Dumbledore sat up and pounded on his chest. A lemon drop ejected from his wrinkled mouth and bounced across five-hundred year old tabletop varnish, coming to rest not two feet from Professor Flitwick's face.
The diminutive instructor took a step backwards, eying the spit-laden sweet with distaste. "I take it that's a problem?"
The headmaster was ashen-faced. "He has to be there. My instruments, the wards...he just has to be. Where else would he go?"
Flitwick shrugged. "So his letter came back unopened. It's not exactly uncommon. He's probably traveling with his family. We'll send another letter in a week."
Dumbledore slapped his desk. "Petunia wouldn't put Harry at risk like that! She promised me they'd keep him at home as much as possible!" The headmaster rose to the symphony of a thousand popping joints, reached across the mahogany divide, and grasped Ftiwick's hand. "We're checking on him. Right now."
"Albus, my class starts in thirty—"
"Fawkes! Tally Ho!"
Fawkes launched from his perch, and the trio disappeared in a burst of fire and phoenix song.
Arabella Figg ran the hand-held vacuum cleaner across Mr. Claw's back. Mr Claws, a pudgy, gray-haired tabby cat, purred in contentment. Bath time was so much more relaxing ever since Figg had discovered the muggle contraption. No water, no soap. No muss, no fuss. Even the noise was held at bay with a weak silencing charm.
The tableau of contentment shattered like one of her many, many crystal feline figurines. Albus, Filius, and Fawkes appeared next to her in a burst of flame. Several lace doilies caught fire, and Mr. Claws tore from the room in a fit of fur and hissing.
"No! Mr. Claws, come—Albus!" Miss Figg brandished her vacuum at the unwelcome guests. "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times! No fire-flashing in my house! Just look at the place!"
Dumbledore shook the dizziness from his head. He gave her a distracted nod, vaulted over the couch, blasted the front door off it's hinges, and sprinted outside.
In the awkward silence that followed, Flitwick dispelled the phoenix fire with a wave of the wand.
"I'm sorry about this, Arabella."
"I should say so!"
Flitwick sheepishly walked to door and repaired it. Figg's glare tracked his every move.
"I don't suppose," he asked, "It would matter if I told you this wasn't my idea?"
The Figg glared, very nearly projecting her thoughts. Some people. A decade of watch duty and what thanks do you get? Unlawful entry and not so much as a "by your leave". Poor Mr. Claws. And my doilies! Some people...
Flitwick sighed. "I'll just...I'll go now." He stepped outside, closing the door as quietly as he could.
After a quick Notice-Me-Not charm, the professor jogged down the street to Dumbledore's side. The headmaster was frantically waving his wand at a house, at the ground, even at the sky.
"He's fine, Albus. They're probably on vacation."
Dumbledore wiggled his wand again. "I can't track him. Merlin's Beard, I cannot track him! Do you know what this means?"
"Somethings gone wrong. Horribly wrong. I can feel it." He whistled for Fawkes. "We have one option."
"I don't want to seem callous, Albus, but my class starts in—"
"Onward, Fawkes! To the Burnt Blackthorne, Scotland!"
Flitwick's protest was wasted air. The trio disappeared for the second time in as many minutes.
Deep breaths, Flitwick reminded himself. Traveling by phoenix was bad enough the first time, but twice in row had his stomach churning.
Albus bent over and pulled the professor to his feet. "Chin up, Filius. Be strong, for Harry's sake."
Flitwick irritably shrugged off the helping hands. "Let's just get on with it."
They were in the middle of a cramped road, one that had more in common with an alleyway than an actual street. A thick layer of litter covered the ground. Two and three story wood houses leaned ominously inward, casting an already dismal scene into perpetual gloom.
"Where are we?" asked Flitwick.
"We're outside a pub in the wizard town of Lunkshore."
Flitwick could count the number of pure European wizarding settlements on both hands and have fingers left over. The name of Lunkshore rang no bells.
"Never heard of it."
Albus' eyes twinkled. "It's not a hot destination, per se."
As if on cue, a portly man stumbled out of a nearby alley, looking as if he'd crawled from a dumpster. He ambled in the educators direction, only to trip. His landing was clumsy—if the dull snap was anything to go by, clumsy enough to break something. The man stared at his hand in surprise, then curled into a fetal position, holding his wrist close. He didn't utter a sound.
Flitwick rushed over and pulled out his wand. The closer he got to the man, the more his nose wrinkled. It was like standing next to an alcoholic garbage heap.
"Here," said Flitwick, "Let me help with that."
The man held his hand even closer. Shrewd eyes peered out from under long, greasy bangs. "Yeh broke me hand," he rasped
"Yeh broke it! Yeh better gimme restitution!"
"Blimey, would you lookit what happened to ol' Shamus. Fancy-pants done broke his wrist."
Flitwick looked up and saw two more men shamble out of the dark alleyway. One lazily spun a wand through his fingers. The other limped worse than Mad-Eye Moody.
The limper leered at Flitwick. "We'll be needin' a doctor fee for our friend. It's the right thing, gov', helpin' out the poor blighter you gave such a turn."
Flitwick bristled. "Now see here!"
Dumbledore's hand on his shoulder gave the professor pause. The three hooligan's watched the wizened headmaster warily. You didn't get that old in Lunkshore with learning a few tricks.
"Gentlemen," said Dumbledore, "Perhaps we can help one another. A little give and take?"
The limper looked suspicious. "Depends on what yer givin'."
Dumbledore chuckled. "I've the galleons, if you've the knowledge."
Limper and Spinner shared a moment, then nodded. "Talk to me, gov'," said Limper. "What you wanna know?"
"My friend and I are looking for someone. Maybe you've heard of her. Minerva McGonagall."
Spinner's wand slipped from his fingers and flipped into Limper's eye. Neither seemed to notice. The man with a broken wrist surreptitiously downed a potion and began inching away through piles of trash.
Spinner licked his lips and shot nervous glances up and down the street. "You know Minnie?"
Dumbledore thoughtfully stroked his beard. "'War Buddies' is the term, I think. I've some business with her."
Spinner forced a smile and began backing away. He pointed to the pub at Dumbledore's back. "Your a step away. That's her place. The Blackthorne."
"Ah. I knew I was close. Thank you, Mr..."
Spinner continued to back away. His smile became strained. "Lookit the time. Love to chat, gov', but business calls. Upstanding man like yourself un'erstands, don't he?"
"But your pay?"
The thugs disappeared faster than mongeese down a gryphon's gullet.
Flitwick shook his head. Just who was this McGonagall?
"And off we go," said Dumbledore. He began carefully picking his way across the street, weaving around a unidentifiable clump of nastiness. Flitwick followed.
"I could have handled them," said Flitwick.
"I never said you couldn't. But those gentlemen weren't looking for a fight, just an easy mark." Dumbledore shot his friend a twinkle-filled glance. "I must say, Filius, you obliged more willingly than I imagined."
Flitwick mentally conceded the point. "Who is this Minerva, anyway?"
"She's a tracker I knew during the war. We shared an adventure or two."
Flitwick hopped over a brown puddle. "You think she can find Harry?"
Dumbledore laid his hand on the pub's door handle. "I know she can."
The door opened and Flitwick was assaulted on all fronts. A rowdy Irish jig played over an even rowdier crowd. Warm arm air filled his nostrils with the smell of woodsmoke, alcohol, and urine.
Dumbledore smiled, gripped Flitwick's hand, and pulled him inside.
"How do we find her?" asked Flitwick, raising his voice over the din.
Dumbledore pushed his way to the bar. "If I know Minerva, we'll not even get through a pint." He sat down on a stool and swatted away a listless, drunken patron. The soused man was trying to drink his beard.
Flitwick frowned. "We can't stay long. I don't want to seem like a broken record, but my class—"
"KEEP YER HANDS TO YERSELF!"
The sound of a hamhock getting clobbered by a sledgehammer could be heard throughout the pub. A man arced over the crowd, blood streaming from a flattened nose.
Dumbledore ducked just in time. The unfortunate man missed the headmaster by inches, bounced off the bar and into a shelf of bottles. More than one voice groaned at the loss of liquid courage. A patron on Dumbledore's left openly wept, dabbing his eyes with the headmaster's prodigiously long facial hair.
Dumbledore sighed. "So much for that pint."
Flitwick watched as a ravening wildebeest—no, he revised, a woman—shoved through the crowd. She held a Scottish claymore in one hand and a bottle of Speyside whiskey in the other. Flitwick pushed his brain into overdrive trying to decipher the words hiding behind her thick Scottish accent.
"We'll show you wha' happens when Minnie the Brave gets unsolicited...solicited...Albus?"
Dumbledore leaned against the bar, heedless of the drink and vomit soaking into his robes. "It's been awhile, Minerva."
McGonagall strode up to the bar, pushed a passed out patron from his stool, and sat down. She clapped Dumbldore on the shoulder. "Albie, me ol' tater! What brings you to Lunkshore?"
"Hah! What else is new?" She took a long pull from her bottle. "You didn't come all the way to cry on me shoulder, so spill it already."
Dumbledore pulled his wand and cast a privacy charm. The pub's din faded away and McGonagall raised an eyebrow.
"Now you got me attention. It's a job, ain't it?"
"Astute as ever. I need you to find someone for me. It could be nothing, but..."
She nodded. "But nothing could always be something. Who's the mark?"
McGonagall looked back and forth between Dumbledore and Flitwick, then burst into laughter. She tried to slip a drink in between gales of merriment and paid the price. She choked and coughed while Dumbledore patted her back, despite feeble attempts to shoo him away.
Flitwick watched in horror. It all felt entirely too choreographed, as if the pair was dancing to an old tune. It made the hairs on the back of Flitwick's ears stand up, and if there was anything he'd learned from his tournament dueling days, it was never to doubt his external ear hair. A storm was brewing, he was sure of it.
After a mighty cough, Minnie's chuckles died down. With a twist of the wrist, her sword shrunk down to the size of a letter opener, though Flitwick saw no spell cast. She carefully pocketed the weapon and rose unsteadily to her feet.
"Well," she said, "Let's get this train-wreck to a proper start." She turned to a grizzled bartender. "Going on a trip, Fergus. Keep the ol' place from burning down."
Fergus nodded, never looking up from the Pina Colada he was painstakingly constructing.
Flitwick did a double take. A Pina Colada? In this place?
Sure enough, a second look confirmed the drink, right down to the little umbrella and twisty straw. It was served to a blind man missing half his face. A man who pulled the drink closer with a be-hooked hand.
Flitwick wasn't the type to judge a man by his drink, but the professor couldn't look away.
"Oi! Short-stuff! We're moving!" Minnie's voice easily carried over the din.
Flitwick shook his head and hustled over. The trio stepped outside and Dumbledore cast a cleaning charm on his robes and shoes. Minnie smirked.
"You never did like mussing your fancy robes, Albie."
Dumbledore shrugged. "Some things never change. I'm hoping you're one of them."
"Don't you worry your wooly ol' head. I can track a bird over the moor." She reached into her pocket and pulled out her claymore. In a thrice it was back to full size. She spun it lazily and thrust it into the street, effortlessly piercing a flagstone.
"What you got for me?" she asked.
Dumbledore reached into his pocket, then held forth a lock of hair. "This is all you have to work with, I'm afraid. Taken when he was just a baby."
She took the hair and wrapped it around the sword hilt. "Should work. We'll know if it don't right now."
She grasped the handle through the hair and closed her eyes. Dumbledore and Flitwick waited, one patiently, one dubiously.
After three minutes, her eyes fluttered open. "I got a trace," she said. "Faint, but I can work with it. If I don't show up at Hogwarts in a week, get yourself another tracker."
With that ominous declaration, she disappeared.
Flitwick blinked. "That's it?"
Dumbledore sighed in relief, then nodded happily. "That's it. Now we wait."
"I will not pay for some crackpot old fool to teach him magic tricks!" Vernon Dursley leveled his shotgun at the sword-wielding madwoman.
McGonagall stilled as the shotgun came to bear. The man was serious; she could see it in his eyes. Her grip tightened on the claymore resting across her shoulder.
She swung. Not even close enough to hit the muggle's weapon, but tell that to Vernon. He panicked. He pulled the trigger once, twice, three times.
But the gun did not fire.
Vernon looked down in confusion. The problem was immediately apparent. The gun didn't fire because he wasn't pulling the trigger. He was, in fact, pulling a fin.
His shotgun had turned into a tuna—blue-gill, he dumbly noted, and a lively one at that. The fish slipped from his limp fingers and landed with a splat. Everyone watched in silence as it flopped across the hut's dirt floor, out the kicked-in door, and into the turbulent North Atlantic.
Vernon looked at the madwoman, then at his empty hands. He turned to Harry. "BOY! What are you doing! Get our guest a drink!"
McGonagall sheathed her sword. "You learn fast, fat man. I'll take a whiskey to go."
For the wandless sword transfiguration, I imagined her wand being set into the hilt. Outside of that, not sure where this was going. No real ideas other than hard-drinking, rough-and-tumble McGonagall (which, to be fair, is an attractive idea all on it's own).