|SIYE Time:10:35 on 18th July 2018|
Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/PM
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Summary: The last thing Harry Potter wants is to be lumped with a trainee Auror, especially not one that idolises him. As he guides her through the realities of being an overworked Auror and tentatively settles into adult life with Ginny, a dark plot brews on the horizon...
Hitcount: Story Total: 45287; Chapter Total: 2320
Awards: View Trophy Room
Dusk had fallen when Harry arrived home. The warm glow from the kitchen window seemed to both raise and lower his spirits at once. He wanted to see Ginny more than anything else, but the expectation of a difficult conversation weighed heavily on his chest. He had not been home since he had left in the early hours of the morning.
He didn’t call out to greet her as he entered and removed his cloak and boots. He moved silently and slowly, as though she were asleep upstairs, though he could see her sitting sullenly at the table. He finally turned to her, and the silence between them was painful.
‘I don’t have any dinner for you,’ said Ginny without looking up. ‘I wasn’t sure when you’d be back.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ Harry mumbled. ‘You know you don’t have to do that. I’m sorry I was gone for so long.’
‘Well thank you for sending a message at lunch,’ she said, though her voice was cold.
‘I really am sorry… Things got quite serious.’
She gave one slow nod, and her brown eyes met his. In front of her was a mug, a newspaper, and she was playing with something small in one hand, spinning it between her fingers and tapping it lightly against the table. ‘Is this true?’ she said abruptly.
‘Is what true?’ Harry sat at the table too, absent-mindedly pointing his wand at the kettle which began to quietly simmer.
Ginny nodded to the newspaper on the table, with the large picture of the slogan on the wall. ‘This picture… That’s a D.A slogan.’
Harry now saw that the small object in her hand was a coin. ‘It doesn’t necessarily mean that,’ he said softly. ‘You know what the papers are like, exaggerating these sort of things. I’m always telling you not to buy it.’
She looked very pale, she tapped the coin against the table more rapidly, staring into empty space. ‘This is why you had to leave,’ she said, guilt and apology in her voice. ‘Because it’s someone in the D.A, and you had to go and sort it before the press found out, and I tried to stop you going-’
This was it, this was an out, a way for him to remain in her good books and avoid an argument. But she looked so horrified, so distressed, and he had never been able to lie to her anyway. ‘No. The message didn’t say anything about it, just that a body had been found. I didn’t know any more than that, and I could have stayed. Ginny, I’m sorry.’
She shook her head. ‘You’ve been gone all day because this is serious. This is… Oh, Merlin, Harry, what if it’s one of our friends?’
Her voice broke, and, ignoring the whistling kettle, he rushed over to hug her. ‘It’s not,’ he promised, kissing the top of her head. ‘It’s probably not anyone in the D.A, we know all those people, they wouldn’t-’
‘They might, Harry,’ said Ginny. Her voice sounded distant. Her eyes had glazed over. ‘I missed the worst of it, it was only after Easter they started properly torturing people like that and…’ She hesitated. ‘I was thinking about Percy, when I saw him killing that Death Eater during the battle...’
Harry gave a long, low sigh as he rubbed her back. ‘Don’t be silly, it’s not Percy.’
‘I know that. I’m just saying, the things that happened, the people we lost… It’s not hard to imagine people wanting revenge, is it? I’ve felt that way.’
Harry slowly sat next to her, and gently took the coin out of her hand. ‘No, it’s not,’ he said, and he could remember that feeling that well. That bloodthirsty, heartbroken fury that had consumed him in the darkest depths of grief.
They sat in silence for a few moments, Harry still holding her hand to keep it from trembling. ‘I’m sorry I suggested it was to do with your trainee,’ said Ginny.
Harry shook his head. ‘Don’t be silly, it’s understandable. She arrived just before a serious case that’s been taking up more of my time than usual, it’s no wonder you associated her with that. It’s not been fair on you, Ginny, I shouldn’t have missed that match, and I shouldn’t have left like that last night.’
‘Well everyone had to go, didn’t they?’ said Ginny. ‘The paper said the whole department was there.’
‘There were a lot of us, but that’s an exaggeration. It was just the lower ranks, and Neville didn’t show at all. I could have stayed, I should have-’
‘Stop beating yourself up,’ said Ginny. ‘I’m not angry anymore, just… I don’t know, frustrated, I guess. We need to find a balance.’
‘When this case is over, I’ll take a week off,’ said Harry. ‘We’ll go somewhere, just the two of us.’
She smiled sadly. ‘You know that doesn’t really fix it.’
‘I know, but it’s a start, isn’t it?’ He paused, and summoned the kettle over, along with an extra mug and some teabags. ‘There’s always going to be cases like this,’ he said as he poured them tea. ‘Not all the time, but there will always be times when I have… unsociable hours.’
She sighed as she took her tea from him. ‘I know, I just… Would you ever consider…’ She shook her head.
‘No, it’s selfish, it doesn’t matter.’
She closed her eyes. She seemed to hate herself. ‘It’s just… Both Ron and Neville…’ Harry knew what she was about to say, and his shoulders sank. ‘Both of them wanted a better work life balance, and they… Well, they decided to get different jobs.’
The silence stretched. ‘Ginny,’ Harry said, his voice hoarse, ‘I…’
‘I know, I know, I’m sorry! I don’t even want you to really, I just sometimes imagine it… I just keep wondering how often these sort of cases will happen, because I always thought once you rounded up the last of the Death Eaters things would sort of calm down a bit. But they don’t seem to be, and you’re always so tired and overworked, what about… Well, what about the future? You can’t do this forever, not if we want…’
She blushed, and Harry thought fiercely of the box in his pocket and the empty bedrooms upstairs, which they had both agreed would be useful if they “ever needed more space”. ‘I’ll think about it,’ he said. ‘But, Ginny, I love my job. Neville had a different passion, and Ron loves being closer to George and having a slower pace of life. But I don’t know what else I’d do.’ An old grief rose in him. ‘I’ve been doing this sort of thing since I was eleven, and… I don’t know anything else. I thought I’d had enough trouble for a lifetime, but…’ He struggled to admit this, even to himself. It was an awful thing to say. ‘The truth is, I get bored if I’m not doing this sort of thing. It’s not that I miss the war, it’s that I get frustrated if I’m not in the action. That’s terrible, isn’t it? But I love this job. I do.’
She took a sip of her tea before continuing. ‘I know. I know I’m being selfish. I mean, during Quidditch season I can be away for weeks at a time, can’t I? But you bring your work home with you, Harry, sometimes it’s all you talk about and it’s exhausting. It’s not that it’s boring, not like the way Percy drones on, but… I mean, look. I keep tying together this over-the-top article and all the stuff you’ve been telling me about missing hearts and what not, and it’s got me in such a state, it’s like it’s war time again. There’s this constant feeling of danger.’
‘I get obsessed,’ Harry conceded. ‘Hermione’s always said it. I’ll try harder to spare you the gory details and find other stuff to talk about.’ He hesitated. ‘I will have to ask some stuff about the D.A though. Some other time.’
‘Yes, of course, that makes sense.’
‘Is this why you got insecure about Theia? Because I just talk about her and the case all the time?’
‘I suppose so,’ said Ginny. She clutched her mug with both hands, her fingers tapping against it. ‘And she just seemed so fawning over you in that article when she started, and I know you keep talking about how much she irritates you, but even so… Every time I imagine you and her working together, she sort of morphs into Romilda Vane. It’s so silly.’
‘It’s Neville’s leaving drinks tomorrow night,’ said Harry. ‘Why don’t you come? Meet her. See that there’s no particular chemistry between us or anything. I think she has a boyfriend anyway, she’s been talking about her mum setting her up with some Muggle.’
Ginny nodded and gave a watery smile. ‘That sounds good. Yeah.’
‘And if you think she’s too much like Romilda Vane, you can tell her to back off with a well-placed jinx,’ Harry teased lightly.
She playfully shoved his shoulder, then leaned into a hug. They held each other tightly for a few moments, Harry relishing the relief that was now flooding him, before Ginny tentatively spoke again. ‘Harry, I lied. There is dinner for you, Mum brought round a chicken pie. I just didn’t think you deserved it. It’s in the oven.’
‘Oh, I don’t like him, Theia, he doesn’t seem like a normal cat…’
‘He is, I promise!’ insisted Theia, trying to wrestle the hissing, spitting cat into another room.
‘He seems very aggressive,’ said Betty uneasily, holding a plastic spatula in defense. ‘Don’t you think, Dennis?’
‘He’s probably just a bit nervous around new people,’ said Dennis easily, watching the cat swiping its claws towards him. ‘He’ll calm down.’
Theia finally managed to shut the cat in her bedroom, and returned to see her mother shaking her head crossly. ‘I don’t know, Theia, fancy bringing home a stray from a crime scene! He’s an outdoor cat, he doesn’t like it in here.’
‘He was fine this morning, he likes me well enough,’ said Theia defensively, ignoring the screeching yowls coming from her bedroom. ‘Anyway, I still need a name for him.’
‘How about Boris?’
‘God, Mum, no.’
Dennis laughed, and Betty began to dish out the rice, shrugging. ‘Well, what’s your owl called?’ he asked.
‘Saga,’ said Theia happily. ‘The Norse goddess of wisdom.’
‘Ah,’ said Dennis knowingly. ‘You want something highbrow, then.’
‘I still think Boris is nice,’ said Betty.
Theia rolled her eyes. ‘I think I’ll stick to the Norse theme, Mum, Boris doesn’t quite have the same gravitas.’
‘What about Váli?’ said Dennis. ‘That’s a pretty cool Norse god.’
‘I haven’t heard of him,’ said Theia. ‘I mostly read about the goddesses. What did he do?’
‘He’s a bit of an obscure one. He became an adult in one day, and slew Hodr for the murder of his brother,’ said Dennis. He scrunched up his nose. ‘Or he turned into a wolf and tore out the throat of his brother. I can’t remember. There might be two with the same name.’
‘Well that’s horribly violent,’ said Betty, alarmed.
‘That might be fitting then,’ said Theia dryly. They could hear her bedroom door thudding as the cat threw itself against it. ‘I never knew you liked Norse mythology, Dennis.’
He shrugged. ‘They’re good stories, aren’t they? A friend of mine gave me a book on them.’ A particularly loud howl from the cat briefly drew his attention. ‘Where did you say you got him again?’
‘Knockturn Alley,’ said Theia with distaste. ‘Poor thing, he’s so skinny.’
‘Is that the good one or the bad one?’ asked Betty.
‘The bad one, Mum.’
‘Well what were you doing down there then? Goodness, Theia-’
Dennis caught her eye as Betty began her lecture, and exchanged an amused smile. Theia’s heart fluttered with pleasure.
That evening, after her mother’s snores began to tremble from her room, Theia crept silently out of bed. Váli, curled up at the foot of her bed, looked up at her with an oddly scolding look, flicking his tufted tail as he watched her slip on some shoes.
She scratched him behind the ears and left, soundlessly slinking through the flat with practiced stealth. The front door gave the smallest of clicks as she closed it behind her.
She barely had to knock before Dennis let her in, pulling her into an excitable hug and enthusiastically kissing her as she tried to hold back giggles. This was very exciting; she had never snuck out of the flat before, even if it was just next door.
He lifted her up as he kissed her, with more strength than she was expecting from such a skinny guy, and he carried her through to the bedroom. They kissed deeply and passionately, she drowned in him, and she felt like the best version of herself, brave and alluring and overwhelmingly, truly, happy.
When it was over, she lay on his chest, shivering as his fingers traced up and down her spine. They spoke softly to one another, and that same distorted light cast dark shadows over his face. She couldn’t help the smile that forced its way onto her face. Who would have ever imagined this would happen?
‘You know, you Gryffindors were the cool kids,’ she told him.
He chuckled. ‘I don’t think I was ever one of the cool kids.’
‘That’s not true, anyone who was involved in the D.A was cool.’
‘Well that was more Colin,’ he said uneasily, and she felt the arm around her tense.
She smiled up at him. ‘I know we didn’t really know each other, but I was quite the gossip, you know. And you went to all the meetings right from the start, didn’t you? You must have had a coin and everything, I always wanted one, but I only joined after Easter in ’98.’
‘I didn’t have a coin,’ he said. His voice sounded distant. ‘I always just shared with my brother, we were inseparable anyway.’
Theia sighed. ‘Did anyone in the D.A ever seem particularly aggressive or anything?’
‘What d’you mean?’
She propped herself up on one elbow to look at him, and his hand moved to caress the dip of her waist, then up and over her hip. ‘I can’t really talk about it, to be honest, but as you have nothing to do with the wizarding world anymore… Someone who was in the D.A might be trying to be a vigilante.’
He grinned. ‘Like Batman?’ he teased.
She laughed, and playfully pinched at his waist. ‘No, not like Batman! Well, hopefully they don’t have a silly costume, but you never know. So come on then, criminology genius. What do your books say about vigilantes?’
He considered her for a few moments, pushing some of her hair back from her face. She supposed she was in the light that broke through the blinds on the window, no doubt he could see her earnest expression, but she still couldn’t see his face in the darkness. ‘You know vigilante is a Spanish word,’ he said. ‘It originally meant watchman, or guardian.’
‘That sounds a lot more heroic than what this person’s actually doing,’ said Theia. ‘But I suppose that’s how they see themselves, isn’t it?’
She saw his shoulders move in a shrug. ‘The only thing that vigilantes have in common is that they think the current system isn’t solving a social problem. It’s not just about revenge.’
‘That makes sense for some of the victims,’ she said, thinking of the Rookwoods. ‘But others had been to Azkaban already.’ She sighed. ‘I feel so sorry for Harry. He’d been looking for some of these people for years. He’s lost people too, he knows how evil the Death Eaters are, and he has to work with them all day. It must be exhausting. And now I suppose someone’s saying his work isn’t good enough and he doesn’t understand how evil these people are.’
‘It’s probably not about lack of recognition and more about lack of action,’ said Dennis. ‘Harry’s a hero, everyone knows that.’ His voice rose in excitability, he spoke fast, returning to the boy she remembered from school. ‘We always looked up to him, me and Colin, and he always just got things done you know? I remember thinking that when I heard he’d killed You-Know-Who, I knew that we could count on him. Colin was right, Harry would sort it out. But then… More news came.’
‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered. Dennis had gone very still. ‘You must miss him very much.’
‘Yes,’ he said slowly. ‘But… It was good, knowing You-Know-Who was dead. And then I spoke to Colin’s girlfriend, and we found his photos, and when we developed them, we saw how brave he was. I mean, it was tough, but… I’m so proud of my big brother.’
Theia felt cold. Like Dennis, she had been evacuated from the castle. But she had never lost anyone. She had learnt about what had happened as though it were merely history, and now she felt as though she could be there, among the bangs and smoke and screams…
‘I suppose,’ said Dennis slowly, ‘that if you’re having a problem with vigilantes, they don’t think Azkaban has worked. Maybe they want to be like Harry. Harry got to avenge the death of his parents, didn’t he?’
‘Yes, I guess he did,’ mused Theia. She rolled over onto her back, staring up at the cracked ceiling. ‘I wonder if it really makes you feel better though? Would a vigilante ever be able to stop?’
‘Is Harry happy?’
‘Yes, he seems to be… Maybe that’s why. But there’s a difference between vengeance in battle and hunting people down like this.’
There was a long pause. ‘I can’t think of anyone, off the top of my head,’ said Dennis. ‘But if you think of anyone from the D.A who seems suspicious… Let me know, I’ll see what I can remember about them. Colin and Zaha practically made a biography of everyone too.’
‘I’ll speak to her first then,’ said Theia sleepily. ‘Hey, I have work drinks tomorrow… Neville Longbottom is leaving. D’you want to come? Harry will be there.’
There was a long silence, Theia had almost assumed he had fallen asleep, before he finally answered. ‘No,’ he said, his voice a hoarse whisper. ‘Sorry, I’d like to see him again, and Neville too. But I’m not ready to go back to that world.’
‘Are you sure? I bet he’d love to see you again, it’d be such a nice surprise.’
‘I’m sure. Someday, maybe, but for now, let’s keep it quiet, yeah? I like being a Muggle as much as possible. Have you told Harry about me already?’
‘No… Don’t you want me to?’
‘Not yet… I’d like to meet him again soon though. And Ginny. I haven’t seen her in a long time. I’d really like to meet her. But not yet.’
He kissed her once again, and then their silence slipped into dreams, some hazy thought at the back of her mind telling her that she had forgotten something important.
Harry and Theia walked down a wide, winding lane. Now that autumn was approaching, the leaves were beginning to fall and the light was shifting to grey, but the large ash trees either side of the road were still full enough to hide the large, modern country houses either side.
A large golden Labrador barked at them through a wooden gate as they approached, but it wagged its tail furiously at Harry as he opened it.
‘-Settling in really well, but still a bit nervous around other people, it’s getting harder and harder to convince my mum he’s a normal cat,’ Theia was babbling.
‘Well Kneazles do tend to get attached to one particular person,’ said Harry vaguely, rubbing the dog’s face as it jumped up at him.
‘Oh really? I really should read up on them, I never took Care of Magical Creatures, Dad always said it was a doss subject, but looking back I suppose it would have been useful really-’
She kept talking as they crossed the gravel drive, the dog bounding excitably beside them. When they reached the front door, they found that it was slightly open, perhaps to let the dog in and out, so they stood awkwardly on the front step, calling into the house.
A clattering of footsteps, and Terry Boot appeared at the door, smiling jovially. ‘Harry! Come in, I got your message. Sorry about the dog, just push him away.’
They followed him through to a bright, modern looking kitchen, filled with Muggle appliances but with a few tell-tale signs of magic. A pot of Floo powder above a contemporary fireplace, a flitterbloom plant as the centerpiece on a glass table, and a copy of Transformation through the Ages slotted in amongst the cookbooks.
‘How’re you doing, Terry?’ Harry asked. ‘What’s life like with a Muggle?’
‘Every day’s an adventure,’ said Terry cheerfully. ‘Telling her about magic was interesting, not sure I’d want to repeat it though…’ He looked curiously to Theia.
‘Oh, sorry, Terry, this is Theia, she’s a trainee Auror under my supervision. Theia, Terry was in my year-’
‘Yes, I know, you were in Ravenclaw too,’ Theia blurted out. ‘I remember you, you were the one who dated-’
A look of mild horror crossed Terry’s face. ‘Oh, yes, Theia Higglesworth. Yeah, I… I remember you.’ He threw Harry a slightly alarmed look, and hastily offered them tea before Theia could reveal any gossip.
‘The reason I’m here,’ said Harry, adding heaped teaspoons of sugar, ‘is because Ginny told me you did a lot of work with the D.A coins after I left.’
‘Is this about that thing in the paper?’ said Terry. At Harry’s nod, he gave a pained look. ‘Blimey. I even dug my old coin out when I read it, you know, to see if anyone was talking about it, but nothing’s changed.’
‘Ginny did too,’ said Harry. ‘I can’t even find mine anymore, but I think a lot of people will have done the same.’
‘I was the one that adapted the Protean Charm so that everyone could change the messages,’ said Terry. ‘I didn’t mean to, it was a mistake, actually, but it worked out for the best.’
‘Do you have a list of everyone that had coins?’ Harry asked, thinking of the enchanted contract Hermione had made them sign. ‘I thought it might be the quickest way of working out who was actually in it.’
Terry shook his head. ‘We didn’t even think of anything like that. Stupid, looking back, but we were just kids really, weren’t we? I only made a few more after you lot left though, and we didn’t really give them to younger students in case they accidentally spent them or broke under the pressure of the Carrows.’
‘I know it’s dull, but would it be all right if we tried to make a list?’ asked Harry, pulling out a roll of parchment and a quill.
‘Everyone you can think of that had one first, as they were the most involved, and then anyone that joined but never got one.’
Terry hissed through his teeth. ‘Sure, but it’ll be long. I reckon by the battle pretty much everyone who wasn’t in Slytherin had signed up.’
It was long, and slow. It made Harry feel rather guilty for how many names he had forgotten, how many people he hadn’t known at all, and whenever a name was mentioned that Theia knew, she would launch into a detailed description of everything she knew about them.
‘The Creevey brothers shared a coin, I suppose Zaha Alfarsi might have it if Dennis doesn’t,’ said Terry, two hours into the discussion.
‘He doesn’t,’ said Theia.
They stared at her. ‘How d’you know that?’ asked Harry.
A smile threatened to betray her wonderful secret. The thought of him made her want to tell them everything, but she wondered if Harry would want to meet Dennis if he knew, whether it would upset him. It was better, surely, that Dennis was able to take his time returning to the wizarding world. ‘Oh, I heard he’s gone off to live as a Muggle,’ she said. ‘Gave up everything magical.’
‘Hmmm…’ said Harry, looking at the list in front of him. ‘That doesn’t seem healthy. We should try and look him up, if we can.’
Terry raised an eyebrow and smirked. ‘Wasn’t he that weedy little kid that fell in the lake?’
‘Well, yes, when he was eleven, he’d be a lot older now,’ snapped Theia.
Harry gave her an odd look, but wrote down the name. ‘Right, well, it can’t hurt to have a chat with him. Now, who else? What about that weird Hufflepuff kid? The loner?’
‘Oh, Wayne something wasn’t it?’ said Terry. ‘No, he didn’t have a coin… Merlin, what was his surname?’
They continued for several hours, Terry’s Muggle girlfriend returning from work and awkwardly making them all sandwiches, uneasily glancing at Harry’s wand which lay on the table.
As the evening began to fall, Harry checked his watch. ‘We’ve got Neville’s thing,’ he said to Theia. ‘You coming, Terry? I think a few of the old crowd are going.’
‘Nah, you’re all right,’ said Terry. ‘We’re going to a… What did you call it, Dawn?’
‘A roller disco,’ she replied happily.
‘A roller disco,’ he repeated to Theia and Harry. ‘I don’t know what it is, but Dawn reckons I’ll enjoy it.’
They exchanged amused glances. ‘Well, have fun,’ said Harry. ‘We’ll have to meet up again soon, yeah?’
Terry bid them a friendly farewell, holding the dog back to stop it from running after them, and Harry and Theia headed back out of the wooden gate.
‘Shouldn’t we have questioned him a bit?’ asked Theia. ‘Asked him where he was the other night, or whether he knew McLaggen well.’
Harry thought carefully before speaking. ‘The problem is, Theia, most of these people we’ll be speaking to are my friends. We’ll see a lot of them tonight at the pub too.’
‘But that shouldn’t mean-’
‘It doesn’t mean I’ll ignore any warning signs or clues,’ he assured her. ‘But most of them like me. How often does that happen in this job? If I go in all wands blazing, I’ll insult them. They’ll be offended that I would even think that of them. They’ll shut me out, meet up and talk about how horrible I am now, or how fame has changed me or whatever, and before you know it, we’ve lost our advantage.’
‘They’ll want to help, they’ll talk freely, but they’ll also defend their friends. They’ll talk about how awful it is and how indefensible it is, but none of them will want to face the fact that it’ll be someone they know. The people we want to talk to are the ones that try to defend or legitimize it, or start throwing around accusations, or admit that they’re pleased about it.’
Theia balked. ‘They’ll act that blatantly guilty? Surely they’ll be a bit smarter than that, around their friends? Won’t those closest to them start to guess, or get suspicious? How can they not know?’
Harry grimaced as they stopped, ready to apparate. ‘Two crucial rules about people, Theia. The first is that I’m yet to come across a serial killer who’s not proud of what they’ve done. They can’t resist bragging about it some way or another, it’s how they’re always caught. The second is that when you love someone, whether a friend or family member or partner, you never see the darkness in them until it’s too late.’
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