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Professor Wilmot’s burgundy locks rippled in the wind as he straightened out of his apparition. Beside him stood two wizards, dressed in deep emerald cloaks, with pointed hats adorning their heads.

 

At their arrival, the crowd of swarming vampires paused, recoiling hesitantly. Distracted by their sudden appearance, Stingere turned his claws away from Tabitha, to assess these new intruders. Before he could make a move, Wilmot brushed off his immaculate eggplant coloured suit, grabbing his wand with a flourish. Alongside the other wizards, he swiftly raised his wand above his head, as they shouted in unison,

 

“Lumos Solem!”

 

Something flashed in Tabitha’s mind; a thought, or a memory. She knew this spell from somewhere she couldn’t place. A blinding yellow light radiated towards them from the Professor’s wand, and she realised what was coming.

 

Crying out to Theo, she spun around, pulling a weary Amias towards her. Theo quickly followed her movement, raising his arms around them. Together they fell to the ground, Amias’ body covered beneath Tabitha and Theo, as a ray of burning sunlight crashed over them.

 

Around them, vampires screamed and sizzled, incinerating in the fiery light. In seconds, many of Stingere’s followers were reduced to nothing but ash. Soon the noise died down, and the forest returned to its natural darkness.

 

Tabitha lifted her head, moving Theo’s arms aside, to see the quiet woods around them. Looking around, she could see small piles of ash to mark the deaths of several vampires, however no remains were left where Stingere had stood. Before she could look much further, a steady hand gripped her shoulder.

 

“Professor Wilmot.” Tabitha said tentatively, turning to look up at the frowning professor.

 

“It’s time to go.” He spoke calmly, helping Tabitha to her feet.

 

“Um, Professor?” Theo piped, as one of the emerald cloaked wizards pulled him up. “Just to be clear, where exactly are we going? We’re not in trouble, are we? Because I’m really sorry...” he began to babble before Wilmot cut him off.

 

“We’re taking you back to Hogwarts.”

 

Theo let out a sigh of relief, grinning to the wizard beside him, who did not return his smile.

 

“The Ministry is allowing a tribunal to be held there.”

 

“A tribunal?” Theo panicked.

 

“You’re lucky we’re giving you that much,” huffed the wizard beside Theo.

 

“Claxton.” Professor Wilmot warned sternly.

 

The wizard, Claxton, rolled his eyes, though his hand remained firmly grasped around Theo’s arm. While Theo squirmed under Claxton’s irritated glare, Wilmot began digging in his robes, before pulling out a squashed cardboard box. He placed it flattened on the ground then stepped back to check the time from a fine golden pocket watch.  

 

“Right, we only have a few minutes, everyone, if you will.” He gestured toward the box, motioning for the group to place their hands on the Portkey.

 

As the Ministry wizards stepped forward, pulling Theo with them, Tabitha looked to Amias’ frail body, still lying on the forest floor, his chest barely moving with each raggedy breath.

 

“Wait!” Tabitha called, “We can’t leave Amias.”

 

“We didn’t come here for him,” Claxton barked.

 

“I’m not leaving without him. Professor?” She implored, moving to Amias’ side.

 

“Tabitha, I’m afraid Claxton’s right, we have no jurisdiction here...”

 

“He’ll die! The things in this forest will kill him.”

 

“The business of these creatures is none of the Ministry’s concern,” said the second Ministry wizard.

 

“But that’s not fair.” Theo spoke up.

 

“It’s not about fair.” Claxton scoffed. “If they want to be treated like Beings, then they have to act like it.” With disdain on his face, he turned to stare down at Amias. “Better they kill each other in here than killing witches and wizards out on our streets.”

 

Claxton’s words sent an ache to Tabitha’s heart. She partly agreed with him. She did wish that vampire in Twickenham had come face to face with Stingere before he sunk his fangs into her mother. But Amias didn’t deserve that.

 

“He isn’t like that,” she said. “Amias saved me.”

 

“Me as well.” Theo added, muttering “get off,” as he pulled away from the Ministry wizards. He moved beside Tabitha, placing his hand on her shoulder. “Amias saved my skin in more ways than you could know.”

 

Hoisting Amias’ arm over her shoulder once again, Tabitha was no longer asking.

 

“He’s coming with us.” She said definitively.

 

She felt Amias’ weight ease on her side as Theo lifted his other arm, adding a supportive nod to her declaration.

 

Seething now, Clatxon grumbled, “Wilmot. Get these kids in order.”

 

Tabitha thought she saw a familiar twinkle behind Professor Wilmot’s circular glasses.

 

“He’s coming with us, Claxton.” He said coolly.

 

Claxton’s mouth fell open, aghast, words finally escaping him. Ignoring his indignation, Wilmot once again pulled out his golden watch.

 

“We’d better hurry. Children, quickly.” He snapped the timepiece closed, returning it to his pocket before helping Tabitha and Theo carry Amias towards the cardboard Portkey.

 

The second Ministry wizard stood awkwardly to Claxton’s side while he continued to fume at this insubordination.

 

Turning red in the face, he managed to collect himself enough to spit, “Wilmot, I will not stand for this blatant disregard for Magical Law.”

 

“Then we will leave you behind.” Wilmot stated, undaunted.

 

Only the Ministry wizards were yet to place their hands on the Portkey, and if Wilmot’s pocket watch was correct, they didn’t have long. Sensing this, the second Ministry wizard stepped passed Claxton to add his hand to the cardboard.

 

“Peddleshire!”

 

“Claxton.” He snapped back. “Are you forgetting what we came here for?”

 

Claxton bit his tongue. With contempt still in his eyes, he trudged forward, stooping in between Wilmot and Peddleshire to press his hand against the Portkey. They waited in silence, with Claxton shooting dirty looks at an unconscious Amias, who was propped up by Theo and Tabitha.

 

Looking down at his watch, Wilmot quietly began counting down from ten.

 

“Nine ... eight ... seven ...”

 

In these last seconds, Tabitha surreptitiously raised her hand from the Portkey. Around the circle, the others paid no mind. Peddleshire was busy staring crossly at Claxton, while Claxton’s eyes were shooting daggers at Amias, and Theo was focused solely on the cardboard below him. He knew that his seasickness did not bode well with Portkey travel.

 

Gently, Tabitha moved her hand to tap Wilmot’s. He moved his eyes to hers but did not stop counting.

 

“Five ... four ...”

 

In a soft voice, so that only he could hear, she whispered, “Thank you.”

 

He nodded and Tabitha returned her hand to the Portkey.

 

“Two ... one ...”

 

Tabitha felt a hook pull her from just behind her navel, as she was sent hurtling through the air away from the dark forest

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