Nathan Ford couldn’t resist a puzzle. He always had to win against all circumstances. His intellect, education, determination, and (let’s face it) ego had propelled Nate to the heights of his career and had plummeted him to his lowest when he couldn’t save his son. Nothing he had learned in the Magical world could save Sam and though the Muggle world did have treatments, they were out of Nate’s reach.
Nate had quit his job. He quit the Magical world and he had, in all truth, quit his marriage long before Maggie had served him papers. Nate had left behind his wand with everything else. He had been trying to quit life as well when he had fallen in with the Leverage team.
Now he and Maggie had closure in Sam’s death, they worked together and had destroyed the man who let Sam die. During their last goodbye, Maggie had given him a box of mementoes from their time together as a family, including his wand. Nate had been prepared to hide all wizard-related items away, never to be found, when he was reminded of a puzzle that he had never solved: Parker.
She was right there, sleeping on the couch, and no one else was around. Nate was pretty sure he would have an answer to a good portion of Parker’s social and mental issues within three diagnostic spells.
Nate tried to focus on finding a new client; he tried to focus on anything but the closeness of answers.
Nate had never been good at ignoring temptation, why start now? He retrieved his wand (hazelwood for knowledge or wisdom and the whisker of a selkie, good for transfiguration) from its hiding place and with a wave of it confirmed his first suspicion: a wizard had obliviated Parker of her prior life when she had been a child and then dumped her on the streets.
Parker had occasionally used wizard terminology when she had never shown any knowledge of the Wizarding world. She had never shown the slightest hint of magical inclination. She also used British terms when she had never really spent time with a Brit or in Great Britain. With a wave of his wand Nate confirmed that someone had removed her accent right along with her memories.
The reason why was astoundingly easy to deduce: Parker was a squib. When, as a child, she had failed to produce magic she had been removed from the rest of her pureblooded family and had been cursed to forget her whole life. Once her very identity had been removed, along with any clues to her history, she had been dumped in the American foster system.
Nate had seen enough of Parker’s records to know that she had been cursed with bad luck concerning families.
Parker had been smart to run away, even at such a young age; her foster homes would have devolved until she would have been murdered. The mastermind buried his head in his hands.
What Nate couldn’t comprehend was why the wizard family had bothered. Why hadn’t they just killed Parker and been done with her? How early had they known that she would never be able to work magic? As far as Nate knew, only the headmasters of Magical schools had the only fool-proof method of detection until the child matured to a certain point.
But then again, off of the top of his head Nate could think up three different ways to get a hold of the American school invitation list and he couldn’t imagine Dumbledore had been too security conscious before Voldemort had resurfaced. Spying on the list to discover whether or not a child was listed was certainly doable.
Nate sighed. He had solved the puzzle – anything more would be a gross invasion of privacy. He looked up . . .straight into Eliot’s eyes.
Those eyes were serious, wryly amused, and knowing.
“I’ve always known you were the most dangerous person in any room because you could outthink pretty much everyone. It’s not much of a surprised that you are also armed with a weapon that’s only limited by the wielder’s force of will and imagination. You didn’t need to be any more dangerous.” Eliot wasn’t whispering but his voice was so low that Nate had to strain to hear him.
Nate couldn’t match the tone and didn’t want to risk waking Parker. He jerked his head to the kitchen and knew Eliot would follow him there. Nate pulled out the whiskey and poured himself a generous serving before turning to Eliot with an empty glass. The Hitter accepted his wordless offer with an equally silent nod. Nate hadn’t had a drink in months, but this might be worth breaking the streak.
“What do you know of us?” Nate asked.
“To disarm, destroy the wand immediately or to kill from a distance.”
Nate wasn’t surprised by the analysis and by Eliot’s priorities. “There’s an entire hidden culture.”
“And they feel superior over anyone not in it.”
“Naturally,” Nate’s frustration boiled to the surface before simmering down to something manageable. “Parker was born in that world.”
Eliot blinked, for once, completely floored. “Are you sure?”
“It makes sense.”
“You got that from the colors you were waving over Crazy Girl’s head?”
Nate considered for a moment Eliot’s past experiences with wizards and the situation the hitter had witnessed. Nate was damn glad that Eliot trusted him enough with an unfamiliar ‘weapon’ pointed at an (unconscious) teammate. “They made her forget her first six? Maybe eight years of her life. They ripped it from her along with anything that could have hinted toward her identity. And then they dropped an amnesiac child on the streets of a different continent.”
“What do we need to do to steal back Parker’s past?”
“Eliot. Her parents probably did it to her.”
Eliot’s face hardened as he began to imagine the severity of the situation. “How sure are you?”
“She doesn’t have any sort of shielding or hiding spell on her. Someone took all of her early memories and didn’t bother replacing them with anything. They needed to take them all which means she probably grew up in a magical household. A very magical household. Her parents could have found her if they wanted… or if they were alive.” Nate was hard pressed to find a palatable explanation.
“Because she’s not magical. At all.”
Eliot leaned against the kitchen counter and sipped the drink he had accepted just to keep Nate talking. He was thinking, and thankfully, silently. “Shame the family name?” the hitter guessed.
“And then some. By law, she’s not allowed to inherit.”
Eliot narrowed his eyes to tiny dangerous slits. “We should steal Parker’s inheritance, the money in the least. Could you plan that? We wouldn’t be able to help much with the culture separation. Can you figure out who her family is?”
“With her blood and a couple of ingredients, within a day or two. But should we? We don’t have a right to open up that door.”
“But she should know the door is there,” Eliot argued.
“To eternally be outside looking in?”
“To hide the options is to remove the choice. You said that it has to be her choice, not ours.”
Like always, one never knew Parker was there until the thief revealed herself… by stealing Nate’s wand. “Swish and flick.” Her execution was perfect, like one trained over and over, but as with every previous time Parker had touched a wand, nothing happened. The muscle memory was still there even if the actual memories had been stolen. Then the thief twirled the wand like a baton. “What is this?”
Nate sighed and gave the truth which would divert even Parker. “It was supposed to be Sam’s someday.”
Parker put it down immediately. “Sorry.”
Nate slid the wand into his sleeve. It felt familiar and foreign against his skin. Like Maggie’s kiss against his cheek had been. “I shouldn’t have had it out.”
“Maggie gave it to you,” Eliot said.
Nate nodded and considered his full glass of alcohol.
“Parker,” Eliot started and Nate switched his full attention to the thief to read every tell. He set down his glass and focused. “Nate’s found out a little about your family, where you come from, and it’s not nice or pretty. Do you want to know more?”
“Why would I?” Parker looked utterly mystified and Nate could literally smell the compulsion spelled on her psyche. It was that strong.
Eliot was reading Nate’s tells and spotted the evidence of magical meddling. What orphan didn’t wonder about their family? One’s whose brain had been rewired not to. Any further questions to Parker would be making the decision for her. Damn her parents. Damn them.
Nate reached for his whiskey. Eliot moved it out of reach. “We’re not done yet. Parker. Your family messed with your memories and even made it so that you would think that you didn’t want to know anything about them.”
“Kinda like Sophie getting you to make her tea?” The thief was trying to understand, but any basis for comprehension had been ripped from her.
Stolen, Nate’s mind whispered to him.
Eliot accepted that and added, “but much much more. Nate figured it out.”
Obediently, Parker turned to face Nate, with trust on her face.
“It’s going to be an ugly, horrible story,” Nate warned.
“Does my family need stopped?” Parker asked. “Are they the mark?”
“I don’t know who they are yet,” Nate bit out. “I don’t know what crimes they might have done.”
“Child abuse and abandonment, to begin with,” Eliot grumbled.
“I might have brothers or sisters?” Parker perked up. “Out there with no memories too?”
Nate worked the odds in his head. “Unlikely, but possible. Your siblings likely would be our second generation mark.”
“Well then, we have to stop them. I don’t want my family ruining lives.”
“Is that your final decision, Parker? Once we start, we can’t erase what we’ve done.”
“Why would we want to?”
“Okay. Let’s go steal your past.”
Eliot had been right when he had described magic as confined only by will and imagination. If one had the magic to start, like Nate, there was a work-around for everything.
Creating the family tree from blood wasn’t supposed to work when the initial blood was unmagical. Nate had the will, education, intelligence, imagination and time to make it happen. He destroyed two bed sheets with spell mishaps, but the third sheet inked Pavo Malfoy at the bottom and then filled in the names of her parents, grandparents and every other blood relative that could fit.
Pavo Malfoy, that was Parker’s birth name. Nate had never met any of the Malfoys since they were too good to stray far from England, but their reputation stretched around the world. Once again, Nate was surprised that Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy hadn’t killed their squib child. How had they explained Parker’s disappearance to friends and family?
Nate took a step back and viewed the family as a whole. It was a bit of a surprise to see the Potters and the Weasleys, war heroes, on the same tree as people that would throw away their daughter. Parker had one brother, Draco, and two nephews. Nate would have to see the family in action to be sure, but that was probably their in. The family tree was color coded. Pavo was written in blue. Draco was written in red, as was both of their parents. The tree alternated between blue and red and Nate didn’t see an obvious pattern as to why. He would have to research the people involved to see if it was important information.