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Her Hero by TheHeirOfSlytherin
Chapter 1: You Know How to Stay Strong
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Theodore didn't know where he was going; he just ran. He quietly made his way down the stairs while his father slept in the living room, left his family home and ran. He didn't pack a bag, any clothes or possessions; he didn't want a thing from that house. He didn't want to stay there anymore.
Theodore breathed heavily in and out, his sides and legs aching. He was exhausted, but he didn't want to stop, not as long as he was near that place. He didn't want anyone to find him.
He slowed down more and more as crowds got thicker and thicker, until he started to walk, pushing his way past. No one stopped or any paid attention to him, except to turn and shout at him for being rude and to watch where he was going. Some called him words he'd never heard of before and assumed they were bad, but he ignored them all; he didn't care what they thought.
Theodore stopped in the corner, between an old pawn shop and an alley wall lined with bins, only when his legs started to shake and he thought he would fall, or worse, faint from being overtired. Across from him, was a small, green shop. The place looked abandoned and old; the painting was chipped and the windows had cracks in, but it was quiet and apart from all the rest. It seemed like the perfect place to sit and rest, to hide for a while until he could figure out where to go next.
Theodore made his way across the road, taking his time so not to fall with his legs still so unsteady. He paused outside the window to stare up at the cardboard man; he frowned. Who would ever wear clothes like that? They’d have to be mad. And what’s with the bat on his front?
Opening the door slowly, Theodore poked his head through and, once he saw that it was indeed empty, he stepped inside, making sure the door was shut properly. Theodore leaned back against the door, taking in his surroundings; the place was filled from top to bottom with small books, cartoon drawings on the front covers. There were more pictures of the man with the bat inside, as well as one in a red and blue spider costume and a woman with a yellow tiara in her black hair. At least he thought it was a tiara. His first thought was that it was a book shop, but he had never seen books like these before.
Theodore turned back to stare in front when he heard footsteps and jumped when a man came into view, hitting his back against the door. Hearing the sound, the man looked up suddenly and looked stunned for a second, Theodore decided that not many people came to this old looking shop, before smiling. “Can I help you, kid?”
Theodore shook his head slowly, no. The man frowned. “Do you want to look around?” Theodore glanced around again, and then nodded; he was curious and didn’t want to go back outside yet. He waited until the man had gone behind the desk before he moved, going to the other side of the store, to the man with the bat. Theodore looked at each book briefly, occasionally picking one up to read the back, until he found one that interested him the most and he sat down on the floor and opened it, reading the strange book with the pictures.
Theodore lost track of how long he had been sat in that corner of the floor in the shop; once he’d started to read one, he hadn’t been able to stop. So he picked up another and another, engrossed in the Muggles’ own versions of magic. The man, who Theodore assumed owned the shop, didn’t seem to mind, though he did keep looking his way, a curious look on his face. Theodore looked back up quickly; this time the man was sat up straight, not slouched over the desk with the papers in his hand.
“You really like those comics, don’t you?” The man asked. Theodore frowned and he pointed to the book in the boy’s hand. “They’re called comic books, graphic novels; they have pictures and speech and writing in the corners. You really like the Justice League one’s; the group of superheroes that you keep going back to.”
“Superheroes?” Theodore asked.
The man looked surprised for a minute, having never heard Theodore speak, but composed himself quickly and nodded. “They’re a special group of people who use their abilities to help people, to save them from evil.” He pointed to the image above Theodore’s head. “Except Batman, he doesn’t have super powers, just awesome gadgets and cool car.”
“I like him the best,” Theodore murmured, smiling for the first time.
The man agreed. “He is cool.” He moved closer to the desk, leaning over it. “My name is Adam. What’s your name?”
“Theo,” he answered slowly, after a moment’s hesitation.
“That’s a cool name; it’s nice to meet you, Theo.” Adam paused for a second, unsure how to say what he wanted to without upsetting the little boy in front of him. But he decided to just ask; he had to. “Where are your parents, Theo? Where’s your mum?”
Theo’s smile faltered slightly, but he took a deep breath. “I don’t have a mum,” he whispered.
“What about your dad, where is he?”
Theodore looked up and Adam noticed his tense position, and there was a mixture of fear and anger in the boy’s eyes. “Gone.”
“He’s gone? Has something happened to your dad?” Adam asked cautiously, afraid something might have happened. But Theodore shook his head slowly. “You’ve gone?” Theodore nodded. “You left? You ran away?”
“…Yes. I don’t want to go back there. I don’t like it.”
“You shouldn’t just run away from home, Theo. People will be worried. You –“ He stopped suddenly, hearing the door open, and watched a young woman enter the shop. She was about his age, late twenties at most, and her hair was wet from the rain that had not long started.
She walked over to Adam carefully, nervous and afraid; though he was sure it had nothing to do with coming in his shop and speaking to him. She was shaking heavily and there were tears in her eyes. “I’m looking for a little boy, Theodore; someone said they saw him come this way a couple of hours ago.”
Adam turned his head to the right and she followed, spotting him. He had dropped his comic, but seemed too scared to get up. “Oh, Theo, thank God you’re safe.”
She made her way over, but he held up his hand to stop her and finally got to his feet. “No! I’m not going back! You can’t make me!”
“Theo, you have to!”
“No! I’ll just leave again, but I won’t come here! I’ll go far away, where you can never find me!”
“I’m sorry, but who are you?” Adam interrupted.
“I’m his nanny,” she replied, to busy focusing on Theodore to tell him the keep out. “We have to go back, darling.”
Theodore started to cry then; no one had ever seen him cry. “I don’t want to, I can’t be there anymore. Please don’t make me, Hannah. Please. Say you couldn’t find me. Or come with me. Just don’t make me go home.”
Hannah slowly made her way over and wrapped her arms around him. She held him tight and soothed him as he sobbed into her coat. “I’m sorry, Theo. But it’ll be alright, I promise. I will be there with you. You’ll be safe and you’ll never be alone. Come on, we have to leave. Say good bye to the nice man.”
Theodore rubbed the tears away from his puffy, red eyes and faced the confused shop owner. "I like it here.” Hannah whispered to him that while his father was out, she’d bring him back to visit, though whether she meant it, no one knew. “Bye, Adam.”
Hannah turned him around and they made their way to the door. “Wait.” Theodore faced him and he knelt down to the little boy’s height. “Take it,” he said, holding up the first comic Theo had read; the first Justice League issue.
Theodore shook his head. “I don’t have any money.”
“I want you to take it anyway.” Adam put the book in his hands and Theodore held onto it tightly. “When you get upset or scared, I want you to read it. Then you’ll know you’re as brave as the superheroes, Theo. You may not have super powers, but you know how to stay strong, and that’s just as important,” he murmured. “You are going to be fine and there is nothing in this world that can hurt you if you believe that you’re strong enough.”
Adam watched his lips curve upwards just a fraction, but that was enough, and he soon followed. “You can come back here any time, okay mate.”
Theodore nodded and, holding his nanny’s hand, stepped out of the shop and into the rain, his comic book grasped tightly in his arms as she took him home.
A/N: Hey, everyone.
First: Justice League and it's heroes; Batman and Wonderwoman, belong to DC Comics. Spiderman belongs to Marvel Comics.
I would really love to know what you think of this; it's my first time with this pairing. :)
Chapter 2: Believing
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27 years later...
Theodore lost his balance, his foot slipping from the step, and he fell down, catching his knee on the edge. He threw his hands out onto the step a little higher than his head and climbed back up, continuing his run to the roof despite the pain. He had to get to her. He had to get to her now, before it was too late.
When he was closer to the top, he tried to call out for her, shout her name, scream if he had to, but his breath was gone, his body protesting his desperate need to continue. He grasped his stomach, pushing himself to the roof, and he felt as though he was on fire.
He pushed down the metal bar and flung the door open, the fresh afternoon air hitting his exhausted body with such a force that he almost fell backwards. Theodore turned on the spot, circling the rooftop until he found her; their eyes locked together, hers pleading for help, his determined to reach her.
"Theo!" He ran to her, his arm outstretched, ready to grab her and pull her from the edge, into the safety of his arms. "I can't move!"
It was like he pushed a switch; the moment his foot connected with the ledge she was stood upon, she was sent backwards, her feet slipping from the end, and she screamed as she fell. Theodore caught her hands with one hand, balancing himself against the wall with his other. As soon as he felt it was safe enough, Theodore removed his hand, using it to grip her better and try to pull her up. "I've got you," he whispered in reassurance.
"Don't let go," she begged, her fear revealing itself for only him to see. "Please don't let me go."
"Never," he promised.
Theodore pulled himself to his feet slowly, leaning backwards in an effort to bring her back up. But the movement caused her to slip from his hands and he hit the corner of the ledge falling back down to grab her. "I've got you." He tried again, this time just pulling her, thinking that if he could just get his arms around her waist, it would be easier to help her.
"I'm slipping, Theo," she sobbed. He tried to sooth her terror, but his race here had done him no good; his body was hot and sticky, his hands sweaty, and he couldn't hold on much longer. "I love you, Theo."
"No," he cried, wishing he hadn't heard those words that way; her acceptance of the logical and only way she could see the struggle end, to hear her letting go. It was heartbreaking. "Don't say that, I've got you."
"I love you, Theo," she said again, louder this time, her face set with a new found determination. But it wasn't for what was to happen; it was for what she wanted from him.
"I love you."
Theo couldn't tell whose screams were louder as she slipped from his grasp.
Theo jumped up from his position in his bed, the bed sheets falling haphazardly into a pool around his waist. He rubbed his hands over his face, running his fingers through his hair, removing any traces of sweat from himself, and wrapped his arms around his bare chest as he kicked the blanket off and swung his legs to the floor. He stayed sat like that for a while, his head hung low, as if he were about to be sick. It had been the same nightmare for the last couple of weeks and no matter what he did he couldn't get rid of it or shake the feeling of dread that came with it.
He had no idea what the hell the dream meant or even who the woman was, but she looked so familiar. He knew for a fact he'd seen her before, though he wasn't so sure he actually knew her.
Yet, he silently acknowledged. Theo had a feeling they'd meet eventually. But what struck him the most was her telling him she loved him and, more specifically, him returning the words and the sincerity he felt. A shudder ran through him as he remembered the last time he'd said those words; he couldn't handle a repeat of that. The thought of being with a woman now, despite it being just a dream, terrified him.
Theo looked up suddenly; the sound of the child's voice, his child's voice, forced him out of his thoughts and into his present life. The dream analysis and fears would have to wait for a more convenient time, he pushed them to the back of his mind, focusing on the little boy down the hall no doubt waiting for his breakfast, and stood up quickly. "I'm coming, kiddo!"
Breakfast, shower, school, work. Theodore repeated the mantra in his head on his way to the kitchen. Good plan.
Theo hid in his office, not daring to leave once he set foot in the safety of the old, small London building. Theo loved his job, being able to help make a small difference to each person's life, especially after his actions during the war. It wasn't like he did anything bad, no; it was because he felt he didn't do anything at all. He'd stared at his collection of comic books for weeks, hating that he had been too scared to actually do anything, to help in any way he could. He hadn't even gone back to school that year, choosing to stay as far away from them and anything to do with his father as possible.
He felt weak and alone and scared.
It was after that revelation when he knew what he had to do, what he wanted to do. At first he thought about joining the Auror program an working for the Ministry; he'd be able to face whatever they threw at him (whether he was involved or not, his father was still a Death Eater) and he knew that with his grades he'd be let in and would be determined enough to pass. But it wasn't what he wanted in the end, staying; he wanted to do things his own way, on his own terms, and help people who wanted his help, not catching whoever he was told to catch.
That wasn't how a hero worked. And neither was he.
After that it was obvious.
Now Theodore was sitting in his office, in a building he paid for; his very own private investigations business. It wasn't much; he wasn't out catching major criminals every day, he'd leave that to the Muggle police and Aurors. But he was happy when people came to him with the problems; cheating partners, money disappearing. He was also happy that he was becoming more and more popular; it had given him his first huge case; clearing an innocent man's name in a murder investigation. Theo had worked successfully and the money the man's family lawyer paid him earned enough for his son to have his new favorite obsession; a Muggle game console. Not that he needed to take the job for the extra money; he had more than enough from his inheritance. But solving that case was when he felt his life was finally going exactly where he wanted it to go.
Unfortunately, it also brought reporters wanting to know how he'd solved it, along with a million other questions he'd drowned out. He'd been on the front page of every newspaper he had come across in the last week, been talked about on the news and even being followed picking up his son and going home.
Theodore realized why superheroes had secret identities; the celebrity life was so much hassle and he was only getting a taste. He had a new found appreciation for Potter; he didn't know how he did it.
Theodore ran a hand through his light brown hair, letting it fall, and sat back in his chair. He could hear his secretary's phone ring every now and again, but she never passed them on to his or came in, so he knew it wasn't his son’s school or a new case. It was quiet, peaceful, exactly what Theo needed right at that moment. After his dreams and the mobs, Theo didn't have it in him to work right now.
He ignored the sound of voices coming from down the hall, until he heard the urgency in the woman's tone and sat up slowly, his back straight against the chair and his arms folded around his chest. He was getting that feeling again, that this was the moment his dream was warning him about, and he could only sit there and wait as fate dealt him his hand.
The door swung open. "I must congratulate you, Mr. Nott; your reputation is one to be admired, especially after last week."
Theodore sat there, eyes wide, his mouth hanging open ever so slightly; he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
Or, rather, who.
A/N: I hope you all enjoy chapter two; it's kind of a small background chapter really, until chapter three, when the real story begins, starting with Theo's son... :P
I would love to know your thoughts.
Chapter 3: The Woman of his Dreams... Literally
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It took a good few minutes before Theodore was able to find his voice. In other circumstances he thought he would laugh at the situation presented to him, but to the woman in front of him, humor was far from her mind. Her face seemed permanently set in a frown, her eyes were slightly red, which suggested she had recenty been crying and was trying to hide it. Most people probably wouldn't have noticed, but Theo always knew what to look for, for any clues that would provide an answer. It was his job.
Standing up slowly, he made sure he looked presentable before extending his hand to the chair across from him. "Hermione Granger."
He barely saw her nod, his eyes focused on her specifically; her dark brown eyes, the crease in her brow, the curve of her lips. And he knew where he had seen the woman in his dream, realized why he knew of her but had never known her personally. He'd seen the woman in papers for the work she did and for her family and her friends, he remembered seeing her around school but never speaking to her. He'd stayed out of any and all confrontation between her, her friends and Malfoy.
But he knew now and the knowledge had him stumble back and almost fall into his seat.
"Are you okay?"
It took him a moment to realize that she had indeed spoken to him and he looked up to lock eyes with her. He averted his gaze quickly when he remembered the fear he saw in them and the L- He couldn't even think it. "Fine. I am fine and you, you are n-here. Can I help you?"
Hermione moved forward to stand in front of him and sat down at the chair across from him. Theo copied hesitantly, hoping she wouldn't notice his rambling which he shamefully knew always happened to cope with whatever reason he had for his shock. He couldn't have her know that the woman of his dreams had walked into his office. Literally.
"I came to you because you're the best," Hermione said. "I've read about your cases and I know you can help me."
"W-What's the case?"
"A missing person," Hermione answered, Theo watched her hold back another tear. Whoever was gone was someone very close to her, he knew, and his mind quickly went through the list of names he had heard of that could be missing. He remembered articles saying she had married, saying they had two children. Could it be Weasley?
Theo looked down at the white tan line on her ring finger; separated or divorced. He'd heard no news of that, making him think it was mutual and quiet; it could be Weasley. But why not go to Potter?
"What's the Auror department said?" he asked, thankful he sounded more like his old business-like self.
"Harry's got a few, more trustworthy people in his department looking, but he thought it best to have someone impartial, who wasn't close to me or my family and could do whatever it took with a clear head. I agreed," she told him. "But you'll have his help. I'm willing to give you this."
Theo took the piece of paper from her hand cautiously and opened it up; it was a Gringotts cheque. His eyes focused on the amount. "Oh, my G - Twenty five thousand galleons," he whispered.
"Half?!" His eyes widened when she nodded. He sat back against his seat and rubbed his jaw, dropping the cheque onto his desk and staring.
"You'll get the rest when you've found him, You'll also get everything you need to help you with this case and the help of the Aurors," Hermione said. "I will do anything you ask."
Theo tore his eyes away from the money slowly to face the woman in his office. He knew this case was important, he knew he should take it, and he remembered his dream. But it wasn't the money that him ignore the dream and take the case; it was the newly formed tears that fell down her cheeks as she noticed the picture of his son on the desk.
He had a terrible feeling he knew who he had to look for and dread and fear filled his stomach. He didn't even want to imagine what she was going through if he was right. "Ms Granger, who's missing?"
She didn't look up from the picture when she answered, wiping the tears away. "You have to find my son."
Once she had stopped crying, Hermione returned to the strong person he'd heard so much about and told him everything she knew. "Both Ron and I work, as well as many others in our family, so my kids go to school near my home. The other day the school called saying Hugo was unwell and to pick him up. I couldn't so I went to Ron and he said he would, but when he got to the school Hugo was gone. We have no idea why, there was no note or ransom sent to us, he just disappeared. You have to find him."
"I will, I promise." Theo gave her a reassuring smile before frowning, both of them turning to the voices behind the door.
"He's talking to a new client," his secretary called out but she couldn't stop the door from opening and a little boy running in.
"Daddy, Uncle Draco brought me to you because you weren't home and Scor is sick so I didn't want to go to his house." The little boy jumped up onto his knee, then noticed Hermione in the room and buried his head in his chest. "Who's this?" he whispered.
Theo opened his mouth to speak, only to face the door when he heard a knock. Draco Malfoy stood there awkwardly, not looking at Hermione. "Er, I'll see you later," he muttered, leaving quickly.
"So, this is your son?" she asked, trying to rid the room of the awkward silence.
Theo noticed her voice waver slightly and he remembered the reason she was in his office in the first place. He wrapped his arms around the boy's waist and instinctively held on a little tightly. He cleared his throat. "Yeah, this is Lex. He's a little shy at first, but give him a minute and you'll wish he stayed quiet."
"Hey," Lex protested and Hermione chuckled softly, seeing his expression of horror given to his dad. Lex turned to Hermione. "Is Dad helping you?" Hermione nodded. "Dad's Superman."
Hermione grinned, remembering the comic book hero. "Does that make you Lex Luthor?"
Lex stood up, his mouth open, and he jumped up and down in excitement. "Yes! Dad, she knows! What's your name?"
"Lex, I still have to talk to Hermione about work, so I need you to go wait with Courtney until I'm done, okay," Theo told the little boy.
Lex pouted and Theo groaned; he hated when that happened, it made it so hard to say no. "But I want to stay with you."
"I know, mate, but this is very important, so you have to wait outside." Theo flashed a cheeky grin. "Why don't you use her phone. If you leave now, you'll be able to catch your girlfriend."
Lex flushed a deep red. "She's not my girlfriend," he growled, walking out. "At least I can get a girlfriend if I wanted one."
Theo's mouth fell open as Lex slammed the door shut and Hermione wasn't sure what to say. "Cute kid," she settled on saying. "You named him after Lex Luthor?"
Shaking his head slowly, Theo focused more on the case and not on the fact that his son was probably right. "No, his name is Alexei; Lex is a shortened name. But he is evil, so it fits."
Hermione nodded and smiled sadly. "Hugo loves comic books. He spends all his time at the little green shop in London, Adam's. He loves it there. It's the only way to get him to calm down."
"You know Adam?" Theo asked in surprise.
"Yes," Hermione said slowly. "You know Adam?"
"Since I was seven," he said quietly, Hermione's words running through his head. The only way to calm Hugo down... "I think I know where to start."
A/N: Superman and Lex Luthor belong to DC Comics.
More about Theo's family and connection to the Malfoy's soon... :)
Chapter 4: A Place to Start
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It took a good few minutes before Theo could get Alexei to stand still and hold his hand without thrashing about and kicking off, but that didn't stop the little boy from sulking. The man walking beside them gave Theo a sympathetic smile, his eyes telling him he understood completely. He nodded in return, not comfortable with striking up a conversation about the hardships of being a single father with a stranger, and gently pulled Alexei in front of him when the atrium became more crowded. When Alexei tried to let go of his hand again, Theo held on tighter. He didn't want to imagine what he'd go through if he lost his son in the Ministry, even for a second. "Don't you dare," he warned.
"You said we were going to Adam's," Alexei whined.
Theo waited until they had stepped into the elevator, their backs to the wall, and he was thankful only a few others had entered with them. He knelt down so he was eye-level with the boy, keeping their hands joined so Alexei couldn't cross them over his chest to go with his stuck out bottom lip; a combination he was prone to using when he sulked. "I did say we'd go, but I never said straight away and I won't take you if you continue to moan. You know I don't like it when you fight with me. Are you going to be good and let Daddy finish work?" Slowly, Alexei relaxed, no longer pouting, and nodded twice, his head slightly to the left.
He smiled and ran his hand across Alexei's cheek until it was returned. He kissed the top of the little boy's head and straightened up, not surprised when Alexei wrapped his arm over Theo's stomach and leaned in. He let go of Alexei's hand to hug him, keeping an arm in place so he still had hold of the boy in some way.
The elevator finally stopped at their required floor, the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and they stepped out. It took only a few minutes to find Harry Potter's office, after asking for the way, and he knew right away Hermione had already sent word to her friend because he was stood outside his door, leant against the frame stiffly. He noted immediately similar habits he'd picked up with Hermione; the light twitching of his hand, the occasional scratch of the head or nose, crossing and uncrossing his arms and standing a little straighter every few minutes. Situations which brought about sadness, fear and worry in a person always brought with them the desire to move, to do something, he'd noticed in his job. And he knew it was completely acceptable for someone to do so, for the man in front of him to do so. He couldn't always be the rational, cool-headed Auror he'd heard about all the time, he wasn't the Savior anymore, he was man whose nephew had disappeared and who didn't know what to do.
Stepping an inch closer, Theodore cleared his throat, hoping he didn't startle him. Maybe Harry was past being startled by anything, because his only reaction was him turning his head to face him, his eye-brows raised in acknowledgement. Harry moved away from the wall, his hand outstretched for him to take. "Theo Nott, after you left here I didn't think I'd see you back." Harry dropped his hand as though burned, his eyes betraying how he felt, as he remembered why Theo was here. "I wish they were different circumstances. This must be Lex. I remember you, but sadly you probably don't remember me."
Alexei answered by burying his head in Theo's side. "Give him time."
"Are you sure about bringing him?"
Theo nodded stiffly. "Ask yourself that if you become a single parent and you'll understand."
Harry's eyes widened a fraction, afraid Theo had misunderstood. "No, I meant will he be okay on his own for a bit. Ginny, has to work, so she's bringing our kids here to me; they'll be here in about thirty minutes. They'll go in my office with Lex; will he be okay alone until then?" he explained and pointed to the large room across from the office. "We'll only be there, so we can still see them. And I trust Annie." He pointed to his assistant, who waved hesitantly.
"He'll be fine, Harry," Theo reassured him. "Ginny's bringing all three?"
"Yeah," Harry said softly. "I was okay leaving them with Ginny at home, but she has to go and I didn't want, they just need to stay with me."
"And when you're a single parent that feeling is magnified," Theo prompted him to what he'd said a few minutes ago and Harry realized he hadn't misunderstood after all. Their thoughts had been exactly the same. "I understand how you're feeling."
"I don't," Alexei's muffled voice came from Theo's side.
Chuckling softly, Theo wondering when he did so last, it sounding foreign even to him, Harry bent down. "It's just grown-up talk, kiddo. Nothing to worry about," he lied. "I bet you're going to be a really good boy for your dad and sit in my office because you seem like a really good boy."
"I am," Alexei agreed, confused when Harry started to laugh. He didn't see Theo roll his eyes. He pointed to the shelf by the door of Harry's office. "What's that?"
"It's a doll," Harry answered, glancing at it. "My daughter left it here yesterday."
"Funny looking doll," he replied, pulling a face.
Harry leaned in closer, like he was revealing a closely guarded secret. "It sticks it's tongue out at you when you squeeze its tummy. You want see?" Alexei nodded slowly and Harry stood up to get it, handing it to the little boy. Both men watched in silence as Alexei examined the doll and pressed his thumbs into its stomach. Its mouth opened wide and the doll's tongue stuck out almost immediately, causing Alexei to jump back into Theo and scream. "Yeah, Lily did that, too. Her uncle George made it for her birthday. Now she loves it, she squeezes it in everyone's faces."
"Can I play with it?"
"Sure, go nuts."
Theo led Alexei into the office and sat him down in one of the chairs. "Harry and I are only across the hall if you need me, okay?" He left Alexei to play with the doll and followed Harry into the conference room. "Go nuts? You're going to regret those words ever leaving your mouth."
"I'm sure I'll manage." Harry let him in first and they sat in the chairs nearest to the doors, the chairs turned sideways so they could use the table, speak face-to-face and still have a view of the office. "Have you ever had a case like this before?" he asked cautiously.
Theo gave a half shrug before explaining. "A family asked me to find their teenage daughter; she ran away because they didn't approve of her boyfriend, was about ready to get on a train to France with him. A woman asked me to find her husband who hadn't come home from his weekend business trip; that trip was in fact a getaway with his mistress and he'd been enjoying it so much he'd lost track of the days. Probable kidnapping? No."
"But you've looked for people before," Harry said, more to himself, only needing that confirmation; Theo could help.
"We will find him, Harry," Theo told him, gently but with a fierce determination Harry expected from a man with a child, especially a child who was the same age as Hugo, as Lily.
"I know. Ask your questions."
"Before I talk about the case, I wanna ask, and forgive me for sounding rude but, I'm surprised you're allowed on it, considering your family. Why?"
"Because looking for him is not what will go to the Wizengamot, so there's more leeway; we can be a part of the search because there's no evidence to compromise. Besides, family know more about the missing person than strangers; we're helpful." He almost choked on his words. "I never thought I'd ever have to say 'we'. It'll be out of my hands when we catch them, the events leading up to them going to jail, a different Auror will be in charge."
"If that's the case, I'm surprised his father isn't here."
"Ron's having a really hard time," Harry admitted. "He keeps saying it's his fault, if only he'd gotten there sooner Hugo would have been at home."
"He has no idea what happened or how things might have turned out, he shouldn't beat himself up over 'what if's," Theo said, although he imagined he'd do exactly the same if he were ever in that situation.
"He knows that really, it's just hard. So I told him to take a couple of days off, wait to see if there'll be any contact, a call or a note, and to think of anything out of the ordinary, any place he could be, so we can start somewhere."
"I'm actually going to start at Adam's comic book store; Hermione said Hugo loves that place and it's the only way to calm him down," Theo told him, explaining his reasons. "I'm thinking if he was taken, then for the people to have took him as successfully as they did they would have needed to know everything about him and the family, from what time school starts and ends, who takes him and when, to how to stop him from causing a fuss and alerting people to them."
"Which would mean knowing how to calm him down," Harry continued, understanding.
"Which would mean knowing about Adam's," Theo finished, a small but pleased smile on his face; he had a place to start looking and Harry was agreeing with him, so it had to be a step in the right direction. "I'm going as soon as I'm done here. It's the reason I came really, I wanted to run it by you. I thought about asking Ms. Granger, but she looked like she was about to cry again. It still sounds strange, calling her that."
"I wish I could go with you, but I've got the kids, so you'll call me once you know anything, good or bad." He started to choke again and Theo promised he would. "And she won't hate you for calling her Hermione, she hates Ms. Granger more than she hated Mrs. Weasley."
"Yeah, she said, but that sounds weird, too."
They both turned when they heard a multitude of voices; three children talking at once, while a woman tried to calm them down and a lone little girl yelled at someone for playing with a doll. "Right. They're early. I should go help with that," Harry said, getting up from his chair and leaving the room swiftly. From his place in the conference room, Theo could see Harry control the situation. His boys had stopped shouting and Lily was no longer telling off his own son. Theo almost got up when he saw Alexei begin to cry, but stopped midway out of his seat when he witnessed something he never thought he'd see; Alexei listened to Harry and calmed down.
"That just never happens," he whispered to himself, awed.
He fell back down into his seat and waited for Harry to return, Ginny with him. "It's good to see you again, Theo. When was it last? Valentines Day?"
"Yeah, you teased me mercilessly for not having a date," he replied, vividly remembering when they bumped into each other in Diagon Alley that day. Throughout the whole partnership with Harry in their four years of Auror training, the only person he spoke to from Harry's friend's and family was Ginny Potter née Weasley. Even though he knew by then he wanted to be a private investigator, he wanted to the skills and the training or an Auror, figuring they would come in handy, especially if situations like this came around and they asked for help. As a qualified Auror, Theo could play a bigger role to help with their investigations. He'd become good friends with Harry during training and Ginny joined them frequently for lunch. It had been quite a while since Theo had seen Harry and their kids had been toddlers when it had been all seven of them, but he still saw Ginny at least once a week. She always managed to bump into him 'unexpectedly' and drag him to lunch. She said everyone had a close circle of friends and then their own friends outside. Currently, Theo was outside, with herself and Harry, but she told him often that she'd make him part of the circle at some point.
He dreaded her ever finding out about his dream; would it push him out or would she use it to finally pull him in permanently? After the war Ginny and Harry became one of few genuine friends he could admit to having and saw regularly; he was scared of losing that.
"Well, it's not right, you not being with someone," Ginny said playfully, bringing him out of his thoughts. "Speaking of which..."
"No, I'm not. Yes, I'll think about it." He changed the subject away from his love life; Alexei had already wounded his ego enough with the comment he made when Hermione had been in the room earlier. "How did you get him to calm down so quickly?" he asked, pointing to the children.
Harry shrugged, "I told him he could play with the doll. He really likes it, I will never understand why."
"We'll never understand the mind of a six year old," Theo answered and Ginny agreed. "I should go, I've got work to do."
He shook Harry's hand, then let Ginny hug him. "Thank you for taking this case," she whispered in his ear. "I know you'll find Hugo."
"I won't stop," he whispered back, that determination back. "I promise."
They followed him to the office, where Theo called for Alexei and said good bye. "Are we going to Adam's now?"
"So you did your job?"
"Not yet," he said honestly, getting into the elevator. He pressed the button to the atrium. "I've still got a long way to go."
Theo opened the door and Alexei swung on his arm, jumping onto the step, and let go, running inside. He left the boy to read, making his way to the counter instead. The bell on the old door had rung, so he just waited for his friend to come out from the back. Eventually he did and Theo couldn't help but smile upon seeing him. "Your old age is getting to you, Adam. It took you ages to come out this time."
Adam glared, not appreciating the joke. "That had nothing to do with age, thank you very much. Now I will tell you what I told Lex on the phone; the Spiderman issue he wants will not be here until Thursday, he can wait two more days."
"He called you?" Theo demanded, shocked.
Adam's eyes widened. "You didn't know that? Uh oh."
Theo shook his head. "I'll deal with that later, it's not why I'm here. I have a new client and she says her son loves to come here; do you recognize him?"
Theo pulled out the picture that Hermione had given him before leaving his office; a happy, smiling little boy sitting on a swing in the park, his brown hair was spiked up and his face was red from running, she'd said. Adam took it in his hands. He only had to look for a few seconds. "Yeah, that's Hugo Weasley. He was in here yesterday. Why?
"He was? Who was he with?"
"Hugo said he was a friend of his dad's. Something didn't feel right, though, he looked really upset. I tried to call Hermione, but her phone was off. I've never met his dad, I didn't know how else to get in touch. Why? What's going on, Theo?" he demanded.
"Do you remember what the guy looked like?" Theo pressed.
"Tall, about six feet, tanned from the sun, dirty blond hair and dark eyes. And he had a scar on his hand. Now I've answered you, you answer me."
Theo called Alexei and payed for his new comic book quickly. He had to go; he'd promised Harry he'd call him, Hermione would want to know, too, and he needed to talk to Hugo's father. "You've just described the person who kidnapped him from his school."
A/N: Yay for a new update and for longer chapters. They were bound to come eventually. :P
Spiderman belongs to Marvel Comics. The freaky doll is part of my imagination. If it's real or one is similar, I don't own one. :P
I hope you are enjoying this story. Reviews would be much appreciated. :)
Chapter 5: So Like His Mother
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Harry had taken the news better than Theo had expected, but maybe that was the man's Auror training kicking in. He'd been calm and rational in the floo call, hadn't bombarded Theo with questions as previous clients and their families had on the phone or in his office nor had he gotten overly hopeful. Theo couldn't stand when clients got their hopes up only to watch them come crashing down; he imagined Harry couldn't either. It would certainly explain how the man knew to act in this situation; he'd seen it all before, had probably told others to act in that way.
His friend had thanked him for the information and had another Auror go to Adam for a better profile; they wanted a face to look for. They all hoped to find the man and to find Hugo safe, but they didn't put all their faith in the profile and have hope of finding Hugo so quickly. It would only hurt more if they didn't. Instead they put their faith in their department and Theo's help, hoping to find Hugo soon.
Harry had promised he'd speak to Hermione about everything, from the description of the man who had taken Hugo to the store to the missed calls on her phone from Adam. She'd need a friend there for that information, family, Theo was sure. He remembered when he'd missed a call about Alexei once. Granted, his son had been sick and left in day care until Astoria had finally gotten to him, not missing, but that feeling, that you could have done something to help had you paid attention, was the same and he was glad she had Harry and Ginny. They'd been the ones to tell him it wasn't his fault, they'd tell Hermione, too.
He didn't pretend to comprehend what any of them were going through at this time, if he were honest with himself he didn't want to, but he also didn't pretend that the case had no effect on him and that night he'd let Alexei grab his blankets and pillows and camp in the living room with him, reading the comics to him until the little boy had fallen asleep in his arms.
My little boy.
Only when he heard Alexei's light breathing did Theo allow himself to close his eyes. And the dream came back another night, stronger than ever.
Theo had taken Alexei to school as normal, despite his fear of leaving him alone. He put his fear down to being a parent; Hugo was taken quickly and it was efficient, planned, so the little boy had been taken for a reason. Alexei was fine, Hugo was not. Alexei was safe and he'd make sure Hugo would be, too. First things first, he had to find him.
He had to talk to Ron Weasley.
Harry had given Theo Ron's address during the floo call. He'd said that Ron would have stayed with Hermione and their daughter, Rose, that night, but would likely come home for clothes. Theo hoped Harry was right and knocked quickly, three sharp bangs with his fist against the white door. He glanced around the neighborhood while he waited; it seemed almost unnaturally quiet, empty. One neighbor nodded when their eyes locked before he got into his car. He was gone by the time Ron Weasley opened the door. "Mr. Weasley?"
The door opened further and Ron nodded, his eyes slightly red, but clear of freshly shone tears. "Hermione said you were very professional and Harry said you were coming," he muttered, looking Theo up and down, then he stepped back and walked away, leaving the door open to let him in.
Stepping in and shutting the door, Theo slowly followed Ron down the hallway. He paused to watch the pictures on the wall; Ron and his daughter laughing on a couch in a living room; both kids with a small group he assumed were the Weasley grandkids, he recognized Harry's in the middle; all four of them in the park, Hugo looking as he did in the photo Hermione had given him. They looked happy, like a family. Swallowing the lump in his throat, both over the thought of family and of the woman in his dream looking back at him and laughing, Theo continued and entered the kitchen. The man had done well for himself, despite the divorce they were still going through; the room was spacious and light, from the cream walls to the light wood cabinets, and a door opened to the garden. It wasn't a large garden compared to others Theo had seen, nor was the house in general, but it was enough for a single father and two children when they weren't with their mother.
He found Ron leaning against the round dining room table, waiting impatiently for him. "You're being paid to help find Hugo, so why are you here?"
"I want to ask you some questions," Theo answered softly. He put his hands into his pockets and stood a little straighter; he didn't want to let Ron Weasley know he was uncomfortable. This case was so much different to other cases he'd been on already and now here was another reason why; he hadn't gone to school with his previous clients. Theo took a deep breath and imagined Ron as someone else, someone he didn't know of, hoping it would be easier to find out what he needed to know.
"I don't know what happened to Hugo, I wasn't there," he stressed. Theo noted immediately how guilty the man in front of him felt with those few words, seeing what Harry had been talking about in the conference room.
"I didn't think you did, I swear. I'm not here to investigate you," Theo reassured him, his hands flying out of his pockets and into the air in surrender. He stepped a few paces forward and lowered his hands slowly. "Ms. G -" he stopped, tried again; they were all telling him to call her by her given name, they seemed more comfortable doing so. "Hermione told me that Hugo liked to go to the comic book store, that it calmed him, and it turned out to be somewhere they took him. Now I need to know if there is anywhere else they could go, anything that would stand out to you as a reason why they'd take your son. I would ask your ex-wife, but I thought it would be better to give her some time after what she found out yesterday."
"No," Ron said, shaking his head, a ghost of a smile on his lips, as though he was remembering something. Theo frowned, which only caused Ron's smile to widen ever so slightly. It wasn't enough to make them forget the situation they were in, but it amused Ron enough to show it. "She makes you nervous. You don't want to see her cry."
Sure, her crying is what makes me nervous; let's go with that as the reason.
Theo shrugged awkwardly. "It's easier to talk to a complete stranger than it is talk to someone you're familiar with, whether you know them or not," he said, mostly honest with his words. It did feel harder for him because he knew of them, but it wasn't the whole reason why it felt harder to talk to her, and there was no way he was going to reveal any of that to her ex, especially not his dreams.
"I know how hard it can be, I'm an Auror," Ron agreed. "And she's not my ex, she's still my wife. The divorce isn't final yet."
Theo took a step back, now eying the man warily. Ron had his back straight, his head up and chin in the ear, as though his words were the start of a dangerous game, competitiveness laced in his tone, and whatever Theo said next would determine which way the game would go. But Theo didn't understand why; Harry had said the decision to divorce was mutual, that they'd both fallen out of love, both wanted to move on. So why was Ron reminding Theo that they were not yet divorced? Why was he being watched like he was being analyzed? Like Ron was figuring out if he was worthy? Worthy of what? Unless... Oh, my God, did I give something away?
Theo couldn't remember. Ron hadn't seen his reaction to the photograph, had he noticed something in his voice when he'd claimed Hermione to be his ex-wife? Something Theo himself hadn't noticed? No, that was crazy. Wasn't it?
Damn dream, making me paranoid. Making this so much harder.
He cleared his throat, brought his attention back to the world around him, and looked Ron in the eye. He'd be honest, but wouldn't play the game. "Whether the divorce is final or not, you're still separated. Not being together anymore is an ex in my book."
"I suppose it is," Ron murmured appreciatively. If he was still playing, Theo must have passed. Leaning forward, Ron answered his question. "Hermione and I have good jobs, a life that pays well enough for us to buy our kids what they ask for on their birthdays and Christmas, to take them in holiday every so often and spoil them on occasion. But we're not rolling in money. We don't have anything they would want and I don't know anywhere they might take him. If Hugo is not at home or at school or with family, then he's at the comic store with Hermione or he's at the park with me. I don't know how to help."
"Then why did they take him?" Theo muttered, pacing the room. Ron must have known he was only voicing his thoughts, a habit he'd picked up from spending so much time with Adam since he was a child, because he kept quiet. Listening to Adam speak his problems out loud had had a calming effect on Theo and he'd started doing the same. He'd sit and he'd tell himself about his cases; it helped. "Not for money; no ransom. Planned out; not random. Last place he was seen; go back to Adam."
He turned back to Ron, who had been watching intently in confusion, and pulled out his wallet, fishing out a business card from inside. He dropped it on the table and Ron picked it up hesitantly. "If you think of anything, you call me."
"I will," Ron said quietly. "You're going back to Adam's shop. Why?"
"A feeling," Theo said weakly, walking away. Honestly, he wasn't exactly sure. It was just the last place anyone had seen Hugo. But his instincts said to go back and he always followed them; he had to. "As soon as I know anything, you'll know. I promise."
Then he was out the door. He made sure he ignored the photographs.
Adam watched Theo with narrowed eyes while he banged his head on his arms, which were stretched across the counter. He noted the strange looks the man at his side was getting, but didn't say anything, not even to ask how he was. He knew it was about the case, about finding the little boy, and he knew Theo wouldn't give him any information while people were listening. So he went back to his customer, gave the kid his receipt and waited for him to leave. As though Theo knew they were now alone, he sat up quickly, his forehead red due to the number of times he'd hit himself. "I am good at my job," he said suddenly. "I have never lost a case. Not one. But this one, I don't know where to look or what to do. I'm so confused and worried that I'm going to get the boy hurt or worse because I don't know. It'll be my fault."
"It will not be your fault," Adam said sternly, angry that Theo would even think that. "You will figure it out like you always do and you will find Hugo. Just sit and be quiet and think. It'll come to you."
Theo did as he was told; he sat on his stool, silent and still except for his light breathing, and Adam sorted through the latest Superman issues that had come to the shop, leaving him alone to think everything through. He got up suddenly, a thought coming to him, and went to the door. He faced the counter, feeling Adam's curious eyes on him. "Go through exactly what happened the other day. I want to retrace Hugo's steps in here."
"You told the Auror who came in for the profile that once Hugo got to the counter he seemed in a hurry to leave," Theo said calmly, softly. He shut his eyes. "I want to know why. I'm six years old, a man has taken me from school and brought me here to calm me down. Why do I need to be calm? Why doesn't he just take me where he needs to go?" Theo opened his eyes and frowned. "Because he doesn't know yet. He needs me calm so he can find that out without interruption. So he brings me here. Go," he pointed to Adam.
Adam moved to the front of the counter, pulled himself up to sit on top and give Theo space to move. "Hugo came in, we said hi and I asked who the guy was."
"A friend of Daddy's," Theo answered.
"Yeah. The guy tells him to pick a comic and pulls out his phone. Hugo goes to the Batman comics, the guy follows him."
"He's still keeping an eye on Hugo," Theo said, going to the same place. It was the exact place he'd gone to all those years ago, the first time he'd ever come to Adam's. It was the place he'd gone to when he was afraid, same as Hugo.
"Hugo started looking through the comics. His hands were shaking, he was upset. I thought it was something to do with his parents divorce." Adam took a deep breath to calm down, the memory of the day getting to him now that he knew that wasn't the case. "He kept turning to glance at the man he came with, he was on the phone; I could see him, but I couldn't hear him. Hugo was closer than I was."
"He must have heard something," Theo finished and Adam nodded.
"Because then he started to mess with his school bag, but Hugo had his back to me and I couldn't see what he was doing. The guy had his back to both of us. Then Hugo stopped, just as the guy got off the phone. He told Hugo to hurry up and they came to the counter." Theo moved and stopped in front of him, waiting patiently to hear the rest of the story. He still needed to know what he was looking for. He needed the end for everything to make sense. He needed to know to find Hugo, he was sure. "Hugo came to me with two comics, the guy told him to pick one but I said he could have both. Hugo said no, gave me the one he didn't want, practically pushed it into my hands, and the guy paid for the other. Hugo was out the door as soon as the guy said it was time to go."
The silence between them grew as Theo took in everything he'd been told. The tension mounted, threatening to suffocate them both, until Adam had to ask what he was thinking. He looked up slowly, shaking his head, and for a moment Adam thought he wasn't going to answer him. "There just seem to be things that don't make sense," he eventually said. "Hermione told me that when Hugo was upset she'd have to actually pick him up to get him out of here." He looked to his friend for confirmation, who nodded. "If he was scared and upset, you'd think he'd try hard to stay here. So why did he leave so willingly?"
"Because he was taken, he didn't run away like you did," Adam answered quietly. "I wouldn't be surprised if they threatened him to keep quiet and do as he was told."
"Yeah," Theo muttered, rubbing his eyes. He was so tired, sleep had seemed inevitable last night. His dream had woken him after two o'clock and he'd spent the rest of the night figuring out how to talk to Ron Weasley. That hadn't gone according to plan. "What was the comic he didn't want?"
"Why?" Adam asked, confused.
"Curiosity. I want to know what was so bad about it that he threw it back at you."
Adam laughed softly and searched through the pile of comic books behind the counter. Once he found the right one, he pushed it in front of Theo. "And he didn't throw it at me."
"Hmm," was Theo's only response. In his mind he went through the scenario again, retracing the little boy's steps over and over while he flicked idly through the pages. Then he noticed it; the reason Hugo had gone to his bag in haste while his kidnapper had his back turned; why that smart little boy had left the shop so quickly. There was the answer, right in front of him. Written in pencil, in a six year old's messy handwriting. "So like his mother," he whispered.
"Okay, Ted, you make less sense as the day goes on," Adam sighed.
"Don't call me that," he glared, holding up the comic and tapping his finger over the top left corner. "Rizzo's. He heard the guy give a name and went in his bag for his pencil. Then he gave you the comic so you'd find it, probably thought you'd call his mum. He's as smart as his mother, it's a little scary."
"He reminds me of Lex." Adam scoffed. "Hell, he reminds me of you. The only Rizzo's I know is the Italian restaurant in the center of London. Do you really think they'd kinap a kid and take there?"
"No, it may have just been a place to meet whoever he was calling," Theo admitted. "But I'm going to check it out anyway." His watch beeped, signaling the hour. "After I've picked Alexei up from school and found a babysitter."
He turned to his friend expectantly, dejected when Adam shook his head apologetically. "Can't help you, sorry. Hannah's with her parents, Lizzie is who knows where and I promised Luke I'd take him to a movie."
"It's okay, I'll figure something out," he waved and left the shop quickly. Alexei's school had finished and they only stood with him for fifteen minutes before taking him inside to wait. Theo had to get there before then, he didn't want a repeat of last time when the headmistress had acted concerned and asked how life at home was. But, hoping he didn't regret his next decision, he stepped back inside. He'd want to know if he was Adam, he felt it only right to tell him now. "Lizzie is with that creep Marc in town. I saw them on my way here."
He couldn't remember the last time he'd heard Adam swear.
A/N: Yay, new chapter. Let me know what you think. :)
Batman and Superman both belong to DC Comics.
Chapter 6: Daniel
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From the small, dirty window, that he could see through when he climbed up on to the top of the cupboard, Hugo watched the sun shine through the clouds. He saw the shapes in the sky and the shadows on the ground and he made up little stories about each one he could make out. His favorite story was about the small, white rabbit-like cloud who was taken away from his school one day. The cloud was lost for a while, but his mummy, daddy and uncle - the three big clouds on the right - found him and brought him home.
Hugo wondered if his mummy knew about his clue yet. Had Adam found it when he'd looked through the comic? Adam always checked the comics, Hugo knew. He saw Adam do it all the time. And he always talked to his mummy. He hoped Adam wasn't too mad about him writing on the page; Adam didn't like that. But Hugo had to do it, so his mummy would know where to start.
"Hurry up, Mummy," he whispered to the clouds. Sometimes, Hugo could wait for anything, his family called him an unusually patient child all the time, but right now he was cold and hungry and scared. He wasn't feeling very patient. But the bad men shouted at him when he cried, even louder when he shouted back. So he stopped and tried to wait, listening to what they said instead.
Someone did something bad, something they didn't like, and they were waiting for him. They were waiting to punish him. Hugo didn't know who yet, or why he had to be here, but he hoped the one they wanted didn't come. He wanted Mummy to come first, in case the one they wanted was Daddy or Harry.
Because Hugo wasn't stupid; if the one they wanted came, he wouldn't leave.
The door to the room opened again and Hugo jumped down from the cupboard quickly, landing on the floor before they came in. The two bad men didn't stay for long, they threw in another and left again. This man was older than Hugo, more like his daddy's age, and his face was all red and black and blue. His eyes were closed, but he wasn't sleeping; Hugo could hear him moaning.
Hugo stepped forward, only to jump back in fright when the older man's eyes snapped open. He sat up slowly and put his hand on the back of his head. "Son of a -" He stopped suddenly, only just noticing that Hugo was standing next to him. "Ow," he said instead, like his family did when they knew they shouldn't say a bad word. "Do you know where we are, kid?"
Hugo nodded his head quickly. He'd heard them talk.
"Care to share?" the man asked.
He had less patience than Hugo did, he could tell, but he shook his head. He wasn't allowed to talk to strangers and he didn't know why the man was here. The man groaned again and got up, his legs shaky. Hugo wondered if he'd fall over. But he didn't. He went to the window, pushed the cupboard away so he could look properly. Hugo frowned; he didn't know if he could put it back.
"I have no idea where we are from this window," the man sighed. He turned back to Hugo. "Ready to share now?"
He shook his head. The man groaned. He did that a lot.
"You don't have to be scared, Hugo," he said softly, moving away from the window to kneel in front of him. He gently put a hand on Hugo's shoulder to stop him from moving away, not understanding how the stranger knew his name. "People are looking for you. My friend is looking for you and he's the best. He'll find us."
Hugo cocked his head to his left. "Who?" he asked finally, quietly. He knew this man wasn't talking about is Daddy or Harry; he'd met their friends and this stanger wasn't one of them. Was he?
The stranger sat down properly on the cold floor, crossing his legs, and Hugo did the same, so they were sat across from each other. He made sure there was a gap between them. "His name is Theodore Nott, he's a private detective."
Hugo's small, blue eyes widened in surprise and he smiled for the first time. He knew that name. "Adam's Theo?"
"Yeah," the stranger chuckled. "But he's also your Aunt Ginny and Uncle Harry's friend."
"I know." Hugo remembered them talking about him. Theodore was the only friend of theirs he hadn't met. Or he had and couldn't remember. His cousin, James, could remember him a little, though. He said so when they talked about him. "Who are you?" he asked. "Are you friends with them, too?"
"No, I'm just friends with Theo, but sometimes I work with your mum," the stranger said. "My name is Blaise Zabini."
Blaise. Yes, he'd heard that name. Was he the one they wanted? No, he wasn't the one they wanted to punish, Hugo guessed. They wouldn't bring him here if he was, they said they had a special place for that person. Hugo didn't know where that special place was, but it sounded bad when they said it. "Why are you here, Blaise?"
Blaise looked around the old room nervously, then to the door. "I don't know," he whispered. "Why are you here?"
Hugo shrugged, he knew the name from his mummy; he could tell him. "I don't know yet. But I've been listening. They want someone. And they really don't like this person."
Theo made it to the school with a few minutes to spare and waved Alexei over. He watched his son grab his bag, say something to his teacher and run his way, stopping right in front of him. "Hey, Daddy," he said excitedly, wrapping his arms around his waist.
Not being able to stop himself, Theo laughed, Alexei's good mood infectious, and took the boy's bag. He put it over his own shoulder and held out his hand. "Good day at school?" he asked.
Alexei nodded. "We played football and I was captain. We won!"
Ah, explains the excitement, Theo thought.
He let Alexei talk while they walked, content in just listening to the little boy's excitement over his first time playing a Muggle sport. He let the words fill his head, giving him a moment of freedom from his case. Maybe if he came back to it with a clear head, he would know what to do next. He was walking into it blind, had no idea what going to that restaurant would bring. Theo shook his head; finding Hugo wasn't one of those strategy puzzles, but that was the only way he could describe how he was feeling. It was like chess, one had to make a move for the other player to go next. But Theo was always bad at chess.
It didn't fill him with much confidence.
"Daddy, it's Harry," Alexei said suddenly, pointing in front of them.
Theo stopped, waving once when Harry did. He was stood against the car's passenger side of the door, waiting for them, it seemed. The man's smile was tight, but once he was closer he saw that Harry's eyes looked a little brighter than before, hopeful.
"I got your message," he said once they got to the car. "This is all her idea."
"Hey," Hermione snapped, getting out of the driver's side of car. "You agreed straight away."
"I did," Harry agreed, speaking to Theo. "Until she said that she was coming and I was staying. Now I'm not so sure."
"What?" Theo finally asked, thoroughly confused by their cryptic conversation.
"I'm going to the restaurant with you," Hermione explained in a tone that told him he had no choice in the matter. "Harry will go back to the house, where Ginny and Ron have Rose, and be our messenger boy."
"I thought you were an Auror," Alexei said. He frowned when the grown ups laughed, although it wasn't a truly happy laugh.
"I need to find a babysitter for Lex before I go anywhere," Theo told them, his mind trying and failing to come up with reasons as to why Hermione couldn't come.
"Well, if Lex doesn't mind, he's welcome to back with me," Harry offered.
Alexei pulled on his dad's jacket until Theo looked down. "I want to play with Lily again," he whispered, his eyes wide and pleading, wanting him to say yes.
"Okay," he sighed in defeat.
Harry opened the car door and let Alexei inside. "Move over, Lex, I'm sitting with you." He turned to Theo and nodded to the front seat. "Since you're staying with Hermione, she says you get shotgun."
The car had been filled with chatter while Alexei retold his football story to Harry and Hermione, but once they were dropped off at the house, it was obvious Theo wasn't talking. They remained quiet until they were almost at the restaurant and Hermione could no longer take it.
"Is this about me coming with you?" she asked impatiently. The thought had been running around in her mind throughout the journey and she had to know.
"I'm not used to having people work with me, but no, that's not why," Theo muttered, his eyes on the road. He knew she was waiting for another answer, an explanation for his silence, and he almost blurted out his dream and why he seemed so nervous around her. But that would have been the worst thing to do, he knew, and he stopped himself quickly. Instead he kept it professional. "I'm going through scenarios in my head, hoping I can understand why they chose to go to Rizzo's and what I might find there."
"Is it helping?"
"No," he scoffed. "But it makes me feel like I'm actually doing something. I've never had a case like this."
"We've tracked your cases, the Auror department are still hoping you'll come back, and we trust you and your judgement. Truly," Hermione promised. "I am here for legal advice and guidance. And because I'm a terrified mother, who can't just sit at home and wait. But I won't get in your way; this is your case and I know my boundaries."
"Thanks," Theo said softly, not having the same confidence.
"So, Hugo really left a clue for you," Hermione said. She was proud of her son, Theo could tell.
Rightly so. "Yes," he nodded. "He listened to the man on the phone and he wrote down the name. He was very messy, it took all of Adam's strength to stay calm, which really shows how much he cares, and he got his Z's backwards, if you want all of the details."
"He's only six and he was scared!" Hermione defended.
Theo held up his hands in surrender. "Hey, I'm not having a go at his spelling. I was awed actually, Lex has trouble spelling his own name. Did you teach him?"
Hermione nodded. "And Ron. He's always seemed to excel at things from an early age. We took him to a doctor a few months ago, did tests; he said Hugo has a high IQ and believes he has an eidetic memory. Ron calls him our little genius. They all said he was taking after me, but I knew he was special. And that's how I know he'll be okay."
"His family took on a troll, tricked Umbridge and ended a war; even without that good memory, he'll be okay," Theo promised with a small smile, hoping that what he was saying was true. He nodded to the restaurant in front of them. "We're here."
Hermione parked outside and they stepped out, both taking in their surroundings before walking up to the restaurant. "I think now is a good time to tell me what you plan to do," she prompted at the door.
Theo opened it for her, allowing her to enter first, and lead her to the podium were a waiter was standing. "Hungry?" he asked pleasantly. He ignored Hermione's curious gaze. "Table for two?"
The young waiter nodded, smiling brightly. "Of course, sir. This way."
With one hand pointing in the direction of the waiter and another on the base of Hermione's back, Theo nudged her forwards. "Follow the young man, darling."
Despite her suspicions being raised further, Hermione played along and followed the waiter to a table, her narrowed eyes a promise that he'd tell her what he was doing. She sat down, thanking the waiter, and took a menu from his hands. Theo did the same and they nodded when he said a waitress would be here soon. "What's your game, Theodore?" she asked the moment they were alone.
"I'm hungry," he answered innocently. "And we're going to use this time so I can do what we PI's do best; snoop," Theo joked. "I'm going to ask around, see if anyone remembers Hugo, and find out what happened here. Is that okay?"
"You could have just said that," Hermione mumbled, trying not to pout.
"And miss the look on your face? Never."
Theo waited twenty minutes before he thought about excusing himself to ask his questions, ordering his meal and making small talk with Hermione about their family, friends and jobs to pass the time. When Hermione asked why, he told her honestly; that he had no idea how to start and was figuring it all out in his head. Although he missed out his selfish reasons; that he wanted to get to know her more. She accepted his answer, knew from his reminders during the few times they'd spoken that this was his first kidnapping case, and understood that he didn't want to mess anything up by diving in head first and thinking nothing through.
She only hoped the man could think fast.
"So, law?" he asked, his eye on the waitress behind the bar who kept looking their way. "What made you want to follow that line of work?"
"My campaigns and charity for House Elves," Hermione replied. "I wanted to do more to change the laws, so I spent some time there, going through legislature. There I realized there was more that needed to be changed in our world and I wanted to do something about it. I knew the only way I'd really get anything done would be if I took a lead role, so joined the department. It was one of the best decisions I ever made."
Theo nodded absentmindedly, and she had to wonder if he was really listening. "And you're acquainted with Blaise Zabini. He said you've crossed paths a few times."
"We have," Hermione agreed. "He's more criminal law, whereas I'm for human and beings' rights, but I've been called in on cases occasionally and we've worked together a few times. We rarely spoke to each other in school, as you know, but I know him well enough now and we get on well. I was surprised when he said you were friends, though."
He finally turned to face her fully, understanding her surprise. "Yeah, we weren't the best of friends in school because he was friends with Draco. I stopped being Draco's friend because I had no desire to be involved with the Dark Arts and eventually Blaise stopped running back and forth between us. He stayed friends with Draco, so he was always there when Alexei was born, he helped a lot. We started to bridge the gap, become friends again." Theo paused to take a drink of water and find the waitress again. "Have you seen him lately? He hasn't answered my floo calls these last couple of days."
Hermione thought back to the last time she'd seen Blaise Zabini, which had been the morning before Hugo had been taken. "No. He hasn't even been in work. That's not like him. I was so worried about Hugo that I hadn't noticed."
"I'll try again tonight," Theo muttered, distracted. Hermione turned discreetly to find the waitress was back. "Now it's time to ask my questions and I know where to start."
Hermione wished him luck, figuring he'd want it even if she trusted him enough to think he didn't need it, and kept her eye on them. Even if she couldn't hear them, she hoped she could pick something up from their body language.
"Can I help you, sir?" she asked nervously when Theo stopped in front of her.
He glanced down at her name tag briefly. "Yeah, Nancy. I was told that a man brought a little boy here yesterday afternoon, I'm wondering if you can confirm that. Do you recognize him?" he asked, removing the picture of Hugo from his inside pocket and showing her.
Her eyes widened slightly at the image, telling Theo that she recognized him, and she glanced at Hermione once more. "T-The guy said his name was Matthew," Nancy stuttered finally. Theo nodded, knowing from both Hermione and Harry that Hugo's middle name was Matthew; it made sense that they'd change it a little. "Is he okay?"
"I'm not sure," he replied. "That's why I have to find him. Can you remember anything about yesterday? Did you see or hear anything that could tell me where to find him?"
Nancy shook her head slowly, her eyes pleading with him. Only he had no idea what she was trying to say. "He just told me to look after Matthew, then he went into the back."
"Did Matthew tell you anything?" Theo asked desperately.
"At first, he didn't talk except to ask for a napkin and a pen, then -" Nancy shut her mouth when her name was called and food was ready to be served. "Please sit, sir. I'll bring your food to your table."
"Okay," he murmured, nodding his head. He sat back in his seat, saying nothing to Hermione except to wait a few moments.
Nancy came soon after they spoke at the bar, serving their meals and taking out her notepad and pen as though she was asking if they'd like another drink. She dropped a napkin in the middle of the table. "They called him Matthew, your little boy," she whispered to Hermione. "But he said his first name was Hugo, and he's a really smart kid. He described you, said you'd come, he really believed it, and he wrote something for you," she gestured to the napkin, "told me to give it to you. He even told me about the comic shop in case you didn't come, he really wanted you to know. I promised him if you didn't come, I'd go there."
"Why didn't you tell me this at the bar? Give it to me there?" Theo asked, his voice low.
"Because that guy is bad news," Nancy whispered. "The person he works for owns this place, and he has ears everywhere. The waiter who called my name is one of those ears." She stepped back, put away her notepad and pen. "I'll be right back with your waters," she said with a bright smile and left quickly.
They ate in silence, ignoring the napkin for as long as they could, until Theo finished his meal and picked it up as though he was wiping his mouth. "What does it say?" Hermione whispered.
He scanned the napkin quickly and screwed it up into a ball in his hands. "In the car."
Not wanting to waste time, Hermione asked for the check. They split the bill, gave Nancy a bigger tip and left, giving her a discreet nod as they did so. In the car, Hermione asked for the napkin. She hoped it was another place Hugo had heard, the location they'd take him to. She didn't hide her disappointment when she saw that she was wrong. "Daniel," she muttered, her eyes narrowed at the name. "Who the hell is Daniel?"
Theo didn't turn to her, he didn't want to see her hope leave her eyes. "I have no idea."
A/N: New chapter, longer than last time, and even more mystery. I hope you enjoyed. please let me know what you think. :)
Chapter 7: Bad
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The ride from the restaurant to Harry's home was more animated in the beginning, while Theo and Hermione went through everyone they knew named Daniel, but when that stopped - neither knew that many people with that name, even in passing - the car was silent again. Only it was comfortable this time; Hermione accepted that Theo needed his thoughts and prepared herself for him being silent often, while Theo silently thanked her for understanding and leaving him to it. The look she'd given him, along with the small smile, told him she knew.
She stopped the car in front of the house, on the curb rather than the driveway, and Theo waited until she had shut her car door before following, making sure to grab Alexei's school bag before he got out. He looked up at the house, barely being able to remember the last time he'd been inside. James was nine now; it had been the boy's third birthday, just before Alexi was born. After that, he'd seen James a couple of times out with Ginny or in the Ministry with Harry and they'd all gone out once not long after Alexei's birth for Al's birthday, but he had not been in the house and he hadn't seen him for years. He wondered if James remembered him, he hadn't gone into the office when he'd called for Alexei the day before. He knew Albus and Lily didn't know him. Theo stepped through and shut the door, entering the chatter-filled living room.
"Dad!" Alexei came running over, looking even more excited than he had been about football. "Harry showed me how to levi- levi- move things."
"Levitate," Theo said with a chuckle.
Alexei gave him a stern look that looked too cute to be taken seriously. "That's what I said."
"I'm sorry," he replied in surrender, holding up his hands. "Are you ready to go?"
"I don't want to go," the little boy pouted. "Me and Lily are playing."
"You can't stay here forever, Lex," Theo sighed. "You can play with Lily another day."
"But you never come back," James said from the couch, staring up at him with accusing eyes. He did remember.
"Then we'll just have to change that, won't we?"
"You see, James, we told you all you had to do was guilt-trip him," Ginny said with a knowing smile.
"Evil," Theo muttered loud enough for them all to hear. Most laughed, but James and Lily nodded quickly.
Lily stepped up from behind Alexei; her new friend had said his dad was okay and now that James knew him and could talk to him like a friend, she just had to now. She held out her hand. "Hello."
"Shake her hand or she'll kick you," Harry and Ginny's youngest son said from the other side of the couch, mostly hidden by his father.
Theo took it quickly. "Hello."
"Daddy says you find people," Lily stated.
"Sometimes," he nodded.
"You're looking for Hugo." Another nod. Lily shook her head. "He got himself into trouble. I told him he would soon, but he didn't listen."
"Lily," Ginny warned, her eyes on Hermione and Ron.
Lily turned to face them, angry. "Well, he did. And I did tell him. You think he's good, but he's not. He's bad." Her eyes went back to Theo and she pulled on his sleeve. "Hugo's bad."
"Lily!" Harry snapped.
"Stop it!" another voice yelled at the same time. From the corner, a red-haired little girl, who looked so much like Ron, stood up. Rose, he recognized her immediately from the photos on Ron's wall. "Leave my brother alone! He's not bad, he's not!"
She ran out of the room then, and after a look Ron followed her. Hermione gave Theo a soft smile, thanked him and said good bye before leaving, too. The silence in the living room became awkward, even between the boys, who looked everywhere but at Lily. Tears swam in the little girl's eyes, but none fell, and she remained stubborn, believing what she said to be true until Ginny led her out of the room.
"I don't hate it," she said hurriedly to Alexei at the door. "He's much more fun."
"Sorry about that," Harry said once it was just him, Theo and the boys.
"Hugo is bad?"
"He has a bit of a temper when he doesn't get his own way, he knows he's smart, so he thinks he's better than everyone else, he gets into mischief. Kid stuff," Harry shrugged stiffly. "Naturally, Lily's imagination has her thinking Hugo is bad. Well, she makes it sound worse than it is anyway."
"Kids will be kids," Theo murmured. He pointed to the door. "I think it's Rose you need to be worried about."
"She's just upset."
"She fought with Hugo before he disappeared," James whispered loudly, like it was a scandal. "Said he was bad and he lies because she didn't believe him when he said he was sick. She's guilt-ridden."
"James, don't," Harry said. "Boys, go with Alexei and get the cookies you made during the weekend. You promised he could have some."
With a nod and a promise that they could have one before their dinner, the three boys left the living room and went to the kitchen, leaving just Harry and Theo alone this time.
"The waitress at the restaurant remembered Hugo, they're calling him Matthew by the way. He left a name on a napkin. He must have overheard that, too."
"Daniel. That was it."
Harry looked thoughtful. "I don't know a Daniel. Where do we start looking?"
"Old cases," Ron said from behind. He looked as determined as Hermione had been in the car and repeated his words with a confident nod. "I'll also check prison records, see who's been released. They could be people we've put away, relatives of those people; their names, next of kin, known associates, they'll all be in the files. If I had a grudge, I'd think kidnapping a kid would be a good way of panicking the family."
"That makes sense," Harry nodded. "And it's better than nothing. Come to the Ministry tomorrow morning, Theo? About nine? We might be able to give you somewhere else to look."
Theo turned to the now open door, hearing the boys' voices get closer, and he gripped Alexei's bag tighter. "I'll see you there. But we have to go now." He called Alexei's name. "Can we use your floo?"
"Be my guest," Harry said, pointing to the powder. "Good bye, Alexei."
Alexei waved, unable to speak because of the cookie in his mouth, and Theo took his hand and left the Potter residence, with determination on his face, a name in his mind and curiosity burning in his veins.
Hugo is bad?
The old building they were being kept in was quiet, too quiet Blaise thought. He sat with his knees pressed to his chest against the wall, by the door he'd been pushed through. He'd been sat there since the afternoon, his back was stiff and his behind was numb, but when he focused, he could just make out their voices. He hoped to hear something that would help piece together what they wanted from himself and the kid; he refused to move in case he missed anything.
But it was quiet now and Blaise was both disappointed and nervous, though he refused to let the kid see either emotion. Hugo was lying on his back in the corner to Blaise's left, his eyes were closed and his arms were folded over his chest, his right hand resting on his left. Blaise would have sworn the kid was asleep, except the position was too stiff, not relaxed like a sleeping little boy should be, and his mouth was moving rapidly. He was talking to himself; Blaise had no idea what.
Every so often, Hugo opened his eyes and turned his head to look at Blaise, who would try to give him a reassuring smile without wincing because his bruises had no where near healed, as he could tell from the pain, then Hugo would go back to his original position and close his eyes.
The boy was a mystery, one he was afraid he couldn't solve, more afraid that he didn't want to. Hugo had told him that he'd stopped crying because 'the bad men yelled', but now he was too calm. Six year old kids should not be calm in a situation like this, when a grown man was freaking out.
And I've put criminals in jail who don't scare me as much as the kid.
"What are you doing?" Blaise asked quietly. He needed to break the unsettling silence that hung in the air around the creepy building, but he didn't want to startle the kid.
Hugo didn't move or show that he had been startled in any way. He just opened his eyes and turned his head, he tried to raise an eye-brow as Hermione liked to do and failed. "What are you doing?" he copied.
Blaise smirked, then groaned. "I asked you first."
"Remembering their names and faces," Hugo said with a shrug. "Your turn."
"Listening for any information on this place, since you won't tell me," Blaise answered. "Maybe if I know enough, I can find a way out for us. I can take you back to your parents."
Hugo was silent for a moment and looked as though he wanted to say something. Maybe he was going to finally tell Blaise about this place, maybe he'd heard more than he'd said and was willing to share. Instead he shrugged his little shoulders.
Hermione said the kid was different, but this is a whole new definition of the word.
"Thanks," he said with a roll of his eyes, putting his ear back to the door.
Their prison became silent again, but Blaise didn't care this time; it was time to give up getting the boy to talk. He was on his own. So, he listened and he waited until their voices came back.
"I'm telling you, man, something is seriously wrong with that kid," one said hurriedly. "It was normal for him to cry and yell, and he did - for about an hour. There hasn't been a word from him since then."
"Because he's smart enough to listen to our threat," the other stated, a little nervously, Blaise thought.
"But you'd think he'd still be crying, that we'd see red eyes when we saw him, but there's nothing!" the first pointed out loudly. They were definitely nervous. Blaise glanced at the kid, thankful that he couldn't hear. Or didn't seem to, at least. "It's giving me the creeps," he continued.
"He's a bloody six year old," the second cried. He'd obviously had to repeat himself. "All you have to do is give him his food. It's not like you have to spend all day with him."
The first, probably the younger of the two if Blaise remembered the voices right, huffed and muttered things Blaise couldn't hear. Then he spoke louder. "What does Dan want with this kid anyway? Why not go for the other guy's kid? The guy he actually wants?"
Blaise frowned and cursed silently. They still weren't giving names. He'd heard them talk about the one they wanted, or their boss wanted, the one Hugo had heard, too. But he was always 'him' or 'the guy'. They never said his name. But they knew he had a kid. Either their boss had only given them information he wanted them to know and they didn't know his name or they did know and just didn't care enough to name him.
Or they know you might be listening and just don't want you to know.
He got rid of that thought quickly.
"Because taking his kid would get him personally involved and he might miss something," the second guy said. "With the Weasley boy, he can be somewhat professional and follow the trail to Dan."
"Somewhat? What's that supposed to mean?"
Blaise wanted to know that, too.
"All I know is that the guy Dan wants has a personal connection to a relative of the kid."
"That's why Dan chose to take Weasley?"
"Partly. I also know that Dan is intrigued by the kid. I don't know why, before you ask. I just know that it had to be Hugo Weasley, so I took Hugo Weasley."
They left again, talking about food, and Blaise slumped against the wall; he'd heard all he would for the night, he suspected. He turned to glance at Hugo again, who was now sat up with his legs crossed and staring back curiously, and Blaise had to know what was going on.
What is up with this kid?
A few minutes after eight, Theo put Alexei's film back on and went into the kitchen to wash their dinner plates. He told Alexei he had half an hour before he had to go to bed, but he made a bet with himself that the little boy would be fast asleep on the floor long before that. He'd had a long, exciting day playing football at school and then going to Lily's. Theo had barely spoken to her and already thought she was a handful.
I wouldn't be surprised if Ginny and her family just fed the kid sugar.
He paused what he was doing, his hands just hovering over the water, when he thought he heard something. Thinking it was nothing, he shook his head, but barely moved when he heard it again.
"Daddy, the door!" Alexei yelled from the living room.
Oh. So, he had heard something. Theo jogged to the door, hoping whoever was knocking hadn't been there for too long - it had to be important if they were coming over at this time. He reminded Alexei of the time and asked him to stay in the living room as he went past, then opened the door.
"Ms. Granger?" he said, so surprised that it sounded more like a question.
"Hermione," she corrected with a smile. "You're allowed to call me that. May I come in?"
Theo nodded quickly and stepped aside for her to enter. His eyes watched her move, trailing down her back to her legs for a brief moment before mentally yelling at himself to be professional and keep his eyes on her face. Damn dream.
"Can I help you, Hermione? Do you need anything?"
"I came to talk to you," she answered, looking around.
"Oh." They stood in the hallway and stared at each other, letting the silence drown them and become awkward, until Theo remembered his manners. "The kitchen is this way. There's a place to sit, Lex is falling asleep in front of the TV and I don't want him distracted. He can't have an excuse to stay up for longer."
Theo groaned, seeing Alexei standing by the doorway; he'd obviously been listening to their conversation and his big smile said he knew his dad's plan to keep him occupied and wasn't going to fall for it. Hermione realized this, too, he noticed quickly. He watched as she knelt down, so they ware eye-level.
"Hello, Alexei. What's your movie?"
"Avengers," he replied. "They're gonna fight soon."
"It's your favorite part, you should go watch it," Theo interrupted, tapping Hermione on the shoulder to lead her away. He held out his hand to help Hermione up and waited until Alexei went back to his movie. He showed her to the table, moving about to avoid more awkwardness. "Would you like a drink? Tea, coffee, juice?"
Theo kept his back to her as he grabbed a glass and got her drink, breathing in and out, so when he finally faced her, he felt mostly calm and was able to put her glass on the table in front of her without his hand shaking. He hated his dreams, the way he felt when he was around her - the ache he felt to be near her was a constant reminder of what he feared would come. He felt he was being betrayed by his own body; he knew he'd be completely normal around her if the dreams had never existed. He'd feel comfortable in his own home with her sitting at the table and would be able to help her with a much clearer head. But he wasn't.
"Are you okay, Theodore?"
"Theo," he said instinctively, another reminder - that was what she called him on the roof when she had said those three words to him. "Please. And I'm fine. What do you want to talk to me about?"
"Okay, Theo," Hermione said, understanding that he was politely trying to get back to business. "I just wanted to thank you for letting me come with you to the restaurant. I told you that I'd do anything you'd ask and if you'd told me no, I wouldn't have come. I would have hated it and fought, but I promised, so I'd have stayed in the end. So, thank you for letting me. And for getting the information from the waitress. Ron said you were going through old cases to find a connection to the name. I almost lost hope, but you can still do something. I don want to imagine where we'd be if she hasn't given us that napkin."
Theo sat quietly and listened to her talk. She kept her head up and her eyes seemed focused on him, only him. If she noticed him flinch at the mention of her husband - soon-to-be-ex, he reminded himself - she didn't say anything. "You came to thank me?"
She nodded. "I know it feels silly, you only got a napkin really, and I almost stopped myself a few times. But you're doing everything you can to find my baby, Hugo wrote that for us to find, which makes it important and you found it." Hermione placed her hand over his and squeezed. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," he murmured. Slowly, he removed his hand. "I need to go put Lex to bed, I'll be right back."
He all but ran from the kitchen, stopping only when he reached the living room, and let his heartbeat slow down. Once it was back to normal, he went to Alexei; just as he'd predicted, the little boy was fast asleep on the floor. The day had tired him out completely. Theo picked him up, careful not to wake him, and carried him to his room. He pulled back the sheets, lowered him down gently and covered him up. Bending down, Theo left a quick kiss on his forehead.
"I love you," he whispered before leaving, only closing the door halfway.
He was surprised to find Hermione waiting for him at the front door. "I thought it was time I left you with your son and I have to get back anyway. I only came to thank you for everything you did today. I would have said this to you at Harry's, but -"
"You had to go to Rose, I know," he answered. He opened the door for Hermione to leave. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"See you tomorrow," she replied, leaning up to kiss his cheek.
Only she didn't; in the same moment, Theo moved and she caught his lips in a light kiss. Shock and surprise was the reason they let it continue for longer than it should have, Theo was sure, but in that moment he didn't care. She pulled back before anything more could happen.
"Sorry," he said quickly. "I shouldn't have moved."
"I didn't mind," Hermione replied softly, her lips curved ever so slightly to reveal the third smile he'd seen from her since she'd come to his office. "Good bye."
"Bye," he said after a moment, but Hermione was already gone. Theo closed the door and leant against it, feeling lightheaded. His dream was definitely coming true.
A/N: The Avengers belongs to Marvel Comics, the movie belongs to Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures.
Finally a new chapter and only three more to go. I hope you enjoyed, please let me know what you think. :)
Chapter 8: Choices
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It was still dark when Blaise woke up, but one look out of the dirty window told him that the sun would be rising soon enough. All he had to do was wait; as soon as light broke through the grey clouds and they came with what little food they brought for breakfast, he'd be ready. If the war had taught him one thing, it was how to fight back, and now that he was strong enough, he just needed an opportunity to finally prove that he was no longer a coward hiding behind ideals, but a man who could use more than just fighting words in front of the Wizengamot.
Blaise used the time he had to think things through; if he were alone, he'd easily be able to think 'screw it', not think about what he was doing and just run for it, blaming his lapse of rational thinking and sanity on the beatings and curses he'd received on arrival if they didn't catch him or kill him as he ran. It wouldn't be hard for people to believe he'd snapped. But he wasn't alone, his sole reason for rational thinking was sleeping softly on the floor, still too calm, and Blaise knew that even if Granger and Weasley found a way to forgive him for snapping, the rest of the Wizarding world would not.
Hugo Weasley may be the youngest in the family, but with two war hero parents and an uncle, who all still save their world in their own way by catching criminals and changing laws, the little boy fate had somehow given Blaise to keep safe was an angel in the world's eyes, the one they most expected to follow in his family's footsteps. He even helped Granger with her campaigns - all he had to do was bat his lashes and smile and people were signing petitions and giving money.
Blaise and Draco were sure he was an evil genius, a Slytherin in the making. Considering who the kid's family was, they laughed at the irony.
"Protect the poster child," he muttered, like he was reminding himself not to protect himself first.
Blaise checked the window again, took deep breaths when he saw the sky begin to lighten and waited. One of them would come soon. He knew his best plan was a surprise attack; whoever they were, they were prepared for most things, magic and Muggle, and Blaise knew he wouldn't make it out alive if they saw anything coming. He wasn't even sure why he was still alive now. So, he would surprise the guy and take him down, after that he just had to find a way out, preferably with his wand.
With the kid, he reminded himself again.
Quietly, he knelt in front of Hugo and shook him awake, putting his finger to his lips as soon as Hugo's eyes opened. Seeming to understand, the kid nodded and sat up. "I'm going to get us out of here," he whispered. "But you have to be very quiet and do exactly as I say. Do you understand?"
Hugo nodded again, keeping his mouth shut, and Blaise stood. He moved to stand next to the door and pointed to the wall across from him. When Hugo stood right next to the door, Blaise gestured with his hand for the kid to move back, until there was a large gap between them. When the guy coming opened the door, it would open in Hugo's direction; the kid wouldn't be seen, wouldn't be able to see Blaise knock a man out, and if the guy swung the door open, it wouldn't hit him.
He kept his ear to the thin wall and listened. It was only a few moments before he heard voices, arguing over who was going in, but the voice of the older guy won and he seemed to be sounding quieter and quieter. He was leaving, the younger guy would be all alone. The door opened and as soon as he stepped through, Blaise delivered a blow to the neck with his elbow, hard enough to severely wind him. The tray of food crashed to the floor and he coughed and spluttered, trying to stand up properly, his hands searching for his wand. Blaise used the moment to send a other blow to the man's chest, then punched him. The force broke his nose and he went limp, fell to the floor alongside the tray.
Hugo stepped out from behind the door. "Is he asleep now?"
Blaise nodded and took hold of his arm. "Yeah, lets call it sleep. He will be for a while. Come on. And keep quiet."
Blaise turned right out the door, barely able to remember the way they had brought him, and came to a stop behind the wall near a long corridor filled with doors. It was familiar, he remembered, but he wasn't sure if it was the way out or just one of the places they had brought him before throwing him in with Hugo.
He turned to the kid. "Do you remember the way?" Hugo shrugged. "Well?"
"You told me to be very quiet," he whispered.
"Thank you for reminding me why I don't want kids," he groaned. Blaise crouched down, so the kid could see his face without needing to look up. "I also told you to do as I tell you. You can answer the question; do you remember the way?"
Hugo bit his lip, his eyes narrowed in concentration, and finally he nodded and pointed in the direction they were heading. "We came in, we went in first office, then we came down the hall to the room he left me in."
"Why where you in the office?" Blaise asked, hoping that what he was thinking was about to be proven right.
"That's where the boss sits," Hugo answered.
Blaise wanted to punch the air and let out every bit of joy he felt; his wand was in there, it had to be. He took Hugo's arm again and glanced around the wall, checking it was empty. Satisfied, he led the boy down the hall until they came to the last office, the one on his left. He saw it was empty and pointed at the door.
Blaise tried the door, both hopeful and wary to find that it was open. This was suddenly looking like it was too easy to get out and he didn't like it. But nothing happened when the door opened or when he took a cautious step inside and he really needed his wand. He continued on with his plan, searching the room quickly for his wand. He came to the desk and tried the drawers; the top was open and empty, but the bottom draw was locked. Blaise looked around for the key, but there wasn't one to be found on the desk and he knew he hadn't seen one around the room. It took a few minutes and all of his strength, but he finally managed to force it open. Blaise almost fell to his knees, exhausted, but grabbed his wand from the top of the pile of papers.
"Thank God. Oh, thank you," he murmured, putting it into his inside pocket quickly. He was about to close the drawer and leave when the name on the top file captured his attention and he grabbed it without thinking, opening it to read. "Theodore? What the hell?"
"Why aren't we going?" Hugo demanded, standing in front of him. "What's that?"
"The key to everything," a voice said from the door. Blaise snapped his head up from the file and pulled Hugo closer to him. "I had a feeling you'd get out eventually."
"Who are you?"
"He's the boss," Hugo whispered.
The boss nodded and smiled. "I'm Daniel."
As soon as Theo dropped Alexei off at school, he went to the Ministry, straight to the conference room Harry had taken him to the first time, and found Harry, Ron and Hermione all sat at one side of the table, waiting for him. He cautiously took a seat next to his old friend, wary of their eyes watching him, and cleared his throat.
Ron lifted up a box from his left and dropped it onto the table, sliding it across the table with with one, big push. It stopped in front of Harry with a squeak and Harry finished the box's move to Theo.
"I called my secretary while we were getting the kids ready and asked her if she'd come in early and go through the archives for anything on a Daniel and any variations," he said quietly, trying to hold back a yawn. Theo wondered how long it had been since any of them had really slept. "She wants to help find Hugo; she was happy to look. This was everything she could find."
Theo opened the lid, already grimacing at the thought of how many case files there'd be. He was surprised to find that, while the box was full, there were only a few files which he deemed big enough to take awhile to sort through. The rest were small; either they were minor offenders, once or twice, or they only offended once and it was big enough to send them straight to Azkaban. He certainly didn't think it would take them all day, now he just hoped that the Daniel they wanted was in the box and they'd find Daniel quickly. Theo couldn't begin to know where to look if the man they wanted wasn't in this box.
They got to work in relative silence, Harry and Ron occasionally making small talk, but Theo kept his mouth shit unless asked a question specific to the case and Hermione spent the time between reading her files to watch him. He could feel her eyes burn into his skin, causing his blood to boil and his thoughts to take a dangerous, non-case related turn.
Now was not the time to be thinking about her in any way.
It wasn't until lunch, when Harry's secretary came in with sandwiches and drinks, that Ron gave up cutting Theo from their conversations and asked him questions he'd obviously been dying to know.
"Who and where is Alexei's mother?" he asked bluntly.
Theo choked on his food and Harry kicked his friend from under the table, warning him to shut up. Even Hermione, who looked as curious as her almost ex husband, told him to leave it alone. Clearing his throat, Theo shook his head at the other two and dropped his sandwich onto the table.
"I have no idea where Daphne is and I don't particularly care either," he answered honestly.
Ron frowned, trying to figure out who the name belonged to. Then his eyes widened. "Alexei said 'Aunt Astoria' and 'Uncle Draco'. You married Daphne Greengrass?"
"No," Theo swore, discarding the horrible mental image. "I just got very drunk and slept with her."
"Why?" Ron asked, filled with morbid curiosity.
"Why do you want to know?" Theo countered.
The red head shrugged, suddenly looking upset. But not guilty. "I need something else to focus on, so I can be as objective as I can and not miss something. I have to pretend I'm not looking for my son and since I don't know much about you, I figured now would be the time to ask. So, why did you sleep with Daphne Greengrass when you obviously don't like her?"
"Ron, that's Theo's personal business," Harry warned again. "Leave him alone."
"It's alright, Harry," Theo promised. "It was a long time ago, I'm over it. I can talk about it." He took another bite of his sandwich, followed quickly by a bit of pop, and leaned forward. "It's the same old story really; I met a girl, she broke my heart, I got drunk at a friend's wedding anniversary party, friend's sister decided she could easily get into my pants and what kind of a man would I be if I stopped her?"
"A sensible one," Ron said with a grimace. "Daphne Greengrass. Whoa. Does he know? Alexei?"
"He knows her name and that she's Astoria's sister, he's even seen a picture of her," Theo answered softly. "He's never met her, though. She left just after he was born and I haven't seen her since. I have no desire to. Lex doesn't call her his mum, he doesn't even ask about her. Maybe one day he will and I dread that day because she wants nothing to do with him. She's not the mothering type," he finished bitterly. "Is that all?"
"Why did you pick the name 'Alexei'?" he asked next, moving to an easier topic. Harry shook his head and joined Hermione in looking at the case files.
"I found it in a book and I liked it. Daphne hated it, so I put it on his birth certificate while she slept," Theo answered with a smirk, picking up a new file and finishing his lunch.
"I like you," Ron said appreciatively, following everyone else's example and letting silence fill the room again. He only confused Theo more.
It only lasted fifteen minutes, the silence. Hermione moved to sit next to Theo hastily and dropped her newest case file, one of the big one's, in front of them. "Tell me about the big case you solved?"
"You know all about it," he said, confused.
"I want to hear it in your own words."
Theo looked around, noticing that the other two had stopped what they were doing just to listen to their conversation, trying to understand why Hermione wanted to know. Eventually, he nodded and told them, though he still didn't understand.
"The police arrested this guy for murder. He couldn't remember anything, but swore he was innocent, so his family came to me to find out who else could have a motive," he said quickly. "I started from the beginning, the crime scene, and I found new evidence. I also found out where the guy they locked up had been, I found out he'd been drugged, knocked out. With the evidence and a new alibi, he was set free and they found the person who framed him."
"Do you know who that person was? The real murderer?" Hermione asked urgently.
"Marcus Rayner," he answered quickly. "Why?"
"Rayner," Harry whispered, sharing a look with Ron - both looked fearful. Faster than Theo could blink, they both seemed to be hovering over him and Hermione, looking at the file. "Danny Rayner, of course it's him. La Oscurità have Hugo."
Theo seemed frozen in his seat, dread seeming ready to take him. He knew all about the gang, everyone in the Wizarding world did. Even the Muggle police knew some things; they tried to cover it up. They were malicious, dangerous and not afraid to hurt anyone who got in their way. They had 'members' from all backgrounds, all over the world, but the people high up, the bosses, they were family. They started it and they were fiercely protective of each other. He just never knew the family's name. And he'd locked one up.
"Why would they take Hugo?"
"To keep us busy," Ron whispered. "They've gone after us, taunted us, a few times. Taking Hugo would keep us guessing, but it also gave you a case." Ron turned Theo's chair around, looking him right in the eye. "Harry knows you, respects you; the man who sent down Big Brother. He knew Harry would call you. It's you he wants. You're a dead man, Theo. He knows you'll save Hugo, he just has to wait for you to come, and you'll be lucky to get out alive."
"There's a reason we don't mess with La Oscurità," Harry said softly. "We can't touch them, their too smart, and they're terrifying. So much worse than Voldemort in some ways, so much worse than the Death Eaters in every way. I genuinely don't know what to do."
"But why Hugo?" Theo insisted. "They don't do anything randomly. They picked Hugo as part of their revenge for a reason. Why?"
Each person surrounding him said they didn't know, each looking at him with regret. But Harry had him pause the longest; there was more than just regret in the man's eyes. He had to know what.
"I'll go in," he said in a tone that said there would be no discussion. "We'll find them and I'll get Hugo out."
"They'll kill you," Harry insisted.
"Then be ready to save me, Hero," Theo countered with a halfhearted grin. "I won't leave him in there when it's me they want. I wouldn't leave Alexei, I wouldn't leave any child," he whispered, thinking of his little boy. Thinking of Astoria.
If they do kill me, at least he still has family who love him.
Understanding him somehow, maybe it was a look any parent could spot, Hermione placed a gentle hand on his arm. Theo didn't flinch, for once he welcomed it.
Well, if this is it...
Maybe I just wasn't shown the last part of the vision.
"Do you want me to tell Astoria and Draco what's happening?" Harry asked gently. "Just in case..."
"Tell me what?" a new voice said suddenly, causing them all to turn. Draco Malfoy studied them all hesitantly. "Theo, what's going on?"
"I forgot you worked here, as part of the Auror department," he said instead, too quiet. Draco saw right through it. "Dealing with hostages and missing people. That was your deal after the war, Harry got it for you. It makes you handy right about now."
"I've had some experience with it, you know that," Draco said. "So, stop side-stepping my question with useless information and tell me what's wrong."
"We need you to set up a team and find La Oscurità," Harry answered instead. "They have Hugo, they want Theo and he's chosen to go in."
"They'll kill you," Draco said softly, understand now. He nodded slowly. "I'll lead it myself. Oh," he continued, turning around and handing Theo a piece of square-shaped parchment. "I've just been given this; Blaise is missing. I thought you should know, since you've been trying to contact him."
Theo let Hermione take the missing poster and fell back into his chair. He was drowning in this mess.
Draco came back a few hours later, telling them they'd found Danny Rayner easily in an old warehouse that belonged to them.
"It's like he's waiting for you," Draco had said.
With Draco's team prepared to deal with getting Hugo and Theo out safely and Harry's team prepared to deal with La Oscurità themselves, they had nothing to do but wait until morning. Theo let Hermione take him to Harry's place; Ginny had kindly picked Alexei up from school and he was ready to take him home and keep him in his sights the whole night. But as soon as he saw the little boy's sleeping face, surrounded by cushions, Harry's children and niece on the living room floor, he couldn't bring himself to wake him. Instead he sat on his friends' couch, watched him sleep and prayed he'd get out alive.
"They were making dens," Ginny whispered, moving Lily's hair from her eyes. She stopped in front of Theo, knelt down gently. "Harry told me everything. I'm so sorry they're putting you through this."
"I couldn't not have Marcus sent away," he told her. "I need to go home. Big day tomorrow."
"You are not going anywhere," his friend answered forcefully. "The kids are staying in their den, Harry has promised to stay with them and Ron has gone home for his things. Given how exhausted he is, he'll probably crash there, or here with Harry if he makes it back. Hermione will have Lily's room, which means you can stay in James'."
He started to shake his head, ready to swear that he was fine, but the look on Ginny's face forced his mouth shut and he nodded weakly. He didn't have the heart to properly argue anyway.
"Good, I'll show you were it is."
"I'll take him," Hermione said softly, kissing Ginny quickly on the cheek. "I'm going to get some sleep anyway, I think we're all tired. I'll see you in the morning."
Hermione waited for Theo to kiss his son good night and repeat the words to Harry and Ginny, as well as thanking them for letting him stay, before leading him up the stairs and into James's room. He grazed his hand along the Quidditch bedsheets and couldn't help but smile at all the merchandise and Quidditch based toys the obsessed little boy had. He was definitely his father's son.
"Forgive the mess," Hermione said. "James' room doesn't get many visitors."
"It's fine," he promised, facing her.
"It'll be okay, you know," she told him after a moments silence. "I trust Harry to deal with the gang and he trusts Draco in getting you and Hugo out safely. Which means I do, too, as strange as that is to say." Hermione took his hand, not seeming to notice the reaction he got to her holding him; how warm she was and safe he actually felt, how his dreams came back, telling him this was right and she needed to be here with him. "You'll be okay."
Acting on impulse, only listening to his dreams, Theo pulled her closer before she could walk away from him and kissed her gently on the lips, waiting for her to respond. When she did, kissing back rather than pushing way liked he'd thought, he deepened it, moving her back into the door. The soft click told him it was shut properly and he took that as his cue to go further.
Hermione let him, allowing herself to be lost in him, to forget about all the bad things that were happening her family, to him. She thought about it all day, every day, and she felt like she was finally snapping. Everything she had running through her head had built up and now that release had come in some way, it was all crumbling down.
It felt like forever and yet not long enough when he pulled away. "The others?"
"I lock the door, they don't check anymore," she replied, whispering. "They won't come looking."
So, they didn't stop. If Theo was going to lose her and be killed saving her son, he wasn't going to pass up being with the woman of his dreams.
A/N: New chapter. Sad chapter. Poor Theo. It's all about him.
La Oscurità is my gang, borrowed from my Hugo/Lysander, Worth the Risk. The bad guy in that is William Rayner. Marcus Rayner is William's father, Daniel is his uncle. :D
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
Chapter 9: A Dream Come True
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The morning came too soon. That was Theo's first thought when he opened his eyes. All too soon he'd have to get up, say good bye to his son without actually saying good bye and prepare himself for his probable death. All too soon he'd stare into the eyes of the leader of one of the most feared gangs in London - no, the world; La Oscurità were everywhere, in every major city at least, London was just their home base.
But for now he was content to lie in the small, single bed, with his arms wrapped around Hermione's beautiful body. His fingers grazed along her back, loving how soft her skin was, reminding himself of how she'd felt underneath him. He moved his finger up and down softly until she started to wake up; he felt her hand move up from his hip to his chest, tapping the place over his heart before leaving a chaste kiss there.
"We should get up," she whispered. But she didn't move.
Theo wanted to tell her to stay here with him. Then he wanted to tell her to get dressed and sneak away back to his place with him, so they could stay in bed all day without being disturbed. But he wouldn't; he refused to let the thoughts linger a moment longer than they should have, let alone speak them out loud. And she wouldn't follow through with it either; they had to get up. He had to rescue Hugo.
He wouldn't forget that.
"I know," he said instead. He even pulled the sheets away to show he would.
"In a moment," he finished, moving down to kiss her chest, then her neck, before finally finding her lips one last time. Theo pulled away reluctantly and rested his forehead against her's, looking into her soft, brown eyes. "The circumstances are horrible, but I'm glad I met you again."
"Me too," she said quietly. "But that's not much of a surprise; I've followed your career for a long time."
"Yeah?" he asked surprised.
Hermione nodded her head, hitting his, and shrugged. "You're friends with Ginny and she talks about you a lot; I had to know more."
"I don't know want to know what she says," Theo muttered, getting up.
"Nice things," Hermione promised while they got dressed.
The did so in silence, stealing glances and brief smiles the whole time; it was enough, given what was about to happen, to tell Theo that he'd done the right thing. Today was going to bring great loss to a group of people Theo felt he was just getting to truly know, a loss which wasn't supposed to happen at all, but his loss would be for the right reasons. He wouldn't spend his last moments regretting his night with Hermione, though part of him wished they'd been in his own bed and not one covered in Quaffles.
It was a welcome surprise when Hermione shared one small kiss with him, then she snuck out of the room. Theo counted to ten and followed, trying to fix his disheveled shirt and hair, only to stop in front of Harry. His friend's frown seemed to be set on his face and his eyes told him all he needed to know - he knew all about his night with Hermione. And he wasn't pleased.
"Theo, are you up? Breakfast is ready," Ginny's voice called up the stairs.
"I'll be right down," he said back, louder when Alexei called for him.
Theo turned back to Harry, his mouth open and ready to give his friend an explanation, but Harry held up a hand to stop him. "Conference room," was all he said, turning to walk down the stairs.
No one knew that anything was wrong between them when Theo joined them for breakfast, not even Hermione. They ate breakfast as though it was a completely normal day, not wanting to worry the children. When Harry told them he had to get things ready at work, Theo took that as his cue to leave as well. He called Alexei to him, so they were alone in the hallway, and knelt down so they were eye-level.
"I have to go to work now, I have one last thing to do for Hermione and Ron," he started gently.
"You found Hugo then," Alexei whispered.
Theo nodded hesitantly and fixed his son's collar, just to look somewhere else for a moment. He was afraid if he looked at Alexei, he wouldn't be able to finish his job, he wouldn't be able to leave his baby. It didn't work; he didn't want to leave Alexei anyway.
"I found him. I have to go get him." Theo pulled Alexei into a hug, holding him tightly. "You're going to stay here with Ginny, she'll take you to Aunt Astoria if I can't. I love you so much, Lex."
"I love you, too, Daddy."
Theo kissed the top of his head and let go reluctantly. "I'll see you soon, kiddo."
With one more nod and a quick good bye from everyone else, Theo floo'd into the Ministy and took those heavy steps to the conference room.
He found Harry sat on top of the table and shut the door. They stared each other down in silence, both waiting for the other to speak, and when Harry realized that Theo wouldn't be starting, he slid off the table.
"Sleeping with Hermione was not part of the plan when we hired you, Theodore," he said quietly.
"You're going to tell me who I can and cannot sleep with now, Harry?" Theo countered angrily. "You have no right to demand answers from me or even think that you can talk about my love life."
"I have every right, given that I'm currently your employer and you're sleeping with the mother of the child you've been hired to look for," Harry shouted. His eyes were dark and dangerous, causing Theo to step closer to the door.
But he wouldn't give in.
"It's not your call to make. We're not children, our decisions are our own," he replied. "I know where Hugo is and I'm ready to leave my son and die to get him back, so if I'm able to find comfort with another person, to have one night that doesn't involve thinking about death, I think I deserve it. Hugo is coming home today, I'm not."
He didn't include his dream, that Hermione wasn't coming home either, that she deserved that one night as well, but he knew it was time it came up. If anyone needed to know, it had to be Harry. He could tell Harry, he didn't know Ron well enough to deliver that kind of news. He couldn't tell the ex of someone he loved that she was going to die.
Not yet, though. There was something else he needed to talk about first.
"And while we're on the subject of Hugo, why don't you tell me what you wouldn't yesterday?" he demanded. "Why have La Oscurità chosen Hugo? They wanted me, so why not take Alexei?"
"You're the lead investigator, we're just helping, telling you what you need to know," Harry said after a pause. "That's what they wanted. If they had taken Alexei, you wouldn't have been in charge of the case, you couldn't have. It's all for you, this case. You needed a mostly clear head to find them, no way would you have if they'd taken your son."
"But why Hugo?"
Harry let out a breath, as though it was literally his anger he was releasing. But it didn't remove any trace of his despair; his nephew was taken from him and now he was knowingly losing one friend, while unknowingly losing another. It was horrible to watch, but Theo just stood by and waited.
"They don't pick people randomly," he muttered, a small measure of anger suddenly returning. "They look from a young age, for people with... unique abilities or talents, ones that they can use. Hugo is so smart, his mind is better than anyone I've ever met, even those older than him, and his magical ability just grows. He doesn't understand half the things we've caught him reading, but it's like he just soaks all that information up, like a sponge. He's brilliant, he will be brilliant, and he's exactly what La Oscurità are looking for. That's why they picked him, I'm sure of it."
"They're recruiting him," Theo summed up. Harry nodded. "I won't let it happen, I promise."
It was a while before Harry spoke, but eventually he nodded. "I know. So, now that I've shared my secret, you need to share yours."
"What secret?" he asked, confused and alarmed that Harry would know anything.
"You and Hermione," he said. "You've been acting weird around her from the beginning, too weird. I want to know what's going on."
Even though he knew he had to talk, even though he'd decided that now was the time, Theo's mouth felt dry and he just stood there. It was harder than he expected, even telling a friend, but he'd never told anyone except Draco and Blaise when they were children. Not even Adam and Hannah knew of his dreams. His father had known, but he'd figured it out himself.
"I have dreams," he finally murmured, moving forward to sit on the table beside Harry. "Sometimes they come true."
"And you had a dream about Heemione," Harry finished quietly. Predictably, he asked, "What was it about?"
"I'm looking for her, running so fast that I keep falling, but I get right back up and I find her on the edge of the roof. She calls my name and I go to her, then she falls." Theo stopped to catch his breath, as though he really were running. It was even harder to talk about the dream than it was telling Harry he had dreams. "I grab her hand and try to pull her up, but I can't and we both know it. So, she tells me that she loves me, I say it back and she slips. I wake up screaming every time."
He turned to Harry suddenly, looked him in the eye as he finished. "I think it's today. I know it's today. I can't stop it, Harry. She's going to die and I don't know what to do."
"It'll be alright," Harry promised, not knowing what else to say. "I'm good at impossible situations, remember? You and Blaise joke about it enough."
Theo only nodded; he couldn't bring himself to tell his friend that no one could stop his dreams from coming true. He kept his eyes on his knee, preferring to follow the creases in his trousers than look up at Harry.
"Why didn't you ever tell me that you're a Seer, Theo?"
"Because I'm not," he answered quietly. "Seers are all knowing, they can look into the past, present and future when they want and they're very powerful - when they practice anyway. I just have dreams. I've never had a vision any other way. It's why I ran away, you know? That day I met Adam. My father kept trying to get me to See Voldemort coming back, but I couldn't. I didn't want to help him. I didn't want to be a Death Eater. I didn't, I don't, want to die."
"Yeah, well, I've got Draco ready to fix that, too," Harry said. "You're going to be fine, so will Hermione. And when we've got Hugo out and everyone safe, then we'll talk about you sleeping with my best friend. I recommend that you hide from Ginny for a while; she's going to be so excited."
Crap, Theo thought to himself, but Harry could read the word on his face because he smiled briefly for the first time that day.
They didn't say anything else; Ron came in, with news that the teams were ready.
"Where's Hermione?" Theo asked as they stepped out of the conference room.
"She forgot Hugo's book, she said he'd want it when we got him back, so she said she'd meet us," Ron replied. "She'll won't be long, she'll be alright."
They left for the warehouse, lead by Draco, one of Harry's senior Aurors and Theo.
Hermione didn't show up.
The warehouse looked completely empty, but the law enforcement department trusted Harry's judgement when he trusted Draco's - they'd had to spend a lot of time together in the beginning and though their friendship was tentative, he knew that Draco was good at his job. If the man said that La Oscurità had Hugo in there, then they had Hugo in there.
"You know the plan, Theo?" Draco asked.
He nodded hesitantly. "I go in and confront Danny Rayner, providing a distraction while you lot come in. You get Hugo, Atkins gets La Oscurità, I try not to die in the process and we all live happily ever after." He turned to Draco. "Did I forget anything?"
"No, that's pretty much it," he said, slapping his shoulder. "Off you go."
"Astoria knows what to do... if anything happens," Theo told him quietly.
"Yeah, I know. Though I thought he'd have gone to Harry and Ginny," he joked halfheartedly.
"Are you kidding? Astoria would have killed me," he played along, though he thought it might be true if he hadn't made the woman her nephew's guardian. "Ginny understands that."
"Well, he hasn't told her yet," Harry cut in. "But I think she'd be okay. Come on, Theo, before Ron pushes you inside."
The serious tone fell over them, like a thick blanket ready to suffocate them all, and it took a slight push and sheer willpower to force himself to move forward. But once he told himself it was all to save a little boy, that he was finally the hero he wanted to be when he was seven, it was easy. He opened the door, letting it squeak and bang closed; they were waiting for him after all. Once inside, he followed his instincts, a feeling he know thought had something to do with his ability. He just felt like he knew the way, since he'd never actually dreamt of this.
At the end of the corridor, he stopped in front of a man; he was young, with dark eyes and a nose that looked like it had recenty been broken and hadn't yet been healed.
"He's waiting for you," was all he said. Then he turned, expecting Theo to follow.
The guy led Theo into a large storage facility, with boxes, large and small, along the wall, and a little boy in the corner standing next to a familiar looking, grown man.
"Blaise!" he called, both shocked and relieved that his friend was here.
"What trouble have you gotten into this time, Theodore?" Blaise growled.
"Adam's Theo," the little boy cried out before the man could comment on his friend's question.
"Yeah," he answered. "I've come to take you home, Hugo."
"How sweet," came a new voice. Danny Rayner stepped into the storage room, circling Theo before stopping in front of him. "Hello, Nott. Remember me?"
Theo did, he'd seen him every day in the court room during Marcus Rayner's trail. But he shook his head, acting cooler than he felt. "Nope, sorry. Remember your brother, though. Is he enjoying his cell? I haven't had a chance to visit yet."
He should have anticipated the pinch, but it came too quick and blood gushed from his nose before he could act. Theo turned to Hugo, thankful that his friend had turned the boy around, hiding his face in Blaise's shirt.
"I'm going to enjoy this, Nott," Danny promised. "I'm going to make your last day on this Earth hell. Starting with your new girlfriend."
That got Theo's attention, as well as Blaise's. Danny snapped his fingers and one of his men, not the guy with the broken nose this time, dragged in Hermione. He knew she was scared and confused, but she hid it well, kicking and screaming until she saw her son.
"Mummy?" he called back, but he didn't turn around.
"Theo, what's happening?" she asked him.
"I'm so sorry," he said instead. He glared at Danny. "You have me now, let them go."
"No," he said. "Besides I like her, she has spirit." Danny pulled Hermione roughly to him and stood behind her, his breath on her neck. She tried to get away, revulsion clear on her face. "Should we tell her, Theo? About your dreams? I've been watching you for a while, both of you, and I know all about them. Mostly anyway; I know you dream about her, I just don't know what they're about."
"What's he talking about, Theo?" she demanded to know. "Tell me."
"Theo's a low-level Seer," Danny answered her when Theo didn't. "He only has dreams, he doesn't practice. He doesn't open up his mind to more. He could have been a good ally until he locked up my brother."
"He deserved it," Theo spat. "It's true. I have dreams. I've dreamt about you, Hermione. For a while now."
"What do you See?"
He didn't answer, he shook his head and glanced at Hugo. Hermione understood, but Danny wanted him to talk. The curse came out of no where; Theo fell to his knees, he bit his lip because he refused to cry out. Blaise held Hugo tighter when he squirmed, trying to get free, and whispered reassuring things to him.
"You die," he whispered. "I lose you."
"That was his 'evidence', you know,?" Danny continued bitterly. "That's how he locked up my brother; he Saw it. He Saw the evidence and he took the police to it. That's it; no fancy detective work, just a couple of dreams."
"Good," Hermione bit out. "Your brother is a monster, you all are."
"Family is family," was all he said, his wand pointed at Theo again. Then he moved it to Hermione's neck. "He loves you, you know. Or he could have anyway."
No one knew exactly what had happened; one moment everything was silent, the next an explosion echoed around the room, distracting Danny. The boxes blew up simultaneously, all around the room.
"Blaise!" Theo yelled, clumsily getting to his feet.
It was all his friend needed to move into action, picking Hugo up and carrying him out of the room. From the corner of his eye, he saw Draco's team. Hugo was safe now; he had to get Hermione. He scanned the room for Danny to find him gone, Hermione as well.
He knew the way. It played out exactly as he remembered it; he fell to his knees on the stairs, he found the door to the roof of the warehouse and he moved to Hermione. She fell as he got there and he grabbed her arms.
"I've got you," he whispered reassuringly, needing the empty promise.
"Don't let me go," Hermione said. But she wasn't an idiot; he'd told her he dreamt of her dying, she knew this was it. "I love you, Theo."
"I love you," he finally replied.
She fell and he screamed; the dream played out exactly. But he'd never Seen what had happened after she had fallen, he'd never looked over the edge of the roof. And he wished he had; Hermione seemed to fall in slow motion and he recognized the spell as the one Dumbledore had used to save Harry during a Quidditch game in third year. Arms stretched out through a window he'd seen on the ground and caught her.
Breathing out, he ran down. His breath was gone by the time he got to the ground floor and he found Harry holding Hermione his arms, Hugo in her's.
"I told you I was good," he said.
"Thank you," Theo whispered gratefully. He'd never seen the end the dream, he felt like he'd missed the happy ending at the end of a movie. He stepped out to move to her...
And stopped. The gun shot scared everyone, people screamed and ducked. Theo stared in silence, his eyes on Danny Rayner, then he looked down at his side.
Then he fell.
A/N: One last chapter, already written and ready to be posted. You'll find out why Hermione said she loved him in the last chapter, as well as some other things... ;)
Hope you enjoyed. Please let me know what you think and I'll post the last chapter soon. :)
Chapter 10: A Long Over Due Holiday
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Harry and Blaise got to Theo first, hands on the bloody wound seeping through their fingers. The healer Draco had called that morning to check out Hugo and Blaise came next, quickly working on the wound. They managed to slow the bleeding, but the healer couldn't heal the wound until the got the bullet out; he had to go to St. Mungo's.
"You're lucky, Mr. Nott," she told him. "It just missed your major organs. The quicker we get you to the hospital, the quicker we can help. But you should be fine."
"You sure about that? Should we shoot you and see how you feel? Because it bloody hurts," Theo said through gritted teeth.
"Oh, he'll definitely be okay," Blaise told Harry thankfully.
They helped him stand, wrapped his arms over their shoulders, ready to take him to the hospital. Theo cried out as Harry leant into his bandaged side, but he didn't get a chance to apologize.
"Harry, we can't find him anywhere," Atkins said. "Danny Rayner and the rest of La Oscurità are gone."
"Keep looking for him," Harry ordered. "Get the Hit Wizards out, get everyone you can and find him. After everything he's done recently, I want him behind bars."
"Yes sir," Atkins replied quickly, then gave orders of his own for everyone else.
They Apparated Theo to the hospital, the rest following, but Theo didn't remember any of that. He passed out the moment they touched the floor.
He woke up groggy, sore and in a bed that he was sure was not his own, but he didn't focus on that. He woke up; waking up meant not dying and that was all he cared about. Danny Rayner had missed, Harry had caught Hermione, Hugo was okay; they were alive and that was all that mattered.
He stared up at the plain, white ceiling and let the memories come back, content in just lying there. He didn't know that he wasn't alone until someone squeezed his hand. His instincts told him who it was before he turned to face her, that and her perfume, and he wasn't surprised to find Hermione sitting next to him. By her side, sleeping peacefully in another chair, was Hugo.
"I don't want to let him out of my sight," she whispered. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I've been shot," he muttered dryly. "Where's Alexei?"
"He's outside with Astoria," Hermione explained briefly. "He's telling everyone his daddy is a hero. All he really knows about yesterday is that you got hurt getting Hugo, though."
"Yesterday?" Theo asked.
"You've been asleep for most of yesterday and half of today. It's almost five pm," she said. She pushed his hair back with her hand and smiled down at him. "After everything you've done, you deserved the rest."
He didn't disagree. Actually, he thought he deserved a holiday. Only he was confused as to what was happening in his personal life - he didn't know who else was coming with him.
"On the roof," Theo started softly. "You said that you loved me. Why?"
"Because I know that I can one day, if anything ever happened between us I'd love you," Hermione answered him honestly. He knew what the hidden message was, that she didn't know what would happen, that it wasn't exactly how she felt now, but he didn't care. It could happen; he could wait. "Why did you say it back?"
"Because I've been falling in love with you for almost a month now," he replied just as honestly.
"When the dreams started?" she guessed.
Theo nodded. "Just before I took the murder case. It was all connected. My dreams have a way of doing that. I dreamt that you lot would go into hiding long before you knew, I just didn't know what you were going to be looking for. Don't tell Harry that."
"I won't tell Ron that either," Hermione promised. "He'd go on about how you should have told us earlier, that it would have saved a lot of trouble."
"It doesn't work that way," Theo murmured, feeling sleep creeping back. The healer's must have given him something strong. "What are you doing during the weekend?"
"Why, Mr. Nott? Are you asking me out on a date?" Hermione teased.
"M-Maybe," he stuttered. "I'll tell you in the morning when I'm not feeling the effects of a sleeping potion."
"Then sleep. I'll give you my answer in the morning."
He barely felt her lips pressed against his forehead.
The next morning, Theo woke up sore but alert; no more potion ran through his body and kept him drowsy. He was awake and he refused to stay in bed another minute. He had to see his son. His healer wouldn't let anyone in until he'd eaten something, though. She even kept watch, so he wouldn't make himself sick scoffing it down just to get out. She also wouldn't let him change out of the hospital's gown and into real clothes, though she did let him change into more comfortable pajama-like bottoms and a t-shirt. He followed her to the ward's waiting room, stood behind her while she knocked on the door.
"Someone insists on seeing you all," she said, opening the door wider for Theo to enter.
"Daddy!" Alexei cried, running into his arms.
Theo picked him up, careful to make sure he held his son on his good side, and squeezed tightly. "God, I've missed you."
"You slept a lot," Alexei stated.
"I know, apparently I needed it." Hr carried Alexei to a chair between Astoria and Harry, sitting Alexei on his knee and caught up with what was happening, though they spoke briefly and in a code, so that the children wouldn't understand - Danny Rayner was still not caught, they had Aurors and Hit Wizards looking for him, his picture and name out to the world, including to the Muggle police, but nothing had come up yet. Hugo told them about the room he'd been kept in and the clues he'd left, but not much else; Rayner hadn't said anything in front of the boy.
The most surprising thing of all was that Hugo didn't seem as effected by it as they thought he should be; it was a traumatic experience being kidnapped, Draco had said. But Ron, Hermione and the rest of the Weasley family were so pleased to have him back that they didn't notice anything off, only Theo, Blaise, Draco and Harry did and they kept it to themselves. The only time Hugo had showed any effect was when he woke up crying during the night; nightmares were common according to Draco.
"Maybe Hugo is just trying to be brave during the day," he'd said. "He does have you as an uncle, after all," he'd continued, pointing at Harry.
No one spoke about Theo and Hermione, not until Theo finished dressing to leave the next day and Ron knocked on his room door.
"Harry has your discharge forms. Hermione didn't want to leave until she knew you were okay, so Hugo wants you to get your ass out of this room so he can go home because he was discharged yesterday. He may not have said it in those words, I'm just translating," Ron said with a small but amused smile.
"You're a good man," Theo said dryly.
"I try," Ron winked. He stopped joking then, looking sincere. "About you and Hermione? It's okay, you know."
"How did you know?" Theo asked. "When I was at your house, you looked at me like you were evaluating me. But you didn't know about my dreams."
"No," he assured Theo. "I didn't know about your dreams until Harry told me the other day while you were unconscious. But when your sister goes on about this great guy who would be really good for your ex, you just have to check him out. I like you," he said after a pause. "I think Ginny might be right and you're good with kids, so I don't have to worry about you with mine. You're okay, it's okay."
"Okay," Theo replied with a grin.
Ron rolled his eyes and left, but Theo felt better about the situation. Now he just needed to plan his holiday.
He found Harry in the main entrance, holding Alexei's hand while he and Hermione spoke. Ron stood a little away, carrying Hugo in his arms.
"Hey, Daddy," Alexei said, holding up his arms to he carried as well. Theo did as he wanted and held him tightly. "Are we going home now?"
"Yeah, we're going home."
"Wait, Hugo wants to say something to you," Hermione said. "Hugo."
"Thank you for finding me," the little boy muttered. "Sucks that you got hurt."
"I'm okay, it's you I was worried about," Theo answered.
Hugo shrugged and Ron carried him to the fireplaces to floo him home. "It was great talking to you," he called out. He turned to Hermione. "Nice kid."
"He's kinda quiet," she answered.
"Rose said he's shy, but Lily said he just doesn't like people," Alexei said to him. "I think Lily is right."
Theo whispered in his son's ear that he shouldn't say things like that about a person, especially in front of a person's parents, but Hermione just smiled and told them that Hugo himself said it.
"I should get back to him," Hermione said at last, saying good bye. Her smile was a little wider for Theo. "I'll see you on Saturday."
"Ginny's so excited," Harry sighed, clapping him on the back. "Come on, I'm here to take you home."
Harry led Theo to the fireplace, where he held the powder for him to take and said good bye. The moment he touched the floor of his apartment, he felt better, like life was finally normal again.
"Daddy, Uncle Blaise is asleep on the couch again," Alexei said, wiggling free from his dad's arms.
Yep, definitely normal.
Theo waited for Alexei to leave the room, then he moved to the couch and cautiously shook Blaise awake in fear of being hit like the last time he'd woken his friend up.
Blaise jumped up, groggy and half asleep, but thankfully kept his hands by his sides. "What?"
"You're on my couch."
"Oh. Yes." Blaise sat up and rubbed his eyes. "How are you?"
"I think that maybe I should ask you that," Theo answered honestly. "Why are you here?"
"To talk to you about Hugo Weasley."
"I just met him, he's a strange kid," he said. "He just shrugs and stares."
"Yeah, I noticed that, too, when we were held hostage," Blaise muttered.
"Sorry, I know it must have been hard."
"That's why I'm here, Theo." Running hand hand through his already messed up hair, Blaise checked the hall to make sure Alexei was in his room and shut the living room door. "They left us in that room, I was with Hugo the whole time until the end, and he just sat there. He freaked them out. There's something not right about that kid. It's like he doesn't notice the bad things that happen. If he were older, I'd say that he doesn't care. So I hoped you'd look into that, because I want to be sure that I'm not just a bad person who can't handle kids. I was useless until I broke the guy's nose and got us out, but even that went wrong."
"I'm on holiday, Blaise, I'm not working on of your little PI cases now."
Theo walked away, sure that Blaise was just paranoid and excited to eat normal food. He was stopped in his tracks by Blaise's strong grip on his shoulder and turned around.
"Don't think about Hugo as one of my crazy ideas, think of him as your future stepson," Blaise smiled, knowing that he'd gotten to Theo. "Help your future stepson."
"I hate you," Theo groaned. "Watch Alexei."
He Apparated to St. Mungo's before he could change his mind.
It was surprisingly easy to get into the hospital's personnel files. Theo flirted with the receptionist for five minutes before being allowed access into the ward. He suspected she was lonely and he tried not to feel guilty about it, but his mind had a surprising new ability to think about more than one thing at once. He focused on the work problem; it was okay getting on the ward and even finding the archive room. It was finding the file he wanted that was the problem.
Theo went through the room three times before he found the Ws, then shifted through each one till he got to 'Weasley'. After that finding Hugo's was a little easier and he found himself reading through the file a few minutes later. Hermione had been right about the medical doctor who'd examined her son and talked about his eidetic memory and IQ, but she'd never mentioned the therapists he'd been sent to. The information was small, not going into detail about the sessions, but the things the notes could mention referenced is 'quiet demeanor' and 'lack of response'. He figured out that they'd recommended more tests and a potential medical diagnosis because there was one scheduled into his notes by a healer on the next page.
Theo shut the file away and checked for alarms and wards before duplicating the file. He put the original file away and shrunk the second before sneaking away and flooing to the Ministry.
"Tell me about this," Theo asked, throwing the duplicate file onto Harry's desk. He'd known the man would be there because he'd heard him tell Hermione about a bit of paperwork he needed to write up. Harry was surprised to see Theo, he could tell.
He watched Harry open up the file and his mood darkened. "You had no right to take this, it's private and I'm not sure it's even legal."
"Then arrest me," Theo shrugged, though he really hoped the man wouldn't. "Do you think that Hugo has a medical problem?"
"Why do you need to know about a kid who isn't even yours?" Harry almost pleaded.
"Because according to Blaise he just sat there, apparently he even freaked the gang out, and he needs to know if Hugo is okay, or if he's just really bad with kids because he didn't feel like he was helping until he actually got them out of the room." Theo leant onto the desk. "Just tell me what's what, so I can kick the guy out of my house."
"Blaise is bad with kids, he hates kids" Harry said, positive it was true. "But he did nothing wrong with Hugo. I don't think he has a medical problem, he's just different. George calls him a brat. Draco calls him an evil genius - yeah. I've heard that. I have no idea. He's only six years old, he's just being different. Who knows what type of person he'll be when he's older? He's one of life's great mysteries.
"Now, this is a duplicate, right?" Theo nodded, not exactly sure what he'd learnt about Hugo, but sure he could satisfy Blaise's curiosity enough to get him to leave. Harry continued, "Good, because I'm going to get rid of this, so that no one ever knows that you took something and make me arrest you. Good bye, Theo."
Saying good bye, Theo turned to walk away. Then stopped when he remembered something Lily had said.
"Hugo is bad. Is Lily right?"
Harry shrugged, not knowing that answer at all. "I guess we'll find out when he's older."
A/N: Oooh, look at that sequel opening. Yeah, because this story is in three parts. True story. I don't know when book 2 will be up, but I hope it'll be soon. Till then, I hope you enjoyed this mystery and please let me know what you think. :)