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Special Emergency Aurors
Theo Snow woke several hours before sunrise and spent a few moments listening to his wife breathe beside him, the same way he had every morning since they'd started living together nearly twenty years earlier. Carefully, so as not to wake her up, he slid out from under the duvet and reached down for his prosthetic leg the same way he had every day since his release from St. Mungo's shortly after the end of the last war.
Theo took a moment to check the revolver strapped around his right ankle before taking his wand holster off the bedside table and affixed it to his right forearm, just as he had every day since he'd become a special emergency Auror those many years ago.
The day he'd gotten out of St. Mungo's had started out as one of the worst days of his life, mostly because the Ministry had made it clear that his services were no longer needed and every private employer he'd written had made it clear they were not wanted either. His younger self had been devastated, mostly because he had convinced himself that his girl would abandon him. The day had gotten much better after she'd told him that she didn't care about his disability, his lack of prospects, or her family's disapproval and that he was her's until the end of time. None of his problems had seemed important after learning that while he may have lost some of what he'd had, he'd retained the one thing that mattered.
A smile bloomed as he remembered what had happened after that. Theo pulled on his trousers and slipped a three inch push dagger behind his belt buckle. It hadn't been easy when they'd started out, no one in the magical world wanted him and very few employers in the normal world were interested in someone with no schooling past the age of eleven and with a missing leg, but they'd managed to make it work.
Theo leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek. He knew that a lot of people would have thought he should be bitter. That he should rage at the Ministry that had thrown him away as soon as he was no longer needed, or at the public that had gone from calling him a 'national hero' to one of the 'Ministry's Murderers' in the span of a day. That he should hate the permanent Aurors who'd disparaged him and the other wartime Aurors as 'hired help' while assigning him and those like him the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs while reserving the safest for themselves. He was just happy that the war was over and that he'd been lucky enough to see the end of it.
Theo paused to look at the mantle on the way out the door. Set neatly upon it were years of Christmas cards from the in-laws, looking at them never failed to put a smile on his face. That alone was worth all the effort it took to keep his wife from throwing them out.
There was a spring in his step as Theo walked out the door and started towards work. So what if he was a cripple, so what if the magical world wanted nothing to do with him, so what if he had to wake up at an ungodly hour and walk three miles to work in all weather conditions? He was married to the smartest and most beautiful witch of their age, they had three wonderful children, and the war was long over. His life was wonderful.
It took him almost an hour and a half to reach his job. His prosthesis was charmed to the point that it was almost as good as his natural leg, but almost still slowed him a bit compared to how he used to be and it was never a good idea to show that fact off too much around those not in the know. He tried to make the walk at least three times a week, both for the exercise and so no one would wonder how he was getting in without a car. Kept him in shape and ensured that he had the occasional witness ready to attest to the fact that Theo Snow walked to work every day. That was the thing about small towns, spies everywhere.
The boss was waiting when Theo stepped into the office, not unusual but there was something odd about the man's manner.
"We've got a new owner," the boss announced. "Think it's the same people that opened up the mine, connected with them somehow anyway."
Theo nodded, good to see they were willing to invest a bit more into the town. Gave him a bit of hope that the rumors about it just being some girl's vanity project were false. A few jobs to keep it open were better than no jobs, of course, but a lot of jobs were better than a few.
The boss frowned. "Odd thing though."
"Yeah?" Theo prompted.
"Owner's rep wants to speak with you as soon as possible. Said they've got a new position open that would be perfect for you."
"Suppose more money is always nice," Theo mused. "When do they want to meet with me?"
"Immediately. They said that you should be sent to the mine as soon as you get in."
"That's what, ten miles or so from here?"
"They're sending a driver," the boss chuckled. "I told them you don't drive."
"Hard to without a right leg," Theo replied. Not that he couldn't have found a way to solve that issue with the proper enchantments but he'd never saw a need, would have attracted too much attention anyway.
"Ever going to tell me how you lost it?"
"They wanted an arm an a leg for the house," Theo replied.
The boss laughed, "but you were able to talk them down." The phone rang and the boss put the headset to his ear. "Your driver has arrived."
Theo's eyebrows knit together when he saw the driver they'd sent. There was something familiar about the woman.
"Ravenclaw first year when you were a seventh," the woman said, motioning for him to get into the car. "I'm here on behalf of Gringotts."
"What do they want with me?"
"Not a clue. All I was told was that they needed a human that could drive."
Theo nodded. "Alright." He walked around the car and got into the passenger seat.
The woman shut the rear door and got into the driver's seat. "One normally sits in the back if they have a chauffeur."
"Not enough legroom," Theo explained. Also never a good idea to be too accommodating, all his old instincts were screaming that there was something odd about the whole situation. He gave a mental snort, it would take someone especially stupid not to find something odd about the situation.
The woman shrugged. "You're the boss."
"The exact words were that you are to be treated with the utmost respect," she replied, pulling out of the parking lot.
"All I know is that the Auditors are involved somehow," she stated. "Oh, and I'm to tell you the Auditors are involved in a good way."
"It would help if I knew what that meant," Theo said mildly.
"You don't? Uh, Auditors are part of Gringotts internal security."
"I see." Curiouser and curiouser.
"So what do you do for Gringotts?"
"Curse breaker third class. Just rotated back home after spending the last couple years in Belize."
"What did you do there?"
"Mostly wreck hunting. Got pulled into the hunt for one of Morgan's caches for a while but we never found much."
"Good work, I suppose."
"Pays well, pays better when we find something and everyone gets a bonus."
The car slowed as it approached the mine's front gate and the woman rolled down the window to show the guard her security badge.
The guard examined it for a few moments. "They're waiting for you in the building with the red roof. Park outside and send your passenger in."
"Right." The woman pulled through the gate and complied with the guard's instructions. "Good luck."
"Thanks." Theo got out and took a moment to look around, hoping to find something that would help him make sense of the odd situation he'd found himself in. Unfortunately, nothing revealed itself so he entered the building. No sense putting it off, he was dying to find out anyway.
There were two goblins and two house elves waiting when he entered the building. Odd.
"Good afternoon," the elder of the two goblins said. "I am Senior Auditor Ballcracker. To my side is my niece, Auditor Spikenose. The house elf to your left is The Potter's Head Elf Dobby, the one to your right is the Blackest's senior elf Kreacher. You are Theodore Snow, former Special Emergency Auror. We are very pleased to meet you."
Theo took a seat. "Why?"
Ballcracker gave a toothy grin. "As I said, you were a special emergency Auror in the last war. We are looking for someone to fill a position, your record indicates that you would be a perfect fit."
"What's your interest in me?" he asked. "I was nothing special."
"You survived eighteen months without a major injury in a profession in which the average life expectancy was six."
"Most people didn't make it three," Theo rebutted. "Take them out and take out the monsters like Sara Patrick and Charlie Reiver and the average was about eighteen months. So, again, what's your interest in me? I haven't had much to do with the magical world beyond collecting my pension since I got out of St. Mungo's."
"We are looking for a man with your skills and temperament to aid in our part of the war effort," the goblin stated.
"War ended a long time ago."
"It restarted two years ago when the dark lord was resurrected."
Theo sighed heavily. "I have a family now."
"You are not interested?"
"My wife's family doesn't approve of me." Theo grinned, he had a stack of cards on the mantlepiece from them all saying the same thing; that they'd welcome his wife and the kids with open arms if only she'd leave him behind. She never understood why he insisted on keeping them, never understood that they were proof that she'd stayed with him because she loved him rather than because she lacked any other options. The higher the stack got the more it proved she loved him. "Do you know why?"
"I would presume that it was due to your parentage," the goblin replied, a bit confused by the change in topic.
"Her family doesn't object to the fact that I'm a muggleborn. Let's them show off to the right sort that they're not bigots, oh no, they even let one marry into the family. Don't think it was my lack of prospects at the end of the war or the fact that I'm a cripple, not directly anyway. Magic doesn't so much solve those issues so much as transform them from major problems into minor annoyances. Their objection is in how I spent the war."
"I do not understand."
"I was wartime Auror, one of the infamous Mad Mudbloods, the Ministry's Murderers, a monster that hunts monsters, a hunter of men, an unrepentant killer. They despise me because I have so much blood on my hands they're never going to be clean, no matter how much I wash them. Worse, they despise the fact that most of my victims were 'the right sort' who had the misfortune of being on the wrong side and the fact that I don't regret a single death. No, worse, I revel in them. I enjoyed, still enjoy every death I caused and my only regret is that I did not get more of the bastards before they got me."
The goblin's lips pursed. "I am afraid that I still do not understand." Any clan would jump at the chance to add such a warrior to their family. He was an example of what all young goblins should aspire to become.
"To make things simple. My very presence ruins their perfect little world because people like me aren't necessary in their world. Bad things do not happen in their perfect world, or if they do they do not happen to people in their social class like themselves. Because we are not necessary we should not exist. Because I exist, I am both a reminder of the war and a reminder of how savage things became. They moved to the Continent for the duration to avoid things like that during the war and they will be damned if they let all that effort go to waste."
"I see." Ballcracker mentally sighed, she'd never understand humans.
"As I said, I have a family now so the gloves come off. I'm going to need a week to get them out of the country and a list of names. I'll get as many of the bastards as I can before they get me but you're going to need more help if we're going to get them all. I doubt I could have managed more than a handful in my prime, let alone now, but I am both honored and delighted that you have chosen to give me the opportunity to make an attempt. You have my most sincere thanks." He'd been surprised to see that he'd managed to live through the last war, seemed his borrowed time had run out. There were worse ways to die than with your fingers wrapped around the throats of those that would see your family dead, he mused, but he'd be damned if he could think of better.
"Good answer." Ballcracker smiled, they were right, they'd found another atavist. A wave of sympathy filled her for the man in front of her, she couldn't imagine how alone he must have felt. How many more lost goblins would they find lost among the humans? "A very good answer. I believe that you will enjoy working with us."
"Was there another one I could have given?" Theo asked. "I let too many of the bastards live last time because I didn't have near anything to lose. I was too much of a coward to go all out because I held out hope that I might have something some day so I didn't take chances that I should have. I do have something to lose now so they all need to die." He smiled widely "The thought of losing it is even more terrifying than the thought of never having had it in the first place." His grin deepened. "Meaning that I'm an even bigger coward now than I was back then. Simple as that."
Ballcracker nodded. "While there will be some action against that enemy, the position we are hoping to hire you for is somewhat different?"
Neville wasn't sure why he wasn't back at Hogwarts. He'd been shunted off to one of the branch clinics that Harry and his cousins had set up for a night of observation and had woken the next morning to a note from his gran instructing him to go to the family home and await her return.
It was simultaneously a blessing and a curse. On the positive side it meant he could spend quite a bit of time with Juliette as there was a secure floo connection to the Granger estate and the girl's mother was more than willing to trust a member of the Granger staff to act as chaperone. Neville grinned. On the even more plus side, it seemed that every member of the Granger staff seemed to think that their duties were to see to Juliette's safety rather than her, ahem, safety.
On the negative side, Neville felt restless. It wasn't something he could put to words. One moment he'd be perfectly content in the greenhouse and the next he'd be filled with energy and pacing to try to burn some of it of, driven by the need to do something and the feeling that there was some important task he'd left unfinished but with no earthly idea of what that task might be.
It was in one of these periods, that his gran returned from her uncharacteristically long absence to find him stomping back and fourth between the cloak room and the grand stairwell. It was mortifying, he'd been so distracted by the sound of blood pounding in his ears that he hadn't even noticed her come in until he'd spun to march back to the door to find her watching him.
"Is something the matter, Neville?" she'd asked calmly.
"I don't know, gran," he admitted. "It's been happening on and off since I they released me from the clinic."
His gran nodded. "I'm told such things are normal. Inform me if it continues for more than a couple weeks and we will speak with a specialist regarding the matter."
"I must apologize for my late return. I sent my instructions before being detained by another matter and I was unable to send you another note to explain. I shall do my best to ensure you will not be subjected to such appalling rudeness again."
"I'm sure you did what you thought best, gran," Neville said diplomatically.
The old woman gave a sharp nod. "I'm not sure that you are aware, but all three Lestranges perished in the Battle of Hogsmeade." She smiled. "What's more, all three perished in the portion of the battle that you took part in."
"I don't even remember seeing them, gran. Most of it's a blur, the parts that aren't are like still photographs."
"Understandable. I find myself struggling to remember similar experiences at times, but that is a conversation for another day. Upon finding that out, I used my influence and resources to have autopsies performed on all three individuals. Spell residue from your wand was matched to two of the three. Bellatrix and Rabastan. You may not remember it, but you may take comfort in the knowledge that you avenged your parents. I am proud of you, Neville. For that, for the lives you saved, and for every other action you performed that day."
Neville found it hard to speak. "Thank you, gran, but I didn't do anything especially noteworthy. I just acted as one of our class is expected to act under similar circumstances." The alternative, remaining safe in the castle while his friends and the younger students bled and died without at least making an attempt to aid them, no matter how hopeless, was unthinkable. "Do you mind if I ask what delayed your return?"
"Not at all." She frowned. "It was due to the fact that I am not nearly as young as I once was and as a consequence, I do not recover from injuries at nearly the same rate that I once did. Something that I shall endeavor to keep in mind for future reference."
"What happened, gran?" Neville demanded, unable to keep the concern for his guardian out of his voice.
"Nothing much," the old woman replied with a dismissive wave. "I was inspecting the battle site at Hogsmeade and doing my best to aid in the recovery efforts when word came of the attack on the Ministry and, well, when the call comes one does one's duty. You understand."
"Yes, gran," Neville agreed. "I understand."
Narcissa glanced towards the door and started to stand up for the thousandth time and, for the thousandth time, she stopped herself. She'd been delaying long enough. Waiting had been good sense after the Battle of Hogsmeade, things had changed. Every moment she delayed was a moment the Dark Lord could do something to arouse even more fury, every moment she delayed the information she had became less and less valuable. Her problem was simple, who to use as a go between?
Going directly to Hogwarts was almost certainly impossible with the amount of security they'd have added after the attack. Similarly, going to Hogsmeade and attempting to walk or take one of the secret passages was likely a very bad idea.
The Greengrass/Davies family was one possibility. The problem was that they would almost certainly hand her over to the Potter who's hard built reputation was nothing short of terrifying. Likely the Black blood, she decided with a touch of pride. Her family did have a reputation for being thorough when it came to dealing with their enemies. Similarly and for the same reasons, the Tonks family was out. Her dear estranged sister was never one to let a grudge go and Narcissa did not wish to experience the full weight of her sister's dissatisfaction. Not to mention the fact that her dear dear sister would likely then ignore her wishes and turn her over to Potter out of spite. Also likely due to the Black blood which, unfortunately, expressed itself exceptionally strongly in her dear estranged sister.
In a flash, one name rose to the fore. One that was still dangerous, one that still carried some risk of being turned over to the Potter, but one she had a bit of leverage over.
"Yes, Mistress Cissy?"
For a second she was tempted to send her elf no matter how shameful it would be to have the creature speak on her behalf. It'd be safe, it'd be secure, it would not be the way a Black would handle things. It would also put her at a dreadful disadvantage when it came time to negotiate a deal. It was the last point that decided things, she needed the best deal she could get for the sake of her son.
"Deliver the package to Dumbledore in eight hours if I do not tell you otherwise."
"Yes, Mistress Cissy."
"That will be all, Skippy."
Narcissa took a deep breath, ensured her appearance was perfect, and apparated.
She appeared in front of a ramshackle hovel. No. She stopped herself, best adjust that way of thinking. She appeared before a charming little cottage and stepped across the wardline, making sure to go slow and to appear as non-threatening as possible to the hidden guards.
Pasting a smile on her face, she raised a fist and knocked on the door. It did not take long before the mistress of the house answered.
"Narcissa." Molly glared at the woman in her doorway. "What an unexpected and unwelcome surprise."
"Wonderful to see you again, Molly," Narcissa stated with a warm smile. "How long has it been since we last had an opportunity to talk?"
"What do you want?"
"Oh, nothing much." Narcissa leaned in. "I was hoping you'd be willing to do me the favor of arranging a meeting with Amelia Bones."
"Why do you think I'd be willing to do that?"
Narcissa smiled widely and ignored the question. "I would do it myself, but I am fairly certain that she still thinks that I was the one responsible for that potions accident that removed most of the hair from her head in her seventh year. Do you remember how long it was before Healer Rae managed to grow it all back? Ten days the poor girl had to wear a hat around the castle. She was absolutely humiliated and swore everlasting vengeance upon the person or persons responsible. Do you think she still bears a grudge? I'm rather hesitant to find out, myself."
"It was a long time ago, I'm sure she's not still angry about that. I'm equally sure she wouldn't blame you in light of the fact that it happened at least seven or eight years before you even started going to Hogwarts."
"I'm sure she'll be impressed at how good my memory is and how much information I can acquire when I set my mind to it. Even when I wasn't there, you'd be surprised at what else I was able to learn about events that happened when I was elsewhere. More importantly, so would Bones
"I'll do my best to set up a meeting with her if you promise to forget everything you know about what was, in hindsight, a very minor potion accident that occurred a long long time ago.
"I agree." Narcissa swept past the woman and into the house. "Such an odd year it was. Do you remember all the potions accidents? Strange the way they seemed to target girls that showed interest in Arthur wasn't it? I've often wondered about that odd set of circumstances but I've never managed to find the time to do a proper investigation."
"Just a coincidence, I'm sure," Molly said through clenched teeth.
"I agree," Narcissa stated. "No need at all to dig up the past, not so long as I'm busy meeting with Madame Bones in the present."
"I suppose it would be best to get you that meeting as soon as possible then," Molly growled. "So you have something to focus on aside from a few minor potions accidents that I am sure no one remembers."
"I couldn't agree more, Molly," Narcissa said cheerfully. "It's so surprising how much we have in common that it's a wonder that we aren't the best of friends. Another thing to blame on my departed former husband, I suppose. We'll have to remember to meet up for tea at some point in the future, after all this unpleasantness has been resolved."
Amelia stared at her aide in stupefied shock. She couldn't believe what she'd just been told. It couldn't be true, could it?
"Repeat that," she ordered.
"Narcissa Malfoy is at the Weasley house," her aide stated. "She says she wants to switch sides and she says that you're the one she wants to talk to in order to make the arrangements."
Amelia smiled. "What else?"
"She says she's willing to give names, dates, locations, everything she knows if we're willing to cut her a deal." The aide licked her lips. "She also wants to know if you remember what you did to Nigel Smythe the spring of your fifth year at Hogwarts."
"I hexed him into the hospital wing every day for a month without getting caught," Amelia said absently. "How the hell did she know that."
"She is very good at finding information," the aide said with a blush, making it clear that her boss' answer was not the one she had imagined. "She, uh, she wanted that mentioned if you expressed any surprise at her knowing about Smythe."
"What are her conditions?"
"She doesn't get arrested, she's free to go, she's free to loot as much as she can from the Malfoy accounts, and she's free to leave the country with her son after giving us her information. We protect her from Potter and the law."
"What crimes does she want immunity from?"
"She states that she has not committed any crimes that would earn her a trip to Azkaban. What do you want us to do, boss?"
"Get her here. Send a dozen guards but make it clear to them and her that they're there for her protection."
Well, Amelia thought to herself, isn't this a wonderful way to start the day. Narcissa Malfoy's offer to defect and tell all was yet another sign that Voldemort was in trouble, rats seldom fled ships that weren't sinking.