Reading Time: 100 Minutes
Title: Soul Magic
Series: Heart & Soul
Series Order: 2
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Harry Potter
Relationship: Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy
Genre: Alternate Universe, Established Relationship, Fantasy, Romance, Suspense
Warnings: Explicit Sex, Discussion-Murder, Discussion-Child Abuse, Grammarly Beta
Word Count: 25,127
Summary: Harry Potter is living a quiet life on the shores of Loch Ness with his soulmate, Draco Malfoy, and working for the Department of Mysteries when their case involving ritual circles takes a violent and horrific turn.
* * * *
One of the more interesting parts of working with his romantic partner is that they often didn’t shut work off when they went home. Their home office had a duplicate case board that synced to the one at work, and they both auto-updated. It was handy, Harry had to admit, but also it meant that he could lose his lover to work in a heartbeat if Draco had any sort of new idea regarding whatever case they were working. As a result, they’d basically been living and breathing their caseload since they’d moved in together. Harry didn’t know if that was their norm or if it would eventually be a problem.
They also had a second board dedicated to their only long-standing case—the ritual circle murder. Unfortunately, they still only had one body, and it was a frustrating situation, to say the least. He glanced over the names they’d put together after some reluctance. It had been a difficult conversation for the two of them, especially since Draco’s mother was first on the list. Harry took a sip of coffee and just stared at the list like it was going to give him something it hadn’t previously.
-Nymphadora Tonks Lupin
Each woman had veela heritage, but Patrice was the only pureblood veela on the list. Harry hadn’t wanted to put her on the list at all because they both knew Armand Deering couldn’t be involved due to his Unspeakable vows. They’d added her because Draco had pointed out that it didn’t have to be Armand Deering trying to resurrect Patrice Delacour.
For each woman, there was a list of suspects attached, if possible. The most compelling suspect for Harry was Lucius Malfoy despite his personal and magical circumstances. Draco wasn’t convinced his father had the mental faculties to pull of any sort of ritual, but he’d agreed he was the most logical choice to do something so fucked up as a magical resurrection involving sacrificial magic. Jerking an unwilling soul from the afterlife took a desperate or vicious sort. Maybe both, Harry thought.
“They’re ready for us,” Draco said.
“Do you think they’ll take the case from us?” Harry questioned. “We haven’t made a lot of progress, and there are a lot of personal connections.”
“I think Croaker suspected going in there would be a personal connection, and he gave the ritual circles before we ever had a body,” Draco said. “It was just a mystery—an academic concern. At least, that’s how I saw it, but clearly, he or Banner saw something else and were thinking ahead. So I think us coming together as partners made assigning the case very easy.”
“Right.” Harry took a deep breath. “Well, let’s go and get it over with.”
“Why are you agitated?” Draco questioned. “You’re Croaker’s clear favorite. If Banner was prone to flights of insecurity—he’d be plotting your demise.”
Harry laughed and ran a hand through his hair. “We are connected, in some fashion or another, to all of these dead women, Draco. It’s disconcerting because it means the perpetrator is also close to us. More than one of them is certainly capable of cold-blooded murder—we have Bellatrix on the list due to her heritage and death, but is there anyone left who’d want to bring that crazy bitch back?”
“Only if they wanted to kill her again,” Draco said. “A fresh ritual circle would help narrow down the ritual, which could eliminate Bellatrix outright from the list as she doesn’t have a body. Whatever curse Molly Weasley threw at her during the final battle—destroyed her physical body outright. I mean, Merlin help us if my crazy Aunt Bella has a horcrux out there.”
“For fuck’s sake, shut your mouth,” Harry muttered. “Let’s go.”
A few minutes later, they settled in Croaker’s office, and Draco put up their board for the ritual case on display. Harry glanced over the names again—each was a sore spot in one fashion or another. He hated it.
“The report we received from ICW about Soja Dario, our only identified victim, was basically useless. Any magical evidence that could be gathered had long since degraded by the time the war mage was able to examine the body. Muggle forensics both here in London and in Spain yielded very little evidence and no DNA,” Harry said. “No foreign fibers, no evidence of sexual interference, and no overt cause of death. As far as they are concerned, she dropped dead for no reason at all. Her parents being aware of magic was the only reason she wasn’t buried with an undetermined cause of death. We’ve found no evidence that she entered Diagon Alley during her time in London, which is not a surprise for a Muggle-born witch from abroad.”
“We haven’t found a circle in Britain that matches with Soja’s magical signature, which is entirely devoid of veela magic,” Draco continued. “I did a heritage search on her family just to make sure. What I would say is that she has the look of a veela and was highly magical.”
“Are appearances enough?” Banner questioned.
“It depends on the goal of the wizard conducting this ritual,” Draco said as his gaze moved over the board, taking the results of various scans on the circles. “Does he truly wish to resurrect his target, or is he using the ritual to torture their soul?”
“There are names on your list that I would never assume to be capable of such,” Croaker said gruffly. “Walk me through each suspect.”
“We’ve identified witches with veela magic that died in Britain in the last 25 years.”
“Is that number arbitrary?” Banner questioned.
Harry hesitated briefly. “It…seemed right not to go back further. Many women in the Black family died between 1900 and today. Most of them were before 1980, and there weren’t many who had connections with living wizards. I did review a complete list that covered the last 200 years and eliminated most of them on…instinct.”
“Instinct?” Banner prodded and waved a hand.
“I felt like they weren’t unavailable for resurrection,” Harry admitted reluctantly and flushed when Croaker exhaled sharply. “The names we settled on are, currently, available for that sort of process. None of them feel willing. There is nothing concrete I can give you on this front. Sometimes, when I think of a person who has passed, I feel as if I could reach out and touch them if I wished.” He leaned forward a bit. “Have you ever stood in from to the Mirror of Erised?”
“No, I’d rather not see my heart’s desire,” Croaker said flatly.
“When I was a first year, the mirror was at Hogwarts—a trap of sorts set by Dumbledore to lead me down a path of his choosing. I don’t know what he expected or wanted me to see. I’ve since learned that what I saw in the mirror was an impossibility. It’s something that the mirror should’ve never been able to show me. I went back several times and saw the same image over and over again.”
“Do you think Dumbledore enchanted it?”
“I think the mirror has always shown me exactly what I needed to see—even when he hid the philosopher’s stone in it—it was responding to his desire to hide something. Do you see?”
“I do,” Croaker said. “What did the mirror show you, lad?”
“My entire family line—one generation after another as far back as I could see. At the time, I only focused on my parents, but in reviewing the memory over the years, I came to understand the depth of the image mirror showed. I thought it was telling me I wouldn’t have to go back to my terrible Muggle relatives.” He wet his lips. “I found the mirror after I was given the cloak.”
“The first Hallow to fall into your possession,” Draco said. “In this lifetime.”
Harry just inclined his head. “They’ve always been mine—no matter who has claimed to own them. Their location only mattered when they were used inappropriately. It won’t happen again.”
“Why?” Croaker asked.
“I’ve entailed the Hallows to my magical signature,” Harry said and merely raised an eyebrow when Banner looked shocked. “They will return to me time and time again as I move through this world. It’s my duty to protect the Hallows going forward. It is what our Lady demands from me.”
“Another instinctual response?” Banner questioned, but then nodded as if he didn’t need an answer. “I see.” He sat back and focused his attention on the board. “So these ladies are the most likely to be targeted. I know of no one alive that would seek the return of Bellatrix Lestrange.”
“She was Riddle’s most loyal follower,” Harry said. “And perhaps there is someone out there who believes she has information that could return their dark lord to them. I don’t think she’s the most likely, but it would be short-sighted to not list her.”
“Patrice Delacour,” Croaker said quietly. “Why her?”
“She was killed here in Britain in 1975,” Harry said. “A pureblood veela with ancient ties to several veela enclaves. Her husband couldn’t be involved due to his oaths, though if there is a single wizard on this planet I think could circumvent such an oath and survive it—it would be Armand Deering.”
“I agree, but he would never desecrate his beloved wife in such a way,” Croaker said. “I was here when he brought her body into the ministry. He wouldn’t let anyone in the DMLE touch her. I had to throw around a lot of weight to keep them off of him because she was murdered in the street by a cloaked Death Eater. He held her in his arms, still wrapped in a stasis charm, for hours.” His gaze went to the board again. “Neither Quintin nor Walker would disrespect their uncle in this way.”
“I believe that as well,” Harry agreed. “But they also know he’s chosen to stop drinking from the blood stone and that he will die within the year. They are both accomplished necromancers, and the ritual itself is in the wheelhouse of either. Would they? I doubt it. Could they? Absolutely. And we have to consider mental illness in this as well. Anyone can go completely off the rails. Our current suspect pool is small, but there may come a point when we have to widen it further and consider veela deaths in other countries.”
“But you think it’s related to a death in Britain.”
“Death magic…” Harry frowned. “It’s delicate in a way, and when mixed with soul magic, there is another layer of fragility that needs to be considered. I think the suspect is working here in Britain because he lost this witch in Britain.” He took a deep breath. “In that vein, I realize it’s abnormal, and I don’t want to change code names, but I’m curious as to whether or not I can take another legacy orb.”
“It’s happened in the past when we needed to change a code name due to public exposure,” Croaker said. “You want the Apollo orb? I thought we agreed that the last thing you needed was a complete education in necromancy.”
“Necromancy itself is not something I’d ever practice,” Harry said. “I find most of it offensive and intrusive on a deeply magical level. Death is beyond the purview of the average wizard, and they have no business…”
“Getting in your business,” Banner said wryly, and Harry shrugged. “I agree that we should leave Patrice Delacour on the list, for now. I’ve checked in with Walker and Quintin over the last few weeks. They’ve made every appearance of accepting their uncle’s coming death. Armand didn’t start down this path without preparing for them for what was to come. They aren’t happy with his choice, but they accept it and are grateful that he has stayed with them as long as he has.” He cleared his throat. “Eliza Greengrass.”
“Lord Gerald Greengrass, her husband, is a high warlock of a small conclave,” Draco reported. “Pureblood, father of two, and the son of a pureblood veela himself. His mother lives in France in an enclave and has since the death of her own husband. Gerald is pragmatic, neutral to the point of painful, and a decidedly grey in the use of magic. He has two biological daughters—neither are married nor have arrangements been made for them due to their own veela heritage, which is largely muted on the magical front. Both witches are preternaturally attractive, a trait of the veela. Lord Greengrass recently filed charges against Theo Nott of magical interference in relation to Daphne, the oldest of his biological children. Nott’s been charged with using a series of potions, none of which were illegal individually, to interfere in the sanctity of another magical person’s mind.
“Additionally, Lord Greengrass has filed for divorce and is seeking custody of all the minor children in the marriage, including his stepson, who is a 5th year Hogwarts student.” Draco made a face. “Apparently, his current wife is guilty of conspiring with Nott to potion Daphne due to her intense dislike of her oldest stepdaughter. Regardless, it’s a legal mess, and she’ll probably go to prison as well before everything is said and done. I don’t know if he would be in a place magically or emotionally to essentially torture the eternal soul of his first wife in order to resurrect her.”
“My gut says no,” Harry input and shifted as Croaker focused on him. “When I’ve heard Lord Greengrass speak of his first wife—it is with fondness and remorse. His grief feels normal, and he has no issues in expressing it. Despite his status as a grey wizard and his experience with rituals, his magical craft appears to be largely light and clear of corruption. That being said, you know some spells and wards could mask that, and he could be living a public life of acceptance while he seethes with fury over the loss he suffered in 1982.”
“What would’ve set him off if it were him?” Croaker questioned. “Her daughters coming into adulthood?”
“Daphne and Astoria both look a great deal like their mother,” Draco said. “Daphne is near the age Eliza Greengrass was when she was murdered, and that certainly can’t be ignored. If it were to be him, I would consider their daughters a trigger of some sort or another. They’re of an age now to leave home, marry, and have children of their own. They’ll make families of their own, create connections with others—it’s a departure of sorts. Another, if different, kind of loss to process.”
Croaker nodded thoughtfully. “I made my first son-in-law’s life an utter misery for a whole year before I corrected myself. I still don’t think he’s good enough for my baby girl, though.”
“No man could be,” Banner muttered and shrugged when Croaker huffed. “I suspect I will be no different myself.” He focused on the list. “Nymphadora Tonks Lupin.”
“Daughter of Andromeda Tonks nee Black,” Harry said. “Former auror who was killed in the final battle by Bellatrix Lestrange at Hogwarts. At the time of her death, she was estranged from her husband, Remus Lupin. Her son, Theodore Tonks, was just a few months old and is my godson. In the spirit of full disclosure, I support Andromeda Tonks and my godson financially and provide them a household in Rome where Teddy is enrolled in a magical day school. I’ve contacted Andromeda about the situation and asked her if Lupin had tried to contact her recently, and she said he had not. I didn’t think so since those communication attempts had traditionally come through me.”
Draco folded his hands together in front of him. “Remus Lupin is a werewolf which makes investigating his current magical state impossible. He reeks of dark magic because of his curse, and there’s nothing to be done about that, unfortunately. He’s a bitter bastard who has wallowed in his cursed state since he was a very young man.
“Some would say he was lucky to escape Greyback’s indoctrination since he was taken from the scene of the attack by his mother and given to Dumbledore shortly before she died. Normally, a child like Remus would’ve been taken into Greyback’s pack and raised to be a dark bastard.”
“Instead, he was fostered into a home of one of Dumbledore’s followers and raised to be a son of a bitch,” Harry said wryly. “As it stands, I can’t say for certain that Lupin would attempt to resurrect his wife, and Dora’s veela magic was largely inactive. She was a talented and powerful witch. If she exhibited physical veela traits, she hid them with her metamorphmagus ability. She was an attractive woman but oddly clumsy.”
“If she was investing magic in hiding veela traits, it could’ve made controlling her metamorphmagus ability difficult,” Croaker speculated. “It would’ve led to clumsiness if her body was constantly in some sort of near flux.”
“Right,” Harry said and frowned. “That’s sad. I really didn’t get to know her as well as I would like. I always felt like Remus was the one that wanted me named their son’s godson. A way of…”
“Connecting himself to you in a more permanent fashion,” Draco interjected when Harry trailed off. “Perhaps an attempt to mitigate the taint around the child being the product of a union with a werewolf. Some people erroneously believe that the curse can be passed to children.”
Harry frowned but nodded. “I felt from the start that some of Lupin’s hostility toward me was based on the fact that I helped Andromeda relocate, so Teddy isn’t out and about in the public eye being my godson. At least, he’s not doing it in Britain. I’ve gotten many letters over the years from people who gravitate around the two of them in Rome assuring me that they watch out for my family abroad and will allow no one to harm them.”
“It’s okay for people to be grateful that you ended the threat of Tom Riddle, lad,” Croaker said. “Especially when it offers a child in your life special care and protection.”
Harry nodded. “Lupin has the magical power to conduct ritual magic on his own, and he certainly has the intelligence to learn on his own. He had access to the Black library for several years, and we have no way of knowing what he might have removed from it during that time since less than half the books were entailed.”
“He left his wife during the war,” Banner pointed out roughly. “Do you really think he would be so emotionally invested in her now that he would go to these lengths to resurrect her?”
“I think he’s a dark, selfish bastard,” Harry admitted. “And that certainly influences my opinions of him. Magically, he’s powerful. Personally, he’s weak and easily influenced. He’s still in Dumbledore’s thrall, and it’s been made clear to me that Lupin knew exactly what kind of childhood I had. Yet, he didn’t do a damn thing about it. No decent man would knowingly leave a child in the situation I was left in, and we can’t ignore that.”
“No, we can’t,” Croaker said gravely. “I’d like to drag Dumbledore out of his grave for more than one reason.” His jaw tightened with fury, and he gently tapped his fingers on the table. “Narcissa Malfoy.”
“My main concern is that my bias against my father has led me to focus on him,” Draco began. “My mother was a third veela genetically, but presented as half magically. We all know that he’s gone completely around the twist since her death, and that was before he found out about her decade-long affair with Kingsley Shacklebolt. There was a time when he was more than capable of this crime on more than one level. He’s a dark wizard with a great deal of magical power, who was raised by a very dark wizard. My father willingly took a knee for Tom Riddle and accepted the dark mark gratefully. He embraced the life of being a Death Eater and reveled in the fear he caused in the years after Riddle’s initial defeat in 1981.
“I do believe he is selfish and corrupt enough to torture his wife’s soul to return her to the living. I also believe he could just be torturing her with no intention of completing the ritual. If he does complete it, he might just use it as an opportunity to kill her himself.”
Croaker nodded and glanced over the board. “Reports have indicated that Lucius is mentally and magically damaged due to alcoholism. The last scan done on him by the DMLE, during a brief period of containment, indicated that his magical power has greatly diminished over the last five years.”
“It could be an act,” Draco said. “Despite everything, he’s a very smart man. He is an alcoholic, but frankly, he’s been one my whole life. He was highly functional up until my mother’s death. I did suspect that she might have been shoring him up magically with spells and potions to keep up appearances. I can’t prove that either way, and it probably doesn’t matter. He grieved her, the loss ravaged him, and that kind of grief can be damaging magically. Is he putting on a front? I can’t say for certain, but I wouldn’t put it past him if he had a long-term goal that was served by it. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him and never has. His reputation has always been carefully cultivated to get what he wants.”
“As it stands,” Harry began to shift attention off his very tense partner. “We only have speculation to work with and a list of names that may or may not be relevant. The veela magic in the circle could be a planted distraction—there wasn’t enough of it to determine its source, definitively. We need more information, and that’s, unfortunately, going to come in the form of a fresh scene or a cache of bodies. Why was Soja Dario dumped as she was? Was he offended by her? Did he have some remorse for what he’d done? Did she say something to him that made him predisposed to give her back to her parents after death? Was she first or the last? We can’t answer any of these questions currently.”
“You can have the Apollo orb,” Croaker said shortly and stood. “But, first meet with Healer Banner to confirm that the core fracture you suffered last week has healed properly.”
Harry winced but nodded. He’d gone to the bank to finally take on the dverger orb and had absorbed an extensive education on warding. The life experiences of the four most talented warders to ever exist amongst the dverger. It had fractured his core, though he’d warned that it might happen, and they’d had a healer on standby to handle the minute damage done. He’d certainly suffered more for less reward, but Croaker had been furious not to be notified in advance of the potential danger before the process had been done. He’d cursed out Harry, Razel, and Ragnok before it was all said and done.
“He’s fine,” Draco reported. “I’d like to stay with him. Can we have a private room in guest quarters for this?”
“Yes,” Croaker said, and his gaze flicked over the board. “You have two other cases in the works. Updates on those?”
“I’ve forwarded the Jenkins case to the DMLE for arrest and prosecution,” Harry said and pulled a parchment from the stack in front of him. “As it turned out, the most mysterious part of his entire crime spree is that he hasn’t gotten caught. He’s a dumb bastard. I used fake money from a Muggle board game to purchase from him and used a tracking charm to follow him back to his ‘hide out’, which was his mother’s garden shed. He’s making Muggle drugs and using a so-called haunted house as a front to sell them. We’ve already dismantled the magic on the rental house he was using for his haunted house operation. Additionally, he had plans to capture a real ghost to use as an attraction in the house, so I’ve forwarded charges on that matter as well.”
Croaked sighed. “How did that end up in your caseload? Do you have anything else left from before your retreat?”
“It was a referral from Arthur Weasley’s office, and no, that’s the last one I took,” Harry said. “He had an investigator check out the first report of Muggle baiting, but they backed off when the operation appeared to be far more than just Muggle baiting. Robards dismissed it originally and told Arthur’s people not to bother them. I could’ve just passed it back to the DMLE after Robards was replaced, but I’d done most of the work already.” He shrugged. “Additionally, once I realized I was dealing with a drug lab—I figured it was best left in my hands. Some of the stuff he had in that shed was deceptively dangerous. Muggle drugs can be combustible in some situations, and with some processes that a person raised in the magical world might not realize.”
Croaker nodded. “And the Debusk matter?”
“Kevin Debusk,” Draco said. “Potions master, 34, married with one child, missing for 23 days and counting. He has not legally left the country, and I’ve checked with a few sources in less legal circles. Illicit portkey making isn’t that common these days since the application for one is brief, and they’re no longer expensive now that the bank is making them. We contracted a search in the Muggle world for various methods of travel out of the country, and there was no sign of him.”
“The problem is that he’s the second potions master to disappear in the last year,” Harry said. “The first, Frye Pierce, was found several months after his disappearance in a brothel in the Netherlands, dead from an overdose. His friends and family were appalled and demanded a full investigation from the DMLE, but it was declined. His death was put down as misadventure.”
“What were the arguments presented by the family?”
“First and foremost, Mr. Pierce was vehemently opposed to the production and use illicit potions. Second, he had no use for sex of any sort and hadn’t for decades per his own wife. Their marriage was arranged, and she claimed they had a happy life, but he’d confessed some time ago that he just didn’t enjoy it and had never wanted it. She loved him and agreed to remove sex from their marriage. He suggested she take a lover and promised it wouldn’t hurt him or their marriage. She eventually did. Apparently, he liked the lover, Gary Fellows, a great deal and suggested that he move in with them a few years ago.”
“That’s a lot to unpack,” Thaddeus said mildly. “So an avowed asexual who had no use for recreational potions died in a whorehouse in the Netherlands of an overdose. Whoever arranged that death clearly didn’t bother to get to know the man at all. Who refused to investigate?”
“Robards gave the case to Ron Weasley,” Harry said. “Who apparently interviewed three people here in Britain and dismissed the whole thing as a non-problem. When Mrs. Pierce complained, he called her a pervert and threatened to file charges against her for wasting his time. I’ve flagged the case for Proudfoot to review, and he promised to do so. He’s also given me permission to fold the case into our current missing persons case for the time being.”
“Why did you pick the Debusk case up?” Croaker asked. “It’s been sitting in the missing person’s docket for several months because the case went cold.”
They had permission to pick up cold cases to work whenever they wished though most wouldn’t have picked up a missing person case during a potential mess like the one the two of them had brewing. So, Harry understood Croaker’s curiosity, and he’d been surprised not to get questioned earlier in the week when he’d pulled the case officially into their active docket.
“I remembered the Pierce case, and it stands to reason that two missing potions masters might be a problem considering the rituals that have taken place in the country. We were reviewing missing persons looking for the other victims when I saw the Debusk file. Ritual magic likes that does require potions, and not everyone is capable of that kind of brewing. Debusk and Pierce both hold international masteries in potion-making.”
“Right, smart move,” Croaker murmured. “Keep moving in this direction—both of you have proven to have great instincts for it. Pull any related cases or materials that you need and forward the details to Polestar as you do so to keep me in the loop. Turn yourself over to Healer Banner after lunch at the latest, Potter.”
Draco set aside his book at the knock on the guest suite door. He checked his watch and stood from the chair by the bed. Harry was dozing comfortably in the bed and had been since they’d transferred from the infirmary and into the suite. Croaker was on the other side of the door when he opened it. Draco motioned him in and offered the sofa in the front part of the room with a hand.
“How is he?”
“Sleeping,” Draco reported. “Comfortably, as far as I can tell. He was briefly agitated during the absorption, but Healer Banner wasn’t concerned.”
“He’s taken on far too many orbs,” Draco admitted reluctantly. “I didn’t want him to take on a second legacy orb—it’s too much. He’s absorbed one after another because he seeks to control as much of his circumstances as he possibly can. He believes that control can be gained through knowledge, and he’s too impatient to gain all of it traditionally. He does read, obsessively so, and rarely shuts it off unless he’s cooking or spending time on the loch with the…” He trailed off as he wasn’t sure he should discuss what Harry truly did on the loch.
“He’s told me he’s fast friends with the little plesiosaur princess,” Croaker said. “Creature regulation isn’t pleased with his very sparse reports. They expected more because he’s a parselmouth, but they also can’t question him because none of them can get near the loch anymore. The last time they sent an inspector into the loch, he was bodily ejected by the merfolk there and warned not to return without the queen’s permission. Shortly afterward, the ICW received a request that the British Ministry refrain from approaching Loch Ness unless it’s Potter.”
“The queen seems fond of him,” Draco allowed. “She leaves her baby with us a lot.” He glanced across the room where Harry slept. “I blame Dumbledore for it, really. I think he worked hard to keep Harry biddable and ignorant when he was young. There might have been a magical inducement as well.”
“If there was, then it would explain the insatiable desire now,” Croaker allowed. “An emotional rebound of sorts.” He grimaced. “He’s had a very hard life. Were he anyone else, I’d try to rein him on the orb front.”
“Considering his access to the dverger, it wouldn’t do you any damn good,” Draco pointed out. “They’re more than willing to give him anything he wants, apparently. They cater to him like a favored child, which is disconcerting.”
“It’s unusual,” Croaker agreed. “They rarely give wizards the time of day. He told me that he apologized to them for the use of the word goblin. It seemed like, to me, that he apologized for our kind as a whole. It was the action of a humble man, and I don’t suppose Ragnok has much experience with such a thing.”
“No, I would say not,” Draco agreed. “He moves differently through our world—highly magical and compelling. Yet, he’s often utterly unassuming. Dumbledore subverted any social power he might have had with the mythos of the Boy-Who-Lived. It’s deeply frustrating. Though he doesn’t appear to want that kind of thing.”
“No, but a force like Potter could reshape our world with the right political moves, especially with the Braemar title at his disposal.” Croaker grimaced. “It is what it is. Many of us would do things differently when it comes to Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore.”
“My father wanted to kill Dumbledore,” Draco said thoughtfully. “If I knew then what I know now, I’d have probably helped him do it my very first year at Hogwarts. He tried to turn me into a little spy for him, but I was obtuse on purpose and always filled my letters with complaints about things I didn’t have and wanted. I dedicated three months of letters complaining about Potter getting his own broom during our first year.”
Croaker laughed. “It must have been frustrating—trying to mine your childish letters for information he could use. I wonder if he regrets all that he taught you.”
“I hope so,” Draco said, and his gaze went back to his partner as Harry shifted in his sleep and his hand searched over the mattress next to him.
“I’ll go,” Croaker said quietly. “The Banners are spending the night in the guest suite across the hall if you need them.”
He nodded and secured the door after their boss left and shed his dressing robe so he could return to the bed. Harry pulled him close as soon as he settled under the blanket, so Draco relaxed in his hold and closed his eyes.
* * * *
“Hungry?” Harry questioned as Draco turned toward him and rested his head on his chest.
“I’ll go out and get us some food,” Draco murmured. “Healer Banner isn’t going to let you leave without an examination.
Harry hummed under his breath, slid a hand down Draco’s back, and activated his lover’s anal prep rune. “I wasn’t offering you food.”
“Oh, I’ll get such a lecture,” Draco murmured but slid astride Harry’s hips and sought his mouth.
Harry pushed his magic around a little and banished their pajamas to the floor. He caught Draco’s hips in firm hands and lifted him a little. Draco moaned, snaked a hand between them, and positioned Harry’s cock to his liking. Harry thrust up into the tight heat of Draco’s arsehole, and they both groaned. Draco sat up, braced himself on Harry’s chest, and let his head fall back.
Harry rolled his hips, fucking up into Draco with sharp, even strokes just the way he knew his mate wanted. The stark adoration on Draco’s face was enthralling, and Harry could barely stand to look away. He stroked one hand down Draco’s chest and wrapped his hand around Draco’s half-hard cock. He stroked carefully until the cock in his hand was hard and leaking.
“You’re perfect like this,” Harry murmured. “Greedy and beautiful.”
“Harry,” Draco whispered fiercely. “Please.”
“Do you want a new position?” Harry asked.
“No, just like this,” Draco said and took a gasping breath. “I want to come on you.”
“Whatever you want, love,” Harry assured and continued to work Draco’s cock with a firm grip.
Pleasure burned between them—it always did, and it was easy to get lost in it. He pushed Draco hard, pumping up into his arse relentlessly in counterpoint to the softer stroke of his hand. Draco came all over his hand with a shocked gasp and curled his fingers against Harry’s chest as he relaxed into the orgasm. He let himself come then, emptying into the tight grip of Draco’s ass with a satisfied groan.
He pulled Draco down, cupped the back of his neck with his clean hand, and took his mouth in a hard kiss. Draco moaned softly into his mouth and sprawled on his chest—pliant with pleasure. He slowly pulled free of Draco’s arse and took a deep breath as he flexed his legs briefly.
“How do you feel?” Draco questioned as he lifted his head.
“Good,” Harry admitted. “Better than last time, actually. The Apollo orb wasn’t as robust as the Leviathan one. I need to do some organization, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. We should get up and shower.”
“I’ll shower first and go source us some food,” Draco said and pressed a kiss against his mouth.
“Or we could shower together.”
“We’ve never once taken a shower together that didn’t involve me getting fucked,” Draco said in amusement.
“Is that a complaint?”
“It’s a habit that I’m fond of, but we have a full morning ahead of us, and I’m actually in the mood for food.” Draco slipped off of him and left the bed. “Thanks for the dick.”
Harry huffed. “You’re the worst.”
“You don’t believe that for even a second,” Draco announced and didn’t even look back at him before disappearing into the bathroom with the bag that he’d retrieved from home the previous day.
There was a knock on the door, and Harry left the bed. He cast a few cleaning charms on himself, snagged Draco’s dressing gown from the floor, and pulled it on. Piper Banner already had a one judgy eyebrow arched when he opened it. Harry yawned.
“Shagging was not in your aftercare instructions. You just set off all of my monitors!”
Harry leaned on the doorframe and glanced over her shoulder to see Banner standing in the doorway of the room they’d spent the night in. The older man just offered him a wry grin, and he couldn’t help but smile back.
She huffed and poked him in the chest with her finger. “When I say rest, Potter. I mean it.”
“Did you not tell me weeks ago that being the mate of a veela is a profound responsibility and that I should take my partner’s needs seriously?” Harry questioned. “I’m fine.”
“I’ll be the bloody judge of that,” she announced. “You have one hour to get yourself into the infirmary for a check-up.” She poked him again and stalked off, muttering under her breath about reckless wizards who couldn’t keep themselves to themselves.
“She’s excitable,” Harry said.
“One of her better qualities,” Banner admitted. “Did she really give you a sex talk about veela?”
“Boy did she,” Harry said with a laugh. “Fortunately, I’d already read a book on the subject, or I would’ve been rendered speechless. I let her carry on, though, since it was clearly important to her. She had notes.”
“Merlin’s pants,” Banner muttered and disappeared back into his room.
Harry pulled the door shut and picked up all the clothes he’d banished to the floor so he could get laid. They did have a long day ahead of them, and there was no need to put it off.
* * * *
“How do you feel?”
Harry looked up from his reading and found Croaker standing in the open doorway of their office. He set down the scans he was reviewing from the ritual circles. “I feel fine.”
“And?” Croaker prodded.
“How many will you ask?” Harry asked curiously. “You asked the last wizard to take on the Apollo orb if you were truly forgiven…”
“Frankly, I didn’t entirely trust him to tell me the truth, and he died before I could figure out if he was fucking with me or not,” Croaked said roughly. “So, did he forgive me?”
“No,” Harry admitted. “And he didn’t want you to know because he figured it’d drive you nuts to know if he was sincere when the two of you spoke of it. It was a very ugly game for him. He always considered you a rival in several ways, and it helped not at all that you were already a rising star in the department when he was recruited. You weren’t wrong to tell her, by the way. No matter how much it upset her—she had a right to know he was a cheating arsehole. He blamed you for his own ugly behavior and didn’t deserve your forgiveness.”
Croaker huffed. “Right. Well, damage more than done.” He stood and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I don’t even know why I care about his lies at this point.”
“He was your half-brother,” Harry said with a shrug. “I get the desire to have his forgiveness and the loyalty you tried to give him. You were in a terrible position, and he was a lousy human being. Trust me, I’d like to remove dozens of memories from that orb that he had no business sharing. I’m pretty sure he shared them to cultivate enemies for you even after he died since he added the last set after he was cursed. Retire the orb or have it cleansed of his influence. He really offered nothing of value. Frankly, only the original impression is worth keeping—the rest of it just vanity.”
“If you think it needs to be edited…” Croaker trailed off and shrugged. “I trust you to do it. Come by my office at some point, and we’ll take care of it. It’s no rush since it won’t be used again during your lifetime. It’s now your official backup code name. You can add to or adjust both orbs as you see fit as long as the names are assigned to you. That’s the backbone of the legacy system. Each generation allows for a series of checks and balances. Obsolete data is removed when needed, new spells, techniques research added.”
“Okay,” Harry agreed. “If you’d apologized before he died…I think it might have made a difference to her, you know? Trying to do so afterward just meant you were playing both sides.”
“I know it, lad,” Jonah said. “He was…my mother adored him, and I was just trying to make peace with him for her sake.” He frowned and lowered his gaze. “The cost seems to double upon me yearly.”
The door opened, and Draco entered. He paused and glanced between them, but Croaker motioned him to join them. “I’m just ruminating on past mistakes while I waited for your return.”
Draco nodded and leaned a hip on Harry’s desk. “Something going on?”
“An oddity,” Croaker murmured. “Bordering on a mystery. There is a case at the Met that I’ve been keeping an eye on. This morning, they reached out to the DMLE and asked for a consult.”
“What’s going on? Muggle baiting turned fraud?” Draco speculated.
“That’s the usual sort of consult they get,” Croaker admitted. “Financial crimes are a favorite considering how easy it is to manipulate a Muggle magically. But, no, serial murder.”
“Serial murder.” Harry raised an eyebrow. “How many bodies?”
“Three—the last found two weeks ago. Based on the pattern, they suspect to get another body within the week.”
“What’s the pattern?” Harry questioned, but then his gaze flicked to the calendar, and he groaned. “Please tell me they aren’t letting the press call him some sort of werewolf.”
“The Times had a front-page spread about the victims of the Full Moon Hunter,” Croaker said. “The story is lurid, inaccurate, and designed to instigate protests with the public, and it worked. As a result, the case was transferred to a special major case unit with a DCI that knows about magic—she’s a squib, but her brother was a wizard.”
“Name?” Harry questioned.
“The wizard was Dirk Cresswell, died in 1998 at the hands of Snatchers,” Croaker said. “The sister is Greer Underwood nee Cresswell. She’s had a successful career—worked homicide for a decade before moving into CID.”
“She’s probably taking some flak for getting the case,” Draco speculated. “What about the original investigators?”
“Underwood is savvy,” Croaker said. “She took on one sergeant and two constables from the original task force, which formed after the second body appeared. They appear to be permanent transfers into her department.”
“Which could be considered poaching,” Draco said wryly. “I like her already. Do you think they’re looking for a wizard?”
“I think you’re missing three bodies,” Croaker said. “And they might have them.”
“We’ve confirmed they’re Muggles, though, right?” Harry questioned. “Have they linked Soja Dario’s case to theirs?” He let his thoughts wander a bit. “A Muggle would offer nothing to a ritual, Croaker.”
“Nothing but practice,” Draco corrected, and Harry stared at him in shock. “We know that Soja’s body wasn’t destroyed because it was too invested with magic from the ritual. Who’s to say he even realized she was magical when he targeted her? She was taken from a Muggle street.”
Harry considered that and stood from his desk. “It’s soul magic, right?” He went to the empty board and picked up the chalk. “The soul is the one piece of magic that all animal life on this planet shares.” He drew a circle and, from memory, laid out the runes from the ritual circles they’d investigated. “The soul of a Muggle is no less complicated than that of a magical person, but there are distinct differences in death.”
“Such as?” Draco questioned as he came to stand with him.
Harry wrote quickly, arithmancy spreading over the board as he worked. “A magical soul can be communicated within a variety of ways, it can be split without destruction, and most importantly, it can be subject to resurrection.” He studied the predictive model with a frown. “Magical souls can also linger on the physical plane as ghosts whereas a Muggle soul is immediately embraced by the power that governs the universe.”
“What is that power?” Croaker asked in a subdued tone.
“That’s all a matter of perspective,” Harry said. “Some would look upon such power and see a god. While others would consider it a comfort to believe it a merely an intelligent force that brought about creation but does not sit in judgment of us. To many magicals, this force is personified in the forms of Hekate and her partner, Zirnitra. There is an energy moving through our world, through our universe that cannot be contained or controlled in any single way. We have no hopes of understanding it as we stand here, and those that came before us chose to give it structure and form for their own comfort.”
He started to write again, focusing on the Soja Dario as he did so. “If he didn’t care that Soja was a witch, then it changes things—the purpose of the ritual remains the same, but the motivations are very different. A magical soul could not be returned to the living in a Muggle body. It might be briefly attracted to the soul energy of the victim, but as soon as she dies, that attraction would die with her.” Harry turned to Draco. “We need to go back to the circles—the freshest scene we have.”
“Okay,” Draco agreed. “I’ll pack our kit, and you grab a takeaway lunch from the Cauldron. I’ll meet you at the apparition point there.” He turned to Croaker. “Will we get a report from the DMLE regarding their consult?”
“I’ve asked that Longbottom and Finn get the case,” Croaker said. “They’re thorough, and Finn is a half-blood, so he’ll be able to navigate the situation easier than most, considering he grew up in London and attended Muggle primary. His father is Muggle, and his mother was a witch.” He checked his watch. “I suspect that you’ll return before they do, so we won’t get a report from that meeting until the morn.” He glanced toward the board, his eyes darting over the magical math that Harry had done.
“Looks like my brother did leave one piece of valuable information in that orb after all.”
Harry considered that and turned to stare at the arithmancy. “Ah, well, we can keep that.”
Jonah laughed. “He was very gifted in the arts of divination—though he favored the orderly nature of arithmancy over the more woolly methods. The only blind spot Elphinstone had concerned his own motivations. He told me once he never could see the ramifications of his choices, no matter the method he chose.”
Harry had a terrible relationship with divination, and it wasn’t all to do with the prophecy like many thought. The subject both fascinated and repulsed him. Granted, Sybill Trelawney hadn’t helped, but over the years, he’d come to view her as a tragic but silly woman.
* * * *
“Jonah’s brother?” Draco questioned as soon as they sat down to eat. They had more spells running on the mostly destroyed circle.
“Older half-brother, Elphinstone Urquart. They had different fathers,” Harry reported as he pulled two butter beers from the basket he’d picked up from the Cauldron. He opened both and passed one to Draco. “They were in the DMLE together, and Croaker moved to the DOM a few years ahead of him. Urquart was about five years older and a total prick. He was engaged to a young woman named Shana Buchanan, a Scottish witch and practicing druid. She was quite a catch, apparently.
“He was also a cheating bastard, and a few months before the wedding was to take place, Jonah found out about the mistress. I think he hoped that Shana would discover the cheating on her own. When she didn’t—he went to her the night before the wedding and told her. Of course, she canceled the wedding and announced to the world that Urquart was a cheating motherfucker. It ruined his reputation, and he blamed McGregor for it. After that, he drank a lot, worked long hours, and eventually was cursed while on the job. The curse was slow-acting but fatal. He eventually died in 1978. But, he left a lot of shite memories in the orb designed to encourage the person who carries the orb after him to resent the fuck out of Jonah.
“That’s awful,” Draco muttered. “If this Urquart arsehole was alive—I’d help you kill him.”
Harry nodded his agreement. “Regardless, there’s a lot of data in the orb that doesn’t need to be there, and I’m going to edit it. The only other wizard that has picked the orb since Urquart died just a couple of years after he took his oath.”
“The way you were talking about it—I assumed the whole thing had something to do with Minerva McGonagall.”
“Well,” Harry began and sighed. “Shana Buchanan was her cousin, and they were apparently very close.”
“She’s dead—I don’t know how or why,” Harry said. “It’s just the moment I said her name, I knew she wasn’t alive.”
“What a bizarre and unfortunate sort of knowing to have,” Draco said quietly as he glanced over the ruined circle. The forensic spells were all but dancing in the air around them. “What are you looking for?”
“I don’t know,” Harry admitted. “Muggle forensics would tell us that there must be something left of the victim in this circle. We know that he cast cleaning spells before he left based on spell decay analysis, but those spells aren’t perfect. The last time we were here—we didn’t look for physical trace evidence.”
Draco nodded. “We don’t often have any need to deal with such.”
“True, but if those three bodies are ours, then we’re going to have to make some changes in how we look at the scenes going forward. And if they get a fresh body, that will mean we’ll have a fresh circle.”
“I’ve monitors on every single standing unclaimed ritual circle in the country. If he uses one of those, and I think he will, then we’ll be notified almost immediately,” Draco said.
“What if he uses a family circle?”
“He hasn’t in the past, and he’s clearly gotten away with his crimes. He thinks no one is even aware of what he’s doing. I don’t know a single wizard that would taint and destroy a circle owned by his own family for something like this. At worst, he might build something new, but that’s the work of a very talented and powerful wizard.”
“And you don’t think he’s either?” Harry questioned.
“I think only one of our suspects has a family ritual circle left, and Gerald Greengrass doesn’t strike me as the type to do such magic anywhere near his own daughters,” Draco said.
“There isn’t a circle at Malfoy Manor?” Harry questioned. “Seriously?”
“It was destroyed decades ago and never rebuilt,” Draco said. “My grandfather wasn’t inclined toward such arts and saw no reason to waste money fixing something he never intended on using. My father didn’t rebuild it because he felt like the ministry would consider it suspicious. He couldn’t shoulder a conclave magically due to the dark mark, but he’s an adept practitioner when it comes to ritual craft.”
“You consider him the primary suspect.”
“Of course I do, but I’m worried that it’s based more on personal bias than evidence,” Draco said. “He’s been an instrument of destruction in my life since I was born, Harry. It’s hard to ignore what he’s capable of, and it’s harder to overlook that I know he’s utterly capable of the cold-blooded murder of four women.” He paused and grimaced. “Especially Muggle women. If he really is practicing the ritual, then he would consider them no more than animals—like rats in a lab.”
“I think that we’ll find that whoever is doing this does see his victims in that fashion,” Harry said. “I would think that most serial killers believe their targets to be little more than animals.”
“I thought you’d be down for a full day after the orb,” Draco said quietly.
“It’s getting easier,” Harry admitted. “Physically and mentally. I honestly felt like we could’ve gone home yesterday after I finished, but I knew Healer Banner wouldn’t agree.”
“That doesn’t actually make me feel better,” Draco admitted. “It’s normally the exact opposite which is why there is a recommended limit on how many orbs a person can take on throughout their lifetime. Easier or not, I’d rather you not pick up another unless the circumstances are dire.”
Harry grimaced and looked away. “Draco.”
“Harry.” Draco reached out and caught his hand. “Listen.” Harry huffed but nodded and focused on him. “You have nothing to prove to anyone, and I know you could sit and pass several mastery tests at this point. The skills and knowledge you bring to the table naturally set you apart from our peers already, and no orb is going to fill up the emptiness that you carry.” Harry’s fingers chilled against his. “You’ll carry the void created by the murders of your parents throughout this lifetime, and I’m sorry for it.”
“Dumbledore led me around by the nose because I didn’t know who or what I was,” Harry said quietly. “I knew nothing about my family, about my magical legacy, or even the power that swells in my body like an ocean. There came a point, when I was at Hogwarts, where I felt like I couldn’t even ask questions because no answer would satisfy me. Would I fall to his manipulations today?”
“You’d probably drill a hole in his forehead with a piercing charm today,” Draco pointed out dryly, and Harry laughed sharply. “Then light yourself an herbal and watch his corpse to make sure a ghost didn’t form.”
“That would’ve literally been the worst outcome of his death,” Harry said. “I’d have never gotten rid of that old bastard if he’d turned into a ghost. He’d have followed me around the fucking country the whole time I searched for the horcruxes offering me cryptic advice and pretending to be surprised by every single secret I uncovered. Riddle would’ve won because Hermione would’ve dedicated herself to finding a way to force a magical ghost to cross the fuck over.”
Draco laughed. “Shut up.”
“She’d have probably tried to build some kind of contraption to hold him—she’d have become a real-life Ghostbuster.”
Draco rolled his eyes. “That movie was so silly. Why did I sit through it?”
“Because you wanted to see the giant marshmallow man,” Harry pointed out.
Recently, Harry had bought a telly for their peel and had gotten a lot of movies to go with it. Draco pretended to hate Muggle entertainment but regularly got bent if Harry watched a new movie without him.
“Though I do agree if a creepy-looking supernatural woman asks if you’re a god—you should definitely say yes.”
“Probably if anyone asks,” Harry cautioned. “Just in case.”
“Oh, lobster rolls,” Draco said as he pulled food from the basket and smiled. “I didn’t know Tom had added these to the menu.”
“He didn’t,” Harry said. “I picked up the rolls from a Muggle place across the street from the Cauldron after I picked up the basket with the snacks and butterbeer. I did bring him one so he could try it out, and hopefully, it’ll end up on his menu because getting a lobster roll through the floo would be awesome.”
They ate quietly, watched the spells work, and stayed where they were until the transcription quill tipped over on their work table when its work was complete. Draco summoned the parchment and spread it out between them.
“Nothing,” Draco said with a frown. “The residue of the ritual is decaying rapidly—twice the average.”
“It should be slower—dark magic always lingers longer, and resurrection is one of the darkest possible rituals,” Harry said. “Sacrificial magic damages the magic of the person conducting the ritual as well. If he is practicing, then he’s reaching the end of the line on that front.”
“What else could it be?” Draco questioned. “If he’s using Muggle women?”
“He could just be torturing his target,” Harry reminded, and Draco closed his eyes briefly. “In his mind, he’d certainly have plenty of reason to do so.”
“If it is my father, he killed all four of his victims before my mother’s affair was revealed to the public,” Draco pointed out but frowned as he stared at the scan results. “But a clean scene like this makes me think it’s not him, if I’m honest. He’s sloppy on the magical front and has never bothered to cover his tracks. Lucius is a career criminal who has never spent more than a few months in custody. He bought his freedom repeatedly and believes he can maintain that lifestyle indefinitely.”
“So, he has an accomplice,” Harry said. “If it’s him.”
“You mean someone is coming along behind him and cleaning up the scenes,” Draco said with a grimace. “He doesn’t have friends or allies at this point.”
“Let’s check for house elf magic,” Harry suggested.
“Son of a bitch,” Draco muttered and stood. “Corrupting the magic of a house elf is a crime against magic.”
“And a violation of international law,” Harry pointed out. “We’ll have to report that to the World Court and the Magical Protectorate.”
“Well, the last thing Croaker will want is a visit from the Protectorate,” Draco said. “Their agents are basically a brute squad.”
Harry grinned at him but let the Princess Bride reference slide. It was Draco’s favorite movie, so Harry was careful not to tease him too much about it. He didn’t want to ruin the whole thing for him, and his mate could be sensitive about things like that. He watched Draco cast a new spell, specifically looking for house elf magic. It failed within a minute.
Draco returned to him as he holstered his wand. “Nothing. What does that mean?”
“It means that we have a bigger problem than we thought,” Harry admitted. “And that perhaps we’ve been letting our bias regarding your father direct this investigation away from the real culprit.”
“Soja Dario reminded me of my mother—a lot.”
“We need to see the other victims,” Draco said. “Will the DMLE get a full copy of the case file?”
“They should—that’s SOP for a consult,” Harry confirmed. “Finn and Longbottom are the best investigators in the DMLE—thorough and intuitive. They’ll get us what we need to determine whether or not the cases are connected.”
Harry settled down in the conference room just outside the DOM and watched Longbottom and Finn setting up a presentation board on the other end of the room. There were three pictures on the board already, along with the details for each woman. He noted that Soja would fit well amongst the other victims. He shared a look with Draco, whose discomfort was clear despite the glamour his mate was wearing. He really didn’t like being anywhere near aurors.
He shifted slightly in his chair and put a hand on Draco’s knee under the table. Harry squeezed gently before standing and picking up their file. Finn and Longbottom glanced briefly his way, and both men gave him a nod. It was odd to be treated like a stranger since he’d worked with them for years, but he knew his own glamour was very good, and it bore no real resemblance to himself. Even his beard was obscured.
“We were told to leave some room at the start of the timeline,” Neville said. “I’m Neville Longbottom, and this is my partner, Jacob Finn.”
“Leviathan,” Harry said. “My partner is Helios. We’re waiting on the arrival of Croaker and Director Proudfoot.” He opened their file and pulled out a picture of Soja. “This is Soja Dario, 22, a citizen of Spain, Muggle-born witch, discovered in London in December of 2007 one day after the full moon.” Then he moved down the board and set up the information on the ritual circles silently. When he finished. “Soja Dario was killed in ritual, determined by a war mage from the ICW. It was subsequently discovered that four unclaimed, ancient ritual circles in Great Britain have been destroyed using dark ritual magic.”
“She’s a match for the MET’s victims,” Finn said. “But they’re all Muggles. They have no ritual benefit.”
“We think he’s practicing,” Harry said and watched Finn absorb that even as Neville groaned. “And that Soja being a witch was an accident on his part. She was dressed as Muggle, and she’d left her wand in her hotel room. He doesn’t want our attention.”
“Practicing what?” Proudfoot asked from the doorway.
“Resurrection,” Neville said grimly as he stared at the circle diagnostics. “Sacrificial.” He ran a finger along the edge of one circle. The parchment shifted slightly against his magic. “Just one wizard?”
“Yes,” Harry said.
“Better that way, I suppose,” Neville said. “He only has to account for his own motivations in the ritual.” He stepped back and stared at the circles, each in turn. “That’s a lot of love.” Then he frowned. “And hate.”
“Obsessive, perhaps,” Finn suggested but then turned to focus on their superiors. “Sirs, if you’ll get seated—we can outline all the victims so far and figure out what we can offer to the MET if there is a new victim.”
Croaker nodded and slid into place beside Draco, and Proudfoot took a chair near the middle of the table. A separation that Harry expected. While Croaker was well-known in the ministry and people had gotten used to his hooded presence, others were put off Unspeakables as a whole.
“Leviathan,” Proudfoot said and sat forward a bit. “We’ve never met in person but have exchanged several notes over the years on research topics. It’s good to meet you.”
“And you,” Harry said.
He’d yet to read through all of Leviathan’s official correspondence within the ministry, so he moved that up the list. It was nothing to worry about—as those letters would be devoid of personal interactions. The purpose was to create a paper trail of sorts for DOM assets that spanned decades to protect code names and the people assigned to those names.
Harry turned to the board. “Based on the time of abduction and discovery of the body, Soja Dario is the first victim. A 22-year-old Muggle-born witch from Spain. Her body was discovered in Hyde Park on December 26, 2007. She was returned to her home country within a week of her discovery, and it wasn’t until recently that her parents were able to get the attention of magical authorities in Spain to investigate the death of their daughter. The ICW was called in once they inspected the body and found the high investment of dark magic in the remains. A war mage was dispatched to investigate the scene. They discovered a series of corrupt ley lines in Britain and four destroyed ritual circles during that investigation. At that time, the ICW passed the Dario case to the DOM.”
“The second victim is Mara Best, 24, Muggle, and a bartender by trade,” Neville said. “She was a part-time student and wanted to be a nurse.” He paused and focused on his boss. “The Muggle version of a mediwitch.” Proudfoot nodded. “She went missing on January 22, 2008, somewhere between her job and home. Her parents reported that she was prone to walking even in bad weather to save money, and it was just a kilometer. Unfortunately, they did not realize she was missing until she failed to come downstairs for breakfast the following morning. They immediately contacted all of her friends, the man she was dating, and eventually the police. Her body was discovered in an alley not far from her workplace that same day. The investigating detective believed that no less than 20 hours had passed between abduction and death. The cause of death is listed as suffocation.
“The third victim was Clodagh Walsh, 26, Muggle, married with no children. She worked as a legal assistant and attended law school at night. She went missing on March 21, 2008. Her husband contacted the police four hours after she was due home when she failed to answer his calls and…texts.” Neville paused. “Muggle’s have a device called a cellphone that allows them to call each other. They can also send messages through this device. It’s like a portable floo.” He shrugged. “Sort of.”
Proudfoot nodded, but Harry could tell he was largely confused.
“They were able to track her cellphone device,” Neville said. “It was found in a parking lot not far from her home. Her husband believes that she stopped to pick up some groceries on her way home. Two days after her disappearance, her car was found. A pair of teenage boys had found it with the keys in and decided to take a ride in it then parked it in front of their own house.” He shrugged when Harry snorted. “Her body was discovered behind the grocery store where she disappeared on the 26th, death by suffocation.
“The last victim is Tessa Flynn, 26, married. She worked for herself as an interior designer and was building a successful career. Her wife was out of town when she went missing and grew concerned when Tessa didn’t answer any of her calls. It was extremely unlike her to ignore calls since it was the main method by which she received work. Her wife, Eliza, returned to Britain from France just in time to identify Tessa’s body when she was discovered in her own back garden on the 22nd.”
“So the killer returns them to the roughly the same location that he abducts them from,” Harry said.
“Is that part of a pattern?” Proudfoot questioned.
“It’s comfort,” Draco offered. “He was successful in removing them from that vicinity without getting caught, so why not return them to an area he’s already familiar with? None of his victims are random or taken by chance. Something about them meets his specific need. With magic, surveilling a Muggle would be the work of nothing. He’s probably watched them in their homes, at work, or even at school. Even the average wizard is capable of a disillusionment charm.”
“The next full moon is two days from now,” Harry said. “If he’s going to take someone—he’s already chosen her, made his plan, and prepped for the ritual. We have monitors set up on all the active, unclaimed ritual circles in the country, but he’s likely aware of our surveillance. If his intent is another practice round, then he could create a temporary circle for it. He’ll pick a thick ley line to give the circle as much power as possible, but he has too many options.” He pulled a map out of their field kit and put it up. “As it stands, unless he chooses an established circle, we can’t make progress without another body.” His gaze drifted to the pictures—blonde, blue-eyed, each with a perfectly oval-shaped face.
“You have a list of suspects,” Neville speculated. “What have you seen in the ritual circle that you haven’t stated?”
Harry glanced toward Croaker, who shook his head. “We can’t reveal that currently, Auror Longbottom. This wizard is connected, demonstrates a great deal of ability, knowledge, and privilege. That speaks to wealth and social position.”
“Which speaks to connections in this very building,” Neville said and sighed. “Right. Well, in that case, are you taking the case over entirely?”
“No, but we’ll need you to act as a buffer between DCI Underwood and us,” Draco said and stood. “Though we prefer that the case not be discussed outside this room, Director Proudfoot.”
“Then it needs a privacy seal to protect the case file itself,” Proudfoot said roughly. “I’m still working through problems in the department from the Robards situation. Longbottom and Finn are clean—I vetted them personally with veritaserum.”
Harry raised an eyebrow. “You’re interrogating your own people?”
“You’re goddamned right I am,” Proudfoot muttered and turned to Croaker. “In that vein, it would go faster if you’d give Potter back for a few weeks.”
“Potter is unavailable,” Croaker said smoothly. “His caseload is far too heavy to play quiz master for you, Proudfoot, when you’ve proven dosing your people is a viable and proven solution to your situation.”
Proudfoot sighed. “If I’m asking the right questions.”
“I’m pretty sure you asked all the questions,” Finn muttered. “It was like coming home drunk to a cruel and suspicious girlfriend.”
“Speaking from experience?” Harry questioned.
“I have terrible taste,” Finn admitted and crossed his arms when Neville laughed.
* * * *
“It’s weird being in the room with people I know in a glamour,” Harry said as soon as Draco closed the door. He put their copy of the case file down on the work table and turned.
“Must be odd to have a man you’ve known since you were 11 treat you like a stranger,” Draco said. “The case file that DCI Underwood gave the DMLE is surprisingly robust.”
“Have you worked with the Met before?”
“Not directly, but I’ve done research here and there,” Draco explained. “And I’ve seen some case files in the past but nothing like this. The interviews, detailed timelines for each victim…”
“A serial killer case gets a lot of lurid attention in the Muggle press,” Harry said. “It puts pressure on the investigators and the investigation. Murder cops are often considered a breed apart, even in auror forces in the magical world.”
“I’ve never been involved in a murder investigation of any sort,” Draco admitted. “Did you know that Proudfoot wants you to help him clean out the Auror Department?”
“No, but I wouldn’t have agreed if Croaker had given me a choice in it. I couldn’t have hidden behind a glamour and used parselmagic at the same time. I don’t want to be known as a headhunter for the powers that be around here.” Harry walked across the room and leaned on the edge of Draco’s desk as his partner sat down. “I was surprised you wanted to leave Finn and Neville on the case.”
“Helios can’t become known for a disdain toward aurors,” Draco said roughly. “And neither of them were on the job when my mother was murdered. I can’t stand the sight of them, but that’s mostly about the uniform. All I saw that day—was a sea of those robes and my mother’s dead body. It’s hard to get it out of my head.”
Harry shed his robe and tossed it with a bit of magic across the room. The cloak rack collected it with a little wiggle. “Did you spell that thing?”
“I fixed the collection charm,” Draco said and looked him over. “Why?”
“It flirts with me,” Harry said and sighed when Draco laughed. He moved to the left and slid astride his mate’s thighs.
Draco’s hands settled on his hips, and he wet his lips. “Something on your mind, my Lord?”
“Just you,” Harry murmured. “I find it irritating when you’re uncomfortable. An unexpected part of the mate bond, I think.”’
“Well,” Draco began and flushed. “It makes a bit of sense—you’re a caregiver. You like to take care of me and provide. It’s a common manifestation for wizards who mate with a veela. You’re possessive and dominant by nature.” He rubbed Harry’s thighs and took a deep breath. “I like it.”
“I know you do,” Harry murmured and leaned forward. He curled hands over the top of the chair and brushed his mouth over Draco’s.
A shift in his magic caught his attention, and he slid out of Draco’s lap with ease and walked across the room to slide into his chair just as there was a sharp knock on the door. Croaker opened it without waiting for a response, a habit he was well-known for. The older man would open any door in the department that wasn’t locked without so much as a by your leave.
“Go home. You can monitor your alarms from there,” Croaker ordered. “When the body drops, you’re going to have some very long days.” He paused. “And probably nights.”
Harry stood because he was on board with leaving early. “We’ll duplicate the file, update our board here, and go home there after.” He checked his watch. “Shouldn’t take more than an hour.”
Croaker nodded and pulled the door shut.
“How’d you know he was coming?” Draco asked curiously. “Do you have some sort of security charm set up on the door?”
“No,” Harry denied. “I’d never get away with that kind of magic since I don’t have ward access.”
“Theoretically,” Draco agreed. “But we both know that you do a lot of things you shouldn’t be able to do. So, how did you know?”
“My magic told me,” Harry said and shrugged when Draco gaped at him. “I mean not in so many words, but I got a little push to move, so I did. You said your father taught you to ignore your magic, right? Maybe you should work to stop ignoring your magic when it moves inside of you.”
“Or maybe I should just concentrate on what it feels like when you move inside me,” Draco said and smirked when Harry lifted an eyebrow. “Let’s duplicate the file at home and push the changes through our home setup.” He glanced toward the board. “It works both ways.”
“But first, you’re going to throw me on the nearest surface and fuck my brains out,” Draco declared, and Harry grinned.
“As you say, Dragon.”
* * * *
Harry strode out of the loch naked as the day he was born and picked up the towel he’d left on a low stone bench he’d put near the shoreline. He rubbed his chest thoughtfully as he looked out over the waters. Myalis turned over in the shallows and splashed in the water, then started to come ashore.
“Go home to your mother, lass.”
She flicked her tail at him but swam away quickly as his gaze drifted to the moon. The night sky was clear, and the moon cast enough light over his land that he could see clearly for a least a kilometer in any direction. His wards, of course, obscured any view in his direction. Outsiders only saw what he allowed them to see, which was little more than the tower and the shore.
“If I told anyone you swam naked in Loch Ness, not a damn person would believe me.”
Harry looked over his shoulder at his mate before shrugging and returning to his lazy drying. Wrapping the towel around his hips would’ve activated the drying charms, but he thought that was kind of lazy. “Hermione would believe you.”
“Why is that?”
“Because she would know that my animagus form can breathe under water,” Harry said with a laugh. “And she would also know that I’m prone to losing my clothes permanently if I transform while wearing them. Maybe one day, I’ll get the hang of it. Of course, I can conjure clothes during the change and did when I demonstrated my ability for my admittance to the DOM. No need for anyone to know something so silly about me.”
“The Peruvian Vipertooth has gills?” Draco huffed. “I’ve never actually seen one and didn’t notice them on you when you transformed for me earlier in the year.”
“You were too busy being disappointed in the fact that I’m so much smaller than your own form, which makes the likelihood of us fucking while transformed difficult to manage.”
Draco blushed. “I never asked you for that.”
“You didn’t have to,” Harry said in amusement but then frowned. He rubbed at his hair briskly and took a deep breath. “It’s happening.”
“Our alarms aren’t going off.”
“No, he must have built a temporary circle. It’s risky, not secure—he’ll have a plan in place for the final ritual.”
“Are you sure? Can you sense it? Is your magic responding to the death magic he’s conducting?”
“I wish,” Harry muttered and wrapped the towel around his waist. “I would apparate there right now and rip him limb from limb then set his parts on fire. I’m not certain, but quiet nights like this seem to bring out the worst in people. It’s as if they find the silence so offensive that they have to act against it.”
“It offends you?” Draco questioned and offered Harry his hand. “The death magic?”
“Yes, of course, it does,” Harry said roughly and pulled Draco close. “It makes me furious. Death should be a peaceful embrace—an experience best left at the end of a full life. Murder should offend everyone.”
“Of course, murder is offensive,” Draco said with a sigh. “I mean necromancy. The practice itself offends you.”
“It’s intrusive,” Harry said after a few moments of consideration. “It can be offensive as fuck depending on what’s being done and why. Some rituals are reverent and respectful, while others are disgusting. For instance, there are some voodoo rituals that are beautiful and profound in practice. I’d like to see some of them in the future, rather than just have the memories of the orb.”
“You said Croaker that wasn’t keen for you to take on that orb, despite having offered it to you.”
“I think it was a test of sorts,” Harry admitted. “He didn’t hesitate to give it to me as a secondary choice. Do you have one?”
“A secondary code name?” Draco questioned and hummed under his breath when Harry nodded. “Not yet. I’m still considering where my other interests lie. Between us, we have all the skills we need for the work we’re currently doing. If I pick up another orb, it will be for personal desire or if I’m required to take on a different code name. That’s rare, fortunately.”
“You don’t like the orb process.”
“Eh.” Draco shrugged as Harry pulled him close.
He apparated them to their bedroom and released him. “I should shower.”
“Did you have a nice swim with the princess?”
“Yeah, I did,” Harry admitted. “She’s curious and playful. She also has some really amusing opinions about the other citizens of the lake. Quite a few of the merfolk have been rude to her in the past—they will come to regret that. I think many of them believed that her older sister would be the heiress. Myalis says her older sister, Isla, is a ditz.”
Draco laughed but followed Harry into the bathroom. He scooted up onto the counter and just relaxed there as he watched Harry drop the towel in the basket and step into the large shower stall.
“I finished the board.”
“Thanks for that,” Harry said as he poured shampoo into his hand then started to clean his hair. “I really needed the swim. Did you see anything once it was set up to suit you?”
“Just my mother in every single picture,” Draco said with a frown. “Shall I go order something for dinner?”
“I put on a beef stew before I went out,” Harry said. “It’s under a warming charm on the stove, and there’s bread in the oven.”
Draco huffed at him but slipped off the counter. “I’ll just go pick out a wine, then.”
“A red, please,” Harry said and turned his face into the spray of water briefly. “Hey—wait—did you want something different to eat?”
“No,” Draco said and shook his head at him. “You’re just so domestic.”
“Is that a problem?”
“No, your big cock more than makes up for it,” Draco said airily and strolled away.
Harry rolled his eyes and reached for the conditioner.
* * * *
Harry took a sip of wine as he studied the pictures of the victims. “Love and hate.”
“Certainly both existed in my parent’s marriage,” Draco said.
“Did she love him, or was it one-sided?” Harry questioned. “Did Lucius find romance in his arranged marriage?”
“Romance? No.” Draco made a face. “He was obsessed with her, certainly. The arranged marriage was at his instigation. He essentially bought her, Harry, but that’s common enough in our society. I don’t blame her for having an affair, you know, but the choices she made concerning Shacklebolt…well, it’s obscene.”
“Yeah,” Harry murmured. “I’d dedicate myself to making contract marriages illegal if I had the political power to accomplish it.” He took another sip of wine. “I often wonder what Dumbledore had planned—if we both survived the war. He clearly depended on the horcrux situation killing me outright, but he was also a twisted manipulator who spent a decade planning what he would do when I entered the magical world.
“You said once that he created a mythos around me that destroyed my political and social worth. What did he expect to do with me if I survived? Did he suspect that I would be able to do what he couldn’t? The Hallows resisted him, refused to be reunited in his hands. What would we have done with the Master of Death at his disposal?” Harry frowned at his wine and took a deep breath. “It’s a useless thought exercise to ponder the motives of Albus fucking Dumbledore.”
“I think my mother tolerated him for my sake,” Draco said quietly. “She gave up her soulmate—in a very rash fashion to protect him from her parents and from Lucius. Part of her must have hated him. I would’ve hated him.” He paused. “I mean, I do hate him.”
“I hate him, too,” Harry said wryly and took a sip of wine. “The resemblance is superficial. Beyond the fact that he’s targeting Muggle women, it feels excessive.”
“It is excessive,” Draco admitted. “Wasteful, but also like a grand gesture. Like he’s preparing to tell her—look what I’ve done for you. Look at the effort I put into getting this right for you. See the depth of my love for you.”
“Try to forget that I’ve spent half a year torturing your eternal soul,” Harry continued. “For your sake, I wanted to believe that it wasn’t him. Unfortunately, the fall out of this situation is only going to increase scrutiny in your direction.”
“The best outcome is that we kill him,” Draco said. “And we allow the ministry to bury the entire situation as they are wont to do when a pure-blood misbehaves.”
“Yeah,” Harry said and sighed. “Well, it’s been a goal for a while, and I’m on board with mitigating the impact where you’re concerned.”
“I don’t need you to shelter me, Harry,” Draco said wearily. “I’ve been weathering the storm of my father’s crimes since I was a child.”
“What you need and what you deserve are two different things, love. And you don’t deserve to be held in contempt for the crimes of your father.” Harry sighed and let his gaze wander over the detailed diagrams of the circles. “The clean-up is tricky.”
“Very tricky,” Draco agreed. “My father doesn’t have any cronies left—they’re dead, in Azkaban, or furious with him because he got away with his crimes and they didn’t. So he peacocked about the country for years, making it clear he’d never go to jail for what he’d done as a Death Eater while others who did less went to Azkaban.”
“Paying for it wouldn’t work,” Harry said. “Maybe imperious or some sort of enslavement draught. He couldn’t trust them with much, but if he was going through all of that. It would be easier just to do the damn clean-up himself.” He frowned. “Any accomplice is just a complication, and your father is…has he really gone off the rails, or is that an act? I mean, I haven’t seen him sober in over a year.”
“He’s manipulative, controlling, and cruel,” Draco said. “Do I believe he could pretend to be on the edge of destruction? Yes, I do.” He exhaled sharply. “I think he’s capable of all of this, Harry, and that’s the part that is the most infuriating because this depth of planning doesn’t allow for madness. The older I’ve gotten, the more disappointed I become—at the loss of his potential.”
“Magic is a gift, and those that disrespect it are difficult to accept. What’s more difficult is how normal others treat it. Sure, they act shocked by the behavior, but none are truly appalled by the behavior of people like Tom Riddle or your father. I mean, no one seemed to care at all that a known Death Eater was a teacher at Hogwarts for years. Whatever crimes Severus Snape committed were dismissed because Dumbledore deemed it so. People I worked with day in and day out, when I was at the DMLE, tolerated that shite. Shared the lift with Death Eaters on the way to their offices every single morning then didn’t consider it a problem.”
“As a species, humans are largely corrupt,” Draco said and shrugged a little. “Taking on that kind of hopeless cause would be insanity, Harry.”
Harry offered him a smile and took a sip of wine. “Are you telling me that you wouldn’t help fight a ferocious giant, darling?”
“You are no man’s David,” Draco said dryly. “But, of course, it would be my privilege to stand with you in any battle—Goliath or not.”
Anwen slithered into the room and flicked her tail over his socked feet, so he picked her up and let her curl around his wrist. “What are you up to, little one?”
“Your mate’s silly bird is upset,” Anwen reported.
Harry raised an eyebrow. “Is she injured?”
“I would’ve brought her to you if that were the case,” Anwen said, and Harry was sure that the coatl would’ve rolled her eyes if she could’ve.
Harry lifted his hand and let her curl around his neck, where she often rested and focused on Draco. “She says Thicket is upset.”
Draco frowned but set aside his wine. Harry did the same and followed him through the peel to the owlery they’d set up for Draco’s highly pampered bird. He’d briefly considered getting an owl for himself, but one trip to the pet store had made him set that topic aside. He just couldn’t do it. He liked Thicket but didn’t spend that much time with her. It simply hurt a lot to think about Hedwig, and replacing her felt impossible.
Draco believed that Hedwig’s unnatural death had created a magical wound that wouldn’t be healed. Harry felt like that was true and was glad that his bond with Anwen didn’t seem to intrude on what remained of his lingering familiar bond with Hedwig.
He stayed back and watched Draco go straight to the perch where Thicket was sitting. The owl was making an oddly sad noise that made his heart clench. Draco took her from the perch and rubbed her chest gently. Then he sighed.
“What’s wrong?” Harry questioned.
“She’s broody,” Draco said. “But…she can’t.” He took a deep breath. “When she was injured—she can’t lay eggs, Harry.” He sat down on the bench they kept up there, and Harry joined him.
“Is there anything to be done?”
“I don’t know,” Draco admitted. “Do you suppose Hagrid is awake?” He checked the time.
“I’ll go floo him and see,” Harry said and reached out to run his fingers gently through Thicket’s feathers, then stood.
Just five minutes later, Hagrid was stepping through their floo. The half-giant offered Harry a broad smile.
“Look at you!”
Harry laughed a little as he was hauled into a hug. “Hey, Hagrid, how are you? You weren’t at the school for my last visit.”
“Ah, I was off settling my brother on a reserve in Greece. Very nice place.” He looked around. “Now, where’s this little miss of yours?”
“Draco has her in the kitchen. He thought she might eat, but she refused,” Harry motioned for Hagrid to follow him. “Did Gawp want to move, or did the ministry make you move him?”
“He wanted the move—suppose he’d like a girlfriend,” Hagrid admitted and sighed. “He’s a young one, you know.”
He watched Draco transfer Thicket into Hagrid’s large hand, and the bird seemed to know him very well because she rubbed her face in his beard and hooted sadly.
Hagrid sighed. “We knew it might be a problem. She must have mated recently.” He petted her feathers. “She’d not understand why there are no eggs, you see.”
“Is there a solution?” Harry asked.
“I’ve got an idea, but you’d have to give her up,” Hagrid said and focused on Draco. “I know you love her—you’ve taken such great care with her, lad.”
Draco flushed. “She needed me, and I can’t say I didn’t need someone at the time, too. But I don’t want her to be unhappy. What’s the fix?”
“I know a breeder—very good witch. Her owls are healthy, trained well, and treated with affection.” Hagrid continued to rub Thicket’s chest with two big fingers. “Hedwig came from her operation.”
“Thicket can’t be bred,” Harry said in confusion.
“No, but she could be trained to act as a nanny,” Hagrid said. “My friend, Chelsea, often keeps birds past breeding age to be trained to help with the chicks and with the actual brooding. Her operation isn’t very big, but sometimes she encounters a bird who’ll lay eggs and abandon them.”
Harry watched Draco consider that. “Could we buy her viable eggs to take care of? Maybe just one? Would that satisfy the urge?”
“Temporarily,” Hagrid said. “But when a magical owl goes broody, they rarely want to do anything else but mother chicks.”
Harry considered that. “Hedwig never seemed interested.”
“She chose to create a familiar bond with you, lad,” Hagrid said sadly. “Even if she had laid eggs, they would’ve been secondary in her priorities to you. In fact, you might have had to give her eggs to someone for hatching. In many ways, I suppose, you were Hedwig’s child, and she needed nor wanted another.” He focused on Draco. “If you allowed her a familiar bond…” He trailed off when Draco shook his head abruptly. “I know why you hesitate, lad, but I don’t think the magic of the dark mark would be at all compatible with her magic. It wouldn’t hurt her.”
“But she might get the echoes of the pain it causes me, Hagrid,” Draco said, and it was clear to Harry that they’d already had this conversation. “And she’s hurt enough, don’t you think?” He cleared his throat. “I’ll get her things together, and you can take her to your friend tonight.”
“If you’re certain?” Hagrid questioned.
“Please,” Draco said with an incline of his head and left the kitchen.
Harry sighed and stared at the little owl sadly. “Could I…” He trailed off when Hagrid shook his head.
“Not while you cling to what is left of the bond you had with Hedwig,” Hagrid said gently. “I also doubt your Anwen would share with her considering the broken bond you have. She shares that broken bond now and feels the absence of Hedwig even though she’ll never meet her.”
Anwen shifted on his neck, and Harry just nodded because that felt true. Coatl could be territorial as is, and he hadn’t spent a great deal of time with her since their bonding. So, there had been no real opportunity to smooth out the rough edges of their familiar bond.
Harry cleared his throat. “Let’s do this quickly then.”
“Of course, lad,” Hagrid said.
* * * *
“Owls are old-fashioned anyway,” Draco muttered as he rested against Harry’s chest. He ran a hand around a down Draco’s back gently.
“It’s okay to be hurt by the loss,” Harry said and just pressed a kiss against Draco’s forehead when his mate sighed.
“I knew it would happen—I just thought I might have longer with her.” He sighed. “Hagrid said I could go visit.”
Harry didn’t think Draco would because it wasn’t the way his lover operated. He made a habit of cutting his losses in most situations as quickly as possible. Harry could only be grateful that he hadn’t given in to that impulse where it concerned their situation, even if it had been his first inclination.
“I couldn’t risk bonding with her,” Draco said quietly. “If I carry any lesson from my father for the rest of my life, it will be that nothing I desire is worth hurting others.”
“I understand,” Harry murmured against Draco’s hair. “Sleep, love, our days are going to get very long.”
They’d turned one of the smaller conference rooms into a private, warded office space they could share with Finn and Longbottom. Which resulted in a shared incident board that linked their casework with the work being done by the two aurors. The auto-update feature on the synced boards remained Harry’s favorite piece of magic.
Harry walked to the large map of the country they had on the board. They were running spells on the main ley lines looking for corruption, but that kind of spell work took time. The ley line structure for Great Britain was old, intricate and there were large pockets of dark magic due to the work of various dark wizards spanning over thousands of years. No one had ever really bothered to invest themselves in cleaning up the magic of the UK, and Harry considered it one of the biggest problems the country had.
It had been four days since the full moon, and anticipation was jittering across his nerves because he knew that Lucius had taken another victim. Harry ran a finger down the biggest ley line on the isle, following it from Aberdeen all the way to the Atlantic Ocean as it wound its way through the magical landscape.
“Do you see something?”
Harry turned and found Jacob Finn standing beside him. “Unsure. There’s something off.”
“About the theory or about the fact that we’re four days out without a body?” Draco asked as he came to stand with them. “Maybe you should take another look at the arithmancy.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed and left them in favor of a large empty chalkboard that was adhered to one wall. “Helios, talk…about the killer.”
“Male, magically mature,” Draco began, and Harry picked up the chalk. “It’s a personal mission, and despite the fact that his victims are female, there is no overt sexual motivation present. None of the victims were physically damaged in his hands beyond the eventual suffocation and death. He’s probably using a charm for that—purposefully miscast bubblehead charm being the most likely choice. Low effort, high reward in his mind.”
Draco’s glamoured voice was different, of course, but it still felt as if it were his mate talking, so Harry relaxed and started to work.
“He doesn’t care about his victims, considers them less than either because they’re female or because they’re Muggle. If he realized Soja Dario was a witch, he probably didn’t care since she would’ve clearly been a Muggle-born. Each of his victims represents his target in some fashion or another—something about them catches his eyes, reminds him of who he lost, and who is seeking to return to the living.
“The best theory is that the killer is practicing a resurrection ritual. It makes the most sense based on what we’ve recovered from the corrupted ritual circles.”
“Why would he practice?” Longbottom asked. “All things being said and done, it’s a rather easy ritual. Even Peter Pettigrew accomplished it.”
“Pettigrew had a leg up on that,” Finn muttered. “He had Potter’s blood, and Riddle’s soul was tethered to the living plane. The blood of even an immature archmagus is nothing to trifle with Nev.”
“Yeah,” Neville said and sighed. “I’m glad Harry’s not involved in this case. I’d hate for him to have to see all of these murdered women all the bloody time. He’s never taken that shite well.”
Harry considered that and knew that his old friend was right. He hated cases involving women and children. His only real memory of his mother was her murder, and he often saw her in such cases no matter what the women looked like. Draco drifted closer briefly, pressed their shoulders together, and cleared his throat.
“I imagine Croaker would work to avoid involving Potter in such a thing considering his mother’s murder,” Finn said. “I mean, I hope he would.”
“Sometimes, closure comes from facing the worst of circumstances,” Harry said and refocused on his work. “I doubt Potter would appreciate being coddled by anyone, much less Croaker.”
Neville laughed. “True. What do you see, Leviathan? I never took arithmancy, but I’ve meant to do some private study. I wish they’d told us at Hogwarts that predictive magical models would be helpful. Hell, or even at the academy. It should be a required course.”
“I agree it should be a required course,” Harry said. “I picked it up from an orb. As to the arithmancy—it’s clear he did take a victim on the full moon. Somewhere there is probably a missing person’s case that’s getting no traction, and I have to wonder why the Met hasn’t already reached out to us about it. They have to have some sort of system set up to watch out for like-cases.”
“Maybe the new victim was a witch,” Draco said. “Or maybe he succeeded.”
Harry started to write again. The numbers seemed to flow directly out of his magic which was disconcerting, to say the least. “Not a witch, but I think…oh.” He exhaled sharply and finished the last line. “I see.”
“He did succeed, but he’s not…we need to check all the magical cemeteries in the country.” He put the chalk down. “Because we’re going to find at least five desecrated graves.”
Draco went to stand in front of the board. He tilted his head. “I see.” He exhaled. “Well, that’s…he’s had a steep learning curve.” He focused on Harry. “What else?”
Harry drifted back to the map and stared at the ley lines. “He has a lot of experience in ritual, but until he took his first victim, it is doubtful that he’d ever acted at the high warlock of a circle. If he was ever in a conclave, the highest rank he ever achieved was inner circle. All of his knowledge was theory and observation.
“Most people think that resurrection is a yes or no proposition, but it’s not…it’s a spectrum. In some cases, a resurrected soul ends up sharing a body with the sacrificial victim in the ritual.”
“Like when Quirrell carried Voldemort around for a year?” Longbottom questioned.
“Yes,” Harry said and went back to the arithmancy. He picked up the chalk and moved to an empty section of the board. “Partial possession is the least satisfactory outcome of a resurrection ritual because the dark magic needed to maintain the shared body is consuming and destructive. Quirrell was basically a dead man the moment he allowed Voldemort to possess him.
“There is a middle ground, where the original soul in a body is completely subjugated, and they essentially host the resurrected soul. But, if the resurrected soul isn’t willing or strong enough—they’ll be ejected by the host if the host is magical.” He frowned. “Maybe that’s what happened with Soja. If the killer has mage sight, he would’ve known she was magical. But his target rejected the resurrection, so he started picking Muggle women that he could control to a deeper degree as he practiced various rituals on other dead people—probably women.”
“So he’s dug up at least four or maybe five dead witches to use in this ritual,” Finn said. “Let’s make a list of cemeteries, and we’ll split the search.”
“Is it a good or bad thing that he’s not just repeatedly torturing one eternal soul?” Neville questioned.
“I don’t know, but if he’s succeeded every single time after Soja to some degree, then he’s forced the resurrection of at least four souls only to murder them once he reviewed the results of his work,” Harry said roughly. “So that practically doubles his body count as far as I’m concerned.”
“Son of a bitch,” Draco muttered.
“Can we…acknowledge that the killer is Lucius Malfoy?” Neville asked quietly, and Harry turned to look at him. “I realize why you aren’t saying it. And I get it. A Death Eater who got away with a lot because of his money running around murdering women and trying to resurrect his dead wife would be a complete nightmare for the public to find out. His son has suffered enough for Lucius’ crimes, plus it would put another spotlight on the Death Eater trials and how our own laws basically neutered us because Fudge declared the fucking Death Eaters an invading force rather than a bunch of goddamned terrorists.”
Harry exchanged a look with Draco, who grimaced. “The overt resemblance between the victims and Narcissa Malfoy has been acknowledged privately with Croaker. That being said, there are at least two men who’d seek her resurrection.”
“Oh, fuck me,” Finn muttered. “Shacklebolt? Seriously? You think he’d do all this shit for a mistress?”
“He loved her,” Draco said flatly. “Stupidly, in that once in a lifetime kind of way that no one warned us to avoid.”
Neville exhaled and shoved his hands in his pockets. “If she was miserable enough in that marriage to have one affair, then she might have had more than one. There could be another wizard out there invested in her resurrection that we know nothing about.” He wet his lips. “I hate to ask this, but I know Draco Malfoy has his mother’s portrait. Lucius has filed several complaints trying to get us basically confiscate it and return it to him.”
“I’ll speak with him about access,” Draco said and stared pointedly at the arithmancy. “It wouldn’t go well if the request came from the DMLE.”
“No, agreed,” Neville said. “Proudfoot has put it out to us that we aren’t to ask Draco for anything, not even research. He told Lucius personally that no single auror in the department was prepared to help him do anything to Draco. He’s off-limits unless he commits a murder in the street in front of no less than 50 people.”
Harry snorted. “50?”
“He was serious,” Finn said. “He said it came directly from Shacklebolt, and if we tried to make a case against Draco Malfoy for anything that we better have impeccable evidence. Not that I would—I’ve always thought that the kids of the Death Eaters who were forced to take the mark were as much victims as anyone else. Hell, Lucius basically sold his only child into slavery, and the price was his own life. A good man would’ve died to protect his son from such a fate.” He waved a hand at the boards. “And Lucius is not a good man.”
“No, he’s not,” Harry said. “This is essentially a crime of passion, and we have to keep that in mind. I’d hate for our bias to lead us astray. I do think Lucius is responsible, but we have to be prepared to be wrong about that. And if the sitting Minister for Magic has become a serial killer, then the fallout will be so immense that…well. It would be worse than another blood war politically considering Shacklebolt’s political leanings.”
“If it is Shacklebolt, what happens?” Neville questioned. “I would assume you’d work to cover it up.”
“Certainly,” Harry agreed. “And we’d kill him.” He focused on his old friend and found nothing but agreement. “Someone in the DOM would handle that, so you wouldn’t be asked to do it. Such a thing would endanger Avalon, and our mandate is clear on that front.”
Neville nodded, then paused. “Don’t ask Harry to do it. Despite appearances, he considers Shacklebolt a friend.”
“Such things are a little above Potter’s rank,” Helios said and checked his watch. “I’ll make a list of cemeteries and pass you two half that list after lunch. Can either of you run diagnostic spells to check for magical interference?”
“I can,” Neville said. “I’ll need a transcription kit that’s not under the control of the DMLE.”
“I’ll get you one,” Draco said with a nod.
* * * *
“It is very weird to discuss myself in third person,” Harry muttered as he accepted the wrapped sandwich Draco offered him.
“Yeah,” Draco said. “I didn’t know that Proudfoot had warned his entire department to leave me alone.”
“Shacklebolt knows you’re my soulmate,” Harry reminded. “And he knows what kind of hell they’d face if they came at you for no damn good reason.” He paused. “Or even a good damn reason, to be honest. I’d leave nothing but a smoking crater if any of the arseholes in this building fuck with us.”
Draco laughed. “That’s charming.”
Harry blushed and rolled his eyes. “Hermione sent me a letter.”
“She and Quin are getting married in December. She asked me to stand with her—I said yes, of course. She also asked if I could go ahead and donate to their cause.”
“Donate to their cause?” Draco questioned but then exhaled a little. “Oh, you mean the baby thing, right?”
“Yeah, I made that choice before us, so she asked me to make sure you were okay with it and that it wouldn’t mess with you instinctually for me to have children with someone else.” Harry watched Draco process. “I won’t have a parental role; they were clear on that. They don’t intend to hide the parentage, of course, but I won’t be expected to contribute financially or emotionally.”
“Are you okay with that?” Draco asked. “I mean—not knowing your own children?”
“They won’t be my children,” Harry said. “I’m just a donor for them, and that’s how I see it. I would certainly provide for them if something happened, and that is a stipulation—that I would get custody if they were both to die in some fashion or another. They both agreed to that since they have no real family to help on that front.” He cleared his throat. “They also offered to have a child for us at some point if we want that.”
Draco blinked in surprise but then nodded and sighed. “Pansy offered, too. She’s not interested in ever getting married. However, she did specify that we’d need a donor for the ovum since she’s infertile and prefers it that way. I offered to pay for a healer on that front years ago, and she declined.”
Harry nodded. “Well, we have choices, but as I said, if you want a baby—I’ll carry. I have no issues whatsoever with that.”
“I know, love,” Draco murmured and took a deep breath. “I’m not there yet, and I’m not opposed to donating you to Granger’s cause as long as…well, they don’t expect an in-person arrangement, right?”
“No,” Harry said with a laugh. “They’re both total lesbians. She sent me a stasis box and a special vial for sperm collection. I just activate it, and it will…harvest from me every time I come for a specified period of time. It’s all very orderly. She did say that the samples would be better if they come from masturbation to prevent other genetic material being harvested as well.”
“I’d have no issues playing with your cock for hours,” Draco said and grinned when Harry huffed a little. “It sounds fine. Do you know which intends to carry?”
“Hermione,” Harry said. “Quin has no interest in ever getting pregnant, which doesn’t surprise me considering some of the things she’s said about childbirth. I think as a healer, she’s seen more than she’d like on that front. Regardless, I think they will be amazing parents.”
* * * *
Croaker was as furious as Harry had ever seen him. His aura was flowing around him despite his hooded state, and it was making the aurors in the room nervous. He didn’t know what he could say or do to calm the older man down. Thaddeus Banner was leaning against the back wall of the conference room—silent and watchful as he ever was. Raven had a reputation inside and outside of the DOM that gave plenty of people pause. Neville had looked mildly horrified to be introduced to him.
“Helios,” Croaker said. “You’ve gathered the data and analyzed it?”
Draco stood. “Yes, sir. I went to each disturbed grave to confirm the removal of remains and to create a timeline for that removal. I’ve matched each to a victim. With the additional information regarding the witches he’s used as cases, so I was able to attach a corrupted ritual circle to each set of victims.”
“Show me,” Croaker ordered lowly.
“Soja Dario, the first victim. A Muggle-born witch that we at first believed was chosen erroneously. The shift in this theory is a product of arithmancy and the realization that we had more victims to consider. Soja Dario was used to briefly resurrect a witch named Dorcas Meadowes. Based on the condition of Dario’s body, the magical decay reported by the war mage by the ICW, I believe that Ms. Meadowes rejected the host and the resurrection failed. Dario was suffocated and disposed of.
“The second victim was Mara Best, and she was used in a ritual to resurrect Emmeline Vance—based on the forensic spells on Vance’s grave, the body was removed the day before Best was kidnapped. There is only a slight difference in the ritual circumstances as far as spell decay goes, but at this point, I can’t determine if he’s changed the ritual between victims one and two. I believe he was honing the first ritual to prevent rejection and exert more control over the magical circumstances. This could be why he shifted to Muggle victims.
“The third victim was Clodagh Walsh, and she was used to resurrect a witch named Marlene McKinnon. Clodagh was kept for five days, and the Muggles placed her time of death just a few hours before she was discovered. Leviathan did a lineage check on Walsh, and we’ve discovered that both of her maternal grandparents were magical. We’d need to investigate the body to confirm, but she might have had a small magical core. Not enough to be trained to use a wand but enough that the spells of the ritual invested and allowed the killer to keep her for…study.” He took a deep breath. “And the final known victim, Tessa Flynn, was used to resurrect a witch named Lavender Brown.”
Harry shifted in his chair as Neville swore under his breath. “All of the witches came from traditionally light families. Emmeline Vance, Dorcas Meadowes, and Marlene McKinnon were well-known members of the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s vigilante group that worked against Voldemort in the 70s and again during the second blood war. McKinnon and Meadowes both died before 1981.”
“Dorcas Meadowes was also a member of the DOM,” Croaker said shortly. “She was a popular auror who was known for her beliefs regarding equality and creature rights. She joined the DOM as a researcher in 1968.” He stood and cleared his throat. “Dorcas was one of the best people I’ve ever known, and this son of a bitch delivered on her the most base of insults with this disgusting crime. As if torturing her to death wasn’t enough!”
Harry moved closer to his boss as Finn and Longbottom flinched back from the older man. “We’ve developed a plan of action.”
“Tell me,” Croaker ordered.
“At this point, we have an empty grave and no victim to match. Which means that there is definitely a victim about to drop in the Muggle world.” He paused. “Unless he took a witch and finally finished his work. Considering who is missing from their grave, I’m going to say that this last victim was just another test and probably the last.”
“Why?” Croaker asked.
“Because the missing…corpse is Nymphadora Tonks,” Harry said. “And we’ve come to the conclusion that the killer is attempting to resurrect Narcissa Malfoy and Nymphadora Tonks is the daughter of Andromeda Tonks nee Black. We believe he’s testing the Black family magic.”
“It makes a disgusting amount of sense,” Croaker muttered. “So, the plan?”
“Full surveillance package on Lucius Malfoy and Kingsley Shacklebolt,” Harry said and shrugged when Croaker focused on him intently. The man’s hood made seeing his facial expression possible. “At this point, we need to seal the case as an Official Secret with the six of us the only participants in that secret.”
“Agreed,” Proudfoot said. “If we’re going to spy on the goddamned Minister for Magic, I don’t want it to come back on any of us if we’re in the wrong.” He paused. “What happens if we’re in the right?”
“Then Britain will be shocked and dismayed by the unexpected death of Minister Shacklebolt,” Harry said evenly and watched Proudfoot adjust to that. “Politically, we need to protect the ministry from the fallout, but more importantly, we need to protect Kingsley’s legacy. He’s done a lot of good work for the people of Britain, and there is no need to see that work destroyed because he crossed a line he can’t come back from.” He waved a hand toward the board. “Because this is dark as fuck.”
“And if it’s Lucius Malfoy?”
“He won’t be arrested,” Raven said bluntly. “He’ll fight until he’s dead, and that’s probably for the best.”
Harry nodded his agreement and checked his watch. “In the morning, we need to check in with the Met. Then, maybe we can refocus Inspector Underwood and get some traction on the newest victim.”
* * * *
It was nearly 4am by the time Harry and Draco made it to the ministry. Finn and Longbottom were waiting on them in the conference room. They’d been notified an hour before that the victim was discovered, but there was some concern from DCI Underwood that it might not be connected.
Harry was relieved to see that both aurors were dressed in suits that would not stand out in the Muggle world. He didn’t know if the clothes were real or a partial glamour, and he supposed it didn’t matter. They went to the floo without discussion and traveled to Diagon Alley. The victim was in an empty warehouse two blocks from the Leaky Cauldron.
He didn’t know if it was laziness or representative of his pattern. He’d dumped the other victims not far from where they were taken. There were several Muggle pubs on the street, so maybe he’d picked up the last victim in one of them. Disgruntled with that line of thought, he and Draco followed Neville and Finn as they ducked under the crime scene tape and worked their way through the constables handling the security of the scene.
Harry watched Neville greet a woman in her 40’s with bright blue eyes and a lovely head of curly brown hair. She reminded him of Hermione, and that caused him to relax a little despite the circumstances. There were crime scene techs on the scene, and the body hadn’t been moved. He’d known they were being dumped naked, but it was a special level of obscene to see the victim sprawled, naked on a concrete floor as if she’d been thrown there.
The scene cleared quickly with a word from Underwood after a brief discussion with Neville. Underwood toward them, and Finn stepped forward with his hand.
“Greer, it’s good to see you again despite the circumstances.”
She offered him a brief smile but then grew serious. “Yes, it is. Neville tells me that your guests are…special investigators?”
“Yes, allow me to introduce you—Inspector Greer Underwood, CID. Greer, this is Leviathan and Helios; they’re Unspeakables and work for the Department of Mysteries.”
He watched her evaluate them, and she tilted her head. “Do you have a counterpart in my world?”
“A little bit of MI6 and a lot of MI5,” Harry said, and her eyes widened slightly. “We have limited ability to act abroad on behalf of Britain as determined by an international body. But there are other organizations that have international jurisdiction that handle criminal behavior at that level as well. We coordinate with them as needed to hunt and contain threats.”
She nodded. “Yes, of course. And the code names?”
“Our identities are secret to those outside of the DOM,” Draco said.
“But…” She trailed off. “I mean, I can see your face.”
“No, you can’t,” Harry said mildly. “You see a glamour—a projection of a false physical appearance that protects our identity. We also have a magical hood that we wear depending on the circumstances. Neither Auror Longbottom nor Auror Finn knows our real names. For all Finn knows, I could be his father.”
Finn laughed a little and rubbed his neck when Greer turned to him in shock. “My father does work for the DOM as a researcher, and I’m not privy to his code name. Though I can at least say that it’s not Leviathan because he wouldn’t have made a joke about it if it were remotely true.”
Harry inclined his head in agreement.
“I understand,” Underwood said. “This is DS Wilbanks. He’s a squib and has been helping me navigate this whole magic thing. I was only briefed on that subject when my superior realized that I was dealing with something paranormal in the fullest sense of the word.” She motioned toward the body. “We’re not convinced she’s connected.”
“Her name is Sarah Driscoll, and she’s 47 years old. She’s a solicitor and works for a boutique law firm across the street. She’s been missing since June 18—so she was, in theory, kidnapped on the full moon, but her age…”
“Age is irrelevant,” Draco said as he pulled his wand. “I’d like to perform some magical diagnostics. You won’t be able to see the magic, but my transcription quill will produce results that we can read and go over together after the fact.”
“Are you the one that sent the reports on the ritual circles?” Underwood questioned.
“Thank you—they were very easy to read, and I understood most of it without having to ask Wilbanks a hundred questions.” She took a deep breath. “So, let’s get started?”
“Sure, can I use that table over there?”
Underwood nodded, and Harry walked over to the body as Draco pulled out his transcription kit to set it up.
“Something concerns you?” Neville questioned.
Harry noted that Wilbanks was hovering nearby, watching them intently. He focused on the slightly younger man. “You’ve seen all the bodies, right?”
“Yes, sir.” He stepped forward to join them.
“Anything different beyond her age?”
“She’s the first we found indoors, but there really isn’t anywhere nearby where a body dump could’ve been accomplished without it getting caught on CC-TV.”
Harry nodded. “Helios, can you add a check for portkey magic to your diagnostics?”
“Yes, why?” Draco asked.
“She looks thrown,” Harry said roughly. “Like what would happen if you were unconscious on a portkey trip.” He focused on Underhill. “Have your people already started evidence collection? Was there something out of place on or near the body?”
“No, the scene is just as we found out, and none of the other victims had any sort of object with them.”
Draco started the diagnostics, and Harry stepped back to watch the magic work.
“What’s a portkey?” Underwood asked.
“A disposable magical device for travel,” Harry said. “Portkey magic is largely temporary unless placed in specific magical receptacles. Most often, we use garbage objects to create them—old keys, shoes, etc.”
“Portkey confirmed,” Draco said.
“What kind of object are we looking for?” Harry questioned.
“He made her body the portkey,” Draco clarified.
“Disposable magical device,” Underwood said darkly. “Was she alive when he did it?”
“No, in fact, you can’t make a living organism a portkey,” Harry explained and exhaled sharply.
“I pulled the case on Soja Dario,” Underwood said. “Her body dump is a match to the rest of our cases, so I had no problems taking it. But my superior is pressuring me to declare the case a serial killing.” She paused and grimaced. “He’s an attention whore.”
Harry snorted. “Do you want that kind of scrutiny for a case that’s probably going to result in the suspect dying to elude capture?”
“You plan to kill him?” She asked wide-eyed.
“His crimes are a capital offense in our world, but even if we were not planning to kill him, you wouldn’t be allowed an official arrest or any sort of trial process because a magical person can’t be contained in a Muggle prison.”
“Wilbanks said something about teleportation.”
Harry apparated across the large room then returned to her side with a little pop which made her jump.
“For fuck’s sake,” she said with a huff, and her gaze dropped to the victim. “They never stood a chance against him, did they?”
“No, once he had them alone, they were utterly at his mercy,” Harry said. “And he would’ve worked to get her alone to avoid getting the kind of attention that would set off alarms that would result in containment procedures. Our world is only safe because of our ability to keep ourselves and our communities a secret.”
She frowned at him. “Isn’t that a little paranoid?”
“The last witch burning in Britain happened in 1727,” Harry said mildly. “But there are countries all over the world where witchcraft is not only illegal but subject to execution to this day. Of course, most people who were tried and executed for witchcraft weren’t actually witches or wizards. They were just people punished by your society for displeasing someone in power, most often in the church. The fact is that as long as various religions exert power over the world in general, magicals will remain hidden as much as possible. We have no interest in being subject to some sort of crusade.”
“I see,” she said quietly.
“She’s magical,” Draco reported as he came to stand between them. “Barely—her core was very small. I doubt she could’ve used a wand or any other kind of magical focus. Since she was working in the Muggle world, she was probably educated here as well. At her age, her parents may have given her up when they realized she wasn’t magical enough and had her raised by relatives or adopted out entirely.” He glanced toward Wilbanks as he spoke.
“I was raised by a cousin,” Wilbanks said. “My parents were afraid Death Eaters would kill me.”
“A valid concern for your age group,” Draco said. “Squibs and near-squibs were targeted by Voldemort’s followers for years before he actually launched his major offensive in the mid-70s. Regardless, if he does have mage sight, then he saw her magical potential no matter how slight it might have been.”
“So he’s taken another magical victim,” Underwood said. “What does that mean?”
“It means he’s finished practicing, and his next victim will most certainly be a full-blown witch,” Draco said. “He’ll want a pure-blood from the right sort of family, one that is either neutral or outright dark.”
“You believe he can actually accomplish a resurrection?” Underwood questioned.
“We know he’s already accomplished it multiple times in various degrees; that’s why he’s killing his victims,” Harry said. “Otherwise, it would be easier and safer to merely memory charm them and leave them to wander home after he’s finished with them. He knows we’re onto him as is since he used a temporary circle to perform his last ritual.”
“Memory charm,” Underwood repeated. “The more I hear about magic, the more appalling I find it.”
“Both worlds have inherent and disgusting problems,” Harry said. “Sure magic can make the abuse of others easier, but such abuses take place in the Muggle world as well. Just in a different but no less damaging and wretched fashion. Murder, rape, theft, domestic violence—a wretched human being is a wretched human being whether they have a wand in hand or not.”
She nodded slowly. “Of course, how long have you been on the job?”
Harry hesitated, and Neville raised an eyebrow.
“Unspeakables are eternal,” Finn said when none of them spoke.
“Immortal?” she asked and took a step back. “Wilbanks said that was impossible without dark magic.”
“Well, no, it can be done in a light fashion, but the undertaking is immense. Neither of us is immortal. Our code names, however, are eternal. Five hundred years from now, there will be an Unspeakable in the service of Avalon who will carry the name Helios,” Draco said. “And I’ll be long dead.”
“So, I’m not allowed to know how long you’ve been in law enforcement,” she surmised.
“I have active memories that span several hundred years,” Harry said. “All of it the service of the Department of Mysteries. We gain these memories and the experience to go with them by absorbing a legacy orb attached to our code name. I will add knowledge and experiences to the Leviathan orb throughout my life.”
Her gaze flicked around them. “Are all magicals educated in such a fashion?”
“No, the orb process requires a great deal of magical power, physical stamina, and pain tolerance,” Finn said. “I wouldn’t take one on a bet.”
“No, I’d rather not as well,” Neville admitted.
“So you get one orb? How do you choose it?” Underwood asked curiously.
“You get one code name orb, normally, but there is no official limit on the number of orbs a wizard or witch can absorb,” Harry said. “I’ve taken in eight.”
“Eight?” Neville asked in shocked horror. “Are you serious?”
“He’s serious,” Draco assured. “I’ve taken two—one for education and one legacy for my code name.”
“Why take so many? If it hurts?” Underwood questioned.
“War makes choices for us, Inspector Underwood, far more than anyone would want to admit. It’s my duty to defend Avalon, and I will take as many orbs as needed to accomplish that.” He focused on the victim. “Let’s get this scene processed so Sarah can be removed. She deserves our full attention and care after what she experienced.”
“The spells are almost done,” Draco reported. “Then we’ll have to go back to the ministry to add her data to the ley line search.”
“Good, we won’t have much time to get the research done before he takes his final victim,” Harry said.
“The next full moon is weeks from now,” Underwood interjected.
“The full moon shite was a distraction for you and probably a coincidence the first time,” Harry said. “My apologies if that wasn’t clear in the information we gave you. There is no ritual benefit in performing a ritual under the light of a full moon. There are certain days on the calendar that are beneficial, but that’s neither here nor there.”
Harry shifted on the barstool and watched as Lucius Malfoy ordered his sixth drink of the evening. It was good that Draco wasn’t dependent on his father’s fortune since the bastard clearly intended to drink the entirety of it away. He’d adjusted his glamour to reflect a much older man, infirm enough to appear harmless and non-descript in a way that people would be hard-pressed to describe him in detail. He liked the look a lot since he’d gotten to keep his beard. It was a little thicker, less groomed, and entirely silver, but he still liked it.
He adjusted his pint in front of him, pretended to take a sip, and wandlessly vanished a bit of it to maintain the illusion. He’d ordered three but hadn’t actually drunk a single bit of it, which he figured was an actual crime. Harry had kept the stool beside him empty with a little spell so when someone he didn’t recognize slid up on it—he knew it was Draco. He hadn’t seen all of his mate’s glamour settings. They were playing a bit of a game with it. He glanced Draco’s way and huffed a little.
“Ginger?” He made a face at the dark red hair, and Draco laughed, blue eyes sparkling a little with a glint of silver the glamour couldn’t fully contain. “How’d it go.”
“As we expected,” Draco admitted. “I need to file a report.” He glanced down the bar, focused briefly on his father, and looked away. “Let’s go.”
Harry slid off the barstool, dropped a few galleons down next to his half-empty pint, and got a nod from the bartender before following Draco from the pub. Draco caught his hand as they headed toward an apparition point.
“You realize people in that pub think you just picked up an old man for sex, right?”
“If they only took note of the hair, they probably think a Weasley was trolling that pub for an old man sex,” Draco said in amusement, and Harry laughed.
They tucked into the apparition point, and Harry apparated them to the ministry. They both dropped their glamours as they left the apparition room and went to their office for privacy. Harry said nothing as Draco listed his mother’s grave as empty and closed his eyes briefly.
“Who will he pick?”
“Someone young, beautiful, unmarried,” Draco said. “My mother’s portrait confirmed that she only ever had one affair, and that was with Kingsley. She doesn’t think he’s capable of such magic, but she agrees that my father would certainly do it, given the resources and the motivation. She doesn’t believe he loves her, and whatever goal he had initially has been twisted into something else. She does know that she would not willingly occupy another woman’s body.”
“Not even if it meant she could be returned to Kingsley?” Harry questioned, and Draco hesitated. “The next time they share a life—he’ll hate her practically on sight for no reason that he’ll ever understand. Nothing she will ever do will fix things between them.”
Draco exhaled. “I don’t know. She portrait can’t lie to me, but it might not understand her motivations after death. Especially since the portrait doesn’t remember being murdered.”
“Right,” Harry said. “What happens if he succeeds in resurrecting her before we can stop him? And she stays in the body?”
“The victim will be lost to us no matter what. A resurrected soul can’t be held responsible for what has been done to them,” Draco said and grimaced. “It would be a very difficult circumstance for everyone involved. There was a case in Japan about a hundred years ago—the witch who did the resurrection was all but drop kicked through the veil in Rome. But the victim—well, his family sued the person who had been resurrected into the body. Finally, it was ruled that the government could not force a resurrected soul to reject the process.
“The ICW accepted it as case law and distributed the proceedings and judgment to all participating members. If someone contested and tried to sue another resurrected person, they would have to go to the world court to be heard.” He made a face. “I just really hope my mother would reject the process and refuse to be hosted. She was never dark as her parents, and my father wanted her to be. I think the darkest thing she ever did was permanently reject her soulmate to the Book of Souls, but that was an act of desperation.”
“I can’t imagine that moment for her,” Harry admitted. “When I first saw your name, I asked the Eternal Knight about the different ways to reject you.” He paused when Draco’s gaze narrowed. “Honestly, Dragon, no one deserves to be the soulmate of the Boy-Who-Fucking-Lived.” Draco’s shoulders relaxed. “But even before I walked away from the book, I knew I’d never want to let you go.”
Draco walked to the map and ran a finger down a thick ley line. “He’ll want an ancient, powerful circle for the final ritual. He’ll bring a ward stone to set up wards, and if he does have an accomplice, they’ll be on the scene.”
“Maybe hired muscle, if he’s feeling particularly threatened or confident,” Harry suggested and slid up on the empty corner of his desk to sit. “He’ll need a few potions—stamina for him and sedation for the victim being the most obvious. What did Finn and Neville report for Shacklebolt?”
Draco moved down to the section on Shacklebolt. “Kingsley had dinner in Muggle London by himself with a security team of four secreted around him. He returned to his townhouse and didn’t leave again. There were no owls, floo calls, or overt visitors. If he’s given someone permission to apparate through his wards, then we would have no way of knowing. They haven’t placed listening charms in the house, but that’s on the agenda for tomorrow. Charms have been attached to his desk and floo here in the ministry.”
“Do you believe that Shacklebolt is involved?”
“I think that Kingsley would be thrilled and grateful to have her back,” Harry said. “And now that the affair has been revealed, he wouldn’t be fussed at all to have a relationship with the resurrected version of her despite the horrific circumstances.”
“But you don’t think he’d be the one doing the actual murdering?”
“He’s capable of killing because I know he did it during the war. Could he murder an innocent woman? No, I don’t think so, but that could be personal bias on my part,” Harry said. “Because I do like him despite his political machinations. He’s one of the few Order members that didn’t actively work against me during the war.”
“Why is my father targeting Order members for the resurrection?”
“Well, why would he torture people he liked?” Harry asked and shrugged when Draco turned to look at him. “It can’t be a pleasant process, and he knows he’s going to have to do it to your mother eventually, so he’s mitigating his own trauma by focusing on the souls of people he couldn’t stand while they lived.”
“Trauma,” Draco scoffed.
“He’s a dark bastard in the midst of doing some evil shite, but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of suffering on some level. I believe he loves your mother and you, no matter how toxic the manifestation is. So, he wouldn’t choose to resurrect someone he valued, then be required to kill them to cover his tracks.”
“Right,” Draco said quietly. “I just…” Magic shimmered over the board, and a new parchment appeared. “Longbottom and Finn must be in the conference room.”
“Just a list of aurors currently working as Shacklebolt’s security,” Draco said.
Harry slipped off the desk, went around, and sat down in his chair. There were four parchment rolls in his inbox. He picked them up and unrolled them all before he started reading. The first was just a procedure memo distributed to the entire department by Polestar.
The second was a report of a body found in Hogsmeade in an alley behind the Hog’s Head. Kevin Debusk, the missing potions master, was dead. Harry sighed and slouched back in his chair.
“Kevin Debusk is dead,” Harry said flatly. “Overdose—opium draught.”
“Didn’t Pierce overdose on the same potion?” Draco questioned.
“Yes,” Harry said and frowned. “I want to go to the Burrow and curse Ron Weasley out.”
Draco turned to stare at Harry. “Ron still lives at home?
“Of course, he does,” Harry said darkly. “Hermione isn’t here to take care of him and make a home for him, so he’s staying with his mummy.”
“Was that really his whole plan?” Draco asked with a disgusted face
“Marry Hermione, become an auror, be my partner in the DMLE until we got old and retired,” Harry said. “That’s all he had, and I don’t think he even wants to be an auror—he just followed me and was furious to know he couldn’t follow me into the DOM. Molly berated me for that, by the way. She insisted that I demand that Ron be recruited to the Unspeakables despite the fact that he’s grossly underqualified for the job. Regardless, his lazy ass wrote off the Pierce murder, and now Debusk is dead, too. If Ron had even done half of his job, we’d have known he was missing sooner, and the connection between the two cases would’ve been immediately known.”
“Now, his wife will probably be told that her husband went off the rails, became an addict, and died—abandoning her and their child for his addiction,” Draco said. “Because if he and Pierce are connected to this case, then…well.”
“Right,” Harry said. “It’s infuriating.” He took a deep breath. “Let’s make a list of potential targets.”
“The options are too many,” Draco admitted reluctantly. “I mean—when you include neutral families that wouldn’t have the guts to stand against my father. There’s a reason why the fucker is free, Harry, when nearly all of his surviving contemporaries were put in Azkaban.”
“He’ll want a traditionally attractive witch,” Harry said. “One that reminds him of your mother. Was there ever a time when he suggested you marry one witch or another before he gave you to Riddle or after the war?”
“There was a contract for Pansy at one time, but that was voided to allow for the contract with Riddle,” Draco said quietly. “After the war, I rarely allowed myself to be in the same room with him and made it clear I would not participate in any contract discussions. My mother backed me up on that front. The problem is that he could pick practically any witch with the right magical background and make her look like my mother.”
Harry grimaced at that. “Right…that’s disgusting.” He checked his watch. “Let’s get some food and join them in the conference room.”
“You want to sleep in there?” Draco made a face. “We won’t be able to share a cot in the conference room.”
“We can sleep in here,” Harry said. “But getting their opinion about various elements until it’s time for sleep won’t be a waste of time. Besides, there’s food being delivered in there. I arranged it before we left.”
* * * *
Harry felt his hood activate as he left his office at a run. Finn and Longbottom skidded into the departures room shortly after they did. Harry summoned a piece of rope from a table full of junk and created a portkey.
“Hold on! It’s going to be a rough landing!” Harry shouted as the portkey magic yanked them hard into the transportation magic.
He had a lot of power to offer a portkey, so normally the ones he created were a very smooth experience but creating an emergency portkey on the fly didn’t allow for that kind of sophistication. Harry reached out and snatched Draco’s wrist just short of letting go of the portkey and pulled him close because rough landing or not, he didn’t want to be Draco land far from him. They stumbled when they landed, and he heard the dual thuds of Finn and Longbottom hitting the ground individually.
Harry released Draco as soon as they were both steady on their feet.
“Thanks,” Draco said and drew his wand to face the ritual circle.
The circle was encased in a glowing dome ward, and there was a thick layer of compulsion charms shrouding the entire area. Harry turned and noted that Finn and Longbottom were starting to meander. He drew his own wand with a grimace. Neither auror was warded against mental intrusion. He made a mental note to bring that up to Proudfoot at some point because Robards hadn’t considered it necessary and refused the expense. Harry had paid for his personal warding before joining the DOM and now had the extra protection of his hood.
“We don’t have the time or the magic to waste keeping them here,” Draco said. “They’ll return to the ministry, realize what happened and arrange to return if they can.”
“Can you see anything beyond the dome?” Harry asked.
“No, we need to find the ward stone. Domes are projected, so it has to be outside of the magical construct. It’s probably hidden under a notice-me-not charm of some sort.”
“Not very secure,” Harry said and shot a spell to his left while Draco cast to the right.
“No, but it’s easy magic and robust in the right circumstances. Not everyone would be prepared to find the ward stone or would even know how it’s being powered,” Draco said.
Harry reached out and grabbed Draco’s wrist, then pulled him close. “Be careful,” he murmured. “Someone is outside of the dome. I feel them moving around.”
“Got it,” Draco whispered, and Harry released him.
Draco disappeared with a whisp of magic, so Harry disillusioned himself as well and followed his magic as the scanning spell worked around the edge of the circle, searching for the hidden wardstone. He wondered why the accomplice was outside the circle—it could’ve spoken to magical incompatibility, which would most likely equal a witch. He let his magic evaluate that situation even as his spellwork pinged on the wardstone.
Draco’s disillusionment charm was so good that Harry couldn’t see a shimmer in the air as he felt his mate moved toward him. But his magic was seemed to track Draco whenever they were in close proximity, and he liked that. It made him feel like he had some level of control over their circumstances. The sound of apparition caught his attention, and he noted that Longbottom and Finn had returned. They were both faintly glowing with magic and indication that someone had slapped temporary wards on them. Harry wasn’t all that surprised when Raven appeared a few moments after them.
Harry focused on the wardstone, canceled the notice-me-not charm, and flicked a rune quill out of his dimensional store. He drew a sharp line through the rune sequence on the stone—destroying the spell vault in the process, and the dome shattered. Foreign magic shuddered up his arm, but he ignored the sharp, vicious pain and Draco’s hiss of shock. They didn’t have time to be delicate about it.
He pulled a security ward from his pocket, activated it, and dropped it on top of the runestone. Magic sparked between the two stones, and he gained control of the wards. Anti-apparition and portkey restriction wards activated and spread out around them a kilometer in every direction.
The circle was active, and in the middle stood Lucius Malfoy. His vitality and strength didn’t shock Harry. He knew if the bastard was responsible, then his downtrodden and destroyed persona that he’d been presenting to the public since Narcissa’s murder had to be entirely an act. Raven came to stand with him as he studied the runes that were practically vibrating on the standing pillars surrounding the ritual.
“I can’t believe this motherfucker chose this circle,” Raven said darkly.
Harry wasn’t surprised at all. Lucius Malfoy considered himself the most important wizard on the planet. So, of course, he’d have no issues using a circle so ancient and revered in Britain that no one had stepped foot on it in over a thousand years. The name of the circle had been lost to time, but the eternal power of it was enchanting and alluring. It was now, forever tainted by dark magic, and that was infuriating. The primary altar was also lit up with runes, so he focused his attention on those, his gaze only briefly touching the victim. He couldn’t afford to be sentimental about what was happening.
“Who is it?” Finn asked. “I can’t…see her face from here.”
“Astoria Greengrass,” Draco said tightly. “22, youngest daughter of Gerald Greengrass. Sorted into Ravenclaw.”
“Son of a bitch,” Neville muttered. “Let’s break this thing and save…”
“No,” Harry said. “It’s too late for that. The best we can do is prevent the resurrection itself.” He turned to Draco.
Draco raised his wand and stepped onto the circle. Lucius was so caught up in his casting that he didn’t even notice the breach. Harry followed, and under his feet, the stone floor of the circle started to crack. He watched as Draco pointed his wand at the second, lower altar in the circle.
The blasting curse hit the shrouded body with the force of a lightning bolt, and the body disintegrated. Lucius screamed briefly and turned to them even as the magic of the ritual fell away, leaving them in an unnatural silence. Rage clouded the older man’s face, and he screamed again—filling the silence with his fury and grief. He pointed his wand at them.
Harry snatched Draco and apparated them out of the way as the rest of the team scrambled out of the way of the curse. When they landed, they both directed blasting curses at Lucius. One of them hit, and Lucius spun away with the magic of a portkey.
Distantly, he heard a bang of the apparition, and he turned toward the direction it had come from. His magic shifted inside him in a way he understood.
“There was an accomplice,” Raven said quietly.
“Or merely an interested audience,” Harry said neutrally.
Draco went to the primary altar and performed a medical diagnostic on Astoria.
“She’s…” Longbottom trailed off.
“It looks like the diagnostics of a person who’s been kissed,” Finn said roughly.
“Her soul is gone,” Harry said. “Her body will live as long as it is allowed to.” He picked her up. “We have a big problem.”
“Agreed,” Raven said.
“He had a portkey that circumvented the security wards,” Draco said.
“Take her, Helios,” Harry said quietly. “St. Mungo’s is the best option. Her family will want to handle whatever happens there.”
Draco took her with trembling hands.
“I’ll contact the ICW,” Raven said. “And the Magical Protectorate—because someone is going to explain to us how a known private citizen was able to get his hands on a war mage’s portkey.”
Harry took a deep breath. “Some people have a price, and now we have an international manhunt on our hands.”
“Where are you going?” Draco asked.
“To take care of the accomplice,” Harry said quietly and apparated when Raven gave him a firm nod.
* * * *
He found Kingsley Shacklebolt sitting in his office at the ministry. He’d gone to the older man’s home first, then the cottage he kept in Scotland.
Harry locked the door and walked over to the bar; he poured them both a glass of firewhiskey and set one down in front of the minister.
“Do you want to know why?”
“I know why,” Harry said shortly. “When did you figure out what he was doing? How many women did you let him murder?”
“He pulled Cissa from her grave before the first victim, so I started watching him,” Kingsley admitted. “Set up a full surveillance package.”
“And you cleaned up after him,” Harry said. “Including body disposal.”
“He just left them in the circles after he was done,” Kingsley said quietly. “Their families deserved to get them back.” He picked up the whiskey with a shaking hand and drank the whole glass. “I wrote a suicide note. So the scans won’t show any sign of coercion.”
“Can you do it?” Harry asked. “Or should I do it for you?”
Kingsley picked up his wand and took a deep breath. “I can do it. You don’t deserve that burden, lad.” He paused. “I’m sorry.”
“I know,” Harry said. “Don’t punish yourself with something painful.”
The spell jolted out of Kingsley’s wand, his face lit with dark green light, and he slumped onto the desk.
“It’s over then.”
Harry looked up as Croaker disillusioned himself.
“Lucius got away.”
“Raven already briefed me. The ICW will take over now—an international hunt is their domain.”
Harry finished his drink and flicked the glass into his dimensional store to dispose of later. “It’s far from over, Jonah.”
“Go home, Harry,” Croaker said. “Your man needs you.”
Disheartened, Harry glanced just briefly at Shacklebolt’s body before leaving the room.