|SIYE Time:21:58 on 20th January 2018|
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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Nymphadora Tonks
Warnings: Death, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Summary: After four years working overseas for the shadowy Department M, a world-weary and dispirited Harry Potter returns to the land of his birth. He meets some old friends and makes some new ones, as he learns that much has changed since he left home. AU, a ‘Harry never went to Hogwarts’ story.
Hitcount: Story Total: 45057; Chapter Total: 3333
Awards: View Trophy Room
Just a couple of things to say ahead of this chapter. Having now had the benefit of having Arnel, my wonderful American beta, look over part of this story, I’m starting to realise just how totally British this actually is. As previously noted, I based this partially on classic British 70’s cop shows, so it is full of slang and terminology that would be at home in an episode of ‘The Sweeney’, for instance. Add in all the London locations and this whole thing is as British as baked beans.
The cop show thing also explains some of Harry’s actions in this chapter. A British 70’s TV cop was more likely to give a suspect a bit of a slapping rather than indulging in any responsible community policing. Hey, at least he isn’t shoving a 44 Magnum into people’s faces and asking them if they feel lucky.
Huge thanks as always to Arnel, who I suspect is regretting asking me what Tonks meant when she referred to Harry’s wedding tackle.
Chapter 4 — On the Streets
Harry took a long pull from his bottle of Sprite before screwing the cap back on. He glanced out of the window of Dora’s VW Golf and watched a group of tourists arguing over a small map, clearly lost. He grinned smugly at their confusion.
“Bet this isn’t what you’re used to, is it?” Dora asked, before popping another cheese and onion flavoured crisp into her mouth.
“I’m certainly not use to eating so much crap while out on a job,” he admitted. “I think I’ve gained five pounds just this morning.”
“Rule number one, Harry; eat whenever you have the opportunity. You never know when you might get stuck on a surveillance task and not have the chance,” she lectured.
“It’s lucky a rank amateur like me has you to provide these little pearls of wisdom,” he grumbled.
“I’m glad you agree,” she smirked. “Seriously, though, I imagine that the stuff you got up to was very different from the kind of operations that the section are involved in.”
“You know I can’t talk about that stuff,” Harry replied dismissively. It was true; he’d give an Unbreakable Vow before leaving Department M not to reveal any of its secrets.
He had to admit that his first day in his new job was quite unlike anything he’d previously done. They’d spent the morning driving around London, going as far south as Catford and north as Muswell Hill. Rather than the hair-raising, break-neck speeds that Dora had employed yesterday, today she’d driven in a more leisurely manner, her eyes scanning the pavements for familiar faces. Twice they’d stopped and talked with some of her contacts. One had been a friendly shopkeeper with whom they’d happily chatted for a half-an-hour; the other was a Metropolitan Policeman whom Dora had spotted while out on his beat. He’d seemed embarrassed to be seen talking to them and had rather curtly stated that he had no new information for them before walking off. It was most definitely not the way Harry was used to working.
“Yeah, I know you can’t discuss specifics,” Dora agreed, “but I imagine that your work was a lot more cloak and dagger than this. Part of our role is to be an active deterrent so we need to be seen. You must have spent a long time in the shadows, conducting covert surveillance and that kind of thing.”
“It could be quite brutal at times, too,” Harry virtually whispered.
He felt Dora’s comforting hand on his arm. “Dedalus said you’d had a rough time of it,” she said sympathetically. “I know you can’t go into specifics, but if there’s anything you want to talk about, I’m here for you.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” he replied simply. “The Department’s methods were straightforward and without mercy. Most people we took down undoubtedly deserved their fate, I just didn’t like the way that due process of law seemed to be ignored. Sometimes I felt more like a paid assassin than a government agent.”
“How do you… oh, bugger. We’ll have to continue this conversation later. I’ve just seen one of my missing contacts walk by,” Dora explained, opening the driver’s door and stepping out of the car. “There he goes, just walking into the side-alley past the coffee shop. Five-nine, blonde hair, and dressed in jeans and a checked shirt. Goes by the name of Sudsy, and he runs a Laundromat that’s a front for handling stolen goods. He’d not a pleasant bloke and tends to carry a knife, so watch him.”
“I see him,” Harry confirmed, leaping out of the car. The Golf was illegally parked on a busy street in Covent Garden, but the Muggle-Repelling Charm meant that Dora was never troubled by parking tickets.
“He’s got a garage that he uses as a lock-up down that alley,” Dora advised as they ran across the busy road. “If you run up to the next street and turn right, you’ll find the access road to the alley. If you go down that, we’ll have him cornered. I’ll cast an Anti-Apparation Jinx as soon as I get close to him, and you stop him running.”
“Got it,” Harry agreed. “How do you want to play it when we catch him? Good cop/bad cop?”
“Can do,” she grinned. “You up for a display of macho masculinity?”
“Aren’t I always?” he teased and headed up the street at a leisurely jog so as not to alarm the pedestrians crowding the pavement. At the corner he turned right and carried on for about twenty yards, before he found the narrow access road into the alley. He started down it, surreptitiously drawing his wand. He hadn’t gone far when he saw Dora approaching from the opposite direction. She pointed to a small garage block that had its door open. He nodded, and flattened himself against a wall.
“Hey, Sudsy, you in there?” Dora called.
Silence greeted Tonks’s call, but Harry imagined that the man was currently cursing as he discovered that he couldn’t Disapparate. He watched the entrance to the garage like a hawk.
Suddenly, without any warning, the man sprinted out of the garage at a tremendous speed, heading in Harry’s direction. Not bothering with his wand, Harry just shoulder charged him and sent the man sprawling to the ground.
“Hiya, Sudsy,” Dora said conversationally as she walked over. “Long time no see.”
“Sod off, bitch,” the man growled as he climbed to his feet.
Harry moved like lightning. He grabbed Sudsy by the collar and threw him hard into the alley wall. As the man cried out in pain, Harry balled his fist and punched him hard in the stomach. Sudsy collapsed to the floor, clutching his midriff and moaning.
“Speak nicely to the lady,” Harry snarled at the man.
“Oh, you should meet my new partner Harry,” Dora told Sudsy as he rolled on the ground. “As you see, he does have a bit of a temper. Naughty boy, Harry! I’m sure Sudsy wasn’t really trying to run away from us.”
“He’ll be trying to run with two broken legs if he talks to you like that again,” Harry replied, looking down at the now cowering man.
“Bloody hell, take it easy, would ya,” Sudsy complained.
“You’ve been avoiding me, Sudsy,” Dora said in a disapproving voice. “Why did you try to run?”
“Cos I ain’t got nothing to tell you, and you always get on my case,” he muttered.
“Bollocks; there’s been plenty of times where you’ve not had any fresh info for me and I’ve never given you a hard time about it. You’re hiding something, aren’t you?” Dora demanded.
“No, nothing!” Sudsy insisted.
By now, Harry had grown tired of the man. Deciding to cut to the chase, he grabbed Sudsy by the shirt and hauled him to his feet. He then pushed him against the wall and looked directly into his eyes. Sudsy evidently realised that Harry must be trying to perform Legilimency on him, and quickly closed his eyes.
“Open your eyes, Sudsy, or Harry here might just decide to beat the information out of you instead,” Dora said firmly.
Reluctantly, the man opened his eyes and Harry stared at him intently. After a few moments, he let go of Sudsy’s shirt and pushed him away.
“He’s afraid,” Harry announced. “There’s a new player in town who’s been throwing their weight around, apparently. One of Sudsy’s mates got beaten within an inch of his life recently, and he’s afraid the same will happen to him if he starts taking to law enforcement.”
“These guys are bad news,” Sudsy whined. “You know Frank Harbottle, don’t you, Tonks? You know he’s a real hard bastard and not to be messed with? Well, these geezers put him in St Mungo’s without a second thought. He’s gonna be laid up for weeks!”
“Why? What did they want?” Harry demanded.
“Something stupid,” Sudsy shrugged. “The deeds to this bakery shop that Frank had just taken over. You know Frank does a bit of debt collecting and repossession work? Well, this place was one of those jobs, but these blokes seemed to want the shop really bad. It’s weird; Frank has property all over London, some nice places, too, but they were only interested in this bakery. I reckon they were just sending a message. They just wanted everyone to know that they could take whatever they want.”
“Who are they?” Dora asked.
“Dunno. Frank says that he never saw their faces and that they were wearing masks. Apparently this mob have been throwing their weight around south of the river, too,” Sudsy explained.
“Are the premises they’re hitting Muggle or wizard run?” Harry asked.
“A bit of both,” Sudsy replied. “I mean, these geezers are definitely wizards. They disarmed Frank before he could blink. They're powerful, too, far more powerful than your average crook. Frank was in a Snatcher gang during the war, and he said this lot reminded him of some of the senior Death Eaters he ran into. I mean, I don’t think this lot are ex-Death Eaters, they know too much about the Muggle world to be that, but they give off that sort of vibe.”
“Okay, Sudsy, that will do for now,” Dora decided. “You can go, but if you hear anything about this mob you come and find me immediately, got it? Harry hates people who keep secrets, and you don’t want him to come looking for you, do you?”
To emphasise the threat, Harry withdrew his wand and tapped the cringing man on the nose with it. “You hear that, Sudsy?” he warned. “You start keeping things from us and you’ll regret it.”
“Harry’s been working in Europe for the last few years, taking down wizards that would make you crap your skivvies at the mere sight of them,” Dora smirked. “Trust me; you don’t want him mad at you.”
“Yeah, alright,” Sudsy agreed sullenly.
“Good, now piss off,” Harry snapped. Sudsy quickly walked back to his garage, pulled the door closed, and hurriedly made his way back down the alley. Once he’d gone, Harry turned to his partner.
“So, what do you think?” he asked her.
“It’s probably outside of our remit,” she ventured. “Still, if this lot have taken down big Frank Harbottle so easily, they might need to be watched. I think we’d better lodge a report with the DMLE and let them investigate, but we’ll keep our ears to the ground, too.”
“Yeah, that bit about them acting like Death Eaters worried me,” Harry admitted. “I got the impression that Sudsy bloke is used to hanging around with some real nasty bastards, but this lot had him scared shitless.”
“I thought things were too quiet around here,” Dora sighed.
“Where to next, then?” Harry asked, as they started to walk back to the car.
“I think we’ll head back south, perhaps to Brixton, and see what’s happening. Suddenly, I’ve got a bad feeling,” she said.
Harry could only agree. Something bad was going to happen, he could feel it.
Th e rest of the day brought no new information about the mysterious gang that seemed to be trying to muscle into the magical underworld of London. After combing the streets for several more hours, they returned to the Ministry building and filed their report. Dedalus had been in the office when they arrived and had been extremely interested to hear what they had learnt. He confirmed that there had been no other reports of the gang’s activities and that the information should be passed to the main DMLE office immediately.
After compiling their report, Harry and Dora headed over to the main DMLE office. They entered and headed over to the main reception desk where a rather matronly witch with greying hair sat reading a long piece of parchment. She looked up as they approached.
“Tonks, my dear,” the woman greeted her fondly. “How are you? I haven’t seen you about for weeks.”
“Hiya, Galatea,” Tonks replied, smiling warmly at the witch. “They’re keeping me busy down the hall, so I don’t get much time to visit anymore.”
“I’ve missed having you around,” Galatea complained. “The Auror’s office is so much duller without you to brighten everyone’s day.”
“That’s me; a right little beam of sunlight,” Dora chuckled. “By the way, this is my new partner, Harry. He’s just joined the section after working for the ICW for a few years”
“Pleased to meet you, Harry,” Galatea beamed. “You’ll have your hands full coping with this bundle of mischief, I’m sure.”
“I grew up with Dora so I know exactly what she’s like,” Harry agreed favouring the witch with a smile. Galatea appeared to be one of those people you couldn’t help but take an immediate shine to.
“Oh, I’m sure you have all sorts of interesting stories to tell about her! You must come back and dish the dirt when she’s not around,” Galatea implored him.
“He’ll do no such thing!” Dora snorted. “Not unless he wants to wear his wedding tackle as a tie.”
Harry smiled as the two witches laughed. Sometimes he envied Dora’s easy way with people. He was never so comfortable around strangers, and the years with Department M had left him even more distrustful. He wondered if he would ever learn to be so carefree again.
“So, what brings you and your handsome new partner to our neck of the woods, Tonks?” Galatea asked.
“This report,” Dora said, brandishing a buff file. “We’ve had a report of a new gang apparently starting to muscle in here in London. They’ve already hospitalised one pretty hard wizard, and scared the living daylights out of another. It might be nothing, but my contact seemed to think that they were magically pretty powerful and very ruthless. He described them as having a Death Eater vibe about them.”
“Really?” Galatea said, taking the file. “Do you think this should go straight to the Aurors, then?”
“Nah, I think the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol should look into it first, but they had better have some Hit Wizards on standby if they try to make any arrests,” Dora suggested.
“I’ll pass on the file immediately,” Galatea nodded.
“Do me a favour, though,” Dora added. “If anything does come of this, can you give me the heads up? I just have a bad feeling about this mob.”
“Of course, I’ll put a notification warning on the file. That way, if anything happens you’ll be informed at once,” the plump witch agreed.
“Thanks, Galatea, you’re a star. Anyway, I’ve got things to do and people to see, so I’ll say goodbye. I’ll try and pop in next week and we’ll have a proper natter,” Dora said as she headed for the door.
“That sounds lovely,” Galatea grinned. “Bye for now, Tonks. Bye, Harry; it was nice meeting you.”
“You too,” Harry nodded and followed Tonks out.
“Well, that’s all we can do with that for the moment,” Dora sighed as they walked back down the corridor.
“So, what’s next on our to-do list?” Harry asked.
Dora glanced at her watch. “Personally, I vote for knocking off for the evening.”
“Bloody hell, it’s not even five yet,” Harry gasped. “I could definitely get used to this more relaxed atmosphere.”
“Make the most of it, it’s not always like this, you know,” she grinned. “Now, you have two choices. We could either go back to the flat and I could subject you to my cooking…”
“I remember your attempts at cooking,” Harry shuddered, “no thanks!”
“And I’ve gotten worse rather than better,” she laughed, “or, we could just find a nice pub that does food. ‘The Lord Clyde’ does a cracking steak and ale pie, for instance.”
“I’m going to become an alcoholic working with you,” he moaned, although without much conviction.
“No one is forcing you to drink,” she replied loftily. “Although they do have Aspell cider on tap and I am rather partial to the odd drop of that stuff.”
“Okay, the pub it is then. Actually, you had me at the steak and ale pie,” he smirked.
“Ah, men are such simple creatures. Offer them pie and beer and they’re happy as Larry,” she smirked.
“Just for that, you’re getting the first round,” he replied as they headed for the lift.
Harry looked around with interest as he walked. They had just left ‘The Lord Clyde’ after consuming what had proved to be a spectacularly good steak and ale pie, and were now heading east towards another of Dora’s favourite watering holes, ‘The Queens Head’. As they were getting close to Islington, the streets were all dimly familiar to him, and he was filled with childhood memories of the area.
“It’s just down here,” Dora announced, leading off Caledonian Road and into a small side street. “I’m looking forward to this. I haven’t had a night out in the Queens for ages.”
Harry just nodded as they approached the unimposing front of the pub. The place looked quite traditional, with Victorian era green tiles underneath the partially frosted glass window. They pushed open the door an entered the dark pub which was lit only by imitation gas lanterns that kicked out far too little light. A long, metal-topped bar was situated along one side of the room, while the other side was divided up into booths. A familiar face was sitting in the nearest booth.
“Tonksie!” Carla exclaimed in delight. “Nice to see you out and about, girl. Brought Harry out to play, too, eh?”
“Yeah, I take him to all the classiest places,” Dora grinned. “Anyway, it’s my round. Do you two want another drink?”
Harry looked over and saw a large man with a bald head and an enormous, bushy beard sitting next to Carla. His thick, meaty arms were covered in a solid block of tattoos, and his ears and nose were all pierced. His threatening appearance was complete by his wardrobe of a faded Motorhead t-shirt and a leather waistcoat covered in patches. Harry quickly started assessing the man’s capabilities; he looked large and strong, so a good punch from him would probably put Harry on the floor. On the other hand, the bloke probably wasn’t too fast on his feet, so if he could get a few quick blows in, he could…
“Alright, mate?” the man said amiably, holding out his hand. “I’m Pete, but everyone calls me Mad Dog. Carla mentioned Tonksie had a new partner. Nice to meet you.”
Harry paused for a second before shaking Mad Dog’s hand. What had he been thinking? The man was just some bloke in a pub, not an international criminal or terrorist. Why had he instantly assumed that he would be a threat? He’d defiantly been working with Department M too long, he realised.
“Hi, Mad Dog. Pleased to meet you, too. Dora mentioned you when we were a Carla’s shop yesterday,” Harry responded politely.
“Yeah, she did your ear, didn’t she? I tell you, mate, if you need anything else done; piercings, tattoos, anything, she’s your girl. She did all this work on my arm, see?” Mad Dog said enthusiastically, thrusting his arm out at Harry.
“Very nice,” Harry commented a little warily. In truth, he did think the tattoos were pretty well done; it was just that there were rather a lot of them for his taste.
“Pull up a seat and tell me all about yourself,” Mad Dog insisted, shifting over to make room for Harry.
“Err, thanks,” Harry said, glancing over to the bar where Tonks had gone. She saw him looking and just winked at him. Deciding that Mad Dog seemed pretty friendly, Harry took a seat.
“So, you into bikes, at all?” Mad Dog asked.
Harry grinned; it appeared they’d found a shared area of interest already.
It was nearly eleven o’clock, and Harry and Dora were making their rather unsteady way back to her flat. Harry had to admit, despite his initial reservations about Carla and Mad Dog, he’d had one of the best evenings he’d had in a long time.
Mad Dog was, to Harry’s surprise, a Muggle who nevertheless knew all about the magical world and Carla’s abilities. He worked in a garage and was particularly skilled with motorbikes. This had set the two of them off on a long conversation about Sirius’s highly modified Norton bike. Harry had felt a twinge of sadness when he realised that he had no idea what had happened to the bike, but Mad Dog had insisted that if Harry managed to track it down that he had to bring it to his garage for an overhaul.
He’d also spent some time chatting to Carla, and he vaguely remembered he’d agreed to get a tattoo done sometime in the future, although the large amount of lager he consumed meant that he wasn’t exactly sure what he’d agreed to.
Dora had got pretty sloshed and seemed to have had a great time. As she staggered back to her home, she loudly treated him to renditions of various AC/DC songs, much to his amusement, if probably not to the people trying to sleep in the houses they passed.
Eventually, they made it back to the flat. After several attempts, Dora managed to get her key in the door and they managed to enter.
“I think we need a cuppa before bed,” Harry decided. “You want tea?”
“Yeah,” she grinned rather foolishly, before throwing her arms around his neck. “I had a bloody great time tonight. You should have come back sooner!”
“I’m beginning to think that, too,” he agreed, slipping his arms around her middle. “I’m just realising exactly what I’ve been missing all this time.”
“Me, too,” she agreed, and kissed him.
In Harry’s drunken state, it took him a few moments to realise what was happening. Dora frequently gave him little pecks on the cheek or the odd friendly kiss on the lips, it was just the kind of person she was, but this was different. This wasn’t the affectionate gesture between two people who were essentially family, this kiss was full of passion and desire. Slowly and reluctantly, he gently pushed her from him. Unflinchingly, she looked him in the eyes.
“Why not?” she demanded, suddenly quite sober. “I love you and you love me. We make each other happy. So why not?”
“Because you think of me as a little brother,” he gently reminded her. “Plus, you’re drunk and this really isn’t the sort of thing we should be starting when we’re not thinking straight. Also, we’re work partners and you know as well as I do that sleeping with your partner is a massively bad idea, not to mention against regulations. Besides, I’d feel like I was betraying Remus…”
“Remus!” she yelled, interrupting him. “Don’t you think I’ve thought about that? Harry, I can’t keep living my life shackled to the memory of a dead man. I loved him, but he’s gone. It’s been five years now, and do you know that I haven’t been with a bloke since him? I’m lonely, Harry; lonely and frustrated. Please, take the feeling away from me. Make love to me.”
Harry looked at her in shock, more at her admission that she’d been celibate since Remus died then at her request for him to bed her. Tonks was a vivacious and attractive woman, and he was amazed that she’d been alone all this time. Even so, he knew getting involved with her would be a huge mistake.
“Dora, luv, you’re absolutely right to want to move on. You deserve a man in your life, one who will love you and take away that pain, but that person isn’t me. I’ve loved spending time with you this last few days, and I can’t believe how great it is to be partnered with you, but I don’t want to ruin all that by starting a relationship that would be doomed from the start. I know you were my first major crush, and that I probably nearly wanked myself silly fantasising about you, but the fact remains that we’re more like family than lovers. You’re my flirtatious, beautiful, funny, sexy, deadly, big sister, and I love you to bits. I promise I’ll always be there for you in the future and that I’ll never leave again, but shagging you would be wrong, and we both know it,” he said in a quiet but earnest voice.
Dora stared at him for a moment before bursting into tears. He grabbed her and held her tightly against him.
“I’m sorry, Dora. I love you, but please don’t make me do this,” he begged.
“No, you’re right,” she sniffled. “You are like a bother to me, but you’re also the best bloke I know. It’s just that… shit, I’m so lonely, Harry.”
“I know, and I am, too,” he admitted, “but we both need different things. You need to find some handsome young stud who’ll put a smile back on your face, but I need a proper, steady relationship. I’m through with screwing married women or sluts I know I’ll never see again. I’ve been running for years, Dora, and I need to put some roots down again.”
She pulled away slightly and stroked his face. “Yeah, you are right, but wouldn’t it have all been so much easier if we could have given each other what we need?”
“Yeah, it would,” he agreed. “Tell you what, if you promise to help me find a nice, pretty normal girl to be with, I’ll promise to help find you some godly stud that’s hung like a Hippogriff. How’s that sound?”
“Okay, but he better have long hair and some tattoos, too,” she laughed through her tears.
“Deal, I don’t need to say that the girl needs to have nice set of knockers, do I?” he teased.
“You always were a boob man,” Dora giggled.
They stood holding each other for a long while as they lapsed into silence. Harry knew that they were both, in their own way, slightly broken people. He vowed at that moment to help his adopted sister in any way he could, while also trying to heal himself, too. He was only now beginning to realise the damage that he’d done to himself working for Department M, and how much he needed some normality and stability in his life.
As he stood there holding Dora in his arms, he knew that the path ahead of him wasn’t going to be easy.
“This is the place,” Dora declared as the VW pulled up in front of a long, single story shop building with a metal mesh screen over the front window. It had a depressing aura of neglect about it.
“Tell me about the bloke we’ve come to see again,” Harry said, staring intently at the building.
“His name is Andris Topa and he’s a second generation Hungarian immigrant. He’s an unscrupulous bastard who got busted for running a prostitution network years back, so was in prison during the last war. When he got out, he discovered Borgin and Burkes had been burnt to the ground and saw a gap in the market. Since then, he’s been operating this delightful place; a pawn shop fronting a fencing operation for stolen magical items. He dabbles a bit in Muggle items that wizards might want, too. If he shakes your hand, be sure to count your fingers afterwards,” Dora advised him.
They climbed out of the car and headed towards the shop. Harry glanced at Dora as they walked, but he saw no evidence of the slight uncomfortableness there had been between them at breakfast. Indeed, once they had started work she had seemed completely normal, going so far as to flirt with him lightly. He could only feel relief at her attitude, as the last thing in the world he wanted to do was hurt her.
They entered the shop and Harry glanced around. The place was poorly lit and filled with metal shelves containing all manner of Muggle objects, from ancient looking radios to a manky looking kettle. No doubt the magical items were kept well out of sight.
“Tonks, nice to see ya, girl,” a deep male voice called out.
Harry turned to see a large, extremely fat man waddling out from behind a long counter towards them. He was dressed in a grubby looking shirt and his trousers were held up with braces. He smiled revealing brownish teeth while his piggy eyes stared at them intently.
“Hiya, Topa. How you been?” she replied politely.
“Oh, not too well, I’m afraid. I’m a martyr to my bad back, you know. Is this an official visit or are you looking for something yourself?” he asked.
“An official visit,” Dora confirmed. “Do you mind if we talk out back?”
“Not at all. May I enquire who your young gentleman friend is?” Topa asked, eyeing Harry warily.
“This is my new partner, Harry Potter. Before you ask, yes, he is THAT Harry Potter. He’s also a highly trained operative who until recently was working for the ICW, so don’t try any funny stuff with him or you’ll ending up in very small pieces, okay?” Dora told him flatly.
Topa’s piggy eyes went wide for a second, before a sickly grin appeared on his face. “Well, I am honoured, Mr Potter. Please, do come through, both of you,” he said, waving a chubby hand to a doorway situated behind the counter.
Harry followed Dora through the doorway, all the while speculating why she had been so up-front in telling Andris who he was. He could only assume that the man was well connected and would have found out the information quickly anyway. Sometimes it was better to just come straight out with things like that, just so no one thought you put much importance behind it.
The room he entered proved to be a cosy little parlour area with a number of old-fashioned green chairs arranged around a Victorian-style fireplace. Due to the warm weather, the fire wasn’t lit, but Harry did notice a cup of steaming tea was perched on a small side table next to one of the chairs. Topa lumbered over and sat down heavily in the chair, indicating that they should take the remaining chairs themselves. Once they were seated, he looked at them shrewdly.
“Now, Tonks, I ain’t seen you round these parts for months, so what brings two such important people as yourselves around to my humble gaff?” he asked.
“I’m hearing rumours about some new players in town,” Dora said, not beating around the bush. “I hear they’ve muscled in on Frank Harbottle’s operations. You know I don’t like new faces throwing their weight around in my manor, Andris. What can you tell me about them?”
The fat man shrugged. “Not a lot,” he admitted. “I heard about Frank, too. Got really badly busted up, didn’t he? Not that I’ll weep any tears about that, of course. He could be a right mean bastard, could Frank. But no, I don’t know much beyond that.”
“Come on, Topa, don’t bullshit me. I know you would have started checking out any new players as soon as you got a whiff of them,” Tonks snorted. “Don’t start holding out on me.”
To emphasise the point, Harry stood and started to walk around the small room, apparently examining random objects. In truth, he was deliberately moving out of the fat man’s eye line, an act sure to make a man like Topa very nervous.
“Really, I…” Topa began, a hint of fear creeping into his voice.
“I hear you used to run a prostitution network,” Harry said coolly, coming to stand just a couple of feet behind Topa. “I was involved in smashing a network like that in Italy a couple of years ago. Half the girls were Muggles who had been Imperioused into that line of work, and were basically treated like shit. I’ve always despised pimps ever since.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t do that stuff no more,” Topa replied defensively.
“I did mention that Harry previously worked for the ICW, didn’t I?” Dora said in a pleasant voice. “Do I need to spell out what department he worked for?”
Topa hurriedly pushed himself out of his chair and retreated to a position where he could see both Harry and Dora. “Please, I don’t want no trouble…” he pleaded.
“Then tell us what you know about this new gang,” Harry insisted.
“Okay, okay,” Topa agreed reluctantly. “Look, you can’t let on that I said anything, alright? This mob have got a lot of people scared recently. I mean, real hard geezers who don’t take shit from no one.”
“Our lips are sealed,” Harry promised.
Topa nodded. “This lot seem to have sprung up from nowhere about two months ago. At first, they were just in the market for various black market goods; restricted spell components, illegal potions, unmarked wands; that sort of thing. Then, last month, they started moving in on various small-time operators. Frank was the biggest name they’ve taken down, and the weird thing is that they’re targeting Muggles and wizards alike.”
“What kind of things are they into?” Dora asked.
“A real mix, actually,” the fat man replied. “The Muggle stuff has been mostly protection rackets, but only minor stuff. The wizard stuff seems even odder. You heard about that bakery that used to be Frank’s, yeah? Well, that’s about the only thing they’ve taken. At a guess, I say they took it as a money laundering front, as they seem pretty well financed. Would have thought they would have done for something a bit more high turnover, though.”
“What about the group themselves?” Harry asked. “Do you know anything about them?”
“Nah, this lot are like ghosts. They appear out of nowhere, always wear masks, and never hang around too long, neither. I’d guess there are about half a dozen of them, but there could be a lot more or a lot less. Difficult to tell when you never see any faces, init? I’ll tell you one thing, though; this lot are bloody dangerous. Frank was a careful bloke and had a load of nasty Jinxes and Curses protecting his place, and this lot went right through them like they weren’t even there! The ones we’ve seen have been pretty handy with a wand, too. Hard bastards, the lot of them,” Topa told them.
“And you really have no idea where they’re from?” Dora asked with a frown.
“No idea at all, and I’ve tried to find out, believe me. If I was a betting man I would guess that they’re from overseas and have decided to try their luck in this country for some reason. Maybe things were too hot for them wherever they were before, I dunno,” he shrugged.
“Someone we spoke to said they acted like Death Eaters,” Harry ventured.
“Yeah, I can see that,” Topa agreed, “but all the Death Eaters have been accounted for, ain’t they? I can’t believe this mob just slipped through the net.”
“Nah, you’re probably right,” Dora agreed. “Besides, we didn’t say they were Death Eaters, just that they acted in a similar manner.”
“If you mean they’re a bunch of evil bastards who like hurting people, then I agree,” Topa agreed. “That don’t make ‘em Death Eaters though, does it?”
Harry looked at Dora and caught her eye. It looked like she was as concerned about the whole situation as he was.
Shortly afterwards, they wandered back out to the car having instructed Topa to contact them immediately if he heard anything more about the mysterious mob of magical criminals that had appeared from out of nowhere.
“What’s our next step, then?” Harry asked, deferring to Dora’s greater local knowledge.
“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “We may already be stepping on the toes of an official DMLE investigation, but I just have a feeling that letting this drop will be a bad idea. I think we might swing by that bakery this mob muscled in on and take a peak.”
“Sounds a good idea,” Harry agreed, before looking at her nervously. “Err, Dora, do you mind if we do that after lunch? There’s something I want to take care of first.”
“Yeah, sure,” Dora agreed readily. “What do you need to do, babe?”
“I know I said it wasn’t a priority, but I think I’d like to swing by Gringotts and enquire about hiring a curse-breaker to look at Grimmauld Place,” he confessed.
“Is this because of what happened last night?” Dora asked quietly, not looking at him.
“No, not really,” Harry replied warily. “I mean, I do think it would be a good idea if I got my own place, especially as we’ve agreed that we both need to get out there and start dating. But mostly this is because I’ve had a bit of a change of heart. Coming back to London has driven home to me what I’ve been missing these last few years. Seeing you again has just been wonderful, and it’s been great seeing Kingsley and Dedalus again, too. I never realised how much I’ve missed this place. Now I’m back, I want to put down roots again, and that means finding my own place to live. I’m not sure if I want that to be Grimmauld Place, or if that’s even an option, but I would like to find out sooner rather than later so I can make plans.”
Tonks turned to him and actually smiled. “You’re really staying this time, aren’t you?” she said happily.
“Yeah, I am. Did you think I was going to leave again?” he asked in surprise.
“I was worried you would, yeah. I thought coming back and seeing everyone again would be too much for you. I… I really wanted you to stay, Harry. It’s kind of why I threw myself at you last night,” she told him, her eyes brimming with unshed tears.
Not knowing what else to do, Harry reached over and pulled her into a fierce hug. “I’m sorry, Dora,” he said. “I’m sorry I left you and your mum on your own. I realise now that was a massive mistake and I promise that I won’t leave again.”
She pulled away from him slightly and looked him in the eyes. “I’m going to kiss you now,” she told him, “but I promise that it’s just because I love you to bits and not that I’m trying to shag you, okay.”
“Okay,” he smiled, “I guess that…mmmuph!”
He was cut off as Dora grabbed each side of his head and planted a loud, wet kiss firmly on his lips, which went on long enough to probably convince anyone passing by that he had just got lucky. As she pulled away, he couldn’t help but laugh at her exuberance.
“Come on, sexy,” Dora declared happily. “Let’s go have a bite to eat at ‘The Leaky’ and then go and see those lovely goblins about hiring a curse-breaker.”
Grinning, Harry reached over and grabbed his safety belt. He may love Dora like a big sister, but he as damned if he was going to let her drive him anywhere without being firmly strapped in first.
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