A/N: Thank you so much to my wonderful readers, especially those of you taking the time to stop and review. I appreciate it!
Disclaimer: I do not own Leverage. I do not own Harry Potter. I do not profit from exploiting them.
Sophie sipped her tea and continued to watch the crowd over an abandoned newspaper that she had rescued earlier that afternoon. She'd been worried that she wouldn't fit in with her approximated "wizarding clothes," but it turned out to matter less than she thought it would. Plenty of witches and wizards were entering and leaving through "the Muggle door" clothed in truly appalling fashion. Her black maxi dress and green wool cloak (Lord of the Rings replica, thank you Hardison) blended in without raising any eyebrows.
The Leaky Cauldron was busier than she would've expected from such a dingy looking bar, especially considering that there only appeared to be one bartender. He had magic, though, so maybe that was what made the difference. She'd come in just before the lunch hour and set up shop in a corner booth. She'd been studying the population and making notes on etiquette, food, clothing, and anything else that caught her eye. Earlier, many of the patrons appeared to be government workers stopping here for lunch. Now they seemed to be mostly families passing through to Diagon Alley and occasionally stopping for food and drink.
She absently added a note as she watched two young wizards meet. They were both wearing robes in the style that Sophie had decided was wizarding casual, and both were distantly accompanied by an adult. The boys both straightened when they noticed each other and gave little nods as they made eye contact, as though acknowledging the other's existence and agreeing not to challenge each other for dominance. They met halfway, walking with the carefully studied refinement of the wealthy elite: that body language, Sophie thought with amusement, seemed universal. They shook hands solemnly and bent their heads together in quiet conversation.
This behavior matched that of all the other "elitists" Sophie had observed. She'd also seen a number of witches and wizards who were trying desperately to mimic this behavior and were either tolerated or rebuffed by the true elites. Then there were those who appeared only peripherally aware of the elitists' etiquette, instead behaving like common British non-magicals. Based on what Minerva had said, Sophie was pretty sure the elites were purebloods, the wannabes were either halfbloods or Muggleborns trying to break into the culture, and the others were young Muggleborns who hadn't learned to make an effort. It also seemed like the pureblood rituals had both an upper crust version and a common man version that more closely resembled the easy, common greetings of the Muggleborns. There were a few differences when you knew what to look for, though; little details that kept the purebloods separate no matter what their social standing.
Sophie was a bit concerned that her observations would set them up to look like wannabes rather than real elites, but she was hoping that being from America would account for any mistakes. She wished that Minerva had been able to answer their questions about the American wizarding world. The only advice she'd been able to provide was to send an inquiry by owl once they got back home.
She went back to pretending to read her newspaper, despite having already read most of the articles twice. The things these wizards considered newsworthy… She glanced up toward the bar, considering ordering another pot of tea. Her eyes once again caught those of a handsome redhead who had been sitting at the bar sipping from a tankard for the last half hour. He was a little young for her, but Sophie smiled anyways. The last few times he'd caught her eye, she had done the blush-and-look-away routine. It had seemed to amuse and encourage him. This time she changed tactics and made come-hither eyes. She glanced at the empty seat across from her, then back at him. He grinned and immediately hopped off the barstool. Sophie carefully folded her newspaper and used it to hide her notes.
"Hello," he greeted as he slid into the booth. "I kept waiting for some handsome fellow to join you; I didn't think I'd be lucky enough to be him. Bill Weasley," he added, offering his hand across the table.
Sophie smiled and took his hand. "Sophie Devereaux," she said, shifting her voice into her New York Socialite accent. "It's a pleasure to meet you Mr. Weasley." One of the first things she'd noticed was that wizards preferred to use honorifics and family names with acquaintances, which explained Minerva's sour expression at their casual use of her first name.
"Oh, please call me Bill," he offered, upping his smile a few more watts. Sophie gave a coy smile in return, pleased that she knew the subtext of the exchange.
"Bill," she tasted the name, making a show of enjoying it; he looked interested. Sophie loved this game. "And I'm Sophie, of course."
"May I ask where you're from, Sophie? I could've sworn I knew all the gorgeous young witches in Britain."
"Maybe I'm not a young witch," she said with a quirked eyebrow. He made the appropriate sounds for having understood her comment to be about her age, not her magic. She smiled. "Actually, I'm American."
"What brings you to Great Britain?" he asked, sounding surprised. She wondered what made being an American surprising. She was being careful with her accent, so maybe something about American wizards?
"My ward was invited to attend Hogwarts, and we're here to consider his options." She knew that it was risky to bring up the subject of children during a flirtatious encounter, but trying to romance a much younger man wasn't really part of her plan right now anyways. He looked like he was a recent graduate, so he was potentially a good source of information. Besides, he didn't seem all that invested in the flirtation; it was a game, an enjoyable way for both of them to pass the time.
She was rewarded for her honesty with a bright smile and a slight shift in posture that meant the game was changing from a hook-up to a real conversation.
"Hogwarts is an excellent school," Bill enthused. "It's the best wizarding school in Europe in terms of the depth and breadth of knowledge taught. Admittedly Beauxbatons offers a greater number of elective options, and Durmstrang teaches more offensive magic, but Hogwarts is definitely the best quality. Gringotts prefers to hire Hogwarts graduates, and I've heard the same is true of other international companies."
Sophie's eyebrows went up. Minerva had said that Hogwarts was the best, but Sophie had attributed it to her role as recruiter. To have it seconded and expanded on by a second party lent a little more weight to the claims. She wondered how it would stack up against American magical education – if America even had magical education. She wondered again why they hadn't made some attempt to contact them regarding JP.
"Huh. We hadn't even considered the other European schools. We're only entertaining the idea of Hogwarts because Harlin's parents went there. Personally I'm not sure I want him so far away, especially considering the unrest a decade ago."
Bill's expression darkened slightly at the mention of unrest, but he declined to rise to her bait.
"Boarding school is hard," he agreed. "I was homesick for months during my first year. At least the international Floo isn't all that expensive. He'd be able to come home for the holidays, same as any other student."
"I'm more worried about day-to-day communication," she groused. "Owls take at least a week and a half to get to us from Hogwarts."
Bill shrugged. "My mum tried to write me once a week, but with my siblings all still home, they quickly slowed down to once every few months. Honestly, I didn't miss them."
"Yes," she agreed, "but what about in emergencies? If something happened to Harlin while he was away, or he needed help, I wouldn't know in time to do anything."
"His head of house would find a way to let you know quickly," he assured her. "Besides, Hogwarts has an excellent healer. Very few accidents or illnesses require more than a quick trip to the infirmary."
They continued to chat about the hardships and benefits of boarding school, with Sophie carefully avoiding discussing her own education and Bill filling the gaps with exciting stories and tips to pass along to JP. Their conversation then morphed into a discussion about jobs and families. She'd figured out quickly that Bill was one of the non-wealthy purebloods based on his mannerisms and speech patterns. She made mental notes of the things he did and the way he spoke: it would help JP later.
After a pleasant half hour, Bill had to head back to work. Sophie was sad to see him go. His company was pleasant and he was a font of useful information. As he said goodbye, she wondered what the wizarding equivalent of exchanging numbers would be. He answered her silent question by encouraging her to owl him or Floo call him at "Bright Corner."
Sophie spent another hour making notes and studying the population before she decided to clear out for the dinner crowd. She'd monopolized the booth for long enough that the bartender was starting to give her dirty looks despite the fact that she'd been continually spending the strange silver and bronze coins that Parker had "liberated" on the street out front. It had been a productive afternoon, and it was time to retreat and discuss her discoveries.
JP was nearly bouncing as they got ready for Diagon Alley. He had studied hard last night, carefully discussing Aunt Sophie's notes with her in order to get a better idea of how he ought to behave. Now he felt ready to brave wizarding society as a fledgling wizard. He'd dressed carefully in black slacks and a white button down shirt underneath a midnight blue robe that Uncle Hardison had made last night based on Aunt Sophie's sketches.
"Well," said Aunt Sophie over clasped hands, "don't you look wizardly. Take a spin for us, then."
He obligingly spun around so that she could inspect the whole affect. She murmured approvingly as she absently came closer to straighten his collar.
"Aaaand the finishing touch!" she said, holding her hand out toward Uncle Hardison. "Sit down JP." She took the disguise kit and began the painstaking process of covering his scar. He tried his hardest not to fiddle; he didn't particularly want to be recognized today either. Celebrity had its uses, but generally not outside a well planned con.
Twenty minutes later they were inside the Leaky Cauldron, waiting to meet a Mr. Hagrid who would be escorting them to the bank. Aunt Sophie had decreed that only she and Uncle Eliot would come on this trip, over the protests of the others. There had been a rather heated argument that JP had only been peripherally aware of. He knew Uncle Nate wanted to be here, but Aunt Sophie wanted to keep it down to two adults, and Uncle Eliot would be the most useful if anything… went wrong.
JP was pretty tickled with the arrangement, since Uncle Eliot looked wonderfully disgruntled in his robe. (Uncle Hardison had originally threatened to make it a nice lurid green, but Aunt Sophie had intervened before any significant hurting could occur.) It had taken everyone's combined wheedling before Uncle Eliot had caved and "put the damn thing on."
They didn't have long to wait. Precisely on time, the fire flared and the largest man JP had ever seen came out of the fireplace. He had bushy, bristling hair set off with an affable smile as he greeted the bartender with a booming voice.
"When Ms. McGonagall said he was big," JP whispered to Uncle Eliot, "I didn't think she meant that big!"
"It's okay kid," said Uncle Eliot, clapping him on the back. "I could take him."
"Mr. Hagrid I presume," said Aunt Sophie, stepping forward. JP loved watching her transform into a character. It used to creep him out, but now it just impressed him how effortless it was for her.
"Ah, Ms. Devereaux!" Hagrid held out a hand the size of Aunt Sophie's head, and she delicately placed her hand in his. He looked like he was being exceedingly careful as he gave her hand a gentle shake. "And you must be young Har-"
"Harlin," JP hurried to correct. "But I prefer to go by JP." Honestly he didn't care all that much, but he had a feeling there would be fewer slip-ups if the giant was calling him by something completely unlike his birth name. "It's nice to meet you Mr. Hagrid."
Pleasantries concluded, the giant led them through the door to the alley. He used his pink umbrella ("a crime against good taste," hissed Aunt Sophie) to tap on a brick to make the wall slide away.
It took nearly a minute before JP could shake off his awe, close his mouth, and get back into character. When he glanced over, he was pleased to see that Uncle Eliot had been just as impressed, though it looked like his uncle had already started checking the new territory out for danger. Aunt Sophie, of course, looked as though she saw such things every day.
The walk to the bank was interesting but uneventful. JP managed to keep his staring down to the level of mildly curious rather than shocked and stunned. Aunt Sophie had placed a reassuring hand on his back, which was more helpful than he was willing to admit.
The bank itself was a huge marble building guarded by, of all things, goblins. Uncle Eliot, of course, dutifully sized them up. Later he would report that he'd be cautious of testing their abilities. Those teeth were awfully sharp, and those fingers were awfully long.
Inside, Hagrid led them straight up to one of the tellers and gave a vault number and a very sketchy withdrawal description. He then attempted to whisper that Harry Potter also wanted to visit his vault. JP winced.
Luckily none of the wizards were close enough to hear, and all the goblin demanded was the key to the vault. Why Hagrid had his vault key, JP wasn't entirely sure.
The ride to the vaults was amazing. Not as good as a rollercoaster, maybe, but still fun. They paused briefly for Hagrid to scoop up a tiny paper wrapped parcel and to hear the goblin's explain some of the vault safety features. Aunt Sophie had winced and mumbled something about being thankful Auntie Parker wasn't there to take the warning as a challenge. When they reached his vault, JP had been surprised. He'd been told that his parents had set up a trust fund for him, but he was used to thinking of money in terms of numbers and paper.
He'd never considered that his trust fund might be huge piles of gold.
They made a withdrawal and headed back to the surface. Aunt Sophie had to take a few minutes to straighten herself and attempt to straighten JP. They waved goodbye to Hagrid, thanking him for his help. After all, nice though the giant was, he did rather spoil their image. And then it was finally time to explore the alley.