Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter.
A/N: The last chapter of my first story, "Path to Power," was posted in conjunction with this story.
A/N 2: I blatantly steal the term "Zekanot" from EC Scrubb and his story "When a Veela Cries." I may or may not steal several veela names (I am using Azzura and Jaleena for very minor roles) from him as well. He has given me his permission. If anyone has an issue or for some reason requires some sort of proof, shoot me a PM.
Rating: M. Drugs, alcohol, swearing, sexual innuendos, violence – and that's just chapter one!
They made their way through throngs of people in no particular hurry, her daughter's tiny fingers loosely intertwined with her own, she allowed Tara to lead the way.
She laughed as her daughter led them to the edge of the dock and leaned over with her palm outstretched, inviting the gulls to steal the rest of her croissant.
Her daughter looked back at her, a smug look on her chubby face while she blatantly broke one of Marissa's rules before being shooed along by her mother.
As they continued their quest the muggle crowd parted in silence. Men stopped to gawk at the silver-haired beauty with a small girl sharing her hair, and eyes as green as grass; while women shot them looks of disdain.
The pair made the rest of their way towards the white-stone pavilion overlooking the varying shades of blue that made up the Mediterranean Sea in silence, enjoying the sounds and smells that came with such a public setting.
She longed for these afternoons away from the confines of the reservation almost as much as her daughter.
"Mom!" Tara cried with a pout as Marissa found herself nearly being dragged from her feet by the excited girl.
For a brief moment she wanted to chastise her daughter for her impatience, instead a glimpse of her daughter's eyes and a long forgotten memory of a similar interaction with her own mother brought a smile to her angelic face.
Marissa let out a harmonic laugh, ignoring the reactions of the muggles who had been tracking their every move.
'As long as they're not looking at her.' She thought uncomfortably, disturbed by the thoughts of men.
"Aderfi is not going anywhere!" She said with a laugh as they approached her daughter's final destination.
"Ad-er-fee." Tara tried, the bright sun reflecting off her button nose as it crinkled in consternation at the difficulty of the exotic word.
"Ader-fee." The young girl sounded out with a bit more confidence as the rotund street vendor with skin the shade of sand laughed in delight.
"Very good, my child!"
Tara smiled in fond satisfaction - it was rare when she encountered a human with the willpower to treat her civilly. Interactions like these were the only thing preventing her daughter from becoming one of those jaded old hens showering the outside world with disdain from atop their perch.
"What does it mean?"
The man's upper lip moved beneath his thin black handlebar mustache, exposing a set of slightly crooked, yellowing teeth.
"Aderfi means 'Free.'" The large man said, offering no further explanation.
Marissa took the time to appreciate the Berber's name as he handed the pair of them sticks with tiny cubes of meat and headed off towards a bench overlooking a large marina, admiring the large yachts in awe.
'Freedom.' Did she have it? Did Tara?
Aderfi had it with his mobile cart. A meager existence free of masters was better than a life of luxury in a cage.
'Or on a reservation.'
The veela were free to live wherever they wished, though few were comfortable enough to venture outside the safety of the reservation alone. She refused to let Tara become that sheltered, that terrified by reality that she was unable to live a full life.
Muggles and their boats, such incredible structures. She thought, her mind turning back to the yachts in front of her and away from the confines of reality.
While muggles re-invented the world, wizards and their egos, their complacency were so reliant on magic they had lost their creativity.
"We have become stagnant as a society…" The words of the Granger woman on the wireless echoed loudly in her mind as they continued to eat in compatible silence.
The declaration had become the controversy of their times.
Off in the distance they could hear the music coming from the beach where dozens of muggles had congregated to play some sort of game with a net and a ball.
She watched for a long moment as the muggles, not much younger than herself, moved about carelessly, sipping out of plastic cups and dancing to the rhythm of the music without a worry in the world.
Marissa longed for the simplicity that had evaded her people for generations.
'Free.' She craved the delusion where she and Tara could spend days on end taking delight in the wonders of the city.
Her green eyes drifted past the beach and into the hills sitting above Cannes, fantasizing about a small home overlooking the sea.
In the morning they would make crepes and sip espresso in the garden, discussing the various herbs and creatures that make themselves known as they enjoyed each other's company. In the afternoons they'd bike into town for lunch where she would teach Tara the history of the Zekanot and their kind. In the evenings she would teach her magic till she was old enough to attend Beauxbatons or Durmstrang.
A simple, peaceful life. That was all she desired.
The shrill voice broke through her fantasy, drawing her attention to the frantic English woman flailing around the pavilion.
"Help!" She repeated desperately, the people around her seeming to pay her no mind.
"Have you seen my daughter?" The woman asked as she approached random strangers, shoving a small electronic device into their faces.
A man gave her a rude look before pushing her along the pavilion and closer to the two of them.
"Does anybody speak English?!" The young woman with unnaturally bright blonde hair shouted in desperation.
Marissa offered the woman a pitying smile. "I do." She spoke up from several meters away.
The bigger woman with too much makeup gave her a relieved look before pressing the small screen into her personal space, revealing a picture of a small girl with the same dull brown eyes as the woman in front of her.
She was too overwhelmed by the ordeal to register the woman's lack of reaction to the two veela before the woman was speaking once more.
"Have you seen my daughter? I turned around for an instant and she was gone!" The woman wailed, her arms flailing dramatically above her head.
Marissa felt a wave of sympathy for the poor mother overcome her as her own eyes darted towards a wide-eyed Tara.
She didn't know what she would do if she lost her own daughter.
"Where did you see her last?" Marissa asked, her maternal instincts taking over naturally.
The other woman pointed towards a bench near an alleyway not far off. "We were over there, and then she was gone!" The British woman cried in exasperation. "I checked the alleyway, but she was nowhere to be found."
Marissa smiled in reassurance. "Did you check the side shoot on the left about midway down?"
The side street was easy to miss if you weren't sure where it was. Rumor amongst her flock was the area used to be an unofficial wizarding district in the nineteenth century, the remnants of its protections making it nearly impossible for muggles to find unassisted.
The woman's eyes widened in shock, hazel orbs showing signs of hope for the first time since they had begun conversing.
"Show me." She demanded.
She sighed but grabbed Tara's hand anyhow. Gelato would have to wait.
About two thirds of the way down the alley she stopped at a small opening.
The other woman seemed to look about for several long moments before settling on the ill-maintained opening before them.
"How did I miss this?" The other woman asked in an over the top fashion.
The dramatic nature of the proclamation teetered the boundaries between exasperation and performance art making her slightly uncomfortable with the whole situation.
Tightening her grip on Tara, she turned the corner leading them down the narrow alley.
A cold passed through her as they wound their way through the empty streets in search of the missing child.
'Shouldn't we be calling out for her daughter?' She thought, her trepidation building with each step.
"What did you say your daughter's name was?" She asked the oddly silent woman.
The footsteps behind her came to a halt as she felt her daughter's hand slip out of her own, her body falling to the ground with a loud *thud*.
Turning around in confusion she was met by the tip of a wand followed by a blinding blue light.
"...our people are in the middle of a crisis!" She stated firmly her voice never wavering while her perfectly symmetrical face struck the difficult balance between harsh and approachable as her sea blue eyes scanned the various delegations in an attempt to read the body language of the other attendees, looking for something specific. Even if she couldn't exactly enunciate what that something was, it was something more instinctual than anything else.
'Bingo.' She thought predatorily, her eyes falling on the voting member of the German delegation, a middle-aged man with looks similar to her own was eyeing her cleavage indiscriminately.
The bowels of her mind churned in disgust at the man's hungry look but she pushed on with her speech, willing to deal with the blatant arousal if she got what she came here for.
"Without the support of the confederation, we lack the resources necessary to conduct a thorough investigation into the disappearance of twenty two woman and children over the last eighteen months."
A steady stream of polite applause broke out among the circular chamber as she concluded her speech, though she saw a few among them roll their eyes at her final proclamation.
She stood calmly at the dais as the applause died down before turning on a black heel and vacating the pedestal with unnatural grace she made to leave, hoping her form-fitting knee-length black skirt would sway another horny old man desperate to win her affection.
A longshot, one that her perfect older sister would scoff at but one that her people desperately needed.
Fleur and her charmed life didn't understand sacrifice. Desperate times called for desperate measures.
As predicted, Rudolph Wilhelm was waiting for her in the atrium as they broke for lunch.
"Ms. Delacour." He started in lightly accented English. "A word." He said through an unnatural smile, the result of a high volume of oral potions, she was sure.
Gabrielle offered the man a warm smile of her own, showing off her own set of perfect teeth, using her aura to raise the man's natural dopamine levels.
The simpleton shifted uncomfortably. Her smile covered her internal disgust. Gabrielle could smell his arousal.
"Von Wilhelm." She purred, the name rolling off her tongue with ease.
Inside she wanted to eviscerate the swine.
Gabrielle was nearly the same age as Adal, a rather striking ballerina with the German National Theater. Adal shared Gabrielle's full lips, her honey blonde hair, her athletic body type.
She shuttered, dismissing the easy comparisons – the veela needed him. Germany had a high seat on the ICW. Support on the floor from someone of his stature could provide the veela with what they so desperately desired.
She would persevere she told herself as von Wilhelm planted an overly familiar kiss on each of her cheeks, allowing his hand to rest just below the small of her back.
She could do it, if she wanted to. Her wand was in her sleeve and she knew the spell. A quick thought and the German shit would be emasculated in the atrium of the International Confederation of Wizards.
Her father's French heritage nearly demanded she do it out of honor.
"This is for the 'Manstein Plan!'"
She nearly snorted at the thought, wondering if the wizard would even understand.
"The plight of your people, it's terrible." He said, his tone lacking any discernible sincerity.
The incestuous bastard wanted to slip Adal's leotard off of her.
"It is." She replied diplomatically, fighting her own disgust. Her people deserved her best effort.
"The Zekanot would be in your debt if Germany were to show her support." She said taking his larger right hand in her own left, using her index finger to massage his palm, unleashing the brunt of her heritage.
Wilhelm let out a barely audible moan before composing himself.
"Germany would love to help our friends at the Zekanot." He said diplomatically. "But we lack the resources to commit to your cause." He said with unconvincing sympathy.
She used her free hand to brush a strand of honey blonde away from her eyes, drawing his attention to her button nose and inviting lips.
"Completely understandable, von Wilhelm." She inflected a bit of husk into her voice, eliciting another pleasurable moan from the man. "We don't need your resources, just your clout." Gabrielle's voice was barely above a whisper as she stared into his eyes. "You can, help me by convincing your comrades to bring our proposal to a vote." She said, her mouth nearly touching his.
"The Zekanot, of course, will reward Germany – and yourself - financially."
She had no idea if that last part was true but she could make it happen if it came to it.
He stepped back. "That would seem to be a lot of effort on my part." The German's voice was all business as he spoke before making a display of checking the time.
"However." He said placing his hands on her hips as he undressed her with his eyes. "We still have 48 minutes left for lunch. Why don't we go to an unused room and continue this negotiation?"
The sound of her hand smacking his face reverberated across the atrium, briefly drawing the attention of several of her associates at the ICW, particularly a delegate from India, whose pretty laugh had drawn her own attention while the German representative stormed off in anger.
Seeming to sense Gabrielle's interest, the dark skinned beauty in the elaborate salwar kameez gracefully made her way towards Gabrielle.
Gabrielle almost did a double take. From afar she recognized the woman in front of her from the social pages in Britain's 'Daily Prophet' before dismissing the silly notion.
"Padma Patil, Indian delegation." The taller woman said, her voice containing a distinct north London accent.
Upon hearing the name she did do a double take. She'd heard her brother-in-law tell the disastrous story of his date with a younger Padma Patil fifteen years prior during the famed Triwizard Tournament.
"Gabrielle Delacour, Veela nation." She said with pride, gripping the other woman's hand with a bit of strength.
"Rudolph is a pig." The Indian woman said with disgust. "He preys on strong women in desperate situations. I enjoyed watching your interaction with him"
She chortled. "And here I thought he wanted me because I reminded him of his daughter."
Padma's face looked as though she had just smelled sour milk. "I hadn't even considered that." She admitted, disgust evident as her eyes trailed back to the man in question.
Not for the first time Gabrielle wondered if Annette was right about her and her cynicism.
A voice echoed through the chamber, providing the delegation with a forty five minute warning till the day's session was to resume.
Dropping all pretense she looked towards the older woman once more.
"Can the veela count on India to call a vote on our proposal?" She asked, hoping her own resigned desperation didn't shine through.
Padma offered her a pitiful expression. "I'm afraid I don't have the power to make that call." Her tone was almost apologetic.
Gabrielle resisted the urge to roll her eyes.
"Call a simple vote, that's it. That will allow me the opportunity to present a more formal case." She felt her calm façade crack as she finished out the last bit but pushed forward.
"I'm only a junior member, my father is who you would need to convince."
Gabrielle thought for a long moment, trying to remember the dossier on the Patil family.
"Your fathers." She said desperately. "Are they still seeking a meeting with Hermione Granger-Weasley?"
Padma gave her a once over and raised an eyebrow. "Are you blackmailing my family?"
'Is she an idiot?'
A smile crossed her face. "Of course not." She said, resisting the urge to ask the other woman how she felt offering a favor would qualify as blackmail. "But she is my sister-in-law. I'm sure she could be persuaded to take a meeting."
Padma provided her a thoughtful look before frowning. "I'm sorry." She said. "We can't help you this time."
'Maybe I should buy the Pakistani delegation a round of drinks and whisper in their ears about Kashmir.' She thought vindictively as the Indian witch sauntered back towards her section.
With her hopes dashed, Gabrielle walked in the opposite direction towards the floo. There was no need to waste the rest of her afternoon, her people would prefer to hear bad news immediately.
Gabrielle stepped out of the floo and into a cozy room painted in pastels with oil paintings lining the walls.
The formality of the ICW no longer necessary, she removed her uncomfortable black heels, making her way through the room with a practiced elegance.
"Bun venit, doamnă Delacour." The hostess greeted her with a polite smile.
She paused to smile at the teenager. For as long as she could remember Adriana had been greeting customers at her mother's tearoom in the heart of Calea Victoriei.
The posh neighborhood showcased Bucharest's luxurious side and Sonya's Tearoom was no exception. Catering to muggles, wizards, and creatures alike, the establishment had a simple elegance about it.
"Mulțumesc Adriana. Ce face mama ta?"
Her great grandaunt Annette had grown particularly close to the owner over the decades. Spending hours upstairs or in the back parlor reviewing documents and taking meetings.
As Annette Monclair's standing within the Zekanot increased, others began to make the pilgrimage to the posh tearoom to meet with her, turning the comfortable establishment into an unofficial meeting spot for veela across Europe. Gabrielle herself had watched Adriana grow from a toddler to a young woman entering her sixth year at Durmstrang.
"Frustrat. Vârcolacii au provocat probleme."
She nodded her head sympathetically, werewolves tended to become agitated this close to the full moon.
"O să fie bine în trei zile." She said, hoping she was able to demonstrate her half-joking reminder effectively in Romanian.
The brunette smiled, a pair of cute dimples drawing attention to a set of pearly white teeth.
Like Annette, Gabrielle had come to appreciate the comfortable tearoom and all it had to offer.
"Știu, știu ... "Adriana said before her voice dropped several octaves. "Britanicii s-au arătat interesați de firma lui Lord Malfoy și s-au întâlnit cu omologii lor români."
She smiled at Adriana, passing her several gold coins before heading up a narrow staircase to their left.
The news was unsurprising. The British had been investigating Malfoy Enterprises for years without luck. Romania had more restrictions on free enterprise than Britain, if Bucharest was successful in charging Malfoy with a crime it would cripple their dealings in Eastern Europe.
'It's been so long since Astoria and I had lunch.'
Lady Malfoy had always been fond of her for some reason or another, having on multiple occasions invited her and Annette to their annual Yule Party. Though it had been years since they had been able to attend.
'I believe Scorpius is three now?' Perhaps it was time she made her way back to London on holiday.
"Gabrielle!" The fond voice of Annette Monclair rang out through the half-empty room, causing several veela to glance her way.
Despite her great grandaunt's enthusiastic greeting drawing unwanted attention to herself Gabrielle smiled, it was impossible not to when the silver-haired woman turned her attention on you.
Gabrielle met her halfway across the room, greeting the older veela with a hug.
Her great grandaunt gave her an once-over.
"Your feet stink." Annette said, waving her right hand in front of her nose dramatically, mischief in her eyes.
Gabrielle puffed her chest out and adopted an arrogant smirk. "A veela does not stink." She replied in exasperation. "She simply does not smell as pleasant as another veela."
A smattering of laughter rang out in the room but she ignored it, her focus on the amusement of Annette.
"Shut up you hen." The older veela admonished with a wave of her hand before turning back towards her. "Follow me."
Without another word Gabrielle followed the longest tenured member of the high council back to her de facto office.
"I take it that it did not go well?" Annette started bluntly.
A frustrated look came over Gabrielle's face as she added a bit of honey to her tea.
She wanted to pace the room and vent but knew it would do no good, Gabrielle wasn't talking to her great grandaunt she was talking to Elder Monclair, leader of the High Council, matriarch of her flock. Acting like a child now would only prove her own naysayers correct.
"It did not." She said calmly.
The councilwoman bit into a raspberry scone, formulating her thoughts as she chewed.
"You stuck to the script."
Her comment was a statement not a question. Gabrielle helped write the script, she wouldn't deviate.
Annette looked nonplussed as she sipped her tea.
"You enter the stage, you have five minutes to address the body, what's the first thing you noticed?"
She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Of course they were going to talk through the issue. When she was twelve Annette made her talk her way through her first period.
"Restlessness." Gabrielle said.
The veela had been given the unenviable timeslot right before lunch. While some of the more respectful representatives remained silent and at least gave the impression of paying attention, the more traditional representatives openly ignored her, holding side conversations during the Veela's plea for help.
"A side effect of our time slot, no doubt." Annette said vocalizing her own thoughts, a frown on her face. The ICW wouldn't waste a valuable timeslot on a non-voting member.
"You have just delivered the first statistic, what are the reactions? Focus only on those you think were paying attention."
They were an ancient species, but they had never been populous. The last hundred years had pushed them to the brink of extinction.
"They were shocked but not surprised."
Her great grandaunt, however, was surprised. "Our numbers did not register with them?"
The skepticism in her voice was clear.
Clamping down on her occlumency, Gabrielle fixed a smile to her face. "Our struggles have been well documented Elder Monclair."
Annette rolled her eyes. The veela had a well-deserved reputation for crying wolf at the smallest perceived slight. "Have the last forty years shown them nothing?"
"Apparently not." Gabrielle deadpanned.
They sipped their tea silently for several long moments, making her increasingly uneasy. Sensing her discomfort, Annette gratefully moved on.
"What about our current situation, what was the reaction there?"
That had been interesting. The mention of the twenty two missing veela had sent several murmurs through the crowd, but not as many as she had hoped.
Marcus Flint had rolled his eyes at the proclamation and left.
"The British Representative left."
"Hmm." Annette responded, taking another sip of tea. "Lord Flint is the result of generations of inbreeding and poor decisions, his support means very little to me. I'm more worried about the more progressive members of the body. They are your peers, they are the ones you will need to grow close to if you're going to be effective." Annette reminded her.
If Gabrielle was being honest with herself it was an area where she could make improvements.
"What did you do next?" Her mentor inquired.
"I went fishing."
An amused smile tugged at the lips of the councilwoman.
The younger veela smiled. "A nibble." She started before quickly adding. "A crude nibble. By the Germans."
Her great grandaunt nodded in understanding before her mood became more melancholy.
"I've never trusted the Germans." Annette stated rhetorically, her avian eyes transfixed on the large grandfather clock behind Gabrielle.
She waited uncomfortably again for her great grandaunt to break the silence, knowing better than to rush the hen. Patience, Annette always said, was a virtue.
"The number is now twenty four." She said softly.
Gabrielle felt her spirit break as tears flooded her eyes, threatening to overflow.
Each of the dozen flocks had handled the abductions differently. Some had met the news with anger, most with fear. Her's saw a tragedy.
Removing a white handkerchief from her clutch, Gabrielle wiped away the unshed tears.
"Marissa and Tara."
'Tara? Sweet Tara?'
She was crying once more. She was so young.
"Does Fleur know?"
Annette frowned. "Not yet. She's coming by for dinner tomorrow, I planned on telling her then."
Fleur and Marissa had been particularly close before Marissa had felt the need to drop out of Beauxbaton's and return to the reservation.
"What do we do now?" Gabrielle asked softly.
They had been hoping to utilize the resources of the ICW but that no longer seemed to be a valid option.
"The Zekanot has an exceptional amount of resources at its disposal specifically set aside for emergencies that affect all of the flocks." Annette said in a deadly calm.
Gabrielle gave her a wicked smile. Despite their small population, her people had done an exceptional job of acquiring resources over the generations.
"What needs to be done?" Curiosity laced her voice. She couldn't recall the last time the Zekanot had declared an emergency.
'Was I even alive?'
A smile overcame Annette's face. "The elder of the high council needs to document the request in the registrar."
She stared at her, mouth agape, surprised at the simplicity before letting out a soft laugh. "Well you're more than qualified then. What is our plan?"
An uncharacteristic look settled on Annette's face.
"I'd like you to go to London and reach out to Harry Potter."
Gabrielle grimaced. "He's unreliable."
"He's brilliant." Annette countered. "When sober he is the most prolific wand on the market, his resume is impeccable."
She hadn't seen her childhood crush in nearly four years. Last time they had met she had recently completed three years of post-Beauxbaton's studies with the Zekanot and had just begun her apprenticeship to Annette.
They had been celebrating both Harry's one year anniversary in the elite 'Warlock's Battalion' within the auror corps and the announcement of his wife's pregnancy.
She wondered if that was the last time he had been happy.
"When he's sober is the risk, Annette." She pointed out, putting extra emphasis on the word 'when'. "Fleur says he runs a small private shop in Diagon Alley now, investigates issues of fidelity and petty theft primarily. Hardly the specialist we are looking for." She countered dismissively.
Annette waved her off. "That's only because there has been no need for a mercenary of late. He brought in Nott for the Lycan Genocide and has been bored stiff since. Warriors need to be challenged, Gabrielle!" Her great grandaunt stated earnestly. "Weren't you the one who always used to tell me that he had a knack for saving people?"
Gabrielle waved her off. "That was a long time ago." She started. "And so was the Nott thing. Fleur says Hermione has asked him to get help multiple times but he won't listen."
"Your sister is a bored gossip. Harry Potter has a desire and we are in a position to help."
Gabrielle sat silently for several moments. She wasn't going to win this fight so she may as well get it over with. "What do you need me to do?"
She was a veela. She knew the answer before Elder Monclair gave the order.
"Get close to him and offer him whatever he desires. Sleep with him if you think it will keep him motivated. But keep him sober and keep him focused."
Gabrielle resisted the eye roll. There were other ways to keep people motivated.
"I'll leave in the morning."
He shook his empty glass, the half-melted ice cubes clinking off the sides in an attempt to gain the attention of the wayward bartender.
His vain attempts failing, Harry leaned over the dirty counter, giving himself a good view of the long, dimly lit bar.
Down the line he spotted the object of his attention flirting with an attractive brunette, ready to give her a free pour the second the zinfandel drained from her glass.
"JEFFRIES!" He yelled shaking his glass overdramatically, drawing the ire of the other patrons.
He paid them no mind as he yelled again. "JEFFRIES!" The man's eyes narrowed but he had his attention at this point.
"Another old fashioned." He ordered. "And try and take it easy on the simple syrup this time."
The bartender eyed him with the slightest bit of apprehension. "No." The younger man said, a slight stammer in his voice. "Not until you settle your tab."
Eyeing a dirty blonde smoking a cigarette and chatting up a woman just outside the entrance he smiled. "Put it on the Bletchley tab."
Jeffries took a moment to look around the crowded bar, taking stock of her patrons.
"Do you think I'm stupid, Potter?" He said, a touch of anger in his voice.
"Honestly?" Harry replied, his attention firmly focused on a simmering argument between a handful of gentlemen over near the jukebox.
"Bletchley ain't even here, mate." He stated.
Harry rolled his eyes. "Why would Lisa be here Jeffries?" He asked rhetorically. "This place smells like piss."
Much to his chagrin off near the jukebox the argument seemed to be dissipating.
A subtle flick of his wrist sent a spell unnoticed towards the largest of the men, hitting him square in the back.
'Push the small one.' He commanded mentally.
"Lisa?" Jeffries asked with skepticism as a large crash momentarily drew his attention to the group of men arguing in the corner.
"Of course." He said while polishing off the rest of his drink as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "She's the one who hired me."
The argument had dissolved into an outright brawl by this point as two men tackled a third into an innocent bystanders table, drawing four more people into the fight.
The bartender turned his attention back to the issue-at-hand, his brown eyes wide as saucers.
"Sonorus!" Jeffries shouted desperately as he touched his wand to his throat, a second fight between a group of hags breaking out to their right.
"STOP IT!" The bartender shouted among the growing chaos, his voice amplified by the spell. "PLEASE STOP FIGHTING!"
His plea fell on deaf ears as one of the hags threw another through a window while a third stabbed a woman in the neck with a fork, spraying blood on a suspiciously pale couple to their left who seemed rather delighted by the strange turn of events.
The act of destruction caused a swing in the bartender's mood.
"THAT'S IT, YOU'RE ALL BANNED!" He yelled menacingly as though anyone besides Harry was paying him any mind.
Jeffries proclamation predictably had no effect on the matter-at-hand as Harry sat back grinning, waiting for the inevitable.
Barely a half-minute went by before Jeffries cracked.
"Lord Potter!" The bartender pleaded.
'It's Lord Potter now is it?'
"Lord Potter!" He repeated desperately. "Please! Some help!"
He turned towards the lanky, pathetic man, an eyebrow raised and an arrogant smile on his lips.
"I'll tell ya what Jeffries!" He yelled over the commotion as a table went up in flames. "Call us even and I'll put an end to this little kerfuffle and clean the place up a bit." He said through the noise as the upturned table set the drapes on fire, sending the remainder of the bars occupants into a frenzy as they climbed over themselves to evacuate.
"DEAL!" The bartender yelled.
Harry gave the man an annoyed look as he conjured a plain red coaster.
"And there better be a fucking old fashioned sitting on this coaster when I'm done."
Spinning on his stool and away from the bar he silently doused the flames with water before indiscriminately firing off stunners towards the eight or so combatants who, in a moment of drunkenness, had thankfully forgotten they were wizards and were fighting with their fists.
One of the less-drunk brawlers dodged his stunner in a show of agility before returning fire his way.
Harry saw red as his attacker threw a familiar shade of maroon back his way.
His block of marble intercepted the unforgivable curse as his holly wand sliced downwards from left to right sending a pair of violent saw-like spells flying unpredictably towards the asshole, severing his legs from his torso and showering the immediate area in blood in a show of grotesque violence.
Around him the fighting immediately stopped, leaving the man howling in pain as he bled on the floor.
"Shut the fuck up." Harry mumbled, hitting the man with a silencer as his wand began waving in a complex pattern.
Slowly the room put itself back together as he turned to the silently wailing man's friend. "Get your friend and his legs out of here." He said, his slurred speech sounding more menacing to his own ears, he was sure.
Turning back to the bar he was pleased to see a fresh old fashioned on his conjured coaster and an amused look on his newly-arrived friends face.
Momentarily ignoring Miles, Harry returned his attention back to Jeffries, a contemplative look adorning his half-drunk features.
"JEFFRIES!" He barked, startling the nervous man who was busy checking the small bar for lasting damage.
The frazzled bartender turned to give him a look as Harry took a sip of the old fashioned sitting on his coaster.
'Too heavy on the bitters this time.'
"You're a shit bartender."
The crisp August night was a stark contrast to the stale humidity of the dingy bar, the fresh air filling him with a surge of energy as he and Miles stalked their way deeper into the excitement of Knockturn Alley towards the 'Lusty Leopard.'
His mind raced back to his first floo journey before his second year and ending up at Borgin and Burkes, much to the dismay of Molly Weasley. He'd been so scared then, so sheltered.
Only dark wizards wandered Knockturn Alley, after all.
Hanging a left, the pair were greeted with bright neon signs and the sounds of music and laughter as hundreds of intoxicated twenty-somethings loudly jumped from bar to bar in large groups.
If Diagon Alley was Oxford Street then Knockturn Alley was Soho - full of life, lights and sounds.
Rummaging in his pocket Harry pulled out a small vial that glowed blue in the midnight sky.
He noticed the dirty blonde next to him watch in amusement as he removed the stopper and downed the potion in one go before throwing the empty vial in a bin.
Bletchley whistled. "That's some glow!" The slightly shorter man stated, gesturing to his still glowing throat.
"It's some good shit." He managed by-way of response.
Harry stopped in his tracks for several seconds, his eyes shut tight – the first thirty seconds were always the best.
His body began to tingle while his head became light and a large smile slid across his face as he let out a jovial laugh.
Even so he felt his senses heightened, his mind focus, and his forehead perspire. Without a mirror it was hard to be certain, but Harry was sure his cheeks were unusually rosy as well.
He rummaged in his sack once more, removing a second vial and dangling it in front of Miles face.
The older man let out a sigh. "Fuck it." He said, taking the vial and handing him ten galleons.
The process was repeated with the former Slytherin keeper as the pair made their way through the crowds and down a side alley towards a solitary, vertical neon sign of an animated woman shadow dancing in the moonlight.
"Ya know I heard there's a nudie bar in Dublin that has a veela!" Miles said, the bit of giddiness in his voice a result of the blue coursing through his system.
He rolled his eyes as the bouncer let the pair through the entrance and into the dimly lit club.
"She has the aura but lacks the body we've come to expect from veela."
Veela could be fat, veela could be ugly, veela could be smart, and veela could be stupid. The interesting ones could wield magic, the rest were tedious creatures.
At the end of the day the only unique thing about the ancient sirens was their ability to manipulate men, and he had a book full of clients that argued the ability to manipulate men wasn't that unique.
Around him nude women were dancing on poles while love-struck saps leered at them from several meters away, placing coins on the stage for a little extra attention.
He pointed to the dark-skinned man reaching out towards Maria who, far from looking concerned at the fawning fool seemed to look amused rather than threatened.
Catching her eye the dancer spared him a smile before glancing quickly at the bar in reassurance.
"Emilio is working." Harry stated.
He could almost see the older bartender spiking the drinks with love potion from their corner booth.
They sat in silence for several long minutes, entranced by the intoxicating nature of the blue.
Across from him Miles' cheeks had turned a rosy read and he was sweating slightly. "So!" The other man started, an unnatural smile on his face.
"So!" Harry responded, undoubtedly wearing a similar look.
When Miles discovered Harry had been hired by the Economic Security Commission his friend had been giddy.
Harry reached deep into his coat before removing a medium sized manila envelope and setting it on the table.
With a goofy look still planted on his face Miles opened the envelope, removing several Euro's before getting started on his diagnostics charms.
The dawn of a new millennium had sparked a cultural revolution within the wizarding world as muggleborns surpassed purebloods as the dominant political force in Europe for the first time.
A few of the less morally inclined amongst them quickly came to the conclusion that the best way to thrive in the new world would be to exploit muggles.
Miles cast a quick 'gemino' charm on the currency. Seeing a duplication of the fifty euro note appear next to the original caused the man to let out a high-pitched, joyful cry.
Harry waited patiently as the man repeated the actions on the remainder of the bills before slipping him a shrunken purse.
The blending of the cultures had presented unique legal issues as wizards, in increasing numbers, began counterfeiting muggle currency and trading it in for galleons, destroying the economy in the process.
The Economic Security Commission had been Hermione's most important legislative victory during her brief time in the Wizengamot.
Hermione the bleeding heart; protector of muggles, muggleborns, and creatures alike found her biggest legislative victory had been economic and not focused on equality.
The world was funny like that sometimes.
Casting a few charms on the purse, Harry confirmed that twenty five thousand galleons were there before taking his wand off of Miles from beneath the table.
"I have another client who would be interested in a packet, if you can oblige."
Harry shook his head in dismay. "That's the last of it." He had only been able to syphon so much under the watchful eyes of the muggles and the ICW.
Part of him was relieved to be out of the game. The penalties for being caught were severe while the return had diminished since the goblins had stopped taking muggle currency. Unless you wanted a penthouse in muggle London the bills were technically worthless.
"Oh well." Miles said with a shrug. "It was fun while it lasted. Let's get a drink."
Abandoning their table the pair made their way to the bar.
"Hey Emilio!" He shouted towards the severe looking man with wary eyes. "A bottle of firewhiskey no extras!"
The bartender laughed but obliged, handing the pair a large bottle of whisky and a pair of glasses.
Miles paid the man before they sauntered towards an empty high-top near the main stage.
The unnamed girl twirled around the pole to the rhythm of the music as they drank, the combination of the harsh liquor and the blue filling him with a sense of forgetful euphoria.
They laughed as they drew the tables next to them into the conversation, forming a larger group.
Soon Harry felt a soft palm drawing him over to a dance floor filled with people and he found himself wondering when the 'Lusty Leopard' installed a dance floor before a plethora of bright lights and screaming drew his attention to the stage in front of him.
Green and red lights cut through the thick fog surrounding the stage as the light shimmered off the DJ's glasses as he bounced to the beat, occasionally encouraging the crowd to scream in unison.
He felt the unnamed woman grind against his crotch, eliciting a moan of arousal from his lips and making him forget about the strip club completely.
His moan caused her to tilt her head back till her blue eyes were staring straight up at his face, sweat dripping down her own face she leaned back further, his mouth meeting her half-way.
Wet lips attached to a head of blonde hair pressed against his as the room around Harry spun wildly.
They twirled around the room attached at the lips, his anonymous partner's blonde hair and blue eyes seeming to flicker between blonde and blue and red and brown in the moment.
Then it stopped and Harry felt hard ground and heard roaring laughter.
"Alright Potter, just a little further." Miles familiar voice echoed deep within his subconscious.
"You know we could rob him right now." A different voice stated in amusement.
He shook free of the arms keeping him steady and stumbled into the side of a dumpster, wand in hand.
"Don't you fuckin think about it asshole." He swayed as he slurred, using the edge of the dumpster to keep him upright.
"I may be drunk but I can still kick your ass!"
A pair of laughter rang out again as they moved from Knockturn Alley and into the quieter confines of Diagon Alley.
"Ya need help gettin in, Potter?" Miles familiar voice asked as he unlocked the door to his shop.
"Imma be okay." He mumbled, stumbling his way inside.
Shutting one eye Harry took stock of the stairs in front of him as he swayed in place, considering his options for a brief moment before stumbling over to his desk, climbing on top, and promptly passing out.
He was awoken by a strong stinging sensation in his lower ribs.
"W…whaat?" He said groggily, his bloodshot eyes adjusted to his hazy surroundings, the glare from the sunlight sending a pain shooting through his head.
He felt the hard wood supporting his back and a glance to his left showed his comfortable desk chair had been haphazardly thrown on its side next to his desk.
The pounding in his head prevented him from forming a rational thought as he slowly sat up.
'Or it's the veela standing in my shop.' He added silently, clamping down on his occlumency.
"Good." The familiar voice stated. "You're awake."
He groaned. It wasn't just the veela making him groggy.
Feeling a rumbling in his stomach he turned to the left and emptied its contents on the oak floor.
"Stupide ivre." The veela grumbled as he vanished the contents of last night from the ground.
"Va te faire foutre." He spat back, summoning a disgusting looking yellow potion to him and downing it in one.
The veela laughed at his response but said nothing.
He felt the discomfort in his head and stomach dissipate almost instantaneously once the potion hit his lips.
'Whoever invented the hangover potion deserves an Order of Merlin.'
"What do you want…" He started, taking a look at his visitor for the first time.
Honey blonde hair, blue eyes, completely symmetrical features and a look that screamed "get the fuck away from me" told him all he needed to know.
The girl he rescued from the bottom of the lake during the Triwizard Tournament had grown quite beautiful since then. The lack of a ring on her finger made him think of the crush she used to harbor for him.
A mischievous grin inadvertently crossed his face. She still had that crush last time they'd met.
'Ginny was still around then…' He reminded himself, the grin on his face being replaced by a creeping sadness.
She stared at him unimpressed.
"Long night?" She said, ignoring his question and making herself comfortable in one of his spare chairs.
With a quick flick she had summoned a pair of iced coffees from the unseen icebox under the stairs and was passing one his way before he had a chance to wonder how she knew about its existence.
Accepting the drink he got off his desk, fixed his chair, and sat down across from the intimidating young woman.
"I'm sorry about the mess and my appearance." He apologized, taking a long sip of his coffee before continuing. "Met up with some friends and had a long night." He said sheepishly.
Gabrielle looked unconvinced but didn't press the issue.
"Thank you for seeing me so early." She said graciously seemingly forgetting the previous two minutes in an instant.
Harry did his best to ignore the fact that she had broken into his shop and was trespassing on private property.
"Thank you for making the trip all the way from…"
"…the reservation." She finished for him.
"Yes." He replied lamely. "Though I seem to have forgotten how I can help you?"
There were no tan lines on her ring finger so he knew it couldn't be a case of infidelity and he highly doubted she needed personal security, Beauxbaton's postgraduate studies and her own mentor would have made sure she could watch over herself.
"I am here on behalf of my species." She started, a tinge of pride evident in her voice.
'The Zekanot then. Interesting.' The possibilities swirled in his mind. The vulnerable creatures always seemed to find themselves in some sort of trouble.
He ignored the rumbling in his stomach for the time being and turned his fleeting attention back to the annoyance in front of him.
"What does Elder Monclair want?" He had never been one for idle conversation, no matter how beautiful the company.
Gabrielle offered him a charming smile.
"Are you kept abreast of veela issues?" She asked, clearly looking for a proper starting point for whatever story he assumed she had to tell.
Harry had insight into vampires, lycans, hags, trolls, and even those disgusting little goblins from time to time, but outside of running into Fleur at the Burrow on occasion he had had very little contact with veela.
"Not so much, no." He replied honestly. "Britain isn't known for its thriving veela population."
A look of grief mixed with a tinge of disgust passed over her before a familiar sense of vulnerability settled. "The veela have never had a thriving population, 'Arry."
They both knew the accent was bullshit, yet in the moment he found himself shuddering slightly.
A victorious smile highlighted her perfect face.
'Damn.' He thought to himself. She had him and she knew it.
"No." He replied trying to take back control of the conversation. "They have not."
His mind turned towards a report he had seen on Hermione's home desk a month or so prior and did some quick mental work.
"I guess you know better than anyone how little help the ICW can be."
Harry pushed back from his desk and stood up, across from him Gabrielle mimicked his actions.
He leaned over his desk until his eyes were even with hers. "How many have gone missing now, Gabrielle?"
A brief look of surprise flashed across her face before she recovered. She wanted to know how he knew, but that question would give him the upper hand.
Instead she maintained control.
"With the two that went missing yesterday?" She said, emotion pouring from her lips. "Two dozen."
Subconsciously he reached out with a bit of legilimency only to be met with an impressive bit of occlumency.
"I will not lie to you Harry Potter." Her soft voice carried a bit of desperation as she spoke. "You have no need for using the mind arts on me." Her tone was kind. "Will you help us?"
Years ago the negotiation never would have gotten to this point. At twenty he would already be in Central Europe hunting leads. He and Ginny gallivanting across Slovakia fighting for the feeling of accomplishment that would come with helping the downtrodden.
He didn't respond immediately, taking a moment to compose himself.
"What do I get out of this?"
The desire to help hadn't completely changed, but his desire for compensation had.
He tried to sound indifferent but wasn't sure he succeeded.
She raised an eyebrow. "You're normal rate plus the chance to piss off the ICW." She said resolutely.
He scoffed. "That's hardly worth the effort. Even if it keeps me occupied for weeks it would be more dangerous than trying to figure out who's playing stuff the sausage with Corner's wife. There's dozens of simpler cases that can occupy my time."
As if to exemplify his point he reached into his desk and pulled out a folder brimming with inquiries.
Gabrielle sat in quiet contemplation for several seconds.
"Your issues with the goblins." The blonde beauty replied.
The statement peaked his interest as she threw a large folder on his desk.
"What about them?" Harry tried to keep the desperation out of his voice – even with his moderate savings from the muggle notes he still didn't have the same resources available to him as his vaults at Gringotts.
"The goblins have a blood pact with the Zekanot. Help us and we'll have your blood-bounty removed and get you access to your vaults."
A tinge of hope piqued inside of him. Blood pacts had no expiration date and they had no terms. They were good for a single request that required no explanation.
As if to put an exclamation point on the meeting Gabrielle reached into her purse and placed a sack of coins on his desk.
"This should be enough to get you started. Bring the perpetrators to justice and we will use our pact to help you with the goblins."
He smiled a genuine smile. "You have a deal, Ms. Delacour."
A/N: All translations in this and future chapters are courtesy of .com. I speak English and English only ('Merica English at that not even that cool British English).