Disclaimer: All characters belong to JK Rowling.


Do you think that spring is just behind the door?
I don't know. There is something scary in the air, the acceleration of invisible things.

- Etel Adnan, Paris, When It's Naked (1993)

Chapter 22: Knowledge

James and Albus returned to Hogwarts that Sunday and Clymene Court again grew quiet and still, like an animal curling around itself in the cold.

On Monday evening, Dr. Alexander Peck called Harry, breathless.

"I've got the results of all your bloodwork. It's interesting..."

He offered to conference in Ron and Hermione—something Harry hadn't known was possible. Once Harry gave him their home number, all four of them were on the line.

"I must heavily caveat everything I'm about to say," said the doctor. "I've only tested your three samples, but there appears to be four to seven gene areas in your DNA that are different from the global database. All these genes relate to nerve and brain cells, which suggests that magic does indeed originate in the brain."

"So what do we do next?" said Hermione eagerly.

"With so little information, it'd be irresponsible to design a gene therapy at this stage," Alex sighed. "We need to test far more magical blood to confirm the findings."

"How much more blood do you need?" Harry asked.

"Ideally, we'd sample thousands of people. At a bare minimum, we need several hundred."

Silence.

"Well, there's an obvious answer, isn't there?" said Ron.

"What?" said Hermione.

"Vampires."

"What?" said Alex and Harry.

"Yeah," said Ron. "There's a shop in Knockturn Alley. I know the owner. He caters to more unusual tastes and he keeps a stock of blood for his vampire clients. Apparently vampires prefer magical blood over Muggle blood so I know he has arrangements with magical donors. Not sure how many, though."

"Ron!" said Hermione. "That's brilliant!"

"Could one of you meet with him?" said Alex. "Find out how many donors he has? I'm happy to come too. I've heard the Healers mention that street."

"Sure, you can come," said Ron. "It's not going to be cheap, though. I know he pays a lot for it and sells it at a markup."

"Whatever it is, we'll pay it," said Hermione immediately.

"All right. There goes Hugo's dress robes fund."

They laughed.

"While this is great," said Alex evenly, "I do think we need to try our first line of treatment, the blood transfusion. If simply having magical blood in their system finally allows the counter-charm to work, there'll be no need for the gene therapies. I blood typed the Camerons last week and I think we should try Walter Cameron first. His condition is relatively stable and his blood type is AB positive, so he can take blood from any of you. Which one of you wants to do it?"

"I'll—" said Hermione.

"I'll do it," Harry interrupted tightly.

Hermione was anemic. She couldn't donate large amounts of blood.

Alex seemed to remember too, for he quickly said, "Yes, that'd be great, Harry. I'll have to take a lot more than last time. At least one litre. It won't be fun."

"That's fine."

They arranged to meet the next day. Like an Auror sting operation, Harry constructed a plan. He would lend his Invisibility Cloak to Ron and Hermione. They would go to St. Mungo's during visiting hours, Ron staying under the cloak. Once in the Thickey Ward, Ron would take Polyjuice to become Walter Cameron. Hermione would put the real Walter under the cloak and return to the lobby to disapparate. They would meet Harry and Alex at the latter's flat to conduct the transfusion, which would take one to two hours.

"Hermione, you're the best at Memory Charms and the counter-charm," said Harry. "It'll have to be you seeing as we won't have a Healer."

"That's fine," she said, sounding nervous. "I'll brush up on it tonight. I'll bring a Memory Potion too, in case that helps."

They rang off. Harry stared at his desk for some time, picking through the plan in his mind, searching for any flaw. Finding none, he stood and went to retrieve the cloak. He kept it in a drawer next to his Pensieve, which glowed innocent as a moonbeam in its cabinet.

It had been three days since his trip into his memories. Three days since realizing he was in love with his best friend.

The knowledge felt palpable, material. Like unexploded ordinance in his chest, dangerous and volatile.

He didn't know what to do. He didn't know what he wanted.

He wanted to tell her. Badly. Sometimes, he felt almost breathless with it. Yet, he was afraid. She could not love him back. Not like he loved her. What if—after everything—it was still just an infatuation for her, borne of stress and lust and insecurity? He did not think he could bear it, if that were the case.

There was also the fact that she was a better person than him. Even if she returned his feelings, he could not know whether she would act on them. She was fundamentally decent and kind—it was one of the many reasons he loved her. But that meant she would not betray Ron or upend her family lightly. And Harry would not forgive himself if he asked her to.

Ron. For the first time in nearly four months, since the forest, Harry let himself think—really think—about Ron. Harry had always been able to avoid it, either because he was in denial about what was happening, was wholly fixated on what she felt for him, or (the most likely possibility) because he was a coward. But after the Pensieve, Harry could put it off no longer. He let himself think about his witty, loyal, and brilliant friend.

And he felt literally sick.

All his suspicions about them growing up. Riddle's locket. It had only taken twenty years, but Ron had finally been proven right. He had trusted Harry that there was nothing to the rumors and the one time in their lives when they'd been forced to address it directly, Harry had been unequivocal, hadn't he?

I love her like a sister...I thought you knew.

It would be the end of them, if Ron found out. Without a shadow of a doubt, it'd be the end.

But there was something more fundamental at stake than their friendship. Ron loved Hermione. And here—with a sickening twist of the stomach—Harry saw Ron looking at Hermione on their wedding day...like he found it impossible to believe she existed. Harry and Hermione had already gone too far. To have his wife and best friend betray him like this...it'd destroy this good man who'd changed so much since the war. He'd surely grow sullen and distant and bitter again, like he'd been when he wore a fragment of Voldemort's soul.

Then, there was Ginny.

A deep ache joined the nausea. They'd barely spoken in the last three days. Despite their recent arguments, Harry knew she didn't deserve this. She had always made him happy. She was the mother of their children. And he loved her. In his way, he loved her.

But the Pensieve had revealed something about them, too. With the benefit of age, Harry could see now that Ginny often did not understand him. Over time, he had, perhaps unconsciously, learned he could not show her the deepest parts of himself—those doubts and fears over his past, over his fame, over his career, over fatherhood that he found hard to explain, that he felt a compulsion to bury away.

He thought of other things, too. He remembered his inability to tell Ginny of his complex feelings regarding Albus' departure for Hogwarts. He thought of her aloofness when he visited his parents' grave. There were important parts of him he knew she did not like. But it was not one-sided. There were things he didn't understand about her—the importance she placed on her standing at the Prophet, her desire to elevate their position in society. He was coming to see they wanted different things. And—regardless of Hermione—perhaps he would've faced these questions eventually.

But the thought of acting on this knowledge and all that it could mean...

Divorce.

Custody of the children.

His relationship with the Weasleys.

The public hysteria that would surely follow.

Harry shuddered away from it. The old fear, his first memory. It came back to him, patient and powerful. The bone-deep terror of abandonment and exclusion.

There was so much to lose. How could he risk it all on the slim possibility that Hermione loved him?

In thinking it, he felt dirty, like a racketeer. Hedging bets and weighing odds with human emotions. It was not supposed to be like this.

But, he didn't know what to do.

Jolted by waves of shame and doubt, the only thing that anchored him was Hermione and the knowledge that maybe she would know. Like she always did.


Harry waited anxiously in the bright yellow kitchen of Number 17, Parfett Street in Whitechapel. His blood was in the refrigerator in two large pouches. Dr. Peck sat at the table checking emails on his mobile.

There was a quiet knock at the door.

Harry started, but Alex held up a hand. "Stay where you are. You need to rest."

He returned with Hermione, who was escorting an invisible someone forward. She removed the cloak, revealing a confused, but amused, Walter Cameron.

"Well, hello!" said the Muggle.

Alex swallowed, never having seen the cloak before, but he smiled at the older man. "Hello, Walter. How're you feeling today?"

"Oh, grand!"

"Did Hermione explain what we're going to do?"

"Something about blood and more spells," Mr. Cameron laughed. "Always more spells."

"All right," said Alex. "How about we go in the sitting room? You'll be more comfortable there."

The doctor had cleaned the sitting room since Harry's last visit, or at least removed the moldy teacups. The room was still cluttered with tripods, cameras, and artefacts from his girlfriend's travels. She still seemed to be away.

Alex had Mr. Cameron sit in a recliner. Then, he positioned a tall metal stand next to it and hung the first bag of Harry's blood around a hook at the top. He looked at Hermione.

"I reckon you should start trying the counter-charm once we hook up the second bag," he said. "We can keep trying up to an hour after he's received all the blood. It'll still be fresh in his system."

Hermione nodded tightly. Harry read the anxiety in her eyes easily. As talented as she was, she knew she was not a trained Healer.

"Walter, are you ready?" asked the doctor.

It was clear Mr. Cameron didn't fully understand what was happening to him and Harry felt a twinge of unease. So much had already been done to the Camerons without their consent. But the Muggle nodded cheerfully and Alex cleaned the skin on the inside of his elbow, inserted a needle, and twisted a valve below the bag.

"Now, we wait."

They talked for a while then, Walter, Alex, and Harry having an extended conversation about Arsenal. Hermione showed the same enthusiasm for football as she did for Quidditch and, after five minutes, stood and walked around the room, studying the oddities on the walls.

When Alex went back to checking his mobile, Harry stood and went to her side.

"Everything go all right at Mungo's?" he asked quietly.

She smiled. "Yes. Ron has taken to the role."

Harry grinned automatically. He felt a strange mixture of guilt and jealousy whenever she spoke of Ron now.

He glanced at her face as she examined a batik wall hanging.

"Are we still on for witness prep on Thursday?"

She nodded. "At Emi's house. She's helping me."

He nodded. So, they would not be alone.

Perhaps she sensed his dispiritedness because she said, "Thanks so much for doing this. I mean it."

She looked at him, eyes soft, and Harry momentarily lost himself. The knowledge pushed against his lips like a caged animal trying to free itself.

"Hermione," said Alex, standing, "I'm going to get the second bag."

She nodded. When Alex disappeared into the kitchen, Harry trailed his fingers down her arm to her hand. She closed her eyes. When they heard him coming back, they separated.

Alex transferred the tubing to the full bag, Harry's blood churning like a cherry slushie. Hermione positioned herself at the foot of the recliner and removed her wand, face drawn. She glanced at Harry, who nodded reassuringly.

The magnitude of what they were doing suddenly struck Harry anew. If this worked, Walter's memories would be restored. He could return to the job he had forgotten and a normal life. Perhaps more importantly in the short-term, he might remember the crime. He might know why Callahan had attacked his family, aiding Hermione's case even if Muggles were not allowed to testify in magical courts.

"All right," said Alex, stepping away. "Whenever you're ready."

Hermione released a slow breath, a look of deep concentration on her face. She raised her wand and pointed it at Walter Cameron's head.

"Memorari!"

The Muggle stared bemusedly at her wand but, after a moment, his eyes grew unfocused. He blinked rapidly.

"Walter," said Hermione slowly, "how do you feel?"

"Perfectly well," he said. "Thank you for asking!"

"Do you remember your full name?" she asked gently.

His brows drew together, as if surprised by the question.

"Walter Michael Cameron."

"Do you know who I am?"

"Why, you're Hermione!" he laughed.

She smiled. "And how old are you, Walter?"

"Fifty-two."

"And what is your occupation?"

"Why I work...why I used to..." He stopped. He looked faintly surprised, as if suddenly finding himself in a maze with no idea how he got there.

"That's all right," said Hermione quickly. "We'll come back to that one. What year is it?"

Walter blinked. "2018."

"Good, that's very good," said Hermione encouragingly. "How many children do you have?"

"Two. Nicole and Duncan."

"Very good." She paused, watching him closely. "Do you remember something that happened in August of last year? Do you remember an intruder in your home?"

He stared blankly at her. "An intruder...?"

Her eyes flashed to Harry and she mouthed "Memory Potion."

Harry went to her bag and retrieved it. Uncorking it, he handed the vial to Mr. Cameron.

"Take some of this, Walter," he said gently. "It'll help."

He drank the potion down without question.

"Let's try again," said Hermione, with forced cheer. "Do you remember your occupation? What do you do for a living, Walter?"

His brow furrowed. "I told you...I'm a..."

But the word "banker" never came to his lips.

He fell silent, looking annoyed with himself. He jerked the arm with the needle in it upwards and pressed the heel of his palm into his eye. Alex lurched forward.

"Careful there, Walter," he said. "You need to keep this arm still." He looked anxiously at Harry and Hermione. "Maybe we give it a little more time and try the spell again?"

Hermione nodded stiffly.

When the second bag was half full, she cast the counter-charm again. And then again when it was empty. She tried once more thirty minutes after Alex removed the needle.

There was no effect each time. Walter Cameron could not remember his occupation. He could not remember the attack.

Hermione's face was pale as she huddled with Harry and Alex in the kitchen.

"Maybe I'm not casting it right," she whispered, gripping her wand tightly like it had betrayed her. "Or I should've brought a stronger Memory Potion. That was the strongest one the apothecary had, but maybe if I'd brewed one—"

"It could be my blood," Harry interjected. "Maybe it's not strong enough or right for him."

Alex pinched the bridge of his nose. "Or maybe it has nothing to do with blood. Maybe it's about actually being magical."

They fell silent. They thought of the work before them—procuring magical blood samples, analyzing them, developing a cocktail to alter the Camerons' genes.

The young doctor sighed. "I'll monitor him over the next few days. There could be a delayed effect."

Harry and Hermione nodded grimly.

When Walter was ready, Hermione placed the cloak gently around his shoulders. She couldn't look at the Muggle directly, and Harry saw the wounded hope in her eyes. The feeling that she had failed him.

Harry wanted to reach out to her, then. To tell her it was not her fault.

But, in the next moment, they were gone.


On Thursday afternoon, Harry apparated onto the doorstep of an elegant home in North Kensington. Cassiopeia Burke stood guard outside, her cloak pulled tight against the January cold.

"Cassy," he said, nodding to her. "All right?"

She nodded curtly. "Yessir."

She was never one for conversation.

"I'll be here a couple hours," he said. "You and Yvain can take a break. I'll send word when I'm leaving."

She nodded again and disapparated.

Harry found Yvain in the entryway. He gave him the same message and the young Auror took his leave. He avoided Harry's eyes though, perhaps remembering their last encounter at the New Year's Eve ball. It had bothered Harry since it happened, like a niggling fly. Why was Yvain looking for Hermione when he was off duty? He knew Aurors could get overly attached to their protectees and he made a mental note to call Yvain into this office, make sure he was still up for the job.

Harry stepped into a spacious sitting room. Hermione and Emilia Edelman were sitting on the carpet, a box of pizza between them. Emi jumped up when she saw him.

"Harry!" she greeted warmly, kissing his check. "Are you ready for the torture to begin?"

He laughed. "I think so."

Emi and her husband, Luke, were both Muggle-borns. Luke worked in advertising and public relations, helping magical businesses reach the coveted Muggle-born demographic.

Their background was reflected in their home. The floor was littered with the Muggle and magical toys of their four children. There was a flat-screen television on the far wall next to a Wizarding Wireless. The built-in shelves held both spell books and Muggle classics. There was a menorah in a high cabinet.

Emi once told him about a time she hosted a pureblood friend at her home. The pureblood had asked how she could still practice her Muggle religion knowing what Muggles did to their kind centuries ago. Emi had replied that nothing was so black and white. The Talmudic rabbis often assumed their wives engaged in witchcraft and Queen Jezebel herself was a witch.

"Come join us," she said. "We've got extra pizza."

He sat down cross-legged, taking a slice and enjoying the way Hermione and Emi talked to one another. It was like a tennis match, each of them constantly interjecting with tangents and inside jokes.

When he was on his second slice, Emi turned to him.

"So, opening arguments are next week. Our side leads off with the witnesses. We have fifteen. The other side has five or six."

"Is that good?"

"Hard to say," she mused. "Bruton is calling up Callahan's mother and brother. He's calling up a so-called specialist in Muggle affairs. He's really just a pureblood firebrand."

"You'll be our first witness," said Hermione, "when we'll just be laying out the facts of the case."

"Expect Bruton to try and rattle you on the cross-examination," Emi interjected. "He'll want to get you to say Callahan was just following your orders. He'll bring up the Auror Department's record of infractions against Muggles, trying to imply what Callahan did wasn't so bad."

"There's a big difference between standard infractions and the Cruciatus," Harry grumbled.

"Exactly," Hermione nodded. "And you should make that point, but expect him to try and cut you off at every turn."

"So, how do we get started?" he asked.

They got off the floor and Emi brought in a straight-backed chair from the dining room.

"Has to be realistic," she grinned, directing Harry to sit. "Hermione will play herself and I'll be Bruton. Be warned. I'll be merciless."

Harry laughed. Just then, however, a patronus shot into the room and they all jumped. The silver condor glided to a stop in front of Emi and opened its beak. It spoke in a woman's voice, severe and displeased.

"Ms. Edelman," it said, "your son, Jacob, nearly maimed another student with a Biting Chinese Finger Trap. He's been called to the Headmistress' Office where we await your presence."

"Fucking hell," said Emi as the patronus faded. "I thought I got his last one." She looked at them apologetically. "Can you carry on without me? I'd ask Luke to go but he has an important meeting today. I'll come back as soon as I can."

Harry and Hermione nodded stiffly. After grabbing her cloak, she disapparated for the Agrippa School.

With her departure, the house fell preternaturally still. They looked at one another, the dark bead of heat thrumming into life and stretching out between them. Before he could think, before he even knew what he meant to do, Harry was on his feet and walking towards her—five, six steps—until he had pushed her up against the wall and she lifted her eyes and then, all at once, they were kissing and it was like releasing a breath. The guilt, the shame, the fear—it left like water through cupped hands. He kissed the woman he loved.

As the soft, full arcs of her lips molded to his, her tongue slipping past, he felt a familiar dark chill run down his jaw, his spine. And when small, little breaths started escaping the back of her throat, he felt the knowledge push hard at his lips. He wanted to tell her. So badly. But, he could not. So, he let it guide his lips so that perhaps she might feel it.

After a minute or so, he pulled back. Her eyes were unfocused, a delicate fire rising up her chest, her throat, and he touched his forehead to hers.

"Hermione," he murmured, "can we go somewhere...where we can be alone? Not even to..." He couldn't finish the thought. "To just talk?"

She nodded, bringing her hands to the front of his chest, where he knew she'd feel his heart pushing against her fingers.

"Give me a few days," she said softly. "Let me get through opening arguments and the first witnesses. Next weekend...Saturday?"

He nodded dimly. As desperate as he was to be alone with her, he could recognize this was all exceptionally bad timing. The trial of her career was about to start.

"Saturday."

She kissed his lips gently. "Where would we go? We can't...not at our homes..."

Harry swallowed, thinking quickly. "I think I know a place. Leave it to me."

She nodded and they kissed for a while longer. When Harry's thumb grazed her breast, though, she pulled away.

"You seem to be forgetting we actually have work to do," she said seriously.

"I wonder how I forgot that."

She smiled faintly, slipping out from under him and pulling him towards the chair. "You're being a very uncooperative witness."

He chuckled and sat down. Hermione picked up a legal pad from the floor.

"Like I said, you're the first witness. Augustus Pyke and Annie Wilkes will go after you."

He nodded. Pyke was an Auror and a specialist in spell forensics and Priori Incantatem. Annie Wilkes had conducted the magical evaluation on Callahan that confirmed he wasn't under the Imperius Curse when he tortured the Camerons.

She held out the legal pad and looked at him expectantly.

He sighed and placed his hand over it. "I swear that the testimony I shall give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

She took back the pad.

"Chief Potter," she said lightly, "can you please state your full name for the court?"

He gave her a slow half-smile. He liked it when she called him that. "How about a kiss for every answer?"

"Harry."

"What?"

She paused, a brow arched. Harry felt a rush of blood settle between his legs.

"A kiss for every right answer."

"Fair enough. Harry James Potter."

"And what is your current occupation?"

"Ah, I think I answered that last one right."

She gave him a level look. But, after a moment, she picked up his hand and kissed the tips of his fingers.

"Hey—"

"And what is your current occupation?"

He watched her, a dark glint to his green eyes. "Chief of the Department of Aurors."

She picked up his other hand and kissed his fingers. But, this time, he held onto her and drew her towards him, so that she stood between his legs.

"How long have you been with the Auror Department?"

"Almost twenty years."

She leaned down and kissed his cheek. Her curls brushed his neck and he closed his eyes briefly.

"And when were you made Chief?"

"June 2012."

She bent down to kiss his other cheek, but he turned his head so that her lips briefly brushed his. She leaned back, slightly flustered now.

"Do Aurors come across Muggles in their regular line of work?"

"Yes. Often."

She lowered her head once more and touched his lips, just fleetingly. Harry brought his hands to her waist.

"Does the Auror Department have policies and procedures on how to interact with Muggles in the course of official duties?"

"Yes. Extensive ones."

She leaned down again and pressed her lips to his neck. A soft groan escaped his throat before he could stop it. He tightened his grip on her hips.

"How often are Aurors trained on these policies and procedures?"

"Every year," he murmured. "Otherwise they lose their badge."

She bent low to kiss the other side of his neck. This time, her tongue flicked across his pulse. His eyes slid shut.

"So, it would not be possible for an Auror to be unaware of Department policies regarding interactions with Muggles," she said softly. "Is that correct?"

"Yes."

Hermione shifted and lowered herself onto his lap. Harry watched her, that dark and limitless quality returning to her eyes.

"What are the general themes of these policies and procedures?" she whispered.

His hands trailed up her sides. "They're based off the 2008 Muggle Protection Act. Non-engagement, unless as a last resort. No Legilimency without a warrant. No Obliviation without cause—"

She rocked against him and pressed her lips to his. He returned the kiss with force, losing his hands in her hair. As she traced his jaw with her fingers, he again felt the rightness, the wholeness. That sense of completeness.

They heard a key in the door.

Hermione jumped from him, as if burned. She took several steps away and pressed the backs of her hands against her face. Harry crossed his legs. Thankfully, his jeans were tight.

Emi appeared a moment later, looking exceedingly annoyed.

"Honestly," she said throwing off her cloak. "They make the biggest fuss over nothing. The kid was fine."

"That's good!" Hermione said brightly.

"What'd they give him?" asked Harry with rapt curiosity.

"Just detention." She looked at the pair of them. "How're you getting on?"

"Halfway through my questioning," said Hermione, studying her legal pad carefully.

"Well, hurry it up, Granger!" Emi laughed. "I want to have a go at him!"


The next day, Matthew Durkheim charged into Harry's office, just after lunch.

"Another sighting," said the Auror, breathless. "Of Rudge. Here in London."

Harry stood. "Where?"

"Diagon Alley. In one of the second-hand junk shops."

"When?"

"Five minutes ago. Alanis saw him. She was off duty but wearing her uniform. Rudge bolted when he saw her."

"Set up a perimeter and trigger the non-Apparition zone."

"Already done. We've got ten Aurors there now, screening everyone. Twenty more on the way."

Harry nodded, running a hand through his hair. He'd placed Durkheim in charge of the case since the last sighting in Scotland over three months ago. Rudge was one of only a handful of Death Eaters still at large. The same Death Eater Callahan had been sent to find the night he tortured the Camerons.

"Let's get down there," said Harry, grabbing his cloak.


Diagon Alley was packed with confused shoppers. The gateway into Muggle London was blocked. If the shoppers tried to disapparate, they would end up in the same spot. Aurors guarded all the nearby fireplaces.

The crowd parted as Harry, Durkheim, and several other Aurors strode towards Bandilandis' Second-Hand Emporium. Alanis Carthwright was waiting for them outside.

"I'm sorry, Chief," she said immediately. "I tried to stun him, but missed. He took off towards Knockturn Alley."

"Tell me everything you saw."

"I was looking for a cauldron for my mum. She goes through them like nothing. I spotted him in the Wireless section. He was wearing a hat—I reckon to hide that scar—but I recognized him. He looked unwell, thinner than the photographs.

"I was wearing my uniform so I tried to pull on my invisibility cloak, but he turned around before I fully had it on. Then, he ran and I followed, but I lost him."

As the Aurors sorted through the crowd outside, casting Anti-Disillusionment and Anti-Deception Charms, Harry and Durkheim interviewed the shopkeeper. He hadn't recognized Rudge but said the Death Eater stayed in the Wireless section for some time. One of the recording devices was missing. Nothing else seemed to have been touched.

An hour later, the crowd had been fully cleared and Diagon Alley returned to normal. There was no sign of Rudge. They had lost him. Again.

Durkheim was walking towards him—having finished his fifth interview with a nearby shopkeeper—when Harry heard a low rumble.

He turned and looked curiously up the main thoroughfare. A large crowd—maybe two hundred strong—was approaching like a storm cloud. As they drew near, their footfalls shook the ground and they carried signs and placards, but Harry heard the chants first.

"Free Theo Callahan!"

"Free Theo Callahan!"

"Free Theo Callahan!"

The crowd was closer now and Harry could read the signs:

AURORS OVER MUGGLES

DOWN WITH MUGGLE-LOVERS AND DMLE

SACK LAKEY AND GRANGER

SEPARATION NOW, SEPARATION FOREVER

As if in a dream, he felt Durkheim pull him back, out of the way of the approaching horde.

But then, Harry saw it.

Bobbing over the crowd, in between the placards and signs, were two roughly-hewn figures.

One was meant to represent a man. He had a grizzled beard of straw, a cartoonish bear-like grin, an overstuffed belly. John Lakey.

The other...her bushy hair was teased-out wool. Her front teeth were horrifically exaggerated. She wore dowdy Muggle clothes and held a mawkish house-elf in her wooden arms.

Effigies.

The protesters handed leaflets to the watching crowd as they passed. As they approached Harry and the others, a few seemed to recognize him and looked away. They stuffed one into Durkheim's hands though, and Harry took it with numb fingers.

Join the Society for the Preservation of Wizarding Values
18 January 2018
Wizengamot, Gloucestershire Division

Come show your support and stand against the persecution of Theodonus Callahan and all those brave enough to challenge the Muggle-loving establishment. Protect our Aurors!

Durkheim's voice seemed to reach him from the end of a long tunnel.

"C'mon Chief. Let's go."

Harry nodded.

He crushed the leaflet in his hand.