A/N: I must be crazy - two novels at the same time. I had this idea and thought it would be fun, and the first chapter came together so quick I figured I'd post it. Inspired by Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels.
The charge of malicious lingering belongs to Terry Pratchett :)
And of course, I don't own any of the Potter characters contained herein, or the Potter-verse. I do own the OCs and plot.
Edit May 2012: This story won the Diadem Award for Espionage from Ravenclaw House! So pleased. So in lieu of a chapter image, check out this pretty award:
I was starting to think I'd chosen the wrong career.
Not that I chose this one. It just sort of happened to me. But now I was wishing I'd just done something normal, like raising bowtruckles. Maybe become a Healer like my brother. But, no, I was Rose Weasley and had to be different. Independent. Little did I know back then, those two traits in combination meant usually broke.
And now I was hiding behind a hastily-conjured Shield Charm while some idiot threw Bundimuns at me. They were dead, but their creepy eyes were staring at me. Another one splattered against the Shield Charm, splashing bits of green fungus in every direction and leaving only a single eye sliding down the invisible wall of the charm. Ew.
“Give it up, Parmenter!” I yelled.
“You'll never take me alive!” he shrieked. I rolled my eyes. Pyxis Parmenter was a regular of mine, I'd brought him in four times in the last year. He always put up a fight that was embarrassingly disgusting. Last time he'd enchanted eggs to follow me around while I pulled him out of his run-down old house. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get raw egg off your clothes? Just don't let it harden in your hair, that's all I can say.
The worst of it was, he never even did anything that was worth putting up this kind of a fight. If he'd just gone in last week to the Ministry like he was supposed to, he'd have done a week in Azkaban and been home. Now that Azkaban was staffed by wizards instead of dementors, that wasn't really such a horrible sentence. But Parmenter never wanted to
Usually Parmenter was picked up on a D&D – drunk and disorderly. Sometimes he knocked someone out in the pub, and sometimes he had no money to get drunk or disorderly, so he knocked over a shop in Diagon Alley and took the money to buy liquor. Nothing Dark, just minor-league, stupid stuff.
He always posted his bail through Angelo's Magical Bonds. And he never showed up for his court dates. And that was where I came in.
“Come on, Parmenter! If you come along quietly, maybe we can all be home in time for supper. Don't make me hex you!”
He threw another Bundimun at me. His house must have been full of them. This wasn't getting me anywhere, and I was getting hungry. It was way past lunchtime. Typical Parmenter, he never gave in without a ridiculous fight. I hoped he didn't have any eggs up his sleeve.
I pulled down the Shield Charm and ducked another flying Bundimun, running toward the house. I threw a couple of hexes wildly at the house, knowing I probably wouldn't hit him, but it gave me cover to get a little closer. I hid behind a hedge this time, and pulled on a Shield Hat. They weren't terribly useful for long-term, but they worked pretty good for running right into a felon's house and grabbing him without getting turned into a newt. My uncle George sold them, he always gave me a really good price on supplies.
I shot off a couple more hexes, and just as I was about to run into the house and try to grab stupid old Parmenter, a noise stopped me.
I'd never heard anything quite like it before. Picture a hundred rocking chairs creaking at the same time. But ominously, like in a Muggle horror flick. I peeked around the hedge and saw the house seemed to be vibrating. The creaking noise became almost deafening, and I clapped my hands over my ears, still watching as the house seemed to fold in upon itself with a horrible noise as nails were pulled from their wood and pipes broke.
I stared at the rubble that used to be Parmenter's house. Clouds of dust were rising from the crumpled roof. Parmenter was climbing out from under a rotted piece of plaster, looking dazed. The damn Bundimuns must have rotted the foundations of his house, leaving it vulnerable to a spell that should have only blasted a hole in the wall.
On the plus side, he wasn't throwing them at me any more.
I had Parmenter in custody and figured I might as well wait for the authorities to arrive, and let them take him in. I'd have a body receipt either way, and this was less work for me. I was probably going to have to give a statement about how the house had collapsed, too.
I recognized the Magical Law Enforcement officer that showed up. He'd been at school with me, two years ahead. His name was Jack Upchurch, and his dad was a Muggle copper. Jack had gone into Magical Law Enforcement as the next best thing. I'd run into him more than a few times since I started skip tracing.
He grinned when he saw me. “Rose. Did you do this?”
“Not on purpose.”
The grin widened. “You got Parmenter, I see.”
“Yup. Got a body receipt on you?”
“Yeah, I'll take him into custody. You want to make a statement about how his house got demolished?”
Because he was an idiot who couldn't be bothered to clean a Bundimun infestation. “He had Bundimuns. It wasn't my fault.”
“Uh-huh.” Jack was examining the chunks of green slime all over the front yard. “I can see that. And the house just suddenly collapsed? Through no fault of your own?”
“Something like that. Can I get my body receipt?”
“Yeah, sure. Tell Scorpius I said hello.”
As I Apparated home, I wondered if word of this was going to get back to my dad. Magical Law Enforcement seemed to take a great pleasure in informing him of everything I was up to. Sometimes my cases intersected with my dad's, but not usually. I stuck with small-time stuff. Less dangerous. Dad did dangerous stuff. That wasn't my thing, although it did make more money. Larger bail, larger bounty. It just wasn't always worth it to me.
Most of my cases were pretty straightforward. I collected the person, took them in to the MLEs, got them bonded back out again, and off we all went. Some were like Parmenter, determined not to go in, even if it meant humiliating themselves, and me, in the process. Some turned out... dangerous.
No one was home when I got home. Scorpius had helpfully left me a note that said there was lasagna in the stove with a Warming Charm on it. I pulled it out and dug in, not bothering with a plate. Lucky Scorpius knew how to cook, or we'd both starve.
Parmenter had wasted half the day, but I still had time to go by the office and get my fee. I could pick up another case. Maybe pay a few of our bills, before we got evicted. We were a month behind in our rent. It had been a slow month, felon-wise, and Scorpius wasn't bringing in any money either.
After I'd finished my lasagna, I headed over to Angelo's Magical Bonds to cash in my body receipt. I had the bond enforcement contract in my bag right next to the nice empty moneybag for the fifty Galleons he would owe me for bringing in Parmenter again.
Lydia was at the desk, as usual. She was Angelo's niece. Nepotism was rampant at Angelo's; he'd hired his cousin to be one of his skip tracers, too. She was all right, just not terribly intelligent. Spanking good gossip, though, you could always get something useful, or at least amusing, out of her. She didn't particularly care for her uncle, either.
“He in?” I asked, slapping the Parmenter paperwork on her desk with the empty moneybag.
“Yeah, he's in his office. Any eggs this time?” Lydia pulled out a cashbox from under her desk and waved her wand over it. Whatever enchantments had been on it lifted and it popped open. Shame I couldn't go for the real psychos, that was where the money really was. Strictly the small fish for me, thanks. Could've used the Galleons, though. Maybe it was time to nag Scorpius about getting a job again.
“No eggs.” I pushed through the door into Angelo's office.
Angelo Agnelli was about fifty, steely-haired and stockily built. He didn't like me, but then, he didn't like anyone. I couldn't tell you why he put up with me, since I wasn't the Bail Enforcement Agent Of The Year, and I wasn't related to him, either. I had a nagging suspicion it was my family – after all, the Great Harry Potter is my uncle. A lot of people are willing to chat me up because of it. When I tell them how he wears his wife's makeup to cover the scar, they stop listening to me.
“You get Parmenter?” Angelo asked gruffly, looking up at me. He had his feet propped up on his desk and was reading an Auror novel, his shoes nice and shiny and his robes very clean. No one had thrown dead Bundimuns at him today. I should've been a bail bondsman instead of a fugitive apprehension agent. I was clearly on the wrong end of this business.
“Yeah, I got him. Lydia's counting out my fee.”
“I swear to God, I'm going to stop bailing out that worthless piece of crap. He always runs. Always. And I gotta waste money paying idiots like you to bring him in, every time.”
“Uh-huh.” I wasn't concerned by this. A day without an Angelo insult was a day without sunshine. And he would bail Parmenter out again next time, just like he always did. Parmenter had been using Angelo's Magical Bonds for twenty years and wouldn't dream of skipping out on a bond by anyone else. “Got anything new for me?”
“No. Go away.”
“Come on, my rent is due.” So was last month's rent, technically.
Angelo sighed and took off his reading glasses, setting the book down on the table with his finger still in between the pages, holding his place. He reached with his other hand into a file drawer in his desk, pulled out a file, and slapped it onto his desk.
“How do you do that with one hand?”
“Do you want this or not?”
I was skin flint. The fifty Galleons from Parmenter wouldn't make a dent. I'd probably take the folder no matter what it was. “How much?”
“Bond was five thousand Galleons.”
I perked up. I would net ten percent of that. Five hundred Galleons would catch us up on our back rent and pay most of this month's as well. But it was a lot more than I usually took in. I tried not to be suspicious, but I knew Angelo, and he didn't do anybody any favors. “How come you're giving it to me?”
“I hate you and want you to die.”
Angelo sighed again. “You're a pain in the ass, Weasley. My Psychological Healer says I should be doing good deeds. It might lower my blood pressure.”
I was still suspicious. I picked up the file and flipped through it. Butrus Knapper was picked up on a charge of malicious lingering, which would have gotten him a small slap on the wrists when he went in front of the court. Wasn't worth skipping out on his court date for. No violent priors, just a couple of petty theft charges five years ago. He had a wife – with that name? Love must be blind and deaf - so he shouldn't have been considered much of a flight risk. There was a picture of him attached to the folder. He was looking side to side as if he thought someone was watching him, his eyes small and round in his sharp, narrow face. Balding, and not in a sexy way. Receding hairline, like Scorpius's dad. Yup, love was blind.
“Why is his bail so high?”
“What am I, on the Wizengamot? How the hell should I know? Just go find him and bring him in so I'm not out those five thousand gold ones.” Angelo picked up his book again.
Maybe this wouldn't be so bad. Maybe it would be easy money. We could get our landlord off our backs, and stop scrounging food from my parents' house when they weren't looking.
I grinned suddenly, feeling optimistic. “You're a prince among men, Angelo.”
“Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out,” he said.
I went home again and paged through Butrus Knapper's file. It was starting to bother me that this guy's bail was so high for such a small-time hood, so I owled Jack Upchurch to ask what he knew about Knapper's arrest, and then flopped out on the couch to do some reading.
I woke up at the sound of a beak on the window pane. Hadn't left it open for the return owl. I tossed aside the book I'd been, uh, reading, and opened the window. Jack said the case wasn't with Magical Law Enforcement, it was with the Aurors, and I ought to be careful mixing around with anybody who fell in their department. Thanks, Jack, that's ever so helpful. Like I didn't know that anybody the Aurors went after was bad news. My dad and uncle were Aurors, I knew exactly what type of wizards they went after.
I Flooed my dad's office to grill him. What's the point having an Auror for a dad if you can't wheedle police secrets out of him?
He answered in the usual way. “Rosie! What's wrong, do you need money? You want to move back home? Are you finally leaving that no-good layabout?”
“No, Dad,” I said tiredly. “I'm not leaving the no-good layabout. I just want to ask you what you know about my skip, Butrus Knapper.”
I couldn't see what Dad was doing, since I could only see his head in the green flames, but he looked down and I pictured him shuffling papers for a minute. “Oh, him. Picked up on a malicious lingering charge, and then turned out to have about a dozen different proscribed Dark objects on him.”
“Great,” I said. Angelo hadn't said anything about any Dark objects. Lying ferret. No wonder the bail was high. Oh well, I needed the money.
“Nothing big,” Dad hurried to reassure me. “Strictly minor-league stuff. But it was Dark, so he got shunted over to me.”
“And then he took a walk when he got bonded out. Any leads?”
“He's kind of low on my radar, to be honest, Rosie,” said Dad. “He's a middle-man, a dealer, not a Dark wizard. We don't have manpower right now to waste on him, what with this Venatici business. If I turn anything up, I'll let you know.”
I had a warm and fuzzy feeling. Dad actually would let me know, I knew that. If it'd been Uncle Harry, he wouldn't have told me a damn thing. If Knapper were really dangerous, Dad would be lecturing me about not going after him. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Coming to dinner Sunday? You can bring the shiftless layabout,” he added grudgingly.
“The shiftless layabout made lasagna today,” I told him.
Dad tried not to look interested, and gave up. “Oh, go on, then.”
I plopped a generous slab of lasagna on a plate, put a fork next to it, and put it in the fireplace.
“Thanks Rosie,” Dad said, grinning. “Tell Scorpius he's all right.”
Scorpius was all right as long as the food lasted, then Dad remembered all the reasons he didn't like him again. As my mother often remarked, Dad was a man of simple pleasures.
Speak of the devil. The front door was opening, the chains sliding back and out of their slots, so I knew it was Scorpius. We'd moved in together a year ago, just like real grown-ups, and our parents had been harassing us to either get married or split up ever since. Apparently living in sin wasn't on their list of Ways To Gain Parental Approval. I was twenty-six years old, what did I care for parental approval?
Okay, so I did care, but I cared about Scorpius more. He didn't seem bothered by the collective disapproval of the Weasley and Malfoy families. Not enough to leave me, anyway, or get a job.
He smiled at me when he came in. “Did you get Parmenter?”
“Any enchanted eggs this time?”
“No. But I did demolish his house for him.”
Scorpius gave me a look. “Are you serious?”
“Sadly, yes. It wasn't my fault. He had Bundimuns.”
“That's no reason to blow up a person's house,” Scorpius said sternly.
Clearly no one had ever thrown Bundimuns at him
. “I meant he had them in his house, they'd eaten away the foundations. I threw one little hex and the whole thing went down like a house of cards.”
Scorpius laughed. “Only you, Rose.”
“Sell any paintings today?”
Scorpius was unloading his stuff from the enchanted knapsack my mother had given him for Christmas. It was amazing how much crap could fit in there. Easel, ridiculously oversized palette, roll of brushes, box of paints, stack of canvases. “No sales today. I was painting in Hyde Park, got a few Muggles asking about whether I sold my work, though. Passed around a few cards, so maybe I'll get a nibble soon about a sale.”
“I got a new case. Butrus Knapper.”
Scorpius paused with a painting of a couple under a tree in his hands and looked over at me. “Seriously?”
“That's his legal name.”
“Wow. His parents must have hated him.”
This from the man named Scorpius Hyperion. “It'll be five hundred Galleons if I can get him.”
“That's a lot of money,” Scorpius said neutrally as he leaned the stack of canvases against the wall.
“Why do you think I took it?”
Scorpius came over to stand next to me at the kitchen counter. “He's not dangerous, is he?”
I pushed the folder over to him, across the countertop. “Malicious lingering, no violent priors. Got a wife. Should be just another midnight run. Read for yourself.” I decided he didn't need to know the bit about the Dark objects. We really needed the money. Besides, I was starting to like the idea of taking this guy down. I'd finally be like a real bounty hunter. How cool am I?
I'd say. I took down a Dark wizard.
Scorpius didn't look convinced, but he let it slide. “Be careful, okay Rosie?” He hooked an arm around my neck and pulled me close to kiss my forehead. I wrapped my arms around his waist and snuggled close. He smelled like sunshine and paint. Mmm.
I could start looking for Knapper tomorrow. Tonight I had plans, and they all involved Scorpius Malfoy.