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The afternoon sun beat down on Hugo's tanned skin, burning his face and neck and making him too hot to the touch. He pulled at his collar as he stepped into the hotel's lobby and made his way to the front desk. Even after nine months, he still wasn't as used to actually living and working in Miami as he thought he would be by now, previously only coming on holiday, and it was so hot; all he wanted was to get changed and jump in the pool.
Opening up another shirt button and embracing the air conditioning, delightful shivers running down his spine and tickling his skin like caressed fingers, Hugo leant across the desk and waited patiently for the receptionist to turn around and acknowledge him. She made her way back to the front and jumped at the sight him. It took all he could not to burst into laughter, seeing her warm, brown eyes widen in shock and her mouth hang open, then frown, her eyes narrowed as she slapped his arm.
"God, Matt, you scared the hell out of me," she said, trying not to shout, but her voice was still slightly higher than her usual. She couldn't keep a straight face for much longer as she watched small beads of sweat drip from his hair and forehead down his red cheeks and chin. Giggling a little, she picked up a spare towel from behind the desk and threw it at him. "Here."
"Thank you," Hugo said gratefully, opening it up and wiping his face. She followed him as he circled the desk to get to the elevator, knowing exactly what his question would be. "So, Jess, summer is here, anyone new? Anyone in my league at all?"
Jess laughed again, her lips curving into a soft smirk, and she nodded to the other double glass doors, the doors which led to the pool and outdoor bar. She beckoned Hugo over with a finger and they leaned in closely to whisper. "New guy checked in last night and went straight to his room. Today he checked the hotel out, had lunch and a few drinks in our restaurant, and then went outside to the pool." Jess nodded to the door again. "He's still out there. And he is gorgeous; dark hair, darker than yours, bright green eyes, muscular build but not overly so, and I swear his smile is hypnotic." She sighed, not sure whether her thoughts of him should be content or disappointed. "I really hope he's not in your league."
Hugo tried to figure out where he was the last time someone was described to him that way; all he remembered was talk of a man whose smile made them do crazy things. "What's this guy's name?"
"It's so unusual, but I think it suits him," she giggled again. Hugo rolled his eyes; he just didn't understand her thing for names in a guy, like that was the thing to look for. In Jess’ case the more unusual the name, the better chance the guy had of spending the night. But his was the eyes, always would be. There were no secrets in a person’s eyes; they couldn’t hide anything from Hugo. And that was how he liked it.
Her gaze left him for a second when she heard the door open and she stood up straight. "There he is," Jess whispered, trying hard not to stare and point.
Hugo turned slowly, caught his eye and turned back quickly. "Holy shit," he muttered, covering the right side of his face with his hand.
"Hey, Skander," Jess called out, waving him over, and in that moment Hugo wished he'd just gone straight to his room, that he'd never asked about the man coming their way. He stopped at Hugo’s side, the man’s intoxicating aroma surrounding him, clouding his judgement. He hated that cologne.
"Good afternoon, Jess," he said, smiling at her, his eyes never leaving her face as he leaned against the desk. "It’s lovely to see you again."
Hugo could've sworn he heard the girl squeak. Damn he hated that smile, too, and what that one simple gesture could do to a woman. Or a man, he silently admitted. "Skander, I want you to meet my friend, Matthew Granger. He lives here in the hotel." She pointed to Hugo. "Matty, this is Skander Dolohov."
Hugo dropped his head to the counter briefly before faking a wide grin and holding out his hand, facing him properly. "It’s nice to meet you, first time in Miami?"
Skander took hand. "First time in America actually, but you already know that." Hugo pretended to look confused. "Oh, don't be like that, Matty, acting like we don't know each other."
Hugo squeezed their still joined hands together tightly, until Dolohov grimaced and pulled back from his grip. Then he smirked, knowing he'd got to Hugo in such a short time. "You two have met before?" Jess asked.
"Went to school together," Skander answered her before Hugo got a chance to deny anything, leaving him the only option of nodding in agreement. What the hell is he planning? What's he going to say about me?
"Were you close?" she asked, this time awkwardly. "I sense tension."
This time Hugo got the first word in. "He's my ex."
Hugo contained his glee, watching her look visibly disappointed by his confirmation that her new guy was definitely in Hugo's league. He chose not to tell her that she probably still had some sort of a chance, if the man was still in denial. He knew it was all down to jealousy, he'd never hated Jess for any reason. But Skander Dolohov had been his in Hogwarts and, despite the time apart, he still rather liked the idea of being the only person to have been able to get to the supposedly unattainable and unbreakable man at his side. Hugo had no doubt that there was still no one else who had been able to do what he had done; Dolohov would never let them.
He wanted to keep it that way.
Hugo ignored the glare sent his way, said good bye to Jess and walked away to the elevator. He wanted to shower and change before he went out to dinner. He tried not to think about what Skander may or may not say while he was gone. "Welcome to Miami, Lover," he called out on his way.
Hugo stepped into the lift not being able to help feeling smug, despite his anxiety; he'd got the last word in, too.
A/N: New story for a new challenge. And my favorite kind of crime/auror mystery; the confusing kind. They're certainly more interesting. ;)
I hope you enjoy this new story, in a brand new setting, with my all time favorite character; Hugo Weasley. :D
Edited. Thank you AC for reviewing this for her challenge and helping me improve. I hope it's better now.
Hugo was well aware that he was slightly better dressed for his dinner-for-one than he was every other day; his black, silk shirt and denim jeans were brand new and very expensive, the best he owned that he could still pass off as casual. He also knew exactly why he'd chosen the outfit; to get to Dolohov. He wanted the man to react the way he once did when he was around Hugo. In public, Dolohov had been cold and indifferent, but alone he'd been possessive and demanding, seductive and undeniably hot. It was as if Dolohov had been two different people in Hogwarts; the boy he revealed to the world and the man Hugo made him in private.
It was all Hugo, the way Dolohov had been around him was because Hugo knew how to push his buttons. And he'd do so again; he wanted to distract him, unhinge him even, enough to get deep into that dark, mysterious mind of his and figure out what he wanted, why he was in Miami. Then he'd use it, until Dolohov was completely defenseless. Hugo would ruin him, just as he did the last time.
Only this time, he wouldn't be damaged in the process.
He could admit that Dolohov had an effect on him, made him cautious, made him wonder if knowing everything, knowing anything, was really worth it. His feelings for Dolohov had run deeper than casual sex by the end of school. But those feelings were gone, and he wouldn't let that happen again.
Dolohov was in Miami for a reason, he hadn't told anyone about Hugo or even used his real name. Yes, finding out why would be worth getting closer to the man again, considering he was the only one who knew the rules this time around.
Piece of cake, Hugo thought, smiling to himself as he finished styling his hair in his mirror. Finally looking good enough to get to dinner, he made his way out of the hotel room, making sure to grab his card key and wallet before he shut the door. He looked good, Hugo knew that, but so did Dolohov; it would take a lot more than simply looking good to get Dolohov distracted. He wanted the look to be his best.
He wasn't alone in the elevator. He managed to keep his face passive every time he caught the young woman watching his reflection. They kept eye contact in the mirror for a moment whenever he looked up and then she'd look down, her cheeks heated. She was at least twenty, he guessed, and he could agree with any other guy that she was beautiful with blond hair cut at her shoulders and long, tanned legs revealed by the denim short shorts. Hugo didn't have the heart to tell her she wasn't his type, or reject her number before she got off on the fourth floor. The guy who showed an interest after her, now he was another matter...
Hugo followed a few steps behind and paused at the front desk, watching him leave the hotel, before he turned into the restaurant. The maitre 'd informed him that his table would be ready shortly and Hugo told him he'd be in his usual seat at the bar until then, then walked through, keeping an eye out for Dolohov. He found him at alone at a table close to the bar, sat back in his chair, seemingly perfectly at ease in surroundings. Hugo had to remind himself that the man was a good actor. In his hand was a half drunk pint glass, a full one across from him. He knew that drink was for him, there was no way Dolohov knew anyone here and he hadn't been in the city long enough to have met someone else. Not that Hugo would expect that from Skander Dolohov; he was not a people person.
Hugo walked with the intention of moving past, even pretending he hadn't seen him, because he refused to let Dolohov make the first move. But Dolohov was quicker than he remembered and he kicked the chair out, hitting Hugo in the shin hard. He groaned in pain and bent down to rub the spot he'd been hit, his narrowed eyes focused on Dolohov.
"Hello, Matthew," he said, the forceful tone in which he'd said the name removing any pretense of being pleasant. He nodded to the chair, telling him to sit without actually opening his mouth. Hugo started to walk away. Dolohov caught his arm and gripped him tightly. "That wasn't a request, Hugo."
He whispered his real name, his tone just as forceful as before. There was a threat clearly hidden in there, Hugo could tell; Dolohov would have no problem telling people his real name. That just wouldn't do. So, he sat. And he waited. And Dolohov watched, calmly drinking his beer.
Hugo quickly realized that he could have the most perfect plan of getting to and destroying Skander Dolohov written out, but in reality his ex would always have the upper hand. He had his name, his past and his family, and just whispering those to one person could ruin everything he had in the city. He'd have to leave again, before they found him. Dolohov knew this, he had to. He hadn't been surprised when they'd been introduced, he'd loved seeing Hugo's discomfort. It was all Hugo had needed to know the man had a reason for being in Miami, for coming back into his life.
He was more determined than ever to find out what that reason was, to stop it before it could start and ultimately ruin the man before him.
So, he played along.
"I can't believe you're really here," Hugo said softly, leaning closer, a playful, almost flirty, smile on his face. It wasn't enough, he knew. Like with looking good, Dolohov already knew Hugo would do this, but it was a start.
He was right; Dolohov shook his head and chuckled - Hugo couldn't remember if he'd ever heard the man chuckle before - and leaned forward as well, so they both had their arms folded on the table and were staring right at each other. "Try again," he smirked.
"I genuinely mean it," Hugo answered. "The smile may be fake, but I honestly can't believe you're here. Why are you here?"
"I'm on holiday," Dolohov said immediately. "I thought I'd get away from my family for a while. You know I can't stand them. I can barely even stand my sister and she's the only one I actually like."
"I remember." Hugo moved back briefly, just to take a sip of his drink. "Do you really expect me to believe that you being here, at the exact same hotel as me, is purely a coincidence? I find it hard to believe."
"I admit, I did wonder where you'd be. It's been so long since you were last heard of in the UK. Even your family are worried." Dolohov kept that same relaxed smile; he didn't care about Hugo's family or how they were. No, he just wanted to get a reaction out of him. Hugo didn't give him one, he didn't even flinch. Except for a few members of his family, whom he kept in contact with secretly, he didn't care either. He was surprised to see Dolohov's smile widen further when he realized that. "I thought about you for a while, I knew I could find you if I tried."
"You thought about me?" Hugo asked skeptically, his eye-brows raised.
Dolohov moved even closer. "Maybe I missed you," he whispered. "Do you remember how much fun we used to have at school?"
"Hard to forget," Hugo answered, hating his honesty. He was thankful when the maitre 'd came over to them then and announced that his table was ready. Hugo stood up, taking his beer with him. Since Dolohov was so thoughtful and got me one. "Enjoy your holiday, maybe I'll see you around."
"Definitely," Dolohov nodded.
"Thanks for the drink, Sky," he bent down to murmur in his ear, deliberately using the nickname he'd given him when they were together because he'd hated it.
Dolohov didn't blink. "You're welcome, Huey."
Hugo pretended not to be phased when he walked to his table, but that nickname was the last straw. Dolohov would not keep his upper hand.
I'll break him.
Skander moved to the bar not long after Hugo went to his table, having a better view of the ex only a few knew he had, and was still there when Hugo left the restaurant. He drank his drinks slowly, not wanting to get drunk just in case, and had almost finished his fourth beer when the night receptionist, a middle-aged man with a uniform that looked a size too small and wearing what was obviously a toupee, came over to tell him he had a phone call.
Right on time, he thought somewhat bitterly and left a nice tip on the bar before following the guy to the front desk. He took the phone from the man and looked at it hesitantly for a second before he put it to his ear, like he'd seen the day receptionist, Jess, do. "This is Skander Dolohov."
"What's going on?" the voice in the other line asked quickly.
"Well, I'm talking to you," Skander said sarcastically. He ignored the voice swear. "Nothing's going on, I just got here. He hasn't magically robbed a bank in the twenty four hours since I got here." He stopped suddenly and made sure no one could overhear him, then he continued. "He owns his own store, selling antiques, he's doing surprisingly well. He was there from nine till three, then he had a late business lunch; he's also paid to find things for people, did you know that? Then he came back, swam in the pool, had a few drinks, got changed, had dinner and went back to his room."
The voice cursed again, but thankfully not at Skander. He didn't think he could manage being so polite a second time and he needed to stay in the man's good graces. The second noise the voice made was an annoyed sigh; he didn't know whether he should be glad or disappointed, Skander knew. He wanted to be glad because he didn't want the reports to be true, but he was disappointed because they all knew the reports were true and for that, no results didn't mean 'he's innocent, come home, everything's okay'. To the ministry, it meant 'he's too clever, wait for him to slip'. If he continued to best the Aurors, they wouldn't be going home for a while.
Still, Skander had to ask. "Mr. Potter, are you sure Hugo is the one you're looking for?"
"You know he is, Dolohov," Potter sighed again. "We don't want to believe either, but we can't deny it anymore." For a second, Potter wasn't in 'work mode', he was a worried, uncle scared for his youngest nephew. But it disappeared quickly. "You're here because Albus and Louis said you knew Hugo better than anyone. Even though I find that hard to believe, I trust what they say. We want to bring Hugo in quickly and quietly. Don't screw this up, Dolohov."
"Yes, sir," Skander said, only slightly mocking, which he was proud of himself for. Potter ignored it and hung up, probably to give Ron Weasley and the rest of the small team of Aurors they'd brought for this assignment the lack of news he had to offer.
Skander dropped the phone onto the receiver and ran his hands over his eyes and through his hair, content to just stand there for a moment while he wondered what the hell he'd gotten himself into. He was a freelance private investigator because his family had somehow gotten it into his head that because of their mistakes he couldn't be an Auror. But at the age of twenty-four he'd decided to try anyway. His family had been right onsome level, his last name was like a black spot on his otherwise spotless record - more or less - and they didn't trust him, but they'd been willing to give him a chance with Hugo's case when Potter Junior and Blond Weasley had said he was their best chance. He just had to prove that, then his real life experience, both with this case and his PI cases, would allow him to work while he trained properly.
He had no idea it would be this difficult. Because that's exactly how it was and he'd forgotten just how difficult Hugo Weasley could be. He was sure the man already knew something was up and he had to act quickly if he wanted to keep Hugo from finding out. He was undercover and a damn good actor; I can do this.
But if the reports were right and it was definitely Hugo they were looking for, then Hugo was a better actor than he'd ever given the man credit for.
Who'd have thought Hugo was the Ministry's most wanted con-artist and thief.
A/N: Finally a chapter two to post and share with anyone still reading this. I hope you enjoy this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
A few days passed before Hugo spent more than five minutes with Skander Dolohov again, having made sure he'd kept as far away from the man as he could until he knew of his intentions. And he hadn't figured them out yet, so to say that he wasn't pleased to see his tormentor walking towards him would be an understatement.
He couldn't help but watch, though, unable to take his eyes away from Dolohov's toned abs and strong arms, half concealed through the open, sleeveless jacket. He'd made some changes since school; he was far from buff, Dolohov wouldn't even dream of putting his body through that, but he had definitely worked hard to look as good as he was. He'd worked out since his late teens, keeping fit for Quidditch; he'd been good looking then, but now?
Hugo's usually quick, brilliant mind came to a sudden stop. He couldn't remember the last time that had ever happened.
He managed to tear himself away from the man when he felt eyes burn into his back. Turning around hesitantly, though he wasn't sure if his hesitance was because he didn't want Dolohov surprising him or because he just didn't want to look away, Hugo scanned the hotel's overly large poolside for his own watcher.
...And found the guy from the elevator.
He wasn't as good looking as Dolohov, Hugo was regrettably quick to notice; his features were too sharp and he looked like he lived in a gym. The man was nice, Hugo deduced, but not his type. The smile he was receiving promised one good night and it was a night he could accept, because he knew it would drive Dolohov crazy. It wasn't exactly using the guy if he wanted Hugo for a night, too. Then again, Hugo didn't care either way.
Dolohov reached him first.
"Good morning, Matty," he said cheerfully, stretching his towel out on the plastic blue padding that covered the sun lounger and lying on top. He straddled the lounger, carelessly throwing a leg over each side, and kicked off his shoes. He stayed in that position, folding an arm behind his head to use as a pillow while his other fixed his black sunglasses. He turned to Hugo then, a cheeky, I-want-something smirk on his beautifully deceptive face, and Hugo hated him. He couldn't see the man's eyes, couldn't tell truth from lie with those damn glasses.
Which was most likely why the man was wearing them.
Hugo didn't return the greeting. He pointed to the sun lounger Dolohov had claimed. "That lounger's taken."
"Really?" Dolohov asked, feigning surprise. Given how much Hugo had been avoiding him for, he knew Dolohov had been expecting excuses to get rid of him. He shrugged. "Well, it's mine now. Who's the guy?"
Hugo followed Dolohov's gaze, quickly spotting Elevator Guy walking their way, only this time he looked slightly confused and focused on the unwelcome man by Hugo's side a number of times. Hugo couldn't help the barest of smiles that came about when he realized that potentially being with someone was in no way stopping Elevator Guy from coming over.
"I guess we'll find out," Hugo answered his question softly, too focused on his new 'friend' to see Dolohov's mood change.
Elevator Guy finally stopped in front of them, trying to lean casually against the umbrella that stood between the two sun loungers to shade the three men from Miami's harsh sun. But he was too heavy, too much muscle was pressed against the pole, and he pushed it sideways lightly before catching it and standing up straight.
"Hey," he murmured, a slightly husky tone to his Midwestern accent, and smiled cheekily. It didn't get to Hugo like Dolohov's did, but it did make him look more attractive and Hugo smiled back.
"Hey," he replied, holding out a hand. "I'm Matthew."
"Carter," Elevator Guy said, returning the handshake. "It's nice to finally have a name to go with a face."
Carter's grin only widened when Hugo answered him, acknowledging the flirtatious edge to his voice. He reluctantly turned to Dolohov. "And your... friend?"
Dolohov sat up straight and moved closer, his smile returning by the time Hugo faced him. "I'm Skander, Matthew's boyfriend."
"Ex-boyfriend," he corrected quickly, ignoring how Dolohov stressed his name, the clear warning that said he could tell everyone the truth in a moments notice evident, and the hand that slowly stroked his lower back. "We have nothing to do with each other anymore."
"Clearly," Carter said, looking unsure.
Hugo discreetly pushed Dolohov's hand away and stood up, stopping right in front of the other man. He made sure they were visible, that Dolohov could see his finger graze Carter's chest and play with the hem of his swim shorts.
"He's just here to visit the city, came over to say hi for old times sake," Hugo murmured, enough promise in his tone to reassure the man. "But I want to talk to you."
Carter's smile quickly returned and in his eyes, Dolohov was all but forgotten. "I'm glad. Why don't I get us some drinks?"
"I'd like that."
Hugo watched him walk away, in the direction Dolohov had come over, and turned his smirk on the thorn in his side. "You can go now."
"But I'm having so much fun, meeting new people," Dolohov argued. "You can't send me away now, Hugo."
"No," he agreed. "But I can call security, tell them you're harassing me. I've gotten to know the staff pretty well while I've been here."
He expected Dolohov to drop his smile, maybe glare or even yell. But he didn't. Instead he glanced at Carter, stupid smile still there, and put his shoes back on before rising to his feet. "Two can play at this game, baby."
"Where are you going?" Hugo called to his retreating back. "Dolhov, don't you -"
He didn't finish his sentence; the words died in his throat the moment Dolohov stood next to Carter. He leaned in too close, Hugo was unable to see what they were doing, but judging from the way Carter followed him so easily, he could guess what had been said. The barriers fell and anger flooded through his veins; Dolohov would not get away with stealing his man. He had to get Dolohov back, make him pay. He had to find out what the man wanted.
He had to make a call.
Hugo stayed by the pool for most of the day, knowing it was foolish to hope Carter would be back any minute but doing so anyway, until the clock on his iPhone told him it was five o'clock exactly and it was time for him to make his call. He picked up his belongings, leaving his empty wrappers from lunch and his beer bottles on the table, as well as Dolohov's towel. Maybe the staff would throw it away along with his rubbish.
Jess was just moving behind the front desk when he entered the hotel, her blouse untucked slightly and her work jacket off. She looked up as though knowing she was being watched and smiled, using one hand to wave and the other to push her wavy brown hair back.
"I need a favor," he said softly the moment he reached the desk. Jess nodded and leaned closer to him. "I need you to tell Max I'm coming to see him."
Jess' eyebrows raised in surprise and she pushed back a little, ready to grab the phone. Max was head of security at the hotel, he would be in his office watching the security monitors right now; Jess had a feeling she knew who Hugo was looking for her, he could tell.
"What's Skander done?" she asked, sighing as she dialed the number.
"That's what I want to know," Hugo muttered, turning to walk away. They shared a look and he went into the elevator. He was jumpy all the way up to his room, anxious to get his answers as soon as he was able. Hugo fumbled with his card key for a moment before opening the door to his room, rushed his shower and threw on the first things he found - an old pair of loose-fitting jeans and a light, white shirt. He kept the buttons open, knowing that that and the air conditioning would keep him cool, grabbed his wallet and made his way back downstairs.
Another nod from Jess told him that Max was waiting for him in his office. He took out his phone; it was almost twenty past five now, twenty past ten back in London - they'd be at home right now.
He found the number easily and called it. It answered on the second ring.
"Hey, cuz. Miss us?" the voice said jokingly.
"Every damn day," Hugo replied, playing along. "I take it you're alone, Louis."
"We are." Hugo knew than that Albus was with Louis, just like he'd guessed. "What's up?"
He pushed open the door to the staff area and followed the hall to Max's office. The staff rooms were basic compared to the rest of the hotel; plain white paint covered the walls and the mixed smells of cleaning supplies from the maids' carts seemed to fill the hall. It burned Hugo's nose and he wished he could hold his breath.
He got straight to the point. "Why is Skander Dolohov here in Miami?"
He hoped Louis wouldn't know, that he'd promise to find out and call him back, because if he cousin had known then surely he'd have called to warn him. But he didn't make that promise; he was silent for a while, so silent that Hugo was sure that if he paid close attention, he'd hear his cousin's heart beat madly in his chest. Hugo had caught him off-guard.
"Ah," he eventually answered.
"Ah?" Hugo growled. "You knew he was here and all you can say is 'ah'? What the fuck, Louis?"
He frowned when he heard mutters and the sound of something banging. Then Albus' voice was heard. "He's working for our dads."
Hugo stopped at the door, his hand frozen against the wood, and played Albus' words over and over in his mind until he was sure they were going to drive him crazy. "He's what?"
"Working for our dads," Albus repeated calmly, as though he was talking about the weather.
"No," he muttered, more to himself than to his cousins. "He can't be. He's not an Auror and no way would they hire him, no matter how good a private investigator he is. They hate Dolohov and his family."
"Well," Albus paused. "No, I'll give you back to Louis. I don't work for the Ministry, he knows more than I do."
Hugo used the time they took to take back phones and finish whatever it was they were doing to enter the office. Max was watching the door, waiting for him. He was an older man, mid forties, and a tired look in his eyes that told people he'd seen too much as a detective. But he didn't let it get to him; he had a relaxed, easy-going smile unless you really pissed him off, which Hugo never did, and had grown fond of Hugo, or Matthew, was always ready to help him out. Even though he pretended he wasn't.
"Hey, Matt," he greeted with the same relaxed smile. "Jess said you want to see me."
"I do," Hugo nodded, moving his phone away from his ear a little, so his cousins would know he wasn't speaking to them if they heard him. "Mostly because I need to look at your cameras."
"I don't know, Matt," Max replied nervously. "What do you need them for?"
"Come on, Maxxie, I'll make it worth your while," he said with a smile of his own, crouching down so that they were near enough face-to-face and waving a hundred dollar bill in his hand. But Max didn't budge, he wouldn't be bribed and Hugo knew he had to tell him the truth. Mostly. He sighed, "There's a guy here, my ex. I haven't seen him in years, then all of a sudden he finds me and talks about wanting me back. I just want to know where he is now, so I can avoid him, and maybe see if the cameras picked up something that'll tell me why he's here. Because it can't be for me. Please, Max."
They stared each other down for a few minutes, a questioning look in Max's eye, a pleading one from Hugo, until he stood up. "Put the money away, kid. I'm getting a drink, be done when I get back."
As soon as the man was gone, Hugo fell into the now vacant seat and pressed his phone to his ear again. "Still there?" he asked, going through the videos in case Dolohov had decided to leave his room.
"I'm here. Nice story, by the way," Louis added. Hugo wondered if he was smirking. "You play the part of nervous ex very well. I almost believed it."
"I am nervous, Louis, Albus told me he's working for our dads," Hugo reminded him unhappily. "Who knows how long I have before they try to get me and I have to run? There you are."
"Hmm?" he heard his cousin mumble.
"I found Dolohov in one of the cameras," he explained distractedly. "He's on one of the customer phones. If he's working for the Aurors, he must be talking to my dad or Harry. He doesn't know anyone else. Why is he here and how did he know I was here?"
"The first question I can answer," Louis promised quickly. "They wouldn't let me be the one who came with them, it had to be undercover, so you wouldn't suspect the Aurors were watching. So, I told them to get Dolohov because he knew you better than anyone and because of who he is and the history there, you wouldn't suspect he was working with them.
"What I didn't tell them," he continued. "Was that you wouldn't trust him at all or how he knew you so well. Nor did I tell them that you would probably call me. I also didn't tell them that you could break him, so even if you didn't call me, you'd get your answers eventually. I think that Dolohov cares about you more than he let's on; I figured he'd tell you before you got caught. Either that or he'd get sick of the Aurors soon enough and let you go to spite them. He doesn't have a lot of patience and he doesn't like Harry and Ron."
"Then why agree to this to begin with?" Hugo asked, still watching Dolohov on the monitor. The answer came to him quickly. "Because he's always wanted to be an Auror. He's trying to prove himself. It's whether he really can that's the problem."
"Yep," Louis agreed. "They want him to get to you, to get the evidence they need to bring you back to England and lock you up. You made a bit of a mess back here with that guy, not like you to make a mess; our family can't pretend you aren't a criminal anymore."
"Shit," he muttered, remembering his mistakes, the reason he'd run from home in the first place. "Why can't you answer the second question?"
"Because I don't know," Louis replied regretfully. "I got Dolohov like Harry asked and they asked him how he could help and if they could trust him. He didn't answer them, but as soon as they turned around, saying it was a waste of time, he dropped the bombshell. He gave them information no one's been able to retrieve - he said 'Hugo's in Miami'. It shocked us all. I have no clue how he knew."
"Shit," he repeated. Dolohov was better than he'd thought, than he wanted the man to be really. But Louis was right about one thing; Hugo could break him. Now he had more of a reason to. He watched Dolohov hang up the phone and walk away from the camera. Another showed him getting into the elevator. Hugo rubbed his eyes and pushed his fringe back. "Don't worry, Lou. I know what to do. I would have appreciated a heads up, though."
"Couldn't do that," was all he said.
"Why?" Hugo asked tiredly.
"Because we're being watched, too. Just in case. You're lucky we can talk now," Albus told him, back on the phone. The number of swear words that left Hugo's lips surprised even them. "Hey, Hugh," Al said once he'd calmed. "How's that pretty receptionist? Jess?"
Hugo rolled his eyes, even though his cousin couldn't see. "She's just dying to see you, Al. I'm hanging up now, I have a man to destroy. Bye guys."
A quick good bye from them both and Hugo hung up, getting to his feet the moment the door opened. "Get anything useful, kid?" Max asked.
Hugo nodded and patted the man's shoulder. "Oh, yeah. He was right; he's definitely here for me."
"What will you do?"
Hugo paused to think, his mind already working, and he had the beginnings of a plan within moments. He smiled, "I'll give him what he wants."
Jess jumped the moment she turned around, not expecting Hugo to be standing back on the other side of the desk. "Jesus, Matty. Will you stop doing that?"
"I need Dolohov's room number," he said, not giving her the apology she'd long given up wanting from him every time he did something. "It's life or death."
"Meaning?" she asked nervously.
"Meaning he'll live another hour if I have to go looking," Hugo whispered, smirking. A little louder, he continued, "I need to talk to him about why he's here."
"You figured it out then?"
Hugo nodded, telling her the same thing he'd told Max. It was the most honest thing he'd told anyone while in the city, even if the reason for it was wrong. "He wants me back, in England."
"Oh," Jess said quietly. She went to the computer and discreetly checked the guest accommodations, knowing it wasn't really information she was allowed to give out. "Room 1013."
"Thanks, Jess," he said sincerely. And to make up for scaring her, he added, "Albus asked about you, by the way."
It made her grin, just like he'd wanted her to, and he left her to think about it. Or rather him.
Skander leant against the window, his arms folded stiffly across his chest, and he watched. His view was of the back of the hotel; the pool was on the right, people were still sunbathing on the loungers and cooling off in the pool, and the bar was on the left. People were already starting their Friday night drinking.
Skander watched them and waited and never once saw Hugo, he hadn't since five o'clock when Hugo had left the poolside.
It was only a matter of time before his anger over stealing Carter away tipped Hugo over the edge and he found his room. He and the receptionist seemed close, he'd get the room number easily enough.
It was the forceful knocking on the door that forced Skander away from the window, not Carter's pointless drivel about the television and the constant questions about what he was planning with Hugo. He'd welcomed leaving the room to call Harry Potter about his nephew's lack of criminal activity.
"That him?" Carter asked, looking disappointed. Skander knew it was because he knew if he had stayed with Hugo, he'd have had sex, not stuck in a hotel room doing nothing. He wished he'd stayed, but Skander had all but threatened him to stay away from Hugo, telling the man that he was with 'Matthew'.
Skander threw him his shirt. "You know what to do."
Nodding dejectedly, Carter got up and opened the door before throwing his top back on. From his place at the window, he could see Hugo's jaw tighten, his eyes narrow, and he stepped back for Carter to pass, saying nothing.
Hugo slammed the door shut, his eyes locked with Skander's; he'd never seen the man so angry and he'd seen him with his family. That was when Skander knew that something else was going on; Hugo wouldn't be this mad over a guy.
"So, how was he?" he asked mockingly.
"For me to know," Skander played along, his smile playful and teasing. He moved away from the window to stand in front of Hugo. "He's a fitness instructor, a little clue for you. He's from the windy city. Did you know that? He came here all the way from Chicago to have a little fun."
"Why are you here?" he said, choosing to ignore Skander's dig. He spoke slowly, his voice low. "No bullshit, Sky."
"I already told you," Skander replied loudly, trying hard not to yell. Because he wasn't angry with the man, not in the same way Hugo obviously was. He just wanted him to listen, even though some of his words were half truths and some were outright lies. "I came here for you, I found you because want you back."
"You really expect me to believe that?" Hugo cried incredulously. "You haven't spoken to me in years and another guy just left your room! You don't want me, so why are you here?"
Skander's only answer was one Hugo honestly hadn't been expecting; he put everything he had into the kiss, dominating Hugo so thoroughly that he left them both breathless, yet demanded more. He pushed the youngest Weasley up against the wall, holding him tight to make sure there was no room for Hugo to move away.
"I never slept with him," Skander muttered when he pulled away, more to do with embarrassment over admitting such a thing than breathlessness, but it was the most honest he'd been since setting foot in Miami and if it helped him get closer to Hugo, he'd take it. "I just wanted to make you jealous. I just wanted you to see that I'm here for you. I was an idiot in school and I regret how we ended. You have no idea how much."
He pushed his hands through Hugo's hair, curling the soft, brown locks around his fingers. "We were amazing together, we can be again. Take me back, Hugh. Please."
Maybe it was the pleading tone Skander had perfected and the use of the word 'please' that spurred him to continue with his plan now rather than make Skander sweat a little first, because Hugo pulled his former, now current, lover back to him, sharing a deeper kiss than before now that Hugo was kissing back. It was a silent agreement between them, a yes to Skander's plea, an unknown seal for what was to come.
Hugo definitely had a plan and he'd pretend to believe the man's lies to follow through with it. Skander Dolohov wouldn't know what hit him.
A/N: Yay, a new chapter. I hope you enjoy this chapter. It's fun writing my manipulative boys. :D
Please let me know what you think.
After Hugo had finally pushed Skander away from him, he'd sat on the edge of the man's bed with his head in his hands. Skander could no longer see his face, the concealed smile that promised a fun time crushing him for his real reasons for coming to America. It was barely there and only lasted a moment; by the time Skander reached him, pulled his hands away, the smile was gone. A contemplative stare took its place while Hugo waited for him to say the three words ready to roll off his tongue.
"Take me back."
"That'll depend on if you're still as good as they say," he murmured, pulling Skander to him and initiating a forceful kiss.
He let Skander push him backwards onto the bed before rolling over, pinning the rarely surprised Dolohov underneath him, and taking charge. Skander didn't protest, he only pressed himself harder against Hugo's chest.
Hugo didn't let them go all the way; he pushed away before things could actually happen and they lay side-by-side, breathless and wanting, but Hugo would make the man wait, have him close to snapping due to the anticipation. It would be worth it in the end.
"Still as domineering as ever, Hugo," Skander said quietly once he had gotten his breath back. He turned his head, then his entire body, so that he was lying on his side, and watched Hugo's chest rise and fall. "I've missed that."
"Well, you've known where I was," he pointed out a little harshly. "You could have come a long time ago."
"I didn't think you'd want me to," Skander admitted, wisely keeping his distance. "I stayed away until it became too hard. I had to see you."
He held his breath, waiting for Hugo's next move, and was thankful to note that Hugo, after turning on his side to face Skander properly, wasn't going to do anything else.
"How did you know I was here?" he asked softly and he didn't just mean Skander, but the Aurors as well. They shouldn't be in Miami. "I was so careful."
"I remember you talking about this place in school; you wanted to be able to live in a place where it was actually sunny when you went to the beach, you wanted to set up shop here, you said," Skander told him, remembering what he'd been told. And Hugo remembered it, too.
"So, a couple of months after you disappeared from England, I researched you; I took you literally and I found your shop," he finished with a shrug.
"And my name," Hugo added bitterly. "You weren't surprised when Jess introduced us."
Skander shook his head. "No. When I saw your name and business in the city you loved most, it struck me that law enforcement is either completely dense or your family are trying not to look for you, because they're the most obvious factors to look for and it makes you easy to find."
Hugo tried not to laugh at Skander's reasoning; was he coming up with another lie on the spot or was this his subconscious helping to cover his ass once he knew that Hugo knew everything? He didn't know. He was not easy to find; he'd made damn sure about that.
Except he hadn't; he'd forgotten how much he'd shared with the man by his side, back when they were together. It had been easier to just share them with Skander, he'd only have read them in Hugo's mind anyway. His damn ability made sure of that. That was probably the deciding factor for his father and uncle with letting Skander help... If they knew about it, that was.
"My family only know that I like being called Matthew, no one knows about Granger. It's too obvious and I'm smarter than that; they overlook it," Hugo replied with a grin. "Why would they look into real, honest jobs when I'm a criminal? I doubt people even click on that I was in university while doing what I did, or that I have a history degree. And you were the only person I ever told about Miami," he half lied. He'd told Albus and Louis, but not until he was already in the city. He'd been here two days and was at the beach with a drink when he'd finally called them. Lily didn't even know.
"I'm honored, thank you," Skander said, doubt just barely concealed on his face. He knew that he was closest with Al, Louis and probably Louis' brother Nick, too, Hugo knew that. But Skander also knew that Hugo liked to keep secrets from everyone, included his closest friends. Skander himself had been one such secret, apparently he deemed Miami to be another.
"So, what now?" he asked uncomfortably, changing the topic. They'd never been together in public before; it was strange even though they both had purposes for doing so.
"Now?" Hugo asked. Skander nodded.
Hugo smiled; what he had in mind would be perfect for his plan. He'd make the Aurors doubt while he broke Skander. He'd have them believing that Skander truly loved him again before the job was done, any evidence he gave them would be considered unreliable and unusable.
He'd be the best boyfriend they'd ever see.
"Now I show you Miami."
They met in the lobby fifteen minutes after Hugo gave his instructions, showered and changed, in smart yet still comfortable clothing since Skander was less used to the heat than Hugo was. The wind was cool and the sun was low, though not yet ready to set; in light pants and t-shirts, they were able to stay relatively cool in Florida's summer heat.
They turned right once out of the hotel, Hugo pointing in different directions, telling Skander where he could find things he knew the man would be interested in. The look of surprise on Skander's face told Hugo that he genuinely hadn't thought he'd remember any of his favorite things and Hugo wanted to laugh, scoff and wish it was true all at the same time - he wished he didn't remember this stuff. Hugo liked to blame it all on his eidetic memory, but he knew it was also because he'd cared for Skander once, fallen for him.
Well, not this time, he reminded himself assuredly.
"So, where are you taking me?" Skander asked curiously, glancing around the street they were in; it was filled with bars and restaurants. The hotel they were staying in was one of the most expensive, owned by a millionaire developer. It was his biggest and most successful in his chain; it made sense to be centered around places tourists would frequent. "If you really wanted to show me Miami, we'd be driving not walking."
"You know me so well," Hugo muttered, stopping at the end of the street. He pointed to the restaurant right across from them, a large, fancy looking place with seats inside and out, and nodded. "That's where we are going. I don't know about you, but I am hungry."
"I'm famished," he replied, following Hugo to the restaurant.
The waitress who met them smiled, recognizing Hugo immediately and greeting him like an old friend, and showed them to a table under the awning. She handed them menus and offered them drinks, said she'd be back with their beers when they ordered and left them alone. Skander finally felt like she was giving him back his air.
"She seems friendly," he said.
"Greta? She is," Hugo agreed. "I come here a lot. She's a model. Or she wants to be a model, I can't remember."
"Is that why we didn't have to wait? Because you come here a lot?"
Hugo shrugged. "Could be. Or it could be because I called them before we left and booked a table. I'm good, Sky, but I can't do the impossible. I still have to wait for things. Be patient." He gestured to the restaurant. "And book a table."
"If we were in Russia, all I'd have to do is snap my fingers," Skander countered with a smirk.
"That's because Dearest Daddy Dolohov distanced himself from his crazy ass uncle and made sure he couldn't be implicated in the war as he made his riches," Hugo scoffed. "He plans, your father. He's always three steps ahead of everyone else. I respect that."
"How many steps ahead of law enforcement are you?" Skander asked with grim smile.
I'm talking to law enforcement right now and I'm still about five steps ahead.
"I guess we'll see. But it's been nine months, so I'm not exactly waiting for them," Hugo answered with a grin, his eyes wide and bright with excitement, Skander was quick to note. Hugo pretended not to see the frown.
"Don't you think that's a little reckless?"
"You know me, Sky; I'm a live in the moment kind of guy," he said just as Greta came back to take their food orders.
By the end of the meal, dessert and all, Skander could see why Hugo came as often as he did; the food was delicious. He'd ordered the fish, but definitely had to come back to try something else. Skander tried to keep the conversation on business during their meal, asking questions about the antiques store and the private clients who pay him to collect things of historic value, but it only lasted ten minutes at most. He'd forgotten how good Hugo was at deflecting; he changed the subject so successfully that they'd been talking about a beach party for a good fifteen minutes before Skander caught on.
He said nothing, though. He still needed to know so much; the store itself was clean, he was sure, but he need to know about the private clients and Hugo's personal life, the hotel he'd chosen to stay in. Hugo Weasley was a conman, pure and simple, and everything he did was deliberate and planned to the last detail. He chose Miami for a reason, he chose the hotel for a reason and he was acknowledging Skander for a reason.
He was deflecting because he was suspicious. He knew something or he wanted to know something.
Be careful, Sky, he told himself.
And he knew how - the questions would stop, no matter what Potter and Weasley said. They could kick and scream for all he cared. He knew Hugo best and he'd do things his way. Hugo was suspicious, but once he'd asked his own questions, Skander was sure he could get Hugo to open up. Hugo would be telling him things himself soon enough. The Aurors just had to wait.
Hugo paid the bill, not letting Skander see the price; he just handed a credit card over.
"How can you afford this life?" Skander asked his last, but most innocent, question. He was dying to know. Because there had been no sign of criminal activity from him. Except for the name on the credit cards, even the money was legal.
"I have my sources," Hugo said mysteriously. "Come on."
They turned left rather than right to the hotel, meeting crowds of people ready to party. There were already lines into clubs, short compared to how it could get later, and music blending between the nearby clubs when the doors opened.
Hugo stopped outside the front of a popular one, Heat, shaking his head when Skander asked if they were going to wait in line. Instead, he took the man's hand and led him inside. Skander watched in amazement and fascination when the bouncer just let them past, before guessing that Hugo had probably known the owners and/or staff since he got here. Connections got you everywhere, Hugo used to say.
I bet he still does.
Hugo pushed past the dancers, one heated, sweaty body after the other, until they got to a door near the bar, almost hidden from view.
Well, they certainly got the name right.
It was only when they were through the door, up the stairs and Skander watched Hugo take a seat at the desk did he truly understand what was going on. He'd found one of Hugo's reasons for having money.
"You own this club." Hugo's grin was answer enough. Skander looked around the room, pretending to be interested in the pictures on the wall, then stopped at the large window which allowed them to look down at the club. "How did you get this? A club requires business stuff I don't even understand and money you didn't have. You were running from the law, Hugo. How are you running a club?"
"I have a partner. He took my idea and made it happen for me; I just run it. And own half of it," Hugo said.
"A partner. Will I get to meet this partner of yours?"
Hugo shook his head. "He's a silent partner. He travels, has other things to deal with. He checks in from time to time, always a phone call."
"Such a shame," Skander muttered, taking a seat across from Hugo. He hadn't stopped grinning since he'd planned dinner; it was starting to unnerve Skander. "So, businessman Hugo - the store, the clients, the club; what else do you have to keep you busy?"
"A life in the bedroom," he smirked. "Did you expect me to remain celibate after you left?" he laughed wickedly when Skander grimaced.
"Good. So, what do you do back in England?"
Skander noticed that England apparently wasn't home to Hugo, probably because it wasn't home to him either, Russia was, but Skander was born in Russia and Hugo was English. He wondered briefly if Miami was home before answering the questions he'd known would come.
"I'm a freelance private investigator."
"Law enforcement, interesting," Hugo said, still grinning, and sat up straighter. "Have you ever worked for my family?"
"Nope," he popped the P, "they don't like me. They never have, but now they think that I'm to blame for you turning to a life of crime. They're another reason why I had to get away."
"Next time you see them, please feel free to tell them that they're goody goody bullshit drove me to it. Stealing things was way more fun."
Skander couldn't help the laugh that came out. "I look forward to seeing the looks on their faces when I tell them," he said honestly, imagining their faces clearly in his mind. "Anything else?"
Hugo seemed to pause and think about that before answering, which confused Skander. "This would mean you're not staying, if you'll be able to tell them this. Do they know where you are?"
Skander ignored the odd look in Hugo's eyes and shook his head. Hugo was always odd to him. "No, they don't know. Yes, it would mean I'm not staying. I told you, this is just a holiday. But holidays can be extended if they have good reason to be."
Hugo considered his words, then nodded once, and Skander knew for sure that the man was suspicious of something. If he wasn't careful, they were both going to fall. Because there was way Skander was going down in whatever game was being played without Hugo coming with him.
"Then tell them this: it started when I was six, long before I met you. Those people at Mum's charity events had such big pockets and I just... helped myself." Hugo leant back into his chair, folded his arms across his chest and smiled. "I was told to, after all."
A/N: New chapter. I'm really glad I wrote a plan to stick to, I hope chapters will be more consistant now. :)
I made up the name of the club for the purpose of this story. If there is one by that name, it is purely coincidental.
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :)
Skander didn't get much sleep that night. Hugo had only pressed the button to his floor in the elevator and the whole way there, he'd talked of the beach party and things they could do, leading Skander to believe he'd be coming inside, that they'd spend the night together. But at the door, Hugo barely brushed his lips against his before saying good night and shutting the door in his face.
He left for his room in a daze of sorts, knowing where to go without actually paying attention. His mind continued to turn, even after he'd gotten into bed; he was convinced that Hugo was up to something and he intended on finding out what it was. He just didn't know where to begin; Hugo's head was a maze, he had so many thoughts and ideas at once, he could be planning anything.
I know it's about me, though.
He knew that, at least, was true. Hugo had gotten better at hiding his thoughts, probably with some sort of shield charm, but Skander's ability to read people still allowed him to pick up some things about the man; his name popped up a few times, Hugo couldn't hide everything.
He got up around six am, watched the staff outside work while he drank his water, then showered and dressed, finally deciding that the Aurors could handle no news for a day; he'd have a few drinks and read, then meet Hugo at the beach. It was officially his day off.
The Aurors didn't see things his way.
Skander entered the lobby, his only thought being what to have for breakfast. Jess stopped him at the front desk and handed him a message, greeting him with a smile and friendly hello. He returned it, both surprised and glad to find someone who didn't judge him at first glance. He knew that it was because Jess was a Muggle, but he didn't care. She was a new friend and, despite what Hugo might have said to her about him, was willing to help him when he needed it.
His smile dropped as soon as he read the message. Damn them.
Skander looked through the glass doors at the entrance, unable to see the hotel across the street but knowing that it was there, that they were there. Waiting for him to call was no longer enough for them, they were deviating from the plan.
They were finally summoning him.
He made them wait; he wanted his breakfast first and he wasn't leaving until he'd finished. They could send him as many messages as they wanted, they could threaten his job if they felt they needed to, but he wasn't going to respond. They knew he wouldn't ignore them completely, he would go to see them, but they could at least give him the time it took to eat.
It was almost an hour after receiving the message that he finally left. It was still early for some guests, a few where dotted around the pool, while the rest where moving past him to get to the restaurant for breakfast. Skander didn't see Hugo anywhere; a quick detour back to Jess was all he needed to know that Hugo had left for work while he was still eating.
Skander stepped outside and breathed out in relief; Hugo wasn't around, he'd never see Skander go to the hotel, he'd never snoop and he'd never know about the Aurors. Not if Skander could help it.
The walk to the next hotel was quick. It was much smaller than his temporary home and not as grand or expensive; he knew as soon as he stepped foot inside why Hugo had not chosen this place to stay. Hugo was attracted to power, success and money, he wanted the best, even more so when it was illegal or forbidden.
Breaking into a safe in the house of a wealthy British Ministry official had been illegal. Sleeping with Skander had been forbidden.
The man looked bored at the front desk and seemed to be waiting for him; as soon as Skander gave his name, the man gave him directions to the room and dismissed him - he wasn't a guest, apparently the man didn't have to be as polite. The Aurors were staying a few floors from the top, in one of the hotel's larger rooms. Skander found it easily; he didn't bother knocking and couldn't help but take note of the differences between Hugo's room and his father's. The room was tiny compared to Hugo's suite, even if it was able to fit in everything the Aurors needed to follow Hugo and allowed four grown men to sit and work all day - Potter, Weasley and two American Aurors who had been picked to help them. Counting the two beds, Skander's first thought was who slept where. Then he remembered that he didn't want to know.
"You're late, Dolohov," Potter called from his desk, choosing to go through his work rather than look at him.
"I was hungry," he replied with a smile that didn't meet his eyes. "I figured I was entitled to food."
"Weasley's getting more agitated by the day," one of the American's said with a grimace. Butler, Skander thought his name was. "Not that I can blame him, since he has to arrest his son and all, but still. If you have any news, kid, I'd appreciate it."
Butler's face was apologetic and genuine; Skander decided to like him, understanding why he'd want to send messages to him. Weasley must really be driving him mad.
"Hugo's been stealing since he was a child, digging into the pockets of benefactors at his mother's events. When a child like Hugo hears 'help yourself', he's going to take it literally," Skander said, biting his gums to keep from smiling. He still found the man's reasons comical. "But there's been no evidence of it happening here; his business seems clean, there's nothing illegal in the bank. All of which we knew already. I can't find anything to suggest otherwise."
"Tell Ron that Hugo's been stealing from his mother's charities and he'll hurt you," Potter hissed, turning his head as though making sure his friend wasn't near them.
"You're not surprised by this," Skander noticed quickly.
He thought about looking through Potter's mind to find out what else he was hiding from Weasley, but Potter was more competent than he looked and had learnt to protect his mind; he couldn't stop Skander like Hugo could, but Skander wouldn't risk him sensing that someone was poking around.
"I know enough; Hugo didn't steal from the charities, he'd never do that to his mother, but he did steal from the people who went there," Potter told him, saying more or less what Hugo had said.
"Anything else we should know?" the second American Auror snapped as he came through the door. He dropped the bags onto Butler's lap and stopped between Potter and Skander. "If you have known that this boy has been committing crimes for as long as he says, why are you only doing something about it now?"
"That boy is my son, so watch yourself," Weasley growled. His hair was damp from a shower; Skander suspected he'd been ordered to. There were dark circles around his eyes and his clothes were wrinkled; he worked, sleep was pretty much non-negotiable and showering only happened when he was told.
"Oh, children," Skander tutted.
Potter stood between them, his hands out to keep them apart. "Ron, get some sleep now. Perkins, you are here to help, not to start fights; work, or I'll replace you. And you," he pointed at Skander, "Hugo is smart, I know, so dig deeper. We can't arrest him without evidence and we can't have our witness point him out until we arrest him."
"Harry says you're the best for this job, you know Hugo," Butler said kindly. "If that's true, and I have no reason go doubt him, we can wait."
Perkins scoffed, moving to sit in the closest vacant chair. "You've done nothing to show that you're capable of this job, Dolohov. How do you know Hugo Weasley?"
"They went to school together," Potter said quickly. "They were friends, despite Ron's protests."
"Really? Because I saw them having dinner when I went to get food and they didn't look like friends?" he smirked.
"What does he mean?" Weasley demanded to know, looking from Potter to Skander. "Tell me."
Potter turned away, not wanting to answer him, and Skander had to laugh. Another thing he knew and wasn't telling his best friend?
"How long?" he asked Potter.
"I saw you at the station at Christmas," he answered reluctantly.
Christmas... Skander remembered; he had decided go see his parents in his final year because they'd come to London. Hugo had pulled him away to tell him the plan to see each other during the New Year, no one had seen them kissing in the corner. Or so he'd thought.
"Harry, what is going on?"
"Oh, come on, Weasley, haven't you figured it out yet?" Skander grinned, almost wickedly. He inched closer and closer to the man, whose eyes were the same as Hugo's, though almost everything else reminded people of his mother. "How else could I know a man so well? So... intimately?"
"Skander," Potter warned, using his given name for the first time in a long time.
"No," Weasley whispered, finally understanding.
"Yes. I know your son so well because I was his lover, all through seventh year and for years after," he told him bitterly. "He was glad when I decided not to join the Auror program, but then I became a private investigator and things got hard. He didn't want to be involved with law enforcement, it didn't take me long to figure out why."
"You're the reason my son is doing this," Weasley snapped, grabbing Skander's shirt and pushing him up against the wall. "You're the reason I have to put him in jail."
"No, Ron, he isn't," Potter defended him, pulling him back. "Albus said that he was always sure Skander loved Hugo, this can't be easy for him. But he's helping us. He wouldn't help us if he had been helping Hugo steal; he wants to be an Auror. Don't you, Skander?"
Thrown once again by the use of his first name, Skander had to stop rather than give a sarcastic reply. And stopping made him think; did he really want to be an Auror? Did he want to work like this, hoping he never had to arrest someone he cared about and hating every moment when the time came? Because that time would always come as long as Hugo Weasley was in the world.
"I used to," he admitted sadly. "After seeing Hugo again, I'm not so sure I can do this for a living."
"Well, you have to," Perkins said. "So, I suggest you get back to work."
For the first time, Skander looked to Potter for an answer; he was beginning to like the man more now that he had spent time with Perkins, enough to know that he would rather take orders from him than from an asshole who thought he was in charge.
Potter nodded once and let him go; there was still plenty of time left before the party and he really wanted that drink.
By the time he found Hugo at the beach, Skander's world was already double what it should be. He wouldn't call himself drunk, not yet; he could still walk in a line that was mostly straight and people had understood him well enough to answer him when he needed directions. It just took a moment longer than it normally would be to figure out what was real.
"Matty!" he called out, then started rambling in Russian.
Hugo turned around, startled, but it quickly changed; he laughed out loud when he saw Skander coming toward him, holding out his hand to guide him the rest of the way. Skander chose to pull him closer instead, wrapping his arms around the man's neck. He was still speaking Russian.
It took Hugo longer than he would have liked to answer him; he was fluent in Russian, had learned after meeting Skander in their first year, but Skander was rambling and incoherent at times. It was hard to keep up.
"Thank you, that was very descriptive, but you'll have to wait and see," he grinned. "How much have you had to drink?"
"People are allowed to drink more than they usually would while on holiday," he pointed out, slurring a little. "I was having pre-party drinks."
"I'm sorry I had to work through it. Would you like another?" Hugo asked, removing himself from Skander's arms.
He made Skander sit before going to the bar, fearing the man would throw up or pass out if he stayed on his feet any longer. Hugo ordered them both cocktails, wondering if he should make Skander's non-alcoholic, then dismissed it; it wasn't up to him to decide what the man should and shouldn't drink.
It might also get him to open up.
When he came back, Skander was lying on the deck chair, his arm over his eyes. He was perfectly still and for a minute Hugo was sure he had fallen asleep.
"Checking me out?" he whispered.
Hugo played along. "Maybe. Your drink."
He sat up, just enough so that he didn't spill it all over himself as he drank, and thanked him quietly before taking it. He drank quickly, the cocktail almost half gone when he stopped, and he knew deep down that he probably shouldn't have, but the sun was still beating down on his skin.
He hadn't planned on drinking so much; he'd finished his first one faster than he would have liked when the temperature rose and then he had just carried on drinking.
"Not used to the heat?" Hugo guessed with a laugh. "Maybe water is a better solution."
"Alcohol sounded better. What is this party for?"
"A client of mine has a daughter; it's her twenty-first today, she invited me," he answered, pointing to a young woman not too far away, standing with a group. She looked up, smiled and waved.
"I think she likes you," Skander said and he knew he sounded more than a little possessive.
"She knows I'm gay, if that's why you're worried," Hugo assured him. "She knows I invited you, I called her this morning. But if it makes you feel any better..."
He stood up, closing the gap between him and Skander's chair to kiss him. It was brief, but hard and had Skander wanting more. He moaned when Hugo pulled away, both because he'd moved and to scold himself for getting too close - he had a job to do, he shouldn't be spending his time wanting to be with Hugo physically again.
"Tease," he said out loud.
"That shouldn't be a surprise," Hugo reminded him. He took the drink from his hand and placed them both on his chair, then grabbed his hand. "Do you still like to swim? I remember you loved it when we'd sneak off to the lake."
"I don't remember use doing much swimming," Skander said with a laugh as Hugo pulled him closer to the water. "I'm not sober enough to go swimming."
Hugo turned around once the water hit them, walking backwards while pulling him in. "Who said we were going to be swimming?" he murmured in Skander's ear.
They stopped when the water reached their waists, arms wrapping around each other again. His body seemed to grow too hot, even in the cool ocean, and Skander knew that this time it had nothing to do with the heat.
"What's the plan now, Hugo?"
"I don't know," he admitted. "You say you want to be with me, but I have never been someone's boyfriend. We weren't like that the first time."
"In defense of our first time, I did like that part," Skander replied, his tone suggesting that he was joking even though they both knew he was serious.
"In the defense of other parts of a relationship, maybe trying them would be fun," Hugo smiled. "There's an exhibit, we could go one night. Plus, there's something I want to show you."
"Sounds like a date," he whispered, moving closer.
"Then a date is what we'll have."
Hugo kissed him again, the reverse happening this time; it started off rough, each one fighting to dominate the other, but it soon slowed down until their kiss was soft, almost tender, and that scared them more than they would have liked.
They both wondered if they were in trouble.
A/N: New chapter, I hope you like it. And this is planned to the end, fourteen chapters in all. :)
Please let me know what you think.
The swimming, or rather the making out in the ocean, had been a huge mistake. But if there was one mistake Hugo had to pick to make he would go for the way Skander's hands stuck to circling his hips, his mouth teasing one moment and fighting for control the next, and his skin glistening because of the sea and the sun every single time.
That the man had been drunk, had let go and just done what he wanted, made it so much better.
It was the worst of all his ideas, and yet he couldn't seem to stop himself. The plan wasn't changing, not in the slightest, he knew exactly what he had to do, but something was happening. Memories of good times were coming back, once distant wants no longer seemed so distant, and damn but he missed the way the man's accent strengthened when he was mad or needy. Having lived in Russia his whole life until school, Hugo had had the misfortune of listening to that accent fade each time; by seventh year it was easily understood and now it was all but gone. But Hugo just knew he could push the right buttons and bring it back.
Of course, that was a weakness for him and he didn't necessarily want to, but it would also become a weakness for Skander; he'd think he'd won the game he was playing and drop his guard just long enough for Hugo to destroy him.
It would be worth it.
So despite his more dangerous desires popping up and threatening to halt his plan, Hugo still found himself in the basement of the hotel, watching the man he both wanted and hated on one of the monitors. Skander was on the phone again, probably talking to Harry or a Muggleborn on the team, especially if it was an American. Britain's relations with Muggles and their technology had progressed over the years, and while they hadn't yet caught up with the US more wizards had something that wasn't completely dependent on magic - usually a television or a phone, they were the most popular choices. Hugo had grown up with both and more; his father loved the television and was fond of the car, but still didn't quite care for the phone. That was reason number one.
Reason number two as to why his father wouldn't be using it? Well, he just really didn't like Skander Dolohov. A small part of Hugo, of everyone who talked to the older man, knew it was somewhat to do with prejudice; Antonin Dolohov had done many terrible things as a Death Eater during the war and carrying that last name came with a price. Mostly, though, it was purely because he was the rebellious kid who'd 'corrupted' his son - Ronald needed someone to blame. Both his parents did.
Though he couldn't make out what was being said - Hugo could barely see the man's face, let alone his mouth to lip read - he could tell from the tense way Skander stood, his back straight and his shoulders raised, and that he bit his lip whenever he wasn't speaking - a subtle tell that he was physically restraining himself to from saying something - that he really wasn't happy with their conversation.
In truth, he knew it was probably - or at least partly - because Skander wasn't used to being told what to do and didn't like who he was working with, but a part of him hoped it was because they had no evidence and couldn't touch him. It was too simple to think they'd give up and leave - his family were way too stubborn for that - but he could hope.
He was going through his next moves when his phone rang. He checked the door, though he knew that Max wouldn't be working till late tonight and the younger guy he'd paid off knew not to come back, and grabbed the phone. Albus' name came up and while he knew he had to answer it, they wouldn't call if it wasn't important, he decided to wait it out a few minutes. Petty revenge for not warning him about Skander in the first place, but it was fun.
Hugo answered the second time his cousin called.
"Find ways to get revenge later," Albus snapped, knowing exactly what he'd done straight away. They weren't close for nothing, the three of them had been a team once; Hugo had been the thief, Albus had been the fixer and Louis the decoy. They knew everything about each other. "The team on your case back home are going through your family and friends."
"You and Louis are the only two who really know anything. The others are useless. I don't see the problem," Hugo admitted with a slight grimace. It seemed like an inconvenience on their end, but nothing they couldn't get through. His cousins knew how to handle themselves.
"Are you absolutely sure no one can say anything about you, Hugo?" Albus insisted he think. "If they can get to you, it won't be long until they get to us. Now Louis doesn't really need to worry, even if he is weary about jail time, but I have a wife and kids to think about. And Lex is away on business, so I am all alone and screwed if something gets out."
Hugo sat up straight, his legs swinging off the table to rest on the floor. Skander was forgotten for a minute. "I promise, Al, you and Lex and the kids are just fine. We're the most careful people in the world; no one knows anything except us three. Skander and our dads only have suspicions about me for the Ministry official. Everything is fine."
"And your plan? How's that going?" his cousin asked.
Hugo's eyes flicked to the screen, to see Skander slam the phone down and lean against the wall. The man was rattled, hands going through his hair and eyes narrowed in distain.
"Oh, my plan is going perfectly," he murmured. "Is this call over now?"
"The Aurors are coming to talk to me tomorrow, so my part in your plan is officially done, cuz," Albus told him, straight to the point. There was no guilt, no messing; that was the great thing about their relationship. They knew exactly where they stood. "You're on your own, Hugo."
The line went dead.
He dropped his phone into his pocket and spun the chair a little to the right; Skander was gone now and he had no need to watch the monitors. He planned on leaving, there were a few things he needed to do, but for now he just wanted to sit and think. He wasn't close with most, but Louis and Albus, and Lex by extension, were the only family he counted on. He didn't think anything would happen to them, but he could still worry for them a little.
They know what to do.
With that in mind, Hugo jumped up off the chair and left the small security room. If he timed things just right, Skander would be on his way to the bar already, which meant that Hugo had a few minutes to change before the man started drinking heavily. Hugo needed him sober this time. He rushed to the elevator once he saw it open, noted Jess' absence as he turned around and headed to his room.
Inside, he went straight to his shower and powered through his wash, getting both his hair and body with the shower gel, and dried himself as he walked to the outfit he'd hung up that morning before work. It wasn't fancy, that wasn't what today was about, but the tighter-than-normal t-shirt and the loose jeans that hung below his hips would definitely have Skander looking, needing, dreaming.
That would be the day's prize.
As he guessed, he found Skander at the bar. The waiter he'd paid to keep an eye on the man informed Hugo that he'd just ordered his second beer, which wasn't bad considering his terrible mood, though Hugo wouldn't let a third happen. With a smile on his face, Hugo made his way to the bar and ordered the same. To his surprise, Skander didn't turn to see him, but from the slight widening of his eyes he told himself that the other man could see things quite clearly in the mirror across from them.
"Are you becoming an alcoholic?" Hugo asked just after taking a sip of his own drink. "I hear that people in law enforcement tend to become alcoholics. Especially private investigators. Or is that just in the black and white movies with the cocky detectives and the femme fatales?"
"I wouldn't know, I've never seen one," Skander answered honestly. "But in answer to your question, I'm certainly thinking about it. Alcohol is nice to me when I'm alone at night. It's a bitch in the mornings, though. Leaves me the nastiest presents. I thought you were at work."
"Checking up on me, are you?"
The scoff he earned in reply wasn't as exciting as the way the man's eyes narrowed, a pink tinge to his not yet tanned skin. "Jess likes to tell me."
Hugo raised an eye-brow. "Do you ask?"
It was a minute before Skander muttered, "Once. So what's on the agenda for today, Matty? Or have you just come to keep me company?"
"Actually we're going out," Hugo answered, strangely delighted when Skander's eyes widened again, this time in pleasant surprise. He tried to keep his own reaction hidden, but the returned smile told him that either he'd spotted the look or he'd read it in Hugo's mind.
They finished their drinks moderately quickly and left a tip each at the bar since their drinks were being charged to their rooms, leaving the hotel one after the other. They walked again, Hugo knowing exactly where he was going and taking joy out of not answering Skander's probing questions.
Finally, they stopped and Hugo watched as Skander frowned, spinning in quick half circles as he took everything in. It was the look on his face that had Hugo smiling; the man looked completely lost, unable to form a sound let alone a coherent word. The last time anything like that had happened was fifth year; Skander had gotten an Exceeds Expectations grade in a Defense Against the Dark Arts test when he'd been expecting an Outstanding. The difference, however, was that Skander clearly wasn't outraged this time, more confused.
Hugo took the time to glance over their surrounding himself; he didn't really see the shock value in shopping. It wasn't too pricy or extravagant, made for tourists without feeling so touristy that people would notice, and the small complex came about because of a wizard who had a chain of hotels around the world, so had things for both wizards and Muggles. It was... normal. Then again, he and Skander had never done anything normal before, so he supposed he couldn't fault the man for being confused.
"Why are we here?" Skander finally asked. He was giving in so easily that Hugo knew he had his shields up, because he really wasn't hiding his thoughts. He was surprisingly grateful for that, though not for the reasons he wanted; Skander was trusting him and he was happy to be able to surprise him rather than happy the guy was letting his guard down.
Still, Hugo smiled and gestured to the market; he didn't want suspicions to rise again. "You said this was a vacation, though one that could be extended, but you have a life and a job back there. So I'm not going to imagine you staying. What's going on between us hasn't even been long enough for me to think that, our past not included. Then I figured your sister would kill you if you didn't bring her back a souvenir, so I thought I'd show you this place."
"Kat would at least hurt me if I went back without a gift," Skander admitted, no longer watching the place in confusion but at Hugo in gratitude. "This place isn't on the map or in the travel guide at the hotel."
Hugo led him through, let his eyes wonder from one stall to another and get a sense of the place before answering. "It's part of that hotel," he said, pointing upward to a large building across from them, the name Gold View practically shining when the sun hit it. "A big time American property developer, coincidentally named Samuel Gold, also happens to be a wizard, and as you can see there are quite a few things that Muggles can't see here. I hear he's trying to beat Kieron Nott. One of many reasons why I'm staying in a Muggle hotel."
"You've done your research," Skander noted distantly. He was too focused on what he could see - the usual tourist-type souvenirs, such as t-shirts and jewelry, as well as American Quidditch memorabilia and brooms and anything else you could think of. There was also a few books on magical animals and creatures in the US; Skander was drawn to them the most. If Hugo remembered correctly, Katerina was training to be a magi-zoologist. She'd love the books.
He grabbed a few different ones, not needing to worry about spending money because she was the only person in his family he'd willingly spend money on - his mother was too picky and his father didn't like people buying him things. Once he had the books, they continued to walk on, just browsing and guessing who would like what and why.
Skander didn't notice that he'd grabbed Hugo's hand as they rushed toward one of the stands that served food. Hugo debated making an excuse to let go, choosing at the last second to keep their hands as they were. Softly but deliberately, he squeezed Skander's hand to see what he'd do.
Like he suspected, Skander looked down and finally realized what he'd done. There was a few moments of awkward silence as the man by his side turned away with pink-tinged cheeks and an odd look in his eyes that Hugo could almost call guilt. Then it disappeared and he smiled, squeezing back before ordering. Hugo just nodded.
That was all Skander was able to tell himself once he got back to his hotel room. First he said it out loud, needing to hear exactly how screwed he was so he could figure out how to fix it. Now he was lying back in bed, covers kicked to the end, and those two small words had become a mantra in his head.
He hated it. Hugo was going to figure everything out, kill him and take off again. He wouldn't put it past the man; he could be terrifying when he was angry and this was likely to tip him beyond anger. He supposed he could just make up some excuse and run before Hugo found out, but that would get him in more trouble than he wanted with the Aurors. Telling Hugo himself wasn't an option because neither was the idea of him going to jail for obstructing the investigation - with his name he knew they'd at least try that if they found out and he didn't fancy sharing a cell with an uncle he'd never met... assuming the old man was still alive.
I could lie to the Aurors...
That had him scoffing; sure, he'd done it before but never for something so important. Skander groaned and rolled over burying his face into his pillow. He still didn't know what to do when sleep finally came.
A/N: Wow. New chapter. Eight more to go. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, please let me know what you think. :)
Skander assumed he had summer to thank for the bustling of people coming in and out of the hotel, looking for the pool and the bar and asking general questions about the area. It had kept him from being noticed all week, allowed him to sneak past and make his calls to Potter and the others without fear of being spotted and found out. But now he was leaning against the reception desk, out of the way of other guests and flipping through the pamphlets and travel guides because he was bored and Hugo was working and Jess' attention was constantly being taken away from him.
He had summer to blame, too.
The guides only keep him busy for so long and they were soon discarded by his side, a couple falling to the floor as they'd scattered across the desk. He settled for messing with the phone cord, pushing it down with his finger until it was stretched as much as it could and then letting go, until a soft but firm hand gripped his wrist and a stern voice warned him to stop. Jess let him go the moment he looked up to meet her gaze and knelt, disappearing from view for a moment. She came back up with the guides he'd let fall and Skander received his second glare in as many minutes.
"Haven't you got anything better to do than stand around and watch me work, Sky?" she asked, slipping with the old nickname she'd no doubt heard Hugo call him. He didn't even have it in him to scold her for it; boredom ran too deep for him to think about anything else.
Instead he shook his head and made patterns on the desk with his finger. "I have nothing better to do besides standing here and occasionally talking to you. Because that's what I'm doing, Jess, I'm talking to you. Not watching you work."
"Matt's got that business meeting with a client, right?" Jess asked distractedly, her eyes on the papers flipping through her hands. He murmured a yes, not quite sure where she was going when it was information they both already knew. "He'll be back soon."
"No, he won't," Skander countered with a frown. "He said he's got the business meeting and then he's working in the shop for the rest of the day. Wish he would, though. There's nothing to do alone."
"Only because you don't know the city. Explore, take a walk, anything," Jess almost pleaded with him, moving his hand before he could start re-flicking the phone cord he'd unconsciously gravitated back toward. "But be back by one because he will come back."
Her voice was so sure, her smile so promising, that he couldn't not believe her. And while he smiled back, encouraged by her words, part of him grew to hate her a little. For her to be so sure, Hugo must have told her... Hugo hadn't told him. How much trust did he put in the receptionist? How much faith? Did he tell her everything?
No. She still called him Matt; she didn't know his real name. That secret he'd take to the grave if he could help it, Skander knew. But clearly she knew enough. And enough was still more than Skander.
"Have you ever been to Matt's shop?" he asked, hoping to keep his tone casual and happy to see that he'd succeeded when all Jess did was shrug.
"Yeah, a few times. I'm usually working, though. It's just a little thing; he says it's full of antiques, I say it's full of junk. Why do you ask?" she added on, looking up briefly.
"I've only ever seen it online, that's all. I'm curious. He was always so passionate abut the history of things," Skander told her with a laugh. "All through school, he talked about opening a shop. I couldn't get him to shut up. Then he moved and he did what he wanted to do and I just wish I'd been there to see it."
Jess melted, her eyes widening as her smile grew, and Skander braced himself for the 'awww' that would have him walking away. He briefly wondered if that was her plan all along when he spotted an unwanted visitor close to the hotel entrance. Potter turned left and right, head ducking and diving, until finally he spotted Skander and made his way over.
"You're a hard man to find, Skander, I'll give you that," Potter sighed, a hand pushing back the greying hairs above his ear. He fixed his glasses and dropped an arm to lean on the desk.
"Why are you over here?"
"Another Brit, how exciting," Jess butted in, leaning a little forward with a smile. Skander supposed Hugo should add accents to the list of things that Jess found attractive. That was something the two had in common. "Can I help you, sir?"
"No, I'm just here to talk to him," he answered, pointing at Skander. He faced her properly seconds later, his eyes narrowed and focused as he took in the woman's light brown hair and dark eyes. Skander looked a little more closely, too; her tanned skin glistened with sweat even with the air conditioning on, her eyes were big and round with long lashes and he noticed she had a gap between her two front teeth. She was... ordinary.
"Do I know you?" Potter finally asked, his curiosity unsatisfied.
"Have you ever been to North Dakota?" she countered. Potter only shook his head. "Then we've never crossed paths, sir. I've only been here for a month."
"Right. Sorry. You just remind me of someone," Potter admitted with a sheepish grin. "I'll let you get back to work."
They shared a smile before Jess turned away to greet a new guest. Potter's dropped the moment he turned to face Skander. "We haven't talked in a couple of days."
"Because there is nothing to report," he hissed, not wanting anyone else to hear them, especially not Jess. "I'm trying to get into his shop, but he's not going to just stop being so suspicious of me overnight. So just leave me alone, I will give you answers when I have them. And why did you come here? Jess - the receptionist you spent five minutes gawking at - knows Hugo... or Matthew. They tell each other almost everything."
"I'm sorry," Potter murmured a little reluctantly. He rubbed his face with his hands, looking tired and older than he was. "I just had to get out of that room. Ron is driving me mental and Perkins isn't doing much better. I'm sorry. Just... keep in touch, even if it's to tell us there's nothing to tell. It'll keep them off my back and give me something to do."
"I promise. Now go, Jess said he'll be back soon."
He nodded his goodbye, sending a quick wave Jess' way as he left. Skander didn't watch him go, he dropped his head in his arms and went through potential damage control scenarios in his head. If she told Hugo and described him, Skander was dead. There was no point in running; Hugo would find him just as easily as he'd found Hugo.
"So..." Jess prompted, forcing him to look up. The curiosity burning in her eyes for all to see made him feel so much worse. "Who was that, Mr. I-don't-know-anyone-in-this-city?"
He couldn't not lie.
"Just another tourist," Skander eventually told her, rolling his eyes for good measure. "He lives in another hotel. I met him the other day while Hugo was in work, he kept asking me questions about the place. Like I'd know. Today he wanted to know where the beach is. At least I can answer that one."
"He seemed very nice," she whispered.
"Depends on your definition of nice."
Jess only winked. Horrified, Skander headed in the direction of the bar. If she wanted him gone that badly all she had to was ask.
As Jess had predicted - or been told - Hugo found Skander in the bar just after one in the afternoon. He was still on his first drink, which he'd congratulated himself for every five minutes he didn't take a huge gulp, and Hugo finished it off before taking his hand and leading him away. This time they got into a car; Skander scoffed at the extravagance of it, sleek and silver and no doubt fast. He also knew just how expensive it was, having done his research on Hugo before getting to Miami, and the reasons why he was in the city came flooding back.
It took all he had to push them away before Hugo noticed that anything was wrong, but he managed it well enough and climbed into the front passenger seat. He'd never been in a car, at least not one like this; back home, his father had a limousine-like carriage with a driver, but that was nothing compared to having your own car and he was itching for the ride to start.
"Where are we going?"
Hugo started the car and pulled out of the hotel parking lot, eyes finding Skander for a second before going back to the road. His smile was playful, almost teasing; either work must have gone well or he was up to something, because never were they like this. For a brief moment he wondered if Hugo knew and was just pulling him into a false sense of security before striking. But a gentle push into his mind didn't reveal anything out of the ordinary. He just seemed to be in a good mood.
"You'll see," he replied as he drove. "So how was your day? Jess said you were standing at the desk in the morning and left after you were harassed by some tourist."
"The tourist was the most eventful part of my day, I won't lie," Skander told him almost honestly, beyond thankful that Jess hadn't described Potter in any way.
"She said he was very nice," he added with a chuckle. Though whether it was directed at his friend's words the returned grimace he was sporting, Skander didn't know.
"I don't want to think about that," he mumbled. In truth, he didn't think Harry Potter was necessarily bad to look it. It was that he was a lot older and Skander used to sleep with his nephew and it was Harry Potter... weird didn't even begin to describe it.
Hand on heart, Hugo promised not to bring it up again. Skander found himself daring to believe him.
The drive took twenty minutes, including stops at the lights, with the journey being filled with music from the radio and idle chit chat about Hugo's business meeting and everything Skander had done to unintentionally annoy Jess. It was an enjoyable ride, but he was desperate to know where they were going. Hugo, however, was happy to remain tight-lipped about it until he came to a stop.
Skander had to bend his head to see the sign through his window, the car had been parked right underneath it, but he soon realised that the words reflected backwards in the glass read Granger Antiques.
Hugo's store. He'd finally been invited to see it.
"Welcome to my home," Hugo told him gingerly, unclipping his seatbelt and jumping out of the car. After a moment, Skander joined him.
It didn't look very large from the outside, in fact out of everything he'd seen in Hugo's life so far the shop was the most modest and less like him. It was difficult to peer through the windows as every space seemed to be filled stuff. Hugo laughed at him as he unlocked the door, but Skander considered the masses of history he'd collected to be the Hugo he remembered from school, the nerd in the corner who actually enjoyed History of Magic and sat in the library to research for fun. The boy famous for being a Weasley and infamous for being anti-social. The only person worse than him was his cousin Albus. That was why they were so close, they knew that they didn't need to explain everything to the other and when one wanted the other to piss off.
The door held open for him, Skander stepped inside, not at all surprised to find everything cluttered and full of things that no doubt held some meaning. There was some he couldn't even name. He opened his mouth to tease the man for being exactly the same - the familiar line that it didn't matter how much he tried to change, he'd always be the same geek in the glasses came to mind - but the moment he turned he saw the pride Hugo had for his shop and for himself for being able to accomplish this and Skander just couldn't bring himself to.
He tried to calculate the exact moment he'd gone soft in his head. Nothing specific came to mind.
"So what do you think?" Hugo demanded, unable to keep it in anymore.
"It's very you," he replied with what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "You did good, Hugo. Is it successful?"
He shrugged modestly, the grin he couldn't keep at bay an answer before he even spoke. "It does alright. Just don't touch what you don't intend to buy."
Skander yanked his hand away from the antique set of mythical creatures, choosing to just point instead. "Only if I can haggle a reasonable price out of you; Kat would like these. So would Lorcan."
"Since when do you talk to Lorcan?" Hugo asked curiously as he dotted around the shop floor, switching the sign on the door from closed to open and getting behind the counter.
"Kat's been interning with the Scamanders for work experience. Lorcan helps them, too," he explained with a shrug. "So what's on the agenda for today?"
Hugo gestured to the shop as a whole, and then for him to come over. "Work," was all he said.
In between serving any customers who came inside, Hugo went though the ins and outs of the shop - his system for what went where, inventory and receipts, how to work the till. After two hours of work, Skander could see how much Hugo loved his job and his life here - he was much happier than he'd ever seen the man in England, though he gathered it was the work more than the place - and once again he feared he wouldn't be able to do his job in the end. He didn't want to take this away from Hugo, he didn't want to be the angry dick who'd broke them up all over again.
"Not bad," Hugo praised once the latest customer was gone, unaware of his internal dilemma. "Do you think you can hold down the fort here while I do some inventory in the back? I want to get it out of the way before the weekend. I have plans," he whispered that least part, making Skander's skin feel as though he was on fire.
"Sure," he nodded, fingers drumming against the wood. Given that the old woman was only the fourth customer in two hours, he wasn't quite sure what he was actually going to beside work out a price for the animal set and imagined Hugo's plans.
Laughing, Hugo figured out what he was thinking. "Computer has WiFi," he added, grabbing a medium sized box that had been pushed underneath the counter earlier. "Have fun."
He backed away, the papers balancing on top of the box sliding from left to right. Hugo was so busy trying to keep the papers going right from slipping while balancing the box that he didn't seem to notice something smaller slipping off from the left. Skander moved to grab it, hoping to stop Hugo before the guy disappeared in the back. Then he noticed the initials imprinted at the top and centred - H.M.W.
Hugo Matthew Weasley.
This didn't belong to Matthew Granger the business owner, but Hugo Weasley the thief. Skander went back the counter and sat facing the computer, thankful his back was to the back room, and flipped open the book. Immediately names filled the first page, and the second and third and many more. Until more than half the book was written in. Some names he recognised and most he didn't and beside them were numbers and codes he couldn't decipher. Next there was a letter, usually an M or an S, but occasionally another showed up - an L, an A, an Le. In the last column there sometimes sat different letters, sometimes it was blank.
Target, reason for hit, primary con and maybe who the job was for. That was what Skander would describe it as if he really had to guess. Every job Hugo had ever had or would have could be in this book. It was the last entry that had Skander reeling.
Samuel Gold. Code. M, S, Le. K.
Most of it didn't make sense, though the M was probably his own initial. That didn't matter, the target did. Samuel Gold, the same man Hugo had mentioned when they went to the market, the multi million galleon property developer who was rumored to be going against the only K he knew - Kieron Nott. That wasn't to say K was Kieron, Gold could have many rivals and he didn't even think Kieron was the US let alone Miami, but it was too coincidental to ignore. If the last column was the name of the person Hugo was working for, Skander definitely saw Kieron as the type of guy to hire a criminal to stay on top. His only doubt was that Kieron was also honest to a fault; Hugo had been in the country for nine months and Kieron would have said something about it by now.
Was this a relatively new job? Did this mean that he wasn't the only person to have known where the missing Weasley had fled to or was Hugo still in contact with home?
He had no answers to his questions, only a sinking feeling in his gut when he reminded himself that he had to tell the Aurors. This wasn't their evidence that Hugo was the thief they wanted, but if they deciphered the code or Hugo carried out his plan soon they had the means to charge him and get him back to the UK. Their witness woud provide the rest of the evidence.
Skander worked hastily, grabbing what paper he could to duplicate the notebook. It was relatively simple to copy the outer shell of a book with a charm, but to get the writing required focused spells on each individual page, and with the Muggle technology dotted around and the magical signature it would leave behind, he couldn't do all of that without Hugo noticing. For the first time, he wished he'd accepted the cell phone with the camera that Butler had offered. Because by the time he'd finished writing it out, his hand cramped terribly.
Once done, he folded the papers into his pockets and slid the book to the corner of the desk for Hugo to find. His pocket seemed heavy like lead and reminding himself that Hugo was a bad guy did nothing to relieve the ache in his chest.
I'm really going to regret this.
Dolohov was dedicated, Hugo had to give him that. To write out the whole list just so he didn't have to use magic took time and determiniation. He prided himself on being able to write his notes fast but neat, but he also wrote a lot. The notebook had been a gift from his maternal grandparents for Hogwarts when he got his letter; that was thirteen years of offensives. Even if they didn't figure out the codes, if they managed to trace any one of those names back to him it would land him in jail.
It had been a risk, dropping the book, but one that had most definitely paid off. Skander, despite everything he'd said during the week he'd been here, had done everything Hugo had predicted. That would have been a blow to his plan if he hadn't had the pleasure of witnissing the crushed dejection on Skander's face as he put the book away - he knew what he had to do, but he didn't want to. The struggle was exactly what Hugo needed to worm his way in and change his mind.
A customer came in then and Hugo went back to inventory; he'd give it about thirty minutes and then go get his book. He couldn't do his job without it; he needed the codes.
Everything was coming together.
A/N: Ah, the plot thickens. At least, I hope it does. :P
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think.
"So, what is this?"
The urge to roll his eyes was strong, but Skander managed to hold it back. Even Potter noticed and shot him a small smile that was close to being considered encouraging; Perkins was a bastard at the best of times, but now it seemed he was just being annoyingly stupid for the hell of it. It had been explained twice already, which hadn't been necessary. Finally, Butler, who was generally the nicest one out of the little group, snapped, sat his partner down and told him shut up. Though grateful, Skander returned to his own seat at the table and explained the sheets of paper one more time.
"It's hard to say, I'm not Hugo's mind. I mean, the guy's a fucking genius and that's on a bad day," he told the others, catching the slightly disheartened looks from the American Aurors when Potter and Weasley agreed with him. Hugo was always the brains of the family, though the others were by no means idiots academically or even for their own gain. They just used it in different ways.
Pulling away from the memories, Skander pointed a finger on the paper and continued. "But I believe that the names are his targets, the first set of letters are the people on the job and the scarce second set are people he's doing a job for. I have no idea what the code means, could be what he needs to do, could be things he needs. Like I said, I'm not his mind. I also have no idea who the letters could stand for."
"There are quite a few Ss written as potential accomplices," Perkins pointed out, eyes narrowed in a way that someone else might find intimidating. "Skander begins with an S."
No shit. "So does Seth. What's your name again?" Skander inquired innocently, finger tapping his chin.
The American's jaw tightened, eyes blazing with distain, but he shrugged off the comeback as if it was nothing and sat back in his seat. "I'm just saying, you know him really well. Used to sleep with him. I find it hard to believe you didn't know something. You could have helped for all we know."
"Would he be here if he had?" Butler snarled, the warning clear in both tone and expression. He reminded Skander a little of his aunt back in Russia; she used to send him to the corner when he was bad. A terrifying woman she could be when she needed to be, but always respected. That was Justin Butler.
"Enough," Potter commanded, quiet but with enough authority that even Perkins sat a little straighter. "Hugo's own family didn't know; if he can successfully keep all of this from us, he can keep it from a boyfriend. So shut up and pay attention."
"Do you have anything else to say, Dolohov?" Weasley added, though he was too focused on the mounting pile of potential evidence to really contribute. For the first time, pity surged through Skander. Thought of his own father going through this was far from a welcome one, he didn't want others to go through that.
Sadly, Skander flipped the pages over until he got to the very last one, then he tapped the name at the bottom. "If I'm right about the names, then he came to Miami for a reason."
One glance at the page and Potter spring into action, a hand pulling his phone out of his pocket. "Find out everything you can about Samuel Gold."
"What you are doing?" Butler asked, already heading to the desk his laptop was situated at.
Potter pressed whatever number he was looking for and put it to his ear. "I'm calling Theo."
Kieron's father. Skander shouldn't have been so surprised. He watched the older man slip away, checked his watch the moment he disappeared - it was ten o'clock in the morning in Miami, had to be three in the afternoon there; if Louis' boss wasn't working or busy, he'd get through. He peaked a glance Butler's way and found Perkins sat with him, both silent and working. And Ron was still sat at the table with him, shifting through the sheets of paper aimlessly. He didn't care what the evidence was, just that it was there - that was devastating enough.
"If it helps," Skander blurted out, causing Weasley to look up and frown. Now that he'd started, he forced himself to continue. "If it helps, Hugo used to speak highly of you, he genuinely cared. I don't know why he's doing this, but it isn't to spite you."
"It doesn't help," Weasley murmured, eyes back on the papers. "But thank you."
They stayed in silence for a further fifteen minutes. When Potter came in, eyes wide with anticipation and body needing to move, everyone looked up because they knew he had something.
"I definitely think the K stands for Kieron. Now that doesn't mean he's involved in any way, he swore to his dad that he's heard nothing from Hugo or Gold in months, and he doesn't lie. It's pretty much his golden rule, so we have no reason to not believe him. But that doesn't mean it's not for him in some way."
Potter fell into his seat and took a deep breath before continuing, wincing as though what was coming physically pained him to think about. "Hugo doesn't tend to do things for other people unless you pay him, but there are a couple he's close to. Close enough to do anything for. One of them is my son, who is also Kieron's brother-in-law. I'm not saying Al is involved either because Hugo generally doesn't ask before he does something, whether it's for someone else or not."
"Asking Al doesn't matter. If Hugo found out that someone was trying to mess with his cousin's wife and brother-in-law's business, he might go after them anyway," Skander finished, starting to see what could be a viable option. It might very well be wrong and they had no evidence to prove otherwise, but they couldn't turn the idea away.
"So this is personal, his reasons for coming here? He's not just hiding out?" Butler asked, clearly trying - and failing - to figure the guy out.
Skander shrugged in response as Potter answered. "Could be both. Hugo rarely does something without a reason. He would have looked for a suitable place to hide out, but still have chosen something with meaning, whether it meant something to him personally or was a place he could still work. What did you find on Gold?"
Perkins took over, picking up the notebook they'd written notes in. "Samual Gold, thirty-two, in between girlfriends. He's the youngest of four, three sisters, and comes from a rich family. Went to Salem. He's now in property development, has a hefty bank account here and has a petty rivalry with Nott Industries - apparently he just can't knock Kieron back for a better position on the rich list. No matter how successful he becomes, the Notts will always be richer. So I really don't see why this kid will go through nine months of trouble to stop something that isn't even happening. He's here for a different reason; maybe he just wants Gold's money, he is a thief after all."
"Maybe," Potter agreed. "We don't know what the last column means; it could stand for something completely different, it could be to look out in case Kieron's name comes up so he doesn't get caught. We'll have to wait for Hugo to tell us that."
Potter was right, Skander couldn't deny that however happy it might had made him. What they had was circumstantial at best; they couldn't touch Hugo with it unless they deciphered the codes, and even then they'd need his actual notebook once they'd arrested him to prove he'd written it and keep him in jail. The team, despite having higher hopes than yesterday, were still waiting on Hugo to make a move before anything could happen.
Showing his apology for there not being better news with a small smile, Butler grabbed his laptop and went back to monitoring Hugo's past movements with Perkins, while Potter and Weasley worked on the codes. Though their reasons for being here proved otherwise, they knew Hugo at least better than the Americans. If anyone could decipher Hugo's code it would be Weasley or Skander. But Skander had to get back to the hotel; Hugo's timetable was always irregular and he could be back at any time.
Skander had to be there.
"I'll see myself out," he muttered, getting up and heading for the door.
"Dolohov," Weasley called out, making him pause and turn. "Good work."
Dazed, Skander left after nodding in reply. Ronald Weasley had never complimented him for anything his life. He wasn't sure he liked it.
He got from one hotel to the other without anyone so much as glancing his way, finding Jess packing up her things at the reception desk. The asshole with the toupee hadn't shown up for work last night, so she'd taken the night shift as well as her regular day shift. Someone else was now taking this shift so she could go home and sleep. She should have gone home a few hours ago, but had likely stayed to talk to Hugo. That was their thing every morning; he had no idea what they talked about, it was usually before he woke up.
"Morning, Skander. Finally getting to know the city?"
"Something like that. Is Hugo around?"
Jess shook her head, all apologies flying out the window when she let out a terribly loud yawn. "Whoa, sorry. Anyway, no. He left about an hour ago."
"Gone to the shop?"
"I assume so," she answered with a frown. A few seconds of silence passed as she tried to remember something that kept slipping her mind. "He never actually said. Or maybe he did and I was too tired to listen."
"It's fine," Skander assured her. With nothing to do without Hugo around, he knew he could finally pretend this was just a holiday. "My plan is to just hang around the pool anyway. Go home, Jess. Get some sleep and I'll see you tomorrow."
They finished their goodbyes and Skander headed up to his room. It was only when the elevator stopped at his floor that he started to wonder how easily it might be to slip into Hugo's room.
The air conditioning was just to the left of Hugo's head a little away from his back, providing the perfect breeze to keep him cool so he could remain sat outside. The waitress who handed him his lunch left with a slight smile and his empty glass, the promise to bring him some more ice tea there without needing to be said. He'd had three already. The people passing him by paid no notice to the occasional glances he threw in the direction opposite him or cared that he kept jotting down codes into his notebook. Other than the nice waitress, because she was likely to get a tip for her trouble, he was nobody. A ghost. A figment, there one moment and gone the next.
Hugo didn't exist today. Or, to be more precise, Matthew didn't exist today.
Biting into the chicken salad sandwich, he focused on the doors ahead. The map was drawn up in his head; straight to the desk, right to the office, then back out and down the hall to the end. No bumps, no stairs, it was the most straightforward job he'd ever pulled.
And the best part was that the Aurors had no idea. Sure, they had a copy of his notebook and there was a chance his father could decipher the codes if he focused his mind and remembered the little details about his son, but they were likely to be looking for the bigger picture. They were putting in stories instead of fact. It probably didn't even cross their mind that Hugo might not be the bigger picture, or even in the picture at all.
But they would. Sooner or later, they'd figure it out. Wouldn't be able to do anything, not without a shit load of evidence they themselves will have messed up, but they'd know.
Hugo almost felt bad for them. For his father and uncle, least. He had no idea who was helping them, Skander not included, but they definitely had to be here. And it wasn't personal, what he was doing. Yes, he didn't care for most of his family and the only people he was close to were Albus, Louis and, by extension, Lex and Dom. But that was cousins. For the grown ups, if there was anyone in the world he would need, it would be his father. Even before Harry, he'd go to Ron. He loved them because he understood them and could rely on them, not because they were family and he felt had to.
That didn't stop him from doing his job. Especially when they were helping his job.
Skander, though. He didn't feel an ounce of pity for Skander Dolohov. The man had walked this path of his own accord, had said yes to coming on this goose chase the Ministry had created, whereas Harry and Ron had superiors to answer to. He didn't have a job on the line when it was to go wrong. No, he didn't feel sorry for Skander.
Felt something, but he wasn't going to dwell on it.
The waitress came back with his ice tea, asked if he needed anything else. Hugo shook his head and finished his sandwich, eyes going back to the building across from him.
Gold's money was in that bank. Not his entire fortune, but an amount large enough to last someone a long time, if they didn't over indulge too much. He checked his notebook, re-did the map in his head; after months, everything was finally in place.
He took out his phone, found the number he wanted and called it. Within minutes, the phone connected.
"I'm sat in front of the bank now, I know what I'm doing. Everything set on your end?"
A muffled yes came through after a second's pause. He knew that pause; it was a 'are you sure about this?' kind of pause. Not because she couldn't do it, she was the best at what she could do, but because she wasn't sure they should. Aurors were involved, things could get messy. He assured her that she'd be fine, she didn't exist either so no one would come looking as long as she stuck to her schedule.
"And you?" she asked.
"I know what I have to do," was all he said.
"Then everything's set on my end. Just say when."
The call disconnected and the phone went back into his pocket. Hugo sat back as he drank his ice tea.
It was so much more fun when things went his way.
Now all he had to do was get Skander.
A/N: So Hugo is finally going through with his plans. I wonder what it is. ;)
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think.
It was terrifyingly easy to get a copy of Hugo's card key for his room. Hugo had breakfast with him the next morning, talking about a private client and some vases she just had to have. He finished before Skander and left right away; he gave himself some time, making sure there was a distance between Hugo and the hotel, and then went to the reception desk to find Jess. He'd barely gotten out his lie about how he'd left his wallet in Hugo's room and had forgotten to ask him for his card and Jess was rooting through the box behind her and holding up a spare. She let it drop in his hand and winked, probably assumed he'd use it to wait for Hugo to come back.
Did she really think they were sleeping together?
He didn't ask.
He took the key and thanked her hastily, not quite liking the insinuation she was making. Sex with Hugo just didn't feel right, there was too much guilt on his side to even think of pursuing anything more than what they already had. If they tried anything more, Hugo would surely notice that something was off. Even if he didn't, then Skander would likely blurt it out anyway.
He couldn't risk that. He had a job to do, he couldn't not go through with it.
The elevator came to a stop two floors below Hugo's, the maid's cart forcing Skander to push to the front and as close to the wall as he could. She apologised profusely and he thought he might have replied, but her voice was nothing more than a distant murmur that didn't quite reach his ears. She was out of focus, she almost didn't exist.
That was probably for the best.
She got out after him, going in the opposite direction. Hugo's door was just around the corner, he remembered, and yet getting there seemed to take twice as long as the elevator ride. The hallway stretched and warped and messed with his head, its never-ending path keeping him from his destination, and he found himself grateful for it.
And if a higher power had heard that, they were messing with him, too; the door to Hugo's room stood right in front of him, as dark and ominous as the room's guest.
Now you're just being stupid.
He was, he could admit that. It was borderline crazy to think of the door as a living creature or that fate was out to destroy him. Shaking off the silly notion, Skander flipped the key card around in his hand and stuck it on the slot. The green light lit up for a moment and the door clicked open; he pushed it forward and stepped inside.
He had to stop and gaze at the room in wonder for a minute; the only time he'd come to Hugo's room was when he'd followed him up and then been rejected at the door, hadn't been able to sneak a peak. Now that he was inside, he was once again reminded of the things the man had accomplished to get to where he was. The room was beautiful, with its cream walls and matching furniture. And this was just the living room; he spotted two doors, one in each direction, and across from him was a stunning view of the ocean thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows. To his right, closest to the door, was a well stocked bar and a phone to call room service.
To be able to afford such a room and live in it would take an amount of money Skander couldn't calculate off the top of his head. He couldn't remember if Hugo had moved into the hotel immediately after getting to Miami or if he'd lived elsewhere first, but he did know that having this room meant he must have had some money upon getting to the city. Which was likely to be illegal. The bank account may be legitimate, but that didn't mean he stored all his money there.
Hugo was a bad guy and just standing in the room proved it. It reinforced Skander's want to finish the job. If there was anything around that might incriminate the man, he'd find it. And this time, he had a camera phone to document it all.
He started in the living room, careful not move anything so much that it looked out of place and kept touching anything brief; if Hugo was pulling a job here in the city, the Aurors wouldn't like contaminated evidence. He went through open mail - nothing but bills and statements - and the bookshelf. Nothing suspicious could be found there, though he was surprised to see a copy of Hogwarts: A History among the collection. The fact that it had 'History' in the very title probably should have tipped him off, but Hugo tended not to want things that he associated with his mother.
After the living room, he tried the door on the left, which ended up being the bathroom. Unless Hugo's crime was for good hygiene and taking headache medication, that was a bust, too. It took more effort than it should for a professional, but he eventually managed to push aside his wants to step into Hugo's bedroom.
The bedroom, he told himself. Not his bedroom, the bedroom.
The room was just as freakishly clean as the rest of the suite and Skander just knew that it was Hugo's own doing. His sole reason for being careful was because Hugo was; everything had its place, everything had a reason, if it was moved he knew because he remembered everything. It made his mistake back in England look like a major plot-hole in the Aurors' story; it wasn't in Hugo's nature to be rash, to forget something, and yet he'd apparently been both forgetful and rash by not getting the alarm code and trying to make a quick exit?
Things didn't add up and that was why Skander doubted. So if he was going to catch Hugo for being a thief, it was going to be because of the job right here in Miami with Gold. England had nothing to do with it.
Skander went to the desk, scattered the papers, put them back together and found nothing. He went to the bedside table, got uncomfortable at the thought of rooting through his underwear and closed them quickly. When the wardrobe was also a bust, Skander moved to the middle of the room and glanced around one last time before heading for the living room.
Then he stopped, eyes narrowed at a small metal door he hadn't noticed because he figured the bar wasn't worth searching. He'd assumed it would just be alcohol, not the room safe. But there it was, small and half hidden, but there. Skander dropped to his knees, positioning himself to sit on the floor, and stared at the key code. For the first time he wished his gift wasn't so useless. Looking into people's minds was handy at times but terribly invasive and therefore not done as rule, and while being able to 'feel' the earth made knowing the weather helpful in his day to day planning, it didn't work on inanimate objects. Things had to be living to work, that was why the one vampire he'd met on an old case had been useless to him.
Taking a deep breath, he focused on what he knew about Hugo - brilliantly smart, ridiculously egocentric, hopelessly beautiful. Just Hugo.
Skander started with the man's birthday. It didn't work. He tried Al's and Louis', his father's and uncle's, and got nothing. He moved onto their first year of Hogwarts, his favorite authors and books. Nothing worked. He was ready to give up, to go on his way and forget he'd ever decided to search Hugo's room for answers, when the door clicked open under his palm. Shocked, he slammed it closed and tried the number he'd been aimlessly pressing in just before anything had happened.
13-12-07. December thirteenth. Skander's date of birth.
Brilliantly smart. Hugo most certainly was; Skander hadn't even considered his birthday an option because of how things had ended after Hogwarts, but that was what made using it so brilliant.
The door clicked open again and this time, Skander wasted no time in furthering the gap and seeing what was inside. He found papers on the shop, legal documents he already knew were legitimate, and a notebook. This one was bigger and not as expensive as his engraved one and was full of names, addresses, places to meet and things they paid him to find. These were his private clients.
He set the book on the ground and grabbed his phone, took pictures of each page and put it all away. This was the best he was going to find and he couldn't be in the room forever. He could send the images to Potter and make a few calls, see if one of them was the K he might have been hired by.
He left the room as quietly as he'd entered, seen by no one, and went through his phone. There were a number of places he recognized, they weren't too far from the hotel.
Jess was right; he should really get to know the city.
Most of them he knew held no interest to Hugo at all and he didn't bother sticking around; the clients had most likely picked them. One or two were restaurants, which made sense since Skander often heard him talk about business lunches and dinners, but didn't help him. The most promising in connected them to Hugo himself were the shops he came to; antique, secondhand, even a couple of touristy places. He could imagine Hugo walking around in them, studying the structures or whatever it was he did when he was deep in thought before deciding whether something was worthless or not, searching for things in particular.
It was on a whim to buy the tea set in the last shop he came to. He had no idea how old they were or where they were from or even if Hugo would even use them, but they looked old enough to satisfy the man, maybe even tap into his curious nature and look them up. History in itself fascinated the guy, he didn't really have a particularly favorite era, unless you included his weird love of the 1980s and their movies and shows, so Skander could see him liking the gift instantly and that was all that mattered to him in that moment.
They were wrapped up delicately and placed into their original box before going in the shopping bag. He counted his money carefully before paying, calculating how long he could last before he had to get more from the American Aurors. He left with a nod, not quite returning the old woman's smile; the moment the bag touched his hand, his heart sped up and his mind played out various scenarios which all involved Hugo's gratitude. And that was a very bad thing when his job was to find the evidence to arrest him.
He walked through the street in a daze, ready to head back to the hotel and forget all about his actions today. He'd found nothing, didn't know what else he could do and was ready to pack it all in, give the bag to Hugo and make some excuse about needing to get back home. The Aurors wouldn't be happy, but they couldn't keep him around either. They had the copies of the notebooks, that would have to do. Or they could bring someone else in, an American stranger who could actually do the job he'd be tasked and maybe even get Hugo trusting him thanks to their distinct lack of personal history.
That was when he saw it. Or rather him.
As Skander turned the street, he thought he saw Hugo crossing the road to his side. A few paces closer and he knew it was the man. Alone one minute and not the next; a woman a good few years older than them both stopped in front of him and gestured to keep moving. Unable to stop himself, Skander followed as silently as possible so as not to arouse suspicion.
They didn't walk far, stopping in front of a cafe Hugo seemed to know well. They didn't go in, only pointed to it; the woman checked her watch and shook her head. Then she pointed their front and Skander turned his head in the same direction. His heart ached a little, beat stuttering and slowing as realization kicked in.
They were across from the bank. The name the same as the one Butler had pulled up in his research on Samuel Gold. It was too much of a coincidence to be innocent, to come to the very place under suspicion.
But was it evidence? Surely this woman, this middle-aged, petite woman with shaking hands, wasn't one of the initials they thought might be accomplices. She was just a client for work and this was her bank, too. Samuel Gold wasn't their only customer and if she was hiring Hugo she was certainly rich enough to use the place.
Skander turned and left, choosing to circle the street and get to the hotel another way, missing Hugo completely. He'd definitely done enough work for one day. The first ten minutes walking helped considerably; his head felt a little clearer, thoughts untangling and hiding in the back of his mind ready for him to pull out on by one and work through later.
He didn't see who he'd bumped into until it was too late.
Hugo was being followed.
The hairs on the back of his neck jumped up, goosebumps crawled down his spine and his shoulders rolled back. Eyes bore into his back, suspicion hitting him like tidal waves at the beach. He was definitely being followed. An Auror maybe, probably Skander if he had to think about it, because he wouldn't let himself turn around.
It didn't last; they found him at the street corner and left him at the bank. Odd, he decided, that they didn't choose to stick around and watch what he was doing. Not that they would have seen anything, just a conversation with an old woman about a painting she wanted procuring. Still, only once they were definitely gone did he quit the pretense.
"Interesting disguise." He had to appreciate it. Her glamor charms where quite simply amazing, detailed enough that no one suspected anything when they were around her but not so detailed that people picked up on the charm or on the person or peoples she was basing the charms on. He didn't have the patience for such charms, used Polyjuice if he had to and he always made sure he didn't have to. "No one would suspect a thing."
"Well, that's the point, Hugo," she pointed out with a proud smile. She turned back to the bank. "So when is this happening?"
"The day after tomorrow," he promised. She was ready to go home, he could tell; webcams and the phone just hadn't been enough in the end. Hugo kind of felt the same, there was some places and people in England that he still missed, but after nine months he'd grown accustomed to the feeling. She'd barely been in the city a month. "We can finally get this over with."
"Great. Then I'll see you later."
She took off the way they'd come and Hugo went in the direction of the hotel; there was nothing else he could do until the day after tomorrow besides work in his shop and he honestly didn't feel like it today. There were still things he needed to do on a more personal level. Besides if the plan worked, he wouldn't be at the shop for a while now. Better to get used to that.
He bumped into someone at the end of the street, looked up and feigned surprise when he saw Skander rubbing his nose and wincing.
"I'm so sorry," he said under his hand. Then his eyes widened. "Hugo."
He'd tried to avoid him then; that helped the sudden disappearance make sense, he hadn't wanted to be caught so had gone the other way. He tried to maintain surprise, to simply say hello and ask where he was going. So he was genuinely surprised when he opened his mouth and a more interrogative tone slipped out.
"What are you doing here?"
Eyebrows raised, Skander faltered before pointing behind him with one hand and holding up a bag in the other - a bag with a very familiar logo stamped on the front.
"I got bored at the hotel without you, so I went sightseeing. I was on my way back and was going to wait till you got there, but you can see it now if you want."
He got me a present? What the fuck is this guy trying to do to me?
Gingerly, Hugo took the offered bag and opened it up, free hand pulling out the old oak box. He let the shopping bag slip through his fingers, barely noticed Skander catch it as he flipped open the lid and found the tea set nestled in special wrapping paper. British, during the time of the Independence war, rumored to have belonged to their Minister for Magic of that time but never proven. But it was in pristine condition and beautifully decorated. He'd wanted it for a long time for his own collection, but had never been able to go through with buying it. None of the materials he had were things one might seriously consider keeping, his collection was back in England that Albus looked after.
He closed the lid carefully. "Thank you."
"I figured you'd like it," Skander replied with a shrug, as though he really didn't know how much this would mean to Hugo. But he did, Hugo knew he did. "So where are you heading?"
"Back to the hotel," he answered, taking the bag and putting the box back inside. He kept his hand tight around the handles. "We can walk together."
They did, Hugo hesitantly taking Skander's hand in his own. He pushed down every feeling that came to mind.
This time, Hugo not only pulled Skander to his room but also let him inside, and if he noticed anything out of place he didn't say so. He gently placed his gift on top of the bar and picked up the phone.
"I'm hungry. Are you hungry? I'm gonna order room service. Come see what you want."
Skander gathered he didn't have a choice and stopped at the bar to look at the menu. He was hungry, so he hadn't planned on going against Hugo at all, but he kept his mouth shut all the same. He even pointed at what he wanted instead of telling him and made drinks as a way of leaving Hugo to order.
Despite claiming to be hungry, he ordered an array of trays they could pick at rather than actual meals and when the food came, they ate in silence. The longer the silence stretched, the more nervous Skander became, until he was convinced that Hugo knew something and was just prolonging the inevitable torture. He'd done it before for a lot less than being spied on for the Ministry.
"Something the matter, Sky?" he inquired quietly so not to choke, hand hovering over his mouth as he finished whatever it was he was eating.
It took a great deal of effort for Skander to look him in the eye without flinching, to get his mouth to work without being noticeably hesitant and to feel just a little like the man he used to be rather than the pathetic mess he had no idea he'd been becoming until seeing his ex again.
"You've just never invited me into your room before and I'm not stupid enough to forget that you always have an agenda," he replied honestly.
"You're right. I do have an agenda." Wiping his mouth and fingers with a napkin, Hugo put lids back other what was left of the food and got to his feet. He stopped right in front of Skander, forcing him to lean back just to look up. "You've never gone out of your way to show you can be good to me before. You knew how much I'd love that gift and you didn't have to get it."
"Yes, I did," he countered.
This time, Skander not only found a spot on the floor a more enjoyable watch than Hugo, but he gave into it. He turned away from Hugo willingly and he refused to look again. "You know why."
All Hugo did in reply was hold out his hand. Skander knew it was wrong, more than wrong it was against everything he was supposed to be doing; his job was to get Hugo to trust him not to get him into bed. Things were finally okay between him, Potter and Weasley if they found out at least one of them would kill him. They'd definitely kick him off the team and send him home.
That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.
Skander knew it was wrong, knew he shouldn't, but he accepted the hand anyway. He allowed himself to be pulled to his feet, even helped in the process, and he allowed himself to be navigated to a room he wasn't supposed to have seen already. He anticipated Hugo's hands under his shirt, cold against flustered skin, and he expected the kiss that doomed them both.
He pushed Hugo onto the bed, knowing not to give too much away, but it was the brunet who had control. And if Skander was going to be completely honest with himself, he always had been.
Thing were silent as they enjoyed what was as close to love making as they'd ever had, not needing words. Not knowing what there was to say. The only sounds that could be heard was the heavy breathing that accompanied erratic heart beats and the whispers in the air as Hugo dropped his head dropped into Skander's neck. As the minutes ticked by their breathing became light and quiet, until the whispers were all that remained and one small voice rang clearly and unwanted from Hugo's mind and into Skander's.
I love you.
As Hugo fell asleep, Skander pretended not to know it.
The hotel phone was the next sound to break the silence, forcing Hugo to turn but not wake. Having not slept, Skander grabbed it and gave his name.
The night receptionist's voice came though. "Mr. Dolohov, you have a call from a Mr. Potter. Should I put him through?"
"Yes," he replied and waited.
"So we can't break the code and we've got nothing on the places and names you sent," Potter said seconds later, not bothering to wait for a response. "At least, not yet. We just don't know what it might mean. We'll keep trying, but we may just have to wait for Hugo to make a move. Unless you can find anything that might help us to break it or if you can do it. Anyway, it was driving me crazy so I volunteered to let you know by lying and saying I'd see how you were doing. But just so I have something to say, you got anything?"
Skander thought back to the bank, to following Hugo and finding the strange woman in the street and opened his mouth to say yes, he had reasonable doubt and a description and anything else they might need to at least arrest Hugo and question him. Then he turned to the man in question, peacefully sleeping beside him after recently having sex together, and all his answers disappeared.
"No, got nothing."
Potter sighed, but thanked him this time, and then hung up. Skander dropped the phone down and turned in the sheets. If this was going to be his last time with Hugo, he wasn't going to waste it; he moved to rest against him, arms wrapping around Hugo's waist.
I love you, he'd whispered. A secret thought Skander shouldn't know but did.
This case was lost.
A/N: A new chapter for Tammi. Because she loves these guys just as much as I do, probably more. :P
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think.
It was scorching heat against Hugo's skin that woke him up before any alarm could. Eyes blinking, he turned away from the rays of morning sun that managed to push through the thin curtains and moved to bury his face into his pillow. Only he didn't find the soft pillow he was used to, in fact it wasn't completely soft at all; tangled webs of dark hair went into his eyes and mouth while the rest of his face knocked into hot skin and bone. A groan let out in the room, a body turning into Hugo. He opened his eyes to find Skander peering down at him, the look on his face torn between confusion and pain, which Hugo could only make out because he was so close. Usually he had his contacts in before meeting up with Skander, so the man was unfocused unless he tried, like staring at a 3-D picture for too long.
"Not exactly the wake up call I had in mind," Skander murmured, head dropping onto the pillow and eyes fluttering as though he might sleep at any moment and was trying not to.
"Really? Care to reveal what it is you actually wanted?" Hugo asked, his voice barely breaking a whisper and he didn't know if it was because it fit the current mood surrounding them or because of his own growing insecurities, but he chose not to analyze it.
Skander's smile was a quick curve of the right side of his mouth, his eyes closed properly as he snuggled deeper and let out a soft sigh. "You're the smartest person in this hotel, you already know the answer."
"Not just this hotel."
The man smiled again, as he'd wanted, but it was clear to them both that Hugo hadn't put as much conviction into his words as he usually did. There was neither hesitance of a lie or pride in the truth, just a simply stated fact that seemed to mean very little to him. And he knew why, the frown forming on Skander's face the proof he needed to tell himself Skander was or could figure it out as well; it was hard to acknowledge anything else when his mind was so focused on the wake up call his lover - because that definitely couldn't be denied anymore - wanted.
His mouth was closed around Skander's, lips parted and teeth tugging gently, before anyone stood a chance to ask questions or admit any truth. Hugo didn't plan on it going any further than a kiss, wanted the distraction to clear his head before he started the day he had planned. But Skander wasted no time in wrapping an arm around his back, another hand going into Hugo's hair. His knees came up to keep Hugo in place, fronts pressed together, and Hugo told himself he was powerless to stop what was happening because it felt too good. Then he told himself it was just sex and he could have it, because the idea that he could be powerless against anything was idiotic.
He believed neither. Told himself just one more thing before giving into it.
He'd been wrong. Hugo was going to get hurt in this.
Miami was nothing like London. Weather for one; when London had sun it was best to take a jacket of some sort anyway just in case, but when Miami had sun it really had sun. Dressed in a thin, white t-shirt and plain shorts that went past the knee, Ron could sit at the window and watch the sun rise above the hotel opposite and pretend he was on holiday. Hermione was downstairs with Rosie having breakfast before they toured the city while he waited for little Hugo to wake up so they could go swimming.
Except Hugo was no longer a little boy having a lie in in the next room and Ron wasn't waiting to take his son to the pool. Hugo was a grown man of twenty-four, a potential criminal on the verge of being arrested. By his own uncle. Because while Ron was on the task force brought in to apprehend the boy, it was only to make sure that Hugo was treated fairly by the Americans. No way would he be able to put cuffs on his little boy. It shouldn't even be Harry as the arresting officer, but he was Head Auror and no one else had been trusted to handle Dolohov. Harry didn't particularly like the kid either, at least not his attitude, but he knew and somewhat respected Dolohov's father. That Alexei Dolohov's uncle was in Azkaban didn't matter, Alexei was on the right team, therefore Skander was a help.
If the kid did anything to hinder the investigation, his father would know and set him straight.
But that he'd been Hugo's boyfriend... Ron still couldn't wrap his head around that. Or that Harry had known. He somewhat understood keeping it a secret from him, Harry knew the need to hold back information that wasn't yours to tell better than anyone. Unless it was important. And it hadn't been when they were kids, when Ron took a breath and thought objectively he knew that. But this was now, with the ex going in undercover to find evidence against Hugo.
Surely he wasn't the only one who saw the red flag? Their ugly past aside, if the idea of using a family member was bad wasn't using a boyfriend worse?
It wasn't just Skander Dolohov that gave Ron a bad feeling, it was the whole case. Hugo didn't make mistakes, the very fact that it had taken everyone about twenty years to realize what he was capable of was proof enough of that; he wouldn't allow witnesses.
Something just wasn't right.
Rustling from across the room had Ron turning his head to spot Harry coming into the living area, papers in hand, but his mind remained focused. He was tempted to confide in Harry, to tell him all of his theories, but it was Harry who was officially on the job and he was exhausted. Just wanting to get the job over and done with, Harry wouldn't listen to any theories yet; he wanted Hugo back home and in the custody of his own Aurors, people he trusted, before he went any further. He refused to tell Perkins anything; the arrogant fool didn't even like that Ron was with then. Butler, however, was a good man. Harry had worked with him before, trusted the guy like he was one of his own. He listened to Ron's theories, believed them, helped to fill in any holes in the investigation.
They weren't doing a very good job, the guy didn't know Hugo well enough to form an opinion and Ron had pushed aside everything he knew because he didn't consider himself a credible source. He'd never really looked past the small boy he'd held, who'd stared at him with wide, blue eyes, grabbed his finger and smiled for the first time. That little boy wasn't capable of pulling off such elaborate heists. Was smart enough, no doubt, he had more brains than his mother. But would never actually go through with it.
I'm so lost.
That was how he felt, staring out of the window at the hotel his son was currently residing in, doing God only knew what with a man he didn't trust. He was utterly lost.
"How you doing, Ron?" Harry asked quietly, sympathetically. Like he might understand. Of course, he didn't, not really; James was the angel of the family and Albus, though not the most social, was also in law enforcement. He'd gotten into trouble a few times with criminals, Muggle police and even Aurors and had been in holding cells once or twice, but never with intent to charge. Though, Ron had to admit, no parent could ever really know their children. Just because Harry didn't understand the turmoil of arresting his son properly didn't mean he wouldn't.
"Ask me again when this is over," he said in reply, voice thick with sorrow and anger. He loved his son and didn't want this, but he'd taught the boy better. Or so he'd thought. "Are you really sure that Skander can do this? Can get to Hugo?"
He winced upon asking, hadn't wanted to at all, but the way he'd worded it made it sound more like he was unsure about what Hugo might do rather than his suspicion that Skander might not follow through with his job. That stopped Harry from getting so defensive about his decisions being questioned.
"I guess we'll see," his oldest friend answered, tone hard enough to not like the question but his willingness to answer a sign that he understood Ron's need to ask.
"Yeah," was all he said.
"It'll be okay, Ron," Harry continued, hand on his shoulder in support. "It's not something we want, but we'll get through it. And Hugo is strong; if he is guilty he'll survive it."
That was enough for Ron; he pushed off and escaped the room, the feeling of claustrophobia sudden and strong. He needed to clear his head.
It was outside, with the sun beating down and the breeze helping things, that he remembered exactly what Harry had said.
He wasn't the tough, objective Auror he was playing. He prayed Hugo was innocent, too.
The Aurors hadn't asked for any updates since Harry's late night call, which was odd but something Skander was more than grateful for. The longer they didn't call the longer he could keep quiet that he'd gotten into bed with their suspect. If they were finally listening to him and waiting for him to bring them evidence, even better.
So with Hugo working at the shop while sat in the hotel with nothing better to do but wait for Hugo to follow through with his plan or find a way to get involved, Skander found his way to the outdoor bar as soon as the time was appropriate and started drinking.
His father would likely be disappointed in him if he ever found out, would even try to straighten him out, but if there was ever a case that forced him into becoming an alcoholic, it was this case. Hugo had always been the best at making him do stupid things, even in school.
"Get you another?"
The bartender's smooth tone broke through Skander's concentration, just enough to have heard what had been said, and pushed back the empty pint glass. With a nod in understanding, the bartender grabbed the glass and put it away to be cleaned before pouring him a new one and sliding it over. Nothing else was said and after a moment the bartender huffed and moved away. He didn't like Skander in any way, the man was sure; likely he was bored and Skander was the only other person at the bar.
He drank slowly, not wanting to speed through his third pint when his head had already begun to spin. His watch told him it was almost two and he let out a breath, his chest deflating gratefully. Hugo should be back soon.
It was the bartender pouring a familiar drink and placing it beside Skander that told him Hugo was back. A shadow cast over his arm and shielded the sun from his eyes, giving Skander the freedom to turn without being blinded. He paused, hesitated, when he noticed the anger hidden behind wide eyes.
"What's up, Matt?"
"A man was looking for me this morning, first while we were in bed then again not long after I went to work," Hugo was quick to answer, though his voice was steady, almost thoughtful. "An older man with red hair and blue eyes, who might have looked like me, but Jess couldn't say for sure."
Ron. Skander was going to kill him.
If any emotion got through, it must have been his own anger. Just a flicker for Hugo's to wane a touch, his face becoming neutral even though he was still pissed, but it was a flicker that Skander grasped with everything he had. At least the man knew that he had nothing to do with Ron coming to the hotel and that gave him the courage to speak.
"How the hell should I know? I stayed in bed for a further two hours after you left."
Leaning in close, Hugo dropped to a whisper. "If they've followed you, Skander... if you brought them..."
He didn't finish. Couldn't finish. And Skander had no idea what the man, a wanted con, would do if he knew the truth. As far as he knew, Hugo had never actually hurt anyone, but there was a time for everything. He'd definitely disappear again, Skander knew that for sure.
"I swear, I didn't bring anyone here," he murmured into Hugo's ear, breath warm and causing the man to shiver beside him. It distracted them both from the crack in Skander's tone; he hadn't lied, he hadn't brought them because they'd brought him, but it was too close to the truth for his liking.
"Okay," Hugo replied, half muffled by the glass as he brought it to his lips and swallowed down almost half of the pint.
"Are you alright, Matt?" Skander had to ask, wishing so much that he could use the man's real name, the name he grew up with and missed. But other people could be listening and they didn't know Hugo.
Hugo didn't answer right away; he turned to Skander cautiously, his mind far away and his jaw tight. He knew something. Or ideas were coming together in that brilliantly dangerous mind of his to form something.
"Do you want to go out tonight? To the club?" he asked instead. Without waiting for an answer, Hugo slapped his hand against Skander's arm and finished the rest of his drink. "Go get ready. We'll have dinner first."
Again he didn't wait for answer, choosing to walk back into the hotel and leave Skander at the bar, nodding his head like the idiot he felt he was.
The club was packed more than usual. At least that was how it looked to Hugo; masses of bodies of all shapes and sizes, writhing against each other as music blasted and multi-colored lights above their heads highlighted parts. Darkened eyes finding their prey, droplets of sweat mixing with alcohol on bare skin.
The details helped Hugo to focus. He gripped Skander's hand and pulled him among the dancers, the feel of the man's hand fading as the reality of his situation forced his attention. Everything was coming together, not just his situation with Skander Dolohov and the Aurors but his reasons for choosing Miami. His shop was fine and would remain so even after he left; his clients had what they wanted so their contracts were terminated; and his friends were in place.
All that was left was the final jigsaw piece - Skander.
His smile gone by the time he turned around, Hugo changed his grip on Skander's hand and used his other to tug at the hem of the man's jeans. The song was moderately fast, considerably old and full of crude imagery, the same kind Hugo was imagining the night would end. Imagery he was giving Skander's ability full access to.
The force with which he returned Hugo's grip was enough for them both to know and understand what was going to happen. Once the implication was there, Hugo didn't waste any time in leaning forward and whispering in his ear.
"Here's the situation, so get ready, Sky. I'm about to make everyone's heads roll."
No one would see it coming.
A/N: Three chapters left. I think. I hope you liked this one. :)
The song at the end is a reference Tonight by Enrique Iglesias and Ludacris. It is also responsible for the chalter's title and summary. Because it was playing while I was writing and it fit the mood.
"There's something he isn't telling us. See, I knew this would happen."
The hand Weasley threw into the air was meant to be seen as dismissive, definitely of Skander and maybe of his hope in the case. But it was stiff, forced; he was just frustrated. He wanted the answers he knew he wasn't getting. Skander knew that once the old Auror calmed down, he'd be back to throwing everything he had to throw into their case - whether it meant putting his son in prison or setting him free.
As much as Skander didn't want to tell, after what Hugo had said in the club he knew it was time. Whether it was an answer or not.
"I have one thing," he muttered reluctantly. Weasley and Perkins waited impatiently, as though knowing exactly how the morning would turn out, but Potter and Butler's heads snapped up in surprise. Apparently they had more faith in him than he realized.
"It might be nothing, that's why I didn't say anything," he continued, inwardly thankful when the latter two Aurors relaxed a little. He found he wanted their faith. "I caught Hugo at the bank, the same one we have listed as Samuel Gold's. I only caught him the once; he was with this woman."
"Describe her," Perkins demanded.
Biting his lip, Skander tried hard to force the memories back to the front of his mind, though he somewhat hoped it wouldn't work just to piss off the Auror. Being so devastated seeing Hugo there, he hadn't paid as much attention to her as he should have. Perkins didn't need to know that, though. Sadly, the others needed the information.
"Middle-aged, small, blond hair with streaks of grey, shaking hands. Honestly, you wouldn't really notice her if you just passed her in the street," Skander admitted with a shrug.
"Why does this woman make you think Hugo is up to something? She could just be a client," Butler pointed out rationally. No one missed the hopeful flicker in Weasley's eyes.
"That was my second thought. That's why I haven't said anything until now."
"What was your first thought?" Harry asked curiously.
Skander didn't hesitate. "Holy shit, what's a thief like Hugo doing in front of a bank?"
No one disagreed with that either. But Perkins huffed and wrapped his arms around his chest, control of his temper slipping. "Who the hell cares? I want to know what's happened to force you into telling us this now."
That got everyone's attention, their eyes trained on Skander like he might disappear if they didn't. Nodding, Skander swallowed down the guilt he didn't want to feel and finished his job.
"Last night, Hugo said something was going to happen. He said heads would roll and he seemed eager; I suspect it'll be today or tomorrow and the bank is my only lead."
Potter and Weasley didn't waste time in reacting somehow, Potter falling into the chair he was closest to while Weasley swore and kicked at the desk in frustration. It was finally happening, they knew; after nine months of following clues and linking evidence, as well as a couple of weeks in a city they didn't know, they were about to either get what they came for or leave disappointed.
"Go, Skander," Butler said after a while, eyes kind and sympathetic. He handed the younger man a bug, sort of like George Weasley's extendable ears, only small enough to fit around his own ear and clear enough that people didn't notice it. "Go and find him. We'll wait for your call. If nothing happens, we know not to arrest him."
Skander pocketed the device and left the hotel room. He'd put it in the moment he saw the evidence he needed. Until then Hugo was innocent until proven guilty.
Hugo was getting into his car as Skander made it back to the hotel. It would be harder to track him in a vehicle when he was on foot, Skander knew, but with a pretty good idea as to where the man was going he only crossed the road and kept his head down, making his way to the bank as Hugo drove off.
If Hugo noticed Skander as he passed, he didn't do anything about it.
The car was already parked in the street by the time Skander reached the bank and his heart sank as his mind whispered that he was right. Hugo was definitely a thief, probably the one the British Aurors were looking for as well, and Skander had to hand him over once he saw what he needed to see.
He moved to sit in one of the café's chairs, ordered some water when a waitress asked what he wanted. His eyes remained locked on the bank, but for half an hour absolutely nothing happened. There wasn't a sound coming from the other side of the road and when Skander stretched his magic he heard nothing out of the ordinary. He couldn't even pin point Hugo.
He was beginning to suspect he'd been wrong when the alarm went off. It rang so loud that patrons of shops and the cafe around it all came out to see what was going on. No one paid any notice to Skander as he paid for his water and stepped around the fence to search for Hugo.
He spotted the man coming around the side of the building, dodging panicked people coming out of the front of the bank as he got to the sidewalk. He chucked a small duffel bag into his car, the smile on his face one Skander knew well; he'd gotten past someone and succeeded.
Except that someone wasn't Skander, not this time.
He watched Hugo drive away and turned into the next street, making his own way back to the hotel. The earpiece Butler gave him went around his ear and he knew without testing it that they were already listening.
"The bank's alarms went off and Hugo came out carrying a duffel bag large enough to carry a serious amount of cash. Get ready; I'm going to find out about the bag first."
He didn't wait for an answer, just pulled it out and continued walking. This time his heart didn't sink, it broke.
The drive back to the hotel took a little longer than it usually did, sirens flying past causing traffic to thicken. Once parked in the hotel parking lot, Hugo grabbed the bag and the keys; it was time for the final phase of his plan. He bypassed the empty reception desk, sneaking into the back of the hotel, past the maid's trollies until he was in Max's security room. They said nothing as he walked in, Hugo ignoring the old man's confusion as he kicked the bag underneath the desk and dropped the keys next to the monitors in front of them, mouthing a thank you for letting him use the car before leaving.
He didn't rush to his room, knew exactly what he'd find there and didn't want to make it easy on them. He pushed himself into the corner of the elevator and gave silent thanks to every person who came in and out until it finally stopped at his floor. For a moment, Hugo thought the flipping of his stomach might be nerves - what if something went wrong? What if, after everything he'd worked hard for, someone managed to ruin it?
But that was just nerves talking; he wasn't the incompetent one, that... mishap back in London nine months ago meant nothing. Everything had been planned perfectly.
Knowing this, Hugo pressed his card key into the access pad and stepped into his room.
The place was just how he left it, all his things in order. The only difference was Skander; rather than sleeping in his bed, as Hugo had been accustomed to seeing the last couple of days, the older man was sit in a chair in the lounge. His back was slouched, his body leant forward with his fingers twisted around each other. There was no pretense, Skander didn't have the strength left to be calm.
He'd cracked. Finally.
"Where's the bag, Hugo?" he asked, tone soft and eyes down.
"Do not play stupid with me," Skander snapped, up on his feet and gaze on his... lover was no longer the right word. "You where at the bank almost an hour ago. You came out as the alarm went off with a duffel bag big enough to carry at least a couple hundred grand in large bills. I saw you from across the street. Now where's the bag?"
"It isn't here," Hugo murmured honestly, his smile small and playful. Then he said something that really got to Skander. "It isn't important."
"Of course it's fucking important, Hugo. You robbed a bank!" he yelled, chest rising so quick and hands visibly shaking so much that Hugo wondered if the man might actually suffer a panic attack. As far as he was aware, the Russian wasn't asthmatic or had any other conditions. Then again, he was living proof that you never really knew a person.
He flinched, eyes wide, when Hugo whispered something new. "Did I? Did I really?"
He pulled out a receipt, dropped it into Skander's quivering hand. "According to this, all I did was put my shop earnings into my savings account. Came out the back exit because it was closer."
"What have you done, Hugo?" Skander begged to know, desperate for it to be over.
"No, Sky. What have you done?"
The shaky breath and the nervous glance at the window was all Hugo needed to know. The Aurors were waiting.
Before either had time to think, Skander was pulling something off his ear and hiding it in his tightly clutched hand. Then he was at Hugo's ear.
"Run. Please, don't look back. Just go."
The words sunk in faster than even Hugo had anticipated; what Skander was telling him to do was something he'd been expecting. But after the last couple of days, with the man so determined to do his job, Hugo honestly wouldn't have been surprised if Skander had kept it to himself either. But no, here he was, begging Hugo to run again. To disappear somewhere else.
He laughed. Short and scathing and more than enough for Skander to push away in confusion.
"And there it is," he remarked, reveling in his own success. "One broken Skander Dolohov. Punishment for coming here, working with the Aurors to have me arrested. Pretending to want me back just to find your evidence."
It wasn't a question. Hugo answered anyway. "The entire fucking time. How does it feel, Skander? To know I can still beat you?" He didn't answer that and Hugo wasn't in the mood to push for one. "Call them, let them in. Might as well get this over with."
It took a few moments for Skander's hand to stop shaking, for the knowledge that he'd been played to really sink in and allow him to think clearly again. And when he brought wherever he'd been hiding in his hand back to his ear, Hugo could see that in making his choice he was no longer hesitant about bringing Hugo to the Aurors. But when the man said his uncle's name, not even Skander Dolohov was able to keep away the heartbreak.
"He's all yours."
The Aurors must have followed Hugo almost immediately because they were opening the door and swarming the lounge the moment Skander dropped his hand. It was Harry who made the arrest, pulled his wrists together behind his back as gently as the old man could and cuffed them, reading him his rights and making him aware of the journey back to London.
One of the unfamiliar Aurors, American accent clear and strong, told Hugo about the charge in the US and that it would carry over into the UK because of a deal the two countries made back at the start of the investigation. It was a big day for Ministry cooperation.
Hugo didn't care about any of that. His eyes remained on Skander, hoped that he could stay passive and in control when all he wanted was to hurt the man, to demand why he'd done this to him. He turned away when Skander stepped forward, lips to Hugo's ear and hand gentle on his waist.
"You think it's over," Hugo scoffed. He glanced at Skander for a second, before turning to the Americans. He refused to look his father in the eye, but flicked his eyes in the man's direction just once. Then he craned his neck to look at his uncle. "My part is done. But the game isn't over yet."
"What does that mean?" one of the Americans asked as Harry led the way out.
It was Ron who answered, voice cracking. And he didn't try and clear it, only pushed through it. "That's what he used to say as a kid when he lost at something. He'd pretend he wasn't phased by it, and then he'd go upstairs and break something of his mother's or sister's."
"So... what's he going to break this time?" was the last thing Hugo heard the American ask before he was maneuvered around the corner and into the elevator.
People were crowded around the lobby as they got out, whispers growing and being added to until he could no longer pin point a specific voice or hear the different stories.
"Butler, get your men and search this place top to bottom. That bag's gotta be hear somewhere," Harry muttered to the American as they left.
They paused at the door, Harry turned them to look behind them and wait for Skander and Ron. Hugo took the few seconds to search the lobby for himself.
His gaze landed on the empty reception desk a moment longer than usual, then he was dragged away to the Ministry.
A/N: Oooh... Two more chapters to go. I hope you enjoyed this one.
It had been a long time since Hugo had set foot inside a Ministry, longer still since he'd been surrounded by so many Aurors. His father, though a qualified Auror and on his case, had really only joined to help his uncle Harry with capturing the Death Eaters and had retired long before Hugo was even born to help his uncle George with the joke shop. Once he'd started Hogwarts, he hadn't even needed to be there to be watched by his mother - he had boarding school and he had friends. The only time he was ever in the Ministry was to sneak into the Ministry Archives and the only member of law enforcement he talked to had been Theodore Nott.
All of that had changed when he'd fled the country.
But as he sat in the Auror offices of Miami's branch of their Ministry, waiting for the long distance port key that would take them all back to the UK, he could recall everything as though he'd only been around them yesterday. The country didn't matter, the atmosphere that surrounded him - the quick steady pace of the workers, the way they ignored everything around them except their own cases, the way a person could sit surrounded by people and still feel completely alone - was exactly the same.
Only he wasn't alone. At least, he wasn't unnoticed. Handcuffed and without a wand, the Aurors had allowed him to sit in a crappy plastic seat by the Head Auror's office rather than a holding cell. It hadn't been worth the effort since they weren't staying. Across from Hugo, sat Skander. They both sat slouched, legs apart to balance along the edge of the chair with their heads tipped back. Their hands rested behind them, only Skander's were free. Harry and Ron had gone to sort out the port key, leaving them alone in the corridor apart from the occasional passersby.
They watched each other, Hugo curious and playful while Skander's eyes shined with tears he wouldn't allow to fall. The case had gotten to him, broken him in more than just a personal manner. Daddy's little protégé didn't want to be an Auror anymore; Hugo didn't need the guy's gift to see that.
"I've never seen you cry before, Sky," he called out, voice rising over the incessant banging the noises had been reduced to in their attempts to be heard. Hugo pulled a face, making his contempt clear. "Don't know what to make of it."
"That's because you're a heartless bastard," Skander muttered. Thanks to Albus' son, who was deaf, Hugo had gotten better at reading lips. Otherwise he might have missed that.
"Oh, don't be like that. You'd have done the exact same thing."
However angry the man might be, he didn't rise to the bait like Hugo wanted. There was no rage, no more shaking; he didn't get to his feet and cause a scene. He just sat there, eyes focused on the ceiling, refusing to acknowledge just how right Hugo was. "Fuck you."
Hugo couldn't help the chuckle that escaped. "You know I've always wondered how much I might miss that. Will you come visit me?"
He got nothing in reply. He didn't expect one; Skander had been hurt and he wasn't one to forgive, but nothing could be done with Aurors surrounding them. Not that the man would try anything anyway; it wasn't the kind of hurt that was cured by simple revenge and Hugo suspected that Skander's own actions in the case was stopping him as well. He couldn't win.
But Hugo could continue to push.
"Can I ask you just one more question?" More silence followed, Skander's lip quivering as he attempted to remain so. Hugo asked anyway. "Why did you agree to take my case?"
The quivering stopped, the soft longing that came out of Hugo hitting them both more than the words themselves, cutting through the tension and forcing Skander to look at him properly. The seconds dragged on as Skander contemplated what he might say, teeth sucking in the right corner of his bottom lip.
"It was a test," he murmured at last. They continued to watch each other, the tension thick with hatred and sadness and something else that couldn't be named. "Louis came to me, told me that the Aurors needed an undercover to go after you and he recommended me. Your name came up and I remembered things about us that I'd pushed aside. I thought that if I saw you, I could be reminded of why we split, why we never told people about us, and the memories would go away. I could tell myself I don't love you and get... I don't know. Closure, I guess. I was wrong."
"And how'd that feel?"
Eye contact broke and it was hatred that surpassed anything else they felt, though whether they directed it at each other or they both focused it on Skander, Hugo couldn't say.
"Fuck you," he said once more and turned away.
Neither spoke again until Harry and Ron came back to take them to the port key.
Such a long distance by port key made Hugo feel more queasy than he would have liked, would never admit and reminded him why he drove, but he pushed it aside. Not because of pride, though the thought of throwing up in front of everyone caused his face to whiten further, but because he refused to show any sign of weakness after Skander had. He had to be the strong one throughout, or one act of weakness would turn into another and another until he was blurting out just how betrayed he felt. Not just because the person he once loved and almost fell for again chose the Aurors over him for a second time, but because his own family came after him.
No one could see how much that made his heart ache, especially when he didn't even like admitting it to himself.
They sat him in an interrogation room, leaving him alone for almost half an hour while they - or others - watched from the other side of the magic glass. It was a simple technique, one his own uncle had once told him about - they would make the suspect wait in the cold, grey room, leave them alone to their thoughts in hope of them imagining scenarios so much worse than reality that they cracked under the right amount of pressure during the actual interrogation.
Hugo hoped they were just talking through the best ways to interrogate him. Because even he didn't want to believe that his family would be so naive, so stupid, as to think he'd fall for the same trick.
His mind drifted, however unwillingly, to him and Skander at school and the games they used to play on unsuspecting students. The trick was deception; not so much that it became obvious too soon, sprinkles of truth had to be woven in throughtout, but in the end it was the lies that hurt the others so much. It was the lies that won out.
They had been brilliant at their craft, successful enough that people who had already been deceived could warn others and they'd still beat their targets.
They were still brilliant, it seemed.
When the door opened and Harry walked in, Hugo let himself slouch in his seat, arms resting weightlessly on the table, and waited. They locked eyes, neither flinching or moving away, though signs of fatigue were clear on his uncle's face.
"Why did you run off to Miami, Hugo?" Harry started simply, getting straight to the point.
He let his shoulders rise an inch, and then they slumped. "It seemed like the right time to get away. England is so cold in winter; I wanted a change of scenery. The sights weren't half bad either."
Harry had to grind his teeth to push past his nephew's insinuation about his sex life; his head whipped around to the glass, to where Ron and Skander were probably standing.
"What were you doing during the nine months you were in Miami?" he asked next.
"Creating legitimate businesses, enjoying the occasional party and sleeping around."
"Hugo, this is serious," his uncle finally snapped, voice louder than he'd heard it in a long time. He'd never heard such desperation, though. Nor such shame. "Don't you understand that? You've gotten yourself involved with some serious shit. You're going to get years in prison. Years, Hugo."
He stopped abruptly, cleared his throat in an attempt to maintain professional. They sat and watched each other once more, Hugo counting the seconds - one, two, three - until he decided it was time to answer.
"Not if I didn't do it," he said.
It was murmured, a soft, almost child-like sound that had Harry falling back into his seat as he tried to comprehend exactly what he'd been told. It was also strong and filled with conviction he hadn't shown since he was eleven, because that was when he stopped feeling the need to prove himself to his family.
"What do you mean you didn't do it? We have a witness."
"A brief description from a distance too far to really see anything," he replied with a scoff. "What? Did you really think I wouldn't keep tabs? I was being blamed for a sloppily executed crime. I'm a little insulted."
"If you didn't do it," Harry started, fidgeting in his seat as he hesitated, "why did you run?"
Hugo straightened his back, allowing himself to tower over his uncle for a moment before leaning forward so they were eye to eye. "What makes you think I ran?"
Any answer was halted by the click of the door opening.
From the other side of the glass, Skander and Weasley watched. The air was thick was tension, Weasley spending the time confined either pacing or bouncing on the balls of his feet. He didn't want to be stuck watching, he wanted to be in the interrogation room himself and looking his son in the eye as be demanded to know the truth. He wanted to be there, whether he found out if his kid was a liar and thief or not.
Skander understood that, though he didn't feel the same way. The sense of confinement, of being trapped in the tiny room with no where else to go, filled him as well, only it wasn't because he wanted to be part of the action. He didn't want to be anywhere near the Ministry at all, let alone Hugo. He wanted out completely, wanted to be far away from law enforcement. He'd had his taste of the dream he thought he wanted, but the dream was not the wish of better things. It was a nightmare and he couldn't stand it any longer.
He stopped listening to Hugo's interrogation early on, instead choosing to wait until Potter came back and tell him he could go in person or until Weasley became fixated on the glass. Then he would leave, let them figure it out for themselves for all he cared.
"What makes you think I ran?"
Hugo's final blow to his uncle stopped Skander in his tracks. Of course he ran; he took off long before the news of the robbery had ever made it to the press... because he knew he'd fucked up. Right?
Hugo leaving couldn't have been a coincidence.
The door opening stopped Potter from answering and Louis stepped inside, body shielded by the door and eyes trained on Potter. Hugo might as well have not been in the room.
"Trent Lane is on his way."
Lane. The witness, the one who would prove once and for all that the man he saw running from his home was Hugo Weasley. Then it would be over. Skander took that as his cue to leave and darted out of the room just has Potter followed Louis out.
"Where are you going, Skander?" the old man asked, eyes narrowed as he took in what was happening.
"I did what you asked, you don't need me anymore, so I'm leaving. I am allowed to leave, right?" Skander demanded.
"Don't want to be an Auror anymore, I take it."
Potter was right, but the blow still hit hard and he couldn't help the wince that followed. He wasn't just letting go of a dream by turning his back on the Ministry, but disappointing his father. He hated that above all else.
Still, he held his head high and took another step away. "Stuff your job. I never should have agreed to get you Hugo in the first place."
Turning on the spot, he all but fled the department, not even turning to acknowledge whoever was following him. It had to be Louis, no one else considered their time flexible enough to make sure he got out, or whatever the blond's reason was. He didn't face the man until he was stood inside the elevator and Louis had a hand blocking the gate.
"You did good, Sky," was all he said, letting the gate close.
Only then, as the elevator began to push back, did he reveal a wink and a smile.
Holding cells were dark and cramped, but still inside the Ministry rather than the dank ruins of Azkaban, so were warm and dry. Hugo considered that to be somewhat of a consolation. They had nothing to charge him with unless their witness positively ID'd him, so the prison wasn't an option. The holding cells were for prisoners waiting to be charged or for petty things like drunks who needed a place to sober up after getting caught.
Hugo wondered if he was in the same cell as Albus had been. That would be something to laugh about.
Until he could find that out, however, he could only sit on the hard lump of a bed, think and wait. Every so often a guard came over and paused to check on him, but pushed into a corner with his knees pulled up no one could see him slip his hand into his pocket and take out the ripped edge of a piece of paper that had been given to him in Miami.
It was crushed, the writing smudged, but it was legible and that was all that mattered.
See you soon, lyubov moya.
It was a month before the robbery; that was when Albus came to him and it all started. Hugo was sat in his flat with Skander and Louis, listening to his cousin ramble about Theodore and work in general. He wanted more to do, pure and simple. But he was already considered the best and had more work than any other junior hit wizard and even some senior ones; because of it, that Saturday was his first day off that he'd actually kept in a long time. The git was just being greedy.
Albus came in through the floo; with the wards up and the doors locked, he wouldn't have been able to Apparate and let himself in, but the floo was open to certain people. Both Louis and Al preferred Apparition to floo, not wanting to get dirty, but that just made it funnier.
"Hey - ow, fuck, my ankle. Hugo!"
"Was that you yelling at me because you need me for something or because I just got my dose of Albus Rage for making you floo in?" Hugo asked between fits of laughter, the movement causing his shoulders to shake and his chest to puff in and out even further and lasted so long that Skander had to get up from his position on the man's side.
His cousin waited for him to finally calm down before answering. "Both. I need you to do something for me. Well, for me and Lex. Well, for Lex. But she has a rule about not asking you for things so I'm going to do it for her."
"And that is?" Hugo asked, a no already on the tip of his tongue. He didn't do things for others, that was his rule. But Albus, Louis and the Notts - well, Theo and Lex - were the only family he genuinely liked. So he had to at least here them out.
"There's, er... something in Miami that I need you to get," he murmured, voice automatically dropping at the sight of Louis. It wasn't necessary; Louis would never rat them out. He just couldn't help it. "It will take a while for you to get, a few months. But it'll be very worth it, I promise."
"As fun as that sounds, we live in London," Skander was quick to point out. "We have no reason to be in Miami; how do we explain suddenly moving there just before a robbery?"
"Calm down, Dolohov," Albus told him, grin wide. "You haven't heard my plan yet."
Albus' plan had been stupid, borderline reckless and just fun enough for Hugo to accept. Skander didn't like it, tried everything he could to talk him out of it. But he just couldn't let it happen; he'd always wanted to see Florida, to see any part of America - and the world - that didn't involve being watched by overbearing mothers and annoying siblings or cousins. To see it with Skander was what got his boyfriend on board, but to try out the shop he wanted to open was his final reason for saying yes. They had to stay there for a while; he could make it happen.
Skander's job came first; do a little break in, get away clean. All Hugo had to do was make sure he was seen by the right people before getting on his plane.
The plan didn't suck until he'd been in Miami for a month without the man he'd wanted to come with. Because he couldn't come yet; it wasn't part of the game.
"I hate this, Sky. You're supposed to be here," he mumbled into a glass as he finished his fourth cocktail. It was happy hour at the hotel he was living in, but he refused to see what could be so happy about it.
"Hey, you're the one who agreed to do the stupid thing," the man said over the phone, a yawn escaping as he spoke. He had to let another pass before continuing. "I told you not to."
"You should have talked me out of it better."
"I tried," Skander protested. "I even tried to threaten sex against you. And then I tried to use it to my advantage. I used dirty tactics to get you to listen, the worst of the worst, and you know how I much I hate bringing that into the bedroom."
"I have never heard so many outrageous lies come out of your mouth at once before," Hugo deadpanned. "That was just - you know what, I'm not even going to comment on it. I'll just get mad at you. And I can't afford to do that right now because you're the only person I can call. But rest assured, Skander Dimitri Dolohov, when you get here I will make you pay."
"Promises, promise," he whispered, though Hugo couldn't decide if he was aiming for sexy or just too exhausted to care. He imagined the former, allowed a short daydream to play out in his mind while the man spoke. "So how's the target?"
"He's an annoyingly pompous git and I want to hit him were it hurts," Hugo admitted. He couldn't; that wasn't part of the plan either. But a guy could dream.
"And how's the view?"
The bartender came to take the empty cocktail glass, sliding a new one over, and Hugo allowed his first smile as he watched the man's back.
"I'm coming to Miami."
Hugo had been counting down the days until Skander said those words to him and they couldn't come a moment too soon. They stopped him in his tracks, creating a queue at the hotel entrance until someone finally managed to get his attention and he moved further to the window. They meant that thing were finally happening, that it was time to actually work, that after nine months alone in heat and sweat his shop would no longer be the only thing he looked forward to.
"They bought it?"
"They bought it. Louis' acting is not bad; your uncle came to me himself. Now I will bring them to you. Did you like my present."
Hugo's gaze snapped up. "Very much."
"Good. See you soon, lyubov moya."
"See you soon."
The rest of the plan went smoothly and the final phase was done to her. Was already over if she'd done it right. All Hugo had to do was wait. In dark cell they'd put him in, he hoped he wouldn't have to wait too long. But they'd come soon enough.
And they still wouldn't know what hit them.
A/N: Did you see that end coming? Did you really?
Deception, guys. Deception. ;)
Lyubov moya: Russian for my love. One more chapter.
Harry didn't know what to do. The evidence was either against them or a mess of questions he couldn't get answers to, and the fact that it was his nephew the government were pushing him to convict, that he was pushing himself to convict, led his thoughts down a dark and tiring path.
For the first time since he was given the position of Head Auror, he didn't want the job.
Hugo's criminal folder sat open on his desk, stacks of information on other cases turned over for him to read through everything on the robbery and Miami. From a distance the folder looked full and incriminating, but only the last of it mentioned Hugo's name specifically. The bulk of the cases were Harry's ideas; patterns that had cropped up over the years and traits that just screamed his nephew's name. None of it could be proved, he'd never slipped until now, and Harry wasn't going to do anything to add to Hugo's inevitable prison time. Hermione would probably never forgive him if he did; she didn't even want this to happen. But Harry needed to know the truth, no matter how hard.
Letting out a long, ragged breath, Harry grabbed the back of the folder and slammed it closed. There was time to sort through the crap on his desk and figure out the truth, right now he had to get through the Miami case. They had Hugo in custody; all they had to do now was make sense of the evidence or get a confession out of the boy.
It was a knock at the door that pushed Harry into action more than the idea of interrogating his nephew.
"Yeah?" he called out, straightening in his seat as the door was pushed open and one of his senior Aurors walked through.
Neil Greaves was usually an intimidating man; six foot six with thick arms that made his robes look too tight whenever he folded his arms and a scar that went from the corner of his lip to his cheek and forced a permanent sort of scowl that people often shied away from. So the moment Harry noticed the wide eyes and the puffed up scarred cheek from the movement of the younger man's tongue, he knew something was wrong.
"What is it?"
"Trent Lane is here, he's behind the glass waiting to see Hugo," Neil let him know a little too quickly.
"That's not what's wrong."
Neil hesitated, which only made Harry's heart beat faster as his mind came up with a million scenarios as to what could possibly have gone wrong. His senior Auror was not only his most reliable, but also a trusted friend both in and out of the department; good or bad, he always told you immediately. He wouldn't do this unless he felt he had to or was worried for Harry.
"Just tell me, Neil. I'm a big boy, I can take it."
Nodding, Neil let out a breath and began. "I just got word from the American Auror you worked with in Miami - Butler. He said that nothing was stolen from the bank, they triple checked everything. Both the cameras and witnesses say a man matching Hugo's description deposited some money into an account, closed another and left. They also found the bag he was carrying; it was empty."
No robbery. That was all Harry heard. Hugo had been arrested in Miami for nothing.
It didn't make sense.
"But the alarms?"
"A glitch in the system, the bank thinks," Neil replied, shoulders slumping. "The fire alarms went off as well as the vault. They don't know why, but everything's fine now."
"Was anything reported to the police that day? Something to do with Samuel Gold?" Harry demanded.
"They knew you'd ask," his friend said, taking another breath. "There was a report at his hotel on the beach; a staff member claimed the safe had been picked somehow and something might have been taken. But only Gold had the combination so no one knows what it might have been. Gold isn't admitting to anything, says it must have been a mistake."
"Hugo wasn't anywhere near that hotel," Harry muttered, eyes darting back to the folder. The urge to rip it up was huge, but he held it back. There were too many questions to just let things go completely.
"I know you were hoping to get this over and done with," Neil said softly, his unmarred side allowing his smile. "But this is good, isn't it? It means Hugo's innocent."
"Of that crime, maybe. There's still our robbery to get through," he reminded the other man with a grimace. He remembered the story of the small boy picking the pockets of rich benefactors. "And I'm starting to wonder if anything Hugo's done shouldn't be called into question."
Neil frowned. "You don't think Lane might be wrong as well?"
That, Harry felt, was the million dollar question. He got to his feet. "I guess we'll find out."
"It's not him."
Harry leant against the wall, eyes on his nephew through the glass as Ron stopped to stare at Trent Lane. His friend's jaw dropped so far down it was close to looking unhinged and his eyes damn near popped out. Harry, however, was unsurprised; given how everything they'd thought about their two cases had been turned on its head and everything they had done had failed spectacularly, it seemed only right for them to be wrong about Lane's eye witness account, too. After all it had been dark when the man had caught his thief, he could have seen anyone.
"It's not him?" Ron repeated the moment he got his mouth working again. "You're absolutely sure?"
Lane turned away from Hugo's pacing with a snap, eyes narrowed at the older man. "Of course I'm sure; I'm not blind. This guy in there is slightly too tall and leaner than the guy I saw. Similar hair color, though. If I don't look too hard, I can see why you would have arrested him based on my description. But no, it's not him."
"Then why did he run?"
The question was a good one and Harry knew why Ron asked it, but the thankful grin on his face made it clear that his friend really didn't want to know the answer. At least not yet. His son was innocent of both crimes, at least in the eyes of the law. He could be let go.
He didn't give his friend any answer at all, didn't do a thing as Neil thanked Lane for his time and got everything sorted in order to let Hugo go. All he did was think.
Everything went back to Gold, he just knew it. The bank was wrong, but the target was spot on. Hugo had to have had a partner, someone no one would think to look for. Someone no one would really notice in a crowded room. Like the old woman Skander didn't think to question; she would be an interesting person to investigate, but wouldn't have a motive.
Unless she wasn't really an old woman.
The thought came quick and lingered as he tried to make sense of it, like an echo he can't quite make out at first. Polyjuice would be an obvious choice, but in a country as big as the USA it was a potion that had to be monitored strictly to make sure nothing went through the cracks. Even the ingredients were checked and Hugo was much too careful to risk that being a part of his plan.
But a glamor charm was a different story.
And that was when it came to Harry. Samuel Gold wasn't a familiar name, but in passing he could remember Kieron yelling to his father about "some asshole Gold" who had managed to get through his security and somehow taken a memory of a conversation with Nott Industries' board about new plans for hotels.
And there was only one person in the world Hugo would trust who would be brilliant enough with glamors to help steal said memory back. Or, to be more accurate, there was only one person who trusted Hugo to get the job done.
None of it was about money, it was about getting to Florida. It was about family.
"I can't believe it," Ron whispered, taking a place beside Harry and turning to the now empty interrogation room. "I knew he was innocent. Just like Hermione said."
"Yeah. Excuse me, Ron. I have to go. Tell Hermione the good news."
"Where are you going?"
"Just something I gotta do, paperwork and all," Harry lied and took off.
He side-stepped coworkers and other department workers, ignored whispers from anyone who'd heard about Hugo's arrest, and stopped outside by the visitor's entrance. It wouldn't be long before his nephew got out and there was no way he'd go home right away; his parents would be waiting for him and Hugo never really had much patience for them. No, he'd come out rather than floo. Harry just had to wait.
It wasn't long before his suspicions were confirmed and Hugo stepped out of the phone box. He didn't notice his uncle at first, was too busy fixing his jacket and muttering under his breath about the stench of prison not coming out.
"How did she do it?" Harry asked, startling the boy into looking up.
"I knew I recognized the girl behind the desk at the hotel, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it," Harry began, moving forward to stop in front of Hugo. Despite the conversation, he couldn't drop the small smile he wore as he finally put all the pieces together. "Then I got news of the supposed robbery at Gold's hotel and I remembered the connection to the Notts and you. She's the only one brilliant enough to pull of successful glamor charms for long periods of time because she uses a combination of other people as influences. So then it hit me: the girl behind the hotel's desk looked a lot like Jessica Shepherd in places, especially the eyes. She's the only one you'd be willing to do all this for, the only one who could help pull it off and she's been in California for the past few weeks for Nott Industries. She was due to come home last night and I bet if I call the hotel, that girl is gone. So I ask again: how did Alexa do it?"
Hugo had a smile of his own, one wide and playful while his eyes sparked with mischief. "I guess that's a question you should ask her. I have no idea what you're talking about, after all. Being innocent of the crimes you charged me with."
"We both know that's bullshit," Harry said. "The only thing I can't quite figure out is who you got to stage a robbery at Trent Lane's house so you could run away and get to Miami while also creating a reason to be cleared later on. Very clever by the way. Then again you always were."
"If I knew what you were talking about, I might thank you," Hugo answered, stepping past Harry to walk away. "But if you ever have a theory about this mystery robber, let me know. I'd love to hear it."
"Be careful, Hugo," his uncle called out as he turned the street. "One day a job will come and you won't be able to get out of it and I can't make them go away anymore."
"Until that day, Uncle Harry."
Harry watched until the boy was out of sight and prayed that day would never really come.
London was loud and vibrant and finitely different to Miami, but a home Hugo had certainly missed. Even stepping into his shared apartment had him breathing it in, as though worried the slightest scent might have changed. He needn't have worried, it seemed; Skander had kept everything perfect.
"Back at last," the man in question said from the couch, Louis, Albus and Alexa on either side of him.
"I've missed the cold," was all he said, slamming the door shut and throwing his jacket off before taking a place beside his boyfriend and letting his head fall back. "Miami is great and all, but so hot."
"You've always been a winter person, Hugo," Alexa reminded him with a laugh. "You did a good thing, though."
He nodded once, head heavy and lopsided from the angle he was lying at, and pulled himself up to see the silver whispers of light that shone whenever the memory moved around in the glass orb it had been encased in.
Nine months of sun, lies and Skander-less days for that; Hugo still wasn't sure what all the damn fuss had been about.
"Yes, a good thing. A great thing. A spectacular thing," Skander cried dramatically, holding out a hand. "Give it."
The others around them laughed as Alexa called him an ungrateful bastard, but handed over the cheque she'd promised to pay them when it was over. Family was great and all, Hugo was willing to do a lot for the ones he liked, but money helped a whole lot more.
"Thank you, for agreeing to my plan. The basis of it anyway. Kieron would be grateful if he could know anything about it," Albus said, getting to his feet and holding out a hand for his wife. "Now if you'll excuse us, we have kids to sort out."
"And I have work to do," Louis added on. "Apparently Trent Lane's robber is still out there."
The cousins said their goodbyes, letting themselves out so Hugo could allow the fact that he was home to finally sink in. During that time he relayed to Skander what Harry had talked about, head bouncing against the man's shoulders when he laughed.
"Do you think he'll ever figure out it was me?" he asked.
At first, Hugo went to shake his head. But then he acknowledged how quickly Harry had been able to make the right connections and he knew exactly why his uncle was Head Auror.
"Maybe," he eventually answered. "If he wants to know the answer. But I'm thinking we should hold off on us finally telling them we're together until after that. He might be pissed off enough to do something with the information unless he figures it out for himself."
Skander shrugged. "I don't care enough to tell them anyway. It hasn't stopped us yet. So what's next."
"You practice persuading me not to help my family so you're more successful next time," Hugo laughed, looking forward to the idea of doing nothing for a few days.
The room was silent for a moment, and then he felt warm breath tickle his ear. "Now that, lyubov moya, I can do," his boyfriend whispered, hand turning Hugo's head as though he might kiss him, and then jumping back to grab his hand and drag him to the bedroom.
Target hit, prize snatched, con successful.
It was good to be home.
A/N: The title says it all really. Except it doesn't, BECAUSE SOMEONE WANTS A SEQUEL. But until that day I say the end. :D
lyubov moya - My love in Russian.