It has been many moons since I posted anything. WoW is an addictive thing. Well . . . there was also the new relationship, job, house, and then, of course, the marriage. Life seems to always find something new to throw at you. :) I know I've been away for far too long (*chuckle*), but I will endeavor to stay out here in Potterverse for long enough to post the little bits and pieces I like to cobble together.
And for those who want the sequel to that OTHER story: I'm working on it. Thanks for staying with me and Eva.
"Lyra," whispered Draco. The blonde beauty that appeared before him was the image of an angel.
"Wotcher, Big Brother," said Lyra with a husky voice. She sniffed and wiped at a few tears that fell on her cheeks.
"Alright," said Draco. "You?"
"Alright. How are Auntie and Uncle? I heard you are getting married. How are the plans going? How –"
"Woah, one at a time!" said Draco laughing. His eyes had become misty as well. "Mother and Father are fine, they send their love and they can't wait to see you. I am getting married, and Mum has already tried to hijack the wedding."
Lyra laughed. "Well, what do you expect? You're her ickle Drakykins!"
"I wish you hadn't have said that in front of Weaselby," said Draco.
"Don't worry, Drakykins, your secret is safe with me!" said Ron from outside the reflection.
"Hey, speaking of Weaselby. He is not as annoying as you once portrayed him," said Lyra.
"Well, I was a teenager, and he was once as annoying as I portrayed him," said Draco. "I don't want to talk about Weaselby, I want to talk about you. How are you? What are you doing? I want to know everything."
"Well, I'm doing well. I'm working in a Muggle record company, and I love it! I get to go to concerts and see new talent. I have my own home just a mile away from the beach. I have a good life, but I miss home. I miss my family," said Lyra.
"You'll be home soon, enough," said Draco. "And we'll have plenty of time to catch up on everything we've both been up to when we're face-to-face."
"I don't want to put this mirror down," said Lyra with a laugh.
"Neither do I, sweetpea," said Draco. "But I'm sure Weaselby is shaking in his boots thinking about how many Ministry rules he's just broken."
Lyra looked over at Ron. He just raised his eyebrows and nodded his head with a smile on his face.
"Okay, I guess this is going to have to hold me over until the end of June."
"It'll come before you know it," said Draco. "Just think of me and Mother and Father, we're all waiting for you."
"I love you, Big Brother," said Lyra. She touched the mirror with her fingertip.
"I love you, too, Little Sis." Draco smiled into the mirror and then put it down.
Lyra put the mirror down and then turned to Ron. Her eyes were filled with tears, but she had a smile on her face. She threw herself into his arms and hugged him. Even if Ron lost his job, this was worth it.
Ron came back the following day and brought a calendar with him. He'd already circled June 30th in red pen. Lyra attached a marker to the calendar and hung it low enough for the girls to get to. Hydie and Cassie took turns going through the month of May and crossing off each day to the 22nd, which was the current day. They were told that they could only cross off the day when it was over, so they would have to wait until they went to bed to cross off the next day.
The girls were so excited that Lyra and Ron were late dropping them off at the preschool. Ron decided to stay in the car, while Lyra went to the classroom. Ron had the uncanny feeling that their teacher would not welcome him. Ron checked his suitcase to make sure that he had the Polyjuice Potion and hair that he needed to change into the bloke from the California Magical Legislature. He'd gone yesterday after he'd flooed the report to England. The guy's name was Matt Warner, and he was a young looking bloke, so Ron could pass as a delivery boy when he got into his costume. He'd need to make sure he timed his doses well. If anyone at Lyra's office suspected that Ron was the one walking amongst them, her employees might not be as forthcoming as he needed them to be.
Lyra was soon walking to the car and he waited for her to get in before turning to her. "Did he say anything to you?"
"He asked a few questions about who you really were, and I told him the same thing I told him when you arrived: you're a child psychologist that was helping me place the girls. You were right though," she said as she turned the key in the ignition. "He does have a flame for me."
"It's not hard to see why," said Ron.
Lyra smiled at him. "Thank you, Ron."
They went through the plan of what would happen that day at Lyra's office. Ron was to go into the offices with pizza to distribute to each little cluster of cubicles and try to talk to every group, gathering whatever information he needed from each of them. Lyra knew that he was looking for evidence of her using magic in front of Muggles, but she could not think of any time that she had used magic in her office, but this was what Ron had been sent to do. He would then deliver a single pizza to her office and he and Lyra could talk for a few minutes.
"Okay," said Lyra as she pulled into the parking lot of the pizza parlor. "I will go in and pay for the pizza. We can park in the garage at my building. Just stay down and then when you think enough time has past, you can come up to the floor and start your magic. So to speak."
"Sounds like you got the plan down cold," said Ron. He got out of the car with her and walked into the pizza parlor. When their order came Ron handed the man enough American cash to pay for the order and waited for his change; he made detailed notes in his head about what the uniform looked like.
"What are you doing?" asked Lyra. She had already planned on paying for the pizza with her company credit card. It was technically for a lunch with her staff.
"This is Ministry business, so I can pay for it and they'll take care of it." He nodded and thanked the man when he had his change.
Ron carried the pizza to the car and put it in the back seat. The ride to the building was quiet. Ron was thinking about the information he needed to gather from Lyra's workers. Lyra was thinking about Ron's statement regarding Mr. Diamond.
Once they arrived at the building, Ron did his best to crouch down in his seat – hard to do when you were six-foot-three – until Lyra exited the car and had been gone for a few minutes. He pulled out his notes on her case and reviewed the list of people he would need to interview before the 30th of June. He would like to interview her housekeeper this weekend when she came for her weekly visit. That would be a rather simple interview; he knew that Lyra did most things without magic. The housekeeper was more of a formality. Her former boss, however, would have to be hunted down and interviewed. Ron didn't have much information on her previous occupation. All he knew was that she was a dancer, and hadn't been making that much money. Lyra had said something about the Swedes putting her job in a better light than it was. He would have to ask her what it was she did before she got her current job.
He checked his watch. He'd been sitting here looking through papers and writing down additional questions for Lyra, for an hour. It was time to drink the potion and start his assignment.
Ron always hated drinking Polyjuice. The feeling of morphing into another person always gave him pause. He transfigured his suit into the uniform of the pizza parlor that provided the food. He took the pizza out of the back seat and cast a warming charm on them. He put his wand away and locked the car the way Lyra had shown him.
Ron signed in at the front desk and then headed for the elevator. He was surprised to find Gerald Chapman in the elevator. The bastard got off on the tenth floor as well. This man is not going to give up until he's hurt, thought Ron.
Gerald went right through the cubicle area and Ron noticed that most of the people who spotted him stopped talking, and as soon as he was through the doors that led to Lyra's office the whispers began. Ron made his way to the first set of cubicles and gave a pizza to the woman who turned to greet him.
"I've got a delivery for this office," he explained when she raised her eyebrow.
"Sweet!" exclaimed the girl as she opened the box and took a slice. She turned and balanced the box on the divider of the four cubicles. "Emilie's always doing sweet things like this. You're not the usual delivery guy, though. Where's Luke?"
"I'm not sure. I just started this job. I think I'm workin' in the wrong place, though, if your boss does this a lot," said Ron. He extended his hand to the girl. "I'm Matt, by the way."
"I'm Candace," said the girl as she shook his hand.
Ron nodded his head towards the doors that led to Lyra's office. "Do you know that guy that just walked to the office?" he asked.
"Yeah," said the girl with disdain. "His name is Gerald Chapman, and he's a dick."
"Tell me about it. The fucker stepped on my foot getting off the lift. Didn't even say excuse me," said Ron.
"The lift? Are you from England?" asked Candace.
Ron looked down to the floor. Damn it, Weasley! Watch what you say!, he reprimanded himself. "Not really. My Mum is, and I kind of say stuff she does, sometimes."
"Cool. I've always wanted to go to England."
"I know this is going to sound weird," said Ron. "But how did you get this job?"
Candace smiled and pointed at her desk. "Have a seat, Matt." She sat down at her desk and Ron put the pizzas down in an empty spot. "I started the way most of us start: we all love music. Most of us get internships and work our butts off for no pay while we're in college, and if you're lucky you get hired on. I got this job because the boss I had when I was on internship, was Emilie. She always hires her interns."
"I wish I had the time for an internship," said Ron.
"You in college?"
"Yeah, but I'm not sure what I want to do. Kind of still findin' myself, you know?"
"Oh, trust me, I know," said Candace. "Listen, if you decide to apply for an internship and you choose this place, I'll put in a good word for ya."
"Thanks, Candace." Ron picked up the boxes of pizza and stood. "I'd better get the rest of these out."
Ron walked over to the next group of cubicles and handed a spotty bloke the pizza. He didn't spend any time with the men in this group. He didn't want it to look like he was talking to people on purpose. The next group, though, was all birds, and they started flirting with him. He blushed like there was no tomorrow and they just all giggled and continued flirting. He asked them a few questions about their boss.
"You guys talk about him like he's a chick or something. Is he gay?" asked Ron.
"Our boss' name is Emilie," said the girl who'd introduced herself as Brandy.
"But my order says the name is Ron," he looked at the slip in his hand. "Ron Weasley."
The girls looked at each other and smiled. "Do you think it's that guy that came in with her the other day?" said one. "Oh my god! The hot redhead?" said another. "You could have bounced a quarter off his ass!" exclaimed another.
Ron started coughing. He'd almost swallowed his own tongue. These women were talking about him like he was some piece of meat. It served to help his ego a bit, but it was disconcerting at the same time. Do all girls talk like this when there's not a bloke around? he thought to himself. "I think I'd better go," said Ron as he high-tailed it to the next group of cubicles.
He checked his watch. He had another fifteen minutes left with his dose of Polyjuice. He had made the decision to nix the second dose and just go to the hall and let it wear off. He didn't like the idea of Lyra being alone in her office with that Chapman bloke. If things got bad, he had the antidote to the Polyjuice in his back pocket and he could get her out of a bad situation faster. The last group of blokes was more than happy to get two boxes of pizza. They were also more forthcoming about their boss and Mr. Chapman.
Lyra was the best boss in the world to them. She'd hired them all after their internships were over, and three of them had not even worked for her when they were completing the internships. The one bloke who did work for her said that he had a better understanding of how to do his job because he worked with her. There was no indication that she'd ever done anything 'out of the ordinary'. When Ron asked what they thought about Mr. Chapman, the mood of the four of them changed drastically.
"The guy is bad news. You know she's a working mom, and the bastard told her she had to send her kids to boarding school? And he cheated on her when they were still dating; it was all over the press. He knows the nature of the business, so he knew that word would get around to her," said Gary, the bloke who'd been her intern.
The other guys nodded in agreement and looked towards the door. "He's been in there a long time, guys."
Ron looked at the last pizza in his hands and then looked at the guys. "Well, my orders were that this last one was supposed to go to Miss DuBois." Ron motioned for the guys to move closer. "Check this out," he said as he lifted the box top.
"Who did you say these pizzas were from?" asked Gary.
"Some guy named Weasley, Ronald Weasley." The last pizza had the pepperoni shaped into a heart in the middle of the pie.
"That's the guy that came in with her at the beginning of the week," said Jason. He had told Ron that he changed his major to music when he was injured playing football.
"Do you think he's into her?" asked Gary.
"Seemed like it when they were here. He even stayed in there with her when Cassie and Hydie were there," said Jason.
The guys all nodded and Ron closed the box. "I just hope I don't get into something I don't want to know about," he said.
Ron walked through the doors to Lyra's waiting area. He could hear the screams as soon as he entered. The doors to the cubicle area must have been soundproofed. He walked to Tiffany's desk and looked towards the door. "This is for Miss DuBois. It's from Mr. Weasley. I was told that I had to say that."
Tiffany reached into her desk drawer to give him a tip from the petty cash, but Ron raised his hand. "There's no need. Mr. Weasley already left an awesome tip." He turned and walked out of the doors. He shook his hand when he past the cubicles of the four blokes, as if he'd burned his hand, and shook his head at the same time.
There was more whispering as he exited the area. He went to a small corridor that was next to the bank of lifts, and took the antidote quickly. He transfigured his clothing back to his suit and fixed his tie.
When he walked back into the cubicle room, he looked around and smiled at everyone. He nodded his head at Candace. "I see you got a nice delivery," he commented.
Before Candace could say anything, Tiffany burst through the doors. "Somebody call security!" she shouted before heading back into the waiting area.
Ron did not waste a moment. He ran full-tilt towards the doors to Lyra's office. He only slowed enough to grab the handle of the door and pushed it open. Gerald Chapman was standing in the middle of the office with his hands on Lyra. Ron stormed towards the man and grabbed him by the lapels of his suit jacket. The move dislodged Lyra from the man's grasp and she stood behind Ron with a hand on her chest, and one on his back.
Ron shook the man so hard in his fury that Chapman almost stumbled to the floor. "Didn't I tell you to stay away from her?" he exclaimed furiously. He threw the man towards the open door, with more force than he thought he possessed.
Chapman tripped over his own feet and fell to the floor. He had been caught off guard when Ron stormed into the office and manhandled him. He saw that the redheaded man was walking towards him with rage on his face. Chapman stood from his prone position and matched Ron's look of rage.
"This is your new boyfriend Emilie?" he asked while staring Ron down.
"I would suggest you leave now," said Ron. He put one arm behind him to keep Lyra where she was. He did not expect her to move her hand from his back to his hand. She squeezed it in thanks and to let him know that she was all right.
"You have no fucking clue who you're messing with!" shouted Chapman. He lunged towards Ron.
Ron quickly let go of Lyra's hand and braced himself for the blow. Ron was able to grab Chapman by the shoulders and shove him backwards. Chapman did not lose his footing this time and just stumbled a bit. Ron did not want to lose his advantage and aimed a punch at the man's jaw. Chapman tried, at the last moment, to try to dodge the blow, but was too late; Ron hit the man square on the mouth and busted the man's lip open.
Chapman touched his lip with his finger and looked down to see blood on his fingertips. Chapman would have attempted to tackle Ron again, if it weren't for the three security guards that came running into the room. One of them stepped in front of Ron, and the wizard raised his hands. "I'm not trying to fight anyone, here," he told the guard.
The other two guards were holding Gerald by the arms. The man was putting up quite a fight. "Emilie!" he called out. "Is this how you want to end it? After everything we've been through? After all that I did for you? You leave me for some carrot-top?"
Lyra did not reply to Gerald, she just looked to the security guard. "Please inform Mr. Eddings about this incident, I'm sure he'll want to know. And make sure that he knows I'm banning Mr. Chapman from the 10th floor; it's up to Mr. Eddings if he's to be banned from the building as well."
The guard nodded. "Should I call for medical attention, Miss DuBois?" he asked.
"No, thank you, Roger. I'm not hurt."
The other guards led a struggling Gerald Chapman out of the office and down the aisle that went past the cubicles to the outside corridor. Ron and Lyra followed to the outer doors of her office. They both heard the applause to the guards as they led Gerald away from their offices. When they saw Lyra and Ron in the doorway, they started chanting his last name. He'd not heard that since Hogwarts, when he'd helped win the House Quidditch Cup. He smiled and waved at them. The four blokes that he'd spoken with last walked up to him and shook his hand. "We've all wanted to do that for a long time, man," said Gary.
"Yeah, and thanks for the pizza, by the way," said Jason.
"Not a problem," said Ron. "If you'll excuse us." He waved at the remaining people and put his arm around Lyra's shoulders and steered her back into her office. Once she was safely settled on the sofa in the corner of her office, he started his questioning.
"Did he hurt you?" he asked first. "And I mean in any way."
Lyra shook her head. "No. He grabbed my arms, but that didn't hurt. He was upset about you, and he said he'd found a great private school for the girls to start in the fall." Lyra ran a shaky hand through her hair. "He'd made all these plans like we'd never broken up. Like he was within his rights to tell me how my life was going to proceed. I just blew up."
Ron nodded his head as she talked. Chapman was probably lucky that Ron hadn't been in the room, he would have gotten a lot worse than just a bloody lip. "Did he threaten you?"
"Yes," whispered Lyra.
"What did he say?" asked Ron. He thought his voice was rather calm and smooth, but Lyra detected a note of rage.
"It's not important. He can't act on it."
"Please don't make me repeat myself, Lyra," said Ron.
Lyra sighed and sat back on the sofa. She put one elbow up on the arm of the sofa and put her chin in her hand. She couldn't look at Ron when she said this; he would be able to tell just how much she was worried. "He said that he would find a way to hurt me. He would find my weakness and make sure I hurt as badly as he did."
Ron did not say a word. He stood and went out the door. He walked up to Tiffany and gave her a card. "Call this man. Tell him that you are calling on my behalf. Ask him to send me a copy of any information he has on Gerald Chapman. Give him as much personal information you have on the bastard; birth date, home address, anything. Got it?"
Tiffany nodded and dialed the phone number on the card right away. She turned on her headset and started looking through her computer files to see what she had for Gerald Chapman. Ron walked out into the cubicle area and looked for the four blokes that he had talked with earlier; they seemed to know a lot more about the happenings of this industry than anyone else did.
Gary nodded his head at him and waved him over to the coffee machine near the windows of the office area. Ron wasted no time.
"How much do you blokes know about this Chapman?" he asked.
The four men looked at each other. Jason spoke up. "We're not the ones you want to talk to, buddy. You need Francisco." He turned and pointed to a man dressed in bright colors. He was leaning against a desk and talking animatedly – Ron thought he could read the man's lips say fabulous – with one of the four birds that he had talked with earlier.
"Francisco," said Ron. He rubbed the back of his neck. "Right."
Gary laughed at his nervousness. "Don't worry about it, Mr. Weasley. He's got really good gaydar. He'll know you're straight; he might flirt with you, but it's just for fun."
"Please, guys, call me Ron."
The four men nodded and Jason stepped forward a little. "Listen, Ron, I don't want to sound rude or anything, considering what you just did for Emilie, but are you planning on sticking around?"
Ron chuckled. "It's good to know that Em works with good guys. I'd like to be around, yeah; for a long, long time, if she'll have me."
"Hey Frankie!" called Jason. He motioned with his hand to the brightly dressed man.
The man walked over and Ron had to bite his lip and turn around a bit to keep from laughing. This Francisco character was actually swaying his hips! He looked at Gary and the man did not help, he was smirking just as bad as Ron.
"Joo rang, yentlemen," he said.
Ron turned to look at him. He pretended that Francisco was someone else. "I was hoping you could tell me what you know about this Chapman bloke."
Francisco looked Ron up and down. Ron felt like he was being mentally stripped of all his clothes and he blushed from head to toe. Francisco ended his assessment and flicked his head to the side. "Are joo axing for jurself, or for Miss Emilie," asked Francisco with a heavy accent.
"Both," replied Ron. One-word answers were the most that he could do right now.
Francisco looked at his highly manicured hand. "I gwood not ujually give out thees kinds of informashon, but joo are nice to Miss Emilie." Francisco leaned in conspiratorially towards Ron. Ron leaned in as well. "Meester Chapman is in trable gwit hees label. He is going caput. He gwants Miss Emilie to gwork for heem so he can get more clijents, and save his baby from de taxman."
"How much trouble is he in?" asked Ron.
"If he doesn't sign a new talent in de nex two months, he gwill half to declare bancarota." Francisco said the last word in Spanish, but everyone knew what it meant.
Ron eyed the man suspiciously. "How do you know all this?"
Francisco just smiled at him and caressed his cheek. "Trast me, joo no gwant to know."
Ron watched as the man – and Ron used the term loosely – walked across the room to talk with Candace. He turned to the four blokes standing next to him and smiled. "Well that was awkward," he said jovially. The four guys laughed and Ron had to join them. "I'd better go check on Em." He waved and walked back to Lyra's office.
Tiffany stopped him at her desk. "Your friend said that he would get the papers to your hotel room by the end of the day. He said that if there was anything really important or urgent that you needed to know, he would take it to you post-haste. He also said that the other check you asked him to run came up with nothing."
Ron nodded. "Thanks, Tiffany."
He walked into the office to find Lyra lying on her side on the sofa. He squatted down in front of her and moved the stray hair that had gotten onto her face.
"What did you find out?" she asked.
"Chapman's label is in serious financial trouble. He wants to recruit you so you can bring some clients over and save the company. You've got some great guys working for you, Lyra. One of whom I'm not sure I can call a guy, but he's still helpful." Lyra laughed and sat up on the sofa. Ron joined her and put his arm around her shoulder before pulling her into a hug. "If this guy is really a threat, and I will know for sure once I get to my hotel tonight, I will call together an emergency meeting and initiate immediate removal."
"You make it sound like I'm some sort of government witness," said Lyra. She liked the feel of Ron's arms around her; she was sure that if he had not been there, she would have been a blubbering mess right now.
"Well, you might not be that, but you are still under the protection of the Ministry of Magic. They might be a bunch of old codgers with too much time on their hands, but they would not like it if it leaked out that someone was harmed on their watch."
"Well, that makes me feel loads better," said Lyra.
Ron checked his watch. "I'd better get going. I think I will drop by the California headquarters and see if my search has brought something up."
"Are you doing a background check on Gerald?" asked Lyra.
"You're not going to find anything. There are tons of people who have tried to dredge up all kinds of things on him, but no ones ever turned anything up."
"You'd be surprised what magic can do," teased Ron. He gave her a kiss on the temple and stood from the settee. "I'll be waiting for you at the house. Can you call your housekeeper and let her know that I'm coming? I'll bring my credentials, so make sure you tell her to ask for ID."
Lyra was a bit shocked that he'd kissed her. She nodded her head and stood from the settee. She walked him to the door and accepted the pizza that Tiffany brought to her.
"It's got special toppings," said Tiffany.
Ron smiled at Tiffany and squeezed Lyra's hand in farewell. He walked out to the cubicle room and waved at the people who waved goodbye or shouted See-you-laters. He saw no point in taking the lift down to the lobby and then phoning a taxi. He apparated to the lobby of the California Magical Legislative headquarters and asked for Mr. Michael Bolles. Like he'd told Lyra, you'd be amazed what magic can get you.
Draco got home that day in the best of moods. He had told Hermione about his short conversation with Lyra, but had sworn her to secrecy under penalty of making her hair even curlier. He had gone back to his office and gave one of his minions half a day off. There were rumors that he was getting soft even before marriage. He'd had to yell for half an hour to stop the whisperings.
He walked into his bedroom and stripped down to his pants and walked into the bathroom. After taking care of the call of nature, he turned on the shower. He mentally mapped out what he was going to have for dinner, when he heard the doorbell. There were only two people in the world that would ring the doorbell to his flat. Harry and his mother; Draco doubted that Potter would come to his flat at this hour of the evening. They could barely stand looking at each other for eight hours of their days.
Draco dressed and went to answer the door. He was surprised at who was actually at the door. "What can I do for you, Percy?" He moved out of the way of the door and Percy entered.
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy. I actually came to speak to you about something that just came into my office."
Draco closed the door and walked further into his flat. "Have a seat. Would you like some tea?"
"Yes, thank you, that would be lovely." Percy sat down in one of the comfortable chairs that flanked Draco's fireplace.
Draco returned with a tray set with tea things. He poured Percy his tea and waited until he took his first sip. "So what is this issue that came up? Is it something that will be handled by my department?"
Percy put his tea cup on the saucer in his hand. "We have received some information from an undisclosed informer in Sweden. Because of the nature of the information, it was brought straight to me. It appears that there has been an increase in the aggression towards Muggles in the area of Helsinki."
"These are attacks that can be traced to magic, I presume," said Draco.
"Yes, there have been no deaths, thank Merlin, but there have been enough incidents and injuries that the Muggle media has taken notice. The Swedish government believes that the group responsible for the incidents are also connected to the men that assaulted one of the people they currently have in their Protection Program."
Draco put down his tea cup. "Do you know where your brother is, Percy?"
"He's on assignment, abroad."
"His subject was attacked while trying to reach authorities during the war. She was in Helsinki."
Percy rubbed a hand over his face. He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. "Draco, the information that I'm about to give you has to fall on the ears of an Auror." Percy looked Draco in the eye. "Can I trust that you will behave and think like an Auror when I tell you what I need to?"
Draco mirrored Percy's posture. "She's as good as my sister, Percy. I can't tell you with certainty that I will be able to look at this objectively. I haven't seen her in eight years, if it were up to me, I would go abroad, find her, bring her home and put her under lock and key."
"I understand, Draco. You were my first choice for this, you being the Head of the D.A.R.T. team, but I can ask Harry to take the assignment."
Hermione apparated into the apartment and she called out to Draco. She walked into the living room just as he and Percy were standing to greet her. "Oh, hello Percy!" she said. She gave him a hug. "What brings you here?" she asked.
"I just came to talk shop with your fiancé." He turned to Draco. "I'll get going now. Thanks for the help, Draco, I mean it."
"If I change my mind, Percy, can I floo you?" asked Draco.
Percy checked his watch. "You have an hour to think, Draco. After that, I go to Harry and it's too late." He nodded his head at Draco and Hermione and showed himself to the door.
Hermione waited until she heard the door close. "What was that all about?"
Draco took Hermione's hand and sat her down on the sofa. He poured her a cup of tea and warmed his own cup. He wasn't sure if he should tell Hermione what Percy had come for; he wasn't sure if he was even going to take the assignment. If he did take it, he would never get the chance to tell her before he was off. If he didn't take the assignment, he wouldn't be able to tell her any more than what he currently knew, and that was more than frustrating. Draco hated not being in the know. He sat silently looking at the fire in the grate.
"Percy came by to tell me about some information his office just received from Sweden. There is increased activity from one of their underground Dark Arts groups. They believe that the group is somehow connected to the men that held Lyra captive when she escaped from hiding. He would have told me more, but it would have meant that I was accepting an assignment," he finally explained. If anyone would be able to help him make up his mind, one way or the other, it would be Hermione.
"Why can't the Swedes take care of this on their own?"
"My team is the only one in existence. We have trained and specialize in the recognition of Dark Arts. The only other persons outside my team that has their kind of knowledge are Potter, Weaselby and you. Sweden is probably at their wits end, or they found out the extent of this groups influence if larger than their Aurors can handle."
"Why didn't you accept the assignment then?" asked Hermione.
"It's like I told Percy, she's as good as my sister. I would end up in Azkaban if I found these guys. If it happened in front of Muggles, I wouldn't care. He wanted to know if I could take the assignment as an Auror and not as a relation to the subject. I don't know if I could do that."
Hermione put down her tea cup; she took Draco's hand in her own. "I've seen you fight like Voldemort himself was in front of you. I've also seen you keep a cool head in the face of overwhelming odds. I don't want you to think that I'm assuming I know what it's like to do your job, but I think that you would know best just how far you can push yourself."
Draco kissed Hermione's hand. "How did I ever convince such a wonderful woman to marry a dolt like me?"
"Just lucky, I guess," said Hermione. She kissed him sweetly on the lips. "You might still have time to catch Percy before he heads to Harry's flat." Draco hesitated for a moment. "What would you do if we were not engaged and Percy came to you?" asked Hermione.
"I would take the assignment," Draco said without hesitation.
"Then take the assignment," said Hermione. "You can't live your life like every decision you make is going to end everything we have. I knew what I was getting into when we started dating. You were an Auror when we went on our first date, and I didn't expect you to quit your job just because it was dangerous." She sighed and headed to the kitchen. "I'm going to start dinner. Let me know whatever you decide." She kissed his head and left the room.
Draco sat looking at the fire for another few minutes. Then, he went to the fire and threw in a little bit of floo powder. He hoped Percy had not left for Potter's yet.
Percy walked into the Auror department. He asked Harry and Kingsley to meet him there at the beginning of the graveyard shift. This was probably the only department that worked around the clock. As Head Aurors, however, Harry, Ron, Kingsley and Draco did not have to work graveyard, but they would do if necessary. Draco had flooed him earlier and accepted the assignment. Because the department would now be down two heads-of-department the remaining two would have to take on the slack. It was only fair that they know about their department's situation as soon as possible.
Draco appeared first and headed straight to the conference room. Percy followed him and took a seat at one of the chairs. Draco paced the room a bit restlessly.
"Is there anything you can think of that the Ministry can provide for you?" asked Percy.
"A bigger team than just me," replied Draco.
"I'm sorry, Draco, but the Ministry is quite adamant that we send only one person."
Draco gave Percy a withering glare. "The Ministry has no idea what they are dealing with." Draco opened his mouth to continue, but Kingsley entered with Harry.
Percy stood from his chair. "Thank you for coming on such short notice, gentlemen."
"Make it fast, Percy," said Harry. "We both have to get to the Burrow for dinner tonight."
Draco smirked and Percy nodded at Harry. "I came to let you gentlemen know that Mr. Malfoy will be going on assignment effective immediately. He will be unreachable until the end of the assignment."
"And how long will that be?" asked Kingsley.
"Indefinitely," said Draco.
Harry sent a hard glare at Draco. "Am I going to lose the only other groomsman at my wedding, as well?"
Percy did not want this to escalate into an argument. "The guidelines that I was given allow me to give you both some information, in the event that something goes wrong."
That simple sentence brought Harry and Kingsley's full attention to Percy.
"The Swedish Magical Government has sent us information about a Dark Arts group that has shown increasing activity in the last year. They are highly-cordinated and extremely dangerous. They have asked for Mr. Malfoy's expertise. Draco, I'm sure can tell you what he knows on the group."
Harry and Kingsley looked at their fellow Auror. Draco leaned his elbows on the table and began his explanation.
"This group is at least fifty strong. They would need that many people to coordinate the attacks with precision. They have skilled spell-casters, and it would be my opinion that they have a seer in their group, or an expert Legilimens. Their efforts, so far, have been primarily focused on Muggles who have large amounts of money. They kidnap them and ask for a relatively low ransom. When they receive the money, they send back the victim … in pieces."
Harry leaned back in his chair and rubbed his face. "Why have they waited a year to do anything about these people?"
"This group is large. They began with only a few Muggles every year. They've been coordinating and executing these kidnappings for the last seven years and have been getting bolder and bolder as the months pass. They are recruiting wizards from around the globe, by the looks of it. The kidnappings have begun to take place outside of the area and are increasing in circumference. The amounts of the ransoms are also becoming larger. From their M.O., they will soon be targeting pureblooded wizards with large fortunes."
"That is all fine and good as far as an explanation," said Kingsley. "Why is it that the Swedes will not allow Draco to take his team to the problem?"
"The question of the day!" exclaimed Draco. "Percy?"
"The Swedes believe that it is best for the public peace that we send out expert and have him coordinate an effort to stop this group on the quiet. They are afraid to cause panic."
"I'm sure that has already happened," said Harry. He looked at Percy. "You're honestly saying that you're going to send our only expert on Dark Arts groups alone into a foreign country with no back-up? This is mental!"
"Draco will have the assistance of the entire Swedish Auror squad," said Percy.
"None of which have had the training that I give my men, or know how to operate on a mission like this," said Draco. He stood up and started his pacing again. "This group has had enough time to set up a pattern. That is all I've got going for me right now. The men that I work with know what it is they need to be looking for. I can only get a better idea of who the group's next victim will be if I have my guys looking for patterns through the lists of possible subjects. They have progressed far enough that Muggles are out of the question unless they are very rich, and they are even out of the question because most of the rich Muggles are high-profile. We are also talking about an operation that is on at least three continents, that we know of; Europe they have pretty much canvassed already, but they still have operatives in the United States and South America. We need to make a list of all wealthy pureblooded wizards living or taking holiday on these continents." Draco stopped and looked at Percy. "Listen, Weasley, I know that you have your orders, but I would, personally, like to return to England and get married sometime in this life. I can't get everything I need to get done unless I have people that know what they're doing. And the only people who I trust to get things done are in my department. Hell, I'll even take Potter, if I have to! I'm sure he could make himself useful."
"Even when he's desperate, he manages to insult me," Harry said to Kingsley.
"We already know who their next target is," said Percy. Draco stopped his pacing. "Why do you think I asked you to look at this assignment as an Auror only? The patterns are showing that they are increasing their ransom amounts, but the ages of the kidnapping victims are getting lower, and they have completely phased out the Muggles. The Swedish Government gave us the information because the victim is going to be a British citizen." Percy stood and walked to the fake window and leaned against it, his hands braced on the sill next to his legs. "She is living abroad and is about to come into her inheritance."
Draco sat down with a plop and put his head in his hands. "I hope you know that I am currently planning your long and painful death, Weasley." He looked up and glared at Percy. "Is there something else that you are withholding from me? Perhaps, Lyra's already been kidnapped, or maybe that you've found the men that tortured and raped her, then left her for dead? How the fuck do you expect me to do my job when you don't give all the information!" Draco slammed his hand on the table.
"It's not Lyra," said Percy.
"Well, then who else is coming out of hiding from abroad and about to come into an inheritance worth a small country?"
If Draco were the fainting type that is exactly what he would have done.
Ron walked into Michael Bolles' office and smiled at the man that stood in front of him. "Wotcher, Mike?" he asked as he shook the man's hand.
"Alright, Ron." Mike motioned for Ron to sit in one of the chairs in front of his desk. He grabbed a file from his desk and sat next to Ron in the other chair. "It's not good, Ron."
Ron took the file and opened it. The first page held a photo and Chapman's personal information. When he flipped the page, Ron only had to read half-way down the page before he softly cursed. "Do we know whom he's affiliated with?" he asked Mike as he continued reading through the file.
"From what we can figure, it's a group somewhere in Europe. I was kind of hoping that maybe you could shed some light on the subject." Mike leaned back in his chair. "This guy has managed to live in the Muggle world for the last twenty years, and be completely overlooked by us. He's not on any of our Magical registries."
Ron nodded his head and continued reading. He was trying to retain all the information that he was reading. He would have to present this to his fellow Aurors when he made the emergency request.
"Ron," said Mike. "I need to know why you wanted this information. I'm grateful that you found him, don't get me wrong, but it begs the question of why you are here."
Ron leaned forward in his chair and looked up at Mike. "My assignment was a simple assessment of a British citizen who is requesting re-entry into Britain. She was in hiding with the Swedish Magical Government for years and she wants to return with her daughters. This man was dating my subject for the better part of a year. He came to her office today and assaulted her; she was lucky I was there. I needed to know how much of a threat he really was."
Mike pointed his wand at his door then leaned closer to Ron. "Listen, Ron, I'm going to give you some advice that might just cost me my job. This guy has more than just this," he flicked at the thin folder in Ron's hands. "He's got a Muggle rap sheet that is longer than my arm. He's managed to keep it hidden for a while now with magic. My best advice to you is to take this woman and her kids and get the fuck out of Dodge." He smiled at Ron's confused look. "It's an American Muggle expression. Get out of the States. Don't ask for permission for anything from anyone. If this guy has already threatened her, he will not give any more notice. He's going to strike, and strike fast. I can send you out of this office with an international Portkey. It will work once and only at the pre-set time. If anyone asks me, I will deny it, and I expect you to do the same. That's the most I can do for you."
Ron checked his watch. It was almost one o'clock. The girls would be getting out of preschool soon and heading to Lyra's house. "When would your Portkey activate?" he asked Mike.
"I can give you two hours. That should be enough time for you to get to this lady's job and get her and her kids packed up."
Ron nodded, and stood from his chair. "I'll take it."
Mike went to his desk and pulled out a box that once contained a fountain pen. He tapped it with his wand and it glowed blue for a few seconds. He handed it to Ron. "It will take you to the destination you started from."
Ron shook Mike's hand. "Thank you, Mike. I owe you one."
Mike waved his hand at Ron in dismissal. "It's my pleasure. Now get out of here, the clock is ticking."
Ron didn't say another word. He apparated straight to Lyra's office bulding's parking lot. He looked around and made sure no one saw him. He made his way to the lobby and waved at the man at the desk. He went to the lifts and nearly knocked three people over getting into an elevator that was open. He was nearly bouncing off the walls trying to get the lift to go faster. When he got to the tenth floor he walked as fast as he could without attracting attention from anyone in the cubicle area.
Tiffany smiled at him when he walked into the waiting are. "She's in a meeting right now. She'll only be about five more minutes."
Ron just nodded and walked to a secluded corner of the waiting area. He pulled out the cellular phone that the Ministry had issued him. Hermione had taken a whole day off work to show him how to use it. He dialed Lyra's private office number and waited for her to pick up.
"This is Emilie DuBois," she said in greeting.
"Lyra, it's Ron. I need you to get out of this meeting now. We have to leave immediately."
"Oh dear, thank you for calling Mr. Diamond; I will be at the school as soon as possible. Could you please leave a note for my housekeeper at the front desk, in case she comes to pick up the girls and they're gone?"
Ron knew she had to play it off for the client she was with. "Alright. I'll call and pretend to be you. I'm waiting for you just outside the door."
"Thank you, again, Mr. Diamond."
They both hung up and Ron made his second phone call.
"I'm terribly sorry to cut this short, Carrie. I've had an emergency call from my daughter's teacher. One of them has fallen and gotten hurt rather badly. I'll reschedule you with Mr. Eddings for Monday? Is that okay for you?"
"Oh, yes! Mr. Eddings, of course!" The aspiring artist was all smiles to be talking with the head of the label.
"Go on ahead and have Tiffany make the appointment for you before you go." Lyra stood and walked the girl to the door. "What you want to do now is talk to some of the people in the area outside my office. They will tell you all you need to know. Francisco will help you with style, just let him know what you like. He'll take care of you. Try and stay away from Jason, he likes to ogle," Lyra giggled with the girl and waved as she walked out the door.
Ron entered as soon as Carrie left. Lyra turned and grabbed her purse from inside her desk and her jacket from the closet where the girls kept their toys. "Is this because of Gerald?" she asked Ron as they walked towards her door.
"Yes." Ron stopped before he opened the door. "He's a wizard, Lyra. He's been flying under the radar for years. He's got some connections in Europe and they're not the good kind. With this kind of threat I am within my prerogative to take you and the girls straight to England without approval from the Auror council."
"What about the California people?" she asked.
"I've gotten that part covered. No one knows anything. We've got two hours to pack as much of yours and the girls' things as we can and we'll be leaving by Portkey. You can land by Portkey, right?"
"Yes, of course."
Ron opened the door and they left the office as quickly as possible. Lyra felt bad that she would be leaving like this. All these people that she had worked with for so long and she wasn't even going to say goodbye. She couldn't think too much about it because Ron had already led her to the small area behind the lifts and quickly apparated them to the parking lot. They both ran to the car, but Ron just helped her enter.
"I'm not going with you. I'm going to apparate to the preschool and get the girls. I'll apparate with them to the house. You just get there as soon as you can."
"Ron, Andy won't let you just take the girls. He'll keep them there with him if he has to."
"That's not a problem. Just get going."
Lyra pulled out of the parking space and drove as quickly through town as she could; Ron simply apparated from the parking structure to the alley on the side of the school. He ran to the front of the building and entered the office area. "Hello, I'm Ronald Weasley. I'm here for Cassie and Hydie DuBois."
"Oh, yes, we got the call from Miss DuBois. Can I see some ID, sir?" asked the teenager that was manning the reception desk.
Ron pulled out his ID and showed the girl that he was employed with the California Judicial Department. He'd had the ID made when he arrived in California. Politicians were almost like movie stars over here. The girl handed his ID back and smiled. If Ron weren't so worried about the safety of Lyra and the girls, he probably would have smiled back. He turned and watched the front of the building. He wasn't surprised when he saw Gerald Chapman's car pull up in the driveway. He turned and saw the girl walking with one girl attached to each hand. He walked up to them and crouched down and picked them up in his arms.
"How about we go visit the loo before we go? Okay?" He looked at the teenager. "Is there a restroom in the office?" he asked the girl.
She pointed to a door with a blue sign on it. He walked towards it quickly and closed the door just as Gerald Chapman entered the office.
"Hello," Gerald said to the teenager behind the reception desk. "I'm here to pick up Cassie and Hydie DuBois."
The teenage girl looked confused. "Mr. Weasley just took them to the bathroom. Miss Dubois …"
Gerald had run behind the divider and busted through the bathroom door. It bounced off the wall and revealed no one in the small room.
"That's weird. I didn't see him leave," said the teenager.
Ron put the girls down in the front hall of their house.
"That was fun!" they both squealed. "Can we do it again?" asked Hydie.
Ron smiled down at them. "We will get to do that in a whole different way in a couple of hours. Right now, though, we're going to help Mum." The girls looked up at him expectantly. "First, you girls are going to show me where she keeps all the bags for going away, and then we're going to go to your room and play a game."
"Yeay! Yeay!" the girls hopped up and down and made a circle around Ron.
He laughed with them and then reached down his hands so they would each take one.
"Mummy keeps the going away bags in her room. She has them in her closet," said Hydie. Ron picked up the girls in his arms again to make it up the stairs faster. He was going to need every moment he could get. "Ron, are we going away?" asked Hydie.
"Are we going to Enland, now?" asked Cassie.
"Yes, girls, we are going to England now. We need to get all our clothes into a going away bag and help Mummy put all her things in one, too."
"But Mummy always gots lots of going away bags. She says that she has too many clothes," said Cassie.
"Well, we're going to use magic to get all our things into one going away bag for Mummy."
"But we're not s'pose to use magic," said Hydie.
"That's right girls, we're not supposed to use magic, but are there things that you can do when it's an emergency?"
"Mummy said we can use the telephone for a 'mergency," provided Cassie.
"Well, this is an emergency. We are going to use magic because Mummy needs a lot of help and we have to hurry."
Ron had already gotten to Lyra's bedroom and walked into her closet. "Merlin!" he exclaimed when he saw what it contained. There must have been enough clothes, coats, shoes, and accessories in this closet to clothe England. He looked around and saw that there were two trunks in the corner of the closet and grabbed one of them.
"Okay girls, let's get your things packed and then we'll start on Mum's stuff."
He followed the girls to their room and put the trunk down in the middle of the room. He performed a charm on the trunk that would allow him to put in as many things in the trunk as he needed without adding to its weight; he mentally thanked Hermione for the idea. He would have to shrink the trunk and put it in his pocket when they Portkeyed to his flat. He might be able to fit two trunks for Lyra's things in his other pocket. The girls had already gone to their most important storage bin: the toy chest. They had grabbed a handful of the toys and tossed them into the trunk. They watched as the toys hit the bottom of trunk and looked up at Ron.
"They're still the same size," said Hydie. "Will we have another going away box for our clothes?"
"No, all your things will fit in here. It's magic, trust me." He walked to one of the dressers in the room and grabbed all the clothes he could in his arms. He walked to the trunk and placed them on the bottom. He was never good at packing so he just allowed them to lay the way they landed. He heard the door open and close quickly. "Girls, get in the closet and stay there until I come back, okay?"
The girls nodded and did what they were told. Ron pulled out his wand and opened the door of the room just a crack. He waited to hear any kind of noise. There was the sound of someone walking downstairs. He waited with his wand at the ready.
"Ron!" called Lyra's voice before he saw her face. He moved out of the door and stood in front of it, with his wand pointed at the head of the stairs. He walked towards the staircase slowly. There were many ways a witch or wizard could change the sound of their voice; he wasn't taking any chances.
He saw Lyra's blonde head turn the corner that led to the staircase. She got on the first step and then looked up at him. "Ron! Do you have the girls?" she asked.
"What are the names of your brother's parents?" he asked. He'd taken Polyjuice Potion just that morning; he had no way of knowing if this was really Lyra.
"What are you talking about? I don't have a brother and my parents are dead, we would have the same –"
"Stupefy!" shouted Ron. It was odd for him to see Lyra's body fly across to lie on the floor in front of the door. "Wrong answer," he told the body. He raised his arm again when the front door opened again.
"Merlin's beard!" exclaimed another Lyra.
"What are the names of my two best mates?" asked Ron with his wand pointed at the second Lyra.
"Harry Potter and Hermione. You never told me her last name," answered Lyra.
"What are the names of your brother's parents?"
"Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy," she answered again. She pointed at the body on the floor. "Who is that?" she exclaimed.
"I think its Gerald." Ron put his wand away and walked down to the prone body on the floor. "I saw him at the preschool and I apparated the girls here from the bathroom there."
"Oh my god," breathed Lyra. She watched as Ron took out a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. He put them on 'her' body, which was strange enough to see, but it was even weirder when he picked 'her' up and took 'her' to a chair in the dining room. He conjured rope and tied 'her' down.
"The girls are upstairs in their closet. We've already started packing their things. I will continue with them," Ron began to walk as he talked. He pointed his wand to the door and locked it with a charm. "You need to get your things packed, so go ahead to your room and start. Make sure you put an expanding charm on the trunk; you're only going to be able to take two."
Lyra nodded and followed him up the stairs. Ron entered the girls' room and called them out of the closet. The two little girls ran to their mother and hugged her legs. "Ron's taking us to Enland now, Mummy," said Hydie.
"He told me. Are you girls excited?" she asked.
"Yes, Mum, because we're gonna get a dog," said Cassie.
Lyra laughed and looked at Ron. "I blame you for this," she told him.
"Okay girls, we need to finish packing." Ron went back to the dresser and continued to grab clothes. He was finished with the entire dresser before the twins were done getting all their toys in the trunk. He started with the closet and put clothes in the trunk without taking them off the hangers. They had just as big a closet as Lyra, but Ron noticed that theirs did not have the feel of a magically enhanced room, the way Lyra's did. The girls were soon joining him in the closet and he focused on getting all the clothes that were on the top rungs. When he finished, he told them to sit on the bed while he got the remaining items. With a flick of his wand the boxes of shoes that lined the bottom of the closet left the ground and began moving. They arranged themselves in the trunk and Ron closed and locked it before reducing it to the size of a ring box.
The twins gasped. "Where are all our toys?" they both exclaimed.
"Don't worry girls, they're all in there, just really small. Remember, it's magic." Ron still found it amazing that they were so confounded with any little bit of magic that they saw. He couldn't remember a time when he wasn't surrounded by it. This must be what it was like for Harry and Hermione, he thought to himself.
They were following Ron to Lyra's room, when they heard a roar come from the ground floor. "Go to your Mum's room, girls. Tell her I'll be right in." Ron waited for the girls to enter Lyra's room before going down the stairs.
Ron had taken Gerald's wand when he put him on the chair and tied him to it. He checked his pocket and made sure that it was still there. The man had fallen to his side on the chair.
"You have no idea who you're dealing with!" yelled Gerald.
"You keep saying that Chapman, but I still don't believe you. I found out some very interesting things about you today. The most interesting of which is that you're a wizard that was recruited by an underground wizarding group at the age of fifteen. You see it helps when you have friends that are trained to recognize Dark Arts. I knew that there was just something wrong with you the first time you came here." Ron squatted down and turned his head to the side. "I hope you liked your time in the wizarding world."
Ron touched the man's shoulder and apparated them both to the lobby of the California Magical Legislature. There were at least fifty people in the lobby and they all turned to look at Ron and the man dressed in women's clothing tied to a chair. Ron pulled out the man's wand from his pocket. "Can someone tell Michael Bolles that we're even, and give him this." He handed Gerald's wand to the nearest person. Without another word he apparated back to Lyra's house.