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SIYE Time:22:06 on 25th September 2017


Homecoming
By Brennus

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Category: Alternate Universe
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Nymphadora Tonks
Genres: Action/Adventure
Warnings: Death, Extreme Language, Intimate Sexual Situations, Negative Alcohol Use, Violence
Story is Complete
Rating: R
Reviews: 219
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: 42801; Chapter Total: 3071
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Wow, six chapters and the first fatality is finally here. That must be a record for me. Oh, another familiar face pops up here, too, although not the one most people were hoping for, I suspect.

Super-wonderful beta work by Arnel, as usual.




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Chapter 6 — Deeper



“So, as you see, very little about this situation makes any sense,” Dora explained.

“Indeed, young Miss Tonks, I share your confusion,” Dedalus agreed. “You believe the matter worth investigating, however, do you?”

“I do, Dedalus,” she confirmed. “I know Harry agrees with me.”

“Yeah, we’ve both got a funny feeling about what’s been happening. I mean, we could be completely wrong and this is nothing serious, but I just have a hunch that something bad is going on.”

“That’s what you’re paid for; to find things that others have missed. You’ll be interested to know, by the way, that the DMLE have chosen not to investigate your report further. A few of their Magical Patrols had a sniff around and found nothing that concerned them. I’m sure I don’t need to say how thorough their investigation was,” Dedalus sniffed in distaste.

“They found nothing?” Harry asked in surprise. “Did they interview Frank Harbottle?”

“No, he was still too badly injured at the time of their initial investigation, and as he had already intimated that he didn’t want to press charges against anyone in connection with his assault, they decided not to conduct a follow-up interview,” their diminutive boss explained.

“That’s our next task then,” Harry said decisively. “Is Harbottle till at St Mungo’s?”

“I believe so, although I gather he is due for release soon. It may be prudent to try and catch him now before he disappears back into the seedy underbelly of this proud capital city,” Dedalus said with a smirk.

“Really? I’d never have thought of that, Boss,” Dora replied, rolling her eyes. “Come on, Harry, to the Tonksmobile!”

“You know, it’s a nice day. We could walk,” Harry suggested hopefully.

“Come on, you coward,” Dora said firmly, slapping him on the arm.

“Good luck, Harry. I trust your will and last testament are in order?” Dedalus chuckled, obviously familiar with Tonks’s driving.

“Just remember me fondly,” Harry announced tragically, before following Dora out of the office. He really needed to get a car of his own, he decided.

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Th e trip from the Ministry of Magic building to Holborn where St Mungo’s was located was only a mile or so, but Tonks still took it as a personal challenge to get there as fast as possible. A normal ten minute journey was compressed into a hair-raising two minutes and left Harry feeling grateful that he’d only had a light breakfast.

After they entered through the fake Muggle department store window, they bypassed the reception desk and headed straight for the fourth floor and the Spell Damage ward. They then collared a nurse who, after presentation of their identification, directed them to Frank Harbottle’s bed.

Harbottle proved to be the very image of a hardened career criminal. His nose had been broken at some point and not set right, and he also had cauliflower ears and a prominent scar on his right cheek. He watched them approach with the hostile eyes of a man who knew policemen when he saw them, despite their unconventional appearance.

“I ain’t got ‘nuffin to ta say ta yeah,” he growled at them as they approached the bed.

“Oh, isn’t that a shame? And after we came all this way, too,” Dora said with a pouting lip.

“Yeah, we only came to visit and see how you are,” Harry agreed, dropping into the chair positioned by the bed. “No wonder you haven’t got any other visitors with that rude attitude.”

“Who are you, anyways?” the man scowled. “You lot from the DMLE?”

“Nah, let’s just say we’re part of the Ministry and leave it at that, shall we?” Dora said sweetly.

“Oh, sorry we haven’t brought you anything. We were going to bring you a bunch of grapes, but then we had a better idea. We decided a nice cake would be a much better gift,” Harry smiled pleasantly.

“Yes, so we went over to this lovely bakery over Mayfair way; beautiful little place, it was. This will be the perfect place to get a nice cake to cheer up an injured man, we thought,” Dora continued.

“Imagine our surprise, when we got there and found that the place had just changed owners,” Harry said, watching Harbottle intently.

Harbottle wasn’t stupid, and knew enough not to make eye contact with either of them, but clearly the mention of the bakery rattled him, and for a split second he looked up at Harry in surprise. It was all Harry needed.

“Shit! Get outta my head, you bastard,” Harbottle bellowed, quickly breaking eye contact.

“Language, Frank! Really, there are sick people here, you know,” Dora tutted.

“If you help us we can protect you,” Harry told him quietly, having seen the images in the man’s head. Frank Harbottle, career criminal and all-round hard man, was scared stupid.

“Nah, you bloody can’t,” Harbottle spat. “You don’t know what you’re up against. This lot are bloody ruthless and powerful, too! They threatened my wife and son and… and… no, I’m not risking it! You two can piss off back to wherever you came from. You’re getting no help from me.”

“Come on, let’s go,” Harry told Dora. With a surprised glance, Dora stood and walked away from Harbottle’s bed without a backward glance. Only when they were leaving the hospital did she speak.

“What did you get then?” Dora asked expectantly.

“The mention of the bakery brought the attack on him to the forefront of his mind,” Harry explained. “He was ambushed by three masked attackers. They had Charms to disguise their voices and their robes were completely nondescript. Even the masks were plain silver affairs. Basically, they proceeded to break nearly every bone in his body and then, as he said, threaten to kill his wife and son. They seemed to know exactly where to find them, too.”

“Interesting,” Dora pondered. “What else did they say?”

“It was just like your contact Sudsy said. They wanted the title deeds to the bakery. They had all the legal documentation already completed, and thoughtfully healed Harbottle’s right hand to enable him to sign the paperwork. After that, they just warned him to keep his mouth shut and vanished. Frank was as mystified about it as we are,” Harry said.

“So it’s all about the bakery,” Dora pondered. “This lot clearly have a lot of money, judging by the amount they put into the business. I wonder why they didn’t just offer to buy the place? If it was a repossession job, surely it wouldn’t have cost that much?”

“I’ve no idea and neither did Harbottle. I got the impression that he didn’t think it was worth much, anyway. The place was pretty run down and the business was failing, and apparently planning permission had already been turned down to convert the shop into residential housing. The place is a listed building, you see. So he was stuck with a failed business in a crummy shop that he was suddenly liable for the upkeep. He would have taken any offer,” Harry confirmed.

“This doesn’t make sense,” Dora moaned.

“Tell me about it,” Harry agreed. “So, what’s our next step?”

“I think we might need to follow up on this ‘Mr Winter’ character and see what we can find about him. I think we’ll make an appointment to see someone in the Legal Section of the DMLE and see what they can find out about this bloke,” Dora decided.

“We have to make an appointment?” Harry asked in surprise.

“They’re lawyers, Harry, of course you have to make an appointment,” she sighed.

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“I’m bored. Wanna go out for a pint?” Dora asked hopefully.

Harry looked up from the book he was reading. He’d only just sat himself down five minutes before with a steaming mug of tea, and had been looking forward to a relaxing night just lazing around the flat.

“Actually, I’m feeling a bit tired,” he said. “All I really want is a quiet night in.”

“Oh, come on, Harry. Don’t be such a stick in the mud. A young, handsome stud like you should be out every night partying and picking up hot babes, not hanging around here. Come on, just a few drinks, please,” she begged.

Looking at her pleading face, Harry started to feel uneasy. Andromeda’s words about her daughter’s drinking habits came back to him, and he started to fear she was right. He was just about to agree to come with Dora, if only to keep an eye on her, when an idea struck him.

“Why don’t you see if Bill Weasley fancies a drink?” he suggested.

“Bill?” Dora said in puzzlement.

“Yeah, don’t you remember? He suggested the two of you should go out for a few drinks and catch up. Why don’t you take him up on his offer?” Harry prompted her.

Dora looked hesitant for a moment. “It’s a bit short notice, I’m sure he’ll have better things to do tonight,” she pointed out.

“You won’t know unless you ask. Tell you what, why don’t you contact him via the Floo, and if he is unavailable I promise to come out with you for a couple of jars. Fair enough?” he offered.

“Yeah, why not?” she smiled, and leapt to her feet. Dora quickly headed over to the fireplace, a horrid, modern, silvery-metal affair, and grabbed some Flow powder.

“William Weasley’s,” she called out as she threw the powder into the fire. Kneeling down, she called out into the flames. “Hello, Bill? Are you there?”

“Hello?” a female voice replied. Instantly, Harry, who had been listening in, stiffened. Who was this woman in Bill Weasley’s flat?

“Oh, err, I was just wondering if Bill was about,” Dora said sounding a bit taken-aback.

“Tonks? Is that you?” Harry heard the voice ask.

“Yeah, yeah it is… who’s that?” Dora asked.

“It’s me, Ginny. Ginny Weasley. Do you remember me?”

“Oh, Merlin, of course I do! Hi, Ginny, how are you? Bloody hell, it’s been years since I spoke to you. How are you doing, girl?” Dora said, sounding genuinely excited.

“Okay, I guess. Things could be a lot worse, I suppose. Bill mentioned he’d run into you the other day. Are you calling about that curse-breaking job in Islington?” the voice belonging to this Ginny person asked.

“Well, actually, Bill suggested we catch up a bit and I was just calling to see if he fancied going out for a few drinks and a natter,” Dora admitted nervously.

“Great! I’ll just go and get him. He spends far too much time lounging around here, anyway. A night out will do him the power of good. Hold on,” the voice said.

It was quiet for a moment or two before Bill’s voice rang out.

“Tonks? Hi, it’s me. Sorry I wasn’t about, but I was just taking a shower. Ginny said something about going out for a drink?”

“Yeah, I was at a loose end tonight and thought I’d see if you were about. If you have plans though…”

“No! No, I don’t,” Bill said hastily. “I’d love to catch up with you.”

“That’s great. Where shall we meet?” Dora asked.

“How about ‘The Leaky Cauldron’? I know it’s not the most exciting place in the world, but we both know where it is. We can go somewhere different from there,” Bill suggested.

“Sounds like a plan,” she agreed. “See you in, say, an hour?”

“Definitely, I’ll see you then,” Bill confirmed happily.

“Great, bye,” Dora called before ending the Floo connection. She then scrambled to her feet and headed for the bathroom.

“Are you sure an hour is long enough to get ready? I mean, making yourself look presentable is a pretty big job,” Harry teased as she rushed past. All he got was a two-fingered salute in return.

He settled down into his chair, feeling rather pleased with himself.

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Two hours later, and Harry was bored. Despite not wanting to go out earlier, he now found that he wanted to hang around Dora’s flat by himself even less. As nice as the place was, he still was a guest here and he felt awkward being here alone.

Eventually, he gave into the inevitable. He pulled on a pair of trainers, slipped his leather jacket over his shoulders and grabbed his set of keys. He then headed out into the night to see what adventures he could find.

He had to admit he wasn’t nearly as familiar with Camden as some other parts of London, and didn’t really know where the best pubs were. Feeling like he wanted to try somewhere he’d never been before, he wandered the street for a while before he came across a classic, Victorian-style corner pub titled, unoriginally, the Rose and Crown. He decided to see what the place was like.

As soon as he entered he knew he’d come into the wrong place. A large, wall-mounted TV was showing a Muggle football match and groups of townies were crowded around yelling obscenities at the screen. Deciding he might as well have a quick one here, Harry headed over to the bar. The middle-aged barmaid served him with barely a second glance and he was left propping up the bar feeling rather out of place. Still, at least the beer was cold and crisp.

“Wot chew you doin’ in ear, eh, ya puff?” a voice snarled in his ear.

Harry turned to see a young man scowling at him with barely supressed anger. He was dressed like a near-typical chav: grey hooddie with a Burberry baseball cap, tracksuit bottoms and expensive trainers. A thick gold chain hung around the man’s neck.

“I’m having a drink, what do you think I’m doing?” Harry asked calmly, making it quite clear to the man that he didn’t find him intimidating in the slightest.

“Ear that, boys?” the chav yelled to his two, similarly dressed mates who were lurked at the end of the bar grinning. “The puff wants to get cheeky with me. He better watch his mouth, ain’t he?”

“I’m not looking for any trouble, so why don’t you just back off,” Harry suggested, letting a little of his magic loose. That was normally enough to give most Muggles cause for thought. Sadly, Chav boy was either too stupid or too drunk to notice.

“This is our boozer, this is, and we don’t like long-hair, nancy boys like you in ear. I’m gunna have to teach you a lesson, I am!” he snarled, before lunging at Harry.

Normally, Harry would have brushed aside the young man without a second thought, but this gobby moron had managed to get his back up. Harry side-stepped slightly, whilst using his shoulder to push the chav hard against the bar. He then used his left foot to stamp down on the man’s right, and dug his fingers into his aggressor’s neck, crushing the nerve that induces convulsions. Chav boy screamed and fell to his knees, shaking like a leaf.

“Ear, leave it out or I’ll call the police!” the barmaid yelled.

“I am the police, you stupid cow,” Harry snarled back.

Harry reached down and grabbed chav boy’s left arm and yanked it behind his back. Then, with his free hand he grabbed his wallet with his free hand and pulled it open, displaying it to the irate barmaid. In the window pocket was his Ministry ID card, which was Charmed to appear as a Metropolitan Police warrant card to any Muggle. The woman stared at it resentfully.

“You two, stay right where you are, unless you want a night in the cells,” Harry yelled at Chav boy’s two mates, who were looking like they were about to intervene. He let even more of his magic loose, and this time they got the message. Grabbing the moaning young man by the collar, he dragged him out of the pub and into the street.

Looking around, Harry noted to his disappointment that there were no convenient shady alleyways nearby, so he pushed Chav boy into the doorway of a closed shop, which at least meant that they weren’t too visible from the street. None too carefully, he rammed the young man face-first against the glass door and made him spread his arms and legs so he could pat him down. Wizard or not, Harry didn’t want to find that Chav boy had a hidden knife somewhere.

After a brief patting down, Harry found nothing more offensive than a set of keys and the man’s wallet. He opened up the later and found a driving licence which identified Chav boy as being one Glen Stevens of Ranelagh Road, Leyton.

“Leyton?” Harry snarled. “What was all that crap about this being your local pub?”

“Never said it was my local, did I?” Stevens grunted. “I just said it weren’t for your type.”

“My type? What, coppers?” Harry snapped back. He then pondered what to do with the idiot. Although he had certain legal powers of arrest within the Muggle world, they didn’t extend to dealing with drunken yobs. Unfortunately, he had no choice other than to let Stevens go, but not before giving him a good warning, he decided.

“Right, listen to me, sunshine,” Harry snarled, channelling every British TV cop show he’d ever seen. “Normally, I’d throw your worthless hide in a cell to rot, but luckily for you, all I want to do tonight is have a few jars and relax, and you’re not worth the paperwork. So here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to go back into that pub, grab your idiot mates, and then bugger off back to Leyton as fast as you can. Moreover, if I see your ugly face back here in Camden you’ll be nicked faster than you can say Jack Robinson. Got it?”

“Yeah, I got it,” Stevens growled back.

Grabbing the back of the man’s hooddie, Harry pushed him back into the street. With one surly glance in his direction, the chav stomped back into the pub. Not feeling like any further confrontation, Harry turned and started walking back down the street.

The evening certainly hadn’t gone like he planned and he realised that he had lost any desire to go anywhere further. Instead, he nipped into a nearby corner shop and purchased six bottles of Becks lager and a bag of Doritos. That, he thought grumpily, would have to constitute his entertainment for the rest of the evening.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP HP

Harry opened his eyes, uncertain for the moment what had awoken him. He’d returned to the flat, drunk his beer, and then decided to have an early night. Now, something had disturbed his sleep.

Listening carefully, he soon realised that the noise that he was hearing was the rhythmic squeaking of a set of bedsprings coming from Dora’s bedroom next door.

“YES! YES! OH, SWEET MERLIN, YES!” Dora’s voice suddenly yelled out.

Grumbling to himself, Harry reached over to the bedside table and grabbed his wand. He cast a quick Silencing Charm, before dropping his wand back onto the table. He closed his eyes and was asleep again in seconds.

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Harry sat in the kitchen area of the flat slipping his tea and letting his eyes drift over the headlines in the Daily Prophet. The newspaper hadn’t improved much since he left England, he noted, and the still printed the same sensationalised rubbish as they always did.

A shuffling sound made him look up and he saw Bill Weasley standing there, unshaven and bleary-eyed. His hair was loose around his shoulders and in desperate need of a comb. He stared back at Harry in surprise.

“Oh, I, err, forgot you were staying here,” he mumbled in embarrassment.

“The kettle’s just boiled if you want a brew,” Harry said in a cool voice.

Bill stumbled over to the kettle and, after locating a mug and the teabags, poured himself a cup. Harry pointedly offered the man no help in finding anything. Eventually, Bill managed to fix his drink and he stood there, mug in hand, looking awkward and uncomfortable.

“Take a seat,” Harry instructed him, not caring that it sounded more like an order than an invitation.

Bill meekly sat in the chair indicated.

“You know, I seem to remember that during a conversation the two of us had, not so very long ago, I asked, and you agreed, to take things slowly with Dora,” Harry said in a deceptively calm voice.

“I know, I know! I really didn’t mean for things to happen this quickly, it’s just…” Bill began lamely.

“It’s just what?” Harry demanded.

“Look, we had a really great time last night. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself so much. We went out, had a few drinks, watched this band playing in a pub somewhere, and we had a right laugh, we really did. I mean, I hadn’t seen her for three or four years, and we just clicked instantly. When she asked me to come back here for a nightcap, it really wasn’t my plan to get in her knickers, I swear!” Bill said earnestly.

“Really? It might not have been your plan, but that’s what happened, didn’t it? Oh, by the way, you really need to learn to cast the odd Silencing Charm, mate,” Harry snarled.

“It… it wasn’t meant to happen,” Bill said miserably. “We were just sitting on the couch having a drink… I can’t even remember who kissed who first. I bet she’ll hate me now, won’t she?”

“Did she say anything when you got up?” Harry asked him.

“Nah, she was still out to the world. I didn’t want to wake her. I was going to leave a note, or something,” Bill explained.

“That’s probably best,” Harry agreed. “She’s like a bear with a sore head if you wake her too early. So, what are you going to do now? Are you going to see her again?”

“Yes! I mean, if she wants to see me again, that is,” Bill replied. “I just hope she doesn’t think I’ve taken advantage of her. Merlin, I’ve probably blown it, haven’t I?

Harry sighed. As angry as he was with Bill for leaping into bed with Dora, he did genuinely like the bloke, and thought he’d be good for his almost-sister.

“I’ll talk to her,” he offered. “Why don’t you write that note? There’s some paper and a pen over on the sideboard there.”

“Thanks, Harry. I would stay and talk to her when she wakes up, but I’m going to be late for work at this rate, anyway. Please tell her that I really like her and that I want to see her again,” Bill nearly begged.

“Say that in your note,” Harry instructed him, and watched as the older man grabbed the writing tools and scribble a note furiously. He then handed it to Harry, who held up his hand.

“No, just fold it and leave it on the table. I don’t want to know what it says,” he said firmly.

“Okay, look, I feel terrible about just running off, but I really need to get going. If there’s one thing the goblins insist on its punctuality,” Bill apologised.

“Yeah, no worries. When am I going to hear about Grimmauld Place?” he asked as Bill took one quick swig of his tea and stood to leave.

“I should have the initial assessment report to you by the end of the week,” Bill confirmed.

“Good, I’ll look forward to receiving it,” Harry nodded. “Look, don’t worry too much. I’ll explain to Dora that you had to go, and I’m sure she won’t be mad at you.”

“Thanks, I hope not, anyway. I’ll speak to you soon, Harry,” Bill said, and with a quick wave of his hand, headed out the door.

Harry waited a good ten minutes before he got up, made another cup of tea, and then carried it to Dora’s bedroom. He knocked lightly once before entering without waiting for a response.

The room was dark as the curtains were still closed. He put the tea down on the bedside cabinet before flinging open the curtains. The sun streamed in, revealing the room to be in its usual Tonks-like mess. He could just see a dull brown head of hair peeking out from under the duvet. He watched her breathing for a few seconds before marching over and plonking himself down on the bed forcefully. There was no sound from the apparently sleeping occupant.

“I know you’re awake, Dora,” Harry said softly. “You’re going to have to speak to me sooner or later.”

There was absolute silence for a few seconds, before Harry heard a muffled sobbing.

“Dora?” he said in concern.

The duvet was pulled back, revealing Dora’s tear-stained face. “I’m a whore,” she wept.

“No, you’re not,” Harry said forcefully.

“I bloody am!” she sobbed. “First, I throw myself at you and then I practically drag Bill into bed. I’ve become a right bloody slapper. Remus would be ashamed of me.”

“Dora,” Harry began softly. “You said yourself that you hadn’t been with anyone for five years. That’s just about the opposite of being a slapper in my book. Remus most definitely wouldn’t have wanted you to be on your own, and you know it. You’ve mourned long enough, luv; it’s time to get on with your life.”

“I bet Bill thinks I’m a nymphomaniac or something. Merlin, I bet I’ve really screwed it up with him, haven’t I?” she moaned.

“Ah, so that’s why Andy and Ted named you that. I always wondered,” Harry joked.

“Pig,” Dora said, although without any venom.

“Actually, I think Bill was more worried about what you’d think of him,” Harry revealed. “He was concerned that you’d think he’d taken advantage of you.”

“Huh, like I’d let anyone do that,” she scoffed. “Where is he, anyway?”

“He had to get to work. I don’t think the goblins are too tolerant of tardiness. He left you a note on the kitchen table. I gather he really wants to see you again,” he told her with a smile.

“Is that what he said?” Dora asked hesitantly. “I mean, I do like him… a lot, but I’m not sure I’m ready to…”

“Bollocks,” Harry interrupted. “If you’re about to say you’re not ready for a new relationship, then you’re talking total bollocks. You admitted to me just a while ago that you were lonely and wanted someone in your life, so stop making excuses. Bill seems to be a really nice bloke, so why don’t you give him a chance? If it doesn’t work out, then fair enough, but you have to give these things a fair go.”

“You like him?” Dora asked, sounding pleased.

“Yeah, he’s a decent bloke, and just the sort you go for. Besides, he said he had a younger sister so maybe he can set me up,” Harry grinned.

“Ha, Ginny would make mincemeat out of you,” Dora laughed. “Although Bill did say she was single at the moment.”

“There you go. That’s reason enough for me to give you and Bill my blessing; he’s got an eligible sister. As long as she’s not a moose, though,” he said, smiling back.

“Seriously, you think I should give it a try with Bill?” she asked.

Harry leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “Yeah, I do. I mean, it sounds like you two had a lot of fun last night… and that was even before you got to the bedroom.”

“Get out!” Dora yelled, throwing a pillow at him. She was smirking as she did so, however.

“Yeah, yeah,” Harry smirked as he got up to leave. “Just get washed and then get your knickers on. We’ve an appointment at the DMLE, remember?”

“Give me a moment to drink my tea,” she replied before looking at him shyly for a second. “Harry, could you do me a favour?”

“Probably,” he replied.

“Could you fetch me Bill’s note? I’d really like to read it now.”

With a satisfied smile on his face, Harry went to fetch the note.

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Galatea smiled as they approached the reception desk.

“Back to see me so soon?” she smiled.

“Sorry, as much as I would love to stop and have a good gossip, we’ve actually got an appointment with one of your staff,” Dora apologised.

The matronly woman frowned and ran her finger down a long sheet of parchment that was sitting on her desk. She paused when she found what she was looking for.

“Ah, yes, you’re going to see Miss Granger, I see. No wonder I didn’t know about it,” Galatea announced.

“What? You not know about something going on around here? I’ve never heard of such a thing!” Dora smirked.

“Yes, well, I make a habit of not getting involved in Miss Granger’s activities,” Galatea sniffed.

“Don’t blame you,” Harry nodded. “These Legal Witches can be a funny lot.”

“That’s the truth,” Galatea agreed, “but this one is worse than most. She only joined the DMLE because she caused such a stink over at Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures they were desperate to get rid of her.”

“Then how on earth did she get a job here?” Dora demanded.

“Oh, the girl’s absolutely brilliant,” Galatea explained. “The trouble is, she knows she’s brilliant and she’s a bit too eager to share her opinions with everyone, if you get my meaning. She’s only been here a few months and already she’s submitted a dozen requests for existing legislation to be amended. I thought poor Gawain was going to hex her the other day when she announced in a loud voice that his Aurors were badly trained! A right opinionated little so-and-so, she is.”

“Great, and we need her help with this case,” Dora sighed.

“Good luck with that, dear,” Galatea said sympathetically.

Feeling rather worried, the two of them followed Galatea’s directions to the Legal Section of the DMLE. From there they were directed to the desk of a young woman who’s head could barely be seen over the piles of books and files stacked on it.

“Miss Granger?” Harry said to get her attention.

The woman looked up. She had a mass of bushy brown hair, currently tied back with a plain black band and wore a little make-up, but not so much as to be really noticeable. She was dressed in the formal grey robes that most of the DMLE back office staff wore.

“Yes?” she said with a quizzical expression.

“Our names are Potter and Tonks. We have an appointment with you, I believe,” Harry prompted.

“Oh, Merlin, is that really the time?” Granger gasped looking at her watch. “I got completely tied up in what I was doing. I’m trying to get some of the statutes relating to law enforcement updated, you know. Really, some of these laws date from the Middle Ages and have no place…”

“Miss Granger? We are rather busy, so if we could just explain what we need,” Harry prompted.

“Oh, yes, sorry. I do get rather wrapped up in things. Please do take a seat,” Granger offered, indicating the two plain chairs positioned in front of the desk. They both sat as instructed.

“Well, I must say that I’m intrigued to meet the famous Harry Potter,” Granger began, after moving some of the books to one side. “I’m particularly interested that you’ve popped up now as a member of the Minister’s personal investigative team. Can I assume from this that you did take an active part in the last war against You-Know-Who, after all?”

Harry gave Dora a pained look. “See, I told you other people would jump to the same conclusion,” he muttered.

“You’ll have to forgive me,” Granger said quickly. “I was already aware of several rumours about you. You see, back at Hogwarts I used to date a young man whose family were heavily involved in the Order of the Phoenix. From him, I heard things about you from time to time.”

“Who did you used to date?” Dora asked curiously.

“Oh, a boy named Ron Weasley. All we ever seemed to do was argue though, unfortunately. I believe Ron’s parents and older brothers were all involved in the Order,” she replied.

“Well, bugger me! It’s a small world, isn’t it? I’ve just recently started seeing Ron’s oldest brother, Bill,” Dora explained.

“Really? I only met Bill a couple of times, but as I recall he was a very handsome chap. A curse-breaker, isn’t he?” Granger asked.

“That’s right,” Dora nodded.

“You must pass on my regards to him,” Granger smiled.

“Do you want me to pass on your regards to Ron if I see him?” Dora asked.

“Don’t bother,” Granger grumbled. “Sadly, somehow Ron qualified to be an Auror and I’m stuck working in the same department as him now. He’s still a total git, too.”

“Umm, ladies? As interesting as it is listening to details of your love lives, we did come here for a reason,” Harry prompted.

“Oh, of course,” Granger blushed. “What is it that I can do for the pair of you?”

“We need you to do a complete background check on a Muggle businessman. The only details we have are that he’s called Mr Winter and he is a successful hotelier who also owns several catering firms in Yorkshire,” Harry explained.

Granger immediately grabbed a quill and started making some notes. “Why are you so interested in a Muggle businessman?” she asked.

“Because this bloke seems to have suddenly acquired a group of sinister magical thugs who muscled in on a business here in London that was previously in the possession of a notorious criminal,” Dora explained.

“Really? You’re quite sure this Mr Winter is actually a Muggle, are you?” Granger enquired.

“Not really; we know very little about him. If he is magical, however, he’s kept himself pretty well hidden. We couldn’t find anything about him in Ministry records. That’s why we need your help, Miss Granger, to track him through his Muggle businesses,” Harry said.

“Okay, I should be able to do that,” Granger nodded. “Oh, and please do call me Hermione.”

“Alright, Hermione,” Harry smiled. “You don’t think you’ll have a problem doing this?”

“Oh, no. If these are legitimate businesses there will be records of them kept at Companies House. Probably recent sets of published accounts, too. I can probably track Mr Winter via an internet search, actually. That should give me a link to the businesses he runs. What was the name of the business he took over here in London? It might help if I know that,” Hermione asked.

“It’s called ‘Creative Creations’ and it’s a posh cake making place. I think they do come catering for exclusive events, too. The stuff they make is really impressive,” Dora said.

“Cake making?” Hermione noted quizzically.

“Yeah, we know what you’re thinking: why would a group of dangerous thugs muscle in on a notorious wizard’s patch and take over a glorified bakery? We’re currently working on the assumption that the place will be used in some sort of money laundering scheme,” Harry told her.

“It’s possible, although they would have to sell a lot of cake to disguise any sort of serious amount of cash being put through the business. How strange. You know, Mr Potter, you’ve managed to intrigue me. Leave this in my hands and I’ll see what I can come up with,” she smiled.

“Thanks, oh, and call me Harry,” he replied, offering his hand to shake.

“I’ll be in touch,” Hermione promised.

“Well, she certainly didn’t seem to be the nightmare that your friend Galatea implied,” Harry said to Dora as they left the office.

“Nah, she seemed alright, didn’t she? Perhaps she fancied you and was being on her best behaviour,” Dora smirked.

“That wasn’t the vibe I got from her,” Harry replied. “Anyway, I wouldn’t have been interested. I mean, she looked nice enough, but she really wasn’t my type.”

“What, you mean she wasn’t married?” she teased.

“Dora,” Harry growled warningly.

“Oh, lighten up, I’m only joking,” she giggled. “So, what do you want to do now?”

“I’m not sure,” he pondered. “I think we can leave the investigation of Mr Winter to our new friend Miss Granger. I get the feeling that when she gets interested in something she digs her teeth into it until she’s pulled it completely apart.”

“I agree. You know, I get the feeling Topa was holding out on us a bit when we spoke to him. He didn’t mention this Mr Winter fella at all, and that’s just the sort of thing he’d know about,” Dora pondered.

“Follow up visit?” Harry suggested.

“Yeah, I think that’s a good idea,” she agreed.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP

“Topa, are you in?” Dora called out.

Harry looked about. Andris Topa’s shop was strangely quiet, and he was starting to get an uncomfortable feeling that something was wrong. Dora had called out three times now, without any response at all. Harry could almost smell trouble.

“I’m going to check the back,” Dora announced, darting behind the counter.

Harry just nodded and continued to look around. He was just considering having a look behind the counter when an urgent cry caught his attention.

“Harry, get back here; now!” Dora called.

Pulling his wand out from his leather jacket, Harry sprinted through the door that led to the back room. He found Dora standing over the inert form of Andris Topa.

“Is he dead?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, and by the look of it he was tortured before he was killed. I’d know the signs of the Cruciatus Curse anywhere,” she said gravely.

“Knowing what trade he was in, I assume the bloke had a lot of enemies, right?” he speculated.

“Yeah, but generally he was a very careful man,” Dora replied. “Seems a bit of a coincidence that he gets rubbed out so soon after he talked to us, doesn’t it?”

Harry nodded. Something very bad was happening, he could feel it.





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