The Darkest Recesses of the Heart
Chapter One - A New Hope
"I'm only going to ask you this once more." Ron paused and counted silently to ten. "What – is – your – name?"
"You blasted son-of-a-whore, you don' need to speak to me as if I were a bleedin' babby! I may be short, you fuckin' piece o' pig shit, but me dick's bigger than yours!"
Though Ron Weasley doubted that every single Leprechaun in the world was as awful as the one sitting across from him, he believed that the merry ones, like the ones portrayed in fairy tales, were probably rare and hiding in Albania or something.
"Listen to me," Ron said, his voice low and deep like the anger currently churning in the pit of his stomach. "This doesn't have to be hard. Drunken and disorderly will get you a night in a –"
"Fuck off, you cocksucker of cow's cock! I'm not –"
Ron continued speaking, raising his voice in order to be heard over the Leprechaun's stream of very creative and colourful swear words.
"A night in a cell here. Even exposing yourself will only get you – don't talk about my mum, arsehole – a fine, but if you don't tell me your name –"
"Fuck face! Pussy slime that's what you are! Day old, fish smelling –"
"All right that's enough!" With one hand, Ron grabbed the Leprechaun around the back of the neck and lifted him off the seat. "Spend the fucking week in Azkaban. Think I fucking care, prick?"
Holding the Leprechaun at arm's length to avoid getting bitten (he had learned that lesson that hard way), Ron walked through the office of Magical Law Enforcement, ignoring other members of the Squad who poked their heads out of their cubicles, curious to see who was causing all the ruckus.
"Could've been easy, this one," Ron muttered. "Just needed to fill in one fucking form, now I've got to fill in a dozen." He glared at the Leprechaun who was trying his best to kick him. "Right bastard you are! All you had to do was let me process you. Now you're going to Azkaban. That's just plain stupid!"
Ron walked through a set of oak doors and was greeted by a slim man who was only a few years older than him, but looked at least a decade more.
"What trouble did you bring me today?" Jack said, nodding toward the Leprechaun.
"Got drunk at the Leaky and tried to play poker with Leprechaun's gold," Ron explained as he took a chain hanging from a bar and attached it to the handcuffs binding the Leprechaun's wrists.
He pointed to a bench. "Sit!"
The Leprechaun spat on his shoes.
Ron pulled out his wand and placed the tip under the Leprechaun's chin. "Sit!"
The Leprechaun let loose one last hurried string of invectives. After Ron pressed his wand harder into his coarse red-haired beard, he relented and climbed up on the bench.
"Not exactly a crime," Jack responded.
"Nope. But getting up on a table, pulling down your trousers, and peeing on everyone's cards is."
Jack handed Ron a clipboard with forms. "Not one that'll land you in Azkaban."
Ron chuckled. "Ask him his name."
"Go on, ask him."
"Oi, mate, what's your name?"
"What? What was that?" the Leprechaun said in an exaggerated tone, holding his hand behind his ear. "You want to suck me dick! Well, fuck you, you fucking poofter! Fucking cocksucking arse bandit!"
"Daft pillock," Jack said, shaking his head.
"Yep. If I can't process him to make sure he's not wanted for something, then he goes to Azkaban."
"Thanks, Jack," Ron said, putting the clipboard under his arm. "I've got to get these processed."
Ron glared at the prisoner one last time before leaving.
"Ron!" Jack called out. "See you at the Leaky?"
Ron twisted his neck to look at Jack. "Nope, got work to - umpfh! Dad!"
Arthur Weasley reached out his arms and steadied Ron, who had walked directly into him.
"Hi, Ron. Where are you off to?"
"Have to process these forms." Ron poked at his clipboard.
"I'll walk with you," Arthur said, turning to face the same direction as Ron.
Ron shrugged. "Okay."
"I heard the ruckus. Unruly Leprechaun?"
"Yeah." Ron yawned.
"Are you getting any sleep?"
"Dad, please. I have to listen to Hermione and Mum nag me all the time – not you too!"
"Everyone is just worried about…" Arthur stopped short when Ron sighed.
They walked in silence back to Ron's desk. Ron watched his father's eyes roam over the photographs that adorned the walls and the top of the desk. Both their eyes stopped on the same one – a picture of Ron, Hermione, and Harry at Percy and Penelope's wedding.
"Ron…" Arthur rested his hip on the edge of the desk and looked intently at his son. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "We've looked everywhere. Maybe he just doesn't want to be found."
Ron looked around to make sure no one was lurking. "We're getting close," he said quietly. "In fact, I'm waiting for word from an American Ministry on some unexplained magic being performed sporadically in a Muggle area."
"I know your mum worries more than she should, but she's right about this. You don't sleep. You don't do anything but work and look for Harry."
"I'm sorry if a holiday isn't on my list of priorities," Ron answered bitterly. "If you'll excuse me." He sat down and slammed the clipboard on the desk. "I have to finish these forms."
Ron pulled out a fresh quill, bent his head, and began filling out a form. He bowed his head further under his father's relentless gaze.
An inter-office memo flew in and landed in Ron's in-bin, breaking the awkward moment.
Mr Weasley sighed and put his hand on Ron's shoulder. "Take care of yourself, son. Come to the Burrow for a visit this weekend. At the very least, let your mother feed you."
"Okay, Dad," Ron said, reaching for the memo. He couldn't be angry with his father for caring. "I'll be there Sunday for dinner. I promise."
The memo was good news from Jack.
The Leprechaun cracked as soon as he found out the Dementors were back as Azkaban guards. He gave up his name. I sent him on to Magical Creatures. He'll just be spending a night in the Ministry cell.
I filled out the necessary paperwork.
I hope this means you can stop by the pub for a drink after work.
Ron folded up the memo, filed it away, pulled the forms off the clipboard and threw them in the trash. He checked the clock. A half hour until his shift was over, leaving him time to see if Tonks was at her desk. He grabbed a folder and went to look.
The double doors that led to the Auror section had a sign warning for Authorized Personnel Only. Though not an Auror anymore, he was still allowed to come and go in this area as he pleased.
Ron spotted Tonks's pink hair over the wall of her cubicle. She was talking to Susan Bones.
Susan waved. "Hi, Ron."
Tonks turned around and smiled. "I was looking for you earlier, Ron."
Susan winked at him and her head disappeared behind the wall.
"Hi, Tonks," Ron said, pulling a chair from a nearby empty desk into Tonks's cubicle. "Sorry I didn't stop by sooner, but I had a Leprechaun –"
Tonks made a face. "Nasty buggers!"
Ron nodded as he sat down. "I heard you were looking for an urn suspected in the use of a dark magic ceremony last month," he said loud enough so everyone could hear, but not too loud to sound obvious.
"Yep. We've been looking for that urn for weeks," she replied and Ron's heart soared; she had what he was looking for.
"Brilliant." He tried to hide his smile. "I'll write up what I found out from an informant and send it on to you."
Ron kicked the chair back into the corridor and stood to leave.
"Oh," Ron stopped and slapped his forehead, "I forgot. I'll need your signature to talk to him further about it, since it crosses with an Auror investigation."
He handed her the folder and watched her sign a form and slip a few pieces of paper into it.
"Be sure to detail everything that he told you," she said in a professional tone as she handed him the information.
"Yeah. Yeah." Ron ran his fingers along the top of the folder, hardly able to continue his curiosity.
"Go." She rolled her eyes.
He pushed the chair back in its proper place and headed for the door, but paused when he passed the set of cubicles that used to be his and Harry's.
They were occupied now, though the Aurors weren't in them. He stepped inside Harry's and looked around, remembering the hours he had spent in here looking for clues as to why Harry left work, cleared out his account at Gringott's, paid off the outstanding notes on their cottage in Godric's Hollow, and disappeared.
Someone cleared his throat. The new occupant of the desk stood in front of Ron, looking at him curiously.
"Sorry," Ron mumbled, brushing past him and rushing back to his desk.
Ron felt good about this. Very good. This was it. He knew it.
He Apparated to the garden at Godric's Hollow and rushed towards the door, but slammed into it when he tried to open it and push forward at the same time.
Hermione was entirely too paranoid, he thought as he rummaged in his pockets for the key. But before he could find it, Hermione opened the door.
"Honestly, Ron, it's a door! Do I have to sew the key inside your robes so you don't lose it?"
Ignoring her, Ron pulled the file out from under his robes that he and Tonks had passed around this afternoon and waved it at her.
"This is it!" he exclaimed.
"The American Ministry came through?"
"Yep," he said, pushing past her and going directly into the study. "They had three incidents of magic coming out of a small town in Pennsylvania."
"Was Tonks careful? Were you careful?"
"Yes and Yes. It's a Muggle town called New Hope," he continued. He put the file on the desk and opened it. "There are no registered wizards living there. And the magic was too powerful to have been an underage wizard."
"Ron," Hermione said softly, "it was probably just a wizard or witch traveling through."
"That's what the Ministry thought too, so they didn't investigate." He pointed to the paper detailing the incidents. "But Tonks's contact thought there might be something to it. She said that the magic happened in the same place three months apart and then two months later another incident happened very close to the first two."
"And this contact can be trusted?"
"If Tonks trusts her, then I trust her." Ron sighed and pushed the file closer to Hermione. "Read! I have to get ready to leave first thing in the morning. I already spoke to McGonagall and she'll have the Portkey ready for me in the morning."
"Ron." Hermione put her hand on his arm. "This isn't a lot and there's nothing here that points to it being Harry. Why would Harry go to America of all places?"
Ron rolled his eyes, annoyed that he had to answer such an obvious question. "To hide!"
"Ron," Hermione placed her hand gently on his arm, "it really is a very slim chance."
Ron pulled his arm back so that hers fell off. "No." He shook his head. "No! This is it! I can feel it!"
"You said that the last five times," she pointed out.
"You're giving up!"
"No, I'm not," she said calmly.
"Then why aren't you excited about this?"
"Let's eat. We can talk about it over dinner."
"I don't want to eat." Ron turned and stormed out of the room.
"Ron, stop please," Hermione begged, following him. "I –"
Ron took the steps two at a time to the first floor. "What? Do you believe them?" He spun around outside his bedroom door to face her. "Did they convince you too? Did they make you believe that Harry's a dark wizard that murdered my brother?"
Hermione's eyes narrowed and she glared at him. "Of course I don't believe them! I just don't want to be disappointed again."
"You're giving up," he grumbled. He stepped into the room and slammed the door.
A few seconds later, he heard her footsteps on the stairs. He pulled his suitcase from under his bed and began packing it with the Muggle clothes Hermione had made him buy for these sorts of trips. True to her character, Hermione had researched all of the latest Muggle fashions and dragged Ron through Muggle shops looking for the right clothing. The one thing he hadn't been able to understand were the jeans she'd insisted he buy. He couldn't understand why people would pay good money for jeans that looked like they had been previously worn. He had spent his most of his life wearing hand-me-downs, and Hermione made him buy jeans that looked like someone had beaten them against rocks.
He shoved them into the suitcase, feeling angry. Angry at the jeans for looking worn. Angry at Hermione for making him buy them. And angry that she was right and this was probably nothing and Harry would still be out there without Ron to protect him.
A week after Harry had disappeared, after he had been interviewed for hours on end, telling the story over and over again, he'd taken all of his savings out of the bank and bought a Pensieve. At first, he had spent every night putting the memories of the days leading up to Harry's disappearance into it and reliving them through a different perspective. Eventually, it tapered off and he only used it when he needed to see Harry again, if only in a memory.
Ron opened his wardrobe door and pulled out the heavy stone basin. He extracted the memory from the night before Percy died, poked it with his wand, and went swirling into the entryway of what had at that time been their new home.
"Harry! Ron!" Hermione exclaimed, running towards them.
Ron put his broom on the hook and undid the clasps of his robe. "What's going on?"
"The kitchen is done! Hurry." She grabbed Harry's hand and pulled him along with her. "Come look."
Ron came up behind Harry and looked over his shoulder into the last room in the house to be complete. "Finally!"
"It looks brilliant, Hermione," Harry said, stepping into it and looking around. "I never thought it'd be finished."
At the time, Ron hadn't noticed how Harry's eyes didn't match his smile. They looked worried. But seeing it all these times in the Pensieve still didn't give him a clue as to why.
"Let's have dinner in here tonight," Hermione announced. "I've already stocked the ice box and cupboards." She pointed to the sink. "Potatoes. Ron, please peel them, while Harry sets the table."
Harry began clearing the table of Hermione's things: a tea cup, an empty plate with muffins crumbs, and a newspaper. He stopped to read the front page.
"Oh, isn't that awful?" she cried, walking away from the counter to read over his shoulder.
Harry's forehead crinkled. "I thought the other guy, the bloke who they killed, was some kind of a monster."
She nodded. "He was, but this new i government /i ," she wrinkled her nose in disgust, "they're just as bad. Maybe even worse. They were accused of doing all sorts of horrible things to people in small villages while they –"
"Hermione!" Ron said. "No bloody depressing talk. Harry and I just got home from work."
"Well, I did too, Ronald!"
Ron pulled himself from the memory and sat down on the bed. Everything had seemed so perfect; there was no reason for Harry to have left them. He wouldn't – he couldn't ever believe what the Ministry said about Harry.
Harry Potter, the boy who lived, the boy who had saved him from the depths of the lake, the man who had defeated Voldemort, his best friend, did not kill Percy because Percy had discovered him practicing dark magic.
No matter how much it looked like Harry's departure and Percy's murder had something to do with each other. Ron was positive that it was only a coincidence.
And so was Hermione.
He finished packing and went downstairs to say that he was sorry, but she wasn't in the study. The file was still on the desk, along with a map, the town of New Hope, Pennsylvania circled in red. He looked through the other papers. Hermione had left him some facts about the town.
Small Muggle tourist town.
Population of approximately 2,400.
Located next to the Delaware River.
Antique shops and art galleries (best to say that you're in town looking for antiques).
The first two magic happenings were located in an establishment, Nobody's Inn. It's a bar, restaurant, and small inn.
The third incident happened at a nightclub, Fusion.
Ron put everything into the file and went to Hermione's room before knocking softly on the door.
"Come in," she said, and he could tell that she had been crying.
He opened the door enough to see in. She was sitting on the bed with a tissue in her hand. "I feel awful, Hermione. I don't think that you –"
She sniffed. "I know you don't. I miss him and worry about him too."
Opening the door wider, Ron stepped into the room and sat next to her on the bed.
"It's been," she sniffed again and blew her nose, "ten months. That's a long time, Ron. What if he's…"
"He's not," Ron said firmly, putting his arm around her. "We both know that he's not."
Hermione rested her head on his shoulder. "This is it. I feel it too. You're going to go to America tomorrow and bring Harry home to us."