Pairing: future HP/SS (really, I promise!)
Summary: The truth comes out at last. Well, some of it.
Notes: Still not where I need to be, but doing better.
4 June 1999
"Why me, Lupin? He hates me!"
"He does not. And it's Remus."
"It's Lupin right now," Snape growled.
Remus snickered. "Fair enough. But you know why I can't go. I'm a magical creature," he said with some disdain. "I can't leave the country."
"So we'll send Kingsley."
"We will not. Severus, you know you're the only man for the job."
"Assuming I find Potter, do you really think he's going to do anything but shout a few choice obscenities and walk away? Has he ever once listened to reason from me?"
"Plenty of times," Remus said quietly. "He'd just rather not have you know."
"He's going to run off again the moment he sees me."
"So we'll disguise you. A glamour. Since he's probably using one, it'll level the playing field."
"If it's a matter of disguise, then you can go."
"No, Severus, I can't. We're going to do this legally. Besides, you were very keen to go a few months ago."
"That was before I came to my senses. There must be someone else."
"Severus, you know as well as I do that we're the only ones he's got left."
A thick silence hung between them for a few moments. "Fine," Severus said.
Before either of them could say another word, an owl sailed through the window of Remus's office. It had a Ministry tag around its neck. "Must be from Kingsley," Remus muttered, untying the parcel from the owl's leg. "Here, it's addressed to you."
Severus opened the parcel. It was a newspaper and a note.
A lead? Page 63.
Severus opened the paper (the Nashville Scene) to the appropriate page and found Sirius Black staring him in the face. He paled a few shades and pushed it toward Remus, who went even paler.
"Local chef makes good," Remus read aloud, his voice trembling. "Giacomo's a success…. Julian Jameson, British expatriate and former chef for the Séanachie has struck out on his own, to rave reviews…. Severus, this must be him."
"What would he be doing there?"
"Besides running a restaurant, apparently… Oh, fuck."
"I just remembered something. Lily once mentioned some relatives she had, distant ones. I might have told Harry about it."
"Lupin!" Snape roared. "Why didn't you remember this sooner?"
"I don't know," Remus spat back. "Maybe it's to do with the fact that I don't actually enjoy thinking about my dead friends!"
Severus closed his eyes for a moment and took a breath. "It's of no matter now," he said flatly. "You're right, there's little chance it isn't him. Between looking like Black and using the name Jameson, it's too much coincidence to let by."
"Well, that answers the question of where you're going. I wonder where Kinglsey got this paper. I'll have to get him a very nice Christmas present."
"Lupin, this is hardly the time to make out your Christmas list. We've got to come up with a plan to get him back here."
"I think you should show up-- in disguise, of course-- and find some way to be his friend. I know Harry, he'll pour his heart out if you win his trust. All you've got to do then is tell him he needs to go back."
"Surely you overestimate my social skills."
"I've seen you be charming, Severus. I know you can do it."
"Bugger off, Lupin."
"See? You were charming just then."
10 June 1999
Harry was still in awe of how well his restaurant was doing. He'd been apprehensive about the write-up in the Scene, but it had done wonders. There'd been a waiting list a mile long every night since, and reservations were booked solid into next month. He hadn't even needed Dreamless Sleep, as exhausted as he had been every night. And he hadn't heard from Nick since he'd phoned to say he wouldn't be coming to the gala. Silent partner, indeed.
Tonight was like any other night. Reservations were overbooked, and there was a long queue of richly dressed hopeful diners waiting patiently with their cocktails for someone with a confirmed table not to turn up. Camille kept pulling him aside, discreetly pointing and whispering in his ear-- "See the lady with the long grey hair? That's Emmylou Harris! And over there by the window is Béla Fleck!" Harry was more or less clueless as to who these people actually were, but he could tell by the excitement in his lead server's voice that they were clearly quite famous. The waitstaff were happily running themselves ragged in anticipation of the tips they'd be getting, and the kitchen was a cacophony of clanging pots and laughter and loud music. Harry couldn't help but feel pleased with himself at what he'd created.
Harry, as usual, was making the rounds of the tables and assuring that everyone was finding their dining experience satisfactory. He'd yet to receive a complaint, and mostly just chatted idly with the customers before moving on. It was one of the things Harry had thought that Stephen should have done more of, and it seemed to make the customers feel special.
He'd paused to converse with a table of businessmen in a semi-private alcove, who he knew were acquaintances of one of his investors. He was about to offer them a bottle of wine on the house, when suddenly, there was a muffled BANG, and one of the men at the table went limp and slumped onto the floor.
Harry rushed to the man's side. "He's dead!" he exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. He was about to run and call for an ambulance, when one of the other men stopped him.
"Mr Jameson, don't trouble yourself. We'll get him to the hospital," the man said coolly.
"But…but he's been shot! Don't we need to phone the police?"
The man shook his head, holding fast to Harry's arm to keep him there. "We're quite aware of who did this to him. Getting the police here will only cause a scene and ruin your business. We'll get him out quietly and talk to the police ourselves. There's nothing you can do, so it won't do no good to get involved." The man pulled something from the inner pocket of his vest and pressed it into Harry's hand. It was a stack of banknotes. "For the damage and your trouble. I'd been afraid of this for a long time, and I'm sorry it had to happen here." Harry tried to protest and hand it back, but the man pushed his hand away.
Gobsmacked, Harry pocketed the bills, knowing he'd never be able to return them. "At least let me give you my telephone number, Mr…"
"Gabanella. Enzo Gabanella. I'm glad to meet you, Mr Jameson, and I wish it had been under better circumstances. My brother-in-law speaks very highly of you."
Harry scribbled his address and mobile number on a cocktail napkin and handed it to Mr Gabanella. "I'm happy to talk to the police if necessary. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help."
Mr Gabanella smiled and tucked the napkin into his vest. "Thank you very much, Mr Jameson. I doubt there's anything you can do here, but I'll let you know if there is."
While they'd been talking, apparently some of the other members of the party had disappeared out the side exit with the dead man. Mr Gabanella patted him on the shoulder and left with the rest of his dinner companions, leaving Harry gaping at the empty table and wondering just when his life had become so surreal.
Elaine, the young woman who'd been waiting on them, came up next to Harry. "Where'd they go in such a hurry?" she asked.
"Er. One of them had a…I don't know, I guess it must have been a heart attack," he covered quickly. "They didn't want to wait for an ambulance." Harry felt terrible lying, but he wasn't about to tell her that somebody had just been shot.
"Oh, how awful!" she said, setting about clearing the table. "I guess they skipped out on their check?"
"Not exactly," Harry said, handing her the stack of money Mr Gabanella had given him.
Elaine looked like she was about to cry. "There has to be at least a thousand dollars here," she croaked.
Harry shrugged. "For the damage, they said."
Elaine squealed and hugged him briefly, then stepped back, calming herself and clearing her throat. "Sorry," she said. "What damage, though? Oh… there's blood on the tablecloth." Harry was afraid for a moment that he'd been caught in his lie, but she continued, unperturbed. "Must've been a stroke, then. I've heard they sometimes cause nosebleeds."
Harry nodded absently. "Just get rid of the tablecloth. I don't think the linen service is much for blood. And don't forget to cash out their tab before you run away to Tahiti," he said, pasting on a false grin.
"Sure thing, boss," she said, beaming back at him. "I'll send you a postcard."
Early the next morning, Harry awoke to pounding on his door. A look through the peephole showed a grim-looking pair of men in black suits, holding up what appeared to be some sort of identification badges. They had to be here about the shooting. He opened the door.
"Can I help you?" he asked groggily.
"FBI. Are you Julian Jameson?"
"Er, yes, that's me."
"I'm Agent Benjamin, and this is Agent Wilson," said the taller of the two. "May we come in?"
"Yes, of course." Harry stepped out of their way to let them inside and shut the door behind them. "Sit down, please," he said. "Can I get you anything?"
"No, that won't be necessary," said Agent Wilson.
"I assume you got my address from Mr Gabanella," Harry said.
The two agents looked at each other. "Are you a friend of his?" asked Agent Wilson.
"Er, no, I don't even know him. But he was at the same table with the man who was shot."
"What man who was shot?" asked Benjamin.
Harry was confused. "Well, I don't know his name, but shouldn't you? Isn't that what you're here about?"
"No, not exactly," said Wilson. "Maybe you'd better tell us what happened."
More perplexed than ever (what were they doing here if they had no clue about the shooting?), Harry told them the story of the night before, which he thought sounded much stranger than fiction when put into words that way.
When he finished, the FBI agents stared at him, gobsmacked. "First we've heard of that," said Wilson at length.
Harry furrowed his brow. "But Mr Gabanella said he knew who did it and he'd contact the police himself."
"Mr Jameson, are you aware of who Mr Gabanella is?" Benjamin asked, sounding somewhat incredulous.
Harry shrugged. "Brother-in-law of one of my investors, apparently. Like I told you, I don't really know him."
"Enzo Gabanella is a major don of the Castellano crime family," said Benjamin. "As is Nicky Abramosi, who I'm sure you know well."
"Nicky Abramosi? No."
"He bought your restaurant space," Wilson said.
Harry almost laughed. "No, that's Nick Abrams. I think you must have messed something up." But he knew from the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach that they hadn't.
"His real name is Nicky "The Mouth" Abramosi, and he's probably a bigger don than Gabanella. We believe the Castellanos have been using the returns on their investments in your restaurant to launder money."
All the mafia jokes came back at Harry full-force. He could feel the colour drain from his face. "Am I going to be deported?"
Wilson laughed. "Even if you were under any sort of suspicion, your information about last night's shooting would have given you ample protection. But we know you've done nothing illegal."
Harry let out a deep sigh of relief.
"We need you to help us get them," Benjamin said matter-of-factly.
Harry looked at him like he'd grown a second head. "Get them? I may not know a hell of a lot about how things work in this country, but I'm very familiar with what happens to people who help "get" major criminals," Harry fumed, thinking of what had happened to the people who'd tried to help "get" various and sundry Death Eaters. "They're never heard from again! I'd lose my business, besides probably ending up at the bottom of the river in cement bloody overshoes!"
"Mr Jameson, you've done nothing up to this point that's against the law, but obstruction of justice is most definitely a crime," said Wilson.
"Are you threatening me?"
"No," Wilson replied. "Just stating the facts."
Harry quickly weighed his very slim options. "All right. On one condition. My face and my name stay out of it completely."
"That's fine," said Benjamin. "All we need is your permission to bug your restaurant. We have informants already in place among the Castellanos who can get them to incriminate themselves.
"We'll be in touch," said Wilson. The pair of them left without another word.
Harry sat gaping at the door. Well, really, he had nothing to lose. There was always another glamour, another name. He could even go back to England-- but no, then he'd be running away again. Why did trouble always have to find him? Couldn't he ever have anything normal? Unbidden, Snape's voice came into his mind: Only Harry Potter could set out to be a cook and end up embroiled in an organised crime sting.
"Fuck off, Snape!" he shouted, chucking the nearest object at the wall. Unfortunately, it was a lamp. The light bulb exploded with a loud pop and the lamp base shattered. He glared at it for a moment, then stood up. Mafia or no mafia, he had a restaurant to run, and he had to be there to unlock the doors for the kitchen help in less than an hour. He really wasn't looking forward to today, given how it had started out.