Harry stepped off the rickety boat that carried him to Azkaban. The air was cold and a soft drizzle was falling from the dark clouds in the sky. Harry tied the boat to the dock and began to feel the cold feelings of sadness associated with being around dementors. Looking around, he noticed many of the dark hooded figures guarding the wizard prison. Harry pulled out his wand and continued forward towards the doors of the tall grey tower. It stood alone in the middle of an island with tall rocks surrounding it. Had Harry not had known the specific route to Azkaban he probably wouldn’t have made it. Azkaban was accessible by boat unless the Minister of Magic himself authorized a visit via the floo network. Most prisoners were brought by boat through the dark icy waters so that they would not purposely splinch themselves through apparation or end up in the wrong fireplace through the floo network.
The wizard prison looked as though someone had carved holes into a large block of cement. The tower stood tall above the water. Harry made his way down the pathway to the entrance of the prison. The guards at the front door exchanged a glance as they saw him.
“Mr. Potter? Are you authorized to be here?” asked one of the guards once Harry got closer.
“Erm – no, I need to check on an inmate that may have been wrongly placed here,” Harry started to explain.
“I’m sorry Mr. Potter, no unauthorized persons are allowed in,” replied the other guard.
“Well he did train us. Perhaps we should –“
“Don’t you remember what he taught us? No favors for anyone. Rules are rules.”
“And quite frankly, most of the people in there aren’t keen on you, seeing as you sent them there,” laughed a familiar voice. Harry turned his head to see Dean Thomas walking towards him. The tall dark-skinned man held out his hand to shake Harry’s. The guards returned to their posts upon seeing their boss.
“Dean Thomas. Great to see you mate,” Harry said as he shook his hand.
“You as well, but I assume you’re not here to see me?”
“Well maybe you could help me, I’m looking for someone who was incarcerated here a few years ago according to the records at the Ministry,” the black-haired man said.
“Why don’t we discuss it in my office,” Dean said, gesturing towards the building. Harry nodded and followed his old classmate. The guards opened the doors and Harry and Dean walked through a small hallway.
“He’s right you know. Never give in just because it’s an authority figure,” Harry said to one of the guards with a wink. Dean chuckled as he led Harry though the entryway. Harry noticed a waterfall a few feet away similar to the one he remembered passing through when breaking into Gringotts and was impressed by the security upgrades. He had chosen not to visit frankly because he didn’t believe there was ever a reason to. The two young men passed through the waterfall with ease and Harry surrendered his wand for inspection.
Once his wand was returned to him, Harry followed Dean down a small dark hallway. The air was cold and the walls were bare. No carpet lined the floors. Candles held in place on the wall lit their way down a narrow stretch. Dean removed his wand from his cloak and rapped on the wall three times, just as Harry remembered Hagrid doing the first time he entered Diagon Alley from The Leaky Cauldron. Dean murmured an incantation and a door appeared in front of them. The tall man opened the door and moved inside the room with Harry following behind him.
“Please, Harry, have a seat,” Dean said, with a wave of his wand. Harry took the seat in the chair Dean had conjured on the other side of his desk. The room was reasonably sized with a staircase Harry guessed led to Dean’s sleeping quarters. Across from Dean’s desk was a fireplace that was crackling softly behind a small couch. Bookcases lined the walls and a chess set was situated near the staircase.
“Nice space you've got m,” Harry commented as he looked around.
“Thanks mate. Nice to have a place to go after looking after the inmates all the time,” Dean said. With a flick of his wand, chocolate frogs and other assorted sweets appeared on the desk. “Help yourself, mate,” Dean told his friend.
“How did you end up here?” Harry asked, helping himself to a piece of chocolate.
“I wanted to do something important after the war. I spoke to Kingsley about how I could help somewhere that needed rebuilding and he put me in touch with Elphias Johanson, who is now my boss. I learned a lot about defense from being in Dumbledore’s Army and thought about how last time the dementors turned against us. A lot of death eaters broke out of Azkaban. That won’t happen again. Not with the way I’m running things,” Dean replied. “We needed some of the good guys down here to control the dementors. It’s a new branch of the ministry in the office of Magical Law Enforcement that Johanson and I put together.”
“One of Kingsley’s good friends. Worked in the office of Magical Law Enforcement before. He took a liking to my idea of making Azkaban safe and more secure. We started filling jobs pretty quickly. You’d be surprised how many people offered to work here.”
“Yeah, I was reading through the information about how the place has changed. Some of the aurors I train come to work down here.”
“But you’re not here to learn about the security and the new workings of Azkaban Harry. You could ask Maggie Humphrey at the Ministry for that. So what’s on your mind?”
“I know this will sound crazy, but I think Ron is here,” Harry said hurriedly.
“You don’t beat around the bush do you?”
“I don’t have time to waste.”
“Listen mate, I’m sorry to hear about how Weasley disappeared, but I really don’t think –“
“It sounds impossible but it’s not. Ron didn’t disappear he was taken. You went to school with us you know he wouldn’t just walk out. He was angry and the war messed him up but he didn’t up and decide to leave. I think someone put him here because this is one of the last places I would ever think to look,” Harry explained. Dean looked skeptical.
“Ok, let’s say you’re right. How would he have gotten here? There are records for all of the inmates.”
“Right after the war there was a transition period of rebuilding Azkaban. You didn’t start work here immediately, correct?”
“I started about two and a half years ago. We’ve been laying the groundwork for better improvements.”
“Well I believe Ron was put here before you came when there was question about what to do with this place. It took a while for the Ministry to put things back together. It makes perfect sense.”
“Harry, even though this place wasn’t in top form back then, why wouldn’t I have recognized him if he were here now? Why wouldn’t he have tried to explain who he was if this is true?”
“I don’t think there’s a record for him. I think he’s being held hostage by one of the inmates.”
“Harry. What you’re suggesting sounds –“
“I know how it sounds Dean but it’s real. Hogwarts has a ton of hidden passageways that no one knows about. There’s no reason for Azkaban not to be the same. Just please let me rule out this option. I need your help.”
“Ok mate. Let’s say I believe you. Which inmate are you suggesting is holding him hostage?”
“Ok Mara, so she’s going to need her potion every hour, and if you could check in on Mr. Henderson for me that would be great,” Hermione said as she collected her belongings at the end of the day.
“Yes Healer Granger, it’ll be taken care of. Go home. We can survive here without you for the five yours you’ll be gone,” Mara told her.
“Thanks. You’ll floo if –“
“Hermione, if there’s any problems you’ll be the first to know. Now go home!” Mara encouraged.
Hermione nodded as she exchanged her cloak for her healer robes. She waved to Mara at the front desk and headed home. The shift she had picked up ended close to one in the morning and she wanted to return at nine at the latest. Work kept her busy and that was the way she liked it. When she arrived at home Hermione opened her front door and set her bag down in the hallway. She made her way to the kitchen to find Ginny sitting at her table.
“Ginny. I didn’t know you were stopping by. What –“ Hermione stopped talking when she saw that Ginny’s face was red and blotchy and noticed she was holding a wad of tissues. “What’s happened? Is it Harry? Your Mum? Has someone died?” Hermione asked hurriedly as she ran to Ginny’s side.
“IleftHarry,” Ginny said softly.
“I’m sorry, one more time?”
“I. Left. Harry,” Ginny choked out slowly as more tears fell down her cheeks.
“What do you mean you left Harry!?” Hermione exclaimed.
“I left him. He’s never going to marry me and I can’t stay there anymore watching our relationship fall apart because all he’s interested in is finding Ron.”
“Oh Ginny. I’ll make some tea and we will talk, alright? Why don’t you go make yourself comfortable in the living room?” Hermione suggested. Ginny nodded and rose to her feet.
A few minutes later Hermione entered the living room with two hot cups of tea. Ginny was curled up on the sofa with a blanket around her. She murmured a thank you for the tea Hermione sat in front of her but didn’t move to touch it. Hermione sat next to her and got a blanket for herself. She’d changed out of her work clothes and into and old t-shirt of Ron’s and some sweatpants.
“Tell me what’s going on,” Hermione said, taking a sip of her tea.
“You know I miss my brother Hermione. But it’s been four years. I want to get married. I want to have a family with Harry. I want him to pay attention to me,” the younger girl confessed.
“I understand that but you should go home. You two should talk it out. You know he’ll come here looking for you.”
“Eventually he will but you’re always at work and I’ll start working more and spending time at George’s shop and at the Burrow. I can keep making the rounds so if he checks in I won’t be here.”
“Ginny. You love him and he loves you. You’re everything to him.”
“No I’m not. He doesn’t sleep much anymore and he doesn’t come home. He’s always either at the office or creating crazy auror tests for the aurors-in-training and he’s always trying to find Ron. And it’s never going to stop. I gave him an ultimatum Hermione. I told him that if he went on this last so called mission looking for Ron not to come back home. Then I left and when I went back he was gone. He didn’t even wait to see if I’d come home! So I left my ring on the table and walked out.” Ginny grabbed for more tissues and blew her nose. “I love him so much Hermione. It hurts that he didn’t choose me. I feel like my heart is breaking,” she said quietly. Ginny pressed her fingers to her temples and cried into her hands. She felt a hand on her back and heard a sniffle from beside her. A few tears now stained Hermione’s cheeks.
“The end of the war was supposed to make things better. We can’t let the dark side win. I’ll talk some sense into Harry and get him to stop searching for Ron. I already told him it’s time to stop looking,” Hermione said. She set her tea down on the coffee table and ran a hand through her hair.
“Sometimes I wonder who really won. You-Know-Who is gone but the whole thing tore us apart.”
“It was worth it Ginny. Don’t ever think that it wasn’t.”
“I know it was. I know what Harry did was important. I just wish our relationship didn’t have to suffer because of it.”
“I know it doesn’t seem like it but we’re going to be alright. We have to be,” Hermione said, wishing she could believe her own words.
“Can I stay here? Just for a few days?” Ginny asked after a few moments.
“Of course. You know you’re always welcome,” Hermione replied.
“I really thought Harry was the one Hermione. I thought he was my only one. Ever since I was a little girl,” Ginny cried, more tears leaving her eyes.
“Shh, it’ll be alright. Everything is going to be ok.” Hermione murmured soothing words as Ginny lay her head down in Hermione’s lap. Harry and Ginny were perfect for each other and she was not going to let Ron’s disappearance be the reason they broke up. She would speak with Harry as soon as he returned from wherever he thought Ron was this time. I need you Ron. We all need you. Please come back, Hermione thought to herself as Ginny’s tears subsided and she drifted off to sleep. Hermione soon began to nod off and fell asleep shortly after Ginny. Both had a look of unease and worry etched upon their faces.
It was a beautiful spring day at Hogwarts. The leaves were green and the air smelled fresh. Hermione was leaning against her favorite tree with a book in her hand when she heard incessant laugher coming from behind her. She peered around the tree, but no one was there. Returning to her book, Hermione decided it was just her imagination.
“Come out, little mudblood. Come out an play!”
Hermione closed her book and stood slowly to her feet. Cautiously, she started for the safety of the castle.
“Hermione!” a familiar voice called. Hermione pulled her wand from her pocket and looked towards the lake to see Ron struggling to swim towards her. Hermione tried to run but her feet were locked in place.
“Itty bitty mudblood. You can’t save him,” giggled a high-pitched voice. Hermione watched in horror as Bellatrix stepped in front of her from the other side of the tree and pointed her wand towards the lake, straight at Ron.
“No. No! Leave him alone!” Hermione cried. Bellatrix’s giggles filled her ears as she fought to move her feet.
“You want him mudblood? Take him!” Bellatrix shrieked.
Hermione’s feet began to move and she propelled herself forward until she the edge of the lake. Ron was lying on his back. His face was pale and he didn’t appear to be breathing. Hermione ran to his side and pointed her wand at his face.
“Ennervate!” Hermione screamed as she pounded on his chest. “Don’t leave me! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!”
Hermione woke with a start. Her face was wet and her heart was racing. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was five in the morning. Being careful not to wake Ginny, Hermione placed the younger girls head on a pillow and made her way to the bathroom. She splashed cold water on her face and then looked at her reflection. When had she become that girl who let a boy control her emotions? She was a beautiful, successful, twenty-one year old adult who deserved more than she permitted herself to have. Maybe now was the time to move on. Did she really want to be alone for the rest of her life? Hermione sighed as she brought the hem of Ron’s old shirt to her nose. It didn’t even smell like him anymore, so why couldn’t she let go of it? She shed her clothes and stepped into the shower. Today would be the start of a new Hermione. She would find a way to be happy without Ron.
“Mr. Goyle? One of Malfoy's lackeys father?"
"Yeah, he'd be the one."
"He was sent here a little less than a year after the war. Something about misuse of dark magic on muggles. Tried to torture them. He’s been here awhile Harry.”
“I know but I think he went to Azkaban on purpose. Think about it mate, why would you intentionally torture muggles after Voldemort was gone?” Harry asked. Dean was silent. “I don’t know who he’s working with. But there is a reason he came here. I need to talk to him. And I need to check out his cell.”
“Harry,” Dean began skeptically, “This is a big leap. If I let you do this and it's nothing, you could be upsetting Goyle for no reason.”
“I lost my best mate. It took me this long to figure this out and I know it’s not the best plan but I have to do this. I have to exhaust all the options. He’d do the same for me,” Harry told Dean. He stood up and ran a hand through his hair. “I need your help Dean. I know I’m asking a lot.” The room was silent. Dean looked pensively at his desk as he considered what Harry was asking.
“Alright. I’m going to have my guys move Goyle into an interrogation room. This is somewhat routine because we have people in to talk to the inmates about their crimes and to check their mental health. You can check the cell. If you find him, Goyle is going to a trip to the Ministry of Magic where they’ll have to prepare a formal hearing.”
“Thank you,” Harry said. "I think I'd rather try to find Ron first. I'd rather not give Goyle a reason to tip anyone off that I'm here." Dean nodded and Harry started walking towards the door. Dean touched something in his pocket and murmured an incantation. Next he sent his patronous from the room with a message.
“Yeah?” Harry asked, turning around.
“You’re taking a team with you. I’ve alerted the guards and some of them are on their way in now. You need to be careful. This isn’t an easy place. I know you know your fair share of magic and I hear you’re a big shot in the auror office but this place is different. There are enchantments. Let the guards help you,” Dean said. Harry nodded.
“Is this going to get you in trouble with Mr. Johanson?”
“Lucky for you, he’s at a conference in Albania right now. So don’t screw this up,” Dean said with a small smile.
Ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. Dean waved his wand and the lock clicked open. Two men entered with wands at their sides and looks of determination.
“Mr. Potter. We’re all yours,” Dean said as he crossed the room to the other men.
“This is my prison. Of course I’m going.”
“Right. Well. That was pretty quick getting them together,” Harry said as he looked at the assembled men.
“We have quick communication. Things are different now, as I told you,” Dean replied. Harry shook the men in front of him as they each gave their name along with their thanks for saving the wizarding world. Harry brushed it off and asked them to focus. They were about to move towards the door when green flames erupted in the fireplace.
“Dean?” said a voice from the fireplace. “Oh you’re entertaining. Will you be home soon?”
“Later sweetheart. Remember I told you Johanson is at a conference right now? I’ll be home as soon as he returns.”
“I keep telling him to hire someone as good as you so that there are three of you. Well Seamus stopped in to tell me –“
“Honey, I’m a little busy. Could we discuss this later?”
“Dean. Is that Harry Potter?”
“Lav, I’ll explain everything later. Please go get some rest alright?”
"That's Harry Potter! You didn't tell me you still spoke to Harry Potter, Dean. How are you Harry?"
"You've got to go. We will talk later I promise but we're busy here," Dean insisted, sounding embarrassed.
“Ok fine. I’ll be expecting your head in this chimmey later tonight though.” The guys snickered and Dean gave them a warning look.
“Goodbye darling, I love you,” Dean told the head in the chimney.
“I love you! Bye boys!”
“Bye Mrs. Thomas,” chorused the men behind Harry. The head from the fireplace disappeared and the fire went out.
“Sorry about that. Let’s get going shall we?”
“You’re married?” Harry exclaimed.
“Well. Yeah. To Lavender Brown. You remember her?”
“All this time we’ve been talking and it never came up?”
“Well Harry we’re sort of busy at the moment if you hadn’t noticed. We can catch up later!”
"You married Lavender Brown? How did that happen?"
"How are you and Ginny doing? You two get hitched yet?"
"You're absolutely right this couldn't be a less appropriate time. After you mate," Harry said, quickly changing the subject.
Dean rolled his eyes and led the way out of his office and into the hallway. He touched his hand to the door and murmured an incantation causing it to disappear. They walked through the cold hallway that reminded Harry of the dungeons at Hogwarts. They came to an iron gate that moved aside at Dean’s touch. Through the gate was a lift. Dean nodded to the guards who opened the lift for everyone to enter and watched the doors close behind them. Dean pushed some buttons and the lift dropped straight down. As the lift moved downward, Harry saw the guards murmuring incantations out of the corner of his eye. He could only imagine the type of training these his auror guys would have to go through after they finished with him to be able to work at the prison under its new directors. Once they’d reached the correct level, the doors opened to reveal a hallway of doors marked with names and numbers. The air was warmer here and numerous lamps bathed the hallway with light. Guards stood at each end of the hallway. Harry guessed there were others watching that he couldn’t see.
“Are these the interrogation rooms?” Harry asked.
“No. These are the cells. The outsides of them look better than the insides, to remind the prisoners of what they should want, which is to get out of here. Interrogation rooms are in another wing on another floor. As further punishment or motivation, whichever way you want to look at it, the doors inside these cells are charmed so that when the prisoners look out they see what they long for,” one of the guards explained.
“Can they see us?” Harry questioned.
“No they can’t. Not unless we open their door.” The group stopped outside of Mr. Goyle Sr.’s room.
“Yantuk, why don’t you show me what you’ve got,” Dean said. The man Harry assumed to be Yantuk stepped forward to go through a series of incantations that turned various locks to open the door. “Teaching moment,” Dean told Harry.
“Ah yes, I know them well,” Harry said, thinking of his auror class. Finally the last lock clicked open.
“Good work, Yantuk. I see you’ve been practicing,” Dean said to his student. Yantuk nodded and pushed the door open. The four men stepped into the cell, leaving the door open behind them.
“Harry. Do your auror thing,” Dean said. “Remember, if we find something, do not hesitate. Do not ask how it is possible. We have time for questions later,” Dean told the two guards. Harry looked critically around the room searching for anything out of the ordinary. A bed was neatly situated in the corner. There was a toilet mounted to the wall in the other corner and that was about it. Harry touched the side of the bed. It was rough and hard as stone. He walked to the wall behind the bed and ran his fingers along the cold surface. He moved his wand along the walls and across the floors, looking for something that wasn't the same. There had to be something here. And it had to be something simple that wouldn't be checked on a regular basis. A small crack in the bottom wall where the wall met the floor next to the toilet caught his attention. Harry tapped his wand against it.
"It's the toilet. It needs a password," Harry murmured to himself. "Parseltongue."
"It's not in Goyle's records that he can speak to snakes," Dean said.
"He can't. But Ron knows how to say the only word they need to know." Harry turned towards the toilet and spoke the words in parseltongue to open the passage he knew had to be there. The toilet seat moved to the side revealing a small door.
"This was created by magic. It's been magically expanded. The prisoners aren't supposed to be able to do this because they aren't allowed to have wands," observed Holmson, the other guard Harry guessed was Yantuk's partner.
"I don't think Goyle is the one with the wand," Harry replied, touching his wand to the wall. "It's sensitive to touch. The door will know we're not Goyle."
"Wands at the ready," Dean cautioned.
"Step back,” Harry warned. “Reducto!” he exclaimed, pointing his wand at the door. Bits and fragments of the wall were blown everywhere. Harry heard the others coughing as they lit their wands. Harry murmured another incantation to clear a bit of the debris away. Not waiting for the air to settle, Harry advanced to the room behind the door.
“What the hell?” came a muffled voice.
“You!” Ron exclaimed before lunging at Harry. Harry didn’t expect Ron’s fist to come sailing at his face and as a result was struck to the floor. The guards reacted instantly and moved forward to retrain Ron who continually punched and kicked at Harry. Dean called down the hallway for more guards as Yantuk and Holmson pulled Ron away from Harry.
“Stupefy!” Yantuk said, his want pointed at Ron, who immediately became still. Holmson conjured a rope with his wand and it wrapped itself tightly around Ron’s arms. Harry felt blood in his mouth and spit it out before standing to his feet.
“Get him upstairs,” Dean ordered. Yantuk and Holmson left with Ron in between them. “The rest of you, assess and seal the room. I want to know exactly how this happened and who is behind this. Put the prison on lockdown. Get someone from the Department of Mysteries down here and send word to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. They’ve got a hearing with Mr. Goyle that is top priority. Harry? If you want to do a once over on the room before the Ministry gets here, now would be the time.” As soon as Dean finished the guards moved into action. Harry spit more blood from his mouth and nodded. He needed to pull himself together.
“Shit. What the hell was that?” Harry asked, his mind trying to get a handle on the situation.
“That. Was you finding Ron.”
A/N: The plot thickens! Please leave a review :)
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