It was dark on the quayside of Liverpool’s Industrial Docks, as the muggle container ship pulled quietly into the port. A strangely dressed man was stood on the cold stone walkway of the dock; his unusual choice of tweed jacket and hat with a pair of lederhosen and big red boots had made the dockers stare as he walked by. However quick flicks with his wand made them forget he was there.
The ship took another few minutes to come to a stop and the strangely dressed man apparated onto to the ship’s deck. Where he was met by a man in a cloak who walked out from a door leading down from the bridge. “You didn’t waste any time getting here did you Unsworth.” Unsworth practically snarled at his compatriot in the cloak. "Shut up Hickle! I had to walk through a dozen filthy muggles to get onto this metal monstrosity. This had better be worth it!" Hickle smiled from beneath the cowl of his cloak. "Once you've paid for these, Unsworth, you can have all the fun you want with them."
Hickle gave his wand a swish and flick "Wingardium Leviosa!" Slowly raising his wand Hickle levitated a blackened and chained cargo container from the bowels of the ship. The cargo container rattled and jerked just before it landed causing Unsworth to snatch at his wand. The outside of the container was dented and disformed ftom internal damage. "Have you got the rest of the galleons you owe me?" Unsworth twitched for his wand but Hickle was ready and had his wand levelled at him. "I mean it would be a shame if there was a double cross and you plans all failed." Unsworth was scowling but nodded, before slowly producing a heavy bag of coins.
"I suggest you don't open that box until you reach where you want to go. That thing was not happy to be trapped inside there, when it gets out you had better be ready for a fight." Hickle took the bag of coins from the other man "It took 50 men just to drive it into there and drug it. It is not something to be trifled with, not if you want to live." Unsworth gave him a sickening grin and pointed his wand at the container. "Oh don't worry, there is a plan in place for that."
Chapter 1: The Pen or The Sword
"Auror Heartwin, get in here!!" Blair kept his head down and hoped the boss would assume he wasn't there. "I know you're there, don't make me come out there!" Blair sighed heavily and ran his hand through his long dark hair. He'd been out all night on contraband raids , the last thing he needed right at this moment was more work.
He dragged himself wearily to his feet and pulled on his three holsters, checking his gear; before walking into the office of the Chief Auror, Rufus Scrimgour. "Take your time why don't you." said Scrimgour with a look of obvious annoyance "We have a request from the Minister for Magic, Heartwin." Blair's attention was momentarily drawn to the beautiful blonde haired woman leaning against the wall behind Scrimgour. This is Miss Circe Alderly, she's a writer of sorts." Circe snorted in annoyance at the disparaging way in which she was being described. "We of the Auror's office are to provide access to all active and closed investigations into anti-muggle extremism and organised anti-muggle crimes." Blair looked at the woman in amazement. "The minister wants Miss Alderly to work with our top Auror in this area, that means you Heartwin. Give her access to everything, show her the ropes, and above all keep her safe."
Blair shook his head in disbelief at his orders "Sir, I'm tracking the Neo-Grindlewald Sect with the WOLF taskforce. Is this really a good idea?" Circe stepped forward from the back wall. "I am not some useless piece of baggage, I can take care of myself." The look of disbelief she recieved from both men on served to enrage her further. "Whether its a good idea or not is irrelevant. We have our orders, show her the ropes Auror Heartwin."
Blair nodded to the woman and turned to leave the room. "You'd better come with me Miss Alderly if you want to see anything today. I'm clocking off soon." Circe stormed after Blair her anger obvious in every motion of her walk. "Just because you don't want me here doesn't mean you can just walk out, Auror Heartwin!" Blair kept on walking back to his desk without stopping. "I've been working all night and the use of stimulant potions is prohibited save in exceptional circumstances. So unless you're planning on following me to my bed, I'd make the most of now if I were you."
Circe blushed slightly at his implication then quickly recovered. "So where do we start then?" She asked trying to move the subject on. "I finish writing my reports on the raids we made last night and pass them on to the WOLF." He paused momentarily and looked curiously at Circe "You do know who they are, right?" Circe felt another flash of annoyance, as if she was being patronised. "The World Order of Law Forces, created by the Office for International Magical Co-Operation from 10 countries and their Auror Office counterparts to deal with international Dark Wizards and Anti-Muggle Crimes that risk exposing the wizarding world." She folded her arms crossly "Just because I'm not an Auror doesn't mean I know nothing Mr Heartwin."
Blair shook his head as she finished speaking. "The only person who stands on ceremony here is the boss in there." He pointed to Rufus Scrimgours office. "Everyone else here goes by first names or nicknames, so you might as well call me Blair." Circe was taken slightly off guard by his sudden change in tack wondering what he was playing at.
"So Miss Alderly, where do you want to start? I assume you have an idea" Circe pulled out a roll of parchment and opened it on Blair's desk. "I'm looking into the Wizard Supremecist movement and the organised crimes associated with them. I'm going to write a book, show the world what they really are." Blair nodded before standing to take off his holsters and hang them on his chair. "I can see why they ordered me to take you now." He said wearily taking a sip from a very cold looking cup of tea at which Circe looked positively repulsed. "Drinking cold tea is gross, you do realise that?" Blair merely shook his head and carried on as if she hadn't spoke. "The Neo-Grindlewald Sect are exactly the people you're looking for. Dark Wizard criminals who hide in plain sight and think all people without magic should bow in service to wizard kind."
Circe's excitement brimmed over and she slammed her hand down on the desk "Yes!" Her excited remark earned her a side long look from Blair "Might want to work on your timing with those comments," He said his voice dripping with sarcasm and a smile on his lips "people might think you're agreeing with the bad guys." Circe blushed in embarassment again, and in that moment realised this man was going to drive her crazy if she wasn't careful.
Blair quickly scribbled a note before unholstering his wand and flicking it the paper. It folded neatly into a paper airplane then flew into a nearby pipe in with other such notes. "I've requested that all the reports on the Neo-Grindlewald Sect be sent here, Miss Alderly. I hope you like reading, because you're going to be here for a while." Circe opened her mouth to ask what he meant by that, but a rumbling from the pipe answered for her as roll after roll of parchment flew out and started stacking up on Blair's desk. He was right, she was going to be there for a while.
Auror's Office, The Next Morning
As he walked into the Auror's office the following morning Blair came across an unexpected sight. On his desk surrounded by open parchment was Circe, sat right where he had left her the afternoon before. Her golden blonde hair tied back in a ponytail with a bright blue ribbon, as she slept face down on the desk. Through his sleep deprived eyes the morning before he'd failed to take in quite how stunning Circe truly was. Her demure outfit was now crumpled with the patterns from sleeping in his chair. Her black pencil skirt had pushed up her legs, revealing her slender form and sheer thigh high stockings. She had kicked her high heels off at some point in the night and her foot was tucked under her. Blair couldn't help but smile at the thought of such a beauty dozing at his workspace. As the Auror's started to file in, there were a few wolf whistles and exaggerated winks thrown Blair's way. He decided he'd better cover her up from prying eyes.
He took off his long brown jacket and it over her shoulders and drawing his wand. With a flick of his wand the parchment scrolls rolled back up and flew back into the message tubes on their way back to the central archives. "Bringing your girlfriend to work Blair? You've just lost me a lot of money in the office pool." A gruff gret haired wizard grumbled from by a kettle in the corner, Blair rolled his eyes as he joined him and started to make tea "Well Garick, if you are going to make bets that I'm gay, you could at least make a pass at me. I mean you're way too ugly to be my type but still." The older man laughed at Blair's flippancy, then turned serious "Scrimgour will have your wand if she's unauthorised, Blair, be careful kid."
Blair could tell the man was both concerned and probing him for information about Circe; it was the risk you ran working in a place filled with world class intelligence operatives. Nothing stayed secret in this office for long. "It's not an issue since Scrimgour assigned her to me, something mother dearest demanded." Garick snorted his derision and walked away drinking his tea "Well, mother knows best." Garick called back his voice steeped in distainful sarcasm.
"Who is mother dearest?" A sweet, but groggy voice asked from nearby. Blair walked back over to his desk, carrying two cups of tea, to find a very sleepy looking blonde staring bleary eyed at him across the office. "The answer to that, all depends on how much we can trust you." He sat down on his desk and pulled a bottle from his desk drawer marked 'Dawney's Dragon Draught'. "We've got a long day ahead, so you might want to drink some tea with this." He poured half a teaspoon's worth into the tea and rainbow coloured sparks started dancing across the surface of the tea. Circe sipped the tea grateully feeling a burst of energy with every sip. "So who is mother dearest?" Blair looked her in the eyes as if sizing her up. "It stays in this room?" His tone was completely different from before and Circe knew the answer mattered. It was the first test. "It stays here." She replied firmly.
Just like that Blair's seriousness was gone and a cheeky smile replaced it. He picked up a quill and began scribbing on a piece of parchment.
MINISTER OF MAGIC MoM
He gave her an even cheekier grin "That there is Mother Dearest, whose edicts must be obeyed and explanations are not required of." Blair sipped his tea letting his words sink in and enjoying Circe's repressed giggles. "Even if you did ask for one it wouldn't change anything because...." Circe laughed and finished the sentence "Mother knows best!"
Blair looked down at her outfit as she sat up and pushed the coat from around her shoulders. "We're out in the field today. As good as it looks, you might want to change that outfit." Circe smiled knowingly "So it looks good? Careful now, wouldn't want people thinking you were straight." Without another word she started walking out the office "I'll be back soon. No running off without me or mother dearest will hear of it." Her comment got a laugh from the Aurors before she apparated out of sight.
One Hour Later, Ministry of Magic Foyer
"You certainly take your time don't you?" said Blair sitting non-challantly on side of the fountain as Circe reappeared in the ministry "Typical woman." Eventhough she could tell his comment wasn't serious it irked her. This man was infuriating, it was as if his every comment was designed to tease and test her. Gauging her responses to him like it was some sort of game.
"Oh I'm sorry, is eating breakfast against the Auror code of conduct?" Blair looked down uncharacteristically quiet and shuffled his hand under his coat to pull out his own food moving a second bag to his outside pocket. "We'd better get going, the daylight hours are quieter where we're going." He stepped forward took Circe by the arm and disapparated.
A moment later the pair reappeared in the busy bustling walkway of Diagon Alley. Circe pulled her arm away and glared at Blair. "Next time just tell me where we're going, I can bring myself." Blair however was already moving away down the street, his hands digging in his pocket for something. Circe gritted her teeth and followed him, she knew she was going to get nowhere by rising to his every action. "So where are we going?" She asked catching up and falling into step with him. Blair turned as they reached a corner and walked into Knockturn Alley; pulling a strange looking coin from his pocket. "Lesson number one. What do you think is the best way to track the most dangerous black market trades?"
Circe could see that he was trying to teach her something. "Find someone who can tell you where its happening?" Blair nodded "So how do you make sure you always know where to find that someone?" Circe couldn't understand what he angling at so simply shrugged. "If you want to always know what the black market are up to, only leave one place for them to go. A place they think is so hidden it never gets raided. If they feel safe there you can gather intelligence there and hit them when they leave."
Circe's jaw dropped at the ramifications of what he had just told her. A member of the Auror's Office had just admitted to leaving a known criminal enterprise purposefully untouched. If the Daily Prophet got ahold of the information the scandal would be enormous. "How can you justify that? What if they make their trades there?" Blair smiled wolfishly "The proprietor knows better than to let trades happen there. He even hires people to make sure." Circe was confused "How can you be sure? How can you stop them?" Blair stopped and looked directly into Circe's face "Have you ever come face to face with a Dementor, Miss Alderly?" A chill instantly ran down Circe's back. "Davidoff was brought in once, then sat alone and wandless in a room with a Dementor. Given a taste of Azkaban, then given a choice: no deals on the premises and gather any information on criminal activity for us or three years in a cell guarded by a Dementor." Blair started walking again "It's not how I'd choose to operate given the option, but its very effective. Davidoff knows we aren't playing games, so doesn't let any deals happen."
Circe was stunned into silence, was what they were facing so dark that they'd resort to tactics like that. Blair could see she was uncomfortable with what he'd just told her. "The information Davidoff supplies has lead to hundreds of successful raids. In some cases saved lives." Circe nodded mutely and continued to follow Blair deeper into Knockturn Alley until they came to a stop in front of a carving on a wall, hidden around a small corner.
The carving was an enormous three dimensional relief of a cloaked boatman standing on the prow of his boat, a skeletal palm outstretched. Blair produced two golden galleons and placed them into the statues hand. The placed his hand to cover over the coins and whispered "I pay my tribute to the ferryman, two souls request passage." There were a few seconds of silence then the statues stone hand closed, before stepping aside to reveal a stone staircase leading underground. "Follow me and say nothing unless I ask you to. Stay close if you want to stay safe."
Circe's hand immediately went for her wand, but Blair's hand stopped her. "And for god's keep your hand off your wand unless I draw mine." He started walking down the steps as Circe seethed and followed behind. 'How dare he talk to me like I'm some stupid child'.She thought as she heard the stone statue slide smoothly back into place behind them.
The pair walked in silence down to bottom of the staircase to thick looking wooden door, with a sign marked 'Closed till Evensong'. Blair thumped heavily on the door anyway and waiting for a response. Soon there was a grating and a click as a slot in the door opened. A squeaky little voice shouted "We're closed! No refunds on entry! Come back later!" Obviously a house elf, just saying what it had been taught to say. Blair crouched down to the slot and spoke smoothly and clearly "Go tell Davidoff, the Dementor wants its due. He'll know what it means."
The slot slammed shut and the sound of scurrying footsteps could be heard. A few moments later footsteps returned and the lock clunked open. A filthy looking house elf, opened the door and beckoned for them to follow. As they walked in Circe stopped a sign over a dingy looking bar that read 'THE STYX'. The rest of the bar was a dingy, grotty affair. Old wooden tables surrounded by seats with battered looking cushions and low floating lanterns. However they did not get long to look as they were lead into a small room situated behind the bar.
Situated at the back of the room was a wide and very solid looking wooden desk; behind which sat a very short, very round balding man who Circe swore if she added point ears and nose he could pass a for a goblin. The man did not look pleased to see them, but that wasn't exactly a surprise. "You people aren't due for another week, what do you want?"
Blair walked up to the front of the desk, but didn't bother taking a seat in the chairs provided. "Davidoff, I think you know well enough by now that we don't work to your schedule." Blair picked up a round paper weight off the desk and flicked it from one hand to the other as he walked slowly around the desk. "We need information about anyone who's come through wearing or carrying something with this mark." Blair slipped a piece of parchment from his pocket and placed it on the desk, dropping the paperweight on top of it. On the paper was a five point star, inside which was a triangle, inside which was a circle and through the middle of the triangle and circle was a single line. Davidoff took one look at the paper then went pale, coughed and looked back at Blair. "I-I've not had any dealings with them, but let me ask my boys......" He tapped the wall behind him twice and a concealed door opened from which three men walked out, each more nafarious looking than the last. "Boys, this man wants to know about this mark. Have you seen anything?"
The three men started spreading themselves around the room, passing the slip of paper between them. Each man getting a serious look on his face before, shaking their heads. "Looks like none of us know anything Auror, better be on your way." Circe was no expert, but she could sense the tension in the room had gone up several notches. Blair however seemed to carry on without concern "That is very strange Davidoff, because I know for a fact that a prominent member of the Neo-Grindlewald Sect had a meeting here just last night." Again the tension in the air seemed to ratchet up a few more notches. "You do remember what happens if you lie to me, right Davidoff?"
The little wizard visibly stiffened then clicked his fingers. The three men around them suddenly levelled their wands at the pair. Circe made to grab for hers, but stopped when Blair gave her a short sharp kick to the shin. Davidoff drew his tiny wand and pointed it at Blair "Wands on the desk Auror. You picked the wrong people to mess with today." Blair slowly drew his wand and placed it gently on the desk. Circe very grudgingly followed his lead. "You may threaten me with Azkaban, but the NGS........they will do worse. I'm not crossing those lunatics for you! No way!"
Blair seemed unphased by being forced to disarm and casually prowled back and forth in front of the desk. As relaxed as if he was out for a sunday stroll. "You know this won't work. Don't you? I'm not the only Auror around." Davidoff barked a derisive laugh "Oh your friends will be far too busy to remember about little old me soon enough. Once the NGS start their plan they'll be lucky to keep their heads." Blair stopped and the same wolfish smile Circe had seen outside reappeared. "So you do know what they're up to!" He said almost triumphently.
Davidoffs face controrted into a snarl "KNOCK THEM OUT! WIPE THEIR MEMORIES! WIPE EVERYTHING!" Half a second later Circe felt her legs get swept out for under her throwing her on her back. The man nearest Blair moved first, going to flick his wand but he was too close and too slow. Blair stepped inside his arm and in one motion threw the man over his shoulder. The stunning spells the other two had cast hit their comrade, as his unconcious form as he flew straight into his friend at the back of the room. A second later Blair had kicked one of the heavy chairs into the third man and launched himself over the desk. A few seconds later Circe sat up to see Blair was behind the desk; an enormous knife stabbed into the wood in one hand, his other pinning Davidoff to his own desk.
As she scrambled to her feet and Blair looked right at and snapped an order "Stun them! Now!" Circe grabbed her wand and without hesitating cast her stunning spells.
Blair's demenour had completely changed as he pulled the knife out of the desk and it skimmed across Davidoff's cheek. Causing the little man to cry out "Now we could do this properly, drag you back to a cell interrogate you for days and put you on trial. Yet from what you said I think we have bigger fish to fry right now. So I'm going to give you one more shot at the original deal and come clean or I'm just going to throw you and your boys to the Dementors one by one until one of you talks." The little man was now white as a sheet and trembling.
"You have to protect me! You can't let them get to me, please!" Blair stabbed the knife back into the desk and shouted "Spill it! Now!" Davidoff squeaked "Okay! Okay! They met with Fogel the beast smuggler! Something about needed to move a dangerous cargo, whatever is was it had to be big. After they were Fogel spent more money here last night than he's ever spent here combined. He said something about going to Manchester." A look of annoyance crossed Blair's face "The rest! You wouldn't risk crossing us just for that!" Davidoff looked like he might wet himself but kept going. "The man with NGS warned us all what would happen if we talked. They'd feed us to their monsters along with the muggles. We're not stupid, we know what they are!"
Blair let go of the little man and sheathed his knife again. "We've got what we need here." He picked up his wand and pointed his wand at Davidoff. "Episkey!" The cut on Davidoff's face healed instantly. "Remember Davidoff, this was the luckiest day of your life. If you ever think of double crossing us again. We will throw you to the Dementors." Blair backed slowly out the room keeping his wand levelled and pulling Circe along with him.
Once out of the room the two rushed back out the entrance, getting out before the men in the office could recover. As the two got back out into Knockturn Alley Circe turned on Blair "What in Merlin's name was that!!!" Blair looked mildly shocked but didn't fall back. "You're going to have to be more specific." Circe pointed her wand back at the entrance to The Styx. "Is that how Aurors operate?! Threats, knives and brawling?!" Blair slowly sheathed his wand and sighed heavily "No, not normally. Davidoff and his boys have never gotten that bold before. The Neo-Grindelwald's must have really freaked them out. We're going to have to keep a closer eye on them from now on" Circe hit him on the chest "That's not the point! You could have gotten all our memories wiped!! Or worse we could have been killed!!" Blair shook his head "What do you think this job is?! Every day we walk through doors that might get us hexed, cursed or worse! All to keep people like you safe! It comes with the badge!" Circe laughed mirthlessly "Keep people safe? If that's your idea of keeping people safe then I've save more people writing one article, about the dangers out there than you ever have!" Blair's face took on a serious cold look "The only reason people like you get to go on about the power of their pen is because they're standing behind people like me wielding the swords for them!"
The two glared into each others eyes for a moment before sighing and looking away from each other. Blair spoke first "I need to get back to HQ, pass on what we've learned to the department and WOLF." He rolled up his sleeve and checked his watch. "I'll be in the office till 14:00. If you decide you can still handle this, you know where to find me." He turned and disapparated.
Circe was so frustrated she felt like she could scream. She knew if she wanted to write her book she'd have to keep working with him, but if he took risks like that all the time she could end up injured or worse. She put her wand away and started walking back towards Diagon Alley. After everything she'd gone through to get this chance, she couldn't give up at the first obstacle; but if she was going to do this she was at least getting a hot chocolate to cheer up before she went back.
Chapter 2: Beasts of Burden
Circe returned to find the Auror's office to a buzz of activity. As she walked in immediately all movement stopped and all eyes fixed on her. The tension filling the air was palpable as she stopped feeling as if something was very wrong. A familiar voice cut through the air "She's with me, let her through!" The crowd parted and she saw Blair at the centre of a group of strange looking characters.
Blair stepped over to one side and signalled for Circe to join him "We're setting up to start tracking Fogel in Manchester. It's my case so I'm AIC, listen in but don't say anything. I'll answer your questions later" Circe was blinking from the sudden barrage of information. As Blair went to move back she grabbed his arm "AIC?" Her tone indicating her question; Blair sighed "Auror In Charge."
Blair turned back to his team. "From now on we will refer to the target as 'Boggart', since according he likes to transfigure his face. You all know the drill, once we go we're putting a taboo on the word Fogel so be ready to move in on any indication." He points to one of the auror's at the back of the group "I don't want any incidents like Raglan did last year, move in and observe first. I don't want to have to obliviate a muggle, and fill in all that paperwork, because someone is twitchy and blasts a muggle who says the wrong word." The group laughed whilst one man put up a middle finger at Blair from the back. "We may be tracking for some time, so I everyone to take a full stake out kit and hunting blinds set at high points that muggles won't come across."
Blair pulled out his wand and flicked it towards his desk, from which underneath a crate floated up into the air. "I know not all of you agree with or appreciate my methods, but since I'm AIC I expect you to follow my instructions." He flicked his wand again and a dozen sets of odd looking binoculars flew out from inside. "I want these omnioculars set up at the entrances to your hunting blinds. They'll allow is to play back anything that happens in front of your blind without having to drag around pensieves and dive into each others memories." There was a groan from the assembled group. Blair quickly held up his hand for silence "Think of it this way; it'll mean that if we find something, we won't all have to know what Garick smells like after two days in a hunting blind." The group laughed and it lightened the mood.
"Transfigure your muggle disguises here before we leave, and consider this city a hostile environment at all times. The Neo-Grindlewald Sect have been known to use unforgivable curses and have killed Auror's abroad. Don't let your guard down and keep in contact via portkey message drops every 3 hours." The Aurors gave serious nods "Everyone move out, good hunting."
The Aurors broke apart and started collecting their gear. Blair walked back to his desk signalling for Circe to follow. "Did you follow all that?" He asked quietly sitting down on his desktop whilst she took his chair. The sincerity in his voice took her by surprise, so she just shook her head and said "Not all of it". Blair nodded and pulled out a quill. "What didn't you understand?" Blair's manner was much kinder that it had been before, as if he was lowering his guard for her benefit. "What are the hunting blinds?" Circe asked.
Blair stood and waved her over to where the Auror's were collecting their equipment, where he picked up a bag. "In here is a bivouac shelter, its little triagular tent muggle soldiers use. We used undetectable extension charms to make the insides big enough to be actually useful, and a disillusionment charm on the outside. Its basically an almost invisible tiny tent that can hold a up to four Aurors and they can watch over an area. That's our hunting blinds."
Garick came up behind them and slapped Blair on the back. "This guy made them all, so we can keep our teams in the field during operations. We used just swap out in the teams who are in the field, but this guy likes to keep everyone out there." Blair glared harshly at Garick and the man quickly withdrew his hand. Blair threw the bag into Garick's chest "Remind me Garick, has any of us ever been hurt on my operations?" Garick smiled wrly and turned to Circe "The kid has a point, no one has ever got so much as a scratch on his watch." Blair seemed to physically relax as Garick backed up what he said. Garick stepped in close as he went to walk past Blair. "Don't get so defensive kid, girls hate guys who are oversensitive." Blair rolled his eyes, but was blushing a little.
As the last of the Aurors took their bags and moved out, Blair signalled to Circe