12 October 1969
One second, Alfred Pennyworth was unconscious and asleep, on the Fourth Floor of St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, London.
The next second, the last remnants of the Dreamless Sleep Potion left his system and he shot up from his bed and gasped for air, light brown eyes wide open.
Quickly, he slowed down his breathing and began to organise his thoughts, and remember the events that led to him ending up here:
He had been investigating a Muggle house in Cornwall that had just been attacked by wizards. Although Alfred was in the Auror Office's Foreign Enemies Division (set up in 1946 by then-Head of the DMLE Justin Pilliwickle), he and Alastor Moody had volunteered to go to Cornwall of his own volition-it had been three months since he had assigned a case, and he had felt himself dying of boredom.
When he arrived in Cornwall, the house was ablaze, and there was a greenish shape in the sky above it that looked similar to a snake coming out of a skull's mouth.
He regretted looking up at it, as it had meant that he had foolishly put his guard down and given one of the perpetrators of this heinous crime the opportunity to send a Cutting Curse in his direction. Not only that, but they had all gotten away-he had heard the tell-tale cracking sounds of a wizard Apparating before he had lost consciousness from blood loss.
Keeping himself up with his forearms, Alfred looked down to the end of his bed and sighed exasperatedly. There should have been two feet, but thanks to the Cutting Curse, there was only one. To be exact, it was his right leg from the knee down that was missing.
Looking around the mostly empty ward, he could see there were five Healers attending to different patients, one occupied bed with the sheet over the head, and a sixth Healer talking to three men standing near the door. Alfred recognised all three of the men immediately.
The first man had black hair neatly parted, a black toothbrush moustache, was in his late-30s and was wearing a black pinstriped three-piece suit and tie with a grey Homburg and dark green Inverness cape with indigo lining. This was Bartemius Crouch, the Deputy-Director of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
The second man was Alastor Moody, who was taller than Crouch with a stronger build, long reddish-brown hair and a few years younger than Crouch was. He wore a brown leather overcoat over the Auror uniform, black leather fingerless gloves and old British Army combat boots from the 1940s that had been purchased from a Muggle military surplus.
The third man, a tall thin man with long tawny-coloured hair around the same age as Crouch, was wearing the same uniform as Moody, only he had a black Mac over his uniform. He caught Alfred's eye and nodded. Alfred nodded back. This third man, Rufus Scrimgeour, was the current Deputy-Head of the Auror Office, as of January 1969, when Moody had turned down the offer, not wanting to spend less time in the field, and the former Deputy-Head had retired after 44 years of service.
A Healer walked over to Alfred's bed, clipboard in hand. "It's good to see you're awake now," she said in a calm voice as he propped his pillow up and lay, relaxed on it. "You have visitors."
Alfred watched as the three men now began walking over to his bed, concern etched on Moody's face, while Crouch wore an impassive expression.
"Well, how are you?" asked Moody in a gruff voice.
Alfred shrugged, glancing at the calendar. "Since it's been three days, I'd say legless," he replied dryly, causing Moody to chuckle and Scrimgeour to roll his eyes.
Crouch, on the other hand, was still wearing the impassive look. "The wizard who sent the Cutting Curse at you, Auror Pennyworth-what did he look like?" he asked.
Alfred furrowed his eyebrows. "You mean you haven't asked Moody yet?" he asked back.
Crouch's eyes narrowed at this response. "I have," he replied stiffly. "But I would very much like to hear what you saw."
"Moody," asked Alfred with some innocence, turning to the gruff Auror looking at a glass of water, "am I in a position to answer his questions?"
Moody said nothing, but gestured with a simple tilt of his head.
"Don't avoid my questions, Pennyworth, or I'll have you sent to the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office," Crouch warned.
Sighing, with the knowledge that he would not be able to sway his boss, Alfred swiped the glass from Moody and drank its contents down in one gulp.
"All I can tell you is that he was tall-around 6 foot 3 inches, thin, and unlike the other two, he was not wearing a mask," Alfred detailed. "His hood was up, his face looked like someone had shone a lamp in front of a wax figure for a few hours, and he had black hair, horribly cut-or maybe his hair was thinning badly. I've been out cold for a few days, so I may have some things muddled up."
"That's quite similar to what Auror Moody told me," Crouch replied in his no-nonsense tone.
"Why are you taking this much involvement, sir?" asked Alfred curiously. "As far as I know, a Muggle home being burned to the ground by wizards with presumably all residents killed should involve the Aurors alone."
"This is the first truly serious attack in over twenty years on Muggles by wizards," Crouch responded, "and the Minister has shown some concern over this. She's wondering if this may be connected to the sudden departure of her predecessor from his position last year, and the attempted murder of a Wizengamot member who supported the Squib Rights marches last year."
"Ah," was all Alfred could reply with as Crouch turned around to walk out the door. Taking in another deep breath, he then asked slowly, "Is there anything else that I ought to be told, sir?"
Crouch stopped. He exhaled and he turned around to face Alfred.
"Due to the severity of your injury, I am afraid that you no longer permitted to engage in fieldwork," he stated simply, before exiting the ward.
AN: This is a Harry Potter/Batman AU idea that has been floating around in my mind for quite some time, and around August 2016 I decided that I would finally stop procrastinating and start writing it down. This, at long last, is the first chapter, after God-knows how many rewrites, drafts, concepts and ideas.
Chapter 2: Recovery Time
13 October 1969
Alfred took another step, wincing slightly. His new prosthetic leg would take some time to get used to, and even though he knew that it probably would not be enough for him to convince Crouch to let him back out into the field, he was pleased that he could now walk again.
He heard a knock on the door. He stopped walking in the same circle, and headed for the door to open it.
It was Moody, now wearing a peaked cap and appearing to have borrowed Scrimgeour’s Mac.
“Am I allowed in?” he asked in his gruff manner. Alfred nodded, and stepped back to allow Moody to enter.
“Will we be heard in here?” asked Moody as he closed the door.
Alfred shook his head. “No. I placed a Silencing Charm on the door to keep us from being disturbed.”
“I see,” replied Moody, before looking at Alfred’s prosthetic leg. “How is it?” he asked.
“It’s alright,” answered Alfred. “It’s made of wood, and the joints are aluminium.”
“Aluminium, as in like that damn Christmas tree Septimus has?” asked Moody. Alfred nodded.
“All the same,” continued Moody, “I don’t think I’d like one of my own.”
This provoked a chuckle from Alfred, who replied with “At the very least, once the Healers are done with it, it’ll be harder for a spell to knock it down.”
“What about a Killing Curse?” Moody inquired sceptically.
Alfred furrowed his eyebrows in wonder. “That does sound interesting-maybe we ought to ask the Unspeakables to do a test on whether a Killing Curse hitting a prosthetic leg would kill the owner.”
“The Killing Curse has been around for centuries-you’d think people would have an answer by now,” Moody stated dryly. “But we’re not here to talk about potential Unspeakable business, are we?”
Alfred shook his head. “No, we are not.”
“So, why’d you ask me to visit?” asked Moody.
Licking his lips, Alfred sighed. “I’m thinking of handing in my resignation the moment I get out of here.”
“What?” Moody asked incredulously. “Why?”
“I’ve been an Auror for the past 10 years, Moody,” Alfred explained, “8 of them spent in the FED. And now, thanks to my loss of limb and Crouch, I’m no longer permitted to get out of the office. I’d rather not waste my talents behind a desk, thank you very much.
“Besides,” he continued, pulling a letter from his pocket, “this just arrived for me. I’ve read it and re-read it, and I would like to see your opinion on it. Just in case.”
Moody nodded in understanding as he took the letter from Alfred. “It never killed anyone to be too careful,” he said in agreement as he then unfolded the letter and began reading it:
“Dear Alfred T. Pennyworth,
Firstly, I must give my condolences to your with regards your injury. I trust that the Healers have been able to do what they could and that you are still able to lead something resembling a normal life.
In any event, having good memories of you from Hogwarts, I know that you will want to continue to the best of your abilities in the Auror Office; however should this prove impossible due to bureaucracy (read: Bartemius Crouch), then I would like to offer you a proposition.
However, in case this is intercepted, I feel I cannot afford to divulge exactly what it is you are being offered.
In which case, I would like to arrange to meet with you at The Leaky Cauldron sometime within the next eight weeks. I’m on good terms with Tom, so it should be easy to rent a room for a few hours to talk.
I hope you get better and, even if you don’t want to take up my offer, at least think about it.
“Well?” asked Moody when he finished.
Alfred shrugged. “Philip and I were at Hogwarts together in the same year, but we didn’t interact that much, despite the fact we were in the same House.”
Moody sniffed. “And yet he’s asking you to what amounts to a job interview, behind all the bush-beating and the sesquipedalian loquaciousness.”
“True,” agreed Alfred with a somewhat forlorn look in his eyes.
This was not unnoticed by Moody.
“You’ve already made your mind up, haven’t you?” he asked with some disappointment. Alfred nodding back in response confirmed these fears.
Moody sighed, but decided to continue talking about the letter.
“And you’re certain that Philip Kane has nothing to do with what happened in Cornwall?” he then asked.
“No. The two wizards with masks had short wands, while their ‘master’ seemed to have a long, white wand.”
Moody looked at him strangely. Alfred groaned and rolled his eyes.
“That’s not what I mean!” he said in a berating tone. Moody let out a chuckle.
“So, what wand do you remember Kane using?”
“10 inches, cypress, and I don’t know what the core is.”
Moody made a slight gesture of the head. “Fair enough,” he said, before asking “At the very least, what’s wrong with me and some others having a little going-away party for you?”
“Now why would I say no to that?” asked Alfred with a smirk. “I’ve been working as an Auror since I qualified in ’58, and I don’t think I’ve not gotten on with anyone else, so you can set one up if you want. I won’t be clearing out until before Christmas, anyway.”
Hearing this, Moody smiled. “That’s good to know. And, uh, as for the letter, seeing as we’ve briefly gone off-topic, you can go ahead if you like-if it turns out he’s going to murder you, you can handle it.”
“Thanks for that bit of confidence, Moody,” replied Alfred.
“You’re welcome,” answered Moody with a smirk as he turned to open the door.
“Oh, and Alfred?”
“Make sure to visit every now and then, alright?”
Alfred smiled and nodded back to Moody. “Don’t you worry, old friend. I will.”
15 November 1969
Alfred stared at his report, now finished. Since his discharge from Saint Mungo’s on the 15th of October (he had recovered fairly quickly from his loss of limb, and the Healers had beaten the Unspeakables to the punch by testing whether a Killing Curse to a prosthetic limb could kill the owner), he had been helping comb through the files and archives looking for clues as to who the disfigured wizard who took his leg was.
His report had come to the conclusion that there was a small yet powerful group of wizards and witches who held anti-Muggle views, and quite possibly may possess prejudiced views against Muggleborn wizards and witches.
To prevent him from dying of boredom he made sure to keep an ear out for the usual Ministry gossip, which provided hours of conversational material-this time, it was that Septimus Weasley’s youngest son, Arthur, who worked with Perkins, was now engaged to his girlfriend, a Prewett. Additionally, Orford Umbridge was missing from work-yesterday had been the seventh anniversary of his divorce, and he had been out at The Fountain of Fair Fortune to celebrate this. However, the DMLE still had to put up with his daughter in the Improper Use of Magic Office.
As for Philip Kane’s letter, Alfred had contacted him via letter and asked for a meeting at the Leaky Cauldron on the 16th, tomorrow, meaning he only had less than 24 hours before his questions regarding the secrecy behind Kane’s cryptic letter were answered.
“How are you doing now?” asked a voice. Alfred turned around to see it was Scrimgeour.
“I’m doing well, Rufus,” answered Alfred. “And I’m getting attached to my leg.”
“That’s good to know, Alfred,” Scrimgeour continued. “Listen, about your resignation: when do you plan on leaving, exactly?”
“The 29th of December, Rufus,” Alfred responded firmly. Scrimgeour nodded in acknowledgement.
“Thanks for that. By the way, Alastor wanted me to tell you that the going-away party will be on Christmas Eve. And you needn’t worry-neither Umbridge will be there.”
Alfred let out a chuckle. “That’s good to know,” he said with a friendly smile. “I’ll see you there, then.”
“You will, I promise.”
And Scrimgeour walked off to his office, leaving Alfred to think about his past and to wonder what the future would hold for him, starting tomorrow.
Chapter 3: Meeting Philip Kane
16 November 1969
Alfred looked in the mirror, wondering if his choice of clothing would make him stand out. Being a half-blood who actually took the effort to keep himself immersed in the activities of the Muggle world, he made sure to keep up-to-date with the latest clothing trends of the Muggles, so as to better blend in when he had to go in amongst them.
"Let's see," he muttered to himself. "A brown leather bomber jacket with woollen lining, a grey polo neck sweater, a plaid flat cap, brown trousers and surplus Army boots-fashionable and warm, thanks to the Heating Charm I've placed on them.
"Yes sir," he concluded, turning up the collar so that it covered part of his face and made identification harder. "I'm ready to meet Philip and see what this is about."
The Leaky Cauldron was not as busy as Alfred has assumed it to be, though he quickly chalked that up to some of the patrons from last night recovering from any hangovers they may have gained, and the need to start buying Christmas presents for their friends and family.
The pub landlord, Tom, a balding man in his mid-70s, greeted Alfred cordially from behind the bar.
"I'm good Tom, thank you for the offer of a drink but no thank you," replied Alfred with a hint of regret in his voice.
"Oh alright," conceded Tom, before he leaned on his elbow and beckoned Alfred to come closer with a quick gesture of the hand.
"What is it?" asked Alfred with some curiosity.
"There's a man-Philip Kane- waiting in the private parlour for you. He said to let him know when you arrived," Tom told him quietly.
Alfred nodded in understanding. Finally, he would find out just what Philip Kane wanted with him.
Philip Kane, at the age of 33, was around six months older than Alfred. His blond hair, cut short and parted to the left, was still damp thanks to the rain pouring outside, which suggested he had only arrived recently, and may have made arrangements with Tom in advance of this meeting.
As always, however, his boyish looks were unmarred by the weather.
"It's good to see you again, Alfred," he said with a smirk as stretched out his hand. "The last time we really talked to one another was about, what, ten, eleven years ago, before we graduated from Hogwarts?"
"As I recall, we graduated from Hogwarts in 1956, after which you went to work for your parents' apothecary, and I joined the Aurors, qualifying in '59," Alfred said back to him, taking his hand and shaking.
Philip nodded. "How is Moody doing?"
"Fine, fine," replied Alfred.
Philip nodded, seemingly content with that answer, before looking down at Alfred's leg.
"As I said in my letter, I'm sorry to hear about what happened," he said with a sympathetic smirk.
Alfred looked down, stepped back and lifted his right leg.
"Nothing that can't be fixed," Alfred assured him, lowering his leg, crossing his arms and looking at Philip dead in the eye.
"So, care to tell me what the Hell it is that you wanted to talk to me about?" he asked sardonically.
Philip sighed, biting part of his lip with some nervousness.
"You remember my sister Martha, don't you?" he asked.
Alfred nodded. "Four years behind us, she graduated in 1960, and she hasn't been seen here since November that year. Emmeline Vance asked me two years ago if I could find her; unfortunately, I ended up having too many cases to handle to fulfil that promise to her.
"I know she'd be 27 now-that is, if she's still alive and not dead, as one or two people have wondered."
Philip's smirk turned into a nervous smile. "Believe me, Alfred, Martha isn't dead. I've been writing letters to her for the past seven years, ever since she left."
Alfred's eyebrows furrowed in suspicion. "What do you mean?" he asked. "She isn't in the country?"
The shake of the head from Philip as he sat down in the armchair answered that question.
"You won't find in any part of Magical Britain, or the Muggle part either," he said. "She left for America in November 1960-I helped arrange it with her. She's now an American citizen, working as a painter in Gotham City, because it sounds like the last place any woman would move to, wizard or Muggle."
"And why is this so important for you both that you hid it from practically everyone in Britain, including, presumably, your parents? Or why you couldn't tell me in the letter?" asked Alfred.
Philip tensed, then sighed. Alfred could see that he was silently debating with himself whether to tell Alfred either the whole truth or some of it.
"Alright, but please don't tell anyone-I'd be quite happy if my parents never found out about this," Philip said at last.
Seeing that Alfred's patience was becoming limited, Philip continued.
"My parents are traditionalists, Alfred-not full-out blood supremacists like Abraxas Malfoy and Walburga Black, but they are still believers in the more archaic aspects of wizarding culture, among them being marriages of convenience."
"They wanted Martha to marry someone of high standing for socio-economic reasons, she disagreed, you supported her, and to prevent herself from being tracked down she fled to America," guessed Alfred.
"Yes, that's pretty much it," affirmed Philip. "The man in question they wished her to marry was Claudius Nott, Cantankerus's son."
"That bastard?" Alfred sputtered, a sneer forming on his face. "I remember him-two years above Minerva McGonagall, unrepentant bully of Muggleborns, got himself into detention five times in our First Year for harassing some of them. I know for a fact he didn't particularly like me either."
Philip nodded grimly. "That bastard, correct. Martha doesn't have many fond memories of him either-probably because one of her best friends at Hogwarts was a Muggleborn."
"Who was that, then?" asked Alfred.
"Miraphora Mina," answered Philip.
"So, if she's away in America, trying to keep herself from going up the aisle with Nott, how come you need me?" asked Alfred again.
Philip sighed again and continued explaining.
"Because if she stayed in Britain, they would have found her, forced her into marriage, and not listen to anything she said about it. I met Nott a while ago, and he's happy that she's left-apparently he doesn't want his wife to be a blood traitor, and he's now found someone to marry.
"Also, I've been spying on them in case they have any idea of where she is. And if I heard them speaking correctly last week, then they're onto her and want her back here."
"You mean they know she's in America and you're worried they may forcefully take her back to marry someone else, seeing as Nott is looking to get out of bachelorhood." It was not a question.
Philip nodded. "That's it, yes. And there is a high chance they will try to bring her back, willingly or not."
"So, I'm presuming that, out of big-brother instinct, you're offering to me a job working as a bodyguard of-sorts for Martha to ward off any abduction attempts by her parents?" asked Alfred again.
Another nod from Philip answered that question. "Well?"
Alfred sat down himself opposite Philip and leaned back on the chair.
"I don't really know, Philip," he said. "I've been an Auror for 10 years, most of that time in the FED. I feel much too used to the action and the adrenaline of that job to be able to do anything else for the rest of my life."
"She lives in Gotham City," Philip said reassuringly. "You should be able to see some action there."
"I've been there once, if only for a half-hour," Alfred told Philip. "It does seem like a place where there'll be some action."
"And who knows," continued Philip, "maybe you'll learn to enjoy the quiet life."
"So, is this everything?" asked Alfred, glancing out the window. "I can see the rain's lightened up somewhat."
Philip turned his head and looked out the window as well. "I suppose it is," he agreed. "And, uh, when should we meet again about this, do you think?"
"How about next month?" suggested Alfred. "I won't officially be leaving the Aurors until after Christmas, so we can talk about details about my new living then, and I can perhaps head over to America around January at the earliest."
Again, Philip bit his lip while thinking. It was something of a tic he had, and one Alfred remembered from Hogwarts.
"I suppose that could work," he said finally. "I've to attend a meeting with some potential American business partners in January, which gives me a good excuse to visit Martha. You can come with me then-I'll let you know the details of it when we next meet.
"Also, I hear that your colleagues are planning a going-away party for you-can I go?"
Alfred shrugged. "I'm not planning it, so you're free to ask them. But you know what they say: the more, the merrier."
Chapter 4: December of '69
Dedicated to Robert Hardy (1925-2017).
13 December 1969
There was a healthy layer of snow covering Hogsmeade's roofs and the ground. Alfred smiled nostalgically, remembering his first winter at Hogwarts. Even in adulthood, his worldview darker and more jaded than when he had graduated, he still found the castle at this time of the year to look beautiful.
He walked around Hogsmeade, noticing the students going in and out of shops and attempting to sneak into a few pubs. He smirked nostalgically when he saw the bearded bartender of The Hog's Head throwing out what looked to be a Crabbe, going by his thuggish looks.
'Philip had the right idea,' he thought as he began walking towards The Three Broomsticks pub. 'All the people inside chatting and talking, it'll be hard for people to hear us. The fact that the owners put in protective enchantments to prevent eavesdropping by use of magic helps as well.'
Opening the door, he found it was, as predicted, crowded and loud. Adult patrons (drinking various kinds of alcohol) and students (mostly with butterbeer-Alfred knew that if they had real liquor, they would get a stern rebuttal back at the school).
He saw Philip in a more secluded booth, wearing a tweed overcoat over a black pinstriped suit. Making his way over to Philip's booth, he silently greeted him, who nodded back in acknowledgement.
"How's the past month been?" asked Philip.
"Not as shit as I'd been expecting," replied Alfred. "Crouch isn't happy that I'm leaving-I suspect he would've liked me to stay training new Auror recruits-but he hasn't tried to stop me from leaving. The one thing we are working on is the murder of a Muggle publican in Yorkshire last week by a Killing Curse."
"Do you think it might be linked to what happened in Cornwall?" asked Philip suspiciously.
Alfred shrugged. "I wouldn't be surprised if it was linked. Scrimgeour suggested that theory, and at the very least Langarm will look into it."
"Can I help you two gentlemen?" asked a voice. Alfred and Philip looked up to see the pretty face of the barmaid, a young blonde woman wearing a grey knee-length dress, black stockings and maroon high-heeled Victorian-style boots.
"Yes, I'd like a gillywater please," answered Philip. The barmaid turned to Alfred, who asked for a glass of firewhiskey.
Alfred stared quizzically at Philip's choice of drink.
"My birthday, my parents' wedding anniversary, Christmas and New Year's Eve are the only times when I drink strong alcohol," Philip answered.
"I'm mostly a social drinker myself," admitted Alfred.
Philip nodded in approval as he sipped his drink. "Anyway, about the details of your new job, I have some ideas."
"What are they?" asked Alfred, lifting his glass to drink down some of the firewhiskey.
Philip glanced around, and lowered his voice.
"Well, I talked with Martha using the Floo two days ago, and she's open to the idea of you staying at her fiancé's house."
Alfred gave Philip a look. "You didn't tell me she was engaged."
"She told me when I was using the Floo-it was on the 10th. She lives with him, and he knows about our society now, so he is willing to let you stay. It would certainly save energy without having to Apparate over and back daily."
"So her fiancé has a big house," Alfred surmised dryly.
Philip nodded. "It was built in the late 18th century, after the Revolutionary War, and could probably rival the Malfoy Manor in terms of its stately grandeur."
"Can't wait to live there, then," said Alfred with a droll smirk before asking, "How much will I be paid for this?"
"45 galleons a week, including holidays," answered Philip.
Alfred let out a whistle. "That's a third higher than with the Aurors," he said.
"I know," replied Philip.
"What else is there?" asked Alfred.
"She does volunteer work in the poorer parts of the city. The times are irregular. She also doesn't use magic much, as she hasn't registered her wand."
"She hasn't registered her wand with MACUSA in case your parents find out?" presumed Alfred. Philip's nod was all the answer Alfred needed.
Taking another sip of his gillywater, Philip continued.
"Martha's also been involved in protests against the American government's involvement in the Vietnam conflict, so I'm not going to bother asking you to go with.
"Her art studio is in Gotham Heights. It's a nice building."
Alfred took another drink from his glass, finishing the rest of the firewhiskey, and placed the glass back down on the table.
"Is that all?" he asked.
"Yes, I suppose it is, unless I've forgotten something," replied Philip. "Oh, yes, I'll be heading off on the 8th of January, so you had best be ready by then."
"Good," Alfred said back. "I'll start packing away my belongings on Saint Basil's Day then, and have my apartment empty by the 7th."
He stood up, fished around in his pocket and took out three Sickles, leaving them on the table. Philip watched, and then, realising what Alfred was doing, took out two Sickles of his own to give as a tip.
Alfred smiled and giggled slightly as the barmaid walked over to them. "Don't you forget, Philip," he said. "You're paying for those drinks."
20 December 1969
Today was the date of the going-away party. According to Moody, nearly everyone in the Auror Office was going to be there, along with a few other people from the other Ministry departments. Crouch had been invited, but had declined to continue working. Alfred wondered if it ever occurred to the man to spend time with his wife and son.
Alfred had decided to wear the polo neck again. He had developed a liking for the garment over the years: not only it was comfortable, but they were suitable for many types of occasion (work, going out for a drink, field work, etc.), and because of its popularity among Muggle men it allowed him to blend in with them more easily.
Because of that particular fact, he suspected that Arthur Weasley wanted one, and so had decided to send the young man one of his own as a Christmas present.
The going-away party was going to be at the Leaky Cauldron, and start at 8.00pm. Knowing full well that half the people coming wouldn't be there at that point, he saw nothing wrong with heading over at 8.02pm.
He checked his watch. 7.55pm. Taking out a pack of ordinary playing cards, he took out the cards and began playing a game of solitaire to pass the time. If his watch said 8.02pm and he wasn't finished yet, then he would leave until he returned from the Leaky Cauldron, though he suspected that at that point, it would be 3 in the morning and he would have to had bring a very drunk Scrimgeour home with him, on account that Scrimgeour had enchanted his key and door so that only he could enter.
The clock on the wall chimed, signalling it now pretty much time for him to leave and head over to the Leaky Cauldron.
Picking out a black frock-coat he had gotten from Moody three years ago as a birthday present (the choice was easy, to tell the truth: it was draped on the back of his chair), he checked his watch, exited his apartment, locked the door, walked downstairs and out the backdoor of the building into an alleyway.
Looking around to ensure nobody was present, and finding only a man of his age sitting with his back to the wall who appeared to be under the influence of marijuana (unofficially, Ministry workers were allowed to Apparate in front of these kinds of people, as it was guaranteed nobody would take them seriously), he turned on his heel and a split-second later, was gone, accompanied by a loud 'pop' sound.
The high man, looking strangely at the spot where Alfred had been just a moment ago, eventually stopped and continued puffing and seeing more psychedelically surreal visions.
"So, what you're telling me is that the Muggles have already reached the Moon?" Arthur Weasley asked Jeremiah Garnett curiously.
Garnett nodded in confirmation. "Back this past summer. It took the Americans almost a full decade of planning, and it's something I still can't wrap my head around. The Gaunts always said that we wizards are the superior ones; well, how come it's not us on the Moon?"
"That's a good point," conceded Arthur, nodding his head. "The things that they've created, and how they are able to make up for not having any magical ability, has amazed me since before I was wearing the Sorting Hat."
"Keep it up; it'll be good to know how they think."
A chair was pulled up and Philip Kane sat down, wearing grey tweed jacket and trousers and a brown leather double-breasted waistcoat.
"My sister got an Outstanding in Muggle Studies during her OWLS," he said, attempting to enter the conversation. It worked, as Arthur turned to face him.
"Did she really?" he asked.
Philip nodded. "She failed both Astronomy and History of Magic, though."
Garnett rolled his eyes. "It wouldn't surprise me if half the Ministry failed their History of Magic OWLs, Binns being as dull as he is."
"My father was on the Board of Governors ten years ago, and I remember him complaining about how the rest of them had voted against getting rid of Binns, simply because it'd be rather expensive to find a reliable exorcist."
"What was Dumbledore's stance?" asked Arthur.
"He was in favour, I imagine; Binns died the summer before he came to Hogwarts," answered Garnett. "So, like the rest of us, he probably knows how dull the old ghost is."
Philip's nod confirmed what Garnett had suggested.
The tell-tale 'pop' sound of someone Apparating into the pub was soon heard, and the trio turned to where the noise came to see who it was.
It was Alfred, and once everyone present saw it, they immediately began clapping, with the ones who had started drinking cheering.
Around an hour later, during which Alfred had been socialising and talking to various people, Moody had won a drinking contest against Elphias Doge (who was now passed out on the counter), Arthur had decided he would try to learn as much as he could about Muggle culture and technology, and bets had been placed on how long before Crouch became the head of the DMLE, Scrimgeour stood up and cast a Amplifying Charm on himself, bringing everyone's attention to himself.
"Gentlemen," he said, looking around the room, "we are here today because one of our colleagues will be leaving our ranks."
He gestured to Alfred, who was sitting at the bar, nodded at Scrimgeour and waved.
"Alfred Pennyworth has been with us for the past 10 years, and in 1961 was placed in the Foreign Enemies Division. I am probably sworn by an Unbreakable Vow to not tell you what they do, but the name ought to tell you enough, I think."
A few chuckles came from the crowd, while Moody rolled his eyes as he leaned on the counter, not looking forward to waking up in the morning.
"I will say this about you, Alfred: you have been a very competent Auror, dedicated, intuitive, and could probably dish out six spells in fifteen seconds, so if anyone wants to duel him…"
Louder laughter came from the crowd, Moody allowing himself a few chuckles and Alfred smirking amusedly.
"In those ten years you were with us, Alfred, you captured 24 criminals and suspects across the globe, and did an incredible amount of paperwork because of that, all the while keeping the use of deadly force to a minimum-only using offensive spells when necessary."
Moody and other Aurors nodded with smiles.
Scrimgeour was looking sadder, but he still had a small smile as he continued: "We're sorry to see you go, but at the same time it'll be nice for all the pirate jokes to end as well."
More laughter as he then took a glass of firewhiskey and raised it up in the air.
"To your continued good health and your remaining limbs," he finished, as the rest of the attendees raised their glasses and said the same thing.
'All in all,' Alfred thought at around 2 in the morning, as he carried a passed out Moody to the Floo to his house, 'it was an interesting party. It almost makes me feel bad to be leaving. But change is what drives all societies forward-you can't go back to the old ways. And who knows how my life will turn out from this.'
Chapter 5: The Last Few Days
2 January 1970
"It's been a hard day's night, and I've been working like a dog," Alfred sang under his breath, packing stamp catalogues into a suitcase while the sound of the Beatles played in his apartment thanks to his gramophone.
Alfred had stopped collecting stamps when he was halfway through his Auror training, due to the amount of time that said training was taking up. When he had finished, he just had not really thought about picking it back up, but now that he was no longer an Auror, he figured that maybe it was about time he started again.
Philip had mentioned at the Leaky Cauldron during the going-away party that it would have to be Thomas Wayne who officially hired him, to make the process of obtaining what was known as a 'green card' easier.
And on the 29th of December, Moody had visited to hand him a going-away present from his mother (a scarf), and Alfred had thus duly explained the whole process, as best he could, to the intrigued pureblood.
"The easiest way to get permanent residency in the US," Alfred had told Moody, who was sitting down in the armchair, "and this applies to everyone, wizards and Muggles alike, as wizards who went through Ellis Island in the old days were automatically cleared by MACUSA-is to have a blood relative who can sponsor you. If you have no familial ties to the United States, then it falls to the employer to sponsor you for a green card."
"How exactly?" asked Moody.
"They need to show you have skills and talents that can benefit the United States," continued Alfred, "such as being an architect or a man of medicine. If you have no exceptional skills, labour certification is required and proof that nobody in the United States could do my job, and that my taking up this position won't really affect the wages of workers in similar jobs. After 5 years of getting my green card, I will then be able to apply for citizenship."
"Sounds rather complex," Moody opined.
"Believe me, it's actually a little bit easier than it sounds," replied Alfred.
"Sure it is," muttered Moody, before asking again, "So because Thomas Wayne is a US citizen and national, he will be your official employer and after 5 years you can apply for American citizenship."
"Exactly," answered Alfred, nodding his head.
Moody got up and clapped Alfred on the shoulder. "Scrimgeour, if he were here," he said, "would more than likely be trying to get you to change your mind and stay. But me-well, I don't care either way, but at least you'll get out of this mess okay."
"I know what you mean," replied Alfred, glancing out the window. "There's a war coming, and in the next few years, a lot of good people are going to die."
Moody didn't answer to that, but he did nod soberly in agreement.
As the song ended and another song began, Alfred clapped and rubbed his hands together, having finished packing away his stamp catalogues in with his books.
In six days he would be stepping on a boat for America and probably never setting foot in his homeland again for a long time.
He had informed the landlord of the upcoming vacancy, and so had managed to begin trying to clear up any debts he owed to the man and to Gringotts before withdrawing his money, closing his account and setting up a new account with the American bank.
"This is going to be one hell of a quiet retirement," he said to himself, sitting down on the bed. "Looking after a happy, wealthy, engaged couple in a crime-ridden city on the East Coast of the United States while their economy slides down the tubes with their army's international reputation. Soon after, they'll probably get married, have children, and who knows what else.
"This is going to be very fucking easy indeed."
6 January 1970
Alfred put his glass down on the counter of the Leaky Cauldron, having made his mind up that as he only had two days left before he left for America, he would have to spend it here so as not to get drunk the night before and risk missing the boat. Also, it was not recommended to Apparate while under the influence.
He glanced to a table not far from him. A man around the same age as Crouch, wearing a blue pinstriped suit with purple bowtie and a lime green bowler hat lying next to him, was eating a plate of crumpets. Alfred recognised immediately as Cornelius Fudge, from the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes.
Sitting at another table was a sallow man in his early 20s with long unkempt hair eating a Yorkshire pudding. Unlike Fudge, Alfred did not recognise him.
At another table, not far from Fudge but further from the counter, were gathered two men deep in conversation, wearing cloaks that covered most of their faces. Due to the distance, Alfred was unable to recognise either of them, although he could tell that one of them was in his early 30s and had dark hair, while the other was about a decade younger with light auburn hair.
'It's amazing,' thought Alfred, as he took another drink, 'all the different people you see together in a bar. You have me-an ex-Auror with one leg, a low-level government official-that's Fudge, there's the two cloaked young men in the corner, and the other young man with the dirty long hair leaving the pub without so much as a tip for his Yorkshire pudding.'
The angry yells of a waiter running out after the long-haired man also told Alfred that he had not paid for his meal either.
Continuing his thoughts, Alfred hoped that America would be the same-a melting-pot of different people from all walks of life sitting together in bars and not harassing each other.
He remembered a Jewish neighbour of his, who had come to England from Russia in the 1880s as a child after the pogroms, who had often told of a brother who had gone on to America and become a conductor-the American term for a guard on a train-in New York's underground railways.
America, the Land of Dreams, people heading there had always said. Work hard enough and contribute to the good of society, and you will be rewarded with prosperity.
Alfred snorted with some cynicism. There wouldn't be much crime in Gotham if that were true: there were Muggleborns working hard at the Ministry who would never sit in the Department Head office despite holding more than enough qualifications.
It was a cruel part of human nature to discriminate against on account of ancestry. Alfred knew that this would still be happening in America if it was still happening here.
The door opened. He put his musings on hiatus and turned to see what it was.
It was Dedalus Diggle, a normally cheery man with greying hair wearing a purple coat and top-hat, talking quickly and quietly to who Alfred recognised as Elphias Doge, a close friend of Albus Dumbledore.
The temptation to go and to eavesdrop in case they were involved with the two incidents the year before was very large, but Alfred knew that, being an Auror no longer and the climate not being that fearful, it would be more difficult for him to explain to Crouch just why he was recording the conversation of the two men, seeing as how they could simply be having a bit of private gossip.
Taking another sip of his drink, he watched as the waiter asked Doge and Diggle if they wanted anything, and as Caradoc Dearborn, a grey-haired bearded wizard wearing a green Inverness cape and jackboots, sat down at a table and waited to be served.
"Oh, yes," murmured Alfred with a heavy sigh. "I'm going to miss it here."
When he had finished, he had given a decent tip and headed out to walk around Diagon Alley, rubbing his arms to generate extra warmth, for although the Heating enchantments on the cobblestones kept the streets clear of snow, there could be nothing done about the cold air.
He walked around slowly, trying his best to ensure every last detail of every shop was locked inside his memory. He felt that as it would be some time before he returned to Britain, and he had little idea how much damage the upcoming war may cause, it would be for the best if he could be able to piece it together completely from memory the same way he could piece together Dublin from Joyce's writings.
Feeling more adventurous, he then went down into Knockturn Alley. At 13B, he saw Borgin & Burke's, the (in) famous proprietor of Dark and semi-legal goods, now closed for the night, and The Red Griffin, a pub which Crouch suspected employed a prostitute, which would qualify it as a brothel and thus be breaking the law.
Once the war began, Alfred imagined Magical Law Enforcement Patrolmen walking all over this part of London, due to the many ties to the Dark Arts and the seedy side of Wizarding Britain it had the reputation of possessing.
Stopping in his tracks, Alfred exhaled and ignored that he could see his breath as he looked at his watch. The time was now quarter-past ten, and he had just over thirty-six hours before he would be on the boat to America.
Making up his mind that he had adventured enough tonight, Alfred spun on his heel and Disapparated back into the alley behind his apartment building, for what would probably be the last time.
Chapter 6: January 7, 1970
7 January 1970
Alfred looked around his bedroom, now stripped empty. He had done it now: everything he owned was now packed away, and he was ready to leave tomorrow and head to America.
He wondered, for the umpteenth time, what his time in America would be like.
He knew for certain he was probably not going to be the most well-liked new person in the city, seeing as Martha had involved herself in protests against the Vietnam War and he was being hired to keep her safe, officially by her fiancée, but in reality, by Philip.
There was also the fact that there was a chance she would be kidnapped by local criminals and held for ransom, or the ever-present threat of her parents finding out she was in Gotham. This was reduced however, according to Philip, because the elder Kanes did not really care too much for who was marrying who, magical or Muggle, and were not the most well-informed on events in the Muggle word, even if it somehow affected wizarding society.
"So," he said to himself, sitting on his bed, "all I have to do is be around the protests and keep Martha in my line of sight while they happen without actually taking part."
He then brought a hand to his chin, and began rubbing it in thought. "I haven't really talked about this yet with Philip, even though we should have done so in detail by now," he murmured, "but what the hell am I supposed to do if the elder Kanes do find out their daughter's in America and about to exchange wedding vows with a Muggle.
"Well, on the one hand, I could talk to her and perhaps agree to place a Tracking Charm onto her person-even if that is morally suspect, but I suppose considering the reason behind it, it'd be understandable."
He leaned his elbow on his knee and moved his index finger up, tapping his cheekbone.
"On the other hand, I could also talk to Philip and discuss a strategy in case such an event occurs. Neither of us are absolutely sure that they'll resort to kidnapping, and even if they do, there are very few people that they could give her away to-Rabastan Lestrange is too young, while his brother Rodolphus is going to marry Cygnus Black's eldest daughter, and is too young; the prior candidate, Nott, is going to be marrying Yaxley's daughter; so really, the only person that they could give her to is Gibbon."
"I think if my parents were to find out about this, Alfred," said Philip to Alfred a few hours later, at the Cauldron, which was now full of talking customers, including Arthur Weasley and his father seemingly discussing the upcoming wedding over lunch, "then the best thing to do would be for me to let them know of everything they're planning and perhaps bug their house. You just make sure you're armed and able to fight if they hire some less-than-reputable characters to bring her back. And if they find that I'm involved, then I'm probably out of the will."
Alfred raised an eyebrow. "And that is a disaster because…?"
Philip sighed, somewhat hesitant to explain.
"I want Martha and whatever children she has to get the family fortune when my parents die. From the way they've been talking however, if they find her, they'll almost certainly write her out of the will and disown me if they find out my involvement. There is a card we can play to our advantage, though, to stop this."
"What is it?" asked Alfred in a quieter tone.
Philip glanced around, hoping nobody would hear him, then leaned in and said, "I'm sterile. My father was an only son like myself-his sister married Davis's father. I die, and the family name is extinct, even though the bloodline will continue with Martha and her children."
"Your parents need an heir from you, as I presume they have been left uninformed by this development, which is why you are worried about them writing you out of the will," concluded Alfred, "and if Martha has children and they find out about your lack of…well, loaded ammunition, then they'll be backed into a corner: there will be no choice but to keep Martha in the will."
"From the way they have been talking," added Philip, "they're going to disown any children she may have with her. They find out about what I have, then they can't do so, as I will have doubtlessly ensured to name them in my will as the heirs to what I get and thus, to the family fortune. Thus, they have no choice but to keep me in the will."
"You're sounding like a Slytherin with that planning, Philip," said Alfred with a smirk, taking a sip from his cup of coffee.
Philip nodded. "Thank you. Their traits can be quite useful to have."
"So, would you care for lunch?" asked Alfred.
"Oh, yes please," replied Philip eagerly. "I haven't eaten anything in hours. If you want, I can pay."
Alfred shook his head. "No, no, no. You've done a lot for me in the past few months, and I need to repay that gratitude. I'll pay for it. You'll be happy to know the Ministry will continue to pay me my pension even after I officially get this, right? It's just that after I become naturalised, they'll have to funnel it through MACUSA."
Philip nodded again. "That is nice of you, I admit."
"So, what are you having?" asked Alfred, beckoning a waiter over.
"Yorkshire pudding," answered Philip. "You?"
"I'm in the mood for steak-and-kidney-pie. I haven't had any since I got out of Hogwarts, to be honest, so who knows what I think of it know."
Back at the apartment, Alfred had started compiling a list of reasons why he should stop doubting his new plans to go to America-alternate title, why his new life in America would be a good thing.
So far, he had:
1. The Sun would not be published there (Alfred had been an occasional buyer of the paper until November, when that bastard Murdoch had turned it into a rag tabloid)
2. The notorious crime rate would mean that there would be a chance to meet interesting people there
3. More newspapers (The Washington Post, The New York Times, The L.A. Times, et cetera), not including the wizarding publications
4. Surprisingly decent relations with the Muggle government, despite Rappaport's Law being abolished only five years prior-Alfred had gotten some respect for ow quickly they had gotten up to speed
5. Many interesting sights he had not been to before despite his previous visits to the US (though to be honest, he felt there were plenty of Americans who would go their entire lives without ever visiting the Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty)
6. He would be living in a large mansion on the outskirts of a giant city-he would have a bit more peace and quiet for himself
Alfred looked at his list. He sighed and continued staring at the piece of paper, as if trying to force another thought into his head by sheer will.
Eventually, after three minutes, he sighed again and threw the piece of paper down onto the floor.
"For God's sake, Alfred," he muttered, leaning on his left knee. "What the Hell are you doing? You're moving away from your friends and family, over 3,500 miles across the Atlantic to one of the most crime-ridden cities in America, hired by a man who you have talked to more in the past three months than you did over the previous ten years, becoming essentially a glorified bodyguard to someone you barely know."
Bringing his hand up to his face, he exhaled heavily, and began to once more think about why he had taken this position for Philip in the first place.
'Crouch won't let me go out into the field, which is the main reason I'm leaving. I'm certain that I'd be the first wizard to set up a private detective agency, but there'd just be far too much time in-between cases, unless Moody and I are right and a war does come. So I want to keep myself occupied. And need to-goodness knows the boredom unemployment provides is becoming more and more unbearable.
'At the same time, even though before I lost my leg I barely spoke to Philip Kane, and yet I was quite confident in the idea that he had no malevolent plans for me. Maybe it's because of those times he'd appeared in a few of the Prophet's gossip-y parts, and the fact that I'm using my Auror training too much in reading him-unless he acts otherwise, he's a friend so far as I'm concerned.'
Unable to think of any more points, Alfred sighed.
"I suppose that that could be enough to outweigh the negatives," he murmured to himself, looking at his watch.
"Huh. 6.30," he noted. "Time then for my last supper in Britain."
Looking around the kitchen, he found there was half a loaf of bread, with enough for two sandwiches tonight and two slices of toast in the morning before he headed to the ship.
Cutting the bread up (and muttering to the loaf he knew how it felt), he then took out a jar of mayonnaise, the remaining lettuce leaves and two tomatoes, cut them up, put them together into the two sandwiches, placed the sandwiches onto a plate and took the plate to the table to eat it.
'Doesn't taste too bad,' he thought as he chewed the sandwich. 'All the same, I'll have to brush up on my cooking skills-maybe the Waynes are those types of rich people who prefer to do things themselves and not have hired hands.'
Once he had finished his meal, he cleaned his plate, put it into the cupboard and walked back into his bedroom to get an early rise in the morning, when he would be heading away from his homeland to the New World.
Chapter 7: The Ship Sails
8 January 1970
Alfred woke up, groaning to himself as he reached for the ringing alarm clock on the drawer.
Managing to press the button to stop it, he groaned again, sat himself up, and looked at the time on the clock.
"7.00," he noted tiredly. The ship for America would be leaving in approximately three hours. Rubbing his eyelids, he hauled himself out of bed, keeping one hand on the headboard while he attached his prosthetic leg and got dressed.
When that was done, he walked to the door, into the kitchen and placed the bread slices into the toaster.
"Let's see what's left in the fridge," he wondered aloud as he opened the aforementioned appliance. "Ah. Good. There's butter, and a small cartoonish block of cheese."
He took out both the carton of butter and the block of cheese, and then a plate for the toast.
Five minutes later, the toast popped up. Alfred got up to put it into the plate, spread the butter around with a butterknife, and once he felt it was melted enough, began to eat it, savouring the taste.
Once he was finished eating his toast, he cleaned the plate and knife, ate the piece of cheese in one mouthful, took out a glass, filled it up with water, and once he was finished chewing and swallowing the cheese, gulped it down.
His business in the kitchen finished, he went back to the bedroom to ensure that everything was packed and that all things he didn't need were taken care of appropriately (a book known as The Prayer Warriors, that had been forced into his hands a year ago by a man in Bristol, and whose protagonists Alfred had found to be hypocritical and bigoted, had been sold to a second-hand shop along with a ghastly scarf he got from his aunt back in November, so he had no need to worry about them).
Five minutes later, he closed his suitcase again, smiling in contentment.
"That's everything," he said to himself. "I've forgotten nothing, I've lost nothing, I've packed everything-everything that I don't want or need, that is-my ticket has been arranged, my luggage will be with me at all times so there's no fear of me losing it."
Straightening his back, he nodded and smiled.
"I am ready to go."
The ship was in the port of Southampton. It was RMS Fairwind, a Cunard-owned ship-Alfred recognised the design and the pattern of the paint from when he was eight, waiting for his father to come back from Germany after the war ended.
He heard someone walking up to him. Turning around, he saw it was Philip, wearing a brown three-piece pinstriped suit with black fedora and Inverness cape, while his hands were protected from the chill of the January air by black leather gloves.
Philip exhaled, his breath visible as he looked at the ship that was to carry them both to America.
"Aren't they no longer doing yearly service?" asked Alfred.
Philip nodded. "You're right, but this is a cruise vessel. I was able to get a string or two pulled for us to get off at New York, whereupon you will be-"
"Taken to Ellis Island, where I will have to pass the application test, like all wizard immigrants," Alfred continued. "Once I've passed, I will get my green card and be on my way to Gotham."
Philip nodded in confirmation. "Yes, I suppose that's the gist of it. I'm guessing you know how long after the interview you will get your card?"
"Seeing as I am a wizard, and there are far less wizards immigrating to America, about two weeks," answered Alfred. "In which case, I could apply for a work permit in the meantime, but I feel that that's unnecessary."
"Why?" asked Philip, looking down at his watch, which read '8.33'. "What do you plan to do for those two weeks?"
Alfred shrugged, as the sun rose higher and shone off the snow. "Look around their home, familiarise myself with the city, get in a fight with some drunkard in a bar, et cetera, et cetera."
Philip raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "What do you mean, 'get in a fight with some drunk in a bar'?"
"Exactly what I said," replied Alfred, not explaining himself any further.
Philip nodded, not pushing the issue any further (as if he really wanted to).
After twenty-seven minutes of walking around the harbour (having already sent their luggage on board) and talking about various topics of interest (the recent killings of Muggles, the erupting violence in Northern Ireland-Philip felt it would be some time before a peaceful solution was reached, the efforts to resolve the Vietnam War, the chances of Barty Crouch becoming Minister, among others), Philip looked at his watch again.
"It's 9 o'clock now," he said.
Alfred nodded. "Alright," he said. He glanced to the ship. "Should we turn back now?" he then asked.
Philip nodded in agreement. "It'd be best," he replied. "If we don't, we might miss it. Keep in mind, it's difficult to Apparate somewhere you've never been."
With that, the two began walking back towards the ship, as other passengers began to arrive and board the ship.
Upon deck, Alfred walked over to the edge and looked out at the sea. Today, it looked calm, but Alfred knew that as it was winter, it would undoubtedly roughen later on, and being near the Atlantic, it was definitely likely they would encounter some waves on the trip.
Once again, he found his mind wandering to the idea of what may his new life be like in the States.
'God knows how long this trip will take,' he thought to himself as he leaned on the railing. 'But maybe the sea air will do me good-clear my head, get me in the right mood for the interview. I've done my homework, brushed up on what I know; so on and so forth.
'Maybe I shouldn't be doing this either,' he then wondered. 'I've have this thought before, but am I really doing the right thing by upping sticks and leaving just as the shit begins hitting the fan? I am not a coward by nature, so why am I doing this when I ought to be on land, preparing to lend a hand to the other Aurors when these attacks start becoming more frequent?'
Alfred took in a deep breath, and continued his thoughts.
'The answer? I've been out of work for nearly half a month now, and in that time I've had a lot of space and quietness to think, and the truth is, now that I think about it, there are things that I've done as an Auror that I feel really uncomfortable with, and the sooner I get away from Britain, the sooner I can forget about them, perhaps my guilt will fade, and my conscience will feel better.'
He was soon released from his thoughts by a tap on his shoulder. Turning around, he saw Philip.
"You might want to get inside," he advised.
"Are we leaving now?" asked Alfred.
"No, no," replied Philip, lowering his voice, "it's only half-nine, but there's going to be rain coming soon, and frankly, it wouldn't be a good idea to use our wands to cover ourselves, would it?"
Alfred looked up at the sky. The clouds were turning grey, and he saw Philip had been right.
"Alright then," he said, nodding at Philip. "I'll be in my cabin."
"See you in a few minutes," replied Philip as Alfred walked away, replying with a thumbs-up.
Alfred looked around his cabin. He had never been on a Cunard ship before, but having heard the stories people had told about travelling on a Cunard ship and the luxury of it, he had given himself high expectations of what may happen if the time came whereby he would have to stay for a few days in one of their cabins.
As he looked around the room however, he had a slight feeling of disappointment, as those childhood expectations, which had welled up to the surface upon seeing the ship in the harbour, were unmet.
Sighing, he sat on the bed, closing his eyes. The bed did meet these wild expectations.
Getting up and opening his case, he dug around for a few minutes before finding his copy of A Clockwork Orange.
With that in hand, he lied down on the bed and began to read, his head propped up by the pillow.
And when he felt the RMS Fairwind moving half an hour later, sailing out of port for the Atlantic Ocean, he was still engrossed in the book, and felt his more negative thoughts once more leaving him.
Chapter 8: Transfers
8 January 1970
It was 10.40am when Alfred decided he would finish reading for now, and so he marked where he was in the book, put it onto the bedside desk, got up off of the bed, stretched his arms and leg, made sure his prosthetic was on right, and walked out of his room, making sure beforehand his key was on his person.
On deck, there were a couple of other people doing various activities: walking, talking to one another, leaning on the railing and looking out at the coast or the sea, etc.
At this point, Alfred realised that until he tracked down Philip and was provided with the necessary information, he was essentially floating up a certain creek without a paddle in terms of how to pass the time.
"Oh well," he muttered, "seeing as my new line of work will contain moments of tediousness, I ought to get used to this."
Looking around, he eventually saw Philip talking to a cute blonde stewardess, which suggested to Alfred that he was going to be hearing a good impersonation of Moaning Myrtle tonight.
Deciding to watch Philip chat up the stewardess (he wanted a good lungful of the fresh sea air before he went back into his cabin to finish the book), he leaned against the wall and observed his former classmate flirting with-and by the looks of things, succeeding in trying to get a one-night stand with-the blonde stewardess.
After five minutes, this pseudo-voyeurism began to become boring, and Alfred decided to walk around the ship some more.
He couldn't remember the last time he was on a Cunard ship: the Ministry usually encouraged use of more commercial passenger ships when travelling abroad to ward off suspicions, and most wizards and witches still felt nervous about Muggle air travel.
Finding that his feet had carried him back to the door of his cabin, he sighed exasperatedly, unlocked the door and let himself back in. He would've used his wand, but that would have been a waste of magic.
Sitting once more onto his bed, Alfred took out his wand and placed it underneath his pillow. It wouldn't have done to have someone walk in with it on full display, and he also knew he needed it to be within reaching distance.
Finding himself reminiscing about his life before today-even though it was far too early to do such a thing, seeing as it had only been an hour since the ship had left port, and the coast of England was still visible-Alfred decided to focus upon what he considered to be one of the six defining moments of his life that he remembered.
The first of these moments was the day that he got his Hogwarts letter, the second his Sorting, the third his acceptance into the Aurors, the fourth his assignment to the FED, the fifth was the loss of his leg, and the sixth was taking up Philip on his offer to leave for America.
Alfred decided to focus upon the fourth moment for now: he felt that the last two were just too close and clear in his mind and memory for him to start reminiscing sentimentally about (also, it is generally considered strange to reminisce about a leg having been violently cut off).
12 March 1961
Alfred looked at himself in the mirror, his uniform pressed and clean.
He knew that whatever he had been summoned into the Head Auror's office for would require him to wear the uniform-since the end of Grindelwald's regime few Aurors bothered to wear it round-the-clock, with the majority only saving it for formal occasions.
Looking at the insignia on his right arm, Alfred felt nervous. He had been in the Aurors now for nearly two years, but he felt he had given his best, and if there was going to be a review of the whole Office, he hoped to mention this to the Head Auror.
Apparating into the Ministry Atrium, he waved politely to Umbridge, who was cleaning the floor. Umbridge responded with an obscene hand gesture which Alfred said nothing about. Silently and without the janitor noticing, he sent a similar gesture back in his direction.
Nodding politely to Perkins as he walked out of the lift, Alfred checked his watch.
"Ten more minutes," he said to himself. "I could go and say hello to Moody if he's here."
Quickly diverting towards Moody's cubicle, Alfred found his colleague also dressed up in Auror uniform and finishing up a report on the case of a murdered Squib from last month.
Silently, he breathed and moved his arm so as to knock politely and alert himself to his friend's presence.
"I know you're there, Alfred," said Moody in his gruff voice.
Alfred exhaled, both men wondering now why he even bothered to introduce himself as Moody got up from his cubicle and turned to face him.
"So you're in the uniform too, I see?" noted Moody. "Interesting."
"When I saw you, I was hoping to ask you why you were wearing it too," replied Alfred. "I'm guessing that it's because Langarm wants you in his office too."
Moody nodded in confirmation. "Yep, that's it," he answered. "He didn't say why, but I'll be damned if I don't."
"I'd say I am too," Alfred said back.
The Head Auror, Cerberus Langarm, was a middle-aged man with grey hair and a moustache who always wore a beige trench-coat over his Auror uniform.
He eyed the two young Aurors standing straight with their hands to their sides while he sat down behind his desk.
Finally, he spoke. "Well gentlemen, would you like to ask why you're both here, in uniform?"
Alfred nodded first. "Yes sir, I would sir," he said.
Langarm nodded, as if processing that answer.
"Well," he then replied, "the two of you have proven to be incredibly competent and able Aurors in the years since you've both respectively joined."
He pointed first at Alfred. "Despite your age, and the fact that even after four years some would still consider you inexperienced, you have carried out a total of 13 arrests and been involved in 7 investigations. Correct?"
Alfred nodded. "Yes, sir."
Langarm then turned to Moody. "And you," he said. "You have served the Ministry, and the wizards of Britain and Ireland, well these past five years, dutifully and faithfully carrying out your duty to our and your orders with vigour and more than enough competence for the job. Stopping robbers, flushing out assaulters-I believe you were the one who arrested Orion Black when he refused to co-operate in dealing with the arson of Muggle farms?"
Moody nodded, similar to Alfred.
Langarm clapped his hands together and rubbed them quickly. "Then the two of you should probably not need me to understand why I will be having the both of you transferred to the Foreign Enemies Division."
Alfred's eyes widened in surprise, having not really been expecting this announcement from Langarm. "What?" he blurted out.
Moody was also staring at his boss, though more wondering if he had lost the plot.
Langarm was nodding in confirmation, and made a gesture for the two Aurors to sit down, which they did.
"Now, I am certain that the two of you are wondering just why I have selected the two of you for the F.E.D.," guessed Langarm. "Am I correct in this assumption?"
Both Alfred and Moody nodded.
"Don't bother objecting," he then told them, "I'm not finished yet."
Neither of them were planning to speak out anyway.
"Well," continued Langarm, "the reason why I have selected the two of you is because new blood is needed. Half the Aurors that we currently have in the F.E.D. served in the war against Grindelwald, over 20 years ago. They can still put up a fight-they're Aurors for God's sake, they've got to-but by this point, we've captured enough of Grindelwald's ex-followers to neutralise the threat of his return, and soon there's going to be a lot of retirement parties, which'll have the effect of drastically reducing the F.E.D. in size."
"So what you're saying is that by putting us in there, the manpower shortage of the Foreign Enemies Division will be less damaging for us?" guessed Alfred.
"The two of you are highly capable, as I have said already," explained Langarm. "You were the natural choices for the job anyway."
"Well," concurred Moody, "I suppose that that is a good point to take in consideration, whether or not the 'new blood' is up to the task, sir."
"It's always important, Auror Moody," replied Langarm.
"When will we be officially assigned, sir?" asked Alfred.
"The 23rd of this month," replied Langarm. "You can go home and change now and be sure to trade in your current uniforms for the F.E.D.'s within the week."
Alfred nodded. "Understood, sir."
Moody nodded as well. "Also understood, sir."
As the two men walked out of Langarm's office towards Moody's cubicle, Alfred asked, "Where do you think you're going to be sent first?"
Moody's reply was curt. "Probably Bolivia. There's talk that one of Grindelwald's lackeys is living there under an alias, and that the Israelis may be going after him."
"And it would definitely be a big publicity boost for us if we were the ones to get him first," surmised Alfred.
Moody nodded in confirmation. "It most certainly would. So where do you think they'll send you first?"
Alfred shrugged. "Who knows, Moody? Probably wherever they'll need me."
"Alfred," replied Moody, "when you're an Auror, that's what you're expected to do."
"I know, believe me," replied Alfred. "Though I hope where they need me doesn't include assassinating Umbridge."
Moody snorted. "Like they'd want to waste Ministry resources on killing that prick."
Alfred chuckled and gave a nod. "So true. They'd be better off just giving him a tidy sum of money and sending him to an early retirement."
"Well, enough about him," replied Moody. "Want to go for a drink at the Leaky Cauldron later?"
"Sure," accepted Alfred. "I don't really have any other plans for the evening, and I'm sure you don't either because you don't seem like the type to attract women."
Moody chuckled and gave him the reverse-V sign in response.
Alfred decided at this point to end his tour of Memory Lane. Looking at his watch, he noticed that the time was now 12.48pm.
"12.48pm GMT," he noted, as by this point he felt that they were probably out of the UK's time zone and that by the time he reached America, this time on his watch would be very much inaccurate.
A loud knock on the door caught his attention, and Alfred got up to see who it was.
It was Philip, who had an embarrassed look on his face.
"Alfred, I forgot to tell you that I'm in the cabin next to yours," he said.
"Which one?" asked Alfred.
"The left," answered Philip.
"Why are you telling me this?" asked Alfred again.
Philip sighed, his cheeks turning red.
"Well," he eventually replied, "I'm sure you'd prefer to have a good night's sleep without being disturbed, wouldn't you?"
"The stewardess?" guessed Alfred.
Philip nodded. "yes, the stewardess," he confirmed.
"Alright," said Alfred, "I'll put up an Imperturbable Charm, and you can Slytherin to her Chamber of Secrets as much as you want."
"Thank you," replied Philip, his face red as he closed the door.
8 January 1970
Alfred sat down at the table in the restaurant, Philip sitting opposite him.
"Anything in mind?" asked Philip.
"Something expensive, seeing as you're paying," replied Alfred with some mirth.
Philip, not letting his upper-class upbringing get in the way of things, discretely showed him the middle finger.
"You're not going to spend this whole trip sponging, are you?" asked Philip.
"Why should I?" asked Alfred. "I have nothing to gain by taking advantage of your money. Cheap food is available nearly everywhere, books don't cost much, and it's going to be a long time before cinema tickets cost over £10."
"You've a very good point there, when you put it like that," replied Philip. "So what will you be having then?"
"Fish and chips, if they serve them," decided Alfred.
"Something about that dish that you English love," Philip sighed.
"You Irish haven't much room to speak-I've been to Dublin, there's at least 10 fish-and-chip shops," countered Alfred.
"I think you have another point," replied Philip. "In any case, I'll just have Salisbury steak."
"Wise choice," said Alfred.
"You don't seem like the kind of person to cook," said Philip.
Alfred gave a small shrug. "Knowing how to cook is useful, but you'd understand that in my previous line of work, it would be unnecessary to know anything too fancy or could take too long. Consequently, I made a lot of sandwiches. It was only when there was time off that I really began experimenting."
"How so, and with what?" asked Philip, curiosity and stomach piqued.
"Well," answered Alfred, leaning on the table, "I know how to make a damn good kaldereta."
"That's a Filipino dish, isn't it?" inquired Philip.
Alfred nodded. "I picked up the recipe about three years ago in Manila. I've picked up a lot of other recipes and ways to make food before and since, so if your sister's looking for a chef as well as a bodyguard, she's gotten 2 for the price of 1."
Philip chuckled. "I'm sure she'll like that," he said, before glancing. "The waiter's coming. You were fish and chips, right?"
Alfred nodded. "And you were going for the Salisbury steak."
"Right," agreed Philip as the waiter stood in front of them.
An hour later, Alfred was back in his cabin, writing on a piece of paper with a pencil and one of his catalogues underneath. The writing in question was a 'to-do list' for himself when he arrived in the States.
"Alright, so MACUSA is still taking people in at Ellis Island," he muttered to himself, glancing at the wall in case Philip was in with the stewardess from earlier. "We'll be in New York by… the 10th, I think, I may be getting something wrong, and I should be better at remembering this, seeing as I was a former Auror."
He sighed. "The point is, I go to Ellis Island within the hour of arriving in the United States, whenever that is. Philip will keep my wand-I am very much aware I am breaking the law by doing that, but better safe than sorry."
Glancing out the porthole, he continued talking to himself. "Once I get to Ellis Island, I go to the south side, at the Laundry Building of the Hospital. I say a specific line, I'm showed in, and I'm kept in there for about 2-3 hours. I'm asked about 20 questions about myself and my life before, and 20 questions about what I know about the Magical Society in America. That should take about an hour.
"After that, a five minute check-up on my health. And after that I'll be brought back in, where Martha will be there representing me and her fiancé to back my case. That will take about a half-hour. Once all that is finished, I can make my way to Gotham on the train, listing my new residence as at her fiancé's home, and my green card should be given to me after two weeks."
He finished writing and sat back straight in his chair. Looking out the window, he noticed that the clouds had become darker and the sea rougher.
Realising that they were more than likely heading away from England, Alfred realised that he ought to head up to the deck to say goodbye to his birthplace.
Once up on deck, he was met with light rain, though it was not hard enough to deter others from staying outside with him.
As he had been hoping, he could still see England's shores, even if they were fading away from view. He reckoned that they were now somewhere off the coast of Cornwall.
Despite the fact that the rain could eventually worsen, Alfred decided to brave it: having been an Auror, he had faced much more dangerous things than the weather.
"What are you doing, stranger?" asked a man with a Texan accent.
Alfred, not taking his eyes off the coast as it began fading from view, replied "I'm saying goodbye to home."
The Texan turned to see where Alfred was looking, and understood what he meant. "I'll leave you to it, then," he replied, walking away to find someone else to talk to.
Alfred barely registered the man's exit, so focused was he on the fading view of England's coastline. As the last vestige faded away in the distance, he saluted with his right arm, as he remembered his father doing 25 years before to his Captain when he left the dock.
Eventually, he felt the rain become stronger, and so he turned and walked back inside to his cabin, ignoring the stewardess from earlier walking into Philip's cabin with an expectant smile on her face.
Removing his coat and placing it on the back of his chair, he sat down on his bed and took out A Clockwork Orange. He would leave his to-do list for now-he reckoned that something would come to him while he was reading.
Five minutes later, he placed the bookmark back inside and returned to his list, writing down 'Introduce self to Thomas Wayne and his parents (should they still be alive-it is unlikely that they know of Martha's true heritage)' and 'Go around the city to familiarise self; perhaps enter a bar and start a fight.'
He snickered slightly at the last idea: if he remembered correctly, Moody had been banned for life three years ago from The Red Griffin for doing just that.
"Ah well," he said to himself, "getting banned from a bar means I probably have fewer places to worry about myself."
A loud scream, followed by giggling, both emanating from Philip's cabin interrupted his thoughts. Alfred sighed and groaned, realising that it probably would have been a good idea for him to put the Imperturbable Charm on his side of the wall as well.
Congratulations to Saoirse Ronan on her Golden Globe! As a fellow Irishman, I hope the Oscar is yours!
Chapter 10: Arrival
13 January 1970
"We've not long yet," Philip informed Alfred as they sat next to one another reading-Alfred reading an old copy of Gibbons Stamp Monthly, Philip reading Big Maggie. "We'll be arriving in New York City tomorrow."
"This has taken longer than I thought," muttered Alfred as turned a page. "By the way, how do you know?"
"I asked the captain," replied Philip. "If you think it was that stewardess I was with a few days ago, you're very mistaken."
Alfred raised an eyebrow. "Saying 'you were with her' is a giant understatement, my friend," he countered.
"You are aware you can be very sarcastic, right?" asked Philip in curiosity.
Alfred nodded. "Half the Aurors have told me that."
"What do you think about this newest attack?" Philip asked, changing the subject and carefully pulling out a copy of the latest edition of The Daily Prophet, disguised to ensure that the Muggles on board paid it no notice.
"The 'hidden stands', I see," noted Alfred.
Philip nodded in confirmation. "There was another attack last night. Here."
Alfred took the paper, opened it and began reading. "Holy shit," he muttered. "An assassination attempt on Eugenia Jenkins?"
Alfred continued reading, making sure not to say anything aloud in case the nearby Muggles heard him:
'Three wizards wearing black cloaks and white masks Apparated into Diagon Alley, as the Minister of Magic announced her willingness to enter into talks with the organisers of the Squib Rights marches, and opened fire with Killing Curses at the Minister. These were intercepted when Head Auror Cerberus Langarm conjured a brick wall around the Minister, before ordering Aurors Alastor Moody and Rufus Scrimgeour to engage the assailants and the Magical Law Enforcement Squad to evacuate the crowd, while he escorted the Minister to her home.
'What followed was a fierce duel between the two veteran Aurors and the masked would-be assassins, which was brought to a swift end when Auror Scrimgeour, 34, was hit in the chest by a modified Jelly-Legs Curse that caused his rib-cage to soften and collapse, necessitating his evacuation by Auror Moody, 35, to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.'
Alfred paused at this. "Rufus," he muttered worriedly under his breath. He and the long-haired Auror were definitely friends during Alfred's time in the Aurors, though Alfred still had Moody as his first choice to be best man if he ever got married.
Gulping, he continued reading the article to ensure his friend was not dead.
'The arrival of additional reinforcements finally forced the masked assailants to retreat and evade arrest, but not before one of them sent a strange spell into the sky which created the image of a skull with a snake slithering out of its mouth. According to interviewed eyewitnesses (who asked to remain anonymous), the apparition bore a strong resemblance to a similar one created outside the homes of attacked Muggles in late October last and late November last, leading this reporter to conclude that these attacks are all being perpetrated by the same small group of wizards.'
Alfred snorted cynically. He and the others in the Auror Office had come to that conclusion shortly after the death of the Muggle publican, and had felt somewhat miffed that neither Crouch nor Jenkins had kept this out of the public eye, believing it could have possibly helped in the investigation. He was pleased, however, that someone had decided to say it.
'Deputy Head of the DMLE, Bartemius Crouch, condemned the attack as "a vicious and indefensible attack on the Ministry, on British Wizardkind and on our way of life!"
'Auror Scrimgeour, as of this writing, is still in a believed critical condition at St Mungo's, with 2 Healers monitoring his condition and 4 others working on a way to solve it.
Alfred sighed in relief at reading this, though deep down there was still the dread that the Healers would be unable to help him and that Rufus might not survive.
'The Minister arrived home safely and has no intention of staying away from her workplace, and has refused to allow this attack to deter her from holding talks with the Squib Rights leaders.
'Although the Ministry has not given signs that it will do so, The Daily Prophet will issue a reward of 300 galleons to any witch or wizard who sends us information that may lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of last night's attack and the previous attacks. We at The Daily Prophet do not, and never will, condone violence in any manner against any groups, and will do whatever we can to ensure that such crimes do not happen again.'
"Well?" asked Philip curiously.
"Rufus, for now, is alive," replied Alfred. "I'm sure you knew, seeing as you must have read it already. But I like saying it for myself. He…he's never seemed the type to get hit by something so severe. We all assumed that he could be the only wizard that could survive a Killing Curse, on account of having survived a lot of mad shit, but this really, truly puts things into perspective."
"How?" asked Philip again.
"I lost a leg. He's gotten his ribs turned to jelly. It sounds silly, yes, but when you really think about it, it's actually quite disturbing. At least my leg could be fixed-or at least, replaced. Suppose they can't do anything about Rufus's ribs? He might be stuck in that damned hospital bed for the rest of his life then. He might actually die, and just imagine how the public reacts to that."
"Because no Aurors have killed on duty since the war, correct?" assumed Philip.
Alfred nodded. "To be fair, it took France 14 years before that happened to them, so I'd say we did quite well."
Philip groaned. "Considering what we've just read, that is probably in poor taste," he said in a chastising manner.
Alfred nodded. "I know," he agreed. "Old habits die hard."
"Well, seeing as Martha's future father-in-law died five years ago, I'd say you're in the clear when taking about him to her fiancée," replied Philip as he quickly rose from his seat.
"Where are you going?" asked Alfred.
"The privy," replied Philip as he began to run awkwardly.
Alfred rolled his eyes in response.
14 January 1970
Alfred was standing out on deck, waiting to see America expectantly.
He wondered if this was how the immigrants from decades before felt when the made the crossing to the New World, this feeling of expectancy and hope to start anew.
'Don't do this,' he told himself in his head. 'You're sounding sentimental, Alfred. Stop it. You're an Auror-to be more accurate, you used to be an Auror. There shouldn't be any sentimentality left in you after Auror training.'
He exhaled and put his hands into the pocket of his coat as the wind and air became colder.
"So you go in, sit down, wait for the interviewer to enter, and when he sits down, begin," he muttered under his breath, reminding himself of what he was to do upon reaching Ellis Island.
He heard footsteps behind him. He turned and saw it was Philip.
"We've only a few minutes left before we see the city on the horizon," informed Philip.
"Thank you," replied Alfred, turning back to watch as New York City came into view.
Even though he had seen the city in photographs and on screen, the majesty and size of the buildings still amazed him when he saw them come closer.
And then he saw the Statue, standing high in the harbour, as if welcoming newcomers to her land.
"So," he breathed, "that's how they felt."
Alfred walked down to the slush-covered pier from the ship, Philip behind him.
"You'll make sure my things aren't stolen, right?" asked Alfred.
Philip nodded. "You have my word. If anything happens, you can be as angry as you like."
"If anything's stolen, I'm shoving my left leg all the way up your arse until you vomit the polish," replied Alfred.
Philip winced at the thought, before noticing a man in a trench-coat holding a sign with the words 'Alfred Pennyworth.'
He tapped Alfred's shoulder and pointed at him. "I think you go with him," he said.
"Alright," replied Alfred. Turning around to shake Philip's hand, he continued. "If I don't pass this, I'm sorry in advance for wasting your time."
"Don't be," said Philip, tipping his hat at Alfred as the ex-Auror walked away to the man in the trench-coat.
"You are Alfred Pennyworth?" asked the wizard.
"Yes, I am," replied Alfred.
The wizard held out his arm. "Come with me, please."
Alfred took his arm. "Where are you taking me, exactly?" he asked. "Interrogation? You look the type."
The wizard escorting him shook his head and directed him to cross the street, heading the direction of an empty alleyway. "No, Mr Pennyworth, I'm here to bring you to Ellis Island."
Once they were far enough into the alleyway, they stopped. After looking around for a brief moment, the wizard asked "Given your…condition, is it alright for you to Apparate?"
Alfred nodded in the affirmative.
"Well then, may you please hold on to my arm?"
Alfred did as his 'guide' asked and within seconds, felt the all-too-familiar feeling of Apparation as they disappeared out of the alleyway.
Chapter 11: Ellis Island, Part 1
13 January 1970
Apparating in front of the morgue, Alfred found the Ellis Island Hospital grounds to be less impressive than he had previously imagined it to be, though he supposed that this was an advantage-as this was where MACUSA vetted foreign wizards looking to permanently reside in the country, it made sense to be located somewhere where there would be few tourists. Then again, seeing as there were no tourists on Ellis Island, they were safe from prying eyes.
"This way," said Alfred's guide. Alfred followed him, knocking on his leg to make sure there was no risk of it falling off and him falling over.
The two men walked over to the Laundry Building, Alfred noticing signs suggesting two wizards under Disillusionment Charms were on guard near it.
Opening the door, the guide and Alfred entered the empty old room. The cracks on the walls and the spider-webs showed that there had been few attempts by Muggles to renovate at least this part of the complex.
"Are you certain that the Muggles-that is, the non-magical people-won't be interested in renovating this facility at any point?" asked Alfred aloud.
The guide shook his head as he took his wand out and tapped the wall with it in a particular pattern. "We'll know if they do," he replied, "and if so, we've a potential replacement for this."
The tapping of the wall caused it to open up and reveal an elevator with open doors.
Alfred and the guide stepped inside. The guide pressed his thumb against a button, causing the doors to close, the elevator to descend and the wall to cover the shaft once more.
Alfred took in a breath, thankful for being indoors and out of the reach of the cold January air.
"How long will this process take, if I may inquire?" he asked his guide.
"About 110 minutes," replied the guide with some curtness.
'Shorter time than I had expected,' Alfred thought as the elevator stopped descending and the doors opened.
The two men thus walked out of the elevator down a well-lit corridor with about 3 or 4 wooden doors dotting its walls.
They stopped at the door at the end of the corridor, the guide knocking twice loudly.
"Who is it?" called a gruff Brooklyn voice.
"It's me," answered the guide. "I have Mr Pennyworth with me."
"Okay," replied the voice. "Send him in."
The guide opened the door and showed Alfred in.
"Hello," greeted a bespectacled grey-haired man in a three-piece suit. Alfred nodded back to him in acknowledgement.
"You must be Mr Alfred Pennyworth," read the grey-haired man. "Am I correct in presuming so?"
Alfred nodded. "Yes sir, I am."
The grey-haired man smiled. "Good." He turned to Alfred's guide. "You can leave now."
As the other man walked out the door, the grey-haired man gestured for Alfred to sit down opposite him.
"You will be given a series of questions to ask on this piece of paper," explained the grey-haired man to Alfred. "You will have about an hour to answer all of them. We have a quill provided, charmed to ensure that no lies are written down. I will be supervising you. Have you any questions?"
"Just one: Am I able to use the bathroom at any point during the allotted hour?" asked Alfred.
"Yes, you may," replied the supervisor, handing Alfred the quill. "Your time starts now."
Question 1: What is your full name at present, is it your birth name and if not what was it?
Alfred wrote down 'My full name at present is Alfred Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth. As of 13 January 1970, I have not legally changed it at any point. It is my birth name.'
Question 2: What is your date of birth?
Answering the question, Alfred wrote down 'My date of birth is Friday, 16 April 1937.'
Question 3: Where were you born and raised?
Alfred snorted as he wrote 'I was born in London, and raised during the Second World War (1940-1944) largely by my maternal grandparents, who resided in Coventry. When the war ended, my parents and I continued to stay in London.'
Question 4: What wizarding school did you attend and for what years?
Alfred's response: 'I attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry during the years 1948 to 1955.'
Question 5: After you graduated from school, what was your line of work?
Alfred briefly wondered if it would be possible to get this finished faster: 'After graduation from Hogwarts, I applied to join the Auror Office of the British Ministry of Magic. I spent three years undergoing the required training. I qualified as an Auror in 1958, and was reassigned to the Foreign Enemies Division in 1961.'
Question 6: For how long did you work in this occupation for?
Alfred wrote down 'I worked in the Auror Office from 1958 to 1969, when I resigned from my position.'
Question 7: Have you ever been arrested under suspicion of any crimes, have you ever been charged with any crimes and have you ever been convicted of any crimes?
Question 8: Do you have any medical or psychological conditions that you think we should be made aware of?
'I have no psychological or medical conditions that I am at present aware of. However, in October 1969, I lost part of my right leg to a Cutting Curse.'
Question 9: For what reason or reasons have you decided to immigrate to the United States of America?
'After my resignation from the Auror Office, I was given an offer to work for Martha Kane, an Irish witch now currently living in Gotham City, by her older brother. The first part of my adult life has been filled with more than enough action and adrenaline-America, being civilised and peaceful yet simultaneously possessing a spark of energy, is a country I feel would suit me to the ground.'
Question 10: State your religious denomination, if any.
'I am a lapsed Anglican.'
Question 11: What are the details of your wand?
'My wand is 12 inches long, made of ebony wood with a dragon heartstring core.'
Question 12: Are there any skills, abilities etc. that you possess that you believe would make you an asset to American society?
Not missing a beat, Alfred wrote 'I am a proficient duellist and quick thinker. Excluding English, I can speak five languages fluently (French, German, Italian, Latin and Korean) and am capable of holding a conversation in four others (Japanese, Swahili, Spanish and Arabic). Before my injury, I was capable of convincing disguising myself without having to resort to magic (acting).'
Question 13: State the results of your Ordinary Wizarding Levels.
Alfred sighed with some annoyance, and wrote 'A (Acceptable) in Ancient Runes and History of Magic; E (Exceeds Expectations) in Astronomy, Care of Magical Creatures, Potions and Transfiguration; O (Outstanding) in Charms, Defence Against the Dark Arts and Herbology.'
Question 14: State the results of your Nastily Exhausting Wizard Tests.
For a moment, Alfred wondered if these questions were picked out of a hat or if they were standardised-given out to all who came through.
In any event, it did not stop him from writing down 'A in Astronomy; E in Care of Magical Creatures, Potions, Herbology and Transfiguration; O in Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts.'
Question 15: Do you believe that No-Majes could prove a potential threat to the Wizarding World if they so desired?
Alfred put down 'Yes.'
Question: 16: Do you believe in greater co-operation between the Magical and non-Magical communities?
Alfred rolled his eyes. Having contacted several Muggles who were aware of the Wizarding World's existence, he had found that a majority of them supported the idea of greater co-operation and linkage between the two societies. Eventually, he himself had come to the conclusion it would be a good idea as well. 'Yes,' he wrote.
Question 17: What is your favourite colour?
'Ah,' Alfred thought, reading ahead. 'These last four are mostly personality-based questions.'
So he wrote down his favourite colour. 'Navy blue.'
Question 18: Write down a list of your pastimes, hobbies, interests, etc.
'I have an affinity for reading. In my youth, I collected stamps and am contemplating a return to that field. I am also learning to cook various meals.'
Question 19: In your opinion, who has a better chance of victory-A No-Maj with a firearm or a wizard with a wand?
Alfred did not write anything for several minutes, instead staring at the question while he thought about his answer.
'Well, it depends on the Muggle's firearm, for one. If it's a musket, the Muggle's dead, but if it is pistol with a magazine, then it's the wizard who'll be dead. Also, the skill of both parties with their particular weapons has to be taken into account, in particular marksmanship-bad aim or good aim, they're still dangerous. Proficiency in nonverbal magic would be a considerable asset for the wizard, for example. The power of the spell, the power of the firearm and the power of the wizard must all also be considered.'
Eventually, he decided to write something along those lines down.
Question 20: If you originally came from Britain, which Hogwarts House were you Sorted into?
Pleased that he was about to be finished, Alfred simply wrote 'I was Sorted into Hufflepuff House.'
"Now, just to let you know, this next one doesn't really affect whether or not you get in," informed the supervisor. "We just want to see how much you know."
"What does affect whether or not I'm allowed?" asked Alfred.
"The questions you've just worked on, your medical, and the argument made by whoever is looking to hire you," replied the supervisor.
20 questions later, Alfred put down his quill and began nursing his aching hand. He pushed the papers up to the supervisor's side of the desk and watched as he took them.
"Are you finished with everything?" asked the supervisor, looking up from his report.
Alfred nodded, briefly glancing at the clock. "Yes sir."
The supervisor rose from his seat. "Well then, you may get up and head to the Healer's office for your medical evaluation."
"Which door is that in?" asked Alfred.
"That one," replied the supervisor, gesturing his thumb to the door on the opposite side of the room to the door Alfred had entered to.
Alfred nodded in thanks as he moved to open it, but the supervisor stopped him.
"Your wand, please," he requested. "It'll need to be registered, even if you fail to pass."
"Just in case?" asked Alfred.
"Just in case," nodded the supervisor as Alfred opened the door and entered the Healer's office.
The inside was clean and white, and reminded him strongly of his visit to the GP's office when he was twelve.
Noticing a chair, Alfred went to drape his coat on the back of it and to sit down, waiting for the Healer to arrive.
He didn't have long to wait-a blonde witch in Healer clothing opened the door and entered the office, greeting him with a small smile.
"Good morning," she said. Alfred greeted her with a similar phrase.
"I'd like you to lie down on this bed first, if that's alright with you," she told him.
Alfred nodded, took his coat off the chair, hung it up on the hook behind the door, and sat down on the bed, looking at the Healer.
"Is it alright if I take off my leg?" asked Alfred, rolling up the right leg of his trousers.
"Oh, yes, you can," replied the Healer, who looked like she rarely came across these things in her line of work.
Alfred winced as he pulled his leg off and gently stood it up on the ground before he did as the Healer asked and lied down on the bed.
"What I'm going to do is recite several spells to check your overall health-if you have anything that may become a problem in the future, or something small you have right now, for example-and if I'm able to fix it, I will."
"Is this regardless of whether I pass or not?" asked Alfred in curiosity. He felt a slight sigh of relief when she nodded her head in the positive. Healers could always be counted on for something.
Closing his eyes, Alfred calmly thought about the events that would probably happen whilst in Gotham as the Healer did her work.
'Philip told me she's involved in protests against the Vietnam conflict, so I'll definitely have to be there in case they turn violent. It wouldn't be the first time.
'Secondly, considering what happened to Rufus…Jesus Christ, I'll have to be really vigilant. Just because I'm no longer an Auror doesn't mean I can stand by and not do anything. Being in America, I can watch out for any activity that may be linked to what's happening over in Britain. That said, it's a long shot, seeing as MACUSA have Aurors to watch out for terrorists.
'Then there's Gotham City's reputation as a crime-infested shithole, which has existed since the 1920s at least, when the organised crime groups rooted themselves into the infrastructure thanks to the Prohibition money. A bar fight with those sons of bitches might be interesting.'
Eventually, the Healer told him to get back up, as she was finished.
"How is it?" he asked her.
The Healer looked at the results, which an enchanted quill had written down on a piece of parchment. "It all looks good. Your leg injury is no obstacle for you-America will welcome anyone. Your vital organs all look good, especially your lungs-if I may ask, do you smoke?"
Alfred shook his head. "No, no. I tried one or two back in my Sixth Year, but I didn't like it, and so I've stayed away from them ever since."
"That's nice to hear," commented the Healer as she continued. "Well, you should be pleased to know that you also have no hereditary illnesses, you require no Blood-Replenishing Potions…in short, you have passed your medical evaluation in 5 minutes less time than usual, and with flying colours."
The news of this brought a smile to Alfred's face. "That's brilliant."
The Healer nodded in agreement. "You can put your leg back on and go back into the supervisor's office."
"Alright," acknowledged Alfred. "I will."
Martha Kane was sitting in the same chair Alfred had been in while undertaking the Q&A. The moment that the door opened and Alfred came back into the office, she stood up and took a step back.
"Oh," he said, looking from the chair to her. "Were-were you sitting down in there?"
She nodded. "Yes," she spoke in an Irish accent that had started to become tainted by nearly a decade of living in America.
"You can keep the seat, you know, Miss Kane," reassured Alfred. "I'll just stand."
"How did you know?" asked Martha.
"Your voice," replied Alfred. "There's a clear Irish accent there, but these past few years of life here in America, they've begun to seep into it and Americanise it. Also, we were at Hogwarts around the same time, despite being a few years apart, so I know already what you look like."
"I understand," said Martha back. "I suppose it would have been silly if you had forgotten what I looked like, especially given that you used to be an Auror…I'm sorry for that comment, by the way."
Alfred chuckled. "Don't be-that life's behind me now," he said back to her. "You are right, though, especially since there really isn't that many of us around."
At that moment, the supervisor walked back in, carrying some documents and moved behind the desk. Martha sat back down in the chair. Alfred elected to continue standing, while a quick glance at his watch told him it had been nearly 40 minutes since he had gone into the Healer's office for his medical evaluation.
There was a moment's silence. Then the supervisor spoke.
"While you were inside with our Healer," he explained, "Miss Kane arrived and I, seeing as we are undergoing a structural inspection, decided to rearrange the schedule and allow her to make her case whilst you were inside. I trust you are unoffended by this development."
"Oh no, I'm fine with it," said Alfred. "I know I can't control everything that happens in my life, whether I'm happy with that or not, and it's always nice to have extra time to oneself."
The supervisor nodded. "That is true. Very true, indeed."
"So, if I may ask, what are the results?" asked Alfred with some trepidation.
"Well," answered the supervisor, removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes, "I haven't yet finished it, but it should take around two hours to complete, and from what I have read of all this so far, it bodes well for you. In the meantime, it's now 12 o'clock, so why not go register your wand down at the Wand Permit Office, get yourself lunch and come back here."
"Will I be escorted by the guide from earlier?" asked Alfred.
"He'll be keeping an eye on you if you head off to any non-magical restaurants and will alert the Aurors if you leave New York City," replied the supervisor. "In the meantime, I am sure Miss Kane can go to Gotham and start preparing your room. Even if you fail to pass, we will let you stay briefly."
Alfred nodded in acceptance of this decision. "That's fine with me. I'm in no hurry to leave this city."
"You'd better not," remarked Martha as she walked out of the office.
The supervisor nodded to himself as he took out a cigarette and began reading the document. Looking up to see Alfred still standing, he said curtly "You can leave now."
Alfred did so a few seconds later.
Chapter 12: Lunctime to Wand Permits
13 January 1970
Alfred picked up his wand outside the office and Apparated into the alley where he had been taken to before arriving on Ellis Island.
He found New York City (or, to be more specific, Manhattan) strangely busy in the winter. He wondered if that was because of their different attitude to snow compared to the old country: in Britain, everyone felt that snow was a very big deal (especially the children and the elderly, albeit for very different reasons), while here, it seemed that it was at best a mere inconvenience. That said, he knew better than to make blind presumptions.
For a brief moment, he wondered if there was actually some kind of secret test of character where he had to do something or make a decision that would be the final evaluation that would allow him to enter the United States and work for the Waynes ('Read: work for Philip', he thought). However, such an endeavour would be too risky: there were too many variables, choices and options that could happen if that was the case, meaning that almost nobody would be able to get in.
Checking his coat for gloves, he muttered several foul words under his breath as he failed to find any, cursing his lack of foresight and his stupidity in not bringing any with him. Sighing, he rubbed his hands together quickly to generate warmth that way, gaining mild success-his hands were now only less cold than they were before.
Exiting the alley, he found there were more people walking in the streets than there were when he first went down into the alley. Noticing they were mostly quiet and were not carrying any signage, he immediately ruled out the possibility of them being anti-war protestors.
'Also,' he thought, 'who in their right mind plans a protest in winter, when very few people want to be outside for extended periods of time?'
That meant that these people had the same plan as he had: find somewhere to get lunch for themselves-unlike him, though, they had to do so within the limits of their lunch hour.
Following the crowd, Alfred found himself walking nearly two blocks, passing several cheap fast-food restaurants, before he came upon a restaurant that catered for wizards: The Blind Pig, on Macdougal Street.
"Why am I going into one of these?" he muttered quietly to himself, remembering the establishment's name from an unauthorised biography about Newt Scamander published 10 years ago. "I've been inside enough of them back home."
He stared at the establishment in thought, thinking of a solution to his question. "Maybe it's because I'd prefer my first meal as an immigrant to be somewhere familiar, and this place, even if it's a little seedy-looking, fits the bill."
Cracking his knuckles in cynical anticipation of a fight, he walked down the stairs to the door, noticed it was closed, and tapped it on the lintel.
The sliding peephole opened up, and a pair of eyes looked at him from within.
Alfred gave the eyes a slight polite nod. "Hello," he said. "I was wondering if I could ask if your premises served food."
The eyes stared at him for a few seconds before closing. Alfred waited a few seconds, noticed that he would not likely be allowed in straight away, and so knocked again.
The eyes reappeared. "What is it?" their owner's voice asked.
"I used to be an Auror with the British Ministry," answered Alfred, taking out his wand. "I know nearly three dozen spells that you really do not want used upon yourself. I am also losing my patience and am very hungry. So please, unless this is a private members-only club, can I come the hell in?"
The eyes continued to look at him for a few seconds, Alfred recognising that there was some fear in them, before replying "Sure," and opening the door to let him in.
The inside of The Blind Pig was not the brightest or the most welcoming, but Alfred felt that it suited the exterior (He did wonder if it had been a speakeasy during Prohibition). There was a lot of brown and beige, many photographs on the walls, their occupants moving to and fro within their frames.
The establishment was also quite full, with wizards, several goblins, a giant hunched in the back and two or three house-elves acting as the barmen and waiters. Alfred had a sinking feeling that there was a chance there were several people in here who were probably involved in criminal activities.
Walking up to the bar, he sat himself down on a stool and waited for one of the house-elves to come up and ask him what he required.
While he did this, he took the time to look around the bar some more. He knew immediately that at least 3 of the brands of alcohol on the shelf were illegal in Britain and Canada, and that the 'Gnarlak's Mister Blue' was definitely an illegal substance both here and everywhere else, and one that would certainly warrant an investigation by the American Aurors if they were to be made aware of it.
Alfred rejected the idea of informing immediately, believing that there would be a possible risk that doing so would end up affecting his ability to stay in America if the tip-off ended up being traced back to him.
A house-elf approached him from behind the bar. Alfred noted that it was a young one-at the very least, it didn't have as many wrinkles as one he had seen in Hogwarts (he often wondered if the whole point of the Hogwarts Caretaker position was to supervise the house-elves and give them loophole-free orders).
"Whaddya want?" the house-elf asked.
Alfred glanced at the clock (12.41pm) and then at the menu above the shelves of liquor, written down in chalk. He then turned to the house-elf as he replied.
"A French dip sandwich and a glass of water, please," he replied politely. He knew it would not have been a good idea to drink any alcohol for a while. Not on a day like this.
The house-elf nodded in understanding, snapping his fingers (sending a small paper aeroplane through a door to the kitchen) and leaving to serve another customer.
Alfred, exhaling, drummed his fingers lightly on the wooden counter. It had been nearly 3 minutes since he had made his order, but he was not worried about that: French dip usually took a while to ready.
Rather, what he was concerned about was if the bouncer he had 'convinced' into him entry into the bar had gone to tell his boss of him. As he kept reminding himself, he was not looking to cause trouble here. Not if it meant screwing up the green card process.
That said, if he got punched in the face for his efforts, he would welcome it. He was beginning to feel bored, which he hated: it made him feel like he had nothing to do with his life. Which was untrue, but boredom did have that effect at times.
A finger tapped his shoulder. Turning around, he saw it was the bouncer, big, bearded and wearing a black turtleneck. Next to him-a wrinkly goblin holding a cigar.
"So, you're the British ex-Auror, I hear," the goblin said in a gruff local accent and baritone.
"Uh, yes," replied Alfred, realising that the bouncer had told his boss, and hoping this wasn't going to result in anything violent (he could justify whatever happened in the next 10 minutes as self-defence, if he acted right).
The goblin stuck out a hand. "Name's Gnarlak," he said with a smile.
"I know that," said Alfred. "Now."
Gnarlak looked at the bouncer. "Go back to the door," he ordered.
The bouncer did as he was told, and Gnarlak got up onto the stool next to Alfred.
"Y'know, most of my family work in Gringotts," he told Alfred, who refused to take his eyes off him.
"So you're an immigrant yourself?" asked Alfred.
Gnarlak chuckled. "I've been in this country, in this city, for so damn long my old accent is long gone."
"That usually happens when you leave your home to settle somewhere else," answered Alfred.
Gnarlak gave a slight nod. "True, true."
"So, anyway, are you here to tell me not to threaten your employees again, or to offer work?" asked Alfred. "In which case, you will be only half-pleased."
"You won't threaten my bouncer to stick your wand up his ass again, you mean?" asked Gnarlak, looking bemused.
Alfred nodding answered that question.
"And I'm guessing you're here in the States because somebody offered you a job," deduced the goblin.
"Sure, we'll go with that," replied Alfred.
"How about this?" offered Gnarlak. "If you tell me who it is, your lunch'll be on the house, and every other thing you order in here for the rest of your life."
Alfred looked at his glass of water, which had just appeared. "Tempting," he decided, "but I'd rather not. Financially, you'd be better off not giving me special treatment. Also, suppose I decide to order a ridiculous amount of food and drink, or God forbid, I let MACUSA know that you're selling morphine here?"
Gnarlak's eyes dilated. "I-I-I..." he stammered.
Alfred smirked. "I think you see my point," he continued, taking a sip from his glass. "You needn't worry. I'm no longer an Auror-I have no legal obligation to tell MACUSA."
Gnarlak calmed down. "Thank you," he replied.
"Don't mention it," Alfred said back as he added in his head, 'but just because I have no obligation doesn't mean I don't have to keep it to myself.'
Two seconds later, lunch arrived, and Alfred tucked in.
Upon the completion of his lunch (and after paying a generous tip given what little he had on his person-Alfred was pleased that Gnarlak accepted Galleons), Alfred walked back out of The Blind Pig into the streets of Manhattan.
He was still making up his mind on whether it was a good idea to anonymously tip off MACUSA about the morphine (and from what he knew of the local underworld, he believed that the Genovese Family syndicate were the most likely suppliers of the narcotic), and if he were, would he do so immediately, which would let Gnarlak know just who had ratted him out, or would he wait a while before letting them know, which had the potential to raise suspicions as to why he didn't inform them earlier.
"I suppose it could just be anonymous, and not immediately," he finally reasoned. "That way, it could just as well be anyone."
He checked the time. It was now 1.05pm. He reckoned there wasn't much time until he had to return to Ellis Island.
'They should be halfway through the paperwork,' he thought. 'And it shouldn't take me too long to register my wand, so I'll go down to the Wand Permit Office-hopefully it won't take too long for them to do that-and then I'll go back to Elis Island, await the results and depending on what happens, go back to England or go to Gotham.'
The Wand Permit Office of MACUSA was, in Alfred's opinion, a rather novel idea and ingenious method for keeping an eye on illegal magical activity. That said, he was aware it was more than likely born from American wizarding society's more paranoid and (until recently) more conservative views on Magical-Muggle relations.
It was located down in the basement of the Woolworth Building, and appeared in need of two or three extra employees. Both these factors suggested to Alfred that just like in the 1920s, MACUSA undervalued the office.
The Head of the Office came to visit him the moment he entered, due to the lack of work at the moment.
"When are you usually busiest?" asked Alfred.
"Around the beginning or end of the school year," replied the Head. "I don't think I need to explain why."
"You're right not to," Alfred said. "I have a fair idea why."
"Good,"beamed the Head, either ignoring the deadpan package the comment came in or just not caring, as Alfred handed him his wand in exchange for an Application document.
Alfred sighed as he put the paper down on a table and started writing for the various categories. Paperwork was always the one part of Auror life he was glad to leave behind, due to there being surreal amounts of it.
"This won't take long, will it?" he asked the Head.
"No," was the response.
Alfred's sigh was of relief.
Chapter 13: Ellis Island, Part 2
13 January 1970
Martha Kane Apparated back on Ellis Island, her scarf wrapped snugly, and was immediately escorted to the supervisor's office by the same person who escorted Alfred earlier. It was now 1.44pm, or 13.44 in military time.
"Wait here," requested the guide. "The supervisor will call you inside in a few minutes, when he's finished."
Martha gave a nod signalling that she understood, and sat down on a chair against the wall, waiting firstly for the supervisor and secondly for Alfred Pennyworth.
If she was honest with herself, she wasn't entirely sure what to make of the ex-Auror her brother had hired. He seemed courteous, and a little bit out of control-in the sense that he had little to no real control over what he was doing, or how he had gotten into his current situation.
Martha wondered why he didn't seem to be rectifying that decision: surely being an Auror, he'd want to have some degree of control over his actions and not be seen as irresponsible.
'That itself is a good thing,' she thought to herself. 'If he tries to ensure that what he does is by and large by his own choices, people'll see him as responsible and therefore trustworthy. But maybe it's because he's under the impression Philip is trying really hard to make sure everything's prepared for.'
She looked at the clock on the wall-it was now 1.48pm. Pennyworth would be returning soon.
Her line of thought continued to circle him, wondering what exactly Philip saw in him to suggest he keep an eye on her and Thomas in case of anything bad happening (an example he gave-parents finding out and forcing her return to England to marry a wizard of their choice).
She knew he had good intentions for doing this, though, because although she knew that her parents were not on the same delusional wavelength as several others regarding race, blood and birth family, but in other ways, such arranged marriages (once official) and a pitying condescension towards Squibs (unofficial), they were quite traditionalist.
'Knowing the marital laws at the time,' she continued thinking to herself, 'I really would not have had much choice if I had stayed behind in Britain. They would not have accepted my unwillingness to not marry Nott, as much of a supremacist as he is, because of their obsession with sticking to arranged marriages. In spite of the fact that since the 1920s-years before I was born-marriages of convenience arranged by the families have been declining sharply. Even Abraxas Malfoy married out of love. That should probably show to people unfamiliar with Wizarding culture just how much out of favour the practice is now.'
Glancing at the door, she continued her internal monologue.
'The thing is about Pennyworth, what is he going to do when he settles in? Is he going to have us change our wedding plans for security reasons? Not that there are many plans set in stone so far, but it could happen.
'Maybe he'll do the cooking himself to ensure no ingredients that shouldn't be added don't end up in our food. I know Thomas would welcome it-he's a hazard in front of the stove, and I'm no Julia Child myself. Besides, Aurors have a very good reputation for being able to cook their own food-a practice which, if I remember my history books correctly, started around the Napoleonic Wars. It ended up serving them well then, seeing as most of them were in Europe for over 19 months.'
She glanced again at the door, and then the clock. It was now 1.51pm. She changed her subject, but continued to mull her thoughts and keep her current thoughts relevant to the original train.
'Would Mother and Father really resort to kidnapping? I know that they're not going to be particularly pleased if they find out I'm marrying an American Muggle and that I have been seeing him for the past few years.'
She exhaled. 'Still, I suppose they would be happy-and perhaps more accepting-knowing that he hasn't sullied me during our relationship.'
At that moment, the door opened and the supervisor came out, gesturing that she could come in. Composing herself, Martha got up from her seat and walked in.
Alfred sighed in relief as he finished filling out the Wand Registration, put the quill down and, for the second time that day, nursed his aching hand. He really hoped this would be the last time he had to do some serious writing today or for the rest of the week.
Looking at his watch, he saw it was now 1.53pm. "Time to head back," he muttered.
The Head of the Office came out of his office, Alfred's wand in hand.
"You're clear to go," he told the ex-Auror.
Alfred nodded. "Alright then. Thank you," he replied, before turning, walking out of the office into the main lobby, out the door of the Woolworth Building and down into a dark and snow-filled alley devoid of life (bar a raccoon and cat squabbling over scraps).
Turning on his heel, he immediately thought of Ellis Island's hospital and Apparated there.
Upon Apparating in front of the door, Alfred went inside, entered the elevator and pressed the button that sent him down to the supervisor's office.
Opening the door, the supervisor gestured for Alfred to enter his office.
"Take a seat, or stand," he told him. "Whichever you prefer."
Alfred silently elected to stand.
The supervisor did not comment on this, instead reading and sifting through the papers in his hands.
After a few minutes, the silence started to become annoying.
"Well?" asked Alfred.
The supervisor looked up at him with an impatient look. "Don't be pushy, or I'll kick you out of America myself," he replied sternly.
"Anyway," he continued, "we've checked through everything, and so for the time being, you're free to stay in the United States, provided you don't take part in illegal activities."
"Meaning?" asked Martha with some trepidation.
"Well, it's all in order, and you, Mr. Pennyworth, have managed to make the grade," explained the supervisor. "I don't like explaining these things too much because they're boring, so I'm just gonna say you'll get the green card in 3-4 weeks."
"So you mean I've passed?" inquired Alfred with some stoicism.
The supervisor took out another cigarette and lit it before lowering his forehead and sending a glare to Alfred. "Yes, it means that you've passed."
Both Alfred and Martha gave sighs of relief, Martha's being the more audible one.
"Your green card will be delivered by owl to whatever address or area in the United States you are currently residing in, Mr. Pennyworth," the supervisor continued. "Expect it to arrive at night, seeing as that's when owls are naturally out. That way, it's less suspicious."
'Because an owl being seen holding an envelope at any time is not suspicious or unusual in the slightest,' thought Alfred wryly.
"So where exactly, so we don't make any mistakes, are you planning to reside in the United States?" asked the supervisor, exhaling smoke.
"In Gotham City," replied Alfred quickly.
The supervisor, now looking more wary, turned to Martha. "Is this correct?"
Martha nodded in affirmation. "He'll be living with myself and my fiancee. We have a room prepared for him," she said. "Is that alright?"
"Oh, yes, yes, it's okay. It's fine," the supervisor replied. "This basically means the end of your time here, Mr. Pennyworth. So if you could sign this bit here at the end."
He produced an official-looking document. Alfred groaned inwardly, not looking forward to the prospect of yet more writing.
Chapter 14: Wayne Manor-Overground, Underground
13 January 1970
Alfred successfully swallowed the vomit that nearly exited as a result of all the Apparations he had done in the past 12 hours. He was unsuccessful, however, in stumbling on his feet when he began to walk. Thankfully, Martha caught his arm before he hit his head on the mantelpiece.
"Thank you," he said, feeling slightly embarrassed that he, who was supposed to be her bodyguard, had had to be saved from injury by his charge.
"Are you embarrassed?" she asked with some curiosity.
"No," denied Alfred as he straightened himself, though he had a feeling she knew he was lying there.
"Come on then," she said with a smile. "I'll show you to your room."
Wayne Manor was certainly large, and despite the-admittedly vague-description Philip had told him, Alfred was still surprised.
"People telling you about this place isn't the same as actually being here," he said out loud as they climbed the stairs.
"I agree," replied Martha.
"It's like Hogwarts then, in that regard," decided Alfred.
"Don't let anyone from home hear that," replied Martha, though Alfred detected a hint of sadness in her voice from that statement as they stopped in from of a door leading to what he surmised was his room.
The room was bare-a double bed, a nightstand, a wardrobe, a drawer and a bookshelf were the only pieces of furniture inside, though there was a marble fireplace with mantelpiece.
Noticing that his things were already at the foot of the bed, Alfred (after silently thanking Philip for not making off with them) decided to eschew using magic to unpack. He felt he needed a few minutes of doing it by hand to get back to his preferred state of mind and once more, ponder his choices.
'What do I do now that I'm here?' was his first thought, which he soon extended. 'I've not long before my green card comes, but still, considering that my new employers may not do many things to help me ease into life here, I've still got a fortnight to do more than just learn how to make my way around Gotham City.'
After some seconds of only unpacking, Alfred decided to continue questioning his next moves.
'I should definitely get in touch with Alastor to see how Scrimgeour's doing. And find out if I can send Arthur Weasley something nice from here. Maybe a book about Muggle engineering-yes, that's it, he'll love it.
'Speaking of Scrimgeour's injury, maybe there's a way of finding out if the Americans have any idea how to help him. He's one of the most capable Aurors in Britain-possibly Europe-and he needs to be back in the field if we are going to have a chance of finding those hooded bastards.'
He stopped what he was doing. He cursed himself for thinking he was still in the Aurors-he had left that life behind him for good the moment he stepped on that ship, and as far as he was aware he had no real plans to go back.
"As I have thought before, being here means I could let them know of any new developments, if those hooded rats do anything here, such as recruitment," he said aloud.
He shook his head and sighed. "Give yourself time, Alfred," he continued in a quieter voice. "People have these thoughts all the time when beginning new chapters in their lives."
Half an hour later, he was finished emptying his luggage and had stored everything away where he had decided to, which was easy as many places were obvious-books went on the bookshelf, the cases under the bed and the clothes in the wardrobe.
A knock on the door captured his attention. He turned around and said "It's okay to come in."
The door opened and a dark-haired man with a moustache entered the room, dressed in a double-breasted suit.
"Alfred Pennyworth, I presume?" he asked, stretching out his hand.
Alfred nodded in confirmation. "Yes," he replied. "And you must be Thomas Wayne."
Thomas smiled and gave a nod as he and Alfred shook hands. "Yes, I am. I hope you're settling down okay."
"It'll take time, but to be honest," replied Alfred honestly, "I think I might like it here."
"I'll try to make sure you do," said Thomas back with a smile. "Come on, let me show you around the house-unless Martha's done that already."
Alfred shook his head. "Unless you include the route from here to the living-room, then no."
"That's a good start anyway," said Thomas as he led Alfred out into the hall.
"Work on Wayne Manor started in 1788 and finished in 1792, under the supervision of my great-great-great-great grandfather, Darius Anthony Wayne," explained Thomas, gesturing to a portrait of a man in military uniform.
"I've heard of him," said Alfred. "Revolutionary hero who defended Gotham from the British Army and the Royal Navy, and this plot of land upon which your lovely manor was built on, was his reward for doing so."
"Correct," confirmed Thomas, opening a door into the study, an impressive mahogany desk in the centre of the room. "Darius was the one who started the family fortune by being thrifty and saving money. He then bought 2 ships from the Continental Navy and started Wayne Shipping. His middle son, Charles Wayne, then used some of that money to build a shipyard."
Thomas took a breath and paused as he stood in front of a drawer with a bronze Shakespeare bust sitting on top.
"It was my great-grandfather, Solomon, and his brother Joshua, though, who really made the family one of the wealthiest in America. Solomon was a lawyer, and later a judge, who believed that given the right means, Gotham could supersede London and New York as the greatest city of Earth-a capital of industry, a city without poverty, and a city where a fair trial was a definite guarantee. Joshua, who was in charge of Wayne Shipping and the shipyard, saw something similar, and helped his brother to execute that vision."
"Going off what you've said, they must have been ambitious men," mused Alfred.
Thomas nodded, his smile taking on a sadder appearance. "Oh he was. They were both firm believers in abolitionism on the grounds that the slaves were human, and that no human should ever serve in slavery for another."
"We have house-elves, so I'm not really certain I should give my opinion on that matter," remarked Alfred.
Thomas gave a chuckle. "You can keep your opinions to yourself. Besides, Martha's explained the body of it to me, and it sounds quite different in their case, and very, very confusing."
Alfred couldn't help but nod. "So true," he concurred. "Anyway, about your family tree?"
"Well," continued Thomas, turning back to face Alfred, "starting in the 1840s, Joshua and Solomon began taking part in the Underground Railroad, secretly helping bring escaped slaves to the North. And I suspect that these came in handy."
"What are you on about?" asked Alfred, raising an eyebrow in curiosity as Thomas took out a flashlight, opened up Shakespeare's forehead and pressed a red button.
The moment Thomas lifted his finger off of the button, a bookcase began to retract into the wall before disappearing to the left, revealing an old but stable elevator that looked like it had been built around the Antebellum period.
"Darius found this when investigating the grounds. Unless Dad had a secret family he hid from me and Mom, then it's pretty much the family secret. Come on in."
He stepped into the elevator, Alfred entering a few seconds later.
Pulling down a lever that looked as if it needed lubricating, pulleys began spinning and weights began moving as the metal cage started to descend into the dark shaft.
"It's dark," commented Alfred, eyes adjusting to the light.
Thomas sniffed. "Tell me about it," he replied.
Finally, after what seemed like half an hour, but was actually seven minutes, the elevator stopped. Alfred could hear water flowing strongly and although it was hard to see clearly, he could tell that what he and Thomas were in was big.
Thomas stepped out, turned on the flashlight, and pointed it at Alfred. "I know, that thing needs to be fixed."
Alfred looked around, taking out his wand and muttering "Lumos."
Consequently, the wand lit up and Alfred suspicions were confirmed: he and Thomas were in a gigantic cave, which he estimated was as large as the Ministry Atrium. In some places it looked like there was concrete reinforcing.
"It's massive," he said to Thomas, who nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, me and Dad once tried to measure it when I was 16, but we didn't have anything that could reach the ceiling. Our biggest ladder's about 62 feet, and I'm guessing that the highest point is 332 feet. Length-wise, we're about 1,100 feet from that tunnel there, which leads to the cave mouth a further 500 feet away. The width is about the same as that. I hired a geologist a couple years ago to find out anything more, and it seems there's probably a whole network under here."
'It is definitely bigger than the Ministry Atrium,' surmised Alfred in his head.
"So this was where your ancestors hid the slaves?" he asked.
Thomas nodded. "Yeah. There's a tunnel connecting this cave to the river, which Solomon and Joshua used to smuggle them in. They would hide them down here for about three days, give them some clothes, food and addresses, and then send them on their way."
"What happened?" asked Alfred, detecting a hint of sadness creeping into Thomas's voice.
Taking a deep breath, Thomas looked around, put a hand in his pocket and continued giving his lecture, albeit in a more sombre voice.
"In August 1863, Joshua was helping escort a family of slaves to the river in the dead of night. They were attacked by a three-man gang of bounty hunters hired by the slaves' ex-owner. Joshua held them off to give the family time to escape to here. He shot two of them dead and fatally wounded the other, who managed to shoot him five times before running off. His body was found ."
"How do you know what happened?" asked Alfred.
"The family made it here and told us what they had seen and heard. Amazingly, Joshua survived the shots long enough to swim across the river to the house. He was brought inside, and died of his injuries around an hour later. He was 56 years old."
"This may sound in poor taste, but that's quite amazing," said Alfred, impressed.
"You mean it was impressive because he was able to survive five gunshots long enough to swim across a river and only die an hour after that?" asked Thomas.
Alfred nodded. "Yes."
Thomas made a noise resembling a sad chuckle. "I suppose you're right. Either way, it tore Solomon's heart apart, and to preserve the family's reputation, the cause of death was listed as assassination by anarchists. Solomon figured that the person or people who hired the bounty hunters wouldn't speak out against it in case they incriminated themselves in his death."
"What happened to Solomon?" asked Alfred, as the pair began walking around the cave.
"He left his position as a judge and took up Joshua's position in the company. As it turned out, he was good at it, and he married at 64 in 1870 to a woman half his age, with my grandfather, Alan Wayne coming into the world a year later. In 1875, he set up Wayne Construction and hired architect Cyrus Pinkney, who he'd befriended in his judicial days, to aid in designing the buildings for the city's financial district."
"He's the one who brought in that...eccentric neo-Gothic style here, isn't he?" asked Alfred, glancing around briefly in case of bat guano.
"Yeah, he was," replied Thomas, not trying to deny it. "Solomon thought of himself as a good Christian, and felt that the city's buildings needed to scare citizens into taking 'the path of righteousness.' The two of them got raked over the coals by the press for the designs at first, but we warmed up to them when we saw that they made Gotham look different from New York and Chicago."
"Unique, you mean," Alfred said with some presumption.
Thomas nodded. "Yeah."
"What about your grandfather?" asked Alfred. "What did he do?"
"Grandpa Alan?" asked Thomas. "He died in 1926, three years before I was born, of a heart attacl. He consolidated all the companies into Wayne Corp in 1910. He then opened up a steel mill and the chemical-pharmaceutical branch of the company. When America entered World War I, he asked the government if he could offer the shipyards to them for the war effort. They turned him down."
"I see," replied Alfred, looking around the cave. "What's with the concrete reinforcing over there?" he then asked, pointing to the reinforcements.
"Oh, that? That was Dad," explained Thomas. "He started that in 1951 during the Red Scare, so that the family would have somewhere to hide in case of a Soviet attack. He would've done the roof too, but Mom put her foot down. Either way, if an earthquake comes, I'm guessing we'd be safe down here."
"Let's hope so, in case Brezhnev has a stroke," remarked Alfred dryly.
"Where were the two of you?" questioned Martha when the two men walked into the main hall. Philip, looking tired, raised an eyebrow inquisitively.
"Your fiance was showing me around, especially the cellar," replied Alfred.
Martha looked at Thomas and gave him a look. "You took him down to the cave, didn't you?" she asked.
"Yeah, I did," admitted Thomas.
"I also got a free history lesson and one of the best guided tours in my life," added Alfred.
Philip couldn't help but snort. Martha smirked and rolled her eyes. Thomas looked at Alfred.
"It looks dark outside," Alfred noticed. "If anyone's peckish, I'll go and cook something up."
"You do that before Thomas takes offence to that joke and has you deported," replied Philip.
As Alfred walked off, Thomas told Philip, "I've no political offices. Why'd you say that?"
Philip shrugged. "He can be a really snarky git, and you might be tempted to pull strings in case he says something wrong."
"I'm sure he won't," said Martha with some positivity. "If anything, he should fit in."
"I think he's getting attached to Thomas, at the least," finished Philip, "so I see no reason he won't try to stay."
Chapter 15: The First Day-Morning
14 January 1970
Alfred had woken up at 6.30, after a troublesome sleep, and had been silently wondered throughout the day if the reason for his early awakening was because of all the times he had Apparated the day before. He silently told himself that that would be the last time he would do something like that.
After getting dressed (which took around 10 minutes longer than it should have), Alfred went down to the kitchen to find Thomas sitting at the island with a mug of coffee in his hand.
"Didn't sleep well, did you?" asked Thomas.
Alfred shook his head. "Do you want breakfast?" he then asked.
"If you don't want to, you don't have to," said Thomas, putting the coffee down. "I can get it myself-we have cereal in the cupboard."
"How shit are you two at cooking?" asked Alfred, eyebrow raised.
"To tell the truth, very," replied Thomas, ignoring Alfred's use of profanity.
"You seem quite relaxed about me having just sworn," Alfred soon pointed out. "How come?"
Thomas shrugged. "I studied at Harvard. Honestly, I've heard worse. 'Where did you pick it up?' should be the real question, though."
"I stayed with my mother's parents in Coventry during most of the Second World War," answered Alfred. "My father was in the Navy and my mother was a WREN. It's through her that I have the magic."
"Interesting," murmured Thomas sincerely. "So can I presume the swearing came from your grandfather?"
Alfred snorted and chuckled. "Actually, no-my grandmother was the one who was swearing. Dad wouldn't believe me when I told him, but Mum knew damn well I was telling the truth, and Dad changed his mind rather quickly when we dropped in by surprise around 1952."
"You're sure that didn't just make her swear more?" asked Thomas, sitting down.
"It did briefly," was all Alfred said before he took Thomas up on the offer of breakfast cereals.
Around 7.30, Martha and Philip came down to find once more that Thomas and Alfred were getting along swimmingly.
"Alfred, you look a small bit tired, but I feel you won't let that stop you," commented Philip wryly.
"Be nice, Philip," Martha lightly rebuked. "This means he's welcome."
"She's got a point," agreed Alfred. "By the way, Philip, when's that meeting with the Americans, or is it more than one?"
"Shit," muttered Philip quietly when he put his hand up to his mouth. "Thank you for reminding me. I nearly forgot. I met them for lunch, during which we talked over the deal, and then we reaffirmed that we will be meeting again at 11."
"Good luck," offered Thomas.
"Thanks," replied Philip. "I'll be needing it."
The four soon ate breakfast (the cereal) and Philip left for New York at 8.00, having booked a train ticket from Gotham to New York.
"Why's he taking the train?" asked Alfred.
"It saves him the trouble of thinking of a fake train timetable," replied Martha. "And if he leaves now, he'll get there on time."
Thomas let out a laugh. "Couldn't be less wrong," he said in agreement.
"Anyway," asked Alfred again, "what exactly are the two of you planning for today?"
"Well, as you already know, I have a meeting to attend to," answered Thomas.
"Seeing as you've been hired to look after me, I should certainly let you know I'm organizing a meeting to try an educate people about the war," added Martha.
"Philip did mention that," said Alfred.
"Well, if he said it was against the war in Vietnam, he's only half-right," continued Martha. "I don't want to propagandize people into thinking the war's wrong with no real facts: I would rather educate them about the war with as little bias as possible, and then let them make up their own minds. I was involved in a protest against the military's conduct after the Pinkville Massacre was leaked, however."
"Alright, that sounds fair enough," admitted Alfred. "Having read about that particular...incident when it came out in November, I found it just horrific."
"It is," agreed Thomas ashamedly. "The estimates say that civilians outnumbered real Viet Cong there by 10 to 1, but there's no true idea how many were really killed."
"Unfortunately, it's happened and we can't really change it now," concluded Alfred cynically.
"I suppose," agreed Martha, "but what people can do is stop something like it happening again."
At 9.00, Thomas left for the Wayne Enterprises meeting (not before getting a kiss goodbye from Martha), and Martha got ready to go to her studio to arrange the meeting.
"Where exactly is this studio?" asked Alfred.
"Burnside," replied Martha. "It's not too flashy or expensive, but it's comfortable. I lived there for a while until Thomas and I got engaged."
"So I heard," smirked Alfred. "So, when are you heading off there?"
"In half an hour," replied Martha. "Is that alright with you?"
"A little," replied Alfred honestly. "If there is anything that you're holding back, though, I would recommend letting me know in case it helps me help you."
"You're going straight into business now, aren't you?" asked Martha rhetorically.
Alfred nodded. "It's what your brother and fiancee are going to be paying me for, and by God they will be getting their money's worth."
Martha chuckled. "Let's hope so."
At 9.50, Martha went into the garage to start the car. Alfred followed her.
"Why not Apparate?" he asked in curiosity.
"Well, it helps me fit in," replied Martha. "Suppose I Apparated everywhere. I am highly certain that people would be suspicious of how they saw me go around the city on time, without any vehicles in my possession."
"Not a bad point," admitted Alfred. "Even Magical governments use lifts, don't they?"
"Yes, they do," replied Martha.
Turning the key of the Mercedes-Benz 600, Martha started the engine while Alfred sat next to her in the passenger seat, his wand strapped to his left forearm in case he needed it.
"It would be a good idea to get a driving license," said Martha as she drove down to the gates.
"Why so?" asked Alfred, raising an eyebrow.
"Well," she replied, "if you're officially our new valet-which is, as far as I can recall, essentially a butler-type figure-it would help make less people notice."
"They'll be expecting me, as the employee, to be the one driving you, and not the other way around," deduced Alfred.
Martha nodded. "Exactly."
"I'll do it," agreed Alfred, "but only after the green card arrives, just in case."
"The card's irrelevant to your test," pointed out Martha, "so the 'just in case' is pointless."
"I'm aware of that," noted Alfred. "It just doesn't seem right without it."
"It will, and learning how to drive in Gotham will help you help me," continued Martha. "You'll be driving your way around the city, and learning all the areas. Therefore, you'll know where to go."
A few seconds of silence passed.
"Huh, you're right," realized Alfred as Martha made a turn.
"Thank you," said Martha.
Chapter 16: The First Day-Studio
14 January 1970
They reached the art studio at around 11.22-traffic was lighter today. Martha drove down into the grey underground car park, found an empty space and reversed the Mercedes into it.
Alfred got out first, and went around to Martha's side to open the door for her. The sounds of the doors opening and closing echoed off the concrete walls.
"Do you usually walk up or do you take the lift instead?" asked Alfred as Martha got out of the car.
"They're called elevators here," she replied, "and I usually walk up the stairs."
"Alright then," said Alfred.
Alfred's first thought, upon seeing the inside of the studio, was that it looked rather chic. The white walls were, excepting a few framed paintings here and there, largely bare. There was also a pile of half-completed drawings and sketches lying on a cheap wooden table.
"How long have you had this place?" asked Alfred, looking around as the sunlight shone in.
"Hmm? Oh, around eight years," replied Martha clearing off the drawings and placing them into a storage cupboard. "Maybe eight-and-a-half."
"Is Philip paying for this, or do you?" Alfred then asked.
"Are you referring to the rent?" asked Martha back, turning around to face him.
He nodded in confirmation.
"I do, actually," she replied. "I started my career here really by doing commissions-people paid me to paint a picture for them, and I would spend around a week or two on them. A few times, they paid very highly, which helped give me the resources to get this lovely place. What also helps is that I haven't really spent much money on unnecessarily extravagant things, in case my parents are trying to find me through tracking people's spending. Consequently, I've been able to pay the rent here by myself."
"Do you still do commissions?" asked Alfred in curiosity.
"Yes, along with doing my own thing," she replied.
"And when did you start taking part in activities regarding the Vietnam War?"
"I started around June 1966, so nearly three-and-a-half years ago, after attending some seminars about the subject."
Alfred exhaled, hoping his next question would not offend her.
"And you're certain that people haven't started attacking you or planning anything against you for your involvement in these things?" he finally asked as she began preparing for the meeting.
"Maybe they have, but I'm not going to cower in fear about it," replied Martha. "Sure, it may sound hypocritical of me, considering just why I'm here, but over in Britain, though it's no longer really practiced, arranged marriages are still legal. If I had stayed there, I would have been stuck with someone I didn't love, kept on a leash...not allowed to grow, really."
"Okay then," accepted Alfred, as he began to look and walk around, inspecting the walls and windows just in case.
"You're taking your new job very seriously now, aren't you?" commented Martha.
"Your brother is paying me what I think of as a high sum of money," replied Alfred with some snark. "I think he would like me to be worth it."
"That makes it sound like you are only in it for money," said Martha.
"I have always planned my budgets carefully," countered Alfred, taking out his wand to further help in his security evaluation of the studio. "Consequently, I have a decent amount in my bank account that I'm sure could have seen me last for around 2 or 3 years before needing to return to work. That said, I probably would've started looking for work as soon as I left the care of Saint Mungo's had your brother not given me that offer."
He walked towards her, wand in hand, and waved it around.
"What exactly are you doing?" asked Martha with curiosity.
"I am checking for any Spells or Charms that may be placed either on me, on you, on this building, or on my wand," he replied.
"In case they've decided to use the borders to look for where I am," deduced Martha.
Alfred nodded in confirmation. "You have to admit that they are quite persistent if you've been here nearly a decade and they're still looking for you," he said, putting away his wand.
"I suppose you're right," agreed Martha. "If I had been only a few years younger and the whole 'arranged marriage' issue wasn't here, I'd be glad they would be continuing to look for me after all this time."
"That said, from what Philip has told me, they know at the very least you're in America," continued Alfred. "Let's hope that when they find you they realise the frivolity of taking you back, if they already haven't."
"What frivolity?" asked Martha.
"You are Thomas Wayne's fiancee," stated Alfred. "You are a presence in Gotham's branch of the anti-war movement, and a burgeoning voice in the city's arts and culture. You will not be ignored if people working for your parents find you here and kidnap you back."
Martha smiled. "You've a lot of insight and thoughts about my situation, even though you haven't seen me since Hogwarts."
"I used to be an Auror, it was a required skill," replied Alfred, a look of worry entering his eyes.
"Are you thinking about your friend, Scrimgeour?" asked Martha.
Alfred nodded. "I've heard nothing new about his condition, so I'm assuming he's still alive and stable for now. It has only been a short time since the attack, though, so it may be a while before hear of something new about him."
"Is he good?" asked Martha again.
Alfred snorted. "Brilliant. He's a damn good leader too, so most of us have him pegged as Langarm's replacement as Head Auror."
"I think I remember hearing about that from Philip," remembered Martha. "He was made Deputy-Head of the Aurors this time last year, when your friend Moody turned it down."
"Exactly," confirmed Alfred. "To be honest, after Moody, Scrimgeour has happened to have one of the best records in the Aurors for years and was bolstered really by a high-profile case of his. A Muggle and his pureblood wife in Cokeworth got 19 years between them for child abuse and child neglect on their young son, who's now living with a relative. Rufus was the one who was leading the investigation."
Martha gave a smile in respect. "That is definitely worth a promotion, helping ensure that those who harm children are dealt with."
"Agreed," replied Alfred. "They've also lost all visitation and custody rights to him, and will probably have to live somewhere else when they're released."
Alfred sighed wistfully, silently praying that Rufus recovered. If there were more masked madmen on the loose, he was greatly needed.
"Anyway," asked Martha, "what is the conclusion of the spells security check?"
"Nothing sinister," replied Alfred. "More accurately, there are no spells here."
"Thank you for that," said Martha. "Now, would it be alright if I asked you to help me set the room up for the meeting?"
Alfred tilted his head before nodding. "Sure. Will anyone else be coming along to help, or is it just us?"
"There are a few others involved in inviting people here, but organising here falls mostly on my shoulders, owing to this meeting being mostly my idea," replied Martha. "And I know a great clinic we can go to in the unlikely event of things turning ugly."
"Ironic, that in Gotham, you're not expecting violence," remarked Alfred.
"Violence is not something most ordinary people want there to be more of in this city," replied Martha seriously. "Hopefully, I can do my bit to make it go down."
"Good luck then," said Alfred sincerely, as he began helping Martha.
Chapter 17: Following
14 January 1970
"That went well," said Alfred as he and Martha cleaned up.
"Yes, I suppose it did," agreed Martha, raising the projector screen. "I had a very interesting discussion with a pro-war couple here who thanked me for endeavouring to use this opportunity to educate the people of Gotham about the war."
The two of them stepped out of the studio and headed for the stairs.
"So how has your first day been?" asked Martha.
"Not bad, so far," replied Alfred. "It's been nice and quiet, which is ironic considering this city's reputation."
"You're tempting fate now," she said. "Something might happen."
They entered the car park, their footsteps echoing off the concrete. Alfred could see there was another car parked there-a beige 1956 Alfa Romeo 1900 sedan with whitewall tyres.
"Do you recognise that car, by any chance?" asked Alfred quietly.
Martha shook her head. "No. I saw one or two people going into the restroom when we finished, so maybe the car is for someone still there."
"It finished 20 minutes ago," commented Alfred. "Whoever they're waiting for must be spending a long time in there."
"Let's just go home and forget about it," suggested Martha, opening the car door.
"Yes," agreed Alfred. "Let's."
Starting the car, Martha put her foot down, shifted the gear stick and carefully drove out of the car park up into the street, which was now much busier than when the two of them had come into the city.
"How are we?" she asked Alfred after a few minutes.
Alfred checked behind. Traffic was lighter than it was in front, so it looked alright for the time being, until he saw something suspicious behind them…
"I think we're being followed, Martha," he warned.
The 1900 was about two cars behind them.
"Are you certain they're following us?" asked Martha.
"Not yet, but we'll know soon enough," he replied.
They made a left turn. Martha continued to focus on the road ahead. Alfred kept focusing on the back.
"I see them again," he said, as the other car turned behind them.
"Shit," muttered Martha, fearing the worst.
Taking out his wand, Alfred Conjured up a piece of paper and took out a pen from the glove compartment.
"What are you doing?" asked Martha.
"I'm writing down the car's licence plate, in case this happens again," he answered.
"If they are after us, what makes you so sure they'll use the same car again?" she questioned.
"It's better to be safe than sorry," replied Alfred, putting the pen back into the glove compartment and the scrap of paper into his pocket. "Keep driving."
Martha gestured towards a red light. "I can't now."
They stopped. The cars behind them stopped, including the 1900.
"How long do red lights usually last for here?" asked Alfred.
"Around 90 seconds," replied Martha.
"Where in the city are we?"
"Well, we've been driving for about 10 minutes, Burnside is on the mainland, and the air smells more like salt the more we move this way, so I'd say we're heading towards the Centre Island."
"Is that good?" asked Alfred.
"It's where most of the government buildings and the downtown area are located," she replied. "But if you're referring to that car, I'm not certain."
"Well, only one way to find out," muttered Alfred.
"We drive all around?"
"We drive all around."
Crossing over the Brown Memorial Bridge, Martha drove over towards the Centre Island, while Alfred kept an eye on the 1900 to check if they were still tailing them.
"Still there?" asked Martha after five minutes.
Alfred nodded silently. The 1900 was still some way behind them, but it was still on their trail. The traffic was starting to lighten up by Gotham standards, but it was still congested and it would still take a lot of time before it really caught up to them.
"There's a left turn up ahead," informed Martha. "We can lose them there."
'Let's hope so,' thought Alfred.
The moment they were able to, Martha turned the driving wheel and the car went left.
"Another turn, on the right," noticed Martha. "I'm taking it."
"Good idea," agreed Alfred, seeing the 1900 no longer behind them. "They're sure to have seen us go this way, and by the time they get to make that turn themselves, they'll have lost us for sure."
"By any chance were car chases part of your career?" asked Martha jokingly.
Alfred shook his head. "I know Moody was in one in Switzerland around 5 years ago, but that's the closest I've been to being in one until now."
He kept watching for the 1900 as she drove around the financial district, knowing it was possible that it could have gotten here through an alternative route.
However, he felt it somewhat unlikely-he and Martha had been driving around the financial district for the past half-hour, and had yet to see them again.
"I think we're clear now," said Alfred. "We can head back-I have a feeling Thomas and Philip will be worried sick."
Martha sighed in relief, and began driving out of the financial district and back towards Wayne Manor.
"You were followed?" said Philip in worry. "By a car?"
Alfred nodded. "It was an Alfa Romeo 1900 from 1956-beige with whitewall tyres. I couldn't get a good enough look at the occupants, though I could see that the driver was wearing a black suit and sunglasses and had a beard."
Philip put his hand to his chin, his face wearing a nervous expression. "Christ," he muttered.
"Do you think it means your parents have caught up to Martha?" asked Alfred, as the two men began walking along the edge of the frozen pond.
"Maybe," replied Philip. "It could also be linked to the attack on Scrimgeour-they're still working to heal him, by the way-and these terrorists could be planning to abduct one of us for ransom."
"To pay for their manic crusade," Alfred continued for him.
Philip nodded. "Exactly."
"It could be also that they're planning another assassination attempt, like on Jenkins," suggested Alfred. "If you lean closer to the left than your parents, like she does, then they'll want to take you out to ensure you can't use your wealth and influence against them."
"Interesting theory. That scenario wouldn't bode especially well for Martha either-with my death here, people will be suspicious as to what I'm doing in Gotham, which could lead to her whereabouts finally being pinned down, and they could move to bring her back to Britain."
"Alternately, they tracked her down independently, have figured out that with Thomas's resources, she's the bigger threat, and are seeking to eliminate one of them."
"Which one would you say?" asked Philip nervously.
"I'd say Martha," replied Alfred. "It would serve as a warning against Thomas being involved in wizarding affairs. That said, Thomas could be a target if it means forcing Martha back to the Wizarding World."
Philip didn't say anything this time, only nodding as they left footprints in the snow.
"Would it be alright if I checked with your old Auror friends if they could survey the security here?" asked Philip after a few minutes of silence.
"Yeah-yes, sure, you can," replied Alfred, covering up his surprise quickly. "It might be hard, in light of recent events, but it'd certainly be welcome. In the meantime, I'll go looking for ex-Aurors here to help out."
"Good idea. That being said, do you want to go back inside? It's getting a bit colder out here."
Alfred exhaled heavily, and watched his breath float in the air. "Good idea."
19 January 1970
It had been 5 days since Alfred began working for Thomas and Martha and 4 days since the 1900 tried following him and Martha from the studio. Since then, they had all kept a close watch in case of something similar happening again.
Alfred was searching for channels to contact former American Aurors, while Philip had managed to make contact with Moody upon return from America, and Thomas had hired a contractor from Wayne Enterprises' construction division to check if extensions or improvements to make the foundations more secure.
"Have you found anybody yet?" asked Martha out of the blue as he got out of the car in the garage.
"Huh? Oh, you mean the Aurors. Not yet, no, I haven't, but a task like that isn't something that will happen overnight."
"I understand," replied Martha. "I don't mean that I've tried to do exactly what you're doing now, I mean, but I know that important things take time. Rome wasn't built in a day, you know."
"No it was not," agreed Alfred. "By the way, when do you think that I ought to take my driving test?"
"Whenever you want," replied Martha again. "But me and Thomas are not obliging you to do it, you know-if you don't want to do it, then don't."
"Well, I do want to do it, ma'am," said Alfred.
Martha looked at him quizzically. "Ma'am? Really?"
"I don't know why either," was Alfred's response.
20 January 1970
As Thomas, Martha and Alfred were eating breakfast (Zwieback pancakes with maple syrup), they heard a tapping sound on the window.
Immediately, they all froze. Alfred slowly took out his wand and stood up.
The tapping came again. He moved to the window where the tapping seemed to be coming from, looked out and sighed.
"It's an owl," he said, opening the window slowly. "With an envelope."
He began to reach for the envelope with his left hand, while his right hand still gripped his wand. "Don't you dare bite," he muttered.
The owl, deciding to cooperate, stuck out the leg with the envelope for Alfred to take, and when Alfred had taken it, flew off from the mansion.
Holding the envelope at an acceptable distance from his face, Alfred waved his wand to check for any dangerous spells, poisons or other harmful substances, magical or not.
"It's safe," he announced to Thomas and Martha, before turning it around to see who it was addressed to.
"Huh. It's for me."
Bringing it to the table, he sat down, opened it and took out the letter within.
For the next minute, there was silence. Alfred's expression was stoic, his eyes reading through every letter on the page until they reached the end, at which point he gave a small, hopeful smile.
"They've figured it out," he said happily. "The Healers have struck upon an idea to help Rufus-it's a risky idea, but it's the only thing they can think of to help him."
Chapter 18: Gotham and London
20 January 1970
Martha and Thomas smiled, both knowing this revelation meant a lot to Alfred.
"What is it?" asked the latter.
"Well, according to Alastor, the Healers at St. Mungo's are going to bring in a French Muggleborn who has qualifications both as a Wizard Healer and a Muggle Doctor, to try and perform surgery on Rufus's chest, and then they're going to feed him Skele-Gro and other potions to remove any trace of the initial spell."
"By 'surgery on his chest', do you mean that they mean to 'cut out his ribcage'?" asked Thomas with some worry.
Alfred sighed nodded with some grimness. "That's it, yeah. According to this, they've talked about the possibility of just making the bones vanish using magic, but the Healers are too afraid to do that in case there's a bad reaction."
"It sounds risky," said Martha.
"So was Washkansky's surgery, if I recall," commented Alfred.
Thomas did not disagree. "So, they still haven't figured out a way to truly counter that spell?" he asked instead.
"Pretty much, though Alastor seems to be implying that."
"Is experimenting with spells common?" asked Thomas again.
Alfred gave a 'so-so' hand gesture. "It depends. The Renaissance was the peak time, though, and the creation of new spells and potions has only slowed hard since then. Anyway, back to Rufus-the 'surgery', as I suppose it ought to be called, is scheduled for the 31st. Do you have anything that could help increase the success rate, seeing as this Frenchman will, in all honesty, be aided by wizards who wouldn't know one end of a scalpel from the other?"
Thomas put his hand to his chin. "I have some books in the library that could be of use, though considering that you've said the Frenchman they're hiring knows how to carry out both magical and non-magical procedures, he could be able to tell them what to do on his own."
"He's got a point," said Martha.
Alfred sat back down and sighed. For a few seconds, nobody spoke, not entirely certain what to say.
"If this operation is successful, would it constitute a breakthrough?" asked Alfred finally.
"Perhaps, if it works, it could qualify as proof that magical and non-magical medical practises can be combined with successful results, and serve as a bras d'honneur to the extremists in your society."
"Thomas, seeing as you're about marry a real witch," commented Alfred, "you're free to say you're part of that society now."
21 January 1970
"Do you think Crouch is going to try to get Alfred back to England if these attacks increase?" Gawain Robards asked Alastor Moody in the Ministry Atrium as the two Aurors stepped into the elevator for Level 2.
"When you've been an Auror as long as I have," replied Moody cynically, "you'll know Barty Crouch is not one to try and grovel to someone to come back after he's all but kicked them out."
"Alfred wasn't fired though," countered Robards. "He quit."
"No, he wasn't," conceded Moody, "but Crouch kicked him off field duty, so he helped ensure Alfred left. And what's the point of being a physically able Auror with proficiency in spellwork when you're not allowed go out into the field and haul scum into prison?"
The elevator stopped and its doors opened, a voice announcing "Level Seven-Department of Magical Games and Sports," and Hamish MacFarlan entered the elevator.
"Morning gentlemen," he greeted the two Aurors cordially. Moody and Robards said nothing, but they gave a polite nod.
"I don't mean to be nosy, but will security here at the Ministry be increased after what happened in Diagon Alley?" MacFarlan asked.
"If security was to be tightened, MacFarlan," replied Moody, "you'd know by now."
"I see," said MacFarlan with disappointment.
"However," continued Moody, "I'd recommend teaching yourself more defensive spells. No doubt Crouch and Jenkins will be encouraging people to do so if these attacks increase."
MacFarlan nodded. "Alright then. I'll try."
The elevator doors opened again, the voice announcing "Level Two-Department of Magical Law Enforcement". The two Aurors stepped out, as MacFarlan stayed in the elevator, and separated to go to their respective cubicles.
After a few minutes of nothing but paperwork, Moody glanced at the clock hanging overhead. 08.00. As far as he knew, there was no such thing as a time-telling spell, despite what the clowns peddling the 'Tempus' crap said. If there was such a spell in existence, there would be no reason for wizards and witches to keep using clocks and watches.
At 10.00, with two-thirds of his paperwork out of the way, Moody stood up and walked out of his cubicle to stretch his legs. He intended to got to the Atrium and walk around for about 20 minutes before coming back down to finish his paperwork, ensuring he would be finished by 11.00 (20 minutes of loitering in the Atrium, 5 minutes going up, and 5 minutes going back down).
However, when he stepped into the elevator, he found himself surprised to see Philip Kane inside, wearing a brown three-piece suit and fedora. Moody noted that he looked a little antsy and nervous, as if he wanted to say something but couldn't in case he was overheard.
The doors closed and the elevator began to move upwards.
"Auror Moody," acknowledged Kane with a polite nod.
"Mister Kane," nodded Moody, doing likewise. "What's your business here today?"
Kane sighed. "How much did Alfred tell you, about why he took up my offer?"
"Everything that he felt to be relevant," replied Moody.
"So, he told you everything," surmised Kane.
Moody's nod confirmed this hypothesis. "You needn't worry about me spilling anything, by the way-I won't tell a soul."
Kane smiled nervously. "Thank you for that. It means I can trust you, because I am about to tell you something rather important that I have been unable to inform Alfred of yet."
Moody, his interest piqued, raised an eyebrow, and looked down at Kane. "What is it? Because depending on its importance, it would be a lot wiser to cut out the middleman and just tell him upfront."
Again, Kane sighed. "It's to do with our parents."
"You and your sister's parents, you mean?" asked Moody for confirmation.
Kane nodded. "Yes."
The elevator stopped, the voice announcing "Level Four-Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures," and the doors opened, allowing for a young brown-haired man in a tweed Inverness cape and Homburg hat to enter with a briefcase in one hand and his wand in the other.
"Morning, Diggory," greeted Moody with some curtness.
"Good morning to you too, Auror Moody," replied Diggory politely, though his eyes showed he was nervous near the tall Auror. He either did not recognise Philip Kane or chose not to say anything.
"Where are you headed, Diggory?" asked Moody.
"Oh? I'm going to Gringotts, but please don't tell anyone," he replied. "It's...just between me, the Goblins, and my Department Head."
"Don't worry," assured Moody. "I'm sure it's not worth my time."
"Thank you," said Diggory, not catching the hidden insult as Moody edged closer to Kane.
"We talk later," he whispered bluntly.
Kane nodded in agreement.
The two men ventured out to St James's Park to continue their discussion (Moody informing Langarm that he would he returning to the Ministry to finish his paperwork at 11 when he was finished refilling his lungs with fresh air), found themselves a bench, and sat down.
Taking out a copy of The Daily Telegraph for himself, Kane handed Moody a copy of The Guardian, who took it, obliquely tested it for any harmful charms, and, having found none, opened it and began to pretend he was reading it.
"As you already know, Alfred is working as a bodyguard-cum-valet for Thomas Wayne-Martha's fiance-to look after her," said Kane quietly.
"As we already discussed in the lift, I bloody know already," said Moody back. "And I have a theory as to why you're here."
"Which is?" asked Kane.
"Your parents, having already pinpointed that your sister is in America, have finally tracked her down to Gotham along with finding out her husband-to-be."
Kane nodded. "That is it. They've tracked her down. From what I've also gathered, Father is having second thoughts about bringing her back here afterwards, however."
Moody sniffed. "That's smart of him. With the way things are going here in Britain, in spite of the impending end of arranging marriages thanks to Jenkins, she'll be better off in America than she would be here. Though, seeing as you've only mentioned your old man as having reservations about this morally questionable action, would I be correct in saying your mother is still insistent?"
Again, Kane nodded. "You're right. She intends to campaign for the re-legalisation of arranged marriages when Jenkins signs the law ending their practise, even though she's probably the only one in her family with plans to do so."
Moody raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "I was not aware the Brocklehurst family was that liberal."
Kane shrugged. "It depends. They believe in keeping some traditions, and in throwing away the more archaic ones that have no place in these times. So technically, I'd say they're more in the centre."
"Still saner than Walburga Black," muttered Moody dryly. Kane did not respond to this statement.
"Anyway, why're you telling me this? Surely Alfred would be better off knowing of this?"
Kane glanced around. Moody did the same, and when satisfied that there was nobody listening in on their conversation, continued with it.
"I have reason to believe that they are becoming increasingly aware of just how involved I was in Martha's escape," he replied in a quieter voice. "There's a chance that they are keeping an eye on my post to confirm their suspicions, and I'm not going to take any chances whatsoever."
"Smart move," complimented Moody.
"Thank you," replied Kane. "Anyway, because of my concerns-"
"You want me to write to Alfred letting him know of this new development?" finished Moody.
"Yes, exactly," confirmed Kane. "It's something I've been expecting for some time now, and it would be a good idea to let Alfred, Martha and Thomas know as soon as possible."
"Will do," agreed Moody. "You're not the first private individual to approach me, I must say."
"Who's the first?" asked Kane curiously.
"Dumbledore," replied Moody. "After what happened in Diagon Alley, he approached me about the possibility of creating a secret society to help the Ministry in fighting these terrorists."
"Do you think he knows something about the mastermind?" asked Kane.
Moody shrugged. "Maybe. They call him 'the greatest wizard alive' for a reason. And if he gets involved personally in resisting these maniacs, then hopefully we'll be able to stop them faster."
"Agreed. So are we in agreement?"
"That I'll deliver the message to Alfred? Yes. I'll go to St. Mungo's when my shift finishes and if Rufus has woken up, then I'll ask him if he wants to tell Alfred anything."
"I don't think he has," commented Kane. "Not yet, anyway. But I mean it when I say I hope he recovers soon."
"Unless the Healers fuck up the surgery, in which case I'm gonna kill them all," replied Moody.
Glancing at his watch, Moody toke note of the time immediately. "It's 10.55. I'd best head back to the Ministry. You have a business to attend to, and parents to look out for."
"You're right," agreed Kane. "And if we meet again, I think it would be best not to set a fixed schedule."
Moody nodded his head in agreement. "Seeing as I'll be working more frequently, that would be for the best. If we're both available and do need to talk about our... mutual interest, that's when we do it."
"Agreed," Kane said as he rose.
Turning around, he then stretched out his hand to Moody.
"I have the feeling that you are a trustworthy individual, Auror Moody."
Taking Kane's hand and shaking it, Moody rose to his feet. "Thank you," he replied. "You're a decent fellow yourself. We should do this more often."
With that, the two men with a common interest went their separate ways-at least for now.
Chapter 19: The Next Three Days
23 January 1970
"Are you both certain that Martha's in Gotham City?" asked Philip Kane with trepidation.
Both his parents nodded, though he noted with little surprise that his father's nod was less enthusiastic than his mother's.
Two days ago, he had told Alfred's old colleague from the Aurors, Alastor Moody, to pass on to Alfred and Martha that Martha's (and Philip's) parents were now aware that she was currently in Gotham City, and that his father, Roderick Kane, was beginning to have doubts about the ethics of their endeavour and whether it was really worth all the effort. With this meeting, he hoped that, depending on how prominent his father's feelings were and their own suspicion of him as helping Martha avoid them, he was now hoping to create those same doubts in his mother's own mind and to try to intensify the ones already existing in his father's.
"We got this information courtesy of the wizard we hired to find her-Mister Karkaroff," explained his mother, Elizabeth Kane (nee Brocklehurst). "I think you remember him."
Philip did remember Karkaroff. A bearded, dark-haired man from Eastern Europe, most likely Russia, who had a penchant for wearing furs, all he knew about the man was that he was a graduate of the Durmstrang Institute, had a high opinion of Gellert Grindelwald and the infamous wizard's policies, and worked largely as a mercenary-finding people who didn't want to be found, performing abductions, and possibly even carrying out several assassinations.
"When did he find this out?" asked Philip with suspicion, secretly hoping that this would not be the moment when they would immediately round on him to list how he had stymied their efforts and had always been well aware that Martha was in America.
"He informed us of his discovery about eleven days ago," replied Elizabeth with nonchalance.
Philip gave a slight nod, knowing that was when he had found out his parents had become aware of Martha's whereabouts too, thanks to the two House-Elves that they employed (and who he had been using to spy on his parents' actions since Martha went 'missing').
"He has spent the past nine weeks traversing the main United States looking for her," Elizabeth continued speaking, "acting solely on the knowledge that she is currently in the United States, and managed to find her in Gotham, whereupon he collaborated with local Muggles to stalk her from an art studio in a car. It seems all that's left is to find out exactly where she lives and act accordingly."
Philip did not like the implications behind that last sentence.
"There is not much time left to return her here before Jenkins submits her marriage law bill to the Wizengamot," continued Roderick Kane, who was also seated in an armchair. "Only about six or seven weeks."
"Seven weeks, I believe, in which case," said Philip, "you're not going to be able to do anything. I've no doubt she'll have made friends and acquaintances over in America, found work, maybe even love, and they will be very suspicious if she were to leave abruptly without warning."
"And yet she did just that over nine years ago," remarked Elizabeth. "Without a word of warning to anyone, not even her friends or family, she just fled and nearly vanished into thin air. From what I heard, Emmeline Vance even tried to get one of the Aurors interested at one point."
"Thank goodness he didn't listen to her and investigate," said Roderick with relief. "The public embarrassment that we'd have faced otherwise…"
Philip knew better than to say that the Auror that Vance had approached did get interested, eventually. He did allow the thought to entertain him in his head.
"She probably wouldn't have left if you two hadn't decided to go off talking about marrying her off to Claudius Nott behind her back," remarked Philip.
"That method worked well for me and your father when our parents set us up!" defended Elizabeth. "Our 37th anniversary will be in April."
"And that method clearly didn't work for Martha," pointed out Philip. "She trusted you; she loved you; and the way I see it, you went and betrayed that trust by negotiating with the Notts and leaving her out of the loop. It would not surprise me if you weren't going to tell her she was to marry him until it was too late to back out of it. And if you are planning to bring her back and hastily arrange her to marry someone else within the next six-to-seven weeks, seeing as Claudius Nott has now married someone else, pray tell, who's the intended groom going to be?"
"Edgar Bones," replied Elizabeth. "He's from a good family-not as wealthy as the Malfoys or the Blacks, perhaps, but they don't have the tainted reputation."
"I will admit that he is a far, far better choice than Claudius Nott," stated Philip, "but I still find myself disbelieving that you will be able to bring her back here, willingly or otherwise, before the vote takes place. And I also find it unlikely that Edgar Bones is entirely willing either."
"Well, we have yet to make any formal offer, but I'm certain we'll have it worked out," replied Elizabeth. Her statement caused both Roderick and Philip to roll their eyes in disbelief.
"Mother," said Philip, standing up, "could you please tell me just what kind of world you are living in, if you think that the Bones family are going to agree to arrange a marriage between their son and your daughter-my sister? And with less than two months before the bill that ends the practice for good in Britain is introduced to the Wizengamot? It's beyond arrogance if you think that they're just going to say 'yes' to a wedding with barely any time to prepare for it, and no guarantee the intended bride will be in the country in time!"
Roderick found himself to be momentarily speechless at the harsh tone his son was using right now. His wife, on the other hand, managed to find her response within seconds.
"Because," she said firmly, and with a hint of the arrogance her son had called her out on, "no sane wizard or witch who respects every single one of our old customs and traditions, and is currently sitting in the Wizengamot, is going to be voting in favour of that bill when it is introduced before them!"
"Officially, none of the wizards who are sitting on the Wizengamot are allowed to make their opinions publicly clear before the bill is introduced and the vote occurs," replied Philip, his voice rising as he continued speaking. "Unofficially, I know full well that at the very least, Marchbanks, Ogden, Lestrange and Greengrass will be voting in favour of the bill. And it seems to me that that's a pretty good indication of how unpopular the concept of arranged marriages is in this country nowadays, if a Greengrass is coming off one of their pretentious high hippogriffs of 'neutrality' to vote for Jenkins's bill alongside a Lestrange! This is 1970 that we're living in, not the bloody Regency era! There's no place for them in our society! And then there's you talking about the idea of bringing back Martha, with what sounds like a lack of regard, again, for her own thoughts, needs and wants. Mother, in that field, and especially with the association with Karkaroff, you've essentially been endorsing your daughter's kidnapping."
He took a deep breath, sighed, ran a hand through his blonde hair, and finished more calmly than he began. "I'm really sorry for nearly shouting at you, but I had to say that, and you had to hear it. Arranged marriages are archaic-they're things of the past, and they're inconsistent-for every marriage that works, there have doubtlessly been ones that didn't, and were unhappy for it. And I know that Father has only gone along with this because he's trying to act in Martha's best interests. Well, I've been acting in her best interests too, and I think that it is my little sister's best interests to not be in this country so long as the two of you are going at this mad, unrealistic plot of yours."
This time, it was Elizabeth's turn to be speechless. Especially so when Roderick, who had been watching the two argue with interest, spoke up.
"Betsy, he's right. He's right about leaving Martha stay in America. With everything that's been going on lately, I don't think it would be wise to bring her back and put her in harm's way. If the attack on the Minister's anything to go by, then there's a chance those maniacs will make her a target, if not all of us. Don't look at me like that-I've been listening to the both of you talk, and Philip's built a better case. We did go behind her back when speaking to the Notts."
He too rose from his seat and turned to look at his wife and his son.
Philip, seeing the look in his father's eyes, took the hint and walked towards the doors to leave the drawing room.
Staying on the other side, he put his ear to the door quietly and tried to listen as hard as he could to the ensuing conversation.
He was fully aware when he had walked into that room that it would take a long time before his mother got over the notion, and based what he was hearing right now, it certainly wouldn't happen by the end of this conversation.
Deep down, he did feel bad for having helped create this rift between his parents. To his knowledge, this was first argument they had had together in several years.
But he also knew that what they had been planning, what their goals were, was wrong, and most likely illegal, even if deep down they weren't necessarily bad, horrible people (just out of touch with the times, in his mother's case). But that would not change the fact that for a long time indeed, the relationship between Martha, Roderick and Elizabeth Kane would be estranged for a long time now.
He wondered if this would be the end of his worries regarding Martha and their parents. They would certainly be upset when they discovered she was already engaged, but with the time window before Jenkins ended that archaic tradition closing fast, there was little that they could do there.
'Ultimately', he thought, 'the only thing I can do is wait and hope for the best.'
24 January 1970
"So, what would be your professional opinion, Mister Todd?" Alfred asked the man in the mauve three-piece suit with black tie.
"Going by the area of the whole estate, it would most certainly take a large amount of time for me to set up all the necessary enchantments and charms on my own, as you stipulated," replied Robert Todd. "In addition to this morsel of truth, I ought to tell you that my fee for this endeavour will not be an inexpensive one."
"You don't work cheap, to put it bluntly," said Alfred.
The two men had just finished surveying the entirety of Wayne Manor, to better aid in the placement of protective enchantments (owing to his Auror background and his current job as their bodyguard/valet/head of security, Alfred had largely been given carte blanche on this front by Thomas and Martha). Todd, though not an Auror, was nonetheless highly respected among American wizarding circles for his expertise on magical security, no doubt aided and influenced by his own past as a criminal.
"What's your minimum, Mister Todd?"
"Well, if the age of the estate is taken into account, alongside its size and its worth in United States Dollars, Dragots, and British Galleons, I would undoubtedly be able to provide you with an accurate idea for my fee."
Inwardly, Alfred sighed.
"Well, the estate has been in the hands of the Wayne family since April 1788-that's 181 years and 9 months," explained Alfred. "Its size is about 28.12 square kilometres, which is 10.86 square miles, or 6,948.6 acres. I don't really know how much the whole place is worth. You'll have to ask the owner for that."
"I'll make sure to so that we can work it out properly. Now, what kind of enchantments would you and the owner like to have here?"
"Certainly ensure that only those wizards and witches who are keyed to the enchantments can Apparate in or out of the grounds," started Alfred.
"Similar to what the Hogwarts Headmasters use, you mean?" asked Todd, who was taking down notes.
"Yes, exactly," confirmed Alfred. "However, Apparation within the estate's borders-as in, going from one part of the estate to another part by Apparating-should be enabled."
"I see," murmured Todd. "What else is there?"
"I was thinking of putting up a Permanent Imperturbable Charm to cover any sounds from the underground caverns being heard by anyone above ground, magical fortifications of the mansion's foundations, and also a spell to reveal when there are humans in disguise using Polyjuice Potion," continued Alfred.
"Will the same restrictions that you want applied to Apparating apply to this field too?" asked Todd, impressed by Alfred's ideas.
"If it's possible, then yes," replied Alfred.
Todd finished writing. "It will take me a great amount of time to be able to set up all these protections for this estate, as I doubt I possess the strength or the energy to carry out the implementation of all of them within a day."
"That's alright," said Alfred. "You can start with whatever you find to be the easiest charms to set up, and simply work from there."
Todd appeared to be thinking about this tactic for a while, before he looked back at Alfred and nodded in agreement. "Very well then. I shall come back tomorrow, discuss my payment with you and Mister Wayne, and I can start on establishing everything you want on this estate on February 1. Will that be alright with you, or is it unsatisfactory?"
"No, no, it's good, it's good," answered Alfred. "If I can come up with any more protective charms I'd like you to put in as well, I'll be sure to let you know."
Todd nodded. "And I will be grateful that you do so sooner, instead of merely springing them upon me on the spot when I begin work."
"I won't, don't worry. Thank you for your services, Mister Todd."
"Mister Pennyworth, you are welcome."
25 January 1970
Igor Karkaroff, wearing a dark brown Ulster coat with fur collar, chamois gloves, black trousers and black leather buccaneer boots, was unfamiliar with the large mansion standing tall in front of him. He could tell that it had probably seen better days, for the windows were becoming opaque from dust and dirt, and the paint was faded or peeling off the wall in some places.
He knew, thanks to his research on the area, that this house was owned by a wealthy family of Muggles at one point-the Riddle family, who had lived in the area since at least Stuart times and who had been found dead in the drawing-room one morning in 1943, over twenty-six years ago. While the Muggles had not known how they died, the wizards did-the Killing Curse.
Not far from this once opulent mansion, there was also a hovel that served as the home of the last descendants of the Gaunt Family-the Heirs of Salazar Slytherin. The only known surviving member of this line, Morfin Gaunt, was currently sitting in a cell in Azkaban prison, serving a life sentence for the murders of the three Riddle Muggles.
Karkaroff turned his head to look over his shoulder. The light inside the caretaker's house was still on, suggesting he was still awake. This was why he had been advised to Apparate 300 yards from the estate and cast a Disillusionment Charm on himself to hide himself as he made his way to the old mansion.
Briefly, he wondered what had happened to the current owners of this estate, seeing as the inside was going to be filled with wizards. The knowledge that this was irrelevant for now led him to banish those thoughts from his head, however.
This was to be Karkaroff's first time meeting his new employer-previously, he had only been in contact with various intermediaries who all wore a black cloak and ivory mask, which immediately told him that his employer expected secrecy and wanted as little evidence as possible to link these crimes to him. The masks also made sense to the mercenary-he could tell that there were different people under the masks each time by noting their differing voices and physical builds, the differing patterns of each mask, and simple common sense: his employer wanted his followers not to be identified.
Which made a lot of sense to Karkaroff, seeing as what they were doing was committing acts of terrorism in Britain, and then hiring him to commit very politically motivated crimes on the continent.
Some people probably would have wondered how they were politically motivated, but Karkaroff could easily see why when he was informed of his targets: all blood traitors and Mudbloods. These were pureblood supremacists that he was currently dealing with, albeit far more fanatical than those he had dealt with before. He was not unsympathetic to their cause, though-he found himself carrying these attacks more enthusiastically than others.
The door opened, and a wizard of average height and a medium build, again wearing the black cloak and ivory mask that had become so familiar to Karkaroff over the past forty-four months.
"Thankfully, you're on time," said the doorman with a polite voice, suggesting he was one of the upper class. "We are all gathered in the drawing-room. This is your last chance to end our affiliation, and if you choose to do so after this, my Master will ensure you regret it. Is that understood?"
Karkaroff nodded, a slight shiver of fear moving up his spine. Despite his growing body count, he still found the thought of possibly having to be at the other end of a wand aimed to kill to be disconcerting.
Brushing that aside, he followed the masked doorman through the hall and into a large dining-room, with a long mahogany table and ten chairs. On top of the table, there appeared to be ten candles lined up along the middle in a row.
At the opposite end of the table from Karkaroff, there stood the wizard who Karkaroff instinctively knew to be his employer. He was a tall, thin man, with pale skin that, in the moonlight, gave off a blueish hue. His face, once handsome, now had the appearance of a melting wax replica,with high cheekbones, a sharp nose, blood red eyes, and his black hair, while slicked back neatly, appeared to be thinning greatly.
He held his head up high, and generated an air of supreme confidence and incredible intelligence and knowledge.
"We meet at last, Igor Karkaroff," said the wizard in a refined yet cold voice, revealing a yew wand in his right hand. "I must admit pride in your actions performed on my behalf."
"Thank you," replied Karkaroff. "I try to ensure all my employers are happy with my work. Why is it I am here?"
"We have been in contact for nearly four years now, albeit indirectly," said the wizard. "You have been asked to perform dangerous tasks on our behalf, and ensure nobody could trace any of it to us. Truly, you are as skilled as I heard."
"Again, thank you," replied Karkaroff again, wondering what was going on.
"What is going on, dear Igor," said the wizard, "is that I am offering you an opportunity."
Karkaroff jolted in shock when the wizard spoke, almost as if he had read his thoughts.
"You-you're a Legilimens?" he called in surprise.
"Yes, I am," admitted the wizard. "It is truly a remarkable power. It allows me to look into my disciples' minds and determine the truth from them; if I have been lied to; if I have been betrayed."
The wizard allowed himself a menacing smile. "But I have not been betrayed yet. Not by my loyal servants. And to answer your earlier thought, the Muggle owners of this estate are in no position to question my usage of this home as a base of operations."
"I see," said Karkaroff back, no longer wanting to press the issue further.
"You may refer to me, as Lord Voldemort," continued the wizard, spreading his hands in a grandiose manner. "I have spent over twenty-five years delving into the most mysterious, the most unknown, the darkest branches of magic. And I have done so, all for one simple purpose."
"Which is?" asked Karkaroff, realising that this wizard could probably kill him with just a flick of his wand.
"Elimination of the Muggleborns and blood traitors in wizarding society and subjugation of the Muggle governments," answered Lord Voldemort with a proud tone. "It is only the natural order of things. We wizards, able to use magic and bend it to our will, ought to be the ones in control. And yet, we must hide as millions of Muggles crawl around the Earth like rats! And then send those children capable of magic to our world, to corrupt the minds of our own children and taint our bloodlines!"
He sneered in disgust. "But no more. Under Lord Voldemort, there will be no more Mudbloods and Squibs. We will take over the Ministries of Europe, annexing them one by one, and when our power in the Wizarding World is consolidated and potential traitors are dealt with, we will make our move."
Karkaroff was silent, pondering his actions. He had, in his youth at Durmstrang, privately idolised the infamous Gellert Grindelwald, and always been what others would consider a pureblood supremacist, but he was smart enough not to make his opinions public-indeed, he had actually carried out two or three missions on behalf of Muggleborns in the past. To be able to serve a cause that would solidify wizards as Lord and Master of the Earth-he felt honoured to be approached for this.
On the other hand, joining such an organisation would mean less time carrying out his chosen line of work for payment, and quite possibly, if it emerged he was associating with these wizards and witches, he would come under greater scrutiny than before, and being charged with terrorism was always a more serious offence than a simple murder for money. But that was why they were all wearing masks, except this Lord Voldemort figure-presumably, he believed himself the only one who could risk exposing himself with little repercussions.
"Well?" asked Lord Voldemort. "Do you accept my invitation, or not?"
Karkaroff nodded. "I accept, Lord Voldemort."
Lord Voldemort smiled.
Chapter 20: Discussions
25 January 1970
"Are you sure you don't want to go back to England for your friend?" asked Martha.
"Rufus will understand, I've told you this before," replied Alfred.
"Why do you call Rufus by his first name and you only Moody by his surname?" asked Thomas curiously.
Alfred shrugged. "I'm not really certain why. I don't think Moody's really sure himself, seeing as he calls me by my surname usually too."
"Even back in Hogwarts?" asked Thomas.
Alfred nodded. "In all honesty, that's probably where it all began."
"Thinking sentimental thoughts?" asked Thomas, noticing Alfred gain a thoughtful expression and a slightly glazed look in his eyes.
"And what's wrong with that?" asked Alfred back. "Sentimentalism helps to stay in touch with the emotions, at least for me. We're all human beings-our emotions help make us who we are."
"I didn't say there was anything wrong with that," said Thomas, "though I will say you have made a fair point."
"Anyway, how much longer should setting up the magical protections take?" asked Martha, changing the subject.
"Todd's going to be starting on the 1st," answered Alfred, "and given everything that we've informed him about the whole place, I'd say it should take him about eight to eleven weeks solo. We haven't hired him to set up a lot of enchantments, which is why it isn't taking longer, but what he will be putting up will be quite strong, similar in strength to what Moody has up at his house, or the Potter Residence."
"Ah, okay," said Martha.
"I take it that the Potters are another family of wizards with money?" asked Thomas rhetorically, glancing at the two wizards.
Alfred gave a nod of confirmation. "They're not ridiculously wealthy, but they have enough money to live in comfort for the next 30-40 years without working if they spend wisely, and while one of them was on the Wizengamot, there's nothing else really notable about most of them."
"Okay," accepted Thomas. "So they've yet to produce someone who is genuinely worth mentioning in the history books?"
"For now, no, not yet," answered Martha.
Alfred nodded in agreement, but added "But in dangerous times, well, anything can happen."
"You're not going to let anyone else convince you there won't be a war happening in Britain, are you?" asked Thomas with a rhetorical tone.
"As I've said before," replied Alfred, "when you take a really deep and hard look at everything, then it's painfully obvious that it's going to be happening soon. So it'll be a really good thing when Todd's finished setting up the protections-it gives us all a bit of a safety net here."
Thomas looked at him quizzically. "You mean to say you think that the wizards that're behind everything in Britain, including your leg, might try to come here?"
"Grindelwald didn't restrict himself to Europe when he waged war," said Alfred. "He was active in America right under MACUSA's nose for a while in the '20s. And I doubt this up-and-coming Dark Lord's going to be much different."
"Yes," said Martha in agreement.
"Correct me if I'm wrong-Grindelwald was basically almost wizard Hitler, right?" asked Thomas.
Both Martha and Alfred nodded grimly. They both remembered those days with little mirth or nostalgia. They didn't bother to correct Thomas regarding the comparison between Grindelwald and Hitler-even Grindelwald, when he learned of the true purpose of the concentration camps, was said to have been sickened.
"And if this wizard and his followers happen to be as bad as he was, or maybe even worse, then virtually nobody in the world will be safe."
He looked at Thomas. "You understand enough?"
Thomas nodded, before he asked another question.
"What makes you so certain they'd come here? They'd probably love how for so long, the Magical government kept the Magical and Non-Magical worlds apart here."
"They're certain to come here, in my opinion," replied Alfred seriously, "because the law enforcing the partition of both worlds, although less enforced since the 1940s, was only repealed in 1965, and so there's bound to be several wizards and witches in America who would like to either see the old ways return, or a full rebellion a la Grindelwald to subjugate the Muggles. In that case, depending on how many of these wizards are working in MACUSA, then that little band of terrorists shouldn't find it too hard to get themselves some moles.
"And should whoever found Martha for her parents either gets caught and interrogated by them, or worse, joins their ranks," he concluded, "then there's a very good chance, to me at least, that they may try to come here."
"In that case," said Thomas back with a truly sober expression and tone, "when Todd's done securing this place, get him to do Martha's art studio too. I don't care how much extra it costs-they are not taking her. Not to kill her, not for ransom, not while I'm alive, and certainly not in this city."
"You don't have to do that," disagreed Martha quickly. "Of the three of us, you're the one who can't use magic-you're the most in danger."
"Martha, dear," said Thomas, "they'll be after you. If they want to get to you, they'll have to kill me. You're worth the risk. And there're enough criminals living in Gotham City already as it is."
"Do you mean the petty crooks or do you mean the gangsters?" asked Alfred.
"The gangsters," replied Thomas, "always the gangsters. Compared to the syndicates, the petty crooks are just a symptom."
"And what are six Italian Families, one Irish Mob, one 'Kosher Nostra', two Asian syndicates and a black gang, all present in one large city, meant to be?" asked Alfred. He was still educating himself on Gotham's organised crime syndicates, seeing as wizarding Britain had few (if any) counterparts (he and several other Aurors had some knowledge of the Kray Twins' antics in Muggle London, though).
"They'd be a cancer," answered Thomas. "A disease. Unfortunately, seeing as they've a lot of hooks in the police department and other branches of city government and infrastructure over the years, then there's a fair chance that they're incurable."
"He's right," added Martha darkly. "When I first came here, they accosted me at least twice a week for 'protection'. I may not use my wand much anymore, but really, they're the ones who need it."
"And you plan to do something about it, I imagine?" asked Alfred.
Thomas nodded. "Yes, Alfred. Yes, I do. And most of that revolves around one simple thing: poverty."
"Ah," understood Alfred. "I think I understand it."
"You understand that Thomas wants to use the Foundation to build good-quality low-income housing and provide the poorer people here with secure work?" asked Martha.
"Yes," replied Alfred. "By doing that, you're giving them a lifeline out of poverty, which is important, seeing as the economy here looks to be going downhill, and thus, with that lifeline, you reduce the influence of the Mafia and other organised crime syndicates."
"And when they've more money, they'll want to use it to ensure their children get the best possible chance in life," continued Martha for Thomas. "So-and this is something Thomas's father wanted to do with the Wayne Foundation back in the '50s-we'll find the best and brightest of those kids and give them a chance to attend the best schools in the state. That way, they can get out and really make a mark on the world. We've thought about the other children, too-we'll set up a vo-tech school so they can learn more practical skills that'll help them when they start working."
"You two have thought long and hard about this, haven't you?" asked Alfred with a smirk.
"We have," replied Thomas, practically grinning. "People are embarrassed to admit they come from Gotham. Hopefully, if we get to do this, that will change. And anything that kicks organised crime in the teeth is always welcome."
"Add to that the most important thing-the children in the worst parts of this city get to have a real future," concluded Martha.
'More proof they're good people,' Alfred though silently. 'They'd be great parents if they felt like it.'
29 January 1970
"Fuck me, that stuff doesn't look appealing at all," muttered Alastor Moody, watching through the window into the operating theatre as the Healer placed one of Scrimgeour's ribs in the jaws of a bone cutter.
Two of the three other Aurors present-Robards and Longbottom (a handsome young man with light brown hair who had only finished his training in the past few months, alongside both Robards and Shacklebolt)-gave disapproving looks at Moody's use of profanity, as did Crouch and DMLE Head Bob Ogden (formerly of the Magical Law Enforcement Patrol), while Auror Shacklebolt appeared not to either notice or care.
Only the French Healer had been allowed inside the operating theatre and had cast every cleaning and scouring Charm he knew to disinfect and sterilise the whole room and all equipment brought within. He had also taken great care to cut open the skin and muscle above the rib cage and open it like a bloody suitcase, while surrounding it with charms to ward off infection. Once he had done those things, the comparatively easier job of removing the jelly-like rib cage could begin.
"You do have a point, sir," agreed Longbottom, wincing slightly as the cutters closed on the base of the rib. "This is very uncomfortable viewing."
"Why are we even here watching this…gruesome task happen?" asked Ogden. "I've a meeting with the Minister in half an hour."
"Have you prepared for that meeting, sir?" asked Crouch.
"Yes," replied Ogden. "Yes, I have."
"Then you have no need to leave for another 20 minutes at the most," said Crouch back.
Inside the theatre, the Healer cut another rib, further separating the still-damaged bone from the vertebrae.
"Well, you're here out of sympathy for Rufus Scrimgeour, I imagine, Mister Ogden, sir," said Moody, "while Crouch is here either as a symbolic show of support or to give himself a better public image."
Crouch sent Moody a threatening glare as the Healer approached another rib with the bone cutter.
"The Skele-Gro will work, won't it?" asked Longbottom anxiously, his brown eyes looking down briefly.
"When doesn't it work?" asked Moody rhetorically, turning to the younger man. "At some point in your career as an Auror, Longbottom, you've got to taste it. And believe me, it ain't easy on the tongue."
"If I recall, Auror Moody," Shacklebolt said, "you've yet to taste Skele-Gro in the line of duty. So how do you know about it?"
"Long story, involving Hogwarts," replied Moody, "and you're not getting any more out of me than that."
None of them sought to press the matter further.
"How many more ribs are there left to be cut?" asked Robards, hands in his coat pockets.
"Eight," replied Crouch stoically. "Think of this as good training for when you see a dead body in a similar appearance, gentlemen."
Ogden sent a rebuking look at his Deputy for his cold remark.
"Scrimgeour is one of the best Aurors we have," he said. "You are not using this situation to teach the Aurors an unnecessary lesson."
"Indeed, sir," agreed Longbottom. "We all know the risks, and by God and Merlin, we will accept them if they befall us."
Moody gave a small nod of approval. His respect for the young Auror was growing.
"Well, I suppose I'd better head off for the meeting with the Minister," announced Ogden after a few minutes of silence, glancing firstly at his pocket-watch, and then at the clock on the wall. "My wife will be coming by in an hour with flowers for Auror Scrimgeour."
"I think I ought to leave here as well," said Crouch. "There is still some paperwork in my office which I need to finish."
"Thank you for your genuine and believable show of support," remarked Moody.
"Thank you," smiled Ogden sincerely as he left, while Crouch sent Moody another glare.
A few seconds later, the two high-ranking Ministry officials exited the room and left the four Aurors alone in silence.
A few minutes later, Moody turned to the other three and asked, "I know you've said you're ready to die as Aurors, but do either of you happen to be scared about whatever'll happen next? The idea that we're on the verge of all Hell breaking loose and we mightn't be able to stop it?"
Both Robards and Longbottom nodded. Kingsley looked to be in thought, appearing to be searching his feelings, for several moments before nodding in agreement.
"We'd all be fools not to be scared of what's coming, sir," he said.
'Good,' thought Moody silently, 'That means that I'm not alone, then.'
An hour later, Moody, still standing upright, was the only one left watching the procedure in front of him.
He could tell it was now almost over-the Healer had managed to cut through the entire rib cage and preserve the original, and was now restoring the skin and muscle over the now-defenceless and open cavity as another Healer came in carefully with a bottle of Skele-Gro for the unconscious Auror to consume through a tube. This slow process of regrowth would probably take a day at least, and so, recognising there was no reason left for him to stay, Moody slowly left his guard at the hospital.
30 January 1970
Rufus Scrimgeour opened his eyes slowly and groaned-partly in pain, partly from having not moved for weeks and thus feeling stiff.
"Easy there, Auror Scrimgeour," said the Healer standing over him. Scrimgeour glanced up with his blue eyes. He recognised her as the same Healer who had been with Alfred when he had visited him with Moody and Crouch.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
He gave a nod. "Good," he replied with some weakness. "A little bit sore in the chest, but still, good."
"Well, seeing as how that's a brand new rib cage in your chest," said the gruff voice of Alastor Moody, "it'd be a surprise if you didn't feel any pain there whatsoever."
"Jesus Christ, Moody," muttered Scrimgeour, turning his head slowly to look at his colleague in the Auror Office. "How long have you been standing up there?"
"A full minute," replied Moody bluntly.
"Wonderful," said Scrimgeour dryly. Moody ignored the comment.
"Well, Auror Scrimgeour," said the Healer, "you should be very happy to know that your ribs are now fully reformed. It may have taken an entire bottle of Skele-Gro to do so, but we at Saint Mungo's are going to treat your survival and successful recovery as a victory."
"How so?" asked Moody.
"Well, even if it took us-by which I mainly mean my superiors-several days to think of the solution we eventually used," answered the Healer, "the fact that we carried it out and succeeded means that should that spell be used again, at least we have an idea what to do now."
"I'm a little disappointed that that breakthrough wasn't hit upon sooner," said Scrimgeour, noticing the Healer's identity card fastened to her uniform, "but the feeling of 'better late than never' is somewhat larger, Healer Meadowes."
"Don't mind him-he's just glad it wasn't too late," Scrimgeour said to the Healer.
"I'm aware of that, Auror Scrimgeour," replied Healer Meadowes. "Now, while your bones have obviously regrown, we will still not discharge you immediately: if you rest for today and allow them to finish hardening and strengthening, as well as allow us to submit you to diagnostics, you should hopefully be discharged by the 1st."
Scrimgeour and Moody accepted this explanation. "Okay," said the former, as Healer Meadowes walked away to talk to another patient.
Scrimgeour looked at Moody. "Why is it you're less suspicious of Healers than your Ministry co-workers?"
"One-because Healers actually work for the betterment and care of wizarding society," replied Moody. "Two-Aurors can justify murder as self-defence, while Healers cannot justify a patient suspiciously dying on their watch. They'll look either incompetent or may have had a hand in it."
"Decent points," remarked Scrimgeour. "Anyone find the people behind it?"
Moody shook his head. "All Aurors not on duty were recalled after what happened in Diagon Alley and it looks like they'll be having all FED Aurors working back home once they close their cases."
"So basically we're on war footing now," surmised Scrimgeour.
Moody nodded. "Not yet, but we will. Shame for Alfred-he should be enjoying his retirement."
"Something's not happened to him again?" asked Scrimgeour worriedly.
"No, no, no," denied Moody, "it's just because of all this shit going on, I hear he's fortifying his new boss's place with enchantments and charms to make it as penetrable as Hogwarts on a good day."
"I take it then he thinks something'll happen?" asked Scrimgeour again.
"He's feeling anxious, from what I know-as if something big could be coming around the corner soon."
"He's not wrong there, if his leg and my ribs are anything to go by," Scrimgeour quipped.
"True, true," agreed Moody. "So, do you have plans to follow Alfred out?"
Scrimgeour shook his head. "No. Crouch isn't going to want another perfectly capable Auror to go before his time. Also, we all knew Alfred had plans to retire from the service at some stage. I don't, and I know you well enough that you don't plan to either."
"What're you implying, Scrimgeour?" asked Moody suspiciously.
"Nothing, Moody, nothing," answered Scrimgeour. "Just that, should worse come to worst, we're going to go down fighting."
"Even after where you are now?" asked Moody sarcastically.
"I know you're being a sarcastic prick," replied Scrimgeour, "and that you don't really think I'm going to leave, but I signed up for the Aurors so that I could do my country proud. If that means suffering grievous bodily harm or dying, then so be it."
Moody just smirked. "Too close to succeeding Langarm, aren't you?" he remarked with humour.
Scrimgeour rolled his eyes. "They can always pick you, you know. You're more than capable for the job."
"Yeah, right," replied Moody. "You're better at co-operating with the bureaucracy. Crouch and Ogden look at me like I'm a bloody maverick."
"They're not half-wrong there," remarked Scrimgeour.
"My point being, you're the safer option," continued Moody, "and right now, that's a good thing. You can be the bridge between the bureaucracy and us-the other Aurors, the boys on the front lines. God knows we'll need that when the shit really hits the fan."
"You're certain?" asked Scrimgeour, as Meadowes returned, a small purple bottle in her hand.
"Yeah, I'm certain," confirmed Moody. "There's still the kid from Cokeworth too. You ought to check on him yourself sooner or later."
"I'm already being told monthly messages by the social worker about him," replied Scrimgeour. "Apparently, he's happy, if a little withdrawn."
"Still better than leaving him with those rat bastards," said Moody.
"Yes, indeed," agreed Scrimgeour. "I hate what would've happened if he'd been left there a few more years."
"'Not well' is my guess," replied Moody.
"So, Auror Scrimgeour," said Meadowes finally, "I've been speaking to my superior, and when you're discharged, you'll have to take this potion twice a day for the next week, and he and I would both advise that you avoid strenuous activity, both physical and magical."
"That sounds alright," agreed Scrimgeour, while Moody nodded. "Will that be all?"
"Yes," nodded Meadowes, giving a warm smile as she left the bottle on the bedside table and walked away again to tend to another patient.
29 January 1970
"This information that you have given to me is quite interesting," said Lord Voldemort pleasantly to Karkaroff, who was kneeled down in front of the Dark Wizard and awaiting his master's response. "However, I must query you, why did you tell me this information?"
"As you request that we wear our masks around one another at all times, my Lord," replied Karkaroff, "and that we do not fraternise or make contact with one another in public, I have no knowledge of whether we have any members in our organisation capable of providing financial aid and sustenance."
"You have no idea which wealthy wizards are among my followers and thus wanted to use this information to bring in money for us, you mean."
Karkaroff gave a nod. "Yes, my Lord. We ransom either one of them, and force her relations to pay a large amount of money for their safe release."
"And if the Kanes decide not to pay?" asked Lord Voldemort.
"We kill them," replied Karkaroff bluntly.
"Admittedly, an intriguing premise," replied Lord Voldemort, impressed. "Though I must inform you that no less than three pureblood wizards of wealth are among my followers, and they are all willing to spend every last galleon to further our cause."
"I see, my Lord," said Karkaroff, feeling a little disappointed.
"However, should they all be spending large amounts of money for our organisation at various times, they may capture the attention of the Ministry or the goblins. So, in that case, ransoming either the Kane girl or her Muggle fiance could provide us with a comfortable 'nest egg', so to speak, that can be drawn on in times of emergency."
"I take it you are going to organise a plan using the information I have given you?" asked Karkaroff.
"Yes," replied Lord Voldemort. "And when I have completed it and informed you of it, you will return to the United States to carry it out alongside another of our comrades-in-arms."
"Of course, my Lord," said Karkaroff, giving a nod in agreement.
"You are free to leave," ordered Lord Voldemort, watching his servant rise upwards, give a small nod of acknowledgement, and leave the room.
Rolling up his sleeve, revealing a black tattoo on his left forearm, he pressed his finger down on it while thinking about who he wanted in his presence right now.
A few minutes later, the cracking sound made by Apparating could be heard from outside the mansion, albeit muffled by the enchantments placed over the estate by the Dark Lord.
The doors soon opened, and through them came in another masked wizard, another follower of Lord Voldemort, and nearly as tall as Karkaroff. When he was directly in front of his master's throne, he kneeled reverently and placed both hands on the bent knee.
"Remove your mask for me, Avery," said Lord Voldemort.
Lowering his hood to reveal short, neat blonde hair combed back, the wizard removed the mask to reveal a moderately handsome, yet authoritative, face with a sharp nose and bright blue eyes which had a cold, intellectual look in them.
"Avery…Francis…my old friend," continued Lord Voldemort with a smile of nostalgia that, on his deformed face, made him look even more unnerving.
"What is it of me that you want, my Lord?" asked Avery, in a refined and deep voice.
"You are aware that we have a new member in our organisation…amongst our ranks?" asked Lord Voldemort, speaking as if he expected Avery to know the answer.
"Yes, my Lord," answered Avery stoically. "When I heard the news, I drank a glass of sherry as a toast to his honour."
"How thoughtful," murmured Lord Voldemort with a hint of sarcasm, as if he didn't really care about this knowledge. "Well, I recently had a conversation with him, just before I called you here, in which he divulged to me some very intriguing information. Information that I believe our movement could profit from."
"What kind of information would that be, if I may ask, my Lord?" asked Avery again.
"The location of the child of a wealthy wizarding family," replied Lord Voldemort. "The plan that we can create from this knowledge is rather easy to follow, that even the Hogwarts groundskeeper could follow it."
"Yes it is," agreed Avery. "You are planning a way in which to abduct this person, inform the family, and threaten them into paying a lucrative ransom. Lucrative, that is, for us."
"Yes, indeed," confirmed Lord Voldemort. "But it will be in some ways difficult to actually carry out this plan into action, which is why, tomorrow, I want you to meet our new initiate-in my presence, of course,-and we will create the plan together, so that when the two of you eventually go to America to carry it out, there will be very little in it that can go wrong."
"Yes, Avery, America," replied Lord Voldemort. "The large country on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, where for well over 150 years Muggle and Wizard lived even more apart than they ever did here. Our target is there, hiding from family, hiding from us."
"Of course, my Lord. But I must ask, how will we be able to enter America without detection from either MACUSA or the Ministry here?"
"Travel under aliases. Disguise yourselves. Plot an indirect course. Do what you like in that matter, so long as it is effective. I will leave that element to you, Avery, as I have confidence you will not bungle the operation by giving yourself away, and neither will your partner."
"No my Lord," Avery shook his head, "I will not."
Lord Voldemort smiled. "Of course not. That is why I trust you."
Avery gave a nod of acknowledgement for the word of approval. "Thank you, my Lord. Thank you."
"You are welcome, Avery," replied Lord Voldemort. "You are welcome."
He glanced down at very, who was still kneeling. "You are free to leave me now. But do not wait for even a moment when I call upon you again tomorrow."
"I will endeavour not to do so, my Lord," answered Avery as he rose, gave a bow before his master, put his mask back on and left the room, the telltale 'crack' of his Apparating occurring a few seconds later.
Leaning back into his chair, the Dark Lord closed his eyes, breathed out and, as he began to create the rudimentary foundations for this plan, he contemplated the events of the past few months.
The incident in October, when he and two of his Death Eaters (Avery and Mulciber) had attacked the Muggles in Cornwall, where an Auror had lost his leg by Voldemort's own hand; he had later learned from Lestrange that the Auror in question was a half-blood who had been forced to resign afterwards due to Bartemius Crouch barring him from field work owing to his injury-while Voldemort found this decision to be a foolish one on the bureaucrat's part (on account of the leg being easily treated by a prosthetic limb and bound to undermine confidence in Crouch's decision-making and leadership among the Aurors), he mostly found the Auror's health irrelevant and unimportant.
What he did feel to be important, however, was that the Auror had seen them in the act, as had the one who came right after him-the big one with the long reddish-brown hair, Moody.
At that point, he had given the order for immediate retreat: they were undoubtedly going to be investigated now that the first Auror had been injured, and killing a second would have made matters worse by putting the Ministry even more on alert.
Consequently, he had urged his followers connected to the Ministry to provide weekly reports of the goings-on in the Ministry, with a particular focus to be placed on the DMLE investigation into their activities.
When Travers had informed him at the end of November that though the DMLE had figured out the 'bare bones' of their organisation's existence, but had no idea who was involved, Voldemort had resumed business against the Muggles-a publican in Yorkshire was murdered, Muggle-baiting of public toilets in Birmingham was carried out (an admittedly petty tactic, but any actions against Muggles were justified on account of them being subhumans), and five vagrants were killed for use in the Inferi army (bringing the total number of Inferi to 47).
This restarting of activities would eventually be put on hold once more in early January, just a few weeks before, when the damned clowns Crabbe, Goyle and Rosier had staged an unauthorised attack in broad daylight in Diagon Alley on the Minister of Magic, Eugenia Jenkins. While Voldemort was unopposed to the idea of attempting to assassinate the mad cow, this was the wrong time to try such action, and he had made his anger quite clear to the three of them by subjecting them each to the Cruciatus Curse for thirty minutes.
The fact that yet another Auror-one Rufus Scrimgeour, a pureblood-had been hospitalised as a result of this attack was another thing that added to Voldemort's anger. A wizard of proper breeding recklessly and unnecessarily injured by one of his own (the culprit was Goyle, to Voldemort's lack of surprise).
As a result, a rule was implemented stating that whenever Death Eaters wished to commit mayhem, they had to inform the Dark Lord first and wait for his approval. Thus far, nobody had come forward about the idea, fearing both increased Ministry surveillance and their master's wrath.
The idea of an official code of conduct, with rules regarding what to do and what not to do when one joined the Death Eater ranks, was something that Voldemort was very tempted to implement all of a sudden, if it meant better keeping his subjects in line and increasing their general levels of common sense and competency.
There was a bright spot, however, from this past month: the induction of the mercenary, Igor Karkaroff, in the ranks. With a skilled wizard and experienced user of the Dark Arts now at his disposal, he could have his other followers trained further in the ways of the Dark Arts, becoming better skilled and more powerful in the process. Thus, Voldemort had confidence that when the time came, his forces would be better prepared for the waging of war.
The recent information that Karkaroff had given him, which he had withheld in expectation of their meeting in person, proved another spot of optimism for the Dark Lord. He had heard that the young Kane girl had fled the country nearly ten years ago to Merlin-knows-where, with various rumours as to why, though as Nott had given him the truth, he knew many of them were hogwash, and Karkaroff's testimony had painted the picture further.
She had run off to escape having to marry a pureblood against her will. Voldemort wondered if she had thought about just telling her parents the blunt and honest truth, before remembering that she was the daughter of the Kanes: they would not be the sort to take the answer 'no'.
For having the courage and audacity to have run away from her noble wizarding family, from the only world she really knew, to go and hide among the Muggle scum, Martha had little of Voldemort's respect. Neither did the fact that she had near-seamlessly blended in among them from her family for the better part of a decade, though he did briefly contemplate whether he would have been impressed had she not been with the Muggle animals in the concrete jungle of Gotham.
And then she had gone and sullied herself by actually fallen in love with one. Thomas Wayne, aged 37, scion of a business dynasty that had accumulated great wealth during the 19th century, lost a great portion of it in the Depression, but had managed to rebuild it and expand it within 30 years, while the man himself was a qualified doctor and surgeon who donated to the arts and funded soup kitchens. Not even these credentials were enough to redeem him: Muggles were Muggles, whether they had money or not, and Muggles were subhuman at best.
She was a blood traitor. Plain and simple. Even if she wasn't connected to a wealthy family, he would have targeted her anyway.
But she had to stay alive for now.
He had told the truth to Karkaroff when he had said that his idea of ransom was a good one, because it was: as wealthy as some of his Death Eaters were (Nott and Lestrange especially), he knew he could not count on being able to rely on their Gringotts vaults for funding of the entire organisation, in the event that they were exposed as among his followers or otherwise incapacitated.
Therefore, it made sense to carry out a kidnapping-for-ransom to raise money: a nest-egg was always a useful thing, and the availability of more money to pay for potions ingredients, clothing and other resources was always welcome too, and would ensure that they could be able to fight a war against the Ministry for at least several years.
And whether this act of conspiracy-which the Dark Lord was now planning-was running counter to Voldemort's halting of ransacking antics or not, Voldemort chose ultimately to either ignore such a contradiction on his part, or to dismiss it on the grounds that, as everyone knew now they existed and what they were (ostensibly) going to be doing, there was now little reason in keeping activities under the surface.
It was now time for the expansion of operations.
30 January 1970
"Remove your masks," said Lord Voldemort. It was not a request.
Slowly, both Karkaroff and Avery raised their hands to their faces and removed their masks and lowered their hoods.
"Francis Avery," introduced Avery.
"Igor Karkaroff," said Karkaroff back.
"Your reputation precedes you," remarked Avery. "I am impressed as to how you have managed to get into Britain without alerting the Ministry."
"I worry they will find out in time," replied Karkaroff.
"If you have evaded them for this long, Karkaroff," interrupted Lord Voldemort from his throne, "then it is highly likely they will not find you for a long time more."
"Thank you, my Lord," said Karkaroff.
"Now, onward to the matter at hand. I have spent the night, after my meetings with the two of you, devising the essence of a course of action for the two of you to follow upon your arrival to America, so as to maximise efficiency and minimise risk."
Both Avery and Karkaroff gave small nods of acknowledgement to him. Or where they actually bows? Lord Voldemort didn't care either way.
"The mission is an abduction for ransom," continued Lord Voldemort. "Having thought the matter over, I came to the conclusion that, so long as the money gained from this endeavour is a large one, our reliance on the wealthier members of our organisation would be lessened, meaning that in the event that at least one of them is exposed to the Ministry or incapacitated in another way, then we will still be able to continue our activities without having been cut off to any source of funding for our operations."
"My Lord, if I may ask, who are we to target?" asked Avery.
"Martha Kane," replied Lord Voldemort.
"I see," said Avery. "I remember my friend Avery speaking about how he was supposed to marry her before she disappeared. I suppose he'll be pleased to know where the blood traitor is."
"I find it unlikely he will be interested in the activities of a blood traitor who defended Mudbloods in Hogwarts, now lives among Muggle swine, and is set to marry one herself," commented Lord Voldemort.
Both Avery and Karkaroff wrinkled their noses in disgust.
"The appropriate response," he added when he saw this change in expression. "Shall we begin?"
"Karkaroff informed me that he spent several weeks watching Miss Kane go about her activities in the Muggle-infested city of Gotham, didn't you?"
"Yes, my Lord, I did," answered Karkaroff confidently. "I even put several Muggles under the Imperius Curse and used them to stalk her and her new bodyguard in their car for some time, but I have reason to believe they realised what I was doing and managed to get away."
"Cars?" asked Avery.
"The metal machines Muggles use to get around," Karkaroff clarified in a dismissive tone before he turned back to the Dark Lord.
"If you allow it, my Lord, Avery and I could always carry out similar tactics when we arrive in America so as to give ourselves more insight into what the habits of her and those close to her do from day to day."
"I allow it," replied Lord Voldemort. "And do what you like to the Muggles while you are at it-being under the Imperius, they will be totally subservient to you, which is arguably their natural place in the order of life besides being wiped clean from the face of the world."
"So you will allow us carte blanche in order to take her?" asked Karkaroff.
"I said to you that I had formulated a plan, did I not?!" asked Lord Voldemort, anger seeping into his voice.
"Yes, you did! My apologies!" answered Karkaroff worriedly.
"Accepted," stated Lord Voldemort. "Now, what I want the both of you to do, is to arrive in the United States on the 5th-incognito and in disguise, of course, to reduce suspicion from MACUSA. Spend exactly sixteen consecutive days observing Kane and her...fiance, before you begin work on the abduction itself. Observe their actions, their regular haunts, their friends and acquaintances. Wherever you feel that you slacked in your prior observations, Karkaroff, focus there. The attack itself should take place on the 3rd of March. Preferably, I would like you both to use help in this exercise-whether you take control of Muggles or wizards through the Imperius; sway American wizards over to our cause; blackmail the Americans; you may do what you like in this field."
"This...sounds like a guideline more than a plan, if I may say so, my Lord," remarked Avery.
"It is still a plan," dismissed Lord Voldemort. "Albeit, one in which the two of you have been given enormous room to put it into action. Do not disappoint me, or make me regret this decision to give you both such a free hand. I am doing so for you because I value your strengths and your skill, and because I have great confidence that with those abilities, you will be able to succeed in the plan."
"You are certain of success, then?" asked Avery.
"Yes," answered Lord Voldemort. "And I remember you being much more enthusiastic last night, Avery."
"That was before I learned of the target," said Avery. "The elder Kanes have been looking for her for nearly ten years now."
"And thanks to my efforts, they know where she is now, even if there are certain elements of her life they have been kept unaware of," added Karkaroff. "Namely, her dalliance with the Muggle."
"Yes, indeed," sneered Avery.
Lord Voldemort gave a sneer as well at the thought of the upcoming union between the noble-stocked witch with the subhuman Muggle.
"Have either of you any ideas you would like to contribute?" he asked.
"I could reuse the Muggles I placed under the Imperius earlier," offered Karkaroff. "Despite being...well, Muggles, they still had their uses for me. I imagine they could prove useful once more."
"What were their names?" asked Lord Voldemort, not really caring what their names were, so long as they had a good trick to keep them alive longer.
"Ogden Barker, James Saviano, and William O'Neill," replied Karkaroff. "All three of them are involved with the city's local organised crime gangs, thus giving us a 'hook' into the city's society itself."
"If you genuinely find them to be of use, then use then for any reason at all," said Lord Voldemort. "In spite of our goals, pragmatic steps must be taken sometimes."
"Indeed, my Lord," agreed Karkaroff. "I also believe that there may be some wizards or witches in America who could be swayed over to our cause, for various reasons. Are we able to look for them?"
"Gaining support internationally will no doubt aid us in our long-term goals, especially if they are in some way connected to MACUSA, but I would much prefer you to stay primarily with the objective," answered Lord Voldemort. "You can search for American allies later, whether this mission be successful or not."
"I understand, my Lord," replied Karkaroff, accepting this answer.
Lord Voldemort smiled. "Good. Now, have you any other ideas that you would like to contribute?"
"I will need a reasonable excuse to be leaving the country," said Avery. "As a legal consultant, there are many would find my sudden absence to be quite suspicious."
"Do you take holidays?" asked Lord Voldemort.
Avery was silent, not particularly pleased with having missed a glaringly obvious excuse for going away on such short notice.
"I shall take one then. Four weeks should suffice-my partner in the firm can always substitute for me in business matters."
Lord Voldemort gave an approving nod.
"The best idea for us to enter the United States, my Lord," added Karkaroff, "I believe, would be to arrive first in Canada and sneak over the border in disguise."
"What kind of disguise?"
"It does not matter so long as it is convincing," replied Karkaroff.
"True," agreed Lord Voldemort. "Any other idea from either of you?"
"So that is it, then," he decided. "You are both dismissed. Return here on the 4th for one final meeting, wherein we will create some minor adjustments before you leave."
Both Karkaroff and Avery gave small nods signifying they understood. They then fully bowed down to the Dark Lord, put their cloaks and masks back on and headed out of the empty room, leaving their master on his own.
5 February 1970
"That was quite easy, if I might say so myself," said Avery.
"Of course it was," replied Karkaroff. "We're dressed as Muggle hunters-with the real owners of these brutish weapons lying in unmarked graves about two miles away-and with little sign of either the Muggle American border patrol or MACUSA, we've added Disillusionment Charms to ourselves and simply walked over."
"If their security is this lax, conquest will be quite easy so long as we do so from this front," remarked Avery with humour.
"Ideally, if we do enact an invasion of America, it should come after we solidify the Dark Lord's power in Britain and Europe, so that he will be able to devote his fullest attention and strength to annexation," added Karkaroff. "Additionally, an attack through Mexico and from the Caribbean islands would trap MACUSA's forces further give our own the greatest advantage."
Avery smiled. He liked the sound of that strategy.
"Where exactly are we now?" he asked. "I know we arrived in Canada through Halifax, but which American state are we currently in?"
"Maine," replied Karkaroff. "Gotham is in New Jersey. Seeing as I possess a rather good memory of the city, and it is a sizeable distance away, I believe it would be for the best that we Apparate immediately."
"If it means spending less time in this blasted scenery, then please do it," requested Avery, looking around the forest with suspicious looks.
Despite sending Avery a quick look of disapproval for his curt and slightly demanding statement, Karkaroff offered his fellow Death Eater his arm to prepare for a Side-Along Apparition to Gotham City.
7 February 1970
"Is that their bodyguard?" asked Avery, pointing at the dark-haired man in the chocolate brown overcoat and scarf who was standing not far from Martha Kane and a tall man in a suit and fedora who was clearly her fiance, Thomas Wayne.
Karkaroff's nod gave him an answer. "He's the Auror who lost his leg to the Dark Lord."
"I see." Avery sounded interested.
The two men were wearing sunglasses and fur-collared overcoats and were sitting on a wooden bench pretending to read newspapers while secretly observing their targets.
"Do you think he knows what we are doing?" asked Karkaroff quietly.
"The bodyguard, you mean?" asked Avery back.
"Yes, I mean the bodyguard," hissed Karkaroff in annoyance.
"Maybe, maybe not," replied Avery. "It is possible that he knows he is being watched, but that he has no idea by whom."
"You make a good point," said Karkaroff as the bodyguard walked to Kane and spoke to her, his hand movements suggesting urgency in his tone. Then the Muggle fiance came back into the scene and entered the conversation.
Avery and Karkaroff watched them talk animatedly for some time, wondering what the conversation was about, just in case it turned out to be important to their mission.
"If only we knew," remarked Avery.
Karkaroff gave a nod in agreement, waiting patiently for the right time to strike, however far away it was.
Probably not the strongest chapter.
27 February 1970
The three men, wearing black scarves above their mouths and noses, sunglasses over their eyes, and fedoras of either brown or black, walked through the doors of the building, loaded Beretta pistols in their gloved hands.
The two wizards who had placed the men under the Imperius Curse over two weeks before walked in shortly after, hiding under Disillusionment Charms and wands at the ready. However, they were coming to the doors from different directions: Karkaroff from Thomas Wayne's Mercedes, and Avery from behind the muscle.
The first Muggle, a tall man, walked up to the desk, pointed his weapon at the receptionist behind it, and fired, sending two bullets into her chest and causing her body to fall to the floor.
A security guard who rushed in soon after, upon hearing the loud noise, met a similar fate when the Muggle to the first shooter's right fired one shot into the guard's forehead, killing him instantly.
At this point, all three of the Muggles had their guns out, and the mere sight of the weapons was enough for the remaining people in sight to cower in fear and avoid taking action against them.
"Upstairs!" ordered the tallest Muggle, who had shot the receptionist just before, and he led the other two up the stairs, forcing anybody they ran into down by pointing their guns at them.
Not far behind them came their wizard controllers, still disguised under their Disillusionment Charms and almost arrogantly expecting this phase of the plan to go as they wanted it: Kane had to be taken alive and relatively uninjured, and while they didn't care what happened to Kane's Muggle fiance, neither Karkaroff nor Avery were reluctant to kill the ex-Auror bodyguard.
Upstairs, Martha, Thomas and Alfred froze the moment they heard the gunshots below them.
"Who are they?" asked Thomas.
"No idea," replied Alfred, quietly moving towards the window to check if they were blocking the fire escape.
"If they're here for you," he added with a wry tone, gesturing at Martha, "they're not too bright."
"No-one?" she asked in pleasant surprise.
He shook his head and waved his hand. "Come on," he said hurriedly.
Moving to the side and opening the window, he stood to the side to let Martha and Thomas through first, pointed his wand at the door, muttering "Colloportus," and then clambered through the window, closed it, and walked quickly down the fire escape.
Down at the bottom of the escape, Thomas and Martha were waiting for him, the former tapping his fingers on the side of his leg.
"I know I'm stating the obvious here, but we need to get the Hell out of here now," he said with urgency.
The other two didn't say anything, but quickly walked over to the car, watching carefully to ensure they weren't seen or followed by any of the attackers.
Within the next two minutes, all three were inside the black Mercedes, with Alfred sitting next to the door and Martha in the driving seat.
"You were not expecting this to happen in your retirement, were you?" asked Thomas dryly.
"No, I haven't," replied Alfred.
Immediately after they began driving off (quickly, but still cautiously, in case of another traffic jam), the three Muggles burst through the doors into Martha's studio. The tall dark-haired one, who had killed the receptionist when they walked in, gave silent orders to the other two to search the whole apartment in case Martha Kane was still here, hiding.
A few seconds later, Karkaroff and Avery walked in. When they saw the window near the fire escape and no sign of their target, their feelings turned grim and dour.
"If he finds out we let them slip through our fingers, we'll be joining the Inferi," muttered Avery.
"If we decide to walk away now and not try again, that will be a certainty," corrected Karkaroff. "Now, it seems we're only useful for target practise. But if we try again, his feelings will be much more positive."
"How certain of that are you?" asked Avery. "You are only a recent inductee into our organisation."
"Did he not make it clear that we are to succeed?"
"Very," muttered Avery.
O'Neill walked up to the door-frame, not noticing the two wizards. "They are not here," he said, unnaturally polite and precise.
Avery waved him away. The Muggle gangster obliged.
"So what do we do now?" asked Avery.
"We know they've hired someone to establish defences on the estate, but he's not even halfway through. A direct invasion could work, but I believe it in our best interests not to take any chances," said Karkaroff back as he turned through the door and headed back down.
"So what do we do, then?" asked Avery again, more irate.
"We know how to track them, so we chase them."
Strangely, traffic was lighter than usual on the city streets, but none of the occupants of the car thought about this, considering they were in a rush.
"How long before they come after us?" asked Thomas, digging under the front passenger seat.
"No idea," replied Alfred. "They might go to the Manor and turn it upside down, they might chase around the city-the options are many."
"Very reassuring," remarked Martha, slowing down as they came to a red light.
"Aha. Found it," said Thomas happily as he took out a grey wooden box.
"What's in there?" asked Alfred curiously.
"A flare gun," replied Thomas. Noticing Alfred's expression, he explained, "Just in case I needed one."
"Well, it seems you were right to," remarked Alfred. "Have you ever used them?"
"I hate guns, but that shouldn't keep me from knowing how to use them," replied Thomas, loading the gun. "Also, it's a good idea to be pragmatic when the need arises."
"Seeing as it's a flare gun, your morals are safe, dear," reassured Martha, pressing her foot on the accelerator as the light turned green.
"Thanks," replied Thomas, smiling despite the serious situation.
"And a good thing too it's here," she added, noticing a van some way behind them catching up quickly. "I think they'll be chasing us."
Thomas rolled down the window, gripping the flare gun, not exactly willing to make the first move.
Taking advantage both of a car and van driving in-between their pursuers and themselves, and of an upcoming left turn, Martha immediately made for the left turn and onto Nolan Avenue.
"The light's red now, though I doubt they'll give a damn," she said.
"They are," replied Alfred, looking back. "Looks like they want to do this without getting caught by anyone."
"Are they wizards or not?" asked Thomas.
"No idea," replied Alfred, "but they could be both. Whether they're willing or otherwise, we can't really take chances there."
Martha drove through the amber traffic light just before it turned red and turned the car into a tunnel.
"Where does this go?" asked Alfred.
"The Centre Island," she replied. "You've been here 6 weeks, you should know this city better by now."
"I know all the bridges, if that's a start," countered Alfred.
"It is," said Thomas.
The two men looked behind again, as Martha kept the speedometer at around 35 miles per hour.
"No sign of them," said Thomas.
"Yet," added Alfred.
Several hundred yards behind them were their pursuers, driving a grey Ford Transit van.
O'Neill was at the wheel, with the two Death Eaters sitting in the back, once more in discussion.
"Straight to the safehouse the moment we get her out of the car," reminded Karkaroff. "No delays, nothing."
"And you're reminding me of this because...?" asked Avery with some irritation.
"Better to be safe than to be sorry," replied Karkaroff. "And besides, I doubt you've done anything like this before."
"You're not wrong there, regrettably," admitted Avery. "Besides my taking part in activities against the Muggles, I have not actually done any real missions for the Dark Lord before."
"Well then, seeing as there is a first time for everything," replied Karkaroff, "you can take your wand out and get ready to blast them off the road with Saviano and Barker. We need to make this look as much like the doing of Muggles as possible-that way, the MACUSA Aurors will be less inclined to seriously investigate."
'The potential upswing in anti-Muggle sentiment if this incident gets out will be a lovely bonus, too,' thought Avery, standing up carefully as the van turned a corner with a screech from the tyres. Saviano and Barker stood up as well, black Beretta pistols in their hands.
"Wait," called Karkaroff, as the van came closer to their targets' car. "Not yet."
Soon after, the car made another turn down another street, catching the conspirators off-guard.
Karkaroff groaned in pain, his face having slammed into the headrest of O'Neill's seat.
"Damn," he muttered, taking out his wand and pointing it at his nose, now gushing blood. "Episkey."
Sliding open the side-door, Barker, a heavyset man entering middle-age, waited for Karkaroff to give the signal to begin the onslaught. Saviano, who was shorter and had a thinner face, did the same. Avery himself crouched down and pointed his wand arm at the glass, holding on to the van door's frame for stability.
Then came the order, loud and clear from Karkaroff's throat. "Fire, now!"
Burke was the first one to do so, aiming his Beretta at the tyres. Unfortunately for him, his arm shook and he missed, only managing to hit one of the tail lights instead.
Neither Saviano nor Avery fared any better-Avery missed completely while Saviano's shot, because of the Mercedes swerving and making a quick U-turn, only hit it in the side.
Inside the Mercedes, the occupants jolted upon hearing the shots hit the car.
"Shit!" exclaimed Thomas in surprise. "I didn't think they'd shoot this early!"
"Neither did I," said Alfred. "Better roll down the window, then."
Thomas did so quickly with his left hand, holding the flare gun in his right hand. With the window down, he finally noticed the cold wind coming from the north, and silently wondered if it would affect his aim, seeing as they were currently downwind.
"If it's alright with you, I'm aiming now," he announced.
"Good idea," nodded Alfred, pointing his wand at the rear window as Thomas fired the first flare and hit the road underneath the bumper, which was what he had been aiming for.
"What're you doing?" asked Martha concernedly, running a red light.
"Hitting them with magic," replied Alfred. "The moment Thomas fires again, I'll send a Stunning Spell their way. The smoke should hide the colour of the Spell, seeing as they're both red."
"MACUSA investigates if magic is used in front of Muggles, right?" asked Thomas.
"Yes," replied Martha, slamming her hand on the car horn so as to annoy the car in front into letting her overtake. "And it's pretty damn stupid of us if we didn't think of this earlier."
"In your defence, you were panicking," said Alfred. "I'm your bodyguard, my wand is registered, I should've thought of it sooner. Though seeing that burst of magic there should help us."
"Should I fire again?" asked Thomas.
"If you promise to hit them this time," came the reply.
"I'll try," said Thomas back as he held his arm and aimed closer to the front window of the van. Holding his breath, he closed his eye and pulled the trigger.
While the flare didn't hit his intended target, it still managed to hit the grille of the van, and the red smoke that gushed out of the shell blocked the view of O'Neill, causing him to swerve the van dangerously.
To avoid the van crashing and the lot of them getting killed, Karkaroff quickly moved to the front of the van, rolled the window down, pointed his wand at the flare, and, taking advantage of the fact he and Avery were still Disillusioned, sent a Banishing Charm to dislodge the device from the front.
Alfred muttered under his breath when he saw the flare fall out and the van regain control, so he waved his wand while speaking softly and quickly, causing cracks to form in the rear window glass. Alfred and Thomas then punched and shoved the broken window out of the frame and brushed away the remaining fragments before pointing their arms at the van, now with better stability.
"Ready again?" asked Alfred. Thomas nodded quickly.
As soon as Thomas fired off another flare, Alfred shot out a Stunning Spell at the van.
While Thomas was aiming for the same place as before (the grille), his aim went off again, but luck was on his side again, and this time the flare went straight through the windshield and between O'Neill's feet, causing red smoke to billow from the chasing van and once more cause the driver to swerve and wave his arm to fan away the smoke.
Alfred's Stunning Spell kept the potential damage from the vehicle to a minimum, though, by forcing the van to quickly screech to a stop with a sudden halt, giving the trio in the Mercedes more time to get back to the Manor or alert MACUSA further.
"That'll stop them?" asked Thomas.
"Hopefully," replied Alfred. "There were wizards among them-I could feel it in my gut-and the fact we didn't see them makes me worry."
"Me too," agreed Martha, now focusing on getting away before the chase resumed.
The stop of movement, however, allowed Avery, a nasty gash on his forehead now gushing blood, to awkwardly stumble and limp out of the van, bruises all over his body, steadily aim his wand at the Mercedes as it sped away, and fire a Cutting Curse at the right back tyre.
The Curse hit its target, causing a small explosion and sparks to fly as the Mercedes began to lose control and the exposed metal wheel scraped along the road, with Martha only barely able to swerve and avoid hitting a mother and pram on the sidewalk.
Avery smiled weakly. The first two times, they had been lucky. Now the cards were in his hands, and he had no plans to let them go soon.
Turning, he limped back to the van to resuscitate Karkaroff and the others, not turning back when he heard the Mercedes finally rear-end a parked Cadillac, not turning back when he heard a door open and someone stumble out and fall onto the pavement.
Finding Karkaroff, who was now unconscious and whose Disillusionment Charm had now worn off, he closed the van's door and revived him and the three Muggle stooges, quickly placing the latter three under the Imperius Curse once more.
The two wizards turned their eyes to the Mercedes. Steam was coming from the engine, the glass looked to be broken and none of the occupants seemed to be conscious at the very least.
Karkaroff turned to the Muggles. "Go to the car, now!" he ordered with a hiss. "Make sure Kane is still alive."
The three henchmen did as they were told, though they were clearly hurting from the van's sudden stop.
Disillusioning himself once more, Karkaroff said to Avery, "The moment we get her inside, we leave immediately. I would have liked to have Pennyworth dead, but his wand's most likely registered with MACUSA, so they'll be coming to investigate any moment now."
"What about Wayne?" asked Avery, silently casting "Episkey" to heal himself.
"Ideally, I would not mind bringing him along," replied Karkaroff, watching the Muggle puppets amble to the Mercedes. "Maybe use him for a few rounds of Cruciatus practise. Realistically, we may not have much time to have them go back again and drag him in before MACUSA arrives and our planning goes for nought. What say you?"
"I say we take him," said Avery, as the three Imperiused Muggles began walking back. "As I see it, the Dark Lord has let us do what we want with him, and we can always use him as further motivation for payment, or even to squeeze out some extra money. You only told those three to check Kane wasn't dead-you said nothing about just talking her."
"You have a point," said Karkaroff.
O'Neill opened the front door and entered, looking in the direction of his controllers, even though he could not see them.
"The one with the false leg is lying outside on the ground, alive, the other two are unconscious, but still alive."
"Tell Barker and Saviano to take the two in the car and leave the third one on the street," ordered Avery. "Do not harm them."
O'Neill silently gave a nod before exiting again and calling the other two back, while Avery and Karkaroff mentally prepared themselves for a duel with the Aurors.
As Barker and Saviano were dragging Thomas out of the car, Alfred, bloodied and bruised, stood up to face them, his hand clutching his wand.
O'Neill, noticing this, walked up to the ex-Auror, who appeared barely able to stand, and punched him in the face, sending him stumbling back down to the ground again.
While the other two carried the still-unconscious Thomas to the van, O'Neill opened the front door and took out Martha, who had a bump on her forehead, a busted lip, and red marks on her neck from the seatbelt rubbing against the skin.
The two unconscious hostages were brought inside the van, where Avery and Karkaroff were now waiting, and the door closed as the three Muggle puppets scrambled back in, O'Neill back in the driver's seat as Avery and Karkaroff blindfolded their targets and used the Incarcerous Spell to bind them.
Starting the engine once more, O'Neill began to accelerate and drive off as quickly as possible, managing to turn a corner left three blocks away just as a group of men in suits and fedoras arrived almost out nowhere and began to seal off the area, with three police cars, sirens blazing, finally arrived.
"Well?" asked one Auror to another.
"Well what?" the other, a grey-haired man, asked back.
"What do you make of everything, Gardner?"
"What do I-what do I make of it? It's ridiculous how this happened, with some flagrant uses of the stuff right under our noses," replied Gardner, carefully swapping the word 'magic', "and we, the first response, don't get here for at least 10 minutes, by which point the perpetrators are most likely gone. And to cap it all off, the local cops should've been onto this like a bee to a flower."
"This crime scene or the chase?"
"The chase, God dammit," replied Gardner irritably. "In a competent police force, this incident wouldn't have happened so fast. But it did, with no police activity until just a few moments ago."
Gardner's eye moved to Alfred, lying unconscious. "At least we've someone who could shed some light on this. But first he'll need medical attention, then we give him to Bradley."
"What about me?"
"He talks to Bradley. Then we can solve all this and wrap it up nice and quickly."
A Christmas present from me to you. Hopefully the next one will be finished by the 12th Day of Christmas at the latest.
Chapter 23: The Hospital
Dedicated to Penny Marshall (1943-2018).
28 February 1970
Alfred woke up with a start, jolting upright in the bed before groaning at the pain in his head.
Slowly, he retook control of his senses and thoughts and began looking around the room he was in.
To his lack of surprise, he was in a magical hospital again. Judging by the distance from the window to the door, it was probably around the same size as St. Mungo's back in London. The clock on the wall said '11.17'.
The uniforms, of course, were different to back home-the nurses and Healers had smaller sleeves and wore gloves, and instead of green robes for all, the Healers wore azure and the nurses wore pastel pink.
What was also different, at the very least in his case, was the cowboy sitting at his bedside, while a worried Philip Kane stood up.
Upon seeing Philip, Alfred began fearing the worst. "They took Martha, didn't they?"
Philip nodded gravely.
"Is Thomas gone as well?"
Philip nodded again, the same level of seriousness.
Alfred wasn't sure what to say next. Instead, he sighed heavily, trying to restrain his emotions and keep them from coming out.
"You feel guilty, don't you?" asked the cowboy in a drawl befitting his appearance.
"I was asked by this man here to keep an eye on his sister and keep her safe," said Alfred with regret. "I didn't."
"It's fine," said the cowboy back, "you needn't tell everything. Mister Kane's done so already."
"Really?" asked Alfred.
Philip nodded. "I got here as soon as I could."
"And I expect you'll be firing me and reading me the riot act for my cock-ups?"
Philip shook his head. "I'm more worried about the fact that my sister's been kidnapped. And given what the Aurors here have told me, you taking the car instead of Apparating straight back was what alerted them to this in the first place, so you don't need to be guilty for that. I wouldn't mind knowing why you didn't just Apparate back to the Manor, though."
"I had suspicions that there would be similar people waiting for us," explained Alfred. "Also, old Auror habits kicked in-namely protecting the Statute of Secrecy."
"Yes. It's ridiculous, isn't it?"
"Not really," said the cowboy. "From what Mr. Kane told me, you did pretty well going from Auror life to civilian life-possibly too well too fast, in my opinion. But if yesterday's anything to go by, you haven't lost everything, and it's damn good you haven't."
"All I know is if I didn't, Martha would've been taken anyway, and I have no idea about myself or Thomas," said Alfred. "Speaking of which, is he alright?"
Philip sighed unhappily. "They took him too."
The cowboy shrugged. "No idea, but we're trying to find out."
He stuck out his hand. "By the way, I must apologise for not introducing myself earlier. Samuel Bradley, Auror with MACUSA. I've been asked to speak with you."
"And you couldn't wait until I was better?" asked Alfred sardonically.
"Given the situation, my superiors didn't want me to, in case anything happened to Ms. Kane and her future husband in the meantime," replied Bradley.
"Okay," said Alfred with a little more understanding.
"So, Mr. Pennyworth," asked Bradley, "you used magic in public, in view of the No-Maj population of Gotham City, to attempt to gain our attention?"
"Yes," admitted Alfred, "but I timed it with the firing of a flare at the same target by Thomas Wayne so as to hide the light of the spell from view."
"Really?" asked Bradley, intrigued.
Alfred nodded. "Yes. Martha Kane-Philip's younger sister-was driving, and probably would have been able to get us out of there had a tyre been damaged and she lost control of the car."
"We have investigated the damage," informed Bradley. "It was from a Cutting Curse."
"Wizards did this, then," concluded Alfred.
"And yet there were gunshots and No-Maj vehicles used in this whole escapade."
"The Imperius," answered Alfred. "The three masked suspects could have been Muggles under the Imperius Curse-it would hide the fact that wizards were involved in the whole thing, a plan which was no doubt damaged the moment I began using my wand. I didn't see any though, but it's quite possible they were using Disillusionment Charms."
"Why use masks?" asked Philip.
"Hide their identities, of course," replied Bradley. "If they're No-Maj, and if this was planned out for a while-which it probably was-it's possible they've been declared missing at some point in the past few weeks."
"Considering this is Gotham," remarked Philip, "that means dredging the river."
"If it makes things easier, the three of them were all white men," said Alfred.
"How d'you know?" asked Bradley.
"They were wearing masks and gloves, but I could still see the skin of their wrists and necks. One of them was big and heavyset-I'm guessing at least 220 pounds and 6 feet 3 inches. Another was thinner and more average height-around 5 foot 10. The third one was a little bit shorter than the fat one, around 6 foot 2 this time, and he had blue eyes-I know that because he came up and knocked me down with one punch."
Alfred paused for a few moments, trying to recall more information. "The one who punched me was right-handed, while the big one was left-handed."
"Well," said Bradley, smirking under his moustache, "height, build, skin colour and dominant hand, while not the full package, that's still something we can use. Would you be willing to submit your memories from yesterday for Pensieve examination when you are discharged?"
"I can do it now," replied Alfred.
Philip turned to Bradley and asked, "MACUSA Aurors uses Pensieves?"
Bradley nodded. "We understand the reasons Britain has for not using them, because they're damn convincing. But if the memory's real, and the witness is willing to let us see them, then we go ahead and use them. They're nifty things-we can see details we might've missed the first time with them."
He then looked at Alfred, who was agreeing with him. "You're only here for more minor injuries, my friend. The Chief Healer here told me you should be out by dinnertime, so I'd say come by the Woolworth Building at 8pm and we can get started."
Alfred gave a nod, accepting the Auror's offer. "Are you in charge of the investigation or are there more Aurors involved?"
"I'm in charge of the investigation, yeah," replied Bradley. "So if you decide to go all Bullitt-like, you'd better let me know first."
Alfred raised an eyebrow curiously at the reference, but opted not to question it.
"Is this all?" asked Alfred.
Bradley shook his head. "My bosses are only letting you off with a warning, given why you were using magic in the first place. So you don't need to worry about anything happening to your status here."
"Okay," accepted Alfred with some hesitation.
"Well, that's about all, I suppose," said Bradley, standing up, tall and thin.
He stretched out his hand at Alfred. "I'll be seeing you."
Alfred shook the Auror's hand. "Thank you, and see you soon."
"Good to meet you," said Philip as he shook Bradley's hand before the Auror walked away, leaving Philip and Alfred alone.
Philip dragged the chair closer to Alfred, closed the curtains and sat down.
"Your parents have nothing to do with this?" asked Alfred.
Philip shook his head. "They wouldn't let me know, and if they did try something along these lines, it probably wouldn't be so brazen or open."
"Who was it that your parents hired?"
"Karkaroff. Igor Karkaroff. Have you heard of him?"
"Karkaroff? That bastard? Did you tell that cowboy, Bradley that?"
"I did," answered Philip. "They said they'll look into it."
"They had better," muttered Alfred angrily. "What else is new?"
"Well, seeing as this was out in the open, there's no doubt my parents now know the full details of Martha's relationship to Thomas."
"You mean Karkaroff didn't tell them?" asked Alfred in disbelief.
Philip shook his head. "No, they didn't know until now. Strange, isn't it?"
"It's ridiculous. The only reason...shit, he must have been in on the plot."
"Why else would Karkaroff not tell them?" questioned Alfred. "It's pretty important, seeing as you've believed the whole time they'd bring her back to Britain for the altar."
"You're right," agreed Philip. "Though seeing as how close everything is to Jenkins introducing that marriage law of hers, it's probably too late for them to do anything."
"You're being awfully agreeable, considering what's happened," noted Alfred with suspicion. "Why aren't you angry at me for helping cause all this?"
"Why should I be angry at you for yesterday, Alfred?" asked Philip. "You're not the one who kidnapped my sister, or killed two Muggles in cold blood, or crashed the car."
"I am the reason that car crashed because I suggested we take it to get out instead of simply Apparating back to Wayne Manor," countered Alfred, "and had your sister been driving any faster we probably would've died."
"There's one reason," pointed out Philip. "You're taking responsibility for it. You're not going to change my mind anytime soon about how much of the blame you should get, but at least you're not denying anything was your fault."
Realising that continuing this discussion was only going to lead to a stalemate, Alfred then altered the question by asking "Why else aren't you pissed off screaming at me?"
Philip sighed. "Most of the emotions got spent up in the first hour after hearing what happened," he replied, smiling sadly. "I really have no more tears to shed."
"Thanks. And thanks for at least trying, even if it didn't work out, to get my sister safe. You had a justifiable reason not to go to the Manor-they could have done that, even if they ultimately went for the direct approach."
"I still feel I should've done better."
"Giving MACUSA those memories would certainly help," remarked Philip.
"True, true," agreed Alfred.
"You're not going to do anything foolish, are you?" asked Philip with some trepidation. "Worrying about whether Martha and Thomas make it out is enough for me. And I'm not joking."
"No, no, it's just, I'd like to help Mr. Bradley as much as I can," replied Alfred. "I need to make up for it all."
Chapter 24: The Pensieve
Happy New Year!
28 February 1970
Alfred exhaled a shallow breath as the Auror removed the memories from his mind, trying his best not to think about anything while the Auror did her job.
"They're in the Pensieve," announced Bradley. "We can look now."
Alfred opened his eyes and took a deep breath. "Okay."
Bradley looked at him hesitantly. "You're certain you want to do this?" he asked.
Alfred nodded. "Yes. I do."
Bradley gave a nod too. "Okay then." He handed Alfred a pencil and notebook. "This is for whatever you may see in there that I miss."
"Okay," accepted Alfred.
"Good. Let's jump right in, then."
Led by the other Auror, Alfred walked up to the Pensieve with Bradley and, one after the other, the two men entered into the dish-like object.
Alfred had only been inside a Pensieve twice before, so while he knew what to expect from such an experience, he was still not used to it when he found himself on the street in Gotham City as the Ford Transit van abruptly came to a stop courtesy of his Stunning Spell, revisiting the events of yesterday.
Taking in a deep breath, he began to look around the memory. The wonderful thing about the Pensieve was that he could see things as they had really happened, with no influence from personal biases or otherwise, and look for details that he may have originally missed.
He moved towards the Transit, waving to Bradley, who had a dial in his hand, to do the same. This was on the very edge of his memory, something he had not initially thought of at the time for that reason.
"Can you pause it right here?" he asked Bradley, pointing at the unconscious man in the front.
"Sure," replied Bradley, turning the dial to do so.
"How'd you know that we could do that?" asked Bradley curiously.
"The dial," replied Alfred, gesturing at said object. "I've heard rumours MACUSA were researching this back when I was an Auror."
"They've now been proven correct. I'd advise you not to give it away, though, seeing as we're still working on it. It would also leave you open to prosecution by MACUSA."
"If you were also trying to keep me from worrying about this thing, you're not succeeding," said Alfred, who then looked and at the wizard sitting in the front of the van.
"Well I'll be damned," remarked Bradley with some surprise. "That's Igor Karkaroff."
"Good to see you know that prick too."
"He's been suspected in two murders here over the past 9 years," replied Bradley. "Considering the carnage near Kane's studio, that's three by proxy now added to his crimes."
"If he were to be convicted," pointed out Alfred.
Bradley nodded. "Not to mention he's Russian. They probably wouldn't be too willing to extradite one of their own to us, even if he was a private assassin."
"I think the word 'terrorist' is now a better descriptor," quipped Alfred.
Bradley nodded in agreement. "You've a point. Want to check out the inside of the van?"
"At this point, I think Karkaroff and the front interior are all that's in my memory," replied Alfred. "Though the identity of whoever owns-or owned-the van would certainly be welcome."
"We've had people working on that since yesterday," assured Bradley. "We should hopefully know by tomorrow afternoon at the latest."
Bradley adjusted the dial, moving the memory forward by a few seconds, until Alfred let him know to stop.
"There," he said, pointing to the figure of a tall man under a Disillusionment Charm stepping out of the halted van.
"I didn't notice him getting out before, on account of being so far away," said Alfred, "but now that there's this…it's easier to see a hastily-applied Disillusionment Charm. You see him?"
"Yeah, I see him, alright," replied Bradley, taking out his notebook. "He's clearly male, young-looking-most likely between the ages of 30 and 40-with pretty aristocratic features."
"Definitely a wizard who did this himself, if Karkaroff's state is anything to go by," remarked Alfred, pointing to the unconscious Slavic wizard.
"Yes indeed," agreed Bradley. "How about we look at the No-Majs, just in case their masks have come undone or been damaged."
Fortunately, they saw that the scarf of the fat one had come partially undone, revealing flabby cheeks and a cleft chin.
"Huh, I was wrong," said Alfred. "It's not masks they were wearing. Just scarves and fedoras."
"The mistake's forgivable, though," replied Bradley, kneeling down and noting these features. "When you told me what you knew, you were still recovering from some bruises and unconsciousness. No surprise if you got something wrong. It's a miracle, though, that his hat stayed on. I can see his hair though-it's dark brown."
"Shall we take a glance at the other two?" asked Alfred.
"Good idea," agreed Bradley. "I'll check the one driving. You check the other guy in here."
Alfred stepped into the van, fully aware that, as this was a Pensieve recreation of his memory, there was no need to do so as the van's presence would not physically affect him.
The fedora had fallen off, revealing balding dark brown hair and brown eyes. There was a cut on his head that was bleeding.
Taking out his pencil and notebook, Alfred noted these details down, while in his head he mocked the masterminds of this plan for not disguising their Imperiused help better.
Getting out, he noticed Bradley. "Well?"
"Good-looking man, black hair, blue eyes as you said," informed Bradley. "What about you?"
"Balding with dark brown hair, brown eyes, looks to be in middle age," said Alfred back. "They were either arrogant or had a lapse of judgement by not disguising these Muggles better."
"I doubt they care, especially seeing as Karkaroff is involved. And for all we know, they may have had their faces Transfigured."
"Well? Did you see anything?" asked the other Auror when Bradley and Alfred exited the Pensieve.
Bradley nodded. "We did," he replied. "Not an encyclopedia's worth of information, but enough to make the investigation easier. We know what they look like, for one."
Bradley gave the other Auror the pieces of paper on which the descriptions of the Muggles were written. "Find out from our friend at the GCPD who these people are, in case they have criminal records with the No-Maj government."
"Anything else?" asked the Auror.
"Yeah. Tell the Head Auror that we've reason to believe Igor Karkaroff is implicit in this case."
The Auror's eyes widened. "Shit," he muttered under his breath. "I'll tell him that first, then go to the GCPD."
"Wise choice, but make it quick."
The other Auror quickly hurried out of the chamber. Bradley turned to Alfred.
"Mister Pennyworth, would you like to help me out with this case?" he asked.
"I'm not an Auror anymore, though," protested Alfred.
"But you were a damn good one, if your reputation was well-earned," countered Bradley. "You help me, and I promise that we'll find Martha Kane and her fiance faster."
Alfred was silent for a moment, bringing both hands to his face.
"You thinking about it, or what?" asked Bradley with a raised eyebrow.
"I'm thinking about it, don't worry," replied Alfred. "It's just...I'm not sure if my reasons will be selfish or not. I've grown to like the two of them-I suppose, under different circumstances, maybe I could call them friends."
"That means they are, I believe."
"At the same time, I want to make it up to them. I fucked up, and two good, great people could die because of that. Is that selfish?"
Bradley shrugged. "I'm not sure, but I guess having a feeling you truly like and care for them balances the want for redemption out."
"In that case, then," said Alfred, giving his answer, "I'll do it. But you keep me on a leash."
"Gladly. My superiors would be on my ass if I let you do what you liked in this investigation," remarked Bradley.
"In that case, I'm pleased to work with you, Auror Bradley."
"Pleased to work with you too, Mister Pennyworth," said Bradley back as the pair shook hands for their temporary partnership.
1 March 1970
"So, would you care to explain?" asked Bradley.
"Look, I'm telling you, I don't know of any wizards from Europe who look like what you say," replied Gnarlak anxiously. "And I'm telling you the truth here-lying would get me nowhere."
"We know that," replied Bradley back. "Unless it's about the heroin dealing, but we aren't interested in that."
Gnarlak gulped, knowing full well that if he didn't co-operate, he would be arrested for the heroin. He also knew that he would probably be arrested anyway for it soon enough, now that the Aurors knew, which meant speaking freely of whatever he knew about the whole Kane kidnapping would probably be of greater benefit.
"Have you…perhaps heard of anything?" asked Alfred. "Rumours, stories, so on? Anything that your customers may have said, that you found yourself overhearing?"
"What makes you think you'll hear the truth from me?" asked Gnarlak back.
"What have you to lose by not telling us?" answered Bradley back with another question.
"Okay, okay, fine, I'll say what I know," muttered Gnarlak. "How do you want to start?"
"Igor Karkaroff. He studied at the Durmstrang Institute. He's a mercenary and suspected assassin. What do you know?" Bradley was short and to the point with this.
Gnarlak furrowed his eyebrows briefly in thought, before giving an answer: "Karkaroff? That prick? He's involved in this?"
"We have very good reason to believe he was directly involved," replied Bradley, Alfred nodding. "More to the point, that he was present during the execution of it."
"If it's about him, then, I did hear a rumour a while ago, back in January, that he was in America," admitted the ageing goblin.
"Who said it?" asked Bradley.
"I can't really give you names, seeing as I don't remember everyone who's ever been in here, but there was plenty of talk in here about him, that's for sure." Gnarlak took a drink of water from his glass. As he entered old age, he found himself drinking more water and less alcohol.
"We currently think the three No-Majs Karkaroff Imperiused into doing his bidding may have been small-timers in the Gotham underworld," said Bradley. "Have you anything to say to that?"
"To be funny, that that narrows nothing down," remarked Gnarlak. "To be serious, that I imagine you're smart enough to be investigating any leads to identify them."
Neither Bradley nor Alfred commented on that, despite Gnarlak being right.
"Any wizards from the Gotham area mention anything suggesting Karkaroff was around?" asked Alfred.
"Knowing Karkaroff's reputation, I doubt he'd even socialise with the local wizards if he was planning something like this," replied Gnarlak. "Though there was one thing someone told a friend here last week I could point you to."
"You said didn't know the names of the people in here," remarked Bradley.
"This guy wasn't talking about Karkaroff, and he's been a regular customer here for the past 12 years. Enough he's got his own tab."
"William A. Zard," answered Gnarlak, saying the name with an almost mocking tone.
What did Zard say?" asked Alfred.
"Something about an English wizard shopping in his store on the 9th," replied Gnarlak. "He said the guy looked like an aristocrat, but not too inbred."
Alfred and Bradley suppressed a chuckle.
"What kind of store?" asked Alfred again.
"Clothing," replied Gnarlak gruffly. "He sells to the wizards and the No-Maj-the wizarding part of the store's hidden from the other part."
"So, he said that he had this Limey wizard come in and look around for some clothes to buy, whilst muttering under his breath about the non-magical presence," continued Gnarlak.
"Did Zard hear what he was saying?" asked Bradley.
Gnarlak nodded. "He said he thought they were ridiculous. Anti-No-Maj slurs, the 'M-word', trash like that, in a real snob-like way. His impression of it was pretty interesting. Zard generally ignored it because he was in the wizarding section, away from the No-Maj customers."
"Why do I get the feeling he eventually kicked him out?" asked Bradley.
"Because, he did," answered Gnarlak. "He said an employee who overheard the guy and asked him to stop got an earful, albeit somewhat polite. That was when they practically threw him out and told him not to come back."
"Okay, I think that's about as much as we can get from you, Gnarlak," said Bradley. "Thank you for your co-operation."
Gnarlak gave a slight bow and wave. "I'll be seeing you, gentlemen."
"What do you think?" asked Bradley after they had Apparated back to his office.
"I think it was stupid of that other one to go out in public, where people could see his face, and say those things," replied Alfred bluntly.
Bradley nodded in agreement. "Stupid and arrogant. He must've thought that, seeing as they'd be under the Disillusionment Charms when carrying out the abduction, he was free to go around in a public place without any disguise."
"It sounds very out-of-character for Karkaroff to allow any associates of his go out in the open," said Alfred, "even with the use of a disguise. They're not locals, so them going around saying garbage like that is bound to warrant attention. Meaning that this accomplice, who should have acted a lot smarter than that, went behind his back."
"Do you think Karkaroff did anything about it?" asked Bradley.
Alfred shrugged. "No idea. What do you think?"
"It depends if this guy was smart enough not to say anything about it to him," replied Bradley, "though if Karkaroff's a Legilimens, that'd be meaningless."
"Last I heard of him, he didn't, and Legilimency is known to be a very difficult skill to learn if one isn't born with the potential for it already."
"So chances are he still doesn't know about this excursion," surmised Bradley from Alfred's statement.
Alfred shook his head. "Unless he were to get it out of him by other means, such as Veritaserum-which is unlikely, given how restricted the sale of that stuff is both here and in Europe."
"And even if he did get some on the black market, there'd be few times for him to actually put him under its influence," added Bradley.
"Exactly," agreed Alfred. "Which means we should probably get to Zard and get that man's description from him before Karkaroff and his friends get to him first."
William A. Zard was at home, reading the newspaper (his wife and children were out seeing a movie-On Her Majesty's Secret Service, even though it had been out since Christmas and this was their third time seeing it) when he heard a knock on the door.
Sighing, hoping it wasn't one of Big Lou's men coming for their cut (though seeing as they never visited on Sundays, it was unlikely), he put down the newspaper, got up, and walked to the front door.
Opening the door, he saw two tall men in their thirties-one of whom was clean shaven and wore a trench-coat, while the other had a moustache and was dressed a little more like a cowboy (well, he had the hat, the boots and the bolo tie, at least).
"Who are you?" he asked with some politeness.
"I'm Auror Samuel Bradley, this is Mr. Pennyworth," replied Bradley bluntly. "We're here to ask you some questions."
Zard stepped aside and allowed the two men in.
He had a feeling in his stomach as to why they were here-pretty much everybody knew that Thomas Wayne and his fiancee had been abducted in broad daylight after a car chase two days ago, but it was only recently emerging that his fiancee was actually Martha Kane, who had disappeared from Magical Britain nearly a decade, though it was suspected by some that she was hiding in America (Zard blamed the Wizarding World's lack of interest in No-Maj celebrities in why this news hadn't come out earlier-that and there were very few photographs of her in either the No-Maj or Magical publications for people to recognise her).
That said, he wasn't exactly sure why MACUSA was questioning him about this.
"If you want, you can sit down," he said to the two men.
"Thank you," replied Bradley politely. Alfred gave a polite nod and smile and sat down too.
"I am assuming you know why we are here speaking to you, correct?" asked Bradley.
Zard sat down opposite them and nodded. "Yes. It's about the abduction. I can assure you that I had nothing to do with it."
"We're not here to question you as a suspect, though considering that we think at least one wizard was involved in this, my superiors may probably ask me to question you at some point," stated Bradley. "In that case, be prepared."
"So if I'm not being suspected of involvement, why are you here?" asked Zard.
"On examining Pensieve memories, we discovered two wizards involved in the abduction of Mr. Wayne and Miss Kane," replied Bradley. "One of them was visible, and has been suspected by numerous Wizarding governments of mercenary activity and assassinations over the years, but the other had on a hastily-made Disillusionment Charm. Hastily-made because, while it rendered him invisible, his features could still be somewhat recognisable."
"And how exactly am I connected?" asked Zard.
"We asked Gnarlak if he knew anything about this," said Alfred. "He denied having seen any of them, but he did mention you referring to a rather rude foreign customer in your shop some time ago."
Zard sighed. He knew who they meant. "You're looking for that jackass, huh?"
"Yes," replied Bradley simply. Alfred nodded in agreement.
"Well then, he was around your age-somewhere in his 30s," began Zard. "He was tall-about maybe 6 foot 3, had a British accent, like you"-he pointed his finger to Alfred-"he was well-dressed, even if he looked like a homeless mod, and he had short hair, blonde, and these cold blue eyes too. Looked like he came from money. Looked like a prick, too."
"Anything else?" asked Bradley.
"No, that's about it," answered Zard.
"In that case, thanks for what you've given us today," said Bradley with a polite smile. "We'll be in touch."
He and Alfred got up, Alfred stretching out and shaking Zard's hand, and walked out of the apartment into the hallway.
"What do you think?" asked Bradley as they walked to the elevator.
"I no longer think whoever that was in the clothes shop was a fool-I know it," replied Alfred. "All we really need to do now is to find out who he is."
"There can't be that many of you in Britain," remarked Bradley as Alfred hit the button for the elevator to come up.
"I never counted, but I'm sure Alastor did," replied Alfred. "If I had to guess, though, probably somewhere around the 30,000 mark."
"So how do we find out who this bastard is?" asked Bradley.
"How about you look for someone who can draw a sketch of the man based on what we know so far, and I talk to Philip Kane?" suggested Alfred.
"That could work," agreed Bradley. "I'll check MACUSA. Do you know where Kane is?"
"The Manor," replied Alfred. "Hopefully we'll know who he is by tomorrow at the most."
"We'd better, or else we probably won't find them alive," agreed Bradley again as the elevator doors opened and the two men stepped inside.
Hopefully the next chapter should be up by the end of March at the latest.
Remember, I own nothing.