“We’ve got a boat load of cuts, bruises and broken bones, several students on the Quidditch teams are demanding compensation for their brooms and a second year somehow managed to swallow a chocolate frog card while it was still in the box, but that’s it,” Teddy Lupin reported as he approached Harry, Hermione, Ron, Albus and Scorpius. “Most of them can be treated in the Hogwarts hospital wing so we’re sending them on there but a few will have to go to St. Mungo’s. How are you doing, Albus?”
“My head hurts,” he groaned while examining the phone that Nemesis had sent him. It didn’t have a scratch on it. Albus on the other hand was bloodied and battered. A healer was using her wand to clean up some of his wounds and siphon blood and dirt from his clothes but he was still a mess.
Around them, hundreds of wizards and witches had surrounded the wreckage of the Hogwarts Express and were either sifting through it to see what could be salvaged or casting spells to hide it from the outside world.
“Now we know why she modified it,” Scorpius said.
“She knew you were going to crash the train?” Ron asked looking shocked.
“You need to start listening to what she says more closely,” Albus warned. “She said save the students, she didn’t say anything about the train. She just wanted to see if I could figure it out.”
He looked out, past the crashed train to see the Day Bus had parked not far away and Stan and Ernie were now being interviewed by Aurors.
“So, she’s completely insane then?” Teddy summed up.
“Insane? Yes. Angry? Yes. Frighteningly intelligent? Yes.”
“If she hates the wizarding world so much, why even bother giving you a chance to save the students?” Hermione asked.
“Oh, don’t worry. She’s still planning to wipe us all out anyway. But, she finds all this…amusing. And if something amuses her, she’ll keep it around for a while before she kills it. Like a cat playing with a mouse that it’s already caught,” he said gravely.
“And you’re certain that Nemesis is currently possessing Alex?” Harry asked.
“How many times do I have to answer that?!”
“It’s just that…possession is not easy. Taking over someone’s mind and body is one of the hardest things a wizard can attempt, that’s why they came up with spells like the Imperius Curse instead. And if taking control wasn’t difficult enough, maintaining control for a long period of time is next to impossible. And you’re saying she’s been possessed for seven months.”
“You’re doing it again,” Albus sighed.
“Using Voldemort as your point of refence. A normal wizard finds it difficult to possess someone. Voldemort found it impossible to possess you. Etc. etc. You aren’t dealing with Voldemort! Nemesis is more…more powerful, more intelligent and able to do things we’ve never even imagined!”
“Albus, I’m –“
Harry was cut off as the phone is Albus’ hand suddenly started to ring. He clicked it to speaker.
“Your record with public transportation isn’t looking to good is it, Albus?” Nemesis’ amused voice said. “You jump off the train, you jump on the train, you hijack a bus…I don’t think you should ever be allowed on a submarine,” she laughed.
“I wasn’t planning to,” Albus growled. His head had started to hurt a lot more since hearing her voice.
“I’m a little surprised. I honestly thought you would call my bluff,” she mused.
All eyes turned to Albus. They all looked confused but also worried.
“What do you mean, bluff?” Harry asked.
“Isn’t it obvious? Albus knew that all he had to do to save those kiddies was the stand right next to that bomb and I never would have let it go off. But, then, he also knew that if he did that, he wouldn’t have gotten the clue…”
Harry, Ron and Hermione were utterly shocked and appalled. His father actually looked like he was ready to punch him but Albus just ignored him.
“A raven,” he said.
“My favourite avian.”
“I’m guessing there are more to come?”
“Obviously. This was just a warm up. But, I’ll let you get some rest before our next dance, Albus. You look a little dinged up,” she ended the call, leaving all of them to look around in horror.
She was watching them.
A few seconds later it became obvious that nothing was going to leap out at them so their attention turned back to Albus.
“Tell me you did not endanger the lives of everyone on that train just to get a damn clue?!” Harry roared.
“I knew I could save them,” Albus responded quietly.
“YOU DERAILED A TRAIN!”
“I didn’t put the bomb on board it!”
“You really have lost your mind!” Ron gasped. “What if someone had been killed?!”
“She’s planning to wipe out the wizarding world! Killing everyone is kind of the point!” Albus yelled.
“You have crossed a line, Albus!” Hermione said, joining in on the assault.
“And you lot need to pull your heads out of your asses! All that has happened so far is that we have survived her! Mainly because she’s let us! We never beat her! We never won anything! We didn’t undo her evil plans to steal a philosopher’s stone or basilisk to kill everyone! Everything that has happened, is because she wanted it to happen! You think that because the last few months have been quiet that the threat isn’t that bad. You’re wrong! None of you can see what is coming, but I can! And I’m sorry, but a moral compass isn’t going to last ten seconds against her! The only way to beat her is to understand her and the only way to do that is to find out who she really is!” Albus was out of breath and red faced by the time he finished his rant. “Sorry I wrecked your train!” he added before storming off.
Harry, Ron and Hermione were all too stunned to say anything but Scorpius quickly started moving to catch Albus up.
“I’ll disapparate us back to London,” he offered.
“No, I’ll get a cab. I need to think,” he said before trudging off on his own.
Albus had to walk about half a mile outside of the protective spells before he reached a road and even then, it was a good half-hour before a cab went past. Unfortunately, it was already in use and just ignored his attempts to flag it down.
A raven. What was the significance?
That question rattled around in his head over and over again but didn’t lead him to any answers. He went back through all his previous encounters with Nemesis at Hogwarts and a raven had never appeared of even been mentioned.
Finally, after at least an hour, a black cab slowed and stopped in front of him after he signalled it. He opened the door and jumped in the back.
“Where you goin’ mate?” the driver asked.
“Can you get me to Charring Cross?”
“Yeah, no worries,” the driver said happily.
It had taken less the forty minutes for them to get from the centre of London to the distant outskirts on the Day Bus, but travelling by muggle means was a lot slower. Traffic, roadworks and the fact that there was an LGBTQ parade going on in London made it a very sluggish trip back.
Raven…Ravenclaw? No. Common misconception. Rowena Ravenclaw’s symbol was an Eagle. Aquila chrysaetos; the Golden Eagle to be exact. Raven…Raven, Quaff the Raven; Edger Allen Poe…doubtful…
Albus’ head was hurting more than ever after a while but it had nothing to do with his wound.
He rubbed his eyes and glanced up only to see something that made him even more confused.
“Oi, mate,” he called to the driver. “You’re on the wrong side of the river.”
The driver didn’t say anything and responded instead by engaging the safety locks on all the doors.
“What are doing?!” Albus demanded while trying on the handles but it wouldn’t budge.
“Calm down, Albus. We just want to talk to you,” the driver said.
His stomach plummeted.
“You’re about to find out,” the driver said.
The cab continued driving into London but didn’t go anywhere near Charring Cross. Instead it headed for the Isle of Dogs. Eventually they went down a ramp that led to an underground loading area for the building above. The cab stopped in front of a large shutter and the driver got out. A second later the back door was opened for Albus, but not by the driver.
Beckoning him out of the car was a young woman, maybe twenty-five years old with chocolate brown hair and bright amber eyes. She was very pretty but had a element of danger to her.
“Mr. Potter,” she said gesturing for him to step out.
Standing just behind her were two large men, both armed with machine guns. They looked like private security.
Albus glanced around quickly. Twenty-six feet back to the ramp, ten feet to the nearest cover. If he was going to make a move to get out of there, it had to be now. As soon as he was in front of them, he grabbed one of the machine guns and shoved it upwards into the fast of the man holding it, whist kicking the second man in the leg to knock him off balance. He was just about to dive for the cover when the woman grabbed hold of his arm.
She spun him around so fast that he practically got whiplash and locked her arm around his neck. Something was very wrong here. This woman was way stronger than she should be. He pushed against her but trying to break free from her arm was like trying to move a tree trunk.
“We’re not you enemy!” she hissed into his ear.
Realizing that he couldn’t get away from her, he stopped struggling. The man he’d hit in the face spat some blood on the floor and glared at him while the guy next to him seemed to find the whole thing funny.
Before he could think of anything else to do, a smell crept up his nose. The woman that had hold of him had a very distinctive scent. One he’d smelt before. It went toward explaining how she was so strong but also raised a lot of questions.
“Who are you people?!” Albus growled.
The loading bay opened up to reveal several other men, dressed and armed the same as the two he’d attacked, all standing behind a man in his forties.
“We’re your guardian angels, Mr. Potter,” he said. He was wearing a very snazzy suit and gave off an unmistakeable presence that said; ‘I’m the boss.’ “And given recent events, I’d say you could do with some.”
Albus said nothing but continued to scan the scene. They knew all about him. Not just his name, but also that he didn’t have a wand. Otherwise they would have searched him. If they knew who he was and what had just transpired on the Hogwarts Express, then they knew about the wizarding world and yet they were armed with muggle weapons…squibs. All of them were squibs, except the woman.
“It’s alright, Eve, I don’t think Mr. Potter is going to try another daring escape. Not now that his curiosity is starting to get the better of him,” the man smiled.
The woman, Eve, released her hold on him and took a step back.
“My names Bloggs, Joe Bloggs,” the man said.
Albus snorted. “Yeah, sure it is.”
“When the Americans can’t identify a body, they call it John or Jane Doe. About a hundred years ago, police in London used to do the same except they called them Joe Bloggs. So…you don’t exist,” Albus said quickly.
Bloggs chuckled to himself. “You know, you’re the first wizard to ever catch on to that.”
“I’m not your average wizard.”
“Neither am I.”
“You’re a squib…so are they,” he nodded to the men behind him. “And them,” he pointed to the two men he’d attacked. “But, she’s not. She’s a werewolf.”
Eve looked mildly impressed. Bloggs just grinned.
“Very astute. Follow me,” he said.
Albus obliged. Now he really did want to know what was going on. They walked though the loading bay and into a large, mostly empty room. The only things in there were a table, a laptop and tv screen on the wall.
“I’m curious, how did you know Eve was a werewolf?” Bloggs asked.
“I can smell it.”
That made Eve raise her eyebrows and look a little bit offended.
“You can smell it? And what exactly does Lycanthropy smell like?”
“Strawberry’s…to start with. Then there’s a warm acidic taste behind it. A romantic sort of poison,” he said.
“Interesting,” Bloggs nodded.
“Teddy Lupin is half werewolf and my uncle was partially contaminated by Fenrir Greyback, I’ve been around Lycanthropy my whole life, I know what it smells like,” Albus explained.
“I remember Fenrir Greyback,” Bloggs said.
“You met him?”
“I killed him,” he smiled.
Okay, now he was really curious.
“Werewolves only gain increased strength when they’re turned. How is she so strong now?” Albus asked.
“Eve very generously volunteered to be a test subject for some of our experimental treatments. We’re trying to cure her of her condition…there have been a few side-effects,” he said.
“You must be well funded,” Albus said carefully.
Bloggs gave him a small smile. He hadn’t missed the fact that Albus was trying to extract information from him.
“You’ve been to the ministry of magic many times. You must have seen the wall of names, commemorating all the lives lost during the second wizarding war against Voldemort?”
“How many of those names belong to muggles?” Bloggs asked.
“None…which is strange considering that more muggles died during that war than wizards did. The British government is no stranger to sweeping the truth under the carpet but it’s also their job to protect the country and the people within. The wizarding world will always prioritise their own over the lives of a few hapless muggles and when I explained that to high-ups, they agreed that something needs to be done. So, I came up with a proposal,” he said with an air of pride. “Track down, recruit and train all the people that have been wronged by the wizarding world. Squibs, exiled just because they were born different, werewolves cast out because of their affliction…people with intimate knowledge of the wizarding world but with absolutely no loyalty to it. They are now the muggles first line of defence against magical threats.”
“And…what do you want from me?” Albus asked.
“I want to help you kill Nemesis.”
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