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Chapter 3: Knockturn Alley
3. Knockturn Alley
Harry pulled himself away from the table and said thanks but no-thanks to offers of more drinks. He walked into the enclosed yard at the rear of the building and tapped the bricks to open the passageway to Diagon Alley. Nothing happened. Must have tapped the wrong bricks! After one more go around, the bricks began their normal dance and shuffle until the passageway was open. Harry stepped into Diagon alley and saw it was bustling with activity. Shops that had been closed or shut down were re-opening and showing new signs of life. Harry had no idea where Kreacher may have gone to find a rug. Many of the shops had completely changed since going out of business before the war. He found a shop just past Gringotts that sold housewares and items of that nature, but there was no sign of Kreacher. Walking a little further he came upon Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. It had been the most colorful and lively shop in the alley. Sadly there was no light or sign of anyone in the business. Hopefully George would get back around soon and get the shop going again. He had walked a little further and decided to have an ice cream at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor. He grabbed a seat by a small outdoor table. He could watch for Kreacher while eating the ice cream and let the effects of the Firewhiskey dissipate. A smallish young lady walked up to the table.
"Can I help you sir?" she asked.
"Do you have a special today?"
"Yes sir we do, it's..."
Quickly raising a palm, "Surprise me with a cup please," he said with a smile.
Mr. Fortescue had been missing for some time. Most felt he had been a victim of death eaters and family members had joined in to keep the shop running. Harry had always liked Mr. Fortescue. The young lady came back with the ice cream which turned out to be Raspberry. He enjoyed the ice cream and the sights along Diagon Alley while wondering where Kreacher could have gotten off to.
Somewhere in the middle of the ice cream, Harry had a thought – not a good one, but a thought none the less. He finished up the ice cream and headed back toward the Leaky Cauldron. He had never considered looking in Knockturn Alley, but Kreacher might have gone down the alley. It was a foul place in general, but with many of the main shops along Diagon Alley not in full swing, it was possible Kreacher could have gone there. The entrance to Knockturn Alley was just past the Leaky Cauldron and Harry had gone right past it with nary a thought. As he walked closer to the entrance of Knockturn Alley the smell was immediately different. It was a foul smell like a dirty sock with something bad in it. Borgin and Burkes was one of the oldest and largest shops it the Alley. They specialized in items of a dark magical nature and attracted a rough and dodgy clientele. Harry entered the shop and looked around slowly as if browsing for something to buy. Borgin and Burkes was seldom crowed and this day was no exception. A rather young clerk walked up to Harry.
"Can I help you find anything sir?" the clerk asked.
Harry thought before answering.
"Well, my house-elf was supposed to pick something out earlier, and I was going to pay for it – did he come in and do that?" Harry said with an authoritative air.
"No sir, haven't seen any house-elf today," the clerk said.
"He is so slow sometimes – must be diddling away his time somewhere," Harry shook his head with mock disappointment. There was no point in being too concerned or upset about Kreacher in front of the clerk. He never trusted Borgin and Burkes since he accidentally fell into the shop through the floo network before his second year at Hogwarts. If Hagrid hadn't come by and found him when he did, he might never have gotten out. As far as he knew, all the shops in Knockturn Alley were in it together, and to show too much concern at this point might make it harder to find the house-elf. He thanked the young clerk and casually browsed his way out the front door toward fresher air.
There were many corners and edges and different levels along Knockturn Alley, and one needed to be alert while wandering through the winding way. Harry had just rounded one corner and caught an image quickly moving around the corner of another building. It looked like a bundle being carried, but the odd thing about it was two large ears sticking out of the top of the bundle. He didn't think he'd been seen and moved very quickly to get around the corner. He just got there in time to see footsteps and the bundle being carried into a backdoor. A few seconds later he entered in the same door. The room appeared to be storage area for a shop about to be re-opened and was stocked with fresh wooden crates stacked high into several piles. A few of the lower crates had been opened as if the contents had been inspected. A couple of gents were standing to the left of the room and seemed to have been caught unaware. The closest one was wearing a pair of plaid trousers and quickly turned toward Harry. Harry continued to ease to the opposite side of the room as two dumfounded heads followed his every move. The other man was prying open a crate with a long oily black pry-bar wearing leather gloves and canvas apron. Plaid trousers raised an eyebrow and spoke first.
"We ain't open for business... Besides the front door is the other way around," he said.
"I was looking for a house-elf... you haven't seen one have you?" Harry asked.
"Bleeding Christ... A house-elf you say! Now do we look like gentlemen that needs a house-elf?" plaid trousers said, and the other man cackled hideously with a toothless smile.
No longer facing the men, but turning his right side out of view, Harry slowly moved his hand up to get his shirt tail away from his wand tucked into his right waistband.
"Well, if it's all the same, I'll just have a look around," Harry said as the right hand inched toward his wand. By now he had the full attention of both men and noticed a hand sneaking under the canvas apron.
"Now listen here, you little Git... Show yourself the door now," as Plaid trousers pointed to the door. Harry had his wand in hand. He wasn't sure what canvas apron was reaching for, but he was pulling something out from under the apron.
"STUPIFY!" Harry let the curse fly at canvas apron. The man went flying backwards and crashed against the wall. Harry moved slightly to the right as be began to square off against Plaid trousers. His wand was leveled at the mans head.
Suddenly the hairs were rising on the back of his neck. Oh, that not good. A moment later, he felt a slap on the back of the head. Everything went black.
Small fuzzy patches of light were flying by his eyelids. There were noises – they didn't matter. There were voices, but they said nothing. His head began to hurt. That mattered. Forcing himself out of the dream, Harry opened his eyes but couldn't focus clearly in the dim light. He looked down to see the vines of an Incarcerous curse wrapped around him. He could hear mumbling but couldn't make them out.
"Uhmblmum – Stayleblarmble."
The mumblings had a croaky tone to them. Croaky? Straining to look around he could make out patches of green skin and skinny little arms. Kreacher. He was tied back to back with Kreacher. They must have gagged the house-elf before they were tied up. His wand was resting along side the far wall, where it was no doubt kicked.
"Uh Umm mmm."
They had been moved to the corner of the room. Plaid pants and Canvas apron were cleaning the contents of a large crate. The two men would occasionally look their way, then go back to work with a snicker of a laugh. He couldn't be sure, but it looked like Kreacher and himself were the future contents of the crate the two men were cleaning out. Looking around the room, there was a tall grey figure in the corner from where Harry was ambushed. In a long grey coat and flop hat, the figure hung in the shadows seeming to peer under the brim of the flop hat.
"Get rid of the little Git," said the tall grey wizard to Plaid trousers.
Plaid trousers eased forward with his wand out, sporting a wicked grin.
"No need for for that," said Canvas apron slapping the oily black pry-bar against the palm of his hand.
Moments after the words came out of his mouth, a loud drum-like sound like a hammer hitting a sheet of metal reverberated through the room. Plaid trousers and Canvas apron was thrown backwards and fell to the floor unconscious. The tall grey wizard simply vanished in a cloud of black smoke.
"Harry... you alright?"
Harry looked up to see Dedalus Diggle standing over him. Dedalus always did have a stunning jinx that hit like a sledgehammer. Dedalus had peeped in the doorway to see the two men standing over Harry and heard their last remark. Dedalus helped Harry to his feet.
"It's a good thing you came along," Harry said as he reached down to pick up his wand and immediately felt light headed.
"I saw you duck into Knockturn Alley as I was coming out of Gringotts. Then I caught you coming out of Borgin and Burkes a little later. Almost missed you after that last corner. Here... you left this on the table," Dedalus handed Harry the envelope with the tunneling charms.
"Thanks Dedalus. I got to be more careful," Harry said sheepishly as he put the envelope in his pocket.
"Harry, what are you doing in this place?" Dedalus asked.
"Oh I almost forgot... Looking for Kreacher," he exclaimed.
Harry shook the cobwebs out and struggled to free himself from the vines of the binding spell.
He made his way to wall where his wand lay in the floor. Kreacher was still wrapped in a canvas bag. His large bulging eyes were looking desperately toward Harry as he sat there motionless wrapped with binding and gagging spells.
"Finite Incantatem." Harry used a reversing charm to free the binding spells.
Slowly Kreacher wiggled free of the canvas bag as Harry helped him up. Kreacher rubbed his arms and legs as if the spell had cut off the circulation. Kreacher ran to the corner and came back with a box holding a vase with long strips of packing material hanging over the edge.
"Kreacher found a crystal vase that belonged to Madam Black. They wanted Kreacher to pay for it," Kreacher said as he grabbed up a box with the vase.
"Kreacher has found a rug sir... It's here somewhere."
"What happened here Kreacher?" Harry asked, still puzzled by all this.
"Kreacher found the rug Master, and all was well until Kreacher asked questions about the vase. After that the men got angry and hit Kreacher with the binding spells, and carried us down here," Kreacher explained.
"Kreacher you must be careful in Knockturn Alley – you're lucky we stumbled along," Harry said with a look of embarrassment on his face.
"Kreacher has caused much trouble today sir."
"Don't worry about it Kreacher," Harry added sympathetically.
Harry found the rug and helped Kreacher with the vase. Dedalus was in the larger storage room watching over the men who were still nearly senseless from the stunning spells. Harry walked over to Plaid trousers who was struggling to regain his senses.
"Hello... you hear me?" Harry asked the wizard with no response.
A jet of water shot from Harry's wand and hit the man in the face. Shaking the water from his face, the man was coming around.
"What you want," he demanded.
"I want to know what's going on here," Harry said.
"Nothings going on here," he answered.
"What were you going to do with the elf... and me?" Harry asked.
"The little Git was calling us a bunch of thieves... All this merchandise was come by fair and square. We thought you were in here to do the same – we're not thieves I tell you," he said with as much sincerity as he could muster.
Dedalus raised his wand at Canvas apron who was also beginning to come around.
"Stay where you are," Dedalus barked.
"The vase was the property of the Black household where Kreacher has worked for many years. There's no mistaking the item," Harry said with a tone of warning.
"Look – we've bought some merchandise from Mundungas Fletcher. The man is a little Dodgy. We can't be responsible for all that. This is just a misunderstanding. We had no harmful intentions," the man pleaded.
"Look – take the vase and the rug – it's on us – no charge. Just let us get back to work here," he added.
Harry thought about the offer. He knew he shouldn't take it, but it might be best to just go along with them, and report the action to the ministry later. Harry paused to reflect what was said. Raising a finger to his ear, he began to nod.
"Alright have it your way. Kreacher, get the vase – let's go." Harry glanced at Kreacher while he picked up the rug. The rug was bound with something firm like a wooden dowel in the middle.
"Watch em Dedalus," Harry said as looked over his shoulder walking toward the to door. Moments later all three were out and walking up toward the exit of Knockturn Alley. The smell was finally beginning to fade as they got out of the alley and were closing in on the Leaky Cauldron.
"What do you think they're up to back there?" Harry asked Dedalus.
"It's more than likely a front for nicked goods Harry. You ought to turn them in," he added.
"Yeah, your right. I'll mention it to Arthur Weasley," Harry said as they were almost back up to the back yard of the Leaky Cauldron.
"Harry, how about another one for the road. It's on me!" Dedalus said smiling.
"Thanks Dedalus. It's been a big day and I don't think I can handle the evening crowd tonight!" he said smiling.
"Goodnight Dedalus... OH and thanks loads!"
Dedalus waived back as he tapped the bricks to get back into the Leaky Cauldron. Harry took Kreacher's hand and concentrated on the garden in front of 12 Grimmauld Place. With a small zapping sound they were off and spinning through a rubber hose on their way home.