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SIYE Time:1:18 on 14th December 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: 39274; Chapter Total: 2353
Awards: View Trophy Room






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‘…And then she started bloody hyperventilating!’

Ron, Ginny and George cackled with laughter, but Hermione sipped her wine, throwing a disapproving look at Harry.

‘Like, literally hyperventilating?’ asked Angelina, gobsmacked. ‘But…’ She seemed at a loss for words as Harry nodded irritably, shoving a forkful of dauphinoise potato into his mouth.

‘Shaking and crying and everything,’ he mumbled through his food, shaking his head in exasperation. ‘I don’t think she’d ever seen a dead person before, it was ridiculous, I had to take her back to the Ministry. By the time I got back to the crime scene Bessie had photographed everything and her team had started clearing everything up, I might have missed something important!’

‘Hang on,’ said Ginny. ‘You said she spotted the belladonna didn’t you?’

‘All right,’ Harry conceded. ‘I’ll admit she’s an observant girl and she knows her potions and dangerous plants and what not, but I can’t work with her if she’s crying all over the place.’

‘Doesn’t look very professional, does it?’ mused George. ‘You Aurors are meant to be hardened, emotionless super soliders aren’t you? That’s why Ronnie couldn’t hack it.’

‘Oi!’ protested Ron. ‘I was quite good at it, actually! At least I never burst into tears at a little bit of blood.’

Hermione looked furious with them all. ‘The woman’s heart had been removed!’

Harry shrugged, turning back to his food. ‘See?’ said Ron, grinning. ‘Emotionless.’

‘Some might say heartless,’ said George.

Hermione stared at them, appalled, as they sniggered. ‘You are emotionless,’ she accused Harry. ‘She’s, what, eighteen? The poor girl, she’s had barely any training-’

‘But that’s exactly my point!’ said Harry, frustrated. ‘This whole scheme Robards cooked up is nonsense, I said from the start I didn’t want any part in it, didn’t I Ron?’

‘He did,’ nodded Ron, helping himself to more wine. ‘I remember.’

‘I don’t mind helping train people, but this? The moment it was suggested I knew we’d be stuck with sheltered kids who couldn’t hack it, and we’d end up wasting our time babysitting them-’

‘Well any kid is going to look sheltered next to you, Harry,’ said Angelina, looking alarmed.

He ignored her. ‘The whole thing’s been a complete cock-up. I got barely any investigation time, so now the whole thing has to be conducted from photographs, it’s madness. She’s going to see a lot worse than a couple of organs missing. I don’t have time for it.’

‘You’ve thrown her in at the deep end without preparing her,’ said Hermione, though her voice was a little more patient.

‘Well we all got thrown in at the deep end, didn’t we?’ said Ginny. ‘Nobody gave us a year of training before we all got thrown into a war.’

‘Oh, don’t get me started!’ said Harry, throwing his head back. ‘She was the year below you, managed to keep her head down during the Carrow’s regime, but imagines we all went off having some grand old adventure. The way she talks about it, I’m not sure she’s aware it actually happened, we may as well all be characters in a fairytale.’

Ron laughed darkly. ‘So that feature in the paper about her was true, was it? She really is excited to be mentored by a true hero? Overjoyed to learn from the best? Staggered by the powerful struggle you’ve been through?’

‘Sadly not an exaggeration,’ Harry replied grumpily. ‘It’s the worst I’ve seen since Colin Creevy.’

Ginny’s face fell, and she took a large gulp of wine.

‘I’ll have to get you a new gift for your desk,’ said George wistfully. ‘Maybe a nice stand for your Order of Merlin?’

‘Sod off, George.’

‘A self-writing quill to answer your fan mail?’

‘None of this is her fault,’ interrupted Hermione, ignoring the rude hand gesture Harry was giving George. ‘You mustn’t be angry with her, Harry.’

‘I’ve been nice!’ he insisted. ‘I even complimented her on the one good bit of work she did there, didn’t even mention that she was a pain in the arse the rest of the time!’

Hermione remained unconvinced for the rest of the dinner, and as the candles burnt low and the wine bottles emptied, Harry began to feel increasingly guilty. By the time their guests had left and he and Ginny were stumbling haphazardly into bed, his guilt had got so bad that he had become convinced he was the worst person in the world.

‘Don’t be silly,’ Ginny mumbled, nestling her head into his neck. ‘You’re mostly all right, that’s why I stick with you.’

‘D’you think I’m expecting too much of her though?’ he asked. ‘The others just have their trainees doing paperwork.’

‘Well that’s hardly training either, is it?’

‘No, I s’pose not,’ he said. He paused. ‘Angelina might be right, though.’

‘What d’you mean?’ she asked, yawning.

‘I’m getting annoyed at her that she reacted perfectly normally to a horrific scene. I think she’s sheltered, but I don’t know anything about her, I’ve just based it on the fact that she panicked. She was still at school during the Carrows…’

‘Well I barely remember her, so she can’t have put herself in that much danger,’ said Ginny. ‘And I think you’re worrying too much. I’m sure your case will be fine, you’ll figure it out.’

‘You think?’

‘I know. You’re quite brilliant, you know. Almost as brilliant as me.’ With that, she kissed him, and, as always, he felt his stress melt away as he loved her. Every freckle and every sigh and her perfect blazing look once again becoming his greatest source of comfort.

***

‘Dad thinks I should give up,’ she said tearfully, clutching at the hot water bottle. ‘Said it was nice that I’d given it a shot, but clearly it wasn’t for me.’

Her mother pursed her lips, though Theia couldn’t see. ‘Well, that does tend to be your father’s solution to everything…’

‘It was so embarrassing,’ she wailed. ‘I never thought I’d react like that, I always thought I’d be braver than that.’

Her mother rubbed her back soothingly as Theia curled up even tighter on the scruffy old sofa. ‘Never mind, love, I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it. You just need to disconnect. I bet that’s what Harvey did, wasn’t it?’
‘Harry.’

‘Yes, sorry, Harry. But I bet the first time he saw a body he was just as frightened.’

‘No,’ Theia sniffed. ‘I bet he wasn’t, he’s really brave, he just seems to shrug this stuff off, and he’s grown up with it. I told you, he was the one whose parents got murdered.’

‘Well that’s not much to brag about. Before I had you, before I met your father, even, I always wanted to join the army.’
Theia rolled over to stare at her mother. ‘Really?’

‘Mmhmm. Never got to do it, of course, but I was like you, imagined myself the main character, rushing in with incredible bravery… But then of course that time you broke your arm I was in a complete tizzy.’

Theia blinked. ‘No you weren’t.’

‘Yes I was, your Dad was so annoyed with me. You were fine, a bit tearful, but ever so good with the doctors and so calm. But once I’d seen that, once I knew you were a bit more resilient than I’d given you credit for, it was a lot easier to be a bit braver the next time you went climbing up a tree. Maybe I would have been no good in the army, but you never know til you make a good go of it, do you? You haven’t been in the job long, give it another go. You’ll be more prepared next time.’

Theia sniffed again, and wiped her damp cheeks. ‘What if there isn’t a next time? He might fire me. He was really angry, Mum, I know he was. He was nice at first, said really nice things about me, but then I annoyed him by talking too much and when he got back to the office later he kept talking about how he hadn’t had enough time to properly investigate, and I know that’s my fault and-’

‘Sounds like he’s someone who’s been thoroughly miserable their whole life, so don’t you let him offload his issues onto you.’ Theia gave a watery laugh, and her mum smiled warmly. ‘You just march in there tomorrow, all smiles, and do a bloody good job. You’ve always been my hardworking little girl. Now, I’ll put the kettle on. A cuppa before bed will do you a world of good.’

***

When Theia arrived at work the next day, Harry didn’t turn up. She sat awkwardly in their cubicle for a full half an hour, wondering what to do, before finally losing her patience and popping her head over the wall.

‘Er… Mr Williamson?’

‘Hmm?’ The Auror looked up from his notes, vaguely surprised.

‘Erm… Do you know where Mr Potter is?’

‘Hmm…’ His expression of vague surprise turned to one of vague confusion. ‘Maybe he’s been attacked again… OI! Longbottom!’ he yelled to the ceiling.

‘Yeah?’ a voice shouted back from a few cubicles away.

‘Where’s Potter?’

‘Day off, he’s got the Azkaban night shift later!’

Williamson gave her a short nod, as if that cleared everything up, and turned back to his notes. She stared at him, completely bewildered. ‘So… I’m on my own today?’ He simply grunted his response.

She sat down, feeling rather resentful that Harry hadn’t told her that he wouldn’t be in. In fact, now she came to think of it, she was quite resentful of a lot of stuff he didn’t tell her or do for her. Just who did he think he was? Moping about because his mate would rather run a joke shop than be his Auror partner, well, she could certainly see why!

‘Arsehole,’ she muttered to herself. She thought about her mum’s advice, and gritted her teeth. He probably hadn’t expected her to show up. Well sod that.

She leaned over in her chair and checked the to-do list pinned in front of Harry’s desk. As she unpinned it, the blue-haired toddler in the photo below looked at her disapprovingly. ‘Oh, shut-up,’ she hissed at it. ‘I don’t even know who you are, he’s not exactly very chatty.’

She apparated to Upper Flagley, and stared for a few minutes at the metal steps to the wooden door. It was odd that it had been locked, with just a Muggle lock at that. Anyone who would have wanted to hide the body could have done so. Now that she thought of it…

She reached into her pocket and withdrew her notebook and a pencil. Stab wounds — not magical?

She thought about going in, but remembered the blood, and the smell of belladonna, and felt sick. So instead, she peered in the window of the shop below the flat. As Arkie had said, it appeared to be long abandoned. Something that looked horribly like a dead rat lay in one corner, and what little furniture remained had been covered in grubby white sheets.

She continued down the cobbled road, glancing into the mostly Muggle houses. Yet she knew that Upper Flagley was a wizarding village really, like Ottery St Catchpole or Godric’s Hollow, so she was able to spot the odd little quirks that betrayed the village’s magical secret. The shadowy corners perfect for apparating, the poorly disguised Flutterby bushes on a high balcony, the Muggle toy-train shop that shimmered and shifted into a potions shop as she approached…

As she entered, the bell tingled, but the mad looking witch behind the counter barely reacted. Squinting into the flame under a small cauldron on the counter, tongue sticking out the corner of her mouth, the witch shook a vial of dark green. The same colour, oddly, as her coarse and tangled hair. Theia thought she might be part hag.

‘Er… Excuse me…’ said Theia hesitantly.

The witch jumped, placing a hand to her chest. ‘Eee, Merlin girl, ye frightened the bliddy life outta us!’

‘I’m sorry,’ said Theia, trying her best to sound professional. ‘I’m Ms Higglesworth, from the Auror Office-’

‘Tha’ll be here ‘bout that killing, then? Old Arkie told me all about it.’

‘Yes, Ms…?’

‘Mrs Ruggles. Joyce Ruggles.’

Trying very hard not to stare at Mrs Ruggle’s large nose, Theia smiled, and approached the counter. ‘I was wondering if you heard anything suspicious the night before last, Mrs Ruggles? Or noticed any odd activity recently.’

‘Was there really lots of blood?’ asked Mrs Ruggles eagerly.

Theia felt a flicker of annoyance. A woman had died, couldn’t she see that? Instead of treating it like juicy gossip... ‘I’m afraid I can’t discuss the case with you, Mrs Ruggles. But I’d really appreciate any information you have.’

‘Well, I used to go in there now and then as a favour t’landlord, you know, spruce the place up. He had a reet problem letting it, on account of the boggart always moving in. But few months ago I always found I never had the time nor the willingness neither, but that would have been some repelling charms, no doubt?’

Theia was scribbling furiously in her notebook, desperately trying to make sense of the woman’s thick accent. ‘So you never spoke to the people in there?’

‘Nay. Never heard nothing, neither. Who was it in there anyhow?’

‘I can’t discuss that with you, I’m sorry,’ said Theia. She hesitated. ‘Did anyone ever come in here asking for belladonna?’

‘Belladonna? Oh, I don’t bother with the licence for that, you’d have to grow it yoursen. Or go down south for it.’ She scrunched up her gigantic nose. ‘Shyverwretch might sell it.’

***

The office was empty, and uncharacteristically still. Harry gave a great huffing sigh as he walked to his cubicle; Theia must have left the lamp on, it was the only one that still glowed with orange light in the dark and silent room.

As he got closer, he heard a rustling. He froze. Someone had broken into the Ministry. Were they trying to steal something from him? Setting a trap? Checking his schedule? He withdrew his wand, and treaded carefully, setting his feet silently on the carpet as he crept closer…

Stupefy!

Prot ego!’ Theia blocked his spell just in time, and he stumbled backwards a little. She looked horrified. ‘Sorry! I’m sorry!’

‘What’re you doing? It’s ten to nine!’

‘Williamson said you come to the office before you go to Azkaban to drop off your things and receive any messages, so I waited after work to make sure I caught you and so that you knew I haven’t quit, and I want you to know that I worked really hard today-’

He held up a hand. ‘Slow down, what are you talking about? Why did you need to wait?’

‘I went to Upper Flagley today,’ she blurted out. ‘Spoke to a few people, then came back and checked my notes and the photos, and I think I’ve worked a few things out. But I wanted to make sure you hadn’t fired me.’

He gaped at her. She really was an odd girl. ‘Fired you?’

She nodded miserably. ‘I’m… I’m not a Gryffindor like you. My bravery isn’t… Well, it’s not quite there yet. But, I’ve really been thinking hard, all day, and I think our cases are connected!’

‘The… The Shyverwretch case, you mean?’

Her pale, pointed little face looked exhausted, but gleeful. ‘The belladonna! I think she got it from him, and it seems like a coincidence that-’

‘We’re trying to find the murderer,’ he explained patiently. ‘It doesn’t matter if she bought belladonna from him.’

‘But it does! You said it yourself, it’s important we know about who she was. You said her husband was a Death Eater, and she had dressed up all nice and put belladonna in her eyes, well, was it for him? Or was it for someone else? Did he fly into a fit of rage about it? Not to mention what the rest of the belladonna was for- Look.’ She turned and seized a wad of parchment from the desk. ‘The results of the analysis of the potion. That was some seriously strong stuff she was brewing, much worse than just belladonna extract. Why? And-’

‘Theia,’ Harry interrupted. ‘Theia, I’m really sorry, I honestly want to keep listening, but I’m going to be late-’

‘I’ll come with you!’ she yelped. ‘We can talk about it there!’ Harry wasn’t sure. She looked deranged with exhaustion, her wispy flyaway hair even more uncontrolled than usual. But she was grinning with excitement.

‘It’s… It’s not a great place,’ he said uneasily. ‘Pretty heavy going.’

‘Matthew Strudwick said it was a doss, the inmates just sat around quietly all day.’

‘I doubt Matthew Strudwick was there with someone quite as unpopular as me,’ Harry said. He had awful visions of her crying or looking petrified. They’d eat her alive. But she’d waited, for hours, to tell him this…

‘I can do it,’ she said determinedly. ‘Please, please let me try.’

He sighed, and glanced at his watch. ‘Fine. But I mean it, if you can’t take it, you’ll just have to go home, I won’t be able to help you out, not there.’

‘You won’t have to,’ she said quickly. She grabbed her notebook, and watched him pleadingly.

He gave her a doubtful glance, but he still felt guilty about the things Hermione had said to him, so he jerked his head for her to follow, and they left the office.

***

They had to get a small boat to Azkaban. It magically steered itself through the choppy, black sea, chugging erratically and smelling strongly of petrol. Theia felt a little sick, though she was not sure if it was seasickness or nerves, so she folded her arms against the cold wind and focused on the horizon, determined to ignore it. Helping guard Azkaban was not one of the reasons she had decided to become an Auror, but now that the Dementors had been removed during Shacklebolt and Harry’s rehaul, it was a duty the trainees had been made very clear on. Matthew had said it was fine, boring even, but even Harry seemed reluctant to go…

Soon, a huge, threatening looking building loomed in the distance, almost as dark as the night sky around it.

‘Right,’ shouted Harry above the noise of the boat. ‘Try not to let the prisoners get to you.’

‘What will they do?’ Theia shouted back. She wanted to be prepared this time.

He just shook his head slightly, squinting at the prison. ‘They can’t do anything but shout abuse, really. Just try to remember they’re doing it because they’re powerless.’

They reached the rocky outcrop on which the prison sat, and disembarked on a slippery, unsteady looking pier. ‘It’ll mostly be me they shout at,’ he told her as they walked up a narrow stony path. ‘But it’s still not nice, a lot of people refuse to go on duty with me here.’

‘Is that why you get the graveyard shift?’

He gave a hollow laugh. ‘I guess so.’

The thick stone walls of the fortress were dappled with the effects of the sea spray, and they reached so high into the sky that Theia felt rather dizzy trying to see the top. The entrance was heavily fortified, a huge metal gate lifting with a screech as they approached, and a sour faced man was waiting for them.

‘Where the bloody hell have you been?’ he snapped. ‘I was meant to finish half an hour ago.’

‘Sorry, got held up,’ said Harry. ‘How’ve they been?’

‘The usual. Good luck, Potter.’ He threw Harry a bunch of keys and stormed off.

The place seemed devoid of life. Rusted bars and unplastered walls gave the feeling that it was dark, despite the abundance of torches floating out of reach. There were other, full-time guards there, but as Theia went through the various gates and had her bag checked they did not greet or smile at her. On the contrary, they threw dirty looks at Harry, and one of them demanded to know why they hadn’t been warned he’d be on duty.

‘Sorry, Nigel,’ Harry said sarcastically. ‘I’ll owl you my full timetable next time.’

‘What’s their problem?’ Theia asked quietly. They were walking into a huge chamber, and around the circular walls she could see bars leading into dark pockets that were surely cells, lining the metal walkway that spiraled up like a snake. It must have been expanded magically, for surely no structure could be this tall, the upper cells vanishing into darkness.

‘No one likes working here, especially not when I’m on,’ Harry whispered. ‘I hate it,’ he admitted. It was the first time he had said anything personal to her, and though she also disliked this miserable place, she felt better.

Like the other guards she could see moving in the shadows far above them, Harry led her to begin the rounds, peering into the darkness and checking the sleeping prisoners. Most were bundled up under blankets, a few were staring at walls and didn’t look up as they passed. She wanted to continue their conversation on her ideas, but could see he was keen for the silence to continue, perhaps hoping he wouldn’t be noticed by the inmates, so she willed herself to keep her mouth shut.

‘So,’ he whispered, as though reading her mind. ‘What’s all this work you’ve been doing all day?’

She told him about the conversation she had had with Mrs Ruggles, and how, just it had said on his to-do list, she had checked the records of the flat above the abandoned shop. ‘Her story checks out,’ muttered, awkwardly showing him her notebook. ‘There is a boggart that keeps moving in from the shop downstairs and a few months ago there was a sudden drop in enquiries about letting the place. That must have been the Rookwoods, placing a confundus charm around it or something. You were right, they probably did go abroad, but came back for some reason.’

‘Do we know it was both of them?’ Harry asked in a low voice. ‘Rookwood might have died while they were abroad, and his wife might have just come back-’

‘POTTER! POTTER, POTTER, POTTER!’

He rolled his eyes. A deranged looking man in the cell nearest to him had recognized his voice, and came rushing to the bars, his bony hands clawing at Harry, who stepped lazily out of the way. Now the prisoners had all been alerted to Harry’s presence and they howled and screamed at him, rattling and banging their tin cups against the bars.

‘BASTARD! He’ll come back, Potter! He’ll return!’

‘I’ll kill you, Potter, blood traitor scum!’

They kept walking, acting as though they couldn’t hear the roar of fury around them, but a large, mangy-looking man with grey matted hair stuck his head against the bars as they passed, jeering at them. ‘How’s the godson, Potter?’ Harry barely looked at him, simply kept walking, but the man shouted after him. ‘I’ll get him one day, Potter! I’ll feel him squeal! I’ll rip into him like bread!’

She must have looked shocked, for Harry gave her a reassuring smile, though his shoulders were tense. ‘Greyback is a werewolf, and he has quite the chip on his shoulder about it. Don’t let him trouble you.’

‘Why do they make you come here?’ she asked, looking at the chaos surrounding her. ‘I mean, what’s the point? They were fine before you got here.’

‘There always needs to be at least one Auror on duty, it wouldn’t be fair for me to skip it. And besides,’ he waved a hand to the enraged Death Eaters, ‘look how upset they are! I think it’s worth it.’ He gave a cheerful grin and a wave to a man who was trying to spit at them. ‘Anyway, please continue.’

It was now loud enough to talk normally over the barrage of abuse without being overheard. It felt odd to talk so calmly over threats, but she was surprised at how easy it was. The yells blurred into background noise as she spoke. ‘I thought maybe it was just her too, but then I was looking through the notes and photos Bessie gave us and there’s definitely men’s clothes there too. There wasn’t much food in the cupboards or anything, but there was a man’s razor that looked like it had been used recently. You met Rookwood, searched for him for years… Does he seem like the type to kill his wife?’

‘Yes,’ shrugged Harry. ‘But there’s something off about it. I can’t place my finger on it.’

‘I can,’ said Theia. ‘I hope you don’t mind, I looked through your profile on him. The man hates Muggles.’

‘They all do here,’ said Harry, glaring at a doughy blonde witch who was screaming ‘mudblood’ at the top of her voice.

‘Right, but the murderer didn’t use magic, did they? It was all stab wounds, not the sort you’d get with a cutting curse.’

‘Usually when we see Muggle fighting like that it’s because someone’s lost their temper,’ explained Harry. ‘And judging from the frenzied nature of the attack, that’s exactly what the culprit did. I think you might be on to something when you said she might have been getting dressed up for someone else.’

‘But why wouldn’t he use his wand? And why was she making such a strong poison? I really think there might be a connection there, I checked with loads of potions and herbologists and all of them said to have belladonna you’d need to grow it yourself, or go to somewhere like Shyverwretch’s shop. And he was beaten up the Muggle way too! Seems like quite a coincidence, especially if he gave us a false name.’

‘Well, we’ll need to question him a bit more then, and find Rookwood,’ said Harry. ‘Should be a lot easier if you think he’s back in the- Oh, bloody hell,’ he moaned.

A man was slumped against his bars, reaching out a hand to them and wailing pathetically. ‘I’m sorry!’ he bawled. ‘I really am! Please!’

‘Course you are, Dolohov,’ spat Harry.

‘I want to die! I want to kill myself!’

Harry sighed and leaned against the bars, looking down with a bored, unsympathetic expression. Theia was surprised. Even for a Death Eater, and she had heard all about how evil Dolohov was, Harry’s reaction seemed uncharacteristically callous.

‘Do you mean that, Dolohov? Are you at risk of harming yourself?’

‘Yes!’ insisted the man, his shoulders heaving with dramatic sobs.

‘Right, it’s just last time you said that so I’d take you to the welfare room, you tried to attack me and make a run for it. Same story the time before. So I’ll ask you, only because I have to, are you actually going to harm yourself? Because we both know this is a waste of my time and yours.’

‘Yes! I mean it, I’ll do it!’

Harry rolled his eyes, muttered something under his breath and whistled up at the nearest guards. They turned and began strolling lazily towards him, wands drawn. ‘Wand out,’ he told Theia, and then opened the cell.

Dolohov scrambled up and launched himself at Harry, something sharp glinting in his hand. Theia sent a body-bind curse his way, but he ducked it swiftly, rushing to Harry with bulging eyes. Harry flicked his wand at him and the object went spinning out of his hand, before, with a fluid movement, Harry had used Dolohov’s own momentum to flip him to the ground, ropes erupting from the end of his wand to bind Dolohov’s hands behind his back. Dolohov cursed and spat, but he was unintelligible as Harry knelt on his back.

‘No, don’t worry,’ Harry said to the ambling guards as they finally reached him. ‘Don’t rush yourselves. You guys kick back and relax, I don’t want you getting in the way of Dolohov’s attack, he was doing so well.’

They did not look impressed at Harry’s sarcasm. ‘Honestly, mate, maybe you could just stop opening the sodding cell.’
Harry looked furious. ‘Maybe you two could do your jobs and stop him getting his hands on weapons! Theia, grab whatever it was he had-’

But she’d already picked it up. ‘Homemade knife,’ she said. ‘He managed to get his hands on a razor.’
Harry swore. ‘Right, you two take him to the welfare room- don’t look at me like that, it’s the rules- while we check if he’s managed to hide anything else. I mean, where the hell did he get a razor from, for Merlin’s sake…’

The two lazy guards dragged Dolohov away, his deranged shouts echoing through the hall even over the supportive whoops of the other prisoners. Theia followed Harry into the cell, where she noticed the noise seemed noticeably more muffled, though still present. Harry had already begun tearing the room apart, looking extremely pissed off.

‘This is why we have to have at least one Auror here,’ he ranted to her. ‘When we’ve got enough people I want this whole place to be run by Aurors, not by random people who don’t give a shit, I mean look!’ He held up an empty vial with a suspicious navy stain around it. ‘Merlin knows what he had in here, he’s probably off his face the whole time-’

‘I’m sorry I was so useless,’ she blurted out. ‘I didn’t get him with my curse.’

‘What? Oh, don’t be stupid, you were more helpful than those tossers. Just, in future, remember that these guys can’t
really do a lot. They don’t have wands. If they have a weapon like that the first priority is to non-verbally disarm them, rather than a spell that takes longer. If you miss your curse, they’re still running at you with a weapon, but if you miss disarming them you’ve probably got more time to give it another shot.’

‘Right,’ Theia nodded, running the advice over in her head.

Harry paused. ‘You were nice and quick though, didn’t panic.’ She beamed at him, she wanted to thank him, ask him for more advice, but he hurriedly started lifting up the mattress and continuing the search. She did the same for a few minutes, finding a rather horrible collection of Playwitch magazines hidden amongst a pile of newspapers, but soon she found herself asking the question that had been bothering her since they arrived.

‘How can you stand it? How can you ignore what they say to you? What that werewolf said about your godson?’ She remembered the blue-haired baby in the picture on his desk, and the odd story that floated up in The Prophet now and then when he was photographed on days out with him.

He glanced at her, then turned back to sweeping his hands around the windowsill in a practiced motion. ‘They do it because they’re powerless. It’s the only thing they’ve got against, me, they can’t actually hurt him… I wouldn’t let it happen,’ he said firmly. His cheeks reddened a little. ‘It’s worse when they tell me about things they have done. Two of them in here, the Carrows, they try and taunt me with things they did to my girlfriend.’

‘I remember them,’ said Theia, that old fear stabbing at her stomach again.

‘Of course, I forgot, sorry,’ said Harry. ‘They gave Ginny an awful time and it just makes me feel sick. But you can’t
show it, you can’t let them know they’ve got to you.’ He hesitated. ‘How was your experience of that year? You don’t have to-’

‘It’s what made me want to be an Auror,’ she said. ‘Nobody really escaped it, nobody who wasn’t a Slytherin anyway, but you could mostly keep out of trouble until after Easter, then they just went mad. A week before the battle, they… Well, they were angry with me and I just felt so powerless. And then when the battle came, I wanted to join in, I wanted to help, but I was evacuated and I had to go and stay with my Dad and wait for news.’ Her face was very hot, and she was aware that she was just stood there, holding dirty magazines and probably looking like a right tit, but Harry was looking at her far more kindly than he had done before.

She looked down at the magazine, shaking out the pages as she gabbled. ‘I know I’m not as brave as you, I suppose I didn’t get the practice when I could have done at Hogwarts, but it just seemed like the smarter thing to do was wait it out and just support it when I could. I always wanted to be a Gryffindor, you know, but then that Luna Lovegood girl made me think that I could still be brave, that you could learn it, and then- oh!’ A slip of parchment had fluttered to the floor from the magazine. Harry picked it up, and as he read it, his eyes widened. He grabbed her by the arm, pulled her out of the cell, withdrew his wand from his back pocket, and shot a jet of red into the centre of the chamber, where it formed a sphere, pulsed slightly, and began to wail with deafening ferocity.

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