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otherville in ootp_united

WHO: Kingsley and Diana
WHAT: Snooping Looking for information
WHERE: Knockturn Alley
WHEN: Very soon after this
RATING: Not sure. PG or PG-13, depending

Kingsley was not snooping. Snooping implied hiding oneself, ducking in shadows, listening in on otherwise private conversations, and generally going about unseen. Which was exactly what he was doing, but he was one of the Good Guys, so it didn't count as snooping. No, this was gathering information. Yeah.

Currently, he was flying under the radar in Knockturn Alley, hidden by a rather good Disillusionment charm. Thus far, no one had taken any notice of him, not even to turn their head at the sudden sensation of someone walking by when there wasn't anyone there. Kingsley was good at Disillusionment.

He tucked himself into a tiny side alley between two dilapidated buildings as a group of indistinguishable creatures in black cloaks went by. Whatever they were, they weren't human. Knockturn Alley was getting more dangerous every day; a microcosm of the outside world.

He was just about to move back into the main alley when loud voices approached, sounding quite drunk. Kingsley pressed himself against the wall of one of the buildings, keeping to the shadows of the side alley despite the charm already concealing him from view. Drunken wizards could be dangerous...


Diana, Diana...the name rang no bells. This rather forward girl wasn't someone Kingsley knew or had heard of. That was a double-edged sword; her absence from his mental list of potential threats meant that he had no idea how much of a threat she might be. On the other hand, she could be telling the truth.

Kingsley lowered his wand, but didn't put it away just yet. Experience had taught him that trust needed to be earned, and earned slowly and thoroughly.

"I suppose you would take it as suspicious or a potential threat if I said that I choose to remain nameless for the time being?" he inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"I would suppose that you're trying to cover your ass until you can fully vet me," she replied back scathingly. "But you forget that it's a two way street, I'm vetting you too, don't forget. You have to give a little to get a little. If I'm the only one giving, that's not a very good way to start off a working relationship, hmm? Besides, I gave you my first name, not my surname. I didn't ask you for your date of birth or your wand maker or anything particularly identifying. Besides, there's a rather utilitarian reason for asking your name. If you don't have something I can call you by, I shall have to resort to referring to you as Big Surly Man. And I doubt you'd enjoy being called Big Surly Man over and over again," she said with a smirk.
The problem was, of course, that there were plenty of people in the world called Diana, and not very many at all called Kingsley. But Knockturn Alley was fairly deserted, the drunken wizards having long since gone on their way, and he did still have a hold of his wand. He was a member of the Order, after all. He knew how to be careful.

"You may call me Kingsley," he said, as if granting permission rather than introducing himself. His grip on his wand tightened unconsciously.
"Oh, what a delightful name," Diana said charmingly, and she wasn't being facetious, either. "Well, Kingsley, we've met on very unusual circumstances, but it's still a pleasure. At least there are still some people in the world who will stand up to this nonsense." She gestured about her to Knockturn Alley with a sad sigh. His subtle tightening around the wand wasn't unnoticed.

Diana sighed. "Got any veritaserum on you? I mean, let's just get it over with. Then you'll know I'm telling the truth. And if you're willing to take it yourself after I do, then I'll know you're telling the truth. And then we'll both sleep better at night. I'm afraid I don't have any myself. Not only are the ingredients hard to find, but potions was not my strong suit in school." Pyrotechnics, yes. She found it incredibly easy to blow up the lab many times, but correctly brewing a potion wasn't something that every happened.
"We shall have to settle for standard, non-magical trust for the time being," was Kingsley's reply, though he, too, saw the merit of Veritaserum in such a situation.
"It works for the muggles, though they at least have some very inefficient things call polygraphs which relies on scare tactics and interrogation... even their own scientists have discredited it. But everyone tries to discern truth as accurately as possible."

Diana chewed on her lip, thinking for a moment. "Knockturn alley seems to be deserted, now. We can skulk off to seek new targets, or find someplace to have a drink and talk. I'll leave that up to you. Though I'd rather not stay here when and if the Dementors come." Those creatures... she never could cope with them. They were only good for an excuse to eat chocolate. Not that she ever needed an excuse.
Kingsley risked a look around. There didn't seem to be any voices, save a few distant ones wafting out from the windows of buildings. No sound of footsteps met his ears. And Diana's mention of Dementors sent a chill up even his spine. There was always a pall of mist swirling around the street in Knockturn.

As for talking...perhaps that would be best. Parting ways now meant that this girl, should she turn out to be dangerous after all, would be walking off with his name, his appearance, and a vague idea of his business free for the telling to whomever she thought fit to hear it. At least, if they spent a bit of time talking, he would be able to better gauge her loyalties.

"If you have no aversion to the Leaky Cauldron, perhaps we could talk there," he suggested.
"Not at all," Diana replied, turning and heading in that direction, but nothing without casting a careful look around. "I love the Leaky Cauldron. Though it has lost much of its atmosphere with all this war business," she added sadly. It was a shame to see such a cultural icon so deserted, most of the time. "Fear can do terrible things to communities. Sometimes I think even if the Leaky Cauldron goes out of business because of the war, then I'll still stand around near it and sip on pumpkin juice, purely out of spite," she laughed softly.

Diana thought it best to fill the silence with conversation. It was neither revealing too much nor demanding anything of the rather obstinate Kingsley. However, any information was useful; as knowledge was power. Anyone who was a spy knew that-- a spy was putting your life on the line in order to learn something. And it didn't even have to be a particularlly big something, either.

It was exactly what she was doing now-- putting her identity and life on the line in order to learn more about this mysterious stranger who claimed to share her sentiments. But, she had long since resigned herself to the danger of that-- after all, she thought wryly, her mother always said she'd die before she was 35.
Kingsley, for his part, was only half-listening. He had long ago developed a way of discerning between the important and the unimportant, and his brain would alert him if the former suddenly presented itself in the midst of Diana's rambling. He was using the rest of his faculties to watch out for potential danger on the streets around them.
Yeesh, this would not be easy. The man did not want to be coaxed out of his shell. Though she appreciated his observations, she knew once they were both seated in the Leaky Cauldron, she'd have to stop talking and all but make him take over. Diana would put herself out there-- but only so far. All the same, she understood his position. Paranoia was better than death.

Eventually, the familiar Leaky Cauldron came into sight, and she entered, perching herself on one of the stools. The few regulars who still stayed around nodded politely to her, murmuring her name. At least she knew that if the Cauldron was closed, they, too, would stand outside and sip on pumpkin juice out of spite with her. They could have a sit-in. She nearly laughed aloud at the thought.

"Order what you want. It's on me," she told Kingsley amicably, asking for pumpkin juice herself. She almost never drank, unless it was socially. Alcohol affected the brain, and she needed every neuron on the highest alert right now. Taking out her wand, she whispered a spell, watching the glass glow and shift in color.

"Well, it's not been messed with," she remarked, sipping at it. There were some obscure potions that could slip past the test, but she always tested anyway. Same principle-- better paranoid than dead.
Kingsley, too, rarely drank. It was too risky these days to put your mind in a compromised state. In a situation like this, it would be downright stupid. He ordered a butterbeer.
Diana just stared at him for several minutes. Finally, she raised an eyebrow. Well, the least he could do was thank her for paying for his drink.

"You know..." she said dryly. "When we agreed to go somewhere, have a drink, and talk, I was laboring under the delusion that a conversation was defined as a time when people exchanged ideas, facts, sentences... It involves trading off..." She quirked an eyebrow at him. "I've monopolized things long enough. Why don't you take over?" she asked. "Is there anything you'd like to ask me...?" she suggested.

Sometimes secret operatives could be babies. Apparently she was going to have to hold his hand and guide him through this normal human interaction of the art of conversation. Poor soul.
Another thing that Kingsley had learned long ago was to let other people do the talking as much as possible. It was amazing the things you could learn if you left a big, yawning silence for people to get nervous about. The more nervous they got, the more they babbled to fill that silence, and the less caution they tended to use as they babbled. Diana, however, apparently knew this trick and wasn't about to fall for it.

"I could ask you what your search for information has turned up," he said at length. "But I have the feeling that you wouldn't be willing to tell me, and that it's none of my business in any case."

Who knew, maybe that tactic would work. Indifference had its own way of gathering information.
"You're wrong there," Diana remarked. "If we're on the same side, what I tell you can only help the both of us. If you're not, then what I tell you can only hurt me. It's the economic model of Nash's equilibrium. Brilliant muggle, he was..." But she didn't let herself get distracted this time. "Tonight, I didn't find out much except that morale is very high. They're gloating about how they have everyone in fear, so they feel victory is near. And some of them kept joking about a muggle man-- saying he was the most useful muggle the Dark Lord has ever come across. I thought I was going to be vomit," she said with disgust. "As for it being your business, it most certainly is. I'm not here for a competition, Kingsley," she said, a little crossly. "It's not first spy to the prize. There are lives at stake, so I'm willing to take a risk and tell you. The Dark Lord is out for everyone, we're all each other's business now." Perhaps that was the most revealing statement of Diana's frame of mind-- 'we're all each other's business now.' She firmly believed that. It didn't matter what nationality, liberal or conservative, pure-blood or muggle-born, there was a despot on the loose and united we stand and all of that jazz.
Kingsley was instantly on the alert. Caution or no caution, this could be a lead.

"A Muggle man?" he inquired. "Did you catch a name?"

September 2008

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