“Daddy won’t control you, Mummy. He loves you.” The small boy smiled up at her.
“I know.” She sat beside the river with him as they talked.
He leaned his small head against her side and she put her arm around him. “I think it’s almost over.”
She sighed and kissed the top of his head. “I am going to miss you.”
He beamed at her. “I’ll still be inside of you.”
“Yes, but I won’t get to look at you.” She pulled at a blade of grass next to her and tickled his neck with it. He giggled and squirmed around.
“Mummy!” She stopped and smiled lovingly at him. “Just have more babies and maybe you’ll have one that looks like me.”
“We have a development.” Kingsley informed Ginny, Harry, Tonks and Ron the next morning as they met in the conference room. “I have asked for Hermione to join us and as soon as she arrives, we will begin.”
Hermione opened to door slowly and slipped into the chair beside Ron. “I got here as quickly as I could.” She smiled apologetically at the Head Auror.
“It is fine, Hermione.” He rose and moved towards the door. He exited and returned quickly with a young woman who Ginny recognized instantly. She had a small child in her arms and she looked terrified. Dawlish and Fraiser followed in behind her with their wands trained upon her. Kingsley led her to a seat at the head of the table and the two men stood behind her. Kingsley returned to his seat before speaking again. “She showed up at the house to bring food to Malfoy and we apprehended her. Everyone, I would like you to meet Tracey.”
She looked around nervously at everyone before her eyes fell upon Ginny and Harry. “I’m sorry he is doing this to you.”
Ginny nearly gasped but held it back. “What is your name, Tracey? Your last name, I mean.” When the other woman hesitated, Ginny went on. “Who are you bonded to?”
Tears started to trail down her face and her toddler seemed to try and bury himself into her arms. She tightened her arms around his slight frame before answering. “My name is Tracey Nott. I’m bonded to Theodore Nott.” She sniffed quietly.
“Theodore Nott…” Harry muttered under his breath, “ruddy bastard always was a selfish prick.”
Tracey went on in a timid voice. “I know what he’s been up to and I’ve been helping him do it… although I really didn’t want to. He kept threatening to hurt Austin if I didn’t cooperate.” She kissed the top of her son’s head and Ginny was reminded forcefully of her dream from the previous night. A wave of sympathy hit her, for the other woman who was obviously just as much a victim.
“Can you talk to us about it?” Ginny asked gently.
“I…” She took a steadying breath and a determined glint came to her eyes. “Can you find my parents?”
Kingsley motioned to Fraiser who nodded and left. “We will get them here as soon as possible. You have my word.”
“Thank you.” She whispered.
Hermione sat forward and spread her hands on the table, as if steadying herself. “Would you like to tell us about what your life has been like?”
“What about Theodore?” Tracey ran a hand over her son’s hair. “He said he would kill me if I talked and then he would kill Austin. With our bond, I can’t betray him.” Suddenly a light of hope filled her eyes. “Can I talk about him and still live?”
Hermione wrinkled her nose for a moment before answering. “You can say whatever you like about him. That is not how a marriage bond works.”
“But…” her face grew angry. “He told me I had to submit to him in all things.”
“I think we all would like to hear about the terms of a bonding, Hermione. It might help us to proceed.” Kingsley’s slow, reasonable voice interjected.
“Of course.” She sat up straighter. “The first part of the bonding contract is the child, which of course you have fulfilled.” Hermione smiled kindly at Austin but his face remained buried into his mother’s chest. “If you do not conceive and bear a child within a year, both in the bond will die.”
Tracey gasped but did not speak.
“A bonded pair must live together for the rest of their lives and there can be no infidelity. The consequences of a separation or cheating are most severe. If one of you dies, the other will not live long.”
“Yes.” Tracey murmured in response. “Theodore explained that I would die if I tried to leave him.”
Hermione shook her head. “You would both die.”
“What?” Her voice fell to a hushed whisper and her face flushed. She closed her eyes but the tears forced their way through anyway. “All this time and I could have…” but she did not finish her sentence. “I want to talk about what he has been doing.”
Ron cleared his throat. “Go on, at whatever speed you are comfortable with.”
“I suppose I should start at the beginning. During the last battle Theodore watched Harry kill You-Know-Who. He was hit by a green light and later found that he was possessed, in part, by You-Know-Who.” Hermione looked as though she wanted to interrupt but quickly shut her mouth. “He stole the sword of Gryffindor while Harry and Ginny weren’t looking and hid it.”
“Then what happened?” Kingsley asked her.
“Theodore went home for the summer and accidentally learned out what he could do with the sword. He was tired of his aunt controlling him and they had a fight. His father had left his aunt in charge of their estate since his mother is long dead and his father died in the final battle. It all started with the sword, though. Theodore had taken to wearing it under his robes and he had yelled at Allison, that was his aunt’s name, that he wanted to control their estate. She immediately turned over control of it to him.”
“She didn’t broach any argument?” Tonks probed.
Tracey shrugged slightly. “I wasn’t there but to hear Theodore tell it, he was instantly her master. I saw her later and she certainly fawned over him when he told her to.” Disgust filled her face. “Allison was a Death Eater, of course. Anyway, he confided in Blaise Zabini what had happened and realized quickly that he could also control Blaise. Theodore and Blaise were best friends but Blaise was obviously a Death Eater. After that it was no longer a friendship, it was more Theodore using Blaise to gain power and control. It turned out that those who bore the dark mark were under the sword’s influence. The person who wore the sword controlled them.”
Tracey glanced around nervously. “Theodore also realized that the part of You-Know-Who that resided in him was trying to take over. He had Zabini look for a solution and he found out about bonding. Zabini’s grandfather was an Unspeakable and he had records of the process in his study. The two of them kidnapped me and I was bonded to him. He was then free of You-Know-Who’s control and that part of You-Know-Who was destroyed.”
“So you were a pawn in this as well?” Ginny asked her softly.
She nodded glumly. “My life has been a living hell and my dear husband has been enjoying himself at my expense.” She let out a sigh. “There is more that I should explain. Theodore was never a Death Eater and therefore, he was never marked so the evil that had entered him could not take over. He always thought that he was able to fight the possession because he had never been possessed by You-Know-Who before and Harry and Ginny had been.” She looked over at Ginny and Harry with her haunted and now deadened eyes. “He’s been controlling you two.”
Ginny closed her eyes as she realized some of the horrors that Tracey must have faced. It was easy to ignore her own pain when faced with the hell that the woman before her must have faced. She felt Harry squeeze her hand and she opened her eyes to watch the young woman continue.
“I was seventeen and straight out of Hogwarts but not only that, I’m a half blood so they had never paid attention to me before.” She laughed derisively. “It turned out that Theodore was never a Death Eater because he did not really care about blood. He thought You-Know-Who was an idiot to try and fight a war over blood but he did want power. He just never believed that the fight should be over blood.”
“That would explain the Muggle knife.” Ginny heard Ron say softly but she was not sure anyone else caught it because they did not comment.
Hermione spoke up next. “What happened after you two bonded?”
If it was possible, her face became even more lifeless. “He… he raped me until I was pregnant and then left me alone for a few months, locked in his house. I gave birth to Austin with Allison’s help but she was only there for me because Theodore made her help out.” Her arms tightened around her son. “He told me that he couldn’t have me dying on him because I still had uses. Anyway, Allison hated me because my mother is a Muggle born.”
“What were those other uses?” Ron asked quickly before wincing. If Ginny had to speculate, she would have guessed that Hermione had stomped hard on his foot.
“It’s okay.” Tracey looked over at Hermione. “I’ve been a bit naïve in this whole thing. I have believed that for all of these years it was so that I could serve him and then he could rape me at leave once a week but that isn’t the real reason, is it?” Her voice had become cold and distant.
“No.” Hermione answered. “If you had died in childbirth, he would have died shortly after.”
Ginny watched her nod once and sought for a way to change the topic but Tonks found it for her. “Why was Theodore trying to get Harry and Ginny?”
“He realized that they were hit by the green light and that he could control them, but he wanted more. Theodore made them forget what they knew so that they would not rid themselves of You-Know-Who like he had. He planted false thoughts in their head. He used the control that he had through the sword and he made Ginny feel horrible about herself. He would send her dreams that reminded her of all of the humiliating things that had ever happened to her to keep her from getting close to a man. Theodore wanted her to believe that no one would want her so that there was no risk of her bonding. He even made her forget a report that she did while at Hogwarts.” She bit her lip before going on. “He tried to control Harry and he was able to do some things through him, but for the most part, Harry’s mind was impenetrable. He hoped to gain more power through you two.”
“How could he gain more power through us?” Ginny muttered and apparently Tracey had heard her because she answered.
“Theodore thought that if he killed you with the sword that the part of You-Know-Who that lived inside of you would transfer to the sword.”
“Of course!” Ron blurted out. “That makes so much sense! He wants to get Harry and Ginny to rebirth Voldemort.”
Tracey flinched and shook her head. “No, he didn’t want to rebirth him but he did want to wield his power. You-Know-Who could not reform anyway, since part of him was destroyed when we were bonded.”
Hermione pushed her hair behind her ear as she spoke. “What happened with Lucius Malfoy?”
“Theodore finally managed to break him out of Azkaban by sending him a portkey. Blaise questioned Lucius about what he knew of the ceremonies that You-Know-Who had performed. We learned why the dark marks could be used to control those who had the mark. This was when Theodore came up with the plan to capture Harry and Ginny so that he could kill them. He knew that they had been assigned to capturing Malfoy so he had Blaise pretend to be Malfoy using Polyjuice potion to lure Harry and Ginny out. He wanted to do it several times until they got lazy in thinking that he wouldn’t be there.”
“We almost did.” Ginny informed her. “Then it became apparent that the whole thing was a set up and we were on our guard once again.”
Kingsley spoke next. “What would happen when Nott captured them?”
“He would perform a spell on them and kill them with the sword, which would absorb the last remnants of You-Know-Who. Theodore would have ultimate control over all of the remaining Death Eaters and with Lucius Malfoy, he would be able to mark more followers.”
“Why did he try to blow us up in France, then?” Harry asked her, sitting up suddenly.
Tracey glanced down at the table remorsefully. “He didn’t. You two were supposed to go into the house and Blaise would have captured you. When he realized that you two didn’t enter, he blew up the house to create a diversion for him to escape.”
“So what happened when Blaise was captured by us?” Ron’s voice was hoarse and he seemed to be fighting back several emotions. Everyone was tense and the room was silent as they listened to Tracey talk. Even her son stayed still.
“I had to take over his duties of feeding Malfoy and making sure he was still at the house. That is also when he brought in Niggs. He was not a Death Eater before but through Malfoy, they were able to mark him while he was stunned to put Niggs under Theodore’s control. A strange side effect of the marking was that all of the dark marks came back. We don’t really know why, though. Malfoy thought it was because Theodore was claiming his place as the new dark lord and the marks were responding to it.” More tears slipped down Tracey’s face.
Tonks shifted in her seat. “Did Niggs really kill himself?”
“No.” Her voice cracked. “Theodore made him smuggle in a knife so that he could kill himself once he had given you the false information. That is what Theodore ordered him to do.”
“How did he get into the Department of Mysteries?” Hermione asked.
Tracey shrugged. “I don’t really know. Theodore told him to just walk in. Theodore told Niggs that he was to stop the bonding if he could but mostly he needed to fight until he was under Veritaserum and then he was to tell you that Malfoy was behind everything.” She glanced up guiltily at Harry. “Theodore thought that if a fifteen year old could sneak into the Department of Mysteries then Niggs could.”
Hermione folded her arms on the table and laid her head in them. Ron ran a hand over her back, comforting her. “How do you know all of this stuff?”
Her brow wrinkled. “I’m nothing to him so he always talks around me as if I am not there. I wanted to leave but he said I would die if I left and I tried once but it became hard to breathe so I went back to the house. I am his servant especially since his aunt died a month ago.”
“How did Nott know about the bonding?” Hermione looked up at her.
She let out a sob. “Harry dreamed about it.” She covered her face with a shaking hand. “I can’t do this anymore.” She straightened her shoulders and nodded, as though to herself. “You’ll make sure that my parents and Austin are protected, right? I cooperated with you so that you’ll make sure they are safe. I don’t want Theodore to hurt my baby. He doesn’t care about us at all. He just used me.”
“We will make sure that they are safe.” Kingsley assured her and looked over at the door as it opened. An older couple came in and immediately rushed over to Tracey.
“Tracey!” The woman hugged her and ran a hand over the small boy’s cheek. “He’s beautiful.”
“Where have you been?” Her father asked her softly as he too hugged her.
“I was kidnapped and then bonded to Theodore Nott. This is Austin.”
“Hello Austin.” Mrs. Davis said softly.
“I need a favor.” Tracey whispered and gazed pleadingly at her parents. Her face took on an even more determined look. “I need you to raise him.”
“You can raise him!” Mr. Davis tried to go on but he became choked up. Ginny was about to tell her that she would not be going to Azkaban when Tracey went on.
“He’s… I don’t think he is magical.” Tracey informed her parents.
Mrs. Davis nodded. “You know that doesn’t matter to me. We can raise him, if that is what you need Tracey.”
“That is what I need.” She hugged her son and kissed him several time. “I love you.” She told him. “You be good for your grandparents, all right?” The toddler nodded and she passed him over to her parents. “Please leave and tell him often that I loved him.”
“Tracey…” Mr. Davis started but Tracey held up a hand and he stopped speaking.
“Please, you need to go. The Aurors will protect you until they are sure that Theodore is gone and then you will be free.”
Mr. Davis nodded and followed his wife and grandson as they left. Fraiser went to follow before turning to her. “I’ll set up a safe house for them right now.”
“Thank you.” She whispered. She looked back at those who were sitting at the table. “Theodore is living in his country seat in York. Do you know how to find it?”
“Yes, we can locate it.” Kingsley replied.
“You need to go immediately and get that sword or one of his followers will take it and try to control the others. Take care of my son.” She said before closing her eyes. “I am leaving you Theodore Nott!” Tracey’s voice was firm as she spoke the words.
“NO!” Ginny jumped up and tried to run to her but Harry caught her and held her back. Tracey seemed to be struggling to breathe. She fell to her knees before collapsing on the floor.
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