The Hampshire coast-line wind blew both heavily and mercilessly against every inch of Dean’s body. He stood outside Portsmouth Harbour train station and looked down at his watch. It was just a few minutes before he was supposed to be meeting Mad-Eye Moody.
The former Auror had not shown up yet, which Dean was surprised by as he had assumed if anything he would have been the sort of person to turn up very early, which was why Dean had made an extra effort to be overly punctual himself.
He wondered how Moody would dress to blend in with muggles all around him, as with his magical eye and numerous war wounds, it was not as if he was a particularly inconspicuous character by any stretch of the imagination.
On that front though there was at least one tangible upside working in Moody’s favour, as due to their meeting taking place so late the train station was pretty dead anyway.
A small scattered stream of people, mainly in smart business wear, had filed out of the station towards the nearby taxi rank a few minutes ago, but there was not another scheduled arrival or departure for another twenty-five minutes now. The train station, which seemed to double up as a departure port for ferries travelling to the nearby Isle of Wight, had already seen its last departure of the evening via sea to Ryde, although there was one final scheduled arrival in just under an hour’s time.
Dean zipped his jacket up as far as it would go and braced himself against the chilling sea breeze. On his back he carried his bag which contained everything he had packed since leaving home. In it he had a week’s worth of clothes, as well as an enchanted tent that he had first received as a gift from his Mum and Step Dad for when he and Seamus went to the Quidditch World Cup.
He looked both ways to check whether Moody was approaching the station entrance yet. When he saw that he was not he took off his bag and pulled out his half-empty, luke-warm bottle of Coke and took a quick drink from it, savouring the fizzy, caramel-like taste as it trickled down his throat. When he looked back up he was briefly blinded by a head-lamp of a taxi that had pulled into the road a few feet away from him and all of a sudden it started flashing wildly at him.
“No,” he said, whilst signalling with his hand as he regained his vision. “No, it’s alright mate I’m waiting for someone,” Dean added loudly to the cabbie, who must have thought he was another late-working London commuter wanting a lift back to their Hampshire home.
The taxi driver stopped flashing, but much to Dean’s surprise he began to manually roll down his side window.
“Come on, son, pop in, I haven’t got all night!” he ordered, much to Dean’s annoyance. He looked at the vehicle and even in the dark he could make out the stereotypical image of an English cab driver in the right hand side of the car. The balding, blonde, pale-skinned man looked to be in his mid-forties, with a slightly overweight frame and what looked like a large pile of CDs on his dashboard.
“I don’t need a taxi,” Dean replied in a slightly bemused tone. “Like I said, I’m waiting for someone.”
“You’ll be waiting a long time, son,” the cabbie replied in an unusually solemn tone, as he began to frown heavily. “Moody’s dead.”
“Who are you?” Dean asked the mysterious taxi-driver, once he had eventually gotten into the passenger seat after coming to terms with the unexpected death of the Auror he had met just days before.
He had been pinning all of his hopes on being involved within this resistance movement on getting on Moody’s good side. To hear that he had now died was an absolutely crushing blow. He couldn’t quite believe it.
Who would even manage to kill him?!
The cabbie, who Dean now realised was the man that Moody had said they were meeting that night, checked his rear-wing mirror, before slowly reversing out of the spot he had been parked in. He pressed his hand down on the clutch and began driving away into the night very slowly and carefully.
“Best I don’t tell you who I am, son,” he replied in a hearty sounding voice. “Don’t tell me your name either. The less we know about each other the better. I only knew it was you ‘cause Moody gave me a picture of you in-case he couldn’t make it… probably wise in hindsight… he never did miss a trick, that bloke.”
The fact that they were having to avoid telling each other their names seemed quite surreal to Dean. He had wanted to join this resistance movement that he’d heard about, but even so it seemed very odd to actually feel like he was in some kind of spy movie with danger and secrecy like this.
Dean took another look at the dashboard and sure enough, there was a half-ripped picture with his own smiling face on it. It took him a few seconds to work out where Moody had gotten a picture of him from, but upon closer inspection he realised it was one of the photos of him and Ginny that she had gotten framed when they were together.
She must have still had it laying around somewhere, then ripped her own face from it before handing it off to Moody.
The cheek of it!
“Moody said you were a muggle-born, yeah?” the mystery man said, briefly turning to face Dean, as he stopped at the red-light.
“Yeah mate, I am,” Dean replied, nodding, as he took another sip from his ever emptying bottle of coke.
“Football fan?” the driver asked, as he returned his eyes to the rode as the traffic lights quickly changed from red, to amber, then to green.
“Yeah. I’m West Ham,” Dean said, as he wondered when he would get to go to another game at the Boleyn Ground with his Step-Dad or Seamus. He doubted somewhat that this conflict in the Wizarding world would be over and done with by the time the season resumed in mid—August.
The taxi driver scoffed slightly.
“Well, at least you’re not Tottenham,” he laughed, as he took a sharp right turn down a narrow road.
“You’re a Gooner, then?”
“Oh yes son, Arsenal ‘till I die!” the driver replied enthusiastically. “I tell you what… you can call me Ray, after the Romford Pele himself. You can be… let me think… John, after big John Hartson, your best player he is now I reckon.”
“Trust an Arsenal fan to pick an ex-Arsenal player!” Dean quipped. “Why can’t I be Rio after Rio Ferdinand?”
He liked Rio Ferdinand.
The tall and lanky young nineteen year old central defender had burst onto the scene at West Ham in the previous season. Dean and his step-Dad had high hopes for him, as it was great to see a young black lad from South London get a run in the team after coming through the youth system.
“You can be Bobby bloody Moore if you want, son, ain’t no skin off my back!” the driver laughed.
There was a minute of relative silence after that, before he eventually stopped his car briefly to let a pair of relatively drunk looking young females cross the road.
“How did you know Moody?” Dean asked as he looked to break the fairly awkward silence. He wondered how the two seemingly very different men had crossed paths in life. He didn’t think they could have gone to school together, as this man was not quite as old as the retired Auror had been, or at the very least he didn’t look it.
“Probably shouldn’t tell you that either, son,” Ray replied, whilst wearing an uncomfortable expression on his face. “Did he tell you much about what we’re gonna be getting up to?”
“No,” Dean answered. “He didn’t tell me anything really.”
“Let me fill you in,” Ray said, as he pulled into a car-park down a narrow road on the top of a hill which overlooked the exit of what seemed to be another ferry port.
“Do you know who this fella here is?” his companion asked, as he rifled through his jacket and pulled out a black and white piece of paper, which upon further inspection appeared to be a cutting from a newspaper, most likely The Daily Prophet.
Dean stared at the animated man for a while. He was a relatively thin looking white bloke, who had thick black hair, which was a medium sort of length and he appeared to be roughly the same kind of age as Ray. He had a black cloak on and looked very angry. The picture appeared to be a mug-shot.
“No idea,” Dean admitted after a while. “I’m guessing he’s some kind of Death Eater?”
“Oh, he’s in with You Know Who alright,” Ray replied. “That’s Algernon Avery, who we’ll be looking for tonight. Nasty piece of work, always was, even as a teenager at school. Back then it was pretty obvious he’d end up in Azkaban one day… and he did… and he was there, until very recently when there was another breakout.”
Dean felt his heart almost skip a beat in shock.
“There’s been another breakout?!” he cried out in horror.
“Fraid so, son, almost everyone that they’ve locked up in the last year or so are already back out,” Ray said with a real sound of regret and annoyance in his tone. “Ministry’s trying to keep it all on the down-low, but they’re out there alright.”
The idea that there were escaped Death Eaters all over the country again scared Dean half to death. If the Ministry couldn’t even keep the bad guys safely imprisoned, then what was the point in even trying to catch them in the first place?!
“So…” Dean wondered. “So the Ministry wants you…and me… and the others… to hunt down and arrest these guys?”
“Not quite,” Ray scoffed slightly. “The trouble is, even if we could arrest them and get them back in Azkaban… You Know Who and his mob would probably just break them straight back out.”
“Then what’s the point?” Dean asked, feeling quite taken aback and frustrated by Ray confirming his own thoughts. “You said they want us to look for this Avery bloke tonight. What do they want us to do if they aren’t gonna lock him up?”
Ray seemed to sense Dean’s frustration and made a gesture with his hand indicating for him to calm down.
“They don’t want us to do nothing just yet, son,” he said in a fairly resigned manner. “At the moment we’re just spying on him. Its information that they want for now.”
“Information?! What kind of inform-
“Scrimgeour has a contact or two in the French Ministry of Magic,” Ray said stopping Dean in his tracks. “Rumour has it Avery has been sighted with several shady characters well known to the authorities out there. They think he’s set up some kind of smuggling ring, but the French Ministry are too frightened to move against him. They don’t know what it is he’s smuggling into Britain, but they know that it must be something proper bad.”
“But how do they know that?” Dean enquired.
Ray laughed a little, before pointing out of his windscreen towards the dock.
“Because he’s been smuggling it in on muggle ferries for several weeks now apparently,” Ray replied. “It has to be something extremely illegal for him to be getting that creative about getting it into the country. Avery hates muggles!”
Dean wondered what it could be.
He didn’t think it could be a dangerous magical creature that it would be against the law to breed or own, as that wouldn’t be very inconspicuous on a boat filled with muggles. Surely something like contraband magic carpets or dodgy cauldrons wouldn’t warrant that sort of operation either.
“So we just… wait… and try to spot him?” Dean asked, not really getting what it was they were hoping to accomplish from all of this. “How will we be able to tell what it is that he’s got, surely he will just apparate away as soon as he gets onto land and out of sight?”
A wry smile appeared upon Ray’s face.
“That’s actually where we’re in luck, lad. Moody’s contact went through everything The Ministry has on him. Avery’s family home is not far from here, about a fifteen minute walk. Might even explain why You Know Who has him on this to begin with. But even if he isn’t going back to his, we’re still alright, as he’ll have to get out of the 1 mile range before he thinks about apparating off anywhere.”
“The 1 mile range?” Dean asked, not knowing what Ray was referring to.
“You’ve never heard of the 1 mile range? For apparating?” Ray asked, looking pretty dumbfounded.
Dean nodded and shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly.
“Bloody hell, what are they teaching you kids at that school these days?! Never heard of the 1 mile range!” Ray sighed, as he put his head into his hands in annoyance.
“Right, basically son, you can’t apparate to or from anywhere that’s within 1 mile of the coast, or the border if you’re in a land-locked country or region. If you live that close to the coast you have to get a special permit from the Ministry to have your own break in the charm round the outside of your gaff… bit of a nightmare, but it’s pretty standard fare in more or less every country going… it’s to prevent cross-country apparation... and in this case it will prevent that slimy prick from disappearing right away.”
Dean thought he saw a flaw in that plan straight away.
“What if he’s got one of those permits though?”
“His house isn’t within the 1 mile radius, son,” Ray explained. “So whatever he does he’s got to get out of that 1 mile radius of the coast before he thinks about going anywhere…and I doubt Avery or anybody he knows will be driving a car or a bike so I’m banking on him being on foot.”
Ray retrieved a large map of what appeared to be the local area from his glove-box.
“I’ve mapped out the possible routes that he could take back to his house. The good news is that there’s plenty of opportunities on either route where we could make a move on him if it comes to it.”
He passed Dean the map to have a look at for himself. It looked like Ray had used some kind of permanent marker over the original map to highlight the ways that Algernon Avery could travel by foot or other means to his property just over a mile away.
“There’s only one ferry that comes into Portsmouth from Caen each day, more or less this time every night, little bit earlier on the weekend. I’ve got a list of them all here for you,” Ray said, as he handed him a heavily scribbled on piece of notepad paper.
“And so I should meet you each night, same time, at the station?” Dean asked.
“God no!” Ray replied, fairly gobsmacked. “This is dangerous stuff, son. At least if we’re separate and he comes onto one of us he’ll never suspect there’s another one watching him. There’s also two different routes he could use so we’ll have to split up to keep all bases covered anyway. You got a motor?”
“No, no I don’t drive,” Dean said.
“That’s not a problem. In-fact, even better. One of the routes isn’t particularly car friendly, so you’ll be better off on foot anyway. Just make out you’re a midnight jogger or something.”
Dean wondered what the local neighbourhood was like and whether it was the sort of town where a young, black lad like himself could jog around without attracting too much attention.
He looked out of the window and saw an old man walking his dog. Dean stared at him long enough that Ray seemed to notice him too after wondering what Dean had been looking at.
“Now that’s an idea, son!” Ray announced suddenly. “Nobody suspects a bloke with a dog. Tell you what you wanna do, get yourself a pup from a rescue shelter. Take him out for night-time walkies, you’ll blend right in.”
“A dog?!” Dean replied. “But I’m living out of my tent at the minute. I’ve not got anywhere I could keep one.”
Ray looked pretty shocked at Dean’s revelation about living in his tent.
“Moody really didn’t tell you anything about this mission did he?” Ray sighed, as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small envelope that sounded like it had a key in, which he then threw to Dean.
“He told me you wouldn’t have anywhere to stay and it’s far too dangerous for you to stay with me and the wife… so I’ve got you a small 1 bed place not far from here. I got someone else to sort it out so I don’t know the exact address in-case I’m caught and tortured. It’s written on a scrap of paper in there.”
“Thank…thank you,” Dean gasped, pretty shocked at the thought of living in his own place for the first time in his life, as well as Ray’s talk of being tortured. “But how… how will I pay for the rent? I have some savings but I don’t have enough to pay-
“Sorted that out too, son,” Ray replied quickly. “In that envelope you’ll also find a letter of acceptance for an interview at a local shop for tomorrow morning… again, I got someone else to sort it so I wouldn’t know the exact one. Just make sure you tell ‘em you can’t work late evenings or nights!”
It was all too much information to register all at once. Dean had signed up to a resistance movement, but somehow overnight he now had his own place and had seemingly secured his first ever job too.
His family wouldn’t quite believe it!
“There’s also a telephone number in there. That’s my number. I’ll ring you every night, ninety minutes before and ninety minutes after the ferry pulls in to the harbour, we should both be back home by then even if we followed him back to his place. Don’t make a move on him or anyone else without my say so before, if we do strike, we’ll strike together, you got that, son?”
“Yes,” Dean answered quickly. “You’ll ring an hour and a half before and an hour and a half after. Don’t attack unless you give me the order.”
“Good lad,” Ray responded. “It’s very important that you keep your distance. In the last war, if you got caught spying on Death Eaters you’d wind up being a newspaper headline… and that was only if somebody actually found your body. Don’t underestimate Avery, or anyone else he may be working with.”
“I won’t,” Dean began, before a blinding light unexpectedly shone from behind Ray’s cab, illuminating them both heavily.
“Fuck!” Ray cried, as Dean felt his heart begin to pound and his armpits sweat in sudden fear.
Dean felt into his pocket for his wand, quickly grasping onto it, as Ray abruptly opened his door.
“Cover me, son!” Ray ordered softly, as Dean pulled open his own door and stood guard as the middle-aged man climbed out of his car with his hand on his wand, which was thinly disguised within his jacket pocket.
“Who’s there?!” Ray shouted in a hostile tone, as Dean desperately tried to position himself in a way that would best shield his new ally.
Dean didn’t have a great deal of duelling experience and had never really been in a shoot-out before, so he wasn’t really sure how exactly one did “cover” someone else during a fight, but he would try his best.
In the heat of the moment all of the spells he had learned suddenly escaped him.
What was a good attacking jinx?
No, that was a shield charm wasn’t it?
Expelliarmus seemed to always work quite well for Harry.
Maybe he would give that a go.
He was sure that Ray wouldn’t be able to see much past the blinding light, but his middle-aged companion bravely moved forward into it regardless, with his wand poking slightly out of his jacket in anticipation of any possible attack.
“I said who’s there?!” Ray shouted once more, this time in an even louder voice, as Dean suddenly heard a few muffled voices coming from where the light was.
Dean pulled his wand out from out of his jacket so that he was ready to strike down anything or anyone that moved in that direction, but Ray seemed to spot this and wordlessly indicated for him to keep his wand out of sight.
Ray then walked confidently further into the light and completely out of sight.
Shit, Dean thought.
He quickly got out of the vehicle completely and charged, wand in hand, behind his new found ally into the brightness, but the light soon switched off and Dean didn’t see the Death Eaters that he had been expecting to find.
All he could see was a couple of fairly banged up looking Ford Estates, one of which must have had its full beam on to cause all of that light.
“Honestly it’s no bother!” he heard Ray say in a much more relaxed sounding tone to somebody in one of the cars. “Sorry to give you such a fright… we’ll leave you to it.”
The stocky wizard quickly made his way back to the car, ushering Dean back with him, although the manner in which he walked gave Dean the impression that he was much more irritated than he had let on when speaking to them.
“What… what was-
“A bunch of bloody muppets, that’s what that was,” Ray sighed angrily. “No Death Eaters there, son… just a couple of over-enthusiastic doggers!”
“Doggers?” Dean asked, not knowing what he was on about.
To that Ray let out a proper belly laugh.
“Well I s’pose they definitely won’t teach you that in Muggle Studies,” he chortled, before telling Dean to get back into the taxi as they awaited the arrival of the ferry from Caen in twenty minutes time… although they needn’t have bothered, as Algernon Avery wasn’t on it… at least not that night.
“Head boy?!” Seamus scoffed, before cackling wildly. “Bloody hell. I might’a considered going back to school meself if I’d known old McGonagall might’a made me Head Boy!”
“Well she wouldn’t have, would she? As I’d have still been going,” Dean replied coolly.
To this Seamus laughed even harder, before shaking his head from the other side of the large mahogany table and submerging himself back in the newspaper articles that he was reading through.
Their job of researching through recent muggle newspapers, magazines and even current television news was for the most part a fairly mundane position, although it did mean that Dean was now a lot more caught up on current affairs.
They would occasionally stumble upon an article referencing something strange, or a muggle talking about something crazy that they had seen or come across. It was these articles that they would then cut out and keep for Hestia to rifle through and determine whether it was worth a further follow-up investigation or not.
“Bruce managed to get us tickets for the Tunisia game in Marseille next week, imagine that, watching England at an actual World Cup!” Dean said, as a preview of the upcoming international football tournament in the Telegraph reminded him.
“You’ll get to see them lose live in the flesh, what a treat!” Seamus jibed back.
“You’re just bitter that Ireland didn’t qualify!” Dean replied. “Who are you supporting then, if not England?”
“Brazil of course!” Seamus answered proudly. “They’ve got an unbelievable team. I reckon it’s between them and France, but I can’t bring meself to support France, with Vieira and Petit in midfield it just reminds me of Arsenal stealin’ the league from us!”
Dean laughed, as he was very pleased that his friend’s beloved Manchester United had not won the Premier League once more in the recent season, especially as it really winded him up.
“But we’ve got Beckham, Scholes and Sheringham in our squad, I thought as a United fan you might want to see your players do well!”
“Not if they’re in a bloody England shirt I don’t,” Seamus responded moodily. “Me muggle cousins back home in Ireland would kill me if they heard I was supporting England. You know what they call the British flag over there?”
“The butcher’s apron,” Seamus replied in a fairly dramatic tone.
Dean couldn’t confess to know all that much about ‘The Troubles’, or the conflict in Ireland which muggle Britain had been involved in for the past few years, but he certainly knew that whatever it was there was definitely no love lost between certain Irish contingents towards each other and the British, especially the English.
“I still don’t get why muggle Ireland is split but magical Ireland isn’t,” Dean said to his friend.
“Mainly cause of the monarchy… and religion… the magical community was never too worried about any of that,” Seamus answered.
“But then if that’s the case that the magical community didn’t care about the monarchy, how come the Scottish are still part of wizarding Britain?”
“How the hell should I know?” Seamus shot back with a slight smile. “Why don’t ya ask old Binnsy when you’re back at school?”
The pair returned to rifling through their newspapers and magazines, before they were interrupted by someone knocking on the door.
They made eye contact with each other, neither particularly wanting to get it, but eventually Seamus got up to see who it was.
He opened the door and standing before them was Harry Potter, dressed in what looked like a muggle police uniform. Dean had to do a double take as it was all very surreal.
“What the feck are you wearin’, mate?” Seamus asked in a bewildered tone, before Harry explained that he was taking part in a raid in a heavily muggle populated area.
“Makes sense I guess,” Seamus mumbled, as Harry then added that he’d been instructed to come and let their boss Hestia Jones know to be on alert in-case they required an Obliviator in the aftermath of their mission.
The Boy Who Lived quickly fled the scene, seeming not to have the time for any needless small talk. He’d worn a very determined look on his face, as if he was prepared for some kind of battle or fight.
“You reckon if we ever get any field work we’ll get one of those outfits?” Seamus asked, as he sat back down, before taking a chewing gum from his pocket.
He offered Dean one, but he politely declined.
“I hope so,” Dean said. “You know what they say, ladies love a man in uniform, don’t they?”
“Not all ladies!”
They both looked up in surprise as the Head Obliviator, Hestia Jones, emerged on the scene back from a break with a half-drunk bottle of Pepsi Max.
“Have either of you found anything of note in last week’s newspapers in between wondering what women want in a man?”
“Not really,” Dean answered truthfully.
“Nah, nothin’ much, Miss Jones,” Seamus said. “Harry Potter popped by though… he said Miss Savage wants you to be on alert in-case they need an Obliviator after their raid.”
Hestia huffed slightly.
“Oh did she now?” Hestia muttered moodily, indicating that she wasn’t altogether too happy about this, although Dean wasn’t really sure why, after all Obliviating people was quite literally her job.
“I suppose I have never been to Ireland before,” she considered to herself, as she made her way to her private office away from them.
“What d’ya mean… they’re goin’ to a raid in Ireland?” Seamus shot back quickly, in a concerned sounding voice.
Hestia gave him a strange sort of look.
“The mission is heavily classified. I can’t talk about it. I shouldn’t have even said that really,” she said, looking a bit guilty about having slipped up in front of them.
“But… but Harry was wearin’ a muggle police uniform,” Seamus fumed in disbelief. “They can’t go paradin’ round some parts of Ireland dressed in those! Have they lost their damn minds?!”
Hestia seemed a bit confused and caught off guard by his sudden outburst.
“I believe it was Savage’s idea. She mentioned that the part of Ireland they’re going to is considered part of Britain within the muggle world. I’m sure they will be fine, Seamus, I think that muggles will be the least of their worries.”
Seamus shot a very worried look at Dean, before Hestia eventually left them to return to her office.
“I hope they kno’ what they’re fuckin’ doing,” Seamus muttered, before exasperatedly running his hand through his hair in frustration.
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