The Sugar Quill
Author: BabyRuth  Story: And Then There Were Twelve  Chapter: Chapter 1 - Death and Discovery
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A/N:

And Then There Were Twelve

A/N: "Professor Trelawney... announced... that Harry was not going to suffer an early death after all, but would live to a ripe old age, become Minister of Magic, and have twelve children." (OotP, pp 582-583, US)

This story takes place on the way to fulfilling that prediction...

Chapter 1 -- Death and Discovery

Five Aurors and Apparated with loud cracks on the small cottage situated on one of the tiny Orkney Islands.  Stealth was not necessary and would have only delayed their mission.

They found the cottage in ruins: the roof had been destroyed and it wallss were crumbling. Loud roars and crashes of more destruction filled the air as a raging mountain troll demolished everything in its path.  The troll stood head and shoulders above what had once been the roofline of the small house.

"Fire!" yelled Harry Potter, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, to the four other officers.  At once five Stunning Spells hit the troll.  With one last roar the troll fell forward onto his face, knocking out the remains of the back wall of the cottage.  Dust and debris filled the air.  The hiss of running water from the ruptured plumbing was the only sound.

"Check for survivors," ordered Harry.  He wouldn't have been involved in this sort of field work ordinarily, but he had taken call this weekend so his assistant, Seamus Finnegan, could have a holiday.  It also didn't hurt that he liked to keep a hand in the field work once in a while.

"What the hell was a mountain troll doing here?" asked Meirs, one of Harry's best lieutenant Aurors.

"No idea.  Bind him up and transport him to the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures Department.  Tell Adams to run some diagnostics.  I want to know if the troll came here under his own power or not.  If not, I want to know whatever caused this event, and make sure that it won't spread."

"Will do," acknowledged Meirs.

Harry stepped over some rubble to join the rest of the team in the search for survivors.  The cottage was a total loss; not a brick or piece of thatch was left untouched.  Pieces of broken furniture and belongings were indistinguishable in the destruction.  Harry and his team went from room to room searching for anyone who may have been involved or victimized.

"Colonel Potter, there's a body here," shouted O'Neil from the rear of the cottage.

"And another here," shouted Smythe.  She was the youngest Auror on the team, only having finished training six months ago.  Although young and eager, she was willing and capable in any situation.

The two bodies were that of a young man and woman.  They were holding hands, the woman's with a gold wedding band.  Both skulls had been dented by the troll's club.  Blood was spattered among the debris, wetting the plaster dust and dotting the victims' clothing.  The man was clutching a broken wand.

"Colonel Potter, look here," said Smythe.  When Harry approached her, she pointed to a destroyed child's cot. 

"Oh, Merlin," breathed Harry.  He hated it when children were involved.  It always reminded him of his own ten, soon to be eleven, and what he would do if any one of them were hurt.

"Everyone, spread out and look for a child," he shouted, as he frantically started shifting rubble and broken boards, filled with dread but desperately hoping for a miracle.  The team joined him, taking great care to avoid causing more damage as they searched.

Several minutes later Harry uncovered a small trunk in the corner of the couple's bedroom.  He almost overlooked it, only expecting papers or household items.  But as he wondered what he would have done in the same situation to protect his child, he carefully opened the trunk. 

Curled up inside the trunk in a fetal position was a young child, about three or four years old.  Harry reckoned a Silencing Charm had been cast on the trunk because the child was screaming and he hadn't heard a thing with the lid closed.  He couldn't tell if it was a boy or a girl as his or her arms were curled over his or her head.  Carefully touching the child's shoulder, he ran his broad hand softly down the child's back.

The screaming stopped abruptly as the child looked up at Harry.  Tear-filled bright blue eyes stared into Harry's, who tried to keep his own gaze as gentle as possible.  A girl, Harry thought, heart aching with love for his own daughters.  She had  long, wispy blond  curles, disheveled and damp with tears, and was dressed in child's robes.  Seeing Harry she launched herself out of the trunk and latched her arms around his neck and her legs around his middle.  With a small "Oomph" Harry stood up and regained his balance.  The girl buried her head in the crook of his neck, her heart-wrenching sobs breaking his heart and her tears wetting his collar.

"Mummy!  Mummy!" she cried.  Harry jostled her slightly and stepped away from the area where the girl's parents lay.  The other team members, seeing Harry had a live rescue, resumed their extraction of the girl's parents and gathering the evidence needed to investigate the situation.

"Meirs, contact St. Mungo's. Have a pediatric Healer come to examine her.  Smythe, can you take her?" asked Harry, grateful for a woman on his team.  

Smythe approached her Head of Department and tried to prise the little girl's arms away from Harry's neck.  The girl screeched and clung tighter, choking him.

"No! No! No!" she screamed.

"Forget it," gasped Harry, moving further away from the debris and making little movements he used when any of his children were colicky or cranky, chivvying her to release her grip on his neck.  Making soothing noises and clucking softly, he wandered into the yard and sat on a large boulder, cradling the distraught youngster and rocking back and forth.  He started singing one of Ginny's made-up lullabies under his breath:

Lull-a-by sweet baby,
Night is slowly fading,
No monsters will dare to come in,
While Daddy holds his arms you in.

The nonsense song soothed the little girl and her sobs faded to exhausted chuffs against the side of his neck.  As he continued to rock and croon, Harry's thoughts churned.  Who had sent the troll?  They didn't inhabit any part of the Orkney Islands, nor the Shetlands.  What was the motive? Harry fervently wished Adams' examination would reveal a simple rogue troll and nothing more nefarious.  And what about the little girl?  She didn't appear injured but Harry couldn't get a good look at anything other than her back in this position, and she clearly was not inclined to move at the moment.  And where was that Healer? 

As Harry's thoughts continued to spin, Smythe approached him carrying several documents.  "We've identified the victims, sir," she said softly, not wanting to upset the girl.  "Heather and Brian McFadden.  Both just twenty-two years old.  Brian was a fisherman, Heather a homemaker.  This is Bridget Donohue McFadden.  According to what we found she just turned four.  Her parents were magical but poor, neither went to school beyond primary.  No relatives, each were only children, parents deceased."

Harry nodded.   No apparent family meant the Department of Orphaned Magical Children would have to be involved.  Smythe stuffed the documents in his pocket.

A tall witch in lime green robes approached and Harry held up a finger.  "Can you examine her without waking her up?  She's just now relaxed," he said quietly.

A sympathetic look crossed the witch's face.  "Of course I can, poor little ducky."  She waved her wand over the area of the child's back and muttered several spells.

"No physical injury, extreme emotional upset, of course.  No permanent damage unless she suffers more psychological trauma."

Harry sighed with relief. 

"Colonel Potter, may I give you some words of caution?  It looks like she's latched on to you right well.  If she does not willingly go to another adult, if you force her in any way to release you before she's ready, you may do more psychological damage."

"I'm sure the DOMC will be able to handle it," Harry said hopefully.

Giving him a skeptical look, the mediwitch Apparated with a soft pop.  Harry got to his feet, Bridget latched onto him like a tree frog, her grip still strong even in restless slumber.

"Smythe, tell Meirs he's in charge of the rest of the investigation and see to the bodies.  The Benevolent Fund should cover the funeral costs.  I'll take Bridget to the Ministry now.  Keep me posted if anything else comes up."

With that, Harry Apparated to the Ministry of Magic, Bridget still clinging to him like a leech.

 

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