Lana had never in her entire life felt so humiliated. She had barely slept at all last night constantly tossing and turning, her mind replaying the mortifying events from the night gone by.
The rest of her team knew she had to work the room for suspicious characters and they knew Harry was suspicious looking, on his own, a foreigner, he looked so out of place at the Skylark. Felix had orchestrated the whole thing so she’d look like a fool, she was meant to flirt with the stranger and see if they were willing to be on their own with a woman, walk her home, see if they attacked and find their killer.
But once again the men had used her for their own amusement, it was a boys club in the Auror department and they didn’t like that Lana was good at her job and a woman.
Evan mustn’t have known, he wouldn’t allow it. He was her closest friend and he’d only come out of the closet to her at work and no one else.
Now she had to face Harry Potter and the rest of the team, the gossip would have spread quickly of how Lana had tried to seduce Harry Potter.
Straightening her back and taking a deep breath Lana entered the Manhattan Ministry of Magic. The Ministry was buzzing with the news that Harry Potter was in the building, Lana even saw some witches wearing Gryffindor scarves.
The Auror office was buzzing even louder but all eyes shifted to Lana when she entered paired with sly smirks to co workers. Lana did her best to ignore the stifled laughter and found Evan, he stood up immediately upon seeing Lana.
“I didn’t know!” He announced.
“I know you didn’t,” Lana smiled gratefully, putting her bag down.
“I’ve already spoken to Felix about his discrimination against you and I’m happy to put in a formal complaint,” Evan unbuttoned his impeccable royal blue coat and hung in on his brought-from-home hat rack.
“Don’t, thank you but don’t,” Lana sighed, “should I apologise to Mr Potter?”
Evan’s blue eyes wandered, “I did apologise on your behalf and explained your job that evening, he was very understanding and said not to worry. He looks very different doesn’t he?”
“I suppose he was sick of people always gaping at his forehead, I know I did as soon as I was told who he was,” Lana admitted.
Evan shrugged and a wicked little smile teased at his lips, “he was going to leave with you, that’s something to tell your friends about!”
Lana rolled her eyes, she appreciated the way Evan turned her embarrassment into a light-hearted antidote, “I think he was scared out of his mind.”
“Scared or not he was going to leave with you,” Evan straightened his tie, “ready for our meeting?”
Shame slid back down to Lana’s stomach, “Tate and Felix are going to have a field day.”
“You know Tate is just jealous it wasn’t him,” Evan squeezed her shoulder and they headed to the main conference room.
Harry was observing the photographs of past Aurors, Lana observed him, underneath the beard, it was obvious to her now that he was the most famous wizard in the world, how could she have been so stupid?
“Harry,” Evan smiled and Harry returned the smile, “allow me to properly introduce you to Lana Turner our only female Auror at the MMM.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Harry said kindly.
“May I apologise for last night,” she said her cheeks blushing, “I was undercover and I sincerely apologise for anything I might have done to offend you.”
“Not at all, I had quite a bit to drink, your friends definitely know how to hold their liquor,” he said kindly.
“That they do,” Lana grinned awkwardly and was saved by a new face bounding up to Harry.
“Harry!” Neville Sutcliffe, a herbologist from the level below embraced Harry like a brother.
“Neville!” Harry was obviously just as happy to see Neville.
“I can’t believe you’re in New York!” He smiled broadly.
“I was going to surprise you after this,” Harry gestured to the conference room.
“Word travels fast when Harry Potter is in your building,” Neville glanced at Lana, obviously her story had reached the Herbology department.
“I’ll let you get to it but lunch afterwards?” Neville’s long arms embraced Harry once more and he left after making arrangements to catch up.
“We went to school together,” Harry explained, “how long has he been working here?”
“Mr Sutcliffe, has been here around five years,” Lana explained, ignoring the eyebrow raise from Harry, she had already looked into Neville’s records. He had changed his name after the battle of Hogwarts because of severe PTSD and couldn’t handle the spotlight. He moved to New York to get away from the constant media attention and had since found himself fitting in nicely to the Manhattan lifestyle.
The trio entered the conference room and Lana felt the energy in the room shift, Felix and Tate sat up to shake Harry’s hand and offer Lana a smirk. Several other Auror’s sat bewildered in their chairs.
Felix cleared his throat as Harry took a seat and looked to Felix to begin the meeting, “thank you everyone for attending this morning and welcome to Mr Harry Potter.”
There was a reserve and polite applause, many mouths still gaping open at his presence.
“I trust you will all make him feel welcome and show him every kindness,” Felix smirked a little at Lana who glared back at him.
“Thank you Felix,” Harry stood, “and if I may, I thoroughly enjoyed my welcoming evening last night and I want to commend you Miss Turner on your exceptional undercover work last night. Your mission was to search for characters that were out of place and you put yourself in a precarious position and I truly appreciate that. It takes guts.”
Harry sat and there was a smattering of applause as Lana’s cheeks burned and Evan squeezed her knee under the desk.
“Thank you Mr Potter,” Felix had lost his train of thought and it was delightful to see him stumble, “I think you’ll find we have a very dedicated and talented team here at MMM. But now to business, unfortunately we have found body number eight this morning.”
Felix pointed his wand and the image of a young woman with brown hair and bright eyes filled the space on the wall, “Heather Peppers, a muggle woman, found tortured and strangled this morning, only a street away from her apartment. No witnesses, no sounds, no evidence as usual.”
The team was frantically scribbling every word Felix said, “this is where you come in Mr Potter. We have a serial killer on the loose, we have one witness and eight dead women, muggle and magical.”
Tate stepped in, “the witness says he held a stick at a woman’s face and then she couldn’t speak anymore, we have been heavily in contact with the Muggle police chief and we both believe the suspect is magic.”
“Where is the witness now?” Harry asked.
“She was the next victim,” Evan said sadly, “muggle police have put a warning out to all women not to walk alone at night but alas.”
Felix waved his wand and Heather's image disappeared and a map of Manhattan replaced it, “here is where he has struck,” red dots popped up across the city, there was no order, no structure to the murder spots.
Lana spoke up and focussed as Harry looked her way, “so far, we can’t find a connection between any of the victims, they’re from different parts of town, different ethnicities it seems to be opportunistic.”
“The Muggle police are breathing down our necks, the media is in a frenzy, the President of the Ministry suggested we bring in you but we don’t want the media thinking we brought you here to solve our crimes, the plan is that you’re here on a diplomatic visit.”
“Right, so that explains the hotel and the luxuries then? I’m here as a guest, nothing more?” Harry asked politely, but Lana felt an undertone.
“We’re not too proud to ask for help,” Felix replied immediately, “we need all the help we can get.”
Evan interrupted before he dug himself into a hole, “we don’t want the killer to know Harry Potter is here for him, psychologically speaking that would give our killer an ego boost we don’t want him to have. A confident killer is almost uncatchable.”
Harry nodded in understanding, “may I have a day to review all the paperwork so far?”
“Yes,” Felix grinned, “I’ll have Lana bring it to your room after lunch.”
Lana felt her anger boil beneath the surface but tried to smile like she didn’t have a care in the world. The constant belittling and berating confirmed her already solid plans to leave the ministry and finish her Auror career for good.
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