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SIYE Time:16:04 on 22nd April 2018


Hollow Ash
By FloreatCastellum

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Category: Post-Hogwarts
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Neville Longbottom, Other
Genres: Drama
Warnings: Dark Fiction, Death, Disturbing Imagery, Extreme Language, Mild Language, Mild Sexual Situations, Sexual Situations, Spouse/Adult/Child Abuse, Violence, Violence/Physical Abuse
Rating: R
Reviews: 28
Summary: When a mysterious woman comes to the Auror office claiming to be the victim of a terrible crime, Theia and Harry want to do everything they can to help her. The problem is, she has no memory of what has happened. As they piece together the sinister events, their own troubles and traumas rise to the surface, causing them to question who they really are. Sequel to The Aurors.
Hitcount: Story Total: 3195; Chapter Total: 481
Awards: View Trophy Room






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Theia sometimes wondered if she was a sociopath. She was fairly sure other people wondered it too. She would like to be one of those dignified people that didn’t talk about what had happened, bottled it up and kept a stiff upper lip, like Harry. But she had always been a talkative person, that couldn’t change no matter how traumatised she was, so she found herself talking about it all of the time, to anyone, whether they wanted to hear it or not.

Not in an emotional way, which surprised her. She had always been teased at school for her emotions, she would burst into tears at any little thing. Even when she first started the job, she would cry. At any little mistake, or any rude comment. The first time she saw a dead body. Sometimes she would just cry for no apparent reason, so much so that multiple people told her she needed to improve her resilience and advised her very gently to think carefully about becoming an Auror. So she had assumed it would be the same now, with this.

Instead, she would talk about it in a matter of fact way. Drop it into casual conversation with people she didn’t know very well. You didn’t sleep well last night? Oh, yes, well when my mum was murdered I found that I couldn’t sleep very well either. Have you tried lavender oil in your bath?

Then she would be surprised when they became upset, sometimes even irritated when they hugged her and told her that she could talk to them any time she wanted. Couldn’t they see that she was fine talking about it? She wasn’t trying to offload. It was just a fact of her life that she shouldn’t have to hide, and it shaped so much of how she lived that it would have meant that she had to continuously lie if she didn’t talk about it. She had no idea how Harry kept his privacy and avoided talking about it all. Maybe he was more emotional than her, under all that.

But then she would wonder why she could talk about it in such a blasé way. Was there something wrong with her? That couldn’t be normal, could it? Certainly other people’s uncomfortable reactions suggested that they found it weird. So perhaps she was a sociopath, because she didn’t seem to get upset about it. She had even voiced this, her inability to filter anything pouring out to an awkward co-worker in the toilets while they washed their hands.

‘Well,’ she had said uncomfortably. ‘Maybe it just hasn’t sunk in yet.’

‘Oh, it has,’ said Theia. ‘It’s been nearly a year now. Maybe I have just got used to it.’

‘Yes, maybe… I, er… Sorry, you know you can talk to me any time, but, er, I have a meeting…’

Oh cheers for that, Sharon, I can tell you’re really genuine there. Sorry my mum’s murder is an awkward topic for you.

She had even asked Harry about it, who was decidedly more blunt. ‘Theia, I’m just not good at talking about this stuff. Hermione is, why don’t you speak to her about it?’

But every now and then there was a moment that seemed to tell Theia she was not a sociopath. She did feel it. The pain was there. It just came out at odd moments when she wasn’t expecting it. Passing a shop window and thinking about how much Mum would love that sparkly jumper. Imagining what it would have been like to have Mum at her wedding, if she ever got married. Hearing some particularly juicy gossip and looking forward to telling Mum, only to remember she couldn’t and now she lived alone in an empty flat, where the dishes had piled up because no one nagged her anymore. The cat lived at the office because Mum never liked it, and as much as she still loved Vali, he did remind her of Dennis now, so it was better that he stayed at work and she and Harry took turns feeding him. At one point when she overheard some older women in the office moaning about the cost of childcare, she realised she had always assumed that Mum would be there to look after any children she had while she worked, and it had thrown her whole life plan out of whack. Whenever she made a cup of tea, she remembered how Mum liked hers. With milk, but leave the teabag in. No sugar, but there had to be a biscuit to dunk.

Then her eyes would well with tears and she would want to scream and stamp her feet and pull out her hair, but as soon as it came it would be gone again and she could shake it off and get on with whatever it was she was doing. Or it would creep up at night where she would become frustrated to the point of angry sobbing as she tried to figure out a way to solve the problem that her mum was dead and never coming back even though it felt like she would be home soon. Everyone kept telling her that everyone grieves differently, but no one seemed to have had the same grief as her, and they all looked so weirded out when she told them about it. She supposed she should stop telling them about it, but when had she ever been able to control what she blabbered on about?

And of course these meetings were always difficult. But they had a purpose, and if she had learnt anything about being an Auror, it was that she was tenacious to a fault.

She pulled the cloak closer around her. Though it was approaching summer, there was a downpour of rain, which always seemed to find a way to trickle down the back of her collar. The wet shingle crunched underfoot and the air was thick with the smell of seaweed.

As she stepped onto the rumbling, shuddering boat, she felt a bizarre stab of jealousy to the mad but endearing woman that turned up in the office earlier. She wished someone would wipe her memory. If someone had, she could blame her lack of filter on that. Oh, sorry for making you feel uneasy. I have brain damage. The response would surely then be, ‘don’t worry, it’s not your fault,’ rather than thinking she was a sociopath.

The bad weather meant the journey was rough and she wanted to throw up, or sleep. It was looking bizarrely tempting to curl up on the soggy nets and have a nap. But soon the dark tower of Azkaban loomed ahead, swaying on the horizon as the boat rocked dramatically.

The thick, slimy stone walls were just as they always were; cold and unforgiving. Though the Dementors had long gone, it felt as though they had rotted into the place. Theia’s great unhappiness at the sight of the doors felt so inevitable and routine now that she was able to ignore it, no patronus needed. Neither she nor the guard outside greeted one another.

As she entered, and allowed herself to be patted down for security, she could see the guards whispering about her. They, like everyone else, were no doubt bewildered as to why she came here. She wished she could tell them, but it all had to be hush hush, as her Mum would have said.

‘All done?’ she asked impatiently, as her bag was emptied and repacked in front of her.

‘We have to check everyone for contraband.’

‘Yes, I know,’ she said with a great sigh.

‘Right this way.’

Her boots echoed in the vast tower as she walked, the guard accompanying her jangling as a ring of keys swung from his hip. It was better coming here without Harry; the prisoners barely looked up from their cells, there was no jeering or whistling, just bored, cold silence. Occasionally one would shout a request to the guard for some petty thing or other, but he remained stony faced and ignored them.

Up the metal stairs that clanged with every step, along a grubby corridor and then finally a thick metal door, above which a sign reading ‘Visitors’ was in faded white paint.

‘Usual ten,’ said the guard gruffly.

‘Thanks, Gary,’ she said, pulling on the heavy metal handle.

The room was split down the middle with a magical barrier, only visible as a shimmer out of the corner of your eye. As soon as you tried to focus, it cleared as though it weren’t there, though she knew if she tried to cross it, she would drop down unconscious like a ragdoll. The room was bare except for two chairs facing each other, either side of the barrier. On the other side, waiting for her, was Dennis.

He smiled excitedly when she entered, skinnier than he once had been and sporting a black eye. ‘All right?’

‘Hi Dennis,’ she said calmly, sitting opposite him. ‘Another run in?’

He looked briefly confused, but then seem to remember and touched his bruised face. ‘Oh, yeah, I’m still not very popular round here.’

‘No, I imagine not.’

‘It was Crabbe this time,’ he said, with the air of a child who had been in a fight at school. ‘He got me when were out for exercise.’

Theia nodded, but offered no reassurance. She still found it hard to hide her true feelings. ‘How have you been otherwise?’ she asked. ‘Are they looking after you ok?’

He nodded. ‘And you? Are you well? Did you think more about what I said last time?’

‘Yes,’ she said patiently, though she didn’t feel that way at all. ‘May I ask you a question, Dennis?’

‘Of course.’

‘When Colin died, did you ever talk about it with people?’

He shifted uneasily. ‘Why?’

‘I’m just curious.’

He wouldn’t look her in the eye — instead, he stared down at his knees and picked at his fingernails. ‘Not really.’

‘Do you think you would have felt better if you had?’

‘I feel fine,’ he said sharply, still refusing to look at her. ‘I am sorry about what happened to your mum, it really was tragic, but what works for you didn’t work for me.’

She tried to swallow down the rage that engulfed her, and was grateful that he wasn’t looking at her. ‘Well,’ she said, in a measured voice, staring at him hatefully, ‘I was just interested, that’s all.’

‘I think you would feel better,’ he said, finally looking at her earnestly, ‘if you reconsidered my suggestion.’

‘No, I don’t think so Dennis.’

‘They would welcome you with open arms, I know they would.’

‘How could you possibly know that? You can’t contact them, can you?’

‘No,’ he said, looking away again. ‘But I know they would. I think it would help. It helped me.’

Theia looked at him, beaten and bruised in his grey prison clothes, still madly believing they had a good relationship. ‘Clearly,’ she said.

‘Did you see the Harpies are top of the league?’ he said suddenly. ‘One of the guards gave me his newspaper. I bet Ginny is pleased.’

Theia considered her next words very carefully. ‘Well, she’s not in the Harpies at the moment. She’s going to have a baby.’

Dennis looked delighted. ‘That’s wonderful!’

‘Yes, it is.’

‘Will they bring it in to visit for me?’

She couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. ‘I don’t think so.’

He nodded. ‘I bet they’re still annoyed at me, aren’t they?’

She wondered who was madder; Marcy or Dennis. Did he not fully remember everything he had done? ‘I’m not sure they will ever visit you, Dennis.’

He seemed to accept this as sensible, but looked a little disappointed. ‘I just wish they had listened to me,’ he said. ‘It all could’ve been so different.’

‘I wish that too,’ said Theia. The words left a bad taste in her mouth. ‘But I will still visit you.’

He smiled, and there was a shadow of the goody child he had once been. ‘That’s why you would be perfect for it, Theia. You’re so loyal, and you understand sacrifice. It’s not too late to change things.’

She was grateful when the guard came back and sharply announced that visiting time was over.

………………….

Harry and Ginny were sweet together. Warm. Theia thought that if they were a food, they would be porridge with honey. Or apple crumble and custard. Nothing too sweet or showy. Just naturally good together. Not too coupley or public with their affection, but the way Harry would absentmindedly touch the small of his wife’s back as she passed, and the way Ginny would seem to beam just a little wider when he looked at her.

Since Mum had died, they had welcomed her more than ever, and dinner round their place was routine. Tonight, it was a creamy pasta dish, with crusty garlic bread and mozzarella on the side.

‘Does mozzarella count as a soft cheese?’ asked Ginny, prodding it and frowning. ‘Harry, you never warned me how much delicious food I wouldn’t be able to eat.’

‘Well I didn’t know, did I? You have more experience with babies than me.’

She gaped at him. ‘How on earth-? I’m the youngest! I’ve never been around babies! Do you just assume that because I’m a woman?’’

‘No,’ he said quickly. ‘I just-’

‘You do!’ she exclaimed, her voice verging on a wail.

Theia tried to hide her smile. The hormones seemed to get worse every time she came round. ‘I think it’s fine,’ she told Ginny reassuringly. ‘I think as long as it’s pasteurised.’

Ginny seemed to trust Theia’s intelligence enough, and stuck a fork in a large piece of cheese as Harry went to check the packet. ‘I’m glad someone around here knows about this stuff. I don’t really know what pasteurisation is. I’ll just assume this is and be ready to Floo to St Mungos if I feel a bit iffy.’

Theia thought about explaining, but then decided that it was one of those things that people didn’t want her to actually educate them about. Mum had always told her that - sometimes people don’t want lessons, Theia, sometimes they just want a chat.

‘How did the prison visit go?’ asked Harry, pouring her a generous portion of wine.

‘Oh, you know, the usual. Still not quite revealing any contacts with this mysterious community, but constantly encouraging me to make contact, which isn’t very helpful. I’m sure he’ll crack soon though.’

Harry nodded. ‘He just needs that trust, you’re building it up well. Did you tell him our news?’

‘Yup, he seemed delighted, asked if you would bring the baby in to visit him.’

Ginny snorted dismissively. ‘Bloody cheek of it.’

‘Right? Psycho.’

‘Dunno how you do it, Theia. He would be able to tell I hated him by looking at my face the moment I walked in.’

‘Well, you’ve never been good at keeping a poker face, Harry,’ said Ginny.

‘I never thought I would be any good at it either. I thought I would burst into tears,’ said Theia, twirling the spaghetti around her fork. ‘Mum always said I cried if my emotion was anything other than bored. And even then, I have been known to cry during history of magic class.’

‘Well, that’s true,’ said Harry lightly. ‘But you’re good in a crisis.’

‘You should meet my mum,’ said Ginny warily. ‘She hasn’t stopped crying since I told her I was expecting. I’m getting constant parcels filled with baby clothes and overly emotional letters.’ She looked down at her slightly curved stomach. ‘I can’t believe there’s going to be months of this.’

‘Well that’s a nice thing,’ said Harry, and Theia was grateful that he said it, because she was suddenly imagining the sort of baby clothes her mother would have given her if she had been pregnant. Probably not as homely as Ginny’s mum. Less knitted boots, more sequined onesies.

Ginny smiled at him. ‘It is rather exciting, isn’t it?’

‘Are you going to find out if it will be a boy or a girl soon?’ asked Theia.

‘Nah, we’re keeping it a surprise,’ said Harry. ‘Until the big day.’

Theia scowled at him. ‘I need to know whether to buy you guys pink shit or blue shit.’

‘Yellow shit is fine,’ said Ginny. ‘Better yet, no shit at all, the nursery room is already packed.’

‘I’m going to get both colours,’ threatened Theia. ‘Just to annoy you both.’

Harry laughed, and Ginny pretended to roll her eyes. It was funny how she had settled in, Theia thought mildly as the dinner continued. She had suspected that Ginny had not liked her at first, but perhaps she had been wrong. Maybe Ginny was standoffish at first, or maybe Theia had been difficult to get along with. She had certainly admired her, but she knew that sometimes she could be overbearing and… intense around people she thought were brilliant. She liked to think she was over that now, though every now and then, particularly when she got a glimpse of Harry’s scar or Ginny talked about Quidditch, she still had that secret thrill in her stomach that came with being part of the cool crowd.

‘Did the Healer get back with any news about Mysterious Marcy?’ she asked Harry, as pudding was served.

‘Oh, yeah,’ he said distractedly, spooning chocolate sauce onto his profiteroles. ‘Weird, actually, we are going to have to look into it rather than handing it over to Law Enforcement. She’s, er, already dead.’

‘Eh?’

‘She’s a squib, but she was reported dead years ago. Her full name is Marcia Ivy Staindrop-’

‘Unfortunate name,’ interjected Ginny quietly.

‘-St Mungo’s had a file on her that said she died in an accident at the age of eleven.’

‘What the…?’

‘I’ve heard that sort of thing used to happen a lot,’ said Ginny. ‘Families were so embarrassed that they would keep their squib children a complete secret, sometimes pretending they had died when it became clear they weren’t going to Hogwarts.’

‘The Dumbledores sort of did it, I suppose,’ said Harry. ‘Seems a bit old fashioned though. A bit last century.’

‘Who are her family?’ asked Theia. ‘Surely that’s illegal? Can’t we arrest them and find out what’s happened to her?’

‘Yeah, it is, but they died a while back. I mean, actually died, with real evidence and everything. Ellen and Wilford Staindrop. Ellen died in the dragon pox epidemic of the late 70s, and Wilford died a couple of years later in St Mungos after trying to make his own potion for some minor ailment and accidentally poisoning himself.’

‘Well, how old would Marcy have been?’ asked Theia. ‘Has she really lived on her own all this time?’

‘She would have been a teenager when her dad died, so maybe,’ said Harry. ‘At least we have a surname for her now, so we can have another chat with her tomorrow morning then head to Lancashire - Healers think she may have come from a village in the Forest of Bowland.’

‘Something must have happened,’ said Ginny. ‘To make her suddenly come to you after all these years.’

Harry was rubbing his scar absentmindedly. ‘Yeah, that’s what I was thinking… I just have a weird feeling this is all a lot bigger than it seems.’

‘She must have been very lonely,’ said Theia. ‘To have one foot in the wizarding world but not really be a part of it.’ She considered for a moment. ‘I think my mum was like that, she never really knew what to think of me being a witch. I suppose I didn’t really welcome her enough into the world.’

Harry and Ginny glanced at each other, and Theia inwardly kicked herself. She had made them uncomfortable, she knew it. She took a gulp of wine and swallowed it without really tasting it. ‘Anyway, I suppose that’s why she was asking for the police. She must have been living her life as a muggle all these years.’

‘I suppose so,’ said Harry. ‘Perhaps she spoke to the muggle police before us, or they might have come across her before. I can speak to the Muggle Liaison department about getting us covers and we can pose as police officers from another area.’

‘Oh, that will be fun. Can I make up a new name?’

‘I think our own names will be fine.’

‘With exciting backstories.’

‘I doubt anyone will ask.’

‘And an accent.’

‘Please don’t.’

Ginny was shaking with laughter as she watched Harry’s increasingly withering expression, and Theia smugly sipped on her wine, pleased that the awkwardness had passed.

‘Harry is just jealous that he can’t do impressions,’ Ginny advised her. ‘I’m the actor round here.’

‘She’s known for her excellent Celestina Warbeck impression,’ Harry said sagely. ‘Especially in the shower, I could swear it was the real thing.’

‘Oh, shut up!’ said Ginny, playfully flicking chocolate sauce at him while Theia laughed. ‘Can I come with you? I think I could be a good muggle policewoman. I’d go with a classic Welsh accent myself, I’ve been working on it.’

‘Nice,’ said Theia. ‘I’d go Saaf Londaan, might as well stick with what you know.’

‘Which accent are you going to do, Harry?’ asked Ginny slyly.

‘Apart from plummy home counties, obviously,’ added Theia.

‘My accent isn’t plummy,’ said Harry, who sounded slightly stung. ‘It’s just… Normal. I don’t like this new thing of you two ganging up on me.’

‘Well someone needs to take you down a peg or two, now that I can’t be top of the league anymore,’ said Ginny, sighing huffily. ‘It’s not fair that you get to carry on with work while I’m in confinement.’

‘You’re not in confinement,’ said Harry patiently. ‘You’re pregnant, and it’s probably not a good idea to be near bludgers.’

Ginny pursed her lips. ‘Fine, but I should be allowed to come with you and figure out with Mad Marcy. Theia, agrees, don’t you, Theia?’

‘Er…’ Stuck between Harry and Ginny, who were both staring at her sternly, and keen to upset neither, Theia’s eyes darted between them. ‘Not my call to make, really…’

‘Not mine either,’ added Harry, who seemed pleased. ‘Kingsley’s. And you’re free to ask the Minister of Magic to hire you if you want, Ginny, but for now I think you’ll just have to be an off the books consultant…’

‘He would hire me if you asked him,’ muttered Ginny into her pumpkin juice, but thankfully that was the end of it.

‘Thanks for that,’ Harry whispered as he showed Theia to the door at the end of the night. ‘Keeping her out of dangerous situations is like stopping a rampaging hippogriff - dangerous in itself.’

‘I’m sure it won’t be that dangerous,’ said Theia. ‘You could let her do something a bit exciting. A couple of duels, maybe a bit of undercover work, stuff like that. You know, just mildly life threatening stuff.’

‘Nope,’ said Harry promptly. ‘This is the first time I will have a blood relative since my parents died, apart from the muggles. I’ll bewitch all the doors locked if I have to.’

Theia laughed, but was rather worried that he wasn’t entirely joking.
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