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Chapter 26 : Chapter 25 No Direction
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"Stop," Harry said clearly, raising his open palms to waist height.
Chief immediately settled at this command, though he did not stop. Racing to Harry's side, he whined and nudged him as he headed towards the house, making Harry worry even more. The back door was unlocked, and so Harry went straight inside the pretty townhouse where Sharon and Sirius lived. Upon setting foot inside he could feel already that it was empty, that no one was at home. Nevertheless, he moved about quietly as he stepped further inside and closed the door, Chief hot on his heels.
"Are you okay, boy?" Harry whispered, crouching down and rubbing Chief's jaw just the way he liked. "What's happened? Where is she?"
Giving a low whine in answer, Chief raised his paws one at a time and tried to climb onto Harry's lap, licking his cheek. Feeling how dry his tongue was, Harry realised he must not have any water left. Sirius and Sharon had last been seen on Tuesday, and since then Chief would have been stuck eating snow for hydration. Standing up, Harry summoned the water bowl and headed into the kitchen, stepping around the tub of dog biscuits that had spilt across the floor. Filling the bowl he sat it down and cast a Replenishing charm, petting Chief as he began to lap at it thirstily.
With that task satisfied, Harry got to his feet and looked around, feeling strange to be there alone. He hadn't visited Sharon's house since the late days of the war...the day of the final battle actually. It was completely surreal to be there, finding that everything was exactly as he remembered. Looking around, Harry wandered into the sitting room at the front of the property, remembering the couch that an injured Sirius had laid on, recovering from Draco Malfoy's attack that had killed Fred. Little, if anything at all, had changed.
Feeling rushed to find answers, Harry went upstairs to look around, suddenly very aware that he had never actually been upstairs. It was only a small three bedroom townhouse, and Harry glanced into an office and the spare bedroom, affectionately known as Teddy's, before he came to the main bedroom. Hesitantly stepping inside, he looked for some sign that something had happened here, that there had been a struggle. But the bed was neatly made, the creases smoothed out and the pillows plumped. The only sign of occupancy was the slight ruffling at the foot, where it was clear that Chief had been sleeping, waiting for his master to return.
Taking his time now, Harry looked around the room carefully, scrutinising everything he saw. Despite the fact that she and Sirius had been seeing each other for four years, Harry had felt no desire to get to know Sharon at all. She had been the one to go to the Daily Prophet while he was in seventh year, she had been the one to tell them all about what she expected Harry to be experiencing after his abduction. After all, she herself had been through the same ordeal, betrayed by her husband Augustus Rookwood during the first war. But if he was being completely honest with himself, Harry didn't dislike the woman for going to the Prophet with the story...he didn't even dislike her as a person. If he was being completely honest with himself, he avoided getting to know her because their pasts were too similar.
During his rehab, St Mungos had told him it was best to get to know Sharon, or to at least get to know someone who had been through the same type of ordeal he had, but Harry would have none of it. He didn't want to think about the things that had happened to him, and he most certainly didn't want to share them. Getting to know someone like Sharon would only open up those wounds, would only make things worse. And so he had kept her at arm's length, treating her more like an acquaintance than someone who was technically his step-mother. At best he tolerated her presence in his life, neither wishing her harm nor wishing her well. She was just there ...present.
Now though, Harry began to recall one of the few tidbits of information that he knew about this woman. She was a neat freak, obsessed with organisation and labelling, even more than Hermione. Looking around the bedroom, Harry could see the war that waged on between she and Sirius, the battle to have everything neat and tidy. Sharon's beside table was neat and organised, the items making neat use of their space. Sirius' table on the other hand, as a mess. Smiling to himself, Harry could just imagine the frustration and anxiety that Sharon must feel, having to look at that every time she came into her own bedroom.
Drawn towards it, Harry moved back around to Sirius' side of the bed and sat down, beginning to sort through the mess that was there. Receipts, sweets wrappers and half used quills made up the majority of the mess, but there wasn't much else of note to be found. Silently apologising for his intrusiveness, Harry opened the top drawer and found even more mess. Using the tip of his wand, he looked through the array of parchment and wrappers that he saw, looking for anything that might give him a clue as to where Sirius might be.
Sighing quietly, Harry closed the drawer before taking a quick look through the two below, knowing he wasn't going to find anything there. Getting back to his feet he smoothed out the bedcovers where he had been sitting, looking up to see Chief sitting in the doorway waiting for him. Taking another cursory look around, Harry wandered back to the landing and looked down the stairs, feeling rather unfocused. He didn't know what he was doing there, why he had expected to find anything of use. Sirius and Sharon had been missing since Tuesday morning...any evidence of where they had gone would have been promptly removed.
Despite the doubt in himself, Harry crossed the landing and stepped into the shared office, not needing to be a genius to figure out which desk belonged to who. The one in the far corner was cluttered and untidy, while the one closest was neat and orderly, clearly belonging to Sharon. Berating himself for the unnecessary snooping, Harry wandered over to Sharon's desk and looked at the sole piece of parchment, smiling at the two lots of hand writing he saw there.
Sirius Black - Clean up your desk or you'll sleep in the dog house.
I'm shaking in my boots.
Rolling his eyes, Harry thought they sounded just like an old married couple that they denied being. Perhaps they did need a set of His and Hers towels after all. Moving on to Sirius' desk, Harry took in the mess and clutter as he sat down in the plush leather chair, wondering where he had gotten it from. Ginny would love a plush desk chair like this. With that thought in mind, Harry dragged the chair closer to the desk and sat there as Sirius would have, trying to figure out exactly why he had felt the need to come in here. He knew Sirius' work managing the Fair Trial group actually brought him no income, but the lack of funds was definitely made up by the mountain of parchment work he handled. The top of the filing cabinet to his right was overflowing with parchment and folders, as were the two cardboard boxes that sat in the other corner.
Steeling himself, Harry began looking through the paperwork on his desk, picking up heavy files and half empty pots of ink. The drawers were filled with stationary and spare Knuts, sweets wrappers adorning every drawer. It was typical of Sirius to be so unorganised, though he likely knew exactly where everything he needed was. Ginny was that way...her desk at home and at work would be just as messy as Sirius', but she could whip out the required document in a flash.
Yawning in exhaustion, Harry's shoulders sagged as he shifted a heavy folder, looking through despite not recognising any of the names or the case. With a low groan he closed the folder and put his head onto it, closing his eyes for just a moment. He felt so undirected at the moment...like he was just floating around and waiting for something to happen. But he wasn't really, he was doing something, he was trying, but he felt as though he were looking in all the wrong places. A part of him wanted to give up, to return home and collapse into bed, seeking sleep and the comfort of being home again. But it wouldn't bring him the comfort he needed. Not until he had Teddy in his arms again would he feel comfort. That's what was missing...that's what left him feeling so undirected.
Sitting up and rubbing his eyes, Harry forced himself to stand, aimlessly reaching for the top drawer of the filing cabinet. There were three drawers in all, and as he suspected the first of them was crammed full with folders and parchment. Struggling against the sheer amount of them, he fumbled to read the labels on each folder, occasionally recognising a few names. Still feeling foolish for even bothering, Harry closed the top drawer and pulled the second open, looking through each labelled folder for something that would tell him what to do next.
Case file after case file. That's all that was there. Pushing the heavy drawer back in Harry rested his head against the cool metal and groaned, resisting the urge to bash his head against the wall. Summoning all his will, he reached down and opened the third and final drawer of the filing cabinet. The heavy drawer opened with ease, but Harry frowned as he looked at it, his attention fully focused. It wasn't quite right...it wasn't fully opened. Turning to the drawer above he pulled it open again, confirming his thoughts that the drawer below wasn't fully open. Closing the second drawer again, Harry took hold of the lip of the bottom drawer and began to pull hard.
He tugged and yanked, but the drawer resisted opening any further. Feeling the tease of inanimate objects that were against him, Harry withdrew his wand and cast every charm he could think of, but nothing worked. The filing drawer remained half open, no matter how hard Harry tried to force it. Seating himself down beside it, he removed a few of the files at the back of the drawer, exposing the metal back. Tapping it lightly, he reached his hand in and ran his fingers over the top of the metal, between the top of this drawer and the bottom of the one above. He easily slid his hand behind the drawer and into the empty space behind, naively wondering if something was stuck there.
"Argh!" Harry yelled, yanking his hand out of the drawer and falling backwards. His hand smarted painfully as a loud bark rang out through the office, making Harry think that Chief had somehow bitten him through the drawer.
"Son of a bitch," Harry swore, shaking his hand as ferocious barking echoed out from inside the filing cabinet. He glanced at his hand, and though it felt like something had bitten him he was completely unharmed. "All right!" he yelled at the filing cabinet, the barks ceasing immediately. He kicked it for good measure.
Chief raced into the office at the sound of the barking, but the moment he saw Harry with the bottom of the filing cabinet open he began to relax, his expression looking somewhat exasperated. Thinking that was just how he felt, Harry sat up and glared at the filing cabinet, understanding.
"Bloody Sirius Black." He pointed his wand at the cabinet again. "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good."
Without any fuss the bottom drawer slowly rolled out another few inches, revealing the small compartment that was hidden at the back. Harry hesitated for a moment before looking, knowing that this was definitely a breach of privacy. Sirius could have a number of private possessions hidden back there, and though he really didn't want to know about his father's preference in PlayWitch magazines, Harry knew he had to look. After all, Sirius had used the one password that Harry would have been likely to guess...that was justification enough for him.
The first thing Harry removed from the compartment was a long piece of parchment, the creases making it look like it had been hastily stuffed inside. Recognising Sirius' neatest attempt at writing, Harry smoothed it out and set it aside for a moment, going back to the compartment. Inside there was another piece of parchment, smaller than the first, and containing only a few short sentences in a handwriting Harry did not recognise. Setting that aside too, he looked back into the compartment and found it empty. Was that all? Two pieces of parchment? Looking back to them, Harry wondered which one to look at first.
Choosing the smaller of the two with the unfamiliar handwriting, Harry leant back against the wall as he began reading. Though the writing was neat and concisely worded, Harry found that he did not understand the meaning behind the words. It was a letter of some sort, a confession perhaps, but it contained neither the details of the person it was directed to nor the person it was from.
By now you will know of what I have done, of the betrayal I have committed against the people who once called me their friend. For a long time I felt same way you must be feeling at this moment, and I must ask you for the benefit of the doubt, as I once gave to you.I only ask for your understanding and your forgiveness, and the trust that I will make the right decisions.
His heart pounding, Harry's hands shook as he put down the smaller piece of parchment and picked up the one Sirius had written on. He didn't need to start reading to know that this was a reply. It was dated the morning he had disappeared.
My friend, the benefit of the doubt is something that is owed to you, and I'll repay you in kind. Yesterday I learnt more about the last four years than I thought possible, and yes, I know what has happened. I know what was asked of you, and the consequences you and your family faced if you did not respond in the way you did. You asked for my understanding, and so you have it.
As for my trust, you've broken it, and as for forgiveness, it is not for me to give. The person you should be asking forgiveness of is the one you have hurt in your actions - Harry. But forgiveness from Harry is not something I expect he'll give freely, if at all. Four years of estrangement doesn't mean that I don't know him. What you've done has the potential to destroy him, as it would to any father, and I can only hope that in the coming days that you make the right decisions.
I don't pretend to have forgotten our da
The letter finished there, uncompleted, but it was all Harry needed to read. His first instincts about Sirius hadn't been that far wrong. He might not be directly involved in Teddy's abduction, but just like Hermione did, Sirius knew who had taken him. It was a friend, someone Sirius had trusted, only to be betrayed by him. How is it that everyone else had managed to figure out who this person was, but not Harry?
Getting to his feet, Harry stuffed the two pieces of parchment into his pocket. Closing the filing cabinet, he quickly left the office and headed back downstairs, Chief following him. Reaching the downstairs, Harry went straight into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water, standing at the unfamiliar sink as he tried to think. The letters made no sense to him...and there was a niggling feeling in the back of his mind that he didn't want them to make sense. His stomach churned to more he thought about the letter Sirius had received, and he began to fell ill until he decided not to worry about it just yet. He didn't recognise the handwriting, and the author had not left his name. There was no point in dwelling on what he did not understand.
At a complete loss as for what to do next, Harry considered the option of going to Denmark, where he suspected Sharon was in hiding. She would be with her daughter most likely…What was her name again…Shannon? Harry wasn't exactly sure where she lived though, his only suspicion being that it was in a city. He strongly considered going to Denmark, to track down Sharon and ask her where her husband was. If he could just find Sirius, then he would know what to do. Sirius would know…Sirius could always be depended on.
A horrible thought crossed Harry's mind, and he sighed loudly. "Where the fuck is Denmark?" he wondered aloud. He doubted he could even find the country on a map, let alone travel there. Cursing his poor education, he knew he had to keep moving, keep looking, even if he didn't know what he was looking for.
Giving Chief one last pet, Harry headed out the back door and closed it behind himself, leaving it unlocked as he had found it. Crossing the backyard to the apparation point he considered his next move, making his decision quickly. Ron had insisted he had looked for Luther Fallacks...maybe he had brought his work home with him. Arriving on the street outside his home at Godric's Hollow, Harry was unsurprised to see a growing group of people standing by the front fence. Bunches of flowers and teddy bears were already accumulating, posters bearing Teddy's face and the words 'have you seen this child?' taped to the muggle street lamps. Of course, people expected that he and Ginny still lived there.
Wishing he hadn't apparated onto the street, Harry was about to apparate straight into the house itself, but he had already been seen by those waiting. Bracing himself for the onslaught of people and questions, he shoved his hands into his pockets as he marched towards the front fence. Despite his worst expectations, no one tried to interrogate him, no one rushed towards him with pleas for a comment or interview. The few reporters that were there simply raised their cameras, while the other witches and wizards began clapping and calling out in support.
"We'll find him, Harry!" complete strangers called out.
"We believe in you!"
Not knowing how to respond, Harry kept his head down and passed over the low fence into the yard, carefully watching where he stepped. It had been a few weeks since he had visited Ron and Hermione who were now living here, and he tried not to feel intrusive as he opened the front door and stepped inside. Just because he owned the house didn't mean he could just walk in any time he liked...they paid maintenence, it was their furniture, their home for the next few years. Nevertheless, he knew they wouldn't mind, especially given the circumstances.
With the Fidelius charm removed months ago, the people outside could see straight in, and so Harry waved his wand and drew all the curtains, shutting them out as he looked around. The lounge room was to his left, the kitchen and dining room to his right. He stood on the threshold for a few moments, waiting for the instinctual understanding of where to start looking. Easily frustrated, he wandered, glancing at the array of paperwork and possessions that sat on the kitchen bench.
He really ought to be looking through Ron's office in the Muggle building that housed the APE offices, but Harry doubted he would gain admittance, even after this morning's press conference. Besides, he doubted he would be able to break the locks on Ron's office door...he was pretty good at them these days. Coming to the house was Harry's best option, and yet he felt as lost as he had in Sirius' house. Then again what had first seemed like a waste of time turned out to be very informative, but he tried not to think about the two letters he had read. Not fully understanding would only drive him even more insane.
Wandering back into the lounge room, Harry scanned over Hermione's neat and tidy desk, knowing he wasn't going to find anything in there either. He glanced at the television before turning it on, flicking through the channels until he came upon the news channel. As he expected, it hadn't taken long for Teddy's abduction to reach the Muggle news channels. He waited only a minute before the newsreader mentioned his name, his most recent photograph appearing behind her.
"Police in central London are beginning a search for a missing four year old boy. Theodore Potter was reported as missing by his parents early this morning, but has in fact been missing since last Sunday afternoon. Theodore is three foot eight inches, with brown eyes and blonde hair, however his parents suspect he may also be sporting either red or black hair. Police believe Theodore has been kidnapped by an underground network of criminals, and Theodore was last seen Thursday afternoon at Odeon cinemas, in Leicester. Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers immediately."
Leaving the television on, Harry made his way upstairs and into Teddy's old bedroom, which now housed Ron's cluttered office. The door was open, much to Harry's surprise, and so he readily walked in without preamble. The information to be found was much easier here than at Sirius', with everything having been left out on Ron's desk. This simple act of carelessness worried Harry, making him think that Ron had left in a rush. He was normally very secure about his office and work he brought home, the only reason that Hermione had agreed to allow him an office to himself. With everything left out, the only thing for Harry to do was sit down and look.
Making himself comfortable, Harry pulled the open folder towards himself and started looking through Luther Fallacks' APE officer files. His personal details including address were listed on the front page. He lived in Tamworth, alone according to his insurance details. That would make things a little easier. Memorising Luther Fallacks' address, Harry continued looking through the array of paperwork. Field reports, search warrants, suspect notes...Harry scanned through it all, wishing that Ron would better organise his things.
Nothing indicated that Luther Fallacks was in league with Death Eaters, nothing indicated that he had planned to kidnap Harry Potter's son. His field reports from co-workers and supervisors were glowing, one even recommending him for a higher security clearance. He had been hospitalised three times due to his line of work...twice for severe concussion and once for for sustaining an unknown jinx...side effects included opera singing and insisting he could lick his elbow - repeat demonstrations had ensued. Nothing that exactly screamed Death Eater.
Sighing, Harry was about to give up on his opera singing Death Eater when a piece of parchment poking out from beneath the folder caught his eye. Closing the folder, he moved it aside to look at the parchment that had caught his attention, noting the Gringotts symbol at the top. It was an account statement for Luther Fallacks, and judging by the highlighted transactions Ron had found him out. Scanning down the list, Harry took note of the three thousand Galleons that were deposited into his bank account, approximately every four weeks. It was a substantial amount more than his monthly salary, which was listed at the beginning of every month. The statement went back only three months, showing a total of nine thousand Galleons that Luther Fallacks had received.
Sitting back in Ron's chair, Harry considered the statement. It may only detail the last three months, but Harry had no doubt Luther Fallacks had been receiving this mysterious money for far longer. Setting it aside, he picked up the next piece of parchment that had been beneath the folder, another bank statement from Gringotts. This one was in the name of a wizard that Harry didn't recognise, Michel Clark, and though it appeared that the transaction numbers matched the money received by Fallacks, Harry knew better. At the same time as three thousand Galleons were transferred to Luther Fallacks, four thousand Galleons were transferred into the same account. This was not the real source of Fallacks's funds.
Ron had apparently felt the same way too, for the final piece of parchment from beneath the folder was a third bank statement, this time in the name of Draco Malfoy. Feeling both triumphant and smug, Harry scanned through Malfoy's statement, not at all surprised to see the vast amounts of Galleons that were spent and earned each month. Thankfully, Ron had highlighted the appropriate transaction lines, and though it told Harry a great deal about what had been going on, it told him nothing about Teddy.
It wasn't all together that unexpected. Draco Malfoy paid Michel Clark to be the middleman, to help pass on thousands of Galleons to the final recipient, Luther Fallacks. But what wasn't clear was, why? Was Fallacks a real Death Eater? Harry knew he had certainly hit a nerve the first time the two of them had spoken, when he had questioned Fallacks' place. He must not be...a Death Eater didn't need to be bribed. So he wasn't a Death Eater, just a convenient snitch in the APE department who was trusted immensely. Fallacks had made the false identities for Harry and Ginny to live under before the trial, so it was no wonder that the Death Eaters had easily found them. Fallacks had quietly organised the security that Harry had hired, and had been in charge of managing Lucius Malfoy's paperwork. But none of this was reflected in the notes Ron had on his desk.
If Harry was right, then being approached by the Death Eaters would have been the greatest opportunity to come by Luther Fallacks in his life. He wasn't in this to join the Death Eaters, he wasn't even in this for the money...Fallacks himself had told Harry what he wanted, Voldemort's wand. This was his opportunity to get close to Harry Potter, in more ways than one.
Beyond frustrated, Harry groaned as he clenched his hand in his hair, leaning back in the chair and looking at the ceiling. There may have been plenty of information for Harry to find, but none of it was the right information. He was looking for his son, not a conspiracy to get his blood racing and his desire for justice flowing. Ron's desk had explained a lot to him, but not what he wanted. Looking back at Malfoy's statements, Harry scanned each line carefully, trying to account for where his money was going.
Charitable donations to St Mungos, various Quidditch teams...investments and stock shares were his main source of income. But none of this was what Harry was looking for, thinking back to his own bank statements. His own bank statements were full of mortgage repayments on Remus' empty cottage and Tonk's occupied house. Bills and groceries and veterinarian fees, discounted of course thanks to Ginny's line of work...none of these things appeared on Malfoy's statement. Harry had been hoping to find evidence of properties under Malfoy's name, places where he might be holding a small four year old.
Against his wishes, Harry immediately began to think about the cellar beneath Malfoy Manor. Dark, damp and full of mice, he had been held there for three days. Ron had said it was empty now, but it was still an opportune place to hold a four year old. Was that where Teddy was being kept after all? It would make sense of course, few people except those in the Order knew about it. While stuck in Azkaban, Harry had told Ron to look into it, but as far as Harry knew he hadn't. Was that were Ron was? He had gone there and been caught?
Harry suddenly got to his feet, needing to act. He had spent too long there...too much time had been wasted. Out of habit he checked his mobile phone, disappointed to confirm that no one had called. Had Ginny made it home safely? He considered calling her before he put the phone away, telling himself not to worry. He needed to go to Malfoy Manor, risky or not. But first there was one stop he needed to make, just to be sure he had covered all his bases. Checking the address in Luther Fallacks' file again, Harry headed back down stairs, his next task in mind. Checking his watch, he saw that it was close to nine thirty, and he wondered how time had gotten away from him so quickly. He had wasted over two hours to find nothing.
Turning off the television, he approached the window and pulled the curtain back a fraction, not surprised to see the crowd outside had grown. More flowers had been laid out along the low fence, a dozen or so balloons having appeared since he last looked out. Biting his lip, Harry wondered if he could face those people again, if he could bear to take their sympathy and good wishes. Thinking back to what Ginny had said about making Teddy's disappearance as public as possible, Harry drew a deep breath and headed to the front door.
Stepping outside, he closed the door and turned to face the crowd on the other side of the fence, pleased to see people he recognised throughout the crowd. A dozen or so Order members were there, as were his and Ginny's friends from Hogwarts, each of them turning out with flowers and balloons to support them. Standing on the fence line were his team mates, standing in full uniform and applauding at his appearance. Behind them stood a few of the Wasps players, Harry remembering the way Teddy had idolised the Seeker last Sunday. Steeling himself to come out and talk to these people, he breathed as Tim had trained him to as he approached the low fence and climbed over, greeting those who were waiting for him.
It was somewhat like dealing with the crowds at a Quidditch game, except there were no barriers and security guards to keep them at bay. Nevertheless, they weren't here for his autograph, with many people clapping him on the shoulder, wishing him and Ginny luck. Knowing he needed to keep moving he made his way through the crowd, thanking people and shaking hands, allowing reporters to take his picture. The more coverage the better.
"Chin up, Harry," Hestia Jones implored, hugging him tightly. "He'll be alright."
"Thanks," Harry said patiently, her words being of no help.
"There's an Order meeting tonight," someone else said to him, his face vaguely familiar. "The usual time and place. You'll be there, won't you?"
"Err, where?" Harry asked, having never been officially invited to an Order meeting.
"Grimmauld Place, five o'clock," the wizard whispered into his ear.
"Okay," Harry said, wondering where exactly he would be at five o'clock.
"We're staging a strike until your boy is found," Arrows Seeker Stacey said boldly, the rest of the team behind her nodding in agreement. "We told Richard to shove it up his arse when he fired you."
"Reckon he's thinking a little differently now, eh?" Simon added with a smirk.
"He loves a good sob story," Harry admitted, thanking his team before hastily moving on.
Little to Harry's surprise, Luther Fallacks still lived with his mother.
Or, to be more accurate, his mother lived with him, but this was a distinction Harry didn't care to make. Standing in the middle of the main bedroom that he had just ransacked, Harry pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling terrible for breaking and entering into a home where an elderly lady sat in the sitting room, oblivious to the presence of her son's killer. Judging by her behaviour, Fallacks' absence from the home hadn't been unexpected...she appeared neither grieving nor worried. Guilt over what he had done found Harry praying the old lady was senile...that her son's death would have little impact. Criminal or not, Harry was sure she loved him.
Getting back on track, Harry looked around the main bedroom and small study desk, assessing the mess he had made. Every drawer had been removed and searched through, no evidence of Fallacks' crimes to be found. Harry had been there over an hour, and it was steadily approaching midday now, marking almost five hours since he and Ginny had visited the Ministry that morning. What was Teddy's kidnapper doing now? Was he making plans to return Teddy? Was he dropping him off at a Muggle Police Station and then bolting? A familiar bout of nausea struck him as he considered the other possibilities, that the Death Eaters might have been quicker than he anticipated. By now they could have killed Teddy, if that was their wish.
How would they do it? Harry constantly wondered. Was there a kind way of killing a child? They wouldn't hurt him too badly, they wouldn't make him suffer the way they would if they were killing Harry...Teddy was just a child. He hadn't wronged them...they'd be kind in their murderous actions. Harry was going to go crazy if he kept thinking like that.
This thought spurring him on, Harry turned around to the bed that he had already removed the sheets from. Picking up the mattress he flipped it off the bed and onto the floor, assessing the underside before looking at the floor beneath. Shifting aside the wooden slats of the bed, he looked at the carpeted floor underneath, his eyes scanning for any discrepancies that might indicate the carpet had been pulled up. He'd done that in his cupboard at Privet Drive, hidden the spelling certificate he had been given in primary school. But the carpet was intact, giving away no information.
Restlessly climbing over the dozens of books on wandlore and Dark Magic, Harry left the main bedroom and closed the door behind him, locking it firmly. He crept down the hallway and into the bedroom belonging to Fallacks' mother, peering inside. It was inconsequential, and Harry knew just on instinct that there was nothing for him to find in there. Creeping back down the hallway, he slipped into the shared bathroom and headed for the medicine cabinet, wondering if there was anything of interest in there. The cabinet was neatly organised, divided into spaces for Fallacks' mother and himself. Ignoring her medication and toiletries, Harry's attention went straight for the familiar flask of potion, not at all surprised to see Fallacks' name on it.
Being treated for depression was almost unheard of in the wizarding world, but Harry was all too familiar with the particular potion Fallacks had been prescribed. Nevertheless, Harry hadn't taken it for nearly three years, since he had signed on with the Arrows...it would have shown up on his drug test screens, and he had been too ashamed to admit that he was taking it. Putting the potion back, he closed the cabinet and looked around the bathroom in annoyance, wishing that there was something there for him to find.
A sudden sound startled Harry, making him jump as he felt the mobile phone in his pocket begin to vibrate and ring. Fumbling to take it out of his pocket, he cast a Silencing charm on the bathroom, lest Fallacks' mother hear the intruder in the house. His heart raced as he looked at the undisclosed number that the screen showed, taking a deep breath before answering it...this was them...the Death Eaters were calling to tell him what was next. They'd negotiate Teddy's return.
"Hello?" Harry said urgently, his voice shaking.
"Bless the sweet baby Merlin!" the unexpected voice cried down the line.
"Ron?" he said in astonishment. "Ron, are you alright?"
There was crazed laughter echoing down the line before he answered. "Do you know how hard it is to hitchhike when you look like me?" Ron asked. "It's hard mate."
Harry swore. "Where are you?" he said firmly, still shocked to hear from him...the last time Harry had seen him had been atop Azkaban, worried that his friend would be thrown off the roof.
"It's a pub! In Newtonhill, on the coast just south of Aberdeen...it's really cold up here mate," Ron commented with a thinly veiled hint.
"I'll be there in five minutes," Harry promised, hanging up the telephone.
Rushing to leave, he slipped out of the bathroom and down the stairs, Confounding Mrs Fallacks when she saw him exiting through the front door. Seeing that the street was empty, he apparated immediately, trying to concentrate on the location of Newtonhill that he had never visited, and he prayed he arrived in the right place. Ron wasn't lying when he said that it was cold, and when he arrived on the quiet street he immediately pulled up the collar of his cloak. A Muggle had seen him arrive, having been watching the street from inside her shop, and Harry's eyes seemed to immediately fall on her. Tackling her surprise head on, he rushed across the street and pushed open the door to her shop, which was full of strongly scented soaps...with a fleeting thought he thought Ginny probably would have liked it.
"Quoiters?" Harry asked abruptly.
His sharp manner seemed to shock the shop keeper more than his sudden appearance out of thin air, for she now looked disgruntled rather than surprised.
"Down that way...turn left two blocks down."
Harry left without thanking her, rushing back into the cold and setting off at a run. The concrete path was slippery with snow and ice, and he nearly knocked someone over in his haste to reach the left turn he had been instructed to take. Was Ron alright? Was this a trap, was Harry being lured there under the pretence of meeting Ron? Either way, he needed to find Ron, and quickly...there was so much to ask, so much to tell. Ron knew who had taken Teddy, Harry was sure of it. He came to a slow stop, the cold air searing his lungs as he looked around for the pub. Had he gone past it? Had he taken the right turn?
"Hey," Harry said urgently, approaching a heavily cloaked teenager. "Quoiters? The pub? Where is it?"
The teenager raised his eyebrows at Harry. "Wrong direction...turn around and keep going that way. You'll find it."
Cursing the shop keeper who had sent him in the wrong direction, Harry turned around and headed back the way he had come, running twice as hard. He reached the pub in a few minutes, the big wooden sign that hung above the door telling him he'd come to the right place. Pushing the door open, Harry had never been more pleased to smell stale beer and old cigarettes, the stagnant aroma welcoming him inside with warm arms. Immediately he spotted Ron, who was sitting at the bar trying to convince the tender to give him a drink.
"Where the hell have you been?" Harry said loudly, marching over.
Ron swore in utter relief, seeing Harry approaching. He slid off his barstool, showing Harry just how weary and battered he was.
"Prison has not done well for your demeanour," Ron commented with a grin, embracing Harry tightly.
"Where have you been?" Harry demanded, ignoring Ron's smart remarks. Releasing him, Harry looked him up and down, scrutinising his messy jeans and thin jumper that hadn't helped keep him warm. There were a few spots of blood on his collar, and his upper lip was split and bruised. "What happened?"
Sighing, Ron rubbed his eyes and looked back to the bar longingly. "Beer?"
Ron was already setting off to the bar before Harry could answer, settling himself down in front of the peanuts and pulling out the stool beside him. Harry joined him as the barman came over, slinging a grubby tea towel over his shoulder.
"Have you got erm...any hot beer?" Ron asked, wondering if there was a Muggle equivalent of Butter Beer.
"Mulled Mead is what we got," the barman said patiently.
Harry rolled his eyes, knowing what Ron really wanted, but was too considerate to order in front of Harry. "We'll have bourbon," Harry requested. "Two, thanks."
Ron looked at him in surprise, probably wondering how best to intervene. "You don't drink bourbon, right?"
"I deserve it," Harry said sharply, ignoring his look of concern. The barman wordlessly poured them both a drink, which Harry took gratefully and clinked against Ron's. "Cheers."
Without waiting, Harry drank it down with a grimace. He had always hated the taste of cheap bourbon.
Ron rushed to follow him, finishing with a pained groan. "Bloody Bellatrix Lestrange," he swore loudly, not caring who heard him. "She got out, didn't she," he confirmed bitterly. "Didn't she?"
"She's meant to be dead!" Harry snapped, putting down the glass loudly and requesting another. "She's meant to be in the middle of the North Sea!"
The bar man gave them both strange looks as he overheard their conversation, refilling their empty glasses before making a subtle retreat.
"I know," Ron apologised, avoiding Harry's gaze. "I thought she was."
"Yeah? Who told you that? Your good friend, Luther Fallacks?"
"Who else got out?" Harry demanded angrily, needing someone else to blame. "Who else was meant to be dead?"
"I don't know."
Harry took a slow breath, picking up his glass again. "Cheers, then," he said sarcastically. "To Bellatrix."
They drank to Bellatrix Lestrange, the woman who was supposed to be dead and gone. Putting their empty glasses down, Harry requested a third.
"So what happened to you?" Ron asked, indicating to the bruises on Harry's face.
"Luther Fallacks," he replied bitterly.
"What happened?" Ron asked innocently, not knowing that he had tried to double cross the Death Eaters.
"Nothing, we sorted it out."
Ron nodded, considering his next drink. "I heard him talking the other night at Azkaban...reckons he was going to try and steal Voldemort's wand off you. Wouldn't listen when I told him you got rid of it."
Harry nodded, but this instilled no confidence in Ron.
"Did he come looking for it?"
Harry nodded again.
"But you got rid of it, right? The sword worked you said...years ago."
Hesitating, Harry removed the long wand from his pocket and showed it to Ron underneath the table. Ron visibly flinched when he saw it, leaning away a little.
"Fallacks won't be a problem anymore," Harry explained cryptically, praying that Ron wouldn't press him to explain.
"I see...who knows that he, erm...won't be a problem?"
Clearing his throat, Harry avoided eye contact and he picked up his third drink, considering it. "Your dad, and Ginny."
Harry shook his head, taking a deep breath before drinking it in one.
"That complicates things a little," Ron commented, sipping at his. "Who else knows where Teddy is?"
"The kidnapper," he said, glancing at Ron briefly. "You didn't happen to catch the radio this morning, did you?"
"Nope. They only let me go this morning...just suddenly came in and apparated me out of there, dumped me on the side of the road and told me to take a hike."
"Where were you?"
"Little Hangleton," he said with certainty. "The Riddle house...not very original in my opinion."
"Oh," Harry said, swallowing thickly. He called for another drink. "They kept you in a room?"
"Yeah, attic I reckon...tell you what that floor's bloody uncomfortable to lay on."
"Yeah, I know," Harry commented, feeling nauseated. Was it the memory of the torture he had faced in that house, or the three drinks on an empty stomach that made him feel ill? "You alright, though? They didn't-"
"Nah," he said straight away, knowing what Harry was getting at. "Nah, they wanted help with Azkaban, just someone to have as insurance I think. They questioned me a bit, but they didn't try anything."
"You're a horrible liar."
"I know," he said sheepishly.
"How did you end up there? Did you track down someone?"
"Yeah, sorta by accident," he smile grimly. "Was looking for Luther Fallacks..."
Harry considered this, wondering how he had managed that. The pitch in his voice told him that Ron was lying. "Where?"
Ron cleared his throat, another sign of deception. "His place, up in erm...Manchester."
Luther Fallacks lived in Tamworth...Harry had just been there. Anger simmered in his stomach...Ron was clearly deceiving him, trying to get something past him, and he had the suspicion he knew what it was. Just like everyone else seemed to, Ron knew who Teddy's kidnapper was.
"Ginny and I went public this morning," Harry said quietly. "Made a statement at the ministry."
"You what?" Ron said in astonishment. "At the ministry?"
"Yeah, Tim arranged a press conference for us. We told everything...left nothing out."
"What time was this?" Ron said in alarm.
"Seven this morning."
Ron let out a low whistle, grimacing. "That's just about when they went bat shit crazy," he commented. "Took me to the middle of nowhere and dumped me."
"Sorry about that."
"They must be panicking...what made you do that?"
He shrugged nonchalantly, pretending he knew everything. "We were trying to appeal to the kidnapper...we know he'll let Teddy go."
"Yeah," Harry nodded. "I know he will."
Ron stayed very quiet. He was smarter than people gave him credit for...he knew what Harry was trying to do.
"I'm not telling you who has him."
Downing the drink he had been nursing, Harry slammed it down angrily, all pretence gone. "Why the hell not?" he demanded loudly. "He's my son! I deserve to know what piece of shit Death Eater has him!"
"I don't know for sure," Ron said, trying to placate him.
"You do!" Harry accused, outraged. "You know, Ginny knows, Hermione knows, even Sirius bloody knows!"
"We don't know for sure."
"You're full of shit, and you know it," Harry concluded, resisting the desire to walk out and leave Ron there in the dingy pub, alone and wandless.
"It will only upset you," Ron said quietly after a long pause. "Besides, it won't help us find either of them."
"I still have the right to know. He's my son."
"No one is debating that. No one!" Ron said fiercely, his tone of absolute conviction startling Harry. Was someone debating it? Were they really trying to take Teddy for good, just as he had feared?
Breathing nervously, Harry motioned to the bar man for yet another drink, making this his fifth in their brief conversation.
"Don't you think you've had enough," Ron said in concern, highly uncomfortable by the fact that Harry was drinking hard liquor. That was fair enough, Harry thought to himself. After all, Ron and Seamus had been the ones taking him to St Mungos the night he had passed out and stopped breathing four years ago.
Taking a slow breath, Harry considered the fuzzy feeling he could feel all the way to his finger tips, the alcohol quickly absorbed by his empty stomach and gaping heart. The world was taking on the familiar fuzzy feeling around the edges, providing the sense of detachment and numb he was unconsciously seeking. He shouldn't be doing this...he knew that...getting drunk was not going to help Teddy. He'd only make things worse by doing this...he ought to stop.
"You know what, Ron?" he started sharply, picking up his glass and looking deep into it. "I've come to the conclusion that I don't drink enough."
Downing the drink, the placed the glass on the bar and called for another.
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