Chapter 1: Prologue
For those who don't know 'Hart' is an old word for stag, which is a male deer. And a White Hart is another name for a sacrificial King, and for the start of a quest.. It seemed very appropriate since Harry's patronus was a stag, and he died for his people.
Harry wasn’t sure when the thought became an actual thought, but at some point the feeling of claustrophobia inspired by all the crazed fangirls and reporters hounding him every waking moment since he returned to Hogwarts after it reopened for the first school year since Voldemort’s defeat, got to be too much. They never left him alone. He would get rid of one pack of fangirls, only to find a reporter hiding just around the corner, or behind a suit of armor, and even once in his wardrobe! He was exhausted all the time. He couldn’t sleep for fear that he’d close his eyes only for them to swarm him like locusts in his brief respite. So he had to take drastic measures.
Which brought him here today.
Harry glanced at the guard by the door, who was watching him with fierce little eyes. Swallowing his apprehension, Harry squared his shoulders, straightened his spine, and walked into the bank. He may have broken in, released their Ironbelly, and he may have gotten away with stealing from one of the vaults. But he was still a paying customer of Gringotts. He had faced death with open arms, and killed Voldemort besides. A few pissy goblins were not going to keep him from finding some peace in life.
"Mr. Potter," came the deep, rumbling voice of the teller at the end of the lobby. "To what do we owe this pleasure?"
Harry moved towards the teller with slow, even steps, never faltering even as the guards by the door moved to follow him, one on either side. He did not even look back as the sounds of two new guards moving to take post by the door, echoed on the marble floors. The other patrons of the bank glanced nervously between Harry and the goblins. The story of his burglary and subsequent destruction of the bank during the war had been news fodder for months already.
Harry came to a stop in front of the teller's post. "I have a proposition I would like to speak with a manager about."
The goblin eyed him down the length of its long nose, beady eyes weighing the threat Harry represented versus the possible profit of whatever venture he was wanting to propose. Finally deciding the profit outweighed the risk, the goblin made a note in its books, then told the guards to escort Harry to Manager Steeltooth.
Harry remained calm as the guards repositioned themselves so one walked in front of Harry, and the other behind. After years of people, Death Eaters, trying to kill him Harry did not like having people he did not trust stand behind him. Especially when armed. But, Harry reminded himself, he would have to suck it up if he wanted to go through with his plan.
The guards led him to a hidden door in the wall between the tellers and the back corner of the room, with nary a sound the heavy stone door opened as the guard in the led placed his right hand on the wall over a small runic engraving. The hallway beyond the door was made of smooth stone that went waist high. The stone stuck out about half a foot from the upper portion of the wall and had a channel cut into it filled with a pleasantly scented oil that burst into flames the moment they stepped through the door. The top part of the wall appeared to be plaster painted with scenes from the goblin wars, some of which were certainly not child appropriate. Harry didn’t have to wonder that these were meant as another warning to any witches or wizards who might walk this hall. It was as plain as the plaque on the outside of the building. Perhaps even more so.
They took a right halfway down the hall into another corridor that was nearly identical to the first, then a left and two more right turns, all in identical corridors. ‘Obviously,’ Harry thought, ‘they want to ensure no thieves can find their way out from here.’
The door they finally stopped in front of was made of heavy dark wood, nearly an foot thick, and braced into the wall with heavy iron tabs. The door was anything but plain, though. It was intricately carved with ruins and celtic knots and icons, and as he looked closer he realized the knots on the center of the door spelt out the name Steeltooth.
As he was about to make a comment on the craftsmanship, the door opened. Harry snapped his mouth shut and strode into the room.
It was a large square room with rich redwood paneling along the lower portion of the walls, with soft yellow plaster above it, and more thick redwood beams along the ceiling. The floor, the same marble as the hallway, was covered by a plush Persian carpet. One wall was lined in bookshelves filled with neat leather bound books, and delicate scrolls set in diamond shaped cubbies. The wall opposite had an ancient looking woven tapestry hanging from a golden rod. Harry wanted nothing more than to take a closer look at it, but he pushed the impulse away and moved towards the desk on the wall opposite the door.
The desk was large and ornate, with obvious hand carved accents and a marble top to match the floor. The goblin sitting behind it was of an undeterminable age, as most goblins were to human eyes. He was short, perhaps only half a foot taller than Professor Flitwick, with black and gray hair slicked back in a fashion similar to Draco’s during first year. His navy pinstriped suit though, that caught Harry’s eye. It was obviously of a Muggle style, and looked hand sewn. Bespoke, he thought it was called when they were customer tailored. His Aunt had certainly cooed over his Uncle the one time they could afford to get him such a suite. (Not that the man could wear it more than once, since he never could stop eating.)
“Where did you get your suite,” Harry asked with a little bit of awe in his voice.
The goblin, Steeltooth, grinned, showing off rows of sharp looking pearly-white teeth. “From a little shop I know on Saville Row.”
Harry whistled. “That must have cost quite a few galleons.”
“Indeed.” The goblins lips twitched up momentarily, before he seemed to catch himself, and returned to the stern expression all goblins seemed to have when dealing with wizards. “You told my tellers that you had a proposition for us, Mr. Potter. I would like to hear it. So please sit down.”
Harry gave the goblin a crooked grin as he moved to seat himself in the chair opposite Steeltooth. “I want to leave the Wizarding World and I believe that your people might be the best avenue to do so.”
Steeltooth leaned back in his chair. “Do tell.”
“I need a new identity for while in the Muggle World, but I would like to retain access to my Gringotts account and to my real name. I am tired of all the fuss here and I would like a chance to finished my Muggle education and attend a University.”
“Surely you could achieve this on your own, Mr. Potter.”
“I’m sure I could. But it would be harder and more time consuming for me to do as I’d have to find the right contact to get all the needed documents.” Harry leaned forward in his seat. “I am assuming you have done this before for Muggleborns, halfbloods, and squibs. I was also hoping you might be willing to go over my accounts with me to create a stock portfolio under my new identity as well, so I have some funds available there as well.”
“Hmmm,” murmured the goblin. “I am sure we could take such actions on your behalf. For a nominal fee, of course.”
“Of course.” Harry fought not to roll his eyes. So far things were going better than he’d hoped for. “What would you charge as a fee for such a service?”
“One hundred galleons for the new identity, 5 galleons for a drivers ID should you want one, 5 galleons each for a credit and debit card that will work for you under your new identity for your current Gringotts vaults, and 10 galleons monthly for monitoring your Muggle stocks.”
“I think we can skip the driver’s ID for now. Though I may come back in the future for assistance there, but I think I should do fine with cabs and the underground.” Harry paused again before continuing on. “Would you be able to get me proof of having completed the required Muggle schooling so that I could skip onto university?”
“We can, but I would recommend against it. You would be better served to pay for a time turner and one of our in-house tutors to get the actual schooling you missed completed. That way you can have the actual knowledge so that once you have gained admittance to a university you will be able to pass your courses.”
Harry sighed and slumped ever-so-slightly in his seat. “You are right. That would be wiser. What kind of cost am I looking at for that plan?”
“Fifty galleons a day for both the teacher and the time turner.”
Harry nodded and gazed back at the goblin. “And the price for your, and your employees, silence about my new identity?”
Steeltooth burst out laughing, his black eyes glittering like flames caught in obsidian. He had not expected the boy to catch on so quickly, most wizards never even realized they could pay for silence on delicate matters. “Another 100 galleons and you will not have to worry about any slips of the tongues or quills.”
Relaxing, Harry smiled a small but sincere smile. “You have a deal then, 110 galleon for the new identity and the matching credit and debit cards, 10 galleons monthly for stocks, 50 galleons a day to complete my A levels including the rental of the time turner, and another 100 galleons for your, and your employees, silence.”
“Very good. We’ll write up the agreement for you,” Steeltooth stated as he pulled out a clean sheet of parchment from a desk drawer, and dipped his raven’s quill into the indigo ink in the crystal decanter on the desk. “We will withdraw the 210 galleons today and the monthly galleons will be removed at the end of each month. The 50 galleons for the teaching and time turner we will withdraw at the end of each lesson. Is that agreeable?”
“It is,” Harry replied.
“Good.” Steel tooth wrote with a swift, deft hand. Filling the parchment with all the information in regards to payments and agreed services, leaving only a few blank space. “Have you decided on a name for yourself, Mr. Potter?”
“I have.” Harry took a deep breath. He had thought long and hard over the perfect name. One that was still him, but was at the same time different enough that the wizarding world wouldn’t take a second look. “I have decided on Harold Alistair Hart.”
“How very British of you,” Steeltooth replied amusedly as he added the new name into the contract. “Sign here and the agreement shall be binding.”
Harry took the second quill, a blood quill he noticed absently, and read over the contract. Finding it agreeable to his terms, he took a calming breath and signed his name at the bottom.
Steeltooth snatched away the contract, snapping his fingers so that it rolled up, sealed itself in a red ribbon, and then vanished. As quickly as the contract had vanished, Steeltooth shoved a new parchment towards him. “This one is all the documentation for your new self. Sign at the bottom and we will have all the needed documents, records, and IDs mailed to you by the end of the work day four days hence.”
Again the document vanish with a flourish after Harry had signed.
“Where do those go,” he inquired.
“To the secure documents vault. You need not worry that any wizard shall ever find them.”
“Good. Good.” Harry rubbed his palms over his knees. “Is that it then?”
“For now, Mr. Potter. I shall ask that you return tomorrow at three to take a test with one of our on-staff tutors so that we may gage the amount of schooling you will need to complete your Muggle education. I expect we will have to compete stages 3 and 4 of your secondary education before we can start on the A levels. That is what most Muggleborns end up needing to complete in order to re-enter the Muggle higher education system, or workforce.”
Harry winced. from the sound of it, he would be working for months, possibly a year, to get that all done. Maybe even longer.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
Six Years Later, London
Harry stretched until his spine made a popping sound similar to apparition. It had ended up taking just over a year to complete his A levels and another year to decide what he wanted to do, which universities to apply to, get accepted, and find a nice townhouse to call his own. Well, at least Harry Hart’s own. It wasn’t a bad bit of space either. Upper class neighborhood, not someplace anyone looking for Harry Potter would go, three stories, private garden space out back, and it was off the main road so it was relatively quiet for London as well. It was the perfect house for Sir Harry Hart, who had been recently knighted by the Queen in a private ceremony when she had realized that Harry Potter had changed into Harry Hart. Harry had been a bit panicked about that and had stormed over to Gringotts after being knighted and given a lordship he hadn’t asked for.
Steeltooth had not been amused by the accusation that someone at Gringotts had leaked his new identity, and had cut Harry off at the knees when he told Harry that the Queen would always know who was who. It had been part of the magical agreement the Founders had put in place with Muggles back then, and had been updated throughout the centuries with each new royal bloodline. Harry had practically collapsed to his knees in relief at that, and had spent the next hour apologizing to Steeltooth for besmirching his honor.
But now Harry was finally free to live a new life where he wasn’t the boy-who-lived, or the defeater-of-he-who-shall-not-be-named. Harry Hart was an orphaned upper class young man with all the promise of a bright future ahead of him. Harry Hart also looked damned fine in a suite too, something else that Harry Potter had never gotten to try. His one and only bespoke suite as Harry Potter had been worn once for the Yule Ball in fourth year and he hadn’t even gotten to enjoy it because of Ron’s complaining over his own dress robes. But Harry Hart always looked proper. He wore suites or slacks with a dress shirt and button-up. His hair was always neatly combed, his face always shaved.
Harry looked in the mirror, staring back at the face that was coming to be his own. His black hair had been magically dyed to a rich chocolate brown, and his bright green eyes made hazel by contact lenses, and his most identifying feature, his lightening bolt scar, removed through careful plastic surgery. With those minor changes Harry Potter disappeared and was replaced by Harry Hart. Smirking briefly, Harry turned and left his bathroom. He was supposed to be heading to campus today for the graduation ceremony.
Today Harry Hart was officially an adult.
He had his master degree and he was ready to conquer the world. Even if he was having a hard time finding a job that didn’t bore him to death. He supposed he could put in an application at MI6 but really, that risked him becoming a bit too much like James Bond. And as much as Ron and he had enjoyed reading those books as teens, imagining themselves as secret agents, he wasn’t sure he wanted to go back to fighting to take down threats that could have been stopped before they became a problem. Though the adventure and intrigue still sounded far too appealing after spending so much time and money trying to get away from that very life.
Smoothing his hands down his suite once more, Harry grabbed his keys and the graduation robes sitting on end table. Opening the door Harry looked outside at the black cab waiting for him at the curb. He could easily apparate to the school, but Harry Hart was a Muggle and Muggles could not use apparition. Turning around he closed the door and locked it, placing his keys into his pocket before turning to walk down the few steps to the curb.
The drive and the ceremony were both fairly boring as far as Harry was concerned. He could have done so many more interesting things with his day than sit in a massive group of people in silly robes and hats, waiting to be handed a piece of paper that tells them they are ready to get on with their life.
“Bored already, Mr. Hart,” came a soft spoken, cultured voice.
Harry glanced out of the corner of his eyes at the young woman seated next to him. He didn’t recognize her at all, but that wasn’t too unusual considering the size of the graduating class. She was a looker though with those blue eyes and perfectly coiffed blonde hair. “Always,” replied Harry.
It was true. As glad as he was not to be on the run, or having Death Eaters trying to kill him, Harry also kind of missed it. He missed the adrenaline pumping through his veins, he missed the thrill of the chase, of the mystery. School was fun at first. learning so many new things. Having a chance to be someone that no one recognized at first sight. It had all been so very new at first, getting a chance to be the normal one for once. But the novelty had worn off and now Harry was back to wondering what things would have been like if he had stayed in the Wizarding World.
“Well, I’ve got something that might cure that.”
“Oh?” Harry turned his head just slightly towards the young woman, taking in her appearance more fully. The blonde hair styled in the traditional manner of an upper class woman, and blue eyes bright behind thick cats-eye glasses. “And what might that be?”
“A job,” Harry asked incredulously. “As what?”
“A tailor?” Harry snorted, earning him a gaze from some of the other graduates around him. “Hardly sounds exciting.”
“Oh, I don’t know. Meeting new people, seeing new places-“
“I hardly think a tailor travels.”
“You’d be surprised.” The other graduate looked up at the stage as their row was called to stand up and head towards the stage. Glancing back at Harry, the she handed him a card. “Think about it.”
Harry glanced down at the card. It was a heavy cardstock in cream with the words Kingsman Tailors embossed on the front in black ink. Underneath it was and address on Saville Row. Harry looked up only to the find the young woman had vanished, blinking Harry stretched his senses out reaching, but he couldn’t sense any magic. At least not any more than you could in the average London crowd. Hearing his name called, Harry was forced to let the incident go.
The Next Day, Harry Hart’s House
Harry strolled casually out of his house, walking briskly, but noticeably fast. There was an apparition point just four blocks away, with Muggle repelling wards. If he was being tailed by the woman from the graduation ceremony, then he had to be careful. His best bet to safely get out of the neighborhood and to number 12 Grimmauld Place, so he could change back to Harry Potter, was that apparition point. He needed to get there so he could meet with Luna and Hermione at the shop. He had promised to come in and look over the books with them. Sure the girls, mostly Hermione, ran the shop for him, but they were both very firm that he stay up to date. The Hallow Hart Bookshop did actually belong to Harry. He had opened it five years ago just before he started university. He had thought it would be nice, something for him to do if he didn’t get in. He had enjoyed it and had even invited Hermione to help him run the shop. It had been a small place at first, but something about it’s atmosphere brought in customers by the dozens. And according to Hermione they actually just kept coming back for him. Harry didn’t really believe it, not that first year, but once he started school and only came in on the weekends, he started to notice that women seemed to come in mostly on those days. And sure some of them were actually there for the books, but many of them, he soon realized, where there because he was a “posh fox.” At least that is what they called him when they didn’t think he heard them. After that he started coming in less and less, and turned the running over to Hermione and then later hired Luna to help her.
The bookstore was doing very well, Harry had in fact been able to buy the building and expand the bookshop to a second floor, and remodel the whole thing. The apartments on the two floors above the shop he also remodeled before putting them up for rent. Of course there had been a judicious use of magic for all the remodeling, and the expansion of the store room and office in the basement. But that hardly mattered. No what mattered was that he had an income now that wasn’t just from his backing Fred and George, or his parents investments. He had something he had built up with his own two hands.
It was an amazing feeling.
Slipping in around a corner, Harry managed to walk into the shop with the Muggle repelling wards and slip into it’s back ally, where he vanished. He doubted any followers had gotten that far. The wards over the shop were some of the best. They stretched out for thirty feet in front of the shop in all directions, so by the time he got to his door any watchers would have found their eyes wandering to other spots on the street. So as he appeared in the small courtyard at the back of his building, he simply walked up to the door leading into the employee break room and lower office.
No one appeared to be below stairs at the moment, but Harry took the time to inspect the rooms anyway. Making sure all of them were still in good condition, he headed to the stock room to make sure it wasn’t over full of books like it tended to be if he let Hermione order stock for more than two months in a row.
The stock room was made of wizard space and was three floors deep, and as large as the whole basement was normally without magic affecting it. It had one floor for rare books, one for normal muggle books, and one for wizarding books. All of which Hermione had sorted by genre, author, and series. He had no idea how many thousands of books there were in total between all three floors, but he was fairly certain it wasn’t more than two thousand since he told her to not have any more than that number of books in storage. He didn’t want Muggles questioning why he bought so many books, where he was storing them, and why he ordered that many if he wasn't selling that many that fast. So far Hermione had been pretty good about keeping the numbers reasonable, so he wasn’t too worried.
Stepping into the top floor of the storage room, Harry walked over to the desk in the nook he had built that overlooked all three floors. At the center of the room, across from the desk, a stairwell led down to the other two floors. If you were to stand by the stairwell you would be able to look through the large opening to see both floors below. The nook had a perfect view of both the entrance and the stairs, but that was hardly the reason he was there. The nook had a plush Persian carpet, two large wingback chairs, and the large desk and it’s chair. Behind the desk was a small bookshelf filled with binders. These binder held the logs of every book in storage, both presently, and past. The logs that would have the books up on the sales floor were in the main office, along with the sales log. The only people that would come in here were Hermione, Luna, and himself.
Dropping into the chair behind the desk, Harry pulled out the current storage binder. He spent nearly a half hour flipping through it, checking over what books had been bought and stored, which were waiting for pick-up by a wizarding customer, which were special ordered for their Muggle clients, and which ones had simply been sitting in storage. Those he would have to do something with. If they weren’t selling well enough with his normal guests he would need to talk with Hermione. They might have to do a donation run again to some of the poorer neighborhoods. The schools there were always looking for new books, and if he could keep the kids in those neighborhoods out of trouble that would be a bonus. All their donation books had small charms on them to encourage the people holding them to avoid gangs, drugs, and petty theft. It gave those kids, teens, and adults, a chance to not fall into the patterns that the posh thought was the norma for people living in those areas.
“How long have you been here,” Hermione complained as she dropped into the wingback closest to Harry.
“Maybe an hour.” Harry waved his wand, summoning Bippy the house elf in charge of Hallow Hart. “Bippy, can we get a pot of tea and something to nibble on?”
“Bippy be happy tos be bringing Master Potter some teas.”
Bippy bowed and vanished to the kitchen, which was hidden away in wizard space between the basement and the ground floor. Bippy had long since altered the space so only the house elves could access the kitchen. Apparently Harry’s continued venturing into the kitchen to make his own foods had offended them.
“How have you been,” asked Hermione. “You haven’t been around for a while.”
Harry rolled his eyes. Hermione had been trying to figure out what he was doing in his time away from the shop for years. Harry was always tempted to tell her, but he liked having a part of his life belong just to him.
“I’ve been alright. I got a job offer that I’m contemplating.”
“Oh,” Hermione looked at him and then around the room. “And this isn’t job enough for you?”
Harry chuckled but didn’t answer right away as Bippy chose that moment to re-appear with a large silver try. She levitated it and lightly set it to rest on the table between the two wingback chairs. On the tray was a tiered cake stand filled with cucumber sandwiches, English madeleines, and Lemon & lavender fondant fancies. Next to it was of course the teapot, teacups, the little jars of sugar and cream, and the small plates and silverware for the snacks. Hippy quickly poured the tea, adding the cream and sugar to each of their tastes, before vanishing back to her normal duties.
“Well,” stated Hermione. “What is this other job?”
“A tailor. Apparently one of the girls I have met recently works at a tailors shop and they are in need of new apprentices. I thought it might be an interesting experience from what she described. It sounds like they have tailors who actually fly out to meet clients all over the world.” Harry lifted his cup, savoring the aroma of the Earl Grey in his teacup. “It might be nice. I could see new places and still get paid.”
“You get profit from the bookshop. You could just travel without having to get a new job.”
“True, but it would get boring after a while. As much as I like the idea of just traveling for the sake of traveling, I know I’d get bored. I’m just not used to not having work to do.”
“You aren’t working now,” pointed out Hermione.
“I was. I actually might have, kind of been, going to university,” Harry replied sheepishly, one hand rubbing at the back of his neck.
“What!” Hermione jumped up, nearly knocking over the tea tray, her bushy hair fluffing up like an angry cats. “How could you go off to university and not tell me?”
“I’m sorry, ‘Mione. I just wanted to try doing something on my own for once.”
Hermione sighed and dropped back into her seat. “I get it. I do.” Hermione looked at him, taking in the slightly more posh slacks and button-down he was wearing. It wasn’t his normal jeans and a t-shirt, or Weasley jumper, that he wore to Sunday diners. He actually looked like he was trying to be an adult. “I’m proud of you, Harry. Really I am. You’ve built yourself a business here that is thriving, and now you’ve gone to university as well.”
“Have you graduated yet?”
“Yeah, just the other day. It was pretty boring though.”
She shook her head. “Only you would find graduating university boring.”
“Hey, lots of people find it boring! All you do is sit around for hours while people gab on at you. I think you’re the only person I know who would find it fun.”
She swatted his arm and went to pick her teacup back up, wand flicking briefly to clean up the spilled tea that had puddled on the tray from her earlier bout of excitement. “What did you major in, if I can ask?”
“Business,” Harry shrugged. “It seemed a good idea since I was starting my own. Plus I honestly had no idea what else to do. Though I did do a minor in Criminal Justice after the first year. The business courses were just too dull on their own.”
“Now that seems more like the Harry Potter I know.” Harry stuck his tongue out at her, making her laugh. “Oh, Harry. You really need to come by more. We miss you.”
“I know,” Harry replied a little sadly. Ron and Hermione were already married, and if the curve of her belly was any indication they were already having their first child. “But, you know how things are.”
“Harry you have to get over this. Ginny moved on, she isn’t mad at you anymore for leaving.”
“Maybe, but when she looks at me I can still see the wistfulness in her eyes. She might not be mad but she still wishes I would have agreed to get back together.”
“Maybe, but she is happy now. Neville and her have been dating seriously for almost two years now, and I’m fairly certain he’s going to propose to her soon.”
Harry reached out, plucking one of the scones from the tray and slathering a heaping serving of clotted cream over it. “Then I will be certain to visit once that happens. Besides, I do visit George every other week. We do a pub night and spend hours talking.”
“Well, Ron and I would like to see you are more than the once every other month we can convince you to come to family dinner at the burrow.”
“Do you? We were best friends for eight years, practically inseparable for all of them. It hurts not getting to see you more often.” Glancing down at her hands which were clutching the teacup, Hermione continued,” you aren’t mad that Ron and I got married are you? I mean I know you and Ron used to joke about becoming James Bond and living in a nice apartment in the city together after graduation-“
“We were kids, ‘Mione. Both of us knew by the time the war was over that we didn’t really want to be Aurors and Spies.”
“But you still could have roomed together-“
“We could have. But I’ve lived with Ron for eight years. I was more than happy to turn him and his snoring over to you.” Harry smiled and glanced purposely at her belly. ‘Besides if I hadn’t stepped aside, I doubt there would be this little gift coming along so soon.”
Hermione blushed and a soft smile spread across her face, lighting her up. There was real joy in her eyes when she looked back at Harry. “We were hoping you’d be by for diner so we could ask you to be her godfather.”
Harry’s went wide. “Her? You know already?”
“Magic, Harry. We are thinking of calling her Rose Margaret.” She gazed at him shrewdly. “Hopefully her godfather approves…”
“Yeah.” Harry hesitatingly reached out to place a hand on her belly. “Yeah,” He replied in a more confident voice. “It’s perfect. Rose Margaret Weasley.”
Later That Evening, Harry Hart’s House
Harry looked down at the little card in his hand. He knew he had told Hermione he would be around more often, and he meant it. But this….this felt like adventure, and oh how he missed adventure. Running the bookshop had been nice at first, university had been nice at first, but eventually it just got boring. He didn’t know how to live like a normal person. His whole life had been fighting. Fighting to stay unnoticed. Fighting to earn any little scrap of affection he could. Fighting not to starve. Fighting to fit in. And finally, fighting to survive. He didn’t know how to be normal. He never had been allowed to be normal. He was the secret shame hidden under the stairs. He was the juvenile delinquent. He was The-Boy-Who-Lived. He was The-Defeater-Of-Voldemort.
He wanted to be normal for his friends. To settle down, run his bookshop, marry, have the standard 2.5 kids. Maybe a dog. He wanted to be that person for them, but, well…he had been living his life for everyone else since he was a baby. He wanted to be free to live his life for himself. He had thought he had that when he created Harry Hart. But he hadn’t really let himself become Harry Hart. Not truly.
Looking at that card, he knew he could be Harry Hart. Whatever the job was, because it certainly wasn’t being a tailor, it would be something more. Something better than what he was doing now. He could feel it in his bones. That part of him that had been sleeping since the last Death Eater was captured and kissed, was waking up again as he looked at that simple piece of paper.
Tracing a finger over the logo, Harry contemplated what his world had become. Licking his lips he flipped the card over, reading the delicately scrawled name and phone number on the back.
Shaking off any doubts he lifted his phone off the receiver and dialed the number, not surprised by the swift answer, or the soft cultured voice on the other end.
“I was expecting your call earlier, dear.”
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Kingsman Tailors, Saville Row, London
“I was expecting your call earlier, dear,” Victoria stated teasingly as she answered the phone in her office. She knew the moment she had seen the young man walking down the street two months ago that he was more than he appeared, that he was Kingsman material. Certainly not MI6 material though. She could see it in the way he had moved, in the way he talked, in the way he watched people. He wasn’t the kind to blindly follow the orders of someone else simply because they were higher ups. No, this young man, this Harry Hart, only followed the orders he wanted to, or that came from people he trusted.
There was a pause on the other end before the smooth voice she had come to recognize as belonging to Harry Hart, answered her. "Sorry to be late then, my dear lady."
Victoria's lips twitched up at the corners. "Forgiven, darling. Now, have you thought about the job?"
"I have. I think I'd like to give it a go, if the position is still open."
"Good." Victoria looked up as she caught sight of Cador coming to lean against the doorway of her office. "Come to the address on the card. Do be here promptly at 7:00 PM."
She set the phone down on the receiver with a gentle click and looked back up at the older agent. He was easily ten years her senior, not that he looked much more than five years older. She was not particularly fond of him as he had been Arthur's last nominee and was much like the head of Kingsman. An elitist, a misogynist, and a bigot.
“Whatever do you need, Cador?”
A vicious smirk stretched the man’s face, his hazel eyes sparkling with malice. “Was that your recruit for the Galahad position, Evaine?”
“It was.” She stood, brushing down her dress before moving from her settee to the hair behind her desk. “Now, was there an actual purpose to your visit?”
“Come now, Evaine. Must you be so unwelcoming?” He moved into the office even though she had not invited him him. He strode across the room to where she had been sitting only a moment before, picking up the delicate glass on the end table and filling it with a splash of merlot form the bottle next to it. Twirling it gently in his hands, he lifted the glass to his nose, sniffing at the delicate bouquet of the wine. Smirking at her, Cador spun the glass one more time until the delicate stain of her lipstick on the glass was lined up with his lips. Watching her scowl, he placed the glass to his lips and took a long drink of the wine. “This is nearly as pleasing a taste as yourself, my dear.”
“I am hardly your dear, and do try not to be crass as well as a liar.”
Ignoring her, he dropped into her abandoned seat. His navy blue suit was a shock of dark against the white and pale yellow fabric of the chair. “Arthur has asked for everyone presenting a candidate to bring him a dossier on the perspective candidate.”
“And he needed you to hand deliver the message? How quaint.”
Cador chuckled, and swallowed the rest of the wine in a single gulp. “I do hope your choice is better than last time. Young Gawain has set up a betting forum in the common. Current wagers suggest that Bors or Lamorak’s recruits will be the victor.”
Victoria smiled widely, flashing her pearly white’s in a manner that was far from friendly. “Only because they haven’t seen mine yet.”
Outside Kingsman Tailors, Saville Row, London
Harry stood across the street watching the tailor shop he had been told to come to. Despite it appearing actually be a tailors shop, Harry was still getting that tightening in his gut that told him what he was seeing wasn't what was actually there. At first he figured it must be some magical ward that was giving him that feeling, like the ones at platform 9 3/4, or around Grimuald Place. But none of the spells he had carefully cast to reveal such wards had shown anything out of the ordinary. There was a bit of magic on the shop to keep away vandals and drunks, but nothing else. At first that had worried him, that maybe this Victoria Winslow was actually a witch who had recognized him, but after a few more discreet spells Harry had realized that every building on the street had same wards. Something that didn't seem quite so odd once he really thought about it. It was one of the most famous and affluent shopping districts in London, so really it was likely that Gringotts had some business ties in the area, which would mean protection wards. And, of course, since the PM and the Queen both knew about the Wizarding World, they likely would have asked for something to keep out the riff raff as well.
Deciding to risk it, even though he could still feel eyes watching him, Harry confidently crossed the street and made his way up the steps and into the shop. Despite the sign in the door saying the shop was ‘closed’ for the evening, the door opened readily to his touch, a warm tingle of magic going up his arm from the handle. He stepped inside, pausing to look about the room he found himself in. The space was surprisingly small, but that could have been simply because he had almost expected to step inside a wizarding building which was larger inside than out. But the whole place was surprisingly Muggle. He could feel the slight tingle of ant-theft wards hovering over the tables of fabric samples, pre-cut suit samples, and silk ties. But other than that and the wards outside, there was no other sign of magic or a magical person working on the premises.
‘Fascinating,’ though Harry.
Once he started to think in Muggle terms again he realized the shop looked exactly as he would picture a high-end Muggle tailors shop to appear. Everything was neat and classic in it’s design and layout. He could have stepped back a century and the place likely would have looked much the same as it did now, just with different styles of clothes.
“Well, Mr. Hart, I am happy to see that you did in fact arrive exactly at 7:00 pm. And here I was given to understand that you were perpetually late.”
Harry turned around to face the sitting room off to his left, just beside the front door. It was decorated much the same as the main room, though for whatever reason, the ceiling was covered in deer antlers. A little creepy that.
The same lovely blond woman who had sat beside him at his graduation ceremony was lounging comfortably in a Victorian era couch, a glass of white wine in hand. He took in her neatly made image. Blond hair was perfectly style on the top of her head, a jeweled clip holding it in place and matching the splendor of the silk dress she worse. The bright blue of the dress was eye catching, and the shorter length drew ones eyes down her hips to the long legs that seemed to go on forever.
“A gentleman is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” Smiling Harry moved closer and took her hand, placing a light kiss above her knuckles. “I do make sure to be prompt for the important things, my dear.” Harry winked at her from above her hand.
She smiled widely at him and rose gracefully to her feet. “You do have some charm to you. That’s good. Now,” she picked up a white suit jacket, with bright blue pin-stripping that matched the color of her dress, “We should get you to where you need to be. Do follow me, my dear.”
With that she slipped her hand from Harry’s grasp and led the way to one of the dressing rooms he had noticed earlier. She opened the door and waved him inside with the hand still holding her glass of wine.
“You will like this part, I believe.”
With that said she placed her palm against the mirror in front of him, smirking as the floor beneath their feet lurched and began to sink. Harry’s eyes briefly went wide, and that part of him that had gotten thrills form moving staircases and reading James Bond books with Ron, squealed in delight.
“How far down does this go,” he asked a little breathless with anticipation.
“Far enough,” she replied.
The chamber at the bottom, once they reached it anyway, looked like any other tube station in London. At least until you noticed the steel tube-snapped monstrosity opposite the lift. Harry wasn’t particularly a fan of the tube as it was always over crowded and smelled of too many types of perfumes and BO, often leaving him with a migraine after getting off. But somehow he doubted he would have that problem with this train. He couldn’t see a secret spy organization, for that could only be what this whole business was, using public transport to get to their HQ. So that meant that when the doors slid open and they got on it would likely be just the two of them.
Hardly an unpleasant prospect.
“This is quite impressive. How did you manage to hid it being built,” Harry inquired.
“By 1919 a great many of the patrons of Kingsman Tailors had lost their heirs to World War 1. That meant a lot of money going un-inherited, and a lot of powerful men with a desire to preserve peace and protect life. Our founders realized they could channel that wealth into something for the greater good. And so began a rather exciting venture.” She smiled as she lead him towards the waiting train. “An independent, international, intelligence agency operating at the highest level of discretion and without the restrictions and red-tape that foul up so many government agencies.”
Harry stopped and looked at her seriously. “That only brings up many more questions than answers. And it didn’t answer my first question.”
“No, it didn’t. But is it a questions that you need to have answered in order to do what needs to be done?”
Harry scowled and then sighed gustily. “No, it doesn’t.”
“Then if you are ready,” she waved her hand towards the open door of the train.
Harry proceeded her in, all the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end at having her standing behind his unprotected back. Taking the first seat on the left, Harry waited for her to get in. She carefully sat herself in the rather masculine plaid covered seat opposite him, watching him intently as the door slid shut and the train shot forward like a bullet from a gun.
Harry’s hands gripped the arm rests tightly as they shot forward, his magic pulsing wildly under his skin. As used to fast speeds on a broom as he was, there was something unsettling about being in a speeding hunk of metal that didn’t appear to have a driver. After a minute he was able to force his body to relax, his magic tightly pulled back in. When he opened his eyes, which he hadn’t realized he had closed, he found Ms. Winslow watching him with an amused twist to her lips at the corners.
“You don’t like fast speeds, Mr. Hart?”
“Only if I’m not the one controlling them.” Harry swallowed and forced himself to relax even further. “How long will it take to get us where we are going?”
She smiled again. “If I told you that it wouldn’t be a surprise, now would it, my dear.”
45 Minutes Later, Somewhere Outside London
The lobby that the train exited at was very different from the first. There were no tile walls, just smooth cement. But the room itself was twice the size and at the far end was a series of three large windows overlooking a much larger room beyond. Drawn towards the windows, Harry ignored the fact that Ms. Winslow was once again watching him with a critical eye.
The room on the other side of the windows was massive. Easily as large as Kingscross Station, but entirely underground with Gothic inspired arched ceiling that looked like they belonged in a church, and decorative green metal lattice works stretching between the arches. But it was what was below the ceiling that really caught his attention. The room was filled with all manner of cars and planes. Some that looked as if they would blend in even in places like Surrey, and others that would stand out even on Saville Row. There were jet planes, gliders, helicopters, and more than a few planes that looked as if they had fought in World War II. It was amazing.
“Come now, Harry. There shall be more than enough time to view the good toys later,” she called from a doorway off to Harry’s right.
They made their way down several winding corridors, all of which were the same dull gray cement that had made the previous room look like a bunker. Here there were delicate panels of light all throughout the corridors as there were no windows about to let in natural light, and at the end of the corridor they had just turned down, a man in dark green jumper and pressed gray slacks stood waiting. He was tall and lean with curling brown hair, and wore a more masculine version of the same glasses that Ms. Winslow was wearing. In his hands was a rather basic looking wooden clipboard.
“Evaine, I was starting to think you might not have a prospective candidate for us this time.”
“Hello, Lamorak. As you can see I have brought a fine candidate today. How do the others look?”
Lamorak arched an eyebrow and tried valiantly to hold back a grin. “About the same as last time I would say.” He looked Harry over. “There are three that look as if they might stand a fighting chance at making it to the end.”
“Very well.” She turned back to Harry, running one hand carefully through his hair, straightening it back into place. “Good luck, my dear. Make me proud.”
With that said she turned and strode off back through the maze of corridors and out of sight.
Harry watched her leave and then turned back to face the man she had address as Lamorak. He seemed amused by Harry’s obvious once-over of himself. “In you go, lad.”
Shaking his head Harry turned and pushed the green metal doors open, stepping into what appeared to be a basic military barrack. There were eight steel-crammed beds, all twin sized and made up in the same white sheets and forest green wool blanket. At the far end of the room was what appeared to be a bathroom with a large mirror against the back wall. Harry winched as he realized it was open to the rest of the room and everyone would be able to watch each other bath and do their business.
Milling about near the bathroom were five young men about Harry’s age, maybe a little young for one or two of them. They all turned to face him as he walked in, one of them obviously looking Harry over and deciding that he was somehow lacking if the sneer on his lips was any indication. Harry ignored it as Malfoy had a much better look of disdain than this fellow could ever hope to mimic.
“Fall in,” came the deep voice of Lamorak.
Harry turned about to face him, unconsciously falling into place in a neat line with the other candidates as Lamorak approached them. The man excused confidence and authority as easily as he breathed and Harry found himself drawn towards the obvious control he carried himself with.
“Gentlemen, my name is Lamorak. You are about to embark on what is probably the most dangerous job interview in the world.” He looked them over, gaze lingering here and there as he inspected each of them. Mentally tallying up which candidates would make it, and how far they would go. “One of you, and only one of you, will become the next Galahad.”
He walked towards one of the beds, his eyes never leaving theirs as he reached down and picked up an item resting on the foot of the bed. “Can any of you tell me what this is?”
A couple of the candidates raised their hands, and one just behind Harry ducked down just a little as if he could hide himself from Lamorak’s gaze.
“Yes, Mr. Dunaid.”
“It’s a standard issue body bag, sir.”
“Correct, Mr. Dunaid.” Lamorak set the body bag back down on the bed. “When I am done addressing you, each of you will pick and bed and a body bag. You will write your name on the bag. You will write the details of your next of kin, on that bag.” He looked each of them in the eye, his gaze stern and penetrating. “This is your acknowledgement that you understand and accept the risks you are about to take. As well as your agreement to strict confidentiality. Which, incidentally, if you break will result in you and your next of kin being in that bag.”
The room went silent as he finished his speech. A couple of the other lads looking a bit green about the gills, Harry thought. But he had heard worse and expected worse from his life so far. He had died once already, had accepted Death as a close personal friend of sorts. This little scare tactic was pretty sad all thing considered. Though he supposed that those lads standing beside him who had lived sheltered, posh little lives, would find it all very wet-your-pants nerve wracking.
“Is that understood,” asked Lamorak. He waited a moment for anyone to answer, but no one did. “Most excellent. Fall out,” he stated as he turned and left them standing in the barracks.
Harry turned to his left and took the third bed from the door, setting himself lightly on the edge to watch the others nervously handle their body bags. Harry tried not to chuckle at the theatrics of the whole thing, and simply went about pulling the card out of the clear panel on the outside of the body bag. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the calligraphy pen Hermione had gotten him as a late graduation gift, and set about filling out the information. Pausing only on who to list as his next of kin.
“I’m Connor. Connor Dunaid,” introduced the boy sitting on the bed next to his.
Harry took the boys hand, shaking it. “Harry Hart.”
Connor was a handsome lad, maybe all of a year younger than Harry, with a strong jaw line, and dark brown hair that curled at the edges. Harry had to admit the lilting Scottish brogue the young man spoke in did things of an inappropriate nature to him.
“Do you think he was serious? About putting our next of kin in the body bags?”
“I suppose it all depends on the offense. But I do not think you should worry about that unless you plan break the rules and involve them.”
A snort of derision came from behind them. “Ach, does the poor wee laddie feel scared.”
Harry felt his fingers clench over his pen,and turned to glare at the other candidate. “Your accent is atrocious. Go bother someone else with it.”
The man, his hair a rather bland shad of brown which might have also been a dark shad of blond, turned a glare on Harry and stepped forward, only to be pulled to a halt by one of the other candidates.
“He was only teasing. If the little Scot can’t take it and needs you to stand up for him, then he doesn’t belong here. This is a dangerous job as Lamorak said.”
“His ‘teasing’ as you put it sounded an awful lot like bigotry to me. Perhaps he should keep from telling joke unless he knows they are funny.”
“Perhaps so.” The new candidate reached out for Harry’s hand. “I’m Digby. Edward Digby. This is Raymond Collards and Wilbur Wallace.”
Harry took their hands grudgingly. “Harry Hart. And this is Connor Dunaid.”
Harry carefully made mental marks against the other two lads as well when they refused to shake Connor’s hand. They quickly wander back to their beds once they realized that Harry wasn’t going to rise to their bait, and that Connor was seemingly following Harry’s lead. Waiting until they had left, Harry turned back to Connor.
“It’s just scare tactics. They are trying to weed out the unsuitable candidates as early as they can so they can focus their energy on the real potentials. You won’t die and neither will whoever you list on the bag.”
One of the lads, Collards Harry thought, chuckled from the other side of the room, drawing Connor’s attention to him again. “Just ignore them and do your best. That is all that can be asked of you.”
Connor nodded and went back to filling out his information for the body bag, a new look of determination in his eyes. Harry smiled at him and then picked his own form back up and putting in Hermione’s name. If he was wrong and they would try anything she would pick up on it faster than any of his other friends and would be gone before they ever got their chance at taking her out.
Harry finished his form and put it back, then moved the body bag onto the shelf above his bed. A reminder to himself and the others what they were risking by taking on this job. Opening the trunk at the foot of his bed Harry found a pair of cotton sleep pants and a matching button-up sleep shirt, seven pairs of clean white boxer-briefs, seven pairs of white socks, seven pairs of black socks, and a navy and green siren suit. Rolling his eyes at the choice of clothes, Harry quickly pulled out the pajamas, setting the on his bed.
“Did you want to shower before bed, Connor? Or do you think it would be better to wait until morning?”
Connor look to the other six boy in the room, most of whom were already undressing and taking places at the showers. “No. I’d rather wait until tomorrow. I bathed before I came here so I shouldna’ smell.”
“As did I. Then, we shall simply wait until tomorrow. Besides,” Harry whispered as he leaned closer to Connor with a conspiring grin, “I don’t like the looks of that bathroom. A wee bit too out in the open for my tastes.”
Connor chuckled and the two of them began the process of undressing and re-dressing in the provided pajamas. As they settled into bed, the room around them quieted as well. The other candidates for once silent as they finished their showers and crawled into bed as well.
2:00 AM; Kingsman Barracks
Waking to the cold caress of water lapping at your ribs was not a pleasant experience for Harry. He doubted that it was pleasant for any of the other candidates as well, based on the cries of alarm they were letting out. With his normal detached calm, Harry took in the way the water was seeming coming up from the floor. It had to be being pumped in.
‘Another test,’ Harry thought grimly. ‘Did they have to wake me after so little sleep for this?’
Looking over to Connor who was already out of his bed, unimpeded by the blankets, Harry followed his lead and took stock of their fellow candidates. Rigby, Collards, and Wallace were already up and detangling themselves from their blankets, panicked gazes locked onto the shower heads. One of the other boys was desperately trying to get out of his blankets, but only succeeding in getting himself more tightly wrapped up in them. The lad who had been in the bed next to him was struggling to try and help free him.
Realizing the Posh Princes weren’t going to be of any help, Harry quickly directed Connor to assist the other two candidates while he tried to check the door. Connor gave him a grim nod and swam over to the other side of the beds on their side closest to the bathroom where the two boys were struggling. Seeing that Connor had it in hand, and that the others were already shoving the shower tubes up the U-bend of the toilets for air, Harry gave them one last glare and swam towards the door.
Around him the water was rising faster and faster. There was only a few feet left before the water line would be at the ceiling, but he had to try. Wishing he had gillyweed, but settling for a silent, wandless spell that would allow him to hold his air longer, Harry swam towards the door, pushing against them with all his strength and nearly cursing as they refused to budge.
‘They locked us in, those bastards!’
Harry looked about the room again and found nothing that would allow him to force the doors open through Muggle means. Giving up o the doors he saw over to Connor, helping him and the other lad get the third over to the bathroom. Carefully as he could, he cast the same spell on them as he had on himself. It took only minutes to get them set up with a toilet snorkels but in that time the room had finally finished filling with water. Floating there in the water Harry contemplated his options. He knew the goal wasn’t for them all to die, so there had to be a way out of this other than to wait for Lamorak to decide they’d had enough.
His gaze moving about the room once more, Harry froze on the mirror. Something about it seeming off to him. He could…it was…
He could sense the life force of a person on the other side of the mirror, watching them. A two way mirror!
Swimming towards the mirror Harry gathered his magic into his legs, focusing on casting sticking charms to his feet and left hand. Planting his feet against the mirror, Harry placed his left hand there as well for greater purchase, then slammed his right fist against the mirror with all his strength. Pain flared up his arm but the glass refused to give way no matter how hard he struck it. Cursing in his head, Harry turned to look at the other recruits who were watching him wide-eyed.
With a grim determination that he hadn’t felt since he walked into the Forbidden Forest the last time, Harry swam back to his bed, rifling through his jacket pocket until he pulled out the nail kit Hermione had given him one year. A careful bit of transfiguration later an two of the items inside had been turned into lock pickets. He wouldn’t actually use them to pick the locks, but he needed to at least make it look like he was when he cast his spell.
Planting his feet against the door like he had with the mirror, Harry got to work putting the lock picks in place while silently screaming the spell in his head. ‘Alohomora!’
With a sudden, jarring, metallic screech the doors opened, flooding the corridors beyond with water and sending Harry spilling out with it. Gasping for air, he let the rush of water propel him through the corridors until it had thinned out enough for his body to coast to a stop. He lay there for several minutes just catching his breath before he picked up on the sound of footsteps sloshing through the remaining inch or two of water on the floor.
“Most impressive, Mr. Hart. In all my years here I’ve only heard of one other candidate being able to pick the lock on the door. And you managed to do it while directing your fellow candidates to help one another.”
Harry looked up at Lamorak, through bleary eyes, his chest still heaving for breath after being denied air for so long.
“You pass. Feel free to make your way to the medical wing once you are able.”
Harry glared at the man and flipped him the bird. “Don’ kno’ ‘ere it is, ‘ou ‘anker,” he gasped out.
“Well then,” Lamorak chuckled. “I guess Mr. Dunaid here should assist you with that.”
Connor stepped out from behind Lamorak, his soaked pajamas clinging to his long, lean body making Harry’s cock stir even though he felt like a half dead fish. “Wanker,” he cursed Lamorak one last time as the man, still dry, save for the bottoms of his shoes, strode off down the hall back towards the barracks.
Connor kneeled down next to him, a wide smiled on his face. “The four of us were the only ones to pass. Collards, Digby, and Wallace all got a rather impressive dressing down for their lack of teamwork.”
“Good,” wheezed Harry as Connor helped him to his feet. “They bloody well deserve it.”
“You don’t have to tell me that, Harry. I kenned it already.” Connor slung Harry’s wet, mostly limp, arm over his shoulder and headed off down one of the corridors going in the opposite direction of the barracks. “Now all we ‘ave to do is find the medical wing.”
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Training Day 2; 10:00 am
Harry glanced back around the corner again, carefully watching to see if anyone had noticed his escape. The hall was quiet however, none of the expected nurses or doctors were dashing out of the medical bay looking for him. So either they hadn't noticed him leave, highly doubtful, or Lamorak had already told them to ignore his departure. Considering this was a secret spy organization he was betting it was the latter option. The head doctor who had looked him over, an older man in his 60's perhaps, that the nurses had called Dindrane, didn't seem like the kind to miss fleeing patients. Despite him being a man, Dindrane reminded him very strongly of Poppy Pomfrey. Who had taught Harry early on that you did not fuck with the Healers unless you had a death wish.
Inching back around the corner Harry rested his back against the wall, closing his eyes and taking several deep breaths. Dindrane reminded him almost too much of Madam Pomfrey. It had almost brought tears to his eyes when he realized that the man was looking at him in much the same manner that Madam Pomfrey had the first time he had come to see her. Only his second day at Hogwarts in fact, when he had gotten violently ill from too much rich food. She had given him a look then that said she knew he was hiding something serious and that she would find it out. She had, of course. Madam Pomfrey had been the only one at Hogwarts who had really "seen" Harry that first year. At least at first. Now, being older and wiser, he was fairly certain Snape must have as well. Despite Snape's constant foul mouth he was always watching Harry, he always seemed to know where Harry was and what he had been up to. And since he was also the one responsible for making the school medical wing potions, he would have known about the nutrient potions, healing potions, growth potions, etc that Poppy had fair shoved down Harry's throat on a daily basis for six years.
And Dindrane reminded him of Poppy's determination to heal him, and Snape's uncanny perception. He was tall like Snape as well. Probably close to six foot five in fact, lean of build, with high sharp cheekbones and deep-set hazel eyes. There was none of the fake cruelty of Snape's gaze in his eyes though. Just a clear sense of purpose and determination, and a bit too much recognition to make Harry comfortable. There was something else as well, but Harry wasn't able to put his finger on it. Yet.
Shaking off any lingering worry about the retribution of Healers, Harry made his way through the maze of corridors, only getting lost once, but quickly finding his way once he caught a whiff of fresh cooked bread and French Onion Soup. For a rare moment he ignored his sense of self-preservation, which usually had him scanning every corner of every room, and simply charged into the dinning hall. There were several other people in the room, three in what looked like mechanics jumpers, four more in slacks and dress shirts, and one man in a full bespoke suit. None of his fellow trainees where in the room, and Harry worried that he wasn't supposed to be here, but none of the other people seemed to be bothered by his appearance. So he made his way to the back table where a massive steal pot was sitting by several round loaves of steaming french bread.
Lifting the lid on the pot, Harry groaned in delight, at the heady scent filling the air. He wasn't usually a fan of French Onion Soup, but this just smelled heavenly. He was practically drooling as he turned towards the bread, pleased to see it had been cooked and already carved into delightful bread-bowls in which he could pour his soup. Grabbing the largest of the bread bowls, Harry made quick work of filling it with the steaming soup. Setting the now full bread bowl onto one of the delicate china plates next to pot, Harry picked up another small bowl filled with cut up bits of melon, and set it on the tray next to his soup. Gazing down at his prize, he hardly looked up as he wove his way through the maze of tables and chairs, to one seated in a corner near the big fireplace.
He ate slowly, savoring his food in a manner he hadn't been allowed to do as a child. Subsisting on buttered bread, water, and slightly molding fruits and vegetables, for ten years had made him a far less picky eater than some of his fellow Gryffindors. He would eat pretty much anything put in front of him, though he had to admit corned beef and cabbage was one of the few things he couldn't stomach. Mostly because of the stench of it. And if he was being honest with himself, he hadn't really expected food that looked and smelled this good when he took Ms. Winslow's job offer. After the barracks he was starting to think they'd be living off of MREs for the duration of training. Though, since he couldn't spot any of his fellow trainees, he supposed they might just be. After all, the only people eating in the dinning hall right now all appeared to be support staff, save for the man in the other corner in the rather expensive bespoke suite. Harry wasn't about to get up and ask any of them if he could eat in here though. He wasn't stupid enough to risk that he wasn't, and have them take away some of the best soup he'd eaten since being at Hogwarts. No. He was going to sit quietly and enjoy his meal, hopefully being allowed to sneak out when he was done, and return to looking for his fellow trainees.
"Hello there," came the rolling voice of the man in the fine suit, who had somehow snuck up on him. "You're one of the new trainees."
Harry nodded, not willing to speak around a mouthful of food after years of Hermione's harping at Ron.
"Well met then," he stuck his hand out, shaking Harry's enthusiastically. "I saw the feed of you lads taking the water test last night. Bugger of a test, that one. Hated it myself you know. We lost one. Drowned before the water could empty out."
Harry swallowed thickly and thought back about how he had told Conner no one was going to die in the tests. "That's not good."
"No. But he was a bit of a berk, so it wasn't a great loss." The man smiled again, a strange glint in his gaze as he inched his chair closer to Harry's. "That was some smooth work picking the lock. I didn't think anyone could pick one of Merlin's locks."
"Thank you," Harry replied, suddenly wary.
The other man waived his thanks off. "I heard that you are Victoria's candidate? She found you in London, right?"
"She is and she did," replied Harry. Watching the man Harry couldn't help but wonder if this was another test. Perhaps to see what "secrets" he might spill in a relaxed setting. "And yourself? Did you propose a candidate?"
The other man grinned and inched even closer. "Nope. Not this time."
"But you have before?"
"In the last round. Mine won of course."
"Of course," Harry arched an eyebrow at him. "You must be quite good at this, then."
"One of the best, of course. I couldn't have snagged Feirefiz, if I wasn't."
"Really," Harry inquired. The man's face had become highly animated at the mention of Feirefiz, and Harry couldn't help but wonder why.
"She is one of the best you. Used to work for the Japanese." He leaned in close to Harry, his gaze flicking about the room as if looking for any spying eyes or ears. "I've got a picture if you want to see."
Harry tilted his head ever so slightly, and widened his eyes. "Of course."
The man smiled again and quickly pulled a slim leather case, almost like a wallet, out of his inside breast pocket. "We aren't supposed to keep things like this. It's a liability you know. But how could I not keep them with me when I'm not on a mission.”
He flipped it open revealing several pictures of a highly attractive Japanese woman. In one she was dressed in a decorative kimono, standing under a Sakura tree, it's pink flow petals raining down about her while she looked out of the picture with a piercing black gaze. In another she appeared to be in a slinky evening gown, her hair pulled up and decorated with a pearl beaded hair clip. A third image showed her in a black "cat suite" style outfit that hugged her body. She had a head wound that had dripped thick red blood down the side of her face and was holding a gleaming katana whose edge was stained red. In the last picture she was lounging on a couch, glaring at whoever took the picture, her stomach heavy with child and covered in what looked to be cheese-puffs and hobnobs.
"She's important to you?"
The man grinned again, wider this time, and full of teeth that should not have seemed so threatening as they did. "She almost killed me four times now. Came close to running me though the heart on one of those swords once, even." He sighed and Harry was suddenly, terrifyingly, reminded of Lavender Brown mooning over Ron during their sixth year. "I got her to leave Japan though."
"She was your candidate? The one who won."
"My wife now too." He flipped the pictures over and showed Harry the grainy print out of a sonogram. "This is going to be our baby. A little girl! She's due next month and she's going to be perfect!"
"Gawain," shouted Lamorak from the doorway. "Stop cornering my trainees and torturing them with your horrid love stories! You were supposed to be at the training field an hour ago!"
Harry jumped in his seat, leaning away from the now identified Gawain as Lamorak stormed towards them.
"Oh, pish-posh, Lami. I wasn't bothering the lad."
Lamorak arched a thick eye-brow and looked over at Harry, who gave him a pleading gaze for assistance. Which seemed the better option than admit he had encouraged the agent named Gawain, to chat away when he was required elsewhere.
"Do not call me 'Lami,' Gawain. You know I'll hurt you if you do."
Gawain stuck his tongue out at Lamorak, but did get up from his chair. He tugged his suite jacket back into place before sliding his chair back into place by the table. "Why must you always be so boring?" Gawain sighed dramatically. "Well, Victoria's lad, we had best get out to the training field.”
“We,” asked Harry.
Lamorak glared at Gawain out of the corner of his eye. “It’s time to test your physical capabilities. And unfortunately for all of us, Gawain is one of the best agents we have to do that.”
Harry winced, but said nothing as he stood up, leaving his dirty dishes on the designated table, before following the two agents out of the dinning room. He was a little worried about this test as the only other time anyone had made him do a fitness test was when he joined the Quidditch team his first year. If all fitness tests were like the one Oliver put him through then he wasn't sure he wanted to do this one. He had the feeling that a fitness test to be a secret agent was worse than anything Oliver could get Professor McGonagall to approve. Which meant this was going to be stressful, exhausting, and painful.
"Harry," Lamorak called for what must have been the third time.
"Sorry," Harry apologized as he realized he had not been paying attention.
"Return to the barracks and get into the siren suite in your trunk. You'll need to wear it every time we do training. You have ten minutes to change and then meet Gawain back here."
"Yes sir." Harry gave a quick nod to the two of them before turning around and sprinting back down the hall in the direction that should lead to the barracks. He wasn't 100% sure of the layout yet, but he could still get there easily enough. This place wasn't nearly as complicated to move around as Hogwarts was. After all there were no vanishing rooms or corridors, no moving staircases, and no corridors to nowhere. Smirking at this realization Harry dodged around a young man carrying a rather large box of metal scrapes, and took the first left corridor which brought him to the stairs. It would be another three floors down and, if he was right, another left then three rights before he made it to the training barracks.
Practically jumping from flight to flight in the empty stairwell, Harry paused to consider if he should just apparate to the room. It would be the fastest option but there was a risk someone had cameras in the stairwell and corridors that would catch it. Plus it felt a bit like cheating.
'Cheating is only cheating if someone finds out,' whispered the Slytherin part of his brain. 'You are training to be a spy. Cheating is part and parcel of that training.'
Quickly looking about the stairwell for any hidden cameras, Harry sighed when he realized that the cameras were all in the corners facing the doors. If he went door one more level so he was between floors he would be out of view of the cameras and could safely apparate. He remembered one blind spot in the corridor where the barracks was located. He could apparate there and it would simply appear that he had found a way to bypass the cameras. Of course that wouldn't account for the amount of time it should have taken to get from the stairs to the room. But if he arrived and then ran like mad, it would seem that he had run the entire way. That could work he supposed.
Glancing around once more, Harry made his way to the blind spot in the stairwell and with a nearly silent CRACK he vanished. A heartbeat later he arrived with another nearly silent CRACK... Glancing about he noticed a young woman exiting their barracks, she had a small box in her arms, that based on the way she was moving was either very light or very empty. Curious Harry waited for her to leave before running towards the room, making an effort to look as if he was panting from the run. A silent spell later and he was now in the know that Lamorak had had bugs installed in the room. One carefully concealed above each bed. Pretending not to notice anything different Harry yanked off the green hospital scrubs he had been wearing, leaving them on the foot of his bed, and pulled on underwear and socks before attempting to get into the jumpsuit. Honestly, he couldn't believe they were making him wear something so ugly. Maybe it was something traditional because of the PM preferring them back in the day, but that was generations ago.
Winching at the fact the siren suite was at least four inches too long, Harry took the time to roll up the hems before pulling on his boots. All told it took four minutes to get ready. Which still gave him three minutes to apparate back to the stairwell and get outside. Running back out the door, Harry swung around the corner into the blind spot, apparating as he went. He nearly crashed into the young woman he saw before as he appeared in the stairwell and swung himself up the flight of stairs. The young woman dropped her box, shrieking as they nearly collided. With the skills he had perfected over the years as the Gryffindor Seeker, he caught her box, caught her by the waist, and swung them both back onto the landing so that neither of them risked falling over the edge.
"Sorry about that, Miss." With a charming grin, Harry dropped the box back into her hands, kissed her knuckles, and ran back up the stairs, never noticing the delighted sigh that escaped the young woman as she watched him dart away.
He sprinted the remaining 100 feet to the door where Gawain was waiting for him. As he skid to a stop beside the older agent, Harry took several deep breaths to try and calm his beating heart. Gawain glanced down at his gold watch, smiling widely at Harry.
"Well done, VB! You still had a full minute to spare." He looked Harry over. "You must have been running pretty hard, but you still managed to get dressed properly and arrived looking as if you hadn't strained yourself. Very well done!"
Gawain slapped Harry on the back hard enough to knock him forward a step. "Thank you, sir."
"None of that 'sir' stuff, VB. Just call me Gawain."
"As you wish," Harry replied as Gawain tugged him out the door and down the gravel path leading behind the house. As he was tugged along Harry silently wondered why he was being called VB of all things. He was so focused on why he was getting nicknames and trying to figure out if Gawain was testing him again, when they came to a stop next to Lamorak and the other trainees.
"Well," Lamorak looked down at his watch and then back up at Harry. "Not a bad time, Mr. Hart. Now get in line with the others."
Relieved to be able to gently tug his arm out of Gawain's grip, Harry walked past Lamorak and came to a stop next to Connor. He drew himself up straight, pulled back his shoulder, and moved his hands behinds his back so they came to rest gripped together at the small of his back. Connor noted his movements and quickly copied them, ignoring the way the Terrible Trio giggled under their breath at Connor's copying Harry's pose. Harry gave Connor a quick wink from the corner of his eyes as Lamorak and Gawain came to attention before them.
“Today,” began Lamorak. “We will be testing your physical capabilities and limitations to determine what we will need to work on to get you all up to snuff.”
Lamorak stared down each of them, hardly blinking. Harry could hear a couple of the others swallowing thickly, but he didn’t risk looking to see who it was. He kept his focus straight ahead and waited for Lamorak to meet his gaze. The man was intimidating in his own way given that he held their futures in his hand, but Harry didn’t look away. He had stared down more terrifying men before, men who could torture him into madness with a flick of the wrist, or kill him with a single word. A single man with a clipboard, even one trained as a spy/assassin, wasn’t all that scary after that. Besides Harry had accepted he wouldn’t live as long as his friends when he twelve years old.
“This is Gawain,” Lamorak tilted his head towards the smirking man, who gave them all a wide, manic smile. “He will be in charge of testing you today and of continuing your physical conditioning throughout the rest of your training. You will do whatever he commands without complaint.”
Harry felt the nerve by his eye twitch and tried to ignore the feeling in the pit of his stomach that was twisting about inside like a drunk snake. Gawain gave them a jaunty little wave and practically skipped closer to them, making Collards and Wallace shuffle nervously until Digby gave them a glare.
“You’re in the springtime of your youth,” Gawain called out cheerfully. “So this shan't be too bad, gents. We’ll start with push ups. As many as you can do in a two minutes.”
Harry watched for a second and when Gawain didn’t continue immediately, he dropped to the ground and got in position, waiting for Gawain to call out a start. Connor and the two boys they had saved last night, Martins and Everson, followed his example quickly enough, but the other three looked between the dirt path they were on and their clean siren suites. Lamorak arched an eyebrow at them and Gawain’s smile got broader as he watched them hesitate, his eyes glittering dangerously.
"It is push up now lads, or twenty laps around the compound," Gawain stated with a wide grin.
Something told Harry that if they chose the twenty laps they were going to regret it. Gawain reminded him a little bit of Mad Eye with that look in his eyes. Harry had learned quickly to trust his instincts and they said not to tempt fate where Gawain and their fitness was concerned.
The Posh Princes seemed to have at least a little sense of self preservation because they dropped to the ground pretty fast at the threat of twenty laps. Not that he blamed him. Twenty laps around the Kingsman compound had to be close to nine miles in distance. Not something these lads likely did on a regular basis.
“Alright,” Gawain cried cheerfully and pumped his fist in the air. “Time starts now!”
Harry took a deep breath and followed orders. It wasn’t the easiest thing. He was hardly unfit, but most of his strength was in his legs. He was fast and agile from years running from his cousin, from Death Eaters, and from years of Quidditch training. He had never really had to work on his upper body strength and as the seconds passed and the ache in his arms got worse, Harry realized he was going to be forced to address that lack if he wanted to become the next Galahad.
He risked glancing at Connor from the corner of his eye and nearly let himself stop moving when he saw exactly how fast the Scot was going. Harry had never seen anyone move so fast and steadily. Each movement was smooth and flawless as he Connor was so used to doing it that he didn’t have to consciously direct his body movements any longer. Harry’s arms trembled more and more, until he was struggling to go to the ground without completely collapsing into the dirt. His heart was thundering in his chest as if he had just spent ten hours doing Oliver’s Quidditch routes in the freezing Scottish winter air.
“Time,” Gawain yelled.
With six long moans, the group of seven trainees collapsed to the ground. Harry closed his eyes and concentrated on breathing in and out, in slow, careful breaths. He could hear the others doing the same around him and Gawain whispering to Lamorak from a few feet away. He could feel the wind tugging at his hair. Opening his eyes, he rolled onto his back, stretching out.
“Not bad, lads! We’ve got lots to work on.” Gawain strode towards them. “This shall be great fun!”
“Gawain,” scolded Lamorak.
Gawain tossed the other Kingsman a cheeky grin, bouncing on his feet. “Connor Dunaid…50 push-ups. Excellently done! You are truly full of the spirit of youth!”
Lamorak coughed, glaring at Gawain.
“Edward Digby…43 push-ups. Wilbur Wallace…Markus Martins…42 push-ups. The four of you have done excellently. Your new goal shall be to reach 100 push-ups in two minutes.”
The four boys groaned and looked pleadingly at Lamorak.
“One hundred is the average number that American Navy SEALs need in order to qualify for BUD/s training. Eventually all of you will need to reach that number. You will have two months to reach that number before the first of the fitness tests. If you cannot reach them by that time,” Lamorak arched an eyebrow and let his voice trail off.
“Alexander Everson, Raymond Collards, and Harry Hart…The four of you did not reach the minimum required push-ups. Every morning you will need to be up and out here by 5:00 am where I shall be meeting you to monitor your progress. You will have two weeks to meet the minimum required push-ups, which is 42 in two minutes.” Gawain grinned widely. “You are all my youthful students and you shall not fail me!”
Harry closed his eyes and groaned along with the others.
“Don’t be starting that now! We haven’t finished yet,” chirped Gawain cheerfully. “We still have to test you on sit-ups!”
Harry silently cursed them both, and himself, for agreeing to come here and do this. He didn’t know what had possessed him. He wasn’t a Muggle. He was a wizard and wizards were not exactly the fittest bunch. Just because he was bored without someone to chase down, or someone trying to kill him…
“Up! Come on, lads!” Gawain strode over to them, tugging at each of them one-by-one until they were all sitting up in the dirt, looking at him with tired hateful eyes. "Don't look so lack luster. You are in the springtime of youth! You should be full of boundless energy and enthusiasm!!"
Harry sighed and assumed the position needed. Gawain grinned at him and strode over, standing over Harry from down by his feet, making Harry strain to keep him in view while he was flat on his back. All of Harry's instincts were screaming at him to kick the man in the groin, and dart of out his reach. As if a large predator was getting ready to pounce on him. As his eyes meet the Kingsman''s gaze he realized that the older man could sense Harry's unease and tell that Harry was already calculating the risk versus rewards of lashing out or remaining in place.
A wide grin stretched across Gawain's face and before Harry knew what was happening the man had dropped to his knees and sat astride Harry's feet, his hand holding Harry's legs in place.
"Alright lads," Gawain said looking away from Harry and at the other candidates. "Pair up. One of you assume the same position as Hart here, and the other my own. You have two minutes to do as many sit-up as you can. Then you can take a one minutes break and change positions with your partner. After this test you will all have half an hour of free time to shower and change before getting lunch. After lunch you will meet back here in your siren suits and we will see just how many pull ups you can do before you do your first mile and a half run."
The others all groaned loudly, but complied.
Connor got on the ground next to Harry, Markus Martins dropping down to hold his knees in place. Beside them the other lads did the same, partnering up with the candidate to their right. Once they had all. Gotten settle Lamorak blew his whistle and called for them to start.
Harry was still sore from all the push-ups, but was also grateful that they were doing the sit-ups now and not the pull-ups. Sit-ups at least used the abdominal muscles, which he had enough of after years of Quidditch, that he should be able to do better than he had on the previous test. He wasn't sure if he would be able to do enough to satisfy Lamorak and Gawain, but he was damn well going to give it his all. He wasn't going to lose this opportunity to just any old Muggle. Not after leading a Resistance and taking down Death Eaters and the fucking Dark Lord! He was Harry Fucking Potter! He had already fucking died for Merlin's sake. He had gotten himself a new life, a new chance at being something great that didn't rely on his Mother's sacrifice!! He would not waste this chance!
Gawain smiled to himself at the look of fire in young Mr. Hart's eyes. The young man was certainly giving it his all and Gawain could respect that. Any Kingsman worth having fought to do their very best at every opportunity. He wouldn't accept anyone half-assing it and thinking that was good enough. As a Kingsman that kind of attitude meant you wouldn't last long. You needed to bring your A game at every turn or else you might find yourself in a body bag after all.
4 Hours Later; Kingsman Barracks
Harry stumbled into the barracks, Connor right behind him. Every muscle ached in a way it hadn't before. Gawain was a mad man! Wallace had said something like the racist smartass he was, and in response Gawain had made them all run an extra mile and half. Now running was the only thing he was currently tops at among the candidates, other than the water test. But even Harry had a hard time with a 3 mile run after all those push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups. It was a lot of exercise for someone who spent most of their time finishing up an education and sitting behind the counter of his bookshop. It made him grateful for all the years of Harry Hunting, Oliver's fanatic training for Quidditch, and unexpectedly, for the year on the run from Death Eaters. As he stumbled over to his bunk, Harry was suddenly certain this wouldn't be the last time he was grateful for those things.
"Wha-" he mumbled as he caught sight of the wall behind his bed. "What the bloody-"
"They posted our ranking," Connor stated before Harry could finish speaking.
Harry glared up at the screen, which he now realized had been a camouflaged computer screen. The monitor screen had his name listed at the top followed by a list of his ranking for each test so far and if it was considered passing or not.
Water Test - 1st Place, Passed
Push-Ups - 6th Place, Fail
Sit-Ups - 3rd Place, Passed
Pull-Ups - 5th Place, Failed
3 Mile Run - 1st Place, Passed
Average - Passing
Harry glanced over at Connor's screen reading it before looking at all the others.
Water Test - 2nd Place, Passed
Push-Ups - 1st Place, Passed
Sit-Ups - 2nd Place, Passed
Pull-Ups - 1st Place, Passed
3 Mile Run - 3rd Place, Passed
Average - Passing
Water Test - 3rd Place, Passed
Push-Ups - 3rd Place, Passed
Sit-Ups - 4th Place, Failed
Pull-Ups - 2nd Place, Passed
3 Mile Run - 4th Place, Passed
Average - Passing
Water Test - 4th Place, Passed
Push-Ups - 4th Place, Failed
Sit-Ups - 5th Place, Failed
Pull-Ups - 4th Place, Failed
3 Mile Run - 2nd Place, Passed
Average - Failing
Harry was glad that Connor and Markus were passing, but he was worried about Alexander. The lad needed to physically improve his skill set, obviously, but he had the right mentality to work well in a group, and Harry doubted all the Kingsman missions were solo missions. Hopefully the lad would last because Harry wasn't liking the thought that it would come down to hm and the bullies. Though he supposed Connor was going to be there until the end as well, which was good. Still, Harry took the time to look over the bullies scores before collapsing into his bunk.
Water Test - 5th Place, Failed
Push-Ups - 2nd Place, Passed
Sit-Ups - 1st Place, Passed
Pull-Ups - 3rd Place, Passed
3 Mile Run - 5th Place, Failed
Average - Passing
Water Test - 5th Place, Failed
Push-Ups - 3rd Place, Passed
Sit-Ups - 4th Place, Failed
Pull-Ups - 3rd Place, Passed
3 Mile Run - 6th Place, Failed
Average - Failing
Water Test - 6th Place, Failed
Push-Ups - 5th Place, Failed
Sit-Ups - 6th Place, Failed
Pull-Ups - 6th Place, Failed
3 Mile Run - 4th Place, Passed
Average - Failing
Three failing so far. Harry wondered how long that would last and if they would be kicked out right now, or kept for a while longer to see if their scores would go up. It would be better for him if they were let go now, but Harry doubted that was going to happen. Somehow he got the opinion that Lamorak and Gawain were going to let them settle in a little more, push them a little harder, before deciding if they were going to work or not. He supposed that was only fair to those failing, and it wasn't like he was all that far off from failing either. If he hadn't done as many sit-ups as he had, then he would have been one of those on the Fail list.
A little depressed because he had thought he would have an easier time of this after talking down Voldemort and his terrorist groupies, Harry collapsed onto his bed. "That sucked."
Connor, who was standing by his bunk, back to Harry, chuckled. "It'll get better. This was likely. Just to test to see where we were at and what we'd need improvement on to really begin training it'll only get harder from here on in, so cheer up."
"That doesn't cheer me up, mate."
Connor laughed aloud and went back to folding his clothes and changing into his sweats and tee shirt. "You just going to lay there, or are you going to go do laundry with me?"
Harry paused to consider it. Clean his clothes of the sweat now and ache a little longer, or rest now and be horribly stinky tomorrow?
Sighing dramatically, Harry sat up. "Alright. Bugger it, I'm getting up."
"Good man. It's ripe enough in here without us adding to the problem."
The two of them finished changing into the sweats that had been provided for lounging, before heading out of the barracks. They were joined almost immediately by Markus and Alexander, neither of whom wanted to be left behind with Digby, Wallace, and Collards. Not that Harry blamed them. The Posh Princes were worse than Draco Malfoy on his best day. Something Harry had thought impossible for the longest time.
The four of them spoke quietly as they made their way through the maze of corridors. None of them had the faintest idea where it was as Lamorak hadn't seen fit to tell them, something Harry guessed was another test. Still, they walked confidently through the halls as if they knew exactly where to go. Harry had learned long ago that if you acted like you were supposed to be there, most people ignored you. It was probably a little different in the headquarters of a secret spy organization, but it was still the best plan.
The others agreed.
After three wrong turns and one door that opened onto a scene all of them wished to bleach from their brains, they finally found the laundry. It was a massive affair and they all stood there stunned in disbelief for a while. It looked like a professional dry cleaners with clothes zipping by above them on automated metal rails, and all around them were mixtures of normal household washers and driers, and the more massive ones used by major hotels world wide.
"Bloody buggering hell," whispered Alexander. "What are we supposed to do now?"
"We could ask," Connor replied in a confused tone of voice.
Harry sighed. "Have none of you done your own laundry before?"
The other three turned to look at Harry shocked.
Markus grabbed Harry by the shoulders, spinning him around. "You have?"
Harry glanced down at the pile of Markus' dirty clothes, and then up at the other three. "Of course I have. It's not all that difficult really."
"Show us," they cried out, Markus actually shaking Harry in his enthusiasm.
"Alright! Merlin's balls. Calm down."
Markus blushed and let him go, allowing Harry to tug his clothes back in place. Not far away Harry caught sight of someone else, an older woman, watching them with an amused grin. She caught Harry looking and gave him a slight nod towards a path between the washers. Taking the unspoken advice he picked up Markus' clothes, handing them to the other candidate, and then led them through the maze of machinery, down the small path. At the end of the path was a wall with a bland wooden door. On the door was an old bronze plate that clearly read 'Trainee Laundry.'
Turning the knob, Harry stepped inside, the others right behind him. He casually reached out and ran his fingers over the wall to the left of the doorway until he found the light switch. One eyebrow went up when it made a loud click, as he flipped the heavy switch into the 'on' position. Glancing at it, he realized it was a turn-of-the-century style light switch. Suddenly feeling nervous about the rest of the room, Harry glanced about and relaxed as he noticed the rest of the room had been modernized. The wall opposite them had ten stacked washer-dryer units with the front facing doors. The wall on the right hand side had a ceiling high shelving unit stacked with detergent, fabric softener, bleach, and dryer sheets. The wall on their left had a built in cupboard that if he had to guess, had the irons and ironing boards stored inside.
"Alright, lad," Harry clapped his hands together and turned to face the other three young men, ignoring the hidden cameras in all four corners of the room. "I will be instructing you in the proper technique of washing high end fabric such as what our siren suits are made of. So pay close attention I don't want to have to repeat myself."
Elsewhere in the Kingsman HQ
"Oh he is good," Bors chortled.
Cador scoffed and crossed his arms over his chest, looking away from the numerous screens that his fellow Kingsman agents had been watching. The annual betting pool had started yesterday and everyone was eager to make wagers on just about everything the cadets did. From who passed what test and by how much, who found the hidden passages first, who had the best shooting scores, who spotted the hidden cameras first, to even who picked which puppy.
So far Evaine had won the bet for the water test, the 3 mile run, and who spotted the cameras. Bedivere had won most of the fitness challenges, and Dagonet had won who would get punished by Gawain first.
Cador hated this part of training the new recruits. It was like the rest of Kingsman lost all civility and turned into street trash. Gambling when they should be focusing on their next missions. When he became Arthur after Chester died, he was going to make sure trash like Hart and Dunaid never even got the chance for training.
Training Day 5; 6:00 am
Harry cursed himself for what felt like the millionth time. His whole body ached. Even his hair ached. Gawain was a mad man! Even Oliver would cringe at the training regimen that Gawain had set up for each of them. Each trainee had a customized two hour training schedule to improve the areas they were failing in, but they also had group training on top for that for three hours every day. Then they were given a lunch break and time for a brief rest, then they were put back into Gawain's tender mercies for another three hours. Harry had never run so much, and pushed himself so hard before. Not to get away from Harry Hunting, or even from the Death Eaters! Every part of him hurt in new and more interesting ways each day. It was madnesses pure and simple.
Harry collapsed into the dewy grass of the back lawn, ignoring the way the perfectly trimmed grass tickled the back of his neck, and allowed himself a five minute breather before Gawain snuck up on him from wherever he was hiding to watch the others. The man was crazy good at his job as a spy, at least based on what Harry had seen so far. Short of having one of Mad Eyes magical eyes, Harry didn't think he would ever be able to spot the man if he didn't want to be found. Which said a lot for his skill considering he couldn't shut up for more than two minutes at a time. He had also apparently managed to master a skill that Harry previously thought only Professor Dumbledore had. The ability to act, or dress, like a mental ward patient without making everyone nearby fear for their lives upon first contact. Somehow, he managed to pull off the appearance of being an eccentric rich uncle, or on a really rare occasion, the appearance of a bored minor nobel.
Harry cracked one eye open, casting a quick look around him in case Gawain had started his stealthy approach. Fortunately the older agent was nowhere to be seen. Relaxing a bit more Harry quickly whispered a spell to relax his aching muscles and temporarily allow him to speed up the recovery of strained muscles. It was an unfair advantage, but Harry wasn’t fool enough to not use any advantage he had over the others. According to Lamorak and Gawain this series of physical training would go on for two months before they even started on the main training for being a Kingsman. Once those two months were up, they were all apparently ‘fair game’ as far as their Trainers were concerned. Harry worried slightly from time to time that he wouldn’t be able to get his strength up fast enough to please Gawain. Of course he also worried that he would, only to fail at whatever other tests they had planned for after this.
It was a scary prospect. Failing. The last time he had feared something this much, it was during the war, and even then he had only worried that he would fail his friends. He had never worried about failing himself, only failing others. Now, well, now he worried about failing himself. It was a strange thing. The ability to have the freedman to worry about failing himself. It somehow made all this effort worth it. While at the same time making it all the more frightening because he could only blame himself if he failed.
He closed his eyes for a second and took a deep breath, slowly releasing it before repeating it thrice more. Once his heart rate had dropped back to something closer to normal he stood up, brushed the grass off his ass, and looked around. Gawain was still nowhere to be seen, but he could see one of the hidden CCTV cameras of Merlin's watching him. Not that he had to look in that direction to know he was being watched. Harry had taken to using the Homenum Revelio spell anytime he left the trainee bunks. It was good practice, and it let him have the upper hand any time a surprise inspection of their skills might happen. He had realized quickly enough that Lamorak and Gawain were prone to doing secret tests of their skills in things such as observation, intelligence gathering, mental mapping, and other priority skills any good 007 wannabe should have.
The downside with the spell was the pain prolonged use put on him. Sure it allowed him to have a 360 degree view and it allowed him to see through solid matter, both handy skills for a spy in training. But the near crippling migraines made it a spell Harry had to use sparingly. He had also started to notice a few other quirks caused by the spell, though none of them hurt his chances at becoming the next Galahad.
“Would you look at this Culwch? One of the trainees is laying about,” came a smooth, sultry voice from behind him.
Harry flinched and cast a quick Homenum Revelio but there was no one around him. Carefully looking around from beneath his lashes, Harry looked to see if he had missed any of Merlin’s hidden cameras, but there were none.
“Trainees these days,” came a second voice, smoother and more cultured than the first. “When we were trainees things were better.”
There was a snort from the first voice. “Come off it, Culwch. I remember finding ways to skeeve off every now and then. I seem to remember hearing stories about your class catching the old Bruin and Merlin and posting pictures of them in the showers all over the building.”
“We did no such thing, Galahad!”
Harry blinked his eyes open, snapping to attention and turning towards the voice. Behind him two nearly translucent forms were standing. Both were dressed in a standard issue Kingsman suit, and one, the taller of the two, was leaning on the handle of his umbrella. Neither seemed to have noticed him watching them yet, too involved in their argument.
“-What about the time with the pink dye, molasses, and the chicken feathers.”
“Galahad,” scold the older, shorter male.
Suddenly Harry realized he was looking at the ghost of the agent he was trying to replace, and the ghost of another dead agent. “Merlin’s balls,” Harry whispered.
The two ghosts froze and turned to look at him, the shock on their faces even more apparent than it was on Harry’s own. The three of them stared at each other for a long time, before the two knights looked back at each other, then lunged towards Harry. Their ghostly hands grabbed at his shoulders, pulling him towards them.
“You can see us,” the one called Galahad exclaimed.
“I…Yes,” Harry said a little confused by the fact that he could actually feel the grip of the ghosts hands on him, rather than them passing through him like a cold wind.
“Oh Lord,” muttered Culwch. “You can actually see us.”
“Yes,” Harry said again, glancing down at the hands still desperately clutching at his arms and shoulders.
“You already said that,” stated Harry, feeling a little calmer as the time went on.
“Sassy little minx, isn’t he, Culwch,” Galahad chuckled.
“What does this mean,” Culwch asked.
The one called Galahad looked him over with a strangely penetrating eye. “You think he’s one of the Oberon’s CFAD agents?”
Culwch seemed to think it over. Neither had been aware of just what made the CFAD agents different, not that any of the knights knew who among them was a CFAD agent, or who Oberon was. The department and it’s Head had been more rumor and legend than fact when they were alive. It was only after they died that they were able to sort out that the department was real, and just why those knights were a part of it.
“Must be if he can see us.” Culwch circled him, looking him over. “He doesn’t look like much. Bit small. Could use a bit more meat on his bones.”
Harry glared at the ghost drawing himself up to his full height. “I am not that short. I’m six feet tall, thank you very much.”
The one called Galahad chuckled. “Like I said, sassy little minx.”
Culwch snorted. “As every Galahad as far back as the beginning seemed to be. I suppose this means he’s the likeliest candidate to win.”
Galahad laughed. “If he can make the physical requirements.” He winked at Harry.
Harry scowled and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m gonna make it.”
“Determination. You’re gonna need that to make it to the end once the real training begins,” Culwch stated.
“And skill. Hopefully you’re a good enough soldier,” Galahad commented.
“I’m not a soldier.”
“Oh,” Galahad commented. “Well, that might count against you if you’ve not got the proper mentality or skills of a combat and infiltration solider.”
Harry smirked at the ghosts. “Just because I wasn’t part of the Muggle military doesn’t mean I haven’t fought in wars before.”
“Oh ho!” Galahad nudged Culwch’s ribs with his elbow. “You want to take some of that action?”
“What could you possibly offer me that I’d want if I won that bet,” Culwch scoffed.
“Hmm,” Galahad replied thoughtfully. Finally his shoulders slumped and he let out a gusty sigh. “You’re right. There’s not much a ghost can bet with. This would be so much better if we could make bets with the rest of the knights.”
“What do you mean,” asked Harry.
Culwch snorted and then seemed to glow a slow pink as he realized he had just made a noise he considered crass. Thinking it over, he decided that being a ghost was pretty boring since no one could see him. But now they had someone who could see and hear them! Perhaps this gave them a chance to get back into the betting scene among the rest of the personnel in the Kingsman HQ. “We’ll tell you. If you agree to our terms.”
Harry arched an eyebrow. “And what are your terms?”
“You tell us of any other ghosts you see on the grounds or in the manor.”
“You help us leave messages for the other agents.”
“As long as they don’t catch me,” Harry agreed with a stern expression.
“Fine.” Culwch agreed. “You give us the inside scoop on the other trainees.”
“Aren’t you ghosts,” Harry stated confused. “You realize you can pretty much spy on them 24/7 without any of them noticing.”
“True. But part of being a Kingsman agent is being able to observe and deduce your opponents moves so you can be one or more steps ahead of them.”
Harry blinked slowly as it dawned on him that Culwch was giving him a little a hint about what would be expected of him in order for him to pass. A smile slowly began to stretch over his face. “Agreed then.”
Culwch and Galahad grinned widely.
“Shall I,” asked Culwch. “Or would you prefer to tell him?”
“I’ll do it. One Galahad to the next,” he said with a cheerful wink at Harry.
Harry chuckled and glanced around quickly to make sure none of the other trainees, or their trainers had snuck up on him. Seeing that they were still far enough away not to be an issue, he turned back to the two ghosts and signaled for them to continue.
“The knights who are still at HQ between mission will often use Merlin’s cameras, and the staff around the building, to spy on the trainees. They make bets about which candidates will score best on each test, which will do the stupidest thing, which will be cut first, and so on.”
“They’re betting on us?”
“Indeed. And occasionally they will attempt to interfere with the candidates in order to win their bets.”
“And Lamork is okay with that?”
“As a Kingsman you need to be prepared for any eventuality, including unforeseen interference from civilians or other bystanders.”
“So Lamorak and the rest of those in charge of our training condone this as a part of our training to see how we can adapt on our feet?”
“Exactly,” Galahad chimed in pleased.
Slowly a smirk spread across Harry’s face. “Well, this is going to make it far more interesting.”
“You don’t look worried,” commented Culwch.
“I work best on my feet and under pressure.” Harry’s smirk got wider. “And I doubt that the agency is aware of just who my family is made up of. So they wouldn’t know that the last generation were infamous for their infiltration, disruption, and pranking skills. Or that we have a tendency to go against authority figures if we don’t consider them to have the needs of the many as their priority.”
“Oh this is going to be fun,” exclaimed Galahad. Even Culwch seemed pleased by the prospect. “Just be careful around Arthur. That old ass has no sense of humor.”
“Noted.” Harry glanced around them and caught sight of Gawain and Lamorak approaching. “Let me know what they are betting on next and we’ll give them some real fun.”
Harry spun about and darted around the side of the building before the two knights coming in his direction could spot him.
Two Weeks Later; Trainee Barracks, Kingsman HQ
Connor yanked off the last of his sweaty clothes and dropped them into his laundry bag sitting on the foot of his bunk. His chest was soaked in sweat, glistening in the harsh florescent lights of the room, the muscles in his arms and abdomen seemingly all the more defined after the harsh workouts of the last three weeks. Today, like the last four days, had been tiring. They had been run ragged by Gawain and everyone looked half dead. Connor was used to working hard, since his father was the kind of man who was convinced that all his sons needed to know how to fight like their ancestors. He was used to being up early for sword practice before school, then coming home and helping with the horses before practicing his sword skills again before bed. The regimen here was hard in a new way, using new muscles. But he welcomed it. He liked the change, like the ache in his muscles from a hard days work. It felt rewarding.
He moved across the room to the showers, turning the nozzle to warm before pulling it out. The water came out in a couple spits before finding it’s steady stream. He stepped under the hot stream of water, closing his eyes and simply enjoying the heat of it as it beat down on his aching muscles. He allowed himself to simply stand under it for several long moment before turning to face the room, pushing his soaked hair out of his face.
Harry was in the room now, carefully removing his own sweaty clothes. Connor let himself watch for a moment, taking in the smooth, nearly hairless skin of his chest. Harry was a very attractive young man, tall and lean, with those wild twinkling green eyes that reminded him of the grass around his family castle. He was very much Connor’s type of preferred bed partner, which was a bit of a problem since they regularly bathed together where all the others could see them. He had to be far more careful here than back home, where his parents didn’t care if he wanted to tup one of their stable hands, or another young man from the village. Here he could tell his preference would not be looked upon favorably by his fellow trainees and possibly by the other knights he could end up working with. So he held himself back, despite Harry Hart making it incredibly hard to do so.
He jerked his eyes away as Harry leaned over, pulling down his pants, to reveal those plump, round globes that seemed to be constantly teasing him. He spun around, jerking the nob on the shower as far to the right as he could. He clenched his teeth to hold in his shriek as the water temperature dropped to polar. He remained under it for a count of twenty before turning it back to the hot water it had been, his erection having gone lump under the assault of cold water.
He could hear the others trudging in now, the door to the barracks blaming closed behind them. Wallace was groaning and complaining about the training again, and Connor wondered if the lad would even make it through this portion of the testing. Surely he had realized by now that this was a test? That Lamorak and Gawain were testing their limits both physically and mentally. They were trying to find out who would crack first. Who the weak link in the group was. Connor was proud to say that so far Harry was looking to be one of the strongest. No matter how hard Gawain ran them, no matter what crazy new punishment he meted out to all of them for one of them falling behind, Harry took it all in stride and excelled. He was approving in leaps and bounds compared to the other trainees, Connor included.
But it was more than that. Harry seemed to be more aware of things going on around them than the other trainees, and almost seemed to have anticipated what Lamorak and Gawain were going to throw at them. He often seemed more amused than worried, which struck Connor as odd. Harry also occasionally seemed to stair at nothing from the corner of his eyes. An action which reminded Connor, strangely enough, of his Aunt Ainslie.
Rubbing the bar of moisturizing soap over his chest, Connor contemplated why Harry would remind him of his strangest Aunt. Was it possible that Harry, like his Aunt, had the sight? Could he see the things that no one else did? Did Harry hear whisperings on the wind like his Aunt did? Could he see glimpses of the future?
If he did then mayhap it would be best for Connor to keep a close eye on him. If Harry Hart could hear the whispers of lost voices, catch fleeting sight of the spirits, or see glimpses of what was ahead, then that might be why he knew when their trainers had something nefarious planned. Which would explain why he wasn’t as worried about training as the rest of them were, and why he seemed more amused than not most days.
The shower next to him turned on and Connor glanced to his right, noting that Harry had taken the shower between Connor and the wall. He tried his best not to blush, or to look too far south, as Harry closed his eyes and leaned into the hot water. It was a hard thing to do, and only the knowledge that he could potentially lose his only friend here if he was caught, allowed him to look away. Connor was the only Scottish candidate among the others who all appeared to be rich young Englishmen, and that was bad enough without them knowing he was homosexual. Connor sometimes wondered about Harry, who had a few mannerisms that spoke of a more middle-class upbringing than his fellows. Something that Connor could respect since it meant the other man was not unused to hard work. Something that seemed to be holding the rest of the candidates back from doing their true best. As if the idea that them being sweaty or rumpled would be worse than being kicked out of the trials. Then there were moments when Harry would say something, do something that was very Scottish as well. He wondered why someone who supposedly lived in London all his life, would occasionally say something with a vague Scottish accent.That something also made him think that he might be the only one among them who would be alright with Connor being Gay. Not that Connor would risk it of course. He wasn’t that foolish, even if all his instincts were telling him it would be alright to tell the other lad.
This job, this chance, was everything, and he wasn’t going to risk it.
He finished rinsing off the soap, risked another glance at Harry, then seeing the other trainee appeared to be unworried about any attempt at attack from Digby and his goons, turned the shower off. He grabbed his towel from the hanger on the side wall, rubbing his dark hair down until it was as dry as he could get it. Then briskly ran the town over his face and neck, over his shoulders, down his arms, then over his chest. Bending over he quickly dried his legs, groin, and hips. As he walked past the mirror near the sinks he glanced up and caught a blur of motion. Pausing only sightly he looked into the mirror and realized that the only thing in it’s reflection was the back of Harry’s head.
Looking away he quickly went back across the room, dropping the wet towel into the laundry hamper before returning to his bunk and the clean clothes he had laid out on his bed. He dressed unhurriedly as the others had all started to make their way over to the showers. By the time he was dressed in his clean siren suit, ready to head off for lunch, Harry was out of the shower and heading towards him. Connor glanced away as the towel around Harry's hips slid down an inch, revealing the sharp jut of his hipbones and the beginnings of the dark thatch of hair at his groin. Connor licked his lips and sat down to put on his shoes. He ignored how doing so put him directly at eye level to Harry’s groin as the other man tugged the knot lose, causing the towel to drop to the floor at his feet.
Connor could feel his face heat up as a blush rushed up his neck. Harry’s cock was a thing of beauty. Not too long, too wrinkled, or surrounded by too much hair. It was average sized for a flaccid penis, uncut as most Englishmen were, and the thatch of hair at his groin appeared to be neatly trimmed and as impeccably groomed as the rest of him. It made Connor’s mouth water.
He glanced at the temptation again, licking his lips as the organ plumped up slightly, twitching in it’s lush nest of dark curls.
Connor forced his eyes back to his shoes, realizing he had bungled tying them while distracted by the smooth flesh exposed to him. Huffing under his breath, he undid the laces and retied them as quickly as he could. When he finally allowed himself to look up, Harry’s had already pulled on the siren suit and was placing his socks next to his shoes, and his hair brush. Harry caught him looking and gave him a saucy wink as he started to brush our his hair. Connor mentally cursed at himself, standing up and moving towards the door.
“Aren’t you going to brush your hair, Connor,” came the teasing voice of the trainee who came closest to being called a friend.
Connor froze only steps away from the door. Scowling he reach up with one hand to feel the mess of wet hair on his head.
When he turned around Harry was still standing beside his bed, a wide, amused grin plastered across his face. Connor suddenly wanted to punch him, even as his own dick jumped in his pants at the mischievous smile. Striding back to his bed he yanked Harry’s brush out of his hand, staring the shorter man down as he used the stolen brush on his own hair. He could feel his temper rising when Harry simply smiled wider and gracefully sat down on the bed, leaning back on his hands to watch Connor fix his hair.
“Are ye just gonn’ stair at me,” he growled.
“I don’t see why I shouldn’t.” Harry smirked and let his gaze move up and down over Connor, in a long, slow path.
“Ye aren’t worried that one o’ them might catch you staring at meh and think you a -“
“No,” Harry shrugged. “They’ll only be in my life a short while so I don’t particularly care what they think of me.”
“And what o’ what I think of you,” Connor asked, his temper beginning to cool.
“Oh, now that’s something different.” Harry smiled up at him.
“Is it now?”
“I could tell you all about it after lunch if you’d like.”
Connor felt himself blush again. “Perhaps.”
Harry chuckled, finally allowing his intense gaze to drift away from Connor’s. “Well, then I shall get my shoes on and we can stroll off for some lunch.”
Connor sighed and moved to sit on his bed. Harry Hart was one of the most infuriating, selfless, tempting, bastards he’d ever met, and he couldn’t wait to find out what Harry planned to do with him and where he thought they could do it in a compound covered in CCTV cameras and trained spies.
Elsewhere in the Kingsman HQ
“Evaine’s candidate is attempting to seduce yours, Caradoc” Bors chortled.
Caradoc pushed Bors away from the spot in front of the security monitors. The other knights crowded in behind him to watch the screen showing the Trainee Barracks, where, sure enough, Harry Hart was openly flirting with Caradoc’s candidate.
Caradoc cursed as his nephew, Aodhan blushed and stumbled after Hart as he led the way from the barracks to the dinning area on the ground floor. The moment he had seen Harry Hart, he knew that the lad was going to be Aodhan’s biggest competition to becoming a Kingsman. The lad radiated something intangible that made you want to follow him. He was a compelling individual and a strange one as well. Caradoc had caught him staring at nothing on more than one occasion as he watched the monitors, and the lad always seemed to know when they were up to something. He was fairly certain the lad was the one responsible for the camouflaged water balloons filled with sap and glitter that had been set up in key positions throughout the manner. Four of the other candidates had been unfortunate enough to set off the sticky glitter bombs, and, surprisingly, so had three of the full time agents. Including Arthur’s pet knight, Cador.
It had been one of the best things he’d seen in a long while, that snob all covered in sap, neon pink, and lime green glitter. Caradoc desperately hoped that one of Merlin’s CCTVs had gotten a good recording of it because the rest of the Knights in the field certainly needed to see this. Caradoc still wasn’t certain how the lad had managed to hide the balloons so no one would notice them, but would still set them off.
“So,” Bors started. “Any new ideas for what to set them up with next?”
Galeshin, Erec, and Bedivere, all grinned manically at Bors. Caradoc almost felt sorry for the trainees at having these three after them. These three could hold a grudge and all of them were certain that the sap bombs had been planted by one of the trainees. Caradoc was a little surprised that none of them even mentioned that Hart could have been the one to do it. They all seemed slightly fond of the lad, and Caradoc had to wonder how the boy had managed to get three Kingsman to treat him like that when as far as anyone was aware, he had not met any of them face to face.
“Hey now,” Key chimed in. “Don’t go too crazy. They are just trainees.”
“You didn’t get hit by the glitter sap bombs,” growled Erec. “It took me a week and a whole bottle of Dindrane’s special shampoo to get that out of my hair, and my suit was ruined!”
“Peacock,” Bors chuckled under his breath.
Eric glared at Bors, who simply smiled back. Kay and Caradoc glanced at each other and sighed.
AN: I'll mention it in the next chapter but Connor's real first name is Aodhan. He refuses to be address by it and forced his Uncle to enlist him as a Trainee under his middle name.