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HP after Hogwarts >> Zoinks! (A Halloween Tale) by Northumbrian

Simple Text - To view MORE chapters use the chapter jump box to the right.
Zoinks! (A Halloween Tale)

It should have been a dark and stormy night. It wasn’t. The unpredictable British weather couldn’t even provide a decent storm when necessary, not even when it was essential to create the required atmosphere. Instead, the night was clear and cloudless.

It was early evening but, despite the early hour, the waxing crescent moon wasn’t rising. It had already passed its zenith and was slowly creeping back down to hide below the horizon. This lack of moonlight was not enough to ensure that the blackness inside the long-abandoned church was stygian as the surrounding streets were well lit and the harsh sodium glare of the street lights was casting shafts of sickly yellow light through the broken panes.

At one time, several years earlier, the church door had been boarded up to keep out trespassers. The boards had long ago been removed and without them nothing, other than the sheer size of the door, prevented entry to the derelict building.

The door moved slowly open and, as it did, the rusty old hinges gave a squeal like a dying banshee. Four figures slipped stealthily into the echoing chamber. One of the four, the fair-haired young man at the head of the cautiously creeping quartet, switched on a torch. The bright beam flickered from pillar to pillar before moving up into the rafters.

The nave was Gothic; there was no doubt about it. The echoing space screamed its medieval provenance from its stone-flagged floor, up past pillars and lancet windows to its rib-vaulted roof. Despite its dilapidation, the building managed to maintain its sombre, hush-inducing grandeur. The four looked cautiously around. The fluted stone columns were much wider than a man, and they managed to subtly hint that there might—just possibly—be someone hiding, forever out of sight, on their opposite side.

The church was neglected and unloved, and this air of abandonment was enhanced by the wind-blown leaves, papers and plastic bags strewn across the floor. Pigeons nested on the sills and ledges high above, randomly depositing their excrement across the stone flagged floor. The place had been deliberately allowed to fall into disrepair by anonymous multinational owners who hoped that if it became irreparably damaged then, perhaps, its grade two listed status would be forgotten and they could redevelop this prime piece of land.

‘Spooky enough for you, Stef?’ the torch carrier asked his girlfriend. ‘Spooky enough for Halloween and ghost stories?’ As he spoke, he placed the torch under his chin and grimaced madly at her.

Stef gave a nervous giggle, grabbed his arm and held him tightly. ‘It’s great, Frank,’ she said, her voice pitched high in the anticipation of fear. ‘Innit Nicole?’

‘I suppose,’ Nicole told her best friend uncertainly.

Nicole was looking warily at the fourth member of the group. The moment Stef grabbed Frank’s arm, the tall and weedy young man who had been bringing up the rear of the group had moved closer to her. It was obvious to Nicole that Frank’s friend, Casey, was hoping that she would soon be holding on to him the way Stef was holding Frank. She looked up at Casey and he gave her a lop-sided grin. She rolled her eyes dismissively, but in deference to her best friend—who had begged her to come—she didn’t snap at him.

Casey held up a carrier bag and walked backwards up the nave, away from the others. ‘I’ve got booze,’ he reminded them. ‘And I know, like, a really great ghost story.’

‘There’s no such thing as ghosts,’ said Nicole firmly, folding her arms. But even as she spoke, the noise began.

It was a long and low moan, the blood-chilling drawn out groan of someone in suffering, and it was coming from the opposite end of the building. Casey wheeled round; the others looked up in the direction of the noise. As the quartet stared towards the chancel, they saw it! The apparition appeared in midair. Nicole felt her insides knot as she stared at the spectre. Robes fluttered and glowed with an eerie green-white light. The face under the cowl was a skull, and in each of its eye sockets was a bright red glow. The four teenagers stared up in slack-jawed horror. Casey gave a whimpering moan, unable to take his eyes off the hovering monk. For a heartbeat, which seemed to last forever, they stood rooted to the spot. Then the apparition floated rapidly towards them.

Stef was the first to scream. It was a full blooded and ear-splitting shriek of terror, and Casey soon added a surprisingly high pitched harmony to the sound. Stef dropped Frank’s arm and ran for the door. Casey dropped the carrier bag, adding the sound of breaking glass and the smell of alcohol to the scene. He sprinted past Frank and Nicole and followed closely behind Stef. Frank and Nicole exchanged a bewildered glance and then followed their friends out through the door and into the street.

Stef, still screaming, had run straight through the door, across the pavement, and out into the middle of the road. Nicole watched in horror as her friend stopped in the centre of the street, caught in the headlights of a rapidly approaching van, which had just rounded the corner.

Over the noise of Stef’s second scream, Nicole heard the screech of brakes.

‘Why did you and Hermione change the colour of this van, Harry?’ Ron asked they drove along the almost deserted street. He was scratching at the shaggy goatee beard he’d magically grown for the occasion. ‘And why all those colours and patterns. It’s almost, er…’

‘Psychedelic,’ said Ginny, pushing her glasses up her nose. ‘That’s the word you’re looking for, Ron. I knew that you weren’t paying attention, you never do!’

‘Because after all of the colour changing charms we applied to ourselves, I thought that changing the van was simply the next step. It…’ began Harry. He hoped to intercede before Ron and Ginny began to argue, but it was unnecessary, because Ron changed the subject himself.

‘Third on the left, past this church,’ Ron interrupted.

Harry looked down the street. They’d just passed a brightly lit and busy Indian Takeaway, but the adjacent shops were all closed and shuttered. In the distance, he saw an elderly man pulling down the shutters on a jeweller’s shop, beyond it was a large and derelict-looking church.

‘I still think we’re going the wrong way. I’m sure we should have turned left, not right, at that last set of traffic lights, Ron,’ said Hermione as she adjusted her purple Alice band.

‘No we shouldn’t, Hermione,’ said Ron as he fiddled with the neck of his baggy green t-shirt. ‘I think we went wrong when you insisted we turn…’

‘Look,’ said Harry, running his fingers through his startlingly blond hair. ‘I don’t care which one of you reads the map, as long as it’s one of you, not both of you.’

‘It would have been easier if we’d Apparated,’ Ron grumbled. ‘Be honest, Harry, we’re only driving to this party because you’ve just passed your Muggle driving test, aren’t we?’

‘We’re driving to it because it’s a Muggle party, Ron,’ said Harry. ‘It will be a lot more fun to arrive in this van, especially now we’ve decorated it. Justin’s Muggle friends will be impressed when they see it. Won’t they, Hermione?’

‘They will, if we can find the place,’ said Hermione. ‘But I’m beginning to wonder about these costumes, Harry. I thought it was a really good idea when you suggested it, but purple really isn’t my colour, and this dress is really, very short.’ She tugged at the hem.

‘I like it,’ said Ron, his voice cracking a little as he spoke. ‘Although I’m not sure about the straight red hair, it’s weird enough seeing you as a redhead, Hermione. I like your real hair much better.’

Ginny smiled to herself as she watched Hermione’s expression of annoyance with Ron over his map reading twist into a reluctant smile at his unexpected compliment.

‘I wouldn’t mind wearing purple, Hermione, and at least you get a decent dress,’ said Ginny as she leaned forwards and re-examined her friend’s clothes. As she did so, her black-rimmed glassed again slid down her nose. ‘I’m not sure about that lime green cravat, but it’s a lot better than orange and brown,’ she said, exasperatedly pushing her glasses back into place. ‘I really don’t like wearing these, Harry. Do I need to keep them on?’

‘The glasses are part of the costume, Ginny,’ Harry told her as he slowed to take the corner Ron was indicating. ‘And I think you look great.’

‘Great? Merlin, Harry, I’m wearing an orange roll-neck sweater, an orange-brown skirt and orange socks! I don’t know how you managed to talk me into this. I look like a deranged Cannons fan,’ said Ginny, shaking her head in disbelief and sending her bobbed brown hair flying.

‘There’s nothing wrong with Cannons fans. We’re not dera…’ Ron began.

His observations were cut short by Ginny’s shout of: ‘Look out, Harry!’

Harry pushed his foot hard on the brakes, and Hermione grabbed her wand. With Hermione’s help the van rocked to a halt only inches away from the screaming girl in the middle of the road.

Nicole watched the brightly painted van as it bounced back down onto its rear wheels. It seemed to have stopped impossibly suddenly; it was almost cartoon-like. She then noticed the words written on the van’s side and stood in dumbfounded disbelief. She glanced across at Frank and Casey, who still stood alongside her on the kerb. Casey, like her, had been stunned into silence. Frank somehow managed to find his voice.

‘What the?’ said Frank as the van doors opened, and four people climbed out.

Nicole, too, opened her mouth, but the words simply would not come. The ghost in the church was bad enough, but this was ridiculous. Taking off her glasses, she carefully polished them in the hope that the scene would somehow change when she replaced them. It didn’t. Were it not for the fact that Stef was still standing in front of the van whimpering and shaking with fear, Nicole would have burst out laughing.

‘Are you okay?’ the slim auburn-haired young woman in the purple mini-dress asked Stef.

‘You ran straight out in front of us,’ the small, bespectacled, brown-haired girl in orange and said concernedly.

‘Yeah, you did,’ the tall and gangling young man in the green t-shirt and brown flared trousers added accusingly.

‘I almost hit you, sorry,’ said the fair-haired young man in the white sweater and blue jeans. He was wearing round, wire rimmed glasses. Nicole found that one fact oddly annoying. It spoilt an otherwise perfect—if completely insane—picture.

Stef, still shaking, looked up at the four newcomers. Nicole watched her friend’s eyes widen as she, too, took in the scene. Presumably because she couldn’t think of anything else to say, Stef said what Nicole had been thinking.

‘You shouldn’t be wearing glasses,’ she told the blonde young man.

‘I know,’ said the man Nicole wanted to call Fred, apologetically. ‘But I can’t see a thing without them. I certainly couldn’t drive.’

‘Where’s the dog?’ Casey asked weakly.

‘Dog, what dog?’ the tall and gangling man, who Nicole wanted to call Shaggy, asked.

‘We’re supposed to have a dog. Or, at least, you’re supposed to have a dog, Ron,’ said “Daphne”. ‘He’s a Great Dane, sort of. I think.’

‘This is a wind up, isn’t it?’ asked Nicole as she finally found her voice. ‘I mean, we see a ghost in there, run out into the street, and you four arrive! It’s ridiculous. What are you going to do now? Say, “We’ve found a mystery, gang”, go in there and unmask the phantom?’ She looked up and down the street. ‘Where are the hidden cameras?’

‘Unmask the phantom?’ “Velma” asked. ‘Are we supposed to be ghost hunters, Harry?’

‘Yes,’ Harry (who Nicole still wanted to call Fred) told “Velma”. He was grinning broadly. ‘We specialise in haunted house mysteries, Ginny. That’s probably why this lot are so confused by our appearance, especially if they’ve just seen a ghost.’ He turned to Stef. ‘It’s not a wind-up, we’re on our way to a Halloween fancy dress party,’ he explained.

‘I didn’t think that Muggles could see ghosts,’ Ron said, scratching his goatee beard.

‘Muggles? What are Muggles?’ asked Frank, as he strode over to comfort his frightened and confused girlfriend. The moment he arrived at her side Stef turned, buried her head into his chest, and again began to sob. ‘It’s okay, Stef,’ said Frank, holding her awkwardly. ‘It’s okay, honest.’

‘Don’t listen to Ron. Sometimes he makes up nonsense words,’ Harry told Frank. He turned to face Nicole and strolled towards her. He had a lightning shaped scar on his forehead, she noticed. Behind him, the girl he’d called Ginny was ushering Stef and Frank off the road. After closing the doors of the colourful van, Ron and Hermione followed.

‘What, exactly, did you see?’ Harry asked.

‘Su-su-skull-faced monk ghost. In there,’ squeaked Casey. He pointed a shaking arm back towards the derelict church.

Nicole looked helplessly at Harry and shrugged her shoulders. ‘That just about sums it up,’ she said.

Harry grinned and his bright green eyes blazed with excitement, he winked at Nicole and then turned to his friends. ‘A mystery! Come on, gang, let’s investigate,’ he said, attempting, and failing at, an American accent.

‘These kids are genuinely scared, Harry. They should go home,’ “Daphne” said. ‘And stop talking like that, Harry. It isn’t funny’

‘Yeah, we should be going. We’ve got a party to go to,’ said Ron. ‘And, why are you talking funny?’

‘Harry’s being silly, Ron,’ said “Daphne”. She looked directly into Harry’s bright eyes. He winked at her, nodded his head in the direction of Ginny and Ron, and gave her a mischievous grin. She laughed. ‘Jeepers, Ron, next he’ll be asking you to say “zoinks”, and Ginny to say, “jinkies”.’

Harry chuckled. ‘Nice one, Hermione,’ he said. ‘Hearing those words brings back memories. Can you remember what I should say?’

‘Zoinks?’ said Ron. ‘What are you two talking about?’

‘Perhaps it’s just another made-up word, like Muggle,’ said Hermione, smiling broadly. ‘I think you’ve already said it, Harry, when you called us “gang”.’

‘I think it’s something to do with these costumes we’re wearing, Ron,’ said Ginny. ‘Harry and Hermione know something we don’t, because they grew up in houses with television. I really wish I’d watched those cartoons when you suggested it, Harry.’

It might have been useful,’ agreed Harry. He turned to Nicole. ‘So, the ghost’s in here is it?’

‘Yes,’ Nicole confirmed.

‘Great,’ said Harry. He turned back to address his friends. ‘I’d like to know what really happened to these kids, what they really saw. It shouldn’t take us long, and we were very early setting off, so we shouldn’t be too late for Justin’s party.’ He began to lead his friends towards the church.

‘I agree with Harry,’ said Ginny. ‘I want to know what these four really saw.’

Ron and Hermione looked at Harry and Ginny, and then exchanged an exasperated glance.

‘Yeah, well, let’s be quick,’ Ron grumbled. ‘This is no outfit for wandering around creepy old churches in the dark. It’s okay for you lot, you’ve all got sweaters and stuff. And this lot,’ he indicated the four youths, ‘are all wearing big coats. ‘It’s almost November, and I’ve only got this t-shirt to wear. I’m bloody freezing.’

‘You kids should really wait out here,’ said Hermione.

‘What, and miss all the fun?’ said Frank. ‘No way! Anyway, we aren’t kids, we’re eighteen!’

Hermione placed her hands on her hips and stared in disbelief.

‘Well … almost eighteen. Anyway, you’re not that much older than us. You coming, Stef?’

‘Yeah,’ Stef nodded hesitantly.

‘Me, too,’ said Nicole. She’d been watching Harry and Ginny as she spoke, and she knew that, like Hermione, they didn’t believe Frank. But then, as Frank was the oldest, and he was still months from his seventeenth birthday, that wasn’t surprising.

Frank, Stef and Nicole looked across at Casey, who whimpered, shrugged, and reluctantly followed them towards the solid-looking door. It was firmly closed, and when Harry tried the handle, the door didn’t budge. It appeared to be fastened shut.

‘How did you get in?’ Harry asked. Frank and Nicole exchanged a puzzled glance.

‘Through that door,’ said Frank.

‘And we didn’t stop to close it when we ran out,’ added Nicole.

‘Well, it’s definitely closed now,’ said Ginny.

‘Maybe… maybe the ghost closed it,’ said Casey. ‘Perhaps we should just go home, forget all about it. Look at the time…’

‘It’s only half-past seven, Casey,’ said Nicole sarcastically. ‘My kid brother won’t be in bed yet, and he’s four!’

Ron joined Harry, and together they pushed at the heavy old door. It moved slightly, but no more than a fraction.

‘I think it’s been fastened from the inside,’ said Harry.

‘Perhaps if we push hard,’ suggested Ron. Frank, too stepped forwards, and all three of them put their shoulders to the door and pushed. There was a scraping noise and, after much grunting and considerable effort, they managed to slowly force the door open. As soon as it was wide enough, Harry, who was closest to the opening, slid through into the church.

‘It’s been wedged,’ Harry announced. ‘Just pull it closed slightly, Ron. That’s it.’ They heard a scuffing noise from behind the door and then Harry said, ‘It should open now.’

Ron and Frank pushed the door, and although the hinges continued to groan in protest, the door opened. Ron ushered Hermione and Ginny through, and then entered himself. The four teenagers followed closely on their heels.

‘Why wouldn’t the door open, Harry?’ asked Ginny.

‘Because of this,’ he said. ‘He held up a large piece of broken brick. It was vaguely wedge-shaped, and was scored and marked where their efforts had pushed it across the stone floor. ‘It was forced under the bottom of the door.’

‘I wonder where the brick came from?’ said Nicole. ‘It’s all stone in here. But … this means that there must be someone else here. I really don’t think that a ghost would wedge a door.’

‘Of course it wouldn’t,’ said Ron. ‘Ghosts can’t…’

‘White really isn’t a good colour for exploring in, Harry,’ Ginny observed, interrupting her brother. She reached forwards and brushed dust and cobwebs from Harry’s chest. ‘You must’ve picked it up when you squeezed through the door.’

Harry looked down at his no longer white sweater and sighed. ‘I don’t think it ever got dirty in the cartoons,’ he said. He pushed the door until it was almost, but not quite, closed and led the others cautiously into the church.

‘It’s very dark in here,’ said Hermione. She looked pointedly at Frank and his friends. ‘Perhaps they should leave, Harry. We’d probably find out what’s going on a lot more easily without these four.’

‘I doubt it, because I’ve got a torch, and you haven’t.’ said Frank. He switched it on, and swept the beam across the nave.

Nicole watched as the four strangers exchanged raised eyebrows, grimaces, and other expressions. Although nothing was actually said, it was obvious that Ron and Hermione would have liked them to leave, and Harry was happy for them to stay.

Ginny backed Harry, and that was it.

‘On your head, be it, Harry,’ muttered Hermione.

‘It always is,’ said Ginny in a resigned voice. ‘Everything always is.’ She took hold of Harry’s hand.

‘Where did you see this “ghost”?’ Harry asked Frank.

‘Over there.’ Frank shone the torch down the knave.

‘Wait,’ ordered Ginny. ‘Move it up a bit. There, stop! Can you see it?’

‘It looks like a wire,’ said Harry. He took the torch from an unprotesting Frank and tried to follow the faint line.

Hermione, forgetting her earlier annoyance and straining to see where, exactly the wire above their heads was attached, peered up unto the darkness above the door.

‘Look,’ she said, pointing. ‘What’s that dangling above the door?

Harry turned the torch to pick out the area. About fifteen feet up, hanging from the wire, was something black and fluttering. Harry shone the torch onto it.

‘What is it?’ Ron asked.

‘It’s the ghost, Ron,’ Hermione told him. ‘At least, it’s what these kids saw.’

‘We’re not kids,’ Frank protested.

Ginny, meanwhile, had walked back to the door and was looking directly up. ‘It’s a hooded robe,’ she announced. The front has been painted with something green and glowing. The head is a plat-sick skull with a couple of lights in it.’

‘Plastic, not plat-sick, Ginny,’ said Hermione admonishingly.

Nicole moved and stood alongside Ginny. ‘Yeah, it’s attached to the wire, but it’s nothing more than a glowig skull and a monk’s robe covered in fluorescent paint,’ she agreed.

‘It’s not as impressive when you know what it is,’ said Casey, moving alongside Nicole. ‘It isn’t scary this time, is it, Nicole?’

‘It wasn’t scary last time,’ she told him acidly. ‘You were the one who screamed and ran, not me.’

‘Let’s track the wire to the other end,’ Ron suggested. He began moving down the centre of the nave, looking up at the wire. He’d only gone a few steps when he came to a sudden stop and crouched down to look at the floor. ‘There’s a trip wire here, next to these broken bottles of booze,’ he announced. ‘You must’ve set it off when you walked up here. It’s just a trick. It’s probably somebody’s idea of a Halloween joke. There’s nothing to worry about.’

‘There is,’ said Ginny. ‘Someone fastened that door shut, remember?’

‘What happened when you hit the trip wire?’ Harry asked Nicole.

With interruptions and corrections from her friends, she told him. Harry listened carefully to their story, and when she finished, Harry asked only one question.

‘The howling noise you heard, was it loud?’

‘Yes,’ she told him.

‘What are you thinking, Harry?’

‘I’m wondering if the noise was an alarm,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t simply to frighten any intruders; it was also a warning for whoever is in here.’

‘Do you really think there’s someone else here?’ asked Casey nervously.

‘Yes, and we’re going to find out who, and what they’re up to,’ said Harry. ‘Everyone, try to keep quiet.’

He took Ginny’s hand and they led the others slowly up the nave.

Without warning, Harry switched off the torch. The moment they were suddenly plunged into near-darkness Casey gave a frightened whimper, and grabbed Nicole’s arm. She was too busy watching the four in fancy dress to shake him off. Harry had, somehow, seen a faint light in the distance, and his switching off the torch confirmed it. There was a very dim glow at the far end of the nave, and it was coming from an open door.

Harry released Ginny’s hand, reached into his pocket, and pulled out something which, in the near dark, Nicole thought was a drum stick.

‘Three people, down here,’ Harry hissed. ‘Come on.’

He sprinted for the door. Ginny dashed after him, reaching down into her sock as she went. Ron and Hermione were not very far behind them. As they dashed through the door, Nicole saw the four strangers suddenly disappear downwards. The door obviously led to a set of stairs.

It took only a few seconds for Nicole and her friends to react, but by the time they had started to move, the other four had disappeared from sight. With Frank in the lead, they raced for the door. Although there was no one to close it, the door slammed shut moments before Frank and Stef reached it. They suddenly found themselves alone in the dark.

‘Come on, after them,’ said Frank. He pushed at the door, but it appeared to be stuck. Stef ran forwards and added her weight to the door. Nicole shook herself free from Casey, and followed. Casey whined uncertainly, decided that he didn’t want to be alone, trotted after her, and added his weight to the door.

It creaked open and they were confronted with a set of stairs which spiralled down into the darkness. Frank hesitated, so Nicole pushed past him and scampered down into the unknown. Her heart thundering, Nicole slid and almost stumbled as she tried to descend one more step than there actually was. Regaining her balance, she edged her way cautiously along a brick corridor.

Brick, she realised. Behind, she could hear her friends cautiously descending. In the distance ahead, Nicole heard at least three voices. All were rough, gruff, and unfamiliar, but they echoed clearly along the corridor.

‘I told you it wouldn’t work, Wickles. No one’s scared of fake ghosts these days,’ the first voice grumbled loudly and angrily.

‘Yeah, we should’ve just chocked the door first time, instead of wastin’ time on that stupid alarm,’ a second voice said.

‘Shut it, boys, someone’s coming. If it’s them kids again, we’ll kill ‘em,’ a third voice wheezed threateningly.

‘Interferin’ kids… Bloody hell, you’ve got to be joking!’ said the first voice.

‘Just grab ‘em,’ the third man wheezed.

Despite her worries, Nicole dashed forwards. In the distance, at the end of the corridor, she saw several sudden flashes of red light, and heard three very loud thumps. Suddenly, there was a worrying silence. She stopped, and turned to see where her friends were. As her eyes became accustomed to the darkness, she saw three shadows approaching. She recognised the gangling silhouette of Casey at the rear.

‘What’s happening?’ Frank asked, as he, Stef and Casey arrived.

‘We’ve got to help them,’ said Nicole urgently. ‘I think that there’s been a fight.’

‘We don’t need help,’ Hermione called. ‘We’ve, er, knocked them all out.’

‘You can come through, it’s perfectly safe,’ added Ginny.

Nicole cautiously led her friends towards the voices, and they emerged into a large brick undercroft. Three rough-looking men lay unconscious on the floor. One was small, elderly, and weedy looking, but the other two were huge bruisers, and Nicole wondered how the quartet had managed to knock them out so quickly. Hermione was examining a ladder in her pink tights. Ron and Ginny appeared to be unscathed. All three of the men were tightly bound with ropes, and Ginny was crouched down checking the ropes on the largest man.

There was no sign of Harry, but one wall of the crypt was partly excavated and, as Nicole watched, Harry was crawled back out from it. His white sweater was covered in cobwebs and brick dust and his blue jeans were filthy.

‘This tunnel leads through into the cellar of the jeweller’s shop next door,’ said Harry.

‘How did you manage to knock these guys out?’ asked Frank.

‘Hermione knows Kung-Fu,’ said Harry. ‘We simply left her to it.’

‘What?’ Casey stared at them in disbelief. Hermione tried, and in Nicole’s opinion failed, to look like a martial artist.

Ignoring their questions, Harry and pulled an old pocket watch from his pocket. ‘It’s almost eight,’ he said. ‘We’re going to be late.’

‘We really should get out of here, Harry,’ said Hermione. ‘Otherwise there will be a lot of awkward questions to answer and we’ll never get to Justin’s party.’

‘We can’t just leave these three here,’ said Ron.

‘No, but…’ Ginny pointed at Nicole and her friends. Harry hugged her.

‘Yeah, good idea,’ he said. He turned to address the teenagers. ‘One of you must have a mobile phone. You probably all have.’

‘Of course, haven’t you?’ Stef asked in amazement.

‘No, we don’t carry them,’ said Harry.

‘But they seem useful, so we’re working on it,’ added Ron.

‘You,’ Harry pointed at Nicole. ‘You were the first to get down here. Would you dial 999, please? Ask for the police, and let them know what’s happened. You four can take the credit. You’ve just foiled a robbery, congratulations.’

‘What happens when they wake up?’ Nicole asked.

‘They’ll be out for an hour or more, I expect,’ said Harry.

‘But they will know that it wasn’t us,’ said Stef.

‘Will they?’ asked Ginny. ‘There are four of you, and four of us.’

‘And look at us,’ added Hermione, indicating her outfit. ‘They recognised us. At least they recognised the people we’re dressed as. When they wake up they will probably think that they dreamt the entire thing.’

‘You’ll be heroes,’ said Ron. ‘It’s good, being a hero. At least—most of the time it is.’

Bewildered, but somehow caught up in the moment, Nicole pulled out her phone and did as she’d been asked. As she tapped in the number, Harry handed the torch back to Frank, and followed his friends along the corridor.

‘Emergency, which service please?’ the operator asked briskly.

‘Police, please,’ said Nicole. ‘I’d like to report a break-in.’

Later, when she’d finally been driven home in a police car, she wondered exactly how Harry and his friends had done it. The police hadn’t really believed their story, even when it turned out that Casey really did know Kung Fu.

Once back inside the van, Ginny cleaned up Harry’s jeans and jumper while Hermione repaired the ladder in her tights.

‘We should go,’ said Hermione. ‘We don’t want to be here when the police arrive.’

‘Will the kids be okay?’ asked Ginny. ‘And what about those robbers, what do you think they’ll say when they regain consciousness?’

‘Well,’ said Harry. ‘Hermione is right. They recognised our costumes, just before we stunned them. So, if they’ve got any sense, what they’ll say is…’ he paused and looked meaningfully at Hermione.

‘We would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids,’ said Hermione gruffly.

Harry and Hermione laughed. Ron and Ginny looked at them as though they were mad.

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