Length: 1200 words
Summary: When someone's on a "need to know" basis, it means they need to know. Right?
Author's notes/Disclaimer: Written for omniocular's All in a Day's Work challenge. My prompt was a bartender in a wizarding pub. Many thanks to wildegirl_05 for the beta and to evilsource for letting me flail. ♥ / JKR owns. I only play. You do not sue.
The Boggart & Doxy was a relatively new introduction to Knockturn Alley's line-up of reputable establishments. Kieran Binny knew this because the sign -- an evil-looking Doxy made to look even more suspicious by the presence of a washed-out green shadow ostensibly meant to represent a Boggart -- still had colour on it.
That was a lot more than could be said about the interior. The pub itself was tiny and the most noticeable feature was the bar stand with a top that might've been mahogany. The walls of the stand were transparent and filled with a greyish liquid; various unappetising creatures flopped about inside. It was anyone's guess whether they were alive or reanimated by magic.
The walls of the room were painted a dark colour that wasn't quite black -- Kieran could see unidentifiable stains where the floating torches hovered near the ceiling. A mournful kazoo melody played from somewhere behind the bar, and the place stank of disinfectant and pineapples. Cheery.
Even the barman lacked colour. Dressed in black standard robes with hair so blond it was nearly white, he looked like a character from Sally Bopper's Half Holiday. As he walked closer, Kieran was unsurprised to find that the barman's eyes were grey.
"Evening," said Kieran, hopping onto one of the black stools. "What have you got on draught?"
"Black Label," came the reply.
"Our sort or the Muggle sort?"
"Both." Talkative fellow.
"I'll have a pint of the Muggle sort, then," said Kieran.
"Payment's up front," the barman said, lifting a slender black wand off the bar.
Kieran lifted an eyebrow. "Don't I look like I can afford it?"
"You pay up front or you don't get served at all," grumbled the barman.
Cheeky, too. "What if I don't like the drink?"
"Then you order a different one," said the barman with an indifferent shrug.
"How much?" asked Kieran, reaching for his moneybag and trying not to laugh.
Kieran counted the coins out into a neat stack atop the polished surface of the bar.
The barman swept the money into a pouch around his waist, then fixed Kieran with a shrewd stare. "You don't look like you belong here."
"Neither do you."
The barman snorted, but said nothing. He waved his wand at the bar and a pint-glass emerged from underneath it and floated over to a fat keg in the far corner. Another flick of the wand, and the tap opened, filling the glass with a liquid a little too light to be Black Label -- it was obvious even in the half-light of the bar. Not that Kieran was surprised. At least it didn't taste like piss -- a miracle really, in a place like this.
A tall, plump witch emerged from one of the shadowed corners and waddled up to the bar. Her washed-out, watery blue eyes darted around incessantly and Kieran couldn't decide if she was drunk or just slightly deranged.
"Flaming Merlin," she said in a voice that was almost like a man's.
Flaming Merlin? An original way to start a conversation. What would she say next -- hopping Zephaniah?
The woman slapped several Sickles on the bar, which promptly disappeared into the money belt. The barman waved his wand in a complicated pattern. Kieran watched with fascination as a shot-glass zoomed out from under the bar and landed in front of the woman. A stream of liquid issued out of the barman's wand -- intertwined streaks of pale yellow, blood-red and transparent -- and splashed into the shot-glass. A thinner stream of a dark amber liquid followed, and then a spark danced across the surface of the resulting mixture, igniting the top of the glass.
The woman picked up the glass, blew out the flame, downed the drink and promptly disappeared back into the shadows.
"Flaming Merlin, huh?" muttered Kieran to himself.
"Want one?" asked the barman. "It would knock you right out, though. Mabel's probably passed out from it by now."
"No, thanks," said Kieran. "Where'd you learn to make it?"
"Trade secret," said the barman, turning away.
Kieran smirked. "Got many secrets, have you?"
The barman stopped mid-turn and gave him a dirty look. "You're one of Potter's investigator pukes, aren't you?"
"Now you're pushing it. There isn't a person alive this side of the English Channel who doesn't know Harry Potter's name."
"I do know who Harry Potter is, but I thought he played Quidditch now."
The barman scowled. "He does, but in his spare time, he goes around poking his nose into other people's business."
This was the first time those grey eyes held anything remotely resembling emotion -- and what a bright, strong emotion it was. Either this bloke had a seriously unhealthy interest in what Harry Potter did in his spare time, or Kieran was a lizard.
"He's after you? I thought he was too good for Knockturn Alley -- wasn't that what he said in that interview?"
The barman rolled his eyes. "Potter's labouring under the delusion that I had something to do with his girlfriend's death, back during the war."
Kieran looked up at him with interest. "Did you?"
"Of course not. I'm not in Azkaban, am I? Doesn't stop Potter, though." The barman squared his shoulders. "The Auror Office bloody told him last year to stop harassing me, but did he stop? No. He started hiring amateur idiots to try and sound me out."
"A persistent fellow," said Kieran. "I always thought he was a bit of an arsehole."
"You don't know the half of it," said the barman. Either Kieran was imagining things, or the man's cheeks were actually flushed.
"Why, if it isn't young Mr Malfoy," said a reedy voice to Keiran's left. "Still here, I see." The voice belonged to a squat, unshaven man with ginger-coloured hair of the sort that hadn't seen shampoo in at least a fortnight.
"Unfortunately for you," returned Malfoy. He glanced at Kieran. "If you must know, he's the reason everyone pays up front."
"Ran up a tab for sixty Galleons three years ago," cackled the little man, his bloodshot eyes glinting wickedly. "Just finished paying it back last week."
"What'll it be?" asked Malfoy, leaning forward over the stand.
"Firewhisky, make it double," said the sixty-Galleon tab man.
"Ten Sickles, and none of those Muggle coins this time. I warned you, Dung."
Dung? And people said Kieran's surname was funny.
The man called Dung looked dejected for a moment, then sighed and reached into his pocket. "It's robbery, is what it is," he grumbled, climbing atop the bar stool next to Kieran's.
It was obviously time to go; the man not only looked like he hadn't bathed in weeks, he smelled like it, too.
Kieran pulled two more Sickles out of his moneybag and slapped them on the bar before leaving. He would go home, take a shower, and then he would pay a visit to Harry Potter, for the purposes of a little chat regarding full disclosure. He'd had no idea that Malfoy knew about the other private investigators.
How was a man supposed to get his work done when his arsehole clients didn't tell him all he needed to know?
P.S. Kieran Binny is, of course, based entirely on Brian Kinney, a character from the US version of Queer as Folk. >.>