Mad Eyed Moody stepped out of the fireplace, wand in hand and a spell on his lips. "What's the emergency?" he demanded as he spied Lupin standing in the room.
"Ron's missing?" Remus told him. "Molly has already searched the house and is now contacting every Order member to see if they know where he is."
"Has she checked the Burrow?" Moody demanded.
"Not yet but I'm sure she will as soon as someone suggests it," Remus replied.
"Then I suggest we do so, since the boy isn't here" Moody said.
Remus glanced around the room. "He is not in here is he?"
"You mean hiding in secret room? He's corpse cooling with every moment?" Moody said with an evil grin. "No. The lad isn't here. But I can't promise that his corpse isn't cooling some place. The boy has some powerful enemies."
Moody made his way into the kitchen where Molly typically held court.
"…and if you hear anything, please let me know, Emmeline," Molly said before pulling her head out of the fire.
"Any luck?" Remus asked, following Moody into the kitchen.
"No. No," Molly replied before noticing Moody. "Have you seen Ron? He wasn't in his bed this morning and no one has seen him."
"No," Moody answered. "And before you ask, he's not hiding any place in the house."
"Oh," Molly said softly as she sat down in one of the kitchen table's chairs. "Do you have any idea where he might be?"
Moody studied Molly for a moment before asking. "Have you tried the Burrow or Hogwarts?"
Molly stood up suddenly, her eyes filled with determination. "No. Of course, he would go to the Burrow after all it is home. I should go there and bring him back."
Moody grabbed a hold of Molly before she could head to the fireplace. "Why don't you take one of your boys with you and Ginny too," he suggested. "I'm sure she knows all of the hiding places that exist in your home."
Molly nodded her head before calling for her children.
As the children filed in, Remus spoke up, "Boys, one of you needs to go with your mother and sister to check out the Burrow. It's possible that Ron went there or to Hogwarts. I need one of you to stay here in case someone floo calls or Ron returns. I'm going to check around the neighborhood just in case Ron went exploring."
"Ron wouldn't do that," Hermione spoke up. "He doesn't know anything about the Muggle world and he wouldn't be foolish enough to wander around without me to show him around."
"That is one possibility," Moody stated. "While they're look for the boy, you will be showing me his room and telling me if you noticed anything odd in the past few days.
"Nothing out of the ordinary happened," Hermione stated.
"Are you a trained Aurors with decades of experience?" Moody growled.
Hermione let out a sigh of frustration as an answer.
"I didn't think so. Boys, which one of you is staying and which one is going?" Moody demanded.
"I'm better with offensive and defensive spells, so I'll go," one of the twins replied. "But I think it best if Ginny stayed here; just in case."
"And I know every hiding spot there is in the Burrow; even where Bill hid his magazines. The kind that would have mum screaming at him," Ginny countered. "So I'm going. If Ron hid something at the house which will help us find him or Harry, I'll find it."
"What magazines?" Molly asked with a slightly confused look on her face. "And why would it be something I'd have to talk to Bill about?"
The children all looked at their mother before turning back to each other.
"Besides I think mum took too much calming potion. You'll need someone to deal with her if something happens," Ginny pointed out.
The twins nodded their heads in agreement. "If Ron has just wandered off I am thinking of charming his pillow into spiders?"
"Seems too similar to when we charmed his teddy bear," the other twin countered. "Should have one descend onto him while he's asleep."
Ginny let out an irritated huff over their ignorance. "Amateurs. Have every piece of food he tries to eat turn into spiders, except for things like rhubarb or pickled cockles. He won't touch either one of those."
"Neither will we," the twins said at the same time.
"What's wrong with pickled cockles?" Remus demanded. "They're good."
"With enough fire whiskery to kill a horse," Moody mumbled before speaking louder. "You better hurry up before your mother needs another dose. Come along girl. I want to see the boy's room"
"My name is Hermione or Miss Granger, not girl," Hermione growled as she followed behind Moody.
Moody let out a snort. "Minerva claims you're the smartest witch of her generation."
Hermione didn't reply but a small smile appeared on her face.
"Of course Filius told me some tales which left me wondering if you were trying to become fodder before you completed your schooling," Moody stated as he climbed the stairs to the second floor.
"Fodder?" Hermione echoed in confusion.
"Cannon fodder," Moody replied. "So do you have a death wish, girl?"
"No! Of course not!" Hermione explained.
"First year you took on a maze that was that was designed by masters of their fields to stop anyone from getting in," Moody stated.
"It wasn't that difficult," Hermione said in an off-handed way.
Moody snorted. "Of course not. After all Albus went behind everyone's back and weakened the defenses."
"What? No. No, he didn't," Hermione disagreed.
Moody stopped on the stairs and looked back at Hermione. "Yes, he did. Each trap was designed to be impassable. No one was ever meant to get through the traps."
"That doesn't make any sense. How could you expect to retrieve the stone, if you couldn't get through the traps," Hermione countered.
"Fawkes," Moody stated simply. "Then in your second year, only you could figure out what was petrifying everyone. I rather doubt that the whole of Ravenclaw are too stupid to have figured it out."
"Harry was the clue they needed since he heard it. Besides none of them came forward with the information," Hermione stated.
"Or if they did figure it out, they were suddenly made to forget," Moody stated. "I seem to remember your defense teacher that year had a habit of wiping people's memories. I'm sure that other people could do the same."
"You mean the Headmaster. Your friend and the leader of the Order," Hermione said snidely.
"Ahhh, yes. My good friend, Dumbledore, who couldn't tell the difference between me and a Death Eater, who was polyjuiced to look like me? Of course, if Dumbledore had done his duty as Chief Warlock, Black might still be alive today," Moody stated.
"Well, the Headmaster is a busy man. Headmaster of Hogwarts, Chief Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, and leader of the Order," Hermione growled, surprised that Moody would say such things about Dumbledore.
Moody stopped at the entrance to Ron's room and looked at Hermione. "Then I guess you can say Albus is a man of many hats. But you know the one thing I've notice about a man who is always wearing a hat?"
"No, what?" Hermione asked in confusion.
"He's always trying to hide something," Moody said before opening the bedroom door. "Now you said that Ron left without his wand, broom and he took no clothing…"
"Yes." Hermione just stood outside the doorway while Moody investigated. "His wand is in the same spot he usually puts it when he goes to bed."
"So you've been in this room when the boy was asleep or was he preparing for bed?" Moody asked with a lecherous grin.
"Hardly," Hermione folded her arms across her chest. "I've had to help wake Ron up more than once."
Moody made some dismissive noise as he cast a few spells. "Now that's interesting."
"What is?" Hermione asked, walking into the room.
"There are signs of a monitoring spell," Moody stated more to himself than to Granger.
"Mrs. Weasley?" Hermione suggested.
"No. It's not the type a parent would have on their child," Moody said before dropping his voice and saying, "Unless they were a sick freak."
"What? What did you say?" Hermione asked surprised.
"I recognize the magical signature," Moody stated.
"Whose is it?" Hermione asked.
"Is that Potter's bed?" Moody pointed at a bed that was half covered with Ron's clothing, books and magazines.
Moody was soon casting spells over the bed and making noises that indicated the results were interesting.
"Tell me, Miss Granger, who are you loyal to?" Moody demanded.
"What! I'm not a follower of the Dark Lord," Hermione snapped.
"You would be a damn fool if you were. I want to know who are you loyal to. Your friends or Dumbledore," Moody demanded.
Hermione glared at Moody for a moment before saying, "I'm a Muggle-born, which makes me a target for the Dark Lord and his follower. Add in the fact that I'm smarter and more powerful than the majority of Pure-Bloods and a friend of Harry Potter's; you can put me near the top of list of people the Dark Lord wants destroy. So to answer you question, I'm loyal to myself and whoever can kill the Dark Lord and his followers."
With that, Hermione turned out on her heel and marched out of the room. Just as Hermione vanished from Moody's sight, she screeched. "Fred! George! I'm going to kill you!"
"Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Lady Longbottom," Madam Bones said as she exited the manor's floo system.
"Think nothing of it, my dear," Lady Longbottom replied, guiding her guest to the sitting room. "The Longbottom family is always happy to assist the Aurors whenever necessary. I believe you were my dear son, Frank's, supervisor at one time."
Taking her seat, Lady Longbottom proceeded to pour tea for Madam Bones and for herself before pulling out a bottle from between the seat cushions and showing it to Madam Bones.
"Make it a double," Bones sighed.
Lady Longbottom chuckled and she poured some of the liquid from the bottle into the teacup. "Neville would be astounded if he knew about that."
Bones let out a snort. "Augusta, can you imagine what the children would think if you brought up sex?"
Augusta Longbottom chuckled. "Amelia, I think that all children believe that their parents only have sex only enough times to account for themselves and their siblings."
"Well after looking through some of the blackmail information that Black gave me, I would tend to agree with the children," Amelia stated. "At least when it came to having sex with someone of the opposite sex."
"Oh really?" Augusta's eyes sparkled in mischief.
A sly smile appeared on Bones' face. "Let's just say there is a very good reason that Lucius is an only child."
"And is Lucius a chip off the old block?" Lady Longbottom asked.
"No. No but Narcissa is a true ice queen to Lucius," Amelia replied. "Of course she does invite other men who catch her interest to her bed."
"Oh... umm… is…" Augusta sputtered.
"Draco's is his," Amelia answered. "Both Abraxas and Narcissa's father checked moments after he was born. There was something written in the contract to insure that there wouldn't be a cuckoo in the nest."
"That is what one gets when they marry for blood status and gold instead of love," Augusta said wisely. "Now what secrets did Black have on my family?"
"Nothing that you need to worry about," Bones assured her.
"Which means there are secrets. Secrets that could harm my grandson," Lady Longbottom countered.
Amelia nodded her head. "Did you know that you husband often went into the Muggle world and attended their cinema?"
"Of course. I often attended them with him," Augusta admitted. "I still do attend them in his memory."
Bones smiled at the answer. "My brother and our father had a thing for football games… or more likely for the fights among the fans," she said. "They would drive our mother crazy with worry."
"Catherine would go crazy with worry if your father was 5 minutes late. He had so many calming potions on hand when you and your siblings went to Hogwarts," Augusta stated. "She was always afraid that something would happen to all of you."
"She was right," Amelia said softly before finishing her laced tea.
Setting her tea down, Lady Longbottom said. "I guess it's about time we got to the business at hand. How can the Longbottom family be of aid? In your letter you asked about the letters Neville sent to me while at Hogwarts."
Bones nodded her head as she accepted the change of topic, knowing that Augusta wanted to avoid discussing an awkward topic. "I was hoping that both you and your grandson had kept the letters you sent each other."
"May I ask why are you so interested in these letters," Augusts asked.
"Someone in Hogwarts edited the letters my niece, Susan sent to me," Madam Bones stated. "I need to know if the person was just targeting my niece or the whole school."
Lady Longbottom blinked a couple times in surprise. "How exactly have the letters been edited?"
"What did Neville write about in his second year?" Madam Bones wanted to know.
"Second year," Longbottom echoed back then paused to think. "His letters talked about his plants. The boy seems to have love of them. He also wrote about the problems he was having in potion class. I also seem to remember Neville writing about a dueling lesson and something about it not going right."
"So nothing about the attacks on the students or the heir of Slytherin," Madam Bones asked.
"Pardon me but did you say attacks on the students? The heir of Slytherin?" Augusta demanded.
"Unfortunately," Amelie replied. "Susan wrote about it in her letters but someone edited them before I received them. That same person or group of persons edited my letters to her as well. They told her to remain calm and not to cause a scene. They indicated that the Ministry knew exactly what was going on and was trying to solve the problem without panicking the students."
Lady Longbottom sat there for a moment, very calm and quiet. "Who do you believe is doing such things?"
"As head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, I cannot say who our suspects are until all the evidence has been gathered and examined," Amelia admitted. "Having said that I am fairly certain you suspect the same person I do."
"Dumbledore," Augusta said with a trace of disgust.
Madam Bones nodded her head.
"Have you contacted any other families about this matter?" Lady Longbottom asked.
"Not yet," Amelia admitted. "This matter is a bit tricky considering the amount of political influence Dumbledore can wield. I'm concerned that if he finds out about my investigation, he might have me removed from my position."
"That should be the least of your concerns," Augusta replied.
"What do you mean?" Madam Bones asked.
"The easiest way to deal with a problem is either to remove the source of the problem or somehow gain control over the source of the problem," Lady Longbottom explained. "Susan would make an excellent hostage. One you willingly sent into the lions den."
Amelia sat absolutely still for a moment before sighing in frustration. "The man is the perfect position. He's surrounded by children for most of the year in a castle that almost defend itself; that will defend the Headmaster if anyone tries to remove him from the castle by force."
Lady Longbottom sipped her tea before saying, "Then the only solution is to remove any lever that he has against you. I believe your niece Susan has completed her O.W.L.S."
Madam Bones nodded her head in agreement.
"Then there is no reason for Susan or my Neville to return to Hogwarts," Longbottom announced.
Madam Bones choked on her tea. After coughing a few time to clear her airways, Bones said, "What?"
"Oh some of those cinema shows I see every so often summon it up perfectly; shoot the hostage," Augusta explained. "We simply have to remove Susan and my Neville from the situation."
"I hope you don't mean to shoot them with a Muggle gun," Bones replied.
"Of course not. We need to simply withdraw them from Hogwarts and send them someplace where Dumbledore does not have control or supporters," Augusta stated
Amelia sighed. "I'm trying to deal with so many things that I never consided that. I can withdraw Susan on account of death threats against me and the fact she is the last of the Bones. I can't fight this war while worrying about Susan's safety."
"While Neville is the last of the Longbottom I don't think that will work for him," Augusta stated. "Perhaps apprentice him to someone who deals with plants…"
"No, Dumbledore won't like him being removed from his control, especially if he's part of the prophecy," Amelia stated
"Prophecy? Neville?" Augusta sputtered.
Madam Bones nodded her head. "That's why the children were at the Ministry. The Dark Lord was trying to use Potter to retrieve a prophecy that may have mentioned him."
"And what did this prophecy have to say? Did it actually mention my grandson," Longbottom demanded.
"I don't' know," Amelia admitted. "Potter was able to destroy it before it ended up in the wrong hands."
"Then why do you think it was about Neville?" Augusta asked.
"Because Dumbledore was the one who witnessed the prophecy when it was made. He was the one who submitted it to the Hall of Prophecy," Madam Bones told her.
Lady Longbottom hissed sharply. "He was the one who suggested the Franklin take Alice and Neville and hide. I never knew why… but a prophecy about Neville…"
"Or Potter. Or both. And the only person who knew was Dumbledore and he's very interested in finding Potter," Amelia admitted.
"Potter's vanished?" Augusta's concern was evident in her voice.
"Not quite. It seems as if Black had arranged for Potter to vanish if anything ever happened to him," Bones admitted. "I can tell you that he's safe."
Augusta nodded her head accepting the answer. "You did say that the children were in the Hall of Prophecy?"
"Yes. And from what the Unspeakable were willing to tell to me, they also entered a number of other rooms within the department," Bones told her.
Lady Longbottom sat quietly for a moment before a sly smile appeared on her face that quickly vanished. Turning sorrowful eyes towards Amelia, she said, "My poor Neville is so sick ever since he's returned from Hogwarts. I'm afraid that he might have contracted something from the Department of Mystery and that it's affecting his magic. Would you be so kind as to contact Saul Croaker for me."
Amelia stared at Augusta in shock for a moment. "So you can claim that the Unspeakables have put Neville in isolation for his protection and that any contact with magic could not only harm him but others too."
"Exactly," Augusta replied as she poured herself and Amelia another cup of tea.
"But the only problem is getting the Unspeakables to agree with the plan," Bones pointed out.
"That's why I need you to contact Saul for me. He would be very… motivated to insure my grandson's safety," Augusta stated.
"Blackmail information?" Amelia guessed.
The sly smile appeared on Augusta face once again. "Of a type. Now about those letters."
With a wearily sigh, Arthurs walked into the Lamb & Flag, which was a pub on Rose St in the Muggle world.
"Arthur, long time, no see," the bartender called out. "The usual?"
"That would be wonderful, thanks John," Arthur replied as he used Muggle coins to pay for the drink.
"Hard day at work?" John asked as he handed over a pint of Guinness.
"Too many evil bosses," Arthur admitted. "And that's not counting my wife."
"Isn't that the truth. Can't live with them and we would starve to death without them," John joked.
Arthur saluted John with his glass before heading towards the back of the pub where other government and business drones were unwinding before returning home.
"Arthur, finally escaped from your prison cell?" a rather plain looking man joked from his table.
"Until tomorrow, when they drag me back to that place, Markus" Arthur replied before taking a drink from his glass. "But I'm going to enjoy the little bit of freedom that I have right now."
"Then I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I think one of your children is here," Markus nodded to the table next to the fireplace.
Arthur looked over in the direction Markus indicated and sighed. "Yeah it is. I guess freedom didn't last very long today."
Markus chuckled in reply as Arthur walked over to where his son sat nursing a glass.
"Bill," Arthur said as he sat down across from his eldest.
"Friend of yours?" Bill asked as he nodded to Markus.
"Fellow Ministry worker, just a different department," Arthur answered. "I'm rather surprised to find you here."
Bill shrugged his shoulders. "I remember you mentioning the place once so I took a chance, plus they had Guinness. Mum contacted the flat this morning and said that Ron was missing but then I popped over later, she didn't appear to upset about it. Think she took too much calming potion again."
Arthur made agreeing noise. "Your mother now believes that Ron knew where Harry is hiding and has run off to join him."
"Really," Bill said in surprise. "From what the twins told me, Ron left everything behind. His clothes. His broom. And even his wand. So why does she believe that Ron's done a runner?"
"Two reasons. The clock and Dumbledore," Arthur answered.
Bill groaned. "I forgot about the clock."
"So did I," Arthurs grumbled while sharing a sly look with his son. "After searching the house and contacting me, Molly floo-ed back to the Burrow and discovered that Ron was traveling."
"And the Headmaster?" Bill asked.
Arthur sighed. "Molly reported to everyone what she had found and Dumbledore declared that Ron was traveling to join Harry."
Bill snorted. "And everyone will declare it is the truth since it came from Dumbledore's lips".
Arthur nodded his head in agreement. "Your mother is still worried about Ron but she knows that he'll return home once the Headmaster gains access to the Department of Registration so he can bring Harry home."
"And if Ron isn't there?" Bill asked.
"Now won't that be like setting the cat among the pigeons," Arthur commented.
Bill snorted. "So when do you think Dumbledore will be able to find out where Harry is?"
"The Department of Registration is ... Do you remember when we visited your great uncle Clive?" Arthur asked.
Bill nodded his head, his confusion evident on his face.
"And do you remember how his house was?"
"I remember mum nearly having a fit over how messy the house was," Bill stated.
Arthur nodded. "It was messy to your mother but to Uncle Clive everything was in perfect order. He used to say everything had its place and a place for everything."
"You mean it's a complete disaster area and only those who work there know where anything is," Bill translated.
"And the head of the department is not a fan of the Headmaster. There appears to be some bad blood between the Headmaster and the department head's family, I believe it had to do with his younger sister and her calling Dumbledore a minuscule prick with delusions of adequacy," Arthur commented.
"Ouch. Wonder what he did to deserve that?"
"I was told you don't want to know," Arthur admitted. "So I figure it will be 3 to 5 days before they give the Headmaster what he wants just so he goes away."
"I hope that whoever is Harry's guardian now, has a plan for dealing with him. Or Harry's going to find himself back in England very shortly," Bill commented.
Arthur snorted. "If Sirius's friend is anything like Sirius was, then I'm sure he has something planned."
"You're right," Bill replied before draining his glass. "It's best we get home before mum sends out a search party for us. She wanted me to show up for dinner."
"You're right," Arthur said with a regrettable sigh. "It's best that we leave."
As the father and son started to leave, Markus called out, "Leaving so soon, Arthur?"
"Family dinner," Arthur replied.
"Extra dry roast beef with lumpy mashed potatoes and cold gravy," Markus stated nodding his head.
"And rock hard rolls," Arthur added in.
"And the only good thing is the drink," Markus raised his half finished glass.
Arthur chuckled. "Too true. Too true."
Arthur's eyes suddenly narrowed before walking over to Markus. Bending down, Arthur picked up something up from the floor. "I think this is yours," he said as he handed over a small folded piece of paper.
"Good thing you saw that," Markus replied as he took the paper. "Number and address of a lovely young lady."
"Which will turn out to be the number and address of her drag queen brother," Arthur countered.
"That only happened once," Markus joked. "Go and enjoy your horrible family dinner Arthur but don't drink too much. You have work tomorrow."
"Night," Arthur replied with a wave.
"Mum's roast beef isn't dry," Bill grumbled to his father as the walked out of the bar.
"Yes, but the potatoes are lumpy."
Back in the pub, Markus finished his drink and had another one before making his way out of the pub. He wandered up and down the streets, glancing into the windows at different shops. Nearly an hour after leaving the pub, Markus walked into a cream color stone and green glass building at corner of Thorney and Millbank.