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“What've you got to eat, man?” Lenny asked, poking around in the kitchen cupboards.

I was sitting on the couch, re-reading the folder Lydia had given me about Lenny's bail agreement and arrest, and waiting for Scorpius to come home. It was almost four, he was usually home by now. I supposed that meant he was having a good day of painting, which was good, because if he was in a good mood, he might not call the MLEs and turn Lenny in. I was kind of hoping to appeal to his mercenary nature, too, but I have to admit, his nature isn't as mercenary as mine is.

“Hey, cheese puffs!”

We had cheese puffs? Wait, focus. “Hey Lenny, come here for a minute.”

Lenny plopped down onto the floor in front of the couch, sitting cross-legged, and set the bag of cheese puffs in his lap. “What is it, man?”

I held up his arrest photo and said, “I want you to tell me exactly what happened the day you got arrested. And I mean everything, especially the stuff you didn't tell the police or the lawyer.”

“It was pretty wild, man,” Lenny said, stuffing a cheese puff in his mouth. “It's a great story. I was visiting my, um, friend-”

“Lenny, I'm not a cop, or a judge, or a lawyer,” I said patiently. “Tell me the truth.”

“Oh, right.” Lenny ate another cheese puff. “So I was visiting this guy I know who sells this great stuff made from asphodel and mallowsweet, you like, smoke it in a pipe or whatever, but he had upped his price, man, it wasn't cool. So I went in the bathroom to try to, you know, sober up or whatever, so I could bargain with him, cause I'm not very good at that when I'm not, like, feeling like myself-”

I had a feeling Lenny's explanation was going to give me a headache. I motioned to him to get on with it, and he said, “Right. So while I was in the bathroom, somebody knocked on the door, right, and I kind of stayed in there and just listened, cause you never know what will happen when that kind of stuff goes down, and then I heard this voice arguing with Annable-”

“Your dealer's name is Annabelle?” I interrupted. I couldn't help it. His dealer was a guy named Annabelle? Wow. Lenny was always good value, really.

“No, man, Annable.” He said it a littler more clearly, enunciating the last syllable, so it sounded like Anna-bull. “It's his last name, man. I don't know his first name.”

I checked the file. Lenny's alleged victim's name was one of the few details it included. I had skimmed right over it before, and the name hadn't jumped out at me. “Herbert.”

“Whoa,” said Lenny. “Really?”

“Yeah. Herbert Nigel Annable, it says.”

“Man, no wonder he never told me,” Lenny said.

“Anyway, go on. Someone was arguing with Annable. A man or a woman?” I grabbed a quill from the coffee table and started scribbling notes on Lenny's file.

“It was a dude, man,” Lenny told me. “I couldn't really tell what they were saying, but it sounded like the dude thought Annable had done something wrong, you know, and somebody was mad about it.”

“Like the dude who was arguing with him?” I suggested.

“Hey, yeah,” Lenny said in amazement. This had apparently never occurred to him. I gave him the 'go on' motion again, and he continued around another cheese puff, “Then it sounded like they were hexing each other or something, and then there was a flash of green light, and then it got, like, all quiet. So I went out there and the dude had left, but Annable was like, dead, man. And the door was open, and one of his neighbours, this old lady, man, she opened her door and saw me looking down at Annable, and she, like, freaked out. Then the MLEs showed up and arrested me.”

That didn't entirely make sense to me, although if Lenny had been on some kind of substance, he'd probably been even less coherent than he was now, so his statement to the arresting officers would've been a mess. Still, I couldn't see why they were so determined Lenny had done it. “So why do they think you killed him, Lenny? You should be a material witness.”

“Well, you know the, like, murder weapon?”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah?”

“It was my wand,” Lenny admitted.

“How did the dude get your wand?” I demanded.

“I kind of, you know, left it on the table when I went to the bathroom. I guess he picked it up, or whatever.”

Crap. Between Lenny being a crazy addict with an extensive criminal record of petty charges, the murder weapon belonging to him, and the victim being his dealer after an argument over the price of some rubbish Lenny wanted to smoke, I could see why the cops didn't believe in 'some dude' having been the real murderer. Lenny's charge had probably been dropped to manslaughter because of his dad and because none of his previous crimes had been violent, although that still rang funny to me. I sighed. Poor Lenny. This really didn't look good.

“I think you should, like, try to find that dude,” Lenny said, eating a cheese puff. “The one who killed Annable? He could totally like, exonerate me or whatever.”

“Good idea, Lenny,” I said, but before I could ask him for more details on the dude (seriously, I was thinking I might just refer to him as The Dude until I found out his actual name), I heard the locks turning.

“Hey, I think your boyfriend is home, man,” Lenny said, turning to the door.

Scorpius came inside, singing cheerfully (I could actually name the song, for once: 'Man of La Mancha'. It was one of his favourites), his hair in a braided ponytail and his sleeves streaked with paint. He stopped dead when he saw Lenny.

“Is that Lenny Graves?” he asked me.

“Yeah. Hey, we need to talk.” I scrambled off the couch, dropping Lenny's file on the coffee table. “Come with me to the bedroom. Lenny, you stay there, okay?”

“Yeah, man,” he said, and Scorpius gave me a look.

“It's not what you think,” I said automatically, and honestly, whatever he was thinking, it probably wasn't that I was harbouring Lenny from a murder charge, so this was actually a true statement.

“This is going to be good,” Scorpius muttered.

“I totally don't weigh twelve stone,” Lenny said. He was looking at the file on his arrest. “I'm, like, eleven at most, man.”

I followed Scorpius into our bedroom, and he set his rucksack on the bed with a sigh.

“I was having a really good day,” he said. “Why the hell is Lenny Graves in our flat?”

“He was arrested for murder,” I told him.

Scorpius looked startled. “What, Lenny? No way. Lenny wouldn't kill anyone.”

“He skipped his court date, probably because he didn't know what day it was thanks to the mallowsweet and azaleas or whatever he's been smoking lately, and Angelo assigned me to go pick him up and bring him in. But Lenny says he didn't do it, and he's going to give me eight hundred Galleons to help him prove it. Eight hundred Galleons,” I repeated, in case he had missed the salient point.

“That's a lot of money,” Scorpius said warily. “Are you sure he has eight hundred Galleons?”

“His dad is Merton Graves. Lenny can get us the gold.”

Scorpius rubbed a hand over his face. “I was only gone for a few hours... How do these things keep happening? At least it isn't a serial killer.”

“That wasn't my fault,” I reminded him, though he'd seemed to be talking to himself.

“Isn't it illegal to let him stay here if he's wanted for murder?” Scorpius asked me, obviously not convinced yet.

“Well, technically, it is a bit, but I'm the bounty hunter who's supposed to be catching him, and he's in my custody, so really it's only going to be illegal if the Ministry finds out. Besides, nothing is going to happen.”

Scorpius gave me a look. I had to admit, that had been some fast-talking rationalization, even for me.

“Would I lie to you?” I gave him my trustworthy smile.

“Yes,” he said. “You lie to me all the time, Rose.”

“Not all the time,” I hedged, and leaned in to kiss him.

“You are not going to sway me with sex,” Scorpius said, but he kissed me back.

“It won't be for long,” I murmured. Murmuring was all I could manage at the moment. My lips were kind of busy. I scooted a bit closer and threw one leg across him, so I was sitting square on his lap. “He'll sleep on the couch, I'll find evidence to clear him, we'll have three months' rent. It'll be great.”

The kissing worked, or possibly the sitting on his lap. Scorpius caved. “All right. He can stay.”

“Thank you.” I kissed him again and slid off his lap. “Also, we're going to help him sober up.”

“Sure,” said Scorpius, shaking his head. “Why the hell not.”

“So how did your painting go?” I asked, nodding at his rucksack.

Scorpius was what my father called a failed painter (to be fair, his father also called him this), and what I called a starving artist. Well, not starving, because I bought food and Scorpius cooked it, or I'd be a starving bounty hunter. Cooking was not among my skills. But Scorpius painted, and once in a while actually sold a painting. Mostly he gave them away to people we knew. Mainly my family. Almost everyone I was related to had one of Scorpius's landscapes in their home.

He grinned, and fished a small rectangle of paper out of his jeans. “Look at this, I met an agent today!”

I read the paper. It was mostly a bunch of numbers, and an address in Muggle London. At the top was the name Gregory Barnes. I had no idea artists had agents. What the hell did they do? Walk around Hyde Park handing out cards, it seemed.

“He said I had real talent, and he might be able to get me into a gallery,” Scorpius said excitedly. He took the card back and tapped it with his wand, then slapped it up on the mirror over our dresser, hanging by a precarious Temporary Sticking Charm.

“That's great,” I said sincerely, and not just because if Scorpius was in a gallery, his paintings might sell for actual money. I really did want him to be happy as an artist too, and I knew this would make him very happy. It was clearly making him so happy just at the possibility that he was willing to overlook me moving the washed-out addict, fugitive of justice, son of a rock star into our living room for an unknown length of time. Cheers, Mr. Barnes.

“I'm going to take some paintings for him to look over, examples of my best work. I have to figure out a way to transport them without magic. I don't know how Muggles carry their paintings.” Scorpius started pulling canvases out of the enchanted rucksack he used to transport his art. My mum had given it to him as a Christmas gift. It seemed unlikely that Muggles used bags with Undetectable Extension Charms on them to carry paintings.

“You could go to a Muggle art store and ask,” I suggested. “There's bound to be one in London.”

“I've seen some of the Muggles who paint in the park with large black bags propped against their easels, I think they must use those,” Scorpius said, leaning a painting of a couple under a tree against our bedroom wall. “I bet they sell them at the Muggle art shops, yeah.”

I fished the bounty from Hoof out of my pocket. “Here, take this. You can cash it into Muggle money and go buy what you need.”

He hooked an arm around my neck and pulled me close to kiss the top of my head. “I love you, Rose.”

“I love you too. I better get back out there before Lenny overdoses on cheese puffs.”


I hung out with Lenny the next morning while Scorpius went and got whatever he needed from the Muggle art store, and played hangman for almost an hour with Lenny spelling out surprisingly long words, all related to magical creatures or plants that could be turned into psychoactive drugs, but totally failing to get any of the more normal words I chose until there was only one letter left. I would have gone out and worked on his case, but I didn't want to leave Lenny alone in case he wandered off. I didn't trust him, and if we were going to get him clean and hidden, he was going to have to have someone keeping an eye on him at all times.

Scorpius had promised to stop by Lenny's flat and pick up some of his stuff, and Lenny seemed pretty cheerful at the thought of having his guitar. I was more looking forward to Lenny having clean clothes.

I did take a moment, while Lenny ate poached eggs and more cheese puffs, to owl a friend of mine in Magical Law Enforcement to invite him to lunch so I could grill him for information on Lenny's case. I hinted that the topic might come up in my letter, and hoped he would get the hint and bring Lenny's arrest report or something else that might help me. I didn't tell him I was helping Lenny. It didn't seem quite the thing. He would probably assume I was trying to find Lenny, and that was fine with me.

Lenny and I had just finished another round (SCREECHSNAP) when Scorpius returned. He grinned at us and set his rucksack on the kitchen table.

“I found just the thing. Oh, and Lenny, I got your stuff.” He started pulling parcels out of his rucksack. The first two were clearly Lenny's clothes, and then he pulled out Lenny's guitar.

“Sweet,” Lenny exclaimed, taking it. “Thanks, man.”

“No problem. And here it is,” he added, pulling out a very large parcel. It was some kind of very large, rectangular leather bag. It looked big enough to fit the largest of his paintings, but not very many of them. Without an Extension Charm of some kind, I couldn't see how more than about two or three paintings could fit in there. Muggle artists must make several trips to their agents.

“Nice,” I said, wondering what the hell the appropriate response was here.

“It's called a portfolio,” Scorpius said proudly, unzipping it.

“Whoa,” Lenny said, peering down at it. “That's pretty cool, man. Does it like, change colour or anything?”

I left them selecting artwork for Scorpius to bring to the Muggle art agent and went to meet Jack Upchurch for lunch.

I'd known Jack Upchurch for years. He was a Magical Law Enforcement officer, and a nice guy. I often used him as a source, since I could generally get information out of him on the agreement that he could tell stories about me (usually blowing stuff up, occasionally showing up with a criminal while in an embarrassing state, such as the time Pyxis Parmenter had thrown ice lollies at me and they'd gotten in my hair and all over my clothes) to his friends. He said Rose stories were always good for a free round at the pub. It worked out pretty well for me, really. I thought I was getting the better end of the deal, although God only knew what his MLE buddies thought about me.

Jack was waiting at the bar when I arrived at the Leaky Cauldron, and he had a butterbeer waiting for me. I slid onto the stool next to him and smiled cheerfully, picking up the glass. Nice and frosty. Mrs. Longbottom always serves good stuff.

“I heard you had to Obliviate some Muggles,” Jack said by way of greeting, grinning at me.

“It wasn't my fault,” I assured him.

Jack chuckled. “It never is. Good to see you, Rose.”

“You too. Thanks for meeting me.”

“You're looking for Lenny Graves, are you?” he said, taking a sip of his butterbeer.

“He jumped bail and Angelo wants me to find him.” That was good, right? I didn't actually say I hadn't found Lenny. I tried not to lie to the MLEs if I could help it, especially ones I was friends with.

“I looked into his arrest report,” Jack said. “I remember Lenny from school, you know. I have a hard time picturing him killing anyone, but he does do a lot of drugs.”

Jack had known Lenny for years, but he was an MLE first. If even he thought Lenny might kill someone if he was stoned enough, that wasn't good. It was really past time for Lenny to clean up his act. “I don't suppose you brought along a copy of the report?” I asked hopefully. “The file Lydia had was really light on facts.”

Before he could answer, Mrs. Longbottom bustled over to us with two plates. Jack must have ordered lunch already for us. I hoped he'd paid while he was at it, but since this had been my invitation, I probably had to pick up the cheque. I thanked Mrs. Longbottom, and she smiled back at me fondly. I'd always liked her, and her husband too. They were friends with my parents, and part of the war generation. I tried not to stiff her on cheques because of that.

We dug into our bangers and mash, and once Jack had taken a few bites, he set his fork down and pulled a tightly folded piece of parchment from his pocket.

“Here,” he said, handing it to me. “You didn't get this from me, though.”

I stuck the report into my handbag and Jack took a long draught of his butterbeer. “Thanks, Jack. You're a peach.”

“Don't tell anyone else that.” He winked at me. “MLEs have to be tough. We eat criminals for breakfast, you know.”

“Here I thought you preferred eggs and toast. Jack, do you really think Lenny might have done it?”

He shrugged. “Stranger things have happened. And a drug deal gone bad is more likely than an execution. Lenny said in his statement that someone came in while he was hiding in the bathroom and killed the dealer. The arresting officers said he was rambling and a little incoherent, so they didn't think he was really credible.”

Lenny was rambling and a little incoherent, it was true, but I still didn't believe he was also a murderer. Jack seemed to see my reluctance, because he leaned in. “Don't get too attached, Rose. You have to treat Lenny like any other skip. He missed his court date, so just find him and bring him in. Let the Wizengamot worry about whether or not he's guilty.”

“Thanks, Jack,” I said, smiling at him. He was trying to look out for me, I knew. Jack thought I got too personal with felons. It was easier for MLEs to keep their distance, I reckoned.

I was dying to read the rest of Lenny's arrest report, but I hung out with Jack for another hour, gossiping and swapping stories. After a while, he admitted he had to get back to work, and I tried to pick up the cheque. Jack plucked it from my hand.

“I know you're always broke,” he said, and then glanced at the total. “Does the landlady give you a discount or something? This is way too cheap.”

“She's friends with my parents,” I told him. And therefore also knew that I was always broke.

Jack shook his head. “Lucky. I need to eat here with you more often. This was a bargain.”

It had been a bargain for me, too. Free lunch and inside law enforcement information. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

A/N: 'Man of La Mancha' is from the eponymous musical by Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh.


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