Cho Chang/Harry Potter Original Female Witch/Ron Weasley
Harry Potter Original Female Witch Original Male Wizard
Action Suspense
Children of Characters in the HP novels
Published: 04/12/2003
Updated: 05/05/2003
Words: 178,786
Chapters: 22
Hits: 20,126

Presents from the Past

Horst Pollmann

Story Summary:
Thirteen years after Hogwarts. Eight years have passed since the last time we saw our heroes. The number of children walking or crawling through the scene has grown from three to more than a dozen. And some of them are in the focus of attention - this way or the other ... Harry and Cho moved from California to Ireland. One of the reasons was to have the same time zone as Paris, where some other people are found, and some other children. However, it's their old place where the first dark clouds appear ...``A fic most of the characters known from the previous one - well, except for all these shorties somewhere between ten months and eleven years ...

Chapter 13 - Assault

Chapter Summary:
Harry and Lieutenant Seeger discuss the next steps to be done in order to prevent the suspected wizards from escaping. Then Harry jumps to Ireland - they need an apparition protection lock for a large building and another one for a single person.

13 - Assault

Harry waited patiently while Carl gave his reprimand, in particular since this speech was dictated by relief as much as by a grain of truth, or perhaps a few more. When the detective calmed down, Harry nodded and said, "Got it, lieutenant. You're right. And now that you've delivered your lesson, please note that I've delivered a delivery boy here."

Carl inspected the body lying at the ground. "Is he alive?"

"Very much so, and that's why he has to keep that way still for a while, otherwise he'd get lost in the blink of an eye." Harry explained what had happened, in the last moments of the tilting van and afterwards on the dune. He finished, "We need an apparition lock at that man - once this thing's tied to him together with some handcuffs, we can wake him up."

This reminded the lieutenant to apply the handcuffs now. He knew the man was stunned, he knew this stunning wouldn't fade by itself, only he had seen too many impossible things happen.

Coming up again, Carl asked, "How does it look, this lock?"

"I think I can get a small one - I mean, we didn't develop wearables yet on purpose, but for the transport it will do. You know, originally these devices were designed to protect a room from intruders via apparition, and at the same time to prevent the inhabitants from escaping, that's why prisons are among our best customers ..."

"Who's we?" interrupted Carl. "I thought you were an unemployed movie star, and a not so unemployed super wizard."

Harry grinned. "I married rich, that's why I can bide my time - most of the time, that is. And my wife owns a great deal of Groucho Industries, and there's a daughter company called Groucho Transports and Security, they build these things. Ray Purcell is the chief engineer, and he's the one I'm going to visit in a minute."

"Groucho, huh?" Carl's head tilted toward his car. "That's not too far from here. Let's use the car, so for a little while I could feel as if I was invited to that party."

"What you mean is the movie and spector branch." Harry's thumb was pointing over his shoulder, maybe even the right direction. "GTS, that's in Ireland. But you've got your own share to do, don't you worry about hanging around idly, just let me tell you before I'll jump."

Carl's voice was dry, "I appreciate that, partner."

He lost his sarcasm instantly when Harry told him what was due. The building of the Delivery Boys, right now probably - hopefully - the place where the kidnappers were gathering to figure out what was going on, had to be locked against apparition too. Moreover, this had to be done without them registering.

"This should make sure we can catch them all," finished Harry. "They'll resist, probably use the building like a fortress, until the last moment, assuming they can escape before it's too late. Of course, this is based on the assumption that all of them are comparable in their skill, only what I saw from the guy here makes me think this is just the minimum."

Carl looked thoughtful. "What does it mean for us, the normal people?"

"You'll need quite some people, I guess - it's about storming a building, and you know more about that than I do. Until the lock's in place, they shouldn't be seen. I think we'll have to wait till darkness before we can place the lock. But make sure your people are around, so we can start any time."

"Okay," said Carl, "so the SWAT finally comes into play. They wear flak jackets by standard, but that's just for gunfire - any idea how to protect them against spells?"

Harry, about to answer no, suddenly had a picture in his mind. "If troops are used in riots or demos, they carry shields to protect them against stones, or foul eggs. It was never done before, but I'm pretty sure those shields protect against spells too."

Thinking it over, he added, "Listen, Carl, I guess I should give them a five minutes' instruction about attacking wizards, and how to coordinate with us good wizards - "

"Us again? Who is it this time?" Despite his tone, the lieutenant seemed glad to have some magical support, aside from Harry himself, at his side.

"Dunno yet, but let me check around." Harry looked at the stunned wizard. "I wish I knew what he had in mind, together with his cronies - there's still time till darkness, and if they don't hear from him, then - "

"That's my chance," interrupted Carl. "Aside from carrying out your orders, of course."

The sarcasm was lost on Harry. "What do you mean?"

"Erm - we'll meet again soon, weren't those the words?" The lieutenant grinned diabolically.

Harry raised his eyebrows. "And what about your lecture still ringing in my ears? Can I quote you now, or do I have to wait?"

Carl laughed. "Okay, okay, but I enjoyed this short moment, if you get my bearing. What I'm going to do is, I'll behave like an ordinary cop - reaching the scene of a car accident."

"Doesn't tell me anything," replied Harry, "because I know only extraordinary cops."

The lieutenant beamed, whether about the joke, the truth behind, or his idea. "Harry - there's an accident, and we figure out to whom the car belongs, and we give them a call, saying the driver's seriously injured, unconscious, on his way to the emergency. Well, and then it turns out a DOA, so whoever's coming to that hospital - "

"Sorry - what's DOA?"

"Death on arrival. Let me play this scheme, if only to give them an explanation why the guy's not responding - and before you go, please help me to put him into my car. And in return, you could fetch your snake."

Harry almost giggled - from an imaginary picture of Carl alone with Nagini, though also from a short feeling of guilt because he had nearly forgotten about his own partner.

He entertained Carl with the first-aid charm to levitate the unconscious wizard to the car. Carl amazed him by opening the trunk, rather than a rear door. The lieutenant's remark, however, wasn't suited for entertainment.

"If they catch me with this load, I can send in my badge, only I'm not going to spoil our tactical advantage. There's too many eyes around, and you just don't know which hand takes what envelope at the end of the month."

They agreed that Harry would return to Carl's office. If the lieutenant was somewhere else, Sheila would know. "She's one of the few I can be sure about," said Carl. "The only envelope she gets has an eagle printed on."

Harry fetched his snake. "I wouldn't mind changing that, when we're done, if only once."

The lieutenant's smile froze. "Don't even think of it, Harry, It's a kind idea, but somehow it would backfire." Then he grinned. "If you find a way to send some of these meat rolls, I wouldn't know anyone having objections, and you'd win yourself a devoted fan for life."

"Good idea," replied Harry. "Just find me a wizard messenger who can apparate, and still has his job at the end of this day." Then he apparated to Ireland, to find Ray and spoil his sleep.

* * *

Rahewa Stein, adopted Lupin, born Lightfoot, switched off the phony and looked at the man who had listened to the phony conversation with some uneasiness. It was actually the same who had taken sufferable pains to establish her current family name.

"Ray's on his way to the laboratory," she said. "I'm going to meet him there, and Harry too. I guess it'll take a while."

Clemens examined her. "A while, huh? A little while in the laboratory, and a longer while somewhere else - am I right?"

Rahewa moved over and planted a kiss on her husband's forehead, which was climbing upward faster than Clemens enjoyed at his young age. "Yes, my genius, but don't you worry - and if the night isn't over yet when I'm back again, I'll wake you up."

"Yeah, sure," snorted Clemens. "There's nothing like some indoor sports after some outdoor games, only I'm going to join you, and to find out whether I'll appreciate them as much as you do."

Rahewa startled. "No - please not. That's not a good idea."

"And why not?" Clemens made efforts to get up from his chair.

She pressed him down. "I'd be too scared to be of any help, knowing you around - honestly. It'd spoil all the fun, nothing but stress."

"And I? I can bite nails better than you, is it that? My god, what a compliment."

Rahewa bent closer and hugged him as much as she could from above. "We both know it's true - and I promise, I'll compensate you."

Clemens grinned. "Fat chance - I'll be so scared then, it'd spoil all the fun, nothing but stress ... Okay, go join your hero."

Rahewa kissed him again. "Thank you, my dear. And you know, he's just my outdoor hero, and not mine alone, there's someone I'm going to call in a minute, so I'll have protection of my own."

Clemens looked easier. "That's a relieving thought, at least one woman who's aware of what she's doing. Knowing that, I might even find some sleep."

Rahewa went to the bedroom to change clothes. All she knew about Harry's plan was that a building had to be stormed somehow, after fixing the wizards inside, and whatever it meant, she wouldn't be wrong with dark clothes and a solid pair of shoes.

From there, she called Laila. It was no surprise to hear that Harry hadn't asked her yet, probably never would, and it was a warm feeling to hear Laila's thankfulness to be invited to the party, if only for the most egoistic motives. The ex-sergeant would meet them also in the laboratory.

Thinking about other preparations, Rahewa went down into the cellar to fetch a device that had been resting there idly for quite some time, almost since she had bought it. Her broomstick ... a Firebolt Lightning, however a special model - nothing shiny and sparkling, all parts in a dull black. It was the closest thing to a Steel Wing she could get.

She had bought it as a daydream's tool - imagining that one day, she would join Harry in a real fight, him on his real Steel Wing - a combat broomstick no longer available - and herself on this piece, certainly as powerful as a Steel Wing, although without the special features of that remarkable model. Today, as it seemed, this dream should come true.

Unless it changed into a nightmare.

Rahewa apparated to the GTS laboratory - to the outside, that was, because the entire hall was protected by one of the items designed there, for reasons of security. Coming inside, she found Harry and Ray in a discussion, agitated enough so Ray didn't notice her approach.

Harry did. Of course. He stiffened, glanced over, saw her, and shot around to Ray. "You old chatterbox, couldn't keep your mouth shut, could you?"

Ray wasn't impressed much. "Well, to be honest, I could, only I didn't feel like it."

Rahewa reached them. "The blame's on me, Harry - I told him, if he ever gets a call from you and doesn't tell me at once, he's going to learn about a Cree's revenge."

Ray looked imploringly at Harry. "A Canadian Cree's, mind - they're the worst."

Rahewa saw Harry's lips twist shortly, then steady again. He looked at the broomstick in her hand, and when his eyes widened for an instant, she almost felt like a small girl caught in her mother's high heels, only this had nothing to do with fashion. Then Harry said, "It's bloody serious, Rage. You know that?"

"Just what I thought. That's why I'm here."

Harry nodded. "Yeah. I might have called you by myself, but I'm glad you saved me from the decision. Come on, let me hug you now, because in a while there'll be no time."

Which he did, and she responded full-heartedly.

Harry looked at her broomstick again. "How come I'm not surprised at all, seeing a model I never saw before? Anyway, I have to tell you what happened so far because those wizards are no lightweights at all - "

"Not yet," Rahewa interrupted him. "Otherwise you'd have to tell twice."

Of course Harry knew at once whom she meant, and he was the first to look up when moments later the door opened and Laila came in.

Seeing her clothes, Rahewa once more felt like a small girl - Laila wore a real combat dress, missing only the signs of her former rank in the Israeli army. And the leather strap could mean just one thing - there was a sub-machine gun hanging at her back.

Laila reached them and said, "Damn lazy security, that - you could get stolen without even noticing." Then she beamed at them. "As the old saying goes - it's great to be here."

Rahewa greeted her with another hugging, then watched something similar between Laila and Harry - none of them bothering to hide that they felt more than friendship for each other. But Rahewa felt no envy, in particular since it had been her own ear into which Laila whispered, "Thank's - I'll never forget that."

Then Harry brought them up to date by giving a summary of what had happened since his short conversation with Nagini - the event that blew the wizard's cover so unexpectedly - and what the lieutenant was doing right now.

Listening, Rahewa felt a thrill climb her spine. Apparently these kidnappers were more skilled and more powerful than expected, had even managed to take Harry by surprise, which was about the highest grading she could imagine. All those years, she had regretted bitterly not having participated in the Battle of Hogwarts, and today, something similar was about to take place - only with switched roles, the good ones attacking a fortress of the -

Laila's words interrupted her thoughts. "Be careful how to count, Harry," the ex-sergeant said. "Me and my Uzi are on your side, but my witching's poor, compared to people like you or that lightfooted hotspot here."

Rahewa said, "Come on, Laila, don't play the shy little - "

"Shut up!"

Rahewa obeyed, looking with a mix of hurt and bafflement at Laila, who just had given her a demonstration of her expertise in commanding. Now Laila's voice was calmer, though not warmer than before.

"Listen what I'm saying, Rage. This is a fight of one group against another. It's about killing people. And in such a situation, you better know exactly what your partner's up to, and what not. All right, and now once more - I'm better with my gun than with my wand, that's what I wanted to make clear."

Seeing Rahewa's face, she added with a short grin, "Hey, I just put you in the same league as Harry, that's no reason to get a huff."

Harry asked, "Okay, Laila, that's understood. But you can stun someone, can't you?"

"Sure, that's not particularly complicated."

"Yes, but for what I expect, that'll be about the most important magic because it's noiseless and because it can be done from a distance - and from the perspective of a SWAT member, it puts you in our league, please remember that."

Laila snorted. "Well, okay, right now it starts sounding familiar. There's some people expecting things from you just because they can't do them by themselves." She nodded. "Yes, I remember well."

Harry asked, "What about your skill on a broomstick?"

Laila looked startled. "I manage not to fall down - why?"

"We have to place the apparition lock on the roof," explained Harry. "Apparating doesn't work, for obvious reasons, at least not on the way back, so I planned to fly over in the first darkness, and my idea was that you two would give me cover - from some distance, of course, but for sure on broomsticks in the air."

Rahewa knew - it was now or never. "There's a glitch in your planning, Harry."

"Is it?" He looked at her.

"You're planning to do it under your Invisible Cloak, right? Well, and there's someone smaller than you, can hide better, and that's me, so we have to switch roles."

Harry examined her, as if measuring her size for the first time. "Yeah, makes a hell of a difference, these few inches."

"My broomstick's shorter too, that's more important, and what counts most - for a real counter attack, your Steel Wing's much better armed, and besides, I'd feel much better to know you're protecting me than the other way around."

Harry's face left little doubt how much he enjoyed this change of plan, only at this moment, Laila said, "She's right - and what's more, if she'll be detected, and we have to play the rescuing cavalry, I'd trust your commands more than hers." She turned to Rahewa. "Sorry to say that, but it's the simple truth."

Rahewa beamed at her. "Of course, and that's why your argument's so brilliant. Thank you."

Harry still looked sour. However, his last reluctance was pushed off by Ray, who came over from his worktable and said, "When you're finished complimenting each other, you may have a look at the devices, because I'm finished with them."

They walked over to the table.

Laila asked, "Why does it look like a ghetto blaster?"

"Because I took the case from a ghetto blaster," replied Ray. "Saved time - the handle was already there, and the switch, and the openings for the effect tubes - we have no standard model yet to carry it around."

The single-person lock was much smaller, about the size of a portable MP3 player. Lifting the bigger device, Rahewa showed suprise because of its weight.

Ray said, "Now do me a favour and don't confuse the switches - it's this one here."

Rahewa suppressed the temptation to joke around because Ray had selected the sensurround switch. This was serious business, wasn't it, the faces of the others told her as much. An instant later, she was really grateful for her silence, when Ray said, "If someone finds that thing on the roof, he'll never figure out where to switch it off - hopefully, I mean."

Laila said, "I wouldn't even try - I'd just tear it to pieces."

Ray grinned. "You'd be surprised - it's armed inside, that's why it's so heavy."

Rahewa took the box and walked to her Firebolt Lightning, then she tested the best way of holding it with one hand while steering with the other. She flew a few yards, stopped again. "Harry, let's try with your cloak."

Another test showed that the cloak could hide Rahewa herself, the box, and most of the broomstick - provided they fixed it at the tail. So Rahewa stored a roll of spellotape, by pulling it over her wrist like a bracelet.

Then Laila asked if someone could lend her a broomstick, please, preferably a tame one.

Ray disappeared in a storage room and came back with an old Firebolt Two - a bit dusty, still sparkling underneath. He rubbed it clean and held it up. "This one okay?"

"Don't ask me," replied Laila groomily. She turned to Rahewa. "You're the expert - whadd'ya say?"

Rahewa wrinkled her nose. "All that's missing are some position lights. That piece shines from here to Alabama."

"That's okay," said Laila, "since we'll be in California, and that's another direction."

Neither of the two men had twisted a lip at their wisecracking. Harry looked at Ray. Ray nodded and went to his workbench with the Firebolt Two. When he returned, the broomstick wasn't sparkling any longer.

For compensation, Rahewa's eyes lighted up. "That's cool, Ray," she said. "I get the feeling I'm totally unaware of the qualities you can offer."

Ray turned to Harry. "Let's go, before she's going to find new jobs for me. It mightn't play much of a role right now, but you know, she's my boss."

* * *

Laila Belezikijan stood in front of the instruction room. Rahewa stood at her side, Harry at the other, still - she felt as though standing alone here.

Meeting the glances of about fifty SWAT people.

Harry was introducing himself and the other three Magicals. He introduced her as ex-sergeant and as the one who might use her Uzi and her wand as she might feel due, giving her an opportunity to watch the reaction of the audience.

No bad jokes. No sexisms. Actually, there were some women among the men, and all of them together seemed a bit older than Laila would have expected, her mind still used to Israeli standards. The LAPD, however, felt little need for an eighteen-year-old in the SWAT.

Special Weapons Assault Troops, the forces within the police that came closest to military elite troops. Trained to shoot, not to shoot, to wound, or kill, depending on the situation.

The glances Laila met were calm, appreciating. As far as she could sense, these men had stared at her tits, at her sub-machine gun, and had found everything well in place. Exactly what she thought of herself, and that was a good feeling.

Harry asked his fellow Magicals to sit down, which meant on chairs here on this small stage, still a study object for the audience, although Laila was used to that from her own military past. Then Harry turned to the audience.

"We're going to storm a building with about ten people inside. There are two unusual factors in play. One is that these people, or most of them, are Magicals - wizards and witches. I'll talk about this topic in a moment. The other is their tactical plan, and our own planning to destroy theirs."

He pointed at the lieutenant, sitting on a chair close to the door. "Lieutenant Seeger told you that, for all we know, these are the kidnappers we were looking for, and that they might surrender, except he doesn't believe it. I'll tell you why."

Suddenly, Harry stood at the other side of the room.

He let the short gasps fade, then said, "I just showed you what's called apparition - the ability to move from one place to another. We must assume that all people in that building can apparate. And for this reason, we assume that they're going to fight us as long as they can, only to disappear in the last moment."

Watching, Laila saw only expectant faces. They all waited to hear how to prevent that.

"Ray here," said Harry, "is the one who prepared the device to lock them in place. The two ladies and I, we'll fly to the building and place that thing on the roof - thank God for flat roofs. We'll use our standard tool for that, our broomsticks. Rahewa here will be the one to carry it over, and she'll be invisible - almost, that is. Laila and I, we'll keep distance and take action only if she's detected."

Harry waited another moment to let the news sink in. "When we're back," he continued, "the storming can start. About that, you know more than I, so let me come to my own topic, which is how to proceed against wizards."

First he asked the audience whether someone had experience with wizards. No they hadn't. Then he informed them about the wizard's standard weapon, the stunning spell, and asked Rahewa to demonstrate it on a volunteer.

This done, Harry asked the two to try it again, this time with one of these riot shields as protection. The mood in the room improved sensibly when Rahewa's spell flashed off harmlessly.

"So far, so good," said Harry. "Problem is, these wizards know some more tricks." He let the volunteer hold the shield again, ordered him to hold it only single-handedly, to avoid broken bones, and sent a spell which pulled the shield out of the man's grip.

Then he asked Rahewa to demonstrate the disarming spell, again with the same volunteer, a Corporal Shapiro. Rahewa caught the flying gun, visibly twisting under the impact, and passed it back to the corporal.

Another man stood up - black, broad, and huge. "Lady," he called, "would you please try it again? With me?"

Laila inspected the man's weapon, a semi-automatic assault rifle with a shoulder rest rather than a shaft, a model she knew well. In the hands of this giant, it looked like a toy. Laila stood up, to wait at Rahewa's side.

Rahewa stood waiting. "Ready?"

The black trooper brought the gun into firing position. His grip tightened. "Go ahead."

Rahewa's wand pointed. "Expelliarmus!"

The man's grip broke as quickly as that of the former volunteer. Laila hissed, "Mine," and made a step forward to catch the flying gun, probably also saving Rahewa from badly hurt knuckles.

She walked through the room and stood face to face with the black trooper. "Don't confuse a witches' physical size with her magical power, sonny boy. Here's your gun."

The giant stopped rubbing his hands, which had to be hurting like hell. "Got it, Sarge - and while on the subject, let me tell you, with your physical size there's no confusion whatsoever."

Laila let the laughter fade, then examined the huge figure up and down. Keeping her eyes somewhat below the middle, she replied, "Good to know, trooper, but I wonder, would someone say the same about you?"

Then she walked through the howling and whistling back to the stage.

When the room had calmed down, Harry said, "Okay, folks - you may still have some questions, so let me summarize. Spells have one disadvantage compared to bullets: a spell is visible and always reveals the position of the enemy. If you see a pointing wand, treat it like the nastiest weapon you can imagine, because that's what it is. True, a stunning spell doesn't leave late effects, only there's the killing curse, and it's sent equally fast. Aside from that - don't forget, those people use guns as well."

They had indeed questions, about magic in general and those kidnapper wizards in particular. For some minutes, Harry answered them, mostly by confirming yes, some wizards could do that while no, they didn't know exactly whether these wizards could do it. Then Laila raised her arm.

The audience registered it quicker than Harry, giving him signs to ask her.

Laila rose. "I'm not the most experienced witch on earth, so this discussion brought some news even for myself. But all I heard confirmed the old army wisdom, to be on the safe side, take your opponent out of combat. And that's my own question - what does it mean, out of combat? Police rules or army rules?"

For an instant, the room fell quiet.

Then Lieutenant Seeger was up, entered the small stage. "Our situation is this - we have one prisoner, we'd appreciate to have some more but we aren't ready to pay a price. This building contains only suspects, nothing else. The first shot can't be ours, that's obvious. Afterwards, our policy is to arrest them with minimal risk for ourselves."

Laila stared at him. "Lieutenant, when I enter the next room and see a figure - do I call 'Hands up,' or do I use my gun?"

Seeger hesitated. Next moment, a figure in the first row came up.

"I'm Master Sergeant Woods, the leader of this team here, sergeant. The book of rules has a lot to say about your question, but I can cut it down to this: make sure you aren't shot, and none of your teammates either." He turned to Seeger. "The lieutenant is the commanding officer and the one who'll have to answer the press, if you get my drift."

Laila sat down, looking satisfied. "Pretty well, master sergeant."

After some more remarks, the meeting was over, and they still had an hour to wait before the action could start. Killing time immediately before a combat action - Laila felt experienced in that, particularly so as, with every minute, old habits were resurfacing in her mind, and she halfway expected to be the one who would murmur short remarks to some reassuring effect.

In a way, she was right - however only toward Ray, who felt out of place in this situation, in a room without a workbench, normally his preferred place to fight nervousness.

Rahewa, in contrast, was sitting at the floor, back to the wall, side by side with Harry, her legs outstretched in contrast to his lotus stance. Both had their eyes closed, faces calm, showing an attentiveness unlike any sleeper.

They were meditating, and Laila envied them terribly.

Her own mind was racing, imagining scenes, dying a death or two, especially after Ray had found a notepad in which he was scribbling. Maybe ideas, maybe just the graffiti of an edgy engineer.

Somewhere near, Laila could hear that the observation team close to the building was complaining, asked for a replacement, while the lieutenant refused agreeing to any unnecessary car movement in that area.

She closed her eyes and started to memorize every detail she had learned - and forgotten - about broomstick flying, under the special constraint of keeping an arm reserved for her Uzi. She was right in the middle of such a mental exercise when an arm touched her shoulder.

It was Harry. "It's time, Laila."

They drove in a van, with enough room for all four of them, plus their broomsticks, plus some of these kevlar vests and the order to wear them when reaching their destination.

Laila took one. Lighter than expected, still heavy enough, and what was worse - pretty stiff and restricting her in her movements. She donned it, then examined her own body. Head, arms, legs were still unprotected - about fifty percent protected at the cost of feeling as flexible as with an iron lung.

About to drop the thing again, her eyes met those of Harry. He said, "If only for Seeger's peace of mind - please keep it."

Laila made a face, nodded, then tested seriously how much the vest was impairing her movements. She wouldn't be able to do the gun dance, the fluid movement that brought the Uzi from her back into her hands, but so what - she would hold it ready anyway.

The van stopped. The man in the passenger seat, a short-legged, pot-bellied surveillance technician, turned around and looked at Harry.

"We're about half a mile south of the building. This here" - he held an item up which was smaller than a pack of cigarattes - "is your receiver. You fly - "

He was interrupted by Harry pointing at Rahewa. "She's the one who'll place the lock. Talk to her."

The surveillance man's eyes grew big and round for an instant, astonishingly well suited to his plump body. Then he caught himself and looked at Rahewa. "All right, lady - store it so you don't lose it. You'll hear us through your phony. I'm Red Post, and if you hear me telling you that you're on track, it means you're flying straight northward. The other van is Blue Post, it's located eastward. If their bearing of your receiver matches the direction of the building, and you're still on track according to my bearing, the building is right under your feet. Got it?"

Rahewa took the receiver, then said, "You won't shout, would you?"

"Rather not." The technician looked at the driver. "Unless Hank here's going to tell me a joke, and I can't stop laughing."

Without turning, the driver said, "Don't worry about that, sweetheart. He always misses the punch line."

Rahewa issued a choked sound, something between a giggling and a snorting. "Sorry - I guess that's been a stupid remark."

"Not really," said the technician. "I'm in this business for some years, and I can tell you, a stupid remark sounds different, take my word for it. Before taking off, let's have a short test. From then on, just listen - we don't expect you to say 'Roger' all the time."

Laila had followed this exchange with interest, because she had missed these preparations completely, also because this ugly gnome seemed quite competent in his job. Suddenly she realized that she had no idea how to escort Rahewa, and turned to Harry. "And how do we follow?"

"Carefully, and at some distance."

"Is that right? What I mean, how do we know where she is? Do you have a direction finder of your own?"

"Kind of." Harry gave her a brief smile. "I'm not going to lose her, and you keep at my side."

"Yeah, just what I had in mind."

They climbed out. Harry asked Rahewa whether approaching at a height of hundred feet sounded okay to her. When Rahewa nodded, he said they'd follow her at two hundred feet, and something like hundred yards behind.

Then he helped Rahewa to fix the Invisible Cloak at the tail fin of her Firebolt, and next moment, the girl disappeared, together with most of her broomstick.

Harry mounted his Steel Wing, said, "Let's go," and disappeared also - only that craning her neck was all Laila had to do for spotting him twenty feet up in the air.

She jumped up, muttering almost inaudibly to herself. She wasn't used to this kind of action, she couldn't fly a broomstick as Harry and Rahewa could, following an empty spot of air gave her the creeps ... In all this mess, there was just one aspect very familiar and thus calming her nerves - all of a sudden, things developed so fast, she found no time to worry.

She climbed further up, flying a spiral she would have called sharp and courageous but only until a minute ago, before she had seen Harry gaining height. On the other hand, maybe it had to do with his Steel Wing, providing a helicopter style beyond reach of her poor old Firebolt Two.

Except she didn't think so.

Reaching him where he was floating motionless in the air, Laila felt a deep desire to find a target for her Uzi, or some other situation in which she might have a chance to look experienced and cool and professional.

"Follow me."

Laila obeyed the command, wondering for a moment why Harry didn't mind talking so loudly, wondering also where he had learned Hebrew - until she realized that the command had reached her at a mental level, and that the translation into words had been the work of her own brain with its obvious tendency of using Hebrew.

They kept a low pace, more than enough time to scan around and gain a new respect for chopper pilots. This could only be Rahewa's decision, had nothing to do with Laila's own limited skill. Of course - the Invisible Cloak wasn't the ideal suit up here, and Rahewa wasn't going to put more pressure on the tail fixing than unavoidable.

Laila's eyes had adapted to the darkness. She could recognize contours down there on the ground, and she felt pretty sure to have their destination identified - some spots of light, slowly gaining shape, no doubt windows in that building which had free space all around, according to Seeger's description.

She was flying at the right and some feet behind Harry, in the meantime even at a steady pace after her initial changing between too fast and too slow. So she noticed him coming to a halt even before his command reached her mind, followed his example, feeling pride to have kept her position.

Harry didn't comment on what he was watching with his haragei, however Laila could imagine anyway. Rahewa was probably descending, scanning the flat roof for a good place where to store the lock that looked like a ghetto blaster, and on this L-shaped building, the most natural choice would be in the middle where -

The stupid bitch had switched to full volume!

This first thought crossed Laila's mind and was dismissed at once, all in a fleeting instant before she realized that some alarm system had gone off down there, most likely from Rahewa touching down on the roof or crossing a sensor field.

She saw Harry losing height, his right arm holding the wand ready, and at the same moment, her instincts of a gun-armed infantry trooper kicked in. Tilting the Firebolt forward, Laila started to dive. When she reached Harry, she called, "We must go down on the roof and hold the territory - they'll come up any second now." Her last words were more of a shout because she had passed him already.

She was falling like a stone, crashing out of the sky like an eagle with scorched feathers. Oh God, she'd never put that broomstick to a halt in time, only her instincts were screaming for ground contact, which meant the stone-covered tar paper of a flat roof. Paratroopers hung in the air helplessly for twenty seconds at the minimum, that's why this method was outdated for quite a while, so what crazy planning had brought her into this stupid situation, any second now the first head would appear, and if she started shooting, she'd forget to stop and crash with undiminished speed onto the roof.

A shadow passed her, giving her the perspective of floating, so fast had it crossed her level, and a shout reached her ears, "Brake!"

Yes, probably so, broken legs didn't feel any better than catching a bullet, although this was just guesswork because Laila knew how a bullet felt while she never had broken the smallest bone, and wasn't it incredible how much she could think while the airstream burned her eyes, while through the tears she registered a head, a figure appearing at the border of the roof, right arm outstretched, no doubt holding a gun.

Out of empty air, from the middle where the two wings of the roof connected, a flash shot across and hit the figure, which fell like a puppet, covering the ladder platform.

Good girl, had kept her position, and that was the difference between spell and bullet - the bullet would have kicked that man over the edge, and that was Laila's own keyword too, because she was shooting across the roof, the border closing in frighteningly fast, and if she'd mess up now ...

Laila let go, hit the pebble, rolled around and around, spread her legs to stop, not shaken harder than after a jump exit from a chopper, had her Uzi ready while the Firebolt Two zoomed over the edge and disappeared in the darkness.

* * *

Harry had expected the flash from Rahewa's spell, simply because he knew her position through his haragai. Still, he encountered a very bad moment while watching Laila's untrained efforts to manage an emergency stop on the roof.

He saw her rolling, saw her stop hard, his own breath coming in between clenched teeth - it looked as if Laila had sacrificed a few square inches of skin in favour of a quick combat position.

Seeing the Uzi come up, aiming around, Harry could concentrate on his own situation again. Keeping low, he crawled to the end of his own wing - from here, he could survey the major part of the building's opposite wing.

On top of that wing, he saw Laila doing the same.

There was a movement behind a window. Harry suppressed the urge to blast all windowpanes inside - the first shot won't be ours, Carl had said, and a destructive spell counted as a shot for sure. Glancing over, he saw Laila lying quietly, and for all he could sense, she knew exactly where to aim, once the deadly dance was opened.

A moment later, the noise of an engine reached Harry's ear, the low barking of a strong diesel. Then he spotted it - an armoured vehicle, funny-looking with its eight big wheels and the flat body. The vehicle stopped. There was a cracking sound, then the unmistakable voice of Lieutenant Seeger came through a loudspeaker somewhere at the vehicle, telling the people in the building that the place was surrounded, that they were arrested, and that they should come outside with their hands upon their heads.

Well, Carl hadn't told them anything new, as Harry realized - not after the guy sent up to the roof hadn't returned, without anyone else trying to figure out what had happened to him. But now the score was set, this short moment of quietness already counted as resistance against being arrested.

If they'd only send a bullet.

In some distance, figures were stepping closer, carrying portable shields and pushing shields on wheels. The scene looked like a remake of Ben Hur as a comedy - Roman legionnaires with chariots, only they'd forgotten the horses.

A flash shot through the darkness - from the building to the armoured vehicle, changed to a steady beam. A second beam fixed on the vehicle, almost the same spot. The eight-wheeler trembled, seemed to move ...

Upward! Which meant these were levitation charms, the synchronized efforts of two wizards, and in a few seconds, they'd have lifted the vehicle sufficiently to let it drop headfirst.

This was as good as a shot, wasn't it? Harry sent his own spell to the building front from which the first beam originated, a spell of the blasting kind, strong and furious.

A cracking, then a thousand bells chimed while the remnants of the windowpanes came raining down, partly outside, mostly inside.

One beam had vanished. The second spell couldn't hold the weight alone, the vehicle bumped down onto the ground, maybe from a height of two feet or so. The low barking started again, and the eight-wheeler moved closer to the building. At a distance of about thirty feet, it stopped. A short, thick barrel came up, and with sounds like coughing, the barrel started to spit dark objects into the building.

They looked like soda cans. After a few seconds, Harry saw smoke clouds inside.

Brrrap - the sound and the tiny flashes from the muzzle told Harry that Laila had started shooting. Probably her counter against an attempt to attack the armoured vehicle from the other wing.

Harry caught himself at an attempt to apparate to the middle of the roof, to a spot close to Rahewa. Shaking his head about such foolishness, he crawled forward.

Suddenly Rahewa's head floated a foot over the pebble, and her mouth said, "Harry - here I am."

"You look great - a head and nothing else. I'm going to reach the other side, so I can blast in the second front too."

"Then you should hurry - Red Post told me they're shooting cans of tear gas inside, only it's a special mix, spiced up with something nasty, he said, and we should disappear from the roof before the clouds reach us here."

"Except we're one broomstick short." Harry thought for a second. "Listen - you should move up, fifty feet or hundred, ask him which height is safe, and keep there to guard the lock device. From above, you can stun anyone who's trying to reach that thing."

"And you?"

"I'm going to break some windows, and then I'll take Laila on my back and go down, behind the lines. Tell Red Post he should inform the people in the vehicle that, in a few seconds, they'll have another front to fill."

Rahewa grinned. "Seems as if I got the most boring task in this action, huh? Only I can blame nobody but myself. Okay, see you later."

Harry crawled the other wing along. Coming closer, he saw Laila glance in his direction and then watch the building front again, once sending a short burst from her Uzi.

He reached her. "Hi. We have to leave - they're shooting tear gas with something else, and we shouldn't catch it."

"I know - smelled it already. Problem is, I lost my horse."

Laila's eyes were fixed on the building front, her face calm, only her voice confirmed what Harry could feel anyway - fury toward herself, mixed with embarrassment.

"My Steel Wing carries both of us, only you mustn't touch it, that's why I'll be your horse for travelling back."

Laila snorted. "Please avoid the cameras."

"Okay - but first let me play my favourite sport with buildings."

"This time with me watching, because the first time I could only hear and feel, and to be honest, it was a bit frightening."

"Said the lady with the machine gun." Harry sent his second blasting spell, less impressive than the first, simply because Laila had already destroyed her own good share of windowpanes.

The eight-wheeler below could be heard while not seen; Harry and Laila kept off the edge to avoid the gas. However, a moment later, the vehicle appeared in their view, stopped, and the short barrel sent one shot after the other into the new target area.

"Let's go," said Harry. "The Steel Wing is still at the other side."

"How forgetful of you." Laila started crawling, showing considerably more expertise in this particular movement than Harry.

They had passed a few yards when a sound like the blowing of a child's ballon reached Harry's ear - the fraction of a second before his eyes registered a cloud of pebble, tar paper, and splinters of wood and concrete blow into the air. The other wing of the roof, not too far from the center where the ghetto blaster was visible, suddenly had a large hole, about eight feet long and five feet wide.

The explosion had sent the debris upward, rather than to the sides - when it came raining down, only some pebbles reached their position.

Laila's gun aimed toward the hole. She said, "There's someone who knows how to handle explosives ... An emergency exit, but what is it good for?"

Yes, why ... "Oh shit! They're trying to escape on broomsticks." Harry had a nasty feeling of vulnerability in his stomach, here on a roof which might blow up any moment, for another hole just where he'd stopped.

A flash shot from the sky into the hole. At the same instant, they saw a figure on a broomstick float up, already falling to the side, disappearing in the hole.

Harry reacted instinctively. His wand pointing, he shouted, "Accio broomstick!"

The thing zoomed over the roof, closely missing the ghetto blaster, and stopped in front of him - a Firebolt Three.

"Here's your replacement," he said. "Up with you - and keep moving, in contrast to Rahewa you aren't invisible." As if confirming his words, shooting could be heard from below the hole, probably into the direction where the flash had come from.

Harry summoned his Steel Wing as he had summoned the stunned wizard's Firebolt. Mounting the broomstick, he saw another flash hit the hole, feeling relieved that the angle was totally different - so Rahewa was clever enough to change her position after every spell she sent.

He jumped up into the air, waited until Laila had followed, then called, "Can you guard that hole together with Rahewa? I want to fetch some of these gas cans, to throw them into the hole from above."

"No - I mean, save it!" Laila pointed down. "Look, the first smoke's curling up from the hole. There must be some hell inside, I think those were the last attempts of organized resistance." She showed a wolfish grin. "I guess the doors inside had lots of glass windows too, and your spell made sure none of them were left intact."

"Then I'll go down to join the SWAT people, to be ready when the wizards come out and try a last trick."

Laila stopped grinning. "Be careful, Harry - that's exactly the situation where you can catch a bullet from your own people."

She certainly knew what she was talking about - this kind of accident had been the beginning of their relationship. "In this case," replied Harry, "you should come with me. Rahewa's enough guard if you're right about the conditions inside, and nobody's going to shoot at you - they remember you from the meeting."

"Yeah, sure - under this body armour, everyone looks the same."

Harry grinned. "I was talking about your hair, don't know what you mean."

The thought of firm ground under her feet apparently had strong appeal for Laila. They flew a wide circle upward, passed the ring of the surrounding SWAT men, and touched down fifty yards behind, then they started walking.

Still from a distance of twenty yards, Laila called at them. Some guns were indeed swinging around, only these were controlled movements. Even so, Harry got the feeling Laila's female voice had been quite helpful to avoid a nasty confusion.

The armoured vehicle had retreated from the building. The place in front was empty, under the illumination from some strong spotlights and with the smoke clouds coming from the windows, it looked as if waiting for the fire brigade.

Stepping closer, they found the lieutenant outside of the vehicle. Using its cover, he was watching the scene.

Registering them, he turned around. "What happened up there?"

"Three stunned wizards," replied Harry. "The first came looking when the alarm went off - he used the fire exit ladder. That's where he's still lying - stunned. The other two tried to escape on broomsticks, after they blew a hole in the roof."

"Broomsticks ..." Seeger shook his head. "That's something we didn't expect, did we? Using them by ourselves, and ..." He wrinkled his nose. "So this alarm was our good luck, because it nailed you on the roof."

Laila asked, "Did anyone come out already?"

"Not really - one guy reached the entrance and did something other than holding his arms up and visible. Must be lying just inside."

Laila pointed at the wing that had been her target range. "And another one must be lying behind one of these windows. I shot him."

Seeing Seeger's face, she added, "He had something on his shoulder that looked pretty much like a bazooka, and it was aimed at this car with you inside. I thought you'd appreciate me stopping him."

The lieutenant pursed his lips, then nodded slowly. "Come to think of it, sergeant, you're awfully right." Almost thoughtful, he added, "We'll make it one of our bullets in the report - it's simpler that way."

Harry asked, "Carl, what's going to happen now? Storming the building?"

"Certainly not. We'll just wait - could be the others are lying somewhere inside, unconscious, only we're not sure, and I don't give a damn if they choke to death, whether from that gas or from hurt pride."

"Would it help if I start blowing the building to pieces?"

Seeger chuckled. "Not particularly much, Harry. Even Sheila won't be able to find the proper words for - "

He stopped because a figure had appeared in the entrance with the broken door. It stumbled forward, hands folded over its head, twisting under spasms of coughing.

A second person appeared two steps behind, the same stance, the same coughing.

Seeger bent down and came up with a megaphone, which held it to his mouth. "Get down - face to the ground - arms spread - legs spread."

The first of the two went down on his knees. The second one seemed caught by a stronger fit of coughing, the arms came forward as if supporting the head ...

"They have wands!"

Harry's voice drowned in the rattling of Laila's Uzi, instantly followed by a shout from the lieutenant. Both the kneeling and the standing figure were twisting but not falling, their arms coming forward.

"Expelliarmus!" shouted Harry.

Two wands, pulled out of two hands, came flying through the air. The hands jerked up from this attack, and for the SWAT troopers around, this looked exactly as if both men had fired some invisible guns.

The same troopers also had registered that Laila's bursts had hit the bodies without effect, which meant these two men wore the same body armours under their shirts as the troopers themselves.

In response to that, they aimed at the heads. Just before the two bodies slumped to the ground, Harry and Laila could watch how the two faces vanished, in the literal sense, like wiped off from the blood and flesh and bones underneath.