Chapter 1 : World News
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No one was bothering looking at him, Harry reflected, no matter if he was walking across painted orange and with sparklers streaming from his pockets. Because the tall woman striding easily with her hand on his arm was absolutely, positively, drop-dead gorgeous. She had long, dark red hair, as if taken from the most perfect chestnut, and the eye-catching dress was held up by only the thin string around her neck and imagination.
It helped that is was a balmy, mid-winter day. With lots of sunshine.
Madelene Jones muttered, “All the way to the front doors, right?”
“You are doing well. Relax.” The tall girl was his nominal secretary and receptionist. She was really working at his detective business to keep her safe and someplace secure, until the day she could perform simple household magic without danger to herself or her neighborhood. Well, in truth, there was nothing about this stroll that was safe, or altogether secure. But he'd about run out of ideas about entry into the secure offices without help, and the girls together in his office thought this was an outstandingly exciting idea.
The atmosphere had gotten more pessimistic as they arrived at a nearby empty alley, and had walked toward the high-rise office park.
“Thank God for global warming. It's not freezing. Not you strutting across the campus, here, in a miniskirt and pumps, Mr. Potter.”
Keep positive, Harry, he reminded himself. This had seemed too good to be true last evening, when they rehashed the scheme. “Understand. It's all part of the plan.”
“Everyone in creation is looking at me. Tell me they can't see up my dress?”
That was the whole idea! He did not say that, of course. Harry was suddenly taken aback by this line of worry. Maddie had, no bones about it, the most phenomenal legs, at least in Diagon Alley, and certainly, on the plaza here today. She hadn't worried about anyone looking at her, the last couple of days, while they had been dreaming up this stunt. “Ah, ….....no, sure no one could see ….” Harry involuntarily shifted his eyes, trying to catch vile peeping Toms. But all that there was was plots of perfectly trimmed grass, light posts and an occasional bench or trash can. “You are fine, Maddie. Just nerves, ummm ….”
“Reassure her, you thick head.” Ginny's voice came up from his shirt's breast pocket.
Harry thought about the disturbing picture of a man in conversation with his chest, and how it would look to the multitude of security camera's surely zeroing in on them, even now. Then he thought better of it.
No one was looking at his lips, certainly at this moment.
Harry said in a small voice, defensively, “She picked the dresses. You agreed, it looked good. Had to talk you down from your own attack of nerves to wear the identical pattern ....”
“I don't have yards and yards of long, shapely gams. I am short, with an immense butt!”
What a time for feminine body anxiety.“ Please, honey. It isn't true and this isn't the right time ...”
“That's so untrue, Mrs. P. You are beautiful in the dress.” Madelene, who could hear Ginny Potter's ghostly voice, dismissed her objections with a shapely wave-off of highly polished, pointy fingernails. “I am a little unsure about this hair color, though. Red just is not something that goes with my poxy skin.”
“Oh, no, not at all, Maddie. You are fine ...”
“Ladies, can we save this for another place. Preferably, with me elsewhere, like in the Leaky Cauldron.” Harry nervously looked about. They were halfway across, and had definitely attracted a lion's share of the male attention. It was lunch.
“Humph,” declared his left arm's companion.
“Coward!” called his pocket.
Easier to just admit the facts. They were at the double doors of the building. “Guilty. Now get ready. This is where it all comes together.”
“Sure hope you know what you are doing, Mr. P.”
“No, not at all. Never tried this in a mini-skirt, myself.”
“Step on his foot, Maddie!” Cried Ginny, voice squeeking almost into inaudibility.
“Not now, girls. Showtime,” said Harry, and he took and held open the door for Madelene. Undeniably the most beautiful woman in the lobby of World-News Mega-Ultra Corporation. She certainly had the attention of all five security men, with more showing up. Normally there was only one. But the others had been 'warned' about her coming and were gathered to watch.
“Thought there would be only one.” Harry weakly muttered, standing by the double doors, with an expectantly uncertain 'super-model' on his arm.
“Brilliant plan backfired?” His wife redundantly pointed out. “What do you think obese, doughy, undateable security men would be doing, if you flashed her behind to them on the security cameras?”
“Good point.” Harry said. He thought all he'd have to do was fast talk one, maybe even doing a quick oblivious curse if he had to. Now, what?
“This is where I earn my bonus, Mr. P.” Madelene said, beaming her face toward the audience of men behind the security gate.
“Huh?” Harry rather unintelligently returned. And reached too late to grab Maddie's elbow, as she just triumphantly strutted away from him and into the ground zero of attention in the lobby.
“Wow!” Harry just numbly said.
“She's making a distraction.” said the tinny little voice from his chest. “Honestly, have I been paying more attention to those cops shows on the Tellie than you have.”
“First time I've done anything like this, sweetheart, …....”
“Don't be dense, walk after her and go on by the security desk.”
“Why are you confident this will work, now.”
“Cause you are a great wizard. And anything male in here is looking at her thighs. Including you.”
Harry muttered dark, unrepeatable words, to himself, but obeyed his wife's command. Positively, last time, he was going undercover with Ginny in his front pocket.
Maddie strode elegantly right on by security, flashing a stunning, beaming smile worthy of every witch ever born. They weren't about to stop her in anyway. Almost comically, a receiving line of uniformed and suited male greeters smiled, saluted and called out to her, as she strode like a movie queen toward the elevator bank. Almost magically, an elevator bell chimed and its door opened at her approach, as if timed perfectly.
The guard actually assigned at the desk didn't even look at Harry, or his carefully forged identification. Just waved him on, looking longingly at the now distant, beautiful zebra-stripped silhouette of Madelene Jones, pausing for dramatic effect, holding the elevator door for the slowly moving Harry.
All his instincts in him was screaming for him to run. Just take young Maddie's arm an apparate out of there. If one of the slavering fools said something now, that's just what he would have done. But the silent reverence of the male crowd was holding the tableau together as he walked to the door, and she smiled and pulled him into the waiting elevator.
Every man in the lobby for a moment hated Harry Potter. Didn't even know who he was, or cared he was an infiltrator sneaking into the heart of their corporate world. They just hated him for being the one the beauty was holding the elevator for.
The twin doors smoothly shut, and both Maddie and Harry exhaled explosive breaths. And sagged against the side rails.
“Come on, you two. Get me out and let's get this show on the road” Ginny commanded. Harry and Maddie exchanged mutual and unspoken rebuttals to the show not already underway, but said nothing.
“Alright, hop out onto my hand and I will set you down.” Harry held his palm upright at the edge of his pocket, and like a dream, his miniature, red-haired, zebra-dressed wife climbed out of his pocket and stood expectantly looking up at them, with a grin.
He set her down, and getting out his wand, reversed the shrinking magic that had taken all weekend getting correct. The reduction part had been simple. It was the 'restoring' that Harry had had the deep shakes all night about. Not all of his experimental practices had succeeded. There was now a fifty-pound orange, sitting unhappily in the kitchen at Grimauld Place. He still had no idea how to get it back to normal.
But nothing untoward happened, as the elevator faultlessly dinged each floor as it went slowly almost completely straight up, ten flights, Ginny Potter stood, completely unharmed, just as she had been those last tense seconds in his office, between the nervous Maddie and Harry.
“Oh, thank Merlin.” Harry explosively uttered. She looked fine. Beautifully kissable, in fact. And he did just that.
“What's all the stress about?” Ginny asked, an annoyed look on her face. She hadn't had to do anything, except offer advice. Ginny was dressed identically as Madelene, and the two woman proceeded to primp each other up, and discuss the dreadful humidity and how it was taking out the curl in their hair.
“Positively, the last time I am doing this.” Harry fumed, watching the indicator light glacially move on up the numbers. He didn't utter what he briefly wondered, glancing to see she didn't yet have on the high-heeled shoes that matched Maddie's. Did it seem Ginny's lips were slightly higher than before, as if she was slightly taller, out of the normal height he had gotten used to the last six plus years, or was that just …...
Maddie was putting last touches of color to her lips, hurriedly stowing the tiny pocket mirror and the makeup back in her handbag. “Don't know what all you are moaning about. I was the piece of meat dangled out there for the hounds.”
“He is just nervous about how to finally answer me when he is asked how I look.” Ginny smirked.
“They are weak,” Maddie nodded, affirming a long held conviction she had had about men.
Harry muttered to himself, not permitting the words to escape his lips.
“Mumbles a lot more to himself, than I thought. Practically a constant drone, while I was sitting there in his pocket.” Ginny commented.
Harry just spoke over them, as not hearing their running commentary, “We are here, four more floors. Let's remember our places, alright. Maddie goes first, ….”
“Sha-shay's her behind and ta-tas to the lonely nerd behind the desk.” Ginny said in monotone.
“No, …...well, yes. But that's not what we said this morning. This is a distraction. Both of you, identically dressed will cause confusion. Since I have no clue how many extra layers of security there are, I may need to switch from one of you to the other ...”
“He is so cute when he blushes.” Maddie beamed at Ginny.
“Even cuter, when you know what to say.”
“Oh, ahh!” Madelene knowingly smirked.
“Just, Merlin, stupify me, if I ever dream up an idea like this again.” The two witches exchanged silent laughs, standing on either side of him, and let the rest of the elevator ride in excruciating silence.
[Ding] The elevator smoothly moved to a barely perceptible halt, and the doors opened, and Maddie strode out, as if she owned the place and the very air that everyone breathed.
As they had rehearsed it, Harry with Ginny now on his arm, waited to a count of twenty of Maddie's steps, to walk out and pace the complete opposite direction.
“Will this confuse them, you think?” Ginny said softly, glad now to be able to move freely.
“Bound to. Sure the entire security establishment is watching her. Confuses me. Might be for nothing at all. When they see your beautiful behind, they will be completely flumoxed.”
Ginny couldn't help but giggle out loud and weakly punch his shoulder with her free hand. “Liar. And thank you.” She kissed his sweaty cheek. “It is going to work. We all meet up on the other side. It's just a big loop.”
Harry had indeed done all this, on his own, weeks before, superbly hidden under his Cloak of Invisibility. The only problem had come on finding there was another guard post at the other end of this hall, before the next short elevator ride to where he needed to go. One with an electric control panel of the elevators to the higher floors.
And a more comprehensive electronic warning, to the man sitting at the desk, on when someone entered the upper offices. Same with the only stair exit, right behind the guard post. Harry had needed a distraction, to flick the manual release button, and to get past. At least into the stairwell if he couldn't figure out the elevator control.
“Maddie goes up to the man, talks to him, flashes ...err you get it, while we enter in the elevator and go on up. She has to keep his mind on her, till we are inside, and back out.” This seemed blindingly simple, yesterday. Why could he see a thousand holes in the plan striding down the hallway, now.
Ginny didn't return her usual reassurance and a nervous glance passed between them, as they paused at the fire doors, leading to the return circuit of the circularly shaped upper floor.
“Oh, Merlin!” Ginny breathed. Now she was having an anxiety attack!
“Too late for nerves, honey. Maddie is already there.”
“Uh, huh,” she weakly agreed, and they moved out, through the door.
To see an empty desk, and a clear shot to the 'executive' elevators. As they passed by, still arm-in-arm, as Harry and Maddie had on the ground floor, they caught a brief look of Maddie, flashing a smile and a coquettish bend of her neck and very daringly low neckline, at a smitten young man in a badly fitted security uniform, a size too big for him. Despite his pudgy middle.
Harry gestured with his wand, and the switch on the uncaring guards desk clicked operational on its own. Despite the faint click, the guard couldn't care less. And then Harry and Ginny were in the waiting elevator and the door shut.
“Whoof.” Ginny collapsed against Harry, and they reassured themselves twice that the elevator was moving. “Can't believe it was that easy ...”
“Wait!” Harry sharply hissed, but the doors opened quickly, as it was only a short one floor ride, to a vacant lobby, a bubbling water fountain and a vast room of open office cubicals.
Harry hurriedly looked about the small lobby. Reassured they were alone, he patted Ginny's hand, and said, relieved, “Afraid there might be a crowd, right here when it opens.
“Okay, yeah, now where?” Ginny sighed and relaxed her deathlike grip on his hand.
“No clue. This is a Saturday. Seems closed, but there is still people at work. We split about and ….just look. Understand! Picking things about might draw attention. But you wear this....” And Potter unceremoniously draped the Cloak, pulled smoothly out of his suit jacket inner pocket, over a surprised Ginny.
The now invisible Mrs. Potter squawked, “I didn't agree to this.”
“No, and we aren't going farther, if you don't. Change of plans. This isn't like the lower floors, at all. I had no idea. Too open, and I will be disillusioned, while you move about under the cloak.”
There was a pause, while the still visible Harry starred at the completely invisible space he knew his wife fumed. Then, finally, a sound of a sigh, and a really, much harder punch, impacted his arm. “Fine, no more surprises,” she commanded.
“No guarantees. Okay, meet back here, by the water fountain, in ten minutes. Good hunting.” And Harry waved his wand past his face and he disappeared from Ginny, like a breath of wind had dispersed the image of her husband.
It was dreadfully anti-climatic. Nothing. Harry found nothing, but a small handful of workers in one of the window offices, chortling over a electronic sound speaker, hearing something that had them in stitches. But Harry didn't stay to listen, and passed on through the farm of depressingly similar cubicals. Not a one was identical, per se, but all had the same office chair, dark computer, and fractally identical litter of documents scattered across their work spaces.
Except an anally, excruciatingly perfect handful. Even their pencils lined up in formation. Obviously, his brother-in-law Percy has more comrades in arms than anyone realized!
He returned to the fountain, fearful of leaving his wife alone. Disgusted at himself. Harry was so sure this would be a place of luxury offices, and littered with forbidden, magical creatures, that he had no clue what to do if they had found nothing at all!
“Not even a damn pixie!” He forgetfully grumped aloud, thinking he was alone now by the fountain.
“Wouldn't be too sure about that, guvna',” Ginny voice sounded right next to him, and Harry, invisible still, about jumped backwards into the little pond under the trickling gentle waterfall. But her invisible hand had grabbed his invisible arm, and she chuckled. “Sorry, honey. Didn't mean to startle ..”
“Damn it. Okay, I am a little peeved at myself. A big fat zero, on my end.”
“Oh, I think that is about to change, my fabulously tall wizard.”
Has she detected she might not be the same size. Shit! “Um, that's great. We are close to the same height, Gin. And I am not that tall. Ron and George are taller than me ...”
“That's not the tall part I am thinking of.”
“Oh, um, yeah, ah, well. Brilliant, then, um, what did you find...”
“Come on,” And Harry felt her hand unerringly fit into his and pull the still invisible magician off toward what Harry had thought were just a stretch of conference rooms.
Which changed as soon as they passed across 'Door Number One'. “A pixie,” Ginny breathed out, as if not to disturb the delicate creature, who was quite dead. They were annoying, rather than really harmful creatures, and it was hard not to feel some anger at what they were seeing, standing side-by-side, invisible. It hung, by its own nearly invisible length of fishing line from the ceiling, over the middle of the meeting table.
“Can't be Muggles, doing this. Not catching them. Hard enough to do with magic.” Harry muttered, he approached the table, but did not touch the floating 'ornament.' “There is nothing on it that looks out of place. I don't know how or where to look.”
“Not finished Harry. We should just look to see, remember? Come on.” Ginny's voice, much subdued said. So he joined her, and after a brief fumble, they found each other's hands, again, and continued on down the hall.
The second conference room was yet different, and had … “a grindylow!” Harry muttered. These were far more annoying and nasty. It's water-borne origins were apparent from its webbed feet, and smooth green skin. And the fearsome greenish teeth, bared in a frozen grimace, as it stood rigidly reaching out with its very long fingers.
“Never liked them, don't reckon too many others do.”
“No, maybe Hagrid, but this is still wrong. To have it standing, stuffed like that. Dried out and made into a display.” Ginny muttered. “These people make me sick.”
“They might not even know these are real. To Muggles, this is probably a silly joke, a made-up model of a mythical creature. How would you know if that was a racoon or a fox I put on the table, and you had never seen one before?”
“Don't defend them, Harry.”
“Come on, before we get in more of a fight about this. Maddie can't chat all afternoon.” Harry wisely dodged the rest of the discussion on the magical creature's fate.
There was no commiseration on the third conference room's display. “A skrewt? Really. How on Earth …?” Harry mumbled.
“Ewww.” Ginny just said. “These people are weird.”
They soon got vivid confirmation of that fact, because room number four was another that a group of a over a half a dozen of the 'inmates' were indeed present and chortling, and joking amongst each other. Three women and about four men, all sitting around a conference room, and the omnidirectional speaker in the middle of the table. There was no stuffed magical creature apparent, but what the group was listening to was ….
A woman's moan sounded, from the speaker on the table, and then rather vigorous and urgent breathing.
“Are they ..?” Ginny's whispered question was interrupted by a series of ribald commentary, from one of the women and the men annoyingly snickered.
“They are eavesdropping on people, …...in their home.” Harry whispered back, and pulled her away from the door, along toward the fanciest door, at the end of the hallway.
Harry could sense the waves of disgust and revulsion radiating from his invisible wife. “Harry, I have never felt so dirty in my life. That is just sick, and wrong, and, …..gods, what if that could have been our home they were peeping in. Our bedroom!”
“I don't have anything I can say in their defense, Ginny. These are Muggle press people, not police, or aurors. They are doing that for tomorrows story, or next weeks tabloid headline. Like vultures, waiting for the next victim to drop. They always do. Come on. Last door and then we are leaving.”
Harry felt her stretch to the knob, and gently tap it unlocked with her wand, invisible to him under the cloak. The witch and wizard slipped in the now unlocked door, and found only a much bigger and completely dark room. A massive table was barely glimpsed, and the faint light from some heavily curtained windows.
Harry moved over to just pull aside the curtain to let them see about, and then he heard Ginny suck in a deep breath. “No,” she exclaimed!
At the room's head, behind a extra big, cushy chair, stood a unicorn's head, mounted to the wall on on the paneled wood, on a nicely inlaid plaque.
Harry had nothing to say he felt would make his wife feel any better and just marched up to the head, returned himself to visual sight, and took it off the wall and sat it down on the table. It was only slightly smaller than a regular horse, and Harry suddenly wished he had used a levitation spell.
Ginny joined him, taking off the Cloak. “How did these bastards ….?” Almost compulsively, her hand gently fingered the rough tip of the horn, and she stared into the goggling eyes. They were real, frozen by magic. Not some Muggle glass things.
As if the last thing they had seen was the blade!
“No idea, honey. And let's remember why we are here. To get evidence for a proper raid by the aurors. Let's look about it, look for names, tags, labels. ...”
“How about this? A business card. Taped to the bottom.” Her hand shook, as she handed it to him.
'Aurora'. One word, hand-written, nothing else. Ginny mumbled, “Doesn't mean anything to me. You ever hear of a company called that?”
He grunted negatively, then “Well, this is going with us.” Harry grimly said, and he slipped the card into his pocket, she got out the little designer purse on a shoulder strap, and opened it wide. Voicelessly, she uttered a spell that shrunk the stuffed unicorn's head to just the size of a small gob ball. And gently placed it inside the purse.
“I want to hurt someone.” Ginny finally said.
“Yeah. Thinking about it. With you, but let's get Maddie and get going. Pushed our luck.” He took her by the arm, patted the purse, and they marched back out of the room.
The route out of there was uneventful, except for the spiteful jinx of locking the eavesdropping group's door with a hex. And back downstairs, they found Maddie listening dreamily to the stupefyingly boring boasting of the pudgy guard, back down at the second security desk. Harry and Ginny had both resumed invisibility, and were about to try and make themselves gently known to Maddie when they caught the end of the guard's story.
“....... And I there I was, Abby, about to pass my police exam, when the bloke running it suddenly runs up …...and says, 'what's this then about you having been in jail three times. And I says, well, yeah, Sarg', how do you think I got all the experience with the law.” He laughed, enormously amused at his own genius, but never noticed anything afterward, because Harry registered he had called Maddie by her original name, before she knew she was a witch. And Harry just pulled out his wand and stupifyied the guard, with no hesitation.
As the Potters became visible, once again, the younger witch seemed to wake out of hypnotic state. “Oh, hi, you two. Wondered if I should do something ...” Maddie seemed unsurprised at Harry's action.
“Son of a bitch, Maddie! He called you by your own old name!”
“Yes, funny how small the world is.” Madelene spoke in a bored voice, taking either Potter by the arm, and indicating with a fashionable toe. “Meet cousin Mel. Or Frank. Or Gordon. Something. Second or third removed. One of my Uncles's flunkies. Seems they have branched out, to corporate burglary. Recognized my face, though after I had blurted out he seemed familiar. Funny that was ...”
“Maddie, they kidnapped you and threatened to sell you as a plaything to foreigners?”
“Well, yeah, not all roses was it? But leave him 'lone. He wasn't one of them. In jail at the time. 'Uncle' has, ummm, gone abroad, it seems, and some other cousin is running affairs. And they have this place targeted. Branching off into corporate burglary.”
“Well, what would you say if you saw what we found.” Ginny shrugged off a corner of the cloak and opened up the purse. “There, look in that. Head of a unicorn.”
“Girls, sometime later? Now that we know the lay of the upper floors, we can apparate in with no problems, and ransack the whole bloody place for unicorns, mermaids, and any other God damned ...”
Maddie sprawled out her fingers, wide eyed in urgent need to exclaim, “Still haven't seen one of those. Fleur thinks its a riot I thought the mer girls have big hooters and knock-out hair ...”
“Oh, come on.” And Harry just grabbed both of them, leaving 'Mel' sprawled sleeping on the floor, next to his lonely security monitor.
They regrouped on the ride down. Ginny's identical dress not having been needed, was discarded and stuffed in a handbag, and she switched to something much more plain and conservative. Harry had to briefly stop the elevator, and cover up his eyes. Why he hadn't thought this part through, and had Ginny do this when invisible, he had no idea. But returned to the business at hand, getting a sharp elbow from the missus to get the elevator moving again.
“Never saw any underwear,” Harry stated unconvincingly. “Now we split up. Maddie takes the attention away from us. Ginny and I rejoin her outside on the plaza after leaving separately ….”
“Piece of cake.” Ginny said.
'Ding' said the elevator door, and it opened up. To reveal a bulky, large security man, with a ugly-looking black stick balanced in one hand, and he said “Don't move, you lot!”
“Obliviate!” Harry just shot right back, his wand already at the ready, and the big man just tottered right into the open elevator, the three intruders hurriedly grabbing him so that the guard wouldn't crash face first into the floor. After a hurried and frantic look around, saw no one else in the elevator lobby, dragged the heavy man the rest of the way into the elevator and hit the top button again to send him on his way.
Better than setting your phasers on stun, Harry thought.
“Shit! Something has tipped them off.” Ginny looked back and forth on either side of the elevator lobby, but there was no one else.
Harry worried aloud, “Maybe found Mel snoozing. Should have arranged him better.”
Maddie seemed suddenly the one brimming with confidence. Seeing 'cousin Mel' had restored her faith that this was a far better life. “Don't fuss, Mr. P. Won't make any difference, now. I'm on for display run. Move on after me after you hear the wolf whistles.”
“Harry, remember the plan.” Ginny tugged worriedly on his arm. He needed to act normal.
“I know, but now that her cousin knows she was here ....”
“He'll be out of it for the rest of the day, and besides, this is why she had to come.” Ginny pulled him back, straightening up his shirt. They both looked now different, he was just in a open-necked, buttoned shirt, and she in a plain dress, with her hair pulled back at the nape. “Sex-crazed, lonely males, remember. Half these guys couldn't get a date on an island of desperate women.” Ginny snidely grumped, now making their pace agonizingly slow, fighting his tugging urge to stay with strutting Madelene.
Maddie, in fact, had only just turned the corner, and from a popular reaction of the people in the main lobby, was being well received.
“Men!” Ginny exclaimed. “Pigs!”
“I can't really say. ...”
“Oh, shut up. Come on.” Dragging him into motion, Ginny and Harry followed their comrade, hoping to capitalize on the distraction.
The exit from World-News Mega-Ultra corporation was as anti-climatic as it was easy. The problem now was after the Potter couple waited frustratingly at the far edge of the plaza, while Maddie turned away wave upon wave of suitors from beside her path. Some apparently thought she was actually a famous celebrity, such was the acclaim. She enhanced this by mistaking them for exceptionally friendly strangers, and enthusiastically staying to shake hands. Not a few of the women about the plaza seethed in jealousy.
Harry muttered, “This is so embarrassing. Thought we'd be running for our lives.”
“Just got your wish, husband dear” As Ginny pointed, a bunch of figures were tumbling and dashing out of the high rise 'World-News' office building, to cast looks about all around, then seeing Maddie's unmistakeable figure and the dazzling zebra dress, shouting out faintly to grab her.
That command caused no little confusion, as the small crowd around her belligerently turned to block these impudent newcomers from their candy.
“Bugger it, come on Maddie.” Harry yelled, and waved her on “Drop it and run.” And she took a look over her beautiful shoulder and at once dashed forward, flinging off the high heels, dumping her small handbag in the trashcan, and sprinting across the wet grass to the Potters, and the three just turned the corner of the next building.
And the panting posse, turned the corner, gathering a head of steam, just behind them. And found an empty street.
[Back in the Leaky Cauldron pub, that evening]
“That went well.” Maddie was massaging her still bare feet. And, at the same time, spurning the attentions of several patrons of the Leaky Cauldron. Some of the gents were quite old, in fact.
“Honestly. Don't they have some shame.” Ginny growled, scowling back at the last wizard to try to 'chat up' Madelene.
“Don't think they are thinkin' with the shame pondering parts of their brains, Mrs. P.”
“I don't really believe that counts as thought.” Ginny grinned. “Are you changing back the hair color?”
“Haven't decided. Red is just too much. All this attention has me a bit jumpy. How do you stand it, Mrs. P.”
“Think there is a bit more to it than tint, Maddie.”
Harry downed another swallow from his pint, rubbing his hands, and said, “Brilliant. Went like clockwork. Well, okay, a dodgy clock, I have to admit, but one that worked. Now, where is the purse?”
Ginny looked expectantly at Madelene, and she at Ginny. Then there was a furrowed, worried look between all three. “Thought you had the real one.” The women said in unison, pointing at each other.
“Oh, bugger!” Harry carelessly grabbed open the purse Ginny had laid on the pub's table when they had come in, and shook it heedlessly out.
Bits and oddments came out. Tissues, lipstick, a comb, not much else. No shrunken unicorn's head.
Harry squeezed the sides of his head with his hands, better than pounding his head onto the wood table. Ginny and Maddie both looked stricken. “Could I have left it in the elevator?” Ginny whispered.
Maddie winced, pointing to the sadly empty purse on the table. “No, that yours. It must have been in mine. Damn, they were identical. Never thought that'd be the problem.” Maddie looked stricken, then a flash of memory, “The trash can! When I had to run! Lost my damn pumps that cost too much, too, but I shoved the bloody bag ….”
“....In the trash can,” Harry finished for her. “I had ordered you to drop everything and run ...” Harry voice came, from beneath his arms as his head was finally laying on the table top. “My fault, girls, I thought Ginny had it. I was more worried about getting away than thinking about accounting for the handbag.”
“We could go back ...” Madelene said uncertainly. She wasn't even sure she remembered it happening that way. It had all happened so fast. One minute surrounded by happy people, next being ordered to flee.
“How do we find the 'Uni's' head? Will it return to normal size on it's own? What are the chances they've dumped the trash cans by now?” Harry numbly said.
There was no obvious answers, and in the gap in conversation, Ginny reached for both her comrades hands. The mutual silence spoke volumes. They couldn't even recall exactly which can it had been.
Maddie felt she had to say something. “Feel just sick about this, Mr. P. Honestly, I do ...”
“So completely, not your fault, Maddie. Let's just ….call it a night.” Harry sat slumped in the booth's bench. Just when things seemed to work out, Harry's famous luck for calamity had take a hand in events.
Ginny shook her head at Maddie attempt to say more, shoving the nice but fatally empty, expensive purse into the younger woman's hands, just smiling and saying, “Let him stew. Good night.”
Maddie reluctantly got up and padded toward the hidden entrance to Diagon Alley. One of the younger 'bar-birds' got the courage up to come up to Madelene as she dragged the purse's strap carelessly on the pub's cobbled floor.
She just snarled at him, before he spoke a word, “Bugger off!” And disappeared after a quick, practiced tap of the concealing brickwork at the back of the pub's far wall.
“Shouldn't have done it this way at all. And now, I bet you all those things in the meeting rooms will have vanished by dawn. And I've got no proof.” Harry said, unable to keep a faint whine out of his voice. This was so unfair.
Ginny felt he was being too hard on himself. It was as much her fault as anyones. Switching the dresses, that must have been when it happened. “Well, I know honey. I'm sorry for the way it turned out. I should have just kept the 'zebra' dress on. I didn't get a second glance, standing next to Maddie.”
“Don't believe that for a second. At least you looked gorgeous today.”
“That's what any woman wants to hear from her man. But, it will be a last time for that dress ...”
That seemed to revive Harry's interest. He wasn't lying at all. It had been terribly sexy on Ginny. “No, I like it.”
She ruffled the his hair, smiling. “Mean it was in the purse Maddie had. With the unicorn. I forgot myself until just now. But, what I mean is, won't fit after today anyway. I was pushing the limit, Harry. Too tubby.”
“No, not at all. I liked every seam and line on your body.”
“That's sweet. I mean, the baby is already growing, and I've gained some weight, already.”
Harry looked blank, like he'd missed some key information, in the last minute. “Huh?”
“You and me and baby makes three. You remember making it, don't you?” Ginny said, in amusement.
That picture seemed to snap him out of it. Harry whooped for joy, standing up from his bench, lofting his arms to the ceiling in victory. and the proceeding in the sleepy 'Cauldron' got briefly more lively.
Of course, he hadn't really done much. But they'd been trying for two years, now. And, now, almost the exact moment they had agreed to not to try ….
And as he was being congratulated by the regulars and letting Ginny get her stuff so that they could finally go home, Harry stuffed his hand in his pocket, and found on pulling it out the lone business card. That had been stuck to the base of the now lost unicorn.
That merely spelled out the word 'Aurora'.
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