I disclaim all rights to the Harry Potter, Buffy, and Anita Blake universes and characters.
Daphne Greengrass stomped up the stairs to her apartment, slammed the door behind her, threw her coat onto her couch. She stepped into her kitchen to see if there was anything in the icebox, and froze for a moment before drawing her wand.
“Nice reflexes, Greengrass,” Harry said from his seat at the kitchen table. Daphne was speechless for a moment.
“I – you’re – what are you doing here
?” she growled.
“You’re Britain’s delegate to the Confederation,” Harry said calmly. “I want some information on the American Ministry.”
“So you broke into my home?” Daphne said incredulously, not lowering her wand.
Harry glanced around. “Nothing’s broken. And I brought food.” He gestured toward a couple of bowls at his elbow; Daphne could see the faint red mist of an everheat charm around them. Her stomach twinged.
“Make an appointment with my secretary,” Daphne said icily.
“Yes, that would be very discreet,” Harry said. “Front page in the Prophet, speculation in the gossip column…I’m trying to be sneaky with this.”
“What makes you think I won’t tell anyone?” Daphne snapped.
“I’ll owe you a favour.”
Daphne spent a long moment thinking that over, balanced in a dueling stance. Then she lowered her wand. “All right. Forks are in--”
“The drawer next to the sink,” Harry finished for her. He shrugged at her glare. “I was waiting for an hour. You work late.” Daphne tucked her wand away and sat, as Harry slid a bowl and fork over to her. “Rogan josh, from Taj Mahal Takeaway.”
“Oh, muggle food,” Daphne said airily. Harry raised an eyebrow.
“You don’t really care about that.”
“Daphne. We both know that you’re too self-involved to be prejudiced.”
“Very true.” She took a forkful of the curry. “Not bad.”
“So,” Harry said after a moment. “The American Ministry.”
“How much detail do you want?”
“As much as you can give me,” Harry said. “The more time I spend here, the less time I’m spending helping a vampire pick out frocks.” He shook his head at Daphne’s raised eyebrow. “Don’t ask.”
“To be honest, I thought you’d talk to Mrs. Malfoy,” Daphne said around a forkful of rice.
“Who says I won’t?” Harry said carelessly.
Daphne ate some more curry, watching Harry watching her. He hadn’t changed since the war. She had only seen him once during those two nightmarish years, but he had the same look – expectant, ready for an attack. With that attitude, in those archaic clothes with a knife on his belt, he looked like a battle-ready warlock from an old romance story. She wondered how much of it was an act, and why Potter was suddenly interested in the colonies.
“Any particular area you want me to cover?” Daphne asked.
“I heard their Aurors are called Binders,” Harry said. “I was wondering how their law enforcement is structured.”
Daphne snorted indelicately. “It’s not quite that simple, Potter.” She ate another forkful, thinking about how to explain things. “You have to understand that the colonies weren’t structured for stability, but for independence. After the Treaty of Athrawe went into force, quite a few of the continental families sailed off in a huff to settle new lands.”
“If I wanted to revisit History of Magic, I’d just hit myself with a slumber curse, Greengrass,” Harry said.
“Fine then. I’ll skip all the context.” She set down her fork. “There are thirteen regional councils in North America. They adminster their own territory, have their own Binders and Silvereyes, and so on. Each council sends one representative to the American Council, which decides on tariffs, immigration policies—”
“Every Council has their own Binders?” Harry interrupted. Daphne frowned.
“Yes. But they’re not exactly Aurors, Potter.”
“What are they, then?”
Daphne arched an eyebrow. “Oh, now you want the context?”
“The relevant context,” Harry said testily.
“Wizards have lived in Europe for millennia,” Daphne explained. “But when the colonists arrived – in the ninth century A.D., I think – they were the first wand-wizards to ever set foot there. The place was infested with spirits-of-place, elementals, watermanes, all manner of nasty creatures.” She wrinkled her nose. “The colonists quickly organised a group of wizards who focused on controlling and destroying them – Binders, you see. Now that all those things are gone, the Binders handle dark wizards and artifacts, while the Ironeyes take care of everything else.”
Harry mulled that over for a moment. “What’s a Silvereye?”
“The American version of an Auror, but less well-regarded and more competent. Merlin, Potter, you’ve got me repeating myself.”
“Sorry.” Harry drummed his fingers on the table. “Why are they called Silvereyes?”
“I’m not an encyclopedia!” Daphne said. “I only know what I’ve picked up during Confederation meetings. If you asked me about American restrictions on broomwood imports, I could go on for hours.”
“Ah.” Harry hesitated for a moment. “Have you heard of an American named Miles Legorian?”
“Legorian,” she said thoughtfully. “Yes. The Plainview delegate, I think. Or maybe he’s from Stonespring…one of the Council delegates, anyway.”
“He helps run the country. Of course,” Harry said under his breath.
“Why so much interest in Legorian, Potter? Planning to invest some of that Black gold in the colonies?”
“None of your business, Greengrass,” he said, standing up.
“Can’t blame me for asking, Potter,” she said.
“Maybe not.” He frowned at her. “The favour’s only valid if you don’t tell anyone about this. Ron and Hermione know how to reach me.”
“That’s not good enough, Potter.” Daphne folded her arms. “I want a way to call in this favour without going through any of my old school friends.
“Fine.” Harry reached into one of his waistcoat pockets, his arm sinking in up to the elbow. “Where…there they are.” He extracted a small pile of business cards, held together with a rubber band, and gave one to Daphne. She examined it closely, turning it over in her fingers. One side had ‘Harry Potter’ written on it in green ink, and the other had a phoenix drawn on it in vibrant gold and scarlet ink. As she watched, the phoenix ruffled its feathers and began to preen itself.
“What is this?” Daphne asked, glancing up at Harry as he put the pile away again.
“Beacon Cards,” he said. “George developed them. Just burn it, and I’ll know you want to talk to me.”
“Does it tell you where I am?” she asked.
“So how will you find me?”
“Please,” Harry snorted. “I’m Harry Potter,” he said, voice rich with sarcasm. He inclined his head to Daphne, walked out her front door and disappeared with a pop. Daphne turned the card over in her hands for a moment longer, then pocketed it and poured herself a drink.
“Kreacher!” Harry called. “I’m back.” The elf appeared in Grimmauld Place’s entry hall, frowning at Harry.
“Master was gone for some time,” Kreacher said disapprovingly.
“I know.” Harry sighed. “And I’m going to be gone for a while longer, this business in America is…complicated.” He rubbed his forehead. “I just stopped in to see if I had any mail.”
“Master has two letters,” Kreacher rasped, and made a complicated motion with his hands. Two envelopes flew around the corner from the kitchen, hovering in front of Harry until he took them out of the air. Harry thumbed open the first envelope. It was from Buffy. Harry,
it read. Some of our contacts handed a case off to us, and now we need to hand it off to you. Woman is in a coma, but our witches say her soul is gone, and one of them recognised it as wizard magic. We can’t investigate without getting our memories wiped. See Giles for more information. Buffy.
“Huh,” said Harry. He stuffed the letter into his pocket, and opened the second letter. It was from Ron, and had been written with Hermione looking over his shoulder. Harry could tell, because the two spelling mistakes had been corrected. Hey Harry,
the letter started. Hope you’ve been all right. Something’s come up at work. If you’re free, we could use your mastery. Also need to give you some unrelated news. See you soon. Ron.
Harry blinked at the letter. ‘If you’re free’ was an old Order code, from the war – it meant ‘action necessary soon’. And the reference to mastery…Ron would never allude to that without a reason. Harry turned the letter over, patted his pockets for a pen, then gave up and cast a scribing charm on his wand. Holding it like a pen, he wrote a short reply, Your office, one hour?
, and asked Kreacher to deliver it to Ron and wait for a reply. Harry walked to the foot of the stairs, and stared up them. Ron would never mention those things unless there was a reason. He knew how much they worried Harry, how much they had cost.
He went up the stairs slowly, moving one foot and pausing for a moment. He reached the first floor, and went down the corridor. Past his bedroom and paper-strewn ‘office’, to the small, shabby closet. He opened the door, and stared into the small, empty space. He drew his wand, and touched it to the back wall of the closet. Words appeared in the stone, written in green fire: Harry Potter is alive
“Harry Potter is dead,” Harry said, and the closet’s three walls melted away.
Now he could see the room behind the closet, large and empty, save for a black metal safe. The safe was about the size of Harry’s Hogwarts trunk, and it had no locks. Harry knelt in front of it, and set his hand to the featureless metal door. More green flame appeared, pouring out of the metal and twining around Harry’s hand and arm. It didn’t burn him, but he could feel the compulsion settling around him. A Verity Field, the goblins called it. Normally it was used to ensure that the person opening the safe was the person it belonged to, but Harry hadn’t ordered the safe to protect himself from burglars.
Now the green fire was forming words, as it had in the closet: Do you fear Death?
“No,” Harry said. His voice wavered as he said it; it always did. There was always the fear that one day, he would be lying, and the safe would not allow him to open it. But today, the green fire faded and the safe door swung open. Inside was a wand in a quick-draw holster fitted for Harry’s left arm, and a ring with a cracked stone. Harry stared at them for a long moment. They hummed with power colder and deeper than wizardry, something like necromancy but…not quite. Where necromancy was a cold river, the Hallows were a deep pond older than the mountains.
Harry shook his head, trying to dispel his dark mood. He strapped the Elder Wand’s holster onto his left arm, and put the Stone in his pocket, nestled beside the Cloak. He swung the safe closed, and walked out of the room, the closet appearing behind him as he closed the door.
Things to do, Harry thought.