In a Silent Way
A/N: I've decided to return to this one. I'd actually forgotten. I'm putting a noir feel on this bad boy. It's all about the style, after all. And the title is from Miles Davis. Sort of. Just updated to be up to date with The Half Blood Prince.
Part One: A Sort of Homecoming
"Five pounds, sixpence is your change."
"Thank you," replied the young man politely. The woman manning the ticket counter thought he was awfully attractive. He had tousled black hair and deep green eyes that the ticket lady could stare into forever… but he had a gruesome scar drilled into his forehead, and his clothes were sinister—he was wearing a trench coat, and he hadn't shaved for days. He looked like a rapist. She thought about the creeps she saw every day and then shook herself, remembering that even though the job was horrible, the rent had to get paid for Mum's sake.
Harry Potter strolled over to the concessions counter, trying to remember the last time he had traveled on British Rail. Muggle transit was still a little less awkward to Harry for some reason, but many researchers had long hypothesized that the first ten years of your life have the most profound effect upon you. Harry sighed. The job was driving him crazy. It had been years since had to gun down Voldemort, but he and his fellow Aurors were still occupied with capturing the remnants of the Dark Lord's network. Dementors were back in Azkaban, despite the objections of the families whose relatives had been "kissed" by the wraiths during the long war. Six years total, and it had somehow managed to stay underground. Harry still had trouble calling it a war. No more than a thousand had died, if that. No battles with armies, generals, and artillery were fought. Soldiers were not trained to rain death upon their enemies, at least for the "good guys." Stun, capture, repeat. That was the job for everyone except Mr. Potter. He'd killed all wizards'- humanity's, maybe- greatest enemy, Voldemort, before he'd even turned eighteen, and become a messiah of sorts. He took an Auror job because he wanted to work hard and forget the shit his last few years had been. The Ministry had practically begged him to take the job. That was lucky, because he probably wouldn't have passed half of the exams.
He paid the attendant for his pretzel and the Daily Mail, walking over to one of the plastic chairs made available for those who were too tired to stand. Graffiti adorned the walls. Child's play, Harry thought without much interest. Still, he liked graffiti. He'd never figured out why most Muggles didn't consider it an art form—but, then, they probably didn't properly appreciate "Guernica" because it was "too geometric". It was this sort of thing that made Harry resent going to assist Dudley Dursley.
Harry's brilliant cousin, now furnished with a low level position at the firm that had acquired Grunnings Drills, had been at a Manchester strip club. One of his fellow patrons had been a wizard by the name of, well, no one was really sure—but the wizard in question was one of those who had claimed to be the "true heir" to Voldemort. Most of them were really just opportunistic Dark warlords from the Continent. Regardless, Duddy Denkins had managed to get a price on his head after a sudden upswing in self confidence endowed upon him by a noxious (at least in Harry's mind) mix of Bacardi Rum, Coca Cola, and ice cubes. And so, because of a long and glorious bar fight, Harry, like many of his esteemed colleagues in the Ministry's Finest, had been confined to babysitting. That he was stuck with his cousin was officially a coincidence, but after beating Kingsley Shaklebolt (the Commander of Aurors) in a drinking contest (namely, a very, very odd version of Pong) the evening before, everyone knew Harry's ass was grass.
After reading the latest bit about Charles and Camilla, Harry discarded the paper and got on his train, intending to try and sleep off some of his hangover. That was until Colin Creevy found him. God knew why he was on a muggle train.
"Harry!" the Augur (the leading wizard weekly) photographer called. Harry winced.
"Morning, Colin," he sighed.
"How've you been?"
"Fine, up until now," the way Colin's voice reverberated in Harry's head told him that he wasn't going to bring out the charm wasn't coming on for a few hours at least, so the journalist would just have to cope.
Colin was undeterred. "Been busy?"
Harry snorted in response.
"Am I off the record?" Harry said, squinting.
"Oh, yeah, yeah, of course." Colin said nervously. "Look, Harry, I was wondering if you could do me a favor." Harry winced again, not altogether due to his headache, but kept looking out the window. "I'm behind on a deadline, and I have a photoessay due at the end of the week. My editor already says that, well, I've gotten to know my pub too well," Colin gave a nervous sort of laugh, "and I think he might sack me if I go over again."
Harry lowered his voice.
"Auror in action?"
"Well, if you could..." Colin said, obviously trying to contain his excitement.
"That's out of the question. The Minister has a standing lid on actual assignments, which you know."
"Yeah, but, if you could just bend the rules, you know, take me on a boring one…" Harry fixed the younger man with a glare, but continued.
"You also know that I don't exactly have a candid relationship with the press. I haven't been in the gossip columns for a year or two and I want to keep it that way."
"No shoots, Creevy."
"What about a referral?" Colin wanted to know.
"I can point you towards a show horse, but that's the most I can do."
"Who would that be?"
"You know damn well who I'm talking about." Harry scowled. "Now go away. I'm hung over." He laid his head against the window and tried to sleep.
"Little Whinging. Three more stops," the conductor announced over the PA, making the last part sound more like a mantra than an actual bulletin. Harry awoke to notice Colin Creevy had gone. He picked his trench coat up from off the seat and shrugged it on, then made himself walk as dignifiedly as possible through the door onto the platform, where the rain had fallen under the canopy onto the worn, painted block letters that reminded riders to MIND THE GAP.
"You git," he said to himself crossly. He started patting his coat for a bottle, which had, up until then, been forgotten. He was still in the doorway. An older man behind him cleared his throat. Harry sneered elegantly and got onto the platform proper, having finally found the hangover cure Padma Patil, now an apothecary at St. Mungo's, supplied him with monthly. Blessing her name, Harry popped in two and strode jauntily towards the bus stop. He fumbled around in his jeans pocket to make sure he had the change, then took a seat on the bench and kicked back. Ten minutes until the route six came.
A dirty, ratty looking man shuffled along, over to the stop. He checked the schedule on the signpost. Then he sat down next to Harry, who was whistling "Working for the Weekend" and looking totally unperturbed. The homeless man looked shiftily at Harry, who pretended not to notice.
"Got change fo' the bus, mate?"
"Money for your fix, more like?" Harry said disdainfully.
"Mate, I'd be watchin' what I'd be sayin'," said the man gruffly, reaching into his pocket menacingly.
"Polkiss, I haven't been afraid of you for fifteen years, switchblade or no. Especially not in this incarnation of yours."
Piers Polkiss was dumbfounded. Easily the most dependant (and consequently desperate) crack addict in all of Surrey, he was feared by all hung over clubbers in the county, not to mention schoolchildren and old ladies.
"Who in the bloody 'ell are you?" he asked dumbfounded. Harry turned, noting the lips still tinged with blue and white. The wizard gave sardonic, toothy smile. "Potter!"
"The very same. What in God's name are you doing in this state, Polkiss? I thought you wound up in Canada for university."
"Well, you see, I met another mistress, you could say." Harry shook his head. Polkiss, despite Harry's opinions, had always been the one of Dudley's crew to have the best head on his shoulders. University of Toronto wasn't that easy of a school to get into, after all.
"And you moved back home, to get money from your mum for your habit?"
"Well, see, she didn't know at first," Polkiss smiled, showing yellowed and chipped teeth.
"Then you got thrown out."
"Aye, that's what happened."
"Dudley's at Number Four?"
"Aye," Polkiss was suspicious. Dudley's cousin had always been a vengeful bastard.
"If I'd deemed him worthy of my punishment, he'd have had it years ago," Harry said, more or less reading his mind.
"I didn't think anything like that," Polkiss whined. Harry, a blossoming ligilimens, snorted.
"Of course not. It's been a pleasure, Polkiss."
"Potter," snarled the ex-nemesis. He mockingly tipped a cap that wasn't there. He got up on his feet. The addict shuffled off across the street. He hoped to intercept the teenaged couple strolling there.
The six pulled up shortly thereafter. Harry pulled out twelve pence and dropped it in the fare collector. He moved to the back. The world famous auror then sat in the most thoroughly used seat on the bus. That seat was the same that he had always used during his summers back at Privet Drive. So too had Dudley. That much was clear due to the depth of the depression and the lingering scent of flatulence. Harry felt a chill on the back of his neck. He pulled the coat tighter around him. The bus was totally empty except for him and the driver. It was about noon. Everyone was at work or school, barring Dudley Dursley. He was hiding at home and shivering. His father refused to pay for heat while at work. The usual Torrie bullshit on "despondency."
Harry dismounted the bus a few cul-de-sacs away from Number Four. He jumped the steps off of the vehicle habitually.
He maneuvered through alleys and gardens, taking the quickest route to Number Four's front door. He was careful to note one of Abarella Figg's cats. Harry picked up the pace after that and arrived at the door rapidly. He pulled back his fist, exhaled, and rapped on the door with authority. He rubbed his hand. That much was unusual, because of the callus he had developed on his knuckles.
Harry stood and tapped his feet for what seemed like an eternity. Dudley was, no doubt, enjoying a peaceful slumber. The auror spat into the hydrangea planter disdainfully, but pulled out his wand nevertheless and let himself in.
"Dudley!" he shouted. He took care to stomp the dirt off his boots inside the threshold. "It's Harry!"
"What?" Dudley's voice bellowed from the top of the small staircase. He was audibly confused.
"Your cousin, you fat git," Harry snarled. "I'm protecting you until we get this business sorted out."
Harry's swinelike relative came down, glaring at the lanky but obviously fit auror. "And I can use my magic whenever I damn well like, too," Harry said, noting Dudley's head to foot sweep. "Trust me, I'd rather leave you to these tossers."
An awkward silence commenced shortly thereafter.
"Right. I'll make tea," Harry said.
Vernon Dursley wasn't happy. In fact, he damn near had an aneurysm.
"What in the bloody hell are you doing in my house?" he bellowed as soon as he saw his long-abandoned nephew.
"Looking after your welfare!" Harry bellowed right back. "Those gangsters Dudley ran into were wizards!"
"We knew that! Why did they send you?"
"Hell if I know!" Vernon was sputtering like a submerged firecracker.
"What?" Harry was flabbergasted.
"We don't want any more of your kind, much less you!"
"I'd truly enjoy leaving, but I have a mandate," Harry said, drawing deep breaths.
"What do you mean, a mandate?"
"I'm an officer of the law, oh dear Uncle," Harry sneered.
"You have police?"
"I'll be back in twenty minutes," Harry announced. He was tired of it, and no "mandate" would keep him in that house. He took out his wand.
"What are you doing?" Vernon bellowed, looking positively apoplectic.
"Leaving, damn it!" Harry said, pushing away his uncle's striking arm. "Apparo!"
The front hall of Four Privet Drive vanished and Harry appeared in the entrance of the Ministry of Magic, very close to the Fountain of Magical Brethren. In it, in fact.
The Ministry was more or less empty, fortunately. It was long after five. That was when the bureaucrats headed home.
Cursing, Harry shook out his robes and dried them magically, to the great amusement of John, the security guard.
"Lil' bi' angry, eh, 'arry?" Harry flipped the bird and stomped off towards the elevators. He more or less punched the down button, upon which he had to rub his knuckles. He got in the elevator when it finally arrived. Harry tapped the button for level two much more lightly.
"Level Two, Departmen—"
"Oh, shove it," Harry muttered, and headed down the hall to the aurors' offices. He shoved the door open violently.
"Oy, Harry!" called someone behind a cubicle, raising their hand in salutation.
"Hi, Charles," Harry replied. The office was fairly well occupied. Most aurors tended to stop by the office when they could. But even then it was only to file reports, work with barristers preparing to prosecute, or get assignments from Kingsley; the Head of Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Thomas Oldham; or the Minister of Magic, a rehabilitated (and bewilderingly popular) Ludo Bagman. No aurors had signed up for a desk job, after all.
Kingsley Shacklebolt's office was at the far end of the room that held the cubicles. There were only forty, and of that thirty were in use. Aurors were elite, after all. The rigors of the job meant that they were also all very close knit. Even retirees showed up at the Ministry a lot of the time to assist in investigations or operations.
Harry got to the door, knocked, and entered without awaiting a reply.
Kingsley, dressed in clothes one would see on a muggle track coach, looked up from his work with surprise.
"Harry, why aren't you on your assignment?" the big man asked. He was angry, but his diction was still as even and measured as it always was.
"I can't do it, sir. I just can't manage."
"You damn well have to manage, Harry."
"This is a job for a hit wizard, Kingsley." Wizardkind's twice-savior lowered his voice. "Not your best auror. I've never complained about a job before."
"That's not the point, Harry. You have to be professional. This isn't a gentlemen's club." Kingsley was matching Harry's tone. Everyone knew that if you were going to call out the boss, you did it quietly. With aurors, arguments were accepted, even encouraged. Inspiring mutiny, however, was an entirely different question.
"I'm being unprofessional? You're punishing me because I passed out ten minutes after you."
"Potter, that was below the belt. Insubordinate."
"Have I ever been insubordinate before? I'm cashing in," Harry said irritably.
"Protect him for the rest of the night. Then we can talk about getting a hit wizard. Get back to your post before something happens."
Harry stomped out of the Ministry much in the same fashion he had entered it. Instead of apparating out, however, he went took the phone booth up to London and got a bottle of ale from a nearby deli. He planned to drink it later—it was going to be a long night.
The auror stepped into the alley behind the building, then produced his wand. He studied it for a moment. It was only a stick, but he loved it. He smiled stupidly for a moment, but then regained his composure and reassumed his badass, sullen persona.
Harry swished his wand to the left, then diagonally to the right, and finally thrust it in the direction of Surrey. "Apparo!"
A wizard experiences a strange sensation when apparating. It is a dissimilar moment to using a portkey. With a portkey, one tends to feel as if they are being pulled through the fabric of time. With an apparation, however, a wizard actually turns themselves into pure magic and summons his or her self from the same amount of space they normally fill in an entirely different location. Therefore, over longer distances, an apparation is faster than a portkey. The opposite, however, is true when going over short distances. The discrepancy had always disturbed Harry somehow. He disliked apparation—he hated all magical travel, in fact—but viewed it as a necessary evil. Apparation had saved him many times in his career, and he wasn't about to get cold feet about it.
Yet, the ability to apparate had just gotten him into very, very deep shit. Without being able to apparate, Harry wouldn't have conceived going into London that evening. Without the ability to apparate, Harry wouldn't have found Four Privet Drive empty when he was reassembled in its living room.
The glass from the window was broken—wizards always broke glass to make the police think that a muggle had been involved—but the note that Harry saw on the floor was clearly a dark wizard's manifesto.
"Nosh nod" in the Dark Tongue meant "night has fallen" in English. Just about every warlord used it at some point in their career, as Harry had learned.
He swore violently, but he took out the lighter that served as a link to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
"I take it back, Kingsley. The tossers lifted them. I'll start investigating tomorrow."
Harry puffed his cheeks, then exhaled. He looked at the bottle of booze he had, then knocked the top off using the coffee table before taking a pull and going upstairs to his old room.
They always told you to get a good night's sleep before the big case, after all.