|SIYE Time:14:54 on 24th February 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: 42151; Chapter Total: 1711
Awards: View Trophy Room
‘But why? That doesn’t make any sense.’
Dennis shrugged as he took a bite of his toast. ‘I don’t know, it’s just what she said. I really didn’t tell you last night?’
‘No, you didn’t,’ said Theia frowning. ‘I mean, did she really have to leave in such a hurry? Couldn’t she have let me know in person?’
‘Her friend had a heart attack, Theia, I think she left pretty much immediately.’
Theia gave a long, low exhale, and clucked her tongue. ‘And she didn’t say where she was going?’
‘I told you, all she said was that she’d be gone a few days and not to worry.’ He seemed to be growing impatient with her now, but it was so unlike her mum, who worried and fretted and wouldn’t travel anywhere without several weeks of careful planning.
‘I wonder which friend it is,’ she said sadly. ‘I thought all her friends lived locally.’
Dennis shrugged. ‘I’m sure she’ll give you all the details when she’s back. Aren’t you going to be late for work?’
‘Oh, blimey, yes,’ said Theia, glancing at the clock and slurping down the last dregs of her cereal. ‘Will you feed the cat for me?’
‘Mmhmm,’ Dennis mumbled into his coffee mug as she kissed him on the head. ‘Tell Harry it’s fine if he wants to come and rifle through my underwear drawer at lunch!’
She laughed as she left, and headed to work feeling far more refreshed than she had in days. It would be an easy day today, she reckoned, as long as Harry was all right about the whole phone thing.
As usual, she beat Harry to the office. She busied herself with filing and coffee, muttering under her breath as she thought of the best way to explain herself, without making it look like she was all right with the way he’d treated Dennis, because that was bloody well unacceptable and-
‘People will think you’re mad, talking to yourself like that.’
She barely glanced at him as he strode into the cubicle, slinging his cloak on the back of the chair. ‘I’m still annoyed with you,’ she said.
‘Fair enough. Did you make me a coffee?’
‘No, I’m not your house elf.’
He smirked at her. ‘You really are annoyed at me. Just think, you used to call me boss.’
‘Yes, well,’ she spluttered, feeling her cheeks grow warm. ‘I am very annoyed at the way you treated Dennis, but I will forgive you if you promise you won’t be angry with me.’
‘What have you done?’ he asked sharply.
She told him about the phone, and his face relaxed. ‘Oh, well, I wouldn’t have known what to do either,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen them, obviously, but it’s been a few years since I had anything to do with Muggles so anything more complex than a standard house phone and I’m lost, I’m afraid.’
‘The Muggle police can trace people with mobile phones somehow. I don’t know how, something to do with computers.’
Harry grabbed a quill and began scribbling down a note. ‘Right, well I’ll chat to Arthur and see if anything can be done, there must be a way for us to confund a policeman into plugging it into the system for us-’
‘Only if it doesn’t help us catch a murderer.’
Good natured bickering continued as they made their way to the elevators, and they were an awkwardly cheerful pair when they entered the morgue.
They found Bessie prodding a waxy looking corpse with her wand, frowning behind a face mask.
‘Oh dear,’ said Harry, looking at the messy body. ‘What happened to this poor bloke?’
‘Well that’s what I’m trying to figure out, Potter,’ she said exasperated. ‘What do you want? You’re such a nuisance.’
He grinned. ‘Ah, Bessie, you used to have time to have little chats with me. You’re only getting grumpier as you get older.’
Bessie gave a playful kick at his shins. ‘What do you want? I’m very busy.’
‘Theia was going to show me that phone you found.’
‘Oh, that,’ said Bessie, turning back to her corpse and running her wand over the gruesome injuries on the stomach.
‘It’s in my filing cabinet, pet, I don’t like it, it’s creepy.’
She said this without a hint of irony, and Theia exchanged an amused glance at Harry as they headed to Bessie’s office.
‘Don’t look through all my drawers, Potter!’ Bessie called after them. ‘Drawer three in the filing cabinet only, the rest is confidential.’
‘What?’ he shouted back teasingly, turning to walk backwards so he could grin at her. ‘Look through all your drawers? All right!’
‘What’s got you in such a good mood?’ Theia asked him as they entered the office, looking at his cheerful expression with suspicion. ‘You’re going round joking with people, smiling… You weren’t even rude to Dawlish in the elevator, it’s not natural.’
‘Just a good night’s sleep, I suppose,’ he said happily. He opened the filing cabinet and began to search through it. ‘Plus, this is rather exciting evidence, isn’t it? I love it when a case is a bit different.’
He did indeed look rather exhilarated as he grabbed the phone and placed it carefully on the desk. He then turned on his heel and looked expectantly at her. ‘What?’ she asked.
‘Well, you should call again. I’ve never used a mobile.’
‘Not even to call your Muggle relatives?’
‘Nope,’ he said swiftly. ‘Besides, it’s your piece of evidence, go on. You’ve got it in you.’
She picked it up, biting her lip. ‘I told you, they just hung up last time. There wasn’t even a personalised voicemail or anything.’
‘They’ll have been thinking on it overnight though,’ said Harry sagely. ‘They won’t be able to resist.’
He nodded at her encouragingly, and seized a quill and parchment from Bessie’s desk. The quill hovered ready over the parchment after Harry had tapped the phone with his wand, and once again she found herself holding it to her ear.
‘What should I say?’ she asked hurriedly, as it rang.
‘Just keep them talking,’ Harry replied, sitting so he could watch the conversation on the parchment.
She opened her mouth to argue, but there was that familiar low click as someone picked up. She could faintly hear breathing.
‘Hello?’ she tried. ‘Who am I speaking to?’
The voice seemed familiar somehow, but there was an odd distortion to it she couldn’t place, something mechanic sounding. ‘Who am I speaking to?’
Her heart pounded furiously in her chest. ‘This phone was found on the person of a man we wish to identify,’ she said, and out of the corner of her eye she saw Harry give a thumbs up. ‘Do you have any information that could help us with that?’
There was a very long pause, so long that Theia thought the voice on the other end may have hung up without her realising. ‘No,’ it said at last.
Another long pause, which Theia wanted badly to break, but Harry was holding up a finger to her. His sign to keep quiet soon proved wise, for the voice spoke again. ‘Is the… person all right?’
‘Are you next of kin?’ asked Theia.
‘No.’ The breathing seemed to be getting heavier, as though the voice was worried. ‘I’m a friend.’
‘From school?’ she asked, trying to keep her voice light and conversational.
The voice’s pause was almost as long as the last. ‘I suppose.’
Theia saw Harry scribble something furiously on a piece of parchment, and she leant forward to read it. Don’t frighten him off — suggest injured?
She gave the briefest of nods, and tried to keep her voice professional and neutral, as though she were a healer. ‘Well, if you’re a school friend, perhaps you can put us in contact with his next of kin? His injuries are quite significant-’
‘You are lying to me,’ said the voice, colder than ever.
‘Why do you think that?’ she asked. Harry nodded encouragingly at her, but inside she was panicking. Surely the person on the other end would hang up at any moment, surely they wouldn’t be that arrogant to keep talking…
‘Because I know when you are lying to me, Theia Higglesworth,’ said the voice.
The bottom seemed to drop out of her stomach. She stared at Harry, who stared grimly back. ‘Do you know me, then?’ she asked, her voice on the edge of stammering.
‘We have met,’ said the voice robotically.
She felt like her brain was working at a hundred miles per hour. She was running through every person she knew, everyone she’d ever met, trying to hear the hidden familiarity underneath the disguised voice, desperately hoping that the voice was lying to her…
‘Well,’ she said, and though her mouth was dry, she was surprised at her own calmness. ‘If you know who I am, surely it’s only fair that you tell me who you are.’
‘No, I don’t think so,’ said the voice. ‘I assume my friend has been arrested?’
She looked at Harry, who slowly looked up from the parchment and gave a hesitant nod. ‘That is correct,’ she said. Then, feeling bold, she said, ‘you seem to know a lot about it all. Why don’t you come in for a chat? You could help your friend.’
Yet another achingly long pause before the voice spoke again, slowly and carefully. ‘You will understand soon. Very soon. You’ll agree with me.’
‘Oh, will I now?’ Harry was making exasperated faces at her, she knew he wanted her to stay placid, keep the voice talking, but for some reason she felt furious, appalled and offended that someone was pretending to know her, suggesting that she would ever have any sympathy for the awful things they were doing…
‘Yes,’ said the voice. ‘You and Harry Potter. You’ll both understand, you’re just misguided.’
‘Explain,’ said Theia.
But there was a click, and a long, low dial tone.
A moment of silence hung in the air, she stood there in the middle of Bessie’s office feeling oddly frightened and angry.
‘Brilliant, Theia,’ Harry told her quietly.
Her lip trembled a bit. ‘I don’t know him.’
‘Are you sure?’
He was looking at her very intently, his expression serious and his eyes dark. She swallowed. ‘I thought… A few times… I thought the voice sounded a bit familiar, but it had been so manipulated it was barely recognisable. They must have voice changing software or- or used some kind of charm or something, I don’t know-’
‘Why was it familiar?’ asked Harry, his tone coaxing.
‘I don’t know… The inflections… The pattern of it. I don’t know. I can’t know them, can I? They probably just saw me in the paper or something.’
Harry was rubbing along his cheek bone as he thought, his scarred hand hiding his mouth, and she couldn’t read the expression in his eyes. ‘This is all Muggle technology,’ he said.
‘To keep everything undercover, I expect,’ said Theia, though she felt the suggestion like a cold shadow over the room. ‘We must be the only two in the department who know how to work a phone. Anyone else would have thrown it away eventually, I imagine.’
She hadn’t noticed that he was tense, but his shoulders seemed to relax. ‘Good point. We’re probably are looking for someone with a Muggle background or connection though.’ She nodded vaguely, trying to push silly thoughts out of her mind, and Harry began to roll up the parchment. ‘Stick the phone back in the filing cabinet, Theia, I doubt he’ll call again.’
‘Actually,’ she said nervously. ‘Would it, er… Would it be all right if I used it?’
He blinked at her. ‘Used it?’
‘Yeah, it’s just… I want to call my Mum.’ When he continued to stare at her with a dumbfounded expression, she looked down at her feet and continued with breath-taking speed. ‘I know I’m being a bit silly, I suppose I’m being paranoid, but she left suddenly last night without saying goodbye, just left a message with Dennis about a friend having a heart attack or something, but it’s just so unlike her and I wonder if I’ve annoyed or upset her or something by not being around all the time, and that’s why she didn’t say goodbye — sometimes I’m not very nice to her, you know, I find it hard to connect. I mean, Dad’s a bit of a deadbeat, but I can talk to him about things I’m doing and he understands, you know, but I have to explain everything to Mum about fifty times and, oh, I’m babbling, sorry, I just-’
He held up a hand, a smile playing round his lips. ‘It’s all right, I understand. Call your Mum. I mean, don’t tell Robards I let you use evidence, but I doubt he’d understand anyway.’
He rose, and Theia breathed a heavy sigh of relief. ‘You really don’t mind? I’d wait til I got home, but it will bother me all day, I hate thinking I’ve hurt her feelings.’
‘Well you only get one mum,’ said Harry. His cheeks suddenly flushed red and he gave her an awkward pat on the shoulder. ‘Don’t take long, we’ve got lots to do today.’
He left quickly, but as the door was swinging shut Theia briefly heard Bessie demanding to know when she could have her office back. She looked back down at the black Nokia in her hand. It was running low on battery.
She tapped in her mother’s number, panicking a little that she hadn’t remembered it correctly, but it went straight to Betty Higglesworth’s cheerful voicemail.
‘Mum, hi,’ Theia babbled into the phone. ‘I suppose you’re in a hospital, they don’t let phones in there, do they? I don’t know… Anyway, call me when you get this… Actually, no don’t, it’s evidence, don’t call this number-’ She wanted to kick herself. Why couldn’t she leave a simple voicemail? ‘Um, yeah, I’m just… I’m really worried about you, Mum…’ Her voice cracked a little, and she impatiently wiped at her eyes which were becoming increasingly hot and wet. ‘I’m really worried, I don’t know where you are or if you’re upset at me or something… Couldn’t you have left me a proper note? I need you, Mum, I’m starting to think… Oh, it doesn’t matter what I think, really, I could just use some… Some reassurance about something… I think I’m going mad, actually. Call… Call the house phone when you get this and leave me a message, yeah? Love you.’
Harry decided not to mention Theia’s red-tinged eyes when she returned. He gave her an awkward glance and neatened up the pile of paperwork he’d been filling out, speaking to her without looking up.
‘I want to get all this wrapped up as soon as possible, so I thought you could go and interview the DA people while I put Fischer through another interrogation.’
‘On my own?’ asked Theia, surprised.
‘Yeah, you know, I know the guys we’ve got today, so it’d probably be unprofessional for me to do it anyway, and they’re a nice lot, they’re not going to cause any trouble.’
‘B-but…’ He swivelled in his chair, to see her looking absolutely overwhelmed. ‘What do I say to them?’
‘Come on, Theia, you’re a bright girl. Just have a chat with them, look out for anything a bit odd. You did very well on the phone.’
‘This is different.’
‘Why?’ She had no answer for him, simply looked at the ground. ‘Look,’ he said kindly, ‘if you’re worried about doing it on your own, you don’t need to be. You’re perfectly capable. Go and see Susan and ask her to put a temporary taboo on you. If you find yourself in danger, just say the word “mayday” and the department will come running. But they’re a nice bunch, you don’t need to worry.’
‘Can’t I come in and interview Fischer as well?’
Harry had a very good reason not to include Theia in Fischer’s interrogation, but kept his expression relaxed and neutral as he lied to her. ‘We’re just too busy. If we split up and cover more ground we might be able to get this over and done with by the weekend.’
‘Right…’ she said vaguely. ‘Yeah…’
‘You all right?’ he finally asked, concerned that she was about to break down in tears.
‘Yes, I…’ Theia’s eyes suddenly watered and she took a deep breath. ‘I’m just… I suppose I’m tired.’
She wasn’t telling him something, that he was certain of, but he had patience. She would come to him eventually, if she needed to. ‘Once you’ve finished your list, go home,’ he said. ‘I promise, they won’t take long, we can pretty much discount them as it is. Just check they’re not sitting in a house made of skulls or something.’
She gave a weak smile, and nodded. ‘I’ll go see Susan then.’
He watched her as she left, wondering if she was beginning to wonder the same thing as him, and having great sympathy for the conflict that must be raging inside her.
He could not sit and sympathise for long, however. The clock on his cubicle wall coughed impatiently at him, and he rolled his eyes at it as he gathered up his files. ‘All right, all right,’ he told it. ‘Can’t a man stare into space for a few moments?’
‘Not if you want that promotion, shirker!’ trilled the clock, but Harry was already out of the cube.
Someone had already put Fischer in the interrogation room for him, and set up the recording quill, so when he entered, he was able to do so with a relaxed air, smiling slightly in the low light. ‘All right, Fischer?’ he said cheerfully. He sat in the chair opposite. Fischer looked up from under his thick blonde eyebrows, but stayed sullen and silent. ‘I’m a very happy man today,’ Harry told him. ‘Do you know why?’
Fischer shrugged. ‘Defeated another dark wizard?’
‘Not yet,’ said Harry. ‘But I’m well on the way to wrapping this whole mess up. There’s no panic anymore. My holiday request went through for this weekend, so I can have some time off, and I thought I might cook everyone some steaks. What are your plans for the weekend, Fischer?’
Fischer didn’t answer Harry’s taunts, simply continued to sulk, staring down at his fingers, which played with the edge of the table. It suddenly struck Harry how young he was.
‘We’ve just been chatting to your friend on the phone,’ said Harry. Fischer’s eyes flicked up to meet Harry’s, and held his gaze.
‘What do you think we talked about?’ Harry asked him. Fischer shrugged again. ‘Do you think he’s worried about you?’
‘Yes,’ said Fischer, though he didn’t look sure.
‘Why would he be worried about you?’
‘Because we are friends,’ said Fischer. His voice was small and hoarse, his accent stronger than ever, and he looked down again.
‘Well, we did say he could come and see you. We told him he could come and help you. But he said no,’ said Harry. He waited. Fischer said nothing. ‘Why wouldn’t he come and see you, Lars?’
‘There are more important things,’ said Fischer firmly, but then, quietly, ‘I suppose.’
‘Like what?’ asked Harry.
Fischer hesitated. He looked exhausted, afraid… He’d spoken to no one but Theia and Harry since he had been arrested. Alone in his holding cell… Harry was sure that by now doubts would be entering his mind. When he had first interviewed him, the nervous signs of nail biting and hesitation had been there, yes, but he had been proud, disappointed at being caught, sure of his concept of divine inspiration…
‘Like justice,’ he said slowly. ‘Justice, and fairness, and getting rid of evil.’
‘I know what happened to your family,’ said Harry quietly. ‘I know more than you realise. And I know what it’s like, to lose… Everything.’
Fischer suddenly leaned forward with a sort of fervent energy, holding his hands in front of him as though ready to clasp something, staring into Harry’s eyes with a zealous shine. ‘Then you must realise- Out of all the people, you, especially, should realise-’
He suddenly stood, his chair scraping against the rough floor, but Harry didn’t blink, he let Fischer pace the room, looking quite mad, but elated. ‘You got your justice,’ he was saying. ‘I didn’t get mine-’
‘It was Voldemort who killed your family, just as he killed mine,’ said Harry calmly, ignoring Fischer’s twitch at the name. ‘Surely me getting my justice got you yours?’
‘No,’ said Fischer loudly, shaking his head uncontrollably. ‘No. No you- I did not-’
‘Do you feel I took your chance at justice?’
Fischer looked horrified. ‘No, you are hero!’ At Harry’s raised eyebrow, he began to pace again, wringing his hands. ‘Well, you were! You were a hero! But then you’ve become stifled by the Ministry, by others, you weren’t able to continue ridding us of evil people, you’re just misguided now - you won’t do what is necessary anymore. You just took your revenge and moved on, but didn’t finish the job! It was what you were born to do, you did it as a baby and-’ Fischer suddenly launched into rapid German, his hands trembling as he gripped his hair, his eyes wide.
Harry rose and gently guided him back to his seat, where Fischer rocked slightly, still mumbling incomprehensible German. ‘Come on, now… Sit down, Lars, it’s all right… ’
‘It wasn’t meant to get this far, I didn’t realise… He told me you would understand, he said you would approve-’
‘Who did?’ Harry asked calmly. ‘Who said that?’
‘My friend…’ Fischer had his eyes wrenched shut now, his head turned away from Harry, he seemed to be in complete despair.
‘Is this the friend you met at school?’ asked Harry. ‘Because your friend on the phone also said that you met at school, but I don’t believe you.’ Harry said this with no accusation. It was clear now that Lars Fischer was a young man who had got in too deep. His visions of glory and vigilantism had not lived up to the frightening reality of murder and prison. Whereas one man had relished in torturing his victims, Lars had ended it swiftly, but had found that it had bought him no satisfaction.
Fischer was biting his nails again, his eyes looking everywhere but Harry. ‘We met at Durmstrang,’ he said. ‘But they wouldn’t let him join… I heard why… I found him, to apologise…’
‘Why wouldn’t they let him join?’ asked Harry.
Fischer suddenly erupted in anger, slamming his fist onto the desk and glaring at Harry with mad rage. ‘He is my friend! I won’t allow you to do this! I won’t! I will answer no more of your questions!’
Harry wanted to shake him and swear in his face. It had been going so well, he had no idea what he had said to shut Fischer down like this, but he was desperate to claw back some information from him while he was so emotionally fragile. There was no time for gentle eliciting now.
‘Do you know a man called Dennis Creevey, Lars?’
‘Sohn einer Hündin! Verpiss dich!’ screamed Fischer, his face red with fury. ‘I won’t talk to you, leave me alone!’
‘Lars,’ Harry said warningly, but Fischer stood again, and violently threw his chair across the room.
‘Dead!’ he howled. ‘All of them dead! Gerhild and Bastian were just children! In this country too, so many dead children, so many lost families — it wasn’t all him, it wasn’t all You-Know-Who! So many let it happen, so many pretended not to see! And YOU, you have let them live!’
‘Voldemort is dead now,’ said Harry sharply. ‘And it is not for you and your friend to decide how punishment is handed out.’
‘Send me to prison then,’ spat Fischer. ‘Send me to prison so I can kill them all, if you won’t do it! You work among people who complied with the imprisonment and banishment of Muggleborns, who ignored the bodies piling up in the morgue, who WALKED IN HERE EVERYDAY UNDER BANNERS THAT CALLED FOR YOUR CAPTURE!’
He was breathing heavily now, staring at Harry with a desperation. Harry stared back, his expression neutral and calm.
‘How can you trust them?’ Fischer asked with a quiet grimness.
Harry stayed very silent for a very long time. Eventually he took a long, slow breath. ‘Do you know what your friend has been doing to the people you deliver to him?’ he asked. ‘Do you even know their crimes? Do you ever consider that they don’t fit?’
Disgust crossed Fischer’s face. ‘You must think I’m a fool, Potter. Of course I know what they have done.’
‘Do you think it fits, then?’ asked Harry. ‘Do you think it is fair punishment to be tortured for weeks and force-fed your wife’s decaying heart?’ Fischer didn’t respond, so Harry continued. ‘Do you think it was fair for her, even? She may have supported her Death Eater husband, but she has never been connected to a murder herself, yet she was attacked so brutally that her blood was found on the ceiling.’
Fischer had grown paler, but he gave a half-hearted smirk and began to slowly pace again. ‘You think they would appreciate you? You think they would be grateful for your sympathy? These are people who would have been delighted to hear the same stories about Muggleborns.’
‘You are not a Muggleborn though, are you, Fischer?’ asked Harry. ‘Why have you taken up this challenge?’
‘We owe it to them,’ said Fischer. ‘It is the right thing to do.’
‘Is it?’ asked Harry. ‘Or is that what Dennis Creevey has told you?’
‘I do not know this Dennis Creevey,’ said Fischer. Harry could not read his expression. ‘And I will not betray my friend. He will continue his good work.’
Harry arrived home on time for once, before Ginny had returned from practice. The house was warm with quietness; just the steady ticking of the clock on the wall, the crackle of the fire he lit under the oven, the occasional creaks and groans of the old beams and furniture.
He began the dinner, relishing in being able to take his time cooking, chopping the vegetables the Muggle way, drifting away in thought as his knife sliced easily through the onions.
Had Fischer been lying? It was hard to say. He was certainly odd, and emotional. He was a difficult man to read and he spoke so slowly that it was difficult to establish whether he was considering his words or simply letting them tumble out. He couldn’t shake the feeling of unease he had, the way his hackles had been raised when Dennis had sounded so bitter about the wizarding world, the odd series of coincidences that had conveniently led him to live next door to Theia.
She, too, had been odd today. Returning from her interviews with a strange expression and assuring Harry that there was nothing out of the ordinary from any of the old D.A members, but jumping nervously when Susan touched her arm to remove the taboo she had placed on her.
Nifty spell, that one, Harry thought approvingly, pushing the onions into the pan with his knife. It was nice to take something that had been oppressive during the war and make it into something helpful.
Ginny came home as he was giving the Bolognese one last stir, coming up behind him to snake her arms around his waist and kissing him on the back of the neck. ‘You’re home early,’ she said.
‘I told you, it’s all winding up now.’
She made an approving noise, and summoned some plates for them, which floated gently to the kitchen table. ‘I can’t wait for this weekend,’ she said happily. ‘It’ll be so lovely to see Dennis again, I even dug this out, look!’
She handed it to him as they sat at the table. A photograph of her and Demelza hugging, in a room full of coloured banners. ‘He took it right before the battle,’ she said. ‘I actually don’t have any photos of Colin, because he was always the one behind the camera. But, as horrible as that night was, I’ve always thought this photo really shows his talent, you know? All the colours, and he captured it just at the right time, there’s so much emotion… He wanted to be a photo journalist, you know…’
‘It was never magically developed,’ noticed Harry quietly.
‘None of the photos from the battle were,’ said Ginny. ‘Haven’t you seen any of them? They were published in The Prophet still, out of respect, I think. It was Dennis’s choice.’
‘No, I haven’t seen any of them,’ said Harry, feeling an odd lurch in his stomach. ‘I’ve never looked at any of them…’
‘They helped me, for some reason,’ said Ginny. ‘Some I still can’t look at, but others… He had such a talent.’
‘Best not show Dennis these,’ said Harry, dropping the photos and turning to his dinner.
‘What? Why? It was his little project before Colin’s funeral, to remember him. He organised them all and sent them into the papers and-’
‘He’s very sensitive about Colin,’ Harry interjected. ‘And… I’m not sure we should…’ He hesitated, but soon found himself, as always, spilling all his worries and fears and concerns to her, grateful for how patiently she listened, her gentle nods and soothing hums.
‘But it’s all just a hunch?’ she asked when he finished. ‘You checked his flat and there was no evidence?’
‘Nothing. No evidence of magic happening there at all. Just a mildly creepy shrine to his brother.’
‘And this Fischer bloke hasn’t named him?’
Ginny watched him, chewing her spaghetti very slowly.
‘You think I’m insane, don’t you?’
‘No, I don’t think that. You’re usually very good with your hunches. But I wonder if you’re just feeling a bit… I don’t know, tired? Paranoid? Dennis must make you feel a bit uncomfortable.’
‘Sure. You’ve never really got used to how many children were involved, have you?’
Harry shook his head. ‘No… This Fischer bloke… I haven’t told him, but I… I saw the murder of his mother and two siblings. The…’ he gestured to his scar with an irritable, pained expression. ‘They really were very young, and… He was shouting all this stuff today and I kept calm, but I have to admit that inside, I did get a bit riled up. Not about them, specifically, but the Ministry must be full of people who knew what was going on and just kept their heads down. There must have been children, dozens, hundreds maybe…’
‘Well Dennis is a very good example of that,’ said Ginny. ‘He makes you sad and uncomfortable that you could put away the worst criminals but haven’t fully fixed the system yet, and kids like him got… Well, they got traumatised for life, didn’t they?’ Harry nodded slowly, feeling thoroughly miserable. ‘Is, er…’ Ginny cleared her throat awkwardly. ‘Well, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong, obviously. Is it safe to have Dennis round here on Saturday night?’
Harry took a deep breath, staring blankly at the dark window in front of him. Had he become like Mad-Eye Moody? Paranoid and suspicious of everyone around him? Was that why Theia had been so upset today? Why she had that look in her eye again? Had she realised that he was holding her boyfriend in suspicion for no apparent reason?
He didn’t know it, but at that very moment, hundreds of miles away in East London, Theia was tearfully confessing her own silly paranoid fears to Dennis, who was laughing and hugging her, and both of them were, at the precise moment that Harry turned to look at Ginny, confessing their love for one another for the very first time.
‘It’s perfectly safe,’ he said. ‘I’m being ridiculous. Of course it’s not Dennis.’
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