Disclaimer: As always I own nothing but the original characters and the situations I put those characters in. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy this chapter, and let me know what you think.
Escape From Her
Sitting at his desk Teddy knew he should be packing up to leave for the day. He'd promised his godfather not ten minutes ago to do exactly that after all. The problem with that was there was no one to go home to and in the grand scheme of things Teddy knew he'd be far more productive pulling an all nighter at work than he would be lying in bed, thinking about all the work he'd left undone. There was a reason everyone in his family scolded him for being a workaholic. But when you worked for the government there was just never enough hours in the day to finish one's paperwork both promptly and correctly. One's never ending paperwork, Teddy thought as he surveyed his desk.
Raking his hands through his hair, which was short and teal at the moment, Teddy was about to make himself some fresh coffee when his office door opened, his godfather stepping into the room with his jacket already on. "All right, all right, I'm really going this time." Giving the older man a rueful look Teddy changed his direction so that he was headed for his coat rack instead. He was twenty six years old, but no one could make him feel more like a misbehaving kid than the man in the doorway. Well no one aside from his grandmother, Teddy mentally amended with a fond look in his currently green eyes.
"Actually, Mr. Workaholic, I came to get you. We have a case to look into."
Perking up Teddy had his own coat on in a flash, moving a lot faster now that he knew there was a good reason to get moving. "So what are we looking into?"
"A twenty one year old man who vanished from London two days ago turned up at his local police station claiming that he'd been abducted by a psychotic old witch. According to the boy, Miles Frederickson, the woman intended to perform some kind of ritual on him, one she'd preformed on others that she'd insinuated had resulted in their deaths. Frederickson says she kept him locked up in a basement of some sort, but that he was freed by another man who looked to be about his age and who proceeded to show our would be victim how to get out. Apparently the man's rescuer told Frederickson that when he got free he was to tell the Muggle police to contact the Aurors and send them to the Nottingham Estate. The rescuer also disappeared like a ghost when they reached what Frederickson thought was probably the caretaker's house's front door. Frederickson told the police that he thought that that was exactly what the boy was by the way, a former victim since apparently the witch's victims were all chosen because of their physical appearance. Frederickson was told by his ghost to head outside and pick up a specific lawn ornament which transported him to a town just outside of London. A Portkey."
Locking his officer door behind him Teddy walked in tandem with his godfather as he mulled over the information they had so far. Ghosts came about as a result of unfinished business, not to mention violent and or unexpected death. And if some witch killed him he'd be pretty tempted to both haunt her and try to save others from his unfortunately fate too. "So we go see the kid, then head to the Nottingham Estate. Do we know who owns it?"
"Had Bowen look it up for me while I was talking to the lieutenant in charge of the case. The estate's lone human occupant is Ceres Nottingham. She's sixty eight years old and comes from a family with a long history of mental illnesses. Her brother was a Death Eater and was killed by Aurors shortly after his initiation. Her parents were also big supporter and both died mysteriously after the first fall of Voldemort. According to the report we have on file about it, they suspected the daughter was responsible but didn't have enough to bring her in for them."
"Ceres Nottingham…there's something familiar about that name." Trying to recall where he'd heard or read the name before Teddy couldn't put his finger on it just yet. Had his grandmother known the woman somehow? Perhaps their families had known each other and his grandmother had mentioned the other witch in passing.
Reading his godson's face easily enough Harry gave the younger man a comforting pat on the shoulder. "It will come to you. For now we go interview the kid and hopefully get enough from him to secure a warrant to go and question Miss. Nottingham."
As luck would have it Miles Frederickson had heard the witch curse the existence of Harry Potter numerous times during his stay and he was therefore thrilled to talk to the man in the hopes of getting some payback. From him they got a description of the man's abductor and what he'd seen of the estate he'd escaped from, as well as the interesting fact that there was possibly a second person living at the estate with the witch.
"She called him Reggie." The young man told them, hunching his thin shoulders as his dark bangs shielded his brown eyes from view. "She would talk to him all the time, even though he was never in the room that I could see. I never heard his voice either, and that really drove her bonkers. I mean even more bonkers than she already was. She was always begging for him to talk to her, but she was the only person I saw or heard besides the ghost boy."
"And the ghost boy looked like he was made up of silvery white fog?" Harry prompted.
Frederickson shook his head. "No, he looked human enough until he disintegrated in front of me LIKE fog. He looked to be about my age, with black hair that was chin length, tied back in a stubby ponytail, with long bangs in front. His eyes were black too, eerily so. He was about my height and thin like me too. He called me a Muggle like that witch did. What is a Muggle anyway?"
Harry and Teddy exchanged looks. Could the boy Frederickson had seen been a poltergeist?
"So the man that helped you didn't tell you anything about himself?" Teddy asked, since they'd needed to find out who the witch's past victims were in order to bring closure to the families. Given how old the witch was, she could have been killing young men for quite a while.
"No. I asked him what his name was, but he said he'd never been in the habit of talking to Muggles and he wasn't about to start now. I sorta got the feeling that he wasn't thrilled to be helping me, but felt like he had to."
Which could suggest that one of Nottingham's past victims had been someone who might have come from the same sort of social background as her, Teddy mused as he listened to his godfather try to get more details from the younger man. And there was something about Frederickson's face that bugged him too. Something vaguely familiar about it, the way the witch's name had been sorta familiar.
Turning the details over and over again in his mind Teddy's eyes widened as the pieces clicked into place, sharing a silent look with his godfather.
Reading the look easily Harry wrapped up the preliminary interview and called in for protective detail on Frederickson, just in case they were wrong or the witch they sought wasn't at her estate when they arrived. While they waited for their comrades to show up Harry ushered Teddy into the hallway for a little pow wow to find out what his godson had realized.
"I finally remembered where I heard the name Ceres Nottingham before. It was the Reggie thing that did it. She was supposed to marry my…whatever Regulus Black is to me. I asked Grandmother once about the arranged marriages set up for her and Sirius and she mentioned that the girl Sirius's parents had picked out for him had ended up being promised to Regulus instead. That Regulus had been miserable over the choice because the girl called him Reggie for short and was really not all there upstairs. And she said something about the girl being horribly misnamed because she was really not all that attractive. Ceres was a famously beautiful witch, right?"
"The physical description, her would be victim and possibly former victim. Regulus Black would fit the perimeters. And in the file, it was noted that one of the reasons Ceres Nottingham was suspected of killing her parents was that rumor had it that she'd gotten violent every time they'd broached the subject of arranging a marriage for her."
Thinking over what his godfather had said Teddy's face darkened as an idea occurred to him. "She's trying to bring him back, isn't she? Or trying to replace him somehow. That's why the victims' looks are important."
Harry nodded. "That's what I'm thinking too."
"Excuse me." Miles waited until they'd turned to look at him before speaking. "I…uh…just remembered something. It's probably not important, but I figured I should mention it, just in case. The guy, the ghost guy, he muttered something while he was showing me the way out. He said 'If only she didn't have the ring'. And she did have this one ring she was always wearing, on a long chain around her neck. She was always stroking it with her fingers while she looked at me. It was creepy as hell."
'We'll look into it." Harry promised.
It was nearly nine before they had the warrants necessary to do a thorough search of Nottingham Estate. The somewhat dilapidated building was looking the worse for wear, though the estate's good bones kept it from looking completely rundown. The caretaker's cottage they'd passed fit Frederickson's description perfectly and Harry led his godson and two other Aurors to the main house's doors, fairly certain that they would soon have everything they needed to bring in Ceres Nottingham for questioning.
Reaching out with the intention of knocking one of the large brass knockers Harry hesitated, an idea occurring to him. Turning his head Harry grinned at Teddy mischievously. "You know, Teddy, your current look doesn't really suit the occasion. She's not going to like the look of you."
Clueing in to what his godfather meant Teddy grinned back and then scrunched up his face, doing his best to recall old school pictures his grandmother had saved of her youngest cousin. In seconds he was pretty much the spitting image of Regulus Black, minus the Dark Mark of course. There was no force on earth that could ever drive him to wear that symbol, even a fake one for a moment.
Nodding his satisfaction Harry turned around and knocked, the door opened by an old, tired looking house elf who blinked at them suspiciously, eyes widening when it caught sight of Teddy. "Master Regulus." The elf whispered, its thin, boney fingers wrapping around its own neck. "You've brought the Boy Who Lived here. She won't forgive you for this, she'll punish you. How are you back, you shouldn't be back. Why won't you just rest in peace?"
"He's here to see your mistress. Please go get her." Harry told the elf, not wanting to let on who 'Regulus' really was.
"Elf will tell Mistress. Elf will get Mistress for Master Regulus." A sad look came into the elf's eyes as it looked once more at Teddy, something almost like pity in its eyes. "Elf is sorry she would not let you rest in peace. Elf is so sorry she finally got her way." The elf's gaze darkened as she looked at the other Aurors. "You will all wait here. Many bad things will happen if you stray from this hallway. Only Master Regulus is welcome here."
The elf disappeared from sight, the Aurors not kept waiting more than four minutes before an old woman wrapped up in a faded silk robe appeared at the head of the massive front staircase, her grey hair in wild tangles and brown eyes not quite sane as they latched onto Teddy's, seeing none of the others as she hurried down the stairs, screeching the name Reggie at a pitch that had everyone fighting back winces.
In fact, in appearance and voice the woman reminded Teddy and Harry of Sirius's mother's portrait.
The wild looking woman was almost at the bottom of the stairs when she caught sight of Harry, the decibel of her voice somehow managing to increase as she pointed a gnarled finger in the man's direction. "You! You're the one who told those lies about my Reggie turning against the Dark Lord. Who destroyed all my Reggie fought and died for. You ruined everything!" And on that note the witch grab her wand from her robe pocket with surprising speed, pointing it in Harry's direction with another loud shriek. "I'll kill you!"
Even as she opened her mouth to form the words for the killing curse the Aurors all drew their own wands, Teddy and the two others hitting her with a barrage of curses that had her freezing in place with chains pinning her arms against her sides and her wand lying harmless on the ground.
"Got a lot of spirit for someone pushing seventy." Bowen drawled lazily, feeling a little bad for chaining up a woman who was older than his own mother.
Since the suspect had effectively been neutralized Teddy walked over and studied the woman, training keeping him from falling down the steps behind him at the way she looked at him. She was still conscious and she looked at him with a bone chilling intensity, like he was a mouse to her a pouncing cat.
More than a little freaked out by her mad stare Teddy opted to appease his own curiosity and pulled up the chain he could see tucked under her nightgown, the heavy, mannish ring coming into view at the end. Grabbing the ring Teddy studied it, seeing its importance immediately. "This is a Black ring." He told his godfather without taking his eyes off the ring. "All Black men get one when they turn seventeen instead of the usual watch. Well, all the Black men who hadn't been disinherited by that point. This was Regulus Black's ring, his full name is engraved along the outside of it. And inside it has the Black family motto, Toujours Pur." The stone incased at the top was obsidian, the ring solid gold if he wasn't mistaken. He'd never seen one of the rings except in his grandmother's pictures.
"Which would be why she treasured it so much." Moving to stand at his godson's side Harry studied the ring as well, equally disturbed by the old woman's eyes. They reminded him too much of the woman who'd killed Teddy's mother, Bellatrix Lestrange. "We'll bag it as evidence for now; see if Frederickson can confirm that it's the ring his abductor wore during his captivity. If nothing else, she might cooperate more in order to try and get it back from us."
From a dark corner an invisible figure watched as James Potter's son called for an evidence bag. He wouldn't exist, if one could call his present state existing, once the what he thought was a Metamorphmagus let go of the ring and dropped it into the bag. Only when his ring touched the bare skin of a living mortal could he exist on the physical plane he'd once walked on as a man. But he didn't really care if he ended up collecting dust in some box in the basement of some government building. Just so long as he was no longer forced to be around Ceres, that was all he asked.
Who was the man or woman impersonating him, the figure wondered as he studied his look alike. Could it be his cousin Andromeda's grandson? He'd heard from Ceres that the boy was an Auror and a Metamorphmagus like Andromeda's daughter. Remus Lupin's son too, the man thought, and would have rolled his eyes if he'd had eyes to roll. But no, he'd exerted all his strength and abilities to take solid form in order to get the Muggle out of the caretaker's cottage that morning. It would be weeks before he was up to appearing visible to human eyes, and even then he wouldn't be remotely solid. Just a ghostly form, a cheap imitation of the man he'd once been.
They hadn't been kidding when they said that no good deed goes unpunished.
So here he was, his soul stuck to his ring until Ceres died. Or at least it was his lasting hope that he would finally be free when the bitch finally keeled over dead. But who was to say? His soul's attachment to the ring hadn't been on purpose either. She'd stolen his ring from his room, he'd left it there for his parents when he'd gone off to die for a truly noble cause. She'd put his ring on Caraddoc Dearborn, a member of the Order of the Phoenix, when she'd attempted to transfer his soul into the man's body. She'd miraculously managed to call back his soul, but it had ended up in the ring, not in the Ravenclaw. Dearborn had not been recognizable as human once that ritual had ended. Nor had any of the others. No matter how many times she'd tried to transfer him into a body she'd failed, whether she'd used a man with magical blood, Muggle, or anything in between. The ring was the only thing that worked and he'd gotten very sick of her trying to manipulate his already damaged soul and killing others in his name.
Well at least that part of his torment ended tonight, Regulus Black thought as he watched Harry Potter hold open a bag, the other man dropping the ring into it.
And just like that, he was gone once more.
But not for long.