A/N: Thank you for your encouraging reviews. This chapter includes the infamous Black triplets. They are Harry and Bellatrix's children from the future, and you can read more about them in Para Bellum, the once and future sequel of Delenda Est. For the purposes of this chapter and story, they are having some harmless fun. If I ever turn this thing into a trilogy, you will learn they are acting in their official capacities as Unspeakables to preserve the timeline, save the world, etc.

Delenda Est – Rebooted

Lord Silvere

Chapter Sixteen: A Witch Trial in Salem, Part 1

During the weeks leading up to the Salem tournament, James, Lily, Sirius, Remus, and Bellatrix strategized and drilled nearly everyday. On a few occasions, Harry met with them to provide some extra training. Mostly, though, the squad relied on nudging Bellatrix into providing more tutelage.

As for Harry, he was struggling to juggle everything that was on his plate. On top of teaching, grading, training, being trained, and attending to dueling club business, he was having to endure Alastor Moody's investigation into who had raided Harry's personal quarters.

Harry had expected the Ministry to accept Amelia's report on the incident, chalk it up as a student prank, and do nothing. Instead, Moody had assigned himself to the case and was treating the situation as seriously as if it were a murder investigation. Over the course of several visits to Harry's quarters, the grizzled Auror had sorted through and tested all of Harry's possessions, claiming he was checking whether anything was missing, damaged, or cursed.

Harry had quickly caught on that Moody was more interested in him than he was in looking for the culprit. Moody's investigation was intrusive, but Harry did not mind. He knew he kept nothing incriminating in his quarters. For Harry, the nuisance was overshadowed by his enjoying Moody's company. As Moody peppered Harry with questions about his interactions with various students, Harry returned fire with questions about his Auror experiences.

Short of raiding Gringotts and accessing Harry's records, the only thing that could have clued Moody into Harry's secrets was Harry's relationship with Bellatrix. Although there was nothing illicit about it, their interactions went well beyond what would be considered a normal student-teacher relationship. If Moody caught wind of it, there would be a deeper inquiry.

After Moody had found Harry and Bellatrix conversing on a couple of occasions, Bellatrix had begun staying away from Harry to avoid Moody getting the sense that Harry was having excessive meetings with her. This left Bellatrix irritated. Sensing her increasing frustration, Harry had offered to slip out of the castle with her one Saturday to help work on renovations at the hotel. Bellatrix had gratefully accepted the offer.

Upon arriving at the hotel that Saturday morning, Harry and Bellatrix met with Sabine, who helped Bellatrix pick a block of rooms to work on renovating. Relying on the checklist they had made while renovating the original room, Harry and Bellatrix were able to move at a breakneck pace and finish renovating the block of rooms before lunch. They adjourned to the hotel's restaurant where Bellatrix leaned back in her chair while Harry perused the menu.

"You're not even tired, are you?" Bellatrix asked, sounding annoyed.

"Stamina," Harry said, winking obnoxiously. "After several more sessions of renovations, you'll find yourself being able to expend more magic without becoming as tired. In fact, I do believe your stamina has increased a lot since the beginning of the school year. Our private dueling practices haven't been for nothing."

"Perhaps I should assign more drills to the squad," Bellatrix mused as she sat up straighter in her chair and picked up her menu.

"The Salem tournament is too close," Harry said. "You don't want the team running themselves ragged right beforehand. Maybe you can make stamina training part of the program for next year. After all, the returning team members will already know all the spells they need."

"You know full well I don't plan on attending Hogwarts next year," Bellatrix said just as the server arrived to take their order.

Transporting the Hogwarts team to Salem proved complex because the Ministry, as part of its funding the trip, had taken over making travel arrangements. When briefing Harry and Pythia on the arrangements, the Ministry had also told them that Minister Black would attend the tournament in his official capacity if anyone from the Hogwarts team reached the finals.

Harry was annoyed on behalf of the team. He felt like Minister Black and his brother, Orion, ought to show support regardless of whether Hogwarts did well in the tournament. However, he cheered up a little when he learned that Abraxas Malfoy would be attending diplomatic meetings in New York that overlapped the tournament and that he would be dropping in on the team in Salem as often as his schedule would allow.

Later, Bellatrix had pointed out to Harry that her father tagging along would be perceived as a waste of time if the Hogwarts team did not do well. On the other extreme, Hogwarts showing a strong performance and having the Minister present at the award ceremony could bolster him and his platform.

Of course, sufficient security would need to be in place in case Minister Black attended the tournament. So, Auror Bones and Auror Moody had been assigned to accompany the team to evaluate security concerns in advance.

As for the travel plans themselves, where Pythia had previously arranged for flying carriages to shuttle the team from Hogwarts to the tournament, the Ministry had made more complex arrangements. The Hogwarts team would Floo to London, take a portkey to New York, Floo to Boston, and then ride a ferry to Salem.

The arrangements were a logistical nightmare for Harry and Pythia and the large number of students they were taking. Still, the students enjoyed the journey, with Lily being the only one unhappy. However, her dissatisfaction had nothing to do with the itinerary.

As she had previously done for the trips to Paris and Cape Town, Lily had attempted to take charge of tracking her fellow students and their luggage during the trip. However, Amelia Bones had supplanted Lily in that role. It was not clear whether she was trying to be helpful or trying to horn in on Harry's responsibilities.

Harry suspected the latter. Over the past weeks, Amelia had begun to display a competitive attitude in her interactions with Harry. It was Harry's theory that she had realized that Minister Black viewed the dueling team as being important and that Harry was going to reap the credit. It was entirely possible she was now looking for a way to be able to claim a share of credit for the dueling club's success.

Despite his suspicions, Harry told Lily that Amelia was just trying to be helpful. He also reassured her that she was a valued student leader. Consequently, by the time they docked at Salem, Lily was in better spirits as she and the team drank in not only the scenery but also the colonial and seaside architecture.

At the tournament site, the Hogwarts team found that the organizers had arranged for competitors to stay in houses and cabins magically hidden among Salem's Pioneer Village tourist attraction, which was a bit better than the tents at Cape Town . It was not yet the Muggle tourist season, so tournament attendees had free run of both the Muggle village and the magical additions. Those who tried to walk beyond the village boundaries would find themselves in an unplottable and limitless forest as if the rest of Muggle Salem was simply not there.

Instead of arenas like those at Paris and Cape Town, duels and matches would be conducted on platforms placed in the town square and in the middle of some of the wider streets. Save for those privileged enough to be seated on the grandstand in the town square, spectators at the tournament would be looking upward to the dueling platforms unless they could secure a spot at a window in an adjacent building.

The arrangements, combined with the surroundings, lent a certain historical ambience to the whole competition. Even Harry, whose mind was on so many other things, was feeling excited for what promised to be a fun tournament in something that nearly looked like a theme park.

On check-in, the Hogwarts team was enthused to learn that they had been assigned spacious quarters on the second floor of the mock town hall. Their luck was attributable to the large team size as well as to the similar-sized Ilvermorny team opting to commute to the tournament daily instead of spending their overnights in Salem.

"We just need you to save one bedroom for the team sharing your quarters," the tournament clerk said, arranging several sheets of parchment into a stack and slipping them into an envelope with the keys to the second floor. He held out the envelope.

"What other team?" Moody interjected. "I was under the impression each team had private quarters."

"That has been our goal," the clerk admitted. "But all the teams do not fit perfectly into the available spaces. Unless you want to trade for a smaller cabin, you will have to take these accommodations."

"Of course we'll take them," Pythia said, shooting Moody a stern look.

"Who is the other team?" Moody asked as Pythia snatched the room key envelope from the clerk and began shepherding the students toward their quarters "You'll be bunking with the team from St. Infernicus," the tournament clerk said.

"Saint what?" Moody demanded. "Where are they from?"

"I don't know," the clerk said tiredly. "Truly, it isn't going to be a problem. The team consists of only three witches. You'll hardly notice their presence, I'm sure."

"Is this our room?" Bellatrix asked Lily, brushing by her and walking into the bedroom.

"Yes, this is ours," Lily confirmed, turning and following Bellatrix partway into the room. She was clutching the clipboard that she had recovered from Amelia Bones after Moody had hauled her away to survey the perimeter of the mock village.

"Fabulous," Bellatrix said as she used her wand to almost instantaneously unpack her bags. Paying no apparent further attention to Lily, she hopped onto the bed and lied down for a nap.

"Quite," Lily said, stepping back out into the hall to intercept some of the other team members, let them know their room assignment, and give advice. Unlike the Paris and Cape Town tournaments, Hogwarts had been able to bring a large group of students, some of which had never been to a tournament or anything similar. Consequently, the veterans of the prior tournaments were proving to be a valuable resource for the other students.

Bellatrix stirred from her nap not long after Lily had finished helping the last students settle down. Lily was about to propose that she and Bellatrix go out and explore the village together when Pythia came up the stairs in something of a huff.

"Someone is shooting giant spit wads out one of our windows," Pythia snapped.

"Which room?" Lily asked, looking shocked.

"The corner," Pythia responded, gesturing down the hall.

"That isn't one of our rooms," Lily explained, feeling a sense of relief that nobody from Hogwarts was causing trouble.

With Lily following closely, Pythia stalked down the hall to the corner bedroom and knocked crisply on the door. It was answered by a teenage witch who bore a strong resemblance to Bellatrix. However, unlike Bellatrix, she possessed striking green eyes and a shorter, more diminutive stature.

"Can I help you?" the witch asked, sounding like a stuffy butler.

"I presume you're the team from St. Infernicus," Pythia said.

"That is correct."

"I'd like to speak with your coach. Where can I find her?"

"She couldn't make it," the witch said. A smug smile grew on her face as her green eyes began to twinkle mischievously. "We are, sadly, without a chaperone."

"Is that why you're shooting spit wads out the window?" Pythia asked.

"I would never," the witch retorted indignantly as Pythia stared back at her disbelievingly.

"It's me. I'm the guilty party," came another female voice. A second witch joined the first at the door, holding a long and thick tube in her hands. She appeared to be an identical twin to the first, except her eyes were red. Her demeanor and tone of voice, when compared to that of the first witch, seemed quite menacing.

By this time, Bellatrix had become intrigued enough by what she had heard from the conversation to join Lily and Pythia at the door. As she approached the group, she peered suspiciously at the two witches.

To the astonishment of the Hogwarts witches, a third identical witch joined the other two at the door. She also had red eyes. But where the other red-eyed witch was menacing, this one seemed angelic. "So nice to meet you," she said airily with a sweet smile. "I presume you are all from Hogwarts."

"That's correct," Pythia said, her voice cool.

"You look just like Bellatrix Black, here," Lily said, gesturing as she glanced back and forth between Bellatrix and the three witches. "Are you related?"

"It so happens that the blood of the Black family flows through our veins," the green-eyed witch declared with a voice that could not sound any more pretentious.

"As if," Bellatrix sneered before rolling her eyes and making it clear she did not believe them. Still, she eyed them, taking in their appearance from head to toe, her eyes returning more than once to the slightly messy state of each witch's black hair. "The connection, even if it exists, would be very distant."

"Yes, distant," the green-eyed witch said, smirking and exchanging amused glances with the others.

"Very distant," the first red-eyed witch agreed, looking down at her spitwad tube and then eyeing Pythia, who was glaring at her. "Almost impossibly distant, you could say."

The second red-eyed witch held up her finger as if to offer clarification, but before she could, the green-eyed witch stepped back and slammed the door shut, leaving Pythia, Lily, and Bellatrix to stare at the closed door as the noise from the door snapping shut reverberated through the hallway.

Pythia knocked on the door again. "I expect you to cease with the spit wads," she said loudly before gesturing impatiently for Bellatrix and Lily to follow her downstairs. As soon as they were downstairs and out of earshot, she whirled on Bellatrix and Lily. "Do not go near those three. Do you understand?"

Bellatrix smirked, but did not say anything.

"Have you had some sort of vision or prophecy?" Lily asked.

"Not exactly," Pythia sighed, apparently struggling to keep her composure. "But my sense is that those three are dangerous. Stay away from them. I am going to inform Professor Ashworth of the situation." She turned and went back upstairs.

"I fancy exploring the village before the opening dinner," Bellatrix said idly, having apparently put the interaction out of her mind.

"I'll tag along if that's alright," Lily said. She was not sure if Bellatrix had been inviting her to come with, but she had realized that it would be well worth her while to develop a relationship with the acerbic teenage witch. Despite Bellatrix's faults, she was talented, powerful, and well connected.

Bellatrix shrugged noncommittally, and the two witches proceeded out from the mock town hall and into the town square, which had become crowded not only with competitors but with booths for snacks and souvenirs as if the tournament were some sort of fair. At first, the two witches gawked at the historical features of the village and some of the other competitors. After acclimatizing to their surroundings, they began to visit booths to look over the wares.

Through all of this, Bellatrix did not chat much with Lily. Still, Lily felt like she was benefiting from tagging along. As a Muggleborn, she was easily impressed with nearly everything on sale. However, Bellatrix's sneers and smirks had clued Lily in on what to avoid buying. In other instances, Bellatrix repeatedly returning to admire the same product told Lily that she was looking at something good.

Unfortunately for Lily, she was not as rich as Bellatrix seemed to be, and she had to settle for buying a pair of dueling gloves and short boots while Bellatrix purchased the same and more. Purchases in hand, the two witches wandered away from the booths and were deciding where to go next when they happened upon Auror Moody and Auror Bones chatting out in front of the town hall.

"Shopping already, I see," Bones said, trying to hide her condescension behind what she must have thought to be a matronly smile.

Bellatrix looked like she was about to issue a stinging clapback, but at that moment, a comically large spitwad hit Moody in the face. Moody drew his wand, let out an angry roar, and whirled around to look for the culprit. While he was doing this, three especially juicy spitwads hit Bones and drenched her.

Lily's eyes quickly flicked up to the window of the strange witches' bedroom. There was no sign of anybody on the other side of the window, but Lily was confident that the witches must be crouching below the window ledge.

Moody had apparently concluded for himself that the spitwads had come from the town hall and was already making a beeline in that direction with Bones following closely behind. Lily let out an amused chuckle and turned to see what Bellatrix thought about the incident, but the older witch had disappeared into the crowd.

Harry also had been exploring the village and even browsing the wares at some of the booths. He was enjoying the ambience and sights all while wondering why this type of event had never been part of his own Hogwarts education. The triwizard tournament had been a substantial event, of course, but it seemed to Harry that there could have been other events or field trips. Perhaps Voldemort and the first war had changed things. After all, he did recall that the triwizard tournament had been a large endeavor undertaken by the Ministry's diplomats. And of course, after the end of Harry's fourth year, options had become limited.

Harry's thoughts on this subject were disrupted when he spotted Igor Karkaroff and the Durmstrang team threading their way through the crowd. Having already seen Karkaroff at the Paris tournament and having watched Hogwarts compete against Durmstrang, Harry would have taken no special notice. However, when Karkaroff's eyes fell upon Harry, the muscles in his face tightened.

This reaction, subtle as it was, put Harry on instant alert. Tensing up, Harry watched Karkaroff and the Durmstrang students, almost expecting some sort of fight to break out. However, nothing happened, and the Durmstrang contingent disappeared in the crowd. Harry was still frowning when he sensed Bellatrix join his side.

"What did you see?" Bellatrix asked.



"Nothing, I guess," Harry admitted. "Their professor, Karkaroff, seemed to take special notice of me."

"The future Death Eater," Bellatrix murmured quietly. "He has probably been talking to Lucius and the Lestranges, if not the Dark Lord himself."

Harry nodded. "Maybe you should warn your squad that Lucius and the Lestranges have probably been giving the Durmstrang team tips about how we train."

"I already accounted for that possibility and worked it into my squad's playbook," Bellatrix informed Harry, smirking.

The opening event for the Salem tournament turned out to be a disorganized banquet that the European competitors were quick to label as "American style." Cheerful chaos reigned in the historic town square as students piled their plates high at buffet tables and met or caught up with members of other teams. The coaches, tournament officials, and other dignitaries had fetched their food from the buffet lines and retreated into the ground floor of the town hall.

The Hogwarts team was new to the tournament scene and were still spreading their wings. Several of the Hogwarts students had relegated themselves to tables near the edge of the square, near the tree line.

Lily found that Bellatrix had taken shelter on one of those tables and was eating her meal with a vacant expression on her face. Nearby, Frank Longbottom was bragging to Alice and his squad about his post-Hogwarts employment prospects.

"Do you have prospects for a Ministry job?" Lily asked Bellatrix, trying to break the ice as she sat down across from her.

"No," Bellatrix said. Instead of looking at Lily, she turned her gaze over to Frank Longbottom and his friends and smirked. "He's trying to one up me."

"That's silly," Lily said, her voice sympathetic. "Surely he realizes that your father is the Minister for Magic and that you could have any Ministry job you want."

"Even if I am appointed as an undersecretary and he is hired as a toilet scrubber, he will pride himself on having earned the job and look down on me," Bellatrix murmured.

"Would you let that stop you from applying to the Ministry?" Lily asked.

Bellatrix shook her head. "Not if the job served my purposes."

"So, are you going to apply to the Ministry, then?"

"No. I have other plans."

"Oh," Lily said. She sensed that Bellatrix did not want to talk about her other plans. So, she tried to steer the conversation to generalities. "What does an undersecretary do, precisely?"

"They are basically special deputies to the Minister for Magic," Bellatrix explained. "They can do whatever the Minister tells them to do or lets them do. Of course, that can be pretty narrow if the department heads have political clout and choose to push back."

"Is that the type of work your uncle and Mr. Malfoy do, then?" Lily asked. "Serve as undersecretaries?"

Bellatrix frowned as she suspiciously poked some southern fried chicken with her fork. "Only unofficially."

Lily was about to ask for more clarification when James and Sirius sidled up to their table.

"Hey you two," Sirius said, "we need you to help with reconnaissance."

"With what?" Lily asked as Bellatrix scowled.

Sirius pointed over to a witch from one of the Canadian teams. "Can you go chat up the ice queen over there and see if you can suss out information about her and her team?"

"Are you wanting us to gather information to help us compete or to help you flirt?" Bellatrix snapped.

"Both," Sirius said as he and James grinned guiltily.

Harry would have liked to mingle with the adults in the town hall, especially after he had spotted Abraxas Malfoy wander in with a number of stuffy looking American wizards. However, he was now suspicious of Durmstrang's intentions at the tournament.

After observing Karkaroff and the Durmstrang students serve themselves at the buffet tables and then immediately leave the town square with their food, Harry concluded that some surveillance might be in order.

With his own plate of food in hand, Harry discreetly followed the Durmstrang team through the village and to their tournament lodging, which proved to be a cabin near the woods. Over the course of the next several hours, Harry watched the cabin and the occupants, but saw nothing suspicious.

However, he did note that he never saw Karkaroff moving about the cabin through any of the windows. It could be he had retired for the night or was not moving about. But it was possible he or others had Apparated out of the cabin. Unfortunately, Harry could not know for sure without going in and taking roll.

After the Durmstrang team had been asleep for an hour or so with no sign of activity, Harry gave up and Apparated to his bedroom in the Hogwarts team's lodgings. There, he found Bellatrix relaxing on his bed, propped up against the headboard, as she thumbed through a textbook.

"Breaking curfew, are we?" Bellatrix asked, looking up from her book.

"Well, you are, anyway" Harry said.

Bellatrix smirked. "What are you going to do about it?"

"Maybe I'll deduct points from Slytherin."

"Go ahead and take as many as you like," Bellatrix said, hopping off the bed and stretching.

Harry saw that she was wearing her customary nightie and was reminded of the many times he and Bellatrix had met in her bedroom at her family home to coordinate before the school year had commenced. While at Hogwarts, they had relied on being able to find other ways to meet, usually during their practice duels in the Room of Requirement or Chamber of Secrets.

"Maybe instead of me deducting points you could tell me what brings you here," Harry said as she tucked her book under her arm.

"I noticed your absence and was curious," Bellatrix explained.

"I was spying on Durmstrang."


"Nothing. It looks like we will just need to keep our eyes peeled and be on our guard."

Instead of replying, Bellatrix winked. After casting a couple of spells to ensure the coast was clear, she opened the door and slipped out of Harry's bedroom.

The tournament began with two days of informal and relaxed qualifying rounds even though it was understood the vast majority of competitors would qualify. However, given the varied backgrounds of the competitors, officials needed data to help them seed the brackets and ensure that competitors were competing in the correct age and skill divisions.

Bellatrix was hovering between enjoyment and boredom. So far, she had handily defeated several qualifying opponents in the solo category with little effort. She had developed something of a smug attitude. However, when she turned to see her next opponent stepping onto the platform, she felt a faint trickle of uneasiness.

Her next opponent was one of the witches from St. Infernicus. Specifically, it was the one that had seemed menacing. Save for the red eyes and shorter, more diminutive figure, the witch could very well have been Bellatrix's identical twin. If Bellatrix, who was well familiar with her family tree, did not know better, she would have believed herself to be closely related to the red-eyed witch.

Eyeing her new opponent, Bellatrix tensed her jaw slightly as she checked her grip on her phoenix and blackthorn wand. The other witch shot her a predatory smile as she produced her own wand with a threatening flourish. Holding steady, Bellatrix waited as the referee announced to the crowd that Bellatrix Black of Hogwarts was facing off against Ivy Snodgrass of St. Infernicus.

As soon as the referee signaled the start of the match, Bellatrix unleashed one of her crushing trademark combos, putting an extra bit of power into each spell. To Bellatrix's supreme annoyance, Ivy perfectly countered each spell in the combo. Most would take Ivy's ability to counter the combo as evidence that she and Bellatrix had dueled each other many times. However, Bellatrix knew this was not the case and concluded that Ivy must have quick reflexes.

Smirking, Ivy shot a couple of stingers and flash bangs in Bellatrix's direction. None of them came close to striking Bellatrix. Instead, it seemed Ivy was playing around. Beginning to feel threatened and angry, Bellatrix proceeded to shoot combo after combo at Ivy, her wand dancing as fast as the muscles in her arm and wrist would allow.

It was with this approach that Bellatrix found traction. Although Ivy seemed to have the ability to counter Bellatrix's individual combos with on-point counterspells, she was having a difficult time anticipating and smoothly reacting to combos of combos. Seeing this advantage, Bellatrix began thinking quickly to come up with a string of combos that would require counterspells with harder transitions.

While Bellatrix's mind was racing to develop this custom string of combos, she began to falter. However, once she had mentally ironed out some combo strings, she began to start pushing Ivy back again. It was at this point that one of Ivy's stunners missed Bellatrix and instead exploded onto the platform just in front of Bellatrix.

Bellatrix smirked at the errant spell, reveling in the fact that she had forced Ivy to make what appeared to be an embarrassing error. But then, a faint acrid smell reached Bellatrix's nose. Stealing a quick glance down to where the errant stunner had hit, Bellatrix saw an almost indiscernible sickly glow and realized that there had been Dark magic in the spell. With consternation, Bellatrix stared at Ivy, who paused to shoot Bellatrix a wicked smile.

Bellatrix glanced down again as she tried to resolve in her mind the fact that Ivy's spell had looked and sounded like a mere stunner but had apparently possessed Dark properties. It would seem that, somehow, Ivy had learned how to imbue otherwise innocuous spells with Dark magic.

Realizing the extreme risk of having Dark magic at play while she and Ivy dueled back and forth in the middle of the village, Bellatrix resolved to crush Ivy as quickly as possible. She unleashed a new barrage of combos, shooting them off quickly. Ivy was unable to keep up with Bellatrix's rapid switching of combos and began to lose ground.

Eventually, Ivy resorted to an all-purpose shield and tried to hold it with sheer magical energy. This was a losing tactic since Bellatrix was nowhere near the limit of her stamina and since Ivy seemed to be a slightly less powerful witch. Just as Ivy was about to break, she canceled her shield, stepped out of bounds, and held her hands up in a surrendering gesture.

Applause from spectators sounded as the referee called out that Bellatrix had prevailed and scored high in multiple categories. Bellatrix looked around to see if anyone from Hogwarts had witnessed the duel but saw nobody familiar. When she glanced back toward Ivy, she saw the back of the mysterious witch melting into the crowd.

"She's quite the looker," Violet Snodgrass said to Harry. He was sitting on a rustic log bench from which he had been observing the action in the town square. Violet had come over to introduce herself before taking a seat on the bench next to Harry. Since then, she had been offering Harry her opinions on random subjects.

As for what was happening in the square, Harry was splitting his attention between the qualifier duels on the platform in the square, activity at the tournament official pavilion, and Professor Karkaroff. The Durmstrang professor had been in the town square all day pretending to monitor the progress of his students. However, he was really monitoring the tournament officials as they collected scorecards and assigned competitors to duels.

"Who is a looker?" Harry asked.

"That witch there," Violet said, gesturing toward where Bellatrix was standing in line to submit her latest scorecard to the tournament officials.

"I suppose so," Harry said, keeping his voice noncommittal. He was not sure if Violet really thought Bellatrix was attractive or if she was indirectly praising her own appearance, which was similar. Either way, he was not inclined to open himself up to Violet on that level.

Pythia had warned Harry that Violet and her sisters were dangerous. And, before Violet had come to introduce herself and sit with them, Harry had observed her chatting warmly with Professor Karkaroff.

These factors had led to Harry deciding that he ought to follow up on the strange witches and perhaps even try to spy on them. However, Violet had saved him the trouble when she had come over to introduce herself. Now, Harry was hoping she would reveal her connection to Durmstrang without him having to pry. However, she had so far talked about every other possible topic.

"Aside from her good looks, I would say Bellatrix's personality is pretty cold," Violet opined. "You're going to have to learn how to do cold fusion if you expect to develop more of a relationship with her. Luckily for you, I think she has already developed something of an affinity for you."

"What are you even talking about?" Harry asked. "She's my student, not my crush. You do realize that I'm a professor, don't you?"

"Oh, right," Violet said, folding her arms, crossing one of her legs over the other, and leaning against the bench's backrest. "That makes it more difficult, doesn't it?"

"More like impossible," Harry said as he craned his neck to follow Karkaroff's movement. The Durmstrang professor seemed to be attempting to eavesdrop on the tournament officials as Bellatrix reached the front of the line to turn in her scorecard.

"I wouldn't think it impossible," Violet said judiciously. "If you've got a few galleons, you could negotiate one of those pureblood marriage contracts. She does appear old enough, and her parents would probably be happy to unload her."

Harry stared at Violet. "Do you really believe a pureblood family would sell their daughter to some random wizard with a few galleons in his pocket?"

"A pureblood wizard," Violet corrected. She leaned toward him and whispered conspiratorially. "It makes a difference to some of them, especially the types that sell their daughters."

Harry shook his head. "It's … 1976. That sort of thing doesn't happen anymore."

"I don't consider 1976 to be a particularly modern year," Violet said. "But seriously, just put on some leather pants, strut through Diagon Alley, and proclaim yourself to be none other than Lord Ambrosius, Heir of Merlin. Within two days, you'll be seated on the Wizengamot and have a harem. Of course, if you really want Miss Black, you're destined for monogamy and children that are absolute helions.

"I think that is all very improbable," Harry said curtly, beginning to realize that he may need to give up on eliciting information about Durmstrang from Violet, abandon his bench, and attempt to lose her in the crowd.

"Let's do a little probability test, shall we?" Violet said just as Bellatrix finished turning in her scorecard.

"What test?"

Violet smirked and then gestured toward Bellatrix, who had spotted Harry and was making her way toward them. Abruptly, Violet leaned over and planted a kiss on Harry's cheek. As Harry practically jumped out of his skin, Violet scrambled up from her position on the bench next to Harry and dashed away. By the time Bellatrix reached Harry, Violet had completely disappeared into the crowd.

"What, pray tell, was that all about?" Bellatrix demanded, her eyes blazing.

Harry threw up his hands. "I have no idea. She came over, asked a bunch of inappropriate questions, and then you saw the rest."

"Why even talk to her at all?"

"I saw her talking to Karkaroff earlier," Harry defended.


"Looked like old pals to me," Harry opined. "I was going to spy on them to find out more about their origins, but then she came over and saved me the trouble."

"I just defeated her sister in a duel," Bellatrix revealed, "and we've got problems, especially if they're friendly with Durmstrang."


"Her sister used Dark magic in the duel. And not just some random Dark spell. She was channeling Dark magic and mixing it with a basic spell."

"Is that supposed to be extra bad?" Harry asked. As good as he was at defending against Dark magic, he did not know a lot about the more technical details of how it worked.

"Very," Bellatrix said. "Or at least concerning. Or maybe just suspicious."

"Can you explain?"

"People who dabble in the Dark arts can produce the occasional successful Dark spell. Only someone up to their armpits in Dark magic could have developed the ability to channel Dark magic into otherwise innocuous magic."

Harry frowned. "Those witches don't strike me as being Dark. Even if they are, I had never heard of anyone like them before I arrived in your bedroom last summer."

"You've already admitted to me you don't know all the details of the Dark Lord's original rise to power," Bellatrix pointed out. "I think we should keep an eye on them and try to find more details. We should also put everyone on our team on their guard since it seems there is a risk of Dark magic flying back and forth during competition duels."

"I wonder if Dark magic has surfaced in other tournaments," Harry mused.

"I doubt it," Bellatrix said. "It is against the rules. However, we now know those three witches are willing to resort to it."

"We had best assume Durmstrang is capable of it too," Harry said, glancing toward where Karkaroff was still spying on the tournament officials. "Their professor is a cheater at heart, and I just saw him talking to Violet like they are old friends."


"Anyway, when is your next duel?"

"I'm done," Bellatrix said. "I've officially qualified for the solo competition."

"Oh, good," Harry said, standing up. "You can come with me. I suppose we had better go bring Pythia up to speed on the Dark magic threat."

Lily was so happy that she had qualified in her age division of the solo category that she had allowed herself to relax and hang out with James and his friends as they and other Hogwarts students wandered the village. Of course, it was not as if Lily had a lot of options. Alice was now even more invested in Frank Longbottom, and Severus had spent the entire competition keeping away from his teammates.

When she returned to her room, she found Bellatrix, dressed in her nightie. She was sitting on the bed where she was hunched over and scribbling notes on her copy of the team's playbook.

"What are you doing?" Lily asked, frowning at the possibility of last-minute changes to the squad's strategy.

Bellatrix did not look up from her edits. "I am adjusting our strategy. You and the others will not need to learn any new combos. Tell them they just need to be ready for some unexpected shielding spells and the occasional modification to my standard combinations."

"What? Why?"

"I found out that some of the opposing teams might be planning to use Dark magic during the tournament," Bellatrix explained. "I already spoke with Ashworth and Greengrass. They'll be able to keep a close eye on most of the matches tomorrow since the team qualifiers are more regimented. If they spot anything at all worrisome, they'll step in. No need to scare anyone else."

"Wait, what?" Lily asked, feeling confused and a little scared.

"Don't worry about it," Bellatrix said, shutting her playbook, standing up, and walking toward the door. "Just tell the other squad members what I told you. I am going to run my modifications past Professor Ashworth to see if he has any comments."

"Wait," Lily said.

Bellatrix turned her head to frown at Lily as she reached for the doorknob.

"Don't you have a bathrobe or something?" Lily asked, intently gazing at Bellatrix's nightie.

"Why? I'm just going to see–," Bellatrix started before abruptly stopping and blushing faintly.

"Just what?"

"Nothing," Bellatrix said, swishing her wand and transfiguring a shirt into a black, kimono-style bathrobe that she slipped on over the top of her nightie. "Don't stay up too late. I'll need you all to be fresh tomorrow."

"If she said don't worry, there's no need to worry," Sirius said reassuringly. "If there's Dark magic at play, Bellatrix is the one you want on your team. Not some amateur who thinks he learned a Dark spell or two. Besides, it isn't like we're not shooting spells at them, too."

James grinned at Lily. "See? We're covered. Besides, you already said that Professor Ashworth and Professor Greengrass will be watching. Now, are you going to eat something for breakfast, or not?"

"Not," Lily said curtly. Besides having nightmares about Dark magic, Lily was wound up over the fact that this was the big tournament and that the whole squad was counting on each other. After her solo qualifiers the day prior, Lily now knew that they were up against serious competition.

As it was, for most of the day, it turned out Lily had worried over nothing. Lily, Bellatrix, James, Sirius, and Remus, with Peter cheering from the sidelines, crisply won round after round in the team qualifiers. There was not a shred of Dark magic to be seen.

Euphoria set in for Lily, and she gobbled down a double portion of lunch while James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter raucously celebrated. Lily was not quite so self-congratulatory as them because she had a strong awareness that Bellatrix was doing more than her share to carry the squad. On the other hand, precision and teamwork from James, Lily, Remus, and Sirius had ensured that Bellatrix was able to rely on them and perform to her full ability.

The lunchtime euphoria faded in the afternoon as the squad found themselves being matched against stronger squads as the tournament officials looked to gather data with which to seed the bracket.

It was late in the afternoon when dread struck Lily like a lightning bolt. The tournament officials had just informed them that they were to do a qualifying round against the Durmstrang team. This news, in and of itself, was not concerning to Lily. Instead Lily's fear was triggered when Bellatrix began vehemently protesting to the tournament official that their match with Durmstrang had not been on the original qualifying schedule and that there must be some mistake.

"Sorry, Miss Black, but it is a last-minute change," the tournament official informed Bellatrix. "Your match begins in five minutes, here on the town square dueling platform."

"Okay," Bellatrix scowled, gesturing for the squad to follow her.

"Is this going to be a problem?" Sirius asked once they were out of earshot from the official and other competitors.

"I hope not," Bellatrix said curtly. "Just follow the playbook and expect that I might be doing things a little differently."

"Right," James said as Sirius nodded strongly. Remus also nodded, but less enthusiastically.

Her heart was pounding, Lily didn't say anything.

"Peter?" Bellatrix said. "Go find Professor Ashworth and tell him I said to get over here."

"Right!" Peter said, dashing off.

"A bit peremptory, if you ask me," Sirius said, sounding sly.

Bellatrix glared at him. "Don't bother me. I'm thinking."

Lily, James, Sirius, and Remus then proceeded to share awkward glances as they stood around Bellatrix, who had her arms folded as she vacantly stared at the competitors in the qualifying round that was just finishing up.

All too soon, Lily found herself and the squad walking onto the dueling platform and receiving a smattering of applause from those who were paying attention to the ongoing qualifying rounds. On the other end of the platform, the Durmstrang team appeared, their wands already drawn.

Lily feared she was the only one feeling anxious. But then she saw that James' jaw was set hard and that Bellatrix was glancing anxiously toward the grandstand, apparently hoping that Professor Ashworth had arrived. Lily could not see Ashworth anywhere, and had to stop looking once the referee began announcing the match.

The match began, and soon Hogwarts and Durmstrang were exchanging volleys. Durmstrang proved to be the stiffest competition the squad had gone up against, but their spells and combos were as standard as those of Hogwarts. So, for several minutes, both sides were going through the motions without making much progress.

The first Dark spell from Durmstrang emerged and was countered before Lily realized that Dark magic was now at play. One of the Durmstrang competitors, a tall wizard with blonde hair, was now bombarding them with mass-effect spells.

They seemed like standard spells, but Bellatrix had countered them with a shield spell that Lily did not recognize. Whatever the shield was, each time it collided with a spell from Durmstrang, it let out an ear splitting bang. A quick glance at Bellatrix's face was enough to confirm that something was up.

Lily looked to Sirius and saw that his normally jolly demeanor had been replaced with something more grim. Lily was unable to decipher whether Sirius had personally detected the Dark magic or was taking his cues from Bellatrix. It was all confusing to Lily because she could not detect that any unusual spells had been cast. However, at the same time, something did feel off.

After a particularly quick set of spells and staccato bangs, the tall blonde from Durmstrang stopped and laughed derisively at Bellatrix. "Are shield spells all you have?" he sneered.

Bellatrix did not react directly to the comment and let off a string of standard combos. Lily, James, Remus, and Sirius were quick to pick up on the play and shot off the routine spells and shields to match Bellatrix's lead combo. This put Durmstrang on the defensive, and the match proceeded without further Dark magic for several minutes.

Lily thought they might be on the home stretch toward beating Durmstrang without further Dark magic, but abruptly, the staccato bangs resumed. Bellatrix was looking aggravated, but she was keeping up the pace until she broke her concentration to look out at the spectators.

For Lily, who was frightened of what might happen if Bellatrix missed blocking a spell, this split second lasted an eternity. It ended with Bellatrix subtly nodding toward the crowd and returning her focus to the duel without having missed a beat. Unable to help herself, Lily spared a quick moment to glance toward where Bellatrix had been looking. With relief, she saw that Professor Ashworth was striding through the square toward the platform.

Feeling relieved, Lily cast a quick combo of attack spells, each of which Durmstrang blocked as Bellatrix shielded another barrage of purportedly Dark-tainted spells. Lily's relief was short-lived, however. Bellatrix lost her pace and missed shielding a spell. As Bellatrix attempted to dodge the spell, she tripped and fell down.

Grinning triumphantly, the tall Durmstrang student raised his wand and cast another spell as his teammates dodged incoming spells from the rest of Bellatrix's squad. A sickly-looking beam of yellow and orange light hurled toward Bellatrix's prone form. Lily had no doubt that this spell was Dark.

Just as it was about to hit, another type of shield appeared between the spell and Bellatrix. Instead of remaining stationary, the shield wrapped around the spell and hurled itself and the Dark spell back toward Durmstrang. With horror, the Durmstrang watched as the spell zoomed back toward them. However, it was also blocked and then exploded violently.

At that moment, Professor Ashworth hopped onto the platform next to where the referee was standing. "I want that team disqualified from the tournament for using Dark Magic in a duel!" Harry insisted loudly. He was holding his wand, and Lily realized that he must have been the one to shield Bellatrix and bounce the Dark spell away from her.

"Dark magic?" the referee spluttered.

"They've been using it the whole time!" Sirius snarled toward the referee. "Can't you recognize normal spells that have been infused with Dark magic?"

"Well, no. That is incredibly rare," the referee replied just as Professor Karkaroff joined the group on the platform. Apparently, from more of a distance, he had been the one to shield his team from the rebound spell.

Other tournament officials joined the discussion as the conversation between the referee, Ashworth, and Karkaroff became heated. Meanwhile, the squad gathered around Bellatrix, who was still lying on the ground.

"Are you okay?" Lily asked.

"Of course I am," Bellatrix smirked, looking up at them. "I'm just trying to be a martyr."

"Wait! You missed that shield timing on purpose, didn't you?" Sirius whispered, looking impressed.

"Yes, I was hoping he would cast a pure Dark spell that the tournament officials would be able to recognize."

"Brilliant!" James whispered, grinning at Sirius and Remus. "Maybe Durmstrang will get disqualified!"

"It was very risky," Lily frowned. "What if it had hit one of us?"

"I waited until Professor Ashworth was here," Bellatrix said.

Further discussion was cut off as the Durmstrang team came over, the blonde wizard in the lead. He stepped up to where Bellatrix was lying and looked down at her. "On your back, just like the graveyard," he smirked. "Next time, it won't be as pleasant." A couple of the other Durmstrang team members laughed raucously.

Bellatrix's face whitened, and she gripped her wand as she scrambled to her feet. Lily was glancing between the Durmstrang students and Bellatrix, wondering if there was about to be violence. It looked like James and Sirius were ready to pitch in if that was what Bellatrix wanted. Lily and Remus were sharing worried looks with each other.

The risk of a fight abruptly subsided as the tournament officials called for everyone's attention. Lily sought out Professor Ashworth's face and saw that he was looking grim. It appeared that the ruling from the tournament officials was not going to be all that favorable.

"The accusation here is that the Durmstrang student Andrei Borislav used standard spells infused with Dark magic throughout the match and then cast an inherently Dark attack spell, which triggered the Hogwarts coach to intervene," the tournament official declared. "Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence. There were few neutral spectators paying close enough attention. The spells were nonverbal. The referee is a Muggleborn unfamiliar with the Dark Arts."

"They could just ask us," Sirius muttered quietly while Bellatrix glared at the tournament officials who were waxing on about why they were unable to decide what precisely had happened.

"They can deny just as easily," Remus sighed. "Or they can claim it was an accident or misunderstanding."

"Shush!" Lily said just as the official began explaining what they would be doing.

"We are going to formally warn the Durmstrang team that Dark magic is forbidden at the tournament. Any further violation will result in automatic disqualification," the tournament official declared. "As for the outcome and scoring, it turns out that is moot. In reviewing the paperwork, we are seeing that this matchup was actually a mistake. We are not sure how it was assigned. Both teams have already scored well enough in other matches to qualify and be seeded in the tournament."

"What? How did that happen?" Lily wondered, feeling confused.

"Good question," Bellatrix said as the tournament officials finished explaining their ruling.

Harry came over and shepherded the squad off and away from the dueling platform. As he did so, he alternated between, congratulating them on an excellent performance while frowning. They were making their way toward the Hogwarts quarters in the town hall when Professor Greengrass, Auror Moody, and Auror Bones found and caught up to them.

"What is this I hear about Dark magic?" Moody demanded.

"One of the Durmstrang students was casting Dark spells," Harry said. "I intervened, but we weren't able to prove it. They got off with a warning."

"You must be joking," Moody exclaimed as Amelia Bones frowned.

James and Sirius launched into a full explanation for Moody's benefit, tripping over each other and the facts. Lily glanced at Professor Greengrass and saw that she was looking more thoughtful than anything.

"Which competitor was it?" Amelia Bones asked. She had produced a notebook and was writing everything down.

"I believe the name was Andrei Borislav," Harry responded as the students looked at each other, apparently not having caught the name.

"Dark family, for sure," Moody opined.

"We don't know that," Amelia said.

"We know it," Moody said, giving her a firm look. "The only thing I want to know is why he would do something so stupid."

"Yes, good question," Pythia said quietly.

Acting on a subtle nod of the head from Harry, Bellatrix broke away from the group of students crowded around Aurors Moody and Bones and went into the town hall. Harry joined her a moment later.

"I think perhaps we should have a chat with Violet and her sisters," Harry said, leading the way toward the stairs. "Remind me which room they're in."

Bellatrix led Harry to the bedroom in question, where he peremptorily knocked on the door. Apparently, the door was not entirely shut because it responded to Harry's knock by falling open. From the doorway, Harry and Bellatrix could see that there was no sign of any luggage or personal items in the room. It appeared the Snodgrass sisters had departed.

"How strange," Harry said, stepping into the room and looking around. "Did they quit the tournament?"

"I suppose so," Bellatrix responded, sounding confused.

Hoping for some extra sleep before elimination rounds began on the third day of competition, Harry had retired to his bedroom earlier than usual. However, instead of going to bed, he found himself standing in the darkened room at the window. Through the window, Harry looked down at the town square. Most of the booths had closed for the night, but the students with night owl tendencies were still out and about having fun. It looked like one of the few open booths was selling ice cream.

A faint tickle crept through Harry's scar, and Harry sighed. He had been trying to convince himself that the sensations he had been feeling in his scar all evening were just coincidental or anything but Voldemort.

Harry was again debating whether he should just stop worrying about the scar and go to bed when Bellatrix, dressed in her customary nighttime attire, let herself into his bedroom. Harry turned from the window, looked at her, and saw that she was clutching a piece of parchment.

"I just found this on my pillow," Bellatrix said, walking around the bed and handing the parchment to Harry.

Harry accepted the parchment and read it.

I need to talk to you. Meet me in the forest behind the town hall after just after midnight. -Andrei Borislav

Harry eyed Bellatrix and handed the parchment back. "Almost certainly a trap."

"Yes," Bellatrix agreed, folding her arms and beginning to pace. "Unless it isn't."

"It is," Harry confirmed. "I sense that the Dark Lord may be near or perhaps focused on what is happening here. Although, my connection with him does not work the same way it did before I came here. So, I can't be sure."

"Even if you're right, that doesn't prove it is a trap," Bellatrix countered. "Besides, if we know it's a trap, we can turn it to our advantage."

"You make it sound so easy," Harry yawned, even as his mind tried to work out the possibilities. He was not against trying to take advantage of the situation. He just did not want to bite off more than he could chew.

"We would just be careful," Bellatrix insisted.

"Let's play this out in our heads," Harry said, half serious, half facetiously. "If we go out into the woods after midnight and meet this student …"

"No, I would go. You would follow and stay concealed."

"Okay, we do this, and the best that happens is what?"

"He confesses that Durmstrang is up to no good and asks for help because he knows we are, or at least I am, the Dark Lord's enemies. Maybe he apologizes for what happened earlier today."

"And the worst?" Harry asked, shaking his head at how unlikely the best case scenario was.

"It is a trap, and we take him prisoner or something."

"If there is anyone else, we would have to subdue them, too," Harry pointed out. "The more people involved, the riskier it is for us."

"We'll be within earshot of the tournament attendees," Bellatrix pointed out. "Things cannot get too out of hand."

"Okay, then," Harry said. "Now what if we capture Andrei after he perhaps tries to attack you and take him back. What next?"

"Maybe we will tell the Aurors. Or maybe we'll quietly hold him prisoner."

"If the Aurors are involved, Andrei will tell them that he was out for a walk when he found us in the bushes engaging in improper activities. Then, you and I will be in a lot of trouble because our version of the story will seem less probable."

"Blast," Bellatrix said, seeing that Harry had a point.

"Maybe we should rope Moody into this," Harry mused, liking the idea the more he thought about it. "We can count on him to be somewhat discreet."

"Why would he keep our secrets?" Bellatrix asked.

"I don't mean he will keep any secret we tell him," Harry said. "However, he can be counted on to handle this in an appropriate way."

Harry and Bellatrix argued back and forth about involving Moody, but Bellatrix finally yielded. She left to go change into appropriate attire for an outing while Harry did likewise in his own room. About fifteen minutes later, they met outside Moody's quarters and knocked.

The seasoned Auror opened the door and cocked a suspicious eyebrow at the two. "What can I do for you?"

"Can we come in?" Harry asked.

Moody acquiesced. Once the door shut, Harry launched into his explanation. "Miss Black received a note from the student who used Dark magic earlier today," Harry said, nodding at Bellatrix to hand over the note.

Meekly, with an innocent-looking expression on her face, Bellatrix held out the note.

Moody snatched it and eyed it. "Smoky business," he declared, looking intrigued.

"I told her it would be stupid to go out and meet him," Harry said, hiding a smile as Bellatrix frowned back. "However, she points out that maybe if we go with her, we might be able to exploit the opportunity. I don't know if it was mentioned to you earlier, but it sounds like this Durmstrang student has knowledge that only Miss Black's attackers would know."

"Yes," Moody said, "I did hear that extra detail. He looked at Bellatrix, "You have a point about being able to exploit the situation. Perhaps you should apply for an Auror job. However, for the moment, with you being a student, I am thinking Ashworth and I should handle this. It might be good to bring Bones, too."

"It won't work if I don't come," Bellatrix said.

There was some argument about this, but Moody eventually yielded. He decided that bringing Amelia Bones along would be too much. However, before leaving the town hall, they stopped by her room where Moody informed her of the plan. She seemed offended at not being invited. If it was Harry telling her, she might have tried to pull rank somehow. However, Moody had already taken ownership, and she could not push back against him.

They also stopped by Professor Greengrass' bedroom. However, there were no lights on. Harry, knowing that her health was delicate, did not want to disturb her. So, they proceeded without briefing her.

Per Moody's instructions, Bellatrix returned to her room. Meanwhile, Moody and Harry left the town hall and, taking separate paths, made their way toward the forest where they waited for midnight to come. At midnight, Bellatrix emerged from the quiet and darkened town hall and started walking toward the forest, following a predetermined path.

After Bellatrix passed his position, Harry drew his wand and proceeded to follow her at a distance, keeping her just in sight. Per the plan, Moody was also following, but from the flank. Even though he knew he should expect it from the veteran Auror, Harry was impressed at how he had so far not seen any sign of Moody.

After they were a ways into the woods, a green flash exploded against a tree a few hundred meters deeper in the forest. At that moment, Harry felt a strong pricking sensation in his scar. However, the sensation was gone so quickly that, were it not for the green flash, Harry could have easily talked himself into believing he had imagined the whole thing.

Abandoning the strategy of following Bellatrix at a distance, Harry caught up with her, and they proceeded together toward where the green flash had been seen. There, they found a small clearing. On the edge of the clearing where starlight and the half moon shone just enough to reveal a human figure slumped at the base of a tree. As they approached, they were able to see him. It was Andrei Borislav, and he was dead.

"Bother," Harry muttered.