Chapter 1 : Prologue
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Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry stood as tall and formidable as it had done for the past thousand years; the aged brown bricks with which it had been built being struck by the fierce Summer sunlight giving the seven story high castle towers an almost heavenly glow around them. Traditionally on a hot and blue-skied day such as today, the majestic castle grounds would be teaming with life and the many classrooms within would be the home of hundreds of students studying to hone their magical abilities. Today however, at least from an outsider’s point of view, the only trace of inhabitants was the single open window of a large and ornately decorated office located within one of the many impressive towers.
Leaving the window wide open in the hope of catching a Summer breeze, the little bald man who paced up and down the office muttered to himself. Aaron Kirke was an elderly gentleman whose long grey moustache stretched to the edges of his wrinkled chin and who currently wore a pair of smart black dress-robes. The pale green eyes that traditionally would have been alert and vigilant during occasions such as these were presently shut tightly in concentration as Aaron muttered and re-muttered his speech.
He was just about to reward himself for getting through it twice in a row without fault with a drink of water when a sharp knock at the door to the Headteacher’s Office stole his concentration.
“Yes,” He called out as he reached over to the desk to grab his drink.
The door creaked open and revealed a tall, slim-figured, green-robed Witch with bunched up grey hair and sharp dark eyes.
“Minerva,” Aaron greeted. “Come now, you don’t have to knock. This is your office.”
“And I lent it to you to practice your speech, Aaron.” Minerva McGonagall replied with a kind smile. “I hope I didn’t interrupt.”
“Not at all!” Aaron replied brightly. “Just got through it twice without a hiccup. I just hope I can say the same this afternoon.”
Minerva’s eyes narrowed at him impatiently. “Oh Aaron, don’t be such a drama-queen. When have you ever messed up a speech?”
Aaron gave a small chuckle. “I was always jealous of how Albus used to do it, you know.” He said reminiscently. “He always used to just make it up on the spot and nail it every time.” He then turned to face the wall behind the Headmistress’s desk that held the portrait for every Head Hogwarts ever had. The majority of them contained the figure they were dedicating though the one and only frame Aaron looked to was empty. “Trust him to be away when I need his advice.” Aaron tutted.
“In my years as Headmistress, Aaron, I’ve come to learn that Professor Dumbledore is only ever around when you need his advice and never for anything less.” Minerva replied as she too looked fondly towards the empty golden frame. “And seeing how he is nowhere to be found, I feel perfectly confident in telling you that the first of the guests are beginning to arrive.”
Aaron turned to peer out of the open window. Even from the great height at which the office was place, he could see the little black figures crossing the field-like castle grounds. He gave a small sigh. “And the students… I take it they’ll-”
“Yes Aaron, the students will also be attending.” Minerva interrupted testily. “As they will for as long as I am Headmistress at any rate.”
“Yes… Yes, of course.” Aaron replied as he wiped a trickle of sweat away from his brow. “I do apologise, Minerva. It’s just… the subject matter. Everyone here is sensitive about it, I mean how can they not be. Should I get it wrong…”
“Aaron,” Minerva started, as though she were about to explain to one of her pupils why they were getting a detention. “You are the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and a fairly good one too I might add. But never have I been more proud to call you such as when you announced that you would be speaking at this service. You are bringing every eye in the Wizarding World’s attention to today and I can think of nothing wiser.” She then walked over and gripped the little man’s shoulder. “I’m now asking you as a friend to pluck up and give today the justice that it deserves.”
Aaron took a deep, calming breath. “Of course, Minerva.” He said before smiling up at her. “You should probably go and help with the students. I’ll make my way to the grounds shortly.”
The Headmistress bowed her head before leaving her office.
Aaron stared at the door for a moment before downing the rest of the drink he still held in his hand. Leaving the glass on the desk he then moved his hand towards the dark brown suitcase engraved with his initials that sat right beside it.
He brushed his hand over the top, feeling the soft, smooth leather, unsure of whether to open it. “No,” He finally said to himself. “No, much too formal for today I think.”
Giving the briefcase a final pat, Aaron turned on his heel and strode out of the door, still muttering his speech.
The bright green grounds of Hogwarts castle were soon teaming with Wizards and Witches from all walks of life as well as Goblins, the half-horse half-human Centaurs of the surrounding forest, dozens of tiny House-Elfs and a towering Giant. In fact, unless Aaron was very much mistaken, within an hour of him joining the crowd at least three-hundred had shown up for the occasion, and that was before the students arrived. Led by their Headmistress, every single student of the school, from the small and awe-struck eleven and twelve year old first years to the tall and matured seventeen and eighteen year old seventh years.
Aaron couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched Minerva scold a third year for attempting to sneak in Weasley Decoy Detonator. With a second spark of reminiscence, he turned to face the shore of the great lake for merely a few short yards away from them sat a long marble-white tomb.
He was just about to give in to the urge of walking over to it when he heard a gasp and the clicks and scrambling’s of several journalists and their cameras. Turning, Aaron noticed the cause at once.
A young man, barely yet thirty, with jet black hair and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses over his bright green eyes had just arrived on the scene arm-in-arm with a slender, pale-skinned, red-headed woman. Harry Potter had grown up a lot since his days at Hogwarts. His work with the Dark Wizard catching Aurors had given Harry a much tougher, bulkier look though he could still only ever be described as slim and although his hair still possessed what was now being called his trademark mess, Aaron and the rest of the Wizarding community had to admit that it suited this older, fitter hero of a man far more than it ever did the gangly, speckled boy.
Aaron wondered whether or not he should seek out a conversation with him. It would inevitably happen, he knew, for the press if nothing else but to stroll over there now on a day such as this seemed tactless in Aaron’s opinion. Leaving Harry Potter to the mercy of his friends, Aaron was about to engage instead with the Minister for Magic when Minerva’s voice rang out across the grounds, magically amplified so that all could hear.
“If you would please take your seats, we will begin the service.”
At once, every single member of the crowd did as they were told and Aaron smiled as he wondered whether they were doing it out of respect or whether they had all learned better then to disobey Minerva McGonagall.
Once every member was seated, Harry Potter left his wife in the company of her brothers and strode up to the podium that stood before them all.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” He started. “Boys, girls, Goblins, Centaurs, Elves and Giants alike, welcome and thank you. I thank you for being here on the ninth anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts; a tragic and cruel affair that brought the deaths of many friends, family and loved ones.” From the corner of his eye, Aaron noticed Harry’s wife wipe her eyes before having a comforting arm wrapped around her by one of her brothers. “Today, I also want to give thanks to all of those who gave their lives to end the rule of Tom Riddle and his followers, but not alone. Joining us this year in our remembrance, I’m honoured to announce, is the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards, Aaron Kirke.”
Aaron’s eyes widened somewhat at his introduction as he stood to a round of applause. It was fairly well known that Harry Potter had never been one for long speeches and it seemed that, like Aaron, Harry would want to spend as little time as necessary talking about today as he could.
Taking his place at the podium, Aaron looked out towards the crowd, his heart sinking but his mouth opening nonetheless.
“My magical brethren, nine years ago this day, the Wizard styling himself as Lord Voldemort and his followers declared an attack on this school and those who dared to defy them and their cruel ways. Outnumbered, disadvantaged and for all intents and purposes outmatched, those within stood strong nevertheless and fought. In the end, the defenders of Hogwarts, many of them here with us today, saw triumph and the end of Lord Voldemort’s tyranny. Now while many believe this story to be one of grief and pain and loss, and they would be right in some regard, I see it as a story worth retelling to any who would listen and even to those who don’t,” He added, earning a number of chuckles from the crowd. “But above all, I see it as a story of unity. For you see even though those who fought against the Death Eater invasion were outclassed, they stood together in the face of evil; they stood together in the face of a far more powerful enemy and together they won. It is a moral that I have been injecting into the Confederation since my installation as Supreme Mugwump that standing together means victory even in the face of defeat.” Aaron saw a number of nodding heads and even noticed Minerva smiling encouragingly from the front row.
A flow of new-found confidence spreading warmly through him like a hot drink on a cold day, he continued “After the downfall of Tom Riddle and his Death Eaters, the Wizarding World was forced to take a good look at itself and make a firm decision on where it should stand on certain matters that led to the Dark Lord’s rise in the first place and I feel confident to stand before you all today and say that I am proud of where we find ourselves. The laws that once disabled Muggle-borns are day by day being rewritten if not erased, Ministries across the globe have never before formed stronger relationships with their Muggle counterparts and our crackdown on those who oppose such progression with lethal force, those who use Dark Magic in the face of hope and unity, has reached ground-breaking heights worldwide. For nine years now the British Ministry of Magic has been at the forefront of anti-Dark Wizard enforcement but together, united by the Confederation of Wizards, Ministries have achieved great things and I assure you, in honour of the fallen fifty who gave their lives nine years ago today, they are set to take them further so that they may protect with all of their strength.”
Over an hour later, the throng rose from their seats and began making their way to the nearly mile long table of food and drink. From what Aaron was overhearing as he joined the mingling, his speech had gone down well amongst the other speeches, the retellings of that night’s events from various fighters and Harry Potter’s annual reading of the list of names of the fallen fifty.
“Albus would be proud.” Minerva said as she offered him a tall glass of wine.
“Thank you,” He said as he took the offering. “It was a beautiful service all round, I think, truly beautiful.”
“I hope that’s a confirmation of your visiting us next year, Aaron.” Minerva said as she drank.
“Oh, of course,” Aaron replied jovially. “Of course. Though maybe from a just a spectator’s standpoint.” And he lifted his left hand to reveal it shaking of nerves.
One of Minerva’s eyebrows raised strictly though Aaron could tell she was fighting a grin.
“Ah, Professor!” Cried a voice from the crowd and the pair turned to see Harry Potter waving for McGonagall’s attention as he approached.
“Potter! Well done today.” She proclaimed once he reached them.
“Thanks, but I have to say public speaking never does get easier.”
“Oh nonsense! You did splendidly and were a true inspiration up there.” Minerva said in a tetchy tone that nearly made Aaron snort up his wine.
“She’s right, my boy.” Aaron coughed. “You did marvellously.”
“Thank you,” Harry replied offering a hand. As expected, the moment their hands clasped around one another, there were flashes of light all around them as journalists clamoured for a good shot of the Supreme Mugwump and the Chosen One who had vanquished the Dark Lord all those years ago. “And thank you again for speaking today, sir, I can’t tell you how much it means to all of us.”
“Oh don’t sir me.” Aaron said with a wave of his hand. “You’re not on bodyguard duty today and please don’t worry about thanking me either. Although,” He added as he looked around curiously. “Word has reached me that you’ve taken on a young Auror protégé. A girl by the name of Naomi, I believe. I’d love to meet the trainee of the reason we’re all still alive today if she’s around.”
“I’m afraid she’s not.” Harry said with a small smile as the crowd around them tucked in to the food provided for them as they all mingled with one another as they had done after the Battle of Hogwarts had been won. “She’s out on an assignment but I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed when you meet her. There’s a reason she’s one of only two we’ve taken on in the last few years.”
The late evening backdrop was adding a bright orange glow to the otherwise grey side-street scene. With the surrounding decrepit buildings blazing with the added colour one was almost certain to miss the outline of the two figures camouflaged into the background. For at least half an hour the pair stood sentinel, waiting, until a loud crack reverberated through the area and a short, broad man with long brown hair and pale grey eyes appeared from thin air onto the scene.
Striding down the street as though he had merely walked round the corner, the man headed towards a particularly rough looking building that had the majority of its windows either boarded up or missing entirely.
“Target spotted.” Naomi Pryce muttered quietly into her robes, the picture on her Auror ID card sliding out of frame as it carried her message to her fellows.
By Naomi’s lead, the pair moved from their hiding spot and followed the man as he walked up to the entrance of the building.
From within the dark, cloaked robes that he wore, he drew out a long, thin wand before pointing it at the weathered looking wooden board that stood where a door once did. After giving the wood a sharp tap, the man lowered his wand and walked through the board as though it wasn’t there at all.
“Lost visual but can confirm location.” Naomi muttered again.
“What do you think?” Her still near-invisible companion asked as she brushed the board with the tips of her fingers. “An Anti-Intruder Concealment Charm or…” And with one fluid motion, Naomi’s partner drew her own wand and tapped the wooden barrier lightly in its corner. At once the board turned to a thin silvery smoke that dissolved into the air almost at once. “Yep, a Copy-Cat Concealer Charm.” She said knowingly as she indicated the opposite building that shared the exact same boarded up entrance. “It’s all about perception, see?”
“Always the show off, Emily,” Naomi sniggered with a small smile. “Or we could’ve just gone through the large empty window pane right next to the entrance, Miss Perception.”
Emily stared at the hole mere feet away before turning back towards the main entrance, tutting. “No sense of style whatsoever.” She waved her wand over herself and deactivated the Disillusionment Charm that concealed her to reveal the long blond hair, the pale and lightly freckled skin and the slim, sharp figure.
Naomi gave a quiet snort of laughter as she did the same. “Then if you wouldn’t mind putting up an Anti-Disapparition Jinx as stylishly as possible, I’d love to take note.” Although Naomi was shorter than her fellow Junior Ranked Auror, Naomi was also curvier with ebony skin and straight dark hair that curved around her rounded face.
Once they were sure Emily’s jinx forbade anyone in the area from vanishing into thin air, the two young Witches entered the building, their wands raised and ready.
The dark and dusty interior of the building only helped their search as the man had clearly lit up his meeting for light spewed from around one of the bare-walled corners.
“About to engage.” Naomi whispered to her ID card as the pair silently approached the light.
“And these are genuine, are they?” They heard the man ask in a smoothly calm voice.
“Fresh in straight from the caves of the Western Cape.” Replied a deep, hoarse voice. “You’ll struggle to find purer I’ll tell ya.”
“Is that so?” Emily asked as she and Naomi appeared around the corner, their Auror IDs in one hand and their wands ready in the other. “Maybe you could give us a little more detail on how you brought them in, Mr Fryloin?”
“With your hands in the air of course.” Naomi added with a grin of her own. The seller, Mr Fryloin, was a weedy, grey looking man who appeared far less confident with the situation, Naomi noticed, than his buyer who merely stared stiffly at the two Auror with a pair of wide grey eyes. The only thing separating the pair was a small wooden table adorned with what looked like a wide variety of crystals and gems and a hovering ball of bright light above them.
Fryloin raised his hands to head height submissively as his eyes darted between the pair.
“Excuse me but that means you as well Mr buyer of illegally imported magical objects,” Emily ordered, noticing the man’s lack of cooperation. “I’m sure the Law Enforcer’s will have plenty of room to question the pair of you.”
The man continued to look between the pair of them with a calculating stare before turning his gaze to his would-be dealer. Slowly he began to raise his hands in surrender.
It was quicker than Naomi would have imagined.
The moment the man’s hands had reached shoulder height, he flicked the wrist of his right hand and a wand slid from sleeve and into the clutches of his palm.
“Avada Kedavra!” The man screamed and Fryloin was struck in the chest with a jet of green light that left him to fall limply to the ground, dead.
Both Naomi and Emily, though bewildered by the event, shouted out their own incantations but not before the killer had slashed his wand at the table and caused it flip in front of him in order to shield him from the attacks.
Crystals of all shapes and colour scattered to the floor as the Auror’s spells sent splintered chunks flying off of the table revealing just enough of the man to see him aim his wand at the wooden floorboards beneath him. There was a loud crash and the man vanished through a hole and to the underground floor beneath.
“What the bloody hell was that about?” Emily cried as she ran to Fryloin’s corps.
“One way to find out!” Naomi replied as she darted towards the hole in the floor. “Contact the Office and let’s go!”
“Naomi, wait!” Emily spluttered but waiting was the last thing Naomi did as she jumped down the hole.
Landing on her feet, Naomi immediately spotted the man running up a flight of stairs and pointing his wand at the steel bulkhead doors that would lead to the street. Naomi wasted no time in running after him as she aimed her wand and fired a Stunning Spell that just missed but instead collided with the wall to leave a small crater.
The was a loud bang and a flash of white light as the bulkhead doors were blasted open to allow golden evening sunlight to pour in. The man had made it to the street now but Naomi was close behind him, already half way up the stairs.
She ran through the opening and turned left to continue her chase. Looking over his shoulder, the man spotted his pursuer and quickly spun round to fire his second Killing Curse at her.
Naomi jumped sideways out of the way before sending a hex of her own back in retaliation but the man had already ducked into an ally and out of sight. Eager to catch up with the killer, Naomi ran as fast as she could around the corner in time to see the man running up the fire escape of another abandoned building.
The two continued to fire spells at one another as they both climbed the metal staircase though neither could land a direct hit but instead dented the railings and steps with their stray spells.
Naomi could feel her legs burning as she forced them to climb faster, the man now reaching the final flight that lead to the rooftop.
He was just about to set foot onto the roof, when he spun around and slashed his wand at one of the stair’s railings. At once it broke apart from the rest of the structure like a rising serpent and stretched outwards before taking a swing at Naomi.
“Reducto!” Naomi cried as she took careful aim at the slim target. There was a flash of white light and the snake-like railing recoiled backwards allowing Naomi to continue her pursuit. Again and again Naomi had to repel the attacking strand of metal before she finally reached the rooftop herself.
She leapt off the staircase in time to see the man running towards the edge of the roof, clearly preparing to leap to the next one and get away from both his Auror pursuers and their Anti-Disapparition Jinx.
“Preoccupo!” Naomi said breathlessly as she aimed her wand just as the man had made a jump for the neighbouring building. A barely visible barrier sprang from nowhere in the way of the man before he realised it and Naomi watched satisfactorily as he rebounded off the enchanted barrier and land one his back to the ground.
“Wand on the ground and hands in the air!” Naomi ordered as she advanced, her own wand at the ready, but it was clear Fryoin’s killer wasn’t going down without a fight.
He rolled back to his feet, evading Naomi’s hex, and hid behind the structure of the rooftop’s door to the main building.
Fearing a plan to escape, Naomi locked the rooftop door with a flick of her wand before she began advancing like a lioness would their prey.
“Leave now and I won’t kill you!” The shouted from behind the concreate frame.
“That’s one hell of a promise from a killer!” Naomi retorted as she fired a streak of red light at the corner she had seen a strand of long brown hair though all this merely accomplished was her target’s flinching away from the resulting impact of spell on concreate. “And I’m not the one who’s hiding!”
“Oh young one,” He laughed as though Naomi were a student who had gotten an easy question wrong. “Didn’t they teach you that it’s the enemies you can’t see that you should fear?”
Naomi was about to respond when she felt something cold and hard wrap itself around her ankle. She knew her mistake at once though this didn’t help her stop the enchanted stair railing from pulling her foot from under her and flinging her helpless body into the knee-high brick wall that surrounded the rooftop. Winded from the slam to her back, Naomi felt her wand fall from her weakened grip though she could feel her body’s incapability to reach out for it.
“I warned you,” The man said smugly as he strode towards her, his wand pointed at her chest. “And now because of your cockiness, I get to experience what it is like to kill an Auror.”
Adrenalin the only thing powering her, Naomi stretched out her arms in an attempt to reach her wand but the man had already raised his own and a flash of bright white light illuminated the darkening scene.
As though he were a ragdoll, the man was sent flying over the top of Naomi and off the side of the roof.
Emily stood right behind where the man once stood. Though her face was contorted, her wand shook slightly in hand.
“Relashio,” She said hurriedly after aiming for the metal coil around Naomi’s ankle. There was a flash of purple light and the steel bind shattered. “You okay?” Emily asked as Naomi rubbed the now free area.
“I don’t think it’s broken.” She said tentatively. “Thank you. Really, thank you. Is he..?” Naomi gestured over the wall where the man had flown over. Together the pair peered over the edge to see a crumpled body lying in an ever growing pool of red.
“Shit.” Emily said in a shaking voice. “There goes our chance to finding out what he was up to.”
“I’m sorry.” Naomi said. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Emily said kindly. “If you hadn’t given chase this killing piece of shit would be on the run right now doing who knows what.”
“Yes, but I know that… That you hadn’t… Before…” Naomi struggled but Emily shook her head.
“It’s not your fault and… in our line of work I guess we have to do it at some point.” Emily then placed a hand on Naomi’s shoulder. “And anyway, better him than you.” Naomi patted the still shaking hand gratefully. “Now, don’t move that leg. Dawlish is at Fryloin’s body now so I’ll get him to come to us.”
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