A/N: Thank you, everyone, for support and concrit! I was actually a little surprised – people thought that Alex shouldn't have been so unbalanced after discovering magic, rather than in the past three years he would have already inadvertently stumbled on a wizard. Nevertheless, I maintain that he wasn't given the time to process and react rationally, and neither was Harry and… anyway, it kind of works out. Hopefully, the epilogue doesn't disappoint. Let me know.
Alex ran up the darkened street, splashing rainwater left and right. His sneakers were wet all the way through, but he couldn't see the puddles – all the lamps along the footpath were broken – so he couldn't avoid them.
He heard the guys huffing out quiet breaths, following on his heels. It was surreal. The only thing missing was the damn forest, and it would be just like Brecon Beacons again.
Finally! Alex took a sharp right turn and concentrated. Where had Harry said he lived? A grim old place (very grim and very old), number twelve, because superstition said it was unlucky. No one would miss a house number twelve if they couldn't see it.
Alex hoped this worked.
"What the fuck, Cub?" Wolf growled after he had almost bowled Alex over.
"Are we there yet?" Eagle asked, and promptly received a fist to someplace sensitive by someone unappreciative of his sense of humour (which would have been anyone else).
"You're sure this is a good idea?" Zebra muttered. "I know you swear by him, but he's a kid-"
"Alex is an adult," Ben pointed out. He refrained from mentioning how recently that had become fact, and Alex was too busy putting the address together in his head to intrude on their conversation.
Alex ran up the stairs that appeared out of nowhere. Luckily he was too wired on adrenaline to dwell on how weird this was. He rang the bell.
"Cub?" Snake called. "Cub, where the heck did you vanish?"
"I'm here!" Alex reassured him, and rang again.
Shouting came from the inside of the house; a screeching female voice let out an impressive, mildly-vulgar rant, disparaging the various occupants of the house. Most of the epithets were, presumably, directed at Harry.
"Get back here!" Wolf ordered.
"Give me a sec!" Alex returned. He ignored Wolf's growling and Zebra's dissentient mumbling, and hoped to whatever deity was listening that Harry would get the door before the cold-and-desperation-inducing entity caught up to them. Or before the guys came to blows. Or before Eagle started singing nursery rhymes. That had happened, according to Ben. Once. It had ended with Eagle and Wolf in need of first aid.
"Cub, where the fuck are you?"
The muffled shouting from inside the house was suddenly cut off. About five seconds later, the door opened, and a sleep-deprived Harry wrapped in a black dressing gown that trailed after him glared at Alex.
"Hi," Alex said a little helplessly.
Harry snorted. "I'm thinking several things, and none of them are child-friendly. Why are you and five bodybuilders on my doorstep in the middle of this already shitty night?"
Standing in a rectangle of light coming from nowhere, the four SAS soldiers and one MI6 agents were, understandably, confused.
"Alex, what's going on?"
"We're gonna die!"
"Shit, son of a bitch… bloody buggering-"
Alex ignored them as best as he could and tried to convey just how much he needed help through his facial expression and desperate tone of voice: "We've stumbled upon your playground. We're being hunted, and I don't have a clue what is hunting us." He hoped that was vague yet descriptive enough to convince Harry to assist them, while at the same time not scrambling Alex' mind for giving away the secret.
Harry groaned, pulled off his glasses and rubbed his face.
Behind Alex, Zebra continued displaying his vocabulary and Ben was holding Wolf back from wringing Eagle's neck. Snake remained on the fringes of the melee, with a gun in his hands, scanning the pitch-blackness for signs of attack.
"This is not your clever, sneaky way of forcing me to let a group of professional killers into my house so you can get rid of me?" Harry asked.
Alex shook his head. It didn't look good for him, but he could offer no proof. Moreover, the time was pressing them.
"Details?" Harry asked. He was holding himself upright with the help of a doorframe, but his expression was uncompromising.
"Didn't see anything, but temperature sank several degrees in an instance. Lights went out. Zebra swears he saw a black cloak, kind of like Death only without the scythe. Eagle went catatonic for a moment there – I remembered-"
"When?" Harry asked, suddenly alert. Alex recognised the signs of an adrenaline rush.
"Five, ten minutes ago? Don't know, we were running-"
"Get inside," Harry said, and kicked the wall for a good measure. Then he raised his voice to be heard over the scuffle between K Unit members: "My home is at Grimmauld Place Number Twelve!"
Snake and Zebra reacted immediately. Zebra swore. Snake jolted in shock, and blinked several times to make sure he wasn't seeing things. Then he kicked Wolf in the back of his calf and pointed.
The group hushed and stared.
Alex moved so that he stood between the guys and Harry, just in case one of them decided to be tetchy and pulled out a gun on the man who might just save their asses. Besides, he didn't want to know what an annoyed, recently woken and shocked into full awareness wizard would do if threatened on top of it.
"Come in," Harry repeated, spun on his heel and walked into the house.
Alex followed him, but remained standing just past the threshold. K Unit needed to be convinced before they approached the house that had turned up where there previously was none, and once they did, Alex warned them: "It's in your own interest to be as polite as you can manage. Harry is… not someone you want to cross."
Eagle laughed it off, Wolf pretended to ignore it and Zebra scoffed; at least Snake and Ben were smart enough to take Alex seriously. Hopefully, they would prevent any bloodshed from commencing.
Harry tacitly handed Alex a candlestick, and after a moment of deliberation passed another to Ben. They had been, apparently, judged as trustworthy enough to carry a potential weapon. Not that Harry hadn't noticed their holsters; every one of them had at least one gun on their body, though it hadn't helped them in the least when they had faced the cold-and-desperation-inducing thing.
"Alex," Harry said civilly, "you remember the way to the living room?"
"If you wander off, I'll let you die this time," Harry said so levelly that Alex believed it. "The same goes for the others." He swept the group with a cold look, and scoffed when he saw that only two of them took him with any amount of seriousness.
"Cub, what the fuck is going on?" Wolf whispered insistently. It carried in the hall, but Harry disregarded it.
"None of us have the skills this situation demands," Alex said, meeting Wolf's glare with his own. "I asked for help to ensure that we, and the rest of London, hopefully, get out of this mess alive."
"Your great help is a kid?" Zebra scoffed.
The curtain opposite the entrance rippled, and Alex felt a shiver down his spine.
"Keep your voice down!" he hissed at the man. "Harry is older than me, and he knows better what to do than all of us put together. He's an expert. Now stop yapping and get a move on!"
Harry had vanished during the interlude, but Alex could hear his voice from downstairs, distant but clear, saying: "-mione, I need her here! I've got a Statute of Secrecy breach, and I don't want Ministry Obliviators invading my house-"
Alex made damn sure that the K Unit plus Fox were all ensconced in the living room. Eagle, Ben and Snake settled on the sofa. Wolf leant against the wall next to the darkened window, and Zebra stood in front of the fireplace, examining the pictures on the ledge. Interestingly, Alex noted that the pictures were stationary, even though he remembered them moving.
Harry walked in a minute later, carrying a tray with improbably quickly acquired pots of tea and coffee, and a stack of china. He set it down onto the table.
Alex commended his decision to spare K Unit a meeting with Kreacher the elf. Harry probably didn't feel like digging bullets out of his walls.
"I alerted the proper authorities," Harry informed Alex, tightening the sash of (dubitably) his dressing gown. "The problem should be dealt with soon. It's rather serious – high-priority."
"The… Ministry?" Alex asked, frowning. A year was quite a long time, and the conversations he had had with Harry, all of which had been abridged, were faded in his memory. He had heard Harry mentioning the Ministry a moment ago, though, so that was a fair bet.
"Right," Harry replied.
"Who are you?" Wolf barked then, at the very limit of his patience.
Harry gave the big, burly, glaring soldier a look someone might give an irritating little kid.
Alex was impressed.
"I'm Harry, your host and personal Saviour for tonight. You can direct the genuflecting to my assistant, who will be here momentarily."
Alex choked on a laugh; Ben, too, had to cover a smile. The look of Wolf's face as he deciphered the insult was priceless. Then the man raised his heckles and it got a lot less funny and a lot more dangerous.
"Harry," Alex spoke up to prevent a massacre, "these are my – business associates." If Harry had been telling the truth about being aware of Alex' job, he would know what that meant. "The one you have been antagonising is Wolf, to your left stands Zebra, on the sofa, left to right, Eagle, Fox and Snake."
"And you're Cub," Harry filled in. "You're like a travelling Zoo!"
Alex snorted, together with Eagle and Ben. Wolf and Zebra chose to be offended instead. Snake just tried to keep himself together; he had been affected badly.
Harry either followed Alex' train of thoughts or read his mind, because he took a tablet of chocolate from the tray, broke off a piece, put it into his mouth, and extended the rest to Snake. The man glanced up, surprised.
Harry sighed and stepped closer. With exaggerated slowness, he pressed his palm to Snake's forehead. Snake was trembling, but he allowed the contact, stupefied by what was going on. Harry crouched so that Snake didn't have to crane his neck to meet his eyes, and pressed the chocolate into Snake's hand.
"Eat it," Harry insisted. "It will make you feel better."
Snake looked skeptical, but he did take a bite. The effect was shocking. Within seconds, colour began to return to his face.
"What's in it?" Eagle asked, turning another tablet over and perusing the contents.
"Sugar," Harry replied. "Cocoa, I suppose. Other stuff. Take a piece, each of you. You too, Alex. I'll be right-"
"Harry!" a girl's voice yelled.
Running footsteps thumped outside, and a red-haired girl appeared in the doorway, dressed way too lightly for the weather.
"Ginny?" Harry inquired. His exhaustion was rapidly returning.
The girl surveyed the soldiers piled in the room and shook her head, wide-eyed. "Life's always interesting around you, Harry." Then she stepped in and smiled confidently. "Won't you introduce me to your friends?"
"Not my friends," Harry said resolutely. "And when Hermione gets here, they won't be remembering me anymore."
"Muggles?" the girl asked curiously, and flushed when Wolf gave her the evil eye.
"Mostly," Harry replied. He pointed at Zebra. "I think that one's a squib. He could see a dementor. On the other hand, he didn't recognise it…"
The girl shrugged. "Some of the Darker families still dispose of non-magical children."
There were twin looks of rage on their faces, and for a while silence stretched.
"Alex," Ben spoke then, wary of the rising tension, "I'm sure we would all appreciate a briefing-"
"You can wait," Harry shot him down. Then he turned to the girl. "Ginny, these are muggles who had the bad luck of stumbling upon some dementors. The younger one over there is Alex, a… an acquaintance. Due to circumstances, he didn't have his mind wiped." He paused and took a deep breath. "Now, I have no idea why you're here, and I'm really not in the mood to listen to explanations, but while you are here, you can help by taking care of Mr Snake, who had an adverse reaction to the dementors and is still a bit out of it. No one will attempt to harm you, and if they even think about it, I'll feed them to a dragon."
Alex heard the warning, and so did Ben, apparently, but big bad SAS soldiers were too hard-headed to listen to someone less than half their weight.
"Look, you little cretin-"
Zebra all of sudden found himself unable to speak. His mouth kept moving, but no sound came out.
Harry calmly stashed his wand away. "Thank you for your attention," he said sarcastically.
Wolf was stubborn, but not stupid – he finally got a clue about the balance of power, and decided to not stir up trouble unless it was necessary. Thank goodness.
Then Harry was gone, and his female friend – Ginny – perched on the armrest of the sofa and put a hand on Snake's forehead like Harry had done earlier. She smiled at him, whispered something that appeared to reassure him, and clasped his shoulder. Snake nodded at Wolf to show that he was alright.
"How long will the silencing last?" Alex asked after a while.
Ginny shrugged. "It depends on the caster's power. Normally up to a week. Harry's Silencio… hmm… a year or two, I'd say. Unless someone cancels it."
A year or two?
Zebra must have felt similarly, because he started gesticulating wildly and stomping, and then did some unintelligible version of charades. At one point he took a threatening step toward the girl, but Alex raised his hand and made a cutthroat motion with the other.
"Would you cancel it, please?" Ben requested.
Ginny shook her head. "I don't know what's going on. Harry is the one who makes the decisions, because he's the one saving our lives all the time. It's never a good idea to go against him. We all learned that the hard way."
Then Eagle started humming 'Mary Had a Little Lamb,' and Alex realised they were at the ends of their respective ropes. A long, tedious assignment, a tumultuous trip back, an interrupted goodbye, a spontaneous attempted rescue of a couple of civilians and a run for their lives across night London had sucked out all energy from them. The entire magic part was just over the top.
Alex dimly remembered his reaction, and he had been more-or-less rested at the time.
He wasn't sure if these dementors weren't worse than the werewolf. At least he had been able to see the werewolf, might have been able to fight it…
Bright blue glow filtered in from outside, and Ginny jumped to her feet and ran to the window. The men all moved for cover, but the girl ducked when Wolf attempted to reach for her and pull her into safety, and pressed her palms to the glass.
"The idiot!" she exclaimed.
Alex stepped up to her to convince her to hide, but when he saw what was going on in the square, he remained glued to the window as well.
The previously dark square was illuminated by pulsating light originating from Harry. A pair of red-robed individuals appeared incapacitated, much like the K Unit had been; one of them was lying in a puddle, the other kneeling on the curb and, though Alex couldn't hear it, screaming. Harry stood half-way between them, and with wide waves of his wand directed a moving venison-shaped glowing object (straight out of Industrial Light and Magic) around.
After a while the two robed people lifted themselves upright, and produced similar shapes of light, one distinctly a bird, the other some kind of feline.
K Unit gathered behind Alex and Ginny, watching over their shoulders as Harry and the 'authorities' dispatched some invisible enemy, rowed, and then went separate ways. Harry returned to the house; the two strangers moved down the road where the 'dementors' had come from.
Half a minute later, Harry barged into the room, this time accompanied by a young woman who also wore a robe. She had a veritable explosion of hair on her head.
"Why do people insist on being morons?" Harry inquired, throwing himself onto the abandoned sofa.
"I don't know," Alex replied, as baffled as Harry himself was, but too resigned to the fact to get worked up about it. He sat down as well, poured a cup of coffee and, offered it to Harry. "Hm?"
Harry took it and emptied it in two gulps.
"You're such a hero, Harry James Potter," the woman with a lot of hair said, rolling her eyes.
"Stop insulting me!" Harry grumbled.
"It's not an insult!" Ginny exclaimed. "Harry, you saved all our lives, so many times-" and she launched into a spiel about the flowers growing in Harry's footsteps and the land blossoming blessed by his holy presence and…
Harry glared at hairy woman, accusing her of being the cause of his current circumstance, and then at Alex, presumably for bringing about the need to rescue some hapless victims. Alex sympathised. At least his work was secret – this kind of harassment he could do without.
"Hermione," Harry cut into Ginny's rant. "Could you please Obliviate the muggles before they tear us to pieces?"
The woman nodded solemnly and surveyed the group of men congregated in front of the window. "Which one of you is Zebra?"
Faced with what they perceived was an enemy, K Unit tightened to create a united front. Alex 'betrayed' and pointed the guy out before Hermione became impatient and started cursing someone literally.
Hermione nodded to the man and said: "You have an option: you can take an oath of non-disclosure, of Obliviation."
Alex, quick on the uptake, scowled. He was a 'muggle,' and if an oath was only an option for 'squibs' (whatever the distinction)… "But-"
"I told you it was illegal," Harry said, and gulped down another cup of coffee. Then he shrugged. "Don't make me regret it, Alex."
"I won't," Alex promised. He meant it, too.
"You know the oddest people, Alex," Ben said, shaking his head. He approached Hermione and offered his hand. She shook it. "I assume 'Obliviation' means memory-adjustment?"
"Yes," Hermione replied. "There is a side-effect of temporary confusion, lasting up to twelve hours depending on the severity of the lost memory, but there will be no lasting damage. We have been doing this for a long time, and I am as capable an Obliviator as any professional."
"More capable," Harry corrected.
Hermione smiled, but otherwise didn't react.
"Well," Ben said helplessly, "thank you for the help. I'll go first, if you don't mind."
Alex was intensely grateful, even though he didn't know how to express it. Wolf tried to protest and argued that as the leader, he should be the one to go first, but Ben was an MI6 agent and thus technically Wolf's superior.
Hermione directed Fox to sit down in an armchair, aimed her wand between his eyes, and incanted: "Obliviate!"
Ben slumped, then he shook himself and blinked repeatedly. He searched the room, noticed the K Unit and Alex, and mutely sought some kind of explanation.
"Alex," Harry spoke up. "Take him to the hall so he can relax a bit."
Alex nodded. It would undo all effects of memory-removal, if Ben just witnessed the K Unit going through the same process. He guided Ben out and closed the door.
"W-what's going on?" the man asked, squinting at the odd décor on the walls.
"Drugs, probably," Alex replied. That would account for the confusion. "One of my friends has found us. We'll be fine."
"Oh… okay…" Ben did sound confused.
The door opened then, and Ginny led out Wolf, who promptly sat down on the moth-eaten carpet and rubbed his temples.
"I'll be right back," Alex said, and returned inside just in time to grab the freshly 'Obliviated' Eagle. Harry helped with Snake. Zebra tried to wiggle out, but Hermione zapped him with the spell before Alex could point out that Zebra couldn't object due to being silenced.
Harry shrugged, nailed the man in the back with a whispered "Finite," and presumably took care of that.
A bewildered K Unit with the addition of two MI6 agents trudged downstairs. Harry led them out of the house, and even pretended to be friendly while they were looking around. They didn't seem to notice that the house they had just exited didn't appear to be there anymore.
"Why don't you come over for the night?" Alex asked uncertainly. He didn't think letting them go their ways in their present state was very safe.
"Sleepover!" Eagle exclaimed.
Scarily, the others seemed excited at the prospect.
"That's normal," Hermione assured him. "It will fade in three or four hours."
"So, in the meantime they'll be acting like little kids?" Alex asked. Now that the dangerous part was over, his sense of mischief was alerting him to the possibility of gathering excellent future blackmail.
"For the most part," Hermione agreed.
Alex smirked. "Thanks," he said, and shook the woman's hand. He waved to Ginny, who was watching from the doorway.
Eagle followed the example (so did Ben and Wolf) and yelled "Bye-bye!" at the top of his lungs.
"Bye," Hermione said and yawned. "I ought to get back to bed, Harry. Next time you have a crisis, try not to do it in the middle of the night, 'kay?"
Alex watched her go, and then turned to the boy that was, no matter how much he denied it, a 'bloody' hero. Alex felt that if anyone had the right to make such an accusation, it was himself. "Thanks, Harry, for everything. And I'm sorry I was – you know."
"An idiot," Harry filled in dryly.
"Yes, I suppose," Alex admitted. He would have been more forgiving, but then it wasn't him risking his life to save the proverbial cat from falling victim to its curiosity. "Say, how would you like to work-"
"I won't be anyone's Saviour, Alex," Harry refused without leaving the slightest room for argument. "But if you need help – I'll be a friend."