Author's Notes: I promised I'd get back to it, and now it's about time the tale continues.
You all knew that at the end of Renegade Cause, the story wasn't quite over just yet. I'm hoping to have fairly regular updates with this one - now that I've graduated and I have a secure job, things should come fairly easily. So, as always, read, review, bitch, criticize, and of course, enjoy!
"You have ten minutes."
There was no expression in his voice. The words could be interpreted any number of ways, even within the paper-thin context of the conversation. Even if they hadn't been the first words uttered upon entry into the dingy, dimly-lit room, one could be forgiven for seeing them as a request, or a mere note of elapsed time.
But the man sitting in the chair opposite the iron table understood immediately, and his eyes widened as the Auror quietly closed the door behind him, his golden eyes never leaving the man in the chair.
"I wan' immunity."
Rufus Scrimgeour snorted. "You're not getting it, Fletcher. Your file is decades thick – you honestly think you can pass off wild ravings for information and still claim immunity?" He shook his head as he sat down in the other chair. "Not even your son Mundungus would –"
"He's my nephew," Marcellus Fletcher muttered, scratching the chin that Scrimgeour knew was beneath the scraggly grey beard. "Dunno why people say we look like brothers…"
"Well, that's one long-standing mystery finally cleared up," Scrimgeour muttered. "But regardless, your nephew wouldn't even try for such a bargain."
"Cos 'e'd never get it," Fletcher slurred, rubbing his eyes before fixing Scrimgeour with a strangely muted stare. "Dung ain't smart, ya know."
"Yes, not like you," Scrimgeour growled, drumming his fingers on the table. "Even after certain fortunes collapsed, you always found a way to stay out of Azkaban… even I am a little perplexed by it."
"I don' traffic in Dark magic," Fletcher said quietly. "Not… not when I work for Raskul, not when I did a bit fer Abraxas… not even runnin' on my own, I keep clear." The grubby old man shivered, tugging his tattered overcoat tighter around his shoulders. "I keep clear."
"So give me one reason why I shouldn't just hand you over to the Hit Wizards, then," Scrimgeour growled, leaning closer. "Because I know for a fact that they would dearly love to get their hands on you. Marcellus Fletcher, career criminal, a leftover from a bygone era, and only alive and active because…" He paused. "Well, that's a good question, Marcellus. Why are you still active? A man with your wealth could have retired years ago."
"Tha' an assumption," Fletcher grumbled, "and a bad one at 'at. It ain't like the old days, there ain't the same gold innit. Not unless yer…"
His ragged voice trailed off, and Scrimgeour leaned closer.
"Unless… unless what, Marcellus?"
"I wan' immunity."
"You came to me, I decide what you get," Scrimgeour snapped. "You asked for me, and you have less than eight minutes to explain yourself."
"You… you don' understand," Fletcher whispered, the dullness in his eyes fading for a few seconds as he glanced with terror at the doors. "He… he could be any –"
"Despite… incidences in the past," Scrimgeour said, gritting his teeth as he remembered the incident that had occurred in the Ministry three months prior, "Lord Voldemort – oh, for the love of – fine, You-Know-Who will not come bursting through this door."
"And… and the room is –"
"I did all the enchantments myself," Scrimgeour said curtly, folding his arms over his chest. "You wouldn't have come to me if you didn't think you could trust me, Fletcher."
Fletcher swallowed hard and pulled his tattered overcoat a little tighter around himself. "Then I need to tell yeh about a man named Giles Gunther."
The air stank of stale motor oil and pollution, and one was lucky if they could find water that was translucent instead of murky sludge. Rusted barrels were strewn along the shore, along with broken steel girders, old tires, and other garbage. It was a desolate spot, only connected to the rest of civilization by a battered gravel road long ignored.
And under the cover of a bleak, overcast night, the perfect spot.
A broken spar of metal protruding into the river began to bend, as if something invisible in the water was trying to snap it in two. That invisible thing soon achieved its goal, and the broken hunk of metal splashed into the mire of the coastline.
A shadow behind a heap of discarded metal rose, his silhouette barely visible by the feeble moonlight through the clouds. It was a huge shadow, a grotesque enlargement of a male silhouette – a shadow that held a long twisted wand in one hand and a rusted machete in the other.
There was a scuffling, and the shadow twisted to glare at something deeper in the darkness, behind the overgrown brambles.
His voice was as guttural as his appearance.
Now the stench of motor oil had grown stronger, and the shadow sniffed the air as he heard something huge brush against the gravel. His dark eyes narrowed as he saw a square of flickering yellow light open out of thin air, and a long, battered metal bridge from the square to the coast materialized.
The figure striding down the bridge was alone, and was a study in contrast. His knee-high boots and heavy gloves were thick shiny hide hide of a beast the shadow didn't recognize, but they seemed out of place with the man's old t-shirt, ragged jeans, and ratty blazer. To complete the strange ensemble, a thick grey cloak was slung over his shoulder, a maroon kerchief tied around his neck, and a faded black cowboy hat sat upon his head.
The man was old, and his skin was lined and cracked from decades in the sea. His long grey hair was tied back, his goatee was thick and dark, and his bright blue eyes gleamed more sharply than the square of light from where had descended.
And unlike the massive shadow stalking towards him, he was unarmed.
"You're late," the shadow growled. The man crossed his arms over his chest, neither impressed nor intimidated.
"And you said you'd come alone," he replied caustically, his perfectly-cultured London accent adding additional clash to his ensemble. "You've got at least fifteen men here by my count."
The shadow stiffened as rage rushed through him. He didn't know how the man knew about his pack, they were supposed to remain unseen. "You at least came unarmed, Gunther."
"It was in good faith," Giles Gunther retorted, stepping off the metal bridge and onto the muddy gravel. "More than I can say for you, Greyback."
"I had to ensure the Dark Lord's property was well-accounted for," Fenrir Greyback snarled, baring his teeth, "and I don't trust smugglers who dress like cowboys and sound like posh London fucks."
The smuggler snorted. "If I let every strongman sent by a warlord or terrorist push me around, I would have been dead in Cuba thirty-five years ago."
"Hence why I'm here," Greyback hissed, stepping a little closer. He added the next sentence as an afterthought. "To do business."
Gunther's lip curled. "Of course. You can start with giving me my payment as agreed."
Greyback reached into his overcoat and pulled a leather satchel free. He didn't know what was inside the satchel – the Dark Lord had been explicitly clear that it remained closed until Gunther received it – but it rattled and clattered like dice. He tossed it to the smuggler, who carefully prised it open.
Gunther smirked as he closed the satchel. "It'll do."
"You've been paid," Greyback growled, "now show me the merchandise."
"Well, that's not so simple, is it?" Gunther replied conversationally, glancing behind the werewolf at the heap of scrap and garbage. "Particularly considering you didn't bring anything to transport it."
Greyback's hand tightened on his machete. "Don't play games, Gunther."
"I ship things, like a legitimate businessman, in shipping containers," Gunther said evenly. "And unless you want me to unload all eight containers right here, you need to give me a place to drop them. And before you even ask, you're not coming on my ship to inspect the cargo or unload it – it's my personal policy."
Greyback wanted to rip the insufferable badly-dressed man in half, but he tamped down on his rage. I can always kill him later, but the Dark Lord needs what he has. "Fine. There's a Muggle container yard further down the river by the Albert Dock. My men will sweep the yard and then you can drop your containers."
"And if you happen to run into Muggles?"
Greyback gave the smuggler a feral grin. "I get hungry on occasion. Midnight snacks are always enjoyable."
"And you didn't notify authorities immediately?" Scrimgeour demanded. "You saw all of this and you didn't contact our office? Greyback is a servant of You-Know-Who, and if Giles Gunther is the same one from Raskul Dolohov's old organization –"
"The very same," Fletcher mumbled.
" – Then he would likely have a wealth of information about what You-Know-Who is attempting to bring into England!" Scrimgeour finished furiously, slamming an open palm on the table. "How the hell did you spot any of this, anyways?"
Fletcher shifted uncomfortably, and Scrimgeour put a hand to his temple. "Never mind, I'm sure I don't want to know – Merlin knows that if you have a werewolf running with Greyback, he's providing you with valuable information you don't want to compromise. So, what happened when they reached the container yard in Liverpool?"
The dock was strewn with carnage – Greyback and his group hadn't wasted any time dispatching any Muggle they saw with decisive brutality.
He wiped blood from his mouth as he saw the square of yellow light reappear and the bridge come down. If Gunther was fazed by the sight of them, he didn't respond.
"I assume you're going to clean up?"
Greyback snorted. "It'd be a shame to clear away such a display, but the Dark Lord doesn't want anything getting out. The containers?"
Gunther simply smiled and glanced skyward. Seemingly out of nowhere, an unpainted, unmarked container was suspended in the sky, slowly descending onto the concrete dock.
Greyback sniffed the air. "Are those full?"
"Of course they are."
"They why can't I –"
"They're charmed to insulate their contents from the outside world," Gunther replied coolly, as the container settled onto the dock. "And with Muggle-Repelling Charms, obviously. You'll need to get your own trucks or transportation to get them out of here, but you should have better luck getting them out of the dock than that garbage dump you repurposed as a rendezvous point."
"The keys?" Greyback growled impatiently.
Gunther tossed him a ring. "Each key is numbered, obviously. Inside each container, I also included a manifest of where the cargo was… acquired. Quality is hit-and-miss, but the Dark Lord should be satisfied."
For a second, the smuggler was nonplussed. "And… what?"
"Who knows about this operation?" Greyback asked. He knew he cut a dangerous figure, his machete still dripping and the bottom half of his face streaked with red. "Did you tie up loose ends?"
"Any loose ends are included in the containers," Gunther replied with a tight smile.
Greyback nodded. "Anything else I should be aware of, in those containers?"
"I didn't discriminate," Gunther said curtly, folding his arms over his chest, "but rest assured there's nothing alive in there." The lines around his mouth twisted into a sneer. "Hope it's not too much of a temptation, werewolf."
"It won't be," Greyback replied calmly. He knew at this point, he didn't need to lie to scare the smuggler. "I prefer them when they're still twitching."
"So the containers are at the Albert Dock?" Scrimgeour asked, his eyes burning with renewed fervour. "Good, we can take them there before You-Know-Who –"
"The Death Eaters already took 'em," Fletcher said gloomily.
"Damn it!" Scrimgeour roared, rising to his feet. "Did you at least figure out where – oh, of course you didn't, you worthless bit of dung! Why did you even bother coming in if you were just going to –"
"Before Greyback sent 'is werewolves to clear the dock, my contact tipped me off, and I brought a few people in to monitor things," Fletcher whispered, his eyes darting nervously to the door again as he lowered his voice. "And… and we caught an owl sent from Gunther's invisible ship."
He glanced up at Scrimgeour. "He wanted to defect – the letter was to Dumbledore. Gunther was going to tell Dumbledore everythin', includin' what was in them containers."
Scrimgeour took a deep breath as he sat down. "And… and you have this letter?"
"It consumed itself," Fletcher said apologetically. "Sorry. But here's where things get… odd."
Scrimgeour sniffed. "Really. I could hardly imagine this getting –"
"This mornin', the Muggle police found Gunther up the coast." Fletcher glanced at the door and took a shuddering breath. "And there was a little piece of metal embedded in his forehead from one of them Muggle weapons. Someone shot 'em – Gunther, he dead."
Scrimgeour paused – he didn't quite know what to say, but he couldn't help but feel a chill run up his spine. "And the Muggle police, do they have any idea –"
"Eyewitness says she saw it happen," Fletcher whispered, his voice quivering. "I had someone overhear her talk to the police, and…"
He swallowed hard. "I wan' immunity."
"If your information is really as good as you claim, you'll get it," Scrimgeour said impatiently. "So who did this eyewitness describe?"
"It had to be a wizard, see," Fletcher mumbled, "'cause no one else'd be fast enough to take down old Gunther, blow his hat clean off his head – "
"Fletcher," Scrimgeour growled. "Who killed Giles Gunther?"
Marcellus Fletcher glanced at the door one last time, real terror in his eyes. "Big bald black man. Dressed like a Muggle, but I'd know that face anywhere. And… and so would you."
Scrimgeour immediately understood why Fletcher wanted immunity, and despite himself, he felt a cold hand of fear grip his gut. He wanted to feel a rush of triumph, but this time it wouldn't come – he knew Gunther's death was a message.
"Kingsley Shacklebolt," Scrimgeour breathed, his voice barely audible. "Son of a bitch."