“This is definitely the right place?” Mum asked skeptically.
“This is where that woman in the bar told me we should go, where you can buy things from Ambrosia's underlings,” I assured her. “Kips Bay is her stomping grounds, but we're sure to find an upper-level henchman in this place. We can get an address, and we won't have to search the entire neighbourhood.”
We were walking up Wall Street, past the bull statue. Dad stopped to grin at it. Mum didn't stop walking. I hesitated a moment, halfway between them, then hurried after my mum.
“That's a bloody big bull. Hermione, did you see?”
“Come on, Ron!”
He jogged a bit to catch us up. “I'm sure I know the name of this place, it sounds familiar.”
“I saw it here, the day I bumped into Ambrosia.” I squinted. “There!”
The well-worn sign was the same as the one in Diagon Alley, the same simple lettering. The familiar smell of tobacco wafted to me as we drew closer.
Dad read the sign and snapped his fingers. “Razey's. I do recognize that name. Isn't there one in Diagon Alley next to that curry place?”
“You shouldn't be eating curry, you know it gives you terrible heartburn,” Mum told him.
“Worth it though.”
We stopped outside the shop, and I nodded my head at my father. “Yeah Dad, it's right next to your take-away. I picked up a skip there right before I left for New York. She was the shop assistant. The owner was very keen on my not calling the MLEs when I took her into custody.”
“I bet. They're probably helping smuggle things in and out of Europe and funnelling it into the US for Ambrosia. Tobacco's an excellent cover, especially magical tobacco. Between the charms on it and the smell, it masks quite a bit. You can ship all kinds of things packed in charmed tobacco and no one will notice it at customs.”
Mum was looking through the window consideringly. “Our objective is really to get her current location, not just her frequent haunts. How are we going to handle this?”
“I'm going to show them my badge and tell them I'll hex them into next week if they don't tell me what I need to know,” Dad informed her.
I was sure Mum would object to that, on any number of grounds: he didn't have jurisdiction in the United States, attacking them would be illegal, threatening people to get your way is morally wrong, something like that. Mum's usually full of that kind of thing. But instead she just said, “All right. Let's go.”
“You brought your badge?” I asked Dad, eyeing Mum sidelong in surprise.
He pulled it from the pocket of his jacket and flashed it at me. “Never leave home without it.”
Dad led the way inside, and Mum and I trailed behind him through the narrow aisles. The smell of tobacco was almost overpowering now. This branch of Razey's was larger than the one in Diagon Alley, but seemed much the same. Hundreds of boxes of tobacco of every magical variety were stacked on shelves all the way to the ceiling. Dad was headed straight for the back, where a small counter stood in front of a curtained doorway. As we approached, a man in a rather ugly waistcoat emerged from behind the curtain and gave us the cursory sort of smile shopkeepers often affect when they want to make a sale but don't actually want to deal with customers.
“Can I help you with something?” he asked.
“You sure can,” Dad said, and drew both his wand and his badge. “You can give us a current location on the woman known as Anastasia Leatherby.”
The shopkeeper's eyes went huge, and he tried to scramble backward through the curtain, but I darted sideways and aimed my wand at him.
“Don't even try it.”
“She'll kill me,” he squawked.
“She won't be able to if I get to her, but if you don't help me, I'll make sure you spend the next ten years thinking you're a small rodent of some kind,” Dad told him.
“Rabbits are nice,” I put in. “Tasty, too.”
“Mice are more economical,” Mum said.
“My wife and daughter,” Dad told the shopkeeper proudly. “I suggest you start talking now, cause my wife may look like the nice one, but I assure you, she's not. You'd rather deal with me. I make it a point never to deal with my wife.”
Mum stared the shopkeeper down, arms crossed over her chest. He stared at us wide-eyed, and then reached blindly for a scrap of paper on the countertop.
It wasn't difficult to find the address we'd gotten at Razey's. Mum was as well-researched as ever, this time on Manhattan geography. She seemed to know where everything was. She'd probably spent all of her free time with Scorpius memorizing the city maps in her guidebook. It was handy, though a little disturbing. The building was short and squat, sitting on the edge of the block with an alley round one side and a larger building on the other. I counted windows up; seven stories, which for New York City was quite small. It had an industrial sort of look, like an old warehouse. The river was right across the street, a ferry boat parked at the dock. I didn't see an entrance on the front, only papered-over windows. From the way the people on the street were passing it without a second glance, I thought it might have some spells on it to keep the Muggles from seeing it.
Mum had Disillusioned us right before we'd Apparated here, so we made our way carefully toward the building, avoiding bumping into any pedestrian traffic. We ducked into the alley alongside the building.
“What's the plan?” Mum asked.
“We'll go round the building and check out the lay of the land, then we'll burst in, fight our way through any henchmen, and take Ambrosia into custody,” said Dad. “It'll be fun.”
I raised an eyebrow at him. That sounded like the sort of plan I came up with, but it rarely worked out.
“I think we should go and get the local Aurors and tell them what we've found,” Mum told him, avoiding making a comment about his plan. “We could use the back-up.”
“We ought to make sure she's actually in there first,” I pointed out. “Otherwise they'll have come for nothing. How are we going to determine she's in there without tipping her off that we're here?”
“Good question,” Mum said.
Dad gave her a mild-mannered smile. “Only way to be a hundred percent sure is by going in. Why don't you go on and fetch the Aurors, Hermione? We'll wait here.”
Mum gave him a suspicious look. “You'd better not go in there without me.”
“I won't.” He leaned forward and kissed her swiftly. “Be quick about it, though.”
Mum turned over her shoulder and disappeared with a loud crack. Dad and I hung back for a few minutes, leaning against the brick building in a crevice in the architecture. It was just a shallow indentation, not really any sort of cover, but Mum's Disillusionment Charms were pretty strong. We seemed to fade into the bricks.
“Think anyone heard that?” I whispered.
“We'll find out soon enough.”
A moment later, I heard voices and heavy footsteps, and turned my head carefully. A pair of large, burly men in dark clothes were coming down the alley with wands drawn. Two more were waiting at the corner of the alley where it turned around to the back of the building. I held my breath.
They walked right past us, and checked the street briefly before returning to their fellows. The four of them walked off then, disappearing around the corner.
Dad let out a slow breath. “Looks like they did hear. That's some tight security. She's got to be in there.”
“That's not good.”
“It'll be even less good when the Aurors refuse to come with your mother.” Dad pulled a sweet out of his pocket and unwrapped it.
My stomach turned over. “You think they won't come?”
He popped the sweet in his mouth and tucked the wrapper back into his pocket. “You heard Hatchcock. There's no proof. No warrant. At best, she'll bring Hatchcock back with her. He's bound to want to come, even if unofficially.”
“Then why did you let her go? What's the point?”
“Keeps her busy. And Apparating so close to the building was sure to make someone come out and check up on things, so now we've had a look at their security.”
Dad was diabolical sometimes.
I hadn't thought he actually meant to wait for Mum, but he did exactly that, eating sweets from out of his pockets while he waited. He was going to have to re-stock before he saw Ramses again. He seemed very relaxed. I supposed after catching hundreds of bad guys over the years, Dad pretty much took things in his stride. I was feeling more than a little nervous. Ambrosia had gotten the better of me in fights before. But then I'd been up against her one-on-one, and now I had my parents with me.
It took Mum forty minutes to re-appear. Knowing law enforcement as I do, I thought her swiftness was nothing short of miraculous. As Dad had predicted, she was alone but for Agent Hatchcock. Dad gave them a wave to show our location.
Mum seemed briefly surprised to see Dad exactly where she'd left him, but she covered it quickly, hurrying up to us. “We Apparated across the street. I didn't want to get too close to the building that way.”
“Good thinking,” I told her. “When you left, it must've alerted them, because four goons came 'round the corner. Two of them went right past us. Didn't see a thing, though.”
“I'm not surprised, I can hardly see you myself,” Hatchcock said. “Should I be Disillusioned too?”
“Might as well.” Dad nodded to Mum, and she tapped the young Auror hard on the top of his head. The spell spread down him like water, and he seemed to fade into the background. If you knew where to look, and when he moved, you could see him, but when he was still he was imperceptible.
Hatchcock seemed to steel himself, and then he told Dad, “We'll check the place out, and if I see anything suspicious, I can go in. But I can't just break down the door, it's against the law. I'd lose my job, and possibly go to jail.”
“Man up,” Dad told him. “These are what we call exigent circumstances.”
“You're going in without a warrant or probable cause?” Hatchcock looked torn. Probably he should make us leave, but he obviously wanted to come along.
“No jurisdiction, either,” said Dad. “I'm not letting her get away again. She's tried to kill my daughter, she bombed my hotel with my grandson inside, and we've got a pretty decent idea that she's in there right now. I'm going in with or without you, so it's your choice.”
“Coming along or not. Which is it?”
Hatchcock stared at Dad for a moment, then he straightened his shoulders and nodded once. “I'm coming.”
Dad motioned to us. “Let's go then.”
Dad pressed ahead with Mum beside him, and I slowed my pace a bit to fall in next to Hatchcock. He was muttering to himself over and over, "What am I doing, what am I doing..."
"Don't blame yourself," I said reassuringly. "It's a Weasley thing. You can't help yourself. We're contagious. Or infectious. Something like that. You should meet my uncle George, he's the worst. And my cousins Fred and James. Don't even get me started on Louis."
"I can call for backup once we're inside," said Hatchcock, more to himself than in response. "I'll say I followed Mr. Weasley in. I wasn't going in without a warrant technically. Not really. I was pursuing a suspect."
I patted his shoulder. "Yeah, that sounds good."
"Are you sure we can't convince him to wait for proper procedure?" Hatchcock asked.
We both looked ahead at Dad. He was flattened up against the wall now at the corner of the building, peering around to the back.
"Probably not," I told Hatchcock.
“Okay. This is going to be a firefight, isn't it?” He looked a little ill.
“Have you ever been in a firefight?” I asked, though I was pretty sure I already knew the answer.
Sure enough, he shook his head. “I work in Internal Affairs in D.C. I was only here to root out the dirty Aurors in the New York branch. I'm not really a field agent, so to speak.”
“Well, don't worry. Mum and Dad are really good at this stuff. They helped defeat Voldemort. Dad's been in hundreds of firefights.”
“And you too, right?”
I smiled at him. “Me? Not really.”
“You haven't been in a lot of firefights?” he asked nervously.
“Just a few, and they weren't my fault. I don't really do this sort of thing,” I admitted.
He gave me a look of stark disbelief. “Are you kidding? This was all your idea in the first place! You're Ron Weasley's daughter!”
Jeez, you'd think that meant I was an Auror, too. “That doesn't mean I know what I'm doing.”
“I thought you were a bounty hunter,” he hissed.
“Well, yeah. I'm not a very good one. Haven't you seen my wardrobe?”
“I thought you wore pink ironically!”
“I like glitter,” I commented. “And pink is so pretty.”
He closed his eyes as if it were all too much for him. This wasn't an uncommon reaction to my wardrobe choices.
“Less talking, more following,” Dad called softly from ahead of us. “I'm going to go put a Stunner on the guards. Hatchcock, you're with me.”
Hatchcock shook his head. “I can't, not without-”
“A warrant,” Mum finished for him impatiently. “Rose, go help your father.”
Dad and I crept around the side of the building, moving as soundlessly as possible. Dad had his wand in his hand already, and I drew mine. I wasn't as good at Stunners as he was, but it was one of the spells I used in my job often enough that I knew I could do it. I was all right with ambushes and defensive spells, but like I'd told Hatchcock, full-out firefights weren't something I did. I think I'd only been in one or two. Normally the closest I got was Pyxis Parmenter throwing sticky things at me. Luckily for me, Stunning the guards while Disillusioned was pretty much the definition of an ambush.
The two guards were lurking near the steel door in the rear of the building, with the bored look of hired guns who are neither exceptionally well trained nor exceptionally well paid. They weren't on the alert.
Dad put a hand to my arm, and I could see him nod at the two guards, then nodded again at the one closer to us and pointed at me. I nodded and aimed my wand at the guard. Dad pointed his at the second guard, and whispered, “Stupefy!”
I was a second behind him, but my guard didn't even have time to register what had happened to his co-worker before he dropped as well.
Dad whistled, and I could just make out Mum and Hatchcock coming around the corner. As soon as they had joined us, Dad said in a low voice, “We'll go in fast and hard, there's bound to be more of them inside, and there's only four of us. Not a lot on our side but surprise. Hatchcock, no more of this warrant crap. I need you doing your part in there.”
Hatchcock, who was staring at the unconscious guards, swallowed and nodded. I was pretty sure visions of his employment future were dancing before his eyes.
“First things first,” Dad remarked almost casually. He waved his wand at the building, both hands upraised. I recognized the pattern immediately, and from the expressions on the faces of Mum and Hatchcock, they did too. Anti-Apparition wards. Nobody was escaping from that building quite so easily. I hoped they didn't have a Floo connection. Probably they didn't, though. I bet those are trouble in a secret criminal lair.
When the spell was complete, Dad nodded his head at the padlocked steel doors. “Let's go. Hermione, you want to do the honours?”
“Are you sure this is a good idea, Ron?” Mum asked. I reckoned she was having second thoughts about our lack of backup.
“If you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself,” Dad told her, which was probably Mum's secret motto, then looked over at Hatchcock. “No offense.”
“None taken,” Hatchcock said, a bit shakily. I was starting to worry he wasn't going to be much use in there after all. Surely Internal Affairs agents had to go through the same Auror training as field agents?
Mum stepped forward and waved her wand at the door. It exploded off its hinges in a spectacular crash of falling masonry, and we all rushed in, Hatchcock muttering under his breath again.
The doors opened onto a short hallway with another door at the end. Dad cast a spell at the door without slowing down his pace and it popped open. Beyond the second door was simply a large empty room with very high ceilings, crates stacked along one wall floor to ceiling. Standing in the centre of the room was a large cluster of people, mostly goons. Ambrosia was in the middle with the arms dealer, Stanis. Right next to them was Wyn Ellery.
A brief look of surprise flashed across Ambrosia's face, but Dad shot a Stunner at her and suddenly everything seemed to explode into chaos.
Ambrosia darted sideways, behind one of her goons who was built like a brick wall, and Dad's Stunner hit the goon. He fell heavily, but missed taking anyone else out as he went down. Wyn Ellery let out a loud squawk of fear and tried to Disapparate. His eyes went wide with horror as he realized he couldn't get out that way.
I ignored Wyn and shot a Stunner at Ambrosia, but she was already moving again, ducking and weaving behind her goons and a few hastily conjured Shield Charms that Mum blew away as quickly as Ambrosia could summon them. Her goons were fighting back now too, and in the blink of an eye it turned into a melee.
The air was crackling with spells. I did my best to keep up with my parents, since they were much better fighters than I was, but it was tough staying near them. They were used to working as a team together, not with me. I wound up fighting back-to-back with Hatchcock instead. He seemed better now that the possibility of a warrant was off his mind, though he wasn't as quick on the draw as Dad was.
From close-up, I recognized a few of the henchmen from the pier, the ones who'd got away without being killed. I recognized another face, too, at the same moment that Hatchcock apparently did.
“Bleach,” he growled under his breath.
The other Auror had seen him, and tried to skulk away from the battle, but Hatchcock chased him down and I was left to defend myself alone again.
I couldn't see Ambrosia. Someone bumped into me, nearly knocking me down, and I wobbled as I shoved past her goons, looking for that flash of blonde hair. A blast of yellow sparks blew past me and spun one of the bodyguards around, and I looked around to see Dad duelling with Stanis the arms dealer. It looked like an equal match, and a thrill of fear went through me. Stanis was younger, his reflexes were probably quicker – I was suddenly terrified for my father. I turned and started pushing my way through, trying to reach them before it was too late.
But before I could get there, it already was too late. Dad ducked under a jet of green light and, on one knee, got Stanis straight to the torso with a perfect Stunner.
It was spectacular. The pressure in my chest loosened, but I had to duck then myself as a spell from one of Stanis's guards narrowly missed hitting me. Suddenly Mum was right there next to me.
“Rose, be careful!” She aimed a volley of curses at the goons, and two of them dropped like stones, and then she turned to throw up a Shield Charm behind us, blocking another goon's curses.
I was about to thank her when I saw Ambrosia across the room, walking purposefully toward a door on the far side of the room without regard for the fight behind her. I shoved past one of her henchmen and started running.
Before I got there, Wyn Ellery stepped out from behind a box with his wand drawn. I couldn't hear what they said to each other, but Ambrosia was faster than the congressman. She got him with a Stunner straight to the chest at point-blank range, and he dropped to the ground, unconscious or worse.
“Stop!” I yelled as she put a hand to the door, and Ambrosia turned. Her wand was still in her hand, and now it was aimed at me.
“Stay back,” she told me. Her voice was calm but her eyes were a bit wild. “Or I'll blast a hole through you.”
She twisted the door handle and whirled around to run off, but drew up short.
Anita Spiker was standing on the other side of the door, her wand drawn and aimed straight at Ambrosia.
A/N: Hands up if you read "I make it a point never to deal with my wife" in Drum Eatenton's voice. ;) Steel Magnolias for the win.
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