Year Zero

Stage 03 - First Foray

Dan arrived home from work and immediately felt the tension in the air. His normally loving and affectionate daughter he found first. She uttered a gruff, “Welcome home,” but made no move to rise for a hug or kiss. Instead, she continued to tinker with a pile of electronics. Over the course of a single day, she seemed to have acquired enough bits and pieces to drown in.

“What are you making?”


Dan arched his eyebrows at the oddly terse response. Something was up. “What are you up to, then?”

“Making sure I know what I’m doing in this world.”

Right… Figuring he would have better odds with his wife, Dan wished his daughter good luck and moved further into the house. He found Emma soon enough poring over a sprawling mess of paper in the disaster zone their kitchen had become. Curious, he exchanged a welcome home kiss and read over her shoulder. “What is this?” Some of it he could read, but some looked like complete gibberish.

“A letter from His Majesty.”

“He exists?” Although Hermione would be hard pressed to get him to admit it to her, Dan had hoped as such. She very much needed someone to connect with outside the family, and her singular circumstances made that rather difficult.

Oddly enough, Emma snorted. “He does.”

Okay… “And what are you doing?”

“Trying and mostly failing to translate the part of his letter Dame Stadtfeld or whatever refused to. There are Germanic and Latin influences, but this Britannian English seems to have more in common with Welsh.”

Dan sighed and mentally prepared himself to play advocate for the boy he honestly expected to be his son-in-law many years before he was ready to give his daughter away. “Alright, what’s going on? You and Hermione are both behaving uncouthly today.”

A sniffle escaped Emma as she gnawed on her lip and searched for words. Dan pulled up a chair beside her. He took her hand in his own and softly asked, “Hey. What’s wrong, love?”

“Oh, Dan. It’s – this is just such a bad situation. It really hit me today that all of that dream stuff really happened for Hermione. Lelouch is in another situation like at the beginning of his second rebellion, and our daughter is planning how to murder everyone involved as we speak.”

Dan slumped heavily into the back of his chair. “That’s… Wow.” He opened his mouth, but he couldn’t think of anything to say. On his second try, he only managed, “I wasn’t expecting that.”

Saying nothing, Emma returned to staring at the unpronounceable string of letters on the table. Her heart clearly wasn’t in it anymore, but anything to keep her mind occupied, Dan supposed. He glanced at the translated pile.

“May I?”

Emma hesitated a moment before reluctantly shoving the pile an inch in Dan’s direction. She placed her forehead in her hands and leaned onto the table. “It’s bad.”

Well, forewarned is forearmed. Dan picked up the pile and read.

By the time he finished, Dan was sorely tempted to reach for a drink. He could hardly blame Hermione for wanting to murder these Dursley people. Especially so, now that he thought of it, considering the target of this systematic abuse was the man she loved. He doubted he would be any more level-headed if it were her or Emma.

“You two argued?”

Emma nodded silently into her hands.

“Before or after you read this nightmare?”

“Before,” Emma admitted. “Not that it changes things.”

It didn’t, but context mattered. “Right then. I’ll go smooth things over, and then you two can kiss and make up.” Dan sounded more confident than he felt, but nothing good would come of showing doubt.

Hermione hadn’t moved. She did appear much further along in her project, however, judging by the tangled mess of wires and capacitors and, well, Dan didn’t know what most of the parts were. A small frown emerged on his face. He took pride in his daughter the polymath, of course, but the feeling soured when he thought of how and why she’d obtained those skills.

Dan sat down beside Hermione. Careful not to sound judgemental, he asked, “So what are you actually making?”

Busy hands paused for a moment before returning to their task. Hermione replied, “A remote detonator.”

About what I expected, I suppose. “Your fingerprints are all over it.”

This time Hermione actually stopped and turned to look suspiciously at Dan. “I said I was only making sure electronics work the way I expect, didn’t I?”

“Ah. Fair point. How were you intending to…”

Hermione knew exactly what Dan meant. “Plant the bomb while one of them is at the grocer’s and then wait until date night. Probably store it in my knapsack and ‘accidentally’ kick a ball underneath their car. Just another kid doing what children do.”

“How would you get the incendiaries?”

A scoff met the question. “The department store will meet all my needs without any awkward questions.”

“Remind me why we send you to school again?”

“Because you and Mum are too busy to homeschool me yourselves and too proud to dip into my bank account and retire.”

Dan cringed inwardly at the misstep. They’d been through that argument before when it became clear that Hermione’s attempt to find other Dreamers would have the pleasant but unintended side effect of making her very comfortably wealthy. Needless to say, they disagreed on how that income should be spent.

“Look,” Hermione sighed. “I appreciate the subtler approach, but I’m not blind. Say what you want to say.”

“Very well. I completely understand your feelings, but I think there are a few approaches we should try before you attempt a more extreme solution.” As Hermione didn’t immediately leap to bite his head off, Dan pushed on. “My first instinct would be to involve the press. Once newspapers go out, I don’t see how it could be kept quiet anymore.”

Hermione opened her mouth.

However, I can see how gathering the required evidence would be dangerous for us and difficult at best for Lelouch.”

A nod. “As I told Mum, our anonymity is our only protection.”

Dan nodded back. “I agree. I read what Lelouch wrote about the magical world. If we could find our way there, perhaps we could assess the political climate and then reevaluate.”

A thoughtful expression emerged on Hermione’s face. “It was at war,” she rightfully pointed out.

“True, but it’s been years, and the leader of the rebels went after Lelouch and failed spectacularly. Don’t you suppose it’d be over by now?”

After a few moments to consider the matter, Hermione asked, “How do you propose we find this secret society?”

“Well, the keyword there is secret.”

Just outside Heathrow Airport, Kallen centred herself as she got into character. Today, she would be Inoue Hina, a young Japanese witch lost in London. She had nothing to do with whatever local politics existed. She was just visiting distant family with her mother. She had clothes and a stylish bag appropriate to her real home, she had natural black hair, and this was her first time in the country.

Alright. Kallen spared one last glance at her father watching over her from a distance. Her mother waited at home for a phone call to let them know where she ended up. Depending on the distance, either her father would fly to pick her up or her mother would come collect them both. Let’s do this.

In what little experience she had, accidental magic usually did something related to what Kallen actually wanted – often destructively. She quickly identified a highly visible but somewhat isolated sculpture and then concentrated on levitating it. Frustration and anger were key, so she focused on how the Dursleys treated Lelouch and worked herself up into a rage. Out of the corner of her key, she noticed a mother somewhat roughly handle her child.

That finally set Kallen’s magic off. The poor, probably undeserving woman found herself suspended in the air away from her son. Hundreds stopped to stare, to witness.

Loud cracks broke the relative silence and broke Kallen from her indignant fury. Looking around, she found a number of robed men and women who looked very out of place.

Well. That was easy. Now I just need to not get memory wiped.

Kallen fought down the sense of emotional whiplash as she now focused on her memory of Lelouch’s death. Drowning herself in grief, she managed to bring tears to her eyes. Selling the act, she ran up to one of the robed men and babbled her story at him in rapid Japanese. When he raised his wand, barely paying her any attention, she pretended to panic and shouted, “Witch! Witch! I witch!”

“Ah,” the man said. “That would make you the young witch responsible for this mess, then. Where are your parents?”

Kallen stared at him with a look of intense concentration as though she had a hard time understanding him. He asked the question again, this time slower, and she nodded her understanding. After a few false starts, she said, “Shop?”

“Shopping?” the man asked. When he received a nod, he continued, “They went shopping in Diagon Alley?”

Kallen nodded more furiously this time and made a show of wiping her nose on her sleeve. The man, surprisingly enough, kindly spelled the mucus away.

“What’s your name?”

“Hi – Hina.”

“Alright, Hina, I’ll apparate you there as soon as we’re done here. Can you be patient for me?”

Kallen waited a few seconds as she pretended to parse the man’s words before nodding. Once he turned away, she allowed herself a small smirk of victory.

Sure enough, a few minutes later after the entire crowd had involuntarily lost all memory of this spectacle – Dan included, unfortunately – the robed man grabbed Kallen by the arm. He warned her they were about to apparate and counted down from three. When he reached one, reality broke. One moment they were at Heathrow Airport. The next, it felt like they were squeezed through a very tight rubber tube. But before she could even process that strange, uncomfortable feeling, it ended.

Sprawling out before Kallen’s eyes was the strangest place she’d ever seen. Along the cobblestone street rose buildings of all shapes and sizes, some of which constituted an architect's worst nightmare. Most had a very eighteenth century feel about them; some were older, but none newer.

“Do you see your parents anywhere, Hina?”

With a shake of her head, Kallen said, “I find. Thank you,” and bolted off before the man could protest. She ran through the thick crowd, slipping between narrow gaps and legs, to quickly disappear with the aid of her small stature. After a few minutes of running, she felt confident she’d lost the man and slowed down. She found a shady corner and slipped off to change clothes and restyle her hair. Hopefully that would be enough to remain unnoticed and dodge any consequences while she searched for a way out of here.

Abandoning her bag and old clothes, Kallen set out into Diagon Alley to have a proper look around. There were shops selling robes of all kinds, shops selling sweets and all manner of delicious looking items Kallen knew her parents would disapprove of, shelves filled end to end with books, barrels of the most disgusting things imaginable from slimy skins to eyes of newt, bins overflowing with quills of all things, a veritable parliament of owls.

Most importantly of all, peace reigned. Kallen slipped inside a bookshop and poked around until she found a text on recent history. The forces of evil had lost, it seemed, when their leader died trying to kill Lelouch. So satisfied that this world would be safe for her parents, she returned to exploring the alley.

Eventually, she found her way out back into London of all places barely a few minutes’ walk from the Thames.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

Kallen rolled her eyes and pulled her parents into the Leaky Cauldron. A rather dingy pub, it served as the entrance to Diagon Alley. To the barkeep, Emma said, “Excuse me, we’re new to the country. Could you please show us how to enter Diagon Alley?”

Upon her exit days before, Kallen had learnt that one needed a wand to enter or leave Diagon Alley. The fakes her parents had to ward off any unwanted attention would not do.

“Of course,” the barkeep said. He then showed them to the entrance and explained how to tap the brick wall with a wand to open the passage.

Dan and Emma managed to hide most of their surprise when an entire thriving community somehow living in the middle of London unnoticed revealed itself to them. Once they got through, however, their curiosity overtook them. They quickly turned into tourists, stopping to investigate everything that moved and much of what didn’t.

Kallen herself resisted, although only barely. She had her priorities straight. “Mum, Dad, bank first. We need local currency.” She’d seen gold, silver, and bronze coins and only such coins trading hands on her last visit. If they couldn’t exchange pounds for coinage, then that ended her parents’ ‘let’s not murder the people clearly deserving death’ plan then and there. She would not approach whatever magical law enforcement existed without a magical disguise lest a description of her appearance make its way back to Lelouch’s keeper.

Reluctantly, Dan and Emma capitulated. The three of them asked around for directions and soon arrived at Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

It was run by goblins.

Actual real life goblins.

Kallen tried not to stare.

The trio were in an out remarkably quickly, now a bag of galleons, sickles, and knuts heavier. The goblin in charge of currency exchange had been a rather surly creature, but Kallen supposed everyone was allowed bad days and paid the poor customer service no mind. So equipped, they set out into the alley.

“Dan, look! It’s a bag of holding!”

“Hmm…” As a first instinct, Dan stuck his entire arm up to his shoulder in the little bag. He examined it as he withdrew it to find it still in proper working condition. “Brilliant!”

A dozen multicoloured spheres floated around Dan’s head doing who knew what to him. “Ioun stones, Emma!”

They double high-fived each other with matching grins.

Kallen shook her head. “My parents are such children.” She quietly purchased a bag of holding while they played in the enchanted items shop. Practicality came first. She affixed it to a loop on the waist of her jeans and poured her money inside of it

The apothecary next door had potions for every occasion from the cure to the common cold to a nasty looking concoction that promised to regrow entire bones. Unsurprisingly, hangover potions filled an entire shelf all on their own.

“Hmm, this sounds promising.” Kallen entered the section dedicated to personal care. “Acne cure. Boil cure. Moisturiser. Hair regrowth. Hair tamer.” She took one such bottle of Sleekeazy’s with the thought of finally getting her unreasonably bushy hair to cooperate. “Nail potion. Ooh, now what have we here? Ageing potion? Yes please.” An entire row of those vials disappeared from the shelf.

As Kallen paid for her potions, she asked the shop assistant, “Is there a potion to completely change your appearance? Hair and shape and everything?”

The shop assistant added a flask of sludge he called polyjuice to the receipt. It cost a pretty penny, but Kallen had the coin for it. Perhaps it would be cheaper to brew more herself in the future when her needs were less immediate.

Kallen collected her parents and took them to buy robes for all three of them to better blend in on any future visits. After that, they made a stop at the bookshop and stocked up. The history and law books would need to be read first and quickly, but the introductory book for muggleborn by a muggleborn, whatever that meant, the shop assistant recommended looked promising. She pulled a few potions texts as well in anticipation of considerable amounts of brewing in her near future.

Perhaps the most important tome they bought, however, covered mind magic. She would study that religiously before she made any move to rescue Lelouch.

And so, after a long day out, the entire family headed home.

Emma tapped on the ajar door to her daughter’s room as a brief warning before entering. To her surprise, instead of the adorable little girl she expected, she found a gorgeous woman in robes examining herself in the mirror.


“It’s me, Mum. Ageing potion.”

Well, that explained half of this situation. “What are you doing?”

Hermione sighed. “I just wanted a sneak preview. Sorry I borrowed your robes without asking, but this was sort of an impulse thing, and I didn’t fancy walking around in blankets for hours.”

“No, that’s okay,” Emma said. She had picked up on the melancholic tone, however. She walked up beside her daughter, standing side by side in the mirror, and asked, “You’re disappointed?”

The resemblance between the two women came with the most passing of glances. From the hair to the eyes to the nose and the curves, if Emma didn’t know better, she would have sworn the woman next to her was her prettier sister who’d won the genetic lottery. How much of that was natural and how much was magic?

“It’s…different.” Hermione had obviously noticed the similarities as well.

With a light chuckle, Emma said, “You don’t have to spare my feelings. What is it you’re thinking?”

Even so assured, Hermione still hesitated. Emma had to prod her a few more times to get her talking. “It’s silly. I just, well, I’ve never thought of myself as vain, but I used to be a bloody goddess without any effort.”

“Language, princess.”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “I guess I’m just worried. Lelouch isn’t… He’s… I don’t know if you have a word for it. Girls threw themselves at him, but he doesn’t really notice women unless he’s already close to them. I have no idea what he’s…”

Having read Hermione’s book several times over, Emma understood the thrust of Hermione’s meaning. “You’re worried he’ll love you but won’t be in love with you anymore.”


And here I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with this aspect of motherhood. Emma shifted behind Hermione and gently tilted her daughter’s head up to look back into the mirror. “Tell me what you see.”

“A woman with absolutely no distinguishing traits, good or bad. I think the term here is ‘a plain Jane’?”

Emma arched her eyebrows. “I don’t think my ego could survive a trip to the Dream if this is your standard for average.” That got a laugh out of her daughter. “You do realise that green hair isn’t natural here, yes?”

“C.C. has nothing to do with this.”

“That…was not actually what I was getting at.” But in hindsight, it should have been something Emma thought of. The immortal witch had been Hermione’s only real competition for Lelouch’s affections. “I only meant that you may have some unrealistic standards now that you’re outside the Dream.”

“I suppose.”

“Trust me, princess, you’re gorgeous. You’re not going to get any reprieve from male attention.”

Hermione laughed at that. “Maybe you’re right.” A slow turn let her examine herself from every angle in the mirror. She hopped once, then twice. “Damn. Magical support is nice.”

“I know, right?”

Mother and daughter shared a smirk as the latter pinched the fat around her arm. “I’m going to need to start exercising again. I’ve spent too much time sitting on my ar… I don’t know this language well enough yet to recover from that.”

It was Emma’s turn to laugh. She ignored the coarse language and said, “You know, magic seems to lend itself well to bookworms. Squishy wizards and all that.”

“True, but squishy wizards are, by definition, squishy. If I can get in close with a shunpo or something…

Hermione trailed off in thought, but her intended application came across clearly. Far worse, however, Emma felt unable to say anything against it. The magical world had been at war, and if the history books they’d read had any degree of accuracy, the ability to defend oneself might very well prove paramount.

But on the topic, Emma finally addressed the reason she’d come upstairs in the first place. “Hermione, are we okay? I don’t want anything to fester between us.” She’d read how disastrously wrong that had gone with her daughter’s other family.

Hermione’s face softened almost immediately. “Yes, Mum. We disagree still, I’m sure, and I think we’re wasting time with a needless risk, but our argument became a little too intense. I’m sorry for that. I have a temper. I know it. I’m trying to work on it. It’s gotten me into trouble in the past, and I guess it did again.”

“Apology accepted.” Emma hugged her daughter. “I do still disagree, but I’m sorry too.”

Once they’d finished making up – for sure this time – Emma asked, “When do you want to head to the Ministry of Magic to file the report?”

“Soon,” Hermione replied. “But I want a wand first.”

Asking around Diagon Alley, it rapidly became apparent that if one wanted the best wand and had the coin for it, then Ollivander’s was the one and only place to go. As soon as Kallen stepped inside, it became apparent that wands were the only thing sold here. A mountain of shelves sprawled upwards filled with nothing but boxes of wands.

An old man soon emerged from the gloom of the shop, his wide, pale eyes alight with interest. Kallen felt the telltale sign of a legilimency probe and broke eye contact before the man could discover anything. He made no mention of his attempt nor pushed the matter further to a point she couldn’t defend against. Instead, he simply welcomed her into his shop and introduced himself as Garrick Ollivander.

Now glad that she’d insisted on doing this aged up and alone, Kallen put on a thick Japanese accent and said, “I’m in need of a new wand, and I heard this is the best place in the country to buy one.”

“You heard correctly, then, Miss…”

“Inoue Naomi.” If anyone had heard of an Inoue Hina running around the market, hopefully the connection would help sell Kallen’s cover.

“Miss Naomi–”

“Ah, pardon. For the English, it is Noami Inoue, no?”

Ollivander nodded. “Indeed, Miss Inoue, indeed. Now a new wand, is it? Do you have your old one with you? No? Well, tell me what it was made of.”

“Sakura to kami no yuki-onna.” Kallen had done her research in advance. “Ah, that is–”

With a dismissive wave of his hand, Ollivander said, “No need. I understood. You attended Mahoutokoro?”

Kallen nodded.

“I imagine your wand brought you no small amount of attention. A rare wood, cherry. Makes for very strange wands. Often very lethal as well. But paired with an ice woman’s hair… Yes…”

As Ollivander descended into mumbles about his art, Kallen cleared her throat.

“Ah. My apologies. An unfortunate symptom of old age and a love of the craft, I’m afraid. Now then, which is your wand hand?”

While she was mostly ambidextrous, Kallen raised her right. As soon as she had, a tape measure floated out of nowhere and began measuring her. She’d been subjected to a similar treatment when buying robes, so she paid it no mind. Meanwhile, Ollivander disappeared into the dark recesses of his shop. He returned with a dozen boxes.

“Now then, let’s start with a few cherry wands and go from there.” He opened one box and passed over a lovely light-brown wand. “Eleven and one-quarter inches, unicorn hair. Give it a flick.”

Kallen did so. A bolt of red light surged forth from the tip and crashed into a shelf. The wood exploded and sent splinters everywhere. Ollivander, however, was quick on the draw and shielded them both. With another flick of his own wand, he set the shelves to rights with nothing seemingly worse for the wear.

“Destructive, certainly, but perhaps not.” Ollivander plucked the wand from Kallen’s hand and replaced it with another.

It was, Kallen swore, over a hundred wands later after enduring all manner of bizarre results when she felt something. It wasn’t quite right, more a sense of longing for what might have been, a sickening of the heart for what was lost. She swallowed and gnawed on her lip as she hesitantly set the wand aside. It sorely tempted her to buy it regardless of its fit, but no. She couldn’t.

Ollivander said nothing but set the wand’s box aside.

Much later, at long last, Kallen knew the wand in her hand was hers. She felt the connection, the surge of power, the bond between witch and wand.

Ollivander watched with a concerned expression.

“What’s wrong?”

“Ten and a three-quarter inches, supple cherry wood and dragon heartstring. Precise and deadly. There are few combinations I am more loath to sell. I oft carve them short to require more deliberate movements from their wielder, for such should never be paired with one lacking self-control or strength of mind.”

Kallen said nothing as she gazed down upon her wand and ran a finger along its full length. She’d never once hurt someone she’d not intended to, not physically, at least, but she understood the warning.

“You also responded well to holly wands which are often suited to those who need help overcoming a naturally temperamental or impetuous disposition. You might see my concern.”

With a solemn nod, Kallen vowed, “No one not deserving will ever find themself upon the wrong end of my wand.”

“See that it is so. Now about the other wand–”

“No.” Kallen made no mystery of her decision. “It is not my wand. Sell it to another.”

“Very well. Seven galleons, then.”

Kallen paid as requested and went on her way, ever feeling Ollivander’s eyes on her back until she turned the corner and vanished into the alley. She picked up a beginner’s charms text and then set off to rejoin her parents in London proper. By the time she got home, she was levitating her new book around for the fun of it to her parents’ intense interest. Sure, the spell drained her fairly quickly for a short while, but that likely explained why witches and wizards didn’t begin their magical education until age eleven.

On the drive to London to visit the Ministry of Magic, Kallen finally finished brushing up on the magical world’s legal system. It made for very dry reading, but it had to be done. She didn’t need to know everything, not even nearly. In fact, she’d mostly skimmed through the thirty thousand pages of the deceptively long book more to familiarise herself with the section titles than their contents. Who honestly cared about the required thickness of copper cauldrons or the legal process to register as a dragon handler?

Well, actually, dragons did sound rather exciting.

Regardless, Kallen did need to avoid any obvious blunders. Her introductory book for muggleborn – apparently the term for those born to nonmagical parents – had covered many of the important legal differences between the magical and mundane world, but it didn’t address everything. “Mum, Dad. Have you been browsing your copy of Magical Law?”

They had.

“Do you get the sense that it’s highly discriminatory against, well, basically everyone not human?”

Emma shifted uncomfortably in her seat but said, “Surely there must be a reason. I mean, what if vampires are the monsters literature presents them as?”

Kallen quirked an eyebrow before realising that this world – or at least her parents – hadn’t fully entered the sexy vampire phase yet. “Perhaps,” she allowed. “Anyway, this is our one chance to not deliver justice to monsters. If it doesn’t work, it means those responsible for Lelouch’s suffering have connections in high places. Worse, we alert them to the fact that someone magical has taken an interest in him, which will make everything hereafter more difficult. Are you sure you want to use this one and only opportunity this way?”

A brief pair of looks were exchanged. “We are,” Dan said, eliciting a long sigh from Kallen. “Have faith, princess. This will work.”

“If you say so.” Glancing at the pile of books next to her, Kallen added, “Just have the car full of petrol and ready for a speedy escape.”

This entire operation would blow up in their faces. Kallen knew an unnecessary risk when she saw one. Between the apparent fame Lelouch had as the ‘Boy-Who-Lived’ – ridiculous moniker – who allegedly defeated ‘You-Know-Who’ and everyone’s unconcern with his disappearance, someone in a position of power must be responsible for his captivity. She only hoped she could remove any tracking spells that she got tagged with on her way out. If she couldn’t, then this olive branch to her parents might cost her everything.

Dan found a place to park near the visitor’s entrance to the Ministry of Magic. Once stationary, Kallen hung a pair of blouses in the windows and threw a blanket at the rear glass for privacy. She stripped off her own clothes and let a loose pair of cheap robes dangle around her. Lastly, she withdrew a single dose of polyjuice from her bag and a hair from a random salon customer in London.

“Are you sure that’s safe to drink?” Emma’s nose wrinkled at just the smell permeating the vehicle.

“No,” Kallen said, “but it’s not like I have a better option.” She pinched her own nose closed and downed the entire sludge as quickly as possible. Once she stopped gagging, she firmly stated, “Vile. Absolutely vile.”

Before anything more could be said, Kallen’s skin began to boil. It bubbled and roiled, and she squeezed her eyes shut and wished it would just stop. Every bit of her felt like a live eel had made its nest nearby and was busy defending its territory. It was a good job she’d not been standing as her vision swam and all sense of balance left her.

Finally, it was done. Kallen moaned as she rose to examine herself in the mirror. Dan adjusted it to assist. “Well, it worked,” she remarked dryly.

“Quite,” Emma added. She looked rather green.

“You ready, princess? You have an hour to get in and get out.”

Kallen nodded, withdrew all of the pertinent information Lelouch had sent her from her bag, and set out. She spent a precious minute fully adjusting to the difference in height and body type, but better that than be unprepared for a fight. With a few casual flicks of her wand, she verified that it still worked properly for her. Her magic felt a little…stiff, she supposed the word was, but it would do for when she returned. If this came down to a magical duel before then, she was doomed from the outset regardless.

Finding the visitor’s entrance to the ministry was easy. Everyone without magic moved away from the red telephone box as though walking in a straight line. That left a suspicious dead zone on the busy London pavement that no one else seemed to notice.

Once inside the box, Kallen dialled MAGIC and announced her business as reporting a crime. She received directions to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement in return as well as a visitor’s badge proclaiming her a ‘complainer’.


The box descended slowly as though it were a lift. The entrance to the ministry of magic went further than Kallen could see in one direction, an endless row of fireplaces. People appeared from and disappeared into them in flashes of green. The crowd below must have contained at least a thousand people going about their business. If this was just the entrance, then the entire building must be a city unto itself. It that regard, it reminded her of Britannia’s Imperial Palace.

Not here to sightsee, as soon as the box completed its descent, she stepped out. She quickly enquired after instructions on how to leave the same way and then made her way to the lifts proper at the end of the hall.

As she waited for a ride, Kallen spared a glance at the Fountain of Magical Brethren. A group of golden statues, each, she presumed, larger than life, stood in the middle of a circular pool. The wizened and noble wizard stood tallest and highest. Below were a beautiful witch, a centaur, a goblin, and some tiny little thing with long pointed ears. The latter three looked adoringly up at the witch and wizard.

Yeah, Mum. I’m sure this society isn’t racist at all. Kallen hummed in thought. Speciesist?

The lift arrived, and Kallen dismissed the thought. She rode down to level two to enter the DMLE. From there, a few quick questions brought her to Auror Headquarters. She approached the wizard manning the front desk.

“Excuse me. I’d like to report a case of child abuse.”

The man nodded and spoke into a mirror. A few minutes later, another auror appeared. He introduced himself as Kingsley Shacklebolt and escorted Kallen into a cluttered open area divided into cubicles of all things. Not very magical, that, but what worked worked, she supposed. The hall buzzed with talk and laughter, and she soon found herself seated in Shacklebolt’s ‘office’ across from his desk.

“Now then, Auror Baker said you had a child abuse case for us?” Kallen nodded, and he continued, “Very well. We’ll need to investigate first before we can do anything, but we’ll do what we can. What’s the name and address?”

“Number Four Privet Drive in Little Whinging is the address. That’s in Surrey.” Kallen lowered her voice slightly in the hope of not being overheard. “The child is Harry Potter.”

Kingsley’s eyes widened in shock. “Harry Potter? I – excuse me, I think I need to take this higher. I’ll be right back.”

No, no. Bad. Bad. Bad! Perfectly calmly, Kallen said, “Yes, of course, thank you.”

The very moment Kingsley departed from his cubicle, Kallen placed the envelope of information she’d brought with her on his desk. She arranged things to make it very obvious and then made her way toward the exit. If anyone noticed her moving at a pace just slightly faster than an already fast walk, no one moved to stop her.

Up the lift and out the visitor’s entrance, Kallen made her escape. As soon as she made it back to her parents, she shed all of her clothes and tossed them on the ground. “Go,” she insisted. She wrapped a blanket around herself as makeshift clothing, and they were off.

Emma opened her mouth to speak, but Kallen cut her off. “Not yet.” She turned to her books and picked up her wand. She first cast the general purpose counterspell. Then she ran through all of the specialised ways to dispel tracking and eavesdropping magic she’d researched. If that didn’t do the job – and she certainly suspected the aurors kept some of the good spells to themselves – they were in trouble.

Well, that’s all I can do but hope for the best. “Go ahead, Mum.”

“Are you alright?”

Tentatively, Kallen nodded. She didn’t feel any differently, at least, but magic could be insidious like that.

“Did it not go well?”

Kallen shook her head. “As soon as I mentioned Harry Potter, the auror immediately leapt to contact his boss. I left all the important information behind, but I wasn’t going to stick around. If they’re not part of the conspiracy, they’ll understand my skittishness when they read it.” Well, they would understand it either way, but point made.

Dan and Emma exchanged a look.

“Hey! It’s not paranoia. They really are out to get Lelouch.”

No doubt rolling his eyes, Dan said, “I’m sure everything will work out.”

It’d been a month. Kallen arrived home from school and, as always, immediately asked after the mail. Dan gave her a sad smile and shook his head. Oh, she had mail aplenty, but it was all fan mail, not a letter from Lelouch.

Enough was enough. Kallen headed upstairs, dropped off her bag, and grabbed a change of clothes. She then went to what had become the magic room. After tending to a few potions she had brewing, she downed a vial of ageing potion. With wand in hand, she left home with nothing more than a plain, “I’ll be back soon,” tossed over her shoulder.

Kallen raised her wand at the kerb. Soon enough, the Knight Bus appeared from nowhere. The purple, triple-decker monstrosity served as Magical Britain’s only public transportation. She paid the conductor and asked to be taken to the centre of London. It didn’t really matter where. All she needed was a telephone box with no association with her family.

A minute or two later after a harrowing ride at breakneck speeds across England, Kallen arrived at her destination. After a bit of wandering, she found what she needed and called the Dursleys’ number.

One ring, two, and then a young boy with a worn, tired voice answered the phone. “Dursley residence. Hello?”

Kallen’s voice caught in her throat. It was Lelouch. It had to be. It just had to.

Her lips parted to speak his name, his real name, but she stopped herself before she could. In all likelihood, the enemy had a listening charm of some variety on the other end of the line. She couldn’t. Not yet. She’d only called to discover if the Dursleys had been arrested. She’d already learnt more than she’d hoped. She could wait. She could be patient.

“Ah, hello,” Kallen said, forcing herself to speak without the swell of emotion building up inside her. “Is Petunia Dursley in?”

“Yes. One moment.”

Seconds later, a woman with a voice every bit as shrewish as its owner said, “Hello?”

“Ah, Mrs Dursley. I just wanted to call and share my appreciation for raising such a wonderful child. Your boy Dudley helped me the other day when I dropped my bag at the grocer’s.”

“He is such a kind boy, isn’t he?” the shrew gushed. “Thank you for calling. I needed this after putting up with my nephew’s behaviour all day.”

Kallen grit her teeth but managed to bite out, “No problem. I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing. Say thank you again to your son for me, will you?”

“Of course.”

Kallen hung up the line before slamming the phone back onto the receiver. That bitch! I need to get Dad to wash my mouth out with soap after that. Hmph. Her nephew’s behaviour, indeed. I’m going to enjoy killing her far more than I should.

And kill the Dursley’s, Kallen would. She’d tried doing things her parents’ way, and it hadn’t worked. Now she would do things her way.