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The sunlight was streaming through the large bay window at the front of the room. Ginny opened her eyes sleepily and yawned, hardly believing it was already time to wake up. She turned on her side to wake her husband, but was surprised to find that Harry was nowhere in sight.
It was strange for him to wake up before her as usually he would sleep as late as he could. Then she noticed the sheets weren’t at all rumpled, as though he hadn’t come to bed the night before. Ginny pulled on her dress robe and headed down the steps in search of her missing husband.
She found his messy black hair almost immediately, over the back of an easy chair directly across from the front door. Ministry documents were strewn around him and Ginny smiled. He’d probably fallen asleep trying to get some last minute work done for the Minister. “Morning, love,” she said quietly.
To her great surprise, Harry turned his head to meet her gaze. The fatigue was clear on his face. Dark shadows circled his bloodshot eyes and his hair was in worse shape than usual. Ginny frowned, worried about her husband’s appearance. “Harry, what’s wrong?” He just shook his head slowly, as though he couldn’t find the words. “Is it something at the Ministry? Did something happen?”
Harry shook his head again. “She’s gone, Gin,” he said.
“What are you talking about?” Ginny asked. “You’re not making any sense.”
“She’s gone,” Harry repeated and Ginny wanted to shake him. Nothing he said meant anything to her, although she knew it couldn’t be good.
“Who’s gone? Harry, you’re scaring me.” Harry raised his eyes to meet her own and turned back to the door as though willing it to open. Fear gripped Ginny’s heart, making it difficult to breathe. “Tell me!”
“Lily never came home last night.”
The Potter home was bustling with Ministry officials. A team of hit wizards had been assigned the investigation and were scouring the house for any shred of evidence. Harry, Ginny, and Albus, who had been woken when the hit wizards arrived, were relegated to the living room where they sat in silence waiting for the team to finish. “I don’t understand why they’re here,” Harry muttered under his breath, shooting a disgusted look toward the hit wizards.
“They’re just doing their jobs,” Ginny replied. She was trying to stay calm, to be the rock for her family as Albus had hardly spoken a word and Harry wasn’t doing much better.
“They’re hit wizards,” Harry said. “Practically useless in the field. I should have requested they send us Aurors. These buffoons have never dealt with dark wizards before.”
“Harry!” Ginny protested, shocked. She couldn’t believe he would say something like that, just assume that dark wizards had been involved. There was no evidence that it was anymore than Lily spending the night with a friend, no proof of anything suspicious. She didn’t want Harry to put any ideas in her son’s head. He may have been of age, but she didn’t want him worrying needlessly.
She glanced at Al, but he was staring listlessly off into space. It didn’t appear as though his parents’ conversation had even registered to him.
Harry quieted at his wife’s request, but shot another glare at the wizard who was making his way over to them. Stilman White was a younger man in his early thirties, but with enough experience to be appointed the leader of the team. “Mr. Potter,” he said with a solemn expression. “I have a few questions for your family if you have no objections.”
“As I have questions for you,” Harry countered. “Why did they send a hit wizard team instead of the Aurors?”
White blinked at him in surprise. “There’s been absolutely nothing that suggests dark wizard involvement, sir. Unless you have information you haven’t told us-”
Harry let out a bitter laugh. “Therein proving your utter incompetence. My daughter is a good girl. She doesn’t stay out all night or disappear without telling us. My enemies would stop at nothing to hurt me, and that includes taking my daughter.”
“With all due respect, Mr. Potter, I’ve seen this type of reaction before. Most parents want to believe the best of their children, even when the facts say otherwise.” He coughed nervously when Harry fixed him with a piercing, emerald stare. “I just need you and your family to answer a few questions regarding the circumstances of your daughter’s disappearance.”
When Harry opened his mouth to retort, Ginny cut in. “Harry, please.” He looked at his wife’s pleading face for a moment and sighed, gesturing for the wizard to continue.
“Thank you.” White sighed in relief and look over his parchment. “When did you last see your daughter?”
“I already told your colleague everything I know. Why do we have to answer these questions again? Your job is to find my daughter, not interrogate me.”
White looked around for support, but neither Ginny nor Al spoke up for him. “Would you please just answer my questions, Mr. Potter? This is your daughter we’re talking about. Anything you say could help me find her.”
Harry gave a jerky nod and eyed the door, still hoping Lily would come skipping through at any moment. He didn’t even hear White asking him a question. “Excuse me?” He said, looking up at the wizard.
“Please, Mr. Potter,” White said tiredly. “Your cooperation here is crucial. When was the last time you saw your daughter.”
“Yesterday afternoon. She was going out,” Harry said as he rubbed his forehead. “I knew I should have sent Al with her.”
“She was going to a movie,” Ginny added. “I think she was going alone.”
“And that was the last time any of you had contact with her?” He scratched a few notes on a roll of parchment when both Harry and Ginny nodded. “Did she meet up with any friends recently?”
“Just Hugo, I think,” Ginny said. She thought hard, but couldn’t remember Lily spending time with any of her Hogwarts friends since July. “She spent a lot of time with Hugo.”
White jotted down a few more notes and Ginny looked away. She didn’t like to think of someone making these notes about her daughter. “What about a boyfriend?”
“Lily doesn’t have boyfriends,” Harry replied instantly. “She’s too young.”
“Mrs. Potter?” White set down his parchment. “Did you know of any boys your daughter may have dated?”
Ginny shook her head. “I don’t think so. Lily was only fifteen. She listened to us. She really was a good girl.”
“I believe you, Mrs. Potter, but if it’s at all possible she had a boyfriend I need to know. Do you know anything, Albus?” He said this gently, urging the boy to tell him everything he knew, but Al only shrugged. “Are you sure? If Lily had a boyfriend she might be out with him.”
“Really now!” Harry said. “My daughter did not have a boyfriend. Why you refuse to believe the truth, I don’t know, but I can assure you if you continue down this line of questioning my daughter will never be found!”
There was a long pause as Harry stared White down. White tapped his quill on the side of the chair before he asked, “Was your daughter having any troubles? At home or with friends or-”
“She didn’t run away!” Harry shouted, standing from his chair. “I’m telling you my daughter is happy, always smiling, always looking on the bright side of things. She never would have run away!”
He stormed out of the living room leaving Ginny and White staring after him. Ginny stood, placing her knitting on the chair. “I better go after him,” she said quietly. “I apologize. You must understand, he’s distraught over Lily. Normally he would never treat you this way.”
“It’s alright,” White said. “I have a few questions for Albus so you go on ahead.” Albus was staring out the window on the opposite side of the room, refusing to make contact with White. The only thing he’d said all morning was a question to his parents immediately after waking up and seeing the hit wizards.
“Albus? Is there anything you want to tell me? Do you know anything about this?” There was a short pause and then Al shook his head. The movement was so slight White would have missed it had he not been looking right at the boy. “Are you alright?” This time Al shrugged. “Would you look at me for a moment? Please Albus, I’m trying to find your sister.”
Al slowly drew his eyes from the window and gazed directly at White. The boy’s emerald green eyes were an exact replica of his father’s. “Are you going to find her?” He asked, his voice breaking in the middle of the question.
White nodded solemnly, keeping eye contact with the younger boy. “I will do my best, I promise.”
Al shook his head again and returned to staring out the window. “That wasn’t what I asked.”
White waited for several minutes, but it became clear he wasn’t going to get any useful information out of the youngest Potter boy. He briefly wondered where the older one was, but decided he could be questioned at another time.
The Potter family was one of the most obstinate he’d ever had to deal with. Every nugget of information had to be cajoled and pried from their memories. They didn’t seem to want to share anything, especially Harry Potter. He’d dealt with important Ministry officials in the house, but not a celebrity like Harry Potter. It was an experience to say the least.
He began to round up the rest of his team, most of whom had little useful information or even none at all, and decided it was time to take their leave. He would have to come back another day to speak to the Potters or else send another to do it.
It was a tempting idea. White had no desire to speak to Potter again until his daughter was returned home safe and sound, but the news would break to the reporters in the next few days and it would become a feeding frenzy. His boss would have his arse if he found out such an important part of the investigation had been delegated.
No, he was the senior hit wizard and as such the responsibility to ensure this case was handled correctly fell to him. He only hoped Potter turned out to be wrong about his daughter. It was much easier to deal with a domestic issue than abduction. Or worse.
A/N: Hey guys! This is my newest project and I really hope you like it! It isn't anything like I've ever done before. It's my Camp NaNo piece, so yes, at the moment it is mostly unedited, but I plan to get a beta reader and fix all the mistakes and awful stuff. I promise it won't always look like this!
Haha, anyways I hope you like it! Leave me a review and tell me what you think! (I always love getting a few good reviews to start off a new story.)
Many thanks to my lovely beta Richele_xo for fixing it up! She totally rocks! =)
The fireplace burned a vibrant green as a newcomer entered, coughing heavily. “Lily!” Ginny shouted. She dropped the dish she was scrubbing in the kitchen and ran to the living room.
She stopped short when she realized it wasn’t her daughter after all. It was a different red head entirely.
“Oh James, thank Merlin you’re here,” she said, pulling him into a hug.
James allowed his mother to hug him, but his face was set in a scowl. “Have you heard anything more about Lily? Aunt Hermione came by to tell me. She said you and Dad were frantic and had called the hit wizards?” When Ginny nodded yes to James’ question he scowled even harder. “What’s going on?”
“Lily didn’t come home last night!” She cried, pulling James into another tight hug. “The hit wizards came over and they’re searching for her, but I don’t know what to do here. They kept asking about boyfriends and running away and-”
Ginny cut herself off to compose herself. She knew she sounded hysterical, but every moment that went by without Lily coming home it got harder and harder to control her inner panic.
She began her to take deep breaths, trying to stay calm for her son. She didn’t want any of her children to be worried and Harry wasn’t helping any. She had to be the calm one.
“Do you want tea?” James asked. He knew it was stupid to ask, but that was what Ginny always did when people were upset.
“I just want to know where Lily is,” she said sadly.
James glanced around, realizing for the first time that there was no one else around. “Where’s Dad? And Al? Shouldn’t they be here with you?”
Ginny shook her head. “Al’s been locked in his room since the hit wizards left. He’s taking this whole ordeal really hard. If you could try to get through to him that would be wonderful.”
“I think he really just needs his older brother. You two were always so close when you were children. If you talked to him-”
“Mum, enough!” James said loudly and then promptly covered his mouth when Ginny looked hurt. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but what about you, Mum? How are you holding up?”
“Me? I’m fine. It’s your brother-”
“Just shut up about Al for a minute, please!” Ginny turned away from him and went back to scrubbing dishes in the kitchen. James sighed and then followed her. “Just talk to me for a few minutes and I promise I’ll go make sure Al’s alright.”
“Your father’s having a real tough time,” Ginny said as she sponged the bowl. “He blames himself for this, you know.”
James sighed, realizing that he wasn’t going to get his mother to talk about herself. “I know, Mum.”
“And I don’t know what Al thinks of this whole thing. Lily’s his baby sister. He’d do anything for her. I don’t think anything worse could have happened to him.” Ginny scrubbed the bowl even harder, not even bothering to clean the whole dish. She remained scrubbing the one small spot.
“You know you could do that with magic,” James said as he pulled out his wand.
Ginny shook her head. “It’s better this way. I need something to take my mind off- you know.” James pocketed his wand and watched his mother continue to work with a concerned look on his face.
“Mum?” He asked cautiously. He’d never quite seen her like this. Ginny had always been one to confront the things that were wrong. He couldn’t ever remember her pretending everything was fine when it wasn’t. “Where’s Dad?”
“At the Ministry. He wanted to talk the Minister into replacing the hit wizards with Aurors.” Ginny scrubbed the bowl even harder in the sink. “Your father doesn’t have much faith in the ability of Stilman White and his team.”
There was a distinct crash and when she lifted the bowl out of the sink she was only holding a small piece. The rest of it had shattered from the force of her cleaning. “Damn it,” she muttered, throwing the extra piece back into the soapy water. She wiped her eyes with her arm and stared at her son in horror. “I’m sorry, James. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, Mum. I can fix the bowl. Why don’t you go sit down in the living room? I’ll be there in a minute.” Ginny nodded and left the kitchen.
Once she was out of sight James ran a hand down his face in frustration. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do. Where was the great Harry Potter when you needed him? He always seemed to be around to play hero for the rest of the world.
He pulled out his wand and waved it at the broken pieces of the dish. “Reparo,” he muttered angrily.
James knew he wouldn’t be able to help his mother. She’d always been the strong one, the one who was there when his father was out saving the rest of the world. He’d never seen her quite so fragile.
“Mum?” He asked when he entered the living room. She had closed her eyes and was leaning back against a large arm chair. “Why don’t you lie down in your room? Rest for a while, you know.”
Ginny nodded and he watched her head up the stairs. When the door clicked shut to her room James knew it was safe to follow. The light in her room was out as he crept past it down the hallway to his younger brother’s room. He knocked on the door gently, but there was no answer. “Al?” He called softly. “You in there?”
The door opened and James rolled his eyes at his younger brother. “Honestly, Al. Lying in bed all day isn’t going to help anything.”
“Then why’d you suggest Mum do it?” Al replied in his flat, emotionless tone.
James stared at him. “How’d you hear our conversation? Did you create more of your little eavesdropping spells?” Al didn’t respond, but James wasn’t looking for an answer. “Merlin, Al! You need to stop hiding in your room and do something to help find Lily.”
“That hit wizard isn’t going to find her,” he said sullenly.
“He what? Oh never mind. Dad’s getting the Ministry to send over Aurors, but they’ll need you to help them, alright?” James opened the window and threw a pair of robes at Al. “Get your clothes on and get downstairs, now.”
There was no movement from the bed for a long period of time and James was just about to raise his wand to dump a bucket of water on his brother when he sat up. “You’re in denial,” Al said. “I was in denial briefly too. You should make it last as long as possible.”
“I’m not in denial,” James retorted. “I’m just looking at the facts and trying to get everyone in this family to act like the adults they are- don’t you shrug your shoulders at me!”
Al continued with the shrug anyway and James through his hands in the air. “Fine! Fine! I’ll leave if you think I’m being a pain in the arse. Merlin, this family.” He shook his head in disgust. “I’ll leave you to your self-pity and misery. When you’re feeling better do try and make sure Mum actually eats something. I don’t think she’s had a meal since yesterday.”
James slammed Al’s bedroom door shut behind him and stormed down the stairs. “Where are you going?” Al called from the top of the steps.
“Home,” James replied. “Clearly I’m not needed here.”
He disappeared from the fireplace and Al sagged against the railing on the steps. Truth be told, he actually liked having his brother around. James was a take charge bloke and always seemed to be in control. Whenever he was around all Al had to do was follow orders and know everything was going to be fine.
But this time James didn’t know everything would be fine. He had no more control than Al did, and that scared him.
James briefly considered stopping by his Aunt Hermione’s place to ask her to check on his mother, but thought better of it and went straight to his flat. He was surprised to see his flat mates waiting for him in their cramped kitchen.
Roxy and Freddie spent their days working at their father’s shop in Hogsmeade. George had given them free reign over the management of it ever since they’d graduated from Hogwarts in the spring. To have them home in early afternoon was odd to say the least.
“What are you two doing here?” James asked.
“We heard about Lily from Dad,” Freddie said. “Merlin James, we’re so sorry.”
James waved off their sympathy. “I really don’t want to talk about it,” he said. He knew his best friends would respect his wishes. There was a reason the three of them had always stuck together, even after leaving Hogwarts.
“Are you sure?” Roxy asked. “I mean, from what we heard it’s getting pretty serious.”
“I just want to go do something, anything.” James ran his fingers through his hair roughly and half fell into a chair. Since he’d seen his mother back at home he hadn’t had much of a chance to think about his baby sister. Who was missing. Fuck. “Let’s go to a pub,” he said suddenly, jumping to his feet.
The twins exchanged a concerned look. “Now?” Roxy asked with a frown. “It’s pretty early.”
“And don’t the Cannons have a game tomorrow?” Freddie added.
“Oh please, I’m the last reserve chaser. Like they’d play me. Let’s have a night out- an afternoon out.” James looked at his cousins and best friends, pleading with them. This would be the perfect thing to take his mind off his family. A few shots of firewhiskey and it would all be forgotten.
A/N: Hey! I'm back with chapter two. I'm going to be posting new chapters every Monday (hopefully) since I've got a bunch prewritten. I just have to make sure they're edited first, haha. So I've introduced more characters. What do you think?
And thanks to my lovely beta Richele_xo!
Al awoke the next morning with a start. His room was filled with noise so loud he had to cover his ears. It sounded as though a hundred people were all screaming at once. It took him several moments to realize that he was alone in his room, but his sensors were going off like mad.
James had been right in saying that he’d set eavesdropping charms in all the rooms of the house, but he’d also placed a few outside. He wanted to be able to hear any news of Lily first, before someone decided they needed to sanitize it for him.
He groped for his wand on his bedside table and waved it furiously, muting the sensors. The voices subsided instantly and Al lay back on his bed, relieved. He couldn’t remember falling asleep the night before, but he must have done so at some point.
A bright flash caught his eye out the window and Al leapt out of bed to check what it was. He hadn’t caught anything from his overloaded sensors. A mass of people were gathered on his front lawn.
He couldn’t see exactly who any of them were, but he could make out both of his parents standing just outside the door.
Ginny was shaking as she stood outside. She’d only come out to find where Harry had gone to, but now she was frozen in place. The reporters had surfaced and they all wanted to know exactly what was going on.
“Mrs. Potter! How do you feel about your daughter’s disappearance?”
“Is it true Lily was abducted?”
“Did the Death Eaters have anything to do with this?”
“Mr. Potter, what can you tell us about her abduction?”
“Why did she run away, Harry?”
“Enough!” Harry shouted, attempting to bring the noise level down. “I will have the Ministry arrest each of you for trespassing if you don’t get off my property this instant!” A few of the younger reporters drifted back, but most seemed to ignore his threats.
“Tell us Harry, what’s the truth here?”
Harry felt a surge of anger towards the reporters. His wife was cowering by his side and he pulled out his wand, ready to curse the next person who asked him a question. He had just started to form the words in his mouth when a few loud cracks disoriented him.
Ron and Hermione appeared beside their friends with scowls on their faces directed toward the press. Hermione instantly put her arms around Ginny and pulled her friend inside while Ron stayed out on the porch with Harry.
“It’s all going be to alright, mate,” he said under his breath so none of the reporters could make out what he was saying. “Just put the wand down and let’s get inside.”
Harry’s arm shook, but he wasn’t about to let the blood thirsty reporters off the hook. They were like carnal beasts out to get any bit of information on the Potter family they could find.
“Harry,” Ron said again. He placed his hand on his best friend’s arm and helped him lower it. “Come on.”
Harry nodded and allowed his friend to lead him back inside. Hermione was sitting with Ginny on the sofa with a hard scowl on her face. “The nerve of those people! It makes me ill.”
“How did they know?” Harry asked numbly. It had been the first thing he thought when he found them outside first thing that morning. “This hasn’t been news. The Minister promised it would stay quiet.”
“Someone must have tipped them off,” Ron said angrily. “When I find the son of a bitch who did it-” He stopped when he noticed the look Hermione was shooting him. That was when he realized Ginny was crying silently, tears gently streaming down her cheeks. “I’m sorry Gin. We’ll make this better.”
She nodded sadly and Hermione wrapped a comforting arm around her shoulders. Ron pulled Harry out of ear shot of their wives. “So you think this was a Death Eater that we missed?”
“Couldn’t have been,” Harry said as he shook his head. “We got them all. Everyone with a brand was sent to Azkaban for life.”
Ron shot a glance at his wife and sister and pulled Harry even further away. “Every Death Eater except Malfoy. I know he was cleared since he was barely of age when it all happened and he told us everything, but something didn’t sit right with me about the whole deal.” Ron shrugged. He’d always thought Malfoy had something up his sleeve. No one gave him a second thought after he did a brief stint in Azkaban, but he’d always had his suspicions. Now if it turned out Malfoy had done something to his niece- heads would roll.
“You think Malfoy could have done this? He was always a slimy git, but kidnapping?” Harry thought for a moment. He didn’t really think Malfoy had it in him to do something this awful all these years later, but there weren’t any other leads on his daughter’s whereabouts and he would do anything to get her back. “Can you get the necessary paperwork from the Ministry?”
“I’ll meet you at the Malfoy Manor in two hours. We’ll take down this son of a bitch and get my Lily back.” He clapped Ron on the shoulder and left his best friend staring after him.
“Wait! Harry!” Ron jogged after him, unsure of how to break the news. “Penglaze isn’t going to like that idea. He’s a decent enough bloke, but-” He stopped, unsure of how to go on. Harry had never been fond of waiting on the sidelines, especially when it involved his family.
“This is my daughter, Ron!” Harry hissed through clenched teeth.
“Exactly. Look, I hate to it say, but Penglaze is going to view that as a conflict of interest.” Ron sighed and rubbed his head tiredly. “I know you want to go give Malfoy a shakedown, but if anything happens to him they’re going to blame you.”
“How would you feel if it was Rose?” Harry shot back. “If Rose was the one missing and you found out Malfoy might have her? Would you sit on your arse all day and wait for the Aurors to look for her or would you go out and find her yourself?”
Ron had paled considerably when Harry said Rose’s name. “D’you think she might be in trouble? If Malfoy got to Lily, Rose and Hugo could be next.”
Harry shook his head. He didn’t want to say as much to Ron, but kidnapping his daughter wouldn’t be nearly as symbolic as taking Lily. “Just get down to the Ministry. If Penglaze tries to stop me I’ll get the Minister to override him. He’ll just have to hope he can keep his job.”
“Harry-” Ron tried to say, although his cause was pointless. When Harry got it in his head to do something nothing would dissuade him. And he was powerful enough in the Ministry that no one could threaten his job security. They couldn’t justify firing Harry Potter, no matter what kind of protocols he broke.
Ron went back into the living and over to Hermione. “I’m off to the Ministry.” He turned to leave, then thought better of it and turned back. “Would you mind if I floo Rose and Hugo over here? With Lily gone I’m not sure I want them left on their own.”
Hermione nodded. “Of course not. They might be a comfort for poor Al.”
She went back to stroking her best friend’s hair as Ginny sobbed into her shoulder. Hermione would have loved to be able to comfort her, but she didn’t know how. If it was her Rose or Hugo missing she wasn’t sure she’d be able to get out of bed in the morning, let alone function the way Ginny had until she broke down.
A loud crack startled Hermione from her sitting position. She whipped out her wand and had it pointed at the intruder’s heart before she realized it was only her nephew. “What the hell is going on?” James asked. “There were reporters at my flat!”
“Ron thinks someone from the Ministry tipped them off,” Hermione said. She pocketed her wand and gestured for James to have a seat, although he only crossed his arms and remained standing.
“Someone like my father, perhaps?” He asked bitterly. When he noticed Hermione’s shocked look he rolled his eyes. “Don’t play stupid, Aunt Hermione. You work at the Ministry, you know what it’s like. No one cares about anything there unless it’s high profile. Best way to do that is get it on the front page of The Prophet.”
Hermione shot a warning look towards James when Ginny began crying harder. “You wouldn’t say something like that if you’d seen the look on his face earlier.”
“You underestimate my father.”
“I’ve known him since he started Hogwarts and he wouldn’t expose you or your mother like that,” Hermione said sharply. “And if you’re going to spread your bitterness around here maybe you should just leave. It’s not helping anything.”
James scoffed at her, but he wasn’t ready to leave yet. He wanted to have a few words with his father. “Do you know where Dad went?”
“Leave him alone, James,” Hermione said tiredly. She couldn’t handle James picking a fight with Harry, not now. “He’s distraught over Lily’s disappearance. Don’t make him feel even worse about himself.”
“Whatever,” James muttered. “I lived here until a month ago and it’s my sister that’s missing.”
Hermione closed her eyes briefly, as though in pain. “I apologize,” She said finally. “Our emotions are all running high, but we shouldn’t be fighting with each other. Please sit. We’re on the same side.”
For a moment it appeared as though James would stand his ground, but then he sank into an easy chair by the fireplace. “James.” James leapt out of his seat as his father’s voice. Harry sounded surprised to see him there. “What are you doing here?”
“Lily’s missing. I figured I should be around in case I’m needed, not that you care.” James glared at his father, a fury boiling in his gut. “You didn’t even bother telling me. I heard it from Aunt Hermione.”
Harry looked unsure of himself which he hardly ever was. His oldest son often did that to him. “You have a game tonight. I didn’t want it to affect the Cannons.”
“Bullshit,” James spat. “I’m their second reserve Chaser. What I’m feeling doesn’t affect the other players.”
“I don’t have time for this, James,” Harry said. He frowned at his son as he noticed something a bit off. His eyes were just a little too red and his breath smelled of something familiar. “Are you drunk?” Harry hissed.
James covered his mouth immediately. He hadn’t had time to brush his teeth that morning and should have guessed that he still smelled of firewhiskey from the pub the night before. “No! I may have had a few shots last night, but I swear I’m sober.”
“I really don’t have time for this,” Harry repeated. He wished his son would grow up and act more mature, find new ways to handle frustrations. “I have an urgent Ministry meeting to attend. Ginny? Could you help me with something?”
Ginny nodded and shakily wiped her eyes on her sleeve. When both she and Harry were gone from the room James dropped back into his chair. “Everything sucks without Lily.”
“Things will be back to normal when the Aurors find her,” Hermione said.
“So the Aurors have the lead now? The hit wizards are gone for good?” James asked. He didn’t know anything about the investigation. No one had come to question him or anything, which seemed like shoddy work in his opinion. He assumed it had just fallen through the cracks.
“I believe that was what Harry indicated,” Hermione replied. James watched her carefully, taking note of exactly how she sat, her hands folded in her lap. She looked calm and relaxed, not as though her youngest niece was missing.
“Can I ask you something personal?” James asked as he blushed a deep red that was nearly the same color as his hair.
Hermione raised an eyebrow. “Has my saying no ever stopped you before?”
James grinned ruefully back at her. A few years ago he wouldn’t have even asked for permission, he’d have blurted the question right out. “How do you and Dad and Uncle Ron stay so- I don’t know. Level headed, I guess.”
Hermione thought about the question for a moment before answering. “I wouldn’t necessarily call Harry level headed the way he’s acting now, but it comes from the war. When Voldemort and his Death Eaters were in power, devastating events happened nearly every day. You couldn’t afford to fall apart. I guess sometimes these reactions just become a part of you.”
“Oh,” James said with a slight nod. He couldn’t imagine being able to take news like that sitting down, but it made sense.
“James, if you think you feel as though you need to drink your pain away, maybe you should talk to someone,” Hermione said. She wasn’t sure how badly he would react to her words, but James only rolled his eyes.
“I had a few shots with Roxy and Freddie at the pub,” he explained. “That’s hardly cause for concern. I’ve probably done that a dozen times in the last month.”
Hermione sighed and nodded. She had assumed that would be his defense, but it was her job to ask. “Well if you do need to talk to someone-”
“Which I don’t,” James cut in.
“But if you ever want to I’m sure Teddy would love to help.”
James kicked his legs up and rested them on the corner of the coffee table in a defiant gesture. “The only thing I need now is a little nap, so if you don’t mind?”
Hermione sighed and waved her wand, casting a shadow around James’s still figure. She stood and decided to go see if her other nephew was faring any better. He hadn’t been out of his room since she’d been there and Al was sure to need a comforting hand.
James cracked an eyelid to watch her leave and felt a twinge of regret that he’d made her leave. Having a bit of company was nice, it kept him from delving too far into his own thoughts. Roxy and Freddie had used all their tricks to amuse him last night and Hermione distracted him for a bit this morning, and now for the first time since Lily disappeared he was on his own with his thoughts.
A/N: Here's the next chapter, just like I promised! This may be the first time I've ever updated something on time... Anyway, thanks for all the lovely reviews you guys left me on the last chapter! They really made my day! Especially the one that got the Stilman White reference!
Thanks as always to my lovely beta Richele_xo!
Chapter Four: Malfoy Manor
Harry paced anxiously outside the gate of Malfoy Manor. He checked his pocket watch again only to find that it was exactly thirty seconds later than the previous time he had checked it.
Ron was supposed to have arrived with Penglaze and two pairs of Aurors over twenty minutes ago and he was more than prepared to burst in and find his daughter. Harry cringed as the minute hand finally ticked over. Every time it did made it more likely Malfoy would get wind of their search and move her.
Finally he spotted his best friend walking down the street toward him, although he was very much alone. “About time you showed up. Where’s everyone else?”
“They’ll be here soon,” Ron said, his tone cool and dismissive. “But er- Penglaze doesn’t exactly- well that is to say- he’s not fond of the idea that you’re a part of this. He wants you sidelined.”
“Like hell I will be!” Harry replied. He glanced around as he realized how loud his voice had been and continued on in a quieter tone. “We’ve been over this before.”
“I know, I know. I’m just the messenger here,” Ron said. He heard a few faint cracks from down the street and knew he didn’t have much time left. “Look, I’m on your side, but Penglaze is a stickler for protocol and anyone other than you wouldn’t even be privy to our information.”
Harry scowled even harder. “Maybe someone ought to remind Penglaze that I was offered the Head Auror position before him.”
Ron sighed, knowing when to accept defeat. When Harry began using his Potter fame to get things done it wasn’t good. He generally left a trail of angry and disgruntled powerful people in his wake. The fact that it only happened on rare occasions didn’t make him feel much better.
Galen Penglaze finally joined them and with him were five other wizards, Stilman White and two of his team and a pair of Aurors by the names of Grayson McManahan and Carlen Lawson.
Harry remembered Grayson from his days as an Auror. The wizard was only a few years younger than he was and had built quite a reputation at the Ministry for being a hard arse. The other Auror was quite young as he only looked to be about twenty two.
“You put a rookie on my daughter’s investigation?” Harry asked in fury. He didn’t know how they ever expect to find her if they kept placing incompetent people in charge.
“Lawson is a good Auror, Potter. I’ve given you the best we have.” Penglaze was a thin, stern man with thin lips that were often drew in a harsh line. The first time Harry had seen him he’d been strongly reminded of McGonagall. Penglaze had turned out to be a good man for the job, but that didn’t mean he and Harry didn’t have their disputes from time to time.
“A good Auror? He doesn’t look any older than my son. Are you quite sure he’s graduated from Hogwarts?” Harry frowned at the younger man who looked increasingly nervous and unsure of himself.
Penglaze shook his head in dismissal. “Harry, are we going to conduct the raid or not?” Ron asked in an attempt to diffuse the tension. “This isn’t about you.” Harry nodded tersely and followed the wizards up to the large manor on the hill.
They knocked on the door and stood there waiting, wands out in preparation for a fight. Draco Malfoy opened the door with a confused look on his face as it was still quite early in the morning and he wasn’t expecting any visitors. “What’s this about?” He asked.
“Mr. Malfoy, I’m going to have to ask you to wait out here while we conduct a search of your residence,” Penglaze said firmly, leaving no room for debate. “If you or your family attempts to disrupt the integrity of this search you will be forced to surrender your wands and accompany us back to the Ministry. Do you understand?”
Malfoy looked wild eyed from Penglaze to Harry. “No- I’ve got no idea what you’re on about. I haven’t done anything.” One of the hit wizards hustled out of the house with iron grips on Malfoy’s wife Astoria and son Scorpius. Both looked fearful and bedraggled, Scorpius was still in his pajamas. “I demand to know on what grounds do you come storming into my house!”
“Mr. Malfoy, I’m going to have to ask you to step back and allow the Aurors and hit wizards to do their duties.” Malfoy did step back and allowed them to enter his home, but he did not look pleased about it.
Harry stormed into the house behind Ron, but found himself held back and helpless. He was only able to move when he quit attempting to continue forward and took a step back. “Let me in,” he said to Penglaze, glaring at the older man fiercely.
“Potter, how much do you know about protocol?” Penglaze asked without a single twitch of his wand.
Harry shook his head. “I don’t care about your damned protocol, I just want to find my daughter.”
“That’s what this is all about?” Malfoy asked. The anger had dropped away from his face and he looked at Harry with something akin to pity. “You won’t find her here.”
The fury that had been boiling in the pit of Harry’s stomach suddenly surged and he hurled himself at Malfoy. “Where is she, you son of a bitch!” He shouted, his arm across the other man’s throat. “Where are you keeping her?”
Malfoy tried to push him off, but Harry was too strong. Astoria Malfoy cried out in fear and Scorpius shouted, “Dad!” It only lasted for a moment as Penglaze whipped out his wand to separate the men.
“Potter, that’s enough!” He said, glaring at the distraught father. He was panting heavily and strained against the spell to get back at his former school enemy. “I won’t have you disrupting this investigation!”
“You heard him,” Harry said through clenched teeth.”He’s mocking us. He isn’t keeping her here.”
“He’s not keeping her anywhere,” Astoria protested. “We wouldn’t do something like that.” Malfoy rubbed his neck where Harry’s forearm had pushed painfully against it and nodded mutely.
“Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater. Which one of your old comrades asked you to take her?” Harry asked. He refused to believe Malfoy didn’t know where Lily was. Some clue to her whereabouts had to be found here, it was their only lead. “Have you visited Lucius in Azkaban lately? Did he give you a few suggestions?”
“My father died last month,” Malfoy replied tightly. “And I’m not the boy I used to be. We all grew up after the war, we all changed.”
Harry took a threatening stride toward Malfoy and Penglaze grabbed the back of his robes despite the spell. “I’m warning you, Potter,” he said. “One more word and I’ll have the Minister remove your access to the investigation.”
Harry shook him off and his eyes narrowed. “Maybe I’ll have the Minister remove your access to the investigation.”
“I’m not a fan of threats,” Penglaze responded as his lips thinned. Only Harry Potter would dare to threaten the Head Auror and one of the most powerful men in the Ministry. And only Harry Potter could get away with it.
Ron left the Manor, shaking his head in defeat. “They’re still searching, but it doesn’t look like she’s here, Harry.” Nothing they had seen inside even hinted that Lily had ever been there. As much as he wanted to believe Malfoy was behind it all the evidence just wasn’t holding up.
“The ferret practically admitted he had her someplace else,” Harry spat in disgust. “Can you check with the Ministry to see if he owns any other houses, maybe in different countries?”
“Hold on a minute,” Malfoy said as he got over the spontaneous attack. His blond hair was mussed in a thoroughly unattractive way and he didn’t seem to have any idea about it. “I’ve never seen your daughter. You’re never going to find her if you keep looking into me.”
“Listen up Malfoy,” Ron said as he put an arm around his best friend’s shoulder and stared down the blond man. “I’ll have my men keeping an eye on you. If you put so much as a toe out of line, we’ll haul your arse into Azkaban.”
Malfoy took a step forward and scowled at the two men in front of him. “Potter, Weasley, I understand how much pain you must be feeling now, but know that I am not the man you are looking for. I know nothing about your daughter. Now get out of my home. I won’t be so forgiving a second time.”
He stalked inside and Harry looked to the Head Auror for support. “You’re just letting him go back inside? What about the search?”
“You heard, Weasley. They aren’t finding anything.” Penglaze turned to Astoria and Scorpius were still waiting by the garden. “You may go back in as well.”
“They need more than thirty minutes!”
“We will stay and question the Malfoys, but you are done here.”
Ron’s mouth dropped open. “But it’s his daughter who’s missing!”
“You too, Weasley. If I can’t trust the two of you to be objective then you’re not going to be involved. Take him home and make sure he stays there.” Penglaze went inside the Manor and shut the door behind himself.
The two men left behind were fuming. “I can’t believe this,” Ron muttered. “We were the best Auror pair in the department. You’d think he would want all the help he can get.”
“Let’s go,” Harry said. “We’re not going to get any more information out of them.”
Ron stared at him in surprise. “You’re not going home, are you?”
“Of course not,” Harry said. “But I’ll need the Minister on my side when Penglaze gets back. You’ll help, right?”
Ron smiled at his best friend. “I’ll do whatever it takes to get Lily back. With you and me on the case she’ll be back within the week.”
“Thanks mate,” he said, gratefully. Even when it seemed like the whole world was working against him he could always count on Ron.
A/N: So here's a Harry chapter for those of you wondering what he was doing at the Ministry. He certainly is an...interesting character to write. You'll be seeing more of him later on.
Don't forget to review and let me know what you're thinking! =)
Chapter Five: Talking to a Reporter
Al sat across from Rose on his bed. They hadn’t said more than two words since she’d arrived that morning with her parents. That was fine by Al. Most people demanded on talking about their feelings, but with Rose it was okay to sit in complete silence.
A knock sounded on the door across from them and he looked up, startled. He wasn’t used to not knowing everything that went on downstairs, but Rose didn’t like his eavesdropping sensors and he had to mute them while she was around.
Hermione peeked in through the slight crack in the door and smiled at the two teenagers. “Al? Rose? I’ve got lunch ready if you want any.” Al glanced at Rose. He didn’t feel hungry at all even though he hadn’t eaten much since Lily had disappeared and he didn’t want to keep Rose from eating if she was hungry, but he didn’t want to spend time with his Aunt. She always asked too many questions.
“No thanks, Mum,” Rose said, sensing Al’s indecision. “I think we’ll just finish up our summer work for Hogwarts.”
“But neither of you have eaten anything all day,” Hermione said. “That’s not healthy.”
Al was glad she didn’t know he hadn’t eaten anything the previous day either or she would have forced him downstairs. His stomach felt as though it was tied in a knot and the thought of food was nauseating at best. “We’ll have some later, we’re just in the middle of Juniper’s Defense Against the Dark Arts essay.”
Rose may have been working on the essay, but Al didn’t even have parchment out. It was clear to Hermione Rose was covering for him, but she was an intelligent girl. If she thought Al was better off in his room she must have had a reason.
“Gran is coming over soon. Will you at least come down and speak to her?” Hermione asked. She wouldn’t have asked if she thought Al was better on his own, but it might help him to see more people than just Rose.
“Of course, Mum,” Rose replied calmly. When Hermione nodded and left, she smiled at Al. “We don’t have to go down if you don’t want to.”
Al shook his head. “It’s okay. I’ll have to get used to it at Hogwarts.”
Rose looked at him in surprise. “Are you going back to Hogwarts?” She asked. She couldn’t imagine being there without him, but at the same time she couldn’t imagine him there without Lily.
He shrugged. “It’s either that or stay here.”
“Oh,” Rose said. She couldn’t begin to imagine what he was going through. She loved Lily and it pained her knowing she was gone, but missing a cousin, even a close one, was different than missing a sibling. She would be destroyed if anything happened to Hugo.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Al said, pleading with her. Her eyes had gone sad when she stared at him and it made him feel even worse.
“Huh?” Rose asked, startled from her thoughts. “Sorry, it’s just- you want me to help you with your essay? It’s supposed to be about the three Unforgivables.”
Al shook his head. “You go ahead and do yours. I don’t really feel like concentrating right now.” Rose gave him a sad smile and went back to writing notes on her parchment. Every few moments she would glance up to check on him, but Al seemed oblivious.
He was staring out the window with a frown on his face. “What’s wrong?” Rose asked before realizing how stupid that question was. “I mean, what’s outside?”
“Come over here,” Al said. When she did he pointed to a blond reporter on the edge of the crowd. Only a few had left so far and most were still there, but they were all milling around aimlessly. “Look at him. Is that-?”
Rose realized who he was talking about in an instant. “Oh no, that’s one of Luna’s twins, isn’t it? He writes for the Daily Prophet, doesn’t he? Uncle Harry will go mad if he sees family out there.”
Al nodded, although he wasn’t thinking about his father. “I wonder how he justifies it,” Rose mused. She noticed the look on Al’s face and closed the curtains so the Scamander twin was no longer visible.
“I want to talk to him,” Al said suddenly.
Rose’s eyes widened in surprise. “But he’s a reporter! And you haven’t wanted to talk to anyone else.”
“Well I want to see him. Go get him for me.” Rose chanced a peek out the window and immediately several flashbulbs went off. The press must have noticed the drapes closing and been prepared for more activity.
“I can’t go outside!” She protested. “Mum forbade us to set foot outside of the house.”
“Please?” Al begged. “I can’t go out.” If he tried to find even one reporter they would mob him in an instant. He’d seen the way they went after his parents that morning. He figured it would be worse for him since he was younger, they would think that made him an easier target than his father who was used to dodging the press.
Rose shook her head. Even if her mother didn’t catch her going out it was sure to be mentioned in the papers and then she would be locked up until going off to Hogwarts. “I’m sorry, Al.”
His eyes lit up and he went rummaging around in his closet. “What are you doing?” Rose demanded to know. She didn’t like the way he had seemed excited all of a sudden.
“This!” He pulled out a long, flowing silver cloak and Rose groaned. It was his invisibility cloak, the one James bequeathed to him after leaving Hogwarts the year before. He swung it around his shoulders and solemnly stared at his reflection in the mirror. “I’m going out to get him.”
“That plan is daft!” Rose said as she followed her cousin out of his room. “You can’t honestly be thinking of going out there to talk to a reporter!”
Al only shrugged off her protests and kept walking. “Lorcan isn’t a reporter, he’s practically family.”
“He’s both! And how do you expect to open the door without any of them seeing you?” Al shook his head. He hadn’t thought about that, but he doubted any of them would notice a slight opening of the Potters’ front door. No one had gone out of it since his parents had come back inside. Rose seemed to read his mind. “You know they’ll notice. They noticed when I shut your drapes.”
Al’s shoulders sagged he knew she was right, but he so desperately wanted to speak to Lorcan. He might have had more information about something, anything. Rose noticed his disappointment and her heart melted. “Give it here,” she said against her better judgment.
“Really?” Al asked as his face brightened.
“Yes. But you owe me.” Rose pulled the cloak on and smiled at her best friend. “You wait in your room, alright? I’ll see if I can get Lorcan past Mum and James.” No sooner had she spoken than the two heard footsteps in the hall. Rose pulled the hood over her head and stood very still. No matter how many times she wore the cloak she never felt completely invisible.
“Al,” Hermione said in a pleasant surprise. “What are you doing down here? Did you and Rose decide to get some lunch?”
“Er- no,” Al said awkwardly. He wanted to escape back to his room, but he wasn’t sure if he should distract his aunt so Rose could sneak out the back. She was invisible so he couldn’t see where she had gone. “I just thought I heard a noise and-” He trailed off because he didn’t know what else to say. He hadn’t had a plan of where he was going.
Hermione looked at him pityingly. “I’m so sorry, Al. This must be unbelievably hard for you without Lily. I know how close the two of you were.” Al looked at his feet. There wasn’t anything worse in the world than being the object of someone’s pity.
He started walking up the steps without another word to his aunt, but she put a hand on his shoulder. “If you ever need to talk to someone other than Rose, I’m here for you.” Al nodded and didn’t mention that he already had plans to speak with someone else, a reporter from outside. Rose was right, she and Harry would go mad if they knew what their children were up to.
Rose breathed a sigh of relief as she exited the house safely. She didn’t want to remind herself that she had just completed the easy part and everything hard was yet to come.
Her heart beat faster as she circled around behind the mob of reporters. None of them took any notice of her as she was invisible, but Rose felt that any moment one would turn around and they would all see her.
None did and she searched unimpeded for Lorcan. Finally she spotted his blonde head on the opposite side, smoking a cigarette away from the others. He alone didn’t seem to expect someone to exit the house any moment and Rose was glad for that.
She tapped him on the shoulder which surprised him so much his cigarette fell from his mouth as he looked around. “-the hell?” He said looking very much confused.
“Shh,” Rose whispered, startling him further. “It’s Rose.”
“Hermione’s girl?” He asked. They had briefly been at Hogwarts together, but since there was such a great difference in their ages and Lorcan had been in Slytherin they hadn’t known each other very well. “What are you doing out here?”
He reached out to find where she was and ended up hitting her in the side of the head. “Ow!” She said, a bit too loudly as several reporters nearby turned to stare at Lorcan, probably wondering why he had such a girlish scream. When they looked away Rose whispered, “Al wants to talk to you. Come with me.”
“I can’t even see you,” Lorcan protested. “How am I supposed to follow you?”
Rose reached through the fabric of the cloak and grabbed his arm. He jolted with surprise, but adjusted quickly. “Don’t look suspicious,” Rose murmured under her breath and Lorcan snorted.
“How exactly do you suggest I accomplish that? I’m walking all alone to the back of the house which is strictly off limits and protected by all kinds of wards. It’s going to look a little suspicious to say the least.” Rose rolled her eyes, but as she was still invisible no one could see her.
She would have pulled him under the invisibility cloak with her, but with the number of people milling around it was likely someone would have seen them. Rose ducked behind a tree with him and pulled the hood off her head. Lorcan looked relieved to be able to see her face.
“You shouldn’t be out here,” he said, glancing around the tree to see if anyone was watching them. “I’m certain your mother would murder you in several very creative ways.”
“If it were up to me I wouldn’t be out here,” Rose explained. “Al’s got it in his head that he wants to talk to you.”
“Me? He should be talking to anyone but me! I’ve got a story to write for The Prophet, he can’t go around speaking to reporters.” Rose shook her head. Personally, she agreed with Lorcan, but Al was very much like her Uncle in that when he got an idea in his head nothing would dissuade him.
“Get under here with me,” she said, opening the cloak enough for him to slip under it. Lorcan looked as though he might protest, but thought better of it and slipped in beside her.
Because Lorcan was so much larger than her, the bottoms of their feet showed when they walked too fast. They had to take calculated steps and Lorcan kept one arm on Rose to keep in step.
When they reached the backdoor Rose lifted a finger to her lips and peeked in the glass window pane. There was no one in the kitchen so she cautiously opened the door and ushered Lorcan in.
When he moved to take off the cloak, Rose shook her head. “Mum can’t see you,” she whispered and Lorcan rolled his eyes. He didn’t become a reporter to get caught up in teenage drama. He’d left all that behind when he graduated from Hogwarts nearly five years before. He didn’t enjoy getting caught up in it again.
Rose showed him up the steps and into Al’s room without further delays and ripped the cloak off the second she had the door closed. Al smiled at them. “You probably should have been a bit quieter outside,” he said. “Someone could have easily heard you.”
“How does he know how loud we were outside?” Lorcan asked in surprise. Rose only shook her head and he sighed. He’d forgotten what troublemakers all the Potter and Weasley offspring seemed to be. “Never mind.” He turned to Al with a frown on his face. “You know you’re asking for trouble bringing me in here, right? I could mention this in the Prophet. It would probably get me a front page story.”
“I just wanted to talk,” Al replied quietly. “I wanted to see if you knew anything else about Lily. They don’t tell me much of anything.” Lorcan’s eyes softened at the younger boy. It was a horrible idea to have him brought here, but he could understand where Al was coming from.
“I’m sure I know even less about the whole matter than you do,” Lorcan said with a bit of a shrug. “And all of that I heard from a thirty spiel from my boss. I’m of no use to you.”
“If you know anything at all,” Rose said, her voice pleading. “He’s been setting eavesdropping spells all around the house because they think we’re too young to know the truth.”
Lorcan sighed. He wanted to help, he really did, but he was obligated to report on anything the teenagers said to him. He was a junior reporter, for Melin’s sake. How had he already been put in a position like this?
The door was pushed opened and James entered. “Gran-” He stopped when he spotted Lorcan who hadn’t had time to slip back under the cloak. “What the fuck are you doing here?” James spat.
“James-” Lorcan started, but James’s glare made him stop.
“I can’t believe you would come here with all of them.” He gestured out the window to the reporters. “Don’t you have any respect for our family?”
Lorcan sighed, wishing he wasn’t inside and could smoke another cigarette. “I didn’t ask you come here, if that’s what you think. The boss gave me an assignment and I followed his orders, simple as that.”
“You should have said no,” James shot back.
“You don’t say no to the boss unless you have a death wish, especially as a junior reporter.” Lorcan knew arguing was futile. James would believe what he wanted to believe no matter what he said. That was how teenagers were.
“Lily was named after your mum. Is that going to make it into your little article?” Lorcan’s mouth opened and closed like a fish and James smirked at him. “Didn’t think so. Now get the hell out before I tell my father you were in here.”
Lorcan hurried out of the room, hoping he wouldn’t run into any other angry family members. He should have known better than to listen to Rose. She was a sweet girl, but so naïve.
James turned to Al with a glare. “What were you doing, holding an exclusive interview?” Al shook his head mutely, shocked to see his brother so angry. Usually James’s arguments were contained to those he had with their father. Others weren’t often involved.
“I don’t care why you brought him in here, but if I see any of those slimeballs here again I will personally ensure that Dad knows every detail.” He gave his younger brother a nasty look. “And you better hope that doesn’t show up in the Prophet tomorrow.”
James slammed the door of the bedroom and Rose stared at Al in horror. “Do you think he’d really print that?” Al asked. He looked so scared that Rose shook her head, even though she knew there was a good chance of it happening. “I’m sorry. Now you’re going to get in trouble too.”
“Don’t apologize. If anything, this was my fault,” Rose argued. “Ignore your brother. He’s not really mad at you.”
Al shot her a disbelieving look. “I don’t think you heard the way he talked to me.”
Rose gave him a small, reassuring smile. James had looked angry, downright incensed to be more precise, but she didn’t think it was entirely about Al. Even though she’d only seen James twice since Lily vanished she had noticed that he seemed a bit more tense and on edge. She’d also noticed that he absolutely reeked of firewhiskey, not that she would ever admit knowing what that smelled like.
She had enough presence of mind to lock the door securely this time so no one else could barge in unannounced, not that the two had anything more to hide. “If it doesn’t show up in the Prophet,” Al began. “Do you think James will tell Dad anyway?”
Rose looked at him and with a sigh said, “I don’t know. James can be a bit of a loose cannon.”
A/N: It took me about eight tries to get this chapter posted, so I'm glad it finally took. My internet has been iffy as I'm not at home. But it's up! Yay! And things are finally happening with Al! From now on the chapters will focus on one member of the Potter family as they separate a bit.
And just a hint, the next chapter is going to be about James. =)
Chapter Six: Quidditch and Firewhiskey
James sat on the sofa in his parents’ living room, scowling at the floor. He’d briefly forgotten about the horde of reporters outside and had made the grievous mistake of opening the door, only to be greeted with an onslaught of flashbulbs and questions.
Hermione had placed an antiapparition charm over the house to limit the number of people stopping by and they were running low on floo powder so James was stuck. He had a game in just over two hours and even though he’d downplayed it for his father it was important for him to be there.
The coach, a legendary keeper in his own right, always insisted the reserves sit beside him on the bench every game. Part of that was practical reasons in case a player was injured, but he was a tough man to please.
James sighed. He really had been trying to stay on the old wizard’s good side, but he was going to be late if he bothered going at all. Lily had been the only member of his family to come to every one of his games. Not that he blamed the others. He hadn’t even actually played yet. It had just been nice to see Lily’s auburn hair always sitting in the stands.
This would be his first match without her present.
He blinked furiously, adamant that he wasn’t going to cry. He wasn’t a sensitive bloke, emotions were for people like his brother, and even Al hadn’t cried yet. “James, sweetheart? Are you alright?”
He glanced up into Molly Weasley’s face and scowled. He didn’t have to be asked if he was alright, he was fine. “Well I can’t leave this bloody house because of the reporters and I have a game tonight,” he said.
She looked at him sadly and James knew he was in a bad place when she didn’t even bother to correct his language. “You know they’re doing everything they can to find her, right?” She asked as she sat down beside him on the sofa.
“Merlin, I’m not Al!” James said as he pulled away from her. “I don’t need your lame reassurances. What I need is a way to get back to my apartment so I can get to my match tonight.”
“There’s extra floo powder in the closet of the guest bedroom,” she said finally with a sigh. “Good luck tonight.”
James rolled his eyes. He didn’t need good luck, he just needed to show up to be a bench warmer. When he got back to his flat he was relieved to note that the few reporters who had been there that morning had left. Roxy and Freddie were both gone, probably at their store in Hogsmeade.
James felt a knot in his stomach. He didn’t want to go to his match. He didn’t want to be on his own at all. There was a brief moment when he seriously considered going to Hogsmeade and meeting up with his cousins at work.
Only his Uncle George expected them to run the shop well and keep profits high. They couldn’t do that if James was constantly there bothering them and keeping them from their duties.
No, he couldn’t afford to disrupt them. So he did apparate to Hogsmeade, only not to their shop. He landed in the back part of town near an old pub he frequented during his seventh year called the Hogshead. It was a disgusting place, but James liked it.
The sky had grown darker while he’d been trapped at his parents’ house and he found he’d misjudged the time by quite a bit. He wouldn’t have made it on time to the match if he’d wanted to.
A small smirk settled on James’s face. At least something had gone right, if you wanted to look at it that way. He sidled up to the bar and threw down a few galleons. “Firewhiskey,” he said gruffly.
The bartender took the coins and pushed the whole bottle down the counter to where James was sitting. “Take the whole bottle.”
James was glad for the quiet. It was different than his flat where it was quiet out of loneliness. In here it was solely because no one wanted to speak to anyone else.
He poured the dark amber liquid into a dirty glass and took a gulp. It burned his throat on the way down, but filled him with such satisfying warmth that the burn was worth it.
By the tame James had finished several more glasses, the whole bar was beginning to appear a little fuzzy and he was having trouble thinking. The bartender, who had ignored him for the last hour finally pulled away the bottle. “Hey! I paid good money for that!” James protested. He made a wild grab for the bottle, but the bartender pulled it even further out of reach.
“I don’t think so. You’ve had enough for tonight.” James glared at the portly man.
“Why’re you cutting me off?” He said with a bit of a slur and banged his hand on the counter. “I’m a paying customer, damnit!”
“And if you drink anymore you’re going to vomit,” the man said as he rubbed down the glass with a soiled cloth. “I don’t plan on cleaning your sick off my floor.”
James grumbled as he pushed himself off the bar stool and stood stock still as the world spun around him. “You right enough to get yourself home?” The barkeep asked as James took a few unsteady steps.
“I’m fine,” he spat. He didn’t need any help from a man who didn’t bother doing his job of serving people and letting them drink in misery. James stumbled out of the bar and down the Hogsmeade street.
He didn’t have anywhere to go. Home was out because he didn’t feel like being alone in the flat by himself. His parents’ house was worse because they would be there and upset that he’d gotten pissed. It had been made clear to him that he wasn’t to upset his mother any more than he already had.
James leaned against the brick wall up the shop and put a hand to his head. The whole world seemed to spin away from him so he closed his eyes to get some peace. “Excuse me, are you alright?” A voice asked. James turned away from it and took a few steps in the opposite direction.
While he wasn’t interested in being alone, talking to perfect strangers wasn’t high on his list either. “Excuse me!” The footsteps quickened and James panicked. In the next step he half turned on his heel and apparated away.
He landed in the Weasley Wizard Wheezes storage rooms and things must have been moved around since the last time he was there because he’d been slammed into a large box full of gadgets. James cursed as he pulled his bleeding hand away and up to the light.
“Who’s back here?” called a feminine voice. James light up and forgot about the blood on his hand.
“Roxy!” He shouted excitedly as he bounded across the room and up to her.
Roxy stared at him in surprise. “What are you doing here?” She asked. “I thought the Cannons were playing the Wasps tonight.”
“There are,” James said taking another step towards her.
Roxy instinctively took a step back. “Oh Merlin, you’re smashed.”
“What?” James asked. He didn’t think he was being too obvious about it. “No. No, I just had a little.” He held up his fingers to show her precisely how little he’d had to drink and began to topple over.
Roxy grabbed his arm and hauled him back up. “You smell like you bathed in firewhiskey,” she said as she dragged him out of the back room. “And what the hell did you do to your hand?”
“Hmm?” James asked. He hadn’t quite been paying attention to Roxy, but thinking about others things that he could no longer remember. “Oh. One of your boxes attacked me when I apparated back there.”
“That’s why you’re not supposed to apparated there,” she said. She looked at his hand and grimaced. “Crap, I’m no good with healing spells. Where’s Freddie when you need him? Freddie!” Roxy shouted.
There were footsteps on the second floor and Freddie suddenly appeared wearing gloves that appeared to grow his hands five times his normal size. “What d’you think of these?” he asked with a wide grin that fell from his face the moment he saw James. “Aren’t you supposed to be at a game right now?”
“He decided to skip it and go out drinking,” Roxy replied drily. “And he apparated into the back storage area and cut his hand.”
“So you’ve decided to give up on Quidditch already?” Freddie asked as he rummaged around the desk for his wand. “That job Dad offered you here still stands. The three of us could make this the best Weasley Wizard Wheezes shop he owns.”
James shook his head. He’d never given much thought to working in the shop because Quidditch had been his only dream. Now he couldn’t even imagine what he wanted to do. “Ah, got it. Episkey.” The skin on his hand closed and the pain dissipated leaving only the dried blood behind.
“Thanks, mate,” James said, pushing himself to his feet. “I think I’m going to head home now.”
Freddie shrugged and Roxy stared at him in horror. “You’re just going to let him apparated back to the flat? He’s smashed! He’ll splinch himself for sure!”
James watched their brief argument. No matter how long they had both been his best mates he could never understand the spats they had with each other. They consisted of half sentences like they could read each others minds faster than they could actually argue.
Finally they turned to him with forced smiles. “Why don’t you wait for us in the back,” Freddie said. “We just have to finish closing up here and you can side along apparate back to the flat with Roxy.”
“He’s gonna hurl when that happens,” she muttered as she jabbed her twin in the side. “He’s not apparating with me.”
“And I look like want his puke all over me?” Roxy raised her eyebrow at him and Freddie groaned. “Fine, just wait in the back and try not to break anything.”
James smirked at his cousins. He sat on a bench in the back and because his head was pounding he lay down and closed his eyes. The world had been swimming, but the darkness seemed so calm and cleansing.
And that was the last thought he had before he passed out.
A/N: I've got August Camp starting soon and I hope I'll be able to finish the story then! I always like hearing yall's opinions on the story so let me know what you're thinking. =)
Chapter Seven: Go Home
Ginny stared at her hands. She’d been watching them shake ever so slightly for the past twenty minutes. It seemed strange that she would have no control over her own body.
Ever since the press had shown up on their front lawn something inside her felt like it had broken or gone missing. The disappearance, the fact the she was just plain gone, it all seemed so real now to Ginny. Her baby, her youngest child and only daughter hadn’t come home in two days.
There was no possible way she could lie to herself any longer. Lily wasn’t merely staying out late with friends or even lying about a boyfriend. She was gone. Really and truly missing.
A sob wracked her thin frame as the reality of the situation set in. Tears streamed down her face. She didn’t even have the strength to roll over and bury her face in her pillow the way she had for months after Fred had been killed.
The pain she was feeling was incomparable to anything she’d felt before in the Chamber of Secrets or at Hogwarts or even during the War. Everything seemed suddenly trivial.
There was a hole in her that seemed to encompass everything. The hole seemed so large that it obliterated everything else.
“Oh Gin, honey.” Hermione had been awakened by the sound of Ginny’s sobs. She had fallen asleep in a chair in her friend’s room the night before. She got up from the chair stiffly and curled up beside Ginny on the bed. “Let it all out, sweetheart. Let it all out.”
Ginny accepted the support from Hermione, but it wasn’t something her best friend was able to understand. No one could feel the way she felt.
“Gin, please talk to me,” Hermione begged as she looked on her friend and sister in law with pity. She didn’t know what to say to the other woman.
Ginny’s red hair was limp and greasy as she hadn’t taken a shower since Lily had gone missing. She was still wearing the dressing gown she’d put on the morning she’d leaned of Lily’s disappearance.
It hadn’t even occurred to her to change clothes, let alone bathe.
Hermione stroked her friend’s hair while she sobbed. Ginny had always seemed so strong, even in their years at Hogwarts. She had been Ron’s younger sister, but even then she had stood up and fought with them even at fifteen.
Now she seemed broken as though the only thing she could do was lie there and sob. Hermione wished someone else was around to help, but Harry and Ron were both out, Merlin knew where, and Molly was downstairs cleaning after warning most of her brothers to give her some space.
Briefly Hermione considered getting her mother in law to come help, but she couldn’t bear to leave Ginny on her own. Besides, even if she wasn’t the best with comforting, she could at least try. This was her best friend after all.
“Gin, you know you can talk to me about anything,” she said as she rubbed her comfortingly. “Just tell me what you’re feeling.” Talking often helped when either of them were upset about small things and Hermione only hoped the same would hold true for this. She knew she couldn’t really help her friend, but it was the best she could offer.
Ginny only shook her head. There wasn’t anything to say. Words didn’t fit what she was feeling now and no matter how hard Hermione tried she couldn’t possibly even begin to understand.
Slowly the sobs subsided and Ginny lay shaking on her bed, Hermione still stroking her hair. The age difference between the two which had all but disappeared over the last twenty years seemed to widen once more as Hermione treated her like a young child.
“Gin,” Hermione murmured. She didn’t have anything else to say. All words were meaningless. The more she tried to understand what Ginny was going through the harder it became. She attempted to imagine if something had happened to Rose or Hugo, but she couldn’t allow her thoughts to go there. Her family, her children, was the most important thing in the world to her and she was sure the same rang true for Ginny.
“Whatever you need,” she whispered into her friend’s ear, lightly rocking her back and forth. “Anything you need.”
It was an empty promise Ginny knew. The only thing she wanted was her daughter back and her family happy the way they had been only a few days before. Now everything was different, and none of it good.
She rolled on her side and turned away from Hermione. It wasn’t any good to know her friend was there when she had no idea what she was there for.
Hermione drew in her breath slowly. She didn’t know what to do anymore. She and Ginny had always had a close, easy relationship. Now it had all changed.
A light cough drew Hermione’s attention to the door. Molly Weasley stood there, her eyes soft as she took in the scene before her. “Is she sleeping?” She asked softly. Hermione shook her head.
Molly gestured for her daughter in law to join her in the hallway. “You go on downstairs. You deserve a break.” Hermione shot one last glance at Ginny, regretting abandoning her, but nodded at Molly’s words and took a few steps away.
Molly closed the door behind and joined her daughter. “You don’t have to say a word, sweetheart,” she said.
“Mum,” Ginny choked out, wrapping her arms around her mother’s neck. That was the only word she said as she let her eyes dry on her mother’s shoulder.
“Shh, baby, shh,” Mrs. Weasley murmured. When Ginny had stopped shaking, Molly pulled her daughter’s hands from around her neck. “You’re going to have to face this,” she said. “You have a husband and two other children who are hurting just as much as you are.”
Ginny rubbed her eyes as she stared at her mother in fear. “I can’t,” she said, her voice raspy.
“Of course you can’t today,” Molly said. “Not tomorrow, maybe not even this week. But you’re going to have to be strong for them at some point. And I’ll be right beside you all the way.” Ginny didn’t nod or acknowledge that she would ever leave her room again, but she rested her head on her mother’s shoulder.
Harry slammed his fist on the Minister’s desk. He’d been up all night tracking leads in the Auror’s office until Penglaze had banished him. “You’ve got to be joking!”
“Harry-” the Minister began, but Harry wouldn’t let him speak.
“This is my daughter! My Lily! I need to be involved! You can’t just cut me out of the investigation!” His face had turned a deep red in anger and his emerald green eyes were glaring fiercely.
“Enough, Potter. I happen to agree with Penglaze here. You’re too close to this investigation.” The Minister kept a cool gaze on Harry, knowing that he was one of the most powerful wizards in the country. He could rally the citizens to replace him if he ever desired.
“No one else will care like I do,” Harry protested. He had to stay involved, for Lily’s sake. There were only six people assigned to search for her and each day she was gone the chances dwindled. They needed every bit of help they could get, especially with the incompetent hit wizards and the Auror who was barely of age.
“You’ve physically threatened Draco Malfoy, insulted the best team of hit wizards the Ministry has to offer, and broken several laws by going through the Auror’s evidence,” the Minister said drily.
“It was necessary!”
Penglaze coughed from the corner and Harry shot him a nasty glare. If he got thrown off the case because of Penglaze’s utter incompetence he wouldn’t rest until the man got fired. After his daughter was found, of course.
“Potter, don’t argue with us. You’re a good man and you were one of the best Aurors our office had, but you cannot be a part of this any longer,” Penglaze said.
Harry turned to the Minister. “Please sir,” he said, pleading with the man for any kind of support. “We need to find her.”
The Minister shook his head. “Go home and be with your family,” he said. “I’m sure they miss you.”
“And my daughter misses being safe.” Harry stormed out of the office and almost ran into Ron on the other side of the door.
“Not good, mate?” He asked, jogging to keep up with his friend.
“They want me out of the Ministry,” Harry said. “The Minister told me to ‘go home’ and ‘wait with my family’.” He scowled even more ferociously and Ron nearly took a step away from him.
“Maybe- Maybe he’s right,” Ron ventured. He didn’t want to turn his best friend’s anger on himself, but he was one of the few people Harry would listen to. “You’ve hardly seen Ginny since this whole thing began and you look like crap since you’ve been awake for days.”
“I won’t sleep until my daughter is home safe!” Harry roared.
Everyone in the office they were walking through quieted instantly and turned to stare at the famous Harry Potter who looked as though he was having a mental breakdown. “Alright Harry, just cool it, okay?” Ron said, glancing around nervously.
“You try ‘cooling it’ when your daughter’s missing and no one seems to be bothered by it!” He responded in anger.
Ron nodded his head emphatically. “I know mate, but maybe we should just stop by your house. Don’t you want to check on Al, at least? Talk to him?”
“You’re right. Maybe he knows something more,” Harry said thoughtfully. He headed off toward the floo station. It was impossible to simply apparate out of the Ministry ever since the second war, something Harry had fought for at the time, but now found annoying to no end.
“Not exactly what I meant,” Ron muttered as he followed behind Harry.
They appeared in the living room of the Potter residence, startling Hermione into dropping her tea. “What the-” She said as the two men fell into her kitchen. “Where have you been?”
“The Ministry,” Ron said vaguely. He didn’t think she’d approve of the measures they’d taken, especially storming into Malfoy Manor the way they had. She didn’t understand that sometimes these extreme measures were necessary. “Mate, you want to try changing your robes while you’re here?” He asked.
Harry ignored him. “Have any of the Aurors been by?” He demanded to know.
“Yes, one stopped in late last night after Ginny and the kids were asleep. Why?” Harry eyed her. “What?” Hermione asked again.
“Did they say anything? Any new leads or new information or suspects or anything?”
Hermione looked at Ron, almost a bit scared. “No, they didn’t say anything like that. They actually wanted to speak to James, but he wasn’t here so I directed them to his flat. What’s going on?”
Harry just shook his head so Ron answered. “The Minister and Head Auror cut him off from any new information about Lily’s disappearance. They don’t want him involved.”
“Involved?” Hermione asked, confused. “What’s so bad about that?”
“There may have been a few incidents,” Ron said after a pause. He shot a look at Harry and didn’t continue. Loyalty to his best friend was trumping loyalty to his wife at that particular moment.
“What incidents?” She asked. When neither man answered she put her hands on her hips. “Ronald Bilius Weasley, Harold James Potter, tell me about the incidents this minute!”
Ron cowered before her. He never could stand up to his wife when she spoke to him like that. Finally Harry answered. “We went to Malfoy’s and I punched him in the face and then I spent all night in the Auror offices, alright? That answer your question?”
“Harry! That’s assault, not to mention breaking several laws!” Hermione looked utterly horrified. “I know you’re upset over Lily, but you can’t take it out on people like that.”
“Don’t try to tell me what I’m feeling, Hermione!” Harry shouted. “You have no idea what it’s like for me, so just sod off!”
“Hey! Don’t talk to her like that!” Ron shouted as Harry stormed off.
Hermione placed her hand on Ron’s arm to quiet him. “It’s okay. He was right. I can’t even begin to imagine what he’s going through. If something ever happened to Rose or Hugo-” Her voice caught on Hugo’s name and Ron pulled her into a hug.
“They’re both fine. They’re both upstairs still asleep.”
Hermione nodded, but she let out a soft cry into her husband’s robes. When she realized what was off about them, she couldn’t help but laugh a little. “Merlin, you stink.”
Ron sniffed at his robes and smiled. “I haven’t had a chance to change into anything else. You think I could borrow one of Harry’s robes?”
“Come on. I’ll use an enlarging charm on it for you.”
A/N: More adults! It's strange to write them because I've never really done adult characters before, at least not to the extent that they are here. If you've got any comments/criticism on them that's always welcome! :)
Chapter Eight: To Hogwarts?
James awoke with a pounding in his head. He opened his eyes, but blinked them shut when the light was too piercing. His mouth felt as though it was full of foam and his tongue was glued to the roof of his mouth. “Merlin,” he muttered, but even that was too much for his poor head to take.
There was a sudden, loud explosion from outside. He groaned loudly and moved a hand to his head. A door creaked open and abnormally loud footsteps walked over to him. “Wake the hell up, James!” Said a loud, high pitched voice.
“Please, just a little quieter,” he said, begging with Roxanne. Her voice seemed too loud to be natural.
“Oh I’m sorry. Is this disturbing you? Wake the hell up!” James cringed and sat up, his hand still rubbing his painfully throbbing head.
“Where am I?” He asked, peeling back an eyelid ever so slowly to survey the room.
Roxy snorted. “The storage room of Weasley Wizard Wheezes where you passed out last night before we could take you home.” James groaned again. His back was sore enough to be painful when he tried to stand and he hadn’t even noticed it before because of his head.
Then he noticed the charred remains laying beside him. “What are those?” He asked, running his hands through the ashes.
“The Howlers your coach sent. There have been three. I suspect he’ll keep sending them until he gets a reply.” James groaned again. Drinking himself into a stupor had seemed like a splendid idea the night before, but he didn’t think he’d ever regretted anything quite so much.
“Do you have any potion?” He croaked softly, his dry mouth barely managing to get the words out.
“You mean hangover potion?” Roxy asked with a raised eyebrow. “Not for people who puke all over the latest shipment of the Jelly Jubilees. It took me ages to clean up because Freddie refused to get near it.”
“Please?” He begged. “I’ll do anything.” The pain in his head had nearly tripled since he woke up.
“No,” Roxy replied stubbornly. “And if you please excuse me I’m about to eat my lunch. Peanut butter and honey on rye, delicious.”
James felt the bile rise in his throat and sprinted to the bathroom. He could hear Roxy’s laughter following him all the way to the loo where he vomited up everything in his stomach.
He swayed when he pushed himself away from the toilet and back to where Roxy was eating her sandwich, and looking like she enjoyed every bite of it too. “That was unnecessary,” he muttered under his breath just loud enough for her to hear.
“Are you honestly complaining to the person who cleaned up your vomit last night?” She asked. James opened his mouth to retort, then shut it. He guessed Roxy was right- it probably wasn’t all that smart of an idea. “That’s what I thought. You’re working inventory.”
“What? I just woke up!”
“And it’s practically noon. I’d have you out front with the customers, but our sales can’t afford to dip no matter how miserable I want you to be,” she said with an eye roll. “Have fun!”
James grumbled and began unpacking the crates in the back. When people thought about working in joke shops this was the part no one mentioned. He would have done the work magically, but it appeared he had misplaced his wand sometime the night before in between leaving the Hogshead and passing out in the storage room.
It was only several minutes later that James felt a pair of eyes on him. Freddie was sitting on a stack of boxes in the corner. “Hey,” he said calmly.
“Hey,” James replied just as coolly. Freddie sat in silence for a few minutes more before James finally turned to him again. “Are you going to help or what?” He asked.
“Sure.” Freddie hopped down from his perch and with a wave of the wand the boxes were all stacked neatly against the wall. James pushed his red hair out of his sweaty face. He didn’t understand why Roxy didn’t just do the same thing thirty minutes earlier.
He voiced those thoughts to Freddie who only laughed. “You know how Roxy is. She’s worried about you and that translates into her becoming a control freak.” James laughed with his best friend, but Freddie continued. “She doesn’t know how to handle this whole thing with Lily. Said you’re liable to crack at any time.”
James smiled a bit, but it was forced as he wasn’t sure entirely of how to respond to Freddie’s words. He wasn’t in any danger of cracking any time soon. “Your wand’s up at the front desk by the way. Feel free to head on home. Roxy won’t miss you.”
James decided going back to their flat was probably preferable as his head was still pounding quite painfully. In fact, going back to sleep sounded like the best idea he’d had all week. He flashed a grateful smile at Freddie and apparated away after grabbing his wand.
Al was staring at his Defense essay, unable to make heads or tails of what it meant. It didn’t come as easily to him as it had the year before when everything about that class made perfect sense.
A knock sounded on his door and it creaked open. Hugo entered and Al lifted a finger to his lips to quiet his younger cousin. He was a chubby boy, a red head who took after his father in almost every regard. Rose was still asleep on his bed and Al didn’t want to disturb her so he set aside his essay and moved out in the hallway to speak with Hugo.
The younger boy had been sleeping in James’s old room as their grandmother was in the guest bedroom and only the Aurors and hit wizards had been in Lily’s in the previous days. Al had nearly forgotten his cousin was staying with them. He had such a quiet presence without Lily by his side.
“She’s still asleep?” Hugo asked, peeking around Al to where his sister was sleeping on Al’s bed. Al nodded. He had spent the night at his desk so as not to bother her since she had passed out hours before he managed to get any sleep.
“Like a rock,” Al said in a monotone. “You need something?”
Hugo glanced back to his face and shook his head vehemently. “No I just- never mind. I think breakfast is about ready, if you’re hungry. Or- yeah.”
Al nodded. He’d hardly eaten anything in the last three days and it wouldn’t go over well if he didn’t show up downstairs at some point. “I’ll wake her up.” Hugo nodded and stared at him for a moment longer before racing up to James’s room on the third floor.
Al stared at Rose one the bed, regretting having to wake her up. She looked so peaceful asleep, more than she ever did awake. Well, at least more than she had the last few days.
“Rosie,” he said, softly shaking her shoulder. “Wake up.”
Rose opened her eyes and blinked up at him in surprise. “Oh Merlin, I fell asleep on your bed, didn’t I?” It always amazed Al how quickly she became conscious and aware of her surroundings. By the time breakfast began most days she was as alert as though she’d already had coffee.
“It’s alright,” he said. “I didn’t sleep much anyway.”
“But you need your bed! I swear, tonight I’ll sleep on the sofa. You’ll have your room to yourself.” Al smiled at her as she fretted over the bed situation. Even if she hadn’t been in his room he wouldn’t have slept much more than he did. Sleep seemed to elude him lately.
Hermione was down in the kitchen and, like the last few days, Ginny and Molly were nowhere to be seen. At first it seemed odd to Al that his mother was never around, but he’d grown used to her absence.
“Morning, Mum,” Rose said as she entered the kitchen. Her frizzy red hair was tied back as it always was when she didn’t feel like fighting it into some sort of style, which was most of the time.
Hermione slid two plates full of food in front of them and Al almost gagged. His appetite had never been as strong as his brother’s or his uncle’s, but ever since Lily was gone he couldn’t stomach the thought of eating much at all.
Rose devoured the food on her plate. Unlike Al, she had always had a hearty appetite, although she took after her father in that the weight never showed. Her legs were as stick thin as they were when she was thirteen.
“Aren’t you hungry, Al?” Hermione asked in what Al recognized as her concerned voice. He shrugged and picked at his food, playing with it on his plate rather than actually eating it. “I could make something else if you would prefer.”
“No, thank you,” he said, always the polite teenager. He lifted a forkful of sausage to his mouth and smiled at her. Apparently it was enough to satisfy her as she turned her attention to other things.
“Rose, Al, you know what tomorrow is, right?” Al and Rose looked at each other. Ever since Al had said he was returning to Hogwarts they hadn’t spoken about it at all. Since the next day was September first, Al knew his parents- or more likely his Aunt Hermione- would have questions. And concerns.
“Mum-” Rose began, trying to cut her off before anything happened, but Hermione shook her head.
“I know this is going to be hard for you two to hear, but we think it’s best if you returned to school tomorrow.” Hermione held her breath, hoping they wouldn’t be too argumentative, but nothing came. Al and Rose looked at each other and went back to their food.
“Hugo too?” Rose asked, her mouth full of sausage.
“I wouldn’t dream of splitting you up,” Hermione said, somewhat surprised at how little reaction they had. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk about this? We’re not trying to send you away. We just think it’s best if we try to stay normal as much as possible.”
Al scowled at this. Going back to Hogwarts was the lesser of two evils, but not because it was normal. Nothing was normal and he hated it when they acted that way. At least he could admit everything was in ruins, even if he just kept that to himself.
“Al, your mother just wants what’s best for you. Sending you to Hogwarts isn’t shipping you off, she wants you to be in the best situation possible.” Al nodded. He didn’t know if his mother actually had anything to do with the decision. She’d barely spoken to him since Lily went missing.
Part of Al wondered if she blamed him for Lily’s disappearance. He usually went out with her to the movies or whenever she went into muggle towns, but he hadn’t felt like going the night she went out. It hadn’t seemed like a big deal at the time because he skipped out on her a fair amount, but Al wished he had gone. He wished like nothing else.
“Al?” Hermione repeated, eyeing him.
He blinked and severed his eye contact with the wall, realizing that he’d been drifting off. He did that often lately with the limited sleep. “It’s fine. I want to be at Hogwarts.”
Hermione nodded briskly. “And you’ve already been to Diagon Alley? You have your supplies?”
Al thought back what felt like years. He’d gotten his letter at the end of July and they’d all gone to Diagon Alley. He thought he’d gotten everything, but he couldn’t remember. It didn’t feel like it had only been a few weeks. He nodded in affirmation.
“Good. You’ll need to pack tonight. Rose, we’ll stop by home and you and Hugo can pack in the morning.”
A sudden wave of nausea greeted Al as he thought of the unused supplies in Lily’s room. There were her new quills and parchment and the brand new books whose spines hadn’t even been cracked yet. And most of all there was her new broom.
She’d convinced her father to buy her a new broom when she made the Quidditch team the previous year. She wasn’t a star like James, but she was a good Seeker. Tiny and light on her broom she could out fly almost anyone except Harry himself.
Al had a strong desire to run into her room and take her broom with him, but he knew it wouldn’t be right. A broom like Lily’s deserved a star flyer, and he was mediocre at best.
He pushed his plate away from him, still hardly picked at, and stood up from the table. Rose, who was still swallowing her food stood as well. She clearly wasn’t done, but Al was more than grateful she would stay by his side.
They went back up to his room to begin gathering his school supplies to pack in his trunk. He kept his wand in his back pocket as Rose checked and double checked the list. “You’re missing your cauldron,” she said, glancing around the room.
Al started as he realized where his cauldron was. “Lily borrowed it,” he muttered quietly. He could hardly bring himself to say her name.
“Oh.” Rose’s voice was quiet and sad. “I might have an extra at home,” she said.
Al shook his head. He didn’t want to borrow her cauldron, if she even had an extra one. He needed his own, wanted the one he’d had since first year. It was top of line and Lily had always preferred it to her own, which was why she had borrowed it nearly a month before.
“I’ll go get it,” he said. Rose looked concerned, but Al shook it off. None of them had been in Lily’s room yet. It wasn’t strange for him to just barge in and take back things she had borrowed.
He paused outside Lily’s door. It was stupid, but he couldn’t bring himself to put his hand on the lock and twist it. Instead he prodded the door open with his wand and entered cautiously.
It looked just the same as it had before.
Al didn’t know what he was expecting. Nothing looked different or even felt different. It was maybe a little spooky to be in there without Lily, but that was it. Al spotted his cauldron right away. It was placed precariously on the corner of her desk and there was still a pink goo smeared on the cauldron. Al almost didn’t want to know what she’d been brewing. The Aurors would have mentioned it if it had any relevance to her disappearance.
But he didn’t clean it off. A part of him wanted to know that one tiny detail. He wanted to know what Lily had been doing in the past month. So he left the pink goo in the bottom and headed out of the room.
He was almost out the door when he noticed her broom leaning against her closet door. It was new and shiny, the twigs perfectly sleek. It was a thing of beauty, even Al could tell that and he didn’t know much about brooms.
Almost against his will he found himself walking towards it. He touched it carefully with his fingertip, caressing the smooth handle. He jerked his hand away as he realized what he was doing. If Lily had seen him do that she would have cursed him then and there, age restrictions be damned.
It may have been because of that that Al shrunk the broom and tucked it into his pocket. No one else would ever have to know that he had taken. He may never ride it, but he needed a piece of Lily to bring with him.
A/N: A little more Al and James in this chapter for your reading pleasure. And I'm too tired to have anything else today so I hope you guys are liking it. :)
Chapter Nine: The Platform
Harry scowled at an irate Ron. “I’m going back to Malfoy’s whether you like it or not. He knows something and there’s going to be new evidence there,” he insisted.
“Malfoy won’t even be there,” Ron complained. It was just after ten and he had to get to Platform Nine and Three Quarters. The Hogwarts Express was leaving in less than an hour and it was his Rosie’s last year. He had to be there to send her off.
“Why not?” Harry asked. “He’s always at his Manor- or at the Ministry. The man practically lives as a shut in with no job.”
“He’s going to be at the Platform to send his son off to Hogwarts,” Ron said with an eye roll. “Where we should be. Where our kids and wives are.”
“Speak for yourself,” Harry growled. “If my kid was there I’d be there in an instant.” Ron cringed at his poor choice of words. He shouldn’t have mentioned children around him. Harry was obsessed with finding Lily and Ron was right by his side most of the time.
“I’m sorry mate, but don’t you want to see Al off? It’s his last year with Rosie and I know he’d love for you to be there,” Ron pleaded, but Harry shook his head. He knew his son would appreciate getting his sister back more than he would Harry waving at him as he rode away.
“When we find Lily I will personally retrieve him from Hogwarts and spend an entire week with the family,” Harry promised and Ron sighed. He loved his friend and he loved his niece more than anything in the world besides his own children, but he’d seen cases like these before.
Harry might not have noticed it yet, but the Aurors were already beginning to give up hope. If a missing child wasn’t found in a few days the chances they would be grew slimmer every day. Ron was a realist, even a pessimist sometimes. He still believed they could get her back, but Harry’s unwavering confidence was unnerving.
“I’m not asking you to stop, just say good bye to your son. He’s going away for months and you won’t see him again until Christmas. Come with me, just for an hour.” Harry ignored his best friend and opened Lily’s official case file.
Ron sighed. He didn’t know how Harry had managed to get his hands on the thing. He wasn’t supposed to have any access to the investigation at all, but of course he was Harry Potter. It was hard to keep anything from him.
Ron stayed by his side as the minutes ticked by, hoping Harry would change his mind. As the clock neared eleven he finally gave up. “I’m leaving,” he said, but Harry didn’t bother looking up. He was engrossed in the suspects list, Draco Malfoy’s name front and center.
“You say he’ll be there?” Harry asked and Ron nodded, checking his watch again. “Alright, I’ll be apparating behind you.”
Ron smiled at him. “You won’t regret it. Al will be thrilled to see you.” Harry nodded distractedly, but he wasn’t thinking about his son. He was thinking about how this might be the perfect time to confront Draco Malfoy and make him tell the truth.
Ron disapparated on the spot, eager to see his family again. Since Lily’s disappearance he’d been spending a disproportionate time at the Ministry with Harry. A crack behind him let him know Harry had apparated as well and he looked for his family through the mob of people.
He spotted them over by the train and smiled tightly. The occasion should have been a happy one, and would have been if not for the lack of one person. “Rosie, you look so grown up,” he said with a smile.
She grinned back and adjusted the Head Girl badge on her robes. Ron was glad that she’d gotten to be a Head, something neither he nor Hermione could do since they’d missed their last year of school. It made him the proudest father in the world.
He was equally pleased to see his own, even though Hugo hadn’t quite followed in his older sister’s footsteps. “Study hard for your OWLs,” Hermione reminded Hugo who nodded.
Ron realized he hadn’t spoken to Hugo even once since Lily’s disappearance and felt suddenly guilty. He knew his son and Lily had been close, not nearly as close as Al and Rose, but they’d grown up together nearly every minute of their lives. He doubted anyone had really talked to Hugo since everything had happened and that made him feel even worse.
“I’m only an owl away,” he said quietly so only Hugo could hear. “Anything you need just send me an owl and I’m on it.” Hugo nodded and the promise made Ron feel a bit better. It didn’t make up for ignoring his son in his time of need, but it was the most he could offer.
“Thanks,” Hugo replied just as quietly. Ron gave him a quick squeeze on the shoulder and turned his eyes up to meet Hermione’s gaze. She may not have heard what was said, but she clearly understood the sentiment as she smiled at him.
Al was standing off on his own and looked a bit surprised to see his father. “Dad, hey,” he said, gripping his trunk closer. He was afraid his father would somehow sense Lily’s broom hidden inside, although of course Harry did no such thing.
“Of course I came. Had to see you off for your last year.” Harry saw James glaring at him from beside Al and smiled at him tensely. “Good to see you as well.”
James turned around in a huff and pointedly struck up a conversation with Hugo who looked a bit taken aback to be thrust into the conflict so blatantly.
Harry nudged Ron. “So you see him anywhere?” He asked, searching through the crowd for Malfoy.
Ron frowned. “No, but I do see your children and a few reporters trying to get a clear shot of you here. Why don’t you wait them out?” Harry shook his head and scanned the crowd again. Malfoy was a very blond man, it shouldn’t have been too hard to spot his head in the sea of people.
“Got him,” Harry said as he locked in on the former Death Eater, his wife, and teenage son. Looking at him you’d never suspect he was capable of abducting a fifteen year old girl. He strode over to the man while Ron’s eyes widened.
He’d known Harry would confront him, but he didn’t think he’d do it now, before the train had even left. “You son of a bitch,” Harry hissed at him. When Draco turned in surprised Harry threw a fist into the center of his face.
There was a sickening sound of crunching bone and soft scream from Astoria before anyone interfered. James and Ron hurled themselves at Harry, pulling him away while Scorpius ran to his own father.
The reporters were taking photographs like crazy and Hermione covered her mouth in shock. “Dad!” James shouted in horror, his face turning beet red. “What the fuck is your problem?”
“He’s got her,” Harry said, pointing a shaky finger at Draco. “I know he’s got her hidden away somewhere!”
“He doesn’t!” James shouted. “Merlin, you’ve got to ruin everything, haven’t you? We can’t even pretend it’s a normal day, pretend for Al’s sake!” Al shrank back against Rose, not wanting any attention on him. He was horrified by the blood that was still streaming down Draco Malfoy’s face.
The Hogwarts Express blew its whistle, signaling only five minutes left before departure, and suddenly everyone in the station began moving again. It exploded with noise and Harry was pushed back to his own family. His knuckles were bloody and he was near certain he’d broken them on Malfoy’s face.
“What the bloody hell was that, Dad?” James asked. “You know what’s going to be all over the Prophet tomorrow? Your fist colliding with Draco Malfoy’s face. That was a fantastic way to send Al off.”
Hermione looked almost as incensed as James, but she held her tongue and turned to Rose, Hugo, and Al. “You need to get on the train, now. Can’t be late.” All three looked reluctant to board the Express, but they pulled their trunks on. Rose shot Al a sympathetic look and followed him away from the windows where they wouldn’t have to wave goodbye to their family.
When Al was out of sight James apparated away. He didn’t stick around for the train to leave as he wanted to get out of his father’s presence as quickly as possible. Harry heaved a huge sigh as he did so.
As the train pulled off, Hermione turned to Harry with a disgusted look on her face. “You’re a grown man! You can’t go around punching everyone you have a grudge with from Hogwarts!”
“He has her, I know he has her,” Harry said, his face violent with rage. “And that bastard’s going to get away with it.”
“There’s no evidence!” Hermione protested, then she seemed to realize that the people who hadn’t left were still watching them with interest. Her mouth drew into a tight line as she closed it and turned away from Harry and her husband. “I will see you at home,” she said, apparating away without another word.
As the crowd began to thin out Ron took his best mate by the arm and apparated with him back to his home. Hermione was waiting for them with a cold look on her face and Molly Weasley standing behind her. Ron ducked his head in shame when he saw his mother, hoping she didn’t know the whole story. Even though he was forty two she could still make him feel like a child.
“You two are unbelievable!” She said, keeping her voice low enough that it would not be heard upstairs where Ginny was. “What in Merlin’s name would possess you to physically attack Draco Malfoy?”
“He has Lily!” Harry shouted, not bothering to keep his volume down. “Or at the very least he knows who does.”
“And what evidence is there that even suggests this?” Hermione asked. When Harry was silent for a moment she sighed. “Exactly. It’s just your stupid prejudice against him for making bad decisions as a teenager. Yes, he was a Death Eater, but he’s changed.”
Harry opened his mouth to retort, but Ron placed a hand on his arm. “I think she’s got you on this one, mate.”
Harry jerked his arm away. “You were the one who suggested Malfoy in the first place!”
Ron turned beet red as his wife and mother turned to glare at him. “I meant it as a suggestion, raid his house, question his alibi, that sort of thing! Not attack him at the Platform in front of a gaggle of reporters.”
“And there wouldn’t have been something wrong with Harry hitting him if the reporters weren’t there?” Hermione asked scathingly.
“Er-” Ron said. He didn’t want to answer that truthfully because he knew she wouldn’t like the answer. “Yes?”
“Unbelievable! The both of you!” Hermione turned on her heel and stalked off. Ron wanted to go after her, but his mother was glaring at him with a steely gaze.
“You should feel very ashamed of yourself,” Molly Weasley said to her son when Harry left as well. “Haven’t the poor children all been through enough? And Ginny? They don’t need you on the front page of the Prophet fighting with Draco Malfoy.”
“Harry was the one who hit him,” Ron protested sullenly. “I pulled him off.”
“His daughter is missing! He’s sick with grief over her! You need to be there for him and help him to do the right thing. Not incite him into fights and breaking the law.” Ron cringed and Molly nodded. “Yes, Hermione told me about that. You’re lucky I don’t go to the Ministry with that.”
“The Minister already knows, Mum. Why do you think he chewed out Harry and ordered him off the investigation?” Molly Weasley pursed her lips and said nothing else. She was disappointed in her son’s behavior, but she was still too upset over her granddaughter’s disappearance. A tear trickled down her cheek.
“Oh Mum,” he said a little softer. “We’re all upset over Lily.”
Molly shook her head and wiped the tear away forcefully. “I’m fine. Ginny needs me. It’s just-” She shook her head. “You’ve got enough on your plate without me adding to it. Just help Harry all you can, okay?”
Ron nodded as his mother walked off. At least she wasn’t angry with him like Hermione and Harry were. She was right though. He needed to keep Harry under control all he could, to save his career as well as his family.
A/N: Here you go my lovelies! I think this is my favorite chapter of the ones I've posted so far. How do you like it? Comments, criticisms, and suggestions are always welcome!
A note on the warnings. I have changed one to Strong Violence for later chapters. It's nothing too graphic, but I wanted to give you lot a heads up about that.
Also, I have a question about my updates. I've been posting every Monday, but I do have a lot of prewritten chapters so would you like to see me post faster? Or on different days? Let me know because I'm willing to change it, just got to know what you guys prefer!
Chapter Ten: Hogwarts Express
Al shuffled into a compartment after Rose. He hadn’t said a word since his father had gone after Scorpius Malfoy’s father. His father had been acting strange ever since Lily had disappeared, but nothing like that.
The worst thing was that everyone they passed on the train stared at him. He was sure Rose and Hugo were getting a few odd glances as well, but it seemed like all their eyes were glued to him. Al didn’t know if it was because of Lily or the fight, but he hated it either way.
Rose had found them an empty compartment even though she would be leaving for a while to meet up with the Head Boy and the prefects. Al hadn’t been made a prefect, but for the first time he was very glad of that. He would have resigned if he had to put up with that this year.
Rose sat with him and Hugo like she had all the time in the world, but Al noticed her sneak a peek at her watch. “Go,” he said, not wanting to be responsible for her tardiness.
“It’s fine. I’ve got plenty of time before it’s supposed to start,” she said, but Al didn’t believe her. He knew when Rose was lying and this was one of those times. When she began a lie her nose scrunched up the tiniest bit.
“Don’t stay on my account,” Al said. “We’re fine. Aren’t we?” Hugo was staring out the window and didn’t respond. Al nudged him on the leg and he looked up, startled.
“Er- yeah,” Hugo said. It was clear he had no idea what Al had said, but Rose nodded anyway. He was right, her meeting was about to start and they were sitting all the way in the back of the train where first years were usually relegated.
“I’ll be back soon,” she promised. “If anyone bothers you just tell them the Head Girl’s on her way back and won’t hesitate to give them detention and take away House points before they even have any to deduct.”
Al nodded to satisfy her, but he knew he’d never tell someone that. It only made people more interested if you threatened them. He was sure they’d be left alone, though. The older students rarely went all the way to the back of the train unless they had a really good reason. Although he guessed he might classify as a really good reason.
Rose felt guilty as she headed to the Heads’ Compartment. She couldn’t miss her meeting for anything, but she still didn’t like leaving Al on his own. He was with Hugo, but wasn’t as close with Al as she was.
She entered the compartment and looked at Scorpius Malfoy with something like a grimace on her face. She’d known he was the Head Boy ever since she got her letter, but she hadn’t told anyone in her family. She’d meant to warn her father, but when everything went crazy it had slipped her mind.
“Hello,” she said in an attempt to be as polite as possible. Just because their families were at each other’s throats didn’t mean they had to be. It would make for a very long year if they were.
Scorpius turned to her and she saw that the blood from his father’s face had dried on his robes and stained them a dark red. His robes were in his hands and he was attempting to clean them. “Oh, I’m so sorry!” She said, immediately pulling out her wand. “Do you want my help with that?”
“Could you?” He asked. “Cleaning spells were never my forte and I can’t find one that works with blood.”
Rose waved her wand in a complicated motion and the blood dissolved in front of their eyes. Scorpius looked at her gratefully. “Thanks. Where’d you learn that?”
“My mum. When we played Quidditch as kids someone was always getting hurt. It was a pretty useful spell.” Rose was aware she was rambling, but she didn’t know what to say to Scorpius. Her uncle had just punched his father in the face. The robes looked as good as new when she passed them back to him.
Scorpius pulled them on over his head and they sat there in silence. “So,” he said, drawing out the word to a second and even third syllable.
“So,” Rose replied. It was quite possibly the most awkward conversation of her life, trumping the sex talk with her mother. Well, maybe it wasn’t that awful, but it certainly was forced.
“Do we know what we’re going to say during the meeting?” Scorpius asked and Rose was very relieved to have a concrete subject to discuss.
“Same speech that’s given every year, I suppose,” she said. Every year the Heads said the same exact thing and Rose had finally realized they’d just copied what was said the year before because there was nothing new to add. “Unless you’ve got something fiery and passionate planned instead.”
“We could always incite them to rebel against the strict regime of McGonagall. You know, get someone a little more relaxed as our Headmistress. Madam Pince perhaps.” Rose had to cover her mouth to keep from laughing. Madam Pince was the ninety year old librarian and the only person at Hogwarts who was stricter than McGonagall, especially when it came to her library.
“Don’t say that too loud,” she said, recovering from her surprise. “McGonagall made you Head and she can take it away.”
Scorpius shot her a weak smile and they waited in silence for the twenty four prefects to appear. When they did, Rose gave the speech with a little help from Scorpius. She made sure to glare at each of the fifth years individually.
Whereas most of the sixth and seventh years seemed vaguely bored, the fifth years were all sitting on the edge of their seats and lapping up each nugget of knowledge like starving puppies. It was a bit amusing and she hoped she hadn’t looked like that.
She neglected to remember that when she had become a Prefect in fifth year she’d had a scrap of spare parchment on which she took notes.
“Any questions?” Rose asked as the meeting came to a close. All of the fifth years shook their heads eagerly, as though thrilled at giving the right answer. “Alright then,” she said with a sigh. “You can go back to your friends. Don’t forget to patrol.”
As they all left she turned to Scorpius. “You could have jumped in at any time. Nothing was stopping you.”
“You looked like you had it under control.”
She shook her head in annoyance. Of course she had it under control, she had everything under control. That didn’t mean he was welcome to do absolutely nothing, though. “I’ll see you around, I guess,” she said as she left the compartment.
Scorpius grabbed his books and hurried after her. “Wait! I’m sorry, I was just joking.” Rose nodded, but kept walking. She didn’t mind talking with Scorpius Malfoy, but he wasn’t a friend. She much preferred getting back to Al and Hugo. “Where are you going?” He asked.
“Back to my compartment.”
Scorpius jogged up beside her. “Mind if I come with?”
Rose shook her head. She didn’t want to be rude, but Scorpius and Al in the same place might not be the best idea. “Don’t you have your own friends?”
“They kicked me out,” he said, clearly annoyed. “They’re planning a prank and they think I’d tell McGonagall before they can pull it off.” He shrugged and looked at her hopefully.
Rose eyed him and decided he looked sincere, or at least like he was telling the truth. “Would you?” She asked.
This answer seemed satisfactory, so Rose nodded. “Alright. Al’s in there though, so you’re going to have to sit with him.
“I kind of figured that,” Scorpius responded, although Rose nodded he looked a bit uneasy at the thought of sitting with the boy whose father had just punched his own father. “It’s not Albus’s fault.”
Rose led him down past the compartments all the way to the end of the train. She stopped just before sliding open the compartment door. “You might consider calling him Al, though. If you call him Albus to his face he just might punch you.”
“What is it with the Potters and violence,” Scorpius muttered under his breath as he entered the compartment behind Rose.
Al looked up and smiled at Rose before he saw who else had come in. “Scorpius,” he said coolly. He didn’t think he’d ever had a conversation with the boy before and now wasn’t exactly a time when they would become close friends.
“Al,” Scorpius said with a slight incline of his neck. “Hugo. It’s a pleasure.” Hugo nodded and went back to staring out the window.
Rose sighed in disbelief. She bet neither of the boys had said anything since she left. They could be so closed up sometimes. “Has the trolley lady been by?” She asked, trying to fill the awkward silence with something, even incessant chatter.
Al nodded and gestured toward the seat in the corner. A few sweets were scattered on it, mostly chocolate frogs she noted with disdain. It meant they were Hugo’s as Al thought chocolate frogs were repulsive. He always said he didn’t like his food moving on its own, although Rose had never seen a problem as it was just a spell. It wasn’t like they were real frogs.
There were also several packages of Fizzing Whizbees, her favorite sweet. She ripped open one and offered it to Al first, then Scorpius when he refused. Neither boy was interested in the sweets and Rose sighed. It was going to be a very long train ride.
A/N: I just started college so I haven't been writing as much lately and I think I'm going to stick with the every Monday schedule at least until I finish the story. I'll reconsider changing it up then and maybe post chapters on every other Thursday or something.
And wow, all those reviews! Turns out you guys really are reading this! I love hearing from you, even when it's just telling me to update faster.
Chapter Eleven: Sick and Tired
Ginny was tired of crying. She was tired of being looked at with pity. She was tired of staring at the pale beige walls of her bedroom. She was just plain tired. But she was also tired of being tired.
She turned on her side, trying to get in a more comfortable position and ended up staring at the walls of her bedroom. They were beige. Smoky beige to be more specific. Ginny had liked the color when she first picked it out and remembered her insistence on painting the walls the muggle until she’d actually attempted it. With one small section of a wall done she’d been completely covered in paint and the paint was clumpy.
The memory brought a smile to Ginny’s lips, which immediately fell away. She couldn’t be smiling when her daughter was- no. She couldn’t think it.
But Ginny was sick of looking at the wall. Even with fond memories of choosing the color she couldn’t stand to look at it any longer. It was making her feel nauseated.
Almost unbidden, Ginny found herself getting out of bed. She paused at the threshold of her room and then continued on down the stairs. It was the first time she’d been downstairs in days and she was surprised at how nothing seemed different, yet everything was.
She entered the kitchen and Hermione stared at her in surprise. “Is something wrong?” She asked hurriedly. Ginny shook her head. Suddenly coming down seemed like a very bad idea. She hadn’t wanted to interrupt Hermione or have long conversations about- “Would you like something to eat?” She asked.
That was when Ginny noticed Hermione was cooking Shepherd’s Pie in a large casserole dish. “Your mum is teaching me how to cook,” she said with a slight blush when she noticed Ginny staring. “You know I always was horrid at it.”
“That’s Ron’s favorite,” Ginny remarked. It helped her to keep her mind focused on trivial facts rather than the big picture.
“Yes, I wanted to make it for out twentieth anniversary.” Hermione looked a bit awkward and it took Ginny a moment to realize it was because of her presence. When had everything become so screwed up that her best friend couldn’t look her in the eye? “Would you like some? I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m sure it’s quite edible. It smells good, at least.”
Ginny wasn’t normally in the habit of accepting food described as ‘edible’, but she was still a bit dazed. She took the plate Hermione offered her and stared at it for a moment, as though wondering what it was doing in her hands. “Do you need a fork?” Hermione asked, and she nodded once again.
Even though everything was moving painfully slow, Ginny felt as though her senses had been overloaded. Just coming out of her room had been difficult enough, now she was having conversations with Hermione, however one-sided they might have been.
She took a small bite of the dish while Hermione looked on nervously. Had she been in her right frame of mind Ginny may have wondered if she was going to get food poisoning from the Shepherd’s Pie. As it was she could barely taste the food. It was flavorless in her mouth.
“Is it alright?” Hermione asked, leaning in a bit too close for comfort.
“Fine,” Ginny said with a nod. She felt as though she was getting a slight headache from being downstairs in the bright light. The drapes were open to let in the sunlight and after being in her dark room for days her eyes weren’t used to it.
But Hermione had looked so eager to see her that Ginny didn’t want to go back upstairs so soon. She could handle just a few more minutes.
“Gin? Are you okay?” Ginny realized then that she had been staring off into space for several minutes and her fork had fallen from her fingers and was lying haphazard on her plate. “Oh no, did you see that?” Hermione asked as she grabbed the Daily Prophet away from the table. “I told Ron to put that away this morning.”
Ginny, who hadn’t even noticed the Prophet laying on the table, shook her head, confused. “I’m sorry, I wouldn’t have left it lying around if- I shouldn’t have left it out.”
She shrugged. She read the Prophet occasionally, but Harry knew things before the Prophet did, generally, so he was a better, more reliable news source. It was only when he was busy with work that she read the papers. Ginny didn’t care what about any news that was going on in the wizarding world, but she guessed there was an article about Lily which was why Hermione reacted so badly.
As she thought of her daughter, Ginny’s headache worsened. “I think I’m going to go to bed,” she said, leaving the Shepherd’s pie mostly uneaten on her plate. Hermione jumped up from her chair when Ginny stood.
“Are you sure? You’ve only been up for a minute! Don’t let anything that disgusting Prophet reporter has to say bother you. He’s a real piece of work.” Ginny shook her head. She hadn’t even seen the Prophet and had no desire to ever read what they had to say about Lily.
She was just tired.
She slowly climbed the steps with Hermione trailing behind her nervously. When she reached her bedroom door, Ginny turned. “I think I’m just going to sleep for a bit,” she said, the longest sentence since she’d been up that day. Her headache was growing steadily worse and she yearned for the cool darkness of her own quiet room.
She closed the door tightly behind her, shutting Hermione out. Ginny moved towards her bed and caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror on the front dresser.
She realized with a shock that her appearance was probably why Hermione had reacted as she did. Her skin was pale and sallow, almost a yellowish sickly tint. Her eyes were bloodshot and, despite the amounts of sleep she’d been getting recently, were lined with dark circles. Her hair hung mussed and limp around her shoulders.
She looked like a horror, but she didn’t care. After the initial surprise, Ginny noted her reflection with little more than mild disregard. She wasn’t trying to impress anyone and she just didn’t have the energy to care about her appearance, let alone do something about it.
Simply walking downstairs had been too much for her to handle and she couldn’t stop thinking about Lily.
Ginny crawled into her bed and pulled the covers taught over her head. She didn’t want to be awake to think anymore. She wanted to disappear into dreamland where Lily was still home and everything was fine, not that her dreams were always so happy.
She settled down against her pillow, the sheets blocking out any rays of light, and closed her eyes, hoping that by the time she woke up everything would be fine again.
A/N: As promised here's chapter eleven! Thanks to those of you who keep reviewing, I love hearing feedback and/or suggestions! It really means a lot. :)
Chapter Twelve: The Minister
Harry had read the Prophet that morning. He’d seen the photograph of himself slam his fist into Malfoy’s face time and time again. He couldn’t deny that he derived a bit of pleasure seeing blood spurting down the blonde man’s robes, but mostly he was angry.
He walked into the Minister’s office completely ignoring the cries of the secretary that he was busy and to call in later for an appointment. He dropped the paper on the older man’s desk in disgust. “Have you seen this?” He spat in disgust.
“I believe a few papers may have crossed my desk this morning,” Minister replied. He looked tenser than usual, but Harry was too enraged to notice.
“How could you let this happen?”
“Excuse me?” The Minister asked, a bit taken aback.
“Don’t you have any control over the rubbish they put out? They could be searching for my daughter, but instead they’re publishing this!” Harry jabbed his finger at the image and both wizards watch as Harry brought his fist up to meet Draco Malfoy’s face yet again.
The Minister winced. “Harry,” he said, pushing the paper away so he wouldn’t have to see it anymore. “I have been doing damage control a good part of the morning attempting to explain to the press why one of my top advisors punched a man for no clear reason.”
“I had a reason! That bastard knows where Lily is, you can see it in his eyes.” Harry pointed to his own as an example and the Minister stared into the steely green orbs.
“There’s no evidence,” he said with a sigh. “Is it possible that you’re only seeing what you want to see? Ever since Voldemort’s downfall he’s been the perfect citizen. There’s been no inclination-”
“Well of course he has!” Harry burst out without letting the Minister finish. “He was biding his time. If he’d been spouting Voldemort’s message all these years he wouldn’t have had a chance at my daughter. You’re playing right into his hands, thinking exactly what he wants you to think.”
The Minister rubbed his forehead tiredly. Harry was one of his best advisors and had real insight on policies he was trying to get passed, but the man had a temper and sometimes, just sometimes, he began to think he was a bit paranoid, much like the late Mad Eye Moody. Spending so many years going after Dark wizards did that to people.
This reminded the Minister that he had been thinking of setting up meetings to discuss mandatory hiatuses for Aurors and hit wizards. Some of them spent too much of their lives hunting criminals that they began to see a web of lies in everyone.
“This is the reason I wanted you kept out of the investigation. You can’t keep your emotions out of the equation. You’re never going to find your daughter if you keep acting the way you have been.”
Harry looked at the Minister with unadulterated rage on his face. “I seem to be the only one who cares about finding her at all!”
“Potter!” The Minister barked. “I have personally ensured that the best team of hit wizards and most skilled Auror pair have teamed up to find. If anyone can find, it will be them. What I need you to do is take a step back, go home, and spend time with your family. I’m sure they need you.”
“I’m not just abandoning my daughter!”
“I don’t want to do this to you Harry, but if you insist upon pursuing this I don’t have much of a choice. I’m going to have to suspend you from all duties.” The Minister felt guilty. His hand was forced- he couldn’t have someone close to him who was sick with grief and breaking laws. He needed calm, levelheaded advisors.
Harry was incensed. No one listened to him anymore. Everyone else, including his own family, seemed content to let the Aurors handle the investigation. He wasn’t going to let someone else look for his daughter while he sat on his arse. They hadn’t found her yet so they must have been doing something wrong.
“Then consider this my official resignation,” Harry said coldly. “I won’t be returning. Ever.”
“Harry, please be rational,” the Minister begged.
“Rational? My daughter is missing! Nothing in this world is rational!” He stormed out of the office leaving a very distraught Minister behind him.
The old wizard groaned as he massaged his temple. The press was going to come down hard on him for losing such a valuable advisor, especially so soon after the disappearance of Lily Potter. It was going to take a lot of damage control to contain this mess.
“Elena?” He called out to his secretary. “Please have Head Auror Penglaze sent to my office immediately. We have some new developments to discuss.” Elena nodded her head and scurried off to find the other wizard. The Minister reached into his desk and pulled out an old brief, anything to take his mind off of the downward spiral that had become his political career.
Hermione had gone home. She told herself it was because she needed to do laundry, get more clothes, clean up the house, any number of menial chores that could have waited. The real reason she went home was that she needed distance from the Potter house.
She’d been there almost every minute of every day since Lily’s disappearance nearly a week. She had trouble breathing in there sometimes. Ginny’s grief and Harry’s anger were suffocating.
A crash from their kitchen startled her and she hurried out of the laundry to see what the commotion was. Ron was repairing a cracked vase somewhat sheepishly. Hermione lowered her wand and breathe a sigh of relief, glad it was only her husband and not a Dark wizard.
“What are you doing, Ron?” Hermione demanded.
Ron spun around in surprise, dropping the just repaired vase to the floor again. “Oh Merlin, ‘Mione. You surprised me. What are you doing here?” He charmed the vase again, levitating the repaired thing to a more secure location on the table.
“I came back to do laundry. What are you doing here?”
Ron looked instantly guilty. “Hiding from Harry. He had a row with the Minister about access to the investigation.”
“Again? He needs to learn that being Harry Potter won’t get him everything he wants,” Hermione said, exasperated. Usually Harry liked to live in anonymity, pretending he was just an ordinary wizard, but he wasn’t above using his fame when he though he needed to.
“Yeah, well you try telling him that. He bit my head off for just suggesting he go home to take a rest.” Ron shook his head. “According to Schwartz he resigned, quit on the spot when the Minister refused to help him.”
Hermione’s mouth dropped open. “He did what? The Minister is a powerful man to have as an enemy.”
“He quit his job, that’s hardly cause for an enemy. I was more concerned with his access to the investigation. If he doesn’t know every detail that happens…” Ron shook his head. He’d witnessed Harry illegally going through the Aurors’ notes and evidence once already, and that was with access to the case. Without- he could just imagine being an accomplice to breaking into the Ministry.
“It’s a political move, Ron. Harry’s a beloved public figure and his resignation will be seen as him withdrawing support from the current Minister. With that and not being able to find Lily, this is really bad for him. It implies a cover up in the investigation.”
Ron looked at his wife with a confused look on his face. He had never been quite as politically savvy as her and couldn’t see how she’d made the leap from Harry’s resignation to a cover up. “But there hasn’t been a cover up. I’ve been privy to everything.”
“It doesn’t matter if there actually was, just that it looks like there was. The Minister is a powerful man and this is all going to come down on him now.” Hermione sighed in frustration.
Harry probably had no idea the can of worms he had opened up. His only concern was finding his daughter and Hermione was worried with this latest move he would meet more resistance in the Ministry. They certainly weren’t going to be pleased when the press got wind of the whole thing.
“This is really bad, Ron,” she said. “If he does anything illegal, they might try to prosecute him, stick him in Azkaban if he breaks into the Ministry again.”
Ron shook his head. He could understand why the Minister was angry now, but he still didn’t think they’d go as far as to try something like that. He may have been disgraced in their eyes, but he was still Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived and Defeated the Dark Lord.
“Look,” Ron said. “I’ve met the Minister and he’s a decent bloke. With Lily missing I’m sure they won’t do anything to Harry.”
“They’ll discount him the way they did Dumbledore after Voldemort came back. Remember? Harry will become the distraught father, mad with grief.” Ron shrugged. He didn’t really see how this could be a bad thing. It was mostly true, Harry was distraught. Maybe he wasn’t crazy, but he sure put up a good face for it sometimes.
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” he ventured, something he wouldn’t have said if there was a chance anyone but his wife could hear it. “You know how he’s been lately. Those aren’t the actions of a wizard in his right mind.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Hermione conceded. “But I would still feel better if you tried to keep him away from the Ministry.”
“By doing what? Staking out Malfoy’s Manor?” Ron asked sarcastically. Hermione raised an eyebrow at him and he sighed. “Fine, but when they throw me in Azkaban for being an accomplice to whatever it is that he plans on doing, you’d better be prepared to hire me a good lawyer.”
A/N: I've been so distracted by college lately that I haven't had time to really revise these last few chapters, but I'll try to get on that soon. Did you have any idea college was a stressful environment? =) Thanks for the lovely comments!
Chapter Thirteen: Ignore Them
Al spent the full first week of school avoiding anybody and everybody. Most students kept their distance because he’d learned that people had an instinct to keep them away from everyone else catastrophes, as though it was catching, but other students, some he’d never even spoken to before, came up to talk to him about it like they were old friends.
But the worst were the ones who talked about him when he was present. Some didn’t even bother to keep their voices down. Ever since the Prophet’s lead story had been his father punching Scorpius Malfoy’s father they’d taken to carrying it around with them and pulling it out at opportune moments. Like during Potions class when they sat directly behind him.
“Just ignore them,” Rose muttered under her breath as two Hufflepuffs whispered away. “You know they’re clueless anyway. While we have high ranking positions in the Ministry, they’re going to be waitresses at Madam Puddifoot’s.”
Al snorted. The Hufflepuff girls were in a NEWT level Potions class, he didn’t think they were going to be waitresses, but it was nice of Rose to say that to make him feel better.
“Do you think-?” He heard one of the girls whisper, but the rest of her sentence was too muffled for him to make out.
“You ask him!” There were more giggles and Al chopped the ginger root so finely it became a powder.
Rose spun around in her seat and glared at the two giggling girls. “If either of you asks him anything I will give you both detention for disrupting another student during class.” They silenced instantly and Rose turned back around. “No, don’t,” she said, stopping Al from adding the ginger roots to the potion. “We have to redo those, they’re too small.”
He smiled at Rose. Even in her most protective mode she wouldn’t let him ruin their potion. It was so typical her. “Thanks for that,” he said quietly when she returned from getting the new ingredients. The girls hadn’t said a word since Rose threatened them with detention.
“It was nothing. They were annoying me too.” She shot him a quick smile and began to chop the roots, neater than Al had managed in his frustration.
A part of him wondered what the girls wanted to ask him, though. Rose had stopped sharing her Prophet with him in the morning and instead read it in the girls’ dormitory. She would give him updates on his family from what she read, but he knew she was leaving things out because none of the information was headline news.
Being kept in the dark was sometimes annoying, but mostly Al just appreciated it. He didn’t want to know all that was going on at home. If Lily was found he’d know in an instant, but until then all the news was going to be bad.
He hadn’t quite realized this until his father punched Draco Malfoy, but after that he removed all the eavesdropping spells from his belongings. If people were keeping things from him they must have a good reason.
As the class ended, he and Rose began gathering their bags to leave when the two Hufflepuffs came over to them. Al recognized them as Paula and Charlene, two nice but somewhat dim girls. “So Al,” Charlene said with another giggle.
Rose glared at her. “There aren’t rules about talking to people after class is over,” Paula protested. “You can’t give us detention.”
Rose looked like she was about to respond rather heatedly, so Al put a hand on her arm to stop her. “Anyway,” Charlene said, flipping her hair. “What’s it like? I mean, is your sister ever going to come back?”
“Come on,” Rose muttered, grabbing Al by the shoulders and leading him out with her. “Ignore them.” It was hypocritical to say the least because Al could practically see the steam coming out of her ears, but he nodded.
He almost always agreed with Rose these days because he knew it made her feel better. “Those girls,” she said, shaking her head. “They must be missing half their brains. What the hell is a Hufflepuff, anyway? At least the Slytherins have brains for the most part.”
“Hannah was a Hufflepuff,” Al said as they walked down the long corridor toward the Great Hall.
“And she works at the Leaky Cauldron,” Rose replied. “Thus proving my point.”
“I like Hannah. She’s always been nice to us. Remember when we were little and both of our dads got called away on that big Auror mission and Gran couldn’t watch us? We spent the whole day at the Leaky Cauldron with her.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “I never said she wasn’t a perfectly lovely person. I was merely commenting on her intelligence which never seemed to be that high. Remember when some of the firewhiskey always seemed to be missing a few years back and she thought the owls were slipping in overnight, opening the containers, and drinking it all up when it actually turned out to be James, Roxy, Freddie?”
Al did remember that. The boys had offered him some of their loot, but he’d declined. He and Rose had tried firewhiskey once and both sworn it would never happen again. As far as Al knew they had both kept that promise.
Hannah was always prone to strange theories on anything odd that happened, whether in the Daily Prophet or the Leaky Cauldron. She was one of the sweetest people Al knew, but bright was not a term he’d use to describe her. He’d always been a bit dumbfounded that she married a professor.
“You up for dinner today?” Rose asked, pausing just outside the Great Hall. Sometimes they took their meals in the kitchens to avoid anyone who had questions like Charlene and Paula, but he shook his head.
“You just had a weird look on your face for a moment there.” Al nodded. He was realizing that he did that more and more lately. His professors sometimes asked him if he was alright and he would realize that he needed to blink and at least pretend to stare at his notes.
Rose nodded. He said that a lot and she was beginning to accept that he didn’t like to open up. “Alright.” Al followed her to the table where they sat in almost the direct center, a surprisingly sparse area. Most people flocked towards the ends which were nearly always overcrowded.
They were eating their meal in peace when a burly sixth year stood on his seat and yelled, “Oi, Gryfindors!” at the top of his lungs. Al knew the boy from James’s long rants as Akron, the keeper and Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team since James left. “Try outs are Monday after classes. Come out if you can fly!”
He sat back down in his seat and the younger years began talking excitedly about the possibility of making the team and being stars.
Rose smiled at Al. “Going to go out for the team this year?” She asked, just as she had every other year when the announcement was made.
“Thinking about it,” he replied just as he had every year in the past. Only this year he wasn’t thinking about the team at all. He was thinking about Lily’s broom, the one he kept in his trunk. The one he hadn’t even told Rose about.
A person dropped into the seat across from Al and he stared at Akron. He’d never had anything to do with him as it was his siblings who were the Quidditch stars. He’d never had any kind of talent in the air. He liked to keep both feet planted firmly on the ground.
“I’m sorry about Lily,” Akron said in a serious tone. “She was one of the best seekers Gryffindor’s seen since your father.”
“She only played for a year,” Al said. He didn’t like it when people exaggerated what Lily accomplished. They acted like she was better than she was just because she wasn’t around anymore. Al wished they still act like she was normal.
Akron shrugged. “She would’ve played longer if James hadn’t been so deadest against having her on the team.” Al remembered that. James and Lily had a huge row about her playing on the team and finally their mum had to step in and demand that James give her a chance. “He just got lucky that we had a decent seeker in Davis all those years. Lily was better though.”
“Thanks, I guess,” Al said. A sudden memory of Lily streaking through the sky after the snitch popped into his head and he shook it away.
“Anyway, we’ve got a few spots opening up this year if you’re interested. I figure with siblings like James and Lily you’ve got to have some natural talent running through your blood.” Akron smiled. “If you want come on out.”
“Maybe I will,” Al said, knowing he wouldn’t. He never understood his family’s desire to ride on broomsticks in the air. He wasn’t scared of heights, but fifty feet high with only a flimsy broom keeping you from crashing to the ground should have been enough to terrify anyone.
“Your family’s got some serious Quidditch blood running through your veins. I’ll be looking for you.” He walked off and Al looked down at his dinner feeling slightly sick.
“You still okay?” Rose asked. She’d been very quiet when Akron came over and Al assumed she still fancied him as she had the year before. “He wasn’t trying to make you feel worse-”
“I feel fine,” Al insisted, knowing it was at least in part a lie. “I’m going back to Gryffindor Tower.”
“I’ll come with.” He shook his head. They’d barely had a chance to touch their dinner yet and Rose liked her food.
“No. I want to be alone.” Al left the Great Hall, aware that people were staring at him. He ducked his head hoping that Neville, who was sitting up at the staff table, wouldn’t notice he was skipping and tell his parents. He didn’t want them to worry about him. They already had too much on their plates.
Once in his dormitory, Al decided to pull out Lily’s broomstick. It was a Starfire 260, the latest racing broom as of just a few months prior. Lily had ecstatic to get it. He didn’t think he’d ever seen her happier.
Everyone else was down at dinner, so Al went into his trunk and pulled out the broom. He charmed it back to its normal size and set it down on his lap. He didn’t know much about brooms, but this one sure was a beauty.
It wasn’t meant to be left in someone’s trunk all the time, Al knew that much for certain. It was meant to be ridden by someone like Lily, someone who flew for the joy of it. He had, albeit briefly, considered riding around the pitch a few times when no one was there, but he’d changed his mind about that instantly.
He wouldn’t be able to control a broom like this and even if he could it wouldn’t feel right. Only Lily could ride this broom. It was hers. Al was just keeping it safe for her until she came back.
A/N: Let me preface this by saying that I live in the States so technically it's still Monday for me! Although I do try to post earlier in the day for you UK people usually. Got held up with schoolwork and soccer practice, which is why I haven't actually written anything on this story in over a month. But enough about my busy/procrastination problems (because honestly it's probably more the latter). I hope you liked it! And I will try to be better next Monday!
Chapter Fourteen: Suspended and a Promotion
When James had decided to show up to practice after missing the game against the Wasps and an entire week’s worth of practices he knew it wasn’t going to be good. He expected the coach to chew him, maybe even suspend him for a week or a month, but instead he’d been stuck on the bench watching the rest of the team play.
None of the other players had spoken to him, as per the Coach’s orders James assumed, but Marlow Atkins had shot him a few pitying looks from the sky. Marlow was a reserve like him, although he’d been subbed in for Keeper a few times when Brumely had been crushed by some bludgers and ended up in St. Mungo’s for two weeks.
The Coach hadn’t said more than a word to James, and that one word had been barked as an order “Sit!” James had sat and he was remaining in that position until the Coach told him otherwise.
He didn’t think he’d ever seen the Coach not scream at a player for doing something wrong. Powler had shown up five minutes late once and had to stay late after practice doing all manner of punishments while the rest of the team was forced to stay and watch.
It had cured James and Marlow of ever considering showing up late and it probably hadn’t done much for the rest of the team either.
As the sky began to grow dim the Coach blew his whistle and the players landed around him. James was too far away to hear what was being said, but several of the players glanced at him while the Coach was speaking so he assumed he was mentioned.
They hurried back to the locker room to shower and finally the Coach walked over to where James was sitting. He straightened his back and acted as though he’d been paying absolute attention to the practice for the last four hours instead of thinking about himself.
“Potter, I don’t know what to do with you.” James’s mouth dropped open. Of all the things he had expected to come out of the Coach’s mouth, that had not been one of them. “Were you any other player I’d fire you on the spot.
“Sir, if this is about my father,” James began. He didn’t accept things because of his father’s influence and fame. He’d rather be fired.
“I don’t support nepotism, Potter, and I’m quite offended you think me that low.” His eyes flashed and James nodded, suppressing a small smile. Every day he liked this man more and more. “No, this is about you. You’re an interesting player. You’ve got skills and the fire, but you’re a little rough around the edges. I like that.”
“Thank you, sir,” James said, a bit confused about why he was being complimented after missing a match and a week of practice.
“That being said, you can’t just skip whenever you want. I don’t tolerate that with this team. I know you lot call me a hard arse behind my back and I am. I was the one that brought this team out of the ground. We won our first game after nearly ten years in my second season as coach and now we’re close to a winning record.” James nodded. He’d heard the history of the team before, but he didn’t know what it had to do with him. “I don’t plan on this team ever becoming the joke of the league again.”
“I understand, sir,” James said, although he didn’t. Not really.
“Potter, I understand you’re in a tough situation,” he said. James ducked his head. There was nothing worse than being pitied by a hard arse like him.
“I don’t think-” He began, but the Coach cut him off.
“I read the papers. It’s hard to get any news without seeing something about your sister.” James nodded. He’d seen a few articles, but he’d begun avoiding most of the news. “And there have been quite a few mentions of you in them. Apparently you’ve been seen at nearly every wizard pub in Great Britain in the last two weeks.”
James cringed. That was probably an exaggeration, but he’d spent nearly every night out with Roxy and Freddie or some of his old Hogwarts buddies. “It won’t happen again, sir,” he said through clenched teeth, although he had plans to go out that night. He’d just have to slip away from the reporters.
“I can tell when my players are lying to me. Don’t do it again.” James cringed. “I’m going to tell you something that I expect to stay between us, alright?”
James nodded, wondering what the Coach might have to say. “Powler’s contract is up in six months and he’s gone. We’re not going to try to sign him because we can’t pay what he’s looking for. By the time he’s gone I want you ready to take his place.”
James gaped at the Coach. “Me?” He asked gob smacked. He’d just assumed Powler would be signed for another three year contract. He hadn’t even been played in a game yet, let alone as a starting player.
“Don’t act so surprised. You’re a good player. I just want you ready by then. The way you’re acting now you won’t be.” James nodded. That at least made sense. He wasn’t ready to be a reliable player yet, although he’d been dreaming of his first game for months, even before getting signed with the Cannons.
“I’ll do anything you need, sir,” he said.
“Good. That’s what I want to hear. I’m going to suspend you for two months. Do whatever you want, get the partying and drinking out of your system, just come back in two months ready to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, do you understand?”
James nodded mutely. All of this information was coming at him so fast. He wasn’t sure whether to be thrilled, upset, angry, or relieved. Getting suspended was bad, but promised a starting position was amazing, even if it wasn’t for another six months.
“November seventh, all day practice. Don’t get out of shape with this time off.” James nodded again and almost collapsed when the coach clapped him on the shoulder. “Take care of yourself, Potter. I don’t want to go scouting at Hogwarts again for a few more years at least. Gems like you are hard to find.”
He walked off leaving James standing on the pitch alone. He was still bobbing his head in a slight nod, too surprised to realize he had continued doing it.
Hours later back at the flat he shared with Roxy and Freddie he was still a little dazed. “So he suspended you?” Roxy asked in disbelief. “And then promised you a promotion?”
James nodded. “Yeah, that’s about it.”
“This calls for a celebration,” Freddie said. “Drinks are on James!”
“Now hang on a minute,” James said. “Drinks should be on you! I’m the one without a job or money for the next two months. Besides, we’re supposed to be meeting up with Cole and Emerson tonight, remember?”
“Oh Merlin, those two numbskulls?” Roxy asked with a groan. “Since when do you still talk to those clowns?”
James Freddie grinned at each other. Roxy had dated her way through the boys in their year, excluding the two of them of course, and determined that they all made horrible boyfriends.
“What was Emerson? First month of sixth?” James asked with a smirk.
“And Cole was after Winter break in seventh?” Freddie responded with an identical smirk.
“Oh shut up, you two. It’s not my fault they were clueless idiots,” Roxy said with a roll of her eyes.
James grinned widely. The joke with Roxy had alleviated some of his stress and he was able to focus his attention on that instead of Quidditch or Lily. “So does this mean you’re not coming with us, Rox?” He asked. “Because that would be pretty sweet.”
“Oh I’m coming. If you’re buying drinks, I’m definitely coming.”
James scowled. “Thanks a lot mate,” he muttered to Freddie. “I hope you don’t mind swinging for my rent the next two months.”
“Your dad’s the richest wizard in Europe, practically. You can’t honestly be low on funds,” Freddie said. His tone was light, but James took it the wrong way.
The playful smile dropped from his face and was replaced by a scowl. “Don’t remind me. I can’t ask him for money, even if I did manage to find him. Let’s go. We were supposed to meet Cole ages ago.”
The club was only a short walk from their flat so instead of apparating they walked, enjoying the crisp September air. James had been silent since they left the flat, ignoring Freddie for bringing up his family.
The club was dimly lit and James, Freddie, and Roxy waded through the sea of people to the bar where James knew they’d find his old Gryffindor friends. They hadn’t gotten together much since leaving Hogwarts so he was especially looking forward to seeing them.
“Mates!” He said, spying them at the bar.
Emerson and Cole turned around and grinned. “Hey, hey! Well if it isn’t the Quidditch star himself. Thought you were too good to hang out with us lowly folk.”
“No one says ‘lowly folk’ anymore,” Roxy said sourly.
“Roxy darling, still as sweet as ever,” Cole said. They’d broken up less than a year prior and he was still slightly bitter about it.
“Whatever,” she muttered, grabbing her drink and moving onto the dance floor.
“Who invited her?” Emerson asked with a smirk, slapping his friend on the back.
“I think she invited herself, like always,” Freddie said. “You lot started drinking without us?” He asked, noting that both blokes already looked a little buzzed.
Cole shrugged. “You were taking ages to show up and nothing’s more pathetic than two lonely blokes sitting around without any alcohol in their hands. Besides, there was this hot muggle girl and Emerson was trying to buy her drinks.”
“Did he succeed?” James asked, already knowing the answer. If Emerson had succeeded he wouldn’t have stuck around waiting for them. Cole only laughed and shook his head.
“Can I get my friends a rum and coke?” He asked the bartender. When the drinks were slid down to him he handed them to James and Freddie. “To old friends and Quidditch stars,” Cole said, raising his glass ever so slightly.
James downed it and grimaced. “Not nearly as strong as firewhiskey,” he said.
Cole shrugged. “I figured you’d appreciate a muggle venue with all that’s been going on with the press. No muggles, no front page picture of James Potter getting wasted. You do what you have to do.”
James appreciated the gesture. He didn’t have as many reporters following him around as his father undoubtedly did, but that didn’t mean there weren’t a few. An image of him with a firewhiskey in his hand had made it into the paper more than a few times. If everything the tabloids said was true he’d be a raging alcoholic.
They seemed to forget he was an eighteen year old who just wanted some fun.
He turned back to the bartender and ordered something with vodka in it, he wasn’t quite sure what, but it was stronger than the other muggle drink. It didn’t have quite the same effect as the firewhiskey, but it was close.
When the drink settled into his stomach he began to feel lighter. The drink made everything seem better. “Let’s get this party started!” James said, grinning as his friends.
“Started without you, mate, but you’re welcome to join in anytime,” Emerson said. “Now look at that girl. On a scale of one to ten-”
“Ten,” the other three answered simultaneously.
“Damn. Haven’t got a shot.” Emerson shrugged. “But that means I haven’t got anything to lose by trying. Wish me luck.”
The other boys roared with laughter. When he was out of earshot Freddie said, “He does realize no amount of luck will help him with that girl, right?”
“I don’t think he cares,” James responded.
The night went by quickly with drink after drink. James sometimes felt like everything was happening in a blur and he was just caught up with everything around him. Being drunk just made all of that easier to take.
He was chatting with a very beautiful girl (although it may have just been the alcohol) when Freddie tapped him on the shoulder. “Time to go,” he said.
James rolled his eyes at the girl and followed his friend out. “Where are Emerson and Cole?” He shouted. Even though they were outside his ears were still ringing from the loud music.
“We can hear you, you fool,” Roxy muttered. She was tottering slightly on her heels and grabbed onto her twin for support. “We didn’t all go deaf like you did.”
James laughed at her, realizing she was right. Everything seemed funny through the haze of the vodka. “How much did you two drink in there?” Freddie asked with an eye roll. “It’s getting pretty bad when I’m the responsible one.”
“Hey!” Roxy protested. “Just because I weigh less than you fatties doesn’t mean I can’t drink as much. I just get a little more-” She made a complicated hand gesture and giggled. “You know.”
“Drunk?” Freddie asked drily. “That’s really great. I’m waking both of you up at five to help me open the store. That’s in three hours and change, so rest up.”
“Freddie,” Roxy said, suddenly mock serious and pouting. “We’re still going to be drunk by then.”
“I’ll make you coffee. I’d give you a sobering potion, but James finished up the last of it a week ago. Thanks mate.”
James gave a salute, too wasted to notice the sarcasm in his cousin’s voice. “No problemo, senor.”
“At lunch tomorrow when you feel like crap on toast and I’m perfectly fine, I’m going to laugh at you,” Freddie said. Neither his sister nor his cousin seemed particularly concerned by that fact and he sighed. “You two haven’t got any idea what it’s like to be the only sober person,” he muttered.
James shook his head. He didn’t know what it was like and he had no intention of changing that. The most fun he had in the last two weeks was when he was out with his friends and not thinking about his family issues at all.
A/N: Rembered today. 'Twas bordsay yesterday (I feel so old!) Yep, that's pretty much all I have to say. Exciting life that I live. Let me know what you think of this story/chapter! I thrive on feedback!
Chapter Fifteen: Breaking In
“I’m going in,” Harry said as he and Ron were outside the gates of the Malfoy Manor. They’d been staking out the home for nearly two days as it was the only idea Ron had to keep Harry from doing anything else stupid.
He’d been sarcastic when he suggested the idea to Hermione, but it was the only one he’d had that Harry would even consider. And while staking out Malfoy Manor wasn’t ideal, it was certainly preferable to breaking into the Ministry.
Both men were looking rather ragged as they hadn’t been home since they’d begun staking out the Manor. Harry was afraid if they left he’d miss something important and Ron thought Harry might go to the Ministry if left alone.
Hermione had been right about the press coverage on his resignation. The story hadn’t hit the papers yet, but the Ministry had already begun painting him as out of his mind with grief. It was only a matter of time before his resignation was announced.
“You’re not going in,” Ron said, no longer paying attention. It was a conversation they’d had before.
“It’s been two days. If Malfoy knows something we need to act now,” Harry protested. He was slowly losing his resolve on the idea that Malfoy had something to do with his daughter’s disappearance. The only reason he’d stuck with the theory this long was because it was the only one he had.
“You said it yourself. If he knows something. We can’t just go breaking into houses unless we know he was involved. Know for sure.” Ron shook his head. He didn’t really think Harry was serious about breaking in.
“Hmm?” Ron asked, already beginning to doze off again.
“It’s been thirteen days. She’s been gone for thirteen days. You know what happens after two weeks?” Ron nodded. He was still an Auror, even if his job now consisted mostly of consultant work and he’d taken a leave of absence.
After two weeks if there were no leads, no evidence of foul play, the Aurors would begin to back off the case. They still left it open, they still searched for leads, but it was the unofficial death of an investigation.
“This is different,” he said, knowing that it wasn’t different at all. “It’s high profile. Those have a longer life span. Can we please give up on Malfoy?”
Harry glared at him. “I’m not giving up on the only lead we have. He’s out, his wife’s out, I know I can disarm any spells they have protecting the place. We’ll be in and out in just a few minutes.”
“We learned how to disarm security spells to help the Ministry, not work against them,” Ron complained as he followed his friend through the gate and onto the Malfoy property.
It was an expansive acreage of land, perfectly gardened and looking much friendlier than it had before Astoria Malfoy had come to live there. She had brought life to the place in the many flowers she planted.
None of this dissuaded Harry on his course. He continued straight to the front door and pulled out his wand, placing it beside the large oak knocker.
With a sigh, Ron added his wand on the other side and waited for the door to be lit from the spells. When nothing happened, he dropped his wand. “It doesn’t work. He must have something else in place,” Ron said as he turned to leave. “Let’s get out of here before something tries to eat us.”
“It is working, Malfoy just hasn’t any protective spells. Let’s go.” Harry pushed open the door and entered the Manor. Ron glanced around, waiting for something to come out of the walls, but when nothing happened he followed his friend.
“I really don’t like this,” he whispered, feeling as though they should be quiet even though they were alone. Every creak of the house made him jump and turn. He’d liked searching it much better when they did it legally with the Ministry backing them up. “The Aurors already went through all his rooms. What do you expect to find that they didn’t?”
“I’m not sure, but we know he’s hiding something,” Harry said in his normal tone. “And stop whispering. There’s nothing around that can hear us.” He found Malfoy’s study on the first floor rather quickly and opened the desk drawers.
Ron stood nervously by the door, checking to see if anyone was around. “Care to hurry up?” He asked as he shifted from foot to foot.
“Come here,” Harry ordered, eyeing on sheet of parchment carefully. When Ron did, he showed him the figures. “What does this tell you?”
“That he spends too much money on his robes?” Ron asked with a shrug. “I dunno.”
“Look at these account balances,” Harry said and he pointed out the important ones. Ron’s eyes widened with understanding.
“How can he afford to live the way he does?” Ron asked in surprise. “I’ve seen the way he dresses and behaves. I had no idea his Gringotts account was running so dry. Wasn’t his father richer than anything?”
“He had to pay the Ministry after the war,” Harry said, but he was already thinking about what it meant. It gave Malfoy motive, even more than just revenge. If someone paid him to take Lily- Harry grabbed another stack of parchment and handed half of it to Ron. “Look through these tell me if there’s anything strange.”
“You mean besides an entire outfit of dragon hide clothing?” Ron asked. Harry ignored him and continued to look through the accounts for any transactions of large sums of money.
He and Ron finished without any signs of blood money, though. If he had been hired to kidnap Lily he certainly hadn’t left any evidence. “Maybe he did it for ransom,” Harry suggested when he put the parchment back in the drawer.
“But there never was a ransom,” Ron said as he too put the parchment back in the drawer. “Malfoy may be low on funds, but I don’t think he did this.”
Harry shook his head and continued through the house. Ron had flashbacks in nearly every room from when they’d been taken prisoner as teenagers. He could see Bellatrix Lestrange pointing her wand in rage at them and the teenaged Draco Malfoy cowering by his father’s side.
“Down here,” Harry said, jolting him out of his memories. Ron followed Harry down the steps to the dungeon where they’d been kept hostage.
“She’s not going to be here,” Ron said, rolling his eyes. Even if Malfoy was behind her disappearance he wasn’t going to be stupid enough to hold her in the same cell in which he’d held her father.
The stones steps echoed ominously and Ron shivered. The memories came back in full force, seeing Luna and Ollivander for the first time, Wormtail, Dobby. He shuddered visibly and hurried to catch up with Harry who was in a cell near the corner.
“Isn’t it creepy being down here again?” Ron asked, trying to keep his voice steady. He didn’t want Harry to know how scared he was, how he felt like a helpless teenager waiting for death again.
Harry shrugged. “I guess so.” It was clear he didn’t feel the same fear that Ron was.
A sudden scream pierced the air and Ron jumped. “Did you hear that?” It sounded as though someone was being tortured. It sounded like Hermione.
Harry shook his head. “Quit imagining things. We’re the only ones here.” He sounded impatient so Ron crossed his arms.
He hadn’t come down to the basement when he’d helped search the house the first time, although he hadn’t told Harry that. He’d hardly gotten as far as the parlor before just hanging back to let the Aurors and hit wizards do the work.
Being in the dungeon again, seeing where he’d been held hostage, it made him want to hurl. The nausea built in his stomach until he had to turn away and close his eyes. He was hearing Hermione’s scream again from when she was tortured by Bellatrix and Ron gagged.
“I’ve got to leave. Now,” he said, covering his mouth with his hand.
Harry shot him a disgusted look and stood up from his crouched position. “There’s nothing here anyways. Let’s check the upstairs bedrooms.”
Ron nodded gratefully. He’d never been in the upstairs of the Manor before so he hoped that would be safe from flashbacks. He at least hoped he would stop hearing Hermione’s scream of pain echoing in his mind.
He followed Harry through the rest of the Malfoy Manor and found nothing of interest, although Harry had gone through nearly every drawer and tabletop in every room. If there was something to be found he would have found it, but there was nothing.
Ron was doing everything he could to keep down the minimal amounts of food he’d eaten in the last day. His stomach was trying to rebel. Harry seemed utterly calm which made Ron very uneasy. The anger of the previous two weeks was much easier to deal with than this calm and collected man, because he knew inside Harry was panicking.
Every lead they had was falling apart. Nothing tied Malfoy to the crime, nothing tied it to even being a crime. Lily could’ve fallen on her head and had amnesia for all they knew, although the Aurors had checked all the hospitals, muggle and wizard, for anyone matching her description.
“Damn it!” Harry shouted when they finished with the last empty room. He pushed a desk on its side, spilling all the quills, ink, and parchment to the floor with a loud crash. “Damn it,” he said again, although quieter this time.
Ron took a step back and pulled out his wand. He hoped no one was around outside or they would have heard it for sure. “It’s okay,” he said as he began to charm the desk back to its original state. “We’ll find her.”
“How?” Harry asked. “The Aurors are days from completely giving up, all our leads are rubbish, there’s nothing we can use except process of elimination.” He rubbed and hand over his face, smoothing out the wrinkles then letting them fall back.
“Let’s go home,” Ron said. “See our wives, get cleaned up, take a nap maybe. We’ll both work better when we’re rested.”
Harry nodded as though that idea was just occurring to him and Ron hadn’t been saying the same thing for last two weeks. “Yeah. That might be good. Clear our minds and we’ll work even faster.”
“Something like that, mate,” Ron said, thanking Merlin that he would get a chance to eat some real food and sleep in a real bed. He wasn’t sure when the last time Harry had slept was and hoped that after a nap he would fall out of his manic phase. Maybe even act rationally. “Let’s leave this hell hole.”
Ron clapped his friend on the shoulder and they turned to leave. They were exiting the grounds when a voice stopped them. “The hell were you two doing on my property?” Malfoy shouted, his wand point at Harry.
“Relax, ferret,” Ron said, rolling his eyes. “We didn’t disturb anything.”
“You were in my home? That’s illegal in several very different ways.” He hadn’t lowered his wand yet, but he shifted it from Harry to Ron and back again. “How would the Minister like to hear that his little pet advisor broke into my house? I could have you thrown in Azkaban for that, Potter.”
Harry shook his head and turned away. He’d given up on Malfoy as a suspect. The man wasn’t bright enough to keep the evidence out of his house so well. “We’re done with you, Malfoy,” Ron said.
Malfoy lowered his wand slightly, then tucked it into his pocket. “Oh. Well in that case I sincerely hope you catch the bastard who did this.” When Ron gave him a funny look Malfoy shrugged. “I have a child too.”
The two men apparated away and Malfoy entered his house, locking the gate behind him with several complex spells. He’d been instantly notified when they entered his house as he had only the best spells protecting it, but he’d decided to let them search.
It was best that they know for sure he had nothing to do with Lily Potter’s kidnapping or disappearance, whatever the papers were calling it these days. He knew in the future they wouldn’t both him anymore, they’d focus on the real suspects.
A/N: Yikes I'm late with this chapter! Sorry guys, was sick last week and totally distracted. I'll still be posting the next one on Monday so at least you'll have a shorter wait to make up for the super long one! Really sorry about the delay, though.
Chapter Sixteen: Tryouts
Hugo was surrounded by people. Lily’s friends and dorm mates all seemed to think that he knew everything there was to know about her disappearance- and they all thought he wanted nothing more than to share that knowledge.
“Did she tell you anything that night?” Aria asked eagerly, scooting closer to Hugo. “You can tell me. We won’t tell a soul, right girls?” Tyler, Hanna, and Mara all nodded with the same eagerness Aria had exhibited.
Hugo couldn’t believe these girls had been Lily’s friends. They all seemed more interested in the sordid details than anything else. “I really don’t know anything,” Hugo said, rather uncomfortably. Girls made him nervous and Aria was a flirt- that made her doubly terrifying.
“Please?” She asked as she pouted her lower lip. “Lily was one of my closest friends in the world. I can’t stand not knowing anything.”
Hugo ducked his head in embarrassment. He’d never liked being the center of attention. It was usually Lily who drew everyone’s eyes while he waited off in the shadows. He wasn’t smart like Rose and Al, or talented like James, or even vibrant the way Lily, Victoire, and Dominique were. He wasn’t ambitious like Molly or even motivated like Louis and Lucy. He was just Hugo.
And now he was left alone without his closest friend by his side.
“Hugo.” A sharp voice drew his attention to the bottom of the boys’ staircase. Sean Finnegan was standing there with Hugo’s broom in his hand, a gift from his father back when there was still hope of him making the Quidditch team. “Wanna fly?”
Hugo nodded and drew himself away from the girls. Sean was his only other real friend besides Lily. His father was one of his own father’s old Hogwarts schoolmates.
They walked down to the Quidditch pitch in silence, stopping only long enough at the broom shed to procure a second broom for Sean to use. When they reached the Quidditch pitch it was full of potential Gryffindor players. Hugo had forgotten try outs were later that day.
He almost turned to leave, knowing he would never have the skills necessary to make the team. “We can still fly around,” Sean said, stopping him. Sean was in the same boat as Hugo when it came to Quidditch. They both loved the sport, but neither was good enough to play.
Because it was the day of Quidditch try outs, Akron Smyth had gotten permission from Neville, Gryffindor’s Head of House, to use quaffles at practice. Normally Hugo and Sean just flew around on their brooms, but this time Sean grabbed a quaffle.
Akron looked surprised when he handed one out. “You two are trying out?” He asked.
Hugo shook his head and looked away. He’d tried out at his father’s urging in his third year and it had ended disastrously. He hit a fourth year girl’s broom and landed them both in the Hospital Wing, him with a sliced open forearm and her with a broken ankle and a concussion.
And the worst part of it was the girl made the team anyway.
James had been the captain so even though the only thing he’d told his father was that he didn’t make the team, James probably told Uncle Harry who most certainly would have told his father.
The memory of the crash made Hugo search the pitch anxiously for the girl. She was the keeper and still on the team, as was Akron who had also witnessed the embarrassment of the crash. That was why he seemed so surprised to see Hugo out.
“What about you?” Akron asked Sean. “We’re looking for a beater, a chaser, and a seeker.”
Hugo felt a pang in his chest. They shouldn’t have been missing a seeker, that was Lily’s position. She should have been out on the pitch watching all the newcomers with Akron and the rest of the team. “You could have the right build for a beater if you bulk up a bit. We don’t have the bludgers out yet, but if you stick around for another hour you could get some practice in.”
Sean fell back beside Hugo and shook his head. Both boys stumbled away with their brooms in hand, their faces very red. Sean had tried out that year beside Hugo and while he hadn’t injured anybody his performance was less than stellar.
“At least he remembered you,” Sean muttered under his breath as he mounted his broom.
Hugo followed him into the air. “You can’t honestly think that’s better?”
Sean shrugged and pulled his broom in a slow turn. “Wanna race around the pitch?” He asked. When Hugo nodded the two took off at their top speeds, although to everyone around them it appeared as though they were taking a practice lap.
Al followed Rose down to the Quidditch pitch against his better judgment. They always watched Quidditch tryouts together while they studied in the stands. Usually it was to support James, and in the previous year Lily, but this year it just felt like habit. There was no real reason for them to be watching. They didn’t know anyone on the team.
“It’ll be good for us,” Rose explained, although she didn’t look entirely sure of herself. Al almost would have preferred it if she had just said it was because of Akron, but if that was true Rose would’ve stayed in Gryffindor tower with him.
They settled into the stands and in the half hour before tryouts began saw some talented flyers and some second years who probably should’ve stayed in their rooms.
“Do you know what positions they’re looking for?” Al asked.
“Well James left so they need another Chaser, and that beater friend of his did too so he needs a replacement and- uh…” Rose trailed off as she realized the other person they were replacing.
“They need seeker,” Al finished. He should have realized that earlier. They couldn’t wait around for Lily to come because even if she did come back home- when she came back home- their parents might not let her out of their sight.
“No one they get will be as good as Lily,” Rose said in what she hoped was a comforting way. Sometimes she didn’t know what Al wanted to hear. Suddenly her eye caught on someone high in the air. “Is that-?” She asked. “No. He wouldn’t.”
Al squinted in the air and found Hugo’s redhead tossing around a quaffle with one of his year mates. “He’s not trying out, is he?” Al asked somewhat nervously. He didn’t know he would do if Hugo took Lily’s spot on the team. It would be awful.
“He better not.” Rose stuck two fingers in her mouth and whistled loud enough for almost everyone in the stadium to turn and stare at her. She waved at Hugo who flew down with his friend. “What are you doing here?” She demanded.
Hugo looked to Sean for support, then shrugged. “Just flying and stuff. That’s not against the rules now, is it?”
“Are you trying out for the Quidditch team?” Rose asked with a scowl. “I thought you learned that lesson in third year. You too, Finnegan. And trying out now is incredibly insensitive.” She gestured at Al who shook his head. He didn’t want any part of the sibling spat.
“It’s fine,” he murmured. It really wasn’t fine, though. If someone had to replace Lily he wished it was at least someone who cared about flying the same way Lily did. Hugo was not that person.
“We’re not trying out,” Hugo said sullenly, upset that his sister wasn’t showing any support. “We were just flying around.”
“We didn’t even know tryouts were today,” Sean added, leaping to his friend’s defense once it was clear they weren’t going to get into trouble with the Head Girl. “We were just about to leave.”
“No we weren’t,” Hugo muttered.
“Well, tryouts are about to start so you two should skedaddle,” Rose said, her scowl softening. “Unless you plan on repeating third year all over again. I doubt Reanna would like to return to the hospital wing.”
Hugo’s face burned bright red to match his hair. He couldn’t remember seeing Rose there and she’d only mentioned it vaguely. He didn’t know she’d seen him try out. “Come on,” he muttered, sliding off his broom and walking toward the exit of the pitch. Sean followed.
“Bye!” Rose called and rolled her eyes. “What an annoying little twerp, honestly. I don’t know what his problem is.” Al shrugged. He didn’t like to get in the middle of Rose and Hugo’s squabbles since they happened all the time. It was the surefire way to alienate one cousin.
“Has Neville been looking at you funny?” Al asked, changing the subject. At Hogwarts Neville was supposed to be Professor Longbottom, but in private they all called him Neville.
Rose nodded. “Yeah. He kept trying to talk to me after Herbology so I started skipping out early. I’m pretty sure he’s in contact with Mum.” She shrugged. Since Neville was so close with her parents she assumed he would be. “Why? Has he been tracking you down too?”
“Yeah, I guess. It’s hard to tell with him sometimes.” Al shrugged. He didn’t want to talk to any professors, especially Neville, but it was pretty easy to avoid him since he wasn’t taking NEWT level Herbology like Rose was.
“You know if you keep avoiding him he’ll just call you into his office, right? He’s not going to let you get away with that forever.” Al shrugged again. He didn’t want to deal with professors any more than he wanted to deal with his Aunts or Uncles or even his parents, not that they had the time to deal with him.
“Whatever,” Al said. “Can we go? I don’t want to watch anymore.”
“But Akron just started tryouts!” Rose protested, although she stood to follow him. “We watch every year!”
“In case you haven’t noticed this isn’t every year,” Al mumbled too low for Rose to understand him. She gave him a questioning look and Al shook his head. “Nothing. Can we just go? Study or read or something?”
Being on the Quidditch pitch reminded him too much of Lily’s broom stashed in the bottom of his trunk. He didn’t want to think about it right then, but it felt like it was burning a hole in his mind.
“Yeah, of course,” Rose said, following him. “You want to go see Hagrid? I’ve got a meeting with Scorpius later, but we can do something before then.”
“Can we just do nothing?” Al asked, suddenly annoyed with everything. “I don’t want to fill my day with incessant activities just to stop from thinking.”
Rose nodded, a little surprised by his outburst. “Okay. We can go back to the Common Room and stare at the fire, how does that sound?”
“Perfect,” Al sighed. “Absolutely perfect.”
A/N: A/N: It's only three minutes after minute! I was close to getting it up on a Monday. But I hope you guys enjoyed it!
Chapter Seventeen: A Visit Home
“I’m worried about them,” Hermione conceded. She was talking quietly to Ron in the kitchen while Harry and Ginny slept on the second floor of the house. She and Ron had been discussing what their next move should be when Hermione had to admit her thoughts.
“Of course you’re worried about them. I’m worried about them too. Their only daughter’s missing!”
“Shh,” Hermione hissed. “Don’t wake them up. And stop being an idiot. I’m not talking about them individually, I mean them. Their marriage.”
“Oh,” Ron said as he realized what she was talking about. He hadn’t thought about their marriage at all since this whole ordeal had begun. He’d been mostly focused on Harry’s psyche which wasn’t in too good of shape. “I guess they’re not doing too well.”
“I don’t think they’ve even spoken since Lily went missing,” she said. “That’s not healthy. And Harry’s sleeping in James’s old bedroom instead of with Ginny. What does that tell you?”
“That he didn’t want to disturb her?” Ron offered. The minor nuances of married life still eluded him after all these years.
“Or it means that he doesn’t want to be near her.” Hermione looked serious, but Ron couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Oh come on. They’re going through a bit of a rough patch, but who wouldn’t in their situation? This is Harry and Ginny we’re talking about. They’ve been together since they were fifteen.”
“Losing a child makes couples fifty percent more likely to split up,” Hermione said. “It doesn’t matter how strong they were together.”
“They aren’t going to split up,” Ron said stubbornly, but Hermione had placed the seed of doubt in his mind. He couldn’t help but go over everything Harry had said the last two weeks and see if it could be interpreted to mean something else.
Nothing seemed to click. He’d hardly even mentioned Ginny, let alone wanting to split up. “You’ve run mad. He’s upset over his daughter, not thinking about leaving Gin. Anyone would act the way he is in that position.”
Ron had thought about Harry’s actions long and hard and found he couldn’t quite decipher them, something he attributed to having never been in the same position. He’d tried to imagine how he would react if something ever happened to Hugo or Rose, but he couldn’t. And part of him really didn’t want to.
“I’m not saying we call in divorce lawyers,” Hermione said and Ron looked utterly scandalized.
“Divorce lawyers?” He asked, gob smacked.
“I’m saying that’s not what we do,” she explained with a sigh. “But we should be aware that this could be a situation that arises in the future.” Hermione chose her words carefully, knowing that Ron could be scared off from the idea if she didn’t.
“That’s-” But Hermione didn’t get to hear what Ron thought because a near explosion in the fireplace drew their attention. James appeared, a little the worse for the wear, but healthy enough as he rose to his feet coughing.
“What did you do to that thing?” He asked. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked as though he hadn’t slept in weeks although Hermione knew better than to comment on it.
“We tried to have it disconnected from the Floo network, but the Ministry hasn’t been very quick n the uptake,” Hermione said. “I had it partially blocked off so only those most motivated would make it through.”
“Guess that paints me motivated,” James said as he wiped the soot from his eyes and face. He’d put off this meeting for as long as possible, but the Cannons’ next game was coming up soon and his not being there was sure to make the news.
“You could have come through the back door,” Hermione said. “That’s why we set the wards so news media couldn’t come around the back of the house, but those related to Harry and Ginny can.”
“So essentially you’ve screwed Teddy out of coming?” When Hermione’s mouth dropped open in surprise James rolled his eyes. Sometimes his aunt went around things in a way that was so complicated that she forgot some basics, like the bloke who was practically Harry’s son and had probably been trying to get around the wards since they were put up.
“Never mind,” James muttered, sure they would fix the Teddy situation just as well without his presence. “Are Mum or Dad here?” He asked, although what he meant was if they were in the right state of mind to speak to him.
“They’re asleep, but I’m sure your father will be up in just a while if you’d like to stay. We have food.” James’s stomach growled, but he shook his head. He was just there to deliver his news and get back to the store.
“I can’t I’m on my lunch break,” he said. He was quite relieved that his father was out of commission temporarily and, well, he wasn’t too surprised they hadn’t mentioned his mother.
“Lunch break?” Ron asked. “They give you those from Quidditch practice?”
“No actually, I’m working at Uncle George’s store down in Hogsmeade. With Roxanne and Freddie, you know.”
“What happened to Quidditch?” Ron asked. This was suddenly his territory. He knew everything there was to know about the Cannons and had been thrilled when his nephew signed with them. “Do you really need a second job to support yourself? I know rookies don’t get paid much, but your father or I could help out if you’re running low on funds. Rent and things like that. We’ll help you out.”
James shook his head. That was why he never talked to his uncle about these things. He always assumed James was having money troubles. He certainly wasn’t wealthy by any means, but James was able to scrape by just fine. “It’s not that, Uncle Ron,” he said, annoyed. “The Coach and I have been talking for a while and we decided it would be best for me to take a little break.”
Ron looked utterly shocked, but Hermione just looked confused. She wasn’t as well versed in the world of Quidditch as her husband was. “A break? What does that mean?” She asked, looking from her husband to her nephew. “What’s going on?”
“Did Rollisson kick you off the team?” Ron asked, still looking shocked. “Why? Are you not playing up to potential? I know you’ve got the skills to go far. I can have a talk with him, if you’d like.”
“No! Just stop, okay?” James asked. He hadn’t meant this to turn into a big deal and he wouldn’t have told them if it wasn’t going to be in the papers. This was going to be a big story when it got tied in with Lily’s disappearance and Harry’s erratic behavior. James didn’t want them to be too surprised by it all. “I got suspended, alright? You happy now?”
“You got suspended? For what?” Hermione asked, suddenly on board. “Is this about your drinking problem?”
“My what?” James practically shrieked. “I’m eighteen! I go out and party with my friends, that’s hardly a problem. And if you must know, no it isn’t about my drinking. Coach thinks I’m going through a tough time and could use a break.” Then he added in a lower and faster voice, “Plus I kind of skipped the last game and a week of practice.”
Hermione and Ron exchanged a look that James couldn’t quite read. He could tell they looked a bit worried and his uncle seemed frustrated, but he didn’t know what the look meant. Married couples always seemed to be doing that, like putting a ring on someone’s finger gave you access to their mind or something.
“James, if you’re having a tough time you can come talk to us. You don’t have to suffer through this on your own,” Hermione said, walking over to him and putting a hand on his shoulder. “Your parents are suffering in their own way, but we’re here for you.”
James jerked away. “What is this, some kind of intervention? I’m not a child anymore.”
“But you’re barely an adult as well,” Hermione continued. “We know how close you were to Lily-”
“Are!” James shouted, his face turning red. “We are close! Just because she’s not here right now, doesn’t mean anything has changed!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Hermione said, lifting her hands in self defense. “I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“Of course you did, you mean everything you say! You think over every word three fucking times before it comes out of your mouth!” Both Hermione and Ron looked appalled at James’s language, but he didn’t seem to notice or care. “You think she’s never coming back, don’t you? Is that what the Aurors and hit wizards think too? No wonder Dad’s off his rocker! Fuck you! Fuck you all!”
He stormed out of the front of his house, ignoring the reporters that instantly swarmed him, and stalked to the edge of his property to apparate away. Hermione stared after him in shock. James had always been the most trouble of Harry’s three children, but she couldn’t ever remember him talking to them that way before.
“Do you think someone should go after him?” She asked, nervous and unsure of herself.
Ron shook his head. “For all he’s an adult, he’s still just a kid. Give him his space, time with Roxy and Freddie. They’ll be able to help more than we can.” He put an arm around his wife and they both turned back into the house together.
James hadn’t lied about being on his lunch break, but after his argument with his aunt and uncle he wanted nothing less than to go back to the store and have Roxy and Freddie look at him with identical pitying expressions.
Instead of apparating to Weasley Wizard Wheezes in Hogsmeade, James found himself outside of a muggle pub that was open all day. It was barely midday so the only people in there were eating lunch.
It was a sparse lunch crowd even for a pub and James calmly walked up the counter and ordered their strongest drink. Apparently the bartender got people drinking during the day often because he didn’t give James any kind of strange look. He just served him and went back to watching the football game on the telly.
James watched the game for a short while, then turned back to his drink. Muggle football was like Quidditch on the ground with fewer nets. What was the fun in that? He’d never really been interested in muggles the way his granddad was. They just seemed kind of boring. Dull. Inconsequential.
“Not watching the game?” The barkeep asked gruffly. “It’s a big one.”
“Who’s playing?” James asked. He had no interest in the game, but it seemed like the polite thing to say. Besides, this was the man who was supplying him liquor for the afternoon.
“Who’s playing?” The muggle asked in shock. “Only the biggest two rivals in the country! Manchester United and Manchester City!” James nodded as though the names meant something to him. He’d occasionally played football with the muggles in his neighborhood, but had stopped after discovering Quidditch. “You’re not from around here, are you?” The barkeep asked.
James shrugged. It was fine by him if the man thought he was from somewhere else. Anonymity suited him, an odd desire for Harry Potter’s son and a would be Quidditch star. “So this game, who’re you pulling for?”
“City, of course,” he said. Then he gave James a glare through narrowed eyes. “If you’re a United fan you may as well leave now before I throw you out.” James shook his head and the man’s attention was instantly turned back to the screen. “Ah, ref! That’s dirty foul you just missed! Right under your nose, it was!”
James went back to his glass of liquor and downed it. Instead of dousing the fire that was in the pit of his stomach, the drink seemed only to fuel it. After his fourth James was more than a bit tipsy. He didn’t to be the happy drunk he’d been in the past. Instead he felt annoyed by the barkeep’s prolonged interest in the match.
“You gonna get me another sometime soon?” James slurred waving the glass around in front of his face.
“You may want to go a little easy on that, lad,” he said as he took the glass. “It’s early still. Are you living at home or in University?”
James shook his head. He didn’t know what ‘University’ was, but he definitely wasn’t living at home. “Just give me another,” he said. The man shrugged and filled the glass, handing it to the younger boy.
“Suit yourself, but you might try a bit of honey with that vinegar.” James scoffed at the man’s statement. Sober he might have understood, but drunk definitely not. He could tell it was useless, though, from the man’s expression and tone. He was trying to impart ‘greater knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’ or some other adult bullshit like that.
James couldn’t figure out why adults always thought they knew everything. In his experience they were just as clueless as him and his peers. He finished the drink and slammed it on the counter, cracking the handle. “Another, sir!”
“I think you’ve had quite enough.”
James shook his head. He was tired of people deciding what was enough for him. “I’ve money, I can pay.” The bartender didn’t respond to his requests, so James stood up and tried to push his way around the counter. “I’ll get it myself,” he muttered.
“Not back here.”
James pushed the man out of the way and the resulting scuffle ended him with a black eye, a bruised arm, and sitting in the street outside of the pub. Picking a fight with a man twice his size hadn’t been his most brilliant idea in a while, but instead of feeling regret, James felt oddly light.
The brawl seemed to have taken a weight off of his chest for all it given him a sore face. He tottered along the street until he found an alleyway quiet enough to apparate home.
A/N: Right on time! NaNo's just around the corner so I'm all of the excited! I'll hopefully have time to get back to writing this fic in December. I feel kind of guilty that I'm posting but not really working on it. Oh well, don't forget to leave a review! I love your feedback!
Chapter Eighteen: Photographs
Ginny dried her eyes. She knew she couldn’t spend the rest of her life holed up in her bedroom. She was driving herself into madness doing nothing. At first her thoughts had been blank, she’d numbed herself to keep from thinking of Lily.
Now her mind was full of everything she’d tried to keep from remembering, Lily’s disappearance, the lack of suspects, the utter incompetence of the Ministry to find her.
But with those thoughts came the beautiful memories. The way Lily’s eyes twinkled when she was up to something, her toothy smile that had always been just a bit too wide, her melodious laughter. Those were the things Ginny couldn’t believed she’d ever forgotten, or even just managed to block out.
She liked thinking about Lily in spite of the situation. Lily was always going to be her baby, no matter where she was.
Ginny walked downstairs to the quiet living room. On the mantle over the fireplace she lifted several photographs that had been turned face down. The first was a family portrait, one they’d gotten done just after Lily got her first Hogwarts letter. She was overjoyed and kept turning around to smile at her parents, first Harry then Ginny. The teenaged James and Al were smirking mischievously at each other, clearly up to something although Ginny had never figured out what.
The second was just of Lily. She was in her Quidditch gear and holding a broom, her long red hair flapping in the wind. She winked at her mother and her face would form a half grin, thrilled at being a seeker on the Gryffindor team.
The third was of James, Al, and Lily when they were young. Lily was about five, Al was seven, and James was eight. Al was stacking blocks on the ground while Lily and James rode around him on their toy brooms, unable to fly higher than three feet.
Ginny remembered that day in particular because later on Harry had taken James on his first ride on a real broom and Lily had pitched a tantrum when she couldn’t go as well.
The memory brought new tears to Ginny’s eyes, but these she didn’t wipe away. They were different from the ones she’d had the last few weeks. Lily was such a beautiful girl, always optimistic and cheerful.
“Ginny?” A sleepy voice asked. Ginny spun around to see Teddy on the sofa. He looked utterly distraught and Ginny realized she hadn’t spoken to him since all of this happened. He’d been away on his honeymoon with Victoire, but he must have come back early.
He looked like he had fallen asleep on the sofa. “Teddy, I’m so sorry,” she said, the tears rolling down her face.
“Don’t apologize to me,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m the one who’s been out of the country. Is there- is there any news?”
Ginny shook her head. If there had been any news at all Harry would have known about it. Instead they were left to figure things out alone. “She’s a beautiful girl, isn’t she?” Ginny asked, gesturing towards the moving pictures.
Teddy nodded, his throat tight. “I should have been around when it happened. I knew going to Italy with Vic was a bad idea. I should have been here.” He turned his head away from Ginny so she wouldn’t see the tears in his eyes.
At twenty-five Teddy was very in control of his life. He had married his Hogwarts sweetheart, was working his dream job in the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and had seemingly moved on from the loss of his grandmother the year after he left Hogwarts. Everything in his life was going well, except for Lily’s disappearance.
“There was nothing you could do,” Ginny said, finding comfort in comforting the man who was practically a son to her.
Teddy hadn’t wanted to go so far away for his honeymoon, but had agreed at the urging of his wife. Now he felt that Lily would still be around if he hadn’t left home. “Look at me being so selfish,” Teddy said as he rubbed his face. “I shouldn’t be making you comfort me. I just came to bring you this.”
Ginny took the well worn picture from his hand. It was from his wedding earlier that summer. Lily was dancing with her father, laughing every few seconds as he said something amusing. She looked beautiful in the deep olive green dress that that Victoire had chosen for her bridesmaids.
Teddy pulled his hand away and ducked his head, embarrassed. “I’m sure you have a lot of pictures already, but the photographer took pictures of the whole wedding party. There are a couple of Lily, but this one’s the best.”
Ginny covered her mouth in sadness. She hadn’t noticed Lily dancing with Harry at the wedding, she’d been too busy keeping James, Roxy, and Freddie in line as George hadn’t seemed bothered by their antics. Her face contorted as she tried not to cry.
“I’m sorry.” Teddy looked horrified that he’d made her cry. Ginny had been like a mother to him and his was only making her more upset. “I didn’t mean to- I’ll go.”
Ginny shook her head and sank down on the sofa. She was still clutching the picture in her hand as Harry and Lily twirled around time and time again. “She looks so beautiful, doesn’t she?” Ginny asked, trying to hold back the tears. It wasn’t working and they began to stream down her face.
Teddy nodded. “She looks so happy.”
“She loved that you and Vic were together,” Ginny said, smiling through her tears. “She wanted to be related to you so bad.”
Teddy nodded, but he couldn’t form the words he wanted to say. The lump in his throat had grown even larger and seemed to cut off his voice. When he finally regained it he asked the question that had been on his mind ever since he’d heard Lily was missing.
“Do you- d’you think she’s coming back?”
Ginny took a pause before answering, but there was only one way for her to respond. “Yes. I-I have to. It’s the only way I can function, believing that she’ll be back here.”
She looked shaky to Teddy so he didn’t say anymore on the subject. He’d have to go to Harry for any real information on the investigation, or get what he could from the within Ministry itself.
“I’m sure the Ministry assigned the best Aurors to find her. If anyone can bring her home, they can.” Ginny looked off into the distance. Hermione and her brother had told her the same thing, but Ginny wasn’t able to latch onto the idea. Harry was out looking for her, that was what really mattered.
“Victoire made me promise that we’d go back to Italy when Lily’s found,” Teddy said, sensing that more reassuring was needed. “She loved it there. She’s fluent, you know. I’ve never met anyone who could learn as many languages as her. French, English, Italian, and I think a little Portuguese.” Ginny nodded, although she wasn’t really paying attention to Teddy’s words. “She wants to take Lily with her, when we go back I mean.”
“Lily would love Italy,” Ginny said, finally able to latch on to a topic in his words. “She always said she wanted to go somewhere out of the country. Harry never could take her because of his job, but we always said someday…” She trailed off, regretting every moment of refusing Lily.
“She’ll love Italy when she goes back with us,” Teddy said.
Ginny’s eyes were red and she covered her face with her hands, making Teddy a little nervous. “Is someone here?” He asked anxiously. “Someone I can get?”
She shook her head mutely, trying desperately to get her emotions under control. Her mother’s words came back to her. She needed to be the strong one for her family. Harry was doing everything he could with the Ministry, she needed to be the rock for her children to lean on .And Teddy was included in her children.
“I’m fine,” she said at last. “Sometimes it’s hard. It can get really hard.”
Teddy nodded. If Harry and Ginny were like the parents he never had, Lily was like his little sister. He always protected her, whether it was from her teasing older brothers or herself. He had made sure he was someone she could always come to for help or advice.
He’d never realized, though, how much it would hurt if she wasn’t able to come to him. She was his favorite cousin, sibling, family, whatever the potters were to him, she was the most important.
A few tears fell from Ginny’s eyes as she tried to keep composure. “I just want my baby back,” she explained to Teddy. “I need her with me.”
Teddy loved Lily and wanted her back more than anything, but he couldn’t understand a mother’s need to know her child was safe. He sat stiffly on the sofa, waiting for Ginny to cry herself out because he didn’t know what to do or what to say.
A/N: Hope you enjoyed! Don't forget to leave a review!
Chapter Nineteen: Not Fine
“Aren’t you going to at least eat something?” Rose begged at breakfast one morning. She’d been watching Al refuse food and steadily lose weight for weeks, since everything had gone wrong. She was beginning to think he wouldn’t just get better on his own and needed her help, although she wasn’t exactly sure what help she could give.
Usually she could set aside her own feelings to think rationally, but Al was too close to her heart. She’d protect him over anyone, she’d just never had to protect him from himself before.
“I’m fine,” Al said as he poked at the bacon on his plate. He didn’t understand why Rose got in a fuss around meal times. He ate enough, he just wasn’t hungry anymore. It was hard to eat with no appetite to speak of. Every mouthful had to be forced down.
“You’re not fine,” Rose said snippily. She hated it when Al lied to her, especially when he had no good reason to.
Al turned away. “Of course I’m not fine. My sister’s missing, my Dad’s run mad, and James hasn’t owled me since I got here.”
Rose winced. She knew why James hadn’t owled, or at least one of the reasons he hadn’t. His recent suspension from the Cannons had been all over the papers. Rose had kept the headlines out of sight so Al wouldn’t be worried and just hoped the publicity would die down soon.
“What?” Al asked, suddenly suspicious. “You’re keeping something big from me, I can tell.”
Rose looked around, shifty eyed. Most students seemed tired of the Potter family business, but those who knew James or Al still read the papers and some others did. It was definitely the minority, but Rose knew Al would react badly if he heard the news from anyone but her.
“Tell me,” he demanded.
Rose sighed. “It’s about James,” she said, drawing it out for as long as possible. Some people said to rip it off like a bandage, but that method didn’t work with Al. She preferred to give him bad news in bits and pieces. “He, well, you know how he can get sometimes.”
That didn’t explain anything at all, so Al glared at her. “Tell me,” he repeated.
“Apparently there were some problems with the Chudley Cannons and you know how that coach is. He won’t put up with anything or give anyone a break, no matter how much they deserve it or what they’re going through.” Rose sighed and anxiously tucked a strand of frizzy, red hair behind her ear. “He got suspended for almost two months.”
Al looked shocked. “Suspended from Quidditch? For doing what?”
Rose shrugged. This part was even worse. She didn’t know what to keep from Al or what to tell him anymore. He was a sensitive boy, but he deserved to know the truth. “Officially? He missed a game and some practice, but everyone knows that was because of Lily. Unofficially,” she trailed off.
“Unofficially, what?” Al asked. “You’re the only person I can trust to be honest with me. Say it.”
“He’s been out a lot. Partying, drinking, at pubs with his friends. There have been reports of a few fights, one of them involving wands. People think that’s the real reason he was suspended.”
Al was shocked. James had always been a party bloke, sneaking firewhiskey onto Hogwarts grounds, but he’d been relaxed about it. That was what everyone did, everyone who was a popular troublemaker like James, that is. “He just knows how to have a good time,” Al said, always loyal to his older brother.
“The fights, Al. He could get into real trouble if he attacked a muggle. Some people even think he has a problem.” Rose added the last part in a whisper. People had read it in the paper, but she didn’t want to validate their suspicions if they heard James’s own family talking about it.
Al scoffed. He didn’t believe there was something wrong with his brother. Over the years professors and parents and all manner of adults had questioned his pranks or his attitude. They’d wondered if he had anger management issues or too slow in the classroom.
James had always managed to prove those people wrong. He rolled with the punches, seemingly uncaring over what others thought of him.
“It’s James,” Al said, begging Rose to be on his side. “He likes this, the center of attention, everyone wondering if he’s alright. This is what James does. He’s always been fine before and he’s fine now.”
Rose bit her lip to keep from saying anything she would regret. She didn’t agree with what Al said, but she nodded anyway. It was better for her to agree, even if it wasn’t the truth. Al had a few good points though.
She picked at the eggs on her plate and looked over at Al who was staring off into space. “Eat something,” she said quietly, too soft for him to hear.
Al blinked and glanced up at the head table. When he noticed Neville staring at him he ducked his head. “He’s been doing that for ages,” he muttered under his breath to Rose. His messy hair fell into his eyes and Al had to push it back. “He’s always doing that.”
“Talk to him,” Rose suggested. She knew Al wouldn’t, but she didn’t feel right not mentioning it at all. “If you give him five minutes of your time he may stop.”
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” Al said. He preferred avoiding the subject of Lily and anything that had to do with her.
Everything in his life seemed centered around her now, but at least he could find solace in his schoolwork. It was the one thing Rose could really help him with. They spent countless afternoons and evenings in the Heads’ common room studying and quizzing each other.
Since the only other person who had the password was Scorpius and he preferred to spend time in the Slytherin common room Rose and Al usually had the place to themselves.
“You’re going to have to talk about it sometime,” Rose said.
The air was filled with the sound of flapping wings as the owls descended on the students with their mail. A few of the first years who still weren’t used to it dropped their food in surprise.
A small tawny owl flew down and landed gracefully in front of Rose. She recognized it as her mother’s immediately. It stuck out its leg for her to untie the letter. Her mother’s owl, Cliffie as her brother had named it when he was small, was one of the best trained owls Rose had ever seen. Her mother used it mostly for business so it couldn’t be allowed to nip at anyone’s fingers.
She scanned the letter, taking in her mother’s neat handwriting, while Al looked on in confusion. “What’d she say?” He asked anxiously.
Rose shook her head. It was a whole lot of nothing, telling her the official story of James’s suspension and wishing both of them good luck in their classes. She also told Rose to take care of Al, which Rose knew she couldn’t tell Al. “Teddy’s back in town, apparently. He stopped by the house a few nights ago.”
“He and Victoire came back early,” Al commented.
“Well of course they did,” Rose said. “They’re family.”
“Molly, Lucy, and Louis are still off doing whatever it is they’re doing,” Al replied sullenly. After leaving Hogwarts, the three had decided to go on a trip around the world. Louis and Molly had waited a year to go with Lucy, and then just left over a year before.
“Well has anyone been able to contact them?” Rose asked. “They don’t exactly keep us informed of where they are.” Occasionally Percy, Audrey, Fleur, and Bill got owls from them, but their letters tended to be brief and vague. Percy especially had been upset when they left without any warning.
One day the three woke up, informed everyone they were leaving, and were gone before nightfall. It had been surprising, especially coming from the three so-called responsible ones in the family. No one would have been quite as shocked if it had been James, Roxy, and Freddie, but they all got stable jobs immediately after graduating from Hogwarts.
It surprised the family to no end.
“Probably not,” Al muttered. He didn’t blame Molly and the others for not coming back, but he was a bit sore that they were acting so selfish. He hadn’t been close to any of them as they were older and had been in different houses, but he still thought they should have some respect for their families.
“They’ll be home by the end of the year,” Rose said, unsure as to why Al looked so upset that they were gone. He hadn’t cared before and she wasn’t sure why he would now.
“But who just skips out on their family for over a year?” Al asked with a scowl. “You know what they’re like. Everything revolves around them. They could be home with us and instead they’re off trotting the world and seeing things no one will care about in five years.”
Rose’s eyes widened as she realized what the problem was. Al was making parallels between their cousins wandering the world and Lily being missing. It was just like him to look too deep into things, she was surprised she hadn’t realized it before.
“You know they’re just trying to have some fun, right?” She asked slowly. “I mean once they get back Molly’s thrown into her internship at the Ministry and Lucy and Louis go off to Healer Training and that’s the end of everything for them. They aren’t trying to be cruel to their parents.”
“Aunt Audrey looked like she was going to cry when they didn’t come home last Christmas,” Al said. The corners of his mouth were turned down in disgust. “And they have a choice about things. It’s not like-” He stopped before saying Lily’s name. He didn’t want to solidify those connections in his mind.
Rose shook her head and spooned some more eggs onto Al’s plate. “Eat these and you’ll feel better,” she said, although she felt like she was talking to a small child instead of an of age wizard.
“How many times do I have to tell you I’m not hungry?” Al asked, pushing the plate away from him. “It’s not a crime to skip a few meals, you know.”
“I know,” Rose said and she gave up on trying to convince him to eat. He would in his own time and he wasn’t that thin anyway. He was a smart boy and an adult. He could do whatever he wanted.
Breakfast was just ending as two blokes joined Al and Rose at the center of the table. Al blinked in surprise to see Bolton and Roland, two of his yearmates, sitting down next to them. They were on friendly terms although Al had been avoiding them as well as everyone else since the year began.
“Fancy seeing you here,” Bolton said as he dropped in on Al’s right side. “We overslept and nobody deemed it necessary to wake us. You going to eat those?” He asked, gesturing to the eggs as the rest were already gone. When Al shook his head, Bolton pulled them in front of him.
Roland rolled his eyes. “So we haven’t seen you around much,” he commented as he ate a slice of toast. “Not that we blame you, of course,” he added when Bolton sent him a sharp glare. “We miss having you around, that’s all. That toff Peterson’s been a right prat and you’ve missed all our- er- you know.” He smiled tensely at Rose, clearly editing himself for her sake.
“Anyway,” Bolton said through a mouthful of eggs, glaring at Roland. “We were wondering if you would care to grace us with your glorious presence in Hogsmeade in three weeks.”
“Normally we wouldn’t bother you with a request so early, but you’ve been so booked lately we decided it was time for extreme measures,” Roland said.
Rose raised an eyebrow at Al. She hadn’t realized his excuses to Roland and Bolton had been quite so flimsy. Al’s ‘schedule’, if you could even call it that, was anything but booked. He spent most of his time studying or doing nothing at all with Rose.
“I’ve promised to go with Rose actually,” Al said, his eyes glued on the table. “Sorry, mates.”
Rose rolled her eyes. She wasn’t going to be a part of his lies any longer, especially since she wasn’t going to go to Hogsmeade with him. She couldn’t go at all because she had a Heads meeting with Scorpius that day. “I’m going to have to cancel on you, Al. Something’s come up, so you’re free to go with them.”
Roland grinned widely at Rose, knowing that they’d just caught Al in a lie. “Brilliant. Don’t bother trying to avoid us, we’ll find you.”
Al stood up from the table and stalked off, Rose just behind him. “You didn’t have to be so rude to them,” she said as she struggled to keep up with his quick pace.
“You didn’t have to force me to go with them,” he replied.
“I didn’t force you to do anything. I just wasn’t going to let you blame it on me.” When Al didn’t respond, Rose grabbed his arm and forced him to a halt. “You could have told them you didn’t want to go, but they’re your friends. It might help you to spend time with them.”
“Newsflash, Rose, I don’t need to be helped,” Al said, yanking his arm out of her grip. “I just want to be left alone by everyone, and that includes them. And you.”
He stalked down the corridor and Rose let him go, knowing that he would cool down soon. He’d gotten angry before and he had a right to. Everything that had happened with Lily had taken a toll on him emotionally.
Rose sighed and turned back down the corridor to head to her own class. She’d find him later, she just hoped he didn’t have a row with anyone else before then.
A/N: Posted early to avoid power outage from Hurricane Sandy. Hope you guys enjoy!
Chapter Twenty: The List
Harry clapped Teddy on the shoulder jovially. The boy had come over to his home nearly every day since he’d returned early from his honeymoon and Harry had instantly seen a way in which Teddy could be useful to him.
Teddy had connections at the Ministry unlike Harry who had already managed to burn all of his bridges. With Teddy funneling information to him he could still stay on top of his daughter’s investigation.
He didn’t want to wait to bring it up, but Teddy had seemed so obviously upset that he had to wait. Teddy still had two weeks off of work so asking him now would do nothing except upset him more.
Harry knew rationally that the Minister was right, Penglaze was right, to a certain extent. He was close to the investigation, yes, but that could only help him. The real problem was that he’d been living this twenty four seven since it happened.
Once all leads at been exhausted, his mind couldn’t come up with more suspects or ideas. He needed a rest, a break. His brain needed to refresh itself.
Harry had decided he would spend several days at home with his family. He couldn’t continue working the way he had with limited sleep and food. So deprived of the essentials of life he was no good to anyone, especially his daughter.
Also at home he would be able to question Ginny and Hermione to see if they knew anything, no matter how small or insignificant it could be. They might know something without knowing they did.
Harry was convinced there was some way to find his daughter. He couldn’t stand to be helpless. Throughout his life he had always had something to do, some sort of mission to accomplish.
Now his mission was simple: find Lily. Bring her home.
There was no murderous basilisk or series of tasks to complete. He didn’t half to find half a dozen horcruxes or defeat a giant chess set. All he had to do was find his daughter. It should have been simple, easy even, after what he did in the past.
“Does the Ministry know anything that’s not in the Prophet?” Teddy asked in hushed tones. Ginny and Hermione were in the other room and he didn’t want to upset anyone further.
“The Prophet has a lot in it that’s not true,” Harry said. He had criticized the Prophet every chance he got over the years, saying that they only printed sensationalized news, and everything that had happened the last several weeks only served to validate that.
Teddy shrugged. He knew it was exaggerated, he did work at the Ministry, after all, but it was the only way to get his hands on information regarding Lily. “I’ve been reading between the lines. I can’t figure out what James has been up to, though. His suspension? And drinking?”
“No one knows what’s he’s been up to, including James. He’s just looking for attention and he’s got it.” Harry shook his head. He didn’t approve of his oldest son’s antics. “The way to make him quiet down is just to ignore him. He’ll get tired of being in the paper soon enough.”
Teddy didn’t know what to say. He knew James and Harry had a strained relationship, but it had seemingly gotten worse since Lily was gone. The two rarely saw eye to eye on anything, and instead of coming closer together they’d drifted apart.
“The investigation?” He asked, bringing the conversation back to where he had originally intended.
“None of the leads panned out. Malfoy’s the last of the Death Eaters who still have their freedom and he had nothing to do with it. The Aurors supposedly looked through all my old files to compile a list of any wizards who might have a serious grudge against me, but Merlin knows how thorough they were.”
Teddy nodded. “I’ll do anything I can to help. I’m sure the Aurors are doing a fine job-” Harry snorted in disbelief. “-but we can always do better. So you need a list of every wizard and witch you’ve pissed off in the last, say ten years?”
Harry shook his head. Ten years wasn’t enough. Some people had long memories, all the way back to the first wizarding war when he’d defeated Voldemort the first time. “Anyone I’ve ever angered, ever,” he said. “You can never be too thorough.”
“My contacts can arrange that,” Teddy said with a nod. “All of your enemies in one ridiculously long list. What are we going to do with it?”
Harry hadn’t thought that far ahead. There was no way he could go knocking on the doors of all of his enemies looking for his daughter. It was very illegal, but that didn’t bother him. The problem was he’d be doing that for the rest of his life and still only get halfway down the list.
“We’ll split them up, you, me, and Ron,” he said. “We’ll take the most likely and check the people out. Once you cut out everyone dead or in Azkaban or soulless…” Harry trailed off as he thought of the number of people he’d put away. “Make your those people’s families are on the list. No stone unturned.”
Teddy nodded his head eagerly. He’d do anything he could to bring Lily home safe and sound, and he was sure Harry felt even more strongly toward it. “I’ll go do that now.”
He walked out to living room to make his goodbyes to Hermione and Ginny while Harry sat in the kitchen, thinking. He knew taking time from the case was the rational move to make, but something in his gut felt very wrong. Every day, every hour, every minute that passed it became less likely Lily would be found.
He’d been an Auror for years after the war, he knew all about cases like these. The first twenty four hours were crucial and after that it depended on the evidence. Since there was no evidence, no leads to speak of, Harry decided to replace it with tenacity. He would do anything he could.
Ron entered the kitchen a moment later and Harry explained to him what was going on and what the plan would be. Ron looked unsure of it to say the least. “Are you sure Teddy’s not going to get in trouble for this?” He asked, glancing into the living room where Teddy was speaking with Hermione. “He’s just got a really bright future, already in such a powerful position at the Ministry.”
“There’s nothing illegal about asking a few questions,” Harry said. “Besides, he’s getting his contacts to do everything for him.”
“Twenty five and already the kid has powerful contacts.” Ron shook his head in disbelief. “When I was twenty five I was lucky if I remembered to shave every day.”
Harry shook his head, but he didn’t have time to reminisce with Ron. He had too much to do, too much to plan for. Teddy was doing what he could, but there were more questions Harry could ask Ginny. He’d tried earlier, but Hermione had shooed him off.
“Would you mind distracting Hermione?” He asked Ron. Ron looked a bit taken aback and Harry’s mind quickly sped to come up with a quick story because he knew Ron wouldn’t approve. “It’s just she’s always by Ginny’s side and I want to talk to my wife alone. Is that okay by you?”
Ron nodded. That was something he could understand. He’d tried to get Hermione alone a few times because there was something he actually needed to talk with her about, but she wouldn’t leave Ginny. “If we both go in at the same time it should work,” Ron said.
They entered the living room together and Ron caught Hermione’s eye instantly. “Could we talk?” He asked quietly. Then he lowered his voice even more so Harry couldn’t hear. “I got another letter from Neville about Rose and Al. He said he’s noticed some things…” He let his voice trail off.
Hermione glanced at Ginny and Harry, then finally nodded. “Alright. Harry, are you going to be staying in here?” She asked. Harry nodded and she followed Ron upstairs.
He silently cast a muffling spell on the door so Ginny or Harry wouldn’t over hear. They were both so distraught over Lily that he didn’t want to worry them about Al, or especially Rose. “You got a letter from Neville?” Hermione finally inquired.
“Yes.” Ron pulled it out of his robe and handed it to her. “He said he’s been keeping an eye on them both like we asked and they’ve been more isolated than ever.”
“’They only ever talk to each other’?” Hermione read in a confused tone. “But they both have so many friends!”
“That’s what he’s worried about. He also said that Al hasn’t been eating much. When he comes to meals, if at all, he usually picks at his food then leaves early with Rose.”
Hermione scanned the rest of the letter with a worried expression on her face. “This doesn’t sound good. Maybe sending them back wasn’t such a good idea. I don’t like this at all.”
“We can’t pull them out now,” Ron said, pulling her down to sit beside him on the bed. “You know as well as I do that disrupting their situation would be even worse than leaving them there.”
“And the environment here isn’t exactly ideal, I know,” Hermione said. “It still doesn’t mean I like it. Maybe we should visit and talk to Rose. She’s doing all she can with Al, but I know she’s upset as well. Lily was really close to her, looked up to her in practically every way.”
“Do you think she’d want us to visit?” Ron asked. He knew when he was a teenager he’d have hated for his parents to visit him at Hogwarts, especially for an extended visit like what Hermione was thinking of. “They’re teenagers. I know this is incredibly rough on them, but they might just want to be left alone, to deal with it on their own.”
“I don’t know,” Hermione said, even less sure of herself. She wanted to help, but she’d never dealt with anything like this, even with Voldemort coming back to power when she was their age. Nothing she had gone through was even close to similar except in that it was emotionally traumatic. “Maybe we could ask Neville to talk to Al. Maybe Rose as well.”
Ron shook his head. He wanted his children to be in the best place possible, but he also thought they needed to live life on their own. “I don’t think so.”
“Please?” Hermione asked. She wasn’t really asking because she needed Ron to agree, but she did desire his support. Whatever his answer was she was going to owl Neville and ask him anyway. Asking Ron was just a formality.
“I really think it might be best to let them muddle through it on their own,” Ron said, although he was close to bending to Hermione’s wishes. He usually deferred to her when it came to their children because she always seemed to know what she was doing. The only times he didn’t obey her wishes was when he broke her rules, like when he’d gotten Hugo a broom when he first went to Hogwarts.
“Ronald, you don’t understand the psyche of these children,” Hermione said with a sigh. She couldn’t understand why her husband didn’t listen to her when she clearly knew more than him.
Ron wanted to say that they were children, Rose and Al were now of age and legally adults. They could do whatever they wanted according to wizarding law. But he could also see his wife’s point. She did understand Rose more than he did. “Alright,” he said finally. “Owl Neville.”
Hermione smiled tightly in triumph and began to neatly write Neville a note on the back of his letter to her.
A/N: So... Hi. Should I just pretend that it's not awkward I haven't posted in many months? Yeah... So sorry. If anyone still cares about this story even. I've read over bits of it and it's kind of ridiculously long and yet nothing happens. Not going to rewrite it, but I will try to get back to it enough to write the ending. I owe you guys that much at least. If anyone still reads this.
Ahem. Anyway. I'll post two chapters a week, Mondays (as I was in the past) and whatever other day I feel like because I'm lazy.
Have been away for a while so I've forgotten what I'm supposed to say in author's notes. Uh. Review please? You're all lovely? I'm secretly cthulhu and plan on destroying your soul? That probably covers it.
Chapter Twenty One: Fight
James was only in the third week of his suspension and had, for the time being, thoroughly accepted it. He didn’t like working at Weasley Wizard Wheezes the way Freddie and Roxy did.
Being forced there every day chafed him. He didn’t like having to wake up early to open the shop some days and he hated staying late to close. The kids were all annoying and working in the back room was the most boring thing he’d ever done, except for the paperwork of course.
The only time the job was bearable was when they were testing new products or putting on shows for the customers, but even that got dull when he had to repeat that same experience over and over.
That was where he was now, showing off one of his Uncle’s oldest products- the hat that cast a shield charm around you when a minor spell hit you. It had been fun the first few times with James and Freddie having a fake duel (Roxy preferred to stay back at the cash register), but James’s energy quickly dissipated by the dozenth duel that week.
“Rictusempra!” Freddie cried, pointing his wand at James and a jet of silver light shot out only to strike the shield with a shimmer.
“Densaugeo,” James shot back, much less excited than Freddie. It struck the shield and Freddie removed his hat with a flourish. “Only two galleons, ladies and gents. Win every duel against your friends with these babies.”
He dropped the hat on the display table and people immediately crowded around it, kids begging their parents to buy it for them. Those particular hats were old models and the newer models flashed different color lights when struck by spells.
James tossed his hat carelessly on the table and followed Freddie back to the cash register with a scowl. “Would it kill you to smile?” Freddie asked tensely as he dropped into a seat beside Roxy. “If we want these people to buy a product we’ve got to really sell it.”
James rolled his eyes. Freddie liked the showcases a bit too much. He got excited on the hour when it was time to fake a duel and looked forward to it all day. James just wanted to get it over with. “Can we just stop early tonight?” He asked. They went until six with the theatrics, but when there were still crowds around they continued until closing.
There was only one showcase left, but James had already decided to quit. He wanted to go out that night, have a good time, not spend the night trying to fake a smile so a few people bought shield hats for their kids. “We’re not quitting when we’re this busy,” Freddie said, looking a little astonished that James would deign to even suggest that.
James sighed in disgust and leaned against the wall, refusing to sit beside his cousin. He didn’t like to think of Freddie as his best friend anymore, not after being forced to spend nearly every day with him since coming to work at Weasley Wizard Wheezes.
“What’s the deal with your attitude?” Freddie asked with a glare. “The showcases are the fun part of working here. They add a bit of life into the day.” James scoffed and Roxy sent her brother a look.
“Not everyone enjoys showing off like you do. Give him a break, okay?” Roxy enjoyed the showcases about as much as James did and was perfectly happy to leave him and Freddie to it on their own. She only participated when forced to.
“At least you fake it,” Freddie shot back. “He stands up there and looks like he’s about to be drawn and quartered. No one wants to by the hats if the person wearing them looks miserable!”
James turned his head away. Wearing that hats was miserable. They were hot and itchy and occasionally they did let the stronger spells in. His legs still shook slightly from one of the hexes Freddie had hit him with that morning, although apparently that was his fault too.
“Nothing about this stupid place is exciting,” James muttered, although he had practically lived at his Uncle’s shops when he was a kid. “Scoring a hoop against a good keeper, that’s exciting.”
“Well I’m sorry you got yourself suspended,” Freddie said a bit too loudly. “But that isn’t our fault. We’re just trying to help. We gave you a job, didn’t we?”
“Don’t bring me into this,” Roxy muttered under her breath, pushing her chair back slightly from the cash register.
“Well maybe I should just quit since you clearly don’t want me here!” James shouted.
Roxy looked between her twin and cousin with raised eyebrows. She’d never quite seen them fight like that, but both blokes had tempers when they wanted to. “I think I’ll go restock the er- something probably needs restocking,” she said, getting out of her chair and heading toward the backroom.
She was aware that several customers were watching the dispute, but there wasn’t much she could do about that.
Freddie scowled at James. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. Stop putting words in my mouth.”
“I didn’t put words anywhere you didn’t already have them,” James replied angrily. He hated this stupid job and didn’t understand how Freddie and Roxy could accept that it was going to be the rest of their lives.
“Look, I’m sorry about Lily, but you’ve got to stop taking it out on the rest of us,” Freddie said without thinking. The moment he heard the words come out of his mouth his face turned from one of anger to horror. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up Lily like that.”
James threw the clipboard he was holding down on the table with a sharp clatter. “Whatever. I’m done with this place,” he said, glaring at Freddie with harsh hazel eyes.
“Don’t go,” Freddie said with a world weary sigh, following his best friend outside. “You know I didn’t mean it that way it sounded.”
“Well if you didn’t mean it, don’t say it!” James shouted, ignoring the stares from customers around the store. He didn’t like working late, Freddie knew that. It was nearly ten and time for closing, but James was tired of waiting it out. He wanted to go out and have fun, not sit around staring at figures all day. Working in a joke shop was supposed to be fun, wasn’t it?
“James-” Freddie said again as James stormed out into the street. He paused at the door and let his friend go. He hoped James just needed to let off the steam that had been building in him for weeks.
Freddie wasn’t stupid, he knew James was pissed at his parents, pissed at his coach, pissed at the world, but he’d always let stuff like that just roll off his back before. He never took it this hard so Freddie wasn’t quite sure how he should react.
James apparated at the end of the block straight into one of his favorite pubs. It was a wizarding one, yes, but he didn’t care if the press found him or not. He was tired of trying to hide from them and someone winding up in photographs anyone. At least this way he could do it on his terms.
He ordered firewhiskey, as he always did, and immediately swallowed several shots. He wanted to be drunk and he wanted to be drunk now. There was no question of having a good time that night, he just wanted it not to suck.
The night went on as James stayed seated. He knew midnight had come and gone, but he wasn’t sure quite when. The pub had already begun to thin out, but he stayed beside his bottle of firewhiskey.
The reason this place was his favorite was because they never cut him off. It was large enough that James could stay in anonymity and no one cared how much he drank himself into oblivion, unlike some of the smaller joints he occasionally frequented.
A large body knocked into his chair. His drink spilled and James scowled up at the man. “Watch where you’re going,” he slurred angrily.
The man blurred in and out of focus and James shook his head to clear. “Sorry, mate,” the bloke muttered and turned to leave.
James pushed himself off his seat and stumbled after him. “I’m not your mate!” He said loud enough that several witches and wizards in the pub turned to stare. James took no notice of them.
“Sorry,” the larger man muttered again, taking a step back. He was heavily muscled, even more so that James was from Quidditch, and James was no slouch.
He sized the man up in one glance and decided that he could take him. Blokes that big were usually somewhat lacking in the brains department. “Can’t a bloke just have a drink in peace?” James asked, advancing on the man. “I just wanted a drink without having someone spill it and ruin it for me.”
“I’m not fighting you,” the man said with a bit of a laugh. James decided that he must have been sober, but that didn’t he would lose the fight. Having a bit of drink in him might even make him lighter on his feet.
“Are you afraid to fight me?” James asked, advancing even further. “You hit like a girl? Figures. All you big blokes are the same.”
The man stopped walking backwards and raised a sardonic eyebrow at James. “I don’t get in bar fights because it’s stupid, although if you attack me I won’t hesitate to defend myself.”
The speech sounded convoluted to James ears and his vision swam before returning to normal. “Arse,” he said, glaring at the man’s face. When that elicited no response James swung a wild punch at the wizard’s head which he ducked easily.
“Calm down, I don’t want to fight you,” he said lifting his hands.
James was prepared to throw himself at the bloke when something held him back. He found he couldn’t move his legs, although the rest of him seemed to be working just fine.
A girl with long sleek brown hair and chocolate brown eyes raised an eyebrow at him. “Here’s a tip, don’t pick fights with people twice your size.” She caught a wiff of his breath and grimaced. “Especially when you’re as drunk as you are,” she added.
The people in the pub went back to their own conversations and James scowled at the girl. “This doesn’t concern you,” he muttered, trying to find his wand. He knew it was in his robes somewhere, if he could just find it and undo the spell…
“Gabe, tell him he’s a moron,” the girl said, putting her hands on her hips.
James groaned inwardly. Of course they knew each other. It was just his luck the bloke’s girlfriend was around.
“Don’t have to,” Gabe said with a grin. “Think you just did.”
The girl grinned back at him. “Go back with Marty. I’ll make sure he gets out alright,” she said with a nod towards James. Gabe left to join his friend and James turned toward the girl expectantly.
“Well?” He asked when she did nothing.
“Well what?” She responded lightly, putting her hands on her hips.
“Aren’t you going to take this damned thing off?” He gestured towards his legs and the girl shook her head.
“Nope, you’d get in another fight. Plus by this point I think you’d probably collapse if I freed you.” She smiled mockingly at James who was still struggling to get free. “Didn’t your mum ever teach you to drink in moderation?”
James scoffed at the question. “Just let me out, okay?”
With a shrug the girl waved her wand and James felt the tightness in his legs ebb away. He took a step, then stumbled and fell into a table. “I hate to say I told you so,” she said with a half smirk. “But I definitely told you so.”
Her face swam in and out of James’s vision as he reeled from the fall. He blinked several times, but that didn’t seem to help any. “It’s- you’re-” he tried, but words failed him. His brain felt as though it had turned to mush.
“Are you okay?” She asked, leaning in closer. James blinked again, staring directly into her brown eyes and lilted over to the side. “James?”
James awoke, his back stiff and sore. There was a pounding in his skull, a feeling he had become well acquainted with in the past several weeks. He wanted to roll out of his bed to get the hangover remedy from his medicine cabinet, but for some reason he had fallen asleep on his sofa.
Which was very odd because James didn’t remember having a sofa anywhere in his flat. And there was a pale pink pattern around the walls of the room.
He wasn’t in his flat.
He wasn’t even somewhere he recognized.
What was going on?
A/N: Here you go, as promised and on time! I hope you enjoy!
Chapter Twenty Two: Meeting Keelie
James stared around the room in shock. His head ached so bad that all he wanted to do was close his eyes and go back to sleep, but he couldn’t, not in a strange house.
The sun was shining through the window and James managed to pull himself into a sitting position. There were no clocks in the room so he stared outside, trying to tell the position of the sun, but it was near impossible from the angle he was.
“You’re awake,” a female voice said from the opposite side of the room. James jerked his head and ended up keeled over with his face in his hands. “That looks painful,” the girl said without any sympathy.
She was wearing muggle jeans and had an odd lilt to her voice that James couldn’t decipher. He recognized her, he knew he did, but he couldn’t put a name to a face. He didn’t even know how he knew her. “You blacked out, didn’t you?” The girl asked, a little more empathy in her tone this time. “You do that a lot?”
James didn’t like to talk about his drinking habits with anyone so he merely shrugged. “Sometimes.” He paused, trying to think of her name and took a shot in the dark. “Anna, right?” He asked. He was pretty sure he knew an Anna.
The girl cracked a small smile, but instantly wiped it off her face. “If you knew my name I’d be pretty surprised. I never told you.”
James burned bright red. That tone implied he’d done something wrong, which probably meant he’d slept with her. He wasn’t a player, but he’d had a few girlfriends at Hogwarts and he was far from a virgin. He’d never had just a one night stand before, though.
“Er- last night. Did we er- you know. Have sex?” He asked, stuttering over the words until he finally managed to get them all out.
She looked horrified at the thought. “What kind of girl do you think I am? I brought you here, against my better judgment I might add, to help you and you accuse me of being a slut? Next time clean up your own messes.”
“Wait, I’m sorry!” James begged, standing up to follow her out of the room. He winced as the light grew even brighter. “It’s just you’re a girl, and I’m at your apartment, and I don’t remember anything from last night, so it seemed like a possibility.”
The girl took a few deep breaths to calm herself before turning back to James. “Last night you tried to get into a fight with my friend. Gabe. Remember that?” James shook his head, although it was beginning to sound a bit familiar. “And then you collapsed and were in and out of consciousness so I brought you here.”
James’s eyes widened as the events of the previous night came back to him. “Oh,” he said, remembering the look on Gabe’s face when he tried to punch him. He’d mistaken it for fear at the time, but now he could see it was mocking, maybe even a little bored. “Oh, no.”
“Don’t worry,” she said, seeming to know what he was thinking. “Gabe doesn’t hold a grudge. He’s a really good guy as long as you don’t go after him for no reason.”
“He knocked my drink over,” James muttered, although the excuse sounded flimsier now than it had then.
“Well from the looks of it you’d had quite enough,” she said. “James, you can really be a moron sometimes.”
James shrugged. He didn’t particularly like it when people he didn’t know well called him a moron, but he wasn’t in a situation where he could argue very well. “What happened then?” He asked, trying to fill in the blanks on his night.
“Like I said, I brought you here because clearly you weren’t going to make it anywhere on your own,” she said with a shrug. “I wasn’t going to abandon you in the pub. The manager would’ve thrown you out.”
“Oh,” James said again, feeling more and more embarrassed. “You could’ve just taken me home.”
“Because I know where you live?” He felt stupid for even inquiring abut that so he shut up, then a thought dawned on him.
“How do you know my name, but I don’t know yours?” He asked.
The girl shrugged. “Your family’s been in the papers for weeks. I recognized you immediately. I wouldn’t have brought you here if I hadn’t known who you were.”
“So I’m just the object of your pity?” James asked. He hated being on the receiving end of pity. Didn’t people know that just made him feel worse?
“Would do you rather I had just left you on the street, half unconscious?” she asked. When James didn’t respond she rolled her eyes. “That’s what I thought. My name’s not Anna, by the way. It’s Keelie.”
“Keelie,” James said, trying out her name in his mouth. “I’m James. I mean, you already knew that, but- er- my head really hurts. Do you have any hangover remedy?”
The girl- Keelie- laughed and handed him a tall glass of orange juice. “I already added it. Drink up.” He did and once he’d finished the glass felt instantly better. He still had a slight headache, but that was to be expected. The important thing was that the pounding was gone and he could now think clearly again.
“I guess I should, uh, thank you for helping me last night,” he said, unsure of himself. He’d never quite been in this situation before and Keelie was a very direct person. “I’m sure you would’ve done it for anyone, but thanks.”
She shook her head. “I’d’ve let Gabe break your face if I hadn’t realized who you were,” she replied. “I mean, at least you’ve got a reason, even if it’s a shitty one.”
James looked at her in surprise. He hadn’t expected to hear her curse. Most of the girls he knew, namely his sister and his cousins, didn’t like cursing. “Er- thanks for stopping him from breaking my face,” he said.
Keelie smiled at him. “I wouldn’t have really let him hurt someone,” she admitted. After a moment of pause she asked, “So care to enlighten me as to why you were getting so shitfaced?”
“Not really,” he said. He didn’t feel like delving into his personal life. She’d just assume it was because of Lily no matter what he said. That was what all the papers claimed.
Granted it was probably at least a little true, but James didn’t like to think about that.
“If you’re trying to be the quiet mysterious type, don’t,” she said bluntly. “It gets old real fast.”
All of a sudden James realized why the lilt in her voice sounded so strange. “Are you American?” he asked.
“Went to school there for two years,” she said with a smile. “Why?”
“Your accent is a little odd.”
“I’ve been around the world,” Keelie replied vaguely. “I’ve got a lunch date in about an hour and I really don’t like leaving strange blokes wandering around my flat.”
“Oh, right,” James said, forgetting that he was still in her flat despite having no apparent reason to be there. “I’ll er- see you around I guess. Or maybe not, I dunno.”
“Well I’m pretty certain I’ll continue to see you in the papers so that’s something,” Keelie said. “Bye.”
James apparated away and landed in his own flat. The lights were all off and neither twin was anywhere to be seen. He looked at the clock and groaned when he noticed it was almost noon. It meant he was two hours late for his shift at the shop.
But then he remembered he’d quit the night before. James groaned again. He couldn’t go back there now that he’d shown such disdain for the place and he really didn’t want to go back there. It was horrible, he felt like he was suffocating sitting at the desk all day.
Just thinking about it made his chest tight so James headed to his bedroom and grabbed his broom, the Cannon’s standard Xtremebolt, the newest version of the Firebolt.
He was going to do what his coach told him for once and stay in shape, practice his flying skills. Once he had the broom he apparated to an abandoned field he knew was safe. His father had taken him, Al, and Lily there when they were small to do all manner of things that couldn’t be done in front of muggles.
He would be safe from any prying eyes, he knew. Once there he mounted his broom and soared higher and higher into the air. He would be out of sight if anyone happened to walk by, or they’d just assume he was a bird. Muggles made excuses all the time for things like that.
The air grew a bit thinner and James felt breathless and excited. He’d forgotten how thrilling it was to do such dangerous things. If he fell now he’d surely lose his life. No one could survive something like that.
He soared and dipped on his broom, what people would have called showing off if there was anyone to see. He didn’t call it showing off, he called it practice. This was what he had to do to stay up with the team. He had to be good enough to start when Powler left in just a few months.
James dodged through the air like he was flying around opposing chasers and beaters and ducked like a bludger was coming after him. He used to play games like these all the time when he was by himself and had no one else to play with.
He liked to imagine the entire game around him, even though he was the only real thing there. Chasers materialized in his mind’s eye and James took an immediate dive to dodge one.
Nothing helped him hone his skills so much as an imaginary game. And besides that, it was fun. He could be the star.
James grinned, glad no one was around to see him foolishly play a game of Quidditch by himself.
He swooped again, then pulled his broom into a slow circle, just glad to be breathing freely again. He wasn’t made for cramped office jobs. He was like Lily, born to fly and be free.
A/N: Finally introduced one of my favorite characters! I hope you guys like Keelie. :)
Chapter Twenty Three: Ministry Visitors
The lights around the house were bright, too much so for Ginny. In spite of this she remained perfectly poised on the couch, her hands clasped tightly in her lap. The hit wizards had come by to speak with her and her husband.
Harry was by her side, looking stiff and formal in his Ministry issued robes. He was wearing them to look powerful, like an authority figure even though he’d resigned from his job, something Ginny still didn’t know about.
It seemed to be working because the hit wizard team before them looked cowed. There were three of them in addition to Stilman White, the hit wizard leader who had become well acquainted with the Potter family.
“Because of the unique position of this investigation,” Stilman began somewhat awkwardly. He coughed and looked down at his hands, knowing the couple before him wasn’t going to like what he was about to say, particularly Harry. “The Ministry has decided that further progress on Lily’s disappearance should be in the sole power of one branch of law enforcement.”
Ginny looked at him, not understanding what he meant. Ministry speak was often lost on her as she’d never spent time in the official departments of the government the way her husband had.
Harry on the other hand looked quite enraged. His face had begun to turn a bright red as he stared at the men before him. “Harry?” Ginny prodded gently. She hated being kept in the dark.
“Who decided this?” Harry demanded to know.
Two of the hit wizards shrank back visibly while the other found an interesting stain on his cloak to examine. Only Stilman White kept eye contact with Harry, staring the legendary wizard down no matter how much he wanted to turn and run.
“It was well over my head, Mr. Potter,” White said coolly. “So I would kindly ask you not share your opinion with me as I have no control over the matter.”
“I want names,” Harry said, glaring fiercely at the younger man. “I want these people’s jobs because clearly they don’t know what they’re doing.”
“Harry?” Ginny asked, still unsure of what was happening.
“With all due respect, sir, these people know more about law enforcement than you ever will. They have risen to the tops of their fields-”
Harry’s face turned even redder, something Stilman had envisioned impossible. “More?” He asked, his voice cracking on the word. “They know more than I do? I destroyed Voldemort before you were born- twice! I was the top Auror at the Ministry for ten years! I was an advisor to the Minister himself for another ten years! There isn’t a person at the Ministry who knows more than I do about what it takes to catch a dark wizard and find my daughter!”
Stilman cringed and had to turn his face away from Harry’s rage. He had no desire to have a row with the older man, he’d simply come to inform him of the changes in the investigation, and he’d only done that because it was explicitly stated in his job description.
Fighting with a celebrity such as Harry Potter was not something he enjoyed. There was no way for him to stand up to the wizard. He had more experience, more credentials, and he’d defeated the darkest wizard of all time.
Stilman was in a very bad position, which was why he’d asked his boss to take him off the case. He’d refused of course, but Stilman still hoped that something would happen.
“You’re not even listening to me! He’s not even listening to me!” Harry threw his hands up in the air. “How am I supposed to trust this incompetent fool to find my daughter if he won’t even listen to me?”
Ginny would have attempted to calm Harry as she’d done in their first meeting with the hit wizards, but her mind was reeling. Harry was angry, White appeared anxious, she didn’t know what she was supposed to feel.
“I’m through with this!” Harry shouted as he stood up from his seat beside his wife. “I’m through with you and the Ministry’s utter incompetence!” His eyes flashed in such a way that made even Stilman White recoil.
If Potter had indeed destroyed the darkest wizard of all time his soul must me marred and dark as well, Stilman decided. There was something very disturbing about the man’s reaction.
Harry stormed from the room angrily and Ginny was left alone with the hit wizards. “What’s going on?” She asked, her voice shaking near as much as her hands. She gripped the sides of the chair tightly to still her hands.
“It’s been a month since your daughter’s disappearance,” Stilman said, his voice full of pity. He had children himself, no daughters, but two sons and he had no idea what it would be like if something happened to one of them. “After a month has passed the Ministry likes to make some changes to the investigation, reallocate resources and such.”
“I don’t understand,” Ginny said tearfully. “What does all of this mean?”
“The higher-ups have decided that your daughter’s investigation would be better worked by one branch of the law enforcement.” When Ginny continued to look confused, he sighed. “The Auror department will no longer have a part in your daughter’s investigation. It is solely under the jurisdiction of the hit wizards.”
“Why won’t the Aurors be involved?” Ginny asked, her bewilderment clear in her voice.
“As I said, the Heads of our Departments like to review cases such as these and see what measures could be taken to help close them.” What Stilman didn’t say was that other crimes had been committed and budgets weren’t what they once were. The Ministry couldn’t afford to have two separate teams working on an investigation, even one as high profile as this.
Reallocating resources was the kind way of saying they were beginning to give up. They couldn’t keep working this investigation as a priority case when it looked more and more like it would never be solved. It would remain open of course, but after another few weeks he wouldn’t be searching for new leads. He would have to wait for information to come to him while he worked on other investigations.
“But Harry seemed so sure of their abilities,” she said. Nothing was making sense. The Aurors were the best of the dark wizard catchers, at least according to her husband. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have them carry on the investigation instead of the hit wizards?
“These decisions were made by people well above my pay grade, Mrs. Weasley,” Stilman said. He couldn’t come up with any excuses for her. There was no way to tell a woman they were giving up on her daughter’s case. This was the best he could do.
He still cared and he was still looking for Lily Potter, but with dwindling leads and resources there wasn’t much more he could do. Soon she would become an afterthought. People would ask ‘whatever happened to so and so?’ and there would never be a good answer.
“But you’re still looking, yes?” Ginny asked desperately clinging to that one small sliver of hope.
“We will look for your daughter as long as she remains missing,” Stilman promised.
It was all Ginny needed to keep hoping. The small reassurance made her feel better, even if it was superficial. There was still hope that her daughter was out there- somewhere- safe and could be returned home to her.
“Thank you,” she said through a sheen of tears on her face. “Thanks you.”
Stilman nodded awkwardly, knowing he didn’t deserve the thanks he was receiving. He didn’t deserve anything for what the Ministry was going to do, which was sit on its arse and refuse to give him more resources.
Stilman sighed and ushered his men out after bidding his goodbyes to Ginny. Harry was still nowhere to be seen, for which he was very grateful, but he was also worried about blowback.
No, he didn’t think Harry could get him fired, but Harry Potter was an incredibly powerful figure in the wizarding world. If he wanted something chances were there was someone who could give it to him, or often many someones.
He didn’t know exactly how Potter would exact his revenge, but he knew it was coming sometime.
Meanwhile Harry was in the master bedroom of his home. He had a very clear view when White and the rest of the hit wizards, whose names he hadn’t bothered to learn, left.
He eyed them as they made their statements to the few reporters who had found out there was a Ministry presence at his house that day.
He couldn’t hear anything they men said, but he knew it was Ministry babble that essentially meant nothing. He certainly wouldn’t be telling them that the Ministry had given up. That wasn’t something they wanted spread all over the front cover, though it was what they were doing.
Harry wasn’t stupid. He could see through their official statements, explanations, and long words. Reallocating resources his arse. They were taking the Aurors off the investigation because they didn’t think it would lead anywhere.
The Aurors didn’t like to waste time and money on investigations that were pointless, something Harry had understood at the time, but now he couldn’t stand the idea. This was his daughter, the most precious person in the world to him. And they were giving up, going home.
The angry glint in his eyes intensified as White and his team turned away from the reporters and disapparated, presumably back to the Ministry.
He would find some way to get his daughter’s investigation back to high priority. If the Ministry wanted to let this case fall away into the shadows, Harry was going make sure that never happened. He would splash it over the front page of the Prophet if he had to, but they were going care.
They were going to keep looking.
And he was going to get his daughter back, no matter the cost.
A/N: I know things are a bit (incredibly) slow, but that was how I originally wrote this story. I'm going to try in the next couple of weeks to do some edits and maybe fix things up to make a better story. Until then I'll keep posting prewritten chapters.
Thanks for continuing to review, it really does mean a lot. :)
Chapter Twenty Four: A Visit to Hogsmeade
The day was chillier than Al expected and he hadn’t worn a heavy cloak so shivers wracked his body. A scowl sat on his face as he shuffled along beside his friends- although former friends might have been the more apt word.
Bolton and Roland had noticed his discomfort and tried to bring him into the conversation, but Al wasn’t having any of it. He responded with grunts or monosyllabic answers, when he bothered to answer at all.
For their part the two boys kept trying, but trying to find safe subjects was difficult. They had tried discussing Quidditch, but as Lily had been a seeker and James was suspended from the Cannons they’d dropped that quickly.
They had finally settled on pranks, although Al had never taken part in many pranks and Bolton and Roland weren’t exactly the pranksters of the school, that title was left to Scorpius’s friends.
But pranking was a safe subject that hadn’t managed to turn sour on Al in the last month. “I heard Zonko’s is closing down soon,” Bolton remarked, looking directly at Al. “Some say it’s because of your Uncle’s shops.”
“Well Weasley Wizard Wheezes has all of the best new products,” Roland added. “Zonko’s only has the old stuff. Hasn’t changed since our parents’ day.”
Al stared into the dirty windows of the Hogs Head Tavern as they passed, knowing that if James were still at Hogwarts he’d be in there, most likely trying to convince them to sell him firewhiskey. And most likely succeeding.
“That’s a brilliant idea,” Roland said enthusiastically. Both he and Bolton turned to stare at Al.
Al, who hadn’t been paying attention, shrugged. He didn’t particularly care what they did. He just wanted the day to go by fast so he could get back to Hogwarts. “Er yeah. Sure.”
His friends grinned, finally glad to have found something Al agreed to. Al took no notice of their glee and continued following along behind them sullenly. He was waiting for the day to be over, nothing more nothing less. He wasn’t going to rekindle any old friendships like Rose seemed to want.
When they came to a halt, Al finally looked up. He was surprised to find himself in front of his Uncle’s shop, the Weasley Wizard Wheezes sign blaring in bright red lights overhead.
“What are we doing here?” He asked looking at his two roommates.
The boys exchanged an odd look. “You said you were fine with coming,” Roland said with a half smile. “Let’s just go in, say hullo to your cousins. We haven’t seen them since June.”
Al rolled his eyes. It was a flimsy excuse at best. Bolton and Roland may only have been a year younger than Roxy and Freddie, but they were a completely different set of people. Bolton and Roland, though louder than Al, were studious and focused compared to his cousins. They had maybe talked two dozen times in six years at the same school.
He sighed, but followed his friends into the shop. It was full of Hogwarts students, some looking for pranking supplies and others just browsing the various other items. The whole shop was abuzz in color and Al felt almost as though his senses would be overwhelmed.
In addition to the colorful products there was humming and crackling, a sweet smell filled the air and was just shy of sickening, an odd film of green smoke hung around the ceiling and Al wasn’t sure he wanted to know what had caused it. He just hoped it wasn’t toxic.
His uncle’s shop had always been too much for him, even when he was a kid. James had loved visiting and could spend hours trying to pick out the one item he was allowed to have for free (it was part of a long standing arrangement between his Uncle George and his father, one which Al had never really understood).
Al had rarely taken home the free product after age twelve. He’d moved on from the bright colors and preferred to read books, something which his uncle adamantly refused to add to the shop.
“Something wrong?” Bolton asked. Al shook his head. He wanted to get the outing over with, if that meant he had to talk to his cousins he was willing to do it.
They pushed their way to the front of the long line amidst several loud grumbles, but most people quieted when they saw Al. It was common knowledge that Weasleys and Potters got preferential treatment, especially since Roxy and Freddie had taken over as management.
“Al!” Roxy squealed, excited and surprised to see her younger cousin. “What are you doing here? It’s so great to see you!”
“Is this line going to be moving anytime soon?” A sour-faced boy in Hufflepuff robes asked.
“Yes! Sorry!” Roxy said, keeping up her chipper personality. “Hop on over, Al.” He clambered over the desk and settled in to the empty seat beside her.
Bolton and Roland stood off to the side awkwardly. “We’ll uh- look around and see if we want anything,” Bolton said. “Don’t leave without us. Hey Roxy.”
Roxy gave him a half wave and began ringing up the purchases of the customers. “Sorry us talking has to be like this,” she apologized. “We’re just swamped today with all the Hogwarts kids and we’ve been shorthanded for about a week so Freddie and I’ve been pulling all these extra shifts-”
She cut herself off and laughed a little at her rambling. It was only then that Al noticed the dark circles under her eyes and that her tone was a little too chipper. She’d always been a cheerful person, but the smile was a bit much. “Is everything okay?” He asked, not knowing what else to say.
“Oh, don’t spare a thought about me. Just the pitfalls of managing your own business. As soon as we hire another employee or two we’ll be fine. Ever since James left-” She stopped suddenly and looked horrified at herself. “I’m sorry, forget I said anything. How’s Hogwarts been in our absence? The old walls still holding up?”
Al stared at her in surprise. “James left? When? Where’d he go?” He was astounded than no one had told him this before. Ever since going to Hogwarts his family had shut him off from everything, although not necessarily without just cause.
Roxy sighed. “I shouldn’t have said anything, everything’s fine. How are you doing?”
“No.” Al shook his head. He was tired of being babied. He was an adult for Merlin’s sake. He could use magic outside of school, he didn’t need everyone constantly shielding him from the truth.
“Have it your way, but don’t tell Aunt Hermione I told you this. That witch is bloody scary when someone disobeys her.” Roxy collected the galleons from a small blond third year and turned back to Al. “He quit his job here and no one’s spoken to him since.”
The color drained from Al’s face as he realized what Roxy was saying. “He’s gone too?”
“No!” Roxy turned beet red. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry that was a horrible choice of words, the worst. I shouldn’t have- he’s fine, physically at least. We know he’s been in the apartment, we just haven’t been able to speak to him.”
Slowly Al regained the feeling in his extremities. He hadn’t even known that a nose could go numb until now.
Roxy seemed to realize the emotional distress she’d just put him through. “Oh Merlin, Al. You have no idea how sorry I am. Let me-”
“Excuse me?” A younger student asked, holding out her change. “I was supposed to get seven sickles back, not six.”
Roxy recalculated the figures and dropped an extra sickle in the girl’s outstretched hand. “I can’t multitask right now. Give me a moment.”
She stood up on top of the desk and stuck the wand to her throat. “Oi! Hogwarts children! The register is shutting down for ten minutes, I repeat the register will be shutting down for ten minutes. If you have purchases you wish to make they’ll have to wait.”
She climbed down and pulled Al into the storage room with her. A single light bulb hung from the ceiling giving the room and eerie glow. A sofa sat in one corner and Roxy dragged him over to it.
“There. We’ve got ten minutes. Ask me anything you want and I’ll answer as truthfully as possible. But keep your mouth shut around Aunt Hermione, deal?”
Al nodded, his mind racing. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to know and what he was happy to be ignorant of. He decided he’d better be safe and stick to topics about James. “Why’d he quit?”
“He missed Quidditch,” Roxy answered easily. “It’s hard to go from spending your days flying to sitting at a desk.” She glanced up at the door, concern on her face, but when it didn’t open she turned back to Al. “You know how James is. He needs time and space. Lily- it hurt him. It hurt all of you I know, but James is one of my best friends and I see it more than I do in you.”
Al nodded. It was at least better than Roxy treating him like something fragile, someone who would break if you so much as laid a finger on him. “Is James going to be ok?” He asked.
“Honestly? I have no damn clue. James is a fucking mystery, pardon my French.” Roxy didn’t look at all worried at cursing in front of Al. She cursed in front of everybody, except her mother and her Aunts and Uncles. “Look, I know it hasn’t been the ten minutes I promised, but it’s a mad house out there.”
A crash came from somewhere in the shop and Roxy cringed. “I know these Hogwarts weekends and fantastic for business, but Merlin you lot are a bunch of snotty kids. Were we ever this bad?”
Al shrugged, it was not a question he was supposed to answer truthfully. Roxy had been worse than most of the Hogwarts students, and thrice that when she was with James and Freddie. “I’m glad we had this little chat. If I see- when I see James I’ll tell him to owl you. He just needs space and time to heal. All of you do.”
Al didn’t agree. The one thing he needed was Lily back, then everything would be fine.
He couldn’t believe it had been more than a month since she’d vanished. It seemed like just yesterday. He remembered waking up to the hit wizards in the house, his parents in the living room. Everything was so vivid and clear…
“You alright?” Roxy asked as they walked out into the main area of the shop.
“Fine,” Al mumbled as his friends sought him out.
“We’ve been looking for you, mate,” Roland said. They exited the shop together and out on the less crowded street they paused. “So where to now? Honeyduke’s?”
Bolton looked expectantly at Al and he realized the two Gryffindors had been talking about plans to suggest while he was with Roxy. The thought made him more tired than ever, his feet suddenly like giant lead weights.
He hadn’t wanted to come with them in the first place and now they were talking about him behind his back, treating him like an infant who needed to be coddled.
At least when Rose coddled him it didn’t feel quite so insufferable.
“I’m going back to Hogwarts,” he muttered, turning away from his old friends.
“What?” Bolton hurried to catch up with him. “No. The day just started. Don’t you want to get sweets? Their chocolate is heavenly and you don’t want to miss the Bertie Botts-”
“No!” Al said, a bit louder than he intended. Quieter he continued, “I’m just tired. I want to go back and finish up some homework for Monday. You guys keep going.” He walked away before giving them a chance to respond.
He was getting used to more people than just Rose, but he still liked it when it was just the two of them. Rose understood him, she was safe. He didn’t have to feel like he was putting himself out and was going to get hurt.
Besides, she had known Lily too, more than just the people around the school. She didn’t- couldn’t- get it, but at least she knew something.
A/N: Sorry I didn't post on Thursday, but new chapter today! Let me know how you're liking it.
Twenty Five: Paparazzi
James knew that avoiding his family and friends was cruel, but he couldn’t help himself. He was normally an insensitive boy, he visited his mother, owled his brother, and tolerated his father, but nothing about this was normal.
His sister was missing and everyone seemed more concerned about him and the rest of the family than they did about her. She was the one who was missing, but the articles in the paper barely mentioned her, except for saying that she had disappeared. They were all more concerned about his father. About him.
Thankfully Al and his mum seemed to have stayed out of the Prophet and Witch Weekly for the most part, as those were the two main papers still carrying the story. He suspected that was because Al was away at Hogwarts and his mum rarely left the house, but he was still grateful.
There was very little harder than picking up the paper and seeing yourself stumbling around, except for maybe picking it up and seeing large letters announcing your baby sister was missing.
He read the papers almost every day now, not all of them the way his father did, but he read Witch Weekly and the Daily Prophet. It was somewhat sickening to hear about Lily, his father, and himself, but it was all necessary.
James had to keep up with his family somehow, this just seemed like the only way to do it anymore.
He was walking down the streets of Diagon Alley when out of nowhere a reporter popped out and snapped a picture of his face. “James Potter, care to answer a few questions?”
James turned around instantly and walked away, trying to keep his cool. He hadn’t been as besieged by reporters in the daytime recently, but they still appeared every so often. And he still had to force himself not to go for his wand.
Most of the press seemed to respect his space now and walked away, or at the very least followed him quietly until they grew bored, but this man was persistent.
“James, tell me what it’s been like for you since your sister went missing,” his said, the quick quotes quill poised to write. He was an older man, thirtyish, already with a receding hairline. He wore thin glasses that were bright gold, too flashy to be trendy.
“Get the fuck away from me,” James muttered as he picked up his pace. He would have apparated away, but it was impossible for him to concentrate enough to focus on a location. He had no desire to splinch himself as it appeared incredibly painful.
“There’s no need to be rude,” the reporter said, his nasally voice getting on James’s every nerve. His quill made a several scratches on the parchment when James was sure would show up in Witch Weekly. The Prophet reporters knew when to back off for the most part. They were too closely affiliated with the Ministry to break any trespassing or harassment laws.
He kept walking, his hand clenched in a tight fist in the pocket of his robes. It was all he could do not to turn and hit the reporter with some kind of curse, preferably one that was painful and lasting.
“It’s a bit suspicious that you’ve been out partying ever since your sister disappeared, ran away, whatever happened. Care to comment on that?”
James lost it. His vision burned red and he couldn’t clearly see, although that didn’t stop him from grabbing his wand and pointing it at the rat like man. He muttered a hex under his breath which the man parried with an easy sweep of his own wand. James hadn’t even seen him draw it.
The quick quotes quill was still writing rapidly, but James hardly noticed it. “Keep your fucking gob shut about my sister!” He shouted, drawing attention from people all over the street. Some even exited their shops to see what the commotion was about.
“Can I quote that directly or would you prefer me to paraphrase?” The reporter asked, looking gleeful at James’s rage. He lifted the camera from around his neck and shot a quick picture of James brandishing his wand.
This only served to anger James further although when he went to hex the man again, he found he couldn’t move. His body was locked into place as though bound by invisible chains.
It was just like in the pub that night, although in the pub he could move everything above his waist. Now he couldn’t even form words. His whole body was locked up.
A cool, familiar voice approached him and he would have cringed had he been able to move. “Why is it that I always see you when you’re about to get your arse kicked?” Keelie asked, striding confidently into his line of vision. His eyes were the only part of his body that he could move, although that didn’t help him much.
“Who are you?” The reporter asked greedily, knowing that for the first time he might be able to get one of his stories on the front page. His editor wouldn’t be able to turn down James Potter trying to attack him and a secret girlfriend. “Are you two dating?”
“Get lost, loser,” Keelie snapped at him, clearly having no patience for the games the paparazzi liked to play. “And you can quote me on that.”
She grabbed James’s arm and apparated him to a quiet, dimly lit room. “Finite incantatum.” James stumbled as he was able to move again and she held him up by his arm. “You alright?”
He shook his head. Away from the reporter the rage was beginning to ebb away, but he was still breathing hard and shaking. “That bastard-”
“I know, but you’ve got to learn to control yourself. Attacking him is going to make a whole horde of them come after you.” Her logic was infallible, but James shook his head.
He couldn’t think logically when arseholes like that reporter came around telling him that Lily had run away. He didn’t know what he was talking about.
“How do you know?” He asked. “They might get scared and lay off.”
“They didn’t get where they are without tenacity.” Keelie shrugged, tucking her hair behind her ears. “I interned at a newspaper once. You don’t get to the top without being vicious and bloodthirsty. Cured me of ever being a reporter.”
“You- you-” James stumbled over the words, taking a step back. “You’re a reporter?”
“I interned for a summer, that hardly makes me the enemy here.” Keelie crossed her arms.
With a sigh, James sank against the wall, knowing she was right. “It’s just so fucking hard to let it go.”
Keelie shrugged. “I never said it wasn’t. Just said you had to.”
James ran a hand down his face in frustration. “Shit, now you’re going to end up on the front page right beside me. I’m sorry. You should’ve just let me take him out.”
“And get in trouble over that slimy scumbag? Surely you would know I wouldn’t let someone do that.” She smiled and for the first time since seeing the reporter the tension began to ease in James’s stomach.
He began to look around the dank room. “Where are we?” He asked curiously. There weren’t any windows which made him think it was some kind of cellar and the smell in the air suggested someone had been brewing potions inside.
“Underneath a shop I work at. I was on break, so this was the first place that came to mind.” She opened the door and gestured for James to follow her up the steps.
“I feel bad I interrupted your lunch,” James said. He was still angry, but trying hard to keep his cool with Keelie. She’d saved his arse twice, he could at least attempt to be polite.
“Oh it’s no problem at all. My mum won’t be thrilled if she sees me in the paper, but chances are she won’t as she’s in Sweden this month.” Keelie shrugged and smiled at the man who was fiddling with some large bone James didn’t recognize. “Hey ‘Sander,” she said.
The blond man looked up and James immediately recognized him. “Lysander,” he muttered, trying to keep a plastered a smile on his face. “Hello.”
“Hello James,” the older man said with a smile. “I never knew you were interested in the hidden secrets of our world.”
James glanced at Keelie, wondering what she was into with Lysander. The man, as well as his mother, had always disturbed him a little. They always seemed half in this world and half living in their own, something Lily had adored.
His twin may have been self obsessed, Slytherin reporter, but at least he was sane. That was more than James could say for Lysander. He looked around the shop and noted that it was full of random objects Lysander probably thought attracted nargles or whatever the hell he was researching now.
“Er- I’m not,” James said, realizing he hadn’t answered Lysander’s question. “I was just- with Keelie.”
“Can I have a longer lunch break?” Keelie asked, interrupting James’s rambling. He was grateful for that, as well as everything else she’d done.
“Of course,” Lysander said in his slow dreamy tone. He turned back to the bone and lifted it closer to his eye.
James inched out the door with Keelie close behind him. He was surprised to find they were just off of Diagon Alley on a small back street. He’d never been back there before which was probably why he didn’t know Lysander had his own shop.
“You know ‘Sander?” Keelie asked as they were walking down the street.
“Our parents were old friends,” James mumbled, not wanting to go further into it. Luna and Rolf made him think too much of Lily.
“He’s a good bloke, a bit odd sometimes, but a good bloke.” Keelie grinned. “You don’t have to go for everything he believes him to like him. Or accept the salary he pays.”
“Oh.” James was a bit relieved to know that Keelie didn’t take stock in nargles and things like that, although he wasn’t sure exactly why. “I’ll buy you lunch. To thank you for helping me with the reporter. And the other night when you took me back to your place and didn’t let your big friend beat me up.”
Keelie’s ears turned bright pink as she blushed deeply. “It’s really nothing. I can pay my own way.”
“My treat,” James said. “It’ll make me feel better.”
“If you insist.” She smiled at him as they walked together to get lunch.
A/N: Thanks for the continued interest, guys! It means so much. :)