My first original novel, Strangers In Boston, is now available on Amazon under my pen name, T.S. Mann (get it?). It's free to Kindle Prime members and $4.99 to people who want to download the Ebook. Paperback copies are available for $12.99. The audio book version will be available soon. Check it out, and if you like it, please leave a review. Work on the sequel—Strangers In Dallas—proceeds apace. Chapters will be uploaded to my website and available for preview to patrons on the first of each month.
Sam Gabriel, the marvelous voice actor who is performing the audiobook of Strangers in Boston, is also reading Prince of Slytherin as a side project! The goal is an eventual (and 100% free) POS audiobook. More details on that later as they become available. He has completed recording of the second book which is now being edited. The full backlog of unedited recording sessions through Year 2 are available for free download.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled fanfic.
and the Resurrection Game
Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations are the property of J.K. Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.
Chapter 12: The Quidditch World Cup (Part 5)
After the Final
The 1994 World Quidditch Cup ended after just over four hours with a win for Ireland—170 to 160 over Bulgaria. While the score was close, it was a devastating loss for the young Bulgarian Seeker. Viktor Krum caught the Snitch, but too late, ending the game barely a second after Ireland had scored what would be the game-winning goal. In the boy's defense, he'd taken a Bludger blow to the head less than a minute earlier, and in his disorientation, he had not realized that the Irish had pulled ahead to a Seeker-proof lead. Of course, the match's outcome had hardly been in doubt. The Bulgarian Chasers had fought valiantly but were clearly no match for Ireland playing on what was considered its home turf despite the decidedly anti-British crowd, and the Irish Keeper, in particular, played the best game of his career.
Ironically, Bulgaria's biggest problem might well have been with its mascots. The wild Veela were already agitated by the enormous crowd, and Ireland's Leprechaun mascots seemed to have a knack for provoking them. Consequently, nearly half of Ireland's final score resulted from penalty shots awarded for the Veelas' continual interference with the match, culminating in the bird-women storming the pitch en masse and shooting a barrage of fireballs at the Leprechauns and the Irish players alike, not to mention their earlier attempt to seduce the referee. In any case, had Krum not caught the Snitch, Lynch, the Irish Seeker, certainly would have, and the Finals would have ended with a humiliating 320-10 loss instead.
"At least Krum lost on his own terms," Harry reassured a disconsolate Draco.
Despite the Veela issues, the match had otherwise been relatively clean (at least compared to the various outrages from earlier in the tournament). Afterwards, the majority of the crowd was sullen but nevertheless respectful of the well-earned Irish victory. Viktor Krum was given a standing ovation, which he acknowledged with a thumbs-up gesture even as he was carried off the field in a stretcher for medical treatment, and the rest of the Bulgarians stoically shook the hands of the victorious Irish.
As the crowd exited the stadium, Harry and his friends, family, and peers had a brief rendezvous. Archie Goodwin and Dan Granger had apparently made several new friends from among the Australian fans despite their citizenship, and they both stated a desire to visit the Australian section of the campsite. Hermione regarded her father's announcement somewhat dubiously before insisting that she would be coming along. Her expression brooked no argument, so Sirius led the other children (Harry, Theo, Neville, and Amy) back to the BMW tent without her. Archie assured them all that he would look after the Muggleborn witch and her Muggle father.
Meanwhile, Draco informed Lucius that he wanted to visit the Bulgarian section to see his friend, Viktor Krum, and the elder Malfoy acquiesced. As it happened, Lucius was quite impressed with Krum's performance and had his own reason for meeting the young man who'd been so helpful to his son at Durmstrang. He'd been considering purchasing a Quidditch team at some point in the near future if only to shut up Antonius Warrington's preening about his precious Montrose Magpies, and he wondered how amenable Krum would be to moving to Britain.
As it happened, the Malfoys would not be the only ones visiting that part of the campsite. Just moments earlier, a silvery doe Patronus sent by Lily Potter had appeared to Arthur Weasley to both apologize and to inform him that she would be a bit late picking up the Boy-Who-Lived from the Weasley tent.
"Midnight," the doe had said. "Twelve-thirty at the latest."
Since he would have some extra time to kill, Jim immediately asked Arthur if he and Ron could make a quick run by the Bulgarian sector, ostensibly so that Ron could get Krum's autograph, which the boy had failed to do at the party the week before. Ron looked at Jim in surprise before going along with whatever his best mate was after. Arthur looked doubtful until Ginny stepped forward with wide eyes and expressed her own desire to meet Viktor Krum. After looking back and forth between his two youngest children, the Weasley patriarch finally gave in. To his surprise, none of his other four sons had any desire for anything other than bed, so he told Bill to lead Charlie and the Twins back to their tent and that he would bring the younger children back later.
Bill did as his father instructed … until after Arthur and his young charges were out of sight. Then, he turned to his siblings.
"Right. Charlie, you get the Twins back to the tent. I need to run an errand."
"What sort of errand?" Charlie asked in confusion. The Twins both laughed. For once it was easy to tell them apart due to the T-shirt George was proudly wearing, the one that read "My Twin Brother is Smarter and Better-Looking," a testament to Fred's Outstanding on his Potions OWL. It was the only class where Fred outdid George, but that was enough to win their bet.
"I reckon Big Brother Billy wants to head over to Little Australia …" said George.
"And find that lovely Aussie lass he danced with at the Malfoy bash!" added Fred.
"Very romantic, eh, Fred?" George continued happily. It had been a while since they'd been able to do twin-speak like this. "Prince Charming running after his Cinderella."
"I don't know, George," Fred said with a smirk. "I don't remember her leaving him with a shoe or anything."
Bill blushed at the Twins' banter, while Charlie just crossed his arms and glared.
"Seriously, Bill? I ought to be going instead of you! She looked to be closer to my age, after all!"
The eldest sibling looked down his nose at his slightly younger brother.
"I'll have you know that Delphini is very mature for an 18-year-old. Far too mature for a kid like you." At that, the 21-year-old Charlie sputtered at the brother barely two years his senior. "Besides," Bill added, "she's not a dragon, so I wouldn't think you'd be interested anyway."
"Prat!" Charlie muttered. "Alright, fine. Just … use Protective Charms, I guess."
"Pfft! You forget who taught you those Charms in the first place!"
With a laugh, Bill headed off in search of the Australian sector, leaving his brothers behind.
"Cheer up, Charlie," Fred said. "Let's go back to the tent."
"Yeah," George added. "And when we get there, maybe you can teach us these Protective Charms Bill mentioned. We are both sixteen, after all."
"We reckon it's time we start to explore all those Hogwarts broom closets we keep hearing about."
Charlie lifted his head and looked to the night sky. "Merlin, just kill me now."
The Bulgarian Sector
"So," Ron whispered quietly to Jim, "why did you want to meet Viktor Krum so badly?"
Jim looked at his best mate in surprise. "What do you mean? You were wanting his autograph at the party last Sunday but never got it. I assume because Harry was hanging off him the whole night, and you didn't want to provoke any Black-Potter drama."
Ron crooked an eyebrow. "So this is just so I can get an autograph? Seriously?"
Jim ducked his head. "Yeah, okay. I want his autograph too. And maybe just talk with him for a bit, seeker-to-seeker. I mean, did you see that? Two Wronski Feints! The second one after he'd gotten a concussion!"
Ron sighed. "Okay, yeah. That was pretty amazing. But do you think he'll even talk to us if he's that badly hurt? He might be unconscious or something."
The Gryffindor Seeker scoffed. "Please! It was just a Bludger to the head!"
"I seem to recall that Harry took a Bludger to the head Second Year and was out until the next morning," Ron replied.
"To be fair," Ginny spoke up from behind them, "that was a cursed Bludger. They probably hit harder. Anyway, it wouldn't hurt to see if we can get in to meet him. I didn't get to talk with him at the party either. Mind you—I still say Shannon MacReady would have taken him if Australia had made it to the finals."
"I'll be sure and let him know your opinion, Miss Weasley," said a familiar yet unexpected voice. "He'll be devastated."
The three children and their chaperone turned. It was Draco Malfoy standing next to his father and favoring Jim and the Weasleys with a smug expression. Lucius seemed mildly surprised to see the group here in Little Bulgaria, but his expression was otherwise aloof.
"Malfoy … s," Jim spat (with an added S at the end when he noticed Lucius's presence). "What are you doing here?"
"Checking on the health of one of my son's closest friends, Mr. Potter," the elder Malfoy replied. "And what brings you here?"
Arthur hesitated in surprise at his former rival's presence, so Ginny stepped forward before Jim and/or Ron got belligerent with either of the Malfoys. The Weasleys had finally gotten past the centuries-long Oath of Enmity between them and the Malfoys. She was in no hurry to see another one put into place. Aside from the social and political consequences from antagonizing the family with whom she unexpectedly shared a secret occult conspiracy, it was just bad manners.
"Besides," Ginny thought to herself, "Amy's right. Draco has gotten cute."
None of Ginny's private thoughts about Draco's "cuteness" showed on her face, however, as she addressed the two Malfoys.
"We were hoping to perhaps see Viktor Krum and congratulate him on his performance. His team might not have won, but he's still an incredible Seeker."
Then, she glanced at Ron and Jim out of the corner of her eye and noticed their fuming expressions. She decided to be mischievous.
"I'm sure you learned a great deal from him at Durmstrang," she added with a pointed look at Draco. The boy's mouth twitched slightly.
"Oh yes, decidedly so!" His eyes cut towards Jim, who he had defeated with his now-legendary Suicide Slam maneuver during their only Seeker confrontation. "I'm an even better Seeker now than I was back at Hogwarts!"
Jim's face darkened, but Arthur spoke up before the Boy-Who-Lived could say anything rude.
"If I might ask, Lucius, has there been any news on Mr. Krum's condition?"
Lucius nodded to Arthur without the slightest hint of hostility. Arthur still found it unnerving. In all the years that they'd known each other, until the Oath of Enmity was resolved, Lucius Malfoy had never once looked at him without sneering.
"We are informed that his injuries have been healed. He is presently getting cleaned up, as there was a significant amount of blood from his Bludger injury. He has instructed his trainers to show us in once he's bathed and had a change of clothes."
"But I'm sure he won't mind if I bring along some of my old schoolmates," Draco said with a smile. "By all means, you're welcome to come in and meet Viktor for a few minutes. Perhaps … get an autograph?"
Jim and Ron both goggled slightly at the magnanimous gesture from someone they'd both hated since their first encounter on the Hogwarts Express.
"Thank you … Malfoy," Jim said with obvious difficulty. "That's very … kind of you."
"Think nothing of it," the blond boy said with a wave of his hand. Then, he smiled again in a way that only fellow Slytherins would recognize as dangerous. "And please … call me Draco."
The Australian Sector
"I'm still curious as to why you wanted to visit the Australians, Daddy," said Hermione as they approached that sector of the campsite.
Dan shrugged. "The ones I met earlier were good people. In fact, some of the wizards brought along squib relatives, and we talked for a bit about what it was like down under, for squibs and Muggleborns both. They invited me to come by and continue discussing it."
Hermione's eyes widened. "Daddy … please tell me you're not thinking of emigrating to Australia!"
Her father winced. "Well, certainly not anytime soon! But in a few years, you'll be graduated and … well, I thought it might be a good idea to keep our options open in case living in Wizarding Britain turns out to be less than what you'd hoped for. I mentioned that you were top of your year, and they figured you'd probably have a lot more options down there than up here among the Purebloods." The Muggle spoke the last word with visible disdain.
"It's not that bad, Daddy," Hermione said reprovingly. "Not as bad as, say, Bulgaria or Albania."
Dan snorted. "Yeah, nobody snatched you away when you were a baby and made your Mum and me forget you ever existed! That's a pretty low bar to jump across. Wouldn't you agree, Archie?"
"I would agree that Britain doesn't treat its Squibs or Muggleborns or even its Halfbloods as well as it should compared to Australia," the other man said cautiously. "But things are never going to change if the best Muggleborns give up on the place and flee to another country."
"Like I did," he thought regretfully. While Regulus Black would not have traded his time in Australia with Buck, Matty, and Leo for anything, he remained acutely aware of how much suffering many left behind in Britain endured because he fled in the night rather than fight against the Dark Lord. But his ruminations ended when a familiar voice called out.
"Mr. Granger! Mr. Goodwin!" exclaimed Buck MacMillan as he held a large beer stein aloft. "Welcome to Little Australia! The beer's on me!"
Some distance away from the Grangers, Bill had also made his way into the Australian sector, though he was suddenly and acutely aware of the fact that he'd forgotten to change out of his pro-Ireland jersey. So far, no one had commented on it, though he did draw a few hostile glares. Then, he jumped in surprise as someone behind him called his name.
"Why Mr. Weasley! Whatever brings you to the land of Aussie Quidditch fandom?" asked Delphini White with a saucy grin. Bill Weasley was surprised at how easily the raven-haired girl had snuck up on him.
"Well, I assume you and the rest of the Australian delegation will be departing tomorrow," he answered. "And I wanted to see you again."
She moved closer until the two were less than a foot apart.
"Can you see me now, Bill Weasley?" she asked sweetly as the two peered deeply into each other's eyes.
"I don't know," he said in a husky voice. "There's always room for … closer examination."
As Delphini smiled and leaned in to kiss the eldest Weasley, she tried not to think about the complicated nature of the age difference between them. And also the fact that technically she was still a married woman.
In a darkened corner of the now-empty stadium, a brown Norwegian rat sat up on its haunches and looked around. Satisfied that no one was near, the rat became a man, and Peter Pettigrew quickly pulled out his wand and Disillusioned himself. Better safe than sorry, after all. But a quick Revelio confirmed his assessment. The World Cup stadium was now completely empty of everyone save two bored-looking DMLE security wizards with the thankless assignment of sitting in the empty stadium all night just on the off chance someone tried to break in and perform any mischief.
Peter checked his watch and then smiled.
"Just a few minutes more," he thought to himself. "Then we'll see what mischief I can manage."
4 Privet Drive
There was a burst of fire from the Potters' Floo and an exhausted James Potter stepped through. Since the meeting earlier that afternoon about the Bertha Jorkins case, he'd had to interview everyone close to the missing witch and then finish a written report of each interview to be forwarded to Yaxley, which James's boss had insisted be finished and sent to him before the ex-Auror could go home for the night.
"As if Director Death Eater is going to look at any of those reports before Monday!" James thought angrily.
As James stepped out into the family's designated "Floo & Magic Stuff Room," Lily was on the far side of the room at her potions station, slowly stirring a small silver cauldron with what appeared to be a bamboo rod while she counted softly under her breath. Before James could speak, Lily gestured towards him with her left hand without looking up from the cauldron, and James was surprised to find himself Silenced. Even more surprising, he had been both wandlessly and wordlessly Silenced.
Lily continued stirring and counting. "340. 341. 342 … 343!" At the same time, she reached with her other hand into a small bowl from which she pulled a single toad's eye that she dropped into the cauldron with a flourish. The potion bubbled furiously for a few seconds and then turned cerulean blue.
"There! Finally!" she exclaimed before turning to James and dispelling the Silencing Charm with a wave of her hand. Then, she moved over to him to kiss his cheek. "Sorry, darling. But I was on the last step, and if I'd lost count, it would have ruined the potion."
James nodded. He'd contacted her after his meeting with Amelia Bones and the others to ask if she knew any potions or obscure Charms that might be useful to the Jorkins investigation. All he had to go on was that the witch had been kidnapped sometime after August 7th, but with the Cup Final going on, there were no DMLE forensic wizards to help him. Luckily, he had a brilliant wife who by rights should have a Potions Mastery by now. To his sudden embarrassment, he belatedly realized how inattentive he'd been when Lily had been pursuing Muggle higher education during the earlier years of their marriage. However, he'd been quite certain it was something to do with biological sciences. And to his delight, she said she knew a potion that might help. A very demanding potion, apparently.
"Wow. That potion must be a beast if you're still at it after over ten hours. Did I just hear you say you had to stir it 343 times?"
Lily barked out a laugh while rubbing her stirring hand to get the kinks out of it. "Oh darling, you have no idea. I had to stir it clockwise 343 times. And then drop in a single dandelion petal and stir anticlockwise 343 times. Followed by another petal and another round of stirring until I'd infused seven petals before I could add the toad's eye! I thought my arm was going to fall off!"
She stuck her hand out. "Now then—the spoon, please. I hope you were able to get it and keep it uncontaminated. The potion is only good for another half-hour."
James nodded at her request and then reached into a pocket to produce a black silken bag of the sort that Aurors used for evidence collection. Technically, he was no longer authorized to use such items, but no one was manning the Office of Forensic Magic today, and it seemed his clearance to get inside had never been revoked. Consequently, he had decided to display initiative and beg forgiveness later. He reached inside the bag and pulled out a soup spoon still marked with moldy, rancid food stains, the same spoon that he'd taken from the floor next to Bertha Jorkins' kitchen table. According to his deductions, she'd been eating when her abductors arrived, but he didn't know when.
"Right. Here you go. By the way, I'd be a fool to ever underestimate your skill and all, but when the heck did you learn how to cast wandlessly and wordlessly?"
Lily gave him a pained expression. "You may recall that a few months ago, a certain betraying rat-Animagus captured me, disarmed me, and tied me up as his prisoner. Like I was a damsel from an old Muggle serial waiting to be tied to the railroad tracks. After that, I decided it would be a good idea to put some effort into wandless casting. I can only do the Silencing Charm and a fairly weak Finite, but that might have been enough to turn the tables against Peter if I'd been able to do it last Spring."
James grinned. "Have I mentioned lately how amazing you are?"
"Not lately," she answered lightly while taking the spoon from his hand. "But if you think that's amazing, wait until you see my potion in action."
With that, she returned to the cauldron and dipped the spoon inside. After stirring it yet another seven times (anticlockwise), she pulled out a spoonful of a dark purple liquid the consistency of ink which she then drizzled slowly onto a parchment. The purple ink began to move of its own accord before forming into a number—a very large number—in Lily's handwriting: 2,527,317.
James blinked. "Soooo, what does that tell us?"
Lily picked up a quill and began performing some quick calculations. "The potion assesses the rate at which certain biological materials break down when removed from the body—in this case, the residual saliva left on the spoon. You said you thought that whoever kidnapped Bertha Jorkins interrupted her mealtime to do so. Well, according to this potion, I can tell you definitively that the last time this spoon was in someone's mouth was 2,527,317 seconds ago. Well, counting back from the time the potion touched the spoon, I suppose, so that's a minute off give or take. But it should be fairly close."
"That's brilliant!" James exclaimed. "And you came up with this while working on your …" He paused in embarrassment. "… your bio-something degree?"
She smiled. "Biochemistry. And yes, I did." Then, she turned her face from James as certain memories came to mind. "I developed it as part of a larger project that studied how … how the human body interacts with potions and other magical substances after they've been ingested."
Then, Lily coughed to clear her throat (and to push unpleasant memories aside). "Okay, according to my maths, the last time this spoon was used for eating purposes was sometime around noon on July 30th. So that must be when she was taken."
James frowned and shook his head. "No, sorry love, but … that can't be right. Bertha was seen at the World Cup campground a week after that on August 7th. She was there overseeing the installation of the section markers."
"Well, I didn't stir this potion, 2,401 times to get it wrong, James," the witch said somewhat testily. "I'm positive it worked correctly. Perhaps when Bertha showed up on the 7th, she was Imperiused or even someone else under Polyjuice."
James looked doubtful, and even Lily wondered what the point of such a deception might be. "What is a section marker, anyway?"
"They're guidestones, basically," James said distractedly. "They demarcate the boundaries between the different sections of the campgrounds that have been set aside for different visiting nations. They also act sort of like homing beacons so that people who portkey into the campsite are automatically shunted to the right place."
The husband and wife looked at one another as they both considered the significance of Bertha Jorkins' last public appearance. And almost simultaneously, their eyes widened in horror.
"Oh Bloody Hell!" James said with a gasp. Lily turned and ran.
"I'll get my purse!" she yelled as she bolted out of the room.
James was briefly flummoxed by her response, as he suddenly felt time might be of the essence. Then, he realized. She meant that purse. The one she'd enchanted after her parents died and that she carried seemingly everywhere during the last years of the War.
Lily Evans Potter's Infamous Battle Purse.
The Irish Sector
It had been hours since Ireland's victory, and the parties in the Irish sector were still going strong. But to Marcus Flint's relief, other than a few fireworks-related mishaps and some rogue leprechauns running amok, things were relatively restrained. It had been an exhausting couple of weeks on this assignment, and he still a loose tooth that needed to be looked at from where he'd taken a brick to the face during the riots after the Australia-Ireland match a few days before. Emily Rossum, who was both his girlfriend and technically his superior officer, walked beside him, and, between rousting overly belligerent drunks, they discussed their plans for a vacation together a few weeks after the Cup was finally over and all these people were gone.
"I hear Magical Majorca is nice," Marcus thought to himself.
Then, his attention was distracted by an odd sound coming from somewhere nearby. He glanced around and saw the source of the disturbance. It was a large rock with a rune sequence carved into it. Having avoided the Ancient Runes class like the plague, Marcus had no idea what the runes signified, though he knew that they were all over the campsite serving as boundary markers between the different sections. He'd seen them around since the first day of Cup competition, but until now, he'd never known one to hum loudly before. Or to start glowing brightly.
Acting on instinct, Marcus shoved Emily to the ground and covered her body with his own just seconds before a bolt of magical energy shot up from the stone. All around the campsite, similar bolts erupted from each of the dozens of guidestones that "Bertha Jorkins" had placed weeks earlier, guidestones that had some very special and highly illegal properties that were just waiting to be unleashed. The magical bolts bent in the air and stretched and twisted until they crossed paths high above the campsite area forming a glowing lattice that lit up the night sky. Then, there was a brilliant flash of light that blinded Marcus for a few seconds. He blinked to clear his vision and then gasped.
Nearby, there were about two dozen new figures who had no business being here in the Irish Sector. They were all wearing the distinctive green and yellow of the Australian fans, but these outfits also came with hoods and masks to conceal their faces. A few of them carried wands and immediately began casting destructive spells seemingly without a care for who they were targeting. But to the young Aurors' surprise, most of them carried very different weapons. Marcus Flint may never have taken Muggle Studies, but Emily Rossum had, and in the NEWTs classes, Lily Potter had been surprisingly thorough on what automatic weapons were and how effectively they could pierce all but the strongest shields.
"PROTEGO MAXIMUS!" The junior Auror just barely got her shield up in time to block the hail of bullets that rained down upon the prone pair. The nearby Irish fans weren't so lucky, particularly after one of the Australian attackers pulled out a green egg-shaped object, yanked a pin out of the top, and hurled it as far as he could. Seconds later, there was an explosion as loud as any Bombarda.
And then, the screaming started in earnest.
The BMW Tent
Harry had only just fallen asleep when he was awoken by the sound of Sirius shouting his name.
"Get up! Harry! Neville! Come on now, get up! This is urgent!"
"'S'matter?" Neville said.
Instantly, Harry could tell that something was wrong. He opened up his Legilimency sense and could tell that the noises of the campsite had changed from festive party sounds to screams of terror punctuated by explosions and the sound of … gunfire?! Who would bring guns to a wizarding event? With a gesture, his wand leaped into his hand, and with a flick he summoned his clothes from where he'd left them. But Sirius called out again to stop him.
"No time, Harry!" the older wizard said while struggling to pull his jeans on over his pajamas. "Just put your shoes on, grab your jacket, and get outside! Now!"
Sirius turned to the other two boys in the tent. "Neville, send a Patronus to Archie! Tell him to grab the Grangers and meet us at the car park next to Dan's vehicle. Theo, send one to Lucius and tell him to get Draco and Apparate out of here! I'll go wake Amy."
Seconds later, Sirius and the four groggy children had exited the tent to find pandemonium waiting. People were running in every direction, screaming in panic. From one direction, Harry could still hear gunfire. But coming from other directions, he could hear explosions and spellfire as well. Most worrying of all were the occasional flashes of green light that could be seen not far from their position. Harry was aware of only one spell with that shade of green: the Killing Curse. Nearby, he saw wizards and witches in Auror and DMLE uniforms rushing to and fro, but with the attacks coming from all sides, there was no one to organize a counterattack. Most disturbing of all was the night sky, which was illuminated by a web of crisscrossing lines of magical energy.
"Shouldn't we try to help the Ministry?" Neville asked. Sirius hesitated, his inner Gryffindor warring with his duties as godfather.
"No. You lot are underage. And—incredibly—I'm the only responsible adult handy. Plus, I don't even want to think about what your grandmother will do to me if anything happens to you, Neville. So I'm getting you lot to safety. Got it?"
Harry clutched his wand tighter. He had his own inner Gryffindor as well, as much as he hated to admit it. But even if it weren't insane for him to rush heedlessly into battle against unknown forces, he also had to consider his friends. If he went out to fight, Neville and Theo would insist on joining him, to say nothing of Sirius (who was not physically ready for such exertions). And then, no one would be left to look after Amy.
"Got it," Harry said firmly.
"Good. All of you keep your wands out, and if anyone looks like they're threatening you, blast 'em and ask questions later. Now come on."
With that, Sirius (who could neither Apparate nor use a Portkey at the moment) led the way with his four young charges following closely behind.
Tiberius Nott's tent
The Death Eater stiffened in his chair at the sound of explosions in the distance. That was the signal he'd been waiting for. Instantly, Nott moved to the "empty" cage on the far side of his tent and unlocked it.
"You have the scent, my beauties," he growled cruelly. "Go! Go now and hunt them down!"
With that, the two invisible Barghests bounded out of the tent. Tiberius Nott paused just long enough to throw an invisibility cloak over himself and grab the enchanted crossbow off a nearby table before running in pursuit of his hellhounds.
Peter watched from the shadows as the sounds of explosions and gunfire echoed in the distance. After a brief argument over exactly what their duties were in such a situation—and more importantly, what the hell was happening up in the sky—the two security guards ran off to assist the Ministry. Peter exhaled. He was not averse to killing the two guards if they remained in his way, but this mission called for subtlety, and the wizards assigned to guard the Goblet of Fire showing up dead was the exact opposite of subtle. He waited a few seconds to make sure they were gone, and then he turned on his heels and apparated to just outside the wards defending the fabled Goblet. The web created by the enchanted guidestones would also serve as anti-Apparation and anti-Portkey jinxes, but like the Dark Mark, those wards were specifically designed to let certain people pass through them without difficulty. The poor saps out in the campsite providing Peter's diversion wore magical uniforms provided by House Selwyn to allow them to come and go, even the Muggles who'd been Imperiused into fighting on their behalf. Indeed, while a Muggle couldn't normally use a Portkey, happily, one placed under the Imperius by a wizard could overcome that hurdle. But all Peter needed to bypass the wards was the snake tattoo on his left arm.
Upon materializing near the Goblet, Peter reached into his pocket and produced two items: a glass vial and a Muggle squeaky toy in the shape of a mouse, the sort of thing one might buy as a present for a cat. The rat Animagus assumed it was Mr. January being passive-aggressive and ignored the implied insult. Pulling the stopper from the vial, Peter downed the contents in one gulp and then shuddered as he felt his magic change to resonate with that of the woman who'd given her life for the Cause. Granted, it hadn't been a voluntary sacrifice, but Peter would never hold that against poor Bertha Jorkins.
Without another thought, Peter stepped through the protective wards without issue before snatching the wooden goblet off its perch. Then, he held the Muggle toy aloft. "Devil's Tor," he said, and in a flash, the Portkey carried both him and his prize away.
The Australian Sector
For the last twenty minutes, Buck MacMillan had been happily answering all of Dan Granger's questions about life in Magical Australia, including (to Regulus's bemusement and Hermione's mortification) the state of wizarding dentistry in that nation. The group had taken up a picnic table in the center of Little Australia to have a few beers and a fizzy drink for Hermione; as it was a special occasion, Dan made allowances for his daughter defiling her teeth with the soft drink. Then, it all went to hell with a flash of light from somewhere deeper in the Australian Sector that shot up into the night sky and joined other similar lights to form a strange magical lattice. Seconds later, the disturbance in the skies was overshadowed by the sounds of multiple Portkeys, followed by cries of "INCENDIO" and then screams. And while most of those screams were instinct, Regulus Black could easily make out one word out of all the rest.
Instantly, the Metamorphmagus leaped up from the table and drew his wand.
"Take your daughter and get back to the BMW tent, Dan," Archie growled. "I'll be along shortly."
"How about you take Dan and his daughter back instead, Archie!' snapped Buck. "Rather than letting a Squib—no offense—and his underage Muggleborn daughter go alone by foot while there might be werewolves about! You can Apparate them instantly, right?"
Archie's face was such a mask of fury that, for the first time in ages, Regulus was at risk of losing control of his own appearance. Finally, he relented, stowed his wand, and grabbed both Dan and Hermione by their arms. Nothing happened.
"Dammit!" he exclaimed. "We're under an anti-Apparation ward! I reckon we'll have to go by foot!"
"But where should we go?!" Hermione shouted. "Those lights came from all over the campsite! Is our tent even safe?"
That question was answered by the sudden and startling appearance of a huge spectral bear that spoke with the voice of Neville Longbottom and announced Sirius's intention to regroup at the car park.
"You heard the man, Archie! Now go!" With that, Buck whistled loudly. Instantly, Reggie, his thylacine familiar, darted out of a nearby tent to join him. He turned and, after a brief hesitation, pulled the other wizard into a bear hug.
"Go, son," he whispered. "And try not to use your Patronus where anyone can see it. It's … kinda distinctive."
Then, he let go and began jogging in the direction of the fight. Archie watched him go and then turned to Hermione and Dan.
"Let's go," he said tersely. The three quickly departed.
None of them noticed two figures wearing the uniforms of British Aurors heading in the opposite direction … deeper into Little Australia in the direction of Alexander McAvity's tent.
The Devil's Tor
Barely a second after departing the stadium, Peter materialized at his target destination: the Devil's Tor, a granite outcropping rising out of the earth, still in Dartmoor but well over 100 miles away from the World Cup site. Waiting for him were Miss Direction and Mr. January, both standing too close together as far as Mr. Norvegicus was concerned. He shook his head to clear it. Jealousy over Narcissa was always a fool's fancy, and tonight, he had more important things to worry about. He handed off both the Goblet of Fire and his wand to January. Then, he took a step back and shifted to his rat form. And while he was perfectly capable of transforming his clothes as well as his body, he was equally capable of leaving them behind, and the time he had for this ritual was too short to waste it stripping the normal way. A few seconds later, the brown Norwegian rat scampered out of the pile of clothing that had just dropped to the ground before resuming his now-naked human form, albeit a naked human form covered in runes painted earlier onto his bare flesh with a mixture of henna, pomegranate juice, and the blood of the innocent.
"I do hope you don't catch a cold, Norvegicus," January said with a sneer.
Peter said nothing. He had barely half an hour to do what needed to be done, and so trading quips with a rival Death Eater would have to wait. He reclaimed both his wand and the Goblet before climbing up to the top of the Tor. His ritual space had already been prepared. The flat surface of the tor had been carefully inscribed with chalk runes from languages long dead before the birth of the Roman Empire. In the center sat a small black cauldron already bubbling away and a box containing the other ritual components. He placed the Goblet in a spot on the other side of the cauldron before sitting down cross-legged. He closed his eyes and opened his Animagus senses to the ambient magic of the Devil's Tor. The ambient Wild magic of the Devil's Tor.
After a few moments, he opened his eyes and began to speak.
"Let Magic hear me," he said in an unnaturally resonant voice that seemed to echo through the night. "Let Magic hear me and obey as it did in the Time Before. Let the Wild Magic of Old hear me and be bound to my will. As I will it, so mote it be."
As he spoke, he waved his wand in a seemingly random pattern towards the general direction of the Goblet. At the base of the tor, Narcissa shivered at the sensation of something unnatural floating at the edge of her awareness. Something cold. Peter's voice rose once more.
"I speak in the name of my Master, He Who Must Not Be Named, and I invoke the Ritual of the Three-Faced Psychopomp as was written in the Time Before by the Priest-Kings of Lost Kemet. The Ritual of the Servant, the Father, and the Enemy. And I claim this artifact of ancient magic as the instrument of my will and my master's urge to live once more. So mote it be."
At that, the Goblet of Fire began to vibrate and then loudly rattle, as if it were trying to fight off Pettigrew's attempt to enslave it to his magic. The wizard's jaw clenched painfully at his mental exertions, and after a few seconds, rivulets of blood began to drip from his tear ducts. But after several minutes, the vibrations suddenly stopped. Pettigrew smiled before bracing himself for what came next. The hard part was over. What came next was just the painful part. He reached into the box and pulled out a ceremonial dagger enchanted to unnatural sharpness.
"I offer as tribute the flesh of the servant freely given to revive the master. And I name myself like so. I am the last son of the House of Kleinwuchs and the one true Heir of Emeric the Evil." As Peter spoke, his skin rippled slightly and then bulged obscenely. "I am the King of Rats. I am the Master of Werewolves. I am the Proud Betrayer Who Walks Unseen. I am Mr. Norvegicus and I am Wormtail. So mote it be!"
Then, with a choked cry of pain, Pettigrew sliced off the pinky finger of his left hand and tossed it into the bowl in front of him. The potion inside burbled loudly for several seconds as if digesting the bloody digit. Peter bit down on the pain and tried to ignore the blood pouring from the wound. He could not heal it until the ritual was done, and so he would need to move quickly to complete things before blood loss made him incapable of doing so. With his good hand, he reached back into the box and pulled out a skull, which he placed on the ground between himself and the bowl.
"I offer as tribute the bone of the father unknowingly given to revive the son. And I name the father like so."
As Peter continued the ritual, the rippling of his skin intensified, as if there were small creatures crawling madly beneath his skin waiting to burst free. Down below at the base of the tor, Mr. January and Miss Direction watched the ritual impassively and tried to ignore the terrible discordant hum coming from all around them and the crushing sensation of drowning in magic forbidden since long before Merlin.
One mile outside the campsite grounds
A flash of light and a loud crack heralded the arrival of James and Lily Potter. Unfortunately, their arrival was both off-target and painful, as the two landed in a heap on the grass far short of James's intended target. Both of them moaned in pain for a few seconds before James could finally pull himself up and check on his wife.
"Lil-lily-flower?" he asked weakly. "R'you okay?"
"Ohh!" she said with a moan. "I feel like I got run over by a Nundu. What happened?"
James looked over Lily's body and his own to check for any missing pieces. Thankfully, there were none. He looked back in the direction of the stadium and noticed the lattice of magical energy rising up over it.
"I … I think there must be an anti-Apparation jinx up over the campsite. I've never seen one like that before. We bounced off of it. It's a bloody miracle we didn't splinch."
Lily frowned at that and pulled herself up into a sitting position. Then, she put her right hand over her purse and made a sequence of gestures. James remembered seeing her activate the purse that way back during the last war. He'd never bothered to ask her what the gestures actually meant and just assumed they were some hand-based runic thing. It was, in fact, British Sign Language, and in response to her silent commands, several potions shot up out of the bag into her waiting grasp.
"Pepper-Up. And something to counteract the system shock from a failed Apparation. Drink that one first."
James complied, and within seconds they were both recovered from the trauma of hitting the strange ward. Now that they were on the ground, he could see the shimmer of the ward's outer edge.
"I should have thought to grab a broom before we left," he grumbled aloud. But then, in the distance, they could see several people on broomsticks rising up over the campsite, apparently attempting to flee. The flyers got to the edge of the barrier only to impact against it. There was another flash of light, and the riders fell, most likely from a fatal height.
"Then again, perhaps it's best I didn't," he added. Meanwhile, Lily had made her way to the edge of the barrier and cast several analytic Charms.
"Any ideas how we can get through it?" James asked. The witch shook her head.
"No, but we may not have to. The barrier is incredibly resilient, but I don't think it extends underground."
"Say no more," James said as he knelt to the ground and touched his wand to it. There was a rumbling sound and within seconds, a tunnel had opened up in the earth that led past the boundary to a second opening on the other side. His Transfiguration even fashioned actual steps leading down into the tunnel, which looked more like it was made from cement blocks than soil. Swiftly, he ran down the tunnel with Lily close behind.
Once on the other side, James turned to his wife.
"We still can't Apparate in here. But I can move faster than you can. Stay here while I go find Jim …"
"Not a chance, Buster," she interrupted. "You may be faster than me, but I do know how to ride."
James snorted. "You know, if this weren't some kind of terrorist attack that our son was mixed up in, I think I'd find that comment quite sexy."
And then James was gone, and Prongs stood in his place.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, husband," she said with just a hint of a smirk while pulling herself up onto the stag's back. And then, they were off.
The Bulgarian Sector
While Jim and Ron had finally gotten to meet Viktor Krum, both boys had been slightly embarrassed by the look of annoyance their idol had given them when they asked for autographs, which he grudgingly provided. In retrospect, it probably was a bit crass to ask for autographs from someone lying in a hospital bed still groggy from a concussion. Of course, it didn't help that Draco Malfoy was acting as their interpreter as Krum apparently spoke little to no English. And who knew what Malfoy was telling Krum about them in … Russian?
Meanwhile, Arthur and Lucius stood off to one side commiserating with the Bulgarian coach, Dimitar Stoichkov. While the man was hardly fluent in English, he was doing better than Krum, and the three wizards talked for several minutes about the disappointing Final match, about Krum's injuries, and about the boy's career plans. Stoichkov was also apparently aware of Lucius Malfoy's stature; when the wealthy wizard expressed interest in acquiring a professional Quidditch team, the Bulgarian immediately inquired as to whether he had a new coach in mind.
Their discussions were abruptly interrupted by the sounds of nearby explosions followed by screams. Lucius and Arthur were the first out the tent door, though Jim was right behind them. Indeed, Arthur quickly grabbed him by the shoulder and pushed him back even as he stared aghast at the scene. Fires were quickly spreading across the entire Bulgarian sector, and the curses were flying. And the source of the disturbance could clearly be seen in the distance: dozens of masked and robed men attacking everyone in their path. Masks and robes that both Arthur and Lucius recognized.
"Death Eaters!" Arthur gasped. Then, despite himself, he glanced to the man next to him, the one who'd been a Marked Death Eater in his younger days. Lucius said nothing in response to the questioning look, though he did pull his wand from the end of his walking stick before casting several silent spells. To the surprise of both men, it was Jim Potter who spoke up.
"No, Mr. Weasley! Those aren't real Death Eaters. Those uniforms are fake. Just like with the two that attacked me and stole my wand!"
"Are you sure, Jim?" Arthur asked.
"They're wearing Muggle shoes under their robes! I can see them from here!"
Lucius looked down at the Potter boy in surprise. "Can you, Mr. Potter? From this distance?"
Jim gulped. "Yeah," he thought. "But only because I've got a bird's superior vision."
Malfoy didn't press the issue. Instead, he simply cast the Supersensory Charm on himself.
"Hmm, yes. I see it now. Still, these ersatz Death Eaters are no less dangerous for their imitation of the original. They have cast anti-Apparition and anti-Portkey wards."
Then, everyone was distracted by a sudden flash of silvery light from inside the tent. It was Fiver, Theo No-Name's rabbit Patronus.
"Mr. Malfoy," it said in Theo's voice. "The campsite is under some kind of attack. Sirius Black asked me to warn you and recommend that you and Draco Apparate to safety at once." Then, the Patronus faded from view.
"A sensible suggestion," Lucius said aloud. "Do you concur, Arthur?"
"I thought you said there was an anti-Apparition jinx up," Ron said.
"Yes, but one which I believe I can circumvent with relative ease."
"We can't just run away!" Jim exclaimed, who was still looking out the tent's entryway anxiously. "Whether they're Death Eaters or not, the Ministry will need help!"
Then, an unexpected voice gave Jim support.
"Potter boy speaks truth!" Viktor Krum said somewhat groggily as he tried to rise from his sickbed. "Are we not Bogatyrs?!"
Unfortunately for Krum's enthusiasm, his legs gave way almost immediately, and Draco and Ginny barely caught the Bulgarian Seeker before he fell to the ground.
"You are a heavily concussed Bogatyr, Viktor," he said as he practically shoved the other boy back into bed. "And you're staying where you are."
Suddenly, the sound of additional spellfire could be heard, but these spells were shouted in Bulgarian.
"Ah, capital!" Lucius said with a grim smile, as the Bulgarian Aurors sent as security for the team charged the advancing faux Death Eaters. "It seems the visiting Aurors are on hand to deal with these charlatans. Still, perhaps Black has the right idea, and discretion is the better part of valor."
"You're just going to Apparate away?" Jim shouted.
"No, Mr. Potter," Lucius said languidly even as he gestured with his wand. In response, a rope that had been strung across to poles to support a set of fairy lights detached itself and flew to his hand. "I'm going to make a Portkey so that we can evacuate as many people as possible. Arthur, I assume you and your children will be accompanying us? I'll be setting it for St. Mungo's, as Mr. Krum clearly needs additional attention."
Arthur hesitated. "Thank you for taking the children. But … I have four other children here, Lucius. I've got to find them."
Lucius stared somewhat balefully at his old rival before finally giving a longsuffering sigh. He stepped across the tent to place the rope on a table and began a series of complicated wand movements. "PORTUS." Then, he turned back to Arthur.
"I will use the Portkey to send the children and Mr. Krum to safety and then accompany you to find your other children. But as soon as we have done so, we will all leave immediately. Agreed?"
Everyone was amazed at Lucius's words, but Arthur nodded gratefully. But then, Draco spoke up.
"Um, Father? I hate to further complicate our situation, but where's Potter gotten off to?"
They all looked back to the tent flap, and Jim was gone.
"I'll strangle him," Ron said through gritted teeth.
The Irish Sector
While Emily tried desperately to maintain her Protego Maxima against the gunfire from the Australian attackers, Marcus concentrated on remembering the details of a story he'd heard many months before from Blaise Zabini. A story about how Hermione Granger had saved the boy's life back in Italy in the summer of 1993. Flint pointed his wand towards the gunmen.
To his relief, the Fire Suppression Charm worked just as Blaise had said, and instantly, the guns went silent. Seizing her chance, Emily dropped her shield and fired a Blasting Curse right into the middle of the gunmen.
The Australians were blasted off their feet. The two young Aurors jumped up and moved for cover, firing curses as they went. Luckily, most of the attackers seemed stunned and sluggish, and the pair's Stunners took them down effectively. But then …
Emily shoved Marcus as hard as she could out of the way, but the impact of the blast caught them both and knocked them to the ground a good twenty feet away. Marcus coughed and shook his head to clear it. Blood dripped into his eyes from a gash on his forehead. Then, he screamed Emily's name and crawled over to check on her, heedless of his own safety. To his relief, she was alive, though unconscious. Then, he came to his senses, remembered he was in the middle of a battle, and started looking for his wand. It had landed several feet away, but before he could move towards it, a shadow fell over him. It was the Australian who'd fired the Expulso … and who now had a wand pointed right at Marcus's head.
A flash of green light struck the masked Australian in the back, and he dropped without a sound. Flint turned towards the source of the Killing Curse, and to his surprise, it was a different masked Australian, one who still had his wand raised as if ready to fire. Except …
Except that this man was not an Australian. The voice that had cried out the Killing Curse had not carried an Australian accent. More importantly, the voice was one that the young man knew quite well. Marcus looked up into the masked face of his savior, and after what seemed like an eternity, he finally gasped out a single word.
The other man (who was almost certainly Aries Flint beneath his mask) did not respond. He simply turned and fled into the night.
The Bulgarian Sector
A few seconds earlier …
While Lucius Malfoy was busy enchanting a Portkey so that everyone could escape, Jim stayed near the entrance to the tent to keep an eye out in case any of the attackers made it past the Bulgarian Aurors to get close enough to be a threat. While the boy's "inner Gryffindor" cried out against running away, he'd promised himself after losing his ash and phoenix feather wand to fight smarter and, in his own words "to stop making stupid mistakes." Malfoy was right (as much as it pained him to admit it). He had no business trying to fight Death Eaters. Or whatever these attackers were if not true Death Eaters.
But just as he was about to step closer to the table to join the others in using the Portkey, his attention was suddenly drawn to an explosion from somewhere nearby but on the opposite side of the Bulgarian sector from where the Aurors were converging. He poked his head out of the tent to see what had happened and saw that about fifty yards down the path, several tents had caught fire. Without him even thinking about it, his raven-sight homed in on the disturbance.
"I still have no idea how I can change my vision to better than 20-20 without my glasses screwing it up," he thought. "Animagery is weird."
Then, he gasped. There was a second phalanx of ten or so Death Eaters, targeting everything on that side of the camp with incendiary and explosive curses, a group that would soon catch the Aurors in a crossfire. And to Jim's horror, he saw a man in Bulgarian clothes running desperately with a young girl no more than five or six clutched in his arms, only to be cut down from behind by some curse. The man fell to the ground, and the child cried out in pain and terror. Jim opened his mouth to call out to Mr. Weasley, but before he could draw breath, his eerie vision focused on the prone man, and Jim somehow knew even from this distance that he was already dead. Just as he knew that, within seconds, the girl would be dead as well—dead at the wand of the killer in Death Eater robes who was striding towards her out of the smoke and flames.
Unless Jim acted.
And just like that, reason fled the boy, and raw animal instinct took over. Before he even understood what had happened, the raven Animagus was already airborne and halfway to the girl. Against the night sky, the corvid was practically invisible, and as the Death Eater raised his wand to target the distraught child, he never knew what hit him. When the raven was just a few feet away, it let out a threatening caw and extended its talons towards the killer's face, but it was a fourteen-year-old boy who materialized seemingly out of thin air to kick him in the head with both legs. The Death Eater was knocked onto his back, even as Jim landed gracefully in a crouch while simultaneously pulling out his acacia wand.
"STUPEFY!" he cried out. The Death Eater swooned but didn't fall, and Jim cursed the wand in his hand, one which was obviously not meant for dueling. A second Stunner was no more effective than the first, and the Death Eater raised his own wand to fire. Behind Jim, the little girl was still crying. Jim hesitated … and cast once more.
"SSSTUPEFY!" he hissed, and the Parselmagic-enhanced spell struck the Death Eater in the chest hard enough to send him flying through the air to land in an unconscious heap. Unfortunately, his defeat only alerted the other Death Eaters who turned in Jim's direction. Worse, at the same time, Jim let out a cry of pain and dropped his replacement wand, the shattered remnants of which fell to the ground in pieces even as he clutched his injured hand. As the Death Eaters advanced, Jim snatched up the terrified little girl and ran towards a nearby alleyway, dodging spellfire as he went.
"Typical," he thought grimly as he ran. "That's two wands lost in less than a week. Must be a new world record."
Then, one of the curses flew over the boy's head to strike a large tent pole just ahead of him. It exploded and fell, blocking Jim's path and catching fire for good measure. The boy cursed angrily. He could escape easily as a raven, but that would mean abandoning the little girl to her fate. The approaching Death Eaters came to a halt not twenty feet away and raised their wands towards the two. Jim pushed the little girl to the ground and covered her body with his own as the Death Eaters opened fire.
Instantly, a glimmering shield appeared to deflect the hail of curses. Jim lifted his head, and his eyes widened in amazement, as a magnificent stag leaped through the flames and over the two children, with his mother riding it like some Celtic goddess of old. Lily jumped off of the animal's back, and Prongs continued his charge, impaling two Death Eaters on his antlers and then sending them flying with a mighty flick of his head.
Lily ran back to check on Jim. Seeing that he was safe, she turned back towards the Death Eaters while making a complex hand gesture over the large purse she carried slung over her shoulder. To Jim's surprise, three Golden Snitches jumped up into her waiting hand. She held them up to her mouth.
"Target Death Eaters!" she practically snarled before hurling the Snitches towards them. At their apogee, the Snitches' wings sprouted, and they each flew unerringly towards one of the attackers, somehow homing in on their distinctive masks. On impact, each of the Snitches stuck fast to the mask as if magnetized. Then, those three Death Eaters screamed as the Snitches lit up their bodies with a powerful electrical charge. They all dropped to the ground.
Meanwhile, Prongs whirled around and chambered his rear legs before kicking another Death Eater in the chest so hard the man was flung back twenty feet, knocking two of his compatriots down at the same time. In a flash, Prongs was replaced by James Potter, and the ex-Auror whirled around and dropped to touch his wand to the ground. In response, thick vines shot up out of the ground to tightly wrap around the remaining attackers and immobilize them. Several quick Stunners later, the last of the Death Eaters were unconscious, and James and Lily turned their attention to their son, who looked up at them in a mixture of awe and trepidation.
"Okay, before you yell at me for wandering into danger," he said shakily while helping the traumatized little girl to her feet. "Can we take care of her? Her father … I saw him get killed earlier. I don't know if she has any other family here." Then, despite himself, Jim gave a soft sniffle. "And maybe … you could give me a hug?"
James and Lily looked at one another and then decided to start with the hug.
The British Sector
Initially, Charlie Weasley had insisted that he and the Twins remain at the Weasley tent until their father came back, but that resolve was broken when the explosions began. After confirming that Apparition was blocked, he led Fred and George out into the campgrounds and headed towards the entrance, hoping that he would be able to spirit his brothers away if they could make it outside the strange barrier that lit up the night sky. They picked up some stragglers en route: the Greengrass sisters, Tracey Davis, Hannah Abbott, and Hannah's nine-year-old brother Ben. According to Daphne, she'd been instructed to lead the other children to safety in the woods while the adult wizards in their group "went to help the Ministry."
Unfortunately, the journey to the woods soon led them into danger, as they crossed paths with a group of Death Eaters who were setting fire to several tents. From the screams, there were obviously still people inside. To Charlie's surprise, the Twins were the first to step forward and begin hurling Stunners in the direction of the attackers, very good Stunners for boys who'd only just finished their OWLs. He'd known that Fred and George had been getting summer tutoring paid for by Harry Black, but he'd not known it was so Defense-oriented. The Death Eaters took cover and began to return fire, and Charlie quickly hustled the younger kids behind a hastily constructed barricade. Then, Hannah cried out.
"That's the Diggorys' tent! They're still inside!"
Charlie cursed and turned to his younger brothers. "Keep the Death Eaters pinned down! I'm going to go do something stupid!"
With that, Charlie ran towards the burning tent while Fred and George started firing stronger hexes towards the Death Eaters. Behind them, the four girls took shelter. Hannah tried to console her terrified little brother, while Tracey and Astoria merely wept in mounting panic. Only Daphne stared after Charlie in confusion.
"What Death Eaters?!" she thought to herself furiously. "Those are bloody Australians! You can tell by their colors!"
None of them noticed as one of the attackers reached down to twist a ring on his finger before disappearing from view.
Seconds later, Charlie had made his way to the Diggorys' tent. He'd ducked most of the curses sent his way, and luckily, the only one to hit was an Inflamare. By this point in his career as a dragon keeper, Charlie Weasley was all but immune to that spell. He ducked around the tent to find that the side of it was already engulfed in flames. Despite the severity of the situation, the dragon keeper smiled. By now he could cast Extinguishing Charms almost wandlessly. With just a wave of his wand, all the flames on the tent went out. Then, he cast a Cutting Curse to tear open the burnt canvas to provide an escape route only for his eyes to widen as a terrified voice cried out from inside in obvious panic.
Back at the Devil's Tor …
Peter gritted his teeth in concentration even as his eyes swam from blood loss. With his good hand, he reached back into the box to remove three items: a wand (ash and phoenix feather), a golden ring, and a glass container containing a bloody handkerchief. He opened the container first and tossed the handkerchief into the cauldron.
"I offer as tribute the blood of the enemy forcibly taken. You will resurrect your foe. And I name the enemy like so." Peter picked up the golden ring, the long-missing Potter Heir's ring which he'd stolen from Godric's Hollow on the night Voldemort was vanquished, and he tossed it into the cauldron as well. Then, he held up Jim Potter's stolen wand and thrust it up into the night sky.
"He is the Heir of the House of Potter. He is the Enemy Foretold. The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord. Born of those who have thrice defied him. Born as the seventh month dieeee-YEARGH!"
Pettigrew's incantation was interrupted by a scream of agony as he bent his head to one side. From the exposed side of his neck, the skin stretched and pulled as if it were thin rubber … and the shape of a rat's head and upper body suddenly appeared, as if such a rodent were trying to literally chew its way out of the Death Eater's neck.
"He … AARGH … HE is … the Basilisk Slayer! His touch brings death to the Dark Lord's servants! He speaks the Sacred Tongue of Salazar Slytherin! He is the Chosen One! He is … THE BOY-WHO-LIVED! SO MOTE IT BE!"
On the ground in front of Peter, a pool of blood had collected from the stump where his finger had been cut off. In response to his cry, it bubbled slightly. Then, a single rat crawled out of the pool … even though the pool itself was not even an inch deep. Then, another, and then two more. All covered in the Servant's blood. His hand shaking, Peter tapped the cauldron, and its foul contents rose up into the air in a swirling green miasma. At his direction, it floated over and into the Goblet of Fire, which began to shake once more as if in anger. By now, more than a dozen blood-soaked rats were crawling over Peter, each chittering madly. The Animagus's eyes had changed colors, with one turning jet black and the other ruby red. He opened his mouth to scream, and down below, even Mr. January was unnerved as the rat-Animagus's mouth suddenly sprouted abnormally long and sharp incisors that were each several inches long. With an act of will, Peter regained control of his form, and those incisors retracted to their normal size so that he could speak clearly.
"I c-c-command thee, Goblet of Fire," he said in a raspy wheezing voice. "By my Will and by the Old Powers. I charge thee. To reveal the Enemy. To t-t-test the Enemy. With fire. With … with water. With mystery. And with death. To be … the c-c-crucible that will purify him … into … into the instrument of the Dark Lord's return. So … mote it be!"
He paused and took several shuddering breaths. He was on the last step.
"And with this final word, a word that strikes terror in the Dark Lord's enemies, I bind the Dark Lord and the Boy-Who-Lived together until the ritual is done!" He grasped Jim's wand with his bloody hand and thrust it up towards the sky.
"MORSMORDRE!" he screamed.
A bolt of magic shot from the wand up into the heavens and exploded, lighting up the sky like green fireworks that left behind a terrible afterimage. It was a colossal skull made of emerald stars, with a serpent protruding from its mouth like a tongue: The Dark Mark. Peter's eyes blazed and he summoned the last of his strength before jerking his arm down forcefully to point it at the Goblet of Fire. In response, the Dark Mark collapsed in on itself even as it poured down out of the sky. Somehow, it condensed down into a liquid form by the time it landed in the Goblet, filling it to overflowing. The Goblet shook and rattled violently as if furious at the violation. And from within, Peter could hear a terrible unearthly hiss. Then, the Goblet finally stilled, and for a few seconds, the ancient artifact turned green before fading back to its original hue.
Peter Pettigrew fell over onto his side, barely conscious, perhaps barely even alive. But after a few seconds, the Death Eater began to laugh deliriously. The ritual had been a success. The Servant had completed his first mission. Peter rolled over to look once more at the Goblet of Fire, which seemed as plain and innocuous as ever, though Peter knew it was primed for the task he'd set for it.
"Let the games begin."
Next: The Chaos continues.
AN1: Check out the Sinister Man's web presence on the POS wiki, the POS TV Tropes page, and my Discord server (through which you can see advance previews of this story as it is begin written). Also, the Sinister Man would be profoundly grateful if you checked out my P*****n page and supported my original fiction. Patronage is not necessary to get the free POS previews via Discord.
AN2: What the Sinister Man is reading.
There Is Nothing To Fear by R. James Gauvreau, which I may have rec'd before but it's good enough to mention again. Imagine a Tom Riddle who wasn't pathologically afraid of dying. Imagine a Gryffindor Tom Riddle with no fear at all. Frequently terrifying.
Bonds of Grey and its sequel by Booklover3600 on AO3. It's a WBWL fic with the odd quirk that, in that universe, all characters (including Muggles, apparently) have the ability to form empathic bonds with other people, which leaves visible marks on the skin. EvilDumbledore and EvilLily, but has some interesting ideas.
AN3: Special thanks to my Discord editors: Paryanoia, AmaranthineWolf, BlueWater5, Darkarus, Professor of Runes, dragoria, Eclipse, EssayOfThoughts | Aich, Fredlf, kean, Krisni, Kylemagne, LFGB, raveenemarcus, Rubric of Ahriman, and Sakkiko. Thanks, guys.
AN4: Vital Statistics: Reviews: 16,851. Followers: 17,790. Favorites: 16,028. Communities: 242. Discord followers: 4,424! Go Team POS!