Chapter One: Blythe Manor
His back was pressed up to the side of the large brick house, the rough blocks digging into his spine. He turned his head and looked back to where his second in command was also pressed up against the wall. He watched him tilt his head slowly forward and back giving the signal that the rest of their squad was ready. Ron turned back around and slowly raised his hand. He waited a moment, hand raised above his head before lowering it swiftly. The Aurors moved swiftly toward the entrances, barging through the door and sweeping into the wide halls and massive rooms of Blythe Manor.
Ron burst through the front doors and into the formal sitting room to the right. He came to a sudden halt, his entire body tensing. In an instant his concerns were realized. Felix Blume, the newest and most brilliant member of Ron's team, was being held and wand point, his body tensed, his back arched, and his nostrils flared as he strained away from the length of wood. Ron altered his hold on his wand, tightening his grip and aiming it at the heart of Timothy Blythe.
"We have you surrounded, Blythe. Let him go."
Blythe pressed the tip of his wand harder into the fleshy part of Felix's neck causing the young man to instinctually arch his back further in an attempt to get away from the weapon. A sneer appeared on the lips of the man, "I don't tolerate trespassing." He pulled violently on the youth's hair. "This one lost his life the moment he stepped foot on my property." His eyes narrowed calculatingly. "The rest of you can live if you leave now."
"I have a warrant for your arrest." Ron inched slowly closer. "I'm here to take you and your wife in."
Blythe sneered unattractively. "On what grounds?"
"Blackmail. Conspiracy. Murder. Basically being a Death Eater and everything that title encompasses."
Blythe's pale green eyes spiked with panic. "You have no evidence."
"On the contrary," Ron was now standing a few paces away from the struggling pair. "We have more than enough to send you to Azkaban for the rest of your life."
"What ever you have on me won't stand a chance against the Wizengamot. I have too …" There was sudden an explosion of sound from the hallway cutting Blythe off. Felix used his captors moment of distraction to his advantage, throwing his weight back against Timothy, throwing him off balance long enough to break free of his arms. "You'll never take me alive." Screamed the hysterical voice of Vyvica Watter Blythe. From the corner of his eye Ron could see that the hall was now filled with the sudden bursts of color that was spells and jinxes being cast back and forth between his crew and the known Death Eater.
In his moment of distraction Ron didn't see Timothy raise his wand and jab it at Ron. "Sir, look out." Felix shouted.
Reacting instantly Ron dropped to the ground and rolled out of the way of the curse. Coming to a stop he threw an impediment jinx, Blythe side stepped it, throwing his own curse in return. Ron was on his feet, ducking and swerving, caught in a strange dance with the other man. Wandless, Felix kept out of the way, ducking behind the ancient sofa to protect himself from stray spells.
The battle inside the drawing room was fierce; Ron had to pull every ounce of his reserve to stay one step ahead of the Death Eater. Like his wife, Timothy was fighting to the death and seemed determine to take Ron with him.
Blythe was well prepared and Ron could feel himself losing ground. The Death Eater had spells in his arsenal that Ron had never heard of. He would have lost too, but in the moment before Blythe would have moved in to claim his victory a terrified scream rent the air rendering them both motionless. The scream was soon followed by a sickening thud. "Vyv?" Timothy's eyes widened with possessed anger. He took a step toward the door but stopped and in a sudden burst of renewed energy struck out against Ron. "You've killed my wife." He renewed his spell work with a vengeance. Ron was bombarded with a volley of spells, all aimed at ending his life as quickly and painfully as possible. Miraculously Ron was able to dodge the Death Eaters curses, managing to throw back a few spells himself. The other Aurors, following the sound of battle, burst into the room, taking cover and waiting for the right moment to help bring the fight to an end.
Sensing that all was lost, Timothy screwed up his face. "Avada-" a cutting spell silenced the words as it slit through his throat and brought Timothy Blythe's life to a sudden end. Eyes wide with realization he fell to his knees, his hands clutching at his throat, before slumping forward onto the floor, the carpet soaking crimson with his blood.
Panting heavily Ron lowered his arm. He turned to the members of his squad gathered in the room, sizing them up. They had been together for a long time, and each of them was loyal to a fault. Knowing who had cast the final spell, Ron slowly turned and looked Gavin Banning in the eyes, thanking him with his own. "Vyvica's dead as well?" He asked the room at large.
"She received a stunner to the chest, sir." Parker Gale, Ron's partner since training and second in command stepped forward, "she fell over the banister."
Ron nodded slowly looking down at the lifeless body of Timothy Blythe. "I don't know about you," he looked up at his fellows, "but I think we could all use a break from paperwork tonight. You all know I'm a stickler for Protocol, but this piece of Dragon's Dung tried to Avada me. If it hadn't been for the quick thinking of one of you I would probably now be dead. So I say – he threw the curse that killed him. Did anyone see anything different?"
"No, sir." The voices resounded around the room with a hint of relief.
"Right. So let's finish up here so we can all get home. If I'm late for family dinner again Mum will have my head."
Several members of his squad chuckled merrily. There was no bounds to the amusement the rest of the squad held at their captains unwavering fear of his mothers wrath. Not once had they seen him quail under the most extreme of conditions. He handled every assignment with a cool head, a knack for strategy, and a fearless determination. But the mere thought of upsetting his mother caused their fearless captain to go pale and physically blanch.
"All right. Gale, you lead Winston, Banning, Mathews and Jones in a search of the upstairs. Parker, you, Stone, Damon, Williams and Schue search this floor. Blume," Ron turned to face the young Auror who was still standing behind the sofa. "I wan ta talk to you about what happened." Felix lowered his head, giving it a small nod that he understood. "All right team, move out."
Ron waited until the rest of the squad had left the room before closing the door and beckoning Felix closer. "All right." He crossed his arms comfortably over his chest; his feet braced shoulder length apart. "What happened?"
The younger man's face flushed with shame. "I got careless, sir. They caught me rifling through their things looking for evidence." He hung his head, afraid to look Ron in the eyes and see the disappointment he knew would be there. "I'm sorry I let you down sir."
Ron sighed heavily. "You didn't let me down Felix." He slowly uncrossed his arms and clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "You did more for this investigation than anyone. We lost three Aurors to this mission and you were able to accomplish what they couldn't. If it weren't for you we wouldn't have the evidence we needed to build a case against these two." His fingers tightened, biting slightly into Felix's shoulder. "But you scared the hell out of me. You're too valuable to this team and your far too young to lose already. Which is why I think it's best if I send you back to training camp for a bit of a refresher course."
Felix's chin dropped down to his chest and his eyes swam with tears of shame.
"Felix Blume," Ron said in a voice that demanded his attention. "Don't go thinking less of yourself. Some of the greatest Aurors I've had the privlage of working with were sent back for a refresher course. I myself insisted my Captain send me back."
Felix snorted with disbelief.
"What?" Ron arched a brow. "You don't believe me?" He turned and settled his hip against the arm of the sofa, crossing his arms and ankles, perfecting a pose of both comfort and confidence. "Two years out of training I grew careless. Cocky even. Gale almost lost his life because of my lack of focus. I told my captain at the time that she had either send me back or I was going to be giving my resignation. I wasn't willing to cause another person's death."
"What did she say to that?"
"You know, I don't really remember. I was so worried she was going to accept my resignation that I didn't hear half of it. But I do know the end result was the entire squad being sent back for a refresher course. She seemed to think that we had all grown a bit careless."
"I'm so sorry I let you down sir."
Ron rose from his position against the sofa. "I already told you, I'm just relieved you're all right."
Felix opened his mouth to speak but stopped at the first rap of knuckles against the heavy wood.
Ron turned to face the door when the gentle but persistent knock came again. "Come in." He called, taking his authoritative pose, feet planted shoulder length apart, arms clasped behind his back, shoulders squared and chin jutted.
Gwendolyn Mathews' s olive skinned face appeared in the doorway, "I'm sorry to interrupt Captain," she stepped into the room. "Banning sent me to retrieve you. There's something you need to see." She looked past Ron to Felix. "You had better come as well."
Face contorted with concern, Ron followed her out of the sitting room, Felix at his heels, up the stairs to the second story. She stopped outside a door, her hand resting on the handle. "I'm afraid we were not given all information sir."
Ron's perplexed eyes rounded on Gwen. "What information?" He looked back and forth between his two team members. "What are you talking about Gwen?"
She sighed heavily. "Perhaps it's better if you see for yourself, sir."
She turned the handle of the door and pushed it open, stepping back to let Ron through.
"How could you let this happen?" Roland Greene, head of the Auror division of the Ministry, was turning several shades of red, flowed by a pale green and a sickening yellow. "You're suppose to be the best, the elite. You aren't suppose to make mistakes like this. Didn't you have all the information before you went in there?"
"Please sir," Felix stepped out of formation, "it's not Captain Weasleys fault. I failed to notify him…I assumed the ministry already knew."
"We don't assume anything in this job. Captain Weasley should have known better." He turned his focus back on the tall red head. Ron stood once again with feet spread, hands clasped behind his back. "What were you thinking sending a rooky in? Recon work is saved for those with more experience. You know the protocol Weasley. You know how things work here. "
There was a reflexive tightening in Ron's jaw. "With all do respect sir, I did follow protocol. Blume was not the first Auror I sent to infiltrate the Blythe residence. We already lost three agents in the attempt. Blume was the only one to make it through the door and the information he passed us was invaluable. I do not regret my decision even despite recent revelations."
Some of his normal color was making its way back onto Greene's face. He stared at Ron intently, seemingly sizing him up. "I need a private word with Captain Weasley. The rest of you go finish your paper work. Blume I want a word with you when I am done with your Captain."
"Yes sir." Felix followed the rest of his comrades out of the room, closing the door behind him and the rest of his squad.
"I would prefer," Ron said in a cold even voice when he heard the door click shut, "you not speak to me like that in front of my team sir. It is hard to maintain authority when your men do not respect you."
Roland Greene rolled his eyes as he leaned back in his seat, threading his fingers over his stomach. "Don't give me that load of rubbish Weasley. The day your men loose respect for you is the day I take off my clothes and dance starkers through the Ministry. Look," Roland placed his hands on his desk using them as leverage to hoist himself out of his seat, "you are the best Auror I got. There's no denying that. You've done more than enough to prove to all those who said I promoted you to Captain because your Harry Potter's friend wrong. But you've let the ball slip. Because of the carelessness of you and your team we have a parentless child on our hands. How do you think the rest of the wizarding world is going to react when they learn it's our fault that innocent child has no family?"
"Her parents were headed to Azkaban, sir. She would have been left alone either way."
"The Public's not going to see it that way. They're much readier to forgive us for imprisoning the parents then causing their death. Imprisonment the blames on the parents, death the blames on us."
Ron's face slowly darkened the longer he stood there. Behind his back his fingers clutched painfully together as he curbed his desire to unleash his anger and vent his frustration on his superior. He did not take kindly to criticism, no matter where it came from. Ron took a steadying breath, "They were trying to kill me and my men-sir. Did you expect me to stand there and just let that happen?"
"Of course not."Greene flung up his hands in exasperation. "But you should have been better prepared."
Growling with frustration, Ron shoved his fingers through the bright strands of his hair. "What's done is done. I can't go back and change what happened and this conversation is getting us nowhere. Just tell me what you want done with the child."
Ron struggled not to cringe. For a moment he feared he might have gone too far and over stepped his bounds. He watched as Greene bristled with indignation, his chubby face darkening at Ron's lack of respect. "I want you, Captain Weasley, to take her home."
Ron froze his eyes bugging slightly for a moment. "I beg your pardon sir?"
Greene physically relaxed, once again in his position of control. "You got the girl into the mess, you can take care of her until we get this all sorted out." Greene made his way back around the side of his desk and returned to his seat. "The press will have a field day when they catch wind of this. My hope is that sending the child with you and ordering your men to remain quite will keep this from leaking until we have made adequate accommodations for her."
Ron's mouth fell open and senseless spluttering sounds came spilling out. "But sir," he finally managed, "I can't take her. I don't know anything about babies."
Roland's eyes narrowed with annoyance. "That won't work on my Weasley. I am well aware of how many siblings you have."
"Yes but I was the second youngest. Ginny's not even a year younger than me. We were babies together."
"And what about all those nieces and nephews of yours?"
Ron grimaced with disgust. "I don't really handle them unless they're toilet trained and talking. Before that," he made a slashing motion with his hands, "I don't have anything to do with them."
"Well that's too bad." Roland Greene picked up a stack of papers and began rifling through them. "Because she's going with you."
"Isn't there any-"
"No! She's going with you. That's not a request, Weasley. That's an order."
"But sir, with my hours…"
"If I hear another word you're suspended for a week." Ron clamped his mouth shut, his blue eyes afire with fury. "Now go talk to your team, retrieve the child and go home. I'll see you in the morning."
Ron's jaw locked tight, his teeth clenching painfully together, "Yes sir." He turned stiffly and left the room, ignoring Felix's encouraging smile as he passed.
After debriefing his team and informing them of Greene's decision regarding the Blythe baby he made his way to one of the interrogation rooms where Ron's secretary, Fern McDougal, a young red head right out of Hogwarts, was tending the small child.
He paused outside the door, his hands braced on either beam of the doorway. What the hell had he managed to get himself into? Ron took a deep breath in an attempt to garnish his courage. He could handle a few days taking care of a baby. How hard could it be?
He threw open the door and was knocked back on his heels by the explosion of sound from within. Through the open door Ron could see Fern pacing back and forth, swaying gently with the baby against her shoulder, her calming words drowned out by the robust wails of the baby. Ron could just see that the baby's face was bright red, her tinny fists shook with anger as tears ran down her cheek.
"Mr Weasley!" A look of utter relief swept over Fern's face. "Thank Merlin you're here." She rushed toward him. "I think she's hungry." She tried to pass the baby to Ron only to have him step away in fear. "She won't bite." Fern assured him as she pushed the baby into his arms, steadying his hands when he looked like he might drop her. "Support her head." She helped Ron move his hand so that his fingers acted as a brace for the baby's neck. "Now all you have to do is warm up some milk in a bottle. There should be a few in that bag over there." She nodded to the bag sitting on a chair tucked underneath the table. "There's also some change of clothes, a stock of nappies and a few other things your team thought she might need. Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go. Jackson is waiting for me." Fern snatched up her belongings and dashed from the room, ignoring the pleading way Ron called her name. She felt sorry for Ron, she really did; but right now even her love of children wouldn't stop her from leaving. She was already twenty minutes late meeting one of the sexiest wizards she had ever laid eyes on.
Ron stared after his secretary, gap mouthed, the child held as far away from his body as he could manage. Her ear splitting wails grew louder as her tiny body shook with fury. Making a snap decision Ron rushed to the table and kicked out the chair holding the bag of her belongings. He tried to pick it up but found it impossible while still holding the baby. Panicking slightly when his tenth attempt to pick up the bag without dropping the baby failed he finally set her down on the table top, threw the strap over his shoulder so the sack hung at his hip, and awkwardly picked her up.
He prepared to apparate but stopped suddenly realizing that he couldn't hold the baby hard enough without hurting her to bring her along and somewhere echoing in the back of his brain he seemed to remember something about how children had been lost, left behind, or even killed if their parents tried to side-along apparate when the child was still too young. Fearing the consequences to his career if any of these three things should take place Ron decided the floo network was a better choice.
He hurried from the room and into the hall as if hell were nipping at his heels. Every few steps he would give the baby an awkward bounce and shush her which only seemed to make her cries louder.
He turned the corner at a dead run and almost ran straight into another body striding in the other direction.
A tall man with red hair and glasses jumped out of the way, straightening his stiff robes. "Ah, Ronald." He sounded almost relieved that he had almost run into Ron. "Just the person I was looking fo-for." Percy's eyes grew large at the sight of the infuriated baby. "What on earth are you doing with a child?"
Ron stepped around his brother. "I was wondering the same thing." He muttered as he continued on his way.
"Ronald, wait!" Percy had turned and was now following him at a clip pace. "Ronald, what is going on?"
"I don't have time to explain Percy. I'll see you later tonight."
"But that's just it Ronald," Percy finally caught up to him. "I won't be able to make it tonight. That's why I was looking for you. Would you mind giving mother and father my regrets."
Ron stopped so suddenly and whirled around to face Percy that in a moment of confusion Percy continued a few paces. "You're skiving off again?" He asked bitterly when Percy had turned to face him once more. "Percy." The man with the horn-rimmed glasses did not fail to hear the disappointment in his brother's voice. "You promised Mum."
Ron could see Percy's spine straighten and he brushed not existing dust from his immaculate robes. "I'm sorry, but I simply have too many obligations here at the Ministry and will not be able to get away tonight."
"That's always your excuse." Ron sneered. "You haven't made it to a single family dinner in-"
"For Merlin's sake," Percy's face grew red with annoyance. "Can't you make that child be quiet? There are people trying to work here."
Rolling his eyes Ron shifted the baby so that her face was now resting against his shoulder, her small body tucked against his chest. He sighed with relief when the new position proved to calm her, if only slightly. "You know what Perce? You can make your own excuses to Mum and Dad. I have to go."
Ron turned on his heel leaving Percy staring after him, a confused furrow to his brow.
Ron finally made it to the lifts that would carry him and the baby to the atrium where he could catch a ride on floo network. Once inside he turned back around and saw that most of the doors leading down the hall were open and the heads of several witches and wizards were staring after him.
"What?" He barked. "Haven't you heard a baby cry before?" The doors to the lift clanked nosily shut. "Why don't you all mind your own business and get back to work?"
With a sudden jerk the lift lurched into motion and they began their journey to the main floor. Ron watched the hand over the door move and settle over the different number indicating what floors there were passing. Finally they reached the main atrium and Ron burst through the lift doors as soon as the gap was big enough for him to fit through. He rushed to the nearest hearth and nudged his way to the front of the line. "Sorry. So sorry." He apologized when he nearly knocked over a little man who was hunched over and decrepit with age. "I'm so sorry." He offered again, "this is an emergency." He made it to the front of the line and somehow managed to toss some floo powder into the yello orange flames. He stepped into the bright green fire and with a desperate shout disappeared in a burst of green light.
Ron clutched the small bundle to his chest sending out a silent plea that she wouldn't slip from his grasp and become lost in some strange wizards chimney. Together they whirled though the hundreds of chimneys that made up the floo network. Moaning with disgust, Ron struggled not to move the baby away when he heard her wretch over his shoulder. For a fleeting moment the comic image of the surprised look on the unfortunate witch or wizards face when the vomit came soaring out of the fireplace distracted him from his panicky thoughts only to be replaced with the realization that the floo network was probably not the best choice of travel while carrying a newborn.
The ride couldn't have ended too soon for Ron. Finally when he felt his body begin to slow, the chimneys not spinning around him so fast, he prepared himself for the landing. The moment his feet connected with solid ground he lurched forward, stumbling in a billow of ash he had picked up along the way into the kitchen of his childhood home.
"Ronnie?" He turned to see his mother standing across the room from him, wand raised potato peals flying everywhere as they skinned themselves in the sink. She was staring at him with a mixture of surprise and concern.
"Mum," he rushed across the room. "Help me."