Death's Hunters gains their first contract, and Voldemort gains a new spy.
Chapter 8 - The First of Many
American head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, East Branch Roberts often considered the British wizards lucky: All they had to deal with was one terrorist group and a corrupt government. In America, the aurors had to deal with terrorists, drug distributors, gambling and prostitution rings, and whatever other scumbags decided to rear their ugly heads. To top it all off, the new Minister decided to deny his request for a higher budget. Between the big stuff and the small-time crimes that his aurors had to deal with, the magical police force in the eastern US was stretched to its limit.
So when his secretary forwarded him a letter that essentially offered to help lighten his load, he was more than a little bit intrigued.
To the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, East US Branch,
It has come to our attention that crime in your region is reaching an all-time high, and with your inadequate budget, you simply do not have the manpower to handle it all.
We are a company of private contractors, with our agents specializing in the apprehension of powerful and/or elusive individuals. We write to extend the offer of a partnership between ourselves and the American law enforcement.
If you accept, please send a message notifying us of such, as well as the earliest convenient time when we can send a representative to negotiate a contract. We hope that we will have a long and profitable relationship for the both of us.
Roberts was a bit apprehensive of enlisting outside help to solve his problems, but he was desperate, so he wrote a reply and sent it out. That had been three days ago. Now he was anxiously waiting for whomever Death's Hunters was planning to send, who should be arriving any minute now.
"Sir, there is someone saying that she's from Death's Hunters here to see you," the voice of Roberts' secretary said from his telephone.
"Thank you, send her in now," Roberts replied. Moments later, his office door opened to welcome the visitor. It was a woman, no more than five feet and six inches in height, a briefcase in her hand. She was dressed in a freshly pressed set of gray business robes, a silver skull brooch pinned on her collar; her black hair was tied back in a tight bun and her cool gray eyes seem to pierce straight through him.
"Mister Roberts, I presume," the woman said in a professional tone without sounding haughty or conceited. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance," she continued, extending her hand.
"The pleasure is mine, miss...?" Roberts trailed off uncertainly, taking the offered hand.
"Grayson," the Death's Hunters representative said, settling down in a chair. "I understand that you are interested in a partnership with our company, yes?"
"It's an interesting offer," Roberts agreed, "but you have to understand that I can't just agree to something without looking over the fine print first."
"Of course," Grayson said. She opened her briefcase and retrieved a sheet of paper, handing it to Roberts. "My superiors have taken the liberty of writing up a contract that they feel will best suit both of our interests." Roberts took the contract and perused it thoroughly.
A line that stated that anyone that the DMLE asked for had to have an outstanding warrant for at least six months: reasonable.
If there is no outstanding reward for an individual, then Death's Hunters demanded a price of one thousand galleons per person convicted. Understandable, although Roberts had a feeling that it would get pricey rather quickly.
Roberts was surprised when he found a line that said that any agents sent on contracts would to the best of their knowledge free any hostages that the enemy may have. It was an honorable addition, one that he did not expect from mercenaries.
There was a clause stating that Death's Hunters receive a copy of all files on any particular individual, including any potential trial transcripts. When Roberts questioned Miss Grayson on it, she simply stated that, "A former associate of ours was a victim of a fraudulent conviction; we want to be certain that the fugitives that we are searching for are actually guilty of their crimes."
Another line of interest was one stating that on threat of denial of payment, any Death's Hunters agents will not intentionally or knowledgably kill anyone except in an obvious display of accident self-defense; the paper would self-destruct upon the breach of said clause. "Our job is dangerous, and unfortunate things may happen to those who delay our agents," Miss Grayson clarified, "but we do not want to permanently debilitate them, as a standard loss of magic would do. We also do not want to project the image of us being marauding psychopaths, and our agents' paychecks are very important to them, so rest assured that they will be as careful as possible."
After Roberts thoroughly scanned the contract and found nothing objectionable about it, he picked up his pen and wrote his signature on it.
"Thank you, Mister Roberts," Miss Grayson said, standing up and shaking the department head's hand again. "For now, our business has concluded; you may forward the appropriate files of our first target to our address at your convenience." Picking up her briefcase, she exited Roberts' office and eventually exited into the Muggle world out of a restroom at an abandoned gas station near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and walked to a nondescript black car waiting for her several feet away. Opening the door and sliding into the passenger seat, she sighed in relief as she kicked her high heels off of her feet.
"So, how'd it go?" the driver of the car asked.
"It went great," she said, pulling back her hairpiece to reveal the short, wild brown hair underneath. "He signed the contract without making any alterations; we should expect our first job anytime," she continued, flipping down the mirror and carefully pulling out her contact lenses, uncovering her brown eyes.
"Great," the man said, before sighing. "I'm still not thrilled that you cut your hair," he lamented.
"We've been over this, Harry," Hermione chastised her boyfriend. "My hair wouldn't fit in the helmet otherwise, and I wasn't about to waste time building a new helmet just for my hair." Harry just rolled his eyes and shifted the car into gear before driving off.
Meanwhile in Britain, things were not going well. The influence of the Light in magical Britain had begun to wane after Voldemort overthrew the Ministry of Magic and established his own inner circle as the controlling government. With the exception of Hogwarts and a few other places, the entirety of magical Britain was under Voldemort's thumb, and had begun to strike the Muggle world. The Order of the Phoenix had managed to prevent many of the attacks from being truly catastrophic, and the Prime Minister had managed to shift the blame of the attacks to Muggle terrorists. But resources and morale was wearing thin, and Dumbledore was beginning to feel the strain of war pulling at him.
To add even more troubles on his mind, two of his Order members had captured: senior member and retired auror Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody and Ronald, the youngest Weasley son. They had gone to investigate a report that Snape had sent of an upcoming attack in Muggle London. When Moody and Ron went to verify it, they disappeared. That was nearly two weeks ago.
Dumbledore was pulled from his contemplations by an urgent rapping at his office door.
"Come in," the aged man beckoned, and the door flew open to reveal an exhausted Dennis Creevey.
"Professor, we’ve found Ron," the young blonde man gasped, clutching his chest. "He's in the hospital wing right now."
"Thank you for this information, Dennis," Dumbledore said, standing up. Then, with swiftness unusual for a man of his age, he strode to the hospital wing to find Madam Pomfrey tending to a sobbing redheaded man. "My boy," Dumbledore said in a grandfatherly tone, "I know that it must hurt, but I must know what happened." Ron sniffled and nodded slightly.
"It...it was horrible," he gasped. "They put the Cruciatus on us for days. Then yesterday, they came into my cell and stunned me. I don't know what they did to me, but when I woke up, I had my wand in my hand, and Moody was on the ground, dead." Ron made heaving sounds, and Dumbledore conjured a bucket for him to vomit in. After he had finished retching, he continued. "Then, I felt this burning sensation on my arm. I looked down and I saw...I saw the Dark Mark." While Ron began vomiting again, Dumbledore laid a comforting hand on the younger man's shoulder. However, despite outward appearances, the old wizard was deeply concerned; Voldemort had apparently devised a way to compel people to take the Dark Mark against their will. The potential damage that this could cause was devastating.
He needed time to ponder this new development.
Tom Marvolo Riddle, now known as Lord Voldemort, ruler of magical Britain, felt particularly proud of his latest accomplishment: He had managed to turn the Weasley boy to his cause, and act as a spy in Dumbledore's little Order. It had not been difficult: the promise of power when he would inevitably conquer the world, the provision of the mudblood Granger when she was found, and the brat was practically licking his boots in reverence. The threat of death should he refuse may have helped, though; the cowardly were predictable like that.
After Weasley killed Mad-Eye Moody and took his mark, Voldemort made preparations to plant his spy. A few temporary memory charms here, a Cruciatus curse there, and a skull implant invented by his minions in the Department of Mysteries that blocked all attempts at legilimency, and everything was perfect. Within a few days, the memory charms will expire, and Weasley will bury himself into the fold of the Order and begin reporting their plans to him.
In addition, he now had almost complete control over magical Britain. And with the Taboo reestablished, no one dare speak his name aloud. The public's fear was like a euphoric drug to him.
All in all, it was a rather good day.
"I can't believe that we're actually doing this," Harry grumbled as he and Hermione stalked through the shadows to their target.
"We did have a contract with them," Hermione responded, her rolling eyes missed underneath her helmet, "and besides, we really don't know what we’re doing; we should start small and build up to the big targets." Their first target was a man by the name of Jimmy Billings, a wizard posing as a small-time Muggle drug dealer. It was believed that Billings was magically altering his product to have increased or additional effects, but they could never prove it. And even though drug peddling is illegal in the Muggle world, since the aurors technically did not have jurisdiction over Muggle crimes, then he technically was not doing anything wrong.
Harry was simultaneously glad and disappointed to hear that idiotic bureaucrats were not endemic to Great Britain.
Nevertheless, a few aurors had contacted the Muggle police about Billings' actions, but nothing came of it. Some believed that he had memory-charmed the police but again, no proof. So now it fell to Harry and Hermione to either convince Billings to confess and turn himself in, or catch him performing illegal activities.
Both Harry and Hermione noted that there was no limit in their contract as to how "persuasive" they could be.
They spotted Billings standing on a street corner dressed in tattered jeans and a windbreaker. His long, unkempt hair and scruffy beard gave him the appearance of a vagrant. Hiding in the shadows where he could not be seen, Harry raised a gloved finger and silently cast a stunning spell on Billings, causing him to collapse before summoning his limp body towards them.
"You didn't happen to bring any veritaserum with you, did you?" Harry asked hopefully, looking down at the filthy man lying before them.
"No, I didn't," Hermione asked, "why?"
"Because I'd really rather not go poking through his head," Harry said, pointing at the still unconscious Billings. "I'm afraid of what I'd find if I did." Hermione sighed in exasperation and cast a spell at Billings. A rhythmic thumping pounded in her ears.
"It's a good thing I installed a chronometer in these," Hermione said as she counted Billings' heartbeats. After she calculated his heart rate, Hermione bound Billings and revived him.
"Wha-what's going on?" Billings gasped, struggling against his binds. "Who the hell are you?!"
"We're no one important," Harry replied as he kneeled down closer to their prisoner, his modulated voice sending chills down Billings' spine. "However you, or more importantly, the information that you have, is far more significant. Now, here's how this goes: I ask, and you answer truthfully. If you lie to us, we will know, and we won't be happy, are we clear?"
"C-crystal," Billings gulped. No one had ever accused him of being brave.
"Excellent," Harry said. "Now, first question, have you been casting spells or otherwise breaking laws that state that you may not sell magically altered materials or substances to Muggles?" Billings emphatically nodded his head, still quivering in fear. Harry looked up at Hermione, who nodded in confirmation. "Good work so far, Mister Billings, we're really making progress. Now, have you been obliviating Muggle police officers who have investigated you?" Again, Billings nodded eagerly, and again Hermione confirmed his truthfulness. "Brilliant, Mister Billings. Now, you are going to go to the aurors and turn yourself in for these crimes and any others they are not aware of. You will plead guilty and serve your time. If you do not, we will be displeased, and something...unfortunate may happen to you." What little blood remained in Billings’ face quickly drained away.
"Wh-what kind of things?" he asked nervously. If he could see Harry's face, he would have seen an unsettling smirk.
"Use your imagination," he said simply before reaching into his robes and pulling out an envelope. He slid it under the ropes binding Billings, and as soon as he released the paper, the drug dealer was whisked away with a pop.
After Billings disappeared, Harry stood up and dusted off the dirt off of his pants.
"You know, that was actually kind of fun," he admitted. Hermione nodded in agreement.
"It was," she said, before giving out a warbling yawn. "Let's go home. It's late, and I've got to get up early to collect our payment tomorrow."
"Alright," Harry said, and the both disappeared with a crack.
When they appeared at their house, they stripped out of their uniforms, brushed their teeth and crawled into bed, Hermione snuggling in Harry's arms.
"You know, since we're going to be these bad-ass mercenaries, maybe we should come up with some code names for us," Harry said as he ran his hand up and down Hermione's bare arm.
"Well, you're Mortis, that's a given," Hermione said. "I guess I'll just have to think of something else for myself."
"You could be Mortis, too," Harry said casually. Hermione chuckled softly at him.
"Harry is that your awkward, roundabout way of proposing to me?" she asked, propping her head on one arm.
"Is it that obvious?" Harry groaned, grimacing. Hermione smiled at him.
"It is, and don't ever change," she said, bending down and kissing him. "By the way, my answer's 'yes,'" she said before closing her eyes and drifting off to sleep, her new fiancé soon following.
The entire auror department was in an uproar when Jimmy Billings suddenly popped into existence in the middle of the main lobby. After stunning him and checking him for contraband, they called Roberts in. When the department head arrived, he was not in the brightest of moods after being dragged out of bed at such an hour.
"Alright, what's so important that it couldn't wait until morning?" he grumbled to the assembled aurors.
"Sir, we found this on the prisoner; it's addressed to you," one of them said, handing over an envelope. Roberts took it and opened it, pulling out and reading the letter.
I and my partner have fulfilled our end of our agreement. Miss Grayson will arrive tomorrow at 8:30 AM to collect our payment.
Mortis, Death’s Hunters
"It's nothing," Roberts said, making the letter disappear with a wave of his wand. "Get back to work," he ordered, and the aurors resumed their duties while Roberts apparated home and fell back into bed.
The last thought that Roberts had before he drifted into slumber was that tomorrow, he would be writing the first of many checks to come to the enigmatic Death’s Hunters.
One more chapter of out of country action, then it's back to England.
I know that the Taboo was one of the less popular ideas that were added in Deathly Hallows, but I have an explanation for its existence, I promise.
Don't forget to review.