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Dreams and Darkness Collide

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Chapter One:

"P-please…"

Albert Kinley whimpered fearfully on the ground.

His body stiffened and turned motionless, unable to move anything but his mouth and eyes. A pool of thick, ruby blood haloed around his blond hair, staining the silky strands a distorted pink. Albert breathed harshly through his nostrils, his eyes dancing fretfully back and forth as he watched the dark and lithe figure pace back and forth. The man moved with such grace, power, and confidence.

It was a far cry from what Albert normally observed from the man during the day: the awkward twitch, the uneven steps, and the poor posture.

"Please!" he screamed hoarsely.

The dark figure crouched before him, his vibrant green eyes so very unnatural. They were usually hidden behind thick frames, but tonight, this man... this entity... seemed like a whole new identity.

"What are you begging for?" A lazy smile played across the young man's sculptured lips. "It sounds beautiful, dear Albert, but it's falling on deaf ears. You will get no mercy from me."

Albert gave a thick cry of disagreement as the sharp blade twirled expertly in his captor's fingers, the tip dancing so close to his vulnerable skin. The boy was taunting him, trying to strike fear in him.

And it worked.

"Why?" Albert asked breathlessly.

His naked body shuddered against the freezing temperature of the room, but that was the least of his worries. A searing and burning wound bled across his neck. The metallic smell of blood was overwhelming, but he knew that wasn't all he would need to endure.

"Why?" the boy mockingly repeated. A single black eyebrow arched highly. "I love when they ask that."

Albert swallowed painfully, desperate for anyone to hear him. Just upstairs, his wife and three young children slept. Surely his screams could reach them? Though, judging from the self-assured smirk on the boy's face, he speculated his hopes were for naught.

Through wide and disbelieving eyes, Albert watched as the boy leaned away, arching down toward Albert's lower regions. A gloved hand pressed against his belly and slowly slid down to his private area. The fingers raked through his pubic hair before settling against his groin.

Albert squeezed his eyes shut, fear and humility burning his stomach and chest.

And then... rather abruptly... his emotions took a sharp turn. For the worse. It was out of his control, he couldn't… he couldn't understand! Instead of fear, he felt an overwhelming sense of lust. Albert groaned in horror as his cock hardened almost painfully and most certainly unnaturally.

"Why?" the boy repeated again. "It's because you lot make me ill. Really, I taste you. I see you. I can feel what you're feeling…" his captor cast a disgusted look at Albert. "I can feel how tainted and greasy your soul really is."

Albert rolled his eyes upward as the tip of the knife traced the underbelly of his erection. "Oh god, please no."

"Oh god, yes." The boy smiled thinly. "I think it's only fair." Suddenly, the teasing and playful expression on his captive's face vanished, leaving only a dark and dangerous gleam in its place. "Those two little girls…" the boy trailed off. "What were their names again? Erica and Sandra. A pair of innocent seven-year-olds you thought appropriate enough to fuck until they bled senseless. Your filthy DNA should have been proof enough to convict you, but you lot... you powerful politicians always have an inside man, don't you?"

"No, no," Albert denied. "I never touched those girls!"

"Lies!"

The tip of the knife dug into his erection, drawing a piercing scream from the unfortunate man. "Ok! Ok!'" Albert cried, still somehow feeling the powerful lust despite the obvious pain and horror. It was unnatural. As if the boy could somehow…

"I did it! I did it! Please, stop. Please. I couldn't control myself! What I did was wrong, I know."

Green eyes slowly slid from Albert's erection to his face. For a moment, the boy's impassive expression gave Albert a flicker of hope. "If you truly felt remorse, I would be able to feel it. Just as I felt how scarred and torn those girls were after your treatment. They will never be the same. Ever. And neither will you." A spark of insanity entered the clear, green eyes. "I will enjoy this immensely."

The blade raised and Albert saw his sunken and pale face staring back at him through the bloody reflection.

"Please… Harry! Please, no!"

The blade lowered aggressively.

. . Dreams . .

"…reinforces our theory that Custos is a man."

Kingsley glanced away from the Auror Investigator when the Minister of Magic entered the room. The Head Auror motioned the man over; mindful to keep his expression impassive when the victim's family peeked inside the open doorway.

As soon as the door closed, however, his face clouded darkly.

"Is it him?" the Minister inquired, walking around the naked body of Albert Kinley.

The older wizard had an air of importance and grace as his dark eyes assessed the mutilated body. In particular, his eyes strayed near the dismembered manhood. All the men in the room winced, their groins throbbing in pity.

"Him?" Kinsley growled in question. "You mean Custos? Yes. Who else would it be?"

The Minister offered him a withering look before he continued to assess the Unspeakables as they collected samples of fibers and blood, anything they could get their hands on. Their wands moved near the body, alerting them to any blood or fluid that had been previously wiped clean. Aside from Kinley's blood, they were coming up empty-handed.

As they always had.

Custos was the name the press gave Britain's recent serial killer. It translated to 'protector' or 'keeper' in English. Both a fitting and glorified name for a killer who sought his victims based on past crimes they committed. All of Custos' victims were tried or accused of a crime, but never prosecuted. Some would say Custos was a hero, perhaps, for ridding society of scum that were never punished for the crime they committed.

But Kingsley disagreed wholeheartedly.

Custos was no better than the victims he killed. And he hated that damn name. As much as Kingsley wanted to change it to something more neutral, the press had gotten hold of the story and twisted it into something of fictional bullshit. This publicity and fame was most likely going to their killer's head.

"Britain hasn't seen a serial killer in decades. The closest was Grindelwald," Sirius Black murmured to the quiet room. "Most importantly, killings like this are extremely rare in the Wizarding World. It's ruthless, bloody, and almost Muggle. Custos doesn't use magic in his killings." The Auror walked around the body. "While it is a long process, there are ways to track magical signatures. Muggle means are also traceable, but not from the bare clues he's leaving behind."

"Which means Custos is intelligent," the Minister murmured in consideration. "From the look of things, he was watching our friend here for a long while."

The group of Auror Investigators turned their attention on Minister Riddle, a man of power, influence, and charm.

Riddle must have been in his mid-seventies, yet his age did not distract from the sharp aristocratic planes on his face. His hair was parted to the side in a short cut with many strands of silver staining the once midnight black. Usually Kingsley saw a strict mask of impassiveness, if not handsome boredom.

But today, those brown eyes were bright behind his glasses.

"Albert Kinley's accusation of double rape was cleared five weeks ago. With it, the media stopped reporting and the public turned their attention elsewhere. Which means our boy is patient. He waits until his prey has relaxed before striking." Riddle crouched next to the prone figure of Albert Kinley, seemingly not bothered by the corpse. But by now, they were all accustomed.

"His past victims were also convicted and released of charges weeks, if not months before their deaths."

Eight deaths so far. The first two were sloppy, and yet, there hadn't been any evidence, any use of magic at the crime scenes. Custos arrived on the scene five months ago and the Ministry had yet to identify their serial killer.

"But," Riddle continued, "His confidence is reaching its prime. Not only due to the cleanliness of the crime scenes, but the amount of killings. The time between each victim is becoming less and less."

"Which means we have to catch this bastard before he gets the chance to fine-tune his skill," Wilkinson barked. "His motives may be enchanting to the public, but he strives for attention. Soon, he will run out of criminals to kill and he'll be turning to innocents to satisfy his lust."

It was a good theory, Kingsley thought, and yet, his attention was on the Minister's doubtful expression.

"Do you have another theory, Minister?"

When Tom Riddle became Minister four years ago, it had taken the Ministry employees a long while to swallow Riddle's aggressive involvement. Unlike Fudge, Riddle took an active part in running the Ministry. It wasn't surprising to find Riddle jumping between the Departments and working alongside the employees for a short while. The man's sharp intelligence and wide range of abilities made it possible for Riddle to offer useful aid to any of the Departments. With time, it didn't take long for the politicians and employees at the Ministry to admire Riddle.

Of course, many also admired Riddle before he became Minister. Almost sickeningly so. The man had been a respected Professor at Hogwarts before dabbling with politics.

Though, some wizards found it hard to accept an outsider in their Department, even if it was the Minister.

For example, there were investigators in the Auror division that wanted to prove themselves worthy of a promotion in the ranks. But when Riddle constantly intervened, it made it nearly impossible to voice their opinions on the subject. Kingsley wanted to give his men a chance, but when it came to their current serial killer, he needed all the useful input he could obtain.

The man was a control freak and he held his Ministry and the people within it possessively. He seemed to know everyone's name and interests and he used that to his advantage. To have someone like Custos directly challenging Riddle and his Ministry probably gave the Minister a drive to be just as involved in this case as the Aurors.

Kingsley knew one thing. He would move hell and earth just to be with Riddle when they confronted Custos.

"Though the theory is sound, I disagree with Auror Wilkinson." Riddle bowed his head, peering closer at the corpse's face. "This is not for attention. This is no game to the man. If it were a game, he would be leaving us clues and playing with his victims. An attacker could stab his victim countless of times before they die, unless they knew the human anatomy well. Custos was able to kill his victim by a direct stab to his chest, killing the man instantly."

"And what of the cock?" one Auror exclaimed sharply. "And the neck? It looks like he's bloody playing to me!"

Riddle offered the man a cool stare, only continuing when the younger Auror glanced away. "Black," Riddle addressed the Auror nearby. "You agree our killer is male, correct?"

"Yes, sir," Black nodded sharply. "Judging from the number of bruises on Kinley's body, I'd say it would be a larger male we're looking at. Probably larger than Kinely himself. Six feet five inches? Two hundred and twenty pounds, possibly."

"It does seem possible." Riddle's grin suggested he was simply humoring Black. "Though, I'd wager that we have a very lithe, if not thin, male. Perhaps average height." His brown eyes swept across Black's face. "There are physical combatting arts, are there not? Just because one may be female or a small male doesn't mean they have a handicap."

One of the three female Aurors placed her hands on her hips, eyeing Sirius Black unhappily.

Riddle offered a small smile. "Considering our killer uses physical and medical as means as sedating, I would guess we have a wizard who is strongly related to the Muggle world. Or, perhaps, we have an individual linked to authority."

"Authority?" a sandy blond questioned hesitantly.

"Look at the bruise pattern on the arms," Wilkinson spoke for Riddle, motioning toward the arms. "It resembles a technique the Aurors teach their recruits and students when they go through training camp."

Silence stretched across the room at the possibility of the killer being one of their own. Kingsley clenched his fists briefly. Wilkinson was correct. The bruises were precise and so unique of a pattern that it had to be the offensive combating techniques they taught their Aurors.

"The bruises are small, meaning our male does not have an impressive stature. Perhaps aristocratic," Riddle spoke airily, if bored. "I'm certain he was wearing gloves?"

The Unspeakable waving her wand over the bruises gave an affirmative as she studied the results. "Leather gloves."

Riddle stood from his crouched position and smiled darkly. "Our killer's lithe stature could also explain the cut around the throat. This is usually used from behind to control their victims." Brown eyes danced toward the young Auror who had interrupted earlier. "That would explain the neck wound. As for the cock dismemberment, it is a direct relation to Kinley's alleged rape. Our killer is serving his brand of justice. He does not play."

"He enjoys it!" Wilkinson growled.

Riddle gave a cold, lipless smile. "Yes, I'm certain he does enjoy it. But he will not kill anyone he deems 'innocent'."

"We're looking for an average male, most likely Caucasian," Black spoke into his wand, recording any necessary notes and reminders. "Connected to the Auror training camps and physical combat. He's precise, intelligent, confident, most likely a narcissist… which means he was probably in Slytherin…" the man muttered quietly, ignoring the exasperated looks from his team members.

"Dominant," Riddle mused, a ghost of a smile across his face.

Kingsley became instantly suspicious at the Minister's obvious enthusiasm.

"We are dealing with an Alpha male who goes against the norms and challenges authority. He sees himself as the only one who can take justice into his own hands. To be the hero to those who can't take revenge. He's working alone. I also wager that he's either connected to the Aurors or in a position of power during the day, either a lawyer or a doctor. He needs to be neat and orderly."

"Yes. Yes. But can we all address the elephant in the room?" Black questioned after recording the necessary notes.

The Aurors and Unspeakables paused in what they were doing, looking at the corpse's face.

"How the hell do all his victims die with smiles on their faces? As if they love the killing? There are no pain medications in the victims' system. They feel everything. So why are their faces so relaxed when their death was obviously painful?"

Kingsley kept a piercing eye on Riddle as the man placed a fist to his mouth in contemplation.

"He could manipulate their faces post-mortem…" someone suggested.

It was a sound explanation, but Kingsley was quick enough to spy Riddle's doubt.

. . Darkness . .

Harry ran a hand threw his disorderly hair, trying to wipe off the spilt coffee on his shirt with his opposite hand, all the while, clutching a cup of coffee. The passengers in the lift gave him a distasteful look as a few dribbles of hot coffee dropped on the lift floor. He scrambled to make the coffee level, meanwhile, flashing a bashful grin toward the watchful occupants.

"So sorry," he mumbled, watching as one woman brushed off her coffee-stained high heels with a handkerchief.

She breathed heavily before offering him a strained smile. "Perhaps you should put a Levitating Charm on the coffee next time. Or a spell to prevent spills. You area wizard, dear, are you not?" As soon as the lift came to a halt, she pushed passed him and hurried down the corridor.

Always in a hurry.

Harry moved awkwardly to the side of the corridor, keeping his head down as the others passed him. He twisted the top of the coffee cup and watched the group beneath unruly bangs. They were such sheep. The lot of them. It was always so painfully obvious during Monday mornings at the Ministry, especially after a long weekend.

He couldn't necessarily fault them. They were, for the most part, innocent. But their innocence also bordered the line of complete stupidity and a voluntary sense of naivety. How could they not see that the world they lived in was corrupt? Politicians ruled the world and got away with crimes that no man should ever commit.

Harry carefully raked his fingernails through his hair once more, intensely ruffling it to the point of torture. These people saw what they wanted. Harry clenched his jaw and breathed angrily through his nostrils as his fingers tightened on the cup of coffee.

"Fools," he muttered angrily to himself.

He rolled his neck upward, a nervous twitch to his upper lip as his fingers trembled. Now was most definitely not the time for breakdowns.

Since his parent's death, and his own near-death experience, he was prone to breakdowns. The incident happened two years ago, yet it relentlessly haunted him. He was only twenty-one-years-old, yet he was weary and exhausted. He had nightmares, compulsive disorders, and a secret so dark, even he was disgusted at times.

However, despite that disgust, he would never regret it. He couldn't. It was what kept him sane in this mundane and corrupt world. After his parents' brutal murder, and after their murderer walked free, Harry's whole persona changed dramatically.

And not for the best.

No! Now wasn't the time to think of the past or his demons. That was reserved for weekends. His weekends.

Just as Harry tightened the coffee lid, someone bumped into his shoulder, sending the cup flying. Vibrant green eyes narrowed into slits as he watched the coffee splash and splatter across the corridor. He snapped his neck around, staring dully at the man who had pushed into him. His sharp stare met with equally, if not more, piercing eyes.

Harry blinked, his face melting into his practiced awkwardness.

"So sorry, my boy," the Minister apologized. Riddle raised his chin and looked down his nose at the defeated Harry. "Mr. Potter, isn't it?"

Harry lowered his chin in submission, though, his whole body protested. It was for appearances, for protection. He had to keep reminding himself of that. Someday, someday he would be comfortable enough with himself to show the true side of his personality. It was still too early, still too new for him.

"Yes, Minister."

He could count on one hand how many times he encountered Riddle. It was always just in passing and the man never noticed or spoke to him. But everyone knew the Minister. Harry couldn't overlook the man, no matter how irritatingly good the man was at sprinkling sugary-sweet praise to everyone in his path.

Politians were hideous.

Riddle grunted. "I apologize. I'm in a hurry; otherwise, I would purchase you a new cup of coffee. Perhaps another time?" The offer for future interaction was hopeful, yet the underlying fib did little to enforce the genuine nature.

Unfazed and uninterested, Harry looked beyond Riddle's shoulder, catching sight of Sirius with a group of his fellow Aurors. When Sirius noticed Harry, the older man perked up and swam through the crowd to reach him. Good. A necessary and welcome distraction. Harry wasn't too fond of Riddle, especially when the man tasted so unfamiliar to him.

In fact, the whole corridor, which slowly began to crowd with Aurors, had a dark taste to it.

Somber.

Harry knew exactly what caused the solemnity. His born empath abilities permitted him to feel others' emotions and to manipulate them. Presently, the group of Aurors were disturbed over their recent find. On the opposite spectrum, Riddle's emotions remained elusive. It was if a solid wall erected between them, blocking any emotions coming from the other man.

It must have been Occlumency. Either that, or Riddle just didn't have emotions. Whatever it was, it calmed Harry but also unnerved him. He had never met someone he couldn't read before with the exception of his old Headmaster.

Ah,Dumbledore. That man had been the highlight of Harry's education at Hogwarts.

"Harry!" Sirius reached out a hand and placed it on his shoulder. "It's good to see you. You're right on time, every Monday morning with my cup of java." The man's smile dimmed as he noticed the split coffee and the presence of Riddle standing before him. "Minister Riddle, you know Harry, my godson."

Harry spied Riddle from beneath his lashes, observing the man as he observed him back.

Riddle blinked, turning to look at Sirius, effectively breaking eye contact with Harry. "Of course," the politician responded, as if insulted. He was, after all, known for his uncanny ability to identify almost every single employee within the Ministry. "I believe he works in the Department of Magical Games and Sports, am I correct?"

"You're correct," Sirius responded for Harry. His chest suddenly puffed out with pride. "He used to be a Seeker for the English National Quidditch team. They took him right after he graduated."

Oh Merlin.Was Sirius really acting the proud father? Harry smirked lightly, keeping his head down. It suited Sirius. His godfather didn't have any children himself and quickly stepped in as Harry's protective guardian when James and Lily passed away. Harry had no qualms about Sirius' involvement. It did not hinder him.

"Indeed," Riddle responded, bored underneath his false sense of interest. "That is impressive. Though, I'm afraid I must get going, you as well, Mr. Black. It was nice meeting you finally, Mr. Potter."

Harry weakly shook the offered hand, wanting more than anything to crush the man's hand.

As the man swept down the corridor, Harry watched him go, noticing the man didn't look back. It was a bit disappointing, actually. Tom Riddle was supposed to be beyond brilliant. But he was just like the rest of them. He only saw what he wanted. Harry Potter, godson of Sirius Black, was an awkward and antisocial young wizard, not Riddle's ideal serial killer.

"He's on the case now?" Harry inquired, watching Riddle enter the Auror offices.

Sirius' face darkened. "Bastard," he muttered quietly. "He always pokes his nose in the Departments. Of course he took an interest in our Department at a time like this. He'll take away the limelight where it's due and shower himself with it. "

"Is that so?" Harry mused. "He hasn't worked in my Department."

Sirius chuckled pressing his hand against Harry's head. "Be lucky. The man takes over everything. He's a bloody prude, that's what he is…"

The man continued badmouthing the Minister, oblivious as Harry directed his intensity in the direction of Riddle. The young Potter observed the Minister through the glass windows. Harry could easily see the dominance in the man's stance and the sheer arrogance. While Riddle liked to parade his humility around the Ministry, Harry could clearly see the real man beneath.

There was something about the man that Harry couldn't identify.

It was obvious that Riddle thought pretty highly of himself. He liked to interact with those considered beneathhim, but Harry knew he could barely tolerate their presence. Just now, Harry knew it took a great deal of restrain on Riddle's behalf to interact with Harry. If Riddle didn't have a reputation to uphold, Harry was certain the man wouldn't have even stopped to apologize after bumping into him.

Suddenly, Riddle looked up, meeting Harry's eyes through the glass. For the first time in ages, Harry turned cold. Was it possible Harry could be found out? Would Tom Riddle be the man who would find a way to prove Harry's guilt?

No.

No one was that good with the exception of Harry himself.

Riddle walked over to the windows, drawing Harry's close attention. The Minister motioned Sirius inside before slamming the blinds closed, dismissing Harry's attentiveness. The younger wizard stood there stiffly, insulted. His anger bubbled to the surface at the man's overwhelming arrogance. It clashed horribly with Harry's pride.

"He seems rather fond of you, though," Harry spoke with barely suppressed anger.

His hands clenched at his sides as he considered Riddle. Was this man truly a threat?

He wouldn't know until things unraveled further, but he did know one thing. Harry would have to watch the man closely and Sirius. He wouldn't stand in the face of Riddle's manipulations as the Minister twisted Sirius. Sirius was hisgodfather, not Riddle's puppet. Riddle could be possessive when it came to his Ministry and the workers within it, but Harry was just as territorial.

"Who wouldn't be interested in me?" Sirius pondered aloud, a thoughtful look to his face before he broke down in hearty barks of laughter.

It took Harry a moment to realize it was his cue to grin. He was absorbed in Riddle, and the possible threat the man carried, that his reactions were sluggish. Sirius quieted when he saw through Harry's clumsy recovery. A heavy hand thumped him on the back, cupping the back of his neck.

"Are you alright, Harry?" Sirius asked quietly.

Harry easily recovered, smiling grimly at his godfather. He held true affection for Sirius, something he rarely felt nowadays since the attack. "Yeah, just a bit disorientated, I suppose." He glanced down at the spilt coffee. "Sorry about the coffee."

"No problem, kid," Sirius squeezed his neck once more before waving his wand and cleaning up the mess. "Are we on for lunch today?"

"Of course," Harry agreed, grinning. "That is, if you can get away. I'll assume if I don't see you that you were held prisoner by Riddle."

Sirius winked as he made his way toward the Auror offices. Harry watched him go, his smile slowly darkening into a frown. Despite his cautiousness, Harry was a bit thrilled with the challenge of covering his tracks with a whole team of Aurors after him. It wasn't any different from the past few months, but now Riddle had taken a special interest in the case.

In him.

Harry looked forward to throwing Riddle off his game and making the man look like a fool in front of the whole Ministry.

. . Collide . .

Kingsley slowly advanced forward, stalking the man sitting at the table with piles of files and scrolls surrounding him. If Kingsley hadn't monitored the Minister throughout the day, he would have been oblivious to the man's current location. How odd that the man was taking such an interest in the Custos case that he buried himself down in the Records Department.

"Find anything useful?" Kingsley asked in his deep, baritone voice.

Riddle jumped lightly, a predictable reaction, casting a startled look at Kingsley from over his shoulder. "Auror Shacklebolt," he breathed, relieved. "I was unaware you were taking an interest in following me around the Ministry." The smile the Minister wore possessed a certain tension.

Kingsley cleared his throat and stepped into the small room, shutting the door behind him. From years of practice and skill, Kingsley kept his approach to the Minister as quiet and cautious as possible. His hand brushed his wand holster out of habit as he came to a stop near Riddle's chair. His dark eyes cast a glance around the files before settling on the Minister's expected face.

"I need to know if we're on the same side," Kingsley murmured quietly.

Riddle raised a finely shaped eyebrow. "Regarding?"

"Custos," Kingsley stressed.

The Minister frowned. "I… forgive me, Auror Shacklebolt, but I can't seem to remember a time when I gave you the impression that I was in alliance with a serial killer."

Riddle's tone made Kingsley feel foolish for even asking, but he also knew it was a political tactic used to pacify and control conversation. Kingsley placed a hand on the desk before leaning his back against it. "Then you must forgive me, Minister Riddle, for my bold question." He looked down at Riddle's relaxed hands on top of the desk. "But you seemed to take a rather strong interest toward Custos this morning. And you seem to dedicate your time looking through old court files when you haven't spoken about this lead to any of my men."

"Excuse an old man's interest, Kingsley," Riddle smiled thinly. "I regret feeling this intrigued by someone so brutal and cruel, but you must understand that I take this personally. It's been five months and you and your team have yet to come up with anything."

It was an insult underneath an airy confession. Kingsley adjusted his stance to a more defensive posture.

"As far as the court files, it was a sudden strike of intuition. I didn't want to share my suspicions if they proved wrong." Riddle took off his spectacles and rubbed a handkerchief across the lenses. "Perhaps I'm a bit paranoid, Auror Shacklebolt, but is there another reason behind your earlier accusations?"

"Accusations? It was not meant to be an accusation, Minister." He locked gazes with equally dark eyes and found himself confessing. "There have been rumors of a secret group composed of skilled and dangerous individuals that work for our Ministry. While I don't disagree to such an elite team, I do disagree if the participants involve certain serial killers. Custos warrants a punishment he rightfully deserves."

Riddle stared at him hard and cold before he broke out into a wide smile. Chuckles escaped past the man's teeth as he nodded pleasantly at Kingsley. "It's always amusing to hear what the employees conjure up as rumors, Kingsley. I can reassure you there is no 'elite team' under my control." Riddle chuckled once again. "I have Aurors and Unspeakables to do that work. Besides, political negotiations are always the correct step in ruling a country, don't you agree?"

"Yes, yes of course."

Kingsley pushed off from the desk, rubbing the back of his head in quiet shame. It had been just a rumor, he knew, but he had to confirm it himself. He coughed politely in his fist and motioned toward the case files in front of Riddle.

"Have you found anything useful?" he inquired in a lighter tone.

Riddle surveyed his bowed head before shuffling through some papers. "Actually, I did come across something rather intriguing. Before the charges were dropped, all of Custos' victims were brought to trial or accused of crimes." Riddle placed his glasses back on his nose and tapped the cover of a closed file. "Out of all eight victims, the ones who made it to trial had something in common."

Kingsley straightened, his eyes widening a fraction. "Yes?"

"They had different lawyers defending them and their cases, but the lawyer for the plaintiffs was consistent for eighty percent of our victims."

"Who?" Kinsley demanded sharply, unable to believe they had their first lead.

It would make sense. The prosecutor who represented the plaintiffs would have been tittered to lose the case for their clients. They would be insulted to know a rapist or murderer walked free, thus, they would seek their revenge by killing. And Riddle also said Custos likely held a position of power during the day. A lawyer had a great deal of power.

Riddle stood up.

"Hermione Granger."