Disclaimer – Anything you see and recognise does not belong to me. Harry Potter is JK Rowling's; The Avengers and other related characters belong to Marvel. I'm simply playing in their sandboxes.
Chapter 2 – Filing a Signature
Harry leant against the door to the old building that he'd found a couple of days ago. It'd taken that long for him to, firstly, get himself a phone and secondly, get in contact with the agent that was selling the building and to set up this appointment.
Already he'd been waiting for close to a quarter of an hour, but he wasn't too worried about that - he had arrived early after all. Occasionally, a person walking past would look at him, but New Yorkers, he'd found, tended to stick to their own business, rarely if ever putting their nose in where it didn't belong. In fact, he'd had a first-hand experience of that just the day before. He'd been out exploring more of the city that he'd landed in when he'd noticed movement down an alleyway that he was passing.
Upon glancing down it, it was to see a group of four men beating up a fifth man. Judging by the whimpers coming out of the alley, not to mention the dull thuds that accompanied said whimpers, it'd been going on for some time and not one person had dared to intervene. Ignoring something like that simply wasn't in Harry's DNA. He hated bullies, had ever since his cousin Dudley and his friends bullied Harry when they were younger. And the fact that, when it came right down to it, old Tom Riddle and his merry band were nothing more than bullies intent on beating up people different then themselves emphasised it. Which was a large factor in why they and Harry hadn't gotten on so well.
Harry had just taken his first step down the alleyway to help out, a shake of his hand loosening his wand in its concealed holster in case it was needed, when he'd felt a hand on his shoulder.
"We'll take it from here," a large police officer said as he and his partner, batons in hand, passed him.
Harry nodded, pausing where he was. Within a very few minutes, the four thugs had been rounded up and the man on the ground was being attended to. Seeing that, Harry had continued on, content knowing that there were others willing to do the right thing.
"Mister Potter?" a voice asked, pulling him from his reminiscing.
"Yes," he said, straightening from his lean.
"I'm Amelia Larson," the woman said.
Harry smiled, recognising the name of the realtor that he'd spoken with on his phone. A quick glance took in the woman before him. She was older than she sounded on the phone, maybe in her late forties or early fifties. Her dark brown hair was cut in a bob that framed her oval face. Thin silver spectacles highlighted her brown eyes. And, as with most professional people in the city, Amelia wore a crisp navy blue skirt and jacket with a white button-up shirt. A dark blue scarf with tiny white dots completed her apparel.
"I understand that you are interested in looking at this building?" Amelia asked.
"I am," Harry confirmed.
"I'm sorry, but I simply must ask. Are you sure, Mister Potter? It's only that this building has seen better years, heck it's seen better decades and if it's an apartment that you're looking for, then I have a few dozen that you might be interested in or if it's a shop that you're looking for, then I know of three of four which might fit you better. And all at a much better price."
Harry blinked at the woman. He was sure that real estate agents weren't supposed to talk you out of buying a place that you were interested in.
"I'd like to see this one, if I may," Harry said. "It's got a good feel to it."
Amelia gave him a dubious look.
"Well, if you're sure," she said before turning to unlock the door.
Harry stepped in after her and had to instantly repress the desire to light his wand - the interior was that dark.
"I'm afraid that there's no power into this building at the moment," Amelia told him.
Using what little light that filtered through the open door, Harry looked around. It was a large room, deceptively large in fact. The room went back a lot further than he would have guessed from the outside. It was completely unfurnished as well, which may have helped with the impression of spaciousness. A long wooden counter ran across the room near the back. Walking over to it, Harry laid his hand upon the ancient wood and then promptly ran that hand down his pants leg to rid it of the dust and grime that it'd just accumulated.
Behind the counter was a space that was obviously designed for the staff of whatever shop this once was to serve their customers. Set in the back walls just to either side of the ends of the counter were a pair of doors.
"Would you be interested in hearing about the building?" Amelia asked, her voice echoing slightly in the cavernous room.
"Please," Harry replied.
"Like most buildings in this area, it was built in the mid-1800s," Amelia began. "This particular building was built in 1843. The outside is made up of the original red-brick that was the popular building material of the time. Because of this, the building has been heritage listed."
"What does that mean?" Harry asked, pausing on his way to the check out the door to the left of the counter.
"That means that the building cannot simply be torn down and something newer and more modern built in its place," Amelia explained.
Harry shook his head, not understanding why someone would want to tear down something with such obvious character.
"And because of its position, this has caused this particular building to be left on the market for a long time, allowing the interior to deteriorate somewhat," Amelia continued. "It was actually one of the first buildings in this area to become protected and, when the family that owns it went out of business quite some time ago, they were restricted in who wanted to buy it."
"I can assure you, Ms Larson, that I have no intention of wanting to tear it down," Harry said.
"That's good, but even if you don't touch the exterior, it's going to need a fair bit of work - that's the other reason that it's been on the market for as many years as it has," she said.
"What kind of work are we talking about?" Harry asked.
Amelia sighed as she opened up the large black folder that she'd been carrying and flipped a couple of pages over.
"The electricals need to be completely ripped out and put back in; the plumbing needs an overhaul; the cellar - which can be accessed through the kitchen - has a tendency to leak and fill with water whenever it rains; and the two upstairs living areas need new interior walls."
"You know, you're not exactly doing a good job of selling me on this place," Harry remarked amusedly.
Amelia smiled slightly. "You seem like a nice young man and I simply wouldn't feel right selling you something without making sure that you knew what you were getting in for. And besides, for the price that the owners of this place are asking, you could get something much more modern and in much better condition than you're seeing right now."
"And how many of them would have the same feel as this place?" Harry asked, and before she could answer, he raised a hand to indicate that he hadn't finished. "I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy, Ms Larson; I like the old-world feel. And this building, even with its list of defects does give me that feel."
"Well, how about we look at the rest of the building and see if that feeling is still there after you've actually seen these defects first-hand, hmm?" Amelia said.
Together they went through the door on the left of the counter that Harry had been aiming towards not long before. There they found a massive kitchen area. One side, the one closest to them, had a large walk-in fridge/freezer that looked as though it needed to be replaced decades ago. The stoves and counters were likewise decades out of date, although the large sinks only looked to need a decent cleaning. There was storage space galore in the form of cupboards, both open and with doors.
On the opposite side of the room were a pair of doors - one which led outside to the alley and one which descended on a spiral staircase to the cellar. As Amelia had noted, the cellar was damp. Mould and mildew grew unchecked on the walls and Harry stopped on the bottom step, unwilling to venture any further into the dark, dank place. By crouching and twisting slightly, he was able to make out a slither of daylight that obviously came in through the trapdoor in the alley - most likely the culprit of the water problem as well.
After re-emerging into the main section of the building that they'd first entered into via the right-hand door to the counter, Amelia and Harry opened the door that was tucked away in the corner behind a pillar. A flight of stairs greeted them that Harry led them up. He paused after the third step, feeling the wood beneath his feet creaking ominously, only to proceed a lot more cautiously from there on up.
The first level that they reached was littered with pieces of broken wall, dust and the evidence of animals - small piles of rubbish, rat droppings everywhere and what looked like an old bird's nest on top of one of the rafters. Apart from the main living area, there was a small kitchen and dining area, a bathroom and three small rooms.
The second level was actually in slightly better repair, although Harry could see that the walls were also in desperate need of replacement, as well as the bathroom and a couple of the windows.
The last level that they reached was actually the roof. It was completely flat, with a low wall - about four feet high - around three of the sides, the last side being the side of the neighbouring building. At the moment, it was completely void of any structures, but Harry could easily imagine adding a small greenhouse or something up there.
After descending back through the building to the main ground floor area, Amelia turned to Harry, asking him what he thought of it.
"So, do you still have the same feeling of old-world charm for this building after seeing its state of disrepair?" she asked. "You wouldn't prefer to have me show you something else?"
Harry looked around the large room once more, taking it all in, despite the limited lighting.
"I think that this place has a lot of potential," he said slowly.
"That's definitely one way of looking at it," Amelia said dryly. "If you don't mind my asking, what is it about this place that has caught your attention?"
"As I said earlier, Ms Larson, I'm an old-world kind of guy. I spent seven years of my schooling in a private boarding school that was housed in a castle and the nearest village could have come straight out of medieval times. I guess that I really grew to love it and I kind of miss it," he explained. "And while I could go home, I don't think that I'm ready for that. I guess spending five years travelling the world has made me outgrow it in some respects and yearn for it in others. This, this could be a way to have the best of both worlds - the old-world charm in amongst the bright new world out there."
Amelia nodded as though she understood, something Harry highly doubted, especially considering that he wasn't sure that he completely understood what he was feeling.
"And what will you do with the place if you buy it?" Amelia asked.
At this Harry shrugged. He'd been dwelling on that very question since he'd found the place and still had yet to come up with an answer. Instead, he answered her question with a question of his own.
"If I was to buy it, how much would a building like this cost?"
Once again, Amelia consulted her black folder.
"The asking price is three million," she said. "A big chunk of that has to do with the heritage listing and the fact that you're so close to downtown New York. The Empire State Building is within walking distance and once Stark Tower is completed, you'll only be three blocks away from that. One is already a high-density traffic area and the other is expected to be."
Harry nodded absently, once more turning about as he took in the room. Three million was a huge chunk of money in anyone's currency. And then there'd need to be a lot more spent on it to make it habitable again.
Idly he attempted to do some currency conversions. He had a rough idea what the exchange rate was between US dollars and British pounds. And then he needed to convert that figure into galleons. Four hundred and fifty thousand galleons was a lot less than he expected, a figure that was only a small portion of the money that Sirius had left him.
He knew that he was going to be in North America for a while - easily a year or three, if not longer. And the idea of having the option of running his own little business to occupy himself when he wasn't off exploring the continent appealed. The fact that he could add space expansion charms to the place, not to mention any other sort of magic that he wanted to was also a bonus. A small smile lit his face as he thought about making sure that there was a small library and a room especially for Hermione to come visit - she was definitely the one person from home that he missed the most.
"I'll take it," Harry said suddenly.
"What?" a startled Amelia replied.
"I'll take it," Harry repeated.
"You will?" Amelia asked.
"Yep, now where do I sign?" he asked.
Really, Harry knew that he shouldn't be there. Sure, he'd basically bought the place, but it'd be weeks before the deal settled. But he simply couldn't help himself - he had to look through it again, this time at his own pace. And if he happened to do a bit of cleaning or a couple of reparos, well, what harm could it do.
Even with as dirty as he knew the windows were, he refrained from lighting his wand after apperating into the main downstairs area - it'd be just his luck if a stray bit of light seeped through and caught the attention of the wrong people. Instead, he waited until he was in the big kitchen before casting the lumos charm.
The kitchen was just as he remembered it: enormous and in serious need of a massive overhaul. It was also perfectly designed and placed for a small restaurant or perhaps a pub of sorts. The fact that there was a walk-in fridge/freezer plus a cellar definitely supported the idea.
Not seeing much that he hadn't already seen here, Harry descended into the cellar. This was a room that he hadn't looked at properly at all.
Holding his wand high, he stepped down and quickly grabbed at the banister of the stairs to keep from slipping over. Directing his wand downwards, he quickly identified the problem: a layer of black slime coated the stone floor.
"Scourgify," Harry intoned, swinging his wand backwards and forwards in front of him.
He had to repeat the cleaning charm another half dozen times just to get a somewhat decent area to move around in. And even then, the floor wasn't completely clean. Harry suspected that it'd need another dozen cleaning spells or more likely a high-powered blaster to get rid of the slime.
The slimy floor, though, wasn't the only thing about the cellar that needed a good cleaning. One entire side of the room was filled with old rotting cupboards and boxes. What they held was anyone's guess and not something that Harry had any desire to experience right then.
The glint of reflected light rebounded from a different corner and Harry cautiously edged closer to find that a wooden wine rack had been built into and across the back wall. The gleam had come from one of the few remaining bottles that still sat there. Whether they had anything fit to drink in them was a question for another day when it was safer to cross the length of the room.
Deciding that he'd seen enough, Harry turned to go when an idea occurred to him. Turning back, he pointed his wand at the trap doors that led to the outside alley.
With a small smile and a thought of a bushy-haired, buck-toothed witch in mind, he cast a spell he'd first learnt back in his third year.
That, he hoped, would stop any more water from getting into the cellar, at least until he could have the doors replaced with new watertight ones.
Harry quickly retreated back up the stairs, through the kitchen and into the main area. He was just about to ascend to the first floor when a click, loud in the silence of the bare room, sounded from the front door.
Whipping out his wand, Harry retreated to the shadows behind the counter. The fact that the door unlocked all by itself in the dead of night told him that someone was using magic to break in.
"Ministry aurors! Put your wand down! We're coming in!" a deep gruff voice announced.
While Harry did in fact lower his wand, he refused to put it down. Nor did he come out from his hiding place. He'd spent far too many years in a war to ignore his instincts, despite the fact that the war had finished so many years ago. He was sure that somewhere old Mad-Eye was looking down on him and smiling his grisly smile.
As the front door opened, Harry's eyes narrowed. He watched as a pair of large men came in, quickly separating to either side of the doorway. Then, as one closed the door behind them, the other flicked a ball of light out and up that lit up the room like Harry had never seen it before.
He winced slightly but refused to look away. Instead, he focussed on the two men and the uniforms that they were wearing. For it could only be uniforms. Each wore a long, floor-length trench coat that could easily double as a robe in the magical world. A gold shield of some description hung on their left breast. Their clothes underneath were all black and, if Harry had to guess, he'd say that they were made of dragon skin. At least, the pants and tunic definitely looked identical to the ones that he had been given by Charlie Weasley when he'd visited the Romanian Dragon Preserve all those years ago.
"Show yourself," the auror on the left called out. "We know that you're here."
Warily, Harry did as requested. But, even though he stepped out of the shadows, he remained behind the counter, his wand hidden in his hand below their eyesight.
"Are you the only one here?" the auror asked.
"Yes," Harry replied.
"Who are you?" the auror asked.
"Who are you?" Harry countered.
This time it was the one on the right who replied. "We already told you. Ministry aurors."
Harry shrugged. "Anyone can say that they're an auror."
"And the uniform doesn't give it away?" the second auror asked dryly.
"Auror Michael Stevenson," the first auror identified himself. "My partner is Auror Peter Jenkins."
"Harry Potter," Harry replied.
He sighed, then, seeing their starts of recognition.
"The-Man-Who-Conquered?" Auror Stevenson asked.
"Yes. Or The-Boy-Who-Lived or The Chosen One or whatever other stupid name I've been given since I left England," Harry groused.
"Not a fan of your titles, I take it?" Auror Stevenson chuckled.
Harry only dignified that with a dark look.
"I take it you're the one responsible for the magic that we detected coming from this building this evening?" Auror Jenkins asked.
"Yeah," Harry replied.
"Right, well, it was only low-level spells, but we'll still have a report to write up when we get back," Auror Stevenson said. "Can we ask why you were casting spells here?'
"I own the place," Harry replied.
"You own it? We don't have a record of that," Auror Jenkins remarked.
"Well," Harry replied, rubbing the back of his neck. "When I say, I own it, I mean that I will own it. I've got a contract on it and it'll settle in about a month."
"Close enough, I should think," Auror Stevenson said. "We'll lodge the building as being in the ownership of a wizard."
"Thanks," Harry replied. "You guys were pretty quick getting here."
"That'd be because there are so few magicals living in New York," Auror Jenkins replied and then elaborated at Harry's puzzled look. "There are simple far too many nomajes living in the city for most magicals to feel comfortable with. Tend to settle in smaller places - Salem, outside Chicago, Seattle, they're probably the biggest areas. But here in New York? No, not so much. Once, when the city wasn't so busy it was a bit different, but things have changed in the last couple of decades. Too easy for a mistake to be made and for the nomag-es to find out about us. Thus, we keep a pretty close eye on the city."
Harry nodded absently, filing away the American term for muggles for future reference. "That makes sense, I guess."
"Now that we know you're here, we'll know to ignore this place. And we've got your magical signature on file, so we'll know if you're not the one doing the magic here or if you're performing magic somewhere you shouldn't, " Auror Jenkins said.
"Just keep it away from the nomajes," Auror Stevenson said. "We'd hate to have to arrest you for breaking the Statute of Secrecy."
"Not a problem," Harry assured them. "I have no intention of casting spells anywhere where muggles can see me."
"In that case, we'll leave you to it, then," Auror Jenkins said. "Nice meeting you, Mister Potter."
"Thanks, you too," Harry replied.
Once they were gone, he made sure to check the lock before heading upstairs to continue his explorations.