“Ren, what d'you think we should do about Fraser?”
We are walking swiftly down the street together, looking for a good place to insert a safe house. No easy feat; every time I have looked at one, I found myself wondering at all of the ways it could be infiltrated. That one was too close to a pub for wizards. This other one was too far from the consulate. Each rejected, and with open war looming.
To say I am feeling closed in upon by all fronts would be, perhaps, an understatement.
Canada has fallen. My brothers are my enemies. The first refugees will be arriving soon. Constable Fraser's behavior has been erratic and is becoming increasingly more so.
“What can we do?” I ask, my heart sinking even as I do so.
“I dunno... I mean, I told you what I saw. He doesn't have the mark, but... it's getting worse. He's like a ghost, Ren, or one step away from becoming one. It's gotta be an Imperius curse, don't you think?”
My Ray is a good man. We barely have time to breathe; what little sleep we get is often apart, and when we are together, we are too tired to do more than curl around one another and hold on, those brief moments when we may allow ourselves to be so indulgent as to rest. I miss him, painfully, even as we work side by side.
I wish he would not have gone. Fraser cannot be trusted, not in his condition, whatever has prompted it. I love Ray for the kindness that prompted him trying, but I fear for his safety.
I cannot afford to lose him. None of us can. Not now.
“If it is, and that does seem the most likely explanation, we don't have the resources to help him. And it would be dangerous to try.” I flick a glance at him, and I know I do poorly at hiding my fears. “You could have been...” It sends a shudder through me, to think what could have been. “We simply don't know what he could do,” I continue. “The best we can do is keep him at a distance.” It is something Ray already knows.
Ray's shoulders slump, and he looks as tired as I feel. I ache to hold him, but still we walk. Even so, I brush my hand past his as we walk, and the look in his eyes when he looks up at me makes my heart ache. He cares for Fraser. I care for Fraser. But there is so much at stake now. We are racing sand in an hour glass, and as of this moment, we are losing.
“I know. But he's either fighting it or... maybe it was cast wrong. He's struggling. Cause he's not right. I dunno, it feels... sick. I mean, even Kowalski knows something is up.”
I wince, thinking of the consequences if the thing was cast wrong. The Unforgivables are all ugly... and the thought of a colleague being twisted by one is heinous. “Detective Kowalski is observant,” I point out, and attempt to lighten the atmosphere even momentarily by adding, “hence why he is in danger of breaking the record for the number of times he has been oblivated. I'd expect him to notice something like that, even if he doesn't know what it means.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Ray nods, forcing briskness upon himself. “I wish there was something we could do to help, though.”
I sigh, and hook his little finger with my own. “I wish there was something we could do to help,” I echo, then add, “but if you can't think of a way, I certainly can't. And there are so many people who need saving.”
“Here,” he says abruptly, stopping in his tracks and shifting his hand to squeeze mine. “This one.”
I look at it. A moderately busy muggle street, a house with long boarded up windows, a faded 'For Sale' sign. It stands empty and neglected. It is located far enough from wizarding strongholds to not arouse suspicion, but close enough to the consulate so that I might respond if needed. With the added benefit of being not terribly far from Ray's house.
His family is already taking care of Myra. Perhaps they would consider helping feed and care for our refugees here, as well.
I am surprised to feel my own smile, and warmed to see his. "Yes, I think so," I say.
Ray gives me a wink, some of the life coming back into his eyes. "Yeah," he answers, faux-smug, as if we have not spent hours upon hours searching, rejecting, searching anew.
It is a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Ray moves around the perimeter, wand out, once we have ascertained no one watches us. Whispering incantations, checking for potential traps; precautionary, though wise.
I go around the other side, doing the same. Even as I work, however, I think again of Constable Fraser.
It bothers me. Ray's instincts about him are most likely right. There should be some way we could help our colleague, our friend... but when? How? My nation has fallen; my brother is sitting at the head of the office which employs me, and at any moment, I expect him to discover what his errant sibling is doing. Or to transfer me, to bring the family close in. I wonder where Reginald is. With Roderick, no doubt. I wish I could say that it surprises me. Somehow, it does not. Not like it should.
I wish we could help Fraser. For him, but also for Ray, my Ray. For Ray Kowalski. For everyone who cares. Even, I think, for myself. There are so few I trust these days. It would have been nice to have one more ally, and now, that has been stolen from us.
If it was ever ours at all.