Hermione closed her compact mirror and took a deep breath.
There were several points about the conversation she’d just had with Sam Winchester that caused her grave concern. She hadn’t, however, discussed them right away with Sam. Instead, she had used her Quick Quotes Quill to make notes, while she did her best to keep her composure and remain calm - prodding Sam for more information in a friendly intellectual manner. Sam had answered all her questions gratefully and by the time Hermione ended the call, she’d been assured that she retained his trust and friendship.
Now, she was faced with the list:
Troubling Things Said by Sam
- “I know Harry said he wouldn’t help us anymore…”
- “I found this book - uh, the Book of the Damned - and it has a spell to remove the Mark.”
- “...I’ve found the Codex - it was made by a witch named...uh, Nadya. Only it’s in code too…”
- “..calling in the smartest people I know - I got Charlie, she’s a hacker. And this witch named Rowena.”
- “I got her chained up, don’t worry. We have a deal that if she does the spell, I won’t kill her.”
- “I figured I’d get the bad kind of witch to do it - that way you guys wouldn’t get your hands dirty.”
- “I can’t risk moving the book. There were these crazy people tracking it before. Uh… the Stynes? Anyway…”
Hermione read the list over. Harry had, of course, told Hermione all about his last trip to the US - and she had heard even more secondhand, when Ginny needed someone to whom to vent her frustrations about her foolish husband nearly getting himself killed. They knew all about the Mark of Cain and of Dean’s disappearance after his supposed death. And once Dean had returned, he had called Harry and apologized for the trouble he had caused, and asked Harry to pass his apologies onto Nate Lewin for holding a knife to his throat.
They knew, of course, that Dean still had the Mark, but the last Harry had spoken with the Winchesters, they had both been optimistic that they would find a solution.
The Book of the Damned was, in Hermione’s opinion, not a good solution.
Hermione took a deep breath and looked back down at Troubling Thing #1.
“Well then, that decides it,” Hermione said aloud to herself. Sam wasn’t expecting help from Harry. He had called Hermione, not Harry. It was, therefore, for her to decide what the best course of action was - and Harry, Sam, and everyone involved would just have to thank her later.
First order of business was to cancel all her meetings for the day. Second order of business was to call Kevin Tran. It was time he stepped into his new role at the Ministry of Magic.
“... and that is all the information that he has given me,” Hermione finished. “As you can see, intervention is required immediately. I’m calling in the alert as soon as I’m finished speaking with you, and from then on, we will go through official channels. You can expect to be called into the Ministry within the next hour. I’m sorry that I can’t give you more time, but we must act before the situation changes.”
“Right, of course,” Kevin nodded numbly, trying not to stare too slack jawed at Hermione’s disembodied head in the fireplace.
“Kevin,” Hermione said. “I know it’s a lot - but we talked about there being circumstances where you might need to negotiate on behalf-”
“Right, yes, I mean, we did,” Kevin agreed. Negotiate on behalf of the Men of Letters - that was the reason he was able to stay in Britain legally. It was the reason that he was granted access to the Wizarding World. Up until now, it had been a title only, it had meant nothing. This event would change that.
“Tell them I called in the alert,” Kevin interrupted. If Hermione called it in, it would be like she caught them out in something - which she had, but only because Sam hadn’t frickin’ told Kevin that he was dabbling in goddamn dark magic.
Hermione smiled. “I was just about to suggest that.”
“Thanks, Hermione,” Kevin said.
He watched Hermione disappear from the fire, then he turned back to Teddy and Nate, who had been eating breakfast blurry eyed, but now seemed alert and concerned.
“Merlin’s balls, Kevin,” Teddy exclaimed.
“Fuck, fuck, what am I going to do?” Kevin asked frantically. “Oh god. Oh god!”
“You’ll need a suit and shoes,” Nate said, springing up from the table. “You can’t go to the MInistry in a jumper and trainers.”
“I don’t have a suit!” Kevin panicked.
“We do,” Teddy replied, giving a nod to Nate, who immediately ran out of the room.
Kevin was still panicking. He’d need to bring his notes - the angel tablet notes. He’d been working to translate them. Even though he didn’t have the tablet anymore, he still had the translation that he had written out in that stupid long-dead language. He’d manage to translate some of it, thanks to the wizarding world resources, but it had taken him months to even find the section about the Mark, and the information was sparse and mostly unhelpful. It wasn’t any sort of information that would help him negotiate-
“Kevin, look at me,” Teddy ordered. Kevin stopped pacing and looked at him, at a complete loss as to how to proceed.
“You’re the first Asian-American President of the United States of America,” Teddy announced, firmly. “You can do this.”
“I’m the… President?”
Teddy nodded. “You are - only America is a Bunker in Kansas, and it’s citizens are the Winchesters.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Kevin replied.
“No, it isn’t - listen, when you were young, you knew you could do that job - that was your dream, right? Nothing has changed, Kevin. You are still capable of leading an entire country.” Teddy reiterated.
“I’m the President,” Kevin nodded. “The Winchesters are the citizens.”
“They voted for you to represent them,” Teddy encouraged.
And they had, Kevin thought. They had done that.
Nate came back into the kitchen holding a suit, throwing it towards Teddy and then leaving again. With a wave of Teddy’s wand, there was a strong breeze and a small whirlwind of cloth that swarmed Kevin - he was suddenly naked, and then suddenly redressed, and then Teddy was in front of him whispering charms, and he could feel the suit conform to his body in response.
“Shapeshifter, Kevin,” Teddy explained. “I have to be really good at fixing clothes to match different body shapes.”
Nate came back into the kitchen carrying a full length mirror, which he placed in front of Kevin with a flourish once Teddy stepped away.
“What do you think?” Teddy asked. Kevin looked in the mirror and stared. He’d worn suits before, of course, but not since high school - it had been years. Years of being covered in dirt and blood and stale coffee, on the run from his previous life, or hiding out in that underground bunker. He looked into the mirror and saw an adult looking back at him, in the finest tailored suit that Kevin had ever seen.
“I’m the President,” Kevin whispered to his reflection.
There was a hoot from the window, and all three boys turned to see a Ministry Owl on the perch waiting. Teddy turned and opened the casement, but the owl evaded Teddy and flew towards Kevin, landing on the counter in front of him and dropping a small roll of parchment. It flew out the window again as soon as Kevin had picked up the note, not even waiting for treats.
Please Direct Floo to Ministry of Magic, Meeting Room Six.
- The Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Ministry of Magic
Kevin glanced at the clock.
“I’ve got ten minutes,” Kevin stated. “I’ll need my notes and a briefcase.”
“Ay ay, Captain,” Nate said, and then disappeared out of the kitchen once more.
“I have to get to the lab,” Teddy said, picking up his coffee cup and eyeing the contents. “But let me know if you need anything, alright?”
“Alright,” Kevin nodded, watching Teddy chug the remnants of his cup and then shove another piece of toast in his mouth.
Nate re-entered the kitchen then, carrying Kevin’s notes in one hand and a briefcase in the other.
“I thought I’d let you organize them, so you know where everything is,” Nate announced, laying everything out on the table, before turning to Teddy. “You off then, Puppy?”
“Yeah, I’ll probably be late as it is, the lift takes forever.” Teddy answered. “I’ll see both of you later - have a good day off, mate. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Kevin - knock ‘em dead, yeah?”
“Thanks, yeah,” Kevin nodded, sorting quickly through his papers and sliding them into the pockets of the briefcase in some semblance of order. He then came to a sheet of paper with a list of questions on it, and he realized that he still needed to make a call before he went to the meeting.
He heard the fireplace flare to life as Teddy threw in some floo powder and whisked himself off to the research branch of St. Mungo’s.
Nate sat back down at the table, while Kevin bowed over his notes and closed his eyes.
“Gadreel,” Kevin called, then remembered what Teddy and Nate had told him about Gadreel’s probation terms, and he added. “And Hannah.” Across the table, Nate sucked in a breath. “Hannah and Gadreel - It’s Kevin Tran. I am praying to Gadreel because I am told that he was there near the beginning of all things - that he was once powerful and trusted by God. I need to know about the Mark Lucifer gave Cain, and whether Gadreel might know more about it than Castiel or even Metatron. If he does not, there is no need to answer. If he does, I request that he come to the pedestrian crossing at Abbey Road in London and wait there for me. I will watch for him and meet him when I am able. Amen.”
Kevin opened his eyes to see Nate gaping at him.
“Could you-” Kevin started, apologetically, but then Nate seemed to give himself a shake and interrupted.
“I’ll go to the shed and keep an eye on the webcam,” Nate concluded for him. “It’s my day off, I was just going to play video games anyway, I can play while I wait.”
The clock struck nine.
“Ready?” Nate asked, as Kevin closed the briefcase and walked over to the fireplace.
“As I’ll ever be,” Kevin replied, and lifted the crystal pendant from the mantel piece, tucking it into his inside pocket.
“You’ll be brilliant, I know it,” Nate smiled.
Kevin picked up a handful of floo powder and tossed it into the fireplace, and watched the flames turn green.
“Of course I will be,” Kevin replied, giving Nate his best smile. “I’m Kevin Freakin’ Solo.”
Harry didn’t know what was going on - a sensation that he disliked immensely. All he knew was that not even a minute after he stepped into the Ministry, an urgent memo found him - declaring that Kevin Solo, of the Men of Letters, had called in a high alert. Harry had just seen Kevin two days ago at dinner, and his biggest news was that he had enrolled in linguistics classes at a local university.
Not only that, but they had, so far, attempted to keep Kevin away from the Ministry of Magic. The ministry knew that Kevin was in London, but all paperwork had been done through correspondence, rather than in person. It was a way to cloak Kevin in legitimacy - a secretive persona for a secretive muggle society. In reality, Harry feared that Kevin’s political or diplomatic situation would be questioned if it was revealed that he was a boy barely out of his teens.
There was no time now to call Grimmauld place and question what was happening - there was no time to talk to Kevin about how he should present himself or what to expect from the meeting. Harry found himself slightly hurt and disappointed that Teddy, at the very least, hadn’t given him any warning.
He was the last of the wizards to arrive. Hermione gave him a nod, and Harry knew right away that she was well aware of what was going on. It set him at ease, though at the same time he felt even more hurt that she might have kept something from him to the point where she was not surprised at all, and he was caught completely flat-footed.
Harry sat himself down in the free seat at the table. Across from Hermione, who was there as Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. Harry was present as Head of the Aurors, a lower branch of the same Department. There was also Christopher Gallows, an Unspeakable, who Harry knew to be the Head of the Department of Mysteries. He was a lanky older man with pale skin and foreboding eyebrows, though he had a kind smile, when he chose to show it. Ava Baumann, a Persian-German woman with a sharp jawline and piercing eyes, was there from the Department of International Magical Cooperation. Across the far wall was a long mirror that did not reflect the room, but rather showed the interior of another meeting room in Boston - where it was quite clearly VERY early in the morning, and the Head of the American Department of Magical Law Enforcement blinked blurrily at them while clutching a coffee cup, beside him, the Head of the American Auror Department looked much the same. Harry couldn’t remember his first name, only ever having referred to him as Brighton, as Phil had. He signed his correspondence with the initials J. E. B., so Harry had taken to calling him Jeb Brighton, though he’d never do so to his face.
Harry turned his glance to Hermione, giving her a wide-eyed glare - trying to communicate that whatever it was she knew - it seemed to be shoving Kevin directly into the fire, rather than easing him into his role slowly, as Harry had planned. Hermione rolled her eyes, which Harry understood as meaning that it had been a whole year, and Harry’s version of a slow introduction was getting ridiculous.
It helped, of course, that Harry and Hermione had had this argument before.
“Anyone know what this about?” Harry asked the room.
“The Muggle will tell us in - 10 seconds by my watch - if he knows what’s good for ‘im,” Brighton grumbled from the mirror.
Hermione kept silent, but then, so did everyone else. Harry got out his parchment and quill, so that his portion of the table looked like everyone else’s. Just after the clock clicked over to 9am, the fireplace in the corner roared to life, and someone came hurdling out of it.
Kevin tumbled out of the fireplace in a manner that would have been ungraceful for a wizard, yet, Kevin managed to turn it into a forward roll that looked purposeful, all without losing hold of his briefcase. He rose gracefully to his feet and, without breaking stride, walked to the front of the room.
“Thank you for coming on such short notice, everyone,” Kevin addressed them, his voice was even, confident, and betraying absolutely no nervousness. He was dressed in a fine suit, tailored perfectly, and despite the journey in the floo, his hair looked artfully tousled rather than a mess. Harry darted a quick glance to Hermione, who looked both proud and smug, and Harry knew he had lost the argument.
“For those who have yet to meet me, allow me to introduce myself - my name is Kevin Solo, and I’m a representative for the Men of Letters,” Kevin continued, Then he nodded toward the mirror. “My apologies for the hour, gentlemen.”
Kevin didn’t sit down, instead he stood at the head of the room, commanding everyone’s attention, while he opened his briefcase and removed a file folder, the Men of Letters insignia prominent on the cover. Once the folder was opened, and Kevin had a chance to look at the first page, he glanced back up at them all.
“A little over one year ago, one of our members came to possess the Mark of Cain,” Kevin began. “As an organization, we have devoted a considerable amount of time to finding either a cure, or a way to mitigate its effects. We have, so far, been unsuccessful.”
“It is the oldest curse,” Gallows stated. Kevin simply nodded and continued.
“During our official investigations, the Men of Letters uncovered the Book of the Damned,” Kevin explained. Gallows’ eyes widened, and everyone shifted in their seats. If Kevin hadn’t had their attention before, he now had it tenfold. “Once in our possession though, we found our agents pursued by members of the Styne family - who claimed family rights to the book.”
Harry straightened at this. It had been a long while since the Styne family had been in Europe, but they were still the topic of at least one case study during Auror training. In the mirror, Brighton waved a hand at his quill and it began furiously writing in front of him.
“By that point, we had determined that the book was… well, both unreadable, and also that it lived up to its name - unlikely to help, more likely to harm,” Kevin explained, tripping over his words for the first time. “In order to… avoid further bloodshed, we attempted to destroy the book-”
“It cannot be done,” Gallows interrupted.
“We know this now, but at the time, our agent made it appear successful - this brings me to the reason that I sounded the alert and called you here today.”
“You mean that all that wasn’t the reason?” Brighton said from the mirror, leaning forward in agitation. “You tell me the Book of the Damned is in your possession, and the Stynes have come out of the woodwork, and there is more?!”
“The Book is no longer in our possession,” Kevin said simply. “This morning, it was brought to our attention that one of our members - the agent that faked the destruction of the book - has been working outside our organization in an attempt to find a cure - as the situation has grown more desperate, his standards for what constitutes a viable solution have lowered.”
Harry had to hand it to Kevin, he chose his words carefully - making it sound as though the Men of Letters was a vast society, rather than just three people and an angel.
“Along with the Book, he has also found a Codex - made by a witch named Nadya - that is said to be the key to reading the Book of the Damned,” Kevin continued. “And he has recruited a witch named Rowena.”
“Rowena,” Harry found himself saying. “You can’t possibly mean-”
“Yes,” Kevin nodded at Harry. “That Rowena.”
“So you know the location of both a book of dark magic, and a wanted fugitive,” Ava Bauman spoke up for the first time. “Why do I get the feeling that this is not a simple meeting to turn over the evidence and let us go collect this criminal and these dangerous artifacts?”
Kevin took a deep breath in. “Because I need something in return.”
“You can’t be serious,” the other American spoke up. “This isn’t a negotiation, boy-”
“Unfortunately, it is,” Kevin replied. “While the Men of Letters does not approve of our agent’s action, the fact remains that the situation with the Mark of Cain has indeed become desperate - and it IS time for us to take the unprecedented step of asking for help outside of our own organization. This is why I’ve come to you - in exchange for information that will allow you to apprehend the criminal Rowena, and recover and secure the Book of the Damned, I ask for your help in breaking the curse of the Mark.”
“It can’t be done,” the American blustered.
“Well, not with that attitude,” Kevin quipped.
Harry surprised himself with a laugh, something he didn’t think possible given the overwhelming feeling that his stomach had turned to lead.
“If there is indeed a cure in the Book of the Damned,” Gallows started. “It would no doubt be a horrible solution - one that should not be attempted.”
“That is what we concluded,” Kevin replied. “And why I’m asking you to find an alternative solution.”
“As Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, it is I who has the authority to negotiate in these matters,” Hermione finally spoke up. “You offer us Rowena and the Book of the Damned - what of Nadya’s codex?”
Kevin nodded. “We would keep it. It’s not that we don’t trust you - but it has been decided that the two things should remain separated, otherwise, someone might break the code and use the Book.”
“As your rogue agent has done?” Ava asked.
Kevin shook his head. “The codex itself is in code. This is how we discovered our agents actions - in his efforts to break the code, he attempted to recruit some of our codebreakers - one of whom alerted us to the situation. The reason for the emergency alert is because… so as to not spook him into hiding, we have allowed our top codebreaker to help him. She is very good at what she does, and it is only a matter of time before she will be successful.”
Harry glanced at Hermione, wondering. Kevin gave away the gender of their codebreaker, but as far as Harry knew, there had never been female Men of Letters, let alone any currently. He found himself disconcerted that there was a new player on the pitch, and he had absolutely no idea who she was.
“And the Stynes, what of them?” Brighton asked.
“So far they haven’t resurfaced, but I’m guessing they’ll be back eventually,” Kevin replied. “If they are of interest to you, we can turn over all information we have on them - but we can also deal with them ourselves if we need to.”
Brighton harrumphed. Harry could commiserate. Bringing down a dark magic family like the Stynes would be quite the legacy for an Auror.
“And if we cannot break the curse?” Hermione asked.
Kevin nodded, and there was a moment of silence. Harry held his breath for it, because - with a sinking feeling, he realized he knew the answer already. When Kevin spoke again, his voice was steady, but softer than it had been before.
“If you cannot break it, we ask that you help us find a way to… secure him. He cannot be killed at this point - and so he would have to be… permanently imprisoned. We… currently do not have the knowledge or facilities to… to do that ourselves.” It was quite obvious, Harry thought, that what Kevin meant was that none of them - he, or Sam, or Castiel - would be emotionally able to permanently imprison Dean.
“I see,” Hermione nodded. She looked to Gallows then. Harry had come into contact with him many times in his career, and he knew that what Gallows loved the most was a challenge - something he had never seen before. Gallows was already jotting down notes and nodding to himself - he would accept the task on behalf of his department, his nod to Hermione was perfunctory.
Hermione looked to Harry then, for possibly the first time since Kevin had arrived. She had known the whole time, Harry knew - and he realized that Kevin had told him exactly why - Sam was reaching out to codebreakers. He had recruited whoever the top-codebreaker Kevin referred to was, but when he contacted Hermione, Hermione had instead sounded the alarm.
“Rowena’s wanted in Europe,” Harry answered Hermione’s unspoken question. “But I take it she’s currently in America, and that’s why our colleagues from across the pond have attended this meeting.”
“Yes,” Kevin said. “Kansas.”
Harry glanced at Kevin sharply.
“Don’t worry,” Kevin answered. “It’s only a partially warded location.”
“Once the book is outside the wards, the Stynes will be able to track it,” Brighton interjected. “We could use it to draw them out.”
“That’s up to you,” Kevin shrugged.
“Ava?” Hermione asked. Harry had nearly forgot that Ava was in the room, she had been so quiet.
“The consequences of inaction are far greater than those of action,” Ava answered. “Furthermore, the Men of Letters are not usually so… forthcoming. Mr. Solo coming to us in their time of need is an encouraging sign of a positive change. If the Ministry were to withhold aid, it could damage our fledging new relations - one which I would prefer to cultivate to greater cooperation and understanding.”
Hermione nodded. “On behalf of the British Ministry of Magic, I accept your terms, Mr. Solo,” she said to Kevin. Then she turned to the mirror. “Richard?”
Which, Harry realized, was the other American’s name.
“Kansas…. I’ll contact the relevant officials in the Plains Territory, they’ll want at least one of their own men on the ground, but it’ll be Brighton’s operation,” Richard replied, still gruff, but not nearly as combative as Harry had feared he was going to be.
“I’d like to work with Phil,” Harry added.
“Of course you would,” Brighton groused, but there was a smile on his face.
“Then it’s settled,” Hermione replied.
“You have my thanks,” Kevin replied. “I look forward to working with you. Once we leave this meeting room, I will supply Ms. Granger-Weasley with Rowena’s last known coordinates, she can disseminate the information to all concerned parties. I only ask that no harm comes to our agents.
“Mr. Gallows, if you would like to call a meeting within your department to address the task at hand, I would be happy to attend and supply you with the information we have gathered about the curse so far. Please just send me a meeting request once you’ve pulled everyone together. If anyone has any further questions, I can be reached by owl.”
With that, Kevin closed the folder he had opened and returned it to his briefcase, closing the lid, he locked it, gave one more nod to the room - and then strode over to the fireplace, and disappeared into green flame just as smoothly as he had arrived.
Harry stood, and nodded to Brighton when he called out “See you soon, Mr. Potter,” before the mirror returned to the task of reflecting the room.
Harry and Hermione followed the others out of the room and down the corridor. Once both Ava and Gallows had walked off in a separate direction, Harry turned to Hermione.
“What the bloody hell?” he asked, eloquently, he thought.
“My office,” Hermione answered. “I’ve already got all the information.”
“Of course you do,” Harry muttered. “Why didn’t Sam call me?”
“Because he was recruiting intelligent people, Harry,” Hermione answered as she pushed her office door open. “Also…” Hermione strode over to her desk, picked up a sheet of parchment, and thrust it at Harry. “Because of point number 1.”
Harry read quickly. “I never said that.”
“It’s what he heard,” Hermione answered.
“Bloody Winchesters,” Harry concluded.
“Indeed. This should be interesting.”
And then the full reality of what they were about to do crashed in on Harry, and he stared at Hermione, his agape.
“We’re about to double-cross Sam Winchester.”
“We’re about to double-cross both of them, Harry.”