June 16th, Little Whinging, Surrey
Petunia Dursley of Number Four Privet Drive was perfectly satisfied with her life, thanks ever so much. She was more than delighted with the new wallpaper she'd just had installed in the sitting room - an anthemion design patterned in sage, cream and rose, with a complimentary egg-and-dart border, also in cream - and Mrs. Number Three had complimented her choice and hinted that it was very elegant, indeed - and not anything so dreadfully dated like Mrs. Number Seven's older beige and burgundy striped walls. Petunia was very much looking forward to hosting her Lady's Bookclub Luncheon in two weeks time; she would be put together so particularly, with her new chiffon summer frock with cabbage roses printed on the gauzy fabric that she'd carefully chosen, perched on her cream and cherrywood settee and serving tea with her summery pink and cream Royal Albert set in her freshly papered sitting room…
The clock chimed eight o'clock and Petunia paused in drying the dishes long enough to flick her eyes up towards the window behind the breakfast table. The window faced out onto the lawn and street and though the curtains had been drawn for the evening she'd left a small part in them with which to peek. The lady of the house sniffed disdainfully as she caught a glimpse of Mrs. Number Five sneaking off to the newly single Mr. Number Two's home.
Her Vernon was certainly not the wandering eye type. She could hear him, just out of sight of the kitchen, chuckling at something on the evening television. He was just what a husband ought to be: Practical, dutiful, and not given over to flights of ridiculousness. He wasn't the sort of man who made grand romantic gestures; like clockwork, Petunia received her favorite tea blend and candied dates from Fortnum and Masons on Mother's Day, and on her birthday they dined at her favorite restaurant in town. Eighteen years of marriage had not been perfect - their wedded bliss having suffered such hiccups as the wholly undesired arrival of her nephew not even three years in - but the most important thing was that they had persevered together, in a shared aspiration for achieving middle-class idyll.
Those people - she'd been absolutely mortified at the train station that afternoon. The boy had shut himself up in his room as soon has he'd stepped through the front door and she hadn't heard so much as a peep since.
Small mercies, then.
Petunia huffed out a discontented breath as she snapped the dishtowel irritably before draping it over the handle of the oven to dry and began piecing together a tray of cream biscuits and lemonade to take to the sitting room. Merely thinking about the boy soured her mood, and so Petunia tried to do so as little as possible. Perhaps having him in the house wouldn't be as irritating if he would just bother to fit in a little better. If the boy only made an effort to blend in to the background - but nooo. The atrocious child was determined to be as frustrating as any splinter in her palm. No matter what she did to soothe the irritation, it always niggled beneath the skin, deeper and deeper - a constant distraction that inflamed and festered.
He always had that scruffy, ill-used air about him. His hair refused to lay flat, and refused to be cut - and not for lack of trying on Petunia's part. Her irritation with her nephew continued to build the longer she had to suffer his tatty appearance under her roof. Every inch of him was defiant - even standing still in a corner he couldn't fade into the background. That stubborn set of the chin and judgmental gaze often put her in mind of Lily - Lily who always ended up making some spectacle of herself in the end. Intentional or no - never could just step back and blend in, her precious, precocious sister.
The tray rattled in her hands and Petunia caught herself, drawing in a deep breath. No more thoughts about either of them, now. They were both out of sight - he was tucked away upstairs and she had been gone nearly fifteen years now. It was time to enjoy a quiet hour of television and refreshment with her husband, before scrubbing down the kitchen surfaces before bed.
Nearly two hours later Petunia turned off the light by the foot of the stairs and headed up to sleep for the night. She paused however, noticing the wavering light spilling from underneath that boy's door. Frowning and taking hold of the handle, she threw his bedroom door wide open as she stepped over the threshold and drew in a deep breath to scold him for wasting electricity. The boy looked up at her from the desk where he was seated and her lungs froze as all the breath left her. The hair falling about his face appeared to be tinged red, and she paled as the color only seemed to grow brighter, making his eyes more luminescent - and suddenly it was Lilysitting there, staring up questioningly at her older sister Petunia and it was all too much.
Petunia gasped, and clutched her fingers together over her breast as grief and terror and panic swelled and crashed over her like a wave. He continued to stare up at her curiously, uncomprehendingly, and Petunia's chin wobbled.
"G-go to bed!" she gasped out as a sob overtook her and she turned and fled into the safety of her own bedroom. She tossed and turned fitfully that night, unable to find comfort in dreams haunted by the beseeching green eyes of a dead woman who continued to plead 'for me, 'Tuney?'.
Meanwhile, George Weasley shrugged off the odd behavior of Harry's relatives and waited for his most recent dose of polyjuice to wear off before sneaking out of the dark house and away into the night for a very important meeting.
Bobby couldn't recall the last time he'd woken up to the smell of coffee. He wasn't entirely sure if it was the odor of a fresh brew wafting up that woke him or something else. Not smelling smoke, and only hearing some gentle chatter bubbling from downstairs, he decided to take his time with a morning shower before ambling down to the kitchen to see what those kids were getting in to. He swiftly reevaluated that decision upon entering the kitchen twenty minutes later. Hermione and Ron were each lightly dusted in flour and sulking into their mugs of tea as Harry was just dishing out eggs into a stoneware serving bowl he'd unearthed from who knew where in the kitchen. What looked to be the last of his toast and bacon was set out to be served, still faintly steaming. Harry's greeting of 'Good Morning, Sir' was echoed by the other two at the table as Bobby strode over to the counter to fix his cup of coffee from the prepared pot. He waved Harry off to a seat and motioned for them all to serve themselves before seating himself and dishing a bit of everything on to a plate. They ate in uninterrupted silence for several minutes before Bobby cleared his throat.
"Do I want to know what happened in my kitchen this morning?"
Harry snorted and Hermione blushed.
"Probably not, Mr. Singer." she admitted.
Ron gulped. "No, Sir…"
"Fair enough. Since y'all went to the effort to make something nice you youngins go ahead and get cleaned up while I do the dishes. We'll pick up some groceries in town after. That school of yours have you do summer work by chance?"
They all nodded - the boys reluctantly, he noted.
"Good enough - you go ahead and get as much of that out of the way as you can this afternoon so's you don't waste time on it later."
"Sir -" Harry started.
"Please call me Bobby, kid."
"Sorry, Bobby - I was just wondering when we might be able to sort out my other - er -"
Harry sighed wearily. "…The horcrux. Yes."
Bobby set down his fork and looked Harry in the eye.
"We're gonna get to that, and I promise you, we are going to find a way to help you - me, your Daddy and your Uncle. But we're going to take things a step at a time, and in the meantime you all are going to keep doing the important things - like keeping up with your homework."
Harry looked a bit bewildered and as if he was about to protest but Bobby pushed on.
"Listen - you don't stop doing the normal things just 'cause you've got something difficult to deal with. If you let the hard things take over your life, then what's the point? Do you get my meaning? Now go on if you're done - get upstairs, daylight's a-wasting."
As a one, the kids nodded and Ron and Hermione made their way upstairs first, Harry lingering by the door.
"Sir - Bobby, you really mean that?"
Bobby gave him a long look.
"I sure do. Now go on - I've got a tv show finale I want to catch tonight."
Neither Dean nor Sam were in a good mood when they finally arrived at Bobby's - they were both keyed up, worried about their friend, and irritable after a thirteen hour drive with near to no stops. Not to mention they were still put out with each other - Dean's refusal to call up a crossroads demon back in New York, (and Sam's frustration at the lack of results when he'd done it anyway) and the blow up that had ensued had the brothers scrambling to be out of the car as soon as it had come to a stop on the dusty driveway in front of the house.
Bobby met them on the porch, Sam having texted him about their impending arrival when they were a mile out from the yard. There were two shot glasses of holy water perched on the railing and a familiar shotgun resting out of reach against the doorframe by way of greeting.
They both tossed back their glasses quickly and Bobby relaxed and waved them on into the house as he put away the glasses and the shotgun. Dean quirked an eyebrow when he saw Bobby set the gun away in the hall closet, rather than leaning it up against the door inside the house as he'd seen the man do in the past.
"What's this all about, Bobby?"
The man huffed but didn't actually respond, only gestured them past the kitchen and towards his office as murmuring voices drifted out of it.
"We'll talk about it in here if you don't mind." The voices in the kitchen stopped suddenly as he spoke. Bobby pulled up short and halted Sam as he made to follow his brother into the office.
"Might be better if I talk to Dean about this first. You go ahead and bring in your stuff, I expect you boys'll wanna stay over a while." Bobby squeezed Sam's shoulder when he saw his expression cloud over with frustration. "Don't worry, you're gonna hear it too. Just let me talk to your brother first - got a few things to say to that idjit." he grumbled and patted Sam's shoulder once after releasing it, before following Dean into the office and shutting the door, effectively ending the conversation.
Sam blew out an annoyed breath, adjusted the shoulder strap of his backpack, and stomped back out to the car to grab their duffels. He'd been upstairs unloading and unpacking for about ten minutes when he heard the stairs creak under quick footsteps and a door to a room opposite his and Dean's opened as someone walked inside. On his guard just in case, but more curious than anything, Sam quietly crept to his own bedroom door and poked his head out into the hall. The door was ajar to a bedroom to the right of the bathroom and he could just see someone moving around inside rummaging through a bag.
Feeling like a bit of a creep, but still curious, Sam quietly strode across the hall and knocked on the doorframe to the other bedroom intending to introduce himself. The occupant, a tall redheaded boy with a smattering of freckles across his face and neck, answered in a thick accent before Sam opened his mouth.
"Harry, I'll be down in a mo', I've just got her book…" The kid trailed off as he turned around, book in hand, and his eyes widened a bit as he met Sam's.
"Um. Hello…" The kid's voice fairly squeaked on the end. He looked nervous, his free hand trailing to his pocket, and Sam put his hands up and smiled, attempting to look less threatening.
"Hey - I just heard a noice out in the hall is all, I just wanted to see what caused it. My name's Sam, who're you?"
"I'm Ron." The kid croaked out. "I'm, uh - I just came up to get a book, for my friends…" he trailed off lamely, holding up the acquired book to make his point.
"So you and your friends, huh? What are you visiting Bobby for?"
The boy seemed about to reply, but just then they heard another set of footsteps jogging up the stairs as a new voice called out:
"Oy mate, what's taking so long? Hermione's beginning to worry you've knocked over her stacks - oh…"
Sam turned to see another kid, and his heart nearly stopped. For just a moment, it was as if John Winchester had just stepped into the room.
"Er, right then - hello…" The second boy offered nervously, and the accent, so out of place and unlike his father's gruff voice, startled Sam out of his shock. He began picking out differences immediately - the kid was shorter, slighter than their dad had ever been, and behind his glasses his eyes gleamed a bright green. The superficial resemblance was uncanny though, and he was starting to piece together an inkling of what Bobby may have wanted to talk to them about. Though why Bobby would want to talk to Dean about it first instead of the both of them was a mystery. He shook himself out of his thoughts, and offered a hand that was only slightly shaky.
"Hi - hello. Sorry about holding up your friend - I'm Sam, ah, Winchester."
The kid seemed to pale a bit, but squared his shoulders and took Sam's hand in a firm shake.
"Harry Potter." They stared awkwardly for a long moment before Ron started suddenly.
"I'm going to, uh, take this down to Hermione. I'll tell her you're up here talking, yeah?" He scooted around the other two bodies in the room and headed downstairs before Harry could call him back.
Neither seemed sure what to say. Sam went first, after reaching for a desk chair and straddling it backwards, in an attempt to relax the tense atmosphere that had grown in the room.
"So, I'm guessing you're not from the US? What brought you all the way out to the middle of nowhere?" The kid - Harry, he reminded himself - leaned back against a wall, shoulders hunched and hands in his pockets. The posture was absurdly familiar and Sam swallowed a bit as he felt his stomach drop a little.
"No. Um, we're from England - my friends downstairs and I go to school together in Scotland…" Harry chewed on his lip a bit before looking back at Sam and continuing. "I… there are a couple reasons we're here, but one reason is because I'm looking for my Dad." Sam's stomach clenched a little more.
"I'm - I'm sorry, Harry, but John Winchester is dead." he choked a bit, no longer able to keep the grief out of his expression.
Harry blinked at him, somewhat bemused.
"Sorry, but - who's John Winchester?"
It was Sam's turn to look confused.
"John Winchester - mine and my brother's dad - Dean's downstairs talking to Bobby right now—"
"He is?" Harry interrupted quickly. "He's here? Dean Winchester, I mean?"
"Well yeah, but uh - oh." Sam's eyes grew large as he suddenly realized where the conversation was leading.
"Dean?! Hold on - okay. Let me be sure I'm getting this right. You - you're looking for Dean? He's your dad? Not John Winchester?"
Harry nodded, looking both relieved and more anxious. "Yeah, um - Mum was on holiday in the States when they met, or that's what my Godfather told me." he mumbled, blushing and clearly not comfortable with the topic before continuing. "I'm sorry to hear about your dad, for what it's worth…" Harry trailed off uncertainly. Sam swallowed and gave Harry a sad smile.
"Thanks. So - wow! You're my nephew, I guess? Hah! I'm an uncle…" Sam swallowed back an hysterical laugh. "Oh God, 'Uncle Sam' - I'm never gonna live that down…" Harry looked a bit flummoxed at that statement.
"So how old are you, Harry?"
"I'll be sixteen at the end of July." Sam's expression grew thoughtful.
"So - so wait. Where's your mom? Or are you here with parents of your friends?" Harry's expression, which had gradually relaxed as they'd begun talking, appeared to tighten and he looked off to the side at the window. His voice was quieter as he answered.
"I - Mum died a long time ago. I was a baby, so I never knew until my Godfather told me over Christmas…" Possibilities and thoughts of the similarity in that statement to his own early childhood made Sam feel ill, and he stood suddenly, the color draining from his face, for now putting the non-answer of who these kids were with out of his mind.
"Why don't we go back downstairs? Your friends are probably missing you and I want to talk to Dean and Bobby real quick, alright?"
Harry nodded, somewhat unsure but looking rather relieved to be getting back to his friends. He paused just behind Sam as they made to start down the staircase though.
"Err - do you…" Sam looked back up at Harry curiously; the kid was biting his lip again.
"Do you think he'll want to talk to me?"
Sam smiled at that.
"Yeah, he'll definitely want to get to know you - I'd like to get to know you too. I hope that's okay?" Harry's face brightened at that, and he nodded as they continued down the stairs. Sam waved him off into the kitchen as he walked over to the door of Bobby's office, muffled voices pausing as he knocked once and opened the door.
Bobby shut the door to his office. Dean leaned his back against a bookcase, apprehensive and arms crossed over his chest.
"What's going on man? What do you need to talk about with me you can't talk about in front of Sam?"
Bobby's eyes raked over Dean and he muttered an oath.
"Before I get into that - d'you got a little copper charm on you somewhere, or did a woman ever give you one? It would have some kind of lily design on it."
Dean looked nonplussed but nodded slowly, and rotated a leather band on his wrist to show Bobby.
"You mean this? Do I need to take it off or something?" Bobby shook his head in a negative and Dean leaned back and crossed his arms again as Bobby tugged off his cap and ran one agitated hand over his hair.
"I don't know if I should congratulate you or turn you over my knee for being careless - because guess what, you idjit? I've got three fifteen year old runways sitting in my kitchen doing summer homework and one a' them nearly gave me a heat attack with how much he looks like you and your Daddy, and he sure as hell ain't your brother!"
Dean's eyes grew wide and he paled as Bobby's voice grew louder.
"Are you sure?"
"Boy, as sure as I'm standing here, I'm telling you, your son is out there supposedly doing homework at my table with two of his friends."
Dean's posture sagged and the man pushed off of the wall and sank slowly into the sofa, his hands coming up to cover his face.
"Bobby… I can't. I can't do this…"
Now Bobby was the ones with his arms crossed, nearly glaring down at Dean with a stubborn expression.
"You know why not!" Dean threw up his hands as he shouted. "I've only got five months left, Bobby. Five months - that's it. Sam's hard up enough as it is, you can't ask me to do that to a kid, too." He croaked. Bobby sighed and glanced back at the door.
"I really don't think you've got much choice, Dean."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that, aside from the two friends of his sitting out there with him, you and Sam are about all he has left in this world."
Dean scrubbed his face with his hands. "What's his name? How did he even know to come here?"
Bobby sighed at that; Dean was liable to blow his stack at the news Bobby had known all these past months. He sat in his desk chair and folded his arms on the top of the papers strewn haphazardly across its surface.
"The kid's name is Harry. Don't suppose you boys keep up with the Magicals, do you?"
Dean snorted in disgust. "Hardly - not as if they do much to help out here." Bobby rubbed at his temples.
"Yeah, well not that I don't agree with you, but don't let those kids out there here you talk like that. They're all Magicals from Britain. Yes - even your son. It makes this all a hell of a lot more complicated, I don't mind telling you." Bobby unearthed a stack of what looked like parchment and shuffled through it, before extracting two sheets and passing them over for Dean to read.
"That there is the last letter I had from the boy's Godfather. He was killed near a week ago. Harry's mother and her husband were murdered when he was a baby. Up till now he's been living with his mother's sister - apparently she doesn't want to have anything to do with him where she can help it." Bobby put in quietly.
Dean looked up from the page, eyebrows narrowed and anger building in his voice.
"Exactly how long have you known about this Bobby? You've known however goddamn long I might have a son somewhere and you waited to tell me until he showed up on your damn porch!?"
"You've got a right to be mad, Dean, but truth is, there wasn't much I could do. You probably don't know, but there's another war brewing between the Magicals overseas, and your son is caught up in it. Frankly, it's a miracle they were able to make it out of the country, let alone all the way here. You think I didn't try getting Sirius to give me more information on how to find the boy? After the one you got there, the rest of my letters were returned - didn't even get them out of the States. Black'd been in hiding nearly two years, and I didn't even know the boy's full name. Until they showed up yesterday, I couldn't have been able to tell you how to even find the kid." Dean grit his teeth, but looked down at the letter and read over it.
He read it again. The clock on the wall ticked away quietly as he stewed on some of the information before looking up at Bobby again with a frustrated expression.
"You still should have told me. I deserve to know I've got a son out there who's in danger!" He waved the parchment in front of Bobby's face to make his point.
"What would you have done?"
"I don't know! Something! Anything - there had to be something, Bobby!"
"Look - we're gonna have to talk about Harry's safety, because once they realize he's taken off, those people are gonna come looking for him - maybe both sides even. There are some good reasons the kid's here. But for now, you need to get out there and concentrate on getting to know your boy. We can start working out the rest tomorrow."
"Does he know, Bobby?"
"No," Bobby answered quietly, "No, I wouldn't have told him that. The telling's up to you - but I'd suggest you do it sooner rather than later. It might hurt, but that kid's been lied to a lot from the sounds of it - he'll appreciate the honesty where it counts."
As Dean opened his mouth to respond, the door to the office was thrown open as Sam burst into the room after a single knock. They immediately stood, wary, as Sam grew increasingly flustered in a search for words. Dean's eyebrows rose as Sam continued to struggle, finally flinging his hands vaguely back towards the open doorway.
"Bobby - that kid, Harry - he looks -"
"Uh, huh." Bobby nodded.
"And - he said-"
"So, it's true?"
"Sure looks like it." Sam turned to Dean.
"You didn't know you had a kid out there somewhere?"
Dean threw up his hands in exasperation.
"Goddamnit Sam! How was I supposed to know? It's not as if anyone - wait." He turned to Bobby. "Nobody came looking before now, right?" Bobby shook his head in a negative and Dean turned back to face Sam. "See? Nobody came looking for me before now and it's not like there's some magical mystical way for me to just know I've got a kid out there!"
"Err, well - that's not entirely accurate." A younger, male voice interrupted them. The three men turned to face the door as the kid rambled on a bit nervously.
"Some families have these updating family trees; Sirius showed me his last summer, though I don't suppose it's exactly relevant…" the kid trailed off and as Sam shifted over to the left a bit, father and son got their first look at one another. Dean gazed at Harry, dumbstruck and somewhat pale, as the boy looked him over, wide-eyed and equally at a loss for words.
Harry swallowed nervously.
"Um, hello…" he trailed off, unsure as to what to do now. Dean swallowed as well before croaking out.
"Hi…" They stood about awkwardly some moments, and unable to put up with the absurd behavior any longer, Bobby finally burst out:
"God save me from emotionally constipated Winchesters! Jesus Christ! Come on, Sam. We're going to go pick up dinner, ain't nobody cooking tonight." He gathered up his keys and stuffed a wallet into his back pocket, taking a bemused Sam by the shoulder and steering him out of the room.
"Maybe by the time we get back, you two idjits will've managed a damn sentence." He shut the door and Harry and Dean were left in the office alone together.
Just after eleven thirty in the evening, four men meet in a dilapidated park across the street from a row of dingy Victorian terraced homes. The night was warm but there was a pleasant breeze hovering about and the sky was unclouded. Some stars were visible through the veil cast by London's ambient light - overall, it was a lovely evening, and absolutely lousy weather to set the mood for clandestine activity.
The older two men had been talking with one another for some time before the remaining two had arrived. Wands were drawn at their sudden approach.
"Where did you find the Map and when?" One voice rasped out without preamble.
"In Filch's filing cabinet in our first year in the file marked Confiscated, Undetermined."
Wands also drawn, one of the younger men took his turn to ask:
"And why did you, brother dearest, strip the charms off our brooms so we couldn't fly them?"
"Because you were prats and enchanted Ron's teddy into a spider."
The twins snickered as Bill and Remus both relaxed.
"Alright - what's this mess you've called us out for? You said it was important."
Fred dug in his pockets and produced four small leather bundles, passing one to each person while keeping the last in hand. With Remus looking over his shoulder Bill peaked curiously, pulling aside a corner of the odd leather hide wrapping the object he'd been given, and whistled.
"Merlin - what's that from?" Remus asked, admiring the wicked-looking fang Bill was carefully turning about in it's bundle.
"That's a basilisk fang, wrapped in its own skin."
Bill swore and nearly dropped it in his surprise before quickly tucking the bundle back together.
"What in the seven hells do we need these for?"
"On the off chance that a certain something is inside that house;" George nodded at Grimmauld Place, "we need to destroy it if we find it."
"What —" Remus started to ask, but Fred cut him off.
"We know a fair bit about the details, and we can't talk about it out here —"
"Not until we break open Sirius's desk." George finished.
"Just trust us - it'll be a lot easier - and safer - to answer your questions after we get that bit done first —"
"Be ready; Harry and Hermione both think that the object we're like to find is shut up in that desk too, so keep the fang handy."
As one, they crept into the house and past the silent portrait in the hall. Despite the purge of artifacts the summer previous, and having worked and slept in the home for months, the house had suddenly acquired a more sinister air. The creak of the stairs grew loud and ominous, and the shadows thrown up on the walls by scant wandlight oozed into inky blackness as they crept on towards the abandoned suite.
Remus looked about and sighed when they entered Sirius's former rooms. Barely more than a week and the space had already possessed a stale and disused appearance. Bill immediately began testing and breaking down the wards around the desk while Remus began stripping away the layers of traps and really, Sirius? An allover color-change hair growth jinx?
Bringing down all the protections around the desk took the better part of an hour, and no one seemed to want to be the person to open the roll-top. Remus finally huffed and snapped his wand down against his leg in an agitated motion.
"Right - Right, let's see what all this fuss is about, then."
The three Weasley brothers flanked him as he stepped forward and flicked his wand, each of them grasping a fang in hand.
Dean was poleaxed. He'd wondered about Ben when he'd met the kid a few weeks back, but there was no wondering here. The kid fidgeting under his gaze, while not a mini-clone, bore more than a passing resemblance to himself - and had one hell of a Grandfather Syndrome going on. Bobby was right - it was more than a little weird how much he reminded Dean of his own father at first glance - nearly made Dean want to straighten his shoulders and stand up at attention.
Jesus, he had a son. One who actually might need him to be a dad. Dean looked down at the pages he still held crumpled in his hands, and back up to meet the eyes of a kid who's expression was beginning to take on the resigned look of someone used to disappointment, and made the conscious effort to ignore his reservations for the moment.
"So - you're name's Harry, huh?"
Harry nodded and though the kid's answering smile was small, his eyes brightened considerably.
"So you're Dean, then?"
"Ah yup, that'd be me." They lapsed into an uncomfortable silence. Again. Dean cleared his throat. "Let's uh - you know what? Fresh air! Let's get some fresh air. What do you say we go, take a ride around, maybe get our own dinner? Unless you don't want to..?"
Harry seemed to shake himself before answering.
"Ah no - that'd be brill. I mean, yes - yes, let's go and no, it's not a problem… Um, just let me tell my friends." He stumbled a bit before hurrying out of the room and back into Bobby's kitchen. Dean shot off a quick text to Sam to tell him not to get them anything and that they'd be back later on before following after his… son, stopping just outside the kitchen to eavesdrop.
"If you're sure, mate?"
"Yeah - yeah it'll be fine. I've got my phone and my coin on me." Harry patted down his pockets. " Bobby said -" The girl at the table flapped her hand at Harry to shoo him off.
"We know - they'll be back soon, Ron and I are staying here. You go on Harry, get to know your dad a bit. We can worry about the other stuff later."
"You're both brilliant, you know that?" Ron bumped shoulders with his friend.
"Go on, then. Just try not to - to fall into an enchanted man-eating well, or some other nonsense while you're out, yeah?" Harry snorted and bumped him back as he left the kitchen, and together stepped out into the yard with Dean.
Dean looked thoughtfully at Harry as he lead the boy to his car.
"So - she your girlfriend?" Harry looked up, shocked, before wrinkling his nose.
"No - definitely not." Dean eyed him for a moment.
"What- no! No - we're friends. They're my best friends…" he huffed out and eyed Dean back irritably. Dean held his hands up in surrender, trying not to smirk too much.
"Hey, I just thought I'd check."
June 21, New York, NY
It was a harried and rumpled Madeline Brokefield who entered her Manhattan office nearly twenty minutes late, laden down as she was with two coffees, one non-fat café au lait, one green tea latte double pump, her briefcase, and a fresh stack of files for her department stuffed unceremoniously under one arm from a passing aide in the hallway.
Today was the Monday following a particularly grueling week for her department - an annex of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement which monitored magical traffic in and out of the country, as well as keeping half an eye out for spillover from the wild territories in the center of the North American Continent. She wanted to treat her assistant and aides as a thank you for the dedication and long hours they'd put in working through their weekend to close a case in which a deeply obstinate wizard in North Carolina had been attempting to release a variety of illegally imported walking moss from Finland into his local wetlands (he'd meant it as a mosquito deterrent).
In other words: Please accept this coffee as a thank you for stumbling through buggy, festering swamps trying to eradicate illegal flesh-eating plants with fire on a Saturday afternoon and not putting in a two-weeks notice.
Drinks were passed around and the new files were dropped off at her assistant's desk for sorting and case placement. Madeline smoothed down her pinstripe three-piece and brushed back her close-cropped curls as she removed herself to her office; she had just taken the first sip of her own coffee as the receiving box at her desk chimed and announced the delivery of her morning correspondences. Somewhat surprised to see there was anything at all from her friend Kingsley, let alone something that had come through official channels, Madeline opened that piece of mail first.
Three minutes later a long, frustrated groan issued from the department head's office and a sound very like a forehead hitting the top of a desk reverberated with a heavy thunk. Those employed in the Magical Travel and Safety Department took this as a sign not to make any plans for the coming weekend.