M.L.T.: Muggle Liaison Team? by Northumbrian
Summary:
He was John “Pen” Parker. He was twenty-two and recently engaged to Naomi Nolan, the nineteen-year-old mother-to-be of his unborn child. He worked for Howard Building Contractors. There were fifteen other people on the closed and secure building site when he died. Was he murdered? The police weren’t sure. But what did they know? Whose was the cigarette, and what happened to the ring?

This is Northumbrian of Ravenclaw failing to meet the deadline for the 2011 Mysterious May Challenge in the Great Hall, Prompt #2 – The Trained Professional.

Categories: Mystery Characters: None
Warnings: Mild Profanity
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: No Word count: 6076 Read: 9861 Published: 06/05/11 Updated: 07/26/11

1. Ministry by Northumbrian

2. Site by Northumbrian

3. Pub by Northumbrian

Ministry by Northumbrian
Author's Notes:
This is "the Secret Origin of MIT".
1. Ministry (Monday 25 June 2001)

Gawain Robards read the memorandum, put his head in his hands, and sighed.

He thought back to the day he’d been appointed head of the Auror Office.

‘It isn’t an easy job, Robbie,’ Rufus Scrimgeour had told him.

‘Unlike yours, Rufus,’ Robards had said sarcastically.

That had been five years ago, on the day Rufus had become Minister for Magic. They had been difficult times; no one had known where Voldemort was, or what he was doing. Then, little more than a year later, Rufus and his two Auror bodyguards had been killed, and Thicknesse had taken over.

Robards had seen how quickly things were moving, and so had Kingsley Shacklebolt. They’d removed as many sensitive files as they could, and left the Auror Office empty and unmanned. When every Auror was summoned to see Minister Thicknesse, he had ignored the summons. Wisely, most of the other Aurors had ignored it, too. Only three of the Aurors who had entered the Ministry had ever been seen again. One was a turncoat, the others Imperiused.

When Potter had been recruited to the Auror Office immediately after the war, Robards had been pleased to have him. In fact, not one, but five of the young heroes of Hogwarts had joined the Office. Potter was keen and clever and Robards had no doubt that he would make a really good Auror. In fact, he was already a really good Auror.

Robards had expected that things would be easier once Voldemort was dead. In almost every way, they were. There were still a few Snatchers on the loose, and one or two people still claimed that they’d seen the Dark Lord. Which, of course, they hadn’t, but on the whole things were less dangerous for everyone. Less danger, however, meant more complaints.

Potter, despite his ability, was hard work. He was restless and insubordinate; he constantly questioned everything. Why do we do this? This arrest form doesn’t make sense! Our uniforms are old fashioned. Potter’s demands for change were relentless. Robards regarded it as his duty to try to keep the lad’s feet on the ground, to ensure that centuries-old working practices weren’t swept aside in some mad dash for change and modernisation. It wasn’t easy.

The big problem with Harry Potter was that he was Harry Potter, and he knew it. He was brave and committed to his job, and he meant well, all of which were very good things. Unfortunately, this made his requests and suggestions difficult to resist and impossible to ignore. Unless he did something very stupid indeed, Potter could not be sacked, not that Robards wanted rid of him. You had to hand it to the boy; he knew what he wanted, and he’d learned how to get it, how to use his fame, and who to contact.

Robards reread the short message. He was used to this type of memoranda; he’d even created a separate filing system for them. The Shacklebolt/Potter memos were all kept together. Memoranda on subjects from the black hex-resistant Muggle clothes all field-Aurors now wore; the lifting of the ban on non-humans becoming Ministry employees (which Potter had immediately used to get a werewolf of all things into the Auror Office training programme); the Portkey Handcuffs; and the emergency Portkey Identity Cards. Robards admitted to himself that the last two had proved to be extremely useful, actually saving Aurors’ lives. The annoying thing was that the Minister’s words were always identical. Attached to the report detailing whatever hare-brained new scheme Potter and his cronies had come up with, was a simple short note from the Minister: “Gawain, I think that this is worth a try, Kingsley”.

Robards reread the report “The Need for a Specialist Muggle Liaison Team”, and this time, he read it very carefully. He detected the hand of the Granger girl in sections of it. She and Potter had been instrumental in overturning the werewolf ban (it discriminated against blameless people who were simply suffering from an illness, apparently), and in drafting the new rules regarding Obliviation (altering a person’s memories could, like the Imperius Curse, be used to alter their behaviour and must be avoided wherever possible).

Robards had spoken to several other Section Heads in the Ministry, and he knew that he wasn’t the only one having problems with his staff. Many of Potter’s cronies were causing trouble. Granger was creating a huge disturbance in Magical Creatures, demanding major changes in the rights of house-elves, werewolves and goodness knew what else. The Rights of Sentient Entities, she called it. It seemed that she wouldn’t stop until the Being Division, with its hundreds of years of carefully crafted rules and regulations, was turned upside down.

Patil was encouraging people to ask her questions about research projects. She worked in the Department of Mysteries; it simply wasn’t done. Johnson had completely reorganised Magical Games and Sports. They were all heroes, with medals to prove it. They were almost unstoppable, but there was too much change, too quickly, he was certain of that. Everyone in the Ministry knew how the Ministry worked. There were rules, procedures, forms to be filled in triplicate, there were systems which everyone knew, and they were being changed.

Returning to the report, Robards carefully read the conclusion. It suggested that a team of “between four and six specialist Aurors” should be tasked with dealing with mysterious Muggle deaths and with any case where the Muggle and magical worlds met.

The report suggested that a leader be appointed, and that this new “Lead Auror” should appoint the team. Robards wondered if Potter expected to get the job, and whether he would appoint his friends.

Robards blew his nose, leaned back in his chair and considered his options. Fortescue was invaluable where she was. Using Byers was out of the question; the man would never be able to pass as a Muggle. Tempting though that option was, it would get him in trouble with Kingsley. Williamson would refuse and ordering him to take the job would guarantee that he did it badly. Kingsley had worked with Williamson and knew what Williamson was like, so that appointment would not work either. Webb, however, was a distinct possibility.

Robards thought carefully. The memo said “four to six” and suggested that the Muggle policewoman Potter had brought into the Office should be on the team. That was sensible, because the woman was useless elsewhere. The Muggle was still a trainee, but she would never become an Auror. She could not complete the training course as she couldn’t cast any spells!

And it said the new Lead Auror “should appoint” not “must appoint”, so he’d appoint the werewolf, too! That would get rid of that particularly troublesome trainee. Making certain that she dealt only with Muggles might reduce the huge number of complaints he’d been receiving from wizards and wizards protesting about the appointment of “a filthy werewolf” to the Auror Office.

Robards smiled happily to himself. That was two problematic employees shuffled into a department where they wouldn’t cause him problems with the wizarding community. In fact, he realised, there was another troublemaker he could get rid of. She was the only Muggle-born Auror and she’d make an ideal leader, at least in theory. The Head of the Auror Office hauled himself to his feet, picked up his walking stick, and limped to his office door.

‘Auror Protheroe, my office, now!’ he shouted across the room.
End Notes:
Thanks to Fresca for her fabulous and fast beta work. Reviews are nice.
Site by Northumbrian
2. Site

Bill Howard inspected his men.

Five hard-hat-wearing workmen shuffled uneasily. They looked like what they were, a gang of jobbing builders. Scruffily dressed men of various ages, sizes and ethnicity, their jeans were filthy, their steel-toe boots worn, and their t-shirt slogans varied from rude to obscene.

His men had set up two trestle tables and a dozen chairs in the cavernous entrance hall of the four storey townhouse they were supposed to be renovating. Bill looked around the large open stairwell, it still looked like what it was, a working building site. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working.

‘Best behaviour lads,’ he warned. ‘Be quiet and polite and don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. Any one of this lot could close us down. Whether it’s planning, building, structures or, God help us, conservation. Sweeney, don’t leer, and definitely don’t wolf whistle. The site owner and the architect are coming too. Any lip from any of you and we could all be off the job.’

The gang’s pierced and tattooed plumber, John “Sweeney” Regan, simply grinned.

‘Is any of ‘em tarts, then, Gaffer?’ asked John “Mac” Logan. Bill glared at his senior bricklayer.

‘For Christ’s sake don’t call anyone a tart, Mac, especially not the building inspector. Not even if she’s got knockers like Jordan and a skirt that barely covers her arse.’

‘Ah’ve nivvor seen a building inspector what was a bird,’ observed John “Geordie” Pendry, the grey-haired and pony-tailed plasterer. ‘They’re aal blokes an they aal mek John look like a Chippendale, norra chippy.’

Howard’s crew looked at their overweight carpenter and laughed. The target of their humour, Martin “John” Richards joined in with their laughter.

‘Remember that little blonde planner down Epsom, Geordie?’ John asked.

‘Oh, aye,’ Geordie’s eyes twinkled. ‘Aluss wore short skirts an a thong, and we aluss made sure she was first up the stairs. There was aluss a scrap for who went next.’

‘Bloody hell, lads,’ Howard said. ‘Do you want to get paid work or laid off? This was supposed to be a simple strip down and refurb job. If the ruddy building inspector hadn’t been here when Pen found the plastered over door to the under-cellar, we could’ve ignored it. Georgie could’ve just plastered back over the thing and forgotten about it.’

‘It ain’t my fault, Gaffer,’ said John “Pen” Parker, turning and protesting his innocence to Bill Howard. ‘Whoever plastered over that door meant it to be found. The ring was sticking out of the plaster, right next to the fuse box. I had to pull it out, and all of the plaster just fell away. It ain’t my fault that Mac brought the building inspector in right that minute.’ The stocky shaven-headed black electrician looked at his colleagues for their agreement.

‘Yeah, I suppose, just don’t try blaming me, son,’ said Mac threateningly. ‘You got that ring out of it, but we got nothing. We might all be out of work. I need my wages, or else the missus will kill me.’

‘I told you that horse was a nag, Mac,’ Howard said. ‘You never learn.’

‘One day…’ Mac began.

‘One day your lass will figure out how much ye lose on the horses and ye’ll be out on yer lug.’ Geordie said.

Pen waved his right hand. ‘The ring’s cleaned up good, and it fits me, and Naomi reckons that it might be worth a few quid, reckons it’s Celtic.’

‘If it’s valuable, Pen, you flog it and we split the profits,’ Sweeney reminded the young electrician.

‘Aye, don’t let that Naomi lass of yours sell it without telling us, if it’s worthless, it’s yours, if it’s not, it’s ours,’ said Geordie.

‘Why are you wearing it?’ Howard asked. ‘What if one of this council lot asks questions?’

‘It’s a family ring,’ said Pen, grinning. ‘Belonged to my great-granddad, honest.’

‘It’s Celtic, and your dad was from Jamaica, you daft sod,’ Howard told him.

‘But my Mum’s mum wasn’t, she was English, sort-of, she always said the family were originally Irish. She met my granddad, married him, and got booted out of her family. Rich white London girls didn’t marry black guys in them days,’ Pen told him.

Someone hammered on the hoardings. Howard looked at his watch. ‘This will be them. The job’s stopped because this bloody cellar isn’t on any of the building plans. You lot just stand around and look idle. It’s something you’re all good at, especially you, Geordie.’

Geordie grinned and showed his boss two fingers.



Bill Howard mopped his sweaty brow and listened to the officials arguing among themselves. There were six of them, a building inspector, two planners (one of whom was the enforcement officer, which was never good news), a structural engineer, and two conservation officers (because conservation officers never went anywhere alone). His client was outnumbered.

One of the planners, the enforcement officer, was a woman, as was one of the conservation officers. Fortunately the two women were in their thirties or forties and trouser suited. Unfortunately, the building’s owner, the Rt Hon. Peregrine St John Porteus, had arrived with his personal assistant, Natalie Gough. She was a tall and beautiful girl with extremely long black hair, and she wore a short red skirt.

Porteus had first wanted to talk to “Pen” Parker in private; he’d wanted to hear a first-hand account of the discovery of the room. While he’d been doing so Sweeney and Mac had made some comment which caused Natalie to blush. Howard’s crew had teased and ogled the girl, to her obvious discomfort, and he’d been forced to apologise for their childish behaviour. Howard had moved her into one of the side rooms until Porteus returned, and he’d then sent Pen to fetch her, as the young man was the most sensible on his crew.

After more than twenty years in the trade, Bill Howard knew that most builders were less mature than the average six-year-old. Geordie had just made some comment under his breath and the gang were again laughing like naughty schoolboys. He tried to ignore them and concentrate on the meeting. Mr Porteus’ architect, Barrington Bulman, was arguing with the planners. They were claiming that the submitted plans were wrong.

‘Of course the plans are wrong!’ Bulman protested. ‘Nobody knew that the under-cellar beneath the basement existed.’

One of the design and conservation officers, Nicola Nattrass, a wild-haired woman with an annoying, screeching, voice was bemoaning the fact that the cracked and worn old plaster had been removed from the entrance hall. She seemed to want to revisit the entire planning application. Fortunately, the enforcement officer, round-faced and freckled Martine McCaskell was disagreeing with her.

‘The application was approved, Nicola,’ Martine announced forcefully, finally shutting the woman up.

Eventually, Mr Porteus managed to gain some control. ‘Has anyone been through the door you found, Mr Howard?’ the tall, pale skinned, and cadaverous owner asked.

‘Not until this morning, Mr Porteus,’ he replied. ‘I sent the lads down with a couple of generators, to rig up some lighting before you got here. The basement has some limited lighting, but the under-cellar rooms we found don’t have any windows, and there’s no electric supply. It’s black as pitch down there. We’ll switch on the lights when you want to go down and take a look.’

‘Rooms?’ asked Porteus. ‘Has anyone been beyond the first room?’

‘I passed on your instructions, Mr Porteus,’ Howard assured the building owner. ‘I certainly hope not.’ He glared at his men.

‘Then I think it’s time we all took a look at the place we’re arguing about. I may be able to fit a few more flats into this dilapidated shell.’

‘Dilapidated shell!’ Nicola Nattrass was far from happy. ‘This was an early Regency property, possibly built on a much older structure, and you’ve gutted it; you’ve ripped the soul from it.’

The arguments began again.

‘Pen, go to the under-cellar and start the generators,’ Howard ordered. The young man nodded and left.

The building inspector, an overweight man in his early sixties named Dave Kitching, was quoting “Health and Safety” and insisting that everyone who went downstairs wore both a hard-hat and safety boots. Andrew Birks, the skinny, sour-faced structural engineer agreed, and not even the strident voice of Nicola Nattrass could persuade them otherwise.

What followed were several minutes of confusion as every one of the visitors either went to their cars for safety gear or were fitted out with gear from the site. Mr Porteus, despite his attempts to escape, was still being harangued by Miss Nattrass.

There were four inter-connected rooms leading off from the main hall, all of which connected to the rear corridor and the stairs to the basement. People scattered as they got ready to descend.

To the girl’s obvious disappointment, Mr Porteus told his PA, Natalie, to remain on the ground floor. There were no safety boots small enough to fit her. Both Mac and Geordie offered to stay upstairs with the girl, but Howard ordered them downstairs.

With Howard in the lead, the large group descended to the basement. The stairs entered the centre of the area, an open labyrinth of brick walls and pillars which smelled damp and musty. The walls surrounding the central stairs were stone and Howard led the group alongside the stairs. The newly discovered flight descended directly beneath the stairs from the ground floor. The door to the under-cellar was solid, and set in an age-blackened stone arch.

To Howard’s surprise, the door was closed. The basement lights were few, and the bare bulbs gave scant illumination. The mass of people cast shifting shadows about the room. He was about to open the door when an excited shriek from Nicola brought them all to a halt.

‘That’s an early medieval arch,’ she squealed excitedly, her initial scream of joy echoed around the room and even seemed to echo beyond the solid iron-studded door which barred entry through the arch. ‘We will have to contact the Archaeology Department.’

Mr Porteus looked at both Howard and Bulman. The builder exchanged a worried glance with the architect. Both men knew what that meant: more delay. If this proved to be serious archaeology, it might be a very long delay.

Nicola Nattrass loudly and excitedly insisted that she go first. She struggled to open the heavy door and then cautiously descended the stairs, which were illuminated only by the limited light available from the basement.

‘There’s another door at the bottom, Miss Nattrass,’ Howard called. He heard her fumble with the handle and finally push open that door too. The stairs were suddenly flooded with bright light; Pen had turned on the generator. As Nicola opened the door, a bird flew out, flapping wildly above everyone’s heads and shooting up into the basement. Natalie Nattrass screamed and staggered backwards, falling onto the stone stairs.

After a few seconds, Howard realised that it wasn’t the bird which had startled her. There was a much more serious urgency about the panicky squeaking noises she was making. He stepped past her looked into the under-cellar.

John “Pen” Parker, the youngest member of his crew, lay sprawled and supine in the centre of the room. Howard dashed towards him. An extinguished roll-up cigarette lay next to the body. The rictus grimace frozen on the young man’s face left no doubt; Pen was dead.

Howard ignored the wails of Nicola Nattrass and, still staring at the body, shouted at the top of his lungs ‘Geordie, call the cops, and an ambulance, and don’t effing argue. Mac, John, get everybody back upstairs. Sweeney, get your arse down here, now.’

Poor Naomi, Howard’s first thoughts were for Pen’s pregnant girlfriend. Then he noticed that the ring was missing.
End Notes:
Thanks once again to Fresca for her fast beta-work.
Pub by Northumbrian
3. Pub

Polly Protheroe walked into the Devonshire Arms.

‘Ain’t seen you for weeks, Poll, and I don’t fink I’ve ever seen you at lunchtime,’ said the barmaid. ‘Usual?’ Polly nodded, and the girl began to pull a pint.

‘New tat, Trish?’ she asked, looking at the barmaid’s forearm. The grim reaper, scythe in hand, grinned back at Polly.

‘Yeah, you like it?’ Trish replied, placing the pint of Hobgoblin on the bar and taking the money Polly had proffered.

‘Nice artwork, but not my choice, I’ve never really been into the reaper stuff,’ Polly replied. She took her change and waited for Trish to top up her pint.

‘I’ve always meant to ask, what’s that?’ The barmaid pointed to Polly’s neck.

‘Raven’s claw,’ Polly told her. ‘It’s the first tattoo I ever got. It’s a private joke. I’m not a lion or a badger or a snake.’

The barmaid looked puzzled. Polly simply grinned and walked away from the bar.

The pub’s lunchtime clientele was not what she was used to. When she came in the evening the place was always busy and noisy. It was inevitably packed with goths and metalheads: black leather, piercings and body art. Now, it was quiet. There were a few people she knew in the place. A couple of purple-haired girls and their long-haired, leather-jacket-wearing, boyfriends waved to her. She smiled at them, but rather than join them, Polly went over sit behind the screen which divided the main part of the bar from the pool table and dartboard.

She strolled past five workmen, all but one were wearing jeans and scruffy t-shirts. The five men sat near the pool table, having a lunchtime beer and a sandwich. The only one not in a t-shirt wore a faded check shirt. He was in his forties, thin, sandy-haired and balding, and he seemed to be in charge. Polly looked at the men curiously. They were a mixed bunch. An unfeasibly black-haired man in his late forties was obviously stuck in the 1980’s; he wore his hair in a mullet. He was talking to a skinny, balding man in his fifties who wore his thinning grey hair in a pony-tail. Next to them was an extremely overweight bald man. The fifth man, a spiky-haired and heavily tattooed punk in his thirties, was wearing a Rancid t-shirt; he winked at her as she passed.

When she’d ordered her drink she’d observed the men in the mirror behind the bar, she had watched the punk while he watched her.

It was a warm summer day. She wore her front-buckle knee boots, a pair of ragged black denim shorts, and her old leather greatcoat. She shrugged off the greatcoat, revealing a purple string vest over a violently pink crop top, and most of her tattoos. Throwing her coat on the bench she sat, placed her pint on a beer mat, and pushed herself right into the corner. The punk was, once again, staring at her. She ignored him.

Polly positioned herself carefully. The wall behind the pool table was scratched black plastic, but you could see everyone who entered the bar in the distorted reflection. From this spot you could also see the large mirror behind the bar, and in it, most of the rest of the room. Polly sipped her pint and waited.

At exactly half past twelve the door opened and, reflected in the black plastic, Polly saw the first member of her team enter. This was someone who had been imposed upon her. Polly watched the shadowy reflection moving and noted with approval that the girl didn’t hesitate, but walked straight across to the bar. Mullet-man nudged his pony-tailed colleague, and all five men turned to watch.

Polly leaned sideways, peered past the screen, and looked at the curvy girl at the bar. Curly brown hair tumbled down her back. She wore an ankle-length flower-print summer dress. The halter top revealed her smooth, pale shoulders and upper back. The dress, Polly realised, was of a very thin material. The workmen could make out the silhouette of her legs through the dress, hence their interest. Polly sat upright and watched the men watch the girl. When she looked back towards the bar she saw trainee Auror Lavender Brown watching her in the mirror. Lavender smiled, turned from the bar and walked across to join her.

‘I had no idea what to order,’ Lavender said cheerfully, placing a pint glass on the table and sitting opposite Polly. ‘But I saw you in the mirror. You were watching those blokes who were watching me. I told the barmaid that I’d have whatever my old friend Polly was drinking. What is this?’

‘Wytchwood Hobgoblin, strong ale,’ Polly said.

Lavender burst out laughing. ‘I’ve got the t-shirt,’ she said. ‘I inherited it from Harry. I was in his bed in my underwear, and I needed some clothes, so he found me a t-shirt.’

Polly, who knew the story behind Lavender’s infection and subsequent recruitment, was amazed at how entirely accurate, yet completely misleading, that statement was.

‘You wouldn’t dare say that in front of the Harpy,’ Polly replied.

‘The Harpy?’ Lavender smiled. ‘That’s a good one; I’ll have to remember it. It might even needle her, but I doubt it, especially not now she’s got his ring. So, have I passed? Did I manage to walk into a pub and buy a drink without attracting attention?’

‘No, you attracted a lot of attention,’ Polly told her. She paused for a moment and watched Lavender’s face fall. ‘From the blokes,’ she said. ‘But that’s because of your dress, not because you failed to act like a Muggle. You’ll do. Now come and sit next to me, right here, and we’ll wait for Susan.’

‘Susan!’ Lavender exclaimed. ‘No one told me that I was going to be working with Susan Bones! We can’t work together, we argue about everything.’

‘That’s what Susan said, too. But Robards has imposed most of my team on me. You weren’t my choice, but don’t let that bother you, neither was Bobbie.’ Polly added hastily, ‘Like I said, you’ll be fine. Susan is my own choice. Not that I had much choice. I couldn’t control Harry, no one can.’

‘Except Ginny the Harpy,’ observed Lavender. Polly nodded and continued.

‘I hope you can work with Susan, Lavender. I don’t want one of the old duffers, and now that we’ve finally caught little Colin’s killer, Ron and Nev are working their notice. That leaves me one of the other trainees, fresh out of Hogwarts and, unlike you, completely inexperienced, or Susan, or Terry. I need a fully qualified Auror, and Susan is qualified, and efficient. She was my partner during your field training, remember? So my only alternative is Terry, and he is”I really have no idea what Terry is. Does he ever speak?’

‘Not often,’ Lavender admitted. ‘But when he does, he’s usually worth listening to.’

Polly sat back and watched Lavender thinking.

‘What’s the problem? I thought that you and Susan were close,’ Polly asked.

‘We were after the Battle, when I was in a wheelchair. We were very close. But since Parvati went to India Susan’s decided that she’s going to try to keep me on the straight and narrow.’ Lavender tailed off.

‘So, she doesn’t have an issue with your … condition?’ Polly asked.

Lavender laughed dismissively. ‘No, Suzy B isn’t bothered about me being a werewolf. The problem is that the ice maiden doesn’t approve of how I treated Seamus. I’ll admit that both Parvati and Susan were both right about Aidan, he was a mistake, but they’re wrong about Jacob, he’s different! Anyway, it’s my life, not Susan’s, or Parvati’s. And on top of that Susan drives me crazy, she never relaxes! She never stops, she works like a…’

‘Hufflepuff?’ Polly suggested.

Lavender laughed again. ‘Yes, exactly.’

‘I trained with Tonks, she was like that, too; she never stopped working. But Tonks had … quiet, here she is,’ Polly said.

‘I fink yer in the wrong bar, darlin’,’ Polly heard one of the leather jacketed metalheads call.

‘Really? I believe you are wrong. This is a public house, and I’m a member of the public.’ Susan Bones spoke precisely.

‘Ooh, that’s me told, isn’t it?’ the man said, drawling sarcastically. ‘In that case, it’s my birthday, darlin’, and I’m skint, so if yer buyin’ mine’s a pint of lager.’

Polly heard the man’s friends sniggering. Lavender began to stand, but Polly grabbed her shoulder and forced her to stay seated. They heard footsteps.

‘I would like a glass of orange juice, please,’ Susan said.

‘What about us? We’re yer friends,’ the man continued. ‘Aren’t yer gonna buy us drinks?’

‘My friends, at least, my work colleagues, are sitting behind that screen, hiding from me. I’m sure that they think that this is as amusing as you apparently do,’ said Susan coolly.

Polly grinned, stood and looked over the screen. The long-haired man looked at Polly, then Susan, and then back again.

‘Yes,’ Polly confirmed. ‘Unlike you, you lazy layabout, I have a job, and I work with Susan.’

‘Really?’ the young man looked surprised. ‘What d’yer do?’

‘Susan will tell you,’ Polly said, and sat down.

‘We’re civil servants,’ said Susan. ‘There is no dress code in our office, as you probably can tell. But there are interviews this afternoon, be honest who do you think will be promoted, me, or Polly?’

‘Neither,’ the young man said. ‘The little hippy bird wiff the nice knockers has got it in the bag.’ Lavender smirked.

Susan huffed, and strode silently across to join her colleagues. She wore her Auror uniform, black knee-length skirt, white blouse and grey cravat. Her fine blonde hair was tied into a tight bun.

‘Well, that’s us told, Susan,’ Polly said loudly. ‘Of course, he’s never done an honest day’s work in his life, so he knows nothing.’ She was rewarded by a hoot of laughter on the other side of the screen.

Susan placed her orange juice on the least torn beer mat on the table and carefully examined the available seats. The bench was stained and torn orange plastic. The padded stools were equally stained. She spotted a plain wooden stool at the next table, carefully ran a finger over it and, satisfied, lifted it across to Polly’s table.

Susan perched carefully on the edge of the stool, knees together and back ramrod-straight. She placed her handbag on her lap and put her hands on her knees.

Homenum revelio?’ Polly asked. Susan nodded.

‘I knew someone was here before I walked in. It’s a fairly obvious hiding place,’ she announced. She looked around. ‘It has a reasonable view of the entrance, and of the bar. This is an”interesting”pub, do you expect that we’ll be visiting this type of establishment often, Polly?’

‘I spend a lot of my free time here, Susan,’ Polly said. ‘I like it.’ Susan lifted her fine blonde brows in surprise, but said no more.

‘I can see that this job is going to be a lot of fun. Cheers!’ Lavender lifted her pint in both hands and took a dainty sip. She grimaced. ‘Interesting,’ she announced. She licked her lips, savoured the aftertaste, and took a large gulp. ‘I think I like it,’ she announced after some reflection.

‘What, exactly, do you see us doing, Polly?’ asked Susan. ‘I don’t want to be stuck in some silly little team running around after capricious Muggle nonsense, not getting any really interesting work. I have some ambition; I don’t intend to remain a field-Auror forever.’

‘I’ll remember that, Susan,’ Polly said, while Lavender rolled her eyes.

‘I’m quite happy to be stuck in some silly little team,’ declared Lavender. ‘At least, until I meet the tall, handsome and extremely rich man of my dreams. Then I’ll fall madly in love and, when I’m married, I’ll quit and have lots of children.’

‘Money isn’t everything,’ said Susan sharply.

‘And rich men tend to be cocky gits, Lavender,’ said Polly.

‘Cocky is good,’ Lavender giggled. She watched for Susan’s reaction, but the blonde’s face remained impassive.

‘I thought that you already had a boyfriend, Lavender,’ said Susan waspishly, managing to target the sting on the word boyfriend.

‘Jacob is gorgeous,’ Lavender admitted, ‘and experienced, but, I don’t think that he’s the one. I know how interested you are in my sex life Susan, as you don’t have one, but I suppose you do have a point about this job.’ She turned to face Polly. ‘What do you think we’ll be doing? I reckon that old Robards has shuffled you, me, and Bobbie into this deliberately. We’re three people he doesn’t know what else to do with. I can understand why Susan might not want to work with us.’

‘We’re here for two reasons,’ Polly said. ‘First, I wanted to be sure that you could pass as Muggles, most Aurors can’t, and second, Bobbie might have found a job for us already. I thought that a little field trip might be useful.’

‘Job, what sort of job?’ asked Lavender, leaning forwards excitedly.

‘She’ll tell you when she gets here,’ Polly said. ‘Bobbie’s got a lot of ideas. She wants to put some sort of system in place to try to catch odd events in the Muggle world. Right now, we’ve got no idea whether there will be no work, or more than we can cope with.’

Polly leaned forwards and spoke softly. ‘Before the war I looked into a couple of Muggle-killings, I couldn’t solve them, because no-one would help. Tonks offered, but I said no, because she was really busy working for Dumbledore. I think that this is a good idea, and I want to make it work, so, we’ll see how things go today, okay? If you want to leave now, Susan, that’s fine. I’ll try to find someone else.’

‘If Bobbie has a case for us, I’ll stay,’ said Susan. ‘But that doesn’t mean that I’m joining the team. I simply want to find out what sort of thing we might be doing. Okay?’

‘That’s good enough for me,’ said Polly.

There was a cry of “filth” from the other side of the partition.

Bobbie Beadle stepped into view. ‘I’m in plain clothes and they still recognise me,’ she said sadly.

‘It’s the way you walk, Bobbie,’ said Lavender.

‘Care to join us, Uncle Bill?’ Bobbie called across to the table full of workmen. The thin, balding and sandy-haired man in the check shirt stood and strolled across.

‘This is my uncle, Bill Howard, he’s a builder. Bill, meet Polly Protheroe, Lavender Brown, and Susan Bones. They are the paranormal investigators I told you about. Tell them what you told me.’

Bill Howard looked at the three young women in disbelief, and returned his attention to Bobbie.

‘This is a wind up, isn’t it, Bobbie?’ he asked her.

Bobbie pulled up a stool and sat next to him. ‘It’s not a wind up, honest, Uncle Bill. I told you on the phone, I’ve been transferred out of Kensington and Chelsea division. I’m going to be working with these three, looking at weird stuff.’

Polly nodded vigorously, her dreadlocks tumbling over her face. ‘I can understand why you might be concerned, Mr Howard,’ she said. ‘But we are experts, I’m a witch, Lavender is a psychic, and an expert on divination and Susan is our sceptical scientist.’

‘I’ll read your palm now, if you want,’ Lavender offered, smiling. ‘Your future is in your hands.’

‘Just ignore their witchcraft nonsense,’ said Susan earnestly.

Polly was pleased to see how quickly Lavender and Susan had accepted the roles she’d given them. They, like her, would need to be able to improvise quickly and come up with vaguely believable cover stories.

‘Please tell us your story,’ Susan continued. ‘I’m sure that there will be a reasonable explanation.’

‘I doubt it.’ Bill Howard shook his head.
End Notes:
Thank you brilliant beta Fresca. People please review.
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