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2. Interlude: Magpies in Flight

 

Harry Apparated into clamour and chaos. His senses were momentarily overwhelmed. The bright full moon cast ghostly shadows across heather, meadow, and mud flats alike. The pungent smells of saltwater, fish and birds coming from the Montrose Basin assailed his nostrils. The cacophony of noise from the geese and gulls was in danger of being drowned out by angry shouts.

 

In the bright moonlight Harry saw dozens of families standing around the wooden tables outside the Basin Bar. It was a ramshackle old pub, one of the favourites of Magpies’ supporters.

 

There was an unreal, monochrome look about the moonlit crowd. Everyone wore black and white scarves and hats; many wore black and white robes. The flickering blue magical flames which both illuminated and heated the tables added dancing shadows to the scene. The noise from both within and without the bar was disturbing the wildfowl; the Muggles would soon notice, if they had not already.

Before moving, Harry cast the largest Anti-Disapparation jinx he could. Anyone wanting to leave the area would need to walk some distance from the pub. Satisfied with the spell, Harry sprinted towards the inn; the long, black cloak-like coat which marked him out as an Auror streamed out behind him.

 

As he got closer to the inn, the stinging pain from his recently bandaged chest and the throbbing aches coursing through his muscles and bones reminded him of the Healer’s warning: “Don’t do anything strenuous.!He shouldn’t be doing this, but Lavender had insisted. As he pressed on, Ron’s voice arrived in his head with a different warning, “Don’t listen to Lavender!” 

 

The pains in his chest were, reassuringly, from physical injuries. They were nothing compared to the last remnants of the Cruciatus Curses he’d been recently subjected to. He heard children crying and, ignoring his own pain, sought out the source. There were three of them, none older than ten. Each of their faces was covered by a Bat-Bogey hex, which their distraught mothers were trying to remove. Cursing softly to himself, Harry approached the children, pulled a small camera from his coat, and quickly photographed them. Then, with a wave of his wand, removed the hexes. Their mothers looked at him reproachfully; their look was the final confirmation. Harry was certain of the identity of the person who had cast the hexes.

 

Fighting to remain calm, Harry approached the pub. He had been undercover for a month, and it was possible his long sought quarry would once again escape. His mission’s success now relied on Lavender Brown of all people. He shook his head in despair, he must have been crazy to leave her, but Lavender had been so persuasive.

 

He had hoped to spend this desperately snatched free time at the Burrow, or, better yet, at Grimmauld Place, celebrating the latest Harpies victory with Ginny. But he’d missed her again. By the time he had arrived at the Magpies ground, the match was over and Ginny had left with two of her teammates to celebrate another victory.

 

The Harpies were now almost certain to win the league. Today’s narrow away victory over Montrose Magpies gave them a nearly unbeatable number of wins and a 930 point lead over their nearest rivals, the previously unstoppable Tutshill Tornadoes. The Harpies’ last match of the season was almost two weeks away, on George’s twenty-second birthday. They were at home against the Chudley Cannons. If they won, regardless of the other results, they would be League Champions. The match day was certain to be an interesting one in the Weasley household, especially for Ron, as the Cannons were—once again—vying with the Wimbourne Wasps for bottom position.

 

The sports pages of the Daily Prophet credited the Harpies’ spectacular success to their two pre-season signings: former Woollongong Wanderers (and current Australian National team) Chaser, 20-year-old Olivia “the Aussie Angel” Aikenhead, and “teen sensation” Ginny Weasley, the highest scoring chaser in the league this year. On the strength of her performance in her first season, Ginny had been selected for the England Under-21 squad. She’d probably be playing in the summer European Tour.

 

As Harry approached the pub, he could hear shouting and singing from inside.

 

‘We are the Harpies, we are the champions,’ cried several drunken voices.

 

Three uniformed Bailliffs from the local Magical Law Enforcement Squad were ahead of Harry, and they were rapidly approaching the source of the disturbance. Before Harry could speak, the lead wizard opened the door to the pub. He was instantly hit in the face by a bat-bogey hex. The wizard reeled backwards in surprise. With a flick of his wand, Harry closed the door and called across to the Law Officers.

 

‘I’ll deal with this.’

 

The witch and the unhexed wizard looked for the source of this order. Harry’s long black coat and Muggle clothing marked him out as an Auror. The uniform alone was enough to make them stop for a moment. Then they recognised him. This was one of those occasions his unwanted fame was useful. The lead wizard was still struggling with the hex when Harry removed it.

 

‘Thanks,’ the wizard spluttered.

 

The grey-haired man seemed vaguely familiar. He looked at Harry, his eyes doing the familiar, but no less annoying, flick up to Harry’s forehead. The man’s colleagues stood silently, watching the exchange and waiting for orders. 

 

‘Sorry about that,’ Harry apologised to the wizard. ‘Do I know you?’

 

‘Nae need tae apologise, Mr Potter, ye didnae hex me.’ The wizard introduced himself. ‘Sheriff Hamish Campbell, frae the Edinburgh office.’

 

Harry looked at the man again. Both name and face were familiar. Where had he met him before?

 

‘Moira Campbell,’ Harry said, as the name suddenly popped into his head. He stopped, desperately embarrassed. It was, he remembered, a name on the memorial for those who had died at Hogwarts. He’d seen Sheriff Campbell at various remembrance ceremonies and events.

 

Campbell’s face registered surprise, and a flicker of grief. The lanky, brown-haired young wizard at Campbell’s side looked suddenly sad and Harry realised that his, too, was a familiar face from the remembrance ceremonies. He wondered who the young man had lost, and looked apologetically at Campbell.

 

‘Your wife?’ he asked uncertainly.

 

Campbell nodded, looking surprised.

 

Harry examined Sheriff Campbell. He was a tall, burly wizard who was perhaps ten years younger than Arthur Weasley. He had a curse-scarred face and was missing three fingers from his left hand.

 

‘Good to meet you again, Sheriff,’ Harry said as he shook his hand. He realised that he was staring at the man’s missing fingers and not into his face. He looked up. ‘Sorry,’ Harry said again.

 

‘Everyone looks,’ Hamish said gruffly, waving his left hand. ‘You get used to it.’

 

‘Really?’ Harry asked, rubbing the lightning shaped scar on his forehead. ‘I still haven’t.’

 

‘Battle o’ Hogwarts,’ Campbell waved his hand again. ‘The Lestrange woman. I was lucky. My wife wasnae,’ he continued sadly.

 

A loud crash from inside the bar brought both men back to the present.

 

‘Would you mind if I went in alone?’ Harry asked. ‘I’d like to try to calm things down.’

 

‘Aye,’ said Campbell dourly. ‘Go right aheed Mr Potter. If ye need any help, we’ll be right here.’

 

‘And could I ask another favour of you and your colleagues?’ Harry requested.

 

Campbell nodded. ‘Bailiffs Heather Huddleston and Mark Moon,’ he introduced the two other law officers. Huddleston was a short, elderly witch with wiry iron-grey hair and a cleft chin. Moon was in his mid-twenties, rather nondescript, and almost as tall and gangling as Ron.

 

‘Could you and your colleagues start taking statements?’ Harry asked. ‘I’d particularly like to know what those families have to say.’ He pointed to the parents whose children had been subjected to the Bat-Bogey hex.

 

‘Aye, we can do that,’ said Campbell. ‘D’ye reckon on making some arrests?’

 

Harry nodded grimly and walked up to the door of the pub. Wand in hand, he reached forwards with his left hand, pushed open the door, deflected the hex aimed at him, and stepped into the bar.

 

‘Oopsh,’ said Ginny, grinning drunkenly at her boyfriend. ‘’Ello, gorjush.’

 

Harry strode into the bar, wand raised. A sudden silence descended over the wreckage of the room.
 

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