Ron and Hermione Weasley lived together in a small, two bedroom flat in the middle of London. Unlike the place that Pansy Parkinson called home, it was in a muggle building with muggle electricity and muggle neighbours. Hermione wanted to reconnect with her former world and live amongst the mundane, like a regular woman would. Ron had been rather nervous about it at first, but it hadn't taken the young man long to adjust - mostly. He was very careful about casting magic, but on occasion he still said some rather outrageous things within earshot of regular folk.

Their home was modestly furnished with a mixture of magical and muggle appliances. There was a telephone that Harry knew Ron still struggled with sitting on the kitchen counter, and a rather nice television was situated in the corner of the lounge. Next to a muggle stereo sat a smaller, older looking radio that Harry knew was connected to the wizarding wireless network and where Ron liked to listen to Chudley Cannon games, and on the wall was a smaller version of the Weasley family's clock, showing how everyone was doing. All the hands were pointed towards home, with the exception of one - Harry's was listed as travelling.

The couches were modern and leather, and occupied by a frowning Hermione.

"Hermione." he greeted with a nod.

"Harry." she replied in turn.

Ron coughed at the following silence.

"So what is this all about, Ron?" Harry asked, turning to his red-haired friend. The taller man sat down next to his wife, while Harry elected to remain standing. The pair of them were in their pyjamas and looked like they were ready for bed. It wasn't terribly late but he knew the both of them worked fairly long hours. Hell, he'd been about to get into bed before he found Ron's note. "I found your letter."

Ron was as blunt as a sledgehammer. "Trilly is dead."

Harry blinked. "What happened?"

Auror Trilly Proudmere was a rather hardworking man. They hadn't worked together very often, but he found him pleasant enough. While he wasn't the most skilled Auror on the roster, he more than made up for it with his enthusiasm for the job. He wasn't much older than Harry and Ron - and had, in fact, attended Hogwart's during their own time there. He had been in Percy's year, and a member of Hufflepuff house.

"He was in Diagon Alley," Ron began to explain. "Just doing a little shopping, you know? It was his day off. Anyway, he was in Flourish and Blotts, picking up some books when a spell he cast backfired. Killed him on the spot and injured the clerk."

"His spell what?" Harry sounded incredulous. It wasn't the first time a backfired spell had killed someone, but that was typically when complex spell work was involved. "What spell did he cast?"

"Levitation charm, according to witnesses."

"Are you kidding me? Wait," Harry paused, frowning. "According to witnesses? Didn't you test his wand?"

"I was getting to that. When we arrived on the scene, his wand was no where to be found. We checked everywhere. We thought it might have rolled under one of the bookshelves but nope, we couldn't find it anywhere."

"Did anyone pick it up?"

Ron shrugged. "They might have, but we checked everyone that we could - none of them had it. And this isn't even the weirdest part. When we went and informed his wife about what happened, we found his wand. Apparently he had left it at home, in his sock drawer. She found it while doing the laundry."

"So he had a second wand?"

"According to his wife, he didn't. We even went and asked Ollivander. You know how he remembers all his wands - creepy as hell. He said he only ever sold one wand to Trilly, though that isn't to say he could have bought one somewhere else or picked one up in another way."

Harry decided to sit, mulling that over. Something wasn't right, he could feel it. Seamus once singed his eyebrows and burnt their feather in class when he botched a levitation charm, in their first year. It wasn't impossible for someone to mess it up. But someone of Trilly's experience, and with such a violent reaction?

It was surreal.

Could it have been sabotage? Did someone want to remove Trilly? And if someone did, then why? The man wasn't exactly known for rocking the boat and if anyone held a grudge for any reason, Harry couldn't remember ever hearing about it. Or was it just extremely bad luck?

That seemed unlikely.

"Not that I don't appreciate you telling me all this, but should you really be discussing this with me?" Harry asked, scratching his chin. "I'm no longer an Auror."

Ron just rolled his eyes. "Really, Harry? Who are you going to tell? Not that the Daily Prophet doesn't already know about the situation already - their offices are right there in Diagon Alley. Anyway, I was hoping you could help me out."

"Help you out?"

"He wants you to try and find out more about that wand," Hermione finally spoke, face carefully neutral. "A lot of the contacts that you amassed don't want to help the Ministry anymore, not since you left."

She was trying to make him feel bad. It was cute, Harry thought, giving his friend a smile. Her eyes narrowed.

"Mundungus?" he asked, turning to Ron.

Ron nodded. "For a start. Maybe one of them sold a second hand wand to Trilly, I don't know. It's worth a shot."

"Sure, no problem. It'll cost you, though."

Ron blinked, and even Hermione looked a little surprised at that. "Really?"

Harry gained a thoughtful look, blatantly counting with his fingers. "Yeah, a hundred galleons sounds about right."

"What!?"

Harry snorted in amusement at the look on his friend's face. "I'm joking, relax. You get friend rates - forty-five cheap enough?"

Ron gave him the middle finger. "Har har, very funny, Harry."

"Ronald!" Hermione scolded, slapping his hand away.

"I'll look for Mundgunus first thing in the morning, alright? He shouldn't be too difficult to find, I'll just sic Kreacher on him." Harry stood, "Walk me to the door, Hermione?"

Ron gave his wife a nervous look, while she just stared at Harry stonily. After a few moments, she stood up and marched towards the door, brushing by him without a word. Harry gave Ron a thumbs up and followed.

This was long overdue.

"It was nice seeing you," Harry commented, coming to halt near the door. She had it open, expecting him to leave right away. "I've missed talking to you."

She remained silent.

"I know you think I'm wasting my talents," he continued. "But I feel like I'm doing rather well. People are really happy to have someone that can help them out, you know?"

If there was one trait that both friends shared - and they more than shared just one - it was their stubbornness. When Hermione thought she was in the right, she stuck to her guns all the way - as did Harry. While they didn't come into conflict very often, Harry just had to recall his sixth year and how they had acted to remember that sometimes, the pair of them could be pretty stupid for such supposedly intelligent people.

"I'm rather surprised no one has done something like this before. Pansy is enjoying it, as well."

That got a reaction, her face breaking into a scowl at the mention of his assistant.

"Working for yourself is really refreshing-"

"But you could be so much more!" she burst out, startling him. She gave him a stern look. "You are a great wizard, Harry - you could be anything you want to be. I just don't understand why you'd throw away such a promising career so you can gallivant around doing silly little jobs! They would have made you Head Auror any year now!"

"Hermione," he said softly.

"And then after a few more years, they'd probably make you head of the entire department! It's nothing less than you deserve, after all you have done. The Aurors have never been stronger and a lot of it is because of you."

"Hermione," he repeated.

"And then you could become Minister for Magic soon enough. Kingsley won't have the job forever. Heavens know we need to keep competent wizards in the Ministry or we'll get another Fudge!"

"You really have this all planned out, don't you?" he asked a bit louder, fairly amused. Her cheeks grew a little rosy, realising she had been on a small rant. "Are you finished?"

"Oh, do shut up."

Harry laughed.

"Listen," he began, placing a hand on her shoulder. "I could do all those things, if I wanted. Become the best damn Head Auror there ever was, turn the entire department upside down and one day become head of our government, but you are forgetting something."

She blinked. "What am I forgetting?"

He smiled at her. "You know me - that is awfully boring. I need a little more excitement in my life."

She punched him in the shoulder. "Be serious!"

Harry rubbed his arm. She had quite a nice punch. No wonder she was able to deck Malfoy. "Okay, I'll be serious then - I wasn't happy. I joined the Aurors because it was expected of me. When McGonagall asked us what we wanted to do after we left Hogwarts, I didn't have anything - I had never even thought about life after school, not with Voldemort doing his level best to kill me. Being an Auror sounded good - I'd met Tonks and Moody, and thought why not? I'll be helping keep bad wizards off the streets. It all fit."

Hermione was listening carefully, and Harry noticed that even Ron, though he sat in the lounge some distance away, had decided to pay attention.

"So I did the whole travelling thing and then joined the Auror training program when I got back. And yeah, some of it was fun, but after we rounded up all the Death Eaters, it just didn't appeal to me anymore. Like my purpose was gone. So I quit. But I'm still that boy you went to school with for six years, and I still have that 'saving people thing' you once pointed out to me, so I didn't just go laze about on my arse - I decided that I would help people another way. Helping people isn't just about catching dark wizards or solving crimes - it's helping them with their gardens when they need a little more man power or fixing their enchanted clock because it's broken and other people charge ridiculous amounts of money to repair it."

"You're really happy now, aren't you?" she whispered.

Harry pulled her in swiftly, wrapping his arms around her tightly. She stiffened in shock before sagging against him, returning the hug with vigour.

"Bloody happy," he said, giving her a squeeze. "Happier than I've ever been. Travelling around the world was fun, but it wasn't home."

There was a moment of silence as they embraced, before, "I'm sorry about being such a cow about everything."

"Hey," he pulled back out of their embrace, giving her a stern look. "You were just worried for me, right? Anyway, you can make it up to me. Get me an extra awesome birthday present when the time comes."

She laughed, rubbing at her eyes. They had begun to water. "Okay."

"Well, I best be off. I'm knackered."

Harry gave a loud sigh as he left, the door closing with a soft click behind him. It felt really good to have that cleared up. While his life had been particularly busy lately and had kept him sufficiently distracted, Harry couldn't claim that Hermione's absence in his life in recent weeks had not been felt.

They'd been best friends since they were eleven years old. No matter how you cut it, her reluctance to accept his new way in life had affected him rather strongly.

But now everything was better again.

"Disappearing wands, huh?" he mumbled, riding the elevator to the bottom floor. Harry ignored the rather bland music that trickled from the speakers in the roof. "This should be interesting."

-x-X-x-

Early the next morning, the first thing Harry did after devouring a big English breakfast was call upon Kreacher. The house-elf appeared with a small pop, bowing low - so low that his long, pointy nose and floppy ears touched the floor.

"Master Harry, you called, sir?" he croaked.

"Kreacher, how is Grimmauld Place?" he asked, sorting through a pile of letters. Pansy was due within the next hour. After that, she could deal with them. "Keeping it clean, I hope."

"Of course, Master. Spotless," he answered, straightening up. He looked proud of this fact. "How may Kreacher serve today?"

Harry smiled at the house-elf. "I'm sure you'll enjoy this, Kreacher. I want you to find and bring Mundungus Fletcher to me. Remember him?"

Kreacher's face looked sour at the best of times, but Harry noticed the look of disdain that now graced his wrinkled face made it look particularly sinister, like some sort of gremlin. Kreacher nodded rapidly, his ears flopping.

"I do, Master. It will be Kreacher's pleasure, oh yes."

"Take your time. No need to rush this, okay?"

After a quick nod, the old house-elf vanished as quickly as he appeared.

Harry continued to sort letters in silence, extremely comfortable in his pink bathrobe. In no time at all, an hour passed and Pansy arrived, giving him an incredulous look as she passed through the door. She didn't even bother saying hello, just shaking her head like he was a lost cause and headed for her desk.

"What?" he asked slightly amused.

"Are you trying to emulate Dumbledore or something?"

Harry scratched his chin. "Not really - why?"

Pansy just gave him an 'are you stupid?' look.

"Don't like pink?"

"In small doses, yes. And not on a guy. You look like candy floss."

"Do you want to eat me?"

She gave him a disgusted glare. He laughed and levitated a pile of letters to her desk.

"Get started on those. I'll go get changed."

"Please do."

Giving her a lazy wave over the shoulder, he wandered up-stairs and into his bedroom, rummaging through his drawers for something to wear. For no reason in particular, he decided to go muggle, pulling out a pair of jeans and a rather fetching dark blue turtleneck. Getting dressed, he finished it off with a pair of rather plain white sneakers.

Bounding down the stairs, he stopped when he spotted a very familiar and very large frame filling the door.

"Hagrid!"

The half-man, half-giant had to pass through the door sideways, and duck several inches to avoid destroying the frame with his head. Pansy gave the large gameskeeper a long look, before busying herself with letter sorting. The man hadn't changed a bit in all the years Harry had known him. Large, bushy beard; long, wild hair, and a kind smiling face. As usual, he was clothed in various animal furs and thick leather hide.

"Heya Harry, how ye doing?" the man boomed, striding forward and wrapping him in a bone crushing hug. Harry winced, but returned the embrace. Hagrid really did forget his own strength sometimes. "I haven't seen ye in awhile - thought I'd stop by. I heard ye help people out in a pickle."

The giant let go, causing Harry to stumble a bit. Rubbing his ribs, it took a few moments for Harry to catch on. "I'm good - you have a job for me?"

"Right ye are - got a lil problem in the forest. Bloody Clabberts are causing a ruckus."

Harry blinked. "Clabberts? I didn't even know we had any in the Forbidden Forest."

Clabberts were a rather odd magical creature that resembled a monkey and - weirdly enough - a frog. They had smooth skin which was a mottled green, greatly enhancing their ability to blend in with their natural environment. They had long, powerful arms and legs, and webbed hands and feet that allowed them incredibly swift movement through trees. On their heads they sported two short white horns on either side, and possessed a wide, grinning mouth filled with razor sharp teeth. On the middle of their forehead, they had a large pustule which flashes red when they sense approaching danger.

Overall, they were rather harmless creatures who were extremely tricky to catch - though they could be very mischievous. They liked to collect trinkets if they could get their hands on them. The shinier, the better.

"We do. The lil blighters normally stay deep in the forest - but they breed like rabbits. We need to thin their numbers."

Harry bit his lip. "Thin their numbers?"

"Catch em, of course. There are plenty of reserves that'll take em. Their claw shavings are used in potions - very expensive. Hogwarts could use the gold."

Harry nodded. "Sure. I'll be happy to help. Just let me grab some things."

Some things were mainly his mokeskin pouch and the enlarged backpack he had taken to the Dursley's. Between the pair of them, they contained practically every useful item he owned - with the exception of his wand and the trinkets he kept on his shelf.

He had a feeling that his invisibility cloak was going to come in handy.

"You want to come along, Pansy?"

She gave him a lazy wave and a shake of the head. "I don't feel much like tramping through a filthy forest, thank you."

Harry rolled his eyes at Hagrid, who stifled his laugh with a loud cough.

"Have fun, then. If you see any jobs you want to do, go do them."

The walk from Hogsmeade afforded the two friends to catch up, as they hadn't had the opportunity to see each other in quite awhile. Harry had always been ridiculously busy when he worked for the Ministry and Hagrid, especially during the school year, could never leave the grounds of Hogwarts for more than a few hours - if he was lucky.

As they passed by the train station, they made for the tree line of the forest instead of the large, iron wrought gates that led to Hogwarts. The school was not their destination.

"Norberta is doing well," Hagrid commented, stepping over a felled tree. Harry had a little more difficulty, but managed. "Charlie sends me a letter every few months - she has found herself a mate and is ready to lay some eggs."

Harry smiled, remembering the tiny dragon they had hatched, all those years ago in Hagrid's hut. She had nearly taken off Ron's hand. "You didn't ask for one, did you?"

Hagrid chuckled nervously. "You know me too well, Harry. No harm in trying, is there? Even if I know they'll say no."

"It would be amazing for your classes, even if you couldn't keep them afterwards. The students could learn a lot from seeing a dragon being born. We did."

Harry knew he probably shouldn't be encouraging his friend with something like this, but being with him - together with Ron and Hermione - when Norberta was born was one of Harry's fondest moments from Hogwarts. Even if the little blighter had tried to set Hagrid's house on fire.

"How's Buckbeak?" he asked a few minutes later. They were approaching Hagrid's place - Harry could just make it out between the trees. Hogwarts was an amazing backdrop, as well as the Great Lake. "You think he still remembers me?"

"Of course he does - a Hippogriff never forgets. He's doing well, healthy as can be."

When they reached his hut, Hagrid briefly entered and returned with a large bundle of rope. Upon closer inspection, Harry realised it was a net. Hagrid also had his pink umbrella, which contained the broken pieces of his snapped wand.

He was about to inquire about the net when a loud bark drew his attention, followed by several rapid thumps - like something large and heavy was running towards him.

"Back Fang! Back!" Hagrid bellowed.

"Oh shit," Harry muttered, turning. He grunted, the wind rushing from his lungs as the large boarhound ploughed into him, the wizard and dog tumbling to the ground in a heap. "F-Fang, you heavy shit - get off!"

Fang barked, before licking his face wildly. Harry flinched; face screwing up as he covered in slobber. Wrestling with the massive dog was pointless - cowardly, he may be, but Fang was heavier and stronger than any dog had a right to be.

It took a few moments for Hagrid to pull the beast off of him.

"Nice to see you too, Fang." Harry greeted, standing up. His glasses were skewed and his entire front was drenched in saliva. Pulling his wand out, he gave it a quick flick, drying himself immediately. Fang barked.

"Get away, you ruddy dog," Hagrid forced the large animal into his hut, and then slammed the door behind it. "Sorry about that, Harry."

"It's okay," Harry shrugged. "He hasn't seen me in awhile. Should have expected it."

He waited for Hagrid to gather his things before they re-entered the forest. He hadn't noticed it before, but everything was rather still and silent. No bird song, no insects, not even a distant howl.

"It's a bit quiet, isn't it?"

Hagrid grunted. "Gets like that sometimes - usually a bad sign."

They walked together for some time, the eerie silence continuing all the while. The trees were gradually becoming thicker, covered in moss and creeping vines, the upper canopy casting wavering shadows and keeping out the majority of sunlight. The ground was moist and thick with plant life, and littered with tracks. Harry immediately recognised the familiar horse-like hoof marks of a Centaur, and a few others that he couldn't identify.

Wait a minute.

He paused for a moment, frowning.

"Are those-"

He laughed, cutting himself off. Hagrid gave him a questioning look, before seeing what caused his amusement. He joined him in his laughter.

Tire tracks.

"Mister Weasley will be happy to know that his car is still going."

A loud rustle drew their attention, followed by an odd chitter that almost sounded like some sort of demented laugh. Harry drew his wand and fired, the bolt of red light crashing against the trunk of a nearby tree. A green blur darted from the branches, leaping through the air in a graceful arc. The follow-up stunning charm missed by inches, and the creature vanished into the canopy within seconds.

"Damn. Quick buggers, aren't they?"

They moved on, navigating the dense foliage at a moderate pace. Soon enough, they were deeper than Harry had ever been in the forest and going deeper still. Hagrid now took the lead, knowing this area much more intimately. Harry kept a sharp eye out on his surroundings. The unusual silence persisted, but it would just be his kind of luck to get jumped by an Acromantula when he least suspected it.

Five minutes passed, then ten. The forest floor was covered in pine needles and broken branches, and the beginnings of a fine, rolling mist. The mist, more than anything else so far, put him on edge. He remembered well the unnatural mists that plagued the British Isles during Voldemort's second coming, because of the Dementors under his control. The temperature was much cooler, but not enough to herald the coming of those soulless wraiths.

"Here we are." Hagrid gestured forward and came to a stop next to a particularly large tree. The trunk was about five times as round as Hagrid and easily concealed the pair as they peered around.

There was a small clearing ahead, a rare break in the dense canopy, allowing the sun entrance. The mist sparkled under the beams of sunlight, giving the area an otherworldly look. Various plants grew in the clearing, colourful flowers and deadly weeds, both.

And scattered around, looking like discarded trash, was a multitude of belongings. Harry saw clothing, books, trunks and brooms, and that was only the beginning. The pieces of a suit of armour lay nearby, as well as a portrait that had seen better days, caked in mud and torn to shreds. There were goblets and silver trays, forks and knives, plates and all. He also spotted a couple of student desks, some chairs and weirdly enough, a sack of manure from Professor Sprouts greenhouse, identified by the label on the side. There was also a sword, imbedded in the ground like the legendary blade from the tales of King Arthur. It most likely belonged to the suit of armour.

"...what the hell? Did they raid the school or something?"

"Some of these things are old," Hagrid said softly. "But they are known to sneak into the school on occasion. Mind, it has been awhile."

They slowly moved into the clearing, idly looking through all the gathered items. Like Hagrid had said, some of the stuff was old - but some of it was rather new. Harry blinked as he spotted a pair of colourful shoes and he was reminded of Luna. Maybe this is where some of her belongings had ended up?

"Er - Harry?"

"Yeah, Hagrid?"

Harry looked towards his friend and then froze. That odd, chittering laugh sounded from all around them and Harry realised uneasily that they were surrounded on all sides. Perched in the trees were dozens of Clabberts, in an almost perfect ring. Their sharp teeth were exposed, gleaming maliciously.

All of a sudden, they didn't seem so harmless.

"Hagrid?"

"Yeah, Harry?"

Harry steadied his grip on his wand. "They don't look particularly happy, do they?"

Hagrid grunted.

All at once, they pounced, leaping from the trees with vicious snarls. They soared through the air, clawed hands out stretched as they prepared to attack. Hagrid moved far faster than his size would indicate possible, flinging his net at the closest group. Harry barely had time to see it expand and capture several of the creatures in one swoop when he was set upon.

Giving his wand a deft twirl, the closest ones to him all froze in mid-air, inches away from sinking their teeth into his flesh. They floated through the air lazily, completely immobile. The few not caught in his spell attempted to back away, landing awkwardly and scampering as quick as they could. He fired one, two - seven stunning charms in quick succession, dropping them like flies before they could escape.

A shrill screech drew his attention. Hagrid was grappling with one while two more were on his back, trying to tear into him unsuccessfully. Bashing the first one over the head with one his football-sized fists, he reached back and grabbed a second one by the face, slamming it into the ground head first. The third one tried to get away, but it wasn't fast enough - Hagrid wrapped it up in a crushing hug and then, without hesitation, body slammed it with his considerable weight. It didn't move again.

"Having fun?" Harry asked cheekily. Hagrid laughed. He was a little winded but otherwise fine. The group of Clabberts caught in his net were still struggling, but didn't seem to be making much progress in escaping. It had some nice enchantments on it, from the looks of it. "Nice net."

"Dumbledore made it for me," Hagrid smiled sadly. "Great man, Dumbledore."

Harry nodded. "Yeah."

"You reckon we should take this stuff back to the castle?" he asked a few moments later, gesturing at all the stolen goods. Hagrid shrugged.

"I'll get the house elves to come get it - they'll love the chance to get out."

Opening his backpack, Harry reached over and grabbed the pair of colourful shoes. Giving them a quick inspection, he smiled at the name inscribed on the soles in bold bubble writing. Yeah, they were definitely Luna's.

A loud piercing roar forced Harry to cover his ears in alarm. He looked around wildly, searching for the origin of such a primal cry and froze. Emerging from the tree line was a massive creature with hulking muscles, hunched over and dragging its massive arms through the dirt. It was a Clabbert, but it was the biggest one Harry had ever seen - bigger than Hagrid, even hunched over, its skin a deep forest green and covered in vicious bone white spikes.

"What the fuck is that?" Harry shouted. Hagrid was eying the beast warily. "They aren't meant to get that big, are they?"

It snarled at them, teeth gleaming - and then, with incredible speed, it shoulder-charged Hagrid. The sound of flesh colliding was loud, and Harry watched in awe as the half-giant was flung away like a rag doll. The large man hit the ground with a groan, but he recovered quickly, dodging a swipe from the freakish beast and retaliating with a brutal haymaker. His knuckles cracked against the Clabberts head and it reeled back, momentarily stunned.

Harry fired off a stunning charm but it did nothing, splashing against its back harmlessly. It was much more spell resistant than its kin.

Hagrid lunged forward and attempted to wrap his massive arms around its head in a headlock so he could restrain it, but it slipped away, and with a mighty heave, grabbed the half-giant under the arms and suplexed him back over its shoulders. The ground shook from the force of the impact, but Hagrid was only dazed for a moment. Rolling to his feet, he gave a mighty bellow and launched himself forward, wrapping his opponent in a crushing bear hug. The creature thrashed wildly, flexing its massive muscles but Hagrid held on for dear life. The Clabbert head butt him once, twice - but before it could do it a third time, it was lifted off its feet and slammed into the ground with a bone shattering body slam.

Hagrid's nose was bloody, but he barely noticed as he wrapped one of his large hands around the creature's throat and squeezed. It bucked wildly, attempting to throw him off - but it was fruitless. Slowly but surely, it weakened - and then, with a shuddering gasp, it became still.

Harry remained silent as Hagrid regained his feet, watching as his friend wiped at the blood streaming from his nostrils. Without a word, he stepped over and gestured with his wand, resetting his nose with a crunch. Hagrid winced, and then smiled in thanks.

"You alright?" Harry asked. Hagrid nodded. He still looked a bit groggy, but was otherwise unharmed.

Rounding up all the unconscious or otherwise immobile frog-monkeys with a quick spell, he charmed them to float behind him. The large, muscular body of their leader followed suit.

"This enough of them?"

Hagrid gave a quick count. There were forty-five in all - plus one massive freak of magic.

"Tha' should be enough for now. Let's head back."

-x-X-x-

When Harry returned to the office, it was to the sight of Mundungus Fletcher shouting profanities from his position on the floor while Pansy goaded him with an air of superiority. The career criminal was bound by thick rope, from shoulder to knee. All his struggling got him was a sweaty brow and short breath, as well as Pansy's amusement.

"Let me outta here this instant, you bloody slag!"

Pansy gave a mocking laugh, toying with the captured wizard's wand. It rolled about on her desk from hand to hand. "You really should learn some manners."

"Pureblood bint! When I get outta here, I'll show you a thing or two, mark my words."

"I am simply terrified."

"Bitch!"

Pansy pinched her nose. "Do you ever bathe? I can smell you from here."

Mundungus thrashed wildly and looked like a land bound fish. Harry was about to announce his presence when Kreacher beat him to the punch, exiting the kitchen with a tray of tea.

"Master Harry, welcome back - Kreacher found that filthy worm, as you requested."

Harry nodded, stepping inside. He hung his backpack on the coat rack, smiling at Pansy as he answered. "Thank you, Kreacher."

"You are too kind, sir - too kind, too kind. I have prepared tea and biscuits, Master - just as you like it."

The house-elf placed the tray on his desk, inadvertently knocking the vial of Aunt Marge onto the floor. It rolled around a bit and shuddered, but Harry wasn't too concerned. She wasn't getting out.

"Welcome back, Potter. How was the forest?"

"You!" the kidnapped wizard shouted. "I thought I recognized that blasted house-elf! What do you think you're doing, aye? Siccing your bleedin' elf on me all the time! It's harassment, that's what it is - bloody harassment."

Harry grinned somewhat sardonically. "The only reason you aren't in Azkaban is because of me, Fletcher. Mind your mouth."

The man clearly wanted to say something back but thought better of it, his mouth closing with an audible click of teeth. He settled for glaring at Pansy, which only made her smile even wider. Harry hummed.

"Thank you, Kreacher. You may go home now."

With a grand bow, the house-elf vanished. Pouring himself a cup of tea, he purposefully ignored Mundungus and focused intently on his cup. Taking a small sip, he smiled slightly at the impatient look been thrown his way.

"Did you get out at all, Pansy?" he asked his assistant, perching himself on the corner of her desk. Before he could react, she pulled his tea towards her and took her own sip, nodding in satisfaction. "Oi."

"That elf knows how to make a good tea."

"Yes, well - this is my tea. Get your own."

"My day was splendid, if you must know. And yes, I did go out. There were some small jobs right here in Hogsmeade, so I did those. Oh, and Millicent dropped by and had lunch with me. I hadn't seen her in awhile."

Harry nodded. "Bulstrode, huh? I haven't seen her in ages. What's she up to, these days?"

"Potter! Don't you ignore me, you ruddy git!" Mundungus yelled, squirming uncomfortably. "If you don't need me, untie me and let me go!"

"Oh," Harry said, turning. "Are you still here?"

"Of course I'm still here. I'm tied up! What the hell do you want?"

Harry eyed him carefully for a moment, before setting his tea aside. He ignored how quickly Pansy pulled it towards her, claiming it as her own. "Secondhand wands."

Mundungus stilled. "What about them?"

"I want to know who the big sellers are. I'm trying to track down where a particular wand came from."