SUMMER 1995

There was a handsome bench hidden away in Hyde Park. The bench was made from good wood and held together with bands and bolts of metal that had stoically weathered the years. All around it, stretching out in a broad wheel of greenery, was the park's well-tended lawn. There was nothing to mark this particular bench as unusual; indeed, it was unexceptional in every way, though a keen eye might take note of certain facts. Facts such as the lack of trees nearby, or the fact that the bench was in line-of-sight from the rooftops in the skyline surrounding Hyde Park, or that there were snipers waiting on those rooftops.

Harry Pearce, Head of the Counter-Terrorism department of MI5, knew all of this when he sat down on the bench. He was a man with a keen eye. He had also, after all, ordered his team to prepare the location and expected such things as SOP for arranging yet another of these annual meetings between representatives of MI5 and the Order. The more colorful specifics of the security arrangements had been kept from him and all the other plainclothes agents dotting the park; a precaution for dealing with the sort of people that made up the Order and their enemies. Harry hoped his team had shown some imagination planning for the Worst Case Scenarios. If he himself had run the preparations, Harry mused, he would have buried a 500 pound fragmentation bomb underneath the bench just in case. Though I doubt that would do any good, he thought to himself. It's rather hard to kill one of these people when they can just magic themselves away.

A voice in his earpiece announced, "Subject sighted in Quadrant 3. Moving northeast along the footpath."

Harry didn't bother checking his watch. "Right on time, as ever." He adjusted his mirrored sunglasses, double-checking to make sure they completely covered his eyes.

A few seconds later he appeared in the distance walking up the path, dressed in a neat, stripped business suit. Harry noted the man looked the same as he always did: tall and thin, elderly without looking old, with his long gray beard bound together a hand-length down from his chin. To any unaware onlooker the man seemed just another businessman among thousands in London. The only hint to his eccentricity was the half-moon spectacles set on his long, crooked nose.

The man walked up to handsome bench. Pearce inclined his head as a measure of respect, yet still he did not make eye contact with the bearded man. "Albus."

"Harry," the man said kindly, eyes twinkling. He took a seat next to Harry on the bench. "How are the children?"

"Obstinate and uncommunicative, just like their mother. Yours?"

"I'm afraid my own children have had something of a rough year," admitted the elderly man. "Lord Voldemort is back."

Harry considered that revelation for a moment, then said. "That's a neat trick."

Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, nodded. "I'll spare you the specifics, Harry, but I thought your people should be informed."

"How long ago did this resurrection occur?"

"Five weeks ago yesterday."

"Informed? Five weeks after the fact?" Harry snorted. "I suppose that tells me everything I need to know about how you view 'Muggles'."

"I've been busy preparing for a war." Dumbledore sighed. "A war I'm afraid my own government is refusing to recognize. The Minister of Magic believes I am creating a paper war so that I can take over his position."

"Fudge." Harry shook his head in disgust. "Ours have the excuse of not having magic, but you'd think your politicians could take a Draught of Common Sense or some such."

Dumbledore chuckled mirthlessly. "Sadly, even magic has limits."

"I take it that rag is following the Ministry's line?"

"The Daily Prophet has proved less than helpful, yes."

Harry rubbed his brow, feeling a migraine forming. "And the Death Eaters?"

"Reformed. The Order expects them to begin their shadow campaign shortly."

"Delightful."

"As I said, I thought your people should be informed."

"Yes," tutted Harry. "Since keeping us informed about the return of a superpowered racial-supremacist fascist was very high on your list of things to do these last two months."

Though Harry Pearce made sure to avoid eye contact, he could hear the frown in Dumbledore's voice. "The International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy prevents MI5's involvement in our affairs. Your predecessor, when we held these meetings in the 1980s, was very considerate of the fact our Ministry kept the magical population of Ireland from interfering in the tangled web of the Troubles."

"Times are changing in our world," said Harry, "unlike in your own. You and your kind may have noticed recent developments like the horseless carriage, trial by jury, and democratic elections."

"Speaking from a long lifetime of experience, Mister Pearce, the world never really changes."

"Oh?" He continued, "When I was a young man all we had to worry about was a foreign dictator with his finger on the button. Now any ideologue with a certain caliber of stupidity can post a manifesto on the Internet, strap on an explosive vest, walk into a crowded disco, and blow themselves up." He inclined his head towards the wizard as far as was possible without looking at Dumbledore's eyes. MI5 was fairly certain his mirrored sunglasses would prevent the wizard's Legilimency from allowing him to read his mind, but 'fairly certain' wasn't enough for Harry Pearce. "I'm tasked with running Counter-terrorism operations in this country and if the Death Eaters start massacring our people in the streets Her Majesty's Government won't sit back this time and let the likes of Cornelius Fudge 'deal' with the situation using mind wipes, cover-ups, and criminal stupidity."

Dumbledore asked, "Do you intend to go public?"

Harry let the silence hang in the air for a moment, then said, "We'll be considering every option if what you say is true."

"Voldemort is back." The elderly wizard smoothed out the wrinkles in the pants of his dark suit. "Harry, in fighting him we must resist committing 'necessary' evils in the name of righteousness. I've lived through two magical wars already. I've seen what lies down that path. You know it too."

"MI5 doesn't do evil," shot back Harry Pearce, "just treachery, treason and armageddon."

Carefully, Dumbledore said, "It's a slippery slope, fighting for a cause you believe in."

"...true enough." The MI5 director looked away from the wizard. "But this won't be the first war our country's fought in secret. Or the last."

"No. I suppose it won't be." The elderly wizard stood up. Harry noted he was polite enough not to try to look him in the eye. "I'll keep you informed of any developments."

"If we come across anything relevant on our end, we'll contact you through the usual channels." He paused. "Is there anything else?"

Dumbledore, his back to the spook, shook his head. "Goodbye, Harry."

"Albus."

With a loud CRACK the wizard disappeared. Harry's earpiece wailed, "Subject has vanished! I repeat: subject has vanished!"

"Yes," said Harry dryly. "I'm well aware." The old spy stood up. He looked around, surveying the verdant sunlight greenery of Hyde Park. In the distance a gaggle of children laughed as they kicked around a football. "A pity," he said, "it's almost too fine a day for a war."

And with that he turned and walked away from the handsome bench.