A/N – Buried Secrets is set in the same universe as Femme Fatale and takes place about two years later. I would recommend reading Femme Fatale first, as it explains the dynamics of the characters and there are a few mentions of the case they solved in that story.
As for this story, it has 18 chapters, including the prologue and epilogue and updates will be Tuesday and Thursday. In these stories things happened pretty much the same as in the books, but there is a character alive in this story that died in the books. However, when I checked Femme Fatale there was no mention of their fate so I was able to include them as they're vital to the story. I hope people enjoy this story.
Cho Chang was in a hopeful mood as she headed towards the cottage belonging to the former Minister of Magic, Millicent Bagnold. Cho was meeting the former Minister to discuss her time in charge of the wizarding world for a new book she was writing. Six months ago, Cho had been commissioned to write a book about Britain's most memorable Ministers for Magic. The project had interested Cho as she specialised in writing about wizarding history, but so far she'd experienced a bit of a mixed bag when it came to her research.
Some of the former Ministers were long dead, but she'd had varied experiences with those that still lived. Some had been interesting and full of stories she could include in her book, whereas some had been terrible bores and said very little of interest. One of the worst offenders had been the last person Cho had interviewed, Cornelius Fudge. Fudge was still bitter over the way he'd lost his job, and even though he'd presided over an eventful time in the wizarding world, all he was interested in talking about was himself and his own misfortunes.
Cho was hoping Millicent Bagnold would be better, especially as she'd also presided over an interesting period of history. Millicent had been Minister for Magic when Voldemort had fallen for the first time. She'd then witnessed some of the most fascinating criminal cases in history as several of Voldemort's Death Eaters had been caught and tried following his disappearance.
When Cho reached the cottage of the former Minister her first impressions were positive. Despite Millicent's increasing age, she still seemed sprightly and there was an intelligent spark in her eyes. Greeting Cho warmly, Millicent ushered her into the front room and they settled down on chintzy armchairs to talk. Millicent already had a pot of tea and a selection of cakes on the table between the two chairs, so there would be no need for either of them to get up for a while.
"Thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me," Cho said as Millicent poured two cups of tea.
"It's my pleasure," Millicent replied. "It's not often I get to talk about my days as Minister. My family have heard all my stories before, so they're just not interested these days."
"I'm definitely interested in your stories," Cho said brightly. "Do you mind if I record our conversation?" she asked as she removed a magical recorder from her bag. "I don't like to misquote people, so this way I can make sure I'm telling the right story."
"You can do whatever you wish, Miss Chang," Millicent replied.
"Call me Cho," Cho said as she set up the recorder on the table in between them. She would also make notes, but the recording would help her when it came to actually writing the chapter on Millicent Bagnold.
"So Cho, where do you want me to begin?" Millicent asked as she settled back in her chair with her cup of tea.
"That's usually up to the people I take to," Cho replied. "Some people prefer to just talk, while others would rather I asked questions."
"How about I tell you about my time as Minister, and then you can ask any questions on anything you want to know more about," Millicent suggested.
"That sounds like an excellent idea," Cho said with a smile, already confident that Millicent was about to become her most interesting chapter to date.
For the next hour Millicent Bagnold turned back the clock and relived her heady days as Minister of Magic. Her time in charge had been eventful and she regaled Cho with numerous stories. She fondly recalled the people she worked with, and the good friends she'd made while working at the Ministry. And of course she discussed what it was like to be in charge during the first fall of Voldemort, and the subsequent changes in the wizarding world.
"Do you have any regrets about your time in charge?" Cho asked once Millicent had finished talking.
"I wouldn't say it was a regret about my time in charge, but there is one thing I wish I'd done more about," Millicent confessed. "I'm sure you've heard of Bellatrix Lestrange."
"Of course, she's rather notorious," Cho replied. "She was part of the group that broke out of Azkaban while I was at Hogwarts. I think she was sent back there after the end of the second war."
"I was Minister when she was arrested the first time," Millicent said. "Of course we'd heard rumours about her darkness for years, but nothing was ever proven. Then she was caught red-handed torturing the Longbottoms. I knew both Frank and Alice personally as they were both Aurors. Frank was the best in the business, and it had been a loss to us when he went into hiding with his wife."
"I didn't know the Longbottoms ever went into hiding," Cho remarked.
"It was all to do with the prophecy about the Potter boy," Millicent replied. "At the time it wasn't clear who exactly it was about and Frank and Alice's son was a contender. It's so sad that they'd only just re-joined the world when Bellatrix set upon them. I'd only spoken to Frank earlier that day about him and Alice returning to work."
"It's terrible what happened to them," Cho said softly.
"It is," Millicent agreed. "But it was Bellatrix we were discussing. When she was arrested she was making some wild allegations. At the time we put it down to her wanting to avoid Azkaban, but I did wonder if there was some truth in them, and now I regret not following through with investigating things more thoroughly."
"What sort of allegations was she making?" Cho asked eagerly, sensing that she might be onto something explosive.
"She was claiming she attacked the Longbottoms to find her child," Millicent answered. "She was adamant they knew where her child was."
"Child?" Cho repeated in shock. "I didn't know she had a child."
"She doesn't, or at least not a one I could find evidence of," Millicent replied. "That was one of the reasons we dismissed what she was saying. Not only did she have no children, but to suggest that Frank and Alice knew the whereabouts of her child when she obviously didn't was ludicrous."
"But yet you still considered it a possibility," Cho said. "You said Bellatrix had no child you could find evidence of, so you must have looked."
"I did a cursory search," Millicent admitted. "But her trial proved her to be unstable, and other matters meant I didn't have the time to deal with her hysterical rantings."
"Other matters?" Cho asked curiously.
"Voldemort's disappearance was understandably met with glee from our world and there were a lot of celebrations. Some of these wilder celebrations breached the state of secrecy act and I was under pressure to ensure our world remained hidden from the muggles. Between calming people down and retaining our secrecy as well as continuing to round up other Death Eaters, Bellatrix and her claims just wasn't a priority."
"But yet you wish you'd done more."
"I do," Millicent confessed with a sigh. "Several years ago I lost my son, and it got me thinking of Bellatrix and if she could possibly have been telling the truth. It made me wish I'd done more when I'd had the chance."
"Have you ever thought of doing more now?" Cho asked. "You could still get to the bottom of the story."
"I'm not sure if it's really anything to do with me," Millicent said with a shrug. "From what I know, Bellatrix hasn't mentioned this child for years, and her family don't seem to have tried to find them. I guess I would like to know if it was true, or just the mad ravings of a woman trying to avoid Azkaban. But I'm not sure I'll ever find out. As I said, it's not really my place to pry into Bellatrix's life. I had my chance to look into things when I was Minister and I chose not to."
"And now you regret it," Cho said.
"I do," Millicent confirmed with a nod. "But we've also got to remember the Longbottoms in all of this. She didn't say so in as many words, but she was accusing Frank and Alice of having something to do with her child's disappearance. I'll admit that if she was accusing certain other people I might have been more inclined to believe her, but I knew the Longbottoms and I refuse to believe they would be party to any plot to take a child from its mother."
"But you do believe some people might have done so?" Cho pressed. "People like who?"
"I don't like to speak ill of the dead, but I never trusted Albus Dumbledore," Millicent admitted in a quiet voice. "I know Frank and Alice were tight with him and were part of the group he'd formed to fight the dark, but I still don't believe they would have been part of taking a child away from its parents."
"But you believe Dumbledore would have done such a thing?"
"I believe Albus Dumbledore would have done whatever it took to defeat Voldemort," Millicent replied. "And I believe he had enough sway over a lot of people to get them to go along with any crazy scheme he concocted. But not Frank and Alice, and certainly not anything as horrific as taking a child from its mother. As I said, if Bellatrix had been accusing others I might have taken more time to look into her claims. But she was accusing people I knew to be good and honest."
"But even so, you looked into it a little bit," Cho said.
"I couldn't in all good conscience ignore her claims completely," Millicent said. "But there was never any record at the Ministry of a child being born to Bellatrix, and I couldn't find any hospital records either. Of course I didn't delve too deeply into things for reasons I've already explained."
"I understand that it must have been a difficult situation for you," Cho said sympathetically. "And given what I know of Bellatrix, I certainly don't think it's inconceivable that she would try anything, no matter how wild, to try and avoid Azkaban."
"That was my thinking at the time," Millicent said with a grateful smile. "Now I feel as if we've gotten slightly off track. Do you have any more questions for me?"
Pushing aside her instincts that she'd just stumbled upon the story of a lifetime, Cho returned her attention to the topic in hand and she found another couple of insightful questions to ask the former Minister. By the time she left twenty minutes later, Bellatrix hadn't been mentioned again, and Cho thanked Millicent for being a delightful interviewee. She then promised the former Minister a special preview of the chapter she planned on writing about her time in charge, before saying her goodbyes and heading home.
However, once at home Cho's mind was not at all on the interview she'd just conducted. Settling down in her study, she pulled out her magical recorder and replayed the part of the conversation about Bellatrix. Setting aside her notes on the book she was currently working on she began jotting down her notes on Bellatrix's story. By the time she was finished writing down everything she knew, she was determined to get to the bottom of the story. She needed to know if Bellatrix's story was true, or if it was an elaborate lie to try and save her from a harsh prison sentence.
What Cho didn't realise was that she was about to embark down a very dangerous path. In trying to get to the bottom of Bellatrix's story she was going to land herself in serious trouble. In fact by delving into the past she was going to end up getting herself killed.