"Inspector Harry Potter, SO-15."
The pudgy balding man in the blue Metropolitan Police uniform nodded and shook Harry's hand. "Chief Inspector Wells. I figured you lads from Counter Terrorism Command would show up sooner or later."
Harry glanced down at the dark Muggle suit he wore instead of his normal auror robes. The paper in his hand was just that, a scrap of paper, charmed to look like an official ID from Scotland Yard.
"We already had some folks from the army's chemical weapons unit go through the home." Wells nodded toward the simple-looking red brick house. "No sign of gas or germs or the like."
"Are the bodies still inside?" Harry asked.
"Right where we found them. Come on."
Wells led him up the lighted walkway. Harry took a quick glance over his shoulder. Muggles, most dressed in their bed clothes, stood outside every house in this little neighborhood of Lambeth. Red and blue lights from parked police cars washed over homes, people and light poles.
Harry and the Muggle inspector stepped through the open door. Another policeman stood in front of the couch, snapping pictures. Harry drew a slow breath when he saw the two bodies sitting on the couch, a teenage boy and girl. They looked so peaceful, like they were asleep. The girl, who had purple streaks in her short black hair, was even smiling.
"Any ideas?" Harry turned to Wells.
The chubby inspector scratched the back of his neck. "It's just like the other ones in Bodenham, Leeds and Brighton. No visible signs of trauma, no signs of forced entry. Honestly, it looks like they just went to sleep and never woke up."
Harry walked around to the front of the couch, frowning as he viewed the bodies. He'd seen more than his fair share of death over his twenty-five years. Not that he'd gotten used to it. He doubted he ever would. He certainly hoped not. The day the death of an innocent failed to affect him on some level was the day he stopped being human.
He sighed as he continued staring at the teenage couple. What were they? Sixteen, seventeen? Dead before their lives could really get started. Faces floated through his mind's eye. Cedric Diggory, Colin Creevey . . . and of course, Fred Weasley.
"Carbon monoxide poisoning?" Harry never took his eyes off the bodies.
"No trace of it," Wells replied.
"We don't think so. Examinations of the other victims didn't find any drugs in their systems. If all this is terrorist related, then I haven't a clue what they're using."
Harry worked his jaw back and forth. He couldn't think of anything Muggle-related that would have killed these two.
That only left one possibility.
He took out his wand and cast a Confundus Charm on the Muggles around him. He then slowly swept the wand around the room.
"'ere. What's that thing?" Wells nodded at the wand.
"Um . . . universal anomaly detector. Scotland Yard just started handing them out."
Wells nodded, satisfied. To his Confunded eyes it probably appeared as some sort of Muggle electronic device.
Harry quickly detected residual magical energies floating through the home. They grew stronger as he turned away from the bodies.
He stopped when he faced the TV. His wand revealed a shimmering white aura around it. The show on the screen continued to play, rather loudly.
"Okay. Monica, Rachel. For the game. What is Chandler Bing's job?"
"Was the television on when you got here?" He looked over his shoulder at Wells.
"That was the reason we sent a constable around here. Neighbors complained the telly was on too loud. When our man got here, he found these two exactly like this."
Harry's hand flexed around his wand. He stared back at the set. "I'm taking this television back to headquarters."
"Dean, chill out. It's just a little ding.
"Little, Sam? Little? Look at it. It's the size of the freakin' Grand Canyon. How could you do this to my car, man?"
Harry groaned and looked up at the television set from the Lambeth home, now sitting in the corner of his office at the Aurors Office. It had been on for hours, since that Illison fellow from the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office rigged the set so it would play here at the Ministry. In that time it hadn't done anything strange, but Harry did learn a few things about Muggle programs. Friends was mildly amusing, One Tree Hill was pure drabble and America's Next Top Model was filled with whiney, snooty women who looked like they hadn't eaten in a month.
Then there was this show, Supernatural, about two brothers who roamed America hunting and killing magical creatures. The program made Harry shake his head. If Sam and Dean Winchester tried any of their tactics in real life, they'd be dead in a heartbeat.
With a grunt, Harry went back to studying reports. He'd placed numerous charms around the television to alert him if it produced any dark magic.
The mystery of Muggles dying peacefully on their sofas wasn't limited to the four cases in Britain. Several dispatches from Ministries and Departments of Magic from several countries had arrived by owl over the past twenty-four hours. A Japanese auror reported similar deaths in Nobeoka and Nagoya. Germany had three cases. Australian authorities discovered ten dead at a small out-of-the-way pub in Broken Hill.
Next Harry picked up a parchment from the American Department of Magic. His eyes lit up when he recognized the name of the auror. Rosa Infante. A grin flashed across his face, remembering how she helped him and his friends prevent American Death Eaters from bolstering Voldemort's ranks, and stop a horde of altered Chupacabra from running amuck in Britain.
Hard to believe all that was ten years ago.
He sat back and read Rosa's report.
In the case of the four dead women in the University of Delaware dormitory, Muggle authorities feared the use of chemical or biological weapons. Further tests determined no such weapons were responsible for the deaths. As in the instances in Cumberland, Kentucky and Aurora, Colorado, there were no signs of infectious weapons, illegal narcotics or visible trauma. All victims appeared in a peaceful state when they died.
While traces of magical energies were detected in Cumberland and Aurora, the strongest readings were found in the dorm room at the University of Delaware. While examining the room I noticed the television seemed to be the source of these energies. My wand revealed a shimmering white aura around the TV, which was still on. It is unclear how this television could have resulted in the deaths of the four women, if it was indeed the television. Such auras were not found around the televisions of the victims in Cumberland or Aurora. It should be noted, though, the victims in those two homes were not discovered until a day or two after their deaths, possibly giving such energies time to dissipate. The four University of Delaware women were found approximately an hour after they died.
The corners of Harry's mouth curled. A shimmering white aura. Exactly what he found in Lambeth.
He skimmed through the other reports. None of them mentioned anything about white auras around televisions. But as in the Cumberland and Aurora cases, the victims had not been discovered for many hours, in some cases a day or two, after they died. As Rosa suggested, whatever was around their tellys may have dissipated.
Harry pulled out a piece of blank parchment from a desk drawer and dipped his pen in his ink bottle. He started to compose a letter to Rosa when someone knocked on the door.
He looked up and was greeted by flowing red hair and a round freckled face.
Ginny Potter smiled at him, then turned to the telly. "This is how you spend your working day? Locked up in your office watching Muggle shows?"
"It's part of the case I'm working on."
Ginny snorted. "Likely story." She strode over to his desk, leaned over it and kissed him.
"What brings you by here?" Harry gently stroked her hand.
"What, a wife needs an excuse to see her sexy husband? If you must know, Alicia Spinnet's folks just opened a new restaurant in Diagon Alley. I thought we could go there for dinner, kind of like a real date."
"What about James?"
"Bill and Fleur agreed to watch him." Ginny perched herself on Harry's desk and ran her fingers through his thick crown of black hair. "So, what do you say?"
He took his wife's hand and kissed it. "Sounds good to me, luv. Let me just finish this letter and we'll be off."
Harry wrote down his findings from Lambeth and asked Rosa to double-check the televisions from Cumberland and Aurora, while he did the same for the ones in Bodenham, Leeds and Brighton.
"I just need to owl this and I'll be back." He paused as he rounded his desk. "I didn't realize how hungry I was until now."
"That's what happens when you get so wrapped up in saving the world."
Harry chuckled and kissed Ginny on the cheek. "I'll be back in a bit."
Ginny watched her husband leave, frowning at the robes he wore that kept her from ogling that gorgeous bum of his. She crossed her feet and drummed her fingers against the edge of the desk in anticipation. Evenings with just the two of them had become rare since she gave birth to James last year. She'd have to thank Fleur profusely when she picked up her son. Her sister-in-law had been the one to suggest they have a nice romantic dinner, just the two of them, while she watched James.
"And you do not 'ave to come get him when you are done eating, if you know what I mean," Fleur had said with a sly grin.
Ginny knew exactly what she meant. She and Harry had been talking about having another child. Why not get started on that tonight?
She smiled and shook her head. She found it hard to believe there had been a time when she would have rather seen Bill marry a goblin than Fleur, or "Phlegm" as she had affectionately called her back then. But after she stuck by Bill when the werewolf Greyback disfigured him, after aiding them in the battle against Voldemort, after helping the family cope with Fred's death, Ginny learned to love Fleur like a sister.
Two cracks shattered her reverie. Ginny turned to the television. A young brown-haired man fired that Muggle weapon . . . a gun, that was it! He fired his gun at some woman with coal black eyes.
"Sammy! She's coming your way!"
Ginny watched this Sammy pull out a flask and snap his hand down. Droplets of water struck the woman. She screamed as smoke rose from her body.
This is somewhat interesting. Ginny angled herself to face the television. Unlike most pure-bloods she had seen several TV shows, the majority of them back when she dated Dean Thomas. The Muggle-born boy had an extensive collection of video tapes and DVDs, and had perfected a charm so they could be played inside Hogwarts. Most of the time she couldn't help but roll her eyes, aghast at what passed for entertainment in the Muggle world. Thank Merlin Harry never expressed any interest in buying a television.
But she had to admit, this show didn't seem too bad. Hell, the two guys were very cute. She focused on the screen, caught up in their pursuit of this possessed woman who now picked up a trash can and flung it at them.
A content feeling washed over her. She felt so comfortable sitting on the desk. The anxiousness she'd felt earlier waiting for Harry subsided. All she wanted to do was sit here and watch TV.
Ginny started to feel tired, but somehow managed to keep her eyes open. She couldn't fall asleep now. She had to watch this show.
A bright white line ran down the middle of the screen. Within moments it expanded and actually grew outside the screen.
Ginny simply sat and watched passively.
Something pulled itself through the white light. A misshapen human-like face appeared, rows of pointy teeth sticking out its mouth. Thin gazelle-like horns grew out of its head, which was attached to a rail thin purplish-black body.
In the back of her mind, Ginny knew she should be afraid, that she should pull out her wand and fight this thing.
Instead she just sat on the desk and watched the creature emerge from the television.
TO BE CONTINUED
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Harry's adventures with Rosa Infante are chronicled in my fanfics "Dark Horizon" and "Midnight's Blood."