I blinked, looking at the constable who was staring at me with a concerned look.
"Are you okay?" he continued. "Nod if you can hear me."
"Good, good," he muttered as he looked around. "What a fucking mess."
I stared around me, numb to the moans and screams of the suffering. The street was littered with burning chunks of concrete, the air covered in dust and smoke. The constable had begun talking into his walkie-talker, probably to get reinforcements. Sure enough, a few moments later, sirens began masking the sounds of the suffering.
Taking a few tentative steps, I stared at the ruined building. I was about to make a run towards it when someone grabbed me from behind.
"Sir! Don't run in there! It's too dangerous!"
I just stared at the burning building, asking repeatedly—
"Why?" I asked frowning. "I mean, I don't think I'm doing a bad job."
From behind her desk, Hermione sighed as she massaged her temples. "It's not that you're doing a bad job, Ron, but people are already questioning your appointment."
I shrugged. "Let them talk. The Minister can appoint anyone they want as their aide, Hermione."
"That may be true, but I'm already facing solid opposition regarding my policies," she replied.
"So? This was your aim, wasn't it? To change how Magical Britain works?"
She frowned. "Yes, but these changes need a lot more time than I anticipated. I'm doing things too quickly and it's showing. The Families that supported me during the campaign are slowly moving away. I had hoped that having you, a member of a more moderate Pureblood Family with me, would show I wasn't going to just run roughshod over them. Apparently, that's not enough."
"Then tell them where to shove it."
"I'm not going to rule like a tyrant, Ron," she said. "That will only divide us."
I snorted. "Have you seen the news lately? They are already calling you one."
"The media has their own agenda." She shrugged. "The more ridiculous stories they write about me, the more their bias shows itself to the people. However, if the Families don't support me, it doesn't matter how many laws I propose, they'll just vote it down."
"So the brilliant solution you came up with is to replace me?" I asked. "You know, if you wanted a younger, better looking husband, there is such a thing as divorce."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes, that's the reason why I'm replacing you as my aide. In fact, I have the divorce papers right here. Want to sign it so we can move on with our lives?"
I chuckled. "Nah. Not until I get to replace you with a younger, prettier woman."
"There is no such thing."
"Hmm, you want to bet on that?"
Both of us smiled until Hermione shook her head. "In all seriousness," she began, "assigning a member of a more traditional Pureblood Family will calm them down. Also, I think letting you go will be good for you."
"Hmm? What makes you say that?"
"Well, how about the fact that you're bored with this job?" I was about to protest when she raised her hand. "Don't bother, Ron. You've been restless the past few months." She frowned. "I know the only reason you didn't return to the Auror Corps after helping out George with his shop was because I asked."
"You mean ordered, right?" She stared at me, making me raise my hands in defense. "Fine, fine. Asked. Look, I understand. You didn't want to raise Rose or Hugo alone if anything happened to me." I smiled. "I'm not holding that against you."
"And I'm very grateful. However, with Rose already working here and Hugo graduating in a few years, I think it's time for you to go back to what you love."
"Quidditch?" I asked.
That got her to snort. "Aren't you a little old for that now?"
"See, I knew you wanted someone younger."
"Oh shut up, prat," she growled.
I grinned as I approached her. "Well, I hope the Corps will still allow me in. Being an Auror is also a young man's job."
"I'm sure they'll find use of a decrepit wizard like you," she replied, staring at me with a girly smile. That was all that I needed to see as I bent down and met her lips with mine. Her scent, her taste, was still as intoxicating as ever.
"This decrepit wizard can still put you on top of this desk and have his way with you," I replied after we separated. "In fact… we haven't made love on top of the Minister's desk yet, have we?" I wiggled my eyebrows. "Should we try?"
She barked a joyous laugh. "Behave, Mister Weasley."
"And what will you offer to make me behave, Minister?"
"Well, I do have something planned for us tonight."
I kissed her again. "Why delay something when we can do it right now?" I countered.
The door suddenly opened, revealing a young redhead carrying several bundles of parchment. "Minister," she greeted before noticing our positions. She only raised an eyebrow before quickly shutting the door behind her in a hurry. "Really, Mom, Dad?"
I groaned, giving Rose a small glare before looking back at Hermione. "It seems your next appointment has arrived, Minister."
She just gave me a victorious, knowing smile. "Yes, it seems that way, Mr. Weasley. Do hold that thought, though, and we can discuss it in a more thorough manner tonight."
I straightened up. "I will be looking forward to it, then."
"I don't want to hear about this," Rose called, making me roll my eyes.
"What are you on about?" I asked as I began walking to her. "You don't even live with us anymore."
"Just go, Dad," she replied, shaking her head. As I passed by her, she added, "Oh, and if you see Hugo, tell him to behave."
I blinked, looking at Rose, and then at Hermione. My wife's eyes widened. "Oh, is that today?"
"What?" I asked, confused.
"The Ministry of Magic Tour," Rose answered as she made her way in front of the Minister's desk. "You know, to educate and encourage the younger generation to work for the Ministry?"
"So they can become boring adults like you two?" I asked.
Rose just rolled her eyes while Hermione looked at me sharply. "Boring? Really?" she questioned.
"I call it as I see it," I replied with a shrug.
"Oh you're going to get it tonight," Hermione said in a heated voice that made my imagination run wild. "That's a promise."
"Are you two still discussing this?" Rose asked exasperatedly.
I just gave my wife a wink and kissed my daughter on the cheek—
—before exiting the office. Greeting a few more Ministry workers, I made my way to the elevator and traveled to the entrance hall.
As I passed by the new fountain, remodeled during Shacklebolt's run as Minister, I noticed a somewhat large group of people wearing Hogwarts uniforms. Leading them was a professor whose name I couldn't quite remember. I gave her a nod, which she returned with a small smile. I scanned their faces, looking for that distinct red hair.
When I finally saw him, I greeted, "Hugo!"
His eyes widened and a smile formed on his face. "Hey, Dad! There—"
"—you are, Weasley."
I spun sharply, wand ready, pointing at the feminine figure waiting by the door. My eyes squinted, trying to make out more details. Really shouldn't have downed that fifth shot of Firewhisky. Then again, I didn't expect a guest this late.
"What squalor," she said, walking right in without a care in the world. "I didn't think your standards would drop this dramatically, Weasley."
As she got closer, my eyes widened once I recognized her. "What the hell are you doing here, Greengrass?" I demanded.
"Looking for you, obviously." Daphne Greengrass paused, sniffing in disgust. "What is that stench? Have you even bathed in the past month?"
"No," I replied.
She shook her head looking at the room I'd been renting for the past couple of years. Her eyes traveled from my yellow-stained bed, to the growing pile of rotting garbage in one corner of the room, and the scattered clothing on the floor. "Disgusting."
"Is that all?" I asked with a growl. "If so, get out."
"Not even close, Weasley."
"Well, I say it is, so get your arse out of here," I growled.
"I told you this wouldn't work," another voice called from the door.
My mouth opened slightly as I saw another feminine figure enter my room. I glared at Greengrass incredulously and demanded, "What the bloody hell? I'm not saying this again. Out! Both of you!"
"Not until you listen to what I have to say," Greengrass replied coolly. She looked at the other figure and nodded. A wand popped out, making me aim mine at the new figure, only to be ignored as she cast a spell on the floor.
A faint, floral scent spread across the room as the garbage disappeared. At the same time, my clothes floated off the ground, dirt and grime slowly disappearing from the fabric. They then fell, perfectly folded onto my bed. Speaking of, the bed also had undergone a transformation. Not only was it now made, but the bedcover, blankets, and pillows had returned to their original colors. To be honest, it looked even better than when I had first moved in.
"Could have done that myself," I muttered.
Greengrass smirked. "Of course you could have," she replied sardonically. Turning to her companion, she said, "Tracy, a few chairs, please."
I blinked, looking at the other visitor in my room. After she conjured a trio of solid-looking chairs, she sat down in one of them, giving me a nervous smile and a wave of her hand in greeting. I was a little unsure how to reply, so I just raised my own before looking at Greengrass. She was making herself comfortable. I ignored the empty chair, and crossed my arms.
"For a man who wants to keep hidden," she began, "you made yourself surprisingly easy to find." She looked at her friend. "We need some privacy."
"Sure," was all Davis said before she closed the door and waved her wand again. The tell-tale sign of a privacy charm tingled in the air.
"You can put your wand down, Weasley," Greengrass said, making me frown.
"Why should I?" I shot back. "You just barged into my room, cast spells willy-nilly, and haven't bothered to tell me why you're here."
Greengrass smiled. "I'm here to make all your dreams come true."
I snorted. "Not interested. Go find someone more desperate if you want a bed-warmer."
I froze, my eyes widening as I straightened to my full height. "You… bitch," I snarled. "How fucking dare you?"
"So, you are interested," Greengrass replied, her grin widening.
I twirled my wand, a spell at the ready as I pointed it towards Greengrass. She didn't even blink, just stared at me challengingly. In fact, the only other action she took was extending her hand out towards the side. I idly noted that Davis was aiming her wand at me.
"Let me get to the point, Weasley," Greengrass continued. "I can get you Nott."
"I don't need your help," I growled.
"Of course you don't," she replied easily. "That's why you're here, in the deepest parts of Knockturn Alley, wasting away fighting petty criminals." She shook her head. "You will never get to him this way. He stopped hiding here almost a year after you arrived, and found himself a new sponsor. You're chasing a ghost."
"And how would you know?" I asked, lowering my wand.
"Because I have seen him," Greengrass replied with a cold smile. "Living in comfortable luxury, without a care in the world. Hailed as a hero for his actions. Protected from prosecution. Untouchable."
I approached her, fists shaking. "Not for long. Give me his location."
"You will never get to him, Weasley."
"You don't know me, Greengrass," I replied coldly.
"Everyone knows who you are," she replied easily. "And that's the problem. You go in there, wands blazing, and he'll vanish." She shook her head. "No. If you want to get to him, you need my help."
I stared at her for a moment before frowning. Then, before either could react, I shot a stunner at Davis. Her eyes widened for a split second before she slumped on her seat. At the same time, my free hand went for Greengrass' throat. She gasped softly as I squeezed. "How about you tell me where he is and I won't have to kill you?" I asked coldly.
To my surprise, she grinned. "Staying here made you ruthless. Good. You're going to need that."
I squeezed slightly harder, making her eyes bulge slightly and breaths shorten. "Answer me, Greengrass, or you will die."
"Without me," she wheezed, "you will never find him."
"But I do have you," I countered as I squeezed even harder, her hands gently grasped mine as her face became flushed. However, she stayed silent, staring at me defiantly. When I noticed the light in her eyes was slowly fading, I growled and let go.
She coughed roughly, one hand grasping the back of her chair, while the other brushed her throat. I slowly backed away, watching as she steadily recovered from her ordeal, a touch of guilt gnawing on me. It disappeared promptly when she looked at me, no accusation present in her expression, only a victorious smile.
"Does that mean we have an accord?" she asked roughly.
"Yes." After a moment, I added. "Why?"
She coughed again before slowly straightening up, looking like I didn't strangle her at all. "Why did I approach you? Or maybe why I want to give you Nott?"
She cleared her throat one last time before shaking her head. "It's simple. I want Nott taken out because his blatant actions have almost exposed our society to the muggles. As for why I approached you, it's even simpler. You want to avenge the murder of your wife and children. And you will do anything, suffer anything, to get what you want." She grinned again. "Am I wrong?"
I just stared at her before shaking my head. "No. You're not."
"Good," she said. "Now, revive Tracy so we can get out of this hovel. Then, we can start preparing you."
I pointed my wand at the fallen woman, frowning. "What do you have in mind?"
"—lick my feet."
"Excuse me?" I growled, staring at the bed where the sitting Greengrass had begun to remove her boots.
"I thought I spoke quite clearly," she replied.
"Oh, I heard what you just said," I said. "I'm just wondering why the bloody hell I would do that."
She nodded. "Good. An adverse reaction. This will be a good first step."
"Are you even listening, Greengrass?"
She just stared at me blankly. "Didn't you say you would do anything to learn my family's branch of Occlumency? This is how we'll do it."
I just returned her gaze, though a bit more harshly than hers. "You know what? That just about explains everything about you."
She just rolled her eyes. "We can't afford to do this normally. It would take years to develop a working persona that we can use to get you into Nott's circle. We can't afford to wait that long. You can't afford to wait that long."
I sighed, walking towards the only available chair in the room, which just so happened to be directly in front of her. She looked at me with a satisfied expression before she extended her leg. I stared at it for a moment before saying, "I'm going to cut that limb off, Greengrass. I'm not kidding."
She only raised an eyebrow before lowering the offending leg. "The longer we wait, the better Nott's chances at escape get."
"When I said I'd do anything to get to Nott, it didn't include indulging in your sick fantasies."
That got her laughing. "While it's true that I will enjoy seeing you, Potter's best friend and husband of the former Minister of Magic, debase himself in front of me, that's not the only reason." When I stayed quiet, she just sighed. "Should I explain?"
"Please," I said sarcastically. "I would love to see you reconcile Occlumency training with indulging your foot fetish."
"My family's version of Occlumency will allow you to create a mask, a persona to hide your true self."
I nodded impatiently. "Yes, you've explained that."
"Weasley, be quiet," she reprimanded. "Now, for that to happen, we need to put you in positions that would allow you to embrace acts and emotions you would normally be uncomfortable with. For example, having you put yourself in a demeaning position will not only embarrass you, but also make you feel a steady stream of anger."
I just stared at her before raising my hand. She rolled her eyes.
"Yes, Weasley?" she asked.
"I'm on a quest for vengeance, Greengrass. I have plenty of anger to spare."
"What you have is hatred for one specific person," she countered. "While you can use that as your Anchor to keep your true self, you cannot use it to face the circle he has surrounded himself with."
I released my breathe. "Greengrass… look. I'm not even a big believer of everything you just said. Having a different personality? I know Occlumency. It's a requirement of being an Auror."
"What you know is a very simple version that allowed you to stay relatively calm during work," she said, shaking her head. "Its main job was to help Aurors keep focused, professional, and mentally sharp. It only lessens the impact of high stress and the emotions it brings until you are back in a more normal situation. It's not as extensive or specialized as the one you're going to learn."
"So what?" I asked. "Why can't I keep using that?"
"Because, fool, it will be useless against those you're going to meet."
I snorted. "I can handle anything those bigots throw at me."
Greengrass stared at me for a moment before her expression suddenly transformed. Her eyes became cruel, her cheeks more animated, and she raised her hand as she laughed daintily. "My," she said, voice painted with utter arrogance and glee, "I'm so glad that mudblood Minister and her dirty spawns are dead!"
I felt myself burn up, hands shaking as they gripped my knees. I could only see red as I glared at her, half-tempted to bring out my wand.
Then, her expression returned to placid neutrality. "You just gave yourself away," she commented, her voice going back to normal.
"Bitch," I growled. "It proves nothing. You know what to say to set me off."
"And you think they won't?" she countered, raising an eyebrow. She sighed. "Weasley, do you have any idea of the people in Nott's new circle?"
I scoffed. "They are traditional Purebloods. Like you. I've dealt with people like them all the time."
"No, you fought them all the time," she responded. "Whether as an Auror, or on the opposite side of the negotiation table with your wife. You've never really mingled with them before."
"I remember attending one of Malfoy's Yule Parties," I corrected. "As a matter of fact, weren't you there as well?"
"You were only there to tweak my brother-in-law's nose," she came back. "It's not the same. Also, you are wrong. The people that will give us access to Nott aren't like the usual Families you've known. They are bigots, magical supremacists, and muggle haters that far surpass the previous Lord Malfoy." She stared at me. "That's who you are going to meet, mingle, laugh, drink, and become friends with."
I gritted my teeth. "So what? Give me some time. I'll be able to blend in."
"You will fail," she replied. "These people can smell dishonesty, especially when it comes to people who do not believe in their ideals. They are a careful bunch, always prodding and testing, watching your words and weighing it with your actions. Someone who doesn't believe what they do may parrot their words, copy their actions, but inevitably, they'll give themselves away."
I stared at her. "So, what, I have to be like one of them?"
"Not like," she corrected. "To be one of them. A person that would disgust you. A person who can easily curse your wife, demean your children, and disparage your in-laws. A monster you thought you will never be."
I frowned. "You want me to turn me to a Death Eater. By licking your feet."
She laughed. "The thought of it really does bother you, huh, Weasley?" Then, her face turned neutral once more. "To answer you, no. I am not going to turn you to a Death Eater. That in itself is impossible."
"What do you mean? That's what you were building up to, isn't it? To turn me into a monster?"
She shook her head. "You must be incredibly naive to only equate Death Eaters with monsters. In the grand scheme of things, they were nothing but people who could only truly be themselves when wearing their skull paraphernalia, hiding only with a thin veneer of civility without it. You will never be that. You will be worse."
I stared at her for a moment, chewing on her words. "Is that even possible?" I asked softly. "To change that much?"
"Yes," she replied. "In fact, you already have taken the first step by living in Knockturn for three years." She grinned. "Or are you going to forget that you were willing to strangle a defenseless woman for answers?"
I looked away. "I'm—"
"Don't," she interrupted. "You need to embrace that part of you as well. Tracey will help on that account."
"How?" I snorted. "By licking her nose or something?"
"By the time I'm done with you, you will feel slighted, angry, and humiliated. You will take it out on her."
I turned to her immediately, mouth opening. "W—what?!"
"For the next few months," she replied, "I will do my utmost to anger you, to embarass you, and to let you live the shame of being a dog underneath my heel. And Tracy will do her best to tempt you to release any frustrated emotions I have created. You will lash out at her, hurt her, humiliate her, and learn the joy of having someone under your power."
My eyes widened, looking at her once more in shock. She didn't even bat an eyelash. "I… I can't do that," I said.
"Turning someone into a monster is never easy," she replied. "Yet, this is the best way to get to Nott. So, ask yourself, Weasley… how far will you go to get to him?"
I paused, looking beyond Greengrass.
Hermione. Hugo. Rose.
"As far as it takes," I said after a while.
She raised her leg again, I only stared at it for a moment before grabbing hold of it. I bent forward, steeling myself, when she suddenly called my name.
"Weasley, for now, focus on your emotions. Recognize them. All of it."
I looked at her creamy white legs, the skin supple and soft to the touch. I took a breath, imagining what I was supposed to do. I felt my ears go red, an uncomfortable pinch at the bottom of my stomach, and beyond that, something more.
"Good. Delve inwards. Savor it. Embrace it."
As I bent down further and did what I was told. Concentrate. Focus.
I took a breath.
Remember who you are.
"Mudbloods. They all squeal the same. Don't they, Reginald?"
"It gets a little boring to be honest, Theodore."
No. You are not Reginald Warbeck. Remember the fire. Who you lost.
"And what will you offer to make me behave, Minister?"
"Well, I do have something planned for us tonight."
"Dad! There you are! Meet my girlfriend—"
I am Ronald Bilius Weasley.
And I finally caught the son of a bitch.
My nightmare of a year as one of them was finally over. Memories of being introduced by Greengrass to Nott's circle flashed in my head. The months of mingling, meeting, even working with them. Disparaging muggles. Cursing my wife. Participating in their sick hunts. However, it was worth it. I had been finally able to meet Nott, and after few more months of getting closer to him, I caught him in the open.
Looking at him, tied to a chair, resting peacefully, I clenched my fists. He looked far too comfortable for my liking.
Calm down, Weasley. Plan it out. Do it properly. This is bigger than him after all.
Still, this was going to be fun.
Pointing my wand at him, I conjured water and sprayed his face. Nott spluttered, being jolted out of his sleep. He blinked blearily for the first few seconds, trying to focus. When he saw me, he frowned, confused.
"Reginald? What happened?" he asked.
"Awake?" I asked in a tone that held no amusement or the friendliness he was used to. His confused expression turned to surprise before he began to struggle in his bonds. Then it transformed to annoyance and anger.
"Why am I tied up?" he demanded.
"Good," I replied, ignoring his questions. "It was a little boring waiting for you to wake up, Nott. Almost bored me to death really. Hope you didn't mind cutting your nap short."
"What the hell are you talking about? Reginald, what happened last night? And cut me loose already!"
I placed my thumb underneath my chin. "What happened last night? Simple. I invited you to drinks, added a dab of sleeping drought to yours, and let you drink yourself into a stupor. Then, I was able to convince everyone else that you were drunk off your arse and offered to take you home." I grinned. "If I knew how easy it was to capture you, I would have done it much earlier."
"You've made the biggest mistake of your life, Reginald," Nott declared, gritting his teeth. "You think they won't find out that you took me? They will hunt you down!"
"How?" I asked, honestly curious. "Do you think I actually had a permanent residence? I've cleaned out all the apartments you and your friends have visited. They won't find anything but bare rooms and dust."
"Greengrass will sell you out," he declared.
That amused me a bit. "Oh, will she?"
"If she knows what's good for her," Nott growled. "She introduced you, so it's her responsibility! Even if you hide from her, she will track you down. Her reputation and life are on the line!"
I nodded before making my way towards the table beside him. "Well, you would be right. If we were actually missing."
"What are you talking about?!"
I grabbed the latest newspaper from the table, unfolded it, and showed it to him. His eyes, if possible, widened even more.
"Wha—what the hell is this!?" he almost shouted.
I took the paper back and scanned through the front page myself. "See what a good polyjuice can do?" I asked, smiling at the image of Reginald Warbeck and Theodore Nott pictured in the toerag, looking very dead. "I thought it would be a little hard to convince people to take on our looks, but I suppose if you're looking to disguise yourself into someone else to commit a crime, you wouldn't be particularly choosy where the hairs came from."
He shook his head. "That won't work. The potion will wear off, and they'll realize the truth!"
"Oh, but you forget how notorius you are with the Ministry," I countered, folding the newspaper again before dropping it to the floor. "They just cremated our bodies. Apparently, they want to put everything behind them." My grin widened as I watched him go pale. "Oh, good. You realize the implications."
"You think that will work?" he asked hesitantly. "You know my friends, Warbeck! They won't believe this farce so easily!"
I nodded. "Oh, I agree. Maybe they won't buy it. However, it'll take a while before they can start moving. And you know what that gives me? Time, Nott. Time with you alone."
I approached him, hands roaming over his thighs. He flinched immediately, trying to get away, only to fail.
"I know what you're thinking," I continued. "What do I have plans for you? Will I hurt you? Will I be gentle, but touch you where you don't want to be touched by another man? Would you start enjoying my touch, or maybe the feeling of being helpless? Or would it torture you, especially when I start going to more intimate places?"
"Stop it! Get away from me!" he shouted.
I barked out a laugh. "Let me put you at ease, Nott. I'm not into guys. However, that's not a comfort, is it? If I'm not going to violate you that way, it can only mean one thing." I went for my inner robe pocket and pulled out a wicked-looking knife. "I'm going to hurt you. Hurt you so bad you will beg for death. But I won't grant it. You don't deserve something as painless as that. No. I will keep you alive for years to come. And I will enjoy every scream you offer me."
"What do you want!?" he shouted hysterically. "What the hell do you want, Warbeck!?"
I was about to reply when I felt my whole body jerk and tingle. I smiled. "Good timing," I said instead. "I guess it's been an hour already."
"What are you—?" and he stopped when I began changing in front of his eyes. His eyes widened as more of my true features began to emerge. He began shaking his head. "No. Weas—no! No, no, no!"
"You asked what I wanted, didn't you, Nott?" I asked as I stood up straight, my true height finally becoming more obvious. "I want my wife and children back, you son of a bitch."
He couldn't even speak, just trembled, staring at me.
"Four years trying to hunt you down," I began with a low tone. "So much time wasted, doing nothing but imagining what I would do once I caught you."
"You… no, you won't do anything," Nott said. "You won't do anything to me! What will they say if they could see you now?! Your wife? Your children? Potter!?"
"Trying to appeal to my better nature, Nott?" I asked, twirling the knife, making him flinch. "Maybe you would've been right… if I caught you years ago. Except you had to run, didn't you? You had to make me chase you. I stayed in Knockturn Alley, looking for you. Living with those scums… they can change a man."
I opened my free palm and placed the knife edge to my skin.
I didn't let him finish as I slowly scored my skin, cutting it open with the fine blade. I didn't flinch at the pain, just widened my smile as I felt my blood run down.
Huh. Watching him pale, an expression of horror erasing his look of confusion, I decided that Greengrass was right. The willingness to do a little self-harm made their imagination go very dark places.
"After all, if you were willing to do that to yourself, how much worse would you inflict on them?"
He screamed when I wiped my hand on his face, drenching him with my blood. "Weasley, wait!" he shouted, moving his head, trying to get away from my hand.
"I should start with the fingers," I began. "My wife always said that there were numerous nerve endings there. It doesn't take much damage to cause a lot of pain. That's a good thing, I suppose. After all, I want to keep you alive for a very long time."
"Wait! Wait! Please!" he begged.
"However that doesn't seem fitting to such an esteemed Pureblood such as yourself," I continued, ignoring him as I placed a thumb under my chin again before snapping my fingers. "Ah! Now there's a nice idea."
I moved away from him, give him some breathing room as I made my way to the table. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him watch me with trepidation as I raised a rug beater. Then, I kneeled besides my traveling trunk and rummaged inside to find a tray of eggs. I nodded absently as I took one of them out with my free hand, and walked back at him.
"How about this, Nott?" I asked as I showed him the egg with my palm open underneath it. Without waiting for him to answer, I snapped the rug beater down and crushed the egg completely, making sure I held my hand in an angle so its contents would jump at his face.
He cried out, flinching away. I just stayed silent, watching him shiver and pale even more when he realized what I meant. "You—" he faced me, eyes so wide I could see all the whites "—you can't mean… no…"
"Justice is balance," I replied, keeping my face as stony as possible. "You stole my future. So, I will steal yours."
As I neared, he began to shake the whole chair, trying to get out, his tears falling freely.
"Shh," I said softly, gently as I slapped his face gently, smearing the remaining eggshells on his cheek. "Don't worry. I won't be that quick. After all, you and your friends taught me that lesson. Anything a Pureblood does should be done slowly, to fully relish and savor the moment. So, Nott, let's enjoy it. After all, ending your line should be something to celebrate."
"Weasley, please, I'll give you anything!" he begged.
"And what can you give me at this point, Nott?" I asked with a dismissive tone.
"M-my sponsors! All of them!" he stammered out quickly.
There we go. Push a bit more, Weasley.
"And why would I be interested in them, Nott?" I slapped the rug beater at the left arm rest, barely missing his arm. "They haven't really done anything but hide you."
"Because they are the ones that planned the whole destruction of the Ministry building!" he screamed. "Them! They are the ones that killed your wife and children!" He sobbed. "Please! They made the plans! They gave me that muggle bomb! They even arranged for my interview with her so I could smuggle it in! They made it all possible!"
I got him! And I also got them! A vicious grin threatened to appear on my face, but before I could say anything, a powerful red light shot by me, hitting Nott like a ton of bricks. He flew quite a distance before landing back-first, unconscious.
My wand was already at the ready when I twisted around to see—
"Greengrass?" I said, eyes widening before noticing a robed figure beside her. The shape of the robes hinted that their occupant was male, but any other discerning features were hidden by the clothes and the shadow made from his hood. I narrowed my eyes. "Are you finally going to betray me?"
The robed figure seemed to pause at that, turning to Greengrass with an interrogative stance. Greengrass just shrugged.
"He's naturally distrustful of me," she replied.
"After what you did to him, I'm not surprised," the robed figure spoke in a very familiar voice. "The way he acts makes him almost unrecognizable."
"Isn't that what you wanted?"
"Not to this extent, but there's no use arguing." Before I could confront him with my suspicion, he removed his hood, revealing a weathered, spectacled face of my best friend. "Ron, mate. It's been a while."
"Harry…" I said softly. I was about to lower my wand but changed my mind. "Who tried to feed you a love potion during our sixth year."
"Really?" he replied in disbelief before pointing to Greengrass. "You ask that in her presence?"
"Why would answering that worry you, Potter?" Greengrass asked with a shrug. "Hogwarts was more than a few decades ago. Whoever it was, she has either married or is already dead."
"I don't like giving you anymore ammunition, Greengrass," Harry-maybe replied.
"You gave me your best friend," Greengrass replied as they began to walk towards me.
"I lent him to you," he corrected. Eyes narrowing, I prepared to shoot a spell when he looked at me. "Vane. Using chocolate cauldrons if I remember correctly. Hermione gave me a warning so I avoided any of her gifts, and like a greedy prat, you ate it."
"You should have thrown them away then, arsehole," I replied with a smile forming on my face. When we were close enough, we hugged each other fiercely.
"I missed you, mate," he said softly, squeezing me.
I didn't say anything, just squeezed in kind. After a few moments, we let go and he looked at me, top to bottom.
"Christ, you look better than I thought," he said.
"I'm pretty sure Ginny wouldn't want to hear you checking someone else out," I replied, making him snort. "What's going on?"
"Conclusion of a business transaction," Greengrass replied. Glancing at her, I was surprised to see her looking somewhat impatient. She turned to Harry. "I expect my payment, Potter."
Harry looked annoyed as he dug through his robe pocket, and pulled out a rather hefty bag that jingled with the sound of coins. "I'm having second thoughts giving you this, especially after what you put him through."
Greengrass snatched the bag. "You wanted someone that could get into their crowd. You got him."
"Don't make me regret this, Greengrass," he replied.
The woman shrugged before looking at me, a ghost of a smile appearing on her face. "Weasley," she called before approaching me. Before I realized her intentions, she had leaned forward and kissed me gently on the lips before turning to walk away. "When you need to work with me again, you know how to find me," she called over her shoulder.
Both of us watched her walk steadily towards the shadows before disappearing completely. I glanced at Harry, watching his shoulders drop and expression turn grim.
"I'm sorry, Ron," he said softly.
I frowned. "Before I punch you, what exactly did you pay her for?"
"To find you when you dropped off the face of Britain four years ago," he replied, making me raise an eyebrow. "To train you to infiltrate their crowd. And to help you get Nott."
"Five thousand galleons."
"You were cheated," I replied. Before he could respond, I cocked my fist, and hit him solidly at the stomach. Air rushed out of his lips in a groan as he doubled over. He rubbed his belly before looking at me, a weak smile on his face.
"I deserved that," he coughed out.
"She made me her plaything, Harry. What the bloody hell were you thinking involving me with her?!"
He straightened up with a sigh before saying, "I was trying to help you as much as possible. Tore me apart when I couldn't even properly answer you during their funeral."
"You were an Auror," I said, shaking my head. "You think I wouldn't understand why you couldn't help at the time?" Then I paused before adding, "Are you still in the Corps?"
"No," he confirmed. "Haven't been an Auror for more than three years now."
"Good," I said with a huff. "Won't have to report you then."
"Like you actually would," he replied with a chuckle.
I laughed a bit as well before sighing myself. "You didn't have to quit because of me, mate."
"Ron, I didn't quit the Corps because of you. I quit because the department was getting politicized again."
"And now you're in what Department?" I asked.
He raised an eyebrow. "What makes you think that I'm working in another?"
"Uniform," I pointed out. "Your robe may not have any distinguishing patterns, but it adheres a little too closely to the dress code."
He blinked before smiling. "You're getting better with the uptake."
"Thank Greengrass," I replied. "Observe, think, act. She basically imprinted those three on me by constantly testing me. And if I couldn't read her subtle moods when she wanted me to, she would, well… you probably know."
He looked down. "Yeah," he whispered. "I swear, she seemed to take intense pleasure in telling me what she was doing to you." He then looked back at me. "I work in another Department. Been around since the founding of the Ministry, and was restructured following the Nott Incident. We work in secret. So secret that not even the top officials in the Ministry are completely aware of what we do. Less politics that way."
"And you couldn't find me yourself, recruit me so they could train me instead of selling me out to her?" I asked.
He shook his head. "We don't have enough resources to do the usual recruitment and training like the Corps. Instead, we look for potential agents that are already trained and have talents. As you were then, you wouldn't have been allowed through the interview."
"Yet they were able to give you five thousand galleons to have someone else do it for them?" When he smiled guiltily, I narrowed my eyes. "Harry… it's not—"
"The Department's money?" he interrupted. "No. Not a knut."
I frowned. "Ginny is going to kill us, you know that, right?"
He just laughed. "I'll just tell her I used the family money to find your sorry arse. That way, she could kill you instead." He looked away. "Look, mate, I'm sorry about Greengrass, but she was the only one willing to find you and train you. She also was the cheapest."
I sighed again. "You offered her that amount, didn't you?"
He nodded warily. "Yes. How'd you know?"
"She would have done it for free," I replied. "She only wanted to see a hero's best friend beneath her. The money you gave her was probably just a bonus. In a way, she screwed with us both."
Harry looked at where Greengrass had left, shaking his head. "Not even a day and it's biting me in the arse."
"Slytherins," I mentioned.
"Too bloody right," he replied.
I snorted, but otherwise, stayed quiet to let Harry stew a bit. After a good while, I changed the subject. "So… if you're here, that means you think I'm ready for that interview."
"You're kidding, right?" he asked, motioning towards Nott. "In just a year, you were able to capture a wanted man who had successfully hidden from both the muggle and magical government for more than four years. At the same time, you were able to be part of his group, a very private bunch of people, and got close enough to their inner circle. And lastly, you were able to terrorize him, to make him give up his sponsors, with nothing more than threats and a fake newspaper."
He bent down and took the discarded toerag, unfolding it, and showing me the inside, which was devoid of any articles.
"I didn't like how Greengrass trained you, but there's no arguing the results," he finished. "You're more than ready to join the Unspeakables as a Field Agent."
"Unspeakables?" I asked, blinking. "The department that couldn't stop a bunch of Hogwarts students from infiltrating their offices?"
He winced before laughing. "Yeah… like I said, restructured and improved."
I gave him a small smile before shaking my head. "Would they even accept me, Harry? You… you don't know the things I've done."
He looked at me steadily in the eyes. "I do. I've been following your exploits, filing in the details at the Department to give you some sort of resume and credibility. I know you tried to keep the casualties to a the minimum."
"Tried and failed," I replied. "I hurt people. I allowed more to get killed. And worse, I'm not feeling that guilty about it."
"You'll fit in well with the Infiltrators," he said, smiling sadly.
"Collectively, spies and people that run operations that aren't necessarily on the up-and-up. Criminals, in every sense of the word, but on our side."
"Are you one as well?" I asked, curious.
"Nope," he replied. "I'm a Hitter, the one they call in if they need heavy spell power." He grinned. "It's funny. Most Infiltrators are Slytherins. You'll probably be the first Gryffindor to join them."
I scowled. "That doesn't make me feel any better." I looked at the unconscious Nott. "Still, a group of criminals, huh? I might as well fit in." Staring at my best friend with a wry grin, I asked, "Disappointed on how I turned out?"
He straightened up. "Ron, you did what you had to do. I didn't like some of it, but I understood. That's why I want you with me. The Department can offer you additional resources to help you catch those that hurt and killed our family. And with those resources, you can also reduce the number of victims while on the job." He looked at the unconscious Nott. "Catching Nott alive, to learn what he knows, will potentially save thousands of lives and rest the souls of those that they have killed." Then he glanced back at me. "So, what do you say, Ron? Can I have my best friend, fighting beside me once more?"