Police Constable Harry Angel was walking a beat in a low corner of London and counting the days until he could go back to the SCD4 lab where he belonged – he’d only agreed to this stint in community policing because the regulations had changed a year prior and there’d been no getting out of it if he wanted to keep his badge – when a ragged-looking man wearing a ratty turban staggered out of an alley, spotted him, and instead of turning and shambling off snarled and made straight for him, slurring something about blood and waving a dirty knife about. Oh lovely, either an addict or a loony. Harry ducked the clumsy lunge and knocked the knife out of the man’s hand with magic, and then he knocked the man down onto the sidewalk with judo and pinned him, fishing out his cuffs. “A night in lockup will do you a world of good,” he told the still-slurring and thrashing man. “Maybe they’ll even evaluate you, get you a nice warm room for a while, sound good? You look like you’ve been living rough for a while…”
And that was when the man’s thrashing made the turban come off, and a second face with red slits for eyes and no nose stared malevolently up at the young police officer, hissing incoherently from its red slit of a mouth. Harry drew back but didn’t lose his hold on the man. “Well fuck,” he said. “So much for that.” He looked around, then pulled out his radio and used it to place a magical rather than a mundane call for assistance. “This is Police Constable Angel,” he said to the bored voice of Auror Dispatch that answered. “Requesting backup to my location immediately, suspect in custody has a working face on the back of his head and keeps muttering something about needing blood from the mouth on the front side.”
“Ooh, we’ve been looking for that one!” Dispatch wasn’t nearly so bored now, and he heard her call back, “I need aurors! Quirinus Quirrell was just captured in London proper!”
“Bloody hell!” a familiar voice boomed in the background, and then there was a crack and a redheaded man in what would have looked like black SWAT armor if it hadn’t been made of scaled hide was standing on the sidewalk in front of Harry, grinning. “I will be more than happy to take this piece of ghoul-inhabited shit off your hands, mate.”
“I’m more than happy to let you have him, believe me.” Harry hauled his prisoner up, keeping the red-eyed white face as far away from him as he could. “What’s he up for, Ron?”
Ron Weasley, Auror second-class – really, the Wizarding equivalent of Harry at the Met at present – lost his grin and scowled. “Killin’ unicorns for their blood, if you can believe it. He’s got a bellyfull right now, but that’ll only last him so long before the effects of that ghoul start to kick back in and he starts to rot again. Nasty thing, ghouls.”
“Very,” Harry agreed. He’d done some training with the aurors while he was attending university, which was where he’d met and befriended Ron, and ghouls had been one of their least favorite things to deal with. “Bring me a tissue sample later, if you can – I’d love to see what that thing is actually made of, if it’s his skin or something else.”
Ron snorted. “You should’ve been a potions master. But yeah, I’ll see if I can drop some by. Maybe you can figure out a way to immunize people against this shit.” And that was, apparently, the two-faced man’s cue to break violently out of Harry’s hold and, hands still cuffed behind him, go stumbling rapidly toward the end of the street. Where he was promptly hit by a small panel truck coming ‘round the corner and tossed off like a sack of garbage. He was dead by the time the two young officers got to him, and Harry let Ron go attend to Obliviating the panicking truck driver while he got the samples he’d wanted from the body. The back face had been all but obliterated by its impact with the asphalt, and the bloodied human face of the dead man was thin and drawn and haggard-looking. Harry did a quiet blessing spell, hoping the man would find himself at peace wherever it was he’d gone to, and when the ghoul popped out of the body, howling in rage and pain, Harry’s next and much more violent spell banished it and everything connected to it. He frowned, standing up and pulling his radio back out to call the ‘accident’ in, this time to Dispatch at the Met. Ron was right, he really did need to see if there was a way to immunize people against becoming infected by a ghoul. The special banishing spell Harry had come up with one night after too much science fiction actually banished a body-riding ghoul or possessing spirit out of their entire plane of existence – basically kicked it out into the void, which meant it was gone for good and couldn’t ever come back – and worked so well that it had become the preferred method of banishing used by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. But Harry though it would be nice, for the victims and their families especially, if nobody ever had to use the spell in the first place.
Fawkes chirped agreement with that inside Harry’s head; his familiar was currently back home in Sandford with Harry’s uncles because it couldn’t exactly go on foot patrols with Harry in London. Which also happened to be the reason why the sound that marked a prophecy being fulfilled several minutes earlier had not been recognized for what it was, because Danny Butterman was used to hearing a phoenix laugh and so had really thought nothing of it.