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This story is dedicated to PenguinsWillReignSupreme - a true friend.
September 7th, 2075
House of Archambeau
The rain poured down, slashing at the windows with intent. Vicious winds howled through the trees, ripping foliage and creating carnage. In the distance a huge manor stood with only a few tiny squares of light to show for its inhabitants. A bolt of lightning fused with a telephone line and sent it crashing to the earth. The lights in the manor were extinguished.
“Julianna? Julie? Oh, please wake up!” Edith yelled desperately at the motionless body that she predicted was in front of her. Blindingly reaching out for candles, she edged her way round the girl's frame to grasp a sliver of worn wood. It came. She sighed with relief. Overhead, a roll of thunder sent a tremor through the house, reverberating through the many rooms.
“Typical for a bleedin' thunderstorm to 'appen at a time like this!” Edith muttered, exasperated. A bolt of lightning illuminated the bedroom for a split second. With time pressing, she conjured candles and focused on the young woman before her.
“Julianna, oh Julie ...” Edith sighed to herself, as the young woman suddenly convulsed in agonising pain. Julianna's eyes flew open and Edith could only watch in horror as her mouth opened to produce a scream of torture. Blood had started to flow freely from in between her legs, and sweat soaked her body. She gripped the sheets underneath her for dear life. Julianna gave the ageing woman a piercing stare, struggling to speak.
Her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she fell unconscious once more, head lolling to the side.
Edith awoke from her fascinated stupor and set to work immediately, all the while cursing the heavens above. Julianna's condition was undeniable: her life was slowly ebbing away from the veins within. ‘Not if I can help it,’ Edith thought to herself desperately; she had known Julie since she was a little girl, and was not prepared to lose her. She swished and sliced her wand through the air, conjuring various forms of medical equipment to assist her with the birth, whilst frantically making sure that Julianna's condition did not deteriorate further.
Amidst the grim hubbub around the bed, a man climbed in through the unlocked window, his wand tip lit. The white light cast an eerie glow across his panic-stricken face, forming shadows that made him look lined and middle aged. However, as he stepped closer to the candlelight it was revealed that he was a young man no older than thirty.
“How is she?” He whispered agitatedly, eyes darting to and from Edith and Julianna who was currently drawing breaths in short sharp bursts. Edith turned round and threw her arms in the air at the sight of the man before her.
“Merlin's beard! Jeremy, you can't be 'ere!” Edith hissed at the tall figure standing before her. “If Julie's parents see you here, they will go bloomin’ mental. D’you want to ruin her even more?”
“Edith, you can’t stop me from being present at the birth of my own child.” Jeremy responded with a final edge to his voice. Edith sighed heavily and stepped away, and Jeremy ran to his beloved's side. The last of Julianna’s contraction was ebbing away and she opened her eyes.
“Jeremy...” Julianna said weakly, a small smile on her face as she saw the man she loved beside her. She reached out for his hand, and Jeremy took it, laying a kiss which expressed so much love and passion that Edith had to look away from embarrassment. She only turned back sharply when Julianna started to scream and retch once more. A single tear fell down Jeremy's cheek; all he could do was watch as Edith fussed and surveyed the beeping machinery.
“I didn’t realise a joyous occasion could bring so much pain and suffering.”
Edith clucked her tongue. “You'd be surprised at just what 'appens, young sir. I've seen plenty a woman scream louder than Julianna 'ere.” One look at Jeremy’s face, and her features softened. “Don’ worry. She’ll be alrigh’, she always is.” Edith paused to let her withered hand run down a sheet of facts and figures, all the while feeling more and more helpless. The point had been reached were all Edith could do was encourage Julianna to push as hard as she could and keep her breathing regular. Jeremy noted her disconcert.
“You’re sure, aren’t -”
The sound of voices in the hallway caused the duo to freeze, staring at one another like terrified statues. They both knew who was drawing ever closer: Lord and Lady Archambeau.
“Oh bloomin' 'eck! Jeremy, out with ye!” Edith managed to squawk before dashing off to fend off the Lord and Lady at the door. Jeremy cast a wistful gaze over to Julianna, who was looking at him in a forlorn manner. He tenderly kissed her forehead.
“Once all this is over, we’ll be a family together, Jules. Trust me. I love you.” And with a final stroke of her cheek, he climbed out of the window into the storm.
“'E's gone, thank the lord above. I managed to tell yer mother that you was too ill to see -” Edith said, but was cut off by a scream of pain. “Oh lord, it's time!”
Thirty more minutes of labour ensued, with Edith wondering fearfully whether the young woman would make it through the birth more than once. It was more than touch and go. Moans of pure pain were accompanied with tense moments and panic. However, when she heard the first cries of the tiny baby, she could not help but sigh with relief as she checked the gender and cleaned the beautiful baby girl up. After the necessary procedures had been carried out, Edith placed the child carefully in Julianna’s arms. She held her as if she were the most fragile thing in the world.
“She's perfect.” Julianna sighed happily, touching the baby's nose and smiling. She was exhausted, so exhausted, and just wanted to sleep. Her grip slackened slightly as she began to doze. Edith cleared her throat pointedly.
“I'm afraid I have to perform the spell now.”
“Oh, yes. Of course.” Julianna replied sorrowfully, waking up a little. She laid the tiny creature in the middle of the soiled silk sheets. Edith rolled up her sleeves and pointed her wand at the girl.
“Remember what happens, Julie? A green glow means that she's in the clear. It’s just routine,” Edith said, and Julianna nodded with confidence. “Now … ostendo futurus magus!”
The two watched with baited breath as an odd humming noise occurred, shortly followed by a blue light encasing the child's body for a split second before disappearing. A stunned silence sank over the expensive furnishings of the room, entombing the place with a fateful quiet.
“It can't be. No. Do it again!” Julianna ordered, staring at her daughter with overwhelming maternal protection. Edith looked horrified, mouthing “No,” again and again as if her words would change the poor girl’s fate. Through the extreme fatigue and aching, Julianna’s fear for her child grew stronger. She reached out and placed a finger lightly on the baby’s hand, whose fingers curled round those of her mother’s. Edith obliged and repeated the spell, but the same blue light was present. Julianna felt hot tears forming and streaming down her cheeks. “No! This can't happen! She's just a baby, Edith, SHE'S JUST A CHILD!”
“Oh God. I know lovey, I know.” Edith tried her best to consolidate a distraught Julianna, all the while her stony interior melting away when she witnessed the pure love Julianna showed towards her daughter. One thing was certain: she did not have the heart to turn in the baby to the Ministry.
The clogs in her brain started turning. An idea sparked.
“Julie ... Julie. Listen t’ me,” Edith said, grabbing her by the shoulders and forcing her attention. “This is a long shot at bes’, and I can’t begin to tell ye how much ye going to ‘ate me for suggestin’ it. But ... there migh’ be a way t’ save the littl’un’s life.” Julianna’s pupils were dilated with painkillers and tiredness, but she managed to focus on what Edith was saying. Another way? ...
“We ... we migh’ be able to ... well, d’you know of a couple who would be able te look after the littl’un, raise ‘er, and keep ‘er under the radar?” Edith flinched at the look of torment in Julianna’s eyes. She placed a hand on the young woman’s and squeezed it.
“You mean ... give her away? Away? I’ve only had her for ten minutes!” Julianna cried, looking absolutely miserable. Edith’s heart broke for her. To have something as precious as life and then to take it away was the worst possible thing to happen, especially to Julianna. She had suffered more than a lifetime's worth in the course of a year.
“I’m sorry pet, bu’ I think this is the only way.”
Julianna shook her head and refused to accept what was fast shaping up to be reality. Edith decided to leave the room for a moment and inform the Lord and Lady that Julianna was still suffering terribly. Her parents looked mildly concerned, but otherwise unaffected. She mentioned nothing of the baby being born and the reaction to the spell. Once she returned there was a look of sorrow and resignation on Julianna’s face. She had given in.
“There’s this one couple I’ve met a few times. Mid fifties at the time, they’d be a little older now. They were childless, and told me it was their greatest regret. They were so desperate for a child,” Julianna sighed, looking at the infant in her arms. Her grip tightened protectively over her. “I suppose they might have a place for her in their home.” A small part of her desperately wished they didn’t.
“Julie ... it's either ask this couple of yours to keep the chick, or 'and 'er over to the Ministry. I know which one I'd 'ave chosen if it were me.”
Julianna was torn, realising the full situation. Giving her first daughter away to a couple who may not want her at all meant that she would never see the beautiful bundle resting in her arms again. Taking her to the Ministry allowed her a visit every two years … but what they did there was unthinkable. She felt her concentration slipping and kept having to snap awake as her head nodded off. She was so drained she was feeling slightly delirious.
“I'll Apparate to their place.” Julianna said decidedly, gathering her thoughts and rising onto swaying feet. Edith steadied her, looking concerned.
“Are ye really sure tha’s a good idea, pet?”
“I don’t exactly have any other options,” Julianna replied with as much authority as she could muster. All she wanted to do was curl into a ball with her darling daughter and sleep, and she could be a mother, a wife to Jeremy, have a family ... but she had to do this for the sake of her girl’s life. “What are you going to tell my parents?”
“I'll declare the child as stillborn. They'll be overjoyed.” Edith said darkly. Her face softened. “Ye realise ye can’t come back, Julie.”
Sighing harshly, Julianna nodded. “I know. It’s not a hardship; I hate this place.” She looked around in disgust at the stuffy, upper class room. To her, it symbolised the oppression she had suffered from her entire life. She placed the baby on the bed again and hugged Edith fierecely, stumbling slightly into it from exertion. “Thank you.”
“Yer welcome. Good luck, my pet. We’ll see each other soon,” Edith whispered, a small tear at the corner of her eye as she turned away and left the room. Neither of them knew they would never see each other again.
Julianna took one last look at the room that had been her captivity for half a year. She picked up the life before her; the baby was asleep. With the greatest effort she had ever made in her life the lavish blue and gold décor faded away into nothingness and was replaced with a lamp-lit, suburban road.
Julianna nearly fainted from the sheer effort of Apparating. Her body felt weak and sore, and she fell to her knees. The baby woke up and began to cry. She attempted to rock her back to sleep but it made no difference. All that Julianna could do now that she was here was make sure that her baby was warm and secure before setting off along the passage, in search of the couple's house. The warm September night felt stuffy against her flushed face, but she pressed on. She wondered idly whether the couple would accept her ludicrous proposition as she staggered past several houses with identical green lawns and a driveway on the left side. The baby started to whimper softly, sensing her mother's agitation. All Julianna could do was whisper words of comfort and delve into the corners of her mind to remember where the house was. She had to stop several times to stop her head from spinning and to rest as the baby drifted into a light slumber. A turn of the corner and several rows later Julianna found the residence of Mr and Mrs Hart. She rang the doorbell several times, looking round fearfully as if the Ministry officials would find her any moment.
The door opened to show an aging woman with a kind smile, but she soon looked horrified when she took in Julianna's dishevelled appearance and the child in her arms. “Julianna ... oh my goodness.”
“Can I come in? I need to come in!” Julianna asked desperately feeling slightly hysterical. She dropped forward with exhaustion and Eleanor steadied her, supporting her weight and bringing Julianna into the house. She collapsed into a chair and looked round blearily.
The Hart's home was neat and tidy, an average suburban house. The photos on the wall all hung straight, and every surface was free of dust. They had obviously tried to blend in with the Muggle suburbs, but there were still a few signs of magic in the house. Eleanor called out to her husband, Gary, who came running to greet their visitor. His face fell when he saw the state of the young woman.
“Julie? What’s happened?”
She sighed and began her story. It took a full half an hour just to cover the basics, but Eleanor and Gary just listened, without any signs of prejudice or resentment reaching their faces. They did not believe in the ancient ways of blood and classes. The same could not be said for Julianna's family.
Julianna pressed on, keeping her voice as level as possible. She was slurring her speech slightly from lack of sleep. “This beautiful, beautiful joy arrived around an hour ago. I don't think I've ever felt so happy in my entire life.” She paused to look down and smile at her daughter, who was now asleep. Eleanor looked startled.
“You mean to say ... you Apparated so soon?! My goodness child, you need to be resting!”
“There isn’t time for that,” Julianna said sternly, returning to her story. The memory of what happened next was evidently portrayed by her body language, making Gary and Eleanor lean closer.
“Edith cast the test ... it was negative.”
Unable to hold herself together any longer, Julianna collapsed into tears, every sob smashing the couple's heart into pieces. Eleanor looked down at the baby; such a lovely child, so pure and innocent, should not be incarcerated and left to die at the hands of tyranny. There was silence from the couple for a few minutes.
“I take it you aren't wanting to hand her over to the Ministry.” announced Gary, who seemed to be in deep thought. Julianna raised her puffy eyes.
“Of course not. I simply will not allow it. The things they do there to those children are barbaric.”
“I understand, and sympathise.”
“But what can we do? We're just an average couple, no status or prestige -“ Eleanor began, gesturing wildly. It was an odd and dangerous situation, but she desperately wanted to help in any way she could.
“That’s exactly what she needs – an unsuspecting life. I know that what I’m asking is a huge undertaking, and will be dangerous for you and her ... but it’s better than her being taken to the Ministry. If you don’t want to do it, I’ll leave now.” Julianna whispered quietly, so the two could barely hear what she had to say.
“You want us to have her,” Eleanor stated, eyeing the girl thoughtfully. Julianna nodded.
“Well, this is a huge decision to make …” Eleanor said to herself, lost in her deliberation. At this point Gary piped in.
“Oh come on, Eleanor! We've always wanted a child of our own, and we have a spare room which I can easily fix up right now. We'd have to be careful when we do magic so that she doesn't see, but I don't have a problem with that. It’ll be hard, but I’m willing to do it!” Gary cried, taking his wife's hands in his own. His little speech seemed to do the trick. Eleanor turned to Julianna and nodded.
“We'll have her for you.”
Julianna’s relief was mingled with pain as she realised she may never see her daughter again. A small tear ran down her cheek. “I cannot thank you enough for this.”
“Well, we don't want that child ending up at the Ministry.” Eleanor stated, shuddering slightly. She didn’t want to find out any time soon what exactly went on in there – the rumours were bad enough. She gathered up Julianna's daughter in her arms and cooed. “Welcome to the world, little one!”
She was so tired, but Julianna stood back and smiled at the picture. Gary and Eleanor were both leaning over her daughter with a look of pure happiness and bliss completing the scene. They would make excellent parents.
“I can't see her again.” Julianna burst in suddenly. The couple looked immediately saddened. “You know what my family are like. And if the Ministry find out ... I’m going to have to go into hiding.” Gary sighed.
“We'll take good care of her, don't you worry.” Gary said, smiling warmly. He walked over and clasped Julianna’s hands. “By the way, does she have a name?”
“Yes. I wanted to name her Evangeline, Evie for short.” Julianna replied sadly. The knowledge that she would never see her daughter again was only just starting to sink in. She turned away from the sight of the new family, and started for the door.
“Good bye, Evie.”
With a final look back, she left and Disapparated.
Gary and Eleanor turned to one another. “What a night...” Eleanor could not help but look down feel sorry for the baby in her arms. “A Squib. Who would have thought it?”
Seventeen years later
September 7th, 2092
“Evie! Evie, sweetie!” Gary called up the stairs, heavily leaning on his cane for support. “Come on, love, your mother's waiting to see you. There's only so much time you can spend getting ready!”
“Ohh, you'd be surprised Dad!” Evie yelled back, and he chuckled.
“It's your family celebration for your birthday and you want to spend it in the bathroom? Deary me!” Gary exclaimed in reply. At this guilt tripping, Evie came running down the stairs, an apologetic smile gracing her features.
“I wouldn't miss it for the world,” Evie said quietly, and Gary bowed his head slightly. He gave his adopted daughter a tight squeeze and a kiss on the head as she hugged him back. The sound of heavy breathing reached their ears, and they hurried into the living room where Eleanor was sat in her favourite chair. She smiled at them both, which immediately turned into a grimace as she started to cough. Evie adjusted the medical equipment surrounding her, and Eleanor started to breathe easily once again. She resumed her smile.
“Seventeen at last, Evie!” Eleanor cried, her bright eyes juxtaposing with her gaunt face. Evie grinned back.
“Yes, it seems like forever. Still, eighteen is the really big one anyway.” she replied, noticing Eleanor and Gary look at one another. Evie pushed it to the back of her mind, focusing on the envelope and present before her. She looked up at them both knowingly. “You guys spoil me!”
“Yes, but we enjoy it!” Gary replied, settling himself on the sofa. He cast a sideways glance at his wife to check that she was alright whilst Evie ripped through the packaging like a small child. A necklace of white gold and sapphire fell out of the mess, making Evie gasp in delight.
“It's beautiful!” she cried, staring at the glittering stones in fascination. She’d also received a sum of money for driving lessons. Evie thanked them both by hugging them tightly, being as tender as she could with Eleanor. “I'll go and make some tea now.”
“Alright love. I'm tired; I could do with a good cuppa.” Eleanor stated, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. Evie headed to the kitchen, thinking about her new presents whilst Gary went to go and get something from his study. She returned with a tray of cups and tea, offering some to Eleanor. When she didn’t respond, her smile disappeared.
Eleanor's eyes did not flutter open. A cold wave of distress shot through Evie's veins, crashing over her head and blurring her vision. Gary returned from his study, holding a wrapped package.
“There is something-“ he started, but he stopped mid-sentence when he saw Evie’s terrified face. He stared at his wife, the woman who had been at his side for decades with wide eyes. Ever so slowly, Evie inched her hands towards her adoptive mother's pulse point and recoiled with a cry as she felt none. Time seemed to slow as she took in her peaceful face, her lifeless body.
“She's gone...” Evie stated, and her voice finally cracked. Sinking into the sofa, all she could do was cry as her father comforted her, his own eyes rimmed with tears filled of the knowledge that he would never see his wife's smiling face again. Evie’s body was wracked with sobs until she could barely breathe; she didn’t feel her father’s comforting hand on her shoulder. All she could see was despair. Her mother was gone. There was a silence for what felt like hours.
“This is too soon,” Gary finally said. His voice sounded broken, as if he had just lost a part of himself. He looked down and stroked Evie's hair. She sniffed and vaguely remembered what day it was. Fresh tears threatened to fall.
“Cancer doesn't wait for birthdays,” she acknowledged bitterly. Rising from the sofa, she walked out of the room that would forever cause her turmoil and drifted upstairs. The house seemed a little colder, a little more worn now.
Gary sat back as his daughter left the room; he finally let the tears fall. Crying, he shuffled over to his wife’s body and laid his head on her lap as means of comfort. He didn’t know whether he would be strong enough for Evie; whether he could continue to protect her without Eleanor by his side. He clutched his chest as a fierce pang in his heart overwhelmed him. He sighed, bitterly thinking that this was his penance. He had not been entirely honest with his family.
He thought about the last time he went to the doctor about the heart problem he had diagnosed – it must have been month now, he was so caught up in caring for Eleanor. Gary had tried to hide it from the two as best as he could, and if either of them asked whether he was okay he would reply, “Fit as a fiddle. Nothing to worry about!” He hadn’t told her or Evie about it – there was no need to worry either of them, especially Evie. She had enough to deal with. As tears rained down his cheeks, he realised.
His days were running out: he could feel the sands of time running faster and faster, gaining momentum. Evie would have to know soon.
The next few days were slow torture for Evie. All she wanted to do was curl into a ball and stay in bed for the rest of her days. She only left her room for meals and shuffled back upstairs like a ghost. She didn’t talk.
Various people had come to pay their respects to her late adoptive mother She didn’t have the heart to turn them away, despite wanting to be alone. Some of the visitors were decidedly strange; one old man appeared with no bag and was not carrying anything, and yet a minute later was holding a large bouquet of flowers. Evie suspected that they had been picked from neighbouring gardens, but didn’t question him.
The other factor that made life so utterly miserable was that the death of Eleanor had taken the greatest toll possible on her father. He had told Evie about his condition and how it had gotten worse in recent months, but Evie thought the shock of losing his wife had had a major toll on his affliction. Gary had not left his room since, and barely ate anything. He quickly grew thin, his cheekbones protruding and eyes large. He didn’t bother to speak unless absolutely necessary and appeared to have lapsed into depression; Evie was beside herself with worry. The two doctors which Evie had desperately called could only sigh and recommend rest. In hear heart she knew what was soon to happen, but pushed the thought to the back of her mind.
She now sat in her father's room, applying a cold compress to his forehead. He licked his dry lips and spoke in barely a whisper.
“You need to know, Evie.”
“Need to know what?” Evie asked in a soothing voice, paying great care to make sure he was as comfortable as possible.
“You need to know about us... our world...”
This was the first time Gary had achieved proper speech in days. Evie leaned in closer, worry etched onto her features with a hint of piqued interest. “What world? What do you mean, dad?”
“You are different from the others... but we are even more different. They will want to find you eventually, your mother is gone and I ...” Gary coughed for what seemed like an age. Evie fetched a glass of water, growing increasingly anxious. What on earth was he on about?
“We cannot protect you any longer. You mustn't let them find you, Evie, do you hear me? Never! Your mother, she would not have wanted this... she left you in our care because she loved you, not because she didn't want you, remember that.” Gary finished, before closing his eyes and smiling. His breathing was shallow.
“Who's coming for me? What am I?!” Evie cried in desperation, hot tears threatening to let themselves known. She jolted her father awake. He eyed her curiously.
“You're not a normal squib, Evangeline.”
“What's a squib? What is this world?” The questions kept pouring out, each one rising in volume until she was crying, crying so hard that she couldn’t stop. She didn’t notice her father take his final, rattling breath until she looked up. He had passed on, a serene smile on his face.
Evie sank to her knees, the world spinning. She had lost both the people who she regarded as parents, who she trusted more than anyone, in less than a week. Sobbing unrelentingly, she finally rose and kissed her father's forehead.
Evie was frightened. Her father’s final words had made her paranoid and she hadn’t returned to school since his death. She mostly lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling until her eyes grey tired and weary. She didn’t feel like eating. She avoided the living room; the memories were still too fresh. As a sign of remembrance, she wore the necklace her parents had given her a week before constantly. She touched the delicate sapphire pieces fondly, as if it were a talisman against the evil her father had spoken of.
Around three days later, Evie received a knock on the door. After unlocking various bolts and locks, she was finally presented with a stern looking man who had glittering black eyes. She was slightly unnerved by the stranger.
“Hello. My name is Hector Mutegi, and may I firstly offer my dearest condolences on your loss. May I come in?” He smiled. Evie grunted and eyed him warily.
“Why are you here?” she asked roughly, unconvinced. What her father had told her was still at the front of her mind.
“I’m here on behalf of the... society that your parents belonged to. We are able to provide assistance for any plans that you have made for the funeral.”
Evie bit her lip, thinking of the growing worry that was money. She wasn’t sure how she was going to be able to pay for it all; she didn’t have access to her parents’ accounts and only had a small part time job at the newsagents round the corner. She gave in and opened the door wider, showing him into the living room. The man sat himself on the seat where her mother had been merely a week ago.
“It must have been a very hard time for you,” Hector stated, leaning forward and linking his eyes. His dark eyes avoided her as he looked around the room, uninterested. Evie’s eyes narrowed slightly as she formulated an answer.
“Thank you, I do appreciate it. It has been a truly difficult time for all of us who knew them.” Evie replied carefully. She couldn't help but stare as he was dressed smartly, but in a very eccentric manner – a tribal cloak fastened with an emerald jewel sat boldly on his shoulders, the sunlight making the gem dazzle. He looked to be in his fifties. His manner of walking and the way he held himself clearly suggested that he was a man of great importance.
“I've come to talk to you about the arrangement of your parent's funeral. I'm assuming you haven't dealt with this yet?” he asked.
“No, I'm afraid it has only been thought about. I was going to call the local parlour later today. I’ve rather been putting it off because of... well, funding.” Evie was embarrassed to admit the truth. She tried to hide her burning cheeks, but Hector didn’t seem to notice.
“The good news for you is that there's no need. The... society that your parents belonged to can provide any arrangements that need to be taken care of. You won't need to worry about a thing,” Hector finished. “We will, however, require your full name.” Hector’s eyes bored into Evie as she mulled over the proposition. Although she did not like the uneasy feeling that had settled, she felt compelled to say yes.
“Why exactly do you need my full name?” she asked in a guarded tone. There was something about the mysterious man that she didn’t like. Hector smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Just for future records and so that we can contact you if needs be,” he replied smoothly. Evie sighed.
“My name is Evie Hart. Evangeline May Hart, if it’s needed for records.”
Hector froze. The only movement he made was the twirling of his jewel fastener, casting glimmers of light across the room. However, as soon as he showed any sort of recognition of her name, it disappeared almost immediately. Evie wondered for a brief second about whether she had imagined it.
“Thank you. We'll be in contact shortly.”
And with a final swish of his cloak, Hector Mutegi was gone. Evie quickly pushed the strange encounter out of her mind, and went about her day as usual, but pulled the covers a little closer around her as she fell asleep that night.
Evie woke with a start. She was absolutely positive that she could hear people in the house; a small knocking noise was coming from downstairs. The grandfather clock chimed three in the morning; the wind whistled through the trees outside, and a stair creaked. Evie could almost feel her heart stop.
Abruptly, several men wearing dark robe-like clothing seemingly appeared in Evie's room out of thin air. She started to scream, scrambling from her half sat position, but a man pointed a stick at her throat and her voice was gone. Evie clutched her throat helplessly, wondering what on earth had happened, when two of the men grabbed her roughly and hauled her into a standing position. Another two grabbed her legs so Evie felt herself suspended in mid air; she tried to kick and struggle but another point of those funny sticks left her paralysed.
Evie was terrified, still trying to lash out at the men. One of the cloaks had a logo emblazoned on the breast pocket, with the word 'Auror' underneath. She was confused and frightened, until she realised what her predicament was and that they were taking her outside. Her fear grew.
In a rush of adrenaline which surprised her, Evie desperately struggled against the men until she could feel her limbs starting to work together once again, and her voice slowly regaining power. The Auror, surprised, accidentally dropped her leg in confusion.
“What the hell is happening?” he said in a heavy Scottish accent, but Evie paid little attention. With one leg free, she kicked a second man in the face, freeing her other leg as he howled in pain, clutching his nose. The other men rushed over to see whether he was alright; she was free.
“Remember the orders!” a distant voice yelled, but this was soon forgotten as Evie raced for her life. The pitch black was dotted with the yellow tones of street lamps, providing a hazy orange glow against the night sky. Evie dashed along endless roads, passing rows of identical houses until she her lungs screamed for air and her body felt saturated with lactic acid. She wanted to pause, but the men were still in pursuit; she couldn't stop.
The full weight of what exactly was happening suddenly hit Evie like a ton of bricks, and her pace slowed with every stride. The voices from behind were growing stronger, and Evie turned to face the men, accepting her fate. She closed her eyes and let the tears of pain roll down her cheeks.
Just as the men were about to come into view, Evie felt her body lurch violent sideways as she tumbled into a ditch, along with a black mass. After what seemed like an age, she finally came to a spinning stop, landing on something fairly soft. The thing let out a low, pained groan. Almost immediately, it sat up and covered her mouth, and Evie went rigid with fear.
“I won't hurt you. Just keep quiet and they won't notice us.” it whispered in a male voice, barely loud enough to hear. Evie relaxed marginally before regaining her alert stance. Eyes wide, she looked up at the pinpricks against the velvet black as she listened to various grunts.
“She can't have gone far.” One man said. She recognised the voice as the man who dropped her leg in surprise. “She's only some worthless scum anyway. I don't see why we needed a whole wing of the squadron involved, we could have easily had two of us on the job.”
“You idiot! She took out one of us, and she did some dodgy shit with her mind or summat, 'cos I dunno how she got free. Plus she's got a pair of legs ...” another man retorted. “We'll have to go back. I'm bloody knackered now. Tell the boss she got away.”
“I'm with you on that, but he won't be happy in the slightest. Return to the head!” shouted the first man, and there were several popping sounds before an endless stretch of quiet.
Evie closed her eyes and exhaled heavily, feeling her pulse rate slowly return to normal. The person (or at least she thought it was a person; after appearing men with wooden sticks, nothing would surprise her now) next to her released his grip on her body and rolled onto his back, letting out a low whistle.
“That was close, wasn't it?” he asked excitedly, and Evie made out that he'd turned to face her. She raised an eyebrow and her jaw dropped.
“Close? Close?! We nearly died, whoever 'we' is! What the bloody hell is going on here?!” she hissed, feeling exhausted and struggling not to cry. She sniffed pointedly, and the man chuckled. Evie's mood worsened as she narrowed her eyes.
“I guess some stuff needs explaining to you.”
“Yes, some stuff bloody well needs explaining!” Evie exclaimed angrily. She felt that sitting in a ditch in the middle of the night was highly unproductive. “We can discuss this back at my house. Let's go there now.”
“Are you insane?!” the mysterious man retorted. Evie could make out his pale face standing out from the black surroundings. “If you go back there now, you're bloody well done for. It's unlikely that you can go back there ever again, actually.” He rose and dusted himself off. “No, we'll discuss it here.”
“Oh yes, because here is a lot safer, isn't it?” Evie snarled in reply. “Those freaks could easily come back.”
“It's funny how you're calling them freaks when you're related to someone like them.”
“Excuse me?” Evie cried, in shock. Her eyes bugged out of their sockets for a second as she tried to work through the logistics of such a situation. How on Earth could she, of all people, be related to disappearing people with precocious titles? She certainly couldn't do any of that stuff.
“Yeah. I know it's hard to believe at first, but there's a lot to explain.” the man said, seeming to read her thoughts. Evie could only huff and start to walk off in a rage. He chased after her hurriedly, checking over his shoulder.
“I do wish you'd have some flippin' sense. Storming off like that isn't the most sensible thing to do, and it hardly sets a good impression, does it?” the man, although Evie had decided he was a very young man, called out after her. Evie could hear the dulcet mocking tones at the back of his throat, laughing at her in a jovial manner. Her blood began to boil.
“Well, you're not exactly making the grandest impressions either, smart arse. What the hell is your name, for a start?” she hissed, spinning round abruptly to face him. Evie could now see in the street light that he towered over her, and the dim glow cast a sinister shadow upon his face. He smiled sincerely, appearing to take in Evie's comment.
“My name is Noah. Noah Huntington.” he replied, eyes still trained onto hers. She cracked first, narrowing her eyes and looking away. She heard him titter, the sound tickling her ear. “There's no introduction as to who you are. Evangeline May Hart. Very … opulent, if I do say so myself.”
“I go by Evie. Besides, you're one to talk! What sort of poncey name is Noah?” she voiced heatedly, power walking off once more. He jogged up to her once again, barely taking any extra time to do so. They were now entering a small country park, lit by towering Victorian lamps; Noah ran ahead slightly and parked himself on a bench, where Evie slowed and looked at him warily.
“Do you want to know what exactly is happening here or not?” Noah asked haughtily, showing Evie the first glimpse of any annoyance for the whole evening, As much as she did not want to be near this guy any longer, the need to know more about the strange events of the past fortnight consumed her and she tentatively sat down next to him. Her tone softened slightly.
“Yeah, I would.”
“Well, I'll start from the beginning then.” Noah said happily, stretching his legs out and placing his hands behind his head. He was clearly used to telling this story.
“Let's start off with the fact that both you and me are different.”
“Oh, really? I didn't guess that already.” Evie retaliated, snorting slightly in a sarcastic manner. One icy look from him silenced her laughter.
“We're different. We are humans, but we have magical blood in us. You know what that means?” he queried in a patronising manner, as if talking to a small child. Evie's annoyed brain started to whir and she finally let out a gasp at her conclusion.
“Magic … exists?” she was dumbfounded.
“Yes. It does. And we're a part of it. Those guys? They were wizards. They performed a Silencing Charm on you, as well as a full Body Bind Curse as far as I'm aware, although I haven't got a clue how you managed to fight those off, but that's something we can talk about later ... by the way, are you alright? I forgot to ask.”
Evie could almost laugh at his audacity. “Oh yes, I'm just peachy, considering what's happened tonight.” The truth was that Evie was feeling very shaken, and was just doing a very good job of covering it up.
“Good good.” Noah replied, choosing to ignore her sarcastic tongue. “So, magic exists and these guys can perform magic, which you've had performed on you. The reason why they came to your house is because you can't perform magic, yet have magical blood in you, or magical heritage. You're a Squib.”
“I've heard that word before. My father mentioned it before he … before he passed. It's not exactly one of the most complimentary sounding words, is it?” Evie affirmed, with the mention of her recently deceased father bringing a lump to her throat.
“Considering what the Ministry does to us, I wouldn't say it's too complimentary a word either.”
“Hang about a second. Who the hell is the Ministry? Sounds like something out of some demented book or film.” Evie asked, perplexed.
“The Ministry of Magic is like the underground government for the magical society, except they're not so underground any more, they haven't been for around a couple of decades … but that doesn't matter. What matters right now is you knowing what happens to people like us at that fuckin' hell hole.”
“Do enlighten me.” Evie replied, not able to hide her curiosity.
“Around 40 years or so ago, maybe even longer than that, the wizarding world started to question the value of Squibs in their society. A few years later, there was a sort of 'baby boom', but it meant that Squibs – people like you and me – had increased in numbers in the population. The Ministry were left with an ultimatum from the wizarding world at large: do something about the “Squib infestation”, or face a full uprising. You can guess which one they chose.”
“No questions there then.” Evie stated sadly. Noah continued.
“People started to disappear in the middle of the night. There were reports from muggles – normal people with no magical powers, that is – who stated that they'd seen mysterious green flashes in the early hours of the morning … in the houses of murder victims. Of course, the deaths were mostly blamed on medical conditions or suicide, and nothing more was thought of it.” Noah paused as he struggled to fight his emotions, jaw rigid. Evie could only listen with wide eyes and notice how strongly Noah felt on the subject. He closed his eyes and continued once more.
“With the extermination of adult Squibs quickly being dealt with, they had to do something with the children. Something unimaginable, but they could get away with it because they were the ministry. They took the children, the toddlers, the babies, and kept them for experimentation.”
“Oh my goodness!” Evie cried, covering her mouth with her hands in horror. She may not have known exactly what she was expecting Noah to say, but it certainly wasn't that. Noah glanced at her quickly to scope her reaction, before beginning.
“People didn't quite realise what was happening, and the reaction was pretty split. Some were glad that this was happening, some were completely against the idea, and others were on the fence. I'm pretty sure my father would have supported it,” Noah said bitterly, eyes narrowing slightly. “From what I've heard, he's a slimy git.”
“Who is he?” Evie found herself asking, looking at him apologetically after she realised how terribly rude it sounded. She looked down to hide her burning cheeks, despite the darkened atmosphere.
“My dear old dad? He's called Lazarus Malfoy. Apparently, the Malfoy family is some super rich, super old wizarding family. Quite frankly, I couldn't give a shit, so don't be sorry for asking.” Noah said archly. Evie's gut feeling was that he was not telling the entire truth on that front, but she decided to not question him further.
“As I was saying … there was pretty much a mixed response from the witches and wizards. Some called it excellent. Others called it inhumane. It didn't matter what anyone thought though, because the ministry had power, and lots of it. The Ministry didn't seem to stop there either.”
“They took more children?”
“Not just children. The Ministry had someone invent a spell which could be cast in a newborn within the first 24 hours to determine whether the kid was a Squib or not. As far as I'm aware, the spell is still in use. Any infant that was found to have magic as a recessive allele – that's a gene, by the way – was to be immediately handed over the Ministry, where they would do some 'extensive research'. Essentially, it's genocide.”
“I know what an allele is.” Evie muttered to the floor, and she heard Noah chuckle. When she looked up once more, she was extremely surprised to see his face startlingly close to her own. Evie felt like slapping him away and telling him to piss off out of her personal space, but felt compelled to stand her ground by keeping silent. She didn't like the way his eyes were raking her face. After an age, he spoke.
“Yeah, you're still in a little bit of shock, and you're all clammy. You'll need a check-up back at the headquarters. I'm not used to being so out in the open for this long anyway.”
Rocking onto the balls of his feet, Noah jumped up and started to retrieve something from the leather folds of his jacket. Evie blushed once again as she realised she was only in her pyjamas. The goosebumps on her skin screamed for attention, but she could only shiver violently in response. Noah located the object he was looking for, as he exclaimed whilst simultaneously pulling out a very strange device with a flourish. Evie stared at him as if he were mad.
“And what exactly do you propose to do with that?!” Evie asked obnoxiously, staring at Noah as if he had grown a second head.
“If you must know, dear, we're going to do what those little men did.” Noah replied with a sarcastic tone in his voice. Evie scowled, belittled. “Now if you come over here, we'll get you back to HQ.”
“Where the hell is that?” Evie asked , crossing her arms and leaning on one leg. She did not like this guy at all, but given her current situation, did not have anyone else to trust. “How do I know you're not one of them, anyway?”
Noah laughed heartily. “One of them? You couldn't be further from the truth, darling.”
“And what if I don't come with you?” Evie inquired again. She felt the overwhelming urge to stick her nose in the air, but resisted it mightily. The lazy grin sloped off of Noah's features.
“Then you die.”
Evie's blood ran cold at the chilling sound of his voice, laced with perspective. Granted, if she returned to her home now, she would most probably not make it past the rest of the night. Going somewhere unknown with a mostly unknown young man with an unknown and crazy method of transport certainly sounded much less logical to Evie, but the overwhelming feeling of trust that she had unknowingly placed with Noah made its presence known once more.
“Fine.” she stated dejectedly, punctuating the air with a heavy sigh. She slowly walked towards Noah, shoulders hunched, as he looked at her with a hint of pity. He knew how she was feeling.
“That's what I thought.” he murmured in response, pressing various buttons on the ancient looking device which he held in his hands. It was a rusted bronze contraption, with faded décor on it accompanied with various delicate looking buttons and knobs. Noah twiddled with one frustratingly, and moments after it seemed to jump into life. “Ah, here we go.”
“Care to explain to me what this is?” Evie inquired pointedly, one eyebrow raised. She wrinkled her nose at the device, which was now emitting a faint whirring noise.
“This is both the bane and love of my life. It's called an Apparator. I'd say this one is an early prototype, there're much newer ones, but I've been through a lot with this one in particular. Shame that they all need charging after every bloody use now. Still, it does the job.”
“Let me get this straight. That beaten up old thing is going to magically transport us to some bizarre place?” Evie scoffed, sniggering slightly at the adoration held in his eyes at the strange machine. He looked at her sharply before grinning cheekily.
“Yep! I suggest you hold tight. We're going in five seconds.” Noah replied, the excited edge clearly visible on his features. “By the way, you should really have some more faith, Evie.”
Evie looked at him strangely for what seemed like the thousandth time that night, before coming to her sense and gingerly grabbing his arm. Noah frowned and grabbed her back, crushing her to his chest for security before she embarked on the oddest journey she had every experienced in her life.
Evie felt a cross between suspended in mid air and tumbling violently. It was, most definitely, the oddest feeling her body had ever encountered. However, she was not so much focused on this as to attempting to not throw up. Colours whirled past her eyes so she could barely keep up, and she could feel Noah's hands pressed tightly on her back so that she didn't hurtle away. After an attempt at looking up towards him left her near to tears, she kept her head down and her mouth shut. The colours passed before they all faded to black, and a crushing sensation engulfed her figure, threatening to close her airways .. she couldn't breathe …
Suddenly, she tumbled into a well lit room out of nowhere.
Evie felt bile rise to her throat, and promptly threw up the contents of her stomach. Noah looked up at the sound of her retching, before tutting and smiling to himself, strutting off to visit a machine. Evie could have sworn that she heard him say, “You'll get used to it, newbie.” Eyes streaming, Evie rose to her feet shakily and surveyed the giant room she was in; she was around seventy percent sure that this whole business wasn't just a sick ploy to lure her away from her home. A voice in her head reasoned that it sort of was anyway, but Evie shook the thought away.
“The sickness goes after a while,” Noah called out from his station behind a huge computer monitor, and he stretched in his battered chair. Evie narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms childishly. “Don't do that love, you're going to give yourself premature wrinkles.”
“I probably bloody have them already, judging by the events of today.” Evie replied, sighing. She hugged her arms close to her chest, looking at her new surroundings. The room she was in seemed to be the main area of the building, and had high arched ceilings. Windows which would normally have sunlight streaming in currently had the night sky pouring in. The building seemed like a cross between some sort of old workhouse and a church, the former because there were several tables littered about the place alongside ancient, Victorian machinery. The only sign of any modern technology was the small army of computers which were everywhere, their wires taking up the majority of the floor space, snaking through the isles.
“So this is the mysterious 'HQ'?” Evie asked in a tone which suggested that she was seriously not impressed. Noah grinned unabashedly and replied, “The very one.”
Evie glowered at him. “It looks like the inside of the Tardis.” she commented after an awkward silence, punctuating the subtle sound of Noah hitting the keys on the computer. He raised an eyebrow at her and asked what the bloody hell she was on about, to which she replied with a giggle and a “Never mind.”
“There are others here too, by the way.” Noah said, breaking the silence once more whilst Evie had located a mop to clean up the mess. She stopped mopping furiously for a moment to turn and face him.
“Oh really? Then why haven't they come in here to say 'hello' yet?” Evie inquired with more than a little hint of annoyance. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw two figures waltz into the room.
“Because we are not so easily summoned as dogs.” one of the figures said in a deep voice. As they stepped closer into the light, Evie could see that this guy was at least a head taller than Noah, who was not exactly a small person. The second figure, a young woman, noted what Evie was doing and laughed loudly.
“Look, Xavier! She cleans too!” she said in mock excitableness, giving Evie a triumphant glance. She was clearly communicating the fact that she was the top dog here. Evie stopped what she was doing and threw the mop aside, attempting to not look bothered, although everyone knew she was. She could have sworn that she saw Noah smiling to himself, but she couldn't determine this for sure as he had jumped up to introduce the new people to Evie.
“Evie, this is Xavier and Isabelle.” Noah said smartly, pointing to each respective person. “Xavier is sort of the leader here, and Isabelle is the useless shit turned drama queen.”
“Shut it, you!” Isabelle said, beaming madly. Noah gave her a small but perplexed smile in return. “Oh, and just so you know Evie, never call me Isabelle. It's Issy to all.” Issy said with a slight warning tone.
Xavier inclined his head at Evie, which she returned, before Issy spoke again. “Adam's here too, Noah.”
“Someone said my name?” A small man said, striding into the room with an armful of various equipment. “Xav, I've fixed a load of the crap that got damaged in the last raid, but a couple were a little too damaged beyond repair. I tried though.”
“That's alright, I'm pretty sure that we're quite well stocked with firearms.” Xavier replied, placing his hands behind his back whilst Adam unceremoniously dumped the contents onto the nearest table.
“And who's this lovely lady?” Adam asked, bowing in a theatrical manner and kissing Evie's hand, making her smile. “Ah, she smiles! Such a shame to see a pretty face so morose. I felt it my duty to return the lost grin. Still, with dear Issy here, no wonder she was looking so gloomy.”
Issy punched him hard, although with a smile on her face. Evie noticed that the smile was not as big as it was for Noah.
“Anyway Xavier, Evie's still in a little bit of shock. She needs a full medical check too, for any lacerations, bruising, swelling and possible psychological damage, at the very least. She shouldn't be too bad though.” Noah commented, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Where are the other two, anyway?”
“Off on a raid,” Xavier replied, noting Evie alarm at the word. “They should be back any minute now. They wanted to meet the new arrival.” Everyone took a small glance at Evie and she continued her rigorous cleaning, embarrassed. Issy gave her a small, mocking laugh to herself in response.
A vicious cracking sound reverberated through the room, as they all spun round to find two figures hunched on the floor. One appeared to be tending to someone who was badly wounded.
“Shit.” Adam started, running over to the body which seemed to be in a very bad condition. Blood marred the skin and there was a deep gash running down the arm and stomach. “Noah, Issy, we're gonna need some Blood Replenishing Potion, some Instant Skin Grafters and bandages. Now.”
Issy and Noah rushed off, and Xavier went to help lift the man onto a table, along with the other two. The second figure turned out to be a young woman, who was short and blonde with an extremely grave look plastered on her face.
“If we don't get those potions in the next thirty seconds, he's going to die.” she stated, her eyes transfixed on the barely breathing man. His hand had started to twitch, followed by the rest of his body. He began to convulse, and the woman leapt into action by shouting instructions and putting her hand on his stomach, covering the wound. Evie gagged, but still fixed her eyes on the scene. The tension became increasingly thick as Issy and Noah skidded into the room, launching the bottles across the room. Xavier caught one in each hand and passed them to the woman, who quickly administered the liquids whilst muttering to herself. After a few tense moments, the convulsing stopped and the man started to breathe normally once more, to Evie's sheer amazement. It became clear that everything she thought she understood about the world was shadowed by the wondrous visage of magic.
Noah noted her disconcert. “In this world, we have all sorts of things that the muggles could only dream of.” he said in a small voice. Evie, still in shock, barely registered the remark. “Eden, we're gonna need a full medical check on this one when you're done with Robbie.”
“Alright … Rob should be just about good to go now.” Eden replied with a smile as she saw the man's eyes flutter open. “Good to have you back.”
“Wow … that was a pretty awesome raid!” he said casually with a Southern American accent, and everyone tittered slightly. Evie could do nothing but stand there with her mouth hanging open, gobsmacked and incredulous at the event which had just occurred. The young man hopped off the table and stuck his hand out to Evie. “The name's Robbie. I hear you're the new fish 'round here.”
“Yeah, you could say that ...” Evie replied, still dazed, taking his hand without noticing the smears of blood which still lingered. Robbie chuckled and walked off to clean himself as the woman stepped forward.
“Welcome, Evie. I'm Eden, the resident healer here.” Eden said smartly, taking Evie hand in a strong grip and smiling sincerely. Evie smiled meekly in return.
“Thanks. I'm just a bit overwhelmed by everything, at the moment.”
“Which is why Noah here is going to lead you to your room and give you a guided tour of the place – we wouldn't want you accidentally going somewhere where you shouldn't be.” Xavier said suddenly. Evie left her mop and looked at where Noah had mysteriously disappeared from.
“Come on then!” he called out from halfway across the huge room, and Evie scurried along. Issy laughed at her retreating form.
“Jesus Christ. Let's hope to God that we won't have to deal with her being like this for too long. In fact, let's just hope we don't have to deal with her for too long full stop!”
“Shut it Issy. You were new once as well, and I remember you being pretty much the exact same damn way.” Adam retorted, raising an eyebrow and giving Issy a hardened gaze. She narrowed her eyes in return.
“I'm pretty sure I wasn't so fucking annoying. Slap me if I'm ever like that.” Adam tapped her cheek lightly, grinning. “Piss off!”
“You asked for it!”
“Stop it you two. I'm pretty sure you're supposed to be finishing the last repairs to the armoury items, Adam. Issy, you can go and help Eden sort out what they got from the raid.” Xavier voiced stiffly, unsmiling. He walked off without another word. Issy stuck her tongue out behind his back.
“Brilliant, but a total bastard sometimes.”
“I heard that.”
Evie was lost. Completely lost. How the bloody hell was she going to remember all of these sodding rooms that Noah seemed to be naming out of nowhere?
“Here we have the bathroom … Eden's room … Issy's room, don't go in there on pain of death, by the way … spare room here. I guess this can be yours.” Noah said quickly, taking a quick peek inside. He grimaced, watching a few spiders run out. “It's gonna need a helluva lot of cleaning though.”
“That's fine, I'm already pretty practised at that.” Evie said wearily. She ran a hand through her hair which hadn't been washed for a couple of days, and Noah could see the bags under her eyes. The apparating did usually take it out of people, plus she'd only gotten a few hours sleep.
“I'll help you do it. The computer stuff can wait a while, it's only routine check-ups anyway,” Noah started, dashing off to grab the cleaning utensils. When he returned, Evie was nearly asleep against the doorway. He chuckled and whistled in her ear, jolting her awake. She glared at him. “Jeez! Sorry!”
“Let's just do this so I have a bloody room to collapse in.” she replied, clearly annoyed which wasn't helped from the lack of sleep. Noah continued to grin infuriatingly, which worsened her mood further. They worked in silence with only the occasional word spoken and a few questions asked by Evie which Noah replied in a bored tone, and by the time the room was inhabitable, Evie was close to cursing him into tomorrow. Noah left hastily, still grinning to himself.
“That boy has serious issues,” Evie thought to herself, throwing her weight onto the bed. “Still, he's been somewhat helpful. Now I just need to make Issy come round.” Her eyes started to droop and she was asleep in seconds, fully clothed.
A few hours later, Evie was awoken by a cold draft blowing open her door. She groaned and made a mental note to ask one of the guys to fix it, rising to her feet unsteadily. A growl emitted from her stomach, and she walked out of her room and started to meander through the many corridors of the building. It didn't take her very long to find her way, as the rising noise level became her main guide. She arrived at the set of closed doors, from which a heated argument was happening on the other side. Evie put her eye to the crack in the door, seeing five figures: Noah and Issy were arguing heatedly, with Eden trying to pacify the two. Adam and Robbie were making no secret of their open listening; not that it was hard to hear.
“I don't like her, and that's that!” Issy hissed dangerously, waving her finger wildly at the door. Noah threw up his hands in defence.
“She's been here for six hours and you've spoken to her for around five minutes. How the bloody hell can she she instantly piss you off so easily?” he replied.
“Because she just thinks she can waltz on in here and strut around like she owns the place? She's clearly above us all. I don't like her, Noah!”
“Bloody hell, woman! She arrived, she cleaned, she met everyone, she cleaned some more, and she's asleep right now. I don't see how anyone can demonstrate extreme superiority complexes with a mop.” Noah's face held an expression of incredulity, and the others were sniggering at his comments, as well as how ridiculous the argument was in the first place.
“She's far too quiet for me, and she gave me a death glare when she pranced off after you like a simpering puppy.” Issy stated, giving Noah a dangerous look. She was clearly displeased that he was on Evie's side already. Evie's jaw dropped open in outrage as she watched the events unfold.
“Her guardians have just died and she was attacked in the night, plus she apparated for the first time and met a load of new people – do you think she'd be anything else but quiet?”
“Since when did you give a damn about anyone's feelings?” Issy asked in a low voice, taking a step closer to Noah and holding his gaze with a defiant gleam in her eye. Noah bowed his head as an awkward tension settled over the room. Evie took this as her cue. Stepping into the room, all eyes were suddenly on her, each face with a different expression on their features.
“I thought I'd come -”
“How much of that did you hear?” Issy interrupted rudely, eyes wide and nostrils flaring slightly. She cast Evie a disgusted look, to which Noah tossed his hands up in the air in frustration.
“Something about feelings. That's it.” Evie replied coolly, keeping eye contact. Issy merely narrowed her eyes in return and snorted slightly, turning away. Averting her attention to the rest of the group, where Eden was giving her a look of respect, she noticed Noah looking slightly puzzled at her.
“Good,” she thought to herself vehemently. “Now he's the confused one.”
A little voice of reason spoke quietly about Noah defending Evie against Issy, to which Evie ignored and remembered the task at hand.
“I've come to tell everyone that I've made a decision about something.”
“Go right ahead,” Robbie drawled, leaning against a counter. “You're in the right place.”
“I want to attend my parents' funeral.”
A/N: I've noticed that some people have pointed out certain similarities between TV shows, movies, even real life events. I'd like to state that any similarities you may notice to any sort of reference are unintentional. There are bound to be influences, but again, these are not intentional.
“Are you insane?!”
“No way, that's entirely too risky!”
“You must be bloody mad if you think we'd do something like that for you.”
Evie was expecting this. Looking at each member of the group list their numerous reasons as to why such a meaningful event for her was utterly out of the question for them made Evie's heart sink, no matter how hard she tried not to let it affect her. As everyone continued to argue amongst themselves what was the most important reason why she couldn't even begin to contemplate the idea of attending the funeral, Xavier walked in and the room instantly fell silent.
“I heard yelling. What's the problem?” he questioned politely, glancing at Noah. He had a small but perplexed smile on his face. Evie was impressed at how easily he could command such authority, but she had a feeling that he was well practised. She quietly thought that the fact he was so tall definitely helped.
“Evie's just told us all that she wants to go to her guardians' funeral. The logistics of it are nonsensical, and it seems to me and probably the rest of the group like a suicide mission!” Noah pointed out with a voice steadily increasing in tone. He looked angrily over at Evie, who shrunk back at such a vicious gaze. She found her voice once more.
“With all due respect, I don't think that going'll be such a huge risk to us all.”
“That's easy enough for you to say, you've been here a grand total of one day!” Issy piped up. Her face was smug in the fact that she knew Noah was on her side. Evie couldn't take it.
“Shut it, Issy. You have no idea what I've been through in the past few days. It's been like hell, being caught by those weirdos and then being told you're an outcast in society, on top of losing the only parents you've ever known because your mother abandoned you. Yeah, you have no idea. I'm going to the funeral, even if it's just me on my own.” she finished and looked round the room. Looks of defiance met her eyes, but also ones of respect. Xavier sighed heavily, seemingly deep in thought for a few moments. He regarded Evie with a certain sort of disdain.
“We're going to escort Evie to the funeral. That's my final word!” Xavier called over the fuss that instantly kicked up. With a final swish of his long coat, he was gone, and no more could be done about the decision. Noah followed in Xavier's wake like a lost puppy, whilst Eden came over to offer a comforting arm around Evie.
“It'll be potentially risky, Evie, but I'm sure everything will be fine, darling.” Eden said with a smile. Issy watched the touching sentiment and stalked off to complain to one of the boys, to which Eden rolled her eyes. “Well, if anyone is killed, let's hope it's her.”
Evie laughed. She was feeling better already, despite the situation. All she could do was wait for the rest of the team to come around.
All but two of the team warmed to the idea.
“We best take as many precautions as possible. That means … hmm … Noah, you can take the firearms, two pistols and the grenade,” Adam said, deep in concentration. He broke into peals of laughter when he noticed Evie horrified expression at the mention of the weapons.
“What the bloody hell are you gonna need a grenade for, Noah?!” she exclaimed, turning to the culprit. He smiled sheepishly.
“I don't know … I just like having them.”
“Issy, you get two pistols as well, I know how you hate being weighed down.” Evie suspected that there may have been a double meaning to that when Issy poked Adam in the stomach hard. “Robbie, you get your darling ...”
Robbie stepped up to the arms table and grabbed a huge gun that looked extremely terrifying. Evie wondered how he would camouflage that in sleepy Kent; he winked roguishly at her in return.
“Why thank you, darlin'.” Adam muttered something about not being gay, just camp to himself vehemently at the retreating form of Robbie. Evie caught Noah's eye and they both broke into giggles, rather uncharacteristically for him. Issy eyed him curiously, before following in Robbie's footsteps.
“Eden, you've got yours already … I should have mine, yeah. Xavier sleeps with his. I'm joking, Evie! You need your stuff anyway,” Adam handed her a smallish-looking firearm and a revolver. “For a vintage touch!”
“Oh, no thanks. I'm not planning on shooting anyone.” Evie replied, laughing nervously and looking up at the slightly incredulous faces. She placed her hands behind a back in a gesture of not accepting the weapons, and sucked on her lips. Adam leant over the table to talk to Evie in a hushed whisper.
“Between you and me honey, I didn't think that I'd need a gun or anythin' like that on my first … outing. Thought I was a bloody fool after. The revolver right in front of you saved my life when I had to shoot someone in the foot. It distracted them for long enough to escape. Now, you're gonna be a good girl and take the pretty guns.”
Evie ignored the comment at the end. “Adam … have you ever … killed anyone?”
Adam shrugged. “It's neither here nor there. I don't want to potentially freak you out right before your very first mission as such! Robbie'll brag all you want about it, though. Ask him when we get back. If we get back.”
Evie quietly collected her weaponry and assembled in the main warehouse room. Noah turned round at her arrival, but made no sign of friendliness. Eden and Robbie were paying rapt attention to what Xavier was saying about strategies – he had talked over the area with her the night before, going over minute details which Evie never could have thought of in a million years; she strongly felt as if she were being interrogated for a terrible crime. At the time, Noah had pulled funny faces to try and distract Evie until Xavier shooed him away, cracking a rare smile, and had mimed that he felt for her as she was slowly questioned to the point where she felt exhausted – and suddenly, he showed no sign of even recognising her. She would never understand that man.
She shook herself back to reality and focused on what Xavier was projecting to the small group.
“... Evie's told us that the location of the funeral takes place a cemetery close to the centre of Sevenoaks, at 2pm – that's fifteen minutes from now. Everyone has now been briefed about their positions and worst case scenario. There's a chance that we're attacked – I think that this may be greater since Evie contacted the local crematorium. However, you all know what to do.”
“Err, I don't.” Evie stated quickly, feeling herself tense up at the thought of physical combat. She was fit enough, sure, but the thought of harming another human being had crossed her mind more than once since she had entered the arms room that morning. Xavier looked up at her interruption.
“Stay with Noah then.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Evie saw Noah groan silently at the prospect. She was enraged. How dare he react like that when they had seemed to be getting on pretty well, after a rocky start? She glared at him and silently thought that she would make herself as useful as possible. The fact that it was her guardians' funeral had barely entered her mind.
“Now, everyone needs to be on the top of their game for this. As well as being Evie's first official 'mission' with us, there's also a greater risk of Ministry activity. So, a warning to all of you: be vigilant. Let's move on out!”
Evie quickly walked over to Eden so that she wasn't paired up to apparate with Noah; she could barely look him in the eye at the moment, let alone share a device with him. Eden smiled at her encouragingly.
“Are you alright?” she asked, securing the Apparator.
“What? Oh .. yeah, I'm alright, considering the circumstances.”
“I just thought you'd be a little more … upset, is all. Having your guardians pass away so close to one another is bound to be pretty traumatising. I guess my intuition deceived me. Though, you're probably holding it all inside -”
Evie pressed the button that would instantly take them to Sevenoaks, cutting off the stream of annoying chatter. When they arrived, tumbling on the grass slightly, she giggled at Eden's shocked face.
“That was so weird, talking whilst Apparating! Did you hit the button by accident?”
“Uh .. yeah.”
Eden seemed happy enough with this answer and started too unhook them both from the equipment. Evie smirked to herself, only feeling a little guilty, and looked round. The others had since joined the duo and were dusting themselves off, faces set in a tense and rigid mask. The wind whistled quietly through the trees, and a dappled sunlight cast the group in a bright glow. They had arrived at the forest nearby. Evie could see the oak trees which the town were named after, and her heart gave a small pang as she began to realise the significance of the place. She was home.
Evie spun round to ask Xavier a question. “Xavier … would it be possible for me to visit my old home? It isn't too far from here, just a few streets away.”
“That is out of the question. You're already pushing our generosity by having the entire group come out here today, at an extremely high risk. Visiting your old house would jeopardize the entire day.” Xavier stared at Evie, as if he were looking right through her very being, and suddenly turned away, stalking off in the direction of the cemetery. Noah strolled up to her, catching Evie unaware.
“For future reference, never ask him to change plans on the day.”
“I realise that now, you unhelpful sod.”
Noah merely snickered at her anger and walked in the same direction as the others, crashing through the undergrowth and leaping over a fallen tree. “Coming?”
Evie had no choice but to oblige. She didn't want to annoy Xavier any more, and she was beginning to feel extremely nervous about this entire charade. None of them wanted to be here. She herself was surprised that this was even agreed to, and was prepared to mourn back at the base. Why had they all come?
Contemplating these niggling thoughts, Evie found herself leave the mossy haven and entered onto the main road which snaked round the corner. A car hurtled past, frightening Evie out of her reverie and beeped noisily at her stupidity. She blushed beetroot. Noah smirked once more.
I swear to God, I am going to wipe that effing smirk right off his face one day. Evie surprised herself at such a mental outburst. The group, still much further ahead, looked back to see where the guest of honour was situated. Evie was almost certain she saw Eden smile to herself at the two trailing behind, but she couldn't be sure. Not a bloody chance, Eden, not one bloody chance.
All too soon, they arrived at the crematorium. Evie had almost forgotten why they were here.
Robbie nodded at Noah, and Evie was quickly hustled into the building, arriving at the entrance of the cemetery. She saw people she recognised, friends and acquaintances alike, gathered around two coffins which were elaborately adorned with various wreathes of flowers. A vicar started to lead the procession to the Hart's allotted resting places in the cemetery.
Silently following behind the procession, seeing the two coffins so close made Evie want to break down in tears. She wanted to say that she was alright, that she knew the truth, but the dead weren't the right people to tell.
They were mere shells left of human beings.
It seemed that the funeral passed with a blur. The cemetery itself was a vast, open space that boasted only a few graves. Some were elaborate works of architecture, others simple headstones, which Robbie and Adam were observing. Eden and Xavier were a little while away, watching for any sort of disturbances, whilst Issy and Noah of all people had stayed with Evie. Even Issy was looking a little sad instead of aggravated, avoiding looking at Evie, who was kneeling on the floor. Friends of the Harts had offered their condolences to her and left hurriedly ages ago, but she didn't notice the time. Time seemed suddenly irrelevant. The cool breeze, the sweet smelling grass dotted with grey slabs of stone, the boring eyes of Noah … nothing mattered now, as Evie stared at the two mounds of earth in front of her. She barely noticed the vicar taking a long time to pack away his possessions. The chirping of two doves fell on deaf ears. Her numb legs didn't matter.
The pain she felt in her heart was far worse.
Evie thought vaguely that it was amazing she wasn't crying. She willed herself to, tried to force a solitary tear, but none came. Her body felt racked with guilt at such a predicament. Cry! Evie screamed in her head, a vicious mantra. Cry, if you loved them! Gary and Eleanor Hart, the most loving parents anyone could ever have, were dead and gone and Evie was alone in the world.
She barely comprehended the swarm of Aurors arrive, and the vicar pull out a wand from within the folds of his robes.
Evie felt her body being pulled violently sideways as she tried to gain some sort of recognition over what had just happened. Mere moments later, a red streak of light went streaking past her head. Evie looked up at the bright light as it passed over her in slow motion, centimetres from her face, and soared past to scorch the ground a few metres away. The smouldering remains of a skeleton had been unearthed; Evie felt her stomach turn as the grip on her waist grew tighter until it began to hurt.
Her mind refused to work; all she could do was continue to put one foot in front of the other, all she could see were the two mounds of earth where the people who were her world had been laid to rest now shrinking steadily away into the distance. The image burned into her irises, plaguing her immediate thoughts, intoxicating her synapses. She was vaguely aware that someone was yelling something at her, but she could make no sense of it: it was muffled and distant. Evie finally came back down to the situation with a bump when she felt a cold hand connect with her cheek, leaving a biting realisation that she was in the middle of a battle.
“Get the fuck with it!” Noah roared hoarsely before throwing Evie behind a giant memorial dedicated to the heroes of the Great War. Noah gave Evie a cold stare, one which she had never seen from him before, and all she could do was stare back until he turned away and fired a shot from their small shelter. The crack of power was deafening, and with the bullet leaving the gun Evie finally realised she had to start fighting. There was no other option.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a black-clad figure coming towards the memorial that they were behind. He wore a hood and held his wand aloft, drawing for breath as he started to call a spell which made little sense to Evie. She screamed. Noah spun round in anticipation but it was too late – the figure was already down, writhing in pain on the ground before lying still. Evie looked further behind her and saw Adam wink before busying himself from his position on a second man approaching. A small thought crossed her mind as she grinned back at his disdain for what he had just done; how he could kill a man and smile so easily after.
Glancing round once more, she clocked the group's positions; all were behind some sort of cover. She sighed in relief and looked around for anyone who was trying to attack them from behind. Jets of light streaked all sorts of directions and words which she couldn't comprehend were being screamed by the men in cloaks. Evie felt scared and confused, but mostly guilty for being the cause of this carnage. The only mildly comforting aspect of the situation was the large hand which had a firm grip round her waist, in an act of instinctive protection.
Amidst the chaos and loud bangs as rubble began to fall from the sky from shattered tombstones, Evie's hand travelled to her belt where the gun she harboured was located. The metallic gleam winked out as she brushed her hand over the weapon, debating between her morals and her survival instinct. Noah was still holding tight to her, ready to spring into movement at any moment and pull her to. She pulled out the revolver, taking in its mahogany handle and browned metal; despite her head telling her it was necessary to survive, it looked so menacing.
An orange jet of light created a fiery hue in the sky before a cry of pain chorused out as thick, heavy rain drops began to fall. The beads of water drenched the graveyard and a small trickle starting to flow downhill, creating a muddy peril. Evie's gaze whipped over to the sound of the injured, discovering it to be Issy. She had a large gash on her upper leg, and was clutching it in agony. Adam's smile had faltered when he saw Issy injured, and although it was clear he wished to go and take her from harm's way, more men had since appeared and were rapidly approaching. Eden was nowhere in sight with aid, and the others were busy fighting off the swarm of men. Perhaps she could go?
The moment was quickly lost when a huge explosion and intense heat shattered the memorial which Noah and Evie were using as defence, and rubble rose into the air like a volcanic eruption. She screamed. Noah hauled Evie out from behind their now smashed and smouldering obelisk to a larger, more ornate tomb. A large angel was sculpted over the grave, and for a second or two Evie almost thought she could feel the presence of something higher as a brief silence passed over the scene and a raindrop trickled down from the angel's eye. However, as soon as it came the silence was lost to the destructive rainbow of spells and cracks of shots with malice behind their display.
Noah glanced at her and Evie felt the heavy expectation weighing down on her shoulders. Loading the revolver with bullets, she poked her head round just in time to see Xavier go down. He was being advanced upon by two robed men. Her blood ran cold. Evie panicked and tried to aim blindly but doing so could result in her hitting Xavier by accident. She wasn't trained or emotionally prepared to handle a gun – what the bloody hell should she do?
Another catastrophe soon made itself known in rapid succession. A gasp very close to her ear and a sharp intake of breath caused Evie to turn round: Noah had been hit on the arm, and was now bleeding quite badly. A large gash had formed as a crimson river mixed with rain and swirled down his arm, intertwined in a morbid dance. Xavier was still down, but the men who were set on killing him had fallen – Robbie was probably to thank as she saw him lumber past towards Xavier's unconscious being. Evie noticed that the wizards seemed to have temporarily ceased with their spells and fallen back, and she also took into account how many seemingly lifeless bodies were littered across the graveyard. Groans of pain and small hand twitches punctuated the deafening silence every few moments as the rain continued to fall unrelentingly. Evie shivered as a raindrop darted down her back and her skin tingled. She was soaked to the bone. Pushing her wet tendrils of hair out of her face, she examined Noah once more. He looked up at her, clutching his arm. His eyes were filled with defiance.
“You okay?” she asked apprehensively, to which Noah's featured hardened.
“I'm fine,” he replied shortly before hissing with pain. Evie raised an eyebrow. “I'm fine. We need to get moving.”
Robbie made desperate eye contact with Evie as he scooped up Xavier with apparent ease and struggled over to the two.
“Apparate!” he yelled hoarsely out to the others. As he said this, the colourful but deadly display of spells began once more – the men were back. It seemed that more had come to the scene from another place.
Evie quickly checked what she thought would be the power gage – a blue light flashed angrily back. The machine would be able to transport one person, maybe, but definitely not two.
“Not possible!” Eden called back, and she came running out of nowhere. Evie wondered where exactly she had been in the grave yard, but didn't have time to dwell on it. Giving Noah a quick check and deciding he was good to go, she helped Evie to haul him to his feet whilst making sure they weren't ambushed. Adam leapt to the aid of Issy, having to perform a forward roll to dodge out of the firing line and hauled her into his arms. Evie was surprised by the amount of strength he had, despite his small and wiry frame. He quickly started to run in the same direction which Robbie had just disappeared, whilst Issy handled a gun over his shoulder. The wizards started to gain ground and hared through the path of the various tombstones.
“Shit! We need to go now!” Eden cried, and the three were off running. Evie had never felt so scared in her life: the men were steadily advancing and the spells were getting closer and closer. Her body was tired and she had a violent stitch in her side but she couldn't stop. The survival instinct was too strong to ignore.
Haring through the building which they had previously entered from, Eden fired a bullet at the glass door and they ran through the shattered remains leading onto the street. Glancing back momentarily, Evie noticed the blank stare of the lifeless figure that was once the receptionist, now just a body, her arms dangling limply as she was splayed across the chair. Police sirens could be heard in the distance as the trio finally caught up with the rest of the group, who had slowed down considerably. The rain had turned the ground underfoot slippery and more than once Evie thought she was going to lose her footing. Nonetheless, she pressed on. A white light flashed, followed by a crack much louder than those of the spells sounded; a thunderstorm.
The men were beginning to gain ground. Evie yelped as she was nearly hit by a green flash of light, but was saved by a different blue light encasing the man and rendering him immobilised. She turned back to where she was running just in time to see Noah pocket something. They continued on. Spells began to scorch the concrete by their heels as they crossed over a road and into a large field with several giant oak trees.
The browned earth was useless to grip with under their feet and mud splashed up into their faces, hindering visibility. They were in open territory now, and the cries of the cloaked men were becoming hoarse over the rumbling thunder. Anything could happen. They ran flat out, but soon the group would be at the mercy of the enemy if they couldn't get out of there and into the woods across the field. Hope was beginning to be lost, trickling down into the porous ground and never to be seen again.
At this sudden realisation, Evie whipped her head round to see the group of aurors. Moments later, a tremor shook the earth as two of the great oaks which made the town famous creaked and fell. The men tripped over their long garments and scrambled away in order not to be crushed by the humongous trees; one was unlucky. Evie could see his harm go limp under the enormous weight of the oaks as several men went to his aid, but it was too late.
There's so much death here, thought Evie as she slowed down to stare at the scene. One man was sobbing over the lost life whilst others looked forlorn. They seemed to have given up the chase to lament over their colleague. Evie felt a pang of guilt twinge in her stomach as she realised that a death was at the fault of her own. Turning away and continuing after the others, she did not see one auror stare at her retreating form as he fondled a pocket watch.
Upon apparating back to the HQ, emotions were running extremely high. Several of the Resistance had been injured in the fight and those who weren't, namely Eden, were administering speedy fixes. Evie watched as Noah's arm was quickly bandaged, the blood seeping through the bright white material within seconds, so that he could he help carry Xavier through to the medical wing. Issy was hissing at the pain from a large gash running the length of her thigh whilst Eden started to talk about the possibility of stitches and scarring as Issy stared at her leg, expression unrecognisable until she raised her eyes towards Evie. They were filled with pure loathing.
“You caused this. It's all your fault.”
Her words slashed like a knife through Evie's heart. “If you hadn't come along prancing about and acting as if you're the most important thing in the goddamn world then I wouldn't need stitches, Xave wouldn't be unconscious and Noah wouldn't have half his fucking arm ripped off.”
Evie bit back the urge to correct Issy's over exaggeration about Noah's arm and attempted to keep cool. “I'm sorry, Issy. What else can I say?”
“You can just fucking leave and do us all some good!” Issy half shouted, half hissed, standing up angrily. Her face crumpled with the pain of having weight on her bad leg. Robbie entered soon after, took one look at the two girls' body language, and promptly left the room again. Evie's anger flared.
“That isn't a bloody option for me! I'm here now, I haven't got anywhere else to go, my parents are dead, my old life is useless -”
“Oh, listen to your pathetic whining. Excuse me while I go and get some popcorn and tissues for your ridiculous sob story. You've had it fucking easy! Go and take your fucking jet-set lifestyle somewhere else, because I'm done with you here. Fuck off.”
With a final murderous glare, Issy limped off, gasping as she put weight on her right leg. All Evie could do was try to control her tumultuous emotions and watch her walk away; words were useless right now. Eden saw her inner turmoil and put a comforting arm around Evie's shoulder.
“Don't worry about Issy, she's just annoyed because she didn't come out clean like she usually does. Bit of a wound to her ego, she prides herself in not getting hurt during these things. You've gotten your closure, what you needed, and now we can all go about our lives – however abnormal they are,” she said in a hushed and soothing tone, squeezing Evie's arm a little and walking off to tend to the others. Evie's muscles began to relax a little and the overwhelming urge to cry subsided slightly. Adam was the next to offer comforting words, who had seen the whole argument.
“Turn that frown upside down!” he cried, producing a rose from behind his back. The childish look on his face and the ridiculousness of his line made Evie burst into giggles and she momentarily forgot about her other troubles. “That's better, I love to see a beautiful girl smile. Everyone is okay, Xavier has just woken up, life is good!”
Adam's permanently good mood was infectious. Evie's spirits felt a little lighter at the fact that everyone seemed to be okay. Several hours later Xavier was groggy but unhurt, Noah's arm was beginning to heal much more quickly after a quick-fix potion Eden had given him (Evie kept watching his arm in amazement as each time it seemed a little better) and Issy's leg was stitched up. She had been given some painkillers and told she wouldn't scar after all, but she still refused to talk to Evie and fumed in her room until dinner. Everyone returned to their separate tasks soon after; all was mostly well.
“Darn lucky 'bout that tree, don'tcha think?” Robbie commented, throwing a tennis ball against the nearest wall. Noah's eyes gravitated towards Evie, but she kept her head down and concentrated on the exact condition of her fingernails as the steady rhythm of the ball continued unrelentingly.
“Very lucky,” said Noah quietly, so that only Evie could hear. She looked over in his direction but said nothing.
“Must have finally come down after '87!” commented Robbie jovially, who was oblivious to the exchange of looks which has just passed.
"Any news on Xavier?" Evie queried, desperate to change the subject. Noah stared at her but said nothing more on the subject. She could feel his eyes on her as she heard Robbie's answer of yes, he was awake and well. As if on cue, Xavier strolled into the room as if he had not been knocked out for several hours. Evie could still not get used to the fact that one man could have so much presence as the entire group stopped to look at him.
"Today was a learning curve for all of us. There are two things today that I am particularly proud of - the fact that we merely sustained relatively minor injuries so Eden didn't have to fix too much, but also the undeniable sense of teamwork. I am honoured to have fought with you all today -"
"With all due respect, Xavier, not all of us deserve such credit." Adam and Eden's heads swivelled round to face Issy, their faces depicting pure shock whilst Robbie looked at her as if she was deranged for interrupting Xavier. Noah merely raised an eyebrow whilst taking another sip of his coffee. Issy stood defiantly, her gaze intent on Xavier whilst he stared back, his expression unreadable. Silently fuming but not sure whether Issy's comment was entirely spiteful and more true, Evie quietly left the room. Adam called out, but it fell on deaf ears.
Evie quickly hastened towards where she thought her room was according to her memory, but found herself surrounded by unfamiliar walls and cold sheets of metal, encasing her in a monotonous maze. She tried each room to no avail, all were so black that hell could come forth and leap out with ease. Evie felt as if that might be better for her right now.
Her footsteps left light marks in the layer of dust as she walked onwards, the tears starting to stream down her cheeks in silent agony. She was not wanted. She could leave this very moment and no one would give a damn. Feeling empty, Evie stopped walking and slid down in a state of numbness. She felt nothing except the hot tears rolling forth, again, again. Her hands lay limp at her side as she felt a feeling of utter despair seep through to her very core.
She heard footsteps.
They creaked and drew closer until stopping right before her; Evie recognised the heavy tread before she even saw the black steel-capped boots. Strong arms lifted her limp body and she was just held, held so carefully as if she were a china doll who could break at any minute. Looking up, she was greeted with ice blue eyes who had lost their judging and had been replaced with the tiniest flicker of guarded compassion. Noah smiled slightly, taking in her tear stained face and red rimmed eyes. Evie regained life in her hands and held onto him as if her life depended on it.
"You've let this get to you," Noah murmured, making a move as if to run a finger along her jawline but decided against it. Evie felt her senses tingling as he instead tucked a loose strand of hair away from her face and behind her ear. "She lied. Let it go."
"I know what my place is here," Evie whispered so delicately that Noah strained to hear. "I didn't ask for this..."
The two stayed in their position for what seemed like hours; like time had frozen and left them in a perpetual state of understanding and acceptance. Evie didn't know what to think, only that where she was right now felt comforting and that she wouldn't trade this for anything. She gently rested her head in Noah's broad chest, unsure of what his reaction would be, and felt the thrum of his heart beat, strong and slow. Noah lifted her where she has slipped form his arms slightly and started walking towards her room, the argument he was quietly having with himself not visible to anyone else. Despite what he wanted to feel, he could not help but care for this girl right here, right now.
Reaching for the door handle whilst making sure Evie would not tumble out of his arms, Noah leaned against the door to open it, allowing a hazy beam of light to flood the room. Tiny dust particles danced and floated amongst the gentle dimness, oblivious to the pain and sorrow that belonged in the world. Noah strode across the room and gently placed Evie on her bed. Her limbs were barely responsive and her eyes did not open until Noah was exiting the room.
And with that, she was fast asleep. Noah allowed himself to smile at the small, fragile girl and then left for reality.
British Ministry of Magic, Central London, 8 PM
His footsteps were soft. Too soft for someone of his build, but he was well trained in the fine art of agility. Treading lightly, the man's long leather jacket gently swung to and fro in time with his walk, creating the air of forebode. The corridor was empty, creating a sonorous echo of his feet hitting the cold floor, the ever so gentle creak of the leather moving. He heard it all. He could always hear it all.
The faint sound of chaos reached his ears, and he let out a barely audible sigh. People. How he loathed their tedious nature, their desire to be as boring as possible. However, in a way he contradicted himself – if they didn't fit in, he would hunt them.
After all, that was his job.
Approaching the grand marble doors, the man pushed them open with relative ease and entered the throng of ministry workers at their desks. Some were chattering in loud, panicked voices to other workers. Some were hastily scribbling down notes with large quills. Some were running their hands through their hair, a look of misery etched onto their faces. All stopped what they were doing when he entered the room.
They stared as he strode past, openly gawking at the man before them who was so terrifying and intimidating. The gleam of his hawthorn wand sent a shiver running down several people's spines; who knew how many people he had hurt with it. The carpeted floor took away the sounds of his footsteps but his presence was most definitely not missed by the many people in the room. Yet he also held some respect from the people seated at their desks; they knew he has been sent to sort out the mess which the Squibs has presented for them.
Onwards, onwards. The man eventually reached the opposite side of the room and pulled open another set of doors, this time of rich mahogany. He left the now diminished hustle and bustle of the mindless workers and continued his journey.
After several corridors he reached a shimmering wall which appeared to be like liquid mercury in appearance. Having been here many times before, he touched the liquid with the palm of his hand, leaving a glowing green hand print which then sunk away into silver. The shimmering wall parted like curtains to reveal a second mahogany door which the man magically opened with a wave of his wand. Inside were two men.
The first was a small, rotund man with a balding head of red hair, sitting behind a desk with his hands clasped in front of him. His small watery eyes look fearful, but he kept his composure as the tall man marched towards him purposefully. Carefully adjusting his purple waistcoat and straightening his hat before speaking, he finally found the courage to talk.
“Err … hello. I am Jeffrey Liggart, the Minister of Magic, but I'm sure you know that. This man here is Hector Mu-”
“We are already acquainted,” snapped Hector, and the Minister cowered away, his confidence lost. “We have previously worked together on … business.”
“... Excellent,” replied the Minister, at a loss of quite what to say next. There was a brief pause. The man got out a Swiss knife and started flicking the blade in and out of the casing. The Minister eyed the weapon warily, but said nothing.
Hector stepped forward. “At 1500 hours today, a known terrorist threat was seen in the county of Kent, specifically the Sevenoaks borough. I assume you know where this is?”
“Do not insult my intelligence, Hector,” said the man. His voice was low and carried a slight German accent. His words felt heavy and poignant. “I know the cemetery they were in is 21.5 miles from here. Einige Leute ...”
Hector raised an eyebrow. “Only if you do not insult mine. I know exactly what that means and in four other languages.”
Hector gave a quick smile to the man and walked over to the opposite side of the room. There were magically enchanted windows showing the London cityscape, tiny beads of light intertwining to create a glittering web. He sighed and faced the man once more.
“We require your assistance in exterminating the vermin.”
“Now hang about!” the Minister cried, leaping up from his cushioned seat. “The Squibs were never a threat... for many years they were part of the wizarding world, everyone was happy with them!” Hector calmly listened to the Minister's outburst before formulating his response.
“Are you implying that you would like to see the vermin walking around us as if they are humans? True witches and wizards? Worthy of the honour to hold a wand?” His eyes were dark, waiting for the Minister's response.
He gulped. “N-not exactly … just … are they really a threat?”
“Of course they are. Perhaps the biggest threat that our happy existence has known since Lord Voldemort himself,” Hector began. The Minister slumped in his chair as a sign of relief that his outburst was forgiven. The tall man merely stood and listened. “There was an event approaching two hundred years ago where one of the Great Wizards, Dumbledore, had a Squib for a sister. She was dangerous and unstable – a threat to our very existence. Given the chance, she would have hurt people … perhaps killed. Luckily Dumbledore and his brother took things into their own hands and silenced the child before she could truly realise her true potential and commit such terrible crimes against humanity. This is why he is one of our Great Wizards, Minister.”
“Well, I'm sure there were other reasons for his being listed Hector, but alright. Do whatever you need to do,” the Minister finally said, rubbing his face is a resigned manner. The man smirked.
“Excellent, Minister. And if you are heard speaking of this to anyone, the Squibs may not be the only ones who are hunted.” Hector said. The Minister could only give a frightened squeak in return and resolved to stay silent for the rest of the meeting. Hector turned to the man, who had gotten bored of the whole interaction and was now aimlessly stabbing a nearby chair, the stuffing haphazardly leaking out. With Hector's address he snapped his head in his direction. “You are a highly skilled assassin. My Aurors have proven to be more than useless with this group, although some are better than others. Those who have shown superior skill and judgement shall become part of your team.”
“I work alone.” the man replied, emitting a small growl. His grip tightened on the blade he was holding. Hector's eyes glittered.
“I am aware of that, but for this particular group we think you will need assistance. They have proven themselves to be quite adept at both fighting and making quick getaways. We've identified the devices they use as transport are part Muggle invention and part wizard technology; stolen magic, of course. We think that the devices are either hand made by one of the vermin; nothing like that exists in the wizarding world or in the Ministry.”
“This is all very well, but where can I find them?” the man said. He was clearly growing bored of the whole meeting; the chair was now partially destroyed. He sat down on it.
“That is something we'll have to leave to you, I'm afraid. There have been slip ups on their part which have allowed them to be seen; there have been two sightings in the East Midlands. We believe them to be based underground, or in somewhere abandoned. I suggest you start in Somerset.”
“That is for me to decide,” the man replied, standing tall. He was not one who readily took orders, merely jobs. People sought him out, so they would pay him with respect. “Is there any more information I should know?”
Hector Summoned six files from a nearby cupboard and tossed them towards the man. “These are their profiles. The last file is the newest member of the group. She is also believed to be the most dangerous. We'd like her alive, if you please.”
“Evie Hart ...” the man mumbled to himself, memorising all of their features. He pocketed the files and stood up. “Got it. And finally … what exactly is the price for their heads?”
“Fifty thousand per kill. Try not to make it too public though – we don't want the press and the Muggle Prime Minister raining the doors down.” Hector replied. He held out his hand for the man to shake, which he accepted. The deal was done. “I trust that you'll report back to me in two weeks time?”
“That is my usual activity. Für jetzt, Herren … Auf Wiedersehn.” and with that, he promptly exited the room. Before the doors closed, he heard the Minister mutter “I hope you know what you're dealing with here, Hector.” The man with the sharp black eyes merely replied, “Of course I do. Vermin.” The doors swung shut and the curtain went back to its undisturbed state, blanketing any noise from the voices within.
His boots pounded the floor as small puffs of dust rose. The Squibs knew not what they would soon be facing. He vaguely wondered why a small teenage girl was of any relevance to anything, but knew better than to question Hector. The man was smart to have taken over the Ministry.
As he finally left the hubbub of the Ministry, still busy even for the evening, the fresh chill of night hit the man's face. He closed his eyes and embraced the alertness he felt flooding through his veins, deep into his core. He felt revitalised. Prolonged periods around society rarely did his boredom any good.
Striding onwards, he began to navigate the streets of London until he was on the middle of a bridge. He looked up and saw the faint glimmer of a few bright stars, the rest lost to air pollution. Stupid muggles.
They would be dead within the week. They would be done with the girl and he would annihilate her. It was almost easy; but now he had to act on it. He began to laugh manically, with reckless abandon as to who heard him, before launching himself into the air.
God help them. He was Emerson Lowe and he was not to be defied.
The next week passed without incident for the Resistance. After the excitement of last week Evie was convinced about staying by the rest of the group, much to Issy's dismay. At this decision she instead took it upon herself to make Evie's life as difficult as possible – shooting murderous glances, complaining loudly about how overcrowded they now were, and taking jibes at Evie generally. The others defended her at first but Evie told them all to ignore her as she wasn't that bothered. Noah was the only one who continued to say “Shut up, Issy...” every once in a while. Now was one of these times.
Evie wasn't exactly sure where the rest of the group were, but she knew for now that she was finally done with her chores about keeping the place running and flopped down on a squishy chair in the den. The newly formed area was a small section of the main room that Evie had created when she realised that there was nowhere really that the group could just sit an relax apart from their rooms, which were a good few floors away. Adam had responded enthusiastically to her idea for a small comfy place, and the two had gone out in search of furniture amongst the warehouse itself, with the approval of Xavier. Evie could have swore she saw a small smile on his face as they left excitedly in the search for plush goods.
It seemed the warehouse was full of random stuff and a couple of hours later they had managed to salvage two sofas and four chairs, all mismatched but would do the job nicely. The rest of the group saw the new set up to the left of the room and instantly started using it, grateful to have somewhere to relax, but Issy mentioned how the “poor little rich girl can't live with her bloody home comforts”. Evie caught her taking a nap on the sofa two days later and felt as if a small victory had been won.
“You alright there?” Noah called out, snapping Evie away from the memory of having a win over Issy. She raised her head.
“Yeah thanks, just remembering something...” she responded. Noah had taken to making sure she was okay ever since she mentioned that she had a headache a few days ago. He gave her a small smile and returned to his work on the computer, engrossed. At this point, Issy walked in.
“Well look who it is, lazing around like there's no tomorrow when the rest of us are doing a day's honest work,” Issy started, narrowing her eyes. Evie merely sighed and let her continue, keeping silent. “Are you really as useless as you look right now? Oh wait, you seemed to prove that last week at that funeral. Bet your parents are real bloody proud.”
Issy had struck a nerve. “My parents were always proud of me and will always continue to be.” she thought about adding a snide remark about Issy's own parents, who she knew had thrown her out as a teenager, but decided against it. She would not sink to that level, and she normally wasn't that nasty anyway. Issy was bringing out the worst in Evie.
Issy opened her mouth to retort, but Noah intervened.”Issy, before you open your bloody mouth again here are the facts. Evie had just finished her share of the jobs to do around here – just because you aren't as fast as her isn't a reason to act like a petulant child. Grow the fuck up,” he spat, furious that Issy was doing this to Evie. In his head there was a good idea as to why she was.
Stung, Issy narrowed her eyes once again, this time at Noah. “I actually came in here for a reason. Dinner's ready.” after this announcement, she flounced out of the room in her usual manner. Noah rolled his eyes at Evie and she tittered. She was beginning to enjoy Noah's company, despite his initial cold reaction to her.
The two headed to the large canteen hall that was adjacent to the main room where the rest of the group were seated. They were all in deep discussion.
“...need to act pretty quickly if we're going to go down that avenue,” Evie heard Adam saying. He paused for a moment to shovel food into his mouth. “Personally, I think the waiting for now and then springing like a crouching dragon is the best way.” Adam mimed a vicious animal pouncing and bared his teeth, making the rest of the group laugh. He was always full of comedic moments.
“Is this about the … thing?” Noah asked Adam, glancing a quick look at Xavier, who usually only listened and rarely talked at mealtimes. Evie had a feeling it was something that only belonged between the three of them.
“Yeah, but it can wait until later.” the conversation then moved onto how everyone's day was and continued onwards. However, as time went on Evie could feel another headache growing stronger and stronger until her brain felt as if it was pulsing with pain.
“Excuse me guys, I just need to have a lie down ...” she eventually said, and Adam and Robbie began to protest how she had barely touched her dinner. She apologised and walked away to her room, clutching her head with one hand.
As she passed through the numerous corridors, she felt the ache grow more and more intense. She gasped audibly at the agony as one vicious pulse ricocheted across her synapses. She barely made it to her room before stumbling in and falling on the floor. Evie curled into the foetal position and clutched her head. She thought with each pulse the pain would lesson, but instead it only intensified … she wanted to scream out for help but found her ability to talk rendered useless. It was only until she heard someone approaching that the headache took a nosedive. She sat up, amazed, as Noah entered the room holding two pills and a glass of water.
“Thought this might help a little with that headache of yours...” Noah started, the smile on his face slowly slipping away when he saw Evie on the floor looking dazed and confused. He quickly set the items down on the bedside table and helped her onto the bed. “Are you alright? What happened?”
“I'm not really sure … I was walking to here and that headache got really bad really quickly. Felt like the migraine from hell or something,” Evie wasn't entirely sure what had happened, and decided that she would think about it later in private. “Thanks for bringing me what I'm sure is some sort of magical potion or concoction. Feels like it's been never-ending with that stuff recently.”
“Actually, it's just a couple of paracetamol,” Noah replied with a chuckle. “I'm not too used to magic myself, you know. Prefer to stick to the normal things.” Evie thought to herself that she'd forgotten that the rest of the group weren't exactly entirely used to magic either; she was merely newer to the introduction. “Speaking of normal, Evie, I wanted to talk to you about a couple of matters that I just can't get my head round.”
“I have a feeling I know what it is, but go ahead,” she replied.
“Okay. The first weird thing was when you were first found by the Ministry and captured. I was waiting in the bushes because we knew who you were by then. Thing is, I was expecting to be there a little earlier than the Ministry – so when I got there, I was going to write you off as a goner.
'The next thing I know, you've thrown off the magical charms they'd placed on you and were hurtling away in the other direction. How did that happen?'
“Well if you don't have any idea, then I sure as hell don't,” Evie started, running a hand through her dark hair. “I don't remember feeling any different, just the instinct to escape and make sure I was safe. Maybe that was it? Some weird instinct?”
“Maybe,” Noah said but he didn't look so convinced. He decided to leave the matter. “Thing is, there was that second weird thing at your guardians' funeral. It was raining but there wasn't much wind and there definitely wasn't any thunder or lightning. Those trees are pretty damn secure with the roots and stuff. You seemed to just look at the thing and make a fifty foot tree fall down.”
Evie looked at Noah, affronted. “Well I didn't mean to! That's if it even was me, which by the way, sounds near impossible. I'm sure it wasn't me and it was just, I dunno, rotted roots or something. There's probably a perfectly logical reason why it fell.”
“Look, Evie. You're special. I can tell that – there's something different about you and the rest of us. That's not to make you feel bad!” he hastily added, seeing the look on Evie's face veering between shy happiness at being called special to pissed off at being an implied freak. “I … just think there's more than coincidence behind this. I suppose we'll have to wait for things to play out, see whether anything else happens in the future.”
Evie sighed and closed her eyes. “I know, I know. I don't really want to think about it. I'm still reeling a bit from … everything. Life.”
Noah gave Evie a small smile. “I know. I won't interrogate you any further.”
There was a pause where neither knew quite what to say to one another. Evie realised that Noah was actually in quite a close proximity, probably having edged forward with curiosity at why she could do things the others couldn't. Their hands were even closer to each other; Noah felt the tension frisson through his body. He was suddenly very aware of Evie's long, dark hair and how it actually looked quite nice. How had he not noticed it before? Resisting the urge to reach out and check to see if it felt as soft as it looked, he instead looked down at their hands. So close …
He edged his hand forward slightly.
“So, how did you end up here?” Evie asked, and the tension quickly dissipated. Evie cringed inwardly. Her voice had sounded high and unnatural but she knew she had to do or say something before their hands met; she wouldn't have known how to react. Noah snapped his eyes away and cleared his throat.
“The group's been around for three years, nearly four. We've been in this building for two – we had to change twice already in the early days because we were still a little stupid about protection, but this warehouse seems to be holding out pretty well. I can get a lot of work done here too, which keeps Xavier happy.”
“But how exactly did you get into this situation? Were you like me?” Evie inquired. She had always been extremely curious about the others' backgrounds, but felt too intimidated by them all to ask before now. Noah chuckled at her question.
“Not by a long shot. I spent my childhood in an orphanage on the outskirts of London – it was alright there, not very inspiring. I was abandoned by my mother at birth. She died an hour after leaving me there.” Evie saw a flicker of pain run through Noah's eyes at the mention of his mother, and felt her heart soften slightly. “I was there until I was fifteen. A few months after my birthday I got some letter from someone explaining exactly what I was and what I needed to do: run. Naturally, I binned the letter.”
“What happened after that?”
“I suppose we are sort of similar – around a week later, a few people were asking about me to the people who ran the orphanage. I knew by then that I was far too old to be adopted, and was at least smart enough to realise that these “questions” about me were a little too close to the letter I'd received – so I realised there really had been some truth in it. I packed my bags and left that night.” Noah lent back against the wall and pulled his long legs up towards him. “Turns out to have been a good move – I heard down the line that that night, some mysterious men turned up out of the blue looking for me. One of the patrons were killed.”
“Wow. That's … awful,” Evie said. Every time she heard a story like this she felt so guilty that because of people like her and Noah, innocent people seemed to have lost their lives.
“It was. I felt terrible, but there was nothing I could do. Still, ever since then my life hasn't exactly been stable … I was living on the streets for a while until Xavier found me when I was eighteen. He said he had a few answers – bit of a creepy bloke, I thought – but I figured that I had nothing to lose and went with him. Never looked back since.” Noah's eyes glazed over for a moment as the memories came flooding back, but he quickly snapped out of it and gave Evie a brief smile. “What exactly were you doing before you were very unceremoniously uprooted?”
“Just living an ordinary teen life, really ...” Evie said, observing her fingernails. She was going to stop there but Noah gave her an imploring look; she figured that he poured his heart out to her, she might as well give a little something back. “I dunno, it just all sounds so trivial now. I did quite well in school. I was studying French, Maths, English and Physics – yeah, pretty wide options,” she laughed as she saw Noah's impressed look. “I didn't really know what I wanted to do with myself. I definitely don't now ...”
“Yeah well, surviving is a sign that we're doing good around here. What else can you tell me?”
“Hmm … I danced for a while, I had a few good friends, there was this guy but … none of that matters now.” Evie thought she saw Noah stiffen ever so slightly at the mention of another boy in her past life. She quickly moved on. “My parents, or guardians as you lot like to call them, told me that I was adopted when I turned thirteen. I felt pretty messed up emotionally for a while, but because they were so great and caring it went away. They were the best parents anyone could ask for, my real mum can't have been up to much anyway.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Noah replied. In his head he was trying to work out why exactly he was still thinking of Evie with someone else, despite her attempt at moving on the conversation. Evie looked down nervously.
“What about the others? Know anything about them?”
At this Noah shook himself from his brooding thoughts and rolled up his sleeves, obviously preparing himself for a long story. Evie sat up a little straighter.
“Well, where to begin? I'll start at when we first met Adam – I'd been travelling with Xavier for around a year now, we were just trying to keep on the down low and not attract any attention to ourselves. It wasn't great, but it was nice to have some company. Anyway … when we found Adam, we were somewhere in the Peak District. Xavier thought he saw a body in some bushes and lo and behold, he was right. It was Adam, unconscious. Poor guy was starved half to death when we found him – said later that he hadn't eaten for a week. We reckon the magic in his blood helped keep him alive for so long. Of course, we helped him out – gave him food and water, helped patch him up – it was pure coincidence that he happened to be a Squib. Said he'd been on the run for a few months now. He's never told us about his family – maybe it's too painful. None of us pry.”
At this point, Evie had her mouth hanging open in shock. To imagine Adam, full of life and always up for a laugh, half-dead and unconscious in the bushes was almost incomprehensible.
“Then there's Robbie – we found him soon after Adam actually. Must have been in February – he'd gotten himself into a tight corner with some Aurors. We helped him fight them off and then turned our attention onto Robbie – my God, he was a state. He was from Minnesota in the USA originally, then moved here with his dad when his parents split up. It seems that out there he was a country boy and his parents kept him sheltered from the American Ministry of Magic – but when he came here, there was no mercy. His dad went 'missing' and never came home one night – Robbie, big guy though he is, was captured and used as a test subject. When we found him he'd managed to escape, and the Aurors were after him to either put him back in there or just to kill him for the hell of it. It's not like they care about whether we're alive or dead … actually they'd just prefer us dead. Thing is, when we saw Robbie he had all these weird marks on him … as well as cuts and scars from needles. He'd clearly been beaten and tortured. Last thing on him is that he can't feel pain – the nerves connecting his brain to the recognition of pain were severed.”
“Jesus Christ, that's awful!” Evie exclaimed, covering her mouth in horror. “Does he ever talk about it?”
“No, and rightly so. We don't ask him about it either – he's psychologically scarred from his ordeal in there. Took him around a year to be the person he is now. I guess when the time's right, he'll want to talk to someone about it. Probably you,” Noah added as an afterthought, looking away with a smirk hiding his emotions. “He likes you.”
“Oh give over,” Evie remarked, raising an eyebrow and pushing Noah lightly on the arm. He chuckled. “I just don't understand how he's not all bitter and twisted from that sort of abuse.”
“He's was the nicest guy in the world, he said, but after that place he's just nice now.”
Noah was looking relatively relaxed in a façade to act like these things didn't really affect him, but his tense jaw gave him away. Evie then asked about Xavier.
“Oh, Xavier. We don't really know much about him. I've known the guy the longest and all I know is his name – doesn't give anything away, that guy. I'm guessing he's the oldest out of us – mid to late twenties is my estimate – but he hasn't told us anything and I don't think he ever will. He's just a natural leader, knows what to do in the right situation, and we all respect him for that. There's also the fact that when he's angry, he's angry – you don't miss it. God help you if he's angry at you, too. It's horrible.”
“I take it he has been to you?” Evie felt that all she was doing was asking more and more questions, but she couldn't satisfy her curiosity until everything had been explained.
“Oh yes, back when it was just us two. I'd nearly been spotted by a policeman stealing some bread from a supermarket – don't look at me like that, we had to survive somehow.”
Evie shrugged. She would do the same if she were in that position. “That's far enough. So he doesn't tell anyone anything? God, he must be ready to explode.”
Noah laughed, his mouth sloping upwards. “There is one thing, actually – Xavier sleeps quite far away from everyone else. I wondered why and went to investigate one night – then I realised why he did. I heard him screaming in his sleep.”
Evie bit her lip. “I'm guessing that whatever makes him scream in his sleep is some pretty terrifying nightmare...”
“Yeah well, our nightmares are usually based on memories now.”
Evie decided to let the subject drop. “Anything on Eden? She seems nice, I like her.”
“Yeah, she's nice. She's the newest member of the group actually; joined us a few months ago. Her situation is a little weird actually – with everyone else, we found them. Eden actually found us … just arrived one day, out of the blue, saying she was a Squib and that she'd heard about our underground resistance. Scared the shit out of Xavier, actually. He tripled the defences we have up against the place already.”
“I'm not even going to ask what sort of defences we have up around here,” Evie remarked. She may have taken Physics, but she guessed that the defences were magical.
“They take a long time to explain, and for all I know you could be a spy, so I won't,” Noah replied, smiling at Evie when she narrowed her eyes. “Just kidding, I know you're not. Anyway, with Eden she arrived crying and in shock – had a nasty gash on her arm, was losing a lot of blood. After we fixed her up, she said how she'd just seen her parents been murdered in front of her. Said that the blood spattered on her face wasn't her own.”
It seemed that every member of the group had gone through so much more than Evie could ever imagine. After a brief pause, she had to enquire about who she was most interested in. “What about Issy?”
Noah smiled darkly. “Oh, where to begin with that one... Issy's started off with a fairly normal life, to be honest. Not the best of living arrangements – she lived in a bit of a ghetto neighbourhood – but her relationship with her foster parents was stable. Thing is, her downfall was her own fault – got into the wrong crowd, did drugs and the like. She was chucked out by her fosters a few months later. Her lowest point was probably being convicted for GBH a few years back – yeah, when she was a teenager,” Noah said. His expression was troubled and his eyes were dark. “That's how they found her – in prison you're a sitting duck. She managed to escape though – God knows how she got past all the security – and we located her the next day. We'd been monitoring her for a while as it was.”
“You know, I'm not really all that surprised that she's done time for GBH ...” Evie finally voiced, and Noah nodded in agreement.
“If I'm honest, we were all a little shocked at how such a nice looking girl could have gotten into so much trouble... then we got to know her personality.” Noah was lost in a memory once forgotten, buried deep into the crevices of his mind. His eyes had glazed over slightly whilst Evie antagonist over the way he described Issy as a 'nice looking girl'. Suddenly, Issy's behaviour towards her finally made sense.
“Noah, were you and Issy together?” Evie came out with it, and Noah looked straight into her eyes with an intense stare. He almost looked angry, and Evie felt herself shrinking under his gaze.
He finally replied with a sigh. “Yes, we were an item for about a year. It didn't work out. It never would have.” His jaw was once again tight; the question seemed to have shaken him. “Nothing ever works, Evie.”
With this final statement, Noah leapt off the bed and quickly exited the room. Evie could hear his loud footsteps slowly fading away. She drew her legs up towards her and rested her chin gently onto her knees, staring at the spot where Noah was just moments ago.
“We could work...”
It was only Evie in the main room when Eden walked in, her head dipped low as she scrutinised a long list.
“We're out of a lot of stuff now – need some more Skelo-Gro, loads of potion ingredients … I reckon we're only okay for a couple of basic items, if that.”
“Knowing you lot, I reckon that restocking those things means stealing from wizards?” Evie replied with an uneasy smile.
“Dear, you learn fast. We're off to the Ministry!” With a wicked grin, Eden scampered off to tell Xavier of their impending visit to the Ministry. Evie didn't exactly know where it was, but she was guessing somewhere important – the capital maybe?
Her suspicions were confirmed when the next day they began to plan their ambush. Apparently they had done it more than once; the planning stages consisted of the group explaining to Evie what was going to happen whilst Issy tutted and rolled her eyes in the corner of the room.
“So we really are stealing? Evie inquired. She wasn't used to going against her morals and the idea had been praying on her mind ever since Eden mentioned the raid.
“Don't think of it as stealing … think of it as borrowing what we deserve to have!” Adam replied cheerily, detecting the hesitation in her voice. He got up from his seat and put a playful arm round her. “Cheer up, bella. We need these things and this is the only way we can carry on surviving.” Evie smiled slightly and Adam considered her as convinced.
The next 24 hours went quickly and Evie had barely any time to talk to anyone except Adam and Robbie, who were helping to prepare for the raid. Noah was working on the computers for the day and late into the night in preparation and Evie barely got a glance at him; she found herself thinking of their conversation from a few nights ago and felt the growing feeling of unfinished business. This was no matter now though; it was time for the raid to begin. The dusk had quickly given way to an inky blue in the sky and glittering stars scattered among the universe. Evie drifted off staring at the peaceful view until she snapped back to reality with Issy clicking her fingers in her face, the usual pissed-off scowl in place.
“We're paired together for Apparition,” she muttered, clearly not happy with the situation. “Unfortunately we're of similar height and therefore partners. You move, I kill you. You speak, I kill you. You breathe-”
“Alright, I get it. Let's just get this over with.” Issy attached the harness with unnecessary force, making Evie gasp in pain. She narrowed her eyes at the girl inches away from her, who merely smiled sweetly in return. Adam came bounding up to the two.
“Darlings, I'll be sitting this one out. Makes numbers easier and we need someone to look after the place. Who better than me?” Adam batted his eyelashes, making the two laugh. “Try not to kill each other tonight! Have fun! Ciao!” and with a dramatic turn, he exited the room.
Xavier cleared his throat. Everyone was ready. “Okay everyone, in three, two ...”
Issy pressed the button and a whirring noise began before Evie felt the unpleasant experience of being violently pulled and suspended in mid-air at the same time, Issy's arm gripping her for support. After a few seconds, Evie felt her feet land on solid ground and promptly vomited. Issy looked at her in disgust.
“No time to deal with it now,” Xavier whispered. His voice sounded oddly distorted thorough the deception charms which Eden had put on them earlier. “Separate now. We’ll meet here in fifteen minutes – that should be enough time. The only way we can get caught is setting off the pressure sensors in some of the rooms, so whatever you do, don't fall over." With this instruction, Issy quickly released the harness attaching her to Evie and stalked off into the darkness with Noah, leaving Evie with Robbie. She decided to let it slide. Xavier and Eden then headed in the other direction, leaving the two alone.
“This way darlin’,” Robbie drawled in his Southern accent, heading straight. Evie caught up with his massive steps and noted on how calm he was strolling down the middle of the corridor despite the situation. Evie nervously trotted alongside him.
“What are we getting again?” she queried in barely a whisper, terrified of being discovered. Her heart was beating frantically fast. Robbie saw her face and chuckled slightly.
“We got the most important job this time round – intelligence. We’re heading to the head of Magical Law Enforcement’s office to find out any more information relevant to us. Don’t worry yourself doll, we’ve never been caught before!”
They continued down the black marble corridors with Evie feeling very much on edge. Anything could go wrong. The shields and cover could wear off, they could talk too loud, an unexpected barrier ... there were a thousand things which could blow their cover and this all felt entirely too leisurely. Evie decided to keep her thoughts to herself.
They eventually reached a huge door in front of a huge hall of desks with a small plaque saying “Department of Magical Law Enforcement: Ar. Bernard Crinkletop, Head of Department”. Evie couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculous wizarding name. Robbie’s face turned serious.
“Evie, stand back. This could get ugly...” he announced. Evie immediately sprung five feet away from the door, instantly frightened at the statement. Robbie crept forward, face creased in concentration, grasped the handle ...
The door clicked open noiselessly.
Robbie burst into peals of silent laughter at incredulity and confusion crossed Evie’s face. “I’m only kiddin’ with ya doll! For the magic police, they’re pretty darn lax about their protection. Big headed idiots, underestimatin’ us...” Robbie continued into the black room, still chuckling. Evie quickly followed and entered the room.
As soon as she stepped into the room Evie had a bad, foreboding feeling. In the gloom she could make out a large stately desk and chair with lots of bookcases surrounding them. A small trophy cabinet gleamed of past achievements in the darkness against a distant light. Behind the desk and chair were a huge set of windows which looked onto the main foyer of the Ministry where they had all met. Her brow furrowed as the feeling did not die down.
“Robbie, I’m not sure about this. Perhaps we should just leave?” She suggested hopefully. Robbie gave her a small look before returning to his search of the many drawers in the desk.
“We’re here now, might as well carry on searchin’. Speaking of which,” Robbie brandished a few folders and pulled out a tiny torch to check what they were. “I think we have somethin’.”
Evie drew closer, alarmed when she saw a picture of a teenage boy who looked suspiciously like a young Noah. The file had ‘CLASSIFIED’ stamped on in bold red lettering. Robbie flipped through the content nonchalantly. “Are those...?”
“Files on us. This here’s Noah, if you didn’t guess. Swear the guy’s barely aged. Looks like they haven’t found anythin’ else on him.”
Robbie chucked the file onto the desk and began rooting through the rest of the files. She saw the faces of the other members of the group on the folders, either a candid shot or one from when they were younger. Robbie eventually reached the last file. Evie was shocked to see her own sixth form photo smiling up at her – the photo had been taken on her first day at her new college. She briefly remembered her old life which already seemed eons away and felt a small pang of something she didn’t immediately recognise: homesickness.
“Looks like you’ve made the list. Welcome to the club! Wait...” Robbie tried opening the file but found he was unable to. “God darn! It’s been magically shut. Only opens to who it belongs to,” Robbie looked at Evie interestedly. “There must be somethin’ special about you.”
The back of Evie’s neck prickled with discomfort at the thought of being ‘somethin’ special’ to the Ministry. “I really think we should leave soon,” she uttered. A flicker of sympathy flashed across Robbie’s features.
“Evie, relax! We’ve done these a million and one times. No need to be so tense. You can trust us.” He moved to the bookcases, continuing the search for information.
Evie moved closer to the desk. “Got a spare torch?” she enquired to Robbie, who tossed one backwards without looking. Evie just managed to grasp it, thanking her lucky stars it didn’t clatter to the floor, but that wasn’t the problem now: in her haste to grab the torch, Evie had leant backwards and knocked into a decorative vase.
Robbie and Evie watched in horror at the vase rocked back and forth, teetering dangerously close to the edge before beginning to fall. Transfixed on the scene, neither person made a move to stop the vase on its treacherous path until it was nearly too late.
Evie barely remembered suddenly reaching at and catching the vase with one hand mere inches from the floor, only that it was instinctive to her. She’d never had particularly fast reflexes before – now she seemed comparable to a ninja. What the bloody hell was that?, she thought to herself.
Robbie was impressed. “Damn girl! You may look like nothin’ but you’re packin’ a fine damn set of reflexes! A good thing too, if you’re gonna be knockin’ things all over the place.” he continued to search over the bookcases, as if hoping for a secret passage to open with the tug of a book. Evie began to investigate the desk and files further.
Holding the torch over the files, she tried to open her own but as Robbie found it did not open. Giving up, Evie opened the desk drawer quietly and dug through the mounds of paper until she reached another file. She pulled it out and saw a woman in her thirties staring up at her with vivid blue eyes and dark brown hair. Her features were pretty but looked tight and worried - life had not been kind to her. The photo appeared to be slightly blurred and old, with ‘New photo: Pending’ on the front of the file. Evie guessed the woman was now in her forties. The pair of eyes from the photo glimmered like sapphires as if they were real, not just an image. Evie opened the file, scanned the contents and found her whole world changed once again.
Name: Julianna Alphonsine Archambeau
Blood status: Pure blood
Children: Evangeline May Archambeau – declared still-born, unexpectedly located by Ministry officials September 10th, 2092. Person of interest.
Current status: Alive – location unknown. Person of interest.
The sudden thump of Evie’s body hitting the floor simultaneously sent Robbie spinning round to see what had happened and set several alarms off at the impact. “Aw shit, she set the pressure sensors off!” he hissed to himself. Grabbing Evie and lunging for the door, Robbie found himself face to face with two Aurors. The shock at seeing a known member of the Resistance made them freeze and gave Robbie all the time he needed to punch one in the stomach and kick the other in the face, sending them flying. He darted down the corridor, Evie still unconscious, and was quickly met with more Aurors. They had a look on their face which was akin to a lion capturing its prey; the glint in their eyes was bright and hungry. They quickly advanced down the corridor towards the two.
“He’s got her!” one called out, and their pace quickened. A green jet of light landed just inches away from Robbie as he pelted through the maze of black marble. With the Aurors hot on his heels, he finally reached the massive foyer of the Ministry where yet more men were waiting. There must have been around twenty by now; Robbie was running out of places to run to.
Suddenly, he remembered what he had on him. Pulling out three smoke grenades, he released the pin on each one and chucked them carelessly. On impact the they released a huge cloud of grey smoke and stopped the Aurors in their tracks, causing shouting and confusion. A few of the quicker ones cast clearing spells but it was too late – Robbie had activated the Apparator. They were long gone.
“God damnit! Lost them again!” A few cried out, the others too annoyed to comment. For a tiny group of wandless filth, they were pretty good at escaping.
It wasn’t until Robbie unceremoniously chucked a glass of water on her face that Evie jolted awake. She gasped as the ice-cold liquid dripped down her face and gave her goose bumps.
“Wh-what happened? ...Oh...” she started as the memories of the raid came flooding back. Her mother was alive. The woman who gave birth to her was alive. Her biological mother ...
“I’m guessin’ you had a real good reason to go all faint on me, otherwise I’mma be pretty darn angry!” Robbie joked, but Evie could see the annoyance in his eyes. She had jeopardised the entire raid – they had been just fine before without her. She bowed her head.
“I’m sorry Robbie, but I looked at those files and found one on my biological mum and just ... lost it a bit,” she sighed. A rat scurried past, and then another followed. They scurried past the two and went through the narrow door into the main part of the warehouse. Evie frowned – they never did that when humans were near them. Her stomach clenched with nerves.
“Where’s Adam?” she asked. Robbie shrugged.
“Out back I suppose, nothin’ to worry about.”
The eerie silence became unbearable, and Evie got shakily to her feet. Grabbing the door frame for support, she went through. Before her was a sight that would stay in her nightmares for weeks after.
For the third night in a row, Evie replayed the horrible events of three days ago in her sleep.
Her gaze followed to a motionless hand, connected to an arm, to a shoulder, to a neck, to Adam. His mouth was agape in a twisted form of pure horror and his eyes were like a doll’s, unseeing and glassy. He looked terrified.
A single tear snaked its way down Evie’s face. She gasped as she turned the corner and saw the full extent of Adam’s lifeless body. His legs were splayed and one had a dark red patch on the trousers. The other was also bent unnaturally, still bleeding a little. But none of this mattered.
None of it compared to the words carved into Adam’s chest in jagged lettering, still fresh.
She awoke with a start, the image of Adam’s terrified face burned into her retinas.
Adam’s death had left three feelings: sadness, anger and most of all fear. There were too many unanswered questions: Who did this? How did they find us? Were they sent by someone? Are we safe? All answers were unknown except for the last, which was an unrelenting ‘no’.
As soon as Robbie saw what had happened to Adam, he cried. Evie always thought of him as a steadfast and strong character, but seeing him in floods of tears over the loss of his best friend made her heart break. Robbie fell to his knees and cradled Adam’s beaten form in his arms, shoulders shaking in grief. Evie could do nothing but stand there and stare at the message again and again; you’re next. You’re next.
The rest of the group arrived a couple of minutes later, causing a hubbub. Amidst Issy’s furious cries of “What the bloody hell was that? Or do I even need to ask?” Xavier strode into the room, stopping dead when he saw Adam. He froze, face unchanging for several moments, before pelting towards the computers, roaring for Noah to come over. As Noah ran in he nearly tripped over Robbie and took several steps back when he realised what had happened, the colour draining from his face. He began to move towards Adam but was stopped with calls from an enraged Xavier, and decided to help him with whatever needed doing. Evie found herself appalled at this – who chooses to walk away from a friend’s body?
Issy was next into the room, still shouting and swearing at the raid, at Evie, at life. She took in Robbie’s deflated position and quickly clicked what had happened. With this, she ran forwards and clutched Adam’s head, crying hysterically. It seems she too was disturbed by the chilling message, not taking her eyes off of it. At the sudden noise, Eden wandered in looking alert. She didn’t react how Evie expected; her jaw tensed as she took in the scene and her fists clenched in anger. Anger? Wouldn’t she feel sad at this? The thought flitted across the confusion of Evie’s brain as she processed what had happened. Eden stalked off to the sleeping quarters, slamming the door shut so hard behind her that the corrugated metal reverberated around the room. Evie subconsciously moved to a seat and collapsed onto it, still not taking her eyes off of Adam’s scarred body. She remembered how the two of them had vowed to make the world a better place, starting with improving the goddamned look of the warehouse. She remembered how he always said “Ciao” and “bella”, how his laugh was infectious, how he could capture the room’s attention within seconds and make everyone burst into peals of laughter. She remembered her friend, as she gazed at what was left of him: nothing but bones and memories.
Evie finally tore her eyes away to what Xavier and Noah were up to. She had never seen Xavier so angry; he furiously shouted instructions at Noah as he typed in a hurried frenzy, a frown filled with anguish on his face. After five minutes he finally relaxed, nodding to Xavier. With this, Xavier returned to Adam’s body and addressed the group.
“We all know what’s happened here, even if we don’t want to admit it. We’ve been discovered. It might have something to do with the raid, it might be something else, I don’t know, but Adam has paid his life towards a noble cause. We’ll keep fighting, more than ever, for our freedom. For Squibs alike. For Adam.” With this, Xavier exited the room.
The makeshift funeral was a heartbreaking experience – even though she had only known him for a few short months, Evie felt as if she had lost a piece of her. Adam acted as so many things within the group, and a shadow had now been left – it just wasn’t the same. She missed him.
Robbie painstakingly dug a grave to the exact size it should be within a few hours in the small field outside of the factory. Issy and Evie wrapped his body in some jute cloth, too stricken with grief to argue with one another. As the sun rose Adam’s body was lowered into the earth by Xavier, the new light pouring onto their faces.
A new day, a new death.
The group stared down at the hole, none wanting to say any words in case the moment was spoiled. They didn’t want to taint Adam’s death with words that felt so hollow and meaningless. Evie began to cry silently, and Noah put a tentative arm around her for a few seconds before changing his mind and hastily withdrawing, leaving Evie to cry on her own. Issy didn’t even notice the awkward exchange; she simply stared without seeing into another world, somewhere far away from her life as she knew it. By the time they had finished the sun had fully risen, throwing their exhausted faces into harsh sunlight. They filed back into the headquarters one by one, none speaking, and each going to their rooms. With a final glance back before she went inside, Evie took in the unmarked grave and realised what type of world she was now a part of: a world full of death and violence. She thought of her sealed file back at the Ministry; it all seemed so far away now.
Am I really that important?
British Ministry of Magic, Central London, Wizengamot Courts
A group of fifty or so people sat in a circular room with steep rows of benches looking down on a pit with only a chained chair in the middle. The room hadn’t been used in over fifty years, yet the Minister for Magic had called them all to his specific place at this specific time to discuss what he called a ‘grave and dire situation’. Of course everyone knew that he was only the puppet in which Hector Mutegi held the strings of; it is Hector who motioned for the meeting to be called, and who strode in first to the room. His presence immediately ensured any whispering immediately died down and all eyes were on him; after all, no one wanted to go home that day and find a family member had been announced as missing.
Hector stopped to observe the fearful crowd with glittering eyes. They were merely the workers, the bottom of the pile, but were necessary for things to run as smoothly as possible. With a situation involving Squibs, things could not afford to go wrong. He went to stand in front of the audience he commanded.
Following him in was Jeffrey Liggart, trying to hold a calm composure but failing miserably. He quickly took his place next to Hector, and lowered his gaze to the floor. It was a wonder he had managed to hold his position as Minister of Magic. It was a bigger wonder that Hector hadn’t taken it from him already. All the while, the audience stayed silent.
Once everyone was in place, Hector began. “Welcome all. Today we are gathered here to decide on a plan of action for the Vermin problem which has come to light in recent weeks. You have all been handpicked by the Ministry based on your ability and value to this very important and confidential project. I don’t want to create panic ladies and gentlemen, but I’m afraid that what we’re handling here are Squibs.”
A gasp fluttered round the room. Some held their hands over their mouths in shock, eyes wide open; others’ jaws were set tensely. All look worried. Instantly a murmur swelled before dying away. Hector let them worry, talk among themselves. We need panic. We need fear.
“Since the Great Uprising we have successfully suppressed the rebellious Vermin to secure the safety of the wizarding world. However, it grieves us to have had to respond to such violent tactics which they use to try to undermine us. We have never had reason to alert those but the people involved with the matter as it has never been a threat to our society – until now.”
He was expert at creating fear and panic. Frightened faces stared back at him, taking in every word he said. He thrived on terror; it was the food for his soul. His black eyes glistened.
“It has recently come to the Ministry’s knowledge that a small group of vermin have recently attempted to take down the Ministry in order to rule our society for their own gain. Some of their minor offences against humanity are organised infiltration of Ministry building and attacks on Aurors – most recently at a graveyard in Sevenoaks, Kent. It pains me to tell you of their major atrocities: masterminding the 2090 Gringotts Heist, abuse and torture of Muggles and perhaps the most shocking being the murder of three wizards and two witches for no apparent purpose. These vermin are terrorists, ladies and gentlemen.”
Jeffrey Liggart only raised his head when he heard of the ‘major atrocities’. He knew of the lies which Hector was so effortlessly fabricating from thin air, like magic. He knew of the propaganda posters which were being manufactured on the fourth floor right this very moment. He knew the Squibs would be annihilated within a matter of weeks. And yet, contrary to Hector’s belief, he was not stupid. He knew that his position no longer held any power in the corrupt government, and that if he said a word of the truth he and his family would be killed.
For this reason, he said nothing.
“If this didn’t convince you of their status, then perhaps some evidence will persuade you,” Hector continued. “A warning: some of these images are quite graphic.” He proceeded to flick his wand at the wall in the room and images poured from the tip, grotesque forms and violent scenes filling the room. Various images of five people floated through the midst of chaos, in particular a girl with blue eyes and brown hair. Another flick of the wand and the images dissipated like smoke. A stunned silence followed for several moments; one outcry of “They must be stopped!” started the rabble of distressed chatter. A glare from those glittering black eyes eventually drew the room to silence once more.
“I realise that your first instincts are to panic and be afraid,” Hector smiled slightly at the thought. “However, it is my duty to inform you that those who were previously involved in the investigation are working as hard as they can to stop these glorified rats who think they can get away with such horrendous crimes. It is to my understanding that one of the members has since been ... detained within the last two days. We even have-“
He was interrupted as a young woman burst through the doors with her wand raised high. She had fire in her eyes as she shot a red jet of light towards a shadow in the room, but seemed to miss her target as she bared her teeth angrily and prepared for another strike. Hector quickly intervened and cast a shield spell, deflecting the woman’s spell. She dodged out of the way and cast daggers at Hector. Some of the members of the crowd looked alarmed, but were quickly reassured by neighbouring members who said they knew who she was.
“There was absolutely NO need to kill him! NONE. I wasn’t even done yet – I hadn’t finished extracting information from him! Because of YOU,” pointing angrily back to the corner, “We won’t be able to find out their next plan. You’re a complete idiot!”
Hector sighed tiredly. “For those who don’t know, this is the auror Eden Mallaby. As I was saying before our interruption, she is working undercover as a Squib within the terrorist group.”
“Terrorist group? Is that what we’re calling them now?” Eden spat back, staring straight into Hector’s glittering eyes. He gave a curt nod. “Well, fuck. That isn’t why I’m here though. I’m here because of him.”
“Methinks the mamsell doth protest too much,” came a thick German accent from the accused shadows. “I am doing my job, Eden. Much like you.”
“I don’t give a bloody shit about your job. I was working on a very important case, and then you went and murdered Ad – one of my main sources of information!” she cried, fumbling over Adam’s name. She hadn’t meant to say that. Her cheeks reddened slightly, but she quickly regained her composure. “Stop hiding in the shadows and face me like a man.”
Emerson Lowe revealed himself, showing his scarred face accompanied with a smirk. He leapt down from his hiding place, landing with a loud thump on the stone floor, and made his way to Eden. She held her wand up warily, aiming for his heart. “for you, Liebling, I shall.” He chuckled darkly as Eden turned her head away in disgust, lowering her wand and stalking off to join Hector. He raised his eyebrows at the two of them and turned back to face the meeting.
“Aside from the lovely little distraction we just saw, there are other matters which need attending to. For a start, there are currently five members of the group alive. There were six, but as before mentioned, a male Squib was ... removed.” A few eyes flickered over to Emerson, who smirked again and flicked his penknife open and closed. They looked away, frightened. “A new member recently joined the group within the last few months. We are now aware of the fact that the newest member is Evangeline May Archambeau, daughter of Julianna Archambeau.”
A few surprised gasps echoed through the audience as an interested murmur rose once more; the Archambeaus were a name that had not been mentioned in a few years. People liked to avoid such a topic.
“As you know, the French pureblood family fell from grace a few years ago due to Pierre’s dealings in the French Ministry,” he began, referring to Julianna’s father. “They are currently in exile in Siberia for their family’s crimes in France. However, before such dealings the Archambeau family were very powerful and demonstrated perfect pureblood breeding. Julianna was thought to have been unmarried and childless, but it has recently come to our attention that she gave birth to a baby girl seventeen years ago out of wedlock. She was a Squib. Instead of reporting the Squib to the Ministry, as is law, the child was given to a childless couple who raised her as a Muggle. The child was declared as stillborn to the Ministry. Since this time, Julianna’s whereabouts are unknown after going into hiding for her crime against the Ministry.”
“Perhaps the most important aspect of Evangeline Archambeau is her father,” Hector continued to his enraptured audience. Everyone wanted to know the secrets of the Archambeau family. “Julianna Archambeau was known to have had an affair with Jeremy Whyte. You may not know this man, but he was considered to be a Muggle until he demonstrated magical abilities at the age of 27 – the latest recorded example of magical ability showing itself within a wizard.”
For the third time, a murmur swelled and died down. Everyone knew of Jeremy Whyte, the ‘magical Muggle’ as the Prophet nicknamed him. They also knew of his death a year later in a ‘boating accident’.
“You may have all been told about Whyte’s death in a terrible accident, as it was reported in the press,” Hector said. Eden was still glaring at Emerson, who continued to flick his penknife. “This was a cover up. The real reason behind Whyte’s death is because his body simply couldn’t take the sudden influx of magic. As a child, when most wizards and witches show their magic, they are still growing which therefore makes the body more malleable to magic – so as an adult, Whyte had no chance. It destroyed his immune system and he later died of a simple cold. Post-mortem examinations lead us to discover that his DNA was mutated in a way which caused his death.”
“I’m assuming this has something to do with Evie, right?” Eden interrupted. Hector responded with a nod. “Then can I interject here?”
“Well, she definitely isn’t a normal Squib,” Eden began, rising to face the audience. Her face showed worry. “It’s almost as if there’s a different energy about her or something. One thing I’ve noticed is that she always gets headaches, but I don’t know if that means anything. And her reflexes are lightning fast – faster than anything I’ve ever seen before, actually. She always looks surprised when she uses them though, so it’s probably a new thing to her which developed recently.” Eden sighed. “I think her power may be growing.”
A few worried voices shouted out, but Hector held up his hand to silence them. “Thank you for your report Eden. Your information has been most enlightening.”
“Yeah well, it would have been more enlightening if dickhead over there hadn’t gone in all guns blazing,” she mumbled darkly. If looks could kill, Emerson would have been dead several times over.
“So why is this Squib so special? She’s got celebrity parents, I get that, but ... does it matter? Is she really so important?” a member of the audience cried. Some swivelled round to stare at his sheer audacity, but it seemed Hector didn’t mind this time.
“She is perhaps one of the most important people in the wizarding world, perhaps to have even existed. Her pureblood mother and Muggle-born father makes her a half-blood; as she’s still young and has a magical mother she is beginning to show some sort of reaction to her DNA, there is a high chance that she will survive her influx of magical powers. This means, ladies and gentlemen, that her blood is a potential cure for Squibs across the world.”
A second shocked silence came, followed by applause and calls of praise. Hector smiled. They were on his side.
At this point, Emerson frowned and stood up. He bellowed, “And why should we give the gift of magic to such ... Ungeziefer?” Hector snapped his head round and shot him a warning look, sliding his wand from his robes and silently casting a spell. Instantly, everyone in the room began to look round the room blindly, unseeing and deaf.
“We will discuss this later in private, Emerson. For now, we need them on our side.”
With this, Hector ended the spell and normality was regained. It seemed that no one remembered what had just happened to them as they continued to pay rapt attention to Hector. Eden saw him pocket his wand and narrowed her eyes suspiciously.
“This meeting was called in order to tell you the truth about this situation. As valued members of the Ministry, you will each have different roles in the expanding investigation. You will receive a memo concerning this meeting in the following week; please burn it as soon as you have read and understood. If I hear that anyone knows of this who shouldn’t, I will personally look into the matter myself.” The fear in the audience’s eyes showed that they would keep quiet. “Thank you all for attending. This meeting is now adjourned.”
After the hubbub of everyone leaving the room, only Eden and Emerson remained. Hector turned to face them.
“Thank you for your information, Eden. I trust that you will continue to do your job to the best of your ability, without letting any... attachments get in the way.”
Eden huffed. “Of course not – it’s only a matter of desensitisation.”
“Good. You know the consequences should you fail.” Hector said, smiling calmly. Eden said nothing reply and simply left the room.
“I will miss you, Liebling! “ Emerson called after her. In return he received a firm middle finger, and with this Eden was gone. Hector turned his attention to Emerson.
“You know what you have to do.“
Emerson smiled and Disapparated.
Evie was sitting on the couch reading a book when Eden came storming in through the front door. She had a look of fury adorning her features, her blonde hair tousled.
“Where’ve you been?“ Evie asked, chuckling slightly at the state of Eden.
“Oh, nowhere, just out getting some natural ingredients for stuff, “ Eden replied, not stopping to look at Evie. Within a matter of seconds, she was across the room and ripped open the door to their bedrooms, slamming it shut. Evie merely shrugged and continued reading.
The Resistance decided to lie low for a while under Xavier’s orders. He had instructed and helped Noah in increasing the security around the base even further; if the Ministry would expect them to run, they would do the exact opposite. Evie thought quietly to herself that she didn’t entirely see the logic in this but she daren’t cross Xavier. New plans were made, extra defences were constructed and more logistics puzzled out. The base was all but invisible to wizard and muggle alike.
However, all of the work which left everyone run off their feet did not excuse the fact that Adam was gone. The atmosphere was just that little bit tenser without him cracking jokes every five minutes, and dinner time was a sombre occasion where hardly anyone spoke. Robbie was the most affected by Adam’s death, barely speaking to anyone and working solidly without a break each day on the defence lines. Evie could see that he was trying to take his mind off of what had happened, but thought that perhaps Robbie working until he was exhausted wasn’t the healthiest way of repressing the emotions. Everyone except Xavier tried to talk to him, but to no avail – they would just have to wait for Robbie to come out of his shell again.
The new onslaught of work kept everyone busy for at least a week, but it seemed that Noah was the busiest of them all. He worked with a determined air, only pausing to eat meals, where he only grunted in response to questions. When Evie woke up and headed to the main hall each day, Noah had already been there for a couple of hours. When Evie went to bed each night, Noah would be at his computers until the early morning. He worked solidly and without distraction – she’d never seen anything like it. She could have sworn she caught him glancing at her when he thought she wasn’t looking a few times, but paid little attention to it. He had made no mention to their previous talk, now weeks ago, and had made no effort to spend more time with her since. She couldn’t work out if she felt indifferent or saddened by it. One thing was for sure – Issy had upped her game. When she wasn’t busy with work, she spent as much time with Noah as possible. Evie frequently saw them in one another’s rooms. She figured that it was none of her business what they got up to in their spare time, and Noah must just be enjoying the extra attention from two girls at the same time. Men, Evie thought to herself angrily. Still, she didn’t have time for his changing moods at the moment – she’d been planning something on her own.
Just the thought of her secret plan made her heart beat faster with nervousness. It was secret because the very idea of it would probably have her murdered by Xavier, and definitely exiled from the group at the very least. She didn’t fancy fending for herself now the Ministry had taken a “special interest” in her. She shuddered at the thought.
The reason why she couldn’t tell the others about the plan, not even Noah, was because it was crazy. It was mad because she would be returning to her hometown, and going back to her childhood home.
She closed her eyes and went over the secret mission of hers again. Wear a disguise, pack weapons, and leave at midnight. Avoid Noah, the night owl, at all costs. Arrive, check the place out, leave. If anything happened – run like hell. If she was caught - well, she didn’t really want to think about that.
Evie decided to bide her time until the best possible night would be for her to carry out her plan. She noted when Noah roughly went to sleep – usually between midnight and one, but sometimes later – and made a note of when Eden was out of the medical room. In their last raid at the Ministry, that fateful day, they had managed to steal something new – disguises. Aside from the standard was-in wash-out hair dye and false moustaches, Muggle items, there were now items in packages which were able to make your hair longer of shorter as well as change the texture of it, various facial features which you could use to change your nose or jaw line, and little orange pills which when swallowed changed your voice to a different pitch. Evie vaguely wondered why all of this stuff was at the Ministry, and why they had managed to forget about it all. She pushed the thought out of her mind and grabbed what she needed.
The next part was much more tricky – learning how to work the Apparators. As much as she wanted to ignore Noah, she had to ask him how they were used – he was the best at explaining these things. Besides, despite her annoyance he was her friend. He gave her a curious smile when she approached him one afternoon, and faced away from his work on the myriad of computers. “How can I help you?”
Evie couldn’t help but smile. “I was wondering how the Apparators worked, actually.”
“Ah, yes, I’ve been meaning to teach you that for a while. Just slipped my mind... I’ve been busy. Well, let’s grab one.” Noah replied. He suspected nothing, Evie noted. He got up and the pair walked to a small room which had around ten Apparators in. Even though she had used them a few times now, Evie couldn’t help but be boggled by the fact that they were able to teleport her anywhere. For the first time, she felt a small pang of regret that she had not inherited magical powers from her parents, remembering that wizards and witches were able to do it without a machine. Noah pulled one off of its hook.
“Right, it’s pretty easy to do, but you might have a hard time getting your head round it the first time. Basically, this lever here –“ Noah pointed to a miniature bronze joystick – “is what charges it up for use. When it’s at the upright position, it means it’s ready. To activate the machine, pull it downwards.” He demonstrated this, and the machine made a whirring noise. “Next you need to ...”
Evie found herself slightly lost at the various instructions which she needed to remember to have successful Apparition; it turned out that there were several modes which could be activated, different speeds, and ‘stealth’ mode. “Use the stealth mode if you don’t want to get caught ... even by us. Except me, I know these things like the back of my hand. I’ll notice.” He smirked at her. “Then again, why would you want to do that?” All Evie could do was laugh nervously in reply and say she had no idea. He didn’t seem to catch on.
Evie immediately set to work practicing all the different controls on the Apparator in her spare time. Everyone just thought she wanted to get to grips with the machinery, and were impressed with her determination and willingness to join in with the group. None of them had any idea what she was planning.
A week later, on a Tuesday evening, she had finally mastered every single control and knew all the sequences off by heart. She almost squealed with joy, and Noah chuckled at her when he looked over. She decided that that night would be the best time for her to set out on her personal mission.
A few hours later, Evie was almost ready. Everyone had gone to bed and all of the lights were out – she was just waiting for two in the morning. When it was five minutes to, she quietly got out of bed and exited her room.
The place was silent except for the steady humming of the machinery. Her heart began to pound. Evie tiptoed past the others’ bedrooms and noiselessly snaked her way through the many corridors, eventually reaching the main part of the warehouse. However, she received the fright of her life when she noticed one solitary light still on, with Noah seated at his desk. He caught sight of her and frowned.
“Evie? What are you doing up?” he asked, perplexed. I should ask him the same question. What the bloody hell is he doing here?
“Oh, just ... needed a drink. I thought you went to bed?” She replied, trying to keep the annoyance out of her voice. Noah shrugged.
“I did. I just felt the need to work some more on something that was irritating me ... like a dog at a bone.”
“Yes, well ... you should really get some rest, you know,” Evie said, her tone softening slightly. “I worry about you, always working.” He chuckled in response.
“There’s no need. I’m fine. Although,” he added, yawning and stretching back into his chair, “I think I’ll sign off now. What was annoying me’s been dealt with. I’ll wait for you to get your drink and we can head upstairs.” He realised the phrasing of his sentence and he coloured. “Wait, I didn’t mean it like that –“
Evie’s giggling cut him off. He blushed deeper. “I know what you meant ... but you go on ahead. I’m gonna be a while.”
Noah sighed and stood up. “Okay, no problem. By the way,” he added as he walked off in the direction of the stairs, “I’ve been talking to Issy a lot because she wants to talk about Adam ...” Evie felt a frisson of jealousy run through her. She stood straighter and turned away from him.
“No need to explain to me. Night, Noah.”
“Right, um, yeah ... night.” He finally left the room.
Evie tried not to focus on what he’d said about Issy and aimed to push her attention back onto the task at hand. She needed to leave now – it was five past midnight. Grabbing an Apparator from its hook, she attached the harness and applied her new facial features. She had the strangest sensation of being stretched and contorted without her face actually moving as she applied a different nose; she put in coloured contacts and the instant hair dye. She was now blonde with brown eyes, and a rather large nose.
“Bloody hell,” she whispered to herself, looking in a tiny mirror she’d brought with her to check that the disguises worked. She was impressed with how much she didn’t look like herself. She pocketed the mirror and began to start up the machine. Before pressing the button that would take her miles away in a split second, she hesitated. Would anything or anyone be there to haul her away to the Ministry? Would the guy who killed Adam be there? She gulped.
It was a risk she was going to have to take. Steeling her mind in preparation for the unknown, she pressed the button and once more experienced the sensation of being suspended in mid air and tumbling violently.
She arrived at the road she used to live at moments later. Feeling queasy but not being sick, Evie steadied herself. Her senses were on high alert as she could hear her heart pounding in her chest. No one came. She was safe, for now, but she needed to move.
It only took her a few minutes to reach her parents’ house. It had apparently not been sold, probably due to the Ministry interfering somehow, and showed only a few signs of disrepair; the grass had grown long and tangled and one window was smashed. Probably from the last time I was here, Evie thought quietly to herself. A wave of apprehension washed over her – she didn’t know what would be inside there. From the lack of Aurors and officials it seemed that the Ministry did not deem the place to be of interest, but old memories ran through her brain and flitted away like butterflies. She paused and remembered all of the happy times she had had at this house when she was growing up; her first day at school, the lazy summers, many laughs she’d shared with her parents... but it didn’t matter now. She was here for closure. Swallowing her fear and apprehension, she marched in. The door swung open at her touch.
The inside of the house was far from what she remembered it being. The moon illuminated the wreckage. The place had been ripped apart, probably in a raid or search by the Ministry. Stuffing leaked out of the chairs, books had been haphazardly thrown across the room, and glass was smashed everywhere. Tears sprung to her eyes at the lack of respect her parents had been given in death. It’s like they were harbouring a fugitive...
Evie picked her way across the room and headed for the stairs. The torch she brought was rendered useless as the silver light of the orb-like moon lit her path. Her weapon, in its holster, was forgotten as she made her way upstairs. More carnage followed, with frames smashed and more shattered glass as she walked towards her room.
As Evie opened the door, she was greeted with the remains of her old life. Her room too had been searched, but a few pieces still remained intact. She tiptoed over to where the photos she had tacked up over the years; she saw her old classmates and friends, and a picture of her when she was five years old, playing on a swing. She looked blissfully happy as her five year old self soared high into the sky. Evie sighed and smiled. She unpinned the photo and pocketed it. Looking at her bed with the same pink duvet cover on it she felt an urge to just curl up into a ball on it and go to sleep, to forget her new life as a wanted Squib. It took her a great deal of willpower to leave the room once more and move on to her parents’.
Amidst the mess, it was still their bedroom. The huge bed stood in the middle, where Evie remembered excitedly opening her cards and presents for birthdays when she was younger, her parents laughing and smiling. The wardrobe had had its doors ripped off and the contents searched, and it was at this point Evie noticed something different about the room. It seemed to have been searched more thoroughly, so that barely anything was still standing.
Evie racked her brains to try and think of what they could have been looking for. She doubted her mother had anything to hide from the Ministry – apart from Evie, of course. She had enjoyed Muggle ways and had a job as a florist, which Evie thought would not be anything of special interest. Her father, on the other hand...
It suddenly clicked. Gary Hart was a curious man with a brilliant mind, more interested in magic than his wife was, although Evie never saw it. She remembered being allowed into his study a few times and seeing odd charts containing all sorts of wonderful things, which he claimed were astronomy charts. She always thought it odd that he never had a telescope, but decided to never question it. He would sometimes work late into the night and into the early hours of the morning in that study. If she ever asked what she was doing, he’d sometimes get angry and tell her to go back to bed, slamming the door. He’d always apologise in the morning and say it was nothing important. If she knew her father, he was a suspicious man when it came to whatever that work was, so she doubted it would have been kept in the same room. So it must have been in here...
Evie began to search for anything that might give her any clues to what she was looking for. It pained her to be searching through her parents’ things like a common criminal, but her curiosity was just too strong. All those years she idly wondered what he did in that office, but the thought was always forgotten. Now, she had the chance to find out.
A few minutes later Evie noticed something odd about the wardrobe. The bottom of it, which she always thought to be solid, was splintered as if it had been hacked at. She pried open the base of the wardrobe with her fingers and was greeted with a single sheet of paper, crumpled and forgotten. There was nothing else in there. The paper appeared to be old and slightly yellowing, with various scribbles and diagrams which made little sense to her. Suddenly, she caught sight of her name, in conjunction with various little numbers and squiggles. Evie sighed. It was no use – what her father had written down made no sense to her. It was clear that the Ministry had found what they were looking for – the rest of the papers had been cleared out. The piece she had found appeared to have been forgotten in the hurried raid. She folded up the solitary piece of paper and tucked it away safely. Evie continued to think hard about whether she had noticed anything else that was odd in the study. There were always papers scattered everywhere... she would have to go and look.
Picking her way back downstairs, she entered the study which she had been forbidden to go in nearly at all times. She briefly wondered what her father would say to her if he saw her in there without him present; he’d be furious. She pushed the guilt to the back of her mind she started to look for anything suspicious.
The study had also been more thoroughly searched than the rest of the rooms – the Ministry workers had obviously tried this room first. As she circled the room, she eventually reached the desk, where some workers tools were out, as if they had been dealing with metalwork and other materials. The tools were too out of place to ignore – wouldn’t they have been in a garage normally?
Clearly the Ministry workers had skipped over this detail, but it bugged Evie. She went tearing back upstairs and searched for some sort of model. She didn’t know what she was looking for exactly, but had a feeling that it would have been well hidden; she knew how her father’s mind worked.
Her resolve soon grew weak as her frantic exploring resulted in nothing. After half an hour of searching, she was beginning to get desperate. She slumped down by the wall, her brain tired from lack of sleep and having to work over time. She felt like a failure, as if this was her punishment for searching through her parents’ private possessions and looking in places she wasn’t supposed to be at. Evie hit her head against the wall in frustration. At this, she felt a bump in the wall where her head rested. Turning round, she saw a tiny, barely noticeable line that ran in the wall, as if it had been cut out. Connecting the line were two vertical ones, forming a flap which was very slightly sticking outwards against the wallpaper. She pulled.
Inside laid a small, handmade object. It looked like a wand, something that the wizards used, but at the same time different. It was made of some wood and mostly metal, and looked decidedly steam punk. Evie couldn’t contain her curiosity and excitement at finding it. She was also glad she knew her father well enough to discover his secret project. As she pulled the makeshift wand out, a small note fell out. She picked it up and read:
When the time is right, you can use this.
She was shocked. Her father must have placed the note there in his last days when she wasn’t there; the handwriting was shaky and the paper still fairly new. Her brain was shooting out ideas, a million a second. ‘When the time is right?’ What did that mean? Was it soon?
Evie held the object in her hands. It was fairly light, and definitely had the look of a wand, or something similar. She wished she could have stayed for longer, but she realised that she was in a vulnerable position. Checking her watch, she was startled to find that she had been here for an hour. It was time to leave.
Once more, the feeling of never wanting to leave hit her. Despite the mess the house was now in, the place provided her with a wonderful childhood and two loving, adoring parents. Evie sat there for a few more minutes reminiscing and smiling happily to herself before getting up and heading downstairs. She could feel the magical enchantments that she was wearing starting to fade. With a great effort not to look back, she left the house, walked down the road and Apparated back to the headquarters, where everyone remained asleep.
In some bushes opposite the house, a pair of eyes gleamed. The man’s began to chuckle. With a thick German accent, he whispered “Got you now, little girl.”
The next morning at the base, Evie woke up late. She would have woken up later, had she not been rudely awakened by Eden shoving her out of her sleep. She groaned and rubbed her eyes, greeted by an unhappy looking Eden.
“Why aren’t you up yet? Breakfast was thirty minutes ago!” she asked, annoyed. Evie suddenly remembered she was supposed to be working with her on one of the tasks of the day.
“Shit... I’m sorry Eden! Won’t happen again.” Evie smiled sweetly and Eden laughed, shaking her head.
“Sure it won’t. Just don’t tell Xavier.”
An hour later, Evie was well into the task she was doing with Eden – sorting through any leftover junk in the warehouse that could be used. There were stacks and stacks of things hidden all over the place; the warehouse was so big, not all of it had been explored yet. She liked doing the job because it meant that she could bit by bit know her way round a little better, as well as uncover some interesting stuff. She would have been happy to continue, had Noah not stuck his head round the door and asked to see her. Eden raised her eyebrows and winked at Evie as she left momentarily, making her blush furiously. She made a note to tell her that nothing was going on when she got back. She turned the corner and Noah looked livid.
“Where the hell were you last night?” he hissed, clearly furious. “I knew you were up to something when I saw you had your shoes on. I checked back later and noticed an Apparator missing. What the bloody hell were you thinking?”
Evie froze, looking like a deer in headlights; she should never have underestimated Noah’s suspicions. She decided to tell the truth. “I ... wanted to do something for myself. I went back to my old house ... for closure. And I’m glad I did. I won’t go back again!” she added, after seeing the look on Noah’s face. Evie’s face was creased with worry and fear as he ran a hand through his hair agitatedly.
“Do you realise the consequences here?! Someone could have seen you, you could have been followed!” he replied. “It all makes sense now – you wanting to know how the Apparators work, having those disguises in your room ...”
“Wait – you were in my room?” Evie questioned, a little creeped out. It was now Noah’s turn to blush.
“I was looking for you ... never mind. What matters is that you could have been seen!”
“I wasn’t stupid enough to go as myself. I wore a load of the disguise equipment, as you know after being in my room, and had a weapon with me. It’s not like I needed it either – the place was deserted. No Ministry workers, those Auror guys, or anything,” Evie argued. “Besides, it turned out to be bloody worth it.”
She could tell that she had piqued his interest, despite his anger. He raised an eyebrow. “What did you find? ... Not that you should have been there in the first place.” He huffed to himself. Evie resisted the urge to giggle; his curiosity had gotten the better of him. She smirked triumphantly.
“Come to my room after dinner and I’ll show you what I found. Now,” she added, pretending to look affronted, “Am I forgiven?”
“I suppose so. I’ll see you later, then.” Noah answered, before smirking and walking off. Evie was once again reminded of how much of a git he could be sometimes, before smiling to herself and heading back to Eden. She smiled as Evie walked in.
“Anything interesting?” she asked.
“No ... he just wanted to ask about something. Don’t give me that look!” Evie laughed, seeing Eden’s eyebrows raised in a mock-suggestive manner. “There’s nothing going on there, at all.”
“Sure there isn’t. Well, Issy will be glad to hear it,” Eden remarked, picking up an interesting looking piece of metal and observing it. “She’s still mad for him.”
Evie’s expression darkened. “You don’t need to tell me that. She’s hated me ever since I got here, for no apparent reason!”
“Well, I can think of one...” Eden replied, and when Evie looked a little hurt she laughed and waved her hand. “No, it’s not bad for you. It was probably something to do with the way Noah was looking at you on your first night.”
Evie blushed once more and faked a careless shrug, pushing the matter to the back of her mind but feeling more than a little bit happy.
“So what do you think it is?” Evie asked Noah a few hours later, sitting on the edge of her seat with curiosity. The makeshift wand was being prodded and poked by Noah, who looked fascinated by it. He gave it back to her, looking defeated.
“I honestly have no idea. It’s definitely handmade, and looks like a wand ... but appearances can be deceiving.” He sighed and turned to her. “What did the note say again?”
“’Use this when the time is right,’” Evie replied. They had both racked their brains as to what the message could mean, but to no avail. When exactly this time would be and what it would bring was a mystery to both of them. Noah had questioned Evie about the mysterious object to within an inch of her life, even asking if was sure the note was written by her father, which she vehemently defended. After an age, Noah bit his lip.
“I think you should tell Xavier about this. It could be dangerous, a trap-“
“No!” Evie cried, and blushed when Noah gave her an odd look. “No, it isn’t dangerous – I just know it’s by him, if that’s what you mean. I don’t think it would’ve been planted there by someone – I didn’t notice the split in the wall until my head was resting against it. Besides,” she added, thumbing the note affectionately, “...this is his writing.” Noah nodded.
“Well, if you say so, but I still think Xavier needs to know. He might know its purpose or how it works, or something.”
Evie was torn. “I’d really rather not... at least, not yet. I want to have a go at figuring it out for myself first. Let’s just keep this between us, yeah? Please?” she begged, opening her eyes wide. Noah laughed.
“Don’t try that trick on me! Okay, I won’t tell him. But if it starts to do anything whatsoever, I want you to tell me straight away. Deal?”
“Deal.” Evie smiled. “Thanks for coming to look at it. It’s just a shame we’re no closer to an answer.”
“Honest to God, I’ve never seen anything like it before,” Noah said. Evie could tell that the object was going to bug him until he had an answer. He shook his head and looked away. “Well, there’s no point in worrying about it now. Your time clearly hasn’t arrived yet.” He grinned cheekily as Evie lightly slapped him on the arm.
“You’re such a git sometimes.” She winced as the felt the pain which had been bothering her for a few weeks resurface. She rubbed her head gingerly. Noah looked concerned.
“Are you still having those headaches?” he asked, brows furrowed. Evie nodded grimly.
“Yeah. They aren’t as bad as the first one, but they’re bad enough to bother me,” she replied. To be honest, she was a little scared of them, but she didn’t want Noah to be worried. “I’m sure it’s nothing, don’t worry about it.”
“Well, okay. If you’re sure.”
There was a silence for a moment until she remembered the piece of paper she’d found in her parents’ bedroom. She got it out from its hiding place. “There was also this ... the only thing I understood on there was my name. Any ideas?” She handed him the paper. He scrutinised it for a few seconds before smiling a little.
“This... this I might be able to have a crack at. Complete jibberish at the moment, but I might be able to make something of it. Mind if I keep it?” Noah asked. She was sad to let a piece of her father go, but nonetheless agreed. “I’ll go get started on this now – I’ll be at the computers if you need me.” Absorbed with his new toy, he left the room. Nobody noticed Eden hiding in the shadows of the corridor.
Eden swore under her breath at the fact she had nearly been caught listening in on their conversation. Had she not heard Noah’s heavy footsteps and quickly retreated into the inky blackness of the hallway, she would have been done for. She let out a small sigh of relief and lightly trod the familiar path back to her room to digest what she’d heard.
Eden pushed open the door to her room. The inside of it was clinical and bare, with only the necessary items in place. She didn’t want to get too attached to anything whilst she was undercover, and the cold bedroom definitely reflected it. The only personal object that was in the room was her wand, well concealed in a hole that she’d made in the bedside table. She lay down on her bed, staring up at the grimy ceiling, and pondered.
So the Squib had been back to her parents’ house... interesting. She would tell Hector to send another squadron back there to see if she’d left any incriminating evidence. She doubted it though – Evie was pretty smart, she’d probably covered all of her tracks. Eden sighed. What had she gotten herself into here? Working undercover for the past six months had made her start to... dare she say it, care for the Squibs.
It was a rainy day, and the droplets of water lashed against the window, joining together and snaking their way down the panes of glass. She thought about Adam for the millionth time, and felt the familiar stomach wrenching guilt. It had been her who provided Emerson with the coordinates of the base once she had wormed them out of Robbie... the fool. Did none of them realise who she was? What the Ministry was going to do to them once she sold them out? The sudden masochistic thought of wanting to be caught ran through her head. They’d kill her for sure – Xavier had no mercy. He’d suffered because of the Ministry. He took no prisoners. Eden was one again reminded of all the atrocities the Ministry had caused for no apparent reason. She realised now that the Squibs were so violent because it was all they knew – they had always been treated poorly, even in the days of Harry Potter.
The Ministry would annihilate them. And she didn’t know if she wanted it to happen anymore.
Of course, she knew the risk she was taking. Her entire family were under threat – if she put a toe out of line they would be killed, one by one. She shuddered at the thought, thinking of her smiling blonde niece. She couldn’t back down. She was tied to the work, and she couldn’t escape.
So she’d have to keep on going.
British Ministry of Magic, Central London, 10 PM
Emerson was back. He knew why he had been summoned – and he would tell Hector exactly what was going on. Strolling through the Ministry corridors, workers shied away into the shadows at the sight of him. If they made eye contact, the fear in their eyes was tantamount. He chuckled. They were so weak.
He reached the Minister’s office, touching the shimmering sheet of silver like before. It parted to reveal the heavy mahogany doors. He readied himself for the argument and entered.
Hector was in the centre of the grand room, relaxing in the Minister’s chair at the huge mahogany desk. The Minister was nowhere to be seen. “Where is the little man?” Emerson enquired. Hector’s eyes glittered with malice as he answered.
“He started to talk to other officials. He needed to be... taken care of. I am now the acting Minister of Magic until the official vote.”
“Hector, you do not need votes!” Emerson cried with a vicious smile. “You have the Arbeiter in the palm of your hand.” Hector smiled coldly.
“You flatter me, Lowe. However, this does not detract from why you have been summoned here.” The smile disappeared as Hector leant forward, fingers interlocked on the desk. “I am concerned by your lack of progress. I thought you would have done... more by now.”
Emerson snarled. “One of them is dead, Hector. They might be vermin but they embody every sense of the word: they are good at running away and hiding. They have either upped their defences or moved on to a new location. It takes weeks to track them and find a location under such heavy protection. I assure you, sir,” he added, eyes narrowing. “That I am working to the best of my ability.”
“I’m sure you are, Lowe, but if you continue to work at this rate then I may have to find someone else who is more capable of the job.”
Within seconds, Emerson had flown across the room and hauled Hector up against the panelled wall by his throat. As he sputtered and gasped for breath, Emerson hissed in his ear, “I am the best you will find on this earth. Belittle me and you will regret it.” With a disgusted growl, he carelessly dropped Hector to the floor. He quickly regained his composure.
“My apologies, but I hope you understand the gravity of this situation. We need the rest dead, and fast. This is why I’m giving you a team of fifteen men – perhaps this might speed up the pace of events.” He spoke quickly and smoothly in order to calm Emerson down. Emerson grunted, clearly unhappy, but he could do nothing. Hector straightened up again, wand in his hands. “Here is your payment.” He flicked his wand lazily and a levitating bag floated towards Emerson. He grabbed it with greedy hands.
“There is one other matter, Minister,” Emerson said, standing his ground. He withdrew his pen knife and began to flick the blade in and out of its holder. “The meeting, at the old Wizengamot halls... you spoke of... curing the vermin. Is this true?”
Hector’s dark eyes glittered once more. “It is not. However, I cannot tell you what is to happen until you bring me the girl. She is the key to my plan and only she will do. You heard what Eden said – there’s something different about her. We need to conduct... further tests.” Hector could see that Emerson was livid with this answer, but he could not divulge any more information. Emerson gave Hector a hard look an turned to leave.
“Fine. I will leave you now. Auf Wiedersehn, Minister.” He left, slamming the doors behind him. Hector sighed slightly, and walked across to the large bay windows, looking down upon the main hall of the Ministry of Magic. He watched the thousands of workers scurry past like ants, all working together towards a greater cause; his greater cause. All of the preparations were being undertaken now – but even those who were working on them didn’t know what they were for. They wouldn’t ask questions, they knew not to. Everybody knew what happened if you were in Hector Mutegi’s bad books.
He smiled, thinking of the reputation he had made for himself. He relished the fear he had created within the wizarding world. People were afraid to walk the streets at night alone. Mysterious green flashes of light, unexplained by Muggles, were common. His army of Aurors were highly trained and he had the world’s deadliest assassin at his mercy. He was now Minister for Magic, after the unfortunate and tragic death of Jeffrey Liggart, who had ‘fallen’ down an elevator shaft at the Ministry. His reign of power was only just beginning. Hector’s black eyes glittered.
He couldn’t wait for more.
A/N: The translations are:
Arbeiter - Workers
Auf Wiedersehn - Good bye
Everyone was busy, all the time. Xavier had given everyone so much work to do that they barely had any time to talk to each other. Evie was slightly irritated by the endless tasks she was given each day, but she knew that it was all important. Unfortunately, this knowledge didn’t stop her back and feet aching as she collapsed into bed each night. It was almost as if Xavier wanted to work them into the ground. A couple of times she thought of how he never seemed to do any work himself, just sit in his office all day, but she felt immediately guilty afterwards. She reassured herself with the thought that he was doing something worthwhile.
The only person exempt from physical labour was Noah. He continued to slave away at his army of electricals, with Xavier occasionally coming out from his makeshift office to check on his work. They would talk in quiet tones, looking round furtively as if their conversation had a chance of being listened in on by the enemy. Evie was sure that whatever Noah was doing, it was pretty important to them both. Her curiosity and desire to find out what they were talking about almost drove her mad each day.
One day, Evie was startled by the fact that she had been there for three months. The nights were getting longer as the cold drew in, meaning everyone had some extra layers on each day to avoid the biting cold that rattled through the warehouse like an unwanted visitor. Everyone was grumbling about the freezing cold but Evie, ever the optimist, tried to keep upbeat about it. She longed to go outside and take a walk when she saw a few flakes of snow drifting past the window, but Xavier didn’t like them going outside of the warehouse unless it was absolutely necessary. Despite this, it was December and she still wanted to bring some Christmas cheer to the place. After sweet talking Robbie round to cutting down any type of tree down from outside, she was delighted to find that he brought back a large fir tree. He smiled as he saw her face light up like a child’s, saying “There was a load of ‘em outside, bit of luck there!”
In the few spare moments she had to herself, Evie spent her time looking for interesting pieces of metal and various objects that she had decided to repurpose as decorations to adorn the tree with. She was glad to have something to do – spare time usually involved sleeping or lazing around aimlessly. Noah, usually so serious about everything, agreed to string together some lights made from a pack of light bulbs that she’d found. After a week of delving into the innermost corners of the warehouse, Evie finally finished decorating their very own Christmas tree. Issy walked in just as she was putting the finishing touches on it.
“Nice,” she said, and sat down, glaring at Evie as she pulled out a book. It was a small victory, and the first compliment she had ever received from her, even if it was about a tree and slightly backhanded. Issy was still absolutely evil to her, trying to belittle Evie whenever she could and spending increasing amounts of time with Noah, as if she was trying to make her jealous. Evie wasn’t entirely sure how she felt about it, but tried to keep it out of her mind. Evie highly doubted that Issy would change her ways.
Evie stepped back, looking at her handiwork – the metal decorations she’d made glimmered in the yellow glow of the lights. It looked like an odd, steam punk version of a normal Christmas tree – but it was still beautiful. Her smile faltered when she wished for a moment that Adam had been able to help her decorate it, like he helped her create the den.
Another thing that she’d noticed recently was that Noah was being more annoying than usual. He’d ignore everyone, including her until he was done with his work. If he did answer, it was with a sarcastic or rude tone. Whenever anyone asked what was wrong, he’d snap at them until they went away. Evie figured it must be from the stress of what Xavier had asked him to do, but there was no need to take it out on everyone else. She found herself feeling a little hurt at some of his answers most of the time. What surprised her most was that Eden had been acting in a similar way, but on a lesser scale. Evie had tried asking her what was wrong, but to no avail. It seemed that no-one was in a good mood recently. She found herself spending a lot of time with Robbie, who was starting to get back to his old self. They’d reminisce about the times they’d had with Adam, and talk about their lives. Evie was slowly finding a great friend in Robbie – he was down to earth, funny, and easy to talk to, much more so than the rest of the group. He was fast becoming her greatest friend.
One evening, with only the gentle hum of machinery to be heard and the yellow glow of the Christmas tree illuminating the room, Evie went over to visit Noah. She noticed the bags under his eyes and thought that he looked older. She wondered why he worked so damn hard all the time.
Noah saw her coming and sighed. “I know you want to know what’s up. I’m sorry I’ve been such an arse lately... it’s just that this job is so frustrating. I’m at my wit’s end.”
“Well, what exactly are you doing?” Evie asked in return, perching on the edge of his desk. She took in the sight of several coffee cups and general disarray which littered the desk and raised an eyebrow. He coloured slightly, knocking a few cups over is his hurry to tidy up. His eyes flicked back to the screen. Evie saw thousands upon thousands of numbers and letters rain down on the screen in one huge jumble, making no sense to her whatsoever. It was lucky that Noah could understand it. He looked round for any signs of Xavier and beckoned for her to lean in slightly. She obliged.
“I’m hacking into the Ministry’s magical network.” Evie frowned with confusion.
“With a computer? How is that possible?”
“It’s only been possible in the last few years. Technology has developed way faster than magic has, faster than the wizarding world could have ever dreamed of,” he said, sitting back in his chair slightly. “Around a year ago I managed to crack the codes, but that was only just the start. The entire project isn’t even half way yet. It’s my baby.”
Evie snorted with mirth at the idea of a computer program meaning so much to someone. “You love your computers, don’t you?”
Noah’s face was deadly serious when he replied, “Always.” There was an awkward pause. “Anyway, the main problem I’ve been having for the past month is a particularly tricky part of the network, Actually, scratch that – it’s bloody impossible. I need a password for it, so naturally I’ve run every hacker under the sun on it – the thing is, it comes up with nothing. It’s as if the password changes itself each time it knows it’s being detected – like a living organism or something. Must be a magical enchantment, but I’ve never seen anything like it before.” He banged his hands on the keyboard in frustration. “There must be something good in there. And I can’t bloody get to it.”
Evie frowned again. “No offence Noah, but why don’t you just... give up on it? You look awful. Just turn it off and go to bed early, I bet you’ll feel better.” She reached out to pat Noah on the shoulder comfortingly. He looked annoyed at her.
“You don’t understand. It’s like a said before – dog at a bone. Besides, this part of it is a little more personal for us... it could give us an answer on who killed Adam. I can’t just give up on it.” Evie could see his growing irritation at himself because he couldn’t work it out, his face looking lined and weary with work. She felt the overwhelming need to be useful.
“At least let me help,” she begged, looking at him seriously. After some pleading, he nodded.
“I don’t see what good it’ll do, but yeah, go ahead.”
Evie looked at the numbers and letters. Most of them were coded, but there was one word which rang out at her, long and clear: pureblood. Evie tried typing in a few passwords, each saying ‘Access denied: please try again’. Noah smirked as she grew more frustrated, saying under his breath that she now knew how he felt. Evie chose to ignore his comment.
She thought back to her time at the Ministry raid, looking at her mother’s file. Her blood status was ‘pureblood’ – Evie guessed that it meant her family were all magical. Then she thought back to something she had forgotten, something which she thought of as unimportant.
Rooting through the files in the drawer of the desk, Evie looked over for a second on what lay in the middle of the oak wood. Alongside pictures of family, scattered pencils and a small model of a funny looking guy wearing long clothes on a broom, more files sat on there. She couldn’t make out what the files were about and she didn’t want to touch them because they were sitting there too innocently to not hold a jinx, but she noticed one single word on all of the files, in red capitals: NEWBLOOD.
She figured it was worth a shot. “This could be entirely wrong ... but hey. Try ‘newblood’.” Noah gave her a strange look, and she shrugged in response. He typed in the word.
Shock hung heavily in the air as the two stared at the screen which Noah had been working on in the past month transform into a massive database with hundreds of names. Noah came to his senses first, leaping out of his chair and hugging Evie, spinning her round in excitement. The sudden rush of affection threw Evie off-guard as she squealed in surprise. He set her down, grinning madly as if he’d just won the lottery. “Evie, you beaut!” He cried, looking back at his computer screen with renewed vigour. Evie couldn’t help but feel a little cocky.
“Sometimes all you need is an outside opinion,” she replied cheekily and laughed when Noah gave her a warning look. He looked inquisitively at her.
“What made you think of that?” he asked. Evie explained about what she had seen in the Head of Magical Law Enforcement’s office, and he nodded. His face soon returned to his usual serious demeanour, and Evie was determined to find out what was behind what she had unlocked. Noah seemed to be looking at people’s pictures and names, describing basic details about them with a section underneath saying ‘notes’. “It looks like the Ministry had a database of people involved in some sort of project. Look in the corner there,” he remarked, pointing at the screen. “Operation Newblood.”
“What do you think it means?” she replied. More names and faces ran past the screen as Noah brought them up, trying to find a common link.
“I’m just trying to look. It mentions the word ‘Squib’ a lot, so obviously it’s about us.” A few more minutes of searching and Noah found his answer, face pale and looking grim. “Shit.”
Evie looked up from her fingernails. “What?”
“This... this was the beginning. This is the reason why Squibs are hated. The entire Operation, ‘Newblood’, had several levels, starting at lowering the profiles of our type of people and stopping just short of genocide.” Evie paled slightly as her stomach dropped. She remembered Noah mentioning that word when they first met, but it was still a shock to think that it had actually happened to people like her.
She swallowed her fear and looked at Noah. “How do we know who were the leaders of this thing?
“Well, some people seem to have more notes than others. There’s also classification codes – some had higher levels of clearance. Let me just –“ he started, before doing a few technical things and looking pleased with himself. “I’ve hacked it a bit more and run a filter on those with the highest clearance. Looks like there’re five people at the very top. They must have been the ones in charge.”
Evie noted down the names and their faces. All the men seemed to be very old except for one, who Evie instantly recognised from the dark, soulless eyes. “That’s the man who came to my house.”
“Hector Mutegi. I don’t know if he’s the Minister for Magic yet, whether he’s finished playing with his little puppet, but he’s powerful. Very powerful. Whatever this operation is it seems old – he looks younger here,” Noah explained, not taking his eyes off of the screen. He clicked onto one profile, and his eyes widened in shock as he leapt back from the computer as if he had been burned. There was an almighty crash as his huge chair fell down. “Oh my God. No...”
“What? What is it?” she immediately asked as his strong reaction. It took several moments for Noah to answer her.
“I need to get Xavier ...” he said mostly to himself, rushing off in the direction of Xavier’s office. Evie looked round at him in utter bewilderment, wondering what was so bad. She looked again at the screen in search of an answer, and swore when she saw that Noah had locked the screen. A few minutes later Xavier strode in purposefully, Noah in tow. He glanced over at Evie and she felt instantly intimidated, as if she shouldn’t be there. She left and headed for her bedroom. It was getting late.
Evie had barely reached the bedroom corridor when Noah came running along the corridor, knocking on everyone’s doors. He eventually reached her, slightly out of breath. “Get back in there, Xav’s called an emergency meeting.”
There groans and grumbles as everyone filed into the main room one by one, walking over to Xavier who stood in the centre, hands behind his back. He looked solemn. He waited until everyone was in place before he spoke, his voice loud and commanding.
“We have a new mission. Forgive me, I can’t give you many details, but I can tell you that it’s probably the most important thing we’ve done to date. We’re going to have to travel for a while, and we’ll need weapons with us. I’m afraid we need to prepare now in preparation for an early morning departure.”
“So what’s this to do with?” Issy called out, hand slung on her hip. She looked defiant; only she had the courage to stand up to Xavier. “Is this to do with her again?” She pointed accusingly at a wide-eyed Evie.
“No. This is going to bring us one step closer to why we’ve been hunted like dogs,” Xavier replied. He surveyed the group. “Like I said, I can’t give you too many details. We need to get to work now. Robbie, you deal with weapons. Eden...”
Everyone was given something to deal with, and one by one scurried off to complete their task. The computers continued to hum steadily, forgotten amidst the hubbub of preparation. A man’s profile was displayed on the screen, as one of the leaders of the operation. The expression in his eyes was broken, and he looked worn and tired from life. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and had a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. His name was Harry Potter.
The following morning came quickly for everyone. Nobody had slept until the early hours thanks to the preparations that needed to be undertaken, and they were told to be awake at six the next day. Despite everyone’s tiredness, there was anticipation crackling through the air. Everyone felt the adrenaline coursing through their veins and the fear of the unknown keeping them alert and nervous. They all ate quickly and assembled in the main room of the headquarters, where they had been just hours earlier.
Robbie has taken over Adam’s role of weapons specialist, and was giving out the usual weapons for everyone. Evie was still the one who carried the least, and had not yet used her gun. Even holding it in her hand gave her an uneasy feeling; it gleamed roguishly in the light. She knew she’d have to toughen up to the fact that she might have to use it in the future, but for now she didn’t want to think about the idea of hurting someone. She was wearing all of the warm clothing she had, for they were in the dead of the British winter and Xavier said they wouldn’t exactly be travelling to a five star hotel.
Evie considered the mysterious circumstances that their latest mission was shrouded in. To her, it seemed that it was more personal for Xavier than for anyone else – the steely determination in his eyes was like nothing she’d ever seen before. Nobody else seemed to have picked up on it, and Eden just shrugged when she’d asked her if she thought the same in hushed tones. Maybe the personal aspect of it was why they couldn’t leave it a week, or a few days.
By eight that morning everything was in place. The atmosphere was tense; only Noah and Xavier knew the full extent of what was going on, much to everyone’s annoyance. Issy in particular voiced this irritation but one warning look from Xavier before they left silenced her into submission. Evie decided that she would try and worm it out of Noah when they got there.
Issy approached her as usual, latching on the Apparator with unnecessary force and leaning away disgustedly at Evie as if she were a contagious disease. Evie rolled her eyes in return. Xavier addressed them all.
“You all know the co-ordinates – see you in a minute.” With a crack, Noah and Xavier disappeared into thin air. It was their turn.
A few seconds later, the entire group had arrived at a serene forest. A thick layer of brilliantly white snow untouched by humans encased the surroundings in a muffled quiet. Snowflakes drifted down noiselessly, icy to the touch, and were lost in the sea of white. One landed on Evie’s nose; she shivered as it melted. The trees in the forest delicately held the snow on them. It was beautiful.
“We’ve a while to go yet,” Xavier called out. “This way.” The group began to head north.
Whilst they were walking, legs going slowly numb from the thick layer of snow, Evie ran up to Noah. “Noah, what exactly is going on? Who was the man you saw?” she asked quickly in hushed tones so the others wouldn’t hear. Noah looked straight ahead.
“The man is Harry Potter. He vanquished the Dark Lord around a hundred years ago, give or take a few years. He was a very powerful man. I was more than surprised to see him involved in whatever that operation was – I think that’s why we’re here. Xavier wants some answers.”
“The Dark Lord? Who?” Evie asked again. She could tell that he was getting annoyed, but she was desperate to know. He slowed down slightly and looked at her.
“Lord Voldemort. He was the most evil wizard in history. Harry Potter defeated him at Hogwarts. I know a lot about it because my family were on Voldemort’s side. Pathetic,” he hissed, spitting on the ground in disgust. She was startled at such a strong reaction. “You can ask me about it later... if we make it out of this alive. We need to keep moving.” With this, Noah walked ahead, leaving Evie behind. She knew he was preparing himself for what might be in store for them; the steely look in his eyes said it all.
Now walking alone, she pondered to herself. She’d never heard of the man before, but there was something about the way that Noah talked about him that made him sound as if he was a great man who had personally betrayed him. She sighed. It seemed that not even the man who vanquished the worst wizard of all time was on their side.
After half an hour of walking, everyone was beginning to get tired. A biting wind had set in, chilling them all to their bones. Evie’s teeth chattered as she concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. At one point, Issy complained about the fact that they had not Apparated closer to wherever they were heading – nobody looked shocked at her audacity. Xavier replied that they couldn’t get any closer because there were a huge amount of magical enchantments around where they were heading. He continued to look at a scanner like object, adjusting their direction every so often. They silently continued. Evie’s nose and feet felt like block of ice as she wrapped her coat around her tightly, zipping it all the way to the top. They continued.
After what felt like an age, Xavier said a soft, “Aha.” He was looking at a very small point in the distance – a black object against the snowy white landscape. They had moved out of the forest and into the open, with only a few shrubs juxtaposing against the white land. Evie felt that where the sky and earth met were the same, as if they were in infinity. She looked closer at the black dot, and noticed that it was a small shack, dilapidated and broken. Xavier began to walk faster at this point. All but Noah looked at him interestedly. As the shack came more into view, so did an odd sight: signs. There were various pickets saying ‘KEEP OUT’ and ‘PRIVATE PROPERTY’ in deep red letters. They looked weathered; they had obviously been there for years. Robbie kicked one over from boredom as they walked past.
They were now pretty close to the shack. Evie thought that if anyone actually lived here, then she felt terribly sorry for them. The shack was a single storey hovel, and the roof was barely holding up. The windows were either boarded up or had cracked and smashed. The whole building looked as if it were leaning slightly to the left. The only sign of life was the faint spirals of smoke drifting up from the chimney. Was this where this great wizard lived?
They had reached the shack. Xavier gestured at them to be quiet, and silently pushed open the front door that was barely on its hinges. It creaked, but nothing happened. They all filed into the tiny building, grateful to get out of the cold.
The inside of the shack looked even worse than it did on the outside. A foul stench hit their senses instantly like a thick fog; Issy gagged slightly. Signs of mould and decay were everywhere, and all the objects in the place were covered in thick grime. Only a few items were in the main section, as well as a roaring fire. In the centre of the room was a ragged arm chair with a little old man in it. He was so thin and small he looked like a child; his eyes were closed and his mouth was agape slightly. They couldn’t tell if he was breathing.
“Sir?” Eden whispered. She looked fascinated by the man, enthralled at his presence. She made a move to step closer, but Xavier reached out an arm to stop her. He nodded at Noah, who instead stepped forward. As he inched closer the frail old man made no movement. Evie watched as Noah gradually edged forward. The man still didn’t move.
Boldly, Evie began to edge forward. Xavier gave her a murderous glare but she ignored it. She reached the man, crouching down to his level. She felt as if she were looking at an abandoned animal. He still didn’t move. Evie was only inches away from him.
Suddenly, his eyes snapped open. He stared at Evie for a split second and roared.
With a scream Evie leapt back from fright. Noah grabbed her protectively as the old man continue to shout and yell, arming himself with a screwdriver (why he had it Evie was unsure) and hobbled forwards at them. With ease, Xavier propelled him back into his seat, holding a gun at his temple. Evie thought this unnecessary – they were trespassing after all, and he was a frightened old man protecting himself. She yelled at Xavier to stop, but to no avail. He pushed the barrel of the gun further against the old man’s temple. The man spoke, jaw trembling.
“If you’re from the Ministry, I’ll never tell you what I did! Never!” his voice sounded cracked and out of use, like he hadn’t spoken for years. He began to reach for a piece of wood which Evie recognised as a wand, but Robbie kicked it out of sight. The old man looked lost as it was flung into a corner. The scene made Evie wanted to cry; something wasn’t right about attacking an old man. The man, realising his position, looked defeated as he slumped in his chair, breathing heavily. Evie could still see the fight in his brilliantly green eyes. Xavier surveyed him as he spoke.
“We aren’t from the Ministry. We’re here for answers,” he said, standing tall and looking down at the old man. “Are you Harry Potter?”
“Yes, I am. And if you aren’t from the Ministry, then – oh. Yes. Yes.” He looked at them all in a new light, as if seeing them again for the first time. “You’re Squibs!” Xavier eyed him warily, his weapon still at Harry Potter’s head.
“You don’t sound surprised.”
“Why would I be? I knew that my past would catch up to – will you at least let me stand up?” Harry asked, irritated. Xavier relented, but kept his gun ready. He clearly didn’t trust the old man, but Evie felt differently – she could see that he had kind eyes. Something felt off about the entire situation. “I suppose you’re here because you managed to hack into the network. That was my idea, you know – I wanted the Ministry to be a place where Muggle technology could be combined with magic.”
Evie frowned. She thought that this was an odd thing to say, considering he was supposed to be one of the leaders involved in the extermination and genocide of Squibs.
“That would be a start, yes,” Xavier snarled. His hand twitched. “Those who caused all of this being dead and cold is another priority.” With this statement, Harry opened his arms wide in an inviting manner.
“Be my guest! Do you really think I care? I stopped doing that a long time ago...” he shuffled across the room, stooping low to put a few more logs on the wood fire. He sighed heavily, like a man who carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. “I never meant for this to happen.”
“I think you have some explainin’ to do, sir,” Robbie drawled, heavy armoury slung over his shoulder like it was weightless. “Cos right now you’re talkin’ in riddles!”
Harry Potter sat back down in his grungy arm chair. He surveyed them all; Evie felt like his eyes were piercing right through her. She shivered. Without thinking, Noah lightly put an arm round her. Then, Harry Potter began his story.
“After I defeated Voldemort, before the turn of the millennium, there was peace. Wizards and witches alike, regardless of blood status, could walk along the street as equals. The Ministry was, in a sense, reborn without the corruption and lies that had fuelled its existence before. I started a family. My friends and family were happy. The world seemed right.
“But then, years later, things began to change. A new evil arrived – but this time, not a physical being. It was the kind that poisoned people’s minds. And yes, it was because of people like your kind,” Harry added, looking deeply saddened. Evie’s heart went out to the frail old man before her. Xavier looked unconvinced, but the rest of the group were hanging onto his every word. He continued.
“There was an increase in the number of Squibs being born to wizarding families. It was bad enough to have a Squib at the time, so you can imagine what it was like then. People panicked. They wanted an answer, a solution. They wanted normal children. And who did they turn to? The Ministry.”
With the mention of the Ministry, Harry’s eyes darkened as he practically spat the name out. At this point, with his tattered clothing and enraged expression, he looked wild.
“What did they do?” Evie heard Issy ask. Surprisingly, there was a tender tone to her voice. Harry looked up at her imploringly.
“They said they would provide a solution. By this time I was an old man, and retired from my job there. My friends – Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, both dead and gone now-“ with this, Harry looked worlds away as he gazed into nothing for a moment – “they helped me to make a better wizarding world through the restructure of the Ministry. The ‘Vermin’ problem, as they called it, tore our decades of work down to the ground. The old ways became apparent once more. There was one event in particular that changed everything to what it is today.”
Evie could see that the memories of whatever Harry was thinking of were upsetting him. Without thinking, she reached forward, kneeled down and took his hand to reassure him. Xavier gave her a warning to stand back but she ignored it once more; Harry looked at her gratefully, squeezing her hand very slightly. His grip was feather-light and his skin felt like paper. It took him a few more moments to continue with his tale.
“I knew things at the Ministry were bad, but what happened next sealed its fate. I was called out of retirement, summoned because I was – no, am - one of the Great Wizards. I thought it would be about tactics to end all the nonsense about Squibs being dangerous. I was wrong.” Harry gazed into the distance, his chest heaving with the effort of life. Evie encouraged him to go on.
“Around ten of us were summoned to a meeting. Ron was with me too, as we sat down. I remember him saying that all this rubbish about Squibs being dangerous was a load of bollocks and that we should all go home,” Harry laughed softly, reminiscing about his old friend. “That was Ron for you.”
“Get to the point,” Xavier said bitterly, glowering. “We haven’t got all day.” Both Harry and Evie glared back at him, but he nonetheless carried on.
“The meeting wasn’t about defending the Squibs - it was about destroying them. Ron and I tried to leave, but we were told that our families would be destroyed,” Harry said, visibly upset. “I had a son who worked at the Ministry, I couldn’t risk their lives... so we stayed. Measures were agreed on; terrible, terrible things were planned. They said they would exterminate the Squibs as if they weren’t humans... like they had lost their rights to life purely because of what they were. And so, the plan was put into motion.”
Evie wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear what happened next, but she knew it was important.
Harry Potter once again looked at them all with great sorrow. “I’m sure you know what happened. It started around thirty years ago. Random, sporadic murders happened across the country. Children were taken away from their parents and kept at the Ministry. I never went down to where they kept them, and I’m glad I never will. The wizarding world was brainwashed. Of course, Squibs were outraged – they grew resentful. They realised they weren’t wanted, and began to fight back. More and more Aurors were deployed for use, more killing happened until there was a full scale war against the Squibs. They were labelled as terrorists. All because of one man.”
“A man? Who was this man?” Xavier demanded, again holding the barrel of the gun to Harry’s head. He waved it away angrily, and looked back at Evie before giving his answer. She already knew who it was as she fought back tears.
Everyone glanced at each other darkly; of course he was responsible. Evie looked back at Harry, who had tears forming in his eyes. He grabbed Evie’s hands out of desperation, as solace. “You must realise I never wanted this for any of you or any Squib!” His plea was so desperate that even Xavier looked shame-faced.
Evie smiled kindly. “I believe you.”
“So this is why we’re hunted,” Noah said after a silence as everyone digested the new information.
“Yes. And from the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry for what has happened to you. I’m sure you have all known hardship.” Harry began to cry softly, the sight bringing tears to Evie’s eyes. Harry Potter, one of the Great Wizards, was a broken man. “It wasn’t just you that was affected. Five of the men in the meeting were killed. The Ministry told my children that I was dead,” he said as the tears flowed down his weathered cheeks. He calmed himself down. “This is why I’m here, why I can’t see them... they would all be dead. Oh Lily, James... Albus...” Harry broke down again. “I wanted to give them a better world, but I failed.”
“No, no you didn’t you did what you had to –“ Evie started, but Harry wasn’t focusing on what she was saying. Instead, his eyes were fixed on his wand, forgotten in the corner. Time seemed to slow down as everyone realised the tip of the wand was flashing red.
Harry was up like a shot, grabbing his wand before Xavier could react and muttering some funny words at them all. Then, Evie had the strangest sensation of having an egg cracked on her head as her body slowly began to disappear. Eden grabbed her before she fully disappeared and pushed her back against the wall. Harry looked fearful, but defiant.
As soon as Harry said this, a dozen men Apparated into the room, wands out and ready. Evie was surprised to see Hector Mutegi as one of the men. She stopped herself from gasping by clamping a hand over her mouth. Hector drew himself to his full height, flanked by Aurors as he approached Harry. He surveyed him carefully; time seemed to slow.
“We know that they’re here.”
“I don’t care, Hector,” Harry replied angrily, standing up from his chair. He no longer looked afraid; his features were twisted into pure hatred at the man before him. Hector’s black eyes glittered menacingly, like a lion that had caught its prey. Harry began to laugh. “You thought I still cared for the Ministry!”
The smile from Hector’s face disappeared. “You are harbouring fugitives. If you don’t tell me where they are, I’m going to kill you.” The bluntness of the statement shocked even some of the Aurors, a couple of them looking at one another uneasily but standing their ground. Harry continued to laugh. “Are you going to tell me where they are, Harry?”
Harry smiled coldly. “I’m a hundred and twelve years old, Hector. I await death with open arms.”
“Then so be it. Good bye, Harry Potter.” Hector raised his wand and smiled. “Avada Kedavra.”
With a jet of green light, Harry Potter was dead, a ghost of defiance on his face. Evie thought he looked peaceful as tears sprang to her eyes. However, there was no time to mourn the loss of a great wizard, for with Harry’s death the magical enchantments on the group had worn off. They were now visible to the Aurors.
Almost immediately a fight started. Hector, with a final glittering gaze at Evie, quickly Disapparated from the ongoing violence. Evie screamed as a jet of red light went haring past her, inches from her face. She dropped down under a chair. With shaking hands, she readied her gun. From her stance she saw Noah punch a guy in the face before knocking him out cold with the gun in his hand, blood oozing from his head. Issy was fighting two at once, kicking one in the stomach before punching another guy in the throat. They both collapsed simultaneously. Robbie seemed to be throwing people left and right as far and as hard as he could. He grabbed one Auror and pinned him against the wall, hitting him repeatedly. As he let go the Auror slumped to the floor, unconscious. “That was for Adam!” he roared. Eden had ran upstairs after another Auror. Evie screamed again as someone grabbed her from behind and she was spun round to face a leering man. Without thinking, she kicked him in the back of the leg and he collapsed in pain. Xavier finished him off as she ran. After a few moments, the group had succeeded. They were all panting heavily.
“We need to get out of here. More will come,” Xavier said hurriedly. “Let’s go.” They all quickly exited, running through the snow. The snow that was falling had increased since they were last out, swirling around them and making visibility difficult. Xavier’s prediction was right – more men came. Robbie fired a shot and a man went tumbling down with a cry, his blood staining the snow. More men kept running. They were catching up. They needed to fight.
At this realisation, the group stopped. Issy swung round; weapon loaded, and fired random shots where she predicted the Aurors were. A couple of cries rang out, but there were still more to come. Spells flew out from the swirling snow, one hitting Robbie and he fell over. From the ground he fired back shots in anger. Xavier collided into an Auror and the two began a fight, Xavier knocking his wand out of his hand... Eden had disappeared as Noah received a blow to the stomach...
Suddenly, a tall, menacing figure appeared out of nowhere. He was headed straight for Evie.
She barely had time to comprehend what was going on before her body became rigid and she was levitated into the air, unable to move. She realised that she had a spell put on her. The man, tall with blonde hair, gave her an evil grin as he began to hurry away with her in tow. He was headed for the forest.
Everybody was so busy that they didn’t notice what had happened. It was only until Noah turned round and saw the man walking away that he realised what had happened. He was quickly pounced on by an Auror. With a crash he fell to the floor, the man on top of him.
“XAVIER!” he roared, who was beating the life out of a man. He looked over. “HELP HER!” Xavier stopped what he was doing and pelted full speed at the retreating figure.
Evie was terrified. They had approached the edge of the forest and were now navigating through the trees. Her frozen limbs tried their hardest to move, but to no avail. She remembered back to a few months ago when she was able to fight off whatever magic was on her; maybe she could do it now?
She racked her brains for a memory of how she did it, but none came. It seemed to be instinctual. Evie’s fear grew at the thought of what might happen to her with this terrible man if they went any further, and an amazing thing happened: her arm moved.
Soon her entire body was free and she dropped to the ground. The shock on the man’s face was undeniable. He snarled. Evie scrambled up and began to run in the opposite direction but she was quickly pulled back by what felt like a giant magnet, straight into the man’s hands.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he growled in a thick German accent. Evie was close to tears as the man conjured rope from thin air and tied them round her magically. She was now bound at the hands and feet as he levitated her again.
“Who are you?!” she cried, demanding an answer. She tried to struggle from her bonds, failing miserably. Her panic increased. He laughed at her.
“My name is Emerson Lowe, Evie Hart. I am here to kill you.”
They had reached a clearing in the forest, where Emerson dropped her down onto the floor as if she were a ragdoll. Evie winced at the pain. With a flick of his wand the ropes fell away, leaving her to stand freely. She got up slowly. She didn’t run away; she knew he would stop her in a heartbeat. She addressed him.
“Why not kill me now?” Evie shouted. He turned round and suddenly he was right in front of her.
“It’s a shame such a pretty little thing can be so useless,” he leered. He reached out to touch her. Evie swiped his hand away angrily, narrowing her eyes. She could see all of the scars on Emerson’s face and just how tall he was; he must have been near Xavier’s height. “Don’t worry, I will kill you. I just want to see what the... fascination is with you, a worthless Squib.” With a flick of his wand, Evie was propelled backwards until she was against a tree, as if tied there. Tried as she might, she couldn’t break the spell. She spat at him.
“Everybody has a worth. Everyone has a place!” Evie answered back firmly. Emerson laughed once more. Evie felt her hatred for this man growing. Out of nowhere, shots fired out from behind her; she ducked down instinctively as Xavier came running into the scene, launching himself at Emerson. The manic smile sloped off of Emerson’s features as he quickly produced a shield charm using his wand. Xavier bounced off it and fell backwards, landing on his back. Emerson approached him slowly as Xavier recovered. He kicked him in the stomach, knocking him back down again. He groaned in pain, curling into a ball. Evie whimpered as she saw the leader they all turned to in times of need be kicked about like an animal.
“Crucio,” he whispered. Evie screamed as Xavier began to writhe on the floor. “Crucio!” “NO! STOP!” Evie screamed at the top of her lungs. She was crying as Xavier gasped for breath as spell after spell hit him. All the while, Emerson’s eyes were alight. Eventually, he relented. Panting, Xavier collapsed, weakened. The reprieve was only temporary as Emerson repeated the process, this time with more force. Emerson sniggered, and stamped on his arm for good measure. Evie felt bile rise up in her throat.
Emerson turned back to Evie. “Friend of yours?” he asked nonchalantly. Evie desperately struggled against the spell that was keeping her against the tree until she was weak with tiredness. She was seeing red; the abhorrence she felt for the man in front of her was coursing through her veins like adrenaline. It gave her strength.
“You bastard!” she yelled, straining against her prison with all her might. She could feel all the anger, the pain, the hurt from the past few months resurfacing; things that she pushed into the corners of her mind were coming to the forefront once more. She struggled with renewed vigour. Emerson smirked at her.
“There’s no use struggling; I am a powerful wizard. Besides,” he added casually, flicking his wand and releasing Evie, “I want to have some fun.”
He launched himself forward and knocked Evie flying backwards, she landed hard on the ground. He then magically forced her up, slamming her back into a tree. She felt her head crack and cried out in pain. With his wand Emerson then forced her along the length of the tree until she could not take the agony anymore. Then, he dropped her down ten foot carelessly. She felt a rib crack on impact. Evie lay on the ground, silent tears rolling down her cheeks. Her body felt alight with affliction; her muscles ached and her nerves screamed for no more. She was bloodied and beaten. Emerson stood over her.
“What is so special about you?” he asked to himself. He looked fascinated as he stared at Evie, who could no longer focus on him; she stared into space, trying to numb the anguish and agony. Her breathing was shallow. She felt like giving up, giving her life to this man... anything to stop the pain. But there was something inside her that gave her strength. Something that was keeping her alive, and fighting.
With immense effort, she turned her head to her attacker. “You’re pathetic.” She spat in his face vehemently.
The fascinated look on his face disappeared as he slowly wiped the offense from him. He was enraged that a Squib, one of the dregs of society, would even dare touch him, one of the most powerful wizards alive. He growled.
“Get up!” he roared, walking away forcefully. “I want to see you suffer as you die. CRUCIO!”
Evie was flung up in the air at the force of the curse. She felt as if thousands of knives were stabbing her repeatedly; she could barely hear herself scream the pain was so intense. Emerson began to laugh as Evie wriggled and writhed, her screams getting weaker. He ceased. Evie lay on the floor, twitching. He shook his head in disgust.
“You’re so weak.”
Inside Evie, something snapped.
With the force of a thousand winds, both Evie and Emerson were flung back as a brilliant bright light erupted out from her, causing the trees to bend and the snow to be swept clear away. Time seemed to slow down as the ethereal light emanated from her body. It lasted for only a moment, and then everything was silent. Evie sank to the forest floor and closed her eyes. Everything went black.
This was the only thing Evie could feel – pain. Her nerves screamed for mercy and her muscles were throbbing; there was a burning sensation along the length of her spine that begged for attention. She blearily cracked open her eyes; everything was blurred for a few moments as she took in her surroundings. White, lots of white – a hospital? A person dressed in black – was she still in danger?
Evie relaxed when she realised that the person in black was in fact Eden. She had her back to Evie, and seemed to be washing some bloody bandages. When she saw that Evie was awake she immediately ran over.
“Evie? Can you hear me? You’re at the base, in the medical bay. You’re safe,” she added, looking relieved. Evie smiled weakly in response and said she could hear her. “Excellent. You sustained a lot of injuries on Saturday –“
“Hang on – what day is it now?” Evie asked, alarmed. Eden looked apprehensive when she responded, “Tuesday.”
“I’ve been unconscious for three days?” Evie said. She was amazed – the worst injury she’d ever had was a twisted ankle when she was fourteen. Eden nodded gravely.
“That’s not it either – you were seriously banged up by whoever that guy was there.” Evie was surprised to see that instead of fear or anger at the mention of the Hunter, she actually looked annoyed. “You had two cracked ribs and a cracked head but I’ve managed to heal those – gotta love magic. The thing is, I wasn’t able to help the lacerations on your back or the sprained wrist – but those’ve started healing. You’ll have to spend the rest of the day in here too.” Evie suddenly remembered Xavier.
“How’s Xavier? He was… he was hurt,” Evie said. The memory of being forced to watch him in pain was still fresh in her mind. She shuddered.
“He’s fine. He was a bit shaken, but don’t tell him I said that. His arm’s in a sling too, but he’ll be okay. He always is.”
“Thanks Eden,” Evie said, smiling gratefully. Eden said it was just her job and that she had to let the others know that she was awake. She left the room, leaving Evie to her thoughts. Five minutes later Noah came rushing in. They smiled at each other.
“How’re you feeling?” he asked casually, pulling up a chair. He looked nervous. Evie felt something twinge in her stomach.
“To be honest I’ve been better,” she replied, and laughed slightly when Noah didn’t look impressed at her smart answer. “No, I’m fine. I’m alive.”
Noah’s expression turned more serious. “I suppose you’ll want some answers about what happened in the forest.”
“Yeah… what exactly happened? All I can remember is like a big explosion, and then waking up here,” Evie said. She winced as she sat up straight and her back burned in pain. Noah sighed and began.
“Well, I saw you with the Hunter and had to get Xavier to go after him because I had three on me at once. We all wanted to go and help – well, Issy was happy to stay – but there were just so many of them. Then one of the Aurors had this jinx which meant he could make copies of himself – that was fun. So whilst we were dealing with that, you and Xavier were getting the shit beaten out of you by the Hunter.”
At this point Noah paused; Evie pressed him to go on. “Well, that’s when things started getting a little… odd. We were all fighting, and then there was this huge white light that knocked us clean of our feet. It was coming from the forest… Xavier said it came from you.”
“From me?” Evie was dumbfounded. How on earth could she have managed to be able to do that? What was it that she even managed to do? “How did that happen exactly?”
“I dunno. Even Xavier said he’d never seen anything like it,” Noah added, “And it’s not often he doesn’t know what something is. Genius, that man.”
Evie looked at Noah pointedly at this. Noah seemed to have an unhealthy admiration for Xavier at times. “So what happened next?” she asked to snap him out of his reverie.
“Well, the Aurors didn’t seem to know what the hell happened either, but they knew it was something big. Disapparated pretty much instantly, scared senseless. Funny how they’re supposed to be the best the Ministry has to offer. We all went running towards the forest and eventually found you, Xavier and the Hunter. Xavier was just about conscious and you and the Hunter were pretty much gone. You and Xavier were both in a pretty bad way, so we fixed you up for travelling and took the Hunter’s wand. We would have done more, I sure wanted to, but Eden said it was best to just leave him powerless and to go before he woke up. We left, and you’ve been out up until ten minutes ago,” he finished, smiling slightly. His face darkened. “I swear I would have killed that guy if I had the chance.” Evie was impressed at his courage.
“That would’ve only made him angrier,” she said jokingly. Her wrist was aching and she looked at it, annoyed. “I love how magic can heal things quickly, but I wish Eden had something for this.” The memory of the forest popped into her head – the pain was nothing compared to that. “What was that spell he used on me and Xavier? It was… horrible.”
Noah sighed. “That, Evie, was the Cruciatus curse. I sincerely hope you never have to go through that again. It’s one of three Unforgivable curses – the others being the Imperius curse, which controls people, and the Killing curse. Unfortunately you’ve seen two of them in use now.”
“The pain was just – awful,” Evie started, not realizing that tears were pricking at her eyelids. “It felt like hot knives, thousands of them –“ Noah shushed her.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
An awkward silence settled between the two and filled the room. Noah coloured slightly and Evie kept her eyes fixed firmly on her hands. She stifled a yawn and realised that she was still quite tired. Within minutes, she was asleep.
Noah watched her eyes slowly drift shut and smiled as her breathing became steady. He stayed there for some time, watching the rise and fall of her body. He only left when Eden came back in.
The next morning Evie was released. Eden advised her to take it easy and not to go crazy, but it was still work as normal the next day. There always seemed to be a million things to do at the base.
Evie walked into the main area of the base, fiddling with the bandage on her wrist. She caught sight of Robbie and ran over, giving him a running hug. He spun her round, grinning madly. “Great to see ya, hun.”
Evie smiled unabashedly. “Did you miss me?”
“Of course I did! You’re way better company than old misery guts over there,” Robbie whispered theatrically, nodding his head towards Issy. She was sitting in the den, glowering at them both. Evie saw a flicker of jealousy cross her face. She drew her attention back to Robbie.
“Well next time I’ll try and get a little less knocked about,” she teased. “Seen Noah around?”
Robbie shrugged. “I think he’s with Xavier in his office. They’ve been talkin’ a lot about what when down in them woods.”
“I’d stay away from him if I were you,” a catty voice called out from across the room. Evie turned round and Issy was heading towards her. She stopped a few feet short of the two. “You’ll only get your heart broken.”
Evie narrowed her eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Then you’re ever stupider than you look!” Issy shouted. She looked ready to murder her. Robbie had sensibly returned to his work and was pretending he couldn’t hear the argument. “Tell me, how do I taste? How does it feel to have my leftovers?”
Evie knew it was better to just walk away rather than rise to the bait; still, she was sorely tempted when she just rolled her eyes and pushed past Issy. She was having none of it. She grabbed Evie by her bad wrist, causing her to hiss in pain.
“I asked you a question,” she growled. Their faces were only inches apart, eyes locked in a battle of hatred. She squeezed Evie’s wrist harder and a hot ball of pain formed. Evie wrenched it out of her grip.
“I don’t answer to you.” With this, Evie began walking in the direction of her room. Issy laughed at her retreating figure.
“Scared?” she said, mocking her. Evie stopped walking, encouraging Issy to continue goading. “Running away as usual? You’re pathetic; you can’t even defend yourself because you know it’s true. You’ve always got someone else to shield you from the real fucking world. Noah’s not here now, is he? Did your parents a load of good, didn’t it? Who you gonna run to?”
Evie felt the now familiar feeling of gaining acute awareness of her surroundings; she was angry. She spun round and gave Issy a look of pure venom. “At least I had a family.”
Issy’s bugged out eyes and snarl playing on her lips told Evie that she had struck a nerve. Her chest started heaving with pure rage. “You’re getting it now, bitch.” At lightning fast pace she launched herself at Evie. She dodged her easily, and Issy went crashing down to the ground.
It wasn’t for long. She was up and ran forwards again with a look of steely determination. Evie matched it. She propelled her arm backwards in readiness to punch Evie in the face when a huge hand came out of nowhere and close round her fist. She narrowed her eyes at the person who had stopped her, and Evie turned round to see Robbie there. His face was like thunder.
“Walk it off Issy!” he barked with such ferocity that Issy cast one final glare at Evie and stalked off. It didn’t stop her from shoving Evie with her shoulder as she walked past her. Robbie watched the back of her head until she had gone. He then turned round to Evie. “That was a low blow, Evie,” he said. “I thought you’d be bigger than that.”
Evie sat down in the den, agitated. She held her head in her hands, avoiding eye contact. “I know,” was her muffled response. “I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just… she brings the worst out in me.”
Robbie sat down next to Evie and rubbed her on the back, sure to be careful of her injuries. It had an instant calming effect on her and she felt her senses return slowly back to normal. “Don’t worry about her, she’s just lookin’ for a rise out of ya. Just worry about yourself.” Robbie smiled warmly at her. “You go and get some rest, darlin’. I’ll do your work for you.”
Evie smiled and hugged Robbie, relaxing into his arms. He was a true friend to her. “Thanks, Robbie.” With this, she left for her room.
She gently laid herself down on her bed, wincing slightly at the cuts and bruises on her back. A thousand different thoughts a second seemed to whirl round her brain, all jostling to be heard. She had finally made the connection between her heightened reflexes and her emotions – and from what she gathered, they seemed unique to her. She wondered whether normal witches and wizards experienced the same thing. She bit her lip. If they did, was that a link to normality that the others didn’t have? She wasn’t even sure that she wanted to be able to do it. Evie considered the timing of these magical powers appearing – she’d never experienced anything similar until she found out that she was a Squib. This revelation seemed to be the turning point for everything – had it affected her somehow? Her head hurt just thinking of all the possibilities of why she had been given this gift. Or was it a curse?
Choosing to ignore the nagging feeling she had, she got out the makeshift wand from under her mattress. She had been keeping it there for the last few weeks because she had a strange feeling whenever she saw it; she thought the others wouldn’t understand and would think she was mocking what they all believed and stood for. Only Noah knew that she had it, and he hadn’t breathed a word. She gave it an experimental wave, but nothing happened. She sighed, studying every single mark and groove it had until her brain was overflowing with ideas. None of them brought any fruition. She wasn’t even sure that it was some sort of wand anymore; perhaps it was a weapon? Maybe it was just a keepsake from her father, his final gift to her, something to remember them by? She sighed and put it back, giving up. Perhaps it was best to leave it for now. She lay back on her bed and stared at the grubby ceiling.
Evie’s mind involuntarily drifted to a certain blonde haired man. Her mind had been doing it for a while now – she cursed to herself. She wasn’t sure what Noah wanted, or what she even wanted. She had absolutely no intention of listening to Issy’s warning because Noah was her friend… but would he ever be more than that?
Evie huffed to herself childishly, angry at the situation. She decided that the problem with Noah was that he was always incredibly moody, and he could go from happy to angry in a matter of seconds. He always teased her, and all he did was work at his computers all day. Despite all of this, Evie’s mind still kept drifting to his blonde hair, his blue eyes. She closed her eyes.
It was obvious to herself that she cared for him, and it was probably obvious to everyone else as well. Evie groaned. Eden had taken to commenting on their friendship almost daily, with the same raised eyebrows each time. She always asked Robbie where Noah was. Issy had threatened her! How hadn’t she noticed how obvious she was being before?
Still, Evie thought to herself, nothing will come of it. Evie thought about all the times they had spent together in the last few months, and came to the conclusion that he only thought of her as a friend. Just friends… that would be better for everyone.
Feeling happy to reach a decision but inexplicably saddened, Evie closed her eyes and drifted to sleep.
Whilst everyone else at the base was working, Noah and Xavier were sat in his office. From an outsider’s view the two looked like old friends, having a chat over a drink. The reality was very different. Xavier leaned forwards in his chair towards Noah.
“Visiting Harry Potter was… enlightening, to say the least,” he said. Noah listened intently. “I feel as if we’ve learnt many things from the experience. We were able to pinpoint exactly when the hatred of our kind began, and gain an insider’s point of view about it. He showed the corruption of the Ministry, even back then.”
“You’ve got to feel sorry for the bloke,” Noah added. He was fiddling with the Hunter’s wand, observing it. “He thought that he’d fixed the Ministry and it all just collapsed around him.”
Xavier bowed his head. “It’s a great shame that he had to die; he could have provided us with more information if we had the time.” Noah rolled his eyes at Xavier’s usual merciless nature.
“You’re such a bastard sometimes. Something else we’ve gained from this is knowing how deeply Hector was involved – I never suspected that he would’ve been the driving force from the start.”
“I did,” Xavier replied darkly. He laced his fingers together. “It shows how quickly he rose to power if he exerted that much influence at that age. It might even mean that whilst he was the leader of the movement as such, he might have had others help him. I say we hunt them down.” Noah raised an eyebrow.
“Unusual for you to make a plan so quickly,” he commented. “It’d be a bit of a wild goose chase if he didn’t actually have any help either. It’s unlikely,” he said at Xavier’s unimpressed face, “But… not impossible.”
Xavier’s stony face dropped as he sighed. “You’re right, it was a stupid idea. We need to formulate something new, something they won’t expect… we need to be a step ahead of them.”
“Leave me to that,” Noah said. “I’ll see what I can do over the next week.” Xavier smiled to himself at his enthusiasm and willingness to help. His smile faded when he realised the enormity of the situation.
“Everything we do will be branded as an act of terrorism from now on,” he said gravely. He was looking into the distance, eyes glazed. “We’ll have to be careful in the future.”
“It’s not a problem,” Noah replied fiercely. “We’ll fight like we always do, we’ll take them down –“
“Your enthusiasm is inspiring, Noah,” Xavier said. He looked amused as Noah blushed slightly. “I am merely saying that we should be that bit smarter than them.” There was a pause as Noah bowed his head and didn’t respond. Xavier lent back in his chair, thinking carefully about how he was going to phrase the next topic. “There is something else,” he began. “Evie.”
Noah had been expecting this to come up sooner or later. He sighed heavily, wondering whether he should tell Xavier everything. He’d never hidden anything from him before; the secret that he had kept was weighing on his chest, growing heavier each day. Xavier noticed the inner turmoil. “Tell me what’s on your mind,” he implored.
It took a while for Noah to formulate his answer. “There’s been a few… interesting things happen since she arrived. At the funeral, when the massive oak tree came down, she seemed to cause it. She gets headaches way more often than any normal person, and they’re always really bad. Her reflexes are wicked fast when she wants them to be. And, well, there’s what happened in the forest,” Noah added as an afterthought. He said nothing about her going to her old home and the makeshift wand. He felt guilty, but he had to stick to his word. Xavier nodded.
“I’ve been thinking about it too. There’s something odd about her, that’s for sure. The thing is, I can’t make any sense of it. She’s… unique.” Xavier seemed deep in thought as if trying to work out a particularly hard puzzle. “Is there anything else you know?”
Noah’s stomach lurched guiltily when he replied, “No.” There was silence once more until Noah noticed the faintest of smiles on Xavier’s lips.
“You care for her,” he said simply. Noah felt his cheeks growing hot, and Xavier tittered. “You didn’t even need to say anything to answer that.”
Noah groaned, embarrassed. “It’s nothing.”
“Sure it isn’t. Just be careful – we all remember what happened with Issy.” Xavier thought back to the endless arguments and making up; he could do without that.
Noah was now a deep shade of red. “Nothing will happen,” he said firmly. “I care for her, yes, but she thinks of me as just a friend, so that’s how it’ll stay.” Xavier could almost laugh at how wrong he was, but instead he kept quiet about it.
“Fine,” he said. “I think we’re done here for now. Don’t forget to start researching so we can work on the foundations of the plan.”
“I’ll do it now. See you later.” Noah quickly vacated the room, leaving Xavier with his thoughts.
“Xavier wants to see you in his office when ya can.”
Evie gave Robbie a confused look as she looked up from her book, to which Robbie shrugged in response. As far as she was aware, it was only Noah who was ever allowed in Xavier’s office – Robbie told her once that he had been with them for three years and had not once been in there. It was a private place and Noah never spoke about it, so Evie wondered whether she was in trouble. Her stomach seemed to drop when she thought about the fact that she’d been to her old house – had he found out? Had Noah told him?
She put down her book and began walking to Xavier’s office, fingers trembling slightly. If he’d found out, she was done for. He’d chuck her out without a second’s hesitation… then she’d be in a sorry position. After a few wrong turnings she eventually reached a heavy looking door made of metal. She knocked on it, and the sound reverberated off the walls.
“Come in,” Xavier’s deep voice called from inside. Evie timidly pulled open the door and took a few tiny steps in. “I don’t bite,” he added with a small smirk. Evie laughed nervously out of politeness and sat down on the faded chair that Xavier beckoned to.
There were a few moments of silence as Xavier observed Evie, who was looking round the room. The room was well lit, and Evie was reminded of all the shows she used to watch where suspects were interrogated in police stations. The office itself had a utilitarian feel about it and was cold and bare, as if Xavier hadn’t quite finished unpacking everything. She noticed a few boxes in the corner of the room covered in a fine layer of dust. Two metal bookcases flanked the salvaged wooden desk in the centre of the room, stuffed to the brim with all sorts of novels and textbooks. It was clear Xavier liked to read. There was an absence of any decorations or ornaments, bar the single item on Xavier’s desk – the Hunter’s wand, in a glass box, on display like a battle scar. Her stomach twinged as she thought back to the forest, and what that wand had done to the two people in the room. Xavier noticed her discomfort.
“Without a wand, he’s just like one of us,” he said. His eyes were fixated on Evie, She looked away nervously. “We’ve given him a taste of what it’s like to be on the other side for once.” Evie, unable to think of an answer, only smiled politely in return. She could not ignore the fact that Xavier scared her; she wondered if he could pick up on it. He began to speak again.
“Evie, I called you here because I wanted to ask you about the… unusual happenings recently. We’ve all noticed them, and I’m assuming that you’ve noticed some strange things that seem to be occurring with yourself. Noah and I have been discussing what the possibilities are, but I wanted to talk to you about it as well.” Xavier’s face was serious and unsmiling. Evie suddenly had the strong feeling of being sent to the headmaster’s office for misbehaving.
He’s been discussing me, has he? Evie thought to herself angrily. “What exactly has been discussed?”
“Noah told me that you’ve been getting headaches a lot of the time, bad ones. We also discussed the incident at your guardians’ funeral with one of the landmark trees falling down when it had no reason to, as well as the heightened reflexes you seem to experience. Why,” he added, “is there something else?”
It took a fraction of a second longer than it should had for Evie to quickly respond, “No, nothing.” She thought of the makeshift object sitting under the mattress in her room at the very same moment, but still said nothing. She prayed that she wouldn’t blush and give herself away. She also felt guilty for suspecting Noah of breaking his promise, but she was still angry at the fact that she was being discussed. There was a second awkward silence as Xavier expected her to say more, but Evie wouldn’t budge. He eventually sighed and moved on.
“I want to know what you think of all this. Is it new to you?”
“I’ve never experienced anything like this until I found out that I was a Squib,” Evie replied calmly. She didn’t want to give too much information away to a man she barely knew, and who frightened her almost as much as the Ministry. “About the tree thing, I don’t think that was me. I think it was one of the wizards who shot a spell at it in an attempt to stop us.” Evie tried to convince herself that this was the truth; she still wasn’t sure what had happened with that tree, despite trying to puzzle out an answer. Xavier didn’t look convinced.
“I disagree. I think you might be underestimating yourself and whatever abilities you may have. It’s clear that you have some – although I’ve never seen them in a Squib before,” Xavier said, fascinated. “I’ll be honest and say I don’t know what’s going on there, but for now we should leave it. What about your reflexes?”
Evie was slightly disturbed at the amount of thought that had been given to her. Had this been discussed with Noah as well? She scratched the back of her neck nervously and moved quickly on. “Well, it’s an issue. There seems to be a link between them and emotions – when I’m angry or scared, it happens.”
Xavier took in this information. “Issue? I don’t see it as an issue at all. We can use this to our advantage, Evie. We can train you in combat and you’ll probably become the best fighter here.”
Evie shook her head, determined on this topic. “No, I’m not learning how to fight.” Xavier looked surprised.
“Of course you need to learn how to fight. How else are you going to defend yourself? How else are we going to be able to defeat the Ministry? Besides, with someone with such talents as yours, it would be a waste.”
Evie held her ground, now annoyed. “Talents? Hardly, they’re irritating to say the least. I’ve gotten by before, I’m sure I’ll be fine in the future.”
Xavier sighed and leant back in his chair, surveying Evie. She didn’t like the way he stared at her. “Evie, don’t be so reckless. ‘Getting by’ isn’t what we do here. We fight, we fight to take down the Ministry, our enemies, for a better future. We do not ‘get by’ and hope for the best. I’ve noticed that you’ve been slightly… lacking in combatant skills,” he added, his expression stony. “I’m therefore going to assign you combat training lessons with Eden. They would normally be with Issy, as she’s the better fighter, but I’ve noticed some, er, animosity between the two of you.”
Evie felt silenced. She didn’t want to learn how to fight, not in the slightest. She thought about all the times that they’d been in a bad situation recently, and she’d survived them all. Maybe it was the adrenaline that would have been coursing through her veins at the time, or other people helping her, but she was able to hold her own… even if it did involve unorthodox methods.
“And what if I don’t want to?” she asked boldly. She was aware that she sounded extremely spoilt but she didn’t care. Xavier gave her a serious look.
“Then you die.”
But that’s even possible when you've learnt to fight! Evie thought to herself stubbornly. Still, the way that Xavier was looking at her told her that he wasn’t about to back down any time soon. She sighed childishly.
“Good,” he replied, smiling. “Your training will start next week. You may leave now.”
The feeling of being in a headmaster’s office came back to her as she sulkily got out of her chair and walked out of Xavier’s office, pushing open the door carelessly so that it slammed shut. Xavier rolled his eyes and went back to his papers. He had more pressing matters to deal with than a young girl’s tantrum.
Evie was walking round the corridors, lost for the fifth time. The mottled and damp walls still looked the same to her, and she wistfully thought back to her childhood home, her warm bed and where electricity and running water worked all the time. She huffed once more as she was unwillingly thrown back to the dank reality when she heard footsteps.
When she turned round, she saw Noah jogging to catch up. He smiled at her, but she didn’t return it. “Heard that Xavier asked to see you. How did it go? Did he scare the shit out of you like he does with everyone else?”
Evie couldn’t be bothered to deal with Noah when he had been the reason why she had to go to the awful meeting in the first place. “Oh, it was wonderful,” Evie said sarcastically. “Just spiffing.” With this Evie walked off. Noah, who sensed that something was wrong, caught back up with her again. He grabbed out towards her arm but she snatched it away. This game continued until Noah eventually caught her in both arms so that she couldn’t escape. With a jolt she realised that this was the closest they had physically been, but instead of caring she wrenched herself out of his grip and gave him a death glare. He looked completely and utterly bemused at her behaviour. “What the bloody hell is up?” he asked finally.
Evie decided to just have it out with him. “Why have you been discussing me with Xavier? Why didn’t you ask me about it? That stuff is private!” she was yelling slightly now, and looked away, not wanting to meet Noah’s eye. She could see him growing angrier.
“I’ve been talking about what’s been going on to Xavier, if that’s what you mean,” he replied coolly. “It wasn’t a personal slight against you.”
“Some of the stuff you told him was stuff that I didn’t want him to know!” Evie hissed back. Noah’s expression was now unreadable.
“How was I supposed to know?” he finally said. He sounded hurt. “You didn’t tell me not to!”
“Yes I did!” she cried, wanting to tear her hair out. Men! Evie thought to herself vehemently. “It was just between us two. I thought I could trust you to keep it to yourself, but apparently not.”
“I’m not used to keeping secrets from him, Evie!” Noah was now shouting. “I’m supposed to be second-in-command! If I don’t tell him these things he might never trust me again! It could have been a security matter!”
“Well I hope it was worth it, because you’ve chosen your side. You’ve lost my trust.” Evie glared at Noah. His expression seemed to change several times before settling on hurt. Evie could almost laugh; he was the one in the wrong. She had considered him the person she could turn to the most out of everyone, and he had blown it. Noah hung his head.
“I’m sorry.” He said quietly to the floor. “But that doesn’t excuse what happened between you and Issy.”
“I beg your pardon?” Evie was confused at the sudden change of topic. Noah’s face hardened.
“Issy told me all about your argument with her. It was a bit harsh to talk about her family, wasn’t it? I told you that in confidence. Bit hypocritical actually, considering that just what you’ve shouted at me about.” Noah was now the one with the accusatory tone, the angered features. His hands were balled up in fists. “I expected better of you, to be honest. I didn’t realize you’d sink that low.”
Evie almost exploded at the unfairness of it all. Issy was the one constantly insulting her, making little digs at everything she did and making snide comments about her family and past. Evie snapped once because she was provoked, gets physically attacked and now gets the blame for it?
“Are you sure you’ve even got the whole story there? I doubt it, considering Issy’s wonderful reputation that she’s made for herself,” Evie spat. She was absolutely furious with the two of them. “Issy was the one who provoked me. I said some things I shouldn’t have, I admit that, and then she launched herself at me, attacked me! Did she manage to miss that part out? It looks like it from the look on your face,” Evie snarled as Noah’s expression went back to unreadable. His eyes looked stormy. “Ask Robbie if you think I’m lying. Do you even know what she said to me to begin with?”
“Do enlighten me,” Noah replied in a dangerously quiet voice. He looked as if he could spit venom as his eyes narrowed and he took a step closer. Evie did not move as his towering frame dwarfed her own.
“She told me to stay away from you.”
A look of shock passed Noah’s face which was then replaced with surprise. His facial expressions softened, but Evie was having none of it. Having said her piece, she turned on her heel and stormed off without looking back.
“Save it.” Evie raised an arm in frustration as she turned a corner and disappeared out of sight. Noah ran a hand through his hair agitatedly, wondering whether she’d ever come back to him.
Ministry of Magic, 9 P.M
Minister of Magic’s office
“You have failed me once more, Emerson.” Hector wasn’t giving away any hints, but Emerson knew he was furious with him. For perhaps the first time, he paused as he tried to think of an answer. Nothing came.
“There was an unexpected issue,” he finally replied after several minutes of silence. “It is a new kind of magic that I have not seen before.”
At this, Hector seemed interested. “Tell me what happened.”
“We were at the Potter location, in the nearby forest. I was… dealing with two of the Squibs, including the girl. She got angry it seemed, and then seemed to explode with white light. I have not seen anything like it.” Emerson tried to leave as much out as he could, but he had a feeling that Hector could see right through him. His back was turned from him, looking down at the window towards the Ministry. His hands were clasped behind his back tightly. Excruciatingly slowly, Hector turned round and took a seat at his vast mahogany desk. Hector prided himself on being a calm and collected sort of man, but sometimes it was a struggle to maintain it.
“Tell me more about this light.”
“It was odd, that is for sure. There was a lot of energy from it too, and it knocked both her… and me unconscious.” Emerson seemed to detest the fact that he had shown a sign of weakness in front of his employer. Hector said nothing and gestured for him to continue. “It was very powerful. Perhaps it is an artificial kind of magic. When I woke up once more, night had fallen. The wandless filth had taken my own wand it seemed. It’s as if they’ve never heard of wandless magic,” he sneered. “Stupid animals.”
“And where did you acquire your new wand?” Hector asked, his glittering eyes flickering over the dark wood of the wand which Emerson was lazily twirling in his hands. Emerson smiled darkly.
“Let us just say that it was won.”
Hector didn’t pause to think of the implications of his answer. “What do you think it means?” Emerson finally asked after a long pause. Hector snapped out of his reverie and looked at his assassin.
“I have several theories right now. What I believe to be the most likely answer is that the magic in her body is increasing. I suspect that it’s reacting somewhat badly to her system – what you experienced was a by-product of magical energy which had built up and finally released from her body at the trigger, this being your extreme antagonistic behaviour. She is growing stronger.” At this Hector stopped, and the spark of an idea seemed to float across his brain. “Perhaps this may have implications… perhaps…”
“What?” Emerson finally asked, frustrated at the fact that the Minister tailed off and stared into space, deep in thought. At the question Hector snapped back to reality. His black eyes glittered.
“It doesn’t concern you. You cannot be trusted.”
“I mostly certainly can, Minister!” Emerson roared in outrage. His face was twisted into a look of fury. How dare he be questioned, the best assassin in the world?
Hector did not give in. “You cannot be trusted with even the simple task of murdering a Squib. Emerson, you have disappointed both I and the Ministry. It seems that your thirst for blood got in the way of you actually fulfilling the deed.”
A flash of guilt crossed Emerson’s face, so fleetingly it could have been imagined. “I cannot help it if the disgusting creatures flaunt their existence in front of me!” Emerson hissed, leaning forwards in his chair. “They needed to be taken care of.”
“Inspiring, but unnecessary.” Hector leaned forward in his chair as it creaked slightly, holding Emerson’s gaze with his glittering black eyes. The tension in the air was thick, suffocating. “I will be keeping a very close eye on you from now on.”
“There is no need, Minister,” Emerson spat. He glowered as his eyes expressed pure hatred. “I am not afraid of you or your threats.” Hector smiled.
“You will be.”
There was a pause as each man stared at each other in a bid for power, to which after a few moments Emerson finally gave in. He launched out of his chair, desperate to move. “I do not have time for this, Minister. I need to get back to hunting down the vermin.”
“Very well. Before you go, there is the small matter of payment to be discussed,” Hector called to Emerson’s retreating figure. He smiled when the Hunter stopped in his tracks.
“And what needs to be discussed?” Emerson asked slowly without turning round.
“You shall not be paid until all the excess are dead and the girl is here.” Hector was calm when Emerson swung round angrily and glared at him. If looks could kill, he would have been dead several times over.
“If that is my penance, then fine.”
“It is more logistics than anything. Despite your failure to get the girl, you have provided me with some enlightening information. We may have to, as they say, ‘up our game’”.
“Do you have a plan, Minister?” Emerson asked. Hector’s eyes glittered.
“Let us just say that the vermin problem will be taken care of... and soon.”
A week passed at the base with little happening. However, for Evie it felt like an eternity. She hadn’t spoken to Noah since their argument and she certainly had no intentions of apologising any time soon. Evie knew it was petty and that she should just get over herself, but she was stubborn. Besides, it wasn’t just her who had said anything – Noah had been in the wrong too and he knew it. Why should she look weak and give in?
Besides, Issy’s pretty happy with herself, Evie thought darkly. Since it became apparent that the two had fought, Issy had been smiling more and had a spring in her step. More than once Evie thought of the word ‘sociopath’ as she skipped about the place whistling, but decided to ignore it. If Issy was happy, then at least that made one person. She thought that everyone but Xavier had probably noticed, with Eden and Robbie giving each other uneasy looks now and again over dinner. Noah didn’t come in her room to chat in the evening, and Evie didn’t go and visit him at his computers when he decided to have a break.
It’s his fault. This was the reasoning that Evie stuck by angrily, not wishing to see any other side to the argument. This is what she told Robbie one day when they were sitting together in the den area, talking in hushed whispers. She could feel Noah’s eyes on her back boring into her, but she didn’t care.
“I don’t see why you just let it go,” Robbie said for the millionth time. Evie glared at him for breaking their quiet whispering. “It’s only gonna make things worse, ya know. Y’all needs to say sorry to him before the end of the week, Evie.”
“No I don’t – I’m not the one who caused all of this in the first place.” Robbie sighed at Evie’s answer and leaned back, glancing surreptitiously at Noah’s hunched form. “You’re both silly!” he finally declared.
Evie just rolled her eyes at him and smiled. “Thanks for the insightful information there Robbie,” she teased. “How’s the scarf coming along?” Evie had recently discovered that Robbie had held a funny little secret from everyone – he was an expert at knitting. Evie found a stash of knitted scarves and jumpers when she was in his room. He made her promise not to tell anyone, mostly because he knew he’d never hear the end of it. At this mention of his secret hobby his eyes narrowed, but a smile played on his lips.
“Really well, you scoundrel. I’m having a bit of trouble with the Fair Isle pattern though-“
“Robbie, could I borrow you for a second?” Noah called out from across the room. Robbie looked up at his name being called and bounded over to where Noah was. Evie saw him give her a triumphant look and immediately knew that he called him over just to annoy her. How bloody childish does he want to be?
Evie, not wanting to even be in the same room as Noah, quickly left the two men and headed to her room. She couldn’t get over the fact of how stupid Noah was being about the whole thing. A tiny thought in her head popped up that maybe she was being just as bad, but she swiftly ignored it. Five minutes later, there was a knock at the door and Eden walked in.
“Ready, Evie?” she asked hurriedly. Eden always seemed to be pressed for time these days. Evie then realised after looking at the clock in her room that it was time for her training with Eden. She glowered and heaved herself off the bed, not looking forward to the next hour.
It took around ten minutes for the two to finally reach their destination, deep in the warehouse. Evie had never seen the room before; it was large and spacious and had plenty of windows lighting the room, which was unusual considering the rest of the dark, cold rooms in the warehouse. It was sunny outside, illuminating thousands of tiny dust particles floating through the air, swirling together. There was all sorts of equipment in the room lying around, all concerning battle. Evie even spotted a couple of nunchucks lying abandoned in the corner. Eden saw her looking at them.
“We’ve only used those once for a laugh – ended up nearly killing Robbie. Good times...” she tailed off. “Now. Xavier’s told me exactly what you thought of all this fighting nonsense, and that’s okay – combat isn’t natural for everyone. So, as a compromise, I suggest that we start off with learning how to defend yourself. You’ll be able to learn how to look after yourself but you won’t be hurting anyone. Deal?”
Evie couldn’t argue with the logic. She began to feel a little happier about the next hour. “Deal.” She replied confidently.
“The first thing I’m going to tell you Evie is that there are lots of bad people in the world. I know you’ve seen and experienced some of the things that they can do to you first hand, but let me tell you, that’s only the beginning. They will kill you without a second’s hesitation. They will torture you for information with a smile on their face. The will annihilate the person you love the most right in front of you. They are trained killing machines.” Evie stood there in silence at what Eden had just said, and she was surprised to see a touch of regret in her eyes as they glassed over. She appeared to be remembering something that had happened, but Evie didn’t want to pry. The look on her face told her it was traumatic. Eden quickly snapped out of it and smiled.
“Okay. First of all I’m going to go to attack you full on, but I won’t actually touch you. What I want you to do it to make a cross with your arms and bend your legs with them slightly apart, one in front of the other, to give you stability and so it doesn’t knock you backwards from the force of it.”
Evie nodded and readied herself for the move. Less than a few second later she found herself on the floor in pain – Eden had punched her square in the chest and sent her flying.
“What the bloody hell was that for?” Evie asked angrily. Tears were at the corners of her eyes from pain, but she didn’t let them fall. Eden offered her a hand up, which Evie grudgingly took.
“If you want to survive in this shitty world we’ve been put in, you need to learn the first lesson: people lie.” Eden looked at her then walked back to her original place, leaving Evie to ponder what she had just said.
They went through various different techniques that Eden knew – Evie was impressed at how knowledgeable she was on the subject. She seemed to be able to answer every one of Evie’s questions in great detail, and with lots of demonstrations. She was clearly the best fighter they had in the group. Evie was only able to master a couple of the moves she was taught, but didn’t feel disheartened by it. When the hour was nearly up, the two were sweating and tired from the exercise. Eden decided to summarise the session.
“Okay, what I’m going to do is pretend to be an Auror.” Eden stumbled over the sentence slightly, but Evie didn’t seem to notice. “I’m going to attack you and you’re going to practice all of the things I’ve taught you today. It’s probably going to hurt, given that this is your first full practice, but it’s also going to hurt when you’re dead.” Eden readied herself and her eyes seem to go darker. “Prepare yourself.” Slightly scared about what was going to happen, Evie stood in the position Eden had taught her. She attacked.
Evie managed to defend herself from Eden’s round-house kick, which hurt a lot, but was then caught off guard with a blow to the stomach. Evie gasped in pain, still aware of her old injuries.
“Stop!” she cried, clutching her stomach.
“The Aurors won’t stop, Evie!” Eden cried in return, pushing her over onto the floor. “The Aurors won’t show you mercy!” another kick to Evie’s side whilst she was down caused her to cry out. “Fight back, Evie! Defend yourself!”
“I said STOP!” Evie screamed, quickly getting onto her feet. Not for the first time, she became eerily aware of everything around her as her anger and pain increased.
“No!” Eden simply cried in return, throwing a punch and knocking Evie back over once more. “If only your parents saw you now, Evie,” Eden whispered, leaning over her battered and bruised figure. “I don’t think they’d be proud.”
This was the last straw for Evie. She slowly got to her feet, her side and stomach aching from the pain. She looked Eden square in the eye and said, “Bring it.” Eden laughed and raised her clenched fist.
Evie was ready this time. She managed to expertly duck her body out of harm’s way when Eden’s fist came towards her, and quickly pushed Eden away from her before she could react. Eden was knocked back with the force before landing on her back.
As soon as she realised what she’d done, Evie went rushing over to Eden, who was groaning and panting. She felt her senses slowly return to normal as she took in the groaning figure on the floor. “Oh my god! Eden, I’m so sorry!” Evie felt truly terrible – it was in the heat of the moment, and Eden was being rather provoking. “Are you okay?”
Eden grimaced through the pain, raising herself into a semi-upright position with Evie’s help. “I’m fine. Whatever you did... that was good.” Evie noticed that Eden was smiling, impressed. “I think we’re done here today.” She looked up at Evie and grinned through the pain. “You’ve done great.”
Evie felt terrible as she hauled Eden to her feet and took her back to the medical bay, gaining a curious look from Issy as they passed her. “What did you do now?” she called after Evie but she ignored her – she wanted to make sure Eden was okay. A sly thought came to Evie as she wondered whether she could push Issy with as much force.
When Eden finally assured her for the tenth time that she would be just fine and that she was made of tougher stuff, Evie left. She headed back to her room once more, wanting to avoid any extra work so that she could just sit and breathe for a while. She flopped down on her bed, exhausted and frightened. She’d never done that to anyone before, not even when they were in a real-life situation like that – she sent Eden flying. She wasn’t particularly strong for her age and had been okay at PE when she was at school – but this was different. She’d hurt someone.
Evie rolled onto her side angrily, realising that she was sticky with sweat. She checked her watch and decided to change – it would be dinner soon. Just as she was standing without a top on, deciding on which to wear, the door opened and someone walked in.
Evie spun round and screamed at whoever the intruder was, grabbing the sheet off of her bed to cover herself. She saw a shock of blonde hair bang his nose on the doorframe in his haste to exist and groan in pain.
“Noah! What the fuck!” Evie cried. She hardly ever swore but felt that this time, it was appropriate. “Have you ever heard of knocking?!”
“Oh God, I’m sorry! Sorry!” Noah kept repeating whilst clutching his nose the entire time. He was still facing away from her, wishing the ground would swallow him whole. Evie hurriedly shoved on a top and said it was safe to turn round. Noah’s face was beetroot as he continued to clutch his nose.
Evie, flustered, tried to gain her composure back and look as icy as possible. “What do you want?” she said with an edge to her voice. Noah was now trying to move his nose as much as possible to regain feeling, but stopped at her sharp tone. His expression hardened.
“I...” he started, and for a moment he seemed unsure of what he was going to say. Evie stood with her hands on her hips, raising an eyebrow impatiently. “I...” he sighed. “Dinner’s ready.”
“I know. I have a brain,” Evie snapped in reply, turning away from him. Noah stared hard at her turned figure, still blushing and wondering what he on earth he could do to make her forgive him. There is an awkward pause as neither knew what to say.
“Are you alright, by the way?” Evie finally asked as a side thought.
“... You hit your head on the door.”
“Oh. Yeah, I’m fine.”
There was a second pause. They could both hear the distant voices of the rest of the group heading to the canteen. Evie bit her lip, wondering whether she should say something, but decided against it. The look on his face told her everything she needed to know.
Noah looked at the angry and annoyed girl in front of her and resisted the urge to sigh. He wondered whether he should say anything, but decided that it would be stupid to even attempt to – she still wasn’t happy with him.
“So... dinner’s ready.”
“You said, but great, thanks.” Considering the conversation a terribly embarrassing lost cause, Noah left. That was the last time he ever took Robbie’s advice.
Evie sighed with relief when he left; the meeting had been beyond awkward. Evie wondered whether they’d ever be right again.
With little to do around the base and the days stretching longer as winter melted away to spring, Evie found herself doing all sorts of things in order to keep busy and avoid Noah. She had mastered bouncing a ball against her wall to perfection, had decorated with flowers (whenever she could quickly open the back door and venture a few metres for wildflowers) stuck in tin cans as a vase, and had tested the mysterious gift from her father so many times that it now lay forgotten on the corner of the room somewhere, having not seen the light of day for some while. She’d been feeling rather lonely; with only Robbie to turn to if she wanted to have a friendly chat or in-depth conversation, the absence of a blonde-haired man was keenly felt. As much as she loved Robbie as a friend, she couldn’t bring herself to tell all of the secrets and quiet musings that she had used to tell Noah – especially as she had another.
As each day passed, Evie began to grow more and more suspicious of Eden. She always looked tired and worn out, as if living at the base had taken some great toll on her. She often retired to her room to take ‘naps’ and jumped at small noises. Whenever she was spoken to by someone, whether it was about a job to do or just to ask how she was, she’d snap at the person until they got the message. This meant that most people tried to avoid her as she grew increasingly distant from the rest of the group. Evie couldn’t put her finger on what felt wrong, but it was more than obvious that something was up. She wasn’t sure if any of the other had noticed it, so decided to keep it to herself.
Her suspicions were confirmed when she walked past Eden’s room one day, on her way to chat to Robbie about how she’d been feeling lately: listless and miserable. She was getting ready to moan about her day when she heard voices from Eden’s room. Her brow furrowing, Evie gingerly held her head to Eden’s door to listen better.
“Yes – yes I know... I’ll get it done. I will, okay? So bloody insistent...” she heard Eden say in a panicked but annoyed voice. Evie’s concern increased – what did she need to do? Who was she talking to? She couldn’t hear the other voice, but from the way Eden was sighing it wasn’t a friendly conversation. “Look, I will get it done. Leave it to me.” Evie heard a small movements and Eden sighed deeply. Evie quickly realised that she might come out of her room any moment, and knocked on the door as a ruse.
“Eden? Are you okay?” she called, knocking. Almost instantly the door opened, revealing a panicked and suspicious Eden. She eyed Evie up and down, her expression unreadable.
“I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be fine?” she asked a fraction too quickly, and Evie raised an eyebrow in response.
“Well, I’m pretty sure I heard you talking to yourself.”
“OH!” Eden looked relieved at Evie saying this, as if another answer would not have warranted such a happy reaction. “Yes, sorry. Habit. Terrible habit. I’m fine. Why were you listening?” Eden said all of this very fast, and ended the question with a raised, suspicious eyebrow. To say that she’d undergone a personality transplant was an understatement – just a few weeks ago she was kind and friendly, but now she was paranoid and cruel. Evie couldn’t help but frown, and Eden noticed.
“I was just walking past, Eden. I wasn’t listening,” Evie lied. She had the sudden urge to get out of her presence as fast as possible; she didn’t like this new Eden. In response Eden merely narrowed her eyes and said nothing. Without a word, she retreated back to her room and slammed the door shut in Evie’s face. She wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened – had she just spied on Eden, only for her suspicions to grow stronger?
There was nothing she could do now. Walking away slowly from the strange encounter, Evie sought out Robbie. She eventually found him outside, digging in the vegetable patch that he managed. As he was the one who cooked all of the meals, he said that he’d rather grow as many ingredients as he could so they didn’t have to steal as much food. It always smelled wonderful in the vegetable patch; the smell of new life. Evie felt much more at peace outside when the base was hectic and claustrophobic. She settled herself down on an upturned bucket as Robbie worked at the hard earth. He smiled when he saw her.
“Somethin’ troublin’ ya, hun?” he asked, stamping his foot onto his large shovel. It seemed that Robbie was an extraordinarily nice person and was always perceptive about Evie’s thoughts and feelings.
Evie smiled sadly, rubbing the back of her neck as she hunched over. “Just... life.”
“Life sucks, huh?” Robbie replied cheerfully. Evie laughed as he continued to merrily plant potato seeds in the earth. For someone who had experienced terrible things in his lifetime, Robbie always tried to be as upbeat as possible, but there was always something there. Sometimes, Evie could sometimes see the sadness in his eyes. “Anythin’ in particular?”
Evie shrugged. Robbie stopped what he was doing and lowered his huge body the balls of his feet, looking at Evie. Now was one of the times she could see the pain behind the soft lashes and brown eyes. “Listen to me, Evie. Everythin’s gonna be just fine. You’ll sort things out with Noah, eventually,” he added in a silly voice to make Evie giggle. He smiled at the dimples it created. “We’ll all be okay. Everyone’s just a bit down at the moment. Spring blues, apparently,” he added, casting a quizzical eye above the blue sky dotted with fluffy clouds. The watery sun washed them in pale light. “If you ask me, everyone should be out here helpin’ me. Then they’d be able to see nature’s fine work, and feel a million times better.”
Evie couldn’t help but smile at Robbie’s simple approach to life. They talked for hours as the sun moved across the sky, eventually becoming overcast. They talked about everything – their favourite things, funny stories, even their childhoods. For the first time, Evie was able to hear about his dad and how he would help out on the ranch that he grew up on, how his mother would make the best pies in the whole county, and how his grandparents spoiled him rotten. “I don’t know if any of them are alive now,” he said sadly. “If they are, then I hope they’re okay.”
Evie bowed her head and then realised that she had little to say about her own parents. Of course, there was her loving adoptive family, but she didn’t have much to say about the man and woman which gave her life.
“I wish I knew more about them,” she voiced glumly. “I wish I knew who they were, what they were like. The only stuff I have on my mum was that she was a pure-blood, whatever that means, and that her last name was Archambeau. Evangeline May Archambeau...” she practiced the new last name. She didn’t like the fit. “Sounds French.”
“It does. You wanna know what pureblood means?” Robbie asked. Evie nodded her head eagerly, having only guessed at what it meant before. “It’s a really old term to describe the amount of magical blood you have in you. I’m a half-blood, my dad’s a wizard and my mum’s a muggle.” Evie noticed that he used the present tense to describe his parents. “Then there’s muggleborns, whose families haven’t had any magic in the line before. They’re usually descended from Squibs without even realising.” Robbie sighed heavily. “Then you’ve got us. The duds.”
“Don’t say that,” Evie implored, grabbing his hand. “We’re all fantastic, amazing people. Well, maybe not Issy,” she added, making Robbie chuckle and shake his head. “I used to be a great believer in fate, before all this. That we can’t control our destiny, that it’s all been mapped out for us. But now, recently... I think we create our own destiny. Every little decision and choice all adds up. And because we choose to fight, to carry on fighting until we die, we are wonderful.” Robbie stared at her for some time before pulling Evie into a tight hug. He then returned to his work as the two sat in a comfortable silence, both thinking about the possibilities that Evie’s words had brought. It felt as if hours had passed when Robbie spoke once more.
“Still been gettin’ them headaches?”
Evie prickled at the word and huffed. Her headaches, which she originally thought to be gone, had come back with a vengeance. She managed to just about ignore them in the day when she was busy, but it was when she was lying in bed that they did their worst. They pounded her brain mercilessly, keeping her up until the early hours in the morning so that she was tired for the rest of the day. As the vicious cycle continued Evie found the bags under her eyes becoming more prominent, her vision blurring and feeling shaky and faint at some points. She wanted to just ignore them until they went away; there wasn’t anything that the others could do. “Yeah, I am.”
Robbie replied nonchalantly, not noticing her discomfort of the topic. “You thought about going to see Eden about them? I’m sure she’s got somethin’ up her sleeve.”
Evie bit her lip as she debated about whether to tell Robbie of her suspicions. The small drama of the morning with Eden had pretty much confirmed that something odd was going on, but she couldn’t tell whether it was something personal or something that would affect the rest of the group... and perhaps not in a good way. A niggling voice in her brain told her that she should really be going to see Xavier about it right now, but something was holding her back. Eden had been a part of the team for months and had been fine up until now – maybe she was wrong? Maybe she’d misheard the conversation? Evie didn’t really want to think about it.
“Nah,” she finally replied when she realised that Robbie was waiting expectantly for an answer. “I suppose they’ll just go away soon.” She realised that she seemed to push everything that bothered her to the back of her mind. Eager to change the topic, Evie asked a question which had been annoying her since Robbie mentioned his parents. “Robbie, is there any way I’d be able to find out who my dad is? My real one?”
Robbie looked at her with a devilish glint in his eye. “Of course there is. We’re able to access all files on Ministry workers, as well as Wizengamot trials and the Daily Prophet archives. Just ask Noah.”
Evie’s heart sank – anything involving trawling through records meant going on Noah’s computers, and that was something she was hoping to stubbornly avoid. “Is there any other way?” she pleaded. Robbie chuckled and shook his head at her.
“Don’t be silly, Evie. The only way you’re going to get the answer to that is by goin’ to ask Noah to do it for ya. Of course, we could plan a full scale mission to the Ministry, but do you really think Xavier would allow that? You just need to go and talk to Noah.” Evie decided to drop the matter and the two chatted for a while longer until Robbie was done digging. “I’m gonna go shower, dinner is soon!” he called out, leaving Evie to her thoughts. Her stomach gave a large growl half an hour later and she decided to make her way to the canteen, shivering from the chill of the spring evening.
Passing through the main hall, the place was deserted. Issy, usually complaining loudly and slobbing out in the den area was absent, as well as Noah from his computers. Evie glanced over to the abandoned computers and her brain gave a sudden jolt.
This was her chance.
She hurried over as fast as humanly possible and gingerly sat down on Noah’s large office chair, cracked and worn from use. Her feet didn’t quite touch the floor as Evie quickly checked to her left to see if she was visible from the canteen. She wasn’t. She heard the clink of a glass as someone laughed. In a few minutes time they would be done – she didn’t have long.
Evie immediately set to work, navigating her way through various networks and files. It was all unlocked as Noah probably didn’t expect anyone to log on whilst he was away for a few minutes – Evie felt a pang of guilt in her chest at this realisation, but quickly brushed it away. She could feel guilty later.
After getting nowhere, Evie sat back in the chair and huffed, frustrated. She only had a couple of minutes left before everyone would be back, and she had gotten nothing. She quickly ran through what she could do, and suddenly remembered Noah saying that he ran a filter to find certain information. She quickly did this with the key word being ‘Archambeau’ – nothing came up. Evie frowned, wondering whether she had spelt it wrong, but after several attempts of different words nothing more happened. It was as if her mother had been completely wiped from the system. But why?
Giving up, she then searched for ‘operation newblood’ to see if she’d have any more luck. Once more there was no mention of her mother, but a file caught her attention when she noticed that it had been recently edited. Double clicking on it, the profile of a handsome young man with dark hair neatly cut and a long face was brought up. His mouth was curved upwards in a smile, but there was sadness in his eyes. Evie thought that it seemed to be the case with most of the people she knew now. His name read ‘Jeremy Whyte’ in bold black lettering.
“Jeremy Whyte...” Evie whispered to herself, entranced. Reading further, she found what she was looking for. “Father to Evangeline May Archambeau!”
Evie almost screamed with excitement, but this was quickly extinguished when she read on. Died November 2094, age 31, boating accident. Further information can be found at the Ministry archives.
“Dead?” she whispered. A crashing wave of reality hit Evie with full force as her stomach dropped. She’d not had her hopes up exactly, but expected both of her parents to still be alive. The thought of her real father being dead hadn’t crossed her mind. Jeremy had died when she was two years old – she wouldn’t have remembered him. She stared at the photo of her father longingly.
Evie wanted to spend more time looking at the file but she could hear chairs scraping back and approaching voices. She quickly clicked back onto Noah’s work, jumped down from the platform and jogged towards the corridor across the room.
“What’s going on?”
A cold voice stopped Evie in her tracks. Her heart stopped as she twisted round and saw Issy from across the hall, an eyebrow arched. She looked suspicious.
“Why were you running?”
The lie came easily to Evie. “Exercise. I’ve been feeling a bit podgy lately.” Issy’s eyes narrowed slightly.
“There’s hardly anything of you.” Her lip curled slightly, as if she was happy to back Evie into a corner, but Evie held her ground.
“Doesn’t mean I can’t be healthy, does it? I was about to sneak outside for a run and this was my warm up, but you’ve caught me.” She knew she was getting herself in trouble here, but Issy finding out what she was actually doing would be far worse. Evie could feel herself flushing red as Issy slowly walked closer until she was standing directly in front of Evie.
“Don’t let me catch you again.” With this, she flounced off.
Evie let out a small sigh of relief as she carefully watched Issy’s retreating form, her heart beating fast. That had been very close. She quickly walked off to her room to think about what she’d seen, the image of her father’s sad eyes burning into her mind.
A sudden thought came to her. The file had been edited recently, but why? It was clear that the operation had existed long before Evie was born, so the files would have originated from then. What was so special about her father that meant all the information about him was being held at the Ministry? Was it something to do with her?
Evie smiled resignedly to herself. Well, she thought, there’s only one way to find out.
It was pitch black when she woke up, but she quickly and quietly dressed, eyes and ears on full alert. Pushing her hair from her face, she slung the rucksack she’d packed over her shoulder and put on her shoes. Reaching for the worn piece of wood she’d missed using so much, a ghost of a whisper lit up the end of her wand.
Eden was ready.
Casting one last look round her bedroom, she thought about the items she’d left behind. Nothing meant that much, except the small photo of a little blonde girl clutching some flowers and smiling broadly. She sighed – it was the only photo she had of her niece, but she needed to make this look authentic. Her gaze lingering on the photo, Eden left the room.
She crept quietly along the corridor, ears pricked for any noise and looking out for any movement as she held her wand out in front of her. She knew it was time to go – as soon as Evie had given her that suspicious look the other day she knew her time was up. Eden reached the main hall, silent as the inky blackness encased her. She could make out the rough corrugated sheets of steel that was on the walls, and in the distance, her destination: the computers.
As she approached, a small scrambling noise caught her off guard. Eden whipped her head round, wand raised, until she saw that it was merely a rat scuttling past. She exhaled and waited for her heart to return back to normal. She couldn’t be seen. Tapping herself on the head with her wand, she soon felt the uncomfortable feeling of the Disillusionment charm being cast. She couldn’t take any risks.
Eden turned back to the computers. Slipping the rucksack off of her back she withdrew a small device that looked like an old Muggle invention used for computers. Plugging it into the back of Noah’s main computer, the object soon began to flash red intermittently. Eden cast another charm on the tracking device so that it couldn’t be seen. She felt her stomach twist as the guilt took over.
The Squibs had been good to her – accepted her made up story with little question, taken her in as part of the group and even became friends with her, and now she was betraying them. Think of your job, a voice in her head hissed furiously, your family! Her beautiful little niece was the only thing keeping her going. Her family had been captured and imprisoned where they put the rest of the Squibs; Eden shuddered involuntarily at the thought of it. She would return to the Ministry now and show Hector and the Hunter what she’d done, and her family would be set free.
That didn’t make it any easier, though. In a few days the tracking device would have done its job, and all the Squibs would be dead. She tried not to think of them all, lying in this very room, cold and lifeless. Tears pricked at her eyes and she angrily brushed them away. She still had one more job to do.
Eden could not stop the tears coming as she pulled the vial of thickened red water she’d made up to look like blood. Pain shot through her heart as she carelessly splashed the liquid around; before long, it looked as if a serious attack had just happened. When they discovered she was missing, hopefully they’d put two and two together and run for their lives. She had a job to do, but that didn’t mean that she wanted them to die. A wave of sorrow hit her; it was time to leave.
She thought of all of the good times she’d had here; her long chats with Issy, laughing with Robbie and watching the shy looks between Evie and Noah. Even Xavier had come to accept her as one of the group. She thought of Adam, wonderful, lovely Adam, and how she was the reason he was dead.
The guilt was killing her.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered into the darkness, and with a loud crack Disapparated.
“Evie, wake up.”
Evie blearily cracked open an eyelid and was surprised to see Noah shaking her awake whilst Xavier searched through her belongings. Confusion soon turned to panic as she realised that her figurine wand was stashed away in the room somewhere. “What’s going on?” she asked as a distraction. Noah looked grim.
Evie’s blood ran cold as she took in the news. “What?”
“Eden didn’t come to breakfast, so we were suspicious. When we found she wasn’t in her room or the obvious areas, it’s become apparent that... Eden has gone missing.” Xavier said in his slow and formal voice. His face matched Noah’s. Evie gulped.
“What? How could that’ve happened? Wouldn’t a break-in be picked up on the scanner or something?” Evie quickly got out of bed, now fully awake. She wished she could be useful in some way. Noah looked even more tense at the mention of his precious machinery.
“Nothing unusual was picked up - that’s the thing. It’s worrying.” Evie could only look at him anxiously.
Xavier finished his searching a few moments later and he turned round to Evie. He didn’t seem to care about the fact that Evie had overslept for the thousandth time or her dishevelled appearance. His eyes were cold as he surveyed her.
“Do you know where she is, Evie?”
She’d been expecting this from him. Evie shook her head. “No.”
“Are you sure?”
This threw Evie off slightly. She threw a sideways glance at Noah, who was looking uncomfortable as he stood in the doorway. What should she do? Should she tell them about the mysterious conversation she heard the day before? Should she leave it for now and maybe tell Xavier at a quieter time?
This seemed to satisfy Xavier. Noah, on the other hand, gave her an odd look as if he had noticed her quiet scheming. She inadvertently gulped.
“Okay. We’re going to need everyone up and running so that we can conduct a full search of the base. God knows this place is big enough for someone to get lost. Be ready in five minutes.” With this, Xavier left. Noah dawdled with his exit until he was sure Xavier was gone, and rushed back in. Evie eyed him warily.
“What do you want?”
“Well you didn’t look suspicious at all there, did you?” Noah hissed. He looked angry. “Are you hiding something from us? Something that could help us work out what happened?”
His tone and manner made Evie harden. If he still wanted to argue, then that was fine, but she wasn’t going to react. “No, I’m not.” Immediately his face softened.
“Evie, I – I’m sorry. I overreacted the other day, and... I’m sorry that I was talking about you to Xavier. And I’m sorry about the... Issy thing. Um, yeah.” He rubbed the back of his neck, embarrassed. “I’m sorry.”
Evie felt her heart beat a little faster, against her better judgement. The sorrowful look in Noah’s eyes told her that she would be able to forgive him and stop the arguing once and for all. But... there were more important things to be doing at the moment. She sighed and closed her eyes.
“We can talk about it later,” she finally replied, giving Noah a small smile. He looked hopeful and smiled back. “Come on. We’ve got a bad situation on our hands.” The niggling worry that Evie had about what had happened was growing rapidly. Noah glanced at her as they walked.
“You sure you don’t know anything?”
Evie sighed. “It’s just all very suspicious.” Before Noah could question her more, they had reached the others. Evie took Robbie’s side, giving his hand a small comforting squeeze. It must be hard for him to relive this all once more, as they had with Adam just three months before. Issy looked at everyone suspiciously with her arms crossed, waiting for instructions. Xavier addressed the group.
“Everybody here knows by now that last night, Eden has gone missing. We have yet to do a thorough search of the entire base, which is what we’ll all be doing now. Issy, you do the ground floor and surrounding rooms. Robbie, you take the first floor, and Evie you take the second. Noah and I will be outside. No one else is to leave the base under any circumstances. Do I make myself clear?” Everyone nodded silently. “Good. Let’s pray that we find her.”
Evie set off towards the second floor. She had only been up there a handful of times and only for a few minutes at the most. It was one of the oldest parts of the building and was rarely used; Xavier only required for it to be used as storage. The entire floor was covered in dust and cobwebs, with watery sunlight filtering in through the grimy windows. Evie saw puffs of her breath form in the air; it was freezing cold. Every sort of manner of object seemed to be here – thousands of old computer parts and electrical wires ran amok through the floor, which instead of being separated into rooms was one giant floor. It seemed as if the walls had been knocked out decades ago. No matter how hard Evie tried to quell the thought, the abandoned feeling of the place frightened her a little.
She took a tentative step into the room and a cloud of dust greeted her. She coughed and spluttered, waving away the dust particles floating in the air. Evie sighed. “Best get to work,” she mumbled to herself. Eden’s life was at risk; there was no time for cowardice.
Evie picked her way through the room, working her way methodically through the rubbish and occasionally calling out for Eden. No reply ever came. Evie highly doubted that Eden would be in here, but searches had to be done. If Xavier found out that she hadn’t done it properly then she would be in serious trouble. An hour passed with no sign of life, the only movement being something falling from its precarious perch and landing on Evie. Before long she was covered in dust and bruises from things hitting her. She collapsed on a heap of ancient keyboards, frustrated.
Then, something extraordinary happened.
Out of the corner of her eye, Evie spotted something moving. Her heart quickened and she felt cold dread run through her as she slowly turned to face the mass. What she saw surprised her. Instead of being a person or worse, it was in fact... dust?
But this wasn’t normal. The dust was swirling and creating a pattern, before forming itself into a mini twister and simply staying there, as if frozen. It continued to twist and turn on the spot, neither losing or gaining momentum. It was strange, yet oddly beautiful. Evie moved her hand to touch it, inching ever closer... her ring finger reached the swirling mass. At her touch, the dust tornado instantly collapsed into nothing and was no more.
Evie was bewildered. What on earth was that and how did it start? She looked around the room; there was no sort of draft coming from outside. She’d never seen anything like it before, and in a closed room... a thought struck her.
Did I do that?
She didn’t have time to ponder the matter, because at that moment a blood-curdling scream came from downstairs. It was so loud that Evie felt a shiver go down her spine.
Someone had found something.
When Evie had finally picked her way through the rubbish and hurtled downstairs, everyone was already there. She saw Robbie’s leg whip round a corner, heading for the foyer. She sprinted in the direction where she heard soft whimpering getting louder and louder. When she finally reached the foyer, she gasped. Blood seemed to cover one of the walls, pooled in the corner. Chairs had been knocked over and there were obvious signs of a struggle. The conclusion was evident.
“The Hunter,” Xavier finally said. Evie thought she saw a flash of pain cross his face, but it was gone so quickly she could have imagined it.
The reaction was instantaneous. Noah was comforting Issy as best as he could whilst she sat on the floor, eyes wide and sobbing. Evie was past caring at this point – they needed to find Eden and bring her back safely... whatever it took. Xavier left and beckoned Noah to follow, who reluctantly left Issy’s side. Robbie hoisted Issy into his massive arms and carried her back to the main room, with Evie close behind. Noah and Xavier already had maps and blueprints out of certain areas of the Ministry.
“The Ministry? Why there?” Evie asked, not making the connection. Noah looked up at her as if she were mad.
“The Hunter is working for the Ministry – he was with the Aurors at the fight we had at Harry Potter’s. If Eden’s been taken, she’ll be there. She’s probably...” Noah shuddered. “She’s probably in the place where they keep all the Squibs. The labs.”
Evie blanched at the mention. When she had first met Noah, he told her about the places they kept Squibs and what they did. Robbie almost dropped Issy at the mention of them – it brought back his own painful memories. His face hardened.
“We need to get our Eden outta there.”
The team immediately set to work about how was the best way to launch a surprise attack, but Evie hung back. She kept thinking about the conversation she’d overheard with Eden and the unknown person just the night before, and how it was all either very tragic or very coincidental that she should go missing the next day. Her morals were conflicted. Perhaps her old self would have been willing to let it go and be happy with what everyone else was doing, but her time with the Resistance had changed her. She realised it now – she wasn’t willing to just sit back and go with the flow. Evie had the niggling feeling that, as self-centred as it sounded, this was something to do with her – something bigger than she suspected. The files on her mother, the incident with the Hunter last month, the unexplainable occurrences... Adam’s death and now Eden’s disappearance. The answer was obvious.
She needed to find out the truth.
She didn’t want the others to get involved and hurt themselves or worse. Despite the initial cold reaction, she had grown to care for these people and they had provided her with a place to go when the rest of the world was after her. They had protected her at the funeral and fought by her side on more than one occasion. It wasn’t fair for any of them to be involved in what the Ministry was after: her.
Evie snapped out of her reverie at the sound of her name being called. Everyone was looking at her as Noah asked, “Are you alright?”
“Y-yes. I just need to head to my room for a bit.” Evie sped off before anyone could question her further, and finally flopped onto her bed. She pulled out a pen and notebook from her dresser drawer and began frantically scribbling all of the errant pieces of information that just didn’t seem to add up over the past few months. She detailed her headaches and when they happened, her superhuman reflexes that she seemed to have developed since coming here, her visit to the Ministry and anything else that she could think of that was strange or out of the ordinary. She chuckled at her definition of ‘ordinary’, considering she was involved in an ongoing war between people who could do magic. So much had changed for her since she had turned seventeen.
Evie didn’t stop to pause until she had tacked each piece of paper she had written on up on her wall, creating a giant mind-map of events and thoughts. Scribbles and arrows were dotted across the haphazard pages connecting random thoughts together, whilst some were written in a different colour to highlight their importance. Evie stood back and admired her handiwork, taking it all in now she could see what was there. It seemed that was she had been thinking before was confirmed – there was something inexplicably linked to her... but what?
She’d need to head to the Ministry for more answers if she ever wanted to get to the bottom of this. Evie sighed at this eventuality. If she ever wanted to find out about her parents, why she was a Squib and why the Ministry were after her, she would have to go straight to the source itself. She thought about telling Noah or Robbie about this idea, but quickly dismissed the thought. There was no way she could tell anyone – she’d have to go alone, or they would either tell Xavier or try to accompany her and she couldn’t risk any more lives. Not even Issy’s, Evie thought to herself.
She’d be able to go looking for Eden too, to help her at the very least. She could find out where she was being kept and send a message to the others, and they could join her – after she’d done the necessary research. But when?
It was gone midnight when Evie finally left her room. During the day whilst everyone was busy she had gone to steal some more disguises that she had previously used, and also to get a gun. It was a small pistol – she figured it wouldn’t be missed in the hubbub of planning to rescue Eden. She’d been called upon to do some small tasks and to make sure that she understood her role in the upcoming mission tomorrow, but apart from that her absence was unnoticed during the day. She planned her imminent visit to the Ministry in great detail until she felt as if she were fully prepared. She had all of the things she would need that they usually used in preparation for a Ministry raid to keep them safe and hidden. She was ready.
She crept down the corridor as quietly as she could, not daring to breathe and remembering to step over the creaky spot in the floor. She held the makeshift wand in her hand, running her thumb over it - even if it was of no use, she thought of it more as a good luck charm than anything else. She smiled at the memory of her mother and father, and what they would do if they knew where she was and what she was doing. Would they be proud?
Eventually she reached the main room, and a certain unease settled over her. Was it really wise for her to just leave as Eden had? What would they do in the morning? What if she didn’t come back?
She shook the thoughts out of her head, not wanting to dwell on the negative. Evie decided it was best if she left a note to them all so they would know where she was if something went wrong. She hurried over to Noah’s massive work desk and grabbed the nearest piece of paper, hurriedly penning ‘I want answers. Don’t follow me.’
Satisfied with this, she left the note tucked under the monitor of Noah’s beloved computer. If something happened to her, she would miss him the most; she knew that now.
It pained her to leave the safe bubble of the base and into the unknown, but it was necessary if she wanted answers. If she ever wanted to get to the bottom of this, she had to do this alone.
Evie sighed and cast her gaze over to Noah’s computer. She hoped he would find her note, and forgive her.
She readied the Apparator. With a crack, she was gone.
Evie was barely able to stand as she landed with a thud on the cold marble floors of the Ministry. She was getting better each time at Apparating, but this particular time had thrown her. Perhaps the nerves were a part of it, she thought to herself. She quickly stole away into the shadows of the corridors and checked that her defences were in order. She wasn’t entirely sure that she’d done each one perfectly, but they would have to do for now – there was work to be done.
Evie set off in the direction which she thought that the Auror headquarters were. She remembered them being just a few levels up from where she was; she’d studied the maps which Xavier and Noah had left lying around before she left. But as each passing moment went Evie’s uncertainty grew. She wasn’t entirely sure which floor she was on to begin with, and each corridor she passed looked exactly the same as the previous one. Evie squashed down the panic that was beginning to lodge in her chest and took a deep breath. Where do I go?
It took an hour for her to finally find where she was looking for. More than once she’d had to flatten herself against the wall and hold her breath so that she couldn’t be heard by a passing Auror or security guard. She’d been to the Ministry around three times before doing raids and had never once seen an Auror patrolling – perhaps they had increased security because they were expecting someone, or something.
They’re expecting us.
At this Evie had a sudden, horrible thought that all of this might be a trap. Perhaps the Ministry had taken Eden to deliberately draw the Resistance in, like a fly to honey. Dread encased her as she thought of the possibility. If it were true then it would bring Eden into question and her true loyalties.
Evie didn’t want to think about the possibility that Eden was not a true Squib. Even if she’d had her suspicions about her, she was still a part of the group. She pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind and entered the circular room that she was looking for - the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
The same wonderful and mysterious objects were still there, but Evie had no interest in poking around this time. She went straight to the Head Auror’s desk and immediately found the files she was looking for sitting on top of a mound of paperwork. Her own school photo once more gleamed up at her, alongside the rest of the group’s. This time, there was only one file she was interested in – her mother’s.
She carefully opened the document, the magical sealing enchantment having no effect once more, and slid the contents out. She saw the same pale face with tired eyes as before, but Evie had made sure to study the photo more carefully. She was pleased to see that she had the same face shape and eyes as her mother, but her heart broke at the expression in her eyes. It was clear to see that Evie’s mother, Julianna, had been through a lot of hardship in her life. Eventually Evie tore her eyes away from the image and moved onto the contents. There was little information that she hadn’t seen before; it seemed that they were having a hard time keeping tabs on her mother. Evie felt oddly relieved at the fact that she was hopefully keeping safe and not in immediate danger, but annoyed that there was more here for her to read about. She wished she could know every little detail about her parents to make up for the lost time.
The only new information was that Julianna had been spotted in northern Germany around three weeks ago. A prickle of fear shot through Evie as she wondered about her mother’s whereabouts. What was she doing in Germany?
There was also a small side note written in the margin of the file, detailing that Julianna’s parents, Pierre and Anastasia Archambeau, had disowned her the year that Evie was born. Hot tears sprung up behind Evie’s eyelids as she realised just how unwanted in this world she was. She gulped down a sob before taking a calming breath and searching for anything about her father in the file. She didn’t know if they were married or whether she was a result of a fleeting love affair, but she should at least know his name. After several minutes of searching there was only one sign of any name: Jeremy Whyte. It was a second scribbling, but this was faint – it was written in pencil, and someone had tried to rub it out. She wasn’t sure whether it would lead to anything, but it was a start. Evie put the file away, making sure that it looked as if it had not been touched. Anger was still coursing through her veins and she resolved to never meet her grandparents. She quickly exited the room – her time at the Resistance had been fruitful. It was as if no one had been there.
Evie hid for a moment as she thought about where to go next. She hadn’t really gained much from reading the file; the only thing she had was a name that she wasn’t sure was particularly connected to her mother. Still, it was better than nothing. She decided to head to the Archives department to see if there was anything about Jeremy Whyte or her mother in there.
It took her another half an hour to finally arrive at the Archives. It was one of the further down departments, and the air got colder as she went further down. A couple of times Evie felt her neck prickling as if she was being followed, but when she turned round no one was there. She put it down to nerves and paranoia, but stuck a little closer to the shadows nonetheless.
The archives door was huge and old, with ornate patterns dancing across the oak wood. It looked out of place against the cold, clinical black tiles of the Ministry. Evie pulled the door open, which seemed to have been charmed for it was like pulling at air, and slipped inside. She made no noise.
The room itself was huge and towering, with thousands upon thousands of shelves holding all sorts of records dating back from since the inception of the Ministry. Evie turned on her torch and shone the light upwards – she couldn’t see the top of the ceiling, the room was so huge. Her tiny torch allowed her to see that she was located at the ‘E’ files. Evie decided to pass through ‘S’ to see if there was anything about the Squibs, then to ‘W’ to find more about Jeremy Whyte.
She felt as if she had been walking for ages and was getting tired when she reached the ‘S’ section. Evie didn’t need to look hard to find anything about Squibs – they had an entire shelf to themselves. Some of the boxes on the shelves were overflowing with papers and files, whilst others were barely used. Evie sat down and pulled the nearest box towards her. It was filled with photos of people she didn’t recognise – all of them had big red ‘X’s slashed across them. She blanched and put the box back in its original place. Another seemed to be filled with strange gold orbs that glowed when she picked them up. Flames licked the walls of the sphere, looking menacing in the dim light. She decided to pocket one of them and carry on searching.
Evie approached the ‘W’ section with trepidation and slowed her jog, finally reaching the section. Her stomach was in painful knots and her heart fluttered excitedly. Ever since she had seen the name she had been trying to not get her hopes up, but seeing someone who could be her father written down on paper made it hard to quell. What would she do if he wasn’t her father? What if someone had just written it down as a mistake?
It was too late to turn back now. Evie hoisted herself up onto the ladder and moved herself across until she was in the right section. There, on the top of the pile, was a folder labelled ‘JEREMY WHYTE’. It seemed to be recently moved – there was no dust on it. Once she returned to the floor, she tentatively opened the file.
A picture of a handsome young man greeted her, with green eyes and dark hair. It was undeniable that Evie looked like him – their mouths and nose were the same. With a smile, she realised that she had found her father. She read on.
Name: Jeremy Whyte
Blood status: Muggle-born
Current status: Deceased – boating accident*
The file was clearly old as there was no mention of Evie in it. She felt saddened by the fact that there was a possibility her father didn’t know about her, or died when she was very young.
The small scribbled star next to the cause of death intrigued Evie. It was written in red ink, and as Evie searched for another scribble she found a match at the bottom of the page. In thin, loopy writing it said ‘Please turn over’. Evie picked up the corner of the page, heart racing at what she might see.
There was a noise.
Evie instantly dropped the file. Her head whipped round to peer into the darkness. She saw nothing.
She heard footsteps.
Her heart leapt into her mouth as she froze, praying that the enchantments she had would work. The footsteps drew closer. Evie felt fear pound through her being. Her entire body was alight with terror.
Another step. She needed to move, but her feet were rooted to the ground.
The German accent made her gasp with fright. She covered her mouth. The Hunter was here.
The heavy footsteps of the Hunter immediately followed. Evie sensed him catching up on her. She ran forwards, running on pure adrenaline, zipping between the soaring shelves until she was dizzy and lost. If she was caught, she was dead.
She kept frantically running until she heard the footsteps fall away. Evie slowed, drawing a long shaky breath. Her lungs felt as if they were on fire as sweat rolled down her forehead. The room spun before her eyes as she blinked hard. She wheezed once more and decided to keep walking. She couldn’t afford to stay still.
Each footstep felt like her last. Fear overwhelmed her as she stumbled once or twice, barely finding the strength to continue. But she had to. She needed to survive. The stitch in her side grew as Evie began to feel the panic mount. She could die in this very room and no-one would know.
Evie strained her ears for any sounds of movement, but heard none. She was alone.
“There you are, Ungeziefer.”
The Hunter was back. Evie ran as he lunged for her, ducking out of his way easily. It seemed her reflexes had come to the rescue once again. She heard a snarl from behind as she ran, feet slapping against the cold marble. Evie ducked and weaved between the rows of shelves, hoping for something, anything to help her. She prayed to find an exit.
The Hunter was hot on her heels. It seemed he had gotten a new wand as flash after flash of multicoloured light went soaring past Evie, scorching the wood and floor. Different boxes burst open as they were hit by a multitude of spells and scattered to the floor in tatters. The shelves swayed angrily as their contents teetered. Evie jumped as high as she could into the air to avoid an oncoming jet of purple light. The ground where her feet had just been melted into a puddle of molten lava. Evie panicked and ran impossibly faster. At one point she slipped over and hit the floor hard, feeling her hip bang against the hard base. She quickly got up again, wincing at the sharp pain that now resided in her side. It slowed her down considerably. Gritting her teeth, Evie pushed on, trying not to whimper.
The archives were like a maze. Each time she found one direction to follow, she’d end up in an entirely different place. She was beginning to tire and the pain in her side was getting worse. The Hunter was gaining on her, laughing as if it were a game. I can’t give up, not now.
Then, the worst possible thing happened. Evie reached a dead end.
She slammed into the wall front ways, quickly spinning round to see the Hunter leering down at her. Her invisibility defences were lost in the chase. The smile on his face was almost soft as he uttered the words that would haunt Evie.
“Got you now, little girl. Stupefy!”
A/N: Ungeziefer - vermin. We're nearly at the end now - thank you to everyone who has stuck with it! Just two more chapters to go...!
It consumed her.
Evie’s head throbbed as she blearily opened her eyes. Her vision was blurred and she blinked a few times before it became clearer. Everything ached. Her side felt completely shattered and her ankles and wrists hurt. When she tried to move them, she found that she couldn’t. She grimaced. Slowly moving her head to her feet, she saw ropes binding her to something. A quick inspection of her wrists showed the same predicament. She was trapped.
Evie felt sick. She groaned as her stomach seemed to flip and turn, making her nauseous. Her heart was beating unusually fast as the fear quickly crept up on Evie. Where was she?
At this, the memories of the night came flooding back. The archives. Her father. The Hunter. She swallowed a gasp. Dread hit her like a ton of bricks.
Evie tried to look and see where she was. She seemed to be suspended in mid air, bound by thick ropes which kept her in place. Looking round, she saw the huge fountain and marbles archways which belonged to the main hall of the Ministry. Her gaze finally settled on two men. Fear settled in her stomach and her eyes widened. The Hunter was standing there alongside Hector Mutegi. They were smiling.
Hector looked calm and composed as he smiled, his black eyes glittering. Whilst the Hunter towered over Hector his presence was not nearly as intimidating. He looked smart and refined with crisp emerald green robes lined with what seemed to be expensive jewels. He looked every inch the dictator. He spoke.
“Miss Archambeau, welcome.” His voice sounded rich and captivating.
Evie found it within herself to reply. “That’s not my name.” Her vocal chords sounded scratched and raspy, but she willed herself not to crack. Hector merely continued to smile.
“Come now, you and I both know that isn’t true. After all, you did come here with the intent of finding out about your true birth parents, did you not?”
This threw Evie. How did they know that she was here in the first place? Were her defences not as strong as she originally thought? Hector laughed at the confusion that crossed Evie’s face as she thought.
“Our Auror team saw you the moment you arrived. After your little stunt at Mr. Potter’s abode, we couldn’t have you running amok now Evie, could we? Of course we’ve invested in the very highest security systems we could devise. I’m afraid your attempts at remaining undetected were rather poor. A magical face mask, wasn’t it? I could pick those up in a joke shop.”
“If you knew I was here, then why didn’t you come and catch me?” Evie finally asked. She tried to not let the tremor in her voice show.
“I thought it were best to let the events... play out,” Hector said. He clasped his hands behind his back and continued to smile pleasantly. “It all worked out rather well for us, don’t you think?”
Evie couldn’t help but agree. The Ministry had her right where they wanted her. The Hunter smirked at her lack of answer. He was twirling his wand absent-mindedly between his fingers. Hector spoke once again. “Now, Evie, do you know why you’re here?”
“Let me take a wild guess: because I’m a Squib? Because I’m worthless to society? I’m sure you treat all of us like this,” Evie answered hotly. She felt the anger boiling up inside, mixing with the fear. Hector looked shocked at her answer.
“Of course not, my dear girl! Do you really think we give people of your kind the courtesy of being allowed to talk before they die? To try and worm their way out of it? No. We dispose of them without a second thought. You, Miss Archambeau, are special.”
“My name is NOT Archambeau,” Evie growled. “It’s Hart. And please, do enlighten me as to why I’m here if my guess is wrong.”
“You are here, Miss Archambeau, because of your parents. You are unique; a hybrid that the wizarding world has not seen before.”
“Cut the crap and just tell me.”
The boldness of her words surprised even Evie herself. Hector raised his eyebrows and the Hunter took a step towards Evie, a murderous glare etched onto his face. Hector stopped him with one hand raised, his gaze trained on Evie. She felt uncomfortable at the intensity of his soulless black eyes.
“Very well. It is time you knew about your father, and exactly who he was.” Despite her predicament Evie couldn’t help but feel interest at the mention of her biological father. She was finally going to find out the truth.
“Your father was a very famous man, Evie Archambeau. His name was Jeremy Whyte. He was born into a muggle family with no previous signs of magical ability, and showed no exemplary skills within the usual allotted time of magic presenting itself. Your father lived his normal muggle life, until when he turned twenty seven. It was at this age that magic presented itself within him.”
Evie mind was already running through a thousand questions. Noah had told her the usual age for a wizard or witch to demonstrate magical abilities was at a young age, maybe four or five – so why was her father so late?
Hector seemed to read her mind. “Your father’s sudden magical ability remains unexplained. It is, shall we say, a natural phenomena. There has never been such a recording, then and since.
"Your father met your mother, Julianna Archambeau, who belonged to a pureblood family dating back centuries. It was a tale of the princess with the beggar boy. Their rather fleeting love affair produced an unwanted outcome: you.” Evie narrowed her eyes, but made no further reaction, ignoring the pain in her stomach. She didn’t want him to get the better of her. All the while the Hunter continued to pace, and Hector kept his focus on Evie. “You were shown to be a Squib, but instead of your mother handing you over to the Ministry as is protocol with Squib babies, she decided to take her chances and run. She did well, too. We didn’t know you existed until you showed up right under my nose.”
“So what has this got to do with me? I’ve shown no magical ability. I’m a Squib, remember?” Evie couldn’t control the bitterness that showed through. Hector smiled once more, but this time with intent.
“You, Evie, are the key to the Ministry’s dreams.”
Evie’s understanding stopped at this point. Her eyebrow raised and she contemplated what on earth he could possibly mean. At this point, Hector turned on his heel and started walking towards the giant statue at the centre of the Ministry.
“Your father showed magical ability aged twenty-seven. Your mother showed hers at the age of six. According to genetics, you will begin to show the same magical ability in the near future, if you haven’t already.”
Evie felt her heart stop for a second. Her? Magical? Her mind raced through all of the strange occurrences that had happened ever since she turned seventeen. Hector must have seen her alarm. “Have you ever had something strange happen that you couldn’t explain, Evie? Perhaps you were angry, or scared?”
“No,” was her reply. “No, I haven’t.” He mustn’t know the truth.
Hector turned abruptly towards her. “You’re lying,” he called out from across the hall. “I can see it in your thoughts.”
Evie didn’t understand how it was possible, but kept silent. She tried to show an air of nonchalance, but felt as if she were failing miserably at it. If he could read her mind, did it matter?
Her chest was heaving at all the new information. She was magical. Did this mean she wasn’t truly a Squib? Evie suddenly remembered that he said he could read her mind, and so tried her best to keep her mind as blank as possible.
“I’m afraid that it isn’t all peaches and cream, however,” Hector added carelessly, continuing to pace. The Hunter watched him, still smirking. “I’m sure that whilst you were in the archives, you saw that your father’s official cause of death was a boating accident. The reality is actually very different. Poor Jeremy couldn’t handle the sudden influx of magical powers to his system. His condition began to rapidly deteriorate, until he died less than six months later. It was a national tragedy – your father was quite a favourite with the papers. But you, Evie, have an advantage that your father didn’t – a pureblood mother.”
It hit her. Evie suddenly understood why she was here.
“You want to use me. My magic.”
“You do catch on ever so quickly,” Hector beamed as if he were applauding a small animal for performing a trick. “Yes, we wish to use you, or more specifically, your blood. The things we could do...”
A new wave of fear washed over her. “And what is that exactly?” Hector stopped his pacing and paused to look at Evie. She cringed under his glittering gaze.
“You really want to know?”
“We can create a new breed of wizards, so powerful that the rest of the world will be begging for mercy.” Hector smiled serenely once more, the look jarring with the venom dripping from his voice.
Evie gasped out loud at this. A new race with her blood would mean... “Their powers would increase!”
“Correct. The theory has been tested and it has been proven that if we mix your blood with those who are magical, they will become stronger. We will be able to bring the muggles to their knees and we will be able to stop hiding once and for all. Our race will become the most supreme on the planet. Don’t you want that, Evie? For the greater good of our kind?”
Her response was instantaneous. “You’re crazy. There’s something seriously wrong with you. You’re messed up!”
At this, Hector laughed out loud, his entire body shaking with mirth. “No, Evie. I merely wish to right what had been wronged since the existence of man. We are instinctive creatures, you know – and our instinct is to survive. You are how we will achieve it.”
“No!” Evie cried, struggling at her bonds. The Hunter snarled at her as she kicked and pulled with all her might. “I’ll never help you! I won’t do it!”
“Who said we needed your permission?” Hector asked. His smile had disappeared. “I am a man who always gets what he wants, Miss Archambeau. Always.”
The two began to inch ever closer. Evie tried to mask her fear with the hatred bubbling in the pit of her stomach. “Well I suppose there’s a first time for everything, Mr. Mutegi.”
She had overstepped the line. Hector practically flew towards her, grabbing a fistful of Evie’s hair. She cried out in pain. “You Squibs are pathetic. Thinking you know better than those who are superior! You fools didn’t even notice the undercover Auror we sent!”
It was true. Evie didn’t need to know who it was – Eden had betrayed them. She was never one of them in the first place.
At this point, a window smashed and a screaming blonde figure came soaring through it, landing on her feet with incredible finesse. Hector and the Hunter whipped round to look at the intruder – it was Eden.
“Ah, speak of the devil!” Hector was back to the pleasant smiles and open arms. “I was just telling Miss Archambeau about your rather fascinating role in the little group of hers.”
Eden quickly looked over at Evie with guilt written all over her face, to which Evie narrowed her eyes in response. She would never trust her again.
“It doesn’t matter about that, Hector,” Eden replied coolly. Her wand was raised, pointing directly towards the Hunter. “What matters is that I’ve learnt what’s wrong and what’s right in this world. You were wrong about everything!”
“Then please enlighten me as to how I was wrong, Miss Mallaby.” Hector waited patiently for a response. Eden looked positively murderous.
“The Squibs are good people! They aren’t like what you tell to everyone, with your miserable lies and deceit. They’re humans, just like us, and you’ve persecuted them until there’s nothing left! They were never the aggressors, they were the defenders!”
With this, Eden shot a spell at Hector, but he produced a shielding charm so quickly that it bounced off and flew to the ceiling, sending shattered glass to the floor. All Evie could do was watch helplessly and attempt to shield herself from the raining glass as a duel began between Eden and the Hunter, who had instantly sent a curse flying in Eden’s direction at her initial attack. Hector simply stepped back and watched the two fight to the death, curses and spells flying in all directions.
Evie thought about what Eden had said. Was she simply trying to cover herself? She highly doubted it as Evie was the one tied up and not the other way round. That left her with one conclusion: she truly meant it.
A small flicker of hope sparked in Evie’s heart. However, it was soon distinguished in a matter of seconds. Eden shot a final spell at the Hunter, who collapsed on the ground, motionless. Her cry of triumph was short lived as Hector’s smile vanished.
He raised his wand and cried, “Avada Kedavra!”
Eden crumpled to a heap on the floor, dead.
Tears sprang to Evie’s eyes as she took in the scene before her. Her heart seemed to stop. “No!”
She thought that seeing Adam’s body was bad enough, but seeing someone she had believed in and fought for killed right in front of her brought on a new level of emotion that Evie didn’t know she had in her. She began to cry silently, lamenting the loss of the woman who could have helped Squibs in the battle for freedom. A sob escaped her lips. Hector turned his attention to her. His cool composure was now lost.
“Enough of this!” he cried, reviving the Hunter quickly. He looked groggy and disoriented as he stood shakily on two feet. Evie felt a small surge of bittersweet happiness that Eden had managed to defeat him in her final moments as the tears continued to roll down her cheeks.
The two men advanced on Evie. She tried to struggle but to no avail; the bonds that held her seemed to only become tighter. The Hunter conjured several vials and some sort of IV drip before Evie’s eyes. She began to struggle even harder, shying away from the objects, snarling as if she were a wild animal.
“As I was saying, Miss Archambeau, I always get what I want.” Hector stood in front of her, where she could see the depth of his onyx eyes. There was not a hint of mercy in them. “I will have your blood for my own. Emerson, if you please.”
The Hunter grinned manically at Evie before lifting the sleeve of her top up. He readied the drip and went to attach the needle. Evie closed her eyes, preparing herself for a long and drawn out death.
There was a huge explosion.
Evie heard Hector scream as the bonds that were keeping her magically imprisoned disappeared. She fell to the ground before being covered in a giant wave of rubble and dust, large chunks of debris assaulting her being over and over again until she was buried. Then, there was silence.
“EVIE!” a voice roared, echoing off of the walls. Evie feebly attempted to open her eyes and move, but found that she couldn’t. The voice continued to call for her, getting more and more frantic. It was getting closer. A small part of Evie’s brain recognised that the voice belonged to Noah. Her hand fluttered upwards, her fingers moving out of the rubble.
Large, strong hands encased her own and she was hoisted out of the rubble. Her eyes stayed closed, wondering whether this was all a dream. Am I awake? Am I even alive?
“Evie, no, please wake up, please, I’m sorry about everything, I really am, just please wa-“ Noah stopped mid-rant as Evie’s eyes gradually opened. She looked at him blearily, smiling at the relief on his face. She groaned in pain. Evie felt herself be set down so she could stand, and found herself in Noah’s arms.
“Noah,” she whispered, “I’m sorry.” It was all she could manage for now as she rested her head against his chest. She felt safer than she ever had before. Noah tilted her chin up to face him.
“I’m sorry too. Although doing all of this really wasn’t a good idea you know,” he chuckled. “We could have helped.”
“No, this was something-“ Evie started weakly, but Noah silenced her with a gentle caress of her cheek.
His smile softened. “I’m going to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, Evie.”
With a final smirk, Noah brought his lips down to Evie’s in the sweetest kiss she thought she’d probably ever have, mixed with the confusion and anguish of watching her friend die. Evie felt torn as his lips moved against hers in a dance of love and passion.
Their time was short-lived. Evie and Noah broke apart at the sound of a groan, with the faint echo of distant alarms setting in. An arm emerged from the rubble accompanied by a body as Hector and the Hunter emerged from the chaos.
“We need to go,” Noah said hurriedly as he grabbed Evie’s hand and pulled her in the direction of the gaping hole that was a result of the explosion.
“How did you...?”
“No time to explain!” he called as the rest of the group came in to view. Each face showed determination mixed with fear. Xavier’s expression was unreadable. Behind them, several loud calls and footsteps could be heard. The Aurors were coming.
“Run!” Noah called out to them, and they took no haste in sprinting away from the scene. However, Evie was slowed down considerably by the pain in her side and lack of energy, so much so that she collapsed into a heap on the floor, hitting the cold marble hard. Blood filled her mouth as Robbie scooped her up and hoisted her over his shoulder with ease.
“We seem to do a lotta runnin’ these days,” he said wryly.
However, it seemed that the Aurors had learnt from their mistakes. Evie could soon see their forms hot on their heels, throwing their spells with renewed vigour. It was a sight to behold as the spells flew off and ricocheted off of the walls, bouncing around and creating shattering the walls as tiles and plaster began to rain down. Evie screamed as she saw a spell headed straight for her. Robbie quickly darted out of the way and the spell hit the wall, melting part of it away.
“GET THE GIRL!” she heard Hector scream, as the Hunter bounded towards them, faster and stronger than any of the others. His eyes were blazing with the thrill of the chase. He snatched forward towards Robbie, but fear seemed to motivate him to escape the Hunter’s clutches by mere millimetres.
In front of them, a large gate quickly dropped down in the middle of the tunnel, forcing them to stop. Issy wasn’t quite quick enough and slammed into the metal grill, crying out in pain. They quickly turned left, but the same thing happened. For the second time that night, Evie was trapped. There seemed little hope of escape. The group knew what they had to do: fight, instead of run. They readied themselves.
When the Aurors turned the corner, shots and spells were instantly fired, the sounds of cries and victorious yells. This setting had become all too familiar to Evie, who had her hand on the gun that she still had with her. She hesitated as she fingered the holster. An Auror saw her moment of weakness and sent a curse in her direction, which she quickly dodged. Her newly found reflexes were helpful in these situations.
Noah was sticking close to her, defending both her and himself as well as sending out attacking shots as often as he could. It was hard to see through the haze of smoke as the two sides battled relentlessly. Evie ducked and dodged her way through Aurors and those of her team alike, quickly pulling Issy out of harm’s way when an Auror nearly got the better of her. Issy quickly shook herself out of Evie’s grip and grunted a quick “thanks” before joining the fray once more. Robbie seemed to be holding his own with five Aurors on him at once. It didn’t matter. The more Aurors they took out, the more they seemed to be coming from every angle. Xavier seemed to be fighting a more personal battle with the Hunter, his lip curled back in sheer ferocity as he lunged at the equally huge man. They were soon grappling on the floor.
A strangled cry of pain made Evie whip her head round and see Noah fall to the ground, clutching his arm. A large burn had appeared, causing a red blistered mark to appear and begin to spread. Two Aurors closed in at once, sensing their prey’s weakness.
Evie realised that Noah had sustained the injury covering for her because she couldn’t do it herself. It was time for her to grow up and face the facts: she needed to look after herself if she wanted to survive in this world.
The comprehension gave her power. She approached the two men with her gun raised, and pulled back on the trigger slightly, hearing a click. As the Auror raised his wand with the fatal strike, Evie fired a shot into his foot. He crumpled to the floor, howling in pain. There was not time to contemplate. This was for Noah, for Eden, for Adam. Evie moved towards another Auror and promptly punched one in the stomach. He doubled over and sank to the ground, winded. She quickly elbowed the other in the face and heard a crack as he clutched his nose, howling. The onslaught of guilt threatened to overwhelm her, but she pushed it back. This was a matter of life or death. These men wouldn’t hesitate in killing her.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Hector Apparate away from the fight. She knew she would be seeing him again soon. Her hesitation cost her this time as she was hit with a stunning spell that sent her soaring into the air, landing on her front. Evie coughed and spluttered as she rolled over to face her attacker, tripping him over and delivering a blow to the head as she knocked him out. She thanked Eden silently for teaching her that move. She looked around her desperately. More and more Aurors were closing in as each member of the group looked increasingly panicked. Issy was suddenly bound in ropes and cried for help. Evie ran over to free her. Noah lay on the ground, trying to fight with his good arm, grimacing in pain. The amount of men that Robbie was fighting had since doubled and he had resorted to barrelling into them. The fight between the Hunter and Xavier was still going strong, but it looked as if the Hunter was winning.
“Stop! Everybody STOP!”
Evie flung round and was shocked to see Hector once more, who clearly only left to gain an advantage. He had returned to the midst of the fight and had grabbed the injured Noah, and was now holding a wand against his throat. Noah, despite being taller, struggled against his iron grip. His face twisted in pain as Hector had a hand on his burnt arm. “Now let’s just everybody calm down.”
The Aurors stopped what they were doing but retained their grips on the Resistance; they were trapped. Evie had nothing else to do but face Hector, whose glittering eyes bore into her.
“Evie, the answer is simple. I think we all know how much this... vermin here means to you. Give yourself up, and the boy goes unharmed.”
“No!” Noah yelled, but he quickly recoiled in pain as Hector gripped his injured tighter. A silent spell later and his voice was gone. Evie remained quiet.
“And if I don’t?” she answered, defiance in her eyes. Hector smiled.
“Well, plenty of this will happen.”
In an instant Noah was on the floor, writhing in pain and screaming. Evie looked on in horror; seeing someone being tortured never became familiar, but seeing Noah so powerless when he was normally her rock made something crack. A tear snaked down her cheek, followed by another as the Cruciatus curse was finally relented, leaving him panting and grimacing more than ever before. “The decision is yours, Miss Archambeau. Life, or death.”
Evie desperately thought of what to do, dropping her arms to her side and angrily wiping the tears away. It was pointless. They were vastly outnumbered. Her hand brushed against her pocket, revealing the orb that she had picked up on the archives. She didn’t know how she hadn’t noticed before, but it seemed to be pulsating, as if sensing the battle. She pulled it out of her pocket and saw that it had changed to an angry red colour, alive in her hand. It was getting hotter and hotter by the minute. Hector’s eyes widened as they took in the now threatening looking object. He seemed to know what it was.
As a last attempt, Evie threw it towards the Aurors.
The mother of all explosions erupted from the tiny orb, engulfing the entire corridor in flames. Everyone was thrown back several feet; Evie landed hard on the floor once more, blacking out for a second. Hector Apparated away immediately with several Aurors tried to do the same, but were blown away with the force of the explosion and were engulfed by the flames. Even the Hunter’s eyes were wide with fear. The group ran away from the flames as fast as they could, followed by the Hunter.
“This isn’t over!” he shrieked as he Apparated away whilst running, leaving the group alone and victorious.
The flames continued unremittingly until they made it into the main entrance of the Ministry. There they jumped into the water at the fountain and quickly dipped their heads under as the flames went right above them. Eventually, the giant explosion petered out, leaving the Resistance soaking wet and injured but alive. The chaos around them was unimaginable as Evie resurfaced; windows were smashed everywhere and several parts of the Ministry were on fire. It wouldn’t be long before the rest of the wizarding world arrived. Evie did a quick head count to check they were all there. They were. They’d done it.
Xavier was the first to speak as the silence hit them. “We need to move.”
Nobody argued with the instruction. Wounded and broken, they activated the Apparators and hastily disappeared.
A/N: Hopefully this has answered a lot of questions! The final chapter will come next week... be prepared!
A week later
Evie hummed as she worked, tidying up and cleaning used bandages. She had decided to take over Eden’s old role of the makeshift doctor, in an attempt to make amends to the group. Xavier had been furious beyond belief at her, but the rest of the group seemed pretty okay with her leaving to try and find Eden and to find out more information about her parents. Issy was perpetually angry, so she didn’t count.
The thought of Eden made a frisson of sadness come over Evie as she thought about what the brave young woman had sacrificed for them. Even though she had doubts about her, Eden had laid down her life for what was right and just; when she explained the story to the others, they all seemed shocked yet touched at her actions. None of them were too happy about the fact that she was a Ministry spy who had infiltrated their group, least of all Xavier, but just as it had sparked hope with Evie it did the same for them. If one person could see that they were just normal human beings with thoughts and emotions, then it was a start.
Evie’s injuries seemed fairly trivial compared to everyone else’s. She’d be sporting a huge bruise down her side for a while, but apart from that and a few cuts and scrapes, she was fine. Noah had received the worst of the lot – his burn would scar and take weeks to heal. All that Evie could do was apply soothing cream and smile shyly at him as he grinned back. When he left he gave Evie a quick kiss on the cheek and a whispered “Thank you,” before dashing off to deal with Xavier.
Xavier had had quite the meltdown after he found out about Eden. He demanded that Noah should triple the protection once more and look into a new security system. They barely talked him out of uprooting the entire group and finding a new base, but Issy reminded him how long it took for them to find where they were now. Noah had simply rolled his eyes and gotten to work, typing slowly with one hand as the other was in a sling.
Issy and Robbie were pretty okay and so helped Evie clean up the mess, with Issy limping slightly. Noah was working at his computers and Xavier had locked himself in his office, refusing to speak to anyone. They decided that it was best to leave him alone.
Issy was feeling the loss of Eden acutely. She was perhaps her greatest friend in the Resistance; finding out that she was an enemy spy had cast a shadow on her. She shot suspicious glances at everyone, as if suspecting them of the same treachery. Despite her defensive nature, the sorrow in her eyes at the loss of a friend was clear to all.
It was late in the day and the sun had set when Evie was finally able to collapse on her bed, exhausted from the day’s events. Despite her light-hearted feeling, she felt older and wiser from what had happened. It was as if someone had added a thousand responsibilities to her shoulders. She frowned at the thought.
A gentle knock on the door distracted her from her thoughts. Noah poked his head round the door shyly, smiling goofily like he had been for the past week. Evie smiled back and patted the bed next to her, where he joined her. The two lay on their backs in a comfortable silence for a while before curiosity got the better of Noah.
“What did he want from you?” Noah burst out, causing Evie to look over. His eyes were filled with worry. She sighed; she hadn’t told anyone what had happened yet, despite Xavier’s insistence.
“He wanted my blood. Apparently my dad was really famous because he showed that he had magic when he was an adult.” Noah’s eyebrows shot up. “Yeah. So they wanted my blood so they could make the wizarding world stronger, and take over the world.” Thinking about it, Evie thought it sounded like a bad movie. She chuckled tiredly at the thought.
“Well... shit.” Noah stared up at the ceiling pensively. “What makes you different?”
Evie had been dreading this question. She closed her eyes whilst she said what had constantly been on her mind for days. “They told me that apparently, I have magic in me too and that it’s just slow building, but because I have a pureblood mother that it should start showing up soon.”
Evie didn’t think that Noah’s eyebrows could go any higher, but they did. “Wow. They might be wrong, though.”
“Yeah, hopefully. I’d rather be a Squib than be the only one of my kind,” Evie admitted truthfully. She looked over at him. “Would you still like me if I was a freak of nature?”
Noah laughed and propped himself up on his good arm. “I’m pretty sure I’d like you. It depends if you grew loads of facial hair and warts and stuff. Turn into a real witch.” He cackled as Evie pushed him over. She rested her chin on his chest and blushed, looking down.
Noah sighed. “I wish you knew what those Firecrackers were when you saw them in the Archives. I can’t believe they still had them. They were so dangerous they got rid of them all.”
Evie had heard this from the rest of them. “I know! They’d have gotten rid of them now anyway. We can dream.”
“Yeah.” There was a silence. Evie couldn’t bear it and gazed up towards Noah’s smiling face.
“So where does this leave us?” she asked shyly. She was pretty sure that things would work out for them now, but there was still a seed of doubt planted in her mind. She didn’t want to build her hopes too high. Noah responded by pulling her closer into a chaste kiss, ghosting over her lips. It was so tender and heartfelt Evie couldn’t help but smile.
“That’s where it leaves us.”
Evie grinned and snuggled into Noah’s side as he kissed the top of her head. The two had been there for five seconds when Xavier’s angry cries for Noah rang out so loud that they could both hear them. Noah winced.
“Bugger. I took a five minute break and apparently I should be shot for it,” he rolled his eyes dramatically and Evie giggled. He kissed her on the nose and got up. “I’ll be back soon.”
With a final smile and backwards glance, he was gone, leaving Evie to her thoughts.
Everything seemed to be working out well now. She knew that the matter between her and Hector would not be settled for a long time, but for now she was able to ignore it all and just concentrate on building her new life as a Squib. She had grown to love everyone in the group and form bonds she never thought possible. She thought of her mum and dad, and wondered what they’d be thinking if they saw her now. This ignited a thought.
Evie reached under her bed and wrenched free the makeshift wand that she had attached there. If she were magical, which she wasn’t sure she truly believed, then perhaps it would make a difference.
After holding it for a few moments, studying the intricate design, she waved it around for a bit. When nothing happened, she felt instantly foolish and went red, glad that no one was around to see her embarrassment. She clearly wasn’t magical.
A wave of tiredness hit Evie and she quickly drifted into a dreamless sleep, holding the makeshift wand in her hand as she drifted.
The wand sparked.
A/N: AHH! It's finished! Thank you so much to everyone who has stuck with this story for the past three years, especially marinahill and PenguinsWillReignSupreme! I hope you've enjoyed this rollercoaster ride and... there is a sequel! So look out for that soon! Thank you once again and let me know what you think <3