Chapter 22 : And Where Were You?
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Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal rather than the victim.
- Bertrand Russell
Verity Walters was not a force to be reckoned with.
Standing in the doorway of a home she thought she had seen the back of for good, Verity lingered while doing what she loved best: getting angry at people who weren’t doing their job right. However, there was a certain sense of urgency behind it this time. Continually tucking the same strand of mousey brown hair behind her ear, all other muscles remained still.
“You mean to tell me, that my sister just volunteered to wander off with people she hardly knew?”
“They said that they were friends –“
“Well they quite clearly weren’t. Anne isn’t exactly that popular. Mum would’ve known what her friends looked like if she saw them.” Of course, nobody was in a position to speak with her mother. It seemed in poor taste to try and drag a weeping mother from her room for the sake of interrogating her and subsequently adding salt to the wound. Until it was necessary, Verity wanted to avoid that questioning for as long as possible.
“Actually, Anne’s not doing too badly,” quipped Leslie as she began to hand out tea to some of the Aurors. “You might’ve known that if you were around a bit more.”
She had promised to be civil, but she couldn’t help it. The last time Leslie had seen Verity, it was in the middle of a tear filled rage. Everyone was in a state, except Leslie herself, who had saved it for much later. One of the most striking, and unforgivable memories, was of a thirteen year old Anne, being hoisted by the arm and almost dragged out the house until she finally wretched herself free, throwing herself to the ground. Leslie could never forgive Verity for it, especially as when she saw it, she was convinced it was her fault.
"Because I’m sure she would’ve confided in you." Despite Anne’s rather humiliating decision to stay at home, Verity knew that there was no way that Anne would betray her by befriending Leslie. Everything about the woman, so pristine and old fashioned, seemed jarring and fake. This was a woman who ruined lives. So far as Verity was concerned, Anne would never let Leslie in hers. Her attention then returned to the Auror. ‘So what exactly are you planning to do next?’
"Your sister’s face is going to make an appearance in every newspaper we could give it to. The best hope is that someone comes forward to say they’ve seen her."
"And until then?"
"There’s nothing else we can do, Miss Walters. There were no witnesses outside, no nothing. Even with the most advanced summoning charms, your sister left her wand upstairs. Without that, we haven’t really got a chance."
"Get out," snapped Verity curtly.
"If you can’t do any better, then it’s a wonder why you bothered." Her hand began to quiver by her side. "My sister is missing – gone. And the best you can do is probably a small mid section of the Daily Prophet that’ll probably never get read. Nobody will come forward because nobody will bother to know her name. My sister -"
Leslie’s head shot up. "She’s not nobody."
‘Thanks for that.’ Verity’s eyes rolled in a complete circle. ‘I think I can –‘
"Verity, you’re not listening. She’s not nobody. She’s somebody. At least by association."
Verity’s head cocked to the side. "What?" Even the Aurors were still at this point.
"Anne has a very close bond with Oliver Wood –"
"The new Puddlemere United player?" gaped Verity. "He’s getting moved to the main squad, he’s –"
"Getting a lot of attention right now," said Leslie, nodding her head more quickly. "If we can get him involved, then that’ll get a lot more press coverage."
"We could get enough to fund an entire search of the country," said a third Auror, who looked at Verity sheepishly to add, "Pete O’Neil."
"How do we find him?"
"He sent a letter to Anne a while back that’ll have his address on it. I sent it to Hogwarts, but she might’ve brought it back. You can start searching there."
"You go upstairs," stated Pete, who had previously not seemed like the leadership type, to his men. "It’ll save us a lot of trouble. Otherwise we’ll have to go through other channels to find him. Could take some time."
"Try not to mess with her things too much…" said Leslie weakly as two Aurors darted upstairs.
"You don’t have the authority to say that."
"Can you just shut up for a second, Verity, and stop being so bloody selfish."
Verity’s back went rigid. "Don’t you dare –"
"Anne’s missing. Now’s not the time to play that ‘who loves her more’ game, and I honestly doubt you’d really want to." With a large sniff, Leslie continued, "This is about Anne. Whatever you feel about me can be put aside for a moment. Anne wouldn’t want us fighting."
"Anne wouldn’t want you here," argued Verity as she pushed past.
Thinking back to the night before, Leslie weakly smiled and let a tear roll down her cheek.
“She didn’t ‘corrupt’ Mum. They fell in love and Mum had decided herself to make Leslie her part- her wife.”
No, Leslie was quite sure that Verity was quite wrong there. But by the time the Aurors came back for more questions and more searches, Leslie looked like a woman who didn’t even consider it. Moreover, she especially didn’t look like a woman who had reflected that, at that moment, Anne was finally one step closer from calling her Mum, too.
“Did you find it?”
“No we didn’t. But –“
Pete, who had chosen to look intently on a set of drawers to avoid intruding on Leslie’s emotional moment had now turned back. “What?”
“We also didn’t find her wand. Whoever came for Anne Walters came back for her wand. Completely undetected.”
Eyes slightly larger, Pete took a deep intake of breath. He had to sharply bite back his lip in order to stop himself from worrying Anne's family, but it was going to have to be asked at some point:
Who the fuck are we dealing with?
“We’re just asking because –“
“None of us kidnapped Anne Walters,” snapped Magda in the small room. “Why would we kidnap, Anne?”
“Marianne, was last seen –“
“And stop with this Marianne nonsense, we’re here –“
“Magda, that’s Anne,” said Amy in a hushed tone.
Madga’s head span around. “What?”
Shrugged her shoulders, Bella impatiently sighed. “Anne is short for Marianne. She didn’t like people knowing.”
“It never came up.”
Brian Renton’s hand hit the plain table in front of them. For three girls whose best friend has gone missing, it was quite a nonchalant conversation to have. Of course, he didn’t know these girls.
“Miss Walters was last seen with friends. Of course, there were two boys and a girl, but I’m presuming that you would’ve known any other friends she had, correct?”
“Well, yes,” answered Amy tentatively. “We would.”
“Did Anne have any unwise friendships in the past? Or do you even think there was someone she would’ve run away with? After all, her home life seemed far from perfect.”
It was almost intuitively agreed by the three that while Pucey was certainly an “unwise friendship”, there was no point bringing him up. No matter what happened, Anne wouldn’t even acknowledge any positive feelings between the two while they were in a relationship, so he would have never been referred to as a friend.
“No,” answered Magda. “I don’t think there was.”
“Girls, I need you to think,” implored Brian. It was now that he was on the cusp for the entire reason that he was placed in this investigation. “Was there a bad crowd?”
“What do you mean?”
Brian was instructed not to explicitly say anything that might cause too much panic. However, in the current climate, it would be no surprise if a girl mysteriously going missing had anything to do with You Know Who. However, Kingsley Shaklebolt made it clear that Brian was not to suggest too much. Fudge was adamant that He had not returned, and too overtly insinuate any issues of that sort would be undermining the Minister for Magic. If anyone was going to admit it, it would be these three, not him.
“Miss Walters was taken by people she trusted enough to go outside with. It was then reported that her wand had been collected later, right under our noses. You’d have to be highly skilled, or some kind of animal to –‘ Brian immediately spotted Amy shift uncomfortably in her seat. “Amy?”
Amy was now racking her brain. This was something that she would refuse to believe, but ideas were swirling around her head, and the possibility seemed greater and greater.
“Amy, it’s important to be absolutely honest with us in this case. Anything you may know can possibly help save your friend.” Brian hated saying words like ‘possibly’. It wasn’t enough to give a realistic amount of hope. Then again, that was exactly its intentions.
Pausing for a moment, she looked to her friends, but they just greeted her with vacant expressions. He was right. Anne was missing, and getting attached to someone she was close to years ago wasn’t going to help her get any better. One man’s betrayal would be one woman’s absolute loyalty.
“And who’s Drew?”
“I’ve been asking the same thing,” muttered Magda impulsively.
“Odd choice of description.”
“Well, he can be a rodent, so I thought it’d need explaining.”
Oliver Wood would be a hard address to find, with all the security that would now surround him. However, as soon as Pete had been sent to look for Drew Honchby, it only took about an hour, if even less to find the small cottage house.
“You can’t search my house!” demanded Drew, as he was being restrained by two Aurors.
“We have a warrant,” lied Pete. It was always something he could get later. “How long have you been an illegal Animagus?”
Drew stopped completely, slowly bringing his left foot to the ground. “What?”
“A witness has sited you as an illegal Animagus. And you have been for at least the past two years.”
“That –“ Drew couldn’t lie out of this one. Without knowing the witness, he had nobody to discredit. All that was left was the truth. “That’s right.”
“Impressive for someone of that age.”
Drew didn’t answer, but rather chose to focus on Pete’s hands, wondering how exactly he was planning on restraining him. Could being an illegal Animagus get him into Azkaban? If so, he might as well make use of irony and scurry away before any restraint could happen.
“OK, now I want to ask you about Anne Walters.”
“Anne?” Did Anne say something? After everything he had done for her and prepared to keep for her? He knew Anne was somewhat emotionally unstable, but how in Merlin’s name would she be able to do that to him? “What did Anne say?”
“She hasn’t. Anne’s gone missing.”
And suddenly Drew’s fury turned into guilt. “How long ago?”
“Not too long. Drew, did you know anything about Anne’s disappearance?”
“No. Does this have something to do with –“
“Anne left with friends. Two boys, and a girl.” Once again, Drew was sent into silence. He needed space to think, since it felt like Pete was talking too quickly to help him do anything about it. “And one of them came back into a house that was filled with Aurors to steal her wand.”
“You think I did it?”
Drew blinked in disbelief. “No.” How were they training the Auror department?
At this moment, as per usual, Mrs Honchby managed to come out at precisely the wrong time. “Drew, aren’t you going to –“ She stopped as she observed Pete. If there was one thing that Mrs Honchby would always fear, it was people with authoritarian power. “Drew, what’s going on?”
“One of our witnesses said you had a rather sudden friendship with Anne?” interrupted Pete. He had enough of the emotional parents for one day. He wasn’t sure he could actually handle the idea of another crying parent.
“Yes. We met in the Forbidden Forest.”
“And since became close?”
“No,” repeated Drew, just as quickly. “We didn’t speak that much.”
“Our witness didn’t seem to think.”
“Well your witness needs to check up on their facts,” said Mrs Honchby severely, giving Drew time to come up with another excuse.
However, he wasn’t too happy to find his only possible escape root. “Me and Anne talked, but we were never close. I found some of her actions a little unforgivable.”
Drew couldn’t believe what he was doing, but at the same time, he thought about how much trouble he was already in. Anne wasn’t going to get found any sooner with them looking for the wrong man. But he felt worse for another, far closer friend. “She made a comment to my friend Adele about Cedric.” Adele would forgive him for it. She would understand.
“Mr. Honchby, I think you should still come with me.” And it was wasted.
“This is all because of the Animagus? Because some –“
Mrs Honchby came on full alert. “I want to know exactly what’s going on.”
“A friend’s gotten –“
“It sounds better than ‘person I spoke to about twice’.”
“Mr. Honchby, you can come with me, or I can arrest you.”
Mrs Honchby protectively stood in front of her son. “I demand substantial evidence.”
“I just want to ask your son some further questions.”
There was a further pause as she tried to evaluate the entire scene. “Fine,” she finally said. “But I’m coming with you.”
“Mum, you don’t –“
“You might be a suspected criminal,” interrupted Mrs. Honchby with the sad attempt of a grin, “but you’re still under seventeen and my son.” Her expression hardened as it returned to Pete. “I’m coming with him.”
Pete sighed. “I wouldn’t expect anything else.” Someone was definitely going to end up crying.
“Hello? HELLO?” Her fists banged against the walls, but it seemed that the sound was only contained in her cell, dancing around like an echo. Finally they dragged along as she finally slumped to the ground.
Time was incalculable anymore. There only seemed to be a time when she was conscious and when it was not.
Anne Walters replayed the past couple of days and had to ask, what would they want with her?
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