Some of you may recognise this story as it has previously been published on Portkey under the pen-name Barton Fink. Unfortunately (for me at least) the name Barton Fink has already been taken by a discerning user on this site. As a result I have had to use a new name - fans of the Coen Brothers will recognise that I have kept their theme with the name Walter Sobchak.


'So, it's tonight then?' asked Harry Potter as he regarded his friend before taking a large bite from his sandwich.

Ron Weasley nodded, taking a moment to swallow his own food before replying. 'Yeah. We go to see the Vicar tonight. Hermione's mum and dad are coming too. Apparently there are a few final arrangements to go over before next week. Blowed if I know what they are though; I've no idea how a Muggle wedding is supposed to go.' He leaned down and sucked up some soda up through a straw, making a loud slurping noise as he did so. Then he belched loudly. 'Not much clue as to how a Wizard wedding should go either, for that matter.'

Harry smiled at his friend knowing just how true Ron's observations were. For all his knowledge of the Wizarding world, Ron had the street smarts of a three year old with a blindfold on when it came to Muggles. Well, not all Muggles, he reasoned. There was one particular Muggleborn that Ronald Bilius Weasley knew quite a bit about, but that seemed to be enough for his red haired friend. He didn't even pretend to be interested in the minutiae of the Muggle world anymore, despite the best efforts of Hermione to educate him. He figured that was one battle his other best friend was destined to lose. Probably the only one, he reckoned.

'Don't worry about it Ron; I've not had any experience in that regard either, but one thing I do know; the groom doesn't have to do anything apart from turn up. Just make sure you get that part right, okay?' he asked with a smile.

Ron nodded. 'I have you to blame if I don't make it though; you are the Best Man, remember? Although sometimes I wonder why I bothered asking you; you are probably the only person I know that is more irresponsible than me.'

Harry laughed at this remark, glad to be enjoying some time with his friend. Although both Aurors, they did not work directly with each other and so tried to grab the chance to catch up over lunch whenever they got the time. Today was such a day and both were taking the opportunity to enjoy the fine weather by sitting outside the Muggle Café in London's financial district that they frequented. Harry had discovered it two years earlier on one of his many tours of the capital and it had become a favourite of the two men. This, at least, was one aspect of the Muggle world Ron did take an interest in – the food.

They both turned their heads as a very pretty blond woman of about their own age strolled by in an extremely short skirt. Yet another bonus of such fine weather, Harry thought. He turned to see that his friend was also having a good look at the woman; even to the extent of leaning over to look round Harry at her retreating back.

'Very nice,' he said. 'I do enjoy the hot weather.'

Harry smiled. 'You're getting married next week Ron – to my best friend, no less – so behave yourself.'

'I'm only looking,' replied Ron, somewhat defensively. 'Besides; I saw you check her out too and you are engaged to my sister. So don't be lecturing me!' They stood staring at one another in mock seriousness for a moment before bursting out laughing.

'Fair enough,' said Harry. 'C'mon,' he began, glancing at his watch. 'We'd better head back.

Finishing up, the two friends stood and left some cash on the table to settle their bill, before heading down an alley that was considered safe to Apparate from. They had only gotten about half way down when Harry felt a vibration in his pocket. Cursing, he fumbled in his pockets for a moment before finding his enchanted mirror that was standard issue to all Aurors these days. Kingsley had gotten the idea after hearing of the one Harry had received from Sirius all those years ago.

'Yes?' he asked as he glanced into the glass. He wasn't surprised to see that it was Dawlish on the other end. The man was a pain in the arse, but he was Harry's superior and had to be obeyed.

'Potter,' was the curt greeting. 'Where are you?'

'Not far from Canary Wharf,' replied Harry. 'We normally come here for lunch,' he added.

Good,' replied Dawlish, 'I was hoping that's where you would be. Listen carefully; we have received a tip-off from an anonymous source that the escapees have a hideout in the Docklands area. That's not too far from where you are now. They have probably set up wards and detection charms so it's best if we don't Apparate in. Get yourselves down there as quick as you can and observe until the main force arrives. DO NOT attempt to enter the building until the back-up gets there. Your job is just to observe; indeed, the only reason you are being asked to do this is because you are the nearest. It will take us some time to assemble a force, so do not attempt to gain entry until we get there. Understood?'

Harry nodded, deep in thought. It had only been a week ago, but the reverberations of yet another Azkaban breakout were still being felt throughout the magical world. Dolohov, Crabbe Snr and both of the Carrows had somehow managed to escape from the prison and the event had left everyone a bit jittery, particularly after several scaremongering articles in the Daily Prophet. Azkaban was supposed to be escape proof after what happened five years ago, but the Death Eaters had managed to find a way round the new security measures. Kingsley reckoned that they must have had help from outside but had no idea who might have done it – the Ministry thought that all of the Death Eaters had been rounded up.

Harry had been especially warned to be on his guard. Although Kingsley – and everyone else – did not think that they would try to attack him; instead believing that the quartet had already left the country. But Harry had learned a long time ago not to take such reasoning at face value. He would feel a lot better when he heard that they were back behind bars.

'Yes, sir,' Harry finally replied, a touch of anger in his voice. He wasn't a child anymore and was annoyed that Dawlish spoke to him as if he were. 'Do you have the address?' he asked.

Dawlish rhymed it off and Harry was glad to see Ron jot it down in his notebook. 'We're on our way,' he informed his superior before putting his mirror away and regarding his friend.

'Know where it is?' he asked.

'Sure do. C'mon; let's go.'

Less than five minutes later, Ron and Harry found themselves crouched behind a low wall examining the façade of a very old warehouse next to the docks. This part of the East End had not yet been grabbed by the property developers and as a result the whole area was full of derelict Victorian brick warehouses and silos. It was a perfect place for anyone wanting to remain hidden from the authorities.

'So what do you reckon?' asked Ron.

'I reckon we obey orders and keep watch until the cavalry arrive,' replied Harry. 'Anyway, the ground is too open; I don't think we could get closer without being seen by anyone in there.'

'If there is anyone in there,' said Ron. 'This place is dead; there is absolutely no sign of life. I reckon someone is at the wind up. It wouldn't be the first time that some smart arse decided to have a little fun at the expense of the Aurors.'

Harry nodded. That did make sense; one of the biggest pains they had to face was the crank call; too many people thought wasting Ministry time was the best game in town. And the place did seem deserted – in fact it looked as if no one had set foot near the warehouse for years. Despite this however, Harry could not escape the feeling that something was wrong. The whole set up didn't seem right.

'Look,' said Ron. 'Those old containers offer some cover; we could slip behind them and get closer.' He saw the doubt in Harry's eyes. 'We don't have to go in; but Dawlish didn't say how close we could get to observe, did he?'

Harry conceded the logic. If they could slip behind the containers unnoticed then they would be in a perfect position to cover the building. He nodded his agreement. 'C'mon then, but be careful.'

The two men slipped quietly from their concealment and crept around the back of one of the old shipping containers. Moving as quietly as they could, they finally managed to get within twenty yards of the door. Not a sound could be heard other than their own breathing.

'This is a waste of time,' said Ron, 'there's no one here. I'm going to try the door.'

'Don't, Ron,' said Harry. 'You heard Dawlish.'

'Dawlish is an old woman – he wouldn't have a clue what to do here. He's only ordered us not to enter because he wants all the glory for himself. I tell you, Harry, there's nobody here.'

Harry was not convinced. It did not look like the building was occupied, but the only way to verify that was to enter. It still didn't feel right though.

'I don't know, Ron. I still think we should wait.'

'Don't tell me you're turning into an old woman too,' said Ron, with a smile. 'Look; you keep me covered and I'll try the door. If I see or hear anything then I'll come straight back. Okay?'

Alarm bells were going off in Harry's head; every instinct was telling him that this was a bad idea. But it was a huge building and Ron would be in cover for most of the way. He nodded.

'Okay, but if you sense anything – and I mean anything – get your arse back here. Agreed?'

Ron smiled in reply. 'That's the spirit, Harry. We defeated Voldemort and these bastards before; what do we have to worry about here?'

Despite himself, Harry smiled too. 'Okay then; be careful. I'll cover you.'

Ron nodded once and slipped out from behind the container. He crept up towards the door before crouching down just below the glass window that was cut above the handle. He listened carefully but heard nothing. Very slowly he turned the handle and silently slid open the door, before thrusting his head through the opening. He glanced around for a few moments, his ears cocked to pick up any sound. Satisfied that the building was empty, he turned to his friend.

'It's clear,' he said, gesturing Harry to join him. 'The place is deserted.'

Harry smiled his own relief and moved to join his friend. He watched as Ron stood and took his first step into the deserted warehouse and opened his mouth to tell his friend to wait. It was precisely at that moment the world exploded around him.

Harry was blown backwards towards the containers, his eyes taking in the fireball that engulfed his friend completely. He had no time to take in anything else, however, as he cracked his head on landing. He lay dazed for a moment before struggling to his feet, but found it difficult to maintain his balance.

'RON!' he screamed, reeling like a drunkard and oblivious of the blood that poured from a deep gash in his head as he tried to fight his way against the flames. It was futile; the searing heat prevented him from getting anywhere near the spot where Ron had stood and it was with an overwhelming sense of grief and despair that Harry Potter finally succumbed to his own injuries and collapsed onto the ground. His last conscious thought was the appalling truth that his best friend was dead.

Eleven Months Later

Draco Malfoy woke with a loud groan. Sweet Merlin, he thought to himself. What was I drinking last night? He couldn't remember – in fact, he found that he couldn't remember anything and he found this slightly disconcerting. It was not unknown for him to drink heavily, but he at least usually remembered what he had been doing. He managed to turn himself over and became immediately aware of a presence in the bed next to him. It couldn't have been all bad then, he reasoned as he realised that it was the form of a young woman that lay in bed next to him.

He struggled into a sitting position and leaned over to see who it was that shared his bed.

Chang? Cho Chang? What the fuck…?

Totally perplexed as to why this woman was in his bed, Draco sat back as he tried to remember the events of the previous night.

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. What the fuck was going on?

He pulled the bedcovers off of himself and staggered to his feet. It was at that instant that he realised that something was very, very wrong.


Blood everywhere. On his hands; on his legs. He was drenched in it; saturated in gore.

Turning back to the bed, his mind racing, he grabbed the sheets and whipped them off; uncovering the woman lying still on the mattress.

Oh my God…

Cho Chang lay dead. Her guts had literally been ripped from her and the sheets were a mass of blood; only her face was unmarked by the gore. Draco staggered backwards, seemingly unable to comprehend what was going on. Why can't I remember?

It was at that moment that a loud hammering could be heard on the door of his apartment. He reeled at the noise, his mind unable to process what was going on.

'Open up! Ministry Aurors! Open the door!'

Draco sank to the floor. Aurors! How did they…?

His train of thought was abruptly interrupted as the door crashed open and six burly Aurors burst into the room. The leader took one look at the bloodied mass on the bed.

'Draco Malfoy? I am arresting you on suspicion of murder. Anything you say can be taken…'

Draco never heard the rest; never took in what was going on. His mind was screaming at him to remember as he stared at the corpse on the bed before one of the Aurors threw a sheet over it in order to restore some dignity to the deceased. Draco was vaguely aware of being bound; of having a robe thrown over him before he was led from the room. None of this really registered however. He could not seem to get one urgent thought from his head.

Why can't I remember?

Hermione Granger opened the door to her apartment, hung up her jacket, kicked off her shoes and sighed. It had been another long day at the office and she was grateful for it; the long days at least allowed her some sleep at night, something she had been having trouble with for a while now. Dropping her handbag onto the floor, she walked into her living room and smiled as she received her usual welcome.

'Hi, Crookshanks,' she said as her faithful pet trotted over to rub herself against the legs of her mistress. Hermione leant down to stroke the cat. 'Good to see you too.'

She collapsed into the sofa and leaned back, rubbing her temples with both hands as she did so. She vaguely considered the fact that she was working too hard; that she was in danger of burning out, but she was acutely aware that she needed to drive herself this way. It was only when she concentrated on her work that she was able to forget just how much her life had collapsed in the past year.

She worked for the Department for Magical Creatures (DMC); a department set up by Minister Shacklebolt to improve the rights and freedoms of the non-human element of the Wizarding world. The department had been set up not long after Voldemort had been defeated and she had been honoured to have been approached by Kingsley with a request to join the team. It was not long before she headed the department; despite her youth it had been obvious from the beginning that the representatives of the respective magical creatures preferred to deal with her rather than anyone else. She took it as a complement that she was recognised in this way; this was something she had earned herself, not because she was the famous Hermione Granger.

It was all she had left now. She should have been married by now; married and settled and enjoying the fruits of victory that she and her two friends had worked so hard to achieve. But that had disintegrated last summer; disintegrated in the fireball that had claimed the life of her fiancé and had driven her friend from the magical world. That terrible day had ultimately cost her both of the men that had made her life worth living.

She leaned forward on the couch and slid open the drawer in her coffee table, carefully removing the envelope that lay within along with the small wooden box that had arrived with the letter. The writing paper was crumpled now; testament to the number of times she had gone through this ritual in the past eleven months and she laid the letter out flat on the table before gently smoothing it out with the palm of her hand. It was from Harry, dated two days after the Ministry inquiry into Ron's death - two days after the last time she had seen him.

At the hearing, Harry had been publicly reprimanded by the presiding officer for not demonstrating "…the due care and attention expected of an Auror," and for having "…a blatant disregard for a superior's orders." The tribunal had not gone as far as to outright blame Harry for Ron's death, but these final comments had been enough to damn him in the eyes of the Wizarding world.

She leaned forward again and extracted from the drawer a much folded copy of the Daily Prophet. It was the edition from the day after the Ministry inquiry and it haunted her still. The lurid headline proclaimed the verdict of the magical world – 'Weasley Murder - Potter Guilty of Negligence!' It wasn't true – any of it – but she knew Harry believed it to be true and she was also aware that she had contributed to this belief.

She closed her eyes, remembering the immediate aftermath of the tribunal.

Harry had looked stunned at the verdict; had stood in a state of shock, his features pale. He had cast his eyes over all the Weasleys present, his expression pleading for forgiveness. That was when Ginny had screamed at him for causing the death of her brother. She had been hysterical and Harry had looked as if he had been struck such was the impact of these words from his fiancée. She herself had moved to comfort Ginny and had noticed his eyes switch to lock onto her own, his expression one of apology and pain. She had not been in the mood at that moment to offer him comfort or forgiveness – she had been dealing with her own grief and did not have the sympathy to spare.

'It's probably best if you just leave, Harry.'

She still couldn't believe she had said this to him. The last words she had spoken to him. She had only meant that he go somewhere until Ginny had cooled down a bit, but Harry had taken the meaning of her words literally and had complied with her suggestion to the fullest extent.

She forced her eyes open and willed herself to look at the photograph on the front page of the paper. Whoever the photographer was, he had done an admirable job in capturing the moment. He had caught the Weasleys and herself just as they had turned to leave the room. All were in profile and all had their backs turned away from Harry, shunning him as if he was contaminated in some way.

In the picture, Harry just stood there totally alone and completely stationary. She had never seen a magical photo quite like it. Whilst everyone else moved around as normal, the image of Harry remained absolutely still, as if someone had superimposed a Muggle image onto the magical photograph. He was surrounded by a press of people but still cut a solitary figure. He was looking directly at her retreating back as she left the room and his face was a mask of anguish. What troubled her most as she examined the photo were his eyes; his normally vibrant green eyes were dead and gave the impression that Harry Potter was a broken man. He looked utterly crushed.

'It's probably best if you just leave, Harry.'

She put the paper down and looked again at the letter, wiping away the tears that rolled down her cheeks. The letter contained only one word; a word scrawled in his familiar sloping handwriting and a word that conveyed exactly the turmoil her friend was in.


Nothing else. Not an explanation, nor any details of his whereabouts or intentions. Not even a signature on the bottom of the note. Only this solitary word that revealed so much.


She carefully placed the letter back in the envelope and picked up the small wooden box. Opening the lid, she removed what lay within and held it in her hands, feeling the tears smart at her eyes again. She always reacted this way but she still made herself do it; almost as if she was punishing herself for having the temerity to carry on with her life when so much had gone wrong; for continuing to live after driving him away.

It was Harry's wand.

The eleven inch, Holly and Phoenix feather wand that had always meant so much to him. The wand that had caused him such pain when it had been broken at Godric's Hollow; the wand that he'd never let out of his sight.

And he had sent it to her.

She fully understood the message he was conveying. He was finished with magic; finished with everything that had once been his world. He had given so much to ensure the Magical World was safe, but it had demanded so much more from him as price for that safety. So many people he cared about had died and Hermione believed that Ron's death was the final straw. He blamed himself for all of the deaths, she knew, and no doubt his disappearance was to try and keep those he still cared about safe – including her she thought. She smiled sadly. It was probably just his 'saving people thing.'

But she missed him terribly and her emotions fluctuated between an all consuming desire to see him again, to outright anger at him for being so bloody selfish, to profound guilt for driving him away. She felt abandoned and betrayed – first by Ron for dying on her and then at Harry for leaving when she needed him more than ever. She'd tried to track him down but had absolutely no leads to go on. No one had any idea where he was. She had put adverts in every newspaper – both Magical and Muggle – begging him to return but such efforts had produced no results. She had no idea if she would ever see him again and it had crossed her mind on more than one occasion that Harry might have taken a very final way out of his problems.

No. Harry would never do that. Would never take his own life.

She shook her head, deciding that she'd had enough and carefully placed the wand back in its box before returning it, the paper and the letter to the drawer. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand to clear the tears. Although it always upset her, she still felt the need to put herself through this little ritual. Somehow, it made her feel better to touch something that had been so important to Harry – to the three of them in the end.

She leaned back on the couch and closed her eyes.

Harry, where are you?

But the only answer was her own damning words.

'It's probably best if you just leave, Harry.'