point to all of this insanity. There was a plan, and if there was a plan that involved the Liens du Sang, then there was money involved. Harry hadn’t learned much, but he knew that their primary goal was money, with blood-status coming up a very distant second. The Americans were funny like that. If it served their purpose, then pureblood status meant something. If it didn’t, then no one bothered to mention it. America was more of a melting pot than England, anyway.
The door opened and Kingsley walked in, looking completely stunned. Harry strode over to him quickly. “What happened?”
“You are not going to believe it,” Kingsley told him in a dazed voice.
Harry didn’t quite believe it. In the time he’d been in the conference room, The Evening Prophet had been delivered and en masse, without a single thought to coordinate, half of the wizarding population of Britain had stormed the Ministry. It was a miracle Harry hadn’t heard a thing, because the entire Atrium had been filled to the brim with angry witches and wizards, demanding not only that Smith step down, but that Harry be reinstated.
The headline story had read that a little girl had nearly been kidnapped from Diagon Alley. The reporter, Brian Wallach, had stated that without Harry Potter’s quick actions, she would have been gone. He pointed out, yet again, that things were falling apart under Smith’s supposed leadership. He cried foul at the appointments Smith had made, all in the name of nepotism. He pointed out that no one had actually voted for Smith, but somehow he’d been elected. Brian had then gone on to demand action from the public to get the Ministry back on track.
It turned out that the Wizarding community had had enough, and they’d taken up the call to action. At the demand of an armed, angry mob the records for the election had been revealed. At a show of hands, not a single person admitting to voting for Smith. Everyone, instead, said they’d voted for Allison Macmillan, Justin Macmillan’s mother, and Susan Bones Macmillan’s mother-in-law. The call was put out immediately for her to take the job and in a stunning turn of events, Helminth Smith was out, Allison was in. The first thing she’d done, after coming forward to speak to the crowd, was to promise to reinstate Harry Potter as an Auror. Kingsley had immediately stepped aside, as he still wanted to be mostly retired, and Harry was brought down to show his unity while a humiliated Smith snuck out of the Ministry.
Then came the part that Harry absolutely hated about his job. They wanted him to speak. “I am not up to date on all of the case files,” Harry explained to the waiting crowd. “I do have every confidence that Kingsley Shacklebolt did as good of a job as I could have done in my absence and he has agreed to personally brief me until I can catch back up.”
A woman in the back of the crowd shouted out, “Will there be more kidnappings?”
“I would say,” Harry began, then stopped to think through what exactly he wanted to say. He didn’t want anyone to panic over the situation. “I would say that I am not confident we can stop another kidnapping with the limited information we currently have. It appears that only women and girls are being targeted, right now, but we do know men have been targets in the past. We are linking cases together as we speak. I do not want to jeopardize our ongoing investigation by revealing too much, but I will say that you need to be cautious. I do not think we are in a repeat of previous Dark times.”
“Is the child okay?” This was shouted from the back of the room. An older gentleman waved his hand, trying to catch Harry’s attention. “The one who was nearly taken today.”
He didn’t know if Nat was okay, but since he hadn’t heard otherwise he had to assume. “She is fine.”
“Do we know why they wanted her?” the older man asked.
“I’m not going to speculate on motives at the moment,” Harry explained quickly. “First, because we do not have a clear idea of the motives and second because I do not want to endanger the investigation or the possibility of getting the two women back. They deserve my discretion, and I hope you will understand and respect that. I think that the child was attacked because she was an easy target. If help hadn’t been there, she would have been easy to grab. I am urging everyone to be cautious, but I am also not saying that you should hide in your homes. It’s very unlikely that you will be targeted.”
Harry accompanied Kingsley back up to the holding cell where the man who had sparked a revolution was being held.
“There’s a small problem,” Kingsley confided as they moved to the guarded door. The room was warded so that Apparation was not possible inside the room, but there were still two Aurors standing outside, waiting for them. There would also be a guard in with him.
“What’s that?” Harry asked.
“He only speaks Portuguese.”
Harry stopped and turned to stare at Kingsley. “You’re kidding me.”
“I am a bit, actually,” Kingsley gave him a wry smile. “He’s pretending not to speak English, but with how he’s listening to us I know he does understand. We didn’t get much out of him.”
“I expect not,” Harry muttered as his mind raced back to Brazil and Nat’s original kidnapping. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“Yes,” Kingsley nodded. “Yes, I am.”
Harry acknowledged the two Aurors on duty with a wave. He appreciated their congratulatory smiles, but his mind was still firmly on the matter at hand. He pushed the door open and found Sam standing guard.
“Thank you, Sam,” Harry said with a nod.
“No problem,” Sam assured him. “Do you need anything else, sir?”
“Not right now,” Harry replied as he took a seat across from the disheveled man with dark hair and tanned skin. His eyes were a dark blue and there were definite rings under his eyes.
Harry waited until they had the room to himself, and he pointed his wand at the man, lifting the Imperius Curse that Nat had said he was under.
The man flinched backwards, sucking in a large amount of air like he was pulling through a straw. He blinked, turned to look around him. “What happened?” he asked in accented, but flawless, English.
“We would really like to know that, actually,” Harry said as Kingsley took a seat next to him. His former boss didn’t say anything, though. Kingsley’s presence was often enough to intimidate a prisoner into talking. He had a way about him. Harry was only threatening if someone knew his story, which, of course, most people did. “You were following my family and you tried to snatch a child in Diagon Alley. Do you remember that?”
“I…” the man hesitated as fear flooded his features. “I don’t, no. Am I under arrest?”
“Yes,” Harry told him immediately. “But, depending on how cooperative you are, we might be able to arrange something. You were under the Imperius Curse, which means you were not fully liable for your actions. That weighs in your favor.”
He stared at them. “What do you want me to do?”
“First, we need your name and a little bit about you,” Harry informed him.
“Frederick Weise, but most people call me Freddie,” he blurted out quickly as his eyes darted between them. “I was born in Brazil, but went to school in America. My parents died when I was young and I went to live with my aunt in Pennsylvania. I’m twenty-eight and I’m an American citizen.”
Harry’s lips twisted into a grimace, but he forced his features to relax. If Frederick was American, they would have to contact the American wizarding government today. The Americans were a pain in the arse about their witches and wizards when they were abroad. “We will be sure to let your county know, but what would help us out the most is if we could see into your memories.”
“My…” Freddie paused, looking extremely unsure. “What about them?”
“Do you remember anything from when you were under the Imperius Curse?” Kingsley inquired.
The answer, was of course, no. He would remember almost nothing if the person who put the curse on him didn’t want him to remember. But that didn’t mean the memories weren’t there.
“Let me put it this way,” Harry told the man, leaning forward. “If you’re really innocent, then giving us those memories will be no problem. It’s a show of good faith, if you will.”
After a long pause, Freddie asked, “Are you going to look at everything in my past? I haven’t always been the best…”
“We have some specific memories we’re looking for,” Harry said, dodging the question neatly. He had two specific instances in mind, actually. “Those are the only ones we’re looking for. If we find you were ordered to take the girl in Diagon Alley, then you will be released and sent back to America.”
Freddie gave a curt nod. “Alright.”
Harry entered the memories with a mixture of trepidation and excitement fifteen minutes later after they’d retired to the head’s office. It was strange to be back, but it also felt right. Kingsley made a short crack about clearing out his meager belongings, but it was the right break in the mood they both needed. Neither of them was sure what they were about to see as Harry pulled out the Pensive that he’d liberated from Hogwarts a dozen years back. He hadn’t exactly stolen it. He’d simply explained to McGonagall that he was interested in a permanent loan. The surface swirled with images as Harry emptied the vial into the shimmering surface. “Here goes nothing,” Harry said under his breath as he bent his face towards the basin.
Freddie’s form came into focus and Harry saw they were in a dimly lit bar. From the writing on the wall, he guessed America, because the adverts appeared to be the sort that Americans went for. Freddie was standing next to a man, with a dartboard above his head. It had one lone dart sticking out of it, and it practically brushed Freddie’s dark locks. Freddie’s eyes were blank and his face expressionless. The man, who appeared to be a middle aged, balding grandfather type had his wand out, but concealed in the folds of a thick overcoat. “I need you to go to Brazil,” the man explained to Freddie. “There’s a girl there that we need. You’ll have to take her from her father, but he’s a Muggle. You won’t have to worry about the, and you will have help in Brazil. I will arrange for someone to meet you at the Brazilian Ministry entrance.”
“Okay,” Freddie agreed in what, to Harry, sounded like a robot voice.
“You will take her to a house and hold her there until we can fetch her back to England,” the man told Freddie. Then, blessedly, he muttered, “that will be our only chance.”
The memory shifted and Harry watched Freddie, who was watching Curtis Parker, Nat’s father, in the restaurant. Freddie was not alone, though. There was another man with him. This man was darker than Freddie, but not by much. His hair, however, was slightly silvered around the edges. The two made sure to keep out of sight of the table, but could also watch Nat, her father, and his colleague who were dining together. Harry saw Nat leave the dining area and Freddie followed after his companion motioned for him to go after her.
“I will subdue the father,” the older man told Freddie. “I’ll get rid of the coworker and meet you out back after you secure the girl.”
Freddie nodded and followed Nat up to her hotel room. From there it was simple to break in, kidnap her and secret her body out of the hotel.
How he removed Nat had bothered Harry. The Muggles had surveillance equipment, but they’d seen nothing suspicious. Freddie placed Nat’s limp body in a rolling suitcase and wheeled her from the hotel, as though he was checking out of a room. No one noticed. No one commented, and more importantly no one tried to stop him.
It was so simple, but extremely clever.
Once he met up with the man, they loaded the suitcase in the back of a large lorry, next to Curtis’ prone form.
“No trouble?” the other man asked Freddie. “Curtis went to the toilet shortly after you left and I was able to take him from there, dumping him out the bathroom’s window. I then jinxed the coworker so that he forgot he was eating with Curtis, paid the bill, and went to bed.”
“No trouble,” Freddie said absently. “Chloroform worked like you said it would.”
They drove for over three hours before reaching the home that Harry knew all too well. It was the house that he’d seen them rescue Nat from months before.
Freddie watched, dispassionately, as the other man levitated the bag down to the locked cell. He unzipped the bag, pulled the small girl out, and dosed Nat with something from a vial that he’d had in his pocket.
“I will stay here and guard them,” the man told Freddie. “You will go back and inform them that we have her and we’re waiting for an extraction team. Tell them I was able to snatch the man, as well, so we should be able to get some information from him.
Freddie nodded and left, Apparating away the moment he left the house. There the memory went blank.
Harry and Kingsley rose from the pensive and stared into the inky darkness.
“They removed his memory from there,” Kingsley sighed heavily. “Which means they didn’t care if we saw what happened up until that point.”
“It didn’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know,” Harry agreed bitterly. “We know how they got her out, but not what they gave Natalie. We still don’t know why they wanted her, or why the guard wasn’t there when we arrived.”
“What we do know,” Kingsley said slowly, “is that Natalie Parker cannot go back into the Muggle world. Whether it was their intention or not, we know that they want her and that the only real way to get her is through her parents.”
“But somehow she planted a body in Hogwarts,” Harry reminded Kingsley. “She could get Nat at school, unless…” his mind raced.
A lot of leads went back to America, including Caroline.
“Caroline might have brought the body in,” Harry said after a moment. “If she’d been under the Imperius curse, they might have been able to instruct her into transfiguring the body or concealing it long enough to get it in.” Even as he said it, though, Harry dismissed the idea. It was difficult magic that no child would be able to do, apart from someone like Dumbledore. It was impossible for Caroline to have done it.
“The security isn’t what it used to be on the castle,” Kingsley reminded him. “We relied heavily on Dumbledore to maintain the level it was at before the war. After his death, certain things fell by the wayside. I would say that it isn’t impossible to sneak anything in, if you have enough time and skill.”
It was a scary thought. “But they didn’t go up into the castle.”
“No, I think the castle is better guarded than the grounds,” Kingsley said as a knock sounded at the door.
“Enter,” Harry called out and Allison Macmillan poked her silver head in.
She was a woman of average height and weight. Her eyes were sparkling blue in a gently lined face. She was a few years younger than Arthur and Molly, and still commanded a presence. She smiled as she stepped in and closed the door. “What news?”
“Not much,” Harry said heavily. “We didn’t learn more than a few logistics. It does appear that he was not culpable for the kidnapping, though. He was under the Imperius Curse and was definitely ordered to snatch the child.”
Allison nodded thoughtfully, staring intently at Harry with very intelligent eyes. Harry had the uncomfortable thought that this was exactly what Hermione would still be doing to him in forty years. That kind of brilliance only grew sharper with age, cutting out all the things that they knew were fluff around the edges. “Do you know why the girl was targeted?”
“No,” Harry answered truthfully. He had guesses, but no solid leads. He knew he would have to fill the new Minister in eventually, but right now he didn’t want to overload her. Allison had enough on her plate. “This is much bigger than a few incidents right now, but I would rather we go over it later when we have time.”
“I can respect that,” Allison replied as she turned to Kingsley. “You’re going to hang around for a while, right?”
Kingsley nodded. “I’m going to work part-time with the Aurors, but I will be available if you need me. The job of Minister gets easier after the first few weeks.”
“I’m firing Zacharias Smith tomorrow,” Allison said after a brief silence. “I think I’ll put Weasley in his place, since she was doing the job anyway.”
“Good choice,” Harry said, “and not because she’s my sister-in-law.”
“She’s the most qualified,” Allison shrugged. “I would be doing the Ministry a disservice if I placed anyone else in the head’s position. I do want regular reports from you,” she told Harry, “but you can deliver them verbally or have your assistant write something out.”
Harry smiled sheepishly. “I’ll keep you in the loop. Speaking of which, we have to contact America. We have one of their wayward citizens.”
It was almost dawn before Harry made it home. He wouldn’t be able to sleep for very long, but he needed a change of clothes and a shower. More than that, though, he needed to wrap himself around his wife and inhale her sweet, flowery scent.
Ginny barely stirred when he climbed in behind her. Harry rarely worked late like this any longer, but whenever he did, she always slept through him coming back home to her. He liked that he could watch her sleep for a few minutes. She was still so beautiful and it gave him an ache in the gut to know he’d been blessed to be bonded to this woman. He wouldn’t have chosen anyone else, but for as angry as he was at Isabella Crabbe, he had to thank her for forcing him to marry Ginny. It could have been so much worse. Isabella’s intent was to destroy them, but as she’d never loved fully, she didn’t understand that nothing she did to them was going to pull them apart.
Ginny was his rock, his home, and his love.
She sighed in her sleep, snuggling further back into his chest. She’d been instrumental in getting him back out into the world, trying to get him to figure out how the vote had been rigged. Harry still had no idea how the voter tablets had been rigged. They were supposed to only register one vote per person. The witch, or wizard, walked into the booth, stuck their thumb on the name of the person they were voting for, and the vote was counted. The only thing he could imagine was that they’d been confounded as they walked in to vote for the wrong person, but the area was supposed to be heavily guarded against that sort of thing.
“Harry?” Ginny’s sleepy voice interrupted his musings. “You were there late.”
“You’re once against sleeping with the head Auror,” Harry told her as he kissed her brow.
Ginny laughed softly and stretched, rubbing her bare feet against his calf. “I heard there was an uproar. Mum came to tell me about it. I’m really glad, Harry.”
“How are the kids?” Harry asked her as he rested his face next to hers.
“They’re okay,” she said softly. “They were all scared. I think the scare set Nat back a little, but Audrey came immediately to see her. She is sleeping now, of course, but she might sleep through tomorrow. Audrey gave her a potion to try to help relieve the stress.”
He nodded, knowing she’d feeling his nose robbing against her cheek. “We have new information. It looks like Nat can’t go back into the Muggle world with her parents, at least not until she’s able to defend herself properly.”
Ginny groaned. “Her poor parents! That’s going to be so difficult for them.”
Harry didn’t say the next part, because he knew he didn’t have to. Just as Harry had been taken in to the Weasley’s home, he knew they’d give Nat a place to crash as long as she needed it.
“We’ll keep doing what we’re doing now, then,” Ginny said what he was thinking. “We can maybe see about creating a safe place for her in the Muggle world to stay with her parents.”
“I’m not sure we’ll be able to get the permits,” Harry reminded her. “We’d have to explain why we wanted to put those protections on a Muggle dwelling.”
They both fell silent as they contemplated the problem.
“We could buy a second home,” Ginny said thoughtfully. “Maybe a beach place.”
Harry chuckled as he thought that one over. “You mean, we buy the place and they can use it when she’s home?”
“Yes, exactly,” Ginny said, warming up to the idea. “I think that’s a great idea, actually. We could have a nice vacation home to get away to and they can have a place to still be a family. You’ve been talking about doing that for ages now.”
He wanted to remind her that she’d constantly said they didn’t need to spend the money since they could use Bill and Fleur’s vacation home any time they wanted. They had the money, that wasn’t the problem, but Ginny was still thrifty. She’d been poor most of her formative years and it had stuck with her. She didn’t want to spend money unless they had to.
“We can do that,” Harry said after kissing her cheek. “I like the idea and I think the Parkers would appreciate the chance to have as a family. I’d be able to protect the home any way I wanted to without anyone questioning why I was doing it. It’s assumed I would have security.”
“What would you do without me?” Ginny said with a grin.
“Bang off the walls, I’m sure,” he said as he kissed her deeply.
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