April 19th, 2098

12:26:51 [Hippolytus] Work was piled up. After the fiasco that was this week, Hip had left a lot of leads unperused, so now the stack of papers moved as one beast, each crisp crinkle, formed together to an all together lower snap when Hip straightened the stack in his hands and leaned back in his chair to start sorting. He rubbed his eyes and sighed before flipping away the first few “sightings” leads – stuff like that could be picked up later and usually it was this, that, or the other thing the muggles had invented without anyone paying attention. What followed was normal: suspected werewolves, suspected underage animagi starting problems in Chissick. Hip groaned and laid the papers over his face, closing his eyes beneath them. NO one had been in to talk to him, though he suspected there was some discussion even now. The last thing he wanted now was to be sent on an enforced vacation so that MORE paper could pile up on his desk. He puffed out a burst of air, sending the stack of papers flying, then slowly fluttering back down around him to cover his work space in about a single sheet thickness. And so of course, Humphrey Bellgard stuck his head in the door at that moment. “Working hard, Botts?” Hip moved only his head to let it loll to the side and bring the round, ruddy man into focus. “I’m triangulating.” Bellgard eyed the scattered papers and decided he didn’t want to touch the topic any further. He stuck his lip out and nodded as he backed up and went about his business. Hip returned his attention to the ceiling. Somehow it was very difficult to focus on the backup of paperwork when he had a pretty array of new, extracurricular worries to attend to as well.

12:45:01 Porthman figured he ought to check into work and fill out some paperwork while he left Noriko in responsible hands. He didn’t really feel right leaving her but he didn’t exactly feel invited to stay, either. So Meredith left her with the promise that he’d only be in the office if she needed anything and went the lift to work. He didn’t know what to expect as he stepped into the offices, but carried himself with an utter sense of normalcy all the way to his cubicle and into his chair. Meredith poured his attention, firstly, into pulling out papers to set on his desk and secondly, to the nearby Hippolytus – if the other hadn’t done the same before that. “Something interesting up there?”

13:08:14 Hippolytus could hear Meredith get into his adjoining cubicle and start shuffling. He hadn’t really checked in with his coworker before leaving for the office, thinking to let him get all the sleep he could before facing much of anything. But Hip had put the tea on like a good human being and simply left hoping Meredith would be back into sorts after being quite upset the night before. By the sound of it, he was at least willing to come and take a crack at daily life – Hip had never really doubted the man’s work ethic. When Meredith’s voice came floating over the top of the cubicle wall, he blinked a few times and sat up. “Ah- Morning, Port. Just uh… just looking into…” He looked around at the carpet of leads that filled his work space. “..thhhings. How about you?” He didn’t want to ask how he was feeling at work, but the question he did ask could be interpreted to encompass that among other more mundane and proper questions. Hip certainly wasn’t being sent out anywhere today, so if Meredith WAS, he would certainly be going along. The paperwork wasn’t going anywhere and he knew he wouldn’t do ANY of it until the eleventh hour anyway. “Anything good?”

13:16:52 Noriko || Responsible hands. Mop left her in those, so Nori once again recounted her story: the scene, the witnesses, the incidental violence that faded into mere set dressings in her memory. She didn’t volunteer the text of the prophecy this time; less inherent trust here than she had with Mop, but our hero did [grudgingly] let her memory of the incident at Liliput’s go into evidence. She didn’t recognize the man who witnessed her at all; peering into the pensieve one of the responsible hands at least had an idea. By that time however our hero [the distracted Princess Sparklefists] had had enough and politely requested back her memory with the intention to go. She didn’t mind them taking a look; Nori wasn’t going to just let anyone keep one of her memories. Let’s be reasonable. This was where Nori decided to take her leave: she wasn’t sure where Mop had gotten to, she was independent and could find her own way out. The Ministry wasn’t a hospital and she wasn’t trying to go anyplace restricted. Going away from all the things that were even connected to restricted things actually. The whole experience felt too much like reporting a crime to disinterested police. Our hero so sadly hadn’t spent the skill points to specialize in penetrating the bureaucracy. Next level maybe. ||

13:24:12 Huian ◙ The last few days had been…interesting. Just a bit. Or a lot. She blinked, watching the men in front of her speak, and then grinning a bit as they addressed her. This was some very bad luck on her part, running into a few of the Council of Twelve in the Conclave. Their interpreter was ill with some sort of stomach bug [Huian suspected drinking. These men were impossible.] and she was Chinese. The implications of the Council of Twelve asking her to do anything was pretty much ‘Do It or Pay.’ And she was not looking to have her linage scrutinized and being recalled to Beijing for the year it would take. The red tape alone was impossible to shorten. So now, being tailed along like a puppy for the next hour or so while they wished to talk to everybody in the Ministry building. Or at least, the Magical Law sector. Something about the World Cup. Help. Somebody. ◙

13:45:48 [Porthman] “Things.” Mop agreed. “Nothing special” is the lie he fed Hippolytus thereafter. It came with a nice, stinging reminder at his back to tell him why he ought not have done that. Chances are he wouldn’t take the warning to heart. “Figured I’d stop in, see if anyone had any news…” he spread his hands across his desk dramatically “put my feelers out.” Mop’s eyes went to the time to try and gauge where Noriko might be right now. The idea of leaving her behind was becoming more and more nerve-wracking as time went by. He tried to detach himself from such redirected anxiety; he was worried about everything else—Noriko was fine and she could manage on her own. The auror office seemed eerily quiet today – likely due to the Valen case. Quiet enough that one might swear they heard a chatter of Mandarin outside of the offices. It wasn’t a ruckus and it didn’t concern Meredith – even if it did, he was occupied with thoughts of a missing friend. “Do we have anything new on Valen? Gloriana?”

13:49:00 [Darby] “Miss Penbridge?“ Penelope, a dark-haired woman with horn-rimmed glasses halted on her way to the lifts and approached the pensive Evelyn Darby. The latter held a stack of papers in front of her, “Can you see that more of these are distributed throughout the nearby Wizarding villages. And have we heard back from the Irish Ministry?“ Penelope took the stack of papers from Evelyn and nodded, “Yes’ mum. They’ve been sent Cyrus Valen’s records and the information regarding Miss Boulstridge’s kidnapping.“ Evelyn glanced back down through her own pair of rimless reading glasses at the paperwork on her desk, “Thank you, Miss Penbridge. That’ll be all.“ Just as Penelope left Darby’s cubicle, a paper airplane managed through the crack and floated above Evelyn’s desk. She reached up, instinctively, to grab for it. After a few moments of reading, she pulled the glasses from her nose and let them hang from their crystalline chain. Evelyn sighed, “An Auror’s work is never done.“ She rose from her desk and left her cubicle behind. The appearance of Porthman and Botts went unnoticed, or seemingly so. The elevator disappeared just as she arrived but was quickly replaced. The Council of Twelve emerged from the tight space, leaving a frazzled-looking girl in their wake. “Well! I was just coming to meet you all. Hello,“ she greeted, shaking hands with them one by one. Her attention turned to Huian, the young girl who’d fallen asleep during her disastrous hit-and-run at Porthman’s. “Well hello, Miss Li. I never expected to see you here in our offices. Are you translating for our dear Council?“ Her disposition was sugary sweet, almost sickeningly so. Perhaps a product of diplomacy?

14:02:02 Huian ◙ Tight spaces and four members of the Council of Twelve (All of them couldn’t possibly leave, of course, there was a country of magical people to run.) were enough to make any woman frazzled if they all shared the same floor, and knowing that these men were…uh…she didn’t want to say. Really didn’t. It could end up badly. For her. At least she tried to feel calm, as they stepped out of the lift, and she smoothed a hand over the braid she had pulled over her shoulder. At least somebody was here to meet them, some woman she had a vague recollection of in Mop’s home. (She wondered if that had been a dream. Apparently not.) The question asked, the Council members had been greeted, and she nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” She wasn’t the only one that noticed the tone…one of the members it didn’t sit well with. Granted, he was older, and old men just have their hates, of course, but he barked at her with heavy Cantonese inflection, and she needed a moment to compose what he said. “Mr. Zhang…” Um. “Mr. Zhang is asking if you are indeed in charge, or if you are here as a representative.” Ugh. Cantonese accents were hard to decipher. “My apologies…ma’am, I seem to have forgotten your name.” ◙

14:08:57 Hippolytus stooped down to pick up a few sheets of paper, but stopped and craned his neck a little to peer up at Meredith. The moment of pause was that of a man who knew he was lied to – he’d basically set them up for it to happen when he’d tried to talk his friend down off of his mission. Hip sighed and resumed scooping up the nearest papers to give himself at least a clear path to the cubicle doorway. He tidied the stack that left him by tapping it twice on his desk. “Nothing they’ve given to me,” he said carefully, but then when he rose to put the papers into one of his shelves (to be forgotten until that aforementioned eleventh hour in a panic), he leaned on the top of his partial wall, peering out at Meredith. “They’ve done a sweep of the sewer and… it’s not exactly the sprawling labyrinth people might think, but if you want to go have a look…” He shrugged with a resigned expression. “I could find a reason to be there. If you’re going, don’t go alone. Please.” He’d seen a lot of would be heroes try to take matters into their own hands when things got messy and they rarely benefitted for lack of back up. Often they ended up dead.

14:16:32 [Darby] Evelyn wore a forgiving smile, “Quite alright, dear. Evelyn Darby, Head of the Auror Office. Pleased to meet you… again.“ She glanced to the other gentlemen and pressed her hands together apologetically, “I’m afraid I’m as close to who is in charge as can be managed today. The Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement (boy, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) is out on Ministry business,“ she explained vaguely. There was an awareness that the men regarding Evelyn were not altogether pleased with the idea of being handed over to anyone who wasn’t the utmost authority of the Department, but it didn’t seem to faze her in the slightest. On the contrary, Evelyn seemed tickled to be representing her Department, “I’m sure you’ll find my company just as pleasant as Miss Black’s.“ And even if they didn’t, Evelyn would manage to be conciliatory.

14:25:17 Noriko || Our hero didn’t take long to find her way back to the floo room where she had arrived; there was in her best estimation a good place to wait and see. Mop had gone to check in with the office right? He did important work; maybe he was caught up in it. Nori could spare some time to wait and be polite though: he had taken all the time to wait and support her earlier, she could take time herself. Didn’t have anywhere to be today. At least the unwanted premonitions hadn’t come back to her in the middle of practice; imagine explaining that to her team. Oh it’s no big deal, I might sometimes go into a trance for a couple minutes and spout nonsense while being oblivious to my surroundings; I’m sure that isn’t a liability at all on the pitch. Needless to say our hero wasn’t going to tell them about her dirty little secret. That dirty little secret got to stay as secret as she could keep it; it was already much less secret than she wanted it to be. Noriko unfolded the torn page and studied it again, this was the twentieth time, or was it the thirtieth? She couldn’t leave well enough alone. The mothers sins demand payment in blood. Whose sins? She had said that twice, it must’ve been important; only Nori couldn’t pin WHY or WHO at all. ||

14:36:51 Porthman kicked forward in his chair and over his desk again. “No, I think… I’m going to go home. I checked in. I’ll do this…” he shuffled the paperwork around on his desk “later.” There was no rush on it. It wasn’t as though he had to get it in today… and with no one breathing down his neck, Mop would much rather spend his time somewhere less stressful than the office. “I’ll see you… later. You’re coming around for uh… You-Know-What, aye?” Meredith didn’t actually leave time for an answer before he was leaving the office for the lift in hopes to head back down to the Lobby unscathed. Once – and if – he made it, the auror could poke around, wait around, and see if Noriko had finished her business before ultimately deciding what to do with the rest of his day.

14:37:06 Huian ◙ Ah. A smile was offered, before she was being gestured at by the men roughly, and nodded, before turning to Darby and giving a half bow. “My apologies, Lady Darby.” She straightened up, and offered another smile, before gesturing to the members. “Mr. Zhang has been introduced.” The bald older man nodded once. “We have Mr. Sun,” — a middle aged man with a mild expression and a more modern suit — “Mr. Cai,”— somewhere in between the other two men…older, hair greying, almost imposing – “And Lady Qiu.” The woman was by far the oldest, her hair impossibly white, and much shorter than everybody, slightly bowed with age. She had sharp eyes though, and her grip had been strong. And It was she that spoke next, directly to Huian, and nodding to Darby. Sharp crisp Mandarin. “Lady Qiu wishes you to know that the number of residents from China have been solidified, and wish to know if you need to make adjustments for them.” Another line… “The number is close to eighty thousand four hundred and six.” Huian blinked before looking at the Auror, her nose scrunched up. “They said the spots filled up within two days, and if people need to be cut, this is the time to do so.” ◙

14:45:43 Hippolytus twisted his lips off to the side and eyed Meredith’s paperwork in comparison to his own. “What is that? The animagi stuff? Hell, Port, I have basically the same stack, hand it over and I’ll at least get that churned out. Stupid case anyway – not sure why they didn’t pawn it off on trainees.” They sure handled the newbies with kid gloves these days! You know what he did when he was new? Rehabing the possessed! Kids these days. He’d go and collect the papers from Meredith, then paused in the narrow hall as the other turned to go. “I’ll be there,” he said, hoping Meredith heard him. He looked back into his cluttered space and sighed. “No worries…”

14:53:53 Noriko || Waiting proved good for Noriko: away from the demands of bureaucracy and with nothing but her own thoughts to distract her our hero’s good cheer was growing back anew. By the time Mop made it down to the lobby she was seated quietly but animatedly, bouncing in her chair; the prophecy remained the careful focus of her study but energy obviously had crept back into her. Manic uncontrollable energy, the kind that demands to be let loose upon an unsuspecting world [to rescue it] deprived of heroes. Shouldn’t overthink it. Longest night, the solstice? Probably true; look for connections. Chocolate, new mission: brain food so she could brain with her brain. Alternate mission: go flying, chase hippogriffs. Wouldn’t help with immediate problems, would help with growing restlessness. Which was more pressing, Nori didn’t know for sure. ||

15:40:43 [Porthman] “Noriko!” Mop chimed and quickened his step when he found her. His next question may have been predictable without a prophetic vision. “How’d it go?” Mop didn’t know if he should take a seat or urge Noriko out of hers – she looked pretty anxious to go. He couldn’t help but make a comment on her blooming mood. “Did you have too much candy?” The worst kind of bad joke came to him thereafter: “Botts get to you?” Mop was probably the only one laughing at that joke – Noriko might not even understand why it was such a terrible joke in the first place. “Aaanyway,” the auror exhaled and returned to the serious planet earth. “Are you finished here? Want to head somewhere else?”

15:49:41 Noriko || “Did Botts get to me?” Our hero was wholely mystified by the joke; she barely knew Botts. Sure she had rushed in like Sailor Fucking Venus to rescue him from the nefarious evildoer Cyrus [hero], didnt mean she knew him at all. Only that his name was Botts and he was connected to Mop: the important bits clearly. She hadnt seen him since then anyway. “I told them as much as I wanted to share; then they gave back the memories and I left. Sending a letter to the witness is their next step. I dont think I need to come back. For the best, dont really like it here: its too much like being trapped in the bottom of a well while large rodents study you to see how excessive boredom affects the mind. So somewhere else? Is everything ok with Botts? He hasnt had too much candy today has he? Ever since I saved him [that was a few days ago] Ive sometimes thought I should worry about him more.” The chattering confirmed what her restlessness had only hinted; our hero [the intrepid Princess Sparklefists] had her groove back and wasnt going to let silly things like a prophecy or the end of the world get her down.
16:01:49 Porthman grinned, stuffed his hands in his pockets, and rocked from his heels to his toes. “No—oh no—don’t worry about Botts. There’s nothing wrong with him.” When he was finished with his anxious teetering, Mop withdrew a hand from his pocket and offered it out to the equally-anxious seer. “I work here.” He pointed out with a tone and expression that belied his amusement. He gave up the topic for the better one. “Let’s get out of here, aye? Time for fresh air.” If she took his hand or when she got up from her seat, Meredith would start them toward the Floo. In the meantime, this was the perfect distraction for him, as well. Izzy was right – he shouldn’t be involved with Gloriana’s case… but that didn’t make it easy to forget. He wasn’t looking to forget, but he was looking to keep himself from tumbling over the cliff into the deepening pit of nausea and worry. “Do you like chocolate?” Mop asked and searched to lock his eyes on hers.

16:13:14 Noriko || Our hero gladly took Mops extended hand, deftly tucking away the prophecy even as she stood; thats the kind of multitasking skill that gets you ahead in life, true believers! Nori bounced back on her heels: “Of course I like chocolate; what kind of question is that? Theres only one kind of person who doesnt like chocolate, and thats evildoers. Are you sure youre free? Everyone here seems kind of on edge; I dont want to pull you away from anything important.” Maybe it was just that governing bureaucracies always had too much tension; Nori didnt know, not being part of any governing bureaucracy and as a rule avoiding them like [non-brain controlled] rats avoid rutting felines. Still everything felt tense and she also knew something important was afoot that she didnt know yet. She wasnt paid to not ask the big questions! “I bought you chocolate, actually actually. I spent all last night wrapping it.” The confession came unbidden, Nori smiled warmly: “Its replicas of the English quidditch team. They sing God Save the Queen in rounds; also they sing the Hogwarts fight song. I simply had to. The keeper sings counter-tenor, he’s very cute.”

16:33:02 [Porthman] “I’m free enough,” Mop promised before they made to the Floo. “And that is quite the point! Who in the name of good wouldn’t like chocolate.” He agreed but before he could really explain what his intentions were for Noriko’s chocolate trip, Meredith was blasted out of the water and realized he was way out of his depth. Noriko was WAY more prepared for this than he was. How was he going to compete with her chocolates. He’d need to come up with something else… or really break the bank to impress her. “Hell.” Mop breathed out, impressed. “That’s wicked.” His voice heard on the gift, they arrived at the Floo. “So when are we breaking that out??” With an indefinitely-postponed party (had he told Noriko?), it seemed a waste of chocolate to keep its splendor waiting. "And where are we going? Would you like the honors?"

16:46:26 Noriko || “It was supposed to be for your party. Right!” Noriko hadnt been told; not about the indefinite postponing nor the kidnapping. She knew about the kidnapping technically, only because it was so brazen and public which tended to make the newspapers: Nori hadnt caught that it was Gloriana Demon Hellwench that got taken and she also didnt know Mop had any connections to her. Nobody ever tells her these things guys! “Its your chocolate though; if Mop says break it out, I say yes I will yes!” That gave Noriko her destination; with Mops say-so she cast powder into the fire and called out for the quaint [some would say spartan] living accommodations her team provided while she was abroad here. ||

17:07:47 [Porthman] “About that party—“ Mop started, but found he had to finish after their Floo. He was a little disoriented when he realized he could have followed Noriko to the end of the earth or over a cliff, but seemed to come out alright on the other end. Mop gained his bearings quickly and immediately began to look around the room he came out in. He hadn’t forgotten what he’d wanted to say, but talking about the party seemed much less important than asking questions about their surroundings. “Is this…” he started and stepped out a little further into the room. “Your place?” It’s not that Meredith wasn’t adventurous, but he did enjoy knowing where he was. “Oh!” He interrupted the thought with his initial: “the party—ah… well, it’s been delayed.” Mop told, regrettably. “Something came up and… we have to deal with that first. I hope you can forgive me—delaying our contest! It’s ungentlemanly.”

17:19:46 Noriko || The Other Side was her ‘place’ as much as anywhere right now; Noriko hadnt ever invested in a ‘place’. Team provided lodging in places she went to. Swank domicile it was not: more like an underfurnished studio with a conspicuous fireplace. Wizards, amirite? The floor [linoleum] was covered in scraps and bits of bright pink wrapping paper printed with samurai ducks doing battle; our hero [the tasteful Princess Sparklefists] liked it despite the tackiness. “Place. Yes, yes its that. I sleep here anyway.” Sleep, store things; sometimes model clothing to herself in the mirror and blow kisses like a hero. “Forgiven. You are spared the humiliation of utter defeat for now, my wily opponent! Whats come up? Nothing serious I hope?” It wasnt that Nori worried too often about Mop but he did do important work and something coming up couldve meant a lot of things that werent good, for him or anyone else. Its only natural to be a little concerned! ||

17:33:31 Porthman was in good humor to walk around the room and inspect everything gradually. There wasn’t a whole lot, but it was comfortable. He remained humored, curious, and poking at his surroundings until Noriko asked what happened to postpone his date. Mop paused where he was and neglected to make eye contact for a second… two… and then, an undeniable lull in the conversation. He broke his silence as soon as he realized he’d let it go on too long. “Nothing you need to worry about.” Mop told her with a renewed smile he did his best to force through his entire expression. “The office is on the case. An ex-con attacked my friend—and coworker, Botts—and kidnapped a woman off Diagon Alley in the middle of broad daylight. We’re still tracking him.” He didn’t tell Noriko anything the news couldn’t have until the very end. Even then, he struggled with the concept of telling her more—like there was no point in worrying her or bothering her with trivial details. “The victim is one of my friends, so… I’d like to wait until we can all be in good spirits.”

17:43:33 Noriko || “Oh. Oh. I read about that,” Our hero [the charming Princess Sparklefists] was briefly very sober: she hadnt realized Botts had been attacked or that Mop was involved in that, but that was a very good reason to postpone a party; she couldnt at all conceivably begin to hold that against him. Not that she wouldve anyway. She gnawed on her lower lip lightly, then vanished into a closet [apparently well-stocked] and returned presently bearing a messily wrapped box. She thrust it towards him with both hands: “Im sorry, I didnt know. I didnt realize you were involved in that, or Botts. This is your chocolate Quidditch team: I hope they can provide you moral support.” This meant also she needed to find a new present for when house-party actually did happen. That though was a worry for when Mop wasnt in obvious need of heroic intervention for the sake of his spirits. Noriko was more empathetic than she always let on, the breadth of his silence hadnt lost her notice. “Do you need anything?” ||

18:03:11 Porthman laughed despite himself when he accepted his beautiful gift from his wonderful host. “This is perfect, thank you.” Maybe he shouldn’t have told Noriko the truth or maybe he shouldn’t have said anything at all. He didn’t want to be a cause for concern and he didn’t need Noriko treating him like he was going to collapse. “I don’t need anything else.” Mop patted the top of his gift with one hand while the other held it by the bottom. “I think I’m going to check around Diagon Alley again. See if anyone in the stands hasn’t been interviewed yet, annoy anyone else who has.” He admitted his plans for the rest of the day. “Probably try to enjoy the Conclave, since I haven’t had the pleasure quite yet.”

18:19:47 Noriko || Noriko had gone about the Conclave herself; not so much as she wouldve liked because of [along with other blockades] practice time, but she had made it. Thats after all where she found the chocolatier that specialized in singing chocolate barbershop quartets and took a specific special order from her. “Do you need companionship in Diagon Alley? For safety of course; there’ve been a lot of fights and even dark wizards since the Conclave started and I would be more than happy to watch your back for you, my specialty is heroism after all.” Our hero wasnt just looking for a reason to stick close to Mop but that definitely figured into her offer: kitten was smitten. She admitted to it even, a little, if you read between her lines some: “I dont have to if I would be in the way, but I would like to.” ||

18:38:42 [Porthman] When Mop first met Noriko, it was under some strain with Kaust’s presence—but it was like being in the presence of a childhood superhero. Now that he’d been able to meet her time and time again, he felt like they were old friends—and he certainly wouldn’t cast her away if she wanted to tag along. Mop propped his elbow out for her to take in courtesy. “If you want it, I would love to have you, mum.” He encouraged his heroic friend. The Floo was the more reliable way; apparition wasn’t a favorite among practical wizards, he heard, but those wizards never knew how to have any fun, did they? If Noriko allowed it—Mop would take them both with a crack.

18:39:04 [Porthman] Their appearance in the Leaky Cauldron was, as always, heralded with the tell-tale noise and, as usual, Meredith acclimated to his surroundings with a glance around the room. He liked to count faces and know all the variables. This time, however, his senses gave him unsettling information. By now, those who recognized Valen’s face were scrambling toward the doors and others were soon to follow, leaving a sense of chaos to swim around the tavern. The exodus was distracting enough to delay the auror’s eyes from finding the cause. In the end, they did, and Meredith’s fingers reached toward his wand while he used his hold on Noriko to back her up slowly—as if Valen’s eyesight was purely based on motion.

18:29:07 [Darby] Just as she was saying her goodbyes to Miss Li, an auror came sprinting down the aisle of cubicles and stopped just next to Darby. He took a moment to catch his breath, “Yes, what is it Higglesby?“ He glanced up, held a finger, caught another lungful of air and suddenly flooded her with information. “A-healer-at-St.-Mungos-sent-out-a-Caterwauling-Charm-just-a-few-minutes-ago,“ he gulped another breath, “She-said-Cyrus-Valen-dropped-Gloriana-Boulstridge-at-their-doorstep.“ Darby glanced at Higglesby, “Are you quite sure?“ He nodded vigorously. “I’m sorry, Miss Li,“ she explained, leaving the girl behind before she finished what she’d been saying to Darby, “We’ll talk again soon, I’m sure.“ And she was gone to the floo. St. Mungo’s.

18:47:59 Huian ◙ Oh my. She blinked once, twice. Cyrus Valen. She heard the name, and blinked, before running out to the closest place to Apparate to Diagon Alley. And when she popped into existence at the back door of the Leaky Cauldron, her entire body flinched at the wail, and she pushed her way inside past the people that were scrambling to get out, and sliding to a wall, eyes searching around. Cyrus Valen. Cyrus Valen. Who else was here? Hopefully not Izzy or Xia…though they might arrive if they could hear…there was Noriko and Mop. Ah. Of course. (That wasn’t going to end up well) She fought her way to them, closing one eye, and by her pretty floral dress, she would end somebody that touched a friend (Or a former Scooby). Why else was he right here, taunting…oh…wait…um. “Wasn’t he missing an arm?”

18:49:22 Noriko || MIRAKURU ROMANSU. Our hero [the remarkable Princess Sparklefists] apparated into the Leaky Cauldron and immediately it was on. She wasnt immediately sure what was on; rather she was sure Mop had his wand out and was holding her back like he was protective or something. She saw Cyrus Valen, NOTED EVILDOER there waiting as though he was king of the water nymphos; the nerve. Mop wasnt going up against a noted evildoer alone: Noriko found her wand with her hand and looked to Mop so she could wait for his signal. He didnt get to go in alone; she was certainly going to defer to her expertise. Nori for all her bluster about heroism was good at a lot of things, dueling didnt count as one of her most spectacular talents. She was the one called SAILOR MOON though so surely that had to count for something! ||

19:08:10 [Darby] Miss Boulstridge was already sedated when Darby arrived on the scene. The Healer-in-Charge was waiting for her. “Is she alive?“ Was Darby’s first question, the second was, “Did the mediwitch who saw Valen see where he went?“ The Healer was prompt to each answer. “Yes, she’s been taken to our Emergency Unit.“ He shook his head at the second question, “She claims he dropped her at the door and then apparated. A few Muggles witnessed Cyrus apparate, but we’ve detained them for the Obliviators.“ She nodded, “Very good. May I speak with—“ Before she could finish her sentence, a folded note appeared before her and began to speak. Valen was spotted at the Cauldron… along with Meredith Porthman. “Damn.“ She glanced at the Healer-in-Charge while her note lit up in a brilliant flame and turned to ash. “We’ll continue this later, Warburton!“ And she vanished once again.

19:14:09 Cyrus`Valen He heard the caterwauling, and very neatly and carefully folded the paper and placed it back on the table. The next step was extinguishing his cigarette and simply waiting. They appeared, slowly, but they appeared. He had to admit he was surprised (and a tiny bit disappointed) that the Auror he’d dueled in the flower shop apparently wasn’t coming. When the wands came out, he merely raised his hands and smiled broadly, “Relax, Aurors. No wand. See?” and he was rising, to show the holster at his waist was, indeed, empty, “I intend to come quietly, unless of course you just want to make it hard. In which case, lose the wands and do this like gentleman, no?” His head cocked slightly as he caught sight of Huian…and her question, “What can I say? Given the situation I’ve gotten myself into, I felt it was prudent that I arm myself,” he snorted at the awful joke, “And what are you doing here anyway, lass? I remember you from Hogwarts…do you expect to ‘cute’ me into submission?” he fired. Hands still raised as he inched close, more towards the center of everyone, actions slow and deliberate, “No need for hexes. Though I understand if you want me chained,” he paused, “I want to be awake and unstupefied for my confession.”

19:21:51 [Porthman] Backing AWAY from Cyrus was a difficult thing to do, but with Noriko at his arm, he really didn’t want to take a chance if he didn’t have to. He was certain the place would be crawling with Hit Wizards and Aurors in a minute. He didn’t need to do anything except keep people alive until they got here. It’s said the best defense is a good offense, though—and Mop would be inclined to agree if it got him a chance at the deranged Irishman. Still, he and his wand were easily eager to settle scores, it just wasn’t wise. Mop couldn’t stop himself from speaking when he had the chance – especially not when he noticed Huian snaring his attention on the sidelines. He needed to reclaim it. Meredith attempted to unwind his arm from Noriko’s and step twice forward; a predator stalking prey. “I am certain we don’t need your confession, Valen.”

19:32:18 Huian ◙ Mop was mad. She could feel it in the air, and it made her cold down to her fingertips. Her eyes were settled on Valen though, as he walked forward, hearing Mop snarl and take the attention back…She didn’t understand the insult. Was it an insult? Cute him into submission. Of course…she remembered him now…and remembered why she thought he looked familiar. She hauled him out of Hogsmeade. She’d stared at his face, blood covered and wan, making a terrible pun about being disarmed. And she had seen him, on the tube…she’d only heard that Cyrus Valen was missing an arm. (Sometimes there were things you needed to forget.) Her eyes narrowed, and her hand twitched. Her wand wasn’t on her…but she didn’t need it, did she? “Meredith…don’t be stupid.” Her voice was gentle. He was in public. He was recognizable…he shouldn’t do anything that would backfire on him…at the moment. ◙

19:41:31 Noriko || Mop unwound from her arm; Noriko took that as signal to circle about, make sure noted evildoer Cyrus Valen was flanked. As before he was outmatched and outnumbered: this time however Nori felt a deep unease, as it sounded did Miss Bubbles. Mop was angry. Wow, much angry, very rage. “He wants to surrender Mop.” Mop had ears, our hero [the inestimable Princess Sparklefists] knew he had heard that himself; she just reminded him in an urgent tone. She hadnt seen him in many states it was true: predatory was one she hadnt ever expected either. It was jarring, to compare to the normal tenor of Mop; it suited him ill. Hopefully it wasnt a permanent change of attire, Noriko hoped very much reason could win the day, the noted evildoer go quietly, the heroes celebrate with cocktails and dancing. That maybe was too much to ask for but Nori didnt ever aim low with what she wanted. Her wand stayed trained on Cyrus but by now clearly the bulk of her attention had turned to Meredith. ||

19:47:21 Cyrus`Valen Unlike the fluctuating moods and temper tantrums he’d been displaying since this all began, he was utterly cool and calm. He swiveled his gaze back to Porthman with a tight little smile. The man was angry. Perfect. His hands still raised in the universal terms for surrender, he took another step forward, just out of reaching distance of the Auror in question now, “Come on, Porthman…why don’t you get rid of the wand? Really get your hands dirty,” he goaded softly, “And I don’t get to confess? But I wanted to tell everyone how much Boulstridge screamed when I cruciated her. And how she cried…and what it looked like when her flesh burned with a thousand boils…” he practically purred that last part, “You know…she’s almost as pretty as her mother. And even prettier when my hand was around her throat and she was begging for her life…”

19:59:02 [Porthman] There was no way that Meredith was deaf to Huian’s gentle prayer. ‘Don’t be stupid’—it was a joke; he was never stupid. He could act on the wrong emotion, but outside of casting his wand aside to get into some boxing brawl with the old professor (whose class he had always rather enjoyed, in the grand scheme of things), there was no ‘stupid’ answer to this very daunting problem. Meredith bid Huian no visible attention, but accounted for her hope and filed it away under ‘marked: read’ in his head. Noriko’s concern was heard next only to fall to the same fate. He knew what Cyrus said, but he felt something different in his body language. The slow, calculated movements may be nothing more than a farce to lull them into security and that was a reality that the auror was ready for—even hoping for. His wand didn’t need to be trained on Cyrus, but his eyes were. He’d not blast a man feigning submission—how bad would that look when everything was done? Mop, instead, grinned when their criminal challenger spoke, but it wasn’t the lighthearted thing meant for his friends – this expression was sharp and malicious. ‘Get rid of the wand’, Cyrus goaded. ‘Get your hands dirty’. What kind of moron would be baited into that? Meredith was not one. Fists were for drunken brawls, non-lethal force, and hard diplomacy. “Nice one!” Cyrus didn’t have right to a fair fight and he’d not be getting one here. Meredith didn’t have to say anything at all. He didn’t have to move. The building should be crawling with hit wizards: a veritable swarm of S.W.A.T. officers to take him down. “Get on the ground to go peaceably, Valen.”

20:11:23 Huian ◙ Nothing was happening, but there was so much tense in the air, the little rabbit about choked on it. She could handle it, but is smelled like Hogsmeade was burning all over again in her mind, like anger and hate and fighting. (Ironically, that was the last day she cried.) Her eyes were trained on the new arm, studying it with a slowly growing look of horror on her face. Quiet, quiet horror, yes widening slowly, from the arm to the former professor’s face, the look in his eyes. She knew that look. That’s the look Huang got when he was baiting somebody. He might have been looking for a fight…most definitely, and she raised her hands up slowly, taking a step forward, and lowering her voice a bit. “His arm…bind him, Meredith.” This had the very good option of going south very quickly. Right now, even with Aurors no doubt scrambling, this was a razor’s edge…. ◙

20:16:34 [Darby] Outside the Cauldron, Hit Wizards and Aurors were escorting witches and wizards to safety and creating a perimeter around the establishment. There was even a small contingent of Hit Wizards located in the sewer system, should Valen choose to turn to an underground means of transportation. “I want the floo for the Cauldron corked, now.“ Her Grey Heron flew to the ministry in a silvery wisp to inform the appropriate authorities of the precautions she considered necessary to keep Valen from escaping. Multitudes of protective spells and charms were thrown at the building to keep any witch or wizard from leaving by physical means and apparation. And with the floo system to the Cauldron soon to be stopped, there would be no escaping for Valen. Darby bided her time outside, waiting for the right moment, perhaps for Valen to be distracted, or simply make the first move. “Why the hell isn’t Porthman apprehending him?“ It was a curious motive, indeed. She was aware of his closeness to the Boulstridge girl, but did that muddy up his judgment enough to let Valen traipse around the Cauldron freely? She fought with herself on the decision to go in, and did so despite her better judgment. Her wand flicked (Muffliato) and the sound she made entering through the back of the Leaky Cauldron, was dulled enough to keep Valen from awareness of her arrival.

20:23:08 Noriko || Increasingly uncomfortable. Our hero [the apprehensive Princess Sparklefists] felt cornered even though the situation kept turning uglier for noted evildoer Cyrus Valen; she didnt like this. She certainly also didnt like what she knew it could become in a matter of breaths if handled indelicately: it was for that reason she still restrained herself, didnt make a move. Mop was the expert and she waited on his lead, Cyrus was still dangerous; caged animal dangerous. The worst kind of dangerous, dangerous that knew it hadnt anything to lose. Crazy on top of all that. At the end of everything this was only going to go one way: it had a lot of room to go in poor directions in the interim. Watch and wait, all she could do for now. ||

20:35:45 Cyrus`Valen Unfortunate. Porthman clearly wasn’t going to be taking the bait. He finally dropped his hands, and walked by to the table. Still slowly, as to not draw fire on himself, he reached into his pocket and removed a locket, tossing it to Huian, “You were friends with Charlie Gray. Put that on her grave, and tell her I’m sorry, yeah?” The glance he gave the girl was actually genuine, at least for a brief moment. Regret, sorrow, loneliness. And then the mask was back on, and he returned his gaze to the Aurors, “Let’s go to it, then, lads,” he sighed heavily, reaching again for his flask, “A drink for a man marked for death. Care to join me?” he invited, carefully pouring the contents of the flask into the glass he’d been nursing before they burst in, before grasping it to take a long swig. And then he sat, wrists held out. Not exactly laying as they demanded, but close enough.

20:46:15 [Porthman] There was one thing Meredith didn’t like. There was one thing that set his soul on edge, and that thing was being told – in no uncertain terms – what to do. Huian’s suggestion was right – he should bind their old potions-master. It would be the easiest course of action to make sure he couldn’t summon any funny-business. A deeper, darker place wanted to see the man kneel on the ground before he did. Valen had his order and Meredith had his plan. It’s only human nature to jab at the beast and the young auror was set on his course: he knew what he wanted to see and how he wanted to do this and he’d do his best to see it done. As soon as Meredith realized he’d not be seeing that kneel and Valen thought it wise to drop his hands and reach into his pocket, the tense and twitchy Welshman reacted the only way he knew how: fire at will. It was really rather unfortunate that Valen wouldn’t get to say what he wanted—because it would have been rather touching. Maybe he’d get a chance at his very brief trial. Even more unfortunate: Meredith never would get what he wanted. So, like the trigger-happy quick-drawing cheater he is, the on-duty auror whipped up his wand—that handsome, tawny girl—and cast. There were no flashy lights or spoken words if all went as planned, just a full-binding curse to freeze Valen where he stood with his hand in his pocket.

20:59:03 Huian ◙ For a moment, she thought everything was going to explode…and when it didn’t she took in a breath she hadn’t realized she needed, closing her eyes for a moment, a single moment, and backing away from the situation. A shudder wracked her spine, but she refused to show it, and her eyes were pointedly looking away from the old professor and his wretched arm, from Mop and his toxic anger, from Noriko and her distraction…from everything. And she sat. hard…into a chair ajar to a table at a weird angle, as if somebody scrambled to climb over it to flee. Her eyes closed, and she let out a breath, took one in…and tried to calm her nerves. ◙

23:20:27 [Darby] Wand at the ready, Evelyn eased into the room and strafed the corner to see Valen, casually sauntering to the bar for a “free” drink. His hand ventured into his pocket and Evelyn rounded the corner and waved her wand at Valen with the same goal as Porthman. The pair of body binds hit his body simultaneously in a spectacular clash of light. And Valen fell backward onto the floor. “Well done, Porthman,“ she said, finally crossing the room. “I wasn’t sure you had it in you,“ she confessed, though purely innocent (because she thought he was going to kick Cyrus’s ass - the alternative was refreshing). She called for the Hit Wizards and Aurors waiting outside. The rushed in like a magical SWAT team to collect Cyrus’s petrified body. “Take him to Azkaban. See that he’s put in a cell that’s fit for an animagus.“ Evelyn watched them remove Valen from the premises before turning back to Porthman. “Your friend is at St. Mungo’s. She’s injured, but she’s alive. Warburton Welby, Healer-in-Charge is overseeing her treatment. I think she’ll be alright, Meredith,“ she assured him with a motherly gaze and a kind hand rested on his shoulder.

23:28:06 Noriko || Noriko bit down hard on her tongue to hold herself in check; noted evildoer Cyrus Valen made a false move and pushed hands to his pockets, Mop responded with immediate force. Our hero didnt intercede and some of her was conflicted about that: she only took a single step back and lowered her wand. It was riveting in the worst way, it called back to her things better left buried.End, she willed, let it end. No more. End it did, as swiftly as it began; a noted evildoer subdued and carted away. Noriko looked in shock. Taking it all in was trouble, too much reminder of what was past. Seize the yoke from the pilot and just fly this whole mess into the sea. Nori swallowed, whispered: “Its done, right? Its over. Done.” ||

23:43:47 [Porthman] Time blurred a bit after Valen went down and before he knew it, Darby was trying to give him information he almost missed. “Gloriana?” He asked, though he wasn’t looking for an answer. He was simultaneously relieved and distressed. Gloriana was going to be okay – for now. From the sounds of it, the worst was over, but she still her price to pay for what she’d done. Valen was undoubtedly the true criminal here – but what would become of his friend when she was fit and ready? His next worry was more in-the-moment and he slid out from under Darby’s hand. “Thank you, Mum.” Meredith glanced down to his supervisor with a kindly smile and excused himself to find Noriko and Huian. One was much easier than the other. “Noriko—“ He chimed and scooted over to her. She looked a little frazzled – maybe that was an understatement.

23:59:19 [Darby] She contemplated elaborating on what would happen to Gloriana when she was fit enough to leave St. Mungo’s, but thought better of it. For what it was worth to Porthman, all was right with the world again. “Yes, well, see you bright and early on the morrow,“ she said cheerfully, and tipped her head at the trio. Outside, she watched the Aurors dissipate and ignored the cameras of interested Prophet Reporters. “Yes, yes. No comment, please. We will know more by morning. Cheerio, dears.“ She had no patience for them just now. The stress of paperwork-to-be was enough to have her sighing at the sight of Liliput’s. With an expression of complacent abandon, she entered the Patisserie and left with a fresh cup of Earl Grey. Mm. That’s the stuff.

00:08:16 Noriko || Numb, that was the only word: for all she fancied herself a hero, Noriko wasnt cut out for battle. She also wasnt cut out for abandoning anyone but its obvious, her nerves were a complete mess; she took a long time just to acknowledge everything was done. Someone [Mop’s boss] was talking to Mop but Nori didnt hear a word of it. Noriko- the sound of her name snapped her to reality, she dropped her wand to the floor without a care and cast both arms about Mop, holding tight to him. Something to ground her. This was the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley; it wasnt Tsushatoshi and Mop wasnt a Kalite. This was now, not then. “Hi Mop.” ||

00:22:31 Porthman didn’t know what to expect when he drew closer to the seer with the thousand-yard stare. When she dropped everything to throw her arms around him in a hearty embrace, Mop drew backward to stabilize himself. He returned Noriko’s embrace, all-to-naturally weaving his arms around her back (though his wand stayed clutched in his left fist). He didn’t know what to say to her – or if he should say anything at all. Eventually, Meredith managed: “hi” and gently slid his free hand up and down her back a couple times before releasing her without any expectation for her to follow suit. It didn’t matter what she did – she could hang off of him until steel turned to rust. “So much for that fun day at Conclave.”

00:31:51 Noriko || She didnt let him go right away even after he let her; it wasnt long though. Our hero [the traumatized Princess Sparklefist] was grounded now and the moment of horror wholly behind her. “Fun day. Ha. Ahaha.” Noriko couldnt even comprehend how this had happened, she wasnt ready to acknowledge that it had really; this wasnt what was supposed to come of a fun day in Diagon Alley. “Is it ok to admit I was afraid?” she asked it innocently; fear wasnt an emotion appropriate for the mighty Princess Sparklefists but she had been afraid, there wasnt any doubt to that. “Sorry. I guess I just wasnt much of a hero today.” ||

01:04:30 [Porthman] It was hard not to give his newfound friend a smile when she confessed her sins. It seemed a silly thing to be worried about – Meredith was afraid all the time and he was certainly afraid during the anticlimactic showdown that was freshly behind them. The difference was, he supposed, was that he had trained and been trained to act critically under those conditions. What if he hadn’t experienced what he had in his final years of school? What if he’d become a professional Beater instead of an Auror? If any number of things were different, Meredith would have been frozen with fear and anxiety in the very same situation. “I won’t tell.” Mop promised as he leaned in close to whisper. “Promise.”

01:13:10 Noriko || Our hero knew well that there wasnt a nonchalant way to pick your wand up off the ground. Oh hey gee I mustve misplaced it there just didnt fly so much with wands; Noriko had a documented knack for dropping hers besides. It had cost her on more than one grade in practical portions of her OWLs: nervous or excitable, Nori sometimes didnt mind her grip. “It was only memories. I wouldnt wish to go without them, but, sometimes they come to the surface when Id rather they didnt.” Nori reached for Mop’s hand nervously; her nerves werent going to settle completely until practically forever she knew. “Come on, your friend is in the infirmary right? We should, you should go see her.” Even remembering not to assume she could invite herself, since this was a personal kind of thing; she still did mean to accompany unless he told her not to. ||

01:24:12 [Porthman] Meredith Porthman was twenty-two goddamned years old. He just faced a wanted criminal without batting an eyelash and could smash someone’s face in without another thought. Yet, he couldn’t stop feeling like a child when Noriko reached out for his hand. Meredith tried to make his hand available as suavely as he possibly could; the jury was out on results, but when they touched, he wove his fingers into hers. “I believe I am familiar with this feel.” He told Noriko with a serious, flat tone and a single eye leveled on her to match. Mop smiled the second later—he’d have reports to fill and file piled up on his desk tomorrow, for sure. For now, he agreed with Noriko’s decision and didn’t think of sending her away. “Thank you. Let’s.” It would be nice – relieving – to check in on Gloriana and see how the fighter was doing to put this whole episode behind him.

01:41:15 Noriko || Deep down Noriko wondered if it was alright, this collection of feels that kept taking her; it wasnt as though travel was unduly difficult but opportunity surely was slim with the work Mop did and her own career. Falling for someone wasnt part of the plan at all [such that Princess Sparklefists made plans, which she didnt] and the hangups she could smell ahead troubled her some. Try to ignore! “I wasnt ever any good in a real fight; I didnt have it in me to hurt anyone. I was a courier in the war.” All her carefully constructed blockades were breached; it started with the prophecy and cascaded. Our hero could only breach them some more by now, “I still dont have it in me. No. That much, its obvious. I hoped it wouldnt come to that; even knowing what he did. I didnt want him to be hurt. I didnt want a noted evildoer to suffer; not at all. I wonder if I couldve even brought myself to hurt him if.?” ||

01:56:57 Porthman started to move out the tavern with the ensnared Quidditcher. “That’s a good thing, Noriko.” He promised, overall. Mop packed his memories of Hogwarts and the war away into a little box labeled ‘do not open’ in the back of his mind. He’d done things he didn’t want to because it was what he thought he had to do and he certainly wasn’t proud of all of it. Would he turn back the clock if he had the chance to change places with Noriko, though? No such thing would ever happen. “You’re a better person than I am.” If Meredith had just a sliver less self-control or Valen had his wand on him—if Valen had stepped out of line and given him a reason—there’s no doubt in Mop’s mind that things would have gone much differently. “You don’t need to hurt people to vanquish evildoers.” There were a few hiccups along their way out in the form of nosy coworkers, but he was smooth in how he brushed them off and never really broke his focus on Noriko. Their course was set: St. Mungo’s was their destination. “And I hope you never have to.” Mop was almost terrified with how candid he was being with a woman he hadn’t known long enough to warrant such an egregious drop in his façade.

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