Harry ate the last of the rubbery “Scottish breakfast” provided by the airline and mentally compared it to the substantial meals he’d eaten at Hogwarts; the airline food suffered badly by comparison.
“They don’t give you much,” said his seatmate, reaching the end of her magazine and her meal simultaneously.
“It’s not that long a flight, I suppose,” said Harry, “if it took much longer to eat they’d be snatching the trays back before we’d finished.” A stewardess appeared and did exactly that. “See what I mean?”
“About another twenty minutes, it looks like we’re on schedule,” Kennedy, checked her watch and glanced out of the window.
“You’ve flown this route before?”
“A few times.”
“You must run a lot of these courses. What sort of athletics do you teach?”
Kennedy looked blank for a second, then said “A little of everything, really. We take a holistic approach to fitness; if the students train widely they exercise all of their muscle groups. The standard course includes track and field, rock climbing, some martial arts, gymnastics, and so forth.”
It was the “so forth” that interested Harry, though he didn’t say so. He had a feeling that it was the most interesting part of the course.
“Do you take boys too?” Harry asked. “In a few years my sons might be interested.”
“Sure, but we’re pretty selective about who we take. How many boys do you have?”
“Two so far,” said Harry, pulling out his wallet and showing her the photo. “That’s my wife Ginny, and the babies are Al and James. We’re hoping for a girl next time.”
“Awww… They’re pretty cute. My girlfriend and I would like to have kids too; we’ll probably get married if we stay in Britain, it isn’t legal most places in the States. After that I’m not sure if we’ll adopt or find a sperm donor.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know much about either,” said Harry. Somehow he doubted that his experiences with the Dursleys would be very relevant, and Teddy Lupin’s adoption by Andromeda Tonks had been handled by Wizarding law, not Muggle.
“It’s not exactly a pressing problem.” She opened the magazine again, turning back to an article on knives.
“I couldn’t help noticing your magazine. Are you a hunter?”
“Not with guns, but I’ve used a bow a few times. How about you?”
Harry grinned. “It’s not really my cup of tea. As far as I’m concerned, if I have to hunt my food past the supermarket it’s too much like hard work. But my school had a teacher who was really into it and we got to be friends, so I know a little about it.”
“What did he hunt?”
That was an awkward one. Most of the creatures Hagrid killed weren’t easily explained to Muggles. “Just the usual stuff, animals that damaged the school gardens and so forth.”
“Like squirrels and rabbits?”
“Yes, that sort of thing.”
There was a chime, and the stewardess announced that everyone should fasten their seatbelts and prepare for the landing. Kennedy dropped the magazine back into her bag, raised the table flap in front of her, and strapped in. Harry followed her example. The engine noise rose as the airliner prepared to land, and they didn’t talk again until the plane was safely on the ground.
As they were preparing to disembark Kennedy rummaged in her bag and pulled out a notebook, and jotted a few lines onto a piece of paper.
“It’s really none of my business,” she began awkwardly, “but my sister had an odd birthmark, this guy used some laser treatment to get rid of it. He might be able to help you with that…” she gestured towards his head, and went off down the aisle while he was trying to work out what she meant
She’d written the address of a clinic in New York. But what had she been…? Harry suddenly realised that she meant his scar. But his scar was covered by the illusion he was wearing, he could still feel it around him, there was no way that she should be able to see it. “Definitely something weird there,” he muttered.
“Hello Hermione, pick up if you’re there.”
“This call is being forwarded to Hermione Granger’s mobile phone. This call is being…” There was a loud beep, then Hermione said “Hello?”
“It’s Harry, got anything for me?”
“Possibly; how old was the woman you saw?”
“About twenty-one, twenty-two, I think.”
“That’s pretty old.”
“Did you ever hear of the 'Curse of the Slayer?'”
“The Curse of what? I don’t remember it from Defence classes.”
“It’s not very well documented, and it would have been in History of Magic, not Defence. It’s a really strange curse, only affects Muggle girls. A teenage girl wakes up incredibly strong and fast, and she thinks it’s really great at first, but it’s really a curse. Monsters start attacking her – vampires, sometimes werewolves, all sorts of horrible creatures. She has to keep fighting them until she dies. Usually they last a year or two at most. There have been occasional cases since at least ancient Greece. There’s a vampire on record as saying that the victims smell delicious, and that their blood is unusually potent.”
“That’s horrible. Isn’t there a cure?”
“Nobody’s ever heard of one, and there are records of dozens of cases, the last one in China around 1900. About all that anyone can do is stay out of their way, because the creatures that come after them are just as happy to kill anyone else in the line of fire. But twenty-two is pretty old; she’d have to have been fighting for three or four years at least.”
“Well, I definitely saw her kill a vampire. And there was something odd about the whole thing if it’s that curse – she had some other girls with her and they were all armed with stakes.” He remembered the way that the stakes had been thrown over the security zone. “And at least one of the others seemed to be abnormally strong.”
“That’s just impossible. There’s never more than one victim at a time.”
“Oh, I nearly forgot. She saw right through the illusion that covers my scar. I don’t think she even knew the illusion was there.”
“That makes no sense at all. It must be something else, not the Curse. Could they be Veelas, or some other magical creature in disguise?”
“Maybe, but I didn’t sense any magic to speak of from any of them.”
“Where are they now?”
Harry looked around the arrivals hall at the airport. “They must be collecting their baggage by now.”
“See if you can find out anything else, like an address. Modern wizards would love to study a case of the Curse, if that’s what it is.”
“I’ll do my best. Call you back later.” Harry hurried to the baggage hall, but there was no sign of the girls. They must have gone on their way. Hermione would be disappointed, and he’d have to submit endless reports explaining why he hadn’t followed up on the case. After all, not all vampires were hostile; there were orders to stake Sanguini on sight, but what if the Curse made Kennedy kill one unnecessarily?
It would have to wait. By now the coffin should be ready for collection. He’d have to go and sign for it, and see it loaded aboard the Muggle van that was going to take it to a local undertaker’s premises; there the body would be transferred from its sealed metal casing to a proper wooden casket for the last leg of its journey to Hogsmeade.
As Harry supervised the men loading the coffin he felt an uneasy itch, an odd feeling of being watched. He tried to look around without making it obvious. About fifty yards away the group of girls he’d been discussing were standing around a small battered-looking bus, loading their bags into the luggage compartment. Vi and Kennedy were both staring at him… no, at the case… and seemed to be discussing something. He had a sudden feeling that it would be a good idea to get out of there fast, and asked the driver if he could hitch a ride.
“It’s not exactly regulation, but aye, I can do it. If you would’nae mind shutting the rear doors, we’ll be on our way.”
Harry went back and did as he asked, and took another look towards the bus as he did so, Vi and Kennedy and at least half of the other girls were still watching. As he shut the doors and got into the passenger’s seat he wondered what they could have possibly seen to attract so much attention. About all there was at the end of the box was the original shipping label, and what was so odd about something coming from Sunnydale, California? He couldn't imagine that they could even read it at that distance.
As the van drove off two of the girls took photographs. For the life of him Harry couldn’t imagine why.
Comments please before I post to archives