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Come Sunrise

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Harry and Ron took Yaxby through the visitor’s entrance, not knowing for sure if they were in his universe or not. If he weren’t, then they’d risk setting off the wards on any employee Floo or Apparition point. If he were, the visitors’ entrance would prove no trouble at all.

The bored security witch was scanning wands with her own, wearing a disinterested expression while barely looking up to see the visitors filling pass. She took Yaxby’s wand, scanned it, and nearly fell off her stool when an alarm blared loudly, and ghostly red bars appeared out of thin air, trapping Yaxby in a makeshift cage.

Ron frowned, and grabbed his stomach just a fraction of a second before he disappeared.

In an instant, he popped up again, along with a handful of his colleagues.

Tension ripped through the crowd; the aurors at the ready, wands out.

“No!” Harry shouted, hands outstretched in a plea for peace, “He’s with us! Ron and I!”

Ron rushed over to them, blocking Yaxby from another angle, “Yeah, he’s part of an investigation!”

The aurors relaxed slightly and eventually, one by one, put their wands back in their holsters. The last one to do so, a bloke named Tillheim if Harry remembered correctly, spoke up. “Yaxby’s been missing for years after stealing items belonging to the Ministry.”

“Yeah, well, that’s what we’re investigating,” Ron muddled through as if he’d already known that, though the announcement came as a surprise. “We were just bringing him in to interview him, and to hand over his wand until we get to the bottom of this.”

“Well, I can take his wand for you,” Another auror offered, walking over the witch and relieving her of Yaxby’s wand. He went over the red cage in which Yaxby was imprisoned. He interrogated him regarding his wand, while staying a safe distance away. After a few minutes, the auror, whom Harry didn’t recognize, placed Yaxby’s wand in his own holster, summoned cuffs around Yaxby’s wrists and ankles which glowed brightly before disappearing, and then brought down the angry red bars. With a curt nod to Harry and Ron, he strode back to his office.

Yaxby let out a deep sigh when the man was gone, then tested his restraints. They offered enough flexibility that he could walk, and keep his arms comfortably to his sides, but he’d fall flat on his face should he try to run. They walked in silence towards the lifts, and once they were inside, away from eavesdroppers, Harry turned to Yaxby.

“What did you steal?”

“Well,” Yaxby hesitated, “I’m not sure. I still don’t know if this is my world or not.”

“So in your world, at least, you did steal something.”

Yaxby nodded without much, if any, remorse.

“Right.” Harry sighed and rubbed his face. “And you don’t think that particular titbit would have been helpful before we walked in to an ambush?”

“I learned early on, in the first few months, that mentioning anything that might have happened in another universe was a one way pass to St. Mungo’s, Azkaban, or death. I don’t offer up past events until I’m sure they happened here.”

Ron crooked a brow at Harry, then shrugged. It seemed reasonable enough.

Harry prodded further. “What did you steal in your world?”

“The blasted artefact that’s been snapping me from universe to universe. I knew it was powerful. No one believed me.” Yaxby gave a sharp, humourless laugh, “I’ll bet they do now.”

The lifts doors opened to reveal the dark, poorly lit hall off of which the Unspeakables worked. Harry shuddered; there were too many memories here, and his breath hastened even as he focused heavily on trying to control it.  Ron, having worked in the Ministry far longer than Harry, had already overcome his demons here and walked with a confident, determine stride.

He turned with a fierce, dangerous look to Yaxby. “You’d better hope Malfoy can get Hermione back, or you’ll never see the light of day again.”

Yaxby looked appropriately chastened, but answered dismally, “If Malfoy can’t get Granger, then he certainly can’t help me. Either you get your wife back, or I’ll be gone come sunrise.”

Ron glanced up to Harry, and Harry saw the fear in his friend’s eyes. They stopped in front of an entrance marked as Malfoy’s office. He breathed deeply, once then twice, and knocked on the door.