Oak seemed to think that they were the best of friends after their conversation and gave his opinion openly and often regarding a number of things over the next week.
"That Weasley girl didn't seem good enough for you anyway."
"Don't bad mouth Ginny, we're still friends. You know, kind of. Or we will be after some time passes and it's not so awkward."
"She definitely dumped you then, didn't she?"
"Just… shut up, Oak. Don't you have financiers to terrorize or something?"
"As matter a fact I do! Let's go."
Nothing happened, ever. Plenty of people threatened to punch Oak in a wide variety of ways, from joking, flirtatious, to dead serious, but no death threats. The team said that looking into Robert Able opened a lot of different leads but didn't expand beyond that. Harry didn't mention it to Oak.
He was losing his mind in boredom. He couldn't figure out how anyone lived like this. Event after party after meeting after happy hour after conference, ninety percent of which were meaningless. Oak was in his element but Harry felt like a fish drying on a dock.
He also realized that the world of high finance was minuscule. He didn't see why the same fifty people had to keep meeting each other in different places and configurations, but apparently they did and they spent a lot of money to do so.
He even saw Angela with Sophie trailing behind a few times, her short legs trying to keep up with Angela's long strides, but only just glimpses here and there, barely enough time to wave.
"Sometimes I get so wrapped up in up in muggle money and drama that I almost forget that I have the wizarding world's most influential snoring away in my guest bedroom."
"Merlin, no. I'm not going to get involved in one of your skeems."
"Whyever not? You have plenty of money, don't you? The Potter fortune, the Black family fortune, the money from the Order of Merlin, probably other stuff that isn't common knowledge. And what are you doing with it all, letting the greedy goblins use it and all the while they don't even grow your account for you, do they? Some interest here and there maybe. How can you even trust them with that money when you destroyed their bank with a bloody dragon anyway? Weren't they angry?"
Harry swallowed back a few responses to this. He wasn't going to explain his financial situation. "I know your true motivation is deep concern for my well being, Oak, but I'm doing just fine."
He sighed. "Let me know when you want to grow your money instead of letting it just sit there, stagnating. Money makes money, Potter, let it work for you."
The next morning Harry stood waiting by the front door. "Where to today? A thrilling luncheon? Perhaps a conference about global, I don't know, side expenditure or whatever?"
"The greater London young business start up expedition."
"You can't be serious?"
Oak looked at him in surprise. "Sometimes people have really good ideas and know nothing of financing. I've gotten some of my highest account turnouts from these things."
"No, I mean, remember how someone is trying to kill you? Perhaps going to a well publicized event full of unknown people and with minimal security is, you know, a tad risky?
His mouth fell open in genuine shock. "But we've gone to plenty of events full of people pretty much every day this week?"
"Yes, closed, indoor events with security and guests lists and where everyone knows each other, or at least knows of each other. Not a giant crowd of strangers where someone can come out and curse you without it being very obvious."
"Hadn't thought of that. But isn't that why you've been using my water and electricity this last week? To protect me from such things?"
"How do expect me to control and monitor an unknown crowd? I'm one person."
"No you're not. You're Harry Potter, living legend."
He turned on his heel, apparating.
Harry waved his wand in complex loops, concentrating, feeling the thrum of the spell following Oak's apparition and landing on its final location. He concentrated on that thrum, turning on his heel and appearing in an alcove in a dark alley. He stepped into the alley and saw Oak leaning against the wall, looking impressed.
"I heard Aurors could do that, but seeing it done is another thing entire…"
Harry stalked up to Oak, whose ever present smirk was starting to slip off his face. "Am I a joke to you? No, never mind, I know I am, everyone is." He crossed his arms over his chest, leaning into Oak's space. "Then are the death threats a joke to you? If they are then why the fuck am I here? Should I leave? I should leave. What an incredible waste of my time." Harry moved to turn on his heel but felt Oak's large hand on his shoulder.
"This is what I was talking about Bean Pole, you're too serious." Oak reached out with his other hand to Harry's other shoulder and gripped in a firmer way than was entirely friendly. "I just said that I knew Aurors could follow. I knew you'd be right behind me." He stepped in closer, looming over Harry, his casual smirk not reaching his calculating eyes.
Harry knew power moves when he saw them, could smell an intimidation tactic a mile way. Oak was an impressive loomer, something dangerous in his eyes, his hands an oppressive weight on his shoulders. He seemed larger than even his impressive size made he look.
Harry had faced worse when his was 11.
"I think our time playing boss and assistant has muddled your brain." Harry shrugged his hands off and stepped in closer. "I don't work for you, Oak, I'm not your servant, your lackey, or your friend. I am here to protect you and to help take a person with murderous intent out of society. You try something like that again, I will pull security for you immediately. Is that clear?"
Oak frowned, pausing a long minute before breaking eye contact and stepping back, brushing down Harry's tense shoulders lightly. "Okay, clear. Sorry to scare you so, Mr. Potter."
Harry scowled, stepping back as well. "I don't think that going to this event is a good idea."
Oak adjusted his rings, straightened his sport jacket sleeves, and combed his hands through his hair before sighing and saying, "Well, despite now knowing that you can be a scary little shit, I'm dead serious about getting some of my best deals from these things. The whole reason why I've even bothered with asking for a bodyguard instead of having a very low key, long vacation while you all sort this out is because this is a very important time of year for me, for business. I am the CEO, the leader, a pivotal shareholder in a number of businesses who employ, all said, somewhere over 100,000 people. I know that you find me tiresome and what I do beneath you, but I, too, am serious about this."
Harry shifted his shoulders, feeling wrong footed. It was unsettling to see Oak as anything but smarmy and over-confident. They regarded each other across the alley for a few awkward moments. Harry put his wand back in his jacket pocket. "Fine, but we need to figure out a place with good visual of the whole area and you need to stay visible to me at all times."
Oak smirked a genuine, wide smirk. "I know just the place."
The support staff room was full of paper, coffee and people talking over each other, in conversation or on their mobile phones, this time sounding real rather than just pretend showy ones. Compared with the events and luncheons, the atmosphere was more serious and focused. Harry leaned against the window where he could see the whole event sprawled out in front of him. He used a surveillance charm on one eye of his glasses to track Oak's movements as he went from table to table, shaking hands, laughing and looming his way into other people's successes.
He felt a tap on his arm and looked around and then down to Sophie, who smiled up at him. "Why isn't my dear friend Henry?"
"Ah yes, nice to see you Sandra." He felt some tension leave his shoulders at the sight of her. She really did feel like the only sane person he's talked to this whole week.
She too leaned against the glass, staring down at the crowd. "I see your here for the great hunt."
"The great hunt?"
"Yes, you see, our bosses may seem human, but they are in fact just pterodactyls in disguise, swooping down and grabbing young inventors and entrepreneurs dreams and taking off with them, sometimes leaving the poor sods only 10 percent of it left if they are very stupid. Today, and most other days really, but today in particular, our bosses are in competition, trying to find the biggest, juiciest, slowest pray on the field."
He looked back out into the crowd, feeling suddenly more nervous for the people in Oak's line of vision.
Sophie leaned her head against the glass, her face and slight reflection mirroring the same frown. He glanced between her and Oak's wide smile in his glasses lens. "Is Angela being at all nicer to you?"
Sophie glanced down at the phone clutched in her hand. "Before me, she went through three assistants in 5 months. I'm the idiot that's hung around for almost two years. I thought that if I stuck it out I might be able to get some real world information, network, build a solid base before I went back to Uni to go into finance. You want to know something stupid?"
He nodded, shifting his weight to better look at her. "I don't even want to go into finance any more. I've never seen such miserable people. They never rest, they're never satisfied, their personal relationships are shit, their hobbies aren't even really hobbies but just more opportunity to talk about business in even more settings. But I don't want to go to school just for going to school's sake and I don't know what I want to do anymore. This job pays loads better than any other for my experience and education level, so…"
"So you just deal with her." Harry said, wishing that Angela would just be nicer.
"It's not all Angela's fault, you know. She's a stone cold bitch for sure, don't get me wrong, but I think I truly am terrible at this job. She has to correct me all the time and not always for silly reasons. But I'm the only one who's stuck around, so I don't think she wants to get rid of me either. It's basically like we're stuck with each other." She bumped her head against the glass, once. "How grotesque."
Harry watched with one eye as Oak threw back his head and laughed, slapping someone on the back and with the other watched Sophie pull herself away from the glass and stand up straight. "Enough of that. Gross. Self pity, bleh." She shook her head like she was trying to shake off water, her hair readily flying every which way before settling back by her elbows.
"How did you end up as Oak's assistant?" She tucked her hands into the hidden pockets of her blue cotton dress and rocked back on her heels, her head tilted a little to the side.
He considered her for a long moment before straightening up himself. "I should probably come clean to you, really, I'm not Oak's assistant…"
"You're his lover?" She said, a statement more than a question despite her voice lifting at the end of the sentence.
Harry choked, the air in his lungs seemingly disappearing all at once. He opened his mouth to speak several times but he couldn't seem to form a sentence. He realized all he was doing was opening and closing his mouth and shaking his head over and over. Sophie stopped rocking on her heels, her face turning red. "You're not?"
"No." His voice sounded a little strangled. "No, why on earth would you think that?"
She looked down at the ground, her cheeks bright pink. "Well, there has been rumours… Someone heard Oak say to you that you should contact someone when you all get back to the apartment, which kind of sounds like you two live together. And then, well, he is very handsy with you."
"He's handsy with everyone!"
She nodded, shrugging, "And you never have a phone or any papers or anything with you, so, it didn't seem like you were working with him on a business matter, necessarily."
It was Harry's turn to rock back on his heels. He pictured Ron being here, hearing all this. He would never let it go, not ever. But he wasn't here. At least there was that small blessing.
"There's nothing wrong with being gay, you know," She frowned at him, some of the color fading out of her face.
"Of course not, that's not so much the issue," He said, his hand waving it away, "it's just, Oak, of all people?"
She laughed, shrugging again. "The rumour mill in this small part of the world is fast, presumptuous, and often wrong, gladly this time. So if your not his assistant and not his lover, than what are you?"
She laughed again, raising her eyebrows, waiting for him to continue after his joke, but Harry didn't have anything to add, as he wasn't joking.
She flushed again, "Damn, I really just keep putting my foot in it today, I'm sorry. It's just that, well, that - "
"That I'm a twig man and Oak is a giant?"
She scrunched her nose. "You aren't at all twiggy, more, I don't know, wiry, but, um, basically, yes."
"I'll have you know that I am very handy in flight, better than Oak."
"You have some martial arts training?"
"Something like that. But also real bodyguards aren't like bouncers or something. It's ninety-nine percent surveillance and very, very boring."
She leaned forward, speaking quieter to him, "Should I leave then? Am I distracting you?"
"No, not really, I'm still in contact and watching."
She looked around his face, looking for a wire to an earpiece or anything else like that, he thinks.
"It's a trade secret." He wasn't lying, really.
She squinted her eyes and shrugged. "Do you know -"
Her phone started ringing, an eight bit Darth Vader theme getting louder.
"Sorry, hold on. Yes Angela? You need me to find Oak's assistant? Ah, you're in luck, he's right here." She paused as Angela said something, then rolled her eyes, "We're just talking. We need to find Oak and keep him there and then let you know? Well, sure, but what should be say...Yes, no, I mean to say how should we… fine, I'll think of something. Bye."
She looked up at him with raised eyebrows. "Would your super secret surveillance methods happen to know where Oak is? Apparently I need to corner him for Angela until she can come do it herself."
"As matter of fact, I do."
Oak watched Harry coming with a look concern on his face. He was concerned enough to stop talking to whoever he was talking to and walk closer to him. "Has something happened?"
"No, not what you are thinking of, but..." Harry gestured to Sophie behind him who had her phone to her ear and was saying, "We found him, northwest corner by the 'The Future is Now!' Internet tent. Bye."
She flipped her phone closed and stepped around Harry to shake Oak's hand. "Heeeelloooo! My name is Sophie and I work for Angela Weber. She wants to talk to you about something very import -"
"Oh no, not that she beast. Look, I know you're just doing what she says, but I do not want to be cornered by that bat of a -"
"You speak so sweetly, Oak, do go on."
His fists clenched along with his jaw, eyes rolled toward the ceiling, but as he turned, his face broke into a big smile. "Ah, Angela, you look as beautiful as ever. Is that a Romano?"
"Yes." She looked like she was wearing a long, long brown t-shirt.
Harry and Sophie moved to the side, watching them talk as though watching a sporting event.
"Oak, you are still the executive of the Branch Group, correct?"
"Last I've heard."
"Good, as you know I have taken over the Ross Group." She smirked as a scowl took over his face.
"Yes, by complete deception, you -"
"Now, now darling, I didn't come over here just to rub it in your face. I have another point to make. There is a start up over there called Greenwich that just looks prime for the picking. However they work with people that have conflicts with the Ross Group. And before you get too excited, there are conflicts with the Branch Group, as well."
"So you want to do a splice? Why?"
Angela leaned forward and Harry thought of a snake, still before the killing strike. He and Sophie glanced at each other before looking back, eyebrows raised.
"I have my own reasons for wanting them, but yours, dear friend, is that if we don't take them, Robert Able will."
Oaks jaw clenched and unclenched before he groaned and said, "Fine, but you better be right about this company. Doing a splice on a failure would be humiliating. Where is the contract?"
"It's in this pile, find it." Angela didn't even look at Sophie, she just shoved the papers into her arms. "While she's doing that, we need to negotiate on a few things. We can work it out in the car."
"This one might be it, but…"
"Good." Angela snatched it out of her hands. "We must leave at once or we'll lose out. I have a car ready out front."
Harry and Oak looked at each other, a little alarmed. "Angela, I need to go a different way, tell me where to meet you and -"
"That won't work! Did I not just say that we need to sort out some details as we go? Come along, we must hurry." She started marching towards the door.
Oak started walking forward, Sophie and Harry walking close behind him. "Harry? What is the priority here?"
He sigh, rubbing his hands through his hair, "Just go, I'll figure out a way to monitor the situation and hope that Angela isn't the one making the threats."
"What?" Sophie looked startled.
Harry shook his head, not wanting to get into it. He watched as Angela and Oak climbed into a black car, noted the license plate and make, and turned towards Sophie. "Look, I have to go, I need to make sure that -"
She gasped, rushing after the car is it turned into traffic and spend down the street, waving her arms. The car rounded the corner, apparently not seeing her.
Harry jogged up to her. "What's happened?"
"Angela took the wrong contact! All these dumb things look so damn similar. Shit, she's going to be pissed."
"Isn't it her fault though, she's the one who just grabbed without looking?"
"Oh Harry, everything is my fault, even when it isn't, didn't you know?"
"Look, I need to go and keep track of him, I'll just take the contract to them, I'll be faster than you doing it."
"How? Besides, they're going to Angela's office, you don't have any of the passcodes to get into the building."
"Just tell me them."
"I absolutely can not."
Harry clenched his teeth, unable to think of a way to get out of this without explaining that he could just magic himself over and then magic himself through all the locked doors. Meanwhile Oak is just traveling around London completely exposed. The surveillance charm failed the moment they stepped out of the event. "Fine, let's grab a cab."
"I can't afford a cab, not enough cash, we have to get over to the tube station down the street…"
"That would take forever, no, I have cash, let's go."
They ran over to the line of cabs outside of the event centre. Sophie, her voice tight with nerves, told the cabbie the address of Angela's building. They pulled smoothly into traffic as Sophie wrung her hands. "Maybe she'll finally fire me."
"If she fires you, I'll kick her." Harry was feeling tense himself. Stupid muggles, stupid rules, it would be so much easier if he could just do magic right now. Maybe he could, then obliviate Sophie and the cabbie after.
"Thank you, Harry. I might join you." She touched his hand briefly, making him look at her. Her small smile didn't quite reach her nervous eyes.
Harry sighed, slumping back into his seat. He couldn't do that to her.
"I might kick her anyway. It's dangerous for Oak to be wandering around unprotected right now."
"Why, what's happened?"
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye, considering. "I can't say." It would have to do.
She nodded, glancing out the window. The rest of the short ride was spent in a tense silence. Once they got to the nondescript gray concrete building, she bolted out door, leaving Harry to pay the cabbie in a rush.
He caught up with her in the lobby and they raced through the halls, people moving out of their way, startled, only pausing so Sophie could punch in codes into a little box by the heavy wooden doors.
Towards the end of one area was Oak and Angela, looking tense, their heads snapping up as Harry and Sophie jogged down the hallway. "There you are, you gave me the wrong bloody contract! Why didn't you answer your phone!"
To his surprise, Sophie put her hands on her hips and yelled back, "I didn't give you the wrong contract, you took the wrong one without even looking. Also, my phone died."
Angela stood straight, her voice gaining volume. "I have told a million times to charge that damned thing every night!"
"I do! But guess what, the damned thing still dies if you call it a million times a day!"
Oak and Harry glanced at each other, uncomfortable.
"I'll deal with you later." Angela said, her voice low and dangerous. "Right now you and Oak and I need to find the right contract and get this going. Now."
"I'm staying out here." Harry gestured to the hallway, speaking to Oak, who nodded, closing the conference room door behind him.
Harry leaned against the wall, letting out a long breath. He glanced around to see if there were any cameras, which there didn't appear to be, and pulled out his wand. "Homenum revelio." He spoke the incantation softly, and to his surprise the wand jerked not just toward the conference room where he knew there to be three people but also to the room next to it.
He figured it was probably the people that Angela and Oak wanted to "splice" but he didn't live this long by doing things half-arsed.
He tapped his wand against the door, making it see through from his side. Inside the conference room were two men leaning against the wall, their ears pressed against the panelling. Harry smirked, figuring they were trying to get as much information for the deal as possible. He moved to tap the door opaque again when he noticed one man's shoes were football cleats.
He had seen some truly odd fashion over the last week, but nothing like that. It didn't strike him as an eccentric muggle thing to wear.
No, it seemed much more like a wizard making a mistake.
Harry tensed, watching. The men pulled back from the wall, one nodding to the other, who pulled out a black, medium length wand and put the tip to the dark wood panelling.
Harry vanished the door and walked forward, his voice loud, commanding, "I'm an Auror with the Ministry of Magic, you two don't move except to put your wands on the ground, now."
The two men froze, shocked, glancing from Harry, to the door, to his wand leveled out in front of him. "I said drop your wands now, or I will use force."
The man furthest from him flung his arm forward, trying to aim. Harry dropped him with a silent stunner before moving on to his partner, who was trying to turn on his heel. Harry sent a rope to his wand hand, pulling the rope until the man gasped and dropped his wand. He jerked his wand up, sending more ropes forward to bind him with, but the man stumbled out of the way and grabbed the rope around his wrist and jerked, forcing Harry to move a step forward. The man used that second to reach for his wand but Harry dropped the rope and sent the wand flying to the other end of the room.
Not even hesitating for a second, the man ran and dove towards the door just as Oak, Angela and Sophie burst out of thier conference room, looking startled. "What on earth?" Angela stepped back as Sophie and Oak stepped forward. Harry hastally stowed his wand up his sleeve and yelled, "Stay back!" as he sprinted down the hallway, quickly gaining speed on the man who looked back at him and yelped. Harry flung himself forward and tackled him around the middle, both of them falling into a heap onto the floor. The man jerked underneath, trying to find purchase to roll away. Harry let his wand slide back into his hand, his torso hilding his actions from view from those behind him, and stunned him, leaving him limp on his side on the floor.
Groaning, he tucked his wand back up his sleeve as he stood up and turned to look down the hallway to other three. Sophie was standing shocked with her hands over her mouth. Angela was crouched low against the wall, her arms over her head. Oak was halfway down the hallway, looking pale.
"Oak, stay close to me, we need to call back up. Angela, Sophie, get out of here right now."
Sophie was still pale but dropped her hands and nodded, quickly turning around to Angela, speaking softly to her and grabbing her hand. She stood up shakily and the both of them moved to the emergence exit stairwell, Sophie glancing back at him with a frown and a small nod before the door closed behind them.
"Jesus Christ." Oak noticed the other man lying unconscious in the conference room.
Harry let his wand slide back into his hand and bound the man he tackled with rope.
"Expecto Patronum." Oak jumped as the stag burst out of Harry's wand. The glowing presence immediately calmed Harry, who leaned in to give his message. "There has been an attempted attack by two wizards on the second floor of 1254 King's Road, I need back up to make sure there aren't more. Floor is clear of muggles."
Harry stood up straight and looked the stag in the eye. "Go to the Auror Department."
The stag bowed and dissipated, taking the calming feeling with him.
Harry walked past Oak and bound the first man in rope as well.
Seconds later there was a series of loud cracks and suddenly the room had 5 more people in scarlet red robes in it. An older woman with a long plait of gray hair moved quickly towards him as the others ran out of the room, fanning out to check the perimeter.
"Where is the other one?"
"At the other end of the hallway."
She nodded, glancing at Oak over Harry's shoulder.
"Well, these two seem like they will give a solid lead, don't they?" She glanced back at Harry, giving him the smallest of smiles. "Nice job Potter."
Harry smiled back, but for some reason, despite the praise, despite the adrenaline still in his veins, he didn't feel all that happy. He mostly felt tired, done with the day, done with this whole last week. He mostly just wanted it to be over.