It was still dark when Blaise woke up, but one look out of the dirty window told him that the sun would be rising soon enough. All he had to do was wait; as soon as light broke through the grey clouds and they came with what little food they brought for breakfast, he'd be ready. If the war had taught him one thing, it was how to fight back, and now that he was strong enough, he just needed an opportunity to finally prove that he was no longer a coward hiding behind ideals, but a man who could use more than just fighting words in front of the Wizengamot.
Blaise used the time he had to think things through; if he were alone, he'd easily be able to think 'screw it', not think about what he was doing and just run for it, blaming his lapse of rational thinking and sanity on the beatings and curses he'd received on arrival if they didn't catch him or kill him as he ran. It wouldn't be hard for people to believe he'd snapped. But he wasn't alone, his sole reason for rational thinking was sleeping softly on the floor, still too calm, and Blaise knew that even if Granger and Weasley found a way to forgive him for snapping, the rest of the Wizarding world would not.
Hugo Weasley may be the youngest in the family, but with two war hero parents and an uncle, who all still save their world in their own way by catching criminals and changing laws, the little boy fate had somehow given Blaise to keep safe was an angel in the world's eyes, the one they most expected to follow in his family's footsteps. He even helped Granger with her campaigns - all he had to do was bat his lashes and smile and people were signing petitions and giving money.
Blaise and Draco were sure he was an evil genius, a Slytherin in the making. Considering who the kid's family was, they laughed at the irony.
"Protect the poster child," he muttered, like he was reminding himself not to protect himself first.
Blaise checked the window again, took deep breaths when he saw the sky begin to lighten and waited. One of them would come soon. He knew his best plan was a surprise attack; whoever they were, they were prepared for most things, magic and Muggle, and Blaise knew he wouldn't make it out alive if they saw anything coming. He wasn't even sure why he was still alive now. So, he would surprise the guy and take him down, after that he just had to find a way out, preferably with his wand.
With the kid, he reminded himself again.
Quietly, he knelt in front of Hugo and shook him awake, putting his finger to his lips as soon as Hugo's eyes opened. Seeming to understand, the kid nodded and sat up. "I'm going to get us out of here," he whispered. "But you have to be very quiet and do exactly as I say. Do you understand?"
Hugo nodded again, keeping his mouth shut, and Blaise stood. He moved to stand next to the door and pointed to the wall across from him. When Hugo stood right next to the door, Blaise gestured with his hand for the kid to move back, until there was a large gap between them. When the guy coming opened the door, it would open in Hugo's direction; the kid wouldn't be seen, wouldn't be able to see Blaise knock a man out, and if the guy swung the door open, it wouldn't hit him.
He kept his ear to the thin wall and listened. It was only a few moments before he heard voices, arguing over who was going in, but the voice of the older guy won and he seemed to be sounding quieter and quieter. He was leaving, the younger guy would be all alone. The door opened and as soon as he stepped through, Blaise delivered a blow to the neck with his elbow, hard enough to severely wind him. The tray of food crashed to the floor and he coughed and spluttered, trying to stand up properly, his hands searching for his wand. Blaise used the moment to send a other blow to the man's chest, then punched him. The force broke his nose and he went limp, fell to the floor alongside the tray.
Hugo stepped out from behind the door. "Is he asleep now?"
Blaise nodded and took hold of his arm. "Yeah, lets call it sleep. He will be for a while. Come on. And keep quiet."
Blaise turned right out the door, barely able to remember the way they had brought him, and came to a stop behind the wall near a long corridor filled with doors. It was familiar, he remembered, but he wasn't sure if it was the way out or just one of the places they had brought him before throwing him in with Hugo.
He turned to the kid. "Do you remember the way?" Hugo shrugged. "Well?"
"You told me to be very quiet," he whispered.
"Thank you for reminding me why I don't want kids," he groaned. Blaise crouched down, so the kid could see his face without needing to look up. "I also told you to do as I tell you. You can answer the question; do you remember the way?"
Hugo bit his lip, his eyes narrowed in concentration, and finally he nodded and pointed in the direction they were heading. "We came in, we went in first office, then we came down the hall to the room he left me in."
"Why where you in the office?" Blaise asked, hoping that what he was thinking was about to be proven right.
"That's where the boss sits," Hugo answered.
Blaise wanted to punch the air and let out every bit of joy he felt; his wand was in there, it had to be. He took Hugo's arm again and glanced around the wall, checking it was empty. Satisfied, he led the boy down the hall until they came to the last office, the one on his left. He saw it was empty and pointed at the door.
Blaise tried the door, both hopeful and wary to find that it was open. This was suddenly looking like it was too easy to get out and he didn't like it. But nothing happened when the door opened or when he took a cautious step inside and he really needed his wand. He continued on with his plan, searching the room quickly for his wand. He came to the desk and tried the drawers; the top was open and empty, but the bottom draw was locked. Blaise looked around for the key, but there wasn't one to be found on the desk and he knew he hadn't seen one around the room. It took a few minutes and all of his strength, but he finally managed to force it open. Blaise almost fell to his knees, exhausted, but grabbed his wand from the top of the pile of papers.
"Thank God. Oh, thank you," he murmured, putting it into his inside pocket quickly. He was about to close the drawer and leave when the name on the top file captured his attention and he grabbed it without thinking, opening it to read. "Theodore? What the hell?"
"Why aren't we going?" Hugo demanded, standing in front of him. "What's that?"
"The key to everything," a voice said from the door. Blaise snapped his head up from the file and pulled Hugo closer to him. "I had a feeling you'd get out eventually."
"Who are you?"
"He's the boss," Hugo whispered.
The boss nodded and smiled. "I'm Daniel."
As soon as Theo dropped Alexei off at school, he went to the Ministry, straight to the conference room Harry had taken him to the first time, and found Harry, Ron and Hermione all sat at one side of the table, waiting for him. He cautiously took a seat next to his old friend, wary of their eyes watching him, and cleared his throat.
Ron lifted up a box from his left and dropped it onto the table, sliding it across the table with with one, big push. It stopped in front of Harry with a squeak and Harry finished the box's move to Theo.
"I called my secretary while we were getting the kids ready and asked her if she'd come in early and go through the archives for anything on a Daniel and any variations," he said quietly, trying to hold back a yawn. Theo wondered how long it had been since any of them had really slept. "She wants to help find Hugo; she was happy to look. This was everything she could find."
Theo opened the lid, already grimacing at the thought of how many case files there'd be. He was surprised to find that, while the box was full, there were only a few files which he deemed big enough to take awhile to sort through. The rest were small; either they were minor offenders, once or twice, or they only offended once and it was big enough to send them straight to Azkaban. He certainly didn't think it would take them all day, now he just hoped that the Daniel they wanted was in the box and they'd find Daniel quickly. Theo couldn't begin to know where to look if the man they wanted wasn't in this box.
They got to work in relative silence, Harry and Ron occasionally making small talk, but Theo kept his mouth shit unless asked a question specific to the case and Hermione spent the time between reading her files to watch him. He could feel her eyes burn into his skin, causing his blood to boil and his thoughts to take a dangerous, non-case related turn.
Now was not the time to be thinking about her in any way.
It wasn't until lunch, when Harry's secretary came in with sandwiches and drinks, that Ron gave up cutting Theo from their conversations and asked him questions he'd obviously been dying to know.
"Who and where is Alexei's mother?" he asked bluntly.
Theo choked on his food and Harry kicked his friend from under the table, warning him to shut up. Even Hermione, who looked as curious as her almost ex husband, told him to leave it alone. Clearing his throat, Theo shook his head at the other two and dropped his sandwich onto the table.
"I have no idea where Daphne is and I don't particularly care either," he answered honestly.
Ron frowned, trying to figure out who the name belonged to. Then his eyes widened. "Alexei said 'Aunt Astoria' and 'Uncle Draco'. You married Daphne Greengrass?"
"No," Theo swore, discarding the horrible mental image. "I just got very drunk and slept with her."
"Why?" Ron asked, filled with morbid curiosity.
"Why do you want to know?" Theo countered.
The red head shrugged, suddenly looking upset. But not guilty. "I need something else to focus on, so I can be as objective as I can and not miss something. I have to pretend I'm not looking for my son and since I don't know much about you, I figured now would be the time to ask. So, why did you sleep with Daphne Greengrass when you obviously don't like her?"
"Ron, that's Theo's personal business," Harry warned again. "Leave him alone."
"It's alright, Harry," Theo promised. "It was a long time ago, I'm over it. I can talk about it." He took another bite of his sandwich, followed quickly by a bit of pop, and leaned forward. "It's the same old story really; I met a girl, she broke my heart, I got drunk at a friend's wedding anniversary party, friend's sister decided she could easily get into my pants and what kind of a man would I be if I stopped her?"
"A sensible one," Ron said with a grimace. "Daphne Greengrass. Whoa. Does he know? Alexei?"
"He knows her name and that she's Astoria's sister, he's even seen a picture of her," Theo answered softly. "He's never met her, though. She left just after he was born and I haven't seen her since. I have no desire to. Lex doesn't call her his mum, he doesn't even ask about her. Maybe one day he will and I dread that day because she wants nothing to do with him. She's not the mothering type," he finished bitterly. "Is that all?"
"Why did you pick the name 'Alexei'?" he asked next, moving to an easier topic. Harry shook his head and joined Hermione in looking at the case files.
"I found it in a book and I liked it. Daphne hated it, so I put it on his birth certificate while she slept," Theo answered with a smirk, picking up a new file and finishing his lunch.
"I like you," Ron said appreciatively, following everyone else's example and letting silence fill the room again. He only confused Theo more.
It only lasted fifteen minutes, the silence. Hermione moved to sit next to Theo hastily and dropped her newest case file, one of the big one's, in front of them. "Tell me about the big case you solved?"
"You know all about it," he said, confused.
"I want to hear it in your own words."
Theo looked around, noticing that the other two had stopped what they were doing just to listen to their conversation, trying to understand why Hermione wanted to know. Eventually, he nodded and told them, though he still didn't understand.
"The police arrested this guy for murder. He couldn't remember anything, but swore he was innocent, so his family came to me to find out who else could have a motive," he said quickly. "I started from the beginning, the crime scene, and I found new evidence. I also found out where the guy they locked up had been, I found out he'd been drugged, knocked out. With the evidence and a new alibi, he was set free and they found the person who framed him."
"Do you know who that person was? The real murderer?" Hermione asked urgently.
"Marcus Rayner," he answered quickly. "Why?"
"Rayner," Harry whispered, sharing a look with Ron - both looked fearful. Faster than Theo could blink, they both seemed to be hovering over him and Hermione, looking at the file. "Danny Rayner, of course it's him. La Oscurità have Hugo."
Theo seemed frozen in his seat, dread seeming ready to take him. He knew all about the gang, everyone in the Wizarding world did. Even the Muggle police knew some things; they tried to cover it up. They were malicious, dangerous and not afraid to hurt anyone who got in their way. They had 'members' from all backgrounds, all over the world, but the people high up, the bosses, they were family. They started it and they were fiercely protective of each other. He just never knew the family's name. And he'd locked one up.
"Why would they take Hugo?"
"To keep us busy," Ron whispered. "They've gone after us, taunted us, a few times. Taking Hugo would keep us guessing, but it also gave you a case." Ron turned Theo's chair around, looking him right in the eye. "Harry knows you, respects you; the man who sent down Big Brother. He knew Harry would call you. It's you he wants. You're a dead man, Theo. He knows you'll save Hugo, he just has to wait for you to come, and you'll be lucky to get out alive."
"There's a reason we don't mess with La Oscurità," Harry said softly. "We can't touch them, their too smart, and they're terrifying. So much worse than Voldemort in some ways, so much worse than the Death Eaters in every way. I genuinely don't know what to do."
"But why Hugo?" Theo insisted. "They don't do anything randomly. They picked Hugo as part of their revenge for a reason. Why?"
Each person surrounding him said they didn't know, each looking at him with regret. But Harry had him pause the longest; there was more than just regret in the man's eyes. He had to know what.
"I'll go in," he said in a tone that said there would be no discussion. "We'll find them and I'll get Hugo out."
"They'll kill you," Harry insisted.
"Then be ready to save me, Hero," Theo countered with a halfhearted grin. "I won't leave him in there when it's me they want. I wouldn't leave Alexei, I wouldn't leave any child," he whispered, thinking of his little boy. Thinking of Astoria.
If they do kill me, at least he still has family who love him.
Understanding him somehow, maybe it was a look any parent could spot, Hermione placed a gentle hand on his arm. Theo didn't flinch, for once he welcomed it.
Well, if this is it...
Maybe I just wasn't shown the last part of the vision.
"Do you want me to tell Astoria and Draco what's happening?" Harry asked gently. "Just in case..."
"Tell me what?" a new voice said suddenly, causing them all to turn. Draco Malfoy studied them all hesitantly. "Theo, what's going on?"
"I forgot you worked here, as part of the Auror department," he said instead, too quiet. Draco saw right through it. "Dealing with hostages and missing people. That was your deal after the war, Harry got it for you. It makes you handy right about now."
"I've had some experience with it, you know that," Draco said. "So, stop side-stepping my question with useless information and tell me what's wrong."
"We need you to set up a team and find La Oscurità," Harry answered instead. "They have Hugo, they want Theo and he's chosen to go in."
"They'll kill you," Draco said softly, understand now. He nodded slowly. "I'll lead it myself. Oh," he continued, turning around and handing Theo a piece of square-shaped parchment. "I've just been given this; Blaise is missing. I thought you should know, since you've been trying to contact him."
Theo let Hermione take the missing poster and fell back into his chair. He was drowning in this mess.
Draco came back a few hours later, telling them they'd found Danny Rayner easily in an old warehouse that belonged to them.
"It's like he's waiting for you," Draco had said.
With Draco's team prepared to deal with getting Hugo and Theo out safely and Harry's team prepared to deal with La Oscurità themselves, they had nothing to do but wait until morning. Theo let Hermione take him to Harry's place; Ginny had kindly picked Alexei up from school and he was ready to take him home and keep him in his sights the whole night. But as soon as he saw the little boy's sleeping face, surrounded by cushions, Harry's children and niece on the living room floor, he couldn't bring himself to wake him. Instead he sat on his friends' couch, watched him sleep and prayed he'd get out alive.
"They were making dens," Ginny whispered, moving Lily's hair from her eyes. She stopped in front of Theo, knelt down gently. "Harry told me everything. I'm so sorry they're putting you through this."
"I couldn't not have Marcus sent away," he told her. "I need to go home. Big day tomorrow."
"You are not going anywhere," his friend answered forcefully. "The kids are staying in their den, Harry has promised to stay with them and Ron has gone home for his things. Given how exhausted he is, he'll probably crash there, or here with Harry if he makes it back. Hermione will have Lily's room, which means you can stay in James'."
He started to shake his head, ready to swear that he was fine, but the look on Ginny's face forced his mouth shut and he nodded weakly. He didn't have the heart to properly argue anyway.
"Good, I'll show you were it is."
"I'll take him," Hermione said softly, kissing Ginny quickly on the cheek. "I'm going to get some sleep anyway, I think we're all tired. I'll see you in the morning."
Hermione waited for Theo to kiss his son good night and repeat the words to Harry and Ginny, as well as thanking them for letting him stay, before leading him up the stairs and into James's room. He grazed his hand along the Quidditch bedsheets and couldn't help but smile at all the merchandise and Quidditch based toys the obsessed little boy had. He was definitely his father's son.
"Forgive the mess," Hermione said. "James' room doesn't get many visitors."
"It's fine," he promised, facing her.
"It'll be okay, you know," she told him after a moments silence. "I trust Harry to deal with the gang and he trusts Draco in getting you and Hugo out safely. Which means I do, too, as strange as that is to say." Hermione took his hand, not seeming to notice the reaction he got to her holding him; how warm she was and safe he actually felt, how his dreams came back, telling him this was right and she needed to be here with him. "You'll be okay."
Acting on impulse, only listening to his dreams, Theo pulled her closer before she could walk away from him and kissed her gently on the lips, waiting for her to respond. When she did, kissing back rather than pushing way liked he'd thought, he deepened it, moving her back into the door. The soft click told him it was shut properly and he took that as his cue to go further.
Hermione let him, allowing herself to be lost in him, to forget about all the bad things that were happening her family, to him. She thought about it all day, every day, and she felt like she was finally snapping. Everything she had running through her head had built up and now that release had come in some way, it was all crumbling down.
It felt like forever and yet not long enough when he pulled away. "The others?"
"I lock the door, they don't check anymore," she replied, whispering. "They won't come looking."
So, they didn't stop. If Theo was going to lose her and be killed saving her son, he wasn't going to pass up being with the woman of his dreams.
A/N: New chapter. Sad chapter. Poor Theo. It's all about him.
La Oscurità is my gang, borrowed from my Hugo/Lysander, Worth the Risk. The bad guy in that is William Rayner. Marcus Rayner is William's father, Daniel is his uncle. :D
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)