15: A Vision in Reconnaissance
Percy was nervous. He was used to the emotion. It had been his nearly constant companion through the first part of his career after Fudge's downfall. Now he had an entirely different reason to be fidgety: he was going to attempt to plant a bug on a Muggle.
Not that this would be considered difficult. Normally. Now, there was a lot riding on this – too much, really. He owed his life to Harry Potter, and Ginny was, of course, his sister. Her safety and the safety of her family was a priority. He took a reassuring sip of tea.
As was his habit, he had arrived at the predetermined restaurant fifteen minutes ahead of time to secure a table. The waiter knew him – Percy had selected one of his favorite pubs – and had brought him his tea before he'd had to ask. He drank it straight as he stared out the window to the crowded London street.
Not all Wizarding businesses in London were located in Diagon Alley. This one was tucked very cheerfully between a hardware and a furniture store. It tried to brighten up the gloom of the foggy London skies with bright yellow paint and red vinyl booths. It was tacky, but the service was dignified. Percy thought it was a good step on the path to the "loosening up" his brothers insisted he do after the war ended.
The doorbell chimed, and Percy knew without looking that Creevey had arrived. He fought back images of freshly scrubbed first-year faces in Gryffindor robes so new they'd practically crackled with movement. Dennis and Colin had both been so young, so naïve, so enthusiastic about everything. It was hard to believe that both young men had come from something that would turn out so twisted.
Creevey arrived at the table and Percy rose to his feet, holding out his hand. "Hello, Mr. Creevey. So glad you could come. Won't you have a seat?"
Corwick nodded, and folded himself into the booth. His hair had probably been blond at some point, Percy thought, and he might have been in shape at one time too. His long frame and ease of movement suggested an athlete or dancer's familiarity with his own body. He smiled at Percy, and the expression shot a chill right through him. To an outsider, it would appear to be a perfectly normal smile, but Percy caught the underlying meanness.
"To what do I owe this pleasure, Mr. Weasley? You said you're with the Ministry."
"Indeed. In the Licenses office," Percy said, taking a swallow of his tea and waiting patiently while a waitress took Creevey's order and asked him if he'd like a refill, which he politely declined. "There have been some concerns raised about the Muggle Outreach program Fudge was putting into place."
"I suppose my name's still on a list then, isn't it?" Creevey said, looking for all the world like exactly what he was pretending to be – a Muggle man who was more than a little baffled at the workings of the Wizarding world.
"Yes. The Ministry keeps excellent records," Percy commented, struggling for a way to start the conversation he needed to have. "After the program closed down, what has been your contact with the magical world?"
Creevey coughed and thought about that. "My boys died in the most recent war. Did you know them? Colin and Dennis Creevey."
"I was their prefect my sixth and seventh years. They both left quite an impression," Percy said, allowing himself to relax. He could do this. "They were bright boys. True Gryffindors."
"That's what they tell me." Corwick studied the napkin in front of him and began to fold the corners in. "They told me that my boys died an honorable death."
"They died for a good cause," Percy said, a lump rising in his throat. "I had several friends die in that war – in that specific battle, too. They helped change our world, Mr. Creevey. The wizard, Voldemort, would have denied them access to the magic that was their right, just based on their parentage. Muggles got past that sort of thing a long time ago. It was time to catch up."
Creevey nodded his head at the waitress, who discreetly laid a mug on the table and filled it with coffee. "I taught my boys to know right from wrong, and to face evil when they saw it. It serves me right that they ran off and got themselves killed. I taught them right from wrong but I never thought they'd be fighting in a war, Mr. Weasley."
Percy grew irritated, but calmed himself with a deep breath. "They were true heroes, Mr. Creevey. And they died too young. So did many others' sons and daughters. It doesn't diminish your sacrifice, Mr. Creevey, but the truth is the war was hard on everyone."
"Sometimes the boys' friends will show up, have tea with myself and Mrs. Creevey," Corwick said, the mask of grief now firmly in place over the anger that had been there before. "And Harry Potter sends us Christmas Cards."
"He knew your boys well. He was fond of them," Percy said confidently. "It wears on him terribly, the ones that he lost in the war. He had the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. Still does, as a matter of fact."
"It's an awful load for one man to carry," Creevey said, matter-of-factly.
"Indeed," Percy agreed. "Let us return to my previous question. Your contact with the magical world after the program was ended?"
"Ah, it's like I said. Sometimes a few of Colin and Dennis's schoolmates will stop by and say hello. My wife is very ill – she's never herself any more. I get Christmas cards from a few witches and wizards. Other than that, it's a world I'd prefer to leave behind. Magic has not been kind to me and mine, Mr. Weasley."
"It is just another tool, Mr. Creevey," Percy said, rising to his feet. "It can be used for good or for ill."
Mr. Creevey nodded. "I suppose that's one way of looking at it."
Percy removed his wand from his pocket and smiled thinly at Corwick. "I hope you don't mind. I would like to do a Tracing spell on you. Just to verify your statement. I'm afraid it's required by the Ministry."
There was a flash – just a flash, of irritation in Corwick's eyes before he nodded his head gamely. "I suppose there's nothing to be done for it, then. Go ahead."
Percy murmured the incantation for the spell and examined the results quickly while he cast the Spying charms that would link Corwick to the receptors located in Ron's office. "Thank you, Mr. Creevey. I doubt you'll be hearing from the Ministry for a long time."
"Thank you, Mr. Weasley," Corwick said, slipping his coat on while he rose to his full height. "It has been a pleasure to meet you."
"Oh, Mr. Creevey," Percy called, as Corwick moved towards the door. "I just wanted you to know. I think of your sons often. They may have died young, but they left quite an impression on everyone they met. They truly live in our memories."
Creevey nodded his head and exited the café quickly.
Ron rubbed his hands together gleefully. Percy had managed to plant the charms and his investigation could finally move forward. The sooner he had solid evidence on Creevey, the sooner he could bring his sister, brother-in-law, and new nephew home to England. Where sensible people lived.
"Mr. Weasley?" Archibald stuck his head in Ron's office. "Do you have a moment?"
"Yeah, sure, Archie. Come on in." Ron gestured to a seat across from him at the desk. "You want to have a seat?"
"No thanks, sir. Um, they're done processing the man who attacked the Potter home two weeks ago, sir. It took them a while to break through the Memory charms. All the evidence suggests that he was under the Imperius Curse, sir."
Ron sighed and leaned back in his chair. "So they got nothing from interrogation?"
"No, sir. And they exhausted all the methods they can use legally, sir. Even got a warrant for Veritaserum, you'll remember. You signed off on that."
"So I did. Relax, Archie. I won't eat you for breakfast." Ron reached for the squashy ball on his desk Hermione had given him to help him deal with stress and squeezed it with one of his massive hands. "That's irritating."
"Yes, sir." Archie clutched his clipboard to his chest. "Will that hold back your investigation, sir?"
"No," Ron said distractedly and flung the stress ball at the wall. It stuck to the wall for a second with a loud clap, and then fell to the floor. "Getting through Harry's wards is no small feat. That means he had some skill, Imperius curse or no."
"They're still holding him, sir. He has to stand trial for breaking and entering."
"That poor idiot was just a pawn, if not a victim. It just means that this whole thing is even more complicated than we thought," Ron said with a sigh. "Oh well. Nothing about this has been easy."
"No, sir." Archie made a mark on his clipboard with his quill. "Sir, are you going to have some of the staff monitor Mr. Creevey tonight?"
"What? Oh, yes." Ron cleared his throat. "Here's what I need."
The next few minutes flew by as Ron explained what the staff was to listen for and how the listening charms worked. Archie's quill flew as Ron finished his orders.
"Sir." Archie said, when Ron had finished giving orders. "I was supposed to remind you to contact Mr. and Mrs. Potter before you went home."
Ron flushed red and checked his watch. "It's late enough in the day that they should be okay with me Floo'ing now. Thanks, Archie."
"That's my job, sir."
"Well, your job's done for the day. Why don't you take a bit of a holiday and clock out early? Take your girl out for a bite. You have a girl, don't you?"
Archie grinned, his cheeks dimpling. "I'm working on one, sir."
"Well, then, I wish you the best of luck. Get out of here."
As soon as Archie left and the door shut behind him, Ron whirled his chair around and addressed the fire. Tossing in a bit of Floo powder, he waited for a minute while the magic connected him to a house just outside of Tokyo, Japan.
"Hello," a wizened old man greeted Ron, his eyes sparkling. "Are you looking for Harry and Ginny?"
Ron nodded. "I am."
"They are outside with their son. I will go get them. If you will be pleased to wait a moment?"
Ron smiled at the formality. "Yeah, sure, I can wait."
The fire burned green for a few minutes while Takashiro went to collect Harry and Ginny and Ron used that time to gather his thoughts. He would never be Hermione but he had learned over the years how to keep himself mostly organized.
With a burst of green, Harry's head emerged in the fire. "Wotcher, Ron!"
"Hey, Potter," Ron said cheerfully. "I've heard from Percy. He had his meeting with Creevey."
"Did it go well?" Harry asked, his eyebrows knitted together. "You made sure he had security on him, didn't you?"
"Yes, Auror Potter, I mostly certainly did. Even my brothers who are gits deserve someone watching their backs while they confront dangerous, potentially insane criminals."
"Good. I'm glad," Harry said, ignoring Ron's slight dig. "What did he come away with?"
"He did the tracing spell, as well as the listening charms," Ron said, relaxing back in the chair. "We'll be watching him for the next few days, but we can't find any dark magic around him. If he's insane, it's not magically-related."
"Muggles can be just as nuts as wizards, Ron," Harry said ruefully. "Look at Uncle Vernon. There was nothing magically wrong with him."
Ron nodded his head. "It would just be easier if we could trace it back to a spell, you know. Oh, they finished processing your burglar. He, at least, was under the Imperius Curse."
Harry made a face and sighed. "Well, at least we can tell now, who's actually been under it and who's just claiming it."
"The Malfoys still got away Scot-free," Ron muttered. "You lot comfortable in Japan?"
Harry grinned. "As comfortable as you can be, eating and sleeping on the floor. We get to spend a lot of time with James. It's good. Not as distracting as being in England would be."
"Heh, it's just like you to see the bright side of this whole mess," Ron said, chuckling a bit. "I have a feeling we're going to get him, Harry. And put him away for good."
"Good," Harry said. "Japan is nice. But we miss you, and Hermione, and everyone else. It'll be good to be back."
"We miss you lot, too. It's hard not being able to see your new nephew. Give Ginny my love, yeah?" Ron was a bit ashamed when his throat closed up.
Harry's eyes were a bit misty, too. "Of course. You got to get back to work?"
"Yeah. I have to catch up on some stuff here. I'll get in touch tomorrow."
"See you then." Harry ended the Floo call and Ron rose to his feet, prepared to get his best friend and sister home.
Ginny woke in the middle of the night to the cry of an infant. Despite how little sleep she'd been getting, she smiled. Her son was probably hungry. He was like his uncles that way – a big appetite and a big heart. But when she rose from the bed, she realized she wasn't in Takashiro's house and her heart began to beat out of control.
Oh no, she thought a bit desperately. Not again.
She swung her legs over the side of the deep bed she, or rather Lily, shared with James and walked the few steps to the bassinet where Harry laid.
"Hello, little one," she murmured, her voice a bit lower than she was used to. "You're making a lot of racket for someone with such little lungs."
Harry's face scrunched up as he let out another wail. "All right. Let's see what we can do."
With the ease of practice, she picked Harry up and walked over to the rocker, easing herself down and settling Harry to breastfeed him.
The moon streamed in from the window through the sheer white curtains she'd hung just the day before. She was content in her home – in the way she'd set up the little house on the edge of town. When she could stop thinking about Voldemort, about the way the world was, she was really and truly happy.
James rolled over and groaned. "Is he awake again?"
"He's hungry," Lily said with a smile. "Like someone else I know tends to be."
James smiled and rubbed a hand over his eyes. "I'm sorry I didn't wake up."
"It's okay. We had a hard day today." Lily ran a gentle thumb down Harry's cheek.
"Yeah. We both did." James flopped over on his back and reached for his glasses. As soon as they were on, his brown eyes came into focus and her heart flopped, silly with love. "I told you in the beginning that I'd help with Harry as much as I could."
"I decided to give you a break on this one," Lily said. "Don't worry about it."
"I wasn't sleeping well anyway," James said, running frustrated hands through his hair. "We should be able to figure out what's holding up the development of the potion."
"Maybe we brewed it too long, James. We've been pushing ourselves so hard. We could run the Arthimancy equations again."
"No good. Remus went over those equations with us twenty times," James said. "Maybe we need to go back to the beginning."
Harry broke his head away from Lily's breast and let out an ear-piercing cry.
"Well, we know what Harry thinks of that," Lily said on a laugh. "I'm sure that when we go over the formula in the light of day, we'll think of something. We're just under a lot of pressure right now, James."
"Our friends are dying." James said it so matter-of-factly, so dryly, that broke Ginny/Lily's heart. "We have to do what we can to stop it."
"James, we're doing all we can." As Lily repositioned Harry's mouth, she couldn't stop the tear from falling from her eye. "We're doing all we can."
Ginny woke on a sob and curled into Harry. His arm came around her immediately as he slowly came back to consciousness.
"Ginny?" He reached for his glasses in the same way James had, and it broke Ginny's heart again. "What's wrong?"
"The dreams," Ginny managed. "They're back. They found us."
Harry cursed and stared up at the ceiling. "That's it, Ginny. We're going to have to fight back. We can't be passive about this any more."
Ginny wiped her eyes. "We haven't exactly been lying down, Harry."
"No. I'm going to firecall Ron. I need to know what he knows. We can't just suffer through anymore, Ginny. If he's here, in Japan, we need to find him."
Author's Note: Aaaaaaaand… that's it! Thanks for reading, everyone! Special thanks, as always, go to Kat Morning & Daily Prophet Reporting for all their hard work in beta reading for me.