Lost and Found - 2nd Cycle
Lost Lambs - Part II
Lost Lambs — Part II
It hurt his head to think about some things, so he reverted to what he’d learned from Hermione — he charted it all out on paper. When he was satisfied that he’d not bollixed it up, he charmed the journal shut and put it back on his hotel room desk. He then opened up his now empty travel bag and activated the hiding place, securing the glittering device away from the curious, the larcenous and the just plain stupid. Looking at the wall clock, he decided that he had time for a shower before making breakfast for his fiancÃ©e. He smiled at that thought. For years he’d lived with a very short horizon, expecting that he’d never live to see the next year. Now he had something, or more accurately, someone to look forward to.
"I want to grow old with her," he said aloud, surprised at how good that sounded.
Strolling through the nearby open-air market made gathering breakfast supplies ridiculously easy. Fresh bread, of course, as he was in France; and some fruit from a vendor; he’d considered squeezing oranges, but reckoned that his time was better spent on other tasks, so he picked up a litre of orange juice at the small grocery a block from Gabrielle’s flat. He was whistling quietly as he made his way up the stairs, noting with satisfaction that the wards and alarms he’d put in place last night were all as they should be. Although the door was open to her room, it was still dark, so he moved quietly, applying a one-way sound-deadening charm similar to Muffliato to the kitchen.
He’d set the table first, locating a small vase for the cut flowers he’d purchased on impulse. He was bustling in the kitchen when he heard the door to her room open. Gabrielle looked at him, the table and the kitchen, blinking as if she wasn’t quite awake. She smiled, shuffling into the kitchen for a hug and a kiss before disappearing into the loo; he still liked his shirt when she was in it, he’d probably like it even more if it were on the floor beside the bed, but he wasn’t going there this morning.
When she came out of the loo, she was again wrapped in the terrycloth bathrobe.
"Breakfast is served," he said, putting on his best English butler voice.
Gabrielle looked at the table and then moved one of the place settings so she was sitting next to, rather than opposite from him.
Pouring coffee for both of them, she took a generous swig from her cup. "You know, I could get used to this," she said, smiling broadly.
"Let’s hope so," he replied.
They polished off croissants, eggs, fruit and juice. Gabrielle declined when he pushed the fruit plate her way again.
"You tricked me last night," she said.
"Is there an echo in here or something?" Harry said, raising one eyebrow.
"I thought you’d be here this morning," she said, her lips moving into a hint of a pout.
"I am here," he said, spreading his hands, pointing to the mess he’d made in the kitchen.
"I thought you’d be in my bed this morning," she said, clarifying her complaint.
"Did I say that?" he asked. "I seem to recall, when answering your question, that I’d be at the Barclay."
"Yes, you did, but then you came to bed with me," she said.
"I wanted to make sure that you fell asleep quickly; that’s one of my assignments, making sure that the Tracker is well rested and fit for duty," he replied. "If I had stayed the night, where do you think we’d be this morning?"
Gabrielle looked at him, her tongue flickering across her upper lip. "We’d still be in bed."
"And how long do you think we’d be there?" he asked, waiting for an answer.
Gabrielle was silent, the ghost of a smile playing on her lips. "A long, long time?" she finally replied.
"I think that’s a safe bet," Harry said, reaching out to stroke her fingers. "When Ron finally married Padma, I paid for a honeymoon at a rather swank bed-and-breakfast as one of my wedding presents to them. It seems that they never managed to make it to breakfast, which is a pity, because the place had a killer reputation for putting on a good spread."
"Ron missed breakfast?" Gabrielle asked incredulously.
"Not entirely," Harry replied. "According to Padma they had a large tin of cream crackers and cheese, without which, according to Ron, they probably would have starved. They did manage to make it out of bed for lunch and dinner every day, so I have my doubts whether or not they were approaching starvation."
"I’ve got crackers," Gabrielle purred, stroking between his fingers with her index finger.
"Yeah, you do. I found them when I was searching for your bread knife, but we also have a job to do which involves saving three girls from a very nasty fate," Harry said, twining his fingers with hers.
Gabrielle made a sour face. "You know, there are times when that noble streak of yours is a real pain in the arse," she said, her eyes twinkling.
"I’ve been told that a time or two in the past," Harry said. "Let’s clean up and then we can get started.
They could have used magic to clean the kitchen, but the kitchenette included a very small dishwasher, so Gabrielle dried the hand-washed items and put them away while Harry loaded the dishwasher.
"Where are we getting married?" Gabrielle asked.
"Well, I suppose that depends a lot on when and how," Harry parried, surprised to be actually discussing the logistics for something that, until yesterday, had been distant and theoretical.
"Church wedding or civil?" Gabrielle asked.
"I could go either way," Harry said.
"What are we?" Gabrielle asked.
"Well, last I checked you were a very desirable witch, and I’m told that I’m an erotic lump of magic," Harry quipped.
"I’m not going to live that one down, am I?"
"What I meant is what type of church are we talking about? When you’re home in London you attend All Souls at Langham Place. When you’re in Cyprus, you pray with a bunch of Orthodox monks, and when you’re in Alaska, you attend a little Lutheran church. So what are the Potters going to be, denominationally: Anglicans, Orthodox or Lutherans?" Gabrielle asked.
"Uh, eclectic mongrels?" Harry suggested.
"Well, I’ve got the mongrel part down already," Gabrielle said.
"You might notice the common thread in all those churches is that it’s usually the closest church to where I’m staying at the moment," Harry said.
"Right," Gabrielle replied, an uncertain look on her face. "I go where you go, it’s part of the match thing. There’s an English speaking church in town; All Saints is by the Estrangin Metro, it’s an Anglican church."
"I’ll ring them up later today," Harry said.
Gabrielle nodded. The details were getting settled. "So, how big of a service?" Gabrielle asked.
"Take this the right way, love, I really don’t care. I want to be married, to you — the wedding is just a blip facilitating that. I want to make you breakfast every morning and go to bed with you every night. I want to grow old with you and see whether or not your hair turns white by the time you get wrinkles," he explained.
Gabrielle beamed at him. "So, basically, you don’t care about the details of the wedding?"
"As long as it doesn’t involve pastel tuxedos, no."
"Well, that makes it rather simple then," Gabrielle said decisively. "We’ll finish this case and then have a small wedding, inviting our friends and immediate family. If we keep it a short notice thing, it will be less likely to get out of hand and turn into a circus."
"Are you letting Molly in on the planning?" Harry asked.
"No — she had her wedding, this one’s mine, besides, it would remind her too much of the wedding she didn’t get to plan," Gabrielle said sensibly.
"You’ve got a point there."
"Honeymoon?" she asked hopefully.
"Some place with a bed," Harry said, giving her a wink.
"And maybe even breakfast?" she replied.
"Don’t count on it."
The city of Marseille is comprised of sixteen arrondissments, each of which is further subdivided into quartiers for total of one hundred eleven quartiers. By lunchtime, they’d drawn up a schedule for making their way through the city, quartier by quartier, making sure to coordinate their schedule with the strike force. Like most systematic searches, this one was mostly tedium, relieved by frustration, capped with exhaustion.
"Am I screwing up your ability to Track?" Harry asked as they closed out another quartier.
"No," Gabrielle said, sipping delicately from a bottle of Orangina. "Your signature is pretty loud, but I can still track other signatures. I can Track Madame and Monsieur Artzai, for instance, although that’s fairly simple as Monsieur Artzai is stuck in the hospital, and Madame Artzai is either at the hospital, at home, or at St. Stephen’s church, down the road from the hospital. What I can’t get a whiff of, however, is Matzalen’s signature, which should be strongest, or the twins."
"Any possibility that they’re dead?" Harry asked.
Gabrielle shook her head. "Madame Artzai would know; it’s a Veela thing, chapter seventeen in Daughters of the Dawn."
"I kinda skipped over that one," Harry said. "So we keep looking?"
"Yeah, we keep looking, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t stop for dinner. I’m taking you to Chez Fonfon, so you can finally get some decent bouillabaisse," Gabrielle said. "It’s in the next quartier on the list, so we can still list it as work."
"I don’t like bouillabaisse," Harry said.
"Says the man who eats raw fish," Gabrielle said dismissively. "My husband will learn to eat the foods of my childhood, whether he likes them is another question entirely; besides, the swill they served at Hogwarts was not true bouillabaisse."
"Yes, dear," Harry replied. He didn’t mind; this display of spirit was heartening after a day of dead-ends and fruitless searches.
The first day’s tracking pretty much set the pattern for the days that followed. Harry would make breakfast for Gabrielle at her flat, they’d return to their methodical quartier by quartier search, stopping only for a stand-up lunch during the day, and a longer, more leisurely dinner after stopping for the day. Harry would then take Gabrielle back to her flat, donate the shirt of the day towards her sleepwear collection and after a little necking, hold a very exhausted Veela Tracker until she fell asleep. He would then return to his room at the Barclay for the work that he liked to think of as "the second shift." It wasn’t all drudgery, however, as it allowed them to walk from quartier by quartier, looking for all the world like a young couple, deeply in love, going for a stroll.
It also afforded an opportunity to discuss a number of things, primarily about their life together, including pets ("dogs are okay, but no cats, for obvious reasons, Harry"), children ("of course I want to bear children, the question is how many and when") and money ("the fact that you are wealthy is irrelevant; a Veela wife manages the household, which includes increasing its wealth"). Needless to say, some of the conversations lasted longer than others.
"Where do you go at night after you leave me?" Gabrielle asked, kicking idly at a bit of debris on the sidewalk. "I mean, aside from going back to the Barclay."
"What makes you think that I’m going somewhere?" Harry parried.
"When you leave, you fortify my flat with layers of charms suitable for a Gringotts branch office, including a screamer charm that I assume is linked to something on your person," Gabrielle said, looking sideways at him.
"I’m not sure you want to know," Harry said.
"There should be no secrets between us," Gabrielle admonished.
"You may come to regret that," he said.
"I doubt it," Gabrielle said simply.
"Last night I went to Fleury-MÃ©rogis, with Auror Fuso," Harry said, hoping that he wasn’t opening a can of worms.
"Continue," Gabrielle commanded.
"He sends his warmest greetings, by the way, marvelling that I’ve not throttled you yet. He assumes that your charms in bed outweigh your other shortcomings," Harry said in a mocking tone.
"But of course, everyone knows that," Gabrielle replied quickly.
"We were interrogating some of the prisoners. Jacques thought it was going to be a waste of time because someone went to the trouble of Obliviating them after they were arrested," Harry said.
"I suspect that Jacques thought I was going to torture them," Harry said with disdain.
"Jacques would have enjoyed that, no doubt," Gabrielle said.
"Actually, we’re pretty much alike on that topic," Harry replied. "Neither of us has any qualms about it, but we both feel that it doesn’t produce useful information. If you torture me, I’ll try to tell you what I think you want to know, just to get you to stop."
"So you didn’t rough them up?" Gabrielle asked.
"Not that anyone could see," Harry replied with a wry smile. "One of the prisoners thought he was drowning and another thought his hand had been burned off, but that was merely an illusion, a distraction to allow me better access to their memories."
"Legilimency?" Gabrielle asked. "How useful."
"Yes, apparently the French Auror Academy doesn’t provide much coverage on that art — they think it can’t be taught. They are mistaken, of course, but that should come as no surprise to you."
"But of course; so, what did you find out?" Gabrielle asked.
"Most of their memories of Unai have been wiped, but not the surrounding memories, a sloppy technique that is the hallmark of the amateur Obliviator. One of the thugs appeared to have been Unai’s driver — we’ve got an idea of where he’d go to pick Unai up at the beginning of the day and where he’d drop him off at the end of the day," Harry said with a grin.
"That we have a fair notion where Unai lives, or at least where he lived at one time," Harry said.
"And that would be?" Gabrielle asked.
"A houseboat, one with a good view of the â€˜ChÃ¢teau d’If,’ whatever that is," Harry replied.
"Did you ever read The Count of Monte Cristo when you were a boy?"
"Yeah, I read it when I was home with the Dursleys one summer. For some reason I was able to identify with the protagonist quite well. The notion of getting free from prison and wreaking vengeance on all my enemies was quite appealing at that age," Harry said.
"While the Count was actually a commoner, he really was held prisoner at the ChÃ¢teau d’If. It’s not much to look at, and only tourists go there and then only because of The Count of Monte Cristo tie-in. It’s like all the foreign visitors who go to Prince Edward Island because of Anne of Green Gables." Gabrielle expounded. "I’ll take you to the harbour after dinner tonight — I know a spot that affords a great view of the Isle d’If -"
Gabrielle, however, wasn’t allowed to finish that sentence as her mobile went off at that moment. The French Ministry of Magic, unlike its English counterpart, was not averse to co-opting Muggle technology, including mobile phones that were hardened to work in magical environments. Gabrielle reached into her purse and gently swore under her breath when she looked at the offending object.
"What is it?" Harry asked.
"The District Superintendent, she wants us back at the office immediately."
The District Superintendent was pacing by her window when they were admitted to her office. "Please sit down," she said, gripping the back of her chair. She chewed on her bottom lip, looking at the floor for a minute. She appeared to be composing her thoughts. When she looked up at Harry and Gabrielle sitting together on the leather sofa her expression changed.
"So it’s true? You two really are engaged?" she asked.
Gabrielle giggled. "Yes, Madame," she answered.
"Have you set a date?" the District Superintendent asked.
"After we find the Artzai girls," Harry answered.
"That’s one way to put some incentive into work," the District Superintendent said with amusement. Her visage changed again. "No progress since the last report?"
"No, Madame," Gabrielle replied meekly.
"Well, I’m afraid that I have news, none of it good," the District Superintendent said, releasing a small hiss of frustration. "Through our friends in Bulgaria, we’ve intercepted some rather unpleasant communications. Unai intends to auction the twins off. He’s received indications of interest from more than a dozen countries."
"And Matzalen?" Gabrielle asked.
"Apparently Unai intends to keep Matzalen for his own purposes. If he can break her will, she would be a remarkable asset to a prostitution operation, every Veela’s nightmare, I might add," the District Superintendent added for Harry’s benefit. "I am receiving calls daily from the Catalan Ambassador."
"What is their interest in this case?" Harry asked. "That’s the second time you’ve mentioned him or her."
"The Catalan Ambassador is a him, which is an irrelevant fact. The Veela flock in Western Europe is represented among the Muggle and Magical governments by Catalonia, an arrangement that goes back more than a thousand years. I might add that the Ambassador reports that the Flock is very pleased to hear of your engagement," the District Superintendent said, her face difficult to read.
"Why would they care?" Harry asked.
"The Veela place their daughters with the rulers of Muggle and Magical society; they always have — they consider it a form of diplomacy. Your union is regarded as most beneficial to the interests of the Flock," the District Superintendent said, smiling sadly. "Do not worry, Monsieur Potter. Mademoiselle Delacour is well and truly in love with you without ulterior motive; I can attest to her sincerity. The Flock, however, still thinks of things from an earlier mindset when daughters were not much more than chattels and strategic marriages stopped wars and promoted trade. But that is another subject for another day. The fact that we have not received any ransom demand from Unai and the fact that we are hearing rumblings about auctioning off the twins to major players in the sex trade does not bode well for the Artzai family, which leads me to the next bit of bad news. Balendin Artzai died this morning; the news reached my desk at noon."
"I am so sorry," Gabrielle said, looking down. "And Madame Artzai?"
"Madame Artzai is still with us, surprisingly," the District Superintendent said.
"Yes!" Harry cried, making a fist.
"You have news for us, Monsieur Potter?" the District Superintendent asked.
"Harry asked Madame Artzai to make a solemn vow that she would live until we recovered her daughters," Gabrielle said proudly.
"Your insight into our nature is to be commended, Monsieur, I did not think that it would be possible to overcome the fatal side of her match with Balendin," the District Superintendent said.
"What is more powerful than a mother’s love?" Harry asked rhetorically.
"Ah yes, of course," the District Superintendent said, nodding sagely. "Well done; at least a little bit of good news in an otherwise wretched day. So, no trace of Matzalen or the twins?"
"No, Madame, it is most frustrating. This has never happened before! Once I acquire a signature, I can always find what I’m looking for — always!" Gabrielle exclaimed.
"I do not doubt your abilities, daughter, or your diligence in searching for our sisters," the District Superintendent said, "but you did fail to find your intended when you went looking for him the last time."
"He was not in any of the places I looked; there wasn’t even a cold trail to pick up in all the places I searched: Alaska and Crete and Cyprus and Alexandria and Singapore, places I’ve picked up his trail before." Gabrielle said vehemently.
"But Mademoiselle, he was in Cyprus, just before he came here," the District Superintendent said.
"What?" Gabrielle shrieked. "No way!"
"I was," Harry interjected.
"Bind me and beat me!" Gabrielle spat. "What were you doing there to erase your traces?"
"Uh, actually, I’m more of a nuzzle and grope guy personally, rather than, uh, the bind and beat thing," Harry said.
Gabrielle looked at Harry as if he had grown an extra head. "I’m trying to solve this problem, and you are trying to arouse me!" she accused.
"Is it working?" Harry asked.
"Yes, but that’s beside the point!" Gabrielle huffed.
The District Superintendent was seized with paroxysms of laughter. "Oh, Harry, you are so good for her!" she exclaimed when the laughter subsided. "What were you doing in Cyprus before you came? Anything out of the ordinary?"
"I installed a magical field on the top of one of the TroÃ¶dos mountains," Harry said, mulling the possibilities.
"What sort of field?" the District Superintendent asked.
"It’s a bit of a one-off thing — it nullifies Apparation, Portkeys, and has an added component that stops ballistic projectiles," Harry said, noting the look of puzzlement on the District Superintendent’s face. "The Greeks live on one side of the mountain and the Turks live on the other and they’ve been shooting at each other for years. Some monks live near the top of the mountain and they’d get hit by stray rounds every now and then. I cobbled up the field to thank them for their hospitality over the years."
"Mademoiselle, I think a field trip and an experiment is in order. Draw some of the satellite phones from the quartermaster and go play hide and seek with your fiancÃ©," the District Superintendent commanded.
"Yes, Madame," Gabrielle said, leaping to her feet.
If the experiment worked, perhaps the lost lambs were not without hope after all.
Copyright © 2006 J Cornell — all rights reserved.
As usual, this wouldn't read as it does without my incomparable Beta, Runsamok.