Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter and I do not get paid for writing this story. Please don't sue me.
Warning: Not exactly exemplary behaviour of a certain teenager
A tuft of messy black hair and one large brilliant green eye peeked out from behind a bookshelf. The eye followed a hunched figure in a pink felt hat out of the door and when the room was safely empty except for a stern looking woman behind the counter, a teenage boy walked out of the shadows of the aisle with an armful of books. Hearing his footsteps, the young librarian looked up from her paperwork, her piercing grey eyes softening as she caught sight of the pile of books and the pair of thin legs beneath it. She removed the oval glasses from the tip of her nose, put them down on the counter and approached the boy with a warm smile.
"You know you don't have to be shy of calling for me, when you need help Harry," she said taking the books from the boy's arms.
"I didn't want to disturb you, Miss Bracket," murmured Harry keeping his eyes on the floor.
"It's my job, sweetie. Don't worry about it next time," chuckled the librarian with a wink that no one would expect from her considering her overall strict look.
"Have you finished all the books you borrowed last time already?"
"Yes," said Harry hurriedly fishing in his bag and stacking the books up on the counter. "By the way, thank you for the tip Miss Bracket, I enjoyed reading Great Expectations very much. I don't know why Oliver Twist is considered Dickens' best novel. I find Great Expectations much more thoughtful."
"Oh sweetie, if I didn't know you read so much, I would have my jaw on the floor right now, asking where you get such academic expressions," Miss Bracket sniggered. Then her smile melted into a pensive frown. "I sometimes wonder what's to become of you…"
After watching her think for a while, Harry politely cleared his throat and held out his library ticket. She quickly turned her eyes to him, hesitated a little before taking the ticket and moving her attention to the books on the counter. Harry waited for her to finish registering the book loans showing no signs of restlessness. If she looked up, she would probably find his observant eyes quite unnerving.
Making sure the pink felt hat was nowhere in sight Harry Potter exited the library, started walking briskly down the busy street and turned the corner into a less crowded alleyway as soon as possible. There he slowed down a bit and chuckled. Although he didn't approve of being called sweetie, he'd always enjoyed interactions with Miss Bracket. She was one of few people that were able to see something more in him than just a scrawny orphan, a burden, a waste of time and money. Not that Harry was complaining about the view of the others. It was easier to pass unnoticed when everyone thought he was nothing special. But it was also fun to have someone peeking behind the mask of prejudices and seeing at least part of his true personality. He wouldn't let it go too far, of course, some of his secrets had to stay safe. However Miss Bracket was quite harmless and she liked Harry too much to get suspicious and start snooping around.
Turning another corner Harry crossed the alley, walked up the stairs and knocked hard on a flaking wooden door of a two-storey house. The building must have been elegant in its time, the marine-blue-coloured door and window frames, the delicately wrought balcony railing, the pale azure façade, now yellowed and darkened by dust and mould on some places. It looked a bit out of place among all the Victorian red-brick houses around.
"Lazy old fool," muttered Harry opening the door with a wave of his hand. He walked through the dark dusty corridor slightly touching one of its bare cold walls with the fingers of his right hand. As he approached the dim light at the end, he could make out a figure swamped in a rocking chair. The room was not as spacious as one would assume from the length of the hallway. It gave an impression of a gloomy and kind of cosy mess. A shrivelled old man wrapped up in a faded red blanket was slumbering in the wicker rocking chair in one corner under an antique oil lamp that was currently the only source of light in the room. In front of the rocker there was a simple wooden coffee table covered by a thick layer of something that looked like a mixture of smear, raspberry jam, spilt coffee and cigarette ash. In the opposite corner there was a large sofa-bed with flowered upholstery and a turquoise duvet sprawled over one of the armrests and half of the fluffy maroon rug beside it. There were newspapers, magazines and bed sheets all over the parquet floor. In the middle of it all there was a footstool with two toppled dirty cups and a glass ashtray overflowing with butts.
Harry came up to the rocker, stared down at the snoring bundle of wrinkles for a moment, sighed and gave the man a gentle shake. "Wake up old man, it's time to get you and this den cleaned up." When there was no reaction, he thoroughly poked the man's chest. "Come on, do me a favour, open your eyes and pretend to understand at least half of the sounds coming out of my mouth." At that the puckered eyelids with almost non-existent white lashes fluttered open and revealed a pair of glazed watery blue eyes. Then a low gurgle came out of the man's throat as he tried to clear it.
"Mr Perfect's here," he exclaimed enthusiastically in his high raspy voice jumping up from the rocking chair with surprising energy, quickly untangling his limbs from the blanket. "All cleaned up in one second, Mr Perfect, just wait for it," he took the ashtray from the footstool and started scattering the butts across the room with a zealous grin on his face as if he was a bridesmaid showering a newly married couple with flowers. Dancing to music only he could hear he waltzed around the room a few times only stopping confusedly when there were no more butts to throw.
"You know I love it when you do that, old man," snickered Harry after having observed the crazy antics with an amused smirk. "Now let's transform you into the respectable Mr Sanderson once again," the boy winked as he walked up to him taking the ashtray from his hands and putting it back on the footstool. Harry frowned suspiciously as he took the man by the too thin arm and led him to a shabby little bathroom near an oak spiral staircase. "Did you make yourself at least one decent meal this past week or were you as usual surviving on the snacks I had brought you?"
"Don't you dare insult your snacks Mr Perfect, they are decent enough, they are full of those... nutritious things... vitamins. I read it in a magazine that snacks are the most decent stuff one can get to eat," babbled Mr Sanderson tugging at the hem of his filthy grey jumper distractedly.
"That's what I thought," sighed Harry pushing the man through the bathroom door. "Now to the bathtub with you and strip," the boy helped Mr Sanderson into the tub and started pulling the repulsive jumper over his head.
"You always strip the jumper off first, why not the trousers or the socks, that would be much more... convenient, yes, the socks would be much more convenient," the man's ranting was muffled by the layer of wool.
Harry let the dirty clothes fall to the floor and collapsed on the flowered sofa-bed. Listening to the splashing sounds coming from the bathroom he stuck his hand between the cushioning and took out the pack of cigarettes he knew the old man was hiding there. As if no one could tell from the state of the room that the occupant is a smoker. Glancing at the floor covered with butts he had to smirk again. It was some sort of a welcoming ritual of the old man's to make an even bigger jumble in the room, when Harry announced it was time to clean up. It was entertaining to watch and he had no problem with the additional mess.
Harry lit up a cigarette with a snap of his fingers and stood up from the sofa. Let's make this place a little inhabitable. He pulled on the cigarette and let it dangle from his lower lip, eyes closed, brow furrowed in concentration. Holding out his hands palms up he made a rising gesture and a light breeze swept through the room, lifted all the dust and dirt, tossed it through the long corridor out on the street and shut the door from outside. Then with another stronger blow all the things were put in their right places, the clothes, the sheets and the duvet folded themselves neatly on the sofa-bed, the cleaned cups flew obediently on their shelf in the kitchen. Harry drew contentedly on his cigarette as he glanced over the now spotless room.
He sat back on the sofa-bed the emptied glass ashtray in one hand, the cigarette between two fingers of the other and let himself get lost in thoughts. Today was his birthday and his "grand-uncle" Mr Sanderson was taking him to the cinema. Right. That's what they had told the old hag Hutcher. But what did he really want to do? Surely he would leave the old man at home, that's what he liked the best anyway. So he had the whole night just for himself, he could do anything. For once he was free. I can drop by Mike's bar, I haven't seen him for ages. He would even let me sleep at his place. Harry had come to like the jovial barman, he was easy to talk to, easy to make fun of and hard to get truly angry. Sounds like a plan... He drew on the cigarette one last time before stubbing it out on the bottom of the ashtray. As he was placing it on the footstool, there came a loud slosh. For God's sake what is he doing in there? Harry stood up and headed for the bathroom.
Lucius Malfoy was a patient man. A very patient man if he had a say in it. But to be kept waiting for almost an hour in this filthy muggle den was crossing the line. He sat in a dark corner of the almost empty bar nursing his second glass of what the bartender had called the best whisky they had. It couldn't stand comparison with Firewhisky and so by far neither with the drinks he preferred. This was just one hell of an evening.
Yet as he thought about it, he could at least relax for a while. Since his Lord's return at the beginning of June he worked literally day and night. It was necessary to renew old liaisons and create new ones while keeping the whole movement a secret. That was a very precarious job and they couldn't afford any missteps. It was much easier for the Dark Lord to drop all the work on the head of the most experienced and successful politician in his service than respect Lucius' need for freedom and let the tasks be ruined by some incompetent bootlickers. He also had to maintain his influential post at the ministry because it was convenient to have someone pulling the strings from behind the scenes. And that his Lord had moved the headquarters to Malfoy manor? It was the safest privet property in England, of course. Yes, he understood the Dark Lord's reasoning very well and since he was in the man's good graces he had no ground for complaints. However, it didn't stop him from feeling trapped. He finished the drink and waved for the waiter to get him another two. There was no need for keeping up appearances in the muggle world. This would be one hell of an evening.
When Harry appeared in a narrow alleyway near Mike's bar it was already getting dark. He knew that if he wanted to talk to Mike, he should have come earlier in the evening. At this hour Mike would be probably too busy. But it's Monday, nobody goes to a bar on Monday, right?
As he approached the main street, he caught sight of commotion to his right from the corner of his eye. Spotting a pink felt hat he quickly ducked into the nearest passage. That was close! How does she do that? Is she following me or something? Seriously, Mrs Hutcher, you give me the creeps...Cautiously he watched her pass the alley. When he couldn't hear her footsteps anymore, he left his hiding place and headed off for the bar on the main street.
He entered through the glass door and had to stop for a moment to let his eyes get used to the dim lighting inside. It wasn't the most decent spot one could find but it was quite clean and the prices were reasonable. There were two connected rooms both the same size, furnished the same way with small rectangular tables and wooden benches that created separate compartments alongside the dark brown walls. The space taken in the first room by a bar made of solid alder matching the furniture, was filled up with a tiny dance floor in the second. There was only one chandelier in each of the rooms so that the shadow in the corners was almost impenetrable.
Harry walked up to the bar carefully taking in his surroundings. There was only one currently cooing couple in the second room and then he came to feel the sharp stare directed at his back from the corner right behind him.
"Harry," exclaimed the barman joyfully offering the boy a hand across the bar. "How've you been? Haven't seen you since your old man last strayed here." said the man in a playfully scolding tone.
"Hey Mike, didn't see you there," teased Harry, turning his attention from the dark corner he'd been examining to the lanky young man before him and shaking his hand. "I reckoned I'd have to take cover in that cupboard of yours but this place is perfectly dead. Isn't your business suffering?" challenged Harry cheekily, hopping on a barstool.
Mike gave him a significant look. "Well, Monday evening, what would you expect? Not that we are exactly crowded any other day. However, if you want to stay here tonight, you'll have to take cover anyway. I'd suggest one of the corners. I don't suppose whoever is coming to relieve me will be happy to serve a twelve-year-old," replied Mike bitingly yet with an apologetic glint in the warm brown eyes.
"You don't do all night shifts anymore? Oh, don't tell me you've finally found yourself a girl! Is she pretty?" suggested Harry goadingly.
"No, I-" Mike started to respond his ears reddening.
"So she's not pretty, that's a shame," pouted Harry for effect.
"No, prat," Mike smacked the boy over the head with a tea towel though a low chuckle gave out his amusement. "I've merely found myself an assistant as you so wisely suggested the last time we met," explained Mike returning to his tea towel and wet glasses.
"Glad to be of any help," replied Harry with a mocking bow. "And by the way, I'm no twelve-year-old anymore."
"When?" asked Mike suspiciously.
"Today," the boy announced proudly.
"Well, that doesn't count yet," deadpanned Mike, the right corner of his mouth twitching.
"Git," muttered Harry with an amused smile.
AN: So that was the first chapter of my first story, did you like it? Please, leave me a review and let me know :)
AN: Smoking... I know it's a nasty habit, but isn't it what kids that aren't properly taken care of do? ;)