Farrell had been on the lookout for them in Diagon Alley. Someone had alerted him, whether it was one of their own people or one of the insiders from Farrell and Co. – who Ron thought they had turned, but there might have been regrets – he would find out later. Harry had no doubt Farrell knew he was being pursued, but whether or not he could see through Harry's defences was another question.
He had told Dawlish that it was a stupid plan to outsource the Ministry's spell research, but the Head Auror had coldly informed him that he didn't require administrative advice from his Deputy and … Harry left off his familiar 'Why My Boss is Crap' rant to haul his broomstick upwards and follow Farrell into a sudden, steep climb.
High above Canary Wharf they soared, up past the architectural flourishes and bristles of concealed aerials that crowned the skyscrapers. For a moment he could make out the shape of a wizard crouched on his broom in the shimmering air against the bright gold clouds – it broadened, turning, and Harry wheeled to one side to avoid the smoothly thrown hex.
So he was visible to Farrell. Fine. Harry didn't wait to spin upright before aiming his wand. Farrell was growing more solid by the second, all disguise sacrificed in favour of what Harry assumed would be a complex web of shields. He didn't try to get past them, but put his faith in brute force. 'Deprimo!' he shouted, and a blast of wind exploded from his wand.
He could see the moment at which Farrell lost his grip on his own wand – all disguises disappeared in an instant and Farrell came sharply into view, arms wheeling frantically as he grabbed after his wand, too late realising that he was also separating from his broom.
Harry leaned into his Firebolt, urging it forward to cover the distance the spell had blown Farrell. A whispered Accio wand brought the twig of ash close enough for Harry to snatch it from its fall, he tucked it inside his robes. Gravity asserted itself on Farrell before his broom, one meaty foot caught in the Cleansweep's ornate brasswork footrest and dragged a startled Farrell upwards. The man had the good sense to stop kicking at that point, and looked almost smug for a brief moment, until he realised that the spells levitating and propelling the broom now required wandless magic on his part. From the look on his face, wandless magic was not one of Farrell's strengths.
Harry timed it carefully. Just as the Cleansweep gave out, he drew level and muttered Incarcerous. Ropes twined out from the end of his wand, wrapping snugly around Farrell and his broom. A medium-strength hover charm followed, and saw the corrupt entrepreneur rendered both harmless and balloonlike.
Give him his due, he wasn't going quietly. 'This is Auror harassment!' Farrell shouted. 'My lawyers will sue the Ministry down to its last knut! After all my company has done for you people, this is outrageous behaviour!'
Harry tugged on his end of the rope until Farrell was only a few feet away. The shouting decreased in direct proportion to the proximity.
'There are no actual defensive spells on the vests you sold to my department,' Harry said, as quietly as he could three-hundred metres above the busy city. 'I have two team members in St Mungo's. You have a secret account in the Goblin Bank of Willendorf into which all of your research budget for the next three years has been ferreted. Anything you say can and will be used against you in the Wizengamot, because, sunshine, you are well and truly nicked. Are we clear?'
Farrell, exhibiting the first piece of good sense Harry had seen out of him since he snake-oiled his way into the Minstry nine months previous, shut up.
They had drifted downwards as they spoke, and the top floors of Canada Square were nearing again. Harry briefly tossed up the logistics of Disillusioning the two of them, and decided that he would rather do a spot of mental physics. He Apparated them straight into the Ministry's Atrium, appearing over in the quiet bit behind the memorial fountain where there was almost always more than enough space to kill all your speed and land safely if you came in flying.
There was this time, too. It would all have been perfectly fine, had they not appeared in direct line of sight behind a row of photographers just as Head Auror Dawlish was announcing that the rumours of problems with the Ministry's private research contracts were nothing more than the sort of gutter journalism one expected from Muggles.
Harry could hear him reach the crescendo of his speech: 'Over the course of this year, Æthelbert Farrell has shown himself to be an inspiring inventor and just the sort of entrepreneurial Wizard to lead this Ministry forward into a new age of public/private partnerships …' Only the tide of photographers tracking the floating Farrell away from him stemmed the flow of Dawlish's oratory. Harry watched as, inevitably, his boss turned around to focus on the source of the disturbance.
A lesser wizard would have stuffed his landing under that sort of scrutiny. Harry swung one leg across his broom and dropped lightly to one foot, jogging a few steps until he killed his forward momentum. Casually swinging his Firebolt over one shoulder, he towed a compliant Farrell over to the nearest lift, which arrived as if on cue. In the distance, he could see Dawlish looking for words, ones Harry was sure would be shouted at him later. But later would come soon enough.
He reached forward and pressed the button: Level Two.
Level Two: Episode One
Particles in Solution
'Did you know about this?' he asked, closing the door behind him with one hand and holding up a sheet of parchment with the other.
'Do sit down, Harry. Cup of tea? Biscuit?' Kingsley had been ignoring interrogations, rants and tirades from all comers since 1998, which was one of the cornerstones of his success as Minister.
'Kingsley, Dawlish is shafting me. Doesn't that bother you?'
'Try one of the jammy dodgers. Mabel Erpthwaite from the Wizengamot made a batch on the weekend. They're delicious.'
Harry wondered if there were a school of leadership that predicated itself on defusing moments of tension with sweets. And why his life was full of its devotees. He took a biscuit anyway and sat down in the chair opposite Kinsgley, tossing the parchment onto the desk between them.
'Cold Case Department, my arse. He's sidelining me so that he can get on with running the Aurors as his own personal fiefdom, regardless of how many idiotic mistakes he makes. Do you have any idea how much the fandango with Farrell has cost us?'
'Two hundred and forty-seven thousand Galleons,' Kingsley said calmly, chewing on a biscuit. 'Most of which we are in the process of recovering.'
'He hasn't even had the balls to tell me about it himself. Just a memo and a short announcement in the Prophet,' Harry fumed.
'I think you're missing the opportunity here,' Kingsley said.
'Opportunity?' Harry picked up the memo and read: '"John Dawlish is pleased to announce the promotion of Harry Potter from Deputy Head Auror to Head Auror, Cold Case Division. This new initiative is designed to investigate cases which have remained unsolved for five years or more. It is expected that Auror Potter will have great success in this new role, applying the rigour and insight that have seen him achieve one of the highest clear-up rates in Auror history in only seven years with the department. The Cold Case Division will be located outside the main department, but will be able to draw on our resources as necessary."
'Translated: I'm going to stick Potter in a closet again, because that will be hilarious, and I'm also going to stick him with cases he can't possibly solve, because I'd like to distract attention from the fact I'm a jumped-up twatface who wants to go back to running the Auror department however I feel best on the day without any critical oversight, save what small amount Shacklebolt can manage from a distance. And because he is my most successful Auror, I'm going to pretend it's a promotion rather than the dead-end sidelining that anyone can see it really is, so if he complains in public, he'll look like a banana. And he can have a stapler that works if he is a good boy and keeps quiet about it.'
Kingsley smiled and inclined his head. 'I thank you for the acknowledgement that I at least attempt some oversight within the Ministry.'
'You know what I mean.' Harry sank back in his chair.
'And I say again, you are missing the opportunity.' Kingsley opened a large drawer and pulled out a stack of black files, with a smattering of blue amongst them. 'Look here. Rebecca Winterbottom, found dead in a field at Trent Bridge, March 1995. No leads. Marlene, Harry, Lizzie, Pete and Emma McKinnon, all killed in their family home, 1981, we know it was Death Eaters, but no-one has ever paid for the crime. Edward Flyte, disappeared November 2001, no sign of him since. All these people deserve justice, Harry.'
Kingsley pushed the stack of files across the table towards him, and Harry unwillingly began to leaf through the top sheets.
'And then,' Kingsley continued, 'there's this one.'
This file was slimmer than most. 'Sirius Black' was printed neatly across the top of it. A photo was held beneath the label with a Sticking Charm. A young man in casual clothes, looking for all the world as though he was about to speak blinked up at him.
Younger than me, Harry thought, concentrating on breathing. He stared at the cardboard folder.
'Accused of killing twelve Muggles,' Kingsley reminded him.
'You know he didn't do it,' Harry managed.
'I do. As do you. It's a terrible shame Peter Pettigrew died before he could make a statement in front of the Wizengamot.'
'But everyone knows,' Harry protested weakly.
'Many people do,' Kingsley allowed. 'But don't you think it would be a marvellous thing if it could become an official position?'
Harry looked at him through narrow eyes.
'I've even managed a small staff for you,' Kingsley added.
Harry brightened. 'Ron?'
Even before Kingsley shook his head, Harry knew what was coming.
'One of our finest young Unspeakables.'
Harry didn't even sigh.
'He's been sorely under-utilised with the Auror Department's outsourcing policy. I think it will be a nice surprise for him.'
Harry looked up. 'You haven't told him?'
'I did think that I should check with you first,' Kingsley said.
Harry's eyebrows lifted. 'Can I tell him?'
'Can you do it nicely?'
Harry gave up and laughed. 'You'd better tell him.'
'So you're in?' Kingsley smiled at him.
'You knew I would be the moment you showed me that file.'
'I'll ask Mr Malfoy to join us, shall I?'
Harry watched as Kingsley moved outside to talk quietly with Malfoy. He didn't mind it being Malfoy. Not really. Ron was going to do his nut, but Malfoy had been down in Mysteries for the last five years and as far as Harry knew, no-one had a bad word to say about him. They crossed paths now and then, most often in the Golden Hind, the gay bar Harry had taken to hiding out in after a month in which no fewer than three middle-aged witches had physically flung their daughters at him in the Leaky. It was as much for the poor girls' sake as his own.
The lads in the Hind had cheerfully checked him out – every time he walked in if truth be told – but were not only more circumspect (and blessedly parent-free), they were more supportive, too. When the Prophet had splashed a headline wondering if Ginny Weasley had ruined him for women forever, no fewer than twelve of the boys had contacted the paper to point out that it was exceptionally unlikely he'd changed teams, since none of them knew anyone who had slept with him. That sort of loyalty couldn't be bought.
Harry was fairly sure that Malfoy had spent that whole day laughing quietly, but knew for a fact that Benjy Williams, the Puddlemere United Seeker who was regularly seen heading off with Malfoy at the end of a night, had been one of the twelve.
Ironically, he had just that week decided that he wasn't averse to a spot of experimentation, but he could hardly sully such a beautiful gesture, and he'd spent all his drinking time since being impeccably well behaved. If wearing tighter trousers than had previously been his wont.
Kingsley returned, Malfoy a few steps behind. Harry had quite a good joke halfway to his lips, but the grim look on Malfoy's face killed it. Instead, he nodded again.
Malfoy returned it. 'Potter. Shacklebolt tells me he wants us to work together.' He took the seat opposite Harry's moving it slightly away.
'The new Cold Case Division,' Harry said. 'Dawlish has set it up. Kingsley wants us to tackle unsolved crimes and see if we can't bring a few people who've been getting away with it for years to justice.'
'I am hoping that you can help Harry with the technical aspects of the project,' Kingsley said. 'I know you've been doing remarkable work down in Mysteries and thought you'd like a chance to put some of your theories into practise in the field.'
'You're talking as though it's a real department,' Malfoy observed.
'It is a real department, Mr Malfoy,' Kingsley said. 'I've found you offices and am having a sign made even as we speak.'
Malfoy raised an eyebrow in a manner that bespoke hours of practise in front of a mirror. 'So it's not just a punishment for Potter?'
'It's that, too,' Harry said before Kingsley could perjure himself.
'And you want to haul me out of Mysteries to add credence to a scheme that will only last until the Prophet can prepare its "Our Harry is Being Hard Done By" special and run an interactive poll that asks the readers who they prefer as Head Auror: the Saviour of the Wizarding World or a grumpy old haggis of a man with the smooth political touch of a sturgeon?'
Harry found it hard not to laugh.
'You are missing an opportunity here,' Kingsley began.
‘An opportunity for a two-hundred per cent increase in quarterly budget?’
‘Fifty,’ Shacklebolt replied.
‘But with access to additional staff.’
‘With access to the Minister’s private archives.’
‘And with authority to use experimental spells and technology as I see fit?’
‘Authority to use them as they are appropriate to the cases and with a full guarantee on your part of safety to all those affected by them.’
Malfoy paused for a moment, then nodded. ‘And working with Potter, not for him.’
Harry nodded even before Kingsley did.
‘And approval for calling him whatever name seems appropriate at the time?’
‘Could I stop you?’ Kingsley asked.
Harry rolled his eyes and tossed Sirius's folder back onto Kingsley’s table. Malfoy glanced down at it. 'All right,' he said. 'I'm in.'
'You can expand the rooms as you need them, I thought Mr Malfoy could use one as a laboratory,' Kingsley said.
Malfoy was already investigating the space. 'The back room, I can install a fumigation system for my cauldrons and we should be able to contain any blasts more thoroughly there. I'll need half the front room for my reference library, but we can make space for a desk and some files for Potter.'
'Possibly a coat rack?' Harry suggested sarcastically.
'For robes. Good idea. I'm assuming we can use the main Auror holding cells when we start bringing in miscreants?'
'Certainly,' Kingsley said.
'Marvellous. Can I bring in my lab fittings from Mysteries?'
'And are you going to get a desk for Potter?'
'And a chair?'
Harry stopped his drifting around the room and looked back at Malfoy, strongly suspecting a joke.
Kingsley replied, perfectly straight: 'Two chairs, possibly three.'
'Thank you, Minister. If you can see to that, I imagine we can get down to work.'
Harry had to work to keep the smile from his face. 'Have you had breakfast, Malfoy?'
'Only tea and toast.'
'You're two ahead of me. Cafeteria?'
'Bring the files?'
'Yes, do. Kingsley, do you need us?'
Kingsley smiled at them. 'I do, actually. But we can set up the office without you. Go and eat.'
The cafeteria had been the most popular part of the Ministry rebuild after the war. It combined the best traditions of dubious British cuisine with comfortably stuffed armchairs and architecture that went heavily in for panelling and alcoves. As a result, it was popular as an ad hoc meeting space for those who wanted quietness, in addition to being a reliable venue for a quick egg and chips before work.
Malfoy secured them one of the prime corner tables while Harry availed himself of plates of toast, scrambled eggs and mushrooms, and as many beverages as he could fit onto the tray.
'I didn't know if you wanted tea, coffee, juice or hot chocolate …' he explained himself as he tried to fit things in around the papers Malfoy had spread out.
'I'll take the tea and the juice,' Malfoy replied, reaching for the same, and taking one of the plates, too.
Harry arranged the remainder and leaned the tray against the wall behind them. 'So,' he said. 'What do you think?'
'I think you'll put up with me until you can come up with a suitably subtle plan for getting rid of Dawlish and taking control of the Auror Department. After that I will be sent back to Mysteries with a slightly but permanently increased budget – always assuming the two of us haven't killed each other before then.'
Harry could feel his eyes widening.
Malfoy stopped. 'Oh, you meant about the case. I think it's exceptionally frustrating. Obviously Black was framed by Pettigrew, but most of the witnesses are dead, those who aren't were tramped all over by the Committee for Muggle-Worthy excuses. And there's no point hunting down any of them: the whole team died during the war. As did most of the Aurors who attended.'
Malfoy turned the file around so Harry could see it, and sure enough there were fine green lines drawn through many of the names, with dates of death beside them.
'What about the Muggles? Surely they took names?'
'Yes, but not addresses. And the crime scene photographs are frankly rubbish.'
'There's one piece of good news.' Harry said, scanning down the paper. 'The Muggle Liaison, William Bustamant. Still alive, and there's an address for him.'
'So we start there?'
'I would think so.'
Malfoy chewed his toast thoughtfully. 'Or is “we” just you? Are you planning to have me sitting in the office doing all the work that requires brains while you go gallivanting about? Or were you thinking I should gallivant with you and then do the thinking in the afternoons while you do … whatever it is you do?'
Harry refused to rise to the bait. 'In my experience, it's always good to have two people in on any interview. One needs to be asking the questions at any time, but the other can observe subtle reactions from the interviewee that might escape the officer who is concentrating on what is being said.'
Malfoy gave Harry an odd look, as though he were surprised to have received a civil answer. 'That sounds reasonable. In that case, I think we should contact Mr Bustamant this morning. The note on the file says that he's a Squib as well as a policeman, so that should make things easier.'
'He's probably retired,' Harry said. 'This was all twenty-five years ago.'
'Then he's more likely to be at home. Eat up. The sooner we start, the sooner we'll know if we're on a plausible case or a wild goose chase.'
Harry grinned at the rhyme, Malfoy looked embarrassed as he realised it.
'So it's really just the two of us in this department?' Malfoy asked between sips of tea.
'For now. I imagine we'll be able to bring more people in once we start dealing with larger cases.'
'Which will require us to succeed with this one?'
Harry shrugged. 'I don't know. Kingsley clearly thinks we can, but none of these cases would still be open if they had simple solutions. There was a lot of political goodwill towards all members of the Order of the Phoenix just after the war: I would have expected that this would’ve been looked at back then, which means it was put into the too-hard basket.'
'Neither of us were here then,' Malfoy pointed out. 'I'm cleverer than the average Ministry employee, and you're more tenacious.'
'Nicest thing you've ever said about me, Malfoy,' Harry said with a grin.
'Simple observation. Listen, if this all goes horribly wrong – because really, it is all about Dawlish shitting on your career – I don't want to go down with you.'
Harry wasn't offended. In fact, Malfoy's straightforwardness was refreshing after seven years with the Aurors, where obfuscation was the official language. 'You won't. Kingsley's put you here for three reasons. I think he must have known that the Sirius case would appeal to you as much as it does to me, and you have to admit, it's a public relations coup having the two of us working together, but mostly, I think he genuinely believes you are very good at your job. I think that Kingsley just expects the two of us to excel, based on our past records. If I cock up, you'll just go back to Mysteries. Probably with a slight increase to your budget, yes.'
'Right.' Malfoy looked his tea for a moment. 'So it's that simple, is it? We're the best and brightest and it will look good for the Minister if he can get us to play nicely together and clear up his outstanding cases.'
Harry nodded. 'I think it is.'
Ron was waving at him from over near the teapots.
Malfoy followed the voice and frowned. 'Ah. That would be my signal to trot off and pick up a few supplies. See you back at the office in fifteen?' He pulled a handful of coins from his pocket. 'How much do I owe you for breakfast?'
'Nothing,' Harry said. 'It's on me.'
'I'd rather pay,' Malfoy said. 'It's not as though we're friends.'
Harry reminded himself that he had been optimistic about this being a new start in his dealings with Malfoy, less than an hour ago. 'We're coworkers. You can pay next time.'
Malfoy thought for a moment, then nodded. 'All right. See you shortly, then. Weasley, good morning.'
Ron mumbled something in reply and waited until Malfoy had taken a few steps before he opened his mouth.
'Don't say it!' Harry forestalled him.
Ron made a hand gesture that indicated he considered Malfoy a keen seeker of masturbatory pleasures instead. Harry ignored him.
'So what the hell is going on, mate? Hermione and I tried to get you at home this morning, but Kreacher said you'd already left. It's an outrage. What are we going to do about it?'
Harry swallowed his toast. 'For now? Nothing. Or, more to the point, everything.'
Ron looked at him. 'Buggery bollocks. You're off on another of your crusades, aren't you? Harry, they're pairing me with Robards. You can't just … Oh crap. I know that look. You are, aren't you. Right. Tell me all about it.'
Harry noticed that his own spare red Auror robes were on the coat rack, and that his work broom was tucked behind it, just as Malfoy returned, laden with a large box and a stack of scrolls tucked under one arm. A leather work-coat and formal black Unspeakable robes were attempting to slide off the top of the box, Harry stepped forward and caught them.
'Thank you,' Malfoy said, not ungraciously. 'If you could put the robes on the rack, I'll take the coat into the laboratory.'
'I'll do it,' Harry offered, and did. Malfoy placed the box carefully on the table before stowing the scrolls. Harry draped the coat over the back of the tall-backed chair in the corner, noting the scorch marks and stains that showed it had known hard use.
From the box, Malfoy pulled three sets of goggles, which he lined up on the corner of the table, then a face-shield and a set of earmuffs.
'Do things explode often?' Harry asked.
'I'll reinforce the door. And no, not that often. Moderately often. On the low side of moderate. Usually only when I'm experimenting.'
'I'll bear that in mind. Are you good to go?'
''I'll just grab these,' Malfoy said, snaring a row of small glass vials held together by leather thonging from out of the box. He went to tuck them into the pocket of his working robes, but stopped at Harry's frown. 'What is it?'
'We're going to interview a Squib, who lives in the Muggle world …'
Malfoy nodded, and reached inside the box again, drawing out a leather satchel that looked sufficiently like something a bike courier would use to pass muster. He tucked the vials inside it and unbuttoned his working robe. 'Is this shirt all right?'
'It's fine, but you'll need a coat to look professional. Just something light, it's meant to be hot today. I usually just transmogrify my uniform and then change it back later. Saves time.'
Malfoy nodded, and touched his wand to his robe with a whispered incantation.
'Maybe something a little less ornate?' Harry suggested, altering his own clothes as a demonstration.
Malfoy nodded and followed suit, creating a black wool jacket that covered him neatly from neck to hip.
'That's good. Here, you'll need this. We use Muggle IDs whenever we have a crossover case. So if you end up in Muggle custody for any reason, insist on having the Ministry of Defence called in. Their top brass know about us.'
Malfoy looked at his card and nodded. 'So, do we Apparate? Or do we have to go by train?'
'Trains to Bedfordshire take too long. We'll Apparate and then just walk the last. He's in Barnfield in Luton, and the map says there are gardens nearby. They should provide enough privacy. As long as we don't cock it up and appear in the middle of the college, we should be fine.'
'Have you been there before?'
'Once. I can side-along you if you haven't.'
Harry met him halfway. 'We do that a lot in the Auror Corps. It's just practical if one person knows the area better than the other. Better than Splinching.'
Malfoy nodded. 'Fine. Do you normally leave the Ministry first?'
'Merlin no,' said Harry, taking hold of Malfoy's upper arm and Apparating the two of them to Bedfordshire.
They appeared in a quiet council garden, with no-one in sight. Harry had copied the map of the area onto a page of his notebook, and led them quickly down two neat and tree-lined streets to the last known address for William Bustamant.
According to the brief notes in the file, Bustamant was a Squib, whose younger sister had attended Hogwarts from 1974 to 1980. He had joined the Metropolitan Police in the mid 1970s and had been a promising Detective Sergeant at the time of Sirius's arrest. The Auror in charge of the investigation had left a note praising Bustamant's competence and efficiency. It also noted that he had been on the scene only shortly after the explosion had taken place.
Harry had half-thought Bustamant's house would be in one of the post-War developments, but the address was a pleasant detached brick dwelling near the River Lea. The garden was a mix of flowers and vegetables, with pots of chilli and okra bathing in the late-July sun. The paved path to the front door was neatly swept and edged with patio roses in a riot of reds and oranges.
The door opened before either of them had a chance to knock. A medium-height young woman with dark skin and a darkly suspicious look greeted them. 'Yes? What is it?'
Harry held his card out to her and kept his back militarily straight. 'I'm Harry Potter, this is Draco Malfoy. We're from the MoD. We were wondering if William Bustamant was still at this address?'
She peered at his card, then at the one Malfoy submitted for investigation. Twice she flicked between the photos on the cards and their faces. 'Special Forces …' She looked more closely at Malfoy's coat, then his boots. Only now in the bright sunlight could Harry see they were both embroidered with black silk. 'No you're not.' She leaned back into the house and shouted. 'Dad, there's two men here. They're Funnies.'
Harry managed not to roll his eyes. The slang for Wizards had caught on among those who came across them professionally – usually paramedics, members of the armed services, the Metropolitan Police and most local police forces – except for the Welsh who couldn't be bothered with politeness and called them the wackos. For the most part the people who used the word had no idea that wizarding Britain existed, only that there were people and events that could not be explained, and that were hidden from normal channels by government sanction. Harry suspected that half the stories of aliens living amongst us had come about through rumours that began with an Auror and an MoD ID card.
A tall man appeared in the doorway behind the young woman and looked out at them.
'Mr Bustamant?' Harry guessed. 'I'm Harry Potter, this is Draco Malfoy. We're here about the explosion in Hackney in 1981.'
'Let them in, Iris,' William Bustamant said.
The woman stepped outside and waved an arm graciously to indicate they should enter. Harry noted she put herself in a perfect position to tackle either of them should they cause any trouble. She had police written in large metaphorical letters above her head, and in literal ones on the stab vest that was hanging up just inside the doorway.
William Bustamant was tall and somewhere around sixty, but he walked with a slight limp, which slowed down his otherwise vigorous stride. 'My daughter doesn't think that people should bother her aged father now he's retired,' he told them, leading them through the main part of the house and out into a sun-filled kitchen filled with the fragrances of fresh bread, spices and vinegar. A middle-aged woman with an utterly splendid profile was sitting at the table. She looked up at them in surprise. 'This is my wife, Elizabeth,' Bustamant said. 'These two gentlemen are from the Ministry,' he informed her.
'You're them?' she asked. 'William's sister is one of your lot. And my uncle and cousins.'
Harry shot a quick glance at Malfoy. His eyes were wide, but he was otherwise containing his reactions well.
'We're here to ask your husband for his help on a case he investigated back in the early 1980s,' Harry replied noncommittally.
'You weren't even born then,' said the young woman – Iris – who had followed them through the house.
'We were, actually,' said Harry. 'Mr Bustamant, would you have some time? It should only take half an hour or so.'
William Bustamant nodded. 'But not here. I'm assuming we can't go to your offices?'
Harry frowned. In theory, Squibs were exempt from the Statutes of Secrecy, for obvious reasons. But in practise …
'We'll go to my office,' Bustamant said, opening the back door.
Iris took a step forward. 'Dad, you don't have to. Or I can come along.'
'They're not here to cause any harm, pet,' Bustamant said with a smile. 'It's a professional visit, and I've always had time up my sleeve to help out you young ones.'
Iris did not look impressed, but she sat at the table with her mother and left them to follow Bustamant outside.
'She's a DI, you know,' he said. 'Ten years earlier than I was. She's staying with us until my knee finishes healing, wouldn't let any of the other three do it, despite it being a long commute for her. You can't blame her for being suspicious, trouble does tend to follow your lot.'
Harry kept silent, and was pleased to see Malfoy had the sense to do the same.
Bustamant led them down a gravel path to a well-made timber shed, past what looked like a small market garden. 'Elizabeth wins prizes for her pickles and chutneys at every show,' he told them. 'My mother and her mother both left her their recipe books, full of old Kittitian versions of British food. The WI think it's exotic, even though we're second-generation and it's half Mrs Beeton, but Bedfordshire is less cosmopolitan than Shoreditch was. I grow whatever she wants. It's a good way to spend my retirement, out in the sun, getting some exercise, with a shed.'
He held open the door for them. The area just inside did resemble a traditional potting shed, with stacks of small pots, cloches and frames alongside bags of compost and sulphate, tools hooked to the wall in practical order. But then came a wide doormat, for scuffing off the dirt, apparently, then two sofas, a small television and fridge, and a bookshelf crammed with a mix of books: gardening, mysteries and crime.
'My office,' he announced. 'Care for a cuppa?'
An electric kettle stood on a tray atop the fridge, with cups, teabags, sugar and honey.
'Black and one, thanks,' said Harry, who didn't need it, but accepting a drink always smoothed over the start of any conversation.
'White, if you have milk,' said Malfoy, following Harry's lead.
'Proper milk,' Bustamant replied with a wink. 'If they ask you, it was low fat, right?'
Harry was pleased to see Malfoy nod conspiratorially, even though he would bet he had no idea what Bustamant had meant.
'So,' said Bustamant, switching the kettle on. 'That "gas explosion" has finally come back to haunt me. I knew it would. Everything about that was wrong, but none of your lot wanted to listen to me.'
Malfoy shot Harry a surprised expression, one Harry suspected he mirrored.
'That man they took in, he wasn't right. He was laughing. Kept saying they had it all wrong. I think he'd been hit in the head, I was going to check him for a concussion, but before I could, your lot had him down on the ground and cuffs on, then whoosh, out of there.
'I thought at the start it was a weird one. I was just around the corner when it all happened, on my way back from a fatal MVA. I could hear the shouting, so I went to turn into the street and just as I did, the blast hit, and it was like something out of a war – huge hole in the road, awnings down, people blown through windows. Can you pass me the milk? It's just inside the door.'
Harry did as asked, then accepted his mug of tea in return. Bustamant joined them on the sofas.
'I thought it was the IRA. There'd already been two attacks that month. That's why I wasn't worried about that man your lot went after: he wasn't the type. Posh, English, just standing there in the debris. He looked as though he was in shock, I think there was blood in his hair, but I didn't have time to look at him closely, I had one man who'd had the top of his arm sliced through and I had to get a girl to hold it shut – she was marvellous, didn't flinch. Then there was a boy who'd been thrown against a wall, we used towels from the haberdasher's to keep his neck rigid. One woman had her foot half blown off and I didn't even notice her for the first seven minutes. She made her own tourniquet from her scarf and a bit of one of the awnings. Got a stranger to tighten it for her. He just did what she told him. She said she'd been a Guide and remembered her first aid. We got her and the bleeding man into the first ambulances, the second lot were there only a couple of minutes behind.
'Then your lot came in. They went straight for that tall man. No rights, no questions, just knocked him off his feet. I shouted at them, came running over, warrant card out. Their top chap went to stop me and that's when I saw the robes: red, with the embroidery. I'd seen them earlier that year when Mary, that's my sister, was going out with one of your lot, and I think I just said, "Aurors. I should have known," and his attitude changed completely, and suddenly I was part of the team and we were going to make sure no-one had seen anything that would upset them.'
Bustamant shook his head. 'It wasn't right, what we did. They were shocked and confused and we meddled with their minds.'
Harry nodded. 'If it helps, I've found that people are usually relieved when they have a simple explanation for something that seems inexplicable.'
'But they can do that for themselves. And they do. There's no call for anyone to mess with their heads.'
'I agree,' Malfoy said, to Harry's surprise. 'But we are a nervous community. You have to understand that over the course of history, a lot of our sort have suffered at the hands of …'
Bustamant finished the sentence for him. 'People who were scared, or jealous. Who didn't understand because no-one explained anything to them.'
Malfoy nodded, soberly. 'Yes. And they can be vicious.'
'True,' Bustamant agreed. 'Now, you tell me the rest of the story.'
Harry kept his expression carefully blank.
Bustamant leaned forward. He was a physically imposing man, but his body language spoke reasonableness and containment. 'If there wasn't more, you wouldn't be here. I spent thirty-seven years in the Met, young man, I know how things work. I've given you a full and clear statement. If you ask, I'll dig out my notebook for that time and provide you with my written record. In return, I would like you to do me the courtesy of explaining what the hell went on that day.'
'There was a war,' said Malfoy.
Harry frowned at him, but was roundly ignored.
'One of us, a madman, set out to amass enormous personal power, and murdered his way towards it. The night before the explosion, he …' Malfoy flicked a look at Harry. 'He attacked a young family and killed most of them. He, too, was apparently killed in the process. Emotions were running high the following day: the family had been a central part of the war effort, and it was thought one of their friends had betrayed them.'
'The tall man,' Bustamant guessed.
'Yes. His name was Sirius Black. It was thought he caused the explosion while attacking another friend, a man named Peter Pettigrew.'
'The one he was shouting at.'
'That's right. Since then, evidence has come to light that strongly suggests Pettigrew was the source of the explosion and that he intentionally framed Black. Black spent years in prison and died before his name could be cleared. Pettigrew is dead, too. We were hoping you could put us in touch with the witnesses who survived so that we could have a go at reconstructing the crime scene.'
'But how will that help? They had their memories changed.'
Harry answered this time. 'We may be able to reconstruct their original memories, depending on what spells were used.'
'Spells …' Bustamant shook his head. Harry realised it was the first time any of them had referred directly to magic. 'Will that harm them?'
'No,' Malfoy assured him. 'What I plan to do won't change a thing, it will just give us a clear record of what they saw, whatever is still stored in their memories.'
'All right.' Bustamant stood up. 'Let me find my notebook. I took names and addresses of about fifteen people that day. We should be able to find some of them at least. Iris can help if we need it.'
Harry gave Malfoy a small smile. Technically, he should have reprimanded him, but Squibs really and truly were a grey area, so technically he might not be in breach of anything, and Bustamant had responded well to Malfoy's honesty.
Bustamant was rummaging behind the fridge. Harry stood up and realised there was a small safe secreted away beneath a pile of magazines. It was open, and filled with black-covered notebooks. Bustamant found the one he was looking for and locked away the rest.
'October to December, 1981,' Bustamant said. 'I can scan the pages for you.' He looked at both of them. 'Or you have some magic thing that lets you do that, don't you?'
'Yes,' Harry admitted, taking his wand from its pocket inside his coat. 'Do you want to show me which pages we should be looking at?'
Bustamant flicked through the book filled with neatly pencilled print. A column was left free down the left hand side of every page, with notes added into it at intervals. Harry admired his method. It was similar to the one he used himself, and probably learned from a similar source. Harry's style of Auroring had not been what Dawlish and others within the Ministry had been expecting. He wasn't sure if they thought he'd just shout 'Expelliarmus' whenever confronted with a bad 'un, but he had worked hard all through his fifteen months of training to develop as full and thorough a set of skills as possible. Where others waited around for a case to reach a crisis where they would be able to Apparate in and grab the bad guys mid-evil deed, he started most cases trawling through paperwork and seeking to establish connections.
While many preferred the quiet knock on the door in the dead of night, Harry was more the loud statement of arrest in the full light of day, so everyone knew what was happening, and why.
He had two secret advantages. A childhood filled with his Aunt and Uncle loudly decrying his innate criminality had meant that he was well known to the local Plods who had one and all kept a close eye on him as a boy, and also one and all declared that he was all right, really, and that if he studied hard he'd get into university and never need see any of that lot again. From them he had learned the benefits of listening, and of passive policing, where merely standing around somewhere obvious meant that most crime didn't happen. Constable Stebbins, who had been a frequent school visitor and very keen on the topics of road safety and stranger danger, had once told a class of fascinated ten-year-olds that a policeman's best friend was his notebook. Harry had found this to be true: merely pulling his notebook out had a dramatic effect on people's willingness to assist. And if yours, like Bustamant's, was full of as many details as you could gather, then in a later period of quiet reflection, it was amazing how much use you could get out of it.
And then there had been DI Frank Burnside, the best character on Uncle Vernon's favourite television show and one who shouted loudly enough to be heard even through the cupboard door. Harry had pinched many of his best lines over the years, and lived for the day he would arrest a gang and be able to declare: 'They've got a combined tonnage of six, which is coincidentally also their average IQ.'
Bustamant came to a stop in his flicking. 'Here. And up to here. The phone numbers won't be any use to you; they've all changed since then, but some of them may be at the same addresses.'
Harry nodded, and touched his wand to the pages, then to his own notebook, transferring the information exactly.
'That's a neat trick,' Bustamant said. 'Now, do you have telephones, or computers, or any way of finding out whether these people are still alive and where they live now?'
'No,' Harry admitted. 'What usually happens next is that I approach the MoD liaison with a list, then they go through their channels, then in a few days, they get back to me.'
Bustamant shook his head. 'Things were faster than that even in the Seventies. Sit back down, lad. We can do better than that.'
He reached beneath the sofa and pulled out a silver rectangle, which Harry recognised as a laptop computer. 'BT to start,' said Bustamant. 'We'll throw in the name and address, and if they're still there, the phone company will give us their new number.'
It involved a little fiddling, but at the end of ten minutes they had four matching names, addresses and numbers from the list. Malfoy was perched on the arm of Bustamant's sofa, watching intently as the typed names disappeared and were replaced by information spewed forth from a distant database.
'We could never make this work in the Ministry,' he told the ex-policeman. 'Too much magic, it interferes with the power these things run on. But we're idiots if we keep letting the MoD take days to get back to us.'
'They probably have a few dozen forms they need to fill in before they can do anything,' Bustamant said in fairness. 'There are all sorts of ethical considerations when it comes to privacy in the official sphere, but a lot of the general public don't give a damn about any of that. Iris was telling me they have a thing called MySpace now where they even put up when they're going on holidays, for the convenience of your local house-breaking professional.'
The three of them shook their heads in agreement at the stupidity of far too many British civilians.
Bustamant closed the computer. 'But you have somewhere to start, now. Mary Dacre, John Lumley, Thomas Wentworth and Anne Russell. I remember her, she was the woman with the foot. You should start with her: astonishingly clear-headed. Lumley was one of the shopkeepers, your lot spent a lot of time with him, he might be good, too.'
'Thank you,' said Harry.
'Oh I'm not doing this for free,' Bustamant said. 'I want you to come back and tell me what happened. Let me know if all those people are all right. Reassure me that I didn't stand by while your lot scrambled their minds.'
Harry recognised the look on Bustamant's face. He, too, would give anything to know that his own involvement in the wars hadn't caused any collateral damage. But while he came with a long list of dead, from his parents to Ted Tonks, Dobby to Colin Creevey, Bustamant did not.
'You could come with us,' he offered. 'The interviews might go more smoothly if you were there.'
Now it was Malfoy's turn to look surprised. Harry was perversely pleased to be on the receiving end of his glare.
'And it would give you a chance to see that our methods are uninvasive,' Harry continued.
Bustamant looked at him thoughtfully. 'This is the fifth or sixth time I've crossed paths with your lot,' he said. 'And the first in which any of you have offered up any information.'
'A new Ministry for new times,' Harry said, parroting Kingsley's slogan only a little ruefully.
'Your own version of Operation Countryman, I'm guessing,' said Bustamant. 'And neither of you have any idea what that means, do you? Not to worry. I would very much appreciate joining you if it is possible.'
'Good. So, do you need anything?'
'Jacket, walking stick, wallet and phone. Your friend could probably do with plainer clothes if you plan to convince anyone you're really with Counter-Terrorism.'
'I'll fix it outside,' said Malfoy. 'Away from your technology.'
'Good man. What do you plan to tell them?'
'We thought as you did,' Harry said. 'IRA. Say that we've received new information that leads us to believe it was another attack and that we're trying to see if we can bring about a prosecution.'
'Plausible,' Bustamant agreed. 'So, let us return inside to explain to my understanding wife and slightly fierce daughter why I will be spending the day on an outing with the two of you.'
Harry was pleased to see that Malfoy's jacket and shoes were unadorned by the time the reached the house's back door. He was less pleased to see that Iris Bustamant had an extendable baton tucked beside her newspaper on the table, but it did speak well for her as an affectionate daughter, so he pretended not to notice.
'I am heading out with these two,' William Bustamant announced as he led them in.
'Not by yourself, you're not,' Iris muttered.
Elizabeth left the room and returned with a sturdy walking stick and a tan canvas jacket. 'Do you need any extra money for lunch or taxis?
Bustamant took them and kissed her cheek. 'No, I'll be fine. I can catch the train home if I have to. If my knee plays up, I'll call you from the station and you can pick me up.'
'Take your phone.'
'I'm just getting it now.'
Iris Bustamant stood up and went after her father. Although she didn't even bother to glare at them, Harry noticed that she had the sort of build that spoke of many hours in training. Probably throwing people and things, given the look of her upper arms and speed of her stride.
Harry couldn't hear what they were saying in the other room, but from the 'It will be fine' and 'You need to get in to work, you are cutting it fine even for an afternoon start' that Bustamant called behind him as he returned to the kitchen, he could offer an educated guess as to the conversation.
'All right, gentlemen. Shall we go?'
Harry thanked Mrs Bustamant for her hospitality, and was pleased to see Malfoy do the same. 'You are more than welcome here,' she said, smiling. 'Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, wasn't it?'
'Yes,' said Harry, aware she was taking their names for the record.
'I will see you later, when you return William.'
'Yes,' said Harry, emphatically.
Bustamant chortled all the way out the front door. 'I see you have the right attitude to dealing with wives.'
'Never, ever get in their way,' Harry said fervently. 'Same for mothers. Same for every woman over forty who's not a homicidal psychopath.'
Bustamant stopped and looked back at him.
'Don't ask,' Harry said.
The fragrances of the front garden hit them afresh as they walked outside. Malfoy caught up with Bustamant. 'You said we should start with Anne Russell. Downs Park Road?'
'It's what I would do. Where's your car?'
'No car,' Malfoy said, grinning. 'Are you up for an adventure?'
'No car …' Bustamant looked at them both. 'You're not going to…'
But Malfoy already had.
'In essence, yes,' Malfoy answered.
'And how do you make sure all your bits arrive in the right order?'
'And people don't see you?'
'Sometimes, but they usually just assume you were there all along and they failed to spot you.'
'You get used to it. Potter's arrived, which way do you think it is from here?'
Bustamant led them left out the front of the park, and down a long street, past a row of shops and terraces in varying states of repair. He walked swiftly, despite favouring his right leg. He had a few inches on each of them, and there may have been a tiny amount of scurrying to keep pace, but neither of them would have admitted to it.
Anne Russell's house was freshly painted and with the last of the wisteria not quite gone to seed.
'We should have rung,' Bustamant said as he pressed on the bell, but there was movement inside the house and the door opened within the minute.
A woman with a wave of swept-back white hair and wearing a navy blue trouser suit opened the door. 'Yes?'
'Anne Russell? My name is Harry Potter. This is Draco Malfoy. We're from the Ministry of Defence and we're investigating an incident you were involved in back in 1981.'
She looked at their cards briefly, then at Bustamant with concentration. 'I know you,' she said. 'You were there.'
'William Bustamant,' he said, nodding politely. 'Detective Sergeant back in those days. I'm assisting these two.'
'Well, you'd better come in. Cup of tea?'
Harry agreed, despite the protests of his bladder and Malfoy's urgent little head shake. She led them down a hallway lined with bookshelves into a sitting room with yet more books, several photos of a young Anne Russell and a young man, two obviously from their wedding, and one small white cat taking up an entire settee.
'Down, Milly. Let the gentlemen have a seat,' she said. To Harry's surprise, the cat moved. Mrs, he guessed, since she still wore a wedding ring, Russell smiled at them. 'I'll be back in a moment.'
She was, with a tray of matching tea things, including milk in a jug. She poured to order, and listened to their spiel.
'I always did wonder about that. There were so many terrorist incidents in those days. People forget. They think it's a new thing, and last year on the Tube and buses was simply awful, but really, it was every bit as bad back then. I mean, they went after the Queen and the Prime Minister. All those poor horses and policemen. And shoppers, children … So how can I help?'
'We were hoping you could tell us what you saw,' Harry said.
'Oh, it was a very long time ago … I remember mostly what happened afterwards. People running to help each other. You,' she looked at Bustamant. 'You were very good, moving between us, keeping everyone alive until the ambulances arrived.'
Russell shook her head. 'There was nothing you could have done for those others. It was a terrible blast. I was on my way home from school, I was a librarian in those days, and I paused, because those two young men were having such a violent argument: I thought I might have to get involved. You wouldn't know it to look at me, but I was always very good at breaking up fights in the playground.'
'You remember the men?' Harry asked gently.
'I remember one of them. He was unusually good looking. Beautiful in the way men used to be a few years before that, with his hair down to his collar, and his clothes and boots all form fitting and black. He looked like a teenage girl's idea of Heathcliff – they forget he was probably black, you know, but it's all in the text,' she said to Bustamant. 'He was very angry, but very sad at the same time. That's what I remember about him, how beautiful he was, and how sad. I'm afraid I didn't get a very good look at the other one, and I don't know what happened to either of them afterwards.'
Malfoy coughed gently to attract her attention. 'If you were amenable to the idea, we have had some good results using hypnosis,' he said. ‘We’ve used it a lot with injured veterans, helping them to remember incidents, to recover from trauma. It’s completely safe and painless …’
Mrs Russell put down her tea cup. 'Hypnosis? How exciting. Does it require anything …?' She waved a hand vaguely.
Malfoy shook his head. 'I talk to you, while you focus on an object, and we see if we can access the parts of your memory that have been locked away.'
'It's that simple? How much will I remember? And what sort of object? A pocket watch?'
'You should remember everything that comes back to you. All we're doing is restoring your ability to access your own memories. It will be as though you are seeing it happen in front of your eyes. And I usually use, er, a stick.'
'And it's non-invasive?' Bustamant asked, looking narrowly at Malfoy.
'I promise you, all it does is allow what is there to become known.'
'And we can do it here?' Mrs Russell asked brightly.
'Now, if you'd like.'
'Can I have a quick word with Mr Malfoy first?' Harry asked.
Mrs Russell was surprised, but polite. 'Yes, of course. Would you like us to leave, or …'
'Not at all, we'll just step out into the hall for a moment.'
Malfoy drew in a breath as he followed Harry out. Harry put up a hand in a gesture of peace.
'I have faith that you know what you're doing,' he said, before Malfoy could get a word out. 'But, A, what are you doing? And, B, your equipment looks like … Well, it looks like wands and phials and cauldrons, because that's what it is. And they're used to wires and screens and things that go beep. That's what they think of as normal.'
Malfoy thought for a moment. 'That makes sense,' he said. He took one of the phials from his bag and drew out his wand. With a tap and a whisper, he changed it into a small black box with a screen, and wires trailing. He looked at it. 'How do you think we ought to attach the wires to her? We can't just stick them in her ears …'
Harry made an heroic effort not to laugh. 'So what are you going to do? Is it like Legilemency?'
'Exactly like, but with a little extra bit I’ve added. It projects and collects the memory. Perfectly safe spell, it just needs a willing subject and a little bit of effort. I’d remind you that I know nothing useful about hypnotism.'
'Of course. Right. Well, if you’re up to it, I'm thinking about a Muggle thing called electrodes. They're a bit sticky on one side and the wires go into the other side. Er, if you take a look inside my head …'
Malfoy looked at him, and Harry felt a light brush of another mind on his own. It felt nervous, though he supposed it was hardly likely that Malfoy would approach the task with the vigour of Snape, Voldemort or any of his Auror trainers.
'I think I can do that,' Malfoy said, and concentrated on his gadget. With another two passes of his wand, it looked suitably scientific.
'That should do it,' Harry agreed.
Malfoy kept the ex-phial in his hand as they walked back in. 'Mrs Russell, would you mind if we attached this to you while we work? It's a … a …'
'It looks like a portable EEG,' she said.
'Yes. Very much like that,' Malfoy said, and Harry thought the relief in his voice was really rather well disguised. 'I'll just attach these electrodes to your forehead. The machine will show us an increase in brain activity if this works.'
'Oh, how clever.' Mrs Russell held her hair back and let Malfoy work. 'Now I'm sitting comfortably, do we need to turn the lights down or can you work like this?'
'This will be fine.' Malfoy paused. 'It's quite normal for you to literally see your memories. I can make sure that doesn't happen if you think you'd rather not.'
Mrs Russell gave him a long look. 'It will be fine,' she said after a moment. 'It was hardly my worst day. Let's go.'
Malfoy drew his wand and murmured some hypno-nonsense around an augmented Legilemens. 'Just keep your eyes on the stick. You are back in 1981, at the beginning of November,' he told her. 'You are walking home from school. Two men are arguing in the street …'
'I see them,' she said, and as she did, they saw them, too. Sirius floated in the air in the middle of the sitting room, Peter above the coffee table. Bustamant started as the figures materialised, but stayed silent. Harry was impressed, but said nothing.
'It's very strange, because they're acting as though they are in private, but it's mid-afternoon. The street is quite busy. The early workers are heading home and mothers are on their shop run. Most people pretend they can't hear them, but a few of us slow down, in case there's trouble. The tall one is calling the short one a traitor. Asking him how he could do it. Telling him they loved him, and he killed them. He's taking a step forward and then he stops. The short one is shouting that it wasn't him, that it could never have been him. And now he's angry. Saying that they all lied. That they never cared for him. Now he's twitching and shouting, saying "No!" But the tall one isn't doing anything. He's just standing there, with his hands out. So I take a step forward, because I think the small one is going to throw something, and there are men running towards them from the pub, because they think the same thing. And that's when the blast happens.'
Harry could see where her memories had been altered. Sirius's hand was closed around something, but there was no wand there. Pettigrew had his fist furled around something similarly invisible. The blast was a white-out of explosive force, blurred and muted.
She paused and swallowed. 'I'm on the ground. There's far too much blood. I have my scarf off, and there's a lump of wood beside me and I am reaching for it and I'm going to pass out, but then there is a man. He's very ordinary, but very calm and he asks me what he should do, so I tell him, and he does it, and I think he is simply marvellous. His name is Eric. We still exchange cards you know, every Christmas. Then the tall black policeman comes by and he starts chatting with me, and then he sees my foot and he stands up and shouts for the ambulance personnel, who have just arrived. He asks me how long it has been since we put the tourniquet on, then he pulls out his pen and he writes the time on my leg. I think how clever that is.
'The ambulance men lift me onto the trolley. Eric comes with me, he's carrying my handbag and my bookbag and he's found my hat. Oh. The beautiful man. He's still there. He's standing in the street, and he's covered in dust. I had forgotten that. And now they're shutting the door. It's all been so fast. I thought it had been much slower, but it was only a matter of minutes.'
Harry couldn't help himself. 'Before the blast, do you remember what they said?'
'Yes, of course, he said …' Mrs Russell paused. 'He said …'
They moment at which her memories had been removed was obvious: Pettrigrew shouting 'No', Sirius shouting 'Peter!'
'How strange. I know I heard more. I must have hit my head. Maybe that's how I lost my hat?'
'That's all we're going to get,' Malfoy said, quietly. He tapped the altered phial, then held his wand in front of Mrs Russell's face. 'On the count of three, you will wake up feeling refreshed and relaxed. You will remember everything, but it won't distress you. One, two, three.'
'Of course it won't distress me,' she said, patting his knee. 'It was twenty-five years ago. I came out of it with a few scars, but they were mostly physical.'
She rolled up her right trouser leg and showed what Harry was startled to see was a real ankle above her slim leather shoe, circumnavigated by a white scar. 'Absolutely wonderful work at the hospital. They told me I would probably lose it, but there was a team working on experimental surgical techniques, and in the end it healed in record time. Doesn't even trouble me now: I get worse from the hip I banged in the fall when it rains.'
'That's excellent news, Mrs Russell,' Malfoy said. 'You have very fine ankles.'
'Dreadful young man,' she said, smiling broadly. 'Now, was any of that any help?'
'Yes, very much so,' Malfoy said without hesitation. Harry nodded agreement.
'I can't help wondering if it mightn't be better all buried,' she mused. 'I mean, the Irish did have grounds for complaint. But not when there were innocent victims involved, don't you think? Some of the people on that street were just children, and one of them died. You can't overlook that, can you? Not if there's a chance someone did it on purpose?'
'No,' Harry said. 'You can't.'
They spent another half hour in pleasantries, and taking down Eric's details, and promised to update her with the results of the investigation, which Harry fully intended to do in an edited manner. Malfoy ended up with the cat in his lap, and Mrs Russell apologising for the large amounts of white hair shed onto his black trousers. But he apparently liked cats, so it was Malfoy's hand she held onto as they made their farewells.
'Do stay safe, won't you?' she said. 'And you, Mr Bustamant.'
'And you. It was very good to see you again, and to see you so well.'
Bustamant led them down Amhurst Road to Mare Street where the explosion had occurred. He walked ahead, and seemed to be thinking.
Malfoy started off striding to keep up with Bustamant, then stopped to drop back beside Harry, then walked faster to catch up to the Muggle, before giving up and lagging back with Harry. He gave Harry a few curious looks as they walked. 'Potter, are you all right?' he asked at last.
'Fine,' Harry lied. It had been one thing knowing what had happened on that day, but another seeing it. He hadn't realised that Sirius had hated Pettigrew so thoroughly because he had also loved him once, like a brother. The same way I love Ron, he thought. Or, more accurately, Neville. Though Neville could never have committed a betrayal like that. But he had seen the moment when Sirius had wanted to kill Pettigrew, and had been utterly unable to do so.
Malfoy jogged ahead to catch up to Bustamant. 'Are you all right?' he asked.
Bustamant stopped. 'That was your people who fixed her foot, wasn't it?'
'Yes,' said Malfoy.
'So you can do that.'
'Sometimes. Not always. But we would have tried for all of them, I think. Our people would have considered it their fault, and that they should do what they could.'
'Which makes up for everything, I suppose.'
'No,' said Harry, joining them. 'They were just trying to do what they could.'
'And you can see inside people's heads?' He was glaring at them.
'Not easily,' said Malfoy. 'Usually only when they let you. You don't need to be magical to keep someone out if you really want to. Whoever changed her memories could only manage it because most people trust the man with the official card or the uniform, and believe he has their best interests at heart. But we can collect memories that people give us access to. That's what the box does. Stores it up for later, so we can review it.'
Bustamant rubbed his eyes. 'Did you get what you were looking for there?'
'No,' Harry said.
'Are they all going to be like that? Where you can see things are missing?'
'Probably,' Harry admitted.
'But we might be able to see a pattern in the absences,' Malfoy said. 'Or stitch small clues together into usable ones.'
'Down this way then. John Lumley still has the newsagency.'
Lumley himself still worked there most mornings, they caught him just as he was handing over to one of his staff members. He was the sort of man who, though in his mid-fifties, would have considered Harry and Malfoy contemporaries, and was exaggeratedly polite towards Bustamant, because he definitely wasn't racist.
'After all this time, eh?' he asked, peering at Harry and Malfoy's identity cards. 'Well, better late than never, I suppose. Come through, I'm upstairs. I was about to put the kettle on, can I tempt you with a cuppa?'
'Yes, of course,' said Harry, ignoring Malfoy's quiet groan behind him.
'I did think that story was suspicious, you know,' he told them as they arranged themselves around his mostly IKEA living room. 'Because I said to Ronnie, that's the missus, she works at the job centre, I said to her afterwards that it was amazing none of us ever smelled any gas. And I know they said it was well underground, but you would think that if that much had built up … Anyway, what can I tell you?'
Lumley turned out to be even keener on the idea of hypnosis with EEG feedback than Anne Russell had been. 'Does it have a printout?' he asked, lifting up the box as Malfoy attached the electrodes to his head. 'Only it would be good to be able to show Ronnie, wouldn't it? Prove I've got a brain and all.'
'No printout,' said Malfoy.
'No, too small to fit one in, I suppose. It's amazing what they can do with electronics these days. Suppose it uploads wirelessly?'
'Bluetooth,' said Harry, who had been mostly listening when Dudley explained his new phone last time they caught up. 'We can print it out back at the office and send you the readout.'
'That'd be champion, cheers. Just amazing. Right. So what do I do?'
Anne Russell appeared in Lumley's memories. He had heard the argument, tutted loudly about young people today with one of the customers in the shop. He'd gone to the door, planning to shout at them to shut up and shove off.
'That big bullying one was just shouting like a madman. Kept waving his fist. And the poor little fella, you could see that he just wanted to turn tail and run. There were a bunch of the locals who stopped to see what the problem was and I was just about to step outside and sort it all out, when …'
He had been luckier than most. A spate of robberies had seen him reinforce his door and install safety glass. Although he was peppered with debris, none of it was lethal, and the people who had been propelled into his windows came out of it with broken bones, not slashed arteries. He had run to the phone and called for ambulances and police, so he wasn't wholly without sense, though Harry noticed that he had taken the time to lock the till before he had gone outside to help.
But here, too, they could see the hands of the Muggle-Worthy Excuses team. The argument had been more muted from inside the shop, but Lumley had been watching Pettigrew closely towards the end, and he simply froze in position, some seconds before the blast. It, again, was a blur of white and heat, with no way to make out details.
Bustamant frowned at the two of them, and Harry shrugged. They had known they would not find it easy to go beyond the work of earlier wizards.
Lumley was less inclined to chat afterwards than Mrs Russell had been, but he also extracted a promise that they would keep him up to date. 'Because when you're involved in something like that, you want to know the details, don't you?’ he said, which Harry couldn't help agreeing was perfectly reasonable.
'Pub,' said Malfoy as they left the newsagency.
Harry looked at him in surprise.
'Pubs have lavatories,' Malfoy said.
Harry began to suspect that Malfoy might actually be as clever as he thought he was.
They lost man points for using the cubicles, rather than the urinals, but since Harry felt they were still involved in a little leftover metaphorical pissing contest, it would have just been far too weird. Bustamant was waiting for them when they came back, three meat pies with mash on the table in front of him.
'It's lunch,' he said, tucking in.
Halfway through his pie, he added, 'The secret is just to take one or two sips of the tea. You just need to show willing.'
Harry added that to his stash of invaluable copper tips. Normally his days were not back-to-back interviews, though if they were going to be dealing with cold cases in this office, he could see that they might well be in the future.
'Your people did a proper job on them,' Bustamant observed as they finished up.
'We have three more people we can talk to today,' Harry said. 'Then, if you wouldn't mind, we could ask Iris if she could chase down the others on your list. And we have more names, we can use our MoD contacts to see what they can find.'
Bustamant nodded. 'I'll ask her tonight.'
Malfoy pushed his plate away. 'Give it a few hours and we'll see where we're at then.'
'All right. We should call the others, see if they're home or if we can meet them somewhere.'
'Good idea,' said Harry. 'Can we use your phone?'
'Unless your wand has mobile coverage …'
He wasn't exactly sarcastic, but the interest he had shown at the start of the day, and the joy of Apparating, they had shifted into something darker.
'Mr Bustamant …' Harry began.
'Is it your leg?' Malfoy asked. 'We could see if the Healers could do anything about it. I've developed spells for a few of them, they owe me favours.'
'You leave my knee alone,' Bustamant whispered sternly. 'It's nothing to do with you. A stockbroker in a Range Rover making a left turn without looking. This knee paid off my mortgage, and I am happy to do all the physiotherapy it needs.'
'Sorry,' Malfoy muttered.
Bustamant stood up. 'Come on. You can owe me for the meal.'
His recollection tallied strongly with Anne Russell's. 'She's a lovely woman,' he said. 'She's met Bill and the girls, never forgets a birthday card.'
Partridge had not been as sanguine about the attack as Mrs Russell, nor as self-centred as John Lumley. As he recounted the events, he sweated, and Harry could see the ease which some long-gone wizard had tried to impart in his editing of the man's memories. It seemed Bustamant could, too, as he was quiet throughout their goodbyes.
'Thomas Wentworth should be next,' she said as he led them up the street. 'He's in Kennington, so we don't want to cab it. We can take the overground to Islington, then change for the Victoria Line and then the Northern …
'Or we could Apparate,' said Malfoy.
'It would be faster,' Bustamant agreed.
'Do you know the area?' Harry asked. It had been surprising enough that Malfoy had known of the existence of Hackney.
'Fine. Let me.' He took both their arms, and transported them to a quiet driveway just around the corner from the station.
Bustamant looked around, then checked his notebook. 'It's not far from here. I was once called in on a particularly nasty murder just down that street. Chainsaw.'
Harry did not press him for details.
Thomas Wentworth, 45, activist, was not inclined to assist them with their enquiries.
'Is it compulsory?' he asked from his position at the top of the stairs, not inviting them in through the door.
'No,' Harry said.
'Though it would be helpful,' Malfoy added.
'Yeah, well I found that all very traumatising and I have no wish to relive the experience. Especially not if it's going to be used by the authorities to wage a campaign against an oppressed group.'
'We're just trying to establish the truth of events in 1981,' Harry began.
'Give up on that, your government makes up whatever it wants to fit the result it wants, doesn't it? I mean, look at Iraq …'
Bustamant's voice cut across. 'Thank you for your time, Mr Wentworth. We won't detain you any longer.'
Wentworth shook his head. 'It breaks my heart to see a brother mindlessly on the side of the Man,' he said.
'And it breaks mine to see a middle-aged man wearing cargo pants, but we move on. Have a good afternoon.'
'We could have Imperiused him,' Malfoy said as they walked back down the road.
'Do I want to know what that is?' Bustamant asked.
'No,' Harry said, quickly. 'And it's illegal, so we couldn't and wouldn't have done it.'
Bustamant gave them both a look. 'That leaves Mary Dacre, she's moved to Canterbury, but she's in town, so we won't need a car. You realise you two will need a car if you plan to interview any normal people who live in the country or the suburbs, yes?'
Harry hadn't given the matter any consideration, but Bustamant was right. 'I'll organise something,' he said. 'Malfoy, do you know Canterbury well?'
Malfoy looked at him as though they were back in fourth year. 'Shall we meet at the Cathedral?' he asked.
'It's the easiest.'
'I'll take Mr Bustamant.'
Two hours later they were once again full of tea and cream cakes, and had had a lovely walk around the Becket Shrine, where Ms Dacre was researching for her new book. Harry had a newfound appreciation of mediaeval iconography, but feared they were no closer to any answers as they thanked their gracious host and left.
'It looks like a wasted day for you boys,' Bustamant said. 'Though it has been enjoyable to get out and about. And I have more of an idea of what it is you people do in one day with you than in fifty-eight years of having a witch as a sister.'
'She doesn't do magic at home?' Malfoy asked. Harry cringed a little.
'No, Mr Malfoy, she does not. Not since we were small children and our older brother used to bully her for being strange. That stopped the day she turned all his words into dog barks. My father put in an urgent international call to his second-cousin in Nevis, complaining the whole time that there went the month's drinking money. A few hours later a nice little witch from your Ministry came round and put the situation back to normal, then our father sat us down and explained a few of the family peculiarities.'
He had started walking quickly again, applying his walking stick to the ground with thumping vigour. Harry and Malfoy strode to keep up.
'You look like decent people, and you have treated everyone kindly today, so I don't for one moment think that you intend to be hurtful when you just take me by the arm and move me miles across the city, or when you tell me that you can wave a wand and say some words and my leg will be better. But you have no understanding of what it is like to know that, but for an accident of birth … And the tragedy of it is that there's not a thing anyone can do about it.
‘And I am not sure that I would want anything done, even if it could be. Mary has had dark days, and there was that time a few years back when she left her children with us and would not talk about what was happening. I do not think your world is entirely one of marvels.'
'Potter spent his childhood with the most powerful dark wizard of our times trying to kill him,' Malfoy volunteered.
It should not have worked as a tension breaker, but it did.
Bustamant laughed, and then stopped and looked at Harry, who shrugged.
'I'm still alive, he's not. It all worked out in the end.'
'And we're better off not knowing?' Bustamant asked with a raised brow.
'In this case, most emphatically yes.'
Bustamant stopped walking. 'I believe you. So. Will you want my help when you have more names? Or should we say our goodbyes?'
Harry started to talk, but Malfoy interrupted him.
'We haven't finished,' he said. 'I still need your memories.'
'That smells delicious, Beth,' Bustamant told her as he led them through the house.
She put her spoons aside to come over and kiss his cheek. 'You've brought your young men back with you. Are they here for dinner?'
'No, just one more thing we needed to sort out. We'll be in my office.'
'No drinking beer, we promised William and Amy we would visit them tonight.'
'I haven't forgotten,' he called back, leading them out into the garden. 'Anyway, these two are still on duty.'
He unlocked the shed and bustled them in, offering them bottles of craft brew from the fridge. Harry accepted one, raising it and saying, 'Two sips.'
'So you can be taught.'
Bustamant sat heavily on his preferred sofa and pulled the coffee table close enough to put his bad leg up on it. 'So.' He looked at Malfoy. 'You wanted to look inside my head.'
'If you allow it.'
'I didn't see the explosion. I was driving my car, and I wasn't close enough to see past everyone there.'
Malfoy was removing yet another modified phial from his satchel. 'I'm hoping to gain a better sense of what happened after the explosion. You were assessing the scene for victims, you would have looked at it closely.'
Bustamant nodded. 'That makes sense. You don't really need to attach that to my head, do you?'
'You can just hold it.'
'Give it here. All right, pull out your wand, let's get this done.'
Bustamant's recollections began as sound: the flick-flick of an indicator light, the engine of a Fiat, and loud shouting from outside the car. His hand, younger and stronger, reached out for the radio that was snugged into his dashboard. He announced his identification and asked for assistance from the nearby station. 'Altercation on Mare Street, crowd forming. I'm going to have a look, but uniforms would be a good idea …'
He was halfway through the turn when the car was hit broadside by the blastwave. They could see it bounce on its shocks, and Bustamant's head smacking into the back of his hand on the wheel.
'Shit!' His hand pressed the radio handset urgently, while he drove his car onto a bare spot of pavement and turned the engine off. 'Urgent assistance required! Urgent assistance! Significant explosion, I can see bodies and casualties. Full response required. Send whatever ambulances you have free, and get Bomb Disposal down here, there's probably more.'
He was out of the car before he finished speaking, tossing the radio back inside and slamming the door. He paused only long enough to grab a first aid kit from the boot before running into the cloud of dust. He went straight past Sirius, pausing only long enough to ask, 'Are you all right?'
'All right? I'm all right,' Sirius echoed, and then Bustamant was past him, sprinting towards a man slumped outside the off-licence in a pool of rapidly spreading blood.
The next eight minutes was like being back at the Battle of Hogwarts. People groaned and screamed, and asked if they were going to live. Bustamant moved among them with calm determination, grabbing the uninjured and mildly bruised and pairing them with people in need of assistance. He gave clear instructions, assuring them they were doing excellently, and that the ambulances would be there very soon.
The scream of sirens came closer from several directions at once. Two PCs in uniform were first, one busied herself with first aid while the other began dispersing the crowd that had begun to gather, telling them they were in the way and that the ambulances would need full access up and down the road. Harry could hear his monotone of 'Move along' through the rest of Bustamant's recollection.
There was Anne Russell and Eric Partridge, he ran past John Lumley, and a shocked young man that Harry recognised as Thomas Wentworth. A teenaged Mary Dacre assured him that she was covered in someone else's blood and then the ambulances were arriving and he directed the first two to the heavily bleeding man and to Mrs Russell.
And then there was a crack of sound, ignored by most but not by Bustamant, and Aurors had Sirius on the ground and Bustamant waded in, shouting.
He had been polite, earlier that day. His actual words had been far more direct. 'Fucking Aurors, I do not think so. This is my crime scene on my patch and you are not contaminating it. Pack up your shit and put down that man and get the fuck out.'
The lead Auror had stopped, surprised, but only for a moment. 'We need to take him in,' he had said. 'He's one of ours. This is one of our problems and it's spilled out.'
'Well you can fucking unspill it.'
They could see in the remnants of the shop windows how thoroughly Bustamant towered over the Auror, but the Wizard had neither been cowed nor sought to intimidate. 'We've got a team coming in now. I've put them in high-vis vests, told them to tell everyone they're trauma specialists.'
They had lost this elegance of procedure in the chaos of the Voldemort years, Harry thought. He wasn't sure which of the Aurors who had been on the scene this was, but he made a mental note to find out, and to read his reports, because this was proper policing, restoring order and safety, even if they were horribly misguided when it came to the arrest.
Sirius was behind them, being dragged to his feet. He was shaking his head, and laughing: incongruously, ironically. 'You're entirely wrong,' he said, more than once, and then he was gone, along with the men who had been holding him.
'That's a bullshit arrest,' Bustamant told the lead Auror, but then he, too, was gone, and Bustamant turned to find his scene filled with men and women in orange vests, some of them climbing into the back of ambulances, some speaking gently to the casualties. He looked down the road in time to see Bomb Disposal appear, which finally saw off the crowd of onlookers.
'I think that's enough,' he said, in the present.
Malfoy tapped the phial with his wand and the projection of Bustamant's memories ceased.
'So. One more view to add to your collection, no closer to finding out what actually happened,' Bustamant said.
'Not at all,' said Malfoy, emptying his satchel. 'You've actually provided the final proof we needed.'
Malfoy gave a small smile. 'Potter, when you blast someone with your wand, what direction does it go in?'
'The direction you throw it,' Harry said.
'Exactly. Simple physics.' Malfoy tapped all the used phials with his wand and multiple images of the street appeared, with Sirius and Pettigrew seen from several angles. He flicked his wrist and the images all moved together into one, complex view, almost wholly three-dimensional.
'This is the street before the explosion. You can see where everyone is standing, the pile of magazines outside the newsagency, the overflowing bin. And this …' he twisted his hands and the picture changed, 'is the street afterwards. Sirius is still in the same position. There's a gaping hole where Pettigrew was. And Sirius is covered in debris, there are magazines at his feet, all that rubbish is flung up the street. Mrs Russell has been knocked off her feet back towards him. All the casualties radiate out from Pettigrew, and they are much, much worse in front of him than behind.'
Bustamant stood up and looked at the shapes in the air. 'The blast had to come from here,' he said, tapping the space where Pettigrew had stood.
Malfoy nodded. 'I needed to look at your memories, because they weren't modified. You didn't see what happened, so there was no point. But you agree in every detail with the dispersal of the materials and with the description of the crater. This is real. This is what was there. None of our people are on the scene yet. All of the lies they told later when they were faking the official reports and convincing people that what they saw wasn't real, none of it changes this. This is proof.'
'You're a very clever young man,' Bustamant said, approvingly.
'And I think that if we take our time to go through everything more carefully, we'll find a lonely finger, and images of a small rat running away. Mrs Russell described Pettigrew as twitching, and Lumley said he looked as though he wanted to turn tail. I think they made those connections from what they saw at the time and we'll find images to back them up, even if the links have been lost to their conscious minds.'
'A rat?' Bustamant sipped at his beer. 'You've lost me.'
'Peter Pettigrew could turn into a rat,' Harry said.
'Of course he could.' Bustamant thought for a moment. 'This dark wizard who spent his childhood trying to kill you; is he the homicidal lunatic behind the war that these two were caught in?'
Bustamant nodded. 'And so, was that your family …?'
Harry nodded in return.
'I see. I have been less polite to you than I could have been today.'
'We dragged you out of your house across half the south-east and made you buy us lunch,' Harry pointed out.
'But you gave me answers.' Bustamant raised his bottle. 'Thank you.'
'You've earned it,' he told them. 'I thought you'd do it, but in a month, maybe a week. Not one day. At this rate we'll run out of things for you to do by the end of the year.'
'If we're still going by the end of summer, I'll be amazed,' Malfoy muttered.
'I look forward to your amazement, Mr Malfoy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have three more meetings before my dinner engagement.'
Their office had been finished in their absence, and Harry was pleased to see a tray marked 'Solved' on the edge of his desk. He dropped Sirius's file into it.
Malfoy was busy turning his clothes back into their original forms.
'That was good work today,' Harry said.
'Yes, well, not everything has to come with a huge price tag and a corporate logo on the side to be a worthwhile piece of magic,' Malfoy said.
'You don't need to tell me,' Harry agreed. Then tried again. 'I was expecting you to be good at the spellcraft. You were good at school, you've worked hard since. I've seen your file, I've heard what the other Unspeakables say about you. What I meant was, you did good work on the Auror side of things, too. You adapted to changing situations, you thought on your feet.'
Malfoy shrugged. 'I had a theory and it paid off. It might not have.'
'Then we'd have just tracked down every single other name on those lists,' Harry said.
'You would have. I'd have come up with a good excuse for experimenting on something.'
Harry laughed. Then he realised he was laughing at one of Malfoy's jokes, and stopped.
Malfoy looked at him. 'We don't have to be friends,' he said. 'Both of us have friends. But you work hard, and you give a damn, and you care about the actual job rather than the political crap around it. And I think that is a good thing for an Auror. And I think that I can do the things you can't, and you can do the things I don't want to do. Which means that even if this department only exists until Dawlish is fired or gets over being pissed off with you, I think we can make it work.'
'I think we can do it brilliantly,' Harry corrected him. 'Which will really, really upset Dawlish.'
'I'm all for that,' Malfoy agreed.
'And it will really make a difference to people like William Bustamant,' Harry added.
Malfoy had been packing his bag, readying to leave. He put it down. He reached over to Harry's desk and took half of the stack of potential case files. He sat back down and began to leaf through them. He waited until Harry had, smiling, begun to do the same, before he quietly said, 'I'm all for that, too.'
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK...