A/N: I don't own Harry Potter. You guys will be the first to know if it changes.
Chapter 19: First Contact
The very first academic competition of the year saw a team from Hogwarts capture the win. It was a sobering moment for many of the older students in the room when a third year Ravenclaw was awarded the "best participant of the day." Jasmin had never felt so intimidated by someone who looked so harmless. It came as even more of a surprise when Luna Lovegood approached her and Fleur and said in her dreamy voice, "Hello, it's nice to meet you both. We haven't had a chance to talk."
Fleur took the lead. "Oui, nice to meet you too Luna. You were really impressive. I guess the house of Ravenclaw is known for its knowledge with good reason."
But for a friendly smile, she got no other reaction. "Shame Harry isn't here," Luna said mildly, "He always gets a laugh hearing me talk."
That perked up both sets of ears. "You know Harry?" Jasmin asked.
"Mhmm. Last year, he helped me get my stuff back even though I was a complete stranger and even stopped people from bullying me." Whether on purpose or not, Luna's hands clasped together around her heart, "He's always so nice to me."
"Yes," Jasmin replied though gritted teeth, "That's Harry for you. Always helping people."
Luna just nodded her head. "When you see him, please tell him Luna Lovegood misses her Booboo and wants to get together sometime. Bye, now."
Mouth agape, they watched her dreamily wander away all by her lonesome before staring at each other in mild amusement and annoyance respectively. Minutes later, Hermione came out of the Hall flushed. It took them a few minutes to calm the bushy-haired witch about her team's second-place performance. Despite how the day had turned out, Jasmin herself was happy about her third place. It was dusk by the time she and Fleur managed to extricate themselves from the mass of people. It seemed Harry's absence around them had opened the floodgates to more than a few unwanted advances.
"Can you imagine spending your life with one of them?" Jasmin asked, as they walked back.
Fleur shuddered. "Not a chance. What would be the point of such an existence? Veela are supposed to be the epitome of love and all we're seen with is lust. Sad."
"Maybe the two aren't as far apart as we've always thought, Bell," Jasmin's voice was very quiet indeed. Fleur did her best not to show discomfort on her face. But this was a topic they had been dancing around for a week now, unsure how to approach it.
"Let's get to my room first," Fleur replied. Automatically, Jasmin increased her pace. The rest of their way to the Beauxbatons tower was a silent one.
It took a few minutes before they were ready. This was, after all, not a conversation they had ever thought they'd have. Fleur hesitantly worded the foremost thought that had been rolling around her head the past week. "I never thought I'd see you that way. When you were kissing Harry, I mean. I stopped you because I felt... "
She paused, unable to continue. Jasmin nodded her understanding. "Oui. Weird. I wanted to stop you so bad, but it felt... nice too." Her thighs came together a little and she looked down demurely.
"Nice" was perhaps the tamest way to put it but Fleur went along. Before she could say anything though, Jasmin continued, "And... I wanted to jump in and push you away because Harry was mine...and then push Harry away because... you were mine."
It felt good to hear her say it without mincing the words. Fleur let herself smile. She had no idea when her sister had matured so much. The person she had spent her entire life with was not the same person who sat before her now. Barely managing a nod, Fleur asked, "What now?"
"Now we don't do things in front of each other," Jasmin said firmly. "That'll stop us from feeling weird."
Fleur rolled her eyes. "How long do you think that'll last? Besides, we're never not around each other." Seeing the set expression on her sister's face, she added, "Fine, whatever."
Jasmin nodded her head again. She cast around for a change of subject and had one readily come up. She couldn't keep the irritation out of her voice, "What'd she mean by "booboo"? There's another one now? I swear, I wonder who the veela is sometimes."
Fleur just chuckled and plopped herself on the bed. "I'll ask him. Where is he anyway? It's already nightfall and he has Fawkes for transport. How come it's taking so long?"
It was Jasmin's turn to chuckle, "Knowing Harry, he probably didn't want to come back soon and give back Fawkes. He must be off having an adventure somewhere with his beautiful Phoenix and crazy Hat."
Harry was indeed having an adventure. Navigating his way through Diagon alley without being recognized had proved a challenge, even though Fawkes had been smart enough to stay out of view until required. He was quickly getting used to how versatile phoenixes seemed to be. Hiding the fact he was Harry Potter had been a different story however. With almost everyone having witnessed the duelling tournament, his appearance was public knowledge. Barely a few seconds in diagon alley and the pointing had started. Knockturn alley, with its damp, deserted streets at least provided some respite.
The shop he was looking for came into view, small and dingy like the rest around them, located between a brothel and a bar. A bell rang to announce his entry to the shop and he was greeted by a scrawny, but pleasant chap. While he knew what type of items the shop sold, he had never actually visited. The shopkeeper's eyes gleamed with recognition.
"Ah, Mr. Potter," he wheezed, "What a surprise to see you here today! No need to worry, of course. My business and my clients are strictly confidential."
"I would expect no less," Harry replied cordially, taking in his surroundings. It was, for all intents and purposes, a trinket shop. Magical items and antiques of all kinds littered the shop's small, but deep insides. "You come highly recommend. I need a couple of services actually."
"Thank you. And by all means. Would you like me to conjure you up a seat?"
Harry waved his hands. "Do you have tracker necklaces? The ones some of these noble Lords use to keep track of their wife, mistresses and children."
"Quite a few actually. Let me bring you some of our finer collection." He popped into the deeper reaches of his shop, shifting though boxes.
It never ceased to amaze Harry how some of the most useful items and spells were only used for mundane purposes in the wizarding world. Then again, he mused wryly, he wasn't doing anything much different.
The shop keep returned with jewelry that would not have looked out of place in any of the other wizarding stores. Harry noticed there were more than just necklaces. The shopkeeper answered his unasked question. "We've expanded into a larger variety owing to demand. Even had a couple of aurors ask me for something more discreet than a necklace. I haven't quite been able to manage rings, but these bracelets are the best of their kind. We have more necklaces too if that's what you needed."
"No, these will do wonderfully," Harry said, picking up a bracelet with some kind of dark jewel as the inlay. "What is this jewel? And how does it work?"
"It's oxidized crystal and silver. Quite rare to find both melded in that form. Effective up to a couple of miles, I would say. Tapers off after that. The true beauty is how accurate it can be within that range, regardless of wards."
"And this?" Harry asked, pointing at a bracelet with a silver-white pearl.
"Ah yes, a Cloyster Mother pearl. They're only found in the coldest parts of our world you know? Same effectiveness.'
"And how do I track them?"
"Your wand. It will show you the direction and with experience, you should be able to gauge the distance as well. I'll have to borrow your wand to attach the jewels by runes, of course."
Harry detached his wand from the holster and handed it to the man, extremely aware of what had happened the last time he did this. "Attach both of these to the wand."
To his relief, it only took minutes. The shopkeep used Harry's wand to carve a single rune each amidst others on the inside of the bracelets.
"Thank you for your patience," he said, handing Harry his wand back. "And may I enquire about your other queries?"
"I was wondering if you just sold items or bought them too." Harry kept his voice light.
"This is Knockturn Alley, Mr. Potter. No self-respecting shopkeeper would turn away good business on account of pesky laws."
Harry liked that phrasing. No nonsense about it. From inside his robes, he pulled out a cloth bag the size of his forearms. Unwrapping the string that held the top closed, he pulled out the two large canines of the Basilisk.
The shopkeeper's eyes just stared at them in awe, unable to look elsewhere. He took them in his hands with reverence and examined them delicately, like a mother holding her baby. Even a small portion of basilisk skin hadn't been seen on the market in decades. His shop just seemed far too immodest to house a Paragon level item. "H-how...?" he said, before catching his mistake and closing his mouth tightly.
"I know for a fact that I can get a better price if I arrange for an underground auction. But in the interest of saving trouble, what would your opening offer be for one of these?"
The shopkeep was just glad Harry had said one. He was sure he could not afford to buy both. In fact, he was sure he couldn't buy one right now. His faculties returning, he did the math in his head with practiced ease. Yup, nowhere close to the required amount.
"You have to understand Mr. Potter, there are only a handful of shops in the country that can afford to buy this outright. I'm afraid we don't fall into one of those," the shopkeep answered, trying not to let his embarrassment show.
Harry nodded. That had been precisely what he had expected to hear. If the shopkeep had tried anything funny like quote a low price, the fangs would've never been touched by him again. Good. To business then.
"And if I were to ask you to be the intermediary? Keep my name out of it and finish the deal yourself for a commission?"
The shopkeep nodded happily. "That was going to be my suggestion. I hope you understand, as someone in this line of business for thirty-eight years, there are few patrons I'm unaware of. I'll be happy to arrange for an auction."
Harry shook his head with a contrite smile, "No, I need a deal made. With the goblins."
The shopkeep's smile dulled, "They are well known for driving a hard bargain, Mr. Potter. I'm afraid the pr-"
Harry cut him off, "That's alright. It has to be the goblins. Now let me rephrase my first question. How much would you say you can obtain for one of these from the goblins?"
"Not as much as some of my other patrons. But I'd say an honest deal could be struck for somewhere around a hundred thousand galleons easy. Basilisk canine fangs, especially ones this big, are one of a kind."
As casually as he could Harry put on the Hat, lips pursed as if pondering the amount. "The hell, Hat? That's way more than what you said it would be. Any chance your knowledge about prices in the black market aren't up to date?"
There was a pause. "Shit."
Harry tried not to let his embarrassment show now. Why he always expected the Hat to be infallible, he had no idea. "And if I were to say that the only way I would sell one fang to the goblins is if they make me a dagger with the other?"
The shopkeep shook his head, sighing, "You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Potter. They are known for their possessiveness of that which they make. As you well know, once something has been created by goblins, they consider it theirs. Even if I were to use what little influence I have with the Gringotts Head goblin, I'd say you'd be looking at half the price."
"And you would be looking at half your commission," Harry returned casually, "If you're still interested, of course."
The shopkeep bowed. This was a deal of a lifetime, even if it was only as a broker. "No need to worry, Mr. Potter. I shall strive to obtain the best bargain possible. Would you like this basilisk dagger of yours to be enchanted?"
"No, I have excellent shamans who can do that better. I just need it hand-made by goblins."
This time, the shopkeep's surprise was blatant, but his professionalism kept him from saying anything. He just nodded.
"I'll be needing collateral of course," Harry said evenly.
"Of course." Since there was nothing that he owned that could be considered equal in value to two basilisk fangs, the shopkeep went with standard procedure. There was only one. "I shall get my wife to officiate the unbreakable vow. Unless of course, there was something else I could help you with?"
"Yeah, I'll also be needing some books, warding crystals, runestones, maps and such."
The shopkeep wordlessly conjured up two chairs. His head was still reeling from the deal they were yet to finalise and this was going to be a while. Silently, he thanked whichever lucky star had recommended him to Harry Potter.
It was almost dinner time when Harry returned to the Headmaster's office. Answering why getting the details of an already finalised deal took all day, especially with Fawkes, required some explaining. After chiding Harry for going to Knockturn alley without telling anyone, Prof. Dumbledore decided he needed to be punished by having his new books taken away. Harry knew full well the headmaster just wanted to read them first.
Fawkes nuzzled against his neck with a croon before going back to her perch. Like the Hat, it seemed she had enjoyed her day outside. Trying not to think about what it would take for the phoenix to become his familiar or how Hedwig would react to the competition, Harry made his way down for dinner.
Tired and hungry as he was, the sight of Fleur and Jasmin waving him over from their table was a welcome sight. To his relief, none of the other French students said anything when he sat at the Beauxbatons tables. It did seem to start some whispers though. Too used to this nonsense, Harry just decided to lose himself into their little bubble of three.
Fleur looked at him concerned. "You don't tire easy. What happened?"
"Misjudged how teleporting with Fawkes works," Harry muttered, pulling himself a plate, "It's her ability, but it still uses up your energy. Longer the distance, the number of times, etc., I had a busy day."
Jasmin started pulling up the dishes Harry was partial to. "Going to tell us about it?"
Harry grinned. "I'll show you soon. How did your quiz go?"
"Third. Hermione was second."
"Oh? You gonna make me ask?"
"First was your booboo" Jasmin said it with as much emphasis as possible.
Harry just burst out laughing. "You met Luna then."
To say Jasmin looked annoyed was an understatement. "Who is she? Why have you never mentioned her?"
"Hey hey, easy. There are quite a few people I haven't gotten around to telling you about yet, some here in Hogwarts. Besides, I've only known Luna for a few months now."
"She's apparently important enough to have a nickname for you." Jasmin crossed her arms, looking mad.
"Aww. Is that all it is? She said her mother used to call her uncle that. I don't mind. Her childhood reminded me a lot of mine. I've come to see her as a sort of a sister too. We don't really talk to each other unless there's something important though. She's weird like that," Harry tried not to let his fondness for Luna show. Perhaps now was not the best time.
"Oh," Jasmin looked mollified. "How do you two know each other?"
Harry took a deep breath. "I used to see her around and she was always by herself. Last year, I found out by accident that she was bullied a lot. Some people took her stuff, called her "loony", refused to talk with her and one prat even put a melting jinx on her uniform to see how she'd react."
Fleur couldn't help the smile that tugged her lips. "Say no more. What happened to the bullies?"
"Stuff," Harry replied nonchalantly, beginning to dig into his food, "Suffice to say she hasn't been bothered since."
Jasmin asked wryly, "Is there anyone you haven't helped at Hogwarts yet?"
"Considering my time here so far, technically no. I try not to let it go to my head though," Harry said, smirking at Jasmin. She just shook her head, unsure how much he was actually joking.
Turning, he noticed Fleur glaring at a couple of Beauxbatons boys muttering ominously nearby. It seemed Harry sitting with the girls at the Beauxbatons table had irked them somehow. "What's that about?" he asked.
"There's a rumour going around that me and Adri are only with you because you forced us into a forbidden veela ritual," Fleur said distastefully. "And that you are planning to turn us into your slaves."
"Can I?" Harry asked, piling chicken into his mouth.
"Wha...?" Fleur turned to look at him shocked. "Of course not."
"Shame. Forbidden veela ritual sounds fun."
Fleur tried to hide her smile while Jasmin commented quietly, "Well, that's good to hear."
"I'll never get used to how casual you are about everything," Fleur said, eyeing him with something close to admiration, "Especially related to us. Veela. Two girlfriends."
"Talented. Gorgeous. Stubborn as all hell," Harry added.
"I'm not," Jasmin muttered.
"To name a few," Fleur replied simply, ignoring the jibe and the complement alike. "So? Did you always expect your life to turn out this way Monsieur Potter?"
Harry chewed at his food thoughtfully. "Let me put it this way. When life gives you lemons, most people bite into them in a hurry and end up wasting their opportunity. But the smart ones-"
"Oui, they make lime juice," Fleur interrupted. "There's a similar saying in France too. So?"
"Well, my dear princess," Harry said tapping his nose with the fork smartly, getting grease on it and making Jasmin giggle. "I like to make grape juice with my limes. Then I just sit back and let the world wonder how I did it."
Fleur looked at him like he was crazy while Jasmin just giggled harder. The musical sound had the effect of causing everyone in the vicinity to turn around towards her, slightly entranced. It seemed some of her allure had escaped. Fleur flicked at her sister, hissing in French, "Careful. Not the other one." She turned to Harry, "You sound like you've had a long day."
"True. Fruitful though." Harry laid down his knife and fork, barely suppressing a yawn. "Tomorrow?"
"Adri has to be at the infirmary all day. She's learning to reset bones and I wanted to read a charms book my grandmother sent me. Apparently she saw my duels and was impressed. It's supposed to be one of a kind. I guess it pays to be at the Veela high council."
"There's a Veela council?"
"Oui, the heads of the six surviving Highborne veela clans sit at it. They have a lot of power in certain areas. Anyway, what about you? Practice and training?"
Harry nodded his head, processing the information and failing to suppress a yawn again. "Always assuming I wake up."
"Right," Fleur said sternly. "I'd rather you didn't go to bed so soon after a meal, but you look like you need it. Come on. I'll escort you."
As they stood up, she told her sister, "Go on. I can do this alone."
Jasmin paused for moment, then realization seemed to hit her, "Non, Bell! He can find his way to the bed. Come here you." She caught hold of Fleur and started dragging her with her. "Night, Harry," she called out over her shoulder to an amused individual. "Don't forget to ask your precocious sister what she wants."
The next afternoon, Harry found Luna at the library. As rare as their meets were, there was seldom any small talk. Her expressionless eyes looked up at him and a bright smile broke out. "You missed a fun event yesterday," she said in her dreamy voice.
"So I was told. There'll be plenty more. Well done on beating Hermione by the way," Harry said, patting the little ravenclaw on the head. There was no discernible change except a slight widening of the smile. "This morning, she was worried her hectic work schedule was impacting the quality."
He took the empty seat next to her, glancing at the table piled high with books. "Right back to the grindstone, then?"
"Oui," Luna piped mischievously.
Harry couldn't help smiling either. "Something you wanted to ask?"
"Nothing you want to tell?"
"It's public knowledge already. Yes, I'm dating."
"Two people." Luna's voice was not judgemental, just dreamily observational.
Harry sighed. "Is that what you wanted to talk about? I could've told you about it any old time."
She regarded him with the vague expression as always before saying, "No, I wanted to be the first to get an exclusive interview with Harry Potter before the press get their hands on you. Dad says you've turned heads already and it will be a good way to start my career as a reporter."
Harry processed that information with some amount of surprise. "You want to be a reporter?"
"No," Luna replied simply.
Shaking his head, he ordered, "Explain, little lady."
"I just think there will be a lot of rumours surrounding you, your powers, your girlfriends and everything else that you get up to as the tournament progresses. Don't even get me started on the paparazzi once quidditch season starts. Isn't it better to have the real story come out on your terms?"
That was something Harry liked about Luna. She always made him think about things he otherwise just dismissed as inconsequential. Heck, she made him think period. "And the Quibbler is your answer?" he asked.
"Yes. Once it's out there, other news outlets will be interested. That's one of the advantages of Triwizard. There are others covering Britain apart from " The Prophet". The real story will ultimately be the most popular one. Or vice versa. That's how it is with press."
Harry took a moment to process that before deciding it wasn't worth his time. It just made his head reel. Time to take a short cut. "Fine. I'll do the interview. Two conditions."
"You're my press secretary henceforth. With salary and everything. Agreed?"
Luna seemed to consider that for a moment, her vague expression giving nothing away. "Can I say what I want? As long as it doesn't hurt your reputation, I mean."
"Sure, why not? Heck, I'll even let you borrow my hat. Should be a fun interview."
Luna nodded, smile returning. "And the second?"
"Can you please stop teasing Jasmin? I want them to like you."
The un-Luna-like pout surprised him. "You can have one but not the other, booboo."
Few hours later, Quidditch practice saw the first introduction of the brooms that were going to be used in the tournament. The French made, Italian-designed professional broom was named "Falcon". Each team had been presented with twelve of them in front of a press conference that also doubled as advertisement for the broom.
Used to the smooth and nimble speed of the "Firebolt", Harry took some time familiarising his new ride. While there was no discernible improvement in speed and a slight decrease in acceleration, the control of movement it offered was unmatched. The " Falcon" had been specifically designed for Quidditch, as opposed to a world-class racing broom.
Two hours into the training session, Harry was in love with his new ride. He found it increasingly easy to perform acrobatic moves when his broom was doing half the work. The others seemed to be experiencing something similar. The Chasers especially looked like they were on the top of their game. Blinding passes at break-neck speed, all the while dodging obstacles and bludgers that would have been otherwise hard, really made for great viewing. Reminding himself two weeks was all they had before opening day, Harry took a deep breath, and dived forward into his second ever attempt of the Wronsky Feint in his life.
"Ah, Lord Greengrass," Lucius Malfoy elegantly called the attention of his quarry, the just-dismissed wizengamot dispersing behind them. "I can't say I was surprised the Grey chose to abstain from voting again. The Light have long wielded their majority with disregard. Might I congratulate you on finally managing to gather some of these Lords together under one bloc?"
Lord Jamison Greengrass, Head of one of the oldest pure-blood families and leader of the newly formed "Grey" coalition of the wizengamot, returned cordially, "Thank you, Lord Malfoy. Although, I must say I had less to do with it than Soleil. Funny how the women seem to wield all the true power in politics, whether here or at home."
Lucius hid his disdain with a smile. "And how is Lady Greengrass? I heard she took none too kindly to your daughter's... duelling incident. Is that why you plan on visiting Hogwarts tomorrow? Something I can do perhaps? I can always have the board provide additional help for an ally."
Lord Greengrass matched the smile, trying not to let his disgust show. Lucius was flexing his political muscle, digging for information, trying to squirm his way into being acknowledged an "ally" and taking a jibe, all at the same time by reminding him of his daughter's humiliation. "Nothing so onerous, Lord Malfoy. I wasn't planning on going to Hogwarts until the first task, like most others. But from the moment Soleil heard about the business with the centaurs, she's been dead set on going. Can we expect you there? I'm sure someone of your stature wouldn't pass up such an important political opportunity."
Lucius winced mentally. Nothing in the world could make him walk through a jungle on foot, surrounded by smelly vermin… and the animals of the forest to meet a few half-breeds. But as Lord Greengrass put it, important political opportunity. Not all contacts and allies were made over dance and cocktails. His smile remained fixed as he replied, "Of course. Any idea who else we might expect?"
As much as he hated socializing with the man, Lucius was viewed as the leader of the unofficial "Dark" coalition. The word itself had been soiled since Voldemort, but there were still a lot of Lords who didn't agree with the majority. A lot of monetary and political muscle. And so, he indicated to Lucius they continue the conversation over by the lounging area.
"Really Papa?" Fleur squealed, hugging her father tightly. "I can't believe it. I thought the forest was forbidden."
"I don't see why not," Dominique returned the hug happily. "There will be others your age there, I'm sure, lots of aurors and quite a few bigwigs with their wards. Besides, there's nowhere I'd feel you two are safe except when you're right next to me." One of the few good things about the tournament was that he was constantly able to find excuses to come to Hogwarts. He stood in his daughter's room today, impressed every student had been able to get their own.
"I can't believe so many people want to go trudging into a forest," Jasmin said from Dom's side. "H... I was told there are a lot of dangerous animals, traps and ancient enchantments in there."
Dom just replied with a smile, "Yes well. I'm sure our guide for tomorrow knows all that. And as I recall, you insisted on not being left out." Jasmin went pink, avoiding his eyes and Fleur had a similar reaction. He sighed. Tomorrow was going to be interesting. "Get some rest. We're supposed to assemble by daybreak. It'll be cold, so take a coat. Pack some food and water too if you need. We were told over and over again it's a long walk."
Harry sat at Dumbledore's office looking at the man like he was crazy. "That's way too much! Forget the centaurs, the whole forest is going to think we're invading them. I'm not taking responsibility when something goes wrong."
It was Barty Crouch who answered. "We're well aware of what we're asking you, Mr. Potter. Rest assured, the aurors have been informed to take the guide's instructions seriously. And if something were to happen, of course we wouldn't hold a student who has volunteered responsible. All the attendees are fully aware of the risks involved."
Harry couldn't help retorting, "Somehow, I doubt that." He looked out the window to find the first light of the sun peeping through the mountains in the east. He muttered thoughtfully, "It's daybreak."
"I believe the attendees are gathering near the gamekeeper's cabin, as you asked," Dumbledore said solemnly. "You have to understand that these people realise they may never get a chance like this again."
Nodding, Harry got up off his seat. As long as they were clear on the terms. "Well, if there's nothing else, I'll get going." There wasn't. He left.
His climb down was filled with thoughts about centaurs, the route to be taken and too many bloody people. He popped his hoodie.
"Advise me, Hat."
"Have the centaurs mob the loons and we'll enjoy the spoils together. Should teach them a valuable lesson."
"Beware those with more limbs than you."
"I have more limbs than you."
"More holes too. Now shut your cakehole and move. Nothing to be done here except get on with it."
Outside, the small crowd came into view as Harry approached the cabin. There were actually quite a few familiar faces. Fleur and Jasmin stood out as always, their bracelets glinting on their wrists, Harry noted thankfully. Even from distance, he could tell they were probably smirking that they get to be a party to this now. A miniature form of Daphne stood next to the real thing, both very prim, as if waiting to be called for a dance. Harry assumed the people next to them were her parents.
A little distance away from them, lost in conversation with German diplomats, was Amelia Bones. Next to her, Susan looked ready to dance with joy. At the other end of the spectrum was a sour-looking pair of Malfoys, dressed to impress, and looking like they'd rather be anywhere else. Harry noted Narcissa Malfoy had the good sense to have not come. They were standing with the Notts.
Hagrid's massive frame rested on the steps of the doorway as he cleaned his crossbow, his equally large hound next to him. Other familiar faces like Percy with his monocles, the bald-headed Durmstrang professor, Su Li, her mother from the ministry and other students stood out. There were plenty of Ministry officials and foreigners he didn't recognize either. All in all the civilian group consisted of nearly fifty individuals
Eyes turned towards Harry as he got closer, some curious, some with a hint of recognition and a few with disdain. Trying to ignore the looks and actively avoiding a couple of eyes, Harry made his way straight to the four aurors at the front. Kingsley Shacklebolt's deep voice greeted him, "You're late."
"Sun's early," Harry muttered distractedly. "Are you seriously planning to come with that leg?" he asked Moody, who stood leaning on his cane.
"Shaddap," Moody roared, causing Tonks to giggle. "Complain if I slow you down."
Harry took one last look at them all, gathered there early in the morning, shivering slightly under their cloaks, rucksacks in hand and smiles in place. The aurors, around twenty in all, had surrounded the much larger group of "onlookers" in all directions, a few feet apart from one another. Most of the civilians were looking around, and at him, expectantly. Like the field trip wasn't starting fast enough.
Harry sighed, turned and pulled his dark black coat around him tightly. The transfigured form of the Hat went on top of his head as the hood. If these tourists thought the forest was something to laugh at, then they had another thing coming. Taking his place at the head of the pack, Harry said out loud in a sharp voice, "Fang, lead on."
AN: Thanks for reading and reviewing.