It was nighttime; a hazy sort of end of the summer humidity mixed the smoggy sort of air, creating a rather heavy atmosphere. The air was so thick you might have been able to cut it and butter your bread with it. It was not a good night to attempt star gazing, not that you honestly could see any really important stars in a New York City sky. Some people were better at it than others, and some people had magic on their side.
A battered looking broom was sitting next to a talk thinnish girl wearing long black leather gloves, her knobby elbows poking out jauntily as she looked straight up from the top of her sky scraper. It was hard enough to see the stars with the smog, let alone with all the cloud cover moving in from the East River. She half thought about getting onto her broom and flying straight up through the clouds and high into the air just so she could finish her business and move on. There was a lot for her to do tonight before she went out on that other contract. The only thing that kept her from giving up was the feeling that this was just as important as getting back to her contact in the alleyway and paying him for that juicy tidbit that someone had let slip about her next mark.
Her stomach flip flopped uneasily at the thought of getting on her broom and going higher than she all ready was. Heights weren’t exactly her thing, neither was flying. She was amazed to have even gotten this far up without falling off. She’d cheated a little, she’d taken the elevator up to the top of the Empire State building and then from there, had flown up to the top of the building, she was sitting on now.
I just have this feeling…I need to know. She thought her right hand rubbing her left arm uncomfortably. She sat there for another few minutes half complaining and half asking some great providence to move the clouds with a giant sneeze.
“There we go,” She said happily as the clouds slowly parted. Her smile vanished almost immediately. There was a single star bright and shinning with a peculiar greenish light. A bad omen. She was no centaur but the last time a new star showed up in that quadrant her mother and father had died. The time before that, she was born, the time before that, Voldemort…had killed those other two people, the Potters. Harry must be doing well now that she wasn’t around.
Her eyes turned back onto that section of sky and narrowed as she frowned. Quite an unhappy quadrant of the universe if you thought about it long enough. The mark on her arm burned hard, harder than before. She’d learned to ignore it with a little help from her gloves. This would be news to Boss Lord. Carefully stepping over her broom and shutting her eyes she threw herself from the top of the building and silently soared above all the midtown traffic.
Boss Lord would want to alert Dumbledore no doubt. She was apprehensive about this course of action, mostly because the last time Boss Lord let her go back to Hogwarts for a while she had nearly gotten Harry killed. He couldn’t remember that of course. They made sure she was quietly erased from Harry’s memories and from now on, there would be no more “mistakes.” She sighed to herself as she whizzed shakily along. That what she always was, a mistake. One good whoops, and there she was. Her mother’s mistake, an abandoned course of action, an abandoned student, an abandoned anything. And just when she was learning to live with that fact she’d met Harry and like an idiot, she liked him. He made her feel less like a mistake and more like a person. Even if she couldn’t ride a broom for shit.
The broom was getting antsy, it bucked a little and shook a little harder. She grabbed hold of the neck of the broom with a tight death grip and refused to let go.
“Stop it, Clarence! You know I hate it when you start doing that! Keep it up and I’ll make fire wood out of you!” She shouted angrily. The broom didn’t like that. It zoomed forward into a steep dive. Her mouth opened but all she could do was hold on as it pulled her closer and closer to the ground before zooming into a dark alley. She looked up and saw a big brick wall dead ahead. Clarence wasn’t changing course.
“Dead End, Clarence!” She screamed, “Dead End! Pull up you stupid excuse for transportation! PUUUULLLL UUUUUP!” But Clarence didn’t pull up. Instead it stopped short about a foot from the wall throwing her off. She hit the was with a dull thud and slid the rest of the way down into a bunch of garbage bags. Clarence floated gracefully down in front of her as she tried to struggle out of the trash.
“You’re furniture when I catch you!” She shook her fist at the broom as she tripped over another bag, falling face first onto the asphalt. Broom seemed to shake with laughter, little bits of straw falling out of its sweep.
“Go ahead!” She said flailing as she got up, “You keep laughing you-” She unleashed a barrage of language that most would find offensive. The broom just floated there waiting until she was done before turning on it’s own and heading towards the main street.
“Wait a minute!” She wheezed running clumsily after it, “you can’t go out there! There are Muggles out there and they’re not going to believe the story that I’m just out taking my broom for a walk.” The broom stopped and turned as if daring her to try and stop it. She knew he’d do it, so she walked slowly closer until he was just a few feet away. She dove for him and grabbed him around the handle. Clarence threw himself around angrily as she tried to hold him back.
“Clarence, I’m in enough crap already! I don’t need one more thing!” She seethed pulling him back only to have him shoot up into the sky with her screaming as she held onto the handle for dear life.
The lights below were looking smaller and smaller as Clarence shot up higher and higher. She was starting to feel sick.
“Okay, Clarence! You’re a little high, buddy!” She looked down to confirm this…bad idea, “Not a little high, a lot! Oh my freakin’ God! I can’t see the ground anymore! Take me down! Take me down! You know I don’t like flying…or heights! Take me down!” Clarence leveled off and waited, making sure that she was hanging upside down.
“What? You want me to promise I’m not going to make you into a toothpick! If you don’t take me down I won’t give you any guarantees!” She wasn’t sure how this was going to help her, considering she literally was in no position to make any sort of threats. Clarence began to shake slightly at first and then harder.
“Are you kidding me! You’re a broom! You’re not supposed to be able to murder people on your own!” Clarence kept shaking.
“Are you upset about me calling you stupid before? I’m sorry! Alright!? Take me down!” She screamed finally. Clarence looped under and in one swift move she was sitting properly on him. As soon as they touched ground she grabbed him by the handle.
“I’m walking the rest of the way to Boss Lord,” She said angrily holding Clarence tightly as she strode out into the main flood of people making their way along the streets.
“I can’t believe that I bought you. Starter broom, she said, easy flying, she said, easy for anybody who wants to commit suicide. I knew this kind of thing would happen. Buying a broom that happened to be a transfigured Quidditch Player…I must have been out of my mind. You were too cheap to just be a normal starter broom.” Clarence remained quietly still the entire trip until she turned down a corner walking right through a wall before giving the high sign to Tito, their security goblin.
“You’re late,” he croaked at her as she walked in, “Boss Lord is waitin’. And you got mail.”
“Owl or regular mail?” She asked.
“Both.” Tito replied lighting up a cigar and smoking it slowly to blow as much dark smoke as possible.
“Hmm, I wonder who the Owl is from. No let me guess,” she said with a sarcastic roll of her eyes, “My godfather who hasn’t given a damn about me ever? He just sends that regular formulaic letter ‘Be good, brush your teeth, don’t write back.’ Not even a sincerely yours. Just S.S., that’s it. You’d think after what I dunno…twelve years he’d wonder if I was even getting these stupid letters.”
“Will you shut up and see Boss Lord? Who says I wanna hear about all your damn problems?” Tito replied his eyes watering in the cigar smoke.
“You’re all heart, Tito. All heart,” She said quietly adding, “for a rock.”
The alley was kind of like the one in London, what was the name again? Diagon Alley? Nah, the other one…Knockturn Alley. There were all sorts of dimly lit stores, half of which she took a strict attitude of “ignorance is bliss.” She didn’t want to know why, what, or how. People who asked too many questions were found dead. Things were different than in London. They were a little lax about magic crimes around here. She’d learned to survive, no help, well a little from Boss Lord.
She pushed the door open to a bar called appropriately, “The Fat Centaur.” This was Boss Lord’s domain. He was shady sort, but on the right side (most of the time) and if you could get over the fact that he was a fat, drinking, smoking, swearing, crime lord Centaur, he wasn’t that bad.
“Hey, Darky! Get your butt over here and give your great big Boss Lord a hug!” Boss Lord called spotting her from the back of the smoke filled bar. People turned to look at her, not uncommon, but certainly not desirable. Crowds made her nervous, and the Bar was always crowded.
“I wouldn’t hug you if you paid me, you overgrown manure maker,” the girl, Darky, replied ordering something akin to a butterbeer but with a lot less butter. Boss Lord’s chins jiggled as he laughed. He was so round that he could barely move anymore, his gigantic horse’s ass was always propped up in some sort of chair, while the rest of him on some sort of extra wide ottoman purchased for the purpose. In almost the entire time Darky knew Boss Lord, she had never seen him move an inch.
His legs probably couldn’t take the strain, Darky thought smiling to herself as she sipped her beverage.
“The last time you wanted a hug you sent me out after that Veela bookie who had stiffed you out of those proceeds from the betting during Quidditch World Cup. The time before that it was rounding up that gang of trolls encroaching on your turf. And the time before that, you asked me to write to my esteemed Godfather and ask for cash because you were short on a wager. He sent me a freakin’ Howler. I wouldn’t have minded so much if he’d actually yelled at me himself, but, he had some old hag do it. No dice. No hugs,” Darky replied counting the times steadily on her fingers. Their esteemed relationship was going on a golden anniversary, ten years.
“Aw, Darky, can’t you’re big old Uncle Boss Lord shower some love and affection on his favorite junior bounty hunter?” Boss Lord raised his chubby arms in an effort to look innocent, he only succeeded in looking more devious than before.
“Love? Affection? How much have you been drinking?” asked Darky, putting aside her cup, “Besides, I’m not your niece (thank God) and it’s an Auror, not bounty hunter…besides, you never paid me anything.”
“I gave you a roof over your ungrateful head, and the best schoolin’ in the world! I taught you how to survive in the real world!” Boss Lord tried to look paternal but his tubby stomach swayed with irritation, making him look rather comical.
“Taught me? Ha. I taught myself. You just put me in the right situation,” Darky replied coldly, “you abandoned me like everyone else.”
“And it worked! Now look at you! Soon to be Auror, authority on ways to get your butt kicked and not die, and expert on survival. What other skills could you possibly need? By the way, when are you taking your Auror exam? I’m getting sick and tired of having to pay people off every time I need to send you out on a job because you’re not certified yet,” Boss Lord said swishing his tail back and forth with a glow of pride. Darky shook her head. He just didn’t get it.
“Never,” She said simply, “I wanna go back to school and get a real job. I’ve told you that a hundred times. I’m not going to be an Auror.”
“And you are going to be an Auror and a damn good one! You can’t ruin years of experience on the streets taking care of little mishaps. You owe it to Ruelak’s memory,” Boss Lord insisted. Darky froze.
Boss Lord’s trump card, alias, the late Jason Ruelak, top flight “collector” for Boss Lord’s little business and the only person who’d given a tinker in hell about her. He’d been a graduate of Hogwarts (a few years after her own parents), trained to be an Auror but failed his final exam, came out to New York to change the world and ran out of cash in the process. So he turned to Boss Lord and there he stayed. Smart guy, J.R. was, brought all of his old school books with him. Lucky thing for her too. He missed his little sister “back home.” So she became surrogate sibling. It was he that had taught her all the spells she needed to know, convinced Boss Lord to keep her when she’d first been sent in as a runny nosed little kid of six. Unfortunately, Jason had a run in with some Death-Eaters…over her and now he was dead. And you could bet that Boss Lord never let her forget it.
“Ruelak wanted me to do something with my life. Not get myself killed as quickly as possible. I want to get some formal schooling anyway. Potions always interested me, maybe I could do that. Besides, I’d fail the flying test. Clarence wouldn’t hear of it,” Darky countered, feeling guilty all the same.
“Well, I don’t know if it’s up to you or not anymore, you got mail, a couple of new letters from your godfather. Some from those dumb Muggles you love to hang out with. And one here from my old pal Dumbledore,”
Darky stared at him squarely, “A couple of letters from my godfather? What is he dying or something?”
“How am I supposed to know,” Boss Lord said producing the letters and casually waving them in front of his face. Darky came up to him and went to grab them. One good snatch and she had them.
“You opened the one from Dumbledore, you nosy lard-ass! Dammit! Can’t you leave my mail alone?”
“Oh, stop bellyaching and read your mail. Then I gotta talk to you about some business before you leave,” Boss Lord said slowly. Darky shot him a long sideways stare.
“Just read your mail!” Boss Lord replied before ordering another pint of meade.
Darky was untrusting as she sifted through the Muggle mail first. Her friends Sarah, Micah, and…something else, looked like a legal letter. She’d read those later. Here was one from her godfather:
Attn:Miss Alcyone Spellbinder
The Attic, The Fat Centaur
New York, New York
“Miss Alcyone Spellbinder,” she sniffed indignantly, “doesn’t sound a bit like me.” After opening it she read the enclosed letter:
Dear, Miss Spellbinder,
Upon your last visit to Castleshade and Hogwarts, you were told that you would not be allowed back for safety reasons. Both you and his safety had to be taken account at that time, and the particulars of your problems were too complicated to be suitably handled. However, recent developments have impressed upon many the importance of having your peculiar talents readily accessible to either Dumbledore or myself. We’ll be needing you back in England as soon as possible, your presence is not a request. There will be a Portkey sent to you. It’ll only be activated on August 12th of this year. You will end up at King’s Cross. Someone will pick you up from there.
P.S. Keep this letter as proof of identity.
Darky nearly shredded the letter she was so angry. For a moment she stood squeezing as many rude words into one sentence as possible before she calmed down enough to rant.
“This jerk wants me to show up in London and do him a favor! He needs me! He didn’t even ask if that was okay with me! It sounded like a freakin’ draft letter! There is no way I’m going! I couldn’t care less whether the bastard needs me or not! ‘having your peculiar talents readily accessible’ Can you believe that? I’m not just a tool!” Darky said crumpling the letter up and raising her hand to throw it into the fire.
“Hey, I wouldn’t do that until you real Dumbledore’s letter,” Boss Lord said his voice a little less gruff and little grimmer.
“Probably the same nonsense, If he thinks that he’s going to change my mind he’s sorely mistaken,” She said as she unfolded the letter:
Dear Miss Darky,
I must apologize for the intrusion and for Severus’s letter. He’s rather cut and dry at times and though you may wish for a little more familiarity, Severus isn’t particularly good at showing that sort of thing (however, given a little time you could be pleasantly surprised.) I’ve enclosed a number of his previous attempts at writing to you without his knowledge, so I would appreciate it if you kept these secret. However, we must look to the problem at hand. To not put it too plainly, Voldemort has come back. I need every Auror and Specialist as quickly as possible. I felt that since your mother, Rhea and Virgil also suffered at Voldemort’s hands that you would want to join in the fight against him and his Death-Eaters. I understand that you’ve had experience with them as well, and that’s all the better. You need not fear your problem, I will personally provide whatever might help you. Harry won’t remember you or what happened so you need not be afraid or embarrassed about it.
I promise you that your previous affiliations will make no difference. You might even find something you thought you lost. If you choose to come I would be most grateful, and I’m sure that Harry will be interested in meeting you. You’ll see that he’s grown up quite a bit since your last encounter.
Very Truly Yours,
The letter dropped out of her hand and onto the table. He was back. That’s why it was hurting, that’s why the nightmares had come back. They had a score to settle, and if she had anything to do with it she’d make sure that monster would die slowly and in pain, the way he’d tortured her father.
“This was confirmed?” She asked softly, almost whispering. Boss Lord nodded wordlessly.
“Today’s the 12th. I got these a few days ago didn’t I? You waited so I didn’t have time to talk myself out of it. Never mind. You’re going to make me go anyway,” She picked up Dumbledore’s envelope. It was thick with scraps of parchment, either crumpled or carefully folded. There wasn’t time to read them all now.
Boss Lord chuckled but said nothing. The truth was obvious. “Might not be so bad. Harry’ll be there. I hope he’s okay,” Darky said thinking out loud, “I mean, I’m still his friend even if…he doesn’t remember. I’m okay with that. Aren’t I?” She looked over at Boss Lord.
“I don’t know what the Hell you’re talking about. Go on, go pack. I want you out of here in an hour,” said Boss Lord trying to look indifferent. Darky knew he was going to miss her and that made her smile. She turned and picked up Clarence.
“And Darky?” He added before she went upstairs, “Be careful okay? Take Ruelak’s stuff. I mean, you really don’t have much of your own and you’re the closest thing to his next of kin. Take some of his robes and his books. And if you need cash to spend frivolously in London, just ask. Right?” Darky smiled wider and nodded.
“Will do, Boss, thanks.”
pushed open the door to her room in the attic. It had an old carpet bag sitting there with whatever she actually owned (minus the stuff at Castleshade, her real home) packed carefully inside. Clarence pulled free from her grip and quickly scribbled in the dust on her mirror:
Where are we going?
“London. To see my darling godfather, and Albus Dumbledore, and Harry Potter.”
Harry Potter? Thought you weren’t allowed back. Why the Change?
“Voldemort’s back,” Darky replied simply. Clarence flew back trembling after she spoke.
“Oh, don’t be such a scaredy…erm, broom. I’ll be on the right side this time. I’m going to kill that son of a bee sting. It’s his fault my life is this way. We have a score to settle. C’mon. We have to go now.” Darky closed her carpetbag with a snap and headed back down the stairs into J.R.’s old room. Boss was sentimental about Ruelak and hadn’t touched a thing since he died. The room was exactly the way she remembered it that evening when they were supposed to go out and practice that one spell.
Darky couldn’t think of it now, she had work to finish. What a strange fella he’d been. J.R. dressed like the biggest slob, but his worldly possessions were kept immaculately in size and height order. Not a hair out of place. Just his clothes were a mess. Crumpled and dumped on the floor, a few cloaks hidden under his bed. J.R. loved enchanting stuff and then forgetting about it, making picking objects to take along a little more difficult than Darky had hoped.
All the books would have to come. There was no way she was leaving all of the knowledge in the hands of Tito and whoever else might come in there stone drunk in the middle of the night. She’d only pick one set of robes to wear. It took her some doing to find ones that weren’t moth eaten or filthy. Finally, she picked a crimson under-robe and a matching black outer-robe and cloak. They seemed to be the cleanest and in the best condition. She took his locked valuables trunk and pressed it into her carpetbag, followed by a small library of books and an empty owl cage. A hand mirror, another smaller box that looked like a basic potions supply, a really old looking cauldron and a rather worn looking guitar completed her packing. The carpetbag, far from being full was still light and easy to drag around. She held it proudly, it was the first thing she’d ever enchanted on her own and it had come in handy, in more ways than one.
Clarence put up a good fight about being packed into her bag, but using a portkey would mean she’d need one hand free. With one last quick glance around the room she left for the first floor, intending to grab a quick dinner.
As she approached the first floor she heard the sounds of a struggle and angry shouts breaking through the crashing of furniture and smashing of glass. Darky pulled her wand out from her back holster and held it at the ready.
“Protego,” She whispered, preparing herself for the worst. Careful to leave as little of herself visible as possible, she peeked out around the wall against the stairs. The place was in shambles. Cloaked and hooded figures flew about the room shooting out various hexes ruthlessly as their victims screamed for mercy. A sharp burning seared through Darky’s arm. She grabbed it wincing. This wasn’t supposed to happen again! They weren’t supposed to know where she was! A spell missed her head by inches and put a hole through the wall big enough for her to fit through. Someone had seen her.
“Quetzolcaotl!” She shouted in retaliation. A long stream of fire twirling and writhing like a giant serpent shot out of her wand sending sparkling bursts of fire in every direction. Anyone who knew Darky got out of the way but the Death-Eaters stood there trying to stop it.
“Idiots,” She said to herself as she dug for her portkey package, “you can’t stop a conjured fire spirit. You just have to get out of the way until it dissipates.” She found it and ripped the brown papering off. It was a simple coffee mug. Somewhere inside the bar something exploded, sending shards of glass and beer everywhere. The mess had gotten her pretty soaked by the time she had grabbed her bag, holstered her wand, and finally touched the portkey, watching worriedly as the Fat Centaur disappeared from view.
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