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SIYE Time:19:48 on 16th October 2017


The Aurors
By FloreatCastellum

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Category: Post-Hogwarts, Post-DH/PM
Characters:Harry/Ginny
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: PG-13
Reviews: 298
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: 37786; Chapter Total: 1744
Awards: View Trophy Room






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The whole place stank. Theia covered her nose in revulsion, trying to breathe through her mouth, but the stench of owl shit permeated everything, the walls and arches bleached white with droppings, the birds squawking noisily from nests.

They had spent the entire previous day organizing this plan, but she had not expected to find the person they needed in an owl breeding centre.

Harry was doing a better job of pretending the smell wasn’t affecting him, but Theia noticed his hand straying subtly to his nose, trying his best to be polite next to the scruffy wizard leading the way.

‘How’s he getting along?’ Harry asked the man. ‘Is he a good worker?’

The scruffy man grunted. ‘He’s better than the usual lot yeh send over from Azkaban, but still as thick as hippogriff shit.’

‘You won’t mind if I borrow him for a couple of days?’ asked Harry.

The man shrugged. ‘Won’t hurt, I s’pose. The owls’ll keep breeding whether he’s here or not, that’s all I care about. Here he is… Shunpike!’

Theia followed the direction of the man’s bark to see a big-eared young man sweeping the filthy floor. His acne-scarred face lit up in a confused but happy smile as he spotted Harry. ‘Mr Potter!’ he said eagerly.

‘Hello Stan,’ said Harry, in a sort of kindly voice Theia usually associated with speaking to children. ‘How’s the work placement going?’

‘Brilliant,’ beamed Stan. ‘I really love it ‘ere, honest.’ Theia glanced dubiously down at the sweepings of owl droppings, mice bones and eggshells.

‘I’ve come to ask for a favour,’ said Harry. ‘I thought you’d be just the man for the job.’

Stan looked beside himself with excitement, and eagerly showed Harry and Theia to a small room where the stench was less pungent. Harry politely introduced Theia as they sat at a rickety desk strewn with invoices for pet shops and magical post offices up and down the country. ‘Stan is here on placement after serving two years in Azkaban,’ he told Theia, though of course she already knew that.

‘I got led down the wrong path,’ Stan recited earnestly. ‘But me an’ ‘Arry met well back, didn’t we, ‘Arry?’

‘We did,’ agreed Harry patiently. ‘When I was thirteen. You helped me get to London, it was very kind.’

‘I didn’t know he was ‘Arry Potter or nuffin’ though,’ Stan told Theia enthusiastically. ‘But it paid off, in the end, ‘cus ‘ee knew I was a decent bloke. An’ then ‘im and ‘is girlfriend ‘elped me out in my trial, they was character witnesses for me, and then when I was in prison I told ‘Arry I liked animals an’ he helped me set up workin’ ‘ere.’

‘That’s lovely,’ she said, smiling at him. It was all part of the plan. Gently remind him of his new loyalties… ‘Sounds like you’ve really turned it all around.’

‘Yeah,’ grinned Stan. ‘Not long left on probation now, an’ I’ll get me wand back an’ all.’

‘Would you like the chance to end your probation a little early, Stan?’ asked Harry. ‘In exchange for a favour.’

Stan scratched the side of his oily nose. ‘Nuffin’ dangerous is it? ‘Cus, it’s not that I can’t cope or nuffin,’ he added hastily, turning pink. ‘I just want a quiet life now…’

‘I understand,’ said Harry. ‘Don’t worry, it’s nothing like that.’ He leaned forward, and Stan seemed to shrink uneasily away as Harry explained the plan in a low voice.

‘What if they fink it’s me though?’ he asked, looking extremely worried. ‘What if someone recognizes me or summat?’

‘They won’t,’ Harry assured him. ‘You have my word.’

‘And then you’ll have a couple of days relaxing out of sight,’ Theia added. ‘We’ll take good care of you.’

Stan considered uneasily, wiping at his nose with the back of his grubby hand. ‘An’ I’ll get me wand back?’ he asked. He sounded very childlike, and Theia felt a stab of pity for the pathetic man before them.

‘Not straight away,’ said Harry apologetically. ‘But I’ve spoken to Auror Robards and some of the Wizengamot, and they’re happy to reduce your probation significantly, maybe by sixth months.’

Hope crossed Stan’s face, he wringed his hands, his eyes moving rapidly as he slowly counted up what was left of his probation. ‘Will I be able to get me old job back?’ he asked. ‘On the bus?’

‘I’m afraid someone else has that job now,’ said Harry gently. ‘Don’t you like this job? We can see about finding something else for you if you want.’

‘No, no,’ said Stan, eyes widening. ‘I like it, I like owls. Just miss the bus, yeh know?’

‘I know,’ said Harry. ‘You made some mistakes, Stan, but you’re a good bloke. You behaved impeccably in Azkaban. You worked with us. It would be a real help if you worked with us again. And then you can come back to this job.’

Stan gave a large gulp. Harry maintained steady eye contact; Theia had to admire how well he’d predicted Stan’s reaction to the plan. He knew exactly how to play him.

‘All right,’ said Stan, his voice breaking scratchily. ‘For you, Harry, because you’re such a top bloke. An’ I’m sorry about being on the wrong side an’ all.’

‘It’s all right, Stan,’ said Harry soothingly. ‘You explained it all in Azkaban. Thank you for helping us. Ready to go?’

‘What, now?’ said Stan, his eyes widening. ‘Can’t I get me fings?’

‘We have plenty for you there,’ said Harry. ‘It’s all been arranged, but we’ve got some time to say goodbye to Mr Chisolm and the owls if you want.’ He looked at Theia. ‘You need to go ahead.’

Theia nodded. ‘Ten minutes should do it.’

‘See you soon.’

She hurried out of the owlry, Disapparating as soon as she stepped outside to Diagon Alley. She ducked behind a large pile of pumpkins by Fairclough and Sons grocers, and pointed her wand to her face. She had been good at concealment and disguise in her year’s training, but nerves were gnawing away at her, and her wand trembled a little as she pointed it at her own face.

She whispered the incantations, but with no mirror she couldn’t tell if they had worked or not. She glanced at her watch. There was no time to fuss, it would have to do.

As she strode down the cobbled street, she stole a glance at her reflection in the window of the broom shop. She couldn’t see detail, but she’d apparently been successful in transforming her wispy brown hair to black, and her nose had grown considerably.

She stopped outside the offices of the Daily Prophet. She rearranged her robes, which were not her usual scarlet Auror robes, but the uniform of a lower ranking member of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad.
She cleared her throat, preparing her change of accent, and stepped in.

The reception was glossy and bright. A blonde, sulky looking witch sat at the front desk, scribbling away at a piece of parchment while a typewriter clacked by itself next to her. ‘Can I help you?’ she said dully, without looking at Theia.

‘Got a tip off, like,’ said Theia, in her best impression of Bessie’s Geordie accent. ‘Was hoping yous’d be interested… Maybe enough to pay a little?’

The witch sighed huffily. Clearly offers like this came in all the time. ‘Well, leave your name and some details and we’ll get back to you-’

‘Haven’t got much time, pet,’ said Theia. ‘It’s literally about to happen up at the Ministry. It concerns Harry Potter. I don’t know who it is, but we’ve all been told he’s made a big arrest, and we’ve gotta get the most secure holding cell ready.’
The witch raised an eyebrow. ‘Hold on,’ she said, and she turned and began to walk down a long corridor.

‘I mean it!’ Theia called after her. ‘Haven’t got much time, I need to be back at work in two minutes!’

But Theia didn’t wait for the witch to return with a reporter. The seeds had been planted, and she hurried out the door again, tapping her wand to her face as she went to reverse the concealment charms.

By the time she had apparated back to the owlry, Harry and Stan were waiting patiently outside. ‘All done?’ asked Harry.

Theia nodded. ‘Do you think the others managed to convince the other newspapers? Matthew and Judy and that lot? Judy’s terrible at lying.’

‘Well, we’ll find out, won’t we?’ said Harry cheerfully. He turned to Stan, pulling a dark material from his pocket. ‘Terribly sorry, Stan, it’s not very dignified, but it’ll keep you secret.’

Stan looked rather unhappy, but obediently allowed Harry to place the dark hood over his head, hiding his face from the world. Harry also bound Stan’s hands behind his back, though loosely.

‘This better not be a trick to send me back to Azkaban,’ said Stan suddenly, his panicked voice muffled through the hood. ‘I’m not going back there, I ain’t done nuffin!’

‘Don’t worry, Stan, you can trust me,’ said Harry. ‘We’re going to Disapparate now, all right? Three, two…’

They appeared in the Atrium of the Ministry, where, thankfully, the plan had worked. A great horde of photographers were waiting for them, and they rushed forward, cameras flashing madly, shouting questions. Theia did her best to adopt a very serious expression, following Harry’s lead by gripping one of Stan’s arms and frog marching him through the mob.

‘Please stand aside, this is none of your business,’ Harry said shortly. ‘Move.’

‘Potter! Is this in connection to the man that was hanged outside the Leakey Cauldron?’

‘Is it a member of the D.A, Potter? Is that why you won’t let us see who it is?’

‘Potter!’

‘Potter, are you upset to lose the title of Most Charming Smile to Myron Wagtail of the Weird Sisters?’

They pushed through them, doing their best to ignore the dazzling flashes, allowing themselves to look stressed and anxious, before they finally reached the lifts. There, Williamson and Savage stood, grim faced, opening the grilled gates smoothly.

Theia stepped into the lift with Stan, but Harry stopped and turned back to the reporters, pausing while he allowed them to take his photo. Even in the short few weeks Theia had known him, she had a deep understanding of how much he despised the press, but here he stood, manipulating them with ease.

‘You all need to leave Ministry premises,’ he said loudly. ‘We have arrested someone in connection with the deaths of Livia and Augustus Rookwood, Pansy Parkinson and Christoph Kaufer, along with the disappearance of Cormac McLaggen. We will release a statement in due course.’

Then he joined them in the lift, and it gave a great shudder before slowly sinking, the flashes and yells evaporating away.

There was a slightly stunned silence in the lift now. Theia could hear Stan breathing heavily, no doubt bewildered and terrified, but Harry, Savage and Williamson stayed quiet. Finally, they reached the Auror office, and Harry removed the hood and binds as Savage pulled open the heavy gate.

‘Sorry about that, Stan,’ said Harry brightly. ‘The worst is over.’

‘Right,’ said Stan shakily, rubbing his wrists, though the binds had been pathetically loose.

‘Tea? Coffee?’ offered Theia, as they led him to the break room. ‘Make yourself at home. You might have to sleep here, I’m afraid, but we’ve turned one of the meeting rooms into a nice little bedroom for you.’

‘Dawlish and Proudfoot have the list of potential targets,’ Savage was saying to Harry. ‘Each one’s got at least two pairs of eyes on them.’

‘Good,’ said Harry. ‘Any problems finding any of them?’

‘Warrington was a bit tricky, but we found him on the Isle of Man. Wigens and Balmer are stationed outside his house.’

Harry yawned as he nodded. ‘OK… Well, this pretty much counts as a stakeout even if it is in the office. Anyone know where the biscuits are? We have a guest, after all.’

Robards appeared as Stan was happily taking biscuits from the plate Judy was offering. ‘All worked out then?’ he asked Harry gruffly.

‘We’ll have to wait and see,’ said Harry lightly, leaning back on the grubby sofa. He seemed relaxed, but Theia could see his fingers tapping nervously on the arm. ‘I’m not expecting anything until it’s in the papers anyway.’

‘You’re still happy to take responsibility for whatever happens?’ said Robards sharply. ‘All well and good trying to poke at his sense of pride, but what if this bloke goes out and kills someone else? What then?’

‘It won’t happen,’ said Harry easily. ‘We’re prepared.’

Robards grunted. ‘It better not, Potter. Not now you’ve drawn the attention of every bloody reporter in the country.’

‘What’s going to happen now?’ asked Dawlish, rudely. Theia felt a burn of resentment. She’d spent several hours writing out a detailed schedule for everyone, which Dawlish had apparently tossed aside like it was nothing…

‘Everyone who’s not monitoring a potential target is on call, if they want to go home they have to check with me,’ said Harry patiently. ‘I’m not expecting anything to happen until the papers come out tomorrow morning, but news could travel quicker than that, and Stan and I in particular need to stay here in case the press are loitering in the atrium. Once someone does spot something happening, they’ll send the signal and we’ll all go straight there.’

‘You think the press have fallen for it?’ sneered Dawlish. ‘We don’t usually hide the faces of suspects when we arrest them-’

‘I know,’ said Harry, looking completely unconcerned as he seized a biscuit. ‘Makes a much juicier story, doesn’t it?’

***


The office was now dark, but the Aurors remained, slumped on sofas and in conjured hammocks, blearily rubbing their eyes as they took turns sleeping or dropping home for a few hours. Every now and then, someone would return from wherever they had been placed, to swap with someone else who would grumpily head downstairs to Apparate. It was boring work. The new recruits in particular looked rather disillusioned. Perhaps the job wasn’t proving to be filled with the raids and duels they had always dreamed of.

With the exception of a brief Floo call with Ginny, Harry hadn’t left the office. Concerned that the papers might not fall for the scheme, Theia had suggested “accidentally” not noticing a reporter sneak into the department, allowing him to briefly hear Harry yelling furiously in the meeting room before swiftly being “discovered” and escorted back downstairs by Proudfoot. It was highly successful, not to mention rather fun, and Harry had to admit that it was a stroke of genius, and certainly broke the monotony of waiting around for something to happen.

But now dull exhaustion had fallen on the office like a thick blanket. Harry had taken the chance to have a couple of hours sleep, but it was his turn to stay up and await news now, not to mention overseeing the shift swapping, and it was approaching midnight. The enthusiasm of the unusual plan and excitement of a sort-of-sleepover in the office had quickly worn off. He’d persuaded Theia to go home and get some sleep and dinner. Even Stan, who had been irritating Harry all evening, had retired to his makeshift room, so the hardest part of staying awake was now the lack of company.

He entertained himself for a while by non-verbally levitating various objects onto Dawlish’s sleeping body across the room, but he was such a heavy sleeper that there was no challenge to it. He was just gently levitating a fanged-geranium close to Dawlish’s nose when Theia sat heavily next to him.

He jerked in surprise slightly, but as she asked what he was doing, dropped the geranium away from Dawlish. ‘Nothing,’ he said. He was rather sure that Theia would disapprove. ‘You didn’t have to come back so soon, I told you that you could wait until 5am, you’ve been working non-stop since Friday night, you must be exhausted.’

‘Oh, I’m fine,’ she said, waving a hand. ‘I had a kip and then Mum made me some sausages and mash. I’ve been desperately trying to explain to her who you are, but she doesn’t really understand it. When we surprise Dennis tomorrow, you should drop round to my Mum’s too. I think I’ve done a poor job of explaining you, and she’s confused about whether you’re a hero or not.’

He laughed. After meeting Theia’s dad, he was sure the mother would be easier. ‘Sure, why not?’ he said. ‘It’s been a long time since I was in a Muggle house, and I’d like to hear what you’ve been saying about me.’ She looked rather guilty about something, but he’d noticed that she generally seemed embarrassed about her Muggle background, so changed the topic.

‘The plan seems to be going smoothly,’ he said. ‘Good job on the schedules, everyone seems to be sticking to them. Well, Alan fell asleep at his post, the lazy arse, but that’s why we stuck him outside Flint’s place, isn’t it?’

‘Do you really think this will work?’ she asked, chewing her lip. ‘What if we missed someone on the list? What if we’re not watching whoever he goes out to kill? What if he just kills McLaggen and doesn’t go out to try and get anyone else at all? What if-’

‘Breathe,’ Harry reminded her firmly.

‘Sorry.’

‘What did I tell you yesterday, when we were planning all this?’ he asked her.

‘Killers are arrogant.’

He nodded. ‘Yeah, they are. They’re so arrogant that they believe their beliefs or their emotions or their desires are more important than someone else’s right to live, or more important than proper and fair justice. This is helpful, because it means we can predict them. No one is truly unpredictable. It’s not in our nature.’

‘But our list of targets,’ Theia said worriedly. ‘What if we’ve missed someone?’

Harry winced. ‘Yeah… I mean, obviously don’t tell Robards, but that is my biggest concern. But look at our victims so far. Death Eaters. People that helped the regime or Voldemort and faced consequences… They’ve all been victims that aren’t exactly sympathized with when they turn up dead. They’re not secretly corrupt or quietly dangerous. They’re public bogeymen, and the killer is trying to recruit support. I went to every trial I could. I receive complaints and pleas to take people back to court every week. I know who isn’t popular. I know the ones who got away. I know who people want dead.’

Theia looked like she was struggling with something. Finally, as Harry yawned widely and summoned a coffee from the kitchen, she seemed unable to keep it in much longer. ‘I’ve been thinking,’ she began to babble. ‘I’m not sure Fischer is our guy. I mean, why would he know about McLaggen or the Rookwoods? It only makes sense for the murder outside the pub, and that one seems so different to the others.’

‘I’ve thought of that too,’ Harry admitted. ‘But the coins, and the writing on the wall… Perhaps he’s being contracted by somebody? Either way, he’s mixed up in it all. At the very least if we find him we’ll be able to break up this ring of criminals smuggling stuff into Azkaban… And trying to smuggle people out,’ he added as an afterthought.

‘I was thinking about the missing organs and stuff too,’ said Theia. ‘Livia Rookwood’s heart was cut out, and we thought that it was maybe because she flirted with people. But then Rookwood was made to eat it, and when you read through his case file… He liked to murder people’s loved ones in front of them, didn’t he? I read sometimes he spared people, after he’d killed someone close to them.’

Harry nodded slowly, looking down into his coffee. A cold grief was sweeping over him. ‘He killed my… My friend Fred. During the battle. One of Fred’s brothers saw him after the wall collapsed, saw that it was Rookwood that had cast the curse and chased after him. I found out later that Rookwood just laughed, wouldn’t engage in a duel with him, just kept blocking him and trying to walk off. Percy would have been easy pickings, but it was funnier to Rookwood to just leave him distraught. Percy ended up attacking a different Death Eater.’

He had forgotten Theia was there. He turned his head to glance at her out of the corner of his eye, and she was looking at him very professionally, nodding seriously. ‘What happened?’ she asked. ‘Did Percy-?’

‘Doesn’t matter,’ said Harry brusquely. He didn’t want to talk about this with Theia. He only talked about the battle with the Weasleys and Hermione. ‘Anyway, yeah, Rookwood liked seeing people emotionally devastated. Ties in with getting his wife to flirt with other blokes as well, I suppose… He worked as an Unspeakable before the war. I don’t know what he did, but there are some dangerous rooms in there. Heavy stuff.’ He was not sure why he was telling her this. It was a rarity that he was talking more than her, and he didn’t like it. He felt almost obligated to tell her things, it wasn’t like talking to Ginny, or Ron.

‘Well,’ said Theia, either not noticing or ignoring his discomfort, ‘perhaps the heart didn’t have anything to do with Livia at all. Perhaps it was about Augustus breaking other people’s hearts. And Pansy Parkinson’s tongue… We thought it was because she was a gossip, but perhaps it was because McLaggen was getting other people to talk, coercing them into being spies for the regime.’

Harry thought for a moment. ‘Could be both,’ said Harry. ‘I bet Fischer felt very smart when he came up with neat little symbols like that.’

‘You think so?’ asked Theia. ‘You’re sure I’m not overthinking it? I thought it was a bit… I don’t know, clichéd to have bizarre metaphors like that in a case.’

‘Murderers love clichés,’ Harry assured her. ‘Every time you think it’s too stereotypical, it turns out that it really was the butler that did it, or you really can buy some time by getting them to talk about how they came up with their evil plans. Like I said, killers are arrogant. They all think their murders are extra special.’

She gave a small grin, and they fell into a long tired pause. ‘No symbol for Kaufer though,’ she said sadly. ‘Blows a bit of a hole in my theory, doesn’t it?’

Harry took a large gulp of his coffee before answering. ‘Well he was hung. Might be something there. Records keeper, death sentence… I dunno, I’m reaching a bit. But I’m sure Fischer will have a long and convoluted way to explain exactly why he killed him the way he did.’ He frowned, and swore under his breath. ‘He’d be the end goal though, wouldn’t he?’ he said.

‘Sorry?’

‘Kaufer. The one that was hung. Yeah, he might be inspired to kill the others out of some big headed vigilante fantasy or something, but to be so sadistic with them, and then so swift and clean with the bloke he must have really wanted to kill all along… You’re right, maybe it’s not him.’

‘Maybe the killer has already started to successfully recruit,’ said Theia quietly.

Dread filled him. They had spent all of Sunday and all of Monday planning this evening. And now it was beginning to sink in that somewhere along the line they had got something very wrong indeed.

***


He climbed up the cold, dark stairs, paying no attention to the vague shouts of an arguing couple echoing down the stairwell. He knew he should be pleased. They were idiots. He was too smart for them. Morons. So why wasn’t he happy?

Past the vulgar graffiti and absent-mindedly stepping over a smashed beer bottle, Dennis was so lost in thought as he made his way through the building that he didn’t notice the woman in front of him until he slammed straight into her back, knocking her forward onto the hard concrete floor.

‘Oh!’

‘Oh, Mrs Higglesworth! I’m so sorry, here, let me help you-’

‘Don’t be silly, dear,’ she said, though she took his hand and he heaved her to her feet, before quickly ducking to help pick up the spilled shopping.

‘How are you?’ he asked. ‘Apart from annoyed at random blokes pushing you over on the stairs, I mean.’

She chuckled. ‘Quite well, thank you, Dennis. You’re up and about early. Shouldn’t you be at university?’

‘Cancelled lecture,’ he said, taking some of her shopping bags. ‘Such a shame, I was looking forward to it. It was going to be on crimes of passion.’

She smiled at him warmly, tucking a loaf of bread under her arm. ‘Fascinating! I’m sure they’ll reschedule it. Speaking of passion… How are you getting along with my daughter? She never tells me anything.’

He laughed nervously, trying his best to look embarrassed. ‘She’s wonderful, Mrs Higglesworth, you’ve raised such a lovely girl. Thank you so much for telling me how much she likes Danish pastries.’

‘Not at all!’ beamed Mrs Higglesworth, as they continued their way up the stairs. ‘I’m just so happy she’s found someone, you make such a sweet pair. I expect you’re looking forward to your dinner tomorrow, are you? It was so good of you to invite him, I know you’ve been nervous.’

‘The… dinner?’

‘Yes, yes, the one she was telling me about last night. You must be so excited to see this Henry Potter or whatever his name is again, I hope you’re planning on cooking him something nice.’

His insides seemed to freeze in panic. ‘Of course, sorry,’ he bluffed. ‘Completely forgot what you were on about. Yes, I’m very excited to… Have Harry drop round.’

‘Harry! That’s his name, I’ll never get it right. I don’t know, I get so confused when Theia tries to explain to me why he’s such a big deal.’

‘Well, you’re welcome to come too, if you want,’ Dennis offered, his fists clenching furiously around the handle of the shopping bag. ‘You mean a lot to Theia, it would be good to have you there too. We could make a nice surprise of it.’

‘Oh no, love, don’t worry, I’m happy enough with our little coffee chats once she’s gone to work! I don’t want to intrude.’

He smiled at her. ‘When’s Theia back from work tonight? I need to talk to her about the dinner, actually, I’ve arranged a meat course for the main, but I’m not sure if Harry will like it…’

‘He’s not a vegetarian is he?’ asked Mrs Higglesworth crossly. ‘That’s the new trend these days, isn’t it? Oh, I don’t understand any of it. But if you need any help with cooking, love, you let me know.’

‘Thank you, that’s very kind,’ he said. They had reached the doors, but he politely declined her offer of a cup of tea. ‘I’ve got lots of tidying up to do,’ he said apologetically. ‘I’ve left preparations for this dinner to rather the last minute.’

‘You poor thing, that’s not how you want to spend your Monday night, is it? As for Theia, I have no idea, I only saw her briefly for dinner last night, something about a stakeout,’ said Mrs Higglesworth. ‘But feel free to come over when you’re done, I’ve got some lamb chops that need eating.’

‘My favourite,’ he said pleasantly.

The smile slid off his face as she went into her flat, and he went into his own, slamming the door behind him and leaning against it. His heart was thudding, the sound of rushing blood in his ears. He thought he’d had her. He thought she would tell him anything. Perhaps it was that sodding kneazle. Did she suspect him? No, she couldn’t do. Not with the news…

He dropped his bag, kicking it aside as he stormed past. Perhaps Mrs Higglesworth had it wrong. Perhaps Harry was actually coming to Theia’s and she was just planning to invite him to join them. But even so…

He rushed to the kitchen, pulling out black bin liners from the cupboard under the sink, shaking them out so they crinkled and whooshed.

This was not according to his plan. He was not meant to meet Harry yet. Harry was certainly not meant to come here. Perhaps he had underestimated that girl. Perhaps she was smarter than he realized. He swore under his breath, and headed towards the study. But he paused in the hallway, looking down at his kicked bag. He couldn’t help himself, he had to read it again. He couldn’t believe he’d managed to outsmart them like this, it was staggering. He pulled the newspaper out of the bag, grimacing with distaste at the moving photograph on the front. Fuck photographs. Fuck photos that moved.

POTTER MAKES MYSTERY ARREST — COULD IT BE A FRIEND?

Law enforcement officials and the general public alike were astounded yesterday morning when Harry Potter arrested an unknown individual in connection with the deaths of the unknown hanging man, Pansy Parkinson, and the Death Eaters Livia and August Rookwood, along with the disappearance of Cormac McLaggen. Rumours that have circulated regarding the possibility that the killer is a friend of Potters will surely not be quelled considering he has gone to great lengths to hide the identity of the suspect. Yet one of our courageous investigative reporters was able to go undercover into the department, where Potter could be heard furiously interrogating the unknown individual. Could he be losing his temper with an old friend who has gone dark? Could he be trying to find a way to cover for them? We analyse the evidence on pages 2 and 3.


He snorted. It was pretty funny. Poor Potter, no wonder he was frustrated, especially if he’d started arresting random friends. Still… Was it disappointment he felt? That unease in the pit of his stomach? He thought Potter was smarter than this. It’s not that he wanted to be caught, of course, but a bit of bloody recognition wouldn’t go amiss.

He chucked the paper in the bin liner, and proceeded to the study, unlocking the creaking door and allowing his anger to rush back. It was still too early to meet Potter, especially if he thought some other random bloke was doing it all. He wouldn’t understand then. He had to understand, and it was still too early for him to understand. There was only one thing for it.

***


Harry was shaken awake at half-past ten in the morning. An alarm was ringing, and Aurors were shouting to each other as they pulled on their boots and grabbed their wands.

‘Something’s happening!’ Theia shouted at him. ‘At Runcorn’s!’

He leapt up. This was it. He withdrew his wand, twisted, and Apparated.
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