Chapter 1 : March 17, 2000: London
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A/N: I know, I haven't published anything in ages. But if you're here because you've read something of mine before or if you're new, welcome (back). I hope you enjoy this story.
Disclaimer: I do not own the settings, characters or the plots of the Harry Potter books, though they may be referenced herein; those belong to J. K. Rowling. Furthermore, I have made and will make no profit from this writing. I just enjoy it.
March 17, 2000: London
She came to consciousness slowly, feeling as though someone had repeatedly bashed her skull against a blunt object. It could be a concussion. She made a mental note to get it checked out as soon as she remembered who she was. Opening her eyes sent white-hot stabs of pain into her skull, so instead she groggily rolled over onto her knees. Wherever she was had a weathered stone or concrete floor with moss or dirt or both sprinkled over it. Slowly, her pupils adjusted to the blazing light of the sun, almost directly overhead.
‘Noon, then,’ she thought, as she studied the age-blackened bricks of the alleyway around her.
Surveying the rubbish bins, she came to the conclusion that she was in a predominantly Muggle neighborhood; light glinted off of a broken computer monitor and she spied a disposable vacuum bag near the top of a dumpster. Everything around her was damp, but she seemed to have escaped the rain, which gave her an arrival time of maybe twenty minutes ago. She fumbled for her pocket and, reaching in, she withdrew her hand, holding her wand and instructions. Before she could so much as look at the writing within, she would have to find a secure, private place to view it. Although she knew the instructions would be tailored to her, and the next step probably wouldn’t work for anybody else, a quiet voice in the back of her mind informed her that one could never be too cautious. The voice was probably right.
But, looking around the alleyway, she could see no convenient hiding places beyond the obvious and rather odious one. Sighing to herself, she walked over to the dumpster, reaching up to the grimy, rusted-out edge and swinging herself inside before she could be sick at the thought. She hoped vaguely that she hadn’t had to do this on a mission before, but as she couldn’t remember, this might as well be her first time in the field. She looked down at the instructions and breathed through her mouth so as not to smell the rancid meat and the rotting eggs.
The outside of the parchment paper bore the words: For Your Eyes Only.
She thumbed it open and read:
Find D – nearby. Go to Charing Cross Road. Your contact is Tonks. Incinerate this note.
She laid the paper on her lap, and pulled her thick, brown hair into a high ponytail so it couldn’t get in her way. This was going to be a long mission, said her intuition. Without her memory, K had no clue if she was anywhere near right, but she did as she was told. Muttering a quick incendio for the letter and a cleaning spell for her Muggle attire, which was now covered in rubbish, she leapt nimbly out of the dumpster and headed out onto the London streets.
She was dressed, not to keep warm, but to blend in with the younger Londoners. That meant that she was wearing a skirt in the middle of—well, a month that was too cold for a skirt. She did have tights and boots, which helped a little, but K felt that her wardrobe was a bit impractical.
She stuffed her hands in her pockets, simultaneously keeping them warm and surreptitiously rummaging for anything useful that the base-wizards may have slipped in. In training, she was told that they like to put things in unexpected places, to keep the agents on their toes. After bending to fix that annoying scratch in her boot, K accidentally discovered that she had an Oyster Card for the use of the Underground wedged in just enough to be uncomfortable. It was more than she expected, frankly. With the salaries of agents being so high, it was a miracle that the Organization still existed. She frowned mentally. That thought felt like it had been planted. Maybe the base-wizards were more than a little bitter, too.
At least she had a method of transportation that didn’t involve overexertion and chilly weather. Now she just needed directions. ‘Tourist time,’ she thought, ignoring the instinct to groan in annoyance.
Doing her best to appear desperately lost and helpless, K turned to the nearest person, who happened to be a large gentleman, and whose skin color could best be described as puce. Apparently, he wasn’t in a good mood but having already stopped him, she couldn’t just back off, so she squared her shoulders and stood her ground, “Excuse me, sir, but I’m afraid I’ve lost my way and I could really use –”
The man uttered what could best be described as a growl and plowed right by her as though she were a ghost. K nearly fell in her effort to get out of his way.
“Are you lost, miss?” came a familiar voice by her ear.
“Doyle!” she grinned up at her partner, seizing on a name that began with a D. K was glad that the Organization had deemed it proper to give their partnership letters as codenames. It was much easier to invent names with the same first letter than to pick something out of thin air. She secretly felt sorry for pairs like Purple and Green, who had virtually nothing to go on but their “favorite color.”
“Kendra, dearest, it’s so very good to see you.” He, too, was dressed to fit in, though he had a harder time of it, being nearly six feet tall. She scanned him quickly, and saw nothing amiss. It seemed rather strange to her, that she could know his face so well, but couldn’t remember ever meeting him. Gallantly, he offered her his arm.
“You, too,” she answered, falling into step beside him. Together, they searched the area with their eyes just as they’d been trained to, not really knowing what they were looking for. Across the street, two hunched, elderly men played chess as they sat outside an Italian restaurant. A child of about four years relinquished his mother’s hand to rush forward and pet a huge hound. K thought them ridiculous—too movie-like in their utter, careless normalcy. She almost wanted to march up and send them directly home. Even after four years of strange, unsolved events and weird disappearances, some in the Muggle population refused to believe that something was wrong. The newscasters, in all their manicured glory, were helpless to comprehend, let alone explain the impossible stories. The government was beyond frantic, even with the Ministry’s alleged assurance. More people found dead without any marks on them, more people whose cause of death was listed as unknown after autopsies.
‘Yes,’ the newly-named Kendra thought grimly, ‘I was certainly well briefed for this mission.’
“We need to turn here,” murmured Doyle, disrupting her thoughts and steering her around a corner. The underground station was only a couple of blocks ahead.
“You been to London before?” she responded, not bothering to correct her poor grammar.
“No, I just plan ahead well,” he said. She nodded her recognition. That came from his version of the mission briefing. ‘Plans’ were always indicative of planted memories or things studied before the wipe.
“I thought so,” she murmured, closing the last few steps into the station more rapidly than the last. She tugged Doyle along by their entwined fingers. “C’mon, I really want to see the sights!” Acting the part of a coquettish girlfriend, she fluttered her eyelids at him. He rolled his eyes in return but didn’t drop her hand. She assumed he’d been in London for a while already, or was part of the intelligence team that had been the prerequisite for this whole mission. It was possible Doyle was cleared for that sort of thing.
They swiped their cards to get into the underground and hurried down the tiled hallways, still holding hands. Kendra secretly enjoyed pulling her muscular partner around like a rag-doll, although she suspected he was none too pleased. And she wasn’t even taking into account the sour look on his face. Choosing a pair of seats on the subway train, Kendra scanned the area. Her training in observation was lost on the relatively serene car. Other than being a little grubby and incredibly crowded with civilians, the train was harmless. She kept careful watch.
“Doyle?” she called softly, bringing him out of his own inspection, “We’re going to meet your parents soon, right?” What she meant was ‘Our orders are coming soon, aren’t they?’
“Absolutely, I got their letter this morning,” he responded crisply. His English accent was impeccable, even if Kendra saw right through it.
She feigned nervousness, squirming before the eyes of the young doctor seated nearby, who was clearly listening in. “Do you really think they’ll like me?” She bit her lip, ‘And our allies, are they secure?’
“Kendra,” he began, sounding exasperated, “They’re going to love you.” He punctuated his sentence with a kiss to her forehead, and a squeeze of her shoulders. She outwardly portrayed a struggle to remain calm in the face of a daunting visit to future in-laws, but her mind was far from it. Doyle sighed, and continued, “Besides, if they don’t, we can always run away and join the circus.” That definitely had no meaning in code.
“The circus? I think you’ve been watching too many movies. The circus is overrated.”
“I guess you’re right. We could elope…”
“You’re aware that elope just means to run away or abscond, aren’t you? Where would we go?”
“We could go meet your parents instead.” Ah, so there was a point to this. ‘If the mission fails, if we get separated, we’ll head back to base.’
She smirked, “What makes you think they’ll like you? What with the accent and the clothes and the—”
“What exactly is wrong with my choice of apparel?”
“Nothing. You just look like an exceptionally preppy, fresh-out-of-university yuppie.”
“Yuppie?” he asked, feigning confusion. His brows were knit together quizzically.
Tonks shifted restlessly, surveying the dim pub from her seat at the bar. The two figures she searched for were still nowhere in sight. She knew this was the right time. She was certain it was the right place. But where were they?
She sighed, and mentally went over the descriptions she’d been given. There was supposed to be a female, average height, muscular build, hazel eyes, and straight brown hair that brushed her shoulder blades. The woman apparently had a scar above her collar bone and double pierced ears. Then there was a man, about 1.8 meters tall, very muscular, dark brown eyes, short and dark brown hair. No other distinguishing factors.
They were supposed to be some kind of high-powered Aurors in their wizarding government. Tonks was just starting to think that they were snotty for showing up late, when she realized that they had slipped in without her noticing. She felt her cheeks tinge an embarrassed pink and caught herself just before her disguised hair followed. No wonder she’d gotten such low marks on stealth and tracking in the Auror Academy.
It was understandable that she’d missed them, she told herself. The man could’ve been James Bond for all the vagueness of his description. He was, in truth, a little plain. His clothes, his hair, everything about him seemed calculated to make one overlook him. But his eyes sparkled with secrets as he looked at his partner. The woman in question had a similar effect. She was smiling a vacant sort of smile that made Tonk’s eyes just keep slipping off her face. In the process, she did find that there was a scar just above the woman’s collar bone. Tonks took a deep breath and walked over to their table.
“Hello, Dan,” she said, the tenor of her voice in this form sounding foreign to her ears. Tonks, who was disguised as a man for the moment, clapped the man on the shoulder. She turned to the woman, “And you must be…”
“Kelly,” the woman supplied, reaching out to shake Tonks’ hand.
“Mind if I sit with an old friend?”
“Not at all,” replied ‘Dan’. Tonks knew these couldn’t possibly be their names. Perhaps it was just that a pair of spies named Daniel and Kelly seemed too odd to fathom. She decided they must be some form of field names.
“Cheers,” she muttered, sticking the codeword in as thanks. Neither the woman nor the man showed any trace of recognition, but she didn’t really expect any. There weren’t many wink-wink moments among true professionals.
And now it came down to waiting. Tonks knew that both she and the Order had plenty of questions, but those couldn’t be uttered in such a public place as the Leaky Cauldron, even if it was midday and the place was a madhouse. She hadn’t expected to talk about anything real. Most of the conversations she’d had on undercover work before were related to that work. But these two knew how to weave a web of lies so securely, you’d have thought it would hold up underwater. It almost seemed as though it were a game. They drew her into the conversation easily and she let them. Dan had picked up on the ‘old friend’ comment immediately, telling elaborate stories about school years that she couldn’t help but laugh at.
When they had finished their lunch (Kelly ate like a bear emerging from a long hibernation), Tonks planted the invite, “Why don’t you two come home and meet the missus?”
Dan grinned, and tugged Kelly closer. “What do you think, love?” he asked conspiratorially, “Can you stomach any more of Mike’s company?” So, Dan had noticed how hungry his partner had been just as Tonks noticed her improvised name.
Kelly just nodded and smiled, shrugging on her coat and reaching into her pocket for money. Upon observing her carefully count out the coins, Dan turned away in an almost pouty manner. He looked so much like Teddy, who was now almost two, Tonks cracked a smile.
“Let me guess, Dan’s not the money man?”
“Terrible mind for figures, that one,” Kelly said amiably, still focused on the currency. “I won’t let him touch our finances.”
“Hurry. We need to get going if we’re going to make it there before dark.”
“I heard about that,” Kelly interjected. “The government fines you if they catch you out too late, right?”
“That’s right,” Dan answered, looking up to notice that she was finished, “and now, we abscond into the evening.”
“Yeah, you used that word earlier. I’ve decided I like it. I’m going to see to it that it’s used more often,” Dan responded, folding his arms in an unmistakably matter-of-fact gesture. Kelly smirked back at him and muttered, “Yuppie.”
Tonks just stood there, looking between the two of them, wondering if she was missing something.
Sometime later, they found themselves on an old street of London, with two neat rows of old houses—D might have been able to tell what era they were built in, but K hadn’t the faintest idea. Tonks reached into the breast pocket of her jacket, and withdrew a note written in her old teacher’s familiar, if grubby handwriting. She smoothed it out, and handed it to Kelly; Dan looked over her shoulder.
“The Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix is located at Number 12 Grimmauld Place.”
No sooner had K read the last word than the paper fluttered up and burst into flames. She had only registered that the penmanship was steady, heavy pressure had been applied, and its author seemed to be impatient. She guessed that Mad Eye Moody was the secret-keeper and being that her specialty was profiling, she hoped she was right.
She and Dan looked about the street quite obviously this time, but she knew that there hadn’t been a twelve last time she scanned; at the time, she’d thought it odd. Normally, people left out thirteen, not twelve. As her eyes returned to the spot between ten and fourteen, she noticed with a jolt that there was a house that hadn’t been there before. So many years in the wizarding world, and magics like this still shocked her heart into beating a little faster.
Tonks, though, was unfazed and led the way up, not checking to see if they were following her. At the bottom of the steps, Kendra looked over at Doyle, shrugged her shoulders and pulled him over the threshold.
The door closed softly behind them. Tonks shook off her disguise and whispered, “Welcome to the Order of the Phoenix.”