Disclaimer: All things Harry Potter belong to JKR.
Summary: Combination of the original chapters one and two.
Also, a note of warning: While it doesn't really factor into the rest of the fic, except for the ramifications of the acts done in this chapter, there is some swearing (as the characters are all adults by now), and included are themes that might be considered disturbing to some, particularly the physical abuse of children. I will not pull any punches. You've been warned.
The King of Limbs
"You start to tell the story, you think you're the hero, and then when you get done talking..."
- Det. Jimmy McNulty, The Wire S05E08 "Clarifications"
Part One: The King of Limbs
"Don't mind giving me the trade name?"
- Ron Weasley
I: The Green Light
August 26, 2002. 9:00 P.M.
"Red tops! Red tops!" Yells the old man on the corner of a dark Bristol street, limping to and fro on the cobbled lane.
Get your Red Tops. All of them here, all of them now. Just a simple call, vague and unassuming, and like clockwork, denizens of the night yet unseen rise from their hovels and homes made of rubble like the living dead, all for a chance to get some of those Red Tops. They stalk and stumble in the nighttime shadows, passing through and around the tout, never seeing who he is as they continue their mad rush to oblivion. Further on, five men; two white, two black, one of some race not quite identifiable, await the coming sales with uncaring glowers as bright a volatile as the glowing tips of the cigarettes they suck like life-giving water.
A young man, seeming to be in his early twenties with jet black hair that stuck up in all corners and astonishingly green eyes, looks upon the scene impassively.
Harry Potter never thought he would see this day: fourteen wizards and witches, befallen some terrible stroke of fate or un-luck line up next to a great brick wall as these five men, no doubt wizards themselves, look them up and down. The Fiends, that's what the Magical Law Enforcement Agents call them, wear simpering smiles to get a taste, a little inkling of the great and mighty Red Top. They hold out fat gold coins, and Harry briefly wonders what half of them had to do for that money, which the men with cigarettes grab at greedily, having them throw it into a large, and no doubt charmed, rubbish bag.
One of the men's eyes flick towards the tout, a choleric, sallow-faced, middle-aged white man with graying straw-blond hair a few sparse hairs lining his jaw in what might be called an excuse for a beard, and tosses a number of those fat gold coins to the man.
Harry feels a pressure in his stomach, that snake-in-the-belly come back for another meal. It has been coming on and off for the entire day. Quickly, before he can even have the chance to think about it, Harry pulls a pack of cigarettes from his jacket and lights one quickly, taking a long and deep drag, looking into the carton.
There are only two cigarettes left. He will have to conserve.
The tout whom has just earned four galleons, the large gold coins Harry had seen being exchanged, returns the corner and looks directly at the raven-haired wizard as he calls for any last Red Top-hopefuls. "Red Tops! Red Tops!" He again cries out. The fourteen wizards and witches are being handed small vials of some liquid, viscous material of a chartreuse color, plugged by a red stopper.
Agilian, is the word that comes to Harry's mind as the vials exchange hands. Agilian, the new wonder-drug of the wizarding world. With an economy in shambles due to Voldemort's power play about four years ago, it comes as no surprise to the Potter that drugs have become the go-to for many a down-on-their-luck wizards. Hermione Granger calls it a 'travesty' that all these people have turned to chemical happiness over trying to fulfill their lives in 'constructive ways', but Harry can understand their pain. He saw first-hand the horrors of the war, and how it affected those around him psychologically. Perhaps Hermione is much stronger than the rest of England, because Harry has seen people change entirely.
Some for the better in Draco Malfoy, Harry's one-time enemy, who saw firsthand the torments that Voldemort had afflicted on his family. Naturally, that had given the young man things to think about. And when Harry and Draco found themselves in Auror School, with Harry a year above and abusing Time Turners as if there were no tomorrow, they had both realized that they were not so different. But far more often, Harry knows, people are changed for the worse. That is state of affairs after a costly and damaging war. They lose their homes, their families, their fortunes, and who wouldn't like to numb that pain just a little bit? Magic is at a loss when it comes to that; there are numerous spells to harm others, but no spells for pleasure. Here, Potions come in handy, and Agilian is the latest wonder-potion to be abused by the rich and poor alike.
So the question begs to ask again: Who wouldn't like to numb the pain just a little bit?
Harry would know, as he shares the same vice as the fourteen wizards and witches, now assembling into a small coterie, discussing the Agilian package as if it were the daily mail.
But, not today, not now. Harry has places to be besides a dark, dank, Bristol Corner.
He slips away from the shadows he has been standing in and moves onward into more favorable territory, though not much better. Bristol has become, perhaps, the filthiest city in the UK for wizards after the War. While the muggle areas remain relatively unchanged, the Wizarding Section has not, considering Harry has left a drug corner and now finds himself stumbling upon a bordello.
But, fortunately, he has no business there, either, and spares the large tavern-esque building no more than a passing glance. Where he needs to go is farther away, and similar to the brothel, but a little more dodgy. So, into the inner-city Harry goes, seemingly unaffected by the moral decay around him.
No one really had understood why Harry chose to move to Bristol from London little over a month ago. Ginny Weasley, Harry's now ex-girlfriend, was not entirely happy with the move. Of course, she plays it off well. The Weasley says she never liked Bristol, and so she would not be moving in with him. Privately, the Weasley told Harry that he was far too obsessive about his job. 'To the point where it seems like it's an addiction' she had told him.
Maybe it is an addiction. He does very much enjoy catching dark wizards.
Harry cuts across an alleyway, stumbling out to another depressing street, but closer to his destination. Mrs. Weasley, Ginny's mother, is also rather unhappy with Harry's sudden aloofness, taking it upon herself to bring the Potter back into the fold and get him reacquainted with her one and only daughter. Fortunately, he has cut out all means of communication, what with multiple anti-apparition wards around his flat and purposefully searching for an apartment without a fireplace, to make it impossible to floo. In fact, irony of ironies, the only way to contact Harry Potter when he is away from office is by a bit of muggle technology: the mobile phone. Most of his subordinates avoid using them, as Ron finds the 'blighted things' too hard to use and Draco deems the technology beneath the grace of being used by his aristocratic hands.
The only person who does, in fact, endeavor to contact Harry in the preferred manner is Hermione. And, judging by the chirping of his mobile, said woman is calling him right now. Harry picks up:
"Hermione," he quietly says into the receiver.
"Harry," she greets, sounding rather content, "Would you like to join Ron and I for a drink?"
Harry snorts. "You do realize I live a hundred and fifteen miles from you two, right?"
Well. One-hundred fifteen from Ron, one-hundred twelve from Hermione's.
Said witch snickers. "You do realize you're a wizard with the capability of Apparition, right?"
"No. It actually didn't occur to me."
"Figures," Hermione chides playfully, "Why did you get that flat anyways? I thought you liked London. Your place before was nice. Your new flat's all cramped and-"
"-Cozy," Harry corrects; he can almost see his friend's grin at the other end of the line.
"Hm. I suppose," she replies, sounding like she doesn't believe it, "but, still, why?"
"Closer to work," Harry grunts.
"That's the worst lie I've ever heard. You work at the OIM. In London. Not Bristol."
Ah, yes, the Old Irish Metre, or OIM. Where all Aurors have moved post-Voldemort. Harry hasn't a clue why it they named it so, only that the new Minister had chuckled and said something about the Muggle Police when he'd heard the name.
"Who said it was for that kind of work?" Harry questions lightly. Hermione pauses, he can sense confusion at the other end of the line:
"Then for what kind of work?"
Harry puts on a deliberately mysterious tone. "To rid the world of evildoers."
Hermione laughs, but says nothing, so Harry continues: "Actually I've got a ton of real work to do tonight. DSI Granath has been up the arse for my reports, and seeing as Ron doesn't actually know how to write, I've been stuck with all of them. You two enjoy your night, I'll probably be dead tired by the time I'm finished anyway."
"You could bring the reports over, I could help you."
Harry stiffens a reflexive smile into a thin frown; it would be like Hermione to suggest helping on Auror reports. "Auror protocol, Granger. Can't show you any of our reports."
"Oh," she remarks, "But, Ron-"
Harry knows Ron uses Hermione as his personal scribe, or at least his editor, considering the near professional-quality reports that end up on Granath's desk, something Harry's Ginger-haired friend is not known for. "That's because Ron's an idiot. And it's not Department Protocol. He's going to get dinged on that someday if he isn't careful."
"I know, I know, Harry. 'Tell him to be more careful and to stop being stupid'."
Harry nods. "You know me too well. Have a nice night. And don't let Ron drink too much, I can't have him at work all bottle-ached."
"I'll make sure to tell him, mum," Hermione sighs, sounding wonderfully discontented.
Harry smiles. "Thank you."
"Bye," she responds, sounding mildly disappointed.
Harry snaps the phone shut and continues his trek.
He passes a few more streets, and a few more dealers with their touts advertising their own Agilian-concoction: 'Black Heads'; 'Fat Man', after the muggle nuclear weapon; 'The Queen'; so on and so forth. Harry, once again, feels a little pang in his stomach, but the cigarette does its job and keeps the snake away.
Finally, in the distance, Harry spots the building he is looking for: A small tavern with a painted sign overhead, which reads: 'Basilisk Fang'. Harry thinks the name sounds stupid, but he continues towards its large, open, oaken door and steps inside. Fortunately, through use of a glamour charm, very few people will recognize the famous Harry Potter. Besides, it likely wouldn't be good for the image if Harry was found hanging around this area of the city.
The Tavern, as one would expect in this area of Bristol, is as dodgy as the corners that surround it. It appears to Harry that some of the prostitutes from outside have expanded their business into the saloon, seeking the next drunkard, honing in on him like prey. And, as tempting as cheap firewhiskey and whores sounds to the Auror, he decides against his feebler judgment and remains concentrated on his task, seeking the small door in the back where a large, intimidating bouncer steers away any drunk fellows.
"An Uzi? What the fuck kind of muggle plonker does that shortarse thing he is?" A patron, red-faced, and clearly drunk exclaims, "We're in Bristol, not fucking Los Angeles!"
Harry ignores the man's foul mouth, rubs his eyes, a docile blue color, now, due to the glamour charm, and marches up to the bouncer:
"I'm looking for The Broker," he says quietly.
The bouncer eyes Harry, seeing only a blond-haired, blue-eyed man staring back at him. "'Uh dun' know no Broker."
"Sure you do," Harry replies, "he's a good bloke."
"'E's a dead bloke."
"Well, you know what they say: 'Dead gods will not save you', and all. Now let me in."
The Bouncer's back stiffens with the 'Dead gods' comment. He straightens out and leans back into the door as it magically opens behind him. "Be quick," is all the man says, moving aside so Harry can step through.
From the outside of the building, one would be hard-pressed to imagine that this area of the Tavern even exists. Strangely, Harry feels somewhat like he's entered a shop owned by quite a dedicated Voodoo Priest. There is a faint musty order in the air, and the lights are dimmed, for mood, no doubt. Harry steps inside uncertainly as the room seems to grow darker in his presence. A sneakoscope on a far away shelf, next to what Harry thinks might be an actual human skull, reflects Harry's image back at him. As is etiquette with The Broker, one must wait at the oddly shaped front desk of his, displaying all sorts of unsavory trinkets and what appears to be a plethora of muggle firearms.
"You know, I'm surprised that glamour charm fools anyone," a voice emerges from the darkness, "You can't hide your magic that well, Harry." A tall, beautiful woman emerges from a bead-curtain from a doorway off to the far-right of the room.
"Perhaps not, Helene, but, then again, a simple glamour charm can't hold up to a live Metamorphmagus, can't it?" Harry counters, dispelling his charm, eyes and hair reverting back to their original green and black.
Helene de Beauvoir, a English-born French witch of about thirty-two, steps out into the dim light of the room, long, lustrous black hair trailing behind her as she turns her eyes a bright, vivid green. "Yes. That's true. We're like twins, now."
"Fantastic," Harry drawls. Helene cocks her head, before shifting her features once more, to her normal auburn hair and ice-blue eyes. Even without the use of her abilities, Harry admits that the woman is shockingly pretty.
"Please don't tell me you want more guns," she sighs, "I'm running very low, and it takes quite some time to magick them as you want."
"Not tonight, Helene," Harry waves a hand dismissively. "Just information." Helene is, perhaps, the best information broker in all of England, and it is no contest who's at the top in Bristol. Her company, however, is usually a lot more unsavory than the raven-haired Auror, so she wears a lazy grin:
"My, aren't we investing in clichés tonight?"
"Never mind," the woman huffs, before grinning and splaying her arms outwards, a tad theatrically. "What is it that the Great Harry Potter needs? Your wish, as they say, is my desire."
"No, wait," Helene brings a finger to her chin in a thoughtful expression, "That Savernake Murder from this morning. The Prophet says it's a sign of things to come. Purebloods and Muggleborns at the center of it. Tell that Healer friend of yours to watch out."
Harry never did like it when Helene mentioned his friends. He hopes they don't continue down that line of discussion.
"Never mind her," Harry replies, "I had a feeling this morning that the murder took place in an iron-smelting foundry."
"Using his talents again?" Helene cryptically interrupts. "You know better than to do that-" she paused, and let out a long-suffering sigh, "-Tell me exactly what you saw this morning."
Harry eyes Helene warily, but she has never been anything but helpful, so he takes a deep breath and recounts his story:
August 26, 2002
Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, UK
"We're close, mate. We're so bloody close."
"I don't know about that. Look, we've got another body reported, that can't possibly be good can it?" Harry replied to a young man with shock-red hair, "But, we can't let ourselves get too involved, can we?"
"Yeah, I reckon you're right," the taller man, the redhead, said whilst scratching his forehead and stepping over fallen branches, "I just want to get this case wrapped up in time for Hermione's birthday."
"I'll try, but this case has been ongoing for months, and looks like we're getting closer, but who the hell knows if we'll catch him by then," the raven-haired wizard replied, "Some pureblood circles are telling us to just leave them be. He'll be in the wind once the Hogwarts Express leaves in four days, anyways."
"Arseholes, the lot of them!" taller man spat, "But, you know Hermione. She's a muggleborn, she can't stand for all this backlash and... I'd feel much better if we could put this behind us by her birthday."
The taller man, named Ronald Weasley, jammed his hands into his pockets and leaned against one of the trees, trying to seek shade from the dripping water. He let out a wistful sigh and stared up into the sky, no doubt thinking about the coming birthday. However, a light slap to the temple broke him from his reverie before it can even start:
"Ow, bloody hell, Harry! What was that for?"
Harry snorted. "Look lively, Ron. Everyone's favorite healer can wait until after the case." Harry, apparently satisfied with his warning, turns and stalks away to another part of the forest where more people gather.
"Bleedin' mental," Ron said, doing his best to sound cross but sounding more comical than anything, rubbed his temple as he follows Harry.
It might have taken a pause to survey how strange a scene like this unfolded in this nondescript forest: a total of twelve people in robes and armor stood around a small and rancid hunk of meat laying at the epicenter of the circle of druids. Though at one point in his life, very long ago, Harry might have been frightened by the strange, shadowy men by the rotting carcass, he was no longer, and took long strides, splattering up mud and broken twigs as he reached the first of the robed men:
"Longbottom!" Harry barked, noticing an equally tall man wrapped in new maroon robes, contrasting from the well-worn and slightly tattered black robes of Ron and Harry's. The man in the maroon robes turns around and levels a curious eye at Harry:
"DCI," he replies respectfully, folding his arms behind his back in the traditional Army stance.
Harry's hard countenance softened. "No need for the respect with me, Neville. I'm still Harry, remember?"
"Right, Harry," Neville Longbottom replied, relaxing his stance, before turning and urging the two newcomers to follow, "We've got another body. It's that girl who went missing mid-August: Dana James. Fits with our man's Modus Operandi; severing of the arms, genital mutilation, and the use of a muggle-method of killing, known as Glasgow Smile-" Neville suddenly stops. Harry and Ron pause with him:
"What is it?" Ron asked.
Neville looked around, shrinking under his hood. "It's just that... that sounded a bit... clinical."
Ron snorts, and looked like he was about to say something sarcastic when Harry laid a reassuring hand on Neville's shoulder: "It always sounds a bit more clinical each time. But remember, it affects you no less."
Neville smiled and nodded at Harry's lie. Better to believe for right now that the shock of finding a mutilated body never subsides. Harry knew, being an Auror longer than many of the young men at this crime scene, that it just happened some day. You just stop feeling anything for the body in front you, Harry thought, and it becomes just that, a body. But, the man in front of him had always been a sentimental and kind young man, and perhaps Neville could be the one to surprise him.
Harry, quite rightly, doubted it.
But it got Neville to move on quickly. "Malfoy is inspecting the body right now. Sorry. No one from St. Mungo's yet." Neville nods to Ron apologetically. Draco and Ron have never gotten along well. And for most of that period, neither did Harry.
While Harry and Draco got along much better these days, it took no great leap of logic to say there is no love lost between the said blond and redhead. Throughout their years at Hogwarts, Draco tormented Hermione Granger, Ron's then-friend and now-girlfriend, mercilessly for being a Muggleborn witch. Harry or Ron would come to her defense, and then Malfoy would make fun of them, and then Hermione would come to their defense... and so on went the vicious cycle. Harry and Draco were able to bury the hatchet due to an extended mission in Romania two years ago. Some of the muggle technology left the normally nominally racist pureblood in awe.
The same, however, could not be said of Malfoy-Weasley relations.
"Bleedin' Malfoy," Ron grit his teeth; Harry chuckled.
"He's not so bad, not anymore, at least," Harry replied, "still a git, yes, but we're on the same side, now, right?"
"That doesn't change that he is a gargantuan tosser," the Ginger-haired wizard replied.
"Naturally," Harry deadpanned.
"I feel so loved," a bored drawl came from off to the side. Harry turned to see the handsome, but sneering, pale face of Draco Malfoy staring back at him. "DCI Potter, this way, please. We've got the girl here. As Longbottom says, definite mutilation, and, of course, she's a Mud-Muggleborn."
Ron leveled a furious glare at Draco, who simply shrugged:
"I don't mean to offend," he apologized in a tone that did not make him sound like he meant it, "I had forgotten you and Granger were an... an item. Truth be told, I had expected her and the Great Potterini to start shagging years ago."
Ron's face began to turn a purple color and Harry had the decency to blush.
"Thought for sure you two were a better match," Draco continued to mock the Weasley, rapidly becoming furious, by speaking to Harry. "Granger is such an idealist. Bloody annoying, but one thing I cannot deny is that she's clever. To think she'd end up shacking up with the Boy-Who-Puked-Slugs, who wouldn't know the difference between a wand and his gentleman-sausage! She's gotten fairly pretty, too. Pity, really. You missed out, Potter."
"Detective-Inspector," Harry warned Draco, now chuckling lightly at Ron's expense, "Would you like to be sent home from another case?"
"Not really," the blond replied spryly, "Astoria's being quite annoying as of late. She's been wanting me to buy her that bloody ring."
Despite Draco's blaisé response, Harry knew the blond was quite at loathe to return to his London residence that he and his girlfriend, Astoria Greengrass, shared. And despite that the younger Slytherin chose a career in Pediatric Healing, there were rumors she had learned quite a few nasty hexes from her sister, Daphne, another Auror whom Harry had heard was working in the Anti-Terrorist Department.
Needless to say, if Astoria was displeased with her boyfriend in any way, she could throw around a few jinxes of her own.
Having known this, Harry smiled smugly. "Then I would advise you to shut it."
Malfoy, clearly disappointed with the brevity of his latest bout of Weasley-baiting, tried to salvage some pleasure out of the situation by sending one last pleased look at Ron before leading the trio, Harry, Ron, and the normally quiet Neville Longbottom to the body. It was covered by a white tarpaulin that Harry found himself rather at loathe to remove. But, this was his job, after all; exchanging a look with Ron, they both grasped a corner of the heavy cloth and lifted it off the rotting husk, a putrid scent assaulting their senses almost immediately. Harry took one look at the face of what once was a cherubic young girl and shook his head. Ron closed his eyes and took a steadying breath.
"Horrifying," Neville remarked quietly, looking at the body.
"How long has it been here?" Harry asked.
"Nothing solid yet without an autopsy," Malfoy answered, "But I'd venture to guess, based off decomposition alone, anywhere from three-to-five days."
Harry ran a few diagnostic tests. Once finished, he groaned. "No information whatsoever. Pretty much the entirety of the torture was done without magic." The tarpaulin was replaced to keep the smell at bay.
Malfoy snorted. "A Muggleborn-hating Pureblood using muggle means to torture his victims. I don't know whether to call him a genius or a hypocrite."
Harry raised an amused eyebrow.
"Er... a genius in a de Sade sort of way," the blond quickly amended.
Harry grinned; Neville and Ron simply looked confused, now. "Genius and psychoticism are not the same thing," the DCI said.
"Thin line between, Potter," Draco smirked.
The DCI crouched to get a better look at the face. The cutting was done with an enchanted knife, he was sure, feeling out the trace elements of magic. It was a gory scene, and Harry brought up a gloved hand to his nose to keep out the slightly rancid scent of the little girl's body. With a soft, but audible pop, Harry felt another presence coming up behind him:
"Healer Granger," he drawled lazily, lifting up the cloth to get a better look at the girl. Her torso waspockmarked with angry slash marks, and her chest was in even worse shape. It looked rather like a dog attacked her, instead of a wizard. The cuts were greenish-yellow, either the sign of some insidious magic, or a natural infection of her wounds. Truthfully, Harry would have rather not looked down any further, and leave the rest of the quick autopsy to the Healer who had just Apparated behind him:
"Another one," her soft voice returned, no hurt or shock, just resigned acceptance.
Harry nodded slowly, staring at the girl's terrified, lifeless eyes: "Another one," he echoed.
As he surveyed the more obvious wounds, Harry finds feeling a strange urge. A snake in his stomach, curling, and coiling from its long slumber. It is hungry, it needs to be satiated. He knew what this meant, and tries to ignore it, even though he knows the snake-in-the-belly will only hiss louder the longer he pays it no mind. In only fifteen seconds, he was already sweating and his hands are shaking. This does not go unnoticed by his Healer friend:
"Harry?" Hermione asked; Harry refuses to meet her eyes, "Are you okay?"
No. He was not. But he would be. All he needed was one cigarette. Just to take the edge off. Just to... "Sorry, Hermione," he replied, feeling that snake in the pit of his gut slithering around, yearning for release. "I'm dying for the day's first tab."
Hermione made a face. "You know those will kill you, right? Bad for teeth, too."
"Least of my worries," Harry replied lightly, pulling a pack from inside his robes. He peered inside the open carton, finding thirteen death sticks sitting inside. Not good, but he knew its better than the alternative. "Besides, I'm not trying to attract anyone."
Harry conjured a flame with his wand and lit the cigarette, taking a long drag, feeling the snake in his belly slink away, moderately satisfied for now. Suddenly, he felt more acutely aware, as if his mind was roused from previous sluggishness to peak performance. Harry took another gander at the body, and sniffed the air, noticing something he had not earlier:
"I'm thinking this one was killed at some sort of foundry," Harry observed, pinching his nose. "Probably one that was recently abandoned."
"Foundry?" Ron quipped suddenly, "Why a foundry?"
"You can smell it on her," Harry replied, releasing his nose, "Sulfur Dioxide. She must have been inhaling it. Granger, during the autopsy, would you mind having the on-call Pathologian inspect the inside of the lungs as well? It must be littered with the stuff. There aren't too many places in England that would have that kind of gas floating around except iron foundries. Which would give me Doncaster and Bristol as possible perpetrators. Leaves London out-"
"-why?" Asked Ron.
"Too much suspicion there. The entire Ministry of Magic operates in the middle of London. Too many people, too many opportunities of escape and being caught. Bad if you're caught by the Muggle Police; worse if wizards catch onto your plan. Any sensible person would avoid the biggest city center in the UK."
"Respectfully, DCI-" Neville cut in whilst Harry is in mid-thought, but the Chief Inspector paid the rookie Auror no mind and plowed onwards:
"That leaves Bristol and Doncaster. Doncaster is too far, and it would make little sense to hide a body in Savernake Forest if one were in that city. There are better places to hide a body nearer to Doncaster..."
"But, DC-" Neville tried again, looking helplessly from a rather astounded Hermione to Malfoy, and then to Ron, whom spoke up:
"Don't bother, Nev. He's not speaking to us. Harry gets like this sometimes. I don't know where his mind goes, but somehow he always comes up with something relevant. Besides, even if you tried to stop him, he'd just continue on as if you weren't even there."
"Really?" Neville intoned; Draco let out a rather undignified snort:
"Once, I left for lunch while he got like this, an hour later, I come back to find him carrying on about the same subject as if I were in the room the whole time."
"...should probably test the soil on her trainers for heavy metals if so," Harry continued to himself, stalking off from the group and staring off into the distance, "Bristol's contaminated soil treatment facilities should have a lot of them nearby, maybe a foundry nearby an CSTE..." he pauses, staring off into the distance. The other members of his team not the sudden stop:
"What's wrong with him, now?" Neville questioned and Ron shrugged in response:
"He's thinking," the redhead replied, "I don't know, something about Auror Training School changed him. He was a smart bloke before, but he's scary brilliant when he wants to be, now."
"Hermione," Harry called, suddenly, causing the previously confused brunette to snap to attention, "you might know this. What is that tree over there?" Harry points to a large and ancient-looking tree with a blue sign planted in front of it. Hermione steps up to where he stands and squints:
"The King of Limbs..." she answered, looking at the blue placard in front of the ancient tree, "I don't know what that means."
"It's beautiful," was all Harry said, and he stayed for a moment, staring at this immense tree with its gnarled, curving branches, shooting outwards, onwards, upwards, and sidewards to the mournful sky above.
"It is," she agreed.
"Take the body, do the autopsy. I've got a million things to do, and I'll be spending quite some time in Bristol over the next few days."
"Bristol? How did you-"
"No time now, darling," he drawled, moving towards a safe Apparition point, "I've a million things to do otherwise."
August 26, 2002 9:35 PM
Black Fang Tavern, Helene's Quarters, Magical District, Bristol, UK
"Sounds like you were trying to impress," Helene observes lightly.
Harry ignores her. "There was sulfur dioxide all around her, and the St. Mungo's autopsy came back positive for noxious gases normally associated with iron-smelting. I was thinking-"
"-that it must be nearby Bristol since Doncaster is too far and London is too crowded," Helene says, "Good thought. It would be difficult to Apparate that far. You'd be close. But, for me to give any more information, it would normally cost you. But since you're my favorite 'informee', I'll give us some extra privacy."
The door behind Harry locks shut and magically seals itself. Harry levels a questioning stare at the older witch:
"And your other customers?" Harry questions.
"Oh, sod them!" Helene huffs. "They still think I'm a man."
Harry quirks an eyebrow. "Well, you can't really blame them when you go walking around in a fucking beard!"
The beautiful witch's look turns dour, her irises shifting to a near-opaque milky color. "Do you want information or not?"
"Sorry," Harry quickly apologizes; Helene's eyes return their normal color and she assumes an air of nonchalance.
"Fahranar," she replies simply. "It's an old wizarding iron foundry from the Middle Ages no less than twenty kilometers from us, used by Purebloods primarily during the War of the Roses; it was decommissioned about fifty years ago when the demand for such weaponry decreased and the wizarding world underwent its last renaissance."
"Why have I never heard of it?"
"You wouldn't have. It's a very well-kept secret between some of the most elite families in England. Not even Scottish Purebloods know about it, and you can completely forget about Halfbloods or Muggleborns."
Harry nods. "It would make sense. Pureblood foundry that no one really knows about. I might check this place out."
"You can't get in without someone who knows the way there. Too many wards just short of a Fidelius."
Harry gives Helene a narrow look. "And you'd just happen to know someone who knows the way there?"
"Naturally," the perky woman sniffs lightly, "it's my job to be informed of everything that goes on in the wizarding world. And, due to that, I will be your guide to that big, abandoned foundry." Helene finishes with a leering, come-hither look.
"This isn't a come-on, is it?" Harry questions disdainfully. "Because it's the worst one yet, if so. And the answer is still no."
Helene seems rather dismayed. "Why not?" She asks petulantly, "You and the Ginger are finally through."
"Well, one: because you're an informant, and I'd rather not get strummed up with accusations of shagging you; and, two, don't call Ginny a Ginger," Harry replies, "And three, I'm not into geriatrics."
"Does she still love you?"
"I don't know. She seems to pursue me still, but she doesn't say anything."
Helene smiles mysteriously. "A woman doesn't tell when she's in love."
"Huh," Harry replies. "In any case, that's still a no."
Helene looks amused. "I could morph into the Ginger if you'd like-"
"-or that Healer girlfriend of your partner's. The bookish one. I could even wear one of those muggle candy-striper outfits."
"Well, regardless, Harry," Helene finally relents, "you do look stressed. All that extra garbage is getting to your head. It's making you loopy."
"It got to my head a long time ago. I'm already loopy," Harry says, smiling, making a pretend-handgun with his fingers, putting it to his temple, and proceeding to fire. Helene smiles:
"Fatalism. How irresistible!"
"Shut up, would you?" Harry drawls, thoroughly annoyed. Helene grins wolfishly, before turning her attention to more serious matters:
"Here, come back and visit me tomorrow night, I'll be more than willing to help you up to Fahranar, and in the mean time," Helene stops and bustles about, rushing back through the bead curtain and leaving Harry mid-sentence. A few moments later, she comes out with two vials filled with a deep, forest-green liquid, "You must take these. For the symptoms"
Harry's face sours. "I don't want that. I can't use that anymore."
"Harry," Helene pleads, pressing the two vials into his outstretched palm, "You've got the shakes, the rumblies in your gut, and pretty soon the headaches are going to come. This is the only way to calm them!"
"No, no," Harry shakes his head, reaching into his coat-pocket and pulling out the near-empty carton of cigarettes. "I've got all I need."
"You stupid man! And, what? Huffing a pack of fags every day is somehow helpful? And when you're forty and crippled by cancer?" The elder witch hisses, "You have to take this. Remember, this is my own concoction, and it's the only thing that will keep you in check."
"It's illegal," Harry murmurs, knowing it is terrible excuse.
Helene snorts. "Come off it, Harry, even you know that's a bad excuse."
Harry relents, taking the vials. "Your own formula, you say?"
"My very own. I call it 'The Green Light'; the purest, finest Agilian you'll ever come across. It'll make you feel alive and free. Because you're unburdening your mind. You take that, and you'll be yourself in no time."
"At what cost?" Harry asks, smiling ruefully.
"Oh, do shut it, Harry!" The elder woman snarks, slapping at his arm lightly, before unlocking the door and seeing Harry off. "Have a good night."
"You too," Harry responds, finding himself back out into the raucous atmosphere of the Basilisk Fang Tavern. Rather unhappily, he puts the two vials of Agilian in his coat pocket and heads out of the building. The warm, blustery wind caresses Harry's cheek as he looks around at the many corners, dealers on one side, whores on the other.
He sighs. "Verily," he remarks, feeling a bit philosophical, "these are my people."
August 27, 2002 7:36 A.M.
Harry is entranced. So, so, very entranced. The miracle of nature that stands before him, with its gnarls and curves and great branches, rising up to the mottled gray sky above, has left him in quite the state. He tries to say something, but no words come out. He just listens to the soft, crooning sound of the birds, and looks at the great tree, there like an immortal statue, fashioned by nature itself to say 'This is the beauty I can create'.
And, Nature, despite its terrific egoism, is correct about that one thing.
Harry reaches down and touches the turquoise sign in front of him.
"The King of Limbs," he breathes out, almost in awe, reading the words off the small sign in front of him.
There is a distant calling, a voice he recognizes almost instantly, but in the gloaming, he doesn't care for his partner's yells and screams for Harry to identify himself. There is just the King of Limbs. And that feeling. Like there's ginger ale sloshing around violently in his head. Everything turns to mush. He forgets to breathe. Darkness creeps in on the corner of his eyes. And he briefly experiences the sense of falling, like the time he and Hermione visited Avon Gorge in Bristol and stared down at the sheer vertical drop into the waters from Clifton Bridge, and hitting something in a loud and painful thud, before the darkness envelopes everything and anything he sees.
When he comes to, Harry finds himself haphazardly tossed upon the comfy black leather couch in his flat. On the coffee table in front of him are the two vials, one empty, the other still filled with the viscous, emerald liquid. He rubs his eyes and gets up from the couch, realizing he has not changed out of his clothes from last night. But that doesn't matter, he feels curiously clear-headed, for the first time in weeks. Helene's Agilian really is good, Harry muses. It should keep the pangs away for a week or two, at least.
First things first, however, Harry needs to hide the other phial of the drug. He can make wards later, for now, however, he needs a quick hiding place, which turns out to be a disillusionment charm and then chucking underneath the mattress of his bed. Once that niggling problem is dealt with, Harry hurries into the shower, brushes his teeth, and throws on fresh clothes, consisting of a slate blazer, a black button down shirt, a silver tie with stripes of black and a pair of dark jeans and loafers.
He rushes downstairs, realizing he is running late, only to run nearly headfirst into his landlady, Jenny Hudson, a delightful middle-aged muggle woman whose husband is impotent (though they don't know that Harry knows that bit of information), and they treat Harry like the son they never had:
"Hullo, Mrs. Hudson," he greets lightly, "I'm running late. I'll see you tonight, yes?"
The honey-haired woman smiles back, "Oh, yes, of course, Harry. Will you be joining us for dinner?"
"I don't think I'll get home that early. I've got quite a lot to accomplish today."
"Oh," Mrs. Hudson says, "Well, don't hesitate to ring me for leftovers when you do get in."
"Thanks, Mrs. Hudson," he replies, kissing her cheek as he would his mother if she were still alive.
"Have a good day, dear!"
Harry steps outside of the apartment building and moves away towards the bank of the River Avon. Jamming his hands into his pockets, he walks down the length of the River on the sidewalk, whistling the tune to 'The Farmer in the Dell' as he moves along. Soon, the River begins to shimmer as he comes to Bristol Bridge. Harry looks down from the bustling muggle city and looks down at the water for a moment, and back up, to find a large wizarding town open up in front of him.
This is a more savory part of Wizarding Bristol than the area Harry had frequented last night. And it's a safe place to Apparate from. In a moment, once in a crowd of young wizards and witches, Harry concentrates on the familiar brick facade of his workplace and wills himself to go there. Soon, it feels like he's being squeezed through a garden hose, and with a soft, but audible pop, he lands in front of the Old Irish Metre, the Auror Headquarters situated on the outskirts of the Havering borough.
The building appears to be an amalgam of old and new. It was adapted in the way of most normal Wizarding buildings when first built in 1823, but new that the muggle Scotland Yard relocated and rebuilt their office building, Minister Shacklebolt had authorized a revamping of the Irish Metre so it could function as efficiently as the Muggle Police. Harry steps toward the large glass doors, where a coterie of unfriendly-looking guard Aurors await him.
"'Halt," comes a few voices all at once, and Harry raises his hand in acknowledgement before allowing himself to be checked by the guards. He is forced to present his wand as identification and take some form of Wizarding Biometrics test that Percy, Ron's older brother, had been yammering on about a few years back.
The guards relax after a few moments. "'Ello, DCI," one mutters respectfully and Harry gives him a curt nod, passing through the doors.
The lobby is impeccably constructed, and, as one would expect, even bigger on the inside than it looks outside. Metallic floors stretch on outwards to a large and open lobby with leafy plants placed at all four corners of the room and around the crescent-shaped receptionist's desk. Dead center of the room are couple of couches along with reading materials, directly to the right is the cafeteria, and straight ahead at the end of the lobby are a row of glass elevators that gives a fantastic view of the London skyline. He passes by the couches and swipes a copy of the Daily Prophet from the coffee table, hoping to read Ginny's article on the state of Wizarding relations between the United States and Russia, and how it could tip the balance of power in Europe once more.
From there, it is a quick trip to the cafeteria to buy an English Muffin and then on to the elevators. Once inside, Harry takes a long, wistful glance at the London skyline, marveling at how brilliant muggles and wizards alike are.
The lift stops on Level 5, where the Serious Crimes Unit, or SCU, is located. Harry takes a bite of the muffin, walks to his cubicle, and collapses in his chair whilst searching for Ginny's Article. Of course, it is set below the top news of the day, a blaring title: FIFTH MUGGLEBORN FOUND DEAD IN SAVERNAKE FOREST; AURORS HAVE SUSPECTS IN CUSTODY. Harry ignores it, as it will be completely based off unwholesome information (Harry has imposed a media blackout on the SCU, and they certainly don't have a man in custody), and prefers to read Ginny's Editorial:
The Iron Curtain
By: Ginevra Molly Weasley
Since the fall of Lord Voldemort nearly five years ago, England has been forced out of its self-imposed political blackout and the U.K. finds itself in the centre of a brewing cold war between the Americans and the Russians, mirroring the situation the Muggle World was in no less than fifty-five years ago. A famous Muggle politician and son of a Squib, Sir Winston Churchill, described the sudden shutting down of communications between the Yanks and Soviets as an 'Iron Curtain' descending across the World, forever dividing the East and West. Today, we find ourselves locked in between these two powerhouses once more as we find ourselves staring down, not the likes of Josef Stalin or Leonid Brezhnev; Harry Truman or Gerald Ford, but rather the American Magical Secretary Daniel Halan and the Russian Premier Dmitri Abramov.
With the failure to pass the AEL-TA (Americo-European League Tracking Association) Act last year, we have seen a souring of relations between the two most powerful wizarding countries. Threats of violence and retaliation for the perceived role of rogue Russian wizards in connexion with the Muggle Extremist Group al-Qaeda and the September 11th, 2001 Attacks coordinated on the World Trade Centers in New York City; the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia; and the attempt on the White House in the American Capitol: Washington, D.C.
MS Halan and Premier Abramov have not met since the AEL-TA Conference.
This problem stems far deeper than most of the Wizarding Public of England are willing to look, as we are still struggling to exit our economic recession due to Voldemort's terrorist attacks in 1996 and through 1997.
(Cont. on Page 6)
"Hullo, Harry," comes Ron's voice from somewhere to Harry's right.
"Wotcher," Harry replies.
"What're you reading?"
"Ginny's article," Harry answers, "You want the Sports Section?"
Ron shakes his head, "No, I'm alright, saw it at my flat. But Ginny's article... it's good isn't it?"
"So far," Harry nods, "You read it?"
"Sort of," the redhead grins sheepishly, "didn't understand a bleedin' word of it, though. Hermione had to explain the whole ruddy thing to me. Especially the part about the Muggle Terrorists; they sound about as mental as Voldemort!"
Harry smiles reflexively, remembering a time when his best mate could not utter that name without nearly relieving himself in his trousers. He turns the paper to Page Six, hopeful for a nice, quiet morning. Reading his ex-girlfriend's article.
Yes. A little bit strange, he supposes.
"Potter!" Barks a gravelly voice from the large office way at the corner of the office.
Harry sighs, apparently his quiet morning is not to be. Ron gives him a 'What did you do?' look, to which Harry shrugs and tosses Ginny's article aside, stalking to the open door where a giant of a man with graying hair that was once a dark brown stands.
"Superintendent Granath," Harry greets.
"DCI," Granath breathes out.
William Granath is in many ways, Harry's mentor. The moment the boy came out of Auror School, the man, a DCI like Harry is now at the time, was teaching him how to hold his own in a duel where one was outnumbered, and furthermore, something they did not teach at Training School: How to think like a spook. It's the similarities between the two men that Harry has gotten a nickname from some of the more derisive (and likely jealous) Magical Law Enforcement Employees as 'The Little Granath".
"How are the Muggleborn murders coming along." He intones in his thick Scottish brogue; it is not a question.
"As you'd expect, not well," Harry replies, "I'm following a few leads, talking to a few informants. I might be getting somewhere."
Granath's unnaturally golden eyes narrow. "Not Helene de Beauvoir, I hope?"
Harry rubs the back of his neck sheepishly. Granath rolls his eyes:
"Watch yourself, Potter. She may be all bubbly and helpful to you, but remember the circumstances under which you met her. She's a terror if you aren't careful," the elder Auror warns, rubbing the stubble on his chin thoughtfully as his eyes flash angrily.
"What's she gonna do; grow out her hair and strangle me with it?" Harry deadpans, but his superior does not seem amused:
"You saw what happened to her husband and children. And you and I both know-"
"-We don't know-"
"We can as good as guess!" Granath snaps. "Helene de Beauvoir most likely murdered her family in the most brutal fashion I have ever seen-using the Discerpa to quarter children! Her own children!-and the only reason she isn't rotting in Petre is because we didn't have enough evidence to tie it to her!"
Harry pauses, thinking about the day he met Helene, before he speaks again, deliberately avoiding the subject of his informant. "How is it?"
The Superintendent blinks: "How is what?"
"Petre? You visited last week, didn't you?"
The elder man grunts and slides back into his seat. "Better than Azkaban, that's for sure," Granath replies. "Just as isolated on Elba, nice and far away from any Muggle eyes. Definitely more comfortable for the prisoner. But I don't know how comfortable I am knowing they're more comfortable."
Both men share a chuckle. "I'll watch out for Helene," Harry concedes.
Granath's normally harsh glare softens. "Yes, do be careful, Harry. And keep me informed. We have to catch this killer; the entire bloody nation is about ready to declare a state of emergency. Your girlfriend's article, the more important one actually got shafted in favor of this codswallop."
"I'm serious, Harry. I'm not playing around; we have to catch this bastard before he does this to another kid. And by the time the Hogwarts Express leaves, he's in the wind."
Harry eyes his mentor warily. "I'm trying, but it isn't exactly easy when the man has left no magical trace whatsoever." Granath eyes Harry in just the same way, "I'm half-thinking to use Muggle techniques." Harry quickly adds.
"Interesting idea, but I don't think you'll get very far trying that," the Superintendent says, "Now get that sorry excuse you call a unit prepped. You are going to hit all the crime scenes today. Split your unit up. Maybe, with the luck of Merlin, we'll find something of use there."
Harry nods, exiting out the door.
Forests near Cardiff, U.K.
"We've searched bloody everywhere, Priori and Revelato, and what do we get? Exactly what we got the first time! Nothing. Faint magical trace. Enough for us to know someone with magic did this. And what does that do? I'll tell you, it narrows our options down to 1.6 million people!" Draco mutters exasperatedly, stowing his wand after another round of Reductor curses at a tree that seems to have been unlucky enough to be in the blond's way.
"Malfoy!" Harry barks, "Preserve the crime scene, don't destroy it."
"Much as I hate to admit it, Harry, mate," Ron says, making lazy wisps of cloudy air with his wand, "but Malfoy's got a point. We're nowhere closer than where we started and we should all know by now that the crime scene is bleedin' bare!"
Harry knows that Ron and Draco make good points; this is entirely useless. They have spent too much time looking at the old crime scenes, and nothing has changed. They still cannot find a damn thing. Harry rubs his eyes, and turns to the other Aurors:
"You're right, we're not getting anywhere with this," Harry replies, getting ready to go back to gather their equipment when a loud crack cuts through the air.
Neville Longbottom emerges from where the sound came from and marches towards Harry, face white as a sheet:
"What's wrong?" Harry asks.
Neville lets out a gust of air. "Another one. The ruddy bastard's got another one!"
Suddenly, Harry feels much older than his twenty-two years as the quartet exchange tired looks and Apparate back to the OIM.
Once back, Granath hands Harry a small parchment with some of the most illegible handwriting he has ever seen upon it:
Dear Chief Inspector,
I keep on hearing the police have caught me, but you won't fix me just yet. The Prophet was a right joke this morning. You're on the right track; you've found me; you don't want to release me to the public just yet. All those answers gave me real fits, you know? Grand work, the last one was. Nice and slow, all the time in the world for the little mudblood bitch to squeal. Lots of red ink and iron, if you'd ask me. As you can see, I love my work and I'm quite keen to start again. And I'm just dying to tell you who it is. She's a beautiful little girl, her name is Freya. Pretty name, foreign-sounding. You don't hear that one a lot. Maybe I'll save you an ear or two after I clip them off the lady. Ha ha. Four days, Boss Potter.
P.S. Don't mind giving me the trade name.
Something strikes Harry as odd about the postscript, among numerous other incongruities in the letter. Where has he heard that line before? It seems so very familiar.
"Don't mind giving me the trade name?" Ron questions, "What the bloody hell does that mean?"
Draco frowns. "Never mind that. What does the name mean?"
Harry pauses, summoning a Quick-notes Quill to copy the letter down onto another sheet of paper.
"Could be Aleister Crowley," Neville supplies, mentioning the 19th and 20th century mystic, "he's been dead for years, but, maybe a fan?"
Superintendent Granath, now sitting in on the impromptu meeting, shakes his head: "Not likely. Crowley loved muggles, and was even an early advocate of Muggle-Wizard integration, or, at least education. He did not have very many Pureblood acquaintances, let alone fans."
"First things first, have you still got the owl this was delivered with?" Harry asks.
Neville nods. "Yes, sir. Intelligence is checking who it belongs to as we speak."
Harry looks over to Granath, who nods, signalling his allowing for Harry to take full-control of the case. "Take this parchment on the off-chance we can get a magical signature from it." He hands the paper to Neville, who puts on a brave grimace and hurries towards the elevator. "Dalglish," Harry addresses another one of his Aurors, "go out to meet Headmistress McGonagall at Hogwarts, she'll likely be able to give us the address of Freya. If she's anything like the last four victims, her parents may already be dead." The straw-haired Wizard turns on his heel and takes leave. "In the mean time, I feel like I've read something like this before. Somewhere."
"Well, we've got a whole library here," Ron says, shrugging, "As much as I hate reading, if we can find it there..."
"I don't think it was a magical book," Harry replies, settling down into a thinker's pose.
"Potter, we just got done proving this guy does not like muggles; it's on the damned parchment!" Malfoy drawls, "Why would he be doing anything out of a muggle book? That's utterly illogical."
"Is it? It couldn't be... a joke?" Harry questions, face set in consternation, "Aleister Crowley was noted for his love of Muggles, seeking even to impart some of his knowledge upon them; maybe this Aleister is mocking the sentiment."
"That's a possibility," Granath nods, "And it could be a lead if we can't find an actual name from all of this."
"I think it is a little bit... off," Draco says; Ron turns and regards his nemesis questioningly:
"Off? Off how?" The redhead asks.
"Look at everything he's sent us. A letter on parchment with what appears to have magical traces left all over it. Sent by owl. He seems like he wants to get caught. Or, at least, let us know his name."
"Maybe that's it," Harry replies.
"What's it?" Ron questions.
"Maybe it's like a game for him. He's having fun doing this. He wants us to know exactly who he is so-"
"-So when he disappears and the girl is found dead after the Hogwarts Express leaves in four days, Granath's office, and your unit, specifically, looks bad," Draco finishes, his lip curling in disdain, "It's a rather bizarre way to get one's political statement out there."
Harry shrugs, turning to Ron, who looks confused. "Granath is pro-Muggle relations. And its no secret, what with one of my best friends being Hermione, where I stand on the issue of Muggle and Muggleborn treatment. It could work almost like a call to arms for all the Pureblood extremists out there: 'Harry Potter and William Granath can't stop us!', or something of the like."
"And, truthfully," Draco starts, looking as if he's treading dangerous waters, "it's an appealing call to Purebloods. Many of the ancient families feel as though they have been neglected in favor of pro-muggle legislation. Many think Minister Shacklebolt is a bleeding heart leading the Ministry to complete assimilation, rather than protecting the noble houses that were damaged by Voldemort."
Ron rounds on Draco. "Well maybe they deserve to be left out in the cold!" The blond sneers at the redhead, realizing the interjection was only a thinly-veiled barb at his family's as well as his own actions during the war against Voldemort.
"Ron, calm down. He's only stating a fact," Harry says, trying to diffuse the tension. "It very well could work. But for now, I need someone to talk to about this damn letter." Harry smiles, "Someone who knows a lot about Muggle Literature or news."
Ron cocks his head. "You're not saying-"
"Yeah, probably her," Harry nods. Granath will not be happy if he finds out Harry and Ron are speaking to their best friend about this, but what the Superintendent doesn't know won't hurt him.
"Okay," Ron nods, "Let's go."
"No you don't," Draco replies, holding the Weasley back by the scruff of his robes.
Ron looks furious. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"If Granath finds out we're gone, he's going to be doubly angry that you spent time that you should be using for work with your girlfriend," Harry rationalizes. "I'll go see her. It won't take more than half-an-hour."
St. Mungo's Hospital, London, UK.
"Well," Hermione starts, her golden-brown eyes narrowing, trying to remember, "I don't think the letter itself is in any book I've read. Then again, I don't really remember every book I've read."
Harry's face falls. Practically every book (wizarding and muggle alike) he's read has been recommended to him by Hermione, so he thought if anyone would know, it would be her.
"Then were the bloody hell do I remember this from?" He questions to no one in particular, reclining on the couch of his friend's break room.
Hermione gives him an ironical smile, "It's not from a book, Harry," she says. Harry sits straight, now confused, "It's from a letter. Dear Boss."
"One of the first Jack the Ripper letters sent to the Scotland Yard," Hermione says, moving from a table to the sofa Harry already occupies, scooting in close to show him the copy of Aleister's letter, "I remember reading about it, though not reading it directly, in one of my detective books from before Hogwarts. That postscript is taken word-for-word from that letter. And look at the first sentence. Does anything seem, I don't know, off about it to you?"
Harry rereads the first line before his lips quirk into a smile. "He calls us the police."
"Exactly. Instead the Auror Corps, he calls you 'the police'. A muggle term. Doesn't that strike you a bit odd?"
Harry smiles, completely shocked that he had missed such a giant clue. "I didn't notice it at first," Harry replies, "but now that you've pointed it out..."
And suddenly, his mind is racing in all sorts of different directions. Why Jack the Ripper; why a muggle? Could this really just be a sick sense of humor? Play Muggle games the Wizarding police to mock the fact that he's been slicing up little Muggleborn girls? And the foundry, could that be where he's hiding the girl? It's shoddy detective-work, Harry knows, as he hasn't got an ounce of hard evidence to back him up other than that the murder likely took place at an iron foundry nearby Bristol. And then there would be the problem of Helene. She's the only one who can get Harry into Fahranar, but it what would he do with her if they came face-to-face with the murderer. He couldn't bloody well have her stand around and fire curses while waiting for Granath and the rest of his unit. And-
Harry's train of thought is suddenly broken by the laughter of the nearby brunette. "What's so funny?" He asks her.
"No, no, it's nothing," Hermione replies, hand over her mouth to cover her soft giggles, "Your face. You looked like you were about trying to blow something up with a glare."
"Oh, uh, sorry," Harry apologizes without knowing why. "Thanks for the info, anyway; you're a lifesaver, Hermione."
"It's no trouble, Harry," the honey-haired healer says softly, "I just want this Freya girl to be able to go to Hogwarts." Hermione trails off, looking downwards, no doubt at her shoes. "It's horrible, what he does to these children."
"Maybe it's better," Harry supplies quietly, at which Hermione's head whips upwards, her golden-brown eyes narrowed in fury:
"How can it be better?" She spits, likely offended that Harry even uttered such a thing.
Harry raises his arms up in defense. "Not that it happened in the first place," he explains his logic, "But afterwards. All the other girls' parents were killed, any siblings met the same fate. And, children who have been through traumatic experiences like that tend to blame themselves for the death of their family members. With all that emotional damage, maybe it's a mercy when he finally kills them."
Hermione casts her gaze downwards again, biting her lower lip. "I know, but... it's just... it's not right. It's horrifying."
Harry smirks in a wry manner. "The world usually is."
Office of the Irish Metre, London, UK
"DCI," a respectful voice from a young woman greets Harry at his desk with a large packet, "we've gone over analysis of the letter given to us. It has not tested for any magical evidence that would allow us to ID the writer, but we found more of the strange dust on the parchment that was also present in Ms. Knightley's lungs yesterday."
Oh ho, Harry thinks sarcastically, the plot thickens!
"We were also able to trace the owl that came in with the letter. It belongs to an Aleister Bulstrom," the Magic-Inspector says.
Bloody hell; the man had signed his own letter to the Aurors! He really is trying to prove a point!
"What's his angle?" Harry blurts aloud, asking the question more to himself than anyone else, but the Magic-Inspector takes that as a question Harry has asked her:
"I wouldn't know," she responds rather testily, "I just run tests."
"Sorry, wasn't talking to you," Harry replies gruffly; the inspector gives him a surprised look and then scurries away.
"I don't know how you landed Ginny with manners like that," Ron snarks from the side.
Harry snorts. "Well, you know why we broke up, then."
A Scottish voice breaks through their quiet banter. "I talked to Headmistress McGonagall. She says the only Freya that is coming to Hogwarts is a Freya Thompson, at One Halkin Street, London."
"Belgravia?" Ron whistles low. "Her family must be loaded."
Harry snorts as Draco materializes from seemingly nowhere. "Look lively, Malfoy, we're going out into Muggle territory. Have to check on the girl's family."
"Does that mean I have to put on Muggle clothes again?"
One Halkin Street, Belgravia, City of Westminister, London, UK
Harry awaits Ron, Draco, Neville, and Dalglish as they stand outside the door to a rather palatial brownstone that should belong to David and Anne Thompson, a wealthy businessman and doctor respectively. As with all new money, they've likely kept their noses out of other people's business, and have few friends living nearby to come check on them if they have been killed.
Harry moves towards the door and raps on it with his knuckles two times. He quickly notes a doorbell to his side, and rings that as well after a polite waiting period.
No one answers the door.
He repeats the process twice. Still, no one answers. Harry looks at the four other men, and they all nod to each other, moving away from the house and into a nearby alleyway.
Harry taps his wand over his head when he sees the four men, looking rather awkward wearing Muggle plainclothes, and feels the wet-egg-running-down-his-head feeling of a Disillusionment charm. He watches as all his subordinates do the same and they all move back towards the house as chameleons, wands at the ready.
"Alohamora," Harry whispers, pointing his wand at the doorknob, which clicks and opens in front of him, revealing a foyer characterized by hardwood floors and a warm orange creme glow from the paint on the walls. Nestled to the left are the stairs, and directly ahead down the hallway appears to be a large and spacious kitchen as well as a luxuriant dining room. But, rather than focus on that, Harry moves towards the drawing room, finding nothing but pictures of two brown-haired people and a girl who looks surprisingly like Hermione when she was that age planted onto the wall.
"Hm... pretty family," Harry remarks, walking around the drawing room to a large entertainment room.
"It's like they just up and left," Ron says, scratching his forehead.
Harry shakes his head, "Girl was likely kidnapped last night. While they were sleeping." The other Aurors' eyes widen at the revelation and they all turn to make their way to the staircase.
They climb each stair slowly, careful not to make any noise.
When they reach the landing, they make sure to be careful about entering each of the six rooms. One turns out to be a bathroom, and another turns out to be a work office for David. A third reveals itself to be a veritable library for Dr. Thompson, with a great deal of anatomical textbooks shelved upon the many bookcases.
This goes on until they come across Freya's room, decorated sparsely with a placid white glow and pictures dotting the walls. They all appear to only be with her parents. Harry briefly wonders if this girl has any trouble making friends, but then immediately pushes that thought out of his head.
The things are strewn across the floor and the bed has been left unmade. "Seems like a bloody hurricane came through here," Ron mutters.
Harry keeps quiet, moving out of that room to the master bedroom. He opens the door to find two lumps in the bed, completely undisturbed. Given that its five-thirty in the afternoon, Harry is pretty sure those bodies are not there by choice. He points to them so everyone has a clear view before moving into the large room. A small fireplace across the room from the bed burns with the embers of a fire from last night.
The Aurors spread around the large bed, flanking it as Harry slowly pulls off the covers. Two people, a man and a woman who look to be Mr and Mrs. Thompson, lay on the bed peacefully. Harry narrows his eyes, opening one of Mr. Thompson's eyes with his thumb. While looking in, he finds a brilliant green ring around the pupil which stands out against the brown of his eyes:
"Grant," he calls. Grantley Dalglish has the most extensive curse experience, so Harry could use him to confirm his suspicions, "Does that look like-" he points to the ring of green that has suddenly materialized around the pupil of a man who has had brown eyes all his life.
"Yep. Definitely the Killing Curse," Dalglish responds, folding his arms and furrowing his brows. "The Avada Ring proves it."
"I hadn't expected Bulstrom to be the type of person to allow the Ministry to tamper with his wand. I sure wouldn't." Draco says. Just after Voldemort's death, the Ministry had issued a countrywide call for refitting wands. As a result of this, if the Avada Kedavra is cast, the victim's eyes would develop a green ring around the pupil, known as the Avada Ring. Some wanted to go even further and place magical tracers in the event that an Unforgiveable Curse was used, but most people do not like the idea of being tracked.
Even Harry was a little miffed by the suggestion; it was too much to ask and, frankly, rankled Big Brother-totalitarianism to him.
Harry shrugs at Draco's quip. "Well, he likely didn't allow the tracer to be implanted. Otherwise, we would have gotten the call hours ago."
"Must have been in a hurry to use the killing curse," Dalglish muses, "The last family had been practically butchered. Maybe saw someone and ran for it?"
"Unlikely, or we'd have a third body, wouldn't we?" Harry questions.
"Harry, mate," Ron calls from the front of the mirror of the Thompsons' expensive-looking dresser, "you may want to take a look at this."
Harry stands and glides over to Ron. "What is it?"
Ron hands the DCI a note, written on parchment. All it reads is HdB- B.F. 7.
"What do you make of that?" He asks as Harry nearly immediately decodes the message, "it's not the handwriting we saw on Bulstrom's original letter."
"And it doesn't appear to be either Mister or Dr. Thompson, nor does it appear to be their daughter. I've checked some of their notebooks." Neville's voice comes from behind Harry as the young man leans over Harry's shoulder to read the message.
Harry pauses for a moment, before giving a measured response. "No. It isn't. Don't know whose it could be." It's a lie. He knows exactly whose this is, though how she could have gotten the information before he did is beyond him.
There is the possibility that Helene, the HdB initialing on the missive, is the one behind the murders, but, truthfully, that's illogical. Helene may be a Pureblood, but she works with many Muggleborns, all of whom she appears to be on good terms with. For her to go on a sudden crusade against all things Muggleborn does not sit right with her actions. So, Harry glances over his second option: she wants to tell him something she has learned, and needs him at the Basilisk Fang at seven o'clock.
But, he's got to be careful. He might need a second.
"Merlin, the bloody reports we'll have to file tonight!" Ron grumbles
The bloody reports indeed. Ron has always been Harry's six o'clock shadow, with the exception of fourth year and when he had left Harry and Hermione behind the year he fought Voldemort, and Harry could certainly use his red-haired best mate's help right about now.
When they finish with the crime scene and garner all the information they can, finding, without a doubt, traces of Aleister Bulstrom's magic all over the home, Harry calls Ron away from the group:
"Ron, have you got anything to do tonight?"
"Well..." Ron begins thoughtfully, "Hermione and I are going to The Burrow to have dinner with the rest of the family; do you want to come?"
"Never mind that," Harry shake his head impatiently, "you'll need to cancel."
Ron eyes Harry incredulously. "But, Harry. It's my mum's cooking. And I've been looking forward to this for weeks. I don't get to see Bill, Charlie, George, or Percy very often."
"I have a lead. And an informant in Bristol who might be able to lead me to Bulstrom," Harry replies, "but, I need a second, just in case things get hairy."
"Bad pun, mate," Ron says, smirking.
Harry gives him a confused look, "What?"
"Never mind," the redhead responds, thinking hard for a moment.
"Alright, you lazyarse," Harry sighs, "I'll buy you a pint, afterwards."
That seems to make up Ron's mind for him. "Alright. I'll do this, but only because you're my best mate. Making me miss me mum's food, though, that ought to be a capital offense."
Harry chuckles. "Thanks."
"Don't thank me," Ron says cheekily, "I'm counting on you to explain this to my mother and Hermione."
Basilisk Fang Tavern, Wizarding District, Bristol, UK
"This is, erm... a nice place," Ron remarks, scrunching his face, no doubt put off by the drug dealers and hookers outside, "You come here often?"
Harry catches his friend giving him a look. "Not often, no. And when I do, it's just for information. Ginny and I didn't break up because I was shagging corner women." Ron grins lightly, following Harry through the crowd to the back door where the bouncer awaits them.
"Dead gods will not save you." Harry says. The bouncer steps aside and the door opens for both Harry and Ron.
They step inside to the same waiting room Harry found himself in less than twenty-four hours earlier. Footsteps immediately clack on the ground, coming from somewhere behind the doorway with the bead curtain.
"Harry?" Helene's unmistakable voice calls out, "I've got some exciting information for you-" she steps out, wearing rather form-fitting battle robes, and does a double-take at the sight of Ron, "-well, well, if it isn't the famous Ronald Weasley! Harry's told me quite a bit about you."
Ron turns to Harry, who shakes his head exasperatedly and says 'that's not true'.
"Who is she?" Ron asks, and Harry can tell the redhead is trying very hard not to gawp at the beautiful witch before them.
"Helene de Beauvoir," she says, stalking up to Ron and extending out a dainty hand to the man. "Harry's information broker."
"You two are... friends?"
"No," Harry says. Ron eyes him disbelievingly, possibly because Helene said 'Yes' simultaneously with his his 'No', but Harry shakes his head. "As Helene said: she brokers information. I happen to know her, and her penchant for garnering information she has no business knowing, so I come to her for help from time-to-time."
"Such as tonight," Helene smiles toothily.
But Harry is no mood for smiles. "How did you get there?" He asks simply.
"Oh, it's not that difficult, Harry," Helene says, never breaking the smile, "especially when you've got as many resources as I do."
"Why didn't you call it in?"
Helene snorts. "Really? After the dubious circumstances under which we first met, do you really think Superintendent Granath-" the auburn-haired witch spits out the name like a curse, "-would take kindly to me calling in two murders and a kidnapping?"
Harry remains silent, mulling over the woman's words.
"So, Ron," she says, turning to the redhead, "how is Harry at work?"
"Er... um, okay? I guess?" Ron starts, obviously flustered. "To be honest, I feel like he's disappointed with me all the time."
"Really, does he do that thing to you as well?"
Ron looks confused. "Erm... what thing?"
"You know, he stares at you from the top of glasses like you've done something wrong, and gives you that look that says, even though he's younger than you-" she pauses and smacks her jaws, as if getting ready to impersonate the raven-haired wizard: "'I'm the father you never had, and I'm very disappointed in you'." Helene says conversationally, at which Ron guffaws and Harry shakes his head in exasperation.
"Are we going, or what?" Harry growls.
"Careful now; I don't appreciate that tone very much," Helene chides.
"Wait... where're we going?" Ron asks.
The auburn-haired witch gives Harry a strange look, "You didn't tell him why he came here?"
"Well... uh, sort of. Ron, we're going to an old Pureblood Iron Foundry about 25 kilometers Northwest of Bristol," Harry explains, "If there's... erm... trouble there, I could use some backup."
"Well the lady looks like she's ready to fight trolls," Ron says, huffing, "I could be eating some of mum's steak-and-kidney pie!"
Harry arches an eyebrow. "Who? Helene? She's useless in a fight."
"You bastard," Helene replies with an ironical smile.
"Well, it's the truth. You're not even using your own wand, are you?" Harry counters, remembering how it was conveniently stolen by the perpetrator of the murders of Helene's husband and children. Rumor had it, however, that she chucked it to keep from being suspected in said murders, "And you're about as good at wandless magic as Hitler was at invading Russia."
"Odd analogy, but I suppose it's fair," the auburn-haired metamorphmagus sighs, "the actual practical application is a flaw, I admit, but, to be fair, it is my only flaw."
Harry makes a strangled, disbelieving noise, and Helene shoots him a frigid glare:
"Besides, I have a replacement wand," she says, holding up her right wrist, revealing a wand holster, holding a wand made of some sort of light wood, "it's nowhere near as good, but I can still hold my own in a fight."
"Yeah, maybe against a first year," Harry scoffs.
The information broker's eyes narrow, "You would do well not to underestimate me, Harry. I'd never make it in this business of mine if I couldn't keep myself safe." She indicates another holster on her hip, no doubt containing one of Helene's much-lauded charmed handguns
"Well, I'm sure, but a blasted gun won't do you much good-"
"-Hush, Harry, you think too much," she places a finger to his lips and beckons Ron come over, which the redhead reluctantly does. Helene moves her hands to grasp both of theirs, and with a deep breath, and that squeezed-through-a-tube that Harry has only gotten marginally more used to over the years, they disappear with a slight pop.
Fahranar, Portishead, UK
"Bloody hell," Ron mutters, rubbing his forehead in amazement, "how does no one know about this place?"
Harry agrees. In front of them, off the coast is a large and abandoned wizarding facility. And by all looks of it, it is a iron foundry meant to produce the metal en masse. Harry eyes the large, medieval building, with its flaring buttresses and gaunt and grim gargoyles wrapped in their wings at the tops. It is shaped like a castle, four towers, shaped in Staunton style accentuate the corners of the building like four enlarged chess pieces. It truly is a sight to behold.
"Not many people know about it," Harry nearly misses Helene's explanation, "It hasn't seen much use since the end of the War of the Roses, nearly 550 years ago. Besides, you wouldn't want the secret to get out. Apparently this was one of the few places they were able to make Eversteel, the steel that never breaks, out of iron forged here. You can see why the people who know about it would try to keep it a secret."
Ron sends the auburn-haired woman a questioning glance. "Then how do you know about it?"
"Because I'm well-informed, unlike the rest of you lot," she remarks simply, moving along a dark, craggy path that leads to the beach. Ron shrugs at Harry and stalks off behind the eldest witch, leaving Harry behind to regret his twice-cursed life.
But, nevertheless, Harry follows.
The rocks around him are nearly coal black, and Harry briefly wonders about the seeming fetish that wizards had with overly-drab scenery, but he pushes the thought away and continues down onto a beach of white sand. He finds Ron following Helene to a rocky outcropping being pummeled by merciless waves, and rushes over to his friend:
"Wands at the ready?" Harry asks, smiling lightly.
Ron does the same. "Got your back, mate."
Helene disappears around a corner, calling back with a "Watch your step boys, this ledge is a bit on the narrow side!"
Harry and Ron climb up the outcropping and find themselves facing a ledge hanging close to a small cliff face, Harry jumps across the the gap between the outcropping and the ledge, plants himself against the wall, an action Ron repeats, and sidle there way to the corner the elder witch had passed through moments before. As they turn the corner, a long cracked piece of the ledge falls away just centimeters away from Ron's feet. He watches, in horror, as the loose, jagged bit of rock tumbles down the cliff face and into the violently swelling ocean. Ron's face turns green, which Harry makes comment upon:
The redhead nods queasily. "Yeah, yeah. Just... have I ever told you how much I hate heights?"
"No," Harry replies, grinning, "You always seemed fine during Quidditch."
"Well I think I'm developing a phobia." Harry lets out a barking laugh, turns, and due to his more svelt frame than Ron's, practically skips across the ledge whilst waving at the stomach-ached wizard to a landing where Helene awaits:
"Where's the ginger knob?" The witch asks.
"Oi! I heard that!" Comes a small voice over the loud, crashing waves. Both Harry and Helene chuckle. Ron finally makes it to the rocky landing and gives Harry a glare that asks why he's being made to do all this.
"Oh, cheer up! Just like old times, yeah?" Harry exclaims, clapping the redhead's back.
Ron continues to glare. "Wanker."
"No time for all this, then," Helene says, folding her arms, "the longer we spend out here, the more time Mister Bulstrom has to torture the poor muggleborn!"
Harry and Ron put an end to their banter at that, hurrying alongside the elder witch down landing, which stands down a long, pebble-strewn walkway, more doleful waves swelling up and splashing atop the stone pathway. The familiar feeling of a raw egg being cracked atop Harry's head runs over him, and he realizes Ron has put a disillusionment charm on him:
"Thanks mate," Harry says; Ron nods, turning the charm on himself.
"Watch your feet," Helene says distractedly, drying her own with a well-placed spell.
After what seems like ten minutes of walking, they come to a great stone door with iron-inlays, creating a strange relief welded into the face of the door. Helene walks up to the door, biding Harry and Ron stay behind whilst she puts an ivory hand to the center of the doorway. She mutters a few lines in what Harry thinks is Latin, but is too quick with her enunciation for a positive identification.
Once complete, the door glows a strange green color as a great clicking noise signifies the door ha been unlocked. Helene tentatively nudges the door open, careful to keep from making too much noise.
As expected, there is more stone inside, and a particularly pungent whiff of Sulfur Dioxide nearly sends Harry's head spinning. He steadies himself to walk into the giant fortress. Old cauldrons and blacksmith's anvils lay strewn across the floor, lost and forgotten to time. Broken, crumbling staircases lead to a dilapidated second floor, which had once, perhaps been another level for iron-casting, but most of the stone has fallen away down to the rubble that now lay haphazardly on the first floor, leaving a view of the large Romanesque ceiling, looking very much like the tiles below Harry's feet. The moonlight filters in through small holes in the wall, giving the entire foundry a very sanctified, holy look about it.
"Keep yourselves covered," Helene whispers, drawing her wand. Harry resists the urge to smirk, training his own wand at any shadow that may jump out at them.
Their footsteps echo, so the trio take care to keep quiet and move slowly, so as not to make any noise. The hallway does not stretch on for long, but trying to keep quiet whilst climbing over all the rubble is a long and arduous task. Coming to the end of the dark hallway, Ron whispers:
"How long has this place been abandoned, you say?"
Helene sniffs and blinks rather disdainfully, as if she has finally gotten a whiff of the chemicals in the air. "Nearly 550 years."
"Bloody hell," Ron remarks, looking at the ancient walls.
Helene moves towards the end of the hallway, where another grand door awaits opening. Helene utters another quick Latin chant and the door opens in front of her. They walk into a large antechamber which appears to be where all the iron was made. Some overlarge constructs for iron-making that Harry doesn't recognize dot the chamber, and several torches light large stone columns that seem to jut upwards towards infinity. Harry looks up overhead to see stars and the night sky winking back down at him.
He moves to a column, only to hear Ron's rushed, insistent voice:
"Harry, there!" He whispers, just loud enough for the raven-haired wizard to hear him, "Freya, that's her!" Ron points to the wall on the opposite side of the gargantuan chamber. Harry turns, and sure enough, there is the girl, badly bruised, chained with both wrists to a column and seemingly unconscious. Or possibly dead.
"Go around the columns," he whispers to his two companions.
Both Ron and Helene nod, moving forward around the columns. It takes no more than thirty seconds to get to the other side of the room, and when they do, Harry immediately checks the little girl's pulse. It's faint, but there.
Harry breathes a sigh of relief. "Alive."
"Oh, good," Ron grins, "Looks like Bulstrom must be out."
"Must be," Harry agrees.
Ron stops and stares at the sleeping brown-haired girl, "You know, she kind of looks like Hermione did at her age."
Harry turns to him, "Ron, mate. That's gross."
Ron's eyes blink uncomprehendingly, until he realizes that he's comparing an eleven year-old to the woman he's dating. "Oh, er," he splutters, "I... I, uh, I didn't mean it like that!"
Harry says nothing, only telling Helene that she should Apparate the girl out of the Foundry while Ron and Harry would await Aleister Bulstrom, but Helene vehemently disagrees with that course of action, saying that Harry and Ron wouldn't know the way out without a Pureblood who knew the incantations.
But just as Harry is about to make a second plan of action, Freya shifts slightly, opening her eyes blearily, before muttering, rather pathetically: "Ow."
"Freya?" Harry asks, "Freya Thompson?"
She blinks at Harry, perhaps too tired to defend herself. "Wha-what are you going to do to me?"
Harry shakes his head. "My name's Harry. I'm here to help you get out of here. These two are Helene-" Helene waves in a manner far too cheery for the situation, "-and this is my best mate, Ron."
"Harry? Ron?" Freya blinks, "Not Harry Potter and Ron Weasley?"
"Boy, when did I get so famous?" Ron grumbles.
"The very same," Harry nods. He is about to say something when a loud clicking noise emerges from the back of the antechamber.
"Bollocks," Ron mutters, "he's here."
"Help me out," Harry says quickly, standing. Ron immediately knows what Harry intends to do and aims his wand at the chains shackling one wrist, while Harry trains his wand on the other."Close your eyes," Harry whispers soothingly to the terrified preteen.
"Reducto!" Both Harry and Ron say simultaneously, blasting the manacles off the girl.
Knowing that Bulstrom must have heard that, and judging by the sudden rush of a lone pair of footsteps coming their way, Harry gingerly grabs Freya, and carries the girl to relative safety, where he sets her down in the dark. Before he leaves, however, Harry turns to Ron and simply mutters "Beijing String".
"Stay here," Harry says to the girl, setting her down.
A large man, with a big gait and big muscles stands in the center of the antechamber. "I know you're here!" He calls, running a hand through his stringy blonde hair. "Come out!"
Harry grins, the plan will work. Ron will lead Helene over to where Freya sits, grab the girl and get out of the Foundry, while Harry takes on Bulstrom. It can't be hard can it, after all, Harry did best Voldemort in a duel. He steps out of the shadows provided by the large columns. Bulstrom whirls to meet him, and his lips quirk upwards into a rather ugly smile. Fortunately, he can hear the light, scampering footsteps of Ron and Helene as they pick up the muggleborn and hurry away. Aleister's eyes flick towards the shadows, and his smile, if anything, grows wider:
"Avada Kedavra!" Is the first spell out of the wizard's mouth and Harry involuntarily tenses. A jet of green light shoots out at Ron, Freya, and Helene; the first of which, wide-eyed, slams shut the door to the antechamber before the curse can reach the trio, and it bounces harmlessly off the large stone-and-iron door.
"Boss Potter," he whistles, turning to Harry, "to be completely honest, I hadn't expected you to come already. But I don't really care about the girl, do what you want with her."
"Well, I don't like to keep people waiting," Harry replies, shrugging.
"Then I shall do you the same courtesy," Bulstrom says, his wand appearing in his hands, seemingly out of thin air, "Diffindo!"
"Protego," Harry says, watching the curse bounce harmlessly off his shield. He casts two disarming spells in the killer's direction, who jumps out of the way rather spryly. The bright red curse collides into the wall and splatters into nothingness.
An acid yellow curse of unknown intention flies towards Harry, and thinking it is best to avoid the curse entirely, Harry jumps out of the way, yelling "Confringo!" A jet flame captures the hem of Bulstrom's robes, who docks into the relative safety of the shadows. Harry cannot let Bulstrom stay in the shadows, unseen to the emerald-eyed wizard, so he mutters "Acervus" and watches as the man blindly bumps his way out of the shadows, his robe still steaming.
Harry is about to fire a stunner when Bulstrom utters the countercurse and aims his wand at Harry, who, in a fit of brilliance that his godfather would no doubt be proud of, screams out "Levicorpus", causing the dumbfounded man to drop his wand and turn head over heels until he is hanging suspended, upside down. Before Harry can do anything, however, the man accios his wand back into his hands and sends another off-balance Severing Charm, which grazes Harry's shoulder.
The sudden pain causes Harry to break concentration with his own spell and Bulstrom goes tumbling to the ground in a heap of limbs. However, he reacts quicker than Harry, getting up and sending four hexes Harry's way that he just barely has time to pull up a shield against them.
Two quick half-casted Reductor curses, lower in power, but quicker than the fully-powered spells fly towards Bulstrom, who dodges out of the way, causing the spell to break up nothing more than the stone floor. The stringy blond-haired man disappears into the shadows of the surrounding pillars, leaving Harry wary of all directions.
Harry brings up a Protego shield and silently curses his luck, as this place negates his time-perfected fighting skill of flash apparitions, which consisted of quick teleportations and leaving double images to confuse the enemy as he appeared to strike from nine different angles.
But he is not without his own tricks, casting a hearing enhancement spell over himself. Instantly, all sorts of sounds became audible in the gloaming and the already dark antechamber. He can hear the rain pelting the roof above, the waves crashing against the rocks in the distance, and, most importantly, every sound in the room.
A shift to his right, too light for human footsteps. Likely a rat.
"You shouldn't move," he taunts, smiling. It's been too long since he has had a good duel!
He has figured Bulstrom out, Harry thinks. A malignant sociopath, a practical black hole, consuming without remorse and with reckless abandon. Harry almost smiles. People such as him are characterized by a few things, a need to collect souvenirs from their victims, and the inability to stay calm once taunted.
And Bulstrom, Harry knows, will eventually make his mistake.
"Go ahead, Aleister," Harry mocks, "I've got cells to burn."
A sudden shift and a strange pink spell flies at Harry, who simply raises his Protego to block it and sends back a powerful blasting curse that leaves a dent in the stone of one of the pillars.
"You'll destroy this place with all those spells, you know?" Bulstrom questions from all directions. Harry grits his teeth; the killer had charmed his voice to surround Harry's hearing, rendering him unable to discern the man's position.
He'll have to take the offensive, then.
Harry himself darts into the relative safety of the shadows of the pillars, dodging a few hexes on the way there, and quickly disillusions himself and casts a silencing charm upon his feet. If he wouldn't be able to play double-image tricks on Bulstrom, he'd simply become invisible.
So he sneaks around in the dark, eyes slowly becoming accustomed to the inky blackness surrounding himself, and somewhere in the large antechamber, Bulstrom. For a long time, Harry feels as if he is getting nowhere, and the silence is unnerving. And then, quite suddenly, he finds himself face-to-face with the dark wizard by bumping into him. Harry curses his inattentiveness as Bulstrom takes a wild swing at him. It is far too close-quarters for wand combat, so Harry sticks muggle fighting methods he had learned as part of the Auror training course, using his fists and feet rather than his magic.
Fortunately, Harry has the upper-hand, having been disillusioned, and lands a rather satisfying haymaker on Bulstrom's chin, sending him backwards. Harry does not stop there, however, and rushes up to the backpedaling wizard and tackles him to the ground, trying to reach for his wand while the bigger man tries to shrug Harry off, eventually doing so by throwing Harry off.
Harry lands on the ground with a painful thud, his back making a sickening crack on the ground, but he quickly recovers, standing up alongside Bulstrom. His disillusionment charm has faded, and both men stare each other down.
There is a sudden flash of color as both men move. Reds, yellows, blues and purples fly in a rainbow of destructive power, both Harry and Bulstrom half-casting to gain the upper hand.
The killer silently lifts a boulder and tosses it Harry's way, until the DCI banishes it behind Bulstrom, who is tripped by the large stone, landing painfully on his back. With a sense of spryness that should not be possible from a man of Bulstrom's stature, he sends a stinging hex towards Harry that catches the DCI unawares and slows Harry down for just a second.
Rather than cut his losses, Bulstrom rushes Harry, sending wild punches at the Auror's face, who backed up into a wall, blocks with a rope-a-dope styled defense. When Bulstrom tries one last punch, Harry makes his move, grabbing the man's wrist, manually disarming him, and flipping him over. Bulstrom lands on the ground with a loud 'thump' and groans, before kicking his legs up, catching Harry in the chin, causing the DCI to stumble backwards. The killer's hand-to-hand combat was lacking, indeed, but he was still a wizard, Harry knew, and could rely on magic when all else failed.
Bulstrom rushed Harry again, only to be met with a foot to the chest as he fell backwards, using the small time window to send another stinging hex at Harry. He is up almost as immediately as he had fell, and the next thing Harry sees is a jet of green light whizzing towards him. It takes all his fleibility and more than a little luck to dive out of the way and into the relative safety of the pillars. Harry stays down in the shadows, but almost immediately hears scuffling that sounds like a man running.
Bulstrom scampers past Harry to the doorway, grinning. "Be a little slow, just once, Potter," he cries jubilantly, uttering something in Latin as Harry gives chase. He is only able to slip through the door before it would shut and lock the Halfblood inside.
Once outside the antechamber, Harry finds four playful jinxes sent his way that he deals with easily. Climbing up the rubble, however, not so. A volley of curses and charms fly around the long hallways, and before long, they're at the second door. Harry instinctively knows what the wizard is planning to do and wills his legs to catch up to the man as they burst through the doorway and out onto the wet walkway leading back to Portishead.
Bulstrom already appears to be getting ready for Apparition, so with one last lunge, and a look around to make sure Ron, Helene, and Freya are gone, Harry grabs a hold of Aleister, who gives him a look of utter shock as the familiar feeling of being squeezed through a tube much to small for Harry envelops him and the enemies disappear into the night with a soft, but audible pop, off to places unknown.
A/N: Helene will not take Hermione's place as the third member of the trio, if you're wondering. Hermione will come to play a much larger role a few chapters from now, when the bigger plotline takes shape. It's long, I know. Hopefully, however, I've whet the appetite! Also, forgive any errors, I'm still in the process of looking for a beta, so my proofreading might not be as sufficient as I hope.
The King of Limbs- The name of a smashing Radiohead Album and a 1000 year-old tree in Savernake Forest. While it may be an RH reference (the first of many, I'm afraid), the tree has more to do with the fic than the album, which would be anachronistic by about eight years if so.
The Green Light- Pretty much speaks for itself. 'Tis a bit of double entendre, though.
Tout- More American slang than English for a person who is a spokesperson for the drug trade. As you might have noticed, shows like The Wire and Luther have affected the fic's process, so the drug trade will have importance.
Harry and Hermione's telephone conversation is meant to be a role-reversal, with Harry playing the 'stickler for rules' Hermione usually does while she plays Harry's usual role in the trio.
Don't think Agilian is going to disappear. Note its Avada Kedavra parallelism, as well.
Old Irish Metre- Sort of a quasi-play on 'New Scotland Yard', where the London Police operate from. Auror rankings follow that of English Police rankings. Police-Constable, Detective-Sergeant, Detective-Inspector, Detective-Chief Inspector, Detective-Superintendent, and Chief Superintendent. Harry is a DCI (Chief Inspector). Ron is a DS (sergeant) because he worked with George at WWW while Harry joined up with the Aurors almost immediately. Malfoy is a DI (Inspector).
The growing friendship between Draco and Harry is an important one, and will eventually put Harry in conflict with other characters. Relax! No slash.
Pathologian- My idiotic wizard version of a pathologist/coroner.
Ginger Ale sloshing- A reference to the Pilot of The Sopranos, where Tony describes how he felt prior to blacking out to Dr. Melfi.
Fat Man: The A-bomb detonated in Nagasaki, Japan during WWII.
Fiends: American slang for drug addicts. Usually a diminutive of 'Dope-fiend'.
Helene de Beauvoir- She would be the equivalent of a Confidential Informant to the Police if this were anything but a HP Fic. And yes, Granath is not exaggerating about her.
Helene tells Harry that he's been using 'his powers'; that is important, and will come up again in two chapters.
Discerpa- A particularly violent curse that comes from the Latin 'Discerpo', or to dismember. Helene uses this to chop up her children, according to Granath.
Ginny's Article. I wouldn't have put it in there if there wasn't something to be gleaned from it. She's also a journalist in this fic rather than a Quidditch player for reasons that will become apparent in Part 3.
Harry-Hairy- Bad pun
"I'm the father you never had..."- Daniels says something along very similar lines about Freamon in The Wire.
"Beijing String"- Code word for the plan where Ron and Helene picked up Freya. Harry and Ron have been partners for a year and a half now, they'd have a few codenamed plans.
I hadn't wanted to make Helene too much a Mary Sue, so I severely limited her use on the Battlefield, to the point where she can only defend herself. That bouncer of hers will come in handy later.
NEXT CHAPTER: Harry ends up facing down Bulstrom again, but not after there is some havoc to wreak for the child-killer.
Thanks again for reading, and I do so love reviews from you all. Drop me one, pretty please?