Chapter 11: Reunions, Revelations, Resolutions
The Weasleys and Ginny Potter sat in the living room as they awaited Harry's return. Shortly after his arrival at his castle Harry sent word via Hedwig that he was having difficulty finding something of great importance and that he would arrive shortly. Ministry officials, upon hearing of the abduction sent their regards and offered their assistance in helping to locate the two missing young girls but Percy politely informed them that matters were being addressed by a third party. This statement confused the ministry until Percy handed them a seal that explained exactly what he meant. The officials returned the item to Percy and departed.
Penelope was no longer hysterical but she was still very withdrawn from her family, even Percy had not been able to truly comfort his wife. It wasn't until Sera cried that Penelope showed any semblance of her former self. While she was fearful for the life of her middle child she knew that there was others that depended on her, most importantly her youngest daughter who was now a year old. At Hermione's insistence Percy gave the nanny the day off. Percy didn't understand his sister-in-law's request until she explained that if Penny knew that Sera was depending on her to take care of her that it would distract her from her immediate worries (namely Meghan).
Ginny sat curled up on the couch worry about her daughter while the oldest of her brothers attempted to comfort her. Since Ron's passing Bill was the brother she was closest to and with her husband currently doing who knows what, she needed someone to comfort her. As Virginia Potter sat with her brother trying to reassure her that Harry would do everything within his power to see the girls returned to their family safe and unharmed a thought came back into Ginny's mind.
"Hermione, did Harry ever say before we left what happened to Chloe?"
"No." Hermione replied almost immediately. She had been so distracted by the events at the time she had failed to realize that Harry had completely avoided the topic. "You asked your question and he redirected the conversation." Hermione answered.
Before Ginny could continue her thought on the subject a series of cracks were heard and three figures were standing outside the door to the Burrow. Charlie, the Burrow's new owner, was up and investigating who had just arrived. He had only taken two steps into the kitchen when his wife noticed that he came to a dead stop.
Eva Weasley, currently six and a half months pregnant, entered the kitchen to see what was wrong wither her husband. It was only when she took a good look at the three figures waiting to be let into their home did she realize why her husband was neither moving, nor speaking. In truth she had never met the two men in person, nor did she know anything about them save what her family had told her. The description of the older man was favorable until recent times. His companion however was another story entirely. He looked as mean and nasty as the descriptions she'd heard from all save Bill. He was fortunate enough never to have had him as a teacher.
"Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Professor Snape." Charlie addressed the trio.
"Hello Charlie... might we come in?" Albus Dumbledore inquired. He did not know why Charlie was looking at him with such animosity.
"With all due respects professor we have a family emergency. Now is not a good time for visitors." Charlie answered.
"We are aware of that Weasley. We are here to try and assist you in locating your missing family members." Professor Snape informed the younger man.
The smug response from Severus Snape almost earned him a hexing if Eva wasn't holding his wand hand, a gesture that did not escape Professor Dumbledore nor McGonagall's notice.
"We appreciate your offer Professors." Eva answered hoping to defuse a potentially volatile situation. While not an empath like a good friend of hers, she had been married to Charlie Weasley long enough to know when he was getting angry. The greasy haired man seemed to be deliberately provoking her husband and she would not allow this.
"And you are?" Snape asked her.
"She is my wife Snape." Charlie Weasley answered. His voice was getting louder and more annoyed with the older man's arrogant tone.
"We believe we know who is behind the abduction." Minerva McGonagall announced stepping in front of Severus.
"Lucius and Draco Malfoy are behind the abduction." Hermione Weasley said entering the kitchen. "Charlie, please allow them in, I think we have a great deal to discuss with them." Hermione said in an extremely calm tone of voice.
If it had been anyone besides Hermione asking him to allow Albus and Severus into their home he might have told them no (or worse). However Hermione had her reasons for wanting to talk to the two men. Reasons that until today still hadn't been addressed. Giving the Professor's the ok, the senior staff at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry entered the Weasley family home.
Charlie walked hand-in-hand with his wife to the living room. Hermione merely stepped to the side to allow the Hogwarts professors entrance to the room. Minerva and Albus immediately took note of the hostile expressions on the faces of all gathered. Albus was beginning to suspect that his long kept secret might not be so secret anymore. Snape was use to hostility from the Weasleys and Mrs. Potter so he did not think to suspect anything.
"What makes you think that it is the Malfoys who are behind this abduction if I might inquire?" Severus Snape asked.
"Several reasons." Percy answered.
"Motive… they hate us." Charlie stated.
"Motive… we have money now, they don't." Bill replied.
"Motive… we have a nice home, they don't." George added.
"But mainly because Lucius Malfoy signed the ransom note." Fred informed the now annoyed Potions Master.
"What does he want from you?" Minerva asked.
"Isn't it obvious professor? He wants money." Ginny answered calmly. "He took our children so they could extort what we 'owed' them."
"Apparently," Bill said, "They feel that we owe them for destroying their good name, their family home being seized, and their assets frozen."
"Typical Malfoy logic." George replied.
"Isn't it though George?" Fred rhetorically asked.
"It is my understanding that you have turned down the ministry's offers of assistance." Professor Dumbledore stated. "Might I inquire as to why?"
"The matter is being handled by someone more competent." Penelope Weasley informed her former headmaster between sobs.
"The current head of the aurors' is one of my best protégé's Mrs. Weasley." Snape said proudly. "I doubt you'd find anyone better at finding and dealing with rogue wizards and witches."
"It is precisely that reason that we do not require their services." Hermione stated.
"Pardon?" Snape asked surprised at the girl's tone of voice.
"We do not trust anyone that was personally trained by you." Hermione declared. "Draco Malfoy was also one of your protégé's as well."
"What my students chose to do with the knowledge I bestow upon them is completely irrelevant. Mr. Smythe however is an accomplished auror and you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the wizarding world that is better."
Hermione was contemplating a response to that but decided that she needed to talk to the person she felt owed her the most. She walked over to the man; her arms crossed, and looked him in the face.
"Is there something you wish to tell me?" Hermione asked Dumbledore. "Anything at all that you might owe me?"
Dumbledore studied the young woman closely. He could simply use his abilities as a Legilimens but did not wish to do so because it would be a breach of her privacy and trust. Hermione was one of his favorite pupils during her tenure as his school and was by far the smartest witch he had encountered in a very long time. It was because of this, and because he was one of the few that knew the truth behind the loss of her husband that he carefully considered his next sentence.
"I don't think so." Albus answered with a tad bit of guilt.
"Rather disappointing professor." Fred said.
"Very disappointing." George decreed.
"And exactly what did you expect him to say Weasleys?" Snape, in his most superior tone inquired.
"I imagine that Hermione thought that he might finally tell her to her face that the two of you were responsible for her children growing up without their father." A rather ominous voice informed the egotistical potions master.
Minvera McGonagall was the first to see the man who had made that declaration. Her former student was standing in the darkened kitchen, shadows blocking out most of his features but there could be no mistaking who it was that was addressing the Headmaster and Potions Master with such utter contempt.
"Hello Mr. Potter." Minerva addressed the young man. The matronly woman crossed the room to greet her former student extending her hand.
He took her hand warmly. "Professor McGonagall." Harry politely addressed his former head of house.
"Back from your sojourn I see. You look good." Minerva added trying to defuse some of the tension in the room.
"Thank you professor. You'll forgive me if we dispense with any further pleasantries but my family and I are in the middle of a crisis and we have much to do and very little time to do it in." Harry said not really paying any attention to the other two non-family members.
Albus Dumbledore did not look surprised by Harry's arrival. From the remarks by the Weasleys it was obvious that this was not the first time that Harry Potter had walked through their doors. Snape had drawn his wand and was preparing to defend himself should Harry make a move. His last encounter with Potter had taught him to be ready for anything. If Harry Potter wished to assault him again Snape would make sure the young man ruled the day the tried.
Before he could even ponder another move though he heard several rather loud grunts and turned to see that, with the exception of Eva Weasley, all of Harry's family had their wands drawn and pointed squarely at him.
"Professor." Hermione said to Snape. She had extended her left hand awaiting him to hand her his wand while clutching her wand in the right, pointed at her former teacher. Sighing, Severus Snape relinquished his wand to the woman.
"You may have this back before you leave." Hermione informed him in her most snapish tone.
"How long have you been back Harry?" Professor Dumbledore calmly inquired. He was trying to break the tension in the room, a tension that the two male Hogwarts staff created four and a half years earlier.
"That is Lord Potter to you Albus." Harry stated in a very icy tone.
Albus looked at him and closely now that he'd come completely into the light. His eyes were blue, he no longer wore glasses, his hair was neatly cut and his legendary scar was absent.
"Lord James Evan Potter is it." Albus replied.
"Correct." Harry answered.
"I read about the knighting of a Lord Potter in the muggle newspaper. While I must admit that I did not find a single photograph of you in any of them that I rather suspected that with a name such as James Evan that it might be you."
All noticed that Snape rather sneered at Albus' statement.
"That feet was a rather brilliant piece of magic if I do say so myself." Harry gloated. I cast an enchantment over the muggle newspapers so that any magical person that came in contact with such a paper would not see my photograph."
"It's also one of the perks of my new authority." Harry informed the irate Potions Master.
"While I'm sure my family would love to discuss certain… issues with you professors now is simply not a good time. I must ask you to excuse us. We have very important family business to attend to." Harry declared.
Hermione tossed Snape's wand to Professor McGonagall and asked that she not return it to him until such a time as they were far from the Burrow. The three professors walked out of the living room, through the kitchen, and were about to leave the Weasley family home when Hermione called out to the two gentlemen.
"We will be discussing our unfinished business at another time professors. Consider yourselves warned."
"Have you heard anything since the ransom note?" Harry inquired once he was sure that the professors were long gone.
"No." Charlie answered.
"May I see the ransom letter again?" He requested. Hermione handed the raven-haired man the letter that had originally been sent to Ginny. Harry read and re-read the letter.
"I suspected as much." Harry said aloud, but not to any one particular person.
"What's that Harry?" Fred and George inquired in unison.
"Much like our former professors, Lucius doesn't realize I'm back." Harry said with a grin on his face. "He's counting on you trying to use every wizarding trick in the Hogwarts and Ministry handbook to locate him." Harry announced rolling up the parchment and tossing it into the fire.
Fred and George looked at each other confused. "We're still not following you mate."
"Lucius, and I'm sure Draco is with him, are counting on you to use every modern wizarding method to try and find him. Thus, since he's had associates in the ministry for ages, and most likely still does, he will know how to counter these measures. What he is not prepared for is someone who thinks and uses non-Hogwarts and Ministry methods." Harry explained.
"Still not following you mate." Fred and George reiterated.
"Standard Ministry procedure for finding a kidnapper is to first track the creature or person delivering the ransom note. Lucius and Draco will have contingencies for this." Harry explained.
"However they would only be looking for magical detection devices. They would not expect us to use modern muggle tracking methods, nor techno-magical tracking devices. Harry placed the bag that he concealed under his cloak on the table. The rather small bag opened and Harry immediately withdrew several items that only Hermione, Eva, and Penelope knew of.
"Ummm Harry…" Hermione started to say but before she could continue Harry was firing them up a holographic image of Europe manifested before them all. Data, the likes of which most of the Weasleys had never seen was surround the image and Harry continued accessing fields of information.
"This system is tied into several of my organizations information relays. If anyone sees or hears anything it will immediately show up her upon the information's entry into the system."
"You act as if someone is going to tip us off to their location." Penelope decreed a tad frustrated with her brother-in-law.
"I'm actually counting on it." Harry announced.
"And just who would do that?" Percy inquired.
If Harry didn't have the full attention of his family before mentioning his daughter's name he had it now.
"How do you expect Chloe to get us a message if she's captive just like Meghan." Ginny demanded to know.
"Because Chloe isn't a captive, she's a stowaway." Harry said enlightening his wife.
"I don't follow you Harry." Hermione said.
Harry sat down in front of his data terminals and momentarily shut down the image projector. He then set the system to alert him immediately if any new data arrived. Taking a breath he then began his explanation. "My first clue was that all the eye witness reports indicated that the kidnappers only had Meghan when they departed. As we all know, there is no way that Chloe, if she was not a captive as well, would ever abandon her cousin. I mean we have to practically pry them apart when its time for either family to leave when visiting each others home."
All the Weasley's, and Ginny nodded in agreement. Ginny and Penelope actually managed a smile thinking about the number of times they've had to do just that in order for them to go to their respective homes.
"The second clue was Ginny finding Chloe's cloak in that alley. She must have discarded it so that we knew she was there. If time allowed I'm sure she'd have left a note but from eyewitness accounts one of the men had exited that particular alley before the group fled. If Chloe had dropped her cloak before then he would have called for assistance in finding her before they fled. No, the cloak was dropped after the man had already left the alley."
"Why would she discard her cloak, and how pray tell did she manage to sneak along then?" Ginny asked. The question was obviously on the minds off her siblings and their loved ones as well. Of course Harry Potter, and one other knew the answer.
"She has your cloak." Hermione said realizing what Harry had already determined.
Harry nodded, "Chloe has my cloak." Ginny covered her mouth, surprised that she hadn't thought of that explanation herself.
"What cloak?" Penelope and Eva asked completely oblivious to this realization.
"Harry's invisibility cloak. It once belonged to his father, he inherited it during his first year at Hogwarts." Ginny stated. "I thought that was locked away in the study?"
"No, it was in my Hogwarts trunk along with all my old school things. With everything that has been going on recently I never got around to putting it away." Harry informed his family. "That was my primary reason for going home, I had guessed that she was wearing it but needed to verify this. If Chloe has my cloak she will be trying to comfort her cousin and find a way for them to escape. However, because of her young age Chloe is bound to be caught."
Ginny and Penny nodded in agreement. With the obvious exception of hiding the invisibility cloak from their parents, Meghan and Chloe had never successfully pulled off any of their plans from either of their parents.
"That is where my reserve plan comes into play. However there is a sizeable risk for the person involved. It is a decision that the she and her husband will have to discuss and decide on." Harry announced turning his gaze to Eva Weasley.