The Hogwarts Express chugged to a halt at platform nine and three quarters at King’s Cross. A handful of passengers disembarked with their luggage. The train was returning after dropping off students for the start of their new term, and mostly it was just the train’s staff that made the journey back to London. That day a very familiar figure from the school was visiting the city, someone who rarely made the trip.
It was drizzling slightly as Professor Neville Longbottom strode out of the station. He opened his umbrella and thanked his fortunes that he was accidently carrying one in his bag. He was absentminded over a lot of things the past week, ever since that troubling mail from the ministry. Something about a letter that ended up at the wrong address years earlier when he was in school. It sounded urgent and was penned by the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement himself, Gregory Clarke. It was troubling enough that one receives a letter from that particular department, and even more so for a current teacher at Hogwarts.
Neville was scampering through the notorious London traffic, recalling his visit to the Burrow. Mr Weasley had sent him an owl regarding for an urgent matter. Something to do with exotic muggle plants he had purchased at the nearby village. They blossomed only at night, Mr Weasley wrote, and what’s more troubling is that they rather attract a large swarm of wasps. Neville had to perform a rather tricky spell to drive the insects away and took a large leaf from the plant back to the Herbology department back in school. He would start working on a new theory on how muggle plants were being experimented upon with unorthodox charms and their subsequent evolution into new species. It was a new scourge that had gripped the entire countryside that summer. Apple trees fruiting bananas. Roses on creepers and eggplants thirty feet high. The ministry had requested Neville to cut short his summer break and join the numerous officials in the massive nationwide hunt for the source of the plants. Bad luck and a tricky monsoon had hindered their search.
It had been two weeks since the letter from the Burrow. Neville’s first reaction was of horror, he had suspected that George and Ron were behind it all. The brothers had patented numerous of their joke shop’s collectibles and products after hundreds of fakes sprang up in their name. Mr Weasley confirmed George and Ron were unique pranksters, but even this was beyond them. The letter from the ministry now could only mean that they were heading somewhere with the search.
He reached the red telephone booth that led to the ministry headquarters, dialed the numbers for the floor he was visiting and very soon, was seated in a large hall. His seat was facing a receptionist buried deep amongst a stack of parchment, furiously scribbling away at something. She had greeted him as soon as he entered and asked him to wait for Mr Clarke. The hall was decorated with large portraits of former and current heads of the Ministry departments. The one right above Neville was Clarke’s, his rolling moustache and monocle making him look more like a decorated Muggle army general than a politician. Right next to him, seated elegantly with her head held high was Amelia Bones, or Madam Bones as many knew her. Her portrait smiled warmly as Neville entered and went back to writing something on her desk.
Many summers ago, the department had fallen into wrong hands soon after Lord Voldemort had murdered Madam Bones. After the war, the new government led by auror and Order of the Phoenix member Kingsley Shacklebolt voted Clarke as the new department head. Clarke was a top-ranked ministry official at the time, but unknown to many due to the secrecy of his work. He was one of the caretakers of the Department of Mysteries, one of the few surviving people at the Ministry who actively opposed Voldemort from the shadows. He was instrumental in aiding the core Order members travel in and out of the Ministry headquarters during Voldemort’s siege. His anonymity was a boon, shielding him from the Death Eaters, and a curse when people failed to recognise him on his first day back at work for the new government. Thankfully, Shaklebolt and few others from the Rufus Scrimgeour administration remembered him.