Gravity

Chapter 1

Paul Kensington, Head of Research for the Aurors, peeked his head over the wall of the cramped cubicle. It was technically a two person cube, though it was at capacity. File folders were strewn about, a box from the Archive spread across the desk, and there were at least two cups of coffee sitting next to the young woman working intently.

"Hey, Wellwood," he said, tapping the light that hung overhead with his wand. The previously dim cube was lit with a warm, flickering light.

She looked up from her desk, where she had been crouching over an old records book. She pushed her reading glasses up her nose. "Yes?"

"New case for you- it's high profile. I think you're going to like this."

Her eyes widened: her interest was piqued. She picked up one of the cups of coffee and leaned forward, "Tell me more."

"Meet me in my office at the top of the hour, I'll tell you all about it," he responded. "And for goodness' sake, turn your lights on. You'll be useless to me if you're blind from squinting so much."

She sat across from him in his office, crossing her long, slender legs and tightly grasping a fresh notebook. A fresh cup of coffee was just an arm's reach away, on his desk. She was eager.

"So," Kensington said, taking a seat with a tawny folder open in front of him. Have you heard of this Magi-Crack thing that all the youths are overdosing on?"

"I'm familiar with it," she said.

He peeked at her over the rims of his glasses.

"Not like that!" she exclaimed. "Kensington, that's really how you think I spend my nights and weekends?"

He shrugged, and continued. "Anyways, we've had an anonymous tip that two thugs, fresh out of Hogwarts, are making and distributing it."

"Ah, a good case, finally," she said, a small smile forming on her lips. She didn't look down, but her hand was scribbling quickly as she started to take notes.

"You have to admit, you do have a twisted sense of humor," he said, before continuing on. "I'd like to assign the case to you- if that's alright."

"Absolutely."

"We'll have you on Research, Darsyn on Liability, and Potter on the Ground."

A scowl fell over her pale face. "Really?"

"I know, I know. He's not your favorite person. But he's far and away the most qualified for this case, don't you agree?"

She rolled her eyes. She and Potter clashed often over her years in the department. He'd more recently transitioned to working with new Aurors, mentoring them and she couldn't have been happier. She detested his lack of adherence to procedure, and wasn't quiet about it. But she couldn't deny he was a keen and skilled Auror. "I'll get to work."

"That's the spirit!" Kensington responded, handing the folder with all the information to her. "I know you won't let us down."

She stood up to exit, tucking the folder on her arm, but he stopped her before she exited the door.

"Wellwood-" she turned to see what he wanted. "Is everything okay at home? You've been staying pretty late-"

"Never been better," she said, as if she were convincing herself, and she slipped out the door.

She cracked open the case file during lunch- a working lunch, because why socialize with coworkers you don't really like when you could actually get things done?

Timothy Nimmo and Marcus McCain were the two suspects, and their pictures certainly matched Kensington's description. They were thugs. Graduated lowest in their class. And now they were likely going to end up in prison.

She got surprisingly far that afternoon, diving into records of suspicious magical activity, looking at purchasing logs for potion shops from London to Hogsmeade, and started to dig deeper.

"Hey, Wellwood," a male voice called, and she turned around. "Got a sec?"

She pursed her lips as Potter walked into her cube, leaned against the wraparound desk, and crossed his arms.

"Apparently," she said, swiveling her chair around to face him. She removed her reading glasses and sighed. "What do you need?"

"Just wanted a status report on our case before we all head home for the weekend."

"So far I've cross referenced the Suspicious Magical Activity report with any addresses they may have connections to," she said, laying the reports out in front of him. "I think I may be on to something. McCain's great aunt Gertrude was admitted to Saint Mungo's weeks ago, and there seems to be some funny activity patterns at a house she owns. I'm going to keep watching that."

She flipped that record shut, and opened up a new file. "I received this from Gringotts just a bit ago, and it looks like both boys have had a lot of galleons fluctuating in and out of their accounts recently. The Goblins were kind enough to provide me some transaction records, and it seems like a lot of money has been spent at potion stores."

"I've sent letters to the stores asking for itemized receipts- I've gotten a few back already, I should have the rest by Monday. But I think it's pretty safe to say we have our men."

"Impressive," he said, nodding along as she spoke. "You pulled all of this together in just an afternoon?"

"Well, they're not exactly the brightest of criminals."

"So what are your next steps?"

"I'm going to follow up and see where Gertrude McCain is staying these days. I'll contact Mungo's, and if she's not still there, I'd like to send some low level Aurors to do a wellness check."

"Makes sense. I'll give Shane Robin and Darcy Pascovitch a head's up I may need them."

"Monday, I'll have all the itemized receipts from the potions shops and can confirm we have the right men. Every shop here to Hogsmeade has been issued a warning not to sell certain ingredients in large amounts to customers..." she continued, referencing her notes as she spoke. "Then we'll just have to track the thugs down. I'm hoping I can hit the field and do some observation next Tuesday or Wednesday to confirm things before I send you and your men in."

"I'll join you," he said. It wasn't a question. She bit her lip as she remembered why they didn't work very well together. In the normal protocol, she would scout alone. It was much easier to go unnoticed when solo.

"That's certainly not necessary," she scoffed.

"It's not for your benefit," he explained. "It's for mine."

"If you insist... But you best not blow my cover."

"It won't be an issue," he assured her. He peered once more at all of the information she'd managed to amass in such a short amount of time. He really didn't want to tell her he was impressed using words, but he gave an approving nod. "Well, I think that's all I need for today. Keep me updated."

She looked up, unamused. "As you wish."

He left the cubicle, but not before turning and placing his hand on the stack of files for a moment. He'd had a brief change of heart. "Good work today, Woodwell."

At 6 o'clock, an hour after she should have left, Kensington extinguished the lights in her cube. "Go home, Wellwood."

"I'm salary," she said. "What do you mind? I'm making your job easier."

"That's an order," he said in a scolding time. "I need you sharp for this case, go get some rest."

"Fine," she sighed, putting her reading glasses down and packing her bag.

Ten minutes later, she was above ground and walking home. The fresh air was nice, the early June breeze rustling her hair as she walked. She stopped at the grocer on the corner, buying a salad, bottle of wine and a tabloid, before heading up three flights of stairs to the flat she shared with her boyfriend, Ames.

She looked at the clock. Seven. It would be hours before Ames was home. The season had started and she was officially a Quidditch widow. A large glass of wine accompanied dinner, and an even larger one made up dessert, as she flipped through the ridiculous headlines of the cheap magazine. It was her favorite brand of escapism.

Eventually, her eyes grew heavy, and she settled into bed. It was getting late, but she'd lived with Ames long enough to know he'd see himself to bed.

She fell into a deep sleep, dreaming vaguely of her mother and her turbulent childhood. The changing landscape of the mattress woke her, as Ames situated himself in bed.

"What time is it?" She asked, her voice raspy from sleep.

"Nearly three, Liv," he said softly. "Sorry I was out so late, the boys wanted to celebrate-"

"Don't worry about it," she murmured, her voice crackly. She could smell the many pints of beer on him, but just rolled over to her side of the bed to get more comfortable. He followed, wrapping his thick arms around her before he began snoring in her ear. She was too tired to do anything about it.

Monday morning, she was at her desk by eight, pouring over the many pages of itemized receipts sent by eighteen different potions shops. This was exactly what she needed. She began marking certain receipts, and cross-checking their transactions with Gringott's records.

"Bingo," she said circling it and setting them aside.

St. Mungo's had written her back over the weekend, and confirmed that Gertrude McCain had been discharged to a rehabilitation center just outside of the city. Liv spent some time writing them to confirm she was still a patient there, then sealed it with the Ministry's logo in wax, for authenticity.

"Lars," she called, looking up at the cubicle across from hers. She wanted the new, fresh out of Hogwarts intern to take the letter for her, so she didn't need to step away from her work.

"Yeah?"

She held the letter up over the wall of her cubicle, not looking up from her work. "Make sure this is mailed priority for me."

"Oh, uh, Kensington wants me to make copies of-"

She glanced up at him over her reading glasses.

"I'm sure he wouldn't mind if I took a quick break, heh," he said, nervously.

"Thank you, Lars."

By the end of the day, she had everything she needed. She presented it all to Kensington, explaining every aspect of it down to Gertrude McCain's absence, the suspicious activity at her address, and the matching transactions in the two suspects accounts.

"Looks great," he said. "That's why I put you on this case. Top notch work, Wellwood."

"Thank you, sir," she said, clasping her hands together. "I think I'll be out of the office tomorrow doing some research in person."

"Seems like a logical next step."

"Potter wants to come with me," she explained.

"Really?" He asked, wrinkling his face up in confusion. "I already told him I put my best worker in charge..."

She rolled her eyes slightly, annoyed that Potter felt the need to shadow her on the field, as if she wasn't capable of a case like this. "He said it was for his own benefit."

"I suppose," Kensington said, shrugging his shoulders. "If he insists, by all means."

"I'll go confirm with him, but unless you hear anything from me, assume we're not in the office tomorrow."

"Great," he said. "Oh, and be a little nicer to the intern, maybe?"

"Maybe," she pondered. She knew her reputation was never stellar, but her work always was. Kensington was trying to develop her people skills. Those could be taught. Being good at research was innate.

Potter had an office, unlike Liv. When she got there, the door was closed with the blinds shut. She paced back and forth for a minute, then grew bored.

"Hey, Taryn," she said, approaching the woman who worked as an assistant to Potter and a few other high up aurors. "Potter in a meeting?"

"Yes, he's been in all afternoon. I'm not sure how much longer it will be," Taryn explained.

"Helpful," she said, under her breath. "I need to leave a message with him, and it's of the utmost importance that he receive it as soon as possible. I need him to come see me to talk."

"I'll be sure to tell him as soon as he's free."

She strolled back to her desk. Monday afternoons were the only day she ever cut out of work early, as Monday was Ames' day off. All her work was wrapped up, so she was stuck, waiting for Potter to grace her with his presence, before she could go home and spend a few hours with her boyfriend.

She waited an hour before getting up again, circling the office to see if he was really still in a meeting. She found herself getting pretty heated when she saw his door was open.

She swung around the corner and into the office. "You didn't get my message?"

"No, I did. I just had other things to take care of first," Potter said, his face entirely neutral. "But I suppose you're here now, so what do you need?"

"Me? I don't need anything," she said, her eyes narrowed with annoyance. "But if you still wanted to join me in the field tomorrow, I have some info you might want."

"Oh, yes," he said, his tone changing. "Please, sit."

"I'm not staying long," she said. "Meet me here at nine, and we'll walk to the observation spot together. Look like a muggle. And bring stuff to make yourself look busy. A book or something."

She handed him a small stack of papers, including the annotated map. He looked over it, nodding. "Alright, great. I'll see you at nine, Wellwood."

Author's Note: New story! And even better, I have the entire story written (including epilogue!) and will be releasing a new chapter every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9am EST. This was just a bit of an intro, normal chapters will be around 3K words and there should be about 30 chapters to this story. Many, many thanks to my beta potter-reading-coastie, because if not for him, this story would never have left my google drive. Stay tuned for more on Monday!