Chapter 2 : Son of a Rock Star
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I drank the last of the pot of tea Scorpius had left out and got dressed quickly, shoving the official summons into my handbag. They had to understand the circumstances. This couldn't possibly stick. Any reasonable judge wouldn't convict me.
Still, better talk to my dad about this.
When I got to the Ministry, it was almost one o'clock, and Dad and my uncle Harry were sitting on the ugly old orange sofa at the back of Dad's office, eating bacon sarnies. There were several bottles of butterbeer at their feet.
“Hi Rosie,” Dad said, waving me in. “Are you okay? Do you need money? Are you hungry? I think there's still some food left in the bag.” He investigated the contents of a white takeaway sack for a moment, and then handed me a cheese sarnie.
“Cheers,” I said, taking it. I never turn down free food. “Um, Daddy-”
“You're here about your little incident yesterday, aren't you?” Uncle Harry asked with a grin.
Man, he was good. I supposed that was why Uncle Harry was Head Auror. And because of being, you know, Harry Potter. “How did you know?”
“You only ever call him 'Daddy' when you're in trouble or you want something.”
“Harry,” Dad reprimanded him with a frown. “She does not.”
I totally did. It usually worked, too. I frowned at Uncle Harry, hoping he would shut up about that. I didn't want Dad cottoning on to my code.
“Nevermind, nevermind.” Uncle Harry held up a hand in defeat and went back to his sandwich.
I decided not to push my luck with the Daddy thing again and instead opened with, “It wasn't my fault.”
Dad and Uncle Harry both grinned at this.
“I was apprehending a skip, and he lives in a Muggle area,” I went on. “I had taken him down without using magic, but then this crowd gathered around us, and they were talking about searching me for identification because they didn't think I was really a bounty hunter. I couldn't see another way out, so I Obliviated the lot of them and then took Hoof in.”
“Sikke Hoof?” Dad asked.
He nodded approvingly. “Nice one, Rosie. He's a tough bastard. I got him a couple years ago, he went down fighting, I'll say that much.”
“He said you punched him in the face,” I told him. “He asked me to pass his compliments to you.”
Dad chuckled. “Well, it doesn't sound like you had much choice but to use magic in front of Muggles. It's what I would've done. Harry, what do you think?”
Uncle Harry nodded, wiping his mouth with a napkin as he finished the last bite of his sarnie. Once he'd swallowed, he said, “Yeah, sounds to me like a Memory Charm was your best option, Rose. I'll take care of the hearing for you, have them drop the matter. I've got some friends over in the Improper Use of Magic office. Consider this an official warning, though, to be more careful in the future,” he added sternly.
“She will,” Dad answered for me. “Y'know,” he added, leaning over to kiss my forehead, “I'd been feeling worried about you yesterday. Must've been my fatherly instincts telling me you were in trouble.”
“You said you had an upset stomach because you ate some dodgy fish,” said Uncle Harry.
“Shut up, Harry,” Dad told him.
I went over to Angelo's Magical Bonds to cash in my body receipt from Hoof. It had been too late last night when I turned him over to Magical Law Enforcement to go collect the bounty (normally I made a beeline for the cash as soon as I got a body receipt). Angelo Agnelli's bond agency was in Knockturn Alley, one of the dodgiest parts of magical London. When I was younger, I hadn't even been allowed to set foot in Knockturn Alley. The fact that I technically worked there now made my mother's face go all pinched whenever she thought about it.
Angelo wasn't the nicest guy to work for, but he wasn't the worst either, I suppose. It wasn't a large business. There was Angelo, who wrote the bond contracts, his niece Lydia at the desk, and three skip-tracers: Angelo's cousin Dino, an Irish bloke named O'Toole, and me. Dino and O'Toole got the big crazies, and I cleaned up all the fish too little for them to fry.
Lydia was sitting at the front desk as usual. She had dark hair and favoured low-cut robes, and she was filing her nails with her feet propped up on the desk, snapping her chewing gum. Blue bubbles were floating over her head. I grinned. Drooble's Best – Lydia chewed it all day ever since she'd finally quit smoking.
“Hi Rose,” she said when she saw me, still filing her nails. I looked down at the nail I'd broken yesterday chasing Sikke Hoof. Lydia's nails always looked better than mine.
“Hi Lydia.” I set the body receipt on her desk, and she sat up and grinned at me, taking her feet off the desk.
“You caught Hoof? Good for you.”
Angelo stuck his head out of his office, peering at me around the door. “You actually caught Hoof? Damn. I owe Dino five Galleons.”
“Thanks a lot, Angelo,” I said, rolling my eyes. Actually I was pretty pleased that Dino hadn't bet against me. I supposed that was a vote of confidence. Coming from Dino, it was a high compliment. He was actually a really good bounty hunter, unlike me.
Angelo was a stocky old bloke, around fifty years old, with a barrel chest, a shock of steel-grey hair, and a penchant for gambling. He owed a lot of unsavoury people a lot of money on a regular basis. He didn't like me much, but that was okay, because I didn't like him much either. He hadn't fired me, despite many threats to do just that, and I didn't think he was likely to ever fire me at this point. It was kind of hard to take Angelo's threats seriously when he'd been claiming he was going to fire me on a weekly basis for the last three years, anyway. I did believe him when he said I was incompetent. I kind of thought that of myself. Although I did catch Sikke Hoof last night, I thought, cheered.
“Since you caught Hoof, you can take the murder case that just came in,” Angelo said. “Lydia, pretend you actually work here and give her the file.”
“You're giving me a murderer?” I squeaked, wide-eyed, as Lydia fished around in her in-box. I'd never gone after a real murderer before. I'd met a few, but I hadn't been attempting to capture them at the time. Normally I run the other way from murderers. That one time with the serial killers had totally not been my fault. “Shouldn't Dino take that? You never give me murderers.”
“It's Lenny Graves,” Lydia told me, holding out a folder.
My heartrate went back to normal. “You're kidding,” I said, taking the folder from her. “Lenny wouldn't do that.”
“Even if he's out of his mind on dragon claw?” Angelo looked like he didn't believe it either.
“You know Lenny. He only gets friendlier and even more cowardly when he's on something.” I skimmed the pages. There wasn't much detail there, even less than the Ministry usually gave to the bondsmen. The report said they'd charged him with murder, then offered him a plea bargain down to manslaughter, but even still. Lenny Graves? No way.
We all knew Lenny. He might like mind-altering substances of all varieties, but Lenny wasn't violent. He was more likely to squeal like a girl if confronted with actual violence. I'd gone to school with Leonard Graves, and back then, he'd been a decent guy. Before the drugs, he'd been handsome and talented, playing his guitar all the time and writing songs to flirt with girls who only liked him because his dad had been in a famous wizard band, the Weird Sisters.
After the drugs, Lenny had become a wiry little guy who was always a little too skinny, a little too dirty, and a little too nervous. He would probably pass out if he even saw a murder. He certainly wasn't likely to have committed one. Hell, he'd been a Hufflepuff. I couldn't even really buy manslaughter from him. Not Lenny.
Maybe I remembered the old Lenny too well. Maybe manslaughter wasn't outside the realm of possibilities even for a coward like him. He did do a lot of drugs. He'd been in and out of jail for it for years, and jumped bail pretty regularly. Normally he posted his bail through Pilliwickle's. I wondered if Mrs. Pilliwickle had finally had enough of Lenny constantly skipping out on his bail. He'd never posted bail through Angelo before.
It was all pretty weird. Even for Lenny, whose middle name was probably Weird (given his dad's old band, this was not outside the realm of possibilities either).
Well, it wouldn't hurt me to look for him. I could use the money. Murder netted a higher bond, so a higher bounty for me. I never said no to an easy pick-up, especially for more money.
“All right, I'll take it.” How hard could it be to track down Lenny Graves, anyway? I knew most of the places he liked to hang out.
“Good.” Angelo went back into his office, slamming the door behind him. Lydia rolled her eyes and went back to doing her nails.
Lenny was disappointingly easy to find. Honestly, he was the worst felon ever. I found him in a pub in West London, sitting at the bar with a trio of pretty women smiling vacantly at him and the friend he was hanging out with. That friend looked awfully familiar. I groaned. I knew that friend. I was related to that friend.
Lenny didn't even have the decency to look worried to see me. “Hi Rose!” he chirped. He didn't look like he was on anything but alcohol, fortunately. There was a glass of firewhiskey in front of him.
“Hi Lenny.” I turned to his friend. “Hi Louis.”
My cousin Louis Weasley waved at me with his drink. “Hi Rose,” he slurred. Great. Drunk Louis was even more annoying than sober Louis.
I leaned closer to Lenny and whispered, “Lenny, you do know you're wanted for murder?”
He fumbled with his drink and swore. “Rose, you're not going to arrest me, are you?”
“Why would you arrest Lenny?” Louis asked. “Lenny is awesome.”
There was a small cheer at this from the nearby bar patrons. I tried to take control before things got out of hand. Something about Louis in a bar always made things get out of hand. I gave my cousin a dirty look and turned back to Lenny. “You skipped out on your bail, Lenny.”
“I totally didn't do it, man, someone's framing me or something. I wasn't even there! Well,” he amended, looking rather sheepish, “I mean, I was there, I just wasn't really there, if you know what I mean, I mean, I was just trying to buy, uh, something, and-”
“Lenny, shut up,” I said, then turned to my cousin. “Louis, go home. I'm not arresting Lenny, you know I'm not an MLE. I can't arrest anyone.” Technically this was true: I wasn't arresting Lenny. I was taking him into custody, which was entirely different. Once I got him to the Ministry, they would arrest him.
“I'm not going home now, it's only three in the afternoon,” Louis objected.
“Then go find something else to do. Why are you hanging out in a pub at three in the afternoon, anyway? Don't you have a job?”
“You're no fun, Rose.” Louis slid off his bar stool and put an arm around two of the women. The third clung to her friends, giggling as she looked at Louis. “I know a really great place around the corner...”
Louis always knew a really great place around the corner. It was a large part of the problem with Louis. Once my cousin had left with the three bimbos, Lenny blinked at me and shook his head like a dog shaking off water. It did not appear to sober him up at all.
“Someone is trying to frame me, man, you got to believe me,” he whispered urgently.
I sat down next to him with a sigh. “Lenny, why would anyone try to frame you for murder?”
“I don't know, man, but it's true!”
“I need to take you in, Lenny. You can talk to a lawyer about the charges, then-”
“I already did.” Lenny suddenly looked much more sober, and I got a little chill as he met my eyes. “He said he wasn't sure what he could do for me and told me to take the manslaughter plea. My record is against me. No one will believe a washed-out drug addict son of a rock star when there's no evidence to back up my testimony.”
Poor Lenny. He'd been a good guy, once upon a time. Whenever I saw glimpses of the old Lenny under the addiction, it made me really sad. I missed the old Lenny. “Oh, Lenny. Go sober, then. Get cleaned up.”
“I don't think I can.” He shivered, hunching down over the bar again. “I need help, man.”
“Sorry, Lenny.” I didn't know what to tell him. Poor bloke. Maybe he should have gone into one of the rehab programs my dad had tried to force him into. “Can you go to your dad?” When your dad is Merton Graves of the Weird Sisters, you ought to have a pretty good variety of resources at your fingertips, I reckoned.
Lenny shook his head. “He'll make me go to the MLEs and turn myself in, man. He's the one who hired the lawyer that told me I was, like, unlikely to win or whatever.”
“That really sucks,” I said, patting him on the shoulder sympathetically.
He looked up at me suddenly, leaning toward me, and I leaned back. He smelled like he'd been drinking for three days. “Hey man, you could help me! You could investigate things, find out who's framing me. And help me go straight for my next court date, man.”
“Lenny, they won't let you back out,” I told him as gently as I could. “You jumped bail on a charge like that, they're not going to give you another chance. You'll have to wait in jail for your court date.”
A panicked look came into his eyes. “I can't do that, man. I have to find who's setting me up.”
I was getting worried about him. His eyes were whirring a little madly, pupils darting back and forth with paranoia. “Lenny-”
“I'll give you four hundred Galleons.”
Whoa. My net from his bail would only be three hundred. I looked around, and leaned in to whisper, “Lenny, I have to take you to the MLEs. I don't want to, but-”
“Eight hundred. That's all I have, man. Please help me, Rose.”
I looked at him. More than twice his bail. It was a lot of money, but I'd be harbouring a fugitive from justice. If anyone found us, I'd risk going to jail too. That might be more trouble than even Harry Potter could get me out of.
But the strange thing was... I believed him. I didn't think Lenny had done it. I wasn't as sure that he'd been set up, but I didn't believe he'd done it. And he was right, he might not get out of these charges when he went before the Wizengamot. I didn't want him going to Azkaban for something he didn't do, not if I could help him.
Maybe I could find some proof that Lenny hadn't done it. Maybe I could do this. It couldn't be that much different than looking for skips. And hell, eight hundred Galleons.
“All right, Lenny,” I said in a low voice, glancing around the pub. “But you have to do what I say, okay? I'm in charge here. And you'll have to stay out of sight, because if anyone sees you, Angelo will be pissed at me for not catching you, and someone might turn me in to the Ministry. We need to pretend you've gone into hiding, then I can investigate the charges against you while I'm supposed to be finding you. And if someone really is framing you, Lenny, you might be in danger. So I'm in charge, got it?”
Lenny was nodding vigorously. He looked relieved, in a crazy kind of way. “Yeah, totally, man. Whatever you say.”
We left the pub, trying not to draw attention to ourselves, and Disapparated from the alley between the pub and the shop next door.
It occurred to me as we arrived in the corridor outside my flat that I should probably have run this past Scorpius first, since it was his flat as well. I hoped he was up for harbouring an accused murderer.
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