Hi everyone! This is a HP/NCIS crossover with a focus on the NCIS world especially in Part One which will have five chapters in total. I'm currently looking for a beta though this chapter has been beta'ed a long time ago. PM me if you're interested.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. So no money is made with this and (luckily) none of these events are true.
PART ONE: Exposure Time
Prologue: Snapshots In New York
April 17, 2004
Central Park in April was as fickle as the weather. There were days when the park almost looked deserted, when heavy rain fell on the dirt paths, turning them in to muddy pools. The water in the lake was so dark that it mirrored the sky, as thousands of raindrops pelted the surface in an never ending stream.
On other days, like today, you were fondly reminded that Spring had arrived. Families with children were holding picnics on the lawn. Mothers fussed worriedly over their rebellious offspring, who in turn were adamantly convinced it was too warm for a jacket or even a sweater for that matter. Fathers and sons were playing catch and the occasional enthusiastic young dog sprinted after every moving object.
A group of teenage girls loudly gossiped and texted, while glancing and giggling at the sight of the shirtless college males who were playing Frisbee on an open field in their line of sight. A couple lay on a blue spotted blanket completely wrapped up in each other, unaware of what was happening around them. The woman smiled into their kiss, as if she didn't have a care in the world.
None of them had the faintest idea that they were being watched. On a bench overlooking the picturesque meadow, a middle aged man was eating an ice cream. It had two scoops, always vanilla first and then chocolate, in that particular order.
The sunglasses and his cap hid his scrutinizing gaze, so he could observe the people in front of him as they went about their leisurely business. He had a book open on his lap and turned a page every two minutes, like clockwork, without reading one single word. This timid state was in sharp contrast with his physical appearance, which was more suited to cut down the tree that made the book than handling the frail pages.
All in all it was proving to be a waste of time. He'd been here two days ago and spent the entire time annoyed by the happy little families and their silly little pastimes. Yesterday he was posted at the East River Ferry but nobody caught his attention or looked even remotely passable. His leave was almost up, one day and he was expected back at work.
Suddenly someone cursed nearby. He looked to his right and saw a young man getting up painfully rubbing the back of his head. He had been crouching down probably to get a better angle if that photo camera was anything to go by.
A ball was lying at the young photographer's feet. A kid was already running towards him, but the boy slowed down and stopped at a safe distance fearful of the man's reaction. He could see that quivering lip from his spot on the bench. The young man didn't start shouting or loudly demanded to see the boy's parents, instead he crouched down again and held out the ball. The child hesitantly got closer and quickly grabbed the ball hugging it against his chest.
The young man was talking now, presumably reassuring the boy that he wasn't mad, but at the same time, telling him to watch out where he aimed at in the future. By now the boy's father was there and the young man got up still smiling reassuringly. The dad obviously apologized but the young man waved it off. They talked for a few minutes until the boy impatiently tugged his father's pants probably demanding ice cream.
They left and the young man kneeled down again to take some more pictures. Finally satisfied the photographer got up and walked around to find another appealing view. As the young man got closer he finally got a better look. And immediately clenched his hand around his book, so forcefully that he crumpled the page.
What a shock, from this distance the resemblance was uncanny. Not a complete copy, but definitely workable. The photographer was young, probably somewhere in his twenties because the boyish angles and limps were all gone. He had black hair long enough to cover his forehead and a part of his eyes. He was wearing a white and blue T-shirt and had a sweater tied around his hips. The jeans and the shoes were nothing special as was his backpack. The only valuable thing he seemed to own was that camera. The round glasses were a bit out of place which explained why he hadn't spotted him earlier.
In other words, he was perfect.
He waited until the young man was almost out of sight stretching his arms and legs before getting up. He readjusted his cap and followed at a safe distance, casually strolling along the path so no one would suspect. Honestly, he didn't worry about being seen. New York was such a busy city. It was very hard to notice if someone was following you in particular. Besides, he wasn't exactly a novice when it came to this game.
They were out of the park now and the young man turned around another corner, but he didn't hurry to catch up. Instead he smirked, this seemed destined after all. His car was parked not far from here. A couple of blocks further the young man apparently reached his destination when he stopped at a rare payphone.
While the dark-haired photographer counted his coins the man looked around to seek a better spot. They were near Lincoln Center and luck was on his side again. There was a vending machine close by. Under the guise of searching for a dollar he planted himself nearby so he could listen in.
"Hi Hermione." The young man greeted happily. The very next moment he was nonchalantly holding the phone at arm's length grinning widely. A woman was yelling. He couldn't understand the words but it sounded like a lecture.
A girlfriend perhaps? The voice was too young for a mother.
The young man kept smiling though and after a minute when the yelling stopped he brought the phone back to his ear, "Of course I was listening or trying to, before you made me lose my hearing."
There was a pause and the mischievous glint in his eyes only grew. "You're right Ron. Hermione, I apologize for leaving without a word. It was deplorable behavior on my part. I just needed to leave." For the first time he heard something akin to frustration. The young man continued, "You do understand that, don't you? I didn't want to handle another memorial service. What's the use? More than half of the people at those things weren't there nor did they lose someone. It's become nothing more than publicity. And I can't stay out of it when I'm in London."
Ah, that explained the accent.
"You call it running, I call it a well deserved vacation. Kingsley authorized it." The young man argued briefly adding another coin. "And you already know that Ginny knew. She understood."
"No, I'm between cases obviously."
Cases? This was something else. The kid had a job?
He finally 'found' his dollar and slowly inserted it in the machine dawdling to make a choice.
"I was staying in a good neighborhood. Yes, I'm sure. Lovely, it was a five minutes' walk to Central Park." The conversation turned more relaxed now as the young man talked about the pictures he'd taken.
"Guggenheim, Empire State Building, Ellis Island. No, I didn't stop at the Library. And yes I'm staying in normal New York. Thank Merlin."
What a strange thing to say, the man shrugged and thought, probably the result of some new age crap. He decided he'd dallied long enough and pressed a random button.
"Heading North, yes I've got directions. The guy behind the bar at my hostel drew me a map. Okay, okay, 'Take the Seventh Avenue Express all the way to Wakefield and then the train from Mount Vernon East Metro Station'. It's just a name, 'Mione, not an omen of ill fortune. Why you and Trelawney never got along… Anyway, I'll try to hitch a ride a bit out of the city at the Interstate 87. And I don't want to know if 87 is a bad number according to Professor Vector."
He perked up. Interesting information, definitely workable, he thought as he disinterested watched the bag of chips fall down.
"I'll call in um about a week? Yes, Hermione I promise." The young man started to talk faster and inserted his last coin, "Yes, I'll be fine. Stop worrying, Mum, I'll brush my teeth, comb my hair, however hopeless it may be and eat all my vegetables."
There was another pause until the young man continued amused, "I'm so going to get slapped for that when I get back, aren't I?"
"Well, take care of her and give my love to everyone."
The young man snorted, "Ron, I'm definitely not a girl."
"Bye, bye Hermione, I'll stay out of trouble." The young man said then continued with mocked indignation, "Those were not my fault. But I've got to get going now, bye." And he hung up.
Now it was his turn. He folded his sunglasses and put them away while taking a step closer. He stopped at an appropriate distance and loudly cleared his throat. The reaction was humorous and disquieting at the same time.
The dark-haired man turned around fast, very fast and his hand went to his waistband as if he was carrying a gun. He froze but the young man smiled sheepishly when he realized there was no incentive for such a reaction.
Oh, he was wrong, he just didn't know it. Still, precaution was advised in this case.
"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you, but I couldn't help catching some bits and pieces of your conversation. I'm traveling to Albany. If you're interested to go up North, I can give you a lift. It will save you a subway fare at least." He smiled warmly succeeding in trying to sound as non-threateningly as possible.
"I'm not really tight on cash. That is, I don't mean that I'm rich just that um…" The young man spoke uncomfortably and looked ready to clasp his mouth but he interrupted him.
"Don't worry kid, I'm not going to mug you. Name's Darren." He offered his hand with another bright smile. The young man hesitated only a second before he made up his mind.
"Harry." They shook hands. Darren's eyes flicked downwards as he noticed that the young man was wearing a wedding band. He quickly covered up his surprise with a question, "So what do you say? For me, it's all the same."
"Are you parked far away?" Harry asked looking up and down the street.
"Just a few blocks from here."
The other man seemed to mull his offer over and Darren tried very hard not to cross his fingers. Finally Harry said, "I'll walk with you while I'm still deciding."
"No problem. Being cautious is a good trait. So what brings you to the States?" Darren asked curiously.
"Vacation." Harry answered and heaved the backpack on to one shoulder, "I haven't travelled like this before, I mean the whole sightseeing thing. A few years back my friends and I had an um extended camping trip though we mostly stayed in the woods."
"Sounds like fun."
"Wasn't really, the emphasis on survival wore me down. It wasn't relaxing or anything. This is different, up till now I've had fun here. New York is a bustling city." Harry grinned enthusiastically.
"You're right, personally I prefer the woods. I had a couple of trainings there, focusing on survival. Never felt so alive in my life."
"You're a soldier?"
"Former Marine," Darren proudly tapped the dog tags hanging around his neck, "Spent almost twenty years in the Corps until I got honorably discharged last year when an IED got the better of me. Can't hear a thing from this side most of the time." He pointed to his left ear.
"Well, I try to look at the positive side of it all. I have my arms and legs and I'm home now. I can spent more time with my son."
"I'll bet he's pleased." Harry sounded wistful all of a sudden. Darren rejoiced silently, very workable indeed.
"Look," Darren said and pulled out his wallet. He opened it and showed Harry a photo. A boy with a red paper crown on his unruly black hair blew out five candles on top of a chocolate cake that read 'Happy Birthday Ethan' in brilliant blue frosting. "I took this a couple of years ago, but it's still my favorite photograph."
"He looks very happy." The young man commented and Darren only nodded at that. He put his wallet away and grabbed his keys.
"Here we are." He finally said and leaned against his pickup truck. "What's the verdict?" He grinned and watched how Harry glanced inside his car. A Tweety Bird bounced on the dashboard and there were a couple of comic books, a thick book about whales and another about mummies conveniently sprawled across the passenger's seat. "I hope you don't mind the mess. Ethan always keeps a couple of books in here. He'll read while sleeping if he got the chance."
"My godson's like that as well. He's scary smart for his age, but only if it involves 'yucky' stuff." Harry smiled fondly. "I got him a book from the Natural History Museum about brains. The pictures are absolutely nauseating. No doubt he'll love it."
Darren laughed, "Sounds like a great kid."
"So, you taking this lift?" He asked as he opened his door, effortlessly keeping the eagerness out of voice. Harry had walked to the other side of the car and gave him a scrutinizing look.
"I'd like too, if it's really not a problem." Harry said opening the passenger's door and got in mindful of the camera that rested against his chest. "It saves me time, so thanks."
Darren smiled and got in as well. He inserted the key starting the car and turned on the radio. "It's not a problem at all." He said and looked into his rearview mirror as he left the parking spot. "It's my pleasure."
So, this was the prologue... Intrigued? Next chapter: Aperture