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Chapter 4 : Chapter 4
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"Kingsley has just given me our assignments. I am to continue on the riddle case with Cho, Hannah, and Colin. Tonks will be leading the rest of you in the search for Michael. We are not assuming that his disappearance has anything to do with the riddle case but we are not ruling that out. Tonks will brief you on your specific assignments now." He paused briefly, "I may not be directly involved with the search, but I want updates at least once an hour. Michael is a coworker and a friend. Find him quickly." Harry gestured for Hannah and Colin to follow him and Cho. Tonks stood up to take his place. She reached for the clipboard and promptly knocked it to the floor sending papers scattering everywhere. A small chuckle rippled briefly through the room.
The quartet headed to Harry's tiny office. Harry pushed aside some papers and sat on the edge of his desk with the others standing in front of him.
"What have you got for me?"
"Here are the photos of today's scene. The riddle is in there as well." Colin handed over the thick folder to Harry, who set it on the desk beside him without opening it. Hannah cleared her throat.
"I spoke with the staff; no one knows how or why the victim was in the Restricted section. Madame Pince did not see a note nor did she let the girl into that area. In fact she says the only people who have accessed it in the last couple weeks were the teachers."
"Hannah, Colin. I need you two working double time on this one. I had asked Michael for a report on the victim so now you two are on that task. We need to have a complete profile on Abby. What she did, who she knew, I need to know everything about this girl. I want you working together at all times. I don't want to risk losing another member of our team. Cho and I will be working on the codes and riddles. We need to see what this psycho is going to try next. Keep in touch with me and watch each others backs. Officially we aren't assuming this guy had anything to do with Michael's disappearance but unofficially…" Harry's voice trailed off, lost in his own worries.
"We'll send you a report as soon as we have anything. We will get this bastard, Harry. And we will get Michael back." Colin stated as he opened the door for Hannah and the two of them left the office, Harry watched them walk down the hall. Cho placed her delicate hand on his shoulder.
"It's not your fault, Harry."
"This sick bastard is killing innocent people…children to get to me. And now my friend and colleague has been taken …I am pretty sure this is actually all my fault." The true depth of the devastation he felt echoed in his voice.
Cho pulled on his shoulder to turn him so she could look at him. Her warm ebony eyes looking deep into his troubled emerald ones. She could see the guilt and anger that was tormenting him. She raised her other hand to his cheek to comfort him.
"You cannot control what sick people do, Harry. You did not plan this, you did not ask for it. You are a victim as well." Her voice was firm, but full of empathy and warmth. He nodded in a hesitant manner signaling that he understood, but she could see that he didn't fully agree. An uneasy silence echoed through the small room while Harry thought about her words. They stood together neither wanting to break apart this moment. Her soft hand caressed on his cheek offering him a tiny measure of solace. It was her way of showing him that she supported him. It was her way of showing him that he wasn't as alone as he tended to believe. In a barely audible voice, she whispered, "I'm here for you, Harry."
His eyes locked with hers. Without warning he placed his hands on her tiny waist and pulled her forward. With one step forward, she collided with his chest and she was wrapped in his arms. Her breath caught in her throat. Her heart which had been beating rapidly seemed to stop all together. As she looked up into his eyes, she became lost in the deep green that was moving closer. She closed her eyes and tilted her head up to meet his.
An abrupt knock at the door shook them both back to reality. Each took a step back as Tonks poked her vibrant pink head in the door.
"Harry? I just wanted to get Michael's notes from today. I… am I interrupting something?" She seemed to notice Cho's vivid scarlet blush and her apparent interest in the floor beside Harry's desk. For his part, Harry appeared to be attempting a 'Tonks' impersonation. In his effort to get her Michaels notes as quickly as possible, he managed to knock three quills, several rolls of parchment, two folders and a bottle of quick dry ink onto the floor. He handed Tonks the notes and guided her back to the hallway.
"Please keep me informed about this, Tonks. We have to find him as soon as possible."
Tonks decided not to mention the scene that she had just walked in on.
"Let's get to work on this. The sooner we solve things the sooner we will stop this maniac." Harry said as he came back into the office. Cho looked up in surprise.
"Don't you want to talk about what just happened?" Her eyes flashed dangerously.
"Talk about it? What's to talk about? There is nothing that can be done to change it now." Cho gaped at him, unsure of whether to club him with the chair or to storm out. Before she could vent her fury Harry continued. "Kingsley would fire me if I hexed Tonks for interrupting our moment, besides we need her. She is one of the best Aurors we have and we need her to find Michael." He grinned at her. The wide grin made him seem ten years younger. She couldn't help but smile back at him.
Harry reached for both the folder that he had tossed aside. He gestured for Cho to sit on his chair while he opened the folder. The disturbing images of the scene at the library loomed up at him; he suppressed the anger and the sadness that filled his mind when he looked at them. Instead he quickly rifled through the photos and found the newest coded riddle. He really looked at it for the first time focusing on the code and not the crime scene surrounding it.
"I think this one is a simple keyword cipher. It is pretty simple to figure out. What they do to encrypt it is they take the keyword and then add the rest of the alphabet and then they use that to encrypt the alphabet." She looked back at Harry's confused expression. She grabbed a scrap of parchment and a quill and began to write, "Like this, if the keyword is 'CIPHER' they would encrypt the alphabet like this…
C = A
I = B
P = C
H = D
E = E
R = F
A = G
B = H
D = I
G = K
J = L
And so on. You ensure there are no duplicate letters but they can also put the keyword at the end and work through it backwards. So the word BAD would become ICH. If you have the keyword it is simple to decode it but without the keyword…well it is almost impossible." They sat silently as Harry looked at the paper she had written the example on and the book.
"Is it possible for it to be a phrase or multiple words?" Harry was strictly focused on the problem at hand.
"It could be anything; the spaces wouldn't be part of the cipher though."
"Alright, lets both start working on this see if we cant find this bloody keyword, then when we can work on the riddle that is hidden within it. I'll get you set up in the boardroom again if that's okay with you? Or you can work in here if you would be more comfortable." Harry said.
"I know where the boardroom is; don't worry about escorting me there. I will be back when I have it figured out." She quickly gathered her parchment and her photograph and left for the boardroom. Harry sank into the chair that Cho had just vacated as he grabbed a quill. He started to try different keywords.
Harry crumpled up yet another parchment covered in writing and scribbles. With a deep sigh, he grabbed another paper. He had tried every variation of his own name along with all nicknames associated with him. The Boy Who Lived. The Chosen One. Gryffindor. Seeker. Auror. He had even tried some of the insults that the Slytherins had enjoyed calling him throughout school. Nothing had worked yet. He had thought that since the first riddle had been addressed to him that maybe this keyword could have been related to him as well. So far he had been unsuccessful.
"I got it!" Cho burst into the room. The door banged against the wall as it flew open. She slapped the parchment on the desk. Harry looked up with interest. He reached out and took the parchment.
I begin where you begin again,
When you start again trying.
The twins come next, and try their best
Yet cannot help but start lying.
Another hastens to their side,
For he must end any lie.
His companion follows right behind,
And finishes by asking, "Why?"
"Okay, we need to figure this out and we need to do it fast because if this is like the last one it will lead us to the next attack, and if we can get there before him, we may be able to stop him." Harry stated brusquely. Cho leaned over Harry's chair. He could her murmuring softly to herself as she read the riddle again.
"So, we break it down like the last one." Her voice was all business. "'I begin where you begin again; when you start trying again' Begin, Start. It could be something that begins or starts, a race, a game, a quest, a hunt, a search… there are so many possibilities."
Harry nodded, "What about a synonym for begin or start? Commence, originate, activate, occur… again too many possibilities. What about the second section? 'The twins come next, and try their best; yet cannot help but start lying.' The only twins I can think of are Fred and George and Ron and Hermione's newborns. Maybe it has something to do with the Weasleys?" After a brief pause, he shot an alarmed look at Cho. "You don't suppose they are in any danger do you?"
"Let's not jump to any conclusions… we need to work this through every riddle has some logic in it that will lead us to the answer. We just need to work this through logically. Twins. Hmm there are also the Patil twins. Or maybe we are taking it too literally." Cho fingers drummed on the desk, Harry was noticed it was something she did when she was deep in thought. "'Another hastens to their side; For he must end any lie' So, are we looking for three people? Four if you include the last bit as well."
"Well it could be Hogwarts, it could be referring to the four founders, but he has to know that McGonagall has increased the security of Hogwarts in light of Abby's death. It just doesn't seem likely that he would head back there." Harry shook his head and read the riddle again.
Harry and Cho sat on either side of his desk, heads almost touching as they bent over the photos. They worked with weary resignation for hours working through the different areas and people that could fit the riddle. Nothing seemed to make sense.
Until Cho jumped up and ran around to his side of the desk.
"Merlin! It is a location!" She gripped Harry's wrist tightly with one hand and with the other she still held the riddle. Without another word, she apparated them both from the room with a pop.
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