Harry thought London’s winters were brutal but New York could rival his hometown any day. His black wool coat buttoned at the neck, his cashmere grey scarf, matching beanie and gloves adorned his body and he still felt the chill to his bones.
He breathed into his hands to warm his face as he waited for an associate from Manhattan Ministry of Magic. They had brought him to New York for an unusual case and Harry had been requested by the President, they had put him up in the most luxurious hotel he’d ever seen. The excessive pampering and spoiling made Harry worry, just how bad was this case or were American’s just really over reaching?
Harry would be thirty this year, his Auror career was highly respected but of course everywhere he went he was still the boy who lived. At age 21 he was ‘The Boy Who Got Dumped’, front page news when Ginny and he broke it off, at 25 he was ‘The Boy Who Lived Lonely’, after the press decided to print about his love life or lack thereof.
After a while and possibly a little nudge from Hermione at the Daily Prophet, the press turned off Harry’s personal life and on his career. Ron worked for the Daily Prophet now as an editor and leading journalist, Hermione a healer at St Mungo’s specialising in children. Which was great as she and Ron had three of their own. Harry was Godfather and head babysitter, he hadn’t been much help of late. He was now Head Auror and was required to travel around the globe, putting out fires (magical and non magical). But it was his first visit to New York City and the city was bursting to seams with celebrity’s that no one even gave him a second glance.
Harry had changed his appearance from when his photo was last published, he’d grown a scruffy beard to hide behind and with Hermione’s help fixed his eyesight and no longer needed his signature glasses.
Here in New York City he felt like he could breathe a little better, no one was trailing his every move, they just didn’t have time. The city that never sleeps was certainly a way of life here, everyone rushed and zoomed about.
A sleek black jaguar rolled up to the hotel driveway and the doorman eagerly opened the car doors awaiting a tip. It cost him a sickle every time someone opened a door, carried a bag or gave directions.
“Mr Potter,” a wiry young man stepped out of the car, he was dressed impeccably and had a shock of silver hair for such a young face, his eyes twinkled blue at the sight of Harry.
“I am Evan Carlie from the Manhattan Ministry of Magic, on behalf of the Ministry we wish to express our gratitude for you coming here at such short notice. I trust your hotel is pleasant?”
“Yes thank you Mr Carlie, it’s wonderful,” Harry shook the man’s hand and received a strong grip.
“Please call me Evan,” he smiled, “we’re meeting some other colleagues in uptown, just a casual evening before we get into the serious business.”
“Sounds great,” Harry replied, he was itching to know what he was here to do but decided he might as well enjoy the perks while he could.
“Very good,” Evan opened the door for Harry and slid in beside him on the buttery leather interior, “we’ll be dining at the Skylark, a very popular hot spot for magical folk, we have a private area set up so you won’t be disturbed.”
Harry laughed, “thank you, although I don’t think I need it here.”
Evan appeared slightly shocked, “you are a huge celebrity here Mr Potter, we have kept your visit very private but once word gets out…”
“Please call me Harry,” he insisted, “it can’t be as bad as London.”
Evan hid a tight smile, “you’d be very surprised Harry, us American’s are known for being quite star struck!”
Harry watched as the expensive car slid in and out of traffic in utterly impossible ways. It travelled through the choked traffic so smoothly weaving in and out of lanes unnoticed.
The sun was long set but all the lights and neon signs from times square made it seem late afternoon on a cloudy day.
Evan opened the door for Harry and they stood outside a derelict and seemingly abandoned shopfront. In peeling, crusty letters the name ‘skylark’ was barely visible, like most places in the Wizardry world it had to go unnoticed to Muggles and Harry wondered what awaited him inside.
“Welcome to the Skylark,” Evan announced with a grin, he slid his wand around the fading letter K of the Skylark sign. The ground shifted beneath Harry and before he could even blink everything changed.
It was a step back in time, the 1920’s vintage décor, dimly lit candles and lamps created a golden glow around the room. Luxurious carpet and wall paper, everything was expensive and exclusive.
Evan led Harry to a slightly raised platform, it was shrouded in gossamer curtains, red velvet chairs and black marble tables. Two well-dressed men sat side by side sipping from crystal glasses.
“Tate, Felix,” Evan announced, “this is Harry Potter.”
Tate and Felix, stood up rather clumsily and bustled around to shake Harry’s hand. Tate was tall and very handsome, golden hair and piercing blue eyes, Felix was shorter but strong with a shaved head and kind brown eyes.
“An honour Sir,” Felix almost bowed to Harry’s embarrassment, “I’m Felix Allan Chief Auror of MMM.”
“I’m Tate Norther, Auror from MMM, we are so grateful to have you here,” Tate said sincerely.
“Thank you,” Harry replied, “let me buy this round,” he offered.
“Absolutely not,” Evan retorted, “you are our guest, what would you like to drink?”
“What’s that?” Tate asked.
“It’s an English whiskey,” Felix answered for Harry, “try our white owl whiskey, it’s similar, a little sweeter.”
“Felix is our resident alcoholic,” Tate joked, he grabbed the attention of a waitress quickly, she was more than happy to take his order.
“Tate is our resident stud,” Felix whispered and rolled his eyes as the waitress giggled at Tate.
Harry laughed, “what’s your role here Evan?”
“Most civil and well dressed,” Evan replied without a moment’s hesitation.
“That’s why he got given the job of picking you up,” Felix laughed, “he’s the most impressive.”
“I was impressed when I got to the hotel to be honest,” Harry admitted.
“Thanks Dolly,” Tate winked at the waitress whose cheeks burned.
“To Harry, coming all this way to save our sorry asses,” Felix announced.
They all took a gulp of the whiskey, Harry loved this brand it went down smooth and just a hit of sweetness.
“You were right,” Harry said to Felix, “that’s great stuff.”
“Easy to drink though pal,” he warned.
“Is this your whole team?”
Tate looked cheekily around, “there’s one more but they’re still working, undercover for us, you’ll meet them soon enough.”
Harry didn’t like the smirk they all gave each other, “should I be worried?”
“Not at all, we’re the ones who will be in trouble for not warning them of your arrival,” Evan glanced at Felix again.
A few more rounds later, Harry needed to get some food, his head was feeling light and his hands warm and tingling. He excused himself for the bathroom but went to the bar to order food for his new friends as they hotly refused his offer to pay for anything.
The giggly waitress took his order, while she rang it up he took in his surroundings. The atmosphere was electric, humming and buzzing full of energy. A small band was preparing to play in the far corner, people chattered and laughed.
“You should have one of these darling,” a voice said behind him.
A woman with bright red hair, shocking green eyes and porcelain skin handed him a glass of water. Her lips, full and red she wore quite heavy make up accentuating her eyes. Her dress was gold and glittered in the light, she was definitely overdressed for the room but didn’t seem to care.
“Thanks,” Harry sipped and the woman didn’t take her hypnotic eyes off him.
“Have I met you before honey?” Her voice was like honey, soothing, smooth and sweet.
“No and I would remember meeting someone like you,” he said surprising himself.
“Oh honey, you are so sweet,” she smiled and placed a hand on his arm, “maybe we could get to know each other tonight?”
Harry’s stomach twisted, who knew American girls were so direct?
“I love an accent,” she purred and stared at him more closely, “you sure we haven’t met?”
“I’m sure,” he smiled and she squeezed his arm gently.
“I have to go back to work but find me after?” She ran her hand down his arm.
“Where will I find you?”
“You’ll see,” she winked and sashayed off, her gold dress twinkling with each step.
Shaking his head Harry sat heavily on the barstool and drained his glass of water. The giggly waitress was nowhere to be seen, Harry waited for another drink, his cheeks burned and his head reeled at the encounter he’d just had. He should have offered to buy her a drink, cursing himself he looked to the stage where the band were tuning up. To his surprise the red head joined them, the room hushed and she looked right at him and winked again.
The band played a slow jazz melody and she opened her mouth to sing.
Sooner or later you’re gonna be mine
Sooner or later you’re gonna be fine
Baby it’s time that you face it I always get my man
Her voice was like caramel smooth and rich, indulgent, he forgot where in the world he was and listened to her voice melt into his ears.
The more you resist babe the more excites me
And no man I’ve kissed babe ever fights me again
Harry could’ve been imperiused for all he knew, the pleasant fog of the alcohol, her brassy flirtation and then this intoxicating voice. The combination was dreamlike for Harry, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so blissful.
This time I'm not only getting
I'm holding my man
The crowd applauded and a few catcalls were thrown in for good measure, the band continued playing as she exited the stage and headed straight for Harry.
“That was beautiful,” he said earnestly.
“Thank you, just another girl trying to make it in the big city,” she leaned closer to him, “and what’s your story?”
“I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details,” Harry said nervously.
“Are you married?” She asked.
Harry gulped nervously, “No, I’m single.”
“Me too,” she looked at him and smiled, “would you mind walking me home? It’s just around the corner.”
“Uhh…sure, I better tell me friends where I’m going,” he stuttered.
“Oh it won’t take long honey,” she led him to the deserted cloak room and picked up a white fur coat, “unless you want it to.”
Harry’s heart was beating wildly, things were moving too fast for him, his palms were sweating and his collar felt too tight. This gorgeous creature was whisking him away and for once in his life he had no excuse to not take this plunge.
“What’s the matter honey?” She asked, “you look scared.”
“What are you doing!?” Evan burst into the cloak room with Tate and Felix close behind.
“I tried to tell you—“ Harry stopped and realised the woman was also speaking to the newcomers.
The red headed woman looked perplexed at Harry and her voice no longer sounded like honey.
“What the fuck guys?” She chided, “I had a good lead!”
“That’s not a lead Turner,” Felix came forward, “this is our other Auror, Lana Turner.”
Tate swallowed nervously, “Turner, this is Harry Potter, he’s come to help us crack the Manhattan Murders case.”
Lana strode towards Tate and slapped in square in the face and without a word turned on her heel and left the four men in silence.
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