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Things They Don't Teach You in Auror Training:

#1 - Forget the Unforgivable Curses. It's the stupid third-year Charms you have to watch out for.

Evan's vision swam blue-green as he pelted down the pavement, as if somebody had sunk Manchester in forty feet of water. He wasn't sure whether the vertigo was because of the Fisheye Charm or some other curse that bastard had managed to slip through while they were playing wand tennis back in the parking garage, but it wasn't helping either way; he kept careening into people and lamps and those plastic cubes they put free newspapers in, and not even the badge on a chain around his neck stopped some of those people from yelling at him to go home and sleep it off.

He took a small amount of comfort from the blue-green glimpses of his quarry up ahead, lurching unsteadily from the partial effect of an Impediment Jinx. That had been a piece of nice, regulation wand-work, and Evan wouldn't be making that mistake again. Funny thing about Dark wizards was, they didn't pay much attention to niceties or regulations.

His target cut right, down a narrow alley. Evan grinned. Fantastic. No witnesses meant free rein to use his wand again -- so long as he didn't knock any buildings down.

#2 - Buy yourself a pair of good Muggle running shoes. After your wand, they'll be the most useful things you own.

The bastard was a flight and a half up the fire escape by the time Evan spotted him. Thanks to the damned Fisheye Charm, Evan's first shot missed; the second splashed harmlessly off the railings that blocked Evan's shot. Blasted railings. Without thinking -- which proved to be an error on his part -- he aimed again and muttered, "Reducto."

It was almost a useful decision.

Almost – but not quite.

Two flights of iron fire escape screeched free and fell to the ground with an almighty clang. Evan had the perfect chance to nab the Dark wizard then; the bastard had flung himself forward in time to catch hold of an intact stair, but his legs were dangling out into space, and one well-placed Charm would have ended this entire faceoff right then. Evan, unfortunately, was too busy dodging a falling staircase to take advantage of it.

By the time he looked up, the wizard had clawed his way back onto the stairs and was running again. And as tempting as it was to bring the whole thing crashing down . . . .

He heard old Badgerton as if the man was screaming in his ear. Memory Charms don't come cheap, you know! There were already people peering into the alley, too, wondering what the racket was.

Swearing, Evan kicked open the door at his side and flung himself up the stairs.

#3 - You will be a brilliant Auror – but only when no one is looking. All your worst mistakes will happen in front of witnesses.

The Fisheye Charm was fading at last as Evan came charging out the stairwell door. So was the Impediment Jinx, but it had done its job: the Dark wizard was still on the roof.

The other fellow skidded to a halt so fast, the hood of the sweatshirt almost fell off his shaved head. It was the first good look Evan had gotten at his quarry's face. Narrow features, almost serpentine, with a shaved head above, like a wannabe Voldemort. Evan felt a fierce, almost predatory surge of joy at the thought of taking him down. A rookie Auror, bringing in a criminal single-handedly. It would be a real feather in his cap.

His fingers tensed on his wand. The Dark wizard had nothing in his hand, but they said in training that most of these fellows had permanent Gunslinger Charms on their wands; it was likely up his sleeve, and he could have it out in an eyeblink. Evan's was already in hand, though. He might not be Polly Perotti, with her Coke-bottle spectacles and reflexes so fast people whispered about sprite blood somewhere in her family tree, but surely he had the edge on this bloke.

If he didn't bungle it.

Evan drew in a slow breath, trying to slow the beating of his heart, raised to thunder levels by all those flights of stairs. Quidditch was no substitute for aerobic exercise. But the Dark wizard's heart had to be beating nearly as loud. His eyes were locked on Evan's, as if waiting for the slightest twitch, the first, microscopic hint that Evan was about to move. Between that and the thought of Gunslinger Charms, Evan half-expected a tumbleweed to blow through.

Movement flickered at the corner of Evan's vision, too quick for him to make it out. As if it had been the starter's pistol, the faceoff broke.

Evan's wand shot forward, tip aimed unwaveringly at the Dark wizard, and despite all his instructors drilling it into his head that shouting your spells didn't make them any stronger, Evan found himself bellowing, "Stupefy!"

And the Dark wizard's wand was out, but not fast enough; the jinx caught him as his arm was coming up, and the force of it sent him flying backward.

Straight off the roof.

#4 - Sometimes doing the right thing feels very, very wrong.

The flicker of movement shot after the falling Dark wizard like a bolt of lightning, before Evan was even done thinking, oh shit. His Levitation Charm came far too late; you couldn't levitate what you couldn't see. Some optimistic impulse nevertheless sent him running forward, wand outstretched, as if he could cross the roof before his quarry hit the ground. Before he was halfway there, though, the Dark wizard's limp body rose back into view.

Not levitating. The neck of his sweatshirt was bunched in someone else's fist, a rider on a broomstick who glided smoothly over to deposit his cargo a dozen feet from Evan.

A rider whose face had been plastered all over the Daily Prophet in Evan's childhood.

"Oh, fuck me," Evan moaned, before he could stop himself.

"Er," Harry Potter said, taken aback by the words. "I think this belongs to you?"

His first arrest, and not only had he bungled it by blowing his quarry off a roof and almost to his death, he'd done so in front of the most famous living wizard in the entire world.

Evan thought briefly of the Shame-Escaping Charm, said to have been invented by a witch who humiliated herself so badly, she spontaneously discovered a way to make the ground open up and swallow her. Unfortunately, as the witch had never been seen again, the secret of her magnificent spell was lost with her.

He waited, but no such happy discovery came to him.

"Are you all right?"

Harry Potter -- Harry fucking Potter, the wizard who had done more as a Hogwarts schoolchild than most Aurors did in their entire careers -- was peering at Evan, wand half-raised as if to try a healing charm on him.

Evan found his tongue. "Yeah, I -- I'm fine. Er. Thank you."

"I almost lost you," Potter said, lowering his broom to the ground. "Saw people fighting in the garage, but I guessed wrong as to which way he'd run. Lucky this one sent off a spell when he got up here, or I would have been hunting all over Manchester for you."

No wonder the Dark wizard had still been on the roof. "What spell?" Evan asked.

"Don't know. Where's his wand?"

Evanesco, that would do the trick, even if the thought called to mind endless juvenile taunts about his name. Always secure the wand, you blithering -- It was the first thing you were supposed to do, after apprehending a criminal. He glanced about desperately, hoping the comatose wizard might have dropped it somewhere on the roof; then the rest of his brain caught up and he knew what must have happened. "Accio wand!"

Potter's own wand leapt out from the waistband of his trousers, but the older Auror caught it before it could fly to Evan.

No, not Evanesco. Incendio. He needed to just light himself on fire and end his suffering.

Evan gritted his teeth. "Accio Dark wizard's wand."

The slender bit of wood sailed up over the edge of the roof and into Evan's hand. He couldn't help rolling his eyes at it. Holly, the pale wood carved to look like bone, with a claw on the end. What self-respecting wand-maker made these things, anyway? He set the tip of his own wand against it -- birch, eight inches, sphinx hair -- and said, "Prior Incantato."

A ghostly light emerged from the other wand, coiling through the night air. A serpent, curving around in a circle, until its head met its tail, and bit down to form an ouroboros. Evan recognized the symbol, but had never seen a spell like that before. "What --"

Potter flung one hand out to silence him. The spell wasn't done. A second image formed inside the first, encircled by the ouroboros.

A skull.

"We need to get off the roof.".

Evan stared at Potter. "I don't --"

He was stupid to waste time questioning, but it was already too late anyway; it had been too late when Evan first began stammering and staring, instead of bagging his catch and taking it back to Auror headquarters. And even then, he might not have escaped.

Three black clouds slammed down onto the rooftop in quick succession. Evan reacted on instinct; they might have been other Aurors, or even civilian witches or wizards come to see what was going on, but the nice thing about magic as compared with Muggle guns was that so long as you chose your spells wisely, you could feel free to shoot first and ask questions after.

They looked ordinary: no Bellatrix Lestranges here, wild-eyed and cackling, no ugliness or deformities he could pretend were outward signs of inward evil. A middle-aged witch, a younger one, and a wizard in a business suit not much different from Evan's own. That last one went rigid under a Body-Bind Curse almost before he was done materializing, but even while Evan was casting that spell, the older witch flung her own jinx at Potter.

Afterwards, Evan would sort it all out. The witches both targeted Potter at first because he was closer to the unconscious wizard's body, and tried to grab it when they appeared. Evan doubted they even spotted who he was; they'd attacked too quickly to have recognized him in the dim light, unless they'd somehow been following him. But no: they hadn't come for Potter, or for Evan. They'd come for their fallen friend.

Which meant that getting said friend out of here was the number-one priority -- even above stopping the others.

At the time, he only understood this subconsciously, but that was enough.. "Protego Horribilis," Evan said, in a voice that sounded unnaturally calm to his own ears. He pushed the shield as far as he could, and managed to envelop both himself and his original quarry, who was beginning to stir -- but not Potter, dueling furiously with the younger witch. The older one, in the meanwhile, had seen her companion under the Body-Bind Curse. She snarled at Evan -- an expression totally at odds with her motherly face, that promised pain.

But whether she was afraid to face Evan on her own, or felt some loyalty to the wizard he'd bound, she took a moment first to end the curse on him. And Evan -- hating himself every second for running, for abandoning Potter, for failing as an Auror – threw himself over the first Dark wizard, and Apparated away.

#5 - Don't ask questions. You may not like the answers you get.

He couldn't Apparate directly into Auror headquarters, of course. But he retained enough presence of mind to aim for the Pen, and the duty witch there paralyzed both him and the Dark wizard beneath him as soon as they appeared. Then she levitated Evan off his prisoner, sorted them out, and un-cursed him while Punch, the Manchester department's troll, carted the still-paralyzed Dark wizard off to a holding cell.

Evan started babbling as soon as his jaw could move again. "Office building, on Jordan Street; there are three Dark wizards and Ha --"

The flood of words died when the door to the Pen swung open and Meera Chirimar walked in, robes swirling, with Potter at her heels. She nodded crisply at the sight of Evan. "Allenby, good. Did you bring your prisoner?" He nodded dumbly. "Better. We'll deal with him in a moment. For now, come with me."

Reflex alone carried him after the Chief Auror of the Manchester department, and the most famous wizard in the world.

She didn't lead them down the tunnel that connected the Pen to headquarters. She led them down a tunnel Evan would have sworn hadn't been there yesterday, and which he assumed wouldn't be there tomorrow, if he was dumb enough to go looking. They passed through a series of three doorways ringed with runes, the pressure of protective spells getting stronger with each one; Evan had to pop his ears after the third. At the end of the hall, he found himself in a set of offices he'd never seen before -- one of which, he would have laid money, was the office of Chirimar herself.

She looked speculatively at a mirror set in the wall, but left it alone, instead turning to face the others. "All right. What happened?"

"Do you still have the wand?" Potter asked Evan.

He had no recollection of what he did after calling that ouroboros out of it, but the wand was somehow in his coat pocket, as if the universe had decided to take pity on him after the rooftop debacle. Evan produced it, and at Potter's nod, cast Prior Incantato on it again.

The echo of the old spell was fainter this time, but still clear. Chirimar's breath hissed between her teeth.

Potter, too, looked grim. "Yeah. And three others appeared just a minute or two later. It's a mayday signal, clearly."

"More than just that," Chirimar muttered.

"Sorry," Evan said, hesitantly. "I've never seen that spell before. What is it?"

The other two exchanged looks, before Chirimar answered. Her usual brisk manner was slowed with reluctance. "We don't have a name for it, other than 'ouroboros.' We haven't yet figured out the spell."

"But you know what it is," Evan said.

She pinned him with a sharp look. "Allenby. What does the ouroboros symbolize?"

A serpent, eating its own tail. "Eternity, immortality, death and rebirth."

And then he remembered the skull.

Evan's face and hands went cold, as if all the blood had drained from them. "You don't mean --"

"He isn't back," Potter said. And if anybody would know, Evan supposed, he would.

"But tell that to the neo-Eaters," Chirimar said sourly. "Silly name, but we don't have a better one for them. Like the Muggle neo-Nazis. It's all the tripe you'd expect: blood purity, Muggles are sheep to be slaughtered, and so on. They can't bring back You-Know-Who, but that doesn't stop them from adopting him as their symbol. Potter's here in Manchester, Allenby, because we suspected -- and now we know -- that there's a neo-Eater cell in the city. Thanks to your quick thinking, we've got one in the Pen."

His quick thinking? Potter was either very nice and a champion liar, or he hadn't yet said anything about what happened before the other neo-Eaters showed up. Evan flushed. "Ma'am, I didn't know he was when I went after him. I -- honestly, I was on my way home from a friend's wedding. A Muggle friend," he added, flicking his tie. "It was pure chance I even saw him, let alone captured him." Pure chance, and a healthy dose of help.

Chirimar shrugged. "Well, you may call it good luck or bad, as you like. I don't want word getting out about this movement; it's too easy for people to fall into a panic, and assume You-Know-Who could come back again. So I need to limit who knows about this thing. You already do, so I'm putting you on the case."

"The case?" Evan's heart started thudding as if he'd run up a ten-story office building again. "Ma'am, I've been an Auror for less than a month!"

"Thank you, Allenby; I do pay attention to who is in my department," she said dryly. "But you won't be alone. Potter knows about the movement; he'll help you out. And you were a bit of a wonder boy in training, weren't you? Time to prove you're good outside the classroom. Look on the bright side: if you screw up, you'll probably be in St. Mungo's, and in no state to mourn your career."

Chirimar had a sense of humour like a mortician with cancer. And all the flexibility of a Stonehenge block. There was only one possible answer: "Yes, ma'am."

#6 - You won't quit. Not after we're done with you. We hunt the most evil witches and wizards in the world, and we don't recruit the sort of person who can ignore that.

Once you become an Auror, there's no going back.