Harry skidded to a halt in his headlong flight from Lucius Malfoy-- Merlin blast whatever idiot in the Ministry had dipped a finger in the Malfoy fortune and decided the man was no longer dangerous enough to be incarcerated in Azkaban-- and blinked at the banner on the message board in front of him. It bore a vaguely familiar emblem: a shield shape covered in a chequy of gold and silver, over which was emblazoned a black lion, rampant. It seemed to him he'd seen the thing at some point during the Auror trainees' special coursework on "Muggle Studies: Blending In"...
A mischeivous grin blossomed on his face as the significance of the symbol set in, and he darted for the indicated door. He fumbled in the pocket of his robes for the Muggle money he'd taken to carrying in case of emergency, and plastered on a cheerful expression for the woman at the 'gate' table.
"I'm not too late, am I?" he asked, raising his eyebrows in that rougish, of-course-I-am-but-you-know-you-like-me sort of expression that had made girls giggle and sigh dreamily his seventh year and dragged down the corners of Snape's mouth even more emphatically than usual.
"Of course not," the Lady answered pleasantly, reaching for a pen and a notebook half-filled with scrawled names. "Site fee's $12, or $17 if you're staying for the feast. Just sign here-- don't forget your Mundane name-- and here's the waiver if you're not a member. Non-member surcharge is $3."
He fumbled a twenty from his stash-- he wasn't fond of American money, but he'd become familiar with it in the six months he'd been stationed here. With a flourish, he signed the register 'Uberrima Fides', in honor of his pursuer, 'Stubby Boardman' next to it, and repeated the procedure on one of the waiver forms. Horribly obvious choices, maybe, but it wasn't like he'd have to worry about Malfoy checking the register after him; the man was high enough in the instep that he'd be unlikely to even notice the 'menial Muggle' at the table, much less the papers spread before her.
A young man at one of the tables just inside the hall eyed him appreciatively as he entered and he felt a momentary qualm of discomfort, but it disappeared as soon as the Muggle opened his mouth. "What an excellent cloak, good sir!" he spoke, with exaggerated formality. "I have never seen such fine garb. Pray tell, who is your tailor?"
Harry stifled an amused smile, taking in the other's hand-sewn leather trousers and eye-searing green velvet doublet. He wasn't sure what era the man had intended to evoke with his clothing-- Harry wasn't exactly a connoisseur of historical fashion, in any culture-- but the effect was certainly attention-grabbing. "Madame Malkin," he answered, "but I'm afraid she is centred in the Shire of Harpelstane, and does not take long-distance orders."
"Harplestane?" The man blinked. "I do not recognize that name... but given the accent, I am not surprised. You are from England, perhaps?"
"Scotland," Harry laughed, trying to match the man's formal wording, "but you are not far off. I was raised in the Shire of West Dragonshire, but I had my education in the north, and settled there afterward."
"You have travelled far, then, to attend the Festival of Light..."
Harry let the young 'lord' ramble on for a few minutes more, then carefully disengaged himself from the conversation and pushed farther into the crowd under the guise of inspecting the heraldic banners above the high table. He passed dozens of people wearing cloaks, robe-like dresses, primitive leather garments, and ornamental weaponry the likes of which he'd never seen in any other place. The variety of colors, fabrics, and jewelery represented was astonishing, and reminded him of nothing so much as the first glimpse he'd had of wizards trying to dress as Muggles, only in reverse. Combined with the high level of noise in the hall, it made a wonderful screen for Harry's movements. If Malfoy had the bright idea to follow him in here, he'd have a hell of a time finding him without Harry noticing him first.
There was an empty seat at a table in one of the corners, and Harry took it, facing the door. The people seated around him were busily laying out a variety of dinnerware: cups, bowls, plates, and tableware in pewter, pottery, glass, or wood. He made a surreptitious gesture with his wand under the table-- he rarely needed the Latin these days for the simpler sorts of spells-- and pulled similar dishes from his robes. In a touch of whimsy, he added the Black crest to the conjured items; Sirius' inheritance was still in the Ministry's keeping, though it had been five years since his death, but it would be Harry's if Pettigrew were ever caught.
"Beautiful craftsmanship," the older woman to his left spoke up, eyeing the forest green porcelain goblet with an acquisitive eye. "Ah, I don't believe I've ever seen you at events before? I am Lady Margo of Tara."
"Uberrima Fides," he answered, "of the Shire of Harpelstane. I'm just passing through, but I thought I'd take in the Festival while I was in the area."
She perked up at the accent, and he suppressed an annoyed groan. What was it with American women and British accents?
"Really?" she asked brightly. "Is the Society there much different? I've never had the opportunity to travel..."
Thank Merlin he'd had the opportunity to nourish his Slytherin side in the three years since graduation. Remus and Snape had both informed him-- with vastly different emphasis on the words, of course-- that he had grown as much like his father in behaviour as he always had been in appearance; he wasn't especially proud of the comparison, but that had been his intention. Nearly everyone had liked and respected James Potter. It was... useful for the Savior of the Wizarding World to be seen in the same light.
He spent the next two hours chatting amiably with his tablemates and participating in their impromptu chess tournament before he felt the slight mental tickle of the apparition wards going down. He stifled a smile as he moved a pawn forward another square. He knew Lucius would still be watching for at least another half an hour; Death Eaters might not care if Muggles saw them disappear into thin air, but they knew that Harry did, and worked that 'weakness' into their plans. For all the good it did them.
The feast was scheduled to start in another fifteen minutes, so it was just as well. He'd have a chance to sample the first course-- they were serving something called Catalonian Cuisine that looked interesting-- and then he could slip out when they served the next set of dishes. Besides, he knew his partner would be looking for him soon, and he was anticipating the man's reaction with a nearly manic level of glee. The older wizard had a hard enough time dealing with ordinary Muggles in their work for the Order; he would be entirely nonplused by the likes of these.
Harry didn't have long to wait. Thirteen minutes after he dished his plate full of 'historical' Muggle delicacies, there was a disturbance at the entryway and a tall, slim form enveloped in black looked down a beak-like nose at the gate-keeper.
"Ma'am, I am perfectly aware... no, I am not here for your paltry feast..." Snatches of conversation drifted across the hall, and Harry smirked. He watched as the woman argued and frowned, then finally heaved a sigh and pushed the register toward the interloper. A long, elegant finger traced down the list of entries, scanning each of the scrawled names written there, then turned the page over and began again.
Games up, Harry thought, and shook his head with amusement as his partner suddenly looked up from the register with an irritated glitter in his dark eyes. He folded his napkin next to his plate, then pushed his chair back from the table and stood to address his tablemates. "Farewell, my lords and ladies; I'm afraid my companion has arrived, and we have an urgent meeting to attend elsewhere."
"Really, Potter? I'm surprised to hear it. I'd thought you had decided to waste the entire day in this imbecilic fashion." Snape's tone was as acerbic as ever, and he still had a tendency to loom in a rather malevolent fashion, but thirty-four months of extensive exposure had rather dulled their impact on Harry.
He took in the surprised-- and rather pleased-- expressions of his tablemates, and rolled his eyes. "Pot calling the kettle," he teased, eyeing his partner's obviously well-tailored cloak and robe, then gestured toward the rest of the hall's occupants.
Snape cast another glance around the tables, noting all the eyes watching them, and his lip twitched in an incipient sneer of distaste. "Indeed," he drew out through clenched teeth. "And while, ordinarily, I would not... discourage this... activity, we are urgently required elsewhere."
Harry laughed. "Don't hurt yourself, Severus," he said, and swept the feast gear he'd conjured 'into' his cloak, twitching his wand through a motion to banish them as he did so. "Lucius didn't find me, and I had an enjoyable few hours; I'm sure Minerva will understand."
Snape grumbled, but subsided, and turned to stride toward the exit.
"Some days I really like this job," Harry mused, and followed.