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SIYE Time:21:53 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: 42791; Chapter Total: 2991
Awards: View Trophy Room




Author's Notes:
Right, for those of you that have been demanding to know when Ginny would be making an appearance in this story (you know who you are), you’ll be pleased to know she makes her entrance in this chapter. Whether you’ll be so pleased about what happens when she does is another matter. *evil snigger*. A few more (semi-)familiar characters also enter the story and we get some more background on Harry and Dora’s mysterious case.

Super-huge thanks to Arnel the wonder-beta.




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Chapter 7 — Red and Gold



“Oh, bugger; here comes trouble,” Dora mutter ominously.

Harry turned to see a tall man with a long, droopy moustache walk into the room. He stopped and surveyed the Aurors who were all busily collecting evidence from Andris Topa’s living room when his eyes suddenly fell on them.

“What are you two still doing here?” the man demanded. “You should be back at the Ministry completing your reports into this matter.”

“We’re still investigating the crime scene,” Dora replied stiffly.

“That’s not your concern anymore. We have a victim who has been killed by Dark magic. That makes this a case for the Auror Department,” he snapped back.

“With the greatest respect, Gawain, you have no say over what the section does or doesn’t investigate. Besides, we initially passed this case onto the DMLE and they weren’t interested,” Dora said calmly.

“That’s assuming there is a link between this man’s murder and this supposed new crime lord you’ve been banging on about. This Topa fellow was a highly dubious character and there might be many reasons for someone wanting to kill him. I suggest you continue looking for this new villainous mastermind of yours, and leave us to investigate this murder in peace,” the man spat.

“At the present time we consider the two lines of investigation to be linked,” Harry interrupted, intent on backing up his partner.

The man stared at him in an unfriendly manner. “Oh, yes: Harry Potter. I heard you’d returned to this country. Well, let me tell you something, Potter. I’ve heard about the sort of methods and practices that your former employers use and I’ll tell you now that I won’t tolerate that sort of behaviour here! If I get a whiff of you operating in anything less than a professional and upright manner, you’ll be locked up in Azkaban before you can whistle! Got that?”

Harry took a step towards the man. “I don’t answer to you, whoever the hell you are,” he growled, “and for your information, it was because I didn’t approve of the tactics that Department M employed that I came back here. I don’t need you lecturing me on them.”

“And for your information, you’re addressing Gawain Robards, Head Auror, and I don’t appreciate some dirty street punk like you talking to me in that way! You’d better watch your step, Potter!” the man snarled back.

“I report directly to Kingsley Shacklebolt, not to you, and if you don’t want me talking to you that way then I suggest you don’t start threatening me. Got that, Robards?” Harry barked, his temper barely under control.

“Robards, why don’t you just do your job and we’ll do ours,” Dora said, placing a calming hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“Just don’t get in our bloody way, Tonks,” Robards informed her stiffly, before stalking off.

“What a prick,” Harry muttered as soon as the man was out of earshot.

“Robards was one of the reasons I was so happy to leave the Aurors,” Dora confided. “He’s competent at his job, but the man is a prize arsehole. Honestly, he could start a fight in an empty room. He only got the Head Auror job because Kingsley had so few other choices after the war.”

“He’ll get my wand stuck up his backside if he talks to me like that again,” Harry said darkly. “So, I guess we can’t expect too much cooperation from the Aurors on this case, eh?”

“We’ll be okay; I’m friendly with loads of people in the department. We just need to bypass Robards, that’s all,” she assured him.

“Fine. Let’s carry on looking round. Maybe we can spot something the Aurors missed,” he suggested.

They were just about to continue their search, when suddenly a shout from one of the Aurors distracted them.

“Over here, sir!” the Auror called to his boss. “We’ve got an illegal potion.”

“What is it?” Robards demanded, striding over to the man.

“It looks like a bottle of Intense Ecstasy Potion, sir,” the man said, thrusting the small bottle of pink liquid towards Robards. The man took it and gingerly pulled out the stopper. He then sniffed the contents warily before ramming the stopper back in.

“Yes, that’s definitely Intense Ecstasy, alright,” he agreed, before turning to the assembled Aurors. “Okay, we can start working on the premise that this Topa fellow was a potions dealer and he was probably killed after a deal went wrong. Start searching for any evidence that will lead to who his customers were.”

“What a load of bollocks,” Dora scoffed. “One bottle doesn’t make you a dealer. Knowing Topa, that was probably for private consumption.”

“I agree, although that Ecstasy Potion is nasty stuff. I met a young woman in Berlin who was hooked on it. She was a right mess in the end. Still, I wouldn’t put it past Topa to be into that sort of shit,” Harry muttered. “Anyway, this lot don’t seem too interested in looking at the Muggle stuff our deceased friend had, so I’m going to have a poke about over there.”

“Good idea. I just want to have a nose through that bookcase, and then I’ll join you,” Dora said.

Harry wandered out to the front of the shop and began to rummage through the metal racks containing all manner of objects. Most of the stuff appeared to be absolute junk, so he went behind the counter to see if there was anything of interest there. He spent a few minutes sifting through the clutter under the counter, when something caught his eye.

It was a plain brown box, shoved under the counter roughly by someone’s foot, he imagined. He knelt down and pulled the box out and was disappointed to see it just contained bits of brown greaseproof paper. Out of curiosity, he picked up one of the pieces of paper and turned it over in his hands. Printed on the paper in neat black text was a long serial number and the warning phrase ‘handle with extreme care!’ With a sinking feeling in his stomach, he held the paper to his nose and took a long sniff.

“What ya got there, Harry?” Dora asked as she emerged through the door.

“This packaging; I’ve seen it before,” Harry explained. “When I worked at Department M, it was sometimes necessary to destroy certain buildings or objects without reverting to magic, just to maintain plausible denial, you understand. The stuff we used came in wrappers just like this.”

“What exactly was in that packaging?” she demanded.

“Plastic explosive,” he replied grimly.

“Oh, shit!” Dora cursed. “Topa, you dirty old bastard, just what had you gotten yourself into?”

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP

A few days later, Harry and Dora were sitting in the section’s office working through some paperwork, when there was a timid knock on the door. Standing, Harry walked open and opened the door to see Hermione Granger standing there clutching several thick files.

“Hermione, nice to see you,” he greeted her. “Do you have something for us?”

“Oh, do I ever,” she said enthusiastically.

“You’d better come in and tell us all about it, then,” he smiled, standing aside and gesturing for her to enter.

When they were all seated and Hermione had been supplied with an obligatory cup of section approved coffee (extra strong, black, and, remember, sugar is for wimps) the Legal Witch began to explain what she had found.

“As I mentioned previously, the first thing I did was visit Companies House in Cardiff. ‘Creative Creations’ has indeed been registered as a trading company with them, just in the last few weeks in fact. The file appeared to be in order apart from one thing,” she told them.

“What was that?” Dora asked.

“It had a mild Muggle Repelling Charm cast on it,” Hermione said triumphantly. “Nothing too powerful, but just enough to make sure no Muggle would willingly pick up the file.”

“Well, isn’t that interesting,” Dora said with an arched eyebrow. “I assume you were able to read the file without any problems?”

“Of course,” Hermione replied, sounding slightly offended. “The company’s director was listed as Mr A Winter of Harrogate, Yorkshire. I have the exact address if you want it, but it will be no use to you. I already checked and it doesn’t actually exist. There was a set of audited accounts for the business from the time it traded under its previous owner, and they were dreadful. The business was in serious trouble and was on the verge of going under.”

“Okay, that fits in with what we were told previously,” Harry agreed. “What I don’t understand is why anyone would be interested in the business as anything other than a tax write-off. This ‘Mr Winter’ appears to have invested heavily in this crappy business, buying loads of new equipment and attracting talented new staff, which seems a risky investment to me. A glorified bakery is never going to have that big of a turnover. More to the point, why then go to lengths to ensure that no Muggle starts poking around in the business’s affairs?”

“I might have some clues to that,” Hermione continued in a rather excited voice. “Once I’d found this Mr Winter in the company file I was able to cross-reference him. He’s listed as the principle owner of no less than eleven businesses scattered around Yorkshire, Lancashire and Durham. That includes one Public Limited Company, Other Side Plc, who own over a dozen hotels in the area. It’s a very successful company, too; almost too successful, I would say. It has a multi-million pound turnover, which is a little strange as most of the hotels are quite small and not in what I would call particularly affluent areas.”

“You don’t say,” Harry grinned.

“Your assessment that this is an elaborate money laundering scheme appears spot on,” Hermione nodded. “The trouble was that the trail went cold at that point. I couldn’t find anything further on Mr Winter or any clues about where the money came from. I started trying to discover where the initial funding to purchase these companies came from, but ran up against a brick wall. There were numerous dummy businesses, most of them now ceased trading, that were used to route money through. The paper trail appears to have been made deliberately confusing and, frankly, the whole thing stinks.”

“Were any of these companies overseas?” Harry asked.

“No, oddly enough. I know what you’re thinking; that large money laundering operations like this usually have an overseas outlet where funds can be transferred out of the country, but there was nothing like that. This is a purely domestic operation,” she confirmed.

“Okay, this really isn’t my area of expertise, but isn’t this whole thing a bit odd?” Dora asked.

“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever encountered,” Harry confirmed.

“I have some other ideas I want to follow up. I want to check if there were any requests to local councils for changes to planning permissions on any of the properties plus, if I can arrange it, I’ll see if there are any tax records. I’m sure there are clues there if I dig deep enough,” Hermione said decisively.

“That would be great,” Harry smiled.

“I’ll get back to it, then,” the young woman smiled back. “Thanks for getting me involved in this; it’s absolutely fascinating! I’ll be in touch.”

And with that, Hermione hurried out of the office, her coffee untouched.

“Wow, she’s pretty impressive, isn’t she?” Harry noted while he leafed through the copy of the report Hermione had left.

“What are you talking about? Her work ethic or her bust?” Dora asked innocently.

“I was talking about her work ethic, although her knockers aren’t bad either,” he grinned.

“Just as well you think like that. I suspect the only reason Miss Granger is so keen to help us is that she fancies you,” she teased.

“Nah, you’re kidding, aren’t you? I’m definitely not her type and she’s not mine,” Harry insisted. “Not every woman I meet has to be viewed as a potential sexual partner for me, you know.”

“I know; it’s just that I’ve been so happy since I got together with Bill, I just want you to find the same thing,” she told him earnestly.

“That’s very sweet of you, Dora, but it will happen when it happens. I mean, I’ve only been back in the country a few weeks. I can’t expect to meet my perfect partner straight away, can I?” Harry pointed out.

“I suppose not,” Dora conceded. “On the other hand, she might be just around the corner and you don’t know it.”

Harry just nodded. He doubted he was that lucky.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHP

The next couple of weeks flew by for Harry and Tonks. They both felt their frustration build as their investigation hit a brick wall. Hermione Granger had been prevented from spending much time investigating ‘Mr Winter’ due to other, apparently more pressing, work. Deprived of that useful source of information, they had hit the streets in an effort to find more about the mysterious gang that had appeared out of nowhere. Unfortunately, the gang were laying low and no one else was talking.

They had spent the morning following up a lead from another case and had at least made some progress with that. It was rapidly approaching midday and Harry was just thinking about lunch.

“Fancy having a bite at that place over by the Natural History Museum?” Harry asked Dora as they headed back to her VW.

“Nah, you and me have plans for lunch,” she replied smugly.

“We do?” he asked in confusion.

“Yeah, we’re heading to the ‘The Lord Clyde’ actually, where my ruggedly handsome boyfriend will be meeting us,” Dora explained.

“Okay, but wouldn’t you rather meet up with him without me tagging along?” Harry asked. Bill and Dora’s relationship seemed to be blossoming and they met after work most days. It left Harry by himself a lot, but he didn’t really mind that much and had even taken the opportunity of having dinner with Andromeda a few times, which he’d enjoyed.

“Oh, don’t you want to join us?” Dora said in surprise. “That’s a shame, especially as Bill is bringing his hot sister along with him. She was so looking forward to meeting you, too.”

“Why didn’t you say? Honestly, Dora! I’m hardly smartly dressed, am I? Do we have time to go back to the flat first?” Harry exclaimed. He was dress in his now usual black jeans and ripped t-shirt, this one featuring the band Paradise Lost. It was definitely not what he would have chosen to wear if he knew he was meeting a girl for the first time.

“Nah, you’ll be fine. Ginny’s a down to earth sort,” Dora said dismissively.

They headed over to the pub and found they were first to arrive. Not wanting to order food before the Weasleys turned up, they both got themselves a pint of cider and found a table from which they could keep an eye on the front door. Harry had to admit he was strangely excited, as he’d been hearing bits and pieces about Bill’s mysterious sister for weeks now. He had to admit he was greatly looking forward to meeting her.

They had barely managed a few slips of their pints when the door opened and Bill walked in. He spotted Dora and broke into a wide grin. A young woman followed him into the pub, and Harry had his first look at Ginny Weasley. He was impressed.

She was short, only coming up to Bill’s shoulders, and had bright red hair currently tied back in a neat ponytail. Harry noted her pale, creamy skin was dusted with freckles which had to admit were bloody sexy. Add to that, her smart skirt-suit did little to hide her curvy figure. She was, Harry was pleased to say, a bit of a bombshell.

The young woman approached the table and offered Dora a cheerful smile, before her eyes turned to Harry. She looked at him once… and her face fell.

Harry sighed. He knew meeting the young woman for the first time dressed as he was would be a mistake, and her reaction appeared to have proved him right. Ginny Weasley was dressed immaculately and didn’t have a hair out of place. He, on the other hand, was dressed like a yob and looked like he’d been dragged through a hedge backwards.

“Hiya, Dora,” Bill said warmly, giving his girlfriend a quick kiss. “You’ve got a drink I see. Have you ordered anything to eat yet?”

“Nah, we were waiting for you,” she replied.

“Oh, I’d better make some introductions. Ginny, this is Tonks’s partner, Harry Potter. Harry, this is my little sister, Ginny,” Bill said.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Ginny,” Harry said, standing and offering his hand.

Ginny regarded Harry’s outstretched hand with something approaching panic, before grabbing it and shaking it once. Her eyes remained fixed to the table as she did so. For a brief second, Harry wondered if she would pull out a hanky and start to wipe her fingers where she’d touched him.

“Sit yourself down, Ginny, and I’ll get us some drinks. What would you like,” Bill asked his sister.

“Just lemonade for me,” she replied quietly “I have a tricky job this afternoon”. Bill nodded and headed towards the bar.

Ginny rather reluctantly sat herself in the seat next to Harry, resolutely not looking at him.

“It’s good to see you again, Ginny,” Dora said with a smile. “It will be nice to have a chat. You always seem to be coming as I’m going, and we haven’t really had the chance for a natter.”

“Yes, it will,” Ginny replied, brightening up considerably. “I was thrilled when Bill told me he was going out with you. I think the pair of you are a really good match.”

“I agree,” Dora grinned. “So, Bill’s told me a bit about what you’ve been up to, but not much in the way of details. When I last saw you, you were about to join the Holyhead Harpies. Why did you give it up?”

“Injury,” the small redhead said sourly. “If you remember, I joined the Harpies back in ’99 as a trainee and it was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I loved playing Quidditch all day and my fellow apprentices were a great bunch. I had a really good season, too, and was pretty certain that they were going to sign me professionally. Then, during one of the last training games of the season, I got hit by a Bludger. It was my own stupid fault; I was concentrating on intercepting a Quaffle that I didn’t see it coming. It hit me smack on the spine and sent me tumbling off my broom. Fortunately, I wasn’t too high at the time.”

“Oh, no!” Dora exclaimed. “Are you alright now?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Ginny said dismissively. “The only trouble was that the Healers were of the opinion that my spine had been weakened by the impact and that if I got hit by another Bludger in the same place I could be paralysed. The spine is one of the things that Skele-Gro can’t fix, of course. I insisted that I was fine, but with that diagnosis on my medical file, my insurance premium went through the roof. The Harpies weren’t going to pay a sum fortune to insure an untried rookie, and neither would any other profession team. In short, my Quidditch career was over.”

“Oh, babe, I’m so sorry,” Dora said, reaching over and squeezing the younger girl’s hand.

“Thanks, Tonks. I was really upset at the time, but there was nothing I could do about it, so I had no choice other than to look at getting a different job,” she explained. “One good thing that came of the whole experience was that I learnt just how wonderful my family is. My dad and all my brothers all fell over themselves trying to find a new line of work for me. In fact, I think it became a bit of a competition to see who could convince me to take up their profession. Dad and Percy all found openings at the Ministry that I could apply for, Ron looked into getting me into the Aurors, Charlie tried to convince me to become a dragon handler and even George offered me a job in his shop. Actually, I did work in his shop for a few months while I tried to decide what to do.”

“But you decided to follow Bill into curse-breaking,” Dora said.

“Yeah, it just seemed the most interesting job, really. No offense, but I’ve never seen myself as an Auror, or even working for the Ministry. I quite like dragons, but not enough to convince me to move to Romania. As I had all the right NEWT qualifications to become a curse-breaker, and Bill put in a good word for me, I managed to get an apprenticeship with Gringotts. I qualified last year and have been really enjoying it. The money is pretty good, too.”

“Will you be helping Bill in clearing out my old house?” Harry asked.

Ginny flushed and immediately drew in on herself. “Yeah,” she admitted quietly. “I visited the house last week with Bill. I was shocked to see it in that state, actually.”

“You’ve visited Grimmauld Place before?” Harry asked in surprise.

“Yeah, my parents were members of the Order of the Phoenix, did you know that?”

Harry nodded.

“Well, a couple of times they attended meetings there they took me with them as they didn’t want to leave me at home by myself. I even saw you there once,” she said before quickly glancing at him. “You’ve changed a lot.”

Harry was about to explain that he normally dressed a bit neater, even if that wasn’t really true anymore, when Bill arrived back with the drinks. He, too, was drinking a pint, leaving Ginny the only one with a soft drink.

The four of them then started to peruse the menus and chose what food they wanted. As he hadn’t had more than a piece of toast all morning, Harry picked the rib eye steak, as did Dora. Bill ordered sausage and mash, while Ginny just had a pasta salad. Harry was rapidly coming to the conclusion that she had very different tastes from him.

They all chattered until the food arrived, with Ginny mostly talking to Dora. They ate mostly in silence, although Bill and Dora did appear to be playing footsie under the table the whole time. Once they finished, Dora and Bill began a quiet conversation between themselves, while Harry went and got a second pint. He sat down again, eyeing his partner sourly as she practically draped herself over Bill.

“I hope you didn’t think I was trying to insult you when I said you’d changed a lot,” a small voice said.

Harry turned to look at Ginny, who had turned to face him with a rosy blush in her cheeks.

“Don’t worry about it,” he replied dismissively. The last thing he needed was her making up excuses.

“No, really, all I meant was that when I saw you back at Grimmauld Place, you looked so different. Didn’t you use to wear glasses?” she asked.

“Yeah, I did,” he admitted in surprise. “I decided it was worth the Galleons to get my eyes fixed, in the end. My glasses had a habit of falling off at the most awkward moments.”

“You look much better without them,” Ginny said quietly

“Thank you,” Harry said, rather taken aback by her apparent change in attitude. Had he misread the girl?

“I’m sorry I haven’t really spoken much to you during lunch,” she continued. “When I was a little girl, sometimes I could be painfully shy when meeting new people. I really thought I’d kicked that habit about ten years ago, but apparently not.”

“Oh, well, at least you’re talking to me now,” he smiled encouragingly.

“Yeah, just when me and Bill will have to head back to work,” Ginny said sombrely. “The goblins are very strict about timekeeping, you know.”

“Yeah, I heard that,” Harry agreed. Then, encouraged by Ginny’s apparent change of heart about him, he added, “well, if you do feel like chatting some more then give me a Floo call and we’ll go out for a drink, or something.”

Ginny instantly flushed bright red. “Okay, I might do that.”

“I’m afraid it’s time to head back to work,” Bill announced. “Some of us have strict hours to keep.”

“More fool you,” Dora smirked. “I’ll see you tonight, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Bill agreed, and gave her a quick kiss.

“Bye, Harry, it was nice meeting you,” Ginny said, before leaping out of her seat and practically running out of the pub.

“So, how did it go?” Dora asked after Bill had followed his sister out of the door.

“Badly,” Harry admitted. “I think Ginny took one look at me and nearly turned and ran back out the door. It took her most of the lunch hour to actually talk to me. I told you I should have gone and changed beforehand.”

“That’s strange. Ginny isn’t the sort to get all snobbish about the way people are dressed. She’s normally a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl,” Dora said in puzzlement.

“Maybe she was, but not anymore. Didn’t you see that smart business suit she was wearing? I looked like a complete tramp next to her,” he moaned.

“I’ll have to ask her about that next time I see her,” Dora said. “Oh, never mind, Harry. Even if she wasn’t interested, there are plenty more fish in the sea.”

“Probably, but it looks like I’ll have to use different bait next time,” he muttered.

HPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPHPH PHP

“Okay, is everyone here? Good. Minister, they’re all yours,” the wizard in immaculate robes said as he moved off the small stage to be replaced by Kingsley Shacklebolt.

“Thank you for coming everyone,” Kinsley rumbled. “As you are all aware, the Ministry will be hosting a garden party on the 23rd of this month in Leeds. This will be the first of a series of such events, all designed to allow Ministry officials to meet and interact with their counterparts in the Muggle world. Naturally, the Statute of Secrecy is still in force, so everyone will need to be able to pass themselves off as Muggles. Hopefully, you will all have attended one of the workshops that have been running on the subject.”

Harry looked around the assembled group of wizards and witches and saw a few rueful looks. Obviously, not everyone had bothered.

“I must stress the importance of these events in moving our society forward. While the Wizarding world holds itself apart from the mundane one, we continue to run the risk of coming to view the Muggles as inferior or something to be despised. We must take the time to understand our non-magical neighbours and, hopefully, forge working relationships with them. I realise that a lot of you are not used to interacting with Muggles and fear that you’ll give yourselves away, but trained Obliviators will be on hand if anything goes wrong,” the big man assured them. “Right, I will now hand you over to the event organiser, Miss Daphne Greengrass, who will give you more details. Miss Greengrass, if you will.”

Kingsley stepped off the stage and was replaced by a young woman with golden hair. Harry looked at her closely, admiring her shapely legs and attractive features. Miss Greengrass was a radiantly beautiful witch. As she stood to address the group, suddenly her eyes locked with Harry’s and she gave him a small smile.

“Thank you, Minister,” Greengrass began, turning back to the assembled audience. “As stated, this will be the first of eight such events all across the nation, designed to help build an understanding of the Muggle world. Ministry staff will be given the opportunity to mingle with Muggle political figures, Civil Servants, businessmen and all manner of important and influential people. I must express my personal excitement at this wonderful prospect, and my gratitude at being allowed to help organise it.”

“I wonder who she shagged to be given the job,” Dora whispered in his ear.

“Dunno, but he was a lucky bastard whoever he was,” he smirked back.

“The eight events will be held over the course of the next three months and will each take the form of an informal party. Various locations have been secured, with the final party being held here in London in a private garden in Knightsbridge. Catering of a high standard will be laid on, and I can guarantee everyone will be well provided for. Just please remember that you’re supposed to be interacting with the Muggles when the buffet is laid out.”

A small titter met Greengrass’s joke. Harry had to admit he was impressed with the young woman, who seemed as intelligent as she was beautiful. Her voice was like pure honey, and he found himself starting to enjoy the briefing very much.

“Obviously, security is a major issue at these events and, as the Minister stated, teams of trained Obliviators will be on hand should things go badly wrong. They will be aided by a protection team from the Aurors and from the Minister’s personal staff.”

“That’s us,” Dora whispered mischievously.

Harry just rolled his eyes at her.

“It will be vital for all staff to dress convincingly as Muggles and before each event begins there will be inspection of all attendees. We will expect smart, formal attire and anyone failing to meet the required standard will not be allowed to attend. Such an occurrence will be noted in your permanent files,” Greengrass warned them menacingly. “Males, especially, remember to wear trousers. If any man turns up in a dress because he thinks it feels like he’s wearing robes, he will be in a world of trouble!”

“Oh, Harry, you won’t be able to wear that fetching knee-length little number you bought,” Dora said sympathetically.

Harry ignored her and concentrated on the briefing. In truth, when it was being delivered by such a beautiful witch as Daphne Greengrass it was not a difficult job. Greengrass was extremely thorough, though. She provided comprehensive information on what was required from everyone, gave out timings and destinations, and even provided everyone with a list of do’s and don’ts for when conversing with a Muggle. Harry was impressed; Ministry staff weren’t normally this competent.

Eventually, the briefing broke up and Harry and Dora stood to leave. As they had been seated on the far side of the auditorium they had to wait while the other witches and wizards shuffled out of the room. As they were nearly to the door, a voice called out.

“Mr Potter? I wonder if I could have a quick word.”

Harry turned to see Daphne Greengrass standing there, a serene smile on her lips. He heard Dora snigger beside him.

“I’ll meet you back at the office,” Dora said, amusement clear in her voice.

“What can I do for you, Miss Greengrass?” Harry asked after his partner had made her exit.

“Oh, nothing work related, I assure you,” she replied, her bright blue eyes shining. “I must confess that I just wanted to take the opportunity to meet you. I’ve heard so much about your exploits over the years I couldn’t resist coming and introducing myself.”

“Oh?” Harry said cautiously. People who claimed to know about his supposed ‘exploits’ always made him nervous.

“Indeed,” she continued before glancing round to ensure no one was nearby. “You see, I’m fully aware of you role in the last war, and that we’re all indebted to you for finally ridding us of the curse of the Dark Lord. I wanted to express my admiration and gratitude.”

Harry resisted sighing out loud. It seemed more and more people knew that he’d been the one to defeat Voldemort. Clearly, the Ministry hadn’t suppressed that information as thoroughly as he’d hoped.

“I do hope I haven’t given you cause for concern,” Greengrass added rapidly. “I come from a very old and well established family, and we do tend to keep our ears to the ground. I swear that I would never reveal your secret to anyone.”

“Sadly, as much as I would wish otherwise, the days of that information being secret are numbered, I fear,” he told her. “I think my return to this country and the job I’m now doing has got quite a few people speculating.”

“Quite so, and I must say I’m impressed with your modesty. Most men would be bragging to all and sundry if they managed to beat the most powerful Dark wizard in recent history. You seem intent on trying to keep it quiet, however. I gather you don’t like to draw attention to yourself, then?” she asked.

“Fame has never been a goal of mine,” he confirmed.

“How intriguing,” she smiled. “Good looks, profound magical skill, and a sense of humility, too. You’re quite the package, aren’t you, Mr Potter?”

“I try,” he replied. In truth, the beautiful blonde’s delicate perfume and ravishing good looks were proving quite distracting.

“Well, I’m sure you’re very busy, so I won’t keep you further. I have enjoyed our brief chat immensely, however, and would relish the opportunity to talk some more. If you find you have some spare time on your hands, please do give me a call.”

With a graceful flourish, she produced a business card with her Floo address printed on it which she handed to him.

“Thank you, I’ll definitely try to find some time to accommodate you, Miss Greengrass,” he promised.

She moved a little closer to him. “Please, do call me Daphne. I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”

And with that, she turned and walked out of the room. Harry desperately tried not to leer at the sight of her shapely bottom wiggling as she walked. The girl was definitely sex on a stick.

Slowly, Harry made his way back to the section’s office, deep in thought. The room was empty when he arrived, apart from Dora. She wiggled her eyebrows at him as he entered.

“So, what did the blonde hottie want then?” she asked.

“To express her utmost admiration of me, apparently,” he noted dryly. “Somehow, she knew about me and Voldemort.”

“Really? Hmm, that’s a surprise,” Dora said.

“Yeah, what do you know about the Greengrass family?” he asked her.

“Not a great deal,” Dora admitted. “They’re your usual bunch of inbred pure-bloods, although they traditionally tend to shy away from direct commendation of Muggles and generally operate more in the background. They remained neutral during the last war.”

“Interesting,” he pondered. “Do you know anything specific about this Daphne Greengrass?”

“Nah, I’d never even heard of her before today. Why, are you interested in her? Did blondie make a move on you?” Dora asked with obvious interest.

Harry pulled out the business card he’d been given and showed it to his friend. “She suggested we get together some time and have a chat,” he explained.

“Really, have a chat, eh?” Dora drawled in amusement, but then noted Harry’s expression. “You don’t seem too thrilled by that prospect.”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “There just seemed something a bit off about her.”

“In what way?” Dora demanded.

“Back when I was working for Department M, I was assigned an undercover mission,” he began. “Now, I can’t give you any details of what I was doing, but I can tell you that I was paired up with a gorgeous young Russian agent and we were to pose as newlyweds. Suffice to say, we took our cover very seriously and performed every activity that a newlywed couple would do, if you get my meaning. The mission lasted about a month and then, at the end of it, we parted company. That Russian agent just shook my hand and walked away without a backwards glance. It was only afterwards when I looked back over the time we spent together did I realise that she’d always been holding a bit of herself back. Even when we were in bed doing what all just married couples do, there was always this feeling that she wasn’t completely there if you get my meaning.”

“That she was just acting out a role, you mean?” Dora queried

“Exactly,” Harry agreed. “I just got the same sort of vibe off this Daphne Greengrass character.”

“Hmm, perhaps she’s just on the lookout for a wealthy, influential husband,” Dora suggested. “If she knew about your take-down of Voldemort, she probably knows that you’re loaded. She wouldn’t be the first gold digger who’s had her eye on you.”

“True, but didn’t you say the Greengrasses were an old, established pure-blood family? I can’t imagine they’d want a dirty half-blood like me befouling their esteemed family tree,” Harry pointed out.

“Times change,” she shrugged. “So, does this mean you won’t be taking her up on her offer of a little get-together?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I’m almost inclined to meet with her just to find out what she’s up to.”

“Of course, and I’m sure the fact that she’s so hot she could give a ninety-year-old bloke a stiffy doesn’t come in to it,” Dora grinned.

Harry shrugged. “I can look in the shop window without making a purchase, can’t I?” he pointed out. “So, what’s on the agenda for this afternoon?”

“Well, as we seem to be making so little progress on tracking down this mysterious new gang, I thought we’d pay another visit to the person who first mentioned them to us,” she said.

“Oh, your little friend Sudsy? Maybe that’s not a bad idea,” he agreed.

“Glad you agree,” she smiled. “To the Tonksmobile!”

Harry groaned.











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