Harry crouched in his invisibility cloak next to a thick bush. He blew on his gloved but cold hands as he watched the entrance to a cave at the foot of a cliff which was under a sloppy camouflage charm. He hated forests; particularly ones that looked like the Forbidden Forest. It held too many bad memories, and his PTSD cropped up. It made him jittery. Crouched for hours on a stakeout in the middle of winter didn't help his mood.
Ron, who huddled next to him, shot him a worried glance. "Alright, mate?" he whispered.
"Yeah." Harry nodded towards their target to let Ron know he wanted to focus on the mission, not chat. He didn't mean to be so cold, but sometimes that was all he could feel.
His long wait proved fruitful when he caught sight of Fenrir Greyback slinking out of the narrow cave entrance. In the rain, wearing a faded trench coat, the werewolf nearly blended with the rock face. For once he was without his pack. It was a prime opportunity to catch him.
Harry waited until Greyback neared a crevice about twenty feet away, before jumping out of his cloak and stunning him. Ron ran into the cave while Harry secured their target. A moment later, his partner called out, "Clear!"
"It's kind of anti-climatic," he told Ron when he came back out. They'd been following the werewolf's trail for months after reports of multiple sighting of him and Rodolphus Lestrange meeting together.
"Yeah, but don't sound so disappointed. I, for one, prefer it when a job goes smoothly. Got a family to go back to."
Harry knew Ron didn't mean to be cruel, but the words still stung. He would never admit to his envy of his friends, so he smiled sadly at Ron and told him, "You're right."
"We both do, you know that right?"
"Yeah." He looked at the bound werewolf crumbled on the snowy turf by the cliff face and muttered, "Rennervate." As Greyback groaned, Harry could barely keep himself from killing the bastard then and there. Instead, he demanded, "Where's Lestrange?"
Even though he squirmed in his magical bindings, Greyback grinned nastily and kept his mouth shut. Harry kicked him in the solar plexus. Then, as Greyback curled over his stomach with a groan, Harry kicked him in the face. Kneeling down, he jabbed his wand against the werewolf's bearded cheek and repeated the question through gritted teeth.
"I suggest you don't test him, Greyback," said Ron from his shoulder.
Coughing, Greyback spat some blood onto the snow-dusted ground, before glaring up at the young Aurors. He said gruffly, "He's doing a better job than you lot tracking down his Ol' buddies. If you don't hurry, you'll run out of people to arrest." He cackled delightedly and added, "But he might be doing you a favor with his next target, I'll wager."
"I doubt it," Harry scoffed coldly.
With a bloody grin, Greyback said, "You sure? You'll probably want this one dead."
"I want all of you dead. But that's up to the Wizengamot to decide."
"Oh, but you have a particularly nasty history with Draco Malfoy and his family, don't you?"
Harry couldn't help the scowl that formed between his brows at the name and Greyback's grin got bigger. "It's too bad I won't get a taste of him. I wanted to sink my teeth in him this time, nice and proper."
Ron shot the werewolf a stinging hex, which abruptly cut his laughter short. "Where's Malfoy then," he pressed.
"Don't know," grunted Greyback.
"Lestrange must have an idea if he's tracking Malfoy? What does he know?"
"You figure it out, Potter. It's your job."
This time Harry grinned. "Yeah. And I'm good at it."
With a resigned sigh, Ron said, "Harry, I've got your back but make my life easier. Don't leave any permanent marks on him."
"That's what magic is for."
"Relax." Harry pointed his wand at Greyback and muttered a stronger variation of the stinging hex. It targeted internal organs. Greyback began to writhe and cry out in agony, as if under the Cruciatus.
"Bloody hell," Ron whispered.
Harry ignored him and leaned closely over the werewolf's ear. "I can drag this on all night until the Cruciatus starts to look like child's play."
Gritting his teeth, Greyback tried to speak, but all he managed to do was groan and spit. Harry waited patiently as Greyback rode out the pain, but when he finally strung together a sentence, he said, "You'd...ve...made a half decent...Death Eater, Potter."
Harry sensed Ron moved angrily towards them and held up his hand to halt him. "Tell me what you know. Where were you and Lestrange to meet up?"
Greyback glared silently. Harry shot him another hex, this time aimed at his crotch, and waited again for the werewolf to regain his senses. With his rugged face plastered against the forest floor, Greyback struggled to breathe. "Fuck!" he cried, spraying spit and snot into the dirt.
"Next is your prostate. Tell me the location of the rendezvous."
Harry lifted his wand again.
"Okay...okay! Lestrange set up a portkey somewhere in Yorkshire. S...s'pposed to take me...to 'im...fuck!"
"Where in Yorkshire? Tell me everything."
"Fuck you, Potter!"
Sighing, Harry made good on his promise. Greyback screamed. It took a few more stinging hexes in the right places to squeeze the details out. By the end, Greyback was struggling to keep his eyes open against the pain.
Harry watched him coldly for a few moments, secretly relishing Greyback's suffering on behalf of all the people whose lives the werewolf' had destroyed. Then, with a swift flick of his wand, the swelling and welts on Greyback's body vanished. A counterspell for the stinging jinxes; all of which Harry had cultivated over time.
"I hate that you learned those tricks," said Ron as he went back to pick up the invisibility cloak. "They're awfully devious and cruel. Sometimes you look more like a Slytherin than the straight-laced Gryffindor I once knew."
Harry knocked Greyback out with the stunning spell, then stood up and turned to Ron. "As long as we get shit like him locked away in Azkaban and far away from innocent people, I'm fine with being whatever I need to be. We're not in school anymore, Ron."
Ron winced. "I just feel like you're drifting away from us, Harry. You stopped seeing the Mind Healer too. Hermione says it's important that we talk to someone-"
"The war was three years ago."
Ron looked about to argue, but then thought better of it and sighed in exasperation. "You know what, let's just take Greyback and finish our reports."
"I'm going after Lestrange."
Shooting Harry a disbelieving look, Ron cried, "Are you mad? We have to go back and report this. We've got to put a plan together!"
"You can handle it. If we lose this lead we'll find another dead ex-Death Eater-"
"You mean a dead Draco Malfoy?"
Whatever Ron intended to imply so vaguely went over Harry's head. He only knew that he didn't want to see someone else with whom they had grown up die. Even if the person in question was a poncy and overbearing git.
"What I mean is that I want Lestrange locked away for good. Out of all the remaining Death Eaters we're hunting down, he's the most active and the most dangerous. He's killed too many people since the end of the war. We need to catch him soon."
Ron shook his head with an exasperated sigh and put his hands on his hips. "Damn it, Harry. No matter what I say you're still going, aren't you? You can't handle him alone."
"And I won't. As far as he'll know he's meeting Greyback on schedule."
Harry bent over the werewolf and, with a simple cutting spell, sliced a lock of hair from his head.
"You never did play by the rules," said Ron.
"My way is better. Can you handle Greyback by yourself?"
"Yeah. Watch your back, Harry."
"And please don't do anything stupid. Like trying to catch him by yourself. You'll call for backup when you find his whereabouts, yeah?"
"Look who's talking. Weren't you the one that went solo in the Tricklebank case?"
"Tricklebank isn't Lestrange, mate."
"Stop worrying. I'll just make sure we don't lose this lead. And maybe I can get to Malfoy before Lestrange does."
Ron chortled sardonically and muttered, "Of course," then they slapped one another on the shoulder and parted ways. Ron apparated side-along with an unconscious Greyback slung over his shoulders, and Harry apparated to the mouth of Knockturn Alley. His destination was not far off.
Glamour charm in place, he strode down the narrow, deserted cobbled street until he stood before a little shop with black beams and which slanted forward a little precariously. It stood between a rickety apothecary and an antique store with several layers of grime crusted on its window display. The shopkeeper, a short, balding middle-aged man with a white goatee and round, crooked glasses, ducked behind the counter as soon as Harry stepped inside.
"Here now, Brimble! I saw you. Don't make this hard. I'm not in the mood."
Hesitantly, Brimble revealed himself from behind the counter and raised himself on a step-ladder. The narrow shop only had a few wooden shelves and even fewer things on them. Harry knew Brimble kept his illegal goods in a magical space at the back of the shop.
"I need Polyjuice."
With an affronted grimace Harry knew was fake, Bimble cried, "Do you really think I just have that sort of thing lying around? It'll take months-"
Harry cut him off, "Don't test me!" He leaned in threateningly and the little man shrank back. "I'm asking nicely. This is the reason you're not rotting in Azkaban, but the minute you become useless to me, that's exactly where you'll go. Give me the bloody potion, Brimble. I'm not here for you."
This shopkeeper turned away sullenly, muttering, "If only people knew their precious hero is a corrupt Auror," and disappeared behind the moth-eaten drape that led to the back.
Harry did not care much for the man's opinion. He knew he wasn't corrupt. He wasn't out for himself, and he didn't commit any crimes – most of the time. He bent the rules occasionally in order to get the job done. That was what brought the bad guys behind bars – not playing by the book.
When Brimble returned, sour expression still in place on his small, haggard face, he got back on his step-ladder and placed the potion on the counter. Harry took it without paying. He did the small-time crook enough favors as payment.
Once he stepped out, he apparated to Grimmauld Place where he got out of his Auror robes and into a pair of loose Muggle jeans and a pullover. He took out his shrunken Invisibility Cloak from his Auror robes and stuffed it in the back pocket of his jeans. The wind-breaker jacket was a little big on him but would fit Greyback well enough. Downstairs, he took an empty flask from one of the kitchen cabinets, filling it with Polyjuice and a tuft of Greyback's hair before heading back out.
Greyback's directions led him to a rusted old boat, hidden by a disillusionment charm and docked on the River Idle in Yorkshire beneath a bridge adjacent to an abandoned red-brick steel factory. He looked around the gloomy terrain, a vast expanse of hilly turf and a dirt path that led from the factory to the highway. Just to be safe, he muttered, "Homenum Revelio," and when he was sure he was all alone, he stepped into the boat and drank the Polyjuice Potion.
He hated these transformations. It was a miracle they weren't more painful in rearranging his entire bone structure, but once he adjusted he took a few minutes to recall everything he knew about Greyback and practice some of his mannerisms. When he was sure he could successfully pass as the werewolf, he walked up to a dirty Muggle magazine set on one of the stained pleather seats. Taking a deep breath, he went over and grabbed the portkey, immediately feeling the tell-tale tug in his abdomen. Seconds later, he blinked and inspected his surroundings. He was in a freezing old shed – alone.
The rotted roof beams and dark corners were covered in cobwebs and the few items that were strewn around suggested it once belonged to a Muggle logger. Plastered on the door with a sticking charm was a note with a jumbled array of strange characters written in red ink. Harry muttered an incantation which revealed the intended message; a handy thing which Hermione had developed for him. To anyone else, the message would have appeared to be random numbers, but Harry was closely familiar with Death Eater parlance and coded language.
The numbers were coordinates.
Harry tore the note down and stuffed it in his windbreaker jacket. When he stepped out, he was briefly taken aback by the harshly cold wind, the undisturbed snow stretching for miles, and the misty mountains lining the southern and eastern horizons. Intoning a spell which revealed his location, Harry sighed in resignation, wishing he had known beforehand that he would be tracking a dangerous convict through the Swiss Alps. He would have brought warmer clothes.
The warming charm he cast on himself barely relieved him of the cold. He registered the coordinates to his wand and watched as it swiveled like the hand in a muggle compass before pointing northeast. Harry followed his wand, hoping he wasn't too late to save Malfoy.
The destination was further than Harry thought. Unfortunately, the spell didn't reveal his own coordinates. As he trekked through the snowy dunes with his arms around himself and his head dipped low to shield it from the frosty air, he noticed the winds started to pick up and dark clouds approached from behind him. The nearest fringe of trees was still a few kilometers away at the foot of a hill. It was barely noticeable as a dark line rising above a snowy field. He grabbed his floating wand and headed that way, praying he found shelter to wait out the storm before it hit.
Unfortunately, the blizzard caught him before he was halfway there. The snow he trod on was high and he felt it drench his legs through his thin jeans and his Timberlands. His thighs and hands had gone from burning to numb as the freezing temperature seeped into his bones. The fringe of trees ahead seemed to disappear as the snow swirled around him and made visibility near impossible.
He hoped he reached the woods soon. He hoped he found shelter in them. The last thing he needed was to die frozen and lost in the Alps after everything he had survived.