“There’s gotta be some kind of tracking spell we could use?” Scorpius suggested.
“None that I know of. They all require something that actually belongs to the person you’re trying to find. A possession, clothing, a finger nail, something…that’s just a digital image,” Hermione answered.
“Any way we could get his image out to the ministry, see if anyone knows him?” Harry asked.
“He’s using a muggle phone. He’s unlikely to be a wizard,” Draco pointed out.
Their voices had drowned away from Albus who was studying the image intently. She wouldn’t just hand him a random image, this was planned, carefully. Everything he needed to find and save that man was right there in front of him.
The woman was completely out of frame, save for a bit of her dark brown hair and left ear which had a small earing in it. Diamond, white gold stud, fourteen karats. His proximity to her suggests partners but it was impossible to see a wedding ring since both his hands were obscured. One was holding the phone and the other was out of frame except…tan lines!
One at the wrist, one at the neck. Nobody wears a shirt in a tanning booth and the weather had been bad in London for the last few weeks. In fact, the sky was grey in the photo which meant it was probably recent. The tan lines had come from the honeymoon, the earrings were a wedding gift…newlyweds.
The coffee shop behind them was a dead end. Costa. There were probably three hundred of them in London, they were almost as bad as Starbucks. But, maybe not. The building itself…untreated yellow brick, common in the nineteen thirties. And just next to it in the background there were no buildings, only trees, or treetops to be more exact. A park…a large park, nineteen thirties brick work…Finsbury Park!
“I need Polyjuice potion!” Albus suddenly blurted causing them all to stop talking and look at him.
“What for?” Ron asked.
“To paint my nails- WHY DO THINK?!”
“Just askin’” Ron mumbled, looking away.
“That photo was taken in Finsbury Park, I need access to the CCTV footage,” Albus said quickly. Nobody knew London as well as he did. It was his city.
“Actually…I think I’ve got some Polyjuice,” Draco said wandering off.
“There’s no camera in the photo,” Harry pointed out.
“No, the camera was used to take the photo,” his son said sounding bored.
“You know what I mean,” Harry growled.
“London has more CCTV coverage than any other city in the world, you really think he hasn’t popped up on at least one?” Albus fired back.
“What? It would take you a month to go through all of them and we’ve got less than an hour!” Ron reminded.
“Then I suppose it’s a good thing I know some people that can do it in twenty-minutes!”
“Twenty minutes?! Who?”
“Found it,” Draco said wondering back into the kitchen with a small vile full of sludge coloured liquid.
“Ahh, that’s barely thirty minutes worth!” Albus sighed.
Hermione couldn’t stop herself. “Draco, I should warn you that Polyjuice is a class three regulated substance and –“
“You spent half your Hogwarts years making this stuff in a toilet and now you want to lecture me?!” Draco said incredulously.
She didn’t have a retort for that.
“Fight about it after we save this guy! Draco, Scorp, come with me,” Albus said firmly. “I need to side-along to Islington.”
“And once we’re there?” Scorpius asked.
“We’re going to kidnap a police officer.”
“WHAT?!” Harry, Ron and Hermione screamed just as a POP! Sounded around the room and the three Slytherins disappeared into thin air.
They appeared in an alleyway just off from a busy London street. Luckily their arrival had gone unnoticed because a lorry driver was having an argument with a cabbie about who should move their vehicle out of the way first. It was grabbing the attention of the passers-by.
“This way,” Albus said leading them down the street.
“When you said ‘kidnap a police officer’…?” Draco asked sounding a little worried.
“I mean, I’m going to borrow his identity,” Albus corrected. “But obviously he’ll need to be unconscious and out of the way for the duration so yeah, kidnapping is technically accurate.”
“You do realize that we are about to break about ten ministry laws doing this?”
“It’s okay, you can just blame it all on me,” Albus sighed.
“Oh, I intend to,” Draco stated.
But fifteen minutes later and they were yet to actually do anything illegal.
They had been waiting outside the Islington police station, hoping to spot someone that could give Albus the kind of access he needed but so far, it had only been street constables coming and going with the occasional handcuffed suspect with them. The double-doored entrance was directly across from them with a wheelchair slide on one side and a few steps on the other.
Police cars were pulling in and out regularly and it all just looked like business as usual.
Albus glanced at the phone. Forty-three minutes left. This wasn’t good.
“What about that guy?” Scorpius asked nodded to a man exiting the main entrance.
“Nah, another constable, just got off-duty by the looks of it,” Albus said.
“That one?” Draco offered as a man in an expensive looking suit exited the station.
“That’s not even a police officer, that’s a solicitor,” Albus groaned.
“Well, I may have spent some time with wizarding authorities, I know nothing about muggle law-enforcement so –“
“Wait, there!” Albus interrupted Draco’s gripe. A big guy with a long dark jacket walked out of the station carrying a paper coffee cup in his left hand. His right hand was holding a phone which he seemed to be going through quite quickly.
“You sure?” Scorpius asked.
“Definitely a DCI. Work here for a while too,” Albus nodded.
“How do you know?”
“Look at him. He doesn’t even need to look away from his phone to navigate the steps.”
The DCI continued to walk away from the station, probably heading to his car that seemed to be parked just down the road. The three of them followed him and a few minutes later a well concealed stunning spell meant they were dragging his unconscious body into a tight alleyway.
Albus quickly began donning his clothes while Draco plucked one of the cop’s blond hairs and added to the Polyjuice mix. Finally, Albus grabbed the DCI’s ID and phone before downing the disgusting potion in one. The name inside the ID said DCI Dean Harris.
“Ahh, I forgot how much I hate that stuff!” he cringed as his face began to contort and change.
A few seconds later, he was an exact replica of the knocked-out man in front of him.
“Thirty-seven minutes. Wait for me outside, I’ll need another side-along if I manage to find him,” Albus said before walking back to the station.
He had to relax, act as if that station was his home away from home. Unfortunately, that was easier said than done because he had no idea of the layout. He took a deep breath before pushing his way through the double doors. Inside was a small reception area with a young guy behind a large counter. To the left was another constable taking a statement from someone and on the right was a guy sitting on a bench with his hands cuffed behind his back.
On the wall was a TV set to the news. Apparently, London was going to be in the middle of a torrential rain storm in a day or two.
“You alright Gov?” the man behind the counter said when he spotted him. “Thought you were heading over to Crouch End?”
“Yeah, something came up,” Albus shrugged and walked straight past him.
Luckily, just beyond the reception area was a sign on the wall that gave directions. Forensics, evidence lock-up and interrogation rooms were all on the first floor. Achieves in the basement. Surveillance, second floor. That was what he needed.
He shot up the stairs as quickly as possible and entered a large open room, the only door on the second floor. The place was a hive of activity. Inside, rows and rows of decks covered the entire room except for few closed off offices at the back. Everywhere, people were working on computers. Phones were ringing and officers were walking around with files and evidence photos.
It was busier than the Ministry auror office.
“What did you forget?” a woman asked looking up from her desk. She obviously knew him judging by the smile on her face.
With no idea what their relationship was, Albus just tried to act normal. He walked over to her desk with a smile.
“Didn’t forget anything, got a bit of an emergency,” he said stealing a glance at her desk. There were a bunch of birthday cards set out on it all giving best wishes to ‘Stella’.
“What’s happened?” Stella asked.
Albus pulled out the phone that Nemesis had given him and showed her the picture of the man.
“He’s one of my informants but I think he’s in trouble. Can you do a quick search for me and see if he’s popped up on any cameras?” Albus asked, trying to sound professional.
“I can try,” she said taking the phone off him. She took a quick look at the charge port and then fished a lead out of her desk draw. She plugged the phone into her computer and quickly connected it to the database.
“I last saw him in Finsbury Park a few days ago,” he said hoping it would help.
She typed away furiously on her computer before pulling up a copy of the picture. Little lines began to draw themselves around his face, measuring his jaw line, cheek bones and forehead. The program to note of his eye colour and the size of his lips and ears before going into a search. A little bar appeared on the screen that began to move very slowly.
Twenty-nine minutes left. This was taking too long.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but is there anyway we can speed this up?”
“Everything is being backed-up onto the cloud so it’s being a bit slow,” she said. “What’s his name, I can try and cross match some details?”
Albus quickly formed a lie in his head. “He only ever used an alias. Always very cautious.”
“He’s not a junky, is he? You know you can’t trust those mugs,” Stella remarked.
“Not as far as I know,” Albus said.
Bloggs and his resources could have probably done the search a lot faster but it would require him to either risk sending him the photo or giving him the phone in person and if Nemesis was watching him (which he was sure she was during the train incident) then he risked exposing the squibs to her.
He couldn’t take that chance, he had to do the test without their help.
Twenty-two minutes left and the bar was barely half-way. At this rate he was going to run out of time.
The minutes that passed seemed to get shorter and shorter as he watched that little bar on the screen grudgingly move, bit by bit. Nothing was popping up.
“You don’t have anymore pictures of him, do you? It can increase the accuracy of the search,” Stella suggested, obviously seeing the frustration mounting on Albus’s transformed face.
That was another thing he had to remember. He didn’t have an exact time limit on how long the Polyjuice would last and suddenly transforming back into himself while impersonating a police officer would definitely not be good.
The computer chimed.
“Got him,” she said. The man’s file came up on screen. “Craig Hedges, Stroud Green Terrace, flat four-twenty-two.”
“Thanks love,” Albus smiled, quickly unplugging the phone from her computer and exiting the room.
He didn’t want to run; the other officers might think something was wrong and start asking questions but he got out of the station as quickly as possible.
Draco and Scorpius were waiting exactly where he told them to.
“Stroud Green Terrace,” Albus said.
“Where? I’ve never been there before,” Scorpius said.
“Me neither. I wouldn’t know where to apparate to,” Draco warned.
“It’s near Finsbury Park, you ever been there?”
“Then let’s go,” Albus urged.
They disappeared with a crack leaving the half-naked cop in the alleyway. He would be very confused when he woke up.
The three of them reappeared just behind some trees at the southern edge of the park. Albus spun around looking in every direction, trying to get his bearings. He spotted a large grey block of flats that went up six stories. That had to be it, given flat number.
“There,” he said and began running towards the building.
The block was rectangular and had a small open courtyard in the middle that was only about twenty feet across. The walls had their fair share of graffiti on them but otherwise it looked reasonable comfortable. The kind of affordable housing that was used by people earning just over the minimum wage.
There were sixty flats per floor and no lifts. Annoying.
Albus quickly checked the phone again. Six minutes left.
“You two stay here in case he comes out. If you spot him, just stun and keep him safe!” Albus yelled before taking off towards the stairs.
It was at the second floor that a truly uncomfortable sensation started to take hold of his face. He felt his own skin moving and his teeth began to grind. The Polyjuice was wearing off.
He was breathing hard by the time he reached the forth floor but it didn’t stop him. He bolted down the balcony past one door after another. Four-o- nine. Four-ten. Four-eleven. Four-twenty-two! He needed four-twenty-two!
Another check of the phone told him three minutes left!
Four-twenty-two! He reached the door and banged on it as hard as he could.
“Police! Open the door!” he yelled and quickly rummaged around for the cop’s ID.
After a few seconds he heard the door unlock. A very worried looking Indian man opened the door.
“Craig Hedges?” Albus asked, still gasping.
“No…he moved out two months ago,” the Indian man said.
“What?!” panicked erupted throughout Albus’s body. The police had outdated details on the man!
“Has he done something?” the Indian man asked.
“No, no, no! Shit!” Albus yelled. Anger at his own failure was already starting to boil inside him.
“Calm down, mate. He only lives over there,” the Indian man said looking very concerned at Albus’s rage.
“He got married. Moved in with his wife. She lives on the floor below, just over there,” he said pointing to a flat just across the courtyard.
Albus looked over the balcony to see where he was pointing. A door with a small window next to it, almost perfectly opposite the one he was standing in front of. He could see a man in there through the window but something was wrong.
He was just standing there, frozen on the spot, staring directly at a shelf on the wall. There was something on the shelf. Sitting right in front of Craig Hedges face. Something sharp…and he wasn’t moving.
He checked the phone again. Twenty seconds! He’d never make it in time…unless.
Albus suddenly barged the Indian man out of the way and rushed into his flat, leaving the door open.
“Hey, what the bloody hell do you think you’re –“
His weight, the angle, distance, gravitational constant…he could make it.
Albus bolted at full speed back towards the balcony and then jumped. He flew through the air, clearing the courtyard and smashing straight through the window next to the front door. He impacted the floor inside the flat and rolled, barrelling straight into Craig Hedges and pushing him out of the way just as the device on his shelf that he’d been standing in front of fired a bladed disc.
It missed Craig’s head by a hairs breath and lodged itself in the wall just behind.
“What the – who the hell are you?!” Craig barked.
It seemed he had snapped out of his hypnotised state the second Albus had rammed him and was now looking at him and the broken window with angry confusion.
“Police!” Albus groaned and flashed him the cop’s ID, way too quickly for him to realize that he looked nothing like the man in the picture.
“Police, why the – WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!” Craig yelped seeing the disc dug into the wall.
“Nothing you need to worry about,” Albus said picking himself up. Broken glass fragments fell off his jacket as he rose and muscles ached from his impact with the window and the floor.
He felt blood on his face. A few minor slashes to his cheek and a few on his arms were the worst of it.
Draco and Scorpius had clearly heard the glass break because they came running into the courtyard below.
“Albus?!” Scorpius yelled.
“I’m up here. Need ya help,” Albus shouted back.
“What is going on?!” Craig demanded.
“It’ll be explained in a minute.” What Albus really meant was that he’d be Obliviated in a minute and he would have to explain it.
“Meanwhile, can I suggest that you update your details with the local police?” Albus growled in annoyance.
“Oh…yeah,” Craig said looking sheepish. “I was gonna do that this week.”
“That would be very wise Mr. Hedges.”
Albus froze on the spot. “What did you just say?” he asked in barely more than a whisper.
“Craig Bowker now,” he said oblivious to Albus’ shock. “I got married a few months ago, took me wife’s second name.”
A green light flashed through his memory and then an innocent boy was laying dead in front of him. Craig Bowker Jr. had been killed right in front of him by Delphi and it had changed him forever. The same way seeing Cedric Diggory being killed had changed his father.
The train…He and Scorpius had jumped off the Hogwarts Express before their fourth year in order to start their insane quest which almost destroyed them all.
She had forced him to destroy the train and now this, another Craig Bowker.
Nemesis was making him revisit the worst moments of his life.
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